Saturday 29 October 2011

WWE Divas Dubbed

Let's face it, not all of us honestly like every wrestler's entrance music. I know I don't. And I don't know if anyone else does this, but I do so therefore it's awesome. Anyone who also does this should no longer be afraid to be open about it anymore. I'm talking about dubbing over wrestler's entrance themes with tracks of my own choice whenever I watch matches. I've been doing it for so long I now have several songs associated with different wrestlers as their signature songs (it's also a handy way to fill time while you're waiting for the matches to load on Youtube). So I decided to edit a little video of the entrances with a few of the songs I use dubbed over. Being chivalrous, I decided to do the divas first and of course I attempted to get in a variety of styles as opposed to the endless stream of techno and R&B WWE seem to love shackling them with. You can watch the video here and see for yourself. Apologies for the sound editing as sometimes the original theme does slip through.


AJ Lee:
We all know how mad into comic books, action movies and video games AJ is (unless of course you ignore everything the announcers say about her) so I decided to give her something out of a video game, in this case Tekken 3 from the good old 90s. The theme I chose for her belongs to Ling Xiaoyu who is perky, bubbly, energetic, slightly childish and of course a badass adorable. In fact she's almost exactly like AJ except Miss Lee isn't Chinese. This theme remains one of the more catchy and memorable tracks from the game and I think it fits AJ pretty well. And I'm in the minority that doesn't mind her "Right Now" theme.

Now as the A-list diva, Melina wasn't going to be easily dealt with by using a video game track. But I heard this song in a certain slasher film and thought it would fit Melina remarkably well. The song is "Automatic" by the Brothers Conti and is more of a mellow dance tune. The instrumental bit right before the final chorus really gives a fitting feel to the red carpet getting rolled out and the paparazzi taking their pictures as Melina arrives. While I think this does fit her arrogant heel character more, I've used it for when she's face and it still works. Also sometimes if I time the video right the guy will shout out "yahoo" just as she does the splits on the apron.

Beth Phoenix:
Now this was a hard one to do because Beth's current theme suits her so well. I actually considered throwing Chyna's old theme out there but it didn't really seem to fit and maybe it was a bit too obvious. The song I went with is "Miss Nothing" by The Pretty Reckless. Their music tends to rub people the wrong way, which I can't understand but I found this song strangely fitting for Beth. As you can see I used a clip of her as a face in the video but I do think this fits her fine as a heel. She's a badass no matter what character she plays so I think this song helps that image and is therefore a good choice for the Divas of Doom.

Alicia Fox:
I decided to ignore her recent face turn and the fact that they've just given her Maria's old music (as well as the fact that a girl I wrestle with uses this song as her entrance music) and get creative. Maybe I'm a little racist but I considered all sorts of R&B and even rap songs for Foxy and I came pretty close to "Milkshake" and "It's Hot In Here" but what I ended up choosing was "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera. Well in the video she's technically wrestling a little so maybe that's where I thought of adding it. I did a little bit of editing on the song itself so we get some of the opening and then go into the chorus. The lyrics do technically fit Alicia's heel persona considering she's someone who does get down and dirty from time to time.

The Bella Twins:
If I'm being honest, I was really stuck when it came to the twins. I was considering just leaving them out of the video altogether, mostly because I rarely watch their matches back online unless they are exceptionally good (which means Nikki gets more views obviously) and also because I couldn't think of a song that fit them. But thankfully the trust Tekken games didn't let me down again. This one comes from Tekken Tag Tournament and is the music that plays over Xiaoyu's stage. I'll admit I just found the song catchy and I noticed that the rhythm seemed to fit with the way the twins moved during their entrance. I didn't really put much heart into this particular dub but I think it still turned out alright. Face or heel, I think it works either way.

Eve Torres:
Eve was a tricky one to fit a theme to as well. For a while I had "Sexy Bitch" by Akon down as her theme but this was before I started respecting her as a wrestler. I mean, unless it's part of the character (like it is with Melina and Maryse) then the entrance song should be about more than just how hot she is. I did think Eve fit a club song well so I kept looking and my friend played me this mix by John O'Callaghan with Sarah Howells on vocals, called "Find Yourself". I think the lyrics could reference how Eve is trying to find herself as a diva, having made the good transition between eye candy to serious competitor. I chose to open it with the line "take your best shot/aim it at the sun" because it does reference how tough and daring Eve has been known to be. Plus I like the song and I also like Eve so that's another reason.

I think Kaitlyn is the only diva currently in WWE who has actively outright said she dislikes her entrance theme. Alright she tweeted it by mistake, intending it to be a private message but still. I don't mind her theme but I don't think it really fits her that well. Any UK fans will immediately recognise Jet's "She's A Genius" which plays over the lotto ads and I like the lyrics which go well with Kaitlyn's character. She's a bit of a tomboy but can be girly and playful as well. Plus I think this is the first time a diva has gotten a song that has pushed forward her intelligence over her beauty or physical prowess. I do think "You Make The Rain Fall" was also a fitting theme for her but giving her that would be cheating now wouldn't it?

Kelly Kelly:
I really don't know how to start off an entry about Kelly Kelly without adding "so nice they named her twice" so we have that out of the way. Now the song here is "Raise Your Glass" by Pink which is a big step up from her obvious knockoff of "Lose My Breath" that she uses now. I remember when she won the Divas' title I actually tweeted "everyone raise your glass to Kelly Kelly, the new Divas' Champion" and that's how it stuck for me. Really Kelly is the ultimate underdog as the song says. Someone who gets the most criticism from smarks and critics alike but continues to go out there and perform anyway. It's a nice uplifting song and Kelly does make a great underdog. Maybe the smarks would cheer for her as well if she came out to this song?

