Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman

I wrap up 2014's wrestling series of blogs with a BluRay from WWE Home Video that came out a few months ago that I have been anticipating for quite some time. That is right, it is another somewhat timely review with my third wrestling related blog of a home video release of 2014 in 2014 with my entry for Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman (trailer). Read on to find out why WWE's documentary on who I feel is hands-down the best talker and one of the top managers in the business, is easily WWE's best home video release in quite some time.

Paul Heyman stated shortly before the release of this video that he has been dodging the home video department since he came back to WWE with Brock Lesnar in 2012 to do a tell-all story of him. He has been reluctant to let it all out on the air, but the persistent filmmakers at WWE Home Video finally got to him along with many of Paul's colleagues over the years and put together an in depth two hour look at the life and times of Paul Heyman. I have heard past interviews on many different media outlets with Paul throughout the past quarter century, and have always wanted to know more about the various pit stops along the course of his career and The Life and Times of Paul Heyman gives what seems the appropriate amount of time to the many parts of his time in and out of the squared circle.

It could be that Paul is such a naturally gifted talker that he can command my full attention at any part of his story, no matter how significant it is in the big picture. However, almost every facet of Heyman's life is significant because of how much it differs from the stereotypical wrestler documentary who broke in through independent territories and eventually landed a gig in the big leagues. While there is an element of truth to that in Paul's tale, the way he wound up to where he is today is so astoundingly different that my eyes were glued to the screen throughout whether parts of these stories were recycled or new to me.

A good chunk of the early part of the biography is how Heyman broke into the business as an enterprising photographer for what were essentially his own self-published fanzines at the time, and how he conned his way into a press pass for old school Madison Square Garden shows in the former WWWF in the late 1970s. Legendary wrestling journalist, Bill Apter is brought in to recollect how much he loathed Heyman for stealing many prized shots, and later on Heyman goes on to tell through his photography days how he made connections with talent behind-the-scenes that paved the way for him to break into the business as a manager under the name Paul E. Dangerously.

I never knew too much about Paul Heyman's brief runs in the AWA and Memphis territories, so it was enlightening to hear Paul talk about how much a learning experience the AWA was and how much heat he generated from his short time in Memphis. Lawler of course is brought in to add about how delighted he was to do business with Heyman so much that he had to grant him an early exit from the promotion. The documentary really kicks into gear when recanting memories from Paul's run in WCW from 1988 until 1993. I do not remember much of Heyman doing color commentary at this time, but hearing Ross and Heyman present day give props for learning from each other for calling a year of action in his early days in WCW was particularly insightful to hear today. Also, somehow after watching countless WWE home video releases I do not recall much early 90s WCW content, so it was also refreshing to see a good portion of the feature talk about Heyman's big break in WCW forming the Dangerous Alliance stable and the wars they faced.

From there the documentary shifts to Paul landing in and taking control over ECW. I was a little worried we were going to get a rehashed Rise and Fall of ECW segment here, but the documentary has a fresh take on it for this biography. In The Life and Times of Paul Heyman, it covers ECW by mostly focusing on just how the promotion effected Heyman, and how he took control of the promotion a couple years in and rode the highs, but unfortunately was not able to get the promotion to grow accordingly to the high demand enough that he was forced to close up shop after going bankrupt. There are many fascinating interview snippets here with former ECW colleagues such as Tommy Dreamer, Gabe Sapolski, Joey Styles and Todd Gordon who shed some light with new details concerning rumors of WWE loaning ECW money to make ends meet in their final months and just having a new perspective on Paul all these years later after the fact made this portion of the documentary easily the most enticing to indulge.

It is worth restating this ECW portion of the feature is not another three hour rehash of previously released content and does not overstay its welcome. It covers the longest and arguably most pivotal part of Paul's wrestling career in just over a half hour, and its new perspective on ECW makes it a cannot miss part of the feature. That is not to take away anything from The Rise and Fall of ECW, which is an incredibly comprehensive, three hour documentary on the old ECW in 2004 from WWE that should be a must watch for any wrestling fan.

After ECW, the biography goes in great depth in Heyman's first run in WWE from 2001-2006. Aside from a few appearances from the 1997 ECW invasion angle on RAW, and owning one or two of ECW's very first DVDs that hit the market, this was my first main exposure to Paul Heyman on a regular basis. I remember loving him and Jim Ross teaming up in color commentary for most of 2001 and the documentary gives more present day insight from both men and shows clips of how even though the two bickered a lot on air, that they brought out the best in each other and I absolutely enjoyed that year for announcing on RAW. Go back and watch Wrestlemania X7, it is easily one of the best Wrestlemania cards of all time, and it also helps tremendously that it has one of the best announce teams of all the Wrestlemanias with Ross and Heyman.

From there it shifts to Paul's behind-the-scenes work being the head writer for Smackdown in 2002 and 2003 and later his stint as on air GM of Smackdown back when the roster split of RAW and Smackdown actually meant something for a few years. I was surprised to learn from Heyman here that he takes more pride here in Smackdown's rating success over RAW than all the success he had with ECW. I really liked how the documentary covers the controversies that got Heyman off of writing Smackdown, and how Paul ended up embracing WWE's version of a demotion to working in their then-developmental promotion, Ohio Valley Wrestling. It is here where we get great perspective from some of the talent Paul helped groom for success such as Beth Phoenix and CM Punk who I presumed must have been interviewed for this shortly before he departed WWE. Throughout the feature, Paul makes it clear his favorite aspect of the business is developing talent, and it was great to see this justified so throughout the documentary with interviews with from former aforementioned ECW talent, stars that had great runs under his command in Smackdown like Edge, Big Show and Brock Lesnar, then-OVW talent like Beth and CM Punk and present day stars such as Natalya and Renee Young.

I was wondering if WWE was going to really go into detail on their version of ECW that lasted from 2006-2010. Heyman did not hold anything back and I love how he matter-of-factly states how he absolutely hated it and how it got sabotaged from the beginning and eventually got him out of the company at the end of 2006. The feature highlights some of his business ventures he attempted while out of wrestling for five and a half years before returning and focusing on the success he had upon returning in 2012 managing Brock Lesnar and CM Punk. The documentary closes with talent and Paul himself reflecting on his legacy, and whether or not the talent considers themselves Paul Heyman guys/girls.

For the extra features, we have an assortment of classic Paul Heyman promos totaling roughly three hours. As I stated before, I never saw much of his old AWA and WCW promos in their entirety until this BluRay, and you can tell from his very first promos on here from the AWA in 1987 that Heyman was a natural on the microphone, and that he only got better with every succeeding promo. His WCW work is where he exploded with the Dangerous Alliance stable, and established his trademark oversized cell phone always at his side, so it was awesome to see a great collection of WCW and ECW promos where we saw one of Paul's multiple great runs on the microphone. There are some incredible in-depth vintage promos from Heyman, and then there are some nice quick little bite sized ones where him and Jim Ross in their old WCW announcing days hilariously attempt to hype up the ill-fated tag team of the Ding Dongs and witness Sting berate Paul for messing with his action figure.

