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Bella Twins, Bad Acting, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

Jerry Lawler hosts “reconciliation” between Brie and Nikki Bella. First of all, putting Jerry Lawler in the middle of this is hilarious. His reputation with women notwithstanding, I think they just did that for the “Jerry!” chants, the Springer show and what not. Secondly, the only reason I didn’t keep this segment on mute was for reviewing purposes (your welcome). My God the Bellas are terrible. This was silly soap opera acting at its worst. “I wish you’d died in the womb.” Psssht. Give me a break…

The sad thing is, there is an okay story under all the bad acting. I can see what they want this to be. Nikki went through hell when Brie “quit” WWE to be with her husband, and now she’s turned on her because of it. There was actually a point to her whole ear-splitting rant. But, as is the case with most instances when the Bella Twins talk, the delivery ruined it. It’s nothing against Nikki and Brie personally. I admire the fact that they’ve been performing with WWE for so long. They just don’t have he chops to fulfill this story’s dramatic needs. It’s sad, really. Especially for the audience, because we have to endure a LOT more of this. We’ve presumably got a series of Bella vs. Bella pay per view matches on the horizon…

Three ridiculous things are said during the Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels panel discussion on Brock vs. Cena at Night of Champions:

1. Hulk Hogan: ”When it’s time, you know it’s your time.” This from the man who’s supposedly still trying to get in the ring again.

2. Shawn Michaels: “Everybody loves John Cena.” Really, Shawn? Everybody loves John Cena?

3. John Cena: ”I’m not going to Night of Champions to beat Brock Lesnar. I’m going to Night of Champions to beat Brock Lesnar’s ass.” Huh?

Goldust & Stardust seemingly turn heel on the Usos. This doesn’t make any sense. You’re going to try and get the fans to boo Goldust, a guy who’s been around for decades, and who probably has one of the best and most unique personas in the company’s history? I don’t get it.

WWE airs another interview package with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. As usual, this was very effective. Paul Heyman must have a degree of creative input as far as what Brock is saying. How else could these be so good on such a consistent basis? I’d love to see Cena react to what Brock said about his dad and his childhood…

Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam, will face Sheamus for the United States Championship (presumably at Night of Champions). Remember when Rob Van Dam was the WWE Champion? Damn, that seems like a long time ago. On the plus side, Sheamus and Cesaro have had good matches in the past, and will likely give us another one whenever they end up facing off.

AJ Lee and PaigeLesbianism for a PG era. Oh c’mon. That’s exactly what they’re giving us. It’s Trish Stratus and Mickie James all over again, only now they’re PG so they have to imply everything. I did, however, like the image of AJ hugging an extremely reluctant Paige. The notion that Paige tried to out-crazy AJ and failed is an amusing one. And of course, AJ is always good with that kind of stuff. “My little English muffin.” Classic.

Seth Rollins and Kane face off against Roman Reigns. I’m a bit surprised we’re not getting more of Reigns vs. Orton, their rather dull match at Summerslam notwithstanding. Still, putting Rollins with Reigns makes creative sense, given their Shield backgrounds. But somebody needs to put in a memo to STOP using those damn fake cinderblocks. Cement doesn’t just crumble like sand when you throw it against cement. And it CERTAINLY doesn’t smash into a million pieces when you bash someone’s skull against it. The fact that Dean Ambrose wasn’t bleeding like hell last week as Raw went off the air put a major damper on his departure, in my opinion.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger. So Swagger loses to Rusev…again. I can only assume we’re building this up for one last match where Swagger finally does get the win, here. Otherwise, it seems like they’re killing him off…again.

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Action Comics #1 Fetches $3.2 Million Online

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

A copy of Action Comics #1 in near-perfect condition sold for a record $3.2 million on eBay this past Sunday.

This transaction gives Action Comics #1 the distinction of being the most expensive comic book in the world. The issue also held the previous record with $2.2 million.

Published in June of 1939, Action Comics #1 featured the first Superman story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Source: Yahoo! News

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Guardians of the Galaxy Back on Top at the Box Office

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

After two weeks in the second place spot, Guardians of the Galaxy has returned to the top of the domestic box office charts.

The James Gunn-directed Marvel film took in $17.6 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its total domestic gross to $251.9 million. It has now become the highest earning movie of the summer domestically, besting Transformers: Age of Extinction‘s $243.4 million.

