Growing Up, Nostalgia, But Mostly Wrestling

WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role

Man, I haven’t written here in a looong time. I don’t really have an excuse for not writing, I could say it was school and all the time it took out of me focusing on that and getting perfect marks, but we both know that it isn’t true. Nah, I haven’t really been doing much since last August when I last posted here, not much except watch wrestling. And when I mean watch wrestling, I mean WATCH WRESTLING. Ever since September it’s all I’ve been doing and all my brain’s been transfixed on. So, let’s actually put all that time to use and put words to screen. But, first, I guess we should back up a little.

I’m not entirely sure how I got into wrestling, but I’m pretty sure it was through my cousins. See, I grew up in the country with only three channels, a fourth would become slightly clearer during the winter for some reason (I’m assuming the lack of trees/blockage on trees has something to do with it). Anyways, I think it all started when I visited cousins who actually had cable to watch the channel, I saw it and was immediately drawn in by the characters. Scotty 2 Hotty was obviously a huge draw for a kid like me who thought spiky hair coming out of a bucket hat was the coolest thing. So, going home for someone who didn’t get to actually watch wrestling, what’d I do? The next best thing, video games. What is a greater crossroads to a preteen (or younger?) than wrestling + video games. And that game in question was WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role, oh my god, I can’t even begin to explain how much I loved this game and how many hours I poured into it. It’s still my favorite game of all time and the greatest sense of nostalgia in my life is thinking back to the days of playing this game.

Now video games could only carry you so far in wrestling fandom without actually watching the product, so as memory serves I played the game, but slowly lost interest in it and moved on to other things. Now I don’t have the timeline completely straight, but sometime in early 2004 we got satellite. What a glorious day. I still remember rushing home from school that day when it was installed, rushing inside to put on Much Music to watch music videos, which at the time were the greatest, and were actually put on TV, let alone music channels. The first three are engrained in my head, Incubus’ (remember them?) “Megalomaniac,” which at that young age I assumed it was just some hating on the government that I didn’t truly understand, but it was loud and I LIKED THAT, DAMMIT. Next was the classic “Stacy’s Mom” from all-staying Fountain’s of Wayne followed by perhaps an even classicer classic with Kelis’ “Milkshake.” I’m really sorry about this probably very boring and pointless tangent that you could care less about, I’m just enjoying memory lane here, but, right, back to wrestling, the thing you really want to here about…

So, I’m fuzzy on the timeline exactly, somewhere around March or April of 2004, I was flipping along the channels saw wrestling, and was all of a sudden like “oh, right, I can watch wrestling now” and the realization hit me like a tidal wave and I was hooked ever since. And for, like, the next couple years it was all I was interested in.

When I say I was into wrestling I mean I was into wrestling. I had action figures, DVDs, a magazine subscription, trading cards, have multiple autographs from when superstars came to Edmonton, I’d scour the Internet for gossip, and have been to a handful of live events. My moment of ultimate glory was when I went to a taping of SmackDown here in Edmonton that John Cena at the time was headlining. He finished his match at the end of the night, proceeded to make his way to the crowd right below me, chugged some random guys beer and then started making his way up the steps in Rexall. This was my chance to see my hero up close and personal, so I ran down the steps and planted my right hand on Cena’s back. I still have yet to wash that hand.

I think it’s cool how you can trace back your life and see what type of person you were by the things you were interested in and how it segmented phases of your life. I was heavily into a ton of things growing up that I still like currently, but don’t dominant my life as a single entity that they once have. It’s almost got to the point where I wonder if for how long I’ll like the stuff I do now, but I guess that’s a symptom of being a human in an ever-changing environment of culture. From skateboarding to magic to wrestling, there was always a revolving things I was into, and that last one was the one to probably effect me the most.

I could classify it as solely liking WWE, but it definitely was any kind of wrestling, of course still the fake one, and not the actually one they want to kick out of the Olympics. I feel like every boy growing up likes wrestling at at least some point, whether it be for a day or, like, three years like it was for me. Either you tried to get into and it just wasn’t happening or you bought countless WWE action figures and staged fake wrestling events on your bed while their theme songs played in the background, or so I’ve heard…

I think WWE style wrestling is, like, soap-opera for dudes. Yes, of course tons of girls like it, but we’re not kidding anybody when we say it’s a male-driven sport. It’s telling stories with vibrant characters with twists and turns that just happen to get settled in a squared circle. I eventually just got bored of wrestling, grew out of it, I guess, I came home from vacation with hours on hours of it on my PVR, and it seemed like work getting through it all, I deleted it and I was done with it.

