Thursday, January 31, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Hannibal

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a movie that I want so badly to fully enjoy, but like a crappy, unreliable boyfriend/girlfriend, it just won't get its shit together and commit.


Such a description is very fitting of the film Hannibal (2001), the much-anticipated sequel to the iconic Silence of the Lambs, which saw Anthony Hopkins return to the role that made him a gazillionaire, Hannibal Lecter.  Hannibal had been planned for several years, after Lambs author Thomas Harris announced he'd be writing a follow-up to the massive hit.  Hopkins, Jodie Foster, and director Jonathan Demme jumped right on board, and the world waited patiently while the novel came to fruition.  Unfortunately by the time of its publication in 1998, Demme declined to participate due to the novel's lurid tone, and Foster had already decided to direct her own film and would not be available.  The scramble was on to replace two of the three integral pieces of the puzzle, and eventually Ridley Scott was attached to direct, with Julianne Moore replacing Foster as Clarice Starling.

So why does this movie qualify as Awesomely Shitty?  In short, I find Hannibal a pretty infuriating example of a movie I was absolutely pumped for and ready to love, but so many things about it were executed just plain wrong.  And a few of these things could've been fixed so easily, either with a quick rewrite or an edit.  Before I get to all that negative stuff though, let's talk about what worked.



The Awesome

Julianne Moore

Excuse me for a moment.....JULIANNE, I F*CKIN' LOVE YOU!!

If Clarice had to be recast (and she did), I can't think of a better actress to inherit this amazing character than Julianne Moore.  I've been a big Juli-fanne (TM pending) for a couple decades now, and so despite my reservations about Jodie Foster not returning I was pretty stoked to see Moore take the part.  Julianne is one of the most versatile and consistently great actresses working today, who for years was undeservedly snubbed by Oscar until finally taking home the gold in 2015.  Where Foster's Clarice was young and idealistic, Moore's incarnation of the character has become cynical and untrusting after a decade of petty FBI politics and unsavory treatment at the hands of the Old Boy Network.  Over ten years she has earned the dubious honor of having more kills to her name than any other Agent, and at the start of the film she is forced to shoot yet another suspect when the uncooperative DC police undermine her authority in a drug raid.  The Bureau uses this incident as an excuse to take her out of the field, and she's reassigned to the seemingly futile case of the long-disappeared Lecter.  Moore plays Clarice as a woman who once dreamed of being an FBI agent, only to later find that the Bureau doesn't share her virtuous nature and in many ways isn't worthy of having her.

Stuff I Drew, part 4 (Yet More Champions of the Galaxy)

Okay, more of these stupid drawings.  Each of these was based completely on a real person.  The first two are revamps of existing characters in the game, Adam Blast and Lance Atlas.  Now you wrestling fans may remember that in 1999 the WWF's programming was very racy and fraught with sexual undertones, even introducing a porn star character named Val Venis.  I thought the names Adam Blast and Lance Atlas sounded a lot like porn star names so I based the revamped characters on that, using Venis as a model for Atlas, and Jeff Jarrett as the model for Adam.  Pretty stupid characters, but I was happy with the drawings themselves.


Based on a photo of Jeff Jarrett

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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    Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    The History of NXT TakeOver: Phoenix

    The NXT brand did it again this past weekend, overshadowing the main roster with a modest 160-minute, five-match TakeOver special.  As usual there was nary an ounce of fat on the card, all five matches carried some value, and a couple were outstanding.


    The show kicked off in pretty spectacular fashion with a Tag Title match pitting Roderick Strong and Kyle O'Reilly against War Raiders, in a bout that would've made Tully, Arn, Hawk and Animal proud.  This was exactly the type of match I wanted it to be, with the Raiders playing the innovative, dominant power brokers and the Undisputed Era the crafty technicians.  This featured much more back and forth than the old NWA formula, but the arc was the same.  Just a classic tag team encounter that built to a peak with just enough nearfalls to not overstay its welcome.  Hanson and Rowe ultimately scored the win and the titles with Fallout, and the place went nuts.  I loved this match.  ****1/2


    Next up was the de facto weakest match on the show, as Matt Riddle got his first proper TakeOver match against his nemesis Kassius Ohno.  Ohno controlled most of the bout, playing the bully to the hilt, while Riddle was the undersized babyface in peril.  Riddle took a ton of punishment over the bout's nine minutes but kept fighting through, eventually trapping Ohno and delivering repeated elbow strikes for the submission win.  Very solid stuff.  ***

    Stuff I Drew, part 3 (More Champions of the Galaxy)

    Here's the next batch of characters from that damn wrestling card game (I was obsessed with this game for like 4 years).  Incidentally if anyone is wondering what the game is called, or if I just made the whole thing up, Google "Champions of the Galaxy" and you'll find it.  This game is horribly addictive....


