Archive for December, 2015

Media Update 12/31/2015

December 31, 2015


Serial Mom

Long ago in the before times I walked into the living room and my mother was watching this movie. Since I was only 12, the movie was deemed not appropriate for me to hang around and watch. Like any good native son of Baltimore, I was always a fan of John Waters films and the man himself. He lived not far from the house I grew up in and we even played in his back yard once or twice. His movies say a lot with a small budget, great acting and great writing. John Waters also does a great job believably weaving in pop culture references to give you a feel for the world of the characters. With this movie, it felt a little like the world I grew up in and was literally the city I grew up in. Baltimore in the nineties with late-punk and grunge colliding head on with polite suburban society. Kathleen Turner is brilliant as a Baltimore suburban housewife who has gone slowly crazy to a homicidal level. All the other actors do a great job going crazy with her as her madness bubbles to the surface and Towson is scandalized by a killer in their midst. Check it out.


The Raid: Redemption

I saw a trailer a while ago for The Raid 2 and thought it looked interesting but thought I should probably watch The Raid: Redemption first. It was listed as a martial arts film and I like a good martial arts film. I looked into it a little and found that it’s a Pencak Silat film specifically and an Indonesian film. I had no experience with either of those things. I like trying new things when it comes to entertainment so I eagerly located a copy (DVR of late night tv ftw). What I wasn’t prepared for was a dark, gritty crime drama. It’s about cops stuck inside a mobster’s high rise during a failed raid. Does this sound familiar? It was also the plot of the excellent movie Dredd released in the same year and it’s clear they owe a lot to the same creative wellspring. If you’re looking for a well-shot, foreign language film that also has a lot of action and gore then look no further. I enjoyed it but I know these sorts of things aren’t for everyone.


The Wiz Live!

Now, I made the mistake of watching the movie version of the Wiz a while ago. It had a 34 year old Doroth, Michael Jackson and it was adapted by Joel Schumacher. It hit the garbage trifecta. However, at the time I thought some of the music was really good. When I found out about The Wiz Live I was intrigued. I heard the stage version was infinitely better than the movie version. Within 5 minutes it was better than the entire movie. I love theater and this was pure theater (with a huge budget). The sets were so colorful and interesting and the special effects were exactly what the show needed and nothing more or less. The cast (largely unknown to me) was excellent. Shannice Williams (Dorothy) has a bright future ahead of her as she was such a great singer and actress. All of the actors were so expressive and energetic and the show was full of so much life. It was such a joy to watch it as a fan of old school musicals. I laughed, I smiled and I didn’t exactly cry but I felt bad for certain characters. Definitely check it out on demand if you can.

Links of the Week:
Stoner Sloth
Worst Wifi Password Ever
Visual Vibrometry
Sonic Boom Breakdown
Motörhead – The Game (RIP Lemmy)

Weekly Updates:
– Not a whole lot to report since it has been the holidays
– Tomorrow is a new year. We shall see what comes
– I’ve been rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy
– There’s so much I didn’t watch in 2015
– Which means there’s so much I get to watch in the future
– The future starts now

World on a String

December 27, 2015

Koriana woke up and groaned at the wooden floor below her. The last thing she remembered was trying to drag her boyfriend out of a bar in South Lucroy harbor. Had they gotten out of there and back to their little farm? She wasn’t exactly sure. Her head was spinning and it was hard to get her bearings. Maybe the horse had gotten them home safely and maybe not. Maybe she had given in and joined him for a pint or two. It wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for that silver-tongued devil to reverse her efforts to sober him up. If he did, it would account for her light sensitivity and a funny feeling in her stomach.

It was at this point that she realized that although the ground below her was wooden and quite hard-looking, it didn’t actually hurt to lay on it. In fact, she felt pretty numb as she lay there and the realization was more than a little troubling. What had happened the night before? She had a huge blank spot in her head when she tried to recall the night before. She reached out to feel the floor with her fingers and that numbness persisted. She heard a scraping sound as her fingers moved over the wood and it was the only way she knew she was making contact at all. The whole thing was very strange.

Koriana started to climb to her feet but nothing seemed to be working. Her muscles wouldn’t gather under her so she could push herself to her feet. Her head would barely move and she felt so heavy and strange. She didn’t even feel tired or hurt, her body just wouldn’t cooperate with her. The room had been absolutely still and silent and the silence suddenly struck her as odd. If she was home there would be the sound of the dogs, the birds and all the other animals. If she was near the port there would the sound of the sea and the city. There was absolutely nothing and that was strange.

The silence was suddenly broken, the sound of a rough wooden door opening echoed throughout the room followed by creaking hinges. There were thunderous footsteps and fear went straight for Koriana’s heart like a dagger. Why were those footsteps so big? She had hear of giants but thought they were only a myth. However, magic had touched her life before and she had seen myth become reality in earlier days. The thought terrified her and she tried to move again but only managed to wiggle a little. She was frantic to run, to hide but again nothing was working.

