Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-28-2021) – Friday Night Dynamite

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.

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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”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Evolutions (Part 2)

Artwork by Usbaia and cawico7

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!

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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!

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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.

Screw these guys! If they don’t want him, I’LL take him! Henry will get all the wet food and heavy artillery he could ever ask for!
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Evolutions (Part 2)”

Cinema Dispatch: Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead and all the images you see in this review are owned by Netflix

Directed by Zack Snyder

Considering everything that the guy has gone through in the last few years, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he took several years off instead of going back to making movies.  Still, it does seem to be his passion as Zack Snyder certainly makes film with an enthusiasm and gusto you don’t often see from big budget filmmakers, an d what better way to get back into the swing of things than to go back to his roots and make another zombie flick?  I’m certainly rooting for him, but is this the triumphant return that we’ve all been waiting for, or is he still a bit rusty from working on tent pole superhero movies for so long?  Let’s find out!!

Following a botched military transport, the ZOMBIE VIRUS infects the city of Las Vegas AND NOWHERE ELSE which is convenient because it means the US government can just build a giant wall around the city and leave the zombies to their own devices while also ensuring all the survivors are free from the zombie virus.  The state of things is tenuous at best however as the survivors are kept in camps near the city run by NOT-ICE-AGENTS, and since we’re living in a Capitalists hellscape even in our fantastical zombie films, people are sneaking in and out to try and scrounge up a bit of cash from the many casinos to perhaps make their lives better.  Because of this the US government has decided to nuke the city to kill off all the zombies which means it’s the PERFECT time to pull off the biggest heist of them all as a casino owner (Hiroyuki Sanada) hires a group of mercenaries, many of whom were part of the efforts to save survivors, to go into the city and take ALL the money from his vault mere days before the nuke is launched; money that would have probably would just burn to ashes anyway so it’s practically there BEGGING to be collected!  Our heroes are the ultimate Dad Guy named Scott (Dave Bautista), his friends Maria and Vanderohe (Ana de la Reguera and Omari Hardwick), a safe cracker named Ludwig (Matthias Schweighöfer), some dude who posts zombie shooting videos on YouTube as well as one of his cohorts (Raúl Castillo and Samantha Win), a pilot to get them out of there (Tig Notaro), and a Coyote who helps people get in and out of the city (Nora Arnezeder).  On top of that, Scott’s daughter (Ella Purnell) finds a way to tag along as she is searching for someone who got lost in the city during one of those casino runs, and there’s one dude hired by the casino owner (Garret Dillahunt) to keep an eye on things and perhaps has an agenda of his own.  With this rag tag group of bad asses and scumbags, can they pull off the ultimate heist without getting bit by a zombie or getting a face full of nuclear fallout?  Is this plan as straightforward as they were led to believe, and what have the zombies themselves been up to since being locked up in the city?  Do trained mercenaries just not watch movies, or do they assume that this is the ONE plan that won’t go wrong?

“If things get spicy in there, I’m just gonna call an Uber and get the heck out of there.”     “Yeah, I think the zombie blighted wasteland is outside their service area.”     “Sheesh.  So much for being a market disruptor.”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Army of the Dead”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-19-2021)

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

Double or Nothing is only a week away!?  Didn’t I JUST pay for All Out like two weeks ago!?  Despite things slowly turning back to normal, things are still kinda blurring together week in and week out, but Double or Nothing promises to be a return to the old days of wrestling with big crowds and big events.  Whether this will prove to be a health disaster is yet to be seen (we’re still at less than fifty percent for full vaccination) but AEW has done a solid job in the last few weeks building up to it.  Will this prove to be even more hype for the big return show, or will it take a bit more than what they’ve been doing for the last year to get people excited enough to return to Daily’s Place?  Let’s find out!!

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Christian Cage Vs. Matt Sydal

Taz joins the commentary team for this match

AEW had a reputation about a year ago of being injury heavy as lots of guys would take bumps they shouldn’t have and got taken out of action for a while with perhaps no better example than the excruciating journey Matt Hardy had with his feud against Sammy Guevara.  That reputation might be returning as at least two big names had some SERIOUSLY rough matches recently with Orange Cassidy taking a bad Powerbomb on last week’s show that required AEW to quickly rebook the match on the spot, and Ricky Starks who got a neck injury in his match against Hangman Adam Page which is why Cage is fighting Sydal instead of him tonight.  Still, Sydal is no slouch and him being an understudy in a match like this is by no means a step down as they put down a pretty great match!  Cage is starting to come into his own and shake off that ring rust and is showing a lot more here than he had before.  Where the Kazarian match completely winded him and the Will Hobbs match was almost all about selling, this one shows off what he can really do at what seems like peak condition as his offense is strong and well-paced while his selling is just as good as ever!  Cage gets a strong advantage early on and keeps Sydal guessing, but Sydal eventually a few high flying moves and some close nearfalls; especially this one pretty amazing move where he jumps over a charging Christian Cage and turns it into a Canadian Destroyer which Cage kicks out of SO HARD that he comes FLYING off the mat entirely!  Despite not getting the pin here, Sydal does stay competitive and gets a few more close calls on Cage, but as soon as Cage gets his knees up for Sydal’s Moonsault, it gives him just enough room to land the Killswitch and get the win!  Despite Sydal’s harsh words for Cage last week, they do hug it out at the end to the consternation of Taz who doesn’t like either one of them.  He’s the only one down on this match however as this was a fun, explosive, and well-paced opener that did its job and didn’t overstay it’s welcome!  I’ve been a bit skeptical of Cage, but he’s proving himself more and more each week and I’m very interested to see what he does at the Casino Battle Royale at Double or Nothing which the commentary team was plugging throughout the match.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-19-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Evolutions (Part 1)

