NORTHERN DRAFT 2015

AFTER THE OILERS SELECT CONNOR MCDAVID FIRST OVERALL, WHICH NAMES DO THE OTHER SIX CANADIAN TEAMS CALL AT THIS YEAR’S NHL ENTRY DRAFT?

As an Edmonton Oilers fan, the only date I’ve had circled on my NHL calendar for the past nine years is the NHL’s annual entry draft. It’s the price you pay for following a team that has innovated new and exciting ways to suck year in and year out. That annual anticipation went through the roof this year though when the Oilers won last April’s draft lottery and the right to drape a copper and blue jersey on phenom Connor McDavid, whose been anointed The Next One by none other then the Great Wayne Gretzky himself. But what about the other six Canadian teams? The 2015 draft is being heralded as possibly the best since the legendary 2003 draft (which is considered the best draft in NHL history), with a pair of generational talents topping the rankings. So here are my armchair predictions for which names Canada’s seven NHL teams should call out at the draft in Tampa Bay this Friday. I went two for seven with my predictions for 2014, and while people may scoff at a success rate of .286, you pull that number off as a batter in baseball and you’ll be pulling down a salary around twenty million a year. Or whatever Donald Trump spends on toupees.   Either way, without further adieu, I present my totally unscientific and unfounded suggestions, recommendations and demands.

Edmonton Oilers: With the 1st overall the pick in this year’s draft, Edmonton will select Connor McDavid. Stop. End of story. TSN analyst (and former Calgary Flames GM) Craig Button perfectly described McDavid’s potential as a player, saying he combines the brilliance of Gretzky, the smooth hands of Mario Lemieux and the speed of Pavel Bure into a player never seen before. McDavid thinks the game at a higher level while skating at Mach speed. He’s been dominating highlight reels since he was 16 and his humility and sportsmanship off the ice has impressed scouts nearly as much as his sublime skills on it. Edmonton hasn’t even drafted McDavid yet and he’s already transformed the franchise, motivating desperately needed change in the most incompetent management and coaching departments in the NHL, and most importantly, getting emotionally exhausted fans excited again. Even Oilers players, who had given up on next season and were secretly hoping to be traded, are happy to be in Edmonton again. A cloud has literally lifted from this organization and its fan base. There is no other choice.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs kick off their picks by choosing 4th overall, and the Buds have plenty of holes in their roster to address. But the one need they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to solve the past few years is their lack of a top pivot. Dylan Strome may be the answer. Big (6’3), defensively capable and good on face offs, the younger brother of New Islanders forward Ryan Strome won the OHL scoring championship last year. And while many people will dismiss his scoring championship, claiming he benefitted from Erie Otters team mate and super prospect Connor McDavid (of course he did, who wouldn’t?), the same critics fail to point out that while McDavid missed twenty games with injury and representing Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championships, Strome was still producing at a one hundred point pace. If the Leafs can grab him (there are rumblings that Arizona may select him 3rd overall), they may be advised to give him a nine game taste of the pros next October before sending him back to junior, where he can dominate the OHL and represent Canada at the 2016 WJC. After next season, the sky may be the limit. Strome and 2014 8th overall pick William Nylander could form a dynamic duo down Toronto’s middle for years to come.

Calgary Flames: The Flames were one of the most surprising teams this year, making the playoffs and even advancing to the second round in a season where most people thought they’d be competing for the first overall pick. And the secret of this seasons’ success lied with a handful of young players they drafted and developed. The Flames attack boasted the likes of 2015 Calder Trophy nominee Johnny Gaudrea, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, as well as a handful of other rising young players. The Flames can also take pride in a cupboard full of promising young forward prospects as well, so with the 15th pick in this year’s draft they could do worse then select a defenseman to begin stockpiling a blue line to compliment their forward corps. And Jakub Zboril just might be the perfect defenceman to begin that process. A fiercely competitive, smooth skating, offensively skilled blue liner, Zboril’s skills in his own end are underrated and while he may not be big, he isn’t small and can be physically aggressive when he needs to be. He could be the first step in building a blue line formidable enough to handle the offensive juggernaut that’s taking shape just a few hours north in Edmonton.

Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg is another club that’s managed to build a strong core of young players that was instrumental in their first playoff appearance since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. And adding center Colin White to that mix with the 17th pick would be another step in the right direction. A smart and hard working two-way center with decent offensive instincts and natural leadership abilities, White could well be this teams third line center and top penalty killing forward for years to come. But he also has second line potential and he could be the perfect compliment to Winnipeg’s eventual number one center, Mark Scheifele, for the better part of the next decade. White could be one of the safest, most efficient picks in the first round.

