Category: rants & nostalgia

A few thoughts on last night’s WWE Elimination Chamber PPV

WWE put the worst elements of their booking on display last night, and the bright spots even managed to prove the rule.

Elimination Chamber was symptomatic of a bloated creative team that hides its lack of good ideas in overwhelming volume—overwriting the simplest and most compelling elements of what makes competition resonate with people.

The Intercontinental Title Match

Inexplicably this match turned into a two-on-one match, presumably because someone who doesn’t understand how sports or competitions works thought Finn Balor would look more sympathetic and more impressive going against the odds in this way. But this is the point of view of a moron, because implicit in these two-on-one rules is that Balor can (and did) win the title by pinning either member of the two-person team, even though only one member was the defending champion.

So WWE expects this to be a significant moment when Balor wins the Intercontinental Championship — which he does by pinning the defending champion’s hype man. Balor wins the title by not defeating the champion. How is that supposed to get him over? How is that supposed to feel satisfying? Right away, he’s undermined by booking that routinely broadcasts its own lack of awareness of how athletic competitions work and why they resonate with audiences. (more…)



How a Single One-Liner Ruins Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy

batman begins movie poster

When Batman Begins came out in 2005, there was one particular scene – one line in one particular scene, to be more specific – that bothered the hell out of me, and I have wanted to talk about it ever since.

To paraphrase John Mulaney, I know it’s kind of stupid to complain about a movie that came out 14 years ago, but I wasn’t a blogger back then, so I have to do it now.

The scene in question is the audience’s introduction to The Batman.

I’m coming in hot on this one. Let’s just dive right into it.
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Rated ‘D’ for Doom: A Look at Superhero Movies in 2019

spider-man far from home movie posterHello, and welcome to another installment of “Rated ‘D’ for Doom,” my annual look at the year’s upcoming superhero movies!

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote one of these, but that’s only because we haven’t had any new superhero movies come out lately. I guess they’re just not that popular with general audiences anymore.

But fear not! It’s a whole new year, and it looks like several of the major film studios in Hollywood are going to risk it all once again and roll the dice on a few of these properties. Hopefully they don’t lose their shirts!

No, but, for real, the stakes have never been higher than they are right now – last year, three of the top five highest-grossing superhero movies of all-time were released. At the domestic box office, six of the top ten highest-earners on the year were superhero movies.

Studios have a lot riding on this fad, and they’re determined to milk it for all it’s worth.

You thought Solo was a gross cash-grab in the Star Wars Universe? Well wait until you see the TV spin-offs for Scarlet Witch, Loki, and the Winter Soldier!

Drain ‘em dry!

But this year, we have more superhero movies coming out than ever before (don’t, uh… don’t fact-check me on that), so we don’t have any time to waste on looking back or talking about TV spin-offs.

Let’s get right into it!
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Uncanny X-Men: History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But it Rhymes

uncanny-x-men-disassembled-header

X-Men has, for too long, been floundering as a franchise. By my highly subjective opinion, since near the beginning of the Chuck Austen era, though I’ve found that many, many people hated the Grant Morrison run, which I find … odd.

The franchise has been at war with wanting to forge ahead and create new wild ideas with the Marvel insistence on a reset to orthodoxy. There have been sporadically interesting books within there … Mike Carey’s run, Legion, Wolverine and the X-Men, and, to an extent, X-Men Blue, but on the whole I haven’t connected with X-Men in years, which is a shame when it’s your favorite comic. One problem was the sheer length of Bendis’ run, who told an ambitious, but unfilling, long term arc.
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Sam Rockwell clearly needs to play Multiple Man

CREDIT: 	David Shankbone

CREDIT: David Shankbone


After X-Men: Apocalypse, the main lineage of X-Men movies seems to be waning. Supernova (or whatever the title ends up being) could resurrect interest in the franchise, or it could retread water and end up a moderately better version of The Last Stand. Whatever it ends up being, it needs to not be three hours long like Apocalypse.

