Thursday, September 19, 2013

Summer Cinema Shootout: July

July tends to be a busy month between my birthday and Comic-Con.  After a certain point you tend to want to stop caring but I have great friends who won't let me and end up celebrating it several times at and outside of work via sweets, treats, company wide parties, meat filled dinners and a screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for good measure.

The last movie I remember opening on my birthday was 2002's Reign of Fire, the man VS dragon epic set in a charred earth future.  This year gave me Pacific Rim, Grown Ups 2, The Hunt (Mads Mikkelsen alert!) and Pawn Shop Chronicles (Thomas Jane alarm!).  While I didn't manage to see three of those, I did get out for a few more for the month:

Pacific Rim:  The most fun I had at the movies all summer.  Makes me wish I had more purpose in life like piloting a giant robot to defend earth from alien invaders instead of being subjected to the fear mongering media, sell out government and desensitized yet touchy masses.  The best example of the magic of movies I've seen in a long time.

Red 2:  Ridiculous, white washed, older person fun just like the first only a bit more over the top.  Like it's predecessor suffers from real lulls but packs some laughs and action with a great cast. 

Only God Forgives:  The most bizarre and most interesting film of the summer, maybe my year.  Shocked at how it progressed but not upset by it.  Truly surprised Ryan Gosling took a beating like that and didn't get even.  Real guts from the filmmakers to not give the audience what they expected.

The Wolverine:  Miles ahead of X-Men Origins, that infuriating piece of expensive, talent filled shit.  No army of annoying mutant cameos and would be franchise launchers here.  Down and dirty, surprised Fox let them get away with such a serious, existential chapter dealing with loss, love (albeit a little forced, the Jean Grey romance is a tad stretched) and the ol' conundrum of living forever.  Whoa, I feel like I'm in Highlander...

July Winner:  Pacific Rim by Elbow Rocket! and pure cinema magical goodness.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

By the Power of Con! The Floor

I have the Power!...Con!  This past weekend marked the start of the fall convention season in southern California.  Things got off to a great start with the annual gathering of all things He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats and now Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Power-Con in Torrance.  Taking over the Marriott, the P-C staff has done an incredible job of organizing a show.  Parked outside was a replica of the TurtleVan complete with Michelangelo in the drivers seat so you knew you were in the right place.  Once inside, the lobby bar again had special menus for the weekend featuring the Thundercats insignia, He-Man and She-Ra.

Know how I know this show is getting bigger?  Because the banner was bigger than last year!  All of the printed materials on display (program, directions, ticket breakdown) were really clever and added a nice touch of someone giving a shit.  I volunteer at Comic-Con and hold up signs written in skinny marker for crying out loud.  Further organization had you buying shirts online and picking them up at the show, that way you wouldn't get sold out like last year.  Leonardo shirt and complimentary He-Man print in hand, we entered the exhibition room.  Again, Cons are usually twofold, things to see and buy and programming to learn and be entertained.  Cosplay is here to stay and around the floor were Casey Jones, Princess Adora, Mega Man and Ryu from Street Fighter among others.

The room was a little quiet when we first entered, I figured maybe because it was Sunday and the crowds had already come through Saturday.  It was a little disheartening because Power-Con deserves to be a success.  The floor was fuller than last year with just about every table manned with artists, vendors and actors offering their wares like comics, toys, original artwork, promo items and photo opportunities.  My childhood came rushing back as I saw toys I probably have in a box in the basement somewhere as well as crazy variants like transforming Ninja Turtles and Arctic He-Man that shows you how popular these things were.

One guy was making He-Man buttons of random characters like Evil-Seed (the guy with an upside down artichoke for a head), another was selling Japanese Masters of the Universe movie ticket stubs (Dolph Lundgren alert!) from 1987, I saw an animation cel of King Randor doing the He-Man laugh and knew I needed one for my wall, luckily I found one of Prince Adam in full head back hilarity.  There were some show exclusives from Mattel like limited edition figure Strobo, letter openers and not yet for sale models of Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain.  Digging through tubs of loose figures, bins of cels and checking out tables packed with memorabilia is akin to flipping through boxes of comics, completing a run or finding a random issue that sets you on a course for more comics.