Disc two has most of his best WWE promos from 2001 until earlier this year. Probably my favorite promos included on this collection are where Paul interviews a teddy bear in his old "Danger Zone" segment in the AWA, handing out the first ever "Paul E. Awards" to every member of the Dangerous Alliance, hyping up ECW coming to PPV, trashing Vince McMahon towards the end of the ECW/WCW Alliance invasion angle in 2001, boasting over conquering Undertaker's undefeated streak the day after Wrestlemania XXX, and of course the unforgettable Vince McMahon performance review of Heyman in early 2013. Two more classic promos I wish that could have made the cut, but my links here will have to suffice for now, are a "Extreme Debate" between Heyman and Jerry Lawler on RAW in 1997 which was my first time witnessing a memorable Paul Heyman promo, and Heyman's awesome promo boasting over Brock Lesnar's dominating victory over John Cena the day after Summerslam 2014 where he emphatically ended it in perfect candor with "Eat, Sleep, Conquer...John Cena."

There are three matches featuring Paul Heyman, with an old WCW match from 1989 where he teams with the original Midnight Express against Jim Cornette's new Midnight Express in a surprisingly lackluster match with too much stalling. The other two are more entertaining affairs where he teams with a young Brock Lesnar destroying the Hardy Boyz in 2002, and a match in 2013 where he teams with Curtis Axel against CM Punk in a no DQ match that was far better than it had any right to be. For BluRay Extras there are an hour and a half of extra stories that did not make the main feature covering Paul's entire career, with many interesting stories such as Paul riding his bike off of his parent's house, Jim Ross giving an in depth reason why he considers Paul one of his few true friends in the wrestling business, and Stephanie McMahon sharing an incredibly touching story about Heyman. This extra 90 minute assortment of cutting room floor stories are incredibly entertaining and provide extra details on how the gears rotate in Paul's brilliant mind for the business and are well worth the extra few dollars for the BluRay release.

Ladies and Gentleman, My Name is Paul Heyman is easily the best WWE-made documentary in recent years. A lot of the times I get that ugly feeling where WWE cannot help themselves and sugar coat certain aspects of the past with their revisionist history, but here it feels that they did not hold anything back, or at the very most lightly danced around some touchy topics, but left a whole lot more room than one would presume so you can easily read between the lines. Watching all these old school AWA/WCW/ECW promos for the first time was quite the entertaining history course, and reliving all those great WWE promos never got old for a second. Again, make sure to get the BluRay release for all the bonus story goodness, which adds up to a grand total of the best eight hours of content WWE Home Video has put out in quite some time.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hercules: Reborn

2014 has not been kind to the legendary warrior Hercules, at least not in cinema anyways. Before this year, if someone said Hercules and movies in the same sentence I would have thought back to one of the last hand drawn animated Disney blockbusters of the 90s. Fast forward to 2014 and a trilogy of duds bearing the son of Zeus' name pretty much have ruined the chance of anymore Hercules movies hitting the big screen. First there was Legend of Hercules, which I have not seen yet, but has went to garner critical lashings as one of the worst films of the year. A few months later we got The Rock landing the big role in Hercules, which took the character in a refreshing twist, yet what seemed like mindlessly fun summer popcorn flick turned out to be one of my own personal picks for worst of the year. Then out of nowhere my same awesome friend that gave me wonderful past birthday gifts dropped off his latest 'present' in the form of 2014's third movie with the demigod in the form of Hercules: Reborn (trailer).

If you were like me, you had no idea this movie existed until my friend informed me he saw it in the direct-to-video section at Wal-Mart and he instantly thought of me when he saw the DVD art with "starring WWE's John Morrison" in big letters at the top of the DVD with Morrison front and center. Never mind the fact that Morrison's real name is John Hennigan and he has not been in the WWE for over three years and does not have the right to use that name outside of the company, and this is not even a WWE Studios film! While being on the front of the DVD, Hennigan is not the main actor of the film, that honor goes to Christian Oliver who plays the role of Arius.

Things start off well for Arius; he recently announced his engagement to Princess Theodora (Christina Ulfsparre) and General Nikos (Dylan Fox) promotes Arius to captain of the army. Things quickly turn for the worse as Nikos is on the losing end in military politics and his jealousy over Theodora leads him to lead an uprising and kidnap Theodora. Arius escapes and attempts to find the legendary Hercules (Hennigan) to assist in a rescue, but good 'ol Hercules turns out to be the town drunk living in shame and agony for killing his family. Now it is up to Arius to bring back the demigod to his old glorious ways and rescue his wife and vanquish Nikos once and for all.

One thing I will give Hercules with The Rock is that it early on establishes Hercules as this legendary warrior capable of great heroics to the point where no one believes he exists. In Hercules: Reborn, Hercules' name is not even dropped by the cast until about 20 minutes into the film after Nikos has led his uprising and Theodora is kidnapped when Arius says rather matter-of-factly that he is going to a random town he hears where Hercules resides for assistance. For about half of the film, Arius is trying to rid Hercules of his drinking habits and bring out the Hercules of old as they venture an unknown, seemingly infinite distance back and forth to rescue Theodora. I had some problems in this instance where bad things are happening to Theodora while Arius does not appear to be making much haste to get Hercules on his side.

There were mostly competent performances from this cast of unknowns. Out of this cast, minus Hennigan the only other actor I mildly recognized was James Duval from a couple of bit roles in major films around the turn of the century. Duval plays Horace, the best friend to Arius, who is along for the ride to get Hercules on their side. Hennigan is not terrible as Hercules, minus a couple of dramatic lines where he went too over the top. He even works in some of his notorious parkour-style WWE moves that seem ridiculously out of place here that you cannot help but laugh when he busts them out.

For the action scenes I went in expecting a low-budget version of 300 and Hercules, and that is what I got, complete with 300-esque globs of blood splattering with every sword slash. I did get a chuckle with how Hercules dealt with Nikos in the climatic final battle, and I think if Hercules: Reborn would have went overboard and indulged in more of these ridiculous fight/action moments it could have went a long way. In the short behind-the-scenes extra feature the crew talked about using legit swords because they did not have access to fake ones where they filmed in Morocco, and if that is actually the case then props to the cast for literally risking their lives on the set.

