Monday, July 30, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Last Action Hero

Welcome to yet another Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I, your faithful Enuffa.com editor, examine an old classic cinema turd and analyze its pros and cons.


Today it's the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop, Last Action Hero!  Released just a week after the mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park, LAH didn't stand a chance at the box office and it predictably died a quick death.  Last Action Hero tells the story of Danny Madigan, a 12-year-old boy obsessed with Schwarzenegger movies, specifically his fictitious Jack Slater series.  Danny frequently cuts school to visit a nearby run-down theater, owned by his elderly friend Nick.  One night Nick invites Danny to a private midnight screening of Jack Slater IV, and gives him an old-timey movie ticket which was supposedly a gift from Harry Houdini.  Unbeknownst to both of them, the ticket has magical properties, and upon being torn in half, it opens a portal between the real world and the one on the screen.  Danny unwittingly winds up inside the film and becomes Jack Slater's sidekick, and eventually both of them pursue the film's main villain Mr. Benedict back to the real world to save the real Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is an unabashedly silly premise that had already been much more skillfully explored in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, where Mia Farrow's character goes to see a film so many times one of the characters begins interacting with her and escapes the confines of the screen.  You won't find Purple Rose in an ASM column, as there isn't anything shitty about it - it's a very smart, well-made film, unlike this one.  Still, despite being a dumbed down echo of Purple Rose, Last Action Hero is not without its charm; it has some entertaining action scenes sprinkled with satire, plus some fun comedy elements.  But yeah, there's a lot wrong with it too. 



The Awesome

Satire

Going into this movie I was pleasantly surprised by how much the filmmakers satirized the concept of the summer blockbuster.  Last Action Hero pokes fun at the action movie genre at almost every turn (not unlike the way Scream picks apart horror films - RIP Wes Craven), which for a movie nerd like me made for quite a lark.  Arnold seems right at home dissecting the very type of film that made him an international megastar, and it's refreshing to see a mainstream commercial movie actor not take himself too seriously.  Inside the Jack Slater movie Danny is able to consistently predict what's about to happen because everything in the movie is an action film cliche.  And of course being an action movie cliche himself, Jack has no idea; on the contrary, he keeps insisting his world is real.  This all made for an amusing, self-aware tone at a time when the action film genre was in desperate need of a shakeup.


Little Details

This movie is full of fun little moments and in-jokes, like when Danny takes Jack to a video store to prove he's a fictional character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Terminator 2 standee they find depicts the T-800 played by Sylvester Stallone instead.  I also found Danny's action movie daydream version of Hamlet as played by Arnold pretty damn funny ("To be, or not to be....not to be," **Cue explosion**).  There are numerous cameos as well, like Robert Patrick as a T-1000, Sharon Stone as Catherine Trammel (from Basic Instinct), Danny Devito as an animated police cat, Ian McKellan as Death (from The Seventh Seal), and others.  LAH is full of little sight gags and Easter eggs.

Heh.....

Friday, July 27, 2018

Top Ten Things: July PPV Matches

Welcome to another edition of Enuffa.com's Top Ten Things, where I assemble a list of ten something-or-others and what-have-yous and decide what order they should go in.

Today I have a list of the ten greatest July PPV matches of all time.  The July PPV wasn't invented until 1988, when the NWA created a Great American Bash special headlined by Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger for the World Title.  For years the NWA/WCW was alone in presenting a PPV event in July, but in 1995 the WWF jumped in, filling the monthly gaps in their PPV schedule with a series of In Your House shows.  In 20 years nary a July has gone by without a PPV event.  While none of the Big Four shows have ever taken place during this month, the annual B-shows have supplied some real classics, some of which I'll talk about, startiiiiing...............now.




10. Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys - GAB '90 - 7/7/90


In 1990 the Midnight Express delivered some of the best matches of their career, and some of the best matches that year.  After dethroning US Tag Champs Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk at Capitol Combat, the Midnights defended against hot new babyface team The Southern Boys (Tracey Smothers and Steve Armstrong) at the Great American Bash.  The result was a blazing 18-minute tag team clinic that saw the Midnights retain.  In a rather poor in-ring year for the NWA, the US Tag division stood above the rest.




9. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn - Battleground - 7/24/16


These former best friends-turned hated rivals clashed one last time at the 2016 Battleground, in a match intended to put their epic feud to bed forever.  And what a battle it was.  Zayn and Owens know each other so well and have worked together so long they'd be hard-pressed to have a bad match, but this bout pulled out all the stops and ratcheted up the drama.  After a brief feeling-out process the big moves appeared fairly early in the match, with Zayn nearly killing himself on an errant springboard moonsault.  Owens then attacked Zayn's vulnerable right arm before Zayn staged a late-match comeback, complete with multiple brutal-looking half-nelson suplexes.  After several unsuccessful attempts to hit the Helluva Kick, Zayn finally nailed the move, picked Owens up almost with a look of regret, and hit a second for the win.  This match easily stole the show and proved one of WWE's best bouts of the year, while giving Zayn a much-need big win.




8. Jeff Hardy vs. Rob Van Dam - Invasion - 7/21/01


The Invasion PPV should've been the start of the greatest angle in wrestling history.  Unfortunately the WWF misfired at almost every turn, burying just about every non-WWF guy in the process.  The one import that caught fire though was Rob Van Dam, who for about six months was pushed to the moon, beginning with this Hardcore Title match against Jeff Hardy.  The two daredevils traded breathtaking high spots in a match that ranged all over the arena, before Van Dam snared his first taste of WWF gold.  The Invasion show may have been a disappointment but this match delivered huge.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Parents' Night In #10: Jaws (1975)

Kelly and Justin are back to talk about one of their all-time favorite films, one they just GOTS ta watch every summer, the Spielberg masterpiece JAWS!




Thanks for watching!  Don't forget to subscribe and join us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (@EnuffaDotCom)!


