Friday, May 28, 2021

Movies of Disbelief: Star Wars (1977)

Welcome to another Movies of Disbelief here at Enuffa.com!  It's time to discuss an unnecessarily major beef I have with one of my favorite films.....


Star Wars.  Just saying those two little words conjures up so much imagery, nostalgia, and special effects badassery.  In 1977 George Lucas dropped perhaps the greatest-ever 200-megaton awesome-bomb on the world, in the form of his sci-fi/fantasy swashbuckler, introducing us all to iconic characters Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and of course Darth Vader.  If you didn't grow up with Star Wars in your life, I'm sorry, your childhood was trash.  This film and its two sequels shaped so many lives, and eventually spawned a bona fide pop culture empire (See what I did there?) that keeps churning out new material every year.

So yeah, it's safe to say I'm a Star Wars fan.  No, scratch that, I'm a Star Wars OG.  I've been in Star Wars Heaven since '77.  Well probably more like '79, I was only 18 months old when the first movie came out.  As far as I'm concerned the original film is still the best of the entire franchise.  Empire is a damn close second, but to me A New Hope is one of the most perfect cinematic experiences ever crafted.  And it's Unaltered or nothing by the way, none of that Special Edition bullshit.  I don't need to see cartoon Jabba showing up or a CG-cluttered Mos Eisley, and don't even get me started on Greedo.  If you believe the updated version of that scene is superior to Han blasting Greedo through the fucking pelvis unprovoked, you should check directly into a home for the criminally insane, as you are a danger to both yourself and others.

Take this shit right here, put it in a box, and throw it in the fucking ocean.

Anyway, even though Star Wars is one of my absolute favorite films ever made in this or any universe, there are nonetheless a few plot contrivances numerous people have pointed out, and that was even before Lucas completely fucked up the continuity with Special Editions and prequels.  The first and perhaps most frequently cited is when C-3P0 and R2-D2 launch an escape pod from Tantive IV and the Imperial gunners decide not to shoot it down, something which would have prevented the entire film from happening.  Way to cover your bases, assholes.  Another is, why didn't the Death Star just blow up the planet of Yavin, thus destroying the fourth moon and the Rebel Base with it, instead of taking the time to orbit around and allow the Rebels a chance to attack?  But these nitpicks are forgivable considering how fantastic the rest of the movie is.

I hope these two nitwits got Force-choked
and then Vader peed on their dead bodies.

Where I draw the line though is at Luke keeping the surname Skywalker despite being raised in hiding from his now evil father and the more evil Emperor.  Twenty years earlier Luke and his twin sister were separated and reared by different families so as not to pop up on Vader's radar (That almost rhymes).  Leia became Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.  But not only did they send Luke to Vader's home planet of Tatooine, they called him Luke SKYWALKER, after his father.  Real nice subterfuge, dummies.  Wait a second though, Luke grew up with his "uncle" Owen Lars, whom he was raised to believe was Anakin's brother, yes?  So why the hell wasn't he called Luke Lars?  And if Luke thinks Owen is his actual uncle, how did they explain to him why his father's surname wasn't also Lars?  Maybe they shared with him the terribly uninteresting saga of the time Anakin showed up at the Lars homestead and brought his dead mother home, and then left?  Jeezus what a boring bedtime story.  "Uncle Owen, how come my name is Skywalker?"  "Well Luke, your dad's mom married my dad.  I only met him for ten minutes and frankly didn't know him from Adam.  He was exactly nothing to me.  So forget all that stuff I told you about how he went off to war and I resented him for it.  'Twas all pure nonsense that homeless hippie Ben told me to tell you.  Here's what really happened, my stepbrother showed up, asked about his mom, buried her corpse in the backyard over there, and then skipped town with our protocol droid.  Wait, DID I JUST BUY BACK MY OWN FUCKING PROTOCOL DROID??  Son of a two-dollar whore!!!"

God I hate the prequels....


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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Regarding Henry

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  For those who haven't joined us for one of these, I take a movie with both good and bad aspects (or awesome and shitty ones), and separate them from each other.  Put each of them in "timeout," if you will.


Today's subject is the 1991 melodrama Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford and Annette Bening and directed by Mike Nichols.  Regarding Henry is the story of a hotshot jerk lawyer who's the MVP of his firm but who doesn't have much of a relationship with his wife or daughter.  Henry is the victim of a shooting, which leaves him with retrograde amnesia and a childlike personality, and he has to put his life and relationships back together from scratch.  Feel-good feelies ensue....

The film has elements about it that work and most certainly some elements that don't.  It received mixed reviews and failed to make much of a splash at the box office, but it's still affectionately remembered as one of Harrison Ford's more touching roles.

So here I am to lay out the pros and cons of this intriguing but very flawed film....



The Awesome


Harrison Ford

I'm a huge Harrison Ford fan.  Always have been.  I'll watch just about anything with him in it, and in 1991 I made it a point to do so.  His natural, effortless performance in this film carries it a pretty long way.  Had a lesser actor (Bill Pullman for example) been cast in this role the movie would've fallen right on its stupid face.  In the first act Ford plays a very convincing self-important asshole (which makes me wonder why he hasn't been cast in more villainous roles), and after the shooting he slips right into the simple-minded version of Henry.  We care for him a great deal in spite of his earlier transgressions.  Ford does more with facial expressions than just about anyone in the business, and he makes the material work about as well as it can.

For you wrestling fans, CM Punk's slicked hair was inspired by Henry's.