Now I'm sure everyone has thought at least once of giving Maryse Willow Smith's ear worm "Whip My Hair" and I'll admit I did too but I didn't want to submit internet fans and hypothetical wrestling crowd to that parasite that enters your mind and just won't leave. Instead I went with a pleasant bit of irony - it's actually S Club 7 singing this song. Of course listening to the lyrics might confuse you as well since the song, titled "Hey Kitty Kitty" has the lines "Hey kitty kitty, shame on you/how do you get away with the things you do/so good at being bad, you blow my mind/hey kitty kitty, you're so fine". That's right, S Club sang a song that was basically sex for the PG generation. What better way to slip something like that past the radar than to give it to a diva who's pretty much all about sex and if this were the Attitude Era, there'd be a lot less left to the imagination.

The newest addition to the roster got this song almost straight away. I was dubbing the NXT girls as well for a while and I randomly decided to give Maxine this song which, now that she's got a storyline, seems to be almost a perfect fit. The song is "Some Girls" by Rachel Stevens and talks about a woman who does what she has to do in order to become a star. In this case it's oral sex but that isn't really outright stated in the song. Maxine did have to go through a lot on NXT, losing all her matches, having that one trainwreck with Kaitlyn, getting oneupped by Hornswoggle and getting eliminated second. She has however risen above that and become a lot more polished in the ring, as you can see on NXT these days. And no, I don't think Maxine or any of the divas slept their way to the top. If they were, they'd be getting a lot more than what they're given already.

Michelle McCool:
Now this was another toughie. I couldn't really take Michelle seriously as the big badass aggressive heel when she came out with "Not Enough For Me" playing though it did fit her LayCool gimmick a lot better. This song I chose was specifically for Michelle's initial heel persona when she first turned. Here she was serious and aggressive with no hint of comedy or silliness, not to mention full of herself. The song title is "Do You Love Yourself" and is by The Glitteratti. I think the title sums it all up and Michelle's cocky full of herself character would definitely proudly strut out to someone blaring out "do you love yourself". I'm sure even her haters will admit that the song is rather fitting for that particular character. Don't worry, LayCool fans, I have come up with a dub especially for that gimmick as well.

Now this wasn't as hard to pick as you might expect. Natalya is a diva who doesn't really need an actual song with lyrics to describe herself. All she needs is something memorable and ungeneric which I think I've got down. Surprise surprise, it's another Tekken track, this time from Tekken 5 and titled "Acid Rain". I couldn't get over how well it went with Natalya's entrance, especially with how she energetically ran out and jogged to the ring. Naturally this is still when she was a face but really as a heel she comes out to Beth's music all the time anyway. There's not much else I can say about the track except it would make a great choice for some new wrestler's entrance music but for now you can consider it Nattie's backup A.

Rosa Mendes:
I was seriously considering leaving Rosa off the list since WWE doesn't do anything with her at all and any entrance theme she has would rarely be used. Anyway I eventually decided to leave her in and the song came to me almost straight away. In case anyone can't recognise it, it's "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira. Obviously playing off Rosa's Latina ethnicity I went with a song that had a catchy salsa beat to it and is much more memorable than the silly ditty she has now. Since Rosa's strength lies in her good looks and charisma, a song about her looks is quite fitting. In fact I'd love to see Rosa dancing fully to "Hips Don't Lie" and I'd take that over watching her wrestle.

Here's another one I considered leaving off the list. Mostly because, like Rosa, I find her bland and rather clumsy in the ring so there isn't a lot of replay value in most of her matches. As you can probably tell, I took the least amount of effort required for this particular dub and so I gave her another wrestler's old theme music. Yes I suppose it is technically cheating but maybe people won't recognise it at first. The wrestler in question is former diva Jazz who used this theme for most of her 2002 run and for a couple of appearances in 2003 before switching to the jazz instrumental piece we are all familiar with. Tamina does remind me of Jazz, though she lacks the in-ring talent and so this theme is fitting for a tough powerhouse like her.

Gail Kim:
Now this might be cheating as well but really after searching through countless songs and tracks, going through anything on the Tekken soundtrack that might be usable, I couldn't pick anything else. The fact is that Gail is the only diva to actually have the perfect entrance music. In fact I actually took notice of her when she was first in WWE purely for her entrance music. The track itself is called "International Woman" and the vocals are by Dara Shindler. It originally fit in with her Matrix-inspired gimmick and it always fit her much better as a face than a heel and it was miles more pleasing on the ears than the generic fluff she got when she returned. Though sadly her TNA theme was even worse.

Now it seems that since Layla technically lost her own music and got Michelle's by default (and it looks like she's going to keep using it). I figured that for the dub, why not do things the other way round? This time it's Layla's default theme that will serve as the LayCool music as well as her original singles theme. The song in question is "Scandalous" by Mis-Teeq and I thought it would fit Layla since she herself is British and the song comes from the British R&B scene from the early 2000s. The lyrics do actually fit Layla pretty well and it does seem like a little feminist song that could go with a strong duo like LayCool. I wasn't going to get completely into their Mean Girls characters and use some preppy pop song so this one was good enough for me.

So there you have all the most recent divas with brand new entrance themes. Try it out for yourself next time you're on Youtube and let me know if you find anything you think would be more fitting. That won't be all for my dubbing exploits as I do plan to get the Superstars covered as well, though I don't think I'll get through all of them. I might even delve into the past eras of WWE and give some older Superstars a try. Who knows, I might even throw the TNA people a bone as well.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Week in Review for Women's Wrestling #18

Quite a busy week we had in store for us here. The biggest TNA PPV of the year took place with a big title match. We also had our Tag Champions defending their titles as well as a return that was the buzz of the wrestling world. Over in WWE we are once again zipping towards another PPV though we will be seeing a fresh match up instead.

