Thursday, July 30, 2020

Parents' Night In #42: Hamilton, The Movie!

It's time for Parents' Night LIN!  As in Lin-Manuel Miranda!  As in Hamilton, the Broadway milestone that is now available as a film on Disney Plus!  Kelly and Justin will enjoy some bubbly, do some really bad rapping, and talk about the play, the film, the soundtrack, and how they fell in love with all three, plus how incredible the entire cast is, Justin's man-crush on Daveed Diggs, Kelly's woman-crush on Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Justin and Kelly's idol worship of Lin himself.  Get ready to laugh, cry, and cringe as we discuss Hamilton on this special Parents Night In episode!

Snippet of "My Shot," music/original lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Parody Lyrics:

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Top Ten Things: Christopher Nolan Films

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

With the release of his latest film Dunkirk, and this being his tenth feature, I thought I'd take this opportunity to rank Christopher Nolan's filmography!  I've been a Nolan fan since Memento's 2001 theatrical release, and over the past two decades this cerebral English director has already compiled an extraordinary body of work, creating a singular brand of intelligent, crowd-pleasing blockbuster films.  Nolan's affinity for challenging, puzzle-like movies was apparent from the beginning, but he also reinvented the Batman franchise by grounding it in reality and making its protagonist a deeply flawed, real-world hero trying to redeem his broken city.  Nolan's films generally demand repeat viewings, keeping the viewer on their toes and often letting the editing drive the narrative so there's no cinematic fat on the bone.  Every new Christopher Nolan film is truly event viewing for me, guaranteed to present a story in a genre-defying way audiences have never seen before.

Here now are Christopher Nolan's films, ranked....

10. Following

Nolan's feature debut was this neo-noir with a non-linear narrative, about an aspiring writer who looks for inspiration by shadowing people he sees on the street.  He falls in with an experienced burglar and begins to make a habit of breaking into strangers' homes, stealing various items, and selling what he can.  Soon though he becomes romantically involved with one of his "victims," whom he learns is mixed up with a local mobster.  Meanwhile nothing he comes to believe about her or his mentor is what it seems.  Following was made for a paltry $6,000 and is thus quite rough around the edges, but already Christopher Nolan showed his gift for labrynthian storylines and devilish plot twists, two things he'd execute much more assuredly in his second film, Memento.

9. Insomnia

Nolan's remake of the 1997 Swedish thriller of the same title, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as an aging LAPD detective assigned to a murder investigation in Alaska during the "midnight sun" season.  The Pacino character accidentally kills his partner during a shootout, after said partner has revealed he intends to testify against Pacino in an Internal Affairs case.  Complicating the matter is the murderer at large (a superbly creepy Robin Williams), who witnessed the shooting and attempts to blackmail Pacino into pinning the murder on the victim's abusive boyfriend.  What follows is a fascinating moral dilemma, where the flawed protagonist must choose between saving himself or bringing a killer to justice.  Insomnia takes the suspense thriller genre and turns it upside down, throwing curve balls at the audience every step of the way.  Pacino and Williams have splendid chemistry together, and Nolan's direction lends this noirish thriller a modern edge.

8. Dunkirk

Nolan's streamlined, visceral account of this World War II rescue tells the story from three different points of view: the air, the sea, and the land.  The film intercuts between the three locales, expanding time in some instances and showing us some of the same events from multiple points of view.  There's little historical context presented, so the material depicted must speak for itself and create an immersive viewing experience.  For the most part this element works, though I would've liked to see more about who these characters were and what the battle itself meant in the grand scheme of WWII.  Still Nolan and co. deftly handle the genre, presenting a gritty, palpably harrowing war film and adding yet another impressive entry to his resume.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Parents' Night In #41: The Fugitive (1993)

Kelly and Justin love Harrison Ford, and it's summer, so we're watching one of his great summer films, The Fugitive!  Released in 1993 and co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Julianne Moore, The Fugitive is a taut action thriller about a wrongly convicted doctor on the run from the authorities and trying to clear his name.  We'll talk about the film, Chicago, the Chicago accent (Justin has a lot of fun with this), and our difficulty stringing together coherent sentences at times.  This episode eventually got out of control like the derailed train in The Fugitive!  Check it out...

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Top Ten Things: Steven Spielberg Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things!  You know how it works.  It's a countdown.  Of ten items.

Today it's the top ten films by one of the all-time great directors, Steven Spielberg.  Spielberg's extraordinary forty-plus-year career has given us multiple iconic films and he's renowned for his uncanny ability to craft intelligent movies we can all relate to.  Whether he's making a summer action movie or a thoughtful historical epic, Spielberg excels at imbuing his movies with substance.  His best work demands multiple viewings over decades, and there probably isn't another director alive who's repeatedly demonstrated such pure storytelling ability across such varied genres.

Here now is the list....

10. Jurassic Park

In 1993 Spielberg created the definitive dinosaur movie, about a small group of scientists and children sent to a remote island near Costa Rica to be a focus group of sorts for the first-ever dinosaur zoo.  Predictably nothing on the island works properly, and thanks to a rogue IT manager the dinosaurs are able to escape their enclosures and wreak havoc on the park and its human occupants.  Jurassic Park doesn't contain much in the way of lofty concepts; it's simply a quintessential popcorn action-adventure with some of the best creature effects ever put to film.  This was one of the earliest movies to make extensive use of CGI, and for the most part those dinosaurs still hold up today.  As with Jaws, Spielberg was wise enough to let the human characters carry the early parts of the story so we care what happens to them, and built up to the appearance of each species of dinosaur.  The T-Rex sequence is a masterfully assembled piece of action-horror, and the later Velociraptor scenes work on the same monster movie level as some of the sequences in Aliens.  Twenty-plus years later Jurassic Park's flaws show through pretty clearly, but it's still a great example of Spielberg's ability to create crowd-pleasing entertainment that actually has a brain.

