Friday, February 28, 2020

WWE and The Oldberg Show, part 2

Sweet fucking Christ on a popsicle stick, did they just seriously take this indestructible monster heel they've been building nonstop for six months and job him out in under three minutes, to Bill fucking Goldberg??  Is this real life?  Am I having a stroke?  Is Vince?

How sad is it that nine years later, CM Punk's infamous "pipe bomb" promo is just as relevant as ever?  Vince McMahon, year after year, keeps demonstrating how appallingly tone-deaf he has become as a promoter.  This guy in 2020 is so bad at building new stars he threw his hands up and put one of his two top championships on a 52-year-old WCW headliner who hasn't had a good five-plus-minute match since 2003, sacrificing the one current star he's been consistently building up over the last half-year.  And to boot, this scenario is just a rerun of 2017, when he did the same thing to Kevin Owens in 21 seconds.  Last October the Fiend basically got murdered with a hammer by Seth Rollins after taking eleven curb stomps, but still got up.  Yet he can't withstand four spears and the most feeble-looking jackhammer of all time?  This is just embarrassing.

Look, I have no problem with booking the dream match of Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania (aside from the fact that Oldie can't actually take bumps or do more than a four-minute finisher-fest - but tell me more about how WWE main events are about psychology and storytelling...), but there was zero need for the Universal Title to be involved.  Zero.  Goldberg could've been booked to beat literally anyone else at Super Showdown to build him up for this.  Squashing The Fiend, who may not be a ratings-mover but nonetheless has sold a lot of merch, is 100% counterproductive and there is no rational argument to be made to the contrary.  Yay, Goldberg popped a rating on Smackdown.  Super.  So in five weeks after he drops the Title to Roman and goes away, then what happens?  The ratings go right back to where they were, yes?  So what long-term benefit comes out of this?  Spoiler alert: none.  And anyone who thinks Roman won't get booed like crazy for beating the beloved legend is delusional.  We're going right back to 2017 when he beat Taker.

Elsewhere on that Saudi shit sandwich, we got to see AJ Styles lose to the 55-year-old Undertaker, in 20 seconds, after a single chokeslam, allegedly to set up another 'Mania dream match.  But who the fuck wants to see that now?  AJ lost clean after one move.  Why should I care about seeing the heel redeem himself?  Speaking of delusional, Vince, Taker and anyone else who thinks the near-senior Dead Man is physically up for a match reminiscent of his 2009-2010 feud with Shawn is not being honest with themselves.  That feud was a decade ago, and in 2020 Taker can barely walk around comfortably.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

AEW Revolution Preview & Predictions

A-E-Dubs!  A-E-Dubs!  This Saturday night AEW is back on PPV with Revolution.  You see, the puppy was just a dog.  But the PPV.....that my friends, was a revolution.

Sorry, had a Billy Madison moment there.  Anywho, this show is nicely stacked from top to bottom and the weekly Dynamite series has done a pretty excellent job of building up the big bouts.  I expect a new company highpoint with this PPV.  I hope I'm right.  From a star power standpoint this main event is their biggest match to date, the tag title match has the potential to be their best bout so far, and we're getting the long-awaited payoff to a hugely personal feud.  This oughta be great.

Let's pick some winners.

SoCal Uncensored vs. The Dark Order

This feud is built around the tease of Christopher Daniels joining the Dark Order and revealing himself to be the Exalted One or whatever they're calling it.  I don't think Daniels is the guy, as it's too obvious.  I think they're biding their time until Luke Harper/Brodie Lee is free from his WWE no-compete clause and he can be the new leader.  That would be a good move.  That said I think the Order wins this in spite of Daniels' rejection.

Pick: The Dark Order

Pac vs. Orange Cassidy

Mr. Cassidy is finally wrestling a match in AEW.  I imagine this won't be a clinic given Cassidy's gimmick, and it probably won't last long, but it should be entertaining.  Pac will get something of a good match out of him before winning.

Pick: Pac

Darby Allin vs. Sammy Guevara

This'll be a wild one - Allin is a crazy man and Guevara is super athletic.  This is a potential show stealer and they've done a great job of building interest.  If the company had a secondary singles belt this would be a good fit for it.  Time to introduce an AEW Television Champion or whatever they wanna call it.

