Friday, August 17, 2018

NXT TakeOver Brooklyn IV Preview & Predictions

Hard to believe we're already at the fourth annual Brooklyn TakeOver event.  The 2015 edition, the first-ever NXT special to emanate from a full-size arena, raised the bar very high for the upstart developmental brand and began a nearly unbroken tradition of NXT specials overshadowing their main roster counterparts a day later.  NXT continues to be the one aspect of WWE programming that consistently works, and they just keep chuggin' along despite very high turnover (as the main roster raids their talent only to bury most of it).

Anyway, this Saturday's Brooklyn special promises to be potentially the best one yet, with five big matches that look great on paper.

Velveteen Dream vs. EC3

The uber-charismatic, high-flying Velveteen Dream is this year's surprise hit in NXT - an over-the-top personality who can actually back it up once the bell rings.  Ethan Carter has oddly not been featured much on TakeOver specials thus far, I wonder if he's being quickly groomed for a call-up, given his jacked physique.  This match will be a clash of styles but should be a quite entertaining undercard attraction.

Justin: I think EC3 gets a win on his way to a near-future main roster debut
Landon: EC3

NXT Tag Team Championship: Undisputed Era vs. Moustache Mountain

This'll be a great technical tag showcase.  All four of these guys have impeccable grappling credentials and they've traded the belts back and forth once already.  I'm looking for non-stop action amid dazzling European-style mat wrestling.

Justin: I think the champs retain this time
Landon: Undisputed Era

Film Discussion: The 1980s

Welcome back to our Film Discussion series, here at!  Last time Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I got together we shot the shit about films of the 1970s, one of our favorite decades in the industry.  So today we're back to talk about our formative decade, the 1980s!

Justin: Well the 80s were a VERY different decade for film than the 70s.  As we talked about before, the 70s saw the studio system essentially break down, paving the way for loads of film auteurs to create transcendent, artistic movies without a ton of studio meddling, and amazingly many of them were also box office smashes.  So many of them have stood the test of time, winning awards AND making a ton of money.  However the movie blockbuster as we know it was also invented in the 70s (Jaws and Star Wars were the two big prototypes), inadvertently giving birth to the hard division between commercial films and critical successes, so prevalent in the 80s.  The studios began to figure out in the late 70s that, "Hey, if we make more movies like this we'll make a ton more money," and began churning out sci-fi and adventure films like crazy, hoping to find the next Star Wars.  Not only that, but advances in technology and special effects pioneered by George Lucas and ILM meant that fantasy and sci-fi movies could continue pushing the envelope of what was achievable on the screen, leading to hundreds of effects-and-action-heavy popcorn movies.  Additionally films like Jaws, Halloween and Alien gave way to hosts of monster movies and slasher films, recycling the Ten Little Indians formula ad nauseum.  The industry became much more business-like, leaving many of the great directors of the 70s a bit in the lurch, stuck between wanting to make THEIR films and needing to conform to the newfound demands of the studios.

By the early 80s the split between commercial and critical success was just beginning, with a few films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. (Steven Spielberg was one of the few 70s directors whose 80s films routinely fell into both camps) still garnering Oscar nominations.  But aside from those, if you look at the big Academy Award winners of the 80s and compare them with the highest grossing films, the movies and box office returns are largely very different.  In 1980 for example, The Empire Strikes Back was the top grossing film with $209mil, while the Best Picture winner Ordinary People only made $54mil, failing to crack the top ten that year.  In '81 it was Raiders on top with $212mil and Best Pic winner Chariots of Fire at #7 with $59mil.   1982 saw E.T. at #1 with $359mil, and Best Pic winner Gandhi at #12 with $53mil.  And so on.  Only once in the 80s did the Best Pic winner also rank #1 in terms of box office, and that was Rain Man in 1988 (Terms of Endearment ranked second in 1983, and Platoon 3rd in 1986).  By contrast, in the 70s, four of the Best Pic winners were ranked #1 at the box office, seven were in the top 5, and all ten were in the top 10 of their respective years.

It was clear that Hollywood was mostly relying on effects-laden genre pictures to really drive box office success, while most of the great directors of the era were focused on smaller, drama-heavy films.  As a kid growing up in the 80s there were very few "serious" movies I was interested in; most casual moviegoers flocked to the flashy, visually stunning fare, while Oscar season featured all the grown-up art movies.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

WWE SummerSlam 2018 Preview & Predictions

We're back with everyone's (EEEVERYYYYONNNNE'SSSS!) favorite wrestling predictions column, talkin' about WWE's latest bloated six-hour show, SummerSlam!

That's right, this goddamn show is gonna run six hours, two for the pre-show and four for the actual PPV.  Thirteen matches, two of which I'm actually excited about!  To be fair, this show is pretty heavily stacked, I just don't care much about any of it.  The product is so flat and devoid of urgency it's all the energy I have to even register a reaction to it.  But maybe that means I'll actually like the show.  Who knows?  All I know is, coming off four incredible weeks of NJPW shows and going straight to a WWE PPV oughta require a decompression chamber.

So let's get to the picks.  But first, the standings...