Ottawa Senators: The NHL entry draft has been very good to the Ottawa Senators over their modern history. The Sens have succeeded in finding and developing a wide range of players over the years. They struck gold with current team captain and two time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson (2008), blue liner Codi Ceci (2012) and forward Curtis Lazar (2013) in the mid to high teens of the first round, while uncovering 2015 Calder trophy nominee Mark Stone and forward Mike Hoffman in later rounds. The Sens are more then set for young forwards, both now and in the future, and have a crowded crease, so they should use this deep draft as an opportunity to began improving a middling blue line. Taking Swedish prospect Oliver Kylington with the 18th pick would be an excellent start. The super talented young Swede was originally projected to be a top ten pick (some scouts even had him as high as the top five) coming into this season, but a rough couple of months saw his stock drop. But he remains a smooth skating offensive defenceman with no shortage of speed, skill or confidence. Ottawa didn’t do too bad the last time they drafted an offensive minded Swedish defenceman and could you imagine having two Erik Karlssons quarterbacking their power play? Scary.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks roster is getting old fast. The core they’ve relied on for time out of mind is all on the wrong side of thirty (the Sedins will be 35 when the puck drops next October) and Vancouver may have to move out a veteran or two to become cap compliant this summer. While they have a few promising young forwards currently on the roster (Bo Horvat) and a few intriguing ones in the system (Jake Virtanen, Hunter Shinkaruk), their defensive prospects are underwhelming to say the least. That’s why they should take a good long look at Swedish blue liner Gabriel Carlsson when their turn to comes at 23rd. A stay at home behemoth, Carlsson plays with smarts and poise in his own end. Remember that offensive juggernaut we were talking about in Edmonton? Vancouver will be seeing a lot of Connor McDavid and the Oilers over the years and Carlsson could be one of the Canucks best weapons of mass defence. He may be a bit of a project, but Carlsson could one day be a blue line beast that spends thirty minutes a night devouring opposing forwards while anchoring Vancouver’s penalty kill.

Montreal Canadiens: The biggest flaw in the Canadiens roster was exposed during the playoffs when it became painfully apparent that the Habs need a big strong number one center to compete with the likes of Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers in the post season. The problem is that one of those won’t be available when the Canadiens step up to the podium to make the 26th pick. What will be available will be a promising young right winger named Daniel Sprong, who could one day allow the Habs to move promising young forward Alex Galchenyuk back to his natural center position, where he could become the big franchise pivot the Canadiens desperately need to compete in the East. Sprong isn’t big but protects the puck like a villain, is shifty when evading opposing defenders and is downright lethal on the power play. Sprong probably won’t be a first line sniper, but he will provide valuable secondary scoring and could be a fixture on Montreal’s power play for years.

Player To Watch: There is little doubt in the minds of most scouts that Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov is the best goalie available in this draft. While a goaltender hasn’t been taken in the first round of the draft since 2012 (when Tampa Bay selected Andrei Vasilevskiy 19th overall and Boston selected Malcolm Subban 24th), there are plenty who believe that Samsonov is worthy of a first round pick, especially for teams with multiple picks in the first round and those squads looking for help between the pipes (and wouldn’t you know it, Edmonton fits both bills). But the “Russian Factor” is strong with this one, who is signed at least for the next two seasons with his KHL team. And while there are those who think that may be good for his development, spending the next two years playing against men in the world’s second best professional hockey league, the fact that he skipped the draft combine raised as many red flags as it did eyebrows. Samsonov is easily the biggest gamble in this draft.

Shayne Kempton

RETURN OF THE TEDDY

THIS SUMMER’S GUILTY COMEDY ARRIVES, BUT WHILE TED 2 IS ENTERTAINING IN ITS OWN RIGHT, IT FALLS SHORT OF THE ORIGINAL

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Ron Slattery, Ron Canada, John Carol Lynch, Giovanni Ribisi and Morgan Freeman

Studio: Universal

Rated: 14A

Running Time: 1 Hr, 55 Min

Universal Studios, who have hit two enormous home runs already this year with Furious 7 and Jurassic World, have tried to recapture the lightning of it’s 2012 hit comedy Ted with this summer’s Ted 2. While the original Ted, Seth MacFarlane’s modern day fairly tale of a teddy bear brought to life by the Christmas wish of a young boy who grows up to be a foul mouthed, pot smoking narcissist, was a run away and surprise hit, the sequel comes up a little short, with too many of its moments feeling like a forced effort to surpass the original.

