Monday, April 3, 2017

WWE Wrestlemania 33 commentary

Sports-entertainment's biggest day arrived. At this point, with NXT TakeOver and the Hall of Fame, it really is pro wrestling's biggest weekend of festivities. How did it measure up?

The WWE Hall of Fame was okay, but felt a little lackluster. I enjoyed some of the previous speeches more than the ones delivered this year. NXT TakeOver: Orlando was great, however! It was a great show from start to finish.

Now, onto Wrestlemania 33.

Considering it was supposed to be a 4 hour show, it ended up being closer to 5 hours -- and that's not including the pre-show and kick-off. I didn't end up seeing Neville vs. Austin Aries, the Andre the Giant battle royal or the Intercontinental Title match. I read, however, that Neville retained (good choice), that Mojo Rawley won the battle royal (awful choice! poor Braun sure is slipping down the ladder, isn't he?), and that Dean Ambrose retained (again, wrong choice).

As for the main part of the show, it kicked off with The New Day, dressed somewhat similar to the 3 Musketeers, coming down to the ring and cutting a promo.

I respect that these guys turned a silly idea into a great attraction and have stuck with the gimmick for so long, but it's time to do something new with them. Hopefully tomorrow night will be a new chapter for them. I

t's time to freshen them up in a big way, whether that means Xavier Woods competing in the cruiserweight division or Big E breaking out into the U.S. Title scene. Some kind of change is needed.

Surprisingly, outside of this, a brief appearance before the Raw Tag Team Title match and announcing the attendance record, The New Day didn't do anything as hosts.  I figured we'd get a brief Rock appearance and interaction with them.  Something.  Anything to make the hosting gig worthwhile.

But, no, there really wasn't much that happened with them.

Match 1: Shane McMahon vs. A.J. Styles.

This was a surprising opener and a surprisingly good opener.  The entire feud didn't make sense to me (though I admit that I haven't watched Smackdown in weeks).  I'm not sure why WWE feels the need to have Shane McMahon, at 47-years-old, compete in a match.  He was never an official wrestler.  Though, at this point, he has enough matches to fill a DVD set, he's not an active member of the roster.

So where exactly is the logic in having possibly the best wrestler in the world (and WWE's Smackdown Champion as recent as three months ago) compete against a non-wrestler at your Super Bowl of shows?

On the other hand, I was very happy to see that WWE had enough faith in A.J. Styles to give him a match with Shane McMahon.  After all, they wouldn't give him a match with the boss' son if they didn't have total confidence in his ability to pull off a good, safe match.

That's exactly what Styles did.  Although he couldn't completely work his usual style, he did well meshing with Shane.  A.J. got in most of his offense and Shane ended up busting out some big spots as well.

After he hit the elbow drop onto the announcer's table this past Smackdown, I figured we wouldn't see that again tonight.

We got the coast to coast tonight and, out of the blue, a shooting star press!  It wasn't flawless, but Shane's shooting star was surprisingly fluid.

Thankfully, the right man won this match, so it made the rushed and random feud, the unusual clash of styles (no pun intended) and Styles being in the opening match worthwhile.

Winner: A.J. Styles

Match 2: Chris Jericho (U.S. Champion) vs. Kevin Owens

I was surprised to see this match occur right after McMahon/Styles.  After all, there were just a handful of 'personal rivalry' singles matches on this card, so I figured they'd spread them out a little bit more.

A lot of people have commented on Kevin Owens' appearance since he became Universal Champion, but, personally, I don't see what's wrong with it.  Is he an Adonis?  No, certainly not.

However, he's not a completely obese man either.  He's got agility and he's tough.  Most of all, he's a great heel.  I'm a big fan of his work.

Jericho was out next, with just a scarf.  Oh wait!  There are the lights.  It's a light-up scarf -- to replace the light-up jacket!  Appropriate.

The match itself was pretty good.  Jericho busted out a top rope frankensteiner.  Owens got in his usual offense.  Jericho ended up reversing a pop-up power bomb into a Code Breaker.

Jericho went for the pin, but Owens reached over and got his pinky (yes, his pinky) onto the bottom rope to break up the pinfall.

Owens power bombed Jericho right into the side of the ring and brought him into the ring to end it.

Winner (and NEW United States Champion): Kevin Owens.  The right man won this match.  Not sure it was a classic, but it was good.

Match 3: Bayley (WWE Raw Women's Champion) vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match for the Raw Women's Title)

I'm not a big fan of champions entering the ring before their challengers, but that's a minor complaint.  Bayley, Sasha and Charlotte all took it to Nia Jax right away.

This was actually a very well booked match.  Nia is still very green, but she's getting better ... slowly.

Some good spots included: Nia running down all three of her challengers in a triple clothesline-esque move, a triple power bomb, and a combination suplex/big boot.  All of these moves ended up being too much for Nia.

Elimination 1: Nia Jax

There were a couple of spots to the outside (a plancha by Sasha over the top rope and an incredible corkscrew moonsault by Charlotte) and then Charlotte rammed Sasha's head into an exposed middle turnbuckle.

