Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E11 - The Unexpected Virtue of Applesauce

This past Sunday, while Lady Gaga was killing it at the Oscars (she really did), and Roman Reigns earned the right to headline Wrestlemania (again), Rick and his crew kept on surviving on The Walking Dead. And they did so alongside a new face named Aaron.

Aaron and Eric are introduced as the first same-sex couple on The Walking Dead. In 2015, I don’t consider this to be a huge deal. But of course, it’s nice to see diversity on any show, especially one this popular. Aaron and Eric also had a really nice introductory scene, which set them up fairly well.

Aaron tries to sell Rick and the group on coming to Alexandria. After Aaron gives Rick the first part of his spiel, Rick simply walks up and punches him in the goddamn face. Good intentions notwithstanding, I can’t say I blame him for that. Aaron sounded like a used car salesmen. And I’ve gotta tell you: One good thing about the zombie apocalypse? No more used car salesmen.

When the rest of the group has gone out to search for Aaron’s cohort, Aaron offers baby Judith some applesauce. But when Rick demands that Aaron taste it first, he’s reticent because he doesn't like applesauce. Dude! The guy says he’s going to kill you in 45 minutes if his buddies don’t get back! And this applesauce is probably your only bargaining tool! I don’t like green beans, but if green beans will put me on better terms with the bearded crazy with the gun, I’m guzzling some goddamn green beans!

Rick seems to be the only skeptic about Alexandria. Well, you can’t exactly blame him can you? Woodbury turned into a war…literally. Terminus was a slaughterhouse… also literally. So the notion that Alexandria is somehow a magical safe haven would seem pretty far-fetched. And when you’re not only the leader of this group, but you’ve got your two children with you, that skepticism weighs on you the most. And although at the end of the episode, Alexandria seemed to be an okay place, Carol hit the nail on the head: “Even though you were wrong, you were right.”

Glenn puts the pedal to the metal and runs down a load of walkers on the way to Alexandria. This was the creative highlight of the episode for me. Seeing all that blood caked on to the windshield and the doors made for some great gore appeal. And then you’ve got the intestines and all that other stuff clinging to the grill. I’m not a huge horror buff, but even I couldn’t deny the cool factor there.

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Illumi-Nerdi's 2015 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture 

Will win: Boyhood. I think this movie received more hype because of the way in which it was filmed (a few scenes a year over 12 years, which is, admittedly revolutionary). But without that, it's basically a very good movie with good performances by good actors and a good director. I didn't have to use the word "great" once. 

Should win: Birdman. Birdman was my favorite movie this year. It had such an amazing script and was shot in a truly unique way; the whole movie was shot as if to appear it was one long take. It was in no way your typical, boring drama, which I might argue Boyhood was (despite its unique way of filming). Birdman is just a genuinely thought-provoking and oftentimes hilarious, if ambiguous, movie. 

Could win: Birdman. The rest of the movies are really good movies, but not genuine best picture possibilities. In fact, most of the other best picture nominees were out-shined by the performances in them, while being simply good movies on their own (The Imitation Game, Selma, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything

Should have been nominated: Interstellar. I don't know what the hell people didn't like about this film. They throw around buzzwords like "overly-ambitious", "confusing" and "McConaghey's Lincoln commercials" (only one of which I agree with). This gorgeous movie had ambition in all the right places and absolutely succeeded for me as much as Close Encounters and 2001: A Space Odysssey. If your knock against this movie is that it was confusing, okay, fine. But that's on you. Not on the film. Interstellar explained everything it needed to. It was a complex film, yes. But if you walked in expecting a big, stupid summer action movie, you didn't really know Christopher Nolan. 

Best actor
Will win: Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of EverythingThis was one of those very few times where I watched a movie and forgot I was watching a performance and not the actual person. Eddie Redmayne was just transcendental as Professor Stephen Hawking. The difference between actor and subject was imperceptible, which is exactly the goal of a great performance.  

Should win: Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything. See above. 

Could win: Michael Keaton- Birdman.  Ugh. I want Michael Keaton to win so badly. If you grew up in the '90s, you love Keaton or you're an awful person. He was our Batman, everyone's favorite "bio-exorcist", Beetlejuice, and should have won 4 separate Oscars for all of his characters in Multiplicity. He's had a lifetime of less-than-serious roles, that were no less deserving of acclaim. In his metaphysical, yet funnily autobiographical role he would really deserve this award if not for the somewhat newcomer, yet no less deserving, Mr. Redmayne. 

Should have been nominated: I honestly didn't see Selma, so I can't argue for David Oyelowo. I believe he was great (I genuinely like the actor) but I won't argue for him based on his race, as many detractors would (there NEEDS to be more minorities nominated!). I believe the best actors should be nominated. Period. Despite race, despite previous award history (as many people think Meryl Streep shouldn't be nominated because she's been nominated for no fewer than 349 Academy Awards). Everyone in this category absolutely deserved to be nominated, I don't think you should nominate someone just because they're non-white. So, with that, I'm not picking someone who should have been nominated because who should have taken a backseat?

