Here we are at the debuted of a new column of The Matt Harding Blog, more of a test to see how I feel about this. I am someone that can waste a whole week watching movies I gavexalready seen and as such I thought I would start reviewing them, my problem is that everyone and their dog likes to trash new films… sorry review new films so I settled on the idea to Review older ones, some I have seen already but a few on my list I have not seen before. For this illustrious debut I have chosen G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Why, you may ask? because I found it more enjoyable than the first film and I was watching it as I encouraged a friend to start her own blog so I figured I better stop talking about it and be about it.

This 2013 sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did not exactly shake the world, I found Retaliation to be a far superior production than its predecessor and it had a good outing considering it was released just before the peak season of 2013. They toned down  much of the weaponry and technology involved and did not bash us over the head with the size of the fully realized G.I. Joe world that took years of cartoons, toys and comic books to develop. The scope is reasonably small on the Joes end giving them an underdog feeling.

The casting is by far the biggest upside with Dwyane ‘The Rock’ Johnson in the role of franchise corner stone Roadblock, joining Channing Tatum (Duke)and Ray Park (Snake Eyes) and earning him the nick name ‘Franchise Viagra’. The casting here is a fine example to anyone making good on preexisting characters. DJ Corona (Flint), Adrianne Palicki (Lady Jaye), Ray Stevenson (Firefly) and Elodie Yung (Jinx) come in as major players and deliver to the source models and RZA brings a certain style to the role of The Blind Master even if he is slightly off the original model. The vastly down sized Cobra roles are an improvement as I felt swamped with characters in the first film and a few key villains operating from a position of power and  in control of an army makes a more formidable obstacle

The story itself is good, Cobra had inserted itself to a position of power at the end of the last movie and this one doesn’t ignore that. The film is using the premise G.I. Joe: Renegades, a cartoon produced in 2010, Cobra in power and Joes on the run trying to clear their name and unseat the snakes, while this could be played out over longer stretch the goal here seems to be correcting the damage done in the first  movie. While an original movie wouldn’t be unwelcome there is a tremendous amount of source material to draw from some of which is not as far fetched decades after the 30min toy commercials first aired, not all mind you some were just way to far off the page.

Biggest wins: Casting, props (no laser guns), ninja relationships (they pulled the most compelling story arc from the books and ran with it), $130 milllion (ish)budget nearly tripled to $375million (ish) box office which is a huge feat given the late March release date.

Biggest fails: killing Duke (or did they…), mountain fight (they pushed disbelief too far), revealing Joe Colton when they could have used any number to others instead of going right to the original name sake of the G.I. Joe program .

Worth watching: absolutely, Do not expect a massive hit but I think it is under rated and with some fresh vision and some more grounding in reality there is a real chance to save this franchise. A rare example of the sequel being better than the original.

Sequel worthy: yes, there is a ton to build on here and if they can keep grounded and steer clear of shark jumping fight sequences like the cliff ninja battle and the robot suit Paris chase in the first movie. Stay grounded and tell stories that can focus on any number of the dozens of Joes out there, a solid military centered anti-terrorist franchise with a near infinite selection of environments to chose from and Joes to use, recasting the core group with new characters is no problem if they use a few bridging characters in secondary roles, think Coulson and Maria Hill in the Marvel Studios films.

If you haven’t checked it out and aren’t ready for the Christmas movies yet give this a chance. It’s not perfect or deep but it will entertain for a couple hours.


CSB: I’m Not Blind

I try not to be negative on here or hate on people, this week though I decided to address a few things I have been asked about repeatedly lately. As a wrestling fan and predominantly WWE at that, it is assumed I just agree with what ever is on TV and don’t question the way things are. I very much do, I just understand two things, 1) I am not in any way shape or form capable of altering what is done and 2) some times we need to wait a bit longer for the plans to play out before we get too concerned. Bearing all this in mind here are some tings I am very much bothered by even as a super fan.