I always liked wrestling over the years, but it was just way too much of a commitment over the years to fully follow. I don’t really know why I came back to it in September of last year, nothing had really changed in my life, school had basically been the same, maybe it was general boredom of not much being on, or maybe it was the easy answer of watching Brock Lesnar beast again. It’s different now, though. Of course, back when I was 14 watching I knew it was fake, but definitely not to the degree of understanding ever little bit of detail and knowing what was being played for real and fake. Nowadays I’m aware of every little behind-the-scenes thing I can get my hands on and follow the business side just as much as the “for show” television side. It’s hard to quantify which one was the biggest fan, not that it matters, but back then I definitely enjoyed it more for the product they presented and now I’m more jaded and smarter about everything that is presented. I’m avoiding using the cliche “mark” and “smark” wrestling terms to pigeonhole fans because their use makes me cringe so much.

I’m not really sure what my intent of writing this article was, it originally was just going to be a brief intro/recap/background to the next article I’m going to write, but things spilled out of me. I’m obsessed with nostalgia, like, I mean everybody loves that feeling because it takes them back to a safe time, a time that can’t be harmed and is always there, it’s just how you unlock it for those brief instances that it truly shines. That’s the give-and-take of nostalgia, it’s such a great and reminiscent feeling, but you only get it in short bursts, and anymore would just ruin what makes it itself in first place. Wrestling is definitely this for me, and a lot of why I’m probably watching it when I did. I got into wrestling 10 years ago and loved John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H and now I come back a decade later and there they still are, slightly different, but wholly the same people I watched when I was in junior high. It’s a cool feeling to have that connective tissue to the past through an episodic series that doesn’t end. Here’s a dumb obvious parallel, but wrestling is like life, it just keeps going, there is no season breaks or off-season it just keeps trucking whether you like it or not. I never thought in a million years I’d get back into wrestling, and especially at this even more insane excessive clip that I’m at now. It surely won’t last at this level forever, maybe I’ll stop watching again in a few months, or a year, but I know it’ll always be with me, occupying these corners of my brain, just waiting to be tapped again.

‘Guardians Of The Galaxy': Review

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I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to succumb to the peer pressure of the Summer movie bonanza that I don’t take in anymore. I still like blockbusters that these months provide, but I just don’t care enough anymore to actually trek out in public with other people (ugh) and watch the same thing I see every summer with a bunch of strangers. I’ve also been a bit sick of comic book films of late, again they’re usually fun to look at and watch, but are just increasingly so much of the same that it just doesn’t seem a necessity to watch them that ravenously anymore, where the Blu-Ray release will suffice.

Well, Guardians of the Galaxy had seemingly changed all that, and I was bored so I actually ventured out to see my first movie of the Summer. Now, I’m no alien to the film or its development, I’ve been a huge James Gunn fan for years and was ecstatic to see him get a project of this magnitude and see so much trust put into him, so it’s super cool to see it insanely pay off for him. Everything looked cool with an interesting cast and a band of characters that were like the Avengers rejects type, that didn’t look all that cool or had amazing superheroes.

The main thing the film delivers, and obviously it’s intended feeling was fun. It’s just a lot of fun to go on this adventure with these characters and explore the oddities of their world with the oddball humour that James Gunn has always been known for, just multiplied on a 100 times bigger scale. The casting is perfect with Chris Pratt channelling his dumb and sarcastic model that must be like reading the back of his hand to play. I was so suspect during the production that Bradley Cooper would really be the best choice as Rocket Racoon’s voice as I really didn’t think he had the energy and life in his character to make Rocket everything he was supposed to be, but I was definitely wrong on that. Dave Bautista was your typical nowadays WWE star in a mainstream movie, and somehow was able to pull off the role of a big, dumb lug. Zoe Saldana didn’t really do anything crazy, but she was just as fine as she normally is.

The film really had presence to, a feeling that this wasn’t just some slapped together film by a group of executives or focus groups. It had a driving force and a spark to it that really separates itself from other superhero movies of late (even though it’s really not a superhero movie). I also loved James Gunn sticking to his roots, of course he did, by having Michael Rooker and his brother Sean Gunn in decently sized parts, and even a cameo by Nathan Fillion that I seemingly missed. So, thanks James Gunn in proving that there’s still room for a little heart in your mult-million dollar Marvel Summer blockbuster.