Best Actress
Will win: Julianne Moore- Still Alice. Julianne Moore is one of my favorite actresses and finally deserves a legit award. Still Alice is her turn. 

Should win: Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl. I'll be more than happy if Julianne Moore wins. That said, I thought Rosamund Pike was absolutely phenomenal. She just was this character. I felt that Fincher's last wonderful female actress/character (Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander) absolutely deserved the Oscar in the 84th Oscars and I was positively shocked that no one really talked about her performance in serious contention with Meryl Streep's. And I feel like it's the exact same thing this year with Ms. Pike's performance; why the hell aren't people talking about her?? I honestly think her character will end up going down as one the best (spoiler alert?) villains of all time. 

Could win: Reese Witherspoon- Wild. She basically did what Emile Hirsch did for the similarly titled Into the Wild, which, by the way, is seriously impressive. Anytime you can carry a movie by yourself, without a complex plot, and leave the viewer captivated, I'm impressed. Reese boasts an equally impressive and extensive repertoire to Julianne Moore that Rosamund Pike can't quite compete with (though that doesn't deter my opinion of her performance). 

Should have been nominated: Amy Adams- Big Eyes I'm not as high on Amy Adams as the Academy seems to be. She's been nominated four times. I think she's merely a good actress. Her performance in Big Eyes however was a strong one and deserved recognition. 

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: J.K. Simmons- Whiplash. Just shut up any and all so-called competitors. J.K. Simmons was unbelievable as the music teacher from hell. If you don't believe the "from hell" part of that last statement, you didn't see this film. J.K. made me feel like I was 6 years old being scolded by my 1st grade teacher again, which is an awful feeling. He was captivating and horrifying, which, for me, is unsettling and deserving mix. 

Should win: J.K Simmons-Whiplash. Just stop. 

Could win: Robert Duvall- The Judge. He won't and shouldn't win. J.K.'s performance was one of those rare, absolute lock performances. However, he's a legend in the industry and hasn't won in over 30 years. I guess he could win based on his lasting endurance in the industry, but was he better than J.K. Simmons? No way. 

Should have been nominated: Andy Serkis- The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I think I've said this for every performance-capture film he's done since 2002 when Serkis played Gollum in earnest for the first time in The Two Towers. He should have been nominated. He has to act every bit as much, and in a good portion of his films, more than, the standard "supporting actor." His role in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was exactly as good as every other performance-capture role he's done, which is to say, spectacular. I'm getting sick of putting him in my "should have been nominated" category. NOMINATE THIS MAN. 

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Patricia Arquette.- Boyhood. She had the big Golden Globes win which is a big boon for this category. 

Should win: Laura Dern- Wild (see below). This was actually one of the hardest categories to pick. Keira Knightley was excellent in The Imitation Game, as always. Emma Stone had two of the best scenes in Birdman. And Meryl Streep had some of the better scenes in an ultimately disappointing movie. But Laura Dern had the best single performance. 

Could win: Laura Dern- Wild. If you don't know her as Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park, I don't really know how you know her. But you're probably a more well versed viewer than I am. Despite Jurassic Park being one of the best movies ever made, Ellie was an underdeveloped character without any real depth. So, it was such a change to see her as a physically and mentally vulnerable character. While still overcoming her circumstances through positivity she becomes to most important influence on the the main character; which is what a "supporting" actress does, right?

Should have been nominated: Elizabeth Moss- The One I Love. No. I don't believe she should have been nominated over any actress in this strongly earned category. But I do want to raise awareness for the truly wonderful movie. If you like romance, or drama, or sci-fi or dramedy, or tragicomedy or just strange, unclassifiable, indescribable movies, watch The One I Love. 

Best Animated Feature 
Will win: Big Hero 6. Disney still has the best chance at winning an animated feature award at any time, and this was the most deserving film that was nominated. 

Should win: Big Hero 6. This wasn't the best Disney movie in recent years (that crown belongs to Wreck-it Ralph) but it was the best nominated animated movie this year. I was very surprised How to Train Your Dragon 2 won the Globe because Big Hero 6 was such a touching movie. It was responsible for that old "it made me laugh, it made me cry" situation that the best animated movies accomplish.  

Could win:  How to Train Your Dragon 2. It has the Golden Globe under its belt but Big Hero 6 was the better movie. Neither were the best animated movie, however. That title belongs to:

Should have been nominated: The Book of Life. I don't understand the love behind The Lego Movie. I thought it was basically a plotless film with gorgeous animation and nostalgic situations, sets and characters. And maybe that's why people loved it so much. It didn't do it for me. What did, however, was the Book of Life. This movie was at least as stunning as the Lego Movie, but The Book of Life had an actual plot that had rich characters and blended in one of the most under-appreciated mythologies in the world. It was a bold film that took risks by not appealing to everyone and succeeded where the Lego Movie failed. It choose mythology and character development over cheap thrills and character recognition. Best animated movie of the year. 

Best Director: Birdman- Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu
Best Original Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel- Wes Anderson
Best Adapted Screenplay: American Sniper- Jason Hall

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 Review - He Doesn't Like Sand...

TITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #1
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PUBLISHER: Salvador Larroca
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: February 11, 2015

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 made me understand what it’s like to be a Sith Lord.

Or at least, it gave me a pretty powerful glimpse into what it’s like to be Anakin Skywalker inside that black suit. To say the very least, it’s not fun.

Following the events of Star Wars #1 and 2, Vader must once again face The Emperor as a failure. Palpatine blames him for the destruction of the Death Star, and also for allowing the Rebels to escape on Cymoon. Now, to find Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance, Vader must ally himself with the likes of Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett. Naturally, this brings him back to Tatooine, Anakin Skywalker’s home planet.

The idea of Vader returning to Tatooine has been an intriguing one as far back as The Phantom Menace. But to my knowledge this is the first time we’ve actually seen it. It doesn’t disappoint, especially when we reach the end of the issue.

However, much like Jason Aaron and John Cassaday in Star Wars #1, this issue relies quite a bit on the nostalgia factor to draw readers in. But while Star Wars #1 picked both lines and certain imagery from the original trilogy, this issue plays with actual shots and sets from both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. The image of Darth Vader entering Jabba’s palace, dealing with the guards and Bib Fortuna, and then standing there amongst his cronies is obviously an alternate take on Luke’s entrance from Jedi. Later, Larroca essentially pencils screen caps from A New Hope to provide us with a flashback page. One can argue than in terms of relying on nostalgia appeal to cheaply hook readers in, Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 is an even bigger offender than Star Wars #1.

So with that in mind, why is the former a good issue, while the latter is a bad one? For my money, it’s all in the way the issue was written.

Darth Vader #1 draws you in with the notion that Vader will be journeying into Jabba’s lair, just as Luke will later do, using very specific images and shot from Jedi. But the real hook comes when Vader and Jabba start talking. Vader refuses to address Jabba by name, simply calling him “Hutt,” like he’s merely vermin. When Jabba tries to exercise his own power, Vader retaliates, at one point choking Jabba with the Force. Through this scene, we not only get a sense of how little regard Vader has for life, but how his hatred and anger are always with him. They are not a temporary state of being. They are his very existence.

We also get a scene with Palpatine, where we see that despite Vader’s ever-present anger, it still hasn’t brought him the power he seeks. He is still a servant of the Emperor. Or as Palpatine says: “A blunt instrument far better to be wielded than to wield.” He then places Vader under the thumb of one of the Imperial commanders we briefly saw in A New Hope (prompting one of those screen cap flashbacks), and deliberately hides the identity of a new ally. We later close on a familiar, yet ever so dramatic two-page spread.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 is essentially a look at what Vader’s life is like in the aftermath of the original film. He is still a man that has lost everything but his hate and his lust for power, which he will presumably never have so long as he is under Palpatine’s influence. Thus, he takes that hate out on the terrified life forms around him. That’s the message we’re meant to take away from this issue. And it’s an important one about our main character. We got there using plenty of flash and flare from the original trilogy, but in this instance the end justified the means.

Star Wars #1, on the other hand, used that same nostalgia, flash, and flare as the destination. Cassaday’s art was fantastic, as always. But despite the cool escape story, which is very Star Wars, the issue lacked soul, and felt largely empty. That’s the difference between the Aaron/Cassaday issue, and the Gillen/Larroca issue.

I’m very interested to see how much the prequel material is acknowledged, not just in this book, but in all of Marvel’s Star Wars comics. The ending of this issue is a pretty heavy callback to Attack of the Clones. The Force Awakens gets closer every day, and the Disney/Lucasfilm strategy seems to be getting us to refocus on classic Star Wars stuff. This makes sense, as we’re getting ready for Luke, Leia, and Han to return. It also seems like they’re trying to gloss over the prequels, which also makes sense, given how poorly they were received by many. It’s something to keep an eye on as we move closer to December.

Star Wars: Darth Vader was one of the best single issues of a Star Wars series that I’ve read in quite some time. It’s definitely an issue worthy of its iconic title character.

Written by: Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Bell to Bell: Cocky Bryan, Cocky Reigns, Angry Cena, Angry Hunter.

Not a bad Raw at all as we head into Fastlane this weekend. I’ve got far more compliments than complaints…

John Cena beats down Rusev, promises “reckless abandon” at Fast Lane. One thing I’m enjoying about this Cena/Rusev program is the renewed emphasis being placed on the United States Championship. The idea that the company’s franchise player is gunning for it obviously plays up the belt’s prestige. The announcers mentioning Dean Ambrose’s lengthy run with the title didn’t hurt either.

In terms of the more “edgy” John Cena we were promised for Fastlane, I wouldn’t’ count on seeing anything profound. Brock Lesnar immasculated and humiliated Cena at Summerslam, and then at Night of Champions he was basically the same guy. So I don’t buy it at all.

Daniel Bryan joins the announcers during Roman Reigns’ match with Kane. Byran had the line of the night with: “I had one less title defense than Brock Lesnar, so I don’t think they needed to strip it from me.” We definitely saw a less humble side of Bryan here. What’s more, he knew how to advance himself and his storyline with the opportunity he was given. It was pretty cool to hear.