“You need to relax, little one. I imagine it may take some time to get your strength back in your present condition.” The voice was surprisingly soft and heavily accented.

“In… In.. In m m my present condition?” Koriana managed to choke out though somehow her voice didn’t feel like it was coming from her body.

“Let us shed some light on your situation, shall we? I will warn you, this may come as a bit of a shock.” The voice said. Koriana barely had time for that statement to scare her. How bad was her situation? What was her situation? She felt herself get pulled to her feet and she could now see the room. The room was giant and the man in front of her was huge as well. She was sitting on what looked like a humongous desk. “Now, I found you in this condition and I was able to reverse the enchantment a little bit. I’m glad it allowed you to speak. Perhaps it will allow you to move soon.” The giant said.

“You keep saying condition. P P Please tell me what y you mean.” Koriana said.

The giant set a mirror before her and she was shocked at what she saw. She looked back at her own face but it was now wooden and her hair was made of thread. Her body was wooden under doll’s clothes. She hung there just above the desk by strings through her wrists and knees. She was the very model of a marionette and she felt her vision dimming with the revelation as if she would just black out. The giant watched her from just beyond the mirror and Koriana fought back to consciousness.

“I told you it would come as a shock.” The giant man said.

“I I Is this what giants do? Turn human beings into p p puppets?” Koriana asked. She looked up past the mirror and directly at the man with what she hoped was an accusatory glance.

“Giant? I assure you that I am as human as I believe you were. This was the work of a djinn. It made a deal with your husband and he was unprepared for the results. Whatever his wish was, it and your body were twisted. I only know as much because I coaxed the story out of him when he sold you to me.” The man said. His voice and eyes were steady and Koriana felt he just might be telling the truth which was devastating enough.

“So I’m a doll now?! What am I supposed to do now? How am I supposed to live?” She asked.

The man took the mirror away and brought his face level to her entire body. “The first step is to cut those strings. He can no longer control you. Although I paid for you, I do not own you either. You are your own woman. Your destiny is in your hands now.” He cut the string connected to her right wrist carefully and her arm fell limp. Slowly she flexed it and found she could move afterall. He held a small blade out to her and she grabbed it with her tiny wooden fingers. She reached and cut her own strings and fell to the desk. After a few moments she was able to push herself to her feet. She held the blade out to him.

“Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for setting me free.” Koriana said with what she hoped was a smile but was probably just the same painted wooden face.

He gestured for her to keep the blade. “Keep it. My gift to you. I sense a great strength within you but the small need every advantage they can get. What will you do now?”

She hefted the blade and it was just about sword-sized for someone of her stature. “Revenge on my husband maybe.”

“And after that?”

“I don’t know.” Koriana said. A future as a wooden doll was daunting.

“Meet me back here if you can’t figure that out. I may have a path for you yet.”

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2015

Well, as the title says Merry Christmas. This time of year is difficult to get through for a lot of people.  It’s a tough time and I try to remember how lucky I am even while I’m in the lion’s den.  As Bing sang, I can fall asleep counting my blessings.  Still, it’s not all wine and roses so all I can tell you is that you have to keep fighting the good fight.  Hang in there and you will see the other side and whatever is there.

In the spirit of “fighting the good fight”, I present a video that stars my brother as a bad ass Santa.  It is best viewed on your phone as it is a 360 degree movie.  Check it out.

Rebel Without a Claus

 

Media Update 12/24/2015

December 24, 2015


Snatch

I honestly thought I had seen this movie before. For some reason I remember my friend Arthur really pushing this as a great movie. I wasn’t very familiar with Guy Ritchie back then. I hadn’t seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and I thought of Ritchie as Madonna’s boyfriend. As discussed before, I didn’t really appreciate foreign film very much and I didn’t cotton to being told what to watch and enjoy. Time and time again I’ve learned that my stubbornness keeps me from enjoying good movies and television (although sometimes I’m right, damn it). The movie is really good. Jason Statham is too often used as a kung fu mook but here he’s a pretty funny and believable actor. The movie is full of great performances by Benicio Del Toro, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Farina, Rade Serbedzija and a lot of others. Brad Pitt is especially funny as Mickey and it’s refreshing to see a minority represented that I’m encouraged to laugh with rather than at. It’s a great low budget movie so check it out.

 


Ant-Man

I put off this movie for far too long. I am in love with the Disney/Marvel Cinematic Universe as I have repeatedly stated in this blog and nothing they have put out has disappointed. The timing fell into a bad place and I couldn’t get anybody interested in going to the theater with me. I felt bad that I had lost my chance to see it in theaters but I resolved to wait and see it on DVD. I owned it on DVD for over a week before I sat down to watch it. Again, I shouldn’t have waited. Ant-Man is not a character I’ve really followed too much in the comics outside of crossovers but interestingly I’ve followed Scott Lang the most who Paul Rudd plays. Speaking of Paul Rudd, I was worried but he was great as a beginner superhero. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lily backed him up brilliantly along with a great cast. The movie still held some of the flavor of the earlier Edgar Wright version and was a great mix of comedy and action and real drama. The tone was something between Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man 2. It was a great movie and I can’t wait to see the sequel or maybe even a crossover in the future.

