Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! How about that Solo, eh? Oh wait, that was several months ago. My “how about that [recent Star Wars movie here], eh?” schtick doesn’t work this time. Dang it, Disney! You ruined this running gag!
Whoa! Wait, hold up! It’s Christmas already?!
Yes, somehow it’s already Christmas Day of 2018. That means that, somewhere out there, Grant Kirkhope is obsessing over eggnog, and it’s WWE wrestler Rusev’s birthday. It also means that it’s the anniversary of the launch of Wizard Dojo! Santa be praised!
Indeed, it was Christmas Day of 2014 that I launched Wizard Dojo. Okay, okay, so technically I bought the domain name and set up the basics a number of days beforehand. But it was on Christmas Day that I published my first wave of posts. So that’s the official launch, as far as I’m concerned. While I published over twenty different posts that day, I specifically selected my review of Mario Kart 8 to be the very first post here at the Dojo. That’s right, Wizard Dojo was built on the shoulders of Mario Kart 8. A pretty darn game to build one’s site on the shoulders of, I must say.
Yes, it’s been a great four years, building up the Dojo with hundreds of video game and movie reviews, Christmas specials, often-promised lists of my all-time favorite games, and endless ranting about why Geno should be in Super Smash Bros. (he really, really should).
Now, in keeping with the tradition of my Christmas Specials, the rest of this blog will be separated into multiple chapters of varying degrees of nonsense. So let’s cut with the chit-chat and get right to the good stuff.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, paisanos! How about that Last Jedi, eh?
Wow, it’s Christmas Day 2017 already? Wow, time really flies… Christmas is of course more than enough reason to celebrate – what with the stale fruitcakes and aerial reindeer and glorious, glorious presents – but here at the Dojo, Christmas is twice as special, because it marks the anniversary of when the Dojo was officially launched.
On Christmas day, 2014, the Wizard Dojo descended from Mount Crumpit, and introduced itself to Whoville via my review of Mario Kart 8. Okay, so I posted some other stuff on that day, but I chose Mario Kart 8 to be the very first, because Mario Kart 8 is freaking awesome.
However, Christmas Day is doubly-doubly as special this year, because it also marks the tenth anniversary of when I started blogging. From ghosts of websites past to my Gamespot blogging days, I first started blogging on Christmas Day of 2007. Though I was younger and…ehhh…less professional (I mean, even less so) at the time, I never would have Digivolved into my current blogging state if I didn’t start somewhere.
It’s been a long, hard, fun journey of varying quality in content, but I’ve really grown to love blogging…even if I hate the word “blogging” itself. But hey, I’m an opinionated bastard, and this gives me a means to express and share my opinions. So what the hell! Blog blog blog bloggy blog blog.
So once again, Merry Christmas everybody. Let’s now partake in the Wizard Dojo tradition of writing a few “chapters” of nonsense about various topics to celebrate both this site’s anniversary, and this badass holiday.
Chapter 1:The Best of Wizard Dojo’s Third Year
The biggest news of Wizard Dojo’s third year would be that AfterStory joined my crew. So now I’m not the only one writing here! Thank you for your contributions, Mr. AfterStory, may our partnership continue to thrive. And may a beautiful friendship bloom.
Now, let us reflect on the better stuff me and Mr. AfterStory wrote here at the Dojo during the year that was 2017.
Everybody loves fun! Most people love facts! Put them together, and you have fun facts! Here are some stupid fun facts in regards to Wizard Dojo!
Fun Fact #1: Many reviews are posted on significant dates
You may have noticed (but probably not) that each post shows the date in which they were published (a little something that every blog on the face of the Earth does). But what you probably didn’t notice is that many of the reviews I write are posted on a significant date to what I’m reviewing, and you definitely didn’t notice that others still are posted on dates that are significant to me personally (obviously, since you’re not me, how could you notice the personal connection?).
Of course, this usually only applies to bigger reviews (like 10s, 9.5s, and so on). To name some obvious examples, my review for Super Mario Galaxy 2 was posted on May 23, 2015, which was five years to the day of Galaxy 2’s original release in 2010. Similarly, I reviewed Donkey Kong Country 2 on November 20 2015, to commemorate the game’s twentieth anniversary, and followed suit two days later to celebrate the same milestone for Toy Story. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was also reviewed on its one-year anniversary on February 21 2015.