Book Review: The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era


Chad "The Doc" Matthews of LordsofPain.net fame is back with another countdown of the top 100 something-or-others of the WrestleMania Era (for Doc's purposes that's 1983 to the present).  While his previous tomes focused on the greatest stars and champions of said era, his latest volume deals with the top 100 matches and rivalries of the past 35 years in both WWE and WCW.

Matthews' intent here is to create an objective match/feud ranking, taking into account not only the quality of key matches, but the buildup to them, the character interactions, and the feud's overall impact on the business for its time (The end of the book covers his scoring methodology in detail if you're interested).  After poring through decades of matches and moments, Chad put each candidate head-to-head with its peers in an attempt to nail down a definitive Top 100 that any wrestling fan can reasonably agree with.  As with all art forms, there is of course an unavoidable element of subjectivity when trying to argue that Match/Rivalry A is better than B, but Matthews does present a lucid, pretty compelling argument for the placement of each entry.

There are definitely inclusions (and exclusions) I didn't agree with, but I have to give the author credit for making a strong case for his rankings.  For example Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels being in the top 40, above many other feuds/matches I would deem far superior.  I wasn't a fan of this feud or match in general at the time and I've never felt the urge to revisit it.  But between Hogan-HBK drawing a very strong buyrate, Shawn managing to carry the entire feud on his own (Hogan opted not to appear on basically any TV leading up to the match), and Shawn getting out of Hogan one of his best-ever bouts (though hardly one of Shawn's best), I can at least appreciate why Matthews rates it so highly.  If you've read Doc's LOP columns you already know he's a fair and well-reasoned debater, and that comes across in the book as well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Top Ten Things: Worst WWF/E Tag Team Champions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things devoted to piss-poor championship title reigns!  As you may have guessed from my previous entries (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), I like complaining about crappy champions.  So thought I'd continue doing so.  Admit it, you're happy to read more of it.


Anyway, today I'm tackling the subject of weakest WWF/E Tag Team Championship reigns of all time.  The WWE Tag Championship dates back, in some form, to the company's 1963 inception (and even earlier; the WWWF United States Tag Titles were created in 1958).  After a couple different incarnations, the World Tag Team Championship as it was known for decades was created in 1971 and was first worn by Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler (who captured the titles via a REAL tournament, as opposed to the imaginary ones Buddy Rogers and Pat Patterson won for their respective inaugural titles).  This version of the tag belts was around until 2010 when they were merged with the WWE Tag Team Titles (from Smackdown), and for some reason the current RAW Tag belts follow that newer lineage that began in 2002, while the current Smackdown Tag belts only date back to 2016.  I don't get it either.

Regardless, this particular set of belts has a rich, storied history, and just about every team that was anyone possessed them at one time or another.  For years the longevity record was held by Demolition, who had a stranglehold on the titles for 16 months.  Recently though The New Day eclipsed that record, but again the current set of belts is supposedly not the same as the old one.  I dunno.  Fuck it.

That's all irrelevant, I'm just here to talk about the shitty champions, so here we go, in chronological order.....



1. 1-2-3 Kid & Marty Janetty (1994)


As with the previous Worst Champions lists, there are some entries here that aren't intrinsically undeserving, but made the list due to the way their title run was booked.  Our first example is one such....example.  In January of 1994 this upstart team, fresh off winning their Survivor Series match two months earlier (outlasting fellow team members Razor Ramon and Randy Savage, plus opponents IRS, Diesel, Adam Bomb and Rick Martel) got a title shot against The Quebecers on Monday Night RAW and shocked everyone by winning the straps.  This was an exciting title change for rising underdog Sean Waltman and Shawn Michaels' former sidekick, and it seemed like the company had made a brand new star babyface tag team.  Aaaand then they dropped the belts back to The Quebecers at a house show one week later and were never heard from again as a team.  Pointless.





2. Men on a Mission (1994)


Another short-lived title run in between Quebecer stints took place over a two-day period in England, only two months after Kid & Marty's.  Mo and Mabel, the goofy but sorta dominant babyface tandem who took The Quebecers to the limit at WrestleMania X, finally got the job done at a house show two weeks after 'Mania.  What an accomplishment, and what a treat for the British fans--- oh wait, they lost the belts back 48 hours later.  And like Marty and Waltman, they'd never win them again.  Look, I wasn't the biggest MOM fan by any means, but what is the point of giving a team a championship for two days and never putting them anywhere near said championship again?  And what was with Jacques and Pierre temporarily losing the belts over and over?




Monday, July 23, 2018

Brewery Reviewery: One Love Brewery (Lincoln, NH)

Welcome to another Brewery Reviewery here at Enuffa.com, where I sample some local beer flavor and tell you all what I think.


 
One Love Brewery
25 South Mountain Rd Unit 4
Lincoln, NH 03251

My latest brewery visit took place at One Love Brewery in Lincoln, NH, on the main drag through town, just off of 93.  The family and I had just taken in a movie and wanted to grab a bite for lunch, and I wanted to drink some goddamn beers.


One Love is a German-style pub with a traditional feel; lots of wood with an open, multi-floor seating plan and 19th century decor; a very welcoming atmosphere.  The food there is your typical pub fare, with lots of comfort food options plus German favorites like pretzels with beer cheese and spicy mustard (We had a serving of those and they were quite tasty).  I wasn't super hungry so I just had a garden salad for my lunch entree, and it was actually very nice.  I do love me some balsamic dressing.


But beer is the reason I'm here, so let's get to that.

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW World Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I gripe about yet another wrestling championship whose prestige has been sharted on because of nonsensical title reigns.  Christ guys, get it together....


