Monday, May 16, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Matrix

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I take a closer look at a film that is either beloved in spite of its faults or reviled in spite of its virtues, or that simply has such a mix of those two things it's stuck somewhere in between.


Today's subject is the 1999 cyberpunk action smash-hit, The Matrix!  The brainchild of the Wachowskis, The Matrix was a hip, new take on the humanity vs. machines theme that's been explored extensively in science fiction, driven by a capable cast and revolutionary special effects.  It became a touchstone at the time of its release, having such a profound and immediate influence on the genre that its visual tropes had actually become hackneyed by the time the sequels came out four years later.  In a way it was too big a hit for its own good, and the second and third films were viewed as a pretty massive disappointment (As of this moment I have yet to see the fourth film).  But however botched the follow-through on this saga, the first film remains a visually engaging, conceptually neat sci-fi/action vehicle that could've been even more had the producers not dumbed it down for us popcorn-gorging slobs.

So let's take a look at what still works, and what still doesn't, about The Matrix!




The Awesome


Concept

The plot of this movie is super cool.  It's a dystopian future and machines have become self-aware and taken over the world, imprisoning the human race as an energy source while plugging them into a virtual reality designed to keep them pacified and complacent.  Nearly every person left after the apocalypse was born into this matrix, occupying a cryo-pod but under the impression they're all living normal human lives in the late 20th century.  A few resistors like Morpheus got wise and dared to pull back the curtain, hoping to free the others and bring down the machines.  Our main protagonist Neo is a highly sought-after computer programmer/hacker, whom Morpheus believes will be "the one" to free humanity.  It's high-concept sci-fi fun, with lofty, existential themes that are eminently relatable; who wouldn't be able to get behind a small band of heroes trying to save the world?  It's the cinematic embodiment of Rage Against the Machine!





Effects

The special effects invented for The Matrix were possibly the most influential of that era.  Nearly every action sequence features "bullet time" effects, where a computer-controlled ring of cameras rapidly spins around a subject, firing off a single frame in quick succession.  When blended with a CG-modeled background, the effect creates the illusion of time stopping as our hero manipulates space-time within the Matrix.  The martial arts scenes made liberal use of this effect and it was unlike anything ever put to film at that time.  It was so successful and popular nearly every action movie for the next few years ripped it off in some form, even when it didn't make sense in context (which was usually the case - see Charlie's Angels or Mission Impossible 2).  The visual effects here were hugely groundbreaking.

This move was so popular WWE wrestler Trish Stratus started using it.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Top Ten Things: Owen Hart Matches

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today is the anniversary of what was for me the most tragic death in wrestling history, that of Owen Hart.


For those of you not familiar (by this point that's probably no one), on May 23, 1999 Owen was the victim of a horrific stunt gone wrong, when the harness in which he was supposed to descend from the ceiling released prematurely, causing Owen to fall 70 feet to his death.  Owen was 34 years old.  Unlike so many untimely pro wrestling deaths, Owen's wasn't the result of drugs or steroids or neglect of his health.  Owen was a happily married family man who had planned to retire early from wrestling to enjoy a quiet life as a father and husband.  I've said for years that if I could go back and save one person in the wrestling business from dying young, it would be Owen.  He deserved to live a long, content life and enjoy the fruits of his success.

In the ring Owen was possibly the most athletically gifted of all the Harts, possessing a natural grace and agility surpassing even Bret's.  Bret may have been more technically sound, but Owen seemed innately suited for pro wrestling, employing a mix of grappling and aerial techniques that made him one of the most well-rounded performers of his generation.

Owen toiled in the WWF undercard for a few years before finally getting a big heel push as Bret's disgruntled little brother.  The two had a legendary feud, tearing the house down every time they met, and as a result Owen became one of the most dependable top names in the company, eventually winning every available heavyweight title except the big one (Whenever I'm asked who was the best wrestler never to win a world title, my two answers are always Owen and Davey Boy).  Then in 1997 Bret and Owen, now both heels, reunited to form the new Hart Foundation stable, prompting the best feud of that year which pitted the American wrestlers (and fans) against the Harts (and basically all non-American fans).  On the back of this unprecedented feud, the WWF churned out must-see television nearly every week, and Owen was a huge part of it all.

