Coffee Talk #669: Black Friday Open Thread

It’s that time of the year again — a time for ridiculous deals, retail violence, and questionable purchasing decisions. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are nearly here. As always, I’d love to hear about the deals and steals you walked away with this year. Prior to the shopping extravaganza, feel free to share special deals with your fellow RPadholics in the comments section.

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Coffee Talk #668: Thank You Daniel Bryan!

The first time I saw Daniel Bryan wrestle was at a Ring of Honor show in Chicago Ridge, IL in 2006. He was still working under his real name, Bryan Danielson. My excellent friend Justin and I were there to support our buddy Austin Aries (the greatest man that ever lived). As expected, Aries killed it. The bonus was the hours of spectacular wrestling I wasn’t expecting. The guys from Japan — Genki Horiguchi, Dragon Kid, and Blood Generation — were spectacular. Delirious totally cracked me up. Most importantly, that night made me a mark for Bryan Danielson and Claudio Castagnoli. The two would go on to have tremendous success in the WWE as Daniel Bryan and Antonio Cesaro, respectively.

Last night on WWE Monday Night Raw, Daniel Bryan announced his retirement. He’s only 34-years old, but due to multiple concussions, he has to call it quits as pro-wrestler. It’s sad that he won’t be able to do what he loves. Selfishly, I’m bummed that he won’t be able to sports-entertain me any longer. Still, his short career in the WWE was a remarkable one. He connected with the fans in a powerful and unconventional way. While he was always among the best technical wrestlers in the WWE, he didn’t have “the look” or the size of a typical WWE headliner. Instead, Daniel Bryan connected with the fans with unusual honesty and earnestness. He was amazing in the ring and went about his work with a contagious joy. While I thought he would do well in the WWE, I never imagined that he’d headline WrestleMania and become the most “over” guy on the roster.

In addition to the Chicago Ridge show in 2006, I also saw Daniel Bryan wrestle in Detroit in 2007. There was so much I enjoyed about this guy. As a hair metal connoisseur, I loved that he used “The Final Countdown” as his entrance song. I got a kick out of him grabbing the mic from the ring announcer so that he could append his introduction with, “The best wrestler in Chicago this weekend.” His in-ring style was fantastic — a wonderful blend of technical wrestling and high-flying. His use of old-school moves, like the airplane spin, was outstanding. I loved when Daniel Bryan would remind the ref, “I have ’til five!” While he was still Bryan Danielson, Daniel Bryan was everything I wanted from an indie wrestler.

A photo posted by Raymond Padilla (@rpadtv) on

So yeah, those were the first two times I saw Daniel Bryan in person. The last time was in 2013. This time around, he was a full-blown WWE Superstar and a huge deal. I was doing red carpet interviews at a charity event for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Despite his crazy success, it was fantastic to see that Daniel Bryan was still a goofy, laid-backed guy. Off camera, we chatted about our mutual friend Austin Aries, as well as his suddenly-improved wardrobe. His then-girlfriend (now wife) Brie Bella gave him a fashion makeover. He was still proud of his corduroys, which he had for a long time (and totally didn’t match the rest of an otherwise slick ensemble). Daniel Bryan had made it big, but Bryan Danielson was still the guy under the new suit.

As many longtime RPadholics know, after Shawn Michaels retired, I put all my WWE hopes and dreams on Daniel Bryan and Antonio Cesaro. The latter is out with an injury and the former just retired. *sigh* I loved Daniel Bryan’s WWE run (despite the lack of “cattle mutilation“). It was probably the last time I greatly enjoyed the WWE product. While he didn’t have the longevity of many “top guys” in WWE history, his star was one of the brightest that ever burned.

Coffee Talk #667: Is Galactus Just a Cosmic Jobber?

A bunch of nerd friends and I were having a debate on the new Galactus. Without spoiling anything, the character underwent a major change (and a bit of retconning) in this week’s Ultimates #2. He went from being a supremely powerful cosmic threat to…uhm, that thing he is now (that I won’t reveal so as not to spoilarz you). Then again, was Galactus ever that much of a cosmic threat? Sure, he ate the occasional planet every now and then, but he got his ass handed to him every time he tried to eat Earth. During the debate, one of my friends said, “Galactus is just a cosmic jobber! It’s about time they made him interesting.”

