The Ides Of… April

It’s the 15th, so that means it’s time to take a look back at all of the various media I’ve imbibed in the past month. It’s a decent sized month for sure, but given my new job, I do have less time to do stuff like this. Where the fuck do people actually find the time to play video games?

Movies

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In terms of films this month, the first one I watched was actually a re-watch, as I got Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor 2013). You can go back to the Ides Of November 2013 to read my full thoughts from when I first saw it. On re-watch, the thing that stood out to me the most was the score, Brian Tyler kicked ass on it.

Still in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I of course went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony & Joe Russo 2014). You can read my full review for The Outhouse HERE.

After this, I finally got around to the absolute phenomenon that is Frozen (Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee 2013). Obviously, as a grown man, I am not the target audience for a Disney Princess movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very funny, the songs were good (although I don’t think ‘Let It Go’ is the best one) and I liked the way it subverted your expectations for what a Disney Princess movie would be like, the ‘Act of True Love’ wasn’t a kiss from a handsome prince, but a sacrifice from one sister to another, and the handsome prince ended up being a villain. I do think a lot of the ‘it’s a metaphor for sexuality’ stuff is a bit over-blown, people who go crazy for that need to read some X-Men comics, they’ve been doing the same thing but better for 50 years!

Kristen Bell was the voice of Anna in ‘Frozen’ and the final film I watched was another K-Bell joint in Veronica Mars (Rob Thomas 2014). I was a big fan of the original TV show when it was on, but unlike many fans these days, I was able to let go when it was cancelled, and didn’t really think about it. I didn’t donate to the Kickstarter, but hey, when it actually came out, I pretty much had to watch it. And I’m glad I did, it was a great return to the world of Veronica Mars and Neptune. It’s not perfect by any means, there are 2 or 3 subplots that go nowhere, which works for a serialised TV show, but not for a Movie. If there is a sequel that fully explains the conspiracy that Weevil, Keith and Sacks were victims of, then fine, but for now, it’s annoying. I also thought that the new ‘reformed’ version of Logan was boring as fuck. I could understand if Veronica was drawn back into her life by the swaggering charismatic Logan of old, but in this movie, he’s lamer even than Piz! Poor old Piz. Dull Logan also contributed to my thinking that it wasn’t actually for the best that Veronica Mars is back to being a PI. The character would have been better off in New York, and bringing her back turned out shittily for most of the characters, and it’s all the fan’s fault! But I suppose that inexorable draw is a staple of Film Noir, and that’s always what VM has tried to be. I would recommend it to fans of the show for sure, and I would be very interested in seeing what someone who had never seen the show thought of it. I personally don’t think it can stand alone, but who knows? Also, James Franco’s cameo was amazing.

 

Television

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As ever, there’s a shit-ton of TV, and I haven’t even watched the new Mad Men yet! I’ll start with the new and notable stuff, first up is Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz) which came back for it’s 2nd season of historical inaccuracy and silliness. This season has been a lot of fun so far, especially in how it’s sort of broken free of the mould, and scattered most of the characters away from Florence. It remains to be seen how well the writers will bring Leo’s quest to South America together with Lucretia’s attempts to rescue her father and Lorenzo’s attempts to bring his city back under control, but I do trust them. This series has always dealt with it’s epic mythology in interesting ways, and after dropping his quest at the end of S1, I think Da Vinci will really succeed here. We haven’t had the episodes from comics writers Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman yet, but I’m very excited, especially because of how the revelations about the evil Pope are so similar to what Hickman is doing with Oppenheimer in The Manhattan Projects.

However, the return of Game Of Thrones (HBO) does kind of expose Da Vinci’s Demons and show how ridiculous it is. GoT is a similar show, but far better, and so far, Season 4 has been excellent. I knew it was coming, but the death of Joffrey was amazing to finally see, and I really think the stretch of chapters being adapted now are the best in the entire A Song Of Ice And Fire series. The back half of A Storm Of Swords is amazing, and now we’re getting that, but with more! The changes the writers have made are working out very well, especially when it comes to actually seeing what happened to Theon and his transition into ‘Reek’. I do have worries about how much filler they’ll have to use for the Bran and Arya storylines, but I’m always fascinated to see what new ideas are added. It’s like deleted scenes from the book, it doesn’t feel like sacrilege to me, but adding to an already rich tapestry. We haven’t had too many new cast-members this year, but I like what I’ve seen from Pedro Pascal as The Red Viper. I can’t wait for his big scene.

Veep (HBO) came back for it’s 3rd season, and I love how different it feels. The beginning of a new election cycle has begun, and Armando Iannucci and his writers really are broadening their scope. We’ve had one brief look at Secretary Maddox’s opposing campaign, and I loved everything involving Jonah’s terrible video-blogging. Iannucci did the same thing in The Thick Of It, by introducing The Opposition, and it worked wonders, and whilst we haven’t got any real Republicans yet, this is just as good. The way Episode 2 tackled the Abortion ‘debate’ was also genius, with nobody actually caring about what the argument is actually about, and just wanting to say something different. The performances are all still great, and this show is just reliably hilarious.

And now a new show! It’s Silicon Valley (HBO), the new sitcom from Mike Judge about, well, Silicon Valley. Right now I’m finding it to be more clever than outright funny, but both episodes have been excellent. I don’t know much about the real life stuff this show is parodying, but it feels accurate to what you read about online, and there are some great comedians and actors in here. Yeah, Zach Woods basically plays the same person he always plays, but it’s still funny, and I always enjoy seeing more of Martin Starr, TJ Miller and Kumail Nanjiani on my TV. It does remind me a lot of Judge’s ‘Office Space’ movie, and that’s a hell of a good thing. If you like Judge’s brand of comedy, then definitely check this out. It’s like The Big Bang Theory but not terrible and for tools.

Now for the quick hits!

In my Cheers (NBC) box-set watch, I’m still in the midst of Season 2, and still loving it. I do need to crack on with it though, I think I’m slowing down so I can postpone Coach’s death.

The only episode of Black Sails (Starz) was the finale, and it was pretty solid. It’s certainly a good thing that there is definitely going to be a Season 2, as it didn’t really resolve anything and ended on a couple of cool cliffhangers. I was surprised by who died too. If you have Amazon Instant Video, watch this show, it should fill in those empty hours between Game Of Thrones episodes.

The 3rd Season of Girls (HBO) ended well I think, I still can’t decide if it’s the best season of the show or the worst though. In some ways it was much more consistent, but it lacked that exciting spark, and seemed to fall into much more of a ‘just another sitcom’ rut. I need more experimental episodes like ‘One Man’s Trash’ next season. And man, they need to work out what to do with Jessa.

Archer (FX) Vice has continued to be absolutely hilarious. I loved the 2-parter set in the South American dictator’s palace, especially with how it brought back the ‘Krieger is a clone of Hitler’ thing. Now that Adam Reed has announced that the show will ‘Deboot’ for next year, I’m certainly intrigued by how the gang will get to be spies again. It’s going to be a wild ride for sure. And I hope they start saying ‘phrasing’ again. Seriously? Why aren’t we doing that anymore?

I also loved the final few episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX), which has to be the best debut season from a Sitcom since Community, and I have to say that B99 is probably more consistent. Even the romantic subplots at the end didn’t make me roll my eyes. It’s just so funny, all the actors are great, and basically, everyone needs to watches. I can’t cope with this show being like all of the other US comedies that are good. Steady ratings and early renewals please!

