Saturday, August 31, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Bissell Brothers Brewing (Portland, ME)

Welcome to another Portland, Maine-themed Brewery Reviewery, here at Enuffa.com!

Bissell Brothers Portland
4 Thompsons Point #108
Portland, ME 04102

Bissell Brothers Three Rivers
157 Elm Street
Milo, ME 04463


Our next stop on the tour is the white-hot Bissell Brothers Brewing, located at Thompsons Point in downtown Portland, with a second branch in Milo, ME.  Bissell offers an eclectic roster of brews, with some core beers and some small-batch flavors.  The Portland taproom is bright and full of energy, with local artwork adorning the walls and tons of kickass merch for sale (I picked up a shirt because their logo is boss).  Sadly they don't offer tasting flights, but you can order full pours or pick up cans to go.  There's also a walk-up eatery called Locally Sauced next door, where you can grab some sober-up food while you're enjoying the beers.  This place was hopping when we visited and I get the impression that's generally the case.  Kind of a picnic atmosphere going on.  Picnic-plus-tasty-goddamn-beers.... 



Nothing Gold (8.2%): Our hoppiest beer to date. Brewed to celebrate what was, what's next, and ultimately what is.

JB: This is one of those juicy IPAs that gives you flashbacks - tangy, hoppy, full-bodied, and tremendously addictive.  I've recently become a NEIPA aficionado and it's because of beers like this one.  My favorite of the bunch.




Umbra (7.5%): An oatmeal stout with Maris Otter base malt—this is our first dark beer to enter regular production.

JB: I love me a good stout, and this one is very rich but also kinda dry, with strong coffee and cocoa notes that don't overpower the beer.  Well-played.....




The Nuclear Whim With the Fuse of a Mile (7.6%): An IPA to celebrate our 4th year of existence.

JB: Another delicious IPA, this one was juicy and very smooth with a little sweetness but also had those earthy pine/weed notes you'd find in a Fiddlehead IPA.




Lucent (Small Batch, 4.9%): Meaning “glowing” or “lit from within”, Lucent is a traditional German-style Helles, derived from the German word hell which translates to “bright”, words which describe the look of the beer perfectly. The style was invented by Munich-based brewery Spaten in 1894 as a lighter version of their Oktoberbier. Longer fermenting and low hop addition create (ideally) a full-bodied, light colored pale lager that tastes biscuity, lemony, leans a little more towards the malty side of things, and has a dry finish on the palate. All of which serve to make this beer endlessly drinkable and, as some of us have taken to saying, a true guzzlebrau.

JB: Nothing super fancy about this Helles, it's just very easy-drinking and sessionable.  Perfect for a day on the beach.


Bissell Brothers is on fire right now and it's easy to see why.  The four beers we tried were all easy recommendations, and I look forward to exploring the rest of their roster.  The room is loud and busy, but it's a very fun ambience and gives the impression that you're part of something big.  Check this place out if you haven't already!


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Friday, August 30, 2019

NJPW Royal Quest Preview & Predictions

NJPW's first major show after the fantastic G1 Climax is upon us, and it's across the pond in the lovely UK.  It's time for NJPW Royal Quest!


Now that we have our Tokyo Dome main event contender set (pending Kota's two briefcase challenge matches), it's time to defend some of these championships and build off the stories from the G1.  We have four title matches and a bunch of tag bouts, on a show that has a pretty spectacular top end.  The newest Bullet Club member will be challenging for the NEVER Title, the Ace of the Universe will go after the RPW British Champion, and the returning Minoru Suzuki has a major bone to pick (or break) after being left out of the G1.

But first the undercard.



Rocky Romero & RPG3K vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Shota Umino & Ren Narita

This will be a fun little opening tag.  Sho and Yoh could use some re-establishing to get back in the title hunt, while Umino and Narita should be going on excursion any day now.

Pick: The Chaos guys obviously win here.





Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo


I find this an odd spot for the current G1 Champion, but maybe Kota wanted a nice easy match after the grueling month he just had.  Juice is obviously due a US Title rematch with Moxley coming off his win on the last night of B Block action.  Takahashi and Hikuleo should be pushovers.

Pick: Kota & Juice





Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles vs. Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo


This should easily be the best pre-intermission match, with the IWGP Jr. Tag Champs and the IWGP Jr. Champ represented.  I'll just sit back and watch the fireworks.  I'd say Phantasmo getting a pin over Ospreay to set up a future title shot would be a good move.

Pick: Ishimori & Phantasmo


Thursday, August 29, 2019

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1992)

This right here is a helluva SummerSlam - emanating from Wembley Stadium, this show turned the WWF formula on its head.....


SummerSlam '92 - Wembley Stadium - 8/29/92

Now this is a fuckin' SummerSlam.  The 1992 edition was not only the best PPV of the year, but would remain the best SummerSlam PPV until at least 1997.  This show featured two very good to excellent main event matches, some decent midcard bouts, and very little filler.

The World Title match between Randy Savage and Warrior probably wasn't quite up to their WM7 match, but this was still good stuff.  The face vs. face dynamic added a new wrinkle and these two both worked hard to pull off an epic.  Inserting Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect into this angle was pretty stupid, as the feud became a bickering contest about which babyface sold out by hiring Mr. Perfect.  As it turned out the answer was "neither."  Flair and Perfect showed up and more or less ruined the ending of the match.  I'm actually not sure why Flair wasn't given his own match for this show.  Still a fine WWF Title match, even if it would be massively upstaged later in the evening.

These two were really fighting over who
had the more obnoxious outfit.

The undercard featured a few good bouts.  The Legion of Doom defeated Money Inc. in the opener, and then disappeared from WWF television until 1997; former Demolition partners Crush and Repo Man (Smash) had a brief but fun little nothing match; and Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel had a terribly entertaining heel vs. heel match while competing for Sherri Martel's affections.

The rest of the undercard wasn't much to look at.  Nailz squashed Virgil, Earthquake & Typhoon defeated the Beverly Brothers, and The Undertaker beat Kamala by DQ in a pointlessly short bout.

But the main event of the show still holds up as one of the best matches of all time.  Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith unexpectedly got to close the show for the Intercontinental Title, and created an in-ring masterpiece.  Legend has it that Davey was very hungover for this match and had to rely heavily on Bret to guide him through, but you'd never know by watching it.  Bret and Davey gelled perfectly and delivered a 25-minute technical classic.  The match was built around the backdrop of intra-family tension between Bret, his sister Diana, and Diana's husband Davey.  Despite being another face vs. face match, Bret played the heel here, allowing Davey to be the conquering hero in his home country.  Bret may have lost but this match cemented his status as a worthy main eventer, and almost directly led to him winning his first WWF Championship.  This is just an awesome bout.

All kinds of BOSS.


