Monthly Archives: April 2015

Best Horror Movie Franchises: 1999-2015

As a long-time horror film fan, it felt like time to rank the decade (and a bit) that defined my taste in horror. Spanning from 1999-2015, from when I was young enough to hunch in front of the late-night gorefests with the sound turned low until I could go to see Final Destination movies in the cinema without fake ID, I’m going to rate the best-and worst-horror franchises of the last fifteen (and a bit) years.

10. Hostel


Just sneaking in at the bottom of the list is the Hostel series, notable only for it’s utter disregard for building character, playing off it’s very interesting premise, and it’s unremittingly violent stance on sexy young women, but apparently influential in the torture-porn genre, I’m told. Eli Roth knows too much about the genre to make a truly original movie, which is a shame because he seems like the kind of guy you could go and have a pint with, you know?

9. Wrong Turn


Wrong Turn might not be a high point in cinematic history, but it is a lot of good fun, as were the five films that followed it. Juicily gory and a little bit campy, the real effects were good and the acting was not in this four-part, The-Hills-Have-Eyes inspired romp for the millienial generation. One of the only true slasher franchises of the decade.

8. Lake Placid


I’m allowing Lake Placid a spot on the list, even though the first movie was out in 1999, because I imagine that I’m not the only budding horror movie fan who got hooked into the genre watching this ridiculously entertaining monster-horror-comedy (monhorcom?). Spawning a handful of sequels, it might have played itself out a bit, but it’s still one of the last really brilliant family horror movies of the last couple of decades.

7. Paranormal Activity


A social media triumph, this little indie chiller wound up being one of the most instantly recognisable horror franchises of all time. Despite it’s innovation, and how great the first one is the first time you watch it, the sequels are nothing special and fall into the trap of just repeating their successes across sequel after sequel after sequel- and, y’know, diminishing returns and all that. But that won’t stop people flooding back to the cinema to catch the next one, because dammit all if we don’t remember the utter squirm factor

NXT Recap: April 29th 2015

NXT begins the march towards Takeover: Unstoppable on May 20, and it is already shaping up to be a typically outstanding live special on par with anything the brand has produced before. The main event for that night will be the rematch everybody wants to see, as Kevin Owens defends his NXT Championship against Sami Zayn. Their heated personal rivalry is the centerpiece of NXT currently, and Zayn would feature in the main event in a match against another man very familiar with Owens, Alex Riley.

In the night’s opening contest, the NXT Tag Team Champions were in action in a prelude to their title defense at Takeover. Blake & Murphy would face Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady in a match before they compete with the belts on the line. And the question is whether Carmella would prove a distraction for her own boys or the apparently smitten champs.

As for the remainder of the matches, Becky Lynch warms up for her clash with Sasha Banks at the live special with a match with Sarah Dawson, Bayley takes on the newest addition to the women’s division in Dana Brooke, and Hideo Itami battles Adam Rose.

Quick Results

  • Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady defeat Blake & Murphy
  • Dana Brooke defeats Bayley
  • Hideo Itami defeats Adam Rose
  • Becky Lynch defeats Sarah Dawson
  • Sami Zayn defeats Alex Riley by disqualification

Kevin Owens Opening Promo

The night opened with the arrival of NXT Champion Kevin Owens, who did not appear to be in the best of moods after an attack by Sami Zayn following his match with Alex Riley. Owens was not willing to elaborate too much on the microphone, and instead made it plain that he wanted his former friend to come to the ring to fight it out. This brought out General Manager William Regal, who did not wish to see his show held hostage by violence like last week, but Owens did not seem interested in his pleas.

Zayn made his appearance and was set to take Owens up on his offer, but Regal was adamant that they would not fight unless he said so. With that, he scheduled a match between the pair at Takeover: Unstoppable for the NXT Championship. This caught Owens off-guard, and he argued that Zayn, due to his lengthy absence following their previous encounter, had not done anything to merit a title opportunity.

