Thursday, April 28, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Superman II

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I examine what exactly draws me to certain films that so spectacularly fail to live up to their potential.

Continuing with the superhero theme from last time, today I'll be dissecting the only good sequel from the vaunted Christopher Reeve franchise, Superman II!


In 1978 Richard Donner was tasked with directing two epic Superman films back-to-back.  Unfortunately budget and schedule issues would force him to shelve the second movie and focus on delivering the first, lest producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind fail to see a return on their massive financial investment.  Released in December 1978, Superman: The Movie was a huge commercial and critical success, ensuring the intended sequel could now be completed.  But after months of creative tension during the incredibly long shoot, the Salkinds opted not to bring Donner back to finish the second movie (It was estimated that about 75% of the footage was already completed).  Instead comedy director Richard Lester (of A Hard Day's Night fame) was brought in, and in order to officially receive directorial credit he'd need to not only complete the remaining 25%, but also reshoot a third of the already-completed footage.

The result was an immensely entertaining but horribly inconsistent sequel, featuring very divergent visual styles from two completely different directors.  This coupled with obvious continuity problems stemming from the principle actors' appearances noticeably changing between 1977 and 1980 gave Superman II a rather disjointed feel.

So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't, about this beloved Superman sequel!


The Awesome

Christopher Reeve

As with the first movie, Reeve embodied the perfect fusion of wholesome farmboy shyness and statuesque physical presence to bring to life what is still thus far the best cinematic interpretation of the Man of Steel.  This is one of those roles that a particular actor was born to play.  Reeve just captured the essence of this iconic figure and his alter-ego so brilliantly I'm not sure anyone will ever match his performance.

Magnificent.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022 Preview & Predictions

Wow, has it really been four months since I did NJPW picks?  Jesus, I gotta get back on the horse.


Welcome to a long-overdue round of New Japan Pro Wrestling predictions here at Enuffa.com.  This weekend it's the annual Wrestling Dontaku show, and unlike most of NJPW's recent cards this one actually looks like a proper PPV lineup, with six championship matches and a pair of strong main events.  NJPW's product has been struggling of late, with travel limitations preventing some valuable talent from appearing, underfilled, noise-restricted arenas providing a less-than-exciting backdrop for the matches, and some questionable booking moves keeping the company from reaching its previous creative heights.  But the recent New Japan Cup and Windy City Riot both point to things picking back up in the coming months, and holy fuckin' shit, we're getting an AEW vs. NJPW PPV in June!

But first, let's look at the Dontaku lineup.....



Tatsumi Fujinami, Shingo Takagi & Bushi vs. Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taka Michinoku


Tatsumi Fujinami is making a rare in-ring appearance at the ripe age of 68.  I don't expect him to do much here, particularly since he's teaming with Shingo (and Bushi), who can easily carry the load for his side.  This match should be an enjoyable opener to warm up the crowd.  I don't see Fujinami's squad losing; I think Michinoku is here to eat a pin.

UPDATE: Fujinami has tested positive for COVID and is being replaced by a mystery partner.  No idea who that could be.  Maybe Kushida?

Pick: LIJ & TBD
 



Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoh


This one should be pretty damn good - two of the Jr. Heavyweight division's most accomplished babyface stars facing off.  I wonder if the newly released Kushida will make an appearance on this show, either after this match or after the Jr. Title match later on.  I'm not sure if he's dealing with a no-compete or not, but his return to NJPW can't get here fast enough.  But that's neither here nor there.  The upshot is, this match should be really good and likely one of the best things on the show if given time.

Pick: Takahashi

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Top Ten Things: WWF Saturday Night's Main Event Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best (or worst) items pertaining to something-or-other....


Today I'm talking about what used to be, for me growing up at least, the greatest wrestling show on television, Saturday Night's Main Event.  For those not familiar with the show (I'm not sure I wanna know you), Saturday Night's Main Event aired a few times a year on NBC during Saturday Night Live's timeslot and usually featured four or five matches taped a few weeks earlier.  This was back when you almost never saw real matches on free television, as the weekly shows generally consisted of quick squash matches designed to draw ticket buyers to local house shows.  But every couple months we were treated to a handful of competitive bouts between top stars, and it was EVENT VIEWING.  As a 12-year-old who never got to see the PPVs until they were available on VHS, seeing Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage or The Ultimate Warrior wrestle a match on free TV was the most monumental thing happening that month.

The show's initial run ended in '92 (following a one-year move from NBC to Fox) before it resurfaced in 2006-07.  Unfortunately by that time the magic was gone, as fans had long been accustomed to seeing big free TV matches every week on RAW and Smackdown.  SNME was clearly a pre-Monday Night War phenomenon and couldn't work in the modern era.  But at the time of its original run it was truly a delight.