1992 marked a real turning point in the WWF product where the giant musclebound superheroes were being phased out in favor of smaller, more athletic wrestlers like Bret and Shawn, who could put on great 20-25 minute wrestling matches.  SummerSlam '92 is a great illustration of this, as the Bret Hart era really began here.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith
Worst Match: Nailz vs. Virgil
What I'd Change: Book Ric Flair in an actual match.  It's a shame the Triple Threat match hadn't been invented yet, because Savage vs. Warrior vs. Flair would've been a no-brainer.
Most Disappointing Match: Undertaker vs. Kamala - Why this only went three minutes I don't know.  Not that I was expecting a classic, but this was barely even a match.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Warrior didn't win the WWF Title.  Going into this I was sure he'd end up with the belt.  I wanted to see Savage keep it for a while longer, so I was relieved he got to retain.  Of course he dropped it back to Flair two weeks later, but that's beside the point.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania VIII? - Yes

1991



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The History of WWE SummerSlam (1988)

From the wrestling-obsessed maniac who brought you the History of WrestleMania series (me, obviously), welcome to The History of SummerSlam!!


Since 1988 WWE's SummerSlam has been the flagship PPV of the summer season.  More often than not it's the secondary tentpole of WWE's calendar, almost like WrestleMania's little brother.  Storylines are built throughout the season, and when done properly, culminate with the summer spectacular.

As a fan I've found over the years that SummerSlam is almost an underrated series - WrestleMania gets so much hype and attention (and I tend to rewatch those matches so frequently), I often overlook how many great matches and moments have taken place at the #2 show of the year.  Recently during a few hours of boredom I began comparing each SummerSlam to its corresponding 'Mania show (i.e. SummerSlam '88 vs. WrestleMania IV, etc.) and found that over the years SummerSlam has been the best PPV of the year just as often as the Grandaddy.  Many times the little brother has overshadowed his attention-grabbing counterpart.  Don't believe me?  Let's take a trip down WrestleMemory Lane!




SummerSlam '88 - Madison Square Garden - 8/29/88

The inaugural 'Slam followed fairly closely the formula created by the original WrestleMania.  Madison Square Garden?  Check.  Huge tag team main event?  Check.  Special guest referee?  Check.  Odd assortment of house show matches between guys who weren't really feuding?  Check.  Pretty strange really. 

The main event of this show was enormous - for the first time ever WWF Champion Randy Savage would team with Hulk Hogan as The MegaPowers against common enemies Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase.  The announcement of this match blew my 12-year-old mind, as did the addition of guest ref Jesse "The Body" Ventura.  The match itself falls into the same category as Hogan-Andre '87.  Not great from a workrate standpoint but a whole helluvalotta fun.  The angle with Elizabeth stripping down to her skivvies as a distraction was pretty stupid, particularly since they failed to deliver on the promise of a bikini.  But otherwise a fun match.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1989)

Welcome back to our History of SummerSlam series!  We're picking up where we left off, with the second edition, for me a considerable improvement on the first....


SummerSlam '89 - Meadowlands Arena - 8/28/89

The sophomore 'Slam 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.

Following the tag team main event template from the previous year's show, the WWF continued the huge MegaPowers feud by teaming Hulk Hogan up with Brutus Beefcake against Randy Savage and Hogan's onscreen nemesis in the film No Holds Barred, Zeus.  The fact that WWF Champion Hogan's main feud for the summer of 1989 was against costar "Tiny" Lister who, according to the storyline "became lost in the character," was truly moronic.  But they built Zeus up as an invincible killing machine who was impervious to chair shots.  Sadly they didn't bother teaching him how to wrestle, as his moveset consisted of choking, punching his opponents' trapezius muscles, and more choking.  The match itself was very similar to the 'Slam '88 main event, but not as good.  Savage worked hard to make the match exciting though, and despite one of the stupidest endings ever (Hogan completely no-sold Savage's elbowsmash and then knocked Zeus out with Sensational Sherri's tiny purse - what was in there, a roll of uranium quarters??) it was still a fun, dumb 80s main event.

Watch your junk goin' over those ropes, Zeusy-boy.

The undercard however had a triumvirate of awesome bouts.

In the opener, new WWF Tag Champs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard wrestled The Hart Foundation in one of my all-time favorite tag matches.  These were the two best teams in the company at the time and they completely tore it up.  Not sure why this wasn't a Title match if the Harts were gonna lose anyway, but whatever, it's still boss.  Best WWF match of the year says I!

This move always blew me away.
Neidhart slammed his own partner on top of Tully.

SummerSlam '89 featured two big six-man tag matches, one of which was great - The Rockers & Tito Santana vs. The Rougeaus & Rick Martel.  This match was action-packed and incredibly fast-paced.  All kinds of great teamwork and reversals here.

The final killer match on this card was I-C Champ Rick Rude defending against The Ultimate Warrior.  Their 'Mania 5 bout was strong, but this match blew that one away.  16 minutes of excellent power wrestling resulting in Warrior's second I-C Title, plus it marked the beginning of Roddy Piper's comeback!

The rest of the show ranged from mediocre (Ted Dibiase vs. Jimmy Snuka, Mr. Perfect vs. Red Rooster) to bad (Dusty Rhodes vs. Honky Tonk Man, Demolition/Jim Duggan vs. Twin Towers/Andre), but there wasn't anything really offensive on this show, and the three great matches plus the entertaining-if-silly main event made up for all the shortcomings.

Best Match: Brain Busters vs. Hart Foundation
Worst Match: Honky Tonk Man vs. Dusty Rhodes
What I'd Change: Given what a flop No Holds Barred would end up, I would've elevated a new monster heel WRESTLER to align with Savage.  Zeus really had no business in a wrestling ring.
Most Disappointing Match: The Demolition six-man.  This looked to be an epic match but only went about 6 minutes or so.  Also on paper, Mr. Perfect vs. Terry Taylor looked pretty good.  However since Taylor's gimmick at the time was to act like a male chicken that kinda ruined it.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I actually wasn't looking forward to Warrior vs. Rude.  I enjoyed their first match but was a little sick of both guys by SummerSlam.  As it turned out this was one of both guys' best bouts.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Better than WrestleMania V? - Yes

1988
1990


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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

AEW All Out Preview & Predictions

The Wednesday Night Wars are about to begin, and the wrestling landscape is as newsworthy as it's been in almost twenty years.  But first AEW has a flagship PPV to give the brand a proper launch.


Where Double or Nothing served as an introduction, and Fyter Fest and Fight for the Fallen were appetizer shows, All Out will be AEW's true cornerstone PPV that makes the company official as a sports organization.  We'll be crowning an inaugural AEW Heavyweight Champion and setting up top contenders for the Tag Team and Women's titles, as well as blowing off (I assume) the Young Bucks-Lucha Bros feud.  If all goes according to plan, All Out will be the company's signature PPV event, the one people really remember as the true beginning, setting into motion the Wednesday night series.  As of now the main show has seven matches, plus two on the pre-show.  The big matches will almost certainly deliver huge, the undercard ones could be hit-or-miss.  But this PPV should have no shortage of memorable moments.