Guardians bested Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which brought in $16.8 million, bringing its domestic total to $145.6 million.

Both Guardians and Ninja Turtles continue to hold strong against their competition. For instance, If I Stay, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, premiered at third place this week with $16.4 million. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For made its debut in eight place, with $6.4 million.


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A Review of The Multiversity #1 – Justice League vs. The Avengers (Sorta…)

TITLE: The Multiversity #1
AUTHOR: Grant Morrison
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 20, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Grant Morrison tends to lose me when he goes cosmic. In my ever-so-humble opinion, he tends to talk over his readers’ heads with the complexity of his stories. That’s why I prefer his Batman stuff to stories like Final Crisis, or even his work on JLA. But this far, he’s got my interest with The Multiversity, possibly because it harkens back to Crisis on Infinite Earths, which will satisfy some of us that have been longing for the pre-New 52 DCU.

Oh, and there’s also a publicity stunt involving a bunch of analog Marvel characters. Yay…?

The Multiversity sees Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors (a group of cosmic watchmen, basically) and his chimp sidekick Stubs lured to Earth 7, which has been laid to waste by demonic entities called the Gentry. He saves a hero named Thunderer (a Thor analog), who then returns to a big Death Star looking watchtower base to summon heroes from all 52 worlds in the multiverse. Among them are the Superman of Earth 23 (who is also the president of the United States), Captain Carrot, and an analog for Savage Dragon. Together they must find a way to save the multiverse from Nix Uotan, as he fights against the influence of the Gentry.

The core concept of The Multiversity is, of course, awesome. We get a good look at the New 52 DC multiverse while spending time with characters we’ve either never seen before, or in the case of Earth 23 Superman and Captain Carrot, don’t see very often. We also get some fan service for longtime readers, what with Nix Uotan being the “multiversal monitor,” plus a computerized simulation of Harbinger (again, see Crisis).

Oddly enough, the issue solicitation also makes note of Earth Prime, another old school DC concept. Earth Prime is the world where we, the readers, live. In older stories, writers have used Earth Prime for meta purposes, most notably with our old friend Superboy Prime. The comic book we’re reading seems to know it’s being viewed on Earth Prime, and as such is pleading with the reader to stop reading! Similarly, The Multiversity reintroduces the notion that one Earth’s reality is another’s fiction. For instance, Superman’s adventures on Earth 23 are by Red Racer (the book’s resident comic book reader) on Earth 36. So if you know what you’re looking at, you can essentially look in on other worlds.

You’ll also meet Aquawoman of Earth 11, which I’m guessing was the inverted gender Earth that Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness showed us way back in 2005′s Superman/Batman #23 and #24. We also see a pint-sized Wonder Woman and Steel, presumably from the “Li’l Leaguers” story done in Superman/Batman #51 and #52. Gypsy is also in one of the group shots. Whether she’s the Gypsy we met in the Vibe ongoing series remains to be seen. All these different characters are a lot to take in, but having them all together makes for a hell of a visual. Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Nei Ruffino do an awesome job with the art.

But while it’s cool to see the reintroduction of some older multiverse concepts, starting off with a bunch of Marvel analogs turned me off. While this is by no means a new trick, the way DC and Grant Morrison featured it so prominently in the first issue of a story that’s been anticipated for five years is…disappointing. They even make a point to allude to all the Marvel movies. Okay, we get it. Marvel exists. And oh, look! Some of these analogs are getting beat up! How cute. But this little stunt isn’t edgy or cool. If anything, it makes DC look even more like the definitive number two publisher, because they feel the need to jab their competition in a big book like this. Really? That’s the best they can do for the first issue of a story that has practically limitless possibilities?

Still, The Multiversity, which will continue as a series of standalones before bookending with issue #2, is undeniably packed with potential and intrigue. But thus far we haven’t gotten much in terms of substance. It’s a pretty book, but Morrison spent much of this issue explaining things. Who people are, what the multiverse is, what the Gentry wants, etc. Once we get into these one-shots, Grant will have more time to stretch out and do some storytelling. But I’m hoping against hope that he keeps things as simple and straightforward as he can. Let’s be creative, but let’s also not get lost in what Captain Carrot himself refers to as “cartoon science.”

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First Official Image of Paul Rudd in Ant-Man Surfaces

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The first official image (shown right) of Paul Rudd in Marvel’s Ant-Man has hit the web.