Taking place three years after the original, Ted (voiced brilliantly by Seth MacFarlane) is taking the plunge and marrying his equally hard living girlfriend Tammy-Lynn (Jessica Barth). His best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) isn’t as lucky with his love life though, having recently divorced Laurie (played by Mila Kunis in the original) and finds himself fending off Ted’s crude encouragements to get back in the romantic saddle. It doesn’t take long for things to begin souring between Ted and Tammy-Lynn, so in a desperate attempt to save their marriage, the two decide to have a baby. But the subsequent hunt for a sperm donor and investigation into adoption sets of a legal chain of events that finds Ted fighting a stubborn U.S. government to prove he’s a person, deserving of all the legal rights, privileges and obligations. Along the way he and Donnie meet idealistic young attorney and fellow marijuana aficionado Samantha Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) and come up against greedy Hasbro CEO Tom Jessup (John Carol Lynch) and find themselves once again at odds with Ted’s unbalanced, Tiffany addicted stalker Donny (Gioanni Ribisi).

Like its predecessor, Ted 2 doesn’t just embrace it’s crude vulgarity; it wallows in it. There’s little for sensitivity and it often feels like it’s pushing the envelope on the shock factor to outdo the first one. Too many times crude jokes feel random and fall flat as a result. And it falls into the modern adult comedy trap of trying to include that one notorious scene that will have everyone talking all summer about how hilariously disgusting it was, but in this case it just comes off as gross. And the absence of Laurie leaves a pretty big plot hole. John’s relationship to her in the original was the primary plot motivation, as his friendship with Ted became a liability to his love for Laurie. After cheering for John to grow up enough to deserve her while balancing his relationship with Ted, the idea that their marriage still failed feels hollow, and John’s likeability suffers despite his apparent depression.

But you have to hand it to Ted’s visual effects team, the creation and inclusion of a talking teddy bear is perfectly executed, and the movie’s cast interacts with him flawlessly. Especially Wahlberg, who is not only convincing as a depressed slacker mopping through life, but somehow manages to have great chemistry with an animated bear. While some of Ted’s crude jokes and references miss the forced mark, many of them do indeed land with guilty accuracy and the physical slapstick pays off (the chase scene and brawl at Comic-Con pretty much justifies the price of the ticket) as does the parade of guest stars and surprising cameos (particularly Liam Neeson’s). Coming off last year’s disappointing A Million Ways to Die in the West, director Seth MacFarlane does a brilliant job voicing Ted while also including plenty of love letters to the 80’s and a handful of the big musical numbers he adores so much.

Despite often feeling like it’s trying too hard, Ted 2’s highs balances out its lows. While not as good as the first one, it’s more then mildly amusing and will inspire its fair share of guilty laughs, just make sure to leave your sensitivities at home.

Shayne Kempton

RETURN OF PIXAR

INSIDE OUT REPRESENTS A SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO WHAT MADE PIXAR GREAT-AND IT BROKE THE BOX OFFICE ON ITS WAY BACK

Director: Pete Docter

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind and Kaitlyn Dias

Studio: Pixar/Disney

Rated: G

Running Time: I Hr, 34 Min.

There has been some genuine concern at the House of the Mouse this movie season. While Avengers: Age of Ultron has been a huge financial success, it hasn’t matched the box office performance of 2012’s original Avengers (who watched its record for the highest grossing weekend of all time stolen last week by Universal’s monster hit Jurassic World-pun totally intended). In fact, Universal has outshone Disney and it’s various affiliates all year long, ruling the box office first with Furious 7 before Jurassic World conquered theatres. Toss in the hundred million dollar bath Disney expects to take on the tanking Tomorrowland and 2015 hasn’t been the spreadsheet dream year Disney shareholders were expecting. Until, that is, Pixar rode to the rescue like an animated cavalry with its most recent blockbuster, Inside Out.

12 year-old Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, leaving her friends, her hockey team and the only home she’s ever known. Dealing with a new school and a new neighborhood would be tough enough, but the family’s furniture and possessions end up in Texas and her father’s barely around as he tries to prevent the new company he’s working for (and the entire reason they moved) from going under before it even gets off the ground. Riley tries to keep a happy face and act as the family’s morale, but eventually the stress of the move and the burden of leaving everything she’s ever known eventually begins to get to her.

