Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Roseanne - Season 8

We are just a month away from the return of new episodes of Roseanne (season 8 excerpt) on ABC! Last week I finished season eight, and now must try and blitz through the final season in time for the series premiere next month! If this is the first Roseanne blog you are viewing here dear reader, then you can catch up on past season recaps by clicking here.

-It’s time for the job roll call. Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), Nancy (Sandra Bernhard) and Leon (Martin Mull) are still holding down the fort at The Lunchbox restaurant. Like last season, the restaurant takes a little more of a backseat this season and is only featured in several episodes. Also like last season, Nancy is only sprinkled in a few episodes this season as well. I am all for that as less is more with her character, as the show went overkill with Nancy in her first couple seasons on the show. Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is still in college in Chicago and pops in every other episode as a result, while Becky (Lecy Goransen & Sarah Chalke, more on that in a bit) references having a job at one point in the season, but does not specify where. Dan (John Goodman), Mark (Glenn Quinn) and Fred (Michael ‘O Keefe) are still at the city garage, but a new opportunity comes across their desk late in the season. David (Johnny Galecki) references working part time at a pizza shop, but bails on that late in the season to spend one episode training at a Disney World-esque theme park that turns out to have some dark characteristics that leads to David bailing on that too.

-If you recall last season, Roseanne was midway through her pregnancy when the season ended. With the offseason break, it feels like Roseanne’s pregnancy is dragging on endlessly to the point that family members make some 4th-wall-bending gags referencing just as much. I did find it fitting that Roseanne has her kid on Halloween. If you thought that was the last pregnancy of the series, you are dead wrong because late in the season Darlene and David find out they are having a kid too and shortly thereafter get hitched in one of the most memorable episodes of the series!

-In a bizarre twist, Lecy Goransen returns to portray Becky after taking three seasons off for college. I always preferred Lecy’s portrayal of Becky more, but I am guessing the production staff did not want to give Sarah Chalke’s version of Becky the complete burial and they had her comeback for three random episodes this season as Becky. It takes a little adjustment adapting to the Becky-swapping but eventually I was acclimated to it by the end of the season.

-I referenced in the previous season recap that the writers of Roseanne must have been big fans of Friends because they referenced it a couple of times last season. The writers continue to shed some form of appreciation to Friends again this season when Dan concludes his favorite classic sitcom is a lot like a 1970s version of Friends, and Roseanne later goes on a tirade stating it is impossible for the cast to eat anything and look as good as they do. I stated last season the writers must have borrowed a page out of Friends by dumbing-down Mark to make him the Joey Tribianni of the cast. I thought it was impossible for them to make Mark even more of a tool, but I was proven wrong in grand fashion this season when Mark gloats about his Scrabble skills and later gets jealous in the Disney World episode when he goes on a rage when he presumes Goofy is making a pass at Becky.

-This season marks the final appearances of Fred and Crystal. Fred was a huge character in the previous two seasons and it was jarring to see him only in a couple early episodes this season and never referenced again. I thought they could have kept something going with the uncomfortable divorcees dynamic between him and Jackie constantly passing their kid over to each other in an early episode, but it was not to be. Crystal has even more of a depressing sendoff. Crystal was a huge supporting character in the first four seasons of the show, but she only appeared on a handful of episodes in the previous three seasons. Her decreased presence on the show is baffling considering she is married to Dan’s father. Her final appearance is on the season premiere where she gives Roseanne a baby shower gift and only has one line of dialogue.

-Aside from the pitiful sendoffs to major supporting characters my other gripe this season is there is a midseason lull filled with too many gimmick episodes. My theory is the writers were getting a little burnt out this late into Roseanne’s run and decided to do a few episodes they had on the backburner for awhile. There is a 1950s black and white themed episode filmed in the fashion of Leave it to Beaver that did not win me over. It may have been a fresh satire when it originally aired, but seeing it for the first time in 2017 comes off as a spoof I have seen countless times. There is also an episode that did not work for me which features Dan jamming out with Blues Traveler, who were kind of a big deal when this episode aired in the late 90s.

-I did not mind the two-part Disney World episode as the first episode is primarily the Connor family annoying the passengers and staff on the airplane ride there and the second episode is the family taking on the rides and thrills of Disney World like only the Connors can. I felt dirty for liking these episodes however when I was doing my background research for this blog when I discovered that episode aired shortly after Disney acquired ABC and it forced most of the hit ABC shows of the time to incorporate Disney World themed episodes.

-Other quick highlights of mine this season is when Jacki and Roseanne team up to get a stereotypical older-cranky manager type fired from his job in three straight episodes. Another stellar episode is when the Connors throw Becky and Mark a party in their trailer and guilt-shame Becky in the process in order for Becky to improve her life. The dangers of the Internet are revealed this season when David connects Jacki up to the Internet (and with AOL of all services!) and she instantly succumbs to its addictive qualities in another killer moment. I am happy for Leon finding happiness this season when he marries Scott (Fred Willard). Roseanne’s ideas for the ultimate gay wedding do not sit well with Leon, but luckily the wedding winds up going off without a hitch!

