The New Era

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Most periods of time in wrestling are referred to as ‘eras’. The Rock ‘N Wrestling era of the 1980’s, The New Generation era of the 1990’s, The Attitude era of the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s, and to the somewhat maligned PG era of recent times there has always been an overriding theme to the content that is presented to the audience. Now we are in the midst of the latest time period in wrestling which is being referred to simply as ‘The New Era’.

In this New Era we have seen the brand split return to WWE programming this past week with Smackdown and Raw going back to acting like competing brands, a significant amount of new wrestlers being brought up and various other changes in the presentation of the product. We are very early into this new version of WWE programming, but to say things are looking promising is an understatement. This past week’s new look Raw was one of the best shows in a very long time. Finn Balor made his long anticipated Raw debut and put on a great show. Raw was action heavy with the wrestlers putting on some perfectly choreographed matches that showed great athleticism and kept you on the edge of your seat. The best match of the night goes to the Women’s Championship match between the defending champion Charlotte going against strong fan favorite Sasha Banks. It was a match that was given time to tell an excellent story in the ring and gave the audience the much desired result of Banks finally winning the title.

Smackdown was solid as well, but suffered from airing the night after such an amazing Raw. It still featured some solid moments with fan favorite Dolph Ziggler finally becoming number one contender to the WWE title and the announcement that another favorite Shelton Benjamin was going to be making his long awaited return to the WWE.

One thing that has been very promising lately is how the WWE writers and head honchos have been booking the shows. Not every match will go the way we all want it to, but it does seem that the WWE is listening to the fans and paying attention to crowd reactions. Storylines are making more sense, the matches are being given more time to develop, and different people are being featured on television and in the main events which is making the overall product more unpredictable and significantly more entertaining.

Hopefully, this trend will continue and we will continue to get some great wrestling television and see a whole new set of great memories created for those of us who love professional wrestling.

 

Deadpool

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*As usual…spoilers ahead”

One of the most surprising and best films of 2016 so far is Deadpool. Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld in 1991 and debuting in The New Mutants #98, this character has a long history and is one of the most popular in Marvel’s line of mutant characters. In recent years the character has taken on a more adult sensibility and added large amounts of over the top humor to make the fans want a movie adaptation for some time.

We did get to see Wade Wilson/Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and even though Ryan Reynolds showed us the potential for the character earlier in the film the ending dashed all hopes at the time (just watch the ending of the film to see why so many people abhor it). Despite all this Reynolds still wanted a Deadpool solo movie so he could do justice to the character and give us a much better interpretation of the ‘Merc with a Mouth”.

20th Century Fox seemed to have zero desire to greenlight this film based on the previous movie’s reception, but that did not deter Reynolds. Test footage was leaked in 2014 that showed a hilarious, action packed scene that gave fans the Deadpool we all wanted to see. this caught the attention of Fox and the movie was finally greenlit  and the world is better for it!

What we got was a dirty, foul mouthed, action packed movie that broke all sorts of box-office records for an R-rated film and gave the audience the Deadpool we all wanted and deserved. The beginning of the money shows us the finalized scene of the test footage that went viral and was an amazing way to start the film. The violence, over the top humor, and amazing action got this movie off to the right start and let the audience know up front that they were in for a treat.

Ryan Reynolds has finally found the role of his career so far. He is simply hilarious and knows the character inside and out which gives us an incredible performance. There is no one that could of played this character any better.

The cast is solid overall, but the one who really sticks out is T.J. Miller as Weasel who is Wilson’s best friend. He delivers some classic lines in his unique way that only adds to the humor of the movie and makes it that much better overall.

I also enjoyed Deadpool’s sidekicks Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus (Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapicic respectively). Both performers played their roles perfectly and held their own despite the outstanding performance of Reynolds.

Every moment of this film is fun, exciting, and leaves you wanting more when the movie is done. The post credits scene is very memorable as well showing Deadpool’s homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off while letting the audience know that there will be a sequel featuring Cable which we have seen in the comics as a hilarious duo.

