Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ripspirational: Andy Hug

Karate Friday aka The Day of Fighting Spirit continues with a true example of ripped and inspirational:  Andy Hug.  Dubbed "The Blue Eyed Samurai", Hug's story is one of tragedy and triumph, his father died serving as a Legionnaire in Thailand and his mother would give him up to his grandparents.  Bullied at a young age, Hug took up karate and was a natural athlete.  Fighting competitively at 15 years old in full contact events, Hug quickly made a name for himself.  In 1993 he joined fledgling kickboxing organization K-1 where the undersized heavyweight would dazzle audiences with his muscular physique, impressive ax kicks and durability against bigger, stronger opponents.

1996 would be a banner year in Andy Hug's life as he entered the K-1 Grand Prix, defeating Bart Vale and Duane Van Der Merwe by knockout then taking a double overtime split decision over the legendary Ernesto Hoost.  The finals saw Hug pitted against South Africa's Mike Bernardo, a man who had defeated Hug twice already.  With the stakes never higher, Hug avenged the losses and claimed the K-1 Grand Prix Championship.  Hug would fight and win another four bouts in 1996, giving him an 8-0 record for the year.  Not bad considering today's most active UFC fighters only have 3 matches a year.

Hug would never match that pinnacle year as he would fall to Ernesto Hoost and Peter Aerts in the Grand Prix finals in 1997 and 1998.  By 2000, Hug was looking to retire and segue into acting and coaching young fighters.  His final two bouts came in the summer of 2000, defeating Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic in June and Nobu Hayashi in July.  In August, Andy Hug was diagnosed with acute leukemia.  That means he probably fought at least two professional matches with the disease.  Hug fell in to a coma five days after being diagnosed and passed away 22 hours later due to organ failure.

Like the four years older Jean-Claude Van Damme, Hug became a charismatic mix of karate, weights and flexibility.  His regimen was said to include hours of running, cycling, bag work, shadowboxing, sparring, weights and stretching.  On days off he played badminton or went for a swim.

 Here's an oldie but a goodie that inspired and gotten me through many a workout:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Karate Friday: Van Damme and the Effort of the Throat

"Today they have lots of movies with special effects, CGI and everything which is good, people love that.  But it’s like The Avengers with more testosterone…they have some big boys there but we did a lots of fighting ourselves.  Especially Sly, he likes to hit, he wants to to see the impact, wants to see the body move...when you don’t use all those cable, green screen, us fighting, you can really see the body and the veins bulging and the muscles moving, the effort, not being pulled by a cable…"
      Jean-Claude Van Damme on Expendables II and fight scenes

Jean-Claude Van Damme VS Sylvester Stallone?!  This should be the greatest movie fight ever right?!  Unfortunately, when I first saw it, I was really disappointed.  It just seemed like Van Damme got his ass kicked.  Apparently the original fight was more "Hollywood" with a foot chase, flaming helicopter wreckage and a hatchet duel but JCVD thought audiences would want to see a clash of the movie titans, pointing out his own and Stallone's still formidable physical shape.  Van Damme had studied all of Stallone's moves and wanted to go mano a mano and do the "boom boom boom" a la Frazier and Ali; talking the Italian Stallion into jettisoning the theatrics for a down and dirty brawl.  While JC throws his trademark helicopter kick (twice) many of his best moves are missing.  Where's the big roundhouse, the spinning hook, the double punch?  Sigh...

Upon revisiting, my stance has softened and I just feel like it was a big missed opportunity.  But that's kind of The Expendables franchise in a nut shell isn't it?  All this talent but not enough resources or direction to make it successful.  Let's see if Three's a charm.

Watch the fight and decide for yourself.  Is this a bout for men or sheep?

Then check out my boy Dan Cortese from MTV sports hanging with the real JC and Sly:

Karate Friday: Brad Pitt VS Eric Bana

It was a rough Thursday as a cold has taken me out. As I lie writhing and suffering in bed, I finally fell into a slumber that lasted 9 hours.  When I awoke at 4:00AM I felt miraculously better and celebrated by doing some mutha fudgin' karate in my room.  Thus, today is a day of fighting spirit.

"So we devised kind of an incentive not to take each other's heads off, that we would have to pay --whoever hit the other guy would have to pay him $50 for slight hits and $100 for heavy hits...$750 to Eric. Wait. Wait. Wait. And I had to pay myself $200."
     - Brad Pitt on his Troy fight scene with Eric Bana

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

By the Power of Con!

Autumn is coming and it's bringing a few conventions with'em!  That's right, September 14th sees the return of Power-Con in Torrance, Comikaze on the 1st of November in Downtown and The Long Beach Comic & Horror Con on the 22nd in well, Long Beach.

