30.4.14

IHAO on ... Rocky II



Ah HA!  Now I gets it!

You see, all the things that I as a person who had not watched any of these films except for the bits and pieces from TBS, all those moments and tropes and concepts that I thought were in Rocky ... they are ALL from Rocky II.  Well, except for Eye of the Tiger, though there is a lot of tiger imagery throughout.

Rocky II and Rocky could be seamlessly edited together to make one very large movie, which is kind of great.  And I do mean that tonally as well as scriptually.  Rocky II opens with the final few minutes of the fight, including the stuff with Adrian.  From there, well ... you just see more of these characters you grew to love in the first film (other than Paulie, ptooie) as their lives have changed because of the last big fight with Apollo Creed.

This may not be a controversial statement, or it may be, but in my honest opinion, Rocky II is a better made film than the first Rocky.  The script is just as tight, the acting is still phenomenal, but the way Stallone, now in the director's chair, shoots the fight, he now makes the fight also important to the film.  In doing so, he doesn't remove any of the weight of the real life consequences.  And all the roles are extended to get even more into these characters.  Mickey in particular.  Watching Rocky go through these first two acts, making all these dumb mistakes because he's just that, dumb, you care about him and you are saying to the screen "Rocky, come on, don't," knowing full well 1) he can't hear you, and 2) he's going to do it.  Trying to watch him keep his promise to Adrian is heartbreaking.  And Adrian and Rocky's marriage, their relationship, is one of the most honest and wonderfully written ones in film.

Stallone uses a lot of symmetry in this film as well.  Symmetry from this film to the last one, but also within the movie.  I love how the openings of the films mimic each other, except this time, instead of seeing Rocky going through Philadelphia, we almost cynically see the ambulances driving through the city instead, with the same music playing as before.  Stallone isn't as deft as the previous director, John G. Avildson - who won the Best Director Academy Award for Rocky - but he brings a lot to the table, a lot of great technique and ideas.  Yes, he does do the slowmo+fade+freeze-frame combo two times too many in the movie.  But that doesn't renig all the other great work he did.  And the sound and foley is much superior.

I couldn't decide which Foley to use for the joke.  So have them all.

Right at the end of Act 2, there is a change in the film series.  Not one that is painful, or glaring, or out of place, but when Act 2 ends with that famous line from Adrian to Rocky, "Win.  Win!" In that line, the series has forever changed.  The first work out montage is here as we know them (the first film didn't actually show a montage) and all of Philadelphia showed up with Rocky as he ran up the steps one more time.  We also got into the fight which again was much more pronounced and important to the film.

Like I said at the top, Rocky II I feel is a better movie than Rocky.  That said ... I actually think I like Rocky just a little hair more.  These films are both just absolutely great.  And I look forward to rewatching them and continuing to argue with myself which I like more.  Stallone just writes absolutely wonderful characters, and I cannot wait to be introduced to one of the (some have said) greatest villains to ever be put to film.  See you tomorrow, Mr. T!

Grade: A++



Rocky Movie Review Bank

29.4.14

IHAO on ... Rocky

I've had this really nice collection of Rocky films on blu ray for a long time now, but I've been hardpressed to really dive into these films.  You see, I've seen bits and pieces of them, mostly 3 and 4 because Ted Turner's TBS played them quite often, but I've never actually sat down and watched these.  Which is a huge shame, because they have become a huge part of our culture as a whole.  So I'm spending the next 6 days reviewing them one at a time, in chronological order.  And that means we start at the very top, with Rocky.




Rocky was always expressed to me as a sports story about the ultimate underdog who went the distance in a match that he never needed to be in, proving himself a contender.  And that is ... kind of accurate.  But that is also roughly ... 10 minutes in the film?  It really misses the point.  This is not a sports film at all.  This is a character study.  And I LOVE those.  I've mentioned it before, and one of my favorite films of all time, the Hurt Locker, is one.  Hell, Hurt Locker is to war films what Rocky is to sports films.

This movie is not perfect.  Some of the technology is dated, which hurts it some, mostly in the sound department.  The sound is basically atrocious.  Levels are never consistent, the foley never quite matches up, and it is overall kind of sad.  Really sad in fact.

And there you go.  I've now talked about the only thing bad about this movie at all.  Really, I mean it.  The acting from everyone is so incredibly immersive and engaging, even when it is just Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, just in case you didn't know) making terrible jokes or trying to give advice to a little girl or being really uncomfortable on camera.  Adrian was at first a character I hated ... but she slowly transformed and strengthened into this full fledged girl that I fell in love with, and I saw what Rocky saw in her, even though no one else did, not herself, not Paulie, and not ME, the audience.  Paulie is unrepentant, just completely terrible as a person, with no change at all even at the end of the film.  He's STILL terrible Paulie.

At least, he is for now.  We'll get to THIS on Friday.

The script is impeccable.  Stallone did an amazing job slowly parceling out these moments in Rocky's life as we watch him.  He crafted a story that is both believable and without cliche.  The loan shark is not a villain to Rocky because he's a loan shark.  He's not a villain at all.  He's just another person, like Rocky, who has a job that is unsavory.  Rocky's outburst at Mickey ... the one he is unable to say at all until Mickey has left the apartment, is so incredibly honest.

And the music.  Wow ... we all know the Rocky theme, but the rest of the music is so wonderful.  The score as Rocky begins his training and is unable to run up the steps, the triumphant steps we all have seen the scene of, is just heartbreaking.  The way the love song is just played over the radio as Rocky and Adrian have their first kiss in an awkward scene that becomes very passionate is phenomenal.

Beyond all that, the imagery of Philadelphia is immaculate.  And the cinematography is just wonderful.  So many shots are just perfect, like Rocky making amends with Mickey out in the street after their argument.  There are some shots that are a little bit off, but overall it is really great.

This movie is so perfect in so many ways, it pains me that the sound is so off.  I cannot in good consciousness give this film any less than an A.  But the sound ... oh man.  WATCH THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T, because I bet you anything that if you haven't, then you have the entirely wrong conceit of what this film is.  You will not be disappointed.

Grade: A++ 

See you tomorrow for Rocky II!



Rocky Movie Review Bank

28.4.14

IHAF ... One Piece

All right, so now that I'm 155 episodes in, I suppose I finally feel confident enough to talk about what has easily become the best anime I have ever seen in my life, with the best writing and art design, music, themes, and just ... everything.


I Have a Favorite (Anime) ... One Piece


One Piece is a hugely long running anime.  I own 6 collections of it currently, and there are three more to be bought, and many more episodes created, waiting to be dubbed, subbed, and Funimation-ed so I can add them to my collection.  I watched it when 4Kids had it, it was fine, but I got tired of it.  I decided to, on a whim after talking with my roommate, give it another go.  I love the Pirates films, I love fantasy, and I'm a fan of good shows, anime, cartoon, live-action, whatever, and I have never heard a bad thing said about One Piece.  So ...

Yup, I got nothing bad to say either.  Because it is perfect.  Even the filler episodes have a purpose, which is hilariously obnoxious.  I can't, won't, and don't want to skip the episodes made to be pallette cleansers between arcs.  Not only that, but this show is perfectly plotted.  Let's talk about that a moment.

Many animes start you out in the middle of the story, or at least a little bit after the beginning of the story, and then after a few episodes, backtrack you to the actual beginning of the story.  It is an irritating practice, and one that if you do too much, makes you start to go a little insane, as I showed reviewing Attack on Titan.  Yes, we do get backstory and flashbacks, but they show up when they are narratively important, to give us a better understanding of these characters.  For all intents and purposes, we start this journey with Luffy, riding along in a barrel, waiting to be opened up.



I mentioned the characters before, and yes, these characters are great.  They are fully fleshed out and complete, with weaknesses, strengths, likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, flaws, and are completely realized.  It is so wonderful to see a cast of 7 now (a new cast member was just added) and for me to be able to completely immerse within them.  I know these characters as well as I know the best characters from any book or film.  And there is still more to learn, and still points to be surprised, as well as times to watch them grow and change, as Usopp becomes braver, as Luffy becomes wiser, as Nami becomes more trusting, and as Zoro learns to open up more.

The plot of the show, well, metaplot, as with episodic shows you have other plots going on, is that they are pirates going out for not only their own goals, but to find the One Piece, a great treasure lost in the Grand Line, a dangerous current filled with dangerous islands.  It is a battle anime, just like Ranma 1/2 (the first one, and my other favorite anime, whose collection sits nicely next to One Piece, both unfinished ... for now) or Dragonball Z or Yu-yu Hakusho (man, I gotta get this too ... ).  Our heroes have villains that stand in the way of their goals, and they take them down, to move on to the next.

