Cinema Dispatch: Top 5 films of 2020 That Need Improvement

It’s certainly been one heck of a year, hasn’t it?  Well it’s finally about to end so you can stop hearing me prattle on about it (we’ll see how 2021 goes), and before we end any year we must take one look back to reflect and see what we can learn.  This year more than most, there’s SO many important lessons to take away, but in my little sphere of film criticism it’s feeling less and less important to rage against the disappointments that were had; especially considering the circumstances that everyone was trying to work around at every turn.  Like last year this will hopefully be more of a CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM list than a merciless spanking of movies I didn’t like, and I decided to post this one first because I’d rather end this year on a good note with the BEST OF list instead and using this space to scream one more time at everything that went wrong in 2020.  Let’s get started!!

.

Honorable Mention: ALMOST ALL THE COVID ERA RELEASES

Yeah, let’s just head butt the elephant in the room right off the bat!  With COVID shutting down theaters it was one big game of chicken as studios with more to lose tried to hedge their bets on later releases while those with less confidence were more apt to let them go on streaming services.  Because of that, a lot of the mediocre movies we would have gotten parceled out throughout the year were frontloaded in the summer and a lot of the movies we were most looking forward still haven’t come out yet.  We still haven’t seen the new James Bond movie or Black Widow, but Scoob and Trolls World Tour?  Sure, why not give them twenty bucks to rent it?  Even the bigger movies that eventually limped their way to the home market like Mulan were hardly worth all the fuss, and even the one movie I saw this year with the nerve to sneak out to theaters (I saw it at a drive thru) was New Mutants; a movie destined to fail whenever it came out so why not make it an even bigger joke by releasing it when it’d be dangerous to do so?  We have the vaccine now, but it’s looking like it will be almost another year before things get back to normal, and with Warner Bros getting into fights with production studios over releasing movies on HBO Max it’s not clear if everyone will be on board with calling 2020 films a wash and just letting them come out so the next slate of movies can have their time shine.  There were a few highlights here and there but 2020 was pretty much a nightmare across the board, and while 2021 seems like it will be no less… interesting, hopefully it will be the start of something better for everyone.

Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Top 5 films of 2020 That Need Improvement”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-23-2020)

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

There was zero chance of me getting this recap out in a reasonable amount of time considering they put the episode on Christmas Eve Eve, but with the tragedy that happened over the weekend it got even harder to just sit down and get this recap done.  Heck, I didn’t even finish watching the episode until last night with less than 2 days to go before the next one!  Still, AEW Dynamite, even during the times where it’s hardest to sit down and watch, is still a genuine highlight of my week and they’ve definitely had a solid string of shows during the holiday season.  Is their Christmas episode so good we’ll want to revisit it every Christmas, or is it one of those OTHER Christmas specials we only watch once and try to pretend never existed like Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer or December to Dismember?  Let’s find out!!

.

Top Flight (Darius Martin & Duante Martin) Vs. Jericho & MJF

Jericho is accompanied to the ring by Jake Hager

I’ve been a bit down on Top Flight, but it looks like AEW has a lot of faith in them to carry the company if given enough seasoning; otherwise why would they have been put up against not just The Bucks but JERICHO within weeks of debuting on Dynamite?  Jericho to his credit gives A LOT up to Top Flight right off the bat as they beat the ever loving crap out of him with a series of flippy moves, but they’re not about to outmatch the Demo God just yet because despite the relentless assault they can only manage to get a one count.  That’s perhaps what makes this match a LITTLE bit weird.  Jericho and MJF will bump all around for these two, but as soon as its time to get the heat it’s a complete 180 reversal; and they’re the dominate heels again bullying the fresh faced youngsters.  Sure, there’s SOME of that in any tag team match, but the turns feel a bit more jarring.  The ending was also a little bit much for me, but I guess I can buy it.  Top Flight are on the verge of winning the match after Daunte takes out Jericho by the time keeper’s table and Darius has MJF to himself, but Jake Hager manages to sweep Darius off the apron and smash his face on the way down; giving MJF the chance to pile drive the man and get the three count.  On the one hand, Jericho and MJF, two of the most protected people in the company, had to cheat to beat these two.  On the other hand, they are untested as a tag team so perhaps a lack of cohesion here or a strong defense against this kind of tag team is to be expected.  It wasn’t bad or anything and it definitely had some great spots; I just found it a bit curious just how hard they were trying to make sure EVERYONE looked good even if it made the selling look a bit silly.   

