Wednesday, July 17, 2019

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Star Trek Movies

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Soooo Good, where Justin & I, Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal), discuss things used to be awesome but now, eh, not so much. This week is a tad different, in that we are talking about films we actually like now but they’re missing…something from the old days.

Star Trek Movies:  You Are Stiiiiiiill Kinda Good, But Used to Be Sooooo Much Better

The classic, awesome Enterprise of the original films.

DAN: Oddly enough, Justin and I both watched Star Trek Into Darkness again on the same night independently, but clearly linked in a strange psychic way. And while I do enjoy the film (except for the dumb surname) and its reboot-starting predecessor, there’s definitely a lack of character development in these new films that hurt them. These flicks boast incredible effects, great action, competent acting; they are terribly entertaining, but really dumb. The iconic Trek characters have basically no personality. They have the idea of the old characters, but nothing’s fleshed out.

JUSTIN: Right, the spirit of the characters is there (which is more than you can say for Man of Steel – I’ll keep shitting on that film till my dying day), but it's basically Kirk and Spock in action figure form.  Both Star Trek '09 and Into Darkness featured a gigantic black monster vessel as the evil ship. It's also pretty humorous how blatantly Into Darkness copied entire passages of dialogue from ST2.

DAN: I believe they call that an "homage" now, and not plagiarism. The creators of this new Trek series are playing off the existing archetype of the old Trek series characters. What we already know about them, and not doing much else. Also, Chris Pine just doesn’t do it for me as Kirk.

JUSTIN: I actually like Pine a lot as Kirk.  I think I like him better than Zach Quinto. For me, Pine’s Kirk is closer to Shatner's than Quinto's Spock is to Nimoy's.  And that's more the writing than anything else - this Spock is kind of a jerk and is pretty easily swayed into becoming emotional.

DAN: My problem with him as Kirk is he’s just sort of a generic hero man. There’s nothing memorable about his Kirk like there is about Shatner’s. I do like him, and I think he’s dreamy but there’s just not enough there for me to care about his Kirk.

Yup, they look and feel vaguely like the original characters.

JUSTIN:  True, and that's really the case with all of them.  They just took a cursory approximation of the original characters and stuck 'em in these movies.  Kirk's heroic and repeatedly defies authority (how he's able to hold onto the Captain's chair at all is beyond me), Spock is cold and logical (unless the story requires him to fly into a rage and beat the piss out of the bad guy), McCoy is curmudgeonly and spouts metaphors constantly, Uhura speaks other languages (and is now for some reason the #3 character in the pecking order), Sulu's good at fencing, Scotty's really funny, and Chekhov is Russian. It's odd that Admiral Pike has gotten more screen time than any of those guys.

Monday, July 15, 2019

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Tool

Welcome back to our semi-regular feature. This one's a tad different. Typically we take something that was once AWESOME but now sucks. This time, we're talking about a band that is badass and great but is MIA except for a bunch of mini-tours over the past year



DAN: I remember the first time I heard Tool. Back when MTV used to be a music channel and not a place for teen whores to show off their bastard kids, I watched the video for "Sober" off Tool's first album, Undertow. The first impression I had wasn't so much about the music but the visual components of this truly bizarre stop-motion Claymation-type video.

The spastic dance this little creep did freaked me out

I knew fuck all about the band, and it stayed that way until MTV once again showed me a video by them. Ostensibly named "Track #1", this song was enough to intrigue to search out the band behind this odd videos. When I purchased ├ćnima I realized the name of that song was actually "Stinkfist" and MTV changed it because EWWW HANDS IN BUTTS.

But that album was hypnotizing. It was MILES away from the grungy pop-ish like rock music I was listening to at the time. The chord progressions, the insanely elaborate drum beats and the one-of-a-kind vocals of lead singer Maynard James Keenan made for a band the likes of which mine ears had never heard. I needed more after listening to ├ćnima. In what turned out to be a pattern, it would be a long wait.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

In 1982, Ridley Scott released one of the most visually influential sci-fi films of all time, a hard-boiled film-noir set in a dystopian future, involving a police officer (Harrison Ford) tasked with hunting down and killing four replicants (artificial humans engineered for off-world manual labor).  Fast-forward 35 years to the Denis Villeneuve-helmed Blade Runner 2049, which picks up the story three decades later with a new Blade Runner character (Ryan Gosling), who not only has to "retire" unauthorized replicants but gets mixed up in a mystery that could unravel civilization as we know it.

