Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Take Me Home Tonight

I finally got around to digging out one of my guilty pleasure favorites out of my movie backlog box. I was a little trepid going in if it would hold up or not knowing that it bombed at the box office, and was not a critical darling by any means. It is not a five star comedy, but 2011’s Take Me Home Tonight (trailer) still had me cracking up as much as it did when it first hit nearly five years ago.

TMHT is a throwback coming-of-age comedy set in the mid-80s. Matt (Topher Grace) and Wendy (Anna Faris) are twins both facing major life changing moments on the same night. Wendy is about to move in with her boyfriend, Kyle (Chris Pratt) while Matt is struggling getting his ducks in a row after finishing college until he bumps into his high school crush, Tori (Teresa Palmer). Throw in Barry (Dan Fogler) as the stereotypical dumb-friend for comic relief, and you get a formula for a crazy night when everything comes to a head at Kyle’s annual mega party.

If you love retro films going over the top with the tropes of the times, then you are in for a ride with TMHT. All the pop hits of the 80s are featured nonstop throughout the soundtrack along with all the trademark fashion, hairstyles, cars, lingo and even stores since Matt works at a Suncoast video at the mall. Remember Suncoast and their ridiculously overpriced movies? It is probably best you do not. Not since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and The Wedding Singer have I been so nostalgic for the 80s, and a big thing TMHT has going for it is experiencing that wild era.

Like another comedy I recently covered, Dirty Work, TMHT is a fairly predictable comedy that is all about the journey. You can almost anticipate how every scene is about to play out, but for whatever reason the dialogue had me cracking up for the most part and a lot of the jokes worked. Some of my favorite scenes were Matt conjuring up a great cover story to hide his real place of employment to impress Tori, and Barry competing in a dance off while on a cocaine trip.

The use of cocaine in a comedy film is why Universal sat on this picture for so long. The film was finished in 2007, but Universal held off releasing it until 2011. Topher Grace and TMHT’s writers, Jackie & Jeff Filgo were fresh off of That 70s Show when TMHT went into production. Chris Pratt was a couple years away from entering the public mainstream on the hit show, Parks and Rec, and well before his recent blockbuster films Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy when he portrayed the stuck-up jock in TMHT.

It is too bad there is only one real extra feature that really shows the gap in release, and that is a brief, eight minute Cast Get Together extra where the five main stars meet up four years later and reminisce about auditioning and share random production stories. There are 11 minutes of deleted scenes I actually recommend checking out. A couple scenes are unnecessary early plot setup scenes, but there is a must-see deleted scene on how Barry handles getting fired from his car salesman job early in the film, and another with my favorite supporting character of the film, Carlos, as he just kills it with some fantastic ad-libbing with Matt. A music video featuring a cover of Don’t You Want Me rounds off the extras for the DVD. The crazy gap in the release leaves a desirable story to be told, and I would have loved an audio commentary track or a more in-depth behind-the-scenes feature telling that story. Someone track down director, Michael Dowse, stat!

If you are a fan of comedy period pieces like American Graffitti, Wedding Singer or Dazed and Confused then it is a safe bet to take a chance on Take Me Home Tonight. It more than likely went under your radar based on its theatrical and critical performance, but this is an ideal popcorn film to sit down with friends and your favorite beverages on a movie marathon night.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
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
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ECW Unreleased: Vol. 3

Welcome to my third entry covering WWE Home Video’s ECW Unreleased line, if you did not read my previous entries here are a couple links for my entries covering volumes one and two . WWE took a year off in 2014, but came back in 2015 with another collection of matches from the Philadelphia-based promotion that laid the groundwork for the Attitude Era of the WWE. Without further ado, let us dive into ECW Unreleased: Vol. 3 (trailer).

Vol. 2 saw Joey Styles return to hosting duties every few matches, but he was accompanied by special guest and ECW legend, Tommy Dreamer. For Vol. 3 the WWE Home Video studios gets invaded by the bWo (the Blue World Order, which was ECW’s satirical take on WCW’s nWo), or at least two of them anyways with Stevie Richards and Blue Meanie serving as our special guest hosts with Joey. No idea where the other primary bWo member, Nova was and why he could not be here, but we do get a reference to Nova’s WWE personality, Simon Dean, and even the bWo cameraman, 7-11, makes a very brief cameo. The bWo are a fun addition to the hosting team, and it was fun watching them do little bits with Joey such as a failed bWo spray paint job, and also provide legit insight on ECW’s past.

