Sunday, July 31, 2016

WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016

I am a little late on this one, but I really wanted to sneak in my monthly wrestling entry on the last day of July. Rest assured, I am working my way through another mammoth WWE Home Video release also, but finding the time to get through it along with the weekly first run WWE television content along with all their exclusive network content sometimes makes it difficult to make time to plow through their eight-to-nine hour video collections in a timely fashion. With that out of the way, let us take a look at the original content on WWE Network that hit in the first half of 2016.

Swerved: Season 2 – The first season of Swerved, WWE’s Punked-inspired prank show, was not a mega hit with me. It redeemed itself with season two though with the theme this season being the wrestlers messing with the fans. In this case most of the fans were little kids!!! A bunch of grade school New Day fans were stoked to try out the latest New Day inspired food items that left them spitting it out in disgust. Dean Ambrose dressed up like a white-collar know-it-all and hustles a fellow contestant in a mall quiz show! The best gag is this one poor rugrat who is hanging out with AJ Styles and Ryback backstage who both convince the kid to make such disparaging signs as “AJ Styles has Ugly Hair” and “Ryback’s Bald” only to have the other wrestler walk in on the kid and witness the kid crap his pants. Not all the gags are a hit, but the ratio is much better than last season.

Camp WWE – WWE really hyped up their adult-oriented, original animated series for the WWE Network that sees children-age versions of wrestlers at summer camp with evil Vince McMahon as the head of the camp. Only McMahon, Ric Flair and Sgt. Slaughter provided their voices while the rest of the cast is comprised of mostly awful sound-a-likes. The adult-oriented humor misses on most marks with such featured jokes as an episode building up to Mark Henry eating too much molten lava cake and “delivering” a cake baby, Ric Flair humping a tree and extended Vince McMahon fart jokes. I was not surprised to see this show last only five episodes and I hope it does not return for a second season.

Ride Along – I am down with the premise of this show and surprised WWE did not do it earlier. As the name implies, it is the wrestlers in a car travelling between towns and the WWE cameras bouncing between a couple different vehicles of the talent sharing old road stories and life in and out of the ring. Not a whole lot to this show, but I am down for being a fly on the wall as the superstars talk shop and we learn more about them. Some of the talent featured in the first batch of episodes includes New Day, League of Nations, the Usos, Shield and the Bellas.

Unfiltered With Renee Young: Season 2 – After taking nearly half a year off, Renee Young came back in June with the second season of her show that specializes in brief-yet-detailed one-on-one interviews. She mixed things up a little bit in her season two episodes by introducing little other backstage antics before the interview to give the show a little more depth. Rest assured, the interviews are still the main focus point and Renee is terrific at connecting with most of the talent and talking to them like a person and getting them to seem like themselves in front of the camera. Season two interview subjects thus far include Charlotte, Dean Ambrose, Paige, Cesaro and Roman Reigns.

Table for 3: Season 2 – After taking a few months off, WWE came back with five more episodes of Table for 3. Like Ride Along, Table for 3 is a low-budget, yet extremely entertaining series where all there is to it is placing a couple cameras in front of the wrestlers in a certain setting and watching them talk about their craft and lives for about a half hour. In this case we accompany them for dinner. The first season had a good mix of current and past stars while the second season focuses exclusively on legends. One episode reunites Edge & Christian with their favorite commissioner, Mick Foley as they reminisce on many vintage moments of awesomeness. Another episode reunites the Outsiders with X-Pac and another has three of the original Four Horsemen (Flair, Arn & Tully) reuniting for the first time in many years. High recommendation to jump right into any episode in this series, especially with your favorite adult beverage!

Edge and Christian Show – Along with Camp WWE, The Edge and Christian Show was the other main series that WWE heavily promoted in 2016 as their top tier of original content. The Edge and Christian Show is actually kind of decent and not a complete flop like Camp WWE turned out to be. It is a variety/sketch show with Edge & Christian doing all sorts of sketches and bringing on other WWE stars and legends for cameos. The first episode is a bit of a rough watch, but within a few episodes of the 12 in the first season you can tell they start to hit their stride. They somehow managed to bring in past WWE stars I have not seen featured in any WWE content in many years, and they even track down such unique interview subjects like the “Just Say Yes” fan from Wrestemania XXX. I do not want to overhype it too much, as about only half the sketches and gags really hit home with me while other just went over my head or were among the groan-inducing variety. I think I heard this will be returning for a second season next year, and the first season trial run left me optimistic that Edge and Christian were able to shake off the cobwebs and will return with a much improved second season.

Steve Austin Podcast – Stone Cold is still hanging around the WWE Network with monthly installments of his hit podcast. Like Renee Young, Steve Austin has a pretty good rapport with his interviewees and he has a great mix of questions centered on the talent’s career, and usually sneaks in a couple hard-hitting questions too. Highlights from 2016 so far include trading many old war stories with Ric Flair, Big Show and Mick Foley. The AJ Styles interview is especially revealing as he has some uncomfortable childhood memories I did not expect him to go into much detail on, but that interview is also noteworthy as being the first time on any WWE televised content where they openly discussed TNA wrestling for more than 10 seconds as that promotion was a big part of AJ’s past and they make sure to talk a lot about AJ’s 12 year run there.