Except One Piece is different from all the three the others I mentioned.  One Piece is truly character driven.  It isn't about doing your Spirit Cop duty, or competing in more and more ridiculous Anything Goes Martial Arts challenges.  Luffy is going to become the king of the pirates ... somehow, he isn't quite sure.  Zoro will prove he is the world's greatest swordsman, even though he pretty early on learns he is nowhere near good enough and he continues to train to reach that goal.  Sanji looks for a mythical paradise for a chef like himself, as well as love (though that is very much something we are meant to infer, as he would never say it directly ... or well, maybe he does, just not seriously).  Usopp's goals are a little more amorphous, to become a better man, a man worthy of the woman he loves and left behind.  Nami wants to map the dangerous Grand Line, creating the first grand map of the world.  And so on and so on.  Instead of "guy shows up, wants to destroy world or inact some other evil plot, good guys stop them" we have our heroes finding their way to where they are going, and because of their CHARACTER, they stop the bad guys, or help the people around them.



Not only that, but sometimes they fail.  Of course, as heroes, they ultimately will win (or at least, I believe they will).  But still, sometimes they fail as they go on their journey.  Sometimes they make big mistakes.  Sometimes their own character flaws make things more difficult.

Not only THAT, but One Piece gets around one of the biggest problems of a battle anime: exponential power growth.  Super Saiyan sure was cool, yeah?  Well, nope, it sucks, because they eventually reach Super Saiyan 4.  Really?!  4?  Ok, how does that even begin to make sense?  And lots of animes work like this, with people just getting more and more powerful, and villains becoming more and more ridiculously powerful to counteract the heroes power, which means that the heroes get more powerful again ... it is non-stop.

But One Piece is more clever than that.  155 episodes in, and the only character that has trained at ALL is Zoro, and that is a character choice - he pushes himself to continue to train.  Luffy may have learned a new way to do what he does, but in the end, he isn't Super Luffy.  He is the same power level as he was before.  But how do they keep the stakes high?  By having every challenge be a different problem.  I would love to spoil stuff, to be able to better explain, such as with Crocodile, or with Arlong.  But nah, just go watch it!  It is glorious in how they are able to masterfully tell stories without ridiculous character power growth.

I could gush on and on and on.  And I hope you enjoyed hearing/reading me gush as far as I did.  But ultimately, I plead you find a way to start watching if you can.  I didn't even begin to talk about the amazing water color artistry to accompany the unique character designs, or the amazing music, or the incredibly talented Funimation American voice actors.  I cannot get enough of this show.  I devour it as fast as I can, and will be getting Collection 7 as soon as possible so I can continue to do so.

A+++++++, all the pluses.


Edit: P.S. There really needs to be a parody of Pharrel's "Happy" with "Luffy".  I'mma find it!

27.4.14

IHAO on ... "Nanar"

I have recently learned a new word.  It is a new word for a phenomenon that I face every day, and that I love.  That phenomenon is the conceptualization of a "good bad" movie.  On this site, I have reviewed quite a few: The Stuff, Hide and Creep, to name the two Fs, though I would argue that No Holds Barred and Rise of the Planet of the Apes could potentially fall in this category as well.

Anyway, the term is "nanar."  It is a french word for just that, films that are so bad they are good.  Films like The Room, Birdemic, and Troll 2 all fall in this category ... genre?  I don't know, it is amorphous.  But it is a thing I have loved for a long time.  I recently learned the term because of two things: Spoony's review of The Barbarians (a movie I MUST own now) and the PBS Idea Channel episode on just this thing, embedded right below.



I have loved these films for a very long time.  I have a pretty decent collection of them (and just bought The Stuff to permanently add it to my collection).  But I want to do more.  So here's my proposal for the site:  I will be trying to review one of these films a week.  Not only that, I will be adding a tag, nanar, that way people can easily find these wonderful films  and I hope I can enlighten you all about the ones you don't know.

See you soon for a Nanarsday review!

26.4.14

IHAO on ... The Secret Life of Bees - READER REQUEST

Requested by Julia Powell

What is the secret life of bees?  That is what the film's title suggests we will learn.  And if that is the case, then I suppose the secret life of bees is to create a cult in the 1950s that worships a magical black Virgin Mary idol that has haunting red light and causes white women to pass out when they touch it.  Yes, that happens.

Bah, fine Supernatural, continue to ruin my fun, like all of Season 9 has.  Zing!

Ok, sure, that is writing it in a way that is counter to what the film really wants to be about.  And what the film really wants to be about is ... pretty decent.  It is a look at southern life for a white girl (Dakota Fanning) who has a lot of issues because she murdered her mother when she was 4, after her mother ran out on her and her father, and then her father became absolutely abusive.  Well, it isn't REALLY about that.  That's our protagonist/audience proxy's story.  The REAL story that this is about is the civil rights movement, how blacks are treated, and what really happens when a white devil girl magically goes to the same place her mother went to by sure luck when her mother was young, and now she gets to meet the ageless cult leading Queen Latifah and her months-of-year-named cult members ...

I'm being really harsh on this movie.  And that's because it is really EASY to make fun of.  It isn't really a bad movie at all.  It has some pretty good acting, and some memorable characters.  You can tell that Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson all thought they were going to be in for Oscar nods for actress, and Paul Bettany as easily the best written and most complicated character in the abusive father.  But then you have the clunky script that strips all the stakes away once our character reach magical Black Madonna Bee Farm.  Oh, and there's a whole subplot about a black boy that Dakota Fanning likes who is kidnapped and beaten, but is found with a little bit of light makeup on him a little later.  But his kidnapping ... no, actually, lying about it by omission to the incredibly sensitive and probably autistic sister sends the sister to kill herself so she can go to heaven ... except the Christianity that everyone believes in the film is Catholic, so May is in hell for suicide ...

The movie is jumbled, is what I'm saying.  It does not have a strong hand on the tiller, i.e., the director isn't very good.  And a quick look on imdb shows that the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood also wrote the script, which does not surprise.  The movie comes across like she knew a lot about civil rights era South Carolina, saw Forest Gump, and wanted to make a movie vaguely similar to it.  If you had a hard time guessing, she has only written one other film before, Love & Basketball.  And a few shorts and episodes here and there, plus a single film coming out this year or next apparently, called Blackbird.  And of course, she directs everything she writes.

The sets are overall mediocre to bad.  The writing is servicable, no worse no better.  But the acting is really superb, again, especially Paul Bettany.  Dakota Fanning's character isn't given much to do, so her trademark little kid charm and snark is replaced with empty faced staring, which is really unfortunate.  But our other female leads all really believed in this film, you can tell, and they acted their hearts out.  I don't enjoy this movie without making fun of it.  And it isn't really very good.  But I enjoyed watching it this time.  We had a drinking game where we drank the worst zero calorie dr. pepper knock off every time someone said "bees" or a word with "bee" in it.  And we riffed over the whole thing.  And I wouldn't take that experience away ever.

Grade: C (technically, C- if I have to watch it straight, and C+ if I get to riff on it the whole time)

23.4.14

IHAO on ... the Brass Teapot



I am always interested in a good morality-supernatural flick.  I also love slapstick.  I also love that kid from Sky High and Forbidden Kingdom, as well as loving portrayals of married couples.  So I read about this flick after it was suggested to me, and was like "yup, I should like this a lot."  It was originally a short film, much like Oculus was, and that movie I thought was excellent, letting the director take his short film and take it to new lengths with new depths of artistry and storytelling.  Did the Brass Teapot do the same?  Well ...

The plot here is that a loving couple, both having a hard time making ends meet financially like many couples do, at least have each other.  There are small gripes and problems, but overall, they have each other.  But this week, they get hit hard.  Interviews go bad, Sky High loses his job, and they get t-boned by a truck.  This leads to the finding of a magical brass teapot, with the magical ability to give you money ... whenever you hurt yourself.

From there ... *sigh*.  Ok, from there, we get into a series of vignettes, that while they do all grow upon each other, in the end are basically just little choppy bits.  Except they also try to put some real "thematic" through-line to it all ... and ... it just doesn't work anymore.  Vignette films in general are made to be episodic.  Think like a travel film, or a mondo film.  The point of what you are watching are each little vignette.  But you take that and then try to add theme and arc on top of it, and it just doesn't flow correctly.  Everything feels choppy, and bits are missing ... because they are.  This film has a lot of just little ... bits missing.  Some logic problems are forgivable because of the morality-show nature of the film, like why do they never save any money so they don't have to hurt themselves in the bathroom at the restaurant to pay for dinner.  But missing whole sections.