Pick: Guevara kinda desperately needs a win

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Top Ten Things: February PPV Matches

Hello and welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I make a nerdy, dorky list of the ten best examples of something I like, and you are forced to read it.

Today I'll be talking about the top ten February PPV matches of all time, as decided by me.  February falls smack-dab in the middle of the Road to WrestleMania, and its PPV event is often the forgotten little sibling of 'Mania and the Royal Rumble.  But that doesn't necessarily make it a throwaway event.  Some real gems have occurred in the second month of WWE's PPV calendar (which in some cases have outshone every match at 'Mania itself), and even outside WWE there have been some excellent matches and events held in February (I've included some NWA/WCW and NJPW entries as well).

So let's get to it!

10. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoake Honma - NJPW The New Beginning in Sendai 2.14.15

After defeating Ishii at WrestleKingdom 9 for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Togi Makabe suffered a sudden injury and New Japan vacated the title.  Ishii then faced perennial underdog but huge crowd favorite Honma to crown a new champ.  And the result was a brutally stiff battle full of knifing chops, diving headbutts, and crazy intensity.  Honma ultimately came up short and the "Stone Pitbull" Ishii regained the Title.  This match was highly praised as one of many 2015 Match of the Year candidates on NJPW's calendar, and I can't disagree.

9. Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker - WWE No Way Out 2.19.06

The main event of No Way Out '06 saw World Champion Kurt Angle lock up with a man he considers possibly the greatest wrestler of all time, The Undertaker.  This epic bout was presented as a clash of two babyfaces and ran over 29 minutes, featuring loads of dramatic near-falls and action ranging all around the ringside area.  Finally after his Anklelock was countered into a Triangle Choke, Angle rolled forward to trap Taker underneath him for the pin.  This was WWE's best match of the year.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Top Ten Things: Corrosion of Conformity Songs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off a list of things I dig.

Today I'm talking about a band of unsung stoner metal heroes that began in the early 1980s as a hardcore punk trio and evolved into thrash, groove metal, sludge, and southern rock, along the way becoming a quintet and then a four-piece.  These guys were briefly in rotation on FM rock radio in the mid 90s but have unfortunately spent most of their career in relative obscurity despite always putting out quality, iconoclastic molten sludge, I'm talking about Corrosion of Conformity.

I first became aware of COC thanks to that great old staple of MTV, Headbanger's Ball, which presented three hours of metal awesomeness every Saturday night.  In early 1993 I happened upon two videos featuring this surly group of southern hicks pounding out groove-oriented guitar dirges and barking anthems of revolt and rebellion, and I was hooked immediately.  I went out and bought their third album Blind, and was knocked squarely on my ass by the sledgehammer rhythm guitars and righteous rage-infused lyrics.  In late 1994 they followed it up with Deliverance, which featured a major lineup change (guitarist Pepper Keenan had taken over on lead vocals from Karl Agell, while original bassist Mike Dean had returned in place of Phil Swisher) and a turn to Sabbathy, pothead alt-metal, yielding some well-deserved mainstream attention.  From then on COC was a staple around my house, and I've been groovin' to them ever since.  This band doesn't get nearly enough love.

With that, let's take a look at the best of Corrosion of Conformity!

HM: Damned for All Time

After the evil-sounding instrumental "These Shrouded Temples..." kicks off the Blind album, the late Reed Mullin's (RIP Reed!) syncopated drums transition us into a midtempo groover called "Damned for All Time," a scathing rebuke of politicians and their warmongering, that shifts feels from section to section.  Karl Agell's narrator reels in disgust at the crimes against humanity perpetrated by America's ruling class on a daily basis, fearing that we are all, like Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, damned for all time.

HM: Clean My Wounds

Maybe COC's best-known song is this simple tune from Deliverance, lyrically a toned-down thematic cousin to "Damned," as Pepper Keenan laments the violence around him, his cries for absolution unanswered ("Help me Jesus, help me clean my wounds/He said he cannot heal that kind").

HM: Seven Days

This melancholy dirge over a shuffle feel seems to be from the point of view of Christ, trying to make sense of his obligation to a human race he isn't sure is worth saving, while acknowledging his own human shortcomings.  It's one of Keenan's most powerful vocal performances and contains some of his most poignant lyrics ("Well I'm the one/I face the change I know that stands before me/Believe in me, cuz I damn sure don't believe in you").