9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

The third and final chapter (Crystal Skull was just a bad dream...) of the Indiana Jones saga reminds me of Return of the Jedi in many ways, insomuch as the bulk of the story elements from the trilogy's first film are reused here.  Indy is up against the Nazis once again, racing to find a religious artifact that will allegedly render its owner invincible.  Indy's pals Sallah and Marcus Brody are back to join in the fun, and in a casting coup, Sean Connery plays Indy's father, who has spent a lifetime searching for the Holy Grail.  The action sequences, as good as they are, don't quite hold up to those of the first two films for me, and this movie's real strength is the interplay between Ford and Connery, who have perfect chemistry together.  Don't get me wrong, Last Crusade is a fantastic piece of summer moviemaking.  But it doesn't have the freshness of Raiders or the unrelenting pace of Temple.  So like Return of the Jedi it's simply a very worthy conclusion to the series (Jeezus, why couldn't they have left well enough alone??) that introduces a new side to the action hero we've all come to love.

8. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

The followup to the iconic Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom was, I believe, the first time anyone in Hollywood used the word "prequel."  For some reason Spielberg and Lucas set this movie a year before Raiders (Sort of an odd choice since it removes the suspense of whether Indy survives or not), and this one plays out like a standalone adventure, with Dr. Jones himself the only Raiders character present.  This time Indy has to retrieve a mystical stone which has been stolen from an Indian village by an evil underground cult.  This film pushed the limits of what could be shown in a PG-rated movie and set an exceedingly dark tone; there's human sacrifice, brainwashing, child slavery, people being crushed, people being eaten by alligators, and most infamously a dude having his still-beating heart ripped out of his chest.  In fact we have Temple of Doom and Gremlins to thank for the existence of a PG-13 rating.  Most (including Spielberg himself) consider Temple of Doom the weakest of the Indy trilogy, but I disagree.  I love how unapologetically dark this film is and how different it is from Raiders.  This movie might also have the most fun climax of any Indy film, with our heroes and villains fighting for survival while hanging from the side of a cliff (but only after a long and thrilling mine cart chase).  Temple also has probably the greatest booby trap sequence of all time - that scary room with all the spikes.  As a kid this was one of the earliest sequels I got to experience as it was coming out, and it still holds up for me as a tremendously fun roller coaster ride of a movie.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Top Ten Things: Martin Scorsese Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  These are ten of my favorite things.  That's how the song goes, right?

Martin Scorsese.  In my estimation there is no greater director in film history than the diminutive, sickly kid from Little Italy in New York who grew up with a passion for telling stories through the medium of film.  Scorsese spent his childhood looking out the window and observing people and events in his neighborhood, and this predilection for people-watching translated into some of the most incredible filmmaking of all time.  His films are often unforgiving looks at profoundly troubled characters, yet Scorsese finds a way for us to empathize with them, at least enough to want to spend a couple hours in their company.  Many Scorsese films deal with hardened street criminals, hearkening back to the seedy lot he observed in his neighborhood.  But while crime dramas are his bread and butter, Scorsese's filmography also includes religious epics, suspense thrillers, biopics, lush period dramas, and even lighthearted children's fare.  Even after forty-plus years Scorsese remains at the top of his game; in fact his post-2000 output ranks among some of his best work.  To this day any new film of his is event viewing, almost guaranteed to be one of my favorites of that year.

The following are my ten favorite Martin Scorsese films....

10. Cape Fear

One of Scorsese's rare remakes is this 1991 suspense thriller based on the 1962 Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum film of the same name.  Peck's role of besieged attorney Sam Bowden went to Nick Nolte, Mitchum's degenerate character Max Cady was played with gleeful menace by Robert Deniro.  The first thing Scorsese did with his version was to change Bowden from a virtuous family man to a morally ambiguous one who withheld evidence in order to get his client Cady convicted, and whose marriage is coming apart due to an extramarital affair and a strained relationship with his teenage daughter.  This change makes the Nolte character and his family even more vulnerable and fits in with the film noir trope of the flawed protagonist.  Deniro's performance of course steals the show; he is musclebound, ruthless, violent, and endlessly persistent.  This Hitchock-influenced genre exercise may not stack up with Scorsese's greatest work, but it did illustrate his ability to take an existing story and place on it his own distinctive stamp.

9. Casino

Casino plays almost like a sequel to Goodfellas, or at least a spiritual cousin.  Another epic, frenetically-paced gangster film based loosely on a true story, Casino chronicles the rise and fall of a Vegas gambling empire, once again pairing Robert Deniro with Joe Pesci.  Deniro plays Sam Rothstein, a mob associate brought in to run a mafia-controlled casino, while Pesci plays Rothstein's longtime friend, loose cannon enforcer Nicky Santoro.  Told from multiple narrative viewpoints, Casino shows in violent, gruesome detail the inner workings of 1970s mob-controlled Las Vegas.  Aside from Deniro and Pesci's legendary onscreen chemistry, Casino also boasts an Oscar-nominated turn from Sharon Stone, as Rothstein's materialistic, alcoholic wife Ginger.  Casino didn't quite equal the masterpiece that was Goodfellas, but it was a very worthy, provocative return to Scorsese's favorite genre.