Fun fact: Disney has my favorite travel/mondo film (above) AND my least favorite vignette-ruins-narrative film.  Correct guess in the comments gets a cookie.

So yeah, after the first 15 minutes, this movie just doesn't quite jive any longer.  It doesn't know if it wants to be funny or be dark or be real dramatic or be real cynical or be real touching ... it doesn't know what it wants.  And it suffers for it.

Luckily, Sky High and Juno Temple are both great.  And the mystery and magic of the brass teapot itself is really cool.  I loved every little bit we got of that.  But the vignettey, doesn't-know-what-it-wants-to-do stuff is just no good.  And that's really unfortunate.  There's some real good stuff in here, but in the end it just kind of is ho-hum, glad I watched that.  And I am glad I watched it, I'm just sad it didn't turn out better.  It just ended up being real standard middle of the road.

Grade: C

22.4.14

IHAO on ... EdTV



Ahh, reality television.  With it being so big nowadays, it is only right that a film about reality television would be made, looking into how fame affects regular people, how seeing regular people as if they are celebrity affects the world, how important private life is.  And we have EdTV, starring Oscar award winning actor Matthew McConaughey, made in ... 1999?  Are you kidding me?  How did I not know that thing I already knew for the purposes of this opening statement?!

In all seriousness, it is so odd to me that a film like this was made SOOO long ago, and we have just continued to see it come "true."  Not in a sense of being prophetic, but seeing how little bits and pieces of it are true today.  The themes within this film actually make this movie way better than when it came out, I believe.  There are so many little wonderful moments that in a normal film we would "awww" and coo over ... but then our characters notice the cameras, and we have this bittersweet hatred for whats been done.  I love seeing all the little things in this film, all the little influences of both Ed on the viewing audience and the show on Ed's life.

McConaughey is great.  Jenna Elfman is pretty good, Woody Harrelson is great.  Ellen Degeneres has a great character arc in there, and Martin Landau is just wonderful, as is Dennis Hopper.  Ron Howard does an excellent job directing this flick.  But somehow this flick just bombed in theatres.  Like I said above, I really think that 15 years of reality television, of seeing the rise of the Kardasians and the Honey-Boo-Boos and Jersey Shore folks, of all that has really helped this film.  EdTV is not the Truman Show, which is a solid flick as well dealing with similar setup but very different themes ultimately.  But the shadow of the Truman Show, made the year before, really cast doubt on this down to earth show about a down to earth guy, and how all this reality stuff affects ... really everyone.

This film could have been very mean-spirited.  And it is a little naive about how many views the show gets.  They say at one point more viewers than the Superbowl ... uh-huh, sure.  Superbowl 2012 had 111.3 MILLION viewers.  Duck Dynasty's premiere last year had 11.8 million viewers.  There's some perspective, since we all know how pervasive Duck Dynasty has become.

Duck Dynasty is coming to MY town!  Run!

But with all that said, is the movie good?  Bad, like a lot of critics say?  I honestly find it to be really good.  I'm not sure how much I "like" it ... it is a hard one for me to really talk about.  I really do think it is worth everyone's time watching it, and again, with 15 years of reality television under our belts, I bet you it'll hit a lot truer (minus the viewers thing) than it did back in 1999.  Which is actually a really cool thing to see, a movie made that is even more pertinent now than it was originally.  Yeah, I like it.

Grade: A+  

20.4.14

IHAO on ... Frankenstein's Army - READER REQUEST

Requested by Matt Hoeker

Bad movie.  BAD movie.  Sit.  SIT.  Stay.  Staaaaay.  No, no movie!  BAD MOVIE!

Heh, ok.  So this movie.  It is shot with HD cameras.  And the monsters look pretty neato.  Some of them.  I have now said all the good things about this movie.

It is not good.  At all.  It is a bad movie.  And not even a super enjoyable one.  The characters come from the Eli Roth school of "let's all be douchebags so the audience cannot wait for us to die."  Which is fine for side characters, but for all the characters?  I have no one to root for.  Not only that, it is a found footage film.  We have two cameras ... though only one ends up being used after the first five minutes.  And ... ok, let's talk about what the film actually is.

A group of Russian soldiers are heading into Germany at the tail end of WW2 to help a distress call by some comrades, only to find a bunch of half zombie, half mechanical monstrosities and that one of their own betrayed them because of orders from higher up the communist regime.  Like I said before, it is a found footage film, so your "protagonist" is the camera-man, who is a Jew, which is nominally important but ultimately not.

The effects are combination of ridiculous, cool, and terrible.  Oh, I know!  New paragraph!

Very little attention span, huh review-critic-person.

Ok, I got it figured out.  This movie is a haunted house.  A bunch of weird visuals as you move around a creepy location (locations look AWESOME in this, by the way) and creepy things "chase" you as you hear terrible scary sounds just out of view.  You never actually feel like you are in danger, but the atmosphere is terrifying alone.  And I do mean that, alone.  The script is basically no existent, the movie gives up on even having a plot around the 1/3 mark.  This movie is NOT a good movie.  But if you enjoy haunted houses, this might actually be right up your alley.  And it is only SLIGHTLY not interesting.  I betcha there are some of you out there who could LOVE this movie.  I'm not one of those people.  But I also don't care for haunted houses, so there might be a correlation there.

Grade: F

19.4.14

IHAO on ... Bad Words



I can go ahead and start by saying that this film is not going to be for everyone.  Not everyone in the audience is going to be able to get into this film.  And I very much understand that.  It is marketed as a comedy, because it is the smart way to market it, but it is really a character-dissection drama.  That'll turn people away.  The people who go in actually expecting the dramatic aspects will potentially be pushed away by the comedy, especially the more "over the top" bits, though I do not personally find them over the top.  And some may not be interested in the way the film culminates.  I get all that.

I say all that because I believe this movie is incredibly well made.  Jason Bateman, as director, is really really flawless here.  The shots he uses, the tone he creates, the consistency he is able to pull out of this slightly uneven script is truly masterful.  I think of other actors first outing directing, and this is many steps above those in talent and skill.  Bateman really does understand what he's doing here.  The acting from everyone is really great.  Grounded, believable, and interesting.  Every character has dimensions, and a lot of meat to them, and I have to give everyone, the actors, the writer, Bateman, the editor, everyone credit for that.

The script is ... mostly consistent.  There are few comedy-hiccups where it is trying a little hard, such as the two sex scenes and a scene where a more comedic than most character is hitting on our female protagonist.  Those hiccups are not enough for me to be taken out of the film for more than a blip because of how deftly Bateman handles them.  I've directed a few shows, and there are somethings that are in your script that are hard to keep tonally consistent and on track with your vision for the script and your show, and Bateman flawlessly fights against the script's want to get very jokey, and I really appreciate that skill and deft handling.

Ok, so what is the film about.  A man, Guy Trilby, for reasons unknown, is exploiting the loopholes in a prestigious spelling bee to make his way to the top, pissing off everyone along the way: kids, parents, his own journalist partner who is helping him to tell the story for her online newspaper, even the people running the bee themselves.  The film is about figuring who Trilby is, and watching him make his way to the top, and how his terrible behavior affects those around him.  The climax of the film is a little ... iffy, and honestly the worst part of the movie for me, but it is a false climax, with the true character-driven climax to follow that I found to be very fulfilling.  And the denouement at the end, while a little schmaltzy, I felt was ultimately earned.

There are certain people I know who will absolutely love this film.  And a lot of people will never be able to get into it.  It is a film that will more than likely live on in Netflix views, but to very little acclaim.  And that's unfortunate.  I highly suggest viewing this film ... to some of you.  I could name a few by name, but overall, I hope what I've written here can help you decide if this is the right film for you.

Grade: A+

18.4.14

IHAO on ... WWE Legends' House



The WWE Network has done amazing things for the WWE so far.  1 million individual homes/devices watched Wrestlemania XXX, which is a HUGE number.  They've introduced new ways to use the network, such as with this entire week's Warrior Week, dedicated to the Ultimate Warrior, RIP.  But that isn't really enough.  If they are going to succeed beyond wrestling and PPVs, they are going to need original programming.  And Legends House is the first take at it.

Legends House is just like a bunch of other reality shows: put a bunch of people in one place, have them doing some task every now and again, edit it up and show them caught in reality.  Of course, one problem ... the WWE decided to not use a script supervisor.  So this show is really JUST the thoughts of 8 wrestling Legends and their lives living together.  A wrestling fan may always think that these guys, since they worked together, know each other.  But as we see in this first outing, the barely do.  And they rub each other wrong, just like anyone can.  And man, is it great.