Annette Bening

Bening was an emerging star at this point and her turn as Henry's wife Sarah is fully believable and heartfelt.  When Henry's a successful, unscrupulous lawyer Sarah is basically a kept woman who seems at ease with this business-like relationship, and later she takes on the burden of becoming the breadwinner/caretaker of the household.  We feel this new, overwhelming stress weighing on her and the performance rings true.  Bening and Ford have great chemistry that holds the film together, even when the script shortchanges them.

For you wrestling fans, AJ Styles' soccer mom hair was inspired by Sarah's.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

AEW Double or Nothing 2021: Stadium Stampede II

Oh man.  Oh mama.  AEW Double or Nothing the Third is this Sunday, and it's as stacked a PPV as they've presented in their two-year history.  Some big title matches, a showcase match or two, a battle royal, and a huge Stadium Stampede war to cap it all off.  This is gonna be great.


Say what you will about AEW; their roster is too big for two hours a week (which is being rectified as of August), they throw too much at the wall just to keep everyone busy, their programming can be a bit disorganized.  But ya know what?  Unlike with WWE programming I actually give a shit about what's happening.  There is a clear effort to elevate as many people as possible, there are clear centerpieces in every division, there is a clear focus on who the next crop of stars will be.  And on top of that, the in-ring stuff is mostly good-to-excellent.  AEW's product is as engaging for me as any North American wrestling product in years, and with Double or Nothing being the first PPV in 15 months held in front of a capacity crowd, I expect a helluva goddamn show. 

Let's take a look at the lineup.....



Casino Battle Royale


As always this show will feature the battle royal-Royal Rumble hybrid.  It's mostly just a fun way to get a lot of extra faces on the card, but with something at stake, namely a future AEW Title match.  We have 20 names announced plus a mystery entrant.  As tempted as I am to get my hopes up that Bryan Danielson is that entrant, let's be realistic - you don't debut a star like Danielson as the surprise entrant in a battle royal.  You announce a debut like that ahead of time and get some hype out of it.  So I have no idea who it will be.  Andrade maybe?  Anyway, as usual I'll whittle this roster down to who believably has a chance to win.  You got Christian Cage as the favorite, plus Penta, and.....well, that's about it.  I mean, it's for a title shot on Dynamite most likely, so you could give it to a longshot like Jungle Boy (which I wouldn't be sad about, and oddly Luchasaurus is not in the match).  But it's basically down to Cage, Penta, JB or TBA.  I'll go with Cage since they've already teased heat between him and Kenny Omega, and the match would be really good.

Pick: Christian Cage




Hangman Page vs. Brian Cage


Speaking of Cages, Brian has a rematch with Adam Page, after more or less squashing him a couple months ago and derailing his #1 contender status.  But since there was interference in that match, Page has challenged Brian to a rematch with no bullshit.  Hangman is obviously one of the company's future top guys and a heavy favorite to be the one to dethrone Kenny Omega, so he's gotta win this.  When the Hangman catches you.....you hang.....

Pick: Hangman Page 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Top Ten Things: Marx Brothers Films

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I talk about things.  Ten things.  The top ten things.  See?


Today what's on my brain is the Marx Brothers.  You know 'em, you love 'em.  Groucho!  Chico!  Harpo!  Zeppo (sometimes)!  Born Julius, Leonard, Adolph (later Arthur), and Herbert, the Marxes (along with a fifth brother Gummo) honed their craft for years on the Vaudeville circuit before gaining notoriety with three Broadway hits, and from there they swept the nation as movie stars.  Boasting incredible onscreen chemistry fueled by Groucho's unparalleled wit, Chico's hilariously sleazy Italian character, and Harpo's astonishing gift for pantomime, the Marx Brothers left an indelible mark on both cinema and comedy, with a 15-year film career that spawned numerous timeless classics.

Here are the Marx Brothers' ten best films, according to me....




10. The Big Store


The Marxes' intended final film was this 1941 farce set in a department store whose co-owner has hired private detectives (Groucho, Harpo & Chico) to investigate a plot by the store manager to murder her nephew.  It lacks the urgency and inventiveness of their prime years but does include its share of silly set pieces one would expect from a Marx Brothers movie.  The Marxes would come out of retirement to make A Night in Casablanca in 1947 (after Chico revealed he owed large gambling debts), but The Big Store was billed as their swan song.





9. Room Service


Based on a 1937 play, Room Service was the only Marx film not written specifically for the brothers.  It concerns a stage producer and his ragtag crew going to any lengths necessary not to be evicted from their hotel room before their play's opening performance, and while fairly screwball, features the Marx Brothers at their most restrained.  This was also the first Marx film to abandon the traditional character relationships between Groucho, Harpo and Chico.  In this film Harpo and Chico's characters work for Groucho and the three are in cahoots from the start; in this respect as much as any other, Room Service doesn't quite feel like a Marx film, but it does at least feature a little of their trademark onscreen mischief.





8. Monkey Business


The first Marx film not based on a play was their third overall, about four stowaways who run amok on a cruise ship and fall in with two separate warring gangs.  Monkey Business is a rather odd film, in that a story arc is put into place but multiple threads are left unresolved, such as the protagonists evading the authorities, Groucho's romance with Thelma Todd's character, the aftermath of the kidnapping and rescue of Joe's daughter, etc.  Also notable about this film is the lack of musical numbers other than Chico and Harpo's instrumental solos.  Monkey Business is definitely my least favorite of the Paramount movies and I can't help wondering why they didn't instead make a film version of I'll Say She Is, particularly given the way they shoehorned in the Maurice Chevaille bit from that play.  Still this movie isn't without its charm.


