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.

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 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.

 

Phantoms, Specters and Hautings …Oh My! My Five Favourite Ghost Movies

“These souls, who for whatever reason are not at rest, are also not aware that they have passed on. They’re not part of consciousness as we know it. They linger in a perpetual dream state, a nightmare from which they can not awake.”

-Tangina (Dialogue from Poltergeist, 1982)

What really scares us? Besides death, bills and other regular day-to-day horrors. When I think about what gets my heart pumping, it is fear of the unknown. What you cannot see can AND will hurt you. Think about it for a second; walking alone down a dark alley after dark, hearing a noise in the middle of the night that you cannot immediately identify. When I want to watch a movie that might get my guard up and give me a little scare, I always go for one type; a good old ghost story. Slasher movies are great for some jump scares, gross-outs, and humor. Unfortunately, ninety-five percent of them fail to serve up the chills. The thought of an invisible force is a lot creepier than a dude wearing a mask that you can see coming a mile away. Besides demonic possession, supernatural films (when done right) make my skin crawl the most. I would like to share with you my five favorite ghost films. There are plenty of these types of films I have not seen, mostly because I have heard terrible things about them, or I have not gotten around to watching them yet. I am fairly confident that I have seen enough to make these five films my most revered supernatural viewings.

The Shining (Directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson 1980) From top to bottom, a brilliant film on so many levels. Jack Torrance is tormented. Not only by the spirits that haunt the halls of the Overlook Hotel, but also the ghosts of his past. There are so many theories and dissections of this film, trying to look for the real meaning behind Kubrick’s madness, but on the surface it is a gritty and lingering story about a haunted hotel that truly wants to make it’s residents feel unwelcome. From subliminal flashes of butchered families to the terror behind the door of room 237, there are many things to love about The Shining. Jack Nicholson is perfect.

The Blair Witch Project (Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) Love it or hate it, BWP is a polarizing film. This was the first of a rash of “found footage” films to break into the mainstream. Three students get lost in the Maryland woods and find out that the legend they are documenting is indeed true. I will admit that the camera work is nauseating in some spots, but lends to the authentic feel. The viewer never sees the entity that terrorizes the characters, but is presented in other ways that are effective and creepy regardless. Freaky scenes include children’s hands pressing on the outside of the tent while the sound of children can be heard, and Josh disappearing during the night, with only his tongue remaining wrapped up in a piece of his shirt. The final scene is also tense and well done. Any film that made my brother (self admittedly) stay up all night pacing the house will always make my top five.

Poltergeist (Directed by Tobe Hooper, starring Craig T. Nelson 1982) This is the proof that you don’t need an old house to have a haunting. All you need is a house built on a Native American cemetery. Although Poltergeist is not as scary as it once was, it sure scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. At first, the spirits seem harmless enough; moving objects and furniture around. The spirits then become malevolent, becoming violent and then kidnapping the young daughter, Carol Anne. Stylish and well produced, Poltergeist is a charming ghost story well worth the watch. On a side note, the 2015 remake starring Sam Rockwell is not very good at all, and no where near as charming as the original. But that is just my opinion.

Sixth Sense (Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Bruce Willis 1999) A young boy with the ability to see ghosts who don’t know they are dead needs the help of Dr. Malcolm Crowe to cope with his “ability”. This film is not scary in the traditional sense, but has some very strong imagery that will get inside your head. Sixth Sense is a movie that will make you think, and take you on a few twists. I include this one in my list of favorites because it is well written and very well orchestrated in delivery. There is one scene in school involving bodies hanging from the rafters that still gives me the creeps. Also, who doesn’t love Bruce Willis?

The Fog (Directed by John Carpenter, starring Jamie Lee Curtis 1980) The small seaside town of Antonio Bay has a dark past, and the spirits of the done wrong want their revenge. What is freakier than ghosts you ask? What about ghosts that arrive and hide inside a thick fog that has rolled into town? John Carpenter is a master of simple suspense. The Fog is no exception. In typical Carpenter fashion, the soundtrack is brilliant and makes the atmosphere that much better. A pretty fun movie with some good spooky ambiance. If you like John Carpenter, and or ghosts, you’ll like this one.

Honorable mentionAmityville Horror, The Changeling, The Conjuring

Note – Although two films, Ghostbusters ,The Frighteners, and Beetlejuice are “ghost” movies, I felt they are too comedy oriented to be part of the list. However, all three films are personal favorites of mine.

T.

TOP FIVE DESERT ISLAND ALBUMS

I am sure we have all played this game. Stranded on a desert island, or anywhere remote without anyone to save you. The five albums that you would take with you. It is not a very realistic game; what would you play the albums on? Where would you get the power to run the device? Rules are kind of stupid, so let’s ignore them and play anyways. These albums mean different things to me, fond memories, times in my life. So here in no particular order here are the five albums I would pack if I was ever to become a castaway.

Appetite

GUNS ‘N ROSES – APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION (Geffen 1987) You would hard pressed to find a better hard record than this beauty. No other album brings back as many fond memories of growing up than Appetite. The attitude and bite of this debut is unrivaled. If you are between the ages of 35-45, you probably know the words to every song on the album. Also, this is the first time I remember hearing the word ‘fuck’ on a rock song. I have probably owned this album ten times over.

Lullabies

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – LULLABIES TO PARALYZE (Interscope 2005)  It was hard to choose the QOTSA album that I would have on a desert island. I love them all, but a decision had to made. I chose Lullabies because it was the record that blends the bands raw desert rock background with the new wave type sound they have adopted for their last two albums. This is also the last album that Mark Lanegan has a large contribution on, as well as the debut of drummer Joey Castillo and multi-instrumentalist Troy Van Leeuwen.

Angel Dust

FAITH NO MORE – ANGEL DUST (Slash 1992)  Faith No More pretty much do what they want when it comes to recording albums, and it works so well on this one. Angel Dust is beautiful and ugly, complex and simple, accessible and confounding all at the same time. This was Mike Patton’s first real contribution to writing songs with the band, and it shows brilliantly. If you took almost every style of music you could think of, put it in a blender and mixed it up, you would end up with Angel Dust. RV is one of my favorite songs ever. Also, the album artwork, inside and out, is amazing and disturbing.

Dopesmoker

SLEEP – DOPESMOKER (Tee Pee 2003)  Not be confused with the album Jerusalem, which was released in 1999, chopped into multiple tracks and released without the bands input or permission. Dopesmoker is a titan, with the title track timing in at 63:31. This is Sleeps final album as a band, even though they released a single last year. This is a powerful, slow, heavy prophecy of doom, delivered by the high council of “stoner metal”. The only thing that would top listening to this on a lonely island would be to have Sleep perform. I also have a soft spot for this album because guitarist Matt Pike a guitar giant, and one of my favorites.

Bubblegum

Mark Lanegan – Bubblegum (Beggars Banquet 2004)  I’m not sure what about this album that draws me in. It could be because Bubblegum is perfectly flawed, and from the heart. Lanegan’s gruff, soulful voice seems to make the songs have more meaning (see Tom Waits). The album features a long list of guest contributors featuring the talents of P.J. Harvey, Joshua Homme, Nick Oliveri, and Alan Johannes. A very dark, intimate record, but beautifully crafted. It is also one of the CDs I go to when driving on the highway.

T.