This led to one of Zayn’s greatest promos, demonstrating his growth as an all-around performer. He talked at length about how Owens needs to prove himself in this match, because everything he’s ever accomplished has had Sami Zayn’s name right next to it. He provoked his former friend by stating that Owens has always lived in Zayn’s shadow, and then echoed his rival by pointing out that he fights for a prize, and the NXT Championship is the prize. This riled Owens enough to accept the match, and both will add another chapter in their storied rivalry on May 20.

Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs Blake & Murphy

The Tag Team Championships are another set of titles that will be determined at Takeover: Unstoppable, as Blake & Murphy will have to overcome a tandem that are totally not SAWFT. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady have pushed themselves into the number one contender’s position with a number of solid victories. But, the champions’ attentions have been less focused on their opponents, but on the shapely form of Carmella. Are these mind games, or will they truly be distracted by the Queen of Staten Island in this warm-up match.


I like how Amore during matches comes across as this lovable loser that tries his hardest but gets beaten down a lot – it suits his underdog character really well

Crowd Reaction

Fans firmly behind the Jersey natives, especially the popular underdog Amore

Crowd getting on the back of Blake for his interesting new hairstyle

Low Points

Not really much action at the beginning, could have been more in the initial damage of Amore by Blake & Murphy


Murphy spends too much time taunting Carmella, which sees him get caught by a Big Boot by Cassady, and then an aided splash from the top rope by Amore earned them a win over the champions.

This was an okay match, but it will need huge improvement at Takeover to avoid it being the worst match of the night. It just appeared as though they were working to a deadline, and Blake & Murphy didn’t do enough interesting things to work over Enzo Amore in the first half of the match. Colin Cassady is a wrecking ball and makes an impression despite a limited move-set, and their tandem’s popularity thus comes through their words and not actions. I believe that for the title match, the deciding factor will be where Carmella’s allegiance truly lies.

Rating – 2/5

Dana Brooke

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Reports Solid Q1 Earnings – Tale of the Tape

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) came out with first-quarter 2015 earnings of 13 cents that fared way better than loss per share of 11 cents reported in the prior year quarter.

WWE® Reports Record Quarterly Revenue

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Review: Avengers – Age of Ultron (contains spoilers)



Right now, a few days away from it’s North American release, the second Avengers film is rocking a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That puts it slightly higher than the consensus for Thor: The Dark World, and right alongside the score for Iron Man 2. For comparison’s sake, the first Avengers film received a 92% score by the review aggregate website.

Unlike with Iron Man 2, where most reviewers agreed that the film was not as strong as the first outing, the reviews for Avengers 2 are more mixed. Some people really liked the film while others were turned off. I’m not going to get into the methodology of some reviewers, nor will I give any bearing to a reviewer who scored the film poorly because they are “burned out” on Marvel movies or because they hadn’t seen the previous entries so they were lost.

This is a new era in movie making. These films aren’t loosely-connected sequels the way “franchises” were done back in the day. This isn’t Batman Returns, where a one-line mention of Vicki Vale was considered a fun little easter egg. This is the era of the “cinematic universe.” It is built on one movie leading into the next, where the audience is expected to keep up with each installment as the pieces are put in place for the semi-regular “big team up” film. Old school reviewers and non-fans are naturally going to be left behind as the movie-series gets bigger and bigger.

But lest you think that’s a bad thing, look at the returns Marvel is getting on their investment. The first two, pre-Avengers Iron Man films grossed (worldwide) 585mm and 623mm respectively. Iron Man 3, coming after The Avengers film, and relying heavily on knowledge of that movie’s plot, grossed over 1 billion at the box office. Thor grossed 450mm, but the sequel–though it received worse reviews than the first–brought in over 640mm. Captain America brought in a respectable 370mm before The Avengers movie. After? Cap 2 pulled in over 700mm. A barely-known Guardians of the Galaxy rode into theaters with nothing but a fun trailer and a connection to the MCU, and it became the number one movie of the year and pulled in 775mm worldwide.

