IHAO on ... How I Met Your Mother, Season 9


Ok, so first off, I want to reiterate the point of I Have an Opinion.  It is my goal to with every review I write share both my critical, objective thoughts on a piece of entertainment.  This review is going to be a review on the quality of the final season of How I Met Your Mother.  Not only that, I also try to make sure you, the readers, get my personal views as well.  I have worked hard to be able to separate both from each other, so that you get a sense of a true objective review of a film or show or music, but also my own personal tastes on whatever it is I am reviewing.  Why do I reiterate that?  Mostly because this is a long review, and the two view points I strive to see everything throw twist and turn throughout it, much like my Batman review as my objective criticisms and my own personal distaste for the film share the stage.

Also, I understand this is a topic that has been talked about a whole heap, just 4ish months ago.  But despite all I have heard, I did not finish watching this season, as my CBS app did not work properly, and I was going to buy the DVD anyway to finish my collection.  I was especially interested in getting the DVD as there was going to be an alternate ending to the ... let's just say controversial ending of the series.

For a quick overview, this show is about a father telling his kids the stories of his hay days, including all his many relationships, seemingly most importantly the relationship of he and his wife, the titular Mother.  Season 9 focuses on the 72 hours before Robin and Barney's wedding, as the unlikely couple that won over the hearts of everyone watching as we saw two very injured characters find growth and healing with each other.

Season 9 is ... ok, let's do it like this.  Ignoring the finale, Season 9 is probably the most perfectly crafted finale season of a sitcom I have ever seen.  Every single memorable joke from the past 8 years of the show are brought back in some way, shape, or form, as well as calling back almost every old character they could bring.  Not only that, but they craft brand new jokes and characters that all stand out among the best, including a wonderful the Mother who is instantly likable and I would be very surprised to hear someone not falling in love with the character, or at least her actress.  The plot is as convoluted and mixed up as most seasons, which is par for the course, though there is actually a lot of long running plots that make an appearance in early episodes and get paid off later.  Really, truly, this season (barring the finale) is the most perfect season of a television sitcom I have seen from episode one of the season to its penultimate showing.

The finale ... ok, in my opinion, the finale is actually an epilogue.  You see, most sitcoms end on a very simple scene: the characters have a finale meeting, bittersweet or actually sweet, and then a protagonist looks back onto the now empty set and shuts the door, giving us as an audience almost literal closure on the show.  Closure itself means not tying up every loose end, but leaving the audience with the characters at a place we can feel confidant their lives continue on from, finally happy or at least at peace with their major obstacles we watched through the show's run.

How I Met Your Mother's epilogue is the exact opposite.  The penultimate episode indeed gives the closure, for the most part, and the opening of the finale finishes us off, at least some.  In my mind, How I Met Your Mother is perfect right at Barney and Robin's wedding.  But ...

You see, at the end of season 2, to use the two kids that are part of the "storytelling" mechanic they incorporate most episodes, to use them for the finale, they went ahead and filmed a sequence.  That sequence is ...

ARG this is so frustrating to talk about!!

I am just dancing around what is my honest opinion: the finale of How I Met Your Mother ruins the entire show.  It ruins almost every character, it deletes almost every ounce of character development, it is insulting on a moral standpoint, and even worse than all that, it is unfunny, uninteresting, twice as long as a normal episode, and insultingly dishonest.  The finale shows that instead of what the entire season 9 builds to, and in fact, what the entire show builds to for 7 seasons as we watch Barney and Robin's relationship, Ted's difficulty getting over Robin, and his quest to finally meet the Mother, all that build up is dashed to the ground and thrown away so that Ted and Robin end up together.  And you know what, it isn't just the fact that they end up together, even though the show is called How I Met Your "Mother".  It is that every single ounce of credibility is deleted from the show.

Barney regresses completely until he knocks up an unnamed and unseen woman all so he can become a father which is what finally changes him, even though we watched him change over the course of SEASONS of development.  That's right, she is referenced as "Number 31" and we never see her.  Great character work, guys.  That was sarcasm, by the way.  Robin's character turns to a complete shrew that she apparently was always meant to be.  And even worse, the moral of the show, which at first seemed to be "hey, you met a girl you instantly fell in love with, but she has nothing in common with you, and no matter how much it hurts, being with her is wrong, and you need to wait for the right one," now reads "hey, you know that person you fell in love with instantly but has nothing in common with beyond how much you FEEL like you love them?  Totally just wait around and eventually you'll get them, despite the fact you have nothing in common!"  Wish fulfillment garbage!  As a friend said, this ultimate ending just comes across as fan fiction, and should have stay relegated to it.

Not only ALL OF THAT, but they kill off the Mother offscreen where we see not a single character's reaction to her death, even though the point of the episode is "the big moments in our friends' lives."  AND Ted and the Mother's relationship ends up being just a torrid and tedious affair as they get engaged and never get married, just constantly getting knocked up until they are together for seven years.  Yeah, the Ted you sold us on for nine years, that's what he would have done, definitely.

How I Met Your MOTHER is not about that, it seems.  And like I said above, they knew this from season 2's finale on.  They dragged this show on for seven more seasons, teasing relationships and other women and other connections and character growth that ALL gets reneged because they had already filmed the finale to the entire series AT THE END OF SEASON 2!!

Let me put some perspective on you for that.  If other shows came up with their finale at the end of their second season instead of growing organically:
 - In Friends, Chandler and Monica would never have ended up together
 - In Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will would have never made it to college or changed his life
 - In That 70s Show, Eric would never have struck out of college and grown up to finally be a man teaching in Africa, let alone Kelso growing, or Hyde for that matter
 - In Just Shoot Me, we would have never found the incredible chemistry between Elliot and Mia, and the show would have retained its focus on Mia instead of the ensemble show it became

Making a decision that early in the process KILLS the process.  It allows for nothing to grow organically in writing, as you are forced to get to the finale pre-planned.

But wait!  You see I said at the beginning that there was an ALTERNATE ENDING!  That was the big thing I was excited about, because as you can guess from what I wrote above, there was a LOT of backlash for the broadcast finale.  So much that the creators announced not a week after it aired that there would be an alternate ending to the series on the DVD.  And what was that alternate ending?  It was exactly the same, except the offending five minutes that reference the Mother's death (which is not the problem, it is the fact that we never SEE IT so it has no meaning and is merely presented as a convenient way to get rid of the character so Ted and Robin can get together), the filmed segment with the kids as they give Ted permission to go get Robin, and then Ted getting Robin.  Yeah, all the changes to character development, all the lackluster jokes, all the bad storytelling, all of that stayed.  They just chopped off the final five minutes.


HOW IS THAT ALTERNATE?!  IT IS THE EXACT SAME WITH JUST THE FINAL BITS CUT OFF!  That's like calling my haircut an "alternate look" when they just give it a small clean-up.

This ending baffles me.  It, in all honesty, almost completely ruins the entire show, as the showrunners never meant a single ounce of the character work and development they did for seven years of the show.  Luckily, audiences have a very VERY powerful ability ...

Art, of all kinds, can be divorced from its creator.  You can enjoy Ender's Game without agreeing with its racist creator.  You can enjoy Elmo without endorsing his puppeteer's unfortunate misconduct.  And you can watch and enjoy nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother and just do as they did, and cut off the offending sequence by never watching the finale.

I mean what I said before, Season 9 is one of the best crafted, most hilarious sitcoms I have ever seen, possibly the best in terms of paying off jokes, storylines, and character plots.  I would just suggest you never, ever watch the final episode.

There is a lot here that I can talk about.  And after talking with a roommate, I think ... no, I KNOW I will have to come back to this show or at least the conceits I touch on at the end.


