In The Heights and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Jon M Chu
Things are finally opening back up and I’m so glad that we finally get to see movies in theaters again (remember to get vaccinated before you go!), but I’ll admit that I’m also still glad that Warner Bros is still releasing movies on HBO Max the same day as theaters. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly return to my old routine of going to the theater two to three times a week, but if I’m going to get ANYWHERE close to that I’ll need to make the transition slowly, so being able to sit on my couch and catch up on the latest releases without having to worry about show times or theater prices is a genuine relief to me. Perhaps a big lavish musical like this is something that SHOULD be seen in the theater, but I saw Hamilton for the first time on a TV and it blew me away then so hopefully Lin-Manuel Miranda’s earlier musical can hit home the same way whether it’s seen in the most ideal conditions or not. Is this adaptation of the Broadway show as magical as you would hope from the names behind it, or was it a stretch to hope that Hamilton’s success would mean all of Miranda’s works were worth bringing into people’s homes? Let’s find out!!
Washington Heights is a predominantly Latino community in New York City where Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) whiles away the days working in his bodega and fondly remembering of his childhood in the Dominican Republic. He has always dreamed of returning there one day and when an opportunity to leave all of this behind and return to his home country, he seizes upon it and plans to leave the community in just a few days’ time. While trying to tie up his loose ends, we learn more about the people of Washington Heights, their struggles, and the many characters who fill out the rest of the story including Nina (Leslie Grace) who’s back from her first year at Stanford but may not be able to return, Melissa (Vanessa Morales) an aspiring fashion designer who can’t catch a break, Claudia (Olga Merediz) who everyone in the community loves but has some deep pain that she’s pushing deep down to try and be the matriarch of the community that everyone needs, and even good ol’ Benny (Corey Hawkins) who dreams of pulling himself up by his boot straps and making something of himself in the world of business. As these stories interweave and Usnavi’s flight out of the country gets closer and closer, more secrets are revealed, more heartbreak is had, and more than enough excuses to dance are made to make the days go by with a smile on everyone’s faces and joy in their hearts! Will Usnavi’s final days in Washington Heights change the way he sees himself, his dreams, and the people around him? What hardships will the people in this community face, and will they be able to overcome them with strength and pride? Is there any other neighborhood with THIS density of amazing dancers, because I’m pretty sure Time Square’s got NOTHING on this!Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: In The Heights”
AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
We’re back with another episode of Dynamite and frankly I’m ready for these Friday shows to end. Not because of anything to do with the show itself (though last week was PRETTY bad) but because it throws off my entire schedule! I would have wrestling during the week and then the weekend for other stuff, but NOW everything is all crammed into two days! We only have a few more weeks of this strange timeslot so I’ll grin and bear it, but they’re gonna have to put on a GREAT show to make up for last week’s and for making my weekends that much more stressful! Let’s take a look!
