Friday, March 30, 2018


by Dan Moore

My secret shame* is I love techno music, in all its incarnations. Trance, trip, dubstep, happy hardcore, bebob, skeet skot, shmendrick, bumfuzzle, you name it, I got it (good luck figuring out which of those genres I made up).

That's me on the left. 

In the quest to find the hottest bangers to fist pump to, I’ve run into my fair share of clunkers. I typically have bought compilation albums, so along with hearing the hottest hits that kids 20 years my junior enjoy,  they're filled with enough scorching GARBAGE to fill up 9 landfills. Most of them make me laugh...but these ones here...they're not my kind of techno.  I submit the worst 4 I’ve ever heard in the next few posts. Lemme know which is the worst so they can win MARCH TECHNO MADNESS

*It's no secret, I'm not ashamed

1. I'm an Albatraoz by AronChupa (Vocals by Nora Ekberg)

First up, a truly deplorable song about…a sea faring bird? A mouse? I have no clue. Not only is this girl's voice infuriating but the "music" behind her while she sings the chorus is UNREAL annoying.

HUH!?!?! What the FUCK was that all about?

2. Let Me Hit It by Sporty O 

Next up, we have this bouncing, bopping, ridiculous sort of rap song. This song is ludicrous in a hilarious way. The guy's rhymes are BONKERS stupid...but awesome. This is an actual lyric in the song. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Top Ten Things: Favorite WrestleMania Moments

Welcome to another WrestleMania-themed Top Ten Things, folks!  With the Show of Shows emanating from Orlando this Sunday, and thus WrestleMania on my brain, I thought I'd look back at the ten best moments from the previous 33 editions.

In addition to hopefully providing some great and memorable matches, WrestleMania has also largely been about those special moments that live in your biological hard drive forever.  There has certainly been no shortage of such occurrences at The Showcase of the Immortals, whether it's a particularly significant move someone did during a match, or a striking visual, or something that happened after the match was over.  At its best, WrestleMania creates lasting memories, and here are ten that will stick with me for the rest of my days....

10. Hogan-Rock Staredown (WrestleMania X8)

In 2002 the WWF brought back Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall just in time for 'Mania season, and the former set his sights on The Rock, in an Icon vs. Icon match.  When I first learned of this plan I absolutely hated the idea; the company had built itself back up as a showcase for young, current talent, and bringing back old guys for a big money match, particularly ones who were key in nearly destroying the WWF via their competition, really got my goat.  In fact you can trace Vince's current fetish for part-timer-centric WrestleMania matches to this point.  But goddamn if this wasn't a super fun match, and it all kicked off with an extended staredown that had 65,000 Toronto fans losing their ever-lovin' minds.  Hogan and Rock stood face to face and each began scanning the rabid Skydome crowd before finally locking up in battle.  They had that building in the palms of their hands and no match on that card could possibly have followed this one.

9. Lesnar Almost Dies (WrestleMania XIX)

'Mania 19 is my all-time favorite edition.  It was such an unexpectedly great show from a company that had bungled nearly every major angle in the previous two years, this stacked card soared past the superb WrestleMania X-Seven for me.  And the most memorable moment from this show was Brock Lesnar's errant shooting star press in the closing moments of the main event.  The 290-pound Lesnar had performed this size-defying move countless times in OVW but had never attempted it on the main roster, and this was to be the finish to his biggest match yet.  But he somehow hesitated just a split-second before leaping off the turnbuckle and failed to achieve the necessary rotation.  Instead he came crashing down on the top of his head, in one of the most frightening visuals I've ever seen as a wrestling fan.  This could easily have killed a lesser man, but Lesnar miraculously managed to finish the match, delivering his third F5 of the night to capture the WWE Title.  He also escaped with only a concussion and was back in action a week later.  I probably would've died on general principle.

Best Picture Reviews: Terms Of Endearment (1983)

by Mike Drinan

When you look through the list of Best Picture winners and see a film with Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson, written and directed by the wonderful James L. Brooks, you sit and say to yourself, “Well, that’s no surprise.” Oh, but it was dear reader, it was quite the surprise, because this movie is crap.

Terms of Endearment is the story of the relationship between Aurora Greenway (MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Winger) over several years. Emma marries the comically named, Flap Horton (played by Jeff Daniels), as Aurora finds herself in a relationship with her neighbor, astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Nicholson). The relationship between the two evolves as Emma begins to have marriage problems while Aurora is dealing with conflicting emotions of her own with Garrett. The film’s pinnacle shows the mother and daughter in how they each express love in their own way.

Let’s start with the good, and there’s no better or obvious place to start than with MacLaine’s performance. She is fantastic as Aurora, a stern, no bullshit, and sometimes neurotic, self-absorbed woman who courts a number of gentlemen for, what seems like, the mere fun of having them around and showering her with compliments. Aurora is the kind of woman that you want to fall madly in love with, while at the same time makes you want to put your head through a wall. MacLaine is great at balancing the comical and dramatic tones of the film with her character. She is believable and wildly entertaining. With each new development you are constantly wondering how she is going to act and MacLaine never lets you down.

Nicholson is good in this movie but this isn’t a memorable role for him, in my opinion. As astronaut playboy Garrett Breedlove, he’s unfiltered and doesn’t have a care in the world. He knows he’s in demand sexually with younger women and embraces it fully, but still has a part of him that is caring and thoughtful. At times he’s a likeable character but most of the time, like Aurora, he’s a self-absorbed, stubborn toolbag and Nicholson, like MacLaine, does a great job in balancing the conflicting emotions and situations the character finds himself in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The History of WrestleMania: 22-XXIV

We've fully entered the John Cena Era......

Rosemont Horizon - 4/2/06

'Mania 22 reminds me a little of the old-school WrestleManias, where there was a whole host of different kinds of matches and a little something for everyone.  It ended up being a much more fun show that I expected, particularly since I was less than thrilled about most of the matches going in.
WWE was fully in "I'll do what I want and you'll like it" mode in 2006, making booking decisions that were absurdly perplexing to many of the fans.  John Cena was not getting over in the expected fashion, as about half the crowd started booing him on a regular basis.  His match here against Triple H was possibly the most infamous example of this, as easily half the Chicago crowd were rabidly cheering for Hunter to destroy WWE's new posterboy.  The match itself was very solid, partly thanks to the fans in the arena, and Hunter repeated his 'Mania 20-ending tapout in the center of the ring to help elevate Cena.

