Steve Nash to win MVP #2

Proving last years win was no fluke, Nash did what I thought would be impossible; he got even better.

The Suns dropped three starting players from last years roster keeping only Shawn 'the Matrix' Marion and Nash. They lost their elite pick n' roll finisher Amare Stoudamire for the season. They let Joe Johnson sign with the Hawks. They dealt their starting 2 guard to the Knicks for a centre.

All Nash did was take the collection of players brought in and hand them ALL career years in stats.

That bears repeating, no less than seven players who played for the suns this year had career best seasons - including himself.

He's the best passer in the league, and the best point guard in a generation.

The only remaining question is whether or not he can get the Suns to a title, but whether he does or not, the Hall of Fame will be calling his name.


An age restriction on the FUNHL?

Doug makes a quick case for an 'Age Restriction' (it's really an 'experience condition', but AR is the essential element), here;

"Kessel or Staal - I still think selecting an 18year old in the first round as an FP is dumb but if you want to do it, be my guest. I'm more concerned about selecting an 18year old prospect in the last round so no one can take him as a prospect and then rudely tossing him away the next week to the waiver wire. As such I propose that
we require that players taken in the ED have to have played at least one NHL game. Keep prospects for the prospect rounds (it may be the best way for the Wolves, Edge and Knights Templar to finally build the franchise they need to win it all). If you want to make an exception for FPs, fine, I really don't think there are that many GMs who would do it as there truly aren't that many Crosbys and Ovechkins out there."

AR: I endorse the proposal, but only with the FP exception attached.

- An FP selection is a 'go big or go home' selection, and Gms should have full freedom of movement in exercising it. If they want an 18 year old who hasn't played a game, that's up to them.

-16 of the top forwards selected in the last 25 NHL EDs were FP worthy. Adjust for definably weak draft years (the first forward selected is not among the top 2 selections) and you get a ratio of 73% FP hits.

For the record,

FP Hits (16):

81-Hawerchuk, 84-Lemieux, 87-Turgeon, 88-Modano, 89-Sundin, 90-Nolan, 91-Lindros, 92-Yashin, 97-Thornton, 98-Lecavalier, Heatley-00, Kovalchouk-01, Nash-02, Staal-03, Ovechkin-04, Crosby-05

FP Misses (6): Bellows-82 (with 9 seasons of 30 goals or more including one 55 goal year, and a 40 goal year, he was only a marginal FP failure opinion IMO, and I was tempted to credit him as a 'Hit' because he was at LW), Lawton-83, Clark-85, Murphy-86, Daigle-93, Stefan-99

Weak Draft years (out of top 2 picks) (3): Bonk-94, Dumont-95, Kilger-96

Not only is drafting the best forward available in a given ED year as an FP a better than an even up proposition, you are looking at getting a legit FP 3 out of every four times you do it so long as you don't pick the best forward in a year where 2 or more other positions get picked ahead of him.

So, for me, the exception for FP's must remain in place for the rule change to work. Gms not only should have the freedom to make these players FPs without them having played a game, I'd argue it is statistically meritorious in the long run to do so.

The Merits:

If we have the exemption for FP selections, Doug's plan does have the merits of; eliminating the frivilous draft picks that bother some GMs, improving the quality and coherency of Omnivore lineups, and ending the poaching of potential prospects.

However, it also repudiates the 'you can draft anyone you want' philosophy of the pool that has been around since its inception.

All in all, I'm in favour so long as there is an FP exemption.

The Bladerunners, the FUNHL, Phill Kessel and other stuff

My apologies for the light blogging of late, especially on matters FUNHL

First off, congratulations to the Bladerunners on their second Predator Cup

Forgive me for not celebrating too hard at their admission into the 2+ Predator Cup holding Pantheon, but I was forced to root for them as the lesser evil.

Darth Darell and his Personal Vendetta had to be stopped from reaching 3 cups at all costs, and even a Bladerunner victory was worth the price of stopping him. That he did not accomplish this horrific victory of evil over good, we can all celebrate.