After the match, Hager grabs the mic to congratulate his fellow Inner Circle members, but there’s something that’s been perplexing him for two weeks now.  WHERE IS WARDLOW!?  He’s upset that Wardlow has been away on “family business” and so he had Tony Khan schedule a friendly little spar next week on Dynamite between the two of them and Wardlow better show up!  Hager actually has some good delivery here and it’s nice to hear him take the mic again, but I’d be cautious of using Wardlow’s absence in a storyline; especially if the family business in question is SERIOUS business.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-23-2020)”

A Farewell to Brodie Lee

On 12/26/2020, the wrestling world lost one of its best as Jonathan Huber, also known as Luke Harper and most recently Brodie Lee, lost his life to a non-COVID related lung issue.  For years he had worked in WWE and was most recognizable as one of Bray Wyatt’s followers before spinning off with fellow Bray Wyatt follower Erick Rowan to form The Bludgeon Brothers.  This is where I first took note of him as I started watching wrestling again right as Wyatt was winding down (eventually teaming up with Matt Hardy to form The Deleters of Worlds and disappearing entirely before reemerging as The Fiend) and The Bludgeon Brothers definitely stood out as unstoppable monsters that the Baby Face teams had to overcome.  Despite having such an instantly recognizable look and an indelible presence, Harper wasn’t given many opportunities and he eventually left the company at the end of 2019 to join AEW a few months later.  This is where he truly started to shine for a lot of people and made his big debut as The Exalted One Brodie Lee, leader of The Dark Order, but as luck would have it his debut was on 3/18/2020; the very week AEW started having empty arena shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue reading “A Farewell to Brodie Lee”

Cinema Dispatch: Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Patty Jenkins

It’s been a WILD year that is thankfully coming to a close, but one of the big stories that will be with us throughout all of 2021 is going to be the distribution of films and what industries are going to survive this extended break from theaters.  Everyone’s made concessions here and there, but Warner Bros recently took charge of the conversation (wisely or not) by announcing that all of their delayed 2020 films will be available on HBO Max at no additional charge.  This has certainly angered a lot of filmmakers and production companies who were banking on the eventual box office offset costs so we’ll see if Warner Bros relents at some point in the future, but for now their first offering to the service is this movie; the sequel to Wonder Woman that was one of the most anticipated films of the year that time forgot!  Was it worth waiting for it to finally come to the small screen, or is this something they should have delayed indefinitely?  Let’s find out!!

It’s the mid-eighties and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) has a new life in Washington DC as an Anthropologist at the Smithsonian.  A bit unfair to crowd out the competition by LITERALLY BEING FROM ANCIENT TIMES, but she does her best to keep a low profile and does the occasional super hero save as her alter ego Wonder Woman wherever evil doers rear their ugly head.  As charmed as this life seems however, she still carries the weight of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) around her like an albatross around her neck.  One day at work, the nerdy girl at the office Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is sent a bunch of reclaimed artifacts and one of them catches both her and Diana’s eye; some sort of wishing stone that looks like something you’d buy at Spencer’s Gifts.  They disregard it at first, but Barbara starts to get super strength and super charisma while Diana somehow runs into none other than Steve Trevor; risen from the dead but not in a creepy zombie way!  Seems a bit odd but she’s willing to roll with it!  However, a local businessman named Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) seems to know just what this stone is and needs it to save his failing business, but what no one seems to realize (or care about) is what the stone may be taking away from them as well.  Will Diana discover the hidden dangers of the stone and stop Maxwell before he does something TRULY evil with it?  What will Barbara learn about herself as she becomes more powerful and no longer has to be disrespected by others?  I wonder what would happen if Batman wished his parents back.  Is there any way we can add this thing to the Robert Pattinson film?

“‘When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.’  Oh my god.  IT’S A TRAP FROM DISNEY!!”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Wonder Woman 1984”

Jumping the Soapbox: Snow Miser & Heat Miser Face the Music!

