Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Top Ten Things: Film Musicals

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at!  We give you ten examples of something we like or dislike, and arguments ensue.....

Today I'm discussing a topic that is, dare I say, not really near and dear to my heart, the movie musical.  By and large I'm not much of an enthusiast of the musical.  The idea of a narrative that's constantly being interrupted by its characters spontaneously breaking out into song & dance numbers has always struck me as such a strange concept.  Why does a character need a four-minute song to convey a simple thought or feeling when two lines of dialogue will do?  Why does a film's running time need to be inflated to three hours when there's only 90 minutes of story to tell (Sound of Music, I'm looking in your general direction....)?

That said, there are movie musicals I value quite a lot, either because the story and performances resonate with me, or because the songwriting is so strong, or some combination thereof.  A great musical number can add emotional depth to a scene that wouldn't even be emotionally engaging, simply because of the artistry on display.  I've found myself getting unexpectedly choked up during certain numbers due to the execution being so spectacular.

One thing I should note about this list: I have not included any Disney films because the list would be almost exclusively Disney, and that would be kinda boring.  So I've left those movies out.

Anyway, here we go.....

10. Little Shop of Horrors

This one's been a favorite since I was eleven years old.  In the mid 80s my parents picked up a cheap VHS copy of the original Roger Corman cult classic The Little Shop of Horrors, a grisly horror-comedy about a man-eating plant.  I instantly became a fan of this cheesy B-film and was delighted when it was adapted as a Broadway musical (which my parents took me to see in 1986), and again as an all-star film version of said musical.  The comedy elements were dialed up and the evil plant given a much more colorful personality, via a sophisticated puppet; the puppetry effects in the film version are quite amazing, even today.  Starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene (reprising her role from the stage version) with supporting and cameo appearances by Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Jim Belushi, plus the voice of Levi Stubbs (of The Four Tops), LSOH is a fun, colorful, self-aware romp with memorable musical set pieces and hooky, early 60s-influenced tunes.  For a film based on a musical based on another film, this one holds up tremendously well.

9. A Hard Day's Night

The first of two Beatles films on this list, A Hard Day's Night is generally the venerated one, a simple "day in the life" story about the world's biggest pop group that involves them traveling by train to a theater where they'll perform for a TV special.  Storyline-wise that's about all that happens.  But this film's charm is in the interaction of the four leads (plus their road managers and Paul's crotchety grandfather).  The Beatles, despite not being trained actors, were pretty natural comedians in front of the camera, particularly the witty, sarcastic John Lennon.  Directed by Richard Lester, AHDN is often revered as Britain's answer to the Marx Brothers, with zany misadventures and hilarious one-liners abound.  But the music of course takes center stage; the band released this film in tandem with their third album of the same name, and seven brand new tracks were featured.  This film was such a hit that the group and their director reunited a year later with a second (and in my opinion even better) followup.

8. Jesus Christ Superstar

Originally written, recorded and released as a double concept album, Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece was so successful that it was fleshed out into a Broadway musical/rock opera about the final days of Christ, portraying him as the world's first celebrity who has become a danger to the political and religious establishment.  Then in 1973 director Norman Jewison brought the show to the big screen, as a visually lavish but aesthetically minimalistic film shot almost entirely in the Israeli desert, where a cast of actors recreate the show with a mix of historical and contemporary elements.  The music drives the narrative, and the principle actors all deliver fantastic performances, in particular Carl Anderson in a soulful, athletic take on Judas, and Bob Bingham as the imposing, villainous Caiaphas.  This gritty, austere adaptation captures the mood of both the 1970s and the story's biblical era, achieving a strange balance between the two that works better than it has any right to.  And of course Webber's music is spectacular; perhaps the definitive example of rock opera.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

WWE RAW: Roman Kicked Leukemia's Ass...and Then Batista Kicked Ric Flair's

And here I was thinking we might finally have a WrestleMania card with no fifty-year-olds on it.  Chrissake...  But first the good news.

Roman Reigns announced last night that his leukemia is in remission and he's ready to return to the ring.  Whether you were a Reigns fan prior to his illness or not, this is fantastic news and I'm glad to see the fans have fully embraced him.  It's kind of ironic and sad that despite WWE's best efforts over the years, what finally got Reigns over as a hero was his own real-life struggles.  I guess it shouldn't be that surprising, since wrestlers being themselves is almost always what gets them over, not Vince's scripting (I'm still waiting for Vince to figure this out again).  I just hope the company has the sense to continue letting Roman just be who he is; when he's allowed to speak from the heart he's effective and very likable.

I also hope the company doesn't feel compelled to simply shove him into the Universal Title match at WrestleMania.  That would seem forced and would actually risk damaging the audience's newfound love for the man.  Let Seth Rollins have his well-deserved moment against Brock Lesnar, followed by a long, healthy title run.  Meanwhile Reigns can feud with someone else for a while and maybe they eventually build to Roman vs. Seth in a year.  We never really got a proper version of that feud before anyway, and with Dean Ambrose leaving it will no longer be this awkward two-against-one situation, like in 2014-15 when Roman more or less had to ignore that Seth betrayed him.  If the company doesn't book itself out of a successful Reigns babyface character, Seth can turn on him down the road and it can be a white-hot Hogan vs. Savage-type feud.  Just let things play out organically.

Now for some complaining....

Monday, February 25, 2019

91st Academy Awards Recap: Spike Got Screwed

It's time once again for Mike Drinan and I to give you our Oscar recap thoughts, so let's get to it...