Other than the nine minute making of video, the only other main extra is a two minute gag reel along with about nearly a dozen other trailers for direct-to-video films from the fine folks at Asylum Home Entertainment. It is worth noting the back of the DVD case lied to me, because it states there being deleted scenes, but alas there are none to be found on the disc. A small nitpick I feel worth griping about is no option for subtitles; I find it inexcusable for that no matter what the budget is for a film.

I went in expecting this to have worse-than-TV-movie production values and somehow be worse than Hercules with the Rock. I think I set my expectations too low because while this is by no mean a five star film, it is not one of the worst films of the year either. It is pretty obvious throughout there was not a huge special effects budget, and the quality of the acting and action is subpar to the two other Hercules films this year. I get the feeling the filmmakers at Asylum knew this going in and gave it their best effort and made it as passable and competent of a direct-to-video movie as they could given the parameters they had to work within. So to finalize, Hercules: Reborn is the best of the three Hercules movies this year, and goes to great lengths to skip my worst of the year honors and does a commendable job at being an enjoyably generic BC-era action film.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Faster
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Ink
Marine 3: Homefront
Marine 4: Moving Target
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
TMNT
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Star Trek (XI, 2009)

A few days ago I finally got around to watching the 11th Star Trek film in the franchise, 2009's Star Trek(trailer). Paramount took seven years off after releasing Nemesis, and released this prequel with an all new cast based on the origins of how Spock and Kirk and the rest of The Original Series crew joined Starfleet Academy and first became colleagues on the Enterprise. I was especially looking forward to seeing this again for the first time since it hit theaters five years ago now that I have seen all the prior films and have a better understanding and appreciation of the Star Trek universe in general this time.

Going into Star Trek's theatrical release in 2009, it was easy to notice that the brand was in a bit of a lull for a few years. It is worth reiterating it was seven years since the last film. On top of that, Star Trek: Enterprise was prematurely cancelled in 2005 after just four seasons, making the new fall 2005 television season the first without a Star Trek series since The Next Generation debuted in 1987. Paramount went to fixate this by bringing in JJ Abrams to direct this film, fresh off his breakout success on the hit television series, Lost. JJ was not shy admitting he did not have much experience with Star Trek until he got the director's gig, but was adamant on this new film retaining the essence of Star Trek while making it contemporary for a new generation.

There is an extended early years opening montage for both Kirk and Spock. For Kirk, we witness his birth as his father, George(a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) takes the captain's chair of the USS Kelvin as it is under attack by this film's villain, the Romulan, Nero(Eric Bana) and his ship, the Narada. After a montage of a couple other childhood events, we finally fast forward to Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) as young adults joining Starfleet Academy. The two are not the close friends we knew them to be and kick off their relationship as bitter rivals once Kirk is brought to trial for cheating on Spock's Koboyashi Muru exam, yes that same one that kicked off the opening of The Wrath of Khan. The two eventually have to put their differences aside as Nero resurfaces and goes at great cost to get the attention of Kirk and Spock as the two are fresh on the maiden voyage of the very first Enterprise we all grew up to know and love.

All the primary crew members you remember from The Original Series are back and fresh out of Starfleet for this new film. I love all of Paramount's picks for their new cast selection as not a single actor disappointed for the new versions of Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg). Even with the elder, Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) at the helm of the Enterprise, there was a little part of me that felt like there were a few too many tweens aboard the Enterprise, but as soon as the action kicks in those reservations are understandably put to the side since a emergency crisis rushes the Enterprise into her first tour of duty. Speaking of the Enterprise, I absolutely love the updated look of the ship. It just instantly pops out at you and seems all new with a vibrant white interior, yet there is still the ever-present captain's chair and a few other nods to the past so it still captures the classic Star Trek look and feel.

While I have stated on previous blogs here I have never been a hardcore Trekkie, I have always identified with it more than Star Wars as I appreciated Star Trek's emphasis on dialogue and their style of sci-fi action over Star Wars. Abrams amps up the action here with more in-your-face close combat sequences than I am use to in previous Star Trek films, but somehow, someway Abrams found a way for all this more-than-average action to seem totally appropriate and not out of place. This is easily one of the most action heavy Star Trek films to date, but there is still plenty of scenes featuring the trademark dialogue heavy scenes full of the vast Star Trek lore and history to not make this feel like this extra dose of action is being forced against your will, but more of a natural evolution for the Star Trek brand.

I never thought the old school Star Trek phazers would gel in today's latest and greatest sci-fi movie gadgetry, with even the last couple of Star Trek films putting the classic phazers to the back seat as the crew upgraded to those heavy duty phazer rifles. In this Star Trek, Abrams brought back the phazers, and to my surprise made them seem especially effective and not as laughable as I thought they would come off in modern sci-fi cinema. There are plenty of other nods I already mentioned, and yes expect a red shirt moment for the ages in this Star Trek. Being this film is already five years old I feel it is safe to say that I loved how they found a way to tie this film in with the previous Star Trek canon and have it still stand on its own as a new canon among itself.

If you recall my blogs on the last few films, I was really impressed at how fast the CG and special effects were improving. They increased exponentially so in the seven years since Nemesis, because while I still think Nemesis has some terrific CG that still holds up today, you can tell Paramount spared no expense and let the people behind production at Bad Robot pull out all the stops because this blows Nemesis out of the water with some unbelievably awesome CG. All the shots of the Enterprise whether it is just cruising in warp speed, or in the middle of an intense dogfight look remarkable.

How a lot of that CG and special effects were accomplished are covered in the film's plethora of extra features. The initial BluRay release I bought of Star Trek earlier this year is just the film and a commentary track, which is all I have noticed to be available right now whenever I saw Star Trek for sale at retailers. I later tracked down a pre-owned copy online of the three-disc set that was only available during its initial video release that was jam packed with all these extras, and if you are into extra features I recommend you do the same. I listened to a majority of the commentary with JJ Abrams, Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk. Being a five person commentary, it was a delight that there was nearly nonstop, very involved and focused discussion with each person trying to cram in as many production stories and other random anecdotes as possible. Also make sure to watch the deleted scenes as there were a few noteworthy scenes that did not make the cut, mostly from the intro setting up Kirk and Spock's childhood, and an early side story that features a brief cameo of the Klingons.

There are 10, yes 10 behind-the-scenes features totaling nearly four hours and there is not a poorly made one out of all of them. If I were to only recommend a few as must see however, absolutely make sure to check out Casting, which is a half hour look at how each new cast member was determined and interviews with each one on what they were able to learn from their predecessors and some new wrinkles they were able to weave in. To Boldly Go is a 16 minute feature rating each of the five main people behind production at Bad Robot on their Star Trek expertise and how that related to their vision to "make Star Trek cool." Starships is an in-depth half hour look at how they redesigned the Enterprise for this film and a quick look at designing Nero's ship, The Narada.

