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WWE Battleground: Highs, Lows and Everything Else

When Eric and I made our predictions, I was pretty worried that Battleground would turn out to be bland and insignificant show. It wasn’t perfect and there were certainly aspects of it that we could’ve done without, but overall I’d say it surpassed our expectations.

So what exactly were we so happy about? What aggravated Eric to the point that he sent me several angry text messages when it happened? Hit the jump and find out!

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Clearing the Field for WWE Battleground

WWE is in a very odd place right now. Following the brand split, they had the opportunity to forge ahead with fresh talent in order to create some new stars, but instead they seem content to stick to the status quo and do business as usual. Give Cesaro and Sasha Banks a chance to shine on Smackdown? Nah, lets leave them on Raw with everyone else. Keep the Wyatts and the Club together for a while longer so that they can keep building momentum? Nope, we’re going to split them up, because reasons.

Obviously, it’s a little premature to judge this new era in the WWE because it hasn’t even played out yet. That doesn’t mean that I trust the company to not screw things up, but I’m at least willing to wait and see what happens. For now.

In the meantime, WWE Battleground is the last pay-per-view before the brand extension takes full effect, and my buddy Eric Schreiber is here as my tag team partner to help me sort out what will transpire tonight. Everything that we say will happen is definitely going to happen, unless Eric disagrees with me, in which case anything that I predict is the way that things will go. Maybe. Hit the jump and we’ll see.

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Spielberg Introduces “The BFG” to the Next Generation

I remember being in second grade and listening intently as The BFG was read aloud to our class. This was somewhat of a trend, you see, as our teacher had already shared several classic Roald Dahl tales with us: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, you name it. While those readings have faded from my memory, for whatever reason I can clearly picture hearing about Sophie and her Big Friendly Giant for the first time.

To be honest, I’m surprised it took this long for BFG to receive the big screen treatment. Nonetheless, I was admittedly nervous when I heard that it was finally happening, despite the fact that Steven Spielberg was chosen to helm the voyage into giant country. Adapting children’s novels into a feature length film is tricky. There is rarely enough material for a complete screenplay, which usually means that a lot of new scenes have to be added to get us from Point A to Point B. Sometimes this enhances the story and makes for a wonderful experience and other times you wonder why the filmmakers didn’t just leave well enough alone.

So did Spielberg pull it off? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. Allow me to explain.

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Star Trek Into Darkness: Yeah, They Lied About Khan

(Update: This was a review I did for Into Darkness back when it came out. Yes, I’m just as mortified as you that it’s already been three years. With Star Trek Beyond being released tomorrow, it seemed like a good opportunity to share my thoughts on the first two Trek films in this series. I just didn’t feel like writing a brand new post for it. Plus, it’s always interesting as a writer to revisit old material and see how your style and voice has grown. The original review will now commence)

Depending on where you fall in the whole Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate, you may view the upcoming slate of films to be a period of intense competition or a window of rare opportunity. I’m inclined to side with the latter. After all, it’s not every day that the same promising young filmmaker is chosen to helm the two most iconic science fiction franchises in modern history, much less tackle them back-to-back. Myself, I’ve loved Star Wars since the opening credits crawled across my screen for the first time, while I never quite saw the appeal in Star Trek (go ahead Trekkies, have at me). However, J.J. Abrams won me over with his 2009 reboot and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel ever since. As it turns out, my enthusiasm was well-founded. Darkness is my favorite movie of the year so far and now I’m more eager than ever to see what Abrams can accomplish with Star Wars, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it (only 2 more years!). Minor spoilers below. 

Darkness picks up more or less where its predecessor left off, joining up with the Enterprise crew in the midst of a scouting mission on an indigenous planet. As always, things go awry and Kirk (Chris Pine) barely saves Spock (Zachary Quinto) from being scorched inside an erupting volcano. It was a high-octane beginning and even though I never thought anybody would die this soon, the dire situation made you feel like Spock might not make it out of this alive, which was neat. Due to his reckless nature and repeated controversial mission outcomes, Kirk is relieved of command of the Enterprise and is replaced by his mentor Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who elects to keep Kirk on as first officer because he “believes in him.” This reunion is short lived, however, as rogue agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) ambushes and kills Pike and several other high ranking members of Starfleet during a meeting concerning… you guessed it, rogue agent John Harrison! Kirk mourns the passing of his good friend, is reinstated as Captain of the Enterprise and is assigned to bring Harrison to justice. Now we have our movie.

To reveal any more plot points would obviously ruin the story for those who haven’t seen this yet, but I will say that Abrams takes some liberties with certain popular Star Trek characters. It’s ironic that this didn’t bother me in the slightest, because if you read my “Iron Man 3” review you know how I felt about how they handled the Mandarin (if you didn’t, read it now!). It’s not as big of an alteration in Darkness, but if you hold Star Trek lore close to your heart then you may be as off-put by this tactic as I was in Iron Man. Even if that’s the case, hopefully you can still appreciate Cumberbatch’s performance, because he absolutely kills it in this one. Literally. He’s menacing, deadly and has a knack for outwitting his adversaries at every turn, which isn’t easy when you’re trying to match wits with a freaking Vulcan. Cumberbatch could play the villain in every movie until the end of time and that would be just fine with me.