-Darlene’s wedding was a very special episode that leads to a grand three episode finale for the season. Dan was not a fan of how quickly the wedding came to be, but him and Darlene eventually talk out their differences in a touching scene and the wedding is a success…..until Dan has a heart attack during the reception. The next episode features the family coming together and being there for Dan while he recovers in the hospital. All initially seems well in the season finale when Dan comes back home, but when Roseanne confronts Dan about cheating on his new hospital-ordered diet Dan looses it and the two have THE ultimate fight of the series thusfar. It was goosebump-scary how intense the two got into it, and such a downer to end the season on a cliffhanger that had me thinking the Connors may be heading for a divorce.

-After a couple seasons with no extra features, season eight has two extras. One is a video commentary with Roseanne and Michael Fishman doing commentary over the episode where David works at the evil-Disney World. It is not worth watching unfortunately as the two do not have much to say and there are many lulls throughout. Other than that there is a quick eight minute feature on all the jobs Roseanne has held throughout the show’s run which is a quirky little watch. As I mentioned in previous blogs I will echo again here that I would have loved more in-depth interviews with the cast and crew about the controversial topics the show hits on and what was going on with Chalke/Goransen constantly swapping out and Darlene only being on every other episode for the show’s last several seasons.

-Minus a stretch in the middle part of the season, I will give a thumbs up to season eight of Roseanne. A part of me is super-bummed to see things get so heated in the season finale, but another part of me is excited to see if and how Roseanne and Dan salvage their marriage. Then again, I recall hearing a few times over the years that Roseanne’s final season is complete garbage, but I have no choice but to try and breeze through it before the show returns to ABC next month! Please join me here soon for my season nine recap to see if season nine is as dreadful as everyone else says it is!

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

Man on the Moon

Season’s greetings everyone! Now seemed like the perfect time to pull Andy Kaufman’s 1999 biopic, Man on the Moon (trailer) out of the ‘ol backlog box. People who are keen to the seemingly endless amount of Netflix original content hitting lately are probably aware of their recent documentary, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (trailer). That documentary is all about the behind-the-scenes tomfoolery Jim Carrey was up to as he portrayed Andy Kaufman for the film, but stayed in character off-camera to everyone’s dismay.

I watched the documentary last week, and was surprised at the plethora of footage the studio captured of Jim Carrey embracing the spirit of Kaufman as he pulled modern day Kaufman-esque pranks on his cast and crew mates. After consuming that it seemed ideal to finally get around to watching my DVD of Man on the Moon after it sat in my backlog box since 2004 from a buy-two-get-one-free promotional offer with The Rundown and a director’s cut of Beyond the Mat.

I barely had a clue who Andy Kaufman was when I first saw the film in the theaters back when it hit theaters mere days before the turn of the century. Astute readers of this blog know I am an ardent wrestling fan. All I knew about Kaufman going into this film was from reading wrestling magazines and websites of the time that chronicled how Kaufman had a feud with wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler in his wrestling territory based out of Memphis, Tennessee in the early 1980s. Their rivalry garnered some national attention when the duo got into a tussle on Late Night with David Letterman. So when wrestling was having its ‘Attitude era’ boom period in 1999, I eagerly attended the film because WWE promoted it on their programming because they brought in Jerry Lawler (who was announcing for WWE at the time) to reprise his role in his feud with Andy in the biopic.

I was trying to ponder recent examples of Andy Kaufman to compare his style of comedy to and the best I could come up with is Sacha Baron Cohen. Both performers conjured up personas and were both pioneers in uncomfortable reaction comedy in real life scenarios on unsuspecting strangers not enlightened to their act. Sacha filmed his adventures as Bruno and Borat while Kaufman had the alter ego of Vegas lounge singer reject, Tony Clifton unleash his brand of havoc on the cast of Taxi. Most of the cast of Taxi reprise their roles in cameo appearances in Man on the Moon along with a handful of other celebrity cameos throughout the film.

There is a fantastic bit at the beginning of Man on the Moon where Carrey does a bit as Andy with his trademark humor to scare away the casual moviegoer expecting slapstick laughs. The film perfectly captures how Kaufman was ahead of his time and doing daring bits of comedy and always trying to innovate and come up with something different every time he went on stage. He had help along the way with lifelong friend Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti) as the film captures how his improv act caught the eye of George Shapiro (Danny Devito). George opened doors for Andy for nationwide success with his infamous debut on the first episode of Saturday Night Live lip-synching the theme to Mighty Mouse and how that lead to Andy’s breakout success on the hit sitcom, Taxi.

Andy did not want all the fame and fortune however as he only complied to go along with the crowd-pleasing Taxi with the understanding that he would get his own special where he would do his own style of comedy. I love how Man on the Moon portrays Andy’s revenge when management tells Andy they would not run his special and how Andy reigned terror on the set of Taxi as Clifton to get himself off the show.