Bound For Glory - Winter* vs Mickie James vs Madison Rayne vs Velvet Sky (Four Corners Match; Knockouts Championship):
If I may pull out one of my stock catchphrases, one of the biggest trainwrecks since the Titanic. It was overbooked and sloppier than when my cousin's dog finds the secret stash of Indian food. Making Karen the referee ruined the match. This is the same problem that WWE had when they put Vickie in the tag match at WrestleMania 26. Karen could be a good thing to add to the division but not when she's booked to draw the attention to herself instead of the girls wrestling. If they were dead set on involving her in the match then having her come down to ringside and try to interfere would have been more than fine. I couldn't get into the match at all with Karen not even bothering to count pins. That kind of comedy is fine for a regular TV match but not a big title match at the big PPV of the year. Now if you removed Karen completely from the match, the actual in-ring work wasn't bad. I feel that it wasn't as cohesive as last year's four corners match but the work was all fine. I did like that spot where Winter accidentally took out Karen with the red mist but I feel she's the forgotten party in this. She got her first title taken off her for no good reason and then abruptly put back on her and creative team didn't bother to build her up as a strong champion. Making this a Fatal 4 Way took all the attention off her and all the attention in this match was entirely on the two favourites to win - Madison and Velvet. I felt a swerve coming on but they went with Velvet anyway. I am happy for her to finally win the title and she does deserve it but I wish it could have happened in a singles match with a long running storyline to make it feel more special. 5/10

Raw - Eve vs Natalya:
I did see this coming eventually but I was surprised that Kelly just got dropped like that. She did deserve better since she gave three stellar PPV matches with Beth and the big feud gets dropped with a two minute non-title match on Smackdown that the writers appear to have retconned into her rematch clause. I do have a theory though - the idea of either of Eve or Kelly turning heel has been tossed around and I think Kelly is building towards one. If it should be either of them to turn then Kelly should give it a go. I was curious about seeing one at the start of the year but now it seems like they might be laying the groundwork for one. Kelly can say she fought Beth as hard as she could and then she gets dropped only for her friend to "take the opportunity away". Kelly can be aggressive and she could make a good bitchy heel in my opinion. Now for the match, I enjoyed it. Not as fun as their match earlier in the year but still good and very fresh. I especially liked that move Eve did to knock her down when she went for the moonsault. I like the idea that they might be thinking of a possible Eve/Nattie feud in the future so they won't give too much away. WWE does do short build ups pretty well so the title match on Sunday could go down pretty well. 6/10

NXT - Maxine vs Kaitlyn:
I remember last week I suggested bringing Kaitlyn and other divas over to NXT to give them a chance to work, and good on WWE for following through. NXT has really been a nice little haven for the forgotten wrestlers in WWE this year like Tyson Kid and Yoshi Tatsu and it has extended to the divas this time. Kaitlyn got to speak and have a segment with AJ who wasn't left out either. It's also fitting that almost exactly a year after their trainwreck of a match on NXT season 3 that we see them come together and put on a pretty good match. The opening exchanges were really fun and I really do enjoy watching Kaitlyn in the ring because you can see her improvement. For someone who got thrown on TV with no experience she has gotten ahold of wrestling well enough, though of course there is room for more improvement. Maxine was as solid as she ever was though there was a bit of a sag in the middle. The pace seemed to slow down for a while when she was dominating. The ending was much better and it was certainly a different way to end the match. I'd like to see Maxine recruit a diva of her own to help out. Maryse should be returning any time soon. Wow, I can't believe I'm actually anticipating a Maryse return to the ring. 6/10

Impact - Tara & Brooke Tessmacher* vs Winter & Angelina Love (Knockouts Tag Team Championships):
I was annoyed at the tag champs being left off the Bound For Glory card but this works fine having them defend the belts on Impact. As iffy as TNA can get with the titles, I do like that Tara and Brooke have defended them fairly regularly, even if they haven't been on TV as much as I would have liked. I suppose we could have Angelina and Winter get placed into a feud with them once Winter has her rematch with Velvet over and done with. The match here was fairly good and gave Winter the attention she was missing the last few weeks and at the PPV match. It is a shame that she's barely a year in the company and she's already a 2-time singles champ and 1-time tag champ but her full potential has hardly been tapped into. Now then this match was a decent length and the breakdown at the end was fun to watch. Brooke continues to impress in the ring. 7/10

Velvet Sky, Karen Jarrett and Traci Brooks segment:
The video package they made for Velvet was pretty good and it made her title win seem more special than it actually felt on Sunday. This segment was pretty cool and I guess I wasn't completely off the ball when I suggested Madison would take the title at the PPV because it seems she is to be Velvet's next challenger. It does seem that TNA has muddled up their storylines a bit because we have a sort of tag team feud involving the singles champ when the tag champs don't have anyone to feud with. I'm sure they'll fix this little hole eventually. Anyway it's interesting to see Gail Kim back in TNA. She wasn't looking that good - too much makeup and unflattering hair but it will be curious to see what she's like in the ring as a heel since she hasn't been one for years. She did alright enough as a heel in WWE so it does give something to look forward to. The possibility of a Gail Kim/Velvet Sky match with the roles reversed is very exciting for me now. Segment rating: 8/10

Smackdown - Eve, Natalya & Beth segment:
I'm happy they got to cut a promo but it did seem like Beth was rushing through all her lines. Maybe the segment was meant to go longer but had to be cut down a little? It was cool for them to show replays of their submissions on Kelly and Alicia and Nattie has really improved on the mic. As good as she was as a face she is so brilliantly evil as a heel. I still feel that Beth is more of a tweener while Nattie is a full blown heel in their little stable. Eve was solid on the mic as she always is though I guess I was hoping for some more excitement for the title match. It's been built up of course and hopefully Eve won't take the title on Sunday because this is another long feud I'd like to see. Going back to what I was saying in the Raw entry, Kelly was conspicuous by her absence wasn't she? True this might be clutching at straws but could we be seeing the start of some tension developing between the two of them? I'd like to see two feuds - Eve and Kelly on Raw while Beth feuds with either Alicia or Layla on Smackdown. Segment rating: 6/10