That’s because Riley’s emotions, lead by the ever-bubbly Joy (Amy Poehler) begin running amok in her head. The emotions who control everything from her emotional Command Centre are struggling with the upheaval in Riley’s life as well, and Riley’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith) becomes a more prominent emotional presence. And before they know it, Joy and Sadness are yanked out of Riley’s Command Centre and find themselves desperately trying to return before her remaining emotions-Anger, Fear and Disgust-make a complete mess of everything.

As per Pixar usual, the voice casting is beyond inspired. Poehler is perfect as the hyper energetic, uber-bubbly Joy while Smith (most well known for her role as Phyllis from TV’s The Office) is an equally brilliant choice to bring the pessimistic, beyond melancholy yet eventually empathic Sadness to slouchy life. Bill Hader as Fear and Mindy Kaling (another Office vet) as Disgust are equally perfect. Richard Kind as Riley’s one-time imaginary friend Bing Bong moves between slightly irritating to genuinely touching effortlessly. But caustic political comedian Lewis Black steals the show as Anger. If Oscars were handed for voice actors in animated movies, Black would be getting some serious votes next February. And while Pixar more then hits it out of the park with the voice casting, they manage to find a way to raise their industry leading standards for animation even higher. Inside Out’s art and design team invested serious effort into imagining Riley’s emotional landscape, from her personality islands to the labyrinth that houses her growing inventory of memories to the various productions studios responsible for her dreams. It’s clear from the first shot that Pixar’s artists were given creative carte blanch when building this animated world and they ran with it.

Inside Out’s story ranges from cute to adorable to subtly tragic, with plenty of jokes and rapid fire quips peppered along the way for good measure. While Inside Out has no shortage of magic to appeal to kids, both young and old, its story doesn’t skimp on the gravity, much the same way Up and Wall-E embraced more mature themet. You’ll go from laughing out loud to having a heartstring or two tugged and be back to laughing again all in the same scene. Inside Out sees Pixar returning to what made the company great; swinging fearlessly for the creative fences.

Inside Out’s 91 million opening weekend was well beyond everyone’s most liberal estimates, and while this is the first time a Pixar release hasn’t occupied the number one spot in its first weekend (Jurassic World maintained its hold on the top spot at the box office for the second straight week), it is the second highest opening in Pixar’s history and is the highest debut for an original property (something that isn’t a sequel, prequel, remake or adaptation) in Hollywood history, usurping Avatar’s 2009 opening haul of 77 million. In short, Pixar is back and it should be interesting to see how Inside Out’s box office fares against that of another highly anticipated animation juggernaut, Minions (yet another Universal release). It will also be interesting to see how this sets up The Good Dinosaur, Pixar’s November release (this is also the first time Pixar is releasing two titles in the same calendar year, making up for last year’s Pixar absence). Either way, Mickey has reason to walk with a little more swagger this week.

Shayne Kempton

TRUE HEROES

FORGET SUPERMAN, ON FATHER’S DAY, I KNOW WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE GREATEST HERO I KNOW

     My father has a story he likes to tell whenever he’s asked why he refused to hold me when I was a baby.  It happened at a county fair when I was only a few months old and while he was holding me, I decided I wanted to try a little skydiving and planted my baby pieds on his chest and pushed with all my newborn might, launching myself out of his hands like a missile wearing a diaper.  Fortunately he caught me a sliver of a second before the ground could break my fall and from that day forward, he decided to play it safe and held me as little as possible.

I think about that story every Fathers Day, how my father essentially saved me from myself and I think that’s the biggest part of a father’s (and a mother’s) job description.  I can’t count the number of times my father has bailed me out of my own stupidity, and somehow still managed to keep a head level enough not to disown me (though I’m sure he’s been tempted on one or two occasions).  Or the number of times he (and my mother) acted as a lifeline, allowing me to keep my head above water and I could never hope to count the number of times he was there to listen to me rant about work or challenges or life in general.  Or offer me sage counsel during times of trial or failure, times that happened more than I’d like to admit.  And only recently have I become wise enough to listen, and regret the many years when I wasn’t smart enough to.

And while I can’t count the number of times my father was there to give me a helping hand (or offer me one during times I was too stubborn or blind to see it), I could never imagine how many times he wanted to knock some sense into my thick head, mostly during my teenage years.  While I wasn’t a typical teenager, my father still had plenty to put up with during those wasted years.  I was an outcast, not the worst mind you, but with the exception of my final two years in high school I shared the same postal code with some of the kids who grew up harbouring violent grudges (think Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison), and I took a lot of that frustration and self-pity out on my family, primarily my father.  I have a well-earned reputation for being a sarcastic, wisecracking jackass who needs to learn a little more verbal discretion sometimes (I’m pretty much banned from church) and I cut some of those nasty teeth on those around me, particularly my father. All these years later wonder where he found the resolve not to kick my posterior on the many occasions I probably deserved it (and I also wonder how my long-suffering mother put up with the two of us, locking horns for no other reason than I was a scrawny teenager full of hormones and stupidity).