Friday, May 21, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Hateful Eight

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I pick apart the pros and cons of a given film.  Sometimes it's a movie I'm quite fond of in spite of its flaws, sometimes it's a movie I wish I could be more fond of in spite of its flaws.  Today's entry falls into the latter category.  It's Quentin Tarantino's 8th opus, The Hateful Eight.


Quentin Tarantino is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.  His uniquely demented filmography includes three Best Picture nominees, literally dozens of classic sequences, and some of the wittiest, most memorable dialogue ever put to film.  Drawing from his video store geek origins in the early 90s, Tarantino has built a body of work full of loving pastiches of gangster films, westerns, war movies, pulp novels, and even horror films, assembled with such enthusiasm and bravado one can't help but be swept up in their frenetic energy.

So what went wrong with H8?  This epic-length western concerns an eclectic group of bad guys and unscrupulous lawmen who get snowbound in a Wyoming lodge, and the film shows us in painstaking detail how this sociopolitical powderkeg might play out.  You've got a bounty hunter, a notorious outlaw, a black Civil War Major, a racist Civil War General, a British hangman, a newly elected Sheriff, a cowboy, and a Mexican dude.  Plus a stagecoach driver and a handful of other characters who make brief appearances.  The film plays out like an ultra-violent parlor drama, almost entirely taking place in one room, as the characters argue, scheme, bargain, and eventually start shooting at each other.  Like his 2007 film Death Proof, H8 is little more than an exercise in style, and while Tarantino films always have plenty of that (I found the first half of DP a delightfully entertaining play on cheaply cobbled together 1970s grindhouse fare), it left a lot to be desired in other areas.

So let's take a look at the virtues and drawbacks of The Hateful Eight....



The Awesome


Cast

As always, Tarantino's casting is first-rate; this film is largely populated with sure-footed veteran actors who suit their characters perfectly.  Kurt Russell is the down n' dirty bounty hunter John Ruth, who will stop at nothing to make sure his quarry, the brutal outlaw/killer Daisy Domergue (a gleefully degenerate Jennifer Jason Leigh, who earned an Oscar nod) hangs to death at Red Rock.  Samuel L Jackson is the resourceful former Civil War officer Marquis Warren, whose instincts are always on point and who's the closest the film has to a protagonist.  Walton Goggins is the slack-jawed, slightly dimwitted "good ol' boy" Chris Mannix, who's on his way to Red Rock to begin his term as Sheriff.  Bruce Dern is the bitter, tight-lipped old Confederate General Sanford Smithers.  And Tim Roth is the oddly foppish Red Rock hangman Oswaldo Mobray.  Whether Tarantino mainstays like Jackson and Roth, or newcomers like Leigh, each member of the cast slips comfortably into their "hateful" roles.  No complaints about the performances.

No shortage of onscreen talent here.



Cinematography

Shot in glorious 70mm (an odd choice considering most of the film takes place in the one room), H8 is a beautiful-looking film, peppered with some breathtaking shots of the snow-covered Wyoming landscape (actually shot in Colorado).  Regular Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson gives the film a classic widescreen look, and it's a shame there weren't more locations in the story to take advantage of the medium.

They shoulda filmed the whole movie outside.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

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....


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

WWE WrestleMania Backlash: Zombies. Really? REALLY?!

WWE WrestleMania Backlash.  Pretty good show.  Whole lotta good wrestling on this show.  Strong work from everyone involved.  Oh, and zombies.  Wait, what?  Yeah.  Fucking zombies dude.....


Ya know that saying in wrestling that the audience really only remembers the ending of a show?  Apparently that's not true.  Apparently equally as compelling a stick in an audience member's craw is something unfathomably stupid that happens in the middle of a show, overshadowing all the good stuff that happened before and after.  Because for me the first thing I'll remember about WrestleMania Backlash for years to come is the fact that WWE actually put on a lumberjack match, where the lumberjacks surrounding the ring were goddamn fucking zombies.  Zombies that somehow obeyed the rules of a lumberjack match and thus didn't run into the ring during the bout's seven official minutes.  Zombies that went after the announcers, forcing them to "relocate to a secure location" to call the rest of the match.  Zombies that ate The Miz and John Morrison alive at the end.  Morrison miraculously survived the attack, but since The Miz is legit injured, WWE is going to let itself off the hook in explaining why he isn't a pink pile of goo now, and by the time he returns in 3-4 months they'll pretend this fiasco never took place.  Fuck this company.  Even removing the zombies from the Miz-Damian Priest match, it wasn't any good.  Imagine seriously getting behind a new guy finally and having this be his coming out match.  A match where zombies attacked and murdered his opponent after the closing bell.  I don't wanna hear another peep out of the AEW critics ever again, no matter how many botched explosions or soft-looking stunts they show on their programming.  At least AEW doesn't have its wrestlers get EATEN A-FUCKING-LIVE.  This match was embarrassingly terrible and I feel bad for everyone who had to pretend it was real.  DUD
 
Ok that bullshit is out of the way, now we can talk about the rest of the show, which was very good.  The opening triple threat between Rhea Ripley, Asuka and Charlotte Flair was a fast-paced, energetic match with almost non-stop movement.  It won't rank high in the pure storytelling category, but these three worked very hard and the pace just kept picking up throughout the bout.  The last few minutes in particular were quite invigorating, as each woman took turns hitting each other with big moves and nearfalls.  Finally Charlotte blocked an Asuka charge with a big boot from the apron, but was knocked to the floor as Rhea hit Asuka with Riptide to retain the belt.  I assume we'll now get Rhea vs. Charlotte at Hell in a Cell (now in June for some reason), and hopefully that means Rhea gets to avenge her nonsensical WrestleMania 36 loss.  This was a very fine opener.  ***3/4

