Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Film Discussion: The 1970s

Welcome to a brand new feature here at Enuffa.com, where my colleague Michael Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I discuss the films of a given decade and list some of our favorites.  We'll talk a little about the industry during this era and how it shaped the artistic and commercial direction some of the major filmmakers took.  We're gonna start with the 1970s since this was the earliest decade in which we both really immersed ourselves.


Justin: I consider the 1970s one of the greatest decades for film - it was a time when critical and commercial appeal were essentially one and the same.  The Hollywood studio system had more or less collapsed with the retirement of all the original moguls and studio execs turned to film schools to find the next wave of great directors.  And since initially these execs didn't know much about film, they put a great deal of trust in these young directors to make the films they wanted to make.  If you look at some of the top grossing films of the '70s it's kind of staggering how challenging and subversive many of them were.  A film like The Godfather for example would have a lot of trouble making a ton of money nowadays, with a three-hour running time and such a meditative pace.  There'd be great pressure from the studio to trim it down, you'd have a whole team of screenwriters making changes to the script, etc.  But in the 70s people had patience for films that weren't action blockbusters (mostly because the modern blockbuster wasn't really invented until 1975).  So the films that won loads of awards were also the popular favorites.  In the '80s these two types of films were almost mutually exclusive.  But the moviegoing audience in the '70s hadn't yet been conditioned not to use their brain when watching a film.


Mike: I agree with you, the 1970s is one of the greatest decades for film for all the reasons you've mentioned. Everything changed during that decade: all the taboos regarding sex and language was done away with, the "summer blockbuster" was born during this decade (for better or worse), filmmakers were taking huge risks, and the decade MADE the film industry after it was going bust by the end of the '60s. The subject matter seemed to expand also providing for great stories about the disenfranchised. The horror genre was redefined during this period. The entire decade drips with classic films. Also, film audiences appreciated these magnificent works as well, like you mentioned.


Justin: Even the genre pictures made presumably just to turn a profit were full of subtext and social commentary.  Dawn of the Dead for example smacked of satire of '70s consumer culture.  The Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake was an indictment of the "Me Generation."  THX-1138 was about losing one's individuality.  Even The Godfather has been described by its director as pertaining to "the death of capitalism."  And then there were the genre-redefining films like Alien, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  What a richly creative time for film.


Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 2000s

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Ten things, in order, numbered.  You get the idea.

Today I'll be talking about the ten greatest PPVs of that bygone decade known as the "aughts."  2000-2009.  Wrestling was HUGE at the start of the decade, and by the end...not quite so much.  But the 2000s saw some major changes in the industry, as the WWF swallowed up both of its major competitors (only to see a pair of smaller ones pop up in their place).  The company also took on a more modern edge at the turn of the century, blending their storyline-driven content with a much stronger in-ring emphasis, aided by numerous talent acquisitions like Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and The Radicalz.  The WWF's PPV quality boomed during the first two years of the decade but fell again starting in 2002.  Unfortunately with no real competition Vince McMahon was less motivated to put out a consistently strong product, thus most of the entries on this list are from the first half of the decade.  So let's get to the list.....




10. No Way Out 2006


Our first entry is from one of WWE's worst recent in-ring years; a rare 2006 PPV that was solidly engaging from top to bottom.  The Smackdown brand's No Way Out was headlined by a fairly epic Kurt Angle-Undertaker bout for the World Title that ranged all over the ringside area and climaxed with Taker snaring Angle in a triangle choke, which Angle countered with a match-ending rollup.  The semi-main event pitted Rumble winner Rey Mysterio against Randy Orton, with the latter gaining a cheap pinfall to steal Rey's WrestleMania title shot.  The third-best match saw US Champion Booker T defend against Chris Benoit, in one of their better WWE outings.  Benoit would capture the US Title with the Crossface.  The three undercard bouts were middling, but the lion's share of this show was alotted to the three big matchups and the result was a streamlined PPV that easily outclassed everything else on WWE's 2006 calendar.





9. Backlash 2000


2000 was a year when the WWF's B PPVs were by and large far superior to the Big Five shows.  Case in point, Backlash.  Making excellent use of the influx of new roster additions, the company presented a loaded show with a spectacular variety of bouts.  From the Edge/Christian-X-Pac/Road Dogg Tag Title opener to the dizzyingly paced Dean Malenko-Scotty 2 Hotty Light Heavyweight match, to the unruly Hardcare Title 6-Way, to the hilariously entertaining Eddie Guerrero-Essa Rios European Title match, the undercard provided plenty to enjoy.  But the final two bouts solidified Backlash as a truly great show.  Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho delivered one of their best singles matches together for the Intercontinental Title, one that could've main evented a PPV had it gone another five minutes.  Then Triple H and The Rock continued their epic feud with an excellent sports-entertainment showing.  While not a technical masterpiece like the I-C match, HHH-Rock served as a fine WWF-style main event to further this rivalry and cap off a pretty incredible night of wrestling.