I’ve finally begun to understand how lucky I truly am.  How blessed.  I wasn’t merely an outcast at school, but struggled to find acceptance in the tiny town where I grew up.  But my father quietly encouraged my curiosity when I began questioning the world and he silently nurtured my political beliefs as they began to grow and mature, often opposing those he held.  When it looked like a group of pseudo neo-Nazis at my high school were going to decorate the ground with my brains after I mouthed off about them, my mother confided in me that my father was quietly observing the situation and was prepared to bring hell down on anyone who touched me.

The fact that he’s held little interest in the fiction I have occasionally dabbled in writing has never stopped him from prodding me to keep going, to push myself and test my own boundaries.  And even though he may not be a fan of the things I am drawn to, the things that go bump in the night and creatures of pure imagination that sail across the stars and slither in the shadows, he’s still my biggest supporter.

Perhaps the best example of my father’s belief in letting me be my own person is Canada’s national passion; the sport of hockey.  In small town Canada, the local hockey rink is perhaps the most important building in town, more important than schools, churches, libraries and even city hall.  Hockey is the religion of small town Canada, the arena the altar where it’s worshipped, and to say my lack of interest during my early years went against the grain would be like saying that Elvis was only a slightly successful musician.  To add a little extra fuel to the proverbial fire, my father was a long time coach and there were a number of occasions that both he and my mother were stopped in the middle of the street by friends and neighbours alike, demanding that I be forced to play, regardless of what I wanted. But neither of my parents surrendered to the small-minded pressure of their peers and I was never forced to pick up a hockey stick.  It wasn’t until I became a teenager that my interest in hockey grew, and even then it was purely my choice.

And it’s only recently that I’ve begun to respect the man my father is.  A decorated firefighter, he was awarded medals for saving lives when he wasn’t on duty.  He was recognized by the province of Ontario for his volunteer work in girl’s softball, coaching a team to a provincial championship in a time when women’s sports were considered irrelevant.  And while he never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to, he made sure I kept my word.  When I wanted to quit clarinet lessons after finding out it was work (yeah, I studied clarinet for a year, come at me), he made me stick it out for the full year I had committed to.  Whenever I wanted to quit soccer (my preferred sport that was eventually replaced by hockey) because I was clumsy and not as good as the other kids, he made me stick with it for the summer because he knew I’d be first in line for registration the following spring.  Every time I decided to wallow in self-pity, he was there to kick my butt out of it (or at least try) and the only reason I continued to study karate long enough to earn my black belt was because he prodded me forward (even on the occasions where I was deliberately failed to test how I handled adversity).  There are some people whose father left them when they were barely able to walk and were never there to offer protection or guidance; I had a man of his word who believed in the value of your promise to call my father.  He (and my mother) even dared to believe in me even during the many, many times I refused to believe in myself.

Thinking on it now, everything good about me, my values, my tolerance, my patience, I got from my father (and you too, mom), and everything about me I wish I didn’t have, well, that’s all me.  I’m not where I’d like to be in life (yet), and there are times, late at night, when I worry I’ve let my father down, that I haven’t justified his faith in me with deed or accomplishment.  And then I smile and realize if I ever admitted that to him, he’d tell me to stop being stupid.  The truth of the matter is, if I were twice the man I am right now, I’d still only be half the man my father is and his example pushes me to strive better.

So here’s what it boils down to-the world is a haven of danger, populated with devils and monsters clothed in greed using fear and violence as their tools.  There is no shortage of fallen angels or suave demons waiting to seduce children with temptation and foolish indulgence and many of the bogeymen who stalk us are beasts of our own making.  The bitter truth is sometimes there’s precious little parents can do to protect their children, whether from the world or from themselves.  Sometimes it’s all a father can do to wisely let his sons and daughters endure the storms when they can, fight alongside them when they need, embrace them when it’s over and help them pick up the pieces later.  I often wonder how I would cope if I ever have the honour of becoming a father, how to manage with all the fears and uncertainty and eventual heartbreak.  People tell frightened new parents that there’s no such thing as a parenting textbook, but should the day ever arrive that I’m gently cradling a child of my own in my arms, I could do far worse than to follow my Father’s example.