There is something so great and raw about it all.  And something so incredibly touching.  Hearing Rowdy Roddy Piper having such a difficult time, being so vulnerable, is nuts.  It is a real life, less sensational/fictional version of The Wrestler.  It is eye-opening, and entrancing.  To see folks playing tennis, while two others who were earlier getting pissy with each other now smoking cigars and drinking beer ... to watch these guys really do not much of anything.  It is exactly what you want from reality television without the sensational extra scripting.  We really are just watching these guys.  And it was powerfully interesting.  I highly suggest you take a look if you can.  It was a great watch, and I know I'll continue.

17.4.14

IHAO on ... Hide and Creep



Sometimes I just do not feel like I am able to accurately express how good a film is.  I try very hard to make sure that I am analytical in my reviews, and for the most part, that works very well.  I pride myself in my ability to separate my own personal like of a film and its actual skill.  But sometimes, every now and again, I feel like this is detrimental to explaining just how great a terrible movie is.  If you could not tell, Hide and Creep is one of those fringe cases.

Hide and Creep fails in almost every way.  It is shot terribly, with terrible cameras, with bad lighting, and very bad sound.  Its score is ridiculous, and at times drowns out actors and is mostly out of place.  The script is mostly nonsensical in its plotting, though its jokes are both misplaced and in a lot of cases pretty funny.  The acting is basically community theatre at its most ... middle of the road.  It fails in almost every regard.

Oh man, failure can just be the best sometimes, yeah?

But this film is just one of the best experiences.  It is fun to make fun of and to enjoy its ridiculousness.  It has moments of zombie-ness that are actually pretty good, like the pastor's storyline.  There are sequences that are incredibly quotable, and overall, just super fun.  It isn't good at all.  By almost any stretch of the imagination.  But man is it enjoyable.  It reminds me of the Room and the Stuff.

Here is the plot: There might be aliens?  And there are zombies.  And no one acts like it matters.  And everyone is a redneck.  There you go.  Watch this movie if you can find it.

Grade: F++

16.4.14

IHAO on ... Attack on Titan



Grade: C+-


*inner monologue*

I knew going in that I was watching something unique.  How could it not be?  Anime in itself is harder to write about, as it doesn't flow like a regular show.  It has its own way of telling a story.  But how could I have known back then what I knew now ...

~~flashback to the beginning of this review~~

So everyone is talking about Attack on Titan.  The first (only?) episodes are on Netflix so I suppose I should go ahead and watch.  As the man with an opinion, I really should share mine on this show.  And now that I've finished it ...

~~flashback to my thoughts on episode 16ish~~

This is utter garbage!  This doesn't make any sense!  These characters motivations are terrible.  You cannot run an army by not telling anyone anything.  You cannot survive in this world by just letting these Titans you can easily kill now that you know how and have the skills to do so and the skillful Scouts like Mikasa and Renier to do so, you cannot just let them wander about clawing at the trees.  And NO, believing in yourself OR believing in your friends ... that is not a dichotomy!  That is not two sides of the same coin, you can do both at the same time, Eren!

~~flashback to my thoughts on episode 1~~

What an intriguing premise.  The action and adventure aspects are incredible, and the debates on how to proceed come across as surprisingly human.  The mystery with the key and the basement are awesome, and the strange variant Titans ... I'm very intrigued with what I'm watching.  The show is beautiful, with amazing music, and as long as they don't screw things up, I bet this show will live up to the hype I've been hearing ...

~~back to the now, after finishing the last episode~~

What a garbage show with a cool premise.  The action and adventure aspects are incredible, but the debates on how to proceed come across as rehashed and just keep happening over and over and over.  The mystery with the key and the basement are STUPID because our characters refuse to even try to do anything about it and instead spend a whole bunch of downtime doing other garbage.  And the strange variant human Titans ... ok, that reveal is cool, and I have my own theories about who the other two are ... I'm very intrigued with what I'm watching, even if it makes me super pissed hearing them talk.  Just don't talk, the dialogue is atrocious.  The show is beautiful, with amazing music, and as long as they don't talk, this show is really good.

 But ... they talk ... all the time.  And it is terrible.  And WHY CAN THEY NOT JUST SHOW THE STORY LINEARLY?!  You gain nothing by doing this non-linear approach ... me, being satirical in this review.  You jump ahead to something interesting, then just as things get cool, hit the brakes and go backwards to watch Eren try really hard to pick up a frickin' spoon!  JUST TELL THE STORIES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER!!!

I think this show could have been amazing ... and it just isn't.  But I like it ... but I HATES it.

I know, I know, but this show is so stupid ... but so beautiful ... it makes my D.I.D. act up like you Gollum.

For the first time ever, I'm giving this a +- review.  I love and hate this show.  And I cannot wait for more ... though I super do not want to hear any of them talk every again.  Maybe I'll just turn the subtitles off.

15.4.14

IHAO on ... Someone Like You



After watching (500) Days of Summer, and it making me real mad, the door was opened to watch what I considered a better film that did the same kind of thing, looking at a doomed relationship and what all that actually means, but from the female perspective.  And DING DING DING I finally got the chance to pull out my favorite Chick Flick.  Hence, today’s review.

This movie is a chick flick.  There is no way around it.  (500) Days of Summer did not have that distinction to fight against.  And the title, marketing’s decision, is awful and says nothing about the film.  And if you get your hand on a DVD of it, the back of box blurb is completely awful.  And look at that poster up above.  It doesn't tell you ANYTHING!  What a worthless poster with a worthless title.  But if you can make your way through all the sabotage, what you find is a movie that I find to be legitimately great, with excellent themes, acting, direction, and writing.

Ashley Judd plays Jane, an important backstage person getting line-ups for a midday talk show Diane.  She works with Eddie, played by Hugh Jackman (in his first screen role, I believe) and new character, Ray played by Greg Kinnear.  Jane and Ray start a relationship, one that is doomed from the start, and out of that, she creates a theory: the New Cow Theory.  And things kind of start to roll out of control from there, both in her personal life and in her professional one.  I don’t want to give too much away here, because it is actually a pretty interesting and well-earned plot progression.

Oooo, plot progression, whatever film nerd.  It's a chick flick so it has to be immediately disregarded.

The strength of the film comes from the really incredible acting and writing.  Kinnear, Judd, and Jackman just do incredible work here, especially Judd.  And all the second tier characters and actors are also great: Marissa Tomei, Ellen Barkin, Catherine Dent, and Peter Friedman, all excellent.  We watch over the course of almost a full year these relationships grow, blossom, die, change, and just come across as incredibly grounded and believable, while still being able to be heightened and enjoyable for film.

The flick isn’t perfect.  But I don’t think it made any choices that were bad or poorly-thought-out.  I think it succeeded in everything it tried to do, and in most ways it did it even better.  I highly suggest this film, just remember, even if it is the best of the genre, it is still that genre, so it might be a slightly hard pill to swallow.


Grade: A+

14.4.14

IHAO on ... (500) Days of Summer



Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Relatable-Male who meets Summer, the Unrealistic-In-Any-Way-Female (Uiawf) played by Zooey Deschanel and then goes through all the ups and downs of being dragged along by a girl by the nose emotionally before he meets Autumn, another attractive woman who seems to be more in line with his own life but we don’t know because that would be in (500) Days of Autumn.

I hated this film.  Like, down in the grading, it is going to get a minus.  Maybe two.  I hate it a whole bunch.  My personal hatred for how disgusting our milktoast protagonist is, how unbelievable every single scenario is because they do their best to make sure this movie has no teeth and is not grounded in any form of realism is awful.  This movie wants you to FEEL your way through it, ultimately making almost everything we see unearned garbage.

On a technical level, though … the movie’s pretty solid.  Very solid.   In fact, it is much like the IKEA furniture it features and sells to us so prominently: it looks just like a good movie, except I can see how all the pieces go together, I can see the “connect part A to part B, then use the allen wrench to tighten the provided screws, but not too hard, you’ll break the particle board”-ness of the movie.  It is a very manufactured film.  I can see every seam, every color shift, every god awful choice of costuming that is so on the nose I feel like my nose was broken before Act 1 was over. 

There’s a lot of great in here.  In fact, it has a bunch of great ideas.  But instead of getting a good writer to come through and edit, to pick and choose, to make a stronger more coherent film with some real meat and resonance, they went with everything.  Every single thing they could think of got thrown into the mix.  It is the kitchen sink of quirky indy-style writing tricks. 

