X-Division ladder match ****
Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards vs. Tigre Uno vs. Crazzy Steve vs. Manik vs. Sanada
Not only was this a great opener with many high spots and physical moves, but it also showed how important the X-division is to TNA. Once again there is a call for there to be at least one X-division match per impact show. Richards and Edwards are a great injection to the division and the return of Manik was a genius move. The fans in the arena were into it and hopefully the higher ups can see this. Crazzy Steve was really the only low point, mostly because he didn’t actually wrestle, extra kudos to Richards and Manik for the sunset powerbomb from the ladder, onto the other ladder.
Bobby Lashley vs. Samoa Joe ****
One has to be impressed by how TNA can change their format quickly. Instead of MVP vs. Eric Young for the World Heavyweight title we get a triple threat steel cage match. It brings to mind how TNA brought in the winner of the Terrordome to compete against Joe and Rick Steiner at Sacrifice.
It is easy to expect a wooden performance out of Lashley against Joe, but this was a good physical contest with both men taking turns to sit in the driver’s seat. The outcome was as expected, but Joe could just as easily have won this.
Magnus (w/Bram) vs. Willow (w/Abyss) ***
The build up to the match between Willow and Magnus has been a bit strange since it was mostly born out of Bram booking matches for Magnus, this then having developed into a conflict within Magnus with Willow as some form of trial by fire. The match was decent enough with the unexpected win by Magnus, fair and square. This is of course not the end as the brawl between Bram and Abyss leaves the door open for a further program between the four. Again it is odd that Willow basically has got the same move set as Hardy and should really be altered if it indeed is so that Willow is Hardy’s dark alter ego
Austin Aries vs. Kenny King *****
This was truly the match of the night. When King and Aries are in the ring together it is easy to see that they have a history; they were together in ROH where Aries was the mentor to the All Night Express. In the ring they have great chemistry and they really pulled out all the stops. They seem to be comfortable enough with each other that they dare do moves that maybe not everyone wants to be part of. Nice high spots, quick pace and great moves made this an awesome match up with a fair outcome. It is nice to see Aries being used again; he is way too good to be on the shelf.
Bro-Mans vs. The von Erichs ***
This was unfortunately no more than a novelty match. It would have been nice to see the von Erichs really bring it, but it was quite obvious that they are quite green. Bringing them in for this night was a stroke of genius by TNA management and they should really be thinking along these lines more often. The crowd popped for the Texas icons and didn’t seem too bothered when they missed spots or botched moves. The Bro-Mans and especially Jessie has come into his own and the group is as annoying as they need to be. Seeing von Erich senior come in and clean house was also amazing and in the end the match did what it needed to do, which was make a great PPV even better.
TNA Knockouts Championship
Gail Kim vs. Angelina Love (w/Velvet Sky) ****
Time and again one has to be impressed by the matches that the knockouts put out. They give any other female division a run for their money. Much of it has to do with the core roster that can carry anyone and bring the best out of most opponents. Love and Kim are two of those, so it’s not surprising that a matchup between them would be stellar. Good moves and nice spots and an expected outcome.
Texas Death Match
Bully Ray vs. EC3 ****
Although the outcome of the match between Bully and Carter was predictable, there is some point in keeping his record clean for now, this match was surprisingly good. When looking at it on paper this might not be such a big surprise after all. Both Bully and EC3 are good wrestlers, albeit Bully a better worker than wrestler and entertaining. Bully Ray’s speech prior to the match, harking back to the days of great Texas wrestlers, put him over and Carter did the opposite during his promo. If nothing else both of these guys are great at working the fans. The match was very physical and violent with many brutal moments, but the lack of blood was somewhat disappointing since this would have added to the death match stipulation. When comparing it to Samoa Joe and Bobby Lashley they ended up the same in physicality which becomes odd. It seems that TNA is scared of blood some times, while other times they relish it. Not the show stopper it could have been, but a solid good hardcore match.