And in the meantime, if I fall, I know that my father, like all those years ago at the county fair, will be there to catch me.

Love You Dad

DINO-MASH

A SUBTLE COMMENTARY ON CORPORATE CULTURE, JURASSIC WORLD IS BETTER THAN THE 1997 AND 2001 SEQUELS, IT JUST CAN’T MATCH JURASSIC PARK’S FRESH, DANGEROUS CHARM

Director: Colin Treverrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Ty Simpson, and Nick Robinson

Studio: Universal Pictures

Rated: PG

Running Time: 2Hrs, 5 Min

The one thing that I’ve always liked about the Jurassic Park franchise is that while it embraced the limitless wonder and creative potential of science, it refused to shy away from the dominance of human greed and how we usually allow the devils on our shoulders to poison even the best things we do (and the dinosaurs are pretty awesome too). In fact, I can think of no other film franchise that examines the duality of human nature better while making us buy bags and bags full of popcorn. While Jurassic World has its warts, it accommodates that scrutiny better than any of its predecessors.

Jurassic World is the most infamous theme park on the planet and an average day sees twenty thousand plus visitors desperate for a peek at its de-extinct inhabitants pile onto the island. Baby dinosaurs are saddled for the riding pleasure of children, massive waterparks house underwater beasts who jump and dive for the applause of the paying masses and Jurassic World’s corporate overlords are always looking for ways to keep interest-and attendance-high in a world where the collective attention span wanes quicker then the blink of an eye. Corporations sponsor new attractions cooked up in laboratories and thus enters Indominus Rex, a new breed of dinosaur that’s the result of a nightmarish genetic recipe designed to crank up the wow factor. But the wily Indominus isn’t content being a mere carnival attraction and she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve to outwit her clueless captors. Soon all of Jurassic World becomes a helpless smorgasbord for the rampaging and seemingly unstoppable Indominus.

Jurassic World uses the exact same plot as 1993’s Jurassic Park-humans make dinosaurs, human arrogance and hubris strikes and humans are soon running and screaming and subsequently being digested by said dinosaurs. Jurassic World borrows heavily from Jurassic Park’s plot, with a few twists. While corporate greed is well represented by the nonchalant attitude park overseers demonstrate towards both the animals and the guests (mere items on a spreadsheet) as well as taking the cost effective solutions before actually addressing any problem, there are also military researchers studying the possibility of weaponizing the dinosaur breeds more efficient at killing.

Chris Pratt displays even more roguish charm as Owen Grady, a former marine now working as a Raptor wrangler, than he did in his breakout role of Jason Quill in last summer’s blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. Bryce Dallas Howard is convincing as cold, emotionally sterile and organization obsessed park director Claire Dearing, who embodies the corporate spirit of profits before people and that everything is just an asset to be managed. Everyone else is just exaggerated window dressing for the movie’s true stars, the CGI dinosaurs.

As stated before, the story is simple and straight forward, using the original Jurassic Park as a storytelling template (there’s even a pair of kids-one of them a dinosaur expert- with a family relation who get stranded in the park when all prehistoric hell breaks loose) but it pays almost token tribute to the original movies (BD Wong returns as geneticist Dr. Henry Hu but no other actors from the original movies make an appearance). There are some moments of genuine humour (usually when Pratt is on screen) but some of the film’s other attempts at levity felt forced and fall flat (it makes you really appreciate Jeff Goldblum’s manic spontaneity from the original). So does the eventual and obligatory romance between Pratt’s Grady and Howard’s Dearing.

I enjoyed Jurassic World, just not as much as I hoped I would. While I found it better then the previous Jurassic Park sequels (released in 1997 and 2001 respectively), I just can’t put it on par with the first movie, despite it’s gargantuan box office. When Jurassic Park invaded silver screens in 1993, the visual effects were a groundbreaking spectacle. Nothing like them had ever been seen before, but now they’re old hat (a curse that will likely doom the Avatar sequels). And Jurassic World seems to lack the menace that the original Park had, possibly because we’ve seen what it’s had to offer so many times. The film leaves an opening or two to for the inevitable sequel (green lit about twenty minutes after the first box office numbers trickled in) and here’s hoping the producers invest a little more effort into the story to help compensate for audience’s growing desensitivity to the special effects that make these movies so successful.

