Monday, September 27, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dune

Good day and welcome to Awesomely Shitty Movies!  Each installment will focus on a film that, despite considerable and crippling flaws, I can't help but like or even love.  These flaws could be with the script, the acting, the special effects, the cinematography, or all of the above, but in each case the movie has something going for it and I'm inexplicably fascinated by it, despite its ineptitude.

The first movie I'll be tackling is David Lynch's commercially and critically reviled adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel Dune.

I was nine years old when this movie was released, and being a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, I was immediately drawn in by the promise of sci-fi adventure.  In some ways the story of Dune resembled Star Wars (or really the reverse is true since the book was published 12 years before Star Wars was released) - a young hero with budding supernatural powers, a desert planet, laser guns, weird creatures, etc.  What I got though was a horribly confusing mish-mash of geo-political, religious and sci-fi themes overrun with baffling inner monologue narration and overly bizarre and gross-looking characters.

To be fair to Mr. Lynch, the studio interfered greatly during post-production and the theatrical cut was very different from what he intended.  Unfortunately he has all but disowned this film and has no interest in releasing a Director's Cut, which might actually make the story easier to follow.  There is a 3-hour version of the film available but Lynch had no hand in it, and from what I understand it actually confuses things even more.

Dune was originally supposed to be adapted into a film in the mid 70s, with famed Alien artist H.R. Giger attached as a production designer.  That incarnation went over-budget and never saw the light of day, and eventually in the 80s producer Dino DiLaurentiis acquired the project and David Lynch ended up in the Director's chair.

Anyway let's examine what's awesome about this movie, and then we'll talk about what's shitty.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Top Ten Things: Coen Brothers Films

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at, where I'll count down my ten favorite something-or-others....

Today's topic is Joel and Ethan Coen, the co-director brothers who specialize in strange characters, meticulously crafted dialogue, and sometimes head-scratching endings.  The Coens have built a tremendously diverse and idiosyncratic slate of films spanning multiple genres, often involving film noir elements and seedy criminals, but sometimes taking the form of a sardonic comedy or scathing satire.  I've been a fan of theirs more or less since they debuted with Blood Simple, but it was in the mid-90s that Joel and Ethan reached their full potential, and they've helmed multiple classics over the past thirty years.

But which Coen films are the best?  Let's look at the top ten now, shall we?

10. A Serious Man

This uncomfortable dark comedy about a physics professor whose life begins spiraling out of control was quietly nominated for multiple Oscars and largely flew under the radar.  Michael Stuhlbarg stars as Larry Gopnik, a husband and father of two whose wife wants to leave him for his best friend, and whose slightly delinquent kids don't respect him.  Stuhlbarg carries the film with an understatedly comic performance, reacting to each new hardship with annoyed disbelief.  The Larry character reminds me a bit of Barton Fink in that he never seems to give up hope or accept that he's simply screwed.  The film has a philosophical tone but ultimately appears to arrive at the conclusion that bad things sometimes happen to people just because.  An unexpectedly strong inclusion to the Coens' filmography.

9. Raising Arizona

This zany western-comedy stars Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a robber and cop, respectively, who inexplicably fall in love and decide to steal a baby from a rich couple who has just had quintuplets.  But soon Cage's ex-cellmates escape prison and pay him a visit, and he goes back to armed robbery, while the baby's actual parents hire a grizzled bounty hunter to retrieve their child.  The film blends screwball elements with those of Mad Max to show off the Coens' bizarre sense of humor, and also marks their first of several brilliant collaborations with John Goodman.

8. Barton Fink

Possibly the weirdest Coen Brothers film is this dark, moody period piece set in 1941, about a playwright-turned-screenwriter plagued with writer's block.  John Turturro's title character lives in a Hollywood hotel and befriends his next door neighbor Charlie (John Goodman), who turns out to be a brutal serial killer.  This psychological drama was written over three weeks while Joel and Ethan struggled to complete the Miller's Crossing script, and though difficult to fully categorize, contains elements of film noir, horror and surrealism.  Barton Fink is read by some as symbolic of the rise of fascism in Eastern Europe, while others see it as a parable about a man trapped in Hell.  Whatever the interpretation, Barton Fink is a darkly unique, haunting entry in the Coen pantheon.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

AEW Dynamite Grand Slam: A Modern-Day Clash of the Champions

AEW Dynamite Grand Slam.  What a fuckin' show.  Five matches, one of which ranks among the best free television matches I've ever seen, the rest of which were really good at worst.  This show combined the splendor and big fight atmosphere of a stacked Saturday Night's Main Event with the wrestling quality of the first Clash of the Champions (and even included a time limit draw).  Tony Khan said there would be four Clash-style Dynamites a year, and this show fit that description to a tee.  Light on angles and heavy on wrestling, this show felt like a two-hour PPV event and if you're a lapsed wrestling fan this is the type of show you should seriously give a chance to get back into it. 

