Monday, June 4, 2018

Straight Outta Dudleyville: The Legacy of the Dudley Boyz

In 2015 one of the most decorated tag teams in history, the Dudley Boyz, made their return to the WWE. Their return run only lasted a year, but during that time they filmed interviews for their first ever feature-length documentary from WWE that spans their entire career. That DVD/BluRay hit in 2016 with the then-trendy title of Straight Outta Dudleyville: The Legacy of the Dudley Boyz (trailer).

Bubba and D-Von are interviewed together on the night they returned to WWE as new surprise foils for the New Day in August 2015. There are also new one-on-one interviews with both Bubba and D-Von separately and are used appropriately throughout the feature. These new interviews from the Dudleyz are perfectly supplemented with all-new interviews from their past friends, peers and rivals such as Johnny Rodz, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Sign Guy Dudley, Spike Dudley, Rhyno, Lance Storm, APA, Mick Foley, Rob Van Dam, Edge & Christian and yes even Konnor of the Ascension gets a couple of his own soundbites too.

The documentary feels about the perfect length at just under 75 minutes. Both Bubba and D-Von grew up near each other in the greater New York area and I will give major props to whoever got tasked with highlighting adolescent-aged Bubba and D-Von in the crowd at various WWE events as proof of their lifelong fandom. I dug D-Von’s old-school training tales with Johnny Rodz, but Bubba’s story of his training is unlike any other I have heard to the point he will not give credit to his trainer in the doc and is an early must-see part of the feature! Naturally a wealthy amount of time is dedicated to them breaking in and hitting it big in ECW. Even though I devoured the Best of Dudley Boyz in ECW DVD a couple of times I learned several new things about their time there in this feature such as Bubba’s tryout appearance as a heavy for Bill Alfonso and how Bubba and D-Von initially feuded for several months before aligning to dominate tag team wrestling.

It was fascinating to learn here how trepid the Dudleyz were coming into WWE in 1999 after another former ECW tag team, Public Enemy pissed off the roster and left WWE just as fast as they arrived earlier that same year. Their fears were quickly put to rest after they passed a ‘test’ of sorts Bubba & D-Von broke down with their first feud in WWE against the APA and a few months later getting over with WWE fans after their successful tables match with the Hardyz at Royal Rumble 2000. As I anticipated, a fair amount of time is given to the beloved TLC matches that the Dudleyz, Edge & Christian and the Hardyz made famous. One of the highpoints of the doc is hearing the Dudleyz and Edge & Christian reflect on their TLC memories and how over they were at this point during the wildly successful ‘Attitude Era’ of WWE. It was too bad the Hardyz were in TNA/Impact at the time and not on hand for WWE to interview for Straight Outta Dudleyville.

From there the doc focuses on their surprise split at the inaugural roster split/draft in 2002 and how their singles runs did not work out, but I cracked up at D-Von saying he loved portraying the Brother preacher character and how he wanted to keep doing it. One underwhelming area is how the Dudleyz kind of brush off the last few years of their first WWE run after they reunited from 2002-05 and would have loved to hear some stories from their feuds at that time. Instead they stated they were burnt out and needed a break from WWE and the feature spends only a couple minutes focusing on how the Dudleyz spent a decade ‘making a go at’ TNA/Impact and Japan. It is nothing too in-depth, which is understandable since WWE does not own the footage and part of me is gratified just to see WWE acknowledge that large chunk of their career. The documentary winds down covering the Dudleyz big return (minus the retirement) and with them looking forward to helping out current WWE tag teams with all their years of knowledge.

For extra features, there is about 15 minutes of bonus interview excerpts that did not make the main feature and worth checking out, especially for some fun anecdotes about D-Von and Bubba’s origins of their characters and Mae Young memories. There are 26 matches spanning the Dudleyz’ entire career, four of which are exclusive to the BluRay. There are also several interviews every few matches with the Dudleyz where they reminisce on a pivotal match on this collection such as their big November to Remember ’96 one-on-one clash, WMX-7 TLC and their chaotic blood bath at One Night Stand. Aside from those, other standout matches from the extras that I rank highest from this set are a Dudleyz 6-man tag against Dreamer, Sandman & Spike, the aforementioned tables match against the Hardyz, a forgotten gem against Edge & Christian at the 2001 Rumble, a perfectly executed tag bout I completely forgot about against Mysterio & RVD at Judgment Day 2004 and an Extreme Rules 8-Man tag from their return run with Rhyno & Dreamer against the Wyatt Family. These eight of the 26 matches feature the hottest crowds and tons of great moments where everyone was on their game. While they are not five star classics I would also recommend on this set seeing both D-Von and Bubba take on Triple H in singles matches from their solo runs in 2002 for a tease of what their future had in store for them as singles stars.

Bear with me for a moment, because I want to touch on something special about the One Night Stand 2005 match on this disc where the Dudleyz faced off against Sandman & Tommy Dreamer. Click here first before you watch the match to check out Sandman’s unforgettable, uncensored entrance from that show because as expected, WWE dubbed over Sandman’s Metallica entrance music with generic garbage. Because of that, you miss out on the magic of the crowd loudly singing along while Sandman gets progressively more inebriated by the time he reaches the ring in one of my all-time favorite entrances! Speaking of dubbing, WWE also dubbed over all the matches from the Dudleyz’ WWE run when they started using Powerman 5000’s “Get Up, Get Up” song as their very fitting entrance theme with an older Dudley theme that is at least better than what poor Sandman got dubbed over with.