Each represents a segment of fandom but Power-Con is literally the convention for all things He-Man, She-Ra and the rest of the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats and new to this year, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Power-Con is the smallest show of the upcoming season; taking up a ballroom for exhibitors (swag for sale/celebrities meeting fans) and three rooms for programming (guests speak/interact with fans).  But don't let the absence of unneeded crowds fool you, Power-Con packs quite the wallop.  The organizers have curated an extremely rich slate of programming while fostering a very friendly, near familial

Last year was my first time attending and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  I grew up on He-Man and Thundercats so any con dedicated to them seemed like a trip.  There were exclusive tee shirts and prints, Mattel brought show only variant action figures and the lobby bar even had a themed menu for the weekend.  The exhibition floor wasn't huge but there was about all the He-Man memorabilia on display and for sale that you could imagine.  Toys, posters, Halloween masks, birthday party kits, slippers, on and on.  Even though it's touted as a Thundercats show, there just wasn't as much of it around in comparison to He-Man, probably gives you an idea of how popular the blonde guy was.

The panels were varied in subject matter and each had a strong roster of talent involved.  One brought together writing and voice actors from the original 1985 Thundercats cartoon as well as the 2011 revival.  I specifically remember the voice of leader Lion-O, Larry Kenney, being particularly funny and gracious with the crowd, even calling some of them by name.  Watch and laugh here.

Another panel was for one of my favorite films of all time, Masters of the Universe!  Guests included director Gary Goddard, Evil Lynn actress Meg Foster (They Live and Best of the Best 2!), sword master and villain Blade Anthony De Longis and Richard Szponder, a young boy who won a sweepstakes contest to appear in the film! They each had great stories about working on the troubled production which was one of 80's mini-major Cannon's most expensive projects and they shuttered a few years later.  The final panel of the day was a sneak peak at Toy Masters:  How He-Man & Mattel Conquered the Universe, an in-production documentary about the rise and fall of one of history's most popular toy lines.  Apparently He-Man and friends created something like $400 million in revenue one year then dropped to $40 million the next...

When you've been to the big show (Comic-Con, 100,000+) and seen what the fuss is about or to the medium show (Comikaze, 50,000+) that is good but doesn't warrant lines or a crowd, coming to a specific fan event like Power-Con is a dream.  Everyone is nice, the lines move fast, there's always room for you at a panel and there's more than a few pieces of your childhood to buy.  I can't wait for this years show to see how it's grown.

Good journey!  And remember, You have the Power!

Ask Me a Question: The Victim

Tuesday, May 11th, 2012 was a good day.  I won a copy of Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest, 6 Bullets as well as tickets to Michael Biehn's new movie, The Victim, playing at The New Beverly.

Of course, with how small the crowd was that night, I doubt they had many entries but hey, free tickets are free tickets.  The flick had been playing all weekend and director/star Michael Biehn (if you don't know how he is by now, GTFOOH!) and his actor/producer wife Jennifer Blanc were to be on hand following the film to discuss with one Mr. Beaks from Ain't It Cool.

The Victim is not a good movie.  It's awkward to watch and cheaply made yet funny in a "what the fuck" kind of way and the final minutes where you're left pondering if Biehn's character is a serial killer display glimpses of his acting prowess that made me such a fan in the first place.  Oh yeah, it's about two chicks hanging with dirty cops, an accidental death, a loner in the woods and a fight for survival.  What I wish every viewing of the film had was an appearance by The Biehn after.  The credits hadn't even finished yet and a voice screamed out "without him this woulda been a real piece of shit!", the voice of course, belonged to the star of Terminator, Aliens, Timebomb and American Dragons, Michael Biehn.

What followed was a funny, insightful and passionate look at the movie business.  Basically, Biehn had encountered a script by Reed Lackey, using that as a base, Biehn rewrote the film while wife Jennifer drummed up financing and crew.  They prepped for, not very long, then shot the flick around Los Angeles in 12 days.  They took it on the festival circuit around the world and were eventually picked up by Anchor Bay.  A handsome DVD complete with commentary and making of would be released later that summer.  Now they're producing movies left and right.  I actually ran into the Biehn's again at San Diego Comic-Con but it wasn't quite so happy an experience...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I'm Hot! I'm Big! I'm a Doer!

Don't be a Don'ter be do a Doer!  Take your Tuesday to the limit and accomplish something you've been putting off.  We all have professional, personal and creative goals we haven't yet accomplished so take a step towards doing them, today!  Like seeing Pain & Gain on Blu-Ray or DVD.

Actually I'm hugely disappointed since P&G has been my favorite film of the year and it's only getting a bare bones release from Paramount.  Since director Michael Bay and star Mark Wahlberg are busy shooting the latest Transformers opus I can only guess Paramount will get them to participate in a special edition double dip next summer.  At least I hope that's what they're doing.  Pickle lickers...

