Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

A Game of Thrones, S4E2 Review – Don’t Get Married On This Show…

By Seth Miller
Staff Writer, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Game of Thrones, S4E2:

- JOFFREY’S DEAD!!!  This is the complete reversal of “The Red Wedding.” It is moment of pure television bliss that happens once every few years, and makes everything a little better. Go out, hug a friend or family member, dance for joy, raise a glass, and celebrate this joyous moment!

- But back to the rest of the show, we get to catch up with…JOFFREY’S REALLY DEAD!  I’m sorry, but this is the best thing that has happened on this show so far. I am running out of ways to express my joy so I will finish with a hearty WOOOOOOHOOOOO!

- Getting back to the recap for real, we start off by visiting the man who will surely replace Joffrey as the most hated man on the show, Ramsay Snow. Ramsay is out in the woods hunting down a woman because his girlfriend was jealous of her looks. But his father, Roose Bolton who is fresh off the ultimate dick move at “The Red Wedding,” quickly brings him down to. At Ramsay’s side the entire time is Theon Greyjoy, who is so broken that he doesn’t even take a chance to kill Ramsay when he has a razor to his throat. Now the Boltons know that Bran and Rickon Stark are alive and they will be hunting for them. Ramsay has become more than a replacement for Joffrey, he is worse than Joffrey. Joffrey was psychopath, but he was dumber than a bag of hammers.  Ramsay is also psychopath, but he has enough intelligence to psychologically break someone and how to make his insanity useful for his father’s cause. Joffrey is dead, but someone far worse has replaced him.

- In this time of villainy, the people of Westeros need heroes who challenge those in power. With that in mind, Stannis Baratheon is moving forward to take the Iron Throne. He may not be the most noble man on the show, but he is better than some of the others… and there he goes burning people alive.  Stannis has gone full on fanatic, and is burning anybody who he thinks is his enemy or won’t reject the religions of Westeros, this includes his brother-in-law. While all this is happening, Melisandre is smiling with delight at the proceedings. Stannis is embracing the Lord of Light, but the scene at dinner with Melisandre and his wife shows that even he is starting to grow tired of this religion. Melisandre is asked to explain her faith to Stannis’ daughter, and we learn there is a god of light and a god of darkness. She says there is no hell, other than the life everybody is living in now. From Melisandre’s perspective, anyone she kills is going to heaven, and that helps explain how she can do some of the things she does. It is also refreshing to see Stannis starting to get tired of his chosen religion. Perhaps we will see him start to break away from Melisandre as the season goes on.

- Bran Stark is continuing his quest, but he may be losing his grip on reality. He is spending more time being in the mind of his direwolf, and he is starting to get his life as a human mixed up with his life as a direwolf. To be fair, if anyone of us was in Bran’s position it would be tempting to stay a direwolf. On the plus side, it looks like we are getting some plot development in terms of what is going on with the White Walkers.

- Jaime is still working on being a swordsman again, but he can’t get the hang of using his left hand. Tyrion advises Jaime to use Bronn as a sparring partner, and we get my second favorite scene of the episode. I really hope we get a scene between these two for every one of the remaining episodes this seasons.

- Tyrion is still being beat down by almost everybody in this episode. Varys tells Tyrion that his father knows about Shae, which means her life is truly in danger. This leads to Tyrion doing what is possibly the dumbest thing he has ever done. Shae shows up, but Tyrion tells her she has to leave. However, instead of telling her she is about to get caught, Tyrion sends her away Harry and the Hendersons style by telling her she means nothing to him. There is no way this is not going to come back to bite Tyrion in the ass…

- The wedding itself was filled with moments that I loved. Jaime and Loras Tyrell finally meet up, and I’m fairly confident Jaime is going to mess Loras up in future episodes. Oberyn Martell is continuing his streak of being a badass who wants revenge on the Lannisters and eye banging anyone he fancies (Loras in this case). Olenna and Tywin continue to have some of my favorite conversations on the show, and we are reminded the kingdom is in debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos, and they do not forget about people who owe them money.

- The lead up to Joffrey’s death (I can’t write that without smiling) was a refresher in why this punk needed to die. First, he destroys the book Tyrion got him as a gift, then he names the sword he used to do so. He’s even worse at the wedding. He throws money at musicians because they bore him, pays people to be attack Dontos the Fool, and he is even worse to Tyrion. He arranges a show with little people to torment him, along with just about everybody at the wedding. He pours wine on Tyrion’s head, forces him to be his cupbearer, and just in general cranks his awfulness up to 11. If this were your first episode ever, you would have seen all you needed to be happy that Joffrey is dead.

- Random thought: I have no idea how long those doves were in that cake, but I guarantee that they crapped all over it.

- Favorite moment: Do I even have to say it?

Image 1 from themarysue.com. Image 2 from nydailynews.com. Images 3 and 4 from latimes.com. 

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A Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review – Covering His Ground

TITLE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford
DIRECTORS: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
STUDIOS: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
RATED: PG-13
RUN TIME: 136 min
RELEASED: April 4, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a unique beast among the Marvel Studios library. It doesn’t star a loveable, wise cracking hero like the Iron Man films. It’s not a majestic ride like the Thor films. It doesn’t feature a world-decimating threat like The Avengers, either. Rather, The Winter Soldier is an interesting blend of espionage thriller, mystery, and superhero action flick. That’s the kind of story we’ve seen numerous times on comic book pages, but one we rarely (if ever) see on-screen. It’s a great little niche for the Captain America brand, and all in all, makes The Winter Soldier a unique chapter in the universe-encompassing saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. A devastating secret is revealed that makes fugitives out of Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Irons/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Along with their new ally Sam Wilson/Falcon, they must discover and defeat the parasite that has been rotting S.H.I.E.L.D. from the inside out for so many years. But to do so, Rogers will have to face an old friend. Someone from he past he thought was long dead. Enter the Winter Soldier.

