Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-28-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Blood and Guts is only one week away, and while it REALLY feels like it should be at least a month down the road, AEW has done their darnedest to try and make it as big a spectacle as they can.  Will this final week of hype be enough to make it a huge success, or will the rushed build in this show mean that few will care to tune in next week?  Let’s find out!!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Brian Cage

Before the match can properly start, Cage and Team Taz bum rush him and stomp him into the ground before The Dark Order rushes out to make the save.  They at least manage to chase off Hook, Hobbs, and Starks, but Page is still alone with THE MACHINE who gives him a Powerbomb on the ramp before tossing him into the ring and continuing his assault.  Page tries to fight back and gets a very brief hope towards the end, but it’s ultimately a losing proposition a Cage lands the Drillclaw and wins the match in about five minutes.  It may not have been the most EXCITING match as it was essentially an extended squash, but there are several things about this that made it FANTASTIC!  Team Taz has been on a losing streak for a while and Page has been on a winning streak, so this kind of shake up is perfect for setting up a feud with some real stakes to it as Cage so effortlessly destroyed Hangman and it’s unclear if he can beat him even without getting Powerbombed at the start.  On top of that, you have Taz on commentary selling not just this one match but the story of Team Taz up to this point and how Adam Page ultimately fits into it which only adds to the tension as to what’s going to happen next.  In less than ten minutes, AEW managed to set up a new feud and give it some real weight which is impressive for any show to pull off, and even as a squash match it was fun to watch.  Not a bad start to the show if you ask me!

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We cut to The Elite (or Bullet Club, or whatever) who are doing their absolute best to prove to us that they are NOT AT ALL SCARED of Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston… which is why they’re hiding inside a limo instead of saying this in the ring.  In their defense, those two DID attempt vehicular manslaughter so a modicum of caution is not unwarranted, but when their driver Michael Nakazawa accidently taps the horn they all have near fatal heart attacks so things aren’t going so well for The Elite even if they have five belts among them.

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Young Bucks Vs. Matt & Mike Sydal

Kind of odd to have the SCAREDY CAT promo right before The Bucks and Don Callis come out as cocky Heels, but regardless of that I think I’m REALLY starting to dig The Bucks in their new role.  The commentators are perhaps playing up their disgust at them a bit TOO much, but they’ve really come into their own and their flashy style works well with the overconfidence gimmick.  Matt & Mike who as far as I can recall have NEVER won a match on Dynamite are nonetheless good workers and all four of them put on a pretty spectacular show with a lot of good back and forth action and some VERY odd Heel nonsense from The Bucks.  There’s this one spot where, for reasons I can’t QUITE fathom, Matt Jackson switches places with his brother Nick while the ref is looking away; presumably to beat the ten count which I wasn’t expecting either him or Matt Sydal to stay down for, but then Ref Knox just lets Matt Jackson be the legal man.  It’s definitely a goofy Heel spot and the kind of thing I can see The Bucks doing, but the circumstances here were a bit suspect.  In any case, the ruse doesn’t do a heck of a whole lot as Sydal quickly regains the advantage and manages to take on BOTH Bucks at the same time.  His momentum is brought to a halt however with a very cool top rope spot where he has Matt Jackson on the ropes and tries to give him a Hurricanrana, but Matt slips down off the ropes leaving Matt to just fall with leg first onto the top rope and bounce off with a the 360 spin before landing on the mat.  He quickly tags in Mike who tries to keep the dream alive, but Matt Jackson does a freaking Johnny Cage Nut Shot (complete with the splits) which stops Mike RIGHT in his tracks and leaves him open for the BTE Trigger which gives The Bucks the win in this match.  Perhaps a bit too goofy in spots, but I think I enjoy these Heel Bucks matches more than when they were the Baby Faces, and The Sydals prove once again how good they are despite being perpetual losers on the big show.

As soon as the match is over, Kazarian and Daniels come out to cut the celebration short and to remind everyone that they WILL in fact break up as SCU once they lose another match.  Now they were happy to make this their last ride together, but now they are VERY angry at The Bucks for turning Heel right when they were at the end of their journey!  They wanted one last match with the REAL Bucks; not this jerky faced facsimile of them that are stuck under the spell of Don Callis!  Now apparently they are the number one contenders so this situation is going to come to a head sooner rather than later, and frankly there is ZERO chance of SCU winning; it’s just too good of a Heel move for The Bucks right now to be responsible for breaking up SCU which will be a shame when it happens, but we knew this was going to happen eventually.  If Daniels wants to retire after this, he’s more than earned the right to do so and I can hardly think of a better send off for them than a title match with The Bucks.  Maybe just hold it off until the PPV which MIGHT have a crowd as vaccine rates are going up, and it’s the kind of thing you want to do with an audience there.