    The first two characters were an original tag team I created called The Destroyers.  My RPE friends will recognize the names, though Apocalypse looks quite different.  I obviously used The Undertaker as an inspiration but tried to scale him more like The Big Show (or The Giant as he was called at the time).

    Monday, January 28, 2019

    WWE Royal Rumble 2019: It Was a Strong B+

    Well it wasn't the blow-away event it looked to be on paper, but the 2019 Royal Rumble was a fine show with a slew of very good matches and nothing bad.  Hard to complain about that.  Even the pre-show stuff was solid (Check out the blistering Cruiserweight 4-Way especially).


    But let's get into the proper PPV, as five hours is plenty to talk about.  The show kicked off with a pretty great Asuka-Becky Lynch bout that was rock solid technically and built to a series of traded submission attempts.  After a brutal-looking Asuka cradle neckbreaker off the apron to the floor, Asuka and Becky made their way back into the ring for a climactic stretch where both women attempted to tap the other with her own finisher.  Finally Asuka scored an Asuka lock, and turned it into a Cattle Mutilation-esque variation by bridging on top of Becky for the tapout win.  This match was probably my favorite on the show.  Excellent stuff that made Asuka look really strong but showed Becky could keep up.  I was quite sure we hadn't seen the last of Becky....  ****


    Next up was the one match I didn't care about, The Bar vs. Shane & Miz.  But this was fun.  Cesaro and Sheamus worked a stiff match as usual, Miz stayed away from most of it, and Shane took some good spots while dishing out a few of his own.  I still have a problem with the near 50-year-old non-wrestler Shane going toe-to-toe with actual wrestlers, but he makes it entertaining at least.  The spot of the match was Shane going for a coast-to-coast on both Bar members only for Cesaro to stand up and catch him for a Giant Swing - very cool counter.  Finally Miz hit Cesaro with the Skull Crushing Finale and Shane landed a shooting star press to win the belts.  This is obviously building to a Shane-Miz match at 'Mania, which I also don't care about.  But whatever.  **1/2

    Friday, January 25, 2019

    NXT TakeOver: Phoenix Preview & Predictions

    Welcome to the first NXT predictions column of 2019 here at Enuffa.com!


    Well, much like last November we have a huge, potentially great weekend of wrestling before us.  This year's Rumble on paper is the strongest lineup they've ever put together for the January classic, and not to be outdone, NXT is hoping to once again steal the weekend.  This lineup, as usual, could certainly do that.

    Let's take a look....


    Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno


    It's Matt Riddle's first real TakeOver match, after his seconds-long TakeOver debut at WarGames.  It's also his third match against Ohno.  I can't imagine he loses here, as that would be stupid.

    Justin: Riddle
    Landon: Riddle




    NXT North American Championship: Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano


    This match is almost certain to steal the show.  Holy jeezus.  Gargano is coming off a grudge match loss to Aleister Black, so I could see him winning the belt here, giving DIY both singles belts in NXT.  It would also make sense for Ricochet to be called up ASAP since he's better than 90% of the main roster guys.  Regardless I'll be shocked if this isn't the Match of the Night.

    Justin: Gargano
    Landon: Gargano takes the NA title here.




    NXT Women's Championship: Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair


    I know zilch about Bianca, other than she's fully a homegrown WWE talent with a crossfit background.  I can't see her winning the belt in her first big match; Baszler will retain to continue her fearsome title run.

    Justin: Shayna retains
    Landon: Shayna




    NXT Tag Team Championship: Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders


    Holy jeezus, part 2.  This should be insanely good.  It's the 2018 version of Tully & Arn vs. The Road Warriors.  Hanson & Rowe will steamroll the heels for the first act, Strong & O'Reilly will take control with underhanded tactics in the second, and then the Raiders will make a comeback that includes a championship win.  Unlike Starrcade '87 there will be no Dusty finish.