The first thing that struck me about The Winter Soldier was the use of a costume based on the one that first appeared in the pages of Steve Rogers: Super Soldier. The less colorful look seems to nullify the character from some of the “hokey American boy scout hero” vibe, which some casual fans plague him with. It’s also a much more practical, soldier-like costume (not that superhero costumes have ever been considered with practicality). But in the end, the film also isn’t afraid to give us our hero in the red and blue suit. While the movie isn’t as colorful and flamboyant as some of its Marvel Cinematic siblings, it doesn’t hide from that side of the character, which speaks to the filmmakers’ respect and admiration for him.

What The Winter Soldier really illustrates, especially now that we’re in phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is just how different the various franchises are. For the most part, each one has its own designated ground to cover. Cap is the idealist who tackles ethical questions regarding freedom, and the price one pays for it. Thor is the mystic warrior of the group, who battles threats from other realms. Iron Man is the technological wonder, known for his trademark wit. And Hulk (from what we’ve seen of him at least), is our horror/monster movie character. Mind you, the lines between these various franchises can blur at times, as at the end of the day, they’re all superhero movies. But Marvel has done a beautiful job of making each character and their world very distinct. Thus, it becomes that much more epic when they all come together in an Avengers movie.

The movie’s titular character, played by Sebastian Stan, is awesome. He’s got a fantastic look, and all of his action sequences with Cap, Black Widow, and Nick Fury are awesome. The only major complaint I have about him deals with his connection to Steve Rogers during World War II. We saw this character in the first film, and we’re reminded of him early in this one. But the friendship and the closeness the two characters had isn’t emphasized enough to make the reveal of The Winter Soldier’s identity the weight it should have. Comic book fans may feel it because they’re already familiar with this relationship. But casual moviegoers, and even the more devoted Marvel movie fans may be left wanting more.

The partnership between Steve Rogers and Natasha Irons is interesting to watch. There’s definitely a certain sexual chemistry between them, which is interesting when you consider what we saw between Natasha and Clint Barton/Hawkeye in The Avengers.  Whatever there is between them is doomed to fail because of their obvious philosophical differences. But Cap, the ultimate straight-laced good guy, and Natasha, who has such a checkered past, definitely make an intriguing duo. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Cap’s love interest in the comic book continuity, doesn’t have as prominent a role as I’d hoped. But hopefully they’re just setting the stage for something in the third film. Interestingly enough, The Winter Soldier has a great scene between Steve Rogers and an elderly Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), his love interest from the first film. Peggy’s relation to Sharon Carter is never explored in this film. But again, ground work.

All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to stand a step above most other Marvel movies. It’s a hell of an action movie. And while I wouldn’t say the film raises any pressing questions about freedom or the American way, there are some ethical issues on the table that give it enough extra depth to set it apart from other comic book movies.

RATING: 8/10

Images from rottentomatoes.com. 

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Wrestlemania XXX and Raw: The Streak Dies, The Yes Movement Lives

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Well…there’s certainly no shortage of things to talk about, is there? All in all, Wrestlemania XXX was likely the best ‘Mania WWE has put on in at least three years. Needless to say, we ran the emotional gauntlet.

We’ll start with what everybody left Wrestlemania thinking about…

Brock Lesnar Breaks “The Streak,” and Pins The Undertaker. When ‘Taker was pinned, I was as shocked and horrified as everybody else. The faces in the crowd (as WWE wonderfully displayed) told the whole story. Nobody could believe it. It was unthinkable that The Undertaker could lose at Wrestlemania. As great as The Undertaker’s matches against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and CM Punk have been in recent years, for most “smart” fans, it’s always been a foregone conclusion that ‘Taker would come out on top, because that’s just what ‘Taker does at Wrestlemania. Why should this year have been any different?

Then the WWE, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, and The Undertaker shocked the world. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that moment where we all sat there in a state of stunned horror was actually a thing of beauty. Moments like that are what pro wrestling should always strive to be about. It got a visceral, gut reaction out of the fans, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years, if ever.

Just think about how you felt as the cameras filmed Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman leaving the ring, and then cutting back to ‘Taker over and over again, just laying there. In the moments that followed, The Undertaker slowly rose to his feet. And for the first time ever, we saw him in a way we’d never seen him before. For the first time ever, he was just a man. Not the “Lord of Darkness,” not the “American Bad Ass,” not the “Last Outlaw,” just a man. A man who’d just had his life’s work blemished in front of our eyes. And yet, the crowd applauded him. They gave him a standing ovation because despite his loss, they loved him. They loved him for what he gave to them. They still love him.

Could things have been different? Maybe even better? Sure. Should ‘Taker have lost to an up and comer, i.e. Roman Reigns or Bray Wyatt? Probably. Did Brock Lesnar deserve to be the guy who broke the streak? Maybe, maybe not. Was the match all that good? Eh, not really. But in the end, none of that really mattered. All that mattered were those few minutes after ‘Taker was pinned. THAT Wrestlemania moment will last a lifetime.

We also CANNOT disregard Paul Heyman’s role in the importance of what’s happened in the last few days. That promo on Raw may have been the best mic work he’s ever done. He had a fantastic line with: “Brock Lesnar is here to shock the WWE universe, and put tears in the eyes of children.” But also, the way he was rubbing the heat in the fan’s faces was amazing. When he slooooowley recited that 21-1 line, it was absolute magic.

So was this the last time we’ll ever see The Undertaker? I doubt it. I don’t think he’d want to leave the fans on such a downer. One thing’s for sure, a rematch would be money in the bank.

And hey, what’s this I hear about a man called Sting?

Daniel Bryan Wins the WWE Championship. Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and Batista deserve a world of credit for not only having the match of the night, but for bringing the crowd back to life after the Brock/’Taker match essentially punched everybody in the gut. And I tip my hat a second time to Batista for tapping out to end a match that I suspect he was originally supposed to win.