Justified (FX) ended it’s 5th season in a cool way, and I think we now know why this Season felt a little different than previous ones. It wasn’t really a story in it’s own right, it was actually all about setting up Season 6 and bringing things back around to Raylan Vs Boyd. That rivalry has been on the back-burner since Season 1, but really, it’s what the show has always been about, and I can’t wait for next year to see how it all goes down. It is a shame that Darryl Crowe kind of petered out, but I think the Crowes always did feel like a poor man’s version of The Bennetts. Speaking of that, man, was it awesome to see Dickie Bennett again. I would love it if he was a bigger part of S6, but I doubt he will be.

This last stretch of Community (NBC) episodes are by far the best yet in Season 5. I still think this new version of the show is a bit weird, but all 3 eps have been very funny. Dungeons & Dragons II was almost as good as the first one, which is hard to do, and even though GI Joe was before my time, I still thought the animated episode was great. I suppose it’s all of the Venture Bros I’ve watched. The first of the 2-part finale was also good, I love the way they make fun of Subway so much.

In terms of Parks And Recreation (NBC), Leslie Knope is pregnant, Jeff Tweedy was in it and Greg Pikitis returned! Amazing.

Review (Comedy Central) has gotten darker and darker and even better. I love how what you think is just going to be a bunch of goofy sketches has turned into an actual storyline driven show, as Forrest McNeil’s participation in the series has basically ruined his life. His wife divorced him, he killed his father-in-law, he lost his car and more. The latest episode, where Forrest goes to an Orgy was absolutely genius. It seems like nobody else is watching this, and that’s a shame, Andy Daly is a genius. I guess this is the kind of thing that everyone discovers on Netflix in 3 years and wonders how they never heard of it.

Workaholics (Comedy Central) is still a lot of stupid fun, the Basketball episode was amazing, as was the one where they all wanted the massage chair. It is inconsistent though, as I thought the ep where they opened up a Weed Dispensary/Taco Restaurant was a bit too stupid and unrealistic. But it’s kind of realistic to complain about anything being stupid here, I was probably just in a bad mood.

I can’t give any higher praise to The Americans (FX) right now, this 2nd season has been amazing so far. Episode 5, ‘The Deal’ is one of the best TV episodes I’ve seen in a long time, it was just so dark and twisted, and played with my loyalties so much. Who do I actually want to win here? I have no idea, and that’s why it’s so good. Everyone should be watching this, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are still delivering the best performances on TV, and I also think the look of the show is much improved from S1, the latest ep, ‘Arpanet’, featured some really cool camera moments, like scanning up to show the titular computer network.

There was only 1 episode of New Girl (FOX) this month, but it was a big one, as Jess and Nick broke up. THE FEELS! THE FEELS! I’m not actually sure how I personally feel about it, we shall see.

And finally, watching Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD (ABC) has been much improved by the Winter Soldier movie. Knowing what happens to SHIELD makes every episode intriguing, and I’m much more excited to see what comes next now. Hail Hydra.

 

Music

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I actually have some music to talk about this month! First up is Teeth Dreams (Washington Square 2014), the new album from The Hold Steady. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan of this band, I saw them accidentally at Leeds Festival in 2006 or 2007, and got into them then, and I own their first 3 records, but have slept on the last 2. I’m not sure why, I read good reviews, but never got around to it. But for some reason, the good reviews for this did convince me, and I have to say it might be the best album of theirs I’ve heard. The music is even more stirring and anthemic than before, and the vocals are much improved. Craig Finn’s lyrics were always interesting, but I found this brand of ‘talk-singing’ a bit grating after a while. But now, he’s moved much closer to actually singing. My favourite song here is ‘The Ambassador’, but it’s all good, even the final track ‘Oaks’, which is almost 9 minutes long, but you wouldn’t notice.

I’ve also been listening to The B-Sides (SideOneDummy 2014) by The Gaslight Anthem, which, as the name would suggest, is a collection of B-Sides. I don’t normally go for these odds-and-ends collections, but this is one of my favourite bands, so hey. It’s pretty good, with a few new songs that aren’t on any albums, along with some acoustic versions of more familiar tracks, and even some covers of stuff like ‘Tumbling Dice’ and a Pearl Jam song I can’t remember the name of. It doesn’t really cohere together, but it’s always good to get more of the Gaslights, and really, it just whets my appetite for a proper record, which is supposedly due this year.

 

Books

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I started the month by finishing up Michael Connelly’s The Concrete Blonde (1994), and yep, it’s the best ‘Bosch’ novel so far, especially because the reveal (I don’t know if I’d call it a twist or not) totally got me by surprise. In the first 2 books, I sort of guessed Connelly’s endgame, but here, the identity of ‘The Dollmaker’ serial killer blew me away, especially as the character had been a minor presence in the previous books. Connelly is using a lot more continuity here than I thought, and he uses it in cool ways.

The next Bosch book, The Last Coyote (1995) was also excellent, and also used continuity nicely, as Connelly finally delves into something that had been obliquely referenced throughout the first 3 novels, the murder of Harry Bosch’s prostitute mother. I loved seeing Bosch actually confront his demons, and it was certainly very interesting to see him tackle a case that is not only very personal, but the very definition of a cold-case. This murder is 30 or so years old, it’s totally different from the more immediate cases from previous novels. I did feel that the romantic subplot was a bit tacked on though, but that’s a small complaint. These are still superior crime novels, and if you have any interest in the genre, you need to read them. But as I said last time, you probably already have, I’m just loving catching up. There are like 20 more to go!

But after that, I took a bit of a break from the Connelly, to read the most recent novel from one of my favourites, Bleeding Edge (2013) by Thomas Pynchon. This is a really weird book, but, as always with Pynchon, really enjoyable. Much like with Inherent Vice, it’s a whacked-out detective story, but it’s still very different, and what made in interesting to me was the time period the book is set in, 2001. I was born in 1989, so I was a kid at that time, and even though I wasn’t involved in the dot-com boom whatsoever, it was still a great time-machine, especially as Pynchon references so many pop-culture things from that time. It just blows my mind that Thomas Fucking Pynchon knows what the likes of Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Metal Gear Solid and more are. You don’t expect high-minded literary writers to reference stuff like that, so when they do, it’s great. The plot of this novel is hard to really describe, but I don’t think it really matters, it’s just a pleasure to read Pynchon’s sentences, and to get his take on modern Internet culture and the changing, modern world. It’s also interesting to see this book slowly morph into a 9/11 conspiracy story. The way Pynchon treats that event is rather odd, it kind of just happens, but I suppose that’s how it must have felt for the people actually in New York at the time, they had to keep on living. I would definitely put this book in the same ‘suitable for newcomers’ category as Inherent Vice and The Crying Of Lot 49, it’s all of the Pynchon weirdness you want, but it’s not as off-putting as V or Gravity’s Rainbow can be.

 

Games

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I’m still playing WWE 2K14 (2K Sports 2013), but not really doing anything in particular. Just playing random matches really, as The Ultimate Warrior in tribute, or having Brock Lesnar crush the Undertaker again and again. I suppose I should get back to my Universe Mode, but I can’t be bothered.

Other than that, I’ve started playing Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar Games 2010), which I am really enjoying. As a big fan of Westerns and GTA, it just makes sense that I’d love the two of them smooshed together. I’m not very far into it yet, but I’m having a lot of fun just riding around the West and living out my Cowboy dreams. The depiction of the town of Armadillo is just awesome, it’s like being in Deadwood or something. I also really like that it’s set in the later end of the Western era, as the free lifestyle was dying out, that’s what I’m most excited about seeing in the story, to have this be some Wild Bunch type stuff. The graphics aren’t quite as polished as Rockstar would get them for GTA V, but everything still looks amazing, and I can’t wait to have more time to just play for a few hours straight. So far I’ve only had a little bit at a time. That’s what killed my play of Mass Effect (which I’ve kind of given up on for now), so I don’t want it to happen here.

