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Monday, August 26, 2013

Total Divas 1x5 - "Feuding Funkadactyls"

The Funkadactyls Explode! Ariane is a Diva in the diva sense of the word. Trinity is more interested in, you know, wrestling. It's like oil and vinegar. And yet, their marriage works. But not this week. This week, Ariane's motor mouth and her abundant pride in winning a go-kart race between her, Trinity, Eva Marie and Jojo was finally the straw that broke the camel's back and tore the Funkadactyls apart! Name calling, yelling, shoving in public (Trinity shoved first, a detail that is semi-important) and soon, Trinity declares to Talent Relations that she no longer wants to work with Ariane. (As Total Divas tells it, Brodus Clay and Tensai, the male half of this unit, have no interest in resolving the tension between their dancing valets.)

The friction between the Funkadactyls was enough to involve Stephanie McMahon herself, who gave them a stern McMahon corporate talking-to about unprofessionalism. Neither of them are a *solid* B+ in Stephanie's eyes. But she gave them what they wanted: singles action on the WWE's B and C shows. Trinity was delighted to work with Alicia Fox but her delight and over-enthusiasm caused her to badly miscalculate a flying bodypress that E! presents as the single worst botch in the history of the five weeks E! has been covering WWE. Meanwhile, without saying it bluntly - as the watching Divas' facial expressions told the story - Ariane can't wrestle so well, and falls to the expert mat tactician that is Aksana.

Finally, the Funkadactyls saw the error of their ways and reconciled that together, they are stronger than they ever could be apart. (Until the day comes Trinity gets a solo push, then it's Girl-Bye to Ariane.) But for now, let us feel the warmth in our hearts that the Funkadactyls remain united. We never knew until now just how close we all came to losing the Funkadactyls forever.

Meanwhile, it's Natalya's birthday week and Nattie, as she said to the camera several times, wants "to celebrate me." Foiling her attempts to celebrate herself are the obstacles as follows:

1) WWE, her employers, who booked her to lose by pinfall in Calgary (Alberta, Canada) to the Bellas and cry about it on RAW. A moment I remember distinctly because I found it hilarious. Nattie was the latest victim of WWE's policy of embarrass their employees in their hometown.

2) Tyson "TJ" Kidd, Nattie's fiance, Calgary's biggest mama's boy, indifferent to Nattie's obvious and obviously stated dislike for his mother and family. TJ loves family, puts it above everything. He's the kind of guy who'll bail on his woman and leave her alone in her hotel so he can stay overnight on his mom's pullout couch. He's the kind of dreamboat loverboy who invites his mom and sister to romantic birthday dinners.

What's weird is that Nattie is in her hometown but doesn't seem to know anyone. Doesn't she have her own family and friends to spend time with and "celebrate her"? Total Divas says nay! Well, not entirely. Nattie does have one friend, another rooster in the henhouse, at it were. Jaret, her one time trainer and tanning salon friend who spray tanned Nattie (if you like Nattie in bikinis, this is the episode for you) and took her to a private romantic dinner, just him, Nattie, and the camera crew, in order to declare his love and make his play for her hart.

As for the Bellas, this is A Very Special Episode of Total Divas because we learn a lot about Nikki and Brie's lives growing up. Their addict father abandoned them when they were fifteen and their father figure was their late grandfather Pop-Pop (in the attic) whom the Bellas mourn. Nikki has no interest in a relationship with her father, but Brie's announcement that she's returning to their hometown of Brawley, California to see dear old dad caused Nikki to launch into Every Kind of Displeased Facial Expression Nikki Bella can make.

But it was a talk in the opulent CeMansion with John Cena that changed Nikki's mind to give her father a chance. I tell you now, WWE Universe, if the John Cena of Total Divas were the John Cena of regular WWE programming, no one would boo him. John Cena is a man's man, a great man. Patient, understanding, insightful, with a calm, soothing voice delivering just the right advice. As Zoidberg would say, "Such a man, he is!" Cena is so patient and amused as Nikki walks over to his framed photo of the WWII Allied Powers and fails completely to accurately name Stalin, Churchill and FDR. But more important than the cute butt Nikki just wants to bite, it's the (sometimes Chinese) words that come out of Cena's mouth that move Nikki the most.