Justin: The 91st Oscars are in the books, and there weren't many surprises.  Most of what we figured would win did, and the Academy predictably went the safe route with the Best Pic award, with Green Book taking home the big one.  Before we get our hands dirty with our gripes, what did you think of the show overall?

Mike: Overall, I thought it was a very enjoyable show this year. I loved the no host thing and hope they continue it. It made the night more about the ceremony than about the host and what they're going to do (i.e gimmicks, jokes, musical numbers, etc.) and it made the ceremony move right along. Even though the show was still over 3 hours long, it was only over by 19 minutes as opposed to years past ending around midnight. The acceptance speeches are still painful to sit through, for the most part, especially the three winners for Best Hair & Makeup and their shared piece of paper. Good lord! Coordinate people! Talk out these ideas first. However, Olivia Colman's speech was the best speech of the night. I think my only gripe about the show overall is the opening montage of films moved a little fast like they had to rush through it. For a night that is meant to celebrate the year in film, I thought they could've put a little more care into that. Other than that, I thought it was a really good night for the Academy as far as the ceremony goes.

Justin: I was torn on the no-host thing.  I agree it allowed the show to move along faster, but I feel like there still needs to be a host to intro the show and sign off at the end.  Maybe split the difference.  Julia Roberts awkwardly saying "Welp, I guess that's it, good night!" was a really odd way to end it.  I loved Colman's speech, easily the highlight of the evening.  She's adorable.  Other highlights for me were Gaga-Cooper (Do they have tangible chemistry or what?) and Rami Malek's speech.  I would've liked to see the Thalberg award presentation, especially since Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall won it - Kennedy is the first woman to win that award.

Now, as for the big winners....  I haven't seen Green Book yet (or Roma for that matter), so I can't comment totally intelligently on its merits, but from what I've read this felt like the Academy taking the non-controversial route YET AGAIN.  There were two Best Pic nominees that dealt with race relations in America and the voters rewarded the White Version.  I gotta say that bugs me on a number of levels.  BlacKKKlansman is a challenging, unapologetic look at American racism, with very clear parallels showing how relevant the issue still is today.  Green Book seems to essentially be saying "Yeah, things were fucked up for a while but it's alright now."  Guess what - it ain't yet. 

I'm not sure what the Academy has against black directors, but Spike Lee is the fifth nominated black director in the last decade to lose in that category (the first four were Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen, Barry Jenkins and Jordan Peele), despite two of those directors winning Best Picture later in the night.  Am I crazy or does that seem really wrong?  I'd opine that Best Director and Best Picture should almost always go to the same film, but especially in the case of 12 Years a Slave for example, which was such a flat-out masterpiece.  McQueen lost that year to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity of all films, and three years later Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) lost to Damien Chazelle for fucking La La Land.  Moves like these feel like the Academy is going out of its way to preserve that particular glass ceiling.  And now Spike Lee (who did at least win his first-ever Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay) had to lose to another movie about someone driving somebody somewhere (Do the Right Thing lost to Driving Miss Daisy in the Screenplay category 29 years ago).  I dunno, I think he has every right to be pissed.

Friday, February 22, 2019

91st Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

It's that time again, when Hollywood's best and brightest get dolled up and give each other presents for being awesome!  So Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I are back to offer our thoughts and predictions!

2018 was definitely a step down from 2017 for me.  There were some excellent films but nowhere near the volume of '17 (Then again 2017 was one of the best years for film I can remember).  I also spent a lot of the year playing catch-up and there are still a few important entries I have to see.  But in terms of Best Pic nominees I'm in decent shape, having seen six of the eight.

What disturbs me about this year's awards is the obvious desperation for ratings, to the point that not only was the Academy considering adding a Best Popular Film category (Holy fucking Christ that's a terrible idea), but a couple of the Best Pic noms were questionable at best.  I get that you need people to watch the show, but surely we don't have to cheapen the most important category with films that don't deserve to be there.  More on that in a bit.

I also find the lack of a host very odd.  Kevin Hart was of course tapped to host the show originally, and I think he'd have been highly entertaining in that role.  But then it got out that, get this, standup comedian Kevin Hart once told some offensive jokes.  ***GASP***  Look, Eddie Murphy was supposed to host several years ago and I guarantee whatever Hart said in his act was less offensive than some of Murphy's 1980s material.  Standup comedy is kinda sorta supposed to be offensive at times, no?  So rather than welcome further backlash, Hart stepped down as host and the Academy chose not to replace him at all.  This'll be weird.  Who's doing the introduction?  This edition feels so chaotic.

Anyway, let's get to the categories.

Best Picture

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
A Star is Born

Justin: I've seen all but two of these candidates (Roma & Green Book) and hope to catch them this weekend before the show.  Roma's on Netflix so that should be a no-brainer.  My favorite of the six I have seen is BlacKKKlansman, a riveting docudrama with subject matter that's as relevant today as it was in the 70s.  I also loved The Favourite and have begun delving into Yorgos Lanthimos's previous films (His movies have an offputting, Kubrick-esque quality that I admire greatly).  Vice and A Star is Born are both top-notch candidates as well, with excellent performances.  Black Panther is an odd one for me; I liked this movie a lot and I'm certainly happy the Academy recognized a superhero film, particularly one with such cultural significance.  But like Mad Max Fury Road it seems out of place here.  The one that really gets my goat though is Bohemian Rhapsody, a sterile, trite, paint-by-numbers rock n' roll biopic that for me didn't even measure up to Oliver Stone's The Doors.  This nomination more than any other reeks of ratings desperation, and in including it the Academy seems to have mistaken a strong central performance for a great film.  You can read my full review of BR here, but in short, this movie has no business in this category.  How did If Beale Street Could Talk not get included instead, aside from "ratings, man?"

