Monday, September 30, 2019

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Heel Turns

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at  You know the drill - a list of ten items, why I picked 'em, yadda yadda.

Today's topic is in a roundabout way related to Halloween, in that it involves the darker angels of our nature, as it were.  I'm talking about one of the great plot devices in the pro wrestling universe, The Heel Turn.  In the world of pretend fighting a character will suddenly decide he doesn't like one of his friends, or the fans, or the world, and go bad.  This generally reframes his whole persona and sets off a major feud or angle of some kind.

The best heel turns usually happen suddenly, so there's a feeling of shock and betrayal from the fans, but it's also important that the turn doesn't feel like a cheat or a contrivance.  It has to make sense within the context of the story being told.  There has to have been some kind of foreshadowing or tension between the betrayer and his victim(s), thus when the turn happens it's appalling but also satisfying.  You've invested in this ongoing story and here's a major inciting incident.  Also the subsequent heel run generally needs to last a while and have some kind of long-term impact on the overall product.  So often these days a wrestler will turn heel just so he can be repositioned to feud with whomever the writers want him to feud with.  And then three months later he's back to being a babyface (Big Show, I'm looking in your general direction).  When this kinda thing happens too often, not only does each character turn lose meaning, but the fans cease to invest in said wrestler because he changes his stripes constantly.  Sadly in recent years the effective heel turn has become something of a lost art, as today's wrestling bookers don't seem to have the discipline to properly execute it.

The other kind of heel turn that can be effective is the gradual variety, where a wrestler will start to show a mean streak but it's amplified over several months, and eventually before you know it, the guy's fighting babyfaces (see Punk, CM; Jericho, Chris; *surname omitted*, Edge).  I find those don't work as well, although gradual turns have produced some great heel characters (such as the aforementioned three).  That's not to say I don't like the gradual ones, I just find it more fun when a guy turns heel sort of all at once but it still makes perfect sense in context.

Here now are my ten favorite heel turns in wrestling history...

10. The Road Warriors (1988)

1988 was a year of multiple heel and babyface turns in the NWA, and one of the last ones to take place was when the almighty Road Warriors betrayed Sting during a six-man tag match.  Sting was a last-minute substitute for the Roadies' longtime partner Dusty Rhodes, and Hawk & Animal were none too pleased that a) Dusty wasn't present as scheduled, and b) the Johnny-come-lately Stinger was selected as a replacement.  This kicked off an uber-mean streak from the Legion of Doom that included a gruesome incident where they tried to poke Dusty's eye out with a shoulderpad spike.  As a 13-year-old fan I felt horribly wronged by my favorite badass team, and initially found them pretty scary as bad guys (Another hallmark of a great heel turn), but after a couple weeks I came back around and actually liked them even more with their newfound lust for brutality.  Sadly the Road Warriors' heel run was short-lived, since the fans never really wanted to boo them.  But this was a quite effective angle at the time.

9. Lex Luger (1989)

Another NWA mainstay who always seemed more comfortable wearing the black hat was Lex Luger.  Luger had made a name for himself as the "young lion" of the 1987 Four Horsemen lineup before tiring of their antics and turning babyface.  In mid 1989 though some tension began to build between Luger and the returning Ricky Steamboat, over the new Top Ten ratings system.  Being the former NWA World Champ, Steamboat was named the #1 Contender, even though traditionally the US Championship (which Luger held at the time) guaranteed its wearer the top spot.  At Clash of the Champions VII Steamboat defeated Terry Funk by DQ but was attacked by Funk's cohorts after the match.  Luger came to the rescue, chasing off Team Funk, and helped Steamboat to his feet, only to level the former Champ with a ferocious clothesline.  Luger vs. Steamboat was a brief feud due to Steamboat's departure from the promotion, but he spent the remainder of 1989 as a dominant heel US Champion, turning in some of his best in-ring work and seemingly poised to challenge the babyface Ric Flair for the Big Gold Belt.  Flair's heel turn and a sudden injury to Sting in early '90 left a top babyface void, and Luger was inexplicably made a good guy once again.  Early 1990 always struck me as a reset period in the NWA, but I did truly enjoy Luger's late-89 heel run.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Parents' Night In #21: A Hard Day's Night (1964) - Justin and Kelly Watch The Beatles and Scream Like Little Girls!

Set your Wayback Machine for 1964 and join Justin and Kelly at the height of BeatleMania for their first feature film, A Hard Day's Night

This Richard Lester-helmed "day in the life" comedy follows the Fab Four and their wildly hectic misadventures as the biggest pop group in the entire world, climaxing in a live television performance that has all the youngsters screaming their brains out with joy!

Kelly and Justin enjoy some wine and talk about our love of all things Beatles, our favorite Beatles albums, and our respective favorite member of the band!

Tune in, turn on and drop out (wait, that was a few years later) and join us for Parents' Night In!

Thanks for watching!  Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE to our channel, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, and Facebook!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Music Review: Jason Hawk Harris - Love & The Dark

by Mike Drinan

So, I’m in Vermont one weekend, sitting on the couch and drinking some of the best beer ever made (from the auspicious Hill Farmstead) and surfing through my Instagram feed when I stop at a video posted by Bloodshot Records. The video shows a young man with a guitar performing in front of a small group of people in what seems like some kind of small showcase. His band behind him is churning through a raucous Americana number and the young man is moving his leg emphatically with the beat. He sings at a level that demands your attention, with such fiery passion and urgency that a guy in the audience can’t stand still. The band fades a little while this man sings his verse before reigniting, the bass player has her back to the camera but shows her hand walking down the neck of her bass and the drummer just pounding away at his snare and hi-hat. The rhythm of the song is rollicking and infectious. I thought to myself, Who the hell is this?

The answer: Jason Hawk Harris.

I immediately downloaded his debut album Love & The Dark, released in August on Bloodshot Records, and was absolutely devastated by it. It was so fucking good. It’s country, its Americana, it's rock ‘n’ roll, it's punk and it's orchestral. His voice is smooth and poignant and the album has themes of death, love, the unknown, addiction and religion. Each track seems effortless, as if he came into the melody, rhythm, sound, timing and delivery of each song as cool and natural as walking into a room full of friends and family. He’s right where he wants to be.

