Thursday, February 20, 2020

Top Ten Things: WORST WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome back!  Alright, now that we've counted down the ten best LJN Wrestling Superstars toys, let's look at some that didn't make the grade.  Ones that either looked like absolute shite or that served zero purpose when you were trying to put together a pretend wrestling match (a phrase I know is technically redundant).  Some of these damn toys just hurt my brain and I don't know what LJN was thinking when they created the molds.  Here we go.... 




10. Warlord


Alright, you might be asking why Warlord is on this list when a) the toy looks quite a lot like him and b) he's got a decent pose for doing wrestling moves.  This toy pissed me off to no end for one reason: WHERE THE FUCK ARE HIS PANTS???  The Warlord as of 1989 wore long tights, ALWAYS.  So why the goddamn hell is he wearing little Speedo trunks on this toy?  Did no one at LJN bother to look at even a single a picture of this guy that extended below his waist?  Not only that, he's missing kneepads.  Do just a cursory bit of homework and this toy becomes one of the best in the line.  But because of pure fucking laziness, he's relegated to the bottom of the pile.  Also, where the hell was Barbarian??

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14





9. Iron Sheik


This is another one that looks vaguely like the real guy but in a very superficial way.  If you look closely, the facial features don't particularly resemble the Iron Sheik at all.  Again, I feel like they based this sculpt on the cartoon show instead of the actual human.  So this one gets a middling score there.  And his pose kinda sucked.  He's doing the vaudville strongman pose, which was okay for headlocks, clotheslines and maybe a suplex, but it was absolutely impossible to do Sheik's finishing move, the Camel Clutch.  If you can't do the guy's finisher that subtracts significant points.  Pretty lame, LJN.

Likeness - 5
Playability - 5
Total - 10





8. Paul Orndorff


What the hell were the sculpting team smoking when they made the Orndorff figure?  He's got a gigantic, malformed head, he's impossibly jacked, and he's missing kneepads.  Clearly this mold was done by the same guy that did Greg Valentine's, because this is one of the most unpleasant-looking action figures ever made.  This is what Paul Ordorff would look like if someone parked a bus on his face.  Not to mention, the physique they gave him is more Arnold than Orndorff, who was quite buff but not bodybuilder huge.  As far as playability though, he scores fairly high since his arm flexing was conducive to clotheslines and elbows, plus you could do a press slam or a Torture Rack.  But Christ, what an awful-looking toy.

Likeness - 3
Playability - 7
Total - 10

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Movie Review: Fighting With My Family (2019)


Wow, after 17 years WWE Studios has finally made a good movie.  The Paige biopic Fighting With My Family, written and directed by Stephen Merchant, is slyly funny, poignantly inspiring, oddly sweet, and quite superbly acted, while showing a respect for the craft of professional wrestling that's unusual for a Hollywood film.  More than respect actually, it displays a pretty intimate knowledge of what these performers go through to become successful WWE stars.  Of course that should stand to reason being that the film was co-produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, based on a UK documentary about Paige and her family.

Led by a wonderful Florence Pugh performance as Saraya Bevis/Britani Knight/Paige (Pugh absolutely shines in this role, conveying a touching vulnerability under the grizzled exterior of a young woman raised by wrestlers), the film also boasts strong supporting turns from Nick Frost and Lena Headey as her wrestler/promoter parents, Jack Lowden as her brother Zak who's worked his whole life for a shot in WWE, and a surprisingly compassionate Vince Vaughn as Hutch Morgan, the WWE coach/talent scout who has to be tough and cynical with his recruits but underneath has his own regrets about the business.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The History of NXT TakeOver: Portland

The NXT brand once again delivered a killer TakeOver special, stringing together six good-to-excellent matches with nary a low point on the card.  While for me some matches went too far in a few places and the show lacked a true MOTY contender, NXT Portland was nonetheless a tremendous effort.


The show kicked off with the North American Title match, pitting old rivals Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic in a hard-hitting power battle.  These two powerhouses threw everything at each other, including a few death-defying dives and a climactic Spanish Fly off the top rope from Dijakovic.  The crowd was red-hot for this and every match, and bought into all of it.  Lee and Dijakovic's chemistry was very evident, as they've been working together for years, and this felt like NXT's version of a crazy indie match.  My only complaint was that after the Spanish Fly spot, Lee kicked out, Dijakovic went for a power move but his back gave out, and Lee just finished him with the Big Bang Catastrophe out of nowhere.  That felt like a parody of the WWE-style finish, where one guy seemingly has the match wrapped up but the other guy does his big move suddenly and wins.  Aside from that though, this was really good.  ****


The surprise hit of the night for me was the Tegan Nox-Dakota Kai Street Fight, which was shockingly violent, crisply worked, and exciting all the way through.  It was probably still the weakest match of the night by default, but that's not a knock on the match itself.  Nox and Kai did some spectacular stuff, including a German suplex on a trash can, a top-rope chokeslam, and a top-rope Molly Go-Round.  The story was that Nox was so preoccupied with punishing Kai, she declined to go for the pin after a Shining Wizard and instead put her on a table and put a chair around her head with the intent of Pillmanizing her, but Raquel Gonzalez tossed her off the top rope on to the table (another brutal-looking spot, as the table didn't break but instead tipped over on contact), allowing Kai to get the pin.  Damn good fight.  ***1/2


Top Ten Things: WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome to a special two-part edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!