8. Hugo

In 2011 Martin Scorsese's filmography took an unexpected 90-degree turn with this family-friendly, light-hearted tribute to the early days of cinema.  Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese's film follows the exploits of a young boy who lives in a Paris railway station.  Hugo's deceased father, an inventor, taught him how to repair clocks and instilled in him a love for film.  He befriends a young girl, Isabelle, whose stern uncle is revealed to be early film pioneer Georges Melies, director of the first science-fiction film, A Trip to the Moon.  After his career declined sharply in the 1920s, Melies became a disillusioned, bitter man who distanced himself from his prior calling.  Hugo and Isabelle work tirelessly to uncover the story of the forgotten auteur so the world can once again embrace his artistic contribution to the medium of cinema.  Scorsese's film is a delightful and colorful romp, made all the more whimsical by the use of 3-D cinematography, used here in a way that enhances the story and intensifies the experience.  Hugo is a rare film that can be enjoyed by any age group; it doesn't talk down to young audiences and it contains complex character arcs that older viewers will be drawn to.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

WWE Extreme Rules 2020 Preview: It's a Horror Show, Alright

The.....Horror Extreme Rules.  Huh?  Did Vince McMahon take up psychedelic drugs?  What kinda happy horseshit is this?

This Sunday is an Extreme Rules PPV that apparently doesn't have any Extreme Rules matches but has a Swamp Fight and an Eye for an Eye match, which can only be won when one guy pulls another guy's eye from its socket.  Somewhere Vince Russo is taking a victory lap.  WWE's solution to putting on wrestling shows without a crowd really is, I guess, to just get rid of the wrestling and make "movies."  Also why is the color scheme for this "horror show" neon green and purple?  Shouldn't it be red and black?  Ya know, HORROR-type colors?  This lineup feels so WCW 2000.

Ugh, let's get this over with.

US Championship: Apollo Crews vs. MVP

One of the worst things about Paul Heyman being replaced by Bruce Prichard as RAW's creative head is Prichard's inexplicable need to push guys who peaked 12-13 years ago, hence the 46-year-old MVP getting a title match, on a PPV, in 2020.  This guy hasn't been relevant since 2008, and he's not the only irrelevant title challenger on this card.  And why the fuck is Randy Orton feuding with Big Show?  In 2020?  Christ, it's not like WWE was lighting up the ratings in 2008.  The way forward is, well, FORWARD.  Anyway, I would hope WWE has the sense to keep the belt on Crews here.

Pick: Apollo retains

Smackdown Women's Championship: Bayley vs. Nikki Cross

Bayley and Sasha are obviously on a collision course (only four years after both were called up), so this is a filler match to keep Bayley busy till SummerSlam.  Nikki is a solid worker and a fun character but she's obviously not winning the belt here. 

Pick: Bayley retains

RAW Women's Championship: Asuka vs. Sasha Banks

This is the one match on the show I have any interest in.  Asuka is amazing, Sasha is great (God I hope she jumps to AEW next year), so there's no reason this shouldn't steal the show (especially with this lineup).  It's possible they have Sasha win this title so she and Bayley can be the Two-Woman Power Trip and fight each other for both belts later, but I dunno if they'll do that so soon after Asuka won it.  I'll go with Asuka to retain, possibly due to botched interference from Bayley.

Pick: Asuka retains

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

AEW Fight for the Fallen 2020 Preview & Predictions

AEW is back with another special Dynamite episode, this time it's Fight for the Fallen!

The two-night Fyter Fest is in the books and both shows were quite enjoyable.  I liked Night 1 better, with its stacked lineup of mostly championship matches (the Omega/Page-Best Friends main event was probably the best match on either show and I also loved the MJF/Wardlow-Jurassic Express opener) but Night 2 had some memorable bouts as well (the spectacular 8-man match and the Jericho-Cassidy main event).  But since Jon Moxley-Brian Cage had to be postponed due to Moxley's wife Renee Young contracting COVID, here we are with another special show.  Five matches have been announced, two of which are title bouts.  So let's get into it.

Nightmare Sisters vs. TBA

Evidently we'll see Brandi Rhodes and Allie in action against an unnamed team.  I assume this will be like Nyla Rose's match last week, where "TBA" just means "jobbers" instead of the usual "mystery team that ends up winning."  I'm guessing this will be a short showcase match.

Pick: Nightmare Sisters

The Elite vs. Jurassic Express

This should be tons of fun, as Kenny and the Bucks face all three Jurassic members.  Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus are coming off a win over MJF and Wardlow, but I imagine Marko Stunt takes the pin here.  This'll be a crazy match.

Pick: Elite

Monday, July 13, 2020

Top Ten Things: Christian Bale Roles

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off ten things I like (Duh...).

Today I'll be talking about probably my favorite film actor in the world today, the eminently gifted Christian Bale.  I first became aware of Bale in 2000 (I'd seen him in a couple films prior to that but had no idea who he was), and from that point I was fascinated by this charismatic, chameleonic actor.  For a few years it seemed he'd simply be a cult hero, but starting in 2005 he became a household name playing one of the most iconic characters of all time.  Since then his filmography has been a mesmerizing blend of crowd-pleasing blockbusters and smaller, more challenging roles, but the constant throughout has been Bale's complete dedication to the characters he portrays.  Known for wildly changing his appearance and accent for each role, Bale often becomes unrecognizable from film to film, and for me it makes each new performance an event.