Anyway, Roma's been the odds-on favorite to win this whole thing and it's probably the most unanimous pick for most critics, but I gotta think the studio heads are pissed that it's a Netflix film.  Could that hurt its chances?  I could see Klansman getting it instead, since Spike Lee never wins anything.  That's what I'm rooting for.  But Roma has gotten SO much praise it's hard to bet against it.

Prediction: Roma

Mike: This year, I slacked off on the movie front. I have only seen 2 of the nominated films, Black Panther and BlacKKKlansman. Both Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody seem odd choices for this category. It's definitely an effort to get ratings. It would've been nice if If Beale Street Could Talk got one of those two spots. It was absolutely worth nomination, at least. I'm really interested to see The Favourite since there seems to be a good mix of humor, drama and uncertainty to it. Yorgos is definitely an interesting director to keep an eye on. I'm also interested in seeing A Star Is Born because it looks great, but I don't like that it got nominated in this category. It's the fourth remake of this film. WHY are we entertaining it as if it was some great original idea?

Anyways, I've heard great things about Roma and it's won a slew of awards already and critics have been loving it, so I'm not sure if it being on Netflix hurts or not. I wouldn't completely mind if BlacKKKlansman gets it but I don't see that happening. To me the upset would come from Green Book.

Prediction: Roma

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

WWE Elimination Chamber 2019: Everybody Loves Kofi

Well it was no instant classic by any means, but the 2019 Elimination Chamber PPV was inoffensive and refreshingly short, with two Chambers that were, at worst, decent (One was very good in fact).

The show started and ended well, opening with the Women's Tag Team Championship Chamber.  This bout was messy in spots and suffered from not enough credible teams (Alexa & Mickie should've been involved), but it revved up well toward the end and the crowd bought into the importance of it all.  Sasha Banks & Bayley began and ended the match with Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville, and the two teams gelled pretty well.  Nia Jax & Tamina got some good dominant spots, eliminating two teams, The Riott Squad got some moments to shine, particularly in the spot where they each dove off a chamber pod onto separate opponents, The IIconics came off as suitably overmatched (I've heard complaints that they got in too much offense, but it was after a huge Tower of Doom spot, so it didn't bother me), and Naomi & Carmella were essentially punished for their respective scandals this past week.  Kinda odd.  In the end of course it came down to the two starting teams, who had good some back-and-forth before Sasha finally locked in the Bank Statement (using one of her legs since her shoulder was injured) for the tapout on Sonya.  This felt like a big moment and a fitting start to this new championship.  Hopefully the company won't cheapen it by bouncing it all over the place.  Sasha and Bayley need a long run to establish this title as something valuable.  An entertaining Chamber match with the right winner.  ***

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

So what are we to take away from Bohemian Rhapsody exactly?  That Queen were a popular, groundbreaking band with an all-time great frontman?  We already knew that.  That Freddie Mercury was a wholly unconventional rock star who loved to party and had sex with a lot of people?  Yeah, we knew that too.  Or, are they implying that Mercury took his "lifestyle" too far and the band had to "rein him in," in order to be able relate to him again?  By all historical accounts Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor weren't bothered in the least by Freddie's sexual orientation or his expression thereof, but in this film they're visibly uncomfortable with it seemingly at every turn.  And yet the screenplay isn't courageous enough to explore Freddie's personal life in any three-dimensional fashion, instead tiptoeing around all of it.

Were the filmmakers scared to deal with this material, lest it frighten away mainstream audiences?  Were Brian May and Roger Taylor not willing to fully commit to a tell-all about their bandmate, lest Queen fans come to the "shocking" realization that Freddie wasn't perfect?  This film just feels like it couldn't decide whether to be a Mercury character study or a band biography, and it ends up not really being either.  Mercury's personal life is explored only on the surface, and the other three band members are barely given characters at all.  Even his long-time relationship with Mary Austin and his later one with Jim Hutton are mostly glossed over, while his personal assistant Paul Prenter is presented as a scheming leech.

Singlehandedly carrying the film, Rami Malek gives a very strong performance, the only thing about this film that deserved an Oscar nomination (apparently Bohemian Rhapsody is this year's Gladiator in terms of being over-nominated).  But imagine what he could've done with Mercury's final years, something the script omits completely, instead jumping from the triumphant Live Aid performance to a closing title informing us that Freddie died six years later.  This reeked of the filmmakers simply not wanting to get their hands dirty exploring real dramatic heft, like the goal was to enhance the Queen brand rather than tell their (fascinating) story.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Parents' Night In #17: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (1994)

Kelly and Justin enjoy some Cava, some local craft beers, and the movie that launched Jim Carrey's legendary film career, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective!  Jim's performance still holds up 25 years later as a masterstroke in screwball comedy!  Sit back and listen to us prattle on about how much we love the guy....

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Friday, February 15, 2019


"You understand, Captain, that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist."

One of my all-time favorite movie posters.  I like it so much that after watching the film once in 1995
and not loving it, I gave it another chance years later.  Good thing I did, because that's when the film clicked for me.

Why has Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War tour de force Apocalypse Now, whose production was hampered by just about every turmoil and anxiety imaginable, endured the last 40+ years as a genuine classic?   How was its director able to weather the perfect storm of location problems, unpredictable equipment availability, cast changes, health scares, and a wholly mercurial and unprepared star, and come out the other side with one of the greatest of all war films, indeed one of the greatest films of any genre?  Perhaps adversity really is key to making great art.  Maybe the filmmakers' creative anguish formed a cinematic powderkeg, the volatility of which can be felt in every frame.  Or maybe Apocalypse Now remains in our collective lexicon because it is not a "war film" in the traditional sense, but rather a story about traveling inward to the darkest recesses of the human soul and confronting what we find.  Perhaps the above quote from Harrison Ford's character Colonel G. Lucas (get it?) is more significant than just a plot-related throwaway line.