On a more personal note, Super Mario World was reviewed on my birthday, September 18, 2015. And Spirited Away was reviewed on March 31 2016, the thirteenth anniversary of when I first saw the film on March 31 2003 (I have the movie ticket stub to prove it). And of course there are also reviews I post on holidays, with Disney’s Frozen being reviewed on Christmas day last year, and Bloodborne being reviewed on Leap Day of 2016 (I figured it’d be four years before I got another chance, so why not?).
However, there is at least one instance where related reviews for coincidentally posted on the same date. Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast was reviewed on April 10th 2015 which, as far as I know, is not a date of particular significance for the movie. But two years later to the day, I posted my review of the 2017 live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized I posted the latter review exactly two years after the former. Purely a fun coincidence.
Fun Fact #2: Some of my reviews are written to be something of “sequels” to previous reviews.
Here’s one that I think would be difficult for people to pick up on without me explaining it, since it’s something I can only go so far with, but when writing certain reviews, I write them to be something of a “sequel” to a previous one. For obvious reasons, this usually applies to games/movies that have connections with each other (like a movie and its sequel, or two games from the same series). On a more obvious note, I often reference and compare my praises and complaints between the two, but perhaps less obvious is that I try to write such reviews in a similar tone…if that makes any sense.
You may notice that the score I award a game or movie often reflects the tone of the review itself (with the middle of the road reviews being more direct, the high-scoring reviews being my attempt at sounding more sophisticated and talking about the work on a more artistic level, and bad reviews often being riddled with grumpiness and confusion). Of course, these tones vary in between the individual reviews themselves, and not just the score. But if I’m reviewing something that has a strong connection to something I’ve already reviewed, I try to carry that tone over, while still touching up on my critiques as is appropriate. So you could say I try to keep a similar feeling to the original while also changing things up, like any good sequel… Though I probably just end up sounding like I’m repeating the same exact crap, like any cheap, cash-in sequel…
Chapter 3: Random Top 5s
When I first started Wizard Dojo, top 5 and top 10 lists were going to be a point of focus. Well, I certainly failed there, since my lists are the most seldom updated section of this site. Though I hope to rectify that in the coming months, there are some top 5 lists I have ideas for that are… a bit more silly, and I’m not sure I would prioritize making a whole post dedicated to them. So why not randomly list those lists here? Because why not?
Top 5 Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Characters Who Just Mysteriously Disappeared
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was one of the better sitcoms of the 1990s. It perhaps never reached Seinfeld levels of greatness, but its sense of humor remains entertaining even today. With that said, Fresh Prince still suffered from a few unfortunate sitcom tropes of yesteryear (unwillingness to change up the formula, story arcs that were dropped quicker than they began, etc.). Among the most annoying sitcom tropes Fresh Prince fell victim to was the forgotten character. That is to say, characters who at one point were important (or at the very least, built up to be), but then suddenly vanish from the series, without so much as a mention. Perhaps some of these actors just wanted off the show or found work elsewhere, but you’d think the characters would at least get a passing reference or two within the show itself, considering they had at least some degree of significance to the main characters.
Honorable mention: Lisa Wilkes
Lisa Wilkes was one of Will Smith’s longest-standing girlfriend in the series, and the show even went through a story arc where the two were bound to be married… before pulling the annoying old sitcom trope of the characters deciding against their marriage during their wedding, giving the equally cliched excuse that they “rushed into things.” Will’s mother than marries Lisa’s father, effectively making the two step-siblings (awkward). Lisa, her father, and Will’s mother are never seen again in the series after that, which really made me want to put them on this list, but because their final appearance at least wraps up a story arc, they’ll all have to settle in the honorable mention position.
5: Carlton’s Mail Woman Girlfriend (Michelle Williams)
Okay, we’ll start with a character who was never really important, but seemed like they could have been, and were even intended to be.
One of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s biggest running gags was Carlton’s romantic life… or lack thereof. So when a cute mail carrier began flirting with him during one episode, and found Carlton’s naivety to her flirting to be endearing, it seemed like the show introduced a potentially recurring character to be Carlton’s love interest.
In the character’s second appearance, Carlton fails to understand Michelle’s playful banter, as she hands him a letter that is not-so subtly her way of asking him on a date. Carlton remains his usual naive self, but Michelle – in a complete 180 from her reaction the first time around – gets annoyed with his naivety, and blows off the date. The episode in question still suggests Carlton might have a future with Michelle Williams, as Carlton only ends up going on a double date with Will Smith later in the episode once the latter promises him he’ll have “the worst night of his life” (thus ensuring the double date doesn’t mean anything, and won’t hurt Carlton’s potential budding romance with Michelle, as is sitcom logic). But that ends up being the end of it.