And so it was that the Bellas and Brother Bella go to Brawley to meet with their estranged father. Honest words are exchanged, tears are shed, and the first steps to the Bellas reconciling with their father, who promises to do better, are taken. Heart. Warming.

TOTAL DIVAS REVELATION: Eva Marie and Jojo wear bronzer to work out, because "you never know who [will be there for them to hit on]." (Roman Reigns, in this case.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In A World...



In A World... assures you'll never listen to a movie trailer the same way again. Written, produced, directed by, and starring Lake Bell as an underachieving voice coach with a gift for accents, In A World... shines a light on an industry within the movie industry rarely given much thought to: the surprisingly cut-throat world of Hollywood voice over work. Ruled for decades by the late Don LaFontaine, whose distinctive voice and catchphrase "In a world..." kicked off countless movie trailers, the Hollywood voice over industry turns out to be a rat's nest of vain, opportunistic, sexist slimeballs. 

One of those slimeballs jockeying to fill the void left by LaFontaine is Bell's father Fred Melamed. A real piece of work with a trophy wife Bell's age, Melamed is himself a vainglorious voice over legend who thinks nothing of cutting his own daughter off at the knees to have his voice grace the trailer of the biggest movie "quadrilogy" on the horizon, "The Amazon Games", a riff on the mega-popular The Hunger Games saga. Melamed kicks Bell out of his "crash pad", which sends her onto the couch of her sister Michaela Watkins and her PB&J loving husband Rob Corddry. Bell gets a stroke of luck when she's chosen to voice the trailer of "The Amazon Games," essentially stealing the plum job from the young stud of the voice over industry, Ken Marino. But only one of their melodious voices can be the voice of the new generation of Hollywood trailers.

Fitfully funny and quirky throughout, with a tremendous cast including Nick Offerman, Alexandra Holden, Eva Longoria, Jason O'Mara, Geena Davis, and a cameo by a famous Charlie's Angel, In A World... outright questions why there are virtually no females voicing over movie trailers, which are seen by every person all over the world. Bell's not out to change the world of voice over, however, just to have a place in it. In A World... is more chiefly concerned with matters of family, self-reliance, and self-assurance. An endearingly subtle comedienne, Bell winningly eschews glamor and artifice as the star of In A World... Whether caught in a compromising position in Marino's private memorabilia room, having a series of increasingly sweet moments of awkward courtship with her ADR producer Demetri Martin, or not-so-covertly following any random person with an interesting voice around with her omnipresent tape recorder, Bell is an offbeat charmer, like her movie.

Also, bonus points for Bell's use of Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World".

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Spectacular Now



Imagine Shailene Woodley's surprise when she finds Miles Teller passed out on someone's lawn while delivering her mother's paper route at 6am. Teller is well-known in their high school, not for any particular athletic or academic achievements, but for being a gregarious party boy screw up. Teller is a confident schmoozer rarely without a plastic soda cup in hand, which he spikes from his omnipresent secret flask. Teller should be applying for college - or applying himself in any fashion - but he lives in the Now, with no particular whims about tomorrow. 

After a not-uncommon bender, he's found by Woodley, who at first fears he's dead. Teller awakens and quickly charms her. She's beautiful, obviously, but guys don't normally see her that way. She reads sci-fi, has never had a boyfriend, and has a domineering mother. Teller is drawn to her, which he can't quite admit to himself, attracted as he still is to his ex Brie Larson. Woodley is flattered by his attention, intrigued by his verbosity and charm. They like each other, and it goes from there. It's first love, it's tender, it's sweet, it's raw, it's painful, and indeed, it's spectacular. 

Written by the scribes of [500] Days of Summer and directed by James Ponsoldt, The Spectacular Now is a golden little treasure of a coming of age film. The smooth-talking Teller is a cauldron of abandonment issues, as well as his increasingly alarming alcoholism, both a result of his deadbeat dad Kyle Chandler, whom Teller and Woodley visit in the film's most heart wrenching sequence. Teller gifts a flask of her own to Woodley, a red flag that the film thankfully doesn't pursue, though tragedy does blindside Woodley in an unexpected way. Woodley has hopes and a plan of her own for her future, and The Spectacular Now suffers in its third act as it seems to rush to find a pat resolution to Teller's issues, but that doesn't diminish the spectacular lead performances by Teller and Woodley. Why, if Star Wars were a coming of age indie film, it would be the scene in the tavern where Teller and Woodley see exactly what kind of man his father really is.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Untold History of the New 52

Superman Unchained is the number one blockbuster mega-series by writer Scott Snyder and artist Jim Lee. Only in its 3rd issue, it's become clear Snyder and Lee are currently crafting what has to go down as the one of the finest Superman tales in recent years and most certainly of the two year old rebooted DC Comics New 52 era. 