Here are my ten favorite Christian Bale performances.....

10. Dan Evans (3:10 to Yuma)

This 2007 remake starred Russell Crowe as adventurous, charming outlaw Ben Wade, and Bale in the somewhat thankless role of rancher Dan Evans, deputized to bring him to justice.  But even as the taciturn protagonist Bale still imbued his character with considerable pathos and we root for him to succeed over the much more outgoing villain.  A lesser actor might've played Evans as a morose bore, but Bale's natural onscreen magnetism makes his character an honorable, reluctant hero and an excellent foil for the bankrobbing assassin.

9. Alfred Borden/Fallon (The Prestige)

Bale's character in Christopher Nolan's period piece makes an unexpected transition from shifty tortured artist to sympathetic protagonist.  The Prestige centers around Alfred Borden's professional-turned-personal rivalry with fellow magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), and at the outset Bale's character seems the clear antagonist, seemingly so consumed with his profession that he cannot relate to other people.  But as the film progresses we sympathize more with Borden and his ingenieur Fallon, as Angier's obsession with destroying Borden consumes him.  Bale adeptly handles this character transition (as well as the surprise double role), manipulating our sympathies with prodigious skill.  Incidentally Borden is the only character on this list whom Bale played with anything close to his real Welsh accent.

8. Michael Burry (The Big Short)

Contributing to Bale's reputation as a chameleon was his Oscar-nominated turn as eccentric investor Michael Burry, the antisocial drumming enthusiast with a glass eye from The Big Short.  Much of his screen time in this film was spent behind his desk and on the phone with various colleagues and bankers, but Bale made the character both memorable and amusing, as Burry comes off as the smartest (and weirdest) dude in the room.  As the film wears on, Burry goes from a cocksure know-it-all to quietly increasing desperation; the housing bubble he's predicted will burst shows no signs of doing so until after he's lost himself and his colleagues millions.  As usual Bale conveys this character arc with a proficient dedication to the character.

Friday, July 10, 2020

NJPW Dominion 2020 Preview & Predictions

Well this is gonna be a short one today since NJPW Dominion's full card still hasn't been announced.  Only three matches as of this moment, which is sad considering Dominion is normally the second-biggest show of the year for them. 

Well it's great to finally have NJPW back after a four-month COVID absence.  I've been enjoying the delayed New Japan Cup and it's actually refreshing to only have two-hour shows to keep track of, with two to four tournament matches per show, plus one to three filler tag bouts.  If nothing else it's been pretty easy to keep on top of.  The matches themselves have been mostly very good, with a few great ones.  The tourney stealer for me has been Hiromu Takahashi, who despite being the Jr. champ made it deep into the tournament, defeating Honma, Yano and Ishii (in a fantastic match) before falling to the mighty Okada (in the best match of the tourney so far).  I was actually hoping to see the Timebomb win the whole thing and face Naito on Sunday, thus delivering the planned Anniversary Show match.  But alas.  Anyway let's pick the winners for the four big matches this weekend (I'm including the New Japan Cup final).

New Japan Cup Final: Kazuchika Okada vs. Evil

It's no surprise that Okada made the finals, being the biggest star in the company and the best in the goddamn world.  That said, I think it's too soon for a Naito-Okada rematch, particularly since they can't sell out any buildings right now.  Furthermore we're effectively still in March thanks to all the event cancellations.  Don't forget, the New Japan Cup winner was supposed to face Naito on March 31 at Sakura Genesis.  So clearly Okada wasn't slated to win the tournament then; it would've been a case of them blowing their wad way too early.  Thus, Evil takes the tournament.  Evil's push has been kinda sudden, but he's shown that old killer instinct in this tournament, cheating to beat even his best friend Sanada in the semis (I found it intriguing that LIJ took three of the four slots).  I think we'll see him do more of that against his mentor on Sunday as well, which should make for an interesting dynamic.

Pick: Evil takes the Cup

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Parents' Night In #40: The Lost Boys (1987), Kelly's Live Reaction

It's summertime and that means walks on the beach, fun in the sun, amusement park rides, and of course, vampires.  Hang out with us and listen to Justin introduce Kelly to The Lost Boys, that popcorn movie disguised as a vampire film.  Directed by Joel Schumacher (RIP) and starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jami Gertz, Dianne Weist, and of course Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys has been one of Justin's favorite horror-comedy romps since its 1987 release.  This delightfully 80s favorite is full of exhilarating horror set pieces, vampire humor, and big hair.  We'll talk about not only this film but Joel's other works, our favorite vampire films, and lots more. Grab a beer and sink your teeth into this episode!

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Late to the Party: Hamilton

Welcome to a new feature called Late to the Party, where I discuss a movie, an album, a recording artist, a book, what-have-you, that for me was an acquired taste of the tardiest kind.  Something everyone else seemed to get right away, but for which I was slow on the uptake.  Case in point, Lin-Manuel Miranda's epic Broadway musical Hamilton....

As with so many artistic ventures that seem to come out of nowhere and take the world by storm, I was initially quite resistant to Hamilton when I first became aware of it.  Not really being a musical theater enthusiast (I like some musicals, but it's a pretty select few) and most certainly not being a hip-hop guy (Aside from Outkast there's very little in this genre that interests me), the idea of a rap musical centered around one of the less celebrated founding fathers didn't exactly pique my interest.  Couple that with the almost hysterical devotion this show has generated since its January 2015 debut, not to mention the astronomical prices being charged for tickets, and my first reaction was something along the lines of "Get the fuck outta here with this...."