The Rankin/Bass Specials as well as all the images you see in this editorial are owned by Warner Bros

Christmas Music is one of those things that we just learn to live with.  It’s always the same twenty or so songs, it always starts playing the grocery stores way too early, and we hate to admit it be we all have a soft spot for some of them.  Not just the COOL songs like Whatever You Celebrate by Reel Big Fish or the fun indie songs like A Willie Nice Christmas by Kacey Musgraves; not even the GENUINE modern day classics that should go in your rotation RIGHT NOW like Tell Your Mama by Aloe Blacc (listen to it RIGHT NOW if you haven’t!).  No, we’ve all got soft spots for some of the ones that they keep playing OVER and OVER again each year that everyone else in the world is sick of except for you.  Now for me, I’m a sucker for Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney, Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano, and of course the immortal Heat Miser/Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus.  Not only has the song become a radio fixture for decades now, those characters have taken on a life of their own; more or less overshadowing the special they came and inspiring plenty of fan art and YouTube covers!  Still, there’s got to be a story behind these two, right?  Not only that, but did you know they made a SEQUEL to the special in 2008 all about these two?  Since it’s the Holiday season and I’m all about finding random obscure stuff to shine a light on, let’s see what we can learn about Snow Miser and Heat Miser! 

.

Who The Heck Are These Two Anyway!?

Sadly there’s not a lot of information out there on the production of The Year Without A Santa Claus; at least not any I could find.  We know the writer was William Keenan who mostly wrote episodes of TV shows back in the seventies, and the composer was Rankin/Bass’s in house guy Maury Laws who wrote songs for all of those classic specials, but as to the origin of Heat Miser and Snow Miser there’s no real thread out there to pull.  It certainly didn’t come from the book that the special was based on which was written by Phyllis McGinley in 1956, but then Rankin/Bass was always a LITTLE bit weird with stuff like wizards and abominable snow monsters; not to mention The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus which was based on an L Frank Baum story and looks like Santa got plopped in a Tolkien style fantasy.

“GIVE ME THE ONE RING!!”     “Nah, if you’re looking for that guy he left about three days ago.”     “DARN IT!  All seeing eye of Sauron, my BUTT!”
Continue reading “Jumping the Soapbox: Snow Miser & Heat Miser Face the Music!”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-16-2020)

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

Tis the season for things to get lost in the shuffle as the holidays approach and these recaps get more and more delayed, but I’m not about to give up gosh darn it!  December has been full of stress and scrambling, but the AEW show each week is something I always look forward to even if they don’t always knock it out of the park.  Was this episode another reminder of why I keep doing this week in and week out, or is it a confusing mess that’s practically begging for me to skip a week?  Let’s find out!!

.

Hangman Page & The Dark Order (Reynolds & Silver) Vs. Hardy Party (Matt Hardy, Isaiah Kassidy, and Marq Quen)

Page and the Geeks come out first with Reynolds and Silver wearing matching (and VERY adorable) cowboy outfits.  Seems like an innocent enough homage to me, but Page seems particularly annoyed when Silver tries to throw up his hand sign so perhaps he’s not ready to embrace his new buddies just yet and form a new faction.  Speaking of hand signs, what is that supposed to be?  As far as I can tell, it’s just Hangman throwing up a Loser “L” which doesn’t seem particularly cowboy, but he’s also a 90’s kid so I’ll let him have it.  As for that match itself, it was pretty darn good; especially for an opening match.  It’s a bit odd that neither teams are truly faces or heels which means that there isn’t much DRAMA there, but it also means that they focus on spots and big moves which I like to see in the first match of a show.  The opener doesn’t have to be advancing the most important storylines but it has to POP and this match definitely does that with some impressive work from all involved.  If I had to pick an MVP it might be Marq Quen because he is in this several times and does a GREAT job with everybody.  He starts off the match with Page and they have a great exchange for a bit before the rest of Hardy Party tries a triple team.  Page manages to avoid it however and Silver & Reynolds rush in to make the save and look like superstars while doing it!  With Silver soaking up so much spotlight it’d be easy for Reynolds to get lost in the shuffle (much like Other Dude in WHAM), but he’s a good worker and balances out Silver’s overwhelming exuberance and he has possibly the best moment in the match towards the end of it.  If anyone is a heel in here, it’s Hardy as he’s the only one getting any sort of heat; in this case on Silver with submissions and beatings which eventually leads to a hot tag for Page who explodes out of the corner and runs wild!  Even this however is brought to an end by Matt Hardy with a Side Effect and a two count on Page.  He goes for a Twist of Fate but Page gets out of it and the two tag in Reynolds and Quen who are so great in these brief moments that I want to see them have a singles match!  Reynolds probably isn’t as athletic as Marq Quen (who possibly could be?) but he holds his own and their brief confrontation is topped off with that RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME combination that he and Silver does with a Powerbomb from Hangman for good measure.  The ending is a BIT of a disappointment for me and the only thing close to a sour note in the whole match.  Silver takes a Twist of Fate on the apron that ended up hurting his knee which was concerning to see, though he later confirmed that it’s fine and he just has a bruise which is a relief considering how injury prone people have been at AEW, but the point is that this is what takes Silver out of the match which leaves Page and Reynolds at a disadvantage.  Page takes a kick from Isaiah that knocks him over the barricade and Private Party finishes off Reynolds with a Gin and Juice, but instead of pinning him themselves they go to the effort of letting Matt tag in so that he can make the pin and win the match.  Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but the kick and tumble that Page took REALLY shouldn’t have taken him out of the match long enough for Private Party to land their super move and then have someone else run in and make a three count, but I guess we can’t have Page win with these two goofballs just yet so they had to find a way for it to make sense that Page couldn’t make the save.  Aside from that, which isn’t TOO big of a deal, this was a fun match and a GREAT way to start the show!  My only hope is that Page’s loss here doesn’t discourage him from teaming up with these two again, because they made a fantastic team and I want to see them each and every week!