Christian Cage Vs. Angélico
So apparently Matt Hardy has a bug up his butt about Christian Cage tossing him out at the Casino Battle Royale, and so he’s hired Angélico from TH2 to have a match with him. I mean I’m sure he was going to have a match with SOMEONE this week so I’m not sure why this particular matchup is so dastardly, but Angélico is one of those people on the roster like Joey Janela, The Varsity Blondes, and Penelope Ford who are around every once in a while and probably have had a bunch of matches on Dark or Elevation but REALLY should be getting more of a spotlight on Dynamite. The guy definitely has a unique physique looking like the handsome brother of Slenderman (dude has some SERIOUSLY long limbs!) and he’s so good at giving us a kind of match we don’t see enough of at AEW which focuses on submissions instead of high spots or big guy brawling. Every time Cage gets an advantage with a flashy strike or some sort of throw, Angélico is ready to cut him off and start working over his arm again until finally he has him in some sort of Arm Bar right in the middle of the ring! Cage is desperately trying to fight back against Angélico’s move as the crowd chants PLEASE DON’T TAP, and he finally makes it to the ropes to break the hold but is far from out of the woods. He makes a comeback with a reverse DDT, a Missile Drop Kick, and a Flying Headbutt, but none of it is able to keep Angélico down for a three count who himself is starting to lose steam after all these near falls. He makes a big mistake by trying to match Cage’s style and goes for a spot on the ropes only to get kicked out of midair and eating another two count. From there it’s mostly desperate flailing from the two of them which Christian proves to be the better one of the two and manages to finish off Angélico with the Kill Switch. As soon as the bell rings, Angélico’s partner Jack Evans runs in to attack Cage which goes rather poorly all things considered as he’s tossed ut of the ring with little effort. However, this does distract Cage long enough for Matt Hardy to sneak in from behind and land a Twist of Fate on him that leaves Cage dead in the middle of the ring. Angélico and Hardy are about to kick him some more when Jungle Boy runs out from the back and chases off Hardy and his two flunkies; leaving Cage and Jungle Boy to celebrate this victory in the middle of the ring. It was certainly a nice change of pace to start out with a match like this and I certainly hope it’s a sign that things are going to be MUCH better this week!Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (06-11-2021) – Friday Night Dynamite”
Our inaugural episode of The Phenomenal Wrestling Podcast! In this episode we discuss…
The Retirement of Lio Rush [0:56 – 4:53]
AEW Dynamite recap (6/11/21) [4:54 – 47:06]
The Shockmaster’s Infamous Debut [47:07 – 56:33]
The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios
Bungie and Microsoft seemed to know that Halo was going to be a big thing almost immediately so they got to work right away branching the franchise out into different media with books, comics, and extremely elaborate marketing campaigns, but they never ventured into spin-off territory until this game; eight years after the first Halo was released. Halo Wars is a Real Time Strategy game developed by Ensemble Studios; the big daddy of the genre who made the Age of Empires series which also known as THE BEST REAL TIME STRATEGY SERIES OF ALL TIME! Yes, even better than YOUR games, Blizzard! Sadly this is also the LAST game that Ensemble Studios made as Microsoft shut the company down as this game was nearing its completion and the reasons why are still a bit on the hazy side. Co-founder Bruce Shelly said in 2009 that the company was being poorly managed and relying on crunch while still failing to hit targets, though another co-founder, Tony Goodman, puts it more on Microsoft shoulders. In an interview he gave for the book Gamers at Work (released in 2012), he talks about how Microsoft cancelled the Halo MMO project they were working on at the same time as Halo Wars and that they fully intended to close the studio soon after which is KIND of on Ensemble’s shoulders if you ask me as they hadn’t even gotten approval from Microsoft and diverting resources away from the Halo Wars team to do it, but then again Bungie was being a bit cagey and had final say on ANY story decision so it wasn’t exactly the “fun” project to be working on at the time. Regardless, Microsoft would end up continuing both the Age of Empires and Halo Wars franchises without Ensemble studios, and we’ll make our way to Halo Wars 2 eventually but for now we’re here to talk about this game and what it meant for the Halo franchise as well as the comic book that was released alongside it! Let’s get started!
Halo Wars – 2009
Developed by Ensemble Studios
We’ll start with the narrative and cinematics which honestly, Halo Wars plays out more like a Saturday Morning cartoon compared to the much more serious tone of the main games. The character models look blockier and more exaggerated, the story itself is pretty broad, and they rely much more on over the top dramatics from all the characters. I actually like this aesthetic and I wish that Halo would take itself less seriously more often (*cough* Odd One Out *cough*), but the one thing about the new presentation that hits a sour note for me is the voice acting on the Elites. I mean look, when you get Keith David for the previous games, ANYTHING else is going to feel a bit like a stepdown, but they just sound bad in a way that reminds me of… well, a Saturday morning cartoon! Fair play I suppose, but it’s no less jarring to hear them whenever they show up in the cut scenes.Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Wars & Halo Wars Genesis”
Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America
We’re back with more Sonic, and considering how busy the last month has been it feels like an ETERNITY since we last got an issue; especially since they aren’t running a miniseries parallel with the main book at the moment. Seriously IDW, we need a second book in this universe; not just four issues here and there of a side story! They certainly tend to be more entertaining than the main story line which has more room to drag things out (*cough* Metal Virus *cough*), but perhaps this issue will bring the latest story to a satisfying end instead of leaving us hanging for another month or two. Do Sonic and pals manage to escape from Eggman’s evil machinations once again, and more importantly do the writers find a way to make it fun and interesting? Let’s find out!!