“Cowboy” James Storm vs. Mr. Anderson ***1/2
Both Anderson and Storm are very good workers and have good fundamentals, the problem with them though is that they are very stiff in the ring. Therefore they both need an opponent who can work well with this and complements those styles, hence why Storm and Roode have had great matches, as well as Anderson and Angle. This causes some concern going into this matchup thinking that it might turn boring and more of an unentertaining brawl. This ended up not being the case; granted the match was short, but there was a lot of interesting spots and they both managed to bring their a game and complemented their stiffness with innovative moves and some new thing we haven’t seen before. Bringing in the Dallas Cowboys as a distraction so that Anderson could win seems like an effort to further the feud, but was entertaining enough.
World Heavyweight Championship Cage Match
Austin Aries vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Eric Young *****
This main event was most likely so much more than the original main event would have been. It had the perfect mix of wrestlers who all have different strengths and who complement each other. Aries is quick and high flying, Lashley a powerhouse and EY a good blend of the two. It started out as expected with Lashley taking early control, but Aries and Ey fighting back and trying to team up at times. They used the ring well this night and it was a good thing that they didn’t have to escape the cage to win. All three looked strong and there were times when any one of them could have won. Hurricanranas and elbows from the top on Lashley gave an air of him not being all powerful and showed that he can sell other wrestlers moves. To eliminate him towards the end was also a great idea and put Aries and EY in focus. It was interesting to see that the audience were behind Aries more than Young, but they seemed to be pleased in the end.
All in all Slammiversary was one of the best pay per views that TNA has put out in a long time. They let the strength of their roster be showcased and they were allowed to put on some good matches. Now they need to keep it up and continue to build on this momentum and not lose steam and bring in some fresh faces. The decision to add team 3D to the Hall of Fame was unexpected, but one has to wonder why it hasn’t been Jeff Jarrett, Jerry Lynn or even Ken Shamrock…
Robert Fordyce Aickman was a British writer, conservationist and editor and though he wrote some 48 tales of the supernatural is little known today. If one was to look for anything written with his name attached to it nine times out of ten one would find a short story collection that he edited. Why this is may of course be anyone’s guess. Maybe because he spent a short time on this earth, 1914-1981, or that the short story market was not very popular during his time, or even that his tales were the wrong genre. It is easy to speculate why most of us have or will rarely come in contact with Aickman and maybe, like forgotten authors before him, he only needs a champion to bring him into the literary spotlight. Question is if he belongs there.
Cold Hand in Mine is a collection of seven short stories and is one of Aickman’s most notable works of fiction. The narrative in them is set up in very much the same way and all allude to some hidden, uneasy feeling or goings on in the background. The reader gets treated to a quite extensive build up, more often told from the main character’s perspective and sometimes by the person himself. The suspense of the stories are mainly built up by the narrator retelling a lengthy background story as it pertains to several of the characters and then slowly use different suspenseful techniques to create the sensation of mystery and terror. The main problem though is that the conclusion often falls flat.
That Aickman was a skilled writer, knowledgeable in the art of creating a mysterious narrative is undeniable. That he also was a great editor and knew exactly how a tale of suspense should be constructed is also not even debatable, yet the final product doesn’t work. That he also was looking to be known as a more modern H.P. Lovecraft is also obvious to anyone who has come in contact with the master himself and it here one needs to place and compare Aickman if one is to understand or even discuss his tales.
Just like Lovecraft did Aickman uses the confessional as his setting. His characters are damaged or come in contact with those who are. There always seems to be an uneasy feeling of untold dread that lurks in the dark, something close to the surface threatening to break through. Where Lovecraft always skillfully ended his tales of doom with a horrific twist, Aickman misses the mark again and again and leaves the reader hanging and wondering what just happened.