But in the end, it had to be Bryan. I really don’t think they could have told the story any better. The match with Triple H was actually the second best match of the night, drawing a hell of a lot of heat for The Authority, while further cementing Bryan’s underdog status. To see him come back from everything and win it all is what Wrestlemania is all about.

So now the question is: What’s our main event for Extreme Rules look like? Also, how will The Shield, who are still babyfaces after Wrestlemania, play into things?

John Cena defeats Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania, fans heavily cheer the Wyatts on RawBray Wyatt needs to stop saying the name of the town he’s in during his little intro. It gets him a pop, and he’s supposed to be a heel, right? You wouldn’t know it looking at the crowd from both Wrestlemania and Raw. They were actually singing “He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands.” That’s awesome.

Should Bray Wyatt have beaten John Cena last night? Eh, maybe. In truth, it really didn’t matter who won that match. It’s obvious those two have at least one more pay per view match in them, and last night was really just about the initial impact between the two. As I made note of on Twitter, Bray getting into that crab position was a great little moment. I’m anxious to see what they do at Extreme Rules, as the stakes are only going to get higher from here.

Bad News Barrett def. Rey Mysterio. I used to think it was impossible for Rey Mysterio to be a heel. But has Rey ever had more heat than he’s had in 2014? Between taking a huge amount of the crowd’s hostility at the Royal Rumble, and then going out there against a very pro Bad News Barrett crowd, maybe Rey should bite the bullet and go to the dark side before he retires. Stranger things have happened…

Paige Wins the Divas Title From AJ Lee on RawUgh. Not a fan. Nothing against Paige. I really know nothing about her. But remember when they did this with Gail Kim? She won the Women’s Championship on her first night, and yet she never really caught on. Why would you give the title to a woman that none of the mainstream fans know yet? Seems like lazy booking to me. At least let AJ feud with her a bit. Or if you need to take the belt off of AJ, why not give it to Tamina?

On the plus side, I’m happy the New Orleans fans didn’t drown AJ with chants for CM Punk, even as she gave us a promo that was rather reminiscent of Punk’s run as WWE Champion. Yes, they were there. But they let her do her thing. She should be proud the fans respect her that much.

Cesaro Wins Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Becomes a “Paul Heyman Guy” on Raw. Well sheesh, had the fans known Cesaro was going to be in the battle royal, I’m sure a lot of them would have predicted a victory for him. But it certainly made for a great surprise regardless. What’s even more surprising is that he’s become the newest “Paul Heyman guy.” But Cesaro is most certainly a babyface at this point. So what does that make Heyman? Is he a heel when he’s with Brock, but a babyface when he’s with Cesaro? Is this leading to Heyman turning on Cesaro, and getting us to a Cesaro vs. Lesnar match? Now that would be a sight to see…

Rob Van Dam Returns to WWE, defeating Damien Sandow. I maintain that it would have been nice to see RVD at Wrestlemania in some capacity. But hey, better late than never.

Alexander Rusev def. Zack RyderStill not impressed with Rusev. Why don’t we just bring back Vladimir Kozlov? It’s basically the same character, but they threw in a blonde chick with an accent.

Steve Austin and The Rock Join Hulk Hogan in the Ring at WrestlemaniaObviously Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock being in the same ring at the same time was a hell of a way to kick off the show. But the weird thing is that it was almost overshadowed by Hogan saying “Silverdome” in his promo instead of “Superdome.” Yeesh, of all the times to flub a line. Still, he took the ensuing jabs like a champ. And he actually put a nice little band aid on the whole thing at the end when he emphasized “…and the Superdome…” in his closing line. He managed to come out of the whole thing unscathed. I’m not a big Hulk Hogan fan. But hey, credit where credit is due.

Vignettes air for Adam Rose. I’m getting sort of a Russell Brand vibe from Adam Rose, and I mean that in a good way. He’s got an interesting presentation, and I’m interested to see more of him.

Images from wwe.com.

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A Review of Game of Thrones S4E1 – Breaking the Ice

By Seth Miller
Staff Writer, Part-Time Ninja

So this is Primary Ignition‘s first Game of Thrones recap. Before we get into it, let’s get something established. These recaps will be intended for people who are just watching the show. I’ll mention history and events that took place before the show, but I will not talk about every detail from the book, spoil big plot points, and compare it to the show.

- We open with the destruction of the Stark’s valyrian steel sword, Ice, being broken down and reformed into two new swords. Valyrian steel is the rarest metal in all of Westeros and the methods to make more of it were lost centuries ago. Owning one of these is a huge boost for a noble family and it is the one thing the Lannisters didn’t own. Tywin Lannister oversees the whole tragic affair, with “The Rains of Castamere” as a soundtrack, and Tywin tossing a wolf pelt into the fire caps it off. The symbolism is definitely not subtle but that doesn’t stop it from hurting like hell.

- The result of that forging was a sword for Jaime Lannister, who now wants to take his original posting as a Kingsguard back. Tywin will have none of that, considering Jaime is the only of his sons who he considers worthy to rule over Casterly Rock. Jaime has never wanted real power, he only wants to be close to his sister/lover ,and that has been reinforced by his journey back to King’s Landing. He wants to do his to maintain some shred of honor as well, but everything he wants just pisses Tywin off. Tywin pretty much disowns Jaime. But Jaime is back with his sister so he couldn’t care less.

- Unfortunately, Cersei is not that happy to have her fuck brother (going to throw that out there, send it back if you hate it) back in King’s Landing.  She is being married off to Loras Tyrell, the gayest man in Westeros, and Jaime comes back scarred which is something Cersei can’t deal with.  To cap off the Jaime thrashing, Joffrey insults Jaime’s legacy as a member of the Kingsguard and Brienne is still holding Jaime to the promise he made even though Catelyn Stark is dead.  I’m very excited for this season simply because we have Jaime back in King’s Landing and bouncing off characters he hasn’t worked with as much.  Also, he may hate it but he is pulling off the golden hand look.