Here now are the ten greatest matches in the history of this fantastic show. (Note: for the purposes of this column I've included the air date as opposed to the taping date)





10. Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bossman - 5/27/89


Hogan's first televised WWF Title defense after WrestleMania V was against his old foe The Big Bossman, in a steel cage no less.  At the time I had jumped off the Hogan bandwagon, siding with Randy Savage in the MegaPowers split.  Thus I wasn't terribly excited about this match going in, nor did I care for Hogan's No Holds Barred nemesis Zeus being integrated into WWF storylines.  Zeus attacked Hogan prior to this match to add a little suspense, but it was obvious Bossman wasn't winning the belt here.  However the match itself turned out to be a very entertaining cage brawl, the highlight of which was Hogan suplexing Bossman off the top of the steel structure.  In 1989 that spot was one of the most death-defying things I had ever seen, and it made this a very memorable bout.





9. Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana - 7/28/90


On a stacked SNME episode that featured three Title matches, what seemed like a throwaway Intercontinental defense turned out to be a very well-worked, show-stealing match.  This aired a month before Summerslam, and oddly they gave away the scheduled Warrior-Rude PPV main event on this show for free (I know the SS match was in a cage, but still).  So there wasn't much suspense there, and even less in the Tag Team Title match, as Demolition (scheduled to face the Hart Foundation at the PPV) defended against The Rockers here.  But Mr. Perfect, whose Summerslam opponent was up in the air following Brutus Beefcake's infamous parasailing accident, would face the man he defeated to win the vacant I-C Title that April, Tito Santana.  At the time I feared Perfect would drop the Title here, setting up a rematch at the PPV, but with some help from Bobby Heenan ("He's gotta beat you!  You don't hafta beat him!") on the outside, Perfect delivered a successful and enjoyable Title defense.





8. Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff - 1/3/87


At the time this was one of the WWF's biggest televised matches, being the blowoff for the legendary Hogan-Orndorff feud which lasted through most of 1986.  It was also the first steel cage match ever shown on free WWF television, and therefore felt like a huge deal.  While this doesn't get a lot of points for technique, it was a pretty good brawl that led to a false ending, when both men escaped the cage simultaneously.  As I recall this was the first time I ever saw such a scenario, where two different referees declared opposing winners.  The show broke for a commercial and when it resumed the match had been restarted.  This of course led to Hogan getting the clear victory, settling this rivalry and freeing the Champion up for his impending feud with Andre the Giant.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Top Ten Things: Obscure 1980s Toys

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today I'm thinkin' about old toys I wish I still had.  Because apparently I'm eleven.

The 1980s was an amazing era to be a kid.  We children of the 80s were treated to some of the most badassistic (Yeah I made up a word) action figure lines ever offered up.  Think about it, in the same decade we had Star Wars toys, He-Man, Transformers, and GI Joe (plus the short-lived DC Super Powers and Marvel Secret Wars), and those are just a handful of the toy lines that were hits!  We also had a fuckton of action figure series that were either short-lived or outright flopped, and those are the ones I'm here to talk about today.  I got to thinking about some of the more obscure toys I had as a kid and the list just kept growing on me.  Some of them I had trouble finding on Google because the name escaped me, but eventually I found 'em all.  Not only does this piece feature a top ten but I've included three Honorable Mentions.  So, strap on your nerd hats and join me for a look back at some of the best obscure toys of the 80s!



HM: Karate Kid (Remco)

Yeah this set came with giant chopsticks to catch a giant rubber fly.

From the hit 1984 film Rocky But With Karate, these stupid, one-note toys had some inexplicable charm to them.  Literally the only two characters I ever found were Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi (apparently Johnny, Kreese and others were available later on), but each figure had one arm and one leg that were spring-loaded, so when you pushed a button they would either chop or kick.  This one set I got came with both characters and a litany of structures for them to chop through or break.  Wooden boards, ice, brick walls, this coat rack-lookin' thing, you name it.  Destroying fake wood with these figures was stupid fun.




HM: Clash of the Titans (Mattel)

They released the first wave and then they RELEASED THE KRRRAKEN!

What a promising line this was, until it wasn't.  The wonderful 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans had so many colorful characters and creatures that lent themselves to toy designs, in the same way the Star Wars trilogy did.  The first (and thanks to poor sales, only) series included Perseus (a fantastic Harry Hamlin likeness), his buddy Thallo, Calibos, and for some reason Charon the ferryman (who only appears in the film for like four seconds), plus a Pegasus toy (with zero points of articulation) and a huge Kraken (who looked boss).  Insanely the coolest looking character in the movie, Medusa, never got a toy, but maybe she, Andromeda and some of the Greek gods would've been included in series 2.  Regardless, these were solid toys that deserved a better run.





HM: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Kenner)/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (LJN)

This is one of my favorite films, but what are you supposed to do with these?

Two different toy companies tried to make "fetch" happen in the 80s with Indiana Jones.  When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out it was a no-brainer that Kenner, fresh off its colossal success with the Star Wars line, would introduce a similar-in-scale line of Indy toys.  Only problem was, beyond the main character no one else in that movie does a whole lot that lends itself to action figure play.  Indy does all the heavy lifting.  What are you supposed to do with Marion in a removable evening gown, or the black-clad swordsman whom Indy shoots like a dog in the street?  Or Belloq or Toht or Col. Dietrich, who are all excellent baddies in the film but have no action sequences to speak of?  The one character Indy has a fistfight with is the nameless bald German mechanic, but that'd keep you busy for what, five minutes?  It's a shame, these were good looking toys for the time, but aside from Indy himself there wasn't much you could do with 'em.  Even the few playsets they had were pointless (more on that HERE).