HM: Dirty Hands and Empty Pockets/Already Gone

One of COC's most unusual tunes is this two-part shuffle that stars with just bass and drums, over which Pepper's sandpapery spoken verses eviscerate America's exploitation of third-world countries ("As we bleed another nation so you can watch your favorite station").  The lyrical perspective then changes, giving way to a high-energy guitar boogie from the point of view of the exploited soldier ("One day you will see when you're six feet down like me/Remember me when you're safe at home/I'm already gone").  This song also shows off veteran drummer Stanton Moore's bouncy chops.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Movie Review: Fighting With My Family (2019)

Wow, after 17 years WWE Studios has finally made a good movie.  The Paige biopic Fighting With My Family, written and directed by Stephen Merchant, is slyly funny, poignantly inspiring, oddly sweet, and quite superbly acted, while showing a respect for the craft of professional wrestling that's unusual for a Hollywood film.  More than respect actually, it displays a pretty intimate knowledge of what these performers go through to become successful WWE stars.  Of course that should stand to reason being that the film was co-produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, based on a UK documentary about Paige and her family.

Led by a wonderful Florence Pugh performance as Saraya Bevis/Britani Knight/Paige (Pugh absolutely shines in this role, conveying a touching vulnerability under the grizzled exterior of a young woman raised by wrestlers), the film also boasts strong supporting turns from Nick Frost and Lena Headey as her wrestler/promoter parents, Jack Lowden as her brother Zak who's worked his whole life for a shot in WWE, and a surprisingly compassionate Vince Vaughn as Hutch Morgan, the WWE coach/talent scout who has to be tough and cynical with his recruits but underneath has his own regrets about the business.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The History of NXT TakeOver: Portland

The NXT brand once again delivered a killer TakeOver special, stringing together six good-to-excellent matches with nary a low point on the card.  While for me some matches went too far in a few places and the show lacked a true MOTY contender, NXT Portland was nonetheless a tremendous effort.

The show kicked off with the North American Title match, pitting old rivals Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic in a hard-hitting power battle.  These two powerhouses threw everything at each other, including a few death-defying dives and a climactic Spanish Fly off the top rope from Dijakovic.  The crowd was red-hot for this and every match, and bought into all of it.  Lee and Dijakovic's chemistry was very evident, as they've been working together for years, and this felt like NXT's version of a crazy indie match.  My only complaint was that after the Spanish Fly spot, Lee kicked out, Dijakovic went for a power move but his back gave out, and Lee just finished him with the Big Bang Catastrophe out of nowhere.  That felt like a parody of the WWE-style finish, where one guy seemingly has the match wrapped up but the other guy does his big move suddenly and wins.  Aside from that though, this was really good.  ****

The surprise hit of the night for me was the Tegan Nox-Dakota Kai Street Fight, which was shockingly violent, crisply worked, and exciting all the way through.  It was probably still the weakest match of the night by default, but that's not a knock on the match itself.  Nox and Kai did some spectacular stuff, including a German suplex on a trash can, a top-rope chokeslam, and a top-rope Molly Go-Round.  The story was that Nox was so preoccupied with punishing Kai, she declined to go for the pin after a Shining Wizard and instead put her on a table and put a chair around her head with the intent of Pillmanizing her, but Raquel Gonzalez tossed her off the top rope on to the table (another brutal-looking spot, as the table didn't break but instead tipped over on contact), allowing Kai to get the pin.  Damn good fight.  ***1/2

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

NXT TakeOver: Portland Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of PPV Predictions, here at!

This weekend we're getting an NXT TakeOver show that doesn't immediately precede a main roster PPV, and it's on a Sunday to boot.  This here is what you'd call "NXT trying to stand on its own."  The lineup looks pretty spectacular as always, and we're getting an unusual six matches instead of five.  I imagine this means the show will go a full three hours, and I ain't even mad.  At least one major NXT star seems to have a WrestleMania match in her future, and I wonder if others will follow.

Let's take a gander and make some predictions....

Street Fight: Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox

This is the long-awaited payoff to Kai's shocking heel turn at Survivor Series and the rules are out the window.  Should be heated, and the crowd should be into it.  I think it'll get somewhat lost in the shuffle on a loaded card like this, but it should be a fun bout.