The show began, shockingly, with Kenny Omega vs. Bryan Danielson, in front of an absolutely nuclear crowd of 20,000-plus.  The two in-ring masters started off slow and methodical and gradually built to a war of attrition, breaking out many, but not all of, their big moves, leaving some stuff on the table for an inevitable rematch.  Danielson frustrated Kenny with his mat grappling, harkening back to his Ring of Honor days at times (including, much to my delight, "I have till five!"), and working over the shoulder to soften it up for the LeBell Lock.  Omega fired back with chops that left a road map of welts on Bryan's chest, while also attacking his neck.  Both men zeroed in on the body part their respective finishers target.  As the match wore on the moves got bigger and higher impact.  Kenny hit numerous V-Triggers, including one where Bryan was propped up on the ring apron and Kenny ran all the way down the ramp before delivering the knee.  At one point Bryan broke out his old finisher Cattle Mutilation, but Kenny reached the ropes to break it.  Kenny went for the One Winged Angel numerous times but Bryan kept avoiding it.  Near the end of the bout Bryan went for the running knee but Kenny countered into a powerbomb.  Bryan avoided a Phoenix Splash attempt and hit his buzzsaw kick before attempting the LeBell Lock, but Kenny reached the ropes before he could lock it in.  Time ran out as the two men were laying into each other, and the Elite ran down to break it up, Matt and Nick Jackson superkicking Bryan in the corner.  This match was goddamn fantastic and I can't wait to watch it again.  If I'm booking this draw I'd probably have Bryan lock in his submission just before the bell so Kenny wouldn't have time to tap out, but otherwise this was a brilliantly worked professional wrestling main event.  Just wonderful.  *****

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

WWE Extreme Rules 2021 Preview & Predictions

WWE Extreme Rules is this Sunday and it's such a low priority for the company we only have six announced matches, only one of which is an Extreme Rules match.  On the Extreme Rules show.  This company straight up doesn't give a fuck anymore about anything but Saudi money and quick ratings bumps.

Of the six matches on this show, four look pretty good actually.  They'll probably toss one or two more on there last-minute.  I hope one of them involves Shinsuke Nakamura.  Seriously, when was the last time that guy got to wrestle a singles match on a PPV?  Anyone?  I'd look it up but I don't have that kinda time.  How an in-ring artist like Nakamura can be content wrestling for this company I'm sure I don't know.

Anyway let's take a look at this half-assed card.

Liv Morgan vs. Carmella

The hell is this doing here?  I like Liv Morgan but why is this match on a PPV while the Intercontinental Champion sits in catering?  I would hope Liv wins this and the company does something meaninful with her; she has a lot of potential and has for a while now.

Pick: Liv

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos vs. Street Profits

This should be fine.  Usos are a damn fine team, Street Profits are quite capable.  This will be a lovely free TV match.

Pick: Usos retain, no reason to take the belts off them right now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

AEW Grand Slam Preview & Predictions

Ho-lee shit.  What a lineup AEW has on tap this week, a mega-awesome-super episode of Dynamite and a two-part PPV-quality card emanating from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, NY.  It's two hours on Wednesday, followed by two hours on Friday, and there are big matches up and down the card. 

It's an exciting time to be a pro wrestling fan.  Defections, surprises, dream matches, and as we learned this week, new relationships forged between organizations.  That's right, AEW is partnering with Dr. Martha Hart and the Owen Hart Foundation to honor the memory of the late, great Owen himself, tragically taken from us at the age of 34.  Not only will new Owen merch be created (I assume some of the proceeds will go to the Foundation), but AEW will hold an annual Owen Hart Memorial tournament.  Love it.

Anyway, we're here to talk Grand Slam, and this Wednesday's show especially is STACKED.  So let's pick some winners....


MJF vs. Brian Pillman Jr.