Ripspirational: JCVD

"I have two hands and two feet...I should do something with my life...then you have those fat fucks doing drugs saying life is shit.  They don't deserve to live..."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme (pre-cocaine era)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Letter W: Movie Edition

Is it just me or there a lot of movies that start with the letter W out this year?  Warm Bodies, White House Down, World War Z, We're the Millers, The Wolverine and this weekend's The World's End.  We still have The Wolf of Wall Street and Walking With Dinosaurs on their way as well.

A quick scan shows we had Wreck-It Ralph, Wrath of the Titans, The Woman in Black, What to Expect When You're Expecting and The Watch last year among the top 100 grossing films.

Here's hoping Q has a resurgence next year.

This probably came to me because I just wanted to watch Matthew McConaughey pound his chest:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Way We Weren't: Josh Brolin as Batman

During Warner Brothers' panel at this years San Diego Comic Con, it was announced that the sequel to Man of Steel would feature fellow DC hero and big screen icon Batman.  With Christian Bale firmly retired as the Caped Crusader, the rumor mill worked overtime speculating who might fill the cowl and boots opposite Henry Cavill.  WB and MoS director Zack Snyder had already mentioned wanting an older, gruffer Batman who would be influenced by Frank Miller's work on The Dark Knight Returns.  Following a most likely exaggerated rumor that Bale was being offered $50 million for 20 minutes worth of screen time came a short list of names that included Ryan Gosling (too young), Joe Manganiello (too bland) and Josh Brolin.

Brolin, whose profile has risen in recent years thanks to solid supporting roles in Grindhouse:  Planet Terror, No Country For Old Men, American Gangster, Wall Street 2 and Men In Black 3 but faltered as a leading man in W. and WB's own comic adaptation Jonah Hex as well as the star studded Gangster Squad.  Brolin would have been an excellent choice for a grittier Batman, he has the ability to clean up and be charming as well as get dirty and demented.  His onscreen physicality is convincing and his troubled off screen run ins with the law and alcohol suggest some deep rooted chaotic tendencies.  His work in the upcoming remake of Oldboy by Spike Lee looks equal parts physical, dramatic and plain badass but his poor track record as a box office draw was probably his undoing in the Batman race.  Unless he wasn't interested, there's always that.

Today it was announced that Ben Affleck would be donning the cape.  On one hand it makes total sense as Affleck is a great actor, has portrayed physical types and is in the good graces of Warner Brothers as his films The Town and Argo have brought big box office and Oscar gold.  But is he a good choice?  Is he an inspired choice?  Not particularly.  In fact, he is the uninspired and quite frankly, boring, choice.  I understand he's done well for WB but casting Affleck brings no excitement to the film.  Comic fans will probably make endless comparisons to his portrayal of another masked superhero from comic lore, Daredevil, the less than well received adaptation of rival Marvel's blind lawyer by day, ninja vigilante by night.  I actually liked the flick in it's original and Director's Cut form but Affleck didn't embody the role in an unforgettable way like Bale did for Batman or Robert Downey Jr has for Iron Man.  Well, nobody's embodied a role as well as RDJ...

I dunno, Michael Keaton was a totally unexpected choice for Batman and WB received something like 50,000 protest letters but he was great in the role; odd, dark and captivating.  Val Kilmer seemed like a decent choice, handsome, a solid actor and physical.  George Clooney seems like an Affleck choice; in with the studio thanks to his work on hit TV show ER and a hot name at the time.  Bale was an obvious choice from an acting and physicality standpoint, he has depth, darkness and that sociopath charm but was far from a household name at the time.  That foresight seems to be missing here.  I went in to Man of Steel with low expectations and found it quite enjoyable.  Hopefully the same thing happens for the sequel.

P.S.  Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms.

Here's a great episode of Dinner For Five featuring an all Daredevil table:

Forbidden Eats: Nyotaimori

You know what would make for a bad ass, kick ass and memorable bachelor party for a guy who is totally selfless, caring and kind?  Who enjoys good/bad 80's and 90's action films, fried chicken and high top sneakers?

AKA Adorned Body Of A Woman AKA Naked Sushi AKA Eating Fish Off Of Naked Chicks!

Unfortunately, what we saw as kids in 1991's Showdown In Little Tokyo (Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee fighting LA Yakuza) and 1993's Rising Sun (Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes fighting LA corporate Yakuza) is shockingly not part of the Friday night dinner scene.  A quick Google search brings up various rumored sightings around the world.  On Yelp, a service with one review touts it's professional and sanitary precautions (raw fish warmed up by the body could = salmonella) complete with artistic photos and your choice of model.

Sigh, looks like the movies lied to me again.  Here I thought we could find a happening spot in Little Tokyo with some neon lights and sashimi on the raw any ol' time.

Ah well, check out this best of SILT, especially the 4:00 mark.