8. WrestleMania XX


One of the most star-studded WrestleManias was the twentieth edition, emanating from Madison Square Garden.  Of the twelve featured matches, only four really captured the imagination, but as with 'Mania X, the good stuff on this show was so strong it far outweighed the rest.  Two undercard matches - Chris Jericho vs Christian and Evolution vs. The Rock n' Sock Connection - were tremendously entertaining in very different ways, but the real strengths of WrestleMania XX lay in its co-main events.  First was the WWE Title match between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle, a blistering 21-minute affair that ended with Guerrero loosening his boot, causing it to slip off his foot and allowing him to escape an ankle lock before rolling Angle into a small package for the pin.  The main event of this show stands as probably my favorite match of all time: World Champion Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit.  A near-perfect mix of drama, brutality, blood, and airtight wrestling.  These three delivered a simply breathtaking main event culminating in Benoit tapping out the dominant heel Champion before celebrating with his best friend Eddie Guerrero.  WrestleMania XX did have some throwaway matches (two 4-way Tag Title bouts, a brief Undertaker-Kane match, and an abysmal Goldberg-Brock Lesnar fiasco) but the good matches were so good (I consider the two Title matches the two best bouts of 2004) I have to include this show in the list.



Thursday, May 24, 2018

Top Ten Things: Avenged Sevenfold Songs

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


Today I'll be talking about my ten favorite songs by crossover metal gods Avenged Sevenfold!  I first became aware of A7X in 2005 when their third album City of Evil blasted its way onto the airwaves.  Songs like "Bat Country" and "The Beast & The Harlot" showed the band's musicianship and dexterity with complex prog-metal arrangements, and those were among the simpler tunes on the record.  I liked the album but wasn't blown away by it.  Then a few years later I gave their self-titled fourth album a listen and was stunned by the versatility on display.  From thrash to pop-metal to country to Broadway, this album had incredible variety and demonstrated the band's lust for new sounds and genres.  For me though their greatest album is 2010's Nightmare, which tempered the excess of City of Evil while preserving much of the flexibility of the self-titled record.  Several tracks were the result of their drummer The Rev's untimely death the previous year, lending the record a palpable expressiveness.  In my opinion the less said about 2013's Hail to the King the better; this was presented as an attempt to record a simple, classic-sounding metal album but to me came across as largely a Metallica "Black Album" ripoff.  But Avenged Sevenfold rebounded huge with their seventh album The Stage, a progessive concept album dealing with themes of space exploration, artificial intelligence, and humanity's self-destructiveness.  A7X was back on top of their game.

What really strikes me about A7X is their neverending determination to reinvent themselves and make every album different from the others.  Always intent on challenging the industry status quo, they've stated they don't care how heavy their music is as long as it's good.  I have great respect for bands who strive to transcend their genre, particularly when they're as musically accomplished as these fellas.

I'll be frank - this list exclusively contains songs from Self-Titled, Nightmare, and The Stage.  For me these three albums are in a class well above the other four (plus Diamonds in the Rough) and nothing from Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, Waking the Fallen, City of Evil, or Hail to the King made the cut.  But I'll include some honorable mentions:

"Unholy Confessions"
"Bat Country"
"Strength of the World"
"M.I.A."
"Demons"
"Until the End"
"Dancing Dead"

Okay, now for my ten faves.  Here we go....



10. Lost


One of the most strikingly radio-friendly A7X songs, this speed metal anthem about man's inhumanity  boasts an impossibly fast tempo, shredding guitars, and a strangely saccharine melody with autotune-assisted choruses.  At first the effect seems out of place in a metal song, but you very quickly get used to it and before long the hook gets stuck in your head.  The song's energy is undeniable, as was the band's growing songwriting proficiency and confidence in trying new things.





9. Creating God


This midtempo, Alice in Chains-esque song about the dangers of experimenting with artificial intelligence would be at home on any rock radio station.  Syncopated guitars create a foundation for grungy vocal harmonies which build to a simple, soaring cautionary hook.  This was the first song on The Stage to really jump out on the inaugural listen, and remains one of my favorites.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Theater Review: Hamilton



**Note: For a review of the Hamilton Cast Recording click HERE**

Well, nearly a year after becoming a full-blown Hamilton addict (Hamiltonitis?), the wife and I ventured to New York City to see the show itself, on the original Broadway stage.  And it is, in a word, magnificent.

The cast is absolutely stellar, by and large.  Michael Luwoye, the third actor to play the title role on the NYC stage, is a force of nature, matching Lin-Manuel Miranda's dramatic heft while from a technical standpoint actually improving on his vocal power.  While not quite boasting the same innate charisma as his predecessor - Miranda is a uniquely magnetic performer - where Luwoye really shines is in the emotionally wrenching second half.  During numbers like "It's Quiet Uptown" the actor breaks into legitimate tears while somehow still nailing every note (We were in the mezzanine and could clearly see the waterworks from there - I may have fought off some lip quivers, shut up....).  I haven't seen any clips of Javier Munoz, Lin's original replacement, but Luwoye earns every minute of this role and then some.


In the role of Aaron Burr, amazingly every bit Luwoye's equal, was the understudy(!) Ryan Vasquez.  At the start of the show I was fully ready to be disappointed, but Vasquez may just have stolen the show with a deeply nuanced performance that conveyed Burr's arc from self-aggrandizing uncoolness to seething resentment.  Initially Burr is the tagalong friend in the group that no one likes very much, and by the end of the show his professional jealousy and lust for violent satisfaction is fully palpable.  If Vasquez is merely the understudy I'm very interested in seeing one of Daniel Breaker's regularly scheduled performances in the role.  Vasquez takes a character that could come off as thankless in the hands of a lesser actor, and unearths a menacing sense of entitlement I hadn't picked up on from the soundtrack.  Call me kooky, but this kid's got a future.


