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Friday, January 16, 2009

Smallville 8x11 - "Legion"


Special DC Universe Guest Stars:
with special guest appearance by:

Green Arrow, Tess Mercer, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen sat out the episode but the latter two were named dropped by the Legionnaires.

Wow, this was pure giddy DC Comics goodness on television. The geek references were out of this world.

The Legion were from the 31st century, wore Legion flight rings, Smallville-esque gear perfectly invoking their classic costumes, name dropped Brainiac 5 and the names of their homeworlds, and had all their powers were not just intact but used liberally (including a nifty bio-electric magnetic pulse when Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad combined their powers). Best of all was the reveal that their "memories" of Superman's history don't jive at all with what they saw when they arrived in Smallville.

Lightning Lad had all the zingers:

"Where's your cape?"
"You come to be known as Su--"
After seeing Clark running at Superspeed: "What's with the ground transpo? Why aren't you flying?"
Later: "No glasses, no tights, no flights, are you sure we have the right guy?"

The Legionnaires point out that their history records Superman, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen, but they've never heard of Chloe Sullivan! Lots of amusing spectulation of why that is, including several fanboy theories that have been floated through the years.

Of course, Clark schools them on heroism, teaches them that heroes "don't kill - ever!" and even without the cape and tights, he's the Superman they remember from history.

Chloe was saved from Brainiac and is back to normal, no longer super-intelligent from the Kryptonian brain boost.

Clark gets a Legion flight ring as a souvenier from his new future pals, programmed for "time travel and not flying". Clark will have to learn to fly "on his own schedule."

Just a lot of fun. A big love letter to DC comics fans.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Milk (****)


Excellent movie centering around a fantastic, thoroughly convincing lead performance by Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. Lost count of how many scenes Penn made out with dudes, but I think they were outnumbered by the gay riot scenes. After the second or third, I began thinking instead of Victor Garber, San Francisco's mayor should have been Mayor Quimby. Just so Quimby could have said, "Can't this town go one day without a gay riot?"

Friday, January 2, 2009

Here She Comes Again, Like Good Medicine


During an otherwise wonderful Christmas season that saw WWE give us Jeff Hardy as WWE Champion, Trish Stratus returning for one night only, and Maryse becoming Divas Champion, I read something on WWE Universe that saddened me. 

Maria wrote a blog addressing the "anger and cruelty" of the people who attack her on her WWE Universe page for various reasons.  The fact that Maria has this terrific forum to speak directly to her fans and vice versa but it gets abused to the point where she doesn't enjoy logging on to WWE Universe is downright sickening.

Maria is awesome, and some people are idiots.  The latter is self-explanatory but the former needs clarfication.  Because Maria's catchphrase is "passion is my motivation", the following is:

A Passionate Defense of Maria

Maria is gorgeous.  Stunning.  I met Maria very briefly at a Fan Axxess event before Royal Rumble 2006 in Miami.  Her sheer beauty was overwhelming.  It isn't just that Maria is "hot", which she is like a fireball.  She's beautiful.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my eyes told me and continue to confirm to me that Maria is the most beautiful of the current crop of WWE Divas.  She's one of the few Divas in WWE who is all-natural and kudos to her for not succumbing to any pressure in that regard.  To me, Maria's pure sex appeal outshines every other current Diva.  And beyond all that, she was a sweetheart to boot.

Beside her natural physical beauty, what does Maria bring to WWE?  Tons.

Maria portrays a terrific, bubbly, upbeat character.  She is more endearing than any other Diva on the roster.  As a babyface, she is an ideal foil to the hostile and arrogant personalities in WWE.  (As a heel, she could be phenomenal.  Maybe one day...)

Maria is excellent on the microphone and can be trusted to go to the ring with a live mic, cut a promo, host the Kiss Cam, and move storylines forward just with her personality.

Maria's original "airhead" backstage interviewer persona was hilarious.  I still chuckle when I think of how she pushed a microphone to Carlito's face after he won his first Intercontinetal Title and innocently asked him, "How'd you do it?"  Or when during Eric Bischoff's trial, Maria sashayed into Mr. McMahon's courtroom and deadpanned a speech of jaw-dropping legalese.  She's ventured away from that character in the last couple of years, although she still occasionally will do a backstage interview and feign being dumb for old time's sake.

