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For the last 11 years the wrestler currently known as Zombie Dragon has been making his way across the independent pro wrestling circuit. Currently serving as a trainer and roster member of Middle Kingdom Wrestling out of Harbin China, Zombie Dragon took some time to discuss his unique wrestling career.

What are your earliest memories of wrestling?

My earliest memories of pro wrestling were the old WCW and WWF video games like WCW Revenge and WWF Wrestlemania 2000. I used to think as a child, that wrestling was fictional characters only in the gaming world. Until one day I decided to flip through channels and I ended up finding WCW and seeing guys like Psicosis, Raven, and a plethora of other characters that I had previously thought were unreal! From that day I was not only hooked, but decided that wrestling is what I’m going to do.

Do you remember which wrestling show this was?

It was a Monday Nitro. I didn’t recognize anyone until I saw Raven and matched his clothes with the game and I felt a sense of rush if that makes sense.

Was there anything else on the program that really stood out?

Billy Kidman took off Psicosis’ mask is what I can remember.

What made you decide to become a pro wrestler?

Seeing that wrestling can be done, and the overall art of the spectacle were the biggest deciding factors in becoming a pro wrestler. Over the years I discovered more and more wrestling, which drew me in closer and closer to my dream. 

Once you decided to be a wrestler where did you train?

I trained a few places actually. I started with the WWA4 (World Wrestling Alliance 4, out of Atlanta GA) in 2008 right after high school. Then got a few bookings here and there, where I learned on the road, before eventually enrolling in the PCW (Platinum Championship Wrestling, also in Atlanta) academy, where I really learned to hone my craft.

What gimmicks did you wrestle under before Zombie Dragon?

I had a few gimmicks, Curry Kidd being the most notable. Curry Kid was an Indian character with Curry on his head. I was also Rocky Hughes, a rip on Curtis Hughes and Rocky King. Curtis Hughes was my original trainer at WWA4. Rocky King is somewhat of a legend. He used to wrestle in the WWF a long time ago and he has a school in Atlanta. He’s another good friend of mine.

Other gimmicks include 187, who was a thuggish partner for the wrestler Murder One. There was Campus Strike Force, which was like Power Rangers but they were jobbers. I was the yellow one. TMZ, Paper, a rip on the paper rock scissors game, and a few more.

What are the origins of the Zombie Dragon character?

The origins of Zombie Dragon are somewhat remarkable. Pro South Wrestling, in Piedmont, Alabama, let me run absolute wild with this character. For around 6 months Curry Kidd was tied up to the ring post by the Left Hand Path, until they decided to sacrifice him, burn his mask, initiate a ritual, stab him and leave him for dead. This was all done in front of a live audience and was widely accepted as most people have forgotten that Curry and Zombie are the same person. A truly redefined image.

How did you end up coming to China?

Funny story, I trained Uncle Money for his first wrestling match (against my TMZ gimmick) A few months later he moved to China where he found Middle Kingdom Wrestling. After about a year MKW decided to open a training facility where they were open to hiring a trainer from the States, and Uncle Money recommended me, and the rest is history.

Has your family been supportive of your decision to wrestle?

They’ve been super supportive of this entire transition which is surprising. One time I lost my match in Korea against Adam Mayhem in PWS (Pro Wrestling Society) and my Grandma found out so when I called her she was broken down in tears like it was a Championship match! She told me her and the church goers decided to have a special prayer for me not to lose future matches and stay in good health.

Have you experienced any racial prejudice in the business?

The racial prejudice I’ve experienced has been rather odd to say the least. Often times people didn’t realize I was black because under a mask, people only see the character. The times I did deal with any prejudice antics, it usually came from people the same shade of skin as mine, which cuts even deeper.

Along that topic what’s your reaction to Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Title at Wrestlemania?

I loved every minute of it! Here’s a guy who’s been consistently putting out good work, never in trouble, and capitalized off an opportunity to shatter the glass ceiling. I’m extremely proud of him!

In closing do you have a website or anything you’d like to plug?