The film commenced principal photography this week. Rudd plays Scott Lang, who with the help of his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), must “plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.”

Directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man will hit theaters July 17, 2015.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Personal Hardships, and Letting It Slide

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In the last several weeks, the latest viral internet craze, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, has resulted in an massive outpouring of donations to a more than worthy cause, and a flurry of mildly amusing YouTube videos to boot. In terms of internet trends, it’s actually rather…well, cool and refreshing!

But as always, the trolls are out. Which is fine, we need skeptics and contrarians out there. But in this instance, they’re wrong.

Let’s set the table here: ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative condition that effects the brain and spinal cord. The motor neurons that initiate muscle movement in the body gradually die off, leading to progressive paralysis, and eventually death.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge occurs when you challenge someone to either donate money (usually $100) to the ALS Association, or dump a big bucket of ice water over their head. Since the beginning of August, the internet has been flooded (no pun intended) with videos of both average joes and celebs dousing themselves with water. The publicity has brought the ALS Association $13.3 million (as of August 17) in donations, compared to the $1.7 million they received at the same time last year.

Naysayers have called out the Ice Bucket Challenge for essentially prompting Americans to celebrate the notion of not giving money to a charity. Hey, fair point. While many are indeed dousing themselves AND making a donation, it’d be foolish to think that a lot of us aren’t doing it simply for fun. And let’s certainly not rule out false boasting, narcissism, and flat out stupidity. Make no mistake, it’s a lot easier to pretend to be charitable than to actually be charitable. Plus, there are a lot of countries in dire need of all that clean water.

But in spite of all that, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gets a pass from me. And here’s why…

Several years ago, I was working for a small regional newspaper. One summer, around this time of year, I was dispatched to do a story on the Les Turner ALS Walk for Life, a Chicago area event that raises money for ALS patient care. When I got the assignment I had never heard of the event, and had no knowledge about ALS.

Then I met Len, and his wife Sarah. At the time, Len was confined to a wheelchair and was only able to move his head, neck, and left arm. They were very open about what they’d gone through, especially considering I was such a young reporter, let alone a complete stranger. Len told me about being forced to leave his job, the trip to Hawaii he and Sarah had taken once they learned about his ALS (a last vacation of sorts), and how his body had gradually broken down. He did, however, tell me with pride that he was able to stand up at his daughter’s wedding, despite having extremely limited use of his legs.

When the interview was over, and Sarah had left the room to get something, Len and I small talked for a minute. In all honesty, I don’t remember what the topic was. But then, as we could hear Sarah coming back, he thanked me for my time, and said eight words I don’t think will ever leave me…

“I just try not to think about tomorrow.”

He started to choke up a bit. But he fought it back.

Len is gone now, but I’ve thought about him quite a bit over the years. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through his mind when we talked, or Sarah’s for that matter. It sounds incredibly corny when you put it into words, but what kind of strength do you imagine needs to be mustered to face something like that? Even all these years later, I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

Sarah still participates in the ALS Walk for Life with her team “Len’s Den.” Through the wonders of internet stalking, I discovered they have a Facebook page. On August 15, Sarah posted a message, and signed off with: “Keep those ice buckets coming!”

So I’m okay with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As a member of the human race, I’m willing to bear whatever idiocy or ingenuity arises from it. Because $13.3 million is a lot of money. You can’t treat ALS with money, but you can with what put the money there: Generosity, compassion, human decency, and the willingness to take action.

I guess the moral of the story here is that sometimes, you have to be willing to take the bad with the good. Is this ice bucket thing a little over the top? Absolutely. Does it expose America’s bizarre fascination with stupid YouTube videos? Of course it does. But it’s got people talking about donating to charity, and the ALS Foundation has reaped great benefits from it. I’ll take that trade off.

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A Part Time Champion? Plus, WWE Summerslam 2014 Predictions (UPDATED w/ RESULTS!)

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m fairly happy with what we’ll be seeing at Summerslam this year. A lot of one-on-one matches, a lot of personal issues to be resolved, a lot of new talent being positioned to step up, and a main event where the stakes are high, and the winner isn’t necessarily easy to predict.

