List-o-rama: My Five Favorite Comedy Movies

Everybody loves a good comedy. People love to laugh, and if they don’t, well, that is just weird. The question is, what makes a good comedy? It starts with what type of comedy that one prefers. There are so many sub genres of comedy that there is something for everyone. There is dark comedy, slapstick, parody/spoof, dramedy, romcom, even horrorcomedy. No matter what the genre, funny is funny. I would like to share with you my five favorite comedies of all time, so far. These are the five films that I remember laughing at the hardest and longest. The one thing I think connects these movies is great writing. A lot of the funniest bits are subtle little scenes and jokes that you don’t even notice the first time you watch. If you have not seen any of the following films, please do so immediately. You will get some genuine laughs and entertainment out of them.

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5. Bad Santa (Directed by: Terry Zwigoff | Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lauren Graham, Tony Cox | 2003) Willie (Thornton) is a down on his luck, scumbag safecracker. Along with his pint-sized partner Marcus (Cox), they pose as mall Santa and elf just so they can case the place and rob them blind. Everything would go perfect if Willie wasn’t such a drunken screw-up. Along the way, a sweet kid named Thurman Murman (Brett Kelly), and an even sweeter love interest (Graham) complicate things even further. Billy Bob Thornton is perfect as the “Bad Santa”. His character is so low and disgusting that you can’t help but love him. Two late, great comedic legends also star. Bernie Mac and John Ritter play the mall employees who know that something is off with Willie and Marcus. This movie is gross, vulgar, offensive, and absolutely wonderful. Plus it’s also a Christmas movie, sort of.

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4. Revenge of the Nerds (Directed by: Jeff Kanew | Starring: Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Curtis Armstrong | 1984) A group of freshman nerds join a college fraternity and use their smarts to outwit the Alpha Beta fraternity of jocks and bullies. Lambda Lambda Lambda is led by Lewis (Carradine), and Gilbert (Edwards), and has a collection of bizarre geeks and loners. I probably watched Revenge of the Nerds fifty times as a kid. I recently watched it again, and it is still as funny now. Curtis Armstrong is classic as “Booger”. He is part of so many funny scenes that he steals the show. Released in 1984, Revenge of the Nerds still stands up to the majority of comedies that come out now. I have gotten rid of ninety nine percent of my VHS tapes, but I refuse to part with my copy of ROTN. It holds a lot of fond memories.

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3. What We Do In The Shadows (Directed by: Taika Waititi | Starring: Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Johnny Brugh | 2014) Shadows” is a mock documentary about four Vampires who share a flat in New Zealand. We follow their day-to-day lives, and discover that being a vampire is not as glamorous as it seems. The fellows deal with problems like in fighting, chores, love, death, and werewolves. And they do it all in hilarious fashion. The writing and acting is so clever and spot on that it is hard to not love these characters. Most people that I talk to have not heard of this film, which is a shame because it is damn funny. Director/actor Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) have a strong background in quirky comedy and this movie is the blueprint for quirky hilarity. If you are not familiar with it, look up What We Do In The Shadows. I promise you will laugh.

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2. Borat: Cultural Learnings Of American Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Directed by: Larry Charles | Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian | 2006) I have never laughed so hard at the cinema as I did when I went to see Borat. There are so many over the top, ridiculous scenes in this movie that it’s hard to pick the funniest. Sacha Cohen plays the title character, which is a “reporter” from Kazakhstan who comes to America to learn about its culture. The majority of the people in the film are not actors, and had no idea that they were being filmed for a motion picture. This results in genuine reactions to Borat’s actions. Because of Borat’s “ignorance”, he can get away with a lot of questionable things, and it is hilarious. Cohen also appeared on the talk show circuit, in character, to promote the film. I think to an extent, Borat had the same effect on the public that the Blair Witch Project had; a lot of people thought it was real. In addition to the movie being funny, it is also a commentary on the ignorance and intolerance of some people. But mostly it is just criminally hilarious.

