Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Best and Worst Films of 2013 Podcast


Just a quick heads up, I was part of a special one off podcast I did with my friends Matt and Jay for the best and worst films of 2013. We did the same thing last year as part of the podcast I use to run called On Tap, and was glad we finally got around to do a new one for the movies of 2013. Unfortunately, On Tap had its final episode shortly afterwards and the archives went offline several months later. With the old podcast server not around anymore, I tried to find someone to host this file to make it a quick and easy download for all, but unfortunately my luck is not that great. Thanks to Google Drive however, I can still email this file out as per requested, so if you are interested please shoot me a tweet @Gruel or email to with your email address and I will email you the file!

I know it is an extra hoop to jump through to get the file, but we put a lot of hard work into this episode, and we would love for you all to hear it! We go over a whopping four hours, and cover the top 10 movies of the year, the worst 5, give out several random awards and then ramble on the last hour about all the rest of the movies we saw that came out in 2013 to make sure each movie gets its due! Matt and Jay are insanely huge movie fans whose opinions I absolutely respect, no matter how many times our film verdicts butt heads. Jay is on a movie podcast I highly recommend checking out that covers all the latest news and reviews in Hollywood each and every week. Sorry for the extra long episode, but we have a few breaks in there which makes it perfect to listen to in chunks! Enjoy!​​

Monday, April 28, 2014

Seinfeld Final Season

Throughout my later high school years, I had a nightly habit of coming home after working my closing shift at Hardees, showering the layers of grease off me, and proceeding to unwind by watching the nightly syndicated reruns of Simpsons and Seinfeld off our local FOX station. It was probably the best hour of my day for a couple of years. Today I am covering the 9th and final season of Seinfeld which ran from 1997-98. It was one of the first television series I started to buy on DVD. I recall it took awhile for the first seasons to hit retail because fan demand was so high, but Sony Video wanted to do it right and finally came to terms to negotiate a deal with the Seinfeld cast and crew to bring them on board for a hefty amount of extra features on each season set.

For about the first seven seasons that hit DVD, I started watching them almost as soon as I procured them when they were released, usually an episode or two before bed and before I knew it I knocked out a season within a couple weeks. I stagnated on these last two seasons though as my DVD/BluRay backlog grew. A few years ago I finally knocked out season eight, and around early February I finally started picking away at the final season. When this final season was taking place in the late 90s was when I was finally starting to get reeled into the show after finally catching enough episodes here and there off syndication to where I was on board with the show. I remember all the hubbub over the much hyped final episode, and the mammoth disappointment on how it ended up being a far different episode than normal, and its bold ending where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer all end up in jail for a year for essentially being just rotten people all together.

I am going to pick an episode per each of the four disc set to give some quick thoughts about. Off disc one it has got to be "The Serenity Now." That show title is what George's father yells whenever his nerves get in a bunch to remain calm. Since seeing this episode I have consistently repeated the same phrase to remain sane at work! My favorite episode off disc two is "The Strike" which is a landmark episode for two reasons, one we finally discover Kramer's place of employment after all these years and two, it was the episode responsible for creating the Christmas inspired holiday, Festivus! The standout episode on disc three is "The Frogger" where George and Jerry rediscover the classic arcade game, Frogger at their old pizza hangout and proceed to pay homage to the game by recreating it in a classic scene to close out the episode!

I would be remiss not to give another nod to the final, hour long episode on disc four, where initial optimism for NBC picking up Jerry and George's formerly failed pitched sitcom Jerry leads up to all four of the Seinfeld gang winding up in jail. I really enjoyed the plot device used as a way to to see a lot of classic recurring characters make one last cameo before closing the book on the series. I am also going to give a shoutout to Elaine's on and off again boyfriend throughout this season, Puddy! He is probably my favorite of all the former partners of the Seinfeld cast, and watching Elaine and Puddy constantly quibble and break up and get back together too many times throughout the season was a riot to endure!