Here’s my two cents…

Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro

Remember when Rob Van Dam was the WWE Champion? How about when Cesaro was said to be the next breakout star in WWE? Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Neither of these guys have been getting a great shake in WWE lately. While Van Dam continues to have good matches with just about everybody he works with, the company isn’t taking advantage of him being an established star, a former Heavyweight Champion, and a guy who can do things in the ring that no one else can. Similarly, Cesaro has been miscast as a heel for most of the year, and has more or less been treading water since Wrestlemania. I don’t get it. But at the very least, these guys should give us a good match to open the show. As RVD has been jobbing to the likes of Rusev and Seth Rollins lately, I imagine we’ll see him lose to Cesaro here. *sigh* Granted, he was brought back to put over new stars. But still…he’s Rob Van Dam!!!

Rob’s Prediction: Cesaro
WINNER: Rob Van Dam

AJ Lee (c) vs. Paige

So Paige caused AJ to lose to Eva Marie, huh? Hey, that gets her plenty of heat with me. Still, I think there’s a lot of things left for AJ to do with the Divas Title. A feud with someone in The Authority seems like a natural way to go, particularly if Nikki Bella turns on Brie (more on that later). Putting the title on Paige after Wrestlemania was an okay way to shake things up a bit. But she’s still very young, and from my vantage point still has a lot to learn from a character development standpoint. AJ is already there, so let’s keep running with her.

Rob’s Prediction: AJ Lee

The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

From the “smark” perspective, this is a feel-good match. Miz and Ziggler are buddies, both of whom have been pushed down the card in recent years. So this is a great opportunity for them to demand some attention on the second-biggest show of the year, with one of the most prestigious championships in the business to boot.

I’ve been a big fan of The Miz’s “no face hits!” persona, and I see him keeping the title here. However, here’s no reason the program needs to end at Summerslam. I say keep it going, and let these guys build on their personal chemistry, and really develop a rivalry for the IC Title. In the process, we can elevate both men, as well as the title. That’s a win for everybody.

Rob’s Prediction: The Miz
WINNER: Dolph Ziggler

Jack Swagger vs. Rusev

This match provides a nice little loophole which allows Swagger to beat Rusev without derailing much of his momentum. And of course, it’s a great way to play off the America vs. Russia drama that’s at the heart of this program. Naturally, I suspect it’ll be something involving Zeb Colter and Lana on the outside that allows Swagger to get the upper hand and wave old glory. A flag match would certainly be a perfect way to blow this sucker off. There are a variety of routes both men could take as we move into fall. But I’m thinking Swagger needs this career moment more than Rusev.

Rob’s Prediction: Jack Swagger

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

This match would be tough to predict had WWE not just announced Ambrose for their latest crappy movie, Lockdown. As the film is set to start principal photography this month, Rollins seems like the obvious winner here. Because it’s a lumberjack match, the door is obviously open for someone on the outside to “injure” Ambrose during the match. While I have no desire to see Ambrose taken off TV, obviously putting him in a movie is a gesture of good faith on WWE’s part. While he likely won’t be winning at SummerslamLockdown is a sign that WWE does indeed see him as a commodity.

Rob’s Prediction: Seth Rollins
WINNER: Seth Rollins

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

I’m pleased that they’ve fleshed this program out a bit, and made it about Wyatt taking exception to Jericho’s “Savior” persona. That obviously adds a little bit more meat to what we’re seeing from these two. What Jericho said this past Monday in his face-to-face sit down with Wyatt about the various facets to his personality, and which side of Chris Jericho we’ll see at Summerslam was interesting. The notion of seeing a more vicious side of Y2J offers some interesting possibilities. Still, I think Wyatt is due for a win. He doesn’t necessarily NEED a win here, but I think he’ll get one.

Rob’s Prediction: Bray Wyatt
WINNER: Bray Wyatt

Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns

I’m diggin’ this match. Assuming Reigns is indeed the guy we’re going with at Wrestlemania XXXI, Orton is the right guy for him to be with at this point. I maintain Reigns has been talking too much for his own good. If WWE tries to make Reigns into a pandering “man of the people,” a la John Cena, the fans will turn on him sooner rather than later. But for now, Orton is a good person to put him with. I see Reigns going over here, and staying with Randy Orton through Hell in a Cell in October.