MJF has been ON FIRE on the mic since his loss to Chris Jericho at All Out, and his first target was the family of Brian Pillman in the latter's hometown of Cincinnati.  Pillman Jr. took issue with MJF's scathing promo and a new mini-feud was born.  This is obviously designed to give MJF a high-profile win after his PPV loss, but it will also no doubt elevate Pillman as a rising babyface star.  One thing I love about AEW is the thought that goes into feuds like this; in wrestling you want both the winner and the loser to get more over than they were prior to the match, and AEW has been working very hard to make sure that happens as often as possible.  Pillman will get plenty of room to shine but ultimately MJF and his ruthlessness will win the day, likely with further teases of an MJF-Wardlow feud.  This should be a fine match.

Pick: MJF

Sting & Darby Allin vs. FTR

I'm not quite sure how you book this.  I think FTR really needs a big win as they've been sort of treading water since the Inner Circle feud ended.  Then again, Allin is also coming off a major loss.  Sting could certainly stand to eat a pin here, though maybe the company wants to save that for a bigger moment.  It sounds like they're building toward a Sting-Tully match of some sort, which is odd.  I dunno, I guess you never bet against Sting and Darby.  Should be decent.

Pick: Sting & Darby

Monday, September 20, 2021

Top Ten Things: Brock Lesnar Matches

What's up folks?  Welcome to's Top Ten Things, where I'll count down the ten best (or worst) of whatever's on my mind.

Today's list is the ten best matches in the storied career of former WWE/Universal Champion Brock Lesnar.  Lesnar is undoubtedly one of the best pure athletes to ever set foot in a wrestling ring.  He took the company by storm upon his debut in 2002 and in just two short years won three WWE Championships, the Royal Rumble, and the King of the Ring tournament, not to mention main eventing his first-ever WrestleMania. 

He left the company in 2004 to pursue an NFL career, and after falling just short of being picked up by the Minnesota Vikings, ventured into MMA, where his UFC career mirrored his first WWE stint.  Brock had a 5-3 MMA career that included a two-year run as the UFC Heavyweight Champion, making him one of only three men with two consecutive successful UFC Heavyweight Title defenses (his predecessor Randy Couture and his successor Cain Velasquez are the other two).

In 2011 he retired from MMA, but he'd return to WWE in April of 2012, making an instant splash by challenging the company's top star John Cena, ending the Undertaker's legendary WrestleMania winning streak, and once again becoming the Champion.  Since his return Lesnar only wrestles sporadically with mixed results, but each match has had a "big fight" feel, and a few of them have been instant classics.  Let's take a look at The Best of The Beast.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

NJPW G1 Climax 31 Preview & Predictions

It's September during COVID, and that means it's time for NJPW's G1 Climax tournament!

Welp, this year's extravaganza of round-robin wrestling looks pret-ty rough.  For the last several years the G1 has been four weeks of mostly uninterrupted awesomeness, but based on the available talent in 2021 I think we're in for a bit of a letdown.  Far too many valuable stars are unable to get back into Japan thanks to the Delta variant, and thus both blocks have a fair bit of filler.  Complicating things is the threat of one or more stars catching the virus during the tournament, which could derail the company's plans.  Usually one or more top seeds will hit an early slump to create suspense, and then surge near the end of the block to make the finals.  But they can't really do that this year because if say, Okada loses his first three matches and then gets COVID and has to miss multiple shows while he recovers, he's mathematically eliminated.  So the booking here has to be very straightforward and also allow for a Plan B in case one or both of the intended finalists gets sidelined.

Anyway, let's look at these blocks - it's gonna be a rough go....

Block A

Great O-Khan

The United Empire's third-best guy is making his G1 debut here.  He's apparently been improving in recent weeks, though I haven't caught any of his bouts in a while.  He's not winning this block or even coming close to winning this block, but hopefully he puts in some good showings.

Kota Ibushi

The defending back-to-back G1 winner is looking to make it a threepeat, and thus see his fourth consecutive G1 final.  After his severe case of pneumonia it was great to see Ibushi back in action at Wrestle Grand Slam.  Ibushi is always a tournament MVP, but I don't think he wins his third in a row.  He'll go deep into the tournament, maybe even make the finals, but I don't think he takes the trophy this time around.