Another unexpectedly wonderful understudy turn was Jennie Harney as Eliza (replacing Lexi Lawson).  Like Eliza herself, Harney is dependable if diffident in the first act, only to flourish dazzlingly in the second.  By the time her show stealer "Burn" rolled around, Harney had the audience by the throat, delivering the perfect amalgam of heartbreak and anger.  That two of the three best performances came from understudies is pretty astounding.



Monday, May 21, 2018

Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 90s

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

Today it's a countdown of the ten best PPV events of the 1990s!  In the middle of the decade the PPV calendar exploded, as the WWF and WCW were jockeying for position as the top wrestling company in North America.  What had been a sparse schedule of 4-5 PPVs a year turned into a monthly rotation of special events.  WCW expanded first, increasing their offerings to ten per year, which prompted the WWF to create two-hour PPVs to supplement their Big Five schedule.  The B-shows were dubbed In Your House, and each had a sub-title to distinguish them.  You all know the Monday Night War history - both companies raised the stakes on an almost weekly basis hoping to win the ratings battle, and by the end of 1997 each was offering a full 3-hour PPV every month.  The wrestling landscape evolved quickly and abruptly during this time period, and the product on both sides became a pop culture phenomenon, breaking buyrate records like crazy.

So which PPVs were the best of the decade?  Given the deep pool of shows to choose from it was tough narrowing it down, but I think I've assembled a list of ten that holds up quite well.  Here we go....




10. Royal Rumble '93


The 1993 Rumble had no right to be as good a show as it was.  Despite a very depleted roster the WWF managed an exceedingly fun Rumble PPV - from the fast-paced opening tag featuring WWF newcomers The Steiners vs. The Beverly Brothers, to the much-anticipated clash of former partners Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, to the excellent Bret Hart-Razor Ramon WWF Title match, the undercard was easily the strongest of any Rumble show to date.  The Rumble match itself suffered from a paper-thin lineup and very few viable contenders, but amazingly it was still a well-worked match with several memorable moments.  This was the year Yokozuna emerged from the pack to become the company's monster heel Champion, enjoying the longest run of any heel WWF Champ since the late 70s.  Even with very little star power the '93 Rumble boasted two good-to-great Title matches, two solid undercard matches, and a decent if thin Rumble match - hardly a thing to sneeze at.






9. Spring Stampede '94


WCW's last great PPV before its transformation into 80s WWF was this somewhat forgotten gem featuring a spectacular Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat Title match that, while not quite on the level of their legendary 1989 trilogy, was still one of the best matches of 1994.  The two masters grappled to a grueling 32-minute draw which ended with a double pinfall.  Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel held up the Title pending a rematch on WCW Saturday Night, itself a stellar contest.  Elsewhere on the card Vader and The (Big) Boss(man) had a bruising 9-minute fight, Steve Austin defended the US Title against The Great Muta, and The Nasty Boys had a crazy Chicago Street Fight against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.  WCW was sadly about to lose its identity, but Spring Stampede hearkened back to the company's glory years with a consistently entertaining card capped off by a fantastic main event.






8. SuperBrawl II


In the early 90s WCW introduced a new annual PPV, SuperBrawl, which in many ways became the new flagship show.  Part of that had to do with Starrcade being repurposed as a BattleBowl special in '91 and '92, but also the early SuperBrawl PPVs had loaded match lineups with big-time main events.  Case in point was the second installment.  Leading off with a Brian Pillman-Jushin "Thunder" Liger Jr. Heavyweight classic set the tone for a memorable night.  After a few somewhat forgettable undercard bouts like Marcus Bagwell vs. Terry Taylor, Cactus Jack vs. Ron Simmons (which should've gotten more time), and Van Hammer/Z-Man vs. Richard Morton/Vinnie Vegas (which should've gotten less time), the show hit its stride with four big matchups in a row.  Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes faced Steve Austin and Larry Zbyszko, Tag Team Champs Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton defended against The Steiners, Rick Rude retained the US Title vs. Ricky Steamboat, and Sting regained the WCW Title over former best friend Lex Luger, who left for the WWF after this show.  While SB2 lacked a true Match of the Year contender, it was nevertheless a pretty unrelentingly good PPV with a lot of early 90s WCW star power.



Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chris Cornell: July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017

By Dan Moore



Another rock legend, gone far, far too soon. 

You knew when you were listening to Chris Cornell the second his 'voice' was heard. I use voice in quotations as I believe whatever that man had living in his vocal chords was more a force of nature than a mere voice like us common folk. His multi-octave screech could be heard for miles, be it from your radio or live in concert.

Cornell died last night amid circumstances that are still up in the air. But that’s neither here nor there. If it turns out that his personal demons were enough that he decided there was only one way out, then the end of his life was as dark as his middle years were bright.  

He came from the Seattle grunge scene with Soundgarden, along with other great Seattle bands, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney & Screaming Trees, among many, many others. But his sound was far and away the most unique. That distinctive screech of his is something you didn’t just hear, you absorbed. One of the first songs I ever heard him sing was “Birth Ritual”.


Try going back to your pop songs after that one. 

