Monday, September 30, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 - The Dream Master

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I pick apart the finer and lesser points of a piece of escapist cinematic entertainment and usually end up pissing someone off.  Following up our last installment about A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, let's take a look at its sequel, the Renny Harlin-directed romp, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master!


Nightmare 4 is the only episode of this series I saw in the movie theater, it having been released just before my thirteenth birthday.  I was old enough to convince my mom to take me to see it, and surprisingly she was pretty entertained by it.  My initial take was, "best of the series."  I loved the mix of horror and humor, I loved the idea of Freddy meeting his match in the dream-superpowered Alice, I loved the stylized look and special effects.  This film was everything a thirteen-year-old Freddy fan could want.

The fourth film in the series picks up a year after Nightmare 3.  The three survivors from that movie, Kristen, Joey and Kincaid, have been released from their group home and are back in high school, seemingly having moved past their shared trauma.  But Kristen begins dreaming once again about Freddy's house and boiler room and is convinced he's returning.  Joey and Kincaid don't agree, and begin to resent her for continuing to pull them into her dream.  Of course Freddy does return after being resurrected when Kincaid's dog pees on his grave, and he swiftly gets revenge on the last three Elm Street children.  But before her death, Kristen bequeaths her dream gifts onto her friend Alice, whom Freddy uses to pull other kids into her nightmares so he can continue killing.  Alice then must absorb the personality traits of all her friends and become a Dream Master so she can go toe-to-toe with everyone's favorite burned dream murderer.

By this point in the series things had become quite outlandish and comic booky, with Freddy's exploits leaning more toward dark comedy than pure horror.  This film doesn't quite veer into camp, but it definitely completed a four-film tonal shift from the original, before the fifth film returned to a darker feel.  On one hand you have to respect Renny Harlin's gleefully cartoonish take on this material, on the other hand you do miss Freddy being actually scary.  Let's take a look at what holds up and what doesn't, about Nightmare 4....


For our ASM article about Nightmare 3, click HERE



The Awesome


Alice

Probably the best thing about Nightmare 4 is the newly introduced character of Alice Johnson, in a dynamic, robust performance by Lisa Wilcox.  Unlike most horror protagonists she's given a real dramatic arc, going from mousy and awkward to confident and resilient, as she assimilates her friends' abilities after they die.  Alice is the daughter of a widowed, domineering, alcoholic father, who's trampled on her for so long she's all but retreated into herself (One nice touch is the use of Alice's mirror - she has it completely covered with photos of her friends because she doesn't like to look at herself, but at the end she takes all the photos down and embraces who she is).  But throughout the movie she keeps gaining strength, standing up to both her father and Freddy (metaphors, man).  This arc actually feels very relevant in 2019 and I couldn't help noticing how ahead of its time it was.  While the choice to totally shift to a new main character was jarring, they found in Alice a very relatable character with some nice dramatic substance to explore.  Her growth into the moniker of Dream Master also put Freddy on the defensive for the first time in the series, and Alice went on to be the only protagonist to survive two films.  As Sandra Bullock so eloquently quipped in Demolition Man, "He's really matched his meet.  You really licked his ass."

You go get him, Alice!




Nice Kids

One thing I found really refreshing about Nightmare 4 is the fact that the group of kids (with whom we actually get to spend some real time before everything goes to shit, unlike in Nightmare 3), despite being very different social types (Alice is a shy doormat, Rick is athletic martial arts enthusiast, Debbie is a fitness freak rocker chick, Dan is a football star, Sheila is an asthmatic science nerd), they all genuinely like each other.  There's no stereotypical high school bullying or cliques in this movie.  While that might not be the most realistic approach, it's something different for a movie about teenagers and since they're all likable we care what happens to them.  Nice people are more fun to spend time with.

The kids are alright.  In this movie.




Direction

Where Nightmare 3 was directed by a first-timer without much confidence or visual pinache, Finnish director Renny Harlin had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do, and a keen eye for dramatic, unique visuals.  He's really more suited as an action director, as his later work in Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight would illustrate.  But his unconventional approach allowed Nightmare 4 to look and feel different from its three predecessors, giving the film a sense of kinetic visual excitement Nightmare 3 lacked, and taking the comic booky aspect of Dream Warriors to the next level.  Harlin also contributed to last-minute script changes, as the film was produced during the 1988 Writer's Strike; considering the scrambling most of it turned out pretty well. 




Effects

Like Nightmare 3, the special effects here look great, even more polished thanks to a considerably bigger budget ($13 million compared to $5 million).  Freddy's resurrection is one of the film's highlights, as his skeleton literally grows muscle and flesh before our very eyes (think Toht's melting face in Raiders of the Lost Ark but played in reverse).  Another is the nod to David Cronenberg's The Fly, when Debbie's human form molts off her body and she turns into a cockroach.  Still another is Freddy's ultimate demeez, when the faces and hands of the children he's murdered reach out of his body and begin tearing him apart from the inside.  These are all fantastically well-executed effects that further add to the series' pedigree.





Dream Sequences

Along those same lines, the dream sequences are creative once again.  I'd say Nightmare 3's nightmares were overall more imaginative, but this stuff is nothing to sneeze at either.  The three aforementioned moments are all great, as is Alice's scene in the old-time movie theater where she gets pulled across the auditorium and into the screen.  There's also Sheila's death scene, where Freddy literally sucks all the air out of her body, and Joey's death, wherein the sexy model from one of his posters transports into his water bed before morphing into Freddy and pulling him under, after which Joey's mother then finds him drowned inside the waterbed.  So while the Freddy scenes aren't quite as neat as in the previous film, they're still pretty creative and fantastical.  The one real miss is Rick's karate-themed death, where he has to fistfight an invisible Freddy (a last-minute change from an elaborate elevator sequence which was cut for budgetary reasons).  But they can't all be good, can they?

Freddy doing his impression of a Dyson....