8/10

‘The Killing’ Procures A Suitable Ending For A Choppy Existence

The Killing Season 4

God, I had such high hopes for The Killing. Nothing I love more than detective stories, awesome. On a cable network boasting Mad Men and Breaking Bad, awesome. Setting it in the atmospheric and oft creepy area of Seattle, awesome.The previews made everything look perfectly moody, with the classic sparring opposites of detective partners I was all in. Everything was good, at least for the first couple episodes, and then everything slowly sliding out of control, things got more and more unbelievable and it became clear that in whatever way we weren’t going to satisfied by the ending. But, who would ever think that they wouldn’t even tell us the killer as the first season ended, incredible.

Of course, I watched the following seasons because I’m a masochist. Season 2 was even worse than the first, while season 3 had its moments, it still ultimately suffered the same fate. What always kept me going was the relationship between Holder and Linden, our two detectives, how often they were at odds with each other, but always held an affinity and curiosity in each other that always made their scenes click.

Netflix gave the multiple-times cancelled show a six-episode final fourth season, and it seemed like that’d be the perfect way to go out and for the most part it did just that. As always the Holder Linden relationship kept rolling and held everything together when things seemed on the frays. But, most importantly the nailed the scope and presence of their main case, it wasn’t anything big or something with huge twists and turns, but enough for six episodes that simply involved the a killing and the boys academy that surrounded it, enough for suspects and a main threat. Joan Allen got to cut her teeth perfectly as the head of the boys academy trying to protect their image as well as some secrets she wouldn’t want the police knowing. While this was going on the show still managed to deal with the fallout of season 3 as a B or a C story that was used sparingly enough not to take over or feel like a drag.

In the end it was a perfect ending for a imperfect show with many imperfections. Holder and Linden got perfect endings for who their characters were and realistically what would happen to them. They didn’t go out gracefully or with merit badges, but as troubled as they came in and uniformly connected through the bumps and bruises they procured together.

‘Movie 43′: Review

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I was forever obsessed with the backlash to Movie 43, I mean it looked dumb and stupid, but I couldn’t believe all the vitriol and hate people had towards it, and so embarrassingly bad that actors in it wanted to remove every evidence that they had been involved in it. I got why people hated it, dumb and crude fart, poop and sex jokes that looked to be aimed at teenagers. Well, guess what, I love that stuff! I was out to prove these people wrong that while it probably is a bad movies, there’s gotta be some merits…

As you can probably tell from my obvious wind up, in fact everybody was right and the movie really deserves all it has got. Sure, I laughed at some stuff in it, and oh, boy was it insanely stupid, but so is my brain so I’ll give it that.

But, if you want to pick the movie apart piece by piece it’s so easy to do that. The concept is good enough, get a bunch of funny directors and actors to make a bunch of short films and put them together, unfortunately nobody tried hard enough to make something beyond easy poop and period jokes. They also tried way to hard to tie everything together and have an overarching plot of how these stories fit together, which was unnecessary in a movie people are just going to see for the worst jokes every, anyways.

I really don’t have much to say about it, just really that I was surprised and actually kind of appreciative that it was actually as bad as everybody said it was. So, kudos to all involved, I can’t wait for the sequel!

1/10

‘Boyz n the Hood': Review

Boyz n the Hood

Boyz n the Hood is one of those films that I’ve always wanted to see and had always been meaning to, but for one reason or another it escaped me. Well, Best Buy selling it for $5.00 on Blu-Ray is enough for me to right that wrong.

Everything about this film is quintessential 90s and might be some of the definitive work of growing up in a black culture, surrounding by gang activity and trying to escape these hurdles and just making it out of your childhood to becoming an adult.

I’ll get my one criticism out of the way first, the film is very predictable and hits every narrative beat as it should, not leaving much up to the imagination of what’s to come first. But, ultimately that didn’t bother me all that much, because the film isn’t being made to trick you or surprise you at some great reveal. No, it’s detailing the lives of these friends who they are and what they aimed to achieve, we know what’s obviously down the tunnel for some and how the path down that tunnel may be shorter for others. The weight of these relationships still hold the power of each scene, and perhaps create a little more tension when you have a good idea as to what’s going to happen next.

