Saturday, June 25, 2016

12 Rounds 3: Lockdown

WWE wrestler Dean Ambrose won his first ever WWE World Heavyweight Championship this past Sunday at the 2016 Money in the Bank PPV. In celebration of that momentous feat, today I am covering his first ever lead role in the WWE Studios film that was released at the beginning of this year with 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (trailer).

There is a part of me that ponders why WWE keeps their film division going. Nearly every WWE film has pretty basic plots with nothing too involving and a lot of their films seem like a throwback to the old TBS Movies for Guys who like Movies pick of the night I referenced here before. The WWE films division has been operating since 2004, and after a couple of theatrical flops it quickly shifted to a more profitable direct-to-video format. Another part of me ponders why I keep watching almost every single WWE studio film. I usually rent the latest disc from Netflix, but I actually enjoyed the past two 12 Rounds films that featured John Cena and Randy Orton overcoming 12 challenges from the film’s villain so they can win back a loved one.

I never caught a preview for the third film and just presumed I was going in with the same premise, but this time with Dean Ambrose in the lead role. Instead, Lockdown redefines 12 Rounds as being the amount of bullets in a magazine clip that Ambrose has as he is locked down in his own police station with a bunch of corrupt cops that he must take down with just one magazine clip and his own crafty brand of MacGyver-know-how.

The film starts with the corrupt cop Tyler Burke (Roger Cross) and his squad of fellow crooked officers breaking in and stealing a bunch of data and executing their former associate. Little did they know their former associate had a backup file that Dean Ambrose’s character, John Shaw stumbles upon back at the station. Upon realizing this, Burke and his goons evacuate the station and lockdown the station with just them and Ambrose. They have a few hours until SWAT arrives to get to Shaw, and the only weapon Shaw has on him is his pistol that has just 12 rounds in it.

I blame myself for not checking out a preview before going into this to get caught off guard with this not playing out like the previous films, but once I realized what was transpiring I ended up digging the new theme as I was having a good time counting down the bullets Shaw was using throughout the film and how he was making every bullet count and finding alternate ways to take out the bad guys. There are a couple of intense firefights in here as Burke’s guys are chasing Shaw throughout the film and I like how they found a couple creative ways for Shaw to stay on the run.

For being his debut in a major film, and a lead role at that I actually dug Ambrose’s acting chops in here. He plays a much more relaxed, reserved character in Lockdown that is a 180 from his loose cannon counterpart he portrays on WWE TV. He will not be winning any prestige acting awards rest assured, but he manages to blend in well with the rest of the cast and seems comfortable in his role. The majority of the cast is mostly a bunch of Hollywood veterans from minor TV and film roles. The only ones I really recognized were Roger Cross from his 24 and Arrow days and longtime character actor, Lochlyn Munro from a handful of his many bit parts he was in over the years.

There are only two brief extra features on the BluRay of Lockdown. Resourceful Adversaries is a quick five minute piece interviewing the cast and crew setting up the premise of the film. Filming a Firefight is a six minute feature breaking down one of the intense shootouts I mentioned above and is a more interesting watch.

Like the rest of the WWE Studios productions, 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown is rather straightforward. I got what I expected out of this direct-to-video action feature, and it actually was a pretty decent pallet cleanser from a couple of more involving films I saw at the theater recently. Lockdown is most likely not must-see material for most if you are looking for top-notch action films, but if you are planning a movie night, and need a serviceable, quick film to turn your brain off and recharge inbetween more involved films, than Lockdown perfectly suits your needs!

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)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Thursday, June 16, 2016

True Giants

WWE has released countless retrospectives on some of their best names in the business since their DVD business took off around the turn of the century. Minus a few exceptions, few of those career spanning retrospectives cover the “Big Men” of the business, aka the several hundred pound goliaths who tower over their competition. I can only think of a handful off the top of my head with past career-spanning DVDs dedicated to Andre the Giant, Kane, Undertaker and Big Show. There have been plenty more giants over the years that deserve that special treatment, and 2014’s True Giants (trailer) is WWE’s remedy to that situation.

If you remember WWE’s Greatest Stars of the 80s/90s DVDs, then you will be familiar with the format of True Giants. Instead of feature length documentaries on each star featured, we get roughly ten minute mini-documentaries on each of the 15 wrestlers spotlighted (up that to 19 if you invest in the BluRay). In an ideal world nearly every wrestler featured in True Giants is worthy of a documentary of at least an hour, especially considering guys featured here like Sid, Vader, Kevin Nash Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy and Mark Henry have all had prolific careers and this is the first time a WWE DVD retrospective has focused on their singles career. For the theme and format of this collection, I get where WWE is coming from with the mini-documentaries on each star, and for what they pulled off, they did it quite well.

