Friday, April 27, 2012

Five DS Games from 2011 That Nobody Played…

…That You Should Totally Try Out In 2012.


Last year, Nintendo launched the 3DS – a system which, after a rocky start, soon exerted itself as a worthy successor to arguably Nintendo’s greatest handheld console ever. Sure, the newfangled machine is a little light on software options, and Nintendo may still be losing a gargantuan amount of money on the endeavor, but who cares? What really matters is that there are a ton of great games already on the system, and apparently a bajillion gazillion more awesome ones on the horizon. By the end of 2011, you were probably a happy lad or lass if you owned a 3DS – but what about those of us that were still clinging on to our DS units?

Yes, there were quite a few high-profile DS releases in 2011, from the long-awaited “Okamiden” to “Pokemon White, Black, Indigo, Tree Bark Orange and Mild Cheddar Yellow.” That said, there were quite a few under-the-radar releases that came out for the DS last year that, seemingly, nobody ever played – a tragedy, really, since there were five extremely underrated titles that were released in 2011 that were downright fantastic additions to the console’s library.

So, how come nobody ever played these games, you may be asking? Well, that’s primarily because nobody ever heard that they were out, most likely. In today’s glutted gaming market, unless you have mucho dinero to shill your new releases, it’s pretty much a given that your game is going to end up lost in the value bin shuffle…whereas “Brain Training” and “Scene It!” titles from five years ago remain perpetually stocked inventory, often at their original MSRP despite being holdovers from the W. Administration.

Alas, today’s post ain’t about bitching about the state of the industry, but rather, the vaunting of a few year-old titles that really, really deserved better fates than they ended up having. Whether you are a hardcore role-playing-game buff, a retro-gaming enthusiast or just a dude or dudette that enjoys off-kilter, two-dimensional titles, there were more than enough DS releases in 2011 to satisfy your needs, and then some. Now, who’s ready to fire up their handhelds and give a few titles the retroactive recognition they should’ve received back in ’11?

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #001:
“Aliens: Infestation”


WHAT WAS IT? A 2D sidescrolling action-adventure game from Sega, based on the popular Ridley Scott/James Cameron/David Fincher/Whoever Made “Alien: Resurrection”-helmed science fiction horror franchise.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “Contra III: The Alien Wars” meets “Rainbow Six,” with a little bit of “Todd’s Adventures in Slime World” thrown in for good measure.

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? The “Aliens” games seem to fluctuate from really, really awesome to really, really shitty, but you can safely lump this one into the former category as opposed to the latter. If you grew up on side-scrolling actions games (and if you consider your childhood meaningful in any regard, you should have), then this game will be right up your alley. Dig games like “Rolling Thunder” or even the super-duper-awesome “Alien 3” game released on the SNES way back when? Well, this game is very much a worthy great-grandchild of those types of game, with a couple of neat addendums thrown in to the mix. Not only do you get a straight up fantastic action title with crisp graphics and superb sound effects, you also get a shockingly well-scripted story, and even a little bit of strategy elements thrown in there to keep things from being just another blast-a-thon. An outstanding atmosphere, awesome weapons and some truly righteous boss fights make this one of the best straight-up ass-kickers on the DS, and a game you REALLY need to try out if you’re a fan of the genre or license. 

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #002:
“Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2”


WHAT WAS IT? A kick-ass compilation cartridge featuring more than 40 old school 2600 and arcade classics…several of which feature 4 person multiplayer support.  

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? Like 1983 never ended, man.

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? Granted, a lot of you young whippersnappers with your “Haloes” and your “Calls of Duties” may not recall titles like “Yar’s Revenge” or “Crystal Castles,” but for us O.G.s (original gamers, mind you), those titles remain some of the most vaunted and revered namesakes in all of gaming. The sheer quantity of this compilation cart makes it a must-play, as it features a good 50 or so games that span the spectrum from awesome 2600 sports offerings (in a million years, I never thought I’d see “Super Football” or “Realsports Soccer” again) to coin-op legends like “Major Havoc” and “Warlords” to bizarre-ass inclusions like a “BASIC” programming simulator.  Clearly, your appreciation of “Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2” most likely depends on your age, but even if you aren’t an ancient twenty-something such as myself, it’s hard to not get bogged down in repeated playthroughs of “Combat” and “Liberator.” Long story short, if you are looking for a pick-up-and-play title with a ton of replay value, this one right here is your go-to receiver. And if you pick this one up, I assure you WILL lose at least one day of your life playing “Super Breakout” – it’s pretty much a guarantee.

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #003:
“Monster Tale”


WHAT WAS IT? A two-dimensional action-platformer with outstanding visuals, superb graphics and more retro-gaming goodness than a stack of Game Players magazines.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?Klonoa,” if it was a MetroidVania title (and with just a wee bit of “Pokemon” in the recipe, too.)  