Depicting the current interpretation of Superman, younger, raw, impulsive, only five years into his career as the World's Greatest Superhero and not yet fully comfortable or, to be honest, completely deserving of that title, Unchained sees the Man of Steel encounter a circumstance he's entirely unprepared for: his role in the world as a hero questioned outright. For There Is Another in the world with powers beyond those of mortal men who has been serving the betterment of the world for decades in ways Superman never imagined.

But what's most interesting to me about this uber-tale Snyder is telling isn't the moral and ethical questioning of Superman's modus operandi or even the outrageous super action between Superman and his new alien rival, a being called Wraith. It's the revelation that Wraith has been covertly serving the United States government and directly impacting the course of history in the 20th century into today without anyone being aware of it. Touring a hidden bunker called The Machine beneath the Salt Flats of Utah, Superman learns of the course of human events changed by Wraith via one of Superman's greatest detractors (inconveniently the father of Lois Lane), General Sam Lane:

While the primary focus of Snyder's story is assessing Superman's greater responsibility to the world as a hero (Lane accuses him of being "a coward" and "the greatest mass murderer in human history" - quite a bit out there - for Superman's "need" for applause and wasting his powers "saving kittens from trees"), Snyder has struck a goldmine of story here, perhaps without fully realizing it. 

One of the most intriguing but underappreciated aspects of Watchmen, and a major contributing factor to why it holds the lofty and unchallenged title of Greatest Comic Series Ever, is that Alan Moore addressed how a superhuman being like Dr. Manhattan would actually change the world. Not just by saving it from alien invaders, super villains, or natural disasters - the more comic booky threats to humanity. Dr. Manhattan's presence in the world altered technology, culture, elections, and America's standing as a global superpower. 

Snyder is lobbing the same compelling ideas about Wraith. Wraith landed on Earth in 1938 (the same year Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1 was published) and served the United States government covertly since that time. Snyder overtly states Wraith has directly participated in every major conflict of the 20th century, sliding the scales and balancing the peace on the side of the United States of America. The very first pages of the first issue of Superman Unchained reveal Wraith himself was "the bomb" that was dropped on Nagasaki, which finally ended World War II.

This is fascinating stuff!

Akin to Oliver Stone's recent documentary series Untold History of the United States (which any fan of 20th century history really should watch whether or not Stone's point of view suits yours), Snyder has found the promised land of story potential. The New 52 version of the DC Universe is a clean slate, with superheroes like Superman and the Justice League only emerging 5-6 years ago, and very little is known about what the New 52's history was like before then. By rebooting the universe, The New 52 wiped clean the previous "history" of DC Comics where superheroes have existed since the 1930s and 1940s. 

Snyder has now blown the doors open, establishing the first glimpse of the history of the last century in The New 52. Snyder is telling us that everything we assume happened in history, which is a reflection of our own history, was affected and even molded by the actions of Wraith and The Machine. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the fall of Communism, etc. all presumably happened and Wraith had a hand in it all. Did 9/11 happen? Or maybe it didn't; did Wraith stop it? Or if it did, why didn't Wraith prevent it? There is story here! 

There's a golden opportunity for DC Comics to pounce on to one day tell the Untold History of The New 52 and reveal to us just how and in what ways Wraith altered the course of human events. It could be an amazing funhouse mirror of our own real-world history. For Snyder, this could be a chance to deliver something akin to his own Watchmen; to be the architect of the New 52's Untold History. Snyder, a disciplined storyteller who does his research, has ample skill dabbling in historical settings in his marvelous creator-owned series American Vampire and Severed

I sincerely hope one day Snyder and DC Comics do finally tell the Untold History of the New 52. It's a history worth revealing.