WWE does not often release too many DVDs dedicated to tag teams, but when they do they make sure to do it right. Minus a couple qualms, I am mostly satisfied with how the documentary covered their lengthy career and again, minus a couple nitpicks WWE did a great job at compiling a stellar array of the Dudleyz’ best matches. Definitely take the time out to check out Straight Outta Dudleyville: The Legacy of the Dudley Boyz as it is a well-crafted tribute to one of the top teams in the business.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Clash of Champions
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
DDP: Positively Living
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
The Kliq Rules
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
NXT Greatest Matches Vol 1
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
RoH Supercard of Honor 2010-Present
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Straight to the Top: Money in the Bank Anthology
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
TNA Lockdown 2005-2016
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
War Games: WCWs Most Notorious Matches
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28-Present
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2017

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vision Quest

I subscribe to the Warner Bros. Archive Collection email list, and it works as it sounds where Warner periodically releases several films from their archive on video for the first time and will send out an email with all the latest updates. I got a little gleeful when I saw 1985’s Vision Quest (trailer) made their list of upcoming releases last year. I instantly placed my Amazon pre-order and waited a year after it arrived to pull it out of the backlog box. Why wait a year? Because I am running a full marathon this weekend and need an inspirational sports movie some added motivation!

Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) is a senior on the wrestling team and claims in the film’s opening narration that he wants to do something ‘heroic.’ He brags about his early wrestling championships to love interest Carla (Linda Fiorentino) and his goal for senior year is to drop two weight classes and take on the defending state champ, Shute (Frank Jasper). All of Louden’s friends and teammates tell him he is a nutcase, and Louden essentially lives up to the claims with his wildcard personality throughout the film.

Even though Louden is the lead protagonist in the film, he is not all that affable. He spouts countless random lines of gobbledygook concerning his career goal about being a doctor in space. He also gets in some awkward exchanges with his firecracker of a friend Kuch (Michael Schoeffling). Eventually Louden’s teenage sex drive leads to some very eye-brow raising moments throughout the film. He gets aggressive in a way that flew in films of the 70s and 80s, but easily would face backlash now. He also put his health in extreme risk by cutting weight that had some consequences leading up to the big final match with Shute. What is baffling is that these health risks keep happening and while Louden’s friends keep telling him he is nuts-o, they do not necessarily prevent him from keeping it up while he keeps suffering numerous ailments through the second half of the film. Somehow Carla eventually falls for Louden despite the two having a huge age gap of 18 and 27 and the two constantly being at odds throughout.

While Vision Quest has some major head-scratching moments, it is also responsible for having some noticeable supporting cast members. Believe it or not, the Forest Whitaker is one of Louden’s teammates, and Harold Sylvester (aka Married With Children’s Grif) portrays Louden’s English teacher. JC Quinn is my unsung hero for this film as Elmo, who is Louden’s coworker at a hotel and bestows his proverbs and advice while arm-wrestling Louden throughout the film. Finally, Vision Quest is most likely known for featuring the first major film appearance by Madonna with one of her emerging hit songs, “Crazy for You.” Madonna is featured at a club singing the song, and the filmmakers liked it so much it is repeated two or three more times throughout the film. As a matter of fact Crazy for You is the name of Vision Quest in international markets.

The parts of the movie I dug are the scenes focusing on wrestling and leading up to the big final bout with Shute. There are a few wrestling practice sessions throughout that help establish how crazy Louden is for attempting to cut so much weight. There is a brief-yet-memorable moment where the film introduces Shute and him and Louden share an intense glare. There are several emotional moments setting up the final match, with an especially powerful scene where Elmo gushes to Louden how important this match is, countless training montages and an extra climatic weigh-in! The final showdown between Shute and Louden is well produced and got me nostalgic for my days amateur wrestling.

Other than a couple of trailers there are no extra features on the BluRay. That is fine as I am thrilled to see it finally available on disc at this point. Vision Quest is not a movie I easily recommend as there are some serious character and pacing flaws throughout it. The primary reason I like this is the portrayal of amateur wrestling is respectful and on point as far as rules and technique goes and that went a long way for me when there are very few other amateur wrestling-based movies out there.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Countdown
Creed
Deck the Halls
Dredd
The Eliminators
Dirty Work
Faster
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Joy Ride 1 & 2
The Interrogation
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Man on the Moon
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
Reservoir Dogs
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Shoot em Up
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
The War
Wild
Wonder Woman
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dredd

I ran into a conundrum with my movie backlog rules over the past week. I referenced here before how I watched a couple of my backlog picks here with downloaded commentary from the fine folks at Giant Bomb.Commando is one of my all-time favorite old-school action films, and I had a Giant Bomb commentary for it I was sitting on for a few years. The problem was I already watched my BluRay copy before so it was not a true backlog entry, but watching it with the commentary made it seem all-new again! The Giant Bomb commentary was a hoot, and the perfect complement to the nonsensical action and super macho one-liners that dominate Commando. I would feel I would be betraying the essence of this blog by dedicating a full entry to a movie that is not in my backlog box, so I compromised and just dedicated this introductory paragraph to Mr. John Matrix and will dedicate the rest to a more contemporary nonsensical action film I watched soon after the Schwarzenegger classic in the form of 2012’s Dredd (trailer).