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? “Monster Tale” is pretty much everything fantastic about 2D gaming in one cartridge. You get “Mega Man” inspired action-platforming, “Metroid” / “Castlevania”-style exploration and adventuring, and for those obsessive types out there, you can easily spend hours upon hours leveling up both your character and your sidekick, a constantly evolving comrade named “Chomp,” just like you were playing an old Game Boy Color title or something. If there was a fantastic 2D action game you recall playing at any point in your youth, it’s a pretty safe bet that it probably found its way into “Monster Tale,” as well, as the game contains elements of everything from “DuckTales” to “Gunstar Heroes” to “Ninja Gaiden” to “Kirby’s Adventure.” With sweet boss fights, excellent combat and absolutely fantastic gameplay, “Monster Tale” is a title you really need to pick up if you’re jonesing for the good old days…and an outstanding opportunity for all of you Young Turks to figure out what you missed out on during the 8 and 16-bit renaissance.

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #004:
“Radiant Historia”


WHAT WAS IT? An absolutely massive strategy-RPG from Atlus with a tremendous storyline, sublime combat and a TON of replay incentives.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “Chrono Trigger” fused with “Fire Emblem,” with Playstation-quality graphics.  

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? If you are looking for a game that will completely devour your life, then this is just about the most captivating original role playing game you will find on the DS. On the surface, the game appears to be your standard “Phantasy Star” type RPG experience, but the inclusion of a time-travel mechanic makes the game infinitely lengthier…and about a quadrillion times more engrossing than your standard console-RPG fare. If you are a fan of strategy heavy role playing games, like “Final Fantasy Tactics” or the “Shining Force” series, then you need to hunt this one down ASAP. Role-playing-aficionados probably don’t need too much goading to get them interested in this one, but even if you aren’t a major genre fan, I still think "Radiant Historia" is user-friendly enough to be inviting and enjoyable to even RPG novices. If you’re looking for a game to completely immerse yourself in for the summer…yeah, this one will keep you playing until next winter.

UNDERRATED 2011 DS RELEASE #05:
“Thor: God of Thunder”


WHAT WAS IT? A surprisingly awesome licensed game with tremendous 2D graphics and outstanding, Sega Genesis-style game play.  

WHAT WAS IT LIKE? “Gunstar Heroes” meets “Golden Axe,” with a bit of “Streets of Rage” detectable…only with 2,000 percent more walloping dudes upside the head with a hammer.  

WHAT MAKES IT AWESOME? You know, it would have been very easy for Sega to have just shat out a basic movie tie-in here, but by enlisting the unheralded geniuses at WayForward Technologies (the same guys that gave us the eternal gift of “Contra 4,” as well as the aforementioned “Aliens: Infestation” if you weren’t aware), they transformed what could have been just another movie game into one of the most shockingly ass-kicking titles to be found on the system. Fans of old school beat-‘em-up games will be in heaven with this one, although you don’t have to be a veteran of “Captain Commando” to find value in this one. With superb animation and exquisitely detailed sprites, “Thor: God of Thunder” is not only one of the best DS games of 2011 that nobody played, but one of the absolute best games to be found on the DS period. Say what you will about the movie…this game is a modern-day, miniature classic, no matter how you slice it.

Well, there you have it: five kick-ass DS games from the system’s dying days that you really ought to try out if you haven’t. If you’re lucky, you could probably pick up all of these games for about 50 bucks, pending you hit the right bargain bin at the right GameStop at just the right time. Hell, these games are worth ordering off Amazon, if you have to: just don’t be surprised if you end up playing these games more than you do anything on your 3DS for a while…

IN THE MOOD FOR MORE HANDHELD HAVOC?
CHECK OUT MY REVIEWS OF EVERY SINGLE DAY ONE PS-VITA RELEASE RIGHT HERE!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

B-Movie Review: “The Majorettes” (1986)

Just how bad could a slasher movie written by the other guy behind “Night of the Living Dead” (and directed by one of its most famous zombie actors) be?


Over the years, I have seen a ton of slasher movies, and generally, I think the entire subgenre is pretty underrated by both cinema snobs and horror fanatics alike.

Yes, there is a ton of crap out there, but I also believe that some of the best, most influential and flat out fun genre pictures out there just so happen to fall under the domain of the “dead teenager” film. As before, not EVERY movie in the subgenre is worth watching, but for every flat out abomination of celluloid out there, I think there’s probably two or three decent to kinda’ awesome slasher flicks for the adventurous moviegoer to comb through.

Of course, it is fairly difficult doing something new with the genre, which, for all intents and purposes, really hasn’t structurally evolved since the days of “Twitch of the Death Nerve” and “Black Christmas.” But in that formulaic simplicity, I think, is the overall brilliance and charm of the slasher movie; the entertainment isn’t so much in figuring out what’s going to happen, as it is in figuring out how the expected is, well, expected to play out.

