‘Lost’: Season 3 Review

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‘Lost’ is doing a good job at making their seasons work as “building blocks,” if you will, where the succeeding season expertly uses the foundation of the previous season and everything it established. The show nicely layers things and ups the ante of the show’s problems, mysteries and characters that feels natural and within line of the universe of the show, given what has been established and set up. Where season 1 introduces the characters and season 2 starts to unravel and establish the complexities of the island, season 3 revels in these mysteries and unravels everything to the point where it seems like a natural and fittings conclusion could be reached.

Therein lies the problem, though, season 3 ends with survivors getting a radio message to the outside world and getting their ticket off the island. The show even has a flash-forward to end the show of Jack all PTSD-ed of being in the real world, spilling himself out to Kate who seems much more in tune with the real world. But, the thing is, this is season 3 and I still have seasons 4,5,6 to work through before the actual end. Of course, me at this moment doesn’t think they’re off the island because I got three more seasons to work through, and this is the world of Lost where literally nothing is as it seems and left is right and up is down. It’s a shame because to me the show has expertly ratched up the tension and parsed out these mysteries and complexities of the island and provided well enough answers and solutions for a lot of what was dangled in front of us. I could totally see the show having another season, if the season 3 ending was modified, that brought home everything that we had been exposed to. Unfortunately, the show has 49 episodes to go, and in their current state at the end of season 3 I have to wonder how the story at this point could naturally stretch that long. Of course, I have yet to see or know really anything of these last few seasons, but how the show up to this point has driven so hard and layered things on top of each other to reach this sort of conclusion at this point with so many episodes to spare, I can’t help but being wary that the original plot and ideas that the writers had has ran out or really begun to as they presumably write themselves magically out of corners just to extend the series, perhaps due to outside pressure. I’ll obviously have further, more accurate judgment when I watch it, but my own suspicions and not so much nice things I remember hearing about the last few seasons have me on my toes.

While the preceding paragraph may seem like I was down on the season, it’s really just solely on how the end of the season sets up the rest of the show, knowing there’s still half of it to go. On the whole I really enjoyed the season, not quite to the level of the first two, but as I said it does nice work continuing and deepening the mythology of the island, most notably focusing on the “Others” and a lot of the background and expanding on the island. As a show that’s set on an island (outside of the seemingly more sparingly used flashbacks) their wouldn’t seem like too much of variety of sets, but the show throughout the seasons does a good job of never making the show seem too complacent by sticking around one area too much. Season 1 was around the main shore where they crashed, season 2 introduced the hatch as a major areas and then season 3 brought in the Others site. The first batch of episodes of the season do a good job introducing and setting up what the Others are and are all about, so they can play off as the main adversaries, with faces this time, and remain a credible threat throughout the season.

A lot of the credit for this goes to Michael Emerson as Ben Linus, the leader of the Others, who simultaneously with the flip of a switch play a strong, powerful leader who demands attention just how he uses the tone of his voice and someone who radiates the sense of a subdued man, but rules with an iron fist to the flip side of his character who sometimes seems like a scared child and someone over his head with what he’s embroiled with and the consistent devilish actions that need to be taken to maintain this power. I was less enamored by Elizabeth Mitchell’s character who often just seemed to be a new person for Jack to pine over or give him an interest, since they locked off Kate and Sawyer (for now, at least), and she just never seemed believable to me as someone who was supposed to be a villain when the show wanted you to think she was a villain, or as one of the good guys when the show wanted you to think of her as a good guy, but I guess that’s some of the intent. I’ve also never really liked Jack all that much, due to the classic character trait nature of him assuming he’s the leader and his whole holier than thou schtick that he’s always right and when something doesn’t go his way or he’s not the one in charge he become all mopey about it. This season, though, provided some nice dimensions to his character and shades him with some actual complexities beyond his tribulations of being the tall, dark handsome leader of the group who always gets his way. I’m very interested in the side of him who can’t cope without being on the island or tied to it in some way (seemingly straight-laced him of all people) when he’s “back” in the real world, but again I don’t know how much that would be explored since I don’t think it’s real, because, you know, the whole half the show still to go thing.

I’m having a ton of fun with the show and I can’t even imagine how nuts I’d be going over it if I actually was watching it week-to-week way back then and had to actually figure out and let my brain rattle around theories of what was going on on the show along with everybody else in real time. I’m kind of blessed and cursed that I get to binge it all and big revelations or cliffhangers don’t mean much to me because it’s only a matter of seconds until I get to push play on the next episode. It’s obviously a huge detachment, especially with this show and what kind of show it is, following in the public opinion wake and it being done to form an opinion that isn’t clouded by it, but I’m trying my best to suppress anything I’ve heard. Still, I feel like I could be entering murky waters up ahead, but I’m still excited for the show good or bad to see what they can knit out of what seems to be a an ever decreasing amount of yarn.

‘Lost’: Season 2 Review

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So, now that Lost got that whole first season out of the way of introducing the characters, introducing the elements of the island and hinting at all the weirdness it beholds, the second season gets free reign to rip wide open the secrets of the island. Season 1 was a lot of setting the table for all of these pieces and with season 2 it involves a lot less of building things up, but playing in and deepening the myths of the island. Season 2 picks up right where the first season left off, with the introduction of the hatch, which would prove to be the major puzzle piece of the season, as well as providing a new locale that the characters were based out of. The season cuts right to the chase and maintains its speed at a full clip throughout the entire run of episodes, due largely in part to everything that had been put into place in the preceding season and you can tell just how much fun the writers finally get to have now that they can break open the mythology of the series by introducing the “Others,” telling the story of what exactly the hatch does and beginning to peel back the layers to exactly what the purpose of this island is, how these people got there and why.