Shayne Kempton

UP IN SMOKE

TIME TO CALL IT-SMOKING IS STUPID BUT SUING TOBACCO COMPANIES IS A WORSE

When Quebec Justice Brian Riordan handed down a record 15.6 billion dollar judgment against Canada’s Big Tobacco companies last week, not only was he writing a judgment of record size, but he was also making a titanic sized mistake.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a defense of Big Tobacco; outside of the world’s oil companies, weapon manufacturers and Wal-Mart, you’d be hard pressed to find a more ethically and morally bankrupt enterprise. For years, Big Tobacco spent millions in advertising, not simply to promote their products but also counter the emerging science on the lethal consequences that came with a pack of Joe Cools. They spent even more buying political support to prevent lawmakers from mandating honesty from the industry and regulating how they advertised. How much money the cancer stick industry spent fighting education and public awareness has never been counted, probably because it’s an obscenely stratospheric number, but the fact that four actors who played the rugged, manly cowboy in the infamous Marlboro TV commercials died from smoking related diseases is a more then ironic indictment of the industry. And while Big Tobacco will be paying off fines and punitive judgments south of the border for years to come, the purveyors of coffin nails have spent the past few years using their armies of expensive lawyers to bully small and developing countries from enacting educational programs and advertising restrictions similar to those we enjoy in the west. Big Tobacco has sued entire countries, sometimes under the most absurd pretenses, and countries as large as Australia have been bent to their will. Below is a clip from HBO’s Last Week with John Oliver that perfectly sums up how ludicrously powerful Big Tobacco is and how wantonly they abuse that power.

But this really isn’t about the tobacco giants. It’s about consumers.

The premise of this long running legal drama was that Canada’s Big Three-Imperial Tobacco, JTI Macdonald and Rothmans Benson and Hedges-lied about how addictive and destructive their products were. And once upon a time they absolutely did, spending an ungodly amount of money in the process. But here’s the thing, the Quebec decision was made in relation to two class action lawsuits; one on behalf of roughly 100,000 people who’ve been made sick from smoking and another 918,000 plus that complained they couldn’t quit. These are all living, breathing souls and the simple fact of the matter is if you’ve started or continued smoking any time in the last fifty years, you did so knowing full well how addictive and self-destructive smoking was. While we should all be genuinely sorry for the ugly, long term health complications thousands of smokers suffer, the ugly truth is that it is the result of their own actions.

The Canadian government has made tobacco companies put warning labels on cigarettes and other products for nearly thirty years, labels that have been growing in size and displaying increasingly graphic content (with images ranging from tumor riddled lungs to diseased gums to a drooping cigarette meant to resemble an impotent penis). They’ve prevented tobacco companies from advertising on TV and radio since 1988 and for the past several years in Ontario, retailers haven’t even been allowed to display them on their shelves, concealing them behind covers. Fines for violations are often swift and severe (governments who, despite all their bluster about the negative impact smoking has on society, hypocritically collect billions of tax dollars from a product they allow to remain legal). And while they’ve been very vocal about it and have even retaliated with lawsuits of their own, Big Tobacco has complied. Simply put, if you’re a smoker sixty years or younger in the Great White North, you knew how bad smoking was but decided to do it anyway.

Smoking may not be the dumbest thing someone can do, but it’s within shouting distance of the top of the list. I’ve had no shortage of valued friends who I’ve nagged mercilessly to give up the coffin nails, sometimes using misguided tactics, but often getting the same response-a shrug of the shoulders followed by a “I do it because I like it,” or a “it’s not that bad.” The truth is people won’t give up an addiction unless they want to and a lot of smokers simply don’t. Nor am I dismissing or belittling the merciless grip of tobacco addiction, but the truth is people have quit-millions of them to be precise-so it is possible. An entire cottage industry has sprung up to help smokers kick that particular vice and there are plenty of options available on the shelves of your local pharmacy. Perhaps the most accurate metaphor I’ve heard to describe addiction is that it’s like slavery, and your addiction holds the leash tied to your collar. I believe that to be true, but at the end of the day, if you’ve willingly raised a cigarette to your lips in the last half century, you’re the one whose chosen to be a slave and given Big Tobacco, whose made an unimaginable amount of money off of the suffering and deaths of millions, an invitation to hold your leash. In this case, suing the one holding the leash is a lazy deflection of personal responsibility and about as smart as starting the habit in the first place.