gallery_movies-ghostbusters-1984-cast1. Ghostbusters (Directed by: Ivan Reitman | Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver | 1984) Not only a brilliant comedy, but maybe the perfect movie. For me, Ghostbusters is at the top of the heap. The movie is full of comedy brilliance; Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis all bring it. Throw in a pretty lady (Weaver), a city that never sleeps (New York City), and some pretty sweet special effects, and you get an instant classic. Bill Murray is wonderful as usual; delivering his trademark perfectly timed dry humor as Dr. Peter Venkman. The premise is ridiculous. A group of down on their luck scientists decides to use their knowledge of the supernatural to devise a way to capture ghosts and house them in nuclear containment storage boiler. Sounds legit right? Well when New York City starts to get overrun by all sorts of ghouls and specters, who you gonna call? You know the answer. Call me a Ghostbusters snob, but I think the 80’s cartoon sucks and the recent remake with the all female members also sucks. Call me old fashioned but maybe I’m just a Ghostbusters traditionalist.

T.

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List: Top Five Favorite Professional Wrestlers of All-Time

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a mark for professional wrestling. I started watching when I was eight or nine years old, and I was instantly hooked. I was a comic book kid and the World Wrestling Federation was like a real life comic. The battle lines were drawn. Good versus evil. Mastermind managers like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan using his stable of goons to carry out his diabolical plans on the good guys like Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. Storyline “foreigners”, like the Iron Sheik and turncoat traitors like Sgt. Slaughter waging war against the flag waving patriots like “HacksawJim Duggan. What a time to be alive. Over the years, professional wrestling has changed. The actual in-ring action is more dynamic and daring, and the illusion of good guy/bad guy has all but faded. WWE (former WWF) runs wrestling shows on three nights awake, and pay-per-view events once or twice a month. The WWE Network is a subscription-based place where you can watch basically whatever past and present events you desire. To be fair, there is an over-saturation of WWE programming. It was special when I was a kid. Waiting for a long time for an event to happen was half the thrill. Now you can just turn on the television and there it is. There are still over the top characters, but for the most part, the veil of “kayfabe” (the portrayal of events and stories in the industry as being “real”) does not exist. I still watch wrestling when I can, and I still love it. I do admit that not a lot of today’s “sports entertainment” stars capture my imagination like the ones I grew up watching in the 80’s and early 90’s. At the risk of making myself come across as a total nerd, I present to you a list of my top five favorite professional wrestlers of all time. This was a very hard list for me to narrow down to five performers, so I will include a few honorable mentions. Starting at number five and counting down…

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5. Owen Hart The King of Harts” spent most of his life wrestling in his older brother Bret’s shadow. Maybe the most underrated wrestler of all-time. I grew up going to Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, and Owen was always the top good guy. He was by far the superior Hart family wrestler in ring, and could put on a spectacular match with a broom if he had to. He Passed away in 1999 after falling from the ceiling at a WWE pay-per-view event after his harness rigging failed. Owen would have been world champion in the not so distant future if it weren’t for the accident. The heel you love to hate, but also loved because of his skill and charming “confidence”. Owen took his character and ran with it. He made it fun to cheer him on.

 

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4. Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels “The Showstopper”. “Mr. Wrestlemania”. “HBK”. Whatever nickname he went by, he is probably my favorite in-ring performer. He was an artist in the ring. Shawn Michaels delivered high spot after high spot. He could sell and put over his opponent as good as anyone. His “finishing” move, “Sweet Chin Music”, was as good a finisher as anyone had. It was a side super kick to his opponents face, and ninety-nine out of one hundred times, looked very convincing. HBK probably has more classic matches than any wrestler alive besides maybe Ric Flair. Shawn Michaels was cocky, confident, and handsome. Michaels and Triple H created one of the most popular groups in wrestling history in Degeneration-X. He could deliver a good interview and make you love him or hate him from sentence to sentence. Michaels took pride in his performances, and love him or hate him; you were satisfied after watching him wrestle.