Villeneuve takes great care in preserving the imagery and feel of Scott's original universe but adds some of his own art-house sensibilities and expands on the story considerably.  Where the first film's narrative was exceedingly straightforward (cop has to find and kill four robots, and does so), BR 2049 embroils its protagonist in a much more engaging story with numerous plot twists and an emotional arc.  As a big fan of the original film, I will say that its greatest weakness is the thinness of its plot.  It took me several viewings over nearly a decade to fully appreciate Blade Runner, and it's not surprising that mainstream audiences were not enthusiastic about it upon its release.  It's a bleak, slow-moving film with not much in the way of story reveals, and ultimately becomes more of an exercise in style.  The sequel retains that tone but also gives the audience more relatable characters and a plot that requires a more active viewer. 

The casting is excellent across the board; Ryan Gosling is note-perfect as the gritty, impassive lead character, who becomes increasingly conflicted as the story unfolds.  Harrison Ford, despite limited screen time, is given much more to do emotively than in the original, and his rather forced love story with Sean Young in that film actually works better now because of its aftermath; the events of this film lend more emotional depth to that one.  Blade Runner 2049 boasts three very strong female performances as well, starting with Robin Wright as Gosling's stern, pragmatic police Lieutenant, whose only concern is preserving the delicate, uneasy harmony between humans and replicants, no matter the questionable ethics involved.  Ana de Armas has a touching, sympathetic turn as Joi, Gosling's holographic love interest, who displays more humanity than perhaps any other character - think Scarlett Johannson in Her, but with a physical manifestation.  Finally there's Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, a cold, fearsome replicant working for Jared Leto's Niander Wallace, who orders her to unravel the film's central mystery before Gosling's character does.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

AEW Fight for the Fallen Preview & Predictions

Wow, already another AEW show this weekend.  Keeping up with this, the G1, Extreme Rules and the Evolve show all in the span of two days is gonna be murder....

AEW Fight for the Fallen is this Saturday, with the box office proceeds going to the victims of gun violence.  I can get behind that.  Like Fyter Fest two weeks ago this is one of their "minor" big shows, broadcast for free on B/R Live (in the US at least), and the matches are partly designed to build to All Out next month.  But a number of them should be quite the spectacle in their own right.  We have a lean, five-match main card with two pre-show bouts.  Let's get to it.

Pre-Show Match: Jimmy Havoc, Darby Allin & Joey Janela vs. MJF, Sammy Guevara & Shawn Spears

This will be a fast-paced showcase match for six of the company's up-and-comers.  Allin established himself nicely in his 20-minute draw with Cody, Joey Janela absorbed unfathomable punishment in an Unsanctioned loss to Jon Moxley, MJF has already shown himself to be one of the industry's strongest heel promos, and Shawn Spears made headlines by attacking Cody with a chair and inadvertently scraping off part of his scalp (Jeezus that was grotesque).  Since they're obviously setting up Cody vs. Spears at All Out, I'll pick the heels to win here.  Should be a fun way to rev up the crowd.

Pick: MJF/Sammy/Shawn

Pre-Show Match: Sonny Kiss vs. Peter Avalon

I know very little about these two beyond their gimmicks, so this will be an introduction to both for me.  I'll go with Sonny to get the win.

Pick: Sonny Kiss

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 BEER KOOZIE Giveaway! Click for Details.....

As we edge closer to the ONE MILLION VIEWS threshold, we thought we'd celebrate this milestone by raffling off TEN official beer koozies!

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Our drawing will be on Monday, July 22nd!

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WWE Extreme Rules 2019 Preview & Predictions: Put This Company in a Box and Throw It In the Ocean

Oh good, another WWE PPV is this weekend.  Another off-the-rails shitshow where Vince and his crack team of writers further demonstrate how hopelessly out of touch they are with the wrestling 2019 audience.  I can't wait....

Yes, it's Extreme Rules time folks.  This particular PPV title has been around for ten years and it feels like twenty.  Actually to be fair, Extreme Rules is usually a decent show.  Last year not so much, and aside from a few matches I don't have a lot of hope for this one either.  Look at the main event, for Chrissakes.  The undercard is gonna have to carry the load, just like on a Nitro-era WCW show.  It is unfathomable to me that, in the midst of the lowest ratings RAW and Smackdown have ever posted, and coming off maybe the worst-attended WWE PPV of all time in Stomping Grounds (if it ain't the worst it's definitely up there), Vince is still doubling down on Baron Corbin, Lacey Evans and Shane McMahon as three of the featured players.  Hey Vince, NO ONE CARES ABOUT THESE PEOPLE.  Oh, but Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are in charge now!  Look, Heyman is an absolute genius in this industry.  I have no complaints about giving him creative power that he should've had all along.  But Eric fucking Bischoff??  The guy who's had one successful idea ever (which he lifted from NJPW), who hasn't been relevant as a creative mind since 1999?  Am I stoned?  Fuckin' hell, let's get this over with...

Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese

I assume this will get bumped to the pre-show.  Another CW match I don't care about but it'll undoubtedly be a good one.  Gulak just won this so I'll pick him.

Pick: Drew retains

Smackdown Women's Championship Handicap Match: Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

Handicap matches are stupid.  I don't like them.  If Bayley wins, Alexa and Nikki look like fools.  If Alexa and Nikki win, they had to double team Bayley to do it.  Spoiler alert: I don't think they'll win - they've been building a feud between Alexa and Nikki for weeks and one of them would have to let the other pin Bayley essentially.  Course all this does is make Bayley the third wheel in this match, and it's never a good idea to do that to the champion.  Where in the fuck are Asuka and Kairi??

Pick: Bayley retains

RAW Tag Team Championship: The Revival vs. The Usos

This should be a really good tag match if they give it enough time.  Both teams are great and despite WWE treating Dash and Dawson like putzes more often than not, they're still pretty over.  This should be one of the show highlights.

Pick: I'll stick with the champs to retain

Monday, July 8, 2019

Movie Review: mother! (2017)

What to say about mother!?  That's uh....that's a movie alright.

Darren Aronofsky's divisive allegory about a married couple whose tranquil country home is overrun by unwanted guests plays out like a two-hour nightmare directed by Roman Polanski (with a few Kubrickian touches as well).  The wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, seemingly has various repeated hallucinations (including a bloody spot on the floor rotting away into the basement beneath, a beating heart inside the walls, lightbulbs exploding, etc.), while her writer's-blocked poet husband (Javier Bardem) invites more and more guests into the house, seemingly as a way to avoid intimacy with her.  Gradually Lawrence's mental state appears to become further detached from reality, and everything goes completely haywire.

That, on the surface, is essentially the plot of the film.  I can't really say anything more without involving ***SPOILERS***, so from here on in, consider yourself warned.  I'll try to be as non-specific as I can.

First off I'll answer the question of whether I "liked" mother!  The answer truly is this - I'm not quite sure.  While just about every review I've read has either enthusiastically praised Aronofsky's bold, anti-mainstream attack on the senses or comically dismissed the film as utter trash (I'm looking at you Rex Reed, you odiously miserable douchebag), my feelings rested squarely in the middle, somewhere.

I admired Aronofsky's technical prowess; mother! has the off-putting visual claustrophobia of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, with the down n' dirty graininess of The Wrestler.  I admired the performances across the board.  Bardem is somehow warmly menacing, like someone you want to trust if only you could shake the feeling that he's hiding a dreadful secret.  Ed Harris is affable but presumptuous.  Michelle Pfeiffer (great to see her again) nearly steals the show as a prying, socially inappropriate pillar of passive-aggressive.  And Jennifer Lawrence, while not quite giving a career performance, holds the film together as the overwhelmed homemaker who gives as much of herself as she possibly can while clinging desperately to her patience and sanity.  I admired the anxiety-building tone of the first half, where we know something is very much not right in this house but can't figure out why or what.  I admired the absolute hallucinatory anarchy of the second half, where rooms, situations and people seem to morph into something completely different the second we take our eyes off them, as in a vividly bad dream.  It must've taken incredible dexterity and confidence to stage and film these sequences, and from a visceral standpoint they work.

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Patriot

Hello and welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies at, where I analyze and interpret a piece of cinematic art/product and try to decide whether it's awesome or shitty.

This week I thought I'd revisit the 2000 Mel Gibson historical epic The Patriot, directed by Roland Emmerich (of Independence Day fame) and co-starring the late Heath Ledger.

The Patriot tells the story of Benjamin Martin, a widower and veteran of the French-Indian War who has retired to his home in Charleston, SC with his seven children.  As tensions mount between the American colonies and Great Britain, Martin is called upon to vote on the formation of a Continental Army.  He refuses to support such a measure, fearing no good will come of a war with England, but the Army is approved regardless, and his eldest son Gabriel enlists.  From there the Revolutionary War escalates, and after the ruthless English Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs) kills Martin's son Thomas, Martin finds himself fully embroiled in the War and becomes one of the Americans' most skillful military leaders.  What follows is a dramatic, action-oriented historical piece covering Martin's exploits as a guerrilla fighter who vexes General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) at every turn, while Colonel Tavington counters with particularly cruel tactics.