IHAO on ... PTX vol. 3


All right so I guess I need to do a real review here.  Who are Pentatonix?  Well, they are an acapella -- WAIT, WAIT, don't go yet!  Hear me out!  They are a fantastic acapella group I talked about a little bit in my Top # Happiest Songs article.  I am an official fanboy for them.  I actually do take ownership over my fan-ness of them.  I've watched them from the beginning, own every album, watch every video, and follow them everywhere I can.  They are the only concert I've been to as an audience member that I've enjoyed, and they are just an all-time favorite band.

They recently got a big record deal for them, which is awesome, and which is why their newest album, Pentatonix Vol. 3, is being sold around the country in Wal-Marts for the ridiculously low price of $5.  I would, as a fan, plead that you all take a chance and go buy this album.  As a critic, I actually wanna talk about the album.  So let's go track by track.

Track 1 - Problem

Here is their video for it.

This song is a really nice cover of a really good pop song.  In fact, it is one of my favorite pop songs currently.  Their cover does it plenty of justice, is super fun and exciting, and a great way to start off the album.  It is a little short, but it makes an excellent opener.

Track 2 - On My Way Home

And now *BOOM* blown minds.  It always surprises people when I talk about Pentatonix with them that, yes Virginia, they do make original songs and not just original arrangements and covers.  This song was written for the group, and they crafted it musically.  It is fantastic!  It is #FANT!  This song I find myself playing as loud as I can whenever it comes on driving down the road, singing off the top of my lungs.  It has a frenetic energy and that "single" feeling.  It also doesn't skimp on length like Problem did.  I really really hope this gets radio play, because it is a great pop song.

Track 3 - La La Latch

Here is their video for IT.

The idea here is simple: take two songs that featured Sam Smith, and then mash them up into a new single.  It is emotional, and a nice subtle change of pace, though it doesn't lose that driving pop rhythm that seems to be present throughout the album.  It builds and flows wonderfully, and these are some of my favorite of their songs.  Save the World/Don't You Worry Child is similar, as is their Daft Punk combination, as well as a fantastic youtube only As Long As You Love Me/Wide Awake mix.  I do wish that the song held onto that yearning emotional aspect they build up in the beginning, but it is a great song.

Track 4 - Rather Be

Another really cool cover, one that I hadn't heard the original of.  It has an amazing chorus breakdown that absolutely melts me.  This is another rockin' pop song I blast in the car.  The half-time they use in the chorus is so incredible, and really makes me wish they had a more rocking beat throughout the whole thing, and more of their amazing layered vocals.  As is, it is another really great pop song in an album that is so far all pop songs.

Track 5 - See Through

Another song written for Pentatonix that they just made original on their own.  It is really nice and ... another good pop song.  I'm starting to see a trend that I don't actually care for, and it is weird to complain that I am getting a great song after a great song after a great song.  But as an album, there isn't much variance between the songs.  This, just like the last four, is an excellent pop song, and it is great to hear another original, but I want something to change up the pace a bit.

Track 6 - Papaoutai ft. Lindsey Sterling

This song is a really cool Belgium pop song that has the really crazy rhythm and awesome musical work.  It is in French, and is so incredibly unique.  Kevin, their beatboxer, is also a great cellist, and they bring back Lindsey Sterling for another collaboration, which works pretty great again!  While another pop song in a long playlist of pop songs, this one has a different feeling to it, with its crazy offbeat rhythmical focus and its very interesting lyrics.

Oh, and they made a ... frankly, kind of creepy music video for this one, too.

Track 7 - Standing By

To end the album, a 100% Pentatonix, song by their bassist Avi as the lead closes us out.  It is a wonderful ballad, with very touching vocals and wonderful lyrics and meaning.  It isn't a banging beat or crazy pop song, it is a soulful ballad that ends the album on a nicely somber note that really helped my whole album experience.  It isn't my favorite song, but that isn't its point.  It's point is to close out the album, maybe their concerts as well I would guess, on a touching and emotional note.

Pun not intended.

Overall impressions

I said a few disparaging things about album arranging, and personally one of the songs is forgettable.  But I have never gotten such a great musical experience for the price they are offering this album.  This is more than worth the price of purchase, and some of these songs are easily my favorites by the band, period.

I really cannot implore you reading this enough: if you can go to a wal-mart and get one of these, do it!  If you can get two, do it and give one to a friend!  Mail some to people overseas where there isn't a Wal-Mart.  GO AND BUY THIS ALBUM!  Support good music.

Grade: A+


IHAO on ... sweet puppies

I am puppy sitting, so I'll see you guys with a new review on Monday!!


IHAO on ... the Gotham pilot

This show has been talked about for awhile.  And I knew I needed to give my thoughts to the whole thing.  A little backstory: I absolutely love Arrow on the CW, and season 2 of that show was the best thing on TV in my mind last year.  I'm incredibly excited for season 3, as well as season 1 of The Flash, both of which start in just two weeks, and you can expect a Flash pilot review as well.  I'm a comic book fan.  I really, truly am.  Collecting for a long time, even if now I'm down to just a single series.  And all of that said ... I am not a Batman fan.  The operative word there being "fan."  Some Batman stuff I like, some I don't, some I despise, some I love!  So I'm not coming into this review as a Batman fan, blinded either way by my own love for the series or whatever.  Which ... actually, at first I thought that would count as a negative for me, but you know what, I'm a professional critic (technically), and this is a good place to be!  All right, I'm ready!  Let's do this!

44 minutes later

Ok, so I got a lot to say about this show.  But let me start with this: I kind of liked it.  Yeah, I kind of like it.  I don't like it like a fanboy, and in fact most of the fanboy-stuff (which this show is FILLED with) do nothing for me.  I don't care about seeing all these little nods and winks and nudges to the Batman mythos.  In fact, this show gets 300% better when that stuff is thrown to the side.  It becomes a really interesting mafia/cop drama.  I understand the need for some to see Bruce because he's the main character of the Gotham stories.  But he is absolutely the worst part of this show.

The majority of actors in this show are ... fine.  Including our lead.  Some are worse than that.  Some are better.  I actually really really loved Penguin and Butch.  They are my two favorite characters, and the two I want to see.  In fact, Penguin is even BETTER than that.  He is the reason I'm going to keep watching the show.  And he is in every episode, so I'm excited for that.

The show is clearly something different than the expectations of Batman.  It is set in the present, the characters backstories are different, even some names and hints of future Bat-characters are around, and all are different.  For some this might be a turn off.  And to be honest, some of it was a turn off for me.  Ivy Pepper was so on the nose with all her plants, it made me audibly laugh.  The comedian in Jada Pinkett Smith's club is ridiculously gonna be the Joker ... maybe, but it is at least enough to make us think.  Actually, you know what, take that back, he's interesting enough.  Catwoman, well, Cat-girl is ridiculous ... ok, well, actually I kind of like her too.  It makes sense for someone else to have been in the alley, even if it was just a homeless person, so sure, that works for me.

Now, there are some big drawbacks.  The show looks super cheap.  The sets look bad, the lighting for the most part is utter garbage.  The costuming is either one the nose or ridiculous, many times both, such as with Riddler.  Also, the writing is super super duper ... weighted.  The whole show is.  It is part of the baggage of being set in Gotham's past.  Every character, every choice, all sorts of lines, all have this extra weight attached to them, which drags down the show as it has to slog through the Batman-ness.

By the way, since we are doing a pre-Batman Gotham, and using Gordon as the only "good" cop in a world of either mediocre or bad cops, you have essentially created him as Proto-Batman.  Or Protoman.  The schtick of Gordon normally in the Batman narrative is that he understands Batman and wishes he could do what Batman does, making things right unfettered by the law.  But he believes in the law as well.  It is the very classic argument of Lawful Good versus Chaotic Good.  But in Gotham, he is already basically Chaotic Good, because the "law" he is fighting against is that imposed by the criminals running the city.  Gordon is Protoman.