This looks awfully familiar....

The Smackdown brand's champion Kurt Angle defended his Title in a Triple Threat against Randy Orton and 2006 Rumble winner Rey Mysterio, in a match that fell horribly short of expectations due to the time constraints.  I'll never understand why this match only got 9 minutes when it was supposed to elevate Mysterio to the main event.  It was an excellent free TV match but just an okay 'Mania bout, and Mysterio would go on to have one of the worst Title reigns of all time as the company seemingly went out of its way to bury him in every non-title match.

Conversely one match that got a stupidly excessive amount of time was Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, in a glorified 18-minute squash.  This match was completely one-sided for almost the entire duration and most of the action was run-of-the-mill garbage stuff until Shawn hit an elbow drop off a 12-foot ladder, smashing Vince through a table.  Eighteen minutes for one memorable spot.  Simply stunning.

NJPW Sakura Genesis 2018 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NJPW predictions here at, where my colleague Landon Wayne (@LSWayne21) and I attempt to prognosticate New Japan's latest PPV offering.

This Sunday is the annual Sakura Genesis (formerly Invasion Attack), one of the company's biggest shows of the year, that should have implications leading into June's Dominion show.

After a wildly successful US-based show last week, the company is poised to continue a few of the stories at play.  For those of you who missed Strong Style Evolved, the tag team main event between Golden Lovers and the Young Bucks was a truly epic encounter that furthered this unpredictable angle.  Also we got a taste of the Okada-Sabre main event in their furious tag match, and I can't wait to see this singles bout.  NJPW has done an incredible job of elevating Zack Sabre and presenting him as a fearsome stretching machine.  He counters nearly every move to the point that an opponent doesn't even dare throw a strike, because you're just giving him your arm to bend the wrong way.  Sabre is a uniquely gifted asset to this company and I'm delighted that he's being pushed so strong.

Anyway, let's get to the predictions.

The Young Bucks vs. Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi

I'll be honest, this show is a little tag-heavy for my tastes.  Feels more like a Destruction PPV than Sakura Genesis.  The Bucks being in the opening match here feels a little strange, and since they're facing two Bullet Club guys I guess that means Matt and Nick are on the outs with the BC in general.  I'm thinking we'll see a new faction formed, with the Bucks, Omega and Ibushi.  I'm not complaining, mind you.

Justin: This is a match to establish the Bucks as a newly sympathetic team.  Bucks obviously win here.
Landon: Young Bucks beat BCOG...though do Yujiro and Chase count? I mean I guess cause at this point we've shattered into three factions inside the Bullet Club know what? Whatever, next.

Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Taichi & Takashi Iizuka

Not much to this one, though Taichi's recent singles work has impressed me.  He's got a good look, a great douchey heel character, and a lot of potential.  Based on the Okada/Ishii vs. Suzuki/Sabre match last week I was hoping Ishii was being groomed for an Intercontinental Title match, but now it doesn't seem like it.  Goddammit, can Ishii get something better than this?

Justin: I guess Chaos for the win?
Landon: Speaking of grooming. I think Taichi, and I am the messenger  so don't shoot me for this, is being set up for the next NEVER Openweight title shot. Taichi pins Yano here.

NEVER Six-Man Tag Team Championship: Bad Luck Fale & Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi

The increasingly pointless six-man belts are on the line in another Bullet Club vs. Taguchi Japan match.  It literally doesn't matter who wins this, but I'd keep the straps on Fale & GOD.  That said, they'll probably do a title change because these belts ALWAYS change hands.

Justin: Taguchi Japan
Landon: Fuck it, put the belts on Mike Mak and Taguch. It'll be fun regardless

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The History of WrestleMania: XIX-21

Time for three of my faves.  One amazing, one uneven but pretty great, one very solid......

Safeco Field - 3/30/03

This has to be the most stacked card I've ever seen.  I can't recall any other PPV where the last five matches are good enough and/or big enough to be a main event.  'Mania 19 is really quite something.

The main event was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title, and this marked the first WWE PPV since December 1997 wher the main event did not include Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker.  For someone like me who was burned out on the Attitude Era Big Four, this was a real breath of fresh air.  Angle and Lesnar put on a wrestling clinic that featured suplexes and reversals galore, and culminated in one of the most frightening botched spots in wrestling history. 
Brock Lesnar went for a Shooting Star Press, a move he had performed dozens of times in OVW and planned to debut in a WWE ring.  Unfortunately he positioned Angle two-thirds of the way across the ring and there was no way he could've gotten both the distance needed and the rotation.  Lesnar landed on his head and ended up pushing Angle out of the way.  It's a miracle he squeaked by with only a concussion.  But they finished the match and it was a classic.

How this didn't result in Lesnar's untimely demeez is beyond me.

If Angle-Lesnar was the #1 match of 'Mania 19, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho was #1A.  In a classic student vs. teacher-type bout, Shawn proved himself just as good as before he walked away from the ring in 1998, and Jericho proved himself just as good as Michaels (no small feat by any stretch).  This was a dazzling mix of aerial wrestling, mat technique, and plain ol' drama.  Personally I think Jericho should've won, but his kick to Shawn's junk after the match was a great exclamation point on a fantastic bout.

Say it with me: Right. In. The Dick.

'Mania 19 had a pair of huge marquee matches late in the card, the first of which was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon's violent, bloody brawl that should've been a stinker but ended up pretty damn good, if about five minutes too long.  The match features probably my favorite evil Vince moment, as the camera zoomed in on him peeking menacingly over the ring apron while clutching a lead pipe.
The second match of this one-two combination was the final Rock-Austin encounter; their third WrestleMania match and their fifth PPV match overall.  It ended up being Austin's swan song and allowed him to pass a torch of sorts to The Rock (who also left the company shortly thereafter, but finally got a PPV win over his old rival).  It was arguably better than their 'Mania 15 match but not as good as the 'Mania 17 one.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Best Picture Reviews: Shakespeare In Love (1998)

by Mike Drinan

Alright, let’s just get this one out of the way. Today’s installment of Best Picture Reviews is often listed as one of The Academy’s greatest mistakes and is directly responsible for my father refusing to watch The Academy Awards, which has now stretched to thirty years. Today, I review Shakespeare In Love.

