Thursday, July 30, 2020

Parents' Night In #42: Hamilton, The Movie!

It's time for Parents' Night LIN!  As in Lin-Manuel Miranda!  As in Hamilton, the Broadway milestone that is now available as a film on Disney Plus!  Kelly and Justin will enjoy some bubbly, do some really bad rapping, and talk about the play, the film, the soundtrack, and how they fell in love with all three, plus how incredible the entire cast is, Justin's man-crush on Daveed Diggs, Kelly's woman-crush on Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Justin and Kelly's idol worship of Lin himself.  Get ready to laugh, cry, and cringe as we discuss Hamilton on this special Parents Night In episode!




Snippet of "My Shot," music/original lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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Top Ten Things: Christopher Nolan Films

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


With the release of his latest film Dunkirk, and this being his tenth feature, I thought I'd take this opportunity to rank Christopher Nolan's filmography!  I've been a Nolan fan since Memento's 2001 theatrical release, and over the past two decades this cerebral English director has already compiled an extraordinary body of work, creating a singular brand of intelligent, crowd-pleasing blockbuster films.  Nolan's affinity for challenging, puzzle-like movies was apparent from the beginning, but he also reinvented the Batman franchise by grounding it in reality and making its protagonist a deeply flawed, real-world hero trying to redeem his broken city.  Nolan's films generally demand repeat viewings, keeping the viewer on their toes and often letting the editing drive the narrative so there's no cinematic fat on the bone.  Every new Christopher Nolan film is truly event viewing for me, guaranteed to present a story in a genre-defying way audiences have never seen before.

Here now are Christopher Nolan's films, ranked....





10. Following


Nolan's feature debut was this neo-noir with a non-linear narrative, about an aspiring writer who looks for inspiration by shadowing people he sees on the street.  He falls in with an experienced burglar and begins to make a habit of breaking into strangers' homes, stealing various items, and selling what he can.  Soon though he becomes romantically involved with one of his "victims," whom he learns is mixed up with a local mobster.  Meanwhile nothing he comes to believe about her or his mentor is what it seems.  Following was made for a paltry $6,000 and is thus quite rough around the edges, but already Christopher Nolan showed his gift for labrynthian storylines and devilish plot twists, two things he'd execute much more assuredly in his second film, Memento.





9. Insomnia


Nolan's remake of the 1997 Swedish thriller of the same title, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as an aging LAPD detective assigned to a murder investigation in Alaska during the "midnight sun" season.  The Pacino character accidentally kills his partner during a shootout, after said partner has revealed he intends to testify against Pacino in an Internal Affairs case.  Complicating the matter is the murderer at large (a superbly creepy Robin Williams), who witnessed the shooting and attempts to blackmail Pacino into pinning the murder on the victim's abusive boyfriend.  What follows is a fascinating moral dilemma, where the flawed protagonist must choose between saving himself or bringing a killer to justice.  Insomnia takes the suspense thriller genre and turns it upside down, throwing curve balls at the audience every step of the way.  Pacino and Williams have splendid chemistry together, and Nolan's direction lends this noirish thriller a modern edge.





8. Dunkirk


Nolan's streamlined, visceral account of this World War II rescue tells the story from three different points of view: the air, the sea, and the land.  The film intercuts between the three locales, expanding time in some instances and showing us some of the same events from multiple points of view.  There's little historical context presented, so the material depicted must speak for itself and create an immersive viewing experience.  For the most part this element works, though I would've liked to see more about who these characters were and what the battle itself meant in the grand scheme of WWII.  Still Nolan and co. deftly handle the genre, presenting a gritty, palpably harrowing war film and adding yet another impressive entry to his resume.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Top Ten Things: Weird Al Yankovic Albums

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

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


Weird Al Yankovic burst into the American lexicon in 1984 with an off-beat parody of a Michael Jackson hit, and has somehow managed to build a hugely successful thirty-plus-year career lampooning our most cherished pop music stars.  As an eight-year-old Michael Jackson fanatic I was initially offended that anyone would parody one of his songs, but Al won me over when I first saw the video for "Eat It."  Here was a dorky, bespectacled nerd mimicking all of Jackson's dance moves (badly I might add) and conjuring comedy from already-tired rock video imagery.  By age twelve I'd bought all of Al's records, and I've been a huge fan ever since.  In 2000 I got to see Al from the front row, and he even yelled at me for not singing along to "Dare to Be Stupid."  It was indeed a privilege.  A new Weird Al CD is event listening in my house (for me anyway, my wife is non-committal).  Despite originating as a novelty act, Weird Al has endured three decades and shows no signs of stopping.  For many artists, being parodied by Al is a badge of honor, a sign that they've truly "made it."  Al is like a pop culture mirror, making light of all the silly fads we as a society cling to.  Here now are my ten favorite Weird Al Yankovic albums....





10. UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff


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

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





9. Dare to Be Stupid


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

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Parents' Night In #41: The Fugitive (1993)

Kelly and Justin love Harrison Ford, and it's summer, so we're watching one of his great summer films, The Fugitive!  Released in 1993 and co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Julianne Moore, The Fugitive is a taut action thriller about a wrongly convicted doctor on the run from the authorities and trying to clear his name.  We'll talk about the film, Chicago, the Chicago accent (Justin has a lot of fun with this), and our difficulty stringing together coherent sentences at times.  This episode eventually got out of control like the derailed train in The Fugitive!  Check it out...



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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Top Ten Things: Steven Spielberg Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things!  You know how it works.  It's a countdown.  Of ten items.


Today it's the top ten films by one of the all-time great directors, Steven Spielberg.  Spielberg's extraordinary forty-plus-year career has given us multiple iconic films and he's renowned for his uncanny ability to craft intelligent movies we can all relate to.  Whether he's making a summer action movie or a thoughtful historical epic, Spielberg excels at imbuing his movies with substance.  His best work demands multiple viewings over decades, and there probably isn't another director alive who's repeatedly demonstrated such pure storytelling ability across such varied genres.

Here now is the list....



10. Jurassic Park


In 1993 Spielberg created the definitive dinosaur movie, about a small group of scientists and children sent to a remote island near Costa Rica to be a focus group of sorts for the first-ever dinosaur zoo.  Predictably nothing on the island works properly, and thanks to a rogue IT manager the dinosaurs are able to escape their enclosures and wreak havoc on the park and its human occupants.  Jurassic Park doesn't contain much in the way of lofty concepts; it's simply a quintessential popcorn action-adventure with some of the best creature effects ever put to film.  This was one of the earliest movies to make extensive use of CGI, and for the most part those dinosaurs still hold up today.  As with Jaws, Spielberg was wise enough to let the human characters carry the early parts of the story so we care what happens to them, and built up to the appearance of each species of dinosaur.  The T-Rex sequence is a masterfully assembled piece of action-horror, and the later Velociraptor scenes work on the same monster movie level as some of the sequences in Aliens.  Twenty-plus years later Jurassic Park's flaws show through pretty clearly, but it's still a great example of Spielberg's ability to create crowd-pleasing entertainment that actually has a brain.





9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


The third and final chapter (Crystal Skull was just a bad dream...) of the Indiana Jones saga reminds me of Return of the Jedi in many ways, insomuch as the bulk of the story elements from the trilogy's first film are reused here.  Indy is up against the Nazis once again, racing to find a religious artifact that will allegedly render its owner invincible.  Indy's pals Sallah and Marcus Brody are back to join in the fun, and in a casting coup, Sean Connery plays Indy's father, who has spent a lifetime searching for the Holy Grail.  The action sequences, as good as they are, don't quite hold up to those of the first two films for me, and this movie's real strength is the interplay between Ford and Connery, who have perfect chemistry together.  Don't get me wrong, Last Crusade is a fantastic piece of summer moviemaking.  But it doesn't have the freshness of Raiders or the unrelenting pace of Temple.  So like Return of the Jedi it's simply a very worthy conclusion to the series (Jeezus, why couldn't they have left well enough alone??) that introduces a new side to the action hero we've all come to love.





8. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The followup to the iconic Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom was, I believe, the first time anyone in Hollywood used the word "prequel."  For some reason Spielberg and Lucas set this movie a year before Raiders (Sort of an odd choice since it removes the suspense of whether Indy survives or not), and this one plays out like a standalone adventure, with Dr. Jones himself the only Raiders character present.  This time Indy has to retrieve a mystical stone which has been stolen from an Indian village by an evil underground cult.  This film pushed the limits of what could be shown in a PG-rated movie and set an exceedingly dark tone; there's human sacrifice, brainwashing, child slavery, people being crushed, people being eaten by alligators, and most infamously a dude having his still-beating heart ripped out of his chest.  In fact we have Temple of Doom and Gremlins to thank for the existence of a PG-13 rating.  Most (including Spielberg himself) consider Temple of Doom the weakest of the Indy trilogy, but I disagree.  I love how unapologetically dark this film is and how different it is from Raiders.  This movie might also have the most fun climax of any Indy film, with our heroes and villains fighting for survival while hanging from the side of a cliff (but only after a long and thrilling mine cart chase).  Temple also has probably the greatest booby trap sequence of all time - that scary room with all the spikes.  As a kid this was one of the earliest sequels I got to experience as it was coming out, and it still holds up for me as a tremendously fun roller coaster ride of a movie.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Top Ten Things: Martin Scorsese Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  These are ten of my favorite things.  That's how the song goes, right?


Martin Scorsese.  In my estimation there is no greater director in film history than the diminutive, sickly kid from Little Italy in New York who grew up with a passion for telling stories through the medium of film.  Scorsese spent his childhood looking out the window and observing people and events in his neighborhood, and this predilection for people-watching translated into some of the most incredible filmmaking of all time.  His films are often unforgiving looks at profoundly troubled characters, yet Scorsese finds a way for us to empathize with them, at least enough to want to spend a couple hours in their company.  Many Scorsese films deal with hardened street criminals, hearkening back to the seedy lot he observed in his neighborhood.  But while crime dramas are his bread and butter, Scorsese's filmography also includes religious epics, suspense thrillers, biopics, lush period dramas, and even lighthearted children's fare.  Even after forty-plus years Scorsese remains at the top of his game; in fact his post-2000 output ranks among some of his best work.  To this day any new film of his is event viewing, almost guaranteed to be one of my favorites of that year.