The tropes and clichés pretty much go without saying nowadays, as the subgenre has been deconstructed to the point where it’s hard to even think about the slasher genre as anything other than a self-ridiculing, 1980s anachronism. The big positive here, I suppose, is that there is an absolute wealth of slasher films at our disposal, stretching back from the early 1970s up until the post-“Scream” neo-slashers of the mid-to-late 2000s. As such, it’s pretty easy to find a slasher movie from any epoch, and the odds of finding a good (or at least, moderately entertaining) one on any blind dive into a DVD bin is relatively decent.

That said, for every foray where you end up with something truly awesome and underappreciated, like “Intruder” or “Christmas Evil,” there’s probably at least one or two cinematic sojourns where you end up watching some pure slasher shit, like “Psycho Cop” or “The Sorority House Massacre 2: Nighty Nightmare.” As any long term B-movie aficionado will be quick to tell you, hunting for old-school slasher flicks is like playing the VCR-version of Russian Roulette - win you win, you win big, and win you lose…odds are, your brains will have to be scraped off the adjacent wall at some juncture.

On a purely superficial level, “The Majorettes” - a 1986 release - seems like a “can’t lose” prospect. It’s written by John Russo, who was the other mastermind behind “Night of the Living Dead,” and it’s even directed by the guy that played the iconic “cemetery zombie” in the 1968 masterpiece. Additionally, the movie is loaded with gore and bare assets (if you get my drift, and I think you do), so how could the flick suck in any possible way?

Well, let’s fire up the Sanyo, and see if this thing still has legs after a good quarter century of molding., why don’t we?

Eye certainly have a feeling this thing isn't going to be on par with "Fanny and Alexander," for some reason...

The movie begins with a bunch of high-schoolers (played by a menagerie of 30-year-old actresses, of course) doing aerobics in gym class while some dork takes pictures of them. Meanwhile, there’s some weirdo janitor that’s drilled a glory hole into the girls’ locker room, so I reckon that’s psycho-killer-suspect numero uno for us.

In the next scene, we’re introduced to a creepy German nurse, who’s giving insulin to an old broad that lives in a gigantic house - who we are told has just had a stroke, and is the grandmother of the head majorette. Well, I’m sure that won’t be a plot point later on or anything.

Up next, we have two kids making out in the woods (uh-oh). The chick tries to give her dorky comrade a pep talk, and she tells him that she’s been knocked up by the neighborhood dope peddler. Not seeing this as a reason to abandon ship, the dorky dude decides to play a little tongue rugby with her, before she cuts herself off at second base for, and this is in her own words, “being too easy.” That, of course, is our cue for a dude in camo to jump out of the shrubbery and slice both of their throats open, which concludes with the killer dumping their bodies in a nearby stream - a shot which is clumsily edited into a transition scene involving some kid getting baptized.

Only one man stands between the killer and certain doom for the neighborhood. Too bad he spends half the movie eating a never-ending breakfast, apparently. 

Things take a turn for the more horrible, when we meet the detective of the film - a guy who looks like Donald Sutherland, if Donald Sutherland was really, really poor. He and his wife have a really awkward discussion about religion, and we jump straight into the film’s first investigation scene, which is accompanied by a bookend sequence in which the retarded janitor with an eye for the juniors gets bullied by the neighborhood biker gang/drug runners.

Time to meet your standard high school slasher movie cast! In a brief diner scene (which was not at all shot in a grocery store - I mean, doesn’t your neighborhood greasy spoon have bread shelves all over their walls, too?) we find out that the head majorette is having some relational difficulties with her boyfriend, which, of course, gives him a M.O. to be slaying all sorts of people. Hey, it is a biological fact that if a dude goes more than a week without poon, HE will turn into a psychosexual mass murderer, after all. One of the kids says he thinks the ringleader of the biker gang is behind the mysterious rash of murders, which leads into a scene in which some cheerleaders walk home from school, while music that doesn’t sound ANYTHING AT ALL LIKE the theme from “Halloween” plays in the background.

Actually, this DOES sort of remind me of my high school classmates.

Next up, a girl with a Rick Springfield poster on her bedroom wall decides to walk around the house in a bikini. Naturally, she gets her throat ripped open while going for a dip in the pool, which leads the town’s detective to mull the possibility that the killer…whoever he (or she?) may be…might have some sort of water fetish going on.

Up next, we have a ton of red herring scenes, including a.) a bar scene where the biker gang leader denies being the murderer, b.) a scene in which we find out the creepy janitor is also the groundskeeper for the head majorette and c.) a scene with the detective and the town priest talking about some religious nonsense. Then, the head cheerleader and her boyfriend break-up, which IMMEDITEALY leads to our next kill scene, where some generic majorette gets offed in the showers, while the pervy janitor watches through the safety of his glory hole. But not before he’s able to take a picture of the killer’s face, however…

AND STOP RIGHT HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHO THE “KILLER” OF THE MOVIE IS, BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO SPOIL THE SHIT OUT OF THE REST OF THE MOVIE NOW

It's a little known fact that extra large chin straps weren't invented until 1987.