    Justin: War Raiders win the belts
    Landon: Get ready for War




    NXT Championship: Tomasso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black


    This should be yet another excellent match.  Both these guys had incredible showings at WarGames and both got big wins.  I could see Black being groomed for a call-up sooner rather than later, plus it seems like a wasted opportunity not to have Gargano and Ciampa both win singles belts and reunite as a Two-Man Power Trip-esque heel team.

    Justin: Ciampa retains
    Landon: Ciampa



    This is gonna be one helluva ride.  NXT is still impossible to beat as far as WWE programming goes, but both this and the Rumble should be pretty great.

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    WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Preview & Predictions

    Welcome to the first round of WWE Predictions for 2019!  It's January and that means it's the start of what is traditionally the best part of WWE's calendar year, The Road to WrestleMania!


    This year's Royal Rumble card is as stacked on paper as any I can recall.  The Rumble PPV has returned to form over the past few years, after several underwhelming or downright terrible editions (Ahem, 2015).  With the addition of an annual women's Rumble match the show has become a lot more fun, not to mention it's doubled the number of Rumble pools to bet on.  Hopefully unlike in 2018 WWE will follow through on the promise set up by the Rumble PPV and WrestleMania's booking will actually make sense.

    There are a whopping eight matches scheduled for this show - I have to think at least one will get bumped to the pre-show since each Rumble takes up an hour, leaving only two hours for six remaining bouts.  But we'll see.  Anywho, let's get to the picks...

    ***I've managed to take the lead with 68% accuracy (75/111), Dan and Dave are tied with 65% (72/111), and Landon's in the caboose with 64% (71/111).***




    Fatal 4-Way Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami


    I assume this will be bumped to the pre-show, but it should be a lot of fun.  Murphy has been a pretty great CW Champ, Kalisto is always fun to watch, and Tozawa and Itami will be looking to have that WWE career-defining match.  With AEW starting up and potentially providing a new place to make a good living, I imagine we'll see some of these underutilized WWE guys will start getting some real attention to keep them happy.

    Justin: I'm gonna stick with Buddy
    Dan:


    Landon: Buddy retains
    Dave: Buddy





    Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Bar vs. Shane McMahon & The Miz


    This is the one match on the show I truly don't care about.  This Shane-Miz angle is silly and we all know it's leading to a WrestleMania match between them.  Yawn.  This match should be ok but I'm not interested in it.

    Justin: Shane & Miz win the belts so they can lose them, split up, and fight each other in April
    Dan: I hate wasting the Miz with Shane...it's so pointless. He could be the top heel in the comapny, instead he's stuck with the boss's son. But they're gonna win.
    Landon: The Bar
    Dave: The Bar





    US Championship: Rusev vs. Shinsuke Nakamura



    To my way of thinking it was either too early or too late for Rusev to dethrone Nakamura for the US Title.  Rusev got super hot about a year ago thanks in no small part to Aiden English's entrance announcements, so of course WWE split them up months later with no payoff.  Now Ru' is back with Lana but neither of them has Russian accents anymore?  Stupid.  Anyway, I have to think Nak is either gonna get moved up the card or he's gonna leave for AEW (his contract is up in the next few months).  Either way I don't see him regaining the title here.  This match could also get bumped to the pre-show.

    Justin: Rusev retains
    Dan: Wait, they're not Russian anymore? What the fuck? WEIRD. All American Rusev for the win.
    Landon: Rusev
    Dave: Didn't realize this was still a title.  Rusev I guess.





    Smackdown Women's Championship: Asuka vs. Becky Lynch


    This is one of the two matches I'm most excited for.  WWE accidentally announced this a month ago, retracted it, had a #1 Contender's match, and went with it anyway.  This should be great.  Becky obviously should lose here, enter the Women's Rumble, and win that to redeem herself.

    Justin: Asuka retains
    Dan: Yes
    Landon: Asuka
    Dave: Asuka


    Thursday, January 17, 2019

    Stuff I Drew, part 2 (Champions of the Galaxy again)

    Here's the next wave of drawings I did for that wrestling game I was talking about.  The first character was an original of mine, who I ended up reusing later when I needed original characters for the Smackdown videogames (my RPE friends will sorta recognize Zombie even though he looks very different here).  The other two are makeovers of existing game characters.