The following are my ten favorite Martin Scorsese films....




10. Cape Fear


One of Scorsese's rare remakes is this 1991 suspense thriller based on the 1962 Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum film of the same name.  Peck's role of besieged attorney Sam Bowden went to Nick Nolte, Mitchum's degenerate character Max Cady was played with gleeful menace by Robert Deniro.  The first thing Scorsese did with his version was to change Bowden from a virtuous family man to a morally ambiguous one who withheld evidence in order to get his client Cady convicted, and whose marriage is coming apart due to an extramarital affair and a strained relationship with his teenage daughter.  This change makes the Nolte character and his family even more vulnerable and fits in with the film noir trope of the flawed protagonist.  Deniro's performance of course steals the show; he is musclebound, ruthless, violent, and endlessly persistent.  This Hitchock-influenced genre exercise may not stack up with Scorsese's greatest work, but it did illustrate his ability to take an existing story and place on it his own distinctive stamp.





9. Casino


Casino plays almost like a sequel to Goodfellas, or at least a spiritual cousin.  Another epic, frenetically-paced gangster film based loosely on a true story, Casino chronicles the rise and fall of a Vegas gambling empire, once again pairing Robert Deniro with Joe Pesci.  Deniro plays Sam Rothstein, a mob associate brought in to run a mafia-controlled casino, while Pesci plays Rothstein's longtime friend, loose cannon enforcer Nicky Santoro.  Told from multiple narrative viewpoints, Casino shows in violent, gruesome detail the inner workings of 1970s mob-controlled Las Vegas.  Aside from Deniro and Pesci's legendary onscreen chemistry, Casino also boasts an Oscar-nominated turn from Sharon Stone, as Rothstein's materialistic, alcoholic wife Ginger.  Casino didn't quite equal the masterpiece that was Goodfellas, but it was a very worthy, provocative return to Scorsese's favorite genre.





8. Hugo


In 2011 Martin Scorsese's filmography took an unexpected 90-degree turn with this family-friendly, light-hearted tribute to the early days of cinema.  Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese's film follows the exploits of a young boy who lives in a Paris railway station.  Hugo's deceased father, an inventor, taught him how to repair clocks and instilled in him a love for film.  He befriends a young girl, Isabelle, whose stern uncle is revealed to be early film pioneer Georges Melies, director of the first science-fiction film, A Trip to the Moon.  After his career declined sharply in the 1920s, Melies became a disillusioned, bitter man who distanced himself from his prior calling.  Hugo and Isabelle work tirelessly to uncover the story of the forgotten auteur so the world can once again embrace his artistic contribution to the medium of cinema.  Scorsese's film is a delightful and colorful romp, made all the more whimsical by the use of 3-D cinematography, used here in a way that enhances the story and intensifies the experience.  Hugo is a rare film that can be enjoyed by any age group; it doesn't talk down to young audiences and it contains complex character arcs that older viewers will be drawn to.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

WWE Extreme Rules 2020 Preview: It's a Horror Show, Alright

The.....Horror Show.....at Extreme Rules.  Huh?  Did Vince McMahon take up psychedelic drugs?  What kinda happy horseshit is this?


This Sunday is an Extreme Rules PPV that apparently doesn't have any Extreme Rules matches but has a Swamp Fight and an Eye for an Eye match, which can only be won when one guy pulls another guy's eye from its socket.  Somewhere Vince Russo is taking a victory lap.  WWE's solution to putting on wrestling shows without a crowd really is, I guess, to just get rid of the wrestling and make "movies."  Also why is the color scheme for this "horror show" neon green and purple?  Shouldn't it be red and black?  Ya know, HORROR-type colors?  This lineup feels so WCW 2000.

Ugh, let's get this over with.



US Championship: Apollo Crews vs. MVP


One of the worst things about Paul Heyman being replaced by Bruce Prichard as RAW's creative head is Prichard's inexplicable need to push guys who peaked 12-13 years ago, hence the 46-year-old MVP getting a title match, on a PPV, in 2020.  This guy hasn't been relevant since 2008, and he's not the only irrelevant title challenger on this card.  And why the fuck is Randy Orton feuding with Big Show?  In 2020?  Christ, it's not like WWE was lighting up the ratings in 2008.  The way forward is, well, FORWARD.  Anyway, I would hope WWE has the sense to keep the belt on Crews here.

Pick: Apollo retains




Smackdown Women's Championship: Bayley vs. Nikki Cross


Bayley and Sasha are obviously on a collision course (only four years after both were called up), so this is a filler match to keep Bayley busy till SummerSlam.  Nikki is a solid worker and a fun character but she's obviously not winning the belt here. 