Now some of you older folks may be thinking of the 1995 Judge Dredd film starring one Sly Stallone. Both the 1995 and 2012 Dredd films are adapted from the super-popular European line of comics based in the 2000 AD universe. The Stallone version is a bit more cheesy and hokey like a lot of other Arnold and Stallone classics in the 90s were. The 2012 version is a grittier, darker take on the comic where in a post-apocalyptic future the police are authorized to act as judge, jury and executioner. Karl Urban exchanges his stethoscope for the iconic Judge Dredd helmet in the lead role! He is taking rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) out on an assessment mission to see if she can pass her final test to become an official judge.

The problem is Anderson picked the wrong call to answer as they wind up at the mega-apartment-tower complex called Peach Trees which is ruled by a gang responsible for manufacturing and dealing the latest drug craze, SLO-MO. The judges apprehend a perp who the gang lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) realizes has vital intel she does not want to risk getting spilled to the police. This leads to Ma-Ma gaining control of Peach Trees and locking the judges inside the tower and ordering her endless number of underlings after the judges in an all-out assault. Peach Trees is 200 stories tall, so the film sees the judges work their way up the complex while facing off against everything Ma-Ma throws at them.

Dredd nails the dour futuristic look it is going for. It is the ideal setting for the duo to unleash hell on their pursuit of Ma-Ma. Dredd and Anderson make optimal use of their personal ID-locked guns that feature several types of ammo and unique features that the judges make sure to take advantage of. The action in Dredd is gritty and intense almost immediately after the lockdown commences with just enough sparse moments to give an opportunity for a breather before pumping up the next firefight onslaught. A certain scene involving the futuristic equivalent of Gatling guns is one of the showpiece action scenes of the film.

Karl Urban is an awesome Judge Dredd! He absolutely nails the vintage Dredd grimace and keeps it locked nearly throughout the entire film! Initially Dredd’s ‘grimace’ is outright silly, but as the film went along I ‘got’ how a Judge’s life in a crime-ridden future could result in wearing a permanent grimacing look on Dredd’s face. Dredd only sprinkles in a couple trailer-worthy one-liners, but does them at the best possible moment for maximum badass effect while avoiding the campiness factor that was prominent in the Stallone film. Urban is perfect with his blunt, to-the-point responses with Anderson and has a great mentor/novice chemistry with her. Anderson has some unique abilities I will not spoil in this entry that Dredd shows off with fantastic cinematic flair.

I first saw this when it hit theaters in 2012, which also was around the same time as the cult Asian hit, The Raid. The Raid features a swat team moving up a gang-ridden tower doing all kinds of sick karate fight scenes as they move their way up towards the final crime boss confrontation. Dredd is almost like this, but in a post-apocalyptic setting with sick-futuristic guns! It was like the 1998 near duel genre release of Deep Impact and Armageddon, but exponentially better!

The BluRay of Dredd has seven behind-the-scenes features totaling 41 minutes. Five of them are short pieces under three minutes each. Of those five I would at least check out the one detailing Dredd’s gear breakdown. The two primary extras I highly recommend are around 15 minutes each and one is about the origins and history of the comic book series and the other is about the special effects and cinematography of the film. I never read the Judge Dredd comics before so the breakdown of the history of the comics I got a lot out of, and hearing the special effects artists detail how they made their world come to life on screen was also fascinating.

If you cannot tell by now, I love my ridiculous action films. They can come in the form of 80s over-the-top action ala Commando, an insane nonstop barrage of karate fights ala The Raid or in the form of two judges waging war on a gang with all kinds of twisted weaponry and skills at their disposal ala Dredd. I would recommend Dredd is at its best viewing experience at night with the sound cranked up and probably one or two adult beverages consumed beforehand.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Countdown
Creed
Deck the Halls
The Eliminators
Dirty Work
Faster
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Joy Ride 1 & 2
The Interrogation
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Man on the Moon
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
Reservoir Dogs
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Shoot em Up
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
The War
Wild
Wonder Woman
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Sunday, April 29, 2018

X-Men: The Animated Series (Volumes 4 & 5)

I am hoping people reading this that were born before 1990 saw the headline for today’s entry and cracked a smile of nostalgia. I did not watch too many Saturday morning cartoons throughout my childhood as my siblings dominated control of the TV most of the time. The only Saturday morning cartoons I recall watching regularly were GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the watered down version of Doug ABC got from Nick. I also watched the topic of today’s entry, the smash hit X-Men: The Animated Series that ran on Saturday mornings on FOX from 1992-97 (X-Men vintage intro and iconic theme song).

I am not a hardcore fan of the X-Men comics. I have only read roughly around 100 issues of the series over the years and the only ones I recall enjoying were a handful of early Ultimate X-Men issues, and the first dozen issues of Astonishing X-Men that are collected in a nice hardcover trade. I am not going to go deep into the lore of the X-Men here because I imagine most of you dear readers are at least familiar with a few of the movies and should have a general gist of the background of the X-Men at the very least. I never got that into the comic book series because there is such a dense lore to the series and there are countless mutant heroes and foes to keep track of over a countless line of X-books throughout the decades and most issues and trades I have attempted to read involved huge ensemble casts with so much going on that most of it went right over my head.