 

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3. Nature Boy” Ric Flair To be the man, you have to beat the man!” There is not a wrestler, past or present, who could deliver a performance on the microphone like Ric Flair. He boasted about his abundance of women, money, limousines, watches, suits, parties, and most importantly, world heavyweight championships. Animated, stylish, devious, and intelligent are some of the words I could use to describe the character Ric Flair portrayed for forty years. “Naitch” was also a brilliant ring general, making it seem he was strategically using wrestling and cheating simultaneously to win a match. In my opinion, Flair was the first true anti-hero in wrestling. Even in his career twilight, he gave legitimacy to wrestlers like Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista. His retirement match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXIV was classic and still one of my favorite matches. As he used to say “men want to be him, and women want to be with him”. After sixteen world titles, countless bloody matches with the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Sting, The Nature Boy is the most respected and emulated performer of all time. WOOOOOOOO!

 

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2. “Hot Rod” Rowdy Roddy Piper The first true “bad guys” I gravitated towards when I was a kid, Roddy Piper was a true bad ass. He made being a jerk seem cool. It is the biggest shame in wrestling that he was not put over Hulk Hogan for a world title run. Piper did so many “heinous” acts in the WWF that fans lost their minds. His “Piper’s Pit” segments where the best bits ever. He was a six foot two man, but still insisted on having a bodyguard; “Cowboy” Bob Orton. No matter whom Piper was interviewing, he was always smarter and made them seem stupid by using his cleverness. The natural progression of wresting is for bad guys to turn good, and good guys to turn bad. When “Hot Rod” finally made the transition to fan favorite, it cemented his legacy as a legend in the business. Piper never stopped wearing a kilt and never stopped kicking ass and taking names. His starring role in John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror film They Live is one of my favorite protagonist characters ever. Roddy Piper was a true character. Rest in peace, Hot Rod.

 

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1. Randy “Macho Man” Savage Over the years, you hear stories from his peers about Randy Savage being a touch mentally unstable and eccentric. I assume that you would have to be to achieve the level of cool that the Macho Man achieved. Everything he did in the ring looked real, like he hated his opponent and wanted to cripple him. His interviews always had a touch of insanity that gave Savage a level of intensity that still has not been reached by anyone. His feuds with Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, and Jake Roberts are legendary. He even let a real live cobra bite him for a television spot. Second to Hulk Hogan, I believe Savage is responsible for the surge of popularity in wrestling in the 80’s. If I was going to build a wrestler from the ground up, Macho would be the prototype. He had the look, the style, the gimmick, the skills, and charisma to be the best. Not to mention his valet (and real life wife), the lovely Miss Elizabeth. A real Beauty and the beast story, and maybe one of the first instances where a wrestlers personal life spilled over into the façade of professional wrestling. All of this very much fascinated me as a kid. Still to this day, I suffer from the Macho Madness. Dig It!

 

Honorable Mention: Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, Triple H, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith

T.

List-o-rama: My Five Favorite Guitar Players

My Five Favorite Guitar Players

picture-014At some point in a young man, or lady’s life, they want to become a rock star. Which kid does not want an electric guitar? A lot of people give up when they realize it is mostly just a pipe dream. There are those who stick with it and actually learn how to play the guitar. I got the bug when I was fourteen, and picked up my first six string; an awfully indistinct Squire Stratocaster. I stuck with it for the most part, and twenty five some years later I still play and enjoy it. Every aspiring musician needs a hero. A player to aspire to. For me, I have many guitar inspirations. For the sake of not getting too carried away, I will keep the list of guitar players to a minimum. This list is not based on technical skill. Skill is good, but there are so many other factors that go into these decisions; look, feel, sound, and cool factor all go a long way. Here is my list, in no particular order.

139816178_iommi_467853cTony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell)  This is the man that created heavy music as far as I’m concerned. Armed with his signature Gibson SG, Iommi’s guttural guitar sound changed popular music. His down tuned (one and a half steps) came out of necessity as he lost the tips of his fingers in a work accident. The looser strings were easier for him to bend. One of the first songs I learned was the Black Sabbath Classic Iron Man, and I still enjoy playing many of their other songs. As Sabbath winds down their extraordinary career, Iommi still goes out on stage every night and kills it. Not to mention this legend has been battling Lymphoma, and is currently in remission. So many bands and guitar players owe Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath for having the success they have.