As a fan of pro-wrestling and comics, I loved that he combined those two worlds. And he has a point. Galactus was beat up by his former herald, the Silver Surfer — a low-level employee! Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four) scared off Galactus by showing him the Ultimate Nullifier. He didn’t even have to fire it up or shoot out a warning blast. Galactus turned tail at the mere sight of a weapon. If that doesn’t scream galactic pussy then I don’t know what does.

To keep going with the analogy, Galactus eating random planets is like getting a WWE win on SmackDown or a pay-per-view pre-show. In the Marvel Universe, that’s pretty much all Galactus has ever accomplished. He’s never gotten the comics equivalent of a big win on WWE Raw or a PPV main event victory. As large as he is and as menacing a headdress as he wears, it appears that Galactus is nothing more than a giant, purple jobber. Has he ever posed a real threat to the heroes of the Marvel Universe? Will he ever? In the immortal words of the late, great Gorilla Monsoon, “I find that highly unlikely.”

What’s your take on Galactus? Is he a menacing cosmic force? Or the comics equivalent of Mark Henry? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

Coffee Talk #666: Random Thoughts on Jessica Jones

Following up on Marvel’s excellent Daredevil original series for Netflix comes Jessica Jones. While the titular heroine has a small following among comics readers, I expect that the general public will react to her name with a, “Who?” Thankfully, Marvel’s latest Netflix series allows people to get to know her intimately, in a fantastically cerebral ride. I was really impressed with the job Marvel did with Daredevil and while Jessica Jones isn’t as broadly appealing, in many ways it’s a superior show. Here are some random thoughts on the Jessica Jones Netflix series, using the trusty RPadTV binary system.

[Turn your spoiler shields on!]

Better Than Daredevil (Good): My biggest problem with Daredevil was that the supporting cast was better than the lead. Charlie Cox was decent, but not as good as the actors and actresses that surrounded him most episodes. That’s not an issue with Jessica Jones. Krysten Ritter was phenomenal playing a damaged, layered, and gritty hero. Her Jessica Jones was complex and interesting, powerful and vulnerable, charming and off-putting. Thanks to some great writing and a strong performance, Jessica Jones is one of the most fascinating characters the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen.

As Good As Daredevil (Good): That isn’t to say that Miss Ritter wasn’t surrounded by similarly strong performances. Her antagonist and supporting cast were great too. Jessica Jones‘ Luke Cage and Trish Walker were a little bit better than Daredevil’s Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. Most of my nerd friend’s liked Daredevil’s Kingpin better than Jessica Jones‘ Kilgrave, but to me they were equally strong — but very different — villains. Similar to how Jessica Jones is one of the most unique heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kilgrave is one of its most unique villains (more on him later).

Poor Hell’s Kitchen (Bad): People that aren’t familiar with New York City will think that Hell’s Kitchen is the most dangerous part of Manhattan. In reality, it hasn’t been dangerous for decades. On the plus side, Hell’s Kitchen in Jessica Jones wasn’t as ridiculously dark as it was in Daredevil (where apparently there was a lightbulb shortage). Still, the real Hell’s Kitchen is a gentrified neighborhood, complete with several Starbucks, Subways, and other soulless franchises. Seeing it portrayed the way it is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes me laugh.

Jessica Jones Kilgrave Purple Man

Kilgrave? More Like Deprave! (Good): Jessica Jones‘ villain, Kilgrave, is…f*cked up. With the ability to control minds, Kilgrave makes everyone do whatever the hell he wants. He’s depraved and debauched, enjoying his powers to the fullest. He has no problem making a daughter shoot her parents to further his goals. He’s fine with taking both of a man’s kidneys, leaving the victim to rely on dialysis for the rest of his life. He steals, kills (indirectly, most of the time), and rapes as he sees fit. You get the sense that he doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything too wrong; he’s just using the powers he ended up with. Actually, you get the sense that he doesn’t think about the consequences of most of his actions. Kilgrave is a villain of pure id.

A Faithful Sidekick (Good): As a longtime Marvel Comics reader, I’m curious to see where the show goes with Patricia “Trish” Walker. Jessica Jones’ best friend, the two have a long and complicated relationship. I loved how Trish’s background as a child actress was used throughout the series. While she doesn’t have her bestie’s super powers, she’s a strong woman in her own right. Trish grew from a manipulated child star with a hellacious stage mom to a confident and capable adult. Comics fans know that she becomes Hellcat and joins The Defenders. With The Defenders series looming, I’m hoping that Netflix Trish follows a similar path. Plus, the It’s Patsy (the show she starred in as a kid) theme song is funny.