Vol. 3 has a whopping 28 matches (five of which are exclusive to BluRay). I went in under the pretense that WWE would be scraping the bottom of the barrel since this is their sixth ECW branded release. I thought that among the previously unreleased matches being featured here there would only be a couple of gems surrounded by a lot skip-worthy content. I could not have been more wrong.

This volume does not feature a ton of pre-extreme ECW content, with only one match being from the Eastern-era of ECW which was a so-so tag title match with Tommy Dreamer and Shane Douglas against Taz and Kevin Sullivan. This bout was only worth watching to see Douglas immediately turn on Dreamer upon tagging in and costing him the tag titles. Speaking of the Dean, if you recall from my previous ECW Unreleased entries, Vol 3 keeps up the tradition of featuring at least two singles title matches featuring Mr. Douglas, and guess what we get three of them for Vol 3! The first is a brief 1995 encounter with….Ron Simmons!? DAMN, I had no idea Simmons wrestled in ECW, and I presumed he must have had a brief pit stop there before he landed in the then-WWF in 1996. There are two far better matches on here with Shane going to war over the TV title against Chris Jericho and another against Bam Bam Bigelow. I was surprised to see Douglas keep up move-for-move with Jericho in a bout filled with many near falls, and his TV Title match against Bigelow on here is far better than their slow, plodding match for the World Title that was featured in Vol. 1.

I was surprised to see WWE dig up another Jericho match from his brief run in ECW, and they were able to unearth two additional Dean Malenko matches from his short ECW run. Here he squares off against Scorpio for the TV title in a really good match featuring a lot of great mat wrestling and high-flying. Later on in this collection, these opponents would team up and tag against Eddie Guerrero and Taz in a very good traditional tag rules match that went against the ECW norm of weapons getting involved. As a matter of fact, there are a ton of awesome tag team match ups on here. A polar opposite of the traditional rules tag match featuring Eddie & Dean was a very hardcore affair with the Public Enemy squaring off against Sabu & Taz that had tons of blood, weapons and hardcore brawling all over the arena.

I want to run down the rest of the awesome tag matches on here! A rare 911 match got dug up as he teams up with Mr. 619, Rey Mysterio, against the Eliminators (back when Saturn rocked a mean mullet!). The finale of this match up features a bizarre, must-see tag team-jousting affair of sorts that I was surprised they pulled off, and not surprised to see another match attempt again since. The Dudleyz love to talk up the number of tag team titles they won over the year, and here you can see them win their first tag team championship in a great match against the Eliminators that features a hybrid of good traditional tag wrestling, combined with ECW’s signature hardcore style. Later on you also see the Dudleyz win and lose their final ECW Tag Titles in their last night in the company in 1999.

Did you know Dusty Rhodes had a short run in ECW? Relive it here when he tags with Dreamer against Steve Corino & Rhino in an entertaining hardcore brawl. In the BluRay extras you can skip the Eliminators match against Terry Gordy and Steve Williams. As excited as I was to see some old school NWA representation in ECW, Gordy was just too over the hill by this point and felt several steps behind everyone else in the match. However, the BluRay exclusive featuring Tanaka & Jerry Lynn against Mike Awesome & Justin Credible makes up for it with a ton of high impact, high energy moves from Awesome and Tanaka as they steal the show in this match.

Mick Foley fans get some love in this installment with three Cactus Jack matchups. The first is a ‘Olympic Rules’ match against Sabu, which was a riot to watch as Foley hilariously fails at attempting an amateur-rules match against Sabu. The second match is a rather short, forgettable match against Bam Bam Bigelow that only seemed included to show off the stellar Fargo strut Jack participated in with the bWo before the match. To make up for it, there is an awesome Raven/Cactus Jack promo immediately following it, and one more match I will touch on later. Taz gets some love in Vol. 3 with him emerging victorious in a couple solid matches against Rob Van Dam and a debuting Tajiri.