Congratulations as well on winning the Challenge Cup.

(Note that the Severed Heads finished THIRD in the league but somehow still managed to collect a losing record in the Challenge Cup. This statistical absurdity settled down a vicious cycle of blame that was cascading through Heads mgt between Team Pres., The GM, and Coach. The blame game for the poor showing was assuaged upon recognition that the teams failure was ultimately the fault of the schedule maker gods and not of anyone in Heads Mgt.)


- I know this is a tad existential, but c'mon, did it really have to be the Bladerunners? Couldn't it have been the Wolves or the Edge? Both teams were blown apart by injuries and/or sucking franchise players for much of this year, both are original franchises, and both are long, long overdue for cup wins. If it can't be the Severed Heads I am definitely rooting for one of them.

- Wow. In what I believe is easily the worst free fall in the history of the pool, the Knights Templar burn to the ground after flying as high as 3rd overall 2/3rds through the season. How bad was it? The Knights held a 100+pt gap over the Edge with only 5 weeks to go, and somehow managed to finish dead freaking last.

Some teams win the Herbivore in a dogfight to stay out of last, competing with every last breath against that other GM just a bad lineup change ahead of them. Some Teams have won the Herbivore by wide margins - awful terrible seasons that cripple the soul.

But this is by far worse.

In all cases we've seen before the Heribivore has always been won by a team that sank in the standings relatively early on - in almost all cases, the Herbi is earned by a team already in the bottom four and usually the GM in dead last by WD2.

In short, this is a pants-crapping of another magnitude.

The Knights were in 3rd place at WD2, and conceivably still in the hunt for the Predator (though probably only in theory, the BR and PV had already split away from the pack) when the powerdive began.

To blow that kind of lead with only a handful of weeks remaining, not to just finish low, but to actually bottom out and win the Herbivore, well that's gotta be at least as legendary a pantaloon-diarrehea-bomb as the Ramapithicines once posting a lineup that lost points - if only because that spectacular cave-diaper-soiling by the legions of Og only lasted for a week.

- Kudos to the Edge for once again being the officialy scapegoat of the injury gods. So long as they hate you the most, the rest of us are safe.

- I wake up screaming because of Darth Darrell's drafting. He picked two 40 goal scorers at LW in Shanahan and Gagne, and that was after he chose a 100 pt RW in Alfredsson.

- That said, the three teams that scare me the most right now are; The Great Whites, The Bladerunners and the Highlanders. Maybe scare is too strong a word, perhaps, concern is better. Ultimately, I need my Heatley-Spezza-Jagr-Horton quartet to be equal or greater than the quartets of; Staal-Hossa-Malkin-Luongo, Nash-Zetterberg-Brodeur-Pronger, and Thornton-Jovanovski-Crosby-Zherdev, for the Heads to be at roughly equal footing with the front runners going into next years ED.

- The Highlanders and Shadowmen GM both gleefully pointed out that Kessel is no longer the top rated prospect on many scouts lists, and thus is not an FP waiting to happen. No argument from me. My point was merely that historically the top picked forward (with two exceptions) over the last decade and a half was FP worthy. If that prospect is someone other than Kessel (i.e. Jordan Staal or Jonathon Toews) then my point remains that whoever that player has a statistically significant chance of being FP worthy. Other prospects may have overtaken Kessel for the top forward slot, but the argument remains that whoever that top prospect is should be a top consideration as replacement FP.

- That all said, my gut says Kessel despite all his warts, is still the guy to take.

- The Haves and Have Nots. Here's a disturbing trend to consider, of all the Predator Cups won since the start of the pool, 7 Gms have won the big prize (Dan, Doug, Bob, Corey, Darrell, Corey, Brian and Me), and all of those GMs now have two or more each. That leaves 5 Gms who still need to lose their virginity.

- I believe that I am the only GM who has both won the Predator Cup AND won the Herbivore.

- Dallas is simply getting abused by the Avs. Redemption for Theodore is just around the corner.