Robert Englund

As with every good Nightmare movie, Robert Englund is one of the reasons this one works.  The role of Englund's career, in this film almost bordering on anti-hero, is the claw-wielding maniac with the burned-up face.  The screenwriters veered a little too far into Arnold-esque bad comedy in this film - Freddy's dropping bad jokes like an unfunny dad this time - but Englund as always brings it to life with a mix of menace and levity.  Oh, and unlike in Part 1 and 3 his vocal timbre is consistent throughout!

Dat's a spicy meat-a-ball.


Alright I've said enough nice things.  Time to complain about some shit....




The Shitty


Tuesday Knight

Sorely missing from this film is Patricia Arquette as Kristen Parker.  Arquette was offered a handsome salary to reprise her role as the main protagonist from Nightmare 3, but turned it down because she wanted to avoid being typecast in horror roles.  Unfortunately she was hastily replaced by an actress who looked, sounded and talked nothing like her, in Tuesday Knight.  Knight's performance isn't so much bad (though she has some amateurish moments) as it is distracting.  Never once did my brain accept her as the same person Arquette played.  She was just some other teenager with the same color hair and the same friends.  Recasting a major character is tough; if you're gonna do it you have to make sure the performances match, and this one doesn't.

Who the hell are you and what did you do with Kristen??




Soft Reboot

One thing I've never been a fan of in sequels is when a character (or in this case three) survives a horrific ordeal in one film only to be neatly and efficiently killed off early in the next (see Alien 3).  It strikes me as near retconning; why did we watch Kristen, Joey and Kincaid muscle through Nightmare 3 if they'd all be dead in the first thirty minutes of this movie?  The first act of this film too often feels like we're rushing to get the old characters out of the way so we can get to Alice.  I get that we needed to transition to a new main character, but couldn't it have been handled more gracefully?  Or couldn't Lisa Wilcox simply have been cast as Kristen and gone through the same arc Alice did?  What if Kristen is now mousy and shy after spending months at a psychiatric ward and nearly being killed by a dream boogeyman?  And then her last two friends from that ordeal die, along with the new friends she's made, and she's forced to grow from Dream Warrior into Dream Master (They could even have her absorb the other Dream Warriors' powers like she takes on the traits of her new friends)?  Wouldn't that have worked just as well?  She'd still have the power to pull other people into her dream and inadvertently expose the new characters to Freddy's shenanigans, right?  Then it wouldn't feel so much like the producers were just starting over with this franchise and it would tie more closely into the events of Nightmare 3.




One-Liners

I mentioned earlier that Freddy was rewritten here as a pun and slogan machine, and unfortunately his penchant for lame jokes undermines his value as a horror villain.  It was Renny Harlin's mindset that after three films audiences wouldn't be scared of Freddy anymore, and in fact they'd sort of be rooting for him because he's such an entertaining character.  But I think they took that philosophy a bit too far in giving him a cheeseball one-liner every time he murders someone.  Some of them are Schwarzenegger in The Running Man-bad.  Just before Freddy kills Kristen and dares her to bring a friend into her dream - "Why don't you reach out and cut someone?"  When he meets Alice for the first time - "How sweet. Fresh meat."  When he shows up in Debbie's basement as she's lifting weights - "No pain, no gain."  When he traps Debbie in the roach motel - "You can check in but you can't check out."  When he confronts Alice in the diner - "If the food don't kill ya, the service will."  It's too much, jokester, tone it down.     




Freddy's Downfall

As I said before, it was very cool to finally see Freddy tangle with someone who could go toe-to-toe with him.  However I feel like Alice had it too easy.  They have a brief physical tussle, Freddy gets the upper hand, and then Alice remembers the Dream Master rhyme about evil seeing itself and dying, grabs a broken piece of stained glass window, and shows Freddy his reflection.  This causes the souls of all the children he's killed to rip him apart from the inside.  As I mentioned, I liked the effect of the arms pulling out of him, a very cool visual, but it felt like Alice arrived at this solution too quickly, and the idea of showing evil its own reflection is never built up to.  This rule is just introduced at the last minute.  Just seemed like this moment could've felt more earned.

Freddy's soul inbox is full....




Nitpicks

-As cool as Freddy's resurrection sequence is, something about it doesn't make any sense.  At the end of Nightmare 3 Freddy's physical remains are physically buried in a physically-consecrated grave, causing the nightmare version of Freddy to disintegrate.  But then in this movie Kincaid falls asleep and in the dream finds himself in the junkyard where Freddy's buried, and his dog Jason (hardy-har) pees on Freddy's grave, which resurrects him.  Umm, if Freddy's bones are buried in the real world, shouldn’t the dog peeing on the grave have to happen in the real world for Freddy to come back?  He's still buried in hallowed ground in real life, right?

-Did Kristen and her mom move to a new house in the last year?  Her room doesn't look a thing like it did in the previous movie.

-Wow Kristen’s mom is an insensitive bitch huh?  At dinner Kristen isn't eating and her mom goes "Something the matter with the cuisine?"  Kristen replies "When two of your friends die in the same day, let me know what it does to your appetite," and mom goes "You're just tired."  Really ma?  Literally every friend this girl has ever had is dead, and your response is to tell her she's just tired?  Know your audience, ya douche.  Under the circumstances I think Kristen's holding it together like a fuckin' miracle.

-The classrooms in this film are lit like a film noir.  I ain't never been in a classroom like that.  Do they allow smoking and crooked fedoras in this school?

-Debbie's death scene is one of the best in the movie, but there's just one problem.  Debbie isn't asleep when Freddy shows up - she's working out.  So how does anything in this scene even happen?  Did Debbie fall asleep mid-rep?

Who falls asleep while weightlifting?

-Near the end of the film Alice and Dan go after Freddy in Dan's truck, and Alice rams him.  But it turns out that was just in the dream, and in the real world they collided full-speed with a tree.  Dan is rushed to the hospital but somehow Alice is totally fine.  Umm, they'd both be fuckin' vegetables after that crash with no airbags.