The album kicks off with the stunning “The Smoke and The Stars”, a redeeming love song about a man struggling to fight off his demons until his love comes back to him, freeing him of the struggles he’s facing. The song builds slowly until he pleads “Let me live in those green eyes of yours”. It’s an emotionally crushing song with beautiful instrumentation and an arrangement that wonderfully sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Top Ten Things: George Carlin HBO Specials

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

George Carlin.  For me no two words better encapsulate stand-up comedy.  George was a wordsmith, a philosopher, an iconoclast, and above all a goddamn funny motherfucker.  He was in love with the music of language, he enjoyed picking apart human idiosyncrasies and traditions, and he lived to offend.  George consistently evolved with the times, going from a laid-back hippie channeling Lenny Bruce to an angry, filthy old man fed up with society's inability to get out of its own way.  His greatest bits were conceptual and universal; material like "Seven Filthy Words," "Baseball vs. Football," and "Hello and Goodbye" have stood the test of time and are still hilarious now because of their everlasting relevance.  I'd wager nearly every comic working today was at least indirectly influenced by Carlin, the same way nearly every current band owes at least a roundabout debt to The Beatles.  George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce are pretty universally considered the Holy Trinity of stand-up.

George began releasing comedy records in 1971 and grew such a following that in 1977 he performed an extended comedy special for HBO.  From then on Carlin's HBO specials were event viewing, and eventually his albums were simply audio-only versions of the shows.  His 1970s album output was quite prolific and included gems like Occupation: Foole and FM/AM, but today I'll just be talking about his HBO shows.

So which Carlin specials were the best?  Let's take a look.....

10. Life Is Worth Losing (2005)

George only had three specials in the 21st century, and this was the second.  He'd been through drug rehab earlier that year and announced that he was nearly a year sober at the time of the recording.  Life is Worth Losing, as the name suggests, contains a lot of material about death and mortality, plus some reworked items originally intended for Complaints & Grievances which had to be cut due to the events of 9/11.  This show has grown on me a lot over the years, particularly the segments about suicide ("That's probably the most interesting thing you can do with your life - end it..."), extreme human behavior ("A buncha people stranded in the wilderness, run out of Pop-Tarts, you gotta eat something.  Might as well be Steve."), and education ("There's a reason education sucks and it will never ever ever be fixed - because the owners of this country don't want that.").  LIWL is probably George at his most gleefully pessimistic.

9. What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)

As a teenager this show was one of my two favorites - Jersey was the show where Carlin fully transitioned into the angry old man persona, railing against the Reagan Administration and complaining about traffic.  Most of his work after this was tonally similar in terms of his delivery.  This one hasn't aged as well as I thought it would, partly because of the segments topical to the late 80s, but the material about keeping people alert with bizarre behavior still cracks me up.  "Stand on line at the bank for a long time, and when you get to the window, just ask for change of a nickel..."  The first time I watched this one I was damn near incontinent.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Top Ten Things: September PPV Matches

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I compile a list of ten, well, things.

Today it's the ten greatest September PPV matches of all time.  September has often been the beginning of a slump period on the WWE calendar, where the summer angles have long since peaked at SummerSlam and now the company sorta treads water until WrestleMania season starts.  But that doesn't mean there haven't been some great individual efforts.  This list is also not limited to WWE; fans of NJPW and TNA will see a little sumthin-sumthin for them as well.

So let's get to it!

10. Randy Orton vs. John Cena - Breaking Point - 9.13.09

The PG Era was in full-swing by 2009, and that meant no more blading in a WWE ring.  While for the most part this didn't affect the product all that harshly, it did mean gimmick matches might potentially suffer, as Hell in a Cells and Elimination Chambers would now have to be blood-free zones.  That just doesn't seem right.  But at the one-time Breaking Point event (where the main event matches all had submission rules), John Cena and Randy Orton managed to circumvent these rigid new limitations and deliver a masterpiece of understated violence, in an I Quit match.  Their fight played out much like a climactic movie sequence; Orton utilized his exceptional facials and reptilian in-ring persona to make every move seem downright malicious, seemingly relishing each moment.  At one point he handcuffed Cena and proceeded to flog him mercilessly with a kendo stick, leaving sickening welts all over his torso.  Cena eventually made a comeback, applying the STF and choking Orton out with his own arm.  That this I Quit match worked so well despite being pretty tame compared to say, Mankind vs. The Rock speaks volumes of Cena's and especially Orton's ability to get across character and expression.  I'd cite this as Orton's first foray into becoming a true main event-worthy player.

9. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.7.08

The best feud of 2008 was undoubtedly Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.  After a babyface return in late 2007, Jericho quickly turned heel again in early '08, retooling his persona after the character of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men.  Jericho became soft-spoken, sullen, and sanctimonious, insisting that born-again Christian Shawn Michaels was a hypocrite who didn't follow his own beliefs.  Their feud was intended as a one-off match that spring but stretched over nearly six months.  The best match of this saga in my opinion was the non-sanctioned street fight at Unforgiven, which sprung from an incident at SummerSlam.  Jericho invited Michaels and his wife Rebecca to his talk show, and their bickering led to Jericho accidentally knocking Rebecca out with a punch.  Again, this was tame by Attitude Era standards, but in the new PG Era it was treated as a huge deal, and the two wrestlers played it to the hilt.  Their fight was brutal without being bloody, and it ended via ref stoppage when Michaels had beaten Jericho unconscious.

Top Ten Things: Wrestling T-Shirts

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

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

10. Eddie Guerrero (Scarface)

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

9. Cactus Jack (Wanted)

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

8. John Cena (NES)

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Popeye

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I discuss, in much greater detail than interests anyone, a film with very mixed virtues and faults.  Today's subject is the 1980 Robert Altman-directed adaptation of the beloved cartoon/comic strip, Popeye!  

Starring Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall and Paul Smith, Popeye came about after Paramount and Columbia Pictures had a bidding war over the film rights to Annie.  When Paramount came up short, they mined for similar ideas and one executive came up with the idea for a feature film treatment of Popeye.  Originally the studio (now co-producing with Disney) wanted Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as the two leads (Tomlin would've been swell, Hoffman probably not so much), but fortunately newly hired director Robert Altman opted for the perfectly-cast duo of Williams and Duvall.  An unconventional choice for a movie of this type, Altman lent his signature style of satirical humor, richly detailed settings and colorful supporting characters, to try and create a three-dimensional world around these two-dimensional characters.  Filming took place in Malta, on a lavishly constructed set, and the budget ballooned to a then-extravagant $20 million.  The studio panicked and ordered Altman to finish up and bring home what footage he had.  The film was released in December 1980 to mixed reviews and less-than-stellar box office receipts; although it grossed $60 million worldwide, it was not the smash hit the studios expected and has since garnered a reputation as one of the great box office bombs.