Busted (again): DMX

Dang, my dawg DMX just can't keep his nose clean.  The multi-platinum artist behind hits like Party Up, What's My Name?, X Gon Give It To Ya, Ruff Ryder's Anthem and co-star to the likes of Jet Li and Steven Seagal was arrested in South Carolina for marijuana possession.  Apparently the purveyor of machine gun fire, dogs barking and growling in rap music was arrested a month ago for drunk driving as well.  Remember that time he tried to commandeer a car, claiming he was a federal agent?

What?!  Come on!  Grrrrrr!  Let's get it on!  It's that real shit!

Load the full clip:

Check out DMX trying to use Google:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cinema Swole: Mel Gibson

Expendables III has officially begun production in Bulgaria.  In addition to franchise mainstays Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li and Jason Statham; fellow 80s/90s juggernauts Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes have also RSVP'd to the movie tough guy reunion.

Gibson will be playing Conrad Stonebanks, former partner and co-founder of the Expendables with Stallone's Barney Ross.  The third flick will see the Expendables fighting for their lives as thought to be dead Stonebanks comes back to haunt them.  From the looks of it, Gibson won't be playing a typical suit and tie clad, mustache twirling villain.  Instead it looks like he's been hanging out with Stallone in the gym...and wherever else Stallone goes to stay in such good shape.

Given the history between characters, hopefully Stallone and Gibson can face off in some tense, meaty verbal scenes before beating each other senseless in a I'm sure what will be a fists, knives, guns, explosions and nukes filled final showdown.

Check out Mel being the best dad EVER:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Cinema: The Terminator

After watching Yul Brynner relentlessly stalk Peter Martin in Westworld, I was raring to go for one of my favorite films to screen, James Cameron's The Terminator.  Famous for their vault of trailers, the New Bev staff played a few appropriate "killer robot" pieces like Demon Seed and Blade Runner beforehand.

This would be the third time I've seen Terminator on the big screen in three years.  The first was at the Egyptian in Hollywood for the 25th Anniversary; cinematographer Adam Greenberg and some of the special f/x crew were in attendance.  The second time would be paired with the sequel, Terminator 2:  Judgement Day, also at the Egyptian, as part of their Mayan Calendar Countdown series.

But tonight's viewing as part of Edgar Wright's The World's End Is Nigh curating was probably the most enjoyable.  I came to the realization that the film, along with titles like The Great Escape, Big Trouble In Little China, Masters of the Universe and Gunfight at the OK Corral had firmly become one of my favorites of all time.  The acting, actors, characters, story, action; it's all there bundled up in a kinetic, exciting, emotional, scary and romantic tale of science fiction time travel consequence.

If you haven't seen this movie but still read my blog I applaud you because I'm a non-sequitur mother fucker with a mind for movie details and healthy obsession with few subjects.  Anyways, The Terminator is about an assassin and a protector sent back from a nuclear war torn, post-apocalyptic future.  Their target is a young woman whose son will grow up and lead the human resistance against the controlling body of self aware computers.  The assassin, a cybernetic organism covered in human flesh, is played by none other than the King of Kings, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Protector/soldier/father of the future Kyle Reese is played by soon to be Cameron alum Michael Biehn while mother of the resistance Sarah Connor is portrayed by future ex-Mrs. James Cameron Linda Hamilton.

Some viewers might contend that T2:  Judgement Day is the better film but I strongly disagree.  Sure T2 is great with fine production values, a wonderful cast, pulse pounding action and groundbreaking f/x but Terminator's down and dirty, shot on the streets, guerrilla style "B-movie" quality makes it one of and the first of it's kind.  From Bill Paxton's small role as a blue haired, tire tread marked punk to Arnold's accented cold blooded killer to the poodle hairdo's to Rick Rossovich's "Don't make me bust you up man!" to Reese's sawed off shotgun and sweet Nike Vandals with Velcro straps to shootouts, shotgun blasts, Uzi sprays, alley running, corner screeching car pursuits and plastic explosive dinner recipes; I fucking love this movie.

The film's ingenuity comes from it's simple storyline that deals with immediate threats (That Terminator is out there!) and long term ramifications (John Connor brings humanity back from the brink of extinction).  As co-star Lance Henriksen (originally slated to play the title role but ended up as a cop along with Paul Winfield) once said, the real star of The Terminator is Michael Biehn, whose character Reese is tasked with filling in the story for Sarah and the audience but it's cleverly placed between and during action sequences so it never gets stale.  Bishop is right as the film hinges on Reese's character and Biehn gives a phenomenal performance that is both physical and vulnerable.

For a movie that was only supposed to play for a few weeks like an 80's Charles Bronson vehicle, The Terminator has certainly stood the test of time since it's release 30 years ago.  A new trilogy is in the works (sans Cameron but that's another rant, I mean post) following 2 sequels, a prequel and a television series.  In a strange bit of coincidence, today is James Cameron's birthday.  I hope he continues to create and innovate for another 30 years.

A nice vintage making of:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Cinema Double Feature: Westworld and The Terminator

The World's End is coming!  The movie, courtesy of Scott Pilgrim filmmaker Edgar Wright I mean.  What were you thinking of?  The Rapture?  The Rapture, part II?

