TV Review: WWE Breaking Ground (2015- )

Original Run: October 25th, 2015 – current
Created by: WWE
Directed by: Christopher Bavelles, Ronn Head
Narrated by: William Shatner
Cast: Matt Bloom, William Regal, Sara Amato, Triple H, Bayley, Mojo Rawley, Carmella, Robbie Brookside, Dana Brooke, Tyler Breeze, Nia Jax, Baron Corbin, Tino Sabbatelli, Apollo Crews, Jason Jordan, Chad Gable, Big Cass, Sami Zayn

3 Ball Entertainment, WWE, 30-43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Breaking Ground is a documentary reality show produced by WWE for their exclusive streaming service, the WWE Network. It showcases a lot of their talent in NXT, which is the WWE’s training ground and minor leagues, where wrestlers hone their skills in an effort to eventually make it up to the main roster.

The feel of this show is much more real and serious than their other attempts at reality television. It is also more fine tuned and comes off as completely authentic other than the manufactured drama of shows like Total DivasTotal BellasLegends’ House and even Tough Enough.

Narrated by William Shatner, the show has a sense of legitimacy and plays out much more professionally. He adds a certain level of gravitas and credence to the production that is missing in WWE’s other shows.

The story follows several NXT Superstars, as they work out daily in the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, FL. It also follows them as they perform for WWE’s NXT brand on television and on the road. It shows the trials and tribulations of each person featured and really covers all areas and aspects of the WWE training process, by incorporating talent at varying levels of development.

While this isn’t an amazing show and is pretty dry, most of the time, it should be interesting to those who are fans of the sports entertainment business at a deeper level than just watching Monday Night Raw or Smackdown on a weekly basis.

Film Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Release Date: December 7th, 1979
Directed by: Robert Wise
Written by: Alan Dean Foster, Harold Livingston
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney, Mark Lenard, Persis Khambatt, Stephen Collins

Paramount Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“Touch God…? V’Ger’s liable to be in for one hell of a disappointment.” – Commander Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, M.D.

I feel like this chapter in the Star Trek franchise gets a bad rap.

Here’s the thing, it does not play like the films that came after it. This plays a lot more like an episode of the original television series, which should have been okay, actually. But I guess after Star Wars, two years prior to this, people wanted more action heavy science fiction. The film series rectified that after this picture, however.

The thing is, the reason why I liked Star Trek, as a kid, was because it was more than just sci-fi action. It went deeper philosophically and it tried to find solutions to problems and conflict without resorting to violence. This movie is an incredible example of that. But I get why it didn’t excite general audiences in the same way as Star Wars.

The mission in this film sees the original show’s crew reunite on a very updated version of the original Enterprise. They are sent to investigate a massive nebula looking space oddity that is traveling towards Earth and destroying anyone that comes close to it. The plot is really a mystery in trying to figure out what this massive thing is and what it wants. I really like the big reveal at the end and thought it was an imaginative idea that was executed well on screen. Others seem to differ on this but to me, it’s really just classic Star Trek in the best way.

Plus, the special effects are stunning and they still hold up quite well by today’s standards. The interior of the alien vessel is incredible and Spock’s journey through it was reminiscent of the final sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is bizarre but it’s supposed to be. It all just adds more to the mystery and enriches the mythos as it develops on screen. It isn’t so bizarre though, that it is a hard film to follow. It doesn’t sacrifice narrative for style, it is a good marriage of both actually. It also has its own unique look when compared to the television series and the films that came later. This is a truly unique sci-fi epic that looks beautiful.

Now it can feel slow at times and that bizarre wormhole experience is a distraction but the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.

I really like this film. It is not my favorite in the series but it certainly isn’t as bad as Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Ranking the Star Trek Films

Star Trek is one of the greatest franchises of all-time. Unlike the fanboys who incessantly argue about which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars, I don’t waste my time with all that. They are both very different series, excluding the reboot film series by J.J. Abrams, which is more or less a dumbed down/action heavy version of Star Trek made by a guy who didn’t like Trek and wanted to make his own Star Wars film.

That is not a knock against Star Wars, it is just observing the fact that they are more of a set of films fueled by action, as Star Trek was a film series (and television series) that was a lot deeper philosophically. Again, the two series are two entirely different things where the only thing that they really have in common is that they are in space and both share the word “Star” in their titles.

When I was a kid, I liked both. However, I saw the intellectual edge that Star Trek had and grew a deep respect and love for it. My introduction to Star Trek was the films of the 1980s that featured the cast of the original television series. They were stellar films (most of them anyway).

This is a countdown where I rank each Star Trek film, whether it features the original cast, The Next Generation cast or the new reboot movies done by J.J. Abrams.

By the way, I do really like the cast in the Abrams film series, so no fault goes to them.

1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
4. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
5. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
6. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
7. Star Trek Beyond (2016)
8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
9. Star Trek: Generations (1994)
10. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
11. Star Trek (2009)
12. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
13. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Film Review: The Intruder (1962)

Also known as: I Hate Your Guts!, Shame, The Stranger (UK)
Release Date: May 14th, 1962 (New York City)
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Charles Beaumont
Based on: The Intruder by Charles Beaumont
Music by: Herman Stein
Cast: William Shatner, Frank Maxwell, Beverly Lunsford, Robert Emhardt, Leo Gordon, Charles Beaumont, Jeanne Cooper

Pathé-America Distrib.Co., 84 Minutes 

Review:

“I’ve been studying your pitch. It’s not bad… You’ve got technique. But do you know what’s wrong? You’re too clever, Adam. You’ve got no room in your head for intelligence. If you were intelligent, you would see you’ve started something you can’t control. You think you’re the boss now? Wake up, boy, that mob is the boss.” – Sam Griffin

Roger Corman considered The Intruder to be one of the most important films he ever made. It was a real passion project but unfortunately, it didn’t get the recognition it deserved at the time. Having now watched it, this may be the best picture Roger Corman ever directed out of his dozens of films.

Coming out during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the movie focuses on Adam Cramer, a young and fiery racist preacher type that comes to the Southern town of Caxton to incite the white folks into violent action against the new law that will desegregate the town’s school system. He preys on people’s insecurity over the cultural shift in their small town and ignites a fuse that sees most of the townsfolk become a violent angry mob. The town turns on their own people, the ones who try to stand against the agenda of Cramer. When a black student is falsely accused of an attempted rape, after Cramer blackmailed a white schoolgirl into crying wolf, the slow burning heat comes to a boil.

The racist Cramer is played by a very young William Shatner, four years before he would be immortalized as Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek. Despite his age and lack of acting experience, this is the greatest performance I have ever seen from Shatner and I am a hardcore Kirk fan, through and through. The fact that he is most known for being such a beloved character that spanned decades in a franchise about diversity, makes his role here, as Cramer, absolutely chilling.

Roger Corman chose to film the movie in Missouri, which was considered part of the South but not as hotheaded as states like Mississippi or Alabama. Despite this, he was still met with opposition and protests from the public who didn’t want this film and its message to get out. Roger Corman’s brother Gene, who was also involved in the project stated:

We put our hearts, our souls – and what few people do – our money into this picture. Everybody asked us “Why would you make this picture?” as if to say why try to do something you believe in when everything else is so profitable. Obviously we did it because we wanted to, and we think it’s a damn good job.

Unfortunately, the film wasn’t all that successful and to be honest, I am a lifelong Roger Corman and William Shatner fan and didn’t even know of its existence until a few years ago when reading a Corman biography and when seeing it mentioned in a book about exploitation cinema.

The Intruder is finely acted, superbly directed and very strongly and passionately written. Corman tapped the well of his regulars and you will see a lot of familiar faces here. Two prominent supporting actors from The Haunted Palace have roles here as men against Cramer’s agenda.

This is a film with a strong message that accomplishes a lot in its short running time. Unfortunately, that message still resonates today, as we may have come further in social equality but still have major race issues in this country.

For a director that is synonymous with cheapo horror and sci-fi films from the 1950s through 1970s, Roger Corman made a really important film that is also really damn good.