Friday, September 21, 2018

You Used to Be Soooooo Good: The Alien Franchise

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Sooooo Good, where Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) and I put on our crotchety old man hats and grumble about how much better stuff used to be before you damn millennials took over the world.  

Anywho, today's topic is the Alien franchise - a once mighty sci-fi/horror series that began with two amazing films and then somehow lost its way.  Dan, what's your take?

DAN: The first Alien movie is one that scared the ever-loving shit out of me. It may seem simplistic now to place a horror movie in space (In fact, most failing horror franchises just chuck their super-bad up into the stars to try to grab some box office gold), but at the time, this was a novel concept. Sure, there were tons of B-movies in space, but this was a big budget flick with some well-known actors in it. And it was scary as hell to me. I saw it on VHS around 1990 when I was 12. The set design, the gore, the monster itself, all nightmare fuel for little ol' me. And I watched it repeatedly. I loved it. Loved the monster, loved all the characters and loved the epic, scary silence of the space universe that director Ridley Scott created. And of course loved Ripley. Sigourney Weaver was known to me at the time as Dana Barrett from Ghostbusters so to see her in this flick, evading and eventually killing a rampaging monster of death was quite a shock. But nothing was as shocking as what this franchise would become with the second film in the series.

JUSTIN: I actually saw Aliens first, in 1986, at the age of eleven.  I'd obviously heard of the original Alien, heard that it was just about the scariest movie ever made, and knew of the now-iconic chestburster scene.  But going into Aliens I was so utterly terrified of what I was about to witness, and for about the first ten minutes of the movie I was on the verge of a panic attack, thinking to myself "I can't do this.......I can't do this...."  But once that initial fear settled down and I simply let the movie unfold in front of me, it was to this day one of my all-time favorite cinematic experiences.  That movie kicked my ass for 137 minutes, ratcheting up the intensity to an unfathomable level.  The final hour is almost non-stop action-horror, and the climactic battle with the alien queen (one of the greatest puppet effects in movie history) stuck with me for weeks.

Mind.  Fucking.  Blown.

It actually wasn't until a year or two later that I finally watched the first movie, and initially I was underwhelmed by it.  Considering the frenetic pace and unrelenting pitch of Aliens, the first movie seemed so simple and frankly quaint to me on the first viewing.  This was at an age when I didn't appreciate things like psychological dread or claustrophobia, which is what the experience of the first film is all about (not to mention a movie as visually rich as Alien loses a lot on pan-and-scan VHS).  The first film grew on me after repeated viewings, and of course now I fully grasp what an understated sci-fi/horror masterpiece it is.  I saw an interview with one of the producers, who rightly pointed out that Alien is the haunted house, while Aliens is the roller coaster.  And from a purely visual standpoint, Ridley Scott's film is superior to James Cameron's.  Alien is one of the most visually stunning films ever made, while Aliens is less about atmosphere and more about the story.  Regardless, the first two films of this franchise are like an all-time great double album.  Both are amazing achievements for very different reasons.

Top Ten Things: Wrestling T-Shirts

Welcome one and all to yet another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  It's a list of ten things.  A list steeped in hyperbole.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Today we'll be talking about the greatest wrestling T-shirts of all time, in my humble estimation (Ah fuck humble, I'm right!).  Wrestling T-shirts are an invaluable marketing tool for any wrestling star.  Not only do you get fans to pay to advertise you to the world, if a T-shirt design is particularly eye-catching and memorable it can elevate that wrestler in the eyes of the fans (and management).  Think of how many times you watched a RAW or Nitro and saw a sea of Austin 3:16 or nWo shirts in the crowd.  The T-shirt can help make the star, especially if it sells like hotcakes and the company has no choice but to push the wrestler.  Generally speaking the best shirts in my opinion are either very simplistic and easy to spot, or tastefully pay homage to existing pop culture imagery.  It also helps when the wrestler himself frequently wears the shirt, giving the garment an air of authenticity (In fact every entry on this list falls into that category).  Here now is my list of the best wrestling T-shirt designs....

10. Eddie Guerrero (Scarface)

Our first entry is a play on the iconic poster for the film Scarface.  While I've never been much of a fan of this movie, the poster is one of the great pieces of cinema marketing, and Eddie's shirt uses this theme beautifully.  It also fits Eddie's character, that of the lying, cheating, stealing con man who makes no apologies for his win-at-all-costs mentality.  This was one of the few great shirts of the Ruthless Aggression era.

9. Cactus Jack (Wanted)

Speaking of a shirt befitting a character, how perfect is Cactus Jack's shirt displaying a Wanted poster for the crazed outlaw?  It worked so well in fact that when Mick Foley resurrected the Cactus persona in 1997 he actually wrestled in the shirt.  It's a simple design with an indie feel to it, and it encapsulates the violent, maniacal Cactus Jack character.

8. John Cena (NES)

Another shirt that lifts its design from existing artwork, this one is based of course on the cover art for Nintento Pro Wrestling, one of the earliest and most beloved wrestling video games.  For years this was the go-to game for wrestling enthusiasts.  As you may recall, the WWF's early entries in the video game arena were quite lacking, but this game had serious replay value.  Anywho, Cena's shirt simply substitutes his likeness where Fighter Hayabusa's once resided, as he's about to drop the Five Knuckle Shuffle.  On the back we get images of Cena dropping the move, with control pad iconography below.  Just a brilliant play on the NES artwork and one of several very cool Cena shirts (I also love the Pabst Blue Ribbon one).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Top Ten Things: Weird Al Yankovic Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'll be talking about a musical legend.  And a comedy legend.  And a certified genius (Seriously, he skipped second grade and was senior year valedictorian at sixteen).

Weird Al Yankovic burst into the American lexicon in 1984 with an off-beat parody of a Michael Jackson hit, and has somehow managed to build a hugely successful thirty-plus-year career lampooning our most cherished pop music stars.  As an eight-year-old Michael Jackson fanatic I was initially offended that anyone would parody one of his songs, but Al won me over when I first saw the video for "Eat It."  Here was a dorky, bespectacled nerd mimicking all of Jackson's dance moves (badly I might add) and conjuring comedy from already-tired rock video imagery.  By age twelve I'd bought all of Al's records, and I've been a huge fan ever since.  In 2000 I got to see Al from the front row, and he even yelled at me for not singing along to "Dare to Be Stupid."  It was indeed a privilege.  A new Weird Al CD is event listening in my house (for me anyway, my wife is non-committal).  Despite originating as a novelty act, Weird Al has endured three decades and shows no signs of stopping.  For many artists, being parodied by Al is a badge of honor, a sign that they've truly "made it."  Al is like a pop culture mirror, making light of all the silly fads we as a society cling to.  Here now are my ten favorite Weird Al Yankovic albums....

10. UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff

The soundtrack to Al's 1989 summer flop sadly didn't fare much better than its film counterpart, but it did contain some fun parodies and solid originals, plus a few snippets of the film itself.  Al's spoof of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," which is essentially the Beverly Hillbillies theme set to different music, was accompanied by an excellent sendup of the Straits video.  Other highlights were "Spam," based on REM's "Stand," and two hilarious originals, "Generic Blues," which literally just recycles all the woe-is-me blues lyrical tropes, and folk-rock epic "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," which recounts in great detail a trip to go see the World's Largest Twine Ball (Yes, such a thing actually exists).  Released at a time when a) the summer movie season was quite cluttered (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Star Trek V, and Lethal Weapon 2), and b) Weird Al's record sales were somewhat contingent on including a Michael Jackson parody, this album and film kinda got lost in the shuffle.  But it's not too shabby at all and shows evidence of Al's growth as a musician.

Key Tracks: Generic Blues, Spam, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

9. Dare to Be Stupid

Al's third album, and the first musical comedy album to see a CD release, showed that Al was growing beyond his reputation as "that funny guy who does the Michael Jackson parody."  With songs like "Like a Surgeon," "I Want a New Duck," and the superb "Yoda" (based on The Kinks' "Lola"), Al was attempting to last beyond the fifteen-minute lifespan most gave him.  But it's in the original songs where this album really achieves.  Style parodies like the doo-wop ballad "One More Minute" and the Devo-inspired title track demonstrated Al's gift for recreating different genres (Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh once said that "Dare to Be Stupid" captured the exact sound he himself had been trying to create).

Key Tracks: Dare to Be Stupid, One More Minute, Yoda

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The History of NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling (2012)

From the guy who loves wrestling "more than I love air" as our friend B-Cuddy puts it, welcome to another series of PPV History, here at!

This time we're tackling the relatively new annual NJPW event, King of Pro-Wrestling.  Unlike say a WrestleMania or the January 4th Tokyo Dome shows, KOPW has only been in existence since 2012, when the company made its debut on iPPV.  But man, did New Japan kick things off with a bang.  The inaugural King of Pro-Wrestling show garnered loads of praise, winning the Wrestling Observer award for Best Major Show of 2012, as well as Match of the Year.

From then on, KOPW took its place as one of New Japan's "Big Four" PPV events; given its placement on the calendar relative to the Dome, you could liken it to a Survivor Series.  The show has had its share of classic matches and stories, and it's always the most anticipated event of New Japan's fall season, perennially headlined by an IWGP Championship bout.

So let's take a look at the brief but noteworthy history of this annual PPV....

KOPW - Sumo Hall - 10.8.12

The inaugural event is still considered one of New Japan's finest PPVs, no small feat considering how many spectacular shows they've delivered since.  A loaded card featuring numerous championship matches and one for the G1 Climax briefcase (the first year that the G1 winner was guaranteed a Tokyo Dome main event), this show had a ton of star power and variety, and one of the hottest bell-to-bell crowds I've ever seen on a Japanese PPV.  This audience sounded like 80s NWA.

The opening contest was a six-man tag pitting Yuji Nagata and Muscle Orchestra (Strong Man and a returning Manabu Nakanishi) against three members of the CHAOS stable, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and Takashi Iizuka.  This match was a wild brawl, with participants tagging in and out quickly and plenty of outside the ring shenanigans.  Of note in some of these bouts was the ringside presence of two young lions named Hiromu Takahashi and Takaaki Watanabe, better known today as Evil.  The action here was solid if unspectacular, but the highlight took place roughly midway through when Ishii and Nagata began chopping the shit out of each other.  Eventually the heels (CHAOS were solidly a group of bad guys at this point) got a cheap victory after Iizuka hit Nakanishi with his iron glove, allowing Yano to roll him up for the pin.  Nothing amazing in-ring, but this crowd was electric from the opening bell.  **

The first really notewothy match was the Jr. Heavyweight Tag Championship, with Forever Hooligans defending against Time Splitters.  This was fast-paced and crisply worked, with both teams getting virtually all their spots in, including the Hooligans teased dissension followed by a hug-out (a hilarious bit they used to do).  Rocky Romero and Alex Kozlov were a great mix of athleticism and heel comedy, while Time Splitters were one of the great underdog babyface tandems.  After fourteen-plus minutes, Romero countered a corner double-team move by pushing Alex Shelley over the top rope to the floor and countering a Kushida powerbomb into a sunset flip, into a roll-up, retaining the straps.  Not the best finish ever, but the rest of the match was splendid.  ***1/2

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Top Ten Things: Family Ties Episodes

Welcome to another television-related Top Ten Things, where I'll pick my ten favorite episodes of a classic show.

Today it's the unforgettable 80s family sitcom that launched the career of Michael J. Fox, Family Ties!  When I was a kid, Thursday night primetime on NBC was unfathomably awesome.  For a few years you had The Cosby Show (fuck you Bill...) at 8pm, Family Ties at 8:30, and Cheers at 9.  Three of the greatest television shows ever, back-to-back-to-back.  Man, those were good times.

Anyway, Family Ties ran seven seasons, chronicling the goings-on of the Keatons, your average midwestern middle class family, but with a twist.  See the parents, Steven and Elyse, were ex-hippies who spent their college years steeped in the 1960s anti-war, peace & love movement, while their eldest son Alex was a stuffy, business-obsessed Republican who dreamed of becoming a powerful Wall Street executive.  This flipped the usual sitcom dynamic of the strict parents and the rebellious teenager.  Running contrary to most family TV shows, Alex (Michael J. Fox in the role he was born to play) generally didn't get into trouble with his parents in the traditional sense; instead their conflicts stemmed from their opposing ideologies and Alex's overactive ambition.

The two Keaton daughters were also wildly divergent characters.  Mallory the middle child (Justine Bateman in an often underrated performance) was a more typical teenage character - struggling at school and focused on her social life - while the youngest (until season 3) Jennifer was a precocious preteen who later displayed advanced intelligence and academic drive like Alex, albeit with much more compassion.  Then there was Andy.  Introduced in season three as a way to explain star Meredith Baxter-Birney's real-life pregnancy, Andy didn't become a full-fledged character until season five, when they magically aged him from toddler to preschooler so he'd have a speaking role.  Child actor Brian Bonsall was passable in the part, with stilted delivery but occasional moments of genuine sweetness and humor.

As for Steven and Elyse, they were perfectly cast.  Michael J. Fox may have been the show's breakout star (deservedly so, he worked very hard to make what could've been a detestable caricature into a sympathetic, three-dimensional, devoted son/brother), but in hindsight Michael Gross was for me almost always the show stealer.  His dramatic choices were reliably spot-on, and his comedic timing absolutely ingenious.  Meredith Baxter-Birney (initially the best-known cast member) took the somewhat unglamorous task of being the show's de facto "straight man" and imbued Elyse with gentle, poised wisdom, while getting to show off her acting chops perhaps more than any of her castmates.