The film begins with a beautiful slow-motion shot - a reject from the vast collection of dailies that Coppola just happened to fish out of the trash, depicting a forest being incinerated by a fleet of helicopters - before blending into a composite shot.  The jungle becomes the background for an upside-down closeup of Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin Willard and a closeup of a temple face carved out of stone.  The soundtrack to this beautifully disturbing montage is The Doors epic "The End," which in its own right would become another character in the film.  This combined image is a harbinger of the introspective, surrealistic journey Willard, and we, are about to take.

Effin' trippy, dude.

"There is no way to tell (Colonel Kurtz's) story without telling my own. And if his story really is a confession, then so is mine."

Capt. Willard is a broken man when we first meet him.  Like a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, he has been at war so long he no longer knows how to live without it; how to relate to the outside world.  His marriage has ended and he's chosen to return to battle, but without a mission he rots away in a Saigon hotel room, spending most waking hours in a drunken haze.  He is a man devoid of purpose, and when his superiors finally give him something to do, it is the unenviable (and classified) task of traveling upriver through the war-mutilated country to kill a rogue US Colonel.  The film then becomes a series of detached events resembling Homer's Odyssey, as Willard and his boat crew travel deeper and deeper into the jungle.

Willard's target, the highly decorated Colonel Walter Kurtz, has established a cult-like settlement deep in the Laotian jungle (where he is worshiped by the local tribes) and wages his own chaotic form of war.  Willard reluctantly agrees to the mission despite its profound moral ambiguity, and as his journey progresses he finds himself both fearing and deeply respecting Kurtz for all his accomplishments.  He begins to doubt his ability to carry out the mission.

Apocalypse Now is full of great shots.  This one is simple but perfectly captures
the overwhelming heat and claustrophobia of the location. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

WWE Elimination Chamber 2019 Preview & Predictions

It's been three weeks since the Rumble, so that means it's time for another WWE PPV!  We're in the thick of WrestleMania season, when a few of the big matches for April are starting to become clearer.  This Sunday it's the return of Elimination Chamber!

Like 2018, this year's edition has two Chambers, one for the men and one for the women.  But the women's match this time has a wrinkle, as it's to crown the first set of Women's Tag Team Champions, a title that hasn't existed in roughly thirty years (Remember how awesome the Jumping Bomb Angels were?).  Aside from the two Chamber bouts, this show is fairly thin, but at least it won't be five hours, for Chrissake.  Let's get to it...

***I'm ahead with 69% (83/120), Dave is second with 66% (79/120), and Dan and Landon are tied with 65% (78/120).***

Pre-Show Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa

For the first time I'm actually a little sad the CW match got bumped.  Buddy and his, well, buddies on 205 Live have been killing it lately.  This should be no exception, as both guys can go.  I gotta stick with Buddy to retain here since it is on the pre-show.  Maybe someday they'll get a high-profile enough match to have a meaningful title change.

Justin: Buddy retains
Dan: Yeah
Landon: Buddy
Dave: Buddy

Intercontinental Championship: Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush vs. Finn Balor

I hate handicap matches, you should all know this by now.  But I like Finn Balor.  Finn should finally win some goddamn main roster gold; he's only had a title on RAW for one day.  This could be decent.  Finn has been working his ass off lately, Lashley is much, much better as a heel, and Lio Rush is talented.  But Finn needs this.

Justin: Finn gets the pin to win that piece of tin.
Dan: I think Lashley holds it here to lose it to Balor at 'Mania
Landon: Christ almighty.  Finn.
Dave: Let's go Finn

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Shane & The Miz vs. The Usos

Christ, this is where we're at now?  Shane gets a PPV match every month?  We all know this is building to Shane-Miz at 'Mania, but since Fastlane stands between this show and that one, Shane & Mike ain't losing yet.

Justin: The champs retain
Dan: They almost have to.
Landon: Usos
Dave: The champs, but come on, this is ridiculous.

You Used to be Sooooo Good: Frank Miller

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Soooo Good, where Justin and I, Dan Moore, discuss things used to be awesome but now, eh, not so much. On this day we discuss one of the greatest, most important men to ever come down the chute to write and draw men in tights punching other men in tights in the facial regions.

Frank Miller:  You Used to Be Soooo Good

He just looks like a creep these days.

DAN: Mr. Miller is the highly influential creator of some of the greatest comic book opuses out there. He’s the master of Batman stories, and gave us this, one the most iconic images of Bats in comics history. 

My God.  Just look at it.

The man changed the comics world, taking it from the nerdy clichés of the Simpsons comic book guy to becoming okay for the masses to enjoy them.

JUSTIN: He somehow went from being one of the greatest and most influential comic book artist/writers of all time, a man who revitalized and redefined not one but two major characters while creating a totally distinctive style, to an insufferable self-parody who turns out mean-spirited fascist drivel.

DAN: His politics seem to have completely taken over his creative mind. To the point where he had to re-do a Batman comic into a totally different character as it went on to become a propaganda piece depicting a masked hero beating up Al-Qaeda operatives. Which, to me, seems like a pointless indulgence as actual terrorists run amok around the world. Is seeing a pretend hero beating up actual villains supposed to make us feel better? Feel patriotic somehow? The whole project, from inception to execution seemed 100% pointless and ego driven.