As I alluded to before, each season of Seinfeld is packed with extras. I watched every episode with the "Notes about Nothing" subtitles, which is a running factoid track about various show notes, and many explanations of the constant pop culture and history references the show is known for. About half the episodes have mini "Inside Look" documentaries, which are short two to five minute interviews with the cast and crew about their memories of certain episodes. Half of the shows also have commentaries from a wide range of the cast and crew of the show, and most episodes also have deleted scenes, including 15 minutes of scenes cut from the final episode because it went so long! Unique to this season set is the option to watch the episode "The Betrayal" in proper sequential order since it originally aired in reverse sequential order. I highly recommend checking out the half hour documentary, The Last Lap, which is all about the show coming to an end and reflecting on Seinfeld's legacy. Finally, also make sure to watch Scenes From the Roundtable, which is about 20 minutes of footage spliced up from a interview session with the core four actors of the show, and series' co-creator Larry David shot nearly a decade after the show was off the air. This is another all-star smattering of extras fitting for the final season.

I cannot slap myself enough for prolonging the final season of Seinfeld on DVD. It is hard to recommend television series on video because damn near everything is available on streaming nowadays, that and given almost any time of day you can usually find a random rerun of Seinfeld on cable. Looking online, I see on various online outlets selling the complete series set running anywhere from $75-100. I highly recommend it if you are a big fan of the show simply because of all the tremendous extras you get out of it. Each season always has a wealthy amount of deleted scenes, commentaries and Inside Looks, and almost every season has a unique, standout 30 to 60 minute long documentary, giving it far more value than just catching it on streaming or reruns. Why do you not own this!? Serenity Now!

Warrior Week on WWE Network

I have debated on how or if I am going to cover WWE Network on the blog. I still plan on covering at least one backlog wrestling video release from my collection each month, but I have been watching a decent amount of WWE's streaming Internet channel/app that launched in February. They have every single PPV from the history of WWE, WCW and ECW on demand. They also have a constantly growing library of classic episodes of RAW, WCCW and ECW Hardcore TV. I have not had too much time for the classics but have been keeping up with new episodes of WWE's minor league promotion, NXT and their other weekly show that usually has a standout match every week on Main Event. I also love their original series shows like WWE Countdown, which is pretty self explanatory but still well produced and worth checking out (make sure to watch Best Bluders!), and Wrestlemania Rewind, which is a mini documentary about a classic Wrestlemania match, and proceeds to show the match in its entirety.

So yeah, I have had my hands full with the network since it launched. But they did a special programming week last week to honor the Ultimate Warrior when he suddenly passed away, just three days after getting inducted into their hall of fame. They aired several specials on him throughout the week to celebrate his career. While the Warrior has been quite outspoken and made quite outrageous remarks this last decade in various public forums, these specials primarily focus about his career in the ring, not outside of it.

I was never a hardcore Ultimate Warrior fan. I always rooted for lesser popular wrestlers, and my favorite wrestler back then was The Big Boss Man. I proudly wore my Big Boss Man sneakers to school and adored my action figure of him. I remember during my elementary school days, there was always a vocal group of Hulk Hogan fans, and another usually louder group of Ultimate Warrior fans. I get why kids dug the Warrior back then. He screamed all types of crazy nonsense in his promos, and the only words I made out of them were "rocket ship" and of course kids like rocket ships! He sported the neon tassels and the neon face paint he was decked out in were hip at the time, and he had a catchy metal entrance song that he did his trademark bum rush to the ring with, so yeah he was loaded with charisma and fans ate it up for a couple years. I guess I just was not drinking the Warrior kool-aid back then. I do remember enjoying his matches at Wrestlemania VI & VII quite a bit. Those were probably my only really good memories of him, but watching these specials on WWE Network was kind of a nice way to reflect back on the highs and lows of his career, and a good way to erase the stench from that hate-filled DVD WWE put out about him in 2005.

The first special I watched was a Wrestlemania Rewind focusing on his classic match with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. I remember originally watching this when I was six or seven and thinking it was the best match of all time, leagues better from what I was use to getting from these two at the time. Nearly 25 years later, and this match still holds up nicely! It is certainly no technical mat classic, but the crowd is electric, and totally invested throughout and the match tells a great story from beginning to end, and is landmark in a way because it was the first and one of the few times we ever saw Hulk Hogan in his Hulkamania days lose cleanly in the middle of the ring.