 


White Christmas

I really felt that I needed to watch something to help pick up my Christmas spirits so that I’m not so Grinchy this week. The holidays are always stressful because you deal with things you look forward to intensely while also dreading other things. If you look at earlier posts from this blog, you’ll notice I love old musicals. I had never seen White Christmas and neither had my mother so we decided to sit down and check it out because it’s a classic and I like Bing Crosby. Even after all of the similar movies I’ve watched, I still didn’t expect the depth of the story. The movie deals with World War II, what happens to veterans after retirement, stubborn love, show business and generosity vs. self-interest. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye have great chemistry together and are very funny. Rosemary Clooney is a great singer but I was surprised by her great chemistry with Bing Crosby and her great performances with Vera Ellen. Dean Jagger practically steals the movie a lot of the time as an old retired army general. The movie is great and is on Netflix so if you have time this week check it out.

Links of the Week

Henry Rollins – The Night Before Christmas
Speed Painting of Santa by Roy Paschal (my Uncle!)
SNL Digital Shorts – Best Friends
Tupperware Remix Party – Christmas Special
Brian Wecht – Voted Most Likely to Cure Aids

Updates of the Week:
– Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
– Check out Tuesday’s Star Wars review
– The Steve Harvey incident was a good lesson that design matters
– The Slammy Awards are fixed
– There are a lot of bad holiday movies out there
– Gotta see Krampus

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 22, 2015

Star Wars has been around my entire life. A New Hope came out 5 and a half years before I was born. The Empire Strikes Back came out two and a half years before I was born. I was five months old when Return of the Jedi came out. I don’t remember exactly when I eventually watched the original trilogy but I think it probably wasn’t at 5 months. I do know that when I watched the movies, I liked them a lot. Even as a kid I was a fantasy fan more than I was a sci-fiction fan but I did love space (I wanted to be an astronaut). Star Wars was able to give me both Fantasy and Space in sufficient portions. I liked the cocky smirk on Han Solo’s face. Luke’s lightsaber, Leia’s fire, Ben’s wisdom and Vader’s spookiness. I never really cared for the droids but hey neither did most of the characters in the movie. I had a huge pile of Star Wars action figures and I read some of the expanded universe stuff as I got older.

I eventually saw the original trilogy in theaters when they released the special editions and the magic that had faded was renewed. On the heels of that gift, they started to release the Prequel trilogy and now I was old enough to eagerly greet the movies in theaters. They were disappointing but they got better as they went along. I defended those prequels the best I could but eventually my enthusiasm cooled and I packed Star Wars away except for watching The Clone Wars tv show now and then.

So it was with a great mixed emotion when Disney announced that they were planning their own Star Wars trilogy now that they owned the property. Several franchises had flourished under Disney including Pixar, Marvel and The Muppets just to name a few. Still, I was concerned because the original trilogy was not perfect but the prequels had definitely tarnished a lot of what was good in the franchise. Were the original actors too old to come back? Would JJ Abrams lose his way and create something less than good? Was there even anything left to mine in the Star Wars universe? There were just too many questions. I had been hurt before, so why try again? Because the trailer was interesting and new and nostalgic all at once. Moreover, I felt obligated to see it out of geek pride. Also, my friends said it was good on Saturday. So all of this was in my mind as I stepped into a movie theater at 3 in the afternoon in Martinsburg, WV.

I will stop here to give a fair warning that, although I’m earnestly trying not to spoil anything, I understand if you stop reading now. Go watch the movie and come back here later. I try not to include spoilers but I know even the slightest thing can be a spoiler for some people.

From the very beginning I was hit with nostalgia and then I was very intrigued. The movie did a great job of mixing the new with the familiar. One of the greatest faults of the The Phantom Menace was that it started with a boring scene about trade negotiations. Every Star Wars film before or since has started with some sort of interesting and/or action-packed sequence. They definitely fully regained that ability to grab you right away and pull you into the story. I definitely felt pulled in and the movie didn’t let me go until the credits rolled. I walked away humming the music, just barely able to keep the humming under my breath. I was smiling pretty hard during and after film. Honestly, the film felt a little like coming home. Sure things were different but most of those things were better and all the things you liked were still there.

It was so good to see Han Solo again. I know Harrison Ford doesn’t really understand the impact of the character and doesn’t enjoy it but he really pulled it off. Carrie Fisher was even more likeable as Ex-Princess Leia and she was a sight for sore eyes. Thankfully BB-8 wasn’t annoying at all after months of having him shoved down my throat. John Boyega was a total surprise hit as I was intrigued about his character in the trailer but was unsure how it would work out. Daisy Ridley is absolutely the actress and character we all deserved for being fans all of these years. Both of them work so well together and separately and I’m excited to see where their story goes. Everybody was absolutely great in their roles even all the bit characters and the CGI characters were so well done that it didn’t feel artificial like the prequels. The whole thing was written by two people. JJ Abrams has come a long way from the mess that was Lost and has even come a long way from the Star Trek reboot. Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Empire Strikes Back which was, until today, my favorite Star Wars movie and his work showed in this one.