After Bret's messy WWF departure (along with Davey Boy and Jim Neidhart), Owen was the only Hart Foundation member left, and as an old-school character he struggled to fit into the new WWF Attitude era.  Owen enjoyed modest success for his remaining time in the company, but was repeatedly asked to take part in sexualized angles with which he wasn't comfortable.  The compromise was repackaging him as a dorkier version of the Blue Blazer (his 1989 persona), hence the fateful ceiling descent on May 23rd.

It's a shame the company wasn't able to find something more dignified for him to do, or wasn't willing to release him from his contract when Bret left.  In either scenario he'd undoubtedly still be with us today.

Owen was a one-of-a-kind talent who left the wrestling industry better than he found it, who was beloved by all who worked with him, and who stayed true to himself and his family in a business where such a thing was increasingly rare.  Two decades later, the wrestling business still feels incomplete without him.

Now let's take a look at his best matches.....




Honorable Mention: Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid - King of the Ring - 6.19.94


Yeah I know, this match only went 3-1/2 minutes, but holy lord what a match considering.  These two packed about as much action into 217 seconds as you possibly could, delivering one of only two good matches on this PPV.  Owen made the Kid submit with a Sharpshooter in this semi-final match, on his way to becoming the second PPV King of the Ring.  It's a great illustration of what Owen (and X-Pac) were capable of even with severe time constraints.





10. Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. Vader & Mankind - WrestleMania 13 - 3.23.97


One of the forgotten WrestleMania gems was this rare heels vs. heels Tag Title match, where Owen and Davey had teased splitting up for weeks.  Owen had become jealous of all the attention Davey was getting, particularly after Davey bested him to become the inaugural European Champion.  Between the champs not being on the same page and the physical dominance of Vader and Mankind, it looked like we might see a title change here, but this wild brawl ended unceremoniously with a double countout, as Mankind subdued Davey with a Mandible Claw on the outside.  A better finish would've undoubtedly elevated this match, but as it was I still consider this one very underrated.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Fifth Element

Welcome back to Enuffa.com, and welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I suck all the enjoyment out of one of America's most beloved popcorn films and demonstrate why I don't get invited to parties anymore.

Today I'll be dissecting Luc Besson's 1997 sci-fi epic The Fifth Element - a richly visual, futuristic action vehicle, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and Milla Jovovich.  This film was released at the start of the 1997 summer movie season, and while not a success in the United States, made a killing overseas.  The story centers around a battle of good vs. evil, life vs. death, as a cosmic force threatens the existence of all life in the universe unless the five elements are assembled to stop it.  Caught up in the middle of this war is Korben Dallas, a former special forces officer now driving a cab for a living.  Dallas is recruited to deliver "the fifth element" - a supreme being in the guise of a young woman named Leeloo - to an alien in possession of four stones representing the other four elements, so they may be used to save the universe.


This is a pretty goofy premise if I'm being honest, and were it not for Luc Besson's gleeful abandon and quite obvious love for the project (plus several other factors), this film would likely belong in a compost heap.

But let's examine the reasons this movie is actually quite delightful, and then we'll talk about what could've been improved.


The Awesome

Casting

What first attracted me to this film, and what immediately sets it apart from its B-movie schlock brethren, is its first-rate cast.  Bruce Willis is typecast but perfect as the reluctant everyman hero Korben Dallas, whose life as a cabby seems unbecoming of a former decorated soldier.  Dallas lives a lonely existence in a shoebox apartment with only his cat for companionship.  In Leeloo he sees a chance for redemption and a sense of purpose.  Milla Jovovich is quirky, often goofy, but also quite touching in the role of Leeloo.  Despite being a superpowered alien she projects vulnerability and makes us identify with and care about this strange person.  Ian Holm improves every film he's in, and his turn as Vito Cornelius is no exception.  Cornelius is the priest entrusted with being the caretaker of the five elements, and Holm's performance brings instant credibility to the project, much as Alec Guinness did for Star Wars.  And last but certainly not least, Gary Oldman once again steals the show as the villainous, slimy weapons dealer Zorg, who is also after the elemental stones.  Boasting a southern accent and oversized front teeth, Oldman is almost unrecognizable as this craven but charismatic scoundrel.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Top Ten Things: Weird Al Yankovic Albums, RANKED

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

Today I'll be talking about a musical legend.  And a comedy legend.  And a certified genius (Seriously, he skipped second grade and was senior year valedictorian at sixteen).