JUSTIN: Yes, his recent "classic," Holy Terror, is essentially just his own fantasy about killing Muslims. Here's how Grant Morrison felt about the idea when it was announced:

Batman vs. Al Qaeda! It might as well be Bin Laden vs. King Kong! Or how about the sinister Al Qaeda mastermind up against a hungry Hannibal Lecter! For all the good it's likely to do. Cheering on a fictional character as he beats up fictionalized terrorists seems like a decadent indulgence when real terrorists are killing real people in the real world. I'd be so much more impressed if Frank Miller gave up all this graphic novel nonsense, joined the Army and, with a howl of undying hate, rushed headlong onto the front lines with the young soldiers who are actually risking life and limb 'vs.' Al Qaeda.

It's just a shame that such a brilliantly talented artist/writer evidently allowed the events of 9/11 to turn him into a vindictive, bitter old vulture.  Not unlike what happened to Dennis Miller. I mean there's a place for political commentary in comic books to be sure, but it kinda has to be kept as subtext, or it just becomes regurgitated propaganda.  During World War II DC Comics used to depict Superman beating up Hitler and Hirohito on the covers of several issues, but inside the stories were never about that.  The editors wisely understood that even if Supes beats up our enemies abroad in the pages of his comic book, in real life our soldiers still have to face actual horrors overseas.  In the end, while comic books can contain relevant social and political topics, they need to be presented as the backdrop for an escapist story somehow, or it doesn't really work as an art form.

Yeah, Generic Superhero!  You beat up that sword-wielding mummy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Girl Scout Cookies Are Complete & Utter Trash

By Dan Moore

Well, it’s that time of year again. When a bunch of people that work in an office are forced by some pushy asshole co-worker to overpay for some shit cookies being sold by a cabal of prepubescent minions in uniforms for a scam “fundraiser”. That’s right, it’s Girl Scout cookie season.

A rainbow of rubbish

This fucking shakedown has been perpetrated on the American public for literally centuries*. These god-awful bullshit cookies are pushed upon you by some doting mother, probably with an asshole name, like Paige or Alice. “Would you like to overpay for some flavorless sugar discs” she’ll say. And lest you be chastised by the whole fucking office, you acquiesce and say “Sure, give me a box of that garbage where the carboard holding the cookies is tastier than the bullshit cookie itself”. Then she’ll say “oh, only one?” and fucking Karen in accounting will give you that look of disdain, like you’re some kind of monster for only getting one box full of plain flour slices (seriously, fuck you, Karen). So you get two. And she says “ok that’s 9 cookies for a thousand dollars, thanks asshole”.

*(probably not literally).

I hate the whole racket. The fake specialness of those awful cookies. The little sprites in their fucking sashes accosting me outside the Market Basket trying to get me to overpay for their dumpster cookies. Uh, hey, Prudence, or Zima or whatever the fuck horrible name your parents gave you, I just came from the super market. I got BAGS of good cookies, sweetheart. Oreos UP THE ASS. Good shit, like Chips Ahoy and/or Deluxe, whatever your Chips preference is, I got it. And there’s a TON of those motherfuckers in very affordable packages.


And what the fuck are you doing by the supermarket exit selling cookies? Hey, newsflash Nadia, I ALREADY BOUGHT COOKIES. Why would I get more when I’m leaving? Who the fuck taught you marketing? There’s ZERO chance I’m buying anything by the exit of the place I just left, unless it’s a bar and there’s cocaine. It’s common sense. Jesus Christ.

Let’s rate these motherfuckers.

The Peanut Butter ones—legit, the only decent tasting one, and that’s being kind, because these are still fucking terrible. The peanut butter to “cookie” ratio is waaaaaaaaaay fucking off. It tastes like dried dough with a slight peanut butter texture.

RATING: On a taste of ass to total ass, it tastes slightly worse than ass.

Thin Mints---the fuck outta my face with this bullshit. A thin disc of smashed up toothpaste is what this is. “Oh you gotta put them in the freezer for the best taste” I’m gonna put you in the freezer if you don’t shut the fuck up. When I need instructions on how to make your vomit cookies actually taste good, that means they suck and you should go to hell.

RATING: Pure minty hell.

Samoas---“Here, have a bite of racism!” What the fuck is with this name? They’re destroying a beautiful culture by having them be associated with this monster. Caramel and chocolate all mixed up with coconut? I’d rather get a handy from Freddy Krueger than try to down these abominations.

RATING: Complete and utter ASS.

If these look enticing to you, go jump in traffic. 

Tagalongs---more like fuckalongs.

RATING: Balls. Pure balls.

Fuck these cookies. Straight dumpster cuisine.

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The One Thing Wrong with Jurassic Park, by Dan Moore

Jurassic Park is an incredible film. You don't need me to tell you this. It's science. Look.

I'm not here to point out any of the myriad of plot holes, technical gaffes or implausibilities in this film. There's plenty of articles out there showing this stuff.  I'm of the belief that if I can buy people bringing back fucking DINOSAURS, then sure, I can believe a T-Rex can sneak up on a group of raptors and people in a building.

My one problem with this movie is this.