Fast-forward two years, and my wife finally gave the Cast Recording a listen after much prodding from a close friend who was already obsessed with the show (We'll call her Shamilton).  By the third or fourth go-round my wife was all, "Justin, you HAVE to listen to this."  "Yeah yeah yeah, whatever," I replied.  Then one weekend we had a drive up to the beach, roughly 80 minutes each way, and she chose that as the time to make me a captive audience.  I'd been expecting an hour-long soundtrack album, not realizing Hamilton had no dialogue outside of the songs, and said, "Jeezus, how long is this thing??"  So I listened to it front-to-back and found it mildly interesting.  I'd be lying if I said it blew me away the first time.  The music was so densely composed and covered so much ground, and I wasn't sure who was singing what to whom, that a lot of it was in one ear and out the other.

But like so much of the best art, the Hamilton album isn't about instant gratification.  It slowly burrows its way in, and only after you've become familiar with the story being told and fully absorbed the music does it yield its true rewards.

About a week later, after hearing the album again in the background at a pool party (I will say this stuff doesn't make for the best passive listening experience), I decided to give Hamilton a really honest try on my own iPhone, with no distractions.  And goddammit, everyone else was right.  I was wrong.

As a double album, Hamilton is a grandly concieved, meticulously detailed, obstinately ingenious concept record about the rise and fall of this underappreciated co-architect of the American experiment.  The 47 tracks cover the ambitious Hamilton's journey from orphaned immigrant (born in the West Indies and grew up in the Caribbean) to Revolutionary War officer to the first Secretary of the Treasury, and depict his numerous sweeping contributions to America's inception, as well as his various political and personal battles while helping shape the ungainly, chaotic system of government known as democracy.  Indeed, Hamilton makes no effort to lionize the founding fathers; they, like all human beings, are flawed, ego-driven, and prone to mistakes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

AEW Fyter Fest 2020 Preview & Predictions

AEW Fyter Fest is upon us for the second time, and while still a free show it'll be spread over two AEW Dynamite episodes instead of being presented as a BR Live broadcast.  The eleven matches all have some promise, and the July 1st lineup seems a bit more stacked.  AEW always brings a sense of fun spontaneity to the table, so I'm looking forward to two enjoyable "telecasts" as Tony Schiavone would say.  Sorta feels like the old Clash of the Champions shows, which I always looked forward to as a kid.  Let's dive in.

Night One

Private Party vs. Santana & Ortiz

This would be perfect in the opening slot; a high energy, super-athletic tag team showcase to get everyone revved up.  I expect this to be a dazzling 12 minutes or so, with high spots galore just to piss off everyone who complains about flips.  Santana & Ortiz should win this I think, to reestablish them as an upper tier team.

Pick: Santana & Ortiz

Jurassic Express vs. MJF & Wardlow

I'm really excited for this one.  MJF vs. Jungle Boy was a fantastic Double or Nothing match, while Luchasaurus vs. Wardlow last week was a thrilling athletic big man contest.  Wardlow has IT; push this monster to the moon.  All four guys will get lots of opportunities to shine.  MJF is still undefeated and Wardlow shouldn't lose yet, so I expect them to win.

Pick: MJF & Wardlow

Friday, June 26, 2020

Parents' Night In #39: Scrooged (1988)

It's only six months till Christmas, have you gotten your shopping done?  Welcome to another Parents' Night In boozy movie review, where Justin & Kelly enjoy some beers and watch a movie!  Recorded last November, this episode is about the Bill Murray 80s classic Scrooged!  Based on the immortal Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol, Scrooged brings everyone's favorite holiday tale into the modern age, with Bill Murray's character Frank Cross standing in for mean old Ebenezer.  Also starring Alfre Woodard, John Forsythe, David Johanssen, Carol Kane, and Robert Mitchum, Scrooged has become a cult classic for everyone too cynical to admit they like Christmas movies.  

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Top Ten Things: Haken Songs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I count down the ten things at the top of the mountain (get it?)....

Today I'll be talking about the ten finest compositions by British prog-metal masters Haken!  I discovered Haken only recently, after seeing in a Newbury Comics newsletter than their newest album Vector was set to be released.  I looked 'em up and read all about their brand of progressive rock, not to mention all the accolades their albums have gotten, and gave them a listen.  I was hooked immediately, and have spent the last few months immersed in their catalog.  Haken's music somehow grabs the listener instantly with stunningly crafted songs, but also rewards multiple spins with loads of ear candy, unusual influences, odd time signatures, and dense vocal harmonies.  This six-piece is unquestionably the real deal, and one of the most exciting bands of any genre that I've encountered in years.  Where I find many prog bands too eager to dazzle at the expense of good old-fashioned songwriting, Haken's songs are rock-solid first and technically marvelous second.  Their music is instantly addictive but simultaneously reveals new layers with each listen.  I can't recommend them enough.  Click HERE for my full review of The Mountain....

Here are my ten Haken favorites....

10. Earthrise

One of Haken's most uplifting songs, "Earthrise" starts out with a sycopated verse and builds to a soaring, harmonized chorus (one of their most instantly hooky), eventually returning to a modulated version of said chorus toward the end of the tune.  Like "Insomnia," my only gripe with this song is that it's too short.  This is a chorus that could be repeated on a loop without getting old.  This is one of the standouts from the Affinity album.