Aside from reversing the parent-child dynamic, Family Ties was also notable for tackling serious subject matter with candor and realism.  Seldom did family sitcoms in the 80s talk openly about things like sex, drug use, race, suicide, child abuse, and of course politics.  The show employed the heartwarming family sitcom form as a vehicle to explore these topics and make them palatable, while also featuring smart writing and characters with real complexity.  It veered into slapstick at times too, but the cast had such great chemistry they almost always made it work.  Most episodes were structured with a fairly predictable formula - two or more characters would have a conflict in the first act, it would reach a crisis in the second, and in the final scene they would talk it out and come to a resolution.  Very few episodes strayed from this format, yet the show almost never felt repetitious because the issues at hand were so relatable.  I consider Family Ties to be one of the few long-running sitcoms that never "jumped the shark."  For me the last few seasons were just as consistent as the early ones, in spite of elements like Steven's increasing buffoonery or Mallory's over-the-top ditziness in the last few seasons.

Aside from its dated fashion trends, pop culture references, and grainy videotape medium, Family Ties is largely a timeless show that explores issues we as a society still grapple with 30+ years later.

Here are, in my estimation, the ten best episodes, plus some Honorable Mentions (Note: This list is pretty heavy on Season 4, as it was easily my favorite of the seven)....

Monday, September 17, 2018

WWE Hell in a Cell 2018: You've Succeeded Despite Your Best Efforts

Well in spite of its faults and WWE's "best efforts," Hell in a Cell managed to be one of the best top-to-bottom PPVs the company has put on this year.  All seven matches were at least pretty good, a few were outstanding, and most of the booking was inoffensive.  I mean, it's sad WWE's standards have fallen so far, but I'll take a consistently entertaining show from them whenever I can get it.

I should note that Renee Young's presence in the announcing booth is such an improvement over Coachman.  Renee isn't Jesse Ventura or anything, but unlike Coachman she has a passion for the business and actually understands it.  And since Cole and Graves actually like her there's no distracting bickering going on.  So for the first time in ages, RAW's announce team actually enhanced the matches rather than hurt them.  Kudos to Renee for being the first-ever full-time female announcer.

The festivities began with Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton in the Cell.  Now, it made basically zero sense for this match to be in the HIAC format, but these guys made the most of it, sidestepping the type of Cell brutality WWE no longer allows for a few new ideas.  This was worked like an old-school No DQ match, methodical but rugged.  The usual Hardy high spots were sparse, but in their place were things like Orton wedging Jeff's head between ladder rungs and stomping the ladder, both guys whipping each other with Jeff's studded belt (which perforated Orton's back in several dozen places), and of course Orton taking a screwdriver and twisting Jeff's pierced earlobe (which made me cringe like I was watching thoracic surgery).  At the end of the match Hardy set up two ladders and a table for his leapfrog spot, but instead climbed to the ceiling, swung like a gymnast, and dove for the table.  Problem was Orton had moved (way too early), and Jeff crashed through the table.  The referee inexplicably called for medical help, despite this hardly being the worst bump we've seen in one of these matches.  But Orton insisted he count the pinfall, and he did so.  Then Jeff got stretchered out.  The injury angle was goofy and absurd considering Hell in a Cell is supposed to be the most brutal match type, but overall I liked this match a lot.  Not too shabby for a match I didn't care about.  ***1/2

Next up was Charlotte vs. Becky for the Smackdown Women's Title.  This match was intricate, fast-paced, and really well-worked.  A few slip-ups aside the action here was crisp and athletic, reminding us all what a women's match was supposed to look like post-Women's Revolution.  Months of Carmella train wrecks robbed us and the division of serious contests, so it was refreshing to see these two get the chance to tear it up.  The crowd was into it too, solidly behind Becky (despite her being positioned as the heel).  After 14 minutes Becky countered a spear with a rollup to upset Charlotte and capture the title.  What I wanted to see next was Becky extending her hand to try and renew their friendship, only for Charlotte to reject her and turn heel.  That would've been in line with fan reactions to this feud.  But instead, stubborn WWE booked the opposite, where Charlotte went to congratulate Becky and was rebuffed with extreme prejudice.  Whatever, at least the match was really good.  ***1/2

The show stealer took place third, as Dolph & Drew (Drolph ZigglIntyre?) defended against Seth & Dean.  This 23-minute match started out basic but quickly built in pacing and intensity, with the final third chock full of wild near-falls.  All four guys worked their asses off and the crowd went right along for it, buying nearly every false finish.  This is the kind of match that revives a dying division; imagine going from Matt & Bray vs. The B-Team to this, in the span of two months.  After throwing basically everything at each other, Seth superplexed Dolph, floated through and went for a Falcon Arrow, but was interrupted by Drew's Claymore Kick.  Dolph fell on top of him to score the pin.  Goddamn helluva match and easily the best thing we've gotten from this Seth-Dolph feud.  ****1/4

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Top Ten Things: Unnecessary Movie Remakes

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things!  I am your host, Justin, and I'll be bitching about something most would consider trivial.  But ya know, that's my thing.  So stick it.

Today I'll be talking about an issue that's plagued Hollywood for many years - particularly this century - the unnecessary remake.  Remakes are nothing new; the early decades of cinema saw countless movies done over, to take advantage of ever-improving technology and greater budget availability (just like now).  Plus it was a way for the studios to make easy money with a known title and not have to come up with original ideas (just like now).  Sadly these remakes often failed to live up to the artistry and craftsmanship of the original versions (just like now) and many of them fell by the wayside.  In the last fifteen years or so it seems just about every film churned out is either a remake, a sequel, a reboot, a prequel, a requel, a threequel, a squeakuel (okay that one just applies to the Chipmunks), and any new ideas get squeezed out of the mix except at Oscar season.  Some of the remakes in recent years have been downright baffling, in many cases at the expense of original films that absolutely got it right the first time.  So let's take a look at some of those....

10. The Karate Kid

Directed by John G. Avildsen of Rocky fame, The Karate Kid tells a similar story of an unlikely underdog's one chance at redemption.  Danny Larusso is the new kid in a California suburban school, who immediately runs afoul of some local bullies who also happen to be martial arts students.  After taking a few beatings from these kids, Danny enlists the help of the superintendent of his apartment building, an old Okinawan by the name of Mr. Miyagi.  The film follows Danny's unorthodox training and builds to the karate competition where Danny overcomes the odds and wins the whole thing.  This was a truly inspirational 80s film that has aged fairly well despite some cheesy moments and its similarity to Rocky.  But in 2010 Will Smith co-produced an "update" starring his son Jaden as the titular "Kid" and Jackie Chan as the Miyagi character.  While it got mostly positive reviews, it just struck me as cheap exploitation of a known brand (Lots of that going on in Hollywood), and I can't imagine anyone deeming it the definitive version, nor do I recall anyone clamoring to see it remade.  Makes one wonder when an ill-advised Rocky remake will see the light of day.

9. Psycho

Speaking of remakes no one asked for, in 1998 Gus Van Sant released his homage/shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic thriller.  This version would be in color, thus robbing the film of the original's distinctive look, and aside from a few shots now made possible by updated technology (the opening crane shot into the hotel room window for example), Van Sant offered literally nothing new.  He used the original shooting script and didn't make any changes to the story, nor did he try to make it his own.  This was nothing more than a vanity project, akin to a contemporary band covering a classic old song note-for-note, resulting in a banal sound-alike.  This doesn't even cover the senselessly inappropriate casting of Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates in a performance that can't hold a candle to Anthony Perkins' original.  If I ever said "Let's watch Psycho" and the person I was hangin' out with popped in the 1998 version I'd punch them square in the face.