6186089295_1bfcc46b85_bPepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity, Down) I love the dirty southern sludge guitar sound, and Pepper Keenan knows how to create some swampy stoner rock riffs. When I first hear Down‘s NOLA many moons ago, I fell in love with the sound. Soon after that, I discovered Keenan played a Gibson Firebird and I was sold. His playing fits in with modern metal, but he would also fit right in with classic southern rock bands like Lynard Skynard. He runs a lot of the same effects pedals that I use or used to use on my board. Pepper also owns a bar in New Orleans called Le Bon Temps Roule. This is one pretty cool guy, not to mention a hell of a guitar player.

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Buzz Osborne (Melvins, Fantômas, Crystal Fairy) King Buzzo! Perhaps the man responsible for the “Seattle sound” that came roaring into popular culture in the early nineties, this man, along with Melvins drummer Dale Crover, has been the one constant in sludge music for nearly three decades. Buzz is unique from top to bottom; his look, his playing style, right to his political and social views. Perhaps what I admire the most is the respect he receives from his peers, as he is always collaborating with other artists such as Mike Patton, Tool, and Jello Biafra. Just to add to his mystique, my friend Earl and I went to see a Melvins show a few years back. As we were coming into the club, King Buzzo was walking in. Earl got excited and grabbed Osborne by the arm (in a non threatening way). Buzz responded with one of the most amazing death stares I have ever witnessed.

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Matt Pike (Sleep, High On Fire) To put it mildly, Matt Pike is a beast. If this was an alternate universe, he’d be slaying dragons. He writes the heaviest riffs, and has the voice to match as the guitarist/singer for one of my favourite bands, High On Fire. I should mention that he is also guitar player for doom metal giants Sleep. He is all that, and does it never wearing a shirt while performing live. I have had the pleasure of seeing both High On Fire and Sleep perform in person, and they are among two of the best shows I can recall. If you are interested in getting your feet wet in the doom/stoner metal genre, listen to Sleep’s Dopesmoker. I feel it is a genre defining record, and Matt Pike is at the helm.

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Joshua Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) There was a time about fifteen years ago where I kind of lost interest in playing guitar. I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I heard Queens of the Stone Age debut, self-titled album. I was suddenly interested again. I can safely say that QOTSA is my favourite band of all-time. Perhaps Joshua Homme is the biggest influence on my playing. Some people say he is arrogant, a little bit of a prick, but those people also haven’t made albums with guys like Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, or Iggy Pop. Homme’s sound is always evolving, and his song writing just gets better. In a sea of endless alt-rock and pop garbage, QOTSA and Homme’s other projects prove that rock ‘n roll still has a pulse. For a kid who played polka music on the guitar for his first two years of lessons, he does pretty good for himself. Oh, and he is also the drummer for Eagles of Death Metal. I’ve said enough.

T.

 

 

List-O-rama: My 5 Favorite Werewolf films

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Movies based upon the shape-shifting, village terrorizing beasts are far and few between. Although most of them are pretty terrible, once in a blue moon (pun fully intended) you get one that is a real howl (that is TWO puns in one sentence, for those keeping score).

My 5 Favorite Werewolf Films

1)  An American Werewolf in London (Dir. John Landis, 1981) This dark comedy/horror is the top dog of all werewolf films. Two American students are hitching through Northern England, and are mauled by an unknown beast. One man is killed, while the other survives. He wakes up in a London hospital to realize that he is no longer the man he was before the attack. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne are stellar as the college friends who end up in the wrong part of the Yorkshire moors. American Werewolf has three things I admire in a film; dark comedy, disturbing imagery, and savage violence.

2)  Ginger Snaps (Dir. by John Fawcett, 2000) Outcast sisters, obsessed with the idea of death, try to navigate their teenage years. Things get even more complicated when one of them bitten by a werewolf. As Ginger, who is bitten, becomes more of a danger, sister Brigitte must find a cure before it is too late. The performances by Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle are real and convincing. The story is surprisingly original and darkly twisted. Also, Ginger Snaps is a Canadian production, and me being a proud Canadian makes me like it even more.