Another series of shows on WWE Network is Legends of Wrestling that originally started on WWE's 24/7 on demand channel from several years ago where five random past legends will gather and talk shop and smoke cigars. They are fun to watch as the wrestlers usually let loose and talk openly about the business in a way you do not usually see on most WWE television. They still periodically make these, and have a lot of past installments up on the WWE Network, and they released a new one about Ultimate Warrior featuring Booker T, Sgt. Slaughter, Ted Dibiase and was moderated by Josh Matthews. You can tell almost everyone on the panel was pretty reserved about Warrior's career and tried not to praise him too much while mostly dancing around the stuff that earned him his controversial reputation. There are a few interesting anecdotes shared about the Warrior here, and a few genuine moments where you can tell the wrestlers feel terrible about losing another one of their brothers at an early age, but a part of me could not help but tell one or two of these guys did not want to be on this panel.

Up next is a hour of random matches taken from the recently released, Ultimate Collection that hit DVD and BluRay last month. It features several Warrior matches, and new to this added in on the WWE Network are brief testimonials from about a dozen past and present WWE superstars in between matches paying homage to Warrior's career. There is not a lot to Warrior matches, but the selection here was entertaining to watch for the most part as it features an early squash match against Barry Horowitz, a good match in his longtime feud against Rick Rude, a surprisingly good bout from Japan against Ted Dibiase, and an entertaining debacle against Andre the Giant from Saturday Night's Main Event.

The final special was a hour long documentary about the career of the Warrior, with the backdrop being Wrestlemania XXX weekend from last month. This is kind of a noteworthy feature as we get interviews from Sting for the first time ever on WWE television. Sting teamed with Warrior in his early days in his career and has lots to share about him, as do many others as the documentary quickly goes through his career, while mixing in current day clips of him interacting backstage with the current stars of the roster and legends he met again behind the scenes during Wrestlemania XXX weekend. This documentary portrays Warrior's in ring career in a much more positive light than the 2005 DVD, and while it occasionally touches on his in ring weaknesses and his career controversies, it is not the feature length theme this time around. This special is quite well made, and if you can somehow manage to just focus on his career and not his outrageous, hurtful comments he made this past 10 to 15 years outside of the ring, than this is a good, heartfelt watch and a touching tribute on his career on WWE's part.

Part of me wishes WWE did acknowledge that Warrior was, well, kind of bonkers in his public forum comments, but WWE seemed driven to keep these specials focusing on his wrestling career. For what it is worth, I did get the feeling that Wrestlemania XXX weekend was going to be the first step of quite a few that was a rebuilding process in Warrior's career, which I was hoping would lead to some kind of apology from him and learning from his outlandish ramblings throughout the 2000s. I will echo what some superstars said on this commentary and it seemed like Warrior was at peace with himself, or at least in the early stages of burying the hatchet and trying to seek redemption from his controversial in and out of the ring actions. I have no idea how long these specials will be on the WWE Network, or if they plan on putting them on some kind of rotation, but I hope they do release all four of these as some kind of home video compilation as it was a fond way to remember the good he brought to the industry.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Legends of Mid South Wrestling
RoH Supercard of Honor V
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

There has always been much loose talk amongst friends and in pop culture throughout the years over landmark moments in the original Star Wars films. Not so much for the original ten Star Trek films. Every now and again I have some faint memories of two that come to mind right away. One is how awesome The Wrath of Kahn is, and two, how they managed on making whales the primary focus of today's Trek movie I will be blogging about - Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (trailer).

For those non hardcore Trek fans like myself, you could not help but be taken aback a little bit if you were told Paramount made one of the Star Trek films with no real antagonist, and focused the movie around time traveling to then modern day 1986 in order to bring two hump back whales with them in order to save Earth in the 23rd century. This sounds absolutely absurd on paper, but watching it unfold is far better than it sounds.

Leonard Nimoy returns to helm the director's chair again in this final three part movie arc that ties Star Trek II-IV together. This takes place three months after The Search for Spock where the Enterprise crew is still on the planet Vulcan, finishing repairs to the Klingon ship they procured in the last film. They were originally going to head back so Kirk (William Shatner) could have the crew stand trial for all those darn orders they disobeyed in the previous movie, but the craziest things transpire that prevent them to do so.

A mysterious alien probe is making its way to Earth and is neutralizing all ships that cross its path and it is gradually vaporizing Earth's oceans and resources as it sends out a mysterious distress signal. Spock (Nimoy) naturally decrypts the signal as a call for the humpback whale, and the fact that the whale is not responding is causing the probe to sap the life out of Earth. No humpback whale is responding because the species is extinct in the 23rd century. Spock deduces they must time travel back to when whales were last on Earth, which was conveniently when this movie came out in 1986, in order to bring a pair of whales back to the 23rd century to answer this strange distress call and get this crazy powerful and diabolical, whale crafted alien probe off Earth's atmosphere!