Which is why the show surprised me when it got real great.  It was able to drop all that weight around halfway through and start focusing on the kind of show it really wants to be: a crime drama about a city that is one of the worst, ever, and the people that make it both better and worse.

This show surprised me.  I'm not supposed to be rooting for Penguin, but I love him, his actor, his costuming, how he is portrayed, the way they worked him into the narrative.  He's the best part of the show for me.  Gordon sucks, Bullock is interesting but Donal Logue is not an amazing actor so he sometimes comes across a little odd and off character, but I bet the writing will start to match Logue better and that he will get better.  Jada Pinkett Smith started as the worst non-kid actor on the show, but she really ends up doing pretty great.

The show's quality is low on the technical side.  It makes me appreciate Arrow more and more, because it is just beautiful.  Using real rooftops and amazing lighting, oh it is so wonderful.  And the terrible looking sets, while pretty decently designed, just all look super cheap.  Gotham LOOKS like TV.  And not good TV.  Not "shot on location" TV.

Now, the most important point: Is Gotham something you can enjoy?  Really, I think it depends on if you are a Batman fan, and what kind of fan.  Do you just like seeing reference to the things you love?  Probably gonna really get into this.  Like being immersed in the Batman you love?  Probably going to hate this, as the immersion of this show is its worst aspect and where it fails the most.  Do you not care about Batman at all?  This might be worth it for you, especially if you enjoy cop dramas, and ESPECIALLY non-procedural cop dramas.

I should mention, all of this is "so far."  All my criticisms and ... what the opposite of that is, like-isms I guess, are all "so far."  There has been one episode.  Most television shows take around six episodes to find their stride.  Some take a full season before they can even get where they are wanting to go.  So who knows.  Maybe they will just put more and more of the garbage faux-father-surrogate stuff that I hated in this, making that the real point of the show.

Grade: C? +?


IHAO on ... Lethal Weapon 3

I continue the job and getting through these classic films.  Or classic series?  I dunno, they are certainly zeitgeist-y.  I've reviewed the first and second one and have kindly linked you to them.  What, you haven't read those yet?  Well they are VITAL to understanding the plot of this one!  So you HAVE to read those first.

Did you do it?  I waited for you and everything.  Let's talk about this movie!

Before I get ANYWHERE though, I just have to say: thank you saxophone. Your sultry tunes let me know that I am entering a period of time where your beautiful tones filled every song and every film. Saxophone, you are so wonderful. I love you, saxophone. You make me feel good.

Seven days until retirement is where we begin this movie. Murtaugh really is getting too old for this. It is a big part of the character's plot, and it slowly seeps through the story's first act for some great character moments between two men who have become really great friends, nah closer than that, brothers.  Riggs hurts because Murtaugh really is getting too old, making small mistakes, getting tired, and just not quite up to snuff any longer.  Unfortunately, that is only in the first act.  Then Rene Russo just takes over as Pesci and Murtaugh are written out of the plot for waaaaay too long.  I forgive it some because Murtaugh comes back with a fantastic scene of emotion and great acting that a dumb action film like this one doesn't deserve.  Pesci doesn't overstay his welcome, and Russo becomes a good member of the cast as well.

The real plot is about internal affairs and corrupt cops.  And it opens with another Supernatural guest actor getting killed by his bad guy boss.  Kind of hilarious how that little detail has repeated now.  We also get more 90s commentary, this time on the effects of gang life.

The opening building blowing up is so good and visceral and real.  A thing I've come to love about these films is Richard Donner's intense visuals he creates.  Intense car chases, multiples of them, with just a whole bunch of incredible shots, all practical.  Props to you, guys.

This film pays off a lot of nice things, like all the work that was being done to Murtaugh's house is now paying off as they are selling it (to start with).  Of course, we cannot have a Lethal Weapon without some work being done on SOMEONE'S house, so now it is Riggs' place getting a deck.  Hell, the whole climax is in a housing development.  Just something about skeleton houses is what Lethal Weapon is all about as a franchise.  The daughter's condom commercial has become a part in a film.  Not the condom commercial, but her doing the commercial in the second film becomes ... whatever, you understand.  Leo gives another "they f**k you" speech, this time about hospitals.  We even get Riggs popping his dislocated shoulder back in, except it is the other shoulder this time.

Now, the plotting is not as tight as it could be.  It sort of feels like an afterthought.  There are a LOT of conveniences.  Conveniently being at the bank when the bad guys steal the bank truck.  Conveniently being at a burger joint when gang stuff happens just a bit a way, which conveniently involves Murtaugh's son's friends.  Conveniently being in the elevator with love interest/internal affairs Rene Russo.  Conveniently Pesci recognizes the dirty cop who is the bad guy, who they only know is dirty because IA conveniently installed hidden cameras in the interrogation rooms.  We also get "young kid cop looks up to the leads, dies, on his birthday no less" to go along with the above mentioned "few days left until retirement."  I don't know if this movie made these tropes or not, but I kind of doubt it, which definitely means it is crazy to have them all worked in.  They are worked in fine, and fit thematically with the film, but ...

Ok, so tropes are a lot like seasoning.  You can use tropes well to tell your story, you certainly shouldn't try to avoid them.  But when there is too much, you miss the flavor of the actual story.  Even worse, a lot of stories being told in film are not good to begin with.  So you have tropes thrown in to be interesting, except they overwhelm and just point out the lack of film story.


All that to say that these films have GREAT character stuff and really bad plots filled with convenient storytelling elements to get us to our action beats and our character beats.  None of that is tooooo bad, but it is certainly not good.

But what I constantly learn about Lethal Weapon is that these films plots are not really important.  Because Riggs and Murtaugh are two fantastic characters.  I love these characters, specifically Riggs, and feel their pain and love seeing their emotions and their lives develop.  Lethal Weapon 3 is an excellent sequel ... to Lethal Weapon 2, which stands alone other than characters from Lethal Weapon 1, which very much did not impress me.  But 2 and 3 ... yeah, I'd call these flawed, but good movies.

Looking ... well, I would say looking forward to 4, but it is a new screenwriter, so I'm a little afraid to be honest.  Plus, they bring back Russo AND Pesci AND introduce Jet Li and Chris Rock.  We'll see in a week or two!

Grade: B+


Arbitrary Numbers: Top # Matches That Could Have Been, part 4

It's finale time!  Night of Champions was Sunday, Part 1 happened under this link, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 with my heel friend Lenny is here.  Lenny and I are gonna keep things going with ...

The Top  Last 25 7 Matches that Could Have, But Didn’t Happen

Wade Barrett v. The Undertaker - Wrestlemania XXVII

Jessel:  At Bragging Rights 2010, the Undertaker faced his freshly turned brother, Kane.  During that match, the Nexus (run by Wade Barrett) came in and helped Kane bury the Undertaker alive.  Literally, that was the stipulation.  Why did they do this?  If you watch the story that was presented, no clue, because nothing came of it.  But what WAS to come of it was to see The Undertaker return and face the new star Wade Barrett at Wrestlemania XXVII.  How could he beat this new powerful heel, especially since he has a whole crew of able-bodied and same-minded new blood all wanting to end the oldest of old guard.  And rumor was, The Undertaker was ready to retire then and there, ending the streak like he recently did with BrockLesnar, putting over the new faction of the Nexus and their leader over in a huge way.

So what happened?  John Cena happened.  John Cena’s feud with the Nexus absolutely brutally murdered and left for dead every ounce of credibility the faction had.  I talked about it before, but apparently Cena squashed a needed Nexus win at the earlier Summerslam, then the Nexus’ powerhouse Skip Sheffield – now known as Ryback – got injured, then the entire long feud with John Cena killed every ounce of momentum the faction had.  There was nowhere for these guys to go, and despite setting this up and potentially creating a huge new star, we got … well, all the crap at Wrestlemania XXVII instead.