- Montreal had been manhandling the Canes, but the loss of Koivu may turn the tide in the series. Speaking of les Habitants Kovalev always looks better in the playoffs than the regular season, and this year is no different. He's a difference maker.

- The top UFA available in the NHL this off-season should be Patrick Elias. Didn't see that coming at the start of the year, did ya?

- Philadelphia's problems still stem from one glaring weakness, goaltending. Sooner or later Clarke is going to take the fall for cycling unproven netminders through the system at such a blistering pace.

- Brian Gionta's story book season where he re-writes the Devil's goal scoring record continues in the playoffs as he and the satanically influenced pound the Rangers. Is he an FP? I don't think so, but I for the moment I'll remain officially agnostic.

- Bertuzzi has to be done with the Canucks, but the idea that the team will land a top five ED pick for him is a pipe dream. They will find a buyer for him somewhere, but the return will be much less than expected by Vancouver media.

- Marc Crawford's firing was not unexpected, but frankly, was still a mistake. He's the third youngest coach to 400 wins, he took the team from sad-sack to title contender, and if not for the Bertuzzi incident the team would have easily made the playoffs this year again. Don't pity him too much, he'll land somewhere soon enough.

- I love Zdeno Chara. Not only did he willingly drop the gloves with Vincent Lecavalier, he dished out a solid beating and then when it was clear that Lecavalier was helpless in the face of Chara's onslaught, he declined to throw finishing shots into the defenseless Lecavalier's grill. He'd already won the fight, and didn't need to add injury to insult. All class.

- Last but not least, Havlat's return to the Senators makes them my odds on favourite to win it all as far as I'm concerned. He gives them a 4th game breaker at forward, making them impossible to match lines against, and so long as the D and goaltending avoid injury there isn't a team in the league that can pace with these thoroughbreds.


Quote of the Day

In honour of my chess partner in Calgary I give you the following immortal quotation;

E2 -> E4, Motherf*cker!

- Marcus


NHL Award Predictions

Here are my NHL award predictions;

Hart: Jaromir Jagr
Art Ross: Jaromir Jagr
Richard: Jaromir Jagr
Pearson: Jaromir Jagr

Yup, I predict he wins the full quad.

The closest of the ballot awards will likely be the Hart (I don't see it being close when the players vote for the Pearson, but I may be wrong). The only clear challengers to him for the Hart are; Rod Brind'Amour, Ovechkin, and Kiprusoff. However, each of those gentleman will get a consolation prize (see below). As for the Richard and Art Ross, there is still an outside chance that he could lose the goalscoring title to a surging Kovalchouk or Ovechkin, and its still possible for Joe Thornton to amass enough assists to catch Jagr for the Art Ross, but I wouldn't bet against Jammy on either front. His team is keenly aware of how close Jagr is to winning these, and to a man they want to bask in the reflected glory helping him reach these marks would mean. So, if you see Ovechkin get close in the goalscoring watch for Jagr to get lots of feeds from his team, if Thornton makes a run at the scoring title, watch for Jagr to get double shifts on the pp.

All in all, maybe Jagr's most complete season to date.

Calder: Ovechkin.

This may be the most frustrating Calder race ever, as there are fully a half-dozen players who would legitmately claim this in almost any other year, but the fact is Ovechkin's chase of a 50-50-100+ season on one of the worst teams in the league gives him the head and shoulders advantage.

That said, Crosby, Phaneuf, Lundqvist, and Brad Boyes are all having outstanding rookie years. Crosby is way over a ppg as an 18 year old (and leads the hapless Pens in every offensive category AND he is their top PIM guy), Phaneuf will get serious consideration for the Norris, but has already declared himself to be the defensman forwards around the league must keep their heads up around. Lundqvist is in the running for the Vezina, and Boyes is making all of Leaf Nation tear their eyes out. And I haven't even mentioned that the Rangers uncovered a nifty 30 goal winger with speed in the undersized Petr Prucha. All in all maybe the best Calder class I have ever seen.