How the hell does time travel work in Star Trek, and how the hell are they going to fit two whales and countless tons of water on this Klingon vessel? I am not going to give it all away, and the random lines of dialogue and scenes that transpire and lead to the resolution of this dilemma are a hoot the way they play out! Best of all, it actually works! I was able to somehow stay invested with this ridiculous sounding plot, and be able to suspend my disbelief the way the movie played out and gave justifications for all the questions that plot devices like time travel, and, um, alien whale probes, usually bring to the table.

While the first three Star Trek pictures have their moments of comedic relief they are all rather serious sci-fi flicks at their core. The Voyage Home is easily the most light hearted Trek film I have seen so far, yet it manages to retain its sense of urgency at rising above the conflict throughout. Part of the reason for this movie being such a simply fun experience is watching the 23rd century Enterprise crew mix in with 1986 San Francisco. Sulu (George Takei) had a delivery of a line that unintentionally had me in stitches as they approached their landing! Watching Kirk try to explain to the crew to swear more and use more "colorful" metaphors because that was what the people did of the time cracked me up. To cover up for people going gaga over Spock's ears, he just ripped off a part of his robe and used it as a makeshift headband to cover them up, and the natives of San Francisco were none the wiser.

I do not have too many gripes with The Voyage Home, other than a few quibbles. It was disappointing to see Saavik (Robin Curtis) have only a small role in one scene at the beginning of the movie and just disappear afterwards. This was explained however in one of the behind the scenes interviews in the extra features to my relief that this is intentional since she has a bigger role in the next film. I was a little confused why no one in San Francisco questioned their futuristic wardrobe, but I am on board with Nimoy after hearing him in the commentary mention there were so many "outlandish" fashion styles in the world at that time in their location tests that they thought the 23rd century fashion would blend right in. There are also a few too convenient scene transitions, for example there is one point the crew discovers they need to go to a hospital, and in the very next shot a second or two later, they are walking in the hospital hallways in full on scrubs stealth mode. Finally, the uniforms at this point are starting to get cluttered and distracting with too much insignia and ribbons. The first Trek film had none of it, and my memories of the various television shows are of the uniforms on them having a lot less clutter. Again, these are all small qualms in the grand scheme of things and I enjoyed The Voyage Home from very much so from start to finish.

Like the prior Star Trek BluRays, this one is loaded with previously released extra features in standard definition, and a few new ones in high def too. There are two commentary tracks, with the original DVD release from Nimoy and Shatner and a new one with two writers from the modern, reboot Star Trek films, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. I listened to about 15 minutes from each track and found Nimoy and Shatner's track more insightful with them reflecting back from tales on location and Nimoy having more to say from directing this. Orci and Kurtzman are a little too relaxed and have long bouts of silence from the segment I watched as they seem to be more into watching this than providing commentary.

There are eight original SD behind the scenes features combining for nearly an hour and a half. Not all of them are must see viewing, but I do highly recommend checking out Future's Past, a 27 minute feature on the making of the film. It highlights behind the scenes struggles on how Shatner fought against doing a movie on time travel, and how they brought Wrath of Kahn director Nick Meyer back to assist on the screenplay and many more interesting tidbits on what it took to get The Voyage Home made. Two other much shorter watches worth checking out are Vulcan Premiere that goes pretty in depth on the Vulcan history of the movies and television shows, and Kirk's Women, which interviews many of Kirk's romantic interests from past movies and television episodes. There are four new high def features totaling for just under a half hour. I only recommend watching Pavel Chekov's Screen Moments and Three Picture Saga, with the former interviewing Walter Koenig who is embracing the fact that Chekov is the klutz comic relief of the franchise, and the latter explaining how important Star Trek II-IV played out as a trilogy and how they all are perfectly linked together.