Oh, you just wait, Miz, we'll talk about you in a minute.

Daniel Bryan v. Sheamus - WrestleMania XXVII and WrestleMania XXVIII

Jessel:  Sheamus had his debut match at Wrestlemania XXVI against Triple H.  It wasn’t great.  It was fine.  Nah, it was a little less than fine.  But Sheamus had a better year after that, and some incredible matches.  He was a big ole bully and a huge ole jerk, and with his size and power and brutal in-ring style, it worked amazingly well.  Daniel Bryan, on the flipside, was just a well loved babyface who finally beat the Miz, who was a chicken-crap heel, and held the US Championship!  There had been some heat to this feud for awhile, with Sheamus being a bully on Bryan over and over, and other guys coming in to help, but this was finally Bryan’s chance.  Not only that, Daniel Bryan as we all know now is one of the best in-ring workers there is currently.  This had the makings to be fantastic!

And it got shoved off the card for time, and then it got turned into a lumberjack match (which are almost all terrible), and that got turned into a battle royal.  This match, that had some good heat, a nice midcard build, and two good workers ready to prove themselves, got turned into a clusterfudge paycheck-earner for Yoshi Tatsu and JTG. 

We as fans thought we’d finally get to see this match a year later for the bigger belt, with the roles reversed as Daniel Bryan had become an insufferable braggart of a champion and Sheamus a crusading babyface champion to be, but even that match ended with just a single Brogue Kick.  A really good one, and it ended a feud wonderfully, but once again we did not get to see these two fellas deliver a great match one-on-one on the grandest stage of 'em all!   They both are great wrestlers who could have delivered something magical twice, and twice got a great match ripped out from under them.

The Miz v. The Rock v. John Cena - Wrestlemania XXVII

Lenny:  It's the match that should've happened to being with.  Maybe not everyone wanted to SEE it, but if the option was Miz/Cena or a triple threat, then I'd take the triple threat!  The Rock had just returned a few weeks earlier to start his YEAR LONG program with John Cena to lead to their match at WrestleMania XXVIII, so he was already heavily involved with The Miz/Cena's feud.  So involved that his interference was the only reason that Miz was able to retain the belt.  The match went down as one of the most forgettable Mania main events in the history of Mania, but a simple addition of the Rock could've added some much needed electricity to a weak, weak card.

Jessel: I completely agree.  You folks at home'll see more soon.

Lenny: You could've teased and teased and teased and teased The Rock/Cena showdown until the very last few minutes of the match, still had the Rock hit the Rock Bottom on Cena and still have the Miz capitalize on it to win.  It would've made much more sense, and while it wouldn't have been an outstanding match, it certainly would've been better than what we got.  I also would've accepted Miz winning the 2013 Rumble and facing the Rock at WrestleMania XXIX.

Santino Marella and the 2011 Royal Rumble

JesselTechnically, this is a little bit against the themes of this article, but hear me out, as this leads into more and more talk about WrestleMania XXVII.  The 2011 Royal Rumble was the largest every Royal Rumble.  40 participants, enormously difficult, and it makes the people who starting in the first ten have a much more difficult time than any other Rumble in history.  We watch the match, which the early story is dominated by CM Punk pre-pipebomb doing his New Nexus schtick (yeah, there was a new Nexus created because of how badly Cena squashed original Nexus, killing the Barrett/Taker match I mentioned above real bad, huh?), which John Cena ends as well, setting up for their future competition.  And then we watch a bunch of guys waste time until the final five.  It isn’t a great rumble, to be honest.

Now, why would I suggest Santino to win?  Santino is a well-loved performer, mostly a joke, but well-loved.  He was having a surprisingly fun and pretty good tag titles run, and don’t forget that he won the IC title in his debut some years back.  While a joke, he’s always been a credible joke.  Kind of like Dude Love.  The guy is crazy and silly ... but is also Mick Foley, which means that Dude Love was someone to be reckoned with.  Well, the Rumble ends with what looks like Del Rio winning, but he forgot about Santino, who rolls into the ring, incredibly afraid, but ready to deliver his finishing maneuver.  The fans rally behind him like something insanely crazy, something unexpected.  Except it could be expected, because fans love seeing people succeed, especially well-loved wrestlers, and especially seeing succeed upwards.  And the place ERUPTS when Santino hits Del Rio with the Cobra. 

Here is where we have two timelines.  First, the real one, where Del Rio comes back, no-selling the Cobra and goes on to win the Rumble, then moves on to feud with Edge and lose at Mania, making the win pointless, and the build up to the feud pointless, and Del Rio never got any higher in his career than this moment.  He was wasted money, and wasted time, as proven by how he is acting now in the real world.

But the second timeline!  Where Santino, the unlikely and well-loved midcard babyface joke ends up doing the impossible!  It shows how important the Royal Rumble is!  It reminds viewers that you don't have to be a former champion to win the Royal Rumble.  Ok, so I’m not suggesting Santino wins the big belt, not necessarily.  But Wrestlemania XXVII was very not good.  And evidence shows that Santino, even with his almost win, got over hugely with fans, as he was prominent in the Elimination Chamber in 2011 and the fans LOVED him there as the tag champ ... before being squashed quickly in a five minute match.

 Imagine if instead of being wasted in that Chamber PPV and then a one and a half minute Wrestlemania match, imagine if Santino even just had a singles match against Del Rio for the right to the Mania match that year?  Or instead of the Miz’s ridiculous feud with Jerry the King Lawler at the Chamber PPV, Santino was tricked by some heel into using his opportunity early and the Miz did an even bigger heel thing to retain at the Elimination Chamber?   There are so many ways it COULD have gone.  But the way it did go was just terrible.

The Wrestling Retribution Project - 2011 to 2012

JesselThis ... this one is hard to talk about.  You see, a kickstarter was created for what was originally titled the Wrestling Revolution Project.  Created by Jeff Katz, who has a background in both film and wrestling, the idea was to take the professional wrestling product and apply to it the writing techniques of television, in particular the season arc.  He crafted a 16-episode season, which included a double-sized season finale that acted as the "PPV" for the WRP, then hired a bunch of great indy and former WWE wrestlers, created awesome characters, got his kickstarter funded, and filmed it.  And by all accounts, the entire thing was filmed to completion.  And then ...

Jeff Katz fell off the face of the earth.  Not literally of course, but he, and this project, have both just ... all but disappeared.  Not a lot of reasons are given for why.  Some have called Katz a criminal, stealing all the money and not distributing the product, though I have a hard time believing that.  I have a very hard time believing that, in fact.  I was a proud member of the fan base for this product.  I had conversation with Katz about it personally.  I was the liason for my wrestling forum at the time, posting the information and keeping up on it.  I was as involved as an outside source could be to the product, and I just don't believe that he did that.

It has been stated on at least one website that Katz was cheated, and all the distribution money was taken, leaving him with a bunch of filmed and partially edited footage, but no way to get it out to people.  Seems possible.  It also should be known that Katz just absolutely left his online presence.  He was having personal problems, and even looked to be getting things fixed with a name change on twitter from KatzMoney or some such to KatzLives.  But he has since ... disappeared.

Some of the wrestlers involved have been able to put the unfinished footage online.  You can find at least two matches and one solid promo from the show, and perhaps even more if you looked a little deeper on youtube.  It isn't finished, it is in standard definition, and ... it just isn't good enough.  But it is hard to judge an abandoned unfinished product on what little we have.