Friday 14 October 2011

Week in Review for Women's Wrestling #17

Raw - Kelly Kelly & Eve Torres vs Tamina & Rosa Mendes:
Well this was random but I suppose it's fresher than seeing another tag match against the twins. Rosa got way too much ringtime and the match was barely three minutes. I mean even an idiot in the ring for the first time knows you stay in the corner when someone is doing a handspring elbow. It's almost as bad as Maryse rolling out of Eve's moonsault then rolling back in at the last minute. She looked shaky when Kelly was going for the tarantula as well. The parts with Tamina and Eve in the ring were a little better and that's a match I'd like to see. Right now I count Eve among those who can work with the more inexperienced girls and get something out of them. I think putting Tamina against someone like Eve could make for a good match. Her moonsault was perfect this week. I'm glad that Kelly kept this new aggressive streak she picked up last week, even if the writers aren't following it up with anything, we could say the DoD were keeping their distance after Kelly surprised them last week, they're picking their battles so to speak.  It's also good that Eve got the spotlight this week as it does seem like the Kelly/Beth saga is coming to an end so of course she is the obvious candidate to feud with Beth. Whether or not she should actually get the title is another matter entirely. 4/10

NXT - Maxine vs AJ:
These two delivered a fourth consistent singles match and have done their best to make sure none of these matches look repetitive. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the last one but that's mostly because it was shorter due to starting during the commercial break. I did love the first (televised) spot of the match with Maxine doing the neckbreaker across the ropes and the dragon sleepers she used looked pretty good with how far back AJ can bend herself. Her comeback was well storied also, with all the moves looking solid. I liked the end sequence where she rolls out of the school girl and hits the Shining Wizard. Too bad she couldn't have used Sliced Bread #2 but still much better than a roll up or robbing Gail's Flying Dragon. As much as I've enjoyed this feud I would like to see more divas brought over to NXT to get a chance to work longer matches like Kaitlyn and Alicia Fox. Hell I wouldn't mind Maryse getting put in the ring again for a bit when she returns. 7/10

Impact - Knockouts Segment:
It's incredibly annoying that a segment building up a Fatal 4 Way title match only has one of the competitors allowed to cut a promo, especially when said girl isn't the champion. As much as I love Karen on the mic and as entertaining as she made this segment, there wasn't any need to have her there. She took attention away from the title match and just made it all about her and her beef with Velvet. Winter should be the one cutting the promos on her challengers. TNA really should have done more to make her look like a strong champion and with their track record it seems unlikely they'll be able to restrain themselves and not have the title change hands at the PPV. I want to see Winter come out on top and then work a singles feud with Velvet that goes on for a long time so Velvet's title win will mean something. Right now I have a feeling it will be Madison taking the title. It seems that if they do swerve us (and you know they will) then she's the girl who'll get the belt pinning Velvet and thus building a feud off that. I see Karen somehow interfering to let Madison get the win what with how they've putting the two of them together lately. Next on my list is Velvet considering she is the rising star in the company and it is the biggest PPV of the year for them. Why not have a feel good title change? Next up is Winter retaining which is what I hope will happen and there is a chance it could considering she does have Angelina in her corner. I doubt Mickie will win unless the creative team really do get up *that* early in the morning. Segment rating: 6/10

Christina Von Eerie debuts:
I always loved Ink Inc and I think putting a Knockout with them is a great idea. It really does bring you back to the good old days in WWE where you had a good amount of two men one woman stables and a load of my personal favourite - the 6 person intergender tag match. Christina has a very unique look and that's a great way to stand out. Plus she's being put into a feud involving Sarita and only good things can happen from that. I was happy with how the segment turned out and things are looking good for Bound For Glory. Too bad they couldn't put the Knockouts Tag Champs on the card as well. Segment rating: 7/10

Smackdown - Kelly Kelly vs Beth Phoenix:
I read in the spoilers that it was a super short match and I saw the entire segment got less than four minutes so I wasn't expecting anything really. My pet peeve with entrances comes up again since they ate up nearly a whole minute of the segment. How about having Kelly attack Beth from behind on the ramp? It's not that out of character these days. Anyway besides that this was still a very entertaining match and worth a rewatch. It's a real testament to these two that even when given only three minutes to work they can still wow a crowd. Kelly was on fire and that DDT was excellent, as was Beth's counter of the headscissors into the sidewalk slam. It's clear that Michael Cole doesn't have a clue anymore because he was harping on about Kelly not being able to win the title on a DQ. Did you not hear the announcer say "non-title" or how about the ref not holding up the belt before the match started? Anyway I'm not sure where this leaves Kelly's rematch, if she's getting one at all. While I enjoyed their three (well four really) encounters I'm ready for a fresh new feud. Give Eve a crack at the belt. 6/10

Sunday 9 October 2011

Week in Review for Women's Wrestling #16

Hell In A Cell - Kelly Kelly* vs Beth Phoenix (Divas' Championship):
I've been really happy with all this time the divas have been getting on the PPVs. They've taken this opportunity and run with it to show what they can do when they're given time. That being said I enjoyed the Night of Champions match a lot better, mostly due to the crowd involvement but this was on par with SummerSlam and still a good match in its own right. Beth and Kelly have done well to mix things up and bring something new to the table every time they wrestle each other and I enjoyed all of Kelly's pin attempts, especially that one right before the bulldog attempt. I think Kelly was channeling Melina a bit with that facecrusher off the top rope but I don't know if Melina's used that in years. The match did have a bit of a sag in the middle but I definitely picked up towards the end. Eve and Natalya were once again well used at ringside though I thought the taunting Natalya did on the mic was unnecessary but she made up for it by hitting Kelly with the mic. So we have a new Divas' Champion and Kelly had a great first reign so let's see if the writers can keep this ball rolling and give Beth a good reign as well. 7/10

Raw - Kelly Kelly & Eve vs Divas of Doom:
Now I loved this. I was getting a bit nit picky with Kelly supposedly looking too smiley after losing her title but she easily contradicted it. There is something brilliant about seeing her go apeshit all over poor Beth who didn't even know what hit her. Obviously they didn't have enough time for a proper match (surprise surprise since it's the Triple H show again) but they used the little time they had well. I want to see more of psycho Kelly. Segment rating: 6/10