Mid match commercial breaks. Nothing ruins the suspension of disbelief quicker than a sudden 2 – 3 minute commercial break during a match. Add to that the bumpers for the sports network on either end and suddenly I have lost a huge chunk of a match I was getting attached to. I get that commercials are a part of television but this is not like the show isn’t planned out. I am sure that some where someone is capable of plotting out a better schedule for the breaks and matches so that fans can stay invested in the product.

3 hour Raw. Why? It’s just too much. The biggest problem is that it the traditional length of the monthly Pay Per Views is also 3 hours, so what is special about the PPV’s now? They still have commercial breaks for WWE content and they still interrupt  matches for them once in a whike(drives me bonkers). There is only a marginal difference in the story segments (all the not match stuff), matches are a bit longer but for the most part a good Raw can be better than a PPV and a bad PPV is no better than a mediocre Raw. Here issue though is cash, WWE gets paid for that hour and as a public company they do have shareholders to answer to. My opinion is drop the hour and make the paid content on WWE network more appealing by making it more special and meaningful.

Title design. There are four title belts that are identical except for the colours. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship (black), Universal Championship (red), Raw Women’s Championship (white/red) and the Smackdown Women’s Championship (white/blue)…are you kidding me? The last brand split contained too many titles much like the current split but at least they were all distinct in design. Seriously lacking in creativity not to mention that they couldn’t even come up with a better name separation for the two women’s titles, at least they didn’t call one something stupid like Universal, SMH. The two Tag Team Championships are no better, I like the design, I even like the copper on black belts currently on Raw but the silver on blue clones on Smackdown do nothing for me. I am not a fan of the amount of titles  but at least put in effort to make them seem distinct.

PG and gimmic matches. Look it’s 2016 and I am NOT advocating a bloodbath on every show, it’s unnecessary and dangerous, not just in bodily harm to the athletes but the sheer amount of blood born pathogens we currently have in our world. The flip side however is that if you put athletes in any environment where there is an elevated level of danger you can’t just expect fans to convince ourselves that something involved is no going to cause some quick and visible injury. It is no secret that the athletes have ways of portraying more serious wounds with out the cause being what is the focal point we see on screen. The result is usually a match where fans are asked to push disbelief too far or the danger level is hyped up but never really comes into play. We are already pushing our suspension disbelief pretty far. Either the amount of gimmic matches needs to be drastically cut back or the rating needs to change for certain shows. The stuff on the WWE network is the obvious choice to alter the rating, I don’t mean a hard R gore fest but bump it a level and let the performers deliver something more suitable for the story they are trying to tell. Not altering the rating and keeping the PG rating often comes across as Goodfellas with Ned Flanders writing the dialog.

Too many titles. I started to elaborate on thus buy it turned into a full article in itself so I will flesh that out another time. suffice to say the multiple belts in each division only cause confusion and detract from each other.The eventual unification matches will be less interesting the next time around.

Speaking of too many…Pay Per Views I think that’s the term we still use. Since the brand split it seems that there is one every two or three weeks. So far each brand is getting one a month each. Way too much, it is watering down the product and over saturating the market. There are other companies out there doing very well and the audience en masse has more choice in available product than ever before thanks to the internet and expansion of television to hundreds of channels. Too much WWE content is going to breed contempt and is going to hurt the interest of the audience because they are going to offer up way too much in a short span and over expose story lines and athletes and cause a need to rush stories that could draw not only money but interest if left to a longer build up. I think the first brand split had the right idea of using four PPV a year a co-brand then alternate the other eight for brand exclusive cards leaving a build period twice as long as it had been previously and allowing the chance to put mega-matches together on network TV that could be used to build more interest for the PPV.

See I am not jut a zombie yes fan. I don’t rail or whine on the internet about it but I certainly think a few bolts need to be tightened and can see the crash coming if not. My general philosophy is to highlight what is going well and not nit pick at the things that don’t work, here are enough people out there doing the negative, since I am just a couch fan and not a former athlete, share holder or production insider my opinion seems more akin to the rest of the online geniuses that seem to think they know better. The only difference is that I have my name on it, my real name and I am willing to defend my position to any one regardless of a cheap sea fan or Vince McMahon.