Shayne Kempton

RESPECT THE BOLT

FANS TREATING THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LIKE THE RODNEY DANGERFIELD OF HOCKEY ARE MISSING THE POINT

When the Tamp Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers last week, much was said about the difference between their on ice celebration, where players poured off the bench to mob each other in raucous joy, to that of their eventual Stanley Cup opponent Chicago Blackhawks, who treated it like just another day at the office when they sent the Anaheim Ducks packing in the seventh game of the Western Conference Final. Since the matchup became official, the Bolts have been getting precious little respect from any corner of Hockeydom, the most charitable prediction most pundits have offered is that Steve Stamkos and crew may last as long as six games against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks. Reading most analytical breakdowns, the mainstream sports media seems content to ruffle Tampa Bay’s hair like the upstart scamps they are, scamps who are so overmatched they should just save themselves the bother and eventual humiliation and not even show up for the games. And while the media has been borderline condescending to the Lightning, the blogosphere has been even more merciless. According to the citizens of the Internet, Tampa is just lucky to be where they are, most are predicting the Bolts will suffer an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the boys from the Windy City and many give you the impression that the Lightning should bow down and kiss the feet of their opponents. Apparently, representing the East for the Stanley Cup, the toughest trophy in all of professional sports to win, no longer warrants any respect. The Tampa Lightning have become, for lack of a better comparison, the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL.

This isn’t a prediction; these teams are both elite squads who earned their respective berths in the Final, and they offer one of the more intriguing matchups in recent memory. Nor is this to say that the Chicago Blackhawks don’t deserve the vast respect they get. This is a team that has made the playoffs seven consecutive years (no small feat in the NHL’s thirty team salary cap world), this is their third trip to the Stanley Cup finals in the past six years and they’ve hoisted Lord Stanley’s coveted Chalice twice in the same period. Lightning captain Steve Stamkos called the Blackhawks a beast, and for good reason. There is just as much chance that this series ends in a sweep, as there is that it goes the distance in a seven game marathon.

But the Tampa Bay Lightning deserve to be here just as much as the Chicago Blackhawks do. Tampa Bay was the highest scoring team in the regular season, a trend they’ve continued during the grind of the post season, when goals are often tougher to come by then an honest politician, and they significantly tightened up their mediocre defense. The Lightning eliminated the highly respected Detroit Red Wings (who have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs an amazing 24 consecutive seasons and is regarded as the most efficiently run organization in the NHL), they knocked out the Montreal Canadiens and Carey Price (widely regarded as the best goaltender on the planet right now) in the second round and they sent the President Trophy winning New York Rangers (the most successful team in the regular season) packing in round three. In fact, Tampa Bay holds the distinction of being the only team to eliminate three “Original 6” teams to get to the Stanley Cup final, where they now face another one for the Cup. Steve Stamkos, who slept walked through Tampa’s first round battle with the Red Wings, awoke with a vengeance in round two and is skating hard, throwing hits and scoring big goals. In short he’s become the prototypical Stanley Cup franchise player, the Lightning’s possible answer to Chicago superstar and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Toews. The Bolts have an underrated blue line lead by 2009 second overall pick Victor Hedman, whose quickly becoming one of the game’s elite two way defenders, and while goalie Ben Bishop may not be reminding anyone of Patrick Roy, he’s shown that he can come up big when needed and has two game seven shut outs on his resume to prove it. There’s no reason to think that Tampa Bay will skate over Chicago, but there shouldn’t be any reason to think that they’ll be fodder for the Blackhawks either. And you can’t help but get the feeling that if any of the “Original Six” squads that the Bolts sent golfing were facing Chicago in the Final, that they’d be getting a little more respect and fewer pats on the head from the peanut gallery.

Game one of the series probably didn’t go according to either team’s plans. While Chicago won the game based on a pair of lightning quick (pardon the pun) goals late in the third period, they spent most of the game playing catch up and Tampa proved that they could hold the Blackhawks formidable attack at bay for long stretches. The Bolts meanwhile, learned that you can never count the Hawks out, you can never let up the attack and that Chicago will pounce on even the tiniest mistake and punish you for it. While Chicago’s 2-1 victory may have been the result a lot of people expected, it was hardly the blowout many predicted. The two teams probably learned quite a bit about each other during those three periods and fans can expect to see radically different battle plans from both squads for game two. While Tampa Bay management should be embarrassed by their absurd ban on Blackhawks jerseys and colours in certain seating areas during home games, Steve Yzerman and his staff should take enormous pride in the team they’ve assembled and the success it has enjoyed. Perhaps Tampa’s biggest motive to win the Stanley Cup is to finally earn some much deserved.

Shayne Kempton