Other random matches worth mentioning is a really good bout featuring tag partners face off against each other with Chris Candido and Lance Storm keeping up with each other in another entertaining high-gear matchup. You can relive Stevie Richards’ brief run in the ECW Main Event when he won a three way dance against Sandman and Raven to face Terry Funk for the World Title. I was sad to see Kid Kash never make it too big wherever he went, but was glad to finally see a Kid Kash match on one of these collections as he went up against EZ Money in a very good up-tempo match that featured an awesome finish off the top rope. The main regular feature wraps with Steve Corino winning the World Title in ECW’s first ever Double Jeopardy match, a bout that features rules almost as complex as TNA’s reverse battle royal.

There are two matches left in the BluRay exclusives I want to touch on before wrapping up. First is an eight-man tag featuring The Pitbulls, Tommy Dreamer and Cactus Jack against Raven, Stevie Richards and The Dudleys (though not the two you are probably thinking of). Besides being a pretty darn good match, I could not help but get a kick out of Joey Styles attempt to explain the ongoing saga of the Tommy Dreamer/Raven/Beulah storyline. I forgot about how crazy it got, and hearing Styles recap it made me forget how their feud almost measured up to how bonkers the Kane/Undertaker saga eventually got in comparison.

The final match in the BluRay exclusives is a near five-star encounter between Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn. I will never forget the first ECW match I ever saw was a Lynn/RVD match off the Extreme Evolution DVD back when Pioneer Video was releasing ECW matches back in 2000. Even back when the Attitude era reigned supreme, I was still blown away by the infectious charisma of RVD, the rabid fans filled with chants I never heard of before and the explosive action and near-falls that RVD and Lynn proceeded to unleash on me combined for a wrestling thrill like no other when I got my first taste of ECW action back in 2000. The match featured in Vol. 3 is not that match, but it is another classic between the two as the duo always stole the show whenever they competed.

So that wraps up what I am presuming to be the final collection of ECW matches put out by WWE Home Video. Of the 28 matches on here, the good outweighs the bad as about 20 of them are worth seeing. Even among the duds on this release, they are kind of worth seeing just to see how other former WCW/WWE stars like Gordy/Williams/Pillman/Simmons/Sullivan fared in a different environment. In all three collections it was also impressive to see how fast ECW evolved from a production standpoint over the promotion’s nine-year run. The first couple years, ECW had DIY video standards comparable to almost any other indy-fed in the early 90s, but by its last couple years they were putting on PPVs with professional lighting and graphics that were just a notch or two under what WWE and WCW were outputting at the time. If you have already invested in the other two, you have to pick up ECW Unreleased: Vol. 3. Of the three collections, I will give it the slight nod to having the best collection of matches of the three volumes, and the best hosts with the bWo theme providing for some fun antics and insight between matches.

I will end on one little aside, none of the three ECW Unreleased volumes feature any matches from WWE’s relaunched ECW that lasted from 2006-2010. It is probably for the best, but there is a small part of me that would like what the predecessor to NXT is today to get their own best of collection. That version of ECW would usually get their world title defended on the monthly WWE PPV, but they almost always had to tone down their matches to make sure they did not steal the show, and instead would usually have a far better rematch on the ECW SyFy show that aired a couple days later. They had a lot of good TV matches this way, including the infamous ‘Gulf of Mexico’ match that I would love to relive! It was also fascinating watching the promotion evolve from a re-launched ECW hardcore promotion and gradually morph into a developmental brand by its final years, and operated almost exactly like how NXT is today. If WWE can put out home video collections celebrating the best of In Your House, then please WWE release a best of ECW on SyFy collection!!!

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015

Thursday, February 4, 2016

RvBX Bonus Discs

Last month I finished covering the last season included in the RvBX BluRay set. There are still more redvsblue seasons that hit video after RvBX was released so look forward to blogs on those in the coming months! However, much like after I wrapped up my Star Trek line of blogs with an entry dedicated to bonus discs included in the BluRay sets, I will do the same here with a blog for the bonus discs included in the RvBX set.