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Orange Cassidy Vs. Penta El Zero M

Cassidy is accompanied to the ring by Trent while Penta is accompanied toe the ring by Alex Abrahantes

I can’t believe I didn’t see this before, but Cassidy and Penta are two of the biggest HAMS in this company, and putting them together in a match is like adding peanut butter to chocolate!  Admittedly Cassidy’s over the top nonsense is much more understated, but we can’t even begin this match without the two spending several minutes showing off!  Cassidy keeps going to put his hands in his pockets and each time Penta slaps his hands away and does the ZERO MIEDO thing; getting progressively more elaborate with his utter contempt for Orange Cassidy each time!  It’s a fun little mind game between these two as they both give zero darns about anything other than their own self-aggrandizing shtick, and by the time Cassidy manages to get his hands in his pockets both guys are primed and ready to utterly DESTROY the other!  Cassidy kicks things off with his lousy kicks and SOMEHOW manages to do an arm drag WITHOUT the use of his arms which sounds impossible (and comes as an utter shock to Penta), but I assure you that it happened!   With this early advantage Cassidy ends up bringing Penta to the ground with some sort of lazy chokehold, but when he gives the crowd a thumbs up Penta straight up shoves it into his mouth and chomps on it for all it’s worth!  It’s not enough to leave him injured but enough to break the hold, and Penta follows this up by catching Cassidy in a Suicide Dive and just tossing him RIGHT onto the apron which looked pretty rough for Cassidy and allows Penta to get the heat during the commercial break.  Cassidy eventually gets back on top with some slick moves and a Flying Cross Body, but Penta is no slouch and fights back against every finisher Cassidy tries to throw at him and punishes him with a killer move of his own!  Penta’s hubris proves to be his undoing however as HE tries to land a big move on Cassidy and gets it reversed into a Stundog Millionaire followed by a Diving DDT and a Spinning DDT to get a two count.  Alex Abrahantes can see the writing on the wall and starts to taunt Orange with a few Yo Mamma Jokes which don’t go over very well, and so Orange drags his butt into the ring, but this opens him up for a big kick from Penta.  Penta goes for the Package Pile Driver but Cassidy wriggles out of it and grabs a microphone from Trent to bash Penta over the head with while the ref is checking on Alex, and this is finally enough for Cassidy to get the pin and win the match!  This was a HUGE step up from Trent and Penta’s match last week and hopefully this Best Friends/Death Triangle feud is going somewhere big; most likely a Trios match, but sadly there haven’t been much in terms of angles and promos around this so the direction is still a bit up in the air.  We got like a hundred Miro/Chuck promos, so why none here!?

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Blood And Guts Parlay – Epic Rule Setting Action!!

So if you’re not familiar with the War Games format, the idea is that two teams (usually consisting of five guys) will face off inside two rings pushed together and under a cage.  The entrances are staggered with one person from each team going in at alternating intervals (in this case, every two minutes) and so the big thing to hash out leading up to the match is who will have the man advantage and this is often dealt with via a match.  In THIS case however, the plan was to have Tony Schiavone flip a coin, but Shawn Spears smacks it out of his hand before grabbing the mic.  I’ve been pretty down on Shawn Spears since… well FOREVER I guess, but he actually shows some real chops here as he berates the other team and goes in on Sammy specifically.  He actually sounds threatening for the first time in his entire AEW career when he yells at Sammy to LOOK AT HIM WHEN HE’S TALKING, which is enough to get him hot headed enough to volunteer as the first man in and to give The Pinnacle the man advantage.  From there, the mic gets passed around to everyone who has something to say and while I won’t go over it in detail as the segment goes on for a bit, it’s some of the best promo work that any of them have done!  Spears was great, Santana was great, they even give Cash Wheeler a chance and while he still sounds WAY too much like John C Reilly for me to not smirk about, he kinda pulled it off here!  The stars of course are MJF and Jericho who take the most time on the mic and have the most cutting things to say.  MJF’s eyes bursting form his skull as he yells at Jericho, Jericho’s face getting redder and redder as he yells back, it’s all good stuff from two of the best talkers at AEW and it’s definitely the kind of promo you want to do to build up a big match like this.  The only thing that was a bit odd was that a fight didn’t break out, but perhaps they felt like saving that until next week for the big show.  In any case, it certainly got me more excited to see what happens when they finally get into that cage!

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Eddie Kingston Vs. Michael Nakazawa

That’s at least what they advertise this as being, but really it’s about Eddie and Mox going after Kenny.  Kingston comes out to the ring to see Nakazawa there in his slacks and Geek Squad shirt and immediately calls foul on all this nonsense; demanding Omega to come out here and face him like a man!  Kenny does come out with Don Callis to mock Kingston as Nakazawa waffles him over the head with a laptop, but Kingston manages to fight back and escalates things further by threatens to break Nakazawa’s ankle with a chair if Kenny refuses to get in the ring.  Of course being a cowardly Heel he leaves Nakazawa to his fate, but then Moxley comes out and smashes Kenny over the head before tossing him into the ring and choking him out.  As if things couldn’t escalate further, Kingston now puts KENNY’S ankle in the chair and threatens to break his ankle if Callis doesn’t agree to give them a match.  After some heated negotiations and a few fake out from Moxley to break the ankle, Callis agrees and the match is set for next week!  Hey, I mean there’s not much further you can escalate things once you start smashing cars into each other and having another big match for the Blood and Guts show next week will certainly bring in a few more eyeballs.  As for the Kingston/Nakazawa match… I don’t know, I guess it’s a No Contest?