To commemorate his promotional trip to Los Angeles, Wright is back at The New Beverly Cinema, curating a two week block of programming.  Last night represented his third fete of genre fare with The World's End Is Nigh:  We Are The Robots.

The special on tonight's menu?  A schlock filled appetizer of theme park robots run amok in 1973's Westworld followed by 1984's kinetic, tech-noir, "B-movie" masterpiece, The Terminator.

Westworld is one of three "lands" at Delos, a resort for the rich where adults can live out their fantasies (mostly of the violent and sexual variety) in seemingly real recreations of the old west, medieval times and the Roman ages complete with lifelike robotic populations.  Divorced businessman Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) is taken by uber-cool buddy John Blane (James Brolin, distracting because Christian Bale looks just like him) to Westworld where they enjoy shootouts, bar fights and whore housing until they continually run into a black clad gunslinger (Yul Brynner, channeling Chris Adams from his Magnificent Seven days).  A robot "virus" begins infecting the supposedly non-violent machines and they begin to kill the guests. 

The film stands as a schlock-tastic 90 minutes filled with laughs, implausibilities and the most inept group of scientists and technicians you've ever seen.  Brynner's strong presence, lined face and bombastic voice are used to great effect as as the creepy robot gunslinger.  His unrelenting pursuit of Peter Martin is a precursor to Arnold's near unstoppable cybernetic Frankenstein in Terminator.  If Arnie is the T-101 then Brynner is a T-81 (Not a TI-81, the graphing calculator).  Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld is like Jurassic Park beta edition.  The themes of creating "life", not being able to control nature and man's discarding of ethics when money is involved are on full display.  Westworld really primed the pump for The Terminator...and for that episode of The Simpsons when they go to Itchy and Scratchy Land...

Check out customer testimonials:

Quick Workout of the Day: Take the Stairs

Do you work in an office?  Do you sit at a desk?  Are co-workers constantly plying you with homemade and store bought treats?  Do you fear waking up fat and deaded?

If so, get up right now and take a lap around the office.  Better yet, go outside and get some "fresh" air.  Better, better yet, take a few flights of stairs!

I promise it won't take more than a minute as a flight of stairs is generally between 12 and 17 steps.  You can take them one, two or three at a time to work your quads and calves.  You can walk up backwards holding on to the rail and work more of your front quads.  If want to get the heart pumping even more, jump to each step for a hit of plyometrics for maximum effort in minimal time.

If you don't have access to a flight of stairs, walk to the restroom or water cooler, shake out your arms and neck.  It's good for you.

Check out this excited person's office routine:

Van Dammage: Life

"A cookie has no soul, it’s just a cookie. But before it was milk and eggs. And in eggs there’s the potential for life."
       Jean-Claude Van Damme

Monday, August 12, 2013

Workout of the Day: The Marky Mark Workout

POW!  You ready to take it back to the 90's with former rapper/underwater model turned actor/producer and Oscar nominee Mark (Formerly Marky Mark) Wahlberg?!  Just in time for Pain and Gain to drop on DVD and Blu-Ray soon (my favorite film of 2013, what!) it's time to get swole up, VHS style!

Form.  Focus.  Determination.  Fitness.  These are some of the keys of Marky's success.  The video starts with a hilarious skit showing Mark in bed being woken by his trainer/manager cousin.

"Let's go get that pump, cuz!"

Seriously though, like his early acting, Mr. Wahlberg alternates between quiet choir boy and in your face rapper persona throughout the video.  But time and time again he speaks of the benefits of working out, taking it slow and working at your own pace.  He'll never be Arnold Schwarzenegger but he's been doing aight with what he's got.

Today we'll take a look at the opening segment of the workout, the Home Training Edition.  Unlike Dolph Lundgren's Maximum Potential, which required no weights or special equipment; The Marky Mark Workout is more or less a home gym routine with simple equipment requirements like sturdy chairs and a set of dumbbells.  Whereas Dolph wanted you to be able to implement his workout into yours any place, any time; Wahlberg's feels more like a starting point until you're strong enough to hit a real gym.

"Mark D, cock D."  "I'll spot you later, yeah."  "You look GOOD!"  "Pow!"

Are some of the things Wahlberg says throughout the video with a hint of Boston accent and thug mumbling. Wahlberg is in great shape in the video and always accompanied by 1 to 3 "fly hunnies" to demonstrate and assist.  Much of his home routine is based around "Triple Threat Super-Sets" which is three exercises for the same body part done in a row in quick succession.

"Come on, feel it!"  After a quick stretch routine the program has you doing three sets of each super-set so a burn is inevitable.

Using the three sturdy chairs, Marky pops his pecs with Push Ups using shoulder and narrow width to work the chest/delts/triceps then follows them up with Bench Dips for the triceps specifically.