Damn good detail on these but again, what do I do with 'em?

Then in 1984 LJN tried their hand with 5-inch figures for Temple of Doom, releasing five characters but running into the same problem.  Playing with these toys was all about Indy performing daring stunts and escapes.  Beyond that you're stuck.  Thus when The Last Crusade came out, no one even bothered with a toy line.  'Twas a pity. 


Okay now for the meat of the list....


Friday, April 22, 2022

Top Ten Things: He-Man Action Figures

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I hope you're ready for some serious nerd nostalgia, because thanks to the fantastic new Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, I have 1980s action figures on the brain.


One episode of said TV series focused on the wonderful 80s toy line known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  Anyone who grew up in that era remembers these larger-than-life figures with impossible musculatures, colorful appearances, pun-driven names, and bizarre quirks/powers.  The first time I saw the original He-Man commercial my brain almost exploded.  These figures looked nothing like any other action figures available at the time.  The characters were so vibrant and otherworldly you couldn't take your eyes off them.  Mattel hit one out of the park with this toy line, scoring record-breaking numbers four or five years in a row, and consistently introducing new series of memorable characters year after year.  A side note: this toy line introduced me to the concept of recycled molds.  Pretty much every figure had the exact same torso mold and initially there were only three sets of arms and legs.  Even as a seven-year-old I noticed this.  But it didn't matter, these toys fucking rocked my nuts off.  A syndicated tie-in cartoon show proved invaluable for selling MOTU figures and for a little while He-Man ruled the action figure market, spawning numerous ripoff lines, my favorite of which were the Remco figures based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak (They even had a disclaimer on the package: For Use with Masters of the Universe action figures).  Personally I wish they'd re-release the original MOTU figures (like they did in 2001) because I'd scoop a bunch of 'em up again.  For my son to play with.  Yeah, that's it.....

Note: Once I got really into wrestling, the He-Man line doubled as my wrestling toys, since they were the perfect size for the WWF toy ring.  Shut up, you did it too....

But which characters were my favorites?  Which of these silly fantasy barbarian toys have stuck with me three-plus decades later?  Let's take a look.....




10. King Hiss


This absurdly over-the-top figure was like He-Man meets Transformers, and the leader of The Snake Men or whatever they were called (an older character named Kobra Khan joined up with this villainous stable as well, like in a pro wrestling angle).  King Hiss looked like a human wearing snake-like armor, but pop off his arm and torso coverings, and GAAAAH, HE'S LITERALLY A GODDAMN SNAKE-MAN!!!  His actual upper body was comprised entirely of snakes (oddly his legs were still humanoid though), creepy enough to unnerve even his fellow bad guys.  I spent so much time transforming this guy from man to snake-man and it was a fairly ingenious gimmick.





9. Faker


On paper this has to be the stupidest toy ever.  An evil robot that's supposed to be a dead ringer for He-Man, except he has blue skin, Skeletor-style armor, and a visible tape recorder in his chest (courtesy of a sticker).  The idea is that Skeletor built this droid to infiltrate the good guy lair and pimp He-Man's friends for information.  Skeletor must think Team He-Man are either legally blind or just absolute fucking morons.  Who would fall for this trap??  "Whoa, He-Man, you're looking a little pekid, maybe have a nice lie down and some soup?  By the way, here are those Grayskull blueprints you asked for...."  Added to that, Faker was an appallingly flagrant cannibalization of an existing toy, just to sell more toys.  You gotta marvel at Mattel's balls, man.  Regardless of how illogical this character was, the toy looked awesome.





8. Mer-Man/Stinkor


Speaking of blatant mold recycling, in 1984 Mattel took one of the original characters, Mer-Man, painted him black & white, doused him in some kinda putrid-smelling chemical, and repackaged him as a skunk-like character named Stinkor.  Nevermind that a skunk-man wouldn't have webbed feet or fin-like ears, this guy looked boss.  And his armor covered his nose and mouth, implying he smelled so bad even HE couldn't stand it!  I loved the black, white, red and orange color scheme, and the stinky gimmick was brilliant.  Think about it - Mattel got us to buy an action figure that smelled like a goddamn skunk.  Either we're all suckers or Mattel are a buncha Jedi Masters who can bend everyone to their will.  The smell eventually wore off, but Stinkor remained one of my all-time favorite characters.


As for Mer-Man, this mold was much more appropriate for an undersea creature, and his scaly armor looked killer.  It did always bug me that his face looked nothing like the cartoon, comics or even the picture on the back of the packaging!  Also they originally were going to call him Sea Man, but changed it for obvious reasons.  Can you imagine one of the heroes saying "Oh no!  Sea Man is all over our base!  Why is Sea Man so hard to get our hands on?   I feel all slimy now that I've touched Sea Man!"