8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Another classic horror movie pillaged by new millennium Hollywood, TCM broke new ground in 1974 as a realistic, gritty slasher film, before such a thing even existed.  Despite hardly showing any explicit violence, the film succeeded in being a psychologically disturbing, visceral experience that gave birth to the legendary character of Leatherface.  After several terrible sequels the franchise got a reboot in 2003 when Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes company tackled the material, creating a slickly overproduced, run-of-the-mill gorefest with no sense of realism.  This went against the spirit of the original, which relied on mood and guerrilla-style filmmaking to plunge the viewer into palpable terror.  The '03 version was simply another geek show in an already overfarmed genre, and it seemed Platinum Dunes was transparently cashing in on the name recognition.  Worse, it prompted remakes of every popular slasher movie from the 70s and 80s.  Which brings us to....

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Ugh.  In 2010 Platinum Dunes, having churned out remakes of TCM, Halloween and Friday the 13th, finally undertook the most stylish of the 80s slasher franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Things actually got off to a promising start when the always-creepy Jackie Earl Haley was cast as Freddy Krueger.  And, well, that's it.  Everything else about this remake stunk.  From the paint-by-numbers look of the film to the overuse of CG animation to the unimaginative dream sequences, to the explicitly revealed "Freddy is a child molester" twist, this film was devoid of the fun and ingenuity of the original.  It was so poorly received the studio abandoned the planned sequel and left us only with this disposable retread.

Friday, September 14, 2018

WWE Hell in a Cell 2018 Preview & Predictions

And we're back!  Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

This month is WWE's Hell in a Cell PPV, where the most demonic structure is used not so much to settle a blood feud, but to fulfill an annual obligation.  Everyone's on the edge of their seat!  This year we have two Cell matches, neither one of which really warrants the Cell gimmick.  And we have a very personal regular match that might've actually lent itself to an appropriate use of the Cell.  But what do I know?

I will say this show looks quite good on paper, which is more than I can say for most WWE shows lately.  I certainly don't care about every match on here but even the ones I'm not that interested in have potential to be solid.  So there's that.

Let's get to it.

***Dan is in the lead with 65% accuracy (43/66), Dave and I are tied in second with 62% (41/66), and Landon is pulling up the rear with 56% (37/66)***

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Rusev Day

It's the battle of Days!  Whenever I have a battle of days, sick days usually win.  Anyway, I'm disappointed to once again not see The Bar going after the belts, but maybe they're saving Cesaro & Sheamus for another time.  This match doesn't interest me much since I don't see Rusev Day as a serious threat so soon after the New Day won the belts.  This'll be ok I guess.

Justin: New Day retain
Dan: Yup
Landon: New Day
Dave: New Day

Hell in a Cell: Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy

Really?  THIS warrants a goddamn Cell match?  This recycled feud from ten years ago, based on essentially "I'm jealous because Jeff is more popular than I am?"  Cheer up Randy, at least you're not Roman.  Meanwhile AJ and Joe have had a very personal feud over the WWE Title, but they just get a regular match.  Makes sense.  Is anyone terribly invested in Hardy-Orton, because I sure ain't.  As I feared when Orton got involved with Jeff, Nakamura, the US Champion, has been reduced to an afterthought.  Fuck this place.

Justin: Orton wins
Dan: Seems pointless to even have this match but I guess RKO.
Landon: Wait, this is actually happening??  Uhh.....Randy?
Dave: Orton I guess

Mixed Tag Match: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

I don't care much for this.  Maybe my concept of mixed tag matches is stuck in the 80s, but aside from Ronda's debut at this year's WrestleMania I can't remember any truly strong examples of this match type.  A feud that's been main eventing Smackdown week after week should culminate in something better than what has traditionally been a sideshow throwaway match.  Remember Savage & Sherri vs. Dusty & Sapphire?  That's the first thing that comes to mind when I think "Mixed Tag."  Maybe the Danielsons and the Mizanins will redefine it here, I don't know.  But I'm not terribly excited about this.

Justin: The Bryans stood tall at the end of Smackdown which usually means The Mizes win here.  But Miz also won the first match of this feud at SummerSlam.  So it's a coin flip.  Heads.  I'll pick the Bryans.
Dan: Miz & Missus
Landon: Daniel and Brie
Dave: The Mizes

Thursday, September 13, 2018

NJPW Destruction 2018 Preview & Predictions

It's September, and that means it's time for New Japan's triple PPV!  Destruction will once again emanate from three different cities on three different days, with only one or two really important matches on each show.  With that in mind, Landon Wayne (@LSWayne21) and I are back with our picks for the top nine matches of the tour.

It goes without saying, but NJPW offers an incredible product.  2018 has been, by and large, just as much a banner year for New Japan as 2017 was (financially moreso), with numerous five-star matches, fantastic major shows, and an absolutely stellar G1 tournament.  The fall months are typically when things wind down a little and build toward the Tokyo Dome, but that doesn't seem to be happening this year.  The Destruction shows feature two of the biggest and potentially best matches of the year, both of which could've reasonably been saved for King of Pro-Wrestling in October.  I'm curious how big that show is going to be, given the scheduled Destruction main events.

Anyway, let's get to the picks....

Destruction in Hiroshima

Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Evil & Bushi vs. Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Taka Michinoku & El Desperado

These shows, as always, have no shortage of multi-man tag matches, so I limited this preview to the biggest few.  This one pits the active members of LIJ (Hiromu Takahashi is sadly out with a neck injury until mid-2019) against four of the Suzuki-Gun thugs.  All three Destruction shows feature this feud in some form.  This'll be fun and chaotic, with both stables making liberal use of rulebreaking tactics.  I'll go with SG to win the first round.

Justin: SG
Landon: SZGN

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Great Bash Heel vs. Kazuchika Okada, Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi

A preview of the briefcase match in Kobe, Tanahashi will team with his old pals GBH against Okada and two of his stablemates.  I suspect we'll get a Tanahashi-White rematch in October since White did defeat Tana in the G1.  Stands to reason I would say.  With that in mind I think White scores the pin on someone here.

Justin: CHAOS
Landon: CHAOS, who is still trusting Jay White for some reason

IWJP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Oh man.  This match stole the entire G1 tournament for me.  What in god's name are Omega and Ishii gonna to do each other when the title is on the line?  This is basically an automatic five-star match.  If The Greatest Match Ever hadn't already happened at Dominion I'd say this had a good shot at Match of the Year.  Might have to settle for second-best.

Justin: Omega retains obviously
Landon: Omega retains, but there's this shred of me that still wants Ishii to win.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Jaws Movies, Ranked

by Dan Moore

In honor of the Jaws franchise all being available via streaming, here now are all the Jaws flicks ranked in order, from worst to best. Bear in mind, I have an unhealthy obsession with one of them. I’ll let you decide which.


