Cinema Dispatch: In The Heights

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!

You can’t sign a lease in Washington Heights without two years of contemporary dance, MINIMUM!
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: In The Heights”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (06-11-2021) – Friday Night Dynamite

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!

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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”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Wars & Halo Wars Genesis

Artwork by Usbaia and cawico7

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!

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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.

“We shall destroy He-Man, Optimus Prime, and the GI known as Joe, once and for all!!”
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Halo Wars & Halo Wars Genesis”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #40

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.

“Oh no! We’re using up too much processing power that Eggman had to downgrade the graphics!” “That’s like… the OPPOSITE of way past cool!” “Sure Sonic, whatever you say.”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #40”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (06-04-2021) – Friday Night Dynamite

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.

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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”

Cinema Dispatch: Cruella

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!

“Today was a good day! Not GREAT, but you know, I think we accomplished a lot and we’ll do even better tomorrow!” “Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.” “Yes. It most certainly is…”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Cruella”

Super Wrestling: AEW – Double or Nothing 2021

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!!

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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.

As long as she doesn’t shout BOOYAKA-BOOYAKA while doing it, I think AEW is in the clear.
Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW – Double or Nothing 2021”