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-16-2020)”

Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #35

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

Despite some ups and downs in the story, I’m glad that the comic has moved away from WORLD ENDING CATASTROPHES to tell a much smaller and more character driven story with this whole Sonic take on Casino Royale!  What, am I the only one who sees it?  Come on, Rogue is acting super shady just like Vesper Lynd; it’s right there!!  In any case, will Sonic and friends uncover the many mysteries surrounding this story, not the least of which being the identity of the hooded figure?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Sonic, Tails, and the living puppet Belle facing their greatest and oldest enemy to date; confusing action scenes that don’t adequately convey spatial relations!  Yeah, I know I’m a broken record on this, but these early pages are another example of the artist just not doing a great job conveying necessary details or relative threats.  The first thing we see low angle shot of them in a rather narrow but tall room (looking a bit like a silo) that is filling from bottom to top with badnicks.  Clearly they would have to find a way out by going UP, right?  No, it’s actually just a PYRAMID of badnicks and they decide to swarm on the side of the room that DOESN’T have the very obvious exit door.  Then as soon as they escape that room and are in the corroder, what I THINK happens is that a grabby badnick drops out of the ceiling to snatch Tails and Bell doing SOMETHING with her tail to save him. 

“Butt Boosters, don’t fail me now!!”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #35”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-09-2020)

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

So after the surprise ending of last week’s show that saw Kenny Omega winning the title under duplicitous circumstances, not to mention Sting showing up to blow all the wrestling nerds away, what can AEW possibly do to give us an episode as good as that!?  Probably nothing short of having John Cena show I imagine, but even if it’s not as good as last week’s blowout show, do they still manage to capitalize on all the good will they built up and give us something worth watching?  Let’s find out!!

.

The Young Bucks Vs. The Hybrid2

TH2 has been on a hot streak recently with some solid promos and a great match two weeks ago, so now they’re here to get some shine from the Bucks, though perhaps this match is a bit TOO wacky for that to happen.  It’s not BAD, but it is a bit on the silly side with spot in particular standing out like a sore thumb.  TH2 Whip the two bucks towards each other, but instead of crashing they lock their right arms, spin around on the axis crated by their crossed biceps, and let go when facing the other direction; now RUNNING towards TH2 and landing spears.  I don’t think that’s how physics works, but PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING is probably not the place to bringing up concerns like that, and the match is pretty solid all the way through.  LOTS of flips (some of which don’t do anything other than show off) and plenty of kicks to give the match a lot of flair, and there’s one spot where Matt Jackson Powerbombs Jack Evans into The Acclaimed; the team that were taunting them last week and who JUST SO HAPPENED to be in the crowd this week.  There were actually quite a few big moves with TH2 managing to kick out of a bunch of The Bucks super moves and there’s one spot where Matt Jackson has Jack Evans in the Electric Chair (basically have the other guy sitting on your shoulders) so that Nick can give him a flying clothesline from the top rope to the ramp!  Evan manages to get up after that one, but taking a Spike Piledriver on the floor proved to be too much which left Angélico alone in the ring to eat a BTE trigger which was finally enough to end the match.  Perhaps it went on too long for the opener and I think they overdid it on the super moves early on which didn’t leave a lot of room to escalate for the ending, but it was still a fun match.  The Acclaimed try to rush the ring after the match ends, but Kazarian and Daniels (the latter STILL wearing his dad clothes) spring to the ring from the back and keep them at bay.  I hope we’re not dropping The Hybrid2 completely to make room for The Acclaimed, but it would be interesting to see if The Hybrid2 joined forces with them and cost the Bucks a match.  See, The Bucks are still kind of on their own and still acting like jerks, so where I would have them LOST against FTR and come to that revelation for the rematch, it could work here if they’re facing challengers who have back up and need to make amends with some team before the title match so they can get backup as well.  It looks like it’ll be SCU as they’ve made the save twice now, or maybe they’re just angling for their own title shot as well.  There are a few directions they can take this story, but I get the feeling they’re going to go with the most straightforward where they face Acclaimed and win yet again before moving on to something else.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (12-09-2020)”