That was why The Animated Series ruled, because it only focused on eight full-time X-Men residing at Professor Xavier’s school, and most episodes rotated out a couple of the supporting mutants to keep a fresh cast for each episode. This cartoon hit at such an impressionable time for me that whenever I do read an X-Men comic book or play a random X-Men game it is the well-casted voices from this cartoon that immediately come to mind for me. The primary mutants featured here are Xavier (Cedric Smith), Wolverine (Cathal Dodd), Cyclops (Norm Spencer), Rogue (Lenore Zann) and Beast (George Buza). The supporting characters on the team that were consistently rotated in and out were Jean Grey (Catherine Disher), Gambit (Chris Potter), Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) and Jubilee (Alyson Court). There was a ninth team member, Morph (Ron Rubin), who was killed off in an early episode of the series, but since no one really stays dead in comics, Morph found a way to make an occasional cameo or two a season during X-Men’s 76 episode run.

Being mostly unfamiliar with the comics when I first saw the cartoon air, I have vague memories of having no idea what was going on in the TV show. It stood out to me because the show made Wolverine the most badass character of Saturday mornings with steel claws that popped out of his hands in an instant that he used to rip the guts out of mammoth robots called Sentinels that were a hoot to watch the X-Men wage war with! Most of the other character’s special powers also appealed to 10-year old 90’s Dale with Cyclop’s optic blasts coming out of his visor, Gambit’s electrifying playing cards and Storm wreaking havoc with all kinds of nasty weather. I recall being excited to learn that Buena Vista Home Video was going to finally be releasing the classic cartoons on DVD. They came out in five volumes between 2009-10. I kept up watching them through the first three volumes soon after their release, but the last two volumes fell into the old backlog box until these past two months when I finally got around to them.

Watching the last two volumes were mostly positive experiences. I will give the exception being almost all episodes involving guest appearances from Cable and Bishop, because whenever they appear throughout the show’s history, it usually involves time travel and alternate dimensions and I usually wind up zoning out on their episodes. My favorite volume four episode is the Christmas special where the X-Men help out a a murlock in need while out shopping in Manhattan. There is a big four part special in volume four involving a huge Apocalypse arc that would ordinarily be appealing, but it involves a lot of alternate dimension time travel tomfoolery with Bishop and Cable, so most of it winds up a wash.

The last several episodes of volume five have a slightly different animation style that looks noticeably poorer in comparison to the rest of the series. This is because according to Wikipedia my research FOX ordered more episodes last minute and they had to find an alternate production studio to animate the shows. Even worse, they remixed the iconic intro music of the series into a vastly inferior theme that I will spare your ears by intentionally not linking to it here. Regardless, there are still some solid episodes in the last volume featuring Omega Red trying to steal a nuclear sub, the only good Jubilee-themed show of the series where she helps a group of kids avoid a cave-in while retelling classic X-Men tales and my favorite episode is a World War II flashback episode featuring Wolverine and Captain America. ‘Graduation Day’ is X-Men’s final episode and it has a fitting sense of closure where Xavier has farewell messages to all his X-Men students and even longtime rival/friend, Magneto.

None of the five volumes of X-Men have any DVD extra features. A part of me would have loved even a simple collection of interviews with the voice actors and creators of the animated series reflecting on their memories, but having the episodes on DVD is fine with me at this point. As I mentioned before, there are a fair amount of episodes that dip heavy into the X-Men cannon and go right over my head, but most episodes are fairly contained within the animated show’s universe and held up rather well for me. I imagine if you are a regular reader of the comics you will have an easier time keeping up with all the references and external canon better than I did. That aside, most of the episodes I still had a blast reliving and the older non-CG animation style did not bother me one bit. I have sampled a couple random episodes of successor animated X-Men series, and they did not cut it for me, so whether you grew up with it or not if you have to go with one animated version of these classic mutants, than go with FOX/Buena Vista Video’s X-Men: The Animated Series.

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
2015-16 TV Season Recap
2016-17 TV Season Recap
Adventures of Briscoe County Jr: The Complete Series
Angry Videogame Nerd Volumes 7-9
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
OJ: Made in America: 30 for 30
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Roseanne – Seasons 1-9
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle
Superheroes: Pioneers of Television
The Vietnam War: A Ken Burns series

Monday, April 23, 2018

Captain America: Civil War

The official third Avengers film, Infinity War, opens this weekend so the past couple days seemed like perfect timing to devour the BluRay of the unofficial third Avengers film with today’s entry for 2016’s Captain America: Civil War (trailer). As I have stated on here before, the Captain America films have been my favorite stand alone movies in the MCU, so to see Civil War be more of an ensemble piece and more-or-less a Avengers movie was a little bit of a bummer at first. Reservations were quickly put to rest since the Russo brothers returned to direct, and once again they did not disappoint.

Civil War is based off a huge Marvel Comics event mini-series that transpired a decade earlier in 2006 where a tragedy of massive civilian lives lost during a routine New Warriors mission resulted in the government forcing heroes to register, reveal their identities and work for the government or go to jail. The heroes wind up in pro and anti-registration sides and eventually clash throughout the mini-series. The Civil War film is not a by-the-numbers adaptation however, a lot of the faces and settings involved are switched up, and while the overarching plot remains similar to the comic, how they get there is drastically changed from how it played out in print.