Today I'm talkin' about the granddaddy of them all.  The original holy grail of pro wrestling.  The NWA/WCW World Heavyweight Championship.  It's the one that supposedly dates back to 1905 when wrestling was on the level.  In actuality it can only be traced back to 1948, and the WCW version ceased to be recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance as of 1991.  The actual NWA World Title is still in existence today, after a five-year association with TNA.  But since the NWA's current footprint is quite small nowadays I'll only be discussing the two versions that were truly considered World Titles - the original incarnation from 1948-1991, and the WCW World Title which covered 1991-2001.  For many years this championship was THE most prestigious in wrestling.  Before WWE became the juggernaut it is today, Vince Sr's northeast WWWF promotion was an upstart offshoot of the NWA, and thus their top championship wasn't considered quite as big a deal as the NWA's.  Ditto for the AWA World Title (established in 1960).  For a good twenty years the NWA World Title was the big one.  And then in the mid-90s when WCW surged in popularity, their version of the World Title was viewed as the top belt in the game.  For a little while anyway.  But both versions of the championship had their share of stinker champs.  Here are ten of them..... 





1. Tommy Rich (1981)


For a long time Rich was the youngest-ever World Champion.  A popular mainstay in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Rich upset the legendary Harley Race for the belt at the age of 24.  And then he lost it back to Race four days later.  What the hell was the point you ask?  Apparently the switch was done to gain promoter Jim Barnett power within the NWA.  But Jeezus Christ this was stupid, and given that Rich never attained world championship status again, this ensured his career peaked very early.  If you're gonna give a young, unlikely babyface a run with your top belt, at least give him a chance to see how he does.  Otherwise skip it.





2. Kerry Von Erich (1984)


Ugh, Kerry Von Erich stunk.  Seriously, I never liked this guy, and it still bugs me that of all people he got to beat Ric Flair for the belt, less than six months removed from Flair's epic Starrcade '83 win.  I know the original plan was for Kerry's brother David Von Erich to become the NWA's new top babyface before he died, but did we really need to put the belt on Kerry for 18 days just as a tribute?  The match wasn't even that good, and they had to put the belt back on Flair anyway because he had a big match scheduled against Steamboat.  If making Kerry the Champion is gonna get in the way of the match you're really serious about promoting, what's the point of doing it?





3. Ron Garvin (1987)


Speaking of unworthy dudes getting to defeat Flair, in 1987 the NWA was looking to set up a huge main event for Starrcade, particularly since the WWF had countered the flagship supercard with the inaugural Survivor Series.  The idea was for someone to unseat Flair as the champion so Flair could win the title back in grand fashion at Starrcade.  Problem was, no one wanted to be a transitional champion for two lousy months, but Garvin took the job (for which I don't blame him; he was 42 years old at the time).  So Garvin was booked to win the belt in September, and then didn't defend it for two months.  Don't ask me why - a handful of good title defenses would've at least made him look like he belonged in that spot.  Flair of course regained the title at the big PPV, and on the bright side, the match was pretty great.  But Ronnie Garvin was never really presented as World Champ material and his career never reached anywhere near that level again.  They really should've just let Barry Windham beat Flair at the Crockett Cup in April, have a solid seven-month run, and then lose it back at Starrcade.  That would've been something.



Sunday, July 22, 2018

Top Ten Things: Disappointing Wrestling PPVs

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

Today's topic is something we can all relate to as wrestling fans.  You're all set up in front of the TV, maybe with a beer in hand, maybe some popcorn, maybe a slice of pizza, maybe a nice wholesome bowl o' broccoli.  That warning screen flashes, instructing you against the unauthorized reception of the upcoming broadcast, and the anticipation has reached a fever pitch.  You can't wait to see three or four hours of wrestling awesomeness unfold before your eyes.......And then you're treated to sports-entertainment shit sandwich.  Nothing about the show lives up to your expectations.  Your world crumbles around you.  And you're goddamn pissed.  The following are ten examples of such an experience for me.....



10. WrestleMania IV


After the unequivocal success (both commercial and critical) of WrestleMania III, the WWF had their work cut out for them to somehow make the followup even bigger than the Hogan vs. Andre-headlined blockbuster.  They decided that a first-time-ever WWF Championship tournament would do the trick, and booked a brilliantly-executed swerve to vacate the Title.  This 14-man tourney would be the centerpiece of WrestleMania IV, but the card would include a staggering eighteen scheduled bouts (only sixteen took place due to tournament draws) over a period of four hours.  If that sounds like an overloaded show, that's because it was.  There were simply too many matches crammed into this PPV and thus nothing got enough time to shine; the tournament final was given a skimpy nine-and-a-half minutes, making it the shortest WrestleMania main event ever until 1993.  Where WrestleMania III featured both an in-ring masterpiece (Savage vs. Steamboat) and a tremendously entertaining spectacle (Hogan vs. Andre), 'Mania IV boasted no truly memorable bouts, and aside from Randy Savage's Championship coronation in the finale, boasted nary an historic moment.  Couple all this with a largely uninterested live crowd comprised mostly of business guests of Donald Trump's, and what ensued was a dull, dreary WrestleMania that served as the WWF's worst PPV of 1988.




9. Great American Bash '88


The NWA's third-ever PPV event featured two huge firsts, Ric Flair defending the World Title against his former Horsemen protege Lex Luger, and a monumental five-on-five war inside a three-decker steel cage.  Going into this I couldn't wait to see how this incredible, foreboding structure would be utilized, and I anticipated the company's new top babyface dethroning the heel Champion.  Well, Luger came up short of the Title in just about the stupidest way possible - the Maryland State Athletic Commission stopped the match because Luger was bleeding from the forehead, despite Luger having snared Flair in his Torture Rack finisher.  And the Tower of Doom as it was called consisted of the two teams essentially trying to race each other from the top cage to the bottom so they could each run away from the battle.  This match was both boring and confusing to watch.  Elsewhere on the card we got two very good tag team matches, neither of which had a clean finish, and a Barry Windham-Dusty Rhodes US Title match involving a heel turn that made no sense, from someone not involved in the match whatsoever (Ronnie Garvin).  The nonsensical booking turned what should've been a pretty great show into an overthought calamity with almost no satisfying finishes.  Fortunately the company would refocus under the new Ted Turner regime and string together several great PPVs over the next year and a half.