Top Ten Things: Mastodon Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

With the recent release of Mastodon's seventh LP Emperor of Sand (a hella good record, my review of which is HERE) I thought I'd look back on their remarkable career and pick their top ten songs.  Every album is represented here except one - sadly nothing from their 2002 debut Remission made the cut for me.  In terms of standout tracks I found that Mastodon's more recent albums put more focus on individual song composition rather than presenting the album as a whole (understandable given that three of their earlier records were concept albums), so this list may seem skewed to their later output.  But feel free to discuss in the Comments section.  Here we go.....

10. Bladecatcher

This instrumental track from Blood Mountain is frenetic and bizarre, and captures perfectly the band's offbeat take on the metal genre.  From the start-stop intro to the blast-beat "verse" to the elastic "hook" guitar riffs, this song is a great introduction for anyone who needs a demonstration of how original and strange Mastodon is.

9. The Sparrow

This somber closer to The Hunter is probably the biggest departure yet from Mastodon's sludge-metal roots, featuring delicate arpeggiated guitars and only one harmonized vocal line that repeats throughout the song.  Inspired by a quote from the recently deceased wife of the band's accountant, the lyrics consist of a single phrase - "Pursue happiness with diligence."  On a stripped-down, song-oriented album like The Hunter, this ballad makes a fitting, poignant conclusion.

8. Octopus Has No Friends

Another standout from The Hunter (an album with numerous standout songs) is this unusual, upbeat tune featuring impossibly intricate guitar riffs and very simple lyrics literally exploring Brann Dailor's observation that whenever he sees an octopus at an aquarium, it's alone in the tank.  Pretty out-there thing to write a song about, but this is a fantastic track with some of Mastodon's most impressive syncopated playing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Championship Belts

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

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

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

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

10. WWE US Title (2003-2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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!

HM: 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.

10. 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.

Friday, September 10, 2021

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 MI:3Ghost Protocol, and beyond (Man does this series have legs), and b) Dougray Scott opted to be in this film instead of playing Wolverine.  We all dodged a bullet there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

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 7, 2021

AEW All Out 2021: The Game Changer

Every so often a wrestling company puts on a PPV event that feels like a defining moment for that company, where the matches deliver but the evening feels like something bigger than just a collection of great matches.  AEW has just done that with All Out 2021, a show held in front of a nuclear live crowd, including an all-time great tag bout, multiple **** outings, but also three debuts, one of which is sure to have the IWC abuzz for weeks.  This was an incredible night of pro wrestling.  Side note: Bleacher Report seriously needs to overhaul their new app - replays need to be made available immediately, the shows need to be Chromecastable, and the <10 and 10> buttons need to be added for ease of rewinding and fast-forwarding.  Fix this, BR.

The PPV proper kicked off with a rugged fight for the TNT Championship, as the brute Miro faced the scrappy veteran Eddie Kingston.  Miro attempted to bully Kingston from the start but was forced to backpedal upon learning that Kingston had him scouted and wasn't going to tolerate his shit.  They traded lots of strikes and some big suplexes and at one point a turnbuckle pad came loose, which would figure into the match later.  Miro hit his Machka kick and locked in Game Over, but Kingston refused to submit, eventually reaching the ropes.  Kingston came back with a DDT, but the referee was dealing with the turnbuckle pad and was late to the count.  The crowd exploded for the near-fall, and I wouldn't be surprised if this moment was meant to set up a rematch in New York.  Miro tried to ram Kingston into the exposed turnbuckle but the referee blocked it, and Miro mule kicked Kingston in the crotch and followed up with a huge Machka kick to get the pin.  Very solid opening fight that continued Miro's dominance while making Kingston look like a true match for him.  ***1/4

Another gritty matchup followed, as Jon Moxley took on Satoshi Kojima of NJPW.  These two went back and forth the entire match, neither man holding an advantage for long.  Kojima at one point hit a superplex after the two men took turns biting each other.  Moxley was stymied at numerous times and hit his first Paradigm Shift out of nowhere, but wasn't ready to go for the cover.  Instead he caught his breath, picked Kojima back up, and hit his high-angle Paradigm Shift for the exclamation point win.  As Moxley celebreated, Minoru Suzuki's music hit and the crowd went nuts.  Suzuki and Moxley traded blows and Suzuki locked on a rear naked choke, followed by the Gotch piledriver to set up a match on this week's Dynamite.  A very good match that was used to set up an almost certainly even better one.  ***1/2

Friday, September 3, 2021

Top Ten Things: Superior Movie Sequels

Yo yo yo!  Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at! 