Leonard Nimoy did a much better job with his second stint at directing. He somehow managed to make this zany plot work and had me glued in throughout, all while being the most care free and lighthearted plots of the Star Trek movies I have seen thus far. If you ever wonder how the Enterprise crew would come to grips in our current times, than this is definitely worth going out of your way since they absolutely nail that vibe here. Without giving them away, I have a good feeling this film will be the most quotable for me of the entire franchise. As you can see from my ratings below, this managed to redeem itself a bit from The Search for Spock, but I still rank it just under The Wrath of Kahn since that one was damn near perfect. I feel a little guilty I stretched this three movie arc to last two months, since I highly recommend watching all three back to back instead.

Star Trek Film Ratings

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 6/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - 10/10
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - 8/10
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - 9/10

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Fighter

About a little over a year and a half ago, my friend Matt and I made this awful sort of dual challenge to make each watch movies we both detest. Matt knew I did not mind the first Transformers film, but loathed the sequel so much that I boycotted the third film. I knew Matt absolutely hates Mark Wahlberg AND sports movies. So we ended up compromising to where I would agree to watch all three Transformers movies, and the three Mark Wahlberg films I picked out for him to watch were Ted, Invincible and finishing it off with the movie I am blogging about today, The Fighter (trailer).

It took us nearly two years to finish this because we kept delaying our inevitable suffering, but last week we finally finished this challenge when I dug The Fighter out of my movie backlog box. I actually think Matt ended up not minding all three awesome Wahlberg films I picked out, but it was stomach wrenching to suffer through the second Transformers all over again, but boy was I in for a deal of hurt because somehow, someway Dark of the Moon managed to be even worse. If you have still managed to boycott the last two Transformers films, I will spare you the agony and encourage you to check out the following two clips which consist of the only entertaining 17 seconds out of Revenge of the Fallen and well, I searched and could not find the clip on youtube, but rest assured there is about another clip of equal length that was the only thing that got a mild chuckle out of me for Dark of the Moon.

Awesome preface out of the way, now onto The Fighter! This is based on the true story of the boxing brothers, Mickey & Dickey Ecklund, circa 1992. Dickey (Christian Bale) is a crack addict, clinching onto his only claim to fame in the ring of knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard and making sure everyone in their hometown of Lowell hears about it! He has an HBO film crew following him and his brother Mickey (Mark Wahlberg) around, who is preparing for his next fight while Dickey thinks he has a comeback in him. Mickey trains with Dickey, and is managed by his feisty mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), who is constantly marched around with her entourage of several intimidating daughters. When Mickey's new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) has Mickey realize his family is sending his career down the gutter, it forces Mickey to make some now or never decisions to get his career on the right path to chase that championship gold his brother could never taste.

First thing I have to say is man, did they nail the casting for this film. It may appear a little odd on paper to have Hollwood mega star Christian Bale play support to Mark Wahlberg, but Bale masterfully plays the crack addict, while Mark does his thing as the calmer, more laid back brother. I found it entertaining in the behind the scenes extra feature that Ecklund's real life family said Bale got Dickey's real life mannerisms and idiosyncrasies down to a T that upon glancing at Bale from a distance on the set that they would constantly mix Bale up for the real Dickey! Bale definitely earned his best supporting actor Oscar award here! As did Melissa Leo for her portrayal of the hard nosed mom, Alice. Amy Adams and Wahlberg unfortunately did not win Oscars, but Amy got nominated for one, and Mark got a Golden Globe nomination too.

This film is perfectly paced and never lingers at any scene. I love how the story unfolds as Mickey realizes his family is doing his career no good, and he comes to grip with the tough choices he has to make to finally get his life on track. The same goes for the character of Dickey too as he finally has to pay the piper for his demons, while he and Alice constantly try to get Mickey to remain loyal to the family. This was the first film I can recall being exposed to Amy Adams, who has since become my favorite actress after first seeing her in this and other standout roles since like Trouble With the Curve, Man of Steel and American Hustle. I am also a fan of how this film borrows a page out of Rocky Balboa and went with authentic HBO quality cameras for the cinematography of the fight scenes. It went a long way to get the most out of the final fight scene.