But Popeye has a lot going for it, and sadly a lot working against it.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this unusual comic strip adaptation....

The Awesome


Pretty much everyone in this movie is spot-on.  Robin Williams (making his feature film debut), while not exactly disappearing into the role, makes a splendid Popeye - likable, matter-of-fact, humble and downtrodden by nature but gallant and heroic when he needs to be.  I'm not sure anyone else in 1980 could've brought this character to life as effectively.  Ditto for Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, who does a note-perfect live action translation of the gangly damsel in distress.  Most of the film's funniest moments involve Duvall's stylized mannerisms, and as someone who's used to seeing her either in hysterics in The Shining, or as Steve Martin's straight-man best friend in Roxanne, it's refreshing to go back and see her in a subtly comedic turn.  She might be the best thing about this film, actually.  Paul Smith also makes a fantastic Bluto, looking exactly like you'd expect this character to appear as a flesh & blood person, terrifying as he glares about the room growling like an agitated lion.  Smith is a helluva lot better in this movie than in Dune, I'll tell ya that much.  Ray Walston is the other standout, as Popeye's long-lost father Poopdeck Pappy, AKA The Commodore, conveying a front of cold, dryly amusing gruffness toward his son, which later gives way to genuine pathos as he bonds with Swee'pea.  So if nothing else, this film has a strong ensemble cast that's fun to watch as they make believable characters out of these cartoon archetypes.

You Used to Be Soooooo Good: The Alien Franchise


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

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

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

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

Mind.  Fucking.  Blown.

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

Monday, September 23, 2019

Top Ten (Eleven) Things: Spinal Tap Songs

Welcome to the only edition of Top Ten Things that goes to eleven!  Today we're ranking the songs of everyone's favorite fictional heavy metal band, Spinal Tap!

Made famous of course by the 1984 Rob Reiner "mockumentary," Spinal Tap's three core members are David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).  The largely improvisational masterpiece This is Spinal Tap lampooned the world of hard rock n' roll, taking no comedic prisoners and delivering some of the all-time great metal-related, "too close to home" comedy bits.  Who can forget Nigel's wireless unit picking up the control tower at the Air Force base?  Or Derek setting off the airport metal detector with the foil-wrapped cucumber stuffed down his pants?  Or undoubtedly the most famous bit, Nigel's custom Marshall head whose dials all go to 11?  The film is an absolutely hysterical satire of the rock industry, featuring totally authentic performances from the entire cast and a flawless script.  It's simply one of the most quotable films ever made.

But what sets This is Spinal Tap apart from other fake documentaries is the legitimacy of the musicians.  McKean, Guest, Shearer, and the rest of the band played their own instruments, and along with Rob Reiner, wrote all the songs.  And despite the lyrics being mostly tongue-in-cheek (and brilliantly funny), this band put out some pretty great hard rock tunes, including a full album's worth featured in the film, and a follow-up eight years later (which in my opinion is the better of the two records).  McKean and company are all great comedic actors but I'll be damned if they aren't accomplished rock n' rollers too.

So here are the best songs ever recorded by England's loudest band.......This list goes to eleven.... 

11. Christmas With the Devil

A title that dates back to the production of the film, "Christmas With the Devil" is exactly the type of song its moniker implies; a Satanic Christmas carol complete with jingle bell accompaniment and morbidly descriptive lyrics.  "The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains," intones David to kick off this Sabbath-esque dirge.  Featured on the second album Break Like the Wind, this might be the most purely "metal" sounding of all their tracks.  Notice also the word "Hallelujah" sung backwards in the bridge.  Hilarious.

10. Rainy Day Sun

Another song from BLTW, "Rainy Day Sun" is meant to be one of the band's late 60s recordings, from when Spinal Tap were a psychadelic hippie band.  With heavy Beatles influences including some backtracked vocals and rain sounds, this song captures the spirit of the era, lending some tangible depth to the band's fictional backstory.

9. Just Begin Again

A power ballad duet from BLTW, "Just Begin Again" features a guest appearance by Cher and makes use of deliberately trite love song lyrics like "Life is just a meal/And you never say when," and "Life is just a show/Go reload your gun."  And despite the silliness of the words, this song is actually poignant and powerful, led by two strong vocal performances.

8. Rock n' Roll Creation

In the context of the film this tune is from the "pretentious, ponderous collection of religious rock psalms" known as The Gospel According to Spinal Tap.  Melding biblical elements with hard rock tropes, "RNR Creation" has one of the more evil-sounding main riffs in the catalog, mixed with simple but memorable vocal harmonies.  This song was featured in the unforgettable movie scene where Derek gets trapped in his "body snatcher" pod for the duration of the tune.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Movies of Disbelief: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Welcome to another edition of Movies of Disbelief, here at!  If you're unfamiliar, MOD is where I examine a film, good or bad, that's based around a far-fetched premise, but find one aspect or scene that not only stretches or breaks the bonds of credibility, but pisses all over them.

Today's subject is a little different though.  As patently absurd, campy and over-the-top as this film is, the part of it I refuse to believe isn't even something that happened in the story.  It's the idea that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was directed by the same guy as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1.  Yeah that's right, Tobe Hooper, the man who in 1974 created a horror masterwork with no budget, no stars, and the worst imaginable filming conditions, somehow followed it up 12 years later with a sequel that basically sprays moldy diarrhea over everything that was great about the original.  I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that the same director made both of these movies.