-Anyone catch the references to Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow or James Cameron's Aliens?  Freddy's first line after being resurrected is "You shouldn't have let them bury me, I'm not dead," and late in the movie Alice says to Freddy "Get away from her, you son of a bitch!"  Not a nitpick, just a nice pair of Easter eggs.



Conclusion

The first four movies in this series are hard for me to rank definitively.  I like aspects of all of them but parts of each don't hold up so well in retrospect.  If you took the best bits of each film you'd have a damn near perfect Nightmare movie.  But I guess that's what's so fascinating about this series - every film is different.  Like the Alien movies, each director put his own stamp on the material, and since Freddy is a surrealist villain the rules are whatever you make them.  Nightmare 4 is the film that made Freddy almost an action-adventure villain, tossing out one-liners and relishing his own evil.  Renny Harlin's kinetic signature style is handled with such unapologetic confidence it's easy to get wrapped up in it and overlook the elements that don't work so well.  This film is a horror comic book, not scary but exhilarating, and features maybe the most interesting lead protagonist of the series.  Alice is a unique invention in the pantheon of slasher films, a young woman who goes from mousy pushover to badass hero, defeating the demon all on her own and getting the hot, popular jock at the end.  If nothing else you have to respect how ahead of its time this film is.


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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.



Saturday, September 28, 2019

Parents' Night In #21: A Hard Day's Night (1964) - Justin and Kelly Watch The Beatles and Scream Like Little Girls!

Set your Wayback Machine for 1964 and join Justin and Kelly at the height of BeatleMania for their first feature film, A Hard Day's Night

This Richard Lester-helmed "day in the life" comedy follows the Fab Four and their wildly hectic misadventures as the biggest pop group in the entire world, climaxing in a live television performance that has all the youngsters screaming their brains out with joy!

Kelly and Justin enjoy some wine and talk about our love of all things Beatles, our favorite Beatles albums, and our respective favorite member of the band!

Tune in, turn on and drop out (wait, that was a few years later) and join us for Parents' Night In!




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Friday, September 27, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 - Dream Warriors

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies column here at Enuffa.com, where I take another look at a childhood favorite and talk about why parts of it don't hold up and in some cases make me cringe.  Some of you will probably hate me...


It's Halloween season, so I'm watching a lot of horror movies, and today I'm revisiting a classic of the cheesy 80s horror genre, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors!  I came by this series just as this film was being released in early 1987; a friend in junior high school was a slasher film fanatic and used to bring in issues of Fangoria for me to read (Goddamn, that magazine ruled).  I'd heard of A Nightmare on Elm Street and its first sequel from my older siblings but knew zero about them until my schoolmate showed me pictures of the burnt guy with the finger-knives.  Immediately I was fascinated - what kind of an imagination came up with this creepo??  My friend also had a copy of the novelization The Nightmares on Elm Street, Parts 1, 2 and 3, as well as the Nightmare on Elm Street Companion coffee table book (which I still have).  I rushed out to buy both books, having never seen any of the films, and dove in head-first.  I soon rented the first movie and loved it, rented the second and just sorta liked it, and couldn't wait to see the third once it dropped on VHS (Being under 17 I didn't have a parent/guardian available/interested in accompanying me to the theater for this movie/film).  Another friend eventually bought the third movie, so I watched it at his house, and it blew my goddamn fuckin' mind.  The nightmare sequences were way more elaborate and fantastical, the teenagers now had dream powers, and Freddy was crackin' jokes the whole movie.  It was like a slasher movie crossed with a comic book, and at 12 years old it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen.

This book is the TITS.

Tangent time: That summer I fashioned a Freddy claw out of an old leather glove and some Tinker Toys (they didn't yet have the licensed Freddy glove), and my mom bought me an official Freddy mask to go with an old red-and-green-striped sweater my parents happened to have in the house.  I obviously went as Freddy for Halloween that year and was proud as fuck of my costume.  'Course looking back now it seems borderline inappropriate for a 12-year-old to dress up as a serial child murderer, but the 80s were a strange time.

Anyway, back to the movie.  Nightmare 3 was considered a more faithful sequel to the original (after a second installment was made against Wes Craven's stern objections, throwing out some of the rules established in the first, as well as lightening the tone and injecting a love story).  Nightmare 2 was quite successful at the box office, but critics and fans were disappointed with how far it strayed from Craven's original vision.  So for the third movie Craven was brought back in to shape the story, Nancy Thompson returned to the fold, and while still slightly comedic, the movie restored somewhat the original's darker tone.  Freddy was now dream-stalking a group of troubled, suicidal teenagers, but said teenagers had also learned to develop special skills to fight back.  Armed with a more robust budget, the filmmakers poured everything they had into the set pieces and effects, creating a crowd-pleasing horror entertainment that handily outgrossed its two predecessors.

Hey, nothing wrong with that, but watching it now there is some stuff that doesn't hold up for me.  Before we get to that though, let me heap some praise on this esteemed bit of slasher escapism...

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Music Review: Jason Hawk Harris - Love & The Dark

by Mike Drinan
@mdrinan380



So, I’m in Vermont one weekend, sitting on the couch and drinking some of the best beer ever made (from the auspicious Hill Farmstead) and surfing through my Instagram feed when I stop at a video posted by Bloodshot Records. The video shows a young man with a guitar performing in front of a small group of people in what seems like some kind of small showcase. His band behind him is churning through a raucous Americana number and the young man is moving his leg emphatically with the beat. He sings at a level that demands your attention, with such fiery passion and urgency that a guy in the audience can’t stand still. The band fades a little while this man sings his verse before reigniting, the bass player has her back to the camera but shows her hand walking down the neck of her bass and the drummer just pounding away at his snare and hi-hat. The rhythm of the song is rollicking and infectious. I thought to myself, Who the hell is this?

The answer: Jason Hawk Harris.