The most important thing about this failing and missing isn't the matches themselves.  It is the conceit and promise for the future it could have created.  A world where wrestlers were considered actors instead of contracted athletes, which means SAG cards for each of them.  A world where instead of 4 shows a week, with a 5th at least once a month for their PPV, we have writers actually crafting full stories that have a beginning, middle, and end.  A world where innovation creates a new style, a new way to watch professional wrestling.  Something that could live on in people's homes, as well as potentially become a challenger to how the only big company around now does it.

It is not only a wasted opportunity, as I still semi-patiently, semi-hopefully wait for WRP to be completed, but it is a wasted change in the industry that has been monopolized since 2001.

Goldberg v. Ryback - ???

Jessel: Lenny has this and the next one covered, it seems.  Even if ... when was this ever going to happen?  Or is this another fantasy booking?

Lenny: Goldberg has gone to the internets and said plenty of time that he'd wrestle again if the right deal and money and cash and flow and dough and for his kid and you're next and whatever and stuff!  Just DO IT, Goldberg!  And just do it against Ryback!

Feed him Goldberg!

Mainly because the Goldberg chants he gets aren't going to stop being annoying until Goldberg shows up, works a program with Ryback, and puts him over.

Jessel: In the idea of fairness, I would just like to point out the amazing reception Ryback got recently in his hometown, which was Goldberg chant-less.  Also, the Big Guy cuts a really great stoned-out-of-his-head promo in the hospital as he gets himself taken care of.

Lenny: When Ryback can put Goldberg out then Ryback can use those chants against the crowd and skyrocket back to the top (where he belongs).  There really shouldn't be anything stopping this match from happening but McMahon not wanting to pay Goldberg whatever amount Goldberg seems to want.  Which probably makes sense, but still pisses me off.

Brock Lesnar v. Daniel Bryan - Summerslam 2014

LennyPeople say this was the match that was supposed to happen before the unfortunate and IMPOSSIBLE TO HEAL FROM Daniel Bryan injury.  I'm kinda on the fence about this match, though.  Would it have been booked like Cena/Brock?  In that case, no, I don't want to see it.  That was a beautiful match (unless the rematch goes horribly with Cena looking amazing) and made Cena look like he's never looked before.  But if it would've been a real story about how the style and heart of Daniel Bryan had to overcome a new kind of beast (not like the Authority that cheats, but a man that's just strong) to keep his title?  That's a hell of a story and I'd love to watch that.  Their styles are very different, but very similar with the focus on submission and suplexes.  It wouldn't be about "Never Give Up" and "Do it for the fans!" like it is for Cena.  It would be about Daniel Bryan looking for a way to out-wrestle Lesnar.  That's a hell of a task and would make a hell of a match.

Jessel: I'm still holding out hope that it is a match they can still do down the line, maybe WrestleMania XXXI.  But who knows.  That is the future.  And we do not know what it holds.


I have to thank Lenny and Michael for helping me here.  If you can't tell, we each had an era or a wrestler or two that got stuck in our craw, and in putting this whole thing together, we didn't have a single overlap in thoughts.  And there are so many more stories out there of other matches that could have been, other dream matches that might have happened but didn't.  Hopefully soon I'll get us together again and we can talk wrestling again.  Leave some suggestions below if you have ideas.  For now, I am tired of editing all four of these in one day, so I'm going to be done.

Have a suggestion for another wrestling top or a different Arbitrary Numbers you'd like to see myself and my friends cover?  Let me know in the comments.  See you tomorrow for something different!


IHAO on ... Night of Champions 2014

Wrestling is a fickle mistress to its fans.  Sometimes, things are really great, like basically everything put on at NXT.  Sometimes, things are a mixed bag of good, bad, and great.  Sometimes, things are just garbage.  But for the most part, wrestling is a hobby that feeds itself.  What I mean by that is that you watch wrestling, and if you enjoy it, you keep watching it.  Good, bad, great, weird, boring, whatever, there is something to bring you back to watch another day of wrestling.  The only thing that can really stop is when you have a PPV like Night of Champions, where everything is bad.  There isn't an ounce of worthwhile to draw you back into the fold.  There is just bad match after bad match after bad match after bad match.  Even the best match of the night still really needed something else to kick it up.

Before I go any further, let's get into my review of Night of Champions.

The Dust Brothers beat the Usos to become Tag Team Champions

This match was ... ok, hold on, I'm going to do something a little different.

 Sheamus retained the United States Championship against Cesaro; 

 The Miz cheated to pin Dolph Ziggler to win back the Intercontinental Championship; 

Rusev made Mark Henry tap out for Russia, I guess

So I opened up my whole review saying everything was bad.  And that is true, everything wasn't good.  But what makes these four undercard matches bad is something very hard to really get a grasp on: telegraphing.  There is an energy to sports, a spontaneity.  There is excitement and adventure and thrill when you watch as your team makes a great play, or suddenly there is a sac that puts your guys back 7 yards that could cost your entire advantage, or a simple fault puts the pressure on one of the tennis guys you are watch, or other sports things to make my point.  Professional wrestling has to have that feeling.  That spontaneity as to exist.  We have to be seeing the moves and counters and offense and defense and all of that as if it is happening RIGHT NOW.  That immediacy creates the tension that allows the rest of the professional wrestling storytelling tropes to come into play and feel excited and energetic for this match.

The Usos and the Dust Brothers have wrestled each other a good bit in their pasts.  They work pretty well together.  In fact, they work too well together.  They know what the other one is setting up, and reach appropriately, because this is a scripted show, even if a lot of its individual choices are improvised.  But when you react to a maneuver a little before you get hit, you are telegraphing.

Sheamus and Cesaro have had probably seven or eight matches against each other, and they have really gotten to know each other's styles.  And they've also gotten used to their presence in the ring and just ... not "go through the motions" because that sounds like they don't care, which isn't true, they are working hard, they just ... have become stale, and telegraph just about every single moment within their match.

Put the slow Rusev in a match with slower Mark Henry, and you have a plodding fight that is about as interesting as watching a piece of steak and a piece of lamb get slapped against each other for 6 minutes.  Shameless pandering to the international/national gimmicks makes this even worse.

Miz and Ziggler have had so many matches, that they even added a whole bunch of comedy and two country superstars to this one to keep it entertaining.  And it didn't work.  Of the four, this one is the closest to being a good match.  But the Miz is incredibly limited, the commentary is a joke, and Ziggler is left out to dry to keep this feud going when he should be doing bigger and better things.

All four of these matches, which is a little over half the three-hour long show's run length, are not up to snuff.  There are great wrestlers chomping at the bit for any screentime in your own company, waiting to prove themselves, and most of these matches were a waste of time.  No, all of them were a waste of time, and even worse, in the case of Ziggler they were a waste of talent.  At least in the tag match we have new champs who have unseated the long (and basically boring) reigning tag champs in the Usos.  Maybe we'll finally get some fire in the tag division and have some real competition.

Verdict for all four - Not worth watching, not bad enough to be angry about

The anger, no, that's coming a little later.  But sense I condensed those four matches into one big blob of bad, let me put the next group together.


Seth Rollins declared winner after forfeit, but Dean Ambrose don't care
AJ Lee defeats Nikki Bella and Paige in a triple threat to become Divas Champ again
John Cena wins by DQ against Lesnar

Forgive the formatting, things got a little wonky.  Now, why are these three bundled together?  Because they are all still bad, but there is some ok to pretty good in these ones.  They don't all have the problem the others did with staleness and telegraphing.  These three segments get bundled together because their strong merits were either ruined, repeated, or wasted.