The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes and is directed by John Madden (no, not that John Madden). It’s about a young William Shakespeare (Fiennes) who has sold his next play but suffers from extreme writer’s block, lacking inspiration. Then, he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps (Paltrow), a huge theater enthusiast and a big fan of Shakespeare’s work, who begins to dress as a man in order to get on stage and act, since at the time men were the only ones allowed to act. Shakespeare sees through the disguise and the two, despite him being married and Viola being promised to some other rich guy, begin a passionate love affair that Shakespeare uses as inspiration for writing his play.

I first saw this film in the theater when it came out and thought it was a really good movie. I rewatched it years later and it still stood up for me. The film has a lot of humor in it which is what makes it enjoyable and a lot of entertaining characters that make you want more of them, like Geoffrey Rush’s crude yet hilarious character Philip Henslowe. Even Affleck’s small role as Ned Alleyn is pretty amusing. The film also has a decent premise even though it reads like a sappy romantic comedy.

The acting is good, apart from Joseph Fiennes who just completely overdoes it in this movie. You can tell that he is acting. Nothing feels genuine or natural with his delivery, tone or body movement. He’s there to react and I find his performance in this boring and uninspired for that reason. Paltrow was good as she juggled the personas of both Viola and Thomas Kent masterfully, which helped lead to her snagging the Best Actress Oscar from a very formidable Cate Blanchett that year who was nominated for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth. I’m not sure Paltrow’s performance was Oscar-worthy but she was certainly great to watch in this, a highlight for me in this film certainly. Judi Dench’s performance as Queen Elizabeth I (that’s weird) nabbed the Best Supporting Actress Oscar even though it was a very minimal role. Not sure she deserved an Oscar for that role either but the lack of competition that year probably had more to do with it. What makes the film enjoyable for me is the supporting cast and minor characters. They were all great and fun and give the film a great sense of camaraderie. I felt part of their crew, enjoying the fun, the work and the crazy drinking after rehearsals in the pub.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania XXX

Welcome to the 7th installment of our series called The Great PPVs, here at and, where I take a look back on an all-time favorite wrestling show.

With the bombshell announcement this week that one of the most beloved stars of the last decade is returning to the ring after a two-year "retirement," and considering this year's WrestleMania will emanate from the same venue, I thought I'd revisit the event unofficially dubbed "Yes-tleMania."  That's right, I'm talkin' about WrestleMania XXX!

Anyone who's been a frequenter of should know two things about me.  #1 I'm a massive Daniel Bryan fan.  Have been since I first stumbled onto his Ring of Honor work in 2007, when he quickly became my favorite wrestler on the planet (If you've only seen his WWE stuff you're missing some absolutely stellar matches).  #2 I have been less than excited about the last three WrestleManias, feeling that the company had more or less dumped fans like me by the wayside and failed to offer us any must-see matches on the biggest show of the year.

But in 2014 WrestleMania felt like it belonged to the diehard fans, whom Vince had begun to ignore every January to April, preferring instead to cater to the casual audience with celebrity appearances and old-timer returns.  By contrast this WrestleMania was all about "our guy" - a plucky little workhorse from Aberdeen, WA who'd defied WWE's intention to plant him firmly in the middle of the card as a "solid B+ player" (If you think Stephanie wasn't using Vince's words in that infamous promo you're kidding yourself).  At WrestleMania 30, Daniel Bryan would take down the entire machine and for the time being emerge as the new face of the company.  We all knew it had to happen, and it was rewarding beyond belief when it did.

But the show wasn't even supposed to go that way originally.  Vince had his heart set on 'Mania 30 being headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock (one of several 2002-04 matchups he'd inexplicably decided to recycle around this time).  Only problem was The Rock, who'd main evented the previous two 'Manias, got hurt a year earlier and subsequently agreed to a Hollywood contract clause that he wouldn't wrestle again until after his current film project was completed, lest another injury derail production.  So Dwayne Johnson was out of WrestleMania 30.  Enter Vince's substitute, Dave Bautista.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The History of WrestleMania: 2000-X8

And we've arrived at a new millennium!

Arrowhead Pond - 4/2/00

The year 2000 saw the WWF freshen up its product in a major way.  The influx of WCW castoffs and new homegrown stars led to tremendous improvements in the in-ring product, and the absence of Steve Austin for most of the year forced the company to elevate several other uppercard talents.

That year's WrestleMania goes down as probably the strangest of the bunch, as the roster had gotten so large that everyone had to be crammed into multi-man matches and tag bouts.  In fact this edition of 'Mania featured nary a traditional singles match.

The main event saw entirely too much focus put on the McMahon Family squabbles, as each of the McMahons accompanied one of the participants to the ring.  Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley was a pretty good if overly long main event match, but sadly the company's owners took way too much of the spotlight.  This show holds the distinction of being the first 'Mania card to end with a heel Champion.

Say what you want about him now, but in 2000 Triple H was a BAMF.

Three of the WWF's newest stars got their chance to steal the show as Kurt Angle defended the I-C and European Titles against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a 2-Falls Triple Threat.  The match was nothing amazing, but it was a solid showing by three of the company's future main eventers.

Also on the card was a highly entertaining six-person tag match between the Radicalz (Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn), and Too Cool & Chyna. The wrong team won, but it was a fun, fast-paced bout.

The match that stole the show however was the three-way ladder match for the Tag Team Titles - The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz.  The WWF was in the midst of a tag team renaissance, and these three teams rose to the top of the division, in no small part due to their performance here.  This match took what Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had done six years earlier and put the ladder match into overdrive.  The action was violent, explosive, and brutal, and 22 minutes later the TLC match was born.  Edge and Christian won the titles and soon after invented the comedic heel personas that took them to the next level, the Dudley Boyz became synonymous with table spots, and the Hardy Boyz established themselves as fearless daredevils for the rest of their careers.

These six men are obviously psychotic.....

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Top Ten Things: Essential Daniel Bryan Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at! (Note: This was originally published just after Bryan's untimely retirement in 2016 - thank god that's over!)

Today, not surprisingly, I have Daniel Bryan on the brain.  Following his untimely retirement on Monday I thought I'd compile a list of his essential matches, including many of his Ring of Honor highlights.  If you haven't seen any of his ROH work as Bryan Danielson you don't know what you're missing.  Unhampered by the "WWE style," Bryan was as innovative and skilled as anyone in the business, and frequently put together matches in excess of 30 minutes.  Here now is a list of essential Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson matches....

10. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan - Extreme Rules 2012 - 4.29.12

Here's the match we should've gotten at WrestleMania 28.  After Vince McMahon's 18-second booking snafu inadvertently made Daniel Bryan a star while dooming Sheamus's main event push, these two were given a chance for vindication at Extreme Rules in a 2/3 Falls Match.  Bryan relentlessly targeted Sheamus's left arm early on, eventually getting himself intentionally disqualified in the first fall before evening the match with a Yes Lock in the second.  The climactic third fall was an exciting back-and-forth affair until Sheamus once again caught Bryan with the Brogue Kick to retain the World Title.  Easily a show-stealing early MOTY candidate, and the first example of Bryan being effectively used as a top-tier star.

9. Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe - Fight of the Century - 8.5.06

In August 2006 Bryan Danielson was enjoying an ROH Title run on par with Joe's record-breaking reign of 2003-04.  The two of them would collide in an epic bout that lasted a full sixty minutes.  Danielson played the cocky-but-cowardly heel Champion to perfection, in a performance rivaling 1980s Ric Flair.  This was the first Danielson match I ever saw, and I was immediately hooked.  Joe spent the early portions of the match chasing Bryan around before finally dominating him for much of the encounter.  Joe would come up just short of regaining the belt, but the live crowd ate this up, chanting "Five More Minutes" at the end.  Quite possibly my favorite 60-minute draw.

8. Takeshi Morishima vs. Bryan Danielson - Manhattan Mayhem II - 8.25.07

Another of Danielson's ROH feuds against a much larger opponent took place in 2007, as he found himself challenging the new monster heel Champion Takeshi Morishima.  Morishima was on loan from Pro Wrestling NOAH and took a similar role as Samoa Joe (who was now TNA-exclusive).  Danielson held his own against the Japanese powerhouse in this 20-minute Strong Style war in which he suffered a detached retina from one of Morishima's strikes.  Bryan failed to capture the belt here but faced Morishima twice more that year to settle their feud.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The History of WrestleMania: 13-XV

And on we go....

Rosemont Horizon - 3/23/97 

1997 was the WWF's ratings nadir during the Monday Night War with WCW.  They were right in the middle of an 82-week trouncing, and their PPV buyrates reflected that - 'Mania 13 did an abysmal .72 I believe.

But early '97 was also the very beginning of the Attitude era, before the WWF even fully acknowledged that the business was radically changing.  Snow-white babyface characters were no longer cool to cheer for; instead it was a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, redneck bully named Steve Austin who captured the fans' imagination and became their hero.  The company was about to switch gears in a major way.

The WWF's original plan for WrestleMania 13's centerpiece was a rematch of Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels from the previous year.  Shawn apparently suffered a knee injury just 6 weeks before the big show (which may or may not have been a way to avoid doing the job for Bret) and announced that he'd be taking time off indefinitely, thus relinquishing the WWF Title.  This left the company scrambling for a new main event to build the show around. 

Sucky main event, but this was a nice moment

Two title changes later, and the belt was back around the waist of Sycho Sid, who it was announced would be defending against The Undertaker (marking the first time Taker would challenge for a championship at WrestleMania).  Seemingly Taker and Sid tried to emulate the Taker-Diesel match from 'Mania 12, but unfortunately it failed to live up to that match, and a subpar main event was the result.  This match went too long and, as was often the case, Sid looked lost for much of it.  Taker finally won the WWF Title however, giving the show a feel-good ending.

The other big matchup was the aforementioned Steve Austin vs. an angry, edgier Bret Hart in a no holds barred Submission match, with UFC import Ken Shamrock as the guest referee.  The ensuing battle was nothing short of legendary.  From an action standpoint there have certainly been better matches (including Bret-Austin 1 at Survivor Series '96, IMO), but I can't think of a better example of pure storytelling in a wrestling match.  Bret went into this match the babyface and left a reviled, vicious heel.  Austin went into the match a nasty bully and emerged as a gallant, tough-as-nails hero.  The visual of Austin being trapped in Bret's Sharpshooter as torrents of blood streamed down his face became one of pro wrestling's iconic images.  Masterful work by both guys.

Is there a more violently iconic image in the history of wrestling?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Parents' Night In #3: Dirty Dancing (1987)

Well it finally happened.  Kelly made me watch Dirty Dancing for the first time.  Fortunately it was accompanied by BOOZE!

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Episode 1

Episode 2

Best Picture Reviews: Marty (1955)

by Mike Drinan

I’ve recently begun a journey to watch every movie that has won the Academy Award for Best Picture and give my thoughts on it. So, here I begin my new series...Best Picture Reviews.

The 1955 Best Picture winner Marty, stars Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. The film was directed by Delbert Mann and was adapted from a teleplay of the same name. The film not only won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but also for Best Actor, Director and Adapted Screenplay.

Marty is about a thirty-four year old butcher (Borgnine) who lives in the Bronx with his overbearing Italian mother. He is constantly lectured by his family and friends about settling down and getting married. As much as he’d like to get married, with no romantic prospects, Marty has come to grips with the idea of being a bachelor for the rest of his life. One Saturday night, his mother talks him into going to the Stardust Ballroom for a dance, and its there he meets lonely school teacher, Clara (Blair), who is crying on the roof after being abandoned by her blind date. Being the sweet nice guy that he is, Marty spends the evening with her dancing, eating, and talking, both having a great time together. They both become very excited about seeing each other again with the prospect of falling in love a real possibility for the two of them. It isn’t until Marty starts hearing what his mother and friends think of Clara, for very different reasons, that he begins to have second thoughts.

I loved this movie. I thought it was a great story, with fantastic acting and wonderful themes. It showcases a regular guy and a regular woman, both regarded as unattractive in the film, and really builds this great story that people can easily relate to. You care about both characters in the movie and really hope they pull it together and end up with each other. The movie is funny, heartwarming, with a few dramatic moments, and is a great romantic story that is perfect for a movie night with a special someone. The fact that this movie won Best Picture is mind blowing. These days a movie like Marty would never even come close to sniffing a Best Picture nomination let alone winning it!

Monday, March 19, 2018

The History of WrestleMania: X-XII

Yeah, you know the drill.  Moving into the era of The New WWF Generation.....

Madison Square Garden - 3/20/94

For the tenth edition of 'Mania, the WWF returned to the hallowed Madison Square Garden.  This installment featured not one, but two WWF Title matches, as co-Rumble winners Bret Hart and Lex Luger each got a crack at Yokozuna's championship.

However it was the opening bout and a match where Shawn Michaels danced with a ladder that stole the show.