Superstars - AJ vs Tamina:
I didn't like this too much. It seemed a lot shorter than the matches we normally get. Tamina dominated way too much. I know the point was booking AJ as the underdog but she did one move in the whole match and that's not good. They could have thrown in a couple of hope spots just to break the monotonous string of Tamina offence. She did her moves well but too much offence came from her and it just made the match boring. There didn't seem to be any fluidity to her moves either and she seemed to be thinking about what to do next half the time. I did love that spot with the ropes early on and she's already got some good ring presence but she just needs to work on timing and getting some consistency in the ring. The end was quite good though I reserve the last comment I made about Tamina and her splash. A bigger move on AJ before going for the splash would make it much better. I should rate things 10/10 for the pure fact that AJ didn't use the frickin school girl to win the match but I'm happy they're allowing her to use the Sliced Bread #2 as a finisher now. 4/10

Impact - Winter & Madison Rayne vs Mickie James & Velvet Sky:
Good to see Winter and Velvet back on TV again and this was a solid enough match. It got a good amount of time and all four ladies got a nice opportunity to work. The two heels had some good chemistry going on with their quick tags and Winter looked very good in there. Velvet was on form as well and made a good hot tag and I especially loved that double underhook facebuster she used. It's a more fitting finisher than a simple DDT anyway. The end spot with Angelina was interesting and I don't think I've ever seen it done before. It's good that they're thinking outside the box with those kind of spots. I was surprised to see Madison get the pin but that's a good thing since she had been losing a few times recently and I was worried she'd be slipping into Jillian territory. A solid week of build up for Bound For Glory and I'm looking forward to seeing what we'll get next week. 7/10

Smackdown - Beth Phoenix vs Alicia Fox:
Sadly the Smackdown writers didn't use the same idea that the Raw ones used on Monday when faced with so little time for a divas' match. I would have foregone a match altogether and just had some kind of segment that ended with Alicia getting put in the submission. I'll say her sunset flip looked good and that's the only praise I can give the match since she took the Glam Slam really weirdly. She has a habit of overselling the first bit. The after match stuff was much better and it really sold the DoD as despicable heels and it's a new way of building heat for them. I'd be worrying about Alicia getting buried but she has a better chance as a face than she did as a heel anyway. Segment rating: 5/10

Saturday 8 October 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 100 - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

#1 - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King:

Well here we are at the very end of the challenge. I’m sure some of you saw this coming and I’m sure some were expecting something else, and I’m sure they fall into the category of those who weren’t paying attention when I said I’ve never seen Star Wars. Now what else could the number 1 spot be taken by really? I’ll admit that I wasn’t that into the Lord of the Rings hype in the winter of 2001 though I thought it looked like a fun movie and I liked it when I saw it in the cinema. I honestly actually thought there was only going to be one film and that the end of Fellowship just implied Frodo would destroy the ring eventually. The obsession train for me kicked in about a few months after the film came out. A combination of video games and my brother reading all about everything and of course making me listen to him turned me into a fan. I saw the second and third films twice in the cinema, I started subscribing to the magazines and I even collected a few figurines. For months after the last film came out I was obsessed with all things Lord of the Rings. Now I thought about adding the whole trilogy to the list but ultimately I decided to let the best film represent them all.

The plot kicks into gear right after the end of Two Towers with the two separate groups on their merry ways. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf and the rest of the Rohan army all arrive in Isengaard to meet up with Merry and Pippin while Frodo, Sam and Gollum get closer to Mordor. Pippin discovers one of Saruman’s seeing stones and is silly enough to take a look which causes him to have something of a personal one-to-one with Sauron. Luckily  he catches a glimpse of the Dark Lord’s plan – he and Gandalf ride towards Gondor into the city of Minas Tirith to warn them against the approaching attack. The Rohan army prepares to ride in to help Gondor but Aragorn knows they are outnumbered against all the Orcs so he takes Legolas and Gimli into a haunted mountain in hopes of recruiting an army of ghosts cursed for not fulfilling an oath to his grandfather in their lifetimes. Meanwhile Sam continues to mistrust Gollum, for good reason, as the conniving little creature is leading him and Sam into a trap. A trap known as a deadly giant spider by the name of Shelob. Frodo, being the paragon of purity and goodness, is determined to trust Gollum. Also, in a small plotline, Arwen refuses to go to the ships leaving Middle Earth after she captures a glimpse of her possible future with Aragorn. As a result she is revealed to be dying, her fate tied to the fate of the ring.

I really don’t know what there is to say about Lord of the Rings that hasn’t already been said. The project was a huge gamble and the result ended up shaping the future of cinema forever. The entire trilogy was shot non-stop over a two year period in New Zealand, as well as additional reshoots that had to be done months after the first film opened up.
There were thousands of extras used, millions of costumes created and let’s not even mention the work that went into creating all the unique locations. I mean all of Bag-End had to be built from scratch over a year. Of course the sets I found most impressive were those of Rohan and Rivendell. Rohan, specifically the city of Edoras, draws heavily from Viking and Norse culture to give a very warrior nation feel to it. There isn’t a large amount of finery even in the throne room and so you do get the impression that this particular kingdom isn’t the type to indulge in all the pleasures of being royalty. Rivendell on the other hand has a Celtic mythology vibe to it in all its architecture. In contrast to Rohan, it’s a peaceful place and is one of the most beautiful locations created for the film. I might be the only one here but I got a distinct autumn vibe from it. The city of Minas Tirith is also quite a sight to behold as well as the city of the dead that only gets about five minutes of screen time. And when you get into all the natural locations used you really do appreciate that this trilogy was probably the best promotion the New Zealand tourist board ever had. I do want to applaud Richard Taylor and WETA Workshop for all the work they did on the films, creating all the armour, weapons and miniatures but I’m sure the folks at the Academy Awards did that just fine for everyone else, considering the film series as a whole has a record for winning 17 out of 30 nominations.

