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

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)
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
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
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