Pick: Bayley retains




RAW Women's Championship: Asuka vs. Sasha Banks


This is the one match on the show I have any interest in.  Asuka is amazing, Sasha is great (God I hope she jumps to AEW next year), so there's no reason this shouldn't steal the show (especially with this lineup).  It's possible they have Sasha win this title so she and Bayley can be the Two-Woman Power Trip and fight each other for both belts later, but I dunno if they'll do that so soon after Asuka won it.  I'll go with Asuka to retain, possibly due to botched interference from Bayley.

Pick: Asuka retains


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

AEW Fight for the Fallen 2020 Preview & Predictions

AEW is back with another special Dynamite episode, this time it's Fight for the Fallen!


The two-night Fyter Fest is in the books and both shows were quite enjoyable.  I liked Night 1 better, with its stacked lineup of mostly championship matches (the Omega/Page-Best Friends main event was probably the best match on either show and I also loved the MJF/Wardlow-Jurassic Express opener) but Night 2 had some memorable bouts as well (the spectacular 8-man match and the Jericho-Cassidy main event).  But since Jon Moxley-Brian Cage had to be postponed due to Moxley's wife Renee Young contracting COVID, here we are with another special show.  Five matches have been announced, two of which are title bouts.  So let's get into it.



Nightmare Sisters vs. TBA


Evidently we'll see Brandi Rhodes and Allie in action against an unnamed team.  I assume this will be like Nyla Rose's match last week, where "TBA" just means "jobbers" instead of the usual "mystery team that ends up winning."  I'm guessing this will be a short showcase match.

Pick: Nightmare Sisters




The Elite vs. Jurassic Express


This should be tons of fun, as Kenny and the Bucks face all three Jurassic members.  Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus are coming off a win over MJF and Wardlow, but I imagine Marko Stunt takes the pin here.  This'll be a crazy match.

Pick: Elite


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Top Ten Things: Star Trek Films

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


I've been a Star Trek fan since about the age of four when my parents were watching the original series on TV and I wandered into the room to see a weird dude with pointy ears and a bowl cut prattling on about space anomalies and whatnot.  From then I was hooked, and despite not understanding much of the sci-fi technobabble at that age, I could somehow easily identify with the gallant Captain Kirk, the crotchety Dr. McCoy, and of course the computer-minded Mr. Spock.  My fandom increased tenfold in the early 80s when I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and these characters and their adventures were presented on a much larger scale.  We were still treated to philosophical explorations of the human condition, but with much slicker production values and effects.

The Star Trek films were major events for me every 2-3 years and some of them still hold up among my favorite science fiction movies.  We're currently in the middle of the third series of films; from 1979-1991 the original Star Trek cast graced the big screen, and then from 1994-2002 the Next Generation crew got their turn.  Finally in 2009 Paramount rebooted the series completely, recasting the original characters and converting Star Trek into more of a Star Wars-esque action franchise.

But how do the 13 movies stack up against each other?  This being a Top Ten Things column I'll only talk briefly about the three films I've ranked at the bottom.

Star Trek: Insurrection has to be the weakest in the entire series, with its half-hearted storyline about a society of 600 Ba'ku hogging the life-extending resources of an entire planet at the expense of their dying brethren the Son'a.  And for some reason the Enterprise helps the Ba'ku stay there.  Huh??  Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Next up is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a nigh-unwatchable mess of a film that clearly suffered from a Hollywood writer's strike, leaving director William Shatner without a coherent script.  This film cost $33 million, more than any previous Star Trek movie, yet the effects are Original Series bad.  Basically everything went wrong here, and the film fails to find a middle ground between goofy comedy and heavy emotional drama.

Our final entry to fall short of the top ten is Star Trek: Generations, the one that kicked off the NextGen films.  Generations has some fun moments but its convoluted plot involving an energy ribbon that somehow absorbs people and lets them live out their wildest fantasies simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny, nor does the shoehorned involvement of Captain Kirk.  And did we really need to see the Klingons and their Bird of Prey AGAIN??

Now that we've gotten the worst of the bunch out of the way let's look at the top ten Star Trek films....





10. Star Trek Beyond


Here's a movie I had high hopes for.  I'd read that this was the closest the new series has gotten to capturing the philosophical, character-driven bent of the original show.  And while Beyond has a little of that - Kirk for example laments early on that the ongoing voyage is taking its toll on him and his crew - sadly the film plunges almost immediately into an extended action sequence that leaves the Enterprise in pieces in a matter of minutes.  They don't treat poor Enterprise well in these films, do they?  Anyway, the crew gets separated during the space battle and we learn a little about the villain Krall.  Mostly that his name is Krall.  Seriously, this film uses a fine actor like Idris Elba pretty shabbily.  He's given nothing to do in the first two acts except bark angrily, and it's not until the final half hour we're told his motivation and his true identity; by then it's hard to care.  What I liked about this film: Kirk had some solid character moments, McCoy and Scotty had more to do, the new character Jaylah was very cool and likable, Krall and Kirk had one poignant scene toward the end, and the Spock-Uhura romance was barely present.  What I didn't like: Krall is motivated by revenge just like the last three Star Trek villains, Krall is barely a character beyond that, there's once again too much emphasis on Star Wars-y action, and Spock's wig looks terrible.  Distractingly so.  Star Trek Beyond is the weakest of the current series.  And what exactly does "Beyond" refer to?