Incidentally, we had a pretty cool back-and-forth chant during this match. The men in the crowd were chanting “You can’t wrestle!” To which the kids, and perhaps the women, responded: “Yes he can!” That’s a new one, isn’t it?

Conversely, Reigns plays mind games during Daniel Bryan’s match with The Big Show. The interesting thing about Roman Reigns’ role in this match was that he got to show off his personality a little bit. He’s got a cockiness about him that can actually be endearing when you don’t overscript him. Bryan also played his jealous role very well, while at the same time turning in a pretty good match with The Big show.

Triple H talks Sting with Ric Flair. Flair was obviously brought in to play up his history with Sting. They did a well enough job, though it seemed like Hunter had to reign Ric in a little bit. Oddly enough, it was similar to what Stephanie had to do with Dusty Rhodes awhile back. It seems like Hunter and Steph love to stay on script, while the old school guys like to ad lib. It’s not surprising when you think about it.

What’s curious about the build up to Sting’s encounter with Triple H is that WWE isn’t using the WCW library to their advantage. They could have used a bunch of clips of Sting taking on Flair, Hogan, and a litany of other stars to build up to Ric’s appearance in that segment with Triple H. It just seemed like a waste of a perfectly good resource. 

Dolph Ziggler def. Seth Rollins via disqualification. Was curious to see how the fans would react to Rollins after his little nude photo scandal last week, involving NXT wrestler Zahra Schreiber. Thankfully for Rollins, it seemed like most of the crowd was oblivious to the whole thing. Though Ziggler came a little close to it with the whole “bad Valentine’s Day” joke.

Great mic work from both guys leading up to the bout, and of course a really good little match. These are two guys I could watch wrestle every week. Here’s hoping these two get added to the Fastlane card. They haven’t got anything else for either guy to do, right?

Bray Wyatt cuts three short promos, the final one while hammering a nail into a coffin. I enjoyed these quite a bit, because it was the only time we saw Bray during the show. Two lines that stuck out….

1. “Limbo is no place for a soul like yours.”
2. “Find me… (back to the camera)…or I’ll find you.”

Stardust turns on Goldust after a loss to The New Day. Hey, I’d be pissed if I lost to The New Day too. But this Stardust/Goldust feud is long overdue. The anticipation leading up to Cody’s turn was great, and his rant to his father Dusty Rhodes backstage was awesome. Perhaps I’m a bit partial, but I say this was great work by all parties. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds heading into Wrestlemania. These guys deserve it.

The Bella Twins try to prevent Paige from competing by stealing her clothes. She wrestles in an outfit from one of the Rosebuds. I haven’t talked much about the Nikki Bella/Paige program, mostly because I can’t stand watching seeing the Bellas on my TV. But I do like that WWE is pushing Paige as the top hero of the divas division. She’s obviously got a different look than most of the supermodel types WWE has hired in the last decade or so. And this week’s story helped make her into a positive role model to the company’s young female audience. I wish she weren’t working with the Bellas, but I’m happy to see her succeeding regardless.

The Prime Time Players reunite to fend of The Ascension. FINALLY! Breaking Titus O’Neil and Darren Young up was a mistake to begin with. Granted, they’ve probably been reunited just to job to The Ascension. But still, it’s great to have them back.

The Usos to defend against Cesaro & Tyson Kidd at Fastlane. Cesaro & Kidd as the tag champs? HA! Not around Wrestlemania  season, folks. 

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E10– Rain of Terror

By The Walking Dead standards, this week’s show was pretty quiet. There was a lot of walking, talking, thinking, brooding, sweating, etc. At the risk of offending the die-hards, at times I actually found myself bored. Thankfully, things picked up in the last 15 minutes or so, and we closed things with the debut of a new character…

Aaron makes his television debut. In the Walking Dead comic book series, Aaron is the character that finds Rick’s group and brings them to Alexandria, a safe-zone just outside Washington D.C. I’d say it’s a safe bet that’s the general direction this is going. I mean sheesh, we’ve got to get these folks out of the wilderness. I don’t think Rick can afford to lose anymore weight. I’d wager his beard now weighs more than he does…

While resting in a barn, the group fends off a hoard of zombies by holding the doors shut. This was a great sequence. You had the life-threatening danger of the zombies pushing their way in, combined with the storn, which added a great horror vibe to the whole thing. Then afterward, the zombies being caught in the fallen trees made for an awesome visual. This whole sequence saved what would have otherwise been a rather stale episode.

Rick rallies the group with a “This is how we survive” speech. That “We are the walking dead” line is plucked straight from the comics, so it was cool to hear Andrew Lincoln say it.

As scary as the whole “homeless” situation is for the entire group, it’s got to weigh on Rick the most. Not only is he stranded, starving, and surrounded by zombies, but his son and infant daughter are right beside him. He can see and hear their suffering as well as his own.