I immediately downloaded his debut album Love & The Dark, released in August on Bloodshot Records, and was absolutely devastated by it. It was so fucking good. It’s country, its Americana, it's rock ‘n’ roll, it's punk and it's orchestral. His voice is smooth and poignant and the album has themes of death, love, the unknown, addiction and religion. Each track seems effortless, as if he came into the melody, rhythm, sound, timing and delivery of each song as cool and natural as walking into a room full of friends and family. He’s right where he wants to be.

The album kicks off with the stunning “The Smoke and The Stars”, a redeeming love song about a man struggling to fight off his demons until his love comes back to him, freeing him of the struggles he’s facing. The song builds slowly until he pleads “Let me live in those green eyes of yours”. It’s an emotionally crushing song with beautiful instrumentation and an arrangement that wonderfully sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Top Ten Things: George Carlin HBO Specials

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


George Carlin.  For me no two words better encapsulate stand-up comedy.  George was a wordsmith, a philosopher, an iconoclast, and above all a goddamn funny motherfucker.  He was in love with the music of language, he enjoyed picking apart human idiosyncrasies and traditions, and he lived to offend.  George consistently evolved with the times, going from a laid-back hippie channeling Lenny Bruce to an angry, filthy old man fed up with society's inability to get out of its own way.  His greatest bits were conceptual and universal; material like "Seven Filthy Words," "Baseball vs. Football," and "Hello and Goodbye" have stood the test of time and are still hilarious now because of their everlasting relevance.  I'd wager nearly every comic working today was at least indirectly influenced by Carlin, the same way nearly every current band owes at least a roundabout debt to The Beatles.  George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce are pretty universally considered the Holy Trinity of stand-up.

George began releasing comedy records in 1971 and grew such a following that in 1977 he performed an extended comedy special for HBO.  From then on Carlin's HBO specials were event viewing, and eventually his albums were simply audio-only versions of the shows.  His 1970s album output was quite prolific and included gems like Occupation: Foole and FM/AM, but today I'll just be talking about his HBO shows.

So which Carlin specials were the best?  Let's take a look.....




10. Life Is Worth Losing (2005)


George only had three specials in the 21st century, and this was the second.  He'd been through drug rehab earlier that year and announced that he was nearly a year sober at the time of the recording.  Life is Worth Losing, as the name suggests, contains a lot of material about death and mortality, plus some reworked items originally intended for Complaints & Grievances which had to be cut due to the events of 9/11.  This show has grown on me a lot over the years, particularly the segments about suicide ("That's probably the most interesting thing you can do with your life - end it..."), extreme human behavior ("A buncha people stranded in the wilderness, run out of Pop-Tarts, you gotta eat something.  Might as well be Steve."), and education ("There's a reason education sucks and it will never ever ever be fixed - because the owners of this country don't want that.").  LIWL is probably George at his most gleefully pessimistic.





9. What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)


As a teenager this show was one of my two favorites - Jersey was the show where Carlin fully transitioned into the angry old man persona, railing against the Reagan Administration and complaining about traffic.  Most of his work after this was tonally similar in terms of his delivery.  This one hasn't aged as well as I thought it would, partly because of the segments topical to the late 80s, but the material about keeping people alert with bizarre behavior still cracks me up.  "Stand on line at the bank for a long time, and when you get to the window, just ask for change of a nickel..."  The first time I watched this one I was damn near incontinent.



Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Top Ten Things: September PPV Matches

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I compile a list of ten, well, things.

Today it's the ten greatest September PPV matches of all time.  September has often been the beginning of a slump period on the WWE calendar, where the summer angles have long since peaked at SummerSlam and now the company sorta treads water until WrestleMania season starts.  But that doesn't mean there haven't been some great individual efforts.  This list is also not limited to WWE; fans of NJPW and TNA will see a little sumthin-sumthin for them as well.

So let's get to it!




10. Randy Orton vs. John Cena - Breaking Point - 9.13.09


The PG Era was in full-swing by 2009, and that meant no more blading in a WWE ring.  While for the most part this didn't affect the product all that harshly, it did mean gimmick matches might potentially suffer, as Hell in a Cells and Elimination Chambers would now have to be blood-free zones.  That just doesn't seem right.  But at the one-time Breaking Point event (where the main event matches all had submission rules), John Cena and Randy Orton managed to circumvent these rigid new limitations and deliver a masterpiece of understated violence, in an I Quit match.  Their fight played out much like a climactic movie sequence; Orton utilized his exceptional facials and reptilian in-ring persona to make every move seem downright malicious, seemingly relishing each moment.  At one point he handcuffed Cena and proceeded to flog him mercilessly with a kendo stick, leaving sickening welts all over his torso.  Cena eventually made a comeback, applying the STF and choking Orton out with his own arm.  That this I Quit match worked so well despite being pretty tame compared to say, Mankind vs. The Rock speaks volumes of Cena's and especially Orton's ability to get across character and expression.  I'd cite this as Orton's first foray into becoming a true main event-worthy player.




9. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.7.08


The best feud of 2008 was undoubtedly Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.  After a babyface return in late 2007, Jericho quickly turned heel again in early '08, retooling his persona after the character of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men.  Jericho became soft-spoken, sullen, and sanctimonious, insisting that born-again Christian Shawn Michaels was a hypocrite who didn't follow his own beliefs.  Their feud was intended as a one-off match that spring but stretched over nearly six months.  The best match of this saga in my opinion was the non-sanctioned street fight at Unforgiven, which sprung from an incident at SummerSlam.  Jericho invited Michaels and his wife Rebecca to his talk show, and their bickering led to Jericho accidentally knocking Rebecca out with a punch.  Again, this was tame by Attitude Era standards, but in the new PG Era it was treated as a huge deal, and the two wrestlers played it to the hilt.  Their fight was brutal without being bloody, and it ended via ref stoppage when Michaels had beaten Jericho unconscious.

Top Ten Things: Wrestling T-Shirts

Welcome one and all to yet another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  It's a list of ten things.  A list steeped in hyperbole.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.