9. Star Trek: Nemesis


Nemesis is a guilty pleasure.  It's a pretty terrible, unnecessarily dour affair featuring a young clone of Captain Picard trying to destroy the Enterprise, Romulus and Earth, and contains far too many Wrath of Khan callbacks and a go-nowhere subplot involving an earlier model of Data, but damn if it isn't entertaining drivel.  A young, far less jacked Tom Hardy plays Shinzon, Picard's clone who spent his childhood enslaved on Romulus's sister planet Remus, building up a severe hatred for both his Romulan oppressors and his "father" Picard.  He fashions a giant evil starship to exact his revenge, and all hell breaks loose.  This template of a revenge-obsessed villain with a gigantic ship would oddly be used in some form for all three reboot films, despite Nemesis tanking at the box office.  Still this film includes some of the best space battle sequences in the NextGen series, plus Tom Hardy!  But it's not good...






8. Star Trek (2009)


The 2009 reboot essentially took the original series characters, boiled them down to their most easily identifiable cursory traits, and turned them into action heroes.  This film is an all-thrusters-ahead popcorn movie that vaguely resembles the series we all know and love.  Casting was key here, and fortunately Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg do an admirable job of reimagining their characters while staying more or less true to their predecessors.  This film is all about setting up the new version of Star Trek and thus the main plot is fairly forgettable.  A revenge-hungry Romulan named Nero has been chasing a future incarnation of Mr. Spock through time in retaliation for Spock's failing to save Romulus from a supernova, and a space battle ensues between the brand new Enterprise and Nero's monstrous vessel.  Star Trek 2009 is full of slick visuals, engaging action and light humor but fails to explore profound human themes the way the original series did.  Still it's a fun popcorn movie with characters we can all relate to, thus it's better than 90% of the summer blockbusters these days.


Monday, July 13, 2020

Top Ten Things: Christian Bale Roles

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I rattle off ten things I like (Duh...).


Today I'll be talking about probably my favorite film actor in the world today, the eminently gifted Christian Bale.  I first became aware of Bale in 2000 (I'd seen him in a couple films prior to that but had no idea who he was), and from that point I was fascinated by this charismatic, chameleonic actor.  For a few years it seemed he'd simply be a cult hero, but starting in 2005 he became a household name playing one of the most iconic characters of all time.  Since then his filmography has been a mesmerizing blend of crowd-pleasing blockbusters and smaller, more challenging roles, but the constant throughout has been Bale's complete dedication to the characters he portrays.  Known for wildly changing his appearance and accent for each role, Bale often becomes unrecognizable from film to film, and for me it makes each new performance an event.

Here are my ten favorite Christian Bale performances.....



10. Dan Evans (3:10 to Yuma)


This 2007 remake starred Russell Crowe as adventurous, charming outlaw Ben Wade, and Bale in the somewhat thankless role of rancher Dan Evans, deputized to bring him to justice.  But even as the taciturn protagonist Bale still imbued his character with considerable pathos and we root for him to succeed over the much more outgoing villain.  A lesser actor might've played Evans as a morose bore, but Bale's natural onscreen magnetism makes his character an honorable, reluctant hero and an excellent foil for the bankrobbing assassin.




9. Alfred Borden/Fallon (The Prestige)


Bale's character in Christopher Nolan's period piece makes an unexpected transition from shifty tortured artist to sympathetic protagonist.  The Prestige centers around Alfred Borden's professional-turned-personal rivalry with fellow magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), and at the outset Bale's character seems the clear antagonist, seemingly so consumed with his profession that he cannot relate to other people.  But as the film progresses we sympathize more with Borden and his ingenieur Fallon, as Angier's obsession with destroying Borden consumes him.  Bale adeptly handles this character transition (as well as the surprise double role), manipulating our sympathies with prodigious skill.  Incidentally Borden is the only character on this list whom Bale played with anything close to his real Welsh accent.




8. Michael Burry (The Big Short)


Contributing to Bale's reputation as a chameleon was his Oscar-nominated turn as eccentric investor Michael Burry, the antisocial drumming enthusiast with a glass eye from The Big Short.  Much of his screen time in this film was spent behind his desk and on the phone with various colleagues and bankers, but Bale made the character both memorable and amusing, as Burry comes off as the smartest (and weirdest) dude in the room.  As the film wears on, Burry goes from a cocksure know-it-all to quietly increasing desperation; the housing bubble he's predicted will burst shows no signs of doing so until after he's lost himself and his colleagues millions.  As usual Bale conveys this character arc with a proficient dedication to the character.


Friday, July 10, 2020

NJPW Dominion 2020 Preview & Predictions

Well this is gonna be a short one today since NJPW Dominion's full card still hasn't been announced.  Only three matches as of this moment, which is sad considering Dominion is normally the second-biggest show of the year for them. 