And speaking of Carl and Judith…

Carl lays Judith down on the ground to help the others hold off the oncoming hoard during the storm. CARL!!!! What the hell, bro? You do not leave the baby alone when there are zombies pushing their way in! And you certainly don’t lay her on the ground where anything could fall and injure her! Dude, you’re the smallest person in the group. How much strength and support can you possibly lend to the group that’s worth leaving that kid alone? Hand over your hat and badge, Carl. You’re suspended.

Father Gabriel offers to talk to Maggie about her losses. Everything Father Gabriel says is creepy. And to her credit, Maggie had exactly the right response: “You let your entire congregation to be devoured by the undead. Please leave me be.”

To get rid of the pack of zombies following them, Rick and the group devise a “push them into the ravine” plan. I get that Rick and his crew were pretty short on options at this point, and I understand them not wanting to provoke the zombies. But I, at all costs, would have avoided touching the undead with my bare hands. The number of good things that can come from it are virtually zero. All Rick, or Michonne, or any of these guys had to do was stumble, and they’re pretty much dead. Put me back there with Carl and the baby. Hell, I’ll probably do a better job of watching the kid than he will.

A pack of wild dogs nearly attacks the group before Sasha intervenes. It’s kind of convenient that a pack of vicious, wild dogs suddenly appeared to attack the group. Are there a lot of packs of vicious dogs wandering around this post-apocalyptic world? If the humans are having so much trouble finding food, what the hell co the DOGS eat? People, I guess. Pfft. Man’s best friend…

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bell to Bell: Darren Young/Abu Dhabi Edition

So what have we learned this week? Well, for one thing, wrestlers need to be pretty damn careful about their Twitter accounts. No doubt internet fans already know about the Seth Rollins scandal, which I’ll talk about next week. But another WWE star made social media headlines this week, regarding an issue I’d say is a little more important than dirty pictures…

In regard to WWE running live events in Abu Dhabi this week, Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser tweeted the following via @DarrenYoungWWE on Tuesday…

“Why do we bring the best entertainment to a country like abu dhabi and they look down upon women and gays? I get it! #MillionsofDollars” (sic)

The post was subsequently taken down, obviously at WWE’s insistence. But Rosser was far from silenced, as he would go on to tweet the following…

- “My freedom of speech is gone. Gone but not forgotten.”

- “I feel like no one has my back and it upsets me. The struggle is real. I’m human.”

That evening, WWE put out a statement relating to Rosser’s posts. It said that while WWE supports him for being open about his sexuality, “WWE cannot change cultures and laws around the world, and thus we did not send Fred Rosser to the United Arab Emirates for our upcoming events for his own protection.”

The release concluded with: “WWE also fully supports Fred Rosser’s right to express his views on personal social media accounts rather than WWE’s corporate platforms.”

Before I dive into the nitty gritty on this, let me say for the record that I do not, under any circumstances, support the suppression or abuse of women or homosexuals. Hopefully that falls under the common sense category for most people reading this. With that in mind, let’s continue…

In the statement, WWE refers to the @DarrenYoungWWE Twitter account as a corporate platform. But is it? Presumably the only one who uses it is Rosser himself, and if you follow any WWE star on Twitter, you know they constantly use that platform to offer peeks into their lives beyond the ring. Case in point, this week Ryback posted a video of him at a fast food drive-thru (for whatever reason). Renee Young seemed to feel fairly comfortable chiming in on the Grammys this past Sunday. And for those of you wondering what Dolph Ziggler was reading on the plane ride to Abu Dhabu, he was kind enough to show you. So are these Twitter accounts really corporate platforms?

Well, sort of…

There’s a reason WWE repackages all the talent that comes in. As Bubba Ray Dudley once put it: “Vince McMahon has to make you in his own image.” That’s why Ryan Reeves became Ryback, Renee Paquette became Renee Young, Nick Nemeth became Dolph Ziggler, and Fred Rosser became Darren Young. When the name you use on social media is the intellectual property of a big corporation like WWE, they’re naturally going to want to make sure their company isn’t associated with speech they don’t like. Especially when the handle is something like @DarrenYoungWWE. WWE literally owns every word in that name.

So while Fred Rosser has every right to feel the way he feels about WWE going to Abu Dhabi, my question to him would be: “What did you think was going to happen?” On February 10, Fred Rosser was a WWE wrestler, using a Twitter handle named after his WWE character, publicly questioning the integrity of WWE. In what world does that work out in his favor?

In terms of wrestlers being allowed to say anything they want on “personal social media accounts,” one can argue that a @FredRosser account wouldn’t draw nearly as many eyes as the @DarrenYoungWWE account. Thus, the purpose of making such a statement is almost negated. But that’s sort of the deal you strike when you owe literally all of your fame to the company you’re criticizing.

But I’ll say it again, Rosser has every right to feel the way he feels. And he’s not wrong. In an era where WWE fights so hard to be politically correct and image conscious, they’re still willing to perform in a country where women and homosexuals are subjugated. What does that say to the women and homosexuals that watch WWE regularly? How about some of those families they’re trying to hard to win over?