Although, "Wraith", it turns out, is a pretty silly acronym.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Total Divas 1x4 - "The 'Fat' Twin"

A gross injustice occurred at the 10pm hour on Sunday night: mean, rude people on social media called Nikki Bella fat. And it hurt her feelings. Let's get this out of the way: Nikki Bella is the farthest thing from fat. Just looking at her trying on sexy lingerie for John Cena confirms that she is in phenomenal shape. (And way, way too proud of her boobs, which get more air time and discussion than Eva Marie or Jojo this week.)

With this ( Summerslam promotional beach photoshoot looming, Brie is concerned that with Nikki's increasingly different body type, the Bella Twins are no longer identical twins. Of course, that ship sailed when Nikki embiggened her chest, which she strongly encourages Brie to do. Brie's answer (which Bryan Danielson mocked her for because it means no pancakes for brunch) is to go on a juice cleanse for 20 days, and she ropes Nikki into it as well. Nikki lasted maybe a day before the call of muffins and wine (which has antioxidants so she doesn't consider it alcohol) was too much. Brie and Nikki settled their issues and no, Nikki Bella is not fat. (She's no Mickie James, that's for sure.)

Meanwhile, embiggening chests is all that's on Ariane's mind. Dragging Trinity and Jon Uso to LA to help her with this momentous decision (with special guest appearance by Vincent, who was like, licking the armrest of the couch or something), Ariane visited a famous Hollywood boob surgeon. The Funkadactyls are concerned that a breast enhancement would impede Ariane's ability to wrestle for up to two months, because if Superstars or Main Event suddenly need a Divas tag match to fill in one of its segments, that means they're screwed. I love how worried the undercarders who hardly get TV time get when faced with the threat of getting even less TV time. It's a cutthroat business.

Kind of like those old high school home ec assignments where you had to carry and egg around and pretend it's a baby you're taking care of, Ariane took two saline implants home to test out what it feels like to have breast implants. She wore them in her tops everywhere, including to the pool where Trinity mocked Jon for enjoying the California lifestyle too much. Trinity asked Sandra in wardrobe to sew the implants into the top of her ring gear, but the fiendish, devilish Bella Twins decided to rib Ariane and stole one of the implants! (John Cena strongly disapproved, because it violates the third tenet of the Cenation - not Hustle or Loyalty - and also BE A STAR, NIKKI!) A panicked Ariane had to stuff toilet paper in the deflated boob and went out there and danced at ringside and absolutely no one ever noticed because who's ever really paying attention to Cameron of the Funkadactyls?

In the end, the Bellas copped to their rib and Ariane can't be mad but swore vengeance on Nikki, as per the rules of backstage lest the Bellas and the Funkadactyls ever get called to appear before the Undertaker at Wrestler's Court, which would probably be the best episode of Total Divas ever if that happened.

As for Natalya, her relationship with TJ, aka Tyson Kidd, was the third major storyline. Nattie needs love, tender lovin'. She needs a pink and black attack. TJ, since being injured, spends all his time sitting on the couch watching WWE, playing with the cat, and ignoring her. Even when she's prancing around in sexy lingerie, he can't take his eyes off Daniel Bryan vs. The Shield. TJ surprises Nattie with a secret car ride to the skeevy neighborhoods of Tampa and springs a surprise wedding at the courthouse on her. Hilarious. He is totally incredulous when Nattie loses her shit over this and why he would think this is what she wants from him. It's totally hackneyed, played for the camera, BS, but TJ playing dumb was good for a chuckle. Later on, TJ makes up for it by surprising her on her return from the road with Stereotypical Romantic Shit like candles, rose petals, chocolate covered strawberries and whatnot, which is all Nattie ever wanted, let's get married (on a future episode of Total Divas).

TOTAL DIVAS REVELATION: Nikki Bella is (not) fat.

Friday, August 16, 2013




As its theme, Elysium borrows a title, but nothing else, from Hemingway: to have and have not. 140 years from now, Earth is a ruined dustbowl of a slum populated by the Have Nots, most of whom are depicted as the sweaty, unwashed, Spanish-speaking masses we today consider minority races. The wealthiest Haves skedaddled from Earth and seemingly pooled their vast resources to build a multi-kajillion dollar space station in which to live; a heavily guarded orbital haven they for some reason dubbed "Elysium." Oh, it's wonderful up on Elysium, young orphan Matt Damon assumes as he gazes up at that silver wheel floating yonder overhead from his shanty down in what's become of Los Angeles (South Africa doubling for LA). Up there, they have magical bio-beds that can heal any illness, and everyone has a swimming pool in the backyards of their McMansions, like the kind you'd see in modern day Santa Barbara and Malibu. Elysium is more or less Epcot Center in space. The food court must be pretty awesome on Elysium.