(and just like that) Elimination 2: Sasha Banks

Charlotte and Bayley battle it out a little bit (Charlotte gets in her Figure Eight leg lock), but Bayley and Charlotte end up on the top turnbuckle.  Bayley flips Charlotte into the ring with a somewhat scary looking back body drop.

Bayley nails a Macho Man elbow drop from the top and retains her title.

Elimination 3: Charlotte
Winner: Bayley

Not a bad match, overall, but it felt just a little rushed.

It's time to introduce the WWE Hall of Famers.  They come out to the ramp.  Then Kurt Angle's music hits and he's greeted with a huge round of "You Suck" chants intermittent in his theme music.  Just as it should be.  Welcome back, Kurt.

Match 4: Four Way Ladder Match for the Raw Tag Team Titles: Cesaro and Sheamus vs. Big Cass and Enzo vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (Raw Tag Team Champions)

As the participants were making their entrances, all I could think of was 'The Hardyz have got to return here.  It's a ladder match.'  But Smackdown would probably be a better place for them, creatively.

Then the New Day music hits and out come the popular trio.  This is now a four-way match!  But The New Day is in their ring gear.  Is WWE going to swerve us and have New Day compete or will they give us the Hardy Boyz?

Just like that, we have an answer.  The Hardy Boyz make their return!  Matt has his blonde streak in his hair, but his hairstyle is more WWE than Broken Matt.  Jeff looks like typical Jeff.

This was a great match.  It too, felt almost rushed, but it had great spots.

I'm not sure how they do it, but the Hardyz still manage to come up with incredible spots, 17 years after their first Wrestlemania TLC match.

Big boot for you, big boot for you, and big boot for you.  Big Cass hits everyone with big boots.

Cesaro and Sheamus have a nice combo spot where Cesaro swings Anderson and Sheamus pounds on Gallows' chest in the ropes.

Eventually Matt ends up nailing a big Twist of Fate on Anderson from the ladder.  Jeff Hardy climbs a massive ladder on the outside and does a Swanton onto Sheamus and Cesaro (on top of two ladders laying horizontal at ringside), which snaps one of the ladders in two!  Wow!!

Matt goes up top and grabs the Raw Tag Team Titles for the victory.

Winners (and new Raw Tag Team Champions): The Hardy Boyz

I'm hoping The Hardy Boyz get to take on Anderson and Gallows in their first return feud.  It'd help to cement Anderson and Gallows a little more in WWE -- working with such an established tag team.

Match 5: John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse

Ugh.  This one was rough to watch.  From Al Roker's confused look as he made the ring introductions to the lackluster in-ring action between Maryse and Nikki Bella, it didn't really deliver.

The best part of the match was Miz's gloating as the fans cheered him on in his battle against the overpushed (and soon-to-be taking a break) John Cena.

Miz and Maryse should've won since Nikki and John will be taking a hiatus, but I knew better than to expect that.  I counted on a Nikki/Cena victory.  If this is one of John's last Wrestlemania matches (and possibly Nikki's if rumors of a new neck injury are true), then WWE will be giving them the win.

Winners: Nikki Bella and John Cena

The real reason for the match became clear after the match was over.  Cena was given this match (and victory) to set up his proposal to Nikki.

Yep.  They're engaged.  I don't know if the TV I was watching on wasn't that loud or if my friends' conversation drowned out some of the cheers, but it sure didn't seem like the proposal got a huge reaction.

Nikki didn't seem that emotional either, considering this was what she's been waiting on for so many years.  As much as I don't like Nikki Bella or John Cena, I can respect that it was a nice moment for them.

But if WWE was trying to recreate a Macho Man/Miss Elizabeth moment, this was far, far from it.

Match 6: Unsanctioned match: Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (with Stephanie McMahon)

What was with Triple H and Stephanie's entrance?  Were they watching Wrestlemania 17 and enjoyed The Undertaker's entrance?

Did they really think Triple H's unconvincing effort to be a biker was the best route to go here?

His Robocop entrance was great.  His Conan The Barbarian entrance was good.  This, though?

The slow-moving motorcade lead by police (which, I guess, is supposed to represent the fact that Triple H and Stephanie are the authority??)

Awful.  Lackluster.  Disappointing.

Seth Rollins came out carrying the torch.  Nice symbolism there.  Granted, he looked a bit like a Power Ranger until he removed his shirt.  But the costume and entrance fit his moniker (I'm not sure when he got it) as the "King Slayer."

I go back and forth on Triple H's Wrestlemania matches.  I usually like them or find them to be very boring.

Sheamus vs. Triple H?  Boring.  Triple H vs. The Undertaker?  I didn't really like it much (any of them).  Triple H vs. Goldust?  I liked that match.

Tonight was a very good match.  Seth Rollins may have had a lot to do with that though.  Rollins reminded me a lot of Eddie Guerrero tonight, both in his color scheme and in some of his moves and mannerisms.

I wasn't sure how well Rollins would be able to compete with his recently repaired knee.  At first it looked as though he was favoring his knee, but that may have just been him selling it.