As a companion piece to my Disappointing Movie Sequels column I thought I'd compile a list of sequels that were actually superior to the original.  It's something that doesn't happen often, but there have been numerous second or third cinematic chapters that have either expanded on or generally outperformed their predecessor. 

**Please note, two common picks you won't see on this list are The Godfather part II and The Empire Strikes Back.  Don't start throwing fruit yet, hear me out.  While both of those films are great, I prefer The Godfather I and A New Hope, respectively, just by a hair.  I can understand why some like the sequels better but I'm not one of those people.**

**Please further note, I also haven't included The Two Towers or Return of the King, as the Lord of the Rings trilogy is really just one extended film.**

So let's get to business....

10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

James Cameron's 1984 classic The Terminator took Arnold Schwarzenegger's already burgeoning movie career to the next level by casting him as an evil cyborg sent from the future to destroy the mother of his enemy John Connor.  From this simple concept Cameron created a mythic film saga of self-aware machines turning on their creators and laying waste to the entire planet; a concept borrowed for The Matrix series, among others.  Only problem with the first film was the modest budget, which didn't allow Cameron to fully realize the story.  Some of the effects were quite clunky and prevented full audience immersion.  Seven years later he more or less remade the movie but set it during John's childhood, when a second Terminator has been sent to kill him instead of Sarah. 
Unbeknownst to the evil machines, John's future self has reprogrammed one of the original Terminators (played of course by Arnie) to protect little John.  T2 tells a very similar story but expands on it both visually and conceptually.  John's mother Sarah is now a hardened badass who is determined to stop the creation of the network of machines before it ever starts, and she begrudgingly accepts Arnie's help despite her previous traumatic experience at the hands of his predecessor (not unlike Ripley's hangup with androids in Aliens).  As for the new evil Terminator, that one's an upgrade model comprised of liquid metal, who can shapeshift and is nigh indestructible.  This character is the subject of some of the movie's most innovative and expensive special effects, as he morphs from one likeness to another.  The result is a pretty thrilling action movie which, despite basically being a retread, is an improvement on the original at almost every level.  My only two complaints were that Edward Furlong wasn't much of an actor, and I missed Michael Biehn's presence.  Seriously, that guy rules!

9. Bride of Frankenstein

I first saw the original 1931 Frankenstein on the TV show Creature Double Feature when I was probably seven years old, and like most kids I was fascinated by this little film about a man who creates a monster.  It wasn't until years later when I actually read the book that I realized how simplistic the Karloff film was.  So many story threads were tossed out and the moral ambiguity of Frankenstein himself was sort of glossed over in favor of a hero vs. monster scenario.  Yes we somewhat sympathize with the monster, but he's kind of a mindless brute in the film, rather than the eloquent, tragic figure of the novel.  In college I finally watched Bride of Frankenstein, and my original assessment was that it strayed so far from the book and was so unabashedly weird that I hated it.  But upon later viewings I developed an appreciation for the film's uncompromisingly bizarre tone and for how ballsy its anti-religious and sexual undertones were for 1935.  The story is also much more complex and Karloff's monster is completely sympathetic, aided by his newfound ability to speak (Sadly all of his dialogue is monosyllabic and clunky, but you take what you can get).  The performances by Ernest Thesinger as the sinister, rather flamboyant Dr. Pretorious, and Elsa Lanchester as The Bride are also iconic in the pantheon of classic monster films.  The Bride's "birth" is obviously the most film's famous scene; Lanchester based her movements on those of a bird to achieve a sense of otherworldiness.  That this was such a memorable character is even more amazing considering how brief her appearance is.  My only real gripes with Bride of Frankenstein are a) that there was no effort to make the few characters recast from the first film look like the original actors, even though Bride begins immediately after the first movie ends (For example the Burgomeister is now thin and has a mustache and Frankenstein's wife Elizabeth is suddenly waaaaaay hotter), and b) that Frankenstein's lab has a lever in the middle of the room that blows up the entire building.  What might I ask moved him to install such an easily-activated self-destruct mechanism?

Thursday, September 2, 2021

AEW All Out 2021 Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's the most anticipated AEW PPV of to date - get ready for the third edition of All Out!