Go see this movie whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not. There’s so much I loved in this movie that I just can’t talk about openly. I don’t want to ruin it for somebody who hasn’t seen it yet. I want to tell everybody I know to see it and everybody I don’t know as well.

Top 11 Christmas Episodes

December 20, 2015

Top 11


11. Scrubs – My Own Personal Jesus

Probably last on the list because it leans heavily on the belief in God and the low production values. It largely deals with how hospitals are one of the worst places to be during the holidays. In the emotional parts of our lives, it can sometimes bring the worst of us bubbling to the surface. A young Catholic surgeon loses his faith while on call on Christmas Eve. He feels he has been proven wrong in his assertion that God watches over all of us. In the end, his faith is restored and we’re reminded that even if you don’t believe in God, you can believe in people. The subplot has plenty of comedy about dealing with people you don’t like but coming together anyway. It’s a welcome balance to the sad but uplifting main plot.

10. Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park

Alright, this one is only this low on the list because half of it is a Jurrasic Park/Innerspace parody. That plot has little to do with Christmas besides taking place inside a homeless man in a santa suit. The title characters (and Jon Oliver) are busy dealing with the strange problem inside Ruben. While all of this is going on, the rest of the family is playing host to Steve’s parents and trying to get along during the holidays. The family in Rick and Morty are pretty disfunctional. They’re perhaps the most disfunctional family I’ve seen in fiction that still stays together. Steve, the father, decides to disconnect his family from electronics for the holiday so they can connect with one another. He’s not prepared for the consequences of his action. The episode teaches that sometimes our family can annoy us and drive us crazy, especially around the holidays. That’s ok. It’s very normal.

9. Futurama – XMas Story

While the episode is largely silly, like most Futurama episodes there’s a deeper message involved. The surface story is about how a Santa Claus robot has gone crazy in the year 3000 and will murder anybody after sundown. Naturally, this is because its naughty/nice processing unit has been damaged. However the episode more expertly deals with two characters who are feeling lonely on Christmas because they have no family. Both of them fail to see that they can always fall back on their circle of friends because friends are our extended family. They also tackle the folly of being selfish especially around the holidays. There’s also a mostly subtle message that possessions are fleeting and no thing can take the place of a kind thought.

8. Boston Legal: Loose Lips

Now, I’ve only seen the first season of Boston Legal but it’s definitely got cynical edge to it that you might think would clash with Christmas. The thing is, beneath that cynical and bitter surface, Boston Legal has heart and that especially applies to its star, James Spader. His character likes to pretend he has no heart and that he’s the villain but in the end he often does the right thing in spite of himself. Christmas is all about that sometimes. Christmas can be the one time all year where we stop ourselves and do the right thing. Not because we’re supposed to but because we realize we want to be good just like Ebenezer Scrooge did. The secondary plot has to do with a confidentiality dilemma when a doctor’s patient may be planning to kill somebody. The main plot is much more Christmas-y and has to do with a Santa who was fired because it was discovered that he cross-dresses on his off hours. The main plot starts kind of comedic but ends up being pretty touching and features one of those good mall Santas.

7. 30 Rock: Ludachristmas

30 Rock was a clever show that was always funny but every episode devolved into insanity unless it already began insane. This is one of those episodes that starts with a lot of crazy concepts and premises and just runs with it. There’s weird amnesia, crazy alcoholic christmas and paper shredders that are easily mistaken for a photo scanner. There is a clash between those who just want to have fun with those who would dictate how you should celebrate Christmas. In the end, maybe it’s not such a good idea to meddle in how other people celebrate as long as they’re responsible and safe. The main story hammers home how everybody’s family is pretty crazy so there’s not much point worrying about the grass looking greener on the other side. It’s best to just live and let live most of the time.

6. Bones: The Santa in the Slush

Bones has always been a good show. Some of my scientist friends might have problems with it but I’ve liked the show because it has compelling characters and stories with a lot of heart. Even the worst episode of Bones is head and shoulders above a lot of other stuff on television. The show has had a long run so it has a lot of holiday episodes to choose from. I had to go with The Santa in the Slush because of the interesting imagery of the episode. It starts with the discovery of a murdered mall Santa and the mission to discover who could do such a thing. Now, these days its popular to depict mall Santas as alcoholic jerks who are just faking it for cash. However, I love a good story about a true mall Santa who loves kids and is sticking it out in the trenches as a true foot soldier for the North Pole. We all want to believe in magic. Whether it’s the magic of Santa or the magic of human kindness, we all want to believe. This is a good story that shows that there are people out there who really believe in humanity and what’s right in the world.