That brought the film to what 16-year old Dale at the time was anticipating the most, the wrestling section as Kaufman turned his attention to his secret favorite passion, professional wrestling. Andy did not have the most intimidating musculature so he instead wrestled over 60 matches against women and proclaimed himself the intergender champion of wrestling. This did not sit well with Jerry Lawler, and he challenged him to a match that saw Kaufman leaving the arena in a stretcher. Andy loved his new ventures in wrestling, but wrestling’s showbiz background carried a stigma with Hollywood at the time and film fairly encapsulates how Andy’s wrestling endeavors blackballed him from Hollywood.

Unfortunately, Andy developed lung cancer around this time in 1983 and he passed away a year later. The final act of the film is a tearjerker, and attendees of the funeral state in the extra feature interviews that Man on the Moon nailed the atmosphere and vibe of Kaufman’s one-of-a-kind funeral. In the buzz following the Netflix documentary, I heard several commentators and critics recently state how they believe Kaufman is still alive and how he faked his death for the quintessential prank.

There are a few noteworthy extras on the DVD. Spotlight on Location is a 19 minute EPK piece with standard cast and crew interviews promoting the film along with a few takeaway anecdotes on how Carrey stated how this was the first film in several years he had to audition for and how the cameos came to be. There are 12 minutes of delete scenes that I wish most would have made the cut where Kaufman has fun messing with the crowd during his standup and backstage antics after his wrestling performances. There is a text bio of Andy’s life that is quite thorough and covers a few more details the movie could not squeeze in and text production notes with several pages of behind-the-scenes information on what went on off camera during the film’s production. I ate up both features and devoured both entries.

Finally, this will probably be the only movie blog where I highlight the music videos as the standout extra feature, but that is the case today because this has two music videos from REM, with ‘Man on the Moon’ being the standout track and gaining fame beyond the soundtrack because it still gets regular nationwide radio play today. Whenever I hear it I cannot help but nod along to it as I recall a few of my favorite scenes from the movie.

After gleaming more knowledge on Andy’s life over the years I was able to appreciate Man on the Moon exponentially more than 16-year old me did 18 years ago. I want to slap myself for having this awesome film sit in my backlog for well over a decade, and it took a kickass Netflix documentary that dropped from out of nowhere to inspire me to watch it, but as the adage goes, better late than never. If you have yet to see Man on the Moon then by all means check this out to learn about one of the most groundbreaking comics of all time and then track down the Netflix documentary, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond to discover all the craziness that transpired backstage.

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
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
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
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
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Monday, November 27, 2017

War Games: WCW's Most Notorious Matches

Last week WWE brought back WCW’s most acclaimed gimmick match, War Games at the latest NXT Takeover special. The week leading up to it seemed like the perfect time to bust open and devour a WWE BluRay anthology release from 2013, War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches (trailer). It is a collection of almost every single War Games match telecasted. Since this is primarily a collection of matches, I am going to go with my same bulleted list format for this entry like I did a few months ago for my piece on Best of Clash of Champions.

-Speaking of that Clash of Champions BluRay, Dusty Rhodes returns to host this War Games anthology too. He is far better here, instead of giving short, over-the-top sound bites that explain nothing, Dusty is interviewed at length about the history of the War Games and how he created the match. An excerpt from that interview is played before each match and it helps set the stage for each encounter. Dusty is more natural and likeable in this interview setting, with my only takeaway is for a couple of the interview clips he kind of rambles on without saying anything of note. Make sure not to skip over them as most of them are must-see material.

-For those unfamiliar with the match, most War Games feature two rings under one cage with usually two teams of four or five competing against each other. Two wrestlers start for five minutes, and then another wrestler comes out every two minutes. After everyone is in, the only way to gain victory is for a submission/surrender victory.

-A lot of the early War Games matches feature the latest incarnation of the Four Horsemen against a team usually involving Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Paul Ellering and one or two other individuals. The crowds are red hot for most of these matches to the point they drown out the commentary to where the subtitles read ‘Indistinct Jim Ross Commentary.’ The crowds absolutely eat up everything Dusty and The Road Warriors do and I love these moments because you rarely see genuine crowd reactions like these in the WWE today.

-The early War Games are especially grueling endeavors with at least two wrestlers usually drawing blood. The first War Games I counted four, yes four wrestlers dawning the crimson mask!

-There is a different concept of the War Games introduced in 1988 for one time called the ‘Tower of Doom.’ Dusty described it in the interview as the ‘Hollywood’ version of War Games, and that kind of rings true because it is nearly identical to the Triple Decker Cage match in the ‘hit’ film featuring WCW stars, Ready to Rumble. The Tower of Doom has an interesting twist on the wrestlers starting on the top and having the first team to escape win. It was an interesting twist and the booking for it was surprisingly coherent. I was surprised WCW never revisited it (I am pretending the 1996 Uncensored never happened because it is not in this collection).

-Dusty has some fun stories about shenanigans that ensued when they brought the War Games to untelevised house shows in the early years of War Games. I never realized the match was a house show staple for a few years.