Today I have not one but TWO lists for you, and they're opposite sides of the same coin.  Back in the 80s we wrestling fans had very limited options as far as the available toys with which to recreate our favorite in-ring matches and rivalries.  In 1985 Remco (makers of the fabulous He-Man knockoff toys based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak) unveiled a modest series of AWA action figures (plus Ric Flair) and a cardboard ring for the action to take place in.  These toys were quite functional but sadly also very generic, being made from essentially the same body mold.  As I got older I came to value poseability over visual aesthetics, and along with my vast collection of He-Man guys the Remco figures became my primary wrestling toys.  Man did I run a helluva Federation.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Also in 1985 the WWF got into the action figure game, releasing a colorful, oversized line of LJN toys called Wrestling Superstars.  These massive hunks of rubber had zero points of articulation, paint that would rub off in literally minutes, in some cases questionable-at-best resemblance to their real-life counterparts, and were easily capable of inflicting blunt force trauma to a person's skull.  They were so heavy and dense the accompanying toy ring couldn't handle the stress of play and would routinely crack; my ring had to be replaced less than a year after I got it.  But if you were an eleven-year-old, new pro wrestling fan like me, goddamn these toys ruled.  They were unlike any action figures out there; at eight inches tall they dwarfed every other figures on the market besides the unwieldy 12-inch dolls that had long since become obsolete.  With a roster of colorful, larger-than-life characters to model the toys after, LJN had no shortage of eye-catching products to offer.  The sucky thing about these toys was their rather hefty price tag for the time.  These fuckers cost a good 8 bucks a pop, which for my age was way too much to easily collect them.  Thus my early matchmaking abilities were limited; when I first began accumulating these toys at the end of 1986 I only had three figures, all babyface characters.  The hell am I supposed to do with that?

Anyway, while some of these toys were very playable thanks to well-chosen poses and slight flexibility in the rubber, others were not so much.  Likewise, while some figures carried quite serviceable likenesses to the actual people they represented, others looked like barely-formed humanoid blobs.  I noticed a trend at the time - certain character molds seemed to be done by the same person, and that guy was terrible at capturing realistic facial features, plus all the toys this guy worked on had gigantic nipples for some reason.  Go back and look at the figures for Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake and a few others.  The faces look awful and the nips are like the Capitol building dome.

So here's where these lists come in.  I've compiled the ten best and worst LJN figures, based on a combination of likeness accuracy and playability.  I'm trying to keep it as fair as possible, since some figures looked great but were useless to play with, and some had perfect wrestler poses but looked like Sloth from The Goonies.  This being an era long before computer-scanned faces I'll go fairly easy on the likeness ratings, and the playability will be somewhat determined by each wrestler's moveset.  I'll give you the ten best ones today and the ten worst in Part 2.  Let's get to it.....




10. Ricky Steamboat


The Steamboat figure had a pretty detailed face/hair sculpt and a lean, defined body type that more or less matched the real guy.  The resemblance wasn't exactly uncanny but it vaguely looked like Steamboat.  The arms were posed in a way that body slams and suplexes were possible, and his hands were open which lent itself to Steamboat's chops.  This toy was a solid bit of work from LJN.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14





9. Greg Valentine


Valentine's toy was one of the uglier in the series, with a face like a mean old lady and bright yellow hair like banana ice cream.  Then again, Greg Valentine was always rather homely, so the rough sculpt kinda fit.  This was one of the toys in the series that looked like the sculptor either worked solely from memory or forgot to put on his glasses.  It's a vague representation of Greg Valentine that kinda sorta captures his essence, but by no means is it true to life.  Like at all.  But what this figure lacked in realism it made up for in utility.  Valentine was posed perfectly for slams, suplexes, and most of all, that signature Valentine elbow drop.  You couldn't do the Figure Four, but then again I've never seen a wrestling figure that could.  This one scores quite well on playability.

Likeness - 6
Playability - 8
Total - 14





8. Hart Foundation


Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart were more often than not sold as a team, so I'm including them as one entry.  These guys looked quite a bit like the real people and the sculpts captured their body types pretty realistically.  The ring attire looked pretty much just like the Harts' actual gear.  My only issue aesthetically, and this was true for a lot of these toys, is that Bret is wearing his sunglasses, which of course he never wore while wrestling.  As far as their respective poses, they were vaguely configured to do wrestling moves.  Bret's arms were partly outstretched to do clotheslines and slams, while Neidhart could easily do a powerslam (though I'm not sure why the fingers of his right hand are spread out).  These two toys looked good and could get you through a match.

Likeness - 8
Playability - 6
Total - 14


Friday, February 14, 2020

Top Ten Things: WWF Saturday Night's Main Event Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best (or worst) items pertaining to something-or-other....


Today I'm talking about what used to be, for me growing up at least, the greatest wrestling show on television, Saturday Night's Main Event.  For those not familiar with the show (I'm not sure I wanna know you), Saturday Night's Main Event aired a few times a year on NBC during Saturday Night Live's timeslot and usually featured four or five matches taped a few weeks earlier.  This was back when you almost never saw real matches on free television, as the weekly shows generally consisted of quick squash matches designed to draw ticket buyers to local house shows.  But every couple months we were treated to a handful of competitive bouts between top stars, and it was EVENT VIEWING.  As a 12-year-old who never got to see the PPVs until they were available on VHS, seeing Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage or The Ultimate Warrior wrestle a match on free TV was the most monumental thing happening that month.

The show's initial run ended in '92 (following a one-year move from NBC to Fox) before it resurfaced in 2006-07.  Unfortunately by that time the magic was gone, as fans had long been accustomed to seeing big free TV matches every week on RAW and Smackdown.  SNME was clearly a pre-Monday Night War phenomenon and couldn't work in the modern era.  But at the time of its original run it was truly a delight.