Rollins is doing a good job doing his heel Money in the Bank thing.  Reigns has "emergency" hernia surgery - that is INCREDIBLY well timed, considering he had no more feuds, was starting to get stale to the audience, and had to be kept away from the title scene somehow - so just like at Battleground, Seth is declared winner by forfeit because Reigns couldn't compete.  And then Dean Ambrose arrives via taxi to kick some butt.  Not a lot, but a little.  But he's quickly stopped and carted out before anything truly interesting can happen.  The fans wanted to see Ambrose again, and that's really what saved this incredibly uninteresting brawl: Ambrose.  He's the best thing going for the WWE right now for keeping things actually entertaining, with his lizard face and brawling antics.  But the WWE right now just cannot kill a feud, so of course, he is stopped by the trainers and various other personnel that HHH sends out to save Rollins, and the feud continues.  Will it be good when we get the blow off?  Who knows.  I have my doubts.

The Divas Triple Threat match ... ok, there is some really good stuff to talk about.  We have three women who are all working hard to be good wrestlers.  All three are saddled with bad versions of gimmicks they COULD be doing well.  And all three are given three times as much match time as is normally given to a Divas match.  This is the match of the night, with all three women bumping around for each other, the competition being strong, and the offense looking good.  The problem is that instead of filling a match with great stuff, they stretch out the stuff they wanted to do, and fill in the gaps with irritating character garbage.  If you were watching this match, you would have no reason to think that Nikki was heel in it.  She wasn't an important part of the story.  She was just there as a reward for being a bad guy.  The story was about Paige and AJ, and their frenemy-ship.  And since AJ has won, it will more than likely continue.  If they can make this different, and new, and get some real fire going, then the feud will be reinvigorated.  Stop with the skipping, get to having the good matches I know you can!  Because hot damn, this match was long, and had great spots.  They just had a bunch of space between them that dragged the whole thing down.

On a similar topic, Brie Bella is the least sympathetic babyface just ... ever.  She is constantly one-upped by Stephanie, Paige, Nikki, everyone, and all she does is cry or make snide comments.  YOU CANNOT GET OVER YOUR BABYFACES IF THEY ACT LIKE COWARDS AND WHINNY BABIES.  At some point, Brie should have been fighting back.  Showing some kind of spirit, some willingness to fight!  This kind of booking is actually what hurt Daniel Bryan after his Wrestlemania win, when he was just always smiling and joking and running in fear from Kane.  He never once brought the fight until the PPV matches.

Ok, and then Cena and Lesnar.  Lesnar kicked out of 4 or 5 finishers this match, most of them on a 1.  Yes, I understand you are trying to make him look like a monster, but when he kicks out of a finisher at 1, you have made everyone that ever got hit with that finisher in the past that didn't kick out at all a huge puss.  There is no realism.  And not only that, it makes you have to continue to up the ante.  The beat down with Cena at Summerslam was intense and amazing because of its brutality.  And it had plenty of finishers, too, but Cena didn't look as strong there as Lesnar did here.

Oh, and Lesnar used a move that has broken multiple people's arms in the kayfabe of the show, in the reality we are presented, Lesnar did that to Cena multiple times to Cena, for longer and longer periods ... and of course Cena never once sold a single ounce of damage to his arm.  Hell, he even did the very classic 'passed out during a submission" spot, where a ref picks up the guys arm, and it drops because he's all but out, and he does it again, but on the third one, he stands strong!  Yeah, Cena did that, except he stayed strong on even the first one.  THE SPOT DOESN'T WORK IF YOU AREN'T IN PERIL!  THAT'S WHY SPOTS LIKE THAT ARE CALLED "FACE IN PERIL" SPOTS!

This match was plodding, boring, and even worse, pointless, as Seth Rollins comes out to cause a DQ finish, then tease a cash-in, and get run off so that everything stays exactly the same.  Cena never has a feud that doesn't go three PPVs, and it is infuriating that I went into this match knowing for a fact that it wouldn't matter because Hell in a Cell is just a month away, where these feuds will almost all continue:  Ziggler/Miz, Cena/Lesnar, Rollins/Ambrose, Usos/Dusts, AJ/Paige.  Rusev will move on to Big Show, or maybe Sheamus, and hell, maybe Sheamus/Cesaro will have another go around.

Verdict - Better than the last four, but also more infuriating, especially the main event

Randy Orton RKOs Jericho to send Jericho away for a little after he does a flying gonna-get-countered-into-an-RKO-butt

But the creme de la creme is this one.  You got two high card talents but got nothing to do with them?  Have the heel attack the face for no reason, admit to it, and then they can have a match to earn a paycheck.  Jericho has done no one any good since he started doing his short stint returns a year back or so.  Feud with Fandango, nothing.  Feud with Ziggler, nothing.  Feud with Bray, nothing.  None of it mattered.  Not only that, he constantly loses, so a win against him no longer means anything.

Then you get Orton who has become so stale that I could ... I don't even feel like making a metaphor, he's just going through the motions.  He has no reason to push himself to be great, so he isn't.  His matches are monotonous and have been for months, and they will continue to be because he isn't going to be feuding with Lesnar, so he'll just float around doing nothing and make a huge amount of money for putting in the littlest effort he can.

These two were both just tired, and old, and ready to be done.  There was no point to this feud other than to pay these two guys.  You want to be mad about the WWE paying Lesnar to compete rarely, or the Rock for just a few matches?  Why not get made at guys like Orton who get paid to just waste our time and never strive for anything.  He makes just as much money, but wastes even more screentime.  At least the Rock and Lesnar had feuds.  They had storylines.  Orton attacked Jericho because "hey, might as well, its the season premiere of Raw."

And how can a show have a season premiere if it never doesn't air?!  WWE programming, not including NXT or Total Divas or any other side things, is on national television for seven hours a week, spread out to four days out of the week, except for when we get PPVs, which just adds even more hours and takes up another day.  And we just see the same garbage over and over and over.  So yeah, there is no "season premiere" so go shove that up your butt!

ALSO!  Can we STOP with the doing awful nonsense moves so that Orton can do the RKO "out of nowhere"?  It isn't out of nowhere, he does it the same every time!  ALSO stop superplexing all the time, Orton!!!  It doesn't do any good when a big maneuver is used in every one of your matches so it doesn't have any kind of impact and you treat it like it is as devastating as a double clothesline!  THE DIVAS DID A BETTER, MORE IMPACTFUL, MORE INTERESTING SUPERPLEX THAN YOU, AND FOR THE LONGEST TIME THEY WERE THE BATHROOM BREAK!


Verdict - Please, Jericho, retire so your Hall of Fame career doesn't become a joke.  And Orton, just ... stop.

Thank goodness for NXT.  Where every wrestler is excited to be there, they are all fighting for their spot, and they are all working to put on great matches every time they can.  Where HHH guides people to make better and better gimmick decisions, not letting guys go out there with a bad gimmick.

I hated Night of Champions.  It is probably the worst PPV of the year.  I hope WWE doesn't take me up on ---



IHAO on ... Detention

"Indy" film is a hard one to put a label on.  "Indy" doesn't actually represent much beyond being independently financed.  It can have a large budget or a shoestring budget like The Human Race I reviewed a few days ago.  It can have a lot of pretty good actors like Best Man Down or be entirely cast within the Wyatt family like in Septien.

The face of pretentious indy drama, right here!

All that said, the thing that makes Detention the hardest to talk about is its startlingly odd in film reality and its very mixed up conceit of genre.  Look down at my little tags, I had to throw in three genre tags, and I HATE doing that.  It makes it so hard to sort all the reviews when I have to do that.  But truly, Detention is just that, a horror film, a comedy film, and a science fiction film.  How did it do that?  Well let me ... try really hard to explain.

The "plot" which is ... man, ok.  So there is a slasher going about a high school killing folks, based on the Saw/Rob Zombie/Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street films called CinderHella.  Our lead character is a broken footed kinda cute, kinda popular but not in the upper echelon chick, and quickly becomes a target for the slasher.  Not only that, she has to deal with her emotions over Peeta who is with her former best friend that six months ago changed everything about her life.