The psychology in this match was pretty much on point.  Rollins did a great job selling.  Sure, a couple of times, he went from nursing his injury to delivering high-impact moves that required the use of his knee, but you've got to believe that the adrenaline flow made up for that.

Triple H took a couple of big bumps off the top in this match.

The ending was just a little bit anti-climactic.  Stephanie's table bump was nothing compared to some of the table bumps the ECW ladies took back in the late '90s.

She gently dropped through that table.  Then, the distracted Triple H takes one pedigree and is pinned.

Winner: Seth Rollins

Just as it should be.  It seems Triple H's ego has finally been put aside in recent years.  His putting over newer talents almost makes me want to forgive him for his ridiculous dominance from 2002 - 2005.

I am a little disappointed that there was no Samoa Joe or Finn Balor involvement at any point of the match (even if it were just Joe coming to ringside, only for Stephanie to order I'm to the back).

But, oh well.  They can show up on Raw.

Match 7: WWE Heavyweight Title Match: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE Heavyweight Champion)

After Triple H's lame entrance, it was unfortunate that Randy Orton walked down the aisle with a computer-generated graphic of a snake leading the way.

It sounds like a cool idea, but, as one of my friends pointed out, that snake ended up looking more like a giant sperm than a snake.

This match seemed rushed from the start.  It was understandable.  I'm not sure if Rollins/Triple H or Jericho/Owens went over on time, but these two weren't allowed the same amount of time to tell their story as the previous three singles matches on the card.

It's unfortunate because it's a match for the WWE Heavyweight Title.  It should be given a decent amount of time, right?

Then again, given the strange three times that the match was interrupted by an overlay of graphics on the mat, maybe it should've been shorter.  What was that anyway?

I guess it's a cool idea -- that Bray is playing mind games with Randy Orton.  But he didn't capitalize on it at all.  He just stayed in the same spot.

Yes, I know it's scripted, but, meanwhile, wouldn't Bray have had to have paid someone quite a bit of money to make that happen in the middle of the match?

Oh well, though.  After all, the result was disappointing.

Instead of fully committing to Bray Wyatt and making him more of a maniacal, Mankind-like character of Undertaker-esque character, Randy Orton takes the title after an RKO (that wasn't outta' nowhere).

Winner (and NEW WWE Heavyweight Champion): Randy Orton

I'm hoping that the goal is to have Randy Orton feud with A.J. Styles going forward.  If that's the case, however, I'm not sure why they even pulled the title from A.J. in the first place --- other than to give John Cena 16 title reigns and give Bray a short run with the title.

Instead of having Styles drop the title to Cena at the Rumble, it seems like it would've made more sense to have Randy Orton go into Wresltemania to face champion A.J. Styles.  Give Randy Orton the title at Wrestlemania and then go onto feud with Bray Wyatt.

This would've given WWE and additional two months to build up the Bray Wyatt/Randy Orton story. If Styles would be given a rematch, then it would've given WWE another month after 'Mania to build to Wyatt/Orton.

Match 8: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. Goldberg (WWE Universal Champion)

A big part of me was hoping for (and a smaller part was anticipating) a Steve Austin appearance as a special enforcer, doing the Wrestlemania 20 match the way it should've been done, but no such luck.

I was not thrilled with the way Brock went on the attack right away, getting in 2 german suplexes, only for Goldberg to pop up and hit Brock with a spear.

I think there were maybe 4 different moves used in total -- a jackhammer, a F5, the spear and the german suplex.  Thankfully it really was Suplex City.  Lesnar delivered probably 7 suplexes throughout?

There wasn't much variety in this match, but who was expecting a technical masterpiece?  I'm sure Bret Hart wouldn't be too impressed by it.

Lesnar ended the Goldberg return by capturing the Universal Title, which is the result that should've happened.

Winner (and NEW Universal Champion): Brock Lesnar

So, where do we go from here?

There are a few possibilities.  Seth Rollins.  Samoa Joe.  Shinsuke Nakamura.  Roman Reigns.  Braun Strowman.

Those are the guys I could see taking the title from Brock.  Unfortunately, after being fed to Goldberg, I don't see Kevin Owens entering the title picture again soon.

Out of the five guys I mentioned above, the one who seems to stand the most chance at this point is Roman Reigns.  However, I guess it depends when Brock Lesnar's next title defense is.

If he doesn't defend it until Summerrslam, then there's plenty of time to build up a new challenger.  If it's sooner than that, then Roman Reigns seems like the best choice.

Match 9: WWE Smackdown Women's Title Match: Alexa Bliss (Champion) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella (with James Elsworth) vs. Naomi

Unfortunately, given how much over Wrestlemania was at this point, this match had to be cut down quite a bit.  That much was obvious.  It was far from the awesome 6 Pack Challenge that the Smackdown ladies competed in at Backlash in September of 2016.

It probably could've been just as good, but the cuts, due to time, limited the potential.

There was a small botch there with Natalya tripping while applying the double Sharpshooter.  Overall, the ladies seemed on point, despite the rushed nature of the match.