Pre-Show Women's Casino Battle Royal: Nyla Rose, Britt Baker, Yuka Sakazaki, Allie, Brandi Rhodes, Teal Piper, Ivelisse, Jazz, Big Swole, Sadie Gibbs & 11 TBD


This match will determine one of two top contenders for the Women's Title on October 2nd.  I'm not sure how the other will be established but whoever wins this obviously has to be someone they're pushing long-term.  The match should be middling at best, like the men's version, but whatever, it's the pre-show.

Pick: I'll go with Britt Baker as she's clearly someone they're building around.




Pre-Show: Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Private Party


This should be a fun sprint.  Both teams have to be in the Tag Title mix somewhere, so this will showcase them.  Take your pick I guess.

Pick: I'll go with Evans & Angelico




Darby Allin vs. Joey Janela vs. Jimmy Havoc


This match makes sense in the opening slot, as it will be fast-paced and get the crowd warmed up.  Of the three I like Allin's star potential the most, provided he can stay healthy.  He's young and has a unique look, and he's already been booked unexpectedly strong, going to a 20-minute draw with Cody.  So to me he's the guy this match should be used to elevate.

Pick: Darby Allin


Friday, August 23, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Welcome to the long-awaited return (by at least three people) of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  It's been a while for this feature, but at long last I found the time to sit down and watch a movie I can't help but sorta like, despite it being pretty goddamn terrible.  That "film" is the infamous (ya know, MORE than famous) 1967 television special "written" and "directed" by The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour!


Inspired by mid-60s cross-country bus trips organized by author Ken Kesey, and mostly Paul McCartney's brainchild (though he later said he wasn't sure he wanted to take the full blame for it), Magical Mystery Tour tells the story (for lack of a better word) of the band and a group of their friends taking a bus excursion across the English countryside, interspersed with music videos of the band's latest songs (featured on the album of the same name).  And, well, that's it.  The Beatles attempted to conjure a plot out of thin air but the resulting film is more a collection of little episodes and sketches than it is a proper story.  It was horribly received upon its release (not helped by the fact that the BBC channel on which it originally aired didn't have color capability at the time), but has somewhat gained in popularity since (probably because The Beatles were involved) and currently enjoys a very generous 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (Disney probably paid them to put that there, amirite??).

I became a hardcore Beatles fan around age ten and sought out all their music and films, and in 1986 my parents bought me a low-grade VHS copy of this movie that looked like absolute cow shit.  And because it was a Beatles endeavor I'd convinced myself it was quality entertainment, knowing deep down it was a major misfire from a band I'd held up as infallible.  Still to this day part of my brain has a weird appreciation for this flop, and when I discovered a cheap Blu-Ray restoration on Ebay I had to bite.  In 1080p this film absolutely gains something back from a visual standpoint, so there's that at least.  And despite being a disorganized mess, parts of it have an offbeat charm to them.  But man, is this thing a clusterfuck if you go into it expecting an actual movie.

But enough introductions, let's take a look at the pluses and minuses of Magical Mystery TourA Hard Day's Night this ain't.....



The Awesome


Beatles Songs

Any movie whose soundtrack is comprised of Beatles music automatically scores a few points with me (as it should with everyone).  Granted, the songs written specifically for this film, "I Am the Walrus" excluded, are probably not on anyone's Beatles top ten list.  But this movie is essentially strung together on a clothesline of Beatles music videos, so that aspect has to be considered its strongest feature.  Imagine how much better it would've been if it were built around the second side of the MMT album though.  "Strawberry Fields," "Penny Lane," "All You Need Is Love..."




Visuals

To that end, each music video is pretty cool visually.  Paul's "A Fool on the Hill" was shot in the mountains of France and boasts some beautiful natural scenery.  "Flying" largely consists of discarded landscape shots from Dr. Strangelove but with color filter effects (Did Stanley Kubrick lift that idea for similar shots in the 2001 "stargate sequence" or vice-versa?).  "I Am the Walrus" is a super bizarre, trippy video that Paul McCartney himself later cited as the one indisputable positive to come out of this film.  "Blue Jay Way" is gloomy and atmospheric like the song that inspired it.  "Your Mother Should Know" is a fun little ballroom act sequence.  On top of the videos, there are some interesting little touches scattered throughout.  The Aunt Jessie nightmare sequence for example includes an unnerving shot of a little person snapping photos from a swinging cage apparatus, a shot that would've been right at home in a David Lynch film.  So regardless of its myriad of shortcomings, Magical Mystery Tour definitely has no dearth of intruiging things to look at.


Brewery Reviewery: Geary Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Welcome to another Portland, Maine installment of Brewery Reviewery here at Enuffa.com!  We're goin' old school for this one, as we visit the longest-running American craft brewery east of the Rockies, Geary Brewing Company!


Geary Brewing Company
38 Evergreen Drive 
Portland, ME 04103


This was one of the more interesting Portland visits for us; from the moment we walked in, Geary's felt different from the new-school breweries nearby.  Located (unfortunately) about a half-mile down the road from the Industrial Way cluster of brewers (Beermuda Triangle), Geary's has a distinctly old-world vibe about it, and that carries over to the beers as well.  Founded in 1983, long before most people even knew what craft beer was, Geary's was the brainchild of David and Karen Geary, who had a passion for traditional British beers.  David studied across the pond to learn the techniques and brought them back to Maine, creating a UK-inspired pale ale that, at the time was unlike just about anything available in the US.  The Gearys have since sold the brewery and retired, but their recipes live on, among a slew of new flavors and varieties.  The Geary's staff was friendly and very knowledgable, sharing stories of Geary's long history as we tasted, making for a fun, relaxed experience.  The atmosphere at this place is almost quaint, in a good way, which sets it apart from the younger establishments.  And they had a long list of tasty brews to boot....



Pale Ale (5.2%): Our flagship is a classic British-style pale ale with a nod to the legendary beers of Burton-on-Trent.  It has a copper color with a malty body and medium mouthfeel.  Stone fruit sweetness complements the traditional bitterness of this ale.

JB: Not unlike Sam Adams Boston Ale, this flagship is a simple-but-flavorful English bitter, with a malt-forward palate.  Very easy to drink, it's like visiting an old friend (Did that sound pretentious?  I don't care).




Hampshire Special Ale (7.5%): Maine's original "winter warmer," the unique, incredibly complex HSA is a clear, mahogonay-colored strong ale with a heavy body and thick mouthfeel.  A toasty, malty, stone fruit sweetness complements and contrasts the assertive flavors of the large hop build and noticeably high alcohol content.

JB: My favorite of the bunch, this special ale has a lovely blend of crispness and a bit of dunkel flavor from the yeast.  Me likey.




Pick Me (4.8%): Brewed with fresh Maine wild blueberries, this lager captures the unique, robust flavor profile of those tiny blue miracles with a clean, fresh finish in every sip.