Vezina: Miika Kiprusoff. His stats are stupid ridiculous. He now owns the Flames record for wins by a goalie in one season, surpassing Mike Vernon's record. Recall that Vernon earned this award by leading the Flames to a couple of President Trophies. The only guy who can close out Kipper for this award might be Lundqvist, but since he has been absent the last couple of weeks, Kipper seems to have sewn it up. Pay ZERO attention to Christobal Huet, as the alternative pronounciation of his last name is 'Flash-in-Pan'.

Norris: Niklas Lidstrom in a cake walk. Though I hope some of the writers throw some love to the deserving but never recognized Sergei Zubov, and to pp specialist Bryan McCabe.

Selke: Rod Brind'Amour in another cake walk. Sure Stephane Yelle is a more pure representative of the defensive forward than Brind'Amour, but Rod 'The Bod' Brind'Amour's season has been nothing short of a full rennaisance. He scores timely goals (30 and counting), he wins a tonne of face-offs, he leads all forwards in ice-time, he hits with intent, he kills penalties, and he is the Cane's key shadow for the other teams elite forwards. In short he's had the kind of 'mister everything' season that earns some thoughts for MVP but all but locks up the Selke. Couldn't go to a better player.

Jack Adams: Tom Renney. Afterall, the Rangers were predicted to be in the Kessel sweepstakes, but instead they have pounded out a division title. Renney got them to do this despite relying on; an untested rookie in net, a cast-off collection of injury prone Czechs, a moody superstar who killed a coach, gm, and an entire teams fortunes in his last stop, and a defense corps that featured household names like 'Marek 'the pylon' Malik. In all, an amazing performance to get this team to the playoffs and a coach of the year performance in getting them to the title and making them into a genuine playoff threat.

Lady Bing: Brad Richards. The kid is all class, leading his team in scoring and only garnering 30 or so PIM in doing so. Probably the first of many.


Hockey Stuff

FP Replacement Strategy

What do the following names all have in common? Heatley, Kovalchuk, Staal, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Nash?

If you answered 'They were the first forwards drafted in each of their respective draft years', you would be correct. But that isn't the point I want to make by listing them.

If you are a team in the FUNHL considering the replacement of a franchise player at this upcoming draft, I suggest that you seriously consider 'Phil Kessel' as your man. Why, you might ask, should you roll the dice and pick an unproven rookie to be a cornerstone player for your team?

Because of the six players I listed - each was the top forward selected in their draft years, and each of them I would argue, is either already a franchise player (Heatley, Kovalchuk, Ovechkin) or legitimately will be when they cease to be FUNHL prospects (Staal, Crosby and Nash). You have to go all the way back to the Patrick Stefan/Sedins/Pavel Brendl draft to find one where the top forward selected did not eventually go supernova and become FP worthy (and recall too that all the scouts bitched about that draft as being 'weak').

So, if Kessel is still the considered best forward available, (and given his unique offensive skillset I believe he is, even if he eventually gets overtaken by other worthy players like Jonathon Toews or Jordan Staal) than anyone looking for a new FP should seriously consider biting the bullet and making the top forward selected as their guy. That all said, this methodology does NOT work when it comes to defensemen who dominate a draft (Chris Phillips as Franchise Player? Uh...no.), nor does it work with goalies (Rick DiPietro anyone?).

Speaking of Kessel....

My thoughts on him are this; he's a selfish gunner who loves to score goals, has warp speed, fantastic hand skills, and a stubborn streak a mile wide. In other words, there is nothing wrong with him that wasn't also wrong with both Kovalchuk and Ovechkin. C'ept of course, that Kessel is an American.

Several players are indeed taking a run at his lofty status as most likely first overall, but more because they are performing well themselves rather than Kessel dropping in status.

- Jordan Staal, a Peterborough Pete centreman, he's Eric's 'little' brother. He doesn't come with the fanfare that his big bro did, and in part his status is a projection on on his bloodlines and where he projects out to be one day. Which from all indications is as a solid #1 pivot.