Aickman also seems to be preoccupied with the past, very much like Lovecraft, and his stories are mostly set some short time after the Second World War so as to be free to use modern automobiles and other amenities, though this is not always the case. On occasion he sets the story further back in time, but when is unclear, it may be early 19th century or even older. This also becomes his weakness, where Lovecraft was obsessed with the old days and was well versed in ancient history and often set his stories in New England, Aickman is everywhere and nowhere. He does not seem completely at home in the eras that he portrays and this causes the stories to lack depth and substance and at times confusing. Whereas Aickman often uses other people as his antagonists, i.e. gypsys, jews or mixed, he doesn’t fall into the same blatant racism that Lovecraft did.
One must respect Aickman’s literary efforts to follow the likes of Lovecraft or M.R. James, if this wasn’t intentional then it is very strange how much his storytelling resembles their body of work, and there is no denying his craftsmanship at setting up his tales, but the heart and soul that his predecessors poured into their writing is just not there.
Today very few of us know of Robert Fordyce Aickman and maybe there is hope that he would get the same renaissance and respect that Lovecraft got later in life, but his writing is just not strong enough to remain timeless.
When something has become sufficiently aged it stops being old and becomes retro. It is no longer just nostalgia for a minority, but can yet again become cool, but can it become profitable and even popular again?
As a teenager I loved computer games especially played on my Atari ST, it is nostalgia to me. I have fond memories of playing Dungeon Master late into the night, with a beating heart anticipating the next monster around the corner, or playing Elite Frontier, plotting the perfect trade route for spices and slaves in a seemingly infinite galaxy to explore and later marvelous adventure games such as Day of the Tentacle on my first PC.
The years passed by and the trickle of Dungeon Master clones eventually stopped. David Braben, the creator of Elite Frontier kept promising a sequel that never materialized and then turned silent the last ten years and so the market for adventure games that called for your wits died. Market, it was said there was no market for these old genres and without a market there was no publisher to finance the development of next game. The market had spoken.
The market may move on, but the memories and nostalgia remain. Booting up these old games in an emulator and playing them today you will notice that some things are best left as memories and nostalgia. The gameplay is often clumsy and awkward, maybe I‘ve become lazy, but what I remember as being fun has in many ways become a chore. In many ways it is the small details that have gone from nice additions to fundamentals, like contextual help for buttons to avoid having to use a manual for reference. Individually each of these small details may not seem like much, but when added together they make a world of difference to the game play experience.
Added together they also make a world of difference to the cost of producing the games. A cost that no publisher is willing to take on for genres that may be and conventionally assumed to be near dead. If publishers do not want to finance the development of games of old genres, who will?
Turns out that the consumers themselves are more than willing to step up and finance the development of games they want. Enter Kickstarter, Kickstarter is a webpage and service that allows people to financially back projects they themselves want to see done. Kickstarter has been used to kickstart many different kinds of projects, from books to movies and most close to my heart; games.
The poster child for Kickstarter projects that launched the service into the public mind is the adventure game by Day of the Tentacle creator Tim Schaffer. At first announced as a simple adventure asking for a modest $400,000 in February of 2012 turned out to be a great success, raking in over $3.4 million from more than 87,000 individual backers. It was released to the world with, great reception, as Broken Age in January of 2014. As a Kickstarter project Broken Age has not only proved that there is still life in old genres, it also proved that the financial model of letting the end consumer finance the development of a product is a viable model.
Broken Age is not an isolated incident. In November of 2012 David Braben, the creator of Elite Frontier, announced a sequel Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter and managed to raise £1.7 million. Money that allowed Braben to reacquire the rights to the intellectual property he once created, and in June 2014 the game is available in a public beta version, with an expected full release later this same year.
Now all I am hoping for is for someone to Kickstart and breathe new life into Dungeon Master.