Pick: This being Nox's revenge story I'll pick her to win

North American Championship: Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic

The two monster babyface pals face off for Lee's newly won NA Title.  This should be a real battle of the bulls.  Keith is obviously keeping the title here and will I assume face Roderick Strong at the 'Mania weekend show, but Dijakovic should give him an entertaining first big title defense.

Pick: Lee retains

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Great PPVs: Chi-Town Rumble '89

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs - whether you're reading this via our friends at or at our own site, I hope you're enjoying this series thus far as we look back on some of the all-time great wrestling shows.

Since it's February I thought I'd take a look at one of the old NWA's greatest offerings from the 1980s, Chi-Town Rumble!  This one-time PPV took place on February 20, 1989 (a Monday night for some reason) and is most remembered for its critically acclaimed main event that launched one of the greatest rivalries in the annals of the business.  But this show had a damn good undercard as well, with most of the company's major titles on the line and a some big feuds resolved.  Chi-Town Rumble served as an excellent sequel to the previous year's Starrcade (for my money the 1988 edition was the best of the bunch), while also kicking off what was pretty universally considered the greatest year in the company's grand history.

The show got off to a slow start with a pair of undercard singles bouts.  First up was the returning Michael Hayes facing one of the Russian Assassins.  This match oddly got nearly sixteen minutes despite being little more than a showcase to re-establish Hayes as an upper midcard babyface, but it was largly inoffensive.  It was followed by another pseudo-showcase match for Sting, who went over twenty minutes against Butch Reed, with better results.  Neither of these matches is terribly important or all that memorable except in building up two future singles champions, but from the third match on the show never faltered.

The first of five good-to-great matches pitted The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette vs. The Original Midnight Express and Paul E. Dangerously, with a Loser Leaves the NWA stipulation (Unfortunately Dennis Condrey had jumped the gun and left the company before this event, and utility man Jack Victory replaced him).  Like the MX vs. OMX match at Starrcade, this was a wild, fast-paced affair with the added bonus of the two managers scuffling.  After almost sixteen minutes the babyface Midnights scored the pin after a double flapjack to Randy Rose.  While not quite at the level of the Starrcade bout, this was a very entertaining match and a good blowoff to the feud.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Music Review: Kesha - High Road

Kesha's fourth album High Road is sort of a mix of her early party pop sensibilities and her more poignant, introspective material found on 2017's Rainbow (her first record free from the abusive contract she'd signed with Dr. Luke).  Where that album was a cathartic, often heart-rending purge of personal demons, High Road (as the title implies) attempts to get back to a sense of fun and carefreedom while still exploring a bit of Kesha's thirty-something maturity.

The album's first third is lighthearted pop fare - "Tonight," "My Own Dance," and "Raising Hell" are all about going out and having a good time, albeit with a tinge of Kesha's debaucherous self-awareness ("I'm getting so drunk/I haven't seen my boyfriend in a few months").  "Tonight" is the best of these, with an anthemic, Nate Ruess-esque chorus (Ruess co-wrote a couple of the other tracks in fact) and evocative word-pictures.  The fourth and fifth tracks, "High Road" and "Shadow," seem to indicate Kesha's intent to move past the struggles chronicled on Rainbow and just worry about the future, critics be damned.

For me it's the second act where High Road really comes alive.  "Honey" is a scathing rebuke of a former friend, featuring layered R&B vocals over a Weezer-esque guitar loop.  Songs like this one showcase Kesha's admirable directness and free-flowing spontaneity.  My two favorite tracks are next, both understated, folky, affecting laments of missed boats and eroding love.  "Cowboy Blues" is a sweet and sad duet about a fella she met at a dive bar and never saw again, while "Resentment" (featuring Brian Wilson and Sturgill Simpson) deals with being taken for granted by a longtime lover.  These two songs are quite beautiful and I'd love to hear Kesha do more of this.

Parents' Night In #28: Lost in Translation (2003), A Pivotal Film for These Two Parents....

Welcome to the first PNI of 2020, where Kelly and Justin watch and discuss Sofia Coppola's breakout film Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson!  This was one of the first films we watched together as a couple, on our first bona fide date, and we've been enjoying films together ever since.  LIT holds sentimental value for us as a sweet, poignant film about two lonely people finding a deep emotional connection in a strange city.  It's funny, thoughtful and delightful, and we love watching it.  We'll also discuss Oscar history, traveling, and the dawn of text messaging.