Legs are hit with a Duck Squat (holding one dumbbell at your waist with both hands) followed by Lunges and Stiff Legged Deadlift.

Shoulders are bombed with Arnold Presses (photo example, diesel!), military press and shrugs.

Back gets blasted with Dumbbell Row, one arm at a time, alternating non stop until all 3 sets are completed.

Calves are carved out with one legged Calf Raises holding a dumbbell in one hand.

Biceps feel the burn with seated one-arm Concentration Curls followed by seated Dumbbell Curls.

Triceps get tore up with Dumbbell Kickbacks.

Abs are chiseled with Crunches and Leg Lift Kick Backs (Partner pushes feet back to the ground).

It's a pretty complete workout and its fast pace will have your muscles burning and heart pumping.  I don't recommend doing three shoulder or chest exercises in a row as it can harm your rotator cuffs but experiment and see what works for you.  I tend to super-set alternate body parts like Chest/Biceps, Back/Triceps, Chest/Back, Biceps/Triceps, etc so the pump stays in your muscles and you don't burn out as fast or risk injury.

Stay tuned for Marky's trip to the gym and talk on nutrition.

Train in peace.  Ya heard?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Passion VS Paycheck: Bruce Willis

It was announced that Oscar winner Mel Gibson and 13th Warrior star Antonio Banderas have officially boarded the third chapter in Sylvester Stallone's third franchise, The Expendables.  You know, the flimsy, foreign pre-sale funded, wanna be modern day Dirty Dozen with Stallone in the lead?  Where current, aging and forgotten action stars show up for a shot in the arm/career?  The first two films have been a who's who of 80's and 90's action heroes kicking, punching, stabbing, shooting, exploding, one lining and bromancing their way to half a billion dollars in worldwide grosses.

Stallone. Statham. Li. Schwarzenegger. Rourke. Roberts. Austin.
Daniels. Lundgren. Couture. Crews. Adkins. Van Damme. Willis. Norris.

Wesley Snipes was one of the first new additions Stallone announced along with Jackie Chan for part III.  Seagal was rumored to be in talks but nothing has materialized.  Besides, he's too fat to be in the flick, everyone else is still in fighting shape (naturally or not).  This week heralded the surprising news that Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford, was joining the ranks while Bruce Willis was going AWOL.

The reason?  Money.  Willis was offered $3 million for 4 days of work in Bulgaria but Hudson the Hawk wanted $1 million a day.  Stallone and company stepped back and brought in Harrison Ford within 72 hours.  Sly then took to Twitter to publicly refer to Willis as lazy and greedy.

Hey, maybe living it up Bruce Willy Style is expensive, ok?

It's quite a shock considering Willis and Stallone have been friends and business partners since the 90's where they headlined action films and Planet Hollywood openings alike. When Stallone was on Letterman promoting Rambo IV, Willis showed up to hang out just to support his friend.  And when Stallone needed some high-wattage names to sell the first Expendables on, Willis and Arnold provided a brief but memorable cameo as a favor.

Is this a sign of Hollywood greed at it's best?  Of how out of touch celebrities are?  Is Bruce Willis the ballsiest mofo on the planet or just out of his mind?

To me, it's a simple case of Passion VS Paycheck.  Willis is no stranger to Hollywood beef.  He's clashed with Antoine Fuqua on set, lobbed online insults at Michael Bay and been torn to shreds by Kevin Smith in print and at live events.  Yet Looper director Rian Johnson sings his praises.  Probably because on Looper, Willy gave a shit and it showed in his performance.  Which to this viewer was his best in years; a somber and thoughtful character fighting to save the love of his life through extreme actions.  Meanwhile, his performance in Smith's Cop Out wasn't anything audiences would be talking about after leaving the theater.

Where it might seem greedy to some working stiffs, I see his outlandish demand as an easy way to say NO.  He's done Sly a favor already and appeared in the first two films, cementing their place in cinema history as the action star retirement home.  It's also shooting in Bulgaria, do you know how long it takes to get from LA to Sofia?  Expedia tells me 14 hours.  Basically, I think The Bruce is just too old and rich for this shit.

Watch Bruce Willy crash the Expendables panel at Comic-Con 2010:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gotta Drank! Sunset Trocadero Lounge

It was a Thursday night on the Sunset Strip (or near it anyways) and time for some Happy Hour action before checking out the newly renovated Sundance Cinemas (pretty nice) for Only God Forgives (pretty bonkers).

The Sunset Trocadero Lounge is a great little spot, low-key with that old Hollywood feel.  HH runs 6:00-8:00PM daily with drink and appetizer prices all being lopped in half.  Martinis are smooth and strong, the food options pretty varied and tasty.

Metered parking can be a little tricky but it's out there.