Yep, the one time Carlton found a potential girlfriend who wasn’t either using him or ended up ditching him for Will just ended up leaving the poor guy over the very reasons she was attracted to him to begin with. Poor Carlton…
4: Tyriq Johnson
I was tempted to put “Ice Tray” on this list, seeing as that character was described as Will’s childhood best friend in the one episode he appeared in (only to never be brought up by Will ever again). But I decided to go with Tyriq, who was a recurring character on the show, and was depicted as Will’s “other best friend” after Jazz. In fact, both Jazz and Tyriq competed with each other to prove who was Will’s “real” best friend so they could accompany him on a game show in the episode “Eyes on the Prize.”
Of course, seeing as that episode marked Tyriq’s final, non-clip show appearance in the series, I guess it’s obvious that Jazz was the winner in that scenario.
Now, Tyriq wasn’t exactly the most memorable character, being defined almost solely by his stupidity (a character trait which Jazz already had covered), but he never really got the chance to be anything more. He was always Will’s “other friend” whenever he showed up. And then he was off the show by the third season, with the series not even giving us the whole “X-character moved away” passing reference.
3: Kellog Lieberbaum
Kellogg Lieberbaum – affectionately referred to as “Cornflake” by Will – was Will and Carlton’s caucasian friend from Bel-Air Academy, and one of the show’s more memorable side characters during the early seasons. Kellogg Lieberbaum was something akin to an inverse Carlton Banks. While Carlton was strictly conservative and often brushed off Will’s more easy-going, fun loving lifestyle, Kellogg Lieberbaum, while similarly conservative, was more impressionable to Will, finding Will’s behavior to be a breath of fresh air to the stuffiness of Bel-Air Academy.
This made Kellog a good foil for both Will and Carlton, as he was something of a bridge between the two personalities. Kellog always had Will and Carlton’s backs whenever they needed help with their shenanigans, going so far as to lock himself in a classroom with Will to protest their favorite teacher losing his job. And when Will was being teased by just about everyone when he was interested in a “heavier” girl, Kellogg was, along with Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian, the only person who supported Will.
This makes it all the weirder that the character just disappears from the show without explanation after the second season. Even in the series finale that sees Will and Carlton graduate Bel-Air Academy, good ol’ Cornflake is mysteriously absent. Where did he go? What happened to him? The world may never know, which is a true shame, considering he had a lot of untapped potential as a character.
Here’s one that I would assume would have irked many viewers in the 90s who watched the show from the beginning. Of course, Will’s best friend Jazz had a mysterious way with the ladies, and had a particular eye on Will’s cousin Hilary, whom continuously rebuffed his affections, which is an old sitcom way of saying there might be a relationship between the two down the road (that’s how real life works, right?).
That potential romance is thrown out the window in one episode, when it is revealed that Jazz is marrying a prison inmate named Jewel, whom he fell in love with after seeing her on an episode of COPS. Throughout the episode, Hilary throws herself at Jazz (“the forbidden fruit is always sweeter” says Aunt Vivian), only for him to now reject her, effectively turning whatever plans the showrunners may have had for the two into little more than a punchline for a single episode.
So, Jazz marries Jewel, and the two seem to be off to a happily ever after. One episode even reveals that Jewel is pregnant with Jazz’s child. Admittedly, though it may have got in the way of one of the show’s earlier potential character setups, it made for an unexpected change of pace, and it looked like Jazz – odd though he and his bride may have been – were going to have a happy life together.
In a later episode, it’s revealed that Jazz and Jewel split up, after Jewel repeatedly cheated on him, and apparently lied about everything about herself (her real name is Hortense). Of course, this all ties into Will’s aforementioned reservations about his marriage to Lisa, as Jazz’s ordeal plants seeds of doubt in Will’s head about his own nuptials. The episode doesn’t even mention Jewel’s pregnancy, most likely due to the fact that reminding viewers of that detail would bring the depressing reality of such a situation to life, and they could no longer treat Jazz and Jewel’s separation as a joke to set up the events of that particular episode.
It’s an unceremonious write-off to one character, and an utter dismissal of the importance of another (Seriously, what does it say about how the writers felt about Jazz that the idea of his pregnant wife leaving him is little more than a passing joke?).