Ah the cast. Much like Aliens this will take some time and you will be shocked to discover that the only acting nomination in the whole series went to Ian McKellen. Of course this would probably be less about an award snub and more about not knowing who to give the nomination to. And really the film got enough nominations so it’s best to not worry too much about it. Anyway yes Ian McKellen plays Gandalf the wizard and becomes him. I never read the books that much (I tried after I saw the films) but I don’t think anyone else could have played Gandalf that way. And it’s always great whenever Sir Ian plays a good guy. Elijah Wood deserves a round of applause for convincing the casting directors to go against their plan to cast only British actors as the Hobbits after his audition tape. Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys Davies and Orlando Bloom make a great three man band and gel so well together that some of my favourite parts of the series involve those three characters interacting. I remember when I first saw the films me and my brother thought Bloom was the coolest because he played Legolas. Times changed of course. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan make a great comic double act as Pippin and Merry but they do serious stuff really well when the scenes call for it. And when they get separated, you know things are going to get really serious. Although he technically doesn’t appear in this film, this series introduced me to Sean Bean and I’ve been a fan ever since. Andy Serkis of course helped revolutionise cinema with his portrayal of Gollum which indeed laid the foundations for the Na’vi in Avatar.

For the second set of cast members we have Liv Tyler getting a huge upgrade from the source material where Arwen was just a background character and most of her back story was included in the appendices of the books, to give a nice enjoyable performance as well as the romance being more developed. Our other kick ass heroine is Miranda Otto playing the Rated F For Feminist Eowyn but I think when a twelve-year-old boy is cheering at her awesome moment you’re definitely doing something right. Again Christopher Lee doesn’t actually appear in this film but you can’t not mention him especially when he’s the only cast member who’s actually met JRR Tolkien. Hugo Weaving is equally awesome as Elrond even if he doesn’t get to kick ass in more than one film. His scenes with Arwen are particularly touching. Cate Blanchett is used sparingly but it’s still more than she got in the book. But was I the only one who found her a tad creepy when she showed up to help Frodo with Shelob? Two words: Uncanny Valley. Bernard Hill and Karl Urban don’t really have that much to do as Theoden and Eomer but of course the film wouldn’t be complete without them and Hill makes his performance memorable with his epic pre-battle speech. I guess I’ve gone far enough without mentioning Sean Astin. I seem to flip-flop on his performance whenever I watch the films but since it is number 1 this time I will give him praise even if I still don’t know what the hell his accent is supposed to be.

Of course the best scene has to be the battle of Pelennor Fields which will go down as one of the most epic cinematic fantasy battles in history. Topping Helm’s Deep was a hard feat to accomplish but they knocked it right out of the water with this battle and I remember being twelve years old and my jaw slowly dropping when I watched this in the cinema. I think it even happened when I saw it the second time as well. We have the brilliant and hilarious competition going on between Legolas and Gimli, the Army of the Dead showing up just in the nick of time and of course Eowyn’s Crowning Moment of Awesome where she stands against the Witch King and it doesn’t end well for him.
My brother seemed a little pissed that there was a loophole in how he could be killed but I always figured it as nobody ever bothering to try stabbing him in the face. The other big scene that pops out is Shelob’s lair where Frodo has to run through webs and dead creatures trying to escape that monstrous spider. I’m deathly afraid of the eight-legged horrors but I’m still able to watch that scene in its entirety. And it definitely got me liking Sam again even if the best insult he can throw at her is “you filth” though I suppose “you bitch” was already taken. Now for the dramatic scenes, of which there are just too many to describe in detail such as the touching scene in Rivendell between Arwen and Elrond, Gandalf telling Pippin that death is not the end, Theoden telling Eowyn he would see her smile, Sam and Frodo on the rocks of Mt Doom and of course the entire ending. I don’t care if it dragged out because you couldn’t have ended it any other way. And I loved the end credits sequence as well with the illustrations of the actors.

So there you have it. 100 days clocked with 100 films. Hopefully I got in an entire range of genres and didn’t keep it limited to just British or American films. I nodded to some European films and took a couple of visits to our friends in Asia. I even made sure the folks that make animated films weren’t left out. I’m sure a lot of you didn’t agree with my choices, especially this for number one since Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Star Wars didn’t make my list but I’ll see them if or when I feel I want to. You saw some of my favourite plots, directors, actors and types of scenes as well as getting a few semi-interesting stories of my experiences watching all the films. I don’t really know what I’m going to do without these entries to write every day but I guess I’ll think of something. I am open to taking suggestions as to what film I’m going to watch tonight though. And if you haven’t followed me yet on Twitter I’ll just assume for now that you’re not going to so I’ll bid sayonara to you guys until I can think of another reason to type random junk for the world to read.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

100 Days, 100 Films; Day 99 - Aliens

#2 - Aliens:

Ah, Jim Cameron, so close and yet not close enough. Well the number 2 spot ain’t nothing to sneer at especially when he’s already got in at numbers 100 and 16. I said that three of the Alien films would make it on my list and I call them like I see them. I do respect Ridley Scott for everything he did with Alien and I enjoyed what Jean Pierre Jeunet did and I’ll even nod my head to David Fincher but it is this film out of all four that has the most replay value and it is this that influenced me when I was introduced to the series. I saw this at the tender age of thirteen and it was my favourite movie ever. For years I tried to get my brother to watch it and he always refused for his own personal reasons. Then when he turned into the film lover he is now, he finally agreed to watch it with me and he did agree that it was one of the greats. Well, what are we waiting for?

We pick up from the end of Alien with Ripley in hypersleep in her shuttle drifting around in space until she is found by a salvage crew. She then finds out that she has been drifting around in space for fifty-seven years. What’s worse is that the planet her ship originally received the transmission from has now been colonised and is full of families. The suits don’t believe Ripley’s story about the alien until they abruptly lose contact with the colonists. As the only one who knows what they’re up against, Ripley goes back to the planet with a team of marines to investigate. Things don’t look good for them when they arrive as the entire settlement is completely deserted, save for one survivor – a little girl that calls herself Newt who assures them that all the colonists have been killed. And low and behold the colonists have all been harvested and now there are dozens of aliens running around out there, and they don’t take too kindly to the marines arriving on the scene. What’s worse is that the marines can’t expect a rescue until after seventeen days.