JB: Several years ago I'd never have been caught dead drinking a blueberry beer, but I've come to appreciate them quite a bit, particularly the subtle ones.  This is one of those, with a unique purple tinge and light blueberry notes.


Brewery Reviewery: Lamplighter Brewing Co. (Cambridge, MA)

Welcome to another edition of Brewery Reviewery, here at Enuffa.com!  We love craft beer and we think you should too, so we visit local purveyors of delicious beer and report back with the good news....


Lamplighter Brewing Co.
284 Broadway
Cambridge, MA



Today's installment concerns Lamplighter Brewing in Cambridge, MA, a quirky, lively venue built in a decked-out industrial garage, wherein the brewmasters serve up an eclectic variety of IPAs, Belgian-inspired ales, lagers, pilsners, and the occasional stout.  There's a little something for everyone and the menu is ever-evolving.  You can order full pours, half-pours, cans, bottles, or one of two preset tasting flights, and there's a back room for events like Trivia Night, Bachelor episode parties, and other stuff.  Whatever night you pay them a visit you're in for some fun, plus a cornucopia tasty beverages.

We were fortunately enough to try a lotta brews, so let's get to it.  The list is broken down by the two themed flights (IPAs and light stuff), plus a few standalone beers we tried.



Flight #1: Hoppy Days 


Honalee (6.6%): Honalee is a New England-style IPA brewed with Slovenian-grown Styrian Dragon and Styrian Wolf hops. Known for their fruit-forward and floral aromas, these varieties deliver tropical notes of ripe mango and elderflower, making for a delightfully juicy and refreshing pint. Named after the mythical land featured in Peter, Paul, and Mary’s song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Keep cold and enjoy fresh!

Tasting Notes - Elderflower, mango, strawberry candy

JB: This one is a mix of hoppy and sweet; I picked up honey and mango notes.



Dad Bod (6.9%): Dad Bod is a full bodied IPA brewed in honor of Father’s Day and dry hopped with Eureka and Simcoe. Combining characteristics from several IPA traditions, this ale is hazy like a New England-style IPA, piney like a West Coast IPA, and sports a snappy bitterness in the classic American IPA tradition. Bright citrus flavors lead to earthy and herbal undertones, resulting in a unique bouquet of pomelo, mint, and resiny pine. Brewed in honor of dads everywhere (and their bods).

Tasting Notes - Pine sap, mint, pomelo

JB: Kind of your standard session IPA with some bitterness but not overwhelming.  The pine notes take center stage.


Chris Cornell's "Disappearing One": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden: An Acoustic Tribute to Chris Cornell.

Video #2: "Disappearing One" from Euphoria Mourning, 1999

Recorded at Yebba Studios, Norwood, MA.



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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Parents' Night In #23: Point Break - Utah, Get Me Two!

It's the end of summer, so we're watching the classic 90s action film, Point Break, with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze!  Justin and Kelly drink Sam '76 and talk about Keanu's status as America's sweetheart, Patrick's status as a super-charismatic badass, Lori Petty's surprisingly busy acting schedule, and why Point Break is so much better than it looked in the trailers.  Join us for more couch-ridin' fun on Parents' Night In!

#KeanuReeves #PatrickSwayze #90sMovies #ActionMovies




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Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (John Lennon Edition)

Welcome to our third and final Top Ten Things pertaining to the songs of The Beatles!  I've saved my favorite for last, as today I'll be talking about the best songs written by the Beatle everyone thinks of first, John Lennon.  Check out the George and Paul lists if you haven't already...


John was sort of the unofficial leader of the group over their first few years, the oldest and most irreverent of the three original members (Ringo didn't join until 1962), and initially the strongest songwriter.  Despite the band having to clean up their image when Brian Epstein signed on as their manager, trading in leather jackets and greaser haircuts for suits and their trademark mop-tops, John always retained a bit of the bad boy image and attitude he originally brought to the table.  Unlike other pop stars of the period, John presented himself in interviews with candor and a zany sense of humor, and would later become politically outspoken and controversial, one of the first musicians to get involved in activism.

As for his songwriting, I consider John the most creative of the band, always thinking outside the box and coming up with envelope-pushing ideas.  Where Paul's songs tended to be more inviting and structurally conventional while introducing new orchestration, John's tunes often had an edge to them, along with a dark surrealist bent.  Many of his greatest compositions played with words to evoke bizarre mental imagery; he could seemingly find inspiration in almost anything and turn it into a memorable song lyric.  For my money John's songs stole the show on most of The Beatles' albums, particularly from Revolver through the White Album; nearly every favorite of mine on those four records is a John song.  Sadly after the White Album John began to distance himself from all things Beatles, and his contributions to their last two records were somewhat reluctant.  But when you add up all the iconic Beatles songs over their world-changing run, John scores the most points in my book.  He may not have been the strongest overall musician in the group or had the best voice (Paul takes both of those honors), but I'd say he was easily the most imaginative member of the band.

Here now are the greatest Beatles songs written by John Lennon.... 


Honorable Mentions


In My Life

John described this song as the first serious lyric he ever wrote, a bittersweet meditation on his childhood that included nods to absent friends (Stuart Sutcliffe for example).  An introspective song bordering on anthemic, "In My Life" showed remarkable maturity and thoughtfulness beyond John's 25 years.



Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Inspired by an 18th century circus poster John bought at an antique shop, "Mr. Kite" got its lyrics almost verbatim from said poster, but musically the track is hugely groundbreaking.  To achieve a circus atmosphere John and producer George Martin played an organ break in the middle of the song, and in the outro Martin had the tape cut into footlong sections and thrown in the air, then reassembled at random to achieve a dreamlike, surrealistic quality.  On the band's most psychedelic album, "Mr. Kite" may be the most psychedelic song.



Dear Prudence

Written for Prudence Farrow, who became so immersed in Transcendental Meditation she often refused to come out of her hut for days at a time, "Dear Prudence" became a life-affirming anthem about experiencing the world fully and not getting lost in oneself.  Built on a delicate finger-picked guitar line, the song builds to a beautiful emotional peak (George's lead guitar melody near the end chokes me up every time I hear it); in execution "Dear Prudence" ended up so much more powerful than the simple bit of friendly encouragement it began as.  This one has grown on me leaps and bounds over the years.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Music Review: Korn - The Serenity of Suffering

Well it's been about a week and a half since Korn's new album The Serenity of Suffering was released, and it's mostly been getting solid reviews as a return to the band's heavier roots.  My esteemed colleague Mike Drinan and I have each listened to the album multiple times and thought we'd discuss our respective takes on the record.  So here goes....


Justin: Ok, now that we've had some time to really digest it, what are your thoughts on the band's 12th outing?