At the end of the day, this match wasn't about being a classic.  It was about getting them a spot on the card and giving Naomi a feel-good moment in her hometown.  And, to that end, the goal was accomplished.

Winner (and NEW Smackdown Women's Champion): Naomi

Match 10: Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker

I figured, after Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg occurred earlier, that Roman was winning this one.  I mean, it's been years since The Undertaker closed out Wrestlemania.  That means this match was going to be big.

Plus, Jim Ross was out to call this match.  I'm assuming that was at The Undertaker's request.

So I figured this may be Taker's swan song.

After a somewhat back-and-forth match that went to about 25 minutes (it seemed like there should've been more action in that amount of time), 'The Big Dog' took over The Undertaker's yard.

The crowd didn't seem into it for a while (though they may have just been spent after 6 or so hours of wrestling action).  By the end of the match, the crowd was into it --- maybe realizing what this match meant.

Winner: Roman Reigns

I know a lot of people have differing opinions on this match.  I, for one, thought the match was as good as it could be with The Undertaker's age, nagging injuries and limited abilities.

I also thought, after the struggle to reverse the tombstone, that it was time for The Undertaker to put his boots away for good.  I'm a big fan of The Undertaker, but seeing him perform these days is like seeing him as a shell of his former self.

That's not how I want to remember The Undertaker.

It really seemed like this was the best option, especially since The Undertaker's streak was broken against Lesnar two years ago.

I'm somewhat surprised that Taker's last match wasn't advertised as such, but that'd kind of give the ending away, wouldn't it?  Knowing what a stickler The Undertaker is for the old school ways of doing business, it makes sense that he would want a little bit of suspense built into his final match.

It also makes sense that he'd do the job to the company's new, young 'it' guy.  That guy, like him (and I do) or not, is Roman Reigns.

Just like that, Wrestlemania 33 went from a average card to being all about #ThankYouTaker.

It's not a happy ending that everyone would've wanted, but it was good from a storytelling standpoint.  That's always what The Undertaker has been, so it does make sense.

I am a little surprised that there was no Hulk Hogan.  No Rock.  No Steve Austin.  I'm surprised, but not disappointed.  I'm happy to see that maybe -- just maybe --- WWE is going to put a little more faith in some of their newer stars.

That's something they need to do if they don't want to become a 2000 version of WCW.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Central Intelligence - reviewed.

Ooh. I'm a bit disheartened writing this review because I had such high hopes for this one. Some people don't like Kevin Hart, but I think he's hilarious. He's got this charisma and style to his punchlines that just kills me. The Rock usually does well, too. He's one of the most successful dudes in Hollywood right now.

I figured Central Intelligence would be a great movie with those two involved. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

This was one of those movies where the trailer showed the best parts of the movie.

They took a different route than the typical buddy cop movie plot. Instead of having two guys team up to the save the world, they through a twist in there. The Rock's character -- Bob Stone -- was a good guy. Or was he bad? Or maybe good? Or bad? The storyline throughout the movie had you guessing whether his character was an insane bad guy or a misunderstood agent.

It was different. I'll give them credit for that. It didn't really pan out the way I assume they wanted though. It's not a classic cop movie like Beverly Hills Cop or Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys.

For some reason I wasn't invested into the plot. There weren't amazing jokes or incredible action scenes. It was one of those movies that just kind of ... was.

The movie started off as Stone and Calvin Joyner (Hart) were in high school.  Stone was fat and was the victim of a bully tactic by a group his classmates.  He ended up in front of the entire school, naked.  It was refreshing to see Calvin try to assist without hesitating.

Flash forward 10 years or so and things have changed.  Bob Stone is no longer fat.  Calvin Joyner is married to his high school sweetheart, but doesn't like his job and that seems to be spilling over into his lovelife.

Enter Bob Stone.  He's big and chiseled so he's the cool guy now, even if he's wearing a Unicorn t-shirt and a fanny pack.

Calvin gets caught up in Agent Stone's sorted tale of espionage because he only has a certain amount of time to solve a case.  But when the CIA shows up and says that Bob Stone is an unhinged agent-gone-rogue, it's plausible.  Who does Calvin trust?  Who does he help?

He's stuck between a rock (no pun intended) and a hard place.

I think that's where the movie went off the rails.  They introduced this way too soon.  Sure, Bob and Calvin bonded throughout the movie, but the doubt about whether or not Bob was the real bad guy or whether the CIA just had the wrong intel was always lingering.

Again, not a bad idea, but it didn't result in an entertaining movie because the story wasn't good enough. Kevin Hart did a great job playing a bewildered regular guy who ended up intertwined in a confusing CIA case. But that's really the only memorable part of the movie.

I'm struggling right now to come up with one single punchline from this movie.  There wasn't too much that was memorable in this movie.

I guess The Rock's fat suit was impressive at the beginning of the movie.

And there was the scene where Bob Stone was playing therapist to Calvin and his wife.  That was alright.  I'm assuming there was some improved acting in that sequence.