In the meantime I can enjoy Legend of Grimrock, a new game paying homage to the genre of Dungeon Master. An exception to the business model of using Kickstarter; instead four Finish game developers previously hired by AAA development housed invested their own money and formed the company Almost Human to develop the game. Legend of Grimrock first released in April of 2012 proved to be successful, and Almost Human has since then hired more employees and they have a sequel on track for release later in 2014.
The future is bright, for genre games of the past.
That NXT is the most interesting product that WWE is currently putting out is probably the worst kept secret in the wrestling world. There are several reasons for this; more matches, less talk and young former independent wrestlers being retooled. Many of these wrestlers have been allowed to keep much of their old move set and taunts. On the other end of the spectrum there are also many wrestlers who are steeped in WWE style of wrestling and the difference between these two types of competitors is very obvious.
This was also very obvious during Takeover where whenever an indie wrestler faced a WWE type wrestler.
Adam Rose vs. Camacho **
The reason for changing Kruger to Rose was in one way understandable. The Kruger figure was intense in many ways, but also very uncharismatic and stiff. Rose is almost the polar opposite to Kruger and is a lot more exciting to the audience, from the character to his music. The issue with Rose is that he is quite a one dimensional character. His charm will wane fairly soon and he does not seem to have the in ring ability to be interesting. In comparison Camacho is also a very pale character. He has the look of a typical Mexican gangster, but WWE seems not to want to go all in with this figure.
The match between Rose and Camcho was slow and derivative, the same as it has been before. Both wrestlers don’t bring anything interesting to the table and the audience felt bored in the end. If either of these guys are going to have a future they need to step it up.
The Ascension vs. Kalisto/El Local *1/2
Like Rose Conor and Viktor are quite flat characters. They are billed as a team that steamrolls the competition, but it is obvious to anyone who watches them that they do not have the skills to back it up. This has been especially clear when they have faced far superior wrestlers, like The American Wolves (billed as the pitbulls). They use the same brutal moves again and again without muck fantasy or variation. This is quite sad to see when one considers that Conor has been at developmental the longest and should be much better than he is. Kalisto (formerly Samurai del Sol) did not get to show all the things he can do in the match and the things he has done have unfortunately been stolen from Davey Richards and Johnny Gargano. The point in adding El Local as Kalisto’s partner is beyond reason. He is past his prime and not very interesting to see, what needs to be done is add another younger luchador and remove the straps from the Ascension. This match could have been much better if Kalisto and El Local had won a non title match.
Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze *****
Absolutely the match of the night. It is quite obvious that Sami Zayne (El Generico) can pull a good match out of anyone. It is in a way sad to see Zayn stuck in NXT when he already is a complete wrestler, much like Adrian Neville, when people like Bo Dallas get more than one shot at Raw and Smackdown. Breeze hasn’t shown much in the way of ability the past year, his character is the best part, but it may be easy to forget that he was FCW champion as Mike Dalton. The best moves were pulled off by Zayn and Breeze sold them well and was also given the chance to show some good moves. One must question the outcome and to what end Breeze won, when a match between Zayn and Neville would have torn down the house.
(Rusev vs. Mojo Rawley)
Pointless altercation between Rusev, now Russian apparently, and Mojo. Both wrestlers are still very green and rely on power and hype instead of ability. Rawly could become an interesting figure, but he needs to have better moves than butt bumps.
Natalya vs. Charlotte ****
The biggest surprise of the night was the Divas match. Usually the Divas are tired and uninteresting, although the ones in NXT are far better than the main roster, most likely thanks to Sara Del Ray. Both girls pulled out all the stops and there were nice near falls and good spots and the decision to put the belt on Charlotte was better than giving it to Natalya who has had her day in the sun.
Tyson Kidd vs. Adrian Neville ***
To follow Breeze vs. Zayn and the Divas match was not going to be an easy feat, but with Adrian Neville (PAC) in control of things it could take the show to the next level. Unfortunately Tyson Kidd got to control most of the match. If one wants the champ to seem strong and credible he can’t be taking a beating for most of the match only to come back with one move and then hit the finisher. It is understandable that the WWE wants to get Kidd back into the game by sending him to the minors, like they did with Cesaro. Difference is that Cesaro has the skill and charisma to pull something like that off; Kidd just doesn’t have what it takes. Hopefully this is the last time we see him in NXT.