Jessica Jones Trish Walker

Fizzled Nuke (Bad): The Will Simpson character had lots of potential, but ultimately didn’t live up to it. Simpson started out in an interesting way — a cop controlled by Kilgrave that tried to kill Trish. After coming to his senses, he was remorseful and started a relationship with his victim. He interrupted the dynamic between Jessica and Trish while adding a direct connection to the police…and then he got powered up by super drugs…and became an uninteresting psycho. This character was better off as a somewhat meddlesome good guy than a generic baddie.

Sweet Christmas! (Good): Also looming in Netflix’s future is a Luke Cage series. A supporting character in Jessica Jones, Luke shines in the time that he’s given. In the show, he’s a bartender that’s getting over the senseless death of his wife and hiding several secrets. He’s a great complement to Jess, as they’re both damaged, but deal with things in different ways. I really liked this version of Luke Cage as a supporting character and am looking forward to seeing him star in his own show. I love that they kept his “Sweet Christmas!” phrase, but wish they slipped in an old photo of Luke wearing a yellow silk shirt and a metal tiara. That would have been awesome.

Jessica Jones Luke Cage

Atypical Heroics (Possibly Bad): If you like your heroes large, loud, and bashing things then Jessica Jones isn’t for you. As I mentioned in the intro, the show is cerebral. This isn’t a beat-em-up action show. Daredevil was beaten up a lot in his show. By contrast, some of the biggest hits Jessica takes are mental and emotional. While there are some nice action sequences in Jessica Jones, there are even more mystery, thriller, and film noir elements. When Daredevil first aired, I enjoyed how different it was from anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jessica Jones takes it to a whole other level.

Contrary Backlash (Bad): Some people are hating on the show because it’s so different. Some feel that critics are overly praising Jessica Jones because it has several strong female characters. RPadholic Smartguy mentioned that he thought the show was about sexual abuse because of an article he read. Try to ignore all the backlash, because you’ll be missing out on a great show. Yes, Jessica Jones has several strong female characters, but that’s a wonderful thing. It also has physically and emotionally strong male character in Luke Cage. Yes, Kilgrave has sexually abused some of his victims, including Jessica, but the show and the characters are about much more than that. This is a complex television show and some people are oversimplifying it.

Bottom Line: While I loved Jessica Jones and think that’s it’s even better than Daredevil, I understand why some people won’t like it as much. It is, perhaps, too different from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has more in common with CSI than it does with The Avengers. As for me, I enjoyed the show’s distinct tone and characters. The protagonists are all wonderfully flawed and layered. While he’s not as powerful as Loki, Kilgrave is an even scarier villain. Jessica Jones has continued Marvel’s tradition of exceeding expectations with its Netflix series. In many ways, what’s happening in the small-screen corner of the MCU is more interesting than what’s happening on the big screen. Jessica Jones is a big reason why.

Coffee Talk #665: ESPN’s Closure of Grantland is Disheartening

On October 30, 2015, ESPN made the horrible decision to shut down Grantland. The website offered a fantastic combination of sports and pop-culture coverage. It quickly became my favorite website on the Internet shortly after it launched. Grantland’s writing was longer, smarter, and sharper than most of what you’ll find on the Internet. The site’s closure is disheartening on several levels.

As a readerGrantland’s closure is disappointing because it had some of ESPN’s best writing. The site excelled at long-form articles that were informative and entertaining. It had a wide variety of writers that skillfully covered a wide variety of topics. While sports was Grantland’s emphasis, it also covered movies, music, television, pro-wrestling, and more. No matter the topic, I could always depend on a well-written article on Grantland that always entertained me and often left me a bit smarter than I was before I read it.

As a reader, I also appreciated Grantland’s simple layout. The design emphasized content and the advertising was tame by today’s standards. Grantland loaded quickly on desktop and mobile devices, unlike some of my other favorite websites (I’m looking at you, The Verge). Sadly, a website with great writing and user-friendly design is uncommon these days. That Grantland offered both was extraordinary.