8. Survivor Series 1990


The 1990 edition of this Thanksgiving PPV introduced a new wrinkle.  Not only would we be treated to the usual series of team elimination matches, but the survivors of each bout would meet at the end for a climactic Survival Match.  Also the company teased the debut of a new character for weeks leading up to the event, as a giant egg appeared on WWF television  and would apparently hatch at the PPV.  The resulting show featured abbreviated elimination matches, the one involving WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior stuck in the opening slot, and the big egg-hatching reveal turned out to be a man in a turkey suit dancing with Gene Okerlund.  The Gobbledygooker was never involved in any match or storyline going forward and served no purpose whatsoever.  Finally the big Survival Match main event went a scant 9:31 and played out like a warmup showcase for Warrior and Hulk Hogan.  This PPV was a poorly assembled mess except for the debut of The Undertaker, the only good thing it's remembered for.



Saturday, July 21, 2018

Toys That Pissed Us Off: Playsets

Welcome to a new feature here at Enuffa.com!   Today our very own Dan Moore and I will discuss some of the toy playsets from our respective youts (What is a yout?) that really burned our asses for one reason or another.

Playsets in theory were all kinds of awesome.  You had your action figures and were all set to reenact some awesome movie sequence or what have you, but you needed a setting for the excitement to take place in.  You could either use your imagination and pretend the top of your dresser was the Death Star, or you could fashion something out of cardboard boxes, or you could be like the cool kids and get the officially licensed playset specifically designed to go with your toys.  And when it was good, it was AWESOME.  The G.I. Joe line for example boasted nary a bad playset.  From the Defiant shuttle to the Cobra Terror Drome, to the massive 7.5-foot USS Flagg, those playsets set the standard for action figure accessories.  Sadly not all playsets were so well-thought out.  Here are eleven such examples, in no particular order.

We'll start with one of the most beloved toy franchises, the original Kenner Star Wars line.




1. Jabba's Throne Room


Justin: Let's get one thing out of the way - the Jabba figure itself was spectacular.  It was easily one of the best Star Wars toys Kenner ever produced, with incredible detail, movable arms and a tail that twitched when you turned Jabba's head.  This toy looked fantastic.  His throne though was a different story.  The detail looked good, and it included a trap door into which Jabba could send his victims to be eaten by the Rancor.  But there were one or two problems.  First off, the trap door was the surface the Jabba toy sat on.  So you'd have to remove Jabba to access it.  Second, the door opened OUTWARD.  The hell kinda trap door opens up like that?  The victim would be catapulted across the room!  Third, the area under the trap door was so shallow your Luke figure could only be placed there in a horizontal position.  So there was no reenacting the Rancor scene with this stupid toy.

Dan: I wanted to LOVE this fucking playset. My cousin Jefferey told me all about it before I got it. How cool Jabba was. How awesome all the accessories were. And that it had a working pit. I was fucking PSYCHED. I had one of those Inhumanoid giant toys who could double for the Rancor so I was ready to play.

This giant fellow in the middle?  Oh yeah, Rancor on 'roids!

And then I got the dumpster fart of a playset. Realizing that my dreams of having Luke get chased around under Jabba were crushed, I quickly dispatched with the playset itself and recreated one on my own out of a plain cardboard box, like a true poor person.






2. Ewok Village


Justin: To be fair, this was a pretty impressive playset for its time.  A big walkway area with a fire pit, over which you could pretend the Ewoks were roasting a person, a tree elevator, and a net for capturing unwitting Rebels underneath.  But compared to the setting in the film this was really skimpy.  Only one place to roast people?  A net underneath the village instead of off in the woods nearby?  An elevator that only holds like two people at a time?  Not to mention very little actually happened in the Ewok village in the movie - all the Endor action took place in the open woods.

Dan: I actually loved this playset a lot. But yes, my initial bitching about it was that there was no room to cook up both a Skywalker AND a Solo. I was PISSED. I refashioned the useless elevator into another roasting pit and I was happy about that. My parents were not happy, however, years later when they bought the Sherwood Forest playset from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and realized it’s the SAME FUCKING TOY.



Also, the Friar Tuck toy was a Pig Guard from Jabba’s palace with a new head. Blew my mind



Friday, July 20, 2018

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1991)

Alright, time to hold my nose as I review this stinker.....


Legend vs. Legacy - Baltimore Arena - 7.14.91

Oh wait, scratch that.  Change of plans....

Luger vs. Windham - 7.14.91

In a scant two years the NWA (morphing into WCW) went from being at the top of its game to being in absolute creative shambles.  Nowhere is this more evident than at their 1991 summer spectacular.  Ric Flair, the NWA's top star for the past decade, had reached a contractual impasse with the new management (led by the cosmically inept Jim Herd) and was forced out of the company while still in possession of its top championship.  His scheduled match with Lex Luger was thus off, and WCW's scrambling to plug this roster hole seemed to have a domino effect on the rest of this PPV.  Once again they shoehorned eleven matches onto a three-hour broadcast, and once again most of the matches belonged in a wrestling dump heap.

Case in fucking point: Steve Austin & Terrence Taylor vs. Bobby Eaton & PN News in a Capture the Flag Scaffold Match.  Sweet merciful Christ, what the hell was this?  Scaffold matches in general are terrible, but this achieved new levels of putrid.  The scaffold itself looked so rickety and unsafe I don't know how these four guys were even coaxed up there.  Once on the platform they did basically nothing for the better part of ten minutes, aside from trying to not die.  After several agonizing minutes of a match three of these four guys should've been mortified to have on their resumes (I'll let you guess which three), Bobby Eaton captured the other team's flag to euthanize this shitshow.

Absolute drivel

Next up was one of several not-ready-for-PPV bouts: Tom Zenk vs. Diamond Stud, a forgettable free TV match featuring an enormously jacked Scott Hall a year before he jumped to the WWF and mainstream success.  Stud won after some interference from DDP.  Moving on....