For wrestlers still living, WWE recorded all new interviews with talent like Big Show, Kevin Nash, Sid Eudy, Vader and Mark Henry. For wrestlers who have passes away they tracked down a former friend in the business to interview about their career and tales from the road. Some of the talent interviewed for tributes include Pat Patterson honoring Gorilla Monsoon, Ken Patera remembering Big John Studd, Paul Heyman discussing Bam Bam Bigelow, Bill Apter sharing about Haystacks Calhoun and Tim White spreading lots of love for Andre the Giant.

While hitting the major bullet points of their respective careers they are covering, these felt more like WWE Hall-of-Fame induction speeches, and I have no problem with that at all. As short as these interviews were, I was pretty glued in to most of them because a lot of the talent featured here have never been interviewed on any other WWE DVDs or WWE Network specials. To the best of my knowledge, True Giants features the following talent making their interview debut on WWE Home Video: One Man Gang, Ken Patera, Psycho Sid/Vicious, Vader and Abdullah the Butcher. I will give props to WWE for going the extra mile to interview a lot of these guys for the first time.

One more time to emphasize, if you are looking for in-depth features on a lot of these guys then you came to the wrong place, but for newer fans this provides a great cliffs notes version of each big man featured. There are a ton of extra matches on True Giants. The DVD has 27 bouts, while the BluRay contains several extra upping the total to 32. As nice as that match count is, I hate to break it to you but until around the turn of the century it was rare to find big men wrestlers that had good mobility and were capable of keeping up speed-and-ability wise with their lighter competition much like guys as Kevin Owens today. There were a few exceptions like Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Boss Man and Vader of being quality big man workers in the ring, but that was about it.

As a result about two thirds of the matches on this collection are not even worth your time. A majority of them are quick squash matches, or oddball matches that result in strange DQ finishes. For example, of the 12 matches on the first BluRay disc, I only noted three of them as worth watching. One being a Bruno Sammartino/Ernie Ladd match that had an old school smash-mouth style throughout. The second being a six man tag featuring Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes, Junkyard Dog, Ernie Ladd and the Wild Samoans in all out brawl, and finally a super hot crowd rightly going bonkers for a fantastic UWF Title match between One Man Gang and Ted Dibiase.

Of the 20 matches on the second disc I noted only seven as being worth your time including a rare time the Hulkster and Flair squared off on WWE TV in an early ’92 tag match. Another good match up features Diesel winning his first singles gold from Razor Ramon on a ’94 episode of Superstars. WWE loves to abuse the “David vs. Goliath” story arc, and the only time it really worked of the matches in this collection is in a very good encounter between Mark Henry and Rey Mysterio in 2006. So do the math, and having only 10 of 32 matches consisting of good quality in this BluRay collection is not that great of a value. For what it is worth there is some kind of unintentional human car crash factor for the wacky finishes and quick squashes a lot of these matches have and the fact that they feature a diverse cast that usually do not dominate home video releases make them stand out in a unique way.

I would not say I am all about the big man wrestlers in the grand scheme of wrestling, but I have always respected the spectacle and diversity they bring to a wrestling card. Even more so I appreciate how most have evolved into holding their own with the main stars of the roster over the years and True Giants definitely captures the evolution of the biggest big men of the sport. If you are looking for thorough documentaries and just sheer match quality then you can skip this one, but if you are more of a wrestling historian than True Giants is definitely a must-have set in your collection that WWE Home Video has rarely touched on before.

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
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
RoH Supercard of Honor IX
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
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
Wrestlemania 31
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015

Sunday, June 5, 2016

redvsblue Season 13

At long last I am now caught up with the latest redvsblue seasons on video. Today I am covering season 13 (trailer) of the popular web series using in-game animation from the best-selling game series, Halo. Season 13 marks the third and final part of the story arc taking place on the planet Chorrus where the reds and blues crash landed on their journey back home only to discover they landed in the midst of a civil war.

Season 13 picks up with the two warring factions of Chorrus, the Federal Army headed up by General Doyle (Gray Haddock) and the New Republic lead by Kimball (Lindsay Jones) forming an uneasy alliance. Together, they take on a new threat that is a band of space pirate mercs lead by special agents Felix (Miles Luna) and Locus (Gray Haddock).