Maria's time as the on-air girlfriend to Santino Marella was instrumental in Santino developing into the beloved comedy character he is today.  Without "my beautiful Maria" at his side to play off of, become jealous of, and later betray because she posed for Playboy, Santino wouldn't have found his niche and Monday Night RAW would be all the lesser for it.  Maria was a fantastic foil for Santino and held her own with the comedy.  Not many of the Divas are as deft with WWE's unique brand of comedy as Maria is.  Fellow Greek goddess Trish Stratus is the only Diva naturally funnier.

I imagine the bulk of the hostility towards Maria stems from 1) her appearance in Playboy and 2) her "lack of wrestling ability".

First, Maria posing for Playboy was a godsend.  Maria, I mean this sincerely from the bottom of my heart and I speak for millions of your male fans as well:  Thank you!  We appreciate and love you for it.

Second, believe it or not, Maria can wrestle.  This doesn't mean I think she's the female Ric Flair by any means, nor is she the equal in skill of many of her Diva peers (I think she'd be the first to concur), but Maria works incredibly hard in the ring.  Many fans are willfully ignorant and pig headed in whatever opinions they happen to hold dear.  Most have no genuine idea of what it takes to get in that ring and perform.  The injuries (of which Maria has had her fair share), the pain both instant and lingering, and the pressure of performing in front of a live audience of thousands would make most people succumb.  With each match Maria improves.  It takes time to be a good wrestler, years and years.  Maria puts in the time, puts in the work.

Maria's body is, in my opinion, not actually built for wrestling.  Maria's body frame is lean and leggy, not bulky, muscular or compact, which are the best Diva body types for in-ring action (see Mickie James, Melina, and Beth Phoenix.  Trish.  Lita.)  I imagine bumps may be harder for Maria to take, maybe more awkward due to her body type.

And yet, Maria has proven herself tough as nails.  She has taken beatings from Trish, Victoria, and Lita.  She's been pulverized by a Samoan drop from Umaga.  She just last week took a severe thrashing from Michelle McCool.  (Would Michelle's long-awaited heel turn have been anywhere near as successful if she turned on someone other than sweet, vulnerable Maria?)  Maria took every beating and sold them all like a champ.  Then she gets up and comes back for more.  Name another Diva since Trish and Lita retired who has harbored such physical abuse from both Divas and male Superstars alike and came back the next week with a smile on her face?  Don't tell me Maria isn't tough.

Maria has such a well-developed character that she doesn't need to wrestle at all.  She is thoroughly entertaining without ever grappling in the squared circle.  Still, she gets in the ring. Still, she takes the bumps.  Still, she busts her ass.  She wants to wrestle, she wants to get better.  She wants to deliver great matches with her fellow Divas.  She wants to be Divas Champion or Women's Champion.  Who's to say she can't be some day?

Maria, in her own words, is an underdog.  She's not the strongest, the toughest, the best in the ring, but she pits herself against those who are and tests herself each time.  She loses a lot, comes up short.  She endures, she strives.  What in the world isn't there to admire about that, and about her?

Finally, Maria has proven herself to be a fine ambassador for WWE.  She has appeared on numerous talk shows and media programs, including G4, CNN, and FOX, and has represented WWE admirably with charm and wit.  When someone who looks and sounds like Maria represents WWE to the non-wrestling world, she sends a signal that the poor perception many have of WWE and professional wrestling isn't correct.

When her WWE career is over, Maria may not be remembered as the best wrestling Diva in the history of WWE.  She may never be Divas Champion or Women's Champion.  (But to her credit, she'll work towards that goal until her body tells her she can't.)

But at the end of the day, Maria brings to WWE a positive personality, a personal style, a vivaciousness, and a sheer joy of performing that separates her from her peers and makes her wholly unique.  The Divas are often disparagingly called "cookie-cutter" but Maria has long since separated herself from the pack.

She stands out.  She's unforgettable.

She'll tear your heart out.

Meeting Maria at WWE Axxess, Sunday April 5, 2009.