Friday, May 14, 2021

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Albums, RANKED

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


What's on my mind today is legendary thrash metal band, Anthrax!  One of metal's vaunted Big Four (along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer), Anthrax formed in New York City in 1981 and set themselves apart from other metal outfits with their muscular, kinetic sound and underlying sense of humor.  Where bands like Slayer strived to be as dark and demonic as possible, Anthrax kept things a little fun and nerdy, taking cues from heroes like Iron Maiden by including literary elements (mostly Stephen King) and comic booky subject matter.  Anthrax were also one of the first metal bands to tackle topics like racism, homelessness and genocide, attempting to raise a bit of social awareness and build their sonic brutality around positive energy.  And with their rap-metal crossover hits "I'm the Man" and "Bring the Noise" (the latter being a Public Enemy cover that actually featured PE), they foreshadowed the rap-rock craze that emerged in the late '90s.  Maintaining a drug-free lifestyle, Anthrax has aged much more gracefully than some of their metal brethren; their recent records have sounded just as vital as their earlier work and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  The three-pronged rhythm section of Charlie Benante's impossibly ballistic drums, Frank Bello's gritty, pulsing bass, and Scott Ian's jackhammer guitar riffage (easily on par with their Metallica counterparts) has served as the band's signature foundation for over three decades and in 2018 is just as asskicking as ever.

Here now are the Anthrax albums, ranked...




11. Fistful of Metal


Anthrax's debut album for me sounds like a band still trying to find their voice, and the lineup differences between this and their glory days makes this sound like a different band altogether.  Neil Turbin had more of a Rob Halford-esque voice that didn't quite stand out from the pack, whereas Joey Belladonna's Steve Perry influence added a unique twist to Anthrax's speed metal sound.  Fistful has a DIY sound to the production, like so many quickly-recorded debut records.  Not a bad debut, but hardly a defining record for the budding metal quintet; their songwriting and production would improve exponentially on the second album....

Key Tracks: "Metal Thrashing Mad," "Howling Furies"





10. Stomp 442


John Bush's sophomore effort as Anthrax's frontman had a crisply produced, punchy sound that was initially very promising and a step up sonically from Sound of White Noise, but unfortunately the songs on Stomp 442 were nowhere near as strong.  This being the mid-90s, when metal was about as uncool as could be, Anthrax veered more into alternative groove-metal on this record (something akin to say, Biohazard), and the songs blurred into each other a bit.  This record is steeped in midtempo sludge, with only a few noteworthy tracks that for me don't even crack the band's top 20.  It also loses a point for the lack of Anthrax's cool-ass logo on the cover (their logo is one of the most awesome ever created); for some reason they opted for a totally generic stoner rock-type logo instead.  This album fared poorly on the charts and they were soon dropped from Elektra Records as a result.  But not to worry, things improved.  Side note: To this day I still don't understand what the title is supposed to mean.  Side note #2: The album cover was originally intended for Bruce Dickinson's second solo album but he couldn't afford it, so Anthrax scooped it up instead.

Key Tracks: "Riding Shotgun," "In a Zone," "Nothing"





9. Volume 8: The Threat is Real


The 1998 followup was no classic album by any means, but where Stomp 442 featured a slate of mediocre chugging tracks, Anthrax took a much more adventurous approach on this album.  The overall sound and production is muddy and has a late 90s DIY feel, but the songwriting is actually quite solid here.  It seemed like John Bush, whose vocals had up to now felt, for me, a bit "square peg" on an Anthrax record, finally found the right melodic strategy on Vol. 8.  Songs like "Catharsis," "Harm's Way," and the pretty superb "Stealing from a Thief" showed a band less concerned about fitting a particular style and happier just writing good, grungy rock tunes.  Volume 8 has a varied set of hard rockers plus the touching hidden track "Pieces" (written and sung by Frank Bello, who's brother had recently been killed), and the result is a significant step up from Stomp.

Key Tracks: "Crush," "Harm's Way," "Stealing from a Thief"





8. State of Euphoria 


SoE was the first Anthrax album I ever heard (back in early 1990) and it hooked me right away.  I was familiar with the name of the band and for some reason based on the T-shirts I'd seen I envisioned a band similar to Guns N' Roses.  I was surprised to find they had more in common with Metallica, albeit with Joey Belladonna's much cleaner vocal style.  Right away it was clear this band was a little different, letting their playful personalities shine through amid the high-energy metal heft.  The opening track "Be All, End All" carried an upbeat message, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" took on phony, studio-enhanced pop stars, "Make Me Laugh" attacked the hypocrisy of celebrity preachers, and the sardonic "Now It's Dark" was inspired by the David Lynch cult film Blue Velvet.  But Anthrax scored a solid hit with their cover of "Antisocial," originally recorded by French metal band Trust (Incidentally this song is featured in the 2017 film It).  State of Euphoria runs out of steam about two-thirds in and Joey's vocal parts clung way too closely to the guitar riffs for my taste, but it's a solid record that still has sentimental value.

Key Tracks: "Make Me Laugh," "Antisocial," "Now It's Dark"


Thursday, May 13, 2021

WWE WrestleMania Backlash Preview & Predictions

It's the first PPV after WrestleMania, and therefore the events of WrestleMania will result in a backlash of sorts.  A backlash to WrestleMania.  A WrestleMania Backlash, if you will....