So we get our scene where the bodies are discovered, and then a shit load of pointless bird’s eye view and POV shots (because John Carpenter did them eight years earlier, and THAT was what made “Halloween” the all-time classic it is today, of course.)

Then, the evil German nurse leads the sheriff into the gardener’s darkroom, where she shows a whole bunch of murder scene pictures. And then, the nurse shows the sheriff a picture of the killer, and the killer is…SWERVE! The sheriff himself! Apparently, he’s some closeted religious wacko that’s killing them for being sexually promiscuous. So yeah, in other words, he’s your typical Southern Baptist. From there, he strikes up an agreement with the nurse and the creepy janitor, who plan on killing the head cheerleader AS SOON as she turns 18, so they can inherit her granny’s estate.

So, we have some fairly pointless scenes in which the detective mulls the killer’s M.O., and then, this movie goes absolutely batshit insane. The head cheerleader ends up getting kidnapped by the local biker gang, which leads to the retarded janitor and her ex-boyfriend chasing them to an abandoned warehouse. There’s a brief fight amongst the gang members, and then the creepy janitor gets shot, and then…the head cheerleader gets killed! So, uh, I guess that eliminates the M.O. of the killers, no?

Either some bad stuff is about to go down, or that new model train set he just bought is ready for its maiden voyage.

The next ten minutes have absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened in the last hour of the movie, but I don’t care, because it’s easily the ten most awesome minutes of the movie anyway. Obviously, the ex is pissed about his girl getting done in by biker-drug-dealers, so he decides to yank his shirt off, load up on some assault rifles and GET HIS REVENGE.

He tracks down the biker gang (who live in a trailer with AC/DC logos and pictures of the devil spray painted on it), who are hanging out inside with some hitherto unmentioned skanks. To get the mayhem started, the ex decides to blow up one of their vans, which leads to the rest of the gang coming out to investigate. Two of them try to escape in an Oldsmobile, but they crash into a tree going five miles an hour and it somehow results in an inescapable fireball. Cue an almost “Mouse Trap” like sequence in which an exploding motorcycle results in an exploding trailer, and then a lengthy a cat-and-mouse scene in which the ex officially kills off the gang leader. Granted, none of this shit had anything to do with what happens next, but man, is it one of the coolest no-budget action movie sequences I have ever had the pleasure of screening.

And so, the movie concludes with the German nurse killing the old lady out of spite, and the nurse getting killed (and framed for all of the previous murders) by the sheriff. The sheriff and the detective then visit the ex-boyfriend in the hospital, and the flick concludes with this final scene that is one part shitty and one part brilliant, as a gaggle of sixth graders play with batons while the sheriff looks upon them with murderous distaste.

Well, if you ever wondered how those vintage tee-shirts ended up at Goodwill...

Well, all I can say about “The Majorettes” is that it strikes an almost perfect balance between being horrifyingly crappy and retardedly awesome. For half of the movie, you’ll want to chew your own eyelids off, and for the other half, you’ll probably be in absolute awe of the movie magic in front of you.

There’s now way in hell I would call “The Majorettes” a good movie by any stretch, but I would be equally erroneous if I didn’t say the flick was entertaining as all hell, too. As far as mid-1980s slasher movies go, you have to give director Bill Hinzman (whom, glumly, bough the farm earlier this year) and Mr. Russo some credit, because they at least tried to give it an atmosphere that was a little bit different than its subgenre contemporaries.

Yes, it’s a gloriously stupid, intelligence-insulting, jumbled mess of a movie, but you know what? It’s a gloriously stupid, intelligence-insulting, jumbled mess of a movie that is HIGHLY entertaining. This thing isn’t going to give you any profound insight into the psyche of the human spirit, but if you’re looking for something to just eat pizza and drink generic soda to, you could really do worlds worse here.


Two and a half stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out.

IN THE MOOD FOR MORE B-MOVIE MADNESS?
CHECK OUT MY REVIEW OF WACKO (1982) RIGHT HERE!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My PEPSI NEXT Review!

PepsiCo’s latest hybrid cola is here…but is it actually worth taking for a taste test?


Is it just me, or does Pepsi seem to trot out hybrid cola/diet cola products with the regularity most people change underwear?

Over the last 15 or so years, we’ve seen at least half a dozen or so attempts by PepsiCo to launch a sustainable, long-term, not quite regular/not quite diet iteration of its flagship syrup water, and pretty much all of them have been commercial failures.

Whereas Coca-Cola has had a tad more success with its “halfway”sodas, Pepsi just seems to be stuck in perpetual limbo when it comes to reduced calorie offerings. Despite coming up short literally every prior at-bat, PepsiCo has yet again ventured into the domain of hybrid colas with its latest advent, Pepsi Next - a 60 calorie soda that’s touted as containing 60 percent less sugar than its’ standard forbearer.