The story unfolded in an alright way, but it wasn't very entertaining.  I was waiting for it to be over, almost.

There was a surprise appearance by Melissa McCarthy, which was fun. It didn't last long enough though.

Related Content:
• Nine Lives - reviewed.
• The Jungle Book - reviewed.
• 10 TV shows and movies that STILL aren't on DVD, but should be

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Can I be serious for a minute? Let's talk about media bias ...

I generally like to keep things light-hearted on this blog. I like to blog about music, movies, TV shows --- things that can help take my mind off of the real world. I don't bury my head in the sand, avoiding the world's issues, but I work in the media and I get enough news during my daily 9 hour shifts.

It's gotten to the point that I don't even like watching certain movies, like London Has Fallen (not the best plot anyway), because it's just too close to reality with some of the various terror attacks that have happened across the world.  House of Cards was a fun show, but I'm not sure if the next season will, again, seem too close to reality.

I use my entertainment to be entertained and to escape the partisan issues that seem to be spilling over everywhere online and on TV.

Again, I'm not dodging the reality of the world. I just get enough of it at work. I know a lot of my colleagues in the news media can relate to that sentiment.

But today I do want to blog about the real world.

I'm not late to the party on the media bias discussion, the divisive rhetoric or the contradictory actions and words that some people have displayed and used.

It's not something I want to harp on every day though.  Who wants to stress out about that on a regular basis?  It's easy to get caught up in that kind of thing.

Whether it was when there were the 12+ Republican candidates going head-to-head(-to-head-to-head), when the allegations of the DNC helping Hillary Clinton to defeat Bernie Sanders divided some of the Democrats, or during the war of words that occurred when Donald Trump and Clinton were officially nominated last summer, one thing is for sure: it's been a long election cycle for a lot of people.

Maybe you had to delete a Facebook friend or unfollow someone because of a difference in opinion on an issue or not agreeing on a candidate?  We've all probably been there at some point during this election cycle.

I had Facebook friends who were very pro-Republican, very pro-Democrat and very much Independent. Others didn't vote. Others were insulted that people didn't vote.  Others rallied after Donald Trump was elected.

I tried to expand my own mind by reading posts of my friends with very different views on my Facebook timeline.  I did delete one person though.

Every single post ( was politics. To make matters worse, this person had far too good of an Internet connection (I really should try to get that cell network) because there were probably two dozen posts a day. I felt like I was being bombarded by those Facebook posts. Too much! Less is more sometimes.

I made it a point to try not to be that person in 2016's election cycle, so I didn't post about politics. Unfortunately, some of the same problems that bogged down 2016's election cycle seems to be rolling on into 2017.

It's just gotten to be too much for me to keep inside, so I'm going to go ahead and voice a few opinions here.

I'm not going to bash one specific party or make light of the very personal choice anyone made inside that voting booth because those really aren't the main issues. It's a bigger picture situation here.  I want to talk about media bias.

This is the big topic for me. This is the issue that hits home the most because I probably dissect news differently than someone who hasn't worked in the media.

There is sometimes a theory that everyone in the 'media' is conspiring together against one person or a particular party. That's not the case. It's not one big, giant conspiracy theory.

A recent Huffington Post article by Christina Nicholson did a great job highlighting some gripes about comments you tend to hear when working in news.

It was a great starting point, but she did miss a few topics.

Number one: I do see media bias. I see it a lot actually. It's there in just about every media outlet and every format that is offered up to you.  Go to NBC?  It's there.  Fox News?  Yeah.  CNN.  Sure.

Donald Trump made a lot of people in the media angry with his tweet a couple of days ago (and the press conference a few days prior to that) in which he called the media (and 'fake news') an enemy of the American public.

I'm not about to talk about my position on politics because I'm certainly not an all Republican or all Democrat person.  I find that very few issues are that simple.  My views do not fit into one party or the other.

However, media bias is a problem.  CNN clearly leans left. Fox News clearly leans right. If you dispute that, you're just not paying attention to the entirety of their news programs or the content they generate on their websites.

For that bias, I blame the media.  All of them.  I blame CNN, ABC, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, and any other news agency you can name.

All the websites --- Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vox, Breitbart, etc., etc.  They've all had a hand in the situation we have today.

When it comes to television coverage, the big two with the most blame are CNN and Fox News.

24 hour access to news isn't a bad thing. It's one of the great aspects of technology.

 If I work until 3 am on a crazy, breaking news kind of day, I can go home and read the latest review of the new Marvel movie or maybe get sucked into watching dozens of Jimmy Fallon or Ellen YouTube videos.

I love the instant access! The problem arises when CNN and Fox News repeat the same sound bites hour after hour and spend hours on end talking about the same thing.

Sure, one hour you get Bill O'Reilly talking about it. And the next it's Sean Hannity. Or it's Anderson Cooper and then Don Lemon on the CNN side.

Either way, the topics stay the same. Same, regurgitated information. Same carefully selected guests on every night.