- Everybody is also beating up Tyrion Lannister. His marriage with Sansa is a nightmare because he is love with Shae, and Sansa hates him because he is a Lannister. His relationship with Shae is also on the rocks because she feels neglected, and she still thinks Tyrion tried to send her away at the end of season 3. From his entrance until the end of the episode, we see a less confident and a more weary Tyrion. He has been beaten down by his father, sister, and nephew. He’s barely holding together.

- It seems Sansa has made a new friend in Dontos the Red. She saved his life way back in season 2, and he is repaying her with the gift of his mother’s necklace, the only thing of value his family has left. Given the track record on this show for friendly and helpful characters, he is playing Sansa for his or someone else’s ends.

- This episode also introduced us to Prince Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand of Dorne. Dorne is the southernmost kingdom in Westeros and was left out of the original formation of the realm, which is why you come up with eight kingdoms in the so-called Seven Kingdoms. Because of that, people from Dorne have developed their own set of customs that run opposite to the rest of Westeros. They have nothing but hatred for the Lannisters, but they hate Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. the Mountain, way more than the Lannisters. The Mountain raped and murdered Oberyn’s sister, Elia, during Robert’s Rebellion and got away with it because he is Tywin’s muscle. The Martells are here for vengeance and they won’t leave until he gets it. It was a great introduction to the characters that established their motivations, personalities, and fulfilled the unwritten rule that every episode needs nudity.

- Jon Snow may have dodged execution for now, but he is still in trouble on multiple fronts. The Night’s Watch is comprised entirely of people who hate him, and Ygritte is gearing up to unleash hell on Castle Black with a band of cannibals. For those eagle-eyed viewers who may have noticed him but not remembered, the man who was especially harsh on Jon and said he ran the City Watch in Kings’ Landing was Janos Slynt. He did command the City Watch but was fired and sent to Night’s Watch because he betrayed Ned Stark and Tyrion didn’t trust him because of it. Jon is stuck between the Night’s Watch, who wouldn’t mind executing him and wildlings that also want to kill him, this is a precarious situation and it is going to take everything Jon has to survive.

- Daenerys Targaryean is continuing her quest for vengeance against the noble families of Westeros by conquering kingdoms nowhere near Westeros.  She has devoted herself entirely to freeing the slaves of Slaver’s Bay and it seems like nothing will stop her.  Along the way, her favorite swordsman, Daario Naharis (played by Michiel Huisman who replaces Ed Skrein) continues to put the moves on her and she discovers the bodies the people of Mereen have left on the road for her.  Apparently, they haven’t caught on to the fact that you don’t want to piss off a woman with a trio of dragons; you would think people have caught on to this concept.  I’m sensing some foreshadowing with Daario’s comment about needing to know a land to rule it and Daenery’s interest or lack thereof with the comment.  This season will more than likely be about how effective of a ruler she could actually be.

- Arya Stark has officially scared the crap out of me.  Since the murder of her father, mother, and brother she has been getting closer to the darkness. Arya killing Polliver, the man who murdered her friend, was dark. But it also felt righteous considering all the times the bad guys have gotten away with horrible crimes. The build-up was fantastic and the repartee between Arya and The Hound. The Hound continues to be one of my favorite characters mostly because no one can call out the bullshit of this world better than he can. While most buy into the romantic notion of knights and grand swords with names, The Hound will remind everyone that this an especially brutal world and the lies people use to disguise that fact.

- Best line: The Hound’s description of people who name their swords. With the sword Ice being broken down into two swords and in the hands of people like Joffrey, this quote is going to come up a lot.

Images from latimes.com.

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Brock Buries The Undertaker, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

The Undertaker cuts a promo on Brock Lesnar, before the Beast gives the Dead Man an F5. Well, we knew Brock was going to come out on top this week. The whole thing’s been pretty one-sided up to this point. I can’t believe how trim The Undertaker looks, though. When he took off his jacket, I literally looked at my fiance and said: “The Undertaker is 49 years old. Can you believe that?”

With ‘Taker’s promo, I get where he was going with the whole “take you into deep water” metaphor. But he lost me with the “swim back to shore” thing. Good metaphor, not so good follow up.

By the way, did you folks catch that commercial for UFC Fight Pass featuring Lesnar? That did nothing to hurt the build up for ‘Mania, I guarantee you.

WWE Releases Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection. I was hoping there was going to be some sort of documentary/commentary element to this DVD. Needless to say, it’ll be very interesting to hear what Warrior has to say about his WWE career, especially when you consider what many of his old colleagues have said about him over the years (see The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior).

Vickie Guerrero reveals that Wrestlemania‘s Diva Invitational will be one fall to a finish. This whole match is lazy booking as far as I’m concerned. We haven’t built a solid rivalry between AJ and anyone else, so let’s just throw ALL the girls in there. This is the kind of thing they used to do with the Cruiserweight Division before it went belly up.

Daniel Bryan closes out Raw with an attack on Triple H. A perfect way to end Raw, sending fans into Wrestlemania rooting for the top babyface, as they should be.

Triple H cuts a final in-ring promo on Daniel Bryan and the “Yes Movement.” Triple H was really rubbing it in fans’ faces this week. As I mentioned last time, the whole “this generation” thing is a great point to harp on too. Even as a “smart fan,” it gets under my skin. It was also a good move putting Fandango over while using the whole “Fandangoing” fad from last year.  I am a millennial after all.

Did Batista actually get cheers when he cut Triple H off? That’s gotta be the first time he’s heard those since the Royal Rumble. I’ve got to admit, even I was glad to see him. How ironic. As so often happens, actually giving the fans the pleasure of booing someone they don’t like, actually makes that person more popular. They don’t like him yet, and they may never like him again. But he’s not getting “X-Pac heat” anymore. At this point, I’m actually looking forward to what’ll likely be a match between Daniel Bryan and Batista at Extreme Rules.

Also…and I’m just throwing this out there…wouldn’t it be cool if CM Punk cost Triple H the match with Bryan? I know, I know…it won’t happen. But wouldn’t it be cool?