Join us for some fun!

#ScarJo #ScarlettJohansson #AcademyAwards #Oscars

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Movie Review: Little Women (2019)

Greta Gerwig's new version of the much-adapted Little Women injects a bit of 21st century sensibility into the classic story, while lending more urgency and even a bit of meta-fiction to the narrative.  

Starring the wonderful Saoirse Ronan as lead character Jo (a largely autobiographical creation of the novel's author Louisa May Alcott), Emma Watson as her loving older sister Meg, Eliza Scanlen as sickly Beth, and Florence Pugh in a powderkeg performance as the youngest, Amy, Little Women jumps back and forth between the four sisters' harmonious Concord, MA upbringing in 1861 and their splintering apart as young adults in 1868.  As someone already familiar with the story from Gillian Armstrong's 1994 version, but fuzzy on the details from a quarter-century ago when I saw it, I found Gerwig's disjointed approach actually more engaging than a chronological structure would've been.  Instead of waiting for the inevitable story beats I remembered, I had to piece together what was happening in which time period; there are no titles as the film jumps back and forth, it just does.

The film begins with Jo negotiating the sale of some short story work to her New York City publisher, before learning the news that her younger sister Beth is gravely ill, and rushing home to Massachusetts.  She reminisces sporadically about events from seven years earlier, when Jo and her three sisters lived a rather poor but overall content life with their mother, keeping each other's spirits high by performing plays and visiting with their neighbor Laurie (a charming but deeply troubled Timothee Chalamet in a superb performance).

At the same time in Paris, a now-grown Amy reconnects with Laurie, who once proposed to Jo only to be turned down, but now seems drawn to Amy.  Both Amy and her older sister Meg struggle with the idea of marrying for money vs. for love; in the mid-19th century women who married got to keep essentially nothing of their own.  Their money, property and children all became their husbands', thus women like Amy view marriage as little more than a business transaction, while Meg has taken the opposite path, marrying a penniless teacher, content to raise a family on a modest income.  Someone like Jo on the other hand has little use for marriage, preferring to keep her own identity.  This theme is front and center in this version, cleverly woven into the later scenes involving Jo's publishing deal.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka 2020 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NJPW predictions, here at!  I was on vacation last week and totally forgot to do this for the Sapporo New Beginning shows, dammit.  But anyway, I'm back for the Osaka lineup, which is really the important one.  That said, definitely check out the final two bouts of each Sapporo show - all quite excellent.

This lineup has four big singles matches and a Jr. Tag Title defense, including Tetsuya Naito's first defense of his double championship.  I wonder how long he'll keep them both, or if he'll even defend them separately.  Anyway, this show features a modest 8-match lineup but should be a very easy watch and provide some new entries for my Top Ten February PPV Matches list (stay tuned for the updated version).  Let's pick some winners....

Tencozy, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare

Part of the Nakanishi retirement tour, this opener is a lot like Jushin Liger's 8-man at the Dome.  A nice little pre-retirement send-off.  Should be a fun match, likely ending with Nakanishi doing the job.

Pick: Team Great Bash Heel

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: RPG3K vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Sho & Yoh will defend their newly-won Jr. Tag belts against the team they apparently can't get enough of wrestling.  These two teams have yet to really tear the house down together, so I'd like to see Sho & Yoh move on to a really great pair of heel juniors.  I can't imagine RPG3K loses the belts already.

Pick: RPG3K retains

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Juice Robison & David Finlay vs. Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Guerrillas of Destiny

Another 8-man tag, this will be Kota Ibushi's return after a pretty serious flu-like illness that kept him off the US tour.  Dude needs to take it easy and rest up for the New Japan Cup.  I like the babyface side of this match, while the heel side is eh...  GOD just won back the tag belts and I don't know if FinJuice will continue chasing them or not.  But I think the good guys win here.

Pick: Tanibuicelay

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Top Ten Things: Film Directors

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

Today I'll be discussing my all-time favorite filmmakers.  As a cinefile I've spent years seeking out quality films made by gifted directors, and there have been more than a few whose careers I've followed very closely, at least for a while.  Some directors fell off my radar after a downturn in quality (Rob Reiner anyone?), but in each of the below cases I actively seek out films by these directors.  In some cases they are essential viewing for me.