5. Supernatural: A Very Supernatural Christmas

Brothers have history together. I lived in a house (several in fact) with my brothers for 18 years and then spent holidays and some summers with them. Granted, we never had the history the Winchesters had but we went through a lot of stuff together. Even in moments where that’s not being directly dealt with that is the major undercurrent of the show. So how do two guys who grew up experiencing Christmas in motels on the road view the holidays? Both Sam and Dean have had a taste of normal Christmas but that’s gone for them. The episode also deals with various mytholigies that surround Christmas. Some have been forgotten and some were appropriated for use by Christianity. It’s a fun but creepy look at those myths coming to life.

4. Veronica Mars: An Echolls Family Christmas

Since this episode occurs in the first season, Veronica is very much separated from the friends and family (minus her dad) that she used to celebrate with. This isn’t necessarily a happy episode, especially for one set at Christmas. That’s fine as the holidays are not always so happy and problems don’t just magically stop during the holidays. This episode primarily focuses on the Echolls family’s dysfunctional problems. There is a more lighthearted whodunit trying to figure out who stole the poker winnings from the last poker game with Veronica taking great pleasure in shaking down the rich boys (even her ex). In the main plot we have a much more dangerous mystery that includes cheating, stalking and holiday parties. It foreshadows a lot of stuff later in the series. It’s a good dysfunctional look at the holidays because we’ve all experienced that at one point or another.

3. Leverage: The Ho Ho Ho Job

When your main cast is a bunch of ex-criminal vigilantes who no longer have any family connections, you don’t really expect to have a Christmas episode. However, from its inception, episodes of Leverage are about restoring hope to the hopeless and defending the defenseless. Most of the characters are loathe to get into the Christmas spirit but all they need is a little push from the suddenly cheery orphan thief to try and stop a holiday heist. They take the case of a mall santa who may as well be the real man in red. In the end the crew and even some of the villains embrace the season. It’s a lot of fun and doesn’t delve into the somewhat dark histories of the characters but does show them getting a little light in their lives.

2. Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe

It was hard to pick just one Doctor Who Christmas episode but I managed to whittle it down eventually even though I could probably do a separate list. British shows tend to run a little dark around the holidays and Doctor Who is often not an exception. This one starts with a mother taking her kids to the country for the holidays while trying to keep it secret that their dad recently died. While there is a horror/science fiction plot at work, there is a bigger discussion on the nature of the collision of happiness and tragedy. The Doctor does his best to heal this broken family and in the end I was so filled with joy that I cried.

1. Community: Comparitive Religion

The first season of Community was like a force of nature when it showed up. It was a little more cynical and bitter as the characters were still feeling out their relationship with one another. Still, by Christmas at the end of their first semester they had grown into a tight group that genuinely liked each other despite all of their flaws. However, sometimes it is the people with the best intentions who can cause the most pain. Shirley is a devout Christian and chooses to impose her will and control over her non-Christian friends using motherly guilt. The episode features a pretty even-handed look at how many different cultures in the United States celebrate Christmas because it’s fun and not because they’re Christians. In the end, everybody learns that family means togetherness and that’s way more powerful than any religion in the world. It manages to achieve this message without putting anybody’s beliefs down and isntead preaching peace and the ability to live and let live. It’s a violent but strangely joyous way to celebrate the holidays.

Media Update 12/17/2015

December 17, 2015


Machete

I finally got around to watching Machete because it showed up on television and DVR’d it. I’ve been a Robert Rodriguez fan since I first saw Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn. I read his book about the making of Mariachi and then watched Mariachi and really liked it. I’ve liked pretty much everything he’s done which includes the Spy Kids series (but not Sharkboy and Lava girl. Yuck). When he made the joke Machete trailer for Grindhouse I laughed and moved on. Rodriguez discovered Danny Trejo but the thought of him starring in a film was kind of a laughable idea. I was right. Trejo looks like a badass but has zero charisma which may have been the point. It’s like Grumpy Cat in human form rampaging through some area of Texas or whatever. They did a pretty good job covering up the weaknesses of the movie with explosions, slick action and brutal deaths. Robert Deniro and Steven Seagal add a little comedy but they’re barely there long enough to deliver a punchline. This is a good movie to put on in the background while you do something else.


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Netflix originals have served me well. Like I said at some point, I have watched less and less actual television and more Netflix and Youtube. When Tina Fey left Saturday Night Live I was curious. I checked out 30 Rock and I was pretty much instantly in love with it. It was hard to believe that somebody who wrote for Saturday Night Live could create something that consistantly funny. When 30 Rock ended I wondered what Fey and her cast would do next. I heard that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was good but I never got around to it until now. Like most things, I now wish that I had gotten to it earlier. The show is very tightly written, well-acted and very funny. More than that, the positive energy of the lead (Ellie Kemper) is contagious and leaves me with a good feeling even after the episode is over. Jane Krakowski is once again brilliant as a woman so rich she’s lost touch with reality. Tituss Burgess is an interesting and funny gay wannabe actor/singer whose cynicism is constantly challenged by Kimmy. The show is just really good.