I cannot stress more that this is a very adult movie. With heavy violence and gore, very adult language, nudity and sex, this is a movie that young children should not see. I only stress this because I heard several stories about the movie’s theatrical run with many an ignorant parent bringing their children to see the film because a “superhero” is in it only to complain over the content. FYI…it is R-rated for a reason.

If you are not too sensitive to adult material and are looking for a fun movie with big laughs then go to the store and buy a copy on blu-ray. You will not be disappointed.

Captain America: Civil War

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*Be forewarned…there are spoilers ahead*

There is a always a great deal of excitement when a new Marvel movie comes out. The success rate for these movies is quite high and even though some are better than others, all the movies in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) have been entertaining and important to watch considering how each movie effects the others. After watching Civil War I realized that superhero movies are not in a slump as some people claim and are in no danger of wearing out their welcome as long as they continue to be as excellent of a movie as this one. The Russo brothers have given us great hope that their spin on the MCU will be the best to date.

One thing was made very clear to me after watching this film…all those before it were leading to this movie. The very first Iron Man made a clear reference to the Civil War comic book event when the movie ended with Tony Stark telling everyone he is Iron Man which was a key moment early on in the comic book event. Also, the destruction at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron hinted strongly at the fact that something was going to happen as a result of so many civilians being killed and injured.

The conflict between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers has been shown throughout their previous meetings and due to the Sokovia Accords (which essentially gives the government control over the Avengers) the antagonism between them come to a boiling point. What impressed me most is how the movie makes you see and somewhat agree with both sides. Controlling the superheroes could be a good way of preventing more deaths of civilians, but the concept of any government possibly using them for their own personal gain is an uncomfortable idea.

Iron Man leads the pro-Sokovia Accords side and Captain America leads the side that is against the proposed laws. What truly brings things to a head is when Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier is framed for killing the king of Wakanda, T’Chaka. Iron Man wants to bring him in to pay for his supposed crime and Captain America wants to protect his life-long friend.

The action scenes in this movie are insane and I will not go into great detail since these moments have already been well chronicled, but there are so many incredible moments without making the viewer feel overwhelmed. When T’Challa/Black Panther hunts down Bucky we get to see one of the most incredible chase scenes captured on film in a long time. The big airport battle between Team Cap and Team Iron Man has so many amazing moments it is hard to pin them all down, but when Ant Man becomes Giant Man we are treated to a humorous and awesome moment.

When Spider-Man enters the fray we see nothing but one great moment after the other starting with him fighting Captain America one-on-one in a pitch perfect battle and then Spider-Man taking on Bucky and Falcon that will having you smiling throughout. The final battle, which is the most emotional and brutal, shows Iron Man taking on Bucky and Captain America in an amazingly choreographed scene. We find out that Bucky murdered Stark’s parents decades ago while he was being brain washed and the anguish and rage we see on Stark’s face when he discovers this is extremely powerful.

The one thing I really appreciated was that none of the main heroes died. Some came close, but none actually perished. In the comic books we see Captain America die at the end of the storyline which causes Tony Stark  to rethink his position, but we do not get such an easy out in the movie. We see a hint of reconciliation, but they still are not fully on the same side which makes sense and gives an intriguing spin on what we may see in the next two Avengers movies.

It is amazing to me that a movie which has some dark/serious undertones can still come off as bright, humorous, and positive. Everything does not have to be constant doom and gloom to be an effective movie in today’s world. Civil War proves that.

Despite all of the amazing moments and performances the two actors that stick out the most are Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther/T’Challa. We have finally found the perfect Spider-Man who truly embodies the role better than anyone before and Boseman’s portrayal of Black Panther gives us a performance that is truly gripping and gives us a new character in the MCU that could turn out to be it’s best and most popular. Their performances give me great confidence in their upcoming solo movies.

This movie is definitely a must see wether you enjoy this genre of film or not since it is not only a great superhero film, but a great movie overall.

WWE Ride Along

wwe-ride-alongThe WWE Network has done a great job of adding original content in the past few months and one of the newest shows is called ‘Ride Along’.