Here now is the list....

10. Paul Thomas Anderson

One of Hollywood's quirkiest, most adventurous directors, Anderson has made a career of creating non-traditional films centered around flawed protagonists.  He often wears his cinematic influences on his sleeve, but always injects his own style and sensibilities into every picture.  His noirish debut Hard Eight garnered positive reviews, but it was his sophomore effort which brought him to my attention.  Boogie Nights chronicles the rise and fall of adult film star Dirk Diggler, set against the messy transition from the artsy smut of the 70s to the more utilitarian, VHS-driven industry of the 80s.  Anderson created such a fully realized universe and cast of characters in this movie I couldn't help being totally immersed, and Boogie Nights remains one of my all-time favorite films.  He followed it up with the uneven but superbly acted Magnolia, the Kubrick-esque opus There Will Be Blood, and the puzzling but never dull The Master.  Even in light of his two (in my opinion) misfires Punch-Drunk Love and Inherent Vice, Anderson has enjoyed a stellar career thus far, directing two masterpieces and three other uniquely admirable efforts.

Top Three Films: Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia

9. David Fincher

Perhaps no other director seized my fascination so early on in his career as David Fincher.  His debut film Alien 3 (which he later disowned) disappointed me severely, but there was still something about his visual style that struck me.  His ability to play with light and darkness lent Alien 3 a richness that its script sorely lacked.  He brought that sense of intensely tangible dread to the forefront in his second film, the overwhelmingly bleak Se7en (another one of my all-time favorites), and again in his Hitchcockian thriller The Game.  But it will probably always be Fight Club that audiences most closely associate with Fincher.  This mindfuck of a movie had such a profound impact on our cinematic lexicon, and along with The Sixth Sense, made plot twists a must-have in any thriller for several years.  Much of Fincher's recent work has been a little more conventional (but often still excellent), from the police procedural Zodiac, to the Gump-esque Benjamin Button, to the darkly droll The Social Network.  His two most recent films (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl) were both based on bestsellers, with mixed box office results, but they cemented Fincher as a visually gifted event filmmaker.

Top Three Films: Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network

8. F.W. Murnau

One of cinema's earliest visionaries, Murnau created some of the most optically stunning images ever photographed for a film.  At a time when most moving pictures featured static, flat camera angles, Murnau brought expressionist atmosphere and movement (In The Last Laugh for example he used a swing and a wheelchair to create motion).  He also made use of deliberately fantastical special effects to lend his films a moody, dreamlike quality.  Consider the opening passages in his horrific epic Faust, which depicts a struggle between God and Satan.  These effects don't strive for realism, yet they're more effective in conveying the story than some of our modern CGI.  Undoubtedly Murnau's most famous film is Nosferatu, the first major adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Murnau set the bar for all future versions of the immortal Count, inventing a loathsome, disease-spreading apparition.  Some of film horror's most iconic images came from this film and it remains mandatory viewing every Halloween.  Murnau was sadly killed in a car accident shortly after being imported by Hollywood, and it's a tragedy we never got to see his intended American filmography.  His first American film, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, won three awards at the first Oscars ceremony.

Top Three Films: Nosferatu, Faust, The Last Laugh

92nd Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

Welcome to the 5th Annual Academy Awards Predictions column here at, where my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I compete for bragging rights, prognosticating the Oscars!

Image result for 92nd academy awards

2019 is in the history books and we've got quite the slate of films this year - films about war, auto racing, 60s Hollywood, mentally disturbed comic book villains, 19th century women, gangsters, strained marriages, imaginary Nazi friends, and whatever the hell Parasite is about.  I've seen six of the Best Pic nominees and hope to catch the last three before Sunday.

This turned out to be a very strong year in film; several good popcorn movies (Avengers: Endgame, The Rise of Skywalker), some really innovative genre pictures (Us, 1917, Joker), multiple offerings from under the expanding Netflix umbrella (The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes), and yet another neo-classic from Quentin Tarantino, featuring a pair of actors being referred to as "The last two true movie stars."  We'll eventually write a piece about the films of the 2010s, and I'd likely include multiple entries from 2019 on my Best Of list.