There is a decent smattering of extra features here. First is 17 minutes of deleted scenes, which I highly recommend watching with director's commentary where director David Russell only has a few brief, not-so-insightful comments on a handful of scenes that are amusingly blunt like, "Yeah, this went too long." David Russell also provides a solo commentary track which I checked out during the final scenes, and it is too bad he could not get any of the cast and crew with him to bounce thoughts off of because he does not have too much to say for the briefs parts I observed. There is two behind the scenes features I both highly recommend checking out. One is a brief, eight minute series of interviews with the real life family and friends of the Ecklund family, and the other is a half hour making of titled Warrior's Code which covers a lot of ground. It is here I found out this film was Wahlberg's passion project and it took him a few years to get this movie green lit. There are a bunch of the other really fascinating behind the scenes tidbits here I do not want to spoil so definitely make sure to watch it!

The Fighter ranked among my favorites of 2010. I am usually a pretty big Mark Wahlberg fan, but as much as I hate to admit it he has been in kind of a slump these last several years, with his only standout performances during this time occurring in Ted and The Fighter in my opinion, and I do not like what the future has in store for him either. Imagine the irony to Matt and I when we found out midway through our movie challenge that Mark Wahlberg is the new lead starring protagonist in the fourth Transformers movie coming out this summer. We got ourselves to blame for that one!

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

21 Jump Street
Captain America: The First Avenger

Saturday, April 12, 2014

21 Jump Street

Remember several blogs back when I covered Wrestlemania XVIII? I made the trek down to Miami just over two years ago to meet up with my friend Alex. My flight arrived a bit later in the evening, so after grabbing a bite, we checked the listing of a nearby super-duper plex to see what was playing and reluctantly went to see the film this blog is about today, 21 Jump Street (trailer).

I have never seen any of the original tv series' episodes that was the launch pad for Johnny Depp. I was aware of the series, and it seemed like it could be potentially interesting, but it was just never on my must see list. I can say the same for this film, with the only reason going to see it was because it was one of the few movies that had a last showing in the night I was semi-interested in. The two main stars of the film were a big reason I went in fairly skeptical. In 2012, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum seemed like flash in the pan actors trying to stretch out their final waves of stardom. I guess I will say now in the past two years both actors have managed to stay relevant enough that it appears they will be in the Hollywood limelight for years to come, for better or worse.

Enough prefacing, if you were not familiar with the tv series from the 80s, 21 Jump Street is a remake of that concept, where Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) start off in a late 90s/early 00s flashback as high school rivals. Jenko is the predictable jock who bullies on Schmidt, who has an Eminem tribute bleach hair job and a SICK necklace. Fast forward several years and the two meet in the police academy and become BFFs. Upon graduating they screw up their first bust in epic fashion and are given orders from their new chief (Ice T) to go undercover in high school to try and stop an underground synthetic drug ring.

I think part of the reason this movie won me over was I never got the feeling that Hill and Tatum went into this as Hollywood big shots, and the film portrayed both of them as gigantic dorks riffing on each other throughout. Things just clicked right for me, and I could not help but chuckle as the two mistake their covers and Jenko actually gets along with chemist geeks he is assigned with and embraces all kinds of unique science experiments while Schmidt somehow finds a way to fit in with the cool kids to become the dream slim shady jock he always wanted to be. Naturally, not everything goes according to plan, and things get legitimately interesting when conflict presents itself later on. I was also a fan of some of the little gags they had running throughout the film, where Jenko and Schmidt consistently fail at dealing out huge explosions in the most likely of scenarios, and the way they portray people tripping out on synthetic drugs.

I cannot comment too much on the extra features on this film because I picked up the DVD when I caught it on sale one week, and it is pretty slim pickings here when it comes to extras as Sony has a habit of packing their BluRay releases with more extras instead. That said, I was still surprised to find several minutes of deleted scenes, and another several minute in length feature that is filled half with random behind-the-scenes shots of the craziness that transpires on location, and a few sparse interview clips with the cast and crew.

When I popped this in again a few days ago with a couple friends over who both had not seen it, I knew it would be the ultimate test. One of these friends absolutely detested Tatum, but by the end while I would say the film probably did not completely win them over, both friends seemed to enjoy it more than they thought they would. I am going to say again this is most likely because 21 Jump Street portrays both Tatum and Hill as complete idiot losers after seeing them plastered all over Hollywood in the few years preceding. I guess I could not help but take solace in seeing the two make fools of each other through this as a result. Not all the jokes and bits hit big here, but enough of them do that I give this a hearty thumbs up, and yes I will probably be there on opening weekend when the sequel, 22 Jump Street hits later this year.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

Captain America: The First Avenger

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wrestlemania 29

With just a few days to spare, I managed to wrap up the two disc BluRay combo of the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony, and Wrestlemania 29 (WM29). Yes, WWE went with an actual number this time, usually they roll with roman numerals, or sometimes even a hybrid of the two in the case of X7 and X8, but every now and again they will give the roman numerals a hell no and give them a proper number like with Wrestlemanias 2, 13, 21-23 and 25.