    For Zombie I based his facial structure on a pic of Owen Hart.  Reason being that on TV Owen's character had snapped, turned heel, and started biting people a lot.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    Stuff I Drew, part 1 (Champions of the Galaxy)

    It is now time for the Fine Arts portion of the site.  Below are a few pieces of artwork I've done, all of which are from this SUPER nerdy wrestling dice game I used to play, called Champions of the Galaxy.  There were character cards with wrestling moves on the back and you rolled dice to see which move your character did.  Anywho, I created some of my own characters and revamped some of the existing ones.  So while I'm not exactly proud of how these drawings came to be, I am proud of the drawings themselves.

    I'll show you some more artwork in the future, but here's a few for now....

    This was an existing character in the game but I used a picture of Goldberg as the basis and then altered him to look like Holocaust.



    An original character of mine, his look is based on a pic of Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity.



    Thantos is one of the flagship characters in the original game but I used Sycho Sid's facial structure.



    Click HERE for more....



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    Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    All Elite Wrestling: This Is Gettin' Pretty Exciting....


    With last night's rally in Jacksonville, we're getting a much clearer picture of this All Elite Wrestling thing everyone's buzzing about.  It's an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, as we're on the cusp of being offered a whole new option from which to get our fake fighting fix.  More importantly, the talent is about to potentially get a whole new avenue in which to make a good living as a wrestler, away from the creatively homogenized WWE atmosphere.  The fact that AEW was able to snag a name as big as Chris Jericho is pretty huge.  Jericho lends them instant legitimacy and somewhat mainstream recognition.  All signs seem to be pointing to Kenny Omega following suit, which would provide AEW their cornerstone guy.

    Even aside from the roster announcements (So-Cal Uncensored and PAC are among the biggest supporting characters thus far), the Khan family is worth literally billions of dollars, far more than Vince McMahon, which means AEW will theoretically be able to offer real money deals to top stars.  This could be enormous when contracts come up.  WWE may have to start working much harder to keep their talent happy. 

    Provided they can land a good TV deal and some sort of streaming arrangement for PPV events (I can't see many people wanting to go back to shelling out $50 a pop for PPVs), this company could very well change the North American wrestling landscape.  How poetic would it be by the way, for TBS or TNT to scoop up this programming?  Set the flagship show on Tuesday nights where Smackdown's about to not be anymore.

    While all this is very exciting, I'd really like to see them partner with NJPW (and ROH for that matter).

    As of now NJPW will be continuing their relationship/talent exchange with Ring of Honor.  Understandable, as both companies have been good for each other.  But it seems to me that New Japan and All Elite kinda need each other as well.  NJPW can't afford to lose a star like Kenny Omega at this point (not to mention the cast of supporting characters like Cody and the Jacksons), while AEW's roster (for now anyway) could use the supplemental talent NJPW would provide.  The All In 2 show wouldn't be nearly as stacked as its predecessor without the New Japan talent that was involved with the first show.  From New Japan's perspective I can't see a reason not to work with both AEW and ROH.  From AEW's perspective I can't see a reason not to work with NJPW.  Ring of Honor is the only company of the three that might stand to lose anything, but it would behoove AEW and ROH to work out something so both can remain in collaboration with New Japan.  The three companies will be so much stronger together than in competition.   

    That leads me to my next point - I've been saying for a while that New Japan would benefit greatly from a women's division.  A partnership with AEW (and ROH) would allow them to borrow women's talent from those two promotions while building their own roster.  A women's division in New Japan would lessen the need to rely so heavily on repititious six- and eight-man tag matches on the less important shows.  This is the one area in which NJPW is way behind the curve.  I was very pleased to hear that AEW's women wrestlers will be paid equally to their male counterparts (I assume based on their standing in the company; Penelope Ford is obviously not making the same as Chris Jericho), as it sounds like they're serious about building female stars to rival the men, as WWE is currently doing.  A relationship between the three companies would even allow for a string of women-only supercards that could conceivably be a much bigger deal than WWE's first one.

    It's going to be an angst-ridden few months as we wait for more details to trickle in about AEW's future, but there are some seriously promising elements in place that could lead to the first true wrestling boom since 2001.  A company with the finances to lure away WWE talent and offer a much more creatively free environment would force Vince & co. to actively step up their game.  A partnership with New Japan would strengthen both promotions and give their shared venture a global footprint. 

    Now, can we give CM Punk a ring and see if he's interested?


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    Monday, January 7, 2019

    NJPW WrestleKingdom 13: This Show was Fantastic, So Why Am I Sad?