Thursday, April 21, 2022

Top Ten Things: WORST WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome back!  Alright, now that we've counted down the ten best LJN Wrestling Superstars toys, let's look at some that didn't make the grade.  Ones that either looked like absolute shite or that served zero purpose when you were trying to put together a pretend wrestling match (a phrase I know is technically redundant).  Some of these damn toys just hurt my brain and I don't know what LJN was thinking when they created the molds.  Here we go.... 




10. Warlord


Alright, you might be asking why Warlord is on this list when a) the toy looks quite a lot like him and b) he's got a decent pose for doing wrestling moves.  This toy pissed me off to no end for one reason: WHERE THE FUCK ARE HIS PANTS???  The Warlord as of 1989 wore long tights, ALWAYS.  So why the goddamn hell is he wearing little Speedo trunks on this toy?  Did no one at LJN bother to look at even a single a picture of this guy that extended below his waist?  Not only that, he's missing kneepads.  Do just a cursory bit of homework and this toy becomes one of the best in the line.  But because of pure fucking laziness, he's relegated to the bottom of the pile.  Also, where the hell was Barbarian??

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14





9. Iron Sheik


This is another one that looks vaguely like the real guy but in a very superficial way.  If you look closely, the facial features don't particularly resemble the Iron Sheik at all.  Again, I feel like they based this sculpt on the cartoon show instead of the actual human.  So this one gets a middling score there.  And his pose kinda sucked.  He's doing the vaudville strongman pose, which was okay for headlocks, clotheslines and maybe a suplex, but it was absolutely impossible to do Sheik's finishing move, the Camel Clutch.  If you can't do the guy's finisher that subtracts significant points.  Pretty lame, LJN.

Likeness - 5
Playability - 5
Total - 10





8. Paul Orndorff


What the hell were the sculpting team smoking when they made the Orndorff figure?  He's got a gigantic, malformed head, he's impossibly jacked, and he's missing kneepads.  Clearly this mold was done by the same guy that did Greg Valentine's, because this is one of the most unpleasant-looking action figures ever made.  This is what Paul Ordorff would look like if someone parked a bus on his face.  Not to mention, the physique they gave him is more Arnold than Orndorff, who was quite buff but not bodybuilder huge.  As far as playability though, he scores fairly high since his arm flexing was conducive to clotheslines and elbows, plus you could do a press slam or a Torture Rack.  But Christ, what an awful-looking toy.

Likeness - 3
Playability - 7
Total - 10

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Top Ten Things: WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome to a special two-part edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!


Today I have not one but TWO lists for you, and they're opposite sides of the same coin.  Back in the 80s we wrestling fans had very limited options as far as the available toys with which to recreate our favorite in-ring matches and rivalries.  In 1985 Remco (makers of the fabulous He-Man knockoff toys based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak) unveiled a modest series of AWA action figures (plus Ric Flair) and a cardboard ring for the action to take place in.  These toys were quite functional but sadly also very generic, being made from essentially the same body mold.  As I got older I came to value poseability over visual aesthetics, and along with my vast collection of He-Man guys the Remco figures became my primary wrestling toys.  Man did I run a helluva Federation.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Also in 1985 the WWF got into the action figure game, releasing a colorful, oversized line of LJN toys called Wrestling Superstars.  These massive hunks of rubber had zero points of articulation, paint that would rub off in literally minutes, in some cases questionable-at-best resemblance to their real-life counterparts, and were easily capable of inflicting blunt force trauma to a person's skull.  They were so heavy and dense the accompanying toy ring couldn't handle the stress of play and would routinely crack; my ring had to be replaced less than a year after I got it.  But if you were an eleven-year-old, new pro wrestling fan like me, goddamn these toys ruled.  They were unlike any action figures out there; at eight inches tall they dwarfed all other figures on the market besides the unwieldy 12-inch dolls that had long since become obsolete.  With a roster of colorful, larger-than-life characters to model the toys after, LJN had no shortage of eye-catching products to offer.  The sucky thing about these toys was their rather hefty price tag for the time.  These fuckers cost a good 8 bucks a pop, which for my age was way too much to easily collect them.  Thus my early matchmaking abilities were limited; when I first began accumulating these toys at the end of 1986 I only had three figures, all babyface characters.  The hell am I supposed to do with that?

Anyway, while some of these toys were very playable thanks to well-chosen poses and slight flexibility in the rubber, others were not so much.  Likewise, while some figures carried quite serviceable likenesses to the actual people they represented, others looked like barely-formed humanoid blobs.  I noticed a trend at the time - certain character molds seemed to be done by the same person, and that guy was terrible at capturing realistic facial features, plus all the toys this guy worked on had gigantic nipples for some reason.  Go back and look at the figures for Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake and a few others.  The faces look awful and the nips are like the Capitol building dome.