Well it's great to finally have NJPW back after a four-month COVID absence.  I've been enjoying the delayed New Japan Cup and it's actually refreshing to only have two-hour shows to keep track of, with two to four tournament matches per show, plus one to three filler tag bouts.  If nothing else it's been pretty easy to keep on top of.  The matches themselves have been mostly very good, with a few great ones.  The tourney stealer for me has been Hiromu Takahashi, who despite being the Jr. champ made it deep into the tournament, defeating Honma, Yano and Ishii (in a fantastic match) before falling to the mighty Okada (in the best match of the tourney so far).  I was actually hoping to see the Timebomb win the whole thing and face Naito on Sunday, thus delivering the planned Anniversary Show match.  But alas.  Anyway let's pick the winners for the four big matches this weekend (I'm including the New Japan Cup final).



New Japan Cup Final: Kazuchika Okada vs. Evil


It's no surprise that Okada made the finals, being the biggest star in the company and the best in the goddamn world.  That said, I think it's too soon for a Naito-Okada rematch, particularly since they can't sell out any buildings right now.  Furthermore we're effectively still in March thanks to all the event cancellations.  Don't forget, the New Japan Cup winner was supposed to face Naito on March 31 at Sakura Genesis.  So clearly Okada wasn't slated to win the tournament then; it would've been a case of them blowing their wad way too early.  Thus, Evil takes the tournament.  Evil's push has been kinda sudden, but he's shown that old killer instinct in this tournament, cheating to beat even his best friend Sanada in the semis (I found it intriguing that LIJ took three of the four slots).  I think we'll see him do more of that against his mentor on Sunday as well, which should make for an interesting dynamic.

Pick: Evil takes the Cup


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Parents' Night In #40: The Lost Boys (1987), Kelly's Live Reaction

It's summertime and that means walks on the beach, fun in the sun, amusement park rides, and of course, vampires.  Hang out with us and listen to Justin introduce Kelly to The Lost Boys, that popcorn movie disguised as a vampire film.  Directed by Joel Schumacher (RIP) and starring Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jami Gertz, Dianne Weist, and of course Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys has been one of Justin's favorite horror-comedy romps since its 1987 release.  This delightfully 80s favorite is full of exhilarating horror set pieces, vampire humor, and big hair.  We'll talk about not only this film but Joel's other works, our favorite vampire films, and lots more. Grab a beer and sink your teeth into this episode!



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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Independence Day

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I overanalyze some big dumb slab of escapist entertainment to the point that you unfriend me on social media*.

*Please don't unfriend me, I'm so lonely....

Today's victim-- er, subject is the 1996 blockbuster event picture Independence Day, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman.


Independence Day's release twenty-plus years ago was preceded by mucho fanfare, with moviegoers anticipating that generation's defining summer movie, a la Star Wars.  Its interest bolstered by promotional images of landmark buildings being decimated by giant alien saucers, ID4 made an absolute KILLING at the box office, garnering over $800 million worldwide on a $75 mil budget.  It was assumed this would be the first of a trilogy since it was supposed to sorta be the next Star Wars and it grossed a fuckton.  But oddly a sequel was never made until two decades later.  Maybe the filmmakers didn't have another story to tell.  Maybe they still don't....

Anywho, you might ask yourself "Why does ID4 qualify as an Awesomely Shitty Movie?"  Well my reasons this time are slightly different than usual.  For me, this film was unabashedly awesome the first time I watched it, and agonizingly shitty on every repeat viewing.  This is a prime example of a film you should only watch one time.  Then throw it away and never speak of it again.  Don't even think about it.  You'll only break your brain and end up in a home.

So let's pick apart this ham-fisted clod of a summer movie, shall we?



The Awesome

Effects

The special effects in this movie looked amazing at the time and for the most part still look at least pretty good twenty years later.  Some of the compositing is a little messy, particularly when they show the Earth from space, but the alien craft are still convincing, the model work (which I almost always prefer over excessive CG) looks tangible and believable, and there are multiple shots in the first hour or so that still hold up.

This part still works



Alien Ships Appear

For example the moments when the giant saucers appear over the various major cities.  We see several shots of the massive ships emerging from behind the clouds and it looks great.  The filmmakers expertly conveyed the scope of the spacecraft, showing us just how insanely huge and intimidating they are.  Few things are as immediately threatening as an alien ship blocking out the sun and spanning the width of an entire city.  Super cool-looking stuff.

So does this



Iconic Imagery

This film also provided several lasting images, such as the saucer blowing up the White House, the Empire State Building, etc.  These moments would have a huge influence on Hollywood blockbusters even to this day (More on that later).  Even the poster looked boss, depicting one of the ships hovering over New York City.  The marketing team certainly earned their keep with this movie.

And this


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2002)

We've reached the end of road for this ten-year tradition.  The King of the Ring PPV would limp to the finish line with this half-hearted effort.....