Double Oh Seven

Bond, James Bond, is there a more iconic introduction? I first heard it in Octopussy but since then I have followed the Bond franchise intently. I could write a tone of trivia or recap the various stories but instead I am going to ask the most discussed topic of the franchise; who played the best James Bond? The debates over this have raged on for years over marinis, poker tables and car rides. There is no quantifiable means to rank the actors, the longevity of the franchise and the changes in society since 1963 makes every statistic an arguement unto itself. Indulge my personal rankings and see if they make sense to you, feel free to reply with your own quick list.

Sean Connery: 7 times Mr. Connery went out as Bond. He did five films in a row then came back to do Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 and signed on for Never Say Never Again in 1983. He was the prototype, the originator and the icon. My favorite Bond film is From Russia With Love and taking all of this into account I give Sean my #2 spot.

Peter Sellers: The 1967 release of Casino Royale is he only Bond film I have not seen. I am not going to rate Mr. Sellers but I have to lean towards the success of the film as an indicator. Many people are not even aware that this film exists and that like Mr. Connery’s Never Say Never Again it exists outside of the 007 franchise we all know. Feel free to make a case for Mr. Sellers in this role but I can’t feel confident ranking him here today.

George Lazenby: 1 appearance as James Bond has poor George often overlooked, the reality is that is that he got what he called “poor advice” and left the franchise believing the culture of the time would take its toll on the franchise and it would collapse…oops. I recall hearing a story that he had a stage commitment that prevented this as well, which is true I don’t know but they could both be or neither, it really doesn’t matter. If you go back and watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with an open mind Lazenby does do a fantastic job and looked the part. He might have been a great Bond had he carried on, he certainly had the youth to make a long run in the role. I give him my personal #3

Roger Moore: 7 times for Mr. Moore, unlike Mr. Connery these were all in a row and in the contiuity of the franchise. I feel he started strong but as the series wore on the campy nature started to over shadow the action and Moore got less charming and more like a creepy drunk hitting on your girlfriend in a dive bar. His build was a little less than what I would expect for the duration as he seems fluffy in a few films as his tenure wears on. I put him #6

Timothy Dalton: The two time 007 got the shit end of the stick as he got the call as the 80’s came to a close and the series took a hit as it seemed like any other over the top action film that was out there. The tropes and standards of both 007 and the action genre of the time made for a lack luster box office and Dalton seemed a half step out of sync with the character. I believe Dalton would have made a better Bond villain than a Bond, While he wasn’t the major part of the poor legacy of the films I think he was miscast and the 6 year break between movies may be the evidence. Welcome to my #5

Pierce Brosnan: Six years Bond was under reconstruction. The longest break in franchise history paid off with the man fans had been hoping to see with a freshly shaken martini in hand. Pierce started off hot with Golden Eye. The franchise roared back to life and 4 films and 7 years later Pierce was gone again. The strong start ended with a weak fizzle, much like the Moore era the films became increasingly campy and in a few cases the special effects were so bad it pulled the audience out of the moment. Pierce himself held it together but by Die Another Day he was being over shadowed by a few too many over stretched plot points. Strictly speaking as the character though the only thing Mr. Brosnan lacked was some size. It was a close race but Mr Brosnan came in at #4 (seriously Lazenby did THAT good, which is saying a lot)

Daniel Craig: By now you have figured it out, this is my #1. I was not happy with the casting leading up to Casino Royale, in fact I was quite vocal that Clive Owen wasn’t getting the role. I stand humbled. The blonde haired blue eyed Bond was not my idea of sticking to the character design, which is a pet peeve of mine. Mr Craig brought a wonderful sense of detachment to the role. He compartmentalized the job with a certain icy demeanor while he held a passion for a woman that kept him motivated through three more films. He has the size and build I would expect, the dry wit, the mission demeanor, in short the only thing I can say wasn’t exactly what I would expect of a top caliber spy are the hair and eye colour. I apologize for my lack of faith Mr Craig, job well done I hope there are more than 4 films in your Astin Martin days.