Alberto Del Rio def. Big E. Del Rio officially has “X-Pac heat” with me. Supposedly he’s on his way out soon, and I won’t be shedding a tear. Nothing personal, I’m just tired of the same old act.

“Do I have your attention now, kids?” Another really good promo by Bray Wyatt this week. That line “Do I have your attention now, kids?” line was great.

Cody Rhodes & Goldust def. Fandango & Damien Sandow. During this match, the announcers talked about Fandango being an afterthought. But you know who really has a complaint in that respect? Cody and Goldust. Since they didn’t get to have their much-anticipated feud during Wrestlemania season, hopefully we’ll get to see them have a grudge match at Summerslam

Piper’s Pit turns into a preview of the Andre Battle Royal. It would have been a hell of a lot cooler to see Roddy do something with Triple H and Stephanie. But sadly I doubt they’d trust Steph in there with someone old school like that, especially after her in-ring segment with Dusty Rhodes last year. In any event, it’s always cool to see Piper on TV. Did they promote his appearance before the show? I don’t recall hearing anything about him being there beforehand.

Summer Rae def. Natalya. It usually irks me to see Natalya have to put over women who are less talented than she is. But I was alright with her jobbing to Summer Rae. The real-life Danielle Moinet has developed into a nice television character, and she’s interesting to watch (and not just because she’s hot). I’d be really surprised if we didn’t see her in the Diva’s Title picture sometime this year.

Fatal Fourway Tag Team Title Match moved to the Wrestlemania Pre-Show. Had a feeling one of the matches was going to be downgraded. It kinda stinks for those involved, but I’m glad it wasn’t the Andre Battle Royal, as it easily could have been.

Images from WWE.com.

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A Review of The Walking Dead, Season 4 – Who We Are, and What We’ll Do…

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

And now we bid adieu to season 4 of The Walking Dead…

Compared to the previous seasons, this was a big improvement. It combined the fast pace and action of season 3 while still making time to explore the characters without feeling like the show was doing nothing.  Some may have felt the finale didn’t meet their expectations, but I thought we got some great action, the plot moved forward, and we have a great set up for season 5.

- The themes for this season have been about whether or not people can move forward from their past, and what keeps these people from giving up. With the prison, the group found a sense of stability and started to find the things they lost in the apocalypse. People like Hershel reminded others of who they were, and to try their best to bring out the best in others. In the prison, our characters essentially had their own little world. But The Governor brought a mini-apocalypse with him, and the lessons Hershel was trying to teach Rick were only as relevant as the sanctuary that they were taught in. If you have no place to be safe in the apocalypse, you have to do what you must to survive. While you can still be civilized in this world, there is still a line that should not be crossed, as we have seen in these last few episodes. Hershel’s philosophy may not work completely for this world, but they are a reminder of what the world used to be like and something for our heroes to remember so they don’t become something worse.

- With their home destroyed, the characters had to find out why they want to survive all over again. For some, it was finding those that mean the most to them (Glenn & Maggie). Others reverted back to their old ways because they had nothing else (Daryl). This season was about pushing the survivors to their breaking points, and then bringing them back together with a better understanding of how they fit into this world, and how important they are to each other. Just about every character found their balance. Personally, I think they could have done more with Maggie’s story this season. Glenn was just as single-minded, but his interactions with Tara developed his character. He became more like Hershel. Maggie was focused on Glenn ,but didn’t get as much compared to him.  On the plus side, she did get some stylish zombie killing done via a street sign.

- This seasons themes are best exemplified via Rick and his journey. As we see in the flashbacks, Rick was been trying to build something bigger and better, but this strategy only worked when they had the prison. Without it, Rick loses that sense of humanity he strives for and reverts to his primal instincts to protect Carl and the others. The core of Rick’s character is still his desire to protect his son. It doesn’t matter if that means trying to farm so Carl learns more than killing. He will question his actions and their morality, but he will always do what is necessary to protect his son.

- One of my favorite developments this season has been the friendship between Michonne and Carl. Earlier in the season, Michonne burst into tears when she held baby Judith. We learned that Michonne had a son who didn’t survive. She was in a refugee camp with her family, her boyfriend and best friend were bitten, and she turned them into her “pets” with no prior thought. She has lost everything, but she finds something to live for in the prison. She lets her guard down a bit, and forms a bond with Carl. Michonne has lost so much in the apocalypse, but finds meaning in her life beyond surviving with Rick and Carl. As for Carl, he came into the season confident as an unrepentant killer who was being forced to farm, and finished out the season admitting that there was something wrong with him and he was afraid to tell his father. He realizes he has problems and he has someone he can talk to in Michonne. These two characters have saved each other in more ways than one.

 - “Zombie apocalypse really sucks” moment of the week: Joe’s gang finding Rick and the others. Being captured by the cannibals is bad, but most of the group is back together by then and that’s something

- Zombie kill of the week: Technically, it wasn’t zombie but I’m giving it to Rick, because his method of finishing Joe was pretty messed up.

- Two things to remember going into season 5:

1. - With most of our heroes trapped, their only hope from the outside is Carol and Tyreese. That isn’t that bad, considering Carol has become a certified badass and Tyreese’s skilsl with hammer are up there with Thor.

2. The people at Sanctuary offered meat to new arrivals and Glenn’s group got there first.  My question is, did Glenn’s group eat human flesh?

See you in October…

Front page image from screencrush.com. Image 1 from amctv.com. Image 2 from tv.yahoo.com. Image 3 from comicbookmovie.com.

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A Batman/Superman: Cross World Review – Turn the Lights On!