People are not seeing these movies less. The bigger the universe gets, people are seeing them more. The first Avengers is the current box office champ of the MCU, with over 1.5 billion to its name, but reports are that Avengers 2 has pre-ticket sales equaling all previous Marvel movies…COMBINED. This movie is going to blow everything away.

Yet it will probably end up being a middle of the road film, in terms of reviews.

Meanwhile, at Marvel headquarters:



Ultron himself is probably the reason for the disparity in reviews. His performance was shockingly human. He’s much more of a wise-cracking, mustache-twirling, occasionally self-deprecating villain than you would think, both from his appearance and the way he was teased in the trailers. I think a lot of people will go in to this film expecting the big bad to be a killer robot with the Terminator’s personality and instead will discover a killer robot with Loki’s personality. It was very jarring but I was fine with it. I can see it being a turnoff for a lot of reviewers, though. But again, the majority of people who review for magazines and newspapers are so far out of touch with where cinema is headed that their opinions are largely irrelevant these days.

The tone of the movie was about the same as the first one (serious when needed, but rarely serious for long), despite the commercials hinting that this would be much darker. They really teased this movie to be the “Empire Strikes Back” of the “Avengers” series. Again, people will go in expecting one thing and get another. If they can’t accept the movie for what it is, they will probably score it harshly.

As previously alluded, there is zero exposition in the dialogue here. You’re going to have to know your Marvel Cinematic timeline before jumping in if you have any hope of catching any of the offhand comments or understanding half of the roundtable discussions. Personally, I found it refreshing. One thing that bugged me about the recently released teaser for Jurassic World was that literally every line of dialogue spoken in the trailer was exposition. Sometimes the movie has to stop and tell me something, but I much prefer to be shown rather than told. Joss Whedon prefers that too, it seems.

There weren’t as many quiet moments as there were in the first one. There weren’t as many opportunities for the whole gang to stand around and banter. There is the now-famous after-party scene that serves that purpose well, but not nearly enough. There is a stretch, though, almost halfway through the film, when the team takes an unexpected detour to Hawkeye’s home as a way to slow the pace and let the audience catch its breath. It reminded me, of all things, of the break in the action in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, when they took the injured Ralph to April’s farmhouse. But the time spent here was brief, and there wasn’t much banter to be had.

In the original movie, Hulk was the consensus standout star. In this film, he does get a few great moments, but I don’t think anyone will say he stole the show like last time. Really, the love was spread around evenly enough that everyone got to have a moment in the sun. That’s a real testament to Whedon’s skills, as the cast is double what it was the first go around. The closest the movie had to a show-stealer was The Vision. Unlike Ultron, his reveal was a slow burn, but when he finally appeared it was wonderful.

There were the faintest bits of tension between Iron Man and Captain America, but the friction was largely allowed to resolve by the end of the movie. Still, seeds were planted that will make viewers giddy about Civil War. As for the rest of the team, the movie ended with a lot of unresolved issues, and judging by the schedule of films between now and Infinity War Part One, we may not know the answers until the next time the gang is all back together.

As the movie closes, Hulk, Iron Man and Hawkeye seem to take a momentary hiatus from super heroics. Thor left earth to search for who the big bad (Thanos) is that’s pulling the strings. Expect to see that paid off in Ragnarok. Iron Man hinted at retirement. Hulk disappeared. That left Cap, Vision, Scarlett Witch, Black Widow, Falcon, and War Machine as “The Avengers.” There’s a Civil War looming, is that the team that will stand on one side of the fight? Thanos is out there (teased during a Thor vision, and again in an mid-credits scene) and ultimately the showdown will be between him and Earth’s mightiest heroes. What kind of shape will the good guys be in after the Civil War is over? That’s what Phase Three will reveal.


One thing that was interesting was how quickly they raced through Ultron’s origin. He was mentioned, conceived, and created all in one sequence. There was no buildup, no tension: Just BOOM: Bad guy’s here. That was a necessity, because the movie was jam-packed with plot and there was simply no room for a big origin story. It does make me wish the plot of Iron Man 3 would have covered it and planted the seeds for this movie, the way Loki was used in Thor as a prelude to the first Avengers film.