Marvel Universe Live

For weeks I’ve been waiting for a surprise Early Christmas/Early Birthday gift from my brother Alex. I was really touched that he went through such efforts to plan something for me. He kept it secret and I enjoyed the mystery and not knowing where in the hell we were going. Last Sunday he finally sprung the surprise as scheduled and I was intrigued when he showed me the above trailer. I’m a huge comic book fan and lately Marvel is my go to company. We headed down to the Royal Farms Arena and I was immediately impressed by what I could see of the set. I also got a detailed program and a whole graphic novel full of several characters’ origin stories. The show started and we were blown away. That trailer did not do the show justice. There was projections, explosions, combat, motorcycle stunts, wire work and great voice acting. It was kind of like being in a Power Rangers episode. They did such a great job of weaving the general feel of the movies with the comic books and kind of creating their own thing. I highly suggest checking it out because it was definitely totally awesome.

Links of the Week:
Youtube Rewind 2015
Regifting with Jon Oliver
The Blue Jean Committee – Catalina Breeze
Justin Tucker – Ave Maria
Behind the Scenes – Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas

Weekly Updates:
– I’m sick of the Jar Jar is a sith theories. It’s dumb.
– I am feeling a little Star Wars excitement though
– I purchased Ant-Man and I’ll finally get to watch it
– It looks like due to limited seating I will not see SPECTRE in theaters
– Probably won’t see Creed in theaters either
– Christmas is coming. Hell, Christmas is here.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Surprise!

December 15, 2015

WILPW.jpg

Storylines in fiction are interesting machines. They’re born of teams of writers who are utilizing performers and other assets to the best of their ability. They try to take what’s in their head and match it with the mission statement set out by the creator or showrunner while appealing to a wider audience. With sports entertainment the writers are joined by the performers who have some input as to what their characters are and where their characters are going. This creative input varies from performer to performer and creates a sort of politics as people jockey for screen time.

Not only that, but talent can suddenly become unavailable due to real life injuries and writers are sent scrambling to change storylines. As with any other form of fiction, it’s hard to shock the audience in a real and organic way because most people’s minds consider the possibilities of what’s coming next. They also risk alienating fans by jarring them out of their comfort zone. I happen love those moments when the writers and performers can surprise me and make me wonder what could happen next.

How about some examples?
Seth Rollins Defects from the Shield

Speaking of injuries, Seth Rollins was a breakout star this year but that might not have happened without his shocking moment over a year ago. In May 2014 the Shield was a dominant force in the WWE as a tight knit trio who stood together as brothers. The group consisted of the “Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose, “The Juggernaut” Roman Reigns and “The Architect” Seth Rollins. On June 1 2014 the Shield was engaged in a war with their boss’ team Evolution. The Shield and Evolution had absolutely destroyed each other to the point that Batista had even walked out. It was easy to see that Evolution would need to add another member to their ranks and there were plenty of candidates. Then June 2, 2014 rolled around. Triple H came out to the ring with a smirk on his face and, like a sleeper agent suddenly coming to life, Seth suddenly wailed on his ‘brothers’ with a steel chair. I remember actually yelling “No!” at my television screen.

The moment ended up being great for everyone involved. The Shield had been a tight unit and, as with any good tag team, it was hard for each member to have singles success while part of a group. Seth Rollins became The Authority’s pet wrestler and eventually held the World Heavyweight title and United States title at the same time while the bosses pulled the strings for him. Dean Ambrose got even crazier and became a common man hero character whereas before he had been an antagonist with a screw loose. Roman Reigns became a bonafide superhero and fan favorite and even though he’s a big, musclebound guy he makes a lot of waves as an underdog. Growth comes from change and sometimes change is most effective as a sudden shock.
Brock Lesnar Ends the Streak

In my previous Why I Love Pro-Wrestling post I went on at great length about the legend of the Undertaker and how much I’ve loved his story. While I didn’t go into minute detail, one thing I left out was The Streak. Wrestlemania has long been described as WWE’s equivalent of the NFL’s Superbowl. It’s a yearly event where they try to put out their biggest matches, often ending or shifting storylines into a different gear. Wrestlemania is also partly responsible for the advent of the sports entertainment payperview event to complement a company’s television offerings. The Undertaker fought in his first Wrestlemania match against the legendary “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and the Undertaker won. After that, the Undertaker went on to win every Wrestlemania outing and usually with supernatural flair. Every year the legend grew and every year they teased an end to The Streak. After twenty Wrestlemania victories it was beginning to look like he would retire before losing at Wrestlemania. Enter Wrestlemania 30 and “The Beast” Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar is a monster speciment who first made his splash after a very, very short NFL career which ended up being a single preseason in 2004. With his build and demeanor it always seemed to me that he was more well-suited to fight than to play ball. He took the WWE by storm at a time when it desperately needed fresh blood. He became a crossover star when he fought for real in UFC and then returned to WWE to fight in even more scripted combat. At Wrestlemania 30 he returned and defeated the Undertaker. That wasn’t the shocking happening because, as I said, Lesnar was such a ferocious beast. What shocked me was that Lesnar beat Undertaker so badly. The supernatural powers that the Undertaker drew upon were nothing against the onslaught and it really helped Lesnar’s career.
Chris Jericho is Beaten by Dean Malenko