It is too bad that Disney had to swoop in and throw a bunch of money in Abrams' face to get him to make the next Star Wars movie, because he did a phenomenal job with Star Trek and its successor, Into Darkness which I will be covering here soon. These two new Star Trek films, along with the documentary Trek Nation were the impetus for me to track down the first ten films and rediscover my appreciation for the franchise. Regardless if you are a hardcore Trekkie, an off and on fan like myself or have zero Star Trek experience under your belt, this film can be watched by anyone and is the perfect jumping on point for newcomers to the brand because it is essentially a modern day origin story for the cast of The Original Series.

Star Trek Film Ratings

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 5.5/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - 10/10
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - 7.5/10
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - 9/10
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - 6.5/10
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - 7.5/10
Star Trek VII: Generations - 8/10
Star Trek VIII: First Contact - 9/10
Star Trek IX: Insurrection - 8/10
Star Trek X: Nemesis - 9.5/10
Star Trek XI (2009) - 10/10

Additional Star Trek Blogs

Star Trek Evolutions and Captains Summit BluRay Bonus Discs

Star Trek: Captain's Summit & Evolutions BluRay Bonus Discs

There were two more bonus discs that I did watch that came with the first 10 Star Trek films on BluRay. One was titled, The Captain's Summit, and was bundled with the first six films, and the other was titled Evolutions and was included with the set that had the films with The Next Generation crew. Both were quick watches at little over an hour each, so here is a quick recap of them.

The Captain's Summit is more entertaining since it is Whoopi Goldberg hosting a roundtable with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart. It was awesome watching these four exchange stories and compare and contrast the differences on the set of the television series and films and behind the director's chair. I was surprised Shatner still is surprisingly hung up on some things and have a hard time letting a few topics go and came off as a little bit of a curmudgeon in some parts where he more or less took over the hosting duties from Whoopi and dominated the conversation. Shatner outbursts aside, it was obvious these four were just getting comfortable towards the end and could have easily went for another hour.

Evolutions has a few interesting short documentaries on various other parts of the Star Trek universe, but most of its features are dedicated to the final day on the Star Trek Experience exhibit in Las Vegas that closed down a few years ago and what it was like behind-the-scenes at this tourist exhibit that was on its last day in operation after running for just over a decade, including a big pre and post show ceremonies with the crew of the exhibit. I think they should have just went all out and dedicated the entire disc to it, since about nearly three quarters of Evolutions is aimed towards this exhibit, but is still another interesting look at another aspect in the Star Trek universe I had no idea existed until I watched this.

Props to Paramount for going all out on the extra features for the first 10 films by bringing over all the countless hours of previous DVD extra features and throwing in new commentaries on each film and nearly another hour of bonus extras on each film in HD too. If that was not enough they gave us these two other bonus discs in HD to boot. While it was fascinating learning about the Star Trek Experience exhibit on Evolutions, if you were pressed for time and had to watch just one I would recommend The Captain's Summit because of the unique dynamic between the four main personalities of all of Star Trek and all the stories they indulged each other in.

Star Trek Film Ratings

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 5.5/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - 10/10
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - 7.5/10
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - 9/10
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - 6.5/10
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - 7.5/10
Star Trek VII: Generations - 8/10
Star Trek VIII: First Contact - 9/10
Star Trek IX: Insurrection - 8/10
Star Trek X: Nemesis - 9.5/10
Star Trek XI(2009) - 10/10

Friday, November 28, 2014

Biggest Knuckleheads

A few years back in 2010 WWE Studios' latest direct-to-video movie was Knucklehead, a family comedy headlined by WWE superstar, The Big Show. Some retailers shipped the film in a double pack with a bonus WWE Home Video disc which is the entry for this blog, called Biggest Knuckleheads. I did not purchase this double pack, but a friend of mine did who recently sold off most of his wrestling video collection and this was one of the ones I picked up from him.

As for the film Knucklehead, I did eventually watch it on Netflix, and it is more of the usual dreck from WWE Studios that is rather intolerable to watch, minus a few moments that got a slight chuckle out of me. Biggest Knuckleheads focuses on a lot of WWE's trademark style of comedy over the years, most of which is pretty groan inducing and embarrassing if I get caught watching by a non-wrestling fan friend. Luckily, a decent chunk of the sketches and moments on this disc are not that gut-wrenching, and there were a few classic moments to get some decent laughs out of.

Biggest Knuckleheads is only an hour long, so it is a quick watch and there was only so much material WWE could put on in that time. The biggest waist is the time they spend on DX, now DX did have some funny moments over the years, but here they decide to include the entire 5-on-2 handicap match from Saturday Night's Main Event where they squash and kill the careers of the ill-fated Spirit Squad faction. That match takes up nearly a quarter of the DVD, thanks Triple H!

Love him or hate him, Hornswoggle has been an institution for WWE comedy since he debuted way back in 2006 as The Little Bastard. I would almost pay money for a two-disc best of Hornswoggle set filled with classic moments of our favorite leprechaun. I will always remember him being revealed as McMahon's illegitimate son and the anonymous RAW GM, being Chavo Guerrero's ultimate nemesis, little people's court with DX, his long-coming heel turn with Three Man Band, and his unforgettable run as the last Cruiserweight champion. Hornswoggle has been involved in a lot of crap moments, but he has had some legit funny ones too, so it was too bad to see him delegated to a quick two minute montage of some of his antics here; at least he made the cover of the box art and of one of his matches with Chavo made the cut.

Santino Marella has been another staple of WWE "comedy" for the last several years until he retired earlier this year. I prefer more of Hornswoggle's comedic antics over Santino's, so I was not disappointed that he also got the two-minute montage treatment, most of which was him getting beat up by Divas that I completely forgot were employed by WWE. Another disappointing recurring part of this DVD is whenever Biggest Knuckleheads cuts to an interview clip with Matt Striker or Todd Grisham. 2010 was part of a several year stretch where all WWE announcers when interviewed on documentaries were instructed to act like seven-year-old goofballs, and that is what we got here, Josh Matthews also joins in on the fun with painfully corny jokes throughout as he teams up with The Big Show to host the DVD.

There are a some other random older sketches on here, some that work, some that do not. A montage of The Rock embarrassing several WWE announcers in his priceless backstage interviews were included to my delight, while an awful old Bushwackers and "Mean" Gene Okerlund grill out segment was here in its entirety to my distraught. I was never a hardcore fan of the Mean Street Posse, but seeing Pat Patterson and Gerald Briscoe destroy them in a "match" got a hearty laugh out of me. I was surprised and elated to see them include the classic "Man of 1004 Holds" promo from Chris Jericho, ditto with a montage of moments from the best of the underrated Steve Blackman/Al Snow duo known as Head Cheese.