We had a packed day and were attending four panels back to back but between each we could run down and check out the floor some more.  I was happy to see it was more and more lively each time and by the end of the show the floor was full and goers were walking out with armfuls of swag.  The organizers of Power-Con put on a great show that I hope only gets bigger and adds more franchises.  G.I. Joe anyone?

Come back soon for Part II:  The Panels!

Good journey!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gotta Drank! Bodega Wine Bar

Before taking advantage of my American Cinematheque membership at the Aero Theatre for an early screening of Prisoners, we checked out Bodega Wine Bar on Broadway for Happy Hour.  Pretty fancy yet chill joint inside.  I tried to order whiskey but was told they only had beer, wine, Soju and sake, duh.  So I went with a blood orange Soju cocktail and it was nice and smooth.  They had another one named after Bruce Lee which is a little weird since Soju is Korean and Bruce Lee is Chinese (or as Vince Vaughn would say, The Chi-nee)...

Soju means "burned liquor" and is usually consumed "neat" which means straight up, room temperature.  Fortunately for those of us who favor taste while getting drunk, the Soju cocktail is alive and well in the states.  Bodega had a decent Happy Hour menu as well with grilled cheese, pizza and other shareable, finger foods.

Cocktail?  Fruit?  Fruit cocktail?

I'm Hot! I'm Big! #NoSympathy

"The way to prove yourself, is to better yourself.  That's the American dream.  I have no sympathy for people who squander their gifts.  It's sickening, it's worse than's unpatriotic."

It's Tuesday baby, Monday was hard but it's time to move on.  Be a doer.  But don't hurt anybody.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Workout of the Day: Star Quality

I've been training hard all summer, coming off Comic-Con and headed towards my buddy's wedding I didn't let up.  Working out at home can be tough sometimes because you lose motivation but going to gyms out here is just a pain.  I'm either up at 5:00AM and not at full strength or hitting the weights at 9:00PM and temping insomnia.  At home I can get in a session before or after work in 15-60 minutes.  Generally I stick to supersets or circuit training, that way I ensure the best pump in the least amount of time possible.  Some people like to sit around for minutes on end after a set but I like to keep it non-stop so it becomes a light cardio workout as well because I loathe cardio.  Jumping rope and running have become my friends but I'd rather just slam some iron.

You don't need much in terms of equipment, I make due with a chin up bar ($20), a barbell and dumbbell set ($115), an exercise band ($10) and a jump rope ($10).  That's $155 for 5 years of workouts for all you Poindexters out there.  You can do weights in about a 5'x5' space in your bed or living room.  I push the couch over and jump rope while watching TV.

However a cold brought on by a night of whiskey took me off my routine followed by a busy week of professional and social activities before the wedding seemed to take the edge off my training.  Now that the nuptials are over I figured on having a fat week.  People always beat themselves up for falling off their eating and training plans but let's be honest, most of us aren't making a living because of how good our bodies look.  And remember that nobody is in shape all the time.  Not athletes, not actors, not anybody.

Today's one-two combo of weights and cardio was inspired by Daniel Craig and Steve Reeves.  The former played James Bond in Casino Royale and caused quite the commotion with his beach scene while the latter was a matinee idol in his own right in addition to being one of the most iconic bodybuilders of all time, inspiring the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Frank Zane.  Allegedly Craig did total body circuits 3 days a week to prepare.

My version:  1) Clean and Press  2) Chin Up  3) Push Up  4) Deadlift  5) One Arm Dumbbell extension  6) Barbell spider curl  7) Reeves Squat  8) Calf Raises - that's an 8 exercise circuit which I repeated 3 times followed by a few raises for the delts and curls for the forearms

What's a Reeves Squat?  Just the unofficial term I gave a type of squat I saw him doing in a magazine.  Instead of having the weight across your traps like a typical squat, this variation has you holding the bar behind you and your heels elevated to put emphasis on the quad.  This is easier to do at home so you don't have to throw the weight up on your shoulders then worry about getting it off.