It’s just all kinds of bad right here.
1: Jacqueline “Jackie” Ames
Here’s the most mysterious disappearance of them all. Jackie was easily set up to be Will Smith’s eventual love interest when she was introduced in the show’s fourth season. Being a friend of Will’s since childhood, it is even hinted at that the two had romantic feelings for each other in the past. In fact, her entire introductory episode is about how she’s mad at Will for not calling her once he moved to Bel-Air, with the resolution of the episode coming when Will reveals he didn’t do so because he “missed her too much” (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but whatever). Jackie, realizing that Will still cares about her (evidenced by him not calling her???), renews her friendship with Will. She then becomes a recurring character in the series for a good while, where the show emphasizes their friendship as well as a potential budding romance.
And then she just disappears. No explanation whatsoever. She’s just suddenly gone one episode, without even the most fleeting of passing references giving any kind of explanation. You would think that Will’s lifelong friend who he clearly had feelings for would at least be important enough to be referenced after vanishing from the show. But the series never shines even the tiniest bit of light as to where she went or what happened to her. Did she move back to Philly? Did she get a career that required her to move elsewhere? What the hell happened?
Jackie may not have been one of the “main” characters on the show, but she was obviously being built up to be one. And given her importance to Will – the show’s main character – it seems all the weirder that she would just vanish into nothingness.
Hopefully Will at least called her this time…
Top 5 Angry Video Game Nerd Episodes of 2017
James Rolfe’s Angry Video Game Nerd series remains one of the most consistently entertaining things on the internet. After years of slowing the series down a bit, 2017 marked something of a resurgence, with more episodes released this year than the past two years put together. Here are my five favorite Nerd episodes from 2017.
5: Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (Episode 154)
This Nerd episode was of personal significance to me, considering this is a game in which I felt the full extent of its horrors back when it was released on the PS1. It was a Star Wars fighting game! How could I resist? Too bad it was a broken fighter that lacked any semblance of character balance, and included a character named “Hoar” (a little tidbit the Nerd of course has to mention, because how couldn’t you?).
Sadly, this episode is a bit on the short side, which is a shame because it’s the kind of game that’s so bad I could still go on and on about it. There’s no shortage of video game suckage to discuss. But the Nerd is quick to poke fun of the game’s flaws, as well as take a few swipes at George Lucas’ constant re-edits of the original trilogy (help us Disney, you’re our only hope for a proper blu-ray release).
4: GameBoy Accessories (Episode 147)
Here the Nerd goes into the long, detailed history of the original Nintendo Gameboy which, despite its limitations, outlived most other handheld systems and home consoles. The Nerd then proceeds to introduce many of the odd gimmicks and gadgets Nintendo threw the GameBoy’s way to help sustain its longevity, and some that came from third-parties trying to capitalize off the GameBoy’s success. Some of these worked (GameBoy Camera, Super GameBoy), while others…not so much (the Booster). And the Nerd’s reactions to all of these accessories – like any of the best Nerd videos – are priceless.
3: Sonic ’06 (Part 1) (Episode 145)
Sometimes, the Nerd is at his best when he tackles the games that his fans consistently request him to review (tough this isn’t an absolute, as the most hyped game for him to review, E.T. on Atari, ended up in the polarizing Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie). And Sonic the Hedgehog ’06 was one of his biggest requests for years!
The tragic production and even more tragic execution of Sonic the Hedgehog ’06 is well documented, so it only seems fitting to have an AVGN episode tearing the game apart. It’s just a shame James Rolfe feels the need to wait for a game to be “retro” before reviewing it as the Nerd (at the very least, it seems that limitation should be lifted when it comes to games this notorious). But the wait was worth it, as the Sonic ’06 episode of AVGN provides many laughs at the game’s expense. From awkward hedgehog/human romances to clunky game mechanics and flat-out unfinished segments, Sonic ’06 provides the Nerd with plenty of hilarious material. So much material, in fact, that one episode couldn’t hold it all…
2: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (Episode 144)
The Nerd’s first episode of the year was a great way to start things off for the series in 2017. With the release of the 2017 Power Rangers movie imminent, James Rolfe decided to dabble into the 90s phenomenon, culminating with an AVGN episode dedicated to just some of the many Power Rangers games that were released back in the day.
The Angry Video Game Nerd tries out various Power Rangers games, some of which he finds to be not all that bad, but eventually stumbles on the crappier side of Power Rangers gaming, which forces him to morph into the Super Nerd just so he can break a GameBoy cartridge.