Here now are the ten greatest matches in the history of this fantastic show. (Note: for the purposes of this column I've included the air date as opposed to the taping date)





10. Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bossman - 5/27/89


Hogan's first televised WWF Title defense after WrestleMania V was against his old foe The Big Bossman, in a steel cage no less.  At the time I had jumped off the Hogan bandwagon, siding with Randy Savage in the MegaPowers split.  Thus I wasn't terribly excited about this match going in, nor did I care for Hogan's No Holds Barred nemesis Zeus being integrated into WWF storylines.  Zeus attacked Hogan prior to this match to add a little suspense, but it was obvious Bossman wasn't winning the belt here.  However the match itself turned out to be a very entertaining cage brawl, the highlight of which was Hogan suplexing Bossman off the top of the steel structure.  In 1989 that spot was one of the most death-defying things I had ever seen, and it made this a very memorable bout.





9. Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana - 7/28/90


On a stacked SNME episode that featured three Title matches, what seemed like a throwaway Intercontinental defense turned out to be a very well-worked, show-stealing match.  This aired a month before Summerslam, and oddly they gave away the scheduled Warrior-Rude PPV main event on this show for free (I know the SS match was in a cage, but still).  So there wasn't much suspense there, and even less in the Tag Team Title match, as Demolition (scheduled to face the Hart Foundation at the PPV) defended against The Rockers here.  But Mr. Perfect, whose Summerslam opponent was up in the air following Brutus Beefcake's infamous parasailing accident, would face the man he defeated to win the vacant I-C Title that April, Tito Santana.  At the time I feared Perfect would drop the Title here, setting up a rematch at the PPV, but with some help from Bobby Heenan ("He's gotta beat you!  You don't hafta beat him!") on the outside, Perfect delivered a successful and enjoyable Title defense.





8. Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff - 1/3/87


At the time this was one of the WWF's biggest televised matches, being the blowoff for the legendary Hogan-Orndorff feud which lasted through most of 1986.  It was also the first steel cage match ever shown on free WWF television, and therefore felt like a huge deal.  While this doesn't get a lot of points for technique, it was a pretty good brawl that led to a false ending, when both men escaped the cage simultaneously.  As I recall this was the first time I ever saw such a scenario, where two different referees declared opposing winners.  The show broke for a commercial and when it resumed the match had been restarted.  This of course led to Hogan getting the clear victory, settling this rivalry and freeing the Champion up for his impending feud with Andre the Giant.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Top Ten Things: WWE Elimination Chamber Matches

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


We're days away from the Elimination Chamber PPV, where the WrestleMania lineup could be dramatically reshaped.  For several years this match/PPV served as the final stop on the Road to WrestleMania, and it had a huge impact on the top Title picture.  It seemed in 2015 that the concept was being retired due to logistical problems with hanging the Chamber from the arena ceiling.  But thankfully WWE dusted off this match last year and it's apparently here to stay.

The Elimination Chamber was first introduced in 2002 as an Eric Bischoff creation, combining aspects of Survivor Series, WarGames, and the Royal Rumble into one brutal fight.  Two men would start the match and every few minutes another would enter, until by pin or submission each entrant would be eliminated.  The wrinkle was that the entire ring would be surrounded by a massive chain-cage structure, and all but the first two participants would be trapped in pods until it was time to join the melee.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I considered the first Chamber match a failure.  I found it slow, plodding, awkward, and ultimately counterproductive in creating a strong RAW roster at a time when Smackdown was smoking RAW creatively and in the ratings.  The match was all about the Hunter-Shawn feud, and the other four guys were treated as afterthoughts.  On top of that, no one seemed sure what to do inside this terrifying-but-unfamiliar structure.  Fortunately the kinks were ironed out after the inaugural edition and over the past fourteen years the Chamber has provided numerous classic clusterfucks.  Here now are my ten favorites.....






10. Daniel Bryan vs. Santino Marella vs. Wade Barrett vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show vs. Great Khali - Elimination Chamber - 2.19.12


Despite one of the least auspicious lineups in the Chamber's history, this match ended up pretty great, mostly due to the late-match work by Bryan and Marella.  WWE wisely kept Khali's involvement to a minimum, booking Big Show to pin him almost immediately after a spear.  The rest of the match featured solid action, but it was the dramatic near-win by Marella and the heel work by Bryan that made this match truly memorable.  For a few minutes they had an entire arena believing Marella might actually win the belt, but ultimately Bryan submitted him with the LeBell Lock to retain.  Bryan would of course go on to infamously lose to Sheamus in 18 seconds at WrestleMania, a stupid and ill-conceived booking move that ended up doing much more for Bryan's success than Sheamus's.





9. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho vs. JBL vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Umaga
No Way Out - 2.17.08


2008's No Way Out PPV began the several-year trend of the Elimination Chamber being used to shape the main event picture for WrestleMania, with two #1 Contender matches determining challengers for each brand.  The RAW Chamber match was easily the superior one, with a stacked lineup, lots of Jericho vs. Michaels action, and a career-elevating performance by Jeff Hardy.  Triple H would outlast the others to earn a WWE Title match against Randy Orton (he'd be joined by John Cena) before capturing the Title at Backlash and taking it to Smackdown in the 2008 Draft.





8. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Sheamus vs. Cesaro vs. Christian
Elimination Chamber - 2.23.14


The 2014 Chamber might have had the best pound-for-pound lineup, with five World Champions involved, plus the accomplished Cesaro.  The action was spectacular, with all six participants entering the match before any were eliminated.  The booking toward the end got a bit outlandish, with the Wyatt Family causing Cena's elimination and Korporate Kane assisting with Daniel Bryan's, but it was a highly engaging Chamber match and ended up being Christian's career finale.