Artwork by Usbaia and cawico7

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

Halo Evolutions is owned by Tor Books

It’s a bit of a toss-up with 2007 and 2015, especially when you start arguing what your actually counting, but 2008 is looking to be the most jam packed year of Halo content with two games coming out (including the first Halo game NOT developed by Bungie), a few different comics, and of course this collection of short stories which is much longer than any of the books released so far; so much so that we’re not gonna get through each story today and will instead split it across two weeks.  That certainly wasn’t the plan, especially since I usually cover two novels at a time in these pieces, but with each short being its own thing with a beginning, middle, and end, I wouldn’t be giving them their due diligence if I tried to crunch it all into one piece, so without further ado let’s get started!!

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Halo Evolutions (2009) – Short Story Collection

The book starts with an introduction by Frank O’Connor to try and… I guess the word is “justify” why this is a short story collection instead of another novel.  I mean I guess anytime you change up the formula you’ll want to explain it (I couldn’t tell you if the Halo book fan base was perturbed by this news), but what I found pretty fascinating in this little section is the insights into Frank O’Connor’s mind as his word choice and writing style is… well I guess the word is “INTERESTING”.  I like that he compared a short story collection to a box of chocolate and then called that a “Gumpian phrase” which I am totally going to add to my vocabulary, and his use of the word Chateaubraind to describe some of the meatier stories in here is kinda funny because I had to actually look up what the heck that was, and I feel like Mr. O’Connor had to of done the same thing because it’s probably the LAST dish you’d want to use when talking about a short story collection.  Chateaubriand is large center cut of tenderloin grilled between two less tasty pieces that are discarded after cooking which to ME unintentionally throws some shade at certain stories in the book which IF that was intentional here I’m curious which ones he was talking about.  For me though, the most interesting tidbit is O’Connor name dropping the first anthology he read as a kid which was Great Space Battles by Stewart Cowley and Charles Herridge.  I looked at it a bit and it’s definitely up my alley as I was on a Retro Sci-Fi kick about a year or two ago, and you can see little bit and pieces of what could have inspired some of Halo in the included illustrations, so if nothing else he’s given me something else to add to my reading list.

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Pariah

Written by BK Evenson

I’ve made no bones about my eye rolling disdain for the framing of the Spartan programs and how often humanity is subsumed for duty in service of this ridiculous premise; the fact that they could have just had Super Soldiers but felt the need to go the extra mile and make them CHILD Super Soldiers kidnapped and conscripted into military service for what is ultimately (according to the text of this franchise) justifiable means to an end.  I have a hunch based on some things I’ve half heard about future things in the franchise that they’ll eventually come around to my side of thinking (at least somewhat), and this story is perhaps the first real examination of that cost outside the context of trying to justify it.  Unlike the books which follow the exploits of the SUCCESSFUL Spartans, this is the story of one of the not so lucky ones named Soarin; a Spartan who didn’t get to die in battle and save humanity but instead was deformed by the body augmentation procedure.  He doesn’t die like so many of the others and he DOES have heightened strength and agility which probably puts him a step above your standard Space Marine, but he’s not allowed to return to duty and is given a desk job to while away his life away from the guilt ridden eyes of those who put him and every other Spartan through that procedure.

“The least they could have done is gotten me a piano in the basement. I’d ROCK a mask and cape!”
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Evolutions (Part 1)”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-12-2021)

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

Last week may have been the big TV show, but we’re only weeks away from Double or Nothing so this episode has to work double duty in giving us the fallout from the Blood & Guts event as well as setting up whatever is going to happen for the PPV.  Not only that, but this is also something of a big show in its own right as we’ve got three title defenses with some big implications behind them!  Can this episode of Dynamite carry all that weight and spin all those plates without collapsing, or will the most interesting thing about this be the giant mess that they make?  Let’s find out!!