There it is folks. Debate, scoff argue, rage but that’s how I feel. Sooner or later we will have to add another name to our discussions, who will it be? When will we see the results of another changing of the guard? I don’t know. What I do know is…

Save The Date

We all have quirks, they make us unique, the ones that over lap with our friends bring us closer. My clothes need to folded a certain way, my shelves of books, movies and music are alphabetized except for Bond films, cash is all uniform in position and orientation in my wallet and I have a strict calendar adherence. I maintain a strong distaste for overlapping holdays. I am looking at you first world retail industry. Why do we need to push two or three events on top of one another? Costco and Wal-Mart may as well decorate a tree in hearts an put a Jack-O-Lantern on top and save them selves some effort every fall and some display space.  We seem to just leap from one occasion to the next before we have even finished the occasion. Fall seems to have the highest concentration of the decorative occasions and I believe we lose sight of the enjoyment of them because the next one is pushed in our faces well in advance.

Currently we should be decked out in orange and black as we remove the spooky trappings and cope with the excessive candy in our lives, yet a week ago I was looking at Christmas trees in Wal-Mart. I am not a Halloween person, never really have been but I do enjoy carving a pumpkin or two, however lots of others are and the tradition is worthy of having it’s time. Why do we need to have the ghost of Christmas Next looming over it? Oh wait Christmas isn’t next is it, I my world my birthday is next and nothing irritates me more than getting lumped in with Halloween, I get that they are a handful of hours apart but I don’t even want to think about it until after the 31st. Halloween gets it’s day, no snow flakes or tinsel or reindeer, I have no desire to have my party on it even if it is a weekend and one of the prime party holidays, that’s me though maybe if I held Halloween in higher regard it would be different but as far as I’m concerned it gets first dibs and I will wait, the fat guy in the red suit can too.

Christmas, is there a bigger decorative occasion than this? Regardless of views, religion and participation this holiday is the apex predator of holidays. Christmas is the Megalodon Shark of the calendar year. Halloween may be the Great White but Christmas is the big bad on the block and there s no dispute, even the staunchest advocate have to admit that orange and black are a distant second to red and green, both start making appearances in late August but are almost two months apart. There is no escaping it and a good portion of the world nearly comes to a halt for a day because of it, in this great melting pot that is North America we drop just about everything for a single holiday. Christmas comes on like the boulder in Indiana Jones, we aren’t ready but suddenly we find ourselves running to keep ahead least we are crushed. I don’t want to sound anti-Christmas, all I am saying is that it over whelms us and a couple other holidays.

Christmas swallows New Years like a kielbasa on Howard Stern, New Years Eve really is the Egyptian Plover of Holidays, it picks the remains of the meal from the teeth and in return is allowed to exist close to the mouth of the great beast. New Years Eve is the third biggest party of the year, Christmas wins, Halloween gets second and New Years slips in on our trifecta (Yes my American friends I know Thanksgiving is ridiculously late for you and falls in there but it still takes 4th place) we plan ahead for it but really it is the swan song of 2 months of alcohol gluttony and “fuck my diet” New Years Eve isn’t the only victim though, Remembrance Day gets blown past in such a fashion that it feels that we are almost ungrateful. Such is not the case, most of us are extremely grateful we have the privilege of holiday gluttony and mass market binge. I have heard and read many accounts of veterans proclaiming it is okay to get on to Christmas because that is just a part of what they fought for, that is fair, I don’t have a battlefield Christmas because they did, I thank them I personally feel I can wait to start decorating and celebrating until after Nov 11, they get their day too, and all they ask is a couple bucks for a poppy and that we remain quiet for a minute.

Obviously this time of year we are blitzed with special occasions, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Remembrance Day, Christmas, New Years Eve they come at us rapid fire as we dash between decorating, shopping and the parties involved in each, toss in a few birthday parties and it’s no wonder we are wiped out by the end of the year. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Canada Day and St. Patrick’s Day are all spaced out with plenty of recovery time between them, it’s easy to respect the division between holidays there. Personally I think we succumb to the retail pressure and let the cluster of the end of year holidays blend with each other and it diminishes everything, that’s just me though.