Mike: I like it a lot. This album suits my preference on how I like Korn to sound. I love the deep, bass-heavy guitar riffs and Jonathan Davis' guttural screams mixed with his scratchy scatting. In fact, I love Jonathan's vocals on this entire album, with the exception of "Take Me" where I didn't like how he enunciated certain syllables in a weird way (Instead of singing "me" he'd stretch it to sound like "may" and continued doing this throughout the song). For the most part, he sounds intense, melodic and violent, really fitting the musical tone of the band, especially on the track "The Hating". He rarely went quiet on any of the songs and that's just fine with me. On their last album The Paradigm Shift, he didn't sound as emotionally committed. I saw an interview with Head and Munky where they said Jonathan had to fall back in love with heavy music after the direction they went in prior to The Paradigm Shift.  I thought this disconnect came through on that album which contributed to me feeling indifferent toward it. It's nice to hear Jonathan sing with that same power again. Musically, the band sounds like they're firing on all cylinders on this album. The guitars give each song a great backdrop to support Davis' vocals and on a few songs are pretty melodic. Fieldy has sort of taken a step back in the sense that his bass isn't as featured as on previous albums. I still hear it but not as prominently.

The highlight of this album for me was the buildup in "Everything Falls Apart" where Davis sings "There is nothing in my head" over and over, louder and louder until the band just breaks through and opens the song up with that constant heavy pounding. Holy shit I loved it!

All in all, I loved this album and think it's their best since Untouchables.

Favorite tracks: Insane, Rotting In Vain, Black Is The Soul, Everything Falls Apart


Justin: I am very underwhelmed by this album.  It's slickly produced, competently written and well-performed, but it feels to me like a band going through the motions.  It doesn't have the emotional punch of their early albums; there's only so far you can take the "I had a fucked up childhood" thing once you're a millionaire rock star without it sounding forced.  I much preferred the variety of The Paradigm Shift and Untitled, where each song stood out from the rest and had divergent hooks and grooves.  Sure some of the results were mixed, but at least with those albums I could easily identify each song.  On TSOS I feel like every song blurs into the next, with the exception of "Rotting in Vain" and "Take Me" to a lesser extent.  Most of the riffs sound stock to me, unlike on TPS where Head's return to the band seemed to ignite a creative spark.  In terms of heavier recent Korn I liked Remember Who You Are much better than this album; again, it was uneven but on songs like "Pop a Pill" (one of my all-time favorite Korn songs) and "Oildale" I felt like Jonathan actually meant what he was saying and the raw emotional power was there.  I'm not sure if it's just that slick production doesn't really fit Korn's musical style, or if it's the fact that almost every song on TSOS is in a minor key, which for me makes them feel logey and drab (Initially Korn separated themselves from every other heavy band by almost exclusively writing chorus hooks in a major key).  But aside from the two aforementioned tracks, plus "The Hating" and "Everything Falls Apart" there isn't much on this album that excites me.  I miss the urgency of "What We Do," the quirkiness of "Spike in My Veins," and the power of "Prey for Me" from The Paradigm Shift.  I'm pretty sure every song on TSOS is also in the same key and close to the same feel/tempo, which doesn't help separate them from each other, and Davis doesn't stray much from about a five or six-note mid-range, where on "Pop a Pill" for example he really belted out some higher notes.  In terms of the "death growl" vocals, they sound too polished for me.  In the Life is Peachy days his screamed vocals had a real visceral quality and rawness, but here I think the glossy production robs his screams of their teeth.  For me all these factors just make this album kind of a drag to sit through, despite the lack of any truly bad songs.  I find the whole album just middling.

For me this album ranks solidly below TPS, Remember, and Untitled (but just above The Path of Totality and certainly ahead of Take a Look in the Mirror and See You on the Other Side).

Also, where have you been, Jonathan's always pronounced "me" as "may" or occasionally "muuuy."


Soundgarden's "Fell On Black Days": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden, an acoustic tribute to Chris Cornell.  Our first official video for Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days" is below.  Recorded at Yebba Studios in Norwood, MA.



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Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (Paul McCartney Edition)

Welcome to the second installment of our Beatles-related Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best tunes written by each of the Fab Four's three songwriters (Sorry Ringo...)!  If you missed the George Harrison edition, click HERE to check it out!  And click HERE for the John Lennon one.


Today it's Paul McCartney's turn.  One half of probably the greatest songwriting duo in the history of the planet, Paul was in my estimation the most accomplished pound-for-pound musician in the Beatles.  With a voice that ranged from smooth-as-silk to soulful and ballsy to screeching and harsh, Paul probably brought the most diversity of sound to the band.  From 1965 when he introduced the unfathomably out-of-character "Yesterday" into their repertoire, Paul was always pushing the boundaries of production and orchestration.  It was his idea to link together the songs on Sgt. Pepper, arrange the Side 2 song fragments of Abbey Road into a cohesive suite, and make an improvised movie about a bus tour of the English countryside....okay so not all his ideas landed.  But Paul in many ways was the most directly responsible (not to discount the others by any means) for The Beatles' music being perceived as a bona fide artistic endeavor.

Aside from all that though, the man wrote some incredibly iconic songs.  This installment and the next about John were much harder to narrow down than the George edition, simply because of the volume of classic tunes they each churned out.  On to the Honorable Mentions!



Honorable Mentions


Sgt. Pepper/Reprise

The two-part song that tied The Beatles' most famous album together, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and its reprise total under three-and-a-half minutes, but their pure rock n' roll energy is palpable.  The first part kicks off the album with rollicking swagger, punctuated by horns and audience murmurs to give it a live feel, while the reprise sends the pseudo-concept album home with a guitar-charged bang before the grand finale of "A Day in the Life."  I always found most of Paul's Sgt. Pepper output to be rather overshadowed by John's contributions, but I love this two-parter.



Drive My Car

Kicking off the revered Rubber Soul album is this vigorous guitar rocker rife with sexual innuendo, about an aspiring movie star who hires a fella to be her chauffeur with benefits.  Paul and John's double-lead vocal harmonies bounce over bluesy lead guitars, underscored by Paul's tight, palm-muted bass sound (I believe this is the first time he used that technique and I always loved how it sounded).



You Won't See Me

Another Rubber Soul standout is one of three songs he wrote about his crumbling relationship with actress Jane Asher.  "You Won't See Me" took some cues from The Four Tops and other Motown groups, while the lyrics marked a departure from Paul's sweeter, more innocent early years.  Rubber Soul is generally cited as The Beatles' turn to a more mature sound, and this simple breakup song is one of several illustrations of that.


And now for the main event....



10. Lady Madonna


The first single released during The Beatles' return to stripped-down rock n' roll (after the psychadelic 1966-67 period), "Lady Madonna" gained inspiration from rhythm & blues piano icon Fats Domino.  Vocally Domino inspired Paul to such an extent that he altered his singing style to match Domino's soulful timbre, creating a whole new signature "McCartney voice" (my favorite version of Paul, incidentally).  At just over two minutes, "Lady Madonna" is nonetheless densely packed, its lyrics a rumination on the working single monther, with obvious Catholic undertones.  This is one of my favorite Paul pastiches.