The creamy pantsuits running Elysium's security are worn by Jodie Foster, sporting a weird pseudo-French accent. Foster schemes to have the duly elected President of Elysium kicked out of office so she can run her space station without being called to the carpet every time she shoots down a transport shuttle full of illegal immigrants trying to sneak onboard. Foster is harsh and ambitious but not bright. She enlists the Tony Stark of Elysium, billionaire weapons magnate William Fichtner, to rewrite Elysium's computer codes to shitcan the President and put her in fully in charge, in exchange for a 200 year exclusive contract. It's weird because doesn't Fichtner have the exclusive contract anyway? There don't seem to be any other competing billionaire weapons magnates on Elysium. Foster also doesn't trust any of the rejects from the Robert Palmer "Simply Irresistable" video working for her and secretly employs skeevy mercenary Sharlto Copley to do her dirty wetworks on Earth. Clearly, Foster makes excellent choices that don't end up stabbing her in the neck.

Meanwhile, Matt Damon grew up to be a convicted carjacking felon who toils on the line in one of Fichtner's robocop assembly factories. Damon is chagrined to make his meager living slapping together the droids that in turn harass him and break his arm when he's waiting for the bus to go to work. Through the negligence of his superiors, Damon is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. His medical droid informs him with hilarious bedside manner that Damon will undergo catastrophic organ failure and die in five days. Desperate to live, Damon's only hope is to get to a medical bed on Elysium and be magically cured. To do that, he takes a job for the local crime lord and has an exo-skeleton fused to his body, giving him superhuman strength and the endurance to conveniently ignore his fatal disease for most of the movie, unless the plot calls for him to remember he's dying of radiation poisoning. The mission: to kidnap Fichtner and steal the data in his head via bio-link download file transfer whatever. The mission goes sideways when Copley and his crew of roughnecks intervene, Fichtner is killed, and so are most of Damon's guys. Damon also had no idea exactly what he downloaded from Fichtner's head, which turns out to be the code to reboot Elysium completely and make everyone a citizen. 

A lot of chasing and bloodletting in the form of cyberpunk ultraviolence ensues as Damon rather easily gets Copley to take him to Elysium, only to learn his childhood sweetheart Alice Braga and her daughter dying of leukemia are also headed to Elysium as Copley's prisoners. Looking like a cyborg version of Bane, the bald, jacked up Damon turns into an unlikely revolutionary, trying to stop Copley's #OccupyElysium movement when Copley decides he should be in charge of Elysium. Bit by bit, Elysium lets the audience in on what's really on its mind: universal healthcare and the idea that everyone on Earth is entitled to citizenship and thus all the magical healing capabilities withheld from them by the rich people of Elysium. No one bothers to ask any of the inhabitants of Elysium how they feel about any of these political issues, but then Elysium seems oddly underpopulated and the people we do see appear too concerned with posing for photoshoots for the Elysium version of Vanity Fair. So as it happens, Damon succeeds in his sloppy, violent revolution and the code of Elysium is rewritten so that everyone on Earth has a chance to have a medical droid hit them on the knee with a ball peen hammer and cure what ails them. It's a happy ending, at least until someone else rewrites the computer code and sets Elysium back to the way things were.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kick-Ass 2



Justice Forever

In Kick-Ass 2, writer-director Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) takes over the reigns from the original's director (now producer) Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman. Glad to say, Wadlow doesn't Schumacher it. Or Ratner it. If Wadlow doesn't quite transcend the material, which he adapts almost warts and all (a rape scene and a dog killing are wisely excised) from the graphic novels "Hit-Girl" and "Kick-Ass 2" by comic book maestros Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., or bring much shocking and new to the Kick-Ass movie universe, he admirably maintains the same ribald, downright offensive joie de vivre that made Kick-Ass the best and most shameless superhero surprise of 2010. The ending of Kick-Ass screamed for more Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass 2 is the More Kick-Ass we wanted.