I am for most of the changes in the movie. The comic had tons of loopholes that got messier as it went along and resulted in a lackluster ending to the super-hyped Civil War comic series. The Russo brothers and Marvel Films did their homework and patched things up for the better. In the film, a routine mission for the New Warriors Avengers goes haywire at the beginning of the film, and this leads to the United States Government United Nations passing the Superhero Registration Act Sakovia Accords to force superheroes to register sign up and only go out in the field when called upon or else face prison and/or retirement. This still leads to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) splitting up the Avengers along with some new faces joining the fray. Meanwhile a new villain by the name of Zemo (Daniel Brühl) stirs things up unlike past antagonists where instead of facing the Avengers directly he opts to capitalize on the new rift among the team and re-introducing past tragedies to drive the wedge between the Avengers further apart until they ultimately collide in an epic clash against each other.

There are a few plot threads throughout relevant to primarily the Captain America films that barely nudges Civil War to identify more as a Captain America film than a Avengers movie. Bucky aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) returns who was the big focus of the previous Cap film, and Civil War has some interesting developments for Bucky that I liked how they played out. Rest assured the Winter Soldier has just as good if not better fight scenes than last time around. There is also nods to a few other characters from the first two films, but I have already went into a little more detail than I usually do with a film’s plot in my entries and will leave those surprises for you to see.

Civil War will also be remembered as the film that debuts two much anticipated characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First is the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) who seeks out to avenge his father’s death, and this film does a tremendous job at debuting the Black Panther and psyched me up for his self-titled debut film that hit in 2018 and not disappoint. The other much anticipated MCU debut is that of Marvel’s most popular hero, Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Marvel Films finally reached a deal with Sony Studios to use Spider-Man in the MCU film cannon after Sony held the sole movie rights for nearly 15 years. I loved the scene they used introducing Spider-Man where they quickly and unorthodoxly brush past Spidey’s origin story. The last thing I wanted to see was a third movie this century retelling the web-head’s origin. Unfortunately, that debut scene was the only good scene involving Spider-Man, as he only appears in the big hero clash later on and most of his spots featuring him felt like they were glued in post-production while Spidey doles out lame wisecracks about Star Wars to the delight of no one.

Most of the MCU films have had notorious long running times, and Civil War is no exception at just over two hours and twenty minutes. However, since the movie has well over a dozen heroes to focus on throughout, it moves along at a brisk pace and is over before you know it. The Russo brothers are well-versed at how much exposition to have before marching right along to the next thrilling chase/fight sequence. Some of the heroes have smaller arcs or do not make their entrance until late into Civil War, but somehow, someway the Russo brothers found time to make sure that even the tiniest support roles had a established side-story and/or a handful of signature moments in the heat of battle.

There is a nice amount of extra features on the BluRay. There is a commentary track with directors Anthony & Joe Russo along with screenwriters Chris Markus & Stephen McFeely. There is rarely a lull between the four, and they provide a lot of insight on how they tried to keep as tight as a film as they could, filming winter scenes during a Atlanta heatwave and how Downey was a class act helping Holland out in his debut scene as Peter Parker, among countless other fascinating factoids and reflections. This is easily among the better commentary tracks I have heard thus far and if you can make time then I highly recommend giving it a listen.

I usually love the Marvel Films gag reels, but Civil War’s was a tad disappointing, but it is not that mammoth of a deal-breaker. There is one major extended scene at a certain funeral that got chopped up a bit in the final cut. There are two brief four minute features highlighting Captain America’s and Iron Man’s path to Civil War that are nice little bonuses, but not required viewing. The standout extra is a two-part making of feature titled, United We Stand, Divided We Fall that clocks in at a combined 55 minutes. Both features highlights one of several heroes and their involvement in the film along with interviews from the actor’s highlights on and off the screen and goes into aspects of the plot breaking down the new government policies and other pivotal moments.

By the time the film finished on my repeat viewings I was amped up on adrenaline once again and left highly anticipating Infinity War this weekend! Of the three primary Marvel heroes who got their own individual film trilogies, the Captain America films easily rank better as a whole when stacked against the Iron Man and Thor trilogies. Captain America: Civil War lives up to the high pedigree of the prior two films, and I am incredibly stoked that the Russo brothers are directing Infinity War and cannot wait for what they have in store for theaters this weekend! If you are one who picks and chooses which Marvel movies are worth your time, then by all means make it a priority to see Civil War pronto because it is the perfect primer that lays the ground work for Avengers: Infinity War.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Christmas Eve
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Countdown
Creed
Deck the Halls
The Eliminators
Dirty Work
Faster
Fast and Furious I-VIII
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Gravity
Guardians of the Galaxy
Hercules: Reborn
Hitman
Ink
Joy Ride 1 & 2
The Interrogation
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Man on the Moon
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
Reservoir Dogs
Rocky I-VII
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
San Andreas
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Shoot em Up
Steve Jobs
Source Code
Star Trek I-XIII
Take Me Home Tonight
TMNT
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
UHF
Veronica Mars
The War
Wild
Wonder Woman
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Wrestlemania 33 & WWE 2017 Hall of Fame

Happy Wrestlemania weekend everyone! It is time for my annual entry covering the previous year’s Wrestlemania (WM) just in time for the new one. I could not cut it any closer this year as I did my best to cruise through the BluRay and just finished re-watching WM33 yesterday! This is the best and worst time to be a wrestling fan! WWE puts on its biggest show of the year, as well as a packed NXT TakeOver event and Hall of Fame (HoF) ceremony that same weekend. Most other American independent promotions also try and capitalize on that event and the staggering global amount of fans it attracts each year by putting on their own packed cards that same weekend in the same region. I did that loop once in 2012 and caught the Hall of Fame, Axxess, two indy shows and Wrestlemania 28 to finish it off. It was amazing and exhausting at the same time….and I would not want it any other way.