So here's where these lists come in.  I've compiled the ten best and worst LJN figures, based on a combination of likeness accuracy and playability.  I'm trying to keep it as fair as possible, since some figures looked great but were useless to play with, and some had perfect wrestler poses but looked like Sloth from The Goonies.  This being an era long before computer-scanned faces I'll go fairly easy on the likeness ratings, and the playability will be somewhat determined by each wrestler's moveset.  I'll give you the ten best ones today and the ten worst in Part 2.  Let's get to it.....




10. Ricky Steamboat


The Steamboat figure had a pretty detailed face/hair sculpt and a lean, defined body type that more or less matched the real guy.  The resemblance wasn't exactly uncanny but it vaguely looked like Steamboat.  The arms were posed in a way that body slams and suplexes were possible, and his hands were open which lent itself to Steamboat's chops.  This toy was a solid bit of work from LJN.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14





9. Greg Valentine


Valentine's toy was one of the uglier in the series, with a face like a mean old lady and bright yellow hair like banana ice cream.  Then again, Greg Valentine was always rather homely, so the rough sculpt kinda fit.  This was one of the toys in the series that looked like the sculptor either worked solely from memory or forgot to put on his glasses.  It's a vague representation of Greg Valentine that kinda sorta captures his essence, but by no means is it true to life.  Like at all.  But what this figure lacked in realism it made up for in utility.  Valentine was posed perfectly for slams, suplexes, and most of all, that signature Valentine elbow drop.  You couldn't do the Figure Four, but then again I've never seen a wrestling figure that could.  This one scores quite well on playability.

Likeness - 6
Playability - 8
Total - 14





8. Hart Foundation


Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart were more often than not sold as a team, so I'm including them as one entry.  These guys looked quite a bit like the real people and the sculpts captured their body types pretty realistically.  The ring attire looked pretty much just like the Harts' actual gear.  My only issue aesthetically, and this was true for a lot of these toys, is that Bret is wearing his sunglasses, which of course he never wore while wrestling.  As far as their respective poses, they were vaguely configured to do wrestling moves.  Bret's arms were partly outstretched to do clotheslines and slams, while Neidhart could easily do a powerslam (though I'm not sure why the fingers of his right hand are spread out).  These two toys looked good and could get you through a match.

Likeness - 8
Playability - 6
Total - 14


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dead Poets Society

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  It's time once again for me to cut open a beloved classic and tell you all why it's not as good as everyone seems to think it is.


Today's example is the critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning 1989 film Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams as an anti-establishment teacher at a prestigious prep school, who forms a close bond with his students and encourages them to be forward-thinking dream followers.  His unconventional teaching style comes into question and soon has repercussions quite at odds with the school's cookie-cutter approach to education.

This film was a big hit and built on Robin Williams' Good Morning Vietnam success as a serious (albeit slightly comedic) actor.  It would be his second consecutive role to earn him a Best Actor nod.

So why do I consider DPS an Awesomely Shitty Movie you ask?  Well let's take a closer look....



The Awesome


Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society was the second mainstream film to showcase Robin Williams' considerable dramatic chops.  Generally known for his manic, zany comedy antics, Williams mostly delivers a nuanced, understated performance as the benign, free-spirited Literature professor, and we believe it when the students become inspired by him.  The scene where he coaxes a spontaneous, evocative poem out of the cripplingly shy Todd Anderson is genuinely touching, while his emotional breakdown after Neil's death is a briefly heartbreaking moment.  Aside from a few moments where he veered way too far into typical Robin Williams territory, this was a fine performance that elevated Williams as an Oscar-caliber actor.

Stop making me cry, Mork!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Oscar Film Journal: CODA (2021)

It's been a while but welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal, here at Enuffa.com!


Today I'll be talking about a film that just became the 94th to win the Best Picture Oscar, CODA.  Sian Heder's heartwarming family dramedy concerns a high school senior named Ruby Rossi (played by prodigious English actor/musician Emilia Jones), born of a deaf family working in the Gloucester, MA fishing industry.  Despite being the youngest member of her family, her parents and older brother depend on Ruby to help run the business and navigate its political and regulatory ins and outs, as part of the local union.  Specifically fishing boat fees are becoming prohibitively expensive and everyone is struggling just to break even, and finally Ruby's father Frank (a superb Troy Kotsur in an Oscar-winning performance) decides to start his own independent company.  Ruby becomes more integral to the family business than ever as she's asked to promote the new venture and get other anglers on board.  

The problem though, is that fishing isn't Ruby's passion, music is.  Turns out Ruby is a helluva singer, and her high school music teacher takes an interest in helping develop her natural ability, grooming her for a scholarship audition at Berklee College of Music.  Torn between loyalty to her family and a chance to break out of Gloucester and do what she loves, Ruby finds herself at odds with her mother (an excellent Marlee Matlin), who's scared to let Ruby go both for personal and business reasons and who doesn't understand Ruby's passion for music, having never heard it.  But Ruby's brother Leo resents that the family is so dependent on her and feels overlooked and unappreciated for his contributions, telling Ruby that her passing up the chance to leave would be a slap in the face to people like him. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Top Ten Things: Metallica Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today I look at the catalog of the biggest metal band in history, the mighty Metallica!