Miscellaneous – There are a couple new episodes of Legends with JBL in 2016. It was a delight hearing him hook up again with his longtime tag team partner, Ron Simmons in a very candid, emotional interview. Also make sure to check out JBL’s interview with Michael Hayes as that man is a big player behind-the-scenes and JBL makes sure to pick his mind and holds nothing back discussing a few big controversies Hayes was part of over the years.

There are also a couple new installments of WWE 24, which is high-budget half hour documentary series that goes behind-the-scenes of WWE. 2016 so far saw three installments and all are well worth going out of your way to see as they spotlight behind-the-scenes of Wrestlemania 31, backstage with Daniel Bryan on the day leading up to his shocking retirement announcement and a compelling look at Seth Rollins’ recovery from his title reign-ending injury last November. Finally, Mick Foley subbed in for Stone Cold to host a podcast to interview Shane McMahon shortly after he made his surprise return to the WWE. Shane kind of danced around some of the harder hitting questions from Mick, but it is definitely worth checking out to see Shane’s side on what lead to his near-decade long sabbatical from WWE and what he made of his jaw-dropping match against the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 31.

What’s in Store for Second Half of 2016 - As of this writing we are already a couple episodes into the Cruiserweight Classic tournament on WWE Network, which is a tournament focused on purely in ring competition featuring cruiserweights of all styles from around the world. I will make sure to go into far more detail on that here when that wraps up in my end of the year WWE Network blog. Also, I am hopeful that Holy Foley is not a bust, as this Osbournes-meets-the-Foley-family hybrid looks like it could be a winner. The only other programming I am aware that is coming soon is a second season of Jerry Springer’s Too Hot, which I am not as hopeful for. I guess they cannot all be winners. Overall though, I would say this was mostly a positive first half of the year for original WWE Network programming. I have no idea how I managed to keep up, but with RAW, Smackdown, NXT and soon two PPVs a month on the horizon along with all this original content and a regular slate of home videos still hitting stores the WWE easily has you covered with far too much content to consume.

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
True Giants
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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Condemned 2

WWE Studios’ waited eight years to follow up on the sequel to 2007’s twisted reality show survivor flick, The Condemned. Steve Austin is busy taking in the riches of podcasting though and was unavailable for the sequel. Instead we get WWE Studios’ back-up veteran, Randy Orton. He has experience in the direct-to-video sequel market after his lead performance in 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, and now he and also 12 Rounds 2 director Roel Reine team up once again for 2015’s The Condemned 2 (trailer).

I was actually a fan of the original Condemned film and its premise where it stuck eight convicted felons on a remote island in order to fight for their freedom. The sequel switches things up a bit. Randy Orton portrays Will Tanner, who leads a team of Bounty Enforcer Agents (wait a sec, is this actually the follow-up to Bounty Hunters?) in a routine mission that terribly goes awry. Tanner winds up shutting down the bounty hunter team and attempts to live life on the straight and narrow with his dad (Eric Roberts).

After several months go by a former foe by the name of Raul (Steven Quezada) comes up with a plan to exact revenge on Tanner. Raul accomplishes this by kidnapping family members of his former squad mates and forces them to kill Tanner within a certain time window or else their loved ones bite the bullet. To make Raul extra slimy, he is filming all this live with the latest hi-tech drones broadcasting to an ensemble of fellow criminals to make bets on the winner, complete with customized betting felts with all the squad members’ names.

The first film was such a disaster in theatrical box office that it lead to WWE’s film division becoming a direct-to-video outlet ever since 2007. Part of me is surprised they are still churning out two-to-three films a year, but since DTV production values are typically much lower than theatrical productions I imagine WWE must be turning in enough of a minimal profit on each film to still keep its film division chirping along. With that said, I will give WWE credit for not simply rehashing the exact same plot as the first film. Like 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown last month I went into this without watching a preview and was thrown off yet again when WWE retooled the premise for this film.

I do not think Reine was going for unintentional camp in this action flick, but there are several moments of unintended levity that got me cracking up for the wrong reasons. I like the concept of the drones being constantly on the prowl to track Tanner’s every move, but whenever the camera cuts to a shot of the drones and attempts to make them look ever-so-menacing I could not help but get flashbacks of those awful CGI birds in Birdemic which resulted in the same effect here where the drones looked more laughable than sinister. Additionally, there were far too many shots of the criminals looking extraordinarily criminal-ly placing bets on that silly makeshift gambling board. Whenever Tanner would manage to bide some more time and escape a deadly encounter there would be another ironic shot to the criminals slamming their fist down and screaming expletives. I have no idea how the betting system for this game Raul is hosting works, but in a cooky-DTV-B-action movie way it delivered on all ironic fronts. Also, props to Raul for working in a throwaway line of dialogue that officially linked this film to the story of the first Condemned.

Campiness hijinx aside, I did not mind how this sequel played out. Each former squad mate Tanner encountered kept me guessing if they were going to make a run at him or ally up with him to fight off Raul. One part that bugged me was how a lot of the squad mates other than the first did not seem all that conflicted about their loved ones being targeted and were going after Tanner against their will. A lot of them just came off as instant-bad guys when I felt like things should be a bit more heated in their rivalry. Not to spoil too much (read ahead to next paragraph if you desire), but some of the squad mates are shown in the film’s aftermath sharing a hearty laugh with Tanner and his dad when I could not help but wonder ‘why are they not out looking for their kidnapped loved ones?’ The film treats this big impetus for the squad mates as an afterthought throughout and forgets about this big plot point altogether by the film’s end.