- Michael Frolik, a Czech winger with impressive set up abilities continues to draw comparisons to Jagr. I suspect that has more to do with Frolik's country of origin than talent level, as one of Frolik's drawbacks is a weak first step acceleration and limited top end speed - in other words, two of the characteristics that best define Jagr are missing from Frolik. He does display wicked skating power when he gets going, is bullish on the puck, and has a powerful wrister, so he'll be good, but Jagr good? "Dream, dream, dream...."

- Jonathon Toews. Maybe it's just me, but I wasn't exactly overwhelmed by Toews at the WJC, in part because he had a very small role on a deeply talented club. The fact is the North Dakota Fighting Sioux forward is probably as good an all-round offensive player as there is in the draft, but unlike Kessel, Toews doesn't have an offensive weapon that is as obviously dominant as Kessel's shot or speed.

- Niklas Backstrom. A quicksilver skating winger with sound two-way play and top-end playmaking skills. He should make someone very happy as a consolation prize somewhere between 3 and 6.

- Erik Johnson. What's not to like? He's huge, mobile, has good offensive instincts, and a vicious streak a mile wide. He reminds of Rob Blake or Mike Komisarek, someone who may take a while to fill out the mental side of the game before he can dominate as a pro, but once he does....Of all the players chasing Kessel, Johnson is the only one who I think seriously has a chance to displace him. Johnson represents the complete defenseman package, size, strength, mobility, passion, and sound two-way abilities. He's a solid #1 defenseman you can build a defense around, and those teams that already have decent offensive talent may be very tempted to pass on Kessel so they can take Johnson.

Of the teams who might have a shot at the top pick; St Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Columbus - I would venture that all of them except one would value the addition of Kessel more than the rest of the pack. He's simply too dynamic a talent to pass over in favour of the rest. The exception is Columbus. The Bluejackets already have a pure goalscoring threat in the form of Rick Nash (and another decent one in Zherdev), and adding Kessel to the forward unit means too many shooters and not enough passers on the same line. To them, the best player to take might well be Toews (who has upscale playmaking abilities), or again, Erik Johnson to fill out the blue-line. St Louis would certainly LOVE to have Kessel as the new face of the team, Pittsburgh would have to be interested in at least considering what a Malkin-Crosby-Kessel first line looks like in three years for them (and 'sick' is what it would be), and I believe Chicago would have no problem taking Kessel to pair with Ruutu (especially since they already have Cam Barker).

My own speculation is that Kessel is still the favourite as top forward, and that the only real threat to his going first overall is if Columbus wins the lottery.

Rumour Mill

The Flames remain in the bottom 10 teams offensively. That won't be good enough to win in the playoffs. Who'd have thought they'd miss Craig Conroy so much?

- The Shadowmen's GM is convinced that Calgary will take a long hard run at signing Brad Richards in the off-season. Sure this makes a tonne of sense if you are Calgary, but I don't see how the TBay brass would ever let it happen. More than St Louis, or Lecavalier, Richards is the engine that makes the Bolts run, and to lose him would be fatal to cup hopes for the team moving forward. I can see St Louis being dealt. I can even see Lecavalier being dealt (neither player is in the top 20 in scoring this year), but Richards being allowed to leave for nothing? Won't happen.

- One option for Calgary to consider is the aforementioned Lecavalier. If the Flames were to part with Robyn Regeher, Mathew Lombardi and a pick for Big Vinny, would the Bolts take it?

- So who will Calgary eventually bring in to do setup duties for Jarome? My bet, Eric Lindros. His contract will be easy to handle, he hasn't got an issue playing in Calgary, and his style of play would be a good fit for Sutter and Jarome. Yeah, he's as injury prone as they come these days (though not yet at the 'Zhamnovian' level of injury prone), but he would be a good fit in the dressing room, and bring much needed passing ability to the centre spot. Sure Doug Weight is probably higher on the Flames wish-list, and Richards is surely at the top of that list, but Lindros might be just what the doctor ordered.