Today we'll be talking about the greatest wrestling T-shirts of all time, in my humble estimation (Ah fuck humble, I'm right!).  Wrestling T-shirts are an invaluable marketing tool for any wrestling star.  Not only do you get fans to pay to advertise you to the world, if a T-shirt design is particularly eye-catching and memorable it can elevate that wrestler in the eyes of the fans (and management).  Think of how many times you watched a RAW or Nitro and saw a sea of Austin 3:16 or nWo shirts in the crowd.  The T-shirt can help make the star, especially if it sells like hotcakes and the company has no choice but to push the wrestler.  Generally speaking the best shirts in my opinion are either very simplistic and easy to spot, or tastefully pay homage to existing pop culture imagery.  It also helps when the wrestler himself frequently wears the shirt, giving the garment an air of authenticity (In fact every entry on this list falls into that category).  Here now is my list of the best wrestling T-shirt designs....




10. Eddie Guerrero (Scarface)


Our first entry is a play on the iconic poster for the film Scarface.  While I've never been much of a fan of this movie, the poster is one of the great pieces of cinema marketing, and Eddie's shirt uses this theme beautifully.  It also fits Eddie's character, that of the lying, cheating, stealing con man who makes no apologies for his win-at-all-costs mentality.  This was one of the few great shirts of the Ruthless Aggression era.




9. Cactus Jack (Wanted)


Speaking of a shirt befitting a character, how perfect is Cactus Jack's shirt displaying a Wanted poster for the crazed outlaw?  It worked so well in fact that when Mick Foley resurrected the Cactus persona in 1997 he actually wrestled in the shirt.  It's a simple design with an indie feel to it, and it encapsulates the violent, maniacal Cactus Jack character.




8. John Cena (NES)


Another shirt that lifts its design from existing artwork, this one is based of course on the cover art for Nintento Pro Wrestling, one of the earliest and most beloved wrestling video games.  For years this was the go-to game for wrestling enthusiasts.  As you may recall, the WWF's early entries in the video game arena were quite lacking, but this game had serious replay value.  Anywho, Cena's shirt simply substitutes his likeness where Fighter Hayabusa's once resided, as he's about to drop the Five Knuckle Shuffle.  On the back we get images of Cena dropping the move, with control pad iconography below.  Just a brilliant play on the NES artwork and one of several very cool Cena shirts (I also love the Pabst Blue Ribbon one).


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Popeye

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I discuss, in much greater detail than interests anyone, a film with very mixed virtues and faults.  Today's subject is the 1980 Robert Altman-directed adaptation of the beloved cartoon/comic strip, Popeye!  


Starring Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall and Paul Smith, Popeye came about after Paramount and Columbia Pictures had a bidding war over the film rights to Annie.  When Paramount came up short, they mined for similar ideas and one executive came up with the idea for a feature film treatment of Popeye.  Originally the studio (now co-producing with Disney) wanted Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as the two leads (Tomlin would've been swell, Hoffman probably not so much), but fortunately newly hired director Robert Altman opted for the perfectly-cast duo of Williams and Duvall.  An unconventional choice for a movie of this type, Altman lent his signature style of satirical humor, richly detailed settings and colorful supporting characters, to try and create a three-dimensional world around these two-dimensional characters.  Filming took place in Malta, on a lavishly constructed set, and the budget ballooned to a then-extravagant $20 million.  The studio panicked and ordered Altman to finish up and bring home what footage he had.  The film was released in December 1980 to mixed reviews and less-than-stellar box office receipts; although it grossed $60 million worldwide, it was not the smash hit the studios expected and has since garnered a reputation as one of the great box office bombs.

But Popeye has a lot going for it, and sadly a lot working against it.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this unusual comic strip adaptation....



The Awesome


Cast

Pretty much everyone in this movie is spot-on.  Robin Williams (making his feature film debut), while not exactly disappearing into the role, makes a splendid Popeye - likable, matter-of-fact, humble and downtrodden by nature but gallant and heroic when he needs to be.  I'm not sure anyone else in 1980 could've brought this character to life as effectively.  Ditto for Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, who does a note-perfect live action translation of the gangly damsel in distress.  Most of the film's funniest moments involve Duvall's stylized mannerisms, and as someone who's used to seeing her either in hysterics in The Shining, or as Steve Martin's straight-man best friend in Roxanne, it's refreshing to go back and see her in a subtly comedic turn.  She might be the best thing about this film, actually.  Paul Smith also makes a fantastic Bluto, looking exactly like you'd expect this character to appear as a flesh & blood person, terrifying as he glares about the room growling like an agitated lion.  Smith is a helluva lot better in this movie than in Dune, I'll tell ya that much.  Ray Walston is the other standout, as Popeye's long-lost father Poopdeck Pappy, AKA The Commodore, conveying a front of cold, dryly amusing gruffness toward his son, which later gives way to genuine pathos as he bonds with Swee'pea.  So if nothing else, this film has a strong ensemble cast that's fun to watch as they make believable characters out of these cartoon archetypes.


You Used to Be Soooooo Good: The Alien Franchise

***ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2016***

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Sooooo Good, where Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) and I put on our crotchety old man hats and grumble about how much better stuff used to be before you damn millennials took over the world.  


Anywho, today's topic is the Alien franchise - a once mighty sci-fi/horror series that began with two amazing films and then somehow lost its way.  Dan, what's your take?


DAN: The first Alien movie is one that scared the ever-loving shit out of me. It may seem simplistic now to place a horror movie in space (In fact, most failing horror franchises just chuck their super-bad up into the stars to try to grab some box office gold), but at the time, this was a novel concept. Sure, there were tons of B-movies in space, but this was a big budget flick with some well-known actors in it. And it was scary as hell to me. I saw it on VHS around 1990 when I was 12. The set design, the gore, the monster itself, all nightmare fuel for little ol' me. And I watched it repeatedly. I loved it. Loved the monster, loved all the characters and loved the epic, scary silence of the space universe that director Ridley Scott created. And of course loved Ripley. Sigourney Weaver was known to me at the time as Dana Barrett from Ghostbusters so to see her in this flick, evading and eventually killing a rampaging monster of death was quite a shock. But nothing was as shocking as what this franchise would become with the second film in the series.