Random 'Mania factoids now aside, let us kick things off the day before WM29 and cover the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony. I really loved the quality of most of the induction and acceptance speeches from last year's ceremony, but WWE pulled out all the stops and easily had the best all around induction class since they brought back the Hall of Fame nearly a decade ago. WWE usually unveils a new Hall of Fame inductee every couple of weeks on RAW at the beginning of the year leading up to WrestleMania, and with each new inductee unveiled I kept thinking there was no way they could top themselves, but with the ceremony taking place in the grandest arena in the country that is Madison Square Garden, I imagine WWE wanted to go all out in their old territorial stomping grounds.

Five of the six inductees are major former world champions. The exception is their celebrity inductee with Donald Trump, who played a major role in three prior 'Manias. The fans booed him righteously, but Trump amusingly embraced the boos and knew how to play off it well. Mick Foley would have headlined any other hall of fame class, but he is the opener here, and the hardcore legend does not disappoint delivering one last awesome promo in the form of his acceptance speech. Trish Stratus has been my all time favorite WWE Diva, and I was thrilled to see her get inducted, and it was just too bad the rowdy hardcore WWE fans had to boo the shit out of her husband when she gave him props. Make sure to pause the screen when Trish unravels a huge scroll at the podium to catch all the names of the people she thanks that she did not have time for in person. Stevie Ray made his first ever WWE television appearance to induct his brother, Booker T into the Hall of Fame. Stevie gave us some classic Bookerman stories, and Booker T made sure to send us home happy with a Hall of Fame calibur spin-a-rooni!

The WWE universe can be unbelievably crass sometimes at these ceremonies, I felt horrible for Bob Backlund's inductor, Maria Menounos from E network who is a real life friend of Bob's and in the midst of her heartfelt speech the fans started to just go wild with cat calls and boos. Maria did not even acknowledge them like a pro, but it is moments like these that make me ashamed to be a wrestling fan. Bob Backlund gave the crowd hell in an acceptance speech that was all over the place! Backland was his trademark spontaneous self randomly going from humble and accepting to belligerent on the flip of dime. He could of went all night to my delight, and it was too bad Vince McMahon had to go out there and give him a wrap up cue. The man, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself came out to induct the longest reigning WWE champion ever, Bruno Sammartino. It was only fitting the man who sold out Madison Square Garden well over 100 times return to it one more time for his induction into the Hall of Fame. For newer fans unaware, Bruno was THE guy and was WWE's champion throughout a majority of the 1960s and 70s. For being nearly 80, the man was in tremendous health and looked great and gave us a main event worthy acceptance speech covering the highs and lows of his life. I did not think they could top the previous year's ceremony, but WWE somehow manage to improve on it exponentially so with easily their best all around class yet.

I went on forever about the hall of fame, so I am going to try and breeze through WM29's undercard to somewhat condense this blog. The WM29 preshow match is included as an extra feature, and it had The Miz winning the Intercontinental title from Wade Barrett in a fairly by the numbers match. It is too bad the preshow was an hour long and they could only give this match about six or seven minutes. Onto the PPV card, which kicked off with The Shield defeating the trio of Randy Orton, Sheamus and The Big Show. This six man tag told a great story back when The Shield were still in their unstoppable phase and had them taking advantage of Orton, Sheamus and Big Show having too much of a combined ego to coexist. I recall being surprised and thrilled to see my man, Mark Henry finally have a Wrestlemania moment and cleanly defeat Ryback. It was sublime to experience it again, even if the match was not all that great.