Rob’s Prediction: Roman Reigns
WINNER: Roman Reigns

Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella

It’s been so long since Stephanie McMahon has had a match, that half the appeal of seeing this fight with Brie is finding out just what she’s capable of inside the ring. Much like her father, Stephanie has never been the most graceful in-ring performer. But she’s made up for it with raw emotion, along with the use of weapons and such. I suspect in this match we’ll see her use her added musculature to surprise us with a power move or two. But hopefully these two leave the actual wrestling to AJ and Paige, and give us a catfight that doesn’t overstay its welcome. I suspect we’ll see Nikki out there at one point, and perhaps Triple H or Kane. Who knows? Maybe Daniel Bryan will pop in to offer some limited physicality. There are a lot of different ways this match could go. But I suspect Stephanie gets the win with help from The Authority, and possibly a heel-turned Nikki Bella.

Rob’s Prediction: Stephanie McMahon
WINNER: Stephanie McMahon

John Cena (c) vs. Brock Lesnar

As awesome as this match is for a pay per view like Summerslam, I can’t help but feel a bit sad Daniel Bryan is missing his opportunity to have a big money match with Brock Lesnar. And I have no doubt the two of them, along with Paul Heyman of course, would have told a hell of a David vs. Goliath sort of story. In contrast, Cena and Lesnar give us more of a Clash of the Titans sort of tale.

But of course, we can’t deny the appeal of John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, even though it’s a match we’ve seen several times. In the aftermath of what happened between Brock and The Undertaker, seeing him compete for the WWE Championship is an undeniable draw. And like many, I’m of the opinion that Brock should win the belt, and keep it until Wrestlemania. The subject of how that’s going to work has sparked a lot of debate. Theoretically, if WWE were to get Lesnar on a once-a-month schedule leading up to February, and up his appearances to promote Wrestlemania, that would work well. Then again, Paul Heyman noted in a recent interview that the WWE Championship may be defended too often in the modern era, and less may be more in terms of Brock and the belt. On a recent episode of The Ross Report, Jim Ross said that if the WWE Championship is featured less, then the value of the Intercontinental and United States Championships would thus increase. That’s an interesting notion.

In any event, if things progress as they should, Brock will be leaving Summerslam with the title. Needless to say, that’ll make things very interesting in the weeks to come. And at the end of the day, interesting TV is what we’re all here for.

Rob’s Prediction: Brock Lesnar
WINNER: Brock Lesnar

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Craig Ferguson in Talks For Syndicated Tribune Media Talk Show

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Craig Feguson is reportedly in final talks with Tribune Media to host a daily syndicated half hour talk show.

The show would air in the 7 p.m. (Eastern time) hour across Tribune’s 42 stations. The idea would be to pair the show alongside a rerun of an established sitcom. The company is also in talks to expand distribution of the show beyond its own outlets.

Ferguson has hosted The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson since January 2005. He would reportedly take his executive producer Michael Nadius with him to Tribune as well as his character sidekicks Geoff Peterson (voiced by Josh Robert Thompson) and Secretariat.

Ferguson was at one point supposed to succeed David Letterman on The Late Show. But shortly after Stephen Colbert was announced as Letterman’s replacement, Ferguson announced he was leaving the show in December.

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Robin Williams, Mental Illness, Hidden Pain, and the Future

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve spent a good portion of this week thinking about Robin Williams. I suspect I’m with the majority on that one. Robin Williams hangs himself because of depression? It’s just so out of the blue, and seemingly so out of character…

Williams’ death shook me up quite a bit because of its connection to depression and mental illness. Without getting too personal here, my life, like the lives of so many, has been touched by things like clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. For some of us, it’s a daily battle. The simple act of getting up to greet the day can be excruciating if your mind isn’t in a good place. And the notion that Robin Williams, seemingly the epitome of happiness and zest for life, dealt with such issues just doesn’t seem to fit. Mind you, in the last day or so we’ve learned he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which can often lead to depression. But it still seems so out of left field.

Naturally, the internet and social media have been flooded with tributes to Williams. I happened to be on Twitter Monday night, and I stumbled on to a tweet sent by none other than Kevin Conroy (widely known as the voice of Batman). I understand his inclusion in here may induce a few eyerolls, given I’m obviously a comic book/superhero geek. But what he wrote has been in the back of  my mind since I saw it: “Robin Williams inspired while fighting demons of his own. His humor floated on a sea of pain. …”

Heavy stuff. I don’t know what relationship Conroy had with Williams, if any. But what really hit me was: “His humor floated on a sea of pain.” Obviously, Robin Williams has millions of fans mourning him. And I’ll never discount him, his legacy, or what he’s brought to the world.