What a goofy title for this show.  Yeah, Backlash has traditionally been the first PPV after 'Mania, featuring at least a few matches that are either a direct repeat of or born out of matches that took place at 'Mania.  We didn't need the word "WrestleMania" added to the name.  Anywho, this lineup is shaping up to be quite solid on paper I must say.  Two triple threat matches is a bit much but there are some potentially excellent bouts to be seen on this show.  As per usual these days, WWE hasn't announced the full lineup only three days out from the PPV, so this predictions piece will be incomplete.  But whatever the fuck ever.....



Lumberjack Match: Damian Priest vs. The Miz


Well I'm happy to see that the whole Bad Bunny thing at 'Mania has at least resulted in a focus on Priest.  That's the whole point of a celebrity wrestler - to get more eyes on a full-timer you want to push.  Priest has wrestled Miz and Morrison on RAW the last few weeks but this looks like it could be a blowoff.  Priest needs this win.  Miz does not.

Pick: Damian Priest




Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Bobby Roode & Dolph Ziggler vs. Rey & Dominik Mysterio


Considering Bobby Roode hasn't been on a WWE PPV in like a year I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this get bumped to the pre-show.  But if it makes the main show, good for them.  Given time this is a solid match on paper.  I feel like this feud has been going forever in some form but I could be wrong.  I guess I'll go with the Mysterios to take the gold?

Pick: Rey & Dom




RAW Women's Championship: Rhea Ripley vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair


Okay, first off, whatever Charlotte keeps doing to change her face, she needs to stop.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with it in the first place, why does she keep having work done?  Second, I hope Rhea and Asuka will be on top of their game this time and that Charlotte adds something to the match, so it turns out as good as it looks in theory.  There's a ton of talent in this one, so with enough time it's a potential show stealer.  Rhea should absolutely retain since she just won the title.  And I swear to Christ, if Alexa Bliss shows up and ruins it I'm gonna punch somebody.

Pick: Rhea retains

Movies of Disbelief: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Welcome to another edition of Movies of Disbelief, here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a film that is generally either good, even great, or at least competently assembled, and point out one absurd flaw that had me throwing my hands up skyward.


Today's subject is the Walt Disney classic Sleeping Beauty.  Released in 1959, Sleeping Beauty retells the timeless fairy tale about a lovely princess, cursed by an evil sorceress to fall into a sleeping death before the end of her sixteenth birthday (by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, of all things).  In the Disney version there are three good fairies who vow to protect Princess Aurora from this fate, by keeping her hidden from the wicked Maleficent until the timeline of said curse has passed.

**Side note: each fairy bestows a magical gift, the first being Flora's decree that Aurora will grow up to be beautiful, begging the question, does Flora not have any faith in this girl's gene pool?  I'd be insulted if I were her parents.  "Excuse me, I think we're both fairly handsome people, she'll turn out just fine on her own!"  Seems like a waste of a gift if there's even a chance that she'll be a looker anyway.  Come to think of it, so is Fauna's gift of song; how does she know this girl won't naturally have musical ability?  Or at least enough to get by with some practice?  Superficial jerks...**

I'm sorry, these women are morons...

But back on the clock; the fairies quickly whisk her away to a remote cottage in the forest and raise her as a common peasant girl until such time as it's safe for her to return and reclaim her royal heritage.  Solid plan right?  Especially since the fairies have also vowed not to use magic during the girl's upbringing, so as not to rouse suspicions of passers-by.  Princess Aurora, or Briar Rose as she is now known, has no awareness of her regal bloodline or the fact that she is betroathed to Prince Phillip of a neighboring kingdom.  On her sixteenth birthday, the fateful day in question, she meets a stranger in the woods and falls instantly in love, but the fairies spill all the beans, revealing to her that not only is she a princess, she is already spoken for and must never see this strange man again (of course none of the four is aware said stranger IS Prince Phillip).  Rose is crushed at the news and runs to her room sobbing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Film Discussion: The 1970s

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


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


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


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

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Film Discussion: The 1980s

Welcome back to our Film Discussion series, here at Enuffa.com!  Last time Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I got together we shot the shit about films of the 1970s, one of our favorite decades in the industry.  So today we're back to talk about our formative decade, the 1980s!


Justin: Well the 80s were a VERY different decade for film than the 70s.  As we talked about before, the 70s saw the studio system essentially break down, paving the way for loads of film auteurs to create transcendent, artistic movies without a ton of studio meddling, and amazingly many of them were also box office smashes.  So many of them have stood the test of time, winning awards AND making a ton of money.  However the movie blockbuster as we know it was also invented in the 70s (Jaws and Star Wars were the two big prototypes), inadvertently giving birth to the hard division between commercial films and critical successes, so prevalent in the 80s.  The studios began to figure out in the late 70s that, "Hey, if we make more movies like this we'll make a ton more money," and began churning out sci-fi and adventure films like crazy, hoping to find the next Star Wars.  Not only that, but advances in technology and special effects pioneered by George Lucas and ILM meant that fantasy and sci-fi movies could continue pushing the envelope of what was achievable on the screen, leading to hundreds of effects-and-action-heavy popcorn movies.  Additionally films like Jaws, Halloween and Alien gave way to hosts of monster movies and slasher films, recycling the Ten Little Indians formula ad nauseum.  The industry became much more business-like, leaving many of the great directors of the 70s a bit in the lurch, stuck between wanting to make THEIR films and needing to conform to the newfound demands of the studios.