The issue begins with Sonic, Tails, and Amy, being menaced in the virtual world by Eggman’s latest machines. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time to send the Rock Paper Scissors of elemental robots to cover all your bases, but Sonic has SOMEHOW found the flaw in this and uses his super speed to trick the robots into attacking each other. Come on Eggman, that’s Speedster 101 stuff! Normally I find the action in these comics perfectly suitable if a bit dull, but sadly I have to be a bit harsher than usual because the artwork on the first few pages looks PRETTY bad here with a lot of flat color and off looking characters. The art is done by people who have worked on this comic many times before and it’s DRASTICALLY improved by the tenth or so page, so the only thing I can conclude is that there must be some sort of schedule issue that left some of the pages somewhat unfinished and it’s a bit of an eye sore because of that.Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #40”
AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
So after a week of nonstop action with two shows more or less back to back, it’s time for things to return to normal as we move forward from the events of Double or Nothing to see what AEW has planned for the future! Is this the start of a bold new direction for show, or did they use up all of their good ideas on the PPV? Let’s find out!!
Before getting started, it’s worth noting that the hard cam is back to facing the Titantron and the small crowd of people sitting there on the stage which is the position it’s been in since the Pandemic except for last Friday’s show and the PPV. With that new section of crowd it’s probably the best place for it, and it least it doesn’t have the DAILY’S PLACE sign shining brightly in the background.
The Young Bucks Vs. Death Triangle (Pac & Penta El Zero M)
The Bucks are accompanied to the ring by Brandon Cutler
I was expecting this to be the main event of the show considering all four guys were in big matches at the PPV (three of whom in title matches), but The Bucks like to go on first and you really couldn’t ask for a better matchup to hook views in for the rest of the show. During The Bucks’ entrance which is as obnoxious and heelish as you’d expect, Frankie Kazarian moves through the crowd and attacks Michael Nakazawa for seemingly no reason other than to terrorize The Bucks. I’m not sure they’ll care all THAT much as no one seemed to care when he got his butt handed to him by an army of six year olds, but it’s clear that Kazarian is not done being The Bucks’ biggest pest! It does accomplish one thing however as The Bucks are momentarily distracted by all the commotion which allows Pac and Penta to take a bunch of shots at The Bucks before the bell rings which is a trope I STILL don’t like, but whatever it takes to get this match started. To their credit, Death Triangle does get an early advantage and it looks like they might run away with this, but it’s not long before The Bucks are in control and are doing their usual goofy heel shtick. The best moment is when Nick has Pac held outside the ring, but instead of Matt doing a Suicide Dive he exits on the opposite side and does a Braun Strowman like run around the entire ring just to land a clothesline which they celebrate as if they had hit Pac with a freight train. The Bucks continue to get the heat on Pac for a while, but he eventually escapes with a German Suplex and gets the hot tag to Penta who throws out Slingblades like they’re going out of style! It’s as good run of offense to be sure, but for me they kind of overdid the tags as Penta’s barely in for a minute before he’s tagging Pac back in and then Pac does little more than a Pop Up Powerbomb before he tags out once again! From there things descend into chaos as everyone is throwing out big moves and I lose track of who’s the legal man for each team. Some highlights include a nut shot Pac delivers to Matt from the top rope, Penta landing a Canadian Destroy on Nick who then eats a Canadian destroyer from matt right after, and Matt Jackson ripping off Penta’s mask only to find… ANOTHER MASK! The biggest move however was a Fear Factor from Penta followed by a Black Arrow from Pac that ALMOST gets them the win if Matt Jackson hadn’t broken it up. This failed pin attempt was the last one that Penta and Pac would get as Pac goes up for another Black Arrow but Brandon Cutler comes from behind and bashes Pac in the leg which knocks him off the post and into the waiting