9. Crystallised

The 19-minute epic from Haken's Restoration EP, "Crystallised" kicks off with a bouncy 7/8 jazz fusion verse that opens up into a wondrous rock chorus.  Right away the song sticks with you (as do so many of Haken's tracks), but the bridge takes it to another level with an a capella counterpoint piece that builds into full minstrel-inspired segment.  It's unlike anything else in their catalog and immediately captures your attention.  The song finds its way back to the chorus and then to a climactic, multi-layered outro about accepting change and moving on.  This section reminds me of some of Dream Theater's long-form tunes and is yet another instantly memorable hook in a song full of them.  This is one of Haken's great marathon tracks.

8. The Architect

The extravagant centerpiece of Affinity is this near-sixteen-minute epic, featuring a guest death vocal by Einar Solberg of Leprous.  The greatest strength of "The Architect" is its ever-changing Fear Factory-esque chorus hook over a jackhammering syncopated guitar riff.  At the end of the song this chorus is brought back over a totally different riff and in a different time signature, but the melody is so strong you almost don't notice the change at first.  "The Architect" is one of many Haken epics whose running time flies by.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Parents' Night In #38: Stand By Me (1986)

Kelly & Justin are back for a movie review our favorite coming-of-age movie, Rob Reiner's Stand By Me!  Based on Stephen King's novella The Body, SBM tells the story of four 12-year-old boys who go off on an adventure to find the body of Ray Brower, who went missing a few days earlier.  With excellent performances by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland, SBM is timeless, funny, poignant, and makes us reminisce about our own childhood and loss of innocence.  We'll discuss the various child actors in the film, Kiefer, Stephen King's reputation for writing bad endings, and when we found our respective selves as teenagers.

So grab a cold drink, sit back, and hang out with us as we talk Stand By Me!

Kelly is drinking some Pionetto prosecco while Justin is enjoying craft beer from Vitamin Sea Brewing and Widowmaker Brewing!

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

WWE Backlash 2020 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to a last-minute round of WWE Predictions, here at!  It's WWE Backlash, and this year's edition proves to be one of the most forgettable ever.  Jesus, look at this half-assed lineup.  And it's being main evented, almost certainly, by what WWE is choosing to call The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.  Yeah okay guys....

Yeah, WWE actually wants to convince us that Randy Orton vs. Edge is going to be better than Flair-Steamboat, Okada-Omega, Angle-Benoit, Bret-Owen, HBK-Taker, and all the other classic bouts this won't come close to touching.  I can't recall a more desperate marketing gimmick from this promotion.  On top of that, look how poorly received the previous Edge-Orton match was.  I went easy on it, but it was overly long, dull, plodding, and contained one of the WWE's most offensive moments, when they did a weight machine spot that echoed Chris Benoit's suicide.  What's also hilarious is that WWE just had the finals of their Intercontinental Title tournament, a Daniel Bryan-AJ Styles epic that is being called one of the best free TV matches in years.  Why didn't it get saved for the PPV two days later?  Gee, I wonder....  Could it be so that it wouldn't easily overshadow the match they're trying to pass off as an all-time classic?  Eff this company.  Let's pick the winners.

Women's Tag Team Championship: Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. The IIconics

Jeezus this is weak.  Is this literally all that's left of the Women's Tag division?  Bayley and Sasha, and two other teams?  Might be time to beef up the division guys.  Bayley and Sasha just won these, so they shouldn't lose them yet.  Why are the IIconics still a thing?

Pick: Bayley & Sasha retain

US Championship: Apollo Crews vs. Andrade

These midcard titles have just been jumping around like crazy this year.  It's hard to even keep track of them now.  Crews just won his first WWE piece of gold, so he oughta keep it too.  The match itself should be solid.

Pick: Apollo retains

Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus

Boy do I not care about this.  Yay, let's exploit Jeff's substance abuse issues yet again.  That always works out well, doesn't it?  The match should be alright but I've been pretty over Jeff for years now.

Pick: Sheamus I guess?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Parents' Night In #37: Anchorman (2004) - RIP Fred Willard

Alright, so we tried to record a movie review podcast episode about this monumentally hilarious film once before, and it didn't go well.  Mostly because it was our second recording of the night, we started at 2am, and we were plastered.  But we're back to make it right, discussing Anchorman, Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, and Fred Willard (RIP).  Also we'll talk about Saturday Night Live, local beers, Manhattans, jazz flute, why we don't like the big rumble scene with Tim Robbins, Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller, and much more!  Join us for some fun as we resist the urge to simply quote one of the most quotable movies of all time, Anchorman!

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

NXT TakeOver: In Your House Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NXT Predictions, here at!  Someone will have to let me know if this weekend's show is good since I don't have the Network anymore.  On paper it looks quite strong, as usual.  It's a pity WWE's main roster pissed me off to the point that I felt like I had to drop them, as I always enjoy NXT's offerings.

Given the COVID situation, for this particular NXT TakeOver they've adopted the old In Your House moniker, a nod of course to the PPV series that ran from 1995-1999 (before many of today's AEW fans were even born).  I always thought IYH was a goofy name for a wrestling event as it seems to imply the acton is actually taking place at my home (The original In Your House included a sweepstakes where they actually gave away a house), but I get why they're using it here.  See cuz we're all stuck In Our Houses.  Get it?

Eh, fuck it, let's predict the matches...

Mia Yim, Shotzi Blackheart & Tegan Nox vs. Candice LaRae, Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez

This should be a high-energy, nonstop action kinda match.  The good women vs. the bad women.  No idea who wins this but I'll go with the bad women I guess.