Not that the lawyer gets it on the toilet. No issue there. My problem is with the fact that there's a toilet there in the first place. There would be ZERO need for a toilet at the T-Rex paddock. You would automatically shit your pants at the awesomeness of a T-Rex eating a goat. Not in a bad, embarrassing way. It would be accepted in every tour given. It would be a known custom at the park. They'd be telling you this the second you went through that King Kong wooden door.  "Be warned, this next part is so fucking awesome, you are going to shit in your pants." Christ, I'm sitting on my couch, just thinking of a giant lizard eating some livestock, and a little nugget fell out.  Ok, two. If you think there's something wrong with that, then there's something wrong with you and I don't wanna know you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Rob Reiner

Welcome back to our vaunted regular feature, You Used to Be Sooooo Good, where I, Justin Ballard and my esteemed associate Dan Moore discuss things that used to be super awesome and now, well, just kinda suck.

There he is.  A former master of cinema.

JUSTIN: This week we'll be discussing the films of director Rob Reiner.  From a well-renowned comedy pedigree, Reiner became famous as Meathead on All in the Family, but made the transition to directing films.  His filmography began with an amazing streak of seven good-to-excellent films, no fewer than four being bonafide cinematic classics.  Just take a gander at his early work.....

This is Spinal Tap (1984) - One of my top five favorite comedies and as you know, one of my most oft-quoted.  Plus as a metal musician I've been through so many similar scenarios as these fools.
The Sure Thing (1985) - Probably the weakest of his early films but still a highly entertaining rom-com that more or less put John Cusack on the map.
Stand By Me (1986) - Based on the Stephen King novella The Body, this is for me the quintessential pre-adolescent movie and the relationships between the four boys echoes pretty much every group of friends I've ever had.
The Princess Bride (1987) - What's not to like about this movie?  It literally has something for everyone, plus the best-ever cinematic performance by a pro wrestler (Andre the Giant).
When Harry Met Sally (1988) - This one hasn't had the long-term appeal for me as the others, but I rewatched it a few years ago and it still holds up as a rare rom-com with both a heart and a brain.
Misery (1990) - Just a really great adaptation of the Stephen King book.  The horror violence is slightly toned down but otherwise it's a pretty perfect movie interpretation.
A Few Good Men (1992) - Arguably Reiner's masterpiece, A Few Good Men was robbed of multiple Oscars as far as I'm concerned.  Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson delivered some of their finest work, and the near-perfect script by Aaron Sorkin provided eminently quotable dialogue that is still part of the American lexicon.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Movie Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

As a huge longtime fan of the Coen Brothers I was stoked for their latest, a film I could watch on Netflix no less (no need to book a babysitter!).  True Grit, the Coens' previous foray into the Western genre was a rousing success and ranks as one of my favorite entries in their filmography, so The Ballad of Buster Scruggs seemed like a promising venture.  The film is an anthology of six unrelated narratives that plays out like a book of short stories and stars Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson and a host of others.

I was drawn in pretty quickly by the first story, a tongue-in-cheek, violently amusing piece about an accomplished gunfighter/singing cowboy (Nelson as the title character) who speaks cheerfully and eloquently but has no qualms about coldly murdering anyone who dares insult him.  This story was quite promising and felt like a classic Coen exercise in morbid comedy.  And then it was just over.  Right when things are getting interesting, the tale comes to a screeching, premature halt, and we move quickly to the next story.  And that sums up the biggest problem I have with this film.  None of the chapters are given adequate time to explore the characters or plot elements long enough to really become compelling.  Each story either feels rushed to its conclusion or just kind of empty.

The second story involves a bank robbery gone wrong.  The bandit (James Franco) finds himself at the end of a rope, only to escape and then find himself at the end of another rope five screen minutes later.  Things happen in most of these stories that ultimately don't change the outcome.  Maybe that was the theme?  Death is imminent and any escape from it is only temporary?

The third and most depressing chapter involves a traveling show that consists of a quadruplegic who delivers famous monologues and historical speeches.  Liam Neeson stars as the show manager, Harry Melling as the talent.  This rather repetitive piece depicts their daily routine and their dwindling crowds, building to a very morbid climax.  There's a good idea in here somewhere but the story ultimately feels one-note.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Cinema Do-Overs: Star Wars Episode I

Since the final Star Wars film in the current trilogy is soon to be upon us, I thought I'd share my own revamped version of Episode I.  I won't go into everything that was wrong with The Phantom Menace, as we'd be here all year, and others have already covered that stuff much more thoroughly and cleverly than I could (Red Letter Media and Chef Elf for example).  But here's how I would totally overhaul the story and give the world a worthy prequel to one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.  Enjoy.....

To preface this, there are two story threads happening and the film would cut back and forth between the big picture stuff and the character stuff.  

The big picture stuff is like this: A war has been brewing over the past decade between the Republic and the Separatists.  War is looked upon as an absolute last resort and is unspeakably ugly to most citizens of the Republic.  The Republic is set up like Switzerland where there’s a standing army and all able-bodied men and women of a certain age are required to join, but since war hasn’t happened in over 1000 generations it’s mostly just a formality.  Those who show real promise are promoted to officers, and those who exhibit strong Force skills are offered Jedi training.  Jedi training begins at age 9 or 10 (not friggin’ six months like Lucas had it) and is mostly performed by a select Council of Jedi (Yoda previously had a more hands-on role in training but given his advanced age he has stepped back from that).

Anywho, the Separatists, led by the mysterious Governor Morlac (who they talk about but we don’t see in this episode; also I changed his name because Dooku sounds like "poop," and he is not affiliated with Palpatine or the Sith) are putting together an army of men and droids and are threatening to secede from the Republic (maybe over Clone technology, which is used to cure disease etc. – this creates an interesting parallel with the real-life debate over stem-cell research).  It should be noted that unlike in the actual prequels, the impending war is a real thing and not a false conflict orchestrated by Palpatine.  Acts of hostility have already broken out all over the galaxy and the Republic is beginning to crumble.  Crime has become a real issue and the economic system is being strained, resulting in outer rim planets becoming war zones (like the one Anakin grew up on).  The Jedi therefore are being stretched thin and are desperately looking to recruit more help. 