TITLE: Batman/Superman: Cross World
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLERS: Jae Lee, Ben Oliver, Yildiray Cinar, Paulo Siqueira
COLLECTS: 
Batman/Superman #1-4, Justice League #23.1
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER:
 DC Comics
PRICE: $22.99
RELEASE DATE: April 30, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This book did not need to be as complicated as they made it. As a DC Comics fan, what I was looking for in Batman/Superman: Cross World was a simple “When Clark Met Bruce” story. In the New 52 canon, the Superman/Batman dynamic isn’t nearly as frosty as it could be in the old continuity. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are downright chummy these days. They not only talk superheroics, but Bruce is giving Clark relationship advice. Their friendship seems to be much more personal than it was in the pre-New 52 universe.

This begs the question: How do two people who are so different get to be so close? That sounds like a heck of a question to answer in the first arc of a new Batman/Superman series. And ultimately, that question does get answered. Unfortunately, Greg Pak, Jae Lee and their cohorts answered it for the WRONG SUPERMAN AND BATMAN!!!!

Set some time before “five years ago” (i.e. Justice League: Origin), a young Batman butts heads with a jeans and t-shirt-wearing Superman. But moments later, they’re transported to Earth 2 by Kaiyo, a trickster from Apokolips who takes it upon herself to “borrow” our heroes. Our heroes soon come into contact with their Earth 2 counterparts, none of whom have any idea about Kaiyo’s connection to Darkseid, or how she may impact their future.

The decision to bring this book’s first story to Earth 2 is a curious one, especially when you consider that with the Superman/Batman movie coming up in 2016, this would ideally be a book Warner Bros. and DC could point new fans to, so they can get a preemptive taste of the standard Superman/Batman chemistry. But this book is NOT friendly to new readers at all. The first few pages do give us a nice look at Bruce and Clark’s respective outlooks, as they watch a boy getting beat up by his classmates, but from there we move into a convoluted story involving an alternate universe, featuring alternate and older versions of characters we’re already familiar with, and ties into Justice League: OriginSuperman and Batman DO end up teaming up at the end, but ultimately we learn more about the Clark and Bruce of Earth 2 than we do about the characters we read about in the ongoing books every month. Thus, Cross World fails to be an adequate jumping-on point for both new readers, and fans who want to learn more about the Superman and Batman of the New 52.

But even if one is of the mindset that Greg Pak isn’t obligated to be inviting to new readers, this book still has a crippling drawback: Jae Lee.

I say that with with the utmost respect, because Jae Lee is a star, and I typically enjoy his work (most recently, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias). But the God-honest truth is that he’s terribly miscast as the artist for a Superman/Batman story. He’s perfectly suited for Batman, but he’s a fish out of water with Superman.

As we see in our opening scene, Lee and colorist June Chung present a very dreary and shadowy Gotham City, complete with bare tree branches that almost give it a Tim Burton-esque feel. In contrast, his Smallville and Metropolis renderings have lovely colored skies, but are frustratingly shadowy and dark beyond that.

For instance, there’s a page where “regular” Superman meets the Jonathan and Martha Kent of Earth 2. As our Clark lost his adopted parents in a car crash, this is a very emotional moment for him. And Pak gives us some decent dialogue to go with this emotional moment. The problem? Aside from Chung’s skies, the entire page takes place in total darkness. How much more powerful would this moment have been if we’d been able to see Clark’s eyes as he looks up and sees his mother’s face again? How much more meaningful would that embrace in the last panel have looked if the friggin’ lights had been on?

Clark and Ma Kent aren’t the only victims of the Jae Lee blackout, either. When Batman and Earth 2 Catwoman duke it out in the Batcave, their shrouded in near total darkness. When Earth 2 Superman bursts on to the scene to interrupt his counterpart’s initial meeting with his parents, his face is completely cloaked in shadow, save for his glowing red eyes. Throw in the fact that everyone’s skin is needlessly pale, and this simply becomes a case of a book that caters to its artist’s needs, as opposed to an artist catering to the story’s needs. Yanick Paquette takes the pencil during a flashback in issue #3, and it’s such a breath of fresh air because we can finally see things. Faces, colors, and settings that effect the mood and tone of what we’re seeing. But of course, then we’re plunged back into semi-darkness.

What’s more, Cross World sees the debut of the Mangubots (pictured on the cover), i.e. giant robots developed by Waynetech to do…something. They have  a role on Earth 2 that’s never fleshed out. On “regular” Earth, we see Batman use them against Superman in issue #1. Why Batman, a silent avenger of the night, would have giant, structure crumbling robots at his beckon call is beyond me. There goes his whole Dark Knight modus operandi right out the window. Batman and giant robots don’t go together. Please don’t make me say it again.

I’ll never say Jae Lee’s art isn’t great on its own merits, but the decision to put him on this book comes off ill-conceived, and not thought out. That’s consistent with a lot of DC’s decisions over the last few years. Sadly, they’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with Jae Lee and Batman/Superman to this day.

In addition to our main story (which lasts four issues), Cross World also contains Justice League #23.1, which was part of DC’s month of villain spotlights. We get some cool info on Darkseid, and how he became who and what he is. We also learn about his connection to Kaiyo, and how she has lured him from world to world on an endless path of destruction. This naturally sets us up for Cross World, and Justice League: Origin. Paulo Siqueira also seems very comfortable in a sci-fi setting, and the issue is actually one of the better Villains Month stories I’ve read.

Another Villains Month inclusion in this book is Batman/Superman #3.1, which Brett Booth drops in for. The issue focuses on Doomsday, who has no bearing on anything else in the book…but what the hell? I’m not the world’s biggest Brett Booth fan, but he draws a pretty good Doomsday. Not as good as Tony Daniel’s on the cover, but still pretty good. In the issue, a young Supergirl’s father tells her some sort of prophecy in which Doomsday defeats the “Last Knight of the House of El.” It’s essentially The Death of Superman, only not really…I guess. The most intriguing aspect of the issue involves young Kara Zor El talking to a projection of General Zod from the Phantom Zone, whom she has apparently been in contact with for some time. I like the notion that Zod is haunting the House of El, and a vulnerable young girl no less. It makes him that much more slimey and evil.