Four of the 14 discs in RvBX are dedicated to bonus material. I already covered two of them way back in my blog for season four that was dedicated to both Grifball mini-series. The two bonus discs I am covering today highlight miscellaneous Rooster Teeth videos and another disc is filled with behind-the-scenes interviews.

The first disc I am covering, labeled disc 11 on the set, is filled with Rooster Teeth videos all making their home video debut. The menus are split up with “red team” and “blue team” menus, or you can enter the “command” for an alphabetical listing of them all. As I watched these videos I had some memories of a few of them from way back when I was a paid sponsor of Rooster Teeth which gained you access to a page filled with a bunch of exclusive video for sponsors. Focusing on the “red team” videos, there are a lot of old promotional videos hyping up Halo 2 and Halo 3. I got a kick reliving these as the redvsblue crew shilled how awesome Forge mode was, ran over the changes from the classic “Blood Gulch” map being remade into “Coagulation” and being bummed out that the pistol got nerfed and the Scorpion and Warthog were no longer indestructible. There are also a ton of exclusive convention videos on here, which are a bunch of quick videos that at the time were only exclusive to those particular convention attendees.

The “blue team” side of the bonus disc kicks off with the Recovery One mini-series that lasts 16 minutes. I already covered this since it was included as a bonus on the season six BluRay, but new on this disc is commentary from the Rooster Teeth crew on the mini-series. Next up are a smattering of the initial Rooster Teeth videos, including the infamous MacSwitch video from 2002 that featured Gus Sorola bragging about the superiority of gaming on a Mac. I had no idea Rooster Teeth was tight with the band, Bare Naked Ladies, and there are some awesome videos on here talking about how they collaborated for some exclusive redvsblue concert videos and how lead singer Ed Robertson came on board to voice the recurring character, Captain Flowers.

There are also some unearthed archived clips of them up to no good travelling to the San Diego ComiCon and their very first voice recording session. The “blue team” side of the disc wraps with some community themed videos including the very first RvB episode redone in LEGO animation, a montage of Q&A highlights and a music video. All told, the red and blue team sides combine for nearly two and a half hours of extra features of which there is a lot of entertaining bonus content on this first disc and very little came off as filler.

The second disc kicks off with a documentary about life behind-the-scenes at Rooster Teeth. It clocks in at nearly 40 minutes and interviews a lot of the talent over at Rooster Teeth. If you are not familiar with their history than this documentary is must-see as they talk about getting started and dealing with their rapid success, how they grew from an at-home operation and moved into an office, the pros and cons of the convention atmosphere and reflecting on being in business for over ten years.

Additional content on this second bonus disc is more extras pertaining to season 10 of RvB that did not make its way on the season 10 disc such as the deleted scenes and outtakes that are usually on the individual season discs but oddly exclusive to this bonus disc. Also on here are a few interviews with the animators going into detail about how they wanted to improve the already exquisite custom CG animation sequences by showing a few motion capture sessions and comparing them to the final product. Another cool season 10 extra worth checking out is Burnie Burns explaining how excited he was to get the cast all together in a room for the first time ever in the form of a live table read.

The final chunk of extras on the second bonus disc is interviews with the three musicians who composed music for RvB. There is a lengthy interview between Burnie Burns with Trocadero who has been composing for Rooster Teeth since nearly the beginning. You can tell Trocadero are passionate and proud of their work as they explain how they hooked up with Rooster Teeth and compare themselves to Limp Bizkit and run down their favorite musical moments of the series. The second interview on here is with Jeff Williams. He did not come on board until season eight, but he still has a lot to tell about how his mix of rock and rap contributed to the score and were a welcomed addition to the sound of RvB. The extras of disc 12 of the RvBX set clock in at a little over an hour and a half, and much like the extras on the first disc a lot of them are must-see material, so if you are a big fan of the series and want to know more about the production side of things and the history of Rooster Teeth then these discs are absolutely worth going out of your way to consume.

Past redvsblue Blogs

Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4 and Grifball Bonus Discs
Season 5
Season 6
Season 7
Season 8
Season 9
Season 10