Also, the Power Rangers-inspired opening is simply great.
1: Sonic ’06 (Part 2)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of any Nerd episode this year, the Nerd decided to revisit Sonic ’06 several months after uploading the first such episode, feeling that said first episode didn’t do justice to just how bad the game is.
Here, the Nerd elaborates on the elements he already touched upon in part 1, but delves deeper into the game and is shocked to find out just how bad it really is. From its broken level design to its nonsensical plot to THAT kiss, the Nerd has a heyday with the game’s countless flaws, and is utterly dumbfounded at just how far Sonic fell from grace.
Although I disagree with James Rolfe feeling that he “half-assed” his Sonic ’06 review the first time around, I’m certainly happy he decided to give it another go, as his revisiting of the nefarious game produced the best Nerd episode of the year.
Chapter 4: Wizard Dojo in 2018
Ah, the old “Wizard Dojo in the coming year” chapter! Y’know, the chapter where I talk about all the stuff I hope to accomplish on this site in the next year, but only end up doing some of it? Yeah, that one!
Anyway, hopefully this year I can stay committed and actually get these things done! At least to some degree…
First and foremost, I still plan on doing my reviewing thing. And seeing as I have now combined the pages for animated and live-action movie reviews into one page, I’ll probably end up reviewing more live-action movies in the next year. Also I hope I’ll be reviewing more animated films in 2018 than I did in 2017. I was a bit of a slacker in that department this year. I also would really like to make more top 5 and top 10 lists.
For another change of pace, I’ve also been throwing around the idea of reviewing some TV shows for this site. As I’ve stated in the past, I’ve always been more of a video games and movies man than a TV man, and frankly, TV shows would just take longer to review. But there are some TV shows that I greatly enjoy (Twin Peaks, Stranger Things, Monk, etc.) and I would like to talk about them on this site in some capacity. Maybe I can review each season of my favorite shows, and write special reviews for some notable episodes.
Of course, the two biggest things I hope to do in 2018 (that somehow relate to this site in one way or another) is A) FINALLY follow through with making my list of all-time favorite video games, which may then lead to a list of favorite movies. And B) get a bit more serious about starting the creation of my own video game.
Okay, that second one doesn’t exactly relate to the site. But this site is a creative endeavor of mine, and making a video game would be a creative endeavor. So…they have that kind of/sort of going for them.
Anyway, I feel kind of bad, because making video games is a dream of mine, and I was actually off to a decent start in early 2017, learning how to make and animate sprites and reading up on game development. But do to one thing after another I really slowed down in my progress in learning game development in 2017. So I hope I can make up for that in 2018. Again, making video games is my dream, and here’s hoping 2018 is the year where I take my first steps into a much larger world by starting on my first of hopefully many games.
Also, more gifs in 2018.
Chapter 5: WWE Awards
Before I get started with these, we all know New Japan Pro Wrestling kicked all the ass this year, and the Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada matches were the best of this year and pretty much any other. But these awards are narrowed down to WWE, since I have easiest access to their product and therefor watch it the most (I’m sorry, I only have so much free time, and most of it goes to movies, games and things like this website and drawing and whatnot). So anyway, yadda yadda yadda, wrestling stuff!
Male Wrestler of the Year: AJ Styles
It’s all too easy to appreciate just how gifted AJ Styles is in the ring. But perhaps what’s all the more impressive is how WWE has actually treated him like the star that he is. While WWE has struggled to build up new stars (or long-standing stars that got their start elsewhere), they have treated AJ Styles like a legitimate big deal. As of this writing, he is in his second reign as WWE Champion, which couldn’t be more deserved, seeing as he’s delivered one quality match after another for the entire year.
Female wrestler of the Year: Asuka
Speaking of wrestlers that came from elsewhere but have received proper star treatment in WWE, it’s Asuka! While fellow Japanese wrestlers Shinsuke Nakamura and Hideo Itami have been the subject of questionable booking decisions in the company (Nakamura has at least been treated like a star, but WWE seemed to actively rob him of momentum during his feud with Jinder Mahal), Asuka has flourished.
Asuka’s reign as NXT Women’s Champion is the longest title reign of any kind in the WWE since the days before the company became international (back then, with only local audiences, it was easier for title reigns to last years at a time). And she only forfeited the title when she was out of action due to a legitimate injury. Soon enough, she was back in action on WWE’s main roster, where she continues the longest undefeated streak in company history.