Kick-Ass 2 continues the misadventures of the eternally naive and earnest Dave Lizewski (an impressively buff Aaron Johnson), the green-and-yellow wetsuited boy wonder the world knows as the superhero Kick-Ass. His exploits to rid New York City of the crime lord played by Mark Strong in the original has inspired others to take up the noble cause of spandex and protect New York City from evildoers. Which is great, because after all the ass-kickings he's endured, being a lone crusader fighting crime on the mean streets terrifies Kick-Ass. He's better equipped to kick some ass this time around; he's been trained by the deadliest and greatest superhero alive, Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz, now a taller teen and owning the movie every second she's on camera). This training includes Hit-Girl gleefully shooting him in the chest and in the back. But that's no more than she herself endured from her beloved daddy, the late Big Daddy, who, Hit-Girl is proud to point out, is the true first superhero of this world, not Kick-Ass like the public believes.

Meanwhile, Kick-Ass's hilariously unhinged arch enemy Chris (the scenery-chewing Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the former superhero Red Mist, has reinvented himself as The Mother Fucker, the world's first supervillain, clad in his late Real Housewives of Long Island mother's black latex S&M accoutrements. The Mother Fucker's sole goal in life is to spend his vast inherited fortune to kill Kick-Ass, and also destroy the city, because that's what a supervillain does according to all the comic books he's ever read. To wit, The Mother Fucker charges his personal Alfred John Leguizamo ("Did you just call me your butler?") to help him assemble a cadre of murderers he can outfit in garish supervillain costumes, complete with race-baiting codenames, which Leguizamo scolds him about to no avail. The Mother Fucker's greatest find is Mother Russia - imagine a female Ivan Drago from Rocky IV but wearing a revealing red leather bikini and more than willing to brutally massacre a dozen police officers.

Kick-Ass finds the camaraderie he seeks when he is recruited into Justice Forever, the world's first superhero team, banded together in the New York City warehouse basement of their leader Colonel Stars and Stripes (a subdued Jim Carrey flawlessly translating the upright character from the comic books). These harmless do-gooders include Dr. Gravity (neither a doctor nor a master of gravity, played by Donald Faison), Battle Guy (revealed to be Kick-Ass's nerdy high school chum Marty, played by Clark Duke), and the fetching Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), Kick-Ass's sexy new squeeze. Kick-Ass and Night Bitch's back alley sexual liaisons (masks always on) recalls Spider-Man's rooftop romps with The Black Cat. (Kick-Ass's girlfriend Lyndsy Fonseca is quickly written out of the sequel after a misunderstanding, but I believe she is brutally murdered in the comic book, so she thankfully got off easy here.) The world's greatest superheroes Justice Forever are not, but they do somehow manage to effectively fight crime and they have a really cool logo emblazoned on their headquarters' meeting room table.

Hit-Girl, however, can't be part of Justice Forever, as she attempts to assimilate into normal high school life at the urging of her kindly guardian, played by Morris Chestnut. Moretz more or less headlines her own movie within a movie, a Kick-Ass parody of Mean Girls, as Hit-Girl makes a genuine attempt to become one of the Plastics of her high school. (One of the side effects Hit-Girl discovers of being a normal teenage girl is a sudden, unexpected attraction to guys with smoldering pouts and ripped abs, a sexual awakening Big Daddy never trained his favored child for.) Facing down an alley full of thieves and murderers is no problem for Hit-Girl, but the bitches bullying her in high school is a new dilemma she can't solve with martial arts and samurai swords. Luckily, Hit-Girl has other wonderful toys at her disposal to teach the Queen B and Wannabes a lesson.

The specter of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, sorely missed) hangs over Hit-Girl as Kick-Ass 2 plumbs new themes of living up to your parents' wishes for its three primary characters. Hit-Girl is torn between fulfilling the destiny her father trained her for and following her ersatz father's wishes to attempt to have a normal life free from spandex and killing. The Mother Fucker's entire existence is all about getting revenge on Kick-Ass for exploding his father with a bazooka (his fearsome uncle imprisoned in Riker's Island played by Game of Thrones' Iain Glen is introduced, setting the stage for Kick-Ass 3). Meanwhile, Kick-Ass himself deals with his own father discovering his crime fighting secret and then protecting his son from The Mother Fucker's vengeance, at the cost of his life. In the end, Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl, and The Mother Fucker are all orphans, as all classic comic book characters must be. Kick-Ass 2 also directly asks the question of what good superheroes actually do in the real world ("If we're trying to make the world a better place, why is it so much worse?") Kick-Ass 2 reaches the reasonable conclusion.