9. Yesterday


One of the most widely covered songs in music history, "Yesterday" wormed its way into Paul's brain while he was asleep, and upon waking he raced to a piano so he wouldn't forget it.  The melody came to him so easily he assumed he must've heard it somewhere, and asked everyone he knew if they recognized it.  Once established as an original idea, the song was given the working title "Scrambled Eggs" while Paul tweaked it, and the final lyrics didn't take shape until months later.  The despondent ballad was such a departure from The Beatles' established sound that it took strenuous convincing from producer George Martin to keep it as a solo performance with a string quartet behind it, and the rest of the band vetoed its release as a UK single.  But "Yesterday" instantly became a phenomenon, with a top-ten Matt Monro cover version released that same year, the first of literally thousands of versions.  The song may be simple and saccharine, but there's no denying its significance in broadening The Beatles' artistic palette.



Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Wrestling's Greatest Finishers: Piledriver

Welcome to the third installment of Wrestling's Greatest Finishers, here at Enuffa.com, where I discuss a classic finishing maneuver, its physics, its origins, its significance in this fake sport we all love so much.


Today, due to overwhelming popular demand (okay, one person requested it), I'll be talking about one of the most devastating wrestling moves ever invented, one that's spawned a dozen or more variations and legitimately injured numerous dudes, the piledriver!

Thought to be invented by Wild Bill Longson, wrestling star of the 1930s-50s, the piledriver involves picking up your opponent upside-down, his head between your legs, and falling to a sitting position, thus driving him head-first into the canvas.  Realistically this move could kill a person, and for decades it was portrayed as perhaps the most dangerous move in the business.  Hell, the original version of the move was actually banned by WWE for many years, in no small part due to Steve Austin's real-life neck injury as the result of Owen's botched attempt.  The piledriver is one of those moves that must be terrifying to let someone put on you; you are literally putting your life in another person's hands.

Wait, that guy isn't tucking his head,
and that looks like a hardwood floor...

Anyway, the piledriver was a staple of the 70s and 80s, used as a finisher by the likes of Terry Funk, Harley Race, Jerry Lawler, and most famously during my childhood, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.  For my money Orndorff's version is still the greatest of all time, in terms of the original variant.  Where Funk, Lawler and others would lift their opponents into position and gently fall to their butt, Orndorff would actually jump slightly in the air while holding his victim, sweeping his own legs up so the drop on the opponent's head would look absolutely crippling (In 2000 an aging Orndorff actually compressed his own spine delivering the move on WCW television).  It was one of the best-protected moves of the era; if Paul piledrove you, you were done.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Parents' Night In: The Podcast!

Attention Parents' Night In fans - now you can enjoy some of our episodes as audio-only podcasts, on a multitude of platforms!  We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, Google Podcasts, Pocket Cast, Radio Public, Breaker and Overcast.  Click below for your favorite platform! 


Apple - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/parents-night-in/id1473621580?uo=4

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/4qPxkRJyQaGLMl9B62McAe

Anchor - https://anchor.fm/enuffadotcom

Google Podcasts - https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy9jYWU4NmYwL3BvZGNhc3QvcnNz

Pocket Casts - https://pca.st/9Xy2

Radio Public - https://radiopublic.com/parents-night-in-WPXOKR

Breaker - https://www.breaker.audio/parents-night-in

Overcast - https://overcast.fm/itunes1473621580/parents-night-in


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Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

In case you missed them, click HERE for Rise and HERE for Dawn



War for the Planet of the Apes


So, ya know how the third movie in a trilogy is always the weakest one, almost without fail?  That's out the window now.  War for the Planet of the Apes is the best, most poignant, most emotionally engaging film in the series, one that moved me almost to tears several times.  It pays homage to such classics as Apocalypse Now and Bridge on the River Kwai, while spectacularly concluding the trilogy and also providing some of the most breathtaking visuals in the entire series.

Director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback returned for the third installment in which Caesar and his apes must prepare for the inevitable war against a human military force hell-bent on exterminating them.  The human contingent is led by a maniacal Colonel (a fantastic, tortured Woody Harrelson, with a nod to Marlon Brando) who has become so dangerous and bloodthirsty he's begun killing off some of his own men and even using a few traitorous apes to do his bidding.  The Colonel wrongs the ape colony (in ways I won't reveal here), prompting Caesar and three of his lieutenants to seek vengeance while the rest of the apes retreat to a new home across the desert.  The story takes multiple unexpected turns and builds to a spectacular climax, but I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.

Suffice it to say, this film is beautiful, poetic, contemplative, exciting.  Andy Serkis once more delivers a note-perfect, deeply subtle mo-cap performance which transcends the special effects and makes the Caesar character as real as nearly any live-action performance you'll ever see.  Another standout is series newcomer Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a wonderful character who provides most of the film's laughs but is also heartwrenchingly sad.  Like I said, I found parts of this film deeply moving, and Zahn's performance was one of them.  It's high time the Academy started recognizing motion-capture performances at awards time, even if it's a special category.

The effects team has outdone themselves here; these hyper-intelligent apes look so believable they've somehow dug themselves out of the uncanny valley.  For most of War's running time the analytical part of my brain that notices these things was not on alert.  Caesar and his apes have to be considered the most brilliantly realized CG characters in film history.  I often come down hard on the use of CGI, but Matt Reeves and his creative team have figured out the exact right way to utilize the technology.

War for the Planet of the Apes, like Logan earlier this year, is a film that transcends its genre and provides much more than simple summer popcorn entertainment.  This is a profoundly affecting film that will stick with you long after you leave the theater, and it caps off one of the best trilogies of the past thirty years, amazingly managing to top the first two entries.

I give War for the Planet of the Apes **** out of ****.



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Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (George Harrison Edition)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  It's been a while since I made one of these stupid lists, but I thought of kickass three-parter for y'all!  Today I'm all about The Beatles, those four lovable mop-tops from Liverpool who went on to change the entire fuckin' world.


A couple years ago I compiled my list of The Beatles' best albums, and while it occurred to me back then to do a list of songs as well, I ran into a conundrum: How the actual hell do you narrow down the Beatles' iconic song catalogue to ten choices?  It would be nigh impossible.  So instead I've saved myself hours of agony by compiling not one list, but three: the ten greatest Beatles songs written, respectively, by the group's three songwriters - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and today's subject, George Harrison!

George has always been considered the unsung hero of the band, finding himself in the unenviable position of having to compete with the two-headed compositional juggernaut known as Lennon-McCartney.  While the two prodigies were virtually pooping out gold records, George was left to his own devices to come up with one or two tunes he just hoped would be deemed worthy of inclusion on each album.  Though his early output certainly didn't stack up to standout singles like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You," George was diligent and untiring, honing his unique gifts and molding himself into a great composer in his own right.  By the time the band recorded Revolver, George could consistently be counted on to deliver at least one album standout; he was sadly almost always limited to two tracks per disc, and when the band broke up he'd amassed a double album's worth of material which became his solo record All Things Must Pass.