Wednesday, February 12, 2020

NXT TakeOver: Portland Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of PPV Predictions, here at Enuffa.com!


This weekend we're getting an NXT TakeOver show that doesn't immediately precede a main roster PPV, and it's on a Sunday to boot.  This here is what you'd call "NXT trying to stand on its own."  The lineup looks pretty spectacular as always, and we're getting an unusual six matches instead of five.  I imagine this means the show will go a full three hours, and I ain't even mad.  At least one major NXT star seems to have a WrestleMania match in her future, and I wonder if others will follow.

Let's take a gander and make some predictions....



Street Fight: Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox


This is the long-awaited payoff to Kai's shocking heel turn at Survivor Series and the rules are out the window.  Should be heated, and the crowd should be into it.  I think it'll get somewhat lost in the shuffle on a loaded card like this, but it should be a fun bout.

Pick: This being Nox's revenge story I'll pick her to win





North American Championship: Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic


The two monster babyface pals face off for Lee's newly won NA Title.  This should be a real battle of the bulls.  Keith is obviously keeping the title here and will I assume face Roderick Strong at the 'Mania weekend show, but Dijakovic should give him an entertaining first big title defense.

Pick: Lee retains

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Top Ten Things: Well-Deserved Oscars

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

You might say I've got Oscars on the brain, because today's edition is comprised of occasions when the Academy absolutely got it right, in terms of awarding acting performances.  I've talked before about times Oscar has snubbed a great performance, and about shocking upsets, but there have certainly been times the right person won for the right role.  In fact there have been years when I've decided, "Regardless what wins Best Picture and all the others, as long as this person wins this award I'll be happy."  Below is the list, in chronological order.




1. Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull)


The Academy may have dropped the ball in many other categories from 1980 (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor), but one award that absolutely went to the right guy was the Best Actor statuette.  Robert DeNiro's tormented, violent turn as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta remains his most famous performance, and it's also the most noted example of an actor altering his body shape for a film (DeNiro gained about sixty pounds for the later scenes in which LaMotta lets himself go and becomes a seedy nightclub owner).  Had anyone else walked away with this award it would've been a crime.

Key Scene: Probably the most purely visceral scene is the one in which LaMotta goes to prison and throws a self-loathing-induced fit, pounding the crap out of the cement wall and wailing like a madman.  I can't imagine an actor having to endure more than a single take of this scene.




2. Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda)


A rare case of a comedic performance outshining the competition, Kevin Kline's brilliantly hilarious turn as Otto provided dozens of quotable lines and managed to steal the show from comedy legends John Cleese and Michael Palin.  Kline brought to life a dimwitted character in the smartest way possible, with an amazingly nuanced, uproarious delivery.

Key Scene: Probably my favorite moment (and my favorite to quote) is the profanity-laced chain of insults Otto hurls at Archie (Cleese) after catching Archie with Wanda.  Such a magnificent tirade.




3. Kathy Bates (Misery)


Stephen King's thriller about a crazed fan taking her favorite author hostage was skillfully adapted by Rob Reiner in 1990, and the main reason the movie version worked so well was the performance of Kathy Bates.  A relative unknown at the time of her casting, Bates adeptly alternates between matronly warmth and terrifying emotional instability.  She is totally effective as this obsessed manic-depressive, but in a very realistic way, making the whole ordeal that much more harrowing.

Key Scene: Upon learning her guest Paul Sheldon has been out of his room, she ties Paul up and drugs him, and explains both her discovery, and his punishment.  The calmness she conveys as she prepares to hobble him is truly chilling.


The Great PPVs: Chi-Town Rumble '89

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs - whether you're reading this via our friends at TheGorillaPosition.com or at our own site Enuffa.com, I hope you're enjoying this series thus far as we look back on some of the all-time great wrestling shows.


Since it's February I thought I'd take a look at one of the old NWA's greatest offerings from the 1980s, Chi-Town Rumble!  This one-time PPV took place on February 20, 1989 (a Monday night for some reason) and is most remembered for its critically acclaimed main event that launched one of the greatest rivalries in the annals of the business.  But this show had a damn good undercard as well, with most of the company's major titles on the line and a some big feuds resolved.  Chi-Town Rumble served as an excellent sequel to the previous year's Starrcade (for my money the 1988 edition was the best of the bunch), while also kicking off what was pretty universally considered the greatest year in the company's grand history.

The show got off to a slow start with a pair of undercard singles bouts.  First up was the returning Michael Hayes facing one of the Russian Assassins.  This match oddly got nearly sixteen minutes despite being little more than a showcase to re-establish Hayes as an upper midcard babyface, but it was largly inoffensive.  It was followed by another pseudo-showcase match for Sting, who went over twenty minutes against Butch Reed, with better results.  Neither of these matches is terribly important or all that memorable except in building up two future singles champions, but from the third match on the show never faltered.

The first of five good-to-great matches pitted The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette vs. The Original Midnight Express and Paul E. Dangerously, with a Loser Leaves the NWA stipulation (Unfortunately Dennis Condrey had jumped the gun and left the company before this event, and utility man Jack Victory replaced him).  Like the MX vs. OMX match at Starrcade, this was a wild, fast-paced affair with the added bonus of the two managers scuffling.  After almost sixteen minutes the babyface Midnights scored the pin after a double flapjack to Randy Rose.  While not quite at the level of the Starrcade bout, this was a very entertaining match and a good blowoff to the feud.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Top Ten Things: He-Man Action Figures

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I hope you're ready for some serious nerd nostalgia, because thanks to the fantastic new Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, I have 1980s action figures on the brain.