I find myself double-thinking that mantra this year however because WWE consistently extends the length of the Hall of Fame and WM lineups each year. It gets to the point where for the first time in the annual BluRay WM/HoF combo release that they could not fit the entire event on the BluRay. Going back to almost all the WM and DVD releases, they have always included the kickoff/pre-show matches as bonus features, and this is the first time they omitted them all entirely, and I am stunned because there were some standout kickoff matches this year. I am also a fan of the annual ‘red carpet’ interview pre-show for the Hall of Fame the WWE Network has been doing for a few years now and wish they would include those also, but instead I found myself watching the red carpet and kickoff show matches on the WWE Network instead. WWE should just bite the bullet and make this a 3-disc BluRay to fit everything in for the physical copy because who knows if the WWE Network will always be available.

To add the salt in those wounds, this is the first WWE Home Video release in quite some time that does not have subtitles. That is not a big deal for the matches, but I always take advantage of subtitles for documentaries and dialogue-heavy features like the Hall of Fame where some talent can be a little tricky to interpret, and I am disappointed to see it not included for the WM33 BluRay. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it was an impressive class for 2017, one I would say eclipsed the 2016 class. DDP kicked off the class after a great induction from Eric Bishoff who recounted their classic bar fight story and how their friendship evolved from that and DDP’s one-of-a-kind heart for the business. DDP had a well-earned lengthy speech recounting stories and giving props to the many who helped him along the way. It went a lot like this incredibly in-depth ‘letter to himself’ DDP wrote a few months ago I highly suggest everyone makes time to read.

The Rock ‘n Roll Express induction was fascinating for all the right and wrong reasons. Jim Cornette inducted them and he made his first public WWE appearance in about a dozen years and no one knew what the infamous firecracker would say since his controversial firing. He gave a fitting induction however detailing the RnRE origins and their legendary rivalry with the Midnight Express. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were a hoot to watch primarily because Morton kept losing it throughout his speech and he would randomly bust into gyrations to the crowd’s delight. Ricky Steamboat inducted Rick Rude next. Steamboat gave a to-the-point induction and Rude’s family posthumously accepted. Rude’s son is charismatic and well-spoken and gave a great impression of the ravishing one to punctuate his career!

Natalya gave a tremendous recap of her friendship with who she inducted next in Beth Phoenix. Beth’s speech I hate to admit tested our patience as it went on with memories of Molly Holly and many other WWE women and of course fun tales with Santino. Dana Warrior presented the 3rd annual ‘Warrior’ award. At this point she is incredibly charismatic and affable and is nailing these inductions. She was the Warrior’s rocket fuel. She presented the award this year to former college football player Eric Legrand, who gave a heartwarming speech chronicling his life-crippling injury struggles and triumphs as well as some of his favorite wrestling memories in a feel-good moment. The third annual ‘Legacy’ montage of inductions was presented this year, and like previous years WWE nailed the cadence of the production of paying homage to the greats of wrestling’s pioneers. 2017’s class featured Haystacks Calhoun, Judy Grable, Luther Lindsay, Bearcat Wright, Farmer Burns, Riki Dozan, June Beyers, Toots Mondt and Jerry Graham.

The Teddy Long induction was the most light-hearted induction of the night. APA inducted Teddy and told amusing anecdotes about how cheap Teddy was when traveling with and went on for serious props on the racial walls he broke down. Long breezed through his career highlights and I especially got a kick how he recounted his first time as a referee. He had a fantastic close with his trademark ‘holla holla’ and ‘tag team match’ announcements and boogeying himself off stage like only he can. Kurt Angle closed the HoF after a masterfully delivered induction by John Cena. Angle wonderfully hits the highlights of his WWE career and encouraged WWE’s stars of today to take chances on their character like he did. Angle was terrific when he finished off his speech with a perfect rendition of singing ‘Sexy Kurt’ and chugging down a couple jugs of milk! 2017’s class is easily one of the best start-to-finish Hall of Fame ceremonies put on by WWE.

If you are still with me, please bear with me for the…..-cue Daniel Bryan-ULTIMATE THRILL RIDE…-/cue-…that was WM33. With only a couple weeks before WM33, on RAW and Smackdown, they started labeling WM33 as ‘the Ultimate Thrill Ride’ and got that tagline in at least a few times every five minutes (seriously!) to the point of it being ridiculous and where Daniel Bryan was straight up riffing on it days before the show to indicate he feels our pain. On ‘Mania day we found out why and that was because WWE constructed an elaborate rollercoaster entrance set and an epic rollercoaster-ride themed video montage introducing the show. The set looks fabulous and as another beloved theme park owner once said, WWE ‘spared no expense’ and put together a bangin’ entrance set that grew more magnificent as the evening grew dark and it dazzled us as it lit up the Orlando sky like no other rollercoaster before it.