So that’s that, I’ll be back on May 15th, see ya then!

No Comics Reviews this week…

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… and for the next few weeks as well. I’m taking a little break from them whilst I get used to my new Job, which is a 9 to 5:30 kind of deal, and doesn’t leave me with the time to write what is normally over 10,000 words a week.

Or at least, not until my body-clock has gotten used to the early start. Once that happens, I’ll be back. The reviews will probably be a bit shorter, but that will probably make them better, I’m trying to be less wordy.

I’ll still be discussing comics over at The Outhouse and on my Twitter, so if you like what I have to say about ‘em, hit me up on there.

My WWE Wrestlemania XXX Predictions - The Results

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My apologies for this being a few days late, I just started a new 9-to-5 job and so haven’t had as much free time. I did however manage to squeeze in both Wrestlemania and the post-Wrestlemania Raw before I started, and man, what a wild ride this week has been for the world of ‘rasslin.

First up, RIP The Ultimate Warrior, you were a legend.

Secondly, let’s revisit my predictions for the big show (not The Big Show) and see just how badly I got this one wrong!

The Usos (C) Vs Los Matadores Vs The Real Americans Vs Rybaxel

Fatal Four-Way Elimination Tag-Team for the WWE Tag-Team Championship

Pre-Show Match

Even though I live in a country that doesn’t have the Network yet, I still managed to watch this match, thanks to unspecified magic. I’m glad I did, because it was a lot of fun. All 4 teams were on the top of their games, and this was, as I expected, glorious chaos. The Usos retained, as I predicted, but the real focus here was on The Real Americans, who finally broke up after losing. Well, I suppose they technically broke up on Raw, but the story began here. Jack Swagger was pissed off at Cesaro for losing and tried to give him the Patriot Lock, but Cesaro broke free and gave him the Giant Swing. It was a great moment, and Cesaro wasn’t done for the night. I also want to say something about a guy that I haven’t seen talked about much, and it’s that Ryback was kind of awesome in this match. I was really impressed by everything he did, and I do think he deserves to get back in amongst the upper-tier guys. For the first time ever, Rybaxel seemed like a legitimate team, and it’s mainly down to the Big Guy.

1/9

Daniel Bryan Vs Triple H

Singles Match for the 3rd Spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match

I got this one right as well, as Daniel Bryan kneed Triple H in the face to advance to the Main Event, and just as I preferred, they kept it simple. There were no shenanigans here, just a great match with Bryan getting a clean win. I think this was the best match on the show by far, Bryan is always good, and this was the best thing I’ve seen from Triple H since I came back. I thought his 2 matches with Brock from 2013 were pretty boring, but this was great, probably because it wasn’t No Holds Barred or a Cage Match, but an actual wrestling Match where Triple H couldn’t rely on his sledgehammer. Instead, he and Bryan went toe-to-toe and it was awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pumped by a German or Tiger Suplex. I also thought Stephanie McMahon was great on the outside, she’s so entertaining right now, and I was glad she didn’t interfere until after Bryan had won. The post-Match chair attack was good too, but it didn’t stop me from thinking that Bryan would win later on, and it wasn’t a patch on the one from Raw, but other than that, this was just everything I love about wrestling. A brilliant, long-running story, a truly hateable villain, an amazingly over-the-top entrance (complete with NXT’s BFFs!), a glorious promo package, and of course, an exciting match.

2/9

The Shield Vs Kane & The New Age Outlaws

Wow. I expected The Shield to win this match, but I didn’t think they would do it in 3 minutes! This was an absolute ‘squash’ as I don’t think Kane and The NAO even really got in an offensive move. Kane locked in a chokeslam, but didn’t get to do it. Amazing, The Shield are so good you guys, I can’t believe people want them to break up. They came to the ring in awesome new masks, tore these old motherfuckers to shreds (no offense Kane, I like you) and amazingly, did a double-triple-powerbomb! With the developments on Raw, we now have a fully-babyface Shield, and I couldn’t be happier. They are awesome, this match was awesome. BELIEVE.

3/9

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

31-Man Battle Royal for the Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy

I predicted that Sheamus would win this, and when he and Big Show were the only guys to actually get an entrance, I thought I was onto something. But nope, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio eliminated each other right at the end, and instead, it was someone else. You can’t really blame me for not picking Cesaro to win the Battle Royal, because he wasn’t announced for it at all. But he was in, and he was awesome, body-slamming Big Show over the top rope to win an amazing moment that was deliberately reminiscent of the Hogan/Andre body-slam. I do get annoyed by how much WWE talk about that, but it was still an amazing sight. Show don’t tell I suppose. I love that Cesaro is getting this amazing new spotlight, not only did he win the Battle Royal, but on Raw he was announced as the newest ‘Paul Heyman Guy’, which is brilliant. It is a bit weird to have a guy who just became a good guy team with the evil Heyman, but I guess Paul is a face now? Huh. I can’t wait to see ‘The King Of Swing’ rise to the top. Elsewhere in the Battle Royal, there were some cool moments for other wrestlers too. Fandango and Sheamus had  a fun moment, and, whilst I still think WWE flubbed on putting The Rhodes Brothers in here rather than their own match, I did like seeing them team up to eliminate Damien Sandow. Cody and Damien should still be feuding really. I also liked Kofi’s usual survival spot, but I’ll echo a lot of people’s complaints that he actually needs to win one for it to mean anything. That would be a good story for a Rumble in the future, have a villain ridicule Kofi for doing all of these stunts and never winning, put him in at #1 or #2 and have him go all the way. I think this would be the best way for Kofi to finally try and get to the next level.

3/9

John Cena Vs Bray Wyatt

I got this wrong as well, with John Cena winning with his usual AA. But this was still a good match, and Bray came out of it very well, even though he lost, it doesn’t matter, because Bray Wyatt doesn’t care about winning or losing. He’s on another level, and that level is messing with John Cena’s head. This match kind of did what a lot of fans predicted, with Bray trying to get Cena to succumb to the dark side handing Cena weapons like a chair and trying to make him use them. This worked for me a lot, probably because I haven’t been watching Cena for 10 years and didn’t see his early years, where he routinely cheated to win, or all of the other times he used weapons. To me (and the younger kids who love him), Cena doesn’t cheat, and Bray trying to make him do so was great. If I was to throw around terms like ‘wrestling psychology’, then I’d say this match was full of it, just a great story told pretty much all in the ring. This match explained the Wyatt/Cena rivalry far more than any of Bray’s promos. The best moment here was of course when Cena was in the middle of his ‘Five Knuckle Shuffle’ move and Bray just popped right up in the ‘Spider-Walk’. So creepy, so awesome. From the looks of Raw and the spoilers for Smackdown, this feud is continuing on for a bit, and I am interested to see what happens at Extreme Rules, when Cena can use weapons. Could he actually destroy his legacy there? Was Wrestlemania XXX the last hurrah for heroic John Cena?