    I'm not sure there's ever been such a great PPV that left me with such mixed feelings as WrestleKingdom 13.  From a booking standpoint everything was done really well.  From a match quality standpoint there wasn't a bad bout in sight, and a few were flat-out excellent.  But the decision to limit the show to four hours when thirty extra minutes would've elevated it to the Best PPV Ever conversation, coupled with all the uncertainty surrounding the All Elite situation and potential WWE talent steals, made what should've been a triumphant moment feel kinda jaded.  This is how I felt after WrestleKingdom 10 to a certain extent, but it's magnified here.


    In the opening match, which has to be on the short list for best openers ever, Will Ospreay defeated Kota Ibushi for the NEVER Openweight Title.  This match was fast paced and dazzling as expected, with loads of back and forth offense, some intense striking battles, and tons of athleticism as only these two can deliver.  My favorite spot involved the two of them trading strikes while Ibushi was hanging upside down from the turnbuckles (which is where the legit concussion occurred).  Late in the match Ospreay kicked out of a Last Ride and avoided the Kamigoye knee (though Ibushi at one point hit him with the Boma Ye, in tribute to Nakamura), knocked Ibushi loopy with a driving elbow to the head, and landed the Stormbreaker to win the title.  Ibushi was stretchered out with a kayfabe concussion that in fact turned out to be a legit minor one.  Ibushi, as planned, is off the New Beginning tour but will hopefully be back soon (though who knows if he signs with All Elite or not).  These guys left enough on the table for a rematch so I'm really hoping there is one.  Regardless, this was an incredible opener that set a high bar for the night.  ****1/2


    Next up was the Jr. Tag triple threat, with El Desperado & Kanemaru defending against RPG3K and Shingo & Bushi.  This match was fine and all action but was too short to amount to all that much.  It was far better than a WWE throwaway but still felt like a throwaway.  This was one of four or five matches that could've used five more minutes, hence my earlier comment about the show needing an extra half hour.  Shingo was the star of this match, dominating the later minutes and finishing off Sho with Last of the Dragon to win the belts.  **3/4

    Another match that could've used more time was Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for the RPW Heavyweight Title.  As expected this was a stiff, gritty fight pitting Ishii's strikes against Sabre's grappling.  Sabre dominated a lot of this match, which made for a pretty shocking ending when Ishii submitted to Sabre's new double-arm octopus hold.  This match was very good but about five minutes short of greatness.  Sabre continues to shine though as one of the company's top gaijins.  Here's hoping for some IWGP Title matches in his future.  ***1/2

    The heavyweight tag match was definitely superior to its Jr. counterpart, as Guerillas of Destiny, The Young Bucks and Evil & Sanada had a wild, energetic match.  The big story element here was Tama Tonga's apparent change of heart at wanting to be a "good guy."  So GoD refrained from their usual illegal shenanigans and it ended up costing them.  The last few minutes of this were insane, with big move after big move.  With GoD knocked out of commission, Evil and Sanada hit Matt Jackson with a Magic Killer, followed by a Sanada moonsault to win the belts and officially move into the tag team centerpiece spot.  The Bucks have of course signed with AEW and are done with New Japan for the time being.  Considering they had just become a top heavyweight tag team, this is a major loss for the division.  But Evil and Sanada will be great custodians for the tag belts, like a modern-day Tencozy.  ***1/4


    Thursday, January 3, 2019

    Top Ten Things: Film Trilogies

    Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com where I blather on about ten what-have-yous and why I like them.  Today we're back on the topic of movies!


    Specifically I'm talking about film trilogies.  The trilogy is one of the most popular narrative forms for the film medium; there's a kind of magic to the sequence of Beginning, Middle and End, which I'm guessing stems from the traditional three-act play structure.  Act 1 sets up the characters, settings and conflicts, Act 2 expands on them and usually puts the protagonists in some kind of danger, and Act 3 resolves everything and hopefully brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.  Understandably the third part of a film trilogy is most often the toughest one to nail.  How do you fully resolve a three-part story arc in a way that ties up all the loose ends and doesn't let down your audience?

    For the purposes of this article I've included a couple film series that are no longer trilogies, due to the powers involved opting to make an ill-advised fourth installment.  But in both cases the franchises stood as trilogies for roughly twenty years, having sufficiently wrapped up the story.  Thus I'm including them.

    Let's get to it.... 