-The nastiest-looking spot in this anthology of matches is the infamous powerbomb-of-doom that Sid Vicious delivers to Brian Pillman, as Sid neglects to factor in his height to the roof of the cage and poor Pillman awkwardly bounces off of it as a result.

-The Horsemen were not always the antagonist team in the War Games match, other factions that occasionally subbed for them over the years were the Varsity Club, Dungeon of Doom, Fabulous Freebirds and the Dangerous Alliance. Eventually the nWo took over being the primary antagonist in the final few editions of the match in WCW.

-The Shockmaster gets a lot of well-earned grief for his unfortunate debut in WCW. I hear countless good-natured ribbing about the incident to this day, but I rarely if ever hear people talk about how WCW still had faith in him to include him in the upcoming War Games match that year and be the man to land the decisive submission victory on Booker T. I actually cracked up a bit when Sam Roberts had the guts to jest to Booker T about it live on the Takeover pre-show last week (jump to the eight-minute mark in that video to see for yourself!).

-War Games was not the headline theme for its own PPV until Fall Brawl debuted for WCW in 1993. I was a little surprised to hear from Dusty in the interviews that he said that marked the beginning of the end for War Games as it made it happen at the same time every year instead of there being a reasonable booking decision to have it happen when it was appropriate for the rivalry. I will say that the ’95 War Games match is easily the worst as it features Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage ransacking the faction of former WWF Hogan friends in lame heel attires that is the Dungeon of Doom.

-I feel the last hurrah for War Games was the ’96 and ’97 editions that feature the nWo as the unbeatable force that was making good business for WCW when it was winning the Monday Night Wars. The ’96 version had the controversy of the fake nWo Sting debuting and being the catalyst for the eventual debut of Crow-Sting. The ’97 War Games saw Curt Hennig turn on the Four Horsemen and the nWo go to dastardly measures to get the Four Horsemen to submit. Both matches were masterfully booked and feature the crowds from the Monday Night Wars that only added to the matches.

-The final two War Games were gigantic clusters that were incredibly hard to make sense out of. The ’98 match had three teams of three, but added a stipulation to where the person who gets the pin receives a world title shot at the next PPV. It also involved Warrior in his disastrous run in WCW, and his chicanery in the match is mind-boggling. The 2000 War Games transpired on Nitro when Vince Russo was nearing the end of his booking run in the company and he completely changed up the rules. It now took place in one ring inside of the aforementioned Ready to Rumble triple decker cage. The rules now stated the World Title was at stake and the belt had to be retrieved from the top of the cage and the person to come back down and escape the cage with the title will be declared the winner. Seems straight forward, but when you factor in Vince Russo, you have to be factor in the inevitable nonsense he will throw in like countless run-ins, one of the cages being filled with weapons and naturally Vince Russo himself competing in the match. It came as no surprise that both of these War Games were trainwrecks, but both were entertaining disasters all things considered where the ’95 bout is simply flat-out bad.

-Dusty has a nice final interview clip about the Elimination Chamber match being a proper evolution of War Games for modern audiences. I agree with Dusty as the Chamber involves a lethal cage-like structure and all the brutality that goes along with it and the mystique and intrigue of who will enter the match next and the Royal Rumble-like anticipation of which wrestler is going to be eliminated next and pondering how long the first entrants have endured. That said, I do like WWE’s new take on War Games from the recent NXT Takeover, and I hope it becomes a regular component of NXT when deemed necessary by the booking.

-There are three bonus matches on the BluRay and they are multi-man cage matches from smaller promotions like Smoky Mountain Wrestling and ECW. The SMW match is an oddball as it is joined in progress and takes place in a shoddy-looking cage composed of wood and chicken-wire. The two ECW cage matches are the expected gruesome affairs that up the blood quotient exponentially compared to the early War Games matches I described above. The SMW match is nothing spectacular, but more of an interesting curiosity, but definitely check out the two ECW bouts. There is one final extra where Dusty Rhodes books his dream War Games match up and breaks down the teams and how it would play out in an entertaining manner.

-As far as WCW collections go, this BluRay easily triumphs over the Clash of Champions collection and is right up there with the Nitro collections. There are a few duds in this anthology, but most of the War Games matches are wild, visceral and bloody brawls well worth going out of your way to check out. High recommendation!

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
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
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 2005-2014
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
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

Countdown

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that a few of the films I covered here deal with the long running gag of my friend Matt and I exchanging campy/cheesy awful movies with each other. Today’s entry continues that trend with Matt’s thoughtful Christmas gift for me last year with a WWE Studios production in the form of 2016’s Countdown (trailer).

As is the case with most WWE Films, a couple of their wrestlers have starring roles. WWE wrestler Dolph Ziggler portrays one Ray Fitzpatrick. He is a poor clone of Martin Riggs. Much like Mel Gibson’s character in Lethal Weapon, Fitzpatrick plays by his own rules and does whatever it takes to put away the bad guys. This eventually is too much for his authority figure, one Lt. Cronin (WWE star, Kane) who relieves him from duty after Fitzpatrick’s latest bust. The feds also get involved with Julia Baker (Katherine Isabelle) relentlessly questioning and monitoring Ray’s every move.