King of the Ring 2002 - Nationwide Arena - 6.23.02

2002 was the final year of this PPV as interest in it had waned and by 2003 WWE sorta stopped caring about elevating new people for a while.  The show definitely went out with a whimper with the exception of that year's tournament winner.  This edition was, I believe, the first time it was officially announced that the KOTR winner would get a WWE Title shot at SummerSlam.

The semifinals included a very solid but slightly underwhelming (and controversial) Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam match.  These two had teased a feud six months earlier while Jericho was the Undisputed Champion, but never got a PPV match out of it.  So here they were in the semifinal bracket.  The match was absolutely fine, and by default ended up stealing the show, but I think I, like many people, were expecting an instant classic.  Fans took to the interwebs in droves criticizing the match, and Jericho took the comments very personally.  While many of the comments were admittedly harsh and unnecessary, I can't disagree that this wasn't up to the level Jericho and RVD were capable of.

This was fine.

The other semifinal pitted Test against WWE's newest developmental call-up Brock Lesnar, who had taken RAW by storm and decimated the Hardy Boyz on numerous occasions.  Now he was being very quickly elevated to prepare him for much bigger things.  Infamously of note is that WWE had originally planned for Lesnar to defeat Steve Austin in a tournament qualifying match on RAW, with no buildup whatsoever.  Austin wisely refused, citing what a colossal waste hotshotting such a huge match would be.  This of course led to Austin's WWE hiatus for the better part of a year.  Lesnar and Test were both accomplished big men and aside from a couple awkward moments this was a strong, hard-hitting brawl.  The finish was oddly booked, as Lesnar needed a Paul Heyman distraction in order to win.  Not sure why they protected a midcard heel like Test against their chosen new star, but the match was fine.

Yeah this was a great idea.  Idiots.

The finals would thus be Rob Van Dam vs. Brock Lesnar.  Going into this show I figured RVD would win the tourney given how green Lesnar was.  I thought Lesnar would destroy Van Dam after the match and set up a feud to keep RVD occupied till SummerSlam.  But I clearly underestimated Lesnar's prodigiously emerging skills and the company's commitment to getting him over.  Lesnar made pretty short work of Van Dam, wrapping the match up in under seven minutes.  This was also decent but really should've been a full-length match; once again the importance of the tournament was lacking.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2001)

Time for my personal favorite of the bunch.....

King of the Ring '01 - Continental Airlines Arena - 6.24.01

Going from the 2000 edition to the 2001 King of the Ring is like stepping out of a Justin Bieber concert and being handed a million dollars.  The 2001 incarnation was a thousand times better than its predecessor, and this would prove to be the end of the WWF's amazing 18-month creative run, before the Invasion Angle began in earnest to ruin everything.

The tournament portion was once again reduced to just the final three bouts, leaving plenty of room for the non-tourney matches to dazzle.  The 16-man field was whittled down to four friends, all on the heel side of the aisle - Rhyno, Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle, or Team RECK.  But Edge was slowly morphing into a babyface singles star and this tourney would prove his launching pad.

Angle vs. Christian and Edge vs. Rhyno were both pretty short but quite watchable openers, and Edge's final bout with Angle, while certainly not at the level of Bret vs. Bam Bam, was a damn sight better than most previous KOTR finals.  One of the subplots going into this was the possibility of Angle winning back-to-back tournaments, but also the fact that he might have to pull triple duty as he was booked to fight Shane McMahon later on.  Edge won the final and began his climb through the singles ranks, while Christian began to show jealousy of his tag partner that would lead to their split and subsequent feud.

Angle was almost a two-time KOTR

As I said, the non-tourney matches provided the meat of this show.  After a lackluster Dudley Boyz vs. Kane & Spike Dudley bout (the WWF tag division would never be the same after Edge & Christian split up), the final three bouts comprised an amazing trilogy.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Late to the Party: Hamilton

Welcome to a new Enuffa.com feature called Late to the Party, where I discuss a movie, an album, a recording artist, a book, what-have-you, that for me was an acquired taste of the tardiest kind.  Something everyone else seemed to get right away, but for which I was slow on the uptake.  Case in point, Lin-Manuel Miranda's epic Broadway musical Hamilton....


As with so many artistic ventures that seem to come out of nowhere and take the world by storm, I was initially quite resistant to Hamilton when I first became aware of it.  Not really being a musical theater enthusiast (I like some musicals, but it's a pretty select few) and most certainly not being a hip-hop guy (Aside from Outkast there's very little in this genre that interests me), the idea of a rap musical centered around one of the less celebrated founding fathers didn't exactly pique my interest.  Couple that with the almost hysterical devotion this show has generated since its January 2015 debut, not to mention the astronomical prices being charged for tickets, and my first reaction was something along the lines of "Get the fuck outta here with this...."