3/9

Brock Lesnar Vs The Undertaker

Holy shit, they did it, they actually did it. I said in my predictions that the only way this story made sense was if Brock won, and in the end, it did make sense… the Streak is over, Brock won and it was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the reaction of the fans. It did mean I got my prediction wrong, but I am actually really glad that Brock won, it’s just so much more entertaining than if Undertaker had, and it shakes things up a hell of a lot for the future. I liked this match more than most people, mostly because it was the one spoiler I couldn’t avoid and so I knew the result, but it was still pretty bad. Part of that was because The Undertaker is old as fuck, but I think most of it was down to the fans, and that’s why the Streak had to be broken. Throughout this match, the fans were pretty much silent. Undertaker kicked out of his 2nd F-5 and there was nary a murmur. This is because, at this point, the Streak seemed unbreakable, and every one knew that Undertaker would win. There was no drama here, until it ended, and there was. The fans were too safe in thinking Undertaker couldn’t lose, and that would probably have lead to 3 or so more bad matches if the Streak hadn’t been broken. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was next year, Bryan, Cena, Sting, whoever, the fans would think they had no chance, and it would suck. But now we’re spared that, and any future matches Undertaker has will have some sense of unpredictability to them, and Brock… Brock is now made for life and is the ultimate heel. I think he is actually the best choice to break the Streak, as it’s the kind of thing a wrestler who needs to change alignment every so often like Punk or Shawn Michaels or Triple H can’t do. If CM Punk had broken the streak after using Paul Bearer’s death so flagrantly, and then tried to be a good guy 2 months later… it wouldn’t have flown. But Brock… he’s a permanent bad guy, he can take the hate, and can use it. Now, every match Brock has from now on is an even bigger deal than it was before, and he’s gotten back what he lost from losing to Cena and Triple H. I’m already salivating about the prospect of Daniel Bryan Vs Brock in the future, perhaps even Summerslam? I also think that all of the complaints about Brock being a part-timer are dumb, Undertaker is even more of a part-timer. In the year and a bit I’ve been watching, Brock has had double the PPVmatches Undertaker had. It also goes without saying that this win made Paul Heyman too, his promo on Raw was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I know most will disagree at my pleasure here, but it’s because I have no real attachment to the Streak. The only 2 matches I’ve seen are this year’s and last year’s, and don’t get why so many people are so obsessed with it. It wasn’t on purpose, half the matches are universally agreed as being shit, and it’s just as fake as everything else. I don’t get it.

3/9

Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational

14-Divas Single-Fall Match for the WWE Divas Championship

My own wrong prediction streak is over! I said AJ would win, and she did, in a match that was far better than I thought it would be. These 10 minutes or so were highly, and surprisingly entertaining. I especially liked seeing Emma get some spotlight, and for her to do some of the moves and in-ring schtick she does on NXT. AJ winning was great too, especially as it set up an amazing moment on Raw. AJ came out to lord it up over the rest of the Divas about how none of them could beat here, only to be met by Paige, who came out to congratulate her. AJ patronisingly have Paige a title shot, and Paige won! This was crazy good, Paige showing up on the main shows to challenge AJ has been a ‘fantasy booking’ staple for the last year or so, but to have it actually happen is amazing. Like everyone else, I’m a big fan of the NXT Divas, including Paige, so it was great to see her appear. Raw really did feel like the start of a new generation, and she was a huge part of it. I can’t wait for a longer match between Paige and AJ, I think it will be the best main-roster Divas match in a long time.

4/9

Randy Orton (C) Vs Batista Vs Daniel Bryan

Triple-Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

I was pretty worn out at this point, 4 and a half hours is a long time to be watching anything, let alone Wrestling, so I took a while to warm up to this match, but once it got going, especially with the Triple H/Stephanie/Scott Armstrong interference, I was digging it. I can’t remember too much about this actual match, there’s the fact that Bryan won, which is of course amazing, and also the brilliant ‘Batista Bomb into an RKO’ move. If Orton and Batista do tag more regularly, then that move is going to be a staple of awesomeness. I said in my predictions that Bryan/Triple H was the real main event, and that proved true I think, all of this was great, but it was all a bit of a formality. Once Bryan was in the fight, there was no way he was losing, even if he’s on a stretcher. I was surprised that Batista was the one to tap out and lose, Bryan has already proved he can beat Orton time and time again, so I thought Orton taking the loss would make more sense, and allow for Batista to have more of a one-on-one feud with the Champion. But then again, I much prefer Orton to Batista, so I’m glad with how it turned out. It’s just so awesome for Bryan to finally, properly be the World Champ, and I love how WWE fell into retconning a 4 year story on top of the 8-month one that. It felt truly epic and deserved, and Bryan’s celebrations were a thing of beauty. The future for the Champ seems to be unclear, he has The Shield on his side, so does that mean were are getting multi-man faction main events for the next few shows? Or are Orton and Batista getting singles rematches? I’d probably prefer some epic 4-on-4 shit between Bryan, The Shield and quasi-Evolution, especially if they bring in someone new from NXT as a member of Triple H’s squad. My pick is kind of out there, but I’d like Sami Zayn to be in Evolution. WWE have already acknowledged that he and Bryan are friends with history on their site, so it would be amazing to have him turn on him. Nobody would expect Sami to be a heel, it would be such a shocker.

5/9

Hmm… 5 out of 9, not bad I suppose, especially when one winner wasn’t even announced for the match and another winner was considered almost impossible.

 In other business, I thoroughly enjoyed the Hogan/Rock/Stone Cold segment, it was amazing to see all 3 of them together, although it was probably a bit too long.

 Other than that, the big thing is mainly how much exciting new stuff is coming for the WWE. This show feels like the end of an era, and Raw was the start of a new one. Paige debuted, Alexander Rusev had his first proper match, Adam Rose and (best of all) Bo Dallas got teaser videos, and even when it comes to more familiar faces, they are getting shake-ups. Cesaro of course, but The Shield being heroic is awesome, and Bad News Barrett finally returned to the ring. It’s certainly a very exciting time to be a fan of this weird medium, and not just because of WWE. ROH and New Japan had big events this week, and Jeff Jarrett has that new company. I think it’s going to be a new boom, and the first big explosion should come at Extreme Rules, which is at the start of May, I’ll be back then with my picks.

Comics Reviews for the 2nd of April 2014

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Click the link to read my reviews of this week’s comics. Including, but not limited to: Action Comics, The Punisher, Black Widow, Pretty Deadly, Starlight, a special anniversary for Ultimate Spider-Man, the first issues of both Inhuman and Aquaman And The Others, and more!

I stayed within the word count for once this week, hooray for brevity!

My WWE Wrestlemania XXX Predictions

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Yep, it’s the big one! This Sunday, the 30th edition of Wrestlemania comes to us live from New Orleans, and man, I’m pretty excited. This show already looks better than last year’s Mania with some very interesting matches and, if my predictions hold out, it could very well feature one of the greatest Wrestling moments of all time.

So, let’s not waste any more time, and get down to what those predictions actually are!

The Usos (C) Vs Los Matadores Vs The Real Americans Vs Rybaxel

Fatal Four-Way Tag-Team Match for the WWE Tag-Team Championship

Pre-Show Match

There’s no real story behind this match, it’s basically ‘one team is the champions and the other teams want to be champions’, which is perfectly acceptable for the Pre-Show I suppose. Rybaxel and The Real Americans won their shots for helping Kane beat down The Shield, but I’m not really sure why Los Matadores are in this match, did they do anything? Or is it just random? I don’t mind though, they are an entertaining team. The WWE Tag Division has been excellent for the last year or so really, and even though this match lacks the star-power of Team Hell No or The Shield or The Rhodes Brothers, it should still be the kind of reliably entertaining chaos that gets the crowd pumped. I can’t see anything other than The Usos retaining though, the only other team that really deserves the titles right now are The Real Americans, but they are in the midst of a slow break-up. I can see their loss here speeding that up. I do have an issue with this match, and it’s that it’s exclusive to the WWE Network, which means those of us who live in countries who don’t have the Network yet won’t be able to see it like we have previous Pre-Show matches. I’m sure I can find a way to see it later through nefarious means, but I shouldn’t have to.