Fitzpatrick is about to hang it up until someone phones in a kidnapping and wires up the child with bombs set to go off in a venue where what else but a WWE event is transpiring. This lures Ray out to track down one last bust and save a coliseum full of unsuspecting hostages. Essentially, it is Sudden Death at a WWE show instead of a hockey game, just nowhere near as good. I do not want to give the film too much grief, Dolph is surprisingly semi-OK as Fitzpatrick, which is glowing praise on the grading curve relating to films from WWE Studios.

The trailer is a little misleading. It makes it look like we will be seeing many appearances from fellow WWE stars while Ray is on the move tracking down the kidnapper at the event center. There are a few brief B-roll shots of wrestlers during the film, and I imagine WWE thought if they showed these off in the trailer it would appeal to their fans. Luckily, they are an afterthought even though much of the brief B-roll WWE action in the film makes its way into the trailer. Fitzpatrick only has a short encounter with WWE stars Rusev and Lana during the film, and guess what, that is the closing hook in the trailer! The trailer also gives the impression that Kane has just as much of a starring role as Ziggler, when he is instead mostly a supporting player only in a handful of scenes. Cronin and Fitzpatrick do get into a raucous brawl in the police department for what it is worth.

There is one 10-second moment in the movie that Matt and I lost it at. It shows Ray arrogantly strutting down a hallway to a police meeting. Our only presumption for why Countdown shows him literally just walking for 10-15 seconds with no other cast interaction whatsoever was for a minimum length requirement for the background music credit. The song that happens to be playing is this over-the-top gruff metal piece with the most nonsensical lyrics. After replaying the Ziggler hallway strut several times we kept cracking up over the ludicrous lyrics, just take a listen for yourself and jump ahead a little to where the lyrics kick in and try to contain yourself as you imagine Dolph doing his badass strut for 10-15 seconds to it.

There are two short behind-the-scenes extras on the BluRay. One is where most of the cast and crew praise Dolph on being a trooper and a natural in this film while a gun is presumably pointed at their heads off-screen. The other extra is an interesting look at the ingenuity of the special effects crew on how they made some of the effects and stunts get a lot of pop with minimal cost. Where is my Dolph Ziggler & Kane commentary!?

Matt and I enjoyed the campy action nature of this and we got what we wanted out of Countdown by making silly zingers and jokes at the film’s expense, much in the same vein as the affable characters on Mystery Science Theater 3000. There are a couple of brief, legit entertaining moments sprinkled throughout, such as Dolph’s brawls with Kane & Rusev, and the unintentionally hilarious ‘Ziggler Hallway Strut’ but it is a straightforward affair like most other direct-to-video action films. As I mentioned above, it is certainly no Sudden Death but I have seen far worse and a small part of me always wondered what a wrestling version of Sudden Death would be like, so I will grant a modicum of thanks for WWE making Countdown happen!

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
Creed
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
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
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
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Joyride & Joyride 2: Dead Ahead

Every year for Christmas my mom and I exchange random DVDs with each other. It is just a random gifting tradition we do in hopes of landing each other a good film from the $5 DVD bin. My mom has been on a pretty good streak for awhile and past hits she gifted me I never saw before that were a hit for me include Sour Grapes, Alpha Dog, Blues Brothers and Rat Race. Today I am covering last year’s Christmas DVD, which is a pair of scare/thriller films that were part of a two-in-one pack with 2001’s Joy Ride (trailer) and its 2008 sequel, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (trailer).

The original Joy Ride stars Paul Walker in the lead who is fresh off his Fast and the Furious fame earlier in 2001. Walker stars as Lewis, who is on a road trip to pick up his longtime crush Venna (Leelee Sobieski). Along the way when checking in at home with the family, he discovers his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) needs to get bailed out of jail so it becomes a three person road trip. Along the way they pick up a CB radio and start pranking truckers on it. One of their pranks with a trucker who only goes by ‘Rusty Nail’ (voiced by Ted Levine) goes all kinds of bad when it turns out that good ‘ol Rusty is a psychotic killer.

The film proceeds to be a gigantic cat and mouse chase with lots of thrilling moments and gotcha-scares that reeled me in all the way. The only questionable moments I had in the film was that there is no way that big rigs can accelerate as fast as they do here, but I rolled with it for the sake of the film. Additionally, the few glimpses we got of Rusty throughout the film made it hard to believe he was as mobile and crafty as the film made him out to be, but at that point I was so immersed into the crazy stunts and story that it did not bother me that much, especially in the final act that had an intense showdown with everyone involved and a gratifying payoff to a great overall flow of consistently bigger and better stunts, chases and thrills.