And some of them work SO well.  Like almost every non-verbal from Zooey Deschanel is pitch perfect.  Guys who have been in this situation can see it, girls who have been in the situation, or been that chick, can feel it.  The scene in the record store is heartbreaking, all because of that little smile she gives him that fades way to fast when he shows her a Ringo album … that just so HAPPENS to be “Stop and Smell the Roses” … ugh, my nose hurts.

GET IT?!  It implies the second half of the phrase, which basically goes: "Stop and smell the roses, because you only get to once before it is over."

This movie really really wants you to FEEL!  It wants all of your feelings to dictate its worth.  And that’s fine.  I wish it tried harder to be good on its own merits.  That we get another one of those great Expectation/Reality segments, which there was only was one, but it was easily the strongest most artistic and well represented point within the entire film.  That we got more of that acting that was so on point from Zooey, instead of shower sex and calling him friend every second and her being a cow (not looks, and not Zooey, Summer, don’t want to actually go insulting Zooey).  But it throws away any form of logic or gravitas doing so.  After the break-up, Levitt spends over a month in depression, not going to work, and the boss, played by Clark Gregg, just lets it, like it isn’t a single problem.  UH, NO, if you don’t go to work for over a month, and then at a meeting just say you didn’t even work from home, you are FIRED.  But nah, that doesn’t emotionally resonate.

AND HER NAME IS AUTUMN?!  MOVIE, CAN YOU AT LEAST PRETEND YOU ARE TRYING TO BE GOOD AT ALL?!  AUGHHH!!


Grade: B-

EDIT: Talking with the wonderful readers have unleashed my anger.  TWO MINUSES!

Grade: B--

13.4.14

IHAO on ... the Lords of Waterdeep



It wasn't until I moved back to GA that I started playing "eurogames" or board games beyond the Wal-mart, Target, roll-and-move board games.  They have different aspects, and do many different things.  And since I that fateful day when I jumped in and played a board game about dwarves searching for loot inside a big ole volcano on that random Tuesday with two fellas who have become very close friends, I've been collecting a lot of them, and finding a lot more support for these more intricate games.  I joined a once a month, all Saturday gaming group that I WISH didn't do things on Saturdays so I could go again.  I found and started following Wil Wheaton's youtube show, Tabletop.  And on that show, I learned of the Lords of Waterdeep.  And bought it last Monday.  And played it for the first time myself last Wednesday.

It is fantastic.

Almost as fantastic as Wil Wheaton giving Felecia Day the most dancing The Fingers ever, censored by two owlbears.

The basic idea is that you are the secret lords of the fantasy city of Waterdeep.  You are the land owners, society shapers, economy makers, and quest givers in a fantasy world filled with fights, clerics, thieves, and wizards.  You send your agents about the town to buy real estate, coerce adventurers into your tavern, get quests that may or may not match your character's particular interests, and pass them out.  You also bribe others, plan prison breaks, and sample the wares through intrigue and underhanded dealings.

In a less "fluff" description, the game is a worker placement + resource allocation game.  In that, you have a limited number of options to do on the game board, and must prioritize what you want to do, as well as try to take advantage so that your opponents will not be able to stop you from doing what you need to.  From there, you also collect resources, the adventurers, and then send them on their quests so as to get victory points.

The game is beautiful in every way.  Beautiful art, immersive names, all the little bits are well shaped and different looking, even the storage for the box is beautiful and well designed.  It is also not a difficult game to grok.  Our group, none of which who had played it, but all generally game savvy, had it figured out without too much prodding by anyone, by the third round.  And the game actually ended up fairly close and fairly well scoring for the first time playing, with 3 people in the hundreds (that means that wrapped around the game board's point tracker once).  It was very fun, with a lot of variance already inherent in the game to allow for lots of new ways to play even within its own skin without its two expansions.  I cannot recommend the game enough.

Grade: A+

12.4.14

IHAO on ... Oculus



A brand new horror film, based on a short film and made by the same dude.  If you missed it, I did a trailer trash with this trailer right here.  But did the film live up to the status I thought it would?

Firstly, I want to talk about the actual theater experience.  I don't normally do this, but this was one is worth talking about.  I do not know why or how it happened, but this rated R horror film was FILLED with teenagers in it.  And not 17 year old teenagers, I mean young uns.  I didn't see a lot of parents, but they must have been there and then others probably snuck in.  Behind my wife and I sat a nice sized group, including at least two teen girls and one teen guy, with an adult somewhere and I think maybe two more.  They were awful in some of the most humorous ways.  Like, the lead girl (the lead one being the one that talked the most and the other girl always asked what lead girl thought, so she seemed the most important of the two) LOVED the Geico commercial that is just fake bloopers with the Geeko.  And the entire row all flipped out over how awesome Godzilla is gonna be but couldn't give any craps about Guardians of the Galaxy.

What did they think of Oculus?  After the movie finished, one of the boys, teen or father I'm unsure, got up and declared "This was the worst movie."  None of them liked it.  They bad mouthed it the rest of the way out the theater, and I decided to sit and continue to listen.  Do I agree with them?

Absolutely not.  This movie is really REALLY good.  Other than a few minor nitpicks (which I'll talk about in a minute) this movie is damn near flawless.  Amazing acting, directing, sound design, effects, pacing, set dressing, cinematography, color, writing, plotting, everything.  For the most part.  Again, I'll talk about that in a minute.

How did the teenies behind me not like this thing?  Well, I have a pretty good guess why.  This is a true HORROR film.  It is unrelenting in its atmosphere and its driving sense of dread.  This isn't jump scares and SCARY THINGS and titillation and gore.  This is not a slasher or one of the new wave of haunting films.  This is just horror, terror as we watch our characters, our point of view, have to deal with this haunted mirror.  I compare it to my favorite horror film of all time, Candyman (maybe an IHAF in the future?).  Instead of being a slasher, it is a long character story about ... ok, plot time.

Two kids witness the torture and murder of their mother, and supposedly the son kills the father.  The son goes to a mental hospital for 11 years or so while the daughter gets bopped around fostercare.  But they saw something different, they saw a haunted mirror cause all the problems.  Now, as adults, they have gotten their hands on the mirror and the daughter is hellbent to prove her father was a good man and innocent, and that the mirror is evil.

The film is a study in "seeing is believing" as a horror trope.  It is very difficult to just share everything they do with it, but it is incredible, and like nothing I've ever seen before.  They also play with every horror trope you can think of, but have good reasons for it all.  Like, no one turns on the lights ... because it is day time and just an old house that has a lot of shadows but isn't ever dark.  Or the skeptic, played by the son, who spends a very long time doing a GREAT job playing the skeptic to his sister's believer.

If you like horror, WATCH THIS MOVIE.

Ok, my quibbles.  Because of the unrelenting pace, there is little time to breath.  There is no joke breaks, no moments of levity at all.  Once the movie starts, it is a 105 minute horror train without a single moment to stop.  If your audience isn't mature enough for that, they will find places to laugh, because they need it.  Also, because of that pacing, it makes certain sequences feel long.  Not bad, not even unpleasant or uninteresting, but in the back of your head it is like "we've seen this VERY good scene for a long time, yeah?"  My only other complaint is that of film geography, or knowing where people are.  There was a small sequence where I got lost on where the characters are.  Talking it out afterwards, I figured it out.  The movie does not hold your hand, but as film savvy as I am, even I got lost a little.  That could hurt the viewing of others, especially considering the unrelenting pace.

All that said, this movie was excellent.  The Shining meets The Conjuring meets Paranormal Activity.  If that sound good to you at all, you NEED to see this in theaters.  Do it this weekend.  Vote with your money, and give this film what it deserves, a really good showing at the box office.  I really look forward to a sequel, maybe a whole franchise.

Grade: A+

Also here's a gif finally.

See, I did it like this because of the unrelenting movie pace, get it!

11.4.14

Worst Comedy List I've Seen

Sorry, no review today, things have been hectic.  But I do have this "funny" picture to show you.  Found this while sitting in the waiting room of the eye doctor.  And it is quite literally the worst comedy list I've ever seen.  Just take a look and you'll see what I mean.

Picture from Glamour Magazine.


Ugh.

10.4.14

IHAO on ... Spelunky



This game is great.  And the first game review I am gonna review.  So that's neato!  I actually have a lot of games I want to review, including a special experience that I'll get to some time that requires my roommate to help me out, since I have no clue what I'll be doing.  But let me start talking about Spelunky.