Easily the worst of the bunch. This one was made back when 3-D was the next hot thing but also the next hot garbage because the technology SUCKED. Bland performances, forgettable 3-D effects and the worst use of Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett Jr. ever.  You wanna see these two masters go at it, go find a movie called Enemy Mine that has Quaid in a bad fake beard and Jr. covered in makeup resembling some sort of fish pussy. It’s TREMENDOUS.

A homeless man and a squid walk into a bar...


The least offensive of the sequels. It’s got most of the original actors playing their original parts. Even though Roy Scheider was forced to make this movie against his will, he doesn’t phone it in. His Chief Brody is still a determined and downright awesome public official. Sure, it’s ridiculous. Here comes another killer shark eating folk around Amity whilst the local bureaucratic bigwigs don’t believe the Chief. The funniest parts about this one are when Brody goes to the Mayor and tells him they might have a shark problem AGAIN. Larry Vaughn wants NO part of this insane man’s ramblings about a great white eating more people. Just get the fuck out of his office so he can get a handy from Tabitha the secretary.

Jesus Christ, again with this shark shit, Marty??

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Championship Belts

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'm talking about some of my favorite championship belt designs in wrestling lore.  For decades the WWF generally seemed to have the most eye-catching belt configurations, but in recent years other companies have somewhat surged ahead in this area.  With the advent of the Universal Title it became clear WWE was endeavoring to make all their belts look the same, a la UFC.  To me that's both uncreative and bad business - if you're trying to sell loads of belt replicas wouldn't you want each one to look unique?

A great-looking belt design can add a sense of grandeur to a title, helping elevate it beyond simply being a prop, to being one of the richest prizes in the game and a symbol of excellence.  Of course a lot of that also depends on who wears the strap, but a championship belt needs to look like something for which every wrestler would be willing to risk it all.

Anyway, here are my ten favorite championship belt designs of all time....

10. WWE US Title (current)

Probably the least conventional of the designs on this list, the WWE version of the US Title uses the American flag as the center plate background, with images of the Statue of Liberty on the side plates.  While the NWA and WCW versions of the belt sported understated stars and stripes imagery, the WWE version just took it one step further, conveying literally the idea of a United States Champion.

9. WWF Intercontinental Title (1985-1998, current)

For years this was the best-designed belt in the WWF.  When the "Winged Eagle" belt was adopted in 1988, the Intercontinental Title became physically the largest belt in the company, and for a long time this was the top belt for the in-ring workhorses.  It displayed a simple, blocky design (which was borrowed by both WCW and ECW for some of their belts) with the side plates all carrying the company logo behind the image of two wrestlers grappling.  This design was so successful the company went back to it in 2011, after the rather bland Attitude Era design was discontinued.  It's kinda sad the best-looking current WWE Championship is the one recycled from the 80s.

8. TIE: ROH World Title (current, 2012-2017)

I had to cheat here and include a tie.  The current and former Ring of Honor belt designs are both incredibly ornate and gorgeous to look at.  The previous one boasted leaves climbing up the sides in incredible detail, bringing to mind Roman gladitorial games, while the new version smacks of kingly tradition, with its paisley flourishes adorning a stylized crown above the nameplate.  These are both beautiful belts.

TV Review: Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan - Season 1

by Michael Drinan

Amazon’s new series, Tom Clancy’s: Jack Ryan, is the latest version of the “Ryanverse” that includes Tom Clancy’s best selling novels and the films The Hunt for Red October (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Sum of All Fears (2002) and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014). Let’s just say, the “Ryanverse” has been a little shaky since 2002. 

John Krasinski is the latest incarnation of Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who uncovers a suspicious trail of bank transactions from Lebanon. He presents the findings to his new boss, James Greer, which begins a pretty cantankerous working relationship that causes Greer to throw Ryan into the field to chase down an ambitious and fanatical Islamic fundamentalist named Suleiman.

The show is a fun ride showcasing both the analytical, information gathering side of CIA work while mixing in some action sequences and explosions with a few twists and turns. Even though there are some scenes throughout the series that seem a little cartoonish, it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of watching it play out. The characters are fleshed out with great care in a way where you don’t really need to be told outright their backstory or what’s going on in their heads, you can just pull it out from what you see on the screen. 

Krasinski, in my opinion, makes a really good Jack Ryan and I hope he continues playing him. It is said that this version of Ryan is drawn from Harrison Ford’s take on the character which is exactly how I want him to be played, very straight forward, professional, emotional but not irrational. He’s vulnerable but keeps his head and works the problem out. There is one fight scene in the entire season and Krasinski doesn’t overplay it. He fights like a former Marine turned CIA analyst would fight. There’s still that everyman, regular guy charm about Krasinski that shows perfectly in this role, because Ryan is a regular guy. All this show does is make me like and appreciate Krasinski’s talent as an actor even more. 

Wendell Pierce is also a joy to watch as James Greer. Even though there are sharp contrasts to James Earl Jones’ take on Greer in the films, it works very very well. He doesn’t take any bullshit and isn’t interested in having a friendship with Ryan at all, but you can tell here and there throughout the season that he does care about him and likes him a lot. There is one scene where he calls Ryan at 3 a.m. for a briefing with the President and tells him to wear a tie. When Ryan walks into the briefing room, filled with CIA officers, he notices everyone is dressed casually and noticing Greer with a slight smirk on his face once the prank hits home. Just like Krasinski, I hope Peirce continues in this role. He does a great job with the character.

There are some things that had me rolling my eyes. Having the CIA chase down an Islamic fundamentalist turned terrorist as a premise is a little played out. During the first episode, when it revealed who they were after, I sarcastically said out loud “Of course it’s an Islamic terrorist we’re after.” Hopefully they can find a more creative plotline for the second season. Also, I wish they would show a little more of the analyzing data and collaboration with other officers instead of cutting to out in the field to hunt down a lead. One of the most interesting moments in Patriot Games is Ryan at the CIA headquarters going through leads and scenarios with his team of CIA analysts, pouring over files and photos. That’s mostly what happens in Zero Dark Thirty and that was just as thrilling as any action sequence. It would allow the show to expand on characters and the plot a little more. 

All in all, the first season of Jack Ryan was really good. Aside from the slight changes to some of its characters, it still maintains that Clancy feel. It made me want to watch Patriot Games and Hunt For Red October just get more Jack Ryan! Everything from the acting to the writing was good. If you’re into the Jack Ryan character and the stories, I recommend giving this series a go.

I give the first season **1/2 out of ****

Monday, September 10, 2018

Girls Night In #1: Grease (1978)

Join us for a special PNI spinoff, GIRLS NIGHT IN!  Our friend Shannon crashes the party, joining Kelly to talk about one of their all-time favorite movies, Grease, while Justin, having never seen the film in its entirety, rains on everyone's parade....

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Dissecting Rolling Stone's Top 100 Bob Dylan Songs

By Mike Drinan

Alright, so Rolling Stone put out a list where they ranked the 100 greatest Bob Dylan songs in celebration of the man’s 75th birthday, and for anyone who is suspicious of the list (because RS has put out some horrid lists) let me just say it’s not completely horrible. It’s not perfect but I only really got upset at one entry which is pretty unbelievable.