Fast-forward two years, and my wife finally gave the Cast Recording a listen after much prodding from a close friend who was already obsessed with the show (We'll call her Shamilton).  By the third or fourth go-round my wife was all, "Justin, you HAVE to listen to this."  "Yeah yeah yeah, whatever," I replied.  Then one weekend we had a drive up to the beach, roughly 80 minutes each way, and she chose that as the time to make me a captive audience.  I'd been expecting an hour-long soundtrack album, not realizing Hamilton had no dialogue outside of the songs, and said, "Jeezus, how long is this thing??"  So I listened to it front-to-back and found it mildly interesting.  I'd be lying if I said it blew me away the first time.  The music was so densely composed and covered so much ground, and I wasn't sure who was singing what to whom, that a lot of it was in one ear and out the other.

But like so much of the best art, the Hamilton album isn't about instant gratification.  It slowly burrows its way in, and only after you've become familiar with the story being told and fully absorbed the music does it yield its true rewards.

About a week later, after hearing the album again in the background at a pool party (I will say this stuff doesn't make for the best passive listening experience), I decided to give Hamilton a really honest try on my own iPhone, with no distractions.  And goddammit, everyone else was right.  I was wrong.

As a double album, Hamilton is a grandly concieved, meticulously detailed, obstinately ingenious concept record about the rise and fall of this underappreciated co-architect of the American experiment.  The 47 tracks cover the ambitious Hamilton's journey from orphaned immigrant (born in the West Indies and grew up in the Caribbean) to Revolutionary War officer to the first Secretary of the Treasury, and depict his numerous sweeping contributions to America's inception, as well as his various political and personal battles while helping shape the ungainly, chaotic system of government known as democracy.  Indeed, Hamilton makes no effort to lionize the founding fathers; they, like all human beings, are flawed, ego-driven, and prone to mistakes.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2000)


King of the Ring 2000 - FleetCenter - 6.25.00

The 2000 edition has to be one of the most disappointing PPVs of all time.  Considering how amazing the WWF product was in 2000 and how strong the roster, anything less than a homerun would've been a letdown, but with this show they didn't even seem to try.  The tournament began with a field of 32 wrestlers, making it the largest in history.  That the company even had 32 viable competitors for such a tourney was remarkable, and I was incredibly excited to see this play out.  Unfortunately the booking of the PPV made no sense, wasted some of the company's best talents, and they tried to cram eleven matches onto a three-hour show.

The massive first-round field boiled down to Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle (Stop right there, that should've been your Final Four, period.), Rikishi, Val Venis, Crash Holly(?), and Bull Buchanan(??).  Right off the bat they got the brackets wrong, wasting Angle vs. Jericho on a quarterfinal match while pitting Holly and Buchanan against each other.  One of these matches had immense potential, the other did not.  On top of that, three of the four best candidates fell short of the semis.  Chris Benoit pointlessly got himself disqualified against Rikishi, Eddie lost to the no-longer-relevant Venis, and Jericho got beaten by Angle.  So yeah, Crash Holly made it to the semifinals but Benoit, Guerrero and Jericho didn't?  Anyone else find that scenario just wrong?  By the way, not one match in this tournament lasted even ten minutes, and the two longest bouts were in the quarterfinals.

The semis saw Kurt Angle make quick work of Crash Holly, while Rikishi trounced Venis in just over three minutes.  The Angle-Rikishi final was fun while it lasted, but failed to even crack the six-minute mark.  Again.  Why would the final match of a supposedly prestigious tournament fail to reach double-digits?  In the positive though, this tournament win helped solidify Kurt Angle as a future main event star.

Again with the stupid crown and sceptre

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1999)

King of the Ring 1999 - Greensboro Coliseum - 6.27.99

As with the product in general mid-1999, the King of the Ring showed major chinks in the WWF armor.  This show restored the full 8-man bracket to the PPV with very rushed, mixed results, and while a pair of solid main event brawls and the overall tournament made for a fun one-time watch, this PPV doesn't hold up too well to scrutiny.  Also, like in 1995, the company handpicked their intended new main eventer despite the fans not buying into him.

The first round consisted of three abbreviated bouts - X-Pac vs. Bob Holly, Kane vs. ex-WCW star The Big Show (heavily favored to win the whole thing but unceremoniously knocked out in the first round), and Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock.  None of these were long enough to be memorable.  However the final first-round match pitted former friends The Road Dogg and Chyna.  While no in-ring masterpiece, it was certainly intriguing seeing Chyna go head-to-head with one of the male stars in a major singles bout.  Previously she had only really appeared in mixed tag matches.  This probably got more time than it deserved but I never found it boring.  Road Dogg won after 13 minutes.

The semifinals saw Billy Gunn quickly defeat Kane and X-Pac even more quickly defeat best friend Road Dogg, leading to what should've been a solid big man vs. underdog final match.  Unfortunately Billy Gunn and X-Pac were only given 5:35, harkening back to the half-assed mid-90s tournament finals and once again undermining the whole tourney concept.

Mr. Ass beats up Mr. Pac

Not surprisingly the three non-tournament matches constituted the real meat of the show.  The first was a brief-but-thrilling #1 Contenders match for the Tag Titles, as Edge & Christian began their storied rivalry with The Hardy Boyz.  This was one of those matches that ended up better than it should've given how short it was.