Since Luger won the coin toss to face Yokozuna first (not sure why that's winning exactly, but ok), Bret had to wrestle a secondary match prior to getting his own title shot.  Luckily for everyone, he had just begun a feud with his brother Owen, and the Hart brothers tore the house down in the opening contest.  Famously the brothers had worked out an action-packed, high-flying match but Bret realized the night before the event that a bunch of aerial moves would get Owen cheered instead of booed.  So they scrapped everything and started over.  No complaints from me - this match was twenty minutes of some of the finest wrestling I've ever seen, capped off by a career-making win for Owen. 

Still one of the best matches of all time

One of the weirder matches I've witnessed took place third on the card, as Randy Savage fought Crush in a variation of a Falls Count Anywhere match.  Now I'm not sure if someone in charge was drunk when they came up with this, or if they were just confused by the FCA rules, but in this case the object was to pin your opponent outside the ring, roll back into the ring, and hope the opponent couldn't get back in within 60 seconds.  There were three falls in this match before Crush finally failed to get back within the time limit, which meant that in a 9-minute match, nearly 3 full minutes consisted of one of the wrestlers waiting inside the ring for the other to climb back in.  Did TNA come up with these rules?

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania X-Seven

Welcome to the sixth edition of The Great PPVs, here at and!  For those of you just joining us, this series takes a closer look at some of the all-time great wrestling shows while evaluating their place in history.

Today I'll be talking about what is widely considered one of the best two or three WrestleManias of all time, WrestleMania X-Seven (Yeah, that name still comes off as goofy and I'm not sure what's wrong with the number 17, or XVII, but whatever).  Emanating from the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, TX on April 1st, 2001, the seventeenth annual WrestleMania is generally accepted as the climax of the wildly successful Attitude Era, when the company showcased all the big stars they'd spent the last four years building, plus an influx of new talent from either WCW or developmental.  It was the perfect storm of new and established talent, and offered a wide variety of matches to enjoy.  'Mania 17 was also the first edition in nine years to be held in a stadium, which added to its splendor, and it was the first in a decade to run a full four hours.

The show was built around the biggest rematch of the era, between the company's two biggest stars.  Two years earlier The Rock and Steve Austin delivered a chaotic main event that served as a perfect illustration of where the WWF was at the time.  Vince Russo's "crash TV" booking was in full force, and the PPV for better or worse reflected the short attention span philosophy of booking, with numerous week-to-week swerves, watered down hardcore wrestling, and an overly storyline-heavy product.  Still the WrestleMania 15 main event was a very entertaining, if underwhelming match between the two mainstream superstars.  Two years later Rock and Austin had the chance to truly tear the house down in front of a rabid Texas crowd, and this match met those expectations and then some.  This brutal, bloody No DQ Title match ran 28 minutes, incorporated spots from other Austin matches, and ended with one of the biggest swerves in history, as Austin's mortal enemy Vince McMahon helped him defeat The Rock for his fifth WWF Title.  Austin had done the unthinkable and turned heel, joining Vince in a move that would drastically alter his onscreen persona.

Sadly this would also hurt the WWF's bottom line, as their biggest star and merch seller was now far less appealing to casual viewers who had no desire to boo him.  Getting the right audience response was an uphill battle that took several weeks and required Austin aligning himself with Triple H and beating up Jim Ross, the Hardy Boyz and Lita.  Still, from a critical standpoint this heel run led to some of Austin's best work, both in-ring and on the mic.  The babyface anti-hero persona had become very stale by 2001 and after his heel turn it was quite evident that Steve Austin was having the time of his life antagonizing both the audience and his fellow wrestlers with his new "What?" gimmick, and exploring more comedic elements of his character.  I personally always found Steve Austin effortlessly funny, and his 2001 Title run turned the volume way up on that aspect.  Regardless, this match was an incredible main event; arguably the best 'Mania headliner up to this point.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A24 Reviews: Good Time (2017)

by Mike Drinan

Welcome to the latest installment of A24 Reviews, where I review films released by one of the best independent film studios and distributors in today's industry.

If someone asked me to recommend a movie from last year that not many people have seen, Good Time would absolutely be my answer.

Good Time, directed by the Safdie Brothers, is about Connie Nikas (played by Robert Pattinson) and his mentally handicapped brother Nick Nikas (played by co-director Benny Safdie), carrying out a bank robbery that goes bad. Running from the police, the two are separated and Nick gets arrested. As Connie goes into hiding around New York City, he learns that Nick is going to be shipped out to Rikers Island unless he can come up with $10,000 in order to bail his brother out.

The first five minutes of the film you’re introduced to Nick through his meeting with a therapist. Nick’s answers to the questions are short, unexplained but give you an insight into his life. The single tear that is shed from what seems like an innocent question is powerful and you immediately feel for Nick.

All of a sudden the meeting is interrupted by Connie who immediately berates the therapist causing an angry outburst from Nick, which clearly shows how much of an influence Connie is on his brother. From there, we are now thrusted into the world of Connie, and he’s a straight up douchebag. He’s a manipulative scumbag that has resorted to crime and scams in order to get what he wants and there’s no sympathy, remorse or regret for the people he causes trouble for along the way. Everyone he interacts with gets screwed somehow, including his brother. The next 15 minutes of the film are pure adrenaline as we are now in the throes of the robbery where there is barely any dialogue, just notes between Connie and the bank teller. It’s a riveting scene that continues with the getaway and ends with Nick getting caught and Connie goes into hiding around the city. We are shown Nick’s experience in jail which furthers the sympathy we have for his character.

The History of WrestleMania: VII-IX

Continuing with WrestleManias 7-9....

L.A. Sports Arena - 3/24/91

The seventh installment ended up being one of the most forgettable.  What was intended to be a record-smashing supershow in front of 100,000 fans at the L.A. Coliseum was relegated to the 15,000-seat Sports Arena when ticket sales fell horribly short of expectations.  That will happen though when your main event is little more than the exploitation of a minor real-life skirmish in the Middle East.  Why the WWF thought the US vs. Iraq angle would draw big business I'm not sure, especially since the real conflict ended over a month before WrestleMania.

Sgt. Slaughter was inexplicably brought in as a turncoat and almost immediately handed the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble, all so he could face the American Hero Hulk Hogan.  Surely a Hogan vs. Warrior rematch would've drawn the numbers they wanted, so I'm still unclear why they didn't go that route.