    10. Back to the Future


    One of the most beloved film franchises of the 80s, this time travel action-comedy trilogy is a childhood favorite of, well, just about everyone who grew up in those days.  1985 high school student Marty McFly unwittingly gets transported to 1955 when his eccentric friend, local middle-aged scientist Dr. Emmett Brown invents a time machine car, and after running into his future parents as teenagers, ends up endangering his own existence.  Marty must act as matchmaker to ensure George and Lorraine fall in love, while also working with Dr. Brown's younger self to get back to 1985.  With perfect casting and a brilliantly devised plot, this warmhearted sci-fi adventure was a box office sensation and remains one of the all-time great popcorn movies.  But the story doesn't end there.  In the 1989 sequel Dr. Brown returns to 1985 after a jaunt into the early 21st century to enlist Marty's help in preventing his own children from catastrophic legal woes, and Marty accidentally alters the past when a sports almanac he purchases finds its way into Biff Tannen's hands and he steals the time machine.  The rest of the film involves our heroes returning to 1955 to undo the timeline damage Biff has done, but the time machine is struck by lightning with Doc in it, transporting him to the old west.  The second film is certainly very ambitious and fun to unravel, but falls short of its predecessor, with a few too many plot holes and joke retreads.  The final installment on the other hand played it safe by being essentially a western-infused version of the first film.  Marty travels back to 1885 upon learning that Doc Brown was murdered by an outlaw one week after arriving there, and the two must then devise a plan to get the time machine running so they can return to their rightful era.  The greatness of this trilogy is mostly due to the first film, but both sequels are a ton of fun and help round out the story of an adventurous teenager and a wild-eyed scientist.





    9. Captain America


    Okay, so this trilogy is actually part of a larger film series, but the three films focusing on Steve Rogers are tied so closely together as a standalone arc, not to mention they unexpectedly served as the strongest part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that I had to put them on this list.  If you had told me in 2011 that Marvel would've knocked it out of the park so completely with the Captain America character to the point that he's kinda the best part of The Avengers, I'd have knocked you down and pissed on your shoes.  The first standalone Cap film, set in the 1940s, chronicles Steve Rogers' rise from a skinny, sickly Brooklyn kid to the very first super-soldier who singlehandedly prevented the sinister Hydra organization from destroying the world.  The period setting and quaint, heroic tone reminded me a bit of the Indiana Jones films, and served as a very enjoyable introduction to the Captain America character.  But it was the Russo Brothers-helmed sequel The Winter Soldier that really captured the imagination and made Rogers the most compelling Avenger.  The James Bond-esque second film sees Rogers fending off a Hydra infiltration of SHIELD, involving three super-helicarriers capable of spying on the entire world, while also coming to grips with his best friend Bucky Barnes (thought dead in the first movie) having been brainwashed and turned into a ruthless assassin.  This taut, spellbinding action thriller pushed the boundaries of violence in the MCU but also presented Rogers as an eminently relatable, straightlaced hero (the kind Superman SHOULD have been).  To date this film is the apex of the Marvel series in my opinion.  The third Cap film is no slouch either however.  With the largest scope of any standalone Marvel film, Civil War deals with the aftermath of The Winter Soldier but also both Avengers films, where the US government has decided our superheroes need to be reined in to preserve public safety.  A guilt-ridden Tony Stark agrees, but Steve Rogers balks at the idea, and this conflict builds to a massive battle between the fractured Avengers squad.  Given that the MCU continued after Civil War, the larger story is not over, but this third film served as a thrilling, climactic conclusion to the series within a series.  As of now there are no plans for a fourth Cap film, but the Captain America trilogy has to be considered one of Marvel's best film properties.





    8. Planet of the Apes Prequels


    The Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy is astonishing to me for multiple reasons.  First, when the series was announced I groaned, being fully convinced this was nothing but an artistically bankrupt money grab.  But as it turned out, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its two sequels were thoughtful, unusually quiet, character-driven pieces rife with social commentary, and not the bombastic CGI orgies I feared they would be.  Second, the films restored my faith in CG as an effective means of telling a powerful story, via the revelatory central motion-capture performance of Andy Serkis as the series' protagonist Caesar.  Serkis is a force of nature in this role, delivering nuance, pathos and sentiment previously unheard of in a computer-generated character.  Either the Motion Picture Academy needs to start recognizing motion-capture as real acting or they need to introduce it as a new category.  Third, this series bucked an almost universal trend of the third part of a trilogy being unequivocally the weakest entry.  War for the Planet of the Apes is more profound, more emotive, and more engaging than either of its predecessors (no small feat considering what strong films Rise and Dawn are), and ended this cinematic trifecta on a startlingly high note.  The POTA prequels were a wonderful surprise in an industry full of hi-tech predictability.