By the early 80s the split between commercial and critical success was just beginning, with a few films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. (Steven Spielberg was one of the few 70s directors whose 80s films routinely fell into both camps) still garnering Oscar nominations.  But aside from those, if you look at the big Academy Award winners of the 80s and compare them with the highest grossing films, the movies and box office returns are largely very different.  In 1980 for example, The Empire Strikes Back was the top grossing film with $209mil, while the Best Picture winner Ordinary People only made $54mil, failing to crack the top ten that year.  In '81 it was Raiders on top with $212mil and Best Pic winner Chariots of Fire at #7 with $59mil.   1982 saw E.T. at #1 with $359mil, and Best Pic winner Gandhi at #12 with $53mil.  And so on.  Only once in the 80s did the Best Pic winner also rank #1 in terms of box office, and that was Rain Man in 1988 (Terms of Endearment ranked second in 1983, and Platoon 3rd in 1986).  By contrast, in the 70s, four of the Best Pic winners were ranked #1 at the box office, seven were in the top 5, and all ten were in the top 10 of their respective years.

It was clear that Hollywood was mostly relying on effects-laden genre pictures to really drive box office success, while most of the great directors of the era were focused on smaller, drama-heavy films.  As a kid growing up in the 80s there were very few "serious" movies I was interested in; most casual moviegoers flocked to the flashy, visually stunning fare, while Oscar season featured all the grown-up art movies.

Top Ten Things: Stephen King Film Adaptations

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I was told recently that I seem to do a lot of top ten lists of things I hate.  I'm pretty sure I've posted way more lists about things I like, but here's another one.  So suck on it, Larry.

Stephen King.  Perhaps no two proper nouns better exemplify the horror genre.  The very name sounds somehow sinister, like you can't say it without the gritty "movie trailer" voice.  Go ahead, try it.  When I was first introduced to King's work as a child there was something intimidating about that name with the imposing logo his publisher used at the time.

This one.  Looks so badass and they never should've changed it.

Thirty-some years later and Stephen King has produced more timeless horror stories and iconography than any other author.  He is the Edgar Allen Poe of his generation, and continues to churn out novels at a superhuman pace.  To borrow a line from Hamilton, he writes like he's running out of time.

King found success as a muse for Hollywood films very early in his career, selling his first novel Carrie for film adaptation only about a year after it was published.  From then on, King's work became an inspirational gold mine for filmmakers, to the point that in 1977 he began granting film rights to aspiring auteurs and students for only one dollar, provided the films would never be shown commercially without explicit permission.  As for Hollywood, the films inspired by King's writings over the years have grossed over $2.3 billion domestically when adjusted for inflation, with the latest, It, smashing numerous box office records in its opening weekend.

Stephen King's stories and novels have always lent themselves well to cinematic interpretation, and while the results are sometimes mixed, his works have indeed inspired some bona fide film classics.  Below are ten such examples....




10. Christine


One master of horror adapting another, John Carpenter's 1983 film version of King's novel is one of the great "killer car" stories.  Nerdy high school kid Arnie Cunningham falls in love with and buys a dilapidated (and unbeknownst to him, possessed) 1958 Plymouth, restoring it to pristine condition and gradually becoming its servant, at the expense of his actual friendships.  "Christine" then begins attacking Arnie's enemies and even displays the ability to repair itself after being damaged (In a scene that totally blew my mind as a kid).  John Carpenter spectacularly brings to life the evil car, imbuing it with the villainous idiosyncrasies of a human character and giving us one of the screen's most frightening vehicles.






9. The Running Man


This one a) hardly even qualifies as a Stephen King movie and b) is the guiltiest of pleasures.  King's novel The Running Man (published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym) is rife with sociopolitical commentary in addition to being a taut-as-fuck suspense/action thriller.  The protagonist volunteers for a sadistic game/reality show where he'll be hunted down by the authorities for a full month.  If he wins he gets one billion dollars.  If he gets caught he dies.  This novel is harrowing and smartly written, with a sensational climax.  The film on the other hand is a dumb, goofy Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle with pro wrestling-style villains and cartoonish set pieces.  But goddamn is it a lotta fun.  In the film, The Running Man is simply an American Gladiators-esque game show where convicted criminals face off against suped-up military types, and if they survive they get a full pardon.  Arnold's character (wrongly convicted of mass murder) not only has to escape over-the-top villains like Buzzsaw and Dynamo, but is also tasked with finding his friends' hidden resistance base, in the hopes of hijacking the TV signal and clearing his name.  As I said, this has VERY little in common with its source material but it's still an exceedingly enjoyable cheesy action film from a bygone era.  That said, I'm dying for someone to do a faithful adaptation.  (Check out my in-depth analysis HERE)






8. Carrie


The one that started it all, Brian DePalma's adaptation of King's first novel blended supernatural horror elements with an intimate character study.  Sissy Spacek shines as the socially crippled, telekinetically gifted title character, who is bullied by both her schoolmates and her overbearing, religiously fanatical mother (a crazy-scary Piper Laurie).  The film has an almost dreamlike quality, with washed-out visuals and plenty of DePalma's signature slow-mo technique.  It all builds to the iconic, horrifying climax where Carrie, soaked in pig's blood as the result of a cruel prank, lashes out at the entire school and later has a final showdown with her psychotic mom.  Boasting two excellent lead performances and one of the all-time classic climaxes, Carrie helped launch the careers of both King and DePalma and proved a highly influential example of its genre.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Top Ten Things: Doors Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com!  Today we're talkin' about one of the most legendary rock bands of all time, the psychadelic quartet from southern California who emerged in the late 60s with a unique sound, poetically contemplative lyrics, and one of the best, most charismatic front men to ever hold a microphone.  It's the ten best songs by The Doors!