Before we get into the crime against cinema that was TCM 2, let's just recap the first one a little.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, loosely inspired by the Ed Gein murders (as well as those of Dean Corll - look up that saga, it's revolting), was shot using grainy 16MM film, on a budget of roughly $150,000.  Like Night of the Living Dead it made use of real rural locations (see Herzog, Werner: "the voodoo of location") and was filmed in a cinema verite style, allowing the horrific tale to come to life in a way that felt totally authentic and heightened the terror.  We as the audience feel like we're experiencing these ghastly events along with the protagonists.  The cast of unknowns is first-rate, playing the scenes in a casual, naturalistic way and largely improvising the loose dialogue.  By the time everything goes to hell in the second act, we've been given a reason to care about the five young adults.  We're given no background about the family of maniacs - they are simply an evil force of nature, with no discernable reason for what they do; making sense of it would undermine the senseless cruelty Sally endures in the final half-hour.  But despite the film's grisly tone and subject matter, almost all the violence and blood is left to the imagination.  Only once for example do we see chainsaw meeting flesh, and it's when Leatherface (one of the great boogeymen of horror cinema) falls down and accidentally gouges his thigh.  But the film's timbre is so intense and macabre we think we're seeing more gore than we are.  It's brilliantly understated.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is far greater than the sum of its parts; all the unconventional elements came together - off-putting locations, genuine performances, innovative cinematography (the closeup montage of Sally's face during the dinner scene is mindbreaking), and unsettling musique concrete-inspired score (courtesy of Wayne Bell and Tobe himself) - to create a fully immersive experience of palpable terror.  It's one of the all-time great horror films.

This guy is terrifying.

Top Ten Things: Disappointing Movie Sequels

What up, my nerds?  Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'll be talking about a heartbreaking cinematic experience that makes me die inside a little bit and eats away at my very faith in humanity - the disappointing movie sequel.  You've been there; a beloved film classic gets a new chapter, you get all excited in the pants area, you rush out to buy a ticket, you plant yourself in that dark theater, trembling with anticipation, and then.......Two hours later the lights come up and you say, out loud, to no one in particular, "What the absolute fuck did I just watch???"

Then you go home and it hits you: that aforementioned beloved film classic has now and forever been defiled by the ineptly-produced, soul crushing twaddle that followed.  It's like winning the SuperBowl and then crashing your car into a ditch on the way to the after-party.  It's like buying your wife a diamond necklace and then dragging it through the shit-filled drainpipe at the end of Shawshank Redemption.  It's like flying to Paris, visiting the L'Ouvre, and defecating all over the Mona Lisa.  And now you're out ten bucks and bubbling over with resentment.

Okay I might be overstating the emotional effect of these crappy films, but you get where I'm coming from.  Here now are the Top Ten Most Disappointing Movie Sequels (Note: To avoid this piece devolving into a Star Wars/Hobbit/Prometheus-bashing session I have not included any prequels - sequels only).....

10. Mission: Impossible II

Our first entry is the 2000 sequel to the very successful Brian DePalma-directed adaptation of Mission: Impossible, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.  Released in 1996, MI was a taut, suspenseful and pretty cerebral update of the TV show, featuring enough action set-pieces to please the summer popcorn crowd but enough character stuff and intricate plot to elevate it above the usual dreck.  I consider it one of the better offerings of that summer.  Fast-forward four years and Tom Cruise was back for the sequel, directed by John Woo and loaded with action and Wachowski-influenced fight scenes.  Problem was the story wasn't very compelling (a scientist develops a bioweapon which is then hijacked by a former colleague of Ethan's who plans to cause a mass infection so he can then sell the antidote at inflated prices), the action owed way too much to The Matrix, the central love triangle was tedious, and the villain (Dougray Scott) was more annoying than menacing.  Also where the first film was very smartly constructed, this one felt dumbed down and full of fan-service moments.  For example, in the first film Ethan uses latex masks to impersonate different people.  These masks are hyper-realistic and make Hunt indistinguishable from the real person.  I'd imagine such a sophisticated disguise would take considerable time to prepare and fabricate, not to mention you'd have to know that the guy you're impersonating is supposed to be in a particular place at a specific time for the ruse to work.  However in the second film, Hunt and Dougray seem to just have masks like this on-hand, ready to wear on the fly.  So clearly this gimmick was only thrown into the movie because it was used in the first one.  Overall I just found MI2 very uninteresting and kind of a generic action film with the MI name slapped on it.  Fortunately a) the series found its footing again with Ghost Protocol, and b) Dougray Scott opted to be in this film instead of playing Wolverine.  We all dodged a bullet there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Top Ten Things: KoRn Albums, Ranked

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  This edition has bonus entries because today we're ranking the albums of nu metal innovators KoRn!

With the release of their 13th album The Nothing, I figured it would be a good time to finally follow up the Top Ten KoRn Songs list with an album ranking.  As I said before, my journey to get to KoRn was an unusual one; I hated their music with a palpable passion for years before finally coming around, and then they immediately became one of my favorite groups.  Their unconventional focus on groove and grit over flash and precision was a very acquired taste, but once acquired I was insatiable.

So let's cut to the chase and count down the studio albums of KoRn!

For our Top Ten KoRn Songs list, click HERE...

13. Take a Look in the Mirror

KoRn's worst album for me was their hastily recorded "return to our roots" album, Take a Look in the Mirror, released in 2003.  After their artistically adventurous but obscenely expensive opus Untouchables failed to perform to expectations, the band rushed back to the studio one year later to record a straight-up, heavy KoRn album, the goal apparently being Life Is Peachy part 2 (right down to the cover's color scheme and mirror motif).  But the result was a set of songs that felt underdeveloped and not quite ready for prime time, instead relying solely on heaviness to carry the album.  It also seemed premature only a decade into their career to get back to the safe, aggressive style they were originally known for, and their subsequent two albums showed they weren't yet done exploring other sounds.  TALITM has a few highlights but this was the first time as a KoRn fan that I was truly disappointed with their output.

Key Tracks: I'm Done, Counting on Me, Break Some Off

12. See You On the Other Side

KoRn's seventh album was really the more logical next step from Untouchables, with the band experimenting with gothic, industrial and electronica elements.  Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch had left the band and the remaining four members decided to reinvent themselves on this album.  While the results were mixed, I still appreciated this more than its predecessor, for the risks being taken.  KoRn would perfect this type of album with their eighth release, but SYOTOS was a stepping stone with a few standout tracks.