We go from the future Razor Ramon to the future Diesel, as Ron Simmons faced Oz.  Apparently every match on this show featured a future WWF talent from 1996.  This also belonged nowhere near a PPV.  A portly Kevin Nash looked lost for most of this, yet somehow got to dominate the match.  Eventually Ron Simmons woke everyone up with a clothesline that sent Oz over the ropes, but Oz soon took over again.  Simmons eventually won with a powerslam.

Simmons' reaction upon learning he'd be working with Oz: ".....DAMN!"

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Top Ten Things: Star Trek Films

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


I've been a Star Trek fan since about the age of four when my parents were watching the original series on TV and I wandered into the room to see a weird dude with pointy ears and a bowl cut prattling on about space anomalies and whatnot.  From then I was hooked, and despite not understanding much of the sci-fi technobabble at that age, I could somehow easily identify with the gallant Captain Kirk, the crotchety Dr. McCoy, and of course the computer-minded Mr. Spock.  My fandom increased tenfold in the early 80s when I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and these characters and their adventures were presented on a much larger scale.  We were still treated to philosophical explorations of the human condition, but with much slicker production values and effects.

The Star Trek films were major events for me every 2-3 years and some of them still hold up among my favorite science fiction movies.  We're currently in the middle of the third series of films; from 1979-1991 the original Star Trek cast graced the big screen, and then from 1994-2002 the Next Generation crew got their turn.  Finally in 2009 Paramount rebooted the series completely, recasting the original characters and converting Star Trek into more of a Star Wars-esque action franchise.

But how do the 13 movies stack up against each other?  This being a Top Ten Things column I'll only talk briefly about the three films I've ranked at the bottom.

Star Trek: Insurrection has to be the weakest in the entire series, with its half-hearted storyline about a society of 600 Ba'ku hogging the life-extending resources of an entire planet at the expense of their dying brethren the Son'a.  And for some reason the Enterprise helps the Ba'ku stay there.  Huh??  Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Next up is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a nigh-unwatchable mess of a film that clearly suffered from a Hollywood writer's strike, leaving director William Shatner without a coherent script.  This film cost $33 million, more than any previous Star Trek movie, yet the effects are Original Series bad.  Basically everything went wrong here, and the film fails to find a middle ground between goofy comedy and heavy emotional drama.

Our final entry to fall short of the top ten is Star Trek: Generations, the one that kicked off the NextGen films.  Generations has some fun moments but its convoluted plot involving an energy ribbon that somehow absorbs people and lets them live out their wildest fantasies simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny, nor does the shoehorned involvement of Captain Kirk.  And did we really need to see the Klingons and their Bird of Prey AGAIN??

Now that we've gotten the worst of the bunch out of the way let's look at the top ten Star Trek films....





10. Star Trek Beyond


Here's a movie I had high hopes for.  I'd read that this was the closest the new series has gotten to capturing the philosophical, character-driven bent of the original show.  And while Beyond has a little of that - Kirk for example laments early on that the ongoing voyage is taking its toll on him and his crew - sadly the film plunges almost immediately into an extended action sequence that leaves the Enterprise in pieces in a matter of minutes.  They don't treat poor Enterprise well in these films, do they?  Anyway, the crew gets separated during the space battle and we learn a little about the villain Krall.  Mostly that his name is Krall.  Seriously, this film uses a fine actor like Idris Elba pretty shabbily.  He's given nothing to do in the first two acts except bark angrily, and it's not until the final half hour we're told his motivation and his true identity; by then it's hard to care.  What I liked about this film: Kirk had some solid character moments, McCoy and Scotty had more to do, the new character Jaylah was very cool and likable, Krall and Kirk had one poignant scene toward the end, and the Spock-Uhura romance was barely present.  What I didn't like: Krall is motivated by revenge just like the last three Star Trek villains, Krall is barely a character beyond that, there's once again too much emphasis on Star Wars-y action, and Spock's wig looks terrible.  Distractingly so.  Star Trek Beyond is the weakest of the current series.  And what exactly does "Beyond" refer to?






9. Star Trek: Nemesis


Nemesis is a guilty pleasure.  It's a pretty terrible, unnecessarily dour affair featuring a young clone of Captain Picard trying to destroy the Enterprise, Romulus and Earth, and contains far too many Wrath of Khan callbacks and a go-nowhere subplot involving an earlier model of Data, but damn if it isn't entertaining drivel.  A young, far less jacked Tom Hardy plays Shinzon, Picard's clone who spent his childhood enslaved on Romulus's sister planet Remus, building up a severe hatred for both his Romulan oppressors and his "father" Picard.  He fashions a giant evil starship to exact his revenge, and all hell breaks loose.  This template of a revenge-obsessed villain with a gigantic ship would oddly be used in some form for all three reboot films, despite Nemesis tanking at the box office.  Still this film includes some of the best space battle sequences in the NextGen series, plus Tom Hardy!  But it's not good...






8. Star Trek (2009)


The 2009 reboot essentially took the original series characters, boiled them down to their most easily identifiable cursory traits, and turned them into action heroes.  This film is an all-thrusters-ahead popcorn movie that vaguely resembles the series we all know and love.  Casting was key here, and fortunately Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg do an admirable job of reimagining their characters while staying more or less true to their predecessors.  This film is all about setting up the new version of Star Trek and thus the main plot is fairly forgettable.  A revenge-hungry Romulan named Nero has been chasing a future incarnation of Mr. Spock through time in retaliation for Spock's failing to save Romulus from a supernova, and a space battle ensues between the brand new Enterprise and Nero's monstrous vessel.  Star Trek 2009 is full of slick visuals, engaging action and light humor but fails to explore profound human themes the way the original series did.  Still it's a fun popcorn movie with characters we can all relate to, thus it's better than 90% of the summer blockbusters these days.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

WWE Extreme Rules 2018: A Microcosm of Vince's Shitshow


Move over Backlash, there's a new sucky PPV sheriff in town.  Extreme Rules felt like WWE was actively trying to put on a bad show, between the filler matches, the multiple instances of counterproductive booking, and the noteworthy moments WWE expects everyone to remember in place of good wrestling.  This felt like a Bischoff-era WCW PPV, except without a show stealing Cruiserweight Title match.  I'm hard-pressed to pick a match of the night; only two bouts are in contention but neither of them was even on par with the opening G1 match on night 3 (Michael Elgin vs. Hangman Page).  WWE's product is in absolute shambles right now and it requires on my part a Herculean effort to even get annoyed with it.  That's how little I care.