arms of Nick Jackson who rolls him up to get the pin and win the match. That’s not good enough for The Bucks however who try to take off Penta’s remaining mask and set him up for a Superkick party, but they are chased off by a very furious Eddie Kingston running to the ring. No appearance from Jon Moxley tonight with the storyline reason being that he’s too injured from the PPV match, but what’s really going on is that his daughter is going to be born soon so he’s back home for the foreseeable future. It was a pretty good match that maybe got a bit out of hand with everyone running in and out, but with The Bucks and Penta it’s kinda what you should’ve expected in the first place.Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (06-04-2021) – Friday Night Dynamite”
Cruella and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Now I’m sure that 101 Dalmatians is a classic and that Cruella is a great villain in it, but the fact is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I just don’t have any attachment or fondness for it. What I DO have attachment and fondness for however is Maleficent which was a brilliant deconstruction of the fairy tale mythos and made an otherwise one note villain into a complex character with depth and pathos. It’s clear that this is the template that Disney is using for this reimagining of Cruella De Vil with a sprinkling of Joker throw in for good measure, and frankly that’s what got me interested in this movie more than whatever connection it has to the Disney classic. Does it manage to be another outside the box interpretation of the Disney formula, or are they scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find anything else that people want to see again? Let’s find out!!
There once was a girl named Estella Miller who had really awesome black and white hair and she knew that one day she would become a world famous fashion designer! That or a professional MMA fighter because every day in school she was getting in fights with the boys and telling teachers off for being fools which eventually forced her beleaguered mother (Emily Beecham) to take her out of the countryside and to the town of London where she may find her place. Along the way however, her mother makes a stop at an old friend’s house, and… well this IS a Disney movie, so it’s not long before things spiral out of control there and Estella is left an orphan through rather ludicrous means. Without anywhere else to go, she heads to London and meets up with two street punks who take her in and as they survive the means streets of London by pick-pocketing for their bread; and this is BEFORE Thatcher’s Britain! As is wont to happen, Estelle does grow up into a bright young woman (Emma Stone) who gets a job working for the biggest fashion designer in the city simply known as The Baroness (Emma Thompson) and for reasons that I shan’t spoil here, Estelle gets VERY cross with The Baroness and decides to assume an alter ego as the Fashionista Cruella who will take London by storm at the expense of her current employer! With the help of her two ruffian friends Jasper and Horace (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser), will she become the fashion icon that she always dreamed of with getting back at The Baroness as a fun bonus? Is this Estelle just lashing out at the unfairness of the world around her, or perhaps is Estelle the mask that Cruella has been forced to wear this whole time? Perhaps there’s a little Cruella in all of us; just yearning to tell the collective bosses of the world where to shove it!Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Cruella”
Double or Nothing and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, and Shahid Khan
AEW deciding to put a Friday night show right before the PPV made things a LITTLE difficult this weekend and sure enough it ended up taking me much longer than I anticipated to finally get this recap out for you all to see. Still, they were nice enough to move THIS weeks’ Dynamite to Friday as well which means I can get this thing out a LITTLE later than I anticipated and still not technically be behind on the show! Hopefully things will ease back into a more familiar formula by next week, but for now we’re going to discuss the Double or Nothing PPV that aired on Sunday and everything that resulted from it! Was it a show worthy of the Double or Nothing name, or is their first PPV back in front of a live audience a much bigger disappointment than any of us expected? Let’s find out!!