One episode of said TV series focused on the wonderful 80s toy line known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  Anyone who grew up in that era remembers these larger-than-life figures with impossible musculatures, colorful appearances, pun-driven names, and bizarre quirks/powers.  The first time I saw the original He-Man commercial my brain almost exploded.  These figures looked nothing like any other action figures available at the time.  The characters were so vibrant and otherworldly you couldn't take your eyes off them.  Mattel hit one out of the park with this toy line, scoring record-breaking numbers four or five years in a row, and consistently introducing new series of memorable characters year after year.  A side note: this toy line introduced me to the concept of recycled molds.  Pretty much every figure had the exact same torso mold and initially there were only three sets of arms and legs.  Even as a seven-year-old I noticed this.  But it didn't matter, these toys fucking rocked my nuts off.  A syndicated tie-in cartoon show proved invaluable for selling MOTU figures and for a little while He-Man ruled the action figure market, spawning numerous ripoff lines, my favorite of which were the Remco figures based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak (They even had a disclaimer on the package: For Use with Masters of the Universe action figures).  Personally I wish they'd re-release the original MOTU figures (like they did in 2001) because I'd scoop a bunch of 'em up again.  For my son to play with.  Yeah, that's it.....

Note: Once I got really into wrestling, the He-Man line doubled as my wrestling toys, since they were the perfect size for the WWF toy ring.  Shut up, you did it too....

But which characters were my favorites?  Which of these silly fantasy barbarian toys have stuck with me three-plus decades later?  Let's take a look.....




10. King Hiss


This absurdly over-the-top figure was like He-Man meets Transformers, and the leader of The Snake Men or whatever they were called (an older character named Kobra Khan joined up with this villainous stable as well, like in a pro wrestling angle).  King Hiss looked like a human wearing snake-like armor, but pop off his arm and torso coverings, and GAAAAH, HE'S LITERALLY A GODDAMN SNAKE-MAN!!!  His actual upper body was comprised entirely of snakes (oddly his legs were still humanoid though), creepy enough to unnerve even his fellow bad guys.  I spent so much time transforming this guy from man to snake-man and it was a fairly ingenious gimmick.





9. Faker


On paper this has to be the stupidest toy ever.  An evil robot that's supposed to be a dead ringer for He-Man, except he has blue skin, Skeletor-style armor, and a visible tape recorder in his chest (courtesy of a sticker).  The idea is that Skeletor built this droid to infiltrate the good guy lair and pimp He-Man's friends for information.  Skeletor must think Team He-Man are either legally blind or just absolute fucking morons.  Who would fall for this trap??  "Whoa, He-Man, you're looking a little pekid, maybe have a nice lie down and some soup?  By the way, here are those Grayskull blueprints you asked for...."  Added to that, Faker was an appallingly flagrant cannibalization of an existing toy, just to sell more toys.  You gotta marvel at Mattel's balls, man.  Regardless of how illogical this character was, the toy looked awesome.





8. Mer-Man/Stinkor


Speaking of blatant mold recycling, in 1984 Mattel took one of the original characters, Mer-Man, painted him black & white, doused him in some kinda putrid-smelling chemical, and repackaged him as a skunk-like character named Stinkor.  Nevermind that a skunk-man wouldn't have webbed feet or fin-like ears, this guy looked boss.  And his armor covered his nose and mouth, implying he smelled so bad even HE couldn't stand it!  I loved the black, white, red and orange color scheme, and the stinky gimmick was brilliant.  Think about it - Mattel got us to buy an action figure that smelled like a goddamn skunk.  Either we're all suckers or Mattel are a buncha Jedi Masters who can bend everyone to their will.  The smell eventually wore off, but Stinkor remained one of my all-time favorite characters.


As for Mer-Man, this mold was much more appropriate for an undersea creature, and his scaly armor looked killer.  It did always bug me that his face looked nothing like the cartoon, comics or even the picture on the back of the packaging!  Also they originally were going to call him Sea Man, but changed it for obvious reasons.  Can you imagine one of the heroes saying "Oh no!  Sea Man is all over our base!  Why is Sea Man so hard to get our hands on?   I feel all slimy now that I've touched Sea Man!"



Saturday, February 8, 2020

Top Ten Things: Obscure 1980s Toys

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today I'm thinkin' about old toys I wish I still had.  Because apparently I'm eleven.

The 1980s was an amazing era to be a kid.  We children of the 80s were treated to some of the most badassistic (Yeah I made up a word) action figure lines ever offered up.  Think about it, in the same decade we had Star Wars toys, He-Man, Transformers, and GI Joe (plus the short-lived DC Super Powers and Marvel Secret Wars), and those are just a handful of the toy lines that were hits!  We also had a fuckton of action figure series that were either short-lived or outright flopped, and those are the ones I'm here to talk about today.  I got to thinking about some of the more obscure toys I had as a kid and the list just kept growing on me.  Some of them I had trouble finding on Google because the name escaped me, but eventually I found 'em all.  Not only does this piece feature a top ten but I've included three Honorable Mentions.  So, strap on your nerd hats and join me for a look back at some of the best obscure toys of the 80s!



HM: Karate Kid (Remco)

Yeah this set came with giant chopsticks to catch a giant rubber fly.

From the hit 1984 film Rocky But With Karate, these stupid, one-note toys had some inexplicable charm to them.  Literally the only two characters I ever found were Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi (apparently Johnny, Kreese and others were available later on), but each figure had one arm and one leg that were spring-loaded, so when you pushed a button they would either chop or kick.  This one set I got came with both characters and a litany of structures for them to chop through or break.  Wooden boards, ice, brick walls, this coat rack-lookin' thing, you name it.  Destroying fake wood with these figures was stupid fun.