I first got into The Doors mostly thanks to the 1991 Oliver Stone biopic; I had been familiar with a couple of their well-known songs but never really took the time to sit down for a thorough listen until after seeing Val Kilmer's force-of-nature performance as the troubled rock crooner.  After seeing the film I went out and bought the double Best Of album, maybe the best compilation of any band's greatest hits.  Instead of simply being assembled in chronological order the song sequence has a flow to it.  Anyway I listened to that album ad nauseum for years and only within the past decade did I familiarize myself with the rest of the Doors' catalog.  This was a thinking man's rock band with a diverse set of influences that, despite its fairly short run, left an indelible mark on the music industry, inspiring generations of artists and musicans.

Here are, in my estimation, the ten greatest Doors songs....




10. People Are Strange


I first heard this song in cover form in the movie The Lost Boys, courtesy of Echo & The Bunnymen.  I was drawn in right away by the bouncy feel, the honkytonk piano, and the soulful vocals.  It wasn't until a few years later that I heard the original, but "People Are Strange" remains one of my favorite Doors tunes for the reasons above.  Its theme of being an outsider, a stranger in a strange land, sum up Jim Morrison's personality pretty well I think.  He marched to the beat of his own drum and music was his outlet in dealing with loneliness.  The gang vocals in the final chorus seem to illustrate the idea of other outsiders finding solace in each other, unifying to take on the world.





9. Tell All the People


The Soft Parade might be my second-favorite Doors album, after the self-titled one.  It's just such a weird left turn, with the addition of strings and horns on nearly every song and major stylistic departures from the band's trademark sound.  Case in point the opener, "Tell All the People," a symphonic rock anthem with dense horn kicks and vocal harmonies (a rarity for a Doors tune).  This song sets the tone perfectly for an album that goes into very unexpected places and shows a band experimenting like crazy.





8. The Unknown Soldier


Jim Morrison's sound poem about the Vietnam War and its round-the-clock news coverage, "The Unknown Soldier" features drastic dynamic changes and unusual sound effects to create a grim atmosphere.  The song goes from sullen eulogy to midtempo rocker to military march to double-time climax.  This is one of the band's most redolent and atpyical tunes. 





7. The Soft Parade


But the title track off the fourth album has to be their strangest song of all.  "The Soft Parade" is an 8-minute, multi-section suite that's all over the place musically (Is that a harpsichord??) and features Morrison's most bizarre lyrics.  Like John Lennon did with "I Am the Walrus," Morrison seems to simply be playing with words that conjure weird imagery, the songwriting equivalent of Salvador Dali ("Catacombs/Nursery bones/Winter women growing stones").  This epic track is the perfect summation for The Doors' most adventurous album.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Great Wrestling Champions: Ric Flair (1989-1990)

Welcome to a new Enuffa.com feature, The Great Wrestling Champions, where I examine a particularly noteworthy championship reign in the annals of wrestling history - one that made a difference in elevating said championship and the company it represents.

Today's entry is the 1989-90 reign of NWA World Champion Ric Flair.


Flair's sixth title run was in my estimation the greatest of his sixteen famed world championships, showcasing a bona fide in-ring artist and showman at the top of his arguably unparalleled career, and marking his final run as THE star of the NWA.  Flair had legitimately ruled the 80s as far as the NWA/WCW was concerned, enjoying a decade-long run as the promotion's undisputed top draw.  While he considered his first NWA Title reign as something of a tryout (In those days the NWA Board of Directors had to vote on whether to crown a new champion and Flair got a narrow 5-4 vote of confidence), by the end of 1983 he was clearly the man to whom the torch was passed, from former top NWA draws Harley Race and Dusty Rhodes.  His star power was so great that he'd travel around to the various NWA territories and feud with the local top star, in order to make that guy look like a bigger deal.  Flair would keep the title for a year or two, lose it to a babyface challenger to garner a big box office, and win it back shortly thereafter.  This was the pattern from his second reign on.  He briefly lost the title to Kerry Von Erich, Dusty Rhodes, Ronnie Garvin and finally, in a match that set the tone for the NWA's banner year 1989, Ricky Steamboat.

Flair's feud with Steamboat instantly became the stuff of legend, as the two perfectly paired adversaries traded wins over a three month period, scoring three staggering Match of the Year candidates and assembling one of the greatest wrestling feuds of all time.  Flair would win the title back at WrestleWar '89 and immediately follow up one stellar feud with another; the returning former champion Terry Funk attacked him post-match to set up six months of brutally contested enmity.  The inciting incident involved Funk piledriving Flair on a table and putting him out of action for two months due to a kayfabe neck injury.  This allowed the NWA to build to their first match at The Great American Bash, and marked Flair's first babyface turn since 1983.  The hotly anticipated Flair-Funk bout on July 23rd was a wild powderkeg of a match, spilling all over the ringside area and showing off Flair's brawling versatility after the graceful, scientific trilogy with Steamboat.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Women's Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, and another in our series examining some of wrestling's worst champions.  


Today I'm looking at the worst Women's Title runs in company history, which includes the original incarnation of the belt, the ill-concieved Divas Championship, and one entry for the current version.  The role of Women's wrestling in WWE has run the gamut over the years, from novelty act to eye candy to piss-break match to legitimate athletic attraction.  Over the past five years they've made some great strides in presenting the women as an important part of the show while excessively patting themselves on the back for their progressiveness in this area (In reality TNA and other promotions were literally years ahead of them).  But I'll take a little disproportionate self-congratulating if it means having a real women's division.  Now if Vince could just let Hunter take the creative reins on the main roster we'd really have something.  Look no further than the difference between Sasha-Bayley in NXT and Sasha-Bayley in 2019.