The Shield Vs Kane & The New Age Outlaws

After coming out on the losing end of their amazing feud with The Wyatt Family, The Shield looked to get back on track, and become a team again, and they seem to have done so with some success. Corporate Kane however has had less success in getting them to get back to doing The Authority’s dirty work. When he tried to get Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose to beat the shit out of Jerry Lawler, they refused, literally did a face turn, and beat the shit out Kane instead. Kane got his revenge by setting The Shield up for a beat down from not only all of the other heel Tag-Teams in WWE (Real Americans, Rybaxel and, um, 3MB) but himself and his new lackeys, The New Age Outlaws. And so, a match was made. It’s not too interesting in itself, but it is very intriguing when tied to the various rumours swirling around the net. Most people believe that in this match, Rollins and Ambrose will turn on Roman Reigns, breaking up the group, and beginning the much-mooted solo push for Roman. I personally don’t think this will happen. It’s not just because I’m a huge Shield fan and want them to go on for as long as possible, but it also doesn’t really make much sense. There’s been no inkling that Reigns is any more against Kane than the other two, and in fact, Seth Rollins is the member who’s been the most outspoken about it, and the one who has changed up his in-ring style to be more like the traditional good guy. It would actually make more sense for Ambrose and Reigns to turn on him. So, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that The Shield will win this match, and they won’t break up. I think it makes more sense for us to get a few months of Face Shield, and then have their break-up come with a less half-assed storyline. You could do it over Ambrose’s United States Championship, or even over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, I dunno. As for the actual match here, I’m not sure what to expect, The Shield and Kane have a long history of great matches against each other, but I’ve not been too impressed with The Outlaws since their return, Road Dogg has been a great character, but in the ring, they look their age. Hmmm, I trust the Hounds Of Justice to drag something good out of them.

Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational

14-Divas Single-Fall Match for the WWE Divas Championship

It’s ‘AJ Lee Vs The World’ as the longest-reigning Divas Champion in history goes up against literally everyone else in a match that is really all kinds of bullshit unfair. In some ways, it does make sense as AJ is a heel and has been hanging on to the title by the skin of her teeth for the past year or so, using nefarious means to defeat most of her competitors in this match. This kind of match where she doesn’t need to be pinned to lose, along with putting her ‘enforcer’ Tamina up against her too, takes away her chances to cheat. The problem is that, not only does it push the scales of fairness too far the other way, but also that, even though AJ is supposed to be the bad guy here, the fans all like and respect her a lot more than any of the other female wrestlers. As much as I’m entertained by Naomi or Emma or The Bella Twins, they aren’t as good as AJ, and I want her to win. So, I’m predicting her to do just that. It would be ridiculously unfair for her to lose the belt like this, and I also think it would fuck with the new champion to win in a stupid match like this. Let’s have AJ screw Tamina over or something here and set up a proper story.

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

30-Man Battle Royal for the Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy

This match was made by Hulk Hogan in honour of his legendary friend and Wrestlemania 3 opponent. It’s interesting, because there’s actually a lot of big names in here, it’s not just jobbers. You’ve got Sheamus, Big Show, The Miz, Mark Henry, Alberto Del Rio, Big E, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio and The Rhodes Brothers. Those are all guys who are probably deserving of their own actual matches and storylines, but instead they are in the Battle Royal. You decide if that’s a good or a bad thing. It’s certainly made this trophy seem like a big deal. It’s pretty much impossible to pick a winner here. They’ve been pushing The Big Show, who is Andre’s spiritual successor (and was his ‘son’ in WCW) hard, but I think too hard, which to me says it will be someone else. Who though? I have no idea. It could be The Miz, who has his own little Wrestlemania streak going, but I dunno. I’ll go for Sheamus, this will give him something big to re-establish himself after returning from injury. But really, it could be anyone. Even Zack Ryder.

John Cena Vs Bray Wyatt

Now this is an intriguing match, especially as it’s the ultimate culmination of Bray Wyatt’s supposed goal in WWE… to destroy our heroes. He started with lower-level good guys like Kane, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth and The Miz, before moving up to the next level with CM Punk (remember him?) and, most importantly, Daniel Bryan. After a brief, glorious interlude with The Shield (although these two stories did overlap, WWE only seems capable of doing 2 stories at once when it comes to those teams), Bray and his family put their target on the biggest hero of them all in WWE, John Cena, screwing him out of the WWE World Heavyweight Title at both Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber and cutting a lot of pretty great promos about him. This has been an interesting build-up, because I’ve enjoyed every segment at the time, but looking back at them, there’s something missing. I find Bray Wyatt to be like this a lot, his promos are brilliant in the moment, as he delivers them spectacularly and uniquely, but what is he actually saying? It’s a lot of empty words most of the time. And all of this stuff about Cena’s legacy? If he loses this match, it’s not going to cost him his legacy, he’s still going to be the zillion-time champion, a dead-cert Hall Of Famer and the idol of millions of kids. Unless he somehow turns heel in this bout, I can’t see it. But as I said, there have been great moments in this storyline. The Wyatts tieing Cena to the ropes with a Lamb-Mask on was brilliant, as was Cena’s response this week, sneaking up on them with the very same mask on. I also like seeing Cena actually admit to being afraid, and man, that Eminem promo video is awesome. So I’m conflicted about this, hopefully the match itself will push me over the edge into loving it. Bray, after a slow in-ring start, was a part of the best matches at the last 2 PPVs (against Bryan at The Rumble and The Shield at Elimination Chamber) and I think he and Cena can really do something special here, both of them seem to really up their game for big occasions, and there’s none bigger than this. I’ll go for a Bray Wyatt victory here, but probably with plenty of interference from Rowan and Harper, we could have a Cage Match or something at Extreme Rules to keep them away next time.

The Undertaker Vs Brock Lesnar

This match, much like Cena/Wyatt is one that I’m conflicted on. I’ve liked most of the segments building up to it, but they really have made a big mistake here in making Brock Lesnar look like the underdog as opposed to Undertaker. This match came about when Brock was denied the shot at the WWE WHC he was after, and instead given an open contract to fight any other wrestler at Mania. Nobody accepted until… gong. Undertaker came out, stabbed Brock with a pen, and the match was on. Since then, both Brock and the always awesome Paul Heyman have cut some excellent promos about The Streak, but really, it all comes back to the bone-headed decision to make Brock the one who is scared. The storyline build to a Streak match should be to make us lose our 100% sense of certainty that The Deadman will win, and plant that seed of doubt. Last year’s story with CM Punk did that, but this year? They’ve made it look like Brock has almost no chance of beating a 49 year-old man. It’s ridiculous. The only way this build really works is if Lesnar just goes on to run rough-shod over Undertaker and win the match, but we all know he’s not going to do that is he? Undertaker will win, going 22-0. I do expect this to be a good match though, and I imagine that, in the midst of the experience, when Brock gets a near-fall, I will think ‘maybe, just maybe’, but this is a missed opportunity for me.

Daniel Bryan Vs Triple H

Singles Match for the 3rd Spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple-Threat Match

This is the big one, for me, this is the real main event, whatever comes after is just a bonus. This whole story, whether you want to go back to January or all the way back to Summerslam or even back to NXT in 2010 has been fantastic, the perfect blend of reality and kayfabe. For years, months, the authority, whether that be behind the scenes, or the literal ‘Authority’ of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have been trying to hold Daniel Bryan down, to keep him away from the top of the mountain. But now they can’t. Daniel Bryan ‘occupied’ RAW, filling the ring with his fans, and demanded not only a match with Triple H, but one that, if he won, would get him in the main event. Triple H agreed, but later added that if he won, he too would get into the Triple-Threat. It’s just a brilliant story, Triple H has been a fantastic villain, his promos here are some of his best ever, and man, that beat-down on Bryan a few weeks back was brutal. To me, it doesn’t matter how we got here, and to be honest, the rumours about how Bryan was originally going to just fight Sheamus in a meaningless match only add to the story. This storyline really has played with all of the fan’s minds, you’re never sure what’s real or what’s not. Objectively, Daniel Bryan has been treated wonderfully by WWE, but somehow, people still believe he’s being buried. It’s genius. I feel you can’t bash WWE for stuff they planned to do but didn’t, all that matters is what we get in the ring, on screen. I think this will be a brilliant fight, Daniel Bryan rarely has a bad match, and whilst I haven’t been too impressed with the Triple H matches I’ve seen lately (2 against Brock Lesnar, about half of one against Curtis Axel), I am confident he’ll be on the top of his game here (pun intended? I’m not sure). I think Daniel Bryan will win, but I can foresee a situation where Triple H cheats and wins, leading to Hulk Hogan or Vince or someone to come out and put both of them into the Main Event, giving us a Fatal Four-Way, but that might be a bit too much, especially because, whilst I can see Bryan managing 2 big matches in one night, Triple H might not be able to. He’s 10 years older than Bryan and hasn’t had a match for nearly a year. But then, you can’t ever underestimate him. I’ll keep it simple then, Bryan to be victorious! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Randy Orton (C) Vs Batista Vs TBD

Triple-Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

As I said, this match is just a bonus, as I think Daniel Bryan will follow up beating Triple H by winning this match and finally getting what has been kept from him since Summerslam. I actually feel kind of sorry for Randy Orton in this situation, he’s been brilliant, as both a character and in the ring, ever since Summerslam, but in the build-up to his big Championship match, he’s an afterthought. It’s all about Triple H and Daniel Bryan, and also about how much everyone hates Batista. I have high hopes for this match, I don’t think Bryan and Orton have ever had a match that was less than great, and Batista does seem to have improved since his initial return. His matches with Sheamus and Orton in the last week have been solid. Batista’s character has also been much improved, he’s far better as a villain, and his promos, especially on Smackdown, have been great. But even if Batista is still terrible, this match can just follow Triple-Threat tradition and have him lie down on the outside whilst Bryan and Orton have their final, titanic clash. Of course, Triple H could be in this match instead of Bryan, but I really don’t think he will. In the end, Wrestlemania will end with what we’ve all been waiting for. Daniel Bryan hoisting two belts above his head, and 70,000 people chanting ‘Yes!’. And even after that, some people will still claim that Bryan is being buried.

And that’s that. Let’s hope Wrestlemania delivers, and that we all go home happy. Except for Triple H, of course, although I suspect Paul Levesque will be happy no matter what. IT’S THE REALITY ERA, BITCHES!

I’ll be back next week to see how badly I did in these predictions, see you then!

Comics Reviews for the 26th of March 2014

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Click that link to read my reviews of this week’s comics.

The highlights this time are the return of Sandman: Overture, a couple of All-New Marvel Now debuts for Silver Surfer and Iron Patriot, the final issue of Indestructible Hulk, a literally outrageous Aquaman and new issues of Fatale, Deadly Class and Satellite Sam.

Oh yeah, and there’s a big return in the pages of Superior Spider-Man #30. Who could it be?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Movie Review

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Click the link to read my review of the new ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ movie.

Basically, it’s a fantastic adaptation of one of my favourite superhero stories ever, and the best Marvel Studios movie yet. Go see it.

Comics Reviews for the 19th of March 2014

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My reviews of this week’s comics can be found at the end of that there link. There’s tons of good stuff this time out, including new relaunches of two of my favourites, Daredevil and American Vampire. All-New Marvel Now continues to roll on, with more of Ms. Marvel, All-New Invaders, Wolverine & The X-Men and Avengers World. There’s also the big finale of Animal Man and an insanely good issue of Wonder Woman over at DC. As for Image, well there’s the end of the first arc of Sex Criminals, the return of Zero, and also Lazarus.

I like pretty much every week of comics, but this one is actually pretty damn special, so read these reviews and enjoy life!

Comics Reviews for the 12th of March 2014

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Click that link to read my reviews of last week’s comics.

It’s a good week, there’s some exciting All-New Marvel Now stuff like the 1st issues of Captain Marvel, Avengers Undercover and Secret Avengers and more of Fantastic Four and Black Widow.

As for DC, ‘Zero Year’ continues in Batman, there’s the best issue of Superman/Wonder Woman yet, and more Green Lantern Corps as well.

Image have Invincible and East Of West out, so you know that’s good shit.

Enjoy ‘em!

The Ides Of… March

Hey! It’s the one month where the name of this column makes sense! And it’s also my Birthday! Hooray for me! 25 years young and still lookin’ average.

Given that there has been less days than normal in between entries, this is a lighter load than normal, but hey, it’s still special, as I shine a light on the last lot of movies, music, books, TV and games that I imbibed as a hapless 24 year old.

Movies

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I only watched 2 movies this month, and both of them are pretty much classics. First up is Casino (Martin Scorsese 1995) which I finally got around to as it forms a kinda/sorta trilogy with Goodfellas and The Wolf Of Wall Street. I had seen the first and last films of the sequence, so it only made sense to fill in the middle and see Scorsese examine the semi-legitimate crime of gambling rather than the legitimate crime of finance and totally not legit crime of, well, crime in the other films. Overall I would say that Casino isn’t as good as the other two, but it is still a fantastic film, and it’s long running time flies by. It was fascinating to see the machinations of Las Vegas explored so thoroughly, and in that usual Scorsese style. The acting was also strong, I think Joe Pesci gives a better performance here than he did in Goodfellas, and this is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen Sharon Stone in. Sadly, this film does feel to me like the start of Robert De Niro’s decline. Yeah, he’s decent as Ace Rothstein, but the performance isn’t a patch on Travis Bickle or Jake LaMotta or Rupert Pupkin. It’s the final Scorsese/De Niro collaboration for a reason I suppose. I was also surprised to see Don Rickles appear here in a serious role. People were shocked at Jonah Hill being in Wolf, but Scorsese’s been at this shit for years!

I also finally watched North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock 1959) which I received for Christmas as it’s the only major Hitchcock film not included in the massive Universal box-set I got a few years ago. As everyone knows, this is a great adventure film that really does keep you guessing along with Cary Grant, even though the mystery doesn’t matter at all. I love the first 10 minutes or so, where one chance mistake pushes Grant’s Roger Thornhill into a world of danger and spy intrigue. It all starts out so innocently in the hotel, you get the sense that it could happen to you almost. Eva Marie Saint was excellent as the classic ‘Hitchcock Blonde’, she was seriously beautiful back then (and how great is it that she’s still going, and doing stuff like Legend Of Korra? Crazy). I do however feel like, thanks to 50-plus years of Pop Culture references, that a lot of the bigger moments had been ruined for me. The plane in the cornfield, the final action scene at Mt. Rushmore, all of that I’ve seen parodied many times over(mostly on The Simpsons, which did that for most Hitchcock movies now that I think of it). That did mean there was less surprise, but it’s still great to see the original versions of these classic scenes. Similarly, this was the first James Mason film I’d seen, and it was weird to hear his much-imitated voice right from the source. This is the price I pay for not being born until 30 years after the film came out.