HM: Clash of the Titans (Mattel)

They released the first wave and then they RELEASED THE KRRRAKEN!

What a promising line this was, until it wasn't.  The wonderful 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans had so many colorful characters and creatures that lent themselves to toy designs, in the same way the Star Wars trilogy did.  The first (and thanks to poor sales, only) series included Perseus (a fantastic Harry Hamlin likeness), his buddy Thallo, Calibos, and for some reason Charon the ferryman (who only appears in the film for like four seconds), plus a Pegasus toy (with zero points of articulation) and a huge Kraken (who looked boss).  Insanely the coolest looking character in the movie, Medusa, never got a toy, but maybe she, Andromeda and some of the Greek gods would've been included in series 2.  Regardless, these were solid toys that deserved a better run.





HM: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Kenner)/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (LJN)

This is one of my favorite films, but what are you supposed to do with these?

Two different toy companies tried to make "fetch" happen in the 80s with Indiana Jones.  When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out it was a no-brainer that Kenner, fresh off its colossal success with the Star Wars line, would introduce a similar-in-scale line of Indy toys.  Only problem was, beyond the main character no one else in that movie does a whole lot that lends itself to action figure play.  Indy does all the heavy lifting.  What are you supposed to do with Marion in a removable evening gown, or the black-clad swordsman whom Indy shoots like a dog in the street?  Or Belloq or Toht or Col. Dietrich, who are all excellent baddies in the film but have no action sequences to speak of?  The one character Indy has a fistfight with is the nameless bald German mechanic, but that'd keep you busy for what, five minutes?  It's a shame, these were good looking toys for the time, but aside from Indy himself there wasn't much you could do with 'em.  Even the few playsets they had were pointless (more on that HERE).

Damn good detail on these but again, what do I do with 'em?

Then in 1984 LJN tried their hand with 5-inch figures for Temple of Doom, releasing five characters but running into the same problem.  Playing with these toys was all about Indy performing daring stunts and escapes.  Beyond that you're stuck.  Thus when The Last Crusade came out, no one even bothered with a toy line.  'Twas a pity. 


Okay now for the meat of the list....


Friday, February 7, 2020

Top Ten Things: Oscar Snubs, Best Picture Edition

Welcome to another Oscar-themed edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  The big Academy shindig is just days away, so why not take this opportunity to do more complaining about stuff they ignored over the years?


You may have seen my previous Oscar Snubs list, which centered on individual performances Oscar failed to recognize, but this time I'm talking about entire films that flew under the radar in the all-important Best Picture category.  So many great films both mainstream and otherwise have come and gone with little or no attention paid by the Academy, and some of them seemed tailor-made to garner award nominations.  But for whatever reason (in some cases political) they garnered large quantities of the shaft instead.  Here are ten such examples, in chronological order...




1. City Lights (1931)


Only one of Charlie Chaplin's classic films, The Great Dictator, was ever nominated for Best Picture (partly because much of his work predated the Oscars), but here's a second film that should've been included.  City Lights is the delightfully touching story of Chaplin's Little Tramp, who falls in love with a blind flower girl, happens upon some money, and gives it all to her so she can get her eyes fixed.  Such a simple plot, but executed in the signature Chaplin style that earns both laughs and tears throughout.  The Academy was still finding its legs in 1931 (the release window was split over calendar years at this point), but surely there must've been a slot for what is widely considered Chaplin's greatest film.

Key Scene: The finale in which the now-seeing flower girl hands the Tramp a flower, touches his hands, and realizes he's the one who helped her see, remains one of the most genuinely touching in cinema history.  If this doesn't choke you up, you're a monster.






2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


Walt Disney's first full-length animated film broke box office records and blew everyone's mind-holes upon its release.  Disney had gambled basically his entire career and studio on this ambitious, expensive project, hoping to revolutionize animation, and it paid off in truckloads of cash and a cartoon feature dynasty.  An art form that had previously been aimed at entertaining children for 5-10 minutes in front of "real" movies was now looked upon as a true artistic achievement, and just about every animated feature since owes something to the success of Disney's first homerun.  But the Academy more or less viewed the animated film as something of a cheat, not to be judged alongside live-action movies.  Thus when it came time for awards season Walt Disney was given a somewhat begrudging Honorary Oscar instead of a bona fide Best Picture nod.  It wasn't until 1991 that an animated feature was given the big nomination (Beauty and the Beast), and not until 2001 did the Academy create a separate category for animated features.

Key Scene: Hard to pick just one, but I always loved the Queen's transformation into the old hag, reminiscent of Jekyll & Hyde.  Kids back then must've freaked the fuck out.



Top Ten Things: Oscar Upsets

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  It's a list of ten things that stand aTOP all other things.  See?



Well we are in the midst of movie awards season, which for me means a mad dash to catch up on all the Oscar bait I haven't seen yet.  Thus when the Golden Globes and Oscars roll around I'll be much more educated and opinionated about the winners and losers.  Over the years we've seen some pretty shocking winners; some pleasant surprises, some bile-churning outrages.  Very often it seems Mr. Oscar suffers from acute myopia, as literally dozens of Best Picture winners fail to make much of a lasting impression on the American lexicon, while many of the losers are universally lauded as masterworks for decades to come.  The same can be said of individual performances and the actors attached to them.  Sometimes an actor or actress can win the gold statue and go on to do literally nothing of note, while perpetually snubbed thespians continue to impress critically and commercially despite the lack of Academy love.