3)  Dog Soldiers (Dir. by Neil Marshall 2002) A company of British soldiers are sent on a weekend training mission in conjunction with a Special Forces unit in the Scottish wilderness. As it turns out, this will be anything but a routine military exercise. The soldiers discover the remains of the Special Forces team, and realize they are being hunted by something that is not human. They hole up in a farmhouse and try to keep the beasts at bay until the sun comes up. This is a gritty, violent film with some good twists, and lovely special effects that kept me interested from the start. The portrayal of the British soldiers is very believable. A very original movie directed by the great Neil Marshall (Descent, Doomsday).

4)  The Wolf Man (Dir. by George Waggner, 1941) Along side Dracula and Frankenstein, The Wolf Man is a cornerstone in the Universal Monsters franchise back in the golden era of cinema. This true classic is the Story of Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who returns home to Wales upon the death of his brother. During a visit to a gypsy camp, Lawrence saves his friend Jenny from a wolf attack, but is bitten during the struggle. Talbot is now cursed, and transforms into a werewolf during each full moon. Lon Chaney Jr. is amazing as the man burdened with the fact that he is no longer human. This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and continues to inspire me to this day. The Wolf Man runs really short at seventy minutes, but that does not take away from it’s legacy.

5)  WolfCop (Dir. by Lowell Dean, 2014)  Another gem of a Canadian film, everything about WolfCop is ridiculous. If you are a small town police deputy with a pretty severe drinking problem and really nothing to look forward to, what do you do to turn things around? Correct, you become a werewolf. Lou Garou is no ordinary werewolf. He is a Wolf cop with a strong sense of the law and a lust for the ladies. This movie had me once the scene came on where WolfCop makes love to a lucky gal while the song “Moonlight Desires” by Canadian legend Gowan plays in the background. He also rips a dude’s face of during one scene. Pretty impressive, very ridiculous.

T.

 

List-O-rama: My favorite films of 1989

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My 5 Favorite Films of 1989

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“This town needs an enema!”

Batman (Directed by Tim Burton | starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson) The first true comic book blockbuster, Batman still holds up today. I am not entirely sure on the exact number of times I saw the movie upon it’s release, but it is the most I’ve gone to see one movie in the cinema. With a flawless portrayal of the Joker by Nicholson, Batman is super stylish and one of my all-time favorites.

 

 

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“Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn

Major League (Directed by David S. Ward | starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger) This movie is number 2, next to Slap Shot, as best sports comedy of all-time. A great cast and clever writing make this story of the downtrodden Cleveland Indians baseball clubs worst to first comeback story very enjoyable. It is very much an updated version of the Bad News Bears. This is a love story intended for every viewer who is a diehard fan of their home town team, even if the suck terribly.

 

 

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Marty’s get rich quick scheme backfires.

Back to the Future II (Directed by Robert Zemeckis | starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd) The second of the time travel trilogy, this film is the glue that holds it together. I am not saying I don’t love the other two films, but Back to the Future II has a certain charm. The writing and references to the future are clever, and Biff Tannen is one of the all-time villains. Even though the Cubs did not win the World Series in 2015 like the film boldly predicted, it is still a hell of a time waster.

 

 

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The Stones have nothing on the Stallyns!

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Directed by Stephen Herek | starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter) In 1989, a gift was given to the world, and that gift was Keanu Reeves. This comedy features such names as Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Genghis Khan, and George Carlin as Rufus. Bill and Ted travel time in a phone booth. Sound familiar? This excellent adventure features one of film’s greatest fictional bands; Wyld Stallyns. Good, mindless fun. You’d have to be a medieval dickweed not to enjoy and appreciate this history lesson.

 

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A hellacious cat named Church. Poetic.

Pet Sematary (Directed by Mary Lambert | starring Denise Crosby, Fred Gwynn) This film is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. In my opinion, this is the best of King’s work turned movie. I saw this one at a drive-inn double feature and it scared to crap out of me. Pet Sematary still has an unsettling effect on me. This film features a ghost, reanimation of dead things, a demonic house cat named Church, and a toddler on the loose with a scalpel.

 

 

 

T.