World Championship Wrestling was a titanic wrestling company and, like most titanic wrestling companies, it had more talent than it could deal with. They hired Chris Irvine aka Jericho to a fairly lucrative contract but they apparently hadn’t thought much beyond that. At that time, WCW was getting a lot of mileage out of its cruiserweight division. The formula was that they would use the admittedly aging big names to draw in crowds and keep them entertained with young, talented performers who were relatively unknown. The formula worked. Stars like Hogan and Savage were putting on less than stellar matches while upstarts like Jericho, Mysterio, Benoit and Dean Malenko were lighting up the place. Cruiserweights like Jericho pretty much did what he want because as far as the writers were concerned, their storylines didn’t matter.

Jericho was the ultimate blowhard and after he had won the Cruiserweight title from Dean Malenko he ridiculed Malenko constantly. Dean was on the injured list so Jericho didn’t fear any reprisal. Week after week and Jericho retained his title by hook or by crook and continued to belittle Malenko who was a great talent. Finally there was a battle royal to come up with a challenger for Jericho’s title. The battle royal was hard fought as Jericho stood by and mocked all of the competitors. Finally it came down to Cyclope and Juventud Guerrera and then Juvy jumped out of the ring and eliminated himself. What the !? Jericho entered the ring to face his opponent which is when Cyclope unmasked and it was Dean Malenko. Dean proceeded to beat the tar out of Jericho for every mocking statement and it elevated both stars if only for a moment.
The Montreal Screwjob

Hold on, don’t yell at me yet. I know this one wasn’t exactly planned and written with everyone’s best interests at heart. The Monday Night Wars were a brutal and cutthroat time in sports entertainment history and a lot of people did things they can’t ever take back. Both WWF and WCW were in heated battle and were constantly poaching talent from each other. All sorts of shenanigans were happening. Madusa jumped ship and showed up on WCW and dumped her WWF title belt in a trash can on live television. Rick Rude showed up on live television on WCW while still showing up on taped WWF programming. Both companies were looking for every chance they could find to screw each other over using the performers as pawns. In the middle of all this, the WWF was in dire financial straits and was starting to fear the reaper.

Brett “The Hitman” Hart was the World Heavyweight Champion and he was riding high. He was highly skilled and his family name was (and is) one of the most respected names in sports entertainment. The WWF had promised and signed Hart to a contract worth millions of dollars and they no longer had those millions of dollars. Vince McMahon allowed Brett to check in with WCW to see if they could offer him a comparable deal to let the WWF off the hook. WCW was definitely interested so it came down to those involved to decide when Brett would lose his title. Out of fear that Brett would be convinced to leave the company with the title, Vince changed the end of Hart’s match with Shawn Michaels. He had the ref ring the bell and screw Brett, letting him leave the company on a bad note.

Vince wanted to gloss over the event and move on but the fans wouldn’t let it go. Eventually, the WWF embraced the momentum and Vince transformed into an evil boss character. When that character went up against the anti-hero Steve Austin, every put upon employee saw their greatest fantasy being played out. The feud (and a few other stoy lines) brought the WWF out of its financial slump and eventually led to them winning the Monday Night Wars. All on that one shocking event.

Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure 3

December 14, 2015

Felix Osaka

The car rolled on back toward the bombing site to pick Ren up. Makoto was sitting in the passenger seat and May was driving which left Felix sitting in the back. It had turned out to be a pretty gray day and the thought of returning to a bombing spot didn’t make it any cheerier. Two weeks out of Hopkins and he was now involved in fighting terrorism. It wasn’t a happy thought but it felt good to be more connected with the universe.

“So is somebody going to fill me in on this organization? The one that did all of this?” Felix asked, definiteyl feeling every bit the gaijin as Makoto had called him.

“The Tengu are mostly a political group with nothing but an intimidating name. They engage in sometimes questionable protests and various antics. I would compare them somewhat with your country’s PETA. Obnoxious and misguided but mostly harmless.” Makoto said casually as if reading off the Wikipedia page.

“So what do you think happened?” Felix asked. “These actions weren’t ‘mostly harmless'”

“Well, obviously they were militarized somehow and it seems too sudden to be natural. Several of the members are to be aware which is why we are involved, Doctor Gaijin.” Makoto replied, again her word choice was meticulous but casual at the same time.

“Not all of their victims are aware though.” May said. “They’re on the unaware news and that’s dangerous. We have to shut this down quickly.”

“Agreed, May-san, I’m developing some leads but we will have to speak with Ren. He often has important insight.” Makoto said, she looked out the window but the reflection of her eyes made it clear she wasn’t seeing anything.

May smiled brightly. “He really does. One of his best qualities.”

May pulled the car around and the back door suddenly jerked open and Ren practically floated into his seat.