Minus the nice looking overhead drone camera work, you can tell The Condemned 2 wears its DTV budget like a badge of honor. There are some nice shootouts and explosions, especially some nice sniper skirmishes, but overall they pale in comparison to the first film that is nearly a decade old. There is a short extra feature detailing the special effects that went into the drone camera work and after watching it I could not help but think that is where half the budget went into. There is one other short extra feature about the fight choreography and that is it for extras on the BluRay.

The former squad mates and Raul leave a lot to be desired and all come off as DTV caliber veterans who are all around decent, but nothing spectacular. The only standout performance is by Eric Roberts, who is exponentially better than the rest of the cast in his supporting role as the judgmental/concerned/supporting father. Randy Orton is OK as Will Tanner on the WWE actor grading curve, and is about as effective as he was in 12 Rounds 2. The same can be said for The Condemned 2 as a whole, where like 12 Rounds 2 it is OK overall, but nothing remarkable and nowhere near as good as the first. If you have been jonesing for another Condemned fix all these years like myself, than go ahead and rent this and throw back a few Steve-weisers beforehand and you will be all right, everyone else need not apply.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
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

Friday, July 8, 2016

2015-16 TV Season Recap, Part Four

Major props if you made it to the fourth and final installment of my 2015-16 TV Season Recap blogs. This part is all about superhero shows. If you have yet to catch up on my other installments of the TV season, check out the following links:

Part 1 (South Park, Simpsons, Family Guy, American Grit, 30 for 30)
Part 2 (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Jamz)
Part 3 (Game of Thrones, Leftovers, Ballers, Agent Carter)

Gotham (light spoilers) - In my TV Season recap last year I mentioned how Gotham surprised me a few times with its unpredictable nature by taking a few unexpected twists and turns. They do the same thing again this season, especially with the villains involved. In this season’s early episodes they tease a young version of a very anticipated Batman villain, but then FOX pulls the rug from under us and instead Theo Galavan (James Frain) is revealed as the mastermind of a new group of villains underneath him, including one Barb Kean (Erin Richards). The theme of this season of Gotham is ‘rise of the villains’ and that slogan does not disappoint as one Hugo Strange (BD Wong), the head honcho of Arkham Asylum is up to all kinds of vile science projects and is responsible for unleashing several major and minor villains in the second half of season two.

Given the all-star roster of classic Batman villains I was intrigued and not let down by most of the contemporary takes on the villains that Strange unleashes this season. Minor spoiler ahead, remember how much I detested Fish Mooney’s (Jada Smith) character last season, well they bring her back for a few episodes this season and they are easily the least enjoyable episodes in season two. Penguin (Robin Taylor) and Riddler (Corey Smith) both make up for the Fish’s drawbacks with their own far better arcs this season. In season two, they both get too over their heads and wind up with the cast of misfits in Arkham Asylum where they wind up part of all kinds of fun projects. I really dug Penguin’s arc the most this season as he spends the last several episodes trying to change himself for the better, but of course realizing he was being played and embracing his inner darkness in the most vile ways that resulted in my jaw being dropped in a moment that I was surprised made network television.

For the protagonists or more like shades of gray characters leaning heroic, Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue are terrific reprising their roles as partners Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock, respectively. Bullock seems to take a backseat in more of this season which is unfortunate as I really dug his character, but he does have a few moments to shine. Gotham debuts a new sheriff this season with Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis). As much as I loved Chiklis in one of my all time favorite shows, The Shield, he is not so affable here. Barnes sets Gordon up with his own squad of rookie cops early in the season and makes them come off as this new serious force not to be taken lightly, but the rookie cops wind up tying Tommen and Rickon with my award as dopiest characters in from the 2015-16 TV season and I am certainly not going to miss any of them. Luckily, Gordon overcomes that lackluster arc, and clears his name of corruption charges after a few intense episodes he spends in Gotham Prison that lead up to a great season finale.

Props to David Mazouz for a much improved performance as Bruce Wayne in season two. Young Bruce Wayne last season probably would get my most dopiest character award, but this season he develops an edge while roaming the streets with young Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova). His standout moment is a long coming face-to-face encounter with the hitman who gunned down his parents at the beginning of the series. I am knocking off points for making me suffer through a few more episodes of Fish Mooney and a few episodes of incompetent rookie cops, but other than that this is a big improvement over the last season of Gotham. Kudos to FOX for having the show to stick to its dark, gritty nature and pushing the major network restrictions to their limit.
Grade: A-

The Flash - Flash was the catalyst last year that lead to me watching an ungodly amount of CW programming this past season. Season two retains its perfect lighthearted-yet-serious balance that won me over last season. Grant Gustin did another superb performance as Barry Allen, and the producers behind the show came up with a more lethal season long foe for him to tangle with in the form of Zoom (Teddy Sears). This season the DC TV universe debuts the beast that is Earth-2 in The Flash, and by time traveling to an alternate reality, the cast meets alternate versions of themselves and past villains. It is too bad most of alternate reality doppelgangers also get worthy honors of my ‘biggest dopes’ of the season and I felt absolutely zero remorse that most met an early demise.

I did however dig new, not-so-evil Earth-2 Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) as he proves to be a useful and trusting ally for Star Labs. Last season there was a little too much emphasis on the token ‘villain of the week’ that were throwaway foes that served just to fill in TV time while we got nuggets of the Flash’s bigger rivalry against Reverse-Flash last season. Season two is a little better paced, with more episodes having a slightly bigger focus on Zoom, and fewer episodes with cannon fodder villains of the week. It sucks when they do rear their ugly head from time-to-time, but it is at a far less frequent rate.