More impressive than her scripted accolades, however, is Asuka’s stellar in-ring work, which is among the best of anyone on WWE’s current roster, save for maybe AJ Styles and Finn Balor.
Tag Team/Faction of the Year: The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus)
Who would have thought that Sheamus and Cesaro’s seemingly nowhere 2016 feud would eventually lead to them being one of the best tag teams the WWE has seen in recent years? The formation of the team has revitalized Sheamus’ career, and although Cesaro is long overdue for a world title run in the company, being one-half of “The Bar” has certainly given hima bigger push in WWE than he’s had so far. Together, they’ve put on some fantastic pay-per-view matches and continue to grow as characters. Not to mention Cesaro finishing a match after (seriously) having some of his teeth get wedged up his gums after an in-ring botch is a testament to how dedicated to their craft the best professional wrestlers are.
Best Gimmick: “Woken” Matt Hardy
Perhaps no wrestler ever reinvented themselves for the better quite like Matt Hardy did when he became “Broken” Matt Hardy during his stint in TNA in 2016. You could also make a strong argument that there’s not another wrestling character quite as great as Broken Matt Hardy. Which is why it was all a shame that when Matt Hardy and his brother Jeff rejoined WWE in 2017, it seemed like legal issues over ownership of the gimmick would prevent him from bringing the oddball character to WWE with him.
Thankfully, over the last month or so, Matt Hardy seems to have (rightfully) won the legal battle, and has brought his unique persona to WWE, reportedly with full creative control of the character (though for reasons I’m not sure, the title of “Broken” was replaced with “Woken”).
Woken/Broken Matt Hardy is a difficult character to describe. While most wrestling characters of yesteryear have a gimmick that could be defined by a single word (Sergeant Slaughter was a soldier, the Undertaker was a dead man, etc.) and most modern wrestling gimmicks are more grounded in the wrestlers’ real personalities (albeit exaggerated), Woken Matt Hardy is something different entirely.
Boasting a faux British accent (which seems to fluctuate to other faux accents), speeches of past lives and connections to historical figures, and vaguely implied supernatural powers, Woken Matt Hardy is to wrestling what The Room is to movies, though here the irony is completely intended.
What’s all the more interesting is that Broken Matt Hardy had his own “Broken Universe” which seemed like a show within a show and saw the gimmick branch out to Jeff Hardy and other characters who were affected by Matt Hardy’s “brokenness,” creating something of its own lore that existed separately from everything else in wrestling, making it all the more ridiculous. Hopefully, “Woken” Matt Hardy will continue to shine, and bring a “Woken Universe” along for the ride.
Match of the Year: AJ Styles vs. John Cena (Royal Rumble)
Although WWE had its share of great matches in 2017, its best happened pretty early in the year, when John Cena took on AJ Styles in their third singles bout on pay-per-view (their SummerSlam matchup in 2016 was my favorite WWE match of that year as well). Granted, Cena winning the WWE Championship at the match’s end was really only a means to get the belt off one (then)heel and onto another (Bray Wyatt), so the result seemed pretty transitional. And the fact that the match’s incredible last few minutes were later recycled in a matchup between Cena and company golden boy (and fans’ archenemy) Roman Reigns – only for Reigns to survive the onslaught that felled AJ Styles just to make Reigns look better – does cheapen things a little bit. On its own merits, without taking into account how WWE would handle things later, was one hell of a bout.
Cena used to get a lot of flak for his in-ring work by diehard wrestling fans, but now it’s hard to see him as anything other than an exceptional pro wrestler (well, I guess we can also see him as a growing mainstream star, but according to his catchphrase we can’t see him at all). AJ Styles, always the showstealer, seems to bring out the absolute best in Cena’s abilities, and their Royal Rumble 2017 showdown was the best of their series. Here’s hoping WWE can find ways to top it in 2018.
Chapter 6: The Last One (And Also Special Thanks)
Yeah, I know, I’m cutting my Christmas Special two chapters short this year. But hey, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was only 6 worlds after Donkey Kong Country Returns’ 8, and we all know how much I love Tropical Freeze (praise be unto its name). Besides, according to my word count this Christmas Special is longer than last year’s anyway. So let’s not split hairs.
In all seriousness, a lot of personal things have been going on right with me right now, and I barely had the time for my site these past couple of weeks, let alone the time to work on my Christmas Special. The fact that I’m getting this done at all this year is a huge sigh of relief on my part.