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We cut to the back where Tony is interviewing Taz about his recent feud with Christian Cage before the man himself shows up to interrupt in what KIND of sounds like a heel promo if I’m being honest.  He tells Taz that he was great once but that those days are over because he retired just like him.  The only difference is that he didn’t STAY retired and now that he’s here he’s going to teach each member of Team Taz a lesson that Taz wants to throw at him.  Now Taz’s last match was all the way back in 2006 and he pretty much retired four years before that due to injuries he had suffered along the way.  I couldn’t tell you if Taz’s injuries were more severe than Cage’s but I kind of admire the guy for sticking to his guns and not finding an excuse to get in the ring; lord knows he had PLENTY of opportunities as TNA would have jumped at the chance of having him wrestle a match!  Cage coming in here and using that VERY responsible decision to berate him for his recent actions is something that just doesn’t sit right with me, but it’s clear this feud is going to continue and hopefully they find a better direction to take it.

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Kris Statlander Vs. Penelope Ford

Statlander is accompanied to the ring by Orange Cassidy while Ford is accompanied by Kip Sabian

Statlander was always destined for the stars in this company and would have been on top if not for her injury, but I’ve always maintained that Ford is a good wrestler as well and I’m not sure why she isn’t used more.  If nothing else she has an interesting move set with some stuff that I’ve just never seen before with this one move where she spins her opponent on the mat to build momentum for a forearm strike, and this other move where she puts Statlander on the Apron and swings over the top rope from inside the ring to drop her knees on Statlander below.  For all her fancy moves though, Statlander has a clear power advantage and shows it off with a solid Powerslam and Military Press at the start, and a Blume Thunder Bomb gets her the first near fall of the match.  Penelope is no slouch however and gives an impressive German Suplex onto Statlander before driving her face into the middle turnbuckle!  It’s a solid back and forth match where the one fighting from underneath has to essentially become more desperate and brutal as the match goes on, but there are a few spots that just didn’t’ work.  Ford goes for a Top Rope Neckbreaker but she didn’t get her arms in the right position and so she ended up bashing into Statlander’s face.  This doesn’t look like it hurt her or anything, but because of this Ford didn’t get enough rotation and just kinda went SPLAT on her back.  Not to be outdone however, Statlander goes for this move called the Solar Eclipse which I had to watch three times before figuring out what’s going on.  She’s basically just flipping Ford onto her stomach, but she does it while falling down which looks more like Ford reversed whatever she was doing than the move working as intended.  Perhaps she didn’t do it right or the camera just needs to be in a better position, but the best option would probably be to drop that from her move set immediately.  Aside from those two spots however, it was a solid match and Statlander gets the pin after crushing Ford with a Big Bang Theory.  What was interesting is that Kip tries to run a distraction and is stopped by Cassidy, but this doesn’t lead to blows from either of them. 

The idea seems to be that Kip and Ford are going Baby Face soon which would be fine I guess, but the big elephant in the room here is named Miro who has spent WEEKS threatening to crush Kip the next time he shows his face.  Kip however seems to be under the delusion that things are going to be JUST fine between them; a notion that is swiftly shattered when he finds Miro backstage who starts throwing his butt around the room in a frankly disturbing display of violence; not the least of which because Miro says that HE forgives KIP after smashing his arm into a door.  I know that they want Miro to be a strong heel going out of this, but this is the kind of development where the only thing I want to see from Miro now is him getting his butt whipped by Kip as payback for being an absolutely terrible friend.  Maybe some version of this is going to happen before Miro goes off on his own path for whichever title he wants, but I hope it’s at least addressed in SOME way before that.

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The Nightmare Family (Billy Gunn, Dustin Rhodes, and Lee Johnson) Vs. The Factory (QT Marshall, Aaron Solow, and Nick Comoroto)

The Factory is accompanied to the ring by Anthony Ogogo

Both sides start brawling before the match begins and eventually its Gunn and Comoroto in the ring to start things off.  We’ve only been going for about four minute and most of it has been heat and Billy as well as Dustin, but Lee Johnson gets the Hot Tag and starts tearing Aaron Solow apart!  The only reason Johnson doesn’t win the match right here with a Sit Out Powerbomb is that Comoroto breaks up the pin, but that’s not about to stop him as he keeps up the offensive and destroys all three of his opponents at the same time.  Right as he’s having the comeback of his life however, Anthony Ogogo runs in and gut punches Johnson who’s out immediately.  Billy Gunn tries to attack Ogogo for this but HE eats a gut punch as well and is down like a sack of potatoes.  QT Marshall tags in and gets the pin on Johnson to win the match, and then Comoroto gets a cowbell from somewhere to bash Dustin over the head with.  As The Factory leaves with QT getting a chorus of YOU STILL SUCK chants, Austin and Colton Gunn run out and beat the crap out of him and he goes scurrying out of the stadium as Comoroto and Solow try to keep the Gunns occupied.  As soon as he thinks he’s free however, Cody shows up and starts pounding him just as hard as the Gunn club did!  The two of them get on top of the Nightmare Family bus which is pretty terrifying, but thankfully Cody just puts him in the Figure Four Leg Lock so he can tap out.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly into this match when it first started, but this feud has had some surprising legs as far as its post-match angles and definitely has a goofy old school feel to it that’s unique in AEW and certainly holds some appeal for me!