The ultimate question with Pepsi Next, of course, is two-fold; Is it a.) comparable in taste to regular Pepsi, and b.) does it actually taste halfway worth a damn at all?

Well, as the soda-ologist I am, I decided to give Pepsi’s latest soda a taste-test, to see just how it fares in a super-glutted, hyper-competitive modern cola market. To keep things all scientific and whatnot, we will be reviewing the soda based on five sets of criteria: packaging, color, taste, texture and overall flavor. Now, who’s ready for a little POP-cultural studies?


CRITERIA ONE: PACKAGING

Based on sheer aesthetics, this thing is a downright massive failure. For one thing, the package looks WAY too much like your standard Pepsi product, so much so that most people would probably waltz by a display without ever noticing it’s a new soda. While the light blue packaging is mildly pleasing to the eye, the font and lettering here is just atrocious, with text that’s way too small and unpronounced to get your attention. Additionally, the logo placement here is just way too clumsy and arbitrary looking; furthermore, all of the big selling points (“60 percent less sugar”) are not only undramatic, but pretty difficult to spot when you’re marching down a shopping market aisle. In terms of fundamental visuals, Pepsi Next is a gargantuan let-down.

PASS OR FAIL? FAIL



CRITERIA TWO: COLOR

Of all things, I suppose tint is probably the least important feature of any soda, but I know some folks that have an eye so keen for the stuff that they can tell whether a soda is diet or standard based on sheer observation alone. Granted, I’m far from being a boaster of such a Mutant Power, so my eyes really cannot detect that much of a difference in color between standard Pepsi and this newfangled offering. I’m sure there are people out there that probably can detect a difference of some kind, but for the casual consumer, there’s really no way you would be able to tell this stuff apart from regular or Diet Pepsi. In that regard, Pepsi Next is, at least visually, identical to its soda forbearer.

PASS OR FAIL? PASS


CRITERIA THREE: TASTE

While packaging and hue are relatively inconsequential aesthetics, there is absolutely nothing more pivotal than taste when it comes to soda. In fact, that’s really the ONLY thing that matters when it comes to sodas, so just forget about all of that shit I said before and after this judgment.

On my first go-around, it was pretty difficult to gauge a difference between Pepsi Next and regular Pepsi Cola, but after a few sips, the differences became very palpable. Pepsi is marketing this thing as a hybrid soda that, genetically, rests somewhere between “regular” cola and diet soda, and I’d say that’s a pretty fitting description of this particular product. It has a sweet taste comparable to Diet Pepsi, but it also has a syrupy thickness that makes it go down more like regular cola. Ultimately, it tastes like the amalgamation of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, which, while far from being a horrible concept, is just kind of, well, bland as an offering. It isn’t bad by any stretch (in fact, it’s pretty damn tasty, all things considered) but seeing as how this stuff is being churned out by the same guys that have given us so many distinct and awesome Mountain Dew variations over the years, I really can’t give Pepsi Next a glowing recommendation as far as taste goes.

PASS OR FAIL? BORDERLINE.



CRITERIA FOUR: TEXTURE

Well, this is the one area where Pepsi has really excelled with their new offering, because it feels just like a regular soda. Granted, the offering may taste more diet Pepsi than regular cola, but as far as the thickness, tingle and overall smoothness of the beverage goes, it genuinely feels like you are sipping on a non-diet cola. At first, the lack of carbonation had me a little concerned, but rest assured - if you just swished this stuff around in your mouth, I highly doubt you would be able to tell it apart from standard Pepsi. Of course, this is a qualifier that only the most hardcore of soda enthusiasts take into consideration, but it’s perhaps the product’s strongest selling point…and reason alone, I guess, to give this stuff a try.

PASS OR FAIL? PASS.


CRITERIA FIVE: OVERALL FLAVOR

The thing about mainstream sodas is that, most of the time, the things are typically flavorful (thanks a lot, petrochemical additives!), and at the absolute least, pretty darn tasty when you have a parched throat. Really, I couldn’t give a rat’s hoo-ha if what’s in my cup is Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Next or Pepsi AM - as long as it’s cold and foamy and it’s sort of hot outside, odds are, I will drink it down without hesitation or criticism.

Objectively, though, Pepsi Next has more problems with its flavoring than it does positives. I have never been a big fan of diet colas, simply because the drinks are just too watery for my liking. The good thing about Pepsi Next, I suppose, is that it’s a little thicker than most cola offerings, although that super-sugary aspartame taste still remains. As before, it’s definitely drinkable, and it has a really nice texture, but with so much stuff on the market, who really felt the need for there to be a Pepsi Middling on the market?

On the whole, the best I can give Pepsi Next is a “good” rating, but most certainly not a “great” one. It will do you if you are thirsty or need something to counteract an especially salty and saucy burrito, but I highly doubt anyone would consider this a must-buy in any regard.

PASS OR FAIL? BORDERLINE.