After hearing that, the quest was on to collect as much Soundgarden as possible. Superunknown was the first album I bought by them, but that was quickly followed by Badmotorfinger, which I consider their magnum opus. It has the classics “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Rusty Cage” & my personal favorite, "Searching with My Good Eye Closed". The Temple of the Dog followed that. It was a collaboration of Pearl Jam & Cornell. Essentially, Cornell fronting Pearl Jam for an album. And my god, it’s glorious.

But Cornell was more than grunge, as he proved with a later solo career, which was anything but routine. His solo outings ranged from rock to blues to pop to, no shit, an almost hip hop like album, Scream. He had no real genre that could define him.

And, get this, when he decided to go back into straight ROCK MAN, he fronted a new band, Audioslave, which was him DESTROYING vocals in front of Rage Against the Machine. That’s right, he decided to rock out with one of the best rock bands in the world at the time. No big whoop. He could do no wrong.


In these most recent years, he had continued his solo work and got back together with the band he’ll be most known for, Soundgarden. I’ll remember him as that small looking guy with that gigantic tornado sound emanating from his throat. He was a legit one of a kind talent, and the musical world is so much smaller now without him in it. 


Say Hello to Heaven...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Parents' Night In #7: Wayne's World (1992)

Kelly and Justin are back with another beloved comedy, Wayne's World, starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey!



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Friday, May 11, 2018

Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 80s

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best whatevers.....

Hey, who remembers a time when there wasn't a PPV or "special event" every 2-3 weeks and wrestling promotions could actually build their big shows up for months at a time?  Back in the 80s during the dawn of PPV, most of the big matches took place at house shows and occasionally on free TV specials like Saturday Night's Main Event.  But a few times a year the WWF and the NWA would assemble a card so big and so special it could only be seen on TV if you paid for it.  Initially the PPV calendar only included 1-2 shows, but by the end of the decade the WWF had established a Big Four, while the NWA expanded to five events.  Here now are the ten best PPVs of the 1980s....




10. SummerSlam '89


The sophomore SummerSlam holds a special place for me.  It was far from a perfect show but at the time it just felt like a big deal, and from a star power perspective it was a pretty stacked PPV.  I was at the Saturday Night's Main Event taping a month prior when the company started building in earnest toward SummerSlam, so I really got into the hype for this show.  The main event was like an updated version of the '88 edition except now Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were on opposite sides, tagging up with Brutus Beefcake and Zeus, respectively.  The match was similar in tone to the previous year's main event - lighthearted, with a feelgood ending.  But the undercard was where this show really shined.  From the amazing Hart Foundation-Brain Busters opening tag, to the Rockers/Tito vs. Rougeaus/Martel six-man melee, to the fantastic Rick Rude-Ultimate Warrior Intercontinental Title rematch, SummerSlam '89 delivered big where it counted.  Sure there were some throwaways, but overall this is still a very fun watch.





9. Starrcade '83


Technically this wasn't a PPV event, but I'm still including it since it was the prototype for the medium.  Before the phenomenon known as WrestleMania swept the country (and later the world), Jim Crockett Promotions assembled what was at the time the biggest televised wrestling event in history.  Headlined by an epic Harley Race-Ric Flair cage match for the NWA Title, with a brutal Roddy Piper-Greg Valentine dog collar match and an athletic Brisco Brothers-Steamboat/Youngblood Tag Title bout, the inaugural Starrcade had more than its share of memorable early 80s action.  While the first half of the show could certainly be deemed forgettable, the big matches are all considered timeless classics.  On November 24, 1983 the NWA gave birth to the modern supercard, and it still makes for a fascinating pro wrestling history lesson.





8. Halloween Havoc '89


The first Halloween Havoc is sentimental for me because it was the first PPV event I ever ordered.  Why I chose this particular show as my first I'm not exactly sure, but it was actually a pretty stacked PPV with a ton of NWA star power.  The action-packed main event was the first-ever Thunderdome cage match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta.  Elsewhere on the show, Lex Luger and Brian Pillman nearly stole the show for the US Title, The Road Warriors and the Skyscrapers engaged in a monster slugfest, the Steiners faced the brand new masked team called Doom, and The Midnight Express teamed with Steve Williams in a wild battle against the three-man Samoan Swat Team.  I consider HH'89 a bit of a forgotten gem, as it was one of the most consistently entertaining shows of a pretty packed NWA calendar year.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Top Ten Things: Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  This being the tenth anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the release of the climactic Avengers: Infinity War (part 1 of 2), I thought I'd take a look at the MCU series and pick my ten favorites.  


Partly inspired by the rebooted Avengers series The Ultimates, the MCU had a rather modest launch in 2008 with the somewhat unexpected smash hit Iron Man (which ONLY pulled in a measly $585 million worldwide).  If you asked me ten years ago if I thought Tony Stark and his suped-up metal rocket suit would become a household name and the central character of a 19-movie series I'd have laughed all up in your face.  The average moviegoer back then hadn't clue fucking one who Iron Man was, aside maybe from "some guy made of iron."  That Marvel was able to take such a comparatively obscure superhero and use him as the backbone of this extended, multi-billion-dollar film series is astonishing.  That a decade later they found even more success with an even more obscure character like Black Panther speaks to how focused and diligent Marvel Studios is in producing quality, crowd-pleasing popcorn film entertainment.  Where most blockbuster film franchises are subject to the law of diminishing creative and commercial returns, Marvel has somehow managed to actually improve on their formula over time, taking this universe in new, unexpected tonal directions and even making pop culture icons out of third and fourth-string comic book characters.  This is a film company with discipline, attention to detail, and a thorough understanding of the dozens of characters involved, plus a comprehensive long-term vision for exploring them.  The result (so far) is $16.5 billion over 19 films.  An incredible accomplishment, and there's much more to come.