Again, while the first season had to obviously do a lot of work on establishing these characters and their relationships not only on the island, but in their previous lives as well through the flashbacks, this season is less reliant on that, simply because it doesn’t have to and is a lot more focused on the happenings on the island. The flashbacks are still in place and shade in more grey areas and help contribute to what happens on the island, but it begins to be less stringent and directly tied since we know a lot of how these people came to be on the island and their previous lives. Now, I don’t think the flashbacks are slowly being weened out or there isn’t huge revelations to be found the flashbacks to the “real world” that will have bearing on the island and its storylines, just for now in this season they were able to pull back the reigns a bit and put more of a focus on the island. I completely expect some revelations from the flashbacks that will turn the show on its head, or something we previously understood as fact from those flashbacks turning out to be false. Especially with the show increasingly showing how many of these people on the island crossed paths in the real world before without even knowing it, such as with Hurley and Libby.

I really like how the show balances the ideas of the insane supernatural causing all these weird things on the island that made all these specific people be stranded under these circumstances with some of the more real world ideas that this was just a normal plane crash that stranded these people with logical explanations to their situation in regards to food, the hatch and the “Others” on the island. I mean, we obviously know there is weird “other-wordly” things going on, but the idea and hints that perhaps it’s not just people playing tricks on them or some supernatural being makes it even more creepier in that it’s something more relatable than everything being explained away by fantasy. It’s something that Locke finds himself overcome with in the finale after believing the whole season about entering the code in the hatch to prevent destruction or whatever danger comes to the island and complying with all these rules that were set upon him just by believing some old video and what Desmond had told him. Locke, though, begins to think it’s all just a play and a trick on them, where pressing the button is useless, after finding a different hatch whose sole purpose seemed just to spy on the original hatch, as an experiment. Locke became disenchanted with the fantastical ideas of the hatch, while Desmond continued to preach its seriousness and what the ramifications would mean when the counter in the hatch struck zero and supposedly all hell would break out for the island and the people on it. I guess we’ll see who is more right in season 3.

As you can probably tell I was a big fan of the season and probably more so than season 1 as it takes everything learned and established from the first season and expounds upon everything, but in more streamlined narrative way that gets to explore and push forward the mysteries of the island. This was a pretty natural progression from season 1 to season 2, so it’s not a big surprise that it works this well, especially given the content and the skill behind it all, so it’ll be interesting to see how they progress going forward. They seemed to open up a lot of of the mystery, but knowing what I’ve heard I hope it doesn’t descend into complete madness and that there’s actually a connective tissue to the roots of the series from these first seasons and the mystery remains a fundamental core of the show, rather than straying from the original format because they blew all their good ideas early and ran themselves into a corner. That’s just me theorizing, though, from off words about the show that I’ve heard, but I really hope it can keep its fidelity as much as possible, and as much as possible as “fidelity” could ever mean in the world of Lost.

‘Lost’: Season 1 Review

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Finally after all these years I have decided to tackle, one of, if not the biggest television white whales of mine, watching Lost. Yes, I think over the past two decades, at least, I have seen every major or notable show that has passed in front of my eyes (not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing), but Lost was always the major one that somehow didn’t fall into my grasp for whatever reason. I think combined with the fact that it was so popular and so well liked when it was on and I wasn’t watching it I decided to distance myself from it and kind of build up as one of the few shows I have to set aside and sit down and watch it all one day with the entire run complete. Several shows I’d caught up mid-way through to join in on the hype, but I let Lost sail right on by. Anyways, enough is enough, I finally started it, and wouldn’t you know it’s something I should’ve probably done awhile ago.

The framework of a TV show that maybe I’m most drawn to is where you have a huge selection of characters thrown into a certain event, we follow them all as a group through whatever, but each episode is focused on telling the story of one character, how they got to that place and how their past events and what we learn about them change how we view them now in the midst of all these people. I’m sure you’ve figured out that, yes, Lost is exactly this and it does it perfectly. As I’m sure you’re aware Lost is about a group of people stranded on an island after their plane crash lands and all the ensuing backlash and complications drawn from not only surviving on a desert island, but one that holds many supernatural secrets and houses these people with dark secrets. Each episode of Lost tells the story on the island, but also flashes back to different individuals lives before they landed on the island and the events that put them on the plane that would crash. The secrets could be as big as Kate being escorted by an air marshall on the plane, Sawyer’s legal and familial troubles, Locke’s paralyzation that somehow cures itself after the crash, or as seemingly small as Hurley being a multi-millionaire or Charlie’s rock star past. Each background helps shade in their past and help us understand who they are as a character, whether it’s truly understanding them or just knowing that they have some things to hide, or aren’t really telling the truth whether we know what that is yet or not. The telling of this story in the present and through the flashbacks works perfectly throughout the season, providing perfect escalation as the mysteries of the island get laid on thicker as we learn more about the people and subsequently the island.

The show already gets into some weird supernatural things, and more-so the further it gets on, but I kinda wished they would have played a longer game with some of the weirder stuff and made it into a slow burn where it remained a lot more realistic before turning into the supernatural. Like, these characters very easily accept and just think normal the outwardly weird things the island throws at them like a dang polar bear on an Australian island, a ghost-like force that follows people around and a random French woman just living on the island for 16+ years who seemingly has magic powers, plus another guy who was just supposedly chilling on the island until these people got there. I like the idea of all this weird stuff, but I think it could’ve been eased in better and would’ve made the show a lot more unsettling, especially the reasons why they’re all there if it was grounded more in reality to start and not all of a sudden it went all out into THERE’S SUPERNATURAL FORCES AT BAY MESSING WITH EVERYBODY.

Also, a quick thing about the characters, we’re totally supposed to hate Jack, right? Like, I mean traditionally he’s built up as the “main” character and someone traditionally who we’re supposed to like, but it seems a lot like the show wants you to hate him, his blandness and his assumed position as the leader of everybody (just like a lot of the people dislike him). Conversely, the traditional bad-boy rebel, grown up Tim Riggins character of Sawyer that in theory you’re supposed to not like, but always ends up being the guy everybody loves. In that respect the show kinda feels like a reality show, like Survivor, where they seemingly have characters just to check off every minority or stereotype such as having an Asian, African American, Middle-Eastern, Korean, old guy, fat guy, pregnant lady, stuck-up girl and so on. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that all these people so easily fill out these classic stereotypical roles. I do think, though, that it was intentional in some commentary sort of way and not just as a way to plug-in these old stand-by characters, but maybe I’m giving them too much credit.

The show does do a great job of teasing these various mysteries and things on the island that have me ravenous to know what is behind all of it, like the infamous hatch, or these “other” people that supposedly live on the island. Coming from 2016, though, I’ve semi-heard that a lot of this stuff doesn’t get paid off in the best way, or even doesn’t end up being a cut and dry answer, so that worries me, but I’m going to try to put my blinder on as much as possible to the little things I remember hearing about the show and people’s complaints about it. So, yeah, the show was quite literally exactly what I was expecting it to be, and I say that in the most positive way possible. I really find no large faults in the first season as a whole and the ones I do are just pretty nit-picky. I’m looking forward to the second season (which if I recall I think people say is the best) and enjoying the journey for better or worse.

WWE Ruthless Aggression Era: 2003

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Honestly, this year wasn’t very noteworthy, judging by the fact that I write hardly even wrote notes during this year (that being said I’ll probably blab like normal in this and it’ll end up being just as long as the past ones). It’s all just pretty run-of-the-mill stuff with nothing amazingly good, but not too much that’s horrible, just kinda bland maybe. Both shows are fully set in their ways of being separated, especially with the split pay-per-views now where one show gets a PPV and they alternate and only come together at the big events. I always said I’d try to make it to WM20 to match up with when I started watching back in the day and maybe stop there, but I got here a lot quicker than I thought, so who knows. Things are getting increasingly clear that the product isn’t what it used to be in the true Attitude years or even the ones following, and now it’s just in kind of a boring and un-flashy groove. People complain about the HHH reign of terror, but I like him generally and as such him always on top doesn’t bother me as much. Anyways, I’ve been thinking it’s time to go back and watch all the Attitude era WCW Nitros and stuff since I’ve never seen them. But, before all that, let’s get into this thing…

The first two pay-per-views were pretty void of anything special. Lesnar wins the Rumble, of course, not only because it cements him of having one of the greatest first years in WWE history with winning the King Of The Ring, beating The Rock at SummerSlam for the title, main-eventing with Undertaker and just generally being on top, to the Rumble win now. It has been telegraphed for awhile that he was going to get his big match against Angle, with their whole shared background of amateur wrestling, so it worked good in storyline as well.

Royal Rumble is also where Scott Steiner got finally had his top feud with HHH for the title, and as expected this whole thing was a mess and not really engaging at all. They had dumb little test of strength competitions because of course Hunter is self-conscious about that going against Steiner. Steiner had no chance of winning and after he had this little program, Steiner would wallow in the mid-card doing worthless stuff with Stacy Kiebler and Test, which somehow they stretched for, like, the whole year. Not like he was that great in the first place, but WWE seemed to be placing him for something good coming into the company, and nothing happened, as should really be expected for their track record.

No Way Out was centered around the return of The Rock and his rematch with Hulk Hogan from last year, which was really just a set-up for the Vince/Hogan match at WrestleMania. The Rock comes in with his new Hollywood Rock heel gimmick and it’s a lot of fun since Rocky hasn’t played a heel in a long time, and it actually works well with his real-life persona of being an actor now, the conceit that he’s this major actor only concerned with himself and thinks that he’s better than everyone else now that he’s making movies. He gets some heat, mainly when he directly insults the fans, but mostly he still gets cheers. The most hilarious thing was Hogan getting screwed out of the win by The Rock and Vince and WWE played it up like it was at the level of the Montreal Screwjob, since the PPV was in Montreal. Also, I had no clue Sylvain Grenier had his introduction (before the La Resistance thing) as the French ref that screws over Hogan. I always love seeing in WWE when guys you know from their major gimmick actually have debuted earlier in some two-bit role.

Alright, so the WrestleMania build:

HHH/Booker: This feud just makes no sense and has NO business being a Mania-pseudo main event or world title match. I mean, I love Booker and all, but I still didn’t think he was main event level at this time and for sure not enough to go against HHH at this time. I’m obviously looking at this from the far future, but it just seems so unmatched and random. Like, it would be more than fine for any other PPV, but for Mania it’s so underwhelming. Also, it’s SOOO goddamn racist, like overtly, not even subtle. When HHH saying people like YOU don’t get to be in my spot etc. It’s was so dumb because with all this overtly racist stuff you would assume that they did it all to have Booker get his comeuppance over HHH at the biggest event of the year, but nope, HHH goes over and it all just falls beside the wayside. I heard the original plan was indeed for Booker to go over, but HHH nixed it, and thus it doesn’t make much sense, besides HHH always wanting to win here.

Rock/Austin: Rock is super fun as the Hollywood Rock and his whole heel business. It at least brings some more interest to his character who is just so sporadic in his appearance anyways that it provides another angle and isn’t just boring face Rock popping up. Also, it’s a cool way to play off him being this whole big Hollywood star now and he is always good at gaining heat. Austin is doing really nothing at all, but I guess it’s to be expected as this would be his dipping of his toes back into WWE before he was out again. It’s basically him feuding with Bischoff. Also, the Rock/Hurricane stuff was fun, giving a guy shine like that in the main event. The match was pretty fun in the end, it was short and almost like a greatest hits of their previous Mania matches, not that it was close to any of those, but just both guys giving everybody all their hits for their last match together.

McMahon/Hogan: This was fine enough, at least it had some real world history so there’s weight to it that had been building for all these years, although it just started in storyline very recently. But, for the love of god, keep Hogan off the mic, he was always fumbling his words. The match was surprisingly good and it’s always hilarious to see Vince McMahon, the supposed non-wrestler and boss of the company, with his buff body looking way more muscular and in shape than the flabby supposed greatest wrestler of all time.

Lesnar/Angle: This was obviously the most hyped match and the one with an actual lengthy backstory and heft to it. They’ve been feuding since, like, November of last year, and although it seems like it’s going on forever, there is at least the goal of Mania which you know will be a grand culmination of it all. I can’t wait for it. They did have a match on SD, but Angle won it sneakily, so it wasn’t that much of a takeaway from the Mania match. Benjamin and Haas is a good addition, giving Kurt his collegiate stable or whatever you wanna call it. The match was fantastic as expected and really I think the best thing to main event the show, since they had several options and were supposedly wavering about what to put on last. The Brock shooting star press botch that has him land on his head will never be easy to watch, and I always yell at my TV for Brock to drag Angle closer to the corner so he wouldn’t have had all that pressure to make that huge distance while flipping, but he never listens.

Taker/Jones vs A-Train/Show: Before all this stuff I was wracking my brain to think of Taker’s match for this and thought it was Show, but then I remembered it was A-Train and then this tag match pops up that I never heard of happening before. I’m almost certain it doesn’t happen, though? Because I only recall Taker facing A-Train and never heard of a tag match around it. Off that, I only sparingly have heard of Nathan Jones and thus he must be around for such a short time, but surely I would’ve heard of him being in a  Mania match, or maybe this match is just that unforgettable. I think he gets gone fast somehow. Also, it was so so stupid how they were building him up in the vignettes as being this Australian prison badass ready to rip someone’s face off, and he comes in and turns face right away and becomes Taker’s little delicate padawan who needs wrestling lessons. It was so bizarre and sudden and took everything away from what he was seemingly built to be. I guess they just lost their luster on him. I really should do some actually research into him and why WWE soured on him so quickly, I mean, it’s so obvious that he sucked in and out of the ring. But, it was hilarious how quick they pushed him high up the card, only to yank him back down just as quick.

Jericho/HBK: I was really looking forward to this match, as they’re both fantastic wrestlers. The build was pretty lame with each basically just interrupting each other’s matches and randomly attacking each other.

Goldberg coming into WWE finally happened and one of the last debuts I was waiting for and I was super stoked to see, as I’ve seen none of his short WWE stuff, besides WrestleMania 20 (ugh). The Rock stuff was the perfect feud and one for The Rock to go out on, for now, and put Goldberg over, not that he needed it. I don’t know how much The Rock has left even beyond his part-time player thing, because I know his Mania 20 match is like his last match for a whole long while. Goldberg actually got a bunch of boos, but I think that was mainly because how much people liked The Rock.

The Evolution stable stuff was weird to start the year. They were establishing it right before WrestleMania, but all of a sudden Orton and Batista disappeared, like not wrestling or just hanging out ringside for HHH, only Flair. Is it because of the Nash thing? I knew they came back later in the year as that’s when it really kicked off. But, it’s weird they were establishing/introducing them as this group and then half of them vanished.

I couldn’t believe that John Cena actually won the tournament Smackdown was having to see who would face Brock for the title. I know we look back at Cena now and be like, duh of course he wins, but I didn’t think he’d win here this early before his MAJOR push. I guess watching all this, though, it’s clear that Cena was pushed from the very beginning as soon as he started. And now especially with his hip-hop gimmick. And it was an actual match too, I thought Brock might squash, but Cena actually dominated for most of it until Brock surprised and hit him with one F5 and got the pin. It’s hilarious to see this mini-feud between the two, looking back with 2016 eyes and how much they’d fight and feud over a decade later. It’s crazy to think that in theory, the seeds for their 2014 feud were planted all the way back in 2003.

Also, they have Roddy Piper being Sean O’Haire’s manager type guy to try and get him over, but it’s not even close to working. O’Haire is just so boring and not engaging at all. They tried to reignite the feud with Rikishi where years ago when Piper hit Snuka with the coconut. Boring, and short match.

Judgment Day was pretty lame. I can hardly remember stuff from it. The Battle Royal was fun for the IC title. And I love Christian like this, he’s perfect as the smarmy heel which he’s been playing forever with no need of a face change.

The classic short singles match for the world title with HHH that ends in a DQ just to keep extending the feud and get to the big gimmick match. So pointless.

Lesnar/Big Show in a stretcher match was at least a fun change of pace as this was the first one in forever. They fought a ton outside the ring more than I thought and thus it wasn’t the most high paced match, not that these two would give that, but it was good enough.

Bad Blood was better. The HIAC match was pretty good, but there was no need for Foley to come back to guest referee. Just another dumb gimmick every year for Foley to pop back up.

Michaels/Flair was good. And Goldberg/Jericho was fine enough for a little stop gap feud for Goldberg. But, you can already tell that Goldberg is just always getting the short-shrift and he’ll never do anything of actual note in the company.

Vengeance was fine enough, I guess. I could care less about Zach Gowen and the whole Vince angle. Undertaker/Cena is a pretty great feud and decent match. Guerrero/Benoit single match, enough said. The triple threat title match was decent enough, but I was shocked Angle won, but it becomes clearer later when Vince turned on Angle and aligned himself with a heel-turned Lesnar.

So, without me looking it up, I never really understood the Zach Gowen thing. Vince must’ve just had a huge crush on the idea of a kid with one-leg who always wanted to be in the WWE, just so he could constantly squash him and beat him up. Dude had zero charisma and is just a bore, especially when they focus sooo much on him. But, then they just got sick of him and turned on him, as it always happens in this company, and eventually just used him as someone for Brock to destroy on his mean streak.

The Kane unmasking was so dumb, there was zero build to it, just one week Bischoff saying if Kane loses against HHH he’ll lose his match. They weren’t even feuding, it would seem better to have it at the end of an epic feud or something, but nope just off the Hell In A Cell against Nash. Obviously they probably wanted something of note to do since it’ll be awhile until their next PPV with them alternating with SmackDown now. It definitely adds a new dimension to stuff, but it’s really just oooh Kane is crazy and a monster, but I guess it does give his character some teeth since he’s been pretty neutered and de-monsterized over the years.

I do like that since each brand doesn’t have a PPV each month to build to that they have to spread things out and have semi-big events like this and later SmackDown has the Angle/Lesnar Ironman match to provide some spark in the downtimes between getting to that next pay-per-view. At least WWE back here was able to stretch together some decent stories from week-to-week and it wasn’t completely aimless like nowadays.

Kevin Nash like Goldberg just seems to have fizzled out so quickly after their one big feud that entered them into the company. It’s such a pattern with the company where their one big obvious feud that kicks them off onto the show will be fun, but once it ran its course they just languish behind-the-scenes. Just like Scott Steiner, too. They didn’t even give Goldberg/HHH its due and buildup and quickly turned it into the Chamber match, but I guess their singles feud would resume later in the year.

Elimination Chamber match was alright. I was semi-surprised that Goldberg went over for the title and thought he would destroy everybody until HHH, then HHH would cheat for the title, but I guess they decided this would be the best time to give Goldberg the title, for at least a couple months. Hey, at least he got one up on the likes of Nash and Steiner.

It’s crazy that leading into SummerSlam in August the WWE title has only been contested by Lesnar/Angle and Big Show since like Survivor Series in November. It’s legit just the same dudes contesting for it. I mean, it doesn’t feel that long, but dang it would be nice if they spruced it up and brought in some new guys.

I can hardly keep track but Angle is heel leading into Mania, Brock face. Brock reigns for a bit as face, then Angle comes back after a few months all face and buddy-buddy with Lesnar which lasts for a couple weeks. Then on a SmackDown Lesnar on the side of Vince turns on Angle and is now heel with face Angle and being the Champ heading into SS.

The match itself was pretty great, as expected from what Lesnar and Angle always deliver. I love to that Lesnar tapping was built into the storyline for the coming months, as this huge thing that not only did he lose but he tapped, and the crowd would chant it at him.

John Cena is now fully in his rapper gimmick to the point where he has a full handle on it and you can begin to see him getting over and the popularity of it with the fans that skyrockets him. I’m a sucker for his raps.

I barely remember anything that happened at Unforgiven.

Oh, yeah, and so Evolution gets established with their theme and all. Which I fucking love. It’s weird because at the beginning of the year it was Orton-less with Batista the guy in the mix, and then it was Batista nowhere to be found and Orton is around. They never mention it either, so I dunno what was up. But, Batista would come shortly after.

No Mercy was pretty unforgettable, too, as these Pay-per-views were back then at the end of the year, outside of when Survivor Series was actually relevant. There was probably no match in recent memory that I could’ve cared less about than the Vince vs. Stephanie “I Quit” match and it was just as terrible as expected. It was all just an excuse to get Stephanie out of the GM chair and put Heyman in.

Lesnar/Undertaker in a Biker Chain match was pretty decent. I always have hated the concept of a weapon on a pole match, as they make a big deal about the first person who retrieves the object off the pole, but it’s not like they automatically win once they get it, or the other person can’t use it. It’s just the weapon is now fair game for both, and isn’t really much of an advantage getting it first, because it’s not like they ever win right after getting the weapon down and using it.

I love watching Survivor Series pay-per-views back in this time, because they actually have Survivor Series matches with a built in storyline and a reason to have them, and not just thrown together today. The RAW one considered the ongoing Austin/Bischoff GM feud that would eventually get Austin kicked off and the SmackDown one was the continuation of the Angle/Lesnar feud. The Lesnar team was hilarious because they somehow got Nathan Jones back from the dead and had the slightly less of a bore of Matt Morgan.

Also, I know Chris Benoit wins the Rumble in a couple month here and I was thinking about it around this time how it seemed so random that they hadn’t even been building Benoit up and was in zero story to speak of. But, then they had Benoit make Lesnar tap out, which was a pretty big deal, and so begins his subtle climb into the serious main event picture and eventually to where he explodes and wins the Rumble and the title (except it was HHH’s).

On the same theme I’ve been paying attention to Eddie Guerrero and his treatment as he’s the one to take the belt off Lesnar in a few months, similar to Benoit, but his rise isn’t quite as apparent. Sure, he’s super over with the fans, but not much is happening storyline wise. I knew he was give up his United States title to Big Show, to clear his way for the WWE title, and for Show to give the title up to Cena at Mania to really get Cena cooking.

Also, it was hilarious how they bring Hardcore Holly back and immediately push him into feuding with Lesnar, like he comes back with these vignettes about being mad that Lesnar was the one to injure him, yet I’m pretty sure nobody remembered that or even cared or knew that Hardcore Holly was gone. I guess they just needed a a stop-gap feud for Lesnar for the Rumble.

The Vince/Undertaker Buried Alive match wasn’t anything special, and obviously just a set-up for Undertaker to return in his Deadman gimmick. This was a pretty underwhelming year for Undertaker, and really had no top feud or main-eventing match, beside the one at No Mercy. The Biker gimmick was getting a bit stale, even though I kinda enjoy it more than most, but it was time for the Deadman to come back.

And then Armageddon was all about putting all the belt on Evolution, because of course. I was so stoked, though, because it’s the beginning of the Randy Orton push and when they start establishing his Legend Killer moniker. I never got to see this stuff and I love this Randy, especially the early days when he was my favourite wrestler when I started watching in 04/05, so I can’t wait to see him keep getting pushed and the eventual Evolution fracturing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Triple H got his title match, with WWE simultaneously satisfying both needs by getting the title off Goldberg and onto HHH, while also giving Kane his shot at the title, which you woulda thought they were going towards earlier with the unmasking, but they kinda just threw it away here. Then to add to the craziness, HHH and HBK would start feuding again after this, with Michaels actually winning the belt over HHH on the last RAW of the year, which I didn’t think they’d actually do, even though it was in his hometown of San Antonio. And so the build to the Rumble and WrestleMania 20 begins.

It is bonkers to me to think that I’ve watched seven years of WWF/E from the beginning of 1997 to the end of 2003 in the real-time frame of a year. I never thought I’d actually watch it this fast, but it’s been a lot of fun (if a bit less so the last few years) to see all this stuff I’ve known bits and pieces of and especially how it all leads into when I started watching. I first started watching right after WrestleMania 20, and while it’ll kinda suck when I eventually get there since I know all the major storylines and where everything goes, I’m looking forward to seeing it with my 2016 eyes and seeing how I remember it.

Royal Rumble: Review/Recap

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Dean Ambrose defeats Kevin Owens in a Last Man Standing match to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship:

Besides the Rumble match itself this was really the only match I was looking forward to on the card, with how great Owens and Ambrose are together, both with their promos and their chemistry in the ring, and then add on the stipulation of the Last Man Standing and it had all the elements to presumably blow this feud off perfectly. Now I could easily see these two going back-and-forth on a couple more PPVs as I’m not sick of this match-up at all, but it seems like they’re diverging the guys after this since we’re heading into Mania and I presume they have different ideas for each of them heading into that show.

Anyways, the match was great as anticipated, and really the perfect way to kick off this show or any, with the energy high and weapon spots used to get the crowd going early. There were some cool moments like Owens just beating a ten count by rolling out of the ring onto his feet on the outside, Ambrose striking Owens who had a chair wrapped around his head and the general jawing back-and-forth between the two guys which gave the match an air that these guys actually hated each other. It was pretty clear that when Owens set-up a double-decker table outside the ring that he was eventually going to go through it for the 10-count loss, especially when the cameras made sure to never show it in a shot again until the fateful moment when Owens went to the top rope to moonsault onto Ambrose who was laid across a bunch of chairs, only to have Ambrose spring to life and push Owens through said tables and regain his belt.

The New Day defeats The Usos to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship:

I think I’ve said before that I’m sick of The New Day and their whole schtick, I mean I like them still, it’s just that their gimmick has worn a bit thin especially when they do the same overlong promos every week and have the same matches week in and week out. It doesn’t help that they’re facing off against the Usos, who aren’t bad, but are just generally bland and aren’t really great enough wrestler or have a good enough gimmick that they stick out to you to make you care about them one way or the other. Unsurprisingly, because of all this this was basically just a regular RAW TV match you’ve already seen a thousand times between the teams and wasn’t anything new.

There needs to be some new blood mixed in to at least make things fresh again in the tag division, but on the surface there isn’t really anyone. They already ran through the lackluster Dudley Boyz feud, one was starting up with the Lucha Dragons until Sin Cara go injured and now this Usos one doesn’t have any legs to it, so I don’t know where they go from here. I can’t even think of any teams, outside of any combination of jobbers they could mix and match, or I guess falling in line with that have them do a program with the Social Outcasts, which could be fun or a disaster. Or maybe they finally bring up an NXT tag-team, like Enzo and Cass who seem to have passed their opportunity to gain the NXT tag belts, and throwing them up with The New Day to go promo for promo with their colourful antics wouldn’t be the worst thing to head into WrestleMania with.

Kalisto defeats Alberto Del Rio to win the WWE United States Championship:

I’m unsure of the reason why this belt hot-potatoed between the two guys over the past few weeks, but here we are again with Kalisto winning the belt yet again, where hopefully he can maintain a little bit of a run with it this time. I really enjoyed the matches between the two, they obviously have chemistry, and this one was more of the same again, minus a couple missed cues and one large botched spot, but it was a great showcase for Kalisto and something that WWE actually tries to build off and not just squander like they did when he won before. They obviously wanted to push Kalisto and unfortunately or fortunately the Sin Cara injury gives them the exact excuse to do that with a guy who could be a great mid-card singles guy if they give him a proper run.

Charlotte defeats Becky Lynch to retain the WWE Divas Championship:

This was another solid match between the two. Unfortunately for Becky she’s basically just a stop-gap between the Charlotte/Sasha Banks feud that most certainly will be leading to that as the women’s match at Mania. After Ric Flair’s distraction help Charlotte picked up the victory and saw Sasha Banks walk down the aisle as she celebrated. The pop for Banks was bigger than I imagined, like it looked like it was deafening in there, and long overdue to turn her face since that’s what everybody so badly wanted when they’d chant her name in every Divas match. The Charlotte/Sasha Banks program for the title is what everyone has been waiting for since the NXT stars got promoted to the main roster, so let’s see if they can deliver us that classic women’s match on the main roster that everybody has been salivating for.

Triple H wins the 30-man Royal Rumble Match to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

The PPV wasn’t surprising in the least, matter of fact everything we thought would happen, did. So, of course, it’s the end of the match Roman hits his moves on Bray Wyatt as the clock winds down to see who the 30th entrant is… and Motorhead hits and Triple H in his impossibly buff body hits the ring to lay waste to all in advance of his 14th World title win. Now we all knew this was going to happen, Triple H had conspicuously been off TV since Reigns went crazy and gave him a severe beatdown following the TLC PPV, he was going to come in and spark the HHH/Reigns feud, presumably setting up their Mania match where Roman goes over for his PROPER coronation that WWE so badly wants with him standing tall after the biggest show of all time with the victory and title. The booking here was all sorts of weird, though, with them having the League of Nations take Reigns out of the match, beat him down and then have Reigns just walk backstage to supposedly nurse his injuries that were fine enough for him to walk on his own power. I mean, if you’re gonna do the whole “one vs. all, Reigns as entrant #1” stick at least have him stay in the match legit for the whole time, go that 55 minutes until he gets eliminated, but don’t cheap out on the person you’re trying to go over (above everybody else), it doesn’t make sense why you would cheapen his look in the match by pulling him out so weakly. Have him valiantly fight for the whole time and thus his loss to a fresh Triple H at #30 makes sense, rather than how they did it here.

Conversely there was actually some very smart booking in the match in regards to eliminations that follow storylines or perhaps set up storylines. Lesnar’s position in the match was basically just to feud with all the Wyatt’s, which is fine because that’s what it looks like he’s going to do for the next couple months. Sure, it was weird when the previously eliminated Wyatts eliminated Lesnar and then Lesnar just looked all mean and pissed off, but did absolutely nothing about it. We also had Sami Zayn come in to further move along his what will be life-long WWE feud with Owens and eliminate him to set-up whatever they do in the future. Owens eliminated AJ Styles to possibly set-up something in the future. Chris Jericho was eliminated by Dean Ambrose with rumours that they could do something at Mania, stemming from Jericho’s whole defiance of Ambrose back when they teamed at Night Of Champions. Small touches like this help to provide continuity with the overall storylines and are pretty easy things to do to either start a feud or plant seeds for things further down along the line.

Oh, yeah, how could I forget AJ freakin’ Styles debuted at the show, causing me much delay in writing this since I literally can’t stop watching his entrance debut on YouTube. It was seemingly the worst keep secret in wrestling that Styles was going to debut at the Rumble, but damn if I didn’t get excited like it was an unknown surprise when I first saw him walk around the corner in his entrance. I can’t even begin to describe how cool and surreal it is to finally see my favourite enter a WWE ring. They did it perfectly, putting him at #3 where Roman just dumped Rusev and was waiting for his opponent, all the attention drawn to who would be next. Some cool music hit and nobody really knew what was up until Styles sauntered out and the PHENOMENAL words went across the titantron and the crowd went absolutely nuts, like goosebumps each time I watch it level of nuts. I was literally watching the match, a damn WWE match, shaking my head at just how bizarre it was to see Styles in a WWE ring facing off against all these WWE superstars after over the past two decades doing everything but go to WWE and after headlining an ROH and NJPW PPV within the last month. They handled him perfectly to in the match, teasing the Styles clash, while still getting over his moves, and they had him go 27 minutes which is super respectable, especially since he’s not going to win and then having someone of the calibre of Owens, who he could feud with, eliminate him. It was awesome and I really could’ve wrote this whole thing about Styles, but I can’t wait to see how he’s used in WWE and the gravity of his entrance and treatment in the match gives me hopes that they won’t squander him and actually have high hopes for him.

So, we’re right where he though we were really, HHH won the title and know Roman’s gonna chase it for WrestleMania, which I know people hate having HHH main event that event, but really what better options are there at this point with everybody injured and with the company wanting to put Reigns over so bad, even to his detriment. I think it’ll be a good match regardless, whether WWE gets their moment or not, and they certainly didn’t set Roman up well in that Rumble match, but let’s see what they got for the next couple months.

‘Anomalisa’: Review

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At first Anomalisa has you wondering why it’s an animated film in the first place, it’s not some huge fantastical adventure story featuring talking animals and epic set pieces, but rather an introspective look at relationships, how we perceive other people and just what goes into all these connections we make over time and how they bleed into one another for better or worse. Michael Stone is a self-help author who is in Cincinnati to give a talk, while the film focuses on his stay at a local hotel as his mind over takes him and he finds himself devolving into a past relationship and attempting to jump-start another. Stone also perceives everybody as having the same face (one of the major reasons for the animation style) further driving him inside himself, making contemplate his marriage and attempting to do something to his stagnant life.

Michael meets a woman named Lisa staying at the same hotel to hear him speak, and immediately becomes enamored with her, whether he genuinely likes her this much or if his subconscious just so badly wants to fall for somebody who is so different than he normally meets. She is shy and reserved, but eventually falls to Michael’s wishes and they enjoy a night together fantasizing about their new life together and immediately have plans to spend the rest of their lives together. Until the next morning when reality sets in and Michael finds nit-picky flaws in Lisa that drive him up the wall, like cutlery clicking on her teeth and he realizes that things always seem so great and perfect in the haze of the moment and he has to face real life. Michael has a breakdown during his speech and eventually returns home to his wife and kid, who throw him a surprise party where he doesn’t know anybody there.

Charlie Kaufman has a way inside the head of human beings that other filmmakers just can never seem to accomplish. His films always seem so out there and bizarre on the outset, but when you really look and understand them they’re all really plainly some of the best and most obvious views into how humans think and interact with the people around us. Anomalisa is no different for Kaufaman and provides another outlet for him to delve into with a framework that sometimes could seem gimmicky or unnecessary, but uses it to reveal thoughts on emotions, relationships and life that other films with a more straight-forward view could never do.

‘The Revenant’: Review

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Enough is enough, Leonardo DiCaprio thought, he’s had several close-calls with taking home that long-coveted Oscar, but it just wasn’t good enough. So, he went full Oscar bait doing the whole “suffering in the wilderness on/off screen trudging his way through trials and tribulations to get him to his destination.” The destination being either home and one-step closer in avenging his losses if you’re taking about the movie or the Oscar at the end of the road that he so desperately wants. In the strictest sense of the word this is an Oscar bait film to get Leo his award, literally everything in the marketing and presentation of the film has that in the forefront. Someone like Tom Hardy who is at least just as good as DiCaprio in the film is unheard of in any type of awards talks and the film itself seems to have taken a backseat. I mean, sure, it’s nominated for a bunch of awards for the film itself, Inarritu, but it’s still very much a DiCaprio vehicle.

Going into the film I was a bit worried because I had heard from other reviews that it’s not some deep meditation on this character that DiCaprio plays and really not all that big of a study on the human condition. It doesn’t stick with DiCaprio’s character of Hugh Glass as he fights the elements, Indians and whatever else the landscape has to face him, we don’t just suffer through with him, we often flip back to Tom Hardy’s character of John Fitzgerald, who had killed Glass’ son spurning on the revenger from Glass, attempting to make it back to the Fort all the while attempting to cover his traps and formulate his game plan of making a break for freer pastures. We also flip back to the Fort where Glass and Fitzgerald’s fellow trappers have made it back and are slowly being drawn into the story. I thought this all was going to be a detriment to the film, all the flip-flopping to other areas and characters, withdrawing from the constrictive plight of Glass, but doing so as a more traditional narrative film works quite well and probably just as good as if they just solely focused on DiCaprio. Conversely, I could never get behind a similar in construct film in ‘The Martian’ because they would too freely flip between Matt Damon’s character stuck on Mars and the people on Earth trying to get him back where you felt no tension or real concern about his character being trapped on Mars. Focusing more on his plight would’ve greatly helped the film, whereas I actually think that direction in The Revenant might’ve put too much of an onus and be a little much with DiCaprio’s portrayal of Glass.

Don’t get me wrong, DiCaprio is very good in the role, definitely not as great as I anticipated him to be, but he does enough work to help disappear into the role and seem more Hugh Glass than he does Leonardo DiCaprio playing a character. As mentioned earlier Tom Hardy is fantastic in his part, but unfortunately will forever be overshadowed by DiCaprio’s work, but that’s what you’d expect when DiCaprio pulls out all the stops. The direction and photography is top notch as expected, I know some people think Alejandro González Iñárritu is overrated, but I think without his touch and dedication to get this film done with as much real life fidelity as possible it wouldn’t have come off as both being a low-key epic film, along with the more subtle beauty shots that juxtaposed with the harshness of the land. The stage was masterfully set by Iñárritu and sufficiently finished off by the effort of DiCaprio and company.