Like I detested in the intro, the BluRay does not include the pre-show matches this year, and the only extra is one of the amusing Total Bellas spoofs Miz and Maryse put together hyping their match. WWE actually puts some legit hype into the kickoff matches for WM, because, well, it is freaking Wrestlemania! So I went to the WWE Network (alternatively WWE has the whole kickoff show up for free on YouTube)and re-watched the kickoff matches there like I did for the HoF red carpet intro show. You should too because there is a must-see cruiserweight title bout there between Austin Aries and Neville. The two hold nothing back and got the crowd red hot from the get go because the duo simply clicked as they delivered a ton of great spots like a dead-lift german, Frankensteiner and a 450 splash! Eventually Neville successfully defended the gold with his Red Arrow.

The Andre the Giant Battle Royal was next and at the time a red-hot Braun Strowman seemed like the odds-on favorite but after a flurry of early eliminations he eventually got ganged up on and eliminated. Surprisingly, it came down to Killian Dane, a pre-mega push Jinder Mahal and Mojo Rawley as the final entrants. We soon found out why when WWE capitalized on Rawley’s real life friendship with NFL Superstar Rob Gronkowski to get him involved in the match by charging Mahal and Rawley then eliminating him for the upset victory. Dean Ambrose successfully defended his Intercontinental Title in the final kickoff show match in a decent bout with Baron Corbin that saw a couple good near-falls, but nothing too noteworthy otherwise. One last kickoff show aside, and I am glad to report WM33 will be the sixth and final time the Usos fought in the pre-show during the battle royal here because they are finally, as of this writing, booked on the main card of WM34.

I forgot New Day were the hosts for WM33 and must give them kudos for their Final Fantasy-inspired gear and ice cream cart (complete with chocobo head and moogles) they strolled out to the ring to. AJ Styles/Shane McMahon was the official opening match of the main card. The match was better than I remembered. They stuck to primarily mat wrestling for most of the match, and AJ got a damn good wrestling effort out of Shane with a lot of good exchanges between the two. Shane eventually went to his vintage weapon spots with the garbage can coast-to-coast and then lived up to his crazy high-risk standards by missing AJ with his elbow splash through the announcer’s table and shortly thereafter missing an impressive-looking Shooting Star Press. Styles soon capitalized with a Phenomenal Forearm for the victory.

Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens then clashed next for the US Title after their longtime friendship came to an end during the appropriately titled ‘Festival of Friendship’ ceremony on RAW. The two put together an awesome move-for-move, counter-for-counter match that saw Owens victorious after a powerbomb on the ring apron. Bayley’s doomed RAW Women’s title reign was defended next in a fatal four way elimination match against Nia Jax, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. Charlotte’s corkscrew moonsault was the highlight of this encounter. With it being an elimination match it felt too short for the chapters it was trying to tell, and it easily could have borrowed several minutes from the crazy long Triple H/Rollins match later on to flesh it out some more. Eventually Bayley still reigned as champ after pinning Charlotte with a Macho Man elbow drop.

The RAW Tag Team Title Ladders match transpired next with Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows defending against Cesaro & Sheamus and Enzo & Cass until the New Day interrupted and introduced a surprise fourth entrant, the returning Hardy Boyz to a huge reaction! I recall hearing a lot of buzz behind-the-scenes that the Hardyz were between contracts and I still popped big for their return! The two big moments in this match was The Bar combining for ’30 Clubs/30 Swing Rotations’ to a much appreciated reaction from the crowd and Jeff Hardy going ultra high-risk like only he can by crushing Cesaro through a tall ladder with a Swanton bomb and Matt Hardy capitalizing from the carnage to grab the titles and become new tag team champs in a thrilling high-spot endeavor from everyone involved.

I never thought Cena would face Miz again in another WM after their infamous WM27 effort, but here we are with real-life couple’s colliding whenCena and Nikki Bella squared off against Miz and Maryse for revenge after they shamed them with their stellar ‘Total Bellas’ satires. Miz was a riot and in rare form playing to the ardent fan’s approval with his uncharacteristic dominance over Cena in the early minutes. I think we all knew the ‘super-Cena’ comeback was inevitable, however this match was a catalyst for the much-rumored Cena wedding proposal to Nikki after the match. A double Attitude Adjustment/Rack Attack finished off Miz and Maryse and if you have not already, click the link above to see the classic Cena proposal after the match. I read this delightful recap of WM33 from a SBnation reporter who never watched wrestling before that resulted in a truly fascinating read from a fresh perspective, and her candid thoughts on this match are what stuck with me the most.

Triple H battled Seth Rollins next, and many wondered if Seth was going to be available for this match after coming off a recent knee injury several weeks prior. Triple H’s yearly overproduced WM entrance featured him and Steph coming out in a huge Harley and dawning biker gear. I quipped to my friend prior to the match and inadvertently set him off when I stated Steph looked kind of cute in her ‘Mania attire, and my friend would have none of my compliments to Steph and promptly chastised me! I will give props to Seth for roughing it out in this near half-hour long match that could have easily shaved off several minutes, especially since the first half was Triple H primarily working over Seth’s knee. Yes, Hunter busted out his much-feared Indian Deathlock of DOOM for WM33….multiple times! The crowd was tolerant thankfully, and they got back into it after some awesome near falls after Hunter’s Pedigree and Seth’s Phoenix Splash. The finish sees Steph accidentally taking a nasty spill for the second year in a row, and Seth then capitalizing with his own Pedigree for the win.