    For a closer look at all three films, click HERE, HERE and HERE.



    Wednesday, January 2, 2019

    RIP "Mean" Gene Okerlund (1942-2019)


    Today the wrestling world lost one of its most beloved figures in "Mean" Gene Okerlund.  For me growing up, Gene was the affable "host" of WWF television, conducting most of the backstage interviews, hosting the WWF Magazine news segments, and generally serving as the de facto voice of the company.  He always found fantastic chemistry with the talent, keeping them engaged, feeding them lines to garner the best possible promo, and also managed to ride the line between being a dignified company representative and a light comedy figure.  His rich bass timbre carried weight and gravitas, lending the WWF product immediate legitimacy, and Gene also wasn't afraid to try his hand at a little singing (the 1980s Wrestling Albums included his highly entertaining cover versions of "Tootie Fruity" and "Rock n' Roll Hoochie Koo").  Okerlund could help convey the intensity of a blood feud like Savage vs. Steamboat, or provide a laugh, like in his training montages with Hulk Hogan. 

    Gene's background was, fittingly, in radio broadcasting (Has there ever been a more perfectly suited disc jockey voice?), until he was offered an announcing position in the AWA.  From 1970-1984 Gene was one of the promotion's top broadcasters, until Vince McMahon raided the company's talent pool and brought him to New York.  For a full decade, Gene was one of the WWF's great personalities, later departing for WCW, where he remained until its closing.  He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.

    For my money there will never be another wrestling interviewer like "Mean" Gene Okerlund. 

    RIP, 1942-2019









    NJPW WrestleKingdom 13 Preview & Predictions

    Welcome to our first 2019 round of PPV Predictions.  We're starting the year off with a bang.  A big bang.  Maybe the biggest bang ever banged.  It's time to talk NJPW WrestleKingdom 13!


    Sweet Jesus this show looks impossibly good.  I've been saying for the last four years that WrestleKingdom 9 is the greatest PPV I've ever seen, and its 2019 counterpart is on track to leave it and every other wrestling show in the dust.  New Japan is looking to carve a big slice of the global wrestling market for itself, and I can't think of a more impressive lineup to do that.  This show is gonna be a Moment, my friends.

    Let's get to pickin'.  Joining us is our buddy Landon Wayne from Falcon Arrow Emporium.....


    Pre-Show #1 Contender NEVER Openweight Six-Man Gauntlet: Most Violent Players & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb & David Finlay vs. Hirooki Goto, Beretta & Chuckie T vs. Minoru Suzuki & KES vs. Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Marty Scurll

    This gauntlet will be replacing the New Japan Rumble this year, and I'm fine with that.  I generally skipped the Rumble anyway, plus with the gauntlets always being skippable themselves, I'm happy it's been moved to the pre-show.

    Justin: Suzuki-Gun has to win this - they're by far the most dominant team and they're overqualified for this division.  Plus it's a consolation prize for being stuck on the pre-show.
    Landon: Uncle Justice, Cousin Toss-It, and Finlay-Chan win it





    NEVER Openweight Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Will Ospreay


    The dream match of the year that's for some reason opening the show (good luck following this, everybody).  Holy shit this is gonna be insane.  If this gets 20 minutes it could be the Match of the Year, and should at the very least be one of the greatest PPV openers of all time.  Ibushi just won this title, his first non-Jr. championship in New Japan, so he should keep it for a while.  But Ospreay will announce himself as a heavyweight with his performance here.

    Justin: Ibushi retains
    Landon: Ospreay wins it





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


    Both tag title matches have been turned into 3-ways but I'm okay with it.  In the case of this match RPG3K has been added and should easily improve the bout.  Obviously SZGN need to drop the belts here but to whom?  Sho and Yoh are overdue for another title run but LIJ are the hot Jr. team at the moment.  I'd say give Bushi & Shingo the belts and let RPG3K chase 'em awhile.

    Justin: LIJ
    Landon: The Shingo Takagi Tag Team Experience (and Bushi)