Weird Al Yankovic burst into the American lexicon in 1984 with an off-beat parody of a Michael Jackson hit, and has somehow managed to build a hugely successful thirty-plus-year career lampooning our most cherished pop music stars.  As an eight-year-old Michael Jackson fanatic I was initially offended that anyone would parody one of his songs, but Al won me over when I first saw the video for "Eat It."  Here was a dorky, bespectacled nerd mimicking all of Jackson's dance moves (badly I might add) and conjuring comedy from already-tired rock video imagery.  By age twelve I'd bought all of Al's records, and I've been a huge fan ever since.  In 2000 I got to see Al from the front row, and he even yelled at me for not singing along to "Dare to Be Stupid."  It was indeed a privilege.  Twenty-two years later I took my son to see his Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, a proud inter-generational moment. 

Despite originating as a zany novelty act on comedy radio, Weird Al's career has endured a staggering four decades.  For many artists, being parodied by Al is a badge of honor, a sign that they've truly "made it."  Al is like a pop culture mirror, making light of our society's latest fads and popular music heroes.  While he seems to be all done putting out full albums, he still pops up every so often with a new video to remind us he's still out there, ready to either lampoon or pay homage to whatever's grabbing headlines.

Here now are my ten favorite Weird Al Yankovic albums....




14. Polka Party!


It should come as no surprise that the album which nearly derailed Al's career ranks last.  Without the benefit of a strong single to help move sales ("Livin' With a Hernia" is a fun James Brown parody but didn't exactly light up the charts the way "Eat It" or "Like a Surgeon" did), Polka Party! would need to overachieve as a cohesive album.  Sadly it did not; the album's parodies tackled mostly less-than-memorable material, while its originals were largely pretty pedestrian.  The Talking Heads-inspired "Dog Eat Dog" and the Phil Spector-style "Christmas at Ground Zero" serve as a pair of standouts, but beyond those, Polka Party! lacks a strong catalogue of original tunes to make up for the rather uninspired slate of parodies.  Thankfully Al's career would resurge in a big way two years later with the release of Even Worse.

Key Tracks: Livin' With a Hernia, Dog Eat Dog, Christmas at Ground Zero






13. Alapalooza


Cashing in on both the mammoth success of Jurassic Park and the alternative music tour Lollapalooza, Al's 8th album dropped in 1993 and didn't quite make the splash its predecessor Off the Deep End did.  It probably didn't help that the lead single was a parody of an old 1960s tune rather than a hot 1993 alternative chart-topper (though Al's "Jurassic Park" song is pretty great).  Al did send up the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge," with mixed results (RHCP bassist Flea expressed disappointment in Al's choice of The Flintstones as the song's inspiration), and Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge," returning to the subject of food, in this case the kind that's been in the fridge too long.  The original songs on this album were a letdown for me, aside from the excellent REM-esque "Frank's 2000" TV."  To my mind "Traffic Jam," "Waffle King" and "She Never Told Me She Was a Mine" sounded like outtakes from previous albums.  But Alapalooza does finish strong with "Bohemian Polka," a sped-up, accordion-driven version of Queen's megahit "Bohemian Rhapsody."  Overall though, Alapalooza is one of his weakest efforts, and the worst of his 1990s output.