The performances are really what makes the film and it’s not surprise. I’m not sure I’ve seen Cuba Gooding, Jr. any better than this. He’s simultaneously so vulnerable but very much wants to put up this front of how much a “man” he is in this neighbourhood that often demands you look like that on the “streets” in order to survive. Laurence Fishburne is imposing and demanding on his son, even making himself looking scary most of the time, but literally every ounce of this is out of love and the need to protect his son from the dangers of what he grew up with. Ice Cube obviously probably knows his role a little too well and players the high on himself wannabe banger with the correct subtleties and braggadocios. Nia Long also puts in some good albeit small work as the perfect picture of a 90s girlfriend that would make you want to drop everything and reroute your life just to spend five more minutes with her.

Even in 2014 it’s easy to see the effect this film had on the years following and its message is still sadly applicable in today’s world where much of that world from 1991 is the exact same almost 25 years later. The experience alone makes it a must watch.

7.5/10

The Culture Of ‘Gilmore Girls’

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I really don’t know why a 22 year old male like myself thought it would be a good reason to watch all 7 seasons and 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls, but here I am and I did just that. Now, of course just because the show is primarily about the relationship of a mother and a daughter and their adventures through various dudes and their bizarre relationships with an even bizarre town doesn’t mean it’s only applicable to those types of people.

When you think of Gilmore Girls you think of dialogue and then by extension character. Amy Sherman Palladino and co. did such an innate job at crafting words into these characters mouths that make them seem incredibly human and real, sure a little wacky at times and maybe a bit more pop culture references than one speaks every two sentences, but it created such an identity for these characters. Even ones that you’d only see every couple seasons and hardly in episodes at a time, you’d know what they were all about just by their stark lines, delivery and cadence when they were given something to say.

If there’s anything I can really cite as a drawback, something really born out of my doing, is that especially in the later seasons a lot of the episodes kind of molded together and became a slog when they’d hit the same beats of Rory boy trouble, Lorelai unsure of what dude she really wants, trouble with parents and such. It came to almost feeling like watching a reruns at times. Of course, I binge-watched the whole thing watching episode after episode and it wasn’t like there was an insanely complex and narrative driven story that kept me on the edge of my seat to see the next episode, so it’s possible it’s not the greatest to watch continuously when its formula is pretty basic and repetitive.

‘House Of Cards’ And ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Progress To Differing Second Seasons

Orange Is The New Black

Fundamentally, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black don’t have much in common. Besides the fact that they’re both the stalwart first drama series for Netflix and have gained some critical notoriety in some aspects, although one more so and deserving of the other. The first seasons of both shows left me pretty neutral, I wrote before on House Of Cards and how it didn’t really provide anything we haven’t seen done expertly better in other dramas. With Orange Is The New Black I enjoyed it much more than “Cards” because it offered something new and provided a new perspective on what we expect from these sorts of dramas.

For me House Of Cards was really just a continuation one everything the first season did so mediocrely. Just a continuation of Frank Underwood getting his way, and slowly but surely seeing all his plans come together until he’s to become president. It’s comfort food drama at it’s best, hitting all the same beats you would expect. A surprise death or two, the lead character in a seemingly unescapable predicament that he finds his way out of, last minute twists, betrayals and all that. Which is all fine and good, but it just doesn’t seem to care about trying something new, knowing full well that staying in this path is just fine for what they want to accomplish. The performances are good and help cover up the lacking other parts of the show.

Orange Is The New Black on the other hand operates on a multitude of levels that help develop and push the show in different directions. The show is mainly quarantined just within the prison, but it really causes no problems in thinking of inventive storylines and happenings. Along with this they expertly focus on one character an episode and flashing back to how they found themselves in prison, allowing a break from the prison locals and letting us out into the world. The strength of the show is no doubt in the colourful character of all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and motives, creating odd relationships and different combinations to play off of.

House Of Cards was the perfect launch show for Netflix, had a bankable star, an engaging enough premise and a broad reach for who’d enjoy it, guaranteeing it at least moderate success at the commercial level. Orange Is The New Black came along and pushed things a little further, being a bit of an unsafe choice, one that doesn’t follow all the rules and allows for some freedom coming on the tails of the brand maker of House Of Cards. The second seasons of both shows cemented these differing statuses for each, and for good or bad, we get a look at what’s to come for the foreseeable few years as these show top a new era in TV popularity.