Pick: Candice, Dakota & Raquel

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Karrion Kross

Ciampa fell short of winning back the NXT Title in Portland and his best friend-turned worst enemy-turned best friend, turned on him.  This guy needs some good news.  I reckon he beats Kross here to get him back into the NXT Title picture.

Pick: Ciampa

Finn Balor vs. Damien Priest

This looks pretty great on paper.  Could steal the show potentially.  The point of it seems to be to give Priest a big win over an established star, or to hang move for move with Balor and be elevated even in a loss.  Finn wouldn't be hurt by a loss here, but I suppose if you're going to beat him you want to have a huge plan for whoever does it.  I dunno.

Pick: Balor I guess?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Parents' Night In #36: Forrest Gump (1994)

Kelly & Justin are back with your favorite movie podcast/movie review/YouTube sensation to discuss a 90s favorite, Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field and Gary Sinise, directed by Robert Zemeckis!  Join us as we enjoy some local craft beers and talk about the movie, how we bonded over it very early in our friendship,  why Gary Sinise is a real-life hero, how Justin got sick during a theatrical viewing of the film, why we don't agree with the movie's depiction of 1960s anti-war protesters, why the CGI is pretty bad when Forrest rubs elbows with JFK, LBJ, Richard Nixon and especially John Lennon, what we'd do if we had unlimited funds, and Forrest Gump's status as a popcorn film disguised as Oscar bait.  Also, Justin gets a little tipsy by the end and has a Mexican standoff with our mean old cat.  Sit back, open a beverage and have some fun with Parents' Night In!

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 11 (Royal Rumble 2002)

A new year dawns, but the Invasion Angle rages on, heading into the 2002 Royal Rumble....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

Night After Vengeance

RAW opens with fireworks and revelry as Vince and most of the WWF roster march down to the ring in high spirits.  Vince takes the mic.  "Ladies and gentlemen, in my 28 years as owner of this company I don't think I've ever been more proud than I am at this very moment.  Last night at Vengeance, at long last, the World Wrestling Federation Championship returned home where it belongs, around the waist of a WWF Superstar.  After four months, Hollywood Hogan's reign of terror is over, the WWF and WCW Championships are unified as the Undisputed WWF Championship, our side has also regained the European Title thanks to Edge, and The Alliance controls only two remaining titles, the Intercontinental and the Cruiserweight.  That situation will be remedied tonight, in this very ring.  But first I'd like to welcome the man of the hour, the brand new Undisputed WWF Champion, STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN!!!"

Austin's music hits and he appears from behind the curtain, both championship belts slung over his shoulders.  Suddenly Chris Jericho runs up from behind and waffles him with a broom handle, knocking him down.  Vince and the rest of the WWF locker room are stunned.  Jericho bashes Austin repeatedly and pulls a microphone out of his back pocket.  "Congratulations Austin, you won back the WWF Title.  Well guess what, it's coming home to me next!  Last night I beat a rain check into The Rock's candy-ass, and that makes me the new #1 contender!  At the Royal Rumble Chris Jericho will be the new Undisputed WWF Champion!"  Jericho drops the mic and leaves as Austin crawls to his feet and the show goes to commercial.

Back from break, Austin is being checked out by doctors and Vince backstage, but pushes the doctors aside.  "Get these jackasses outta my face, a little snot like Jericho ain't gonna keep me down."  Vince tries to calm him down but Austin isn't having it.  "Get me Jericho in the ring tonight, damn ya!"  "Fine Steve, fine.  You pick a tag team partner and I'll notify Jericho to pick one as well."

The announcers inform us that Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman is up next to defend his title against X-Pac.  They have a whirlwind 10-minute match where Kidman retains by countering the X-Factor with a low dropkick and hitting the shooting star press.

Backstage, Hogan, Bischoff and friends are reeling from their defeat at Vengeance.  Bischoff says they need a new strategy to get back on top.  Hogan says "I have just the thing, brother.  You just wait and see."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 Review - Stadium Stampede!

AEW delivered big again.  Double or Nothing 2020, while probably not their best PPV to date (I think Revolution is still their yardstick), was nonetheless an incredibly entertaining show full of great energy, some damn fine wrestling, and one of the most purely fun main events I've ever seen.  The eight-match card flew by, numerous bouts landing within or near **** range, the company showcasing some of their young talent and even protecting most of the match losers.  AEW once again worked beautifully around the empty arena problem, seating wrestlers and crew around the ring to make noise, and mixing the audio so the "crowd" was louder than the in-ring action.  Thus the absence of an arena full of fans was barely noticeable.  Aside from one match/result I have a gripe about, I loved this show.

The PPV kicked off with the Casino Ladder Match, structured like a cross between a Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank.  SCU buddies Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky drew the first two numbers and had some fun exchanges before Kip Sabian entered with sidekick Jimmy Havoc, who interfered liberally on his behalf.  Next was Darby Allin, who had an insane spot off a ladder with his skateboard.  Orange Cassidy was fifth and asked for clarification on the rules, selling annoyance when told he'd have to climb a ladder.  Colt Cabana was sixth, Joey Janela (subbing for the injured Fenix) was seventh.  Janela did a few crazy things, like hitting a Death Valley Driver on one of the giant poker chips.  Luchasaurus was eighth and ran wild on everyone before the ninth and final entrant, mystery competitor Brian Cage.  At first everyone ganged up on Cage and buried him under a pile of ladders and poker chips, but he eventually shook it off, had a nice big man exchange with Luchasaurus, and finally press-slammed a ladder with Darby on top of it, over the ropes to the floor.  Cage then climbed up and retrieved the prize poker chip to win.  This was a great debut for Cage, who looked like a monster, but also allowed Allin, Janela and others time to shine.  The plan is for Cage to challenge Jon Moxley at Fyter Fest.  A very fun ladder schmozz with some good character moments.  ***1/2