I don’t have a good answer to those questions. In truth, “Bell to Bell” isn’t written to pass judgment on cultures or religions. I’m here to talk about professional wrestling. But what I will say is at the end of the day, WWE is a dollars and cents business, for better or worse…

I’ll conclude with this: Fred Rosser, while you might not have picked the right “platform” to vent your frustrations, at the end of the day I do have your back.” No one should have to feel cast out or isolated because of who they are inside. As you wrote, the struggle is real. And I respect you, and anyone else who is forced to endure it.

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lady Death: The Original Warrioress

Lady Death's Return is NOW LIVE!

**Official Press Release**

Pledge Now for Cool Rewards! Join the Insanity!

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA (February 4, 2015) – The exclusive Kickstarter campaign for Coffin Comics’ brand new original graphic novel, entitled Lady Death: Chaos Rules #1 has launched (Click here).This is Lady Death creator Brian Pulido’s first all new, original story to be published through Coffin Comics, his new publishing company.

Lady Death: Chaos Rules #1, published by Coffin Comics, is a 48-page square bound original graphic novel written by Brian Pulido, cowritten by Eisner award winner Brian Augustyn. It features interior penciling by Dheeraj Verma (Transformers) and color art by Sabine Rich (Ancient Dreams).

In the story, Lady Death is awakened from a spell-induced slumber. Who among her depraved enemies is responsible for robbing the last two decades of her existence? How long until she exacts bloody vengeance. Featuring the alluring and cruel diva of death as only creator Brian Pulido can write her! Chock full of sex, violence, epic clashes and very, very bad behavior!

"If you haven't read Lady Death in a while, I cordially invite you to get Chaos Rules," says Lady Death creator Brian Pulido. "This is a wild quest chock full of twists, turns and surprises. It is a vision of Hell never seen before in a Lady Death comic and it is ground zero for all new Lady Death stories to come from my fevered mind -- and with Kickstarter, there is no one between you and me!"

Experience the most authentic Lady Death comics since 2002! Pledge on the Chaos Rules #1 Kickstarter page, Click here.


But wait...there is more. It is a double press release. 

**Official Press Release**

Lady Death #1 Diamond Edition Released
Indy Icon celebrates 21st Anniversary in style

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA (February 10, 2015) – Coffin Comics announced today the release of Lady Death #1 Diamond Edition in conjunction with the 21st anniversary of the historic Lady Death #1.

Lady Death #1 Diamond Edition features a solid metal front cover, enhanced with an actual one-carat diamond appraised by Scottsdale Fine Jewelers at over six thousand dollars. This diamond is set in the hilt of Lady Death’s sword.

“In our storied career of groundbreaking special cover enhancements, the diamond edition is special,” says Coffin Comics publisher Brian Pulido. “We’ve been the first to introduce velvet, leather and metal covers to the comic book community. The diamond edition is a testament to the unbreakable, eternal quality of Lady Death, an independent comics icon for over two decades.”

Lady Death was first introduced to the world of comics in December 1991 with a guest-starring role in the infamous comic book series Evil Ernie. She then spun off into her own series Lady Death in February 1994 triggering in part the “bad Girl” movement that swept the comics industry in the nineties.

Since then, Lady Death has appeared in over one hundred comics in eight languages, selling over 20 million copies worldwide. She’s had an animated feature film, dozens of licenses and thousands of Lady Death tattoos adorn the bodies of her adoring fans.

For move information on Lady Death #1 Diamond Edition, visit: www.LadyDeathUniverse.com

Bell to Bell: Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, and “Casual Viewers”

Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns team together twice on the same night. Anybody remember that Raw where Chris Jericho had to wrestle three times in one night? The Rock wasn’t on the show for whatever reason, so they did an angle where Vince punished him by having him run the gauntlet. That was a big deal at the time, because you weren’t used to seeing these guys out there so much, and it drew a decent amount of babyface sympathy for Jericho.

But in the three-hour Raw era, wrestlers competing more than once a night is nothing special. It’s become commonplace.

Last week on The Steve Austin Show (or as WWE calls it, “Stone Cold Podcast”), Triple H briefly talked about how writing a three-hour TV show is exponentially tougher than writing a two-hour show. Hey man, you don’t have to tell us. It’s pretty obvious when you watch the damn thing.  Thank God for DVR.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love Raw, WWE, and the performers. But it’s so obvious that things are stretched out. So much of the content is geared toward filling that three-hour time frame. That’s why every show starts with a 15-20 minute in-ring promo, and why wrestlers sometimes have to perform twice a night.

WWE obviously makes more money with a three-hour show. But in the long run, is it worth it? WWE spends all it time trying to appeal to casual fans. But would a strictly casual viewer be willing to stick with a TV show for three hours every week?

Just a thought…

Rikishi announced for WWE Hall of Fame. It’s a little bit sad that when I saw “Rikishi” trending on Twitter Monday afternoon, I went: “Oh no, did he die?” It turns out the big man is alive and well, and going into the Hall of Fame. Congratulations are definitely in order, as the real life Solofa Fatu has had a great career. I’m guessing this is also being done in part to play up the Samoan lineage of Roman Reigns, the Usos, and even The Rock. 