With all this in mind, let's take a look at the Top Ten Beatles Songs: George Harrison Edition.... 



Honorable Mentions

Piggies

George's anti-establishment anthem about consumerism and class relations dates as far back as the Revolver writing sessions but wasn't finished until the White Album.  The use of harpsichord calls to mind snooty 18th century upper-crusters, while the lyrics have a biting satirical bent.



The Inner Light

One of three Harrison-penned Beatles songs to use traditional Indian instruments, "The Inner Light" deals with his newfound interest in Transcendental Meditation.  The music alternates between slow, meditative lyric sections dealing with spirituality, and upbeat Indian temple music making liberal use of George's sitar; the prevailing theme here is about discovering one's inner peace.



Within You, Without You

Probably George's most famous sitar-based song, and his only track on Sgt. Pepper, was steeped in traditional Indian music but with a mix of Western instrumentation as well.  The lyrics evolved out of a philosophical conversation with Beatles friend Klaus Voorman about embracing the non-physical.  I always found this song a bit overlong, but it was nonetheless an adventurous major sonic departure for the band.


Alright, now for the top ten....



10. For You Blue


A simple, bouncy 12-bar blues composition written for his wife Pattie, "For You Blue" was heavily influenced by a trip George took to Woodstock, NY to jam with Bob Dylan and The Band, a welcome contrast to the discordant White Album recording sessions.  This song ended up on the Let It Be album, itself a very troubled production, but it managed to retain its intended care-free vibe, and is one of George's two strong Let It Be offerings.





9. Long, Long, Long


Perhaps the quietest of all Beatles songs, from the "quiet Beatle," George's hauntingly serene ballad about his reconnecting with God immediately follows Paul's violently heavy "Helter Skelter" on the White Album, making for an abrupt mood swing.  The song has a sad-but-relieved vibe about it, as though George were atoning for his time experimenting with mind-altering substances and truly finding tranquility in mysticism.





8. Blue Jay Way


Released at the height of Beatles psychadelia, George's lone contribution to the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack is a ghostly, atmospheric tune written on a Hammond organ while George and Pattie waited for friends to arrive at their rented LA house, immediately after a long flight from London.  Harrison's songs usually seemed to take on a darker tone than John or Paul's, but that's especially true of "Blue Jay Way," which perfectly conveys George's post-flight exhaustion and impatience waiting for his house guests.   


Friday, August 16, 2019

Wrestling's Greatest Finishers: Sweet Chin Music

Welcome to another edition of Wrestling’s Greatest Finishers, here at Enuffa.com!  Today I’ll be talking about the signature move of my all-time favorite wrestler, Shawn Michaels.  It’s been called the Crescent Kick, the Superkick, and most famously by HBK, Sweet Chin Music.  Whatever its handle, the side kick to the jaw has become an enduring, easily imitated maneuver.


“Gentleman” Chris Adams allegedly created the move, but the first incarnation I ever saw was when Haku began using it in the WWF, calling it the Crescent Kick.  Haku was extremely agile for his size, and the Crescent Kick demonstrated his balance and flexibility while also carrying an aura of mystery appropriate to his South Pacific heritage.  For a while Haku was the only wrestler I remember utilizing the move.

Then The Rockers arrived.  Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty brought probably a dozen tandem moves with them to the WWF, one of which was the double superkick.  Initially I didn’t pay that move much attention given how much more spectacular most of their other offense was.  It wasn’t until that fateful Barber Shop segment in January 1992 that the superkick truly became a fearsome piece of in-ring weaponry.  In turning on his longtime tag partner, Michaels demonstrated how gut-wrenchingly sudden and devastating the move could be.

As a new singles star Shawn primarily used the superkick as a setup move for his teardrop suplex – a finisher I found pretty underwhelming for a former aerial master.  In the early 90s a heel couldn’t maintain heat if his moveset displayed too much flash, so Shawn kept his game grounded and opted for an arsenal designed to show off his newfound mean streak.  As he moved up the roster it became clear the teardrop wasn’t cutting it as a finishing move.  In non-wrestling segments Shawn would generally use the superkick to lower the boom on an unsuspecting rival, so it only made sense that he promote that move to his full-time finisher.  It was the perfect utility move he didn’t need to be in the ring to execute.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Top Ten Things: Quentin Tarantino Films

Welcome to another edition of Enuffa.com's Top Ten Things, where I compile a list of ten of something and then demonstrate the arrogance to imply my opinion of them is undisputed fact.  Buuut who are we kiddin', it is....


Today I'll be discussing the films of one of my favorite writer/directors, Quentin Tarantino.  Exploding on the scene in 1992, Tarantino brought a "film geek" sensibility to Hollywood, having absorbed decades of movies while working as a video store clerk and using his natural stylistic ability to create a new genre of films.  He sold his first two screenplays to the studios before making his directorial debut with Reservoir Dogs, and then became a household name with his second film Pulp Fiction.  Since then Tarantino has created pastiches of crime dramas, samurai films, Westerns, and even horror movies with unabashed glee and incredible attention to memorable characters and quirky dialogue.  When you sit down to watch a Tarantino film you know you're getting an unforgettable (and likely very uncomfortable) cinematic experience.

Note: I'm including three films Tarantino wrote but didn't direct, as I felt they all warranted inclusion.  Also you'll find Death Proof didn't make the cut.  I absolutely love the first half of that film - the characters are strong and colorful, the villain is compelling, the style feels like a grindhouse flick.  But in the second half I found the characters fairly dull and overly chatty, and the climactic car chase is pretty uninteresting, not to mention QT inexplicably abandoned the "scratchy footage" gimmick.



12. Death Proof


One half of the Grindhouse double feature along with Robert Rodriquez's zombie pastiche Planet Terror, Death Proof was Tarantino's homage to the 70s slasher film, except that instead of using a knife or a chainsaw, Kurt Russell's homicidal maniac Stuntman Mike used his souped up, "death proof" muscle car.  This film is split into two halves, the first concerning Austin radio DJ Jungle Julia (a hypnotically sexy Sydney Tamiia Poitier) and her friends, out on the town celebrating Julia's birthday.  The film allows us to spend time with these likable characters before Mike makes his murderous move, and then shifts gears (no pun intended) to a new set of would-be victims for our vehicular stalker.  I love the first half of Death Proof, complete with film stock damage, bad splices and grainy, high-contrast cinematography that makes it feel like a legit crappy 70s movie.  The second half though falters for me somewhat, as the characters and dialogue aren't as compelling, the payoff doesn't quite feel earned, and the grindhouse look of the film is abandoned.  Still, as I explore in detail HERE, Death Proof is a movie I feel compelled to watch every few years.  But something had to be at the bottom of Tarantino's resume, and this is it.