Next up was the best straight-up wrestling match of the night, on a card with a lot of car wreck matches.  MJF and Jungle Boy proved why they're two of the most promising young talents in the business.  This had a fantastic gallant babyface vs. douchebag heel dynamic, with MJF antagonizing and mocking JB early on and even faking an injury at one point to get in a cheapshot.  Jungle Boy matched MJF hold-for-hold in the opening minutes, and these two strung together some really nice grappling.  Finally MJF took over, going after Jungle Boy's arm, which later paid off when JB tried to slap on a submission hold but couldn't.  The most memorable spot of the match came very late when JB hit a reverse rana on the apron that looked like it killed MJF.  But since MJF was on the floor, Jungle Boy couldn't pin him, having to roll him back in and give him time to recover.  The finish came after a series of cradle reversals, and MJF scored a European Clutch to "steal" the win.  This was pretty great and I hope this becomes a perennial feud.  Their chemistry together is palpable and they can help each other grow into big-time stars.  MJF winning this time was the right move as he's clearly being groomed for a major push.  That said, Jungle Boy needs to rack up some wins so people don't forget about him.  ****

Thursday, May 21, 2020

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of AEW Predictions, here at!

Feels like it's been ages since AEW's last PPV, but this Saturday at long last we'll be treated to the second annual Double or Nothing, albeit in front of an empty Jaguars stadium.  But AEW has adjusted to this empty arena format better than WWE has, so this show oughta be a fun little outing.  The linup feels a bit like a secondary PPV as opposed to one of their flagships, but given the circumstances I get it.  Just like they don't want to have Blood n' Guts in front of no one, it doesn't make sense to put together an absolutely loaded show when there's no live crowd.  But I think they'll do alright here.

Let's get started.

Pre-show match: Private Party vs. Best Friends

This match is for a Tag Team Title shot, presumably on an episode of Dynamite.  So it could go either way.  The match should be a very entertaining sprint.  Private Party have gotten a title match before but I don't think Best Friends have.  I'll pick them this time.

Pick: Best Friends

Shawn Spears vs. Dustin Rhodes

This was just added last night.  Spears failed to beat Dustin's brother last year but now's his chance for some redemption.  I see no reason not to give Spears the win here.  Dustin's 50 and won't be hurt in losing.  Spears needs to pick up some wins in order to be taken seriously.

Pick: Spears

Dr. Britt Baker vs. Kris Statlander

I really like Kris, and Britt is finding her groove, particularly as a heel.  This should be fun.  The company seems fully behind Baker as a rising heel star, so I have to think she wins here.

Pick: Baker

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 10 (Vengeance 2001)

As 2001 comes to a close, the Invasion Angle coalesces around a huge Title unification....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

Night After Survivor Series

RAW opens with Vince in the ring, beaming from last night's victory.  Vince says "Last night, the WWF took a major step in vanquishing The Alliance, as our Survivor Series squad won an incredible main event.  As a result, all of WCW's championships are hereby defunct.  And a wrestling company without legitimate championships is that much closer to oblivion.  Right now I'd like to call one man to the ring to personally congratulate him.  He's the reason our side has won this major victory.  Ladies and gentlemen, your American hero, Kurt Angle!"  Angle proudly comes down to the ring and hugs Vince.  "Vince, I'd just like to express how thankful I am for the opportunity to prove to all these people that not only am I the best wrestler in the world, not only do I live and breathe the three I's, but I bleed red, white, blue....and WWF!  I am so proud to be your Olympic hero and your Sole Survivor!  And now I'd like your permission to challenge Hollywood Hogan for the WWF Championship so I can bring that prestigious title back where it belongs."  Vince responds, "Kurt, I would be more than happy to grant that request.  Therefore, in three weeks at Vengeance, in this very ring, it will be Hollywood Hogan vs. Kurt--"  Steve Austin's glass shatter interrupts Vince.  Austin saunters to the ring and yanks the mic from Vince's hand.  "Hold on there, ya dumb bastards.  First off Kurt, you ain't the best wrestler in the world.  The best wrestler in the world is the one talkin' at you right now and lookin' at your stupid hang-dog face.  Second, if anyone's owed a damn title match with Hogan it's Stone Cold, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you screw this up again.  At Vengeance it's gonna be Hogan vs. Austin, or I'm gonna stomp both your asses down right now."  Hogan suddenly shows up on the Titantron.  "Oh boys....I see you're arguing among yourselves like a buncha little babies, but you're forgetting one thing.  I'm the WWF Champion and I decide who I face at Vengeance.  Oh, and you may have won at Survivor Series, but my main man Booker T ain't giving up his WCW Championship without a fight.  so here's what: how about we have a little mini-tournament at Vengeance?  One of you two idiots can challenge me, the other can challenge Booker, and the winners face each other to determine the first-ever Undisputed WWF Champion?  And I hate to break it to ya, but it's gonna end up Hollywood Hogan vs. Booker T, brother!"  Austin and Angle both nod to Vince.  Vince replies "Fine, Hogan.  At Vengeance it will be....Hogan vs. Austin, and Booker vs. Angle, with the winners facing each other for all the marbles.  But how about tonight we have a tag team match.  Hogan and Booker vs. Austin and Angle!"