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Darby Allin Vs. Ten The Creeper – TNT Title Match

Darby is accompanied to the ring by Sting while Ten is accompanied by The Dark Order

Once again the rankings system is completely throwing me off as Ten (Preston Vance) is APPARENTLY the number five contender in AEW despite having never won a singles match on Dynamite, but I always like to see The Dark Order do their thing and giving guys like Ten a shot at the spotlight is rarely a bad thing.  I’d have personally preferred if we got to see more of Stu Grayson but in any case, the match begins like your typical Darby Allin match where he has to overcome a much bigger competitor.  Ten get a few solid BIG GUY MOVES in like a Spinning Backbreaker and a One Armed Powerbomb, but it becomes clear that Darby is the superior wrestler and it seems pretty clear that Darby is going to retain his title.  Then out of nowhere, Ethan Page comes out and bashes Darby into the post while the ref is looking away.  At this point the match becomes somewhat interesting as Ten is conflicted on what to do; either give up his shot at the title because Darby was attacked, or keep going and possibly become the champ under a cloud of controversy.   After a minute of hemming and hawing, he and The Dark Order decide to keep going and try to finish Darby off, but Darby manages to fight back and kick out of a pin attempt before trying to rip Ten’s mask off.  With Ten distracted by his mask, Darby goes for a Coffin Drop which Ten catches and turns into a Full Nelson which the little guy can’t break out of.  Darby, still trapped within the jaws of this horrific move, walks himself and Ten over to the turnbuckle and kicks off of it to roll into a pinning predicament which Ten can’t get out of and stays down for the three count; giving Darby the win and retaining his title.  Preston Vance isn’t quite there yet and I don’t know if he’ll ever be a big star, but the match was alright.  It’s certainly not the best of these Darby TNT defenses, but not a bad one by any stretch. 

Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky run out from the back and go after Darby and Sting after The Dark Order have left.  They mercilessly wail on the champ and the old guy for a bit before Ten and Lance Archer come out to chase them off.  I mean at least they’re doing SOMETHING on the show, but I’m still waiting for them to have just ONE match to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with instead of these run ins at the end of each show.

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AEW has had two solid episodes of Dynamite back to back, though I THINK I’m gonna give the edge to last week’s episode; mostly due to the main event which was much strong with Jungle Boy than it was with Ten.  Still, there was a lot of good matches on this show and things are definitely moving forward towards Blood and Guts as well as whatever is in store for the PPV.  I can’t say I loved all of it (Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky are REALLY testing my patience), but they definitely have a lot of momentum going and I’m certainly curious to see how the big Wargames show works out next week!

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3 Essentials & Halo Landfall

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

Like with the bonus and behind the scenes content with Halo 2 this was planned to be an interim episodes instead of taking up its own cozy spot on the weekly schedule, but the more I dove into the two disc Essentials and everything involved, yeah there was no way I could get this done as a mere aside.  There are A LOT of features on these discs and plenty to talk about, so let’s not waste any more time and dive right in!

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Halo 3 Essentials (Bonus Features) – 2007

We’ll start things off with how they were released.  The first disc which was released in both the Collector’s and Legendary editions of Halo 3 is something I SOMEHOW managed to get a copy of many years ago (I’m still baffled that this thing wound its way in my collection) and only works on an Xbox 360 console.  I can’t even find information confirming that it works on Xbox One or Series S/X, so unless you’re like me and can’t throw away anything this disc and its content are going to be hard to get ahold of going forward.  The second disc on the other hand which was only available on the Legendary Edition is a simple DVD and will work in anything that plays those.  Considering the massive marketing campaign around this game it’s no surprise that something like this was added to the game to entice people to spend a little more, and I’m not sure how many games even bother with this kind of stuff anymore.  I remember the PS2 having a few games that had some pretty cool bonus features like God of War having a ton of Making Of videos and even something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am having an episode of the show on it, but I guess with YouTube being so accessible that companies will just post stuff on there if they even feel like bothering with it; and even then a lot of it is pre-release so there’s always the sense of it still trying to sell you on something whereas these kind of features are more of a celebration after the fact.  In any case, there’s a lot to talk about here so we’ll group them together into loose categories to try and cover a little bit of everything.

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Making Of Features

Now this includes the VERY extensive Making Of feature on disc 1, Seven Steps to World Domination on disc 2, and the unfortunately yet still appropriately named Git Tur Wurk back on disc 1. The Making Of document is the pick of the litter here as it’s a full hour but is filled with some VERY cool stuff about how the game was developed.  It’s well produced, we get insights into many of the interesting tools used, and the enthusiasm of those being interviewed is infectious.  Just hearing Xi Wang, one of the Graphics Engineers, talking in depth about the water engine is engaging and I learned about things you could do with the water in Halo 3 that I would have never even thought about!  There’s stuff like that, the in depth showcase of the damage system, the way the tested the online servers with teams in Japan, but my favorite bit was their play testing process!  There’s this really nifty tool they had where they would have play testers play the game and be able to report issues while in game.  Then, the developers not only get a list of these issues, they know exactly where in the level it occurred and can even watch a replay of the player playing the game at that time!  That is just really cool to me and I’m now wondering if this kind of software is standard in the industry!