While season 12 ended with both the feds/NR realizing they have been duped and unite in hopes of defeating this enemy, the well told story of season 13 is both sides overcoming their past differences to work together. There is a well produced season-spanning arc with Kimball and Doyle constantly having doubts and barely holding their alliance together, which climaxes with Doyle making an imperative decision and Kimball giving a vital rallying cry to the troops in two standout moments this season. The storytelling has come a long way from the early seasons of RvB, and yes the trademark humor and wisecracks are still here, but props to season 13 writer and director, Miles Luna on this story arc for crafting a legitimately good plot to get invested in.

Once again Rooster Teeth delivers several standout custom CG animated scenes this season. Season 13 opens with a very exquisitely detailed CG scene of the space pirates raiding a prisoner transport vessel. As the season progresses the fights get more intense and inventive, paying off in a climatic tag team encounter between Agents Washington (Shannon McCormick) and Carolina (Jen Brown) against Felix and Locus.

Speaking of the space pirates, they have a new heavy on their side this season in the form of Sharkface (David Jennison) who has his own unique backstory with Kimball. The pirates also gain the services of former Freelancer higher up, Counselor Price (Asaf Ronen) who naturally has his own agenda up his sleeve. Back with the core reds and blues Tucker (Jason SaldaƱa) is still coming to terms with his new responsibilities heading up his own squad of misfits we are introduced to last season while also trying to comprehend that his plasma sword has a few ancient secrets that play an important role this season. Tucker’s new squad did not really win me over last season as they all seemed too hokey to root for and I was relieved that they play a much minor role this season, where they are sprinkled in just enough throughout to remind you that they exist. Caboose (Joel Heyman) has plenty of comic relief moments which he has no problem in getting me to crack up thanks to his new AI-enhanced gun which had a few well-timed moments this season.

On the red side of things newly promoted Colonel Sarge (Matt Hullum) has a few fun moments this season dragging along Grif(Geoff Ramsey) and Simmons (Gus Sorola) into the frontlines of the battlefield to kick ass. One of my favorite running gags throughout the series has been the reds’ Warthog polka music having a surprise cameo in nearly every season, and rest assured it returns in all its glory in season 13. Donut (Dan Godwin) & Lopez (Burnie Burns) are the reds’ comic relief, as both prove they are reliable armory specialists this season. I dug the expected cameos this season as well, as some characters have very brief blink-and-you’ll miss them cameos, while another one returns in a more featured role halfway into the season.

Minus a few scenes this season, the core reds and blues are not the major characters this season as the core focus is on the Feds/NR alliance against the space pirates and a few other dangling plot threads this season. It was a bold move to make this season, but I felt it paid off with a gratifying conclusion to the three-part Chorrus arc. The big qualifier I had with this season is you probably want to watch it in a few sittings as it clocks in at just under three hours as one of the longest RvB seasons yet. I watched it in two sittings and that seemed to do the trick for me.

As usual, this disc has a good chunk of extra features to consume. I will give props once again to Rooster Teeth for including subtitles for a second straight season. Writer & Director Miles Luna is joined by rotating members of the cast and crew for the commentary track again this season and Luna knows how to keep a good commentary track flowing with constant chatter on topics relating to behind-the-scenes antics and excitement over their tech tricks and being able to work with a new program called Faceshift that is responsible for their excellent lip syncing this season.

There are four PSAs included totaling 21 minutes with “Rehashed” and “#1 Film in Galaxy 2” being the standouts that are all about remakes of previous PSAs and a epic trailer for a Sarge-Tucker buddy film, respectively. There are six mini-features totaling roughly 35 minutes covering topics like motion capture, the constantly evolving score of the series, the relationship of Locus and Felix and pre-to-post production of an episode. The standout feature is Leaving Chorrus where the cast and crew reflect on the completed trilogy and how they made some bold storytelling decisions against fan backlash and decided to stick to their guns and see their vision to the end.

The three-part Chorrus arc features some of the best storytelling of the entire series. It took me awhile to get fully on board, but once the primary new players were fleshed out and I realized what was at stake I was fully on board. If you thought you were done with RvB after the Bloodgulch Chronicles or Project Freelancer, than you may want to think twice and give the Chorrus War a watch because it is definitely worth your time. As for me, after 13 seasons and getting caught up over the course of a year and a half I am once again going to take a well-earned hiatus from redvsblue. Thanks for joining me throughout these blogs if you have made it throughout this entire journey of RvB with me.

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
Season 11
Season 12
RvBX Bonus Discs