The show opened with a pair of utterly forgettable matches, one of which featured a title change.  The B-Team defeated Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the RAW tag belts in a nothing, free TV-caliber match, and then Finn Balor "upset" Baron Corbin with a small package in another free TV-caliber match.  It's adorable they're still trying to present Corbin as any kind of threat, but no, I'm not buying it.  Balor's position in this company is so far beneath where he should be, but they have so many more issues beyond that I can't even focus on him.  *1/2 for the B-Team match, *3/4 for the Balor one.

Case in point, the systematic sabotage of Asuka in service of the least deserving women's champion since the Kelly Kelly era, Carmella.  I just want to sit down with Vince and ask him, "Why do you hate Asuka so much?"  I also want to sit down with Triple H and ask, "Why are you letting Vince destroy stars you've so carefully built?"  Going into WrestleMania 34 Asuka was something special.  An undefeated, legit badass with gargantuan charisma.  Three months later Asuka is just another one of the girls, just another dimwitted babyface who gets distracted by shiny objects at the expense of her title aspirations.  That a nothing in-ring talent like Carmella even beat Asuka to the championship, let alone got to pin her twice on PPV is a microcosm of how ass-backward Vince's booking philosophy is these days.  After five minutes of forgettable action, James Ellsworth predictably escaped his shark cage but got stuck hanging upside down, at which point Asuka forgot all about winning the title and instead beat up Ellsworth.  And then Carmella rammed her into the shark cage and pinned her.  Asuka could not have been made to look more ineffectual if WWE were deliberately trying (and I'm convinced they were).  DUD



Monday, July 16, 2018

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1990)

The New Revolution - Baltimore Arena - 7.7.90

1989 to 1990 was quite a dropoff in quality for the NWA, and the Great American Bash PPV falls right in line with that.  The long-awaited Ric Flair vs. Sting showdown had been in the works for months, and was originally booked for WrestleWar that February.  But a knee injury sidelined Sting for four months and Lex Luger took his spot, turning babyface and feuding with Flair until Sting was ready.  While this was certainly a huge marquee match, I wasn't a Sting fan at the time and therefore wasn't particularly excited about his inevitable Title win.  I was also pissed that the company reverted just about all the top stars to where they were in 1988.  Flair and the Horsemen were the top heels, Luger was a babyface again.  It all felt like a retread.

As for this show, once again they crammed way too many matches in, and this time it was an astonishing eleven bouts, nearly half of which had no business on a PPV.

First up was Brian Pillman vs. Buddy Landell.  This was a decent enough opener, as Pillman was obviously quite accomplished and Landell was a solid hand.  I'm not sure what the purpose was though.  They weren't feuding and Pillman had come off of a really strong US Title program with Lex Luger, followed by a US Tag Title run.  Why was he being wasted in a throwaway showcase match?

Next was Mike Rotunda vs. The Iron Sheik.  Seeing mid-80s WWF guys like Sheik, Orndorff, Bob Orton, and Junkyard Dog show up in the NWA in 1990 was so strange.  I guess they just wanted recognizable names to help put over the younger NWA stars at this point.  Rotunda had given up his Varsity Club gimmick in favor of a sailor persona, which was beyond stupid.  Rotunda didn't have babyface charisma at all and the Captain Mike thing reeked of 80s jobber.  Mike won a brief match that was out of my head the moment it ended.

The third consecutive throwaway match on this show, Dutch Mantell vs. Doug Furnas was designed to showcase newcomer Furnas, but the match went on far longer than it needed to, and again, I'm not sure why this was included on a PPV.  Furnas won with an impressive belly-to-belly suplex after eleven ponderous minutes.

The oddly pleasant surprise of the night was Harley Race vs. Tommy Rich, in an incredibly physical match given Race's age (He was 47 but looked 60), that proved Race could still turn it up when he needed to.  Contrary to expectations, Race did most of the crazy bumping, including his usual back somersault over the ropes ending with his head hitting the ring apron.  This match had historical value since nine years earlier Rich upset Race for the NWA Title, but otherwise this was a superfluous match that was better than it had any right to be.

How'd Eaton not suffer massive spinal compression?

The proper PPV began with the Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys, another classic effort by Eaton and Lane.  In the tradition of MX's battles against The Rock n' Roll Express and The Fantastics, this match began with babyface team dominance as The Southern Boys stayed one step ahead of the Champs for the better part of ten minutes.  Eaton and Lane eventually took control after some heel tactics, and the match built to a melee with multiple finishers before Eaton rolled up Tracy Smothers in a small package for the win.  The Midnights were in peak form in 1990 and this was one of the highlights of their year.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a film that is horribly, deeply, life-wreckingly flawed but for one reason or another I can't help tossing it into the DVD player every so often.


Today the film in question is the third installment of the original Mad Max Trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.  I'm a huge fan of this series - the inaugural Mad Max is a mercilessly bleak dystopian film with an unrelentingly frantic pace, wherein our protagonist loses everything he cares about and becomes a sadistic revenge-seeker.  The second film, The Road Warrior, is simply one of the greatest action films I've ever seen.  This hugely influential piece of pop culture is essentially a Western set in a post-apocalyptic future, where Max has been aimlessly roaming the wasteland scavenging fuel and food, and lends his considerable survival skills to help a small band of colonists defeat a gang of homicidal marauders.

The first two movies make up two-thirds of a near-perfect trilogy.  Unfortunately, as with many trilogies, the third episode falls devastatingly short of expectations.  With Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, director George Miller stepped back into a Co-Director role after his longtime producer Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash.  Right off the bat this movie would lack the main driving creative force behind the first two films.  Still there was an interesting story to be told here, and some aspects of it worked quite well.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Beyond Thunderdome.