The match was what it was.  It certainly could've been worse, but it definitely wasn't good.  It's widely considered one of, if not THE worst all-time WrestleMania main event.  Slaughter was about as unworthy a WWF Champion as there's ever been and it was a sad day indeed when Hulk Hogan is by far the better worker in a given match.  This meandering brawl lasted over 21 minutes before Hogan mercifully put an end to the proceeding with the ol' big boot-legdrop combo.

Yep.  Can't imagine why this didn't sell 100,000 tickets.

'Mania 7 was saved however by the semi-main event of Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior, with the stipulation that the loser would have to retire.  This feud had been brewing for several months while Warrior was WWF Champion, but Savage was battling nagging injuries and was thus unable to compete for a while.  Though I don't consider this match nearly as great as most do, it was easily one of the WWF's best of 1991.  This match paved the way for the overuse of finishers in big matchups (see Austin vs. Rock).  Savage hit five flying elbow smashes in a row and failed to get the pin, and the Warrior finally won after three flying tackles.  Post-match Savage's manager Sherri Martel attacked him, having lost her meal ticket due to the retirement stip.  Who should come to Savage's rescue but Miss Elizabeth, much to the delight and tears of the crowd.  Savage would spend the next several months as a commentator before returning to action that November.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Top Ten Things: Shinsuke Nakamura Matches

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at!  Today I'll be talking about the WWE's resident "rock star," the Japanese phenomenon and the King of Strong Style, Shinsuke Nakamura!

Former NJPW headliner Nakamura made his long-awaited WWE debut in April 2016 and had a successful NXT run before joining Smackdown a year later.  Since then he's become a fixture on the blue brand, winning the 2018 men's Royal Rumble and rekindling his old rivalry with AJ Styles. 

Nak is far and away the most charismatic wrestler in the world, oozing a mesmerizing rock star swagger (He cites Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson as personal heroes) and delivering every wrestling maneuver in a completely unique, sensationally dramatic way.  His wrestling style is mostly striking-based, playing off his brief-but-successful MMA career, and involves heavy use of knee strikes and kicks.  His finishing move, the Kinshasa (formerly the Boma Ye), is a simple-but-devastating running knee to the jaw that has leveled dozens of opponents.  While his moveset may seem simplistic and unspectacular, it's Nakamura's delivery and his infectious, larger-than-life magnetism that makes him so captivating to watch.  He executes every move with complete attention to detail and nuance, to the extent that one can't help but say, "I've seen that move done before but never quite like that."  In an odd way his smartly-worked style reminds me of a Randy Savage.  It seems like he's doing much more than he is, and the storytelling aspect is so strong it makes the whole match sizzle.

American fans are largely new to Nakamura's incredible talent, but prior to arriving in America he built a stellar resume in New Japan, racking up dozens of Match of the Year-caliber performances.  Here now are my ten favorite Nakamura bouts....

10. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Naomichi Marufuji - King of Pro-Wrestling 2013

The IWGP Intercontinental Champion vs. The Ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH.  This match had some of the most innovative offense I'd seen in years, as the two spent several minutes grappling and countergrappling.  I could've watched Nakamura and Marufuji feud for months - that's how well they worked together, assembling a 16-minute barn burner that would've been Match of the Night on any show not headlined by Okada vs. Tanahashi.

9. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazushi Sakuraba - WrestleKingdom 7

The semi-main event of the excellent WK7 pitted Chaos stablemates against each other for the Intercontinental Title.  What a unique, fascinating match this was.  As pro wrestling/MMA hybrids go, this was about as good as it gets.  It kicked off with totally credible ground grappling (to be expected given both of these guys were MMA fighters) which then led to stiff wrestling offense (At one point Nakamura ran into a vicious knee to the face and I can't believe he wasn't legit knocked out).  Sakuraba dominated by working Nakamura's arm, but Nakamura fought through and managed to hit the Boma Ye for the win.  This bout was just about perfect for its spot on the card.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Stock Drops

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at

In anticipation of this year's spring extravaganza, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania stock drops in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or semi-main evented a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.

1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker

"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Stock Drops began.

2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act

King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.

The History of WrestleMania: IV-VI

Welcome to Part 2 of's History of WrestleMania.  Today I'll be covering 'Manias 4 through 6.  Let's get to it!

Trump Plaza - 3/27/88
'Mania IV was assembled with the intent of giving us the biggest edition to date, with the centerpiece being the first-ever WWF World Title tournament, the result of a controversial Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant match on NBC that saw Hogan screwed out of the Championship only for Andre to turn around and sell the belt to Ted Dibiase.  WrestleMania IV featured a huge roster and was expanded to four hours to accommodate the sprawling 16-match card.

Unfortunately this show suffered from simply having too much going on.  The tournament involved 14 men and all by itself necessitated 11 matches.  As a result almost none of the tourney matches, including the final, were given enough time to be very memorable.  The venue is also a far cry from the Silverdome, Trump Plaza being a rather cavernous arena where the crowd consisted largely of Donald Trump's business associates who showed almost no enthusiasm for the four-hour wrestling bonanza.

This was goofy fun

The undercard featured a battle royal (which was fun but of little importance except as a way to turn Bret Hart babyface after he was doublecrossed by Bad News Brown), Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules in a clash of powerhouses (which was so short as to barely warrant a mention), a British Bulldogs/Koko vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan six-man tag (which was nowhere near as good as the previous year's Bulldogs-Harts match).

There were also two title matches - I-C Champion The Honky Tonk Man faced the wildly popular Brutus Beefcake in a brief and forgettable DQ loss, while Strike Force and Demolition was one of the few strong matches on the card, ending with Ax murdering Rick Martel with Mr. Fuji's cane in a finish very similar to the WrestleMania I Tag Title match.  Thus began Demolition's record-breaking title run.

The WWF Title tournament itself was fine in theory but very diluted in execution.  Only four of the 14 participants really had a chance of leaving 'Mania as the Champion, and two of them were eliminated in their first match.  The Hogan vs. Andre quarterfinal bout marked the first time a WrestleMania featured a rematch from the previous year.  Sadly where their 1987 encounter was extremely memorable and has achieved legendary status, its 1988 threequel was little more than a throwaway designed to get both men out of the tournament.  Really the only standout match in this entire tourney was the first-round match between Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine.  Everything else was either too short (Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang for example), inoffensive but instantly forgettable (Dibiase vs. Don Muraco), or yawn-inducing (Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude).