Like last season, there are quite a few powerful feel good and equally heartbreaking moments throughout the season. A lot of them involve Barry’s adopted dad, Joe West (Jesse Martin) because the man is a master at wearing one of the most emotional faces in all of TV as the West family has some major moments that occur this season. The Flash gets my nod as top CW show of the three this last year. I will rank it just a notch or two under the stellar first season because things get a little off the rails with too many Earth-2 doppelgangers running amok for a few episodes, but by and large this was still a very enjoyable season of television.
Season Two Grade: B+

Arrow - Last year I raved about how much I loved The Flash. Naturally CW showcased some corporate synergy by having the Arrow cast crossover on a few Flash episodes last season and vice versa. I liked the Arrow crossovers so much I fell right into CW’s trap and wound up binge watching all past three seasons of Arrow in time for the start of season four. There is a silly revelation in the series’ premiere where Arrow (Stephen Amell) officially changes his name to his proper name in the comics, The Green Arrow, and I loved how the rest of the cast constantly poke fun sporadically throughout the season.

Season four has some highs and lows, but I still liked it for the most part. On the low end of things, the main plot is Arrow, AKA Oliver Queen decides to run for mayor. Knowing the series past for mayor and everyone who throws their hit in the ring for it, that is where you do not want to be, and I kept hoping each episode would conclude this mayor arc, but it is there for most of this season. Each season usually has a good set of flashbacks filling in the gap when Oliver left town for a few years and returned as the Green Arrow, but this season’s set of flashbacks were super weak as it features Oliver returning to the island he escaped from and infiltrating the ranks of a mercs operation. It sounds good on paper, but plays out incredibly weak, to the point where I got the feeling the producers treated it as an afterthought and only devoted what seemed like less to a minute to each flashback scene, and even skipped a few episodes of flashbacks that center around a supernatural artifact that looks like an oversized kids toy.

The artifact falls in the hands of this season’s antagonist, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), who is the head of his own the mind-controlled goons called HIVE. After witnessing The Legend of Chun-Li, I can appreciate McDonough excelling at the art of camp, and he somehow manages to make the campy villain work wonderful in the otherwise darker Arrow series. He has a few intense encounters with Team Arrow throughout the season. Halfway through the season, Arrow teases a big death among the cast, and sure enough they deliver with yet another major cast member biting the bullet. Of its four seasons, Arrow has killed/wrote off four major characters, but somehow manages to accomplish that hard storytelling feat of it being a meaningful death and that the character did not pass without great sacrifice. It reminds me a lot of the impact of Charlie’s death in Lost, and for Arrow to somehow manage to accomplish this feat in each season is saying something on why this show has staying power. This season is not as good as the first two seasons of Arrow, and while the flashbacks are definitely a struggle to get through, they are very brief and there are enough other positives going for season four to help redeem this season’s shortcomings.
Season Four Grade: B

Legends of Tomorrow - CW expanded their DC Universe shows with a third series debuting after the midseason break with Legends of Tomorrow. It features eight past supporting heroes and villains from Flash and Arrow like Atom (Brandon Routh), Leonard Snark (Wentworth Miller) and Sarah Lance (Caity Lotz) coming together as a team to travel through time to restore past timelines with their leader, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill). I thought this season was going to be a quick eight or ten episodes, but Legends of Tomorrow only took one or two weeks off and managed to pump out nearly a full season of 19 episodes.

Even being an hour long show with trying to squeeze in nine total cast members in each episode, it proves to be too much. CW kind of remedies this by focusing on groups of heroes each getting their own arc in an episode so it turns into arcs for three or four groups of characters instead of nine individual arcs. Even then, it is easy for at least a couple characters to get lost in the shuffle. It does not help that one of the major story arcs that involves a love triangle between Atom, Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) is a total wash and painfully drags on for nearly the entire season. Those gripes aside, the episodes were kind of hit and miss for me, with each episode having a theme of embracing the decade they time traveled too. Most of the early episodes did not cut it for me, minus a couple that featured some really good all out superhero clashes, but I do recall the series picking up for an impactful final few episodes that helped saved the season for me and ensured that I will give it another shot next season.
Grade: C

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

2015-16 TV Season Recap, Part Three

Welcome to part three of my 2015-16 TV Season Recap, which will be focusing on three HBO series and maybe one or two other shows. If you have yet to catch up on my other installments of the TV season, check out the following links:

Part 1 (South Park, Simpsons, Family Guy, American Grit, 30 for 30)
Part 2 (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Jamz)
Part 4 (Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow)


Game of Thrones (light spoilers ahead) - I am not a super hardcore fan of this series by any means, up until a couple months ago I was a couple seasons behind. In the middle of season six airing I got access to HBO Now and plowed through season five in a few weeks and was able to catch up on the last two episodes of season six with everyone else and am finally current on it. I want to read the books one day, but I flip through them at the store and they are just so….mammoth. As much as I hate to admit it, I rank near a level three on the Bill Simmons three tier chart of Game of Thrones fandom.