Ask Me a Question: The Abyss

Panelists include Todd Graff (“Hippy”), Michael Beach (“Barnes”), Lesley Dilley (production designer), Joseph Nemec III (art director), Phillip Darlington (Cameron’s underwater assistant), Starr Jones (makeup FX) and Trey Stokes (“alien” movement designer)! - See more at:
Panelists include Todd Graff (“Hippy”), Michael Beach (“Barnes”), Lesley Dilley (production designer), Joseph Nemec III (art director), Phillip Darlington (Cameron’s underwater assistant), Starr Jones (makeup FX) and Trey Stokes (“alien” movement designer)! - See more at:
Panelists include Todd Graff (“Hippy”), Michael Beach (“Barnes”), Lesley Dilley (production designer), Joseph Nemec III (art director), Phillip Darlington (Cameron’s underwater assistant), Starr Jones (makeup FX) and Trey Stokes (“alien” movement designer)! - See more at:
Panelists include Todd Graff (“Hippy”), Michael Beach (“Barnes”), Lesley Dilley (production designer), Joseph Nemec III (art director), Phillip Darlington (Cameron’s underwater assistant), Starr Jones (makeup FX) and Trey Stokes (“alien” movement designer)! - See more at:
In a wonderful case of scheduling coincidence, I'll be seeing two films by James Cameron featuring Michael Biehn on the big screen in one week.  First up, a cast and crew reunion event for 1989's The Abyss; Cameron's underwater thriller concerning oil workers and NAVY Seals investigating a crashed US sub and encountering something inhuman beneath the surface.

Carpenter turned Cameron assistant Phil Darlington set up a fantastic event at The Cinefamily; corralling an impressive panel including actors Todd Graff (Hippy) and Michael Beach (Barnes), Oscar winning production designer Lesley Dilley, Art Director Joseph Nemec III (The Shadow!), Make up artist Starr Jones and NTI movement/puppet designer Trey Stokes.  Everyone was comfortably crammed onstage and moderator Marc S. Zicree (writer of a million Star Trek episodes) got it all started.

Tonight's crowd was filled with others who worked on the film, most notably Van Ling, a young kid who built a Power Loader Halloween costume and impressed producer Gale Ann Hurd and James Cameron enough to be hired on for The Abyss and subsequently Terminator 2, True Lies and Titanic.  If you own the Alien Quadrilogy box set, check out A Boy and His Power Loader.  Great stuff.

When you have a panel this size, it's easy for it to fall into awkward lulls, non-sequitur, fractured conversation with a few dominating voices.  Fortunately, Zicree did a great job moderating as he was excited to be there, a fan of the film and smart enough to keep each panel member involved which kept the the audience's attention (well except that one girl in the second row who nodded off, CASUAL FAN).  Before the film, Zicree engaged the guests in a nearly one hour panel.

Recollections of The Abyss:

- Shot for six months outside Gaffney, South Carolina in an unfinished nuclear power plant.
- Shooting under water presented so many variables that every actor had to be ready to shoot at first call.  No one knew what was going to happen day to day.
- A tent constructed over the tanks lasted two weeks before being blown off, just like the locals warned.  Millions of black plastic beads were poured over the surface to block out the light.  Cast and crew members would find them in their ears and random places for months afterwards.
- Darlington was hired as a carpenter, wanted to work first unit and ended up being Cameron's underwater assistant and nicknamed Flipper on set.
- Nemec had a background in diving, figured it'd be fun shoot.  Both he and Dilley had no idea what they were getting into.  The scale and construction efforts were massive.
- 12 to 14 hour days in the tank meant having to decompress, many times while watching dailies.
- The creatures in the film are NTI's, Non-Terrestrial-Intelligence, don't you dare call them aliens!
- Creatures had to be constructed in a way to convey various light patterns, Cameron's thought was that they would communicate through colors.
- Post production took nearly as long as shooting to accommodate special F/X and creature scenes.
- Graff was given his rat sidekick at birth so they could bond.  Had it for two years after filming.
- The rat really did breath liquid, Cameron scripted no dialogue and just told the actors to go for it but they were mostly in shock and thought they were killing the animal.
- James Cameron is a genius who can do everyone's job, probably better than they can.  Grabbed the camera and jumped into the water to get a shot when the camera operator bungled first attempt; took a can of spray paint from someone's hand and did it himself when results weren't good enough, etc.
- Michael Biehn told Beach (who only appears in the opening scene) he was lucky not to land a bigger part and pleaded to be taken with him.
- The production was nicknamed "The Abuse".

Of course much, much, much more was talked about and I wish they would have covered more topics but it was still a school night so the movie had to roll sometime.

They screened the theatrical cut which I'm not overly familiar with.  I grew up watching the 30 minutes longer Director's Cut.  Watching it in it's original form was interesting; for a 2 hour and 20 minute film, it moves quite quickly.  Performances are great all around, Ed Harris is funny and strong as roughneck Virgil "Bud" Brigman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio plays Lindsay, the ire of many characters but always comes across likeable and intelligent.  Cameron regular Michael Biehn dons a stache and plays shaky, paranoid Navy Seal Lt. Coffey, who suffers from pressure sickness and attempts to nuke the NTI's.  Graff as Hippy and Leo Burmester as Cat anchor a great supporting cast of likeable, blue collar types caught in the middle of a hurricane, "aliens", nukes and a possible global military crises.