When Rikishi is mentioned, I often think of that big splash he gave to Val Venis off the top of a steel cage. In July 2000 it’s hard to believe that was a decade and a half ago. YouTube “Rikishi, steel cage” and you’ll see it. It’s an awesome moment.

Rikishi is also living proof that you never know what the hell is going to get over in wrestling, or perhaps show business in general. Fatu was repackaged so many times in his career. But what got him over was dancing in a thong. Good lord…

Sting answers Triple H’s challenge for Fast Lane. This segment had a pretty obvious resolution. But it gave WWE an opportunity to play with Sting’s mystique a little bit. I liked the crow sounds, and the fake Stings being in the crowd. We probably weren’t meant to see that fake Sting actually enter the ring, as it put a damper on the vibe of the segment. But all in all, it was fine. I liked Triple H bringing up the fact that it took Sting 14 years to come to WWE, and that he helped put WCW under. With any luck, their segment at Fast Lane will be a good one, and we’ll finally get to hear Sting talk in a WWE ring.

WWE plays the “father time” card with John Cena and Rusev. As we’ve seen a few times before, WWE is playing up Cena’s long career, his extensive list of injuries, and the question of how long he can keep going. In the immediate future, I imagine this will amount to nothing, as it always has. But when the time does finally come for Cena to hang up the wristbands and baseball cap, that would be a cool way for Cena to have his retirement match. Have the man who never gives up hit the ring for one more fight even though his body is failing him? Hey, I’d watch.

Bray Wyatt ponders “What happens when we die?” Another promo obviously directed at The Undertaker. The great thing about these promos being pre-taped is that we don’t hear fans chanting for ‘Taker and spoiling the ride. I’m anxious to see how The Undertaker responds. And perhaps more interestingly, how they differentiate The Undertaker’s presentation from Sting’s. The two have never had to co-exist in the same promotion at the same time. So I’m curious to see how that plays out.

Paul Heyman brings up Brian Williams in promo with Brock Lesnar. The WWE Network aired a brief segment last week, in which Paul Heyman brought up, of all things, the Brian Williams controversy (if you don’t know, Google it). It didn’t even coincide with any programming. At face value, it didn’t really make any sense. Now it seems to. Heyman takes the thread of Brian Williams lying, and then spins it into a promo about Reigns and Bryan lying to themselves about beating Brock Lesnar. DAMN that guy’s good…

Big E. & Kofi Kingston def. Goldust & Stardust. First of all, The New Day act is becoming painful. These guys are so not over it’s painful.

Secondly, I love the notion that Stardust hates being called Cody. It’s an identity crisis that very much lends itself to a character like Stardust, and Cody wanting to essentially lose his former identity is a great access point for family drama. Somebody call Dusty.

Cesaro & Tyson Kidd def. The Usos. I’m a Cesaro fan, but by God, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of those forearm uppercuts. He really lays those suckers in.

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters Review - 30 Years in the Making

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters
AUTHORS: Tom Waltz, Erik Burnham

PENCILLERS: Dan Shoening, Cory Smith, Charles Paul Wilson III
COLLECTS: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters #1-4
April 2015

By God…dreams do come true.

If you’re a child of the ‘80s, this story is instantly epic simply because it exists. The Ghostbusters and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, two staples of ‘80s pop culture (pop culture in general, I suppose), are together at last. What’s more, they’re in the hands of creators who actually know what they’re doing! The premise alone is enough to prompt a geek out. Hell, they didn’t even need to give this story a title. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters was enough.

Indeed, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of both franchises, IDW has brought them together in this four-issue miniseries. After an accident with Donatello’s transdimensional portal, the Turtles, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones find themselves in an alternate version of New York City where ghosts run amok…until the boys in gray show up to quell the chaos. But oddly enough, a new piece of that spectral chaos emerges that is connected to the Turtles and their universe. And matters grow worse when Casey finds himself caught in the crossfire.

Yes, they took the multiverse route with this one.  It was their only option, really. The notion that the Turtles and the Ghostbusters inhabit the same universe, much less the same city, raises too many questions. Most of the story takes place in the Ghostbusters’ world, which again, raises less questions. Could Peter, Ray, and the guys be of use against the Foot Clan, Krang, or some kind of ghostly mutant? Probably. But keeping them in their element is a good way to protect them, and make sure they’re able to stand on equal footing as the Turtles.

In truth, this story doesn’t need a lot of complex storytelling elements to be good. All you really need to do is give them a common enemy to fight, then put the characters next to each other, and let them write themselves. It’s a lot of comparing and contrasting, and playing with the different imagery associated with both worlds. Heck, it’s almost a science (*rim shot*) in and of itself. For instance…

- In the second issue Ray and Donatello are comparing notes about how the Turtles switched dimensions, and generally talking science stuff. Venkman then leans over to Raph and says: “So you have one like that, too, huh?” Raph replies: “At least it’s just one.”