Key Tracks: Throw Me Away, Coming Undone, Souvenir

11. The Serenity of Suffering

Over the last fifteen years KoRn's mainstream popularity has dwindled, the nu metal sound they pioneered having become unfashionable (I bet we'll see a resurgence when late-90s/early-aughts trends come back), so in 2016 it made sense for them to release a reliable, aggressive-sounding album to please their core fans, almost a career reset.  Like Megadeth's United Abominations album, TSOS to me sounded like an approximation of a classic KoRn record, something a copycat band might've put out.  This quote from Rolling Stone sums up my feelings perfectly: "Suffering is heavy enough to stand proudly in the KoRn kanon, but not daring enough to be much else."  Despite some good songs, solid all-around performances and slick production values, I found this record disappointing coming from a band who has pretty consistently taken risks.  KoRn is generally at their best when they unapologetically stretch their legs, and this album unfortunately wasn't that at all.

Check out our full review HERE.

Key Tracks: Rotting in Vain, Take Me, Everything Falls Apart

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Music Review: KoRn's The Nothing is a Return to FoRm

Nu metal pioneers KoRn are back with a new album, The Nothing, and since we did this for their last album, my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I are back to discuss its merits.  Maybe an argument will ensue, who knows?  

JustinThe Nothing is a moody record (as really all KoRn albums are), made more poignant by Jonathan Davis's lyrical focus on the loss of his ex-wife, who passed away last year.  This theme of despondency and loss permeates every song on the album and somewhat returns KoRn to the "music as therapy" vibe so prevalent on their early records.

Mike, what is your take on The Nothing?

Mike: Oh man, I really enjoyed this album. Knowing what happened with his ex-wife, I went into this album expecting it to be dark but I was a little caught off guard by just how dark it was, thematically speaking. Jonathan's weeping at the end of the first track really sets the tone for this project and I was ready for all of it. Everything I love about KoRn is on this album, even if there is a real prevalent late 90s nu-metal sound and feel to it, the band sounds fresh and invigorated. Ray Luzier's drumming is incredible, the riffs are really good, especially on "The Ringmaster," and Jonathan's vocals sound amazing from the deep, gutteral growl to the spiny, sing-songy style that has become his trademark over the years. Fieldy's bass adds muscle and provides the emotional punch to the music that ties the album's theme together. This album is a huge step up from their previous album, The Serenity of Suffering, and it's not even close for me.

Justin: Right off the bat, Luzier and Fieldy's presence are felt much more on this album than on Serenity.  Fieldy's trademark percussive bass attack is back, and Luzier's grooves are rock solid (I've said it before but Ray is miles ahead of Dave Silveria as a drummer).  As unfortunate as his thematic motivation on this album, Davis actually sounds like he means it this time, where TSOS sounded like a once angry guy going through the motions just so it would still be a KoRn record.  I do feel like he hasn't quite recaptured the visceral sandpaper screams of Life is Peachy, but maybe that time has passed.  Still his melodies are head and shoulders above those on TSOS, I love that he's rediscovered major keys, and the bridge of "This Loss," brief though might be, is probably my favorite stretch of music on the album.  It's the most soulful singing of Davis's career and I wish they'd built the entire song around that section.  Maybe that can be a blueprint for the next one.

I don't think I'd call any of the songs truly great, but The Nothing is a very easy album to listen to and its 44 minutes fly by.  Every song has at least something to bring you back for repeat listens and the bulk are very well-crafted.  Highlights for me include "Can You Hear Me" (a welcome Untouchables throwback; my only complaint about this song is it's so short), "The Darkness is Revealing," and "The Ringmaster," all three of which have very memorable chorus hooks.  With TSOS I was bored by the end.  That's not at all the case this time.

Geek Previews: The Witch (2016)

Welcome to a new feature here at, Geek Previews (like the ol' Sneak Previews but way nerdier), where Michael Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I discuss a film we've both recently watched.  Could be something new and topical or something we're just now getting around to seeing.  

Today's movie of choice is Robert Eggers' debut The Witch, a period folktale set in 17th century Puritan New England about a family of settlers who are met with misfortune and insanity at the hands of a demonic witch.


Mike, what's your take on this film?  Talk to me.....

Mike: Ok, as a movie I loved it. It's one of the best period pieces I've seen in a long time. I loved the dialogue and how they stuck to the Olde English even though at times it was a little tedious understanding them. The film looks beautiful, using natural light and giving it a kind of gloom that you expect in a film like this. The acting was great. Anya Taylor-Joy was really good playing Thomasin and Ralph Ineson as William, her father, was just fantastic. He was a no-bullshit guy but there was tenderness toward his children and wife that he exuded brilliantly.

I love A24, the production company of this film. Everything they seem to come out with I love or at least really like. Whether its Room, Ex Machina, Obvious Child, Locke or Under the Skin....they've all been awesome and this one just adds to that list.

Now here's what bummed me out about the film. Ever since it was released it was billed as a terrifying film. That's the only thing I heard about it, even the quotes in the trailer talked about how it will "make your blood run cold" and I got amped for it because I rarely come across a film that scares me and I love films that can do that. That's where this movie fell flat for me. The IMDB trivia said that Stephen King was terrified by this film. The only things I found a little unnerving were some of the shots of Black Phillip and the utilization of off-screen sounds, like twigs breaking or something. Other than that, it was a really good film about religion and satanism, or what I presumed was satanism.

Justin: I loved it as a strong piece of filmmaking as well.  The natural lighting, the diffused colors, the location and sets, everything contributed to the bleak atmosphere and the underlying sense of dread.  Anya Taylor-Joy announced herself as a future major star I think.  At 20 years old she already has a commanding onscreen presence, even in an unassuming role like this one.  Ralph Ineson felt totally authentic, conveying gruffness but also the air of a man who slowly realizes he isn't in control and can't care for his family like he thought.  I found Kate Dickie's performance very compelling as well, as her character goes from hysterical mourning to being resentful and domineering.

I tell ya - Room, Ex Machina, Locke, and now The Witch?  A24 already boasts one helluva filmography.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Girls' Night In #3: Pulp Fiction - Kelly's First Viewing in 25 Years

Our friend Shannon returns to the couch for another Girls' Night In episode, as we force Kelly to rewatch Quentin Tarantino's classic Pulp Fiction, a film she hasn't seen since she was 15!  Just in time for its 25th Anniversary!

We talk Tarantino's filmography and his ability to write relatable scumbags, John Travolta's 90s comeback, Samuel L. Jackson's awesomeness, Uma Thurman's amazing eyes, and how hot Bruce Willis is, plus Shannon gives her thoughts on May-December romances.  Check it out!