The Darkseid and Doomsday spotlights indicate Greg Pak is obviously capable of telling good stories in the DC Universe. So how he ended up giving us this convoluted mess as the kick off to a Batman/Superman series is beyond me. All we needed was the equivalent of a basic turkey sandwich, and this creative team gave us some bizarre tofurky casserole from some crazy lady’s Pinterest account.

RATING: 5/10

Front page image from comicbookmovie.com. Image 1 from cosmicteams.com. Image 2 from dreamwidth.org. Image 3 from gregpak.com. 

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A Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes Review – Preparing For Pain

TITLE: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
PLATFORMS: PS3, PS4, 360, One
DEVELOPER:
Kojima Productions
PUBLISHER:
Konami
ESRB:
RELEASED: 
March 18, 2014

By Scott Siebert
Contributor, Mastermind

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is an oddity. The game is meant to serve as a bridge between Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which will be released in 2015 (hopefully). Whether you view it as a prologue or part one, Ground Zeroes is essentially DLC that is released before the actual game. Ground Zeroes is a gamble on (Metal Gear creator) Hideo Kojima’s part. While the game could excite fans for The Phantom Pain, it could easily turn them off and hurt the franchise’s future.

Fortunately for Kojima, Ground Zeroes moves the series forward in a big way, and has me very excited for the next title. The game’s world is extremely tight, and the graphics are beautiful (even on my 360). Ground Zeroes offers diverse terrain, with each part of the map offering unique gameplay, challenging the player to adapt to their surroundings. Enemies move and react in realistic ways, and things such as water and light play an even bigger role in the stealth series. The game world feels similar to Metal Gear Solid 3, with a strong mixture of natural and urban settings.

Metal Gear has traditionally forced players down a fairly restricted path, but the latest installment opens the map up so the player can choose the path that best suits their style. This provides gamers with a wide variety of strategies for the mission, and the world feels truly alive. The stealth mechanics are as strong as always, but the gunplay feels even stronger. Snake is able to run and gun, and the rigidity that has previously characterized the series combat has been replaced with newfound fluidity. Every gameplay element has been improved and integrated together, which makes for a far more cohesive game.

While Metal Gear is known for overly convoluted and bombastic stories, Ground Zeroes skips the philosophy and instead focuses on the characters. The story is fairly straightforward, with a strong emphasis on preparing the player for The Phantom Pain. Those who have not played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker will not feel a strong connection to the campaign, as the story revolves around locating Paz and Chico. Even for those who did play Peace Walker, the only player who gets extensive screen time is Snake, which makes it difficult to care about any of the other characters, and limits the emotional impact of the game’s violent end.

Ground Zeroes has a few annoying flaws. Kiefer Sutherland replaces fan favorite David Hayter as Snake. Sutherland injects new emotion into the character, but at times he seems to lapse into a Jack Bauer-esque performance. This is to some extent inevitable, but I nonetheless dread the first time Snake screams “DAMN IT” in The Phantom Pain. The game map is also somewhat hard to follow, as the player indicator at time seems to blend into the rest of the display. The ability to spin and manipulate the map also causes more confusion than clarity. More casual gamers will be turned off by the game’s difficulty. Metal Gear has always been accessible to casual gamers by offering lower difficulty settings and forgiving game mechanics, but Ground Zeroes does away with these. There is no easy setting, and the absence of radar makes it easy to lose track of the enemies. While this will appeal to hardcore gamers and longtime fans of the series, I imagine Ground Zeroes will cause more than a few rage quits.

The biggest issue with Ground Zeroes is its length. Numerous articles have already been written on this issue, and there are already YouTube videos of the main quest being completed in under 10 minutes. The average gamer can probably complete the game in about 2 hours. Depending on how much you explore and the number of side-ops you do, you can probably get between 5-10 hours out of the whole thing. If it were a linear action game this critique would have a lot more weight, but considering the amount of freedom the player has, the replay value is high. Because of this, it might be better to say that the game is as long or short as the player chooses to make it. The game world is extremely well crafted, and I’d rather spend two hours in a well-made game than 20 hours in a generic one.

Considering the length, the $20 price tag is probably a little steep. Ignoring the cost however, the game moves the franchise in a fresh new direction and offers a few hours outstanding gameplay. Diehard Metal Gear fans will enjoy the game, and it should tide them over until they can get their hands on The Phantom Pain.

RATING: 8/10

Front page image from edge-online.com. Image 1 from dualshockers.com. Image 2 from gamespot.com.

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The Wyatt Family Dominates, Scott Hall Gets His Due, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

- John Cena “sees” Erick Rowan in a mirror as he prepares for a match. As good as some of the build up for the Cena/Wyatt match has been, that little moment was really lame. It reminded me of an old WCW segment where either Hulk Hogan or Eric Bischoff supposedly saw the Ultimate Warrior in a mirror. But if a wrestler is hallucinating and seeing another wrestler in a mirror, how can a worldwide television audience also see the hallucination? It doesn’t make sense. Fail.

Still, the image of Cena wearing that sheep mask was a really powerful one as we build toward Wrestlemania.

- The Undertaker emerges from a casket to attack Brock Lesnar. We went off the air with some classic Undertaker, i.e. the whole popping out of the casket routine. An oldie but a goodie, if used in the proper fashion. On a side note, Lesnar needs to find a way to control his voice when he’s shouting. That high-pitched squeal that tends to happen during an intense moment really sticks a knife into the whole “Beast Incarnate” thing.

- Scott Hall/Razor Ramon announced as the newest member of the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2014. Fans have been anticipating Hall’s induction into the WWE Hall of Fame for weeks now, so this really isn’t a surprise. But it’s interesting that they’re choosing to focus solely on his run as Razor Ramon in WWE, as opposed to his career overall. He was, after all, one of the founding members of the n.W.o. in WCW. The only explanation I can think of is that they’d rather not spotlight what was really the beginning of his downward spiral, which occurred during his time there. Either way, it’s nice to see Hall get his due. Despite some of the not-so-great things he’s done over the years, his place in wrestling history can’t be denied. He obviously had some great matches with Shawn Michaels. But he also did some good work with Bret Hart, Sean Waltman, and Jeff Jarrett, among others. And of course, the fact that he’s been able to get sober after such a lengthy struggle with alcoholism is almost worthy of the Hall of Fame itself.