So what worked and what didn't?  Well let's take a look....

The Awesome

Mel Gibson

As always, Gibson turns in a compelling, dynamic performance, blending his proficiency as an action-hero with his more nuanced dramatic chops to create a convincingly human protagonist.  Despite being praised as a war hero, Martin has a much more realistic view of himself as a man who has done things for which he is ashamed, and who, as a single father, can no longer afford to be the idealist he once was.  This establishes a captivating friction, both between Martin and his superiors, and between Martin and Gabriel, who wants to contribute to the war effort despite his father's objections.  During the later parts of the film the evils of battle take their toll on Martin and he feels the loss of his own humanity.  Gibson conveys all this superbly and is completely believable in the role (Again, the man's a sick asshole in real life but I'll be damned if he wasn't one of the best actors out there for a while).

Oddly this is his mugshot from that 2004 DUI.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

NJPW G1 Climax 29 Preview & Predictions (A Block)

The G1 Climax is upon us once again, and this year's tournament has a whole slew of fresh faces.  On paper this is one of the more exciting G1 lineups I've ever been privy to; the A Block is exploding with star power, while the B Block has a ton of intriguing first-time matchups (and some big names in its own right).  The 2017 and 2018 editions have to be considered the two greatest wrestling tournaments ever held, but 2019 has the potential to give both of them a run for their money.  We're about to see some great shit.

My colleague Landon Wayne and I decided to do things a little differently this year: I'll be previewing the A Block participants and he'll cover B Block at his site - don't forget to check it out when you're done reading here!  We will however each give our three most anticipated matches from both blocks, plus our respective Finals predictions.

So let's get to it.  Here are the A Block participants....

Kazuchika Okada

The five-time IWGP Champion has gone into this tournament with the title more often than without, and always finishes as one of the block leaders.  He's won the whole tournament twice (2012 & 2014) and never fails to deliver at least one or two MOTY candidates.  He's obviously not winning this year (though he was so unstoppable in 2017 I actually picked him to win it despite being the champ), but he'll look to spoil it for the eventual block winner.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

Man, if there was ever a year for the Ace to sit out the G1 it's 2019.  Tanahashi has looked really rough lately and is clearly hurting a lot.  I'm not sure how many classic Tana matches we'll see in this tournament but hopefully he can rise to the occasion.  Maybe he's been working us all and he's not as banged up as he looks?  Tana is a three-time G1 winner (2007, 2015 & 2018), but the first trophy didn't come with a WrestleKingdom #1 contender certificate.  He's also the only man to successfully cash in said certificate (kinda crazy when you think about it - the G1 winner is 1 for 7 at the Dome).  Tana's not repeating.  There's just no way.  But let's hope he can still deliver like the Ace we all know and love.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The History of NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way

Fatal 4-Way - Full Sail - 9.11.14

The Fatal 4-Way special served as a follow-up to the previous show, as the top four men's wrestlers faced off in one match.  Also Kalisto was back with a new partner to challenge for the Tag Titles, and Charlotte began her game-changing Women's Title run.  Finally the show would feature a big debut of a well-respected imported talent.

The show opened with The Ascension vs. Lucha Dragons, which was easily the best Ascension match thus far on these specials, but still only about a two-star affair.  The Dragons provided most of the movement in the bout and the crowd ate up everything they did.  A botched sunset flip powerbomb aside, this was fine for its spot and resulted in a big title change.

Next up was Baron Corbin vs. CJ Parker in a thirty-second squash to give Corbin a dominant win.  Not much else to say about it, other than it probably should've gone 90 seconds to better showcase Corbin's offense.

The weakest match was probably Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester Lefort.  This was a hair vs. hair match that in the end didn't deliver the promised head-shave, at least not to the right guy.  Instead Lefort's sidekick Marcus Louis got shaved.  The match itself wasn't good and never got out of first gear.  Pretty banal stuff.

Another squash followed, as Bull Dempsey mauled Mojo Rawley in just over a minute.  Not sure why they needed two matches like this on the same show, nor why Dempsey was ever a candidate for a big push.

At the time one of the biggest NXT debuts of all-time, KENTA was introduced on this show and  announced that his new name would be Hideo Itami.  The Ascension, pissed about having lost the Tag belts, attempted to ruin Itami's moment, but he fought them off.  It's strange to see this segment now, since Itami's NXT run was quickly derailed by a long-term injury.