The opening sequence seemed to serve no more purpose than to start the movie with a bang and introduce Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. It really had little to do with the overall plot. Sure it brought Loki’s old Infinity Stone into play, but overall it was a prelude to the rest of the movie. The big Iron Man vs Hulk fight was also so detached from the rest of the movie it felt like little more than fan-service thrown out there for cheers. Not complaining though: It was awesome and I cheered. Also awesome was the mini-fight between the Avengers two-thirds of the way through it, as Vision was being finished.

I can’t remember all the great one-liners, but there were a lot. I did love the little moment between Vision and Thor regarding the balance of Mjölnir. Also Hawkeye had a great line about how everyone is throwing magic hammers and iron suits around everywhere and he’s rocking a bow and arrow. Great for Joss Whedon to point out the big criticism everyone had of Hawkeye and Black Widow in the first film.

In the end, your take on this movie will be dependent on how you receive James Spader’s Ultron character and the way he was brought to life by Joss Whedon’s screenplay. If you can accept that he’s an 8 foot tall robot with the personality of…well, James Spader, then you’ll be fine. If you think he’s too “casual friday” to carry out a world-destroying plot, you might not like it.

Personally, I thought Ultron and his movie were great. Avengers 1 felt like a bigger deal, because it was the first one and it was (at the time) such a unique movie experience. It was also an origin story, and as much as people hate origin stories they tend to be looked at favorably when done correctly. The first movie felt like a cinematic take on a never-printed Avengers comic #1-4. This one felt like a collection of Avengers issues #12-16. It lacked a true beginning or ending (that comes, presumably, with the Infinity Wars films).

In that sense, it is like Empire Strikes Back, not in tone, but in layout.

Overall it’s a really good and occasionally great Marvel movie, but not as amazing as Captain America 2 or as pitch-perfect as Guardians of the Galaxy. Those were simply great movies.

Go see it.

Points: 8 / 10

Seen the movie? Rate it below…

Review: Avengers – Age of Ultron (contains spoilers)
96%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)


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Review: Avengers – Age of Ultron (contains spoilers)

WWE Spoilers: Two big title matches announced for Payback


The third annual WWE Payback will come to you, live on the WWE Network and select pay-per-view providers, on May 17 from the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD. As announced on RAW and at this past Sunday’s Extreme Rules event, respectfully, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship will be defended at Payback. Here is the current card:

  • WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Triple Threat: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns
  • United States Championship: “I Quit” Match: John Cena (c) vs. Rusev

In the “I Quit” Match for the United States Championship, the only way to win is by making your opponent say the words, “I Quit”. There will be no pinfalls, no submissions, no disqualifications, and no count-outs.

What do you think of the two title matches? Post your comments in the box below.


WWE Spoilers: Two big title matches announced for Payback

WWE Spoilers: 2015 King of the Ring Tournament Results


After a five-year absence, WWE brought back the legendary King of the Ring Tournament with the four First Round Matches taking place this past Monday night on RAW and the Semi-Finals and Finals of the tournament airing exclusively on the WWE Network on Tuesday night. The following is the results of the 2015 King of the Ring Tournament:

  • First Round: Bad News Barrett (with Sheamus) def. Dolph Ziggler by pin following the Bull Hammer Elbow to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • First Round: R-Truth def. Stardust by pin following the Lie Detector to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • First Round: Sheamus def. Dean Ambrose by DQ after Dolph Ziggler interferes to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • First Round: Neville def. Luke Harper by pin following the Red Arrow to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • Semi-Finals: Neville (with Dolph Ziggler) def. Sheamus by pin following the Red Arrow to advance to the Finals.
  • Semi-Finals: Bad News Barrett def. R-Truth by pin following the Bull Hammer Elbow to advance to the Finals.
  • Finals: Bad News Barrett def. Neville by pin following the Bull Hammer Elbow to become the 2015 King of the Ring.