This was followed by jump roping for 300 skips or 2 minutes of intervals for a total of 6 rounds.  All of this was done in under an hour, about 25 minutes for weights and 25 for jump rope and abs.

Check out the Bond bromance:

Elbow Rocket! All Heart

Welp, see ya later weekend, back to the world we go.  It's Monday so most of us are back to the grind, thinking about all we have to accomplish for the week while looking ahead to the next bastion of weekend freedom.  It's not so bad right?  No Garfields reading this right?  Things are what you make of them so make them great.  It sure beats making them self inflicted shitty.  Remember to get some rest, plan out your week in regards to work, exercise and social activities and when you get to the job, get something small done right away so you're off and running.  So settle in, make that "to do" list and remember:

"The best things for your health are pumping and humping."
    - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Or punch an invading alien monster full in the face using rocket technology.  Let's do it, Monday!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Gotta Eat! Magnolia Bakery

Trying to keep it light before this weekend's wedding has proved near futile.  Movies, happy hours, work events, rehearsal dinners and now a big tub of Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery for my anniversary at work.  If you haven't been there on 3rd, it's delicious, cupcakes, brownies, pudding and the staff are always really nice.  It's right across from The Churchill, which I always want to call The Petticoat Junction for some you can get your drank on then feast on some desserts.

Ah well, there's always next week because life is for living, it's not my wedding and nobody pays me to be in shape, I just like wearing tights.

Van Dammage: Payback

"So I've got all this promotion, I've got The View booked, the New York Times … They say, 'If you go there, the movie will do well.' But my dog (Scarface) is sick, he had a stroke. Brain stroke. So, clinically, he's dead.  "I go to the clinic and he's got tubes and everything. I love animals. I talk in his ear and I kiss him, and guess what? The fucker wakes up! We have to get him in a cage, so I get the biggest one, and I sleep there with him. What, I'm gonna promote JCVD? Who's JCVD? He's the guy we saw in the movie. Why change him in real life? So, Scarface was alive next to me. He had a tube in his penis, I had to change it. And now he's an amazing dog. He loves me like crazy. And JCVD's gone, but Scarface is here. And God paid me back with Expendables 2. VoilĂ ."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

Ripspirational: JCVD

" I knew Thailand very well, so I showed her my Thailand."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fall Flicks: Prisoners

Hitting theaters just in time for the Autumnal Equinox is Hugh Jackman's latest non-Wolverine flick, Prisoners.  While it probably won't reach the box office riches or awards talk of last years Les Miserables, Prisoners stands as a deftly made studio release that is intense, compelling and satisfying.  Set in suburban Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving, Prisoners is the story of two young girls who go missing.  A seemingly obvious lead bears no convictions and Jackman's father/carpenter/survivalist takes matters into his own hands, kidnapping the alleged suspect.  Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has created a moody mystery piece that made me laugh, gasp and cringe over it's 2.5 hour running time that takes a few left turns but never cheats the audience out of a satisfying conclusion.  Jackman's performance is raw and powerful, I don't think he's ever come across this real and hopefully he can ride the acclaim through awards season.

In an age of prequels that tell us everything about a character and leave nothing to the imagination, Prisoners is filled with hints of back stories that are never told.  Especially with co-lead Jake Gyllenhaal who plays the detective searching for the lost girls.  He spends Thanksgiving alone at a Chinese restaurant, has solved every case he's worked on but sports multiple tattoos like a thug and wears what looks like is a Mason's ring.  Instead of giving us some familiar back story involving a lost wife or children, we only see and know him in the context of the story.

With kids back in school, Prisoners leads off the adult friendly fall that includes The Fifth Estate, Captain Phillips and Gravity before franchises, kiddie fare and Oscar fodder start rolling out for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Until then, enjoy movie crowds that don't check their phones every five minutes while you can.

Live Goods: Point Break

From Anthony Hopkins to Hugh Jackman to Daniel Craig, some of today's film best actors began their careers on stage.  For some reason I've never really liked plays too much.  I've seen a few big ones like Cats and Wicked as well as some small ones in black box theaters to support friends and a few in between.  As a film kid in college I crossed paths with the theater department regularly, while some were enjoyable humans many were just loud and obnoxious.  It didn't help that I was forced to see a production of Pirates of Penzance for a class where I couldn't understand a fucking word of the sing song performances.