Television

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In terms of new Television this month, there’s not been that much, but what there has been, is great. The Americans (FX) returned for it’s second season with 3 fantastic episodes that really ramp up the intrigue and sense of danger for the Jennings’. I just think this is a fascinating series, especially with how it manipulates the audience into rooting for Russian spies out to destroy Western Civilization. The focus is on the characters, not the ideologies, and you want Philip and Elizabeth to succeed just as much as you do Stan and the FBI (perhaps more so). This season started with a shocking event, with Philip and Elizabeth stumbling across the dead bodies of 2 of their fellow ‘Directorate S’ undercover agents, including their innocent American daughter. Who assassinated this family? Do they know about the Jennings’? There’s a lot of gripping questions, and the show is slowly answering them. I think the decision to focus on the threat to the entire family has been a great one. Paige has been given a lot more to do, and every spy mission is tinged with worry about the family. The other characters and plots haven’t really become clear yet, Stan is getting suckered in by Nina, and there’s definitely something up with the new character of Oleg, but so far, the focus has definitely been the central couple, which is fine. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are both absolutely amazing on this show, delivering varied performances and wearing some amazing wigs. I really think they should win some awards for their work, but perhaps they aren’t flashy enough.

I also watched the Bosch (Lovefilm/Amazon Instant Video) pilot online. I don’t think it’s up anymore, but if it is, you can watch it without being a member, so do that. This is a cop show, but it’s a clever cop show, more towards The Wire end of the scale than CSI: Miami. The always reliable Titus Welliver is excellent as Harry Bosch, and the way it treats police work feels real to me. I don’t think any other cop procedurals would spend 5 minutes on examining a body that turns out to be an unimportant (to the plot at least, not to the dead character) suicide. But then that’s what being a cop is really like, not every call-out leads to something epic. This show is being produced by Eric Overmyer, who worked on The Wire, so my previous comparison is apt, and it was great to see a few Wire alums, show up. Lance Reddick as the Police Chief is a bit too similar to Daniels perhaps, but it was really weird to see Jamie Hector, AKA the psychopathic Marlo Stansfield as a cop and a nice guy. Just odd, but a sign that he’s a great actor. The series has apparently been picked up by Amazon, which is good news, the plot has only just got started. In the meantime… I’m reading the books.

The other new series is Review (Comedy Central) which is the first real star vehicle for one of my favourite podcast comedians, Andy Daly (more on him later too!). Daly plays Forrest McNeil, a former film reviewer who is now reviewing life itself. The first 2 episodes have seen him go out and try addiction, being racist, stealing, filming a sex-tape and going to prom. These lead to hilariously dark and twisted results, and he has to review all of these experiences out of 5. Daly is perfect for this show, because his characters always have a cheerful outward demeanour, which covers a darker truth. Having someone try terrible things from a critical perspective allows that, and it’s just fascinating to see just how far Daly is willing to go.

As for regular shows (but not Regular Show, I don’t watch that), I’ll try and be brief with some quick hits:

Black Sails (Starz) has continued on nicely, and I particularly liked episode 6 (imaginatively titled ‘VI’) which featured the most actual Pirate action so far. I also like the ambiguity about who we’re supposed to root for the last few episodes have introduced. Maybe Flint is actually the bad guy and Vane the good guy? I don’t know! I’m certainly excited for the upcoming finale, lots of big stuff is going to happen.

True Detective (HBO) wrapped up it’s first season, and man, it was spectacular. I thought the way the show transitioned to the present-day narrative was brilliant, and the finale is truly one of the most nerve-wracking things I have ever seen. I was fully satisfied by the ending, and I think a lot of the people who weren’t did kind of miss the point of the series. True Detective to me is like all of the hysteria of LOST compressed into 9 weeks. The fans drove themselves crazy with mysteries (turning into Rust Cohles themselves really) when they were never supposed to, and then being disappointed when the show wasn’t what they had imagined in their insane brains. I personally think this is one of the best single seasons of TV ever, with all-time great performances from both McConaughey and Harrelson. I can’t wait to see what Nic Pizzolatto has up his sleeves for next season 2, it’s a tough act to follow for sure.

The 3rd Season of Girls (HBO) has really picked up over the last few weeks. I think a lot of my problems with the first lot of episodes were pacing-based. This season is 13 eps as opposed to 10, and both the writers and myself as a viewer had to get used to a bit of a slower overall story. But now the relationship troubles between Hannah and Adam have come to the fore, and it’s put the whole season in nice, sharp focus. I think episode 9, ‘Flo’, is one of the best Girls’ episodes ever, and the most recent episode, ‘Role-Play’ one of the funniest. Hannah’s attempts at, well, role-play were so awkward and fucked up. I do still feel that this season isn’t as good as the first 2, it especially feels like the Hannah show, with the other girls less important. At least Jessa has an epic Richard E Grant in her scenes, Marnie and Shosh have done nothing. Well, Marnie has had a weird relationship with Ray, I still don’t get that.

In terms of Cheers (NBC) I’m now on Season 2, and wow, it was so weird to see them leave the bar for the first time in the first episode of that season. It was actually kind of unsettling. It’s still goddamn hilarious though, and I’m liking Sam and Diane being in a relationship more than I expected to. In my comedies, I generally prefer the romance before it gets official.

Workaholics (Comedy Central) is still reliably dumb fun. Episode 5 of Season 4, ‘3 And A Half Men’, where Kyle decides to have his dick chopped off and transplant it onto Blake is one of their all-time best episodes I think. It’s so stupid it becomes genius. I also really liked the most recent ep ‘Beer Heist’ which featured each character at their best/worst (it’s the same thing) and some legitimately exciting action scenes involving throwing beer onto a moving car.

I continue to really enjoy Archer (FX)’s shift from spy comedy to drug dealer comedy, it’s just so twisted. At times, the Cheryl/Carol/Cherlene story where she wants to be a country singer has felt a bit tacked on, but in ‘Southbound And Down’ it all tied together well. I do find it weird that we’re now suddenly supposed to think that Archer actually does love Lana, but hey, as the rest of the characters get more and more ridiculous, it’s actually good that Sterling has some depth. Also, I feel bad for saying this, but skinny coked-out Pam is disturbingly attractive. Don’t judge me!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) has continued one of the best debut seasons from a comedy ever. EVER! I think episode 19 ‘Tactical Village’ is my favourite so far, it was just so good, you had more development in the slow-burn Jake/Amy romance, some great stuff with Rosa and Charles, a brilliant subplot with Gina and Captain Holt and an iPhone game, some great Hitchcock/Sully incompetence, and Terry in the background being hilarious. I do still get worried about the Charles getting married storyline. Will they actually have him go through with it? Michael Schur has made a habit of doing the unexpected with weddings on Parks, so I do expect the worst.

New Girl (FOX) Season 3 has been good lately as well, the 3-episode arc with the always great Linda Cardellini was really good, and this week’s episode, where Jess made Vice Principal and forced to fire Coach whilst Nick made his return to the Law to defend Schmidt was excellent. I have problems still with the way the show is using both Winston and CeCe, but the laugh-count is way up, and for me, this is the kind of comedy where I don’t really care about the plot too much.

The 5th season of Justified (FX) is really hotting up at this point. I loved the episode where Raylan had to chase after an Internet criminal with only one leg, but really, the stars of this whole season have been the criminal villains. Boyd, Ava, Duffy, The Crowes, all of ‘em. In the most recent episode, Raylan’s story finally brought him back into orbit with Boyd and the rest, and I can’t wait to see how he’s going to untangle this whole mess. Boyd and Wynn have tried to make things civilised, but those damn Crowes are bound to fuck it all up. It looks like next week is going to be another Dewey Crowe on the run special, which should be amazing.