Anyone who knows me at all knows I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Metallica aficionado, and if you've read Enuffa.com for any length of time you've probably gotten that sense as well.  For me the summit of Music Mountain is twofold - there's The Beatles and there's Metallica.  Everyone else is just trying to reach the top.

With the release of the band's tenth album Hardwired...To Self-Destruct, they've finally put out enough original studio albums to fill out one of these damn lists.  So I figured it's time for me to sort 'em all in my preferred order.  Let's get to it.....




10. St. Anger


Metallica's much-maligned "therapy" record and its accompanying film Some Kind of Monster were essentially a document of a band coming apart at the seams and ultimately stitching themselves back together.  Recording began in 2001 when internal relations within the group were at an all-time low, and departed bassist Jason Newsted had been temporarily replaced by producer Bob Rock.  The album's tone was ugly, messy and raw, reflecting many of the previously unspoken feelings floating around between the remaining band members.  St. Anger was met with much scorn from diehard Metallica fans at the time of its release, and in 2003 I considered it a pretty big disappointment.  But over the years I've come to appreciate it from a visceral, emotional standpoint.  It was the album the band needed to make, to come back together and trudge forward.  The muddy lack of production, de-tuned guitars, and that awful pinging snare drum helped put to music the state of mind the band was in, illustrating what a bloated monster Metallica had become.  With St. Anger out of their system Metallica would now be free to find themselves again.

Key Tracks: Frantic, My World, Sweet Amber





9. ReLoad


The second half of Metallica's late-90s two-parter, this 76-minute collection featured some of the band's most experimental material.  A continuation of the alt-metal sound established with Load, this album took things a step further, somewhat eschewing Metallica's riff-driven roots for more textural guitar work and unusual instrumentation.  Songs like the country-tinged "Unforgiven II" and the Tom Waits-influenced "Low Man's Lyric" (featuring a hurdy-gurdy) pushed the boundaries of what constituted the Metallica sound.  ReLoad definitely includes some B-material ("Better Than You," "Slither") and a few songs too reminiscent of those on Load ("Fixxer" is essentially "Outlaw Torn 2"), but it's got a few classics as well, like the driving opener "Fuel," still one of my all-time Metallica favorites.

Key Tracks: Fuel, Carpe Diem Baby, Prince Charming





8. Kill 'Em All


The album that kicked off one of the greatest musical careers of all-time, Kill 'Em All essentially invented the speed/thrash metal genre, boasting razor-sharp twin rhythm guitars and machine-gun drum blasts.  It was the prototype for modern metal records and introduced the world to Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Burton.  In my estimation it's still one of the greatest-ever debut albums and certainly one of the most influential.  Despite its efficacy however this record hasn't aged as well for me as some of the others.  It often feels like Speed Metal 101, as it lacks some of the depth and sophistication Metallica would discover only a few years later.  Still there's no denying what a metal milestone Kill 'Em All proved to be.

Key Tracks: Hit the Lights, The Four Horsemen, Jump in the Fire


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Batman (1989)

Hello and welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a wonderful piece of popcorn fare and essentially ruin it for everyone.

Today I'll be talking about the Father of Modern Superhero Movies, Tim Burton's 1989 opus Batman, starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as the title character.  When it first came out, Batman was a major pop culture event, garnering huge mainstream media coverage and all sorts of cross-promotion, in a manner not seen since the original Star Wars films.

Still a fantastically awesome poster.

Batman was something of a risk for Burton, as a dark, brooding superhero film had never been attempted, and most mainstream audiences still thought of the Caped Crusader in terms of the campy 1960s TV show.  But in the comics, Batman had long since returned to his Noir-ish roots, and Burton drew inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, as well as taking visual cues from Film Noir and German Expressionism.  The result was an unusually dark comic book film that took quite seriously the idea of a man dressing up as a bat to fight crime.

But while the movie felt absolutely right at the time, it has to a certain extent been rendered obsolete by some piss-poor sequels and Christopher Nolan's superb Dark Knight Trilogy, as well as Matt Reeves' new, even Film Noir-ier The Batman.  Watching Burton's film now is great fun for nostalgia purposes, but it honestly became a little hard to take seriously after the advent of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Tim Burton's Batman....



The Awesome


Michael Keaton

Remember how outraged we all were when Keaton was announced as Batman?  As I recall the exact quote from everyone upon hearing the news was "What. The goddamn. Hell??"  But at the time Keaton was a pretty splendid Batman/Bruce Wayne.  He brought a quiet sense of morose intensity to the role and despite not being at all physically suited to play a 6'2" 215-pound superhero, made us all believe he was The Dark Knight.  As with many aspects of this film, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy bettered Keaton's performance by a pretty wide margin (In fact, after watching Christian Bale in the suit, Keaton looked positively waifish by comparison), but his portrayal stood for 16 years as the best cinematic Batman.

Look at that six-pack.  That suit must work out.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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.  Thus far we've had three 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 most recent 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.