Each episode features two groups of wrestlers traveling by car from one show to another one and gives the viewers the experience of seeing these performers out of character and just acting normal.

There are only a couple of episodes so far, but some of the early highlights are The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Big E) traveling together and being almost as silly out of the ring as they are in it, and Renee Young, Summer Rae and R-Truth traveling together and cracking each other up. Getting to see another side of a performer like Summer Rae, that we normally do not get to experience during typical WWE programming, is refreshing.

The WWE Network is great for die hard wrestling fans like myself to have access to 1000’s of hours of WWE, WCW, and ECW programming like weekly shows, PPV’s, etc… What keeps the network growing in subscribers is original programming with shows like this one that will convince people who have been on the fence about subscribing to give it a shot.

There are many new shows coming to the WWE Network in the next several months that I am looking forward to and I will feature them on my blog between opinions on PPV’s, Raw, Smackdown, etc…

For the Man Who Has Everything

 

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Featured in Superman Annual #11, ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ is a classic Superman tale written by one of the comic book industry’s greatest writers in Alan Moore. For the next few months I will be reviewing some classic mainstream Alan Moore titles.

This tale centers around a symbiotic alien plant called Black Mercy that attaches itself to it’s victim and feeds off of their ‘bio-aura’ while they are placed into a dream like state where all of their heart’s desires are occurring in their mind while they are slowly dying in reality.

The story begins with Batman, Robin (the Jason Todd version), and Wonder Woman meeting at the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman’s birthday. They suddenly come upon Superman who is standing still with this alien parasite attached to him. The villain Mongul is the culprit behind Superman’s predicament and Wonder Woman immediately begins to battle him while Batman and Robin attempt to remove Black Mercy from our red and blue spandexed hero.

During this mayhem we see what is going on in Superman’s mind. He is back on Krypton (having never been destroyed), married with a son, and living a regular non-heroic life. Very quickly though we see his dream world start coming apart. His father Jor-El has been ostracized by Kryptonian society since his prediction of the planet Krypton’s destruction never came to fruition. Kryptonian society is heading towards a civil war with various warring factions preparing to go head-to-head over differing views of how their world should be run. This is clearly not Superman getting to live out his heart’s desires and shows the reader that he is starting to come out of his catatonic state.

Batman and Robin are finally able to pry the alien plant off of Superman and he immediately awakens from his motionless state and, in a very violent rage, screams and goes after Mongul in what proceeds to be a brutal fight between to well matched adversaries.

While this is going on the parasite attaches itself to Batman and he starts to drift off into a world where his parent’s have never been murdered. Fortunately, Robin is able to pry the parasite off of Batman and just when it looks like Mongul is going to get the upper hand on Superman, he launches the Black Mercy and it attaches itself to the villain.

Mongul is now in a catatonic state and we get see his heart’s desire which is the death of Superman and him taking over the entire universe.

This story is very compelling since we get to see inside Superman’s mind more than usual and really feel sympathetic knowing that even though he became Earth’s greatest hero, he still wishes for a normal life which he can never have.

This is a classic tale which was very recently redone for an excellent episode of CBS’s Supergirl which really helped the progression of the character and give a nice nod to a classic comic book story.

Alan Moore has written some classic graphic novels over the decades and usually people focus on his more original work like V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, etc…. I will not argue on the merits of those works, but also encourage people to seek out his work on more well-known characters like Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, et al. A truly great writer can take a very well-known character and add his own flavor without ignoring it’s history. Moore is one of those writers and ‘For the Man Who Has Everything’ is the perfect example of his amazing talent.

It has been reprinted many times over the years and I re-read it for the umpteenth time in my recently acquired DC Universe by Alan Moore hardcover which was released in 2013 and can still be easily found on Amazon and other book retailers. It features a lot of Moore’s mainstream DC output and is strongly recommended.

The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness

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Whew! That was the longest title I have typed into a blog post yet and it is perfect for a show as wonderfully ridiculous as this one.