Ultimately, this is only an hour long when it could have been so much more. Hopefully WWE will one day do some kind of multiple disc set chock-full of their vintage comedy. It seems they are already scraping the barrel with themes from their latest DVDs of the last few years, so I foresee it being just around the corner. I would not recommend tracking down Biggest Knuckleheads online for some ridiculous amount online since it was only part of a limited Knucklehead pack-in promotion, but if you happen to run across it on the cheap at a pawn shop then by all mean get ready to laugh!

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Bobby The Brain Heenan
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Superstar Collection: Zack Ryder

In 2012, WWE Home Video released eight installments of a new budget line of videos titled, The Superstar Collection. These were not the standard $20-30 two to three disc sets WWE usually puts out, but instead 90 minute, single disc releases found at most retailers between $5-10. They were just a no-frills collection of matches for superstars ranging from headliners like John Cena and Sheamus to middle of the card guys like Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder. I was not interested in this line of DVDs, but I never thought WWE would release a Zack Ryder DVD ever, so today's blog is for the only entry in the Superstar Collection I own featuring Zack Ryder.

Zack Ryder has been a lower card talent for a majority of his WWE run since he debuted in the tag team, The Major Brothers back in 2007. The scrappy underdog, Major Brothers tag team never worked, and they shortly thereafter were rebranded as the Edge Heads and became tag team champs while in a stable fronted by Mr. Edge himself, and even had a run in during the main event of Wrestlemania XXIV. After that stable eventually went away, Ryder broke off on his own in ECW in 2009 with the new "Long Island Iced Z" persona he developed, which was essentially being a more flamboyant "Bro" character of a typical Jersey Shore cast member.

The character kind of worked for a little while in ECW and Ryder seemed to be picking up legit crowd heat as one of the up and coming villains in ECW. The first match on this DVD is from this period in Zack's career where he faced ECW champ, Christian in a pretty entertaining back and forth bout. Things were looking up, but then WWE closed up ECW in February 2010 and Ryder went on to the RAW roster where he quickly got lost in the shuffle and was barely used on television and mostly only being shown in losing efforts on bottom tier telecasts throughout 2010.

At the beginning of 2011 however, something inspired Ryder to get creative and started to do things on social media that none of the other stars of the company were doing as he really embraced Twitter and YouTube. He created his own weekly YouTube show, Z True Long Island Story on his own dime with a nice gritty, homemade feel to it since most of it was shot with what else, but his smart phone. The first episode featured Zack Ryder loving his first ever basic line t-shirt WWE put out of him, and he encouraged fans to take photos of themselves wearing the shirt and to tweet him and he would mail them out an autograph. I remember being impressed at how brazen Ryder was to try and do this outside official WWE channels that I took him up on the offer and went and got one of those shirts, and sure enough an autographed Topps card came in the mail shortly thereafter.

For a few months, Ryder got away with his show and he quickly garnered a following online as this officially contracted WWE star who was barely used on television going out on his own outside the WWE lines to create a name for himself. This led to many "We Want Ryder" chants at arenas, and eventually WWE had no choice but to capitalize on Zack's newfound popularity by pushing him on television as an actual threat for a change. The remaining five matches on this DVD are from the last few months of 2011 when BroskiMania was running wild in the WWE Universe as he beat Dolph Ziggler with the help of special RAW guest star, Hugh Jackman. Even John Cena got in during the 'Ryder Revolution' as he was featured on some of the web episodes, and Ryder became Cena's number one broski on RAW. Unfortunately, this only led to terrible things as seen on this DVD where Cena and Ryder teamed up to lose to Miz and R-Truth, and later on with the then-evil GM of the season, John Lauranitis making Cena and Ryder face off for a WWE Title shot, and well you can guess how that went down for our favorite broski. At least 2011 ended well for Ryder, where he went on to have an entertaining feud with Dolph Ziggler that saw him win the US Title from him to close out the year on the final PPV, TLC, in what is probably the best match on this disc.

Zack's US Title victory is probably the best way to close out this DVD because WWE made sure to kill all the momentum Zack had just a few months into 2012. How you ask? They quickly got the US Title off of Zack just a few weeks into the new year, and then for several weeks straight they had Zack get slaughtered mercilessly by Kane to the point that there was no more faith in the guy. At least Zack was starting to have a nice on camera romance develop with then top diva, Eve Torres, until Eve was caught exploiting Zack's friendship with Cena as a way in with Mr. Fruity Pebbles. Even Z True Long Island Story went downhill as WWE took over production of after the 50th episode and the show noticeably lost its loveable gritty, homebrew charm as WWE pumped in production values that were more of a turn off instead. To top it off, WWE went overkill on pushing all types of new Zack Ryder merchandise down everyone's throat that it combined with the rest of this paragraph to have the fans quickly jump off the Zack Ryder bus while it was barely getting into second gear. By the summer of 2012, Zack was back to where he was a year earlier on occasional losing efforts on bottom tier WWE programming.

It is too bad none of the Z True Long Island Story episodes are included as extra features, as they are all easily consumable at three-to-five minutes in length. Instead this budget DVD release, well, stays on budget with only a quick little montage of the web series to open up the DVD, so I recommend checking out this link where you can watch the first 50 installments of Zack's web show in their entirety. It is kind of sad actually WWE could not track down Ryder to introduce the DVD and some of the matches, or even one of the C or D-list announcers at the very least like they have done before to help give a breather between the matches, but instead it is just match, match, match non-stop. Budget DVD shortcoming be damned,Superstar Collection: Zack Ryder is still a fun little jaunt and quick, cheap way to relive the Ryder Revolution of 2011.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Bobby The Brain Heenan
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

Friday, November 14, 2014

Scooby-Doo Wrestlemania Mystery

A few months back in my review of Bounty Hunters I mentioned how a friend and I have a nasty habit of getting each gag gifts in the form of awful movies. Today's entry is for another one of those "gifts" I dug out of backlog box, which was a collaboration between Warner Bros. and WWE Studios earlier this year with the animated release of Scooby-Doo Wrestlemania Mystery (trailer).

I watched too many episodes of Scooby-Doo growing up than I would care to admit. No matter how predictable that cartoon got, somehow it found its way onto our family's television set seemingly every day. I always have a fond recollection of the Harlem Globetrotters crossovers, but it looks like this special production with the WWE universe will take its place as my new favorite crossover.

Wrestlemania Mystery takes place in the fictitious setting of WWE City, where all WWE talent resides and all their shows take place, including the upcoming premiere event of the year, Wrestlemania. This year's event is in jeopardy however as WWE stars are getting attacked by the mythical ghost bear named Vicious. That is right, I said ghost bear. Luckily, Scooby-Doo won a video game contest that awarded the Mystery Machine gang a trip to Wrestlemania, so rest assured they are on the case.