- Last but not least, the Flames may feel they have the guy within the system to do the job already. Dustin Boyd, a 5'10 sparkplug in the WHL has the skill set to compliment Iginla, but I suspect he is too far away from being an elite level player to make an impact in the role. He's a good one for your prospect lists though, and can probably be had with a late 1st rounder onwards.

The Leafs will likely be in a shopping mode come the off-season as they will undoubtably go through some sort of management shake-up (my bet is Quinn is ousted and becomes the next President of the Canucks, and that Ferguson keeps his job - barely), but the real changes will be with the team itself. Clearly they do not have the guns to compete in the new NHL, they lack first line wingers to compliment Sundin, they will not be welcoming Belfour back between the pipes no matter how succesful his latest round of back surgery is, and there is a very real problem of how much money to throw at Bryan McCabe. Lindros and Allison are also probably gone, gone, gone.

- Here's the thing, the team is ripe to be blown up and rebuilt from the ground up. The Leafs have some decent young prospects (Ian White on D, Ponikarovksy, Steen, Pogge, Rask, etc), but nobody who is going to step in a score 30 goals or anchor the D. They need an infusion of talent and youth in the baddest possible way.

- If I were the GM of the Leafs, I'd do the following; dump: Nolan, Allison, Belfour and Lindros onto the market. They clearly represent the past and won't be contributors moving forward. Sign McCabe to a reasonable deal - and then trade him to a contender for picks/prospects. McCabe is a Norris calibre D-man, but he is a better fit for a contending team, and this Leaf team isn't a contender, so spending upwards of $5M on him just isn't worth it. Then with all the cap-roon now available I would take a serious run at Brad Richards with the sales pitch starting with Richards being the eventual heir to Sundin as Leafs captain. I'd also consider whether I could get a substantial return for Kaberle as he is young, at a position in high demand, and relatively cost effective. Any contending team would LOVE to pick him up to QB the PP, so if the return on him in a trade is substantial, I'd pull the trigger.

- That all said, I would probably keep Sundin for two reasons; 1. He's the face of the franchise and having him remain a Leaf through the rebuilding project while painful for Sundin, would make the transition easier on the fans, and 2. At his age he wouldn't command much in return. So all in all, better to keep the cornerstone and start putting the building blocks into place to eventually replace him. However, if an offer comes up for him that makes sense for the future I'd definitely move him on.

Vancouver is going through a full-on panic over the Canucks stumbling in the standings during the stretch drive. This is also a team that is ripe to be blown up. Jovanovski has to be resigned next year, and there is speculation he will be let go (I would do the same as above with McCabe - sign and trade). Bertuzzi appears to be all but done as a Canuck. He's feuding with Crawford and has split the dressing room into two non-speaking parts. His contract is huge, but so is his ability, so there should be a trade that will get a decent return from whoever takes him on. Brendan Morrison is having a simply horrible season, and could also be on his way out. Even Naslund now finds himself being questioned about his leadership, but I suspect he will not be the goat for the Canucks and that instead the other two linemates will find new homes. Cloutier hasn't made his case any easier either, especially with Alex Auld playing very well (early on) in Cloutier's absence.

Tuomo Ruutu is apparently slated to return on Tuesday against Minnesota. Sweet. It will give me a preview on how well he'll fit in with the Heads next season.

Modano tweaked his knee last night - not a good sign for the playoffs, but Modano would have to be faced with amputation before he'd miss a playoff game - he'll be fine if less than 100%.

I'm still probably the only GM who has this name on his prospect list - but I also admit he is not ranked as high as many others, and because of the depth I already have in my system won't be a pick this year. Maybe next year.

In the 'Good news/ Bad news' file, it looks like Alexander Semin may finally make it over to the Capitals. That's the good news (at least for the Great Whites). The bad news (for the Bladerunners) is there is still no agreement with the Russians and the IIHF on transfer payments - all but guranteeing that Evgeni Malkin will play another season for Dave King at Magnetogorsk.