Instead of bringing the experts on to explain things and provide actual facts, these news channels claim to be fair by presenting both sides. Sure, they bring on someone who is pro-whatever topic they are talking about and someone who is against it. But that doesn't factor in the anchors own bias.

It ends up being a two on one or a three on one verbal attack rather than an interview that dissects what's going on and presents a complete and clear picture of the story.

And that brings up another point. When exactly did journalists become personalities? That's the point in time that I started seeing journalism take a back seat to things like ratings and 'entertaining' news programming.

It ruins the credibility of an anchor when they chime in with their two cents.  You should be the moderator -- the presenter of the news -- not the news itself.  If your opinions mattered, then you'd be the expert guest on the panel.

These days the anchors don't even bother trying to hide their balance. And I'm fine with that --- if they'd present themselves as an opinion show.

Let Jake Tapper present his own views, but don't you dare try to pass it off as impartial, unbiased journalism because it's not.

Judge Jeanine is pro-Trump.  Fine.  She's a televised columnist.  She's got an opinion.

Therefore she's not a journalist, but she's blurring the line between unbiased television news anchor and a TV personality with a formed opinion on President Trump.  She works at Fox News.  She has her own show.  She's not the news though.  She comments on it.

I think blurring the line can be very dangerous because it's hard to know who to trust.

Another way journalism has been blurred is thanks to misleading tweets.

Time Magazine or the Huffington Post or other publications on Twitter.  They'll tweet a headline and a link to what I presume is a story.  I start reading it's filled with one-sided comments and biased rhetoric from the author.  Then I scroll back up and realize it's an opinion piece.

There is no disclaimer in that tweet or in the headline that says 'Opinion: America misses Obama' or 'Opinion: Trump is most successful President ever.'  It just has the headline.  It's presented as a fact.  Then thousands of people retweet and share it on Facebook and all those people think it's fact.  Yet it's just the opinion of one man or woman.

The opinions should be inside the quotation marks.  Let the experts and the real people have opinions.  As the journalist, you should be reporting what the facts are.

Then again some journalists seem to cherrypick their facts.  You can find some report out there published at some point in time that supports whatever argument you're trying to make.  As people, having discussions, it's natural to do that.  You want to find something that backs up what you're saying.

As a reporter, you shouldn't be doing that.  You should report whatever the latest unbiased statistics say.  Don't do 'fact-check' and use data from 3 years ago.  Or at least acknowledge that there is other, more recent data, that doesn't match with the previous report.

Worse yet, with social media, these so-called 'news' agencies republish their own tweets 6 hours later and then 12 hours later and then 3 days later.  What?  There's so little news in the world that you have to send out the same tweet for the same article again and again and again?

Are you interested in delivering the news or promoting your most click-worthy articles?  There's a big difference.

A great example of certain members of the media seeming to take a side on social media is CNN's Hala Gorani.

British news columnist Katie Hopkins ended up having an very defensive interview with Gorani back in November (or late October?).  Hopkins is a columnist, so she's allowed to have an opinion (no matter how much I agree or disagree with it), but Gorani, as an anchor and occasional field reporter, shouldn't.

The fact that she, in her interview with Hopkins, seemed so focused on arguing the idea that CNN isn't biased was laughable.

Take one look at Gorani's Twitter feed.  Anti-Trump retweet, anti-Trump tweet, anti-Trump retweet of a CNN article, etc., etc.  Again, that's fine if you're a columnist and write opinion pieces.

If you're going to be a reporter and proclaim to be a journalist, then keep your opinions to yourself.  Oh, but wait.  She's a host, too.  So I guess opinions are allowed??

See the blurry line there?  I'm not a supporter of that at all.

At least Gorani doesn't have that nonsensical 'retweets aren't endorsements' statement that so many journalists like to use because that's, very often, not true.

I'm all for the media reporting the truth, no matter how ugly it ends up being.  It shouldn't matter how much power the subject of an article has.  If there's a report to be done on something and a truth that is out there, then it's up to the media to do it and find it.

However, when you're only retweeting negative stories, that's not to be commended.  You're not some kind of super hero saving the world from the corruption of the world.  You're adding to it.

I'm not specifically talking about Gorani here, but you can probably all name so-called 'journalists' who fall into that same pattern of reporting and tweeting just one side of an argument.

That's not journalism.  Your job isn't to go out to find a soundbite that happens to fit the story you're trying to tell on that particular day.  It's not about telling a story.  It's about telling the truth.

Politics is messy.  Sometimes there isn't an obvious truth.  Most of the time we don't know the full truth due to national security.  It can be difficult to find the truth because, yes, the President, every Senator, every lawmaker -- they all have their own spin doctors.  They have their own media team.  They don't want negative stories.  They want the positive stories.  So it's not as though they will volunteer information when the politician they are working for puts his or her foot in their mouth or makes a mistake.

You sometimes need these unnamed sources.

If someone within a particular Washington agency gives the media information as an 'unnamed source,' it's likely because it's against that agency's guidelines to give out that information and there are no plans, whatsoever, to release it.

So, that whistleblower or news leaker would likely be fired if they were caught.