But how many people live their lives on that same sea of pain, and don’t have legions of admirers? How many people battle those same demons, and aren’t rich, famous, or loved like Robin Williams? And how many people are able to hide it as well as he did, and walk through their lives quietly suffering?

I don’t know if people necessarily want to hide things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. But of course, they do. In America alone, one in four people deal with such issues in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So if so many of us are dealing with this kind of thing, then why hide it?

From an American standpoint, I think a lot of it has to do with the culture. The average American only gets two weeks of paid vacation a year. For those other 50 weeks, we’re trained to be nose to the grindstone, working our collective asses off to provide our families with a high quality of life, and keep this country chugging along. A recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher pointed to a Cadillac America commercial as a prime example of what the mindset of the United States workforce is supposed to be…

I’m not at all opposed to the concept of paving your own way in this world, working hard, or putting in long hours. But with that mindset comes a certain “push through the pain” attitude. We keep forging forward, despite whatever pain (be it physical or mental) might be ailing us. That’s a cool mindset to a point. But after awhile, it obviously has its drawbacks. And I think that’s what a lot of Americans do with mental illness. They forge through it because that’s what they think they’re supposed to, rather than taking care of themselves. Which ironically, would lead to longer and more productive careers.

Plus, I think a little bit of that “crazy person” stigma still exists, and as such, people are afraid to get that stamp. That’s probably not anybody’s fault, per se. It’s just the way our culture has been for so many generations, and you can’t necessarily eradicate that all at once.

In terms of the public’s awareness of mental illness, we live in an interesting time. Both the advancement of medical science and the emergence of the information age have paved the way for what exactly mental illness is, how it can be treated, and where one can get support. Still, I don’t think we as a culture are where we want to be.

Work is important. Ambition and drive are important. Putting a roof over your head is important. But so is enjoying your life. So is spending time with the people you love, and experiencing that love to its fullest. In my little head, that’s worth more than whatever professional accomplishments your professional life has to offer. It’s certainly worth more than material possessions, and it’s definitely worth more than corporate profits, or however you want to judge the success of a company.

Robin Williams was a man who could evoke great emotion from people. He made us laugh, obviously. But he could also make us cry. He could make us think. He could inspire us. And in his tragic death, he may have stumbled on to a way to inspire us one last time. published a story about how William’s death has inspired a “coming out,” i.e. a dialogue about depression and suicide. Despite the horrific way it came about, that’s a great thing. The more we talk about something, the more aware we are. And with that awareness can come knowledge. And knowledge can pave the way for change. Specifically, change the way this country, and the world, see mental illness.

But at the very least, I hope Williams’ death inspires people to be a little nicer to one another over the next couple of weeks. Whether it’s an acquaintance, a coworker, or just a random joe on the street. Because you never know what someone’s going through. You never know who’s floating along on that same “sea of pain”

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A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review – When The Fanboys Are Right

TITLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
STARRING: Megan Fox, Johnny Knoxville (voice), Noel Fisher, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard,
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebsman
STUDIOS: Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, Platinum Dunes, Gama Entertainment, Mednick Productions
RUN TIME: 101 min
RELEASED: August 8, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The fanboy/fangirl community has earned the right to be skeptical. Over the years we’ve been let down by so many lackluster takes on comic book stories and concepts. Too many to name here. So when this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot was announced, with Michael Bay attached as a producer and Megan Fox cast as April O’Neil, a lot of justified skepticism and criticism was leveled at the project. Fans would go on to scratch their heads at the sight of these new CGI motion capture Turtles, and roll their eyes when Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub were brought in at the last minute to do voice over work for Leonardo and Splinter.

But as both a critic and a fanboy, my philosophy is that while you have every right to be skeptical, you’ve got to see the full movie before you can officially condemn it.

And as a life-long, die hard Ninja Turtles fan, it breaks my heart to tell you the skeptics were right. Not only that, but the film’s three major problems were all evident in the trailers and the advertising:

1. They overthought the concept.
2. They forgot to have fun.
3. They cast Megan Fox.

As expected, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a rehash of the origin story. There are some tweaks here and there, but essentially it’s the same. Our heroes are Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. They have a sensei/father/humanoid rat named Splinter, a human friend named April, and an arch enemy called The Shredder. In this film, The Shredder and his scientist pupil Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) attempt to steal the mutagen in the Turtles’ blood, and use it as a cure for a bioweapon they plan to unleash on the city, thus allowing the Foot to extort massive amounts of money and rise to power.