The Awesome


Mel Gibson

None of these movies would work at all without Mel Gibson's thoroughly compelling turn as the emotionally broken Max Rockatansky.  Gibson has lately revealed himself to be a totally crazy person with serious bigotry issues, but it's impossible to deny what an onscreen talent he used to be.  When I first heard they were making a new Max film without Gibson I couldn't possibly picture anyone else in the role (I have to admit though, Tom Hardy proved himself a fantastic choice).  Like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Bruce Willis as John McClane, Mel Gibson was born to play Max.  He brought rugged, taciturn charisma and a hardened heroic quality to this lonely but honorable character.  We're able to completely sympathize with him despite his moral ambiguity.

Max is a BAMF

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW/WWE US Champions

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com.  I'm on a freakin' roll with this Worst Champions series, so here we go again.


This time I'll be talking about the US Title, which started as the NWA's number-two Championship in 1975.  The US Title was extremely prestigious for many years, with the NWA automatically recognizing its owner as the #1 contender to the World Championship.  I always found this odd, since the US Champ almost never got a shot at the World Champ, but nonetheless it hammered home the idea that this was an extremely valuable belt that could headline a house show any day of the week (as long as the NWA Champion wasn't on the card).  Like the Intercontinental Title, winning the US Championship often served as a stepping stone for younger talents on their way to the big belt.  Between the NWA, WCW and WWE incarnations of the title, 18 men have won the US Championship on their way to one of the respective World Titles.  Still, as with any championship, this one was not without its share of weak-ass winners.  Here are ten such examples....





1. Michael Hayes (1989)


The flamboyant Michael Hayes was a well-known star by the time he returned to the NWA in early 1989.  He was a babyface initially, but turned heel on Lex Luger, joining Hiro Matsuda's short-lived stable that had replaced The Four Horsemen.  Hayes and Luger feuded, and Hayes captured the US Title at WrestleWar but lost it back two weeks later.  The idea of Hayes winning the belt wasn't inherently a bad one, but the execution was terrible.  The feud with Luger was clearly just a stop-gap until the summer, when Luger himself turned heel on Ricky Steamboat.  Meanwhile Hayes reformed the Fabulous Freebirds and got a run with the NWA Tag Team Titles.  This US Title run however just felt tacked-on and pointless.  It's like they weren't sure what to do with Hayes when they brought him back, and just tried a bunch of different things before he settled back into the role he was best suited for.





2. Jim Duggan (1994)


WCW circa 1994 was when Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan jettisoned nearly everything that made WCW what it was.  It instead became WWF-lite, where Hogan recycled numerous feuds already done better a decade earlier, brought in a host of his old pals, and gave them prominent spots on the roster.  Homegrown stars like Steve Austin got pushed aside in favor of former WWF stars from the 80s.  Case in point, when Jim Duggan debuted at Fall Brawl 1994 as the surprise challenger for Austin's US Title.  Austin was scheduled to challenge Ricky Steamboat, but Steamboat was injured and the belt was awarded to Austin via forfeit (a nonsensical way to have a title change hands, as I previously mentioned HERE).  Enter Duggan, who proceeded to squash Austin in 35 seconds for the strap.  Good thing Austin didn't have any star potential, huh?  Absurd.  Duggan would go on to get killed by Vader three months later, and remained a lower midcard guy the rest of his WCW run.  Oh, and that Steve Austin guy ended up making a different company quite a bit of money.






3. One Man Gang (1995)


Along those same lines, Hogan also brought in the One Man Gang, fresh off, well, four years of not much (He had a brief 1991 run in WCW but was fired late that year). Gang returned to WCW, got to be the last man eliminated in the inaugural World War 3 60-man battle royal (shades of the first Royal Rumble), and one month later upset Kensuke Sasaki for the belt at Starrcade '95......in a dark match at the end of the show.  Yeah, they booked a US Title match to take place after the PPV went off the air and had a title change occur.  Not only that, the match was restarted immediately and Sasaki regained the title, but the company didn't acknowledge the second title change.  'The fuck sense does that make?  You book two dark match title changes but ignore the second one?  Gang would hold the belt just over a month before dropping it to Konnan and disappearing from WCW only weeks later.  Just another case of WCW trying to revive the career of an irrelevant 80s WWF star and failing miserably.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mallrats

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I dissect a cinematic clunker that I also happen to enjoy.


Today's topic is Kevin Smith's second film Mallrats.  After the indie success of his smart, slacker-centric Clerks in 1994, Smith was given a much larger budget by Universal Studios to do basically the same type of movie.  But this time our pair of lovelorn, do-nothing 20-something protagonists spend their aimless free time at a mall, trying to repair their failed relationships.  Returning from Clerks are the zany supporting characters Jay & Silent Bob, who in this film are given some action-comedy set pieces and get to directly affect the plot.  The studio more or less took Smith's trademark formula and attempted to make it more mainstream, with very mixed results.  At the time I found this film unequivocally hilarious, but it's probably aged the worst of Smith's View Askewniverse outings.

So let's look at what worked and what didn't....



The Awesome


Jason Lee

Almost everything great about his movie begins and ends with Jason Lee.  The former skateboarder became a major find for Kevin Smith, who would cast him in numerous subsequent films.  But perhaps no role was as big a show stealer for Lee as Brodie Bruce, the mall-obsessed comic book and video game junkie whose lack of ambition has cost him his girlfriend Rene.  Lee's brilliantly vulgar, reactionary delivery is responsible for most of the film's best lines, and his natural charisma allows the viewer to identify and root for this character in spite of his many flaws and obnoxious persona.

I fuckin' love that guy.



Shannon Doherty

One of two principles cast for their name value, Shannon Doherty gives a harsh but oddly likable performance as the strong-willed, no-bullshit Rene, who's reached the end of her patience with her lazy, inattentive boyfriend.  The focus of the movie is on the male characters, but Doherty admirably conveys why the firebrand Rene is such a good match for Brodie.