I guess as is the case with many films I’ve reviewed, over time they have all been copied and parodied to death so that the original version does look a bit tainted. I mean if we’re being honest this film does seem a bit like a typical clichéd space action flick. But of course this actually helped to popularise many of those things and them being copied or referenced in other films resulted in them becoming clichés. Another thing it is notable for is being one of the few (alright there are a lot more but you know...) sequels that matched the original to some and surpassed it to others. If you’re comparing them on a genre basis then Alien trumps it completely because of how suspenseful and breathtaking it was as a horror film while this shifts the genre to action. However as films on their own, I feel easily that Aliens was much stronger.
From the first film we never really got a sense of Ripley’s character. She was just the third in command on the ship and appeared to be a by-the-book type of woman who was able to survive the alien attack. Here we go a bit further with her character development and find out who she is as a person. There are a couple of little scenes that were cut from the theatrical release but re-inserted in a special edition (that Sigourney Weaver herself stated was much better) where we hear that Ripley’s daughter died as an old woman two years before Ripley was found. It definitely adds a lot to her story with Newt. Speaking of the little might, the special edition includes a good scene that shows her family discovering the original ship near the beginning of the film. I guess I should also go back to my clichés talk and also go back to what I said about Halloween and note that the aliens don’t actually show up until about an hour in. The entire first half builds suspense and the second half just takes you on an adventure.

Sigourney Weaver getting nominated for the Best Actress Oscar was actually one of the most shocking nominations at the time. This wasn’t because her performance was bad but rather the sci-fi, horror and action genres had hardly ever gotten recognition by the Academy so for an actress to be nominated for a sci-fi film was a huge landmark, much like it was when Sissy Spacek got the nomination for Carrie. Indeed Sigourney Weaver delivers the strongest performance of her career as we see Ripley become the action girl she’s known as, going from having nightmares at the start of the film to taking charge and saving the marines’ asses on more than one occasion. In the role of Newt we have Carrie Henn and to this day she has not starred in another film. It is a shame really because for a child actor she delivers a pretty good performance as a young girl haunted by her experiences. Her voice is a little odd as she was an American living in London for a couple of years so she has that odd Transatlantic twist to her accent that I know all about. Carrie avoids being overly cute and frosty as well for most of the film, acting as a girl who seems devoid of all emotion, so that when she does smile or be cute then it means something. Back when I wrote on The Terminator I did have to be critical of Michael Biehn but thankfully now I can continue bowing endlessly and doing my moonlit vigils. My brother once asked if he’s ever done a role where he doesn’t pick up a gun at some point and I don’t know if he has but he’s certainly a pro at it anyway. Hicks was my idol when I was thirteen and he was *the* action hero all my characters would aspire to be like and of course I was royally pissed after the opening credits of Alien3 for obvious reasons. I also have a soft spot for Lance Henriksen
playing the benevolent android Bishop who is a nice contrast to the sinister Ash from Alien. No matter how funny it could be to some viewers, I did not laugh once when he got ripped in two.

Now for the supporting cast because this is one of those films where anyone with a speaking part is notable. Right off the bat I hold my hands up to Bill Paxton, playing the closest thing to a nice guy in any of his movies. Hudson ain’t exactly prince charming but I liked him almost as much as Hicks and I always get annoyed whenever I hear people call him annoying. You can’t beat his awesome “game over man!” or his badass boast as they go onto the planet. Paul Reiser plays Carter Burke, one of the few characters in the film that doesn’t pick up a gun at some point (in fact he might be the only one as I’m almost positive the doctors at the start had guns as well). Jeanette Goldstein is now iconic as Private Vasquez who is living proof that this woman is a human chameleon. She’s not even Mexican though of course by now everyone knows the story of how she though the film was about border crossers and showed up to the audition dressed as a Mexican prostitute. For all the people suspecting she’s a lesbian, where were you looking during all those ship tease moments between her and Drake? William Hope plays Gorman, the newly promoted lieutenant who is nearly totally incompetent for this mission. In a cool little coincidence, Hope, Reiser and Weaver weren’t around for the military training drill exercises that the other actors playing the marines went through which worked out pretty well since those three characters were meant to be outsiders. Oh and you gotta love Al Mathews at the tough trash talking cigar smoking Sergeant Apone.

Being completely honest here (and when am I ever not?) you could get a bit bored in the first half of the movie but once the aliens appear you will most certainly not be. The first scene where they do appear on screen is uniquely done since the majority of it is shown on the portable cameras the marines wear on their helmets, and they’ve conveniently gone all jerky and gotten lots of interference as they tend to do during scenes like this. It really adds to the suspense. The big scene from when the aliens start closing in on the room to the characters having to escape through the air vents is pretty exciting and that is of course why I included it as the clip for this film in my video. It’s too bad it wasn’t made in the time when a video game adaptation would be churned right out alongside the release. And you can’t mention action scenes in Aliens without talking about the final showdown between Ripley and the alien queen complete with the famous line “get away from her you bitch!”
Now the big drama scene that stands out is a lovely moment between Ripley and Newt in the med-lab where Newt admits she sometimes has nightmares about the aliens and Ripley also tells her about her own daughter. And the ending was simple but it just fit so well that I want to pretend Alien3 didn’t come along and spoil everything.

So there’s only one day left on this challenge and sorry to those who had their fingers crossed that this would make it to number 1. In fact when I was making up the list I always knew Aliens would be at number 2 as well as Inception being at number 3. I had a tough time picking my number 1 spot though but if you think about it then there really was no competition at all. This film right here made a big impact when I was thirteen and left a major impression on me throughout the following years, especially whenever I wrote action stories and the like. Now the much coveted number 1 spot had to go to something that was a bit further back when I saw it. If Aliens defined me through my preteen years then my number 1 film defined me through the years leading up to that. Well sayonara Bobby-verse and for the second-last time don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

Saturday 1 October 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 98 - Inception

#3 - Inception:

Aha, Mr Christopher Nolan, welcome to the much-coveted number three spot. I also think it’s safe to say that this is the most recent film on my list. I’m sure we’ve always had the experience of seeing some cool new flick in the cinema (usually the Summer) and walked out of it declaring it our new favourite movie of all time and then when the DVD comes out we rush out to buy it and watch the whole thing all over again. Then we go “meh it’s alright now” and move our attention onto the next cool new flick. However this is one of those films that I don’t think I could ever get tired of watching, though admittedly I haven’t seen it that many times. Be prepared because the next paragraph will probably screw with your mind a little.