Who is your favorite King of the Ring winner? Post your comments in the box below.

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WWE Spoilers: 2015 King of the Ring Tournament Results

WWE RAW Results: April 27, 2015


Double the Payback.

One night after a destructive and controversial Extreme Rules, the 1145th edition of WWE Monday Night RAW came to you, live, from the Resch Center in Green Bay, WI. After a five-year absence from WWE, the King of the Ring Tournament would return live on RAW as eight WWE Superstars would compete to be crowned the 2015 King of the Ring, joining such names as Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Edge, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Booker T, & Stone Cold Steve Austin as one of only a handful of Superstars to earn the title of “King”. The four first round matches of the King of the Ring Tournament would take place on RAW as, one night after being forced to kiss the ‘arse’ of Sheamus, despite winning their Kiss Me Arse Match, “The Show-Off” Dolph Ziggler would go one-on-one with the man who lost to Neville on the Extreme Rules Kickoff show, Bad News Barrett, with the winner advancing to the Semi-Finals of the tournament to face either R-Truth or Stardust, pending the outcome of their first round matchup. After a grueling victory in a Chicago Street Fight that saw himself and Luke Harper leave the arena in an SUV only to return later on in the night to finish their match, “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose would face the man who humiliated Dolph Ziggler at Extreme Rules and the winner of the 2010 King of the Ring Tournament, Sheamus with the winner advancing to face either Neville or Luke Harper in the Semi-Finals. Who will advance to the Semi-Finals of the 2015 King of the Ring Tournament that, along with the Finals, will air exclusively on the WWE Network tomorrow night?

RAW would also set out to settle some burning questions following the Steel Cage Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules between champion Seth Rollins and challenger Randy Orton. Not only would Kane get involved in the match and chokeslam both Rollins and Orton, but Randy Orton would use the banned RKO on Kane before Seth Rollins used Orton’s own finishing move against him with an RKO to “The Viper” that would ultimately allow Seth Rollins to escape the cage and retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. With questions abound on the legality of the RKO being used in the Steel Cage Match, not to mention Kane’s interference in the match, what will go down between Seth Rollins and Randy Orton on RAW?

Match Results

  • King of the Ring Tournament: First Round: Bad News Barrett (with Sheamus) def. Dolph Ziggler by pin following the Bull Hammer Elbow to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • Big E (with Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) def. Tyson Kidd (with Cesaro & Natalya) by pin following a clothesline with Xavier Woods holding down Tyson Kidd’s ankle.
  • Ryback def. Bo Dallas by pin following Shell Shocked.
  • King of the Ring Tournament: First Round: R-Truth def. Stardust by pin following the Lie Detector to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • Adam Rose (with Rosa Mendes & The Exotic Express) def. Fandango by pin following the Party Foul.
  • Naomi def. Brie Bella (with Nikki Bella) by roll-up.
  • King of the Ring Tournament: First Round: Sheamus def. Dean Ambrose by DQ after Dolph Ziggler interferes. As a result, Sheamus advances to the Semi-Finals.
  • King of the Ring Tournament: First Round: Neville def. Luke Harper by pin following the Red Arrow to advance to the Semi-Finals.
  • Randy Orton & Roman Reigns (with Kane) def. Seth Rollins & Kane (with J&J Security) by Randy Orton pinning Seth Rollins following the RKO.

See page 2 for detailed results.

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WWE RAW Results: April 27, 2015

A Strong and Sawft review of DareDevil: Episode Two

I know you’re afraid, but you can’t give in to the fear.



If you want a comic-accurate series, you have to take the good with the bad.