So let's take a look at the ten most noteworthy upsets in Oscar history.  This list includes nominees for Best Picture, Director, and acting awards.




10. Crash over Brokeback Mountain


One of the most infamous recent shockers took place in 2006, as Paul Haggis's ensemble piece about racial tensions in America took home the gold despite the outpouring of support for Ang Lee's touching cowboy love story.  Almost immediately Crash suffered something of a backlash, and few people today recall it as an all-time classic, while Brokeback Mountain helped launch the serious acting careers of Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and of course the late Heath Ledger.  For the record I enjoyed both films but I didn't consider Crash a multiple-time watch.




9. Gene Hackman (Unforgiven) over Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men)


The 1993 ceremony saw a battle of heavyweights in the Best Supporting Actor category, as the respective villains of Clint Eastwood's understated Western and Rob Reiner's courtroom drama went head-to-head.  Hackman took the award but it's Nicholson's performance that is much more remembered (and quoted) 20-plus years later, as the iconic Col. Nathan Jessup.  Lines like "You can't handle the truth!" and "Are we clear??" "Crystal." are part of our vernacular, while Hackman's turn as Little Bill Daggett, though certainly skillful, was far less memorable.




8. Bob Fosse (Cabaret) over Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather)


Speaking of memorable vs. not-so-much, in 1973 choreographer/musical theater director Bob Fosse won the Best Director award for Cabaret, despite Francis Ford Coppola seeming a shoe-in for his masterful work on The Godfather.  The epic mafia drama has since become an essential part of any cinefile's collection, while Cabaret is.....well, not so much.




Thursday, February 6, 2020

Music Review: Kesha - High Road


Kesha's fourth album High Road is sort of a mix of her early party pop sensibilities and her more poignant, introspective material found on 2017's Rainbow (her first record free from the abusive contract she'd signed with Dr. Luke).  Where that album was a cathartic, often heart-rending purge of personal demons, High Road (as the title implies) attempts to get back to a sense of fun and carefreedom while still exploring a bit of Kesha's thirty-something maturity.

The album's first third is lighthearted pop fare - "Tonight," "My Own Dance," and "Raising Hell" are all about going out and having a good time, albeit with a tinge of Kesha's debaucherous self-awareness ("I'm getting so drunk/I haven't seen my boyfriend in a few months").  "Tonight" is the best of these, with an anthemic, Nate Ruess-esque chorus (Ruess co-wrote a couple of the other tracks in fact) and evocative word-pictures.  The fourth and fifth tracks, "High Road" and "Shadow," seem to indicate Kesha's intent to move past the struggles chronicled on Rainbow and just worry about the future, critics be damned.

For me it's the second act where High Road really comes alive.  "Honey" is a scathing rebuke of a former friend, featuring layered R&B vocals over a Weezer-esque guitar loop.  Songs like this one showcase Kesha's admirable directness and free-flowing spontaneity.  My two favorite tracks are next, both understated, folky, affecting laments of missed boats and eroding love.  "Cowboy Blues" is a sweet and sad duet about a fella she met at a dive bar and never saw again, while "Resentment" (featuring Brian Wilson and Sturgill Simpson) deals with being taken for granted by a longtime lover.  These two songs are quite beautiful and I'd love to hear Kesha do more of this.

Parents' Night In #28: Lost in Translation (2003), A Pivotal Film for These Two Parents....

Welcome to the first PNI of 2020, where Kelly and Justin watch and discuss Sofia Coppola's breakout film Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson!  This was one of the first films we watched together as a couple, on our first bona fide date, and we've been enjoying films together ever since.  LIT holds sentimental value for us as a sweet, poignant film about two lonely people finding a deep emotional connection in a strange city.  It's funny, thoughtful and delightful, and we love watching it.  We'll also discuss Oscar history, traveling, and the dawn of text messaging.

Join us for some fun!

#ScarJo #ScarlettJohansson #AcademyAwards #Oscars





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Movie Review: Little Women (2019)

Greta Gerwig's new version of the much-adapted Little Women injects a bit of 21st century sensibility into the classic story, while lending more urgency and even a bit of meta-fiction to the narrative.  


Starring the wonderful Saoirse Ronan as lead character Jo (a largely autobiographical creation of the novel's author Louisa May Alcott), Emma Watson as her loving older sister Meg, Eliza Scanlen as sickly Beth, and Florence Pugh in a powderkeg performance as the youngest, Amy, Little Women jumps back and forth between the four sisters' harmonious Concord, MA upbringing in 1861 and their splintering apart as young adults in 1868.  As someone already familiar with the story from Gillian Armstrong's 1994 version, but fuzzy on the details from a quarter-century ago when I saw it, I found Gerwig's disjointed approach actually more engaging than a chronological structure would've been.  Instead of waiting for the inevitable story beats I remembered, I had to piece together what was happening in which time period; there are no titles as the film jumps back and forth, it just does.

The film begins with Jo negotiating the sale of some short story work to her New York City publisher, before learning the news that her younger sister Beth is gravely ill, and rushing home to Massachusetts.  She reminisces sporadically about events from seven years earlier, when Jo and her three sisters lived a rather poor but overall content life with their mother, keeping each other's spirits high by performing plays and visiting with their neighbor Laurie (a charming but deeply troubled Timothee Chalamet in a superb performance).