Key Tracks: Jurassic Park, Frank's 2000" TV, Bohemian Polka





12. Straight Outta Lynwood


Notable for boasting Al's highest-charting single "White & Nerdy" (a parody of "Ridin" by Chamillionaire), Al's 12th album was from a commercial standpoint another career highlight.  Other parodies include "Canadian Idiot," based of course on Green Day's "American Idiot," "Confessions Part III," a sendup of Usher's "Confessions Part II," and the epic "Trapped in the Drive Thru" based on R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet."  The originals on this album are quite varied, with "Pancreas" parodying the style of The Beach Boys, "I'll Sue Ya" capturing the sound of Rage Against the Machine, and probably the strongest original "Don't Download This Song" going after 1980s all-star charity tunes like "We Are the World."  Overall SOL is ambitious and sonically diverse, but not all of it landed for me.  Still it was satisfying to see Al achieve such mainstream success once again.

Key Tracks: White & Nerdy, Pancreas, Don't Download This Song





11. Bad Hair Day


Falling just shy of the top ten is Al's 1996 return to prominence after the critical and commercial disappointment of Alapalooza.  The ninth album in Al's catalog surged to double-platinum status largely on the back of "Amish Paradise," a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise."  Coolio infamously disapproved of Al using his song as comedy fodder and publicly objected, though Al did get written permission from Coolio's management to use the song.  This was ironic considering the Coolio tune is itself a reworking of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise."  Aside from the hit single, Bad Hair Day boasts an excellent parody of Presidents of the USA's "Lump," about Forrest Gump, some standout originals such as "Everything You Know is Wrong" the a cappella "Since You've Been Gone," and "The Night Santa Went Crazy," and maybe his best-ever polka medley, "The Alternative Polka," which makes use of numerous mid-90s grunge and alternative hits.  Bad Hair Day is a bit uneven but contains enough standout tunes to almost make the vaunted top ten.

Key Tracks: Amish Paradise, The Alternative Polka, Gump





10. UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff


The soundtrack to Al's 1989 summer flop sadly didn't fare much better than its film counterpart, but it did contain some fun parodies and solid originals, plus a few snippets of the film itself.  Al's spoof of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," which is essentially the Beverly Hillbillies theme set to different music, was accompanied by an excellent sendup of the Straits video.  Other highlights were "Spam," based on REM's "Stand," and two hilarious originals, "Generic Blues," which literally just recycles all the woe-is-me blues lyrical tropes, and folk-rock epic "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," which recounts in great detail a trip to go see the World's Largest Twine Ball (Yes, such a thing actually exists).  Released at a time when a) the summer movie season was quite cluttered (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Star Trek V, and Lethal Weapon 2), and b) Weird Al's record sales were somewhat contingent on including a Michael Jackson parody, this album and film kinda got lost in the shuffle (though UHF has since become a cult classic).  But it's not too shabby at all and shows evidence of Al's growth as a musician.

Key Tracks: Generic Blues, Spam, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota





9. Dare to Be Stupid


Al's third album, and the first musical comedy album to see a CD release, showed that Al was growing beyond his reputation as "that funny guy who does the Michael Jackson parody."  With songs like "Like a Surgeon," "I Want a New Duck," and the superb "Yoda" (based on The Kinks' "Lola"), Al was attempting to last beyond the fifteen-minute lifespan most gave him.  But it's in the original songs where this album really achieves.  Style parodies like the hilariously descriptive doo-wop ballad "One More Minute" and the Devo-inspired title track demonstrated Al's gift for recreating different genres (Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh once said that "Dare to Be Stupid" captured the exact sound he himself had been trying to create).

Key Tracks: Dare to Be Stupid, One More Minute, Yoda

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Followups

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

Today I'll be talking about some slightly-hidden gems given the unenviable task of directly following WrestleMania.  Every year 'Mania seems to play out like a season finale of sorts, with long-running angles and feuds being resolved, and new stories beginning.  But with no off-season, WWE marches right on to the next PPV (formerly In Your House and Backlash, now Extreme Rules) and has to assemble a show that could easily come off as anticlimactic given its position on the PPV calendar.  Some years though, the 'Mania followup PPV has actually outclassed The Show of Shows and presented one or more Match of the Year candidates.  Backlash 1999 and 2000 for example were far and away superior to 'Mania 15 and 16 respectively.  Ditto for Extreme Rules 2011 and 2012.  Not so much for Payback 2017....

Here now are the Top Ten Matches from Post-WrestleMania PPVs.



10. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules 2014


This dream match of sorts was a wild, action-packed example of faction warfare.  The Shield had recently turned against The Authority, and Triple H retaliated by reassembling his most accomplished stable, now consisting of three former WWE/World Champions.  Now I had hoped for an 8-man WarGames-style match including Daniel Bryan and Kane, and I still think WWE dropped the ball by not booking that match after it was so perfectly set up the night after WM30.  That said though, this six-man delivered huge and further established The Shield as the most dominant faction in years.




9. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar - Extreme Rules 2012


Brock Lesnar's WWE return was an absolutely huge deal.  After an eight-year hiatus Lesnar reappeared on RAW the night after WrestleMania 28 and left John Cena laying in a heap.  A No Holds Barred match was immediately signed for Extreme Rules, and would be the first signature "Brock Lesnar" match, where he employed both pro wrestling and MMA techniques to create a unique, big-fight atmosphere.  The match began with Lesnar brutally bloodying Cena with hard elbows to the forehead, marking the first WWE use of significant "color" in several years.  This groundbreaking fight showcased a dominant Lesnar performance until the very end, when Cena evened the playing field with a chain and got a shocking (and in retrospect terribly ill-advised) win over the returning Beast.  It took some time for WWE to properly use Lesnar during his post-UFC run (His record after one year back was 1-2!), but fortunately they soon remembered that Brock Lesnar is supposed to destroy everything in sight, and worked much harder to preserve his drawing power.




8. Mankind vs. Big Show - Backlash '99


After a tremendously disappointing first-time matchup at WrestleMania XV, Mankind and The Big Show redeemed themselves with this brutal Boiler Room Brawl.  The inaugural Backlash event one-upped 'Mania 15 in every way, and this match was everything the first encounter wasn't.  Mankind brought his typically high pain threshold, taking a brutal table spot and cutting his hand on a pane of glass before escaping the boiler room.  Not only did this match steal the show at Backlash '99 but I consider it the far better of the two Boiler Room Brawls.




7. Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack - Backlash 2004


Another Foley classic, this time Mick donned the red & black flannel and trimmed way down to resurrect his original in-ring persona, Cactus Jack.  Randy Orton was just gaining traction as a future main event player, and Foley made sure he looked like a million bucks.  This outlandish, violent Street Fight featured barbed-wire bats, thumbtacks, falls off the stage, and buckets of blood.  The enduring image for me is of Orton taking a bump, barebacked, on a pile of thumbtacks.  Simply one of the most grisly moments I can recall in a wrestling match.



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

WWE WrestleMania Backlash 2022 Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's time for the PPV WWE wants to trick you into thinking is more important than it really is by putting the name WrestleMania in front of it, Backlash!


Yes, in case you weren't sure what the original intent of the name Backlash was, occurring one PPV cycle after 'Mania, they dumbed it down a shade for ya.  This lineup is rather skimpy with a scant six matches, only one of which is for a championship, but I'm sure they'll find a way to load it up with pointless video packages and stretch it well over three hours.  Anyway, once you scrape off the two pointless bouts at the bottom, the remaining four look very good on paper.  Of course numerous important talents are missing, as usual.



Bobby Lashley vs. Omos


Oh good, the worst scheduled match at either night of WrestleMania gets a rematch, and this time Bobby Lashley is a full-fledged babyface, while his former manager MVP has pulled a 2002 Paul Heyman and dumped the former champion for a giant with a poor track record.  This turn of events makes zero sense; why would MVP front-run for a guy who LOST at 'Mania?  This match is going to be pure drivel and sadly since he lost at 'Mania, the immobile, incompetent Omos is going to pick up a win here.

Pick: Omos




Baron Corbin vs. Madcap Moss


What in the holy fuck is this match doing on a PPV while Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Damian Priest, Becky Lynch, Asuka, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair, hell, even Austin Theory (whom Vince apparently sees as the next John Cena, until some other shiny new object catches his attention anyway) are sitting in catering?  God I hate this company. 