But which are the best of the bunch?  Let's count 'em down.....




10. The Avengers: Age of Ultron


While perhaps a bit disappointing compared to its predecessor, the second Avengers film was nonetheless an enjoyable potboiler in the same spirit as the first, with our heroes teaming up to fight an omniscient robot named Ultron.  Created by Tony Stark, Ultron becomes self-aware and goes all Skynet, attempting to destroy humanity to "cleanse" the Earth.  The six Avengers, plus Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Stark's other creation Vision, engage in a battle with Ultron's robot army in Sokovia, where Ultron intends to crash the capital city into the planet to cause an extinction-level event.  AoU is a tad messier than the first Avengers film but still has a lot of fun set pieces, such as the scene where a hypnotized Hulk fights Iron Man in a Hulkbuster suit (reminiscent of a similar sequence in The Ultimates comic book series).  I also liked the new additions to the team, and James Spader as Ultron's voice delivers a delightfully sinister performance.  Age of Ultron is a flawed but worthy culmination of MCU Phase 2.





9. Avengers: Infinity War


The latest MCU epic is the first half of the Phase 3 climax, centered around Thanos's plot to acquire the six Infinity stones, allowing him to eradicate half of all life in the universe and "restore balance."  The Avengers have put their Civil War aside to stand in Thanos's way, assisted by the Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man and Black Panther.  Nearly every established MCU character is present in this 150-minute film, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo do a pretty stellar job of making this overcrowded movie work, while leaving lots unresolved for the second half.  As a standalone film it's hard to judge Infinity War, but as part 1 of a season finale of sorts, this is pretty damn good stuff that mixes exciting action, heavy thematic and character elements, and signature MCU comedy moments.  Overall it's an affirmation that the Marvel film series is in very capable hands.

For a more in-depth look at Infinity War, click HERE.





8. Spider-Man: Homecoming


Leave it to Marvel Studios to do what, for me at least, Sony never could: produce a Spider-Man movie that really captures the character as presented in the comics, starring an actor who fully nails the portrayal.  The third film incarnation of the web-slinger in 15 years, Homecoming stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spidey and expands on his brief appearance in Civil War.  Parker was thrilled to assist the Avengers and has been pestering Tony Stark and his right-hand man Happy Hogan ever since, hoping to officially join the team.  Stark insists Parker isn't ready to be a full-fledged member and urges him to stay in school while fighting small-scale neighborhood crime.  Where his movie forerunners were either overly dorky (Tobey Maguire) or overly emo (James Garfield), Holland is note-perfect in this role, finding just the right mix of smart-aleck geekdom and naive enthusiasm.  Just as much of a standout though is Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes (The Vulture), a city contractor who has a very valid beef with Stark Industries and begins selling advanced weapons fashioned from Chitauri technology (recovered from Loki's 2012 attack on New York).  Keaton is legitimately scary as the film's villain, particularly in a scene where he and Peter each realize who the other is.  Homecoming is everything one could want out of a Spider-Man film, improving immensely on the two previous versions and tying in nicely with the larger movie arc.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard IV

Welcome to the Fourth Annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard, here at Enuffa.com!  Back in 2015 I pondered what would happen if the two biggest wrestling companies in the world went head-to-head, and the following year I decided to turn it into an annual event.  Both promotions currently boast their most stacked rosters in ages, and it's gotten to the point that just picking who should be included here is becoming a challenge.  I think I've risen to said challenge, but you be the judge.  Let's see which company is superior these days, shall we?


Take a look at the three previous editions here: 2015  2016  2017




The Bar vs. The Young Bucks


Sheamus & Cesaro have become one of WWE's most accomplished tag teams over the past two years, winning numerous championships and cementing their place as one of the RAW tag division's cornerstones.  That such an unlikely duo was able to find lasting success is a testament to the versatility and staying power of both stars.  It's possible we'll eventually see prime singles runs for Sheamus and Cesaro, but for now they've carved out a helluva niche as RAW's most durable team.

What can be said about The Young Bucks?  They're the most innovative tandem in wrestling, having eschewed the WWE machine for years to become major drawing cards just about everywhere else.  Their grassroots success has served as the prototype for making it outside WWE, and they continue to produce countless in-ring classics year after year.  I'd like to see them move up to the IWGP Heavyweight Tag division since they've won the Jr. Tag belts so many times; it would create a ton of first-time matchups and really solidify their legacy as one of the all-time great teams.

This opening match would be fast and furious, pitting the Bucks' blazing aerial assault against The Bar's gritty, pummeling offense.  After 12 minutes of nonstop action, look for The Bar's power to be the difference maker, as the bulky Sheamus slips out of a More Bang For Your Buck attempt and drops on all fours for Cesaro to launch himself off Sheamus's back and level Nick Jackson with a European Uppercut.  Sheamus then spikes Matt with a Brogue Kick for the sudden win.