In closing one can say that while Takeover wasn’t a bad special, it wasn’t great. It shows that there are several wrestlers who need work and when matching them against better competitors it really shows where their faults are.
Since Guillermo del Toro’s version of At the Mountains of Madness based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story seems to be indefinitely postponed Lux Digital pictures have set up a Kickstarter to fund an animated version of it.
Since there needs to be more Lovecraft movies we find this project to be very interesting. Head on over to Kickstarter and check them out…
Cast: John Malkovic, Richard Coyle, Julian Sands et al
Pirates, a few years ago one could hardly swing a cutlass around without hitting some form of pirate related object. Of course we had Pirates of the Caribbean and Johnny Depp to thank for this. It was obvious that just about everyone tried to capitalize on the success, even the porn industry released a pirate movie, and why wouldn’t they? That is probably why it seems like both Crossbones and Black Sails are just a bit too late to catch the proverbial boat.
To review Crossbones by comparing it to Black Sails would be the easy thing to do, there are many things that could be commented on, from cast, setting, effects and the very similar narrative. One must consider that the two shows are on very different networks with different audiences and therefore very different possibilities.
Initially the plot of Crossbones revolves around Tom Lowe (Richard Coyle) an agent for the British crown posing as a physician. His task is to murder the legendary Blackbeard (John Malkovic) who is supposed to be dead. William Jagger (Julian Sands) refuses to believe this and creates a decoy to lure him out; the chronometer, a navigational tool designed to steer ships right in the treacherous waters of the Caribbean.
As planned the ship carrying the chronometer is boarded by pirates and Lowe ends up destroying the device, burning the encrypted design plans and poisoning the inventor. This causes him to be imprisoned by the pirates and taken to the island of New Providence where he comes face to face with Blackbeard, now calling himself the Commodore. To avoid being killed Lowe must promise to keep the inventor alive, but when this fails he memorizes the key to the cipher to stay valuable to Blackbeard.
The opportunity to carry out his initial mission presents itself, but must be halted when it seems like the enemies of Britain are benefitting from Blackbeard’s connections. At the same time the introduction of the beautiful Kate Balfour (Claire Foy) creates a possible love interest for Lowe. This is most interesting for viewers who might recognize Coyle and Foy as romantic partners in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.
NBC really does try to push the envelope with Crossbones. They show as much blood, gore and cursing as they can all to be able to compete with networks like HBO and Showtime. Whether it will work or not only time will tell, but there actually might be a point in creating an alternative that the entire family can watch together. The part of the show that is hurt by these limitations is the reality aspect. So far Crossbones is a bit too clean and neat. When it comes to the pirate life the viewers need the stink and misery of it to leap through the screen, they need to feel it.
The choice of British actors like Richard Coyle is most satisfying, mostly known for comedic interpretations like Coupling and the aforementioned Going Postal he is more than capable of playing the serious role. It does seem that he was chosen for his ability to bring some comedy the role of Lowe. The creators of the show have also chosen to surround actors like Malkovic and Sands with their British counterparts. Even though both Malkovic and Sands are competent actors they need to be reined in by strong directors and supported by a strong cast. There have been far too many times when Malkovic has been allowed to run rampant across the screen without control, completely ruining the experience. A hint of it flashes here and there, but hopefully the transition to the small screen can do for him what the Following did for Kevin Bacon or Selfridge did for Jeremy Piven.
Crossbones has to make a decision what kind of show it wants to be. If it wants to contend with similar cable shows than it will fail, but if it chooses to be the best thriller/adventure show it can on the network it is on then we may have a success on our hands.