If only they had this for the first game!  The Library level would just be one big sea of red!
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3 Essentials & Halo Landfall”

Cinema Dispatch: Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros

Directed by Simon McQuoid

Honestly, I was never much of a Mortal Kombat fan.  More of Tekken guy when it came to fighting games, but there’s no denying the cultural impact that the franchise has had and it’s impressive just how long they’ve been going with the series for it to only get better and better as time goes on.  I remember Mortal Kombat 9 being an excellent reboot that got me into the series for a bit, but even at the games’ peak it still can’t touch that AWESOME 1995 movie directed by Paul WS Anderson!  I just rewatched that movie like a year ago and it still holds up as a fantastic martial arts movie that finds the right balance between what fans want from the games and making into a coherent movie.  There have been other attempts since then to get the series off the ground in non-video game forms, but this is the first big step WB has taken with it since acquiring the franchise in 2009.  Does this bring Mortal Kombat to the big screen for a whole new generation of fans in a bold and exciting way, or will we all still be clutching our VHS tapes of the original film by the end of this movie?  Let’s find out!!

As you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat movie, the story is set right before the start of the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament where Earth Realm’s greatest fighters try to overcome the unstoppable warriors of Outworld, and after nine consecutive losses in a row it’s Earth’s last chance to avoid complete and utter devastation as Outworld will finally be able to invade Earth if they win this time!  So who exactly will be participating in this generation’s tournament?  Well we’ve got some of the classic standbys from the franchise like Liu Kang, Jax, and a begrudging Kano (Ludi Lin, Mehcad Brooks, and Josh Lawson), but the real hope for humanity comes in the form of Cole Young (Lewis Tan); a new character for the series and someone with an unexpected history to this tournament that slowly reveals itself as he is recruited by Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) to seek out Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) and his crew so he can learn the techniques and Mortal Kombat Magic necessary to win this tournament!  All is not as cut and dry however as Outworld’s leader in the tournament Shang Tsung (Chin Han) has his own crew of Mortal Kombat characters and is not waiting for the tournament to begin before sending them out to destroy the fledgling Earth team.  With opponents such as Sub-Zero, Mileena, and Goro (Joe Taslim, Sisi Stringer, and Angus Sampson) hunting them down, do these heroes of Earth even stand a chance of MAKING it to the tournament; let alone becoming strong enough to win it?  What is Cole’s history with this tournament, and will it be the key to Earth finally getting one over on Outworld?  You know, most Fight Camps are AT LEAST eight weeks, so shouldn’t Raiden have gotten these guys together BEFORE the tournament was like a week away?  And we all wonder why Earth Realm lost nine times in a row!

“Look, I’m sorry! I set some time aside to watch The Flash, and then I had to watch Legends of Tomorrow, and it just turned into a big thing! Nobody’s perfect!”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Mortal Kombat”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-21-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Another week, another episode of AEW action, though things have definitely changed now that WWE NXT is on a new night and AEW is going unopposed.  So far it has meant a pretty sizable bump in the ratings (no doubt helped by Mike Tyson’s recent appearances), but with a growing audience to satiate, can AEW put on a show that will keep the new fans coming back without losing the audience that got them here in the first place?  Let’s find out!!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Ricky Starks

Ricky Starks has NOT had a good go of it lately.  He came in strong with a show stealing match against Cody, but since then he’s been become kind of a joke by virtue of being the smallest guy in Taz’s stable.  Here he manages to show some great moves and hold his own against Hangman, but even then he’s fighting from underneath for most of the match.  Page is bigger, he’s faster, and even ends up fighting smarter as Starks can never seem to keep an advantage for more than a moment before Page stops his momentum in its tracks; at one point even hurting his ankle which only makes things that much more difficult for Starks.  Still, he gets in some good moves towards the end; especially a Sitout Powerbomb where he pretty much deadlifts The Hangman which was an impressive feat of core strength, before dropping him back down.  Sadly it only gets him a two count and Hangman manages to fight him back to the corner where he lands an Avalanche Fallaway Slam followed by a Lariat which gest him a two count in return.  Of course, there’s only one way to end this and so Hangman goes for his Buckshot Lariat, but Spears dodges the move and lands a hellacious looking Spear on the Hangman that gets him a VERY close two count!  Rethinking his strategy, Hangman doesn’t go for another Buckshot and instead gets Starks into a submission hold that focuses on the bad ankle which Starks is forced to tap out to; giving Hangman the win.  Starks looks good in almost every match he has and this is perhaps the best he’s looked in a while, but I’m left wondering what his role is at AEW and if Team Taz is ever going to get a significant win on this show.

Taz, seemingly just as frustrated, starts yelling at Page which allows Hook to run in and Chop Block him which gives him, Starks, and a fast arriving Brian Cage, to stomp a mud hole into the Hangman.  Before any serious damage can be done, The Dark Order rush out to chase Team Taz away; once again proving their loyalty to The Hangman who, as far as I can tell, STILL isn’t a member of the group and probably won’t be for some time.  It was a good opening match to be sure that gave Starks a bit of shine even in defeat, and if nothing else it was a MUCH better showing from The Hangman than his match against Max Caster two weeks ago.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-21-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios.  Halo 3 was developed by Bungie and ported by Gearbox and 343 Studios.

I’ll be honest here; half the reason I wanted to do this retrospective is for an excuse to play this game again.  Halo 3, along with one of those Naruto games, was the first game me and my brother got for the Xbox 360 and it was one of the most memorable experiences I ever had with a game; right up there with playing Super Mario Bros for the first time and getting my mind COMPLETELY blown by No More Heroes.  No other first person shooter felt as pitch perfect and brilliantly executed as this one, and the shiny new graphics of the next generation of consoles make it feel like a new era of games had started.  We all know how the seventh generation went however with military shooters supplanting more fanciful fare like this, but looking back on it fourteen years after its release, does it hold up?  Does it FINISH THE FIGHT as the marketing proclaimed, and do we get some closure on the storylines that have all been building to this finale to the trilogy?  Let’s find out!!