- Triple H calls for the beginning of the “Reality Era.” Really strong promo from Triple H, as he continued to expertly play the villain. I particularly enjoyed it when he called the fans “soft” and “apathetic,” which of course they’re not. But of course, any time Triple H antagonizes the fans, some of whom have been so hard on him for years, there’s that added bit on intrigue there. The build up for his match with Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania has been really strong.

- The Miz interrupts Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Manganiello in the ring. Normally, this type of segment would have been booed out of the building. But because it’s Arnold, it gets a pass. Did Hogan say “Joe Magnioli?” You know your English needs some work when Arnold Schwarzenegger can pronounce something correctly, but you can’t.

So it looks like we’ve officially got heel Miz back. Thank God for that. Hopefully he can regain some of his old thunder. Of course, getting beat up by two guys over 60 years old isn’t going to help.

- Christian def. Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, and Alberto Del Rio in a fatal fourway match. While the crowd was really pro-Ziggler during this match (as they should be), Sheamus put on a heck of a show in his own right. The fall away slam on Christian into the barricade was a nice spot, and I was really impressed with the one-armed Irish curse backbreaker on Alberto Del Rio. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sheamus is more than capable of putting on an awesome match on any given night.

- The Big Show def. Titus O’Neil. The way I see it, The Big Show is the favorite to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Although I don’t see Show as Andre’s true successor (that title goes to The Undertaker), a win here would be a fitting medal for him.

- Sin Cara is accompanied to the ring by Scooby Doo. Great. As if Sin Cara didn’t have enough problems being taken seriously.

Front page image, image 1, image 3, and image 4 from WWE.com. Image 2 from allwrestlingsuperstars.com. 

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A Review of The Walking Dead, S4E15 – Justice is Served

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

- Because in this episode of The Walking Dead, people did the right thing and were rewarded, while the bad guys got the justice they deserved. Glenn and Tara continued on their journey to Terminus looking for Maggie, and Glenn’s desire to find Maggie nearly killed Tara. But from the other side of the tunnel, Maggie returns to save Glenn and Tara (not gonna lie, I got a little choked up). Daryl is stuck with the gang he met two episodes back and seems to be getting along with them just fine, while the gang goes after the man who killed one of their own.  Unbeknownst to the gang, they are hunting down Rick who is heading towards Terminus with Carl and Michonne. This episode cleared the slate for the finale focused on Rick’s group and Daryl’s group. The fans needed this, especially after the Lizzie incident.

- Glenn continues to become a better person since the prison was destroyed. The episode starts with him rushing to find Maggie and ignoring the fact that he is dragging Tara along, even though she is tired and gets injured avoiding a falling zombie. When they get stuck in the tunnel, Glenn could have left Tara and continued to Terminus. He could have been just like Shane in season 2, but he did the right thing and protected Tara. It also symbolized Glenn’s forgiveness for Tara participating in the prison attack. In a world filled with badasses like Michonne and Daryl or noble lawmen like Rick, Glenn has emerged as a real hero.

- And in one of the incredibly rare instances where the show’s higher powers reward those who do the right thing, Maggie returns to save Glenn and Tara and the fandom rejoices. Instead of stretching out their reunion, we get to see Glenn and Maggie together again before the finale. There will probably still be some problems, considering Glenn had to lie to Maggie about Tara’s backstory and Beth is still missing. For now, Glenn and Maggie have found each other and Maggie is sporting Daryl’s poncho, which is just fantastic.

- Eugene may have made a bad first impression, but he proved he wasn’t a complete tool. He started off being his usual arrogant self combined with being a bit of a creeper after calling Tara hot. It looked like he was going to continue in this fashion, but then it’s revealed that he led Abraham and Rosita to the other side of the tunnel to help Glenn and Tara. He could have run off but he couldn’t live with himself. The TV Eugene has done more to endear himself to the audience than the Eugene in the comics, which is a great thing.

- While they are not the finest caliber of humans, the group that Daryl is with continues this episodes streak of punishing those who deserve it. As Joe, the gang’s leader (played by Jeff Kober) says: “Ain’t nothing sadder than an outside cat thinks he’s an indoor cat.” They believe they don’t fit in with the people who make settlements and are content to follow their own rules in the wasteland. You simply call dibs on what you want and get punished for not honoring such a sacred pact between people. Although they are the bad guys, I at least want Joe to make it to season 5.Daryl is following them for now, but when they catch up to Rick I think he will switch sides.

- I think we are all in agreement that Terminus is a trap. The heroes can stroll right on in without seeing any guards or barricades and meet a woman who looks more than a little cuckoo. She is either a cannibal who lures people in to feed on them like the witch in Hansel & Gretel, or she keeps a building filled with zombies she thinks of as pets. Either way, I have a bad feeling. Also, if the woman living in Terminus looked familiar, the actress is Denise Crosby, who played Tasha Yar in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  If the showrunners want to bring more Star Trek cast members on the show, I recommend either bringing all the redshirts from the Star Trek franchise on The Walking Dead, only to be killed by zombies, or the best captain Starfleet ever had, Captain Benjamin Sisko.

- “Zombie apocalypse really sucks” moment of the week: There wasn’t much to be down about this week. I guess you can give it to the general experience of being with that gang because in a real zombie apocalypse, there would be more of them than people like Glenn.

- Zombie kill of the week: Maggie finding Glenn and mowing down those zombies in the tunnel.

Front page image from tv.yahoo.com. Image 1 from weeklycomicbookreview.com. Image 2 from projectfandom.com. Image 3 from digitalspy.com.

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