Expect all the trademarks of an episode of Scooby-Doo, such as getting chased down nonstop by the villain of the week, Shaggy and Scooby acting like buffoons and regularly stuffing their faces and the vintage 'meddling kids' line at the end we all love so much. Also expect the trademark debauchery of a typical WWE production, such as racist low-brow humor, John Cena getting the overpowered and unstoppable 'SuperCena' treatment, and announcing tables being vulnerable for being destroyed.

There were parts where the kiddy-friendly humor was unbearable and I cringed, and there were also a few times where the film got a few surprisingly legit chuckles out of me. For better or worse, it is predictable like an average episode of Scooby-Doo and the weekly wrestling I indulge, but I would not want it any other way. When I had my nephew over to watch TMNT last month I originally had this movie picked out to watch, but he said he saw this already. He said he liked it, but did not want to watch it again. Looking back, I do not believe the little rascal.

Being a huge wrestling nut, there were a few minor references to us addicts that cracked me up, such as a huge statue of Triple H getting attacked by the ghost bear early on and destroying Triple H's knee in the process. Also, it is well known among us wrestling enthusiasts that it is a cardinal sin for the wrestlers and announcers in WWE to say the word 'belt' as it is a pet peeve of WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon. It is a known fact that Vince will chastise you endlessly for using that forsaken word as he does not want the WWE Championship to be mistaken with a common household belt, and yes I do have proof of this rule. One of the plot points of Scooby-Doo Wrestlemania Mystery involves, spoiler alert, the WWE Title getting stolen(!), but the cast constantly refer to it throughout the film as the WWE Belt. The superfan inside of me was crying out 'you cannot say that' every time this happened, and it happened quite a bit, even by an animated Vince McMahon himself. I wish I had a clip to link to you, but a search yielded nothing to me. Regardless, this is a big deal that Vince finally took it easy on everyone on this ridiculous rule, even if it was just for this one animated kids film.

There are a couple bonus features on this BluRay release. Behind the Scenes with Scooby-Doo and the WWE Gang is a quick seven minute watch that interviews some of the Warner Bros. crew and WWE stars involved in the film and shows a few snippets of them in the recording studio. Seeing some WWE stars get really into the moment in the studio like Miz and Brodus Clay was a hoot to watch. Wrestle Maniacs is a bonus episode of the short lived A Pup Named Scooby-Doo cartoon that sees the Mystery Machine gang in kid form solving mysteries. This early 90s standard definition episode is included because it involves what else, but a ghost haunting the fictitious 'Coolsville Wrestling Federation.' It is another standard Scooby-Doo episode, and the nod to the past was a nice gesture as a bonus if you can get past the unpolished SD transfer.

I think this will go down as one of the more tolerable gag gifts I got from my friend over the years. Yes, there are a lot of unbearable jokes aimed specifically for the little ones, but there is admittedly some appeal to seeing the WWE world in animated form and how that dynamic played out with the Scooby crew. Think of it as a modern day version of the old school Rock and Wrestling cartoons from the 80s. With all that said, I am actually giving Scooby-Doo Wrestlemania Mystery a mild recommendation because it is a movie that you can use to sit down and enjoy with your kids, and maybe just maybe use this on them as a gateway to the wonderful world of pro wrestling.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Faster
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Ink
Marine 3: Homefront
Marine 4: Moving Target
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
TMNT
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Star Trek X: Nemesis

A couple days ago I finally achieved the moment of watching every single minute of every Star Trek film when I finished watching 2002's Star Trek X: Nemesis (trailer). I recall catching a small part of it off cable a few years back, but until a couple days ago it was the last one I have not seen in its entirety. Nemesis is also noteworthy as it is the final film with The Next Generation cast, and that we would not see another Star Trek film hit theaters until the JJ Abrams directed reboot, seven years later in 2009.

Nemesis builds off of a new relationship established in the previous film Insurrection, as it kicks off at the wedding for Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis). Shortly after the wedding wraps up, the Enterprise detects energy signatures on a planet that leads them to discover an android prototype model of Data (Brent Spiner), who identifies itself as B-4. Speaking of mysterious alter egos, the Enterprise then cruises to Romulus so Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) can meet the new Romulan leader, Preator Shinzon (Tom Hardy), who is instantly revealed to be the long lost (younger) clone of Picard. Shinzon wants a much awaited peace treaty between the Romulans and the Federation, but Picard knows himself too well to trust himself that easy, and soon enough shenanigans are amiss.

Shinzon is one of the stronger antagonists of the Star Trek films, as everything about him simply reeks of evil from his dark leather uniform complete with a menacing cape to his scarred lip. Hardy delivers a superb performance, and emerges as a major, motion picture caliber villain that Insurrection severely lacked. While I appreciated and very much enjoyed the lightheartedness of the previous film, Nemesis pulls no punches and is a much darker film, as once Shinzon reveals his true intentions the action and drama heats up, and keeps amping up until the very end.

I loved the overall aesthetic and tone throughout Nemesis. As the Enterprise, and the Romulans' Schimitar vessels navigate through space, the endless void has a mystifying dark green hue that perfectly captures the spirit of the movie. A lot of overall darker colors and tones are used quite well in the backgrounds of most other scenes that helped establish a more serious atmosphere as the film progressed, including a fantastic dinner scene between Picard and Shinzon where both Stewart and Hardy absolutely nailed the scene and you could not help but tell from this scene that Nemesis is bracing you for an epic last half of the film.

Another factor to consider is that this film came out towards the end of 2002, and that in between the four years when Insurrection and Nemesis were released, that the first two of the much anticipated Star Wars prequels hit theaters. The pressure was on at Paramount to up their game in the special effects department, and they made sure to deliver for Nemesis by having a thrilling dune buggy chase early on, and by having an all out dog fight scene between the Enterprise and the Schimitar that easily runs away as the best spaceship duel of the first ten Star Trek films, and 12 years later it still holds up splendidly.

Once the dust settles from the final conflict, you can tell in the film's final moments that this is it for The Next Generation cast. It is not quite the in-your-face sendoff that The Undiscovered Country was for The Original Series cast, but there is a couple of strong scenes with your Starfleet favorites to close the film that had me glued to the screen taking in everything that just transpired well after the credits finished rolling. I was a little surprised to learn from some of the behind-the-scenes interviews that some of the cast and crew felt the ending was not all that definitive and thought that the cast would likely be back for another film.