Matt’s dad is a boxer, so of course he’s a man of virtue being forced by financial hardship and mob pressure to throw fights. It’s a cliche, but its DareDevil. That’s part of the mythos. Matt opens the episode beaten up and left in a dumpster to die, but the cliched “nurse on her night off” is there to rescue him (and not call the cops, which is the most obvious thing a real person would do). It’s cliched, but that’s superhero comics. They almost all have one version of that story or another, right down to the in media res open that leaves you wondering how the hero got so beat up in the first place. Really, the only thing missing to complete the cliche was the momentary amnesia by our hero.

Seeing the title of the episode was “Cut Man” I feared that we were going to move away from the gritty, down-to-earth, nature of the show too quickly and instead jump right into the supervillains-of-the-week. I’m not saying I’m against an appearance by “Stilt Man,” but let’s maybe have some more world-building first.

The theme of this episode is the early struggles of Matt Murdock as DareDevil. We find out that our hero has quickly made a name for himself in the city. To honest people trying to get by, he’s a whispered-about folk hero bent of ridding Hell’s Kitchen of crime. To the crime syndicate (which, as far as I can tell, is a singular unit with multiple wings), he is a menace that needs to be squashed.

Watching the first two episodes (I haven’t yet seen episode three), they feel like two halves of the same story. Obviously that’s going to happen when a show is as serialized as this, but the carry over from one to the next reminded me a lot of the first two episodes of Smallville, where events in one episode led to the villain and the plot of the second. It wasn’t so much a continuation of the overall story of the season, but just a furtherance of the left over plot from the first episode. I’m not knocking it necessarily, I just wonder if that’s going to be the style going forward. If so, it may end up tiring around episode nine or ten, when the final thirty seconds are used to set up the plot of the next episode.


This second episode offered viewers some exposition to summarize the motivation for Murdock’s night-time crusades. We’re also given additional insight into his past. With his dad being killed in this episode, I wonder if we will see anymore of young Matt Murdock. If not, that only reinforces the idea that this was a two-hour season premiere that just happened to be split into two individual episodes.

Once agin, the death of Matt’s dad checks the box labeled “pivital death of the hero’s mentor” and fulfills that cliched obligation a comic book story needs. It’s good that it happened so early in the season, though. There wasn’t much left for Matt’s dad after he refused to throw the fight. Why prolong the inevitable? So it may have been a cliche, but it was handled with care.

One thing that has, refreshingly, remained unsaid is how and to what extent Matt’s powers work. It’s obvious the chemicals he crashed into as a child (episode one) heightened his senses, but it’s nice that–though there was an obvious moment to do it when talking to the nurse–the show has decided to keep things understated and implied for the audience to figure out. Yes it’s a comic book show, but it’s not one for kids: Adults can put two-and-two together on their own.

And if there was any doubt that children should not be watching this show, then the rooftop interrogation scene answered all questions. Here, things went dark. When the good samaritan nurse lady suggests you stab the tied up bad guy in the eye (or almost) with a knife, the show is DARK. When the “hero” dumps said bad guy off the roof, not knowing if he would live or die, the show is DARK. But that’s Daredevil. That’s the mythos. You can’t hide from it and still do justice to the character he has evolved into over the decades. He’s a guy who will fight for your rights at noon in court, and then break your shins at midnight in the alley. Like the apostle Paul who spoke of the “goodness and severity” of God, the Catholic Matt Murdock wears a twisted sense of justice and vengeance on his sleeves. Is it a cliche? It’s DareDevil.

It’s clear, however, that the criminals he fights are not petty thugs. They answer to a higher power and it’s only a matter of time before DareDevil and Kingpin cross paths. It was teased for fans at the end of the first episode, when Fisk inquired about Karen’s lawyers. Fisk’s associate passed them off as ambulance chasers, and Kingpin didn’t seem to disagree. He did, however, insist that a file be opened on them, to keep tabs on their future activities.

In the comics, Fisk eventually discovers the identity of DareDevil. In fact, it eventually comes out to the whole city who DareDevil is. I wonder if the show will reach that major turning point. Probably not this season, but maybe if Netflix orders another thirteen episodes.


Strong and Sawft:

Sawft –

Two episodes in and already his secret identity is getting out. C’mon son!