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Following the events of Halo 2, The Master Chief finds himself back on Earth with what remains of the UNSC and an unlikely ally in The Arbiter.  The Covenant haven’t destroyed the planet yet as it appears they are digging for some sort of Forerunner artifact that was APPARENTLY on Earth this whole time and will lead them to The Ark; essentially the control station for ALL of the Halo rings which will allow The Prophet of Truth (the last remaining prophet) to fire them all off and start The Great Journey which is the end goal their doomsday cult.  Making matters more difficult is that Cortana is still on High Charity (the Covenant city that was infected with The Flood at the end of the last game) instead of with The Chief and also that the UNSC are on their last legs, but another unlikely ally from Chief’s past, 343 Guilty Spark, has decided to help him, the UNSC, and the Elite defectors in stopping The Prophet of Truth and hopefully destroying The Flood (along with its leader Gravemind) without having to wipe out the entire galaxy to do it.  Narrative wise, which is the part that ALWAYS flew right over my head whenever I played this game, it’s a mixed bag of give and take.  The story has been stripped down to its barest elements which is GREAT in so many places throughout this game; focusing on the moment to moment pulse pounding action and stakes instead of drowning us in lore and backstory.  There’s hardly a single level like say The Library which drags on forever as it rambles on to give us some world building, and The Chief definitely feels more engaged here than he did in Halo 2.  However, the drawback to this approach is that it’s all sizzle with very little meat to chew on.  The Arbiter is easily the best character in this entire franchise, and yet because he’s tagging along with you the whole time he doesn’t get his own missions anymore so he feels like something of an afterthought throughout too much of the game.  There are also a WHOLE lot of conveniences here just to give us more set pieces like when a Halo ring just ALL OF A SUDDEN appears out of nowhere to set up the final confrontation (and to justify calling this a Halo game I guess), but the two things that just didn’t fit well with me were The Flood and Guilty Spark.  Honestly, I don’t know what Guilty Spark’s game here is or what they’re trying to accomplish.  It seems like a turn to the good guys for flimsy reasons, and then the final straw for it to go back to being a bad guy feels even flimsier.  Did we NOT just spend the entire game working our way to DESTROYING all this stuff and the Flood along with it?  The metal jerk has a problem with it NOW!?

“You promised me cake back on the first Halo ring!  If ANYONE should be mad, it’s ME!”
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 3”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-14-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

So last week’s show was a real disappointment, especially coming hot on the heels of a FANTASTIC episode, but I’ve never expected AEW to knock it out of the park each and every week and they always find a way to get back on track.  Heck, remember how bad things got immediately after the disappointing fireworks show at the end of the Exploding Barb Wire Death match?  They managed to turn that around in three days, so I’m more than confident they can turn around last week’s show when given seven.  Let’s find out!!

So in case there was ANY confusion over the end of the last episode (honestly, that includes me), the Bucks start things off by saying point blank that they are now Heels and will be throwing their weight behind Kenny Omega and Don Callis, and for good measure the whole group has a segment towards the end of the show to declare their commitment to one another and their utter dominance of AEW.  Also, in case you were wondering about this as well, we get a brief video of Mike Tyson and MJF to confirm that Tyson is all in on the Baby Face Jericho and there’s a segment later where Jericho and Tyson shake on their truce in preparation for the Jericho/Dax Harwood match which will have Tyson as a Special Enforcer.  I’m actually kind of glad that they just get this all up front because The Bucks being wishy-washy tweeners has been an issue on the show before, and Tyson has been gone for so long after such a brief appearance that seeing him again this week and interacting with people gives me hope that this run is not going to be as perfunctory.  Now last week started with a match that didn’t make a lot of sense as Max Caster was apparently the third ranking guy in AEW, but thankfully this isn’t an issue with this opening match which is…

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The Young Bucks Vs. Death Triangle (Pac & Rey Fénix) – AEW Tag Team Title Match