Monday, March 12, 2018

The History of WrestleMania: I-III

Hello and welcome to this special blog, The History of WrestleMania!  This 11-part column will discuss and dissect all 32 previous installments of the annual supercard and determine what I feel were the highlights and lowlights each year.

WrestleMania season is usually one of my favorite times of the year, and I always find myself reflecting back on the storied history of this great spectacle.  I think about some of my favorite 'Mania matches, what makes a great 'Mania card, and why some shows were so successful while others really don't deserve to fall under the WrestleMania banner.  For the record, I'm writing this piece completely from memory, which should give you some idea of how sad and twisted I am.

So without further prattling on, let's get to it.

Madison Square Garden - 3/31/85

This of course was the show that started it all.  The great McMahon gamble that paid off not in spades, but truckloads of money.  This was one of the first truly mainstream wrestling events on a national scale, and the hype allowed the WWF to break into the pop culture vernacular.

Surprisingly though, the inaugural 'Mania card more resembled a house show than a true supercard.  For one thing, having a tag team match as the main event rather than a WWF Title match seems like such an odd choice.  Hulk Hogan's ongoing feud with Roddy Piper was such a draw it seems like a singles match for the belt would be the natural main event.  However the WWF put that match on MTV that February as a way to hype 'Mania.  Clearly it worked, but it made for kind of a watered-down main event for the supercard.  Hogan/Mr. T vs. Piper/Orndorff was fine for what it was, but I hardly consider it a classic.

I always dug this poster for some reason.
These two guys together would beat Rocky Balboa's ass!

This match also began the trend of celebrities getting involved in big money matches as actual competitors.  It occurs to me that the match would've been greatly improved by swapping T out for Jimmy Snuka.  But I suppose seeing T wrestle was part of the draw.  Mr. T certainly looked like he could hang in the ring with the actual wrestlers but I've always felt that having celebs wrestle damages the business somewhat.  More on that later....

The show was also not very stacked for such a marquee event.  To be fair, the WWF's roster would expand considerably after this show (Savage and Jake would arrive, the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs would form).  Elsewhere on the card we had Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd in a bodyslam challenge (again, this felt watered-down since it wasn't a traditional wrestling match but ended when one man bodyslammed the other) which aside from the spectacle was just two nearly immobile guys plodding through a short match.

The first 'Mania also inexplicably featured several glorified squashes.  Tito Santana vs. The Executioner opened the show and was roughly the kind of match you'd see on Wrestling Challenge.  King Kong Bundy vs. S.D. Jones and Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne also fell into that category.  Hardly worthy of the biggest show of all-time (at that point anyway).

First match in WrestleMania history

WWE Fastlane 2018: The Pieces Are In Place

That there was a mildly enjoyable fluff show that further set up stuff for WrestleMania.  In that regard, WWE Fastlane 2018 was a success.  It was easy to watch, the matches were all decent at worst, the main event was a fun little action movie, and the booking was logical.  Not much to complain about here, and thus far the 2018 WrestleMania season has been the strongest in several years. 

The opening match kinda set the tone for the whole show, as it was a fun little 15-minute Nakamura-Rusev back-and-forth.  Both guys got their major stuff in and while the middle was a bit slow and rest hold-heavy, the last third was pretty exciting and had good false finishes.  The best spot of the match was Rusev countering the Kinshasa with a side kick that turned Nak inside out.  Minutes later Nak countered the Accolade by slipping out behind Rusev and leveling him with a Kinshasa before finishing him with a second one.  The crowd liked this and it got across that Nakamura is ready for his WrestleMania moment.

Another solid match followed, one that I liked more than I expected to.  Bobby Roode and Randy Orton, two babyfaces who are much better suited to be heels based on their personas and in-ring style, nonetheless put together a very well-worked 19-minute US Title match.  The third act felt a bit overly long but considering there was a title change it seemed appropriate in hindsight.  After several finisher attempts by both guys, Roode leapt off the top rope into a sudden RKO, which gave Orton the one active championship he's never won.  Post-match Jinder Mahal came out and confronted Orton before Roode laid him out with a Glorious DDT.  Obviously a triple threat at WrestleMania is in the cards.  This match was pretty good.

The one filler match of the night was next as Natalya and Carmella faced Becky Lynch and Naomi.  This was standard free TV stuff but it was inoffensive.  Nattie and Carmella won as expected to keep Carmella's briefcase cash-in on the table.  Rumor is she may cash in at 'Mania but lose, which is the right move.  I'm still baffled that Carmella got to be the first women's Money in the Bank winner.

Movie Review: A Wrinkle In Time (2018)

by Mike Drinan

The film adaptation of the 1962 children's novel of the same name was directed Ava DuVernay and stars Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon. It’s about Meg (played wonderfully by Storm Reid), a thirteen-year-old who is struggling, emotionally and academically, with the four-year disappearance of her scientist father (played by Chris Pine). She is considered an outcast and is subjected to teasing and taunting from her classmates, but is constantly supported by her younger brother Charles Wallace, who seems to be somewhat of a genius. Meg and her brother are visited by three supernatural beings (Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling) who explain they are here to help them find their father. From there they go across time and space to rescue him while simultaneously combating the ever-present and manipulating thing called “The It”.

I was looking forward to seeing this film and watching this fantasy adventure play out. Having Ava DuVernay directing was exciting for me too since she was behind really good films such as Selma and the Netflix documentary, 13th. She is a gifted director capable of making different kinds of movies and I was very interested to see what she would do with this story. When I left the theater after seeing it, I thought it was a really good kids movie with some easy to overlook flaws. It had a lot of colors, great energy, great messages, relatable characters and some funny moments. Then after thinking about it for some time, I realized that the kids in our theater didn’t have any kind of reaction throughout the entire film. They didn’t laugh at the funny parts and there wasn’t any kind of chatter at any point. Even when walking out of the theater nobody was really talking about it. It didn’t feel as if the intended audience for this film was engaged with it, and now I can see why.

This movie was pretty bad, even for a kids movie.

This was a CGI-heavy film, obviously, and there were moments that were visually stunning. The first planet the characters visit, with the flowers that love to gossip, was really great to watch and very vibrant and imaginative. But then, when they visit the Happy Medium, the effects were just straight up terrible and the green screen horribly noticeable, causing the scene to be unbelievable and cheesy.

Aside from Storm Reid, the acting in this film is subpar. Reese Witherspoon seems to be phoning it in and Mindy Kaling and Oprah don’t really do much of anything. Chris Pine was pretty good even though his role is rather limited in the film.