- In the same issue, Leo and Winston have a bonding moment over being the more level-headed ones in their respective groups. They fist-bump.

- The second issue closes with Donatello wearing a proton pack. A goddamn Ninja Turtle, wearing a goddamn proton pack. No lie.

Given the story takes place in the Ghostbusters’ world, Dan Schoening was the logical choice to take the reigns for most of the art, along with colorist Luis Delgado. As fans, we can all be thankful for that. Schoening’s more animated style is a perfect fit for both the Turtles and the Ghostbusters. And he’s just got a great flare for ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia. Look at his DeviantArt page and you’ll see not only the Ghostbusters, but Back to the Future, vintage Nintendo, A Christmas Story, and a plethora of other throwback material, in addition to your standard comic book superhero stuff. Make no mistake about it, this is his arena.

A lot of the variant covers done for this story are really cool too. Kevin Eastman did the retail incentive cover for issue #1, which is another big thrill for ‘80s comic geeks. Brent Peeples put together a pretty awesome cover to issue #2 with Raph throwing a ghost trap. But my favorite by far has to be Cory Smith’s cover for issue #3, with Mikey wearing a proton pack. The look on his face makes the cover.

My only major complaint about this book is its villain. Chi-You, an actual Chinese war deity, and in the IDW universe the brother of Kitsune from TMNT, is essentially a mildly spooky looking soundboard for clich├ęd villain dialogue. He spouts clunkers like…

- “When you next see me, you will regret it!”
- “I will peel the flesh from your bones!”
- “Fool. Your skills are nothing compared to mine!”

I’m a big fan of both Waltz and Burnham, and I’ll reiterate that this story is more about the thrill of seeing these two teams next to each other than anything else. Hell, I even like the choice of the Chinese war god. But Chi-You actually threatens to take you out of the story at times because you’re rolling your eyes so hard.

Still, as a lifelong die-hard fan of both the TMNT and the GBs, I was happy with what we got here. It’s not a masterpiece by any means. But it was, give or take, exactly what you wanted to see from a Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters team up. The characters got to play in each other’s sandboxes, and we all got to watch the fun ensue. I’m sure IDW could easily go back to the well with these two franchises if they wanted to. But frankly, I’m more concerned with Burnham and Schoening getting a monthly Ghostbusters series again. C’mon guys, let’s make that happen!

RATING: 7/10

Written By: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Bell to Bell: Happy Accidents

Happy accidents? What kind of title is that, you ask? Take a look at these first two topics, and you’ll get it.

WWE changes gears, sending Daniel Bryan to Fast Lane to face Roman Reigns to decide who will challenge for the title at Wrestlemania. It’s interesting that WWE used the Rock thing as the excuse to divert Roman Reigns from the Wrestlemania main event. Could his involvement at the Rumble have doubled as an endorsement/excuse to pull the plug if need be? I highly doubt they planned it that way. But it certainly worked out well in that respect.

Putting Bryan in what will presumably be the main event of Fast Lane is a great move by WWE, and it re-opens the door for Bryan to main event Wrestlemania against Brock Lesnar. But then again, WWE could simply be using this as a way to have Reigns beat Bryan, as a way to “earn the fans’ respect.” Then they can also say: “Now Reigns is, without a shadow of a doubt, the number one contender!” You think that’s out of the question? They had Reigns win the Rumble, didn’t they?

Still, we can’t deny this is a big ray of hope for Wrestlemania.

Incidentally, awesome match between Bryan and Seth Rollins. It was dynamic, it was quick, it was explosive, the stakes were high, and the crowd finally seemed to wake up. I’ve never seen Roman Reigns have a match like that on his own…

An error with the big Russian flag unintentionally plays into the Rusev/John Cena feud. There’s no way WWE intended for the Russian flag to get bunched up like that. Still, I credit Rusev, Lana, and the announcers for playing it up like a prank by John Cena.

After defeating Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt cuts another cryptic promo. It’s pretty obvious that Bray was talking to The Undertaker. The verbage itself was pretty damn cool. “I am the new face of fear…I know you can hear me…Come find me.” Chilling stuff. I just wish ‘Taker could get another shot at Brock to redeem that loss from Wrestlemania XXX. Frankly, I want to see that more than I want an Undertaker/Bray Wyatt match. 

The Miz fires Damien Sandow, makes him his “personal assistant,” prohibits Sandow from mimicking him. This is a nice move. By limiting Sandow’s mimicks, it becomes a bigger deal when he does them. Tonight clearly illustrated that. And to his credit, The Miz is playing his heel role expertly.  

Tensions arise between Goldust and Stardust after a second loss to The Ascension. I like this. I like it a lot. We seem to FINALLY be moving toward a Rhodes brothers feud. It sure as hell took them long enough. But if they’re heading to Wrestlemania with this, let’s hope it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. They might actually be better off saving this one for late Spring.

In a backstage segment, Erick Rowan thanks John Cena for standing up for him. This segment was surprising. It added some interesting depth to the Erick Rowan character, and built up some nice sympathy for his subsequent loss to Rusev.

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert