Thursday, October 18, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dead Poets Society

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  It's time once again for me to cut open a beloved classic and tell you all why it's not as good as everyone seems to think it is.


Today's example is the critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning 1989 film Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams as an anti-establishment teacher at a prestigious prep school, who forms a close bond with his students and encourages them to be forward-thinking dream followers.  His unconventional teaching style comes into question and soon has repercussions quite at odds with the school's cookie-cutter approach to education.

This film was a big hit and built on Robin Williams' Good Morning Vietnam success as a serious (albeit slightly comedic) actor.  It would be his second consecutive role to earn him a Best Actor nod.

So why do I consider DPS an Awesomely Shitty Movie you ask?  Well let's take a closer look....



The Awesome


Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society was the second mainstream film to showcase Robin Williams' considerable dramatic chops.  Generally known for his manic, zany comedy antics, Williams mostly delivers a nuanced, understated performance as the benign, free-spirited Literature professor, and we believe it when the students become inspired by him.  The scene where he coaxes a spontaneous, evocative poem out of the cripplingly shy Todd Anderson is genuinely touching, while his emotional breakdown after Neil's death is a briefly heartbreaking moment.  Aside from a few moments where he veered way too far into typical Robin Williams territory, this was a fine performance that elevated Williams as an Oscar-caliber actor.

Stop making me cry, Mork!



The Students

Most of the students are given pretty fleshed-out characters and the performances are generally top-notch.  Standouts include Robert Sean Leonard as the conflicted-but-idealistic Neil Perry, Ethan Hawke as the hopelessly bashful Todd Anderson, and Gale Hansen as the brash, rebellious Charlie Dalton (probably my favorite character).  The students are all quite relatable in one way or another and they make a colorful ensemble of protagonists to guide us through this repressive 1950s setting.

'Tis a good buncha lads....



Locations

The film was shot almost entirely at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, DE, providing a visually striking backdrop for the story.  Its gothic architecture created a suitably old-world metaphor for the stifling, conformist ideas pushed on the students.  The landscapes are initially bathed in lovely fall colors before giving way to peaceful snowy panoramas.  Lovely spot for an academic tragedy.

Seems like a swell campus



Final Scene

You all know it, it's the "O Captain, my Captain" scene, where Mr. Nolan has taken over Keating's class until they hire a replacement, Keating comes back to pick up his things, and most of the students salute him by standing on their desks and reciting that old Walt Whitman phrase (while a red-faced Nolan barks orders for them to sit down).  Sure it's cheesy, it's sappy, it's kinda pedestrian, but it chokes me up every time, particularly considering Robin Williams' tragic suicide a couple years ago.  As an emotional climax it packs a solid punch.

I do love the composition of this shot



Ok, put the tissues away.  Now here's a whole buncha stuff about this movie that doesn't work....



The Shitty


Shamelessly Manipulative

Now look, I enjoy this movie on many levels as stated above.  But there's also a lot wrong with it, most of which comes back to the script being unabashed in its low-rent audience manipulation.  Just about everything I'm going to talk about in this section relates to this theme in some way.  The film dials up certain characters to almost comical degree in order to make us feel one way or another about them, wedges in story developments that don't feel earned, or takes sharp turns that simply aren't believable, in order to get from Point A to B.



Kurtwood Smith

The first of two mustache-twisting "bad guys" in a movie that really shouldn't have any, Neil's father, Mr. Perry, played by the excellent Kurtwood Smith (To be clear, Smith's inclusion here isn't a reflection on his acting ability, but on what the script and direction asks of him) is such tyrannical bastard it's amazing his son hasn't either run away from home or murdered him in his sleep long before the events of this film.  He goes from being a cold, undemonstrative paternal figure to a raging asshole.  There's a scene where he angrily confronts Neil about joining the school play and his delivery is so over-the-top it's unintentionally hilarious.  "Is that clear?........IS THAT CLEEARR!!??"

Hey Clarence Boddicker.  Lighten up a little, will ya?



Norman Lloyd

Same kinda thing here - Norman Lloyd is so reptilian as the school's Headmaster the role may as well have gone to Ian McDiarmid.  Lloyd uses this faux English accent and a nasal, flinty delivery, there's nothing realistic or three-dimensional about the character.  If he isn't laying down inappropriately high expectations of new student Todd Anderson ("We expect great things from you Mr. Anderson, your brother was one of our finest.") he's bashing Charlie Dalton's asscheeks in with a racquetball paddle.  "Evaluate this poetry with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the Ivy League will be complete!"

Christ, the guy's even DRESSED like a Sith Lord



Cameron

I said there were two bad guys in this movie but in the third act the script adds another.  The Cameron character starts as a reluctantly willing participant and morphs into a slimy little informant in the blink of an eye, and this plays out more like a 90-degree turn than an arc.  In about ten minutes of screen time he goes from "I'm not sure about all this insubordination but I kinda like it," to "Let Keating fry."  The character becomes what the script needs him to, just to get to a cheap scene where the audience is happy to see him get punched in the face.  This payoff would've felt much more organic if the filmmakers had the discipline to gradually turn Cameron into a self-preserving jerk.

Nice face Cam.  Be a shame if someone punched it.



DPS Meetings

The most frequent (and titular) example of rebellious behavior on the part of our protagonists is a series of secret meetings held in a cave in the woods, wherein the students take turns reading poems, in between shootin' the shit, enjoying a snack, and trying to impress some girls.  Presumably these gatherings are supposed to be the inspiration for the boys' newfound free-spiritedness, and their love for poetry is meant to spill over into their daily lives.  But the DPS scenes are so awkwardly written and executed the point of it all gets lost, and outside the Society and the classroom the boys don't seem to give the slightest of shits about poetry itself.  It all just comes off as an excuse to socialize after hours.



Knox Subplot

One student, Knox Overstreet, gets a tediously trite subplot where he falls desperately in love with a girl named Chris during a chance meeting at her boyfriend Chet's house (Chet is written as a mindless jock archetype, supplying yet another heel figure).  Before long he's moping around like he wants to off himself, creepily patting Chris's head while she's passed out at a party (and subsequently getting his face pounded in by Chet), writing cringe-inducingly awful poems about her, and eventually barging into her classroom to read her one of said compositions.  The upshot is that she finally agrees to talk to him and even accompanies him to Neil's play, where they end up holding hands.  How quaint.  And then.....well, that's it.  This subplot is completely dropped once Neil rides the ol' bullet train.

Just go in the janitor's closet and get it over with, ya little turds!



Neil's Suicide

This movie takes a bizarre (and pretty contrived) turn in the third act, when after defying Dad's orders to drop out of the school play, Neil is withdrawn from Welton and enrolled in military school.  Unable to face this new future, and too chickenshit to stand up to or even have a heart-to-heart conversation with his dad, Neil goes into the study, takes out Mr. Perry's revolver (Way to leave it loaded in an unlocked drawer Dad, ya fuckin' deadbeat!), and fires a bullet into his brain.  From then on the movie becomes a belabored tragedy, as Mr. Perry and the school launch a full-on investigation so Mr. Keating can take the fall for Neil's suicide.  Keating predictably gets fired and the school goes on with the business of browbeating all free thought out of its students.  The whole thing is way over the top and feels unearned and manufactured, as though the filmmakers couldn't figure out a resolution that would be both memorable and plausible.  Once Neil's gone all the subplots are forgotten about and the movie hurtles toward the final victimization of Mr. Keating, so we can get a tearful climax.  And with that we've come full-circle; this movie is shamelessly manipulative; a tearjerker just for the sake of being a tearjerker.

They forgot to add the brains all over the floor



Nitpicks

-There's a scene where Keating is making all the students laugh by reading Shakespeare in different voices, such as John Wayne and Marlon Brando.  But his Brando impression is clearly based on The Godfather, a film that wouldn't come out until 13 years after this film takes place.  Also this scene strikes me as a blatant case of shoehorning Robin Williams' standup shtick into the film.

-I get that "carpe diem" is supposed to be the movie's catchphrase, but would high school students honestly adopt it as such?  By the same token would Knox, upon completing a promising phone call with Chris, the girl he's hot for, yell out "YAWP!!" just because he learned about the Walt Whitman poem in class?  This all seemed very forced to me, like the filmmakers were hoping high school students everywhere would start talking like this.

-The whole situation with Keating goes to hell within one semester of his tenure at Welton.  Well, that escalated quickly.  Seems like a teacher with a penchant for turning kids defiant that fast would never have been hired at such a stuffy, conformist school.  He must be a helluva bullshit artist at those job interviews.

-How did Mr. Perry pull Neil out of Welton and enroll him in the other school so damn fast?  The way he announces it, it sounds like he made a couple phone calls on the way home from the theater.  The Admissions offices wouldn't be open, nor would a new school enroll the kid without receiving a deposit.

-Is it really believable that a school would outright blame a teacher for one of his students committing suicide at home?  I get that they needed a scapegoat, but this seems like quite a stretch.  Moreover the school conducts this little investigation into a student's death, apparently without ever contacting the authorities.

-As much as I like the final scene as a way to close a movie, it kinda doesn't hold up as a real-life scenario.  After Keating leaves the room, then what?  Do all the kids standing on their desks get expelled?  Does the class just resume as it was?  Does Nolan ease up a bit on the students (This seems implausible)?  It's a scene designed to create a moving, dramatic moment but it can't really ever have a satisfying resolution.

-Roger Ebert mentioned this in his review at the time, but how is there no mention of the beatnik writers and poets, in this 1950s-set film about poetry?

-Presumably the whole point of this movie is "Be yourself, be nonconformist, challenge authority," yes?  But look what happens to the three characters who most embody that philosophy - one gets fired, one gets expelled, one kills himself.  What are we supposed to take away from this movie again??



Conclusion

As I said earlier, I do like many things about this film.  When it's on cable or streaming I almost always have to sit down at watch at least part of it.  It's been ingrained in my memory since my early teen years, and thanks largely to a fine Robin Williams performance it's become THE prep school movie for most people (although I consider 1992's School Ties superior).  But unfortunately Dead Poets Society's story scarcely holds up to scrutiny.  It's ironic that this movie won Best Original Screenplay, when the writing is really its biggest problem.  It's a pandering script that seems to take on more than it can handle and isn't prepared to resolve almost any of it in a satisfying way.  A shame really, there's a very good film in here somewhere....


Well that does it for today's lesson.  Don't forget to read Chapters 4 and 5 of your Understanding Poetry textbook for next time.....

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Top Ten Things: Disney Animated Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where tell y'all about a few of my favorite things.  Ten, to be exact.

Today what's on my mind is Disney films.  Specifically the animated variety.  Before Disney was a multimedia, multi-franchise mega-empire, their bread and butter was making well-crafted, feature-length animated movies the whole family could enjoy.  So beloved were these films that the studio re-released them every five to ten years so a whole new generation of kids could experience them.  Many of them are so engrained in our culture it's hard to imagine what childhood must've been like before Walt Disney came along.

But which Disney films are the best?  Which ones still resonate decades later?  Well, here's my take....



10. Beauty and the Beast


Our first entry is one that frankly hasn't aged all that well for me, 1991's Beauty and the Beast.  While this one holds up as a visually rich, touching love story that appeals to viewers of all ages, it strikes me as far less timeless than some of its animated brethren.  The voice acting and songwriting is very much out of an early 90s Broadway production which firmly dates the film for me (along with the unnecessary use of computer animation in that one scene).  Nevertheless BATB is still widely hailed as an all-time classic that, like The Little Mermaid, returned Disney's animation studio to its former glory throughout the 90s.





9. The Great Mouse Detective


Easily my favorite Disney feature of the 1980s was this take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, with all the characters recast as small animals.  The Sherlock figure is now a mouse called Basil, his Dr. Watson-esque partner is Dr. Dawson, and the film's diabolical Moriarty character is a rat, known as Professor Ratigan.  The Great Mouse Detective is a delightful action-adventure cartoon that sees Basil and Dawson helping a young girl find her kidnapped father and climaxes with a thrilling, CG-enhanced chase through the inner workings of Big Ben's clocktower.  This affectionate Holmes pastiche was only a modest box office success but I consider it an underappreciated near-classic.





8. One Hundred and One Dalmatians


One of the most purely fun Disney features was this 1961 canine-centric adventure, about a pair of dalmatians (Pongo and Perdita) whose puppies get stolen by a sadistic fur fanatic to be made into a coat.  Pongo and Perdita enlist the help of a network of dogs in and around London to find their pups, and the story takes them all over the country.  This isn't the most substantial Disney film but it's relentlessly entertaining, features an iconic villian in Cruella de Vil, and spawned one of the catchier songs in the Disney catalog.  Its animation style places it squarely in the early 60s, but unlike Beauty and the Beast, the datedness works in this film given when it takes place.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Parents' Night In #13: Frankenstein (1931)

Join Kelly & Justin as we discuss the horror classic Frankenstein!  We'll talk about Boris Karloff's performance, James Whale's direction and set design, Telling Bird Zinfandel, and more!


 
 
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Mass Music Review #2: Dinosaur, Jr.

Our newest contributor Christopher Gillespie is back with another look at an influential Massachusetts band - this week it's Dinosaur Jr.!


Traditionally considered to be the best of Dinosaur Jr.’s albums, 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me was much more successful than the band’s first album, 1985’s Dinosaur, and is also considered much more influential than their initial outing. You’re Living All Over Me, much like Signals, Calls, and Marches proved to be an album with great importance in the alternative and indie rock scene in both America and Europe. My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields mentioned the album as an influence for their EP You Made Me Realize which was released during the beginnings of the shoegaze genre, and the album is said to have influenced ever-popular American grunge band Nirvana.

The band from left to right: Murph, Lou Barlow, and J Mascis

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Gojira, or As You Know Him, Godzilla

Welcome to another installment of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I dissect a beloved piece of cinematic work, nitpick its drawbacks, and generally ruin it for everyone.


Today I'll be talking about one of the most famous monster movies of all time, one that gave us an absolutely iconic giant monster whose fame and marketability are nearly unparalleled.  I'm talking about the 1954 Japanese film Gojira (or Godzilla as us dumbass Americans renamed him).  Inspired by the US B-movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Gojira is an atomic age parable about a gigantic lizard monster that emerges from the ocean and decimates Japan.  Made at a time when the country was still dealing with the aftermath of World War II, Gojira is rife with subtext about nuclear devastation and its consequences; despite its B-movie subject matter the film's tone is deadly serious and its concepts lofty.  Gojira was an enormous hit and spawned literally dozens of sequels, reboots and imitations.  But how is it as a film?  Well like so many horror movies it has its pros and cons.  Let's take a look at both, shall we?




The Awesome


Creature Design

The monster design by Teizo Toshimitsu, Akira Watanabe and Eiji Tsuburaya is simply one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable in film history.  Regardless of the technological limitations and the clunkiness of the suit itself, the combination of T-Rex, Iguanadon and Stegasaurus made for such a cool-looking giant monster it's hard to take your eyes off him.  Couple that with his ability to shoot radioactive beams from his mouth like an atomic age dragon, and you've got an absolutely BOSS movie monster.  Godzilla is up there with Frankenstein's monster, Superman and Mickey Mouse in terms of pop culture iconography, inspiring cartoons, comics, and some of the best-looking Japanese toys you'll ever see.

He's just fuckin' badass-lookin'....



Political Commentary

Gojira was made less than ten years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan was still reeling from that devastation.  Thus the monster is a metaphor for nuclear holocaust, released from his underwater lair as the result of American H-bomb testing and wreaking devastation and death on the entire country.  The film is rife with themes of mankind meddling with technology they aren't equipped or evolved enough to handle.  Even Serizawa's oxygen destroyer draws parallels with the H-bomb - he's stumbled onto a terrible discovery and won't tell anyone about it until he can find a use for it that benefits humanity, fearing it will be used for destructive ends (I'm not sure what said use would even be, but that's a discussion for later).  Then there's Professor Yamane, who wants Godzilla kept alive so his resistance to radiation can be studied.  This film contains much more symbolism and subtext than is required of a monster movie, so that's a plus.



Acting

By the same token, the acting in this film is quite solid, better than a film like this necessarily needs.  Akira Takarada as Captain Ogata, Momoko Kochi as his love interest Emiko, Akihiko Hirata as the tortured genius Serizawa, and Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane all turn in capable performances that rise above the B-movie material and lend themselves to the human drama, making this more than just a kaiju movie.

We're talkin' about solid professionals.

The History of NWA/WCW Halloween Havoc (1989)

Welcome to another look at PPV History, here at Enuffa.com!  This being the Halloween season I'll be looking back at the very first PPV I ever ordered, the NWA's inaugural Halloween Havoc!

Halloween Havoc '89 is a bit of an overlooked gem.  1989 was considered by most to be the NWA's best-ever year from a creative and match quality standpoint, featuring two landmark Ric Flair feuds and the rise of future headliners like Sting, Lex Luger and The Steiners.  It was the company's first full calendar year under the ownership of Ted Turner, and it felt like the changes at the top temporarily brought about a renewed sense of focus.

Most fans correctly cite The Great American Bash and Chi-Town Rumble as the company's top two PPVs of that year, but for me Halloween Havoc isn't far behind.  Sporting a stacked card (particularly in the tag team division) and a unique first-time gimmick match, Havoc was a thoroughly enjoyable show from start to finish, and it became one of the company's flagship PPVs until its 2001 demise.

But let's take a closer look, shall we?


Philadelphia Civic Center - 10.28.89

The centerpiece of this show was the first-ever Thunderdome match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta.  After having feuded for much of 1988, Flair and Sting became allies at The Great American Bash, discovering they had common enemies.  The ensuing feud became so heated and intense it was decided the only way to settle it would be inside a giant steel cage with an electrified top and campy horror decor adorning the upper sections.  Each team would have a "second" stationed at ringside holding a white towel, and the match could only end when said team representative threw in said towel.  To ensure law and order, the NWA brought in the vaunted Bruno Sammartino as the guest referee.  This match sure had a lot of window dressing, but it all helped give the bout a big-fight atmosphere and made it feel like something special.

It may seem quaint now but in 1989 this dive was the goddamnedest thing

The match itself was a wildly fun brawl that ranged all over ringside as the four combatants gradually figured out the lay of the land.  The fisticuffs frequently took place on the side of the cage as Terry Funk repeatedly attempted escape.  Sting made good use of the structure at one point, diving off the cage rungs onto an unsuspecting Funk in the center of the ring.  Another memorable moment occurred early in the match, when a cage prop caught fire and Muta managed to put it out with his green mist.  I'm pretty sure that's never happened before or since.  After an unruly 23-minute battle, Flair caught Funk in the Figure Four and Sting nailed Funk's legs with multiple top-rope splashes.  Funk's manager Gary Hart attempted to interfere but ran into Flair & Sting's second, Ole Anderson, who knocked Hart loopy with a punch.  Hart's towel flew out of his hand and Sammartino declared Flair and Sting the victors.  While certainly not on par with Flair vs. Steamboat or the two Flair vs. Funk singles matches, the Thunderdome match was a very worthy main event and all four guys worked hard to make the awkward match structure a success.  My only gripes were the lack of blood and the fluky finish.  But then this match wasn't designed as the blowoff to this feud - that would happen at New York Knockout.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Top Ten Things: Vampire Movies

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Continuing with the Halloween festivities, today we'll count down what are in my estimation the ten greatest vampire films of all time.

Before Stephanie Meyer forever ruined the vampire genre by turning it into insipid teen melodrama involving beautiful undead emo heartthrobs (who despite not technically being alive can somehow procreate), there used to be quite a few excellent films devoted to the subject.

Being a vampire really isn't any fun when you think about it.  I explored this topic a little in my Awesomely Shitty Movies piece about The Lost Boys:

"It is possible to create complex, thought-provoking films about vampires, exploring at what cost such powers come: isolation, loneliness, unending bloodlust, tedium, having to live with murdering people, having to evade capture and prosecution for murdering people, etc."

The vampire, no matter how romantic a character you try to make him, is still at heart a repulsive, predatory creature who must kill human beings in order to survive.  Think of how awful his breath must be after drinking all that blood.  Imagine how filthy his clothes would be after sleeping in dirt every day.  Really, are the fringe benefits of being eternally young and having superhuman strength and speed worth all the other headaches? 


Anywho, here's my ten picks.


10. Near Dark (1987)


Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's second film was an unusual mashup of the vampire movie and the Western.  Starring Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Jenette Goldstein of Aliens fame, Near Dark tells the story of a gang of vampires who live in a sun-proofed van and drift from place to place, going where the food is.  One of their group, Mae, inadvertently turns a young man named Caleb into a vampire and because of her romantic attachment to him, persuades the others to accept him into their gang.  Caleb spends much of the movie struggling with his transformation and trying to appease the others so they don't kill him.  Near Dark is a very unusual and modern take on the genre, portraying the vamps as scavenging marauders not unlike the post-apocalyptic villains in the Mad Max films.  They are evil but charismatic, and Bill Paxton especially shines as the brutal second-in-command Severen.  With this film Bigelow showed her adeptness at eschewing the conventions of genre films and gave us an exciting new take on the vampire mythos.




9. Dracula (1979)


In the late 70s the well-renowned John Balderston-Hamilton Deane theater production of Dracula was revived in London and on Broadway, and its success prompted Universal Studios to remake the 1931 Bela Lugosi film for modern audiences.  The result was this stylish, romantic Frank Langella version.  Directed by John Badham and featuring an excellent score by John Williams, this update of Dracula depicts the Count as a suave, handsome seducer, whom women willingly give their last drop.  Langella is excellent as this debonair demon, imbuing the character with both smoothness and a fearsome underlying rage.  The rest of the cast is also first-rate - the legendary Laurence Olivier plays Dracula's nemesis Van Helsing, Kate Nelligan is an unusually strong and independent Lucy Seward (in this version Lucy and Mina's names are oddly swapped), and Tony Haygarth is a rather degenerate incarnation of the Renfield character.  This film is a triumph of production design and atmosphere, and a gritty, original take on the Lugosi version.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Cinema Showdown: Superman Returns vs. Man of Steel

Originally published in 2015...
Welcome to another edition of Cinema Showdown, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll take two movies that are either based on the same source material, present the same story, or just share many similarities, and see which one stacks up better.


Today I'll be talking about the two most recent cinematic takes on the beloved character of Superman: 2006's Superman Returns, directed by Bryan Singer, and 2013's Man of Steel, from Zack Snyder.


Superman is generally credited with launching the superhero genre of comic books, and is an internationally recognized, mythic embodiment of heroism.  The sole survivor of a doomed alien race, Superman arrived on Earth as a baby and was adopted by simple farmers.  As he grew into manhood he discovered his super powers and eventually came to understand and accept the inherent responsibility that came with them, embarking on a lifelong crusade to rid the world of evil and protect the people of his adopted home.

These themes were captured beautifully in Richard Donner's 1978 epic Superman: The Movie.  While far from perfect and frought with production challenges and creative issues, Superman conveyed a sense of wonder and lighthearted optimism in bringing to life this virtuous character, introducing him to a whole generation of filmgoers and creating the superhero movie as we know it.  After three sequels the franchise eventually fizzled, and for nearly twenty years every attempt at a cinematic rebirth for The Man of Tomorrow was aborted prior to production.

Then in 2006 Bryan Singer released Superman Returns, which was presented as a direct sequel to Superman II (1981).  Retroactively nullifying the largely-reviled Superman III and IV, Returns takes place five years after II, whereupon Superman has, well, returned to Earth after a mysterious five-year absence and found that the world didn't necessarily miss him.  At the same time Lex Luthor has been released from prison (largely due to Kal-El being unavailable to testify against him) and hatched a new plan to take over the world using crystals from the Fortress of Solitude.  The plot of this film was eerily similar to that of the 1978 original (Luthor attempts to change the Earth's landscape to create his own priceless real estate, almost certainly at the expense of millions of lives), and while a few of the performances were well-received, the film was a box office disappointment.  Its planned sequel was scrapped, and it was back to the drawing board for The Big Blue Boy Scout.

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Heel Turns

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com.  You know the drill - a list of ten items, why I picked 'em, yadda yadda.

Today's topic is in a roundabout way related to Halloween, in that it involves the darker angels of our nature, as it were.  I'm talking about one of the great plot devices in the pro wrestling universe, The Heel Turn.  In the world of pretend fighting a character will suddenly decide he doesn't like one of his friends, or the fans, or the world, and go bad.  This generally reframes his whole persona and sets off a major feud or angle of some kind.

The best heel turns usually happen suddenly, so there's a feeling of shock and betrayal from the fans, but it's also important that the turn doesn't feel like a cheat or a contrivance.  It has to make sense within the context of the story being told.  There has to have been some kind of foreshadowing or tension between the betrayer and his victim(s), thus when the turn happens it's appalling but also satisfying.  You've invested in this ongoing story and here's a major inciting incident.  Also the subsequent heel run generally needs to last a while and have some kind of long-term impact on the overall product.  So often these days a wrestler will turn heel just so he can be repositioned to feud with whomever the writers want him to feud with.  And then three months later he's back to being a babyface (Big Show, I'm looking in your general direction).  When this kinda thing happens too often, not only does each character turn lose meaning, but the fans cease to invest in said wrestler because he changes his stripes constantly.  Sadly in recent years the effective heel turn has become something of a lost art, as today's wrestling bookers don't seem to have the discipline to properly execute it.

The other kind of heel turn that can be effective is the gradual variety, where a wrestler will start to show a mean streak but it's amplified over several months, and eventually before you know it, the guy's fighting babyfaces (see Punk, CM; Jericho, Chris; *surname omitted*, Edge).  I find those don't work as well, although gradual turns have produced some great heel characters (such as the aforementioned three).  That's not to say I don't like the gradual ones, I just find it more fun when a guy turns heel sort of all at once but it still makes perfect sense in context.

Here now are my ten favorite heel turns in wrestling history...