Serena Deeb Vs. Riho – NWA Women’s Title Match (Buy In)
As usual, AEW has at least one match on YouTube that you can watch before the PPV itself, but this time they do something a bit odd. Last Friday I mentioned that they moved the hard camera 90 degrees counterclockwise so that it was no longer facing the stage. The Hard Cam is back to facing the stage. For this match AND ONLY THIS MATCH, they put the camera back where it was before. Seems a bit odd as they would have had to SPECIFICALLY move it back there before returning it to the place it was already moved to, but that’s perhaps a bit too much minutia for this kind of recap so let’s get to the match itself! For the most part it’s Deeb trying to grab Riho and overpower her while Riho is flying around the ring with Spectacular moves, and for the first half it looks to be Riho’s match to win. However, Deeb’s strength looks to be too much for her cross body dives and running drop kicks to overcome, and Deeb grounds her with a Dragon Screw that leaves her vulnerable for most of the match. It’s not until Deeb puts her on the top turnbuckle that she starts to fight back and lands a Diving Stomp from the top rope which is soon followed up by a 619 and leads to a two count. For whatever reason they called the 619 a “Tiger Feint Kick” and I’m not sure why as it hasn’t been an issue before.Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW – Double or Nothing 2021”
AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT
This is going to be a rough weekend. This episode was aired on a FRIDAY which gave me less than forty-eight hours to watch it, digest it, and recap it, before moving right on to the PPV. Sadly this is probably going to become the norm as AEW plans on expanding in the next year with AEW Rampage as a one hour Friday show that should be premiering in August, and 2022 will see them move to TBS with regular SPECIAL SHOWS on TNT popping up every now and then. I guess the fact that there’s going to be MORE good wrestling can hardly be considered a bad thing, and this week is good practice for me to try and streamline my process to get these out at a better pace. Aside from the backend logistics this is a pretty significant episode as the Go Home show is the last chance for the company to convince the TV crowd to spend fifty bucks on a PPV and they always try to give you something special to make that deal sound even better. Do they put on a fantastic preview of what we should expect at Double or Nothing, or will we be going into the big show with lowered expectations? Let’s find out!!
Things kick off right away with a match, but before we even get to the match we’ve got a few things to talk about with the new setup. First, I had no idea that the Friday night show was going to be the first one at full capacity as I thought they were saving it for the PPV on Sunday, but sure enough the place is packed to the gills with people (at least the parts the camera shows us) and I’d kind of forgotten what that kind of atmosphere felt like. It kind of loses a bit of the personal touch that the smaller crowds engendered, but the energy is through the roof and makes this feel like a big event despite being more or less a pre-show for the PPV. Second, they’ve move the hard camera ninety degrees counter-clockwise and they’ve also put a stadium box on the stage when I think one of those two choice would have been better. Personally I would have just kept the camera facing the stage as there’s really no other point to putting fans there if we’re not going to be able to see them, and instead of seeing the big screen we get to forever stare at the Daily’s Place sign; burning into my eyes like a watermark on a bootleg video. They’re going on the road soon so this won’t be a thing for long, but it definitely feels like they took one step forward and then took another step back.