The ending was a shock as the NTI's are portrayed as good guys who help out Brigman after he risks his life to save them.  The Director's Cut is much more detailed as the NTI's observe mankind's destructive nature and threaten to wipe out the coasts with giant tidal waves before realizing there is love in the world as demonstrated by Bud and Lindsay's repaired relationship.  A fanboy internet critic recently lamented Cameron's status among "geeks" was destroyed when he made a movie with kissing.  But all of Cameron's films, The Abyss especially, are love stories.  Titanic is just the only one without robots, fighter jets or aliens (or in this case, NTI's).

 Check out the making of what's considered one of the most difficult movie shoots of all time:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Celebrating: Biehn VS Snipes

Arnold's birthday was last week.  The day after was Messrs Michael Biehn (Arnie's Terminator co-star) and Wesley Snipes' who starred and sparred opposite one another in 2000's The Art of War; a well made, pre-Bourne Identity of sorts about a secret agent working for shadowy government agencies, getting betrayed and fighting his way to the truth.  Hot off the surprise success of 1998's Blade, Warner Brothers slotted the Franchise Pictures production in the same late August weekend of 2000 hoping to replicate the success.  I remember seeing this in theaters but can't remember if I even knew Michael Biehn was in it.  He got the WITH credit before AND Donald Sutherland which seemed pretty cool.  I just recall thinking Biehn looked like Joe Pantoliano in this flick because of all the hats...

Unfortunately, The Art of War wouldn't be a home run for anyone involved.  It was a modest hit that grossed less than half of what Blade did and was quickly forgotten.  Over the next decade Snipes' only big screen successes came from Blade sequels before being sent to prison for tax evasion.  Biehn, whose star confoundedly never rose after his collaborations with James Cameron, (Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss) battled substance abuse during the 90's but managed to pop up and deliver memorable performances in films like Tombstone and The Rock in between low budget DTV projects.

While it didn't set the box office on fire, The Art of War holds up as an enjoyable, slightly smarter than average government-conspiracy action-thriller.  Director Christian Duguay (Screamers, Peter Weller alert!) gives the production a polished look, utilizing the dense cityscape of Vancouver while assembling a stout supporting cast that includes Anne Archer, Donald Sutherland and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.  It's fisticuffs, shoot outs, car chases, mistaken identity and on the lam shenanigans at it's foreign pre-sale funded best.

If you haven't seen the movie, I'm about to spoil it for you.

Biehn plays Robert Bly, fellow agent to Snipes' Neil Shaw.  We meet Shaw infiltrating a Y2K bash (remember Y2K?!), hacking into computers, black mailing Chinese diplomats, fighting bodyguards and parachuting off the roof while Bly mans the control truck and watches his partner's back.  When Shaw is injured, it's Bly who comes to check on his recovery.  The two are quickly back to work on a surveillance gig when things seemingly go bad and Bly is shot and believed killed.  By the end of the flick we learn that Shaw's superiors are ramping up efforts to fight against a perceived Chinese threat and frame him for the murder of a key leader.  Bly is revealed to be in on it and the two come face to face and silencer to silencer in a final showdown; complete with "Hong Kong cinema techniques stolen by The Matrix" ripple, bullet time effects.

The Biehn has faced his share of colorful onscreen deaths and AoW is no exception.  Following a scrap that includes shooting, brawling and glass breaking across two stories, Snipes trips up The Biehn who falls throat first into a stand of broken glass.  Ouch.

Birthday boys Biehn and Snipes nearly re-teamed for 2007's DTV effort The Contractor with 300 and Game of Thrones star Lena Headey but Biehn's schedule on Robert Rodriguez's half of Grindhouse couldn't accommodate the trip to Eastern Europe.  Maybe with Biehn producing his own films now we may see the two team up again in the future.

Here's part of the final fight with some random music edited in:

See You In 20 Months: Star Wars Celebration Anaheim

Before 2013's San Diego Comic-Con, I would wake up at night in a panic, wondering if I had tickets.  I would soon calm down and remember that I bought tickets in August of 2012.  That's right, Comic-Con 2012 was in July and I bought tickets for the next year a month later.  So imagine my surprise, not-surprise when I found out tickets for 2015's Star Wars Celebration go on sale THIS week.  Yes, that's 20 months, nearly TWO years ahead of time.  We all know this will be a huge event in Southern California but two years?  Jeebus!

Ah well, I'll be ready at 7:00AM to get tickets and excited in two years for my first look at the new trilogy while picking up some power converters from Tosche Station.