JUSTIN: I actually saw Aliens first, in 1986, at the age of eleven.  I'd obviously heard of the original Alien, heard that it was just about the scariest movie ever made, and knew of the now-iconic chestburster scene.  But going into Aliens I was so utterly terrified of what I was about to witness, and for about the first ten minutes of the movie I was on the verge of a panic attack, thinking to myself "I can't do this.......I can't do this...."  But once that initial fear settled down and I simply let the movie unfold in front of me, it was to this day one of my all-time favorite cinematic experiences.  That movie kicked my ass for 137 minutes, ratcheting up the intensity to an unfathomable level.  The final hour is almost non-stop action-horror, and the climactic battle with the alien queen (one of the greatest puppet effects in movie history) stuck with me for weeks.

Mind.  Fucking.  Blown.

It actually wasn't until a year or two later that I finally watched the first movie, and initially I was underwhelmed by it.  Considering the frenetic pace and unrelenting pitch of Aliens, the first movie seemed so simple and frankly quaint to me on the first viewing.  This was at an age when I didn't appreciate things like psychological dread or claustrophobia, which is what the experience of the first film is all about (not to mention a movie as visually rich as Alien loses a lot on pan-and-scan VHS).  The first film grew on me after repeated viewings, and of course now I fully grasp what an understated sci-fi/horror masterpiece it is.  I saw an interview with one of the producers, who rightly pointed out that Alien is the haunted house, while Aliens is the roller coaster.  And from a purely visual standpoint, Ridley Scott's film is superior to James Cameron's.  Alien is one of the most visually stunning films ever made, while Aliens is less about atmosphere and more about the story.  Regardless, the first two films of this franchise are like an all-time great double album.  Both are amazing achievements for very different reasons.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Top Ten Things: Hell in a Cell Matches

Hey there, and welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  

Today's list is all about the most demonic of wrestling gimmick matches, Hell in a Cell.  Introduced by the WWF in 1997, HIAC expanded on the traditional Steel Cage match by surrounding the entire ringside area with the volatile mesh structure.  They also covered the whole thing with a roof, trapping the combatants inside but giving them enough room to utilize the numerous unforgiving surfaces and weapons found outside the ring.  The result was one of the most brutal recurring stipulations in the history of the business, where only the most personal and heated of rivalries would be settled.  2009 saw the creation of a Hell in a Cell-themed PPV, which undermined the severity of such a gimmick match by making it an annual tradition instead of a feud-ender.  Regardless of its recently history though, Hell in a Cell still remains one of the most intriguing special attractions in WWE.

Here are my picks for the ten greatest HIAC matches of all time....




10. Batista vs. Triple H - Vengeance - 6.26.05


After two rather lackluster efforts at WrestleMania 21 and Backlash, Hunter and Big Dave finally delivered a classic inside the hellacious cage.  This was a bloody, grueling fight that ran over 26 minutes and finally solidified Batista as Triple H's conqueror.  These two made innovative use of weapons, as well as the ol' cage walls to create a shockingly good Cell bout.  When it was over, the torch had finally been passed to Batista, who along with John Cena became one of the faces of the company.





9. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - Hell in a Cell - 10.26.14


After multiple years of underwhelming HIAC matches two young, hungry stars took the gimmick back up a notch at the 2014 event.  Mortal enemies Ambrose and Rollins followed up their unruly SummerSlam Lumberjack match with this brutal, chaotic fight that kicked off atop the structure.  After about ten minutes of crazy brawling leading to both men falling through announce tables (the first spot like that since the Mick Foley years), the match officially resumed inside the cage, and 13 minutes later Rollins took advantage of Bray Wyatt's (hokey) interference to win the bout.

Top Ten (Eleven) Things: Spinal Tap Songs

Welcome to the only edition of Top Ten Things that goes to eleven!  Today we're ranking the songs of everyone's favorite fictional heavy metal band, Spinal Tap!


Made famous of course by the 1984 Rob Reiner "mockumentary," Spinal Tap's three core members are David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).  The largely improvisational masterpiece This is Spinal Tap lampooned the world of hard rock n' roll, taking no comedic prisoners and delivering some of the all-time great metal-related, "too close to home" comedy bits.  Who can forget Nigel's wireless unit picking up the control tower at the Air Force base?  Or Derek setting off the airport metal detector with the foil-wrapped cucumber stuffed down his pants?  Or undoubtedly the most famous bit, Nigel's custom Marshall head whose dials all go to 11?  The film is an absolutely hysterical satire of the rock industry, featuring totally authentic performances from the entire cast and a flawless script.  It's simply one of the most quotable films ever made.

But what sets This is Spinal Tap apart from other fake documentaries is the legitimacy of the musicians.  McKean, Guest, Shearer, and the rest of the band played their own instruments, and along with Rob Reiner, wrote all the songs.  And despite the lyrics being mostly tongue-in-cheek (and brilliantly funny), this band put out some pretty great hard rock tunes, including a full album's worth featured in the film, and a follow-up eight years later (which in my opinion is the better of the two records).  McKean and company are all great comedic actors but I'll be damned if they aren't accomplished rock n' rollers too.

So here are the best songs ever recorded by England's loudest band.......This list goes to eleven.... 



11. Christmas With the Devil


A title that dates back to the production of the film, "Christmas With the Devil" is exactly the type of song its moniker implies; a Satanic Christmas carol complete with jingle bell accompaniment and morbidly descriptive lyrics.  "The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains," intones David to kick off this Sabbath-esque dirge.  Featured on the second album Break Like the Wind, this might be the most purely "metal" sounding of all their tracks.  Notice also the word "Hallelujah" sung backwards in the bridge.  Hilarious.