The WWE Network not only contains 1000’s of hours of wrestling content, but also many original shows that feature some of their past performers. Edge and Christian were two of the biggest stars to come out of what is known as ‘The Attitude Era” in the WWE (late 1990’s to early 2000’s) and they were both known as two of the funniest guys on the roster. With their slapstick humor and the ‘5 second pose’ (look it up on YouTube, some genuinely funny stuff) they showed that not only were they great athletes, but overall tremendous performers which is key to a successful career in professional wrestling.

Both men are retired from wrestling, but when the WWE announced they would have their own show on the Network you knew this would be something brilliantly absurd and 2 episodes in the show has not disappointed.

Their humor is mostly wrestling based which works for the platform their show is on. Their brand of humor is simply goofy, but not irritatingly soon and the in-jokes are great. The show primarily consists of various skits, funny appearances from other wrestlers and other celebrities, and Edge and Christian simply seem to enjoy hanging out and cracking jokes.

The highlight so far is during the first episode when they talk to Fred Ottman (known as Tugboat and Typhoon in the WWE, and infamously as the Shockmaster in WCW). The Shockmaster gimmick is notorious because his debut was marked by him ‘bursting’ through a wall, accidentally falling down, and his bizarre glittered Star Wars Stormtrooper mask falling off his head. The fact that Ottman was so open to mocking himself was a blast to see and showed that he really has a good sense of humor.

It airs on the WWE Network following Raw every Monday Night.

You can sign up for only $9.99 a month with the first month being free so you can check out this show and many others and enjoy the absurdity of it all.

Batman, Incorporated

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Full disclosure, I have been a long time fan of Batman. He has been one of my favorite characters since the first Tim Burton Batman movie was released in 1989. I enjoy everything from the campy 1960’s television show to the most recent Christopher Nolan trilogy.  I have at least one long box full of nothing but Batman comic books. For me he is such a compelling character for multiple reasons that I will not list here.

I am fully aware of the various storylines that have went on in the past 10 years involving Batman and I have only read single issues sporadically. There have been some good stories told recently, but sometimes the sheer doom and gloom that many people feel Batman needs to be in the modern era, based on Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns, weighs the character down and makes him less interesting in some regards. It is nice to occasionally have a break from the darkness. That is where Batman, Incorporated comes in.

Grant Morrison is one of my favorite comic book writers and personalities in the industry. He is intelligent, witty, and very unique in his thought processes. His book Supergods is a must read to get his insightful take on the mythology of our favorite comic book characters and a little more knowledge of Morrison himself. When I saw this collected edition of issues 1-8 and the one shot Leviathan Strikes! I knew I had to give it a shot since the combination of a great writer with a legendary character had to be worth the read. Thankfully, I was right.

The whole concept of Batman, Incorporated is that Batman/Bruce Wayne is traveling around the world recruiting international heroes to join his group and become Batmen to assist him in his fight against a new terrorist group called Leviathan. There is a true ‘fun-ness’ to this book that made it hard to put down. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing silly about this tale, especially some of the imagery we see through the miniseries and especially towards the end of this collected edition, but the overall tone is much more enjoyable and not as dark as some of Batman’s well known storylines.

The different variations on Batman are inventive and great to see. I especially enjoyed the Native American version Man-of-Bats. His focus was helping his own people by any means necessary and his nobility was admirable even though we saw some flaws in his approach. He is a very human hero that anyone could become, whether or not they had the finances to do so.

Grant Morrison really seemed to enjoy writing this tale which results in the reader experiencing the same emotions throughout the series. The team of artists on this series all had their own styles well represented, yet still made every issue seem artistically cohesive. The art popped off the page and really grabbed your attention and made this series very engaging.

The only thing that was a slight disappointment is that I saw the twist ending coming from a mile away. I did not know the outcome of this series so I went in fresh and I was still able to figure out who the mystery person behind Leviathan was going to be. I will not spoil anything, but many long time readers probably did the same. Despite this fact, the ending was still good and did not detract from anything.

This deluxe edition is a great collection of an amazing miniseries and will look great on your bookshelf.

If you are a fan of Grant Morrison, Batman, or just good storytelling, then this is a must read for you.