Top Ten Things: Women's WrestleMania Matches

Well it's been a while, but welcome to a brand new edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make a list of ten things and put them in a certain order.  It sounds so arbitrary when I phrase it like that....


Today I'm talking about matches taking place at WrestleMania, specifically women's matches.  Say what you will about WWE's annual spring spectacular or its product in general - the quality is hit-or-miss at best nowadays, and we went from obscenely long five-plus-hour shows to a two-night WrestleMania weekend (which I much prefer over the former).  But one thing we seem to be able to count on in recent years is that at least one offering from the women's division will deliver in the clutch.  WWE boasts the most robust, talented roster of female grapplers in the business these days, and while there's still too much of a focus on Vince's preferred type, in the form of Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Carmella, Lacey Evans, etc., the cream has consistently risen to the top of WWE's women's division.  Said division has come a very long way from the Divas matches of old, usually sandwiched in between far more important bouts and only allotted 4-6 minutes, or worse, given the eye candy treatment of Bra & Panties matches, Playboy pillow fights, and other stupidity.  For every time Trish Stratus or Lita attempted to transcend back in the day there were upwards of a dozen other instances of the women being presented as either an afterthought or a debasement.  But now the women's division has become one of the featured attractions at the Showcase of the Immortals, sometimes in more than one bout.  Hell, there are times when they end up more or less saving the show.  Here now are the best women's matches in WrestleMania history (and for the purposes of this article I've included one mixed tag match).




HM: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler - WrestleMania 36


2020's WrestleMania was an odd one thanks to COVID restrictions preventing it taking place in front of an audience.  The two nights were taped the week before, with very mixed results.  One of a few mild Night 1 successes was this RAW Women's Title match, pitting the uber-popular Becky Lynch against the winner of that year's women's Elimination Chamber, Shayna Baszler.  Shayna had singlehandedly run through all her Chamber opponents on the way to 'Mania, and it was expected she'd steamroll Lynch on her way to main roster gold.  But odd booking prevailed and Becky countered a Kirafuda Clutch with a Bret Hart-style rollup to retain the title at 8:30.  Not a great match by any means, but a solid showing from both women, and to date Becky Lynch's last WrestleMania appearance, wherein she'd all but guaranteed reaching a full year as the champion.




10. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax - WrestleMania 33


This Fatal 4-Way Elimination match came to be after Charlotte lost the RAW Women's Title to Bayley on an episode of RAW.  She then also lost in her bid to regain the belt at Fastlane (her first-ever loss on a main roster PPV).  Sasha meanwhile had been feuding with Nia, and both of them beat Bayley in non-title matches to earn a spot here.  This match was a step down from the WrestleMania 32 women's Triple Threat match but still featured some fun action.  Charlotte, Sasha and Bayley triple-teamed Nia Jax to get her eliminated first, Charlotte eliminated Banks with the help of an exposed turnbuckle, and Bayley quickly used the same turnbuckle to defeat Charlotte and retain.  This saga could've easily been better planned by having Bayley win the title from Charlotte at WrestleMania 33, thus ending her previously undefeated streak on PPV.  But aside from squandering a bigger moment this match was a pretty good showcase of the burgeoning RAW women's division.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 4 (#10-1)

Alright, now it's time for the really good shit.  The all-time great shit.  Such good shit.  



Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3



10. Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair - WrestleMania 37, Night 1


The historic WrestleMania 37 Night 1 main event was one of the most satisfying in recent memory.  For the first time ever two women of color main evented a WrestleMania card, delivering an athletically marvelous, emotionally resonant near-classic that created a brand new top star in the division.  Smackdown Women's Champion Sasha Banks turned in a Bret Hart-like performance as she steered the bout with a veteran's confidence and made her relatively inexperienced challenger look like a megastar.  Bianca Belair played the self-assured, prodigious, eminently likable babyface to the hilt, keeping up with Banks and displaying incredible athletic feats, not the least of which was a spot where she caught Banks on an outside-the-ring dive, rolled through, pressed her over her head, and walked up the ring steps to toss her back in.  After a clever tug of war with Bianca's hair braid that ended with Bianca using it like a whip on Sasha (complete with a sickening crack and a nine-inch welt across Sasha's ribs), the challenger landed a 450 splash and a Kiss of Death finisher to win her first WWE gold.  Off-camera Sasha smiled with satisfaction, watching her opponent bask in the glory of the moment she helped engineer.  Both women shined here; Bianca earned her spot as the new face of the division, while Sasha cemented her place as one of the best women wrestlers in WWE history.
  



9. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) - WrestleMania 31


Maybe the most unexpectedly great WrestleMania main event took place at the 2015 edition, as the reviled babyface Roman Reigns challenged the unstoppable Mayor of Suplex City (a phrase he coined during this match), Brock Lesnar.  Brock had decimated John Cena for the WWE Championship at the previous SummerSlam, allowing almost no offense during their 16-minute squash, and then all but disappeared with the title for most of the next six months.  At the 2015 Royal Rumble Brock, Cena and Seth Rollins had a spectacular Triple Threat match, where Brock turned back both challengers in dominant fashion.  Enter Reigns, the company's handpicked "it" guy whom the fans wanted nothing to do with.  Reigns won the Rumble match that night to earn his WrestleMania spot, but was booed unmercifully, and this main event had all the markings of a dud; an absentee heel champion vs. an unliked babyface challenger.  But the match ended up being an exercise in brutality as these two monsters beat the piss out of each other.  Brock took a legit headbutt to the ring post which opened a huge gash on his forehead, while Reigns got suplexed into oblivion and kept getting up.  But the most memorable thing about the match was the unique finish, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match, curb stomping Brock, attempting a second stomp that was countered into an F5 attempt that was thwarted by a Reigns spear, and then curb stomping Reigns to win the match and the WWE Title.  The Santa Clara crowd exploded at the surprise finish and Rollins stood tall, swinging the strap over his head as Michael Cole dubbed the title change "The Heist of the Century."  Thus began Seth Rollins' excellent run as the company's top heel.




8. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XII


The longest match in WrestleMania history, and thus far the only Iron Man match at this event, pitted the company's top two babyfaces against each other in an unprecedented athletic display.  Bret Hart was the veteran technician, while Shawn Michaels was the charismatic upstart.  Planned as the first part of a trilogy of bouts designed as a torch passing, this match played out as an old-school grappling contest for much of the first half.  Shawn stymied the champion with an expected ground game, while Bret grew increasingly frustrated and employed some heelish tactics.  The second half picked up, with much more high-risk offense, but neither man could gain a pinfall.  In the closing moments Shawn went for a dropkick but Bret countered into a Sharpshooter.  Shawn withstood the pain for nearly a full minute as the clock ran down to zero, leaving the match a time limit draw.  But WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the match restarted under sudden death rules, much to Bret's chagrin.  The angry champion attacked Shawn's weakened legs, but Shawn answered with a pair of superkicks to win the title and start off his main event run.  Given its slow pace and frequent lack of crowd heat, this bout hasn't aged as well as one would think, but it does stand as a singular achievement in WWE lore - a mostly pure scientific marathon between two of the company's all-time best.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 3 (#20-11)

Moving on to round 3 of our countdown, here's where we get to the pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good stuff....



Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.



20. Chris Jericho vs. Triple H - WrestleMania X8


This might be the one WrestleMania main event that suffered the most from a bad build.  Chris Jericho famously defeated The Rock and Steve Austin in one night to become the Undisputed Champion, which surely should've boosted his credibility big time, right?  Well, no.  Upon winning the unified titles, Jericho was booked as a joke champion, often opening RAW and Smackdown in matches against guys like Maven and Tazz, whom he struggled to defeat.  Making things worse was Triple H's Royal Rumble win establishing him as the #1 contender at WrestleMania, because Hunter was much more concerned with his estranged wife Stephanie than with the task of defeating the Undisputed Champ.  Thus Jericho was portrayed as Steph's lackey, bringing her hand cream, watching her dog, ya know, stuff a World Champion does...  Y2J was made to look like such a lowly chumpstain it totally killed any interest in this main event, and on the night of the PPV the two headlined in front of a dead crowd (It didn't help of course that The Rock and Hulk Hogan had torn the house down and the crowd was just done after that).  These two worked a good match but everything fell flat, and thus Triple H's big moment was more of a whimper than a bang.  Imagine sabotaging your own main event program just to make yourself appear out of the other guy's league....




19. Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. The Big Show - WrestleMania 2000


WrestleMania 2000 has to be the strangest edition of all time (except for maybe the COVID one).  There wasn't a single solitary one-on-one match under standard rules (Terri vs. The Kat had an over-the-top-rope stip), and the main event was a Fatal 4-Way elimination match, just so they could shove the entire McMahon family into the proceedings.  Jesus H. Christ, if I never see any of these people on my TV again it'll be too soon.  So instead of the expected Rock vs. Triple H headliner they added The Big Show (who technically won the Royal Rumble due to The Rock's feet accidentally hitting the floor first) and then just to give Mick Foley a WrestleMania moment they unretired him to complete the square.  The match was fine, rather overlong, and in the end anticlimactic.  The Big Show got triple-teamed early and was ousted from the match in under five minutes, Mick Foley turned in a less-than-stellar performance, not having gotten back into ring shape in time, and Rocky and Hunter carried the bulk of the bout.  It seemed a foregone conclusion that The Rock would defy the odds and regain the WWF Title, but in the interest of swerving everyone, Rock's cornerman Vince screwed him, delivering two chair shots to allow Hunter to retain the belt.  The Rock flipped out after the match, hitting Stephanie with a Rock Bottom/People's Elbow combination.  A month later at Backlash The Rock would win the title back anyway, so in hindsight it seems silly not to just have him win at the biggest show of the year.  Then again Triple H's victory here was historic as the first time a heel left WrestleMania as WWF Champion.  This was a so-so main event. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com


Now that this year's spring extravaganza is in the books, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or featured very prominently in a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten fifteen most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.



1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker


"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Demotions began.




2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act


King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.