There’s been a lot of talk as to why the Turtles and Shredder were tinkered with so much in this film. They’re all gimmicked up for no real reason. Leonardo wears bamboo armor, Michaelangelo wears pants when none of the others do, Donatello wears taped glasses and is geared up like a friggin’ Ghostbuster. Meanwhile, Shredder is no longer a sinister ninja master wearing some intimidating bladed armor. Now, he’s essentially a nameless, faceless big bad who puts on a techno wondersuit and becomes an evil CGI Transformer. All the pure hate and evil has been sucked out of him, and he’s been reduced to a mere special effect.

So why has so much been tinkered with to the point of ridiculousness? There could be a multitude of reasons. But my gut tells me the filmmakers wanted to give us something a bit different than what we’ve seen before, while also making our villains more dangerous, and raising the stakes. This is all fine on paper. But remember, you’re catering to a vast audience ranging from little kids to grown adults, and all these people are expecting these characters to more or less look a certain way. For the Turtles, it’s been bandanas and elbow/knee pads for 30 years. If you’re going to change that, give me a reason. Donatello’s techno attachments make sense, but they overdid it. Ditto for Shredder. It’s a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This notion of four talking turtles and their enemy who wears knives on his arms is pretty damn far-fetched. But if you pull it off the right way, you can suck the audience in and get them invested in this ludicrous fantasy. But make it TOO ludicrous, and give the audience too many questions to ask, then the whole thing falls apart and you lose that connection. Ninja Turtles lost that connection with me once friggin’ RoboShredder walked on screen. They stretched our suspension of disbelief too far and robbed us of an awesome villain in one fell swoop.

Ninja Turtles isn’t much fun to watch, either. Mikey brings some great comic relief to the table, as he should. But the boys in green spend most of the movie either bickering with each other or dealing with the battle at hand. I believe they’re brothers, but the fun of seeing them interact on the big screen is missing. It’s ironic that one of the elements that the Nickelodeon show really nailed, the Nickelodeon movie let sail over its head.

And then there’s Megan Fox’s portrayal of April O’Neil. This version of April, much like the one we saw in the ’80s cartoon, is a hard-nosed journalist who’s not willing to risk her safety to get the big story. She’s the Lois Lane of the TMNT universe. In Ninja Turtles, she’s in many ways the main character. She’s also the one we’re supposed to connect with, and it’s her actions that drive the story forward.

But in the end, casting Megan Fox as April O’Neil was a TERRIBLE mistake, and it’s her presence on screen that drags the movie down more than anything. Instead of coming off as ambitious and brave, the character becomes annoying and stupid. It boggles the mind just how many better actresses could have been chosen to play this part (for instance, Mae Whiteman, who voices the character on TV). But instead we’re forced to endure Fox’s wooden, and at times downright irritating performance.

Casting aside Megan Fox (gladly) for a moment, one can argue the April character was overemphasized in this film anyway. When we open the movie, she’s struggling to be taken seriously as a reporter. Her cause isn’t helped when she brings her boss (played by Whoopi Goldberg) this story about six foot turtles that can talk and do karate. But is the movie about her, or is it about the Turtles and the oddball family they’ve created together? Thus, the film becomes unfocused. Come to think of it, that whole “April wants respect” plotline isn’t even resolved. So in the end, it didn’t even matter…

The sad thing is that from a story standpoint, what we see in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t necessarily bad. If we’d made a casting change or two, simplified everybody’s look, and fleshed out Shredder, this could have been a passable attempt to revive the TMNT movie franchise. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but it would have at least been respectable. Instead we have this. A joyless, largely lifeless CGI suckfest. And ultimately, that’s pretty much what the skeptics said it was going to be, isn’t it?

Fate added insult to injury, what with this movie being released one week after Guardians of the Galaxy. That movie did the whole sci-fi/action/comedy flick in a way that got almost everything right. As much as I love the franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got almost everything wrong, just as we all feared it would. If you’re looking for your Turtle Power fix in the modern era, my advice is to stick to the TV show.

RATING: 3.5/10

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