Darby Allin Vs. Cezar Bononi
Darby is accompanied to the ring by Sting while Bononi is accompanied by The Wingmen
Bononi gets the jobber entrance, and when the camera is on him with his title card displayed, he gets hit in the face with Darby’s jacket that was haphazardly thrown in his general direction. I start with that because there’s just something about that level of goofiness that endears me so much to this giant awkward jobber as well as his crew which are called The Wingmen; Peter Avalon, JD Drake, and also Ryan Nemeth who is holding a replica Oscar statue for absolutely no reason. Seriously, if I ever have a mid-life crisis and start trying to become a wrestler, THIS is the kind of team I would want to be a part of! As for the match itself, Cezar is trying his best to use his size to his advantage, but Darby proves to be an elusive target. Still, he manages to land a solid kick to Darby’s stomach and gets the heat on the guy with some fun big moves. Darby is just thrown all over the place with reckless abandon as he sails through the air trying his best to land correctly, and he even gest dropped on the top turnbuckle which couldn’t have been fun. Darby does eventually get a sleeper hold which nearly puts Bononi out, but he makes it to the ropes to break up the hold. With Bononi winded, Darby lands a very impressive Stunner and follows with a Shotgun Drop Kick as well as a Coffin Drop to get the pin and win the match. Darby then calls out Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky to settle this tonight instead of on Sunday and The duo come out to mock the guy for his challenge. I mean they DO have a point here! Why would they give up their PPV spot to indulge this guy? In any case, it turns out to be a distraction as The Wingmen jump Sting and Darby from behind and are followed by Sky and Page. Sky is about to break Sting’s ankle, but The Dark Order run out to chase them off and make the save which won’t be the last time they meet I the ring this evening! That was a FANTASTIC squash match which had Darby selling for quite a bit, but none of it genuinely fazed him and his offense is so strong that he can basically knock down a giant with three moves. Also, while I wouldn’t say Page and Sky are growing on me, this is probably my favorite moment from the two of them so far and I am definitely looking forward to their match at Double or Nothing.Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-28-2021) – Friday Night Dynamite”
The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios
Halo Evolutions is owned by Tor Books
We’re back with even more of Halo Evolutions; the short story collection that keeps on giving no matter how much you’re ready for it to end! Seriously, this was a tough one to get through what with its very high page count and absurd number of stories, and that’s why I ultimately decided that I had to break it up into two parts if I wanted to cover everything in here. We’re over the peak now and the end is in sight, so let’s see this thing through and discover more secrets of the Halo Universe!
Halo Evolutions (2009) – Short Story Collection
Before we jump into the next story, I need to point out that Halo Evolutions got a re-release just one year after it had come out. They broke it up into two separate volumes for whatever reason, and on top of that each volume had its own exclusive story that wasn’t in the original book or even the audiobook you can buy on Audible. It took a bit of searching but I did eventually find the two additional stories which I’ll be covering towards the end of this, and frankly it’s a little bit funny that the one part of this retrospective that was too long for me to fit into one piece someone found a way to get longer. Anyway, on wit the next story!
The Mona Lisa
Written by Tess Kum and Jeff VanderMeer
What is by far the longest of the all the short stories in this book is what we will be starting with today, and I get the sense that once again I’m going to be in the minority of the Halo fandom as I didn’t particularly care for this story. A lot of it is down to personal taste which I’ll cop to immediately as it’s more or less zombie story and I’m just not a big fan of them. Well, that and a VERY blatant Aliens knock off which I won’t hold against this story as much as the whole zombie thing, but despite the lack of ODST soldiers which is the franchise’s usual giveaway, the influences from James Cameron’s entry in the series are quite obvious. A UNSC ship scouting the ruins of the Halo ring that Master Chief blew up finds another UNSC ship called The Mona Lisa; severely damaged, in distress, and with one escape pod barreling towards them carrying a man who’s barely alive when he gets there and doesn’t stay that way for much longer after that. A group of marines and a few engineers led by their leader Lopez head to the ship and find it to not only be a UNSC prison ship but one where there were some shady experiments going on! It’s not long before they find puddles of blood and broken bodies all over the place and they soon come face to face with THE FLOOD who have taken over the ship and are threatening to use to spread their disease across the galaxy. On top of lifting a lot of things from Aliens, the book also seems to be a rather close retelling of The Last Voyage of the Infinite Succor from the Halo Graphic Novel, only swapping out the human marines for a crew of Covenant warriors, and frankly I wasn’t a big fan of THAT story either. There’s just something overwhelmingly PERFUNCTORY about all this as it just feels too obvious of a story with no real twists or turns to justify it. None of the characters have any real depth to them as no one particularly stands out from anyone else there with the exception of the ONE good thing about the story; Henry the Elite who was captured and put on the Mona Lisa but managed to escape when all heck broke loose and teams up with a human inmate while ALSO wielding a cricket back. I could read a whole story just about THAT guy, but instead he’s just hanging in the background being absolutely WONDERFUL while the marines just prattle on about how screwed up this whole mess is.Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Evolutions (Part 2)”