I love watching this show, but some of the stories pick up a couple years later after taking seasons off, and I am the worst at remembering half of the characters names. So please take my thoughts on this series with a grain of salt because as much as I enjoy the story, as soon as I wrap up an episode I forget almost half of it instantly until I am reminded of it on the next pre-show recap. I thought the show forgot about Bran (Isaac Wright), Hodor, and that one lady who were hiding out in a cave since the end of season four and was glad to see their story pick up again, though I had no idea what to make of how their arc wrapped up. Big thumbs up to Theon’s (Alfie Allen)arc this season, as I am still coming to terms on how this show made me go from detesting this guy in the opening seasons, to feeling undeniably sympathetic for him the last couple of seasons to rejoicing for him finally making his long overdue revolt.

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) teaming up with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) in Mereen this season was fun to watch as the two both flexed their versions of diplomacy to amusing results. Props to Game of Thrones for having a fun mini-battle backdrop with plenty of destruction to the major battle at hand in episode nine this season with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the Wildlings teaming up against a outmatched Bolton army. I do not recall such a traditional, ground based medieval battle transpiring in the series so far and I loved how it unfolded, with the exception of Rickon being a complete dope. When Snow’s forces were surrounded and all seemed lost as the Bolton’s closed in it had me grinding my teeth to see how the battle would wind up, and it did not disappoint in easily the best episode this season goes as far as action.

This brings us to the season finale, where we find out just how sinister Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) really is. She is rightfully pissed after what happened to her in season five, and she finally gets her own twisted version of justice to close off the season that had my eyeballs wide open throughout. I was not really a fan of the whole Seven Septoms/Tommen/Margory alliance playing out this season as it just seemed way too political for my tastes, but the season finale made it all worthwhile. Oh yeah, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is right up there with Rickon with top dope honors this season. Another awesome season with far too many other moments for me to go on about here, but needless to say I mostly loved it and count me in for being right there for season seven.

One last quick thing, I also kept up with After the Thrones, the fan hosted show also available on HBO Now/GO where the hosts completely geek out while they dissect each episode. They helped fill me in on characters I have not seen in awhile and pointed out a lot of other minor lore and minutia that greatly filled a lot of little questions that crossed my mind throughout each episode. For “level three” Thrones fans like myself I highly recommend checking out each installment after each season six episode.
Season Six Grade: A

Leftovers - I watched both seasons of The Leftovers this past year, and it is life in a post-rapture bizzaro world where around 3% of the human population vanished all at once. Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) is the main character of this show as his family is left in a rut following the departures. His dad went crazy, one of his kids fled town and his wife left him and joined a cult called the Guilty Remnant. Yeah, Kevin is dealing with quite a lot of stress, and I could much further his life would continue to spiral out of control in each episode.

There are so many paranormal/supernatural elements happening in each episode of The Leftovers I just learned to embrace them and stop questioning them and went along for the ride. The only exception is the Guilty Remnant cult whom I cannot stand. They are the equivalent of a cheap antagonist. None of the cult members talk and they all smoke, and whenever they are shown smoking they are intentionally sporting a stink eye/slacker look combo to ham up that extra sleazy look. It comes off as cheap heat. In two seasons none of their motives or secrets are addressed in a serious manner and every time they appear I instantly want them off the TV screen. There is one cult member who talks who is portrayed by Liv Tyler who is unbearable throughout both seasons. In the first season she is a clueless klutz who just does not seem to be clicking with the cult, but in season two she is suddenly one of the top cult members with no explanation and she walks around with a holier than though vibe that makes absolutely no sense when they do not explain what happened to make her get to that point in between seasons.

The only good thing about the Guilty Remnant is that they play a significantly smaller role in season two and are only featured in a few episodes, which automatically makes it the better season. Season two sees Kevin’s family get out of the hellhole his hometown transformed into and moves into a small town in Texas that is getting a lot of buzz because it had no departures. A lot of other crazy shit goes down in Jarden, Texas however, and each episode ups the batshit factor up another notch or two after three girls go missing and the town thinks another departure has transpired. Season one had a modicum of sanity to it, but season two throws that out the window and goes completely ridiculous in all directions and I found myself tuning into each succeeding episode to see what they would do next. I just rolled with it and stopped and asking questions, which I rarely do with most TV shows and it resulted In an exponentially better watch. Not to hype it up too much, but when you get there hopefully you will agree with me that in season two, The Leftovers hands-down features the single best karaoke scene in all of television history.
Season 1 Grade: B-
Season 2 Grade: A-

Ballers - I am only halfway through the debut season of Ballers. It is Dwayne Johnson’s new show that is essentially a sports agent version of Entourage. Dwayne is a recently retired pro football player trying to hack it for a new up and coming sports agency. Unfortunately his peers and all the top talent he is after has their own baggage that is preventing them from getting that big money deal. Dwayne also has his own personal problems that rear their head with post-concussion syndrome creeping in, among other things. I am surprised to see this show get sponsored by the NFL as all the teams are featured throughout it given all the controversies that are happening off the field.