11. From Dusk Till Dawn


Another horror homage that's split into two distinct halves, From Dusk Till Dawn is a skillfully-made roller coaster of a vampire film starring an exceedingly compelling George Clooney and Tarantino himself as Seth and Richard Gecko, two escaped criminals attempting to reach the Mexican border before the authorities catch them.  On the way they take a family of three hostage and hijack their mobile home before stopping off at a Mexican strip club to await an associate.  The first half of the film plays out in typical Tarantino fashion, with playfully vulgar dialogue and high-tension standoffs, with director Robert Rodriguez lending his own visual style to the proceedings.  In the second half though the film takes a 90-degree turn when it's revealed the strip club is a lair for the undead, and our protagonists must fight for their lives against a gaggle of bloodsuckers to make it till morning.  Structurally this plays out like a Romero zombie film but with a much more sardonic tone and a ton of uncomfortable laughs.  Clooney demonstrated in his first major Hollywood role what a strong leading man he was - Seth is an eminently likable bastard - and his chemistry with Tarantino is undeniable.  The two leads and scores of snappy lines of dialogue really carry this film past being a crappy horror film and into the realm of a loving tribute.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Note: In case you missed my Rise review, click HERE


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


After his initial spark of genius, Rise director Rupert Wyatt was unable to commit to a sequel on the studio's timetable, and was replaced by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield and Let Me In fame.  While I'd be interested in seeing what Wyatt would've done with a sequel, Reeves proved himself a more sure-footed director, brilliantly handling the larger scope of the second (and third) film.

Set ten years after Rise, Dawn begins by showing us the effects of the super-virus Will Rodman accidentally unleashed.  The human population has been decimated, with only a fraction being naturally immune to the disease.  The apes meanwhile have created their own civilization in the redwood forest.  Caesar, now a full adult with a wife and son, has become the apes' exalted, compassionate leader.  After a run-in with a team of human scouts, a power struggle develops between Caesar and another ape called Koba, who still harbors deep hatred of humans for his mistreatment in their labs.  The humans have set up a colony in the city and need access to a hydroelectric dam within the apes' domain so they can restore power.  A very uneasy truce is formed, and Caesar gradually bonds with a few of the humans - Malcolm, his son Alexander, and his second wife Ellie.  But Koba can't accept peace and he engineers a coup, shooting Caesar and framing the humans as an excuse to attack their compound.  Koba and the apes take over the city while Malcolm helps nurse Caesar back to health.  Eventually a violent showdown ensues between the two apes, and Caesar comes to realize that a human-ape war is now unavoidable.

That this synopsis creates so many potential pitfalls but manages to avoid every one of them is nothing short of miraculous.  Dawn could have easily devolved into a trite, manipulative "apes good, humans bad" story, but the script is so deftly written we are able to understand and empathize with the point of view of every major character.  More than that, it establishes parallels between the apes and the humans, illustrating the similarities of the two species.  Caesar is delicately trying to balance his own desire for a peaceful coexistence with his need to protect his race, and Malcolm feels the same way, understanding that the apes are intelligent, reasonable creatures.  On the other side of each coin, Koba is a severely damaged character who is now defined by his hatred of humanity, while the human leader Dreyfus (an always compelling Gary Oldman) is prepared for a violent showdown and will preserve the human race at all costs.  This creates a fascinating parable of sociopolitics and once again the characters and their motivations are front-and-center, while the action sequences are a byproduct.  I also love that the first act of the film contains very little dialogue; the apes communicate primarily through sign language.  As summer blockbusters go, Dawn is a stunningly quiet film.

Dawn takes the incredible dramatic foundation of the Caesar character and expands on it, showing us his maturity and courage as a leader and father but also the violence of which he is capable when wronged.  Koba has also become an amazingly realized, three-dimensional villain, who deeply respects Caesar but whose anger has swallowed him whole and turned him into a monster.  This installment also improves on the original in terms of the human characters; Jason Clarke as Malcolm delivers a heartfelt, relatable performance as a man clinging desperately to the last vestiges of human compassion, wanting above all to reach a peaceful understanding with Caesar.  Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus as an uncertain military leader, a broken man who has lost everything and refuses to let humanity perish on his watch.  These are all well fleshed-out, fascinating personae with believable and understandable motivations, and the film resists the urge to become a sweeping action epic, preferring instead to stay close and intimate with its central characters.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a significant improvement over its impressive predecessor that further fleshes out the Caesar character and his place in this society, while also providing more substantial human characters for him and the other apes to play against.  Matt Reeves' direction is confident and thoughtful, while the pensive, thematic script by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver defies expectations, grounding the events in complex social and political commentary.  This is how you do a summer sci-fi film.

I give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ***1/2 out of ****.


Click here for the War review

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Awesomely Shitty Movies: Death Proof

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I pick apart a guilty pleasure film, or a movie that has most or all of the ingredients to be great but can't quite get there.


Today's subject is a little of both.  It's the 70s exploitation/slasher film throwback, Death Proof, aka Quentin Tarantino's Worst Movie.  Originally released as half of the double-bill Grindhouse along with Robert Rodriguez's zombie pastiche Planet Terror (a bona fide ASM in its own right), Death Proof follows the slasher formula but with a crazed stunt driver committing vehicular homicide on groups of women.  Oddly split into two halves, the story begins with an Austin, TX radio DJ and her friends going out to celebrate her birthday.  Along the way they run afoul of Stuntman Mike, and it ends badly.  In the second half Mike has relocated to Tennessee, stalking a new group of women, two of whom happen to be stunt drivers themselves, and it ends badly again, this time for Mike.

That's really all there is to the plot; like many horror films, particularly the slasher variety, it's all about style over substance.  Fortunately Quentin Tarantino is the quintessential expert on imbuing a film with style and immersing the viewer in his detailed little worlds.  There's a lot to like about this movie, and I find myself needing to rewatch it every few years to spend time with some interesting characters and see if there's more to this film than I remembered.  There isn't really, but it's still a fun little romp and a lovingly created crappy 70s drive-in flick.

So let's look at the pros and cons of Death Proof...



The Awesome


Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell has to be one of my favorite actors who's done very few films I like.  Sure there's The Thing, Backdraft, Tombstone, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and three Tarantino outings, but he's also done a lotta crappy movies.  Regardless though, Russell improves every film he's in.  He oozes natural charisma and whether playing a hero or a villain you can't take your eyes off him.  That's most certainly true in Death Proof, where he starts out charming everyone in the bar and making Tarantino's quirky dialogue jump off the page, and then morphs into a murderous maniac.  Russell as Stuntman Mike is absolutely perfect casting.

Careful, or in his book you'll be filed under Chickenshit...




Jungle Julia

Speaking of "can't take your eyes off" someone, Sydney Tamiia Poiter as local DJ Jungle Julia absolutely commands the screen whenever she's on it.  As Mike himself observes, "she is a striking-looking woman."  Poiter is statuesque, effortlessly sexy, and bursting with sass.  Why Tarantino never cast her in anything else after this is beyond me; I could watch her all day long.

Sweet Jeezus....