Pick: Who gives a tupenny fuck?  Moss I guess.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Rock

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  For those just joining us in progress, ASM is a regular feature where I pick apart a film that neither qualifies as a particularly good film nor as a piece of junk.  Every movie spotlighted in this column is something I either enjoy despite itself, or a movie that could be really good if the filmmakers just got out of their own way.

Today's ASM is the 1996 Michael Bay action vehicle, The Rock, starring Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery and Ed Harris.  The Rock tells the story of a former US General who hijacks Alcatraz Island, taking 80 civilians hostage, and threatens to launch a poison gas missile into San Francisco if his demands aren't met.  The US Government, not wanting to negotiate, sends in a team of Navy Seals, plus a former Alcatraz inmate who knows how to enter the prison undetected, and a chemical weapons expert to disarm the missiles.  As expected, things don't quite go according to plan and all hell breaks loose in the prison.


So why was The Rock both good and bad?  Let's find out....


The Awesome

Lead Actors/Characters

The Rock really begins and ends with its three lead actors. 

Nicolas Cage is spot-on as Stanley Goodspeed, the everyman type who's been thrust into an extraordinary situation and repeatedly survives by the skin of his teeth.  He is our eyes and ears throughout the story, keeping his head down during the intense action and letting the more experienced military characters do the heavy lifting while he concentrates on disarming missiles.  The fact that he has a pregnant girlfriend waiting for him at home adds consequence and sympathy to his plight; we reaaaallly hope he gets out of this alive.

Sean Connery as John Mason essentially plays an older James Bond type - a grizzled SAS veteran brought in to show the Navy Seals how to get in and out of the prison.  When we first meet him, Mason has been imprisoned by the US Government for 30 years without being charged, for refusing to divulge classified information.  During the ensuing combat, Mason is always in control of the situation and never gets rattled.  He forms an unlikely bond with Goodspeed and more or less guides/protects him (and us) through the action.  Mason initially wants to run once the shit hits the fan, but Goodspeed reminds him that his daughter would be within the blast radius if the bad guys launch their missiles.  So he has to juggle helping Goodspeed while also planning his escape at the end.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Face/Off

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll examine a movie that is horribly entertaining but also entertainingly horrible.

Today's entry in the series is John Woo's 1997 action thriller, Face/Off



Face/Off stars John Travolta as FBI agent Sean Archer, whose son was killed by his arch-nemesis Castor Troy, a manic, sadistic terrorist played by Nicolas Cage.  Six years later Troy announces to the FBI that there's a bomb hidden somewhere in Los Angeles which could potentially kill millions of people.  The FBI attempts to capture Troy in an ambush but Troy ends up in a coma before they can learn the location of the bomb.  After unsuccessfully interrogating every member of Troy's gang, Archer reluctantly submits to a radical new procedure wherein his face will be removed and replaced with Castor's, allowing him to impersonate his enemy and infiltrate the maximum security prison where Castor's brother/accomplice Pollux is being held.  Archer's subterfuge fools Pollux, who reveals the bomb's location, but before Archer can arrange his release from prison, the real Castor Troy emerges from his coma, forces the surgeon to apply Archer's face to his, and then kills everyone who knew about the procedure.  The real Sean Archer is now trapped in prison as Castor Troy, while the real Castor Troy takes over Archer's life.

This is one of the most convoluted premises of any action movie I've ever seen, but somehow the filmmakers managed to pull a pretty entertaining piece of crap out of what probably should've been a disastrous effort.  So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't.



The Awesome

John Travolta & Nic Cage

First and foremost, the two leads do an excellent job in this film of convincing the audience that a) this scenario is at all believable and b) that for most of the film's running time they are each playing the opposite character.  Travolta plays Archer as a spiritually broken man, haunted by the death of his son and consumed with catching the bastard who killed him.  His relationships with his wife and daughter are in shambles and the only thing that will bring him peace is taking Troy down.  Cage plays Troy as a high-wire act - oozing evil charisma and relishing his own depravity. 