Halfway through the first season I am just not feeling this show as it has a theme that Dwayne and his contracted sports stars are constantly up to no good and Dwayne just plays the peacemaker role and finds creative new ways to cover up their mistakes. I hear there is eventually more to Ballers than that, and since it is only ten episodes I will make sure to stick around to see how it unfolds.
Grade: n/a

True Detective - I loved season one of True Detective. It is easily one of my all-time favorite single seasons of television, but alas this was one of the few shows I have yet to catch up on. I really wanted to watch it after Leftovers and Game of Thrones, but after both of those heavy duty watches, I was in desperate need of something a lot lighter and with a few more laughs and thus Ballers is currently filling that void. Rest assured I plan to plow through this in the next month or two.
Grade: n/a


Agent Carter - It is disappointing to see Marvel struggling this their major network shows, while DC flourishes on a lower tier major network like the CW. Agents of Shield is barely pulling decent enough ratings to get renewed, and Agent Carter got cancelled after its second straight limited, 10 episode season. Since all ten episodes aired in successive weeks with no breaks it made for a friendlier watch without having to worry about extended midseason breaks. Season two continues the adventures of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in the SSR, the precursor to SHIELD, but this time she is stationed in LA after transferring from New York.

Atwell is once again awesome as Carter, and so is James D’Arcy returning as her sidekick/butler, Edwin Jarvis. In season two a mysterious black matter infects an ambitious Hollywood actress, Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) and scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin). Naturally one uses their new powers for good, while the other embraces darkness. I enjoyed this show like last season, and I dig this Marvel universe in the ‘40s, but like last season the show just feels too restricted and watered down by primetime major network restrictions in a way I do not get from the DC shows on the CW. Compare this to Marvel’s Netflix offerings where they have far more freedom and it feels like Agent Carter is going for a more family friendly PG offering, which hurts it in the long run.

Perhaps that is why this season declined in ratings and it did not get picked up for a third season. That is a shame too because the characters from the Marvel films can only appear on the ABC Marvel shows and none of the Netflix series. Howard Stark from the first Captain America film appears in a few episodes this season, and it is readily apparent that his star power and charismatic character rubs off on the rest of the cast the few times he appears. I would be all for Netflix picking up this show and continuing the adventures of Peggy Carter, and this time with far less network restrictions.
Grade: C+

You are almost done with unbelievably lengthy TV Season Recap for the 2015-16 season. Come back for fourth and final part which is all about the superhero shows on FOX and the CW!

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

2015-16 TV Season Recap, Part Two

Thank you for sticking with me for part two of my 2015-16 TV Season Recap, where I will be focusing on three exclusive Netflix series. If you have yet to catch up on my other installments of the TV season, check out the following links:

Part 1 (South Park, Simpsons, Family Guy, American Grit, 30 for 30)
Part 3 (Game of Thrones, Leftovers, Ballers, Agent Carter)
Part 4 (Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow)

Netflix Exclusives

Daredevil - This past year I ended up binge watching both seasons of the first exclusive Marvel series on Netflix. Daredevil is some addicting television. In the months preceding my beginning of binge watching both seasons I binge-read the 110 issues of Daredevil volume 2 that originally ran from 1998-2008 to get some extra background and familiarity with the characters and plotlines. That run of books is especially good, and the darker tone of that run of Daredevil comes across on the Netflix series too.

The first season is about Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Paige (Deborah Woll) becoming a team and setting up their law office as struggling rookie lawyers. In his off hours, Murdock busts out his homemade outfit (the buildup and moment when Murdock debuts his final costume is easily my favorite moment of season one) and keeps the streets of Hell’s Kitchen safe. The opening episodes dealing with Daredevil’s origin were well done, but the early season one highlight is the incredible hallway fight scene that dared to take on Old Boy for best hallway fight scene ever. Both are still lots of fun to take in, but it is hard to say which one I like more, why not you watch both clips and decide for yourself?

The casting is excellent for the three primary players in Daredevil, although I am not entirely sold on season one’s antagonist, Wilson Fisk. Vincent D'Onofrio definitely looks the part, but I feel he tries too hard for speaking in deadly undertones. He makes a few appearances in season two, and I kind of came around on him by that point as he delivers some brutal beatdowns that definitely feel Kingpin-caliber. However, I feel like there is still something about his presentation that just feels off for whatever reason.

Speaking of season two, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) absolutely steals season two! Daredevil’s portrayal of Castle as an anti-hero definitely is on point with how he has best been portrayed in the comic and you never really know whether to root for him or hate him throughout the season. The producers did an excellent job of having Castle walk in many shades of gray throughout the season, and the Punisher fanboy in me is super happy he had the standout fight scene of the season! I am still in disbelief that Marvel was as impressed with the Punisher in this season as much as I was that they gave Netflix a bonus season of programming beyond their original contract so they can dedicate a season to the Punisher.

Not only does Punisher steal the season, he also saves it, because as season two marches along we are introduced to Murdock’s former friend and foe, Elektra (Elodie Yung) and their antagonist for the season, the Japanese supernatural ninja outfit known as The Hand. The story arcs dealing with The Hand in the comics I read of Daredevil were the only ones I did not really care for because the whole supernatural mystique of The Hand and Elektra were just a bit too out there for me to buy into, and those same plot notes hit the same marks on the TV series also. Luckily, we get to see Daredevil and Elektra team up for some righteous fight scenes to deal with The Hand, but much like the puddies and the foot clan on other shows, the Hand more-or-less comes across as meaningless cannon fodder. The way that arc concludes also does not give me high hopes for season three, but if the awesome action scenes, overall dark and edgy tone of the show and great all around acting remains then I will remain on board for whatever season three brings to the table.
Season One Grade: A
Season Two Grade: B-

Jessica Jones - I did not think Netflix could get any darker and edgier with what they accomplished in Daredevil, but they manage to top themselves with Jessica Jones. Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a foul-mouthed, sassy private investigator who has her own superpowers that enable her to succeed in her sole proprietorship. All is not well when she bumps into an old friend, Kilgrave (David Tennant) who has the ability of mind control. I am not too familiar with Jones’ comic background so when I first saw Kilgrave and his whole mind control ability I foolishly dismissed it as on old TV-villain trope. However, the producers behind this Netflix series pushed this ability to all kinds of devious limits that you have to see to believe that they went that far and somehow managed to pull it off to be a believable force to be reckoned with.