Winner: The Bar





Finn Balor vs. Will Ospreay


Finn has struggled to win WWE gold since his 2016 shoulder injury forced him to relinquish his newly won Universal Championship, but he's gotten very close many times.  He's been featured in numerous high profile #1 contender matches, bested Bray Wyatt in their feud, defeated AJ Styles in a RAW vs. Smackdown dream match, and been the long man in the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.  Balor remains a threat to both major RAW championships, and is also one of RAW's most popular and consistent upper-card stars.

It's a testament to NJPW's Jr. Heavyweight division that WWE has no Cruiserweight equivalent to the impossibly gifted Will Opsreay (or Kushida, or Takahashi, or Marty Scurll).  The current Jr. Heavyweight Champion has had a hugely successful year, nearly repeating his 2016 Super Juniors tournament win in a bona fide MOTY candidate against Kushida in 2017 before finally unseating him later that year for the title.  He dropped the belt to longtime rival Marty Scurll only a month later but regained it at the Tokyo Dome and defeated Scurll one-on-one in a rematch this spring, following that up with another win over Kushida.  Ospreay is pound-for-pound one of the absolute best in the world and continues to push the envelope, always delivering ****+ classics that showcase his unparalleled athleticism.

This showdown would be an aerial masterwork.  No stranger to Jr. Heavyweight bouts, Balor would be well within his element, attempting to temper Ospreay's high flying and bring the match down to a moderate pace.  After several minutes of Balor controlling the tempo, Ospreay breaks free and scores a flurry of high-risk offense, culminating in a match-ending OsCutter at the 14-minute mark.

Winner: Will Ospreay




Roman Reigns vs. Jinder Mahal: When Logic Goes Bye-Bye


Alright, so to recap the events of the past two days: Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe had a main event match at Backlash.  A main event match that was so dull, so plodding, that many fans in attendance LEFT THE SHOW THEY'D PAID FOR, before the match was over.  The thinking is that Samoa Joe, despite being a heel, is such a well-respected in-ring worker that his usual well-rounded offense would be counterproductive in getting Roman Reigns over as a babyface, because the crowd would cheer Joe and boo Roman.  Yes, the same Roman Reigns that Vince McMahon has been unsuccessfully trying to get over as a babyface for FOUR YEARS now.  Vince's thinking was apparently that if Joe wrestled a boring, one-dimensional 70s heel style replete with uninteresting rest holds, that Reigns's eventual comeback would be met with enthusiastic cheers by the WWE faithful.  Now look, I get that you generally don't want your heel doing anything so flashy that the crowd likes him more than the babyface.  But in what alternate reality does Vince live where the heel putting on the most boring match possible will magically make everyone cheer the babyface, WHEN THEY HAVEN'T BEEN CHEERING HIM FOR FOUR YEARS?

So this plan obviously didn't work, as illustrated by the walkouts during the main event of a PPV.  You'd think this would give the man pause long enough for him to think, "Hmm, the crowd hated Roman's WrestleMania main event, and people actually walked out of his Backlash main event.  Maybe it's time to try something else."

NOPE.

Last night on RAW they started a feud between Roman Reigns.......and fucking Jinder Mahal.  Yes, the same Jinder Mahal who proved himself more or less cosmically inept in the ring during his 2017 main event push, and actually HURT ticket sales in the one country his push was designed to attract them.  Vince McMahon actually thinks the millions of fans who have booed Roman Reigns unmercifully the past four years will suddenly go "Oh, Roman's feuding with that hack now?  Yay, go Roman!!" 

Monday, May 7, 2018

WWE Backlash 2018: Seriously, What Are You Doing?

Welp, leave it to WWE to take a surefire good PPV and make it not good.  I won't say Backlash was horrible like many reviews are, but it was sure as shit disappointing, mostly because of (big shock here) stupid booking decisions.  I felt like the Royal Rumble (the real one in January, not the superfluous one in Saudi Arabia), Elimination Chamber and FastLane were all well-booked shows that were elevated by adhering to logic and mostly giving the audience what they wanted.  Then with WrestleMania the decision-makers (Vince) went insane and threw together multiple nonsensical finishes which hurt match quality AND pissed people off.  And they haven't recovered from it since.  Vince ran out of his meds apparently, and is on a waiting list to get more.  WWE could fuck up a peanut butter sandwich.....


Backlash started out so promisingly, with an excellent Seth Rollins-Miz bout for the Intercontinental Title.  Harkening back to the days when that belt really carried importance (with Seth holding it and delivering matches like this it certainly could again), this was dramatic, athletic, and the crowd bought into every minute of it.  How Seth isn't Vince's pick for The Guy instead of Roman is beyond me.  Seth is better than Roman in literally every respect, and while not as bulky, has a fantastic look.  More importantly, the fans actually LIKE Seth.  Just look at the reactions for this match vs. the main event.  This match got as much time as just about anything on the show and built to a fever pitch after Seth missed a Revolution Knee on the apron, drilling his own knee into the ring post.  Miz then locked in the Figure Four and we were treated to one of the most intense Figure Four spots in recent memory, as Seth fought the pain for a long time before eventually reversing the move.  This was so well done I thought we actually might see Miz tap out from the reversed F4, something I don't think we've ever seen.  They ended up in the ropes however, and the match continued until Seth hobbled around just long enough to hit the Curb Stomp for the win.  If Seth gets to keep this title long-term his reign could be in the same conversation as Bret Hart's or Randy Savage's.  This is how you book an Intercontinental Champion.