At the same time in Paris, a now-grown Amy reconnects with Laurie, who once proposed to Jo only to be turned down, but now seems drawn to Amy.  Both Amy and her older sister Meg struggle with the idea of marrying for money vs. for love; in the mid-19th century women who married got to keep essentially nothing of their own.  Their money, property and children all became their husbands', thus women like Amy view marriage as little more than a business transaction, while Meg has taken the opposite path, marrying a penniless teacher, content to raise a family on a modest income.  Someone like Jo on the other hand has little use for marriage, preferring to keep her own identity.  This theme is front and center in this version, cleverly woven into the later scenes involving Jo's publishing deal.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka 2020 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NJPW predictions, here at Enuffa.com!  I was on vacation last week and totally forgot to do this for the Sapporo New Beginning shows, dammit.  But anyway, I'm back for the Osaka lineup, which is really the important one.  That said, definitely check out the final two bouts of each Sapporo show - all quite excellent.


This lineup has four big singles matches and a Jr. Tag Title defense, including Tetsuya Naito's first defense of his double championship.  I wonder how long he'll keep them both, or if he'll even defend them separately.  Anyway, this show features a modest 8-match lineup but should be a very easy watch and provide some new entries for my Top Ten February PPV Matches list (stay tuned for the updated version).  Let's pick some winners....




Tencozy, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi & Toa Henare


Part of the Nakanishi retirement tour, this opener is a lot like Jushin Liger's 8-man at the Dome.  A nice little pre-retirement send-off.  Should be a fun match, likely ending with Nakanishi doing the job.

Pick: Team Great Bash Heel





IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: RPG3K vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru


Sho & Yoh will defend their newly-won Jr. Tag belts against the team they apparently can't get enough of wrestling.  These two teams have yet to really tear the house down together, so I'd like to see Sho & Yoh move on to a really great pair of heel juniors.  I can't imagine RPG3K loses the belts already.

Pick: RPG3K retains





Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Juice Robison & David Finlay vs. Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Guerrillas of Destiny


Another 8-man tag, this will be Kota Ibushi's return after a pretty serious flu-like illness that kept him off the US tour.  Dude needs to take it easy and rest up for the New Japan Cup.  I like the babyface side of this match, while the heel side is eh...  GOD just won back the tag belts and I don't know if FinJuice will continue chasing them or not.  But I think the good guys win here.

Pick: Tanibuicelay



Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Top Ten Things: Film Directors

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

Today I'll be discussing my all-time favorite filmmakers.  As a cinefile I've spent years seeking out quality films made by gifted directors, and there have been more than a few whose careers I've followed very closely, at least for a while.  Some directors fell off my radar after a downturn in quality (Rob Reiner anyone?), but in each of the below cases I actively seek out films by these directors.  In some cases they are essential viewing for me.

Here now is the list....




10. Paul Thomas Anderson


One of Hollywood's quirkiest, most adventurous directors, Anderson has made a career of creating non-traditional films centered around flawed protagonists.  He often wears his cinematic influences on his sleeve, but always injects his own style and sensibilities into every picture.  His noirish debut Hard Eight garnered positive reviews, but it was his sophomore effort which brought him to my attention.  Boogie Nights chronicles the rise and fall of adult film star Dirk Diggler, set against the messy transition from the artsy smut of the 70s to the more utilitarian, VHS-driven industry of the 80s.  Anderson created such a fully realized universe and cast of characters in this movie I couldn't help being totally immersed, and Boogie Nights remains one of my all-time favorite films.  He followed it up with the uneven but superbly acted Magnolia, the Kubrick-esque opus There Will Be Blood, and the puzzling but never dull The Master.  Even in light of his two (in my opinion) misfires Punch-Drunk Love and Inherent Vice, Anderson has enjoyed a stellar career thus far, directing two masterpieces and three other uniquely admirable efforts.

Top Three Films: Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, The Master





9. David Fincher


Perhaps no other director seized my fascination so early on in his career as David Fincher.  His debut film Alien 3 (which he later disowned) disappointed me severely, but there was still something about his visual style that struck me.  His ability to play with light and darkness lent Alien 3 a richness that its script sorely lacked.  He brought that sense of intensely tangible dread to the forefront in his second film, the overwhelmingly bleak Se7en (another one of my all-time favorites), and again in his Hitchcockian thriller The Game.  But it will probably always be Fight Club that audiences most closely associate with Fincher.  This mindfuck of a movie had such a profound impact on our cinematic lexicon, and along with The Sixth Sense, made plot twists a must-have in any thriller for several years.  Much of Fincher's recent work has been a little more conventional (but often still excellent), from the police procedural Zodiac, to the Gump-esque Benjamin Button, to the darkly droll The Social Network.  His two most recent films (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl) were both based on bestsellers, with mixed box office results, but they cemented Fincher as a visually gifted event filmmaker.

Top Three Films: Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network





8. F.W. Murnau


One of cinema's earliest visionaries, Murnau created some of the most optically stunning images ever photographed for a film.  At a time when most moving pictures featured static, flat camera angles, Murnau brought expressionist atmosphere and movement (In The Last Laugh for example he used a swing and a wheelchair to create motion).  He also made use of deliberately fantastical special effects to lend his films a moody, dreamlike quality.  Consider the opening passages in his horrific epic Faust, which depicts a struggle between God and Satan.  These effects don't strive for realism, yet they're more effective in conveying the story than some of our modern CGI.  Undoubtedly Murnau's most famous film is Nosferatu, the first major adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Murnau set the bar for all future versions of the immortal Count, inventing a loathsome, disease-spreading apparition.  Some of film horror's most iconic images came from this film and it remains mandatory viewing every Halloween.  Murnau was sadly killed in a car accident shortly after being imported by Hollywood, and it's a tragedy we never got to see his intended American filmography.  His first American film, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, won three awards at the first Oscars ceremony.

Top Three Films: Nosferatu, Faust, The Last Laugh