Tell ya what though, lads. I’ll make it up to you fine people by writing some small, additional “special” blogs in the coming weeks…or something. And hopefully next year’s Christmas Special can be even more obnoxiously lengthy than normal.
Anyway, I just thought I’d wrap this up by giving special shoutouts to all my home skillets in the blogging universe.
Matt from NintendoBound: Always the source for exceptional blogging, particularly on video games (which I love), animated movies (which I love) and popular music (which I know nothing about…I’m very out of touch, you see). Keep up the excellent work, and thanks for being my longest-standing blogging ally (or something).
Red Metal from Extra Life Reviews: Congratulations on recently hitting your 100th gaming review. Your reviews are always excellent and well thought out. Here’s to hundreds and hundreds more! Thanks for all the lengthy, meaningful discussions we have on the mediums I love.
The Guys from Miketendo64: Thanks for the opportunities to help get my writing a bigger platform, and to help boost my readership. I don’t know how you guys keep up your site as often and as well as you do.
After Story: Thank you for deciding to help me out with this site. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, and thanks for being a good writer in general. Wait a minute, you’re already writing for me. What am I thanking you for?! Get back to work! (just kidding)
Well, there you go everybody. This year’s Christmas Special. Apologies again it had to run a little short (kind of). I’ll make up for that down the road.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Happy whatever holiday you celebrate! Whether it’s Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus, Finn Wolfhard’s Birthday… whatever it is, happy/merry that!
The old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” may be used to the point of cliche, but it does ring a good deal of truth. Case in point, Arthur Christmas may look like your run-of-the-mill Christmas-themed animated film from a glance. But if you take the time to delve into it, Arthur Christmas proves itself to be a genuinely touching animated feature.
Perhaps the fact that Arthur Christmas comes from Aardman – the studio behind the excellent Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep series – should have tipped me off to its quality. But the fact that Arthur Christmas is among the studio’s CG output, as opposed to their more famous stop-motion features, coupled with the Christmas theme (all too often a recipe for recycled plots and bland characters) gave me my doubts. But Arthur Christmas is certainly the best of Aardman’s CG features, and in a time when most Christmas films seem to be becoming more cynical and, strangely, merging with the raunchy comedy sub-genre more often than not, Arthur Christmas is probably the most sincere Christmas film in recent memory.
Arthur Christmas does continue some trends of past Christmas flicks. Most notably, it tries to find a means to “modernize” the whole idea of Santa Clause. Though unlike most of the Christmas movies that came before it, Arthur Christmas actually comes up with a charming means to successfully bring Santa up to date.
In Arthur Christmas, Santa Clause is more of a title passed down through the patriarchal family that runs the North Pole, as opposed to the name of a singular individual. The twentieth and current Santa is Malcolm (Jim Broadbent), who is in his seventieth year on the job. His father, simply referred to as Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) is long-retired and a bit cooky. Malcolm’s sons are Steve (Hugh Laurie), the most tech-savvy and efficient member of the family, and overdue to being given his father’s title, and Arthur (James McAvoy), who is well-meaning and cheerful, but his clumsiness has resulted in him getting the “safe” job of answering children’s letters to Santa.
By this point, the reindeer-pulled sleigh of Grandsanta’s time has become obsolete. Now, Santa and an army of elves travel to the different countries of the Earth on Christmas Eve via the S-1, Steve’s gargantuan flying fortress. Santa, now being passed his prime, only needs to deliver a single gift to each visited city, as the more nimble elves can more easily deliver most the gifts under Steve’s direction (Santa is even escorted by a number of elves just to deliver his minimal gifts).
The new setup seems foolproof, until a miscalculation results in one present not being delivered on Christmas Eve. Neither Malcolm nor Steve are willing to deliver the present. Malcolm clings onto his title of Santa Clause – despite an expected retirement – for the love and adoration that comes with the job, but is too elderly and tired to be bothered by one gift. Meanwhile, Steve, disheartened that he has been denied the title of Santa Clause for another year, despite doing all the hard work, doesn’t have the motivation to deliver the gift (“the S-1 takes up a lot of power, and there’s no need to waste it for a single child”).
Arthur, being more innocent and hopeful, can’t understand the idea of Santa missing out on even a single child on Christmas, and is desperate to find a means to deliver the present. Luckily for Arthur, Grandsanta is looking for one more chance to shine, and the two of them – along with a gift-wrapping elf named Bryony (Ashley Jensen) – dust off Grandsanta’s long-forgotten sleigh and round up the reindeer to deliver the gift themselves.