Strong –

Last episode, the flashbacks served to bookend the present day action. This time they peppered the show and built toward the moment when you realize why Murdock would risk everything to rescue that boy. The death of Matt’s dad and his being separated from him forever is what would motivate him to fight crime in court and on the streets. Having that pivotal moment jumpcut to the hallway where the amazing final fight scene would take place was a brilliant bit of editing. Lesser shows would have made the connection with dialogue. DareDevil, for a series about a blind guy, has got a knack for knowing how to show and not tell.

Sawft –

Foggy and Karen and some very bad acting. Actually the fault was both with the acting and the writing. Everything was too on the nose; a fault of the writing. Also the performances were too “recited from a script;” a fault of the acting (or possibly, the directing). None of it felt real. Things only got worse as the two drunkenly stumbled to Matt’s apartment. I’ve never drank a drop of alcohol in my life but even I could mimic a drunken stupor better than those two.

Strong –

On the other hand, Claire and Matt had a much more natural, much more real series of conversations. On the surface it was all just as cliched as the bar-time convos of Foggy and Karen, but the acting was much stronger, and the chemistry much more tangible.

Sawft –

Was Matt’s dad working for Fisk? I know he was throwing fights for the mob, and was long before Matt was stricken blind, but the details of his mob associates are left vague, other than their Italian origin. I don’t want to criticize something on the basis that it might be done, but there better be some stellar writing to tie it all up if it does come out that Kingpin was the “big bad” behind the scenes back then. That seems…too pat to me. Now if it comes out that Fisk was a lowly hit man at the time and personally carried out the hit on Matt’s dad…that’s still a huge coincidence, but I like it better than the alternative.

Since it’s hard to give a “sawft” to a hypothesis, I will give one for this: Matt’s dad basically committed suicide because he wanted the crowd to cheer him one more time. That’s basically what happened, right? He knew he would get killed for not throwing the fight, which is why he placed a big bet on himself (in Matt’s name) and ensured that the lady he called was ready to take care of Matt. I dunno dad, couldn’t you have not ensured your immediate death? Wouldn’t that have been better for your kid than whatever winnings you made on your fight? Or better yet, why not move out of Hell’s Kitchen? Also, what if Matt’s dad had tried to win the fight but lost in, say, the first round? Talk about egg on your face: losing the bet AND your life.

Strong –

I can’t say enough about the beautifully shot fight scene at the end of this episode. It was maybe the prettiest looking fight I’ve seen on TV, ever. Almost entirely single take, in a hallway, with some of the biggest moments happening off camera while DareDevil and the goons burst into another room. Throughout the action, the camera remained focused on the empty hallway, with its end being the door leading to the small boy wishing to be reunited with his dad. Much of the fight forced us to rely on our hearing to keep up with it, in a nod that couldn’t have been more on the nose if it tried, but I’m not complaining as the pacing and choreography made for a breathtaking final scene.



Some cliched–though necessary–tropes and some clunky scenes with Foggy and Karen hurt things a bit, but whenever the camera was on DareDevil I couldn’t look away. Both the quiet moments with Claire, the intense moments on the rooftop, and the thrilling final fight show how great this show already is two episodes in.


A Strong and Sawft review of DareDevil: Episode Two

The Visit: Will this be a return to early M. Night Shyamalan?

Night Shyamalan is definitely one of the most well-known filmmakers in the world, but anyone who’s seen his earlier films compared to his most recent releases knows that his notoriety isn’t entirely a good thing. Shyamalan, who was responsible for films like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, has in recent years been known more for films that tank at the box office and feel distinctly different than his earlier works. Shyamalan was once known for making movies that tapped into the complexities of the human condition and featured his signature twist endings.