Spelunky is a platform/exploration game, with a huge amount of difficulty and lots of great carrot-on-a-stick to keep you coming back.  The schtick is that you play as Spelunky, or one of the other skins you can earn, buy, or find randomly throughout the game, and you are trying to make as much money as possible as you travel through the mines into the Lost Jungle, into the Ice Caves, into a hidden Temple, and even into Hell itself.  I have not been able to get to Hell.  In fact, I've only beaten the game once.  I mean, I've played probably close to 2000 iterations of the game, but yeah, only once have I beaten it.

How is that?  Well, there are basic rules for each stage and level, but the actual make up of those stages changes randomly every time you play.  Every single time.  It means that you can only learn the basics, but never just memorize the gameplay.  You have to take risks.  Is it worth it using your resources now to get potential new resources, or wait for an easier spot?  Should I steal from the shopkeep to get these cool items but earn his wrath for every other level, or do I just skip those good items?  Do I go to the secret levels I just unlocked that are harder, but could reap higher rewards?

It is truly unique, and really wonderful.  I find myself going back to it over and over again.  And that doesn't even account for the great graphics and music.

My personal favorite setup currently, just so you know, if jet pack (of course), freeze gun, sticky bombs, baseball gloves.  That's all I need.  Everything else is gravy.

Sam: "Dean, this gravy doesn't look like it is the right consistancy."
Dean: *chomp chomp*
- Soup, er, not really

AND THAT'S NOT ALL!  There is a "Deathmatch" mode, which is basically all the crazy hectic-ness of Smash Bros, except in smaller bits.  You can tailor it however you like, but our home tends to give everyone a single bomb, 10 life, and see who is left standing.  Play best to 10, fatal 4-way.  Literally, you become ghosts.

And being a ghost does not end the game.  You can interact with the world as a ghost, which makes both Deathmatchs and just general multi-player play super fun, even in death.

I cannot say enough good things.  Go get this game if you can.  It is on PC and X-Box, so everyone SHOULD be able to find a way to get it.  What, you still not sure?  Fine, why don't you play the original version FOR FREE!  That's right, they have put the original version of the game online for free download to play.  It is also fun, but the new version is an improvement.  So if you enjoy the original, you'll definitely enjoy the HD upgrade.  Get the original here.

Grade: A+

9.4.14

RIP Warrior



Last Saturday, I watched the WWE Hall of Fame live.  To close it out was the amazing speech giving by the Ultimate Warrior, now just Warrior.  It wasn't amazingly good.  It was amazingly ... try-hard.  He tried so hard to be humble, to bury the hatchet, to talk about everything in his career honestly and openly, to put on a happy face, to thank the fans and those in the industry that gave him a chance, and to apologize.  I really do believe he tried.  He didn't do a good job, but he tried, and you could see it in his eyes.

Last Sunday, at Wrestlemania, I watched him walk out and get honored by 70,000+ fans for the legend he truly is.

Monday, I watched him come down to the ring on Raw for the first time in 8 years, grab and shake the ropes, then put on an Ultimate Warrior mask and give the craziest speech about legacy and living forever and immortality.

And yesterday, he died.

People who don't watch ask me very often how it is I can like wrestling.  "It isn't real."  No, it is scripted.  There is a reality to wrestling beyond what you can see anywhere else.  The pagentry, the athleticism, the sports-storytelling, all of that falls away when you see Daniel Bryan take only a single moment to let it all sink in and get teary-eyed at Wrestlemania after winning the biggest matches of his life.  Or to see the genuine smile on the Big Show's face listening to Scott Hall and Warrior's speeches at the Hall of Fame.  Or hear a heartfelt thank you from a hero.  Yes, a fake hero, a storytelling hero, but one just as legitimate as Luke Skywalker is to many, or Indiana Jones, or Batman.

The Ultimate Warrior, the joke he became, the honor he received again, and the wrestler he always was, was a hero to me.  As a kid, he was my favorite.  So much so I tried to do his Gorilla Press Slam to my mother and she got upset and told me and my dad I wasn't allowed to watch wrestling anymore.  He had boundless energy, intensity personified, honesty and integrity that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  That last part is a thing that I relate to quite well, mostly the rubbing people the wrong way part.  I watched him do the impossible.  And I watched the company turn on him.  8 years later, the company and he bury everything.  Backstage handshakes and hugs and thank yous.  And now an icon has died.  An icon who left the business to have a loving family.  An icon who finally got to be redeemed in the eyes of the company as a whole.

And he has passed away.

The tears I have running down my face are very real.  They let me know that as a fan, Ultimate Warrior truly is immortal.  He lives on forever in old magazines, dvd sets, and the hearts of fans and coworkers and new crops of wrestlers who looked up to him as a child.  He lives on here, with me.  Always will, deep down.

I pray for his family, his two young daughters who he was so proud of and loved so much when he brought them with him to the Hall of Fame.

Rest in Peace, Warrior.

Forgiveness in a single picture.

8.4.14

IHAO on ... Amos & Andrew



Let me just lay out the cast real quick for this: Nicolas Cage, Dabney Coleman, Giancarlo Esposito, Brad Dourif, and friggin' Samuel L. Jackson.  That is a pretty fine acting pedigree, with lots of familiar faces playing smaller, incidental roles as well.  I want to lay all that out right now, because you need to learn the same thing that I did: great actors do not good movies make.

This is a racism movie.  You know what I mean: a film made specifically to use racism as a crutch for comedy, drama, and character development.  Like the horrendous White Man's Burden.  Except this one is a comedy.  You see, a successful black man moves into his new house, but his snoopy neighbors see him through the window without knowing he just moved in and called the cops, because a black man holding a stereo, well you just know what that means.  That is almost  direct quote there, by the way.  So, the cops go to check it out, and one of the them pulls his gun and fires on the guy and destroys his car.  Then they learn that the black man owns that house and this is a huge problem.  So they get a career-criminal to break in, fake a kidnapping, and then clean it all up.  But the press shows up and other stuff and ... sigh.

The problem with this movie is that while it is clearly supposed to be a comedy, it isn't funny.  It tries so hard to be poignant it forgets that it is setting up a bunch of things for us to laugh at.  Nicolas Cage is asked by the cops to fake-kidnap Samuel L. Jackson.  There should be lots of humor there.  But nope.  Just ... a whole sequence with Jackson refusing to shake a dog's paw because dog's hate black men.  He says the much worse word, by the way (again).  I do not have the cahones to write that on my blog though.

Ultimately, both characters learn something about racism, the ignornant people of the town are shown to be ignorant, and that's the end.  Except the townsfolk never really get any comeuppance, Cage's character doesn't learn anything because he wasn't racist to begin with, and they end the film on a racist joke followed by a terrible sign joke, if you could even call it that.  It's just ... sigh.

Let me see you face-pa-a-alm.  Face pal-pa-pa-pa-palm.

I hate sighing.  I hate that this movie is like this.  This movie should have been hilarious!  It should have been great.  But it is just ... bad.  And boring.  And not bad enough to really make me angry, or even make me feel anything, really.  It just exists, and is bad, and that's unfortunate.  Don't watch it unless curious.  It'll be a waste of time in every way.  It isn't even bad enough to be funny.  I type it again ... sigh.

Grade: C

7.4.14

IHAO on ... Wrestlemania XXX



Yesterday, I took a day off.  I spent all day excitedly awaiting Wrestlemania XXX.  I feel a little guilty about it, to be honest.  But in the end, it was special.  It was great to be able to sit back and watch all day, to have the snacks out, to enjoy the pre-show, the build up from the last Mania, and to see the arena fill up.  I was excited for this PPV.  I do not normally get too excited for PPVs any longer.  But this one ... this one had all the makings to be an important one.  I don't want to be too flowery here, so let's get to it.



Pre-show: The Usos (c) retain against The Real Americans, Los Matadores, and RybAxel in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Tag Match

Ahh, the burgeoning state of tag team wrestling.  There are 3 legitimate teams in here, and 4 more teams highlighted elsewhere on this PPV, as well as the amazing Ascension in NXT just chomping at the bit to get called up.  We are in a nice place for tag wrestling, which I'm a fan of.  That said, I got a few complaints to put out there immediately.

Early on there is a terribly contrived spot where everyone is thrown outside so they can do one of those "throw myself onto the huge pile of people" spots that has become surprisingly prevalent in the past year or so.  Two bad guys go out, then two good guys dive, then two more bad guys go out, then Los Matadores fling themselves, then El Torito throws himself, bah, whatever.  It is contrived, doesn't look convincing, and is just a spot.  Spots for spots-sake are boring, and hurts the story of the match.  And there is a story to this match, which is great.