#QuentinTarantino #PulpFiction #OnceUponaTimeInHollywood

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Top Ten Things: Billy Joel Songs

Welcome to another song-related Top Ten Things, here at!

I went to not one but two concerts last week, the second of which was the legendary Billy Joel!  So why not do a list of his greatest compositions?

I first became aware of Billy Joel at age seven or eight, around the time of An Innocent Man, Joel's 1983 homage to the music of the 1950s and 60s, with which he had grown up.  Each song is a pastiche of a particular artist or style from that era, and even as a young boy Joel's songs immediately stood out from other early 80s radio fare.  Though I couldn't have put it into words at the time, I was drawn in right away by Joel's relatable, working-class approach to songwriting; these were instantly memorable tunes with universal lyrical themes and more often than not a rock-solid groove (Billy's longtime drummer Liberty Devitto was a monster behind the kit).  Over my subsequent childhood and adolescent years I was exposed to many more of Billy's hits, and by the time his final pop album came out in 1993 he'd racked up no fewer than 25 timeless radio standards, no small feat for a 12-album career.

Joel's discography has covered so many genres and influences (probably the most prevalent of which is The Beatles; Joel has cited them as a major inspiration on many occasions and to this day incorporates a few of their songs into his live set), giving each album its own sound and feel, and demonstrating his consummate skill in crafting robust pop-rock songs that the radio simply adores.  His live performances over the years have been wildly energetic and entertaining, but he also shows genuine humility onstage and gives each of his backup musicians ample moments to shine.

Joel decided to stop making pop-rock albums at the age of 44, after River of Dreams, but his expansive catalog of evergreen songs continues to inspire and delight new generations.

Here is a list of his finest tunes....

HM: The Entertainer

Billy's satirical take on the cynicism of the music industry and the fickleness of its audience has a peppy, upbeat sound but lyrical content bordering on resentment, with lines like "It was a beautiful song, but it ran too long/If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit/So they cut it down to 3:05."  "The Entertainer" chronicled Billy's refusal to simply churn out homogenized product to stay atop the charts, and his desire to always push himself artistically.

HM: Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)

One of Joel's working-class anthems, "Movin' Out" explores the struggles of the New York 9-to-5 crowd, spending all their energy to achieve a higher status in life rather than attaining happiness.  In the end material wealth is not a substitute for inner contentment.  "If that's movin' up, then I'm movin' out."

HM: My Life

I first became aware of this song as the intro theme to the Tom Hanks/Peter Scolari sitcom Bosom Buddies, but its late 70s keyboard groove still gets the ol' toes tappin'.  "My Life" is an ode to individuality, doing things your own way regardless what others think.  Another easily relatable song from Mr. Joel.

HM: Goodnight Saigon

Joel's seven-minute opus from The Nylon Curtain is a tribute to the soldiers of Vietnam, its lyrics covering the details of what it was like for them, their sacrifice, their fears, their comraderie, rather than taking a stance on the war itself.  It is a poignant consideration of the Vietnam experience and a touching acknowledgement to all soldiers, living and dead.

HM: We Didn't Start the Fire

Maybe the ultimate guilty pleasure song, this iconic list song chronicling major news events throughout Joel's 40 years up to that point is undeniably catchy but also undeniably silly.  Joel himself has never been all that proud of it from a musical standpoint ("The melody is like a dentist's drill"), but it put him right back into heavy radio and MTV rotation after The Bridge's somewhat lackluster reception.  Also I can't hear this song anymore without thinking of this:

Okay, now for the Top 10...

Monday, September 16, 2019

WWE Clash of the Champions 2019: Well, I Didn't Hate It

Clash of Champions was one of those PPVs that I probably should've hated.  Most matches were too short, much of the booking made no sense, two hometown heroes were absolutely and needlessly buried, and the crowd was pretty indifferent to all of it.  But I didn't hate this show.  I'm sure it helped that I started it an hour late and was able to skip through all the garbage in between matches, but the show didn't drag for me like most WWE PPVs these days (It helped that the most important matches were saved for the end).  I even liked a few matches.

Before I get to the main card, I will say it was inexcusable that AJ vs. Cedric of all things got bumped to the pre-show, and after a few weeks of an underdog push, Vince decided out of the blue to just kill Cedric dead.  This is what happens when the company is at the whim of a 74-year-old with dementia.  AJ smashed Cedric in under five minutes and then the OC beat the crap out of him.  So what was the point of Cedric's push?  This match could've stolen the show but instead Vince opted to troll the hometown crowd (for the first of two times) to amuse himself.  Vince McMahon is a truly dysfunctional human being.

Anyway, the show opened with a RAW-quality Tag Title match, as Seth and Braun defended against another mongrel team, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode.  This was passable but pretty forgettable, and the company missed an opportunity to create more interest in Seth and Braun's main event match.  The finish saw Braun accidentally knock Roode into Seth, Ziggler low-bridged the ropes causing Braun to fall out of the ring, and Roode hit the Implant DDT to pin Seth and win the straps.  And then after the match, nothing.  No argument between Seth and Braun, no pull-apart brawl, nothing.  How do you not have Seth get pissed at Braun for costing them the belts?  Booking 101, guys.  Anyway, this was middling.  **

Next up was the worst match of the night, and the most disappointing.  Charlotte Flair and Bayley could also have had a show stealing match but again Vince decided to piss off the hometown crowd by having Charlotte lose in under four minutes.  The match-ending spot was somewhat clever and helped establish Bayley's new heel tendencies, but it was handled so awkwardly I missed what happened until after the fact.  While Charlotte was talking to the referee, Bayley serruptitiously removed the bottom turnbuckle pad, then rammed Charlotte's face into the exposed buckle and pinned her.  This finish could've been strong at the end of a ten-minute match but here it stopped the match dead and made Charlotte look very weak.  I don't know what they're thinking when they take a massive dump on the hometown favorite every single outing.  Bayley obviously needed to retain here, but not in four minutes.  *

The first pretty good match of the night was The New Day vs. The Revival, in a solid old-school tag match.  The Revival did what they do, backpedal during the early minutes, use underhanded tactics to gain the advantage, and then work over a body part.  The finish here went a long way to building up their characters, as they took Big E out with a Shatter Machine on the floor, wore down Xavier Woods and hit him with Shatter Machine in the ring, and then instead of just pinning him, they ripped off his knee brace, tore open his tights, and Scott Dawson locked in a reverse Figure Four to make him tap.  This was classic Ole & Arn Anderson stuff and was a great way for The Revival to win the belts (making them the first duo to win the NXT, RAW and Smackdown Tag Team Titles).  Solid effort.  ***

Friday, September 13, 2019

Parents' Night In #12: The Dark Knight, a Shakespearean Tragedy

Kelly & Justin celebrate the tenth anniversary of their favorite film, The Dark Knight, by loading up on chardonnay and discussing why Chris Nolan's superhero masterpiece still resonates a decade later.