Before we dive in let me explain something. I view the rankings of songs very general. I don’t wage wars and get all moody because one song was put three spots above another. I have a range of ten spots in which I allow wiggle room for interpretation. Going to war over placements within ten spots, in my opinion, is simply splitting hairs. It doesn’t really matter. However, over ten spots then it’s fair game to bitch and moan.

Rolling Stone segmented the list with five groups of twenty songs, so I’ll give a summary of each group. Alright, let’s dive in!


The list kicks off with “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" from Street Legal. This group is made up of some pretty deep cuts. At #96 is “Farewell, Angelina”, a song that appeared on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 and is a favorite of mine, with a great melody and very powerful, evocative imagery in the lyrics while also containing a despair for leaving the woman he loves. I think it should’ve been ranked higher but that’s my personal bias talking.

The 80s are rife with underappreciated Dylan songs. Starting at #88 with “Tombstone Blues”, followed up with “Most Of The Time” (#87), then “Meet Me In The Morning” (#86) which is one of my favorite songs off of Blood on the Tracks and ending with “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” (#82). A good collection with my only problem being “Meet Me In The Morning;" that should be in the fifties somewhere.

Top Ten Things: The Office (US) Episodes

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'll be talking about my ten favorite episodes of one of my all-time favorite TV series, the US version of The Office (The original UK one is great too, but I'm partial to the American remake).  For nine years (six of them consistently excellent) The Office reigned as one of the most beloved shows on television.  Who can't relate to an awkward boss, dysfunctional co-workers, and office crushes (My wife and I met in much the same fashion as Pam & Jim, three years earlier, so this arc resonated with us on a profound level)?  The show had it all - memorable characters, palpable tension between its romantic leads, engaging storylines, and above all, truckloads of uncomfortably hilarious moments.  It lost its way a bit toward the end, as most sitcoms do, but taken as a whole The Office holds up as one of the great TV shows of the past thirty years.

But which episodes are the cream of the crop?  Well it's a difficult question to answer since a) there were so many and b) some of the best story arcs on the show took place over multiple episodes (The Michael Scott Paper Company saga for example).  But I think I've narrowed it down to my ten favorites, in chronological order.  Here goes.....

1. The Dundies

For my money Season 2 was the show's best.  The abbreviated first season wasn't quite enough time for the show to find its true voice and set itself apart from the UK version (though it did have some great episodes in its own right).  But in the second season all the actors fully settled into their characters, the Jim-Pam storyline surged to the next level, and we were treated to a bevy of classic episodes.  The first, and possibly my favorite single episode in the show's entire run, was the season premiere, "The Dundies," wherein Michael and his employees have an outing/awards show at the local Chili's.  Pam gets hammered (Pammered?) and flirts with Jim all night, Michael bombs as the Dundies host, and we get to see all the characters outside their work setting.  This episode is probably the one that got me hooked.

Best Moment: A shitfaced Pam yelling into the camera, "I would just like to say that this was the BEST. DUNDIES. EVER!! WHOOOOOO!!!"

2. The Fire

Another laid-back scenario from Season 2, "The Fire" sees our office workers stranded outside the building after a fire breaks out in the kitchen, and numerous parlor games ensue, including "Desert Island Movies" and "Who Would You Do?"  We also see Jim interacting with his new girlfriend Katy (Amy Adams, introduced in Season 1), Michael trying desperately to become Ryan's mentor, and Dwight discovering the source of the fire: Ryan's cheese pita, prompting the best line in the episode.

Best Moment: Dwight, presenting the charred cheese pita to the camera, performs a revamped verse of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire":  "Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television, North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Mon-roe, RYAN STARTED THE FI-YAH!!"

3. Christmas Party

The first Christmas episode of the series (one of three such episodes on this list - hey, I'm a sucker for holiday-themed sitcom episodes) sees the office holding a Secret Santa party.  Jim gets Pam in the drawing for the first time and buys her a teapot, but stuffs it with little personal gifts like his high school photo (which she found hilarious when she first saw it).  He also includes a card that expresses his hidden feelings for her.  But Michael throws a wrench into the works when after receiving a hand-knitted oven mitt from Phyllis, he changes the Secret Santa into a Yankee Swap.  Now everyone's gifts are up for stealing, and Jim's thoughtful gift to Pam finds its way into Dwight's hands.  The entire office rejects Michael's self-absorbed power play and abandons the proceedings, after which Michael makes a liquor store run to win them back.  This is yet another episode where we get to see everyone interacting in a more informal setting (Apparently I really like episodes like this) and it really captures the mood of office holiday parties.  Of course in the end, Pam, who had ended up with an iPod (Michael flagrantly overspent on his Secret Santa gift) trades it back to Dwight so she can have Jim's teapot, but Jim chickens out about the tell-all greeting card and secretly removes it from the box.  His confessional would have to wait until our next entry....

Best Moment: Michael opens his gift from Dwight, a bag of paintball pellets and a piece of paper entitling him to two paintball sessions with Dwight.  Michael gripes, "How is that better than an iPod?" and Dwight replies, "I never said it was better than an iPod."  Michael then takes Dwight's rubber elf ears off him and bounces them off Dwight's face before storming off.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

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Daniel Bryan's Staying in WWE - Five Things I Demand's official.  Daniel Bryan has committed to spending three more years in the WWE penitentiary.  I can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed.  I have so little faith that this company will ever fully appreciate this one-of-a-kind talent or use him to his full potential ever again, that it's hard to get excited about this situation, despite what I'm sure was a big money deal for him.  I just hope he got the lighter schedule he was hoping for, and I hope he took that goddamn company for every penny he's worth.  But there's something seriously wrong when I'm actually sad about one of my favorite wrestlers on the planet staying in the biggest wrestling company for the most money.  This is how creatively backwards the WWE machine has become.  It's not the way this is supposed to work.  The idea of Bryan being at the forefront of the "All In" movement, participating in next year's WrestleKingdom, the MSG show, and especially the G1 was so promising, it feels like he'll always be in the wrong place at the wrong time now.  I was hoping he'd at least take a year of free agency and pull a Chris Jericho, and maybe WWE would make him a bigger offer to come back next year.

Well, enough mourning I guess.  Since Bryan's sticking with the three-ring circus, here are some things that need to happen for him, that WWE better not screw up.

1. Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 35

This feud with Mizanin is just getting started, so let's do it properly.  We're getting a mixed tag match at Hell in a Cell (pretty lame if you ask me), and then in Australia there's a #1 contender match between the two.  So the logical move from there I guess would be for Miz to win and defeat AJ Styles for the belt at Survivor Series (though I still want to see a proper AJ-Bryan match as well).  Then Bryan should win the Royal Rumble (since he was robbed of that honor in 2014) and challenge Miz at 'Mania, giving him both another big WrestleMania moment (it doesn't have to be in the main event slot necessarily) and a real WWE Title run, something he still hasn't had.

2. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Title at a later PPV

Since Bryan's return these two have only had one match, on Smackdown, that lasted 13 minutes and ended in disqualification.  Either shortly after WM35 or maybe at SummerSlam 2019 let's see these two for the belt in a real 25-minute match.