Second big problem ... the two tag teams that were supposed to last the longest were the ones in the standard tag-corners.  WWE has put the tag teams in the following corners forever: good guys far left, bad guys near right.  So surprise surprise, the first two teams to get eliminated were the good guys far right and bad guys near left.  Then it just looked like a normal match.  It was hokey and again, weirdly pre-planned.  The fun of wrestling is that suspension of disbelief, that indescribable aura of not knowing what is gonna happen.  Don't do stupid stuff like that, WWE.

Ok, so the match itself.  The story here is that the Real Americans, Jack Swagger and Cesaro, are on a roll, and have been.  They look strong as a team and are going into this to finally win.  But there has been some cracks in their armor.  Cesaro was able to make his way into the Elimination Chamber when Jack Swagger lost his match.  Swagger doesn't like getting shown up, and they've come to words a few times, but before anything too violent has happened, their manager has pulled them together.  Now, we are in the match, and the Real Americans are looking like champs.  Swagger eliminates Los Matadores.  Cesaro eliminates RybAxel.  Together, they should be able to stop the Usos.  But the Usos are a team that showed no problems, and eventually took advantage of a small breakdown in communication, pinning Cesaro after a double superkick followed by a double splash.  Usos win a really solid tag match, two problems I said above put to the side.

Verdict: Pretty Daggum Good

But the real story here is what happens after.  Swagger, pissed at Cesaro for being the one who got pinned, puts the Patriot Lock on him ... he let's go almost immediately, but that was enough for Friendly-Dad-Statham as my roommate loves to call Cesaro.  And Cesaro puts Swagger in the Cesaro Swing and leaves with the people firmly behind him, even taking the heel chant "We the People" that they use and throwing it back in his former partner and manager's face.  Big things coming for this man.



A Celebration of 30 Years of Wrestlemania

We open with our "host" Hogan coming out, then being interrupted by Stone Cold Steve Austin, then both being interrupted by The Rock.  This was a ... well, for me, a waste of time.  This is not the thing I care about.  I just want to see wrestling.  But for a lot of people, this was huge!  Seeing three icons all sharing a beer, throwing around catchphrases, and enjoying each others company, as well as hyping up Wrestlemania just in general.  That's fine.  I don't care for it, but whatever.



Daniel Bryan defeats Triple H to qualify for the Main Event Triple Threat match

The story for Daniel Bryan has been a long one.  A frustrating one for a fan.  An infuriating one for ridiculous booking decisions.  But ... if it was all building to this from the beginning (it wasn't) but if it was ... this was great.  Daniel Bryan proved himself with the fans through his matchwork and his demeanor.  He is just a guy, a guy who is great at wrestling.  And he wants to prove it every day.  And does!  At Summerslam last year, he won the WWE Title in a great match with Cena.  He was then completely screwed by Triple H, allowing Orton to snake in and become the champ.  From there, it has been 8 months of fighting to prove himself, proving he is worth, of his fans hijacking Raws and PPVs all in his favor, all to prove he is an A+ player, not a B+ player like Triple H and Stephanie continue to say.

This match was fantastic.  The opening where Daniel Bryan refused a handshake (last time, he got handcuffed and beaten all to hell, injuring his shoulder), kicking the crap out of Triple H, who bails the ring, to only see Daniel Bryan now offer his hand.  The first half of the match was all on Bryan wrestling rings around Triple H, but Triple H taking advantage of his size and strength to continue to punish Bryan's shoulder.  And the second half, all the ring psychology was gone as Triple H just tried to put Bryan away, and Bryan would NOT GO DOWN.  He kicked out of a pedigree, he countered three more, and made Triple H tap in the ring, clean.  A clean win, and the sea of fans throwing their hands in the air, chanting "Yes!" over and over!

But that ain't the end.  Stephanie comes in and slaps the crap out of Bryan, who just smiles and laughs at her ... until Triple H gets him from behind, then before the refs can stop him, wraps Bryan's arm around the ring post and gives a hell of a chair shot to Bryan's already injured shoulder.  Daniel Bryan has a few hours to try to get his arm in working order for the Triple Threat.

It was a great great match.  No shenanigans, just storytelling.  It went a great length, and was just glorious.  It is hard to separate this from the main event, as with a Daniel Bryan win here it all ties together.  But on its own, this match is stupendous.

Verdict: Great great great.



The Shield destroy Kane and the New Age Outlaws

I do not use "destroy" lightly here.  Two and a half minutes.  Two and half minutes of pure dominance from the Shield.  They one-up Kane and the New Age Outlaws in every way.  In power, intensity, teamwork, and skill.  Superman punches, lunatic brawling onslaughts, flippy somersaults over the top, spears, and the only double triple power bomb I've ever seen.  This was a dominant win for the newly turned face Shield, the champions of the people, the Hounds of Justice.  It was short, but fun.  I expected more, but really shouldn't have, because this was about dominance, and about the old guard passing on to the new ones.

Verdict: Real good, super fun

Between this and the next match, we got a WWE Slam City backstage segment with all the Legends enjoying themselves and a Ron Simmons "DAMN" to finish it off.  It was short and entertaining enough.  Plus, I really like Slam City.



Cesaro won the Andre the Giant Memorial 30-man Battle Royal

Wow.  Just ... wow.  Ok, firstly, this match started how it was always gonna, with a lot of chaos.  There were a LOT of bodies in the ring, and they had to get cleared out somehow.  They worked incredibly hard to make sure every spot was covered, and every elimination was on camera.  I appreciate the hard work.  This is the kind of match where you just hope that they get down to a manageable number quickly, and they actually did a pretty great job to have a lot of pretty great spots all through out.  Even Three Man Band looked a threat, as they worked as a group and eliminated folks left and right until Big Show (or whoever) got his hands on them.

Important spots:
 - Kofi was thrown OVER the ring post, but his feet landed on the stairs and not the floor, so he was still in.  Nice Mania check and Mania spot for Kofi this year.
 - Santino getting the Cobra on the Miz and Miz selling like a champ.
 - Fandango dancing like a fool on the outside until he is forearmed to death by Sheamus.  27 forearm shots to the chest and then Fandango goes loopy and just falls
 - LOTS of kicks to the head from Del Rio and Cody Rhodes to various people, getting them knocked out
 - Ziggler bumping like a fool and doing all the hard work without any acknowledgement or even an elimination.  I will always acknowledge your work, Mr. Ziggler.

Eventually it comes down to the final four: Big Show, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Del Rio.  Sheamus and Del Rio eliminate each other, and Show and Cesaro try to smash each other over and over.  Then Cesaro realizes he is the strongest flipping man ever and just lifts Big Show in a scoop slam like it is no problem and throws him out of the ring!  It was a SHOCKING moment just how easy it was for him to just scoop Show up.  Shades of Wrestlemania 3, the slam heard round the world.  Another giant lifted and tossed, a new strong-man is hero!  The crowd were firmly behind Cesaro, and even Show shook his hand in respect.  Cesaro had a great night this Mania.

Verdict: Interesting, a good breather, but nothing to write home about other than the finish



John Cena pinned Bray Wyatt

Yes, yes, I wrote a nice long article about how terrible John Cena is.  Other people have been thinking it for years.  And in fact, that is the build up to this match.  And it was pretty excellent build up.

Bray Wyatt is calling out Cena for all the heel crap I pointed out, for all the terrible things he does, for the monster he is, and says that all the good things Cena does, all the Make a Wish, all the charity, THAT is the work.  THAT is the falsehood, and that the real Cena is the one who throws people off cars to their death or buries guys in chairs.  This is a fight about Legacy.  And Bray Wyatt's goal in this match isn't to win, but to prove Cena is that monster.

And Wyatt succeeds.  Yes, Cena pins Wyatt.  But Wyatt's goals were accomplished.  Cena doubted himself all match.  He did every cheap attack and weapon use and cheating thing, just not to Wyatt.  He hit one of the Wyatts with a chair, he through himself off the top rope at the two of them, he attacked one and took him through the barricade.  Cena held his submission moves through the full five-count in the ropes before letting go.  He was too afraid to run the ropes to do the Five-Knuckle Shuffle, and the first time he tried he was greet with ... this:


Well, that's from the Rumble PPV, but you get the picture.

Wyatt and Cena both ACTED perfectly here.  They were telling a story, beyond the match, above the match, and it was great.  Wyatt played with the crowd, singing his song with them.  Cena never once smiled.  He never could.  He couldn't put on that smile.  And because he couldn't, no matter the outcome of the match, Bray Wyatt actually won.  I look forward to more from them.  This was an incredible match, and one that goes to show that winning isn't the most important part of wrestling, and John Cena helped make a star out of Wyatt.