The season has a lot of interesting twists throughout as they are constantly on the run from Kilgrave, and I was a fan of the ingenuity they displayed with the contraption they came up with to handle Kilgrave. Of course he could not be contained, and it was just as much fun to watch him one up Jones and company and how the two ultimately clashed in their final showdown of the season. Like Daredevil, Jessica Jones is just as well casted with best friend/adopted sister Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) serving well as the only person she can trust, and characters Malcolm and Will both undergoing season-spanning transformation I was a little skeptical at first with, but both worked out splendidly in the end. This season also introduces us to bartender, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) who will later be receiving his own Netflix original series that I will definitely be tuning into because this season was a terrific sneak peek at what abilities and powers his character brings to the table.

My only qualm with this season is it takes a page out of other shows like Spartacus and Game of Thrones by being a borderline softcore porn the first couple of episodes in order to attract more mainstream eyeballs before we get more of the bigger picture of what Jessica Jones is all about. I always felt that as a cheap production tactic and seems below Marvel, but I guess it showed the faith both Marvel and Netflix had going into the series’ premiere. Good to hear though that it got renewed for a second season that should be hitting within a few months.
Grade: A

The Jamz - My brother recommended this show to me so I was instantly trepid knowing his viewing habits. However since this was only four, half hour episodes I deemed it another low-term investment much like South Park was this season. Anywho, The Jamz is about two nimrod overnight radio DJs Fitzy (Jim Kozyra) & Jay-Jay (Chris Petlak) who have everything go wrong for them. Actually that is probably my gripe with this entire cast, is that all their fellow peers at the radio station also all try to be a little too much like Taco off of The League. I can tolerate one of those characters, but to have an entire cast of a show act all flakey and cracking nonstop hit-or-miss zingers is too much.

The only person who is not a tool on this show is the janitor who one of the DJs go to for his sage wisdom in an OK running gag. The one running gag I really did enjoy for these four episodes is the intern (Rammel Chan) at the station who does not talk a single word until one pivotal moment that I was waiting the entire series for, and of course slapping myself when I did not see it coming. There are good jokes and gags in each episode, but they need to pace them out better and try and get a couple more down-to-earth characters to help diversify the cast and improve the overall flow in an episode in order for The Jamz to have some staying power.
Grade: C

That wraps up part two, join me for part three as I will be covering a few exclusive HBO shows.

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

2015-16 TV Season Recap, Part One

Now it is time for one of my favorite entries of the year, and that is my annual TV season recap. Here are links to my 2013-14 and 2014-15 TV season recaps in case you missed them. This past year I stayed current with the most ongoing TV series than I ever have in quite some time. I will credit that to HBO Now being a wonderful app, and switching to no commercials on Hulu Plus is definitely worth a couple extra dollars a month and allowed me to use that time saved on investing in a couple other shows this season. Since I have really upped the amount of TV shows I am covering this season edition of the TV Season recap will be a four part piece. If you want to ride this out with me please check out the other installments:

Part 2 (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Jamz)
Part 3 (Game of Thrones, Leftovers, Ballers, Agent Carter)
Part 4 (Gotham, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow)


South Park - For the first time in many, many years I have watched an entire season of South Park. For the last decade or so I would only watch an episode or two a season that was generating a lot of buzz online and I was fine with that. This past year however, a coworker who is an avid fan of the show kept recommending the new episodes to me, and since they are on Hulu and pretty quick watches at around 20 minutes each with no commercials it made for a low-term commitment. I am glad I stuck with it.

I believe this is one of the first seasons of South Park to feature a season-spanning story arc. This season we witness the rise, fall and rise of a character that comes to be known as PC Principal. Nearly each of the ten episodes this season is a winner as South Park Elementary finds itself under the rule of a new principal that is all about ‘checking your privilege.’ Like almost any other South Park episode I lost track of what they were spoofing, and had no idea what side they ultimately fell on, but it made for a hell of a fun watch the entire season. PC Principal is part of a frat house of fellow PC-brothers and watching Stan’s dad join the frat results in many classic moments for Stan’s dad, which is saying a lot actually. Also the long overdue episode spoofing Yelp gets super-high marks from me and has a must-see music video at the end of the episode. Grade: A

The Simpsons/Family Guy - I only got through about seven or eight episodes this season for both long running FOX animated series. I am nowhere near as big a fan of these shows I was around 10 years ago for Family Guy and 20 years ago for The Simpsons. Since both shows are quick watches though, I would occasionally throw in an episode in the background or to nod off to bed to and just to see if either of these shows were still capable of me enjoying them as much as I once did. The Simpsons had a couple of fun episodes including a Halloween-themed episode of the family getting lost in a scary amusement park, which was followed up by another smashing installment of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes.