At the end of the day, I reckon Pepsi Next is a good enough soda, but that’s about it. Since Americans are about as health conscious as your typical walrus, I highly doubt this stuff has a high market demand, and I think it’s all but certain that this stuff will be discontinued by a year’s time. It may be of interest to soda collectors, although it certainly lacks the outrageous-factor of such long-gone PepsiCo gimmicks as Pepsi Blue and Mountain Dew Game Fuel. Unless you really, really want to have something in your closet that you can point to your grandkids and say “look, back in 2012, we had a short-lived Pepsi/Diet Pepsi crossbreed that nobody bought” in a couple of decades, there really isn’t much appeal here for contemporary soda-aficionados. At the end of the day, Pepsi Next is at least worth a try once or twice…although I highly doubt it’ll turn any of you into repeat buyers. 

IN THE MOOD FOR MORE COLA CARNAGE?
CHECK OUT MY TRIP TO THE WORLD OF COCA-COLA RIGHT HERE!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My LIVE(ish) UFC 145: Jones vs. Evans Review!

A full recap of last Saturday’s PPV (and some stuff about pizza burgers, too!)


So anyway, I took a trip down to Atlanta (where the players, I have heard, continue to “play”) this weekend to see my first LIVE Ultimate Fighting Championship show, and it was, in a word, “awesome-tastic.”

If you ever get an opportunity to catch a live UFC event, I saw take it, especially if you live in a non-regularly toured part of the country like I do. I have had some fantastic sporting experiences in my day, and I would have to say that my UFC 145 experience was way the hell up there in terms of live events I have attended. A controversial call, to be sure, but I think it may have been even more awesome than that New Kids on the Block /Backstreet Boys double bill I went to last summer. Like I said, may have been.

So, what should you expect heading into a UFC show? Right off the bat, I can tell you this: there are going to be a LOT of people there. In fact, there’s going to be at least five hundred times more people there than you think will be there, proving once and for all that MMA has gone mainstream like a mother lover. As a dude that has lived in the metro-ATL pretty much his entire life, I can tell you straight up that Philips Arena is NEVER filled up for anything, whether it’s a Hawks post-season game or those two times we had playoff hockey in town. When I hit Centennial Park on Saturday, I was absolutely FLOORED by the throng of people gumming up the walkways outside the Dome and the World of Coke. Apparently, every single MMA fan from Mississippi to North Carolina had made the trip to A-Town, and if you had a nickel for every “Tapout” logo on display, you would…well, you would definitely have a lot of nickels, that’s for sure.

A couple of UFC fighters were giving out autographs before the show, including Ben Henderson, Clay Guida, Forrest Griffin and Josh Barnett (although I  personally didn’t see him anywhere.) Some ads had been released in the community earlier in the week promising an appearance by Chael “Jesus Christ, only better” Sonnen, but much to my dismay, he had apparently cancelled his trip. And I SO wanted to hear his advice for grad school, too.

The proper show kicked off at about 7 p.m. EST. You really can’t get a grasp of how large the cage is until you see it in person - on TV, it looks about the size of a trampoline, but up-close, it’s a pretty huge structure, easily big enough to have an old school pro-wrestling battle royale inside it. Another thing you really can’t experience via your television set is the acoustics of the event - when a dude kicks another dude in the face, you can literally hear the sound of bone on bone, which is the kind of thing that makes a live UFC event twenty times more disturbing (and awesome) than watching it on TV. Conversely, when it gets loud - and believe you me, it can get very - it’s virtually impossible to think. How guys like Dave Meltzer can type up recaps while 30,000 people cheer their hearts out is beyond me, and how guys like Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg can do LIVE COMMENTARY with an entire arena chanting and hollering is absolutely inconceivable. And lastly, I have to give some major props to the in-house DJ, who was spinning tracks literally in front of me. Dude, you got some mad skills, especially when you did that phat ass remix of the “American Bandstand” theme. Dick Clark would no doubt be pleased.

UFC 145 trucked into Atlanta this weekend. Get it? Because it's a picture of a truck!

Featherweight Bout: Marcus Brimage vs. Maximo Blanco

The opening bout was pretty disappointing, with the “Bama Beast” Brimage defeating Maximo Blanco by split decision. There really wasn’t too much to say about this one, other than the fact that they started doing all of this gymnastic shit after the fight was over. Oh, and in the preview video, it sort of sounded like Goldberg called Blanco a “former King of Pancakes” as opposed to Pancrase. A very lackluster fight.

Welterweight Bout: Chris Clements vs. Keith Wisniewski

This was probably the second best fight of the show, and a bout that really got the crowd fired up. Clements took a split decision victory, although I have a hard time seeing how ANY judge could call Wisniewski a winner in ANY of the rounds that evening. Also, Clements gets bonus points for coming out to “Rockin’ Robin,” which, as you will soon see, wasn’t anywhere close to being the most esoteric entrance theme of the night. A really good fight right here.