Of course, the trip won’t be easy, as Arthur doesn’t know the first thing about traveling around the world, and Grandsanta’s memory and sense of direction aren’t what they once were. Not to mention the sleigh is more than a little rundown, making for an even more turbulent trip around the world.
Admittedly, even with its originality, the plot may be a bit on the predictable side. But while you may be able to guess the ending, the film succeeds for the fun Arthur, Bryony and Grandsanta’s adventure provides, and for the dimensions it gives to its characters.
Most Christmas films go the easy route when depicting jolly old St. Nick, and simply showcase the jovial and giving aspects of the character and call it a day. But Arthur Christmas does a great job at showing some extra depth in all four of its Santa Clauses.
Malcolm, the current Santa, has lost his passion for the job, and simply sticks around for the glory. Steve wants to prove himself as a worthy successor to his father and a visionary for reinventing how Santa does his job, but is also vain and a little selfish. Grandsanta not only provides comic relief and crazy old man antics, but also has questionable motivations, as he seems to be helping Arthur equally as much for his own ego as he is for the sake of doing the right thing. Even Arthur, who is admittedly simplistic by comparison, works well in winning over the audience’s sympathy, and in making the whole plot work. Someone has to care about a forgotten child on Christmas after all, even if Santa himself doesn’t. Because of the added character dimensions, the emotion at the heart of the film rings all the louder.
On top of all of this, the film is also very well animated. I admit that watching an Aardman film that doesn’t utilize stop-motion can seem a bit odd at first, but Arthur Christmas quickly wins you over with a visual vibrancy that is consistently impressive. It may not match the sheer technical sheen of a Disney or Pixar flick, but it’s not too far off, and the character designs are fun (I find Steve and his Christmas tree-shaped goatee especially amusing).
On the whole, Arthur Christmas is certainly one of the most enjoyable Christmas films to be released in quite a long time. It has a sincerity to it that many holiday movies of today completely disregard, and the characters, humor and originality at hand are entertaining enough that you may forget that you’re watching a Christmas movie, and simply get sucked into watching a great film.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! How about that Rogue One, eh?
Yes indeed, it’s Christmas Day 2016. That alone is reason enough to celebrate – what with all the figgy puddings and jolly, fat prowlers delivering presents via chimneys – but it’s twice the special occasion here at the Dojo, as Christmas marks the anniversary of Wizard Dojo’s launch!
That’s right, my loyal minions, Wizard Dojo originally launched on Christmas day 2014, meaning that today marks the second anniversary of this site!
Okay, so the domain name and stuff was set up a few days prior, but who cares? What matters is the content, and I started publishing content on Christmas of 2014. So that’s the anniversary.
Yep, it all started with my review of the excellent Mario Kart 8 (though I published numerous other reviews and such on the same day, Mario Kart 8 was the first). Since then, I’ve written over one-hundred and fifty video game reviews, over one-hundred animation reviews, and some other crap too! I’ve even joined forces with Miketendo64!
While I still have yet to compile my list of all-time favorite video games (here’s to 2017!), 2016 ended up being a productive second year for the Dojo. Here’s hoping that 2017 is all the more productive!
But let’s cut the crap and get to the good stuff. It’s Christmas! And that means it’s time to write an extensive bit of nonsense. Think of the following as the closest thing to a Christmas gift that a blogger can give his readership.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everybody! How about that Star Wars, eh?
Yes, it’s Christmas day 2015, which means it’s been exactly one year since I launched Wizard Dojo. Well, technically I bought the domain name and set it up before that, but I didn’t publish anything on it until Christmas 2014. Because I’m festive like that.
It all started one year ago, with the very first addition to this website being my review of Mario Kart 8. One-hundred video game reviews, a few dozen animation reviews (I really need to catch up there), some top 5/10 lists, and a host of other articles and ramblings later, and I’d say Wizard Dojo had a pretty productive year.
I figured I could turn this anniversary/Christmas blog into an annual tradition, with an extensive and varied blog about, well, a lot of random stuff. Though I now realize I could have made two annual events if I had started this site on a different day, thus separating the anniversary and Christmas blog… Oh well, if I or anyone else likes how this turns out, I guess I could think of something else to add if a year is just too long a wait for rambling goodness.