Sure thing! I’m on: Twitter @Th3zombiedragon

Facebook: Zombie Dragon or Alberto Del Curry

Instagram: The zombiedragon

And wechat/weibo as zombiedragon

 

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Thor Ragnarok is the third Thor solo outing, the subtitle being Viking mythology’s word for the apocalypse. In this entry Hela, the Goddess of death, has returned from banishment to conquer Asgard, with sites on the rest of the universe.

Ragnarok’s basic plot is pretty simple, but the strength of the movie is it’s humor and offbeat feel. Even the titular character himself cracks jokes adding to a vibe of almost parodying the often serious tone of the fantasy genre. It also continues the trilogy’s theme of family, exploring the relationships between Thor, his half brother Loki, and their father Odin.

At this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it certainly helps to be caught up on most of the movies. The last Thor ended with Loki impersonating Odin and therefore being the counterfeit ruler of Asgard. Ragnarok does attempt to bring the audience up to speed with Thor’s opening monologue (as opposed to Odin’s like the first two films), as well as a hilarious play which Loki/false Odin has commissioned, showing Asgardians a glorified version of his death from the last movie. It’s amusing that no one seemed to notice Odin acting completely different. Thor, who’d been away from Asgard for a time, immediately realizes what’s up.

A large chunk of the narrative involves Thor and Loki getting accidentally sent to the world of Sakaar, where Thor is captured, his hair cut, and forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena. It’s too bad the Hulk’s inclusion was advertised, because if you can watch this movie and pretend not to know Hulk is in it, the identity of the gladiatorial champion is built up quite nicely.

Sakaar and its gladiator games are run by actor Jeff Goldblum, who seems to channel an amped up version of himself to play the character the Grandmaster. On Sakaar, Loki has warmed himself up to the Grandmaster, while Thor rots in the gladiator pits. One complaint I had is it was a lot to believe that the Grandmaster never caught on that Loki and Thor know each other, especially after the two brothers are seen talking right in front of him.

Visually, Sakaar and its inhabitants look great, and are a clear homage to legendary comic artist Jack Kirby. There’s also the usual Easter eggs to various things from comics, like when Thor was once a frog. Another Avenger makes a brief appearance, and there is one scene with Dr. Strange that is humorous but felt tacked on. The Infinity Gauntlet’s brief appearance in the first Thor movie is also explained in a way that’s pretty funny.

Aside from the humor what I liked best about this movie is that, more than any other MCU movie to date, it has real consequences to it. Things on the Thor end of this universe are changed unequivocally. Supporting characters have met permanent deaths, Thor himself has gone through a significant transformation, and the status quo for these characters has changed for good and will not be going back.

 

 

 

 

Leatherface is a prequel to the 1974 classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and focuses on the origin story of the franchise’s chainsaw wielding lead character. For whatever reason, Leatherface was given only a limited theatrical release and was then sent straight to Video On Demand services.

The majority of this film takes place in 1965, the premise being that years prior local law enforcement took the Sawyer children into protective custody. Now, nearing adulthood, they have spent several years in an insane asylum. One night there is a riot, and four inmates escape along with a kidnapped nurse.

Surprisingly this entry takes the feel of a horror road trip movie, akin to The Devil’s Rejects or Natural Born Killers, with some scenes reminding me of Hannibal and the more recent Revenant. The majority of this prequel focuses on the inmates being on the run from the police, one of which is shown to be pretty crazy in his own right. I suppose this is an attempt to make Leatherface more sympathetic.

There’s also the issue of which of these inmates turns out to be Leatherface, which adds a hint of mystery to it. However, maybe because of this, the cannibalistic nature of the Sawyer family is downplayed until the end, and once Leatherface’s identity is revealed, it was unclear to me what ever made him think to make his first skin mask.

Clarice, one of the escapees, was to me the most intriguing character of the film. Given she was a supporting character, I suppose that counts as a weakness. The scene taking place in a diner was the highlight of the film. If you pay attention to character names, you’ll catch few nods to the first second, and previous chainsaw films. Until the end there is limited onscreen violence, but if you recall the same was the case for the original. It does have a modern polished look to it, and it could have used more of the grit of the first movie.

Leatherface is not a great movie, but it is not terrible either. It is better its previous entry Texas Chainsaw 3D from a few years ago. If you’re a fan of the series I would recommend it.

Annabelle Creation is a prequel to the Conjuring spinoff featuring the evil creepy doll. This fourth entry in the Conjuring shared movie universe shows the making of the actual doll and how it came to be a supernatural object.

Mostly set in the 50s, Annabelle Creation focuses on an older couple, Samuel and Esther Mullins, who have opened there home to a Sister Charlotte and several orphan girls. It was unclear to me what happened to their orphanage or why they had no where else to go, but that’s the story.  We know from the opening scene, and the orphans soon learn, that 12 years prior the Mullins tragically lost their daughter Annabelle. Samuel interacts with the children and Sister Charlotte, but Esther rests in her room, and has been bed ridden for some time, but not for the reason you may think. When she is seen she wears a porcelain mask over half of her face, reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera.

Soon the doll turns up and uncanny events ensue. While nothing is absolutely jump out of your seat scary, there is a consistent sense of dread throughout the film. On the writing side it has connection to all three preceding movies set in this world, including an unexpected tie to the previous Annabelle film.

Annabelle Creation is an improvement over its predecessor, and has expanded the world of the Conjuring films. In this age of shared cinematic universes, the Conjuring is looking to be right behind Marvel as one of the top shared movie worlds we have.

The Mummy is Universal’s quasi remake of their own 1932 Boris Karloff film. It is the first entry in what they call the Dark Universe, a planned series of interconnected monster films, set to include Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Mummy in fact opens with a new Dark Universe logo.

The plot is similar to the original. An Egyptian tomb is (accidentally) found, and the titular Mummy awakes and is on a quest to bring back her ancient lover. In the original the Mummy was male but had a mostly similar scheme.

There’s a little more to the plot than that, but basically Tom Cruise is the host for the Mummy’s lover, and the film has him being chased around by the Mummy in various action scenes.

While it attempts to retain its horror roots, the tone of this movie goes all over the place. Tom Cruise’s intro is an action comedy scene. More humor follows, including scenes where a dead friend of his that only he can see keeps pestering him. I doubt anyone came to the Mummy for laughs.

More of a sense of mystery is lost as we get the Mummy’s backstory almost right away via narration by Russel Crowe. It would have worked better for the audience to learn said backstory along with the main character.

Russel Crowe is the link to the wider Dark Universe that this film tries to prepare us for. He is the shady leader of a secret organization that fights monsters throughout the world. Basically it’s to the Dark Universe what SHIELD is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Crowe filling in as this world’s Nick Fury. At headquarters of said secret organization we get our Easter Eggs/nods to other monsters. We see skulls with vampire teeth, an encased hand from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many other items in the background. Also, I don’t know if this was meant as a joke or not, but a book that appeared in Brandon Fraser’s 1999 Mummy film is shown.

Also regarding Crowe, they tease it at first, but after not very long he is revealed to be Dr. Jekyll, who of course has the sinister alter ego of Mr. Hyde, which does play a minor point in the plot.

We’re in an interesting time in Hollywood now, as studios are trying to copy the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Brothers has finally established a DC Universe while also doing the Monsterverse with King Kong and Godzilla. Hasbro is also working on a shared film universe with various toy properties they have. It’s a wonder why Marvel thought of this first. This Dark Universe in particular could have been done years ago. They did in fact, cross over their monsters in the 1940s, with Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, House of Frankenstein, and House of Dracula. However those movies were made after ten plus years of making separate monster movies, that whole world was not planned from the ground up.

It is notable that the Dark Universe takes place in the present, where many of the original Universal Monster movies took place in the past. However, due to the aforementioned Easter Eggs, it is evident that monstrous events have taken place already in this world. Should they choose to do so, some of the other upcoming Dark Universe pictures, such as Creature, could take place before Mummy. The timeline could be spread out a bit.

I’m still curious to see other Dark Universe films, but they need to get really good really fast if this universe is to be sustained.

Kong: Skull Island is the second entry in what is called the Monsterverse, which began with 2014’s Godzilla and will continue into at least two more films. Skull Island is a period piece set in the 1970s. Just as the Vietnam War ended, an American military unit, led by Samuel L Jackson, is assigned to escort a group of scientists to an island that was just discovered via satellite. Skull island is surrounded by a perpetual storm, which explains why the outside world hadn’t found it already.

Kong: Skull Island breaks the basic rule (which I believe the original Kong might have established) of not showing the monster right away. As soon as the expedition gets to Skull Island they encounter Kong. They at least show Kong’s hands first, but the big reveal comes pretty fast. In the original King Kong, the monster doesn’t show up for quite a while. We get time to build up the mystery and tension, as the audience obviously knows there are monsters to be encountered before the film characters do. Kong Skull Island offers none of this.

Not only that, but it spoils what should be a surprise in the plot. The opening scene is actually in 1945. During World War II an American and Japanese pilot have shot each other down and crashed on Skull Island. They’re fighting to the death when Kong arrives. So later in the second act when the Vietnam vets discover an American who’s been living on the island for the past 28 years, it’s not a surprise at all. Granted this plot point was revealed in the trailer too, but still, it should be something of a shock. Even worse, the WWII vet, played by John C. Reilly, is played for laughs. As I’m writing this I think back to the original Predator, I can honestly remember feeling a sense of dread as the soldiers trekked through the jungle, being picked off one by one by the predator. Even though it was Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was still thinking “Arnold, just forget about it, just get on the chopper and go home!” Here on Skull Island, we have another group of soldiers trekking through the jungle, and instead of one killer alien, there’s a whole bunch of big giant monsters running around, and most of the time it’s not even remotely scary.

Further removing itself from the proper tone is the soundtrack, which reminding us that it’s set in the 1970s by having hits of that era playing. While it was great music, and, just as in Suicide Squad, I was perfectly happy to hear Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, cool songs alone don’t save a movie.

One piece of advice writers are given is to start the story as late as possible. It would have worked to start the film with the military unit getting assigned to the island, and the audience would slowly find out what’s going on as the characters do. There’s that scene in the trailer where Samuel L. Jackson points his gun at John Goodman and says something to the effect of “You better tell me what’s going on right now.” By that point in the movie the audience already knows everything Goodman tells him. After the un-needed WWII flashback we get a scene in Washington introducing John Goodman as an agent of Monarch, which is the secret government group that looks for giant monsters. Monarch appeared in the previous Godzilla film, and presumably will be the Monsterverse equivalent to Marvel’s SHIELD. At this point Monarch is considered a joke by most, but Goodman manages to finagle this mission. He does provide some interesting personal backstory to how Monarch came to be, but, in my opinion, this whole scene in Washington could have been cut, and the audience could have learned all of Goodman’s secrets at the same time as Samuel L. Jackson.

There are lots of other giant monsters to see on the island. We don’t get to see dinosaurs, (and I just realized, why not!!!) but there is a giant spider. Giant ants are hinted at but never shown. Kong’s primary antagonists are called Skull Crushers, and they may vaguely remind audiences of something across from Godzilla and Cloverfield.

Interestingly enough, Kong appears to have an ambiguous ending, leaving the audience to wonder if anyone escaped the island or not. However, as the credits roll we learn what happened to the WWII vet. There is the question of, given this is a period piece, how the general public never learned of Skull Island. Late in the movie the characters simply state they’ll never tell anyone, which is a bit to believe.

This issue is partly hinted at in the post-credit scene. Yes by the way there is a post credit scene, which sets up the monster mayhem to come. King Kong vs Godzilla is slated for 2020. Monster fans often speculate on how they will fight when Kong is significantly smaller than Godzilla. Kong Skull Island tells us that Kong is just a baby, so presumably he’ll have grown in the last 40 plus years.

There is some decent cinematography, with imagery that reminds audiences not just of old monster movies, but of Vietnam movies like Apocalypse now etc. The basic story is interesting, and provides some good old fashion monster fun, but overall was disappointing. It’s remarkable that over eighty years later the original King Kong is still the best Kong film.

Lego Batman is a spinoff from the 2014 Lego movie (which featured Batman), and has a surprising level of introspection into the Batman character.

It’s a very meta film, with Batman’s voice talking over the opening credits, remarking how cool movies start in black with ominous music, going on to comment on the Warner Brother’s and DC logos. The opening scene offers more self-awareness as its remarked that a plane with a ton of explosives is flying over a city (Gotham) with an extremely high crime rate. Naturally the Joker hijacks the plane, but the pilot is not scared of the Joker at all, as he remarks all the times Batman has stopped him (actually referencing the Dark Knight film as well as Tim Burton’s first Batman film). When asked what to do, Commissioner Gordon says out loud that they’ll do the only thing they ever do, which is turn on the Bat-signal. Naturally Batman saves the day. Joker gets away, but Batman is greeted with his usual hero’s welcome. Batman soon returns to his Bat-cave, as a journalists comments that Batman will probably go home and have a big party with all his friends.

This leads to some surprisingly quiet and mundane moments. Batman goes home to his mansion, puts some lobster in the microwave, and eats by himself. Watching the “You complete me” scene from Jerry McGuire he cracks up laughing, he finds it hilarious. His butler Alfred eventually shows up, and we immediately get the surrogate father/son relationship between the two. Batman acts like a spoiled child, while Alfred tells him that he needs friends.

Lego Batman’s central theme is Batman learning that he needs other people, and also explores what Batman fears the most, along with the concept of a sidekick, his relationship with the law, and Batman’s relationship with the Joker. In fact, it is a breakthrough in that relationship that leads to the resolution at the film’s climax.

Without giving major spoilers, early on in the movie, Joker outsmarts Batman by actually surrendering. Joker knows being locked up at Arkham won’t be enough for Batman, and this knowledge moves the plot. Along the way Joker teams up with villains from various media, including Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter, King Kong, the Kraken, Dracula, Sauron from Lord of the Rings, the Gremlins, and the Daleks from Dr. Who, which are referred to as British robots. I wonder if they weren’t allowed to use the name Daleks or something.

Batman villains aren’t lacking however, we get the traditional rogues gallery of Catwoman, the Riddler, etc, but also a bunch of obscure ones. The Joker breaks the fourth wall telling us that all these characters, no matter how ridiculous (Condiment Man) are real characters, and actually encourages us to Google them.

Lego Batman is the kind of movie you’ll want to get on DVD and pause a million times to get all the Easter eggs. I doubt any movie ever had more Easter eggs than this. I believe there are references to every live action Batman appearance (including the 1940’s serials), as well as nods to the animated series of the 90’s and Batman Beyond, and nods to various comic books like The Dark Knight Returns. There’s a ton of references to the Batman Adam West TV show of the 1960’s. Actual villains from the show like King Tut and Egg Head appear, there’s more than one reference to the Bat-Shark Repellent, and there’s even actual footage of the series shown.

Given the plot, I was hoping Batman would team up with heroes from other media. This didn’t happen, but there is an appearance by Superman and the Justice League. In their segment we get both musical and visual nods to the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and we see a bunch of obscure characters from the old Super Friends cartoon.

Personally, one of my big nerd fantasies is a story/a world with characters from  various media, comics, TV, film, video games, etc. all together. The Lego film series may be the closest I come to seeing this. It’s nice to have various references to things in film, but things like that don’t matter unless the movie is good. Given it’s a kids movie, Lego Batman is infinitely better than it needed to be. It is a very poignant examination of the Batman character and the tropes that surround it. Honestly, Lego Batman may be the best Batman movie there is.