But the way a lot of stories are presented today (about any kind of politics -- national or local) make it obvious that there is bias.  It's in the headlines of the newspapers and lower-thirds on your TV screen.  It's in the amount of ink or time given to the 'other side' of the argument.

The condemnation of the possibility of media bias that Jake Tapper and Don Lemon and Chris Wallace have makes it clear that they just don't get it.  They're not seeing the bigger picture because they're too busy staying in their defensive mode.

People are tired of having to go to 12 different websites and watching 4 different news channels to get a glimpse of the truth.

The more they spend air time pushing back against Donald Trump instead of reporting on additional stories, the more they're giving Donald Trump room to criticize them.  Don't give him ammunition!

Do the TV personalities (instead of on-air journalists) make for heated televisions conversations?  Yes.

Are they better serving America for it?  No.  It's just taking up more air time in another day of the cycle.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

After dishing out all of this criticism (hopefully in a constructive way), I must say, David Muir does it right.  I don't know if he's a Democrat or Republican.

I'm assuming maybe Democrat due to the fact that he was on the list of reporters invited to dine with Hillary Clinton's campaign staffers, according to one WikiLeaks email.  But his name being on the invite list certainly doesn't prove his party affiliation.

You wouldn't be able to tell his opinions based on his reporting.  Maybe there is some bias in his reporting, but, from what I've seen, he does his job well.

He doesn't interject his opinion into the introduction or tag lines of the stories that are presented on World News.  He doesn't use his Twitter to sway the opinion of his followers with biased tweets.  He presents the news of the day.

That's the way it used to be and that's the way it should be.  If there were a few more journalists who could put their opinions aside, some less click-baiting headlines, less TV personalities and more journalists, I think the three-way realtionship between the media, the American people and the President would improve greatly.

End of the real world.  Back to entertainment-based reality.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nine Lives - reviewed.

I watched Nine Lives the other day. It was a pretty decent movie. With all the bitterness and anger in the world, even on the weekends, I wanted something light and without any controversy. What better choice than a family comedy about a man being trapped in the body of a cat?

It didn't disappoint. While it was far from amazing -- definitely not an all-time classic, it was alright. It served its purpose.

Some over-the-top cat antics (which lead to some not-so-believable CGI) and a little bit of bland acting prevented it from being better.

The story is about a big-time businessman who is obsessed with building the largest building in the USA. He devotes all of his time to that quest, not giving enough attention to his second wife (Jennifer Garner) and their daughter (Malina Weissman). He also neglects to give any kind of credit to his son (Robbie Amell) from his first marriage -- who works for his father.

Kevin Spacey was great throughout the movie (even if he's in cat form for most of it) but he couldn't do it alone.

Jennifer Garner, for as beautiful as she is, has never been a great actress. She's passable and exceeds in more over-the-top roles (like 13 Going on 30) than she does in roles that are more serious.

The actress of played their daughter, Weissman, wasn't great as a young April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and she wasn't out-of-this-world as the young Supergirl in the Supergirl TV series. If you saw her performance in those two movies then you pretty much saw her performance here.

The other day I mentioned how I despise bad child acting and how impressed I was with the young actor who portrayed Mowgli in The Jungle Book. This movie shows just how good and atypical he is.

At the end of the day, for what the movie ended up being, Weissman didn't hurt the movie too badly. I would give her a pass since I wasn't expecting much out of her, but she was one of the main characters of the movie --- one of the main two main characters, some would argue.

After all, the entire movie is about her relationship with her father and his road to become emotionally closer to her.

While Robbie Amell is no Oscar-winning actor, he did an OK job -- better than I'd expected considering he's been used as the beefcake in some of his films (no real acting ability required there). He was kind of a third-wheel character, but has an important role at the same time. That's tough to balance.

You don't want to take attention away from the main plot line, but you can't be a completely supporting character because you're part of the culmination of the main plot line.

He was almost the only one in the movie who seemed whole-heartedly invested into the role he had, trying to make the movie bigger than it was instead of settling into an acceptance that this movie wouldn't be a huge box office success.

So, overall, he did well.

Christopher Walken was great. That's no surprise though. Walken plays an eccentric cat whisperer. In every body switch movie there has to be that somehow mystical or powerful person who is there to lead the main character down the right path.

That's basically Walken's role as the cat whisperer. How did he end up in that role? That's not really explained, but it's an accepted role in the movie.

I figured he'd be in and out pretty quick, but he had a fairly large role in this movie. Not that this is a bad thing -- just surprising.

Like I said in the beginning of this blog, this movie was not and will not be a classic, but it's an OK family film. It's a movie you'll probably see on TBS or Freeform at some point.

I wouldn't go purchase it on DVD, but if it's one of those $2 Black Friday Walmart specials or available on Netflix or Redbox, then, sure, go check it out.

If you're in the mood to get away from some of the negative aspects of the world, it's not a bad a choice. It'll take your mind of things in a fun way for a little while.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

The Jungle Book - reviewed.

One of my co-workers asked me the other day if The Jungle Book was any good. 'I hadn't seen it,' I said, 'so I'm not sure.'