That’s not to say that Pine and Quinto were overshadowed and didn’t deliver the goods in their roles, because they most certainly did. Both of them actually surprised me with their range as actors, submitting emotional portrayals of our heroes that surpassed what I thought they were capable of. The camaraderie between Kirk and Spock serves as the heart of the film and it’s nice to see their friendship expand as the story develops. Whereas last time around they started out as reluctant allies who eventually obtained a mutual respect for one another, here they are constantly trying to protect each other from illogical risks and self-sacrifice like every great pair of brothers-in-arms. I’m not embarrassed to admit that there were a couple of scenes that had me tearing up, but thanks to the Mass Effect series I guess I’m just a sucker for dramatic space opera now.

As for the rest of the cast, I thought they all did well with what they were given, especially Simon Pegg as the wise-cracking Scotty. If there is a standout beyond the principle cast though, it is the exhilarating set pieces and exceptionally paced action scenes that constantly take your breath away. I read a couple of reviews where the so-called “film experts” were trashing Darkness for having bland-looking CGI and an excessive amount of lens flare usage, along with other unreasonable gripes. The lens flare thing is likely a personal preference for some (I hardly even noticed it), but are these morons serious? Were they watching the same movie that I was? From my perspective everything looked fantastic, and if you have a chance you should really see this in IMAX, where the audio and visuals are beyond stunning.

There was also some controversy regarding Alice Eve’s character Carol Marcus and the scene where she… ahem… strips down to her undergarments right in front of Kirk. She’s gorgeous and this is a summer popcorn flick, so I really didn’t have a problem with it, particularly when a movie like Fast 6 takes every opportunity it can to zoom in on a group of scantily clad females shaking their asses. That’s not to say that Darkness is without flaws, because there were a few issues I had with it. I thought the ending was a bit rushed, the outcome of the finale was almost unbelievably convenient for those involved and there were a few segments featuring some pretty silly dialogue, all of which sort of ruined the tension of the moment for me. Hopefully those aspects will improve upon subsequent viewings, but they did stand out to me as I was leaving the theater.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” has been out for nearly two weeks now, but if you haven’t gotten around to checking it out yet then I highly recommend you do so. In short, cinematic thrill rides like this one are why we go to the movies in the first place, and I think it’s safe to say that the future of Star Wars is in good hands.

Jesse’s Rating: A-

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When J.J. Abrams Made Star Trek Mainstream

Before 2009, Star Trek was about as cool and hip as a pair of men’s jorts or New Balance sneakers. It wasn’t something you admitted to liking if you ever wanted to get lucky with a girl. As a wrestling fan, I can identify with this. And like wrestling, Trek has a massive cult following of fans who may be unlucky in love but damn it, they are passionate about it and that’s never going to change.

Then J.J. Abrams showed up and made Star Trek… cool? A lot of people who normally wouldn’t have given Trek the time of day, including yours truly, found themselves completely immersed in Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the iconic nerd franchise. This accomplished two things: 1) It established Abrams as one of the most reliable blockbuster directors in the game and 2) Forever earned him the ire of hardcore Trekkies who resented him for altering something they loved in order to make it more accessible to general audiences.

To those Trekkies, I’d like to respectfully request that you give Abrams a break. He gifted us an entertaining movie series that is still going strong to this day and you guys still have all the old films and TV episodes to cherish and worship. Don’t you see? This was a win for all of us!

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DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24: Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) runs off the field after stopping the New England Patriots on 4th down late in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

With Von Back in the Fold, the Real Work Begins

The Super Bowl is the hardest championship to win in professional sports. “Bunk!” you might say. “You have to play 162 games just to make the playoffs in baseball, or have to topple the superteam Warriors or the Lebron-led Cavs in order to win the NBA Finals.” If you said that, I would agree that you made some good points, but I’d stand by my opinion.

Sure, the NFL season is only 16 games long and at most you only have to claim four victories to get that Super Bowl ring, equivalent to a series win in other sports. Those games are hard to pull out though, people, and it only takes one bad day for everything to come crashing down. Stink out the joint in an NFL playoff game and your season is over. No game two. No series to tie or opportunities for redemption. It was this level of failure during the most crucial times that cost John Fox his job here in Denver, and why despite all of their domination over the rest of the league, the Patriots have lifted the Lombardi trophy just one time over the past 11 years.

Resigning Von Miller may have seemed like an arduous task, mostly thanks to all of the silly and media manufactured drama, but it’s a day at the beach compared to what it will take for the Broncos to be back-to-back champions.

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Rocky Mountain Low at 20th and Blake

At some point today, maybe even before I finish this column, Von Miller will put pen to paper and become the highest paid non-QB in the history of the NFL. There are some of you who believe the Broncos will ruin their cap and mortgage their future by agreeing to such a deal (they won’t), but that’s beside the point. What you should take away from this is that the Broncos are going to steal all the headlines on the same day that the Rockies begin the second half of their season. And so begins the annual mid-summer transition, where the Rockies will be overlooked when training camp starts and almost entirely forgotten when preseason games get underway.

This is the path of the casual fan or those like me who bleed orange and blue. If you’re a diehard Rockies fan, you have every right to be pissed that it’s the same old song and dance every year. I’m just not sure what you can do about it.

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