Joy Ride hit in 2001, which was probably one of the last years you could do a slasher/scare flick by avoiding one hiccup that most films in that genre struggle with today and that is how do you address the victims-to-be immediately busting out their cell phones and calling for help? In Joy Ride 2 they address this by Rusty (now played by Mark Gibbon) phoning the victims and telling them to immediately dispose of and crush their phones. How did Rusty get their number? Well, the victims felt bad when their car broke down and they happened to stumble upon Rusty’s home and broke into his place and ‘borrowed’ his car to get to safety.

The victims in the direct-to-video sequel are not as sympathetic as the first and it did not make me want to root for them. Bobby is suppose to be the stand-up guy here, but he is played by Nick Zano who also happens to play Steel, aka the biggest dolt in Legends of Tomorrow and knowing how much I detest him in that made it hard to root for him here. Nik (Kyle Schmid) is intentionally played up to be a slimeball that I found myself rooting for him to be the first to go, and I will give props to the filmmakers for having a very sleazy character get his fitting way to ride off into the sunset.

Joy Ride 2 tried to get a little more creative with its thrills and moments of despair. There are still a couple standard chase scenes, but there are also scenes that straight-up flop such as Rusty getting Nik to dress up in drag in order to score him some crank, and Rusty goofing on Melissa (Nicki Aycox) to get her to striptease. The only scene that really popped out for me was when Rusty gets Bobby and Nik to play his special version of craps that you just have to see to believe. I tried to hunt down a clip to link, but alas YouTube has failed me! That scene combined with the final showdown with Rusty results for a mildly satisfying final act, but nowhere near the same level as the first Joy Ride.

Joy Ride 2 only has two quick extras for 20 minutes which mostly feature basic cast and crew interviews setting up the film with a few interesting anecdotes on filming in the desert in Canada and its makeup work. The original Joy Ride however is packed with extras. The standout extra is four different alternate endings. All four have director’s commentary which I found helpful on why the filmmakers say they did not work. One of the endings is nearly a half hour long and features the always awesome, Walter Goggins and has a whole different take on how the final act went down. The other three have alternate branching paths and I found all four really fascinating on how they played out and why they did not make the cut. Joy Ride also has three commentaries, one with director John Dahl, the second with actors Zahn and Sobieski and the third with writers JJ Abrams and Clay Tarver which was the commentary I decided to check out. The duo have a good flow of nonstop banter with little to no lulls and tons of facts and insight about the cast and behind-the-scenes on the film. A couple highlights was how they renovated an abandoned truck stop for just one scene for the film and how they had to shoot the big cornfield chase on two occasions in separate cornfields and they dissected all the little differences to point out how they pulled it off.

I will give my mom another thumbs up for her annual Christmas DVD for me. If you made it this far it is obvious I am much higher on the first Joy Ride compared to its sequel. The sequel still has a few moments that saved it into being passable, but if you were to only watch one, then definitely check out the first. Upon doing my research for this entry, I see there is a third Joy Ride film that hit straight-to-video in 2014, subtitled Roadkill, so it looks like I will have to track that down and complete the trilogy!

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
Creed
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
The Interrogation
Interstellar
Jobs
Man of Steel
Marine 3-5
Mortal Kombat
National Treasure
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Replacements
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
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Roseanne - Season 7

Happy belated Halloween everyone and welcome to the season seven recap of Roseanne (season 7 excerpt). You can catch up on past season recaps by clicking here. I was hoping to sneak this write-up in time for Halloween since the yearly Halloween episode is always a big occasion for the series, but alas I just missed that window.

-There is not too much of a change for the job roll call this season. Dan (John Goodman) is still running the city auto body shop, with Mark (Glenn Quinn) and Fred (Michael ‘O Keefe) working there too. Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Jackie and Leon (Martin Mull) are still holding down the fort at The Lunchbox, however the amount of episodes that transpire there is dialed back a couple notches. There are a couple episodes where DJ (Michael Fishman) and Darlene (Sara Gilbert) are seen helping out there too. Becky (Sarah Chalke) is presumably still working her waitress gig, but it is never really addressed this season.

-One of the big season hooks this year is Roseanne and Dan deciding to want to have another child and eventually getting pregnant midway through the season. Since it happened a good ways into the season there is no stereotypical season finale with the new family member arriving on the household. It is a surprisingly lukewarm episode when it comes to season-ending storylines as the finale is half David (Johnny Galecki) debating on taking a post-graduation trip to Europe, and half fantasy tribute to the cast dressing up as characters in a spoof of Gilligan’s Island.

-Carrying on the theme of last season, the show rotates the amount of Connor children appearing on each episode with Roseanne and Dan being at the forefront of most episodes. There are a few shows where the whole family is on, but since Darlene is still in school in Chicago and Becky and Mark move out into a trailer halfway into the season, Roseanne trended to rotating those three characters on and off. Speaking of Mark, his character regrettably got dramatically dumbed down this season to the equivalent of Joey from Friends. It is cringing to endure Mark getting played for cheap laughs several seasons into his character, and I am surprised this lasted throughout the season. Speaking of Friends, it debuted this year in the TV lineup of 1994-95 and it must have had a really strong first season because it is even referenced in one of the final episodes of this season of Roseanne.