Once again the Oscars have no host this year; I think most people enjoyed the streamlined format to keep the running time down and the show simpler.  I generally like the idea of a host, but aside from the opening monologue/song I suppose there isn't much need for one.  Regardless, this should be a fun evening.  But enough blathering, let's pick some winners (As of now Mike is trouncing me in the predictions)....

Best Picture

Ford vs. Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit 
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Justin:  This category is between two frontrunners, each of which won a Best Picture Golden Globe.  1917 is an incredible, immersive war film done in one continuous shot (or at least edited to look like it), while Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a love letter to the late 60s set against the backdrop of the Sharon Tate murders.  I loved both of these films.  My favorite of the year was OUATIH and I'm a little sad Tarantino's going to come so close to winning the big one only to fall short again.  But it seems clear the Academy is going all-in on 1917, which Sam Mendes based on World War I stories his grandfather used to tell him.  I'm fine with that winning, as it's my second choice (Poetically Mendes's debut feature won this award 20 years ago).  I'm also happy Joker got a nod.  What a surreal film; a Scorsese-esque character study about a comic book character.  It's kind of mindboggling this film got made and even moreso that it made a fortune.

Prediction: 1917

Mike: I've managed to see 7 of the 9 nominees this year and I'm sure I've seen the eventual winner. Parasite is a master class in filmmaking and storytelling. The theme behind the story and how it was delivered was just incredible. However, no foreign film has ever taken home the top prize and I'm not so sure that will change, even for the best reviewed movie of the year. Joker was great and JoJo Rabbit was such a great movie. Funny and absurd but then takes a turn into the serious. It reminded me a lot of Life Is Beautiful. But my favorite film this year was easily 1917. It was really hard to get past how great the storytelling was, how it was shot, and the suspense it captured.

Prediction: 1917

Best Director

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
Todd Phillips – Joker
Sam Mendes – 1917
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Justin: Like the Best Pic category, this is a two-horse race.  Quentin Tarantino vs. Sam Mendes.  Again I'll be sad to see Tarantino, one of my all-time favorite directors, fall just short of this award, but the smart money is on Mendes.  Todd Phillips's work on Joker was a little too Scorsese for him to deserve this, while Scorsese's work on The Irishman was a little too.....well, 90s Scorsese.  Bong Joon-ho could be a spoiler but I'm sticking with Sam.

Prediction: Sam Mendes

Mike: I agree with you that this is a two-horse race however Tarantino isn't a part of it. For me, it's between Mendes and Bong Joon Ho for Parasite. 1917 is a film that ranks up there with Saving Private Ryan (the most famous of all the Academy's sins) and if he was awarded the Oscar, it's deserved. However, Parasite is a masterpiece and its delivery is crazy good. This was a film I actually had to digest after it was over. Also, considering how the Director's branch of the Academy is primarily made up of directors from other countries, I think Parasite's theme is actually going to translate more in this category than any others.

Prediction: Bong Joon Ho

Monday, February 3, 2020

Movies of Disbelief: Signs (2002)

Welcome to another Movies of Disbelief, where I examine one particular issue with an otherwise good film and why it irritates me so.  Today's subject, the 2002 alien invasion film Signs.

M. Night Shyamalan.  Has there ever been a more divisive film director?  Or more accurately, has there ever been a film director whose output has ranged from "universally lauded" to "fiery garbage on a stick?"  M. Night burst on the scene seemingly out of nowhere with his third film The Sixth Sense (I legit had no idea he'd made two other movies until I looked it up for this article), which proved a smash-hit and popularized the mindfuck ending like no other film had.  He followed it up with the mostly acclaimed but less successful Unbreakable, an intimate twist on the superhero genre (which of course spawned a trilogy nearly twenty years later), and then it was time for Signs.

Starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, Signs was another "up close and personal" take on a genre film, this time The Alien Invasion picture.  Gibson is a widowed ex-minister-turned-farmer who finds a crop circle in his field, seemingly left by an alien presence, and soon other signs of an invasion spring up, including strange noises, animals exhibiting abnormal behavior, and lights in the sky.  Eventually news reports surface of alien sightings, leading to one of the great monster reveals, an amateur video taken at a kids' birthday party (This moment is chillingly effective).  The film expertly builds suspense throughout its entire running time, leading to a final showdown between Gibson's family (brother and two kids) and one of the creatures......and then it falls apart totally and completely in the last fifteen minutes, when it turns out the aliens are allergic to water.  Yeah that's right, simple, old fashioned water.