10. The Road Warriors (1988)


1988 was a year of multiple heel and babyface turns in the NWA, and one of the last ones to take place was when the almighty Road Warriors betrayed Sting during a six-man tag match.  Sting was a last-minute substitute for the Roadies' longtime partner Dusty Rhodes, and Hawk & Animal were none too pleased that a) Dusty wasn't present as scheduled, and b) the Johnny-come-lately Stinger was selected as a replacement.  This kicked off an uber-mean streak from the Legion of Doom that included a gruesome incident where they tried to poke Dusty's eye out with a shoulderpad spike.  As a 13-year-old fan I felt horribly wronged by my favorite badass team, and initially found them pretty scary as bad guys (Another hallmark of a great heel turn), but after a couple weeks I came back around and actually liked them even more with their newfound lust for brutality.  Sadly the Road Warriors' heel run was short-lived, since the fans never really wanted to boo them.  But this was a quite effective angle at the time.





9. Lex Luger (1989)


Another NWA mainstay who always seemed more comfortable wearing the black hat was Lex Luger.  Luger had made a name for himself as the "young lion" of the 1987 Four Horsemen lineup before tiring of their antics and turning babyface.  In mid 1989 though some tension began to build between Luger and the returning Ricky Steamboat, over the new Top Ten ratings system.  Being the former NWA World Champ, Steamboat was named the #1 Contender, even though traditionally the US Championship (which Luger held at the time) guaranteed its wearer the top spot.  At Clash of the Champions VII Steamboat defeated Terry Funk by DQ but was attacked by Funk's cohorts after the match.  Luger came to the rescue, chasing off Team Funk, and helped Steamboat to his feet, only to level the former Champ with a ferocious clothesline.  Luger vs. Steamboat was a brief feud due to Steamboat's departure from the promotion, but he spent the remainder of 1989 as a dominant heel US Champion, turning in some of his best in-ring work and seemingly poised to challenge the babyface Ric Flair for the Big Gold Belt.  Flair's heel turn and a sudden injury to Sting in early '90 left a top babyface void, and Luger was inexplicably made a good guy once again.  Early 1990 always struck me as a reset period in the NWA, but I did truly enjoy Luger's late-89 heel run.



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Lost Boys

Welcome back to Enuffa.com for another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies!  

Today we'll be examining the brazenly tawdry late-80s time capsule known as The Lost Boys.  Before the Twilight movies forever ruined the vampire genre Joel Schumacher gave us teenage vampire garbage we could really sink our teeth into.  Teeth, get it??  Cuz vampires like to bite people?  With their teeth? 

Buckle up and set the DeLorean for 1987, the heyday of such screen legends as Corey Haim, Corey Feldman (what's with all the Coreys??), Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, and the one teen heartthrob from this era whose career escaped more or less unscathed, Kiefer Sutherland.




Originally The Lost Boys was to be a Peter Pan-inspired film about pre-adolescent vampires, stemming from the idea that Peter could fly and never grew old (Kiefer's character was originally called Peter, while the protagonist brothers were Michael and John, later to be Michael and Sam).  However when Schumacher came on board he decided teenage characters would be much more marketable/sexier.

The resulting film is delightfully "late-80s," from the costumes, to the heavy metal-influenced fashion sense of the teenage characters, to the awesomely dated soundtrack, to the southern California setting.  It's a quintessential 80s summer movie.  And it's fantastically dumb.



The Awesome

The Cast

This movie's got a pretty great cast, all perfectly suited to their roles.  Corey Haim, while never ascending to the heights of great acting, was exactly right for the main character of Sam.  Sam is the audience's guide through the story, usually in way over his head and scared shitless the whole time.  Jason Patric as his older brother Michael is the character with the real arc (he goes from brooding, sullen prettyboy to brooding, sullen vampire), and he's the one whose relationship with the villains sets things in motion.  Dianne Wiest is excellent as always, as their mother Lucy.  Corey Feldman, whose childhood work was actually pretty underrated, is hilarious as the aspiring vampire killer Edgar Frog. 

Corey, Corey, and that other guy.

And of course the showstopper is Kiefer Sutherland as David, the leader of the vampire gang.  Sutherland was fresh off his breakout performance as teenage deliquent Ace Merrill in Stand By Me, and his performance here is similar, but with the volume turned way up.  In The Lost Boys he's a total badass motherfucker who repeatedly toys with the protagonists and kills rival gang members without remorse.  Great villain.

The Strange and Infuriating Case of Enuffa.com vs. Facebook

UPDATE: Facebook is at it again, blocking my URL entirely as something that violates their Community Standards, even though it's already been found NOT to.  This social network is fucking broken.



It's no secret these days that Facebook is a hot, steaming mess.  Public opinion of the social media juggernaut is not exactly glowing, amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Mark Zuckerberg's subsequent appearance in front of Congress.  Their so-called Community Standards were a mystery wrapped in an enigma until today when they finally decided to release them after fourteen-or-so years.

But even with this new transparency, Facebook is still wreaking havoc: inexplicably blocked URLs, arbitrarily restricted user accounts, annoying ad placements cluttering up everyone's feeds, etc.  It's safe to say The Social Network's priorities seem to be way out of whack.

The following is my own personal experience with Facebook, as relates to this website.

I started Enuffa.com in early 2014 as simply a way to organize and share the goofy wrestling and movie-related thoughts swirling in my brain most of the time.  I'd write and publish an article and share in my own FB feed, just for shits and giggles, figuring my friends and family might get a kick out of it.  Through Blogger I was able to keep track of how much traffic each post got, and as I went along I noticed my hits were slowly but surely increasing.  I began to look for ways to expedite the site's growth and discovered Facebook groups and pages (along with Twitter and Google+), sharing relevant posts in certain groups; wrestling posts in wrestling groups, movie posts in movie groups, etc.  Pretty harmless, right?

Fast-forward three-and-a-half years, and Enuffa.com was getting exponentially more traffic than it had originally.  We'd gone from a paltry 5700 hits in 2014 to over 250,000 in 2017, aided by some of my colleagues and their additional content (for example Dan Moore's highly successful Dive Bars of America series) that brought a more diverse audience to the table.  Things were going along swimmingly and we were frequently getting over a thousand hits a day (small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but the ball was rolling along nicely).

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Top Ten Things: October PPV Matches

Welcome to another Halloween-themed (but not really) Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com.  Instead of this column relating to Halloween and all things scary, instead it's October-centric.  Specifically I'll be counting down the top ten October PPV wrestling matches.