“Greetings. Let’s head to the Sentinel’s office. This is a big complicated, political situation and we must keep them in the loop. Also, they may have insight that we do not.” Ren said casually, he took the mask off of his face like it was nothing.

“Agreed. We must step lightly.” Makoto said.

“But quickly.” May reminded her.

“Yes, and quickly. A difficult proposition.” Makoto agreed.

“Obviously you’ve never been in surgery.” Felix said with a slight smile.

“Indeed I haven’t. It is why you are welcome to come along.” Makoto said and Felix knew it wasn’t a joke.

“I feel so welcome.” Felix said. “Is there anything else I should know about?”

“We’re about to have a meeting with Daisuke Inoki, Osaka’s Sentinel. He is also known as the Lion of Osaka. Lion is a fitting nickname in all the best and worst ways. Watch yourself around him.” May said.

“I’ll keep that in mind. I don’t need any powerful enemies.” Felix said.

“Or enemies of any sort but we are legends and such things are unavoidable.” Makoto said with a slight smile.

“All I know is that the Tengu have made themselves some enemies today. I’ll bring them to Inoki even if I have to drag them one by one.” May said, fire in her belly. Ren reached forward and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. She placed her hand on his.

“I agree and we’ll definitely do just that. Afterall, they have interrupted Doctor Gaijin’s vacation. Have they not?” Makoto said, looking back at Felix.

“I’m more concerned with stopping them from hurting anyone else. I don’t mind healing people but I’d just as soon not have to.” Felix said. He was content with his mission in life but hated to see good people hurt. Hell, he didn’t like to see the bad guys get hurt needlessly. He took his oaths seriously. As he looked out the window at a foreign land, he supposed he would have to get used to adventuring in foreign lands. The life of a Legend was not a peaceful one. The road stretched out ahead and Felix just hoped he could help along the way.

Shield of the Ishim 4

December 11, 2015

Ishim Shield

The next morning all three of them walked to Penn Station. Maya was still having trouble walking so she had a cane and it helped a little bit. The dizziness had mostly gone away and she felt clear-headed for the first time since the fall. She was also feeling a little worthless and vulnerable even with two other Ishim walking ahead of her. She was nervous abou taking the trip and also nervous about what would be at the end of it. The idea of speaking in front of hte council was humbling.

Council members weren’t the most accessible members of the Ishim. They tended to contact normal members by paper only. They usually only socialized with other council members and were rarely spotted out of their safe refuges. This was a rare opportunity that could go well or really badly. The council was comprised of some of the longest lived magic practitioners which made them skilled, powerful or connected.

It could not have been a coincidence for one of them to have been in town when Kerry and Maya had been attacked. The Grand Maeve was one of the two most formidable magic users in the world. People went back and forth on who was better at magic between the Maeve and the Oberon. The truth was that at that level it really didn’t matter. They were both amazingly and terrifyingly powerful. The idea that the Grand Maeve had tended to hers and Kerry’s wounds was like Ruth Bader Ginsberg had stopped by to act like a nurse.

She tried to focus on the present instead of their destination. She looked ahead at Kerry and Ivy who were deep in conversation. It was a discussion that Maya had heard none of so she couldn’t really follow it or jump in. She felt a little bit like a third wheel. She began to wonder why they even brought her along. Kerry had seen everything that Maya had and could report it just as easier than bringing Maya along to join in.

Ivy turned around and started to walk backwards, effortlessly keeping pace with her sister. She had a guitar low slung against her hip and it bounced slowly as she moved. She grinned at Maya.

“Awfully quiet back there. Are you doing alright?” She asked

Maya nodded. “Everything is still very sore but I’ll be OK. At least I think so.” Maya said, she thought she was keeping a good pace even with the bruised ribs and the cane.

“Nice. You’re a trooper. I don’t know if I could be soldiering on like you are. You’re a real champ.” Ivy said with a smile that made Maya smile in return. Each backwards footstep was perfectly placed in just the right rhythm that Ivy needed.

Maya blushed and kept going, the sudden warmth in her body made her pain lessen a bit. “Is that a guitar?” She asked, her voice softer than what she would liked.

“Oh yeah. I bring it everywhere. It’s the language through which my spells flow.” Ivy responded.

“What? What does that mean?”

Ivy smiled and ran her hand over the guitar. “As you know, spells are cast through a force of will and either a verbal command or a mental one. That helps focus the concept forming inside of you as you will the spell into being. Music is kind of like my verbal command which makes my spells less focused and harder to predict and defend against. Some people call my spells “area of effect” spells and when used in tandem with a power hitter they’re pretty bad ass.” She said with a big smile.

“Wow, I’ve never even heard of that.” Maya said.

“It’s really weird but effective.” Kerry said without turning around.

Ivy laughed. “She just says that because she’s often my heavy hitter. Are you a heavy hitter, Maya?”

“I guess I’ve hit hard in my day. My trainer said I was dangerous at great distances.”

“A sniper? You might just be useful after all, Rabbit.” Kerry said with a smile.


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