Community (NBC) continues to have a really weird season. Each of the last 3 episodes has been funny in parts, but overall this entire season has felt really depressing. Like, it’s sad that these people are still at Greendale. I know that it’s always supposed to have felt like that, but I never noticed it until now. Maybe it’s the lighting. I will say that the guest-appearance from Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan in this week’s episode is perhaps my favourite thing to happen on the show in a long time. I think a lot of the show feeling depressing is due to the departure of Troy, and this week’s ep also saw the start of Abed and Annie beginning to deal with that, which should hopefully mean some lighter stuff coming. The Dean’s rap was also amazing. I didn’t like the Meow Meow Beanz episode that much though.

In contrast to Community’s struggles without Troy, Parks And Recreation (NBC) hasn’t really skipped a beat without Ann and Chris, as all 3 episodes this month have been solid. I really like that the Pawnee/Eagleton merger has been a long-running plot, and Leslie being offered a job away from Pawnee has added an interesting new twist on her relationship with the town. I loved the way they handled the birth of Ron Swanson’s son, and talking of Ron, I loved the return of Duke Silver, that was amazing.

And finally, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) returned with 2 really strong episodes. It is annoying that any answers we got about Coulson’s revival only asked more questions (what’s the deal with that alien yo?), but ‘T.A.H.I.T.I.’ had the best action in the series so far. The guest appearance from Jaimie Alexander as Sif in this week’s episode was great too. Having people from the actual movies helps the show feel less low-rent and more a part of the MCU. I hope some other supporting characters from the films show up here.

Music

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No new music this month, I’ve just been listening to a lot of my old favourites. If there’s anything recent you think I should check out, please, tell me!

In terms of other audio, listen to The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, which sees the Comedy Bang! Bang! stalwart take his most famous characters and give them their own shows, with predictably hilarious and dark results. The August Lindt and Don DiMello episodes are particularly amazing, I love seeing Daly interact with other CBB character guests, like Paul F Tompkins and Jessica St. Clair, because on his CBB appearances, it’s normally Daly going crazy with Scott Aukerman and another guest (mostly Jason Mantzoukas, but also Patton Oswalt and others) as the straight men, but here, everyone is fucking crazy. I don’t know if this show will work for people who aren’t familiar with Daly’s CBB episodes, but hell, I’ll recommend those too, listen to all of the, and then do TADPPP!

Books

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To make up for the lack of movies and music this month, I have been reading a lot more, so it’s not like I’ve just been sat on my arse staring into space or something. Oh no. First up was Emperor Of Thorns (2013) by Mark Lawrence, which is the 3rd book in his ‘Broken Empire’ trilogy. I believe I wrote about the 2nd one, King Of Thorns, back in August, so go back and read that snippet! This book concludes the adventures of the anti-hero Jorg Ancrath, as he finally makes his way to Vyene for the elections that will decide if there will be a new Emperor, all the while with The Dead King and his past at his back. I think this was a very satisfying conclusion to the story, and I do mean conclusion. These days, fantasy fiction generally bulges beyond mere trilogies, going to 6, 7, even 14 books, but Lawrence has told a complete story with Jorg here, and not given into the temptation to stretch things out. I will say that I guessed the identity of The Dead King about 200 pages before it was actually revealed, but that’s not a problem, it means that the reveal actually makes sense, and wasn’t bullshit. Overall, this was the best book in the series, Lawrence’s prose has always been very strong, and it’s excellent here, but I also found the structure to be better. In Book 2 especially, the flashbacks overwhelmed the main narrative and dragged a bit. But in Empire, the flashbacks and present day scenes are balanced a lot more. If you like modern, darker fantasy fiction, I would definitely recommend this series, not because it’s similar to other writers, but because, to me at least, it feels completely different to most other fantasy. I’m very excited to see what Lawrence comes out with next, he seems to be taking a similar tack to Joe Abercrombie, and writing stories set in the same universe as this trilogy, but with all-new characters and all-new settings. Prince Of Fools has a lot to live up to, that’s for sure, but it’s much more preferable to Book 8 in the Jorg Ancrath sequence.

After this, inspired by watching the aforementioned ‘Bosch’ pilot, I decided to check out some of the Michael Connelly books, and I didn’t do so half-heartedly. On Amazon, they had the first 10 books in a set for only £8, and that was a no-brainer, well, only if I liked them. Luckily, I did. I started of course with the first Bosch novel, The Black Echo (1992) and really enjoyed it. Connelly’s take on Los Angeles and the LAPD feels incredibly real to me, and after only a few pages, Harry Bosch too, felt like a real person. He really is a modern day Philip Marlowe, and even though he’s not a P.I., but a Cop, he has that outsider status that all classic Noir protagonists need. The plotting of this book was excellent, and I liked how Connelly at first made it look like there was too much coincidence, before going back to one of Bosch’s core beliefs, that there are no coincidences. The ending might feel a bit contrived for some, but for me, it worked.

I then quickly moved on to Book 2, The Black Ice (1993), which wasn’t quite as good, but still a gripping read. I enjoyed seeing Connelly move over towards exploring the relationship between LA and Mexico, but for me, the twist here did feel a bit too unrealistic. I was also surprised to see the character of Micky Haller, AKA ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ mentioned here. Haller didn’t get his own books until 2005, so I assumed he was a retcon, but nope, Connelly had it all established long before. I love it when crime writers create their own worlds within our real world, Ellroy does it, Pelecanos does it, and so does Connelly. It’s probably the comics fan in me, appreciating the continuity.

I’m now about 100 pages into the 3rd book, The Concrete Blonde (1994) and I think it might be the best one yet. Bosch’s killing of ‘The Doll Maker’ serial killer had been mentioned a lot as part of his back-story in the first 2 novels, but now it’s come right to the centre, with Bosch in court for the killing, and a possible copycat killer out there at the same time. It’s that sense of continuity again, but overall, it just feels like a more complex story that moves beyond the simpler (albeit very good) investigations of the first 2 books. What if Bosch had killed an innocent man? He was already a complex hero, but now, he’s fascinating. This book also features one of the greatest porn-names of all time, in ‘Magna Cum Loudly’, which, even though it’s mentioned in the grimmest of circumstances, still makes me laugh. I can’t wait to get through the rest of this book, and also the rest of them. If you like crime novels, you’ve probably already read these, and are laughing at me for being late, but still, they are just as good as people say. Intelligent crime fiction with a real soul to it that isn’t just relentless nihilistic violence (or just Swedish) is hard to find these days, so just go back 20 years and read these classics.

Games

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Not much to report on the Games front either, I’m still playing Mass Effect (BioWare 2007) but haven’t got much further. I want to play more, the story is fascinating, but the actual gameplay isn’t grabbing me. I mean, The Mako? That shit is downright terrible.

And for those who care, the current state of my WWE Universe on WWE 2K14 (2K Sports 2013) is as follows:

  • Daniel Bryan is the WWE Champion and is set to face Royal Rumble winner Mark Henry at Wrestlemania. I played as Henry during the Rumble and basically split wigs for 20 minutes. I think I broke the elimination record, I was pure ownage.
  • Roman Reigns is the World Heavyweight Champion and is feuding with Fandango, who he beat for the title at Elimination Chamber.
  • The Rock is challenging the Undertaker’s Streak.
  • Brie Bella is Women’s Champion and is feuding with Layla.
  • Bully Ray just won the United States Championship at the Chamber, dethroning Wade Barrett. He is the first American US Champ I’ve had in a while.
  • Michael Elgin finally defeated Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Title after a long feud. They fought for Canadian reasons I guess.
  • The World Tag-Team Champions are Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. I can’t decide what Tag-Team to create to face them, I might reform Kevin Steen and El Generico.

And that’s that. What an amazing last month of being 24. I’ll be back on April 15th, where I’ll hopefully have received at least one or two cool presents and have more to talk about.