But that brings us to something else: the recent success of the franchise hasn’t been in the sequels, but the sidequels. Logan drew rave reviews, even in untraditional places. Legion is setting a new standard of weird on TV while hinting at a bigger story integrally tied to the movies while existing as a separate entity. Deadpool is a verifiable cult hit. After a few missteps, the X-Men spinoff attempts seem to finally be hitting their stride.

This is exactly why Sam Rockwell needs to play Jamie Madrox in an X-Factor Investigations movie.
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JBL must go.

There’s no way around it—JBL has to go.

WWE’s bullying culture has been known for decades, but some unfortunate timing and sympathetic victims have launched the issue into the mainstream. Much of the judgment has swirled around John “Bradshaw” Layfield, a former cowboy-themed / occult-bodyguard themed / J.R. Ewing-themed wrestler-turned-Fox Business analyst-turned color commentator.
bradshaw-cowboy
JBL’s penchant for bullying has been well documented, but a confluence of two victims’ stories has recently focused a spotlight on his behavior. Play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo is likely done with WWE as a result of how JBL’s bullying preyed on Ranallo’s battle with bipolar disorder. Former ring announcer Justin Roberts recently published Best Seat in the House, in which he speaks frankly about his experience on the receiving end of WWE’s bullying culture.

WWE is hardly the first company—or organization—to have a history of bullying, but locker-room justice is a blunt object that’s hard to align with an organization’s values.

Veterans coming to JBL’s defense have been pointing out that this is a thread running back to the history of the business. Whether it’s sports, fraternities or the military, hazing and bullying have long been leveraged to build bonds between participants who need to trust their colleagues, and to preemptively weed out those who can’t handle the pressure before the eventual caving can cause damage. And in a business like professional wrestling, trust and reliability are essential to the safety of the talent.
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Culture has power; a 2016 DeLoitte survey showed 82 percent of global respondents believe culture is a competitive advantage. Companies are increasingly learning about the importance of clearly defining and taking ownership of their culture, cultivating it with care and harnessing its potential to drive their business.

And that’s why WWE needs to part ways with JBL sooner rather than later. For WWE to fully reap the benefits of its bullying culture, they need someone who truly excels at preying on the less powerful on all fronts; JBL is not that man. (more…)



Triple H Is Leaving As Champ: Wrestlemania 32 Prediction

I’ve been saying it for months now, ever since Triple H won the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble:

He’s leaving Wrestlemania as champion.

It’s not necessarily for any one reason, but as is always the case when the winds shift at the last minute in his storyline favor—for a confluence of reasons that just happen to align at just the right time.

It’s no secret to anyone that Roman Reigns is not getting over as WWE’s lead babyface. Nor is it any secret, particularly after this past week when they had to cut essentially the same promo twice, that The Authority is a tired force lording over WWE programming. Furthermore, the talent roster is thin—particularly following some ill-timed injuries—and in need of an injection of fresh blood.

And Triple H just happens to provide the silver bullet for all of their problems.

wweSo first thing’s first—how does Triple H leave Wrestlemania as champion when they’ve spent so much time and effort building up Roman Reigns as the new top face?

I’m old enough to remember when WWE invested time and money into a particular anti-Authority wrestler, on a path to topple the power-abusers and show once and for all that they could be beaten. And then, even after the storyline had played out over two calendar years, WWE made the decision at the last second to change the finish and have Triple H go over, throwing away all of the buildup for a finish that made no sense.

That was last year.
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Batman vs Superman in the Comics

Batman vs Superman Dark Knight ReturnsUnless you’ve been living under Iraq (quick, what’s the statute of limitations on making puns about Saddam in his hidey-hole?), you’ll know that Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is hitting theatres this weekend, and it seems poised to shatter some records at the box office, to say nothing of its title characters’ bones.

Now, personally, I have pretty much the same reaction to a screening of Zack Snyder’s version of this fight as I do to a dog eating its own poop: Yes, I know it’s happening all over the world this weekend, but I don’t much feel like seeking it out and paying money to watch.