It was after the prolonged Seth/Hunter match when my friend and I paused the livestream on the WWE Network at the time just to go out and get some air and gather our bearings again because at that point in WM33 we were sitting for nearly five hours straight. We were in dire need of a recharge, and so were the live crowd because that was when Pitbull sang a medley for WWE’s equivalent of a Super Bowl halftime show. Unfortunately we all had to come back to a WWE Title match no one wanted to see with Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. I did like the build to this match with Orton being ‘undercover’ in the Wyatt Family faction for nearly a half a year before finally stabbing Wyatt in the back. Wyatt’s underwhelming WWE Title reign came to an end in this awkward matchup where WWE instead wanted it to be a showpiece for more goofy hocus pocus effects from Wyatt where random images of gross bugs and insects appeared on the mat to ‘spook’ Orton (and the ref!) off his game. It eventually proved not to help, as Orton mercifully ended this dull, laborious match with what else but a RKO FROM OUTTTA NOWHERE to become the new WWE champion.

A very well-produced video package narrated by Paul Heyman with the theme of a fairytale set the stage for Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg facing off for the Universal Title next. I am still bewildered that a rematch of the disastrous WM20 bout between these two wound up nearly stealing the show 13 years later. It was because WWE did a superb job booking the feud on the second go-around and that half year build set the stage perfectly for why this match outperformed anyone’s expectations. Goldberg and Lesnar delivered with a five minute slugfest where the two kicked out of nonstop signature moves from each other before Goldberg eventually fell to 10 German Suplexes and an F5 from Lesnar! Lesnar’s superhero-esque leap over Goldberg’s spear attempt was also a sight to behold! Lesnar continues to hold the Universal title to this day, and if all goes according to conjecture, his year-long title reign will end tomorrow before he departs back to UFC.

The Smackdown Women’s title six pack challenge was the penultimate match for this ULTIMATE THRILL RIDE. Alexa Bliss defended against Mickie James, Naomi, Carmella, Becky Lynch and Natalya. The story for this was Naomi’s quest to come back after vacating the title from an injury and win the title in her hometown of Orlando. She did just that after several minutes, of nicely paced, nonstop action with most of the ladies hitting their signature moves before Naomi made Bliss tap out. Regrettably, Naomi went on to have THE worst Smackdown Women’s Title reign in its history due to the awful rivalry she had with Lana over the summer while the rest of the division tore it up in much-talked about ladder matches.

The 13th, yes, 13th and headlining match of WM33 featured Roman Reigns taking on the Undertaker. I recall a lot of loose talk at the time feeling this would be Undertaker’s final match with many reports of his overall day-to-day athletic shape being a struggle to keep up with (Undertaker has since had a hip replacement since WM33). Roman Reigns is easily the most hated man in wrestling among core wrestling fans, and none of them wanted to see Roman become the second individual to best the ‘Dead Man’ at ‘Mania. Surprisingly, this late into the show, the crowd was still with it and it heavily favored ‘Taker. As much as I did not want to admit it, this was the first time at WM where Roman felt like he belonged as a top guy, and it was fascinating reliving the crowd reject most of his offense as he weathered a Last Ride and Tombstone from ‘Taker. ‘Taker looked worse for wear as the match went along to the point that it looked like he was shot full of adrenaline and Cortisone to get through the first half looking like old school ‘Taker while he would ultimately get through the second half hobbling through it as Roman assaulted him with an avalanche of nonstop Superman Punches and Spears before a fourth spear finally finished off the Undertaker.

There was an eerie post-match moment after Roman left and the camera hung on ‘Taker while he recovered and put on his iconic trench coat and hat and took in one more moment before ever-so-gently folding his gear back up and laying it in the ring before departing as to indicate this would be the final time we would see the Undertaker compete in the squared circle. I remember getting goosebumps from that unforgettable moment, and it concluded what was easily the most memorable ending in WM history. I still detest Roman Reigns being WWE’s ‘the guy,’ but the day after WM33 on RAW he cut a classic five word promo that took several minutes to say as he embraced the crowd dumping on him for several minutes before he spouted ‘this is my yard now’ and walked out on his accord. With those five words, Roman made it apparent he realized his full potential and that he finally lived up to WWE’s expectations of him as a big money headliner.

Of the 10 matches on the actual WM33 BluRay, half of them are must-see material and most of the rest are passable as I would say there was not anything awful to the point of skipping over, minus perhaps the first several minutes of Hunter/Seth. I still think it is ridiculous the preshow matches are not on here and that there are no subtitles at all, especially considering how the hall of fame has no action and is 100% dialogue. The collector in me has to have a physical installment of every WM, and if you are the same way, then go ahead and pick this up. However, if you are not a collector and want the full experience, just watch this on the WWE Network instead with the pre-show matches and at least having the option of subtitles there.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Clash of Champions
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 3
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
DDP: Positively Living
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
The Kliq Rules
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
NXT Greatest Matches Vol 1
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
OMG Vol 3: Top 50 Incidents in ECW History
Owen: Hart of Gold
RoH Supercard of Honor 2010-Present
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Straight to the Top: Money in the Bank Anthology
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
TNA Lockdown 2005-2016
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
War Games: WCWs Most Notorious Matches
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28-Present
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestling Road Diaries Three: Funny Equals Money
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2016
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2017