When the ol' switcheroo occurs, each actor gets to explore the other character.  Cage as Archer brings an even greater sense of melancholy and develops a rather tender relationship with Troy's girlfriend Sasha (Gina Gershon), while Travolta's Troy rekindles the romance with Archer's wife (Joan Allen), and is actually able to identify with Archer's troubled teenage daughter (Dominique Swain).  He also becomes an FBI hero when he locates and diffuses his own bomb and uses all the Bureau's resources to chase down "Castor Troy."  Both actors are fantastic in both roles and have a lot of fun imitating each other.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Superman II

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I examine what exactly draws me to certain films that so spectacularly fail to live up to their potential.

Continuing with the superhero theme from last time, today I'll be dissecting the only good sequel from the vaunted Christopher Reeve franchise, Superman II!


In 1978 Richard Donner was tasked with directing two epic Superman films back-to-back.  Unfortunately budget and schedule issues would force him to shelve the second movie and focus on delivering the first, lest producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind fail to see a return on their massive financial investment.  Released in December 1978, Superman: The Movie was a huge commercial and critical success, ensuring the intended sequel could now be completed.  But after months of creative tension during the incredibly long shoot, the Salkinds opted not to bring Donner back to finish the second movie (It was estimated that about 75% of the footage was already completed).  Instead comedy director Richard Lester (of A Hard Day's Night fame) was brought in, and in order to officially receive directorial credit he'd need to not only complete the remaining 25%, but also reshoot a third of the already-completed footage.

The result was an immensely entertaining but horribly inconsistent sequel, featuring very divergent visual styles from two completely different directors.  This coupled with obvious continuity problems stemming from the principle actors' appearances noticeably changing between 1977 and 1980 gave Superman II a rather disjointed feel.

So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't, about this beloved Superman sequel!


The Awesome

Christopher Reeve

As with the first movie, Reeve embodied the perfect fusion of wholesome farmboy shyness and statuesque physical presence to bring to life what is still thus far the best cinematic interpretation of the Man of Steel.  This is one of those roles that a particular actor was born to play.  Reeve just captured the essence of this iconic figure and his alter-ego so brilliantly I'm not sure anyone will ever match his performance.

Magnificent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022 Preview & Predictions

Wow, has it really been four months since I did NJPW picks?  Jesus, I gotta get back on the horse.


Welcome to a long-overdue round of New Japan Pro Wrestling predictions here at Enuffa.com.  This weekend it's the annual Wrestling Dontaku show, and unlike most of NJPW's recent cards this one actually looks like a proper PPV lineup, with six championship matches and a pair of strong main events.  NJPW's product has been struggling of late, with travel limitations preventing some valuable talent from appearing, underfilled, noise-restricted arenas providing a less-than-exciting backdrop for the matches, and some questionable booking moves keeping the company from reaching its previous creative heights.  But the recent New Japan Cup and Windy City Riot both point to things picking back up in the coming months, and holy fuckin' shit, we're getting an AEW vs. NJPW PPV in June!

But first, let's look at the Dontaku lineup.....



Tatsumi Fujinami, Shingo Takagi & Bushi vs. Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taka Michinoku


Tatsumi Fujinami is making a rare in-ring appearance at the ripe age of 68.  I don't expect him to do much here, particularly since he's teaming with Shingo (and Bushi), who can easily carry the load for his side.  This match should be an enjoyable opener to warm up the crowd.  I don't see Fujinami's squad losing; I think Michinoku is here to eat a pin.

UPDATE: Fujinami has tested positive for COVID and is being replaced by a mystery partner.  No idea who that could be.  Maybe Kushida?

Pick: LIJ & TBD
 



Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoh


This one should be pretty damn good - two of the Jr. Heavyweight division's most accomplished babyface stars facing off.  I wonder if the newly released Kushida will make an appearance on this show, either after this match or after the Jr. Title match later on.  I'm not sure if he's dealing with a no-compete or not, but his return to NJPW can't get here fast enough.  But that's neither here nor there.  The upshot is, this match should be really good and likely one of the best things on the show if given time.

Pick: Takahashi

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

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.


Monday, April 25, 2022

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, April 22, 2022

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!"



Thursday, April 21, 2022

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, April 20, 2022

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 all 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


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dead Poets Society

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


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

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

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



The Awesome


Robin Williams

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

Stop making me cry, Mork!