It's the performances, the kinetic energy, the attention to detail, and unexpectedly the Harvey Dent arc that make this film so haunting.  And of course Heath Ledger's iconic final completed role.

Join us for a very special Parents' Night In!

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

NJPW Destruction 2019 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NJPW Predictions, here at!

This coming week we're getting the annual triumvirate of Destruction shows, as essentially one PPV's worth of matches is spread across three nights.  But hey, New Japan's selling out three buildings instead of one, so more power to 'em.  Anyway there's some pretty great-looking stuff on tap in the top bouts, and some of the filler tag team/Young Lion Cup matches could be fun too.  For the purposes of this column though I'll only focus on the top two matches on each show.  And they all look pretty great.

Let's get started....

Destruction in Beppu (9.15)

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi

GOD are, I believe, the longest-reigning current champions in New Japan, having regained the belts at ROH Honor Rising back in February.  Seven months for a tag title run is damn-near a dynasty by today's standards; they're also up to five successful defenses, the most since Anderson & Gallows in 2014.  Tama Tonga's decision to skip the G1 tournament and focus on tag team wrestling solidified his commitment to his championship tandem, and it seems he and his brother are being rewarded with a long reign.  I'm not sure if Ishii and Yoshi will get to dethrone them and get a new feud going, but it seems like GOD should keep the belts until the Dome, to make it a huge moment when the eventual World Tag League winners beat them.

Pick: GOD retains

RPW British Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

I was shocked that Tanahashi took the British Title from Zack, especially on British soil, but I'm guessing this was a quick thing to necessitate a rematch here.  These two are always great together and I expect more of the same.  Zack's been in a slump since the beginning of the G1, so maybe that will be snapped in Beppu with another title win.

Pick: ZSJ

Destruction in Kagoshima (9.16)

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo vs. Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles

I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but by all accounts the Super J Cup was something special, and Ospreay and Phantasmo are two of the big reasons why.  I wonder if there's ever been a feud over both the Jr. Title and the Jr. Tag Titles simultaneously; this seems very unusual but I like it.  Ospreay and Phantasmo will clash at King of Pro-Wrestling in what is sure to be another MOTY candidate, but first we'll see them with their respective partners going all-out for the tag straps.  This should be fantastic.  I gotta think Will and Robbie win here so Will is a double-champion going into KOPW, where Phantasmo will take away his singles title.

Pick: Ospreay & Eagles

Music Review: Avatar - Avatar Country (2018)

I first became aware of Swedish metal band Avatar around the time their 2016 album Feathers & Flesh was released.  Right away frontman Johannes Eckerstrom's outlandish appearance and wildly energetic charisma caught my eye, and the band's mix of melodic and death metal elements coupled with their general sense of humor hooked me in.  I'm generally not much of a death metal fan, but Eckerstrom's approach to that style of singing is uniquely visceral and he uses the technique to punctuate the vocal melodies as opposed to relying on it completely.  The band's quirky guitar riffs and harmonized double leads also set them apart from similar groups, giving Avatar a blend of thundering brutality and comical eccentricity.

Avatar's latest album Avatar Country runs a lean 43 minutes and contains a number of very good songs.  Unfortunately of the ten tracks only six feel like fully fleshed-out ideas.  The concept album about a fictional king (who is mentioned in every song title) opens with a sarcastically funny anthem of sorts, "Glory to Our King," which features layered vocal harmonies over symphonic backing tracks.  My ears perked up when I first heard the melodic strains, but at a mere 51 seconds the song ends before it can really get going.  I would've liked this idea to be further explored and run maybe two or three times as long.

The first real track is an 8-minute epic called "Legend of the King," which features Avatar's signature melodic metal sound, with a harmonized guitar riff serving as one of its main hooks, plus a lofty, operatic chorus.  This is probably the album's strongest song and feels like a band stretching its prog-metal legs.

Maybe the most instantly grabby tune is the AC/DC-esque title track, "The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country," a bouncy midtempo blues rocker on which vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom channels a bit of Brian Johnson while also providing some super catchy harmonies on the chorus.

The other two standouts are the European power metal-infused "Statue of the King," which has probably the strongest chorus on the album, and the de facto closing song "King After King," an uptempo tune with a bittersweet tone (Its lyrics deal with the king's death and remembrance).

The record finishes in anticlimactic fashion with a pair of rather forgettable instrumentals that seem like they were added to artificially extend the album to full-length.  Avatar Country is essentially a six-song EP stretched out to ten songs.

Overall despite its strong points, this record feels like a bit of a disappointment after the hugely satisfying Feathers & Flesh; with not enough meat on its bones and several promising ideas left partially unexplored.  It's fine as an interstitial release, a la Anthrax's Attack of the Killer B's, but it leaves me hoping Avatar gets back in the studio sooner rather than later.

I give the album *** out of *****.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WWE Clash of Champions 2019 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another WWE Predictions extravaganza here at!  We've entered what is traditionally the dullest part of the WWE calendar year, but in 2019 that could all be out the window given the impending Wednesday Night War.  I'm sure the NXT brand will be pulling out all the stops over the next few months to get the edge over AEW.  But what about the main roster?

Well, aside from minor improvements and somewhat more watchable shows, the main roster is still suffering from a lack of week-to-week flow and some go-nowhere angles.  One in particular has been particularly baffling, more on that in a bit.  Regardless, the lineup for this Sunday looks fairly promising and features some fresh stuff.  You take what you can get.  As of now Clash of Champions has eleven matches (the Baron Corbin-Chad Gable King of the Ring final has been moved to Monday's RAW) and I'm sure at least one will get the pre-show bump.  Let's take a look...