-This is a second strong Halloween episode this season where the theme is once again Roseanne being the victim of the prank. Roseanne is led to believe her mother is bald and falls for thinking Fred is gay with a huge payoff at the end of the episode. This is an edgier season for the dialogue, and a bit more explicit language thrown around casually this season. I am all for it as it only seemed natural for the characters to be looser with their vernacular, but were held back all these years until the FCC eased up their guidelines. Roseanne has a lot of entertaining exchanges with Leon this season where the two casually throw fat/gay jokes at each other in a bizarrely loving way.

-Roseanne & Jackie’s co-owner of The Lunchbox, Nancy (Sandra Bernhard) is only on one or two early episodes this season before mysteriously not appearing again afterwards. After being limited to just a few appearances in the last couple of seasons, this is the first season with no Crystal (Natalie West). While doing a little research for this entry, I found out she will only be appearing in one more episode before she is done with the show.

-One of the peculiar arcs this season to follow was the love triangle between David, Darlene and Jimmy (Danny Masterson). Darlene dumps David for Jimmy at the beginning of the season, only for Jimmy to break up with Darlene halfway through the season. David and Darlene finally get back together towards the end of the season. Speaking of relationship troubles, Jackie and Fred’s marriage seemed doomed from the beginning as the two are squabbling over initial hurdles, but things take a major turn after Jackie starts going out with another man and Fred finds out. The two then soothe things over and reunite, but then go into couples counseling an episode or two later, before they finally call their marriage off in a depressing scene in the penultimate episode of the season. It looks like Fred will be around for a little while longer into season eight before officially departing the show, but I am bummed as I really dug his character and wit, and he gelled in perfectly and was in the mix prominently for these past two seasons.

-Once again, there are no extra features for this season. As I referenced earlier, I am curious with the direction of the last couple seasons to shuffle in and out the Connor children and I would have liked to see some interviews with cast and crew explaining the evolution of the show at this point in the series. One other little nitpick I have is throughout the entire run of the series on DVD at this point there is no option for subtitles. Not a huge deal breaker, but thought I would mention it for those that appreciate that option. Split hairs aside, this is yet another solid season of Roseanne as they found new ways to evolve the show and its characters and keep it must-see throughout.

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

RoH Supercard of Honor XI

Welcome all to my yearly recap of Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor (SoH) event. It is the one RoH show I make sure to catch every year, so click here to check out past installments. 2017 marked the 11th edition of the show and like most previous SoH cards, it transpired within the same vicinity as where Wrestlemania occurred that same weekend. As a result, the announcers for this show (Kevin Kelly, Colt Cabana, Ian Riccaboni) stated SoH XI had one of the largest attendances in RoH history. RoH is about in the same place as it was a year ago, owned by TV conglomerate Sinclair. One new addition to RoH since the prior SoH was bringing back their own women’s division and branding it as ‘Women of Honor.’ They aired a handful of women-only shows since the summer of 2016 and women matches spotlighted on the RoH YouTube channel are among their videos that garner their highest traffic.

RoH still has their weekly syndicated TV show that can be found on your local Sinclair affiliate or on a few day delay on the official RoH website. I am impressed to see they have maintained their step up in ring and arena lighting that I noticed last year as it brings their overall production values up to a more professional level. They even added a few video-trons to their entrance area and have near-WWE quality matchup and banner graphics throughout the event. Big ups to Sinclair these past two years for doing those little things that go a long way!

The four prelim matches are included as bonus material on disc two and are all Women of Honor bouts. On one hand this is great seeing four women matches on a show, but to see them all relegated to the preshow is disheartening. Tasha Steelz bested Brandi Lauren in the opener with a Butterfly Suplex in a basic opener while the arena was still filing in. Next, Mandy Leon & Jenny Rose beat Sumie Sakai & Faye Jackson in a bout that engaged the crowd with a few more dives and high-flying maneuvers and saw Mandy get the pin with her Unprettier finisher. The best of the four women’s matches featured talent on loan from Mexican promotion CMLL. Marcela and La Amapola are two sound veterans who had a main event caliber match with many impressive holds and moments, and eventually Marcela got the victory with a Michinoku Driver. The final women’s match saw the undefeated Kelly Klein defeat Deonna Purrazzo with a Northern Lights Suplex. The announcers kept hyping Klein as a big deal for being undefeated for 525 days going into the match, so I anticipate only big things for her ahead.

The opener for the main SoH XI card was for the TV title and featured Marty Scrull defending the strap against Bullet Club member Adam Cole. Yes, the same Adam Cole who left for WWE a few months later and is now the head of the NXT faction, Undisputed Era with Bobby Fish and Kyle ‘o Reilly. This bout had a lot of good exchanges and counters and vicious-looking piledrivers. The exception however was Cole botching two attempts at a Tombstone, but the duo quickly found their footing not too long after. Eventually Scrull successfully defended the title with a rear naked choke submission. My man, Silas Young (AKA AWA Scott Hall) and Beer City Bruiser teamed up next against The Kindgom, and after some chicanery involving a cigar, Young hit his version of the TKO and got the pin while puffing away on the stogie in a fun match.