As a longtime Internet writerGrantland’s closure is depressing. It shows that corporate hacks are unwilling and/or unable to support great content creation. It’s sad that the dozens of fantastic editors and writers at Grantland no longer have jobs, while ESPN continues to pay Stephen A. Smith to act like an idiot on television. It makes me wonder what kind of support the website had from the suits, its advertisers, and its readers. Obviously something was missing. The high-quality content was there, but did the suits support it with enough marketing? Did the site not get enough ad dollars? Were people uninterested in longer articles? It’s baffling.

As a longtime ESPN.com reader, I’m amused that Grantland’s closure killed the best writing the company had to offer. I used to love ESPN.com, but it has become garbage. While the site is ESPN’s Internet flagship, the writing on Grantland and FiveThirtyEight (another ESPN-owned website) was superior to anything on the “main” website. ESPN.com has devolved in a mashup of moronic click bait, AP reposts, thoughtless opinion pieces, daily LeBron James updates, and the occasional solid article. Copyediting is, sadly, optional on ESPN.com.

Add it all up and it’s disheartening. My favorite website is gone. Another corporate overlord has pissed on the value of quality content. Instead of enjoying my daily dose of Grantland, I’ll have to read the crap on ESPN.com. Oh well, maybe it’s time to give Yahoo! Sports another look.

Coffee Talk #664: Freddy vs. Jason

Since it’s Halloween week, let’s have a horror-based column and poll in today’s Coffee Talk. I want to know which horror series you like best. In the red corner, it’s Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the blue corner, it’s Jason Voohees and Friday the 13th. Both series have scared millions of moviegoers and have earned millions of dollars. Both have had frightful high points and unfortunate sequels that are best forgotten. Come to think of it, both series have gotten the reboot treatment as well. While A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th certainly have a lot in common, I’m certain that you guys and gals prefer one over the other. Kindly vote in the poll below and explain your choice in the comments section.

As for me, I’m going with A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are so many things that I love about the movies and, especially, its villain. The movies had several moments that were legitimately scary. The movies also had some of the earliest instances of “meta” jokes that made sense to me in my youth. I love that Freddy Krueger was portrayed by the guy that played the goofy alien in V and later by the guy that played Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears. In addition to being a fun movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street III exposed Dokken to a mainstream audience.

Most of all, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund’s version) was a charming villain. He was funny and had a warped sense of humor. There were several times when I was rooting for him to kill the Elm Street kids, which felt all kinds of wrong but is a testament to the character’s actor and writers. While Jason Voorhees certainly had a more physical and intimidating presence, he was slow and stupid. If I wanted to be entertained by slow and stupid, I’d just watch a Batista match on WWE Network (zing!).

Anyway, that’s my vote and explanation. Now let’s hear yours! Kindly take the poll and expand on your choice.

[poll id=”196″]

Coffee Talk #663: Colbert, Fallon, and Nerd Guests

Earlier in the week, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert featured music from The Legend of Zelda played by The Symphony of the Goddesses. Colbert has had several nerdy guests on his show, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. As a nerd, I absolutely love that The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has had tech and gaming segments. Considering that many of his viewers grew up as gamers and technology is more mainstream than ever, it makes sense for his audience. Still, I was surprised (pleasantly) that his show’s guests have been so nerd-friendly.

Changing the channel to NBC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has been a disappointment in terms of nerd content. When the comedian hosted Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, guests from gaming and tech were common. Off the top of my head, I recall Kudo Tsunodo giving a demo of Xbox Kinect, Cliff Bleszinski showing off Gears of War 3, and journalist Josh Topolsky talking tech gear on the show. For whatever reason, these types of guests have largely been absent from The Tonight Show. Perhaps the producers felt that gaming and tech content weren’t appropriate for the “big” show. Perhaps some hack executive mandated that Fallon go with traditional guests that have movies, music, and TV shows to promote. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing that Fallon has mostly abandoned nerdy programming.

The unfortunate programming choices on The Tonight Show, have made me appreciate the guests on The Late Show. Hearing the wonderful music from Zelda on a late night talk show was brilliant. Watching CEOs of the companies that make products and offer services that I love (or in Tesla’s case, dream about) was outstanding. It’s fantastic that these types of segments are mixed in with the overly polished “artists” promoting their latest movie, album, tour, TV show season, etc. When Colbert debuted on Comedy Central, I was delightfully surprised by his mix of comedy, intelligence, and satire. With The Late Show, he has delightfully surprised me with his nerdy guests. Keep ’em coming, Mr. Colbert!