I can’t say that I love the idea of The Bucks being more or less brow beaten into joining up with Professional Gas lighter Don Callis, but however they got here they are truly relishing in their Heel status.  They’re wearing white suits to the ring to the raucous booing of the crowd, they start playing around and showboating in the ring, and Matt Jackson even runs away in terror of getting in the ring with Rey.  Those two getting in the ring is what REALLY starts the match as both are evenly skilled and can’t seem to land a move on the other.  They throw a lot of flashy kicks and flips at one another (the best was probably when Jackson back flipped of the apron to avoid a 619), and yet despite Nick Jackson ultimately getting the upper hand in this exchange it’s not long before Matt Jackson ends up alone with him and he and Pac take their sweet time destroying this guy!  Chops to the chest, suplexes to the mat, and Death Triangle’s own variation on The BTE Trigger which consists of simultaneous kicks followed by stereo Drop Kicks which should leave Matt with a MASSIVE headache but was sadly not enough to keep him down for a three count.  Matt takes a bit more abuse from Pac, but after The Bucks manage to land simultaneous Powerbombs onto the apron, Pac is left to take the heat for quite a while.  Perhaps too long as Matt gets WAY too much time to show off his drama skills, but Pac eventually turns him inside out with a clothesline and brings in Rey to save the day.  He has a freaking AMAZING comeback with more of his phenomenal rope walking skills, but it’s not enough to put Nick Jackson away; not even when he brings in Pac to slam him a few times for good measure!  Things only get more ridiculous from there as both teams show off some amazing skills and it does genuinely come down to the wire as to who is going to come out on top.  Pac manages to land a Black Arrow on Matt Jackson which should be the end of the match, but even with Rey running interference on Nick he still manages to slip through and break up the pin at the last possible moment, and sadly that is more or less the last chance that Pac and Fénix had as The Bucks go straight to cheating after that; first with a low blow to Pac and then removing Rey’s mask.  Sure enough, as soon as the mask is off and Rey’s covering his face, The Bucks land a Superkick and get the pin.  It was such a fantastic match up to that point that I’m really disappointed at the mask ending being used once again.  At this point, the might as well follow Mexico rules and make it a DQ; not JUST because it is such a scumbag thing to do that someone who does it shouldn’t be rewarded, but because it’s always a GET OUT OF MATCH FREE car whenever Rey is in there kicking butt.  All I’m saying is that if they want Rey Fénix to lose than they need to come up with a better reason than that.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-14-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Believe & Iris

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

We’ll be talking about Halo 3 very soon, but while that game was gearing up for its release Bungie released another ARG to hype it up.  Unlike I Love Bees however, this was a VERY scaled down affair as everything seems to have been developed in house with their Franchise Development Director Frank O’Connor writing it himself, and it all took place within Bungie’s forums as opposed to a series of interconnected websites, telephone calls, and a five hour audio drama portioned out in bits and pieces.  On the one hand I am a little bit relieved that I don’t have as much content to work through to try and understand what’s going on, but it does feel a bit odd that the BIGGER AND BETTER Xbox 360 entry in the series didn’t get the same kind of extensive marketing campaign.  Instead, we got one of the most extensive direct marketing campaigns for a video game ever produced at that point which we’ll be talking about it here as well!  Let’s get started!

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Halo: Believe (Marketing Campaign) – 2007

Produced by New Deal Studios

Perhaps it’s a bit gauche to try and put a bunch of ads in the greater context of a series like this, but that trailer with the action figures is definitely one of the strongest memories I have about this franchise and it always stuck with me as something that really captured what made Halo so compelling!  That and the Iris recap was coming up a bit short, so why not take a little detour for the heck of it?  Frankly we could talk about the ENTIRE Halo 3 marketing campaign which ultimately cost Microsoft FORTY MILLION DOLLARS but was ultimately worth it as Halo 3 sold over three million copies in its first week.  We’re going to limit it to this campaign though as I found it to be the most interesting to talk about and frankly I don’t want to try and track down every can of Halo 3 branded soda or figure out what the heck ActionClix are. 

Harvested right from the furrowed brows and pit stained graphic tees of true gamers then mixed with ten pounds of sugar and trademark RED MYSTERY FLAVOR! Nothing tastes sweeter than victory, but we sure as heck tried with this!
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Believe & Iris”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-07-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

AEW has been knocking it out of the park in recent weeks with last week’s show being one of the best episodes they’ve done in some time!  Still, it’s going to be a rough week for AEW to win the night as NXT’s final show, which is ALSO one of their Takeover events, is stacked from top to bottom with PPV caliber matches.  Can AEW put on something to compete with NXT in their final head to head week before NXT moves to Tuesday nights, or are they gonna call this one a loss from the get go?  Let’s find out!!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Max Caster

Caster is accompanied to the ring by Anthony Bowens

A few days ago, Dave Meltzer made a very good examination of AEW’s booking and the flaws that have crept up the last year; mostly due to the inflating roster leading to stories that are much more thinly spread.  It was a good point and Dave made it well, but for me the bigger problem is Dark and Elevation and how they affect the ranking system.  As Max Castor entered the ring, a guy we haven’t seen in weeks and rarely if ever wins matches on Dynamite, is announced as the NUMBER THREE CONTENDER.  I checked the website after the show, and he is right below Jon Moxley and two spots above Cody Rhodes; something that simply DID NOT translate in this match as even the commentators kept referring to him as a rookie.  Dark and Elevation are GREAT for getting some of these new guys ring time and for putting on some fun matches that may not have worked on Wednesdays, but using matches on there for the TV rankings ends up being jarring for us who only keep up with Dynamite.  Perhaps wins and losses should only count if they’re on Dynamite, or maybe should book people on Dynamite BEFORE they’re in the top five.  In any case, Caster ends up proving the flaws in this system as he gets systematically destroyed by The Hangman with his only moments of dominance due to Anthony Bowens’ interference.  The match is fine I suppose as a one sided beat down, but I’m just not sold on Caster as a particularly interesting heel; either when he’s getting beat up or when he’s cheating his way to the top.  That said, it could be that the match itself is kind of booked blandly and even Hangman seems kind of boring in this.  There’s this overly convoluted spot where he puts Caster crotch first on the guard rail before SLOWLY getting up on the guard rail himself to do a jumping clothesline, and yet it’s PROBABLY the most interesting spot in the whole match?  I mean what else is there?  Caster working over Hangman’s arm?  Using a chain to get a cheap shot that only gets a two count?  It just never had much of a spark for me and by the time Hangman got the Buckshot Lariat I was ready for it to be over.  AEW almost always delivers on the opening match and while this wasn’t TERRIBLE, it just wasn’t up to their usual standards.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (04-07-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Uprising & Contact Harvest

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

With the success of the Halo Graphic Novel, the franchise was destined for further success in the comic book market with Marvel calling dibs on it!  Their first outing is the four part mini-series Halo Uprising which we’ll be looking at today as well as the next entry in the seemingly never-ending Halo book series Contact Harvest!  Will both of these be an improvement over the LAST Halo Book club we did?  Let’s find out!!