While the gleeful novelty of the original Kick-Ass and viscera-soaked shock value of eleven year old Hit-Girl somersaulting around and dismembering bad guys while cursing like a sailor is unavoidably lost, Kick-Ass 2 succeeds in its escalation of the world and the stakes therein.  The final balls to the wall superheroes vs. supervillains showdown - West Side Story in spandex - is appropriately ultraviolent, with Kick-Ass and The Mother Fucker leading the charge in the fight of their lives. The super smackdown between Hit-Girl and Mother Russia (Hit-Girl scoping out the baddest dog in the yard and taking her on personally) is actually more brutal and satisfying than both times Batman fought Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Everything in Kick-Ass 2 is more personal for all of the main characters. Without Nicolas Cage and Mark Strong's sturdy anchors, Johnson, Moretz and Mintz-Plasse rise to the occasion and take full ownership of the franchise; three masked teenagers hellbent on tearing shit apart and shoehorning themselves into a world that doesn't actually need them, except to save it from each other.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Total Divas 1x2 - "A Tango With Fandango"

"The thing I like about being in John Cena's house is I feel like I'm in a rap video." - Brie Bella, with the blisteringly apt line of the episode

There's a lot to like about John Cena's enormous mansion in Tampa, Florida. To get there, he flies by private jet with all the sushi a Bella or a Daniel Bryan can eat. And then, we learn Cena lives in a  massive Ce-Mansion, with a waterfall indoor pool, a private elevator to his master bedroom, and a huge white closet where he keeps all his kicks, jorts, and wide array of John Cena T-shirts. And John Cena lives alone in this palace, though Brie implies Nikki Bella spends a lot of time also living there. (But not permanently and legally with a wedding ring.)

Contrast to Bryan Danielson's rustic home in Aberdeen, Washington - as Total Divas cleverly did - which is the house Bryan grew up in and Brie and he plan to own after they retire from WWE. After three days in the lap of Cena luxury, Brie and Bryan return the favor by taking Cena and Nikki to experience living like The Beard. Nikki is totally concerned about her twin sister being forced into living in the lap of not extravagant luxury. Which is not to say it's not a perfectly nice house. But even Brie has qualms. A lot of qualms about what Brie is giving up to live in Aberdeen. Nikki: "The house needs to be torn down and redone." I mean, Bryan doesn't even have a cigar room like a gentleman. Then came the wood chopping competition between the boobilicious Bella Twins and the main event of Summerslam, which the Bellas won. It should also be noted how easily and happily John Cena is distracted by Nikki's rack.

Meanwhile, Eva Marie is this week's Total Divas top heel. She's a piece of work. Eva Marie decides she wants to be Fandango's dance partner, back when he was rotating his weekly dance partner with a bevy of heel ballroom dancers before Summer Rae became his permanent partner. She makes a big pitch to her bosses, lying about having ballet and ballroom dance experience, and then tries to bamboozle Fandango, who's a total player.

"I'm gonna shower now. I'll be thinking of you... in the shower." - Fandango. That must be Fandango's version of Fandangoing.

Oh, and apparently, Eva Marie has a boyfriend named Jonathan she never mentioned to anyone before, and Jonathan appears at her door bearing donuts and an engagement ring. And of course, Eva Marie says "Yes!" and then promptly hides the ring to have a "business meeting" which ended up in a club with Fandango. Also, she has no dancing experience. And this goes about exactly as you'd think. The appalled and aghast facial expressions by the Divas were pretty great. Stephanie McMahon personally dressed down Eva Marie with her mean face, but Eva's just lucky it wasn't Vince McMahon making her join a Very Special Club. Eva Marie got off easy.

As for the Funkadactyls, Ariane took it upon herself to get her team new sparkly lime green ring gear that Trinity was not down with. Ariane's negotiating tactics with Sandra, the WWE seamstress to tweak the outfit is highly dubious. For telling Ariane to step off, Sandra is a heroine. She should be made General Manager of RAW.

Jojo's role in the episode was basically to scoff at Eva Marie's lies, but that was still more than Natalya got to do.

Total Divas Revelation: Fandango kisses his own hand when greeting a lady.