While pro wrestling's autumn season (falling as it does between the SummerSlam peak and the beginning of The Road to WrestleMania) has been pretty consistently known for B-level PPVs, shoddy writing, and rather stale characters, many of the October PPVs over the years have produced some excellent matches.  Here now are the ten greatest October PPV matches of all time.





10. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio - Halloween Havoc 10.26.97


Quite possibly the greatest WCW Cruiserweight match of all time, Guerrero vs. Mysterio was voted WCW's Match of the Year and it's not hard to see why.  The action was breathtaking and impossibly fast.  Both men were in peak form and easily upstaged the rest of the WCW roster.  Mysterio won the Cruiserweight Title with a stunning top rope hurricanrana. 





9. Rock vs. Chris Jericho - No Mercy 10.21.01


This was the match that elevated Chris Jericho to a main eventer.  For the previous two years he had struggled to rise past upper-midcard status, but on this night he bested The Rock for the WCW Title in a spectacular 24-minute war, turning heel in the process.  Sadly the company hotshotted the belt back to The Rock only two weeks later, but this match proved Jericho could hang with the WWF's top stars and deliver a classic main event.






8. Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam - No Mercy 10.21.01


No Mercy 2001 featured two amazing Title bouts.  After the Rock-Jericho classic came the WWF Title match, as heel Champion Steve Austin defended against archenemy Kurt Angle and white-hot tweener Rob Van Dam.  The bout was a whirlwind of intense brawling, virtuosic grappling, and daredevil highspots.  Austin narrowly retained and added to his succession of fantastic 2001 PPV matches.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why Shawn Michaels Returning to the Ring in 2018 is Absurd....

Image result for shawn michaels 2018

Shawn Michaels is my favorite wrestler of all time.  This has been the case for nearly twenty years, even before he made his miraculous 2002-2010 comeback.  For my money no other wrestler has stolen as many shows or pushed the performance envelope like Shawn Michaels has (though Okada and Omega may eclipse him when all is said and done).  And as a huge, longtime Shawn Michaels fan, it pains me to say that his returning to in-ring action, in 2018, at the age of 53, is ri-goddamn-diculous.

Michaels has been away from the ring for eight-and-a-half years now.  He looks and carries himself like an old man.  His fellow retiree The Undertaker looks equally run down.  Aside from a giant paycheck, why on this planet would Shawn and Taker cheapen their respective retirements and their legendary series of matches with an old timers' tour?  One would assume this DX vs. Brothers of Destruction match signed for Saudi Arabia is a one-time deal, but there are rumors that it's building to a Shawn vs. Taker singles match down the road.  Again, their pair of WrestleMania matches nearly a decade ago are heralded as all-time masterpieces.  Why the fuck would we want to see them even attempt to equal those two matches nine years later, at a combined age of 106?

The Vince McMahon of 1998 would laugh mercilessly at the desperately out-of-touch old man he's become. 

In 1996 the WWF included, as part of the WrestleMania 12 pre-show, a segment called the Geriatric Match, pitting parodies of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage against each other.  It was literally a stereotypical "old person fight," with the "Huckster" needing a walker to stay upright, and both men eventually passing out from exhaustion after doing basically nothing.  To view these segments you'd think the real Hogan and Savage were in their 60s at this point.  Nope.  42 and 43 respectively.  Combined age, 85.  1990s Vince McMahon ruthlessly made fun of the age of two former employees, both of whom were in their early 40s.  Yet 2018 Vince McMahon has no problem headlining a PPV with a 27-minute match between a 53-year-old and a 49-year-old.  90s Vince may have been a passive-aggressive asshole (and let's be honest, his 2018 counterpart is too), but at least that guy understood that for the most part wrestling is far more exciting when it's built around young stars in their 20s and 30s.  I'm not saying Vince should be lampooning anyone past the age of 40, but two dudes who peaked during the Dubya Administration have no business main eventing a PPV in 2018.  In no decently run wrestling company should the two top champions be lower on the card than a bunch of 50-year-olds.

I think what bothers me the most is that Shawn refused a WrestleMania program with AJ Styles because he didn't want to crap all over his retirement.  But a throwaway tag team match where the four men involved total 206 years of age is fine?  AJ could've used the rub from working with a performer as accomplished as Michaels; a match like that would've fully legitimized AJ as a WWE headliner (fortunately AJ has since managed to do that on his own).  What does this tag team match accomplish, aside from all four guys getting to shower in corrupt Saudi money?

And for fuck's sake, the De-Generation X gimmick absolutely does not work when both members are old enough to have grandchildren.  Stop it. 


     
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Awesomely Shitty Movies: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Welcome to the second installment in our Awesomely Shitty Movies series pertaining to Universal Studios' Frankenstein franchise!  (Part 1 can be seen HERE)

Today it's the Frankenstein sequel that is almost universally (heh, get it?) praised as being superior to the first film, Bride of Frankenstein!


After the monumental success of the 1931 adaptation, Universal Studios understandably pushed for a follow-up, but James Whale was initially skeptical, thinking there was nothing more that could be explored in the material.  Instead Whale directed another hit horror film, The Invisible Man, and the studio pushed even harder for a Frankenstein sequel.  Whale finally agreed on the condition that Universal would produce a film of his called One More River, and when directing Bride opted to swing for the fences.  It would be a much larger-scale production with garish surrealism and subversive undertones, blending monster horror with dark comedy.  On paper this movie should never have worked as well as it did.  Whale was allowed to inject so much of his own personality into the film and its characters, and thus it became a celebration of those who live outside the norm.  With the expressionist influences of the first film turned way up for the second, and the drama ranging from horrific to funny to genuinely touching, Bride of Frankenstein is the pinnacle of the Universal monster films.


Now let's criticize it.....



The Awesome


Karloff Again

Boris reprised the role that made him a superstar, once again slipping on the giant boots and flat head.  This time the monster actually spoke, lending more depth to the character and making him even more sympathetic.  Indeed, Bride of Frankenstein is much more about the monster's character arc than Frankenstein's.  His driving motivation in this film, much like in the novel, is the search for a companion of some kind, and Karloff gives a largely quite tender, vulnerable performance that further solidifies the monster as a misunderstood brute.

Still the man




Elsa Lanchester

Despite very little actual screen time between her two roles (Seriously, it's maybe five minutes total), Elsa Lanchester brought to life one of the great movie monsters and gave a tremendously memorable turn.  Also notable is the disparity between her two characters; Mary Shelley is sweet-faced and proper, while the title character is wild-eyed and bird-like (Lanchester apparently based her head movements on those of a swan).  Her brief onscreen interaction with Karloff is bizarre and climactic; one of the great monster movie payoffs.