***Dan Moore with a miraculous comeback, has taken the lead with 64% (34/53), Landon's in second with 60% (32/53), and Dave and I are tied for last place with 58% (31/53).  Those last two PPVs really killed us.***

Pre-Show Mixed Tag Team Match: Rusev & Lana vs. Andrade Almas & Zelina Vega

Almas is great and apparently the company is pretty high on him, so that bodes well for his initial push.  Rusev went from challenging for the WWE Title at Extreme Rules to jerking the pre-show curtain.  Is there some reason they can't find a middle ground for this guy?

Justin: Almas & Vega obviously win this
Dan: Team Rusev
Landon: Almas & Vega
Dave: Almas & Vega

Pre-Show RAW Tag Team Championship: The B-Team vs. The Revival

What a joke this division is now.  The Revival are the only legit team on RAW and they're presented as glorified jobbers.  The B-Team are a comedy duo, yet they're the tag team champions.  This match and the belts are so unimportant they're on the pre-show.  It's just sad.

Justin: B-Team retains
Dan: The Revival
Landon: B-Team
Dave: B-Team

Pre-Show Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak

Another CW match I don't care about.  I actually had to look up who was in this.  I'm sure the match will be fine but this division needs a central figure desperately so we have a reason to give a shit.

Justin: Cedric retains
Dan: Cedric
Landon: Drew Gulak, so that my main Cruiserwieght Danny Garcia can get a rematch for that belt
Dave: The Champ retains (I have no idea who these guys are)

Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin

I can't believe we have to sit through this again.  Two years ago Finn Balor became the first-ever Universal Champion at SummerSlam.  Now he's stuck trying to carry Corbin, deep in the undercard.  Dude, Corbin is straight-up awful.  Why in the world was he ever called up, except for "tall?"  Finn should be way further up the card than this.

Justin: Give Finn the win and do something good with him.
Dan: Balor
Landon: Finn
Dave: Finn but I could see Baron winning too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Brewery Reviewery: Barrel House Z (Weymouth, MA)

Whassup kids?  Welcome to another edition of's Brewery Reviewery!  

Today I'll be talking about a fantastic brewery in the ol' hometown of Weymouth, MA, an establishment that brews small-batch beer and then ages it in liquor barrels, creating complex mashups and some strong-ass libations.  It's called Barrel House Z, and its become quite a Weymouth hotspot in just half a year.  Started by former Harpoon master brewer Russ Heissner, BHZ is all about innovation and adventurousness, creating a new Pilot Pour every week.  He's also got a revolving door or brewers to keep the menu fresh and dynamic.

Barrel House Z
95 Woodrock Rd
Weymouth, MA 02189

My wife and I, and two of our friends, finally made it to the tasting room last week and we were not disappointed.  First off, this place was so hopping on a Saturday evening we had to wait 5-10 minutes just to get in.  Once inside though we loved the atmosphere and look of the place; the walls, outside fences, and the front of the bar are all constructed out of (or adorned with) barrel staves, giving the room a rustic/industrial crossover feel.  Scattered around the room are full-size barrels to be used as lounge tables, with plenty of seating and a full view of the brewery floor.  There was also an acoustic duo supplying some solid background tunes (Side note: I'm available for Saturday evening gigs!) and lending some laid-back ambience.  I could easily see myself making this room a regular haunt (And seriously, I'm totally available to provid some musical entertainment).  Outside there's a patio with a fireplace and ample seating, which I anticipate being pretty crowded in the summer.

How do they remember which tap is which?

But all that would be irrelevant if the beer itself didn't deliver.  Fortunately it did, in spades.  Of the 10-12 available brews, we sampled six.  Here we go.....

My Lil' Helper: American wheat ale aged in Chardonnay barrels.  For me this actually resembles an IPA more than a wheat, but with a very balanced flavor.  The hops are tempered by the sweetness of the wine, making for an extremely refreshing beer that would be clutch on a summer afternoon.

Vorlauf: Imperial Vienna lager aged in Bully Boy Whiskey barrels.  A very complex tasting beer with some sweet and sour notes, and just a hint of the whiskey.  Probably my least favorite but still good.

"Are we done taking pictures, can I drink this now??"

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 10 (2015-2017)

And we've come to the final installment of SummerSlam history....

SummerSlam '15 - Barclays Center - 8/23/15

Sometimes it pays to have low expectations.  Case in point the 2015 SummerSlam extravaganza.  I went into this show with the mindset of "I'll be content as long as I don't feel like my night was wasted," and what I got was a consistently very entertaining wrestling show with a ton of variety where every match felt like it got enough time, and a few actually stood out.

The much-dreaded-by-me Brock Lesnar-Undertaker main event was easily the best match delivered by these two since their No Mercy 2002 Hell in a Cell.  It was streamlined, hard-hitting, full of nice little nuances (the double situp for example), and while the ending left me baffled at first, once the replay explained everything I actually kinda liked it.  Granted we've been conditioned that the timekeeper never rings the bell until the official calls for it, but in all these years you'd think human error would get in the way at least once.  Well, this was that one occurrence.  Taker tapped out and the timekeeper jumped the gun.  It was a realistic screwup and it protected Lesnar as an unstoppable monster while reframing the feud with Taker playing more of a heel.  I liked this match a lot, and the lasting image for me was of the defiant Lesnar flipping Taker off just before passing out to Hell's Gate.

Ok this was pretty boss.

The Match of the Night however was Seth Rollins vs. John Cena.  Both guys were motivated to overshadow every other match despite being placed only 7th of 10 bouts, and aside from a couple miscues, this was a helluva contest.  Rollins essentially worked babyface, pulling out every crazy, crowd-pleasing move he could muster.  My fellow New Japan fans surely noticed Rollins borrowing from Hiroshi Tanahashi's moveset (High Fly Flow, Slingblade), and even Kota Ibushi's (standing shooting star press).  The finish, where Jon Stewart stormed the ring and whacked Cena with a chair to cost him the match, was met with a lot of scorn, but WWE covered it brilliantly the next night by having Stewart say he couldn't bear to see Ric Flair's 16-time record tied.  Simple, logical, and made for a nice little moment where Cena gave Stewart the AA.

This was even more boss.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 9 (2012-2014)

Continuing with 2012-2014 and the new Brock Lesnar era.

SummerSlam '12 - Staples Center - 8/19/12

One of the more disappointing editions occurred in 2012.  Here was a show that on paper looked quite stacked and featured a dream match with some real intrigue. 

Ten years earlier Brock Lesnar and Triple H were on top of their respective brands and arguably the "co-faces" of the company.  Before Brock's hasty departure in 2004 there were plans in place for these two to clash at the following WrestleMania.  Alas Brock's exit thwarted this plan and instead Dave Batista became the new monster babyface.  But in 2012 we would finally get to see this long-awaited battle, and given how well Lesnar performed in his big return against John Cena that April, it seemed we were all in for a treat.

Unfortunately Triple H proved to be one opponent with whom Brock didn't click in the ring.  This match was slow, plodding, and overall pretty dull.  The crowd was fairly anemic too which didn't help.  WWE made a mistake putting this match on last; had it been placed in the middle of the card maybe the crowd would've had more energy and wouldn't have expected this to save what had been a lackluster show.  Lesnar predictably won by "breaking" Hunter's arm, and this should've put an end to the rivalry.  But of course eight months later Triple H had to have a rematch, which as it turned out was even worse, and received with even greater apathy.


Side note about Triple H (indulge me for a moment): From an in-ring standpoint he really doesn't work as a babyface.  Hasn't since he turned heel in 1999 and became The Cerebral Assassin.  His whole character is based around being a dangerous, sadistic bastard.  His wrestling style is slow, methodical, and generally involves dissecting an opponent and trying to permanently injure them.  When you put him in the face role and expect him to carry the offense for the first and third acts of a match (traditionally the segments where the face is on offense) it makes for an extremely dull affair and doesn't rev up the audience like it needs to.  And for the middle third of the match when the heel is in control, the very nature of Triple H's character undermines the whole purpose of the second act - vulnerable babyface in peril.  Hunter's character is almost never presented as vulnerable, so there's no real suspense during his big selling segments and therefore nothing to root for.  End of tangent.

The rest of the show consisted of a series of decent matches, all of which would've been welcome on any episode of RAW.

Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler had a fine contest to open the show, and Jericho won his only PPV match of 2012 (even though Ziggler really needed a win here).  The following night they'd have a rematch where if Jericho lost he'd be fired (hmmm, that sounds familiar).  He did, and he was.

Nice girdle, fattie!

Next up was Daniel Bryan facing Kane.  These two had a very entertaining comedy feud which of course led to a wildly successful tag team run and demonstrated that Bryan was much more than just a technical workhorse.  This match was decent but nothing special.  They did what they could with the eight minutes allotted.

Monday, August 13, 2018

NJPW G1 Climax 28 Recap

Another superb G1 Climax has come to a close, culminating in what was for me a very unexpected result.  The short n' skinny of it is that the company's former Ace has once again punched his ticket to the main event of WrestleKingdom.  Hiroshi Tanahashi led the A Block throughout the tournament and outlasted his archrival Kazuchika Okada, going to a time limit draw for the third time in their feud.  Since Tanahashi was two points ahead of Okada he got the Finals slot.  In the B Block it was Kota Ibushi upsetting his best friend Kenny Omega and going on to face his idol for the briefcase. 

As usual the final matches of each block, and the overall final itself, were three of the highlights of the entire four-week tour.  But this tourney was rife with 4 and 5-star matches, ongoing themes and stories, and some absolutely stellar performances.  Relative G1 newcomers Michael Elgin and Juice Robinson each delivered multiple excellent matches, while newbies Hangman Page and Jay White put themselves on the map.  Page finished with only six points but looked right at home with the top dogs in the block, while Jay White scored major upset wins over both Okada and Tanahashi (who went undefeated otherwise), and was in the running to win the block up until the last night.  If there were any doubts about White's legitimacy as a major rising star, his showing here erased them.  The man is 25 years old and has a very bright future ahead.

One of the running angles over these four weeks was the constant cockblockery of Tama Tonga and his Firing Squad; both Tonga and Bad Luck Fale either took disqualification losses or won with lots of outside interference.  These shenanigans didn't do their match quality any favors but it did make clear their mission - to sabotage one of the perennial highlights of the New Japan calendar.  I'm not sure if that'll get them over in a good way, or where they go from here, but for a couple of lower-tier heels trying to elevate their profile, this was certainly a different approach.