A nice highlight package recapping Bully Ray’s involvement in RoH and becoming a triple tag team champion along with the Briscoes helped set up their title defense versus Bullet Club’s Hangman Page & Gorillas of Destiny. If you recall my past RoH recaps, I am not a big fan of the lack of officiating in RoH tag bouts, but considering the participants involved here I will allow a little leeway in this match that had a ton of chaos and crowd pleasing madness. I am still a little surprised to see Bully Ray competing in an RoH ring, but he seems like a good fit with the Briscoes as they successfully defended their titles with a double Doomsday Device and Super 3D for the win. Another former WWE star made his SoH debut next with Bullet Club’s Cody Rhodes taking on Jay Lethal in a Texas Bullrope match. Oh yeah, I forgot he is just called ‘Cody’ here because WWE owns the ‘Rhodes’ trademark. Another video package and the announcers helped set the stage for their rivalry and why the Bullrope match is a big deal for the Rhodes family. There were some big moments here that saw Cody dawn the crimson mask and a sweet-looking spot from Cody where he popped up and toss Lethal through a table. Eventually Cody got his first RoH loss here after Jay pinned him with the Lethal Injection.

The next match was a triple threat tag team match with the Motor City Machine Guns, the Rebellion and Will Ferrara & Cheeseburger. This contest was more of a cluster-mess with all kinds of hijinx in the opening half and the tag rules being practically non-existent. Once I got past the craziness, there were a few decent spots that culminated with the Motor City Machine Guns getting the win with their finish. The last match on disc one saw Punishment Martinez take on Frankie Kazarian. Martinez can fly for a big man, and he eventually got the victory with his South of Heaven Chokeslam after Hangman Page distracted Kaz.

The aforementioned Bobby Fish came out next and called out Jay Lethal, but instead Silas Young came out and the two had an impromptu match that featured a cringe-inducing ref bump. The match got thrown out after a few minutes when Silas attacked the replacement ref for the DQ. More CMLL talent was showcased in the next bout with Dragon Lee & Jay White taking on Volador Jr. & Will Ospreay. These guys can go, and their acrobatics puts a vast majority of the cruiserweight action on 205 Live to shame. Ospreay delivering a Shooting Star Press to the outside of the ring was the standout highlight, but it was his partner Volador Jr. who got the pin with a body scissors from the top rope.

The first half of the double main event followed with Christopher Daniels defending his RoH World Title against Dalton Castle. It was a nice feel good story earlier this year with Daniels winning his first World Title gold after over 20 years in the business. Dalton dialed back his act enough so it is not as obnoxious as before, but despite his efforts in this match a well executed counter-exchange had Daniels getting the surprise roll-up win. After the match Cody attacked Daniels to set up their title match several weeks later.

The final match saw the Hardy Boyz defending their tag titles against the Bullet Club’s Young Bucks in a ladder match. Since my previous SoH recap, I have since ‘got’ the Young Bucks ‘too sweet/superkick party’ personas. It was a bit too over-the-top initially when first exposed to it last year, but I kind of get it now and am not as mortified by it as I once was. I still think they forever ruined the superkick as a finish, but to be fair so did the Usos in recent years to a lesser degree. The match did not disappoint, and while the Hardyz are 25-year vets, they nearly stayed on pace with the Young Bucks throughout. A couple OMG moments were the Bucks putting Jeff Hardy through a table with a 450 Splash and the Hardyz shoving one of the Bucks off a ladder in a specific way that he wound up inadvertently putting his own brother through a table. I am not kidding when I state that at least 10, maybe even 15 tables were broken throughout the match. Ultimately, the Young Bucks emerged as the new tag champs when they simultaneously superkicked both Hardyz off a ladder and grabbed the belts for the win. If you recall how this weekend went down earlier this year it was the final day for the Hardyz in their short RoH stint after a lengthy run in Impact/GFW/TNA. They would proceed to return to WWE the next night at Wrestlemania 33, but more on that in a future blog!

SoH XI was a major improvement from the two night split SoH X lineup from last year. The overall show was better paced and they did not go excess on the comedy or highspots overkill like in some previous years. The continued bump in production quality and convenient storyline highlight packages that preceded most matches added a lot for a casual RoH fan like myself who only catches just a few shows a year. I would have liked to have seen at least one of the women’s matches on the main card, and I had a few other nitpicks noted above, but for the most part this was the best SoH show in quite a few years. My picks for matches of the night are the Bullrope match, the CMLL tag match and the tag titles ladder main event that delivered! Definitely go out of your way to add Supercard of Honor XI to your RoH collection!

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
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
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 2005-2014
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Ultimate Fan Pack: Roman Reigns
Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe
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