The iconic South Park manatees episode from several years ago, in combination with an awful spoof of 12 Angry Men from a few years back resulted in me really falling off the Family Guy wagon. I will still watch an occasional episode, and from what I have seen so far this season this show just does not have it anymore for me. The occasional joke still clicks for me, but of the eight episodes I have seen this season, the only one I actually enjoyed was where Stewie built a robot friend that turned against him. I guess the episode with Joe suffering a terrible accident and winding up nearly 100% paralyzed was not too shabby either. Since I did not make it all the way through either series this season it would be unfair to grade either so, Grade: n/a


American Grit - I usually avoid most reality shows unless it involves wrestling or wrestlers as hosts or competitors. Rest assured, I dug me some seasons of Tough Enough and Bullrun in the past! American Grit however is having the one and only John Cena hosting this competition where four teams of four compete in military themed obstacle courses and challenges to test their resolve and vigor. Each team is headed up by a military veteran, and the show pulls out all the reality show bag of tricks like having one incredibly unlikeable person you want to see eliminated right away and a couple of super-charismatic, down-to-earth folks you want to see rise above and win at all costs. I am looking at you Tony!

The weekly challenge, called ‘evolutions’ had all kinds of unique twists and were pretty entertaining to watch, and the beast of an obstacle course three people competed in each episode seemed like a contemporary version of ‘the eliminator’ from American Gladiators. There were a lot of good moments of teams coming together to win competitions and obstacles, and just as entertaining to find some teams in certain weeks where things were just not clicking and falling apart. Love him or hate him, the charismatic John Cena made an excellent host and I was rooting along with him this season for all the competitors and he also excelled in great one-on-one pep talks that provided extra insight on all the competitors’ personal lives throughout the season. If American Gladiators meets boot camp drills sounds like a killer combo for you, then hopefully you will dig American Grit as much as I did! Grade: A

ESPN 30 for 30 2015-16 Season and Shorts - ESPN continues to deliver on their acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series, where they collaborate with top Hollywood documentarians on making high-profile sports documentaries. I saw several from the past year, and I am kicking myself for not being able to watch the new four part 30 for 30, titled Made in America that is all about OJ Simpson which I absolutely want to see. Unfortunately I do not have cable, but Netflix streaming usually gets access to these about 30 to 60 days after they originally air.

I however did see Chasing Tyson, which chronicles the dream fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield that took nearly a decade of obstacles to happen, and the following bizarre shenanigans that ensued in the unbelievable rematch. Prince of Pennsylvania is the documentary version of the acclaimed indie film, Foxcatcher. This details the controversies behind the Foxcatcher wrestling team that results in the murder of Olympic Gold medalist, Dave Schultz. If you grew up a fan of football in the ‘90s then Four Falls of Buffalo gets my highest recommendations as it is all about the unfortunate Buffalo Bills losing four Super Bowls…in a row. As well produced, interviewed and detailed this documentary is, I could not help but get progressively depressed as it went along. I really like how it detailed probably the most identifiable moment of those four losses with Norwood missing the field goal that resulted in the Bills first Super Bowl loss, and how the whole Buffalo community rallied behind him and the Bills upon their return home in the most touching moment of the feature.

The ’85 Bears is the last main feature I will touch on, and it is the most recently aired of the four I have watched from the past year. 31 years after they won the Super Bowl and America still has not forgotten how good the ’85 Bears defense was that won them the Super Bowl. They will go down with the ’99 Ravens, 2002 Bucs and the 2015 Broncos as being the best defenses that overcame their underperforming offenses to win the Super Bowl. This documentary will help cement their legacy as it tracks down countless former ’85 Bears members like Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Buddy Ryan, ‘Refrigerator’ Perry, Steve McMichael and Jim McMahon, among others on how dominate they were that year. This documentary will also go down as having some of the final footage of the recently deceased-Buddy Ryan. The ’85 Bears periodically jumps back to a present day, ailing Buddy Ryan. He is receiving a visit from Mike Singletary as the two revisit old stomping ground and reminisces about the good ‘ol days and you can tell that the relationship between those two are special and genuine throughout. This feature concludes with a letter from Buddy Ryan to the Bears and there is a priceless shot of all the surviving Bears members reading it for the camera and getting their heartfelt reactions from it.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Hulu posting nearly the entire 36 episode archive of 30 for 30 Shorts. These were made in collaboration with the old ESPN affiliated website, Grantland. Once every month or two Grantland would post a mini-documentary around 15 minutes long featuring a topic or moment in sports not quite worthy of a full-length feature, but had enough of its own 15 minutes of fame to be documented and remembered for 15 minutes. Some of these moments seem worthy of more than 15 minutes, where others seems about right. Some of my favorites of these 34 episodes include The Billion Dollar Game, which featured the only time a 16th seed coming ever-so-close of upsetting a 1 seed in March Madness. Another favorite is The Irrelevant Giant which is about the career of former football Giant John Tugle, who tragically had his career cut short, but has some fantastic memories from former teammates and coach, Bill Parcels. On a lighter note, some of these shorts serve as much needed moments of levity in sports focusing on a notorious sports-ball impersonator, the invention of the high-five and a infamous gag put on by Sports Illustrated that had many people fooled. If you were not following Grantland when these were released, they are all really quick watches and well worth taking a few afternoons to binge watch through. Grade: A+

Please join me soon for part two where I will be covering Netflix exclusives shows like Jessica Jones, Daredevil and The JAMZ!

Past TV/Web Series Blogs

2013-14 TV Season Recap
2014-15 TV Season Recap
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 8
Angry Videogame Nerd Vol 7
Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Season 1
RedvsBlue - Seasons 1-13
Seinfeld Final Season
Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle