Wednesday, December 4, 2013
It had been speculated for some time the WWE wanted to create its own network, where wrestling fans can see their favorite sport 24 hours a day.
After some delays, it's now official: WWE Classics On Demand will close on January 31, and the WWE Network will take its place.
I'm gonna be sad to see the on-demand service go because it was my main source of old-school wrestling, after ESPN decided to stop showing the AWA, World Class reruns and even the Global Wrestling Federation (best known for giving us Marcus Bagwell and Sean "The 1-2-3 Kid" Waltham).
The best thing about WWE Classics is that it showed the pre-Hulk Hogan period of the WWE. when regional channels (PRISM, MSG and even the old Z Channel from L-A) showed wrestling cards. That beats Prime Time Wrestling every time. Action that hadn't been preserved in VHS or even DVD would be shown every month. You could see proof George the Animal Steele used real words at one time, Hulk Hogan had a War Bonnet that was supposed to be what every kid wanted for Christmas (why else did he have that thing?), and there were cool wrestlers way back when like Superstar Graham, Bob Backlund, Rick Martel before he was "the model", and the Big Boss Man as a jobber that Jim Cornette abused before eventually hiring him as Big Bubba.
If the new WWE network was smart, it should unleash its massive wrestling library big time. There's a ton of old World Championship Wrestling from the late '70s and early '80s that fans would eat up: the arrival of the Freebirds, early Ric Flair, Bobby Heenan managing there for a while, and so much more. Heck, if they showed Stampede Wrestling from 1979 that included early Jim Neidhart, and Jake Roberst and Junkyard Dog using his real time, they could show JYD vs. the Freebirds. How about a series on how Hulkamania ran wild in the AWA, but also had its roots with WTBS shortly before? Let's not forget Championship Wrestling from Florida...or Mid-South Wrestling. That's going to pull a ton of subscribers to the channel.
Of course, it's obvious the new channel will remember to promote the current stars. There's word that the NXT show may wind up there after a long run on Hulu. We'll get PPV cards six months or so after they're run (although people will have to see the whole thing, not choose individual matches), and there's a chance the new channel will show next year's Wrestlemania. There's also supposed to be reality shows, which ought to rip kayfabe to pieces.
Still, it should stick to its roots and show the old days in a big way. After all, where else could you see a 1984 card from St. Louis just after McMahon bought the WTBS time slot, and could claim the then-National Heavyweight Champion the Spoiler as its own?
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Lately Rifftrax has been concentrating on the cheesiest movies from Europe for its VOD collection. A while ago, we had Supersonic Man, a disco version of Puma Man with the guy dubbing Cameron Mitchell overacting way too much.
Now from 1974, we have Swamp of the Ravens, a production of Ecuador and Spain which could be a surrealistic version of "The Brain That Wouldn't Die". I chose this because the Black Friday sale Rifftrax had promised a five dollar credit if you bought 20 bucks worth of stuff...and a 20 percent discount. The other reason was one the strangest "love songs" in any cheesy movie.
The plot: a scientist named Frosta thinks he can bring people back from the dead because he thinks death is an evolution and can be overcome. He tries to cure a leper, but winds up having to dump his body in the swamp next to the lab. The lab seems to do a better job of reviving the dead than the doc does because we see the victim's heads, and their eyes blinking.
Frosta also has a girlfriend named Simone who wants to go back to her ex-boyfriend, a guy who sings to a Spanish version of Resusci Annie about his love for a dead robot. It's like a lounge singer's version of Lars and the Real Girl. Here's a link to the English version (which might be removed), but here's the Spanish version below:
After she gets away from Frosta by "fooling" him with a mannequin, he grabs her right back and hopes to enslave her with his experiments. He has to fend off the dead leper's friend, described as a "human Nobby", Simone's ex-boyfriend, and the barely competent police.
Now, how the Rifftrax gang endured this movie:
The first four minutes is the doctor reviving a corpse in a van:
Kevin Murphy: In Ecuador, this is what passes as a witty farce.
The doc's zombie assistant dumps a body in the swamp
Mike Nelson: Terrible biopic of John the Baptist
We see a shelf filled with babies' corpses placed in jars
Bill Corbett: You managed to go from "creepy" to "Rob-Zombie-level-nightmare-inducing-creepy" in a single scene.
There's plenty of riffs on Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Kermit the Frog, Jethro Tull, Eugene Levy, Family Ties, Human League, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Kevin also comes up with a fine song about the leper guy, while Mike does an extended riff on Nick Nolte. There's also a long riff on why the ravens don't own their own swamp...and that the movie actually has buzzards, not ravens. Maybe "Swamp of the Buzzards" isn't as romantic, in a horror kind of way.
Swamp of the Ravens, among other cheesy movies, are available at Rifftrax's new Christmas store. It includes its holiday selections including Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (which has something in common with Rocket Attack USA, a past MST3K target), Talking Christmas Tree, Santa's Village of Madness (also known as outtakes from that Mexican Santa Claus movie), and the Rifftrax Live Christmas Shorts show with Weird Al Yankovic and the live riffing of the other Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon.
Once upon a time, Walt Disney Pictures made animated features based on fairy tales where there was a beautiful princess who had to be saved by a Prince Charming, and it all ended happily ever after.
Then Enchanted came along and made a bunch of money. and Disney decided that the old formula could be revamped and improved. That's why Brave won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars last February.
The likely winner in 2014 is Frozen, a new spin on Hans Christen Anderson's "The Snow Queen" and Disney musicals in general. There's the beautiful princess, and two handsome love interests. However, the villain isn't where you expect.
It begins in Arendelle, where there are two princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell--yep, Veronica Mars could have done her own musical if given the chance) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has the power to produce winter, but it causes an accident that almost kills Anna. The King and Queen decide to keep the sisters separate, and erase the memory of the accident. The castle is also closed to everyone. After the King and Queen die, Elsa is about to take the throne. While she looks cold, she is struggling to keep her icy touch in check. The pressures overcome her, and she puts the kingdom under eternal winter. She's forced to leave and build her own Castle of Solitude.
Meanwhile, Anna wants to marry Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) after knowing him for one entire song. Elsa objects, which caused her power to go out of control. Anna endures very cold conditions to get her sister back with some help from Kristoff (Johnathan Groff), an ice deliverer, and his reindeer named Sven. Kristoff is also skeptical about Anna thinking Hans is "meant to be".
To serve as comic relief, there's a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) who wants to experience summer...although he's not aware of what that's like. There's a great song where he dreams of being in summer and getting a tan.
What's great about this movie is that Elsa is not the villain. She is the victim of a power she'd give anything to lose, but thinks pushing people away is the only thing she can do. Her fear amplfiies that power to disastrous results, and freezes her sister's heart. When Anna is told that true love can save her, she thinks kissing Prince Hans will solve everything.
She is right. True love will save everyone. Where it really comes from makes this a very different kind of Disney musical. It's a great story, with Disney princesses taking charge of the "happily ever after" part. It also has two songs that could get Oscar gold. My choice would be "Let It Go" over "For the First Time in Forever", but "Reindeer Are Better Than People" may be a cult hit.
Before the movie, there is what seems to be a Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1929 called "Get A Horse". After a minute or two, it's more than that. We see the original Mickey Mouse emerge from the screen..in 3-D. That genre-bending touch could lead to the Mouse's first Oscar for Best Animated Short. He won in 1932 for being created, but not in competition.
As far as the trailers are concerned, there's going to be a flood of new animated movies. There's The Nut Job, about squirrels hoping to break into a nut shop to survive the winter, the Lego Movie, about a Lego piece who is "the chosen one" for some mission, and Walking With Dinosaurs, which might remind people of The Land Before Time. There was also the trailer for Muppets Most Wanted, where Kermit is mistaken for a jewel thief. Even with Tina Fey with a ridiculous accent, Ty Burrell with a pencil-thin mustache, and Danny Trejo somehow appearing, I'm not sure about this one.
I also saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire recently. This franchise will succeed through the end thanks to Jennifer Lawrence. She's born to be Katniss, and her performance is the best thing about this movie. he movie is wise to show that just because she and Peeta survived the 74th Games doesn't mean they go back to their lives as nothing happened. The scars from that experience reveal themselves time and again. She's also identfied as a threat to the status quo at Panem, and a symbol of revolt. She'd rather not have this status, but the more the government responds in severe ways, the more she's willing to fight. Her last defining moment in this movie is proof of that. It should be interesting how they turn Mockingjay into two movies, since the overall plot goes from a game to a war.
Monday, November 18, 2013
There are two types of Doctor Who fans: those who have discovered the show when it appeared in PBS stations around the mid 1970s, and those who discovered him when he returned in 2005.
Thanks to YouTube, DVDs and BBC America, those who say their first Doctor was Nine can discover who their favorite Time Lord was like long long ago. Remember, he was off the BBC for 16 years, not including Fox's attempt to revive him through Paul McGann and (unwisely) Eric Roberts as Master 3.0.
My first Doctor that I saw in the flesh was Jon Pertwee. He visited San Jose back in 1984. One thing I will always remember is seeing dozens of fans following him as he walked near the Hotel Saint Claire where the con took place.
Actually, KRON in San Francisco showed Doctor Who in the early 1970s, but it started with Pertwee's second episode when he encountered the Silurians. It would have been better if they showed "Spearhead from Space," which would have been a nice entry point for the uninitiated. Well, he didn't catch on until Tom Baker arrived, but Pertwee was a big hit in San Jose. Showing him a picture of the soon-to-be Sixth Doctor, then getting his reaction, was something I won't forget.
It was also back in the days when local fan clubs met to see bootleg copies of fresh episodes from the UK. A bunch met in a small room near San Jose's KTEH. It was also where I saw my first Pertwee episode in more than ten years, "The Time Warrior". Ah, the popularity of circulating the tapes. I also helped out in a couple of Who-themed pledge drives for KVIE in the late 1980's.
Anyway, that led to the BBC and other groups bringing Doctor Who cast members, including Time Lords past and present, to the U-S and a a grateful public. It also led to a shrinking time gap of getting fresh shows. Thanks to those cons, I got the autographs of Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. They're all in the BBC's 20th anniversary book for the show. It also includes several companions, the Brigadier and the Master 2.0. If only I started taking pictures back then.
The book also has this postcard that was signed by McCoy. Using my status as a news director for a small radio station, I asked him if and when his unique sweater would be available. I actually got a response
Of course, thanks to the internet, people can sell such homemade versions of those sweaters, or even extra-long Tom Baker scarves. It can also lead to fans no longer having to wait until July to see the Christmas specials.
When I finally got to see a Time Lord in the flesh with David Tennant at Comic-Con four years ago, it was a fantastic feeling. I only wish I could have shaken his hand. Then again, it's not every day you get a taco served by Eleven a couple of years later....at Comic-Con of course.
Since then, I have been lucky to get some autographs of companions including Elisabeth Sladen, Caroline John, Katy Manning, Wendy Padbury and Sophie Aldred (in the form of a first-day cover). I would love to get a 21st Century Doctor, but thanks to the internet (again) and big business, it's not as easy as it used to be. If I had steady paying work, I'd pay 100 bucks for Matt Smith or David Tennant's signature. That's unlikely right now, but I can always hope.
Still, I'm very satisfied and proud of my collection of Doctor Who autographs, plus some other relics of old-style Who fandom. It sets me apart from those who have recently discovered Doctor Who. I can say that I always knew him, even back when he had a mop of hair and a really long scarf. In a way, that was cooler than a bowtie and a fez---mostly.
Ron Woodruff is the definition of a Texas redneck. An electrician by trade, he lives hard and loves hard. He overdoses on women, drugs, booze and anything else.
In 1985, he finds out he is HIV positive, and has 30 days to live. He fights to have a little more time, and winds up being one of the most unlikely AIDS activists.
This is the story behind Dallas Buyers Club, which may also be an excellent example of two actors making major commitments to create the best performances.
First off, look at how Matthew McConaughey had to change his leading man look to be Woodruff:
He not only lost 50 pounds, but all the baggage from being in lame romcoms Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker. True, he's also done good work in recent movies like Killer Joe and Mud, but nothing like this.
When Woodruff gets the news, he does what most people do: deny it through any means necessary. When it finally dawns on him of what has happened, and maybe when it happened, he reads what he can about drugs like AZT, the first drug the FDA approved for treatment despite serious side effects. He also hears about alternative methods and drugs that haven't gotten FDA approval, or even noticed. To be clear, he's partially doing it to benefit others, but it's really because of himself and earning cash. McConaughey does a great job making sure that Woodruff is no saint, but still willing to provide treatment options aside from AZT. This includes impersonating a priest and a researcher to get "unapproved" drugs from China, Japan and Mexico.
The performance most people will talk about is Jared Leto as Reyon. He's on an AZT trial program, but sells part of his dosage to help someone else...and for the money. Soon he and Ron create a unique way to distribute alternative drugs and try to keep one step ahead of the FDA. Most people remember Leto from My So Called Life and his band, 30 Seconds to Mars:
Seeing him as Reyon will stun a lot of people. He is someone you don't forget.
It's safe to say Leto's return to acting will get a lot of applause, and lead to a few awards after the New Year.
Jennifer Garner is also good as Eve Saks, who helps run one of the AZT trials for a hospital in Dallas, but slowly realizes that Ron's unorthodox ways may have its merits.
One reviewer said in a podcast that the FDA's heavy-handed way to stop Ron was a bit far-fetched. Then again, this was during the days of the War on Drugs. The battle may have included anyone who made the FDA look bad, so how the FDA agent is portrayed made sense.
Dallas Buyers Club is not only a great story about how a real redneck made sure AIDS patients got care that would keep them alive, but it's also a fine showcase of two great actors.
As I said in my review of 12 Years A Slave, the battle for Best Actor at the Academy Awards will be an endurance race. While Robert Redford will be the sentimental favorite for All Is Lost, McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor cannot and should not be ignored. That's why I'm hoping it will be a split vote right through the Oscars next March. As for Leto, it looks like he'll be the 2014 version of Anne Hathaway, although McConaughey may give him a run for his money for his performance in Mud.