3. Daniel Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

One of the primary reasons Nakamura jumped to WWE was for the chance to wrestle Daniel Bryan.  Then Bryan was forced into retirement a month later, and it looked like that dream match would never happen.  But now both guys are active members of the same roster, on the same brand, and WWE would have to be complete idiots not to book this as a major feud.  Doesn't have to be for a championship necessarily (though if Bryan does win the title at 'Mania this would be a good program for next spring), but it does need to be presented as a huge deal and kept free of the stupidity that more or less sank the AJ-Nak feud.  Just put them in a ring together and let 'em go.

4. Daniel Bryan vs. Samoa Joe

Just like with AJ Styles, this is another potentially great match we haven't gotten a proper look at in WWE.  Bryan and Joe had a tremendous feud in Ring of Honor 12 years ago, and since they're both on Smackdown at the same time it would be silly not to take advantage.  If Joe fails to unseat AJ for the title this fall, maybe in a year he could be the guy to dethrone Bryan.  Or maybe you book Bryan vs. Joe later this year, from November through February.  Either way this needs to happen.

5. Daniel Bryan vs. Finn Balor

As of now these guys are on separate shows, but since Balor's doing basically nothing on RAW, let's get him moved to the blue brand sometime soon.  This would be an excellent first-time match that would raise Balor's profile and give Bryan someone suitable to work with.  It's another case of "They'd have to be insane not to."

If at least three of these five things happen over the next year or so, and WWE doesn't saddle them with stupid gimmicks or bad finishes, then they'll have somewhat restored my faith that they deserve a unique star like Daniel Bryan.  If not, then I guess I'll be counting the days till September 1st, 2021 when his contract is up again.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

All In: Cody Rhodes Pulls Off a Coup

Well I wasn't sure what to expect with All In.  I was pleasantly shocked when it sold out in under an hour and really happy for Cody and The Young Bucks for actually pulling off such a feat; the biggest-selling non-WWE show since WCW.  But would the show deliver with such an eclectic roster and matches that were mostly inconsequential in the traditional sense?  Turns out, yeah.  It delivered big.  And all that variety worked in the show's favor.  Lucha spotfest?  Check.  ECW-style hardcore match?  Check.  Traditional old-school wrasslin'?  We got it.  NJPW match?  You bet.  Dream match spectacle?  Sure.  Comedy match?  Yup.  I can't remember a show that pulled off so many divergent styles so well.  All In took a little while to really get going, but from the fourth match on there was nothing below ***1/2.  I didn't see any MOTY candidates, but the last six matches for me either approached or exceeded four stars.  When was the last WWE PPV that accomplished that?

Anyway, let's get to it.

Things kicked off with Matt Cross vs. MJF, a fun if superfluous little opener with Cross showing off his acrobatics and MJF doing good character work.  Cross won in nine minutes with his shooting star press.  A nice bit of fluff to warm up the crowd.  **

The weakest match on the show for me was Christopher Daniels vs. Stephen Amell.  This was okay, especially considering Amell's inexperience, but wasn't quite as tight as it could've been.  Amell clearly loves doing this and has picked up the basics strongly, and wants to be taken seriously as a wrestler.  If nothing else you have to applaud his enthusiasm.  There were a few miscues and Daniel's BME was off the mark both times, but this was fun.  Amell did a couple big moves, a coast-to-coast dropkick a la RVD, and a missed elbow through a table.  This should've been a little shorter but it wasn't bad.  Daniels picked up the win on the second BME.  **

The lone women's match featured Tessa Blanchard (who has the same "it" factor as Charlotte Flair), Chelsea Green, Madison Rayne, and Britt Baker, in a sprint with slightly messy action in the first half, but that gelled pretty well in the second when everyone started hitting their big moves.  It was a tad unwieldy but an easy match to watch overall.  The finish was kinda out of nowhere as Tessa hit the hammerlock DDT and barely got the pin before it was broken up.  **3/4

The first big match of the night was Nick Aldis vs. Cody for the NWA Title.  Pretty shocking how early this went on considering Cody was the mastermind behind this show.  With cornermen on both sides and Earl Hebner doing formal ring instructions, this felt like a big-fight main event.  As a match it was very good, heavy on the sports-entertainment with DDP getting involved, Cody teasing being unable to continue after being busted open by an elbow, and Brandi diving on top of Cody to protect him from a top-rope elbow drop.  But the storytelling was strong, with Cody playing the babyface in peril to perfection and going on to win the big one for his dad.  It was a nice moment to pay off a swell old school NWA Title match, and the crowd really made it feel special.  ***3/4

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Top Ten Things: Fawlty Towers Episodes

Welcome to yet another edition of Top Ten Things, where I pick my ten favorite of somethingorother....

Today what's on my mind is the classic British sitcom Fawlty Towers (which is streaming on Netflix as we speak), one of my all-time favorite comedy series.  Created by John Cleese and then-wife Connie Booth, Fawlty Towers takes place in a shoddy English hotel run by an eminently rude, impatient man and his rather domineering wife.  Supported by a clever, quick-thinking waitress and a bumbling Spanish waiter, the hotel and its staff get into various misadventures and hilarity ensues by the truckload.

Cleese's inspiration for Towers was a hotel called The Gleneagles, where he once stayed with the Monty Python cast.  Flabbergasted by the rudeness of its owner Donald Sinclair, Cleese mined this character for all the comedic material he was worth, and in the process created an incredibly funny, highly influential series.  As with most British sitcoms each season consisted of only six episodes, and Cleese and Booth only made twelve total, with a four-year lag between seasons.  This means of course that only two episodes failed to make this list of ten - "The Builders" and "The Kipper and the Corpse."  Don't get me wrong, there's nary a bad episode of this show, but for one reason or another these two episodes rank at the bottom for me, mostly because they both veer too far into slapstick for my taste.

But here are the top ten in my estimation.....

10. Basil the Rat

The final episode of the series deals with the hotel being given a health code citation for numerous violations.  While the staff scrambles to rectify these issues and avoid closure, Manuel's pet rat gets loose, triggering a whole new set of problems.  This felt like a good way to end the show, as certain recurring jokes had reached the end of their shelf life.  But it was good for one last hurrah, culminating in the trademark zany Fawlty humor.

Favorite Moment: The health inspector reads a laundry list of health violations and Basil responds with "....Otherwise okay?"

9. The Anniversary

Probably the wackiest episode (Polly even mentions the Marx Brothers in this one), is #11, wherein Basil plans a surprise anniversary party for Sybil but pretends like he's forgotten their anniversary altogether.  This of course backfires as Sybil leaves in a huff just before their friends arrive, and Basil decides to pretend Sybil is upstairs sick in bed.  One of my favorite aspects of this episode one of Basil's friends, Roger, only half-heartedly going along with the ruse despite clearly knowing something's up, and repeatedly toying with Basil.  This episode is probably the most "sitcom-ish" but still has a ton of laughs.