In exactly one month I'll take in Hugh Jackman's one man show at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.  To warm up, I attended a small show on Theater Row in West Hollywood.  One that was three years in the planning stages before finally attending for a bachelor party, an adaptation of 1991's Point Break.  Before she broke new ground with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, director/writer Kathryn Bigelow gave us one of the greatest action/buddy/thriller's of the last twenty years.  Rookie FBI Special Agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is fresh to Los Angeles and assigned to bank robbery where a band of President mask wearing thieves has hit dozens of establishments and never been caught.  A theory that the Ex-Presidents are a band of surfers sends Utah to the beach where he meets wave and zen master Bohdi (Patrick Swayze, from Road House?!).  Action, chases, extreme sports, meatball subs, Gary Busey, cold pizza, Narco entrapment, random crazy naked lady attacks and bromance ensues.

The stage play version, dubbed Point Break Live! is a continuation of parody performances of Road House and now Terminator where an audience member plays the lead and reads off cue cards.  It's a fun concept with food and drinks available before and during the show so you can make an evening out of it.  The first two rows are subject to being sprayed with water, fake blood and other artificial bodily fluids so they make extra money by selling ponchos.  The performers interact with the audience frequently in kind of an uncomfortable way if you're not expecting it.  I had the impulse of yelling "get your fucking hands off me" but remembered it was just part of the show.  Overall it's a fun night and definitely a memorable experience that only Los Angeles would have thought up.

Here's some of Bigelow's gift for intense kinetic action, just missing some screaming:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gotta Drank! The 3rd Stop

After seeing The World's End, I really felt like having a pint (In Bruges had the same effect).  But being a beer loather ("You just have to get used to the taste."  Well I could get used to drinking my own urine but I don't do that and it's good for you.)  makes it a little difficult.  Enter, Cider, fermented apple juice that is gluten free and has a stronger alcohol content than most beers.  I used to judge an establishment by the brand of Cider they served, if they did at all.  You'll likely find Wyder's Pear Cider or Woodchuck around but those are just too sweet.  The gold standard is Strongbow, the dry, crisp, not too sweet label from England.  Just a few years ago you could only find it in English style pubs or high end groceries like Whole Foods.  Now they sell it at your local Ralph's (or Kroeger, regionally speaking).  Magner's is another fine brand of cider from Ireland but I've only seen it served in one southern California establishment.  If a bar is serving Strongbow, they've probably been around a long time.

The 3rd Stop has 30 some beers on tap and one cider that isn't Strongbow or Magner's.  They used to serve The Bow once upon a time but the cider revolution hadn't occurred yet.  Once again, I'm just a man out of and ahead of time. They make up for the lack of cider by being a solid gastropub though with an attractive happy hour that includes $4 wine and drafts as well as your typical pub fare of burgers, wings and pizza.  It's also right across the street from a huge hospital so you'll feel like you missed a memo about the wearing scrubs convention.

Cider is coming up but this is usually the reaction people give me (and relax, it's a joke, it's a great movie, so do yourself a favor, rent it, watch it, lock it in a box for a year then watch it again):

Monday, September 9, 2013

Summer Cinema Shootout: June

It's been a pretty mild summer weather wise up until these past couple of weeks so going to the movies is always a good way to get out of the heat.  Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z and This Is The End popped back into theaters to wring that last bit of cash out of summer movie goers.  I saw two of those back in June which was far from filled with gloom, movie wise.  Instead we got superheroes, buddy action flicks and end of the world scenarios via Rapture and Zombies.

Man Of Steel:  Surprisingly enjoyable, action and spectacle overload. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner as my two dads was a nice touch but their extended screen time just shows you how boring Superman is on his own.

This Is The End:  Really funny, great cast and one of the greatest endings of the year.  Michael Cera's coked out version of himself was his best performance probably ever.  Was waiting for someone to go full JCVD and do a monologue to camera.