See, to me, the most appealing thing about watching Batman and Superman get into a fight is in seeing the contrast between the two characters. Every time they lock up in the comic books, those differences are always highlighted so that the reader can easily pick a side in the fight (hint: It’s Batman. It’s always Batman).

But in the movie — at least from what I’ve seen of it in the trailers, which is probably all of it, let’s be real — those differences have all but been erased thanks to the efforts of DC/WB to make Superman fit into the world of the Dark Knight.

Instead of the overly-patriotic, relentlessly optimistic “Big Blue Boy Scout,” this film seems to be giving us a militaristic, angsty, tortured soul dressed in a dark costume and forced to scowl for two and a half hours straight. Cracking a smile is this Superman’s Kryptonite. (more…)



Rated ‘D’ for Doom: A Look at Superhero Movies in 2016

Hello, and welcome to another installment of “Rated ‘D’ for Doom,” my annual look at the year’s upcoming superhero movies!

Now, before we move into the current year, I always like to take a moment to reflect on the prior year’s releases and see how they fared.

Last year, we only had three big releases in the genre, and boy were they all over the place in terms of success. They were all three Marvel properties, though only two were released by Marvel Studios.

I’m speaking, of course, about Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Fantastic Four. The first two were both critical and commercial successes, though the sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers (nobody calls it that) couldn’t help but be a bit of a let-down, considering the level of expectations surrounding it.

At the time of its release, Jim Doom and I discussed it at length, though my thoughts on it have changed a little bit over the past few months, and not in a good way. I think I’d be hard-pressed to justify ever watching it all the way through again, what with how long it is and how little happens in it.

Ant-Man was also a movie that came out last year, though I don’t know if I could tell you a single scene from it that stands out today (that I’m not simply remembering from the trailer, that is). It’s just a really forgettable movie with a formulaic ending.

And, lastly, we have Fantastic Four, the only non-Marvel Studios superhero movie that came out last year. The less we say about it, the better. I saw it. I regret seeing it. Let’s move on.

This is a new year, Jack! And if you like superhero movies, well, you’d better get ready to drop some serious coinage. In 2016, we have SEVEN new superhero movies coming out, and that’s actually down from what was originally slated, as Sony had to scrap Sinister Six after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shit the bed and ruined that entire “shared universe” that they were hoping so hard for.

The good news out of that whole debacle is that Spider-Man will appear in one of the movies coming out this year! And it’s alongside the other Avengers! There aren’t enough exclamation points for this!

We’ll get to that soon enough, though. For now, let’s run these films down, one by one, and we’ll talk about Spider-Man when the time is right. (more…)



New Japan Acquisitions: Is This WWF 1984 or WWF 1999?

The news this week that four New Japan stars may soon be headed to WWE has sparked some unexpected and intriguing speculation about WWE’s plans for this talent, particularly revolving around the former members of New Japan’s Bullet Club.

It’s the kind of thing that has me completely flipping my opinion on whether I’d like to see Finn Balor in WWE.

bc2Prior to this week, if you’d asked me if I’d like to see Balor get called up to the main roster, I’d have said “No” without hesitation. Whether it’s the embarrassing mishandling of money main-eventers (Sasha Banks) or the midcarders who still deserve better than instant obscurity (Tyler Breeze), it’s becoming increasingly clear that the creative force(s) driving WWE’s main-roster product have absolutely no idea what to do with NXT talent.

But the prospect of putting Balor at the helm of an American version of the Bullet Club on WWE TV has me more excited for potential storylines on Raw than anything has in a while–because Balor and a Club of talent that got big in Japan on WWE’s main roster would signal that they’re finally recognizing top talent can come from somewhere else. It’d be indicative of a perception shift that hasn’t budged since roughly May of 2001.

That excitement is because I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s making some assumptions as to what kind of acquisition this is. And there’s pretty good reason to assume this isn’t the kind of acquisition I’m excited about.
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