An ambitious Senator Palpatine, in light of the rising turmoil/economic crisis, begins a campaign to declare war on the Separatists and restore peace in the galaxy.  He is a master speech maker and has gained quite a bit of support in the Senate and all around the galaxy, particularly in the outer rim where poverty and crime are at an all-time high.  Also the Supreme Chancellor is up for re-election and Palpatine is making a bid to replace him.

The Retired Human: An Investigation

I’ve been subjected to a bevy of retired people in my life the last few weeks (my parents were in town, and now my girlfriend's parents). I’ve been able to study their everyday activities and now I would like to share with you all my very scientific observations on this most strange animal, the Retired Human (Oldicus Boredicus).

There they are, about to tell me how I fucked something up.

1. THEY CRAVE THE PRINTED WORD: These old folk need information. But they do not wish to have that info at a convenient access point like, say, in their hands AT ANY TIME WITH A PUSH OF A BUTTON. No, no, no. These people need ink on paper. NEED IT. Like an alcoholic going from bar to bar avoiding last calls, these people cannot begin the day without their fingers being dirtied up by cheap ink off cheaper paper. Yes, they desire yesterday’s news at an ungodly early hour printed on a piece of stationary barely above welfare grade toilet paper. They all head to a store before the sun is up. They circle the place, standing by for the doors to open so they can pounce like hyenas waiting on a used-up carcass.  One wonders if they would also accept a man working with a quill pen, dipping it in ink and writing out this info in Latin, which is just about as useful as today’s newspapers. 

Breaking News 

2. THEY ARE ACTIVE WELL BEFORE MODERN MAN AWAKENS: When once it was known that the day started when the first rooster crows, now we must heed the call of the sexagenarian. I always thought 4:15 AM was far too early to be putting dishes away; alas, I was wrong. Though I as a working human need rest, they as a non-working folk do not. Nor are they too worried about waking you up when even the sun is still sleeping. They are clanging and banging all over the house like it’s a goddamn gym. But I was told I was too loud at 8:30 PM while I was rubbing wet cotton over a blanket. 

QUIET DOWN!!!!!!!!!!

3. THEY EXPLAIN EVERYTHING TO YOU. EVERYTHING: Have you ever opened a window before? Sure you have! But you’ve been doing it all wrong, you silly son of a bitch! There’s subtle nuances to opening and closing a window I never knew before. But I do know, after my 17-minute tutorial about pushing something up then pushing something down. Other things I had no clue I was doing wrong all these years was using the shower, folding clothes and cutting a steak. Thankfully, I am re-trained in all these activities and I will not be made to look the fool. 

These were just some of my observations while watching this strange creature. Tune in next time when I share with you that you can't be drinking all that caffeine and those lights are way too bright. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wrestling Throwback: Lou Thesz vs. Buddy Rogers (June 21, 1950)

This week I happened to stumble upon a super old-school match on YouTube (one of many actually).  How old-school?  Try 69 years old-school.

This match is from June 21, 1950, pitting NWA World Champion Lou Thesz against the original "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers.  As with all Title matches of the time, this was 2 out of 3 falls with a sixty-minute time limit.  The bout took place at Wrigley Field and was later broadcast on the Wrestling from Chicago TV series.

Watching this match was a delightful little time-traveling experience.  I'd never seen any complete Thesz or Rogers matches, and certainly not from their respective prime years (WWE needs to add some pre-1975 content to the Network).  This match actually took place only two years after Thesz first won the NWA World Title, during his six-plus-year reign.  The grappling style on display here was very fluid and athletic, and in fact much more diverse than I would've expected from that period.  During the first fall both guys concentrated on wear-down mat holds like side headlocks and armbars (Thesz even used a keylock at one point), but as the match wore on the moves became much more high-impact.

Rogers dominated most of the first fall, holding a standing headlock and frequently throwing punches to Thesz's face while obstructing the referee's line of sight - a brilliantly simple heel tactic.  After sixteen minutes he hit his finisher, the piledriver, which in this case looked just like the variation Mick Foley later used.  This surprised me actually, given how different Foley's overall style was from Rogers'.  Even more amazingly this wouldn't be the only move Foley lifted from Rogers' arsenal.

The second fall was much shorter but Rogers controlled most of this as well, once again relying on barely-covert punches to the face, to the point of Thesz's forehead bleeding hardway in multiple places.  Finally the referee held back Rogers' arm, allowing Thesz to escape and apply an Airplane Spin into a slam, good for the second fall.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Dan's Top 9: Pain in the Ass Girlfriends in Cinematic History



In about every movie where our intrepid male hero is on some sort of adventure, there is inevitably a broad, be it a wife, girlfriend or mistress, near him berating him to be careful. Sometimes, she’s just getting kidnapped to become bait before the final reel. Women. They’re the worst. So here is a very scientific list (meaning I wasn’t that drunk when it was composed) of the cinematic equivalent of period blood.

9.  Fabienne, ‘Pulp Fiction': Jesus Christ, lady, you couldn’t have just grabbed the watch, huh? Instructions too difficult for ya? Bedside table, on the kangaroo. But noooooooo, you forgot, forcing our pugilist hero Butch to hit and run a black man, crash your Honda, and almost get deliverance’d in his bung hole. Thanks a lot, dummy.