10. Rainy Day Sun


Another song from BLTW, "Rainy Day Sun" is meant to be one of the band's late 60s recordings, from when Spinal Tap were a psychadelic hippie band.  With heavy Beatles influences including some backtracked vocals and rain sounds, this song captures the spirit of the era, lending some tangible depth to the band's fictional backstory.




9. Just Begin Again


A power ballad duet from BLTW, "Just Begin Again" features a guest appearance by Cher and makes use of deliberately trite love song lyrics like "Life is just a meal/And you never say when," and "Life is just a show/Go reload your gun."  And despite the silliness of the words, this song is actually poignant and powerful, led by two strong vocal performances.




8. Rock n' Roll Creation


In the context of the film this tune is from the "pretentious, ponderous collection of religious rock psalms" known as The Gospel According to Spinal Tap.  Melding biblical elements with hard rock tropes, "RNR Creation" has one of the more evil-sounding main riffs in the catalog, mixed with simple but memorable vocal harmonies.  This song was featured in the unforgettable movie scene where Derek gets trapped in his "body snatcher" pod for the duration of the tune.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Movies of Disbelief: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Welcome to another edition of Movies of Disbelief, here at Enuffa.com!  If you're unfamiliar, MOD is where I examine a film, good or bad, that's based around a far-fetched premise, but find one aspect or scene that not only stretches or breaks the bonds of credibility, but pisses all over them.


Today's subject is a little different though.  As patently absurd, campy and over-the-top as this film is, the part of it I refuse to believe isn't even something that happened in the story.  It's the idea that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was directed by the same guy as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1.  Yeah that's right, Tobe Hooper, the man who in 1974 created a horror masterwork with no budget, no stars, and the worst imaginable filming conditions, somehow followed it up 12 years later with a sequel that basically sprays moldy diarrhea over everything that was great about the original.  I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that the same director made both of these movies.

Before we get into the crime against cinema that was TCM 2, let's just recap the first one a little.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, loosely inspired by the Ed Gein murders (as well as those of Dean Corll - look up that saga, it's revolting), was shot using grainy 16MM film, on a budget of roughly $150,000.  Like Night of the Living Dead it made use of real rural locations (see Herzog, Werner: "the voodoo of location") and was filmed in a cinema verite style, allowing the horrific tale to come to life in a way that felt totally authentic and heightened the terror.  We as the audience feel like we're experiencing these ghastly events along with the protagonists.  The cast of unknowns is first-rate, playing the scenes in a casual, naturalistic way and largely improvising the loose dialogue.  By the time everything goes to hell in the second act, we've been given a reason to care about the five young adults.  We're given no background about the family of maniacs - they are simply an evil force of nature, with no discernable reason for what they do; making sense of it would undermine the senseless cruelty Sally endures in the final half-hour.  But despite the film's grisly tone and subject matter, almost all the violence and blood is left to the imagination.  Only once for example do we see chainsaw meeting flesh, and it's when Leatherface (one of the great boogeymen of horror cinema) falls down and accidentally gouges his thigh.  But the film's timbre is so intense and macabre we think we're seeing more gore than we are.  It's brilliantly understated.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is far greater than the sum of its parts; all the unconventional elements came together - off-putting locations, genuine performances, innovative cinematography (the closeup montage of Sally's face during the dinner scene is mindbreaking), and unsettling musique concrete-inspired score (courtesy of Wayne Bell and Tobe himself) - to create a fully immersive experience of palpable terror.  It's one of the all-time great horror films.

This guy is terrifying.

Top Ten Things: Disappointing Movie Sequels

What up, my nerds?  Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about a heartbreaking cinematic experience that makes me die inside a little bit and eats away at my very faith in humanity - the disappointing movie sequel.  You've been there; a beloved film classic gets a new chapter, you get all excited in the pants area, you rush out to buy a ticket, you plant yourself in that dark theater, trembling with anticipation, and then.......Two hours later the lights come up and you say, out loud, to no one in particular, "What the absolute fuck did I just watch???"

Then you go home and it hits you: that aforementioned beloved film classic has now and forever been defiled by the ineptly-produced, soul crushing twaddle that followed.  It's like winning the SuperBowl and then crashing your car into a ditch on the way to the after-party.  It's like buying your wife a diamond necklace and then dragging it through the shit-filled drainpipe at the end of Shawshank Redemption.  It's like flying to Paris, visiting the L'Ouvre, and defecating all over the Mona Lisa.  And now you're out ten bucks and bubbling over with resentment.

Okay I might be overstating the emotional effect of these crappy films, but you get where I'm coming from.  Here now are the Top Ten Most Disappointing Movie Sequels (Note: To avoid this piece devolving into a Star Wars/Hobbit/Prometheus-bashing session I have not included any prequels - sequels only).....



10. Mission: Impossible II


Our first entry is the 2000 sequel to the very successful Brian DePalma-directed adaptation of Mission: Impossible, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.  Released in 1996, MI was a taut, suspenseful and pretty cerebral update of the TV show, featuring enough action set-pieces to please the summer popcorn crowd but enough character stuff and intricate plot to elevate it above the usual dreck.  I consider it one of the better offerings of that summer.  Fast-forward four years and Tom Cruise was back for the sequel, directed by John Woo and loaded with action and Wachowski-influenced fight scenes.  Problem was the story wasn't very compelling (a scientist develops a bioweapon which is then hijacked by a former colleague of Ethan's who plans to cause a mass infection so he can then sell the antidote at inflated prices), the action owed way too much to The Matrix, the central love triangle was tedious, and the villain (Dougray Scott) was more annoying than menacing.  Also where the first film was very smartly constructed, this one felt dumbed down and full of fan-service moments.  For example, in the first film Ethan uses latex masks to impersonate different people.  These masks are hyper-realistic and make Hunt indistinguishable from the real person.  I'd imagine such a sophisticated disguise would take considerable time to prepare and fabricate, not to mention you'd have to know that the guy you're impersonating is supposed to be in a particular place at a specific time for the ruse to work.  However in the second film, Hunt and Dougray seem to just have masks like this on-hand, ready to wear on the fly.  So clearly this gimmick was only thrown into the movie because it was used in the first one.  Overall I just found MI2 very uninteresting and kind of a generic action film with the MI name slapped on it.  Fortunately a) the series found its footing again with Ghost Protocol, and b) Dougray Scott opted to be in this film instead of playing Wolverine.  We all dodged a bullet there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Top Ten Things: KoRn Albums, Ranked

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  This edition has bonus entries because today we're ranking the albums of nu metal innovators KoRn!