Man, is this show stacked.  Sadly one of the matches I was most excited about, Pac vs. Andrade, is off the show due to "travel issues," but that doesn't change the fact that All Out 2021 has PPV of the Year potential.  Omega vs. Christian, while far from the biggest AEW Title match we've seen, should be fantastic.  Bucks vs. Lucha Bros in the cage should be absolutely blowaway amazing (though I'm sad Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus didn't get this spot; I was hoping for them to win the straps because I really like those two).  Chris Jericho vs. MJF in the final blowoff to their months-long feud should be great, dramatic, character-driven storytelling.  And of course, CM Punk.  I realize I haven't said much about one of the most long-awaited returns in wrestling history.  I've been a CM Punk fan since 2003 when I went to see a local Ring of Honor show and watched this loudmouthed young upstart and Raven beat the shit out of each other in a Raven's Rules match.  Immediately the guy grabbed my attention with his unique look and very obvious gift for cutting a promo.  Along with Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Bryan Danielson, CM Punk was one of that generation's elite indie stars, who got themselves over without any marketing machine behind them.  He got over because he knew how to connect with the fans, and that gift followed him to WWE, where despite the already out-of-touch Vince McMahon not seeing dollar signs in the scruffy, tattooed star, Punk became the hottest commodity in the industry for a while.  It's been a full decade since his legendary "pipe bomb" promo, but watching his return on the August 20th Rampage you'd think no time had passed at all.  Punk's hometown crowd was absolutely explosive for his return, greeting their hero with one of the most nuclear pops I've ever seen.  Working off the cuff (what a refreshing concept), Punk did not disappoint, cutting an all-time great, heartfelt promo that almost served as the flipside of his infamous WWE pipe bomb.  Instead of a disgruntled, fed up, underappreciated workhorse whose company had all but thrown him overboard, we saw an emotionally fulfilled, returning icon, genuinely grateful for a chance at rebirth, in a company where his prodigious talents will be treasured instead of overlooked.  To say this moment was satisfying isn't doing it justice.  This promo felt like a vindication for every CM Punk fan WWE failed for so many years.  More than that, for every wrestler and wrestling fan WWE attempted to program into thinking there's only one way to make a superstar.  AEW has made it clear they value heart, work ethic, and love for the business over a bodybuilder's physique.  And that's what pro wrestling should always be about.

Okay, enough blathering.  Let's pick some winners....

Pre-Show Ten-Man Tag: Jurassic Express & Best Friends vs. Matt Hardy, Private Party & TH2

This should be a fun clusterfuck.  I'm glad to see Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus and Orange Cassidy getting something to do on this show, even if it's not on the PPV proper.  I was fully convinced AEW had set up the Tag Team Eliminator for a steel cage match as a way to give JE another shot at the Bucks, since they had the titles won if not for Elite interference.  It just seemed like the right time to pull the trigger on Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus; they're a mega-over babyface tag team.  I get putting Lucha Bros in there instead, as the match will be unbelievable, but Fenix and Penta have something else going on with Andrade, and don't have the underdog babyface appeal like JE.  Maybe the company has something bigger planned for JE or whomever finally dethrones Matt and Nick.  Anyway, this match should be fun.  That's all I'm trying to say.

Pick: I'll go with the good guys to win here

Women's Casino Battle Royale

This was meant for the pre-show originally but with Pac-Andrade off the card it's been moved to the main card.  This has to be the most stacked women's battle royal in company history thus far, with two (so far) former champions and numerous up-and-comers.  We have two TBD slots thus far, one of which could be Riho and the other I'm banking on being the former Ruby Riott.  I don't think either of them wins here but you never know.  The 19 announced names are Nyla Rose, Thunder Rosa, The Bunny, Big Swole, Julia Hart, Tay Conti, Diamante, Penelope Ford, Red Velvet, Hikaru Shida, Emi Sakura, Jade Cargill, Kiera Hogan, Abadon (YES!), Leyla Hirsch, KiLynn King, Rebel, Jamie Hayter, and the returning Anna Jay.  Solid lineup there.  If you narrow it down to realistic winners I'd go with Nyla, Thunder, Shida, Sakura, Jade, one of Britt's friends, or a TBD.  I'd say of those options Thunder Rosa is the most likely since the company obviously needs to follow up on their stellar hardcore match from a few months back.  Then again, you probably want to save Baker-Rosa II for Full Gear.  So maybe Riho ends up being one of the TBDs, wins this and gets a TV match.  I guess I'll go with Riho if she's there, Rosa if she's not.

***UPDATE: Riho was just announced as one of the two TBDs, so she's my pick.***

Pick: Riho