Finally, a note about our FUNHL races;

Predator Cup - my money says the Bladerunners pull this one out over the Personal Vendetta in a squeaker at the finish line. My heart is also pulling for the BR's (and believe me, that's a first) if only because the PV already have two cups and I don't want them to get a third before I do.

Challenge Cup - this is gonna go to the PV - just a hunch, but also a nice consolation prize for getting beat at the wire.

Omnivore - The Edge. Which is nice, Collin deserves some hardware that doesn't cluck.

Herbivore - The Edge. His third. Which sucks, but hey, he just won the Omnivore!
S'all for now.


V for Vendetta

Caution: Spoiler alert. Seriously, I'm warning you. Ok. Fair enough, keep reading then.

I got the chance to see 'V for Vendetta' with my good buddy Dr. Neuromancer, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one of the all-time classics of my late adoelesence/early adult hood translated to the big screen.

I admit, two things going in;

- As with 'Sin City', I had read the graphic novel and loved it, but not for many years, and I made the conscious decision not to go through my collection and re-read it before hand (though the temptation was much harder with V than with Sin City. I liked Sin City, but Alan Moore's works - especially The Watchmen - a cliche taste for geeks of my dotage, stirred much more intense attraction than mere enjoyment). There was then real risk that if I re-read the g-novel no matter how good the movie's execution I would feel it failed to do the g-novel justice.

This way, the movie at least stands a fighting chance.

- The fact the Wachowski Bros. were involved, and the overall zeitgeist of the movie's release with the inevitable comparison to world events gave me pause. It's one thing to release a movie that raps on a cultural touchstone years after the events (Platoon, JFK, etc.) but quite another to do so when the stone is still threatening to crack. For the Wachowski Bros, a pair of smart (Bound), extremely talented (The Matrix), if occasionally philosophically lazy film makers (Matrix 2-3) to be at the helm added the potential for real greatness, but also the risk that something cheap and tawdry might be done to the material for partisan polemic, or worse, out of the Wachowski's brothers indifference to it.

Needless to say I was greatly relieved when by the half hour mark I noticed that there was far more exposition than I expected, and less than a 1/10th the number of mindless action sequences that littered the latter Matrix movies. In fact, I found McTiegue's direction to occasionally verge on being almost calm - and absolutely comatose by Wachowski Bros standards. Which isn't to say there isn't action, there is, but it owes far more to the action of comic books than to 'wire-fu' special FX extravagance.

Also, there should be an award for voice acting. Hugo Weaving is absolutely perfect as 'V' - a man who is never seen without his mask - and a role about as far from 'showy' you can get as a result. But Weaving is pure magic. His voice, cadence, and intimations bring to life what could easily have been a thankless part. Instead, Weaving invests it with everything, while never descending into the campy robot drawl of 'Mr. Smith', and lends critical balance to the 'star' lead character of Natalie Portman. If Weaving had been less than excellent, the entire movie would have spun on an axis consisting of Portman emoting with a shaved head. That all said, Portman never guns the engine out of gear when she could have. 'V' could have been her movie, but she keeps her performance basic and compact, when an actress with less restraint (Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston) would have let it all hang out to the detriment of the flick.

Overall, what the combination of restrained direction and competent acting do is breathe life into the story that Moore penned/inspired. I am assured by Dr. Neuromancer (who read V far more times than I, more recently, and with much greater recall) that the majority of the plot was indeed still there, that the items I picked out as being likely alterations by the director/Wachowski Bros were indeed additions (the character played by Stephen Frye and the final end of Suttler), but in all these were mostly minor changes and in service to the medium.

I'd like to comment further about the story line itself, but it's late, and I have to get to bed, so I'll finish by saying 'Go see it, we'll talk'!

The 'Amen' Break

I encourage all my friends out there into music to check this link out!

A musicologist deconstructs the origins of modern hip-hop/electronica by detailing how a simple 6 sec drum riff from a 1969 sould/R&B recording became the backbone for an entire subculture of musical expression.

I guarantee you'll never hear modern music the same way again, as I found myself picking the 'Amen' break out in several pieces I own (Aphex Twin and Basehead to name two).