Lightweight Bout: Mac Danzig vs. Effrain Escudero

I guess this one right here was our reverse fight of the night, because I can’t recall a single damn thing about it, other than the fact that there was this one guy a couple of sections over yelling out stuff in Spanish every other second. As Escudero made the decision to come out to mariachi music, I attempted to get a “where’s our chips and salsa?” chant going, but sadly, it never picked up with the rest of the crowd. The dude beside me’s “USA!” chant, on the other hand, did. In case you were wondering (and you don’t), Danzig won this one by decision. A very, very lackluster fight.

Lightweight Bout: John Makdessi vs. Anthony Njokuani

A somewhat decent fight, although Njokuani was in control from bell to bell. The guys beside me started taking bets on the fights, although they had no idea what the actual combatants’ names were. As a result, for the next 15 minutes, all I heard were contrasting chants of “Go Canada!” and “Go Nigeria!,” with the periodic “No Homo!” chant every time things got taken to the ground. Just when did that particular phrase come into popularity, by the way? Njokuani by decision. An average fight, at best.

Welterweight Bout: Matt Brown vs. Stephen Thompson

Hands down the best fight of the night, and probably the best fight I’ve seen all year round (keep in mind, I’ve watched a grand total of just two MMA events this year, so that’s probably not the lofty praise it sounds like) - a fact made even better because they guy beside me was convinced that Brown was somehow Arabian, and kept making jokes about how the Xenia, Ohio native was going to win the fight by “self-detonation.” Thompson, the South Carolinian Kickboxer wunderkind, was the crowd favorite, inspiring a few “S.C.!” chants throughout the bout. Brown - a former heroin addict whose nickname is derived from a survived overdose, by the way - put on the performance of his career, as he outwrestled Thompson from bell to bell. There was so much drama in this one that I don’t know where to begin. Clearly, Brown was the better all around fighter, but Thompson’s lethal leg strikes made this one an unpredictable battle from the first to fifteenth minute. The place nearly exploded when Thompson connected with a flurry of punches heading into the concluding moments of the bout, although it was certainly too little and too late to flip the script. Brown by decision, in what was one hell of a fight. This one, I say, is worth going out of your way to see.

Heavyweight Bout: Travis Browne vs. Chad Griggs

After a night of decisions, Browne gave us our first finish of the evening when he choked out Strikeforce import Griggs (identified as “Wolverine,” presumably due to his sideburns, by the guy next to me). Despite losing, Griggs gets a million billion points anyway, because he came out to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Griggs was out for a pretty long time, probably about a minute. So, if you’re ever wondering why the camera pans on the celebrating victor for so long during some UFC telecasts…well, there you go, I suppose. A really impressive performance by the undefeated Browne, who probably deserves recognition as a top ten heavyweight following this bout.

Lightweight Bout: Mark Bocek vs. John Alessio

A very unremarkable way to kick off the first leg of the PPV portion of the evening’s show. At one point, a fight broke out in the stands, and that was about a million times more interesting than anything that was happening in the cage. The super-awesome casual fan beside me simply referred to these guys as “the ginger and blondie,” at one point referring to Alessio as “90210” and he was super distraught to find out that both of them were Canadian, for some reason. Per my non-state recognized life partner, Alessio sort of looks like Ryan Gosling, so I will take her word for it. Bocek takes an easy decision here, in a really lackluster bout.

Unfortunately, Mr. Sonnen was a no-show for the meet-and-greet. Presumably, because he was too busy at home saying quasi-racist things about Brazilians.

Featherweight Bout: Mark Hominick vs. Eddie Yagin

Probably the third best fight of the night, and easily the worst decision of the night, too. Yagin pretty much dominated the first round, but Hominick definitely did some damage to his adversary in the second (believe you me, even from my vantage point, Yagin’s face looked all sorts of FUBAR-ed heading into the third.) The final round was all Hominick, who was clearly the crowd favorite tonight. Although Hominick’s performance really wasn’t the most impressive of his career, I certainly felt as if it was enough to give him the decision victory. Alas, the judges saw otherwise, giving Yagin a controversial (read: bullshit) split decision call after this one. A really good fight, regardless. LOLZ a plenty when Hominick started doing push-ups after the bout, and Yagin was so gassed that he could only do crunches instead.

Bantamweight Bout: Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald

Torres was over HUGE with the crowd, getting the second biggest pop of the night thus far. Nobody really knew who McDonald was, but after the fight, I reckon a whole lot of people are going to take note of him. McD clipped Torres late in the first, dropped him, and pounded him out for a quick TKO. Torres was out for a long time, too. If this bout doesn’t qualify McD as a top five bantamweight fighter in the world, I don’t know what would. Definitely a breakout fight for the up-and-coming 135-pounder, and unquestionably the last nail in Torres coffin’ as a championship contender.

Heavyweight Bout: Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell

Probably the biggest surprise of the night, with the ex-IFL standout revitalizing his career by scoring an out of nowhere, KO-of-the-night against the Jason Biggs look-a-like early in the first. Rothwell cuts an inspirational speech after the bout, and proved he was a pretty cool dude when he posed for pictures with pretty much everybody on his way out of the cage. A feel-good moment for everybody, pending your name isn’t “Brendan Schaub,” obviously.