The characters themselves, aside from Meg, are pretty bland too. Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who are supposed to be these supernatural beings that come to help Meg find her father, but don’t seem to do much helping. They can’t even show Meg how to tesser correctly and that’s kind of a bummer since that’s how they’re supposed to travel through space and time. Thanks! Also, the character of Charles Wallace in this film is vomit-inducing. So bad! When you give a kid the kind of dialogue that is meant for adults, it’s supposed to be fun and quirky. None of that happens here. It’s comes across as unnatural, unfunny and down right weird.

Then there’s this Calvin kid who just seems to appear out of nowhere, with the exception of a single shot of him in school watching Meg get teased about her father disappearing. There’s no backstory to this character and there’s no depth to him aside from having issues with his father. Oh boy! A popular rich white kid with daddy issues. Yipeeeee!

Friday, March 9, 2018


And now we turn the floor over to our insane friend, Scotty Pickles, discussing the greatest songs ever. All typos preserved in their original packaging. 

A real top 10 songs list. No opinion just facts..........

10.) Revolution- The Beatles

This song is a true great from John’s vocals to George’s grinding guitar the song speaks to every generation that feels the need to revolt. And I mean revolting for the right reasons, like fighting agents an oppressive government, and not sitting on a lawn crying because no one is hiring people with degrees in archaeology.

9.) Stairway to Heaven-Led Zeppelin 

Where do I begin with this classic? This isn’t a stairway it’s a roller coaster of tempo and sound. The song has three sections, each one progressively increasing in tempo and volume. The song begins in a slow tempo with acoustic instruments (guitar and recorders) before introducing electric instruments. The final section is an hard rock anthem with Jimmy Paige’s classic hard rock guitar and Robert Plant’s screeching vocals.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Parents' Night In #2: Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Welcome to Episode #2 of Parents' Night In, where Kelly and I drink booze and watch movies!  This week we're talkin' about the John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off!

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Albums

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

What's on my mind today is legendary thrash metal band, Anthrax!  One of metal's vaunted Big Four (along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer), Anthrax formed in New York City in 1981 and set themselves apart from other metal outfits with their muscular, kinetic sound and underlying sense of humor.  Where bands like Slayer strived to be as dark and demonic as possible, Anthrax kept things a little fun and nerdy, taking cues from heroes like Iron Maiden by including literary elements (mostly Stephen King) and comic booky subject matter.  Anthrax were also one of the first metal bands to tackle topics like racism, homelessness and genocide, attempting to raise a bit of social awareness and build their sonic brutality around positive energy.  And with their rap-metal crossover hits "I'm the Man" and "Bring the Noise" (the latter being a Public Enemy cover that actually featured PE), they foreshadowed the rap-rock craze that emerged in the late '90s.  Maintaining a drug-free lifestyle, Anthrax has aged much more gracefully than some of their metal brethren; their recent records have sounded just as vital as their earlier work and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  The three-pronged rhythm section of Charlie Benante's impossibly ballistic drums, Frank Bello's gritty, pulsing bass, and Scott Ian's jackhammer guitar riffage (easily on par with their Metallica counterparts) has served as the band's signature foundation for over three decades and in 2018 is just as asskicking as ever.

Here now are the Anthrax albums, ranked (The only full-length LP not to make this list is their debut Fistful of Metal, which featured Neil Turbin on vocals and Dan Likler on bass, and sounded like a band still trying to find its identity).....

10. Stomp 442

John Bush's sophomore effort as Anthrax's frontman had a crisply produced, punchy sound that was initially very promising and a step up sonically from Sound of White Noise, but unfortunately the songs on Stomp 442 were nowhere near as strong.  This being the mid-90s, when metal was about as uncool as could be, Anthrax veered more into alternative groove-metal on this record (something akin to say, Biohazard), and the songs blurred into each other a bit.  This record is steeped in midtempo sludge, with only a few noteworthy tracks that for me don't even crack the band's top 20.  It also loses a point for the lack of Anthrax's cool-ass logo on the cover (their logo is one of the most awesome ever created); for some reason they opted for a totally generic stoner rock-type logo instead.  This album fared poorly on the charts and they were soon dropped from Elektra Records as a result.  But not to worry, things improved.  Side note: To this day I still don't understand what the title is supposed to mean.  Side note #2: The album cover was originally intended for Bruce Dickinson's second solo album but he couldn't afford it, so Anthrax scooped it up instead.

Key Tracks: "Riding Shotgun," "In a Zone," "Nothing"

9. Volume 8: The Threat is Real

The 1998 followup was no classic album by any means, but where Stomp 442 featured a slate of mediocre chugging tracks, Anthrax took a much more adventurous approach on this album.  The overall sound and production is muddy and has a late 90s DIY feel, but the songwriting is actually quite solid here.  It seemed like John Bush, whose vocals had up to now felt, for me, a bit "square peg" on an Anthrax record, finally found the right melodic strategy on Vol. 8.  Songs like "Catharsis," "Harm's Way," and the pretty supberb "Stealing from a Thief" showed a band less concerned about fitting a particular style and happier just writing good, grungy rock tunes.  Volume 8 has a varied set of hard rockers plus the touching hidden track "Pieces" (written and sung by Frank Bello, who's brother had recently been killed), and the result is a significant step up from Stomp.

Key Tracks: "Crush," "Harm's Way," "Stealing from a Thief"

8. State of Euphoria 

SoE was the first Anthrax album I ever heard (back in early 1990) and it hooked me right away.  I was familiar with the name of the band and for some reason based on the T-shirts I'd seen I envisioned a band similar to Guns N' Roses.  I was surprised to find they had more in common with Metallica, albeit with Joey Belladonna's much cleaner vocal style.  Right away it was clear this band was a little different, letting their playful personalities shine through amid the high-energy metal heft.  The opening track "Be All, End All" carried an upbeat message, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" took on phony, studio-enhanced pop stars, "Make Me Laugh" attacked the hypocrisy of celebrity preachers, and the sardonic "Now It's Dark" was inspired by the David Lynch cult film Blue Velvet.  But Anthrax scored a solid hit with their cover of "Antisocial," originally recorded by French metal band Trust (Incidentally this song is featured in the 2017 film It).  State of Euphoria runs out of steam about two-thirds in and Joey's vocal parts clung way too closely to the guitar riffs for my taste, but it's a solid record that still has sentimental value.

Key Tracks: "Make Me Laugh," "Antisocial," "Now It's Dark"