Meet Dom Cobb and Arthur Darling, two Americans living abroad for different reasons. If the film mentions why Arthur is then I wasn’t paying attention but Cobb is living out of the country because he has been falsely accused of killing his wife (long story but don’t worry, there’s a suitable half hour devoted to that plotline). Cobb is making a living using a very special technique – he and Arthur are able to break into a person’s subconscious and extract information while they are dreaming. This next job they are being assigned to is for a rich Japanese tycoon Mr Saito who wants them to perform a complex procedure called “inception” which is the reverse of what they normally do – planting an idea within someone’s mind. Saito wants them to enter the mind of Robert Fischer, the son of a rival energy conglomerate, and convince him to break up his father’s empire when he dies. In exchange for this, Saito offers to use his power to clear Cobb of the charges against him and therefore allow him to re-enter America and be with his children again. Cobb brings together a special team of experts to pull this job off successfully – an identity forger Eames, a chemist who concocts the sedative needed to keep them all under and newcomer Ariadne whose job is to design the labyrinth of the dream landscapes. In the days leading up to the job Ariadne discovers that Cobb isn’t quite over his wife’s death and his subconscious projection of her has a tendency to enter his dreams and make trouble for him.

I had a Movie Appreciation class a few months back where my lecturer started to talk about that since video games have become so detailed and intricate that a lot of films are now borrowing a lot of ideas and formulas for them. I definitely touched on some of that with Run, Lola, Run and Final Fantasy obviously but my lecturer actually mentioned this film by name. Then of course she had to blow her whole argument by pretty much revealing she’d never seen the film by saying it was more about action than any character development. If there is a film out there that has a better balance between action and character development than this one, please point it out to me. Christopher Nolan showed with the likes of Following and The Prestige that he can do great character studies and intense dramatic plots while showing with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight that he can do action so they all come together dramatically for this. And yeah I do agree with the first thing my lecturer said in that there is a lot of inspiration that came from video games, specifically with the different levels of the dreams. In a sense the dreams themselves are like the characters’ own personal video game especially with the amount of work that has to go into designing them. 

It seems like almost a foregone conclusion that I’m going to mention the all-star cast this time around. I’m pretty iffy on Leonardo Di Caprio and I never knew much about him to suitably hate him like the majority of people seemed to do in the years following Titanic but he’s definitely been able to shake off that hatedom and gain respect as an actor. I enjoyed his character in this and I just remember watching Shutter Island a few weeks later and mistakenly thinking of his character in that as Cobb. It didn’t help that he had just lost his wife in that film as well. Oh and bonus points to anyone who remembered that Cobb was also the name of the protagonist in Nolan’s first film Following and it is indeed him that Cobb in this is named after. Joseph Gordon Levitt is a pretty underrated actor in my opinion but he has been getting a lot more work lately after his role in this which was pretty good as well. I think he definitely got the best action scenes because who can beat kicking ass while in zero-gravity? I nearly choked when I saw Tom Hardy since all I knew him from at that point was playing Heathcliff in a TV adaptation of Wuthering Heights I watched to sub in for studying for my English exams. You know when you put a badass Brit in a film who isn’t some form of slapstick comedy or evil genius then you have me sold. 
My future wife Ellen Page returns after nearly 100 days absence and she must be the only actress to not appear between films 98 and 3 at all. And being a Greek mythology buff I got the significance of the name Ariadne straight away (it was Princess Ariadne who gave Theseus the magic thread so he could escape from the labyrinth). Her rival Oscar nominee Marion Cotillard plays Mal, Cobb’s dead wife, and is genuinely freaky whenever she’s on screen. I’m wondering if Michelle Williams took notes when filming Shutter Island because they do seem like similar characters. Cillian Murphy makes another appearance in my list playing a nice guy for a change though it does seem that Christopher Nolan enjoys putting bags over his head whenever he has him in a film. There’s also a charming little cameo from Michael Caine.

Really I enjoyed every scene in the dream universe. There’s just always something about creating dream sequences where it’s fascinating to see how filmmakers imagine them and design them. Here they went in a completely new angle by making them as realistic as possible but with some sci-fi twists added to them. The first impressive one comes where Ariadne gets introduced to the physics of everything and it results in her folding half of the Paris boulevards on top of each other and creating an entire bridge out of nowhere. I especially love the part where she produces a glass door and opens it to reveal a walkway and then just shatters the glass. The scenes in limbo are pretty expertly designed as well but I won’t go into too much detail in case I spoil one of the directions the movie goes in. Let me just say that if you aren’t keeping up with the plot then you can just sit back and admire the architecture. Until it starts destroying itself anyway. 
I mentioned above that Arthur gets the best action scene in the movie and it comes from the second dream level where the entire hotel is thrown into zero-gravity because the van from the first level has just gone over a bridge. It’s a pretty cooly done scene to say the least. Then there’s the third dream level which involves a snowstorm and a whole lot of gun fighting. I think The Matrix just got completely owned in every possible way.

Now there’s a big discussion constantly going on about the ending so naturally spoiler alert and all that. To be honest, I never got anything mysterious or ambiguous about it. I don’t know maybe people don’t want to accept a neat little happy ending like that or maybe they want to see an extra twist added on but I never really thought that Cobb was still dreaming. The totem wobbling was enough for me and something Nolan has said about this scene is that people are missing the basic point – Cobb isn’t looking at the totem, he’s looking at his children’s faces finally and he is happy where he is. So really it doesn’t matter if he’s dreaming or not because he’s finally happy with where he is. Of course if you think he is still dreaming then that’s fine as well. Now I’ve had dreams about Facebook notifications but let’s see if I can have one where I get a massive surge of Twitter followers. Or just give me one of those in reality.