Favorite Moment: Another of Basil's friends mentions she saw Sybil driving around in the town and Basil covers it up by claiming that's another woman who looks like Sybil.  When the real Sybil comes back, Basil pretends she's the fictitious lookalike and locks her in the kitchen while he says goodbye to his friends.

8. The Wedding Party

Episode three centers around a bride and groom, and her parents who all stay at the hotel but whom Basil doesn't realize are all one family.  He observes each of them (and Polly, who's a childhood friend of the bride's) going in and out of each other's rooms and assumes there are multiple inappropriate liasons going on.  This leads to him making a fool of himself at every turn, including twice when he and a drunk Manuel end up on the floor as the guests walk in.

Favorite Moment: The groom asks Basil if there's a drug store still open and Basil thinks he wants to buy condoms (in fact he needs batteries for his razor), responding "Let me tell you something - you disGUST me.  I know what people like you get up to, and I think it's disGUSTing."  This bit kills me every time.  

Friday, August 31, 2018

WWE 2018: Welcome to the "F*ck the Fans" Era!

Man, it takes some serious pigheadedness to look at the top two babyfaces on your flagship show and then turn heel the one who ISN'T getting booed.  But that's what Vince has done.  For nearly the past year Braun Strowman has been getting better babyface reactions than anyone on RAW not named Seth Rollins (How Seth still isn't Vince's pick for the top star is beyond me), and now that he's been positioned to feud with Roman Reigns for the Universal Title, they decided he, and not Roman, should be the heel.  And to protect Roman from getting skewered by the fans they've reunited The Shield, the only proven formula to guarantee he gets the reaction they want.  Man, if you have to trick your audience into not booing your top babyface, what the hell does that tell you?  Like, how manipulative was that SummerSlam main event?  They put Strowman out there at the beginning to prevent the crowd from showering the match with "We want Strowman" chants, they had him announce that he would cash in after the match to keep the fans glued until the finish, and then when the cash-in didn't happen they quickly went off the air so the home audience wouldn't see the crowd turn on the result.  Has any other wrestling company needed this kind of Machiavellian maneuvering to make it look like their guy is the fans' favorite?

I do not understand Vince's over-the-top spitefulness with this Roman experiment.  This shit's been going on for four years and the fans by and large have shown little indication they'll ever accept Reigns as their top guy.  No matter how many alternatives the fans have provided to Vince - Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman - he refuses to simply admit he was wrong and go with the flow.

And yet turning Roman heel and making him a murdering asshole would get exactly the kind of crowd reaction Vince wants for Roman.  Turning The Rock heel worked in this way, turning Tetsuya Naito heel worked for New Japan, turning Hogan heel worked in WCW when his Hulkamania shtick got old, it's basic wrestling logic.  When the babyface is getting booed, you turn him heel.  If the crowd continues to hate him, good, that's his job.  If the crowd starts to love him, perfect, you have yourself a hot new top star.  But no, let's turn Braun.  Because if anything'll change people's minds about Roman it's encouraging them to boo the guy they actually like.  When did Vince McMahon's brain and logic become so separated?

Sadly there's basically zero chance any of this will change until Vince is gone.  Fox is paying WWE obscene amounts of money starting next year, and as long as WWE delivers acceptable ratings they have no incentive to ever listen to their audience again.  It is so baffling to me that any entertainment company would have such a flagrant disregard for what its fans want.  No other company would be able to exhibit this kind of behavior and still expect to be profitable.  In ten years when they make documentaries about this era in WWE they should dub it the Fuck the Fans Era.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Top Ten Things: Stanley Kubrick Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at!  A couple weeks ago I made a list of Quentin Tarantino's ten best, and thought it might be appropriate to give Stanley Kubrick similar treatment.  

Kubrick was one of the all-time great film auteurs, creating a unique visual style characterized by fluid camera movement, unnervingly symmetrical deep focus photography, and often a cold emotional detachment.  His films often contained deep subtext and were generally much more about the human condition as a whole, than about the fate of the individual characters.  He would build his stories around lofty philosophical concepts and themes, which he hammered home with every sequence.  Kubrick was notorious for being a perfectionist, often asking his onscreen talent for dozens upon dozens of takes before he saw one he liked, and demanding strict continuity on the set.  Considering he was active for over 45 years his filmography was quite sparse, and in later years his filmmaking process was so painstaking it became infamous.  His last film Eyes Wide Shut for example was in production for a staggering 17 months, and he just barely lived long enough to see its completion.

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most controversial, divisive, and thought-provoking filmmakers of all time, and he left behind a stunning body of work containing some of the most amazing visuals ever put to film.  Lending themselves to varied analyses, his films demand repeated viewings and tend to reflect humanity's virtues and (more often) deep-seated flaws.  What a tremendous talent this man was.

Here now is a list of his ten best works.

10. Lolita

This 1962 adaptation of Nabakov's provocative novel was met with vehement scorn from religious groups upon its release, to the point that Kubrick had trouble even getting it distributed.  The story concerns a middle-aged man's love affair with a 12-year-old girl and his subsequent fall from grace.  Kubrick enlisted Nabakov himself to adapt the novel into a screenplay but changed several elements and played up the dark comedic aspects, in particular the supporting character of Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers).  Beholden to the MPAA, Kubrick also had to keep much of the lurid material implied rather than explicit.  The result was a pretty outrageous "dramedy" with strong performances from its lead actors, in particular Sellers and the 16-year-old Sue Lyon, whose turn as the title character is well beyond her years.  I consider Lolita one of Kubrick's lesser efforts, but it's certainly never dull.

9. The Killing

Kubrick's third feature (though only his second "official" release as he pulled his first film Fear & Desire from theaters) is an early example of the heist-gone-wrong story.  Based on the novel Clean Break, The Killing is about an intricate plot to rob a racetrack of $2 million, and the aftermath of the crime which leaves most of the conspirators dead.  The theme of "even the best laid plans..." is prevalent in this film, and the carefully orchestrated robbery ultimately fails due to multiple unforeseen events.  The standout performance belongs to Sterling Hayden, who brings a cynical, grizzled quality to criminal mastermind Johnny Clay.  In assembling the film, Kubrick played around with the timeline, presenting certain events from multiple points of view.  I have to think The Killing had a big influence on Quentin Tarantino when making Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown.  The Killing is an early example of Kubrick's considerable intellect as he moves his characters around like chess pieces.

8. Full Metal Jacket

The late 80s saw a bevy of Vietnam-related films, and Kubrick's adaptation of The Short-Timers was one of the most noteworthy.  Though later to the game than he'd hoped, Kubrick nonetheless presented a fascinating take on the evils of war and their effect on the human psyche.  The film is split into two parts, the first (and best) of which depicts Parris Island Marine Corps basic training, where Private Joker (Matthew Modine) witnesses the complete mental breakdown of Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the hands of a brutal drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a brilliantly vulgar performance).  The second half of the film then picks up with Joker's exploits as a war correspondent in Vietnam.  While still atmospheric and beautifully shot, the second half is unfortunately nowhere near as strong as the first, given that it's missing the two best characters in the film.  Still, Full Metal Jacket remains one of the best films made about Vietnam and about the dehumanization of those who lived through it.