Makes sense her hair is standing up,
she did just get electrocuted technically


Parents' Night In #12: The Dark Knight, a Shakespearean Tragedy

Kelly & Justin celebrate the tenth anniversary of their favorite film, The Dark Knight, by loading up on chardonnay and discussing why Chris Nolan's superhero masterpiece still resonates a decade later.

It's the performances, the kinetic energy, the attention to detail, and unexpectedly the Harvey Dent arc that make this film so haunting.  And of course Heath Ledger's iconic final completed role.

Join us for a very special Parents' Night In!



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Monday, October 8, 2018

Geek Previews: The Witch (2016)

Welcome to a new feature here at Enuffa.com, Geek Previews (like the ol' Sneak Previews but way nerdier), where Michael Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I discuss a film we've both recently watched.  Could be something new and topical or something we're just now getting around to seeing.  


Today's movie of choice is Robert Eggers' debut The Witch, a period folktale set in 17th century Puritan New England about a family of settlers who are met with misfortune and insanity at the hands of a demonic witch.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Mike, what's your take on this film?  Talk to me.....


Mike: Ok, as a movie I loved it. It's one of the best period pieces I've seen in a long time. I loved the dialogue and how they stuck to the Olde English even though at times it was a little tedious understanding them. The film looks beautiful, using natural light and giving it a kind of gloom that you expect in a film like this. The acting was great. Anya Taylor-Joy was really good playing Thomasin and Ralph Ineson as William, her father, was just fantastic. He was a no-bullshit guy but there was tenderness toward his children and wife that he exuded brilliantly.


I love A24, the production company of this film. Everything they seem to come out with I love or at least really like. Whether its Room, Ex Machina, Obvious Child, Locke or Under the Skin....they've all been awesome and this one just adds to that list.

Now here's what bummed me out about the film. Ever since it was released it was billed as a terrifying film. That's the only thing I heard about it, even the quotes in the trailer talked about how it will "make your blood run cold" and I got amped for it because I rarely come across a film that scares me and I love films that can do that. That's where this movie fell flat for me. The IMDB trivia said that Stephen King was terrified by this film. The only things I found a little unnerving were some of the shots of Black Phillip and the utilization of off-screen sounds, like twigs breaking or something. Other than that, it was a really good film about religion and satanism, or what I presumed was satanism.


Justin: I loved it as a strong piece of filmmaking as well.  The natural lighting, the diffused colors, the location and sets, everything contributed to the bleak atmosphere and the underlying sense of dread.  Anya Taylor-Joy announced herself as a future major star I think.  At 20 years old she already has a commanding onscreen presence, even in an unassuming role like this one.  Ralph Ineson felt totally authentic, conveying gruffness but also the air of a man who slowly realizes he isn't in control and can't care for his family like he thought.  I found Kate Dickie's performance very compelling as well, as her character goes from hysterical mourning to being resentful and domineering.


I tell ya - Room, Ex Machina, Locke, and now The Witch?  A24 already boasts one helluva filmography.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Alien 3

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I complain about someone else's hard work!


Today I'll be talking about one of my least favorite sequels ever, Alien 3!  Yup, it's gonna be a struggle to come up with many positives about this film, as I hate it.  HATE. IT.  But I wouldn't be telling the truth if I failed to talk about its good qualities.  Directed by the great David Fincher, Alien 3 is a stylish, exceedingly bleak sequel to the mega-popular thrill ride that was James Cameron's Aliens.  Picking up where that film left off, Alien 3 finds Ripley stranded on a penal planet populated by the worst criminals in the galaxy, when a stray alien breaks loose and starts butchering people by the dozen.  Ripley and the others must find a way, sans weapons, to kill the alien before a Weylan-Yutani supply ship arrives to bring the specimen back to Earth.  And, well, that's about it.  Nothing terribly complicated about this story, and the film was such a troubled production for the first-time director that Fincher has disowned the movie.  The studio began shooting without a completed script and questioned Fincher on nearly every creative idea, to the point that his intended cut was very different from the theatrical version (The "Assembly Cut" as it's called is widely considered superior to the latter, but I still don't like it).

But before I begin shredding this movie, let's take a look at what did work.....



The Awesome


Acting

Sigourney Weaver is back as Ellen Ripley of course, and she once again brings a sense of both empowerment and vulnerability to the role that made her famous.  She doesn't have quite the emotional arc here as she did in Aliens, but with what she's given to work with she excels as always.  This film has a number of strong supporting performances as well, the two biggest standouts being the dignified and understated Charles Dance as Dr. Clemens, and Charles S. Dutton as the reformed murderer and spiritual leader of the prison, Dillon.  Add accomplished character actors such as Pete Postlethwaite and Brian Glover, and there's no shortage of convincing work on the acting front.

There are some fine thespians in this tripe movie.



Visuals

As with all of his films, Fincher lent Alien 3 a distintive, stylish look, with filthy, gothic sets and a muted color pallette of yellows and browns.  The one area where this film surpasses Aliens for me is its unique visual style.  This is a gorgeously photographed movie from a young director already demonstrating his superior skill.  'Tis a shame the story didn't have more going on, as it's akin to a beautifully painted but mostly empty landscape.

There are also some fine visuals.



Effects (mostly)

Most of the special effects in Alien 3 still hold up, from the grotesquely sloppy chestburster scene to the amazingly lifelike Bishop head/torso, to the frightening closeups of the full-size alien.  The blood n' guts look first-rate, and aside from terrible compositing of the rod puppet used in wide shots (The puppet looks great, the blue screening looks like garbage), any xenophile should be satisfied with the effects.

And a boss-looking alien.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

WWE Super Show-Down Preview & Predictions

Why is the word "showdown" hyphenated?  Oh, are they doing a thing because it's in Australia?  Like it's a "super-show" down under?  Shouldn't the hyphen be between "super" and "show" then?  Christ, WWE, get your shit together.


Anyway, it's yet another PPV event in a way overloaded calendar, except this will likely be a glorified house show, much like the Saudi show was in April (and like the next Saudi show will be).  A bunch of matches, some interesting, some not.  What's disturbing is how much time they've spent hyping this Triple H-Undertaker match.  Two guys with a combined age of 102 are supposed to even touch what they did six-and-a-half years ago?  Get real.  And it's all leading to the in-ring return of Shawn Michaels in a month, in a meaningless old timers tag team match.  Chrissake...

Anyway, let's get to these picks; there are ten of these goddamn matches and I only care about five of them.

***The standings haven't moved since last month.  Dan leads with 66%, Dave and I are tied with 63%, and Landon's in the caboose with 57.5%.  With ten matches there's room for a shakeup.***



WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy


I couldn't point out either of these guys in a lineup and I don't think I've even seen a Buddy Murphy match in my life.  WWE needs to figure out a reason for anyone to care about this division.