Then ... aliens, giant bugs, time travel, Dane Cook, and lots of satire of life as a teenager.  In fact, there really isn't much in this film we haven't seen before.  The thing we haven't seen is how all of these elements come smashing together to try to tell a singular story.  I think this film succeeds the most as a time travel slasher.  Its comedy is weak, its teen drama stuff is uninspired,  And the cinematography and directing are ... very purposefully off the wall.  Sometimes distracting, always interesting, the film has a very unique identity.

There are some storylines that are extraneous but thematically enjoyable.  There are some actors who are just not up to snuff, but then some that do a real good job.  The script is tight, if preachy and very out there, and the pacing is breakneck speed, pun slightly intended.  This film balances out a lot for me, with the parts I like and the parts I didn't creating a null for me personally, and for the really well done parts more than making up for the small things that just do not work.  This film just ended up not being for me.

BUT I bet it is for some of you.  If any of the things I said above catch your interest, give it a shot as it is on Netflix.  While it doesn't do it for me, I hope some of you can really end up enjoying this one.

Grade: B


IHAO on ... The Nut Job

The Nut Job is a rare thing in film: an intelligent, intricate, genre savvy, interesting kids film that has handicapped heroes, no love story, and a protagonist who is not a clear-cut good person and does not become one at the end.  It is also a film that is almost completely ruined by a single aspect of the recipe that IS film.  Before I dissect the children's film like a frog in seventh grade biology, let's talk about the plot and characters first.

The Nut Job is very much a complicated heist film with all sorts of cartoon woodland critters as our protagonists instead of a bunch of eclectic thieves or down-on-their-luck workers or OCD fellas who are just trying to get their pills.  This very much is Over the Hedge meets Flypaper.  Our protagonist is a surly squirrel (named Surly) who doesn't quite get along with the rest of the park animals, especially Raccoon, who is the leader of the community.  Through a series of circumstances, he ends up kicked from the community and stumbles upon a human bank heist that is using a nut store as their front.  So he works on a heist of the nuts as the humans work on a heist of a nearby bank.

The plot is complicated in a wonderful way.  Every important prop is always shown but never explicitly so that the audience can put the puzzle pieces together.  Every character turn is highlighted perfectly so that they all make sense.  Small moments pay off later in the film for the observant watcher, but are not necessary to understand any character's motivations or goals.

The animation studio did incredibly well.  Every animal looks great, and MOVES great.  It is shocking just how often the animals move like animals.  It reminds me of Disney films like the Aristocats and the Jungle Book that worked so hard to have their animals (for the most part) move like real animals.  The animation is crisp, and all the visuals work.  There are plenty of visual only jokes, and all of them hit perfectly.

The characters are all vivid and interesting, with the only real offender being Katherine Heigl's Andie but even she has more going on than just "love interest," which is a nice change of pace.  The "romance" of the film is a deep friendship between Surly and Buddy, his only buddy, a mute rat that he truly cares for, even if he isn't always kind to him.  It is a touching friendship, and just another great thing within the storytelling of the film.

But ...

So, let's talk about the thing that almost ruins the film: the sound and score.  Every. single. piece. of. music. feels out of place.  The best songs in the score are merely adequate and still don't quite hit the mark.  And everything else is off the wall bonkers and doesn't make any sense.  Then, on top of that, every now and again, you get an off the wall sound effect, ala Looney Tunes, that doesn't actually work in the film's reality.  Looney Tunes exists in a "cartoon logic" world.  Most films try to ground things more, with just a little bit of "cartoon physics" but ultimately they hold tight to their reality to create a stronger cohesion of story.  So imagine how odd it is when a pretty well grounded film with the great animation I mentioned before has a rat get thrown into an alley, and you hear him bump around into the trash cans ... and then you hear a cat yowl.  It is a pretty standard sound effect joke for cartoons.  But in an animated film that is more grounded like this one, it just ... doesn't make any sense.  Was there a cat?  Did it eat the animal?  When the main characters are squirrels and rats and moles and dogs ... hearing a cat just makes you wonder "is that cat joining the film's story?"

Oh, and one other thing.  The dialogue is... bad is too strong.  But it certainly isn't great.  Will Arnet does the best he can, as does Brenden Fraser, but mostly the dialogue is kind of stock or ultimately just perfunctory.

Even with those very very bad elements, the storytelling and plotting of this film, and the overall acting makes this film, that could be a forgotten piece of garbage.  But instead we have a ... forgotten piece of pretty good movie, but not great.  But I definitely think it is worth the watch.  I bet you'll be shocked by how well crafted the film is ... except for its terrible terrible sound.  Oh, and get ready for a lot of Gangnam Style.

Grade: B+

OH!  And there is an amazingly poignant after credits scene that is sad, touching, and one of the best final scenes I've ever seen.  It pulls no punches and is ... I just don't know how to describe it without spoiling so many elements of the film.  Stick through the credits.  It is 100% worth it.


IHAO on ... The Human Race

You know how sometimes you go wandering around Wal Mart with some birthday money, looking for things to buy.  You know that feeling?  Is that a thing you’ve done?  Well, it is important for this story that I did.  I actually bought Bee Movie.  And my wife stopped and pointed out this movie.  Look at the cover here:

The Human Race, with a guy getting his head blown off, and a one-legged dude with bladed barbed wire crutches!  There was no way this was going to be terrible.  Except it could TOTALLY be terrible.  Look at it, it doesn’t have a single big name actor ... other than the one-legged dude who is only “big” because of being on Big Brother season 1.  It has ridiculous overblown color-correcting like an episode of Supernatural, and … ok, let me just quote its IMDB here:

"In THE HUMAN RACE a group of 80 people are ripped out of their daily lives
 and all re-appear in an undisclosed location. These people are from all walks of life: 
young and old, athletic and disabled, white-collared and homeless. The rules 
to a race boom in their heads, in their own voice and language, 
laying out what will become a horrific race of terror: 
'If you are lapped twice, you die. If you step off the path, you die. 
If you touch the grass, you will die. Race... or die.'"

LOOK AT THAT DESCRIPTION!!!  I love watching thrillers, and this feels a whole bunch like a Battle Royale style movie, which was great by the way, A++.  Battle Royale with a touch of 13, which was also great, check the link for my thoughts on it.  So how great was this?

Pretty great actually!

I love seeing a competent film that was made on a shoestring budget that is actually real well written and incredibly well shot.  The mechanical aspects of this film, other than CGI-touched-up blood spurts and the obvious film grain thrown over top of everything and one prop that is fake (but very purposefully so to make sure there is some distance between the audience and the film, because it is DARK and if it looked more real it would easily be too disturbing to recommend this film), all the cinematography, the locations, the pacing, the lighting, the special effects, the casting, just all of those aspects are pitch perfect.  And the acting is across the board realistic.  And that’s rough.  Why?  Well, lemme tell you the setup.

80 people all currently on the same block at the same time are all transported by a white light to a sidewalk in a neighborhood surrounded by spikes and razor wire and given some simple rules: if you don’t follow the arrows, you will die; if you step on the grass, you will die; if you get lapped twice, you will die; only one can win the race.  And the race is then on.  We meet a handful of the people as they try to survive in this absolutely horrific circumstance.

This movie is not easy to watch.  It is tense and thrilling and dark and difficult.  I cannot recommend it to everyone.  But if you think you have a slightly stronger stomach, I cannot recommend this ten dollar film more highly.  I was blown away by the way the story was woven, the way it was told, and even how it ended up playing out.  It was shocking, thrilling, and touching in a weird, dark, and disturbing way. 