Speaking of extras, it should be no surprise that Paramount jam packed this BluRay with a ton of them. Aside from over three hours of previously released DVD content, Paramount tacked on another hour of new HD extras, and that hour count is not including the two previously released commentaries and one new commentary that brings the extras running time well over the ten hour mark. Thanks to the 1.5x speed playback on my PS3, I watched them all. Like the previous commentary tracks on past releases, I listened to about 20 minutes of each commentary track. Of the two previous commentaries, one is from director Stuart Baird, and another from producer Rick Berman. Both provide a lot of great details on the background and why a lot of key scenes were cut, but I am curious as to why the two did not do one together instead. Michael and Denise Okuda provide the new commentary track and have a lot more to say as they naturally bounce off each other well.

Make sure to check out the deleted scenes, as there is nearly a half hour's worth with introductions from the cast and crew as to why certain scenes were cut, including a very well done scene between Picard and Data, and some extended scenes in the film's ending that never made it to the big screen. There are 15 previously released behind-the-scenes featurretes. You will have to be bonkers like me to watch them all, so I will highlight the five that stood out to me. Nemesis Revisited is a must watch, even though it runs a hearty 25 minutes, it is all about how Nemesis came to be with interviews from all the major cast and crew members. New Frontiers, is a quick, but insightful look at director Stuart Baird's background and how this non-Trekkie landed the director's chair job. Red Alert is a 10 minute look at the making of the dune buggy and dogfight action sequences. Star Trek Fan's Final Journey is an endearing 16 minute feature interviewing the cast and crew coming together again for one last film. Finally, Romulan Lore is a thorough 11 minute look at the history of the Romulans in the Star Trek films and television series.

For the new BluRay extras, we get the final, fourth installment of the Brent Spiner interview, and the final fourth installment of Trek Roundtable where four Star Trek critics analyze and dissect the film. Both are well worth checking out, especially the Spiner interview where he comments on how he helped write the script, and the major moments for his character in the film. Reunion With the Rikers is a entertaining 10 minute interview with Siritis and Frakes where they joke around pitching sitcom ideas, and their memories from shooting the film. Finally there are two short four minute pieces, with Today's Tech, Tomorrow's Data focusing on future brain research technology and Robot Hall of Fame interviewing some interesting robotics enthusiasts about Data getting inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame.

As I looked at my list of ratings for all the Star Trek films until this point, I was surprised at how much I dug Nemesis. I had to ask myself a couple of times, 'do I really like it more than The Voyage Home and First Contact' and after thinking about it for a couple of days, it turns out that I do indeed. Out of the first ten Star Trek films, Star Trek X: Nemesis ranks as my second favorite right behind, The Wrath of Kahn, and my favorite featuring The Next Generation cast. You can see for yourself how it compares to the rest of the first ten films in my ratings below. Get psyched everyone, and please come back here soon because in a month we finally get to the JJ Abrams reboot films, and I think it is a safe bet that they are still fantastic watches.

Star Trek Film Ratings

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 5.5/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - 10/10
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - 7.5/10
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - 9/10
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - 6.5/10
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - 7.5/10
Star Trek VII: Generations - 8/10
Star Trek VIII: First Contact - 9/10
Star Trek IX: Insurrection - 8/10
Star Trek X: Nemesis - 9.5/10

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fight Club

The first rule of Fight Club is to write a blog about the 10th anniversary BluRay release on the film's 15th anniversary! Time flies, as I cannot believe it has already been 15 years since Fight Club (trailer) hit theaters in 1999 when I was a junior in high school. Needless to say, the film came out at an impressionable time for me and it made quite an impact. It was one of the first films I bought on DVD while I anxiously awaited the release of my first DVD player that was the PS2. When I got my first apartment shortly after high school, me and my roommate must have watched Fight Club for what seemed like once a month for the year we had the place. I have never watched it again until a few nights ago when I pulled out the anniversary BluRay out of the backlog box.

Fight Club is based on the cult hit book of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. I ended up tracking down the novel and went on to read a majority of Palahnuik's other books in the years since. Palahnuik writes a lot of gripping mystery/thrillers, so I was ecstatic to learn later on that the specialist for this genre in film, David Fincher was the director attached to Fight Club. Edward Norton plays Jack, a man struggling with insomnia until he starts joining support groups for other diseases he does not have as a way to fight the insomnia. He then has an ugly confrontation with Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) who also attends all of the groups, which winds up to Jack abandoning the support groups and starting his own called Fight Club with his new best buddy Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Things spin out of control wildly from there as Fight Club blows up across the country.

All these years later I still love Fight Club as much as I did in high school. It is only fitting that I re-watched this a couple weeks after I saw Fincher's latest film, Gone Girl. Fincher has a unique way he crafts his films by jumping around from scene to scene and catching me off guard when a film is taking place, and from which perspective, and the general timeline of the movie. This leads to picking up on little hints and clues on repeat viewings that usually go over my head initially. His style tends to lead to a grander sense of mystery where the film's big reveal or turning point make a far bigger impact on me than most others. In hindsight, I should have seen Fight Club's big reveal coming all along, and the film even kind of pokes at you for not being up to snuff on it too in a slight breaking of the fourth wall.

A few things I took away from the film all these years later is I love the general cinematography of Fight Club. It has a raw, gritty feel from beginning to end. I love the that a majority of the scenes are shot at night, and for whatever reason it is almost always raining. I think FOX went above and beyond making Tyler's dump of a house true to the book. The fights are appropriately bloody and gruesome compared to the average fight scenes in other flicks. Throughout the movie Jack and Tyler are constantly spouting out their words of wisdom as Fight Club grows, and it just blends in perfectly with the dark tone of the film.

I was a little bummed FOX did not go above and beyond for the BluRay release in terms of new extra features. When I traded in my old DVD release, I kept the collectible booklet that came with it because the BluRay did not have it, and its collection of interview quotes from the cast, crew and critics of the film is the closest thing I am going to get to a behind-the-scenes look on the film. All of the extras from the DVD release made their way to the BluRay, including a bunch of deleted/alternate scenes with commentary and I think Fight Club has the record for most versions of its own trailer it has on a home video release. Other than that there is a bunch of assorted b-roll footage taken between shots of the movie while parts of crew provide commentary on what it was like setting up specific scenes of the movie.

There are only two new extras to the BluRay, one is a sound mixer which allows you to make some unique audio mashups of certain scenes of the film, but I have never been a fan of these alternate angle features before and just avoided it all together. Flogging Fight Club is a fun ten minute excerpt of Fincher, Pitt and Norton accepting a meaningless Spike TV award of Fight Club being inducted into the 'guy movie hall of fame,' on the film's 10th anniversary. The host is a pre-psycho Mel Gibson. Fincher, Pitt and Norton have some fun accepting the award and take some harmless jabs at Spike TV for their unique award show. The big behind-the-scenes fan in me would have loved a grand making of special to be added to the extras, but unfortunately that booklet I kept from the DVD and the many commentaries will have to suffice instead.