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Jon Moxley Vs. Yuji Nagata – IWGP United States Title Match

Moxley is accompanied to the ring by Eddie Kingston while Nagata is accompanied by Ren Narita

Before we can get to my utter lack of knowledge of New Japan, before we can get to my utter lack of knowledge of Yuji Nagata, before we can get to ANYTHING else, we have to talk about one thing.  Wild Thing by The Troggs!?  Look, Where Is My Mind for Orange Cassidy is starting to grow on me, but I’m thinking that Tony Khan is getting a bit TOO pop happy with his music because this is a VERY jarring change of pace!  Moxley’s music may not have been a recognizable song, but it definitely fit him and his energy where Wild Things is just… not that.  I don’t know, maybe I’ll find a way to get used to it or maybe it’s just a one off.  In either case, let’s talk about the match itself, shall we?  Now as I’ve said I don’t follow New Japan and don’t know who most of the guys on that show are, so having Yuji Nagata show up here doesn’t mean a lot to me, but I still like the concept of having matches outside of AEW’s world take place on the show.  Wrestling is a BIG world and trying to close yourself off from everything else the way WWE does is what’s help make it feel like a weird little isolated planet of a thing, so I’m happy to see New Japan, NWA, or even Impact show up every once in a while to spice things up!  Then again, I can’t say this was THE BEST match to debut the IWGP title for the Dynamite audience because… well I don’t think the match was particularly exciting.  Look, I’ll fully admit that I can’t speak for all wrestlers and I know there are a few old timers that I still like to see even if they aren’t at their peak, but Nagata is just kinda slow here and Moxley has to slow himself down to make the match look competitive.  Then again, I tend to prefer a quicker high flying style to something more methodical, and there ARE moments where Nagata shows what he can do; particularly as we get to the end when he gives Moxley an Avalanche Exploder before kneeing him in the face to get a two count.  Moxley kicks out of it and manages to put Nagata into the Rear Naked Choke which can usually take out anyone, but Nagata wriggles out of it and puts him in an arm breaker that Excalibur is completely marking out for so it must be one of his signature moves, but Moxley makes it to the bottom rope to break the hold and the two start slugging it out once again.  Moxley starts bleeding at one point which I think happened from one of Nagata’s elbows smashing him right in the cheek, and it makes for a very compelling image as he goes back for the choke to finish Nagata off.  He fights out once again, but after a minute of back and forth Moxley manages to land the Paradigm Shift and gets the pin; winning the match and retaining his IWGP United States title.  There was a lot about this match that didn’t click for me, from the fact that this is the first time I’ve ever seen Yuji Nagata wrestle to Moxley’s new theme music, so while it didn’t do a lot for me specifically I can still acknowledge that both guys put a lot into this match and that it will definitely work for those who know what to expect going in.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (05-12-2021)”

Cinema Dispatch: Spiral

Spiral and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate Films

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

I’ll admit that I broke down and went to the movie twice this year to see movies at a theater; Nobody a few months back and Mortal Kombat a few weeks ago.  This however is what I will consider the genuine start of me returning to theaters to see movies; not just because I’m finally vaccinated but because studios are starting to trickle out the movies that they had been holding onto for a year now starting with this reboot of sorts for the Saw franchise.  Now I thought Jigsaw was a perfectly well executed movie that sadly did same tired thing we saw in the previous films.  This movie on the other hand looks like it will be going in a different direction which is what I was hoping for from the last movie, but can Lionsgate deliver on that promise and reinvigorate the franchise with a bold new vision, or will we be begging for Tobin Bell to be written back into this franchise by any means necessary by the time this movie is through?  As much as I’d like to see Tobin Bell’s head in a jar I’m hoping this doesn’t turn out THAT badly, but let’s find out!!

We begin our story many years after the death of the Jigsaw Killer John Kramer and follow detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a cop who doesn’t trust other cops; especially after he ratted on one of his officers for straight up shooting a witness in the face and has had to look over his shoulder ever since.  Because of this he likes to work alone, but after a recent undercover job goes sideways (one that he neglected to tell anyone he was doing), he’s assigned a rookie named William Schenk (Max Minghella) to try and keep him in line and reign in his behavior.  He would have been out on his butt if his father (Samuel L Jackson) wasn’t the former police chief that everyone still respects, but that’s where the good luck ends as his best friend on the force is murdered in some convoluted death trap and his body parts along with taunting clues are sent to him at the police station; all mimicking John Kramer’s MO down to the red spiral symbol.  It’s a race against time as everyone is working to find out who the new Jigsaw Killer is, but with so many enemies on the force can Zeke trust any of them to have his back?  On top of that, why is this new killer targeting Zeke, and what secrets will he uncover about his own past along the way?  I wonder how much nonsensical lore they had to read while going through the old Jigsaw case files.  Was anyone in the world of the Saw movies able to ACTUALLY figure out what the heck was going on?

“Wait, so he was dead by 2006?”     “Yeah, and he had two disciples, but one of them died in 2006 as well.”     “I thought he had three.”     One was a SECRET disciple.”     “So who killed all those people after 2006!?”     “Well there were those two as well as the traps Kramer set before he died, and then there was that one guy who cut his leg off in 2004. ”     “So HE was part of all this too!?”     “Maybe?”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Spiral”