Verdict: Really really great, especially storytelling-wise



Brock Lesnar ends the Streak

I don't care about either of these men.  Never marked for either of them.  Never cared for their in-ring work alone, and certainly never cared together.  This match was a dead certainty.  There was no way Lesnar was gonna win ... but 3 F-5s later, and a stunned and silent crowd and commentary team watches as Undertaker cannot kick out.  The Streak is dead.

I have always been of the opinion that the Streak was made to end.  You build things up to pay them off.  And they did it.  They ended the Streak.  And the crowd just didn't know what to do with themselves.  I can't blame them.  This Mania felt like every outcome was written in stone, but you see Big Show lose the Andre Battle Royal, you see Cena win but really lose ... and now the Streak is dead.

The match itself doesn't matter.  It really doesn't.  They are both too old to be putting on main events, and both just botch things left and right and don't make a lot of the moves even look like they connect.  Sure, their submissions work.  Their acting and the emotion was pretty good.  The pagentry was whatever.  But when the Undertaker can't do his finishing moves well at all, you got a problem.  That was the most tired looking Last Ride I'd ever seen, not even BEING a Last Ride, which is a Powerbomb with extension that had no extension and was just kind of a drop-him powerbomb.  And the tombstone ... it doesn't even connect.  Lesnar's head doesn't come anywhere near the mat.

But the F-5s.  You cannot fake those.  And the Streak is dead.

Is that a good thing?  Yeah, I think so.  When a wrestler retires, which is what I expect is happening, you retire on your back.  You put someone over.  Austin did it.  Michaels did it.  Flair did it.  And Taker did it.

Is it a good thing to have Lesnar be the man to end the streak?  Eh.  I mean, it would have been great if a full-timer had.  Give the push to Wade Barrett or Sheamus or Ziggler or CM Punk last year.  Someone who was working hard every week.  But Austin put over Rock.  Michaels put over Taker.  Flair put over Michaels.  You go out on your back, putting over a guy you respect.  So I cannot blame them for the outcome that has become a standard outcome.

It isn't the best storytelling.  It certainly wasn't a great match.  But it ended an era.  And that will be more important than anything else in this match anyway.

Verdict: Important, but not very good

We had a backstage segment about the main event of Wrestlemania 1 here ... or after the next match, I don't remember.  It doesn't matter.  It is the only other time we see our "host" Hogan again, and Rowdy Roddy Piper is over the top but entertaining enough.



AJ Lee (c) retains the Divas Championship in a Fatal 14-Way Diva's Invitational match

I may have been the only one really interested in this. Certainly one of the only ones I know personally.  There are a lot of pretty decent to great Divas currently, and this match could have gone a million ways.  I was intrigued with what was going to happen, and I was CERTAIN AJ was losing her title.  Shows what I know, just like with the past few matches.

These women worked hard.  And some got some real moments to shine.  Some don't deserve it, like awful Natalya (I don't know how anyone can like her, she is so plodding and boring, and just does the same damned moves over and over), or Cameron, who had a wardrobe malfunction with her top coming off almost completely, but instead of taking a minute to fix it, just went ahead and kept wrestling anyway ... idiot.  But then you had some really great moments for Tamina, for Emma (who everyone I watched this with BOTH times loves), even for Eva Marie who had a GREAT moment where she pushes Tamina, Tamina gets in her face, and Eva bails out, scared for her life.  The Bellas had a great moment, and looked dominant.  Aksana, who is a great wrestler but has been stripped of any life because of bad gimmicks and nothing to do, got to shine with some good moves and bumps.  And they did the stupid spot from the tag match that I complained about.  But with it being the Divas ... it was actually kind of surprising, and it felt less contrived.

The finish came with Naomi doing her terrible butt-hit move, but AJ coming in and strapping on the Octopus finisher to her latest most likely threat and forcing her to tap.  Literally, AJ took Naomi's hand and made her tap out for her own enjoyment.  Naomi tapped on her own, but AJ just went the next step of ultimate dickitude.

AJ Lee continues to be the longest running Divas champion.  And she needs to be, because the story that's building is about Tamina getting tired of AJ's antics and getting pushed around.  Expect AJ v. Tamina next PPV, and that could be a REALLY good one.  I was rooting for Emma, but in the end, for a big ole craziness Diva-fest, I think they worked real hard and did surprisingly well.  Plus, we got to see both the Dil-Emma and the Emma Sandwich!

Verdict: WAY better than it needed to be, and surprisingly enjoyable


Daniel Bryan makes Batista tap out and becomes the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion in a Triple Threat

Daniel Bryan did it.

He did it!

He proved everything!  He proved he is an A+ guy!  This match was not easy.  This match was a slog, and painful, in a great way!  Batista and Orton threw everything at each other and Bryan.  And it was glorious.  Remember all the build up I talked about in the first Bryan match this PPV?  Here's the rest of it for this part.

Orton was made the face of the company after screwing Bryan.  And he retained his championship from Bryan ONLY through shenanigans.  Evil referee, botched calls, screw overs, everything.  HHH did everything he could to keep Bryan from the picture, and to push Orton.  But once Orton won both titles, unifying them, HHH became uncertain if Orton could handle it.  And then conquering Batista shows up, trying to get the fans praise as he wins the Rumble, but turning on them like they did to him, telling us all to "Deal with it!" because he was here to be champion, he won the Rumble and no one was stopping him.

There was a LOT of storytelling in this match.  A lot of story built up over 8 months here, all culminating in a really great Triple Threat.  Bryan, after already having had to beat one of the best in HHH, has to face TWO more all-time greats, all with a re-injured shoulder.  The crowd here saw the unthinkable happen twice, with the Streak ending and AJ retaining with all the odds against her.  They needed a hero.  They needed Bryan.  They needed a happy ending.

This match was brutal.  Backdrop onto the steel steps.  HHH and Steph and the evil ref from Bryan's past all show up again, but Bryan takes them ALL out!  He gets revenge on all three, finally, removing them from the equation.  And then, the most crazy combination of finishers I've seen in a long time.  Batista and Orton, tired of Bryan continuing to run in and ruin things for both of them, decide to focus on Bryan, and together beat the ever living hell out of him, culminating in a Batista Bomb + RKO through the Spanish announce table!  It is insane, I'm just gonna show you a gif:


You see Orton land on that monitor?!  He was bleeding like a fiend, and Batista was standing tall here.  EMTs came down and put Bryan in a stretcher, so Batista took advantage and started just wailing on Orton while the EMTs were doing their thing.  But Orton wasn't going down like that, and he took advantage.  Until Bryan refuses to go out like that.  He fights back into the match, and in the end, Batista taps out while Orton looks on, just out of reach to stop Bryan from finally proving himself.  Through all the pain on his body, on his face, after a night of brutal beatings, he finally did it!

This was magical.  It was glorious.  Batista, Orton, Bryan, they all worked so hard to make this special, and it was.  It is!  This was glorious by itself.  It was even more glorious in combination with Bryan v. HHH from earlier.  Daniel Bryan did the unthinkable.  He pinned Triple H in the middle of the ring.  Then came back from injury to beat both Batista and Randy Orton in the same night.  Chris Jericho may have beat two of the best every in one night to become the first every Undisputed Champion, but Daniel Bryan beat three future Hall of Famers in a single night, with every ounce of shenanigans and cheating they could throw at him, through every injury, to become the face of the company he knew he could be!  That we all knew he could be!  It was glorious!

Verdict: Absolutely glorious

But, it is even MORE glorious combined with every other match on this PPV.  This PPV is the beginning a new era.  That phrase gets thrown around a lot.  But I really do honestly believe it here.  The Shield beats the veterans.  Cesaro scoop slams the Big Show and becomes the newest hero for the company and the fans.  Bray Wyatt won in spirit and proved himself an incredible villain.  AJ continues to set new records as the best Diva of all time perhaps.  The Streak is over, that chapter of wrestling closed.  And Daniel Bryan, the 5'10", 210 pound grappler and man of enormous heart overcame every single thing placed in front of him to define a new generation for the WWE.

Where do we go from here?  I have an idea.  Daniel Bryan, the real champ, the champion of the people, will have to deal with every contender that evil HHH and Steph can send his way.  Orton, Batista, Lesnar, all are waiting in the wings to eat alive the new face of the company.  Daniel Bryan may be champion, he may have the audience behind him, but he is still fighting an uphill fight.  The story isn't over here.  And it is a story I am finally excited to watch again.

Wrestlemania 30 is the best Wrestlemania I've watched since I started watching again in 2010.  And could be right up there in some of the best of all time.  That comparison is for a later day.  But, in my opinion, I am still ecstatic, and cannot wait for the future.