With the release of their 13th album The Nothing, I figured it would be a good time to finally follow up the Top Ten KoRn Songs list with an album ranking.  As I said before, my journey to get to KoRn was an unusual one; I hated their music with a palpable passion for years before finally coming around, and then they immediately became one of my favorite groups.  Their unconventional focus on groove and grit over flash and precision was a very acquired taste, but once acquired I was insatiable.

So let's cut to the chase and count down the studio albums of KoRn!


For our Top Ten KoRn Songs list, click HERE...




13. Take a Look in the Mirror


KoRn's worst album for me was their hastily recorded "return to our roots" album, Take a Look in the Mirror, released in 2003.  After their artistically adventurous but obscenely expensive opus Untouchables failed to perform to expectations, the band rushed back to the studio one year later to record a straight-up, heavy KoRn album, the goal apparently being Life Is Peachy part 2 (right down to the cover's color scheme and mirror motif).  But the result was a set of songs that felt underdeveloped and not quite ready for prime time, instead relying solely on heaviness to carry the album.  It also seemed premature only a decade into their career to get back to the safe, aggressive style they were originally known for, and their subsequent two albums showed they weren't yet done exploring other sounds.  TALITM has a few highlights but this was the first time as a KoRn fan that I was truly disappointed with their output.

Key Tracks: I'm Done, Counting on Me, Break Some Off





12. See You On the Other Side


KoRn's seventh album was really the more logical next step from Untouchables, with the band experimenting with gothic, industrial and electronica elements.  Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch had left the band and the remaining four members decided to reinvent themselves on this album.  While the results were mixed, I still appreciated this more than its predecessor, for the risks being taken.  KoRn would perfect this type of album with their eighth release, but SYOTOS was a stepping stone with a few standout tracks.

Key Tracks: Throw Me Away, Coming Undone, Souvenir





11. The Serenity of Suffering


Over the last fifteen years KoRn's mainstream popularity has dwindled, the nu metal sound they pioneered having become unfashionable (I bet we'll see a resurgence when late-90s/early-aughts trends come back), so in 2016 it made sense for them to release a reliable, aggressive-sounding album to please their core fans, almost a career reset.  Like Megadeth's United Abominations album, TSOS to me sounded like an approximation of a classic KoRn record, something a copycat band might've put out.  This quote from Rolling Stone sums up my feelings perfectly: "Suffering is heavy enough to stand proudly in the KoRn kanon, but not daring enough to be much else."  Despite some good songs, solid all-around performances and slick production values, I found this record disappointing coming from a band who has pretty consistently taken risks.  KoRn is generally at their best when they unapologetically stretch their legs, and this album unfortunately wasn't that at all.

Check out our full review HERE.

Key Tracks: Rotting in Vain, Take Me, Everything Falls Apart


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.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Music Review: KoRn's The Nothing is a Return to FoRm

Nu metal pioneers KoRn are back with a new album, The Nothing, and since we did this for their last album, my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I are back to discuss its merits.  Maybe an argument will ensue, who knows?  


JustinThe Nothing is a moody record (as really all KoRn albums are), made more poignant by Jonathan Davis's lyrical focus on the loss of his ex-wife, who passed away last year.  This theme of despondency and loss permeates every song on the album and somewhat returns KoRn to the "music as therapy" vibe so prevalent on their early records.

Mike, what is your take on The Nothing?


Mike: Oh man, I really enjoyed this album. Knowing what happened with his ex-wife, I went into this album expecting it to be dark but I was a little caught off guard by just how dark it was, thematically speaking. Jonathan's weeping at the end of the first track really sets the tone for this project and I was ready for all of it. Everything I love about KoRn is on this album, even if there is a real prevalent late 90s nu-metal sound and feel to it, the band sounds fresh and invigorated. Ray Luzier's drumming is incredible, the riffs are really good, especially on "The Ringmaster," and Jonathan's vocals sound amazing from the deep, gutteral growl to the spiny, sing-songy style that has become his trademark over the years. Fieldy's bass adds muscle and provides the emotional punch to the music that ties the album's theme together. This album is a huge step up from their previous album, The Serenity of Suffering, and it's not even close for me.


Justin: Right off the bat, Luzier and Fieldy's presence are felt much more on this album than on Serenity.  Fieldy's trademark percussive bass attack is back, and Luzier's grooves are rock solid (I've said it before but Ray is miles ahead of Dave Silveria as a drummer).  As unfortunate as his thematic motivation on this album, Davis actually sounds like he means it this time, where TSOS sounded like a once angry guy going through the motions just so it would still be a KoRn record.  I do feel like he hasn't quite recaptured the visceral sandpaper screams of Life is Peachy, but maybe that time has passed.  Still his melodies are head and shoulders above those on TSOS, I love that he's rediscovered major keys, and the bridge of "This Loss," brief though might be, is probably my favorite stretch of music on the album.  It's the most soulful singing of Davis's career and I wish they'd built the entire song around that section.  Maybe that can be a blueprint for the next one.

I don't think I'd call any of the songs truly great, but The Nothing is a very easy album to listen to and its 44 minutes fly by.  Every song has at least something to bring you back for repeat listens and the bulk are very well-crafted.  Highlights for me include "Can You Hear Me" (a welcome Untouchables throwback; my only complaint about this song is it's so short), "The Darkness is Revealing," and "The Ringmaster," all three of which have very memorable chorus hooks.  With TSOS I was bored by the end.  That's not at all the case this time.


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.