Also of note was Zack Sabre Jr., who followed up his starmaking New Japan Cup run with a very strong showing (Sabre was part of a four-way tie at the end with Ibushi, Omega and Naito) and scored wins over NEVER Champion Hirooki Goto and US Champion Juice Robinson, plus Naito and Ishii.  Sabre should pick up some gold by year's end and I'd love to see him win both of those titles in succession.  Sabre as a heel double champion would be pretty cool.

Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Women's Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, and another in our series examining some of wrestling's worst champions.  

Today I'm looking at the worst Women's Title runs in company history, which includes the original incarnation of the belt, the ill-concieved Divas Championship, and one entry for the current version.  The role of Women's wrestling in WWE has run the gamut over the years, from novelty act to eye candy to piss-break match to legitimate athletic attraction.  Over the past three years they've made some great strides in presenting the women as an important part of the show while excessively patting themselves on the back for their progressiveness in this area (In reality TNA and other promotions were literally years ahead of them).  But I'll take a little disproportionate self-congratulating if it means having a real women's division.  Now if Vince could just let Hunter take the creative reins on the main roster we'd really have something.  Look no further than the difference between Sasha-Bayley in NXT and Sasha-Bayley now.

Anywho, given the wildly divergent approaches WWE has taken with the division, there were bound to be some championship runs that were just plain stinkers.  Here are ten of them, in chronological order....

1. Velvet McIntyre (1986)

For the majority of the original title's existence it sat squarely around the waist of The Fabulous Moolah, who famously held it from 1956 until 1984 (minus several unrecognized title changes).  Moolah was a major draw for decades and when the WWF went national in the 80s her feud with Wendi Richter was a big part of the show (thanks in part to the involvement of pop star Cyndi Lauper).  After regaining the strap from Wendi via the original WWF Screwjob (Vince was a jerk even back then), Moolah dropped the title to up-and-coming babyface Velvet McIntyre at a house show in Australia.  And then won it back six days later, also at a house show in Australia.  Velvet of course never won the belt again.  Velvet's McEntire title run took place on one foreign continent.  See what I did there?

2. Rockin' Robin (1989)

So back to Moolah, she eventually dropped the title for keepsies to Sensational Sherri, which the company touted as a huge deal since she'd rarely been without it for thirty years.  Sherri was built up as a huge heel women's star (for the time anyway), and while not that prominently featured on WWF TV, she kept the title for 15 months before losing it to Rockin' Robin.  Robin however wasn't presented as terribly important beyond her initial win, getting only one major televised title defense at the 1989 Royal Rumble against Judy Martin, with whom she feuded for basically the remainder of the year.  Robin then left the company in early 1990, taking the belt with her, and the title was discontinued.  That's a pretty bad indictment of Robin's lack of importance as a champion when she's barely on television for most of her reign and the belt is simply swept under the carpet when she leaves.

3. Debra (1999)

The Women's Title went through two resurgences in the 90s - Alundra Blayze was the belt's custodian during the New Generation era (before also leaving with the belt and infamously throwing it in the trash on WCW Nitro), and then in late 1998 Sable became the division's new centerpiece.  Considering she was originally a valet, Sable picked up the in-ring game pretty quickly and became a very popular attraction before turning heel that spring.  But backstage she and Vince McMahon had gotten into a heated contractual dispute (allegedly she was asked to go topless and she later sued for sexual harrassment), and she'd fallen out of favor with the rest of the roster.  So in May of 1999 Sable was booked in an Evening Gown match against Debra McMichael, technically winning the bout when she tore Debra's gown off.  But Commissioner Shawn Michaels instead ruled that the woman who'd lost her gown was actually the winner, and thus non-wrestler Debra was now the Women's Champion.  How one can win a championship by literally LOSING a match is beyond me.  Debra dropped the belt to Ivory four weeks later and went back to being Jeff Jarrett's valet.  The whole thing made no sense and was a shoddy contingency plan for the Sable fiasco.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Top Ten Things: Overrated Wrestling PPVs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I count down ten best or worst of whatever I happen to be wasting energy thinking about that day.

Today's edition is about wrestling PPVs I consider to be overrated.  Certain shows just resonate with large numbers of people for some reason, and while I understand some of them, there are PPVs where I'm baffled by how much people love them.  Either from an in-ring standpoint, a booking standpoint, or a time management standpoint each of these shows disappointed in some way that prevented them from being truly great (or even good in some cases).  Here we go....

10. Great American Bash '89

Before you cry foul, just hear me out.  I really enjoyed GAB'89.  It had star power, a stacked lineup, and a great main event.  But it had nine matches when it should've had six, and therefore multiple bouts got horribly shortchanged.  1989 was the first full calendar year for the NWA under Ted Turner's ownership, and while overall it was probably the best year in the company's history, management stripped away a bit of the NWA's personality in an effort to make the product more WWF-like.  One such tactic was to load PPVs and Clash of the Champions specials with more matches than they had room for, something the WWF had been doing for years.  Thus with GAB'89 we started off with a Battle Royal, a pointless Brian Pillman-Bill Irwin match, an elongated Skyscrapers-Dynamic Dudes squash, and an unwatchable Tuxedo Match between Paul Ellering and Teddy Long.  So entertaining bouts like The Steiners vs. The Varsity Club and Sting vs. Great Muta were criminally short (Seriously, Pillman-Irwin and the Skyscrapers match both got more time than the TV Title match??).  Don't get me wrong, the last five matches were all good-to-great, and after the first hour GAB'89 was still one of the best shows of the year.  But imagine how much better this could've been had they trimmed off the fat and presented a streamlined PPV a la Clash of the Champions I.

9. WrestleMania 24

Another case of a very good show being held up as a truly great one, WrestleMania 24 was for me an unexpectedly strong night of wrestling.  Going into this I had little interest in any of it, as the main event scene had been stagnant for the last three years and no one new was being heavily featured.  Plus the most-hyped match pitted the 400-pound Big Show against a boxer one-third his size.  But the show ended up being pretty darn good, thanks to a pair of near-4-star Title matches, a fun Money in the Bank match, and an emotional Shawn Michaels-Ric Flair retirement match.  So yeah, this show had a lot to like.  But that doesn't make it one of the best 'Manias of all time, as many people call it.  Aside from the aforementioned four bouts, this show was weighed down by a ton of mediocrity.  JBL vs. Finlay, Batista vs. Umaga, Kane vs. Chavo, the Divas tag match, and the Show-Mayweather fiasco were all middling at best.  'Mania 24 is one of many cases of people fondly remembering the good stuff but forgetting how much crap we had to wade through to get to it.

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 8 (2009-2011)

We're back with another installment of's SummerSlam history....

SummerSlam '09 - Staples Center - 8/23/09

Finally, FINALLY in late 2009 the WWE was starting to reinvigorate the product with some new faces in prominent spots on the card.  After years of the same five or six guys headlining every show, a few young lions were beginning to break through and the results were pretty exciting.  Also, in contrast with earlier SummerSlams, this show wasn't missing many active stars and nothing felt like it got shortchanged (with one obvious exception).

To open the show we got a blistering speed vs. flash match for the I-C Title between Rey Mysterio and Dolph Ziggler.  Dolph had been around for most of the previous year but it was around this time that his in-ring skills were starting to click.  Working with Rey doesn't hurt of course, but I became a Ziggles fan during the second half of 2009, in no small part due to his work here.  A helluva nice way to kick off the show.


A nondescript Jack Swagger vs. MVP match was next.  Both of these guys showed some solid potential but the company didn't really move on either of them, and this was your garden-variety free TV match.

Tag Team Champions JeriShow defended against Cryme Tyme in a surprisingly good bout.  JeriShow were able to restore a bit of prestige to the long-useless Tag straps, and this was just one of their successful defenses.

In one of two baffling inclusions on this card, we saw a rematch from WrestleMania 23 as Kane once again took on The Great Khali.  This match sucked just as much as the first time, and oddly no one cared about it.

Business picked up in a big way in the fifth slot as the re-reunited DeGeneration X faced The Legacy (Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase).  Unlike DX's 2006 run which was frought with stupid comedy and glorified squash matches, the 2009 incarnation kept their working boots on and had a real, lengthy feud with Cody & Ted that, for a little while, helped cement The Legacy as rising stars.  This match got a good twenty minutes and Randy Orton's sidekicks looked great even in defeat, particularly due to their often being one step ahead of DX.  This was just the beginning of a strong tag feud.

The second pointless match of the night was next as ECW Champ Christian defeated William Regal in eight seconds.  This could've been a great little match, but since it was for the reviled WWECW Title, the company of course opted for the cutesy one-move finish.  For those counting that's two SummerSlams in a row where the ECW Title match was under 30 seconds.

To reignite their 2007 feud, the PG era's top two stars clashed once again for the WWE Title.  John Cena and Randy Orton would face each other on four PPVs in a row in 2009, and this was the first.  Aside from some major overbooking this match wasn't too bad, but the pair's greatest match together would occur at the following month's Breaking Point (seek that one out - it's a masterpiece of understated PG-era violence).

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Top Ten Things: Lady Gaga Songs

Welcome to, and another edition of Top Ten Things!  I got ten things I wanna talk about.  The TOP ten things.  There's ten of 'em....

Today's topic is the musical stylings of one Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known to the entire world as Lady Gaga.  Gaga began flooding radio stations everywhere in 2008, with her offbeat, anthemic dance-pop tunes and outlandish fashion sense.  Her appearance and songwriting were so bizarre she seemed to have arrived from outer space, and my first impression was "What a weirdo."  But after more of her radio singles emerged I began to realize she was much more than just a gimmick.  It seemed each new song revealed more and more of her unique compositional and vocal ability, and by 2009 I found myself almost reluctantly becoming a fan.  Her second album Born This Way had a decidedly 80s pop feel and showed a more spiritual, sociopolitical side to her music, while her third, Artpop was a rather satirical look at her own megastardom.  In 2016 though, Gaga stripped away most of her eccentric theatricality and released an understated set of 70s-infused pop-rock songs with a more personal flavor.  Joanne was a major departure, and a refreshingly restrained album that demonstrated Gaga's versatility and willingness to reinvent herself.  Stylistically she can go anywhere she wants from here, and I'll be very interested to see where that leads her.

But enough pontificatin'.  Here are my ten favorite Lady Gaga songs....

10. Venus

Our first entry is the midtempo, 70s disco-influenced song that draws parallels between sex, mythology and astronomy.  What could easily have been a silly throwaway track is made fascinating by a fairly dark timbre, playful lyrics, and a wonderfully hooky chorus rife with layered vocal harmonies.  "Venus" helped set the tone for Gaga's third album Artpop by suggesting a self awareness and injecting a bit of pop star satire.