Many people have been decrying Shyamalan as a second-rate filmmaker ever since The Village because viewers began to feel that he was overusing the film convention of the twist ending. Arguably, if the twist ending works, and for many people it did, then Shyamalan should be free to use it, at least as much as he’s able to do it without the ending being too predictable. Stories should be about discovery, and I remember how floored I was to find out that the community of people in The Village were living in an village in modern day, isolated from our modern luxuries and living as if they were in the past. Even if you did know what the twist was before it was revealed, the twist itself wasn’t important. What was important was what it illustrated, which was the deep pain felt by the adults in the village that caused them to want a life away from the corruption of civilization, a place where their children could grow up free from the pain they’d felt.


As a writer and as a moviegoer, I was blown away by The Sixth Sense when it came out. It was this odd mixture of horror and drama, and it worked so well. And it was, of course, the introduction to the twist endings that Shyamalan would go on to become known for. The Sixth Sense was followed by Unbreakable, a film that was strangely about the origin of a reluctant superhero and his arch-nemesis. What made Unbreakable work was the gritty realism of it, which would eventually become the approach Christopher Nolan would take with his Dark Knight trilogy. Signs, the next film produced by Shyamalan was definitely a good movie, though I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was the two before it. And I’ve already mentioned The Village, an emotional drama that felt like a horror movie until you realized it wasn’t.


While The Village seemed to many people where the cracks were beginning to show in the Shyamalan creative empire, I thought it was a deeply thought-provoking story. I still do. And if it had been the first movie released by Shyamalan instead of The Sixth Sense, it wouldn’t have suffered the complaints that Shyamalan was overusing twist endings. It was a beautiful story, and it dug deep to the heart of the human condition when it comes to love, family, and sacrifice. Not to mention fear.

But The Village is where the magic ended. Shyamalan would release Lady in the Water next, a film about a fairy tale creature and an apartment complex full of people with a unique role in protecting the fairy tale. Shyamalan often makes cameo appearances in his movies, but this was the first time he played a significant role. Ironically, he played a writer with the power to shape reality with his words. But the movie was both strange and unappealing. It felt markedly different from previous films, which could have been a good thing, but it just felt like Shyamalan was trying so hard to make a different kind of movie that he embraced the type of story that just felt like it was thrown together by a child with a wild imagination. Don’t get me wrong. Children can come up with great stories, but this one felt like someone grasping for straws on what to write about.

The Happening was next. What stood out to me about this film was that it was completely absent of any twist. There’s a character early on in the movie that suggests that the plants have turned on humanity and are causing people to take their own lives. And it turns out that his suggestion was spot on. The Happening, while certainly better than Lady in the Water, felt like an agenda-driven movie with no real compelling story to carry it forward.

I never watched The Last Airbender or After Earth. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t an M. Night Shyamalan fan anymore, even though I wanted to be. I remember reading a book about Shyamalan’s struggle to get Lady in the Water made because it was a story he believed it. I’m a writer myself, and I would hope that I would have enough insight to see when a story appeals only to me. For the last few films, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that way for Shyamalan.

But that could change in just a few months. The Visit, Shyamalan’s latest film, releases in September, and a look at the official trailer that was released last week reveals a creepy movie that seems to have the feel of an early Shyamalan film. The Visit is about two children who visit their grandparents for an extended time. Sounds like fun, right? I always loved visiting my grandparents when I was a kid. The trailer feels like a warm family film until the grandfather is telling the children goodnight and that it might be a good idea to not come out of their room after 9:30 p.m.

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The whole tone of the trailer shifts, and it quickly becomes clear that grandma and grandpa are not the sweet old people they seem. Evidently, the grandchildren do go out after 9:30, and that’s when the horror begins. Grandma and grandpa are a terrifying mystery that the grandchildren are desperate to get away from. But, of course, when they contact their mom to come get them, she treats them like they’re being silly. The trailer feels a bit like the Hansel and Gretel story, and it definitely has a creepiness factor.

I don’t know if The Visit will be a return to what made M. Night Shyamalan a great writer and director, but I’m at least intrigued by the trailer to the film in a way that I haven’t been since The Village.

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The Visit: Will this be a return to early M. Night Shyamalan?