The original four, yes four commentaries from the DVD make their way to the BluRay, but in a unique fashion. There is a new "Insomniac Mode" on the BluRay which displays a menu on the screen with all four commentary tracks available, and a little subject bar underneath each commentary track listing on what each commentary track is currently talking about. I watched the movie again and loved this feature as I jumped around a lot and it helped cover up random dead spots during the various commentaries. I remember originally listening to the Fincher, Pitt, Norton and Carter commentary, so this time I mostly listened to the track with just David Fincher and the track with Palahnuik and the screenplay writer, Jim Uhls. It is a great feature, and in the rare instance of other movies having more than two commentaries available I highly hope they take a page out of "Insomniac Mode."

As I alluded to in the intro, I originally saw Fight Club right when it came out way back when I was 16. The film hit at the right time for me to identify with its "fuck the system" mentality and to go to be your own person and stand up against bosses you have hated for years. So yeah, I may not have the most unbiased perspective of this film, which only makes me love this movie even more all these years later. I was worried I still had those rose colored glasses still on all these years later, but Fight Club still is as much of a great watch as it was 15 years ago.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

3
21 Jump Street
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Captain America: The First Avenger
Faster
Field of Dreams
The Fighter
Good Will Hunting
Ink
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
TMNT
Veronica Mars

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bobby "The Brain" Heenan

There has been a decent amount of buzz in online wrestling circles as of late that Paul Heyman's last two years of exquisite manager work for Brock Lesnar and CM Punk has propelled into the very top with one other man as the best wrestling manager of all time. That other individual is the subject of today's blog entry which is for the documentary WWE put out in 2010 simply titled Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (trailer).

I feel ashamed it has took me four years to get around to this since I purchased it shortly after its release, and secondly because the main documentary feature is only 55 minutes long, about a good half hour shorter than the average WWE documentary. Nonetheless, WWE managed to cram enough extras on here to make it a two disc set. I have always liked Bobby's manager work and despised him like most other kids I grew up with, but I was just a kid when he was wrapping it his best work in the federation years in the late 80s and early 90s and remember him as more of an announcer in the early years of RAW and on Nitro.

I have some pros and cons with the feature. It starts off well, telling of Bobby's origins growing up in Chicago and first breaking into the AWA for his near decade long run there through 1984. Other than some brief clips in past WWE documentaries I never saw much of Heenan's career in AWA so it was a nice treat to see WWE give an adequate amount of time featuring the highs of Bobby's career there. WWE tracked down former AWA allies and foes such as Greg Gagne, Baron Von Raske and Nick Bockwinkel to share some classic Bobby stories like the birth of the weasel suit and how hometown crowds were eager to rip into him whenever he sporadically stepped into the ring there.

A good chunk of the rest of the feature is on his decade run in the then-WWF through 1993. It covers the rise of Heenan's stable throughout the 80s that fans came to recognize as "Heenan's Family" and featured a lot of the top villains of the 80s such as Big John Studd, Mr. Perfect and Andre the Giant. A lot of attention is focused on him managing Andre in the main event of Wrestlemania III against Hulk Hogan. I completely forgot about The Bobby Heenan Show, which was Bobby's own late night talk show that consumed a half hour of the old Prime Time Wrestling show in the early 90s for a few months. Vince McMahon went on to say here it was "ahead of its time," and if you call a half hour of fat girl jokes ahead of its time I guess you are correct with WWE's logic because that is one of the pillars for the humor they use on their programming today. I am not kidding, for the whole duration of them highlighting The Bobby Heenan Show, it primarily consists of Heenan bullying and berating women of size.

To put things on a brighter note, they transition to show the awesome on screen chemistry between Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan from their time doing play-by-play and announcing on Prime Time Wrestling. The feature does a nice job covering Bobby doing mostly commentary for his last couple of years in the WWE until Gorilla got promoted to on screen WWE President and threw him out of the company, literally, on one of the last RAWs of 1993 in a classic RAW moment.

The feature does a disservice to Bobby's run in WCW. He made his debut there in February 1994, and was with the company until he was let go shortly before it was acquired by WWE in March of 2001. For the seven years he spent there he was mostly an announcer as he hung up his managing jacket by this point, but for his seven year run there the documentary only dedicates two minutes to it. I should not be surprised because WWE usually shortchanges stars in documentaries when it comes to covering WCW portions of their careers. These two minutes mostly featured Bobby's wife and daughter saying Bobby had a terrible time there and the company was unprofessional to him. I have no idea how WCW treated Bobby behind the scenes, but I do know that Bobby was not on the level there either with him being notorious for drinking during telecasts and being drunk by Nitro main events and jumping the gun on the call where Hulk Hogan made his legendary turn and joined the nWo in 1996.

Obviously those lows are not covered here, but I have seen WWE tastefully treat past controversies and lows in other wrestler's documentaries with class, but as the case is here, they decide to hide the lows and instead focus on the highs. I will give WWE the benefit of the doubt though in this circumstance, because Heenan has been fighting cancer for over a decade now. He was not interviewed for this DVD because by this point in 2010 the cancer treatments were taking a heavy toll on him, if you Google a recent picture of Bobby you can see for yourself, but I tip my hat to the man for sticking it to cancer since 2000. After covering his battle with cancer the documentary closes with his WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2004, and his peers closing with some kind words for him.

There are a boatload of extras on here. On the first disc is an hour worth of extra funny stories from his wife and daughter. There are also a couple of classic sketches in their entirety with Gorilla Monsoon, like the two showing off their pro golf tips with Sean Mooney and a riot of a sketch where the duo teamed up in Busch Gardens to search for, you guessed it, the Bushwackers. The second disc features five matches with Bobby Heenan, three of them being old school bouts from the AWA which were fun to watch with them being from a different time and era, along with him getting walloped by the Ultimate Warrior in one of his early WWE matches. WWE decided to include the entirety of the 1992 Royal Rumble match on here so we can witness the dynamic chemistry of Bobby and Gorilla on commentary for an hour, and the two are on top of their game here in easily one of the best Royal Rumbles yet where Ric Flair went the distance and wrestled for over an hour to emerged out of it as new WWF Champion. The extra features wrap up with Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund making their WWF returns at Wrestlemania X-7 in 2001 where they announce the infamous 'Gimmick Battle Royal' where the entrances are more entertaining and longer than the actual match itself!

Obviously I am at a crossroads on this DVD, on one hand it does a solid effort at covering his career through his WWF run, but as I stated above hides some nasty lows on Bobby's career, but for understandable reasons. If you do not mind avoiding the negatives and want more of a positive look at one of wrestling's all time best managers then WWE's Bobby "The Brain" Heenan gets the job done just fine. As for me, well, I'm a Paul Heyman guy.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29