The Irish Whip: Suplex City, Bitch - WrestleMania Reviewed

With Extreme Rules coming later tonight, it’s about time (after four weeks, I know) that I reflected on this year’s WrestleMania, which did not have the most auspicious of beginnings. Last time out I said I was “hopeful that some exciting TV” would come out of the post-Rumble mess on the road to the Showcase of the Immortals. Alas, the build-up was fairly weak, despite all the potential being there.

Let’s ignore for now the main event set between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns — more a case of grudging inevitability than pulse-racing anticipation — and look at the rest of the card which, all things considered in this era, was fairly stacked. For the nostalgia kick, there was Sting versus Triple H, one of the few bouts to get a decent build before the show (perhaps because of the hook: WCW Legend takes on WWE Guy). Randy Orton against Seth Rollins best represented the contemporary product. The smart marks got the IC Title ladder match (Money in the Bank in everything but prize and name). Cena v Rusev filled the ‘big man’ requirement. Even the obligatory Divas match had some substance to it this year. The problem is that a lot of these match-ups and scenarios look fair enough on paper, and virtually write themselves. So the weekly shows seemed to hold back on the big sell, expecting — not necessarily wrongly — that you’ll be watching anyway, because it’s WrestleMania.



Reporters versus subs - back to an old journalistic demarcation dispute
I get what Greenslade is saying but let’s be clear: reporting and subediting are two very different skills, so ‘swapping jobs’ won’t really achieve the results he desires. #   ·

Confessions of a creative writing teacher spark internet backlash
Knowing there are people at universities doing actual creative writing degrees who write that badly make me feel pretty good about myself, y’know? It’s not quite schadenfreude but I’m sure there’s a German compound word for it. #   ·

How Netflix Broke The Unbreakable Spoiler Alert (And How To Fix It)
Rex Sorgatz posits a middle ground between the old model of weekly episodic TV and all-in-one-go binge-watching: one episode released at the same time each day over a number of days. Like how mini-series used to work. #   ·

Buy now, pay later
Explaining the Irish banking crisis, in typically Irish terms. It’s still pisses me off that we’ve never really learned the lessons of what went down, and we’re bound to repeat it again. No real sense of people pulling together, everyone out for themselves. The upcoming marriage referendum has brought it out again: such an absence of empathy in such a supposedly ‘Christian’ nation; personal ‘conscience’ as an excuse for denying others trumps all. As a people, we’re a sham, we really are. #   ·

The word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape
The travel writer on the disappearing lexicon that’s specific to the landscape in Britain (and surely Ireland by extension). I did not know, for instance, that forest refers not only to the woods but an area reserved for hunting, regardless of its tree coverage. #   ·

Seeking feedback on the proposed Liffey Cycle Route options
The public consultation closes this Friday. I’ve gone for option two, which really has the best chance of being realised (option three is better, but a pipe dream in the current climate). #   ·

Millions spent but are our streets more cycling friendly?
I don’t know where they’re spending their millions because the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Here’s two simple things that would help immensely: educating motorists that cyclists are allowed to ‘take the lane’, especially when it’s unsafe to keep left; and making sure road surfaces are free of debris and uneven surfaces (poor tarmac laying around shores is just one depressingly regular example, grand for cars but potentially lethal for cyclists). #   ·

Star Trek movies (ships only)
Some genius has only gone and edited out everything from the Star Trek movie series bar the bits with starships moving, drifting, droning in space. #   ·

Frame of reference
In The New Yorker, John McPhee reminds writers to put the reader first when choosing their references or turns of phrase. Context, yes? [c/o @burn_amb]. #   ·

How to back up a country
This is kinda crazy near-future sci-fi stuff, but it’s happening, and I suppose it’s appropriate that it’s happening in Estonia, which to me has always represented a mix of technological emancipation and post-Soviet ennui. Or something like that. #   ·

More Microlog entries →


Elsewhere: My Letterboxd review of Avengers: Age of Ultron

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

The embargo’s finally lifted so I can share with you all my surprising take on the second Avengers flick: it’s shite.

Now calm down, I will be fair; there are some improvements on the first one, which I hated with a burning passion. The awful ‘witty’ dialogue has been toned down for the most part. The treatment of the characters is more sympathetic to their solo adventures, if not canon. The Hulk, written backwards from one of those oh-so-witty lines in the first film, is redrawn here as the classic tragic child-in-a-monster’s-body; Hawkeye is not the one from Matt Fraction’s superlative comic run, but at least gets a respectful role in the story.

Even the story is an improvement in being marginally less convoluted than its predecessor, though it does gets stupider and more illogical as it progresses (I mean, even if you can suspend disbelief for a movie about an evil robot battling a team of superheroes).

That’s because Joss Whedon just can’t help himself. For all his improvements - in de-Buffy-ing the first film’s bland fight staging, in shooting with a wider angle and finally grokking how not to frame so tightly - he still can’t eschew his trademark flaws. For instance, there’s still too much wisecracking from characters who just don’t talk like that (Thor especially: he’s far too self-aware in Whedon’s hands, when the whole point is that he should be oblivious to his pomposity. What’s so difficult about that?).

The worst offender is the lead villain, the dastardly robot Ultron (voiced by James Spader), who should instil fear in the hearts of all who are good and true, but is mostly a vessel for Whedon to slash wildly at the tension with all the subtlety of a baboon. Indeed, subtlety is not a concept Whedon appears to get; what would be a background hint in another filmmaker’s vision is boldly underlined for your convenience by a director who’s fine for ’90s TV but has yet to show any real flair for cinema.

There’s also an argument to be made that the film is racist by ignorance. So many white people - all bar one, Samuel L Jackson in his usual cameo as Nick Fury (Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie are even further in the back, and decidedly put in their place). Not to mention a flying visit to Wakanda, which while in itself is a blessedly contemporary treatment of a modern African city (it was filmed in Johannesburg, so gleaming skyscrapers instead of crime-ridden slums) is still the butt of a joke (a name the white American characters are hopeless at pronouncing? How funny!) and is located, according to the on-screen text, on the ‘African coast’ (North? South? East? West? Who gives a shit?). The less said about Andy Serkis and his woeful ‘Sahth Ifrican’ accent - worse than Leo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond - the better.

That the film as a whole falls into the usual ‘superpowered people destroy a bunch of shit’ mode is really the least of its problems.


Elsewhere: My Letterboxd reviews of Mr Turner, John Wick, Force Majeure and Starry Eyes

After all the anticipation, Mr Turner was a letdown:

A bravura performance by Timothy Spall this undoubtedly has, but as a film, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner is a flawed masterpiece. As I see it there are two ways you can do biographical drama: identify a theme and use events of the subject’s life to illustrate that and tell a specific story (a la Milos Forman’s Amadeus), or simply retell the events of that life in succession. Leigh opts for the latter, and the result is like a diary flailing for a story, and missing out on the stuff we really care about when it comes to JMW Turner: the bloody art, like!

Over two-and-a-half hours depicting the boring minutiae of an odious arsehole’s comings and goings, we’re still left in mystery as to the inspiration behind his greatest works, let alone the secret to his appreciation as a wunderkind of British art. There isn’t even much of an effort to try, Leigh’s lens far more comfortable to rest on the homely, Hobbiton-like safeness of a simply appointed quayside terrace than the majesty of the ocean or the magic cast by sunlight that informed his most arresting paintings.



Elsewhere: My Letterboxd reviews of The DUFF, Big Hero 6 and Blade Runner

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list, my review of The DUFF:

The DUFF is a nice surprise: a film I fully expected to be awful, judging by the try-hard social media marketing campaign, and the ‘Hottie and the Nottie’ implications of its central conceit. But it’s actually a pretty funny, well-done contemporary take on those risque ’80s teen comedies we look back on with such fondness. Starting from a fairly crass premise, the film moves through a series of set-piece high-school cliches in lieu of a plot, but they’re cliches because they work, and there’s enough modern riffing and stereotype inversion to set it apart from straight pastiche. Plus there’s the versatile Mae Whitman (the voice of Katara in the fantastic Avatar animated series) in the lead as the so-called Designated Ugly Fat Friend of the title, gracefully walking that line between sensitivity and silly comedy, and who by all rights should be destined for better things.



Weeknotes #708-710

Little to report over the previous few weeks that I haven’t already mentioned.

Press screenings have been thin on the ground for me lately due to scheduling conflicts. I did attend one this Friday morning, for the new Avengers movie, but we’re apparently embargoed till Tuesday, so yeah.

Music-wise, I’ve got another heavy stuff round-up in the works for Thumped, on top of a few other reviews. This past week I’ve been mostly listening to the new Bosse-de-Nage record, All Fours, which is the best thing I’ve heard in ages. That’s been at the expense of everything else, however, so I’ve got a fair amount to catch up on.




Jack, July 2007, by MacDara on Flickr.

This is Jack, a few months after my mam adopted him from Dogs Aid in 2007.

His first owners must have lived locally; he ended up at the sanctuary after he was hit by a car and treated at the vet on Raheny Road. His hip was messed up but the vet did a great job, and though we knew he’d get arthritis when he was older it never really gave him much trouble.

They estimated he was about three years old then. He spent the next eight years in my family home, happy and loved. St Anne’s Park is just down the road and he had the run of the place.


More Macrolog entries →