WM29 took place near the end of a long reign of Kane & Daniel Bryan's (Team Hell No) dominance of the tag division as they successfully defended their tag titles against Dolph Ziggler & Big E Langston. I forgot Kane was wearing a mask again at this point, much like I usually lose track of all his face/heel turns over the years. The former Johnny Curtis, made his WWE in ring debut as Fandango with a surprising win against Chris Jericho in a fairly solid match up. Minus the fans loving his theme music for a few weeks after this, it is too bad Fandango never really took off since he has been floundering in the lower mid card within a couple months after this. Remember Alberto Del Rio's godawful run as a good guy last year? WWE was in the middle of it as his painful reign as World Champion when he managed to fend off the returning Jack Swagger in his title defense in a fairly decent match that suffered from a horrible hype program building up to it. I enjoyed Brock Lesnar and Triple H beating the tar out of each other in a No Holds Barred match that featured great diversity among weaponry used and many intense moments throughout.

WWE had another awful program leading up to Undertaker defending his undefeated streak against CM Punk. It started off painfully unoriginal, with four guys all randomly throwing their hats in the ring to face 'Taker at 'Mania, so the RAW GM just threw them in a Fatal 4 Way to determine who faces 'Taker. Yup. Then shortly thereafter, Undertaker's longtime old manager, Paul Bearer passes away, so WWE decides to make this the focus of their rivalry with CM Punk, you guessed it, stealing the urn with Paul Bearer's ashes and dumping them out over a prone Undertaker. Not even CM Punk and his then manager Paul Heyman's trademark killer promos could save this storyline from being a horrible exploit of a real world death. Gut wrenching storyline aside, the two did step up and deliver another Wrestlemania Streak classic that saw all kinds of close near falls and great exchanges that had the crowd completely invested by the end.

For the main event, we discover WWE is full of lies in the billing of last year's main event being "Once in a Lifetime" as WM29 headlined with The Rock vs. John Cena in a rematch from last year. At the Royal Rumble two months prior, The Rock returned and won the WWE title from CM Punk, and later on that night John Cena won the Royal Rumble to earn a title match against The Great One at WM29. For the WM28 blog I harped on The Rock for not showing up in ring shape, and needing too many rest holds to recuperate. We got a repeat performance here, though I am a little more forgiving this time around because The Rock tore an abdominal muscle relatively early on in the match, and the fact he roughed it out for about another 15 minutes of action afterwards for a fraction of the pay of one of his Hollywood blockbusters says a lot about the man's commitment to the WWE. The match itself was about on par with last year's, but the crowd had absolutely no interest in the first half of the match until Rock and Cena started dishing out near falls and kicking out of each other's signature moves for the last half of the bout. There was actually one near fall that got me good and I wish was the real finish in hindsight because it played off last year's match so well with Cena attempting a People's Elbow that failed for him last year and him learning from his mistake this time around and the two absolutely nailed the spot and it provided THE moment of the match for me. If it would have ended there I would give this bout the nod as being the better match, but they relied on their finishers a bit too much here and WM28's contest had a wee better flow from beginning to end. Cena got redemption with victory in the end to close out the show, and it only seemed fitting too. I do not see a rubber match in the long run especially since The Rock suffered a legit injury in this match and Hollywood gave him a ton of flak for it as a result.

The extra features are among the same fare that WM28 has. Aside from the aforementioned preshow match, there are a few bonus segments from RAW featuring key promos from the Punk/Taker, Brock/HHH and Rock/Cena rivalries. There is also a post game show at MetLife stadium featuring Scott Stanford, Kofi Kingston and Dusty Rhodes giving their thoughts on all the matches, and interspersed with brief interviews from some of the wrestlers after the match. I actually enjoyed this and WWE has been making pre and post game shows a regular thing for RAW, Smackdown and PPVs since they launched the WWE Network in February.

Overall, another great Wrestlemania release from WWE. It is worth it for the 2013 Hall of Fame Ceremony alone. Wrestlemania 29 had a great spectacle look with a killer set and production values at MetLife stadium, but the show suffered with about 20-25 minutes of rah rah WWE vignettes featuring the publicly traded company toot their own horn about their charity work throughout the show. They could have easily combined all these segments into one for the same effect, but it was overkill here and it took away from the show. Compared to WM28 which featured a better undercard, slightly better Undertaker match and a superior Rock/Cena encounter, and I can easily recommend that show over this one. However, the 'Mania completionist in me says to buy this anyways for the Hall of Fame, the crazy Brock/Hunter brawl and see the Undertaker defend his streak in another classic match.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Legends of Mid South Wrestling
RoH Supercard of Honor V
WWE Wrestlemania 28