I feel like I need to give this film a “B” because of its shoestring budget and lack of big actors … but that is a huge disservice!  Everything about this film succeeds at its goals, and goes above and beyond, in my opinion.  I understand why some critics gave this film a medium-high rating: it is a little cheap looking, and a lacks star power.  But the cheapness only makes the film better, and the actors in the film are perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  No big name actors could have done this film better.  Well, maybe Christopher Walken.  This movie DESERVES to have an A.  More than deserves, because a bigger budget would have probably made this thing worse.  And starred Jaden Smith.

Grade: A++


Arbitrary Numbers: Top # Matches That Could Have Been, Part 3

Welcome back everyone!  Part 1 is under this link, Part 2 is under this one, so let's get going with Part 3 ...

The Top  Next 25 6 Matches that Could Have, But Didn’t Happen

nWo v. HHH, the Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin AND Kurt Angle v. Jericho - 2002

Michael:  This is part of a heavily rumored WrestleMania X8 card, which I think would have worked better than what we got.  The nWo were a PPV boon which the WWF utterly wasted. Them v the 3 biggest stars in the WWF would have been a money match, and protected the five stars who were rusty.

What it would also do would be to have given the fans their Hogan and Austin match, without worrying about which of them had to job to the other. Also, a flipside is that Kurt Angle wouldn’t have had the last minute Kane match, having been in the title picture in the build up to Mania. As for Jericho, he would have been the face in Toronto, could have defended, and then easily dropped the belt soon after.

Jessel: This also would have been Kurt Angle's big Royal Rumble win to set him up for his match against Jericho, and gotten Stephanie OUT of the picture, or even better, with Angle so that Jericho could return to his name-calling face antics against one of his greatest rivals.

Oh yeah, I'm going to be adding commentary, because this is my blog so shut up.

The Rock v. Shawn Michaels - Wrestlemania XIX

Lenny:  There was really no reason whatsoever for Shawn Michaels to win the first ever Elimination Chamber match just to lose the belt the next month to HHH (in an awful match).  It was a "YAY!" moment for fans of Michaels, but really ended up being kinda a slap in the face when you saw it was just another transition win for Triple H (again).

Shawn went on to face Jericho at Mania and Hollywood Heel Rock went on to face Austin.  Now, I don't know EXACTLY what the Rock's movie schedule was for the Mummy Returns or Scorpion King or whatever was, but I'm going to assume that it wasn't IMPOSSIBLE for this match to be pulled off.  Let's say Shawn Michaels was competing in an Elimination Chamber qualifying match.  He's about to beat whoever when the Rock interferes and costs Michaels the win.  The Rock explains that he was so sick of how everyone was SO proud of Michaels win at Summerslam in 2002 and that nobody cared that he lost.  The Rock is sick of the fans's obsession with washed-up, screwed-up, broken Shawn Michaels when the Rock is THE GREAT ONE!

This leads to the feud between the Rock and Shawn Michaels, colliding at Wrestlemania 19.  We don't get Jericho/HBK (which is fine; that match is overrated) and we don't get Rock/Austin (which is even more fine!).  See below.

Poor Jericho.

Jessel: Just gonna poke my head in and say I very much disagree on HBK/Jericho.  Carry on.

Goldberg v. Stone Cold Steve Austin - Wrestlemania XIX

Lenny:  How is it that the WWF could get Goldberg for Backlash but not Wrestlemania XIX?  Come on.  This match should've happened!  If this was one of those cases of "this is my last match and I want to pick The Rock as my last opponent," then Vince should've really sat him down and explained how dumb and boring that idea was.  Cause that idea is dumb and boring.

Jessel: Uh ... uh ... I feel like I need to step in here again ... is Lenny the IHAO wrestling heel?

Lenny: The dream match people wanted was Goldberg/Austin.  It was still fresh enough in people's minds to be a must-see match!  Definitely more so than Austin/Rock again!  Austin v. Goldberg should've been set as Goldberg's first match and Austin should've put Goldberg over.  I am always of the belief that if you're leaving, you're losing, and you should be losing to someone who's staying!  Goldberg benefited from beating the Rock and I've always been (partly) a Rock fan for that, but Goldberg going over Austin would've just been delicious.  Imagine Goldberg going over Austin then over the Rock.  Back-to-back.  Jericho could've been bragging that he did it THE SAME NIGHT and then their match at Badd Blodd would've had a whole new level of importance.

Jessel: You know what, I'm in.


Booker T v. Chris Jericho v. Scott Steiner v. Triple H - Wrestlemania XIX

Lenny:  In case you're wondering, I think Wrestlemania XIX is the most poorly booked Wrestlemania of all time.

Michael: Oof, its my favorite Mania!

Jessel: I'm in the middle.  As in I loved the midcard.

Lenny Should've been so much more!  For example, Booker T should have won the elimination chamber match.  I don't know how long the plan was to feed WCW guys to Triple H, but the entire 2003 slaughter was infuriating.  Booker T should've walked out of the chamber with the belt and Triple H should've cheated to recapture it at Armageddon, leading to this match for the belt.  Make the whole storyline be about Triple H beating up on WCW guys and them being sick of it.  Triple H v. WCW basically and now he has to face them all, Fatal 4 Way, belt on the line.

Jessel: Jericho?  He's been with the WWF at this point for 3 years.

Lenny: ...

JesselI'mma hush up now, this is your entry.

Lenny: This was perfectly setup to be the focus of 2003, but it never gets mentioned.  The Game vs. WCW.  2003.  Could have been awesome build-up to this match, especially with Ric Flair being in the corner of Triple H.  Will Flair stay there?  Will he back-up Hunter or help one of his old friends?  Can Booker T or Jericho get in his head?  Can Steiner have this match without killing someone?  We'll find out soon.

Jessel: I gotta say, I at least agree that Booker T should have won this match.  Michael?

Michael: Yes, and I'm not a Booker T fan.  Just the way they booked it, he kind of had to win, and he didn't.

Jessel: Sad.  ...

CM Punk v. Shawn Michaels - 2007 to 2010

Jessel: Speaking of fantasy booking ...

Michael:  More a source of bemusement. CM Punk was around for a whole four years Shawn Michaels was, and they never once wrestled. Not even on Smackdown. Hell, Trevor Murdoch got a match with Shawn Michaels in this time period. WWE like to showcase their ‘premier matches’, its just mad to think they had one on the table they never bothered to use!

Jessel: And that is Michael's last entry!  Thank you so much, I'll make sure to get you to help out more often.  And so that leaves me with ...

Lenny: ...

Jessel: *gulp*

William Regal v. The Undertaker - Wrestlemania XXVI

LennyI always, always, always wanted to see William Regal have a legitimate run at the Streak at WrestleMania.  I don't care if it's Regal in his prime or Attitude Era Regal or Old Man Regal.  Regal has been one of the most technically gifted and charismatic wrestlers in the history of the WWE and has a violent move-set that looks realistic enough to beat anyone.  The way his submissions look when he locks them on just feels painful to watch.

I would've run the story in 2010, with Regal being given a Hall of Fame spot, but not accepting it because he doesn't think he deserves it.  He vows to do something to prove to himself, and all the fans, he truly belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Up until Survivor Series 2009 he tries and fails to capture championship gold, but Hall of Famers (Austin, Hogan, Flair, Steamboat) continue encouraging him to fight for it, so he then challenges Taker for the Streak.

He's the underdog, obviously, but he has the support of the babyface legends, the fans, and even Taker.  Regal goes on a merciless streak leading to Mania, beating everyone that gets in his way, until they finally collide.  The Streak v. Regal's Hall of Fame spot.


Ok, so lots of fun stuff this time!  Not as much on the "could have beens" from a backstage perspective, but I definitely enjoyed the whole thing.  Next week is the end as we move into the Cena era of garbage, and the last 7 matches from myself and Lenny, including another shot at the Streak, a completely reworked Royal Rumble, and a very sad indy venture that makes me very very sad.  Give me sad Jericho pryos one more time, gif man.