9. A-Yo

Co-written by (and featuring) guitar whiz Mark Ronson, "A-Yo" is one of several songs on Gaga's latest album Joanne that serves as a major stylistic departure for Lady Gaga.  Gone are the over-the-top dance beats and synth trappings; in their place is a pop-rockabilly feel with a Shania Twain swagger and bombastic guitar licks.  "A-Yo" might be the most purely fun song on the album but it also shows a songwriting maturity and eagerness to evolve.

8. Paparazzi

"Paparazzi" was the first Gaga song I begrudgingly liked.  After "Just Dance," "Poker Face," and "Lovegame," (none of which are favorites of mine to this day), "Paparazzi" was the one song that made me go, "Huh...okay, this is pretty good."  This super-hooky midtempo number features vocals reminiscent of Gwen Stefani, and takes a sardonic look at the media's obsession with celebrities.  It also marked the first Gaga video to feature a story (and a pretty messed-up one at that): Gaga is pushed off a balcony by her boyfriend and spends much of the video wheelchair-bound before making a full recovery.  I wouldn't become a real Lady Gaga fan until after "Bad Romance" was released, but this song at least left me open to the idea, and it's still my favorite track from The Fame.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Top Ten Things: Doors Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at!  Today we're talkin' about one of the most legendary rock bands of all time, the psychadelic quartet from southern California who emerged in the late 60s with a unique sound, poetically contemplative lyrics, and one of the best, most charismatic front men to ever hold a microphone.  It's the ten best songs by The Doors!

I first got into The Doors mostly thanks to the 1991 Oliver Stone biopic; I had been familiar with a couple of their well-known songs but never really took the time to sit down for a thorough listen until after seeing Val Kilmer's force-of-nature performance as the troubled rock crooner.  After seeing the film I went out and bought the double Best Of album, maybe the best compilation of any band's greatest hits.  Instead of simply being assembled in chronological order the song sequence has a flow to it.  Anyway I listened to that album ad nauseum for years and only within the past decade did I familiarize myself with the rest of the Doors' catalog.  This was a thinking man's rock band with a diverse set of influences that, despite its fairly short run, left an indelible mark on the music industry, inspiring generations of artists and musicans.

Here are, in my estimation, the ten greatest Doors songs....

10. People Are Strange

I first heard this song in cover form in the movie The Lost Boys, courtesy of Echo & The Bunnymen.  I was drawn in right away by the bouncy feel, the honkytonk piano, and the soulful vocals.  It wasn't until a few years later that I heard the original, but "People Are Strange" remains one of my favorite Doors tunes for the reasons above.  Its theme of being an outsider, a stranger in a strange land, sum up Jim Morrison's personality pretty well I think.  He marched to the beat of his own drum and music was his outlet in dealing with loneliness.  The gang vocals in the final chorus seem to illustrate the idea of other outsiders finding solace in each other, unifying to take on the world.

9. Tell All the People

The Soft Parade might be my second-favorite Doors album, after the self-titled one.  It's just such a weird left turn, with the addition of strings and horns on nearly every song and major stylistic departures from the band's trademark sound.  Case in point the opener, "Tell All the People," a symphonic rock anthem with dense horn kicks and vocal harmonies (a rarity for a Doors tune).  This song sets the tone perfectly for an album that goes into very unexpected places and shows a band experimenting like crazy.

8. The Unknown Soldier

Jim Morrison's sound poem about the Vietnam War and its round-the-clock news coverage, "The Unknown Soldier" features drastic dynamic changes and unusual sound effects to create a grim atmosphere.  The song goes from sullen eulogy to midtempo rocker to military march to double-time climax.  This is one of the band's most redolent and atpyical tunes. 

7. The Soft Parade

But the title track off the fourth album has to be their strangest song of all.  "The Soft Parade" is an 8-minute, multi-section suite that's all over the place musically (Is that a harpsichord??) and features Morrison's most bizarre lyrics.  Like John Lennon did with "I Am the Walrus," Morrison seems to simply be playing with words that conjure weird imagery, the songwriting equivalent of Salvador Dali ("Catacombs/Nursery bones/Winter women growing stones").  This epic track is the perfect summation for The Doors' most adventurous album.

Movies of Disbelief: Alien Covenant (2017)

Welcome to another edition of Movies of Disbelief, where I talk about a film containing plot elements I find simply not credible.  Today it's Ridley Scott's latest entry in the Alien franchise.....

Well it took me over a year to get around to it, but I finally watched Alien: Covenant.  I'm a diehard fan of the Alien series and-- well wait, I guess I'm a diehard fan of the first two Alien movies and that's it.  Oddly, despite being a huge Alien fan I think the vast majority of these movies suck.  Covenant is sadly one of them; like Prometheus there's a good film in here somewhere but they didn't find it.  There's basically no point to Covenant at all, except as a stopgap between the events of Prometheus and the events that lead directly to the original Alien (events which aren't at all necessary to understanding or appreciating the classic first film).  Covenant is basically just a way to get us from the monster introduced in Prometheus to the familiar xenomorph we know and love.  Super, David experimented with these creatures until he got this one.  Did we really need a two-hour Alien's Greatest Hits movie to arrive at the xenomorph?  Covenant relies so heavily on tropes from the other films in the franchise there's nary an original sequence to be found here.  Except maybe the one robot teaching the other robot how to play the flute.  Spiffy.

That's nothing, you should see him play the skin-flute.

So despite being a gorgeous-looking and well-acted film I consider Covenant (and Prometheus) to be pretty a pointless attempt at creating a backstory for a great film that never needed one.  I had my share of nitpicks about this movie to boot, but there's one item in particular that flat-out pissed me off, one piece of information that makes exactly zero sense and undermines the only narrative thread that even remotely justifies the film's existence.

Before we get to that though, a few minor gripes:

-In the first scene we see the android David conversing with his creator Peter Weyland.  Weyland lets him choose his own name and he goes with David because Weyland's sitting room has a giant statue of David that's so tall its head goes up through a hole in the ceiling.  Why the hell would you ever put a statue in your living room that you can't see all of?  Legit, unless he's standing right under it, Weyland's only view of this statue is obstructed in such a way that he can't see the head!  Before agreeing to purchase this piece of art he probably should've brought a tape measure.

How'd he even know what statue it was if he couldn't see the head??

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 7 (2006-2008)

This is what I like to call The Era of the Phoned-In SummerSlam.....

SummerSlam '06 - TD Banknorth Garden - 8/20/06

What a stinker of a card this was.  I was in attendance at this show, sitting in the loge opposite the hard cameras, and when I watched this on DVD a month later I actually spent more time looking for myself in the crowd than watching the matches (I was wearing a bright red football jersey so I was easy to spot).  That's how spectacularly dull SummerSlam 2006 was.

The show opened with a passable but uninspired bout between Rey Mysterio (fresh off his terrible World Title run where he was booked as the weakest champion ever) and Chavo Guerrero.  These two have had excellent matches over the years - just check out No Way Out 2004 - but this wasn't one of them.  It was an okay opener but not at all memorable.

Next up was Big Show defending the ill-conceived new ECW Title against Sabu in a watered-down hardcore match.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dune

Good day and welcome to Awesomely Shitty Movies!  Each installment will focus on a film that, despite considerable and crippling flaws, I can't help but like or even love.  These flaws could be with the script, the acting, the special effects, the cinematography, or all of the above, but in each case the movie has something going for it and I'm inexplicably fascinated by it, despite its ineptitude.

The first movie I'll be tackling is David Lynch's commercially and critically reviled adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel Dune.

I was nine years old when this movie was released, and being a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, I was immediately drawn in by the promise of sci-fi adventure.  In some ways the story of Dune resembled Star Wars (or really the reverse is true since the book was published 12 years before Star Wars was released) - a young hero with budding supernatural powers, a desert planet, laser guns, weird creatures, etc.  What I got though was a horribly confusing mish-mash of geo-political, religious and sci-fi themes overrun with baffling inner monologue narration and overly bizarre and gross-looking characters.

To be fair to Mr. Lynch, the studio interfered greatly during post-production and the theatrical cut was very different from what he intended.  Unfortunately he has all but disowned this film and has no interest in releasing a Director's Cut, which might actually make the story easier to follow.  There is a 3-hour version of the film available but Lynch had no hand in it, and from what I understand it actually confuses things even more.

Dune was originally supposed to be adapted into a film in the mid 70s, with famed Alien artist H.R. Giger attached as a production designer.  That incarnation went over-budget and never saw the light of day, and eventually in the 80s producer Dino DiLaurentiis acquired the project and David Lynch ended up in the Director's chair.

Anyway let's examine what's awesome about this movie, and then we'll talk about what's shitty.

Dan's Top 9: Great Movies with Dumb Endings

Welcome back to another edition of Dan's Top 9, because I’m not good enough to come up with a top 10. Today I’m talking about movies which are otherwise awesome except for their lame-o endings. In some cases, it’s the actual climax and not the true ending, but this is my list with my rules, so eat me. Here we go.



9. The Thing

Possibly John Carpenter’s finest film. One of my favorite movies to watch over and over again (along with Weekend at Bernie’s DON’T JUDGE ME). Outrageous practical special effects, awesome Kurt Russell, killer supporting cast and perfect minimalistic score makes this a personal fave. But what the fuck with that ending? Chasing a demon alien monster through a cave for a final showdown and then…it just blows up essentially? What an awful way to end the pursuit of the bad guy after he fucked up two different camps of folk (the actual ending, with Kurt and Keith David sitting in the cold as the fire blazes and neither of them trusting the other, is awesome)

8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

This drug fueled comedy is goddamn HILARIOUS for about 100 minutes. Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro go all in on their insane performances and really do some fucked up, funny shit. And then they go to a diner. For what feels like 3 hours. And have some downer conversation with a waitress. It’s painful to watch. I get what they were doing, showing the comedown after the high of all those drugs but…I was still high when I was watching it, and I wanted more crazy shit. This totally killed my buzz. Thankfully I had more drugs.

7. No Country For Old Men

No clue what happens at the end of this movie. Josh Brolin is getting chased around by Javier Bardem for about 90 minutes of this movie...and then he’s just not. He’s gone. Evidently killed in some gunfight that took place off-screen. Oh. Good. Then we’re shown two old codgers talking about…God knows what. I really liked this flick til the last 20 mins when it just stopped being the movie I was watching and became something else.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Brewery Reviewery: 10th District Brewing Company (Abington, MA)

Welcome to another Brewery Reviewery, here at, where I visit a local purveyor craft beer and let you all know what I think of it.  This past weekend we took a gander at 10th District Brewing Company, in Abington, MA! 

10th District Brewing Company
491 Washington St.
Abington, MA

This modest-sized taproom opened in 2014 and has a layout similar to that of a takeout pizzeria, with just a few tables and most of the space occupied by the brewing floor.  It's fairly no-frills, but there are some board games and a couple TVs to keep you entertained as you enjoy some beverages.  The two-man staff (at least on the day I was there) is friendly and happy to have your business as you sample the beer roster.  If you need some sustenance they often partner with a food truck which parks outside for the day.

Currently there are eight offerings on the menu (see below), and I was able to try four of them (including one not shown on the menu).

Tripel - I started with an old reliable; as a diehard Belgian beer fan I was overjoyed to see this on the menu.  This tripel was a pretty excellent take on the traditional style, with robust body, strong wyeast flavor and a slightly bitter finish.  At 8.75% ABV this'll get you feelin' good in no time.  This was my favorite of the day, and I picked up a growler of it to enjoy at home.

Extra Special Bitter - This English style ale, not on the paper menu, was a welcome surprise.  For those not familiar with ESB, they actually aren't very bitter at all and in fact have more of a malt-forward taste.  This was very smooth and easy to drink, and superior to Shipyard's version.  I'd order this again in a heartbeat.

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 6 (2003-2005)

Here are three editions of SummerSlam with very mixed results....

ASummerSlam '03 - America West Arena - 8/24/03

The 2003 edition of the summer extravaganza is probably the most infuriating, in that it was so very close to a great PPV and somehow managed to fall spectacularly short.  With only a few adjustments this show could've been awesome.  Instead it was just a pretty good show that had the stupidest ending since WrestleMania XI.

The show opened with a throwaway World Tag Title match - La Resistance (more or less a carbon copy of the Rougeau Brothers from the 80s) vs. The Dudley Boyz.  This was, I believe, the 387th time these two teams had faced each other in televised matches, but that didn't stop WWE from throwing this match on the show.  Nevermind that the previous month's Smackdown-only PPV had an amazing WWE Tag Title match of Haas & Benjamin vs. Mysterio & Kidman, and literally everyone who bought this show probably would've rather seen that again.  But whatevs.

Next up was Undertaker vs. A-Train (yup, they repackaged the big fat hairy bald dude Albert as the big fat hairy bald dude A-Train).  This was during the year or so where Vince was, CERTAIN that Albert was gonna be a huge main event heel.  He had thrown Edge at him, and when Albert didn't get over they kinda blamed Edge.  Then they started a months-long feud between Taker and Big Show/Albert.  That didn't work either.  A couple months after this show they even stuck Albert in there with Chris Benoit, hoping the latter's impeccable workrate would get Mr. Train over.  By the beginning of 2004 they finally realized Albert was destined to be a midcarder (Until 2012 when they put a bunch of fake Japanese tattoos on his face and called him Lord Tensai, with the intent of feuding him with John Cena).  Anyway, this match is about what you'd expect.  Slow, plodding, and inconsequential.

Third was one of a slew of 2003 PPV matches featuring non-wrestlers (holy jumpin' Christ there were a lot of these), as RAW GM Eric Bischoff faced WWE heir-apparent Shane McMahon.  This whole feud was built around Bischoff coming on to Shane's mom, and Shane vowing revenge.  The angle was super creepy and at the same time defied anyone with more than 150 brain cells to care in the slightest.  The match was a total waste of ten-and-a-half minutes of my life (by comparison the Cruiserweight Title match that got bumped to the pre-show got roughly one-fifth of this running time), and is one of many examples from 2003 of just how delusional the McMahon family was about their own drawing power. 

Not a good first hour for SummerSlam '03.

These two couldn't have a sucky match if they tried.

Finally things picked up in match four with a US Title Fatal 4-Way.  Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit vs. Rhyno vs. Tajiri.  Great, fast-paced action with four of the company's best workers at the time.  Tajiri is very high on the list of super-over guys who were terribly misused by WWE.  He was tremendously exciting to watch and the crowd really dug his matches.  And despite his character not speaking English he generated some great non-racist comedy (a rarity in pro wrestling when ethnic characters are involved) to boot.

Next was the long-awaited WWE Title rematch from WrestleMania 19 - Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar.  These two had easily the best feud of 2003, featuring a trilogy of excellent singles matches, the climax of which was the Smackdown Iron Man match that September.  The SummerSlam match was the weakest of the three, but it was still a damn good title match.  The only issue was the absurd ending, where Angle applied his anklelock and Lesnar reached the ropes multiple times only for Angle to yank him back to the center of the ring.  After four or five times Lesnar finally tapped.  Umm, isn't the whole point of the rope break rule to force a ROPE BREAK?  Why wouldn't the referee have threatened to disqualify Angle for not breaking the hold?  Still a fine match and the best of this show. 

In the death spot was the grudge match between former tag partners Rob Van Dam and Kane.  This really should've been positioned better on the card and led to an extended feud.  Sadly the issue was more or less dropped after this match.  The bout itself was fine, if rather underwhelming, and featured a nice Van Terminator spot with the ring steps.