Cinema Dispatch: Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical and all the images you see in this review are owned by NBC

Directed by Julia Knowles and Max Webster

Being the world’s number one expert on Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it was practically my DUTY to watch… whatever this is, as soon as I heard about it!  It seems like the big new thing to try and get people back to watching TV has been these lavish stage productions like Hairspray, Grease, and (checks notes)… A Christmas Story?  They did one based on that movie?  Well in any case, it’s no surprise that they eventually got around to Dr. Seuss and the Green Man himself to maximize not just nostalgia but good ol’ CHRISTMAS nostalgia!  Is there anything to this new version of the story, or is it a shameless cash grab to give us another reason to make 2020 the worst year ever?  Let’s find out!!

Up on Mt Crumpit, all covered in snow, lived a green jerk bag that all of us should know.  He was played by Boris Karloff, then Jim Carrey next.  Then was Benedict Cumberbatch!  Who else will they get?  Some guy named Matthew Morrison who’s from a show called Glee.  A show a lot of people like but I have never seen.   It’s the story we’ve seen but with more musical cues, and lots of choreography from those dancing Whos!  The Grinch wants to stop the holiday, the whole Christmas Season!  Makes sense for 2020 where a President committed treason.  Will he succeed in his plot to rob all those folks?  More important than that, is this a show worthy of boast?  Do they capture the magic of the Seussian tale, or is this a cavalcade of ridiculous fails?  Can Mr. Morrison capture the magic of his role, or will this new version swiftly get old?  Is it better than the one made by Illumination, or is it somehow worse and will receive more condemnation?  Would it be tiresome to read this review all in rhyme?  Well luckily for you I’m not about to try, because I’m already up WAY past my bedtime.

“It’s just like the movie, only cheaper to make!”     “I bet you’d like this more if you got REALLY baked!”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical”

Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #3

Sonic Bad Guys as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The last issue of the Bad Guys mini-series was a surprisingly great entry that did a lot to move the plot forward and develop these characters which needless to say means that there’s a lot to live up to in this one!  Starline remains one of the better characters in this series and it seems like IDW is heading in an interesting direction with him, but we’ve been down this road before with this character and he’s never quite lived up to his potential even at his best moments.  The same more or less holds true for the rest of the cast here as they all certainly proved themselves to be more interesting in here than in their earlier appearances, but can Ian Flynn carry this story to a satisfying conclusion or did he use his best ideas in the last issue?  Let’s find out!!

The issue begins with Dr. Starline in the dead of night; accessing his personal computer and recording a video diary to catalog his mischievous machinations.  I’m not sure why he would bother to keep a record of how he plans to screw over his villainous posse, especially within earshot of anyone still awake and grabbing a snack from the fridge, but then again I imagine Starline is the kind of guy who plans to sell his life story for a book deal and five part movie franchise.  Also, it all turns out to be moot because SURPRISE; it’s not actually Starline!  Mimic, with the help of Zavok, somehow managed to crack all of Starline’s security systems and know every last detail of Starline’s plan.  I can only assume that this bit of tricky with the video diary is to fabricate further evidence of his ACTUAL wrongdoing and send it to Eggman when all is said and done, but for now (and with a bit of coaxing from Zavok), they’re going to let his scheme play out until the moment they get what they want.

“You’re not going to need his body once we’re through with this, right Zavok?”     “…what?”     “Yeah, I figured if I gutted him and stuffed him, he’d make a great mantel piece back home!”     “You do you, buddy.”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic Bad Guys – #3”