Justin: Buddy's from Australia so I'll pick him for the hometown win.
Dan: Sure
Landon: Murphy
Dave: Really, Buddy Murphy?  Jesus.  Sure, Buddy.





Asuka & Naomi vs. The Iiconics


Remember when Asuka was a star?  Good times.  Now she's literally one of the girls.  This company couldn't get someone over if they spent four years building them up and headlined four consecutive WrestleManias with them.  I'm not sure I'll ever forgive how badly they fucked over Asuka.

Justin: Who gives a shit?  Iiconics get a cheap win I guess.
Dan: Iiconics
Landon: Iiconics
Dave: No clue.  Asuka/Naomi.





John Cena & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Elias


Remember when Kevin Owens was a star?  Good times.  Oh wait, I already did that bit.  Owens went from being RAW's top heel for a while to being Elias's sidekick.  Fuck this company.  And fuck this match.

Justin: Cena & Lashley
Dan: Yup
Landon: Cena and Lashley
Dave: Cena & Lashley


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling 2018 Preview & Predictions

Phew, another NJPW show is upon us.  I need a rest.


Anyway, this Monday is New Japan's biggest show of the season traditionally, King of Pro-Wrestling.  Oddly the company decided to hold off on announcing ANY matches for this thing until Fighting Spirit Unleashed was over, thus only giving themselves eight days to hype/sell out this show in a 10,000-seat venue.  Not the route I would've taken, but what do I know?

KOPW is less stacked than I could wish; the four big matches all look great, but the undercard is your standard multi-man tag fare.

So let's get after it...



IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask

I don't know what happened to this division.  The Bucks leave and it goes straight to hell.  Why Sho & Yoh aren't having a dominant title run right now or at least persistently chasing the champs is beyond me.  So it's the Jr. Suzuki-Gun guys against the two old dudes.  I mean, it'll be entertaining but kind of a fluff match.

Justin: SZGN retains
Landon: Where did this match come from? I haven't been paying too much attention recently, was there build to this? As much as I'd like to see Tiger Mask in a defender's position again, Despy and Kanemaru retain.




Great Bash Heel vs. Juice Robinson & Toa Henare

Not much going on here.  Juice just dropped the US Title so he could use a win.

Justin: Juice & Toa
Landon: I still have no clue why Juice lost the title. The amazing win against Jay White was the most momentum Juice had in his career, but the G1 did more damage than help I think, and losing the belt was a cold stop in my eyes. I guess Juice and Henare win here?


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Top Ten Things: Stephen King Film Adaptations

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I was told recently that I seem to do a lot of top ten lists of things I hate.  I'm pretty sure I've posted way more lists about things I like, but here's another one.  So suck on it, Larry.

Stephen King.  Perhaps no two proper nouns better exemplify the horror genre.  The very name sounds somehow sinister, like you can't say it without the gritty "movie trailer" voice.  Go ahead, try it.  When I was first introduced to King's work as a child there was something intimidating about that name with the imposing logo his publisher used at the time.

This one.  Looks so badass and they never should've changed it.

Thirty-some years later and Stephen King has produced more timeless horror stories and iconography than any other author.  He is the Edgar Allen Poe of his generation, and continues to churn out novels at a superhuman pace.  To borrow a line from Hamilton, he writes like he's running out of time.

King found success as a muse for Hollywood films very early in his career, selling his first novel Carrie for film adaptation only about a year after it was published.  From then on, King's work became an inspirational gold mine for filmmakers, to the point that in 1977 he began granting film rights to aspiring auteurs and students for only one dollar, provided the films would never be shown commercially without explicit permission.  As for Hollywood, the films inspired by King's writings over the years have grossed over $2.3 billion domestically when adjusted for inflation, with the latest, It, smashing numerous box office records in its opening weekend.

Stephen King's stories and novels have always lent themselves well to cinematic interpretation, and while the results are sometimes mixed, his works have indeed inspired some bona fide film classics.  Below are ten such examples....




10. Christine


One master of horror adapting another, John Carpenter's 1983 film version of King's novel is one of the great "killer car" stories.  Nerdy high school kid Arnie Cunningham falls in love with and buys a dilapidated (and unbeknownst to him, possessed) 1958 Plymouth, restoring it to pristine condition and gradually becoming its servant, at the expense of his actual friendships.  "Christine" then begins attacking Arnie's enemies and even displays the ability to repair itself after being damaged (In a scene that totally blew my mind as a kid).  John Carpenter spectacularly brings to life the evil car, imbuing it with the villainous idiosyncrasies of a human character and giving us one of the screen's most frightening vehicles.






9. The Running Man


This one a) hardly even qualifies as a Stephen King movie and b) is the guiltiest of pleasures.  King's novel The Running Man (published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym) is rife with sociopolitical commentary in addition to being a taut-as-fuck suspense/action thriller.  The protagonist volunteers for a sadistic game/reality show where he'll be hunted down by the authorities for a full month.  If he wins he gets one billion dollars.  If he gets caught he dies.  This novel is harrowing and smartly written, with a sensational climax.  The film on the other hand is a dumb, goofy Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle with pro wrestling-style villains and cartoonish set pieces.  But goddamn is it a lotta fun.  In the film, The Running Man is simply an American Gladiators-esque game show where convicted criminals face off against suped-up military types, and if they survive they get a full pardon.  Arnold's character (wrongly convicted of mass murder) not only has to escape over-the-top villains like Buzzsaw and Dynamo, but is also tasked with finding his friends' hidden resistance base, in the hopes of hijacking the TV signal and clearing his name.  As I said, this has VERY little in common with its source material but it's still an exceedingly enjoyable cheesy action film from a bygone era.  That said, I'm dying for someone to do a faithful adaptation.  (Check out my in-depth analysis HERE)






8. Carrie


The one that started it all, Brian DePalma's adaptation of King's first novel blended supernatural horror elements with an intimate character study.  Sissy Spacek shines as the socially crippled, telekinetically gifted title character, who is bullied by both her schoolmates and her overbearing, religiously fanatical mother (a crazy-scary Piper Laurie).  The film has an almost dreamlike quality, with washed-out visuals and plenty of DePalma's signature slow-mo technique.  It all builds to the iconic, horrifying climax where Carrie, soaked in pig's blood as the result of a cruel prank, lashes out at the entire school and later has a final showdown with her psychotic mom.  Boasting two excellent lead performances and one of the all-time classic climaxes, Carrie helped launch the careers of both King and DePalma and proved a highly influential example of its genre.