But, the other night I saw it on Netflix and thought, 'Huh. Why not?'

I wasn't expecting too much. I'm still kind of torn on this whole 'live action Disney classics' thing that Disney is going forward with these days.

I haven't seen the live action Cinderella, so I'm not sure if that was any good. Maleficent was very good. I'm intrigued by The Beauty & The Beast. The original trailer, with a minimal glimpse into the movie, looked good, but have you seen the Beast? The costuming/CGI combo looks like the work of an amateur -- not that of a multi-billion dollar company like Disney.

I was never a huge fan of the animated Jungle Book movie anyway. It wasn't bad. I loved the songs. I remember singing the Bare Necessities when I was a kid. Even though the movie wasn't one I watched again and again, I was a big fan of Tail Spin (the Disney Channel's spin-off show in the mid-90's).

There The Jungle Book was just one click away on Netflix. So, I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did! It was a very good movie.

I wasn't sure how they would do with the computer graphics. Obviously there wouldn't be real animals like in Life of Pi. The tiger's work in that movie was pretty much sitting there.

 The animals in The Jungle Book have to interact with Mowgli, so CGI is to be expected.

It was really good work though. Not shabby at all. Take a look at the picture to the left. Not bad, right?

I didn't remember the entirety of the original Jungle Book story, but I remembered most of it. This one did deviate a little bit, but not in a bad way.

 It was in more of a 'this movie needs to be updated in order to be a live action movie in 2016' kind of way.  I'm not a fan of movies that change large parts of the originals, so I was happy to see that they didn't do wrong by the classic animated version.

Besides crappy CGI and script changes, the one other worry I had was bad childhood acting. I'd say 75% of child actors are not good. 15% are OK. 5% are good. The remaining 5% are great. This actor -- Neel Sethi -- was awesome.

 He showed an entire range of emotions -- fear, anger, happiness, confusion -- and he displayed them all at the right times. Of course, he also looked the part.

 He seemed like an agile kid, too, climbing on things and running through the woods. It was quite a physical role, really.

I don't know what he was like to work with, but the staff behind this project better thank their lucky stars that he was on board for the movie because without him -- that movie could've been completely awful.

The voices of the rest of the characters included: Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Bill Murray as Baloo, Christopher Walken as King Louie and Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Each one did a wonderful job. No complaints at all on any of their performances. 

Kudos have to go to Murray and Walken for singing in the movie too (what is The Jungle Book without a couple of its classic songs?).

We start off with Mowgli doing just fine in the jungle, living with the wolves, until Shere Khan rears his one-eyed head (having dealt with man and fire before). He's not happy that a man-cub is living in the jungle.

You don't get the entire backstory through one flashback right away. It's interwoven a little bit throughout the movie. Good decision for the pacing of the movie because it heightens the emotions as things unfold.

Of course, Mowgli takes his leave and ventures out on his own. Cinematically it's quite stunning to see the mixture of real-life and CGI. The setting looks real and things pick up very quickly, but the plot is a bit of a downer until Mowgli gets out into the jungle.

It's, of course, a little mysterious, as Kaa makes an appearance, but once Baloo shows up, the entire mood of the movie changes.

I don't know if Murray had any ad-libs in this movie, but his performance of Baloo was spot-on. With some much-needed comedy interjected into the plot, the movie only gets better.

But Mowgli's life isn't without problems, of course. In comes King Louie. I guess if I had one complaint about the movie, it'd be the exaggeration of King Louie's size as an Orangutan. Upon reading a little bit more about what the moviemakers had in mind, though, it wasn't a bad choice.

King Louie wasn't in Rudyard Kipling’s original stories as the Orangutan wasn't native to India. Apparently during research, the moviemakers found out the there was a giant extinct version of an ape that in the area: a Gigantopithecus.

So, King Louie became a Gigantopithecus. Makes sense, since he is supposed to be a king of the monkeys.

I don't want to spoil the entire movie -- although most people know the general plot of The Jungle Book -- so I'll just say that the climax of the movie doesn't disappoint.

Overall, really good. My second complaint about the movie, I guess, would be that I kept thinking, 'If all the animals team up, surely they can beat one tiger.'

I mean, I get that Shere Khan is a dangerous tiger who is bigger than Bagheera (the black panther) or any of the wolves, but if they all teamed up and got maybe a rhino involved, too, don't you think they could come out on top?

It's nitpicky to complain because it really is a very good movie. Put aside a couple of minor things like that and it's all good.

Between CGI and a child actor as the main star of the movie, this movie could've been really, really bad.

What could've added up to a disaster ended up being a surprisingly good movie (I read that it was apparently a surprise hit in the box office as well).  I don't know if anyone was expecting this to be the successful movie that it was.

You would've thought that a more recent classic Disney tale might be more lined up for box office success, but it's kind of poetic that this underdog of a movie ended up making a good bit of money.

I've got to say, again, how surprised I was that this was a good movie. If you haven't given it a chance yourself yet, I'd highly recommend that you do.

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