Welterweight Bout: Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills

If you want to talk about star-making performances, you have to talk about Rory’s victory this evening. The Ontario native absolutely demolished his British adversary, pounding him out in the second for a brutal TKO finish. At just 22 years of age, this MacDonald kid has all the makings of a future Welterweight champion, and at this point, I would DEFINITELY have him ranked as a top five fighter in the division. A rivalry with a certain Québécois wrestler is an absolute given in about two years’ time, I prognosticate.

UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT: Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans

The live atmosphere for this fight was absolutely incredible. I thought Evans coming out to Immortal Technique was about the coolest thing ever, UNTIL Jones decided to one-up the challenger and come out to “The Champ is Here.” The first two rounds of this fight were absolutely awesome, with Jones and Evans going back and forth in a super exciting striking-oriented chess game. By the third, however, it was clear that Evans was losing momentum, and heading into the final round, it was pretty much a given that Jones had this one in the bag. Even so, it was a very, very entertaining fight, and the kind that was at least up in the air until the final bell - I can see how some people would be disappointed with the fight, but for me, it lived up to the hype and then some. The big question in the aftermath of this fight is what to do with Jones. This was the most competitive fight the champion has had thus far in his UFC career, and even so, he absolutely dominated his adversary for almost the entirety of the bout. You’ve got Henderson waiting in the wings, and a presumptive title defense against Gustafsson or maybe even Lil’ Nog after that, but from there? Not only has Jones annihilated the Light Heavyweight division, he’s practically eradicated it. A lot of analysts are predicting that Jones will jump up to Heavyweight as soon as next year, but if he runs through Dangerous Dan as easily as he did Evans tonight…well, we might see Jones as a 220-pounder before this year’s even over.

What does this display outside the Georgia Aquarium have to do with UFC 145? Umm...uh...

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: For me, it has to be the Thompson \ Brown bout - just incredible drama and atmosphere that no television broadcast could ever authentically replicate. 

SHOW LOWLIGHT: The Danzig\Escudero bout was about as boring as you’d imagine it to be…times three thousand.

FIVE THINGS I LEARNED FROM TONIGHT’S SHOW:

- It’s customary to take a sip of the bottle of cologne smelling alcohol that the guy next to you just passed to you, even though you swore he pulled the thing out of his sock.

- Even though Jon Jones just beat the living hell out of one of the pound for pound best fighters on the planet for 25 minutes, he’s still somehow a “pussy” according to the angry guy over there wearing a Rashad Evans tee.

- Even though they cost about $55 American, those Jon Jones shirts with the UFC logo styled after the old school Sega logo are probably the best things ever marketed by anybody.

- Kickboxing only goes so far as a martial arts discipline, especially when you have the takedown defense of a quadriplegic turtle.

- Yeah, it’s probably not a good night to pick a fight with a dude whose last name is “MacDonald.”

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you this week. Crank up “Slack Motherfucker” by Superchunk and “Linoleum” by NOFX, and I’ll be seeing you in a few.

Super Bonus Mega Happy Fun Time Additional Material!

How to Make Your Own “Hamburger Pizzas!”

 
You know, after a long night of watching people of various ethnicities and nationalities speak the global tongue of punching each other into states of unconsciousness, you might be a little hungry. However, since you don’t get home until 3 a.m., odds are, you will also be pretty darn sleepy, yourself. This is a common quandary for many a mixed martial arts fan, so today, I would like to introduce you to one of the greatest quick fixes in the history of improvised food: ladies and gentlemen, the hamburger pizza.

Now, I really didn’t find out about the “hamburger pizza” until fairly recently, and when I did, I had to kick myself. “This is the greatest idea in history,” I thought aloud, before making a lengthy serious of nom-nom sounds immediately thereafter. The premise behind the “hamburger pizza” is deceptively simple, and astoundingly palatable: take a hamburger bun, put various pizza ingredients on top of it, bake for a while, and voila


In other words? We’re talking giant sized Bagel Bites, amigos, which is EXACTLY the sort of nutritional paradigm shift you’d think it would be.

So, how do you make one of these delectable treats, you may be wondering? Honestly, it doesn’t take too much intellectual know-how to figure out how these things work - just break out an array of pizza-like things (sauce, pesto, pepperoni, mushrooms, and of course, enough mozzarella to constipate a hippopotamus), sprinkle said ingredients liberally, put in an oven of some kind, and that’s it. 


And in case you’re wondering, after UFC 145, I had at least 25 of them in a row, and that’s not even an exaggeration. At all.

IN THE MOOD FOR MORE MMA-MAYHEM?
CHECK OUT MY COUNTDOWN OF THE GREATEST MMA COMEBACKS OF ALL TIME RIGHT HERE!