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Halo Uprising (Comic Book) – 2007

Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Published by Marvel Comics

You know, I thought getting the series away from Bungie and laying down a narrative structure instead of letting them try to dictate every aspect of it like they did with the Graphic Novel might have given the series a new perspective and frankly give us a compelling narrative but sadly neither is the case as this short series is just a mess.  We cut back and forth between Chief doing something of absolutely no consequence (I’m sure this room full of aliens he killed here will make ALL the difference in the war effort), and an on the ground invasion story as we follow two people who are stuck in Cleveland when The Covenant attack the city looking for some sort of Earth artifact which a captured UNSC officer gave The Covenant bad intel about; assuming that having them tear up one city would keep them too busy from blowing up the entire Earth.  His brother Ruwan and a world famous pop star Myras just so happen to be at the same place when the aliens attack and they go all over town looking for the UNSC; not just to save themselves but because Ruwan KNOWS this is a wild goose chase as the artifact they’re looking for is a made up item he and his brother used to use in a role playing game.  The book does not shy away from some VERY dark imagery which it handles with all the care and reverence of a grumpy bull in a very cramped china shop.  I made allusions to the Thermian argument in my review of Ghost of Onyx to explain why it’s fair game to criticize content within the book despite in-universe justifications, and this comic has a similar issue where it uses an in-universe calamity to justify some rather tasteless swipes at pop culture and pop stars specifically.

Wow, you know I thought pop music was perfectly fine but seeing a pop star running from aliens has opened my eyes that it’s pointless drivel!  After all, if it can’t stop a bullet from going in your head, is it REALLY that important?
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Uprising & Contact Harvest”

Cinema Dispatch: Godzilla vs. Kong

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Godzilla vs. Kong and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Adam Wingard

It’s no secret that I was not a fan of King of the Monsters which was particularly surprising to me as I always get a kick out of seeing giant monster movies!  There was just too much pretention and import without enough depth or butt kicking fight scenes to justify how lethargic much of it was, but if there was anything about the movie that caught my interest (aside from them using the Blue Oyster Cult song for the credits), it was the promise of seeing Godzilla and the King Kong from Kong: Skull Island lace up the gloves and duke it out in a battle to end all battles!  Well the one thing that giant monsters were not able to overcome was the Pandemic as this got pushed back for several months, but the day has finally arrived and they even put it on HBO Max to boot!  Is this the titanic clash between two legendary movie monsters we’ve all been waiting for, or is this a bigger letdown than Batman v Superman?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Monarch has decided that instead of leaving Kong alone on his mysterious island that is probably not even on Godzilla’s radar, they’ll capture him, chain him up, and put him in a fake jungle so that… I guess he and Godzilla don’t have a punch up.  It seems that Kong himself wasn’t consulted on this as he’s constantly wrecking up his cage and has to be restrained whenever he’s out of it, but in any case, along with that there’s a new Super Science company in town named Apex run by some dude named Walter (Demián Bichir) who believes that there’s some sort of Unobtanium-like SUPER OIL that requires drilling even deeper into the Earth to get.  How deep?  Well so deep that apparently you empty out into a whole new world which is where the monsters they’ve been dealing with are actually from.  A rag tag team of scientists are assembled to try and prove this Hollow Earth theory and since they’ve already got a giant monster under lock and key, they can use his… something something science babble to help them find the entrance to the Hollow Earth and make perhaps the greatest discovery in all of human history!  Said team is made up of some geologist dude (Alexander Skarsgård), Kong’s caretaker (Rebecca Hall), her adopted daughter (Kaylee Hottle), and Walter’s very annoyed daughter (Eiza González) along with like five or six nameless army dudes. Now all this however assumes that Godzilla, the supposed protector of Earth, doesn’t come in and wreck Apex/Monarch’s plans, but hey I guess if they’ve got Kong on hand anyway, why not let him punch the giant lizard a few times along the way?  Oh, and Millie Bobby Brown is back on a Goonies adventure to discover the secrets of Apex along with a nerd (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry) who has no problem dragged teenagers along on a life threatening adventure.  Then again, Rebecca Hall has someone even younger tagging along with her, so either way there seems to be way too many irresponsible grown-ups running around here.  Will Apex and Monarch be able to find the hidden entrance to the Hollow Earth and perhaps find some answers about Kong as well?  What does Apex want with this new energy source, and could Godzilla’s recent aggression towards them be somehow connected?  Am I the only one picturing a better movie where the giant ape and the giant lizard just say SCREW this and work together to destroy everyone involved with this ridiculous venture!?

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“Join me, brother! These humans care NOTHING for our kind!” “I would, but… your face… is so… PUNCHABLE!!”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Godzilla vs. Kong”