Dude, scary as fuck.

But that's not even what has my goat about this movie.  Don't get me wrong, it's annoying as all hell that an advanced species capable of interstellar travel - one that would've necessarily taken atmospheric readings before landing on any planet, to ensure the air is breathable - couldn't figure out that not only is our planet 70% covered with liquid that will disintegrate them, but its atmosphere is LOADED with it.  Like, how did they walk around a humid climate such as Brazil without inhaling moisture that would've corroded them from the inside?  How did it not happen to rain in any of the locales they invaded?  But okay, let's say for argument's sake, they couldn't figure out Terra Firma has water coming out its ass.  We'll shelve that gripe, as I have bigger goddamn fish to fry with this movie.

Hmmm, what d'ya suppose I could do with ol' Wonder Bat here?

No, what really pisses me off about this film is the other climactic "reveal," where Mel and his family are under siege by one of these lizard men, and only after flashing back to his wife's cryptic dying words "Tell Merrill to swing away" does it occur to Mel, "Say, perhaps I should urge my brother to grab that baseball bat on the wall and Al Capone E.T.'s fucking brains out."  Yeah that's right.  Instead of instinctively going for the first blunt instrument he can get his hands on, he ponders for a moment the last thing Mrs. Gibson said to him after a drunk driver pinned her to a tree, and it just so happened to suggest these Martian motherfuckers could be felled by a Louisville Slugger to their big green faces.  I know when I'm being attacked I try to think of a deceased loved one's final earthly guidance, no matter how irrelevant it might seem.  This one time I got mugged, and my first impulse was to reflect on my grandmother's dying advice, "Boy, you show 'em you're good as gold," and I proceeded to take a golden piss all over that mugger, who ran screaming into the night.  What a fucking stupid ending to this movie.  Someone invades your home, you find a weapon and attack them with it.  It's literally one of the first two impulses you'd have, the other being to run/hide.  Why in the FUCK would this scene need an enigmatic flashback that neatly ties into the domestic crisis our heroes find themselves in?

This movie should be called Signs...That Your Director is a Pretentious Asshole.

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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Starship Troopers

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I'll examine a movie I have mixed feelings about and separate what works from what doesn't.  Today's entry is the monstrously violent political satire from Paul Verhoeven called Starship Troopers!

The 1997 film was based on Robert Heinlein's 1959 militaristic, rather pro-fascist novel about a group of high schoolers who enroll in the military to wage war against an army of alien "bugs."  In the novel the main character Johnny Rico has a fairly triumphant arc, becoming a respected officer and leader as the war wages on.  The film however has a decidedly satirical thrust, mostly poking fun at the very subject matter on which it was based.  On the surface this movie seemed like the usual alien invasion sci-fi/action tripe, but as he did with Robocop, Verhoeven created something much more substantial and sociopolitical.  He got a lot of things right with this film, but while Robocop is basically perfect for what it is, Troopers unfortunately leaves some things to be desired.  So let's take a look at this Awesomely Shitty Movie....

The Awesome


The militaristic tone and pro-meritocracy slant (having to earn full citizens' rights) of the novel are cleverly satirized by director Paul Verhoeven in a way that rides the line between honoring and lampooning Robert Heinlein's work.  In fact Verhoeven found the novel unreadable and still managed to make a capable film adaptation.  The officer uniforms are also clearly inspired by those of Nazi officials, and the propaganda films shown throughout are flagrantly a riff on Nazi indoctrination such as Triumph of the Will.  Structurally this film is strikingly similar to All Quiet on the Western Front, following a group of high school kids (who in this case seem lifted right out of 90210) who get duped into enlisting and have horrible things happen to them.

Who designed these space suits, Michelin?


Like with Robocop, Verhoeven sprinkled (or more accurately slathered) this movie with over-the-top, graphic violence which becomes both disturbing and oddly amusing.  There are countless battle scenes with humans being stabbed through various body parts by the bugs' spear-like legs, and plenty of scenes depicting bugs being inefficiently blown to gooey pieces by the soldiers.  Plus there's the climactic scene where the brain bug sucks Zander Barcalow's brain out through his skull.  It's not for the squeamish, but man is it entertaining for us sick folk (fucks).

Dammit Paul, I wanted to see what happened to the cow!