Stuff I Drew, part 5: Er, uh, Stuff I Sculpted

Here's a few sculptures I did back in high school.  The first was a required project: a life-size self-portrait in clay.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Timecop

Welcome one and all to the fifth edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at!

Since last installment dealt with the Back to the Future sequels, I thought while we're on the subject of time travel movies, why not examine the tremendously entertaining but pretty terrible Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Timecop?

Timecop was released in 1994 and stars the aforementioned Van Damme as Max Walker, a police officer for the futuristic government agency known as the Time Enforcement Commission.  See time travel has been invented and predictably exploited by criminals for either financial gain or to alter the timeline to their advantage, necessitating the formation of the TEC.  Walker stumbles onto the case of Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver), who has become head of the Commission and is abusing his position by stealing money from the past to fund his future Presidential campaign.  What follows is a pretty intriguing-but-not-good sci-fi action thriller as Walker travels back and forth between 1994 and 2004 to thwart McComb's plot and retroactively prevent his own wife's murder at the hands of McComb's agents.

The movie was directed by Peter Hyams (who helmed the Sean Connery sci-fi western Outland, as well as the sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001) and is loosely based on a comic book story.

So let's take a look at what was good about this movie, and then we'll look at what wasn't.

The Awesome

Time Travel

As I said last time, I'm a sucker for time travel stories.  I find the whole concept fascinating and by using that as a backdrop there's instant sci-fi credibility in my book.  Of course it's also a very delicate line to walk, given how easily a plot-unraveling paradox can ruin the film.  But as long as the characters are interesting and the overall story works, one can forgive a certain degree of time-travel plot holes. 

In Timecop we see the villains traveling back to the Civil War era and the Great Depression to take advantage of lesser technology and a vulnerable economy, respectively, coming away with a fortune.  Even though these scenes were brief, I enjoyed seeing these different time periods depicted and found the thievery inventive.  We also see the main villain McComb interacting with his younger self to alter his own future, and we see the hero Walker trying to evade the baddies while trying not to be seen by his own younger self, lest the timeline be unnecessarily tampered with.  This is all neat stuff.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

B-Cuddy’s Favorite Groundhog Day Characters

by Brandon Cuddemi

Groundhog Day is an all-time classic. One of my favorite movies, and quite possibly Bill Murray's best work. Here are just a few thoughts on some of the best players in the film (I’m not doing a ranking. I got no time for fucking rankings.)....

Phil Connors

We’ll just get the best out of the way early. Make no mistake, Phil Connors IS the movie. The beauty is that you get to witness every single version of Phil. There’s arrogant Phil. His outright disgust with the small town and its simpleton inhabitants is something I can truly sympathize with. I have family who live in a small town in Maine. It’s like traveling through time. There’s humanitarian Phil. He’s alright I guess, but not my favorite. No no, my favorite is Fed Up Phil. The Phil who’s eating everything and anything the Diner has to offer. The Phil crushing Jeopardy while slugging back whiskey. That’s my kinda Phil.

Mrs. Lancaster

This old gal is Aces in my book. Just a sweet lady. Sure, her little bed & breakfast doesn’t have hot water on cold days, and she can’t spell espresso, but she’s got a heart of gold. She just wants to make chit chat about the weather. And she’s willing to hold your room for as long as you’d like to stay. Good luck getting that kinda service at a regular hotel.

Punxsutawney Phil

Name another rodent that draws a crowd and has his own day. You can’t. He’s the prognosticator of all prognosticators. The seer of seers. Guy can predict the weather and drive a truck. Not bad for a quadruped at all. Plus he’s gotta be the Leo DiCaprio of groundhogs, right? Just slays everything in sight. Hedgehogs. Squirrels. Gophers. Doesn’t matter.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Parents' Night In #16: American Hustle (2013)

It's another episode of Parents' Night In, where Justin & Kelly enjoy some adult beverages and talk about one of their favorite movies!  Since it's Oscar time, we thought we'd pop in the 2013 con artist comedy American Hustle, starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence!

American Hustle
infamously was nominated for more Oscars than any other film that year but somehow won none of them, but it's still one of our favorites.  Sit back, crack open some booze, and laugh along with us!

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NJPW The New Beginning 2019 Preview & Predictions

This weekend is the trifecta of New Beginning shows in NJPW, and as usual since the cards are spread out there are only about 9 matches worth doing predictions for.  NJPW is in a state of limbo at the moment due to the AEW departures, and I think we won't have many answers about that situation until after the Madison Square Garden show.  I think ultimately the two companies will have a working relationship, as it would benefit both of them.  But we'll see.  In the meantime New Japan is chugging along with their core roster.

The New Beginning in Sapporo night 1

Minoru Suzuki vs. Sanada

The first is one of two bouts pitting the IWGP Tag Champs against their upcoming challengers.  This match should be quite good, as the grizzled torture machine takes on one of New Japan's most gifted athletes.  Suzuki will look to tie Sanada up in knots, while Sanada looks to...well, tie Suzuki up in a knot I guess.  Should be fun.

Justin: Suzuki wins to build the title match
Landon: Suzuki

Evil vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Here's the other half of that feud, with the big bruiser taking on the the submission master.  It's brawling vs. stretching and should also be a fun contest.  ZSJ should continue his rise in 2019 as one of the company's top foreigners.

Justin: ZSJ
Landon: Evil

Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White & Bad Luck Fale

This is of course to build to the two big singles matches a few days later.  Okada and Tana is the biggest pairing since the MegaPowers (yeah I said it) and should by all rights be unstoppable as a tandem.  This match will be a nice preview of the two singles bouts.

Justin: Kazoshi Okanahashi
Landon: Jay pins Okada