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Humberto Carrillo vs. Lince Dorado

Yet another Cruiserweight Title match that will be technically fine but met with apathy.  I've been saying it for months, but 205 Live desperately needs a centerpiece star, otherwise it's just a buncha smaller guys the main roster has no use for.  Kushida made his debut this week, so maybe he's being groomed for that spot.  But given WWE's track record with non-English-speaking stars (or even stars with accents), I ain't holding my breath.

Pick: Drew will retain because I've barely heard of the other two

WWE Women's Tag Team Championship: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville

The company needs to shit or get off the pot with this title.  It's been worthless since WrestleMania and despite them putting Asuka and Kairi Sane together as a team tailor-made to have a dominant title run, they've chosen not to pull the trigger on them.  Because Vince sucks.  No, instead we have the "frenemy champions" deal, because that never gets old, right?  Call me when the Kabuki Warriors win these straps....

Pick: Alexa and Nikki retain

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: New Day vs. The Revival

Is this Dash & Dawson's first PPV match on the main roster?  No?  Feels like it anyway.  This should be fun if given time.  I'm still hoping The Revival heads for the exit next April, as AEW could do great things with them.  I wonder how much Vince'll offer them to stay.  Anyway, given their uncertain future in WWE I gotta pick the champs to retain here.

Pick: New Day retain

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Chris Cornell's "When I'm Down": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden, an acoustic tribute to Chris Cornell.  Our fourth official video, Chris's "When I'm Down" is below.  Recorded at Yebba Studios in Norwood, MA.

Please Like and SUBSCRIBE!

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Top Ten Things: KoRn Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off ten things I like.  Or don't like.  Or whatever you like.

Today I'll be talking about one of my favorite bands, that ragtag group of nu-metal pioneers, KoRn!  In short, I'll be counting down my ten favorite KoRn songs.

I came by my KoRn fandom rather unconventionally, which is to say I hated (HATED) this band for years before finally embracing them.  I first heard KoRn while working at Strawberries record store in the summer of 1995, when "Blind" was featured on the monthly disc of songs the company was pushing.  I didn't think much of the song and quickly dismissed this messy-sounding metal band as a passing trend.  Fast-forward a couple years and KoRn had become the biggest thing in heavy music, much to my chagrin at the time.  As a fan of traditional, intricate speed metal and the like, I couldn't wrap my brain around the detuned, deliberately ugly sound this band was peddling.  Songs like "Chi" and "Got the Life" actually made me physically angry to listen to, and not in a good way.  Then suddenly in 1999 they released Issues, a more melodic effort with dense vocal harmonies and textured guitar performances, and it all clicked into place for me.  I was able to get past my preconceived notions of what hard music "should" sound like and just enjoy this eccentric new approach.  Soon thereafter I relistened to their earlier albums, and within weeks I was a full-blown KoRn fanatic, and have been ever since.  The band may not get much mainstream attention these days, but I still rush out to buy every album.

But which songs are my favorite?  Well let's take a closer look.....

10. Spike in My Veins

The final single from their 2013 album The Paradigm Shift (notable for the return of Brian "Head" Welch on guitar), "Spike in My Veins" boasts a syncopated groove, complementary back-and-forth guitar overdubs, and a melodically simple but eminently hooky chorus.  The song instantly grabs you but also includes enough intricacies to warrant further listens, illustrating how much stronger the KoRn machine is with both of original guitarists in the fold.

9. Seed

This late-album track from Follow the Leader is seemingly about Davis's relationship with his son and his resultant longing for the simpler days of childhood.  The verse meanders at a slower tempo before shifting dramatically to a driving chorus, and the bridge section features two bizarre scat sections aided by a whammy pedal, giving Davis's voice an otherworldly, demonic sound.  "Seed" is one of the darkest-sounding songs on the album and for me a classic KoRn song.

8. Sing Sorrow

One of the bonus tracks from their untitled 2007 album, "Sing Sorrow" is unquestionably the best song from those sessions as far as I'm concerned.  This midtempo anthem deals with themes of society's values falling by the wayside, and the descending chord progression and elastic melody makes for one of the band's best-written hooks.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Movie Review: IT - Chapter Two (2019)

IT: Chapter Two is to its predecessor like Kill Bill vol. 2 was to vol. 1.  In both cases the first half is a visceral, thrilling exercise in style, while the second deals more with the consequences and the characters, lending added weight and profundity to the story as a whole.  It has its share of scary moments, but it's about something much more substantial than that.  I kinda loved this movie.

We pick up 27 years after the first film; an adult Mike Hanlon (the one Losers Club member who stayed in Derry, played by Isaiah Mustafa) summons the others back home because the evil entity Pennywise has returned.  Bill Denbrough (a somber, emotive James McAvoy) is now an accomplished author/screenwriter (who like Stephen King himself has developed a reputation for writing bad endings - meta-joke alert!); Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone looking like a grown-up dead ringer for Jack Dylan Grazer) is a Manhattan risk assessor, married to a woman much like his domineering mother (played by the same actress, in a nice touch); Richie Tozier (show stealer Bill Hader, in a breakout performance of biting sarcasm masking genuine melancholy) is a hotshot standup comedian; Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) is a wildly successful architect, now buff but lonely; Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) is an accountant, ever consumed by fear; and Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain, wonderfully sympathetic as always) is a successful fashion designer married to an abusive bastard.  The early scenes in which we catch up with these characters and see them reunite felt like visiting old friends again; their dinner reunion scene was note-perfect and I could've watched them interact for hours (maybe the only gripe I have with this film is that scenes like this didn't go on longer).

The adult actors are all brilliantly cast to match up with their childhood counterparts, and their touching performances and chemistry form the backbone of this film.  Yes, Pennywise and his scary clown antics are what sell the tickets, but for me Chapter Two was much more about these damaged adult children overcoming their respective childhood traumas (stuff like this is why IT 1 & 2 will become perennial viewings in my house).  I think that was always what Stephen King was getting at with this story, thus complaints of "Not as scary as Chapter One" seem to be missing the point.  This film is probably not as scary as the first; we go into this one already knowing what Pennywise is about and how he operates, thus the scares mostly play out as we expect.  But since the characters are so well-drawn and brought to life, we care about what happens to them and the horror elements work both from a technical and emotional standpoint.  I actually found myself tearing up one more than one occasion, a reaction I'm not sure any other horror film has brought out of me.