The show would never reach this level of quality again.

Next up was the Nia Jax-Alexa Bliss rematch, which was on par with their 'Mania bout.  So quite solid.  Alexa's stellar heel character work adds storytelling heft to her matches, even if mechanically they aren't perfect.  They may have booked Jax to struggle a bit too much considering the size difference, but this match was engaging and had some cool spots, like Bliss DDTing Jax on the ring steps.  Jax eventually retained with a Samoan Drop and cut a fairly awkard promo about bullying.  Don't get me wrong, I agree with the sentiment, but Jax's mic delivery needs a lot of work and of course the promo was written very hamfistedly.  Overall, another good showing from Bliss and Jax.

Third was Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton, in a perfectly serviceable but not terribly memorable US Title match.  Like, off the top of my head I remember the finish and that's about it.  I was glad to see Hardy retain since he can have some decent title matches with the Smackdown challengers.  Orton has long since ceased to interest me and I'm not even sure what you can do with him at this point.  His character and his in-ring style are horribly ill-suited to being a babyface and he comes across as not at all motivated.  Anyway, this was fine but nothing more.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Movie Review: Avengers Infinity War (2018)


The first half of the MCU's climax is in the books.  Avengers: Infinity War is a monumental, sweeping epic, with literally dozens of characters teaming up, traversing the cosmos, searching for various objects, and of course trying to stop Thanos from acquiring the six Infinity stones and annihilating half the entire universe.  This film, directed by the Russo brothers (of The Winter Soldier and Civil War fame), certainly tests the limits of how much content can be packed into a superhero movie before it bursts.  Amazingly it succeeds for the most part, thanks largely to Marvel's patience in building up all these characters over the past decade so their introductions here can be kept in shorthand.  We don't need long expositional scenes involving Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, etc. because the other films in the series have prepared us for a headlong dive into this particular episode.  In the hands of lesser filmmakers, Infinity War would be an incomprehensible mess, but this film flows nicely from one episode to the next, with our heroes split up into smaller groups across the galaxy, each objective fitting into the larger context.

The plot this time centers around Thanos, introduced briefly in the first Avengers film (via a post-credits cameo) and more thoroughly in the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  Thanos's home planet Titan was once a thriving utopia, but due to overpopulation became ravaged by decay and destruction; he now believes the only solution to preserving balance in the universe is to thin out the herd across the board.  While this once again falls somewhat into the "doomsday weapon" scenario, Thanos is a bit different from your run-of-the-mill popcorn movie villain.  He's given understandable motivation for his psychotic plan and even presented with some pathos.  Ultimately of course the success or failure of this character falls on the shoulders of Josh Brolin, who delivers a measured, note-perfect motion-capture performance as the gigantic purple overlord.  Brolin doesn't overplay anything; his captured facials are subtle and at times even touching (Brolin and Zoe Saldana's Gamora share some of the film's most poignant scenes).  And it's a good thing Thanos works so well, because he's effectively the lead character, almost certainly getting more screen time than any one of the dozens of protagonists - if you're looking for a deep exploration of Steve Rogers or Tony Stark for example, this isn't your kinda movie.

Our heroes in this film don't get a ton of opportunities to steal the show from each other, but the Guardians come closest, providing many of the movie's ample comedic moments; this intergalactic group of misfits remain one of my favorite aspects of the MCU.  Other minor standouts include Chris Hemsworth's Thor, who gets more to do than in either of the previous Avengers outings, Tom Holland's Spider-Man, who has wonderful chemistry with Tony Stark, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, finding himself in a battle of sardonic wits with Stark but also cursed with knowledge the others lack.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

WWE Backlash 2018 Preview & Predictions

Well it's been a week since Greatest Royal Rumble, and that means WWE's already got another PPV on tap for us.  This Sunday is Backlash!


Yeah so GRR was largely a pointless, bloated affair, but not a terrible way to spend an afternoon/evening either.  My son liked it, so that made it more fun than it would've been had I been wearing my wrestling analysis goggles.  And a few good things came out of it.  Daniel Bryan broke the longevity record and we got the greatest Rumble moment of all time:


I swear, as I live and breathe that moment will never get old.

Anyway, Backlash looks like a pretty damn enjoyable show, and is surprisingly Smackdown-heavy considering it's the first dual-brand B-PPV of this era.  Of the eight matches, four are SD-exclusive and two of the four remaining bouts are RAW vs. SD.  Not a bad deal for the blue show.  Best of all it looks like AJ vs. Nakamura will be the main event, since Roman failed to beat Brock again (Seriously guys, move on and let someone else have Brock now).

On to the predictions.   Dave is in the lead with 62.5% (15/24), I'm in second with 58% (14/24), Landon's third with 54% (13/24) and Dan's in the rear (heh...rear) with 50% (12/24).  It's anyone's ballgame.



Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn


Lemme ask you guys something: does ANYONE give a shit that Lashley came back?   I certainly don't.  He hasn't been relevant in like a decade, and he wasn't then either.  Lashley is one of Vince's many failed pet projects who was pushed because "muscles," and TNA later scooped him up because he was a WWE name.  If his work in the Rumble last week is any indication he hasn't improved since 2007.  Guy almost murdered Big Cass with a botched suplex.  Anywho, Strowman is getting hugely pushed without any real direction.  Time to set up Braun-Brock II while Braun's still on everyone's mind.  Clearly the two monsters aren't losing here.  Poor KO & Sami...

Justin: Brobby Strowley.  Or Baun Lashman.  Or "Something Balls."
Dan: Brauny Lowman, stupid.
Landon: Blaster Lashley and Braun
Dave: Something Balls takes it.





Smackdown Women's Championship: Carmella vs. Charlotte


Ugh.  This match is the result of Vince painting himself into a corner and giving both MITB briefcases to people who weren't ready for them.  He already had Corbin fail in his cash-in so he couldn't do that to Carmella too.  Thus she is now the champion, having dethroned the woman who ended Asuka's streak.  And this perfectly encapsulates why the Money in the Bank concept has outlived its usefulness.  Charlotte should realistically steamroll Carmella and resume her feud with Asuka.  But that won't happen yet.

Justin: Carmella retains somehow
Dan: I guess.
Landon: Carmella
Dave: No idea, Carmella I guess.


Top Ten Things: Must-See Samoa Joe Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best or worst of whatever's on my mind.  Today it's the mighty Samoa Joe, and his fantastic career.


I first became aware of Joe in 2003 when I attended a live ROH event, and upon hearing his name thought he'd be some kind of lame cartoon character.  When he appeared from behind the curtain I still wasn't convinced, based on his unconventional physique.  And then I saw him wrestle.  Folks, from 2003-2009 Samoa Joe was as good as anyone in the entire world at professional wrestling.  Unfortunately by '09 TNA had already spent about three years either underutilizing or completely wasting Joe's immense skillset, and he became rather unmotivated as a result, failing to build on his already stellar body of work.

Joe's NXT run from 2015-2017 was quite dominant and included two NXT Title reigns (I got to witness his first championship win over Finn Balor in person), and he's spent the past year on the main roster, where he's already had noteworthy scuffles with Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman.  Now he's been moved to Smackdown and has some potentially incredible matchups available on the blue brand, including old rivals like Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles.

Anyway, here's a look at Joe's pre-WWE classics.....



10. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk - ROH: Joe vs. Punk II - 10/16/04


Largely credited with putting both Punk and Joe on the Indy wrestling map, the second match of their much-heralded trilogy is widely considered to be the best.  Punk and Joe went a full hour for the second time, wrestling to a draw, in a match that pulled out all the stops and earned the elusive "five-star" rating from the Wrestling Observer.  I don't love it as much as others do, but it is quite an accomplishment from two of the best workers of the past decade.





9. Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe - TNA: Final Resolution - 1/14/07


Joe and Angle fought several times on TNA PPV, and this was the third in an early trilogy that began with Angle's TNA debut.  TNA rather squandered the hugeness of the Joe-Angle feud, hotshotting this match immediately upon Angle's arrival.  However the matches speak for themselves, and their first encounter still stands as TNA's biggest PPV buyrate.  Anyway, the Final Resolution match was 30-minute Iron Man match full of drama and gutsy action.  It was evenly contested until the 25-minute mark when Angle pulled ahead 3-2, and Joe just barely failed to tie it up.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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    Dan's Top 9: Best Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Games

    Welcome to another edition of Dan's Top 9, where my associate Dan Moore counts down 9 items that happen to be bouncing around his diseased brain.  What a degenerate.  Wait, I mean I love ya buddy.....



    by Dan Moore
    @SouthieDanimal

    A few days ago, Nintendo announced the death of the company’s president and CEO, Satoru Iwata suddenly at the age of 55. A true legend in the gaming world, his passing demands some reflection on the classics in the Nintendo cannon. I first played the  NES back in 1986 at my friend Greg's house. The first game I ever played was Super Mario Bros. And it was GLORIOUS. The second game was Popeye which wasn't so great but still awesome because it's still a fucking video game. Without further ado, here are the best games from the very first generation of Nintendo's gaming system family.

    HONORABLE MENTIONS: This is definitely the hardest list I've had to do. Narrowing this down to 9 is near impossible. Some faves that didn't make the cut: Castlevania, ExciteBike, Double Dragon, Bases Loaded and RBI Baseball



    9. Blades of Steel


    WITH THE PASS! The number of times I heard that muffled, digitized voice is a little bit over infinity.  There was single game play and the awesome tourney play for the Cup. Flying around the ice holding onto Lord Stanley's chalice was quite a thrill for 10 year old me. I played this game so goddamn much I would see the little hockey men skating in circles in my dreams. My beautiful, 8-bit dreams.



    8. Tetris


    Blocks falling from the sky to make lines. Yeah, that was an idea for a video game. One of the most successful video games of all time. The classic Game Boy version is really where this game spiked in popularity. My favorite Tetris memory is watching my father about to beat Mode B level 9-5 one morning after returning from his night job...and promptly falling asleep two lines away from the finish. Good work, Pop.



    7. DuckTales

    Gordon Gecko once said that greed is good, and this game taught all us kids that he was right. Traversing the globe and the moon searching for riches as Uncle Scrooge was a wonderful way to learn that only diamonds and gold can make you truly happy.