Anywho, given the wildly divergent approaches WWE has taken with the division, there were bound to be some championship runs that were just plain stinkers.  Here are ten of them, in chronological order....




1. Velvet McIntyre (1986)


For the majority of the original title's existence it sat squarely around the waist of The Fabulous Moolah, who famously held it from 1956 until 1984 (minus several unrecognized title changes).  Moolah was a major draw for decades and when the WWF went national in the 80s her feud with Wendi Richter was a big part of the show (thanks in part to the involvement of pop star Cyndi Lauper).  After regaining the strap from Wendi via the original WWF Screwjob (Vince was a jerk even back then), Moolah dropped the title to up-and-coming babyface Velvet McIntyre at a house show in Australia.  And then won it back six days later, also at a house show in Australia.  Velvet of course never won the belt again.  Velvet's McEntire title run took place on one foreign continent.  See what I did there?






2. Rockin' Robin (1989)


So back to Moolah, she eventually dropped the title for keepsies to Sensational Sherri, which the company touted as a huge deal since she'd rarely been without it for thirty years.  Sherri was built up as a huge heel women's star (for the time anyway), and while not that prominently featured on WWF TV, she kept the title for 15 months before losing it to Rockin' Robin.  Robin however wasn't presented as terribly important beyond her initial win, getting only one major televised title defense at the 1989 Royal Rumble against Judy Martin, with whom she feuded for basically the remainder of the year.  Robin then left the company in early 1990, taking the belt with her, and the title was discontinued.  That's a pretty bad indictment of Robin's lack of importance as a champion when she's barely on television for most of her reign and the belt is simply swept under the carpet when she leaves.






3. Debra (1999)


The Women's Title went through two resurgences in the 90s - Alundra Blayze was the belt's custodian during the New Generation era (before also leaving with the belt and infamously throwing it in the trash on WCW Nitro), and then in late 1998 Sable became the division's new centerpiece.  Considering she was originally a valet, Sable picked up the in-ring game pretty quickly and became a very popular attraction before turning heel that spring.  But backstage she and Vince McMahon had gotten into a heated contractual dispute (allegedly she was asked to go topless and she later sued for sexual harassment), and she'd fallen out of favor with the rest of the roster.  So in May of 1999 Sable was booked in an Evening Gown match against Debra McMichael, technically winning the bout when she tore Debra's gown off.  But Commissioner Shawn Michaels instead ruled that the woman who'd lost her gown was actually the winner, and thus non-wrestler Debra was now the Women's Champion.  How one can win a championship by literally LOSING a match is beyond me.  Debra dropped the belt to Ivory four weeks later and went back to being Jeff Jarrett's valet.  The whole thing made no sense and was a shoddy contingency plan for the Sable fiasco.


Top Ten Things: Essential Daniel Bryan Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com! (Note: This was originally published just after Bryan's untimely retirement in 2016 - thank god that's over!)


Today, not surprisingly, I have Daniel Bryan on the brain.  Following his untimely retirement on Monday I thought I'd compile a list of his essential matches, including many of his Ring of Honor highlights.  If you haven't seen any of his ROH work as Bryan Danielson you don't know what you're missing.  Unhampered by the "WWE style," Bryan was as innovative and skilled as anyone in the business, and frequently put together matches in excess of 30 minutes.  Here now is a list of essential Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson matches....




10. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan - Extreme Rules 2012 - 4.29.12


Here's the match we should've gotten at WrestleMania 28.  After Vince McMahon's 18-second booking snafu inadvertently made Daniel Bryan a star while dooming Sheamus's main event push, these two were given a chance for vindication at Extreme Rules in a 2/3 Falls Match.  Bryan relentlessly targeted Sheamus's left arm early on, eventually getting himself intentionally disqualified in the first fall before evening the match with a Yes Lock in the second.  The climactic third fall was an exciting back-and-forth affair until Sheamus once again caught Bryan with the Brogue Kick to retain the World Title.  Easily a show-stealing early MOTY candidate, and the first example of Bryan being effectively used as a top-tier star.




9. Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe - Fight of the Century - 8.5.06


In August 2006 Bryan Danielson was enjoying an ROH Title run on par with Joe's record-breaking reign of 2003-04.  The two of them would collide in an epic bout that lasted a full sixty minutes.  Danielson played the cocky-but-cowardly heel Champion to perfection, in a performance rivaling 1980s Ric Flair.  This was the first Danielson match I ever saw, and I was immediately hooked.  Joe spent the early portions of the match chasing Bryan around before finally dominating him for much of the encounter.  Joe would come up just short of regaining the belt, but the live crowd ate this up, chanting "Five More Minutes" at the end.  Quite possibly my favorite 60-minute draw.




8. Takeshi Morishima vs. Bryan Danielson - Manhattan Mayhem II - 8.25.07


Another of Danielson's ROH feuds against a much larger opponent took place in 2007, as he found himself challenging the new monster heel Champion Takeshi Morishima.  Morishima was on loan from Pro Wrestling NOAH and took a similar role as Samoa Joe (who was now TNA-exclusive).  Danielson held his own against the Japanese powerhouse in this 20-minute Strong Style war in which he suffered a detached retina from one of Morishima's strikes.  Bryan failed to capture the belt here but faced Morishima twice more that year to settle their feud.