Brenda??




Michael Rooker

Character actor Michael Rooker plays the film's main antagonist Jared Svenning, whose primary motivation is to keep T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) from dating his daughter.  Svenning is an aspiring game show producer/host whose pet project Truth or Date serves as the film's Maguffin.  Rooker plays this role with over-the-top relish, serving as both a villain and something of a buffoon who, as a television producer, is in over his head.

Don't eat the pretzels!


NJPW G1 Climax 28 Preview & Predictions

It's mid-July and that means it's time for the most exciting four weeks on anyone's wrestling calendar, when twenty of New Japan's top heavyweights compete in a round-robin tournament for a slot in the WrestleKingdom main event.  That's right, the G1 Climax is upon us!


This year's lineup is stacked as all hell, and similar to last year's (I'm not complaining by the way, the 2017 edition was pretty unanimously considered the greatest wrestling tournament of all time), but with championships having changed hands and certain participants looking to climb back up the mountain the stories should play out a little differently. 

For those of you new to the G1, the format is two blocks of ten, each of whom wrestles everyone else in his block once over the four weeks.  A win gets you 2 points, a draw gets you 1, a loss gets you 0.  The two block leaders at the end face each other in the Finals, and the winner gets the #1 Contender's briefcase to challenge for the IWGP Title at WrestleKingdom, but with a caveat.  Whoever had defeated the eventual winner during the course of the tournament gets to challenge him for said briefcase, which plays out over the fall PPV season.  Thus far the briefcase has never changed hands, but there's a first time for everything.  Also of note, since the implementation of the G1 briefcase in 2012, no G1 winners have gone on to dethrone the champion at the Tokyo Dome.  It is a great honor and accomplishment to win the G1 Climax but by no means is it a guarantee of becoming the IWGP Champion.  The G1 winners in the briefcase era were Kazuchika Okada in 2012, Tetsuya Naito in 2013, Kazuchika Okada again in 2014, Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2015, Kenny Omega in 2016, and Tetsuya Naito again in 2017.

But anyway, let's get to the analysis.  I'll talk briefly about the 20 participants and then offer predictions and most anticipated matchups in each block.



Block A

Kazuchika Okada

The former IWGP Champ enters his first G1 in four years without the cherished gold.  This radically changes the dynamic of his performances here, as he'll no longer be playing defense.  Instead Okada will need to scratch and claw his way to the top of the standings if he wants to main event WrestleKingdom for the fifth straight year.  We should feel a greater sense of urgency in his matches this time.  Okada is, I would think, a lock for the Finals and a heavy favorite to win it all.


 


Hiroshi Tanahashi

The previous company Ace still has some gas left in the tank.  Can he climb back up the mountain and get one more run with the belt?  Tanahashi's big matches the past year or two have carried a greater sense of desperation, as he struggles to stay at the level of his prime years.  Tana will last deep into this tournament but likely fall short on the last A block night, falling to Okada again.  Or will he?





Jay White

Fresh off losing the US Title in what has to be considered his best match to date, Jay White has gone full-on asshole heel and I love it.  Being a former champion, he'll obviously have a bigger chip on his shoulder which should garner electric heat and make his matches emotionally engaging.  Looking forward to seeing him grow as a performer over these four weeks.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WWE Extreme Rules 2018 Preview & Predictions


.......Sigh.......another lackluster WWE show is upon us, folks.  Time to pretend any of it's interesting and make some predictions.  It continues to baffle me how badly WWE wastes their insanely talented roster on boring, tired matchups while leaving potentially great ones on the table (or ruining them with stupid booking, a la AJ vs. Nakamura).  Of the ten scheduled matches this Sunday only two interest me, and there are a few others that should be decent despite my not caring about them.  Sooo, let's get to it I guess.  How did the B-PPVs actually get LESS interesting since they dual-branded them??

***Dave has taken the lead this season, with 26/42 (62%), Dan and I are tied with 25/42 (60%), and Landon has fallen slightly behind with 24/42 (57%).  But Jeezus, none of us are doing well, thanks to the nonsensical booking that's plagued the product since 'Mania.***





Pre-Show Tables Match: The New Day vs. SAnitY


This was just added.  Christ there's a lot of matches on this show.  Tables matches are usually lame.  New Day matches are usually good.  I'm so torn.  Anyway, SAnitY are the new team on the block so they win here.

Justin: SAnitY
Dan: 'The fuck is Sanity?  I don't even watch the shows anymore.  I don't care, Sanity wins.
Landon: SAnitY
Dave: New Day





Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin


First off, how the FUCK did this make the card but Sasha vs. Bayley still hasn't happened yet?  They've been teasing that goddamn feud since February!  Shit or get off the pot, for fuck's sake.  Anyway, I have zero interest in seeing Finn attempt to get a good match out of Corporate Corbin or whatever the hell they're calling him now (Yeah, I know, it's Constable - because there's been one of those in this country in the last 200 years).  Two years ago Finn became the first Universal Champion.  Now he's curtain-jerking (or worse) against a hump like Baron.  Welcome to WWE, home of the reverse ladder to success.

Justin: I guess Finn takes this?  Christ, I hope so.
Dan: Yeah Finn
Landon: Corbin
Dave: Finn I guess.





RAW Tag Team Championship: Deleter of Worlds vs. The B Team


I have a feeling this gets bumped to the pre-show.  Does anyone care about this match?  A mongrel tag team defending against a jobber tag team?  Pointless.

Justin: Matt & Bray retain
Dan: Matt & Bray
Landon: Champs retain
Dave: Matt & Bray





Extreme Rules RAW Women's Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax


Oh good, this match again.  Look, I enjoyed their first two outings.  In fact I'm one of the few who did.  But why do we need it again?  Ronda Rousey is going to be sitting at ringside for this so obviously it's setting up her next title shot at SummerSlam, presumably against Alexa.  I guess the Extreme Rules stip could make this different.

Justin: Alexa retains
Dan: Alexa
Landon: Alexa
Dave: Alexa but who cares?