World War Z:  Solid, quasi-realistic, globe hopping, epidemic evading, adult entertainment thriller.  The quiet, reworked last act was a welcome change from the explosions and destruction we got with Iron Man Three, Star Trek and Superman.

White House Down:  Like an 80's buddy movie with cheese, excitement and jokes.  Has several moments that are uber ridiculous that you're sure the filmmakers are aware of but do it anyway.  I mean the President fires a grenade launcher out of the back of a SUV, what do you want?

The Heat:  The buddy movie that could, funny and purposely cringe worthy on multiple occasions.  Nice to see Biff back on the big screen as well, butthead!

Much Ado About Nothing:  Once you get used to the Shakespeare lingo, it's good times with lots of laughs and that kid from Gladiator all growed up but looking virtually the same.

June Champion:  A tie between This Is The End and World War Z.

Couldn't find the JCVD scene in English so settle for this:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Brawl Fall 1996: Sylvester Stallone

Aka the Death of the Action Hero Part I of IV

Sylvester Stallone.  Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Steven Seagal.  Jean-Claude Van Damme.

These four men were their own brand of action hero in the 1980's and 1990's.  Big muscles, big personalities, bigger egos and biggest paychecks.  But 1996 was the beginning of the end...

1985. Stallone was on top of the world, his Rocky IV and Rambo:  First Blood Part II were the second and third highest grossing films of the year behind Back to the Future.  Not only had Stallone written and directed Rocky but in the process won the Cold War while bringing some cathartic closure to Vietnam with Rambo.  In 1987, he would make history by earning $10 million for Cannon's arm-wrestling, father son road trip adventure, Over the Top.

Where do you go when you're on top?  Stallone quickly found out: to the middle and finally to the bottom.  Further late 80's efforts would seemingly hit:  Tango & Cash, an expensive, troubled production but solid box office earner and miss:  Rambo III and Lock Up both underperformed.  A 90's run at comedy in Oscar and Stop!  Or My Mom Will Shoot didn't pan out as audiences weren't interested in Sly laughers like they were of rival Arnold Schwarzenegger (Twins, Kindergarten Cop).  In 1993 things were looking up as Cliffhanger was the 7th highest grossing film of the year, making $255 million, handily beating Arnie's summer entry Last Action Hero, while scoring solid critical reviews.  1994's Demolition Man and The Specialist would make decent bank but 1995's Assassins, the $50 million, dueling hitmen team up with Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon), Joel Silver (Die Hard) and Antonio Banderas would be a non-starter.

1996.  At another crossroads in his career, Stallone signs a mammoth deal with Universal Studios worth $60 million for 3 pictures.  The first flick would be $80 million disaster yarn, Daylight.  Directed by Universal stalwart Rob Cohen, (Dragon:  The Bruce Lee Story, Dragonheart, Fast and the Furious) Daylight stripped away much of what made Stallone a star in the 80's; the muscles, the violence, the one liners and replaced them with bland characterization and cliched reluctant heroics.  The genre that Stallone and Arnold created and brought to the masses of the one man army cutting through red tape, hyper violent, skilled and physical types blowing away the bad guys while cracking wise was now making room for everyman heroes, keeping shirts on and no need for baby oil.

Daylight would be a financial disappointment and his next film with Universal, the $55 million ensemble murder mystery thriller D-Tox/Eye See You would languish for three years before being dumped in 78 theaters and sent quickly to DVD.  By 2002 the party was over, Stallone went straight to DVD in Avenging Angelo.  The good time 90's, magazine covers, international fame, the Planet Hollywood openings and $20 million paydays were gone and not coming back.  Stallone would be relegated to supporting roles (Shade, Spy Kids 3D) while unsuccessfully branding himself with a supplement line, magazine and reality show.  Five years since his last wide release, Sly went back to the well for 2006's Rocky Balboa and began his ascent back up the ranks, aligning himself with rising talent and former competition to stay afloat in the changed cinema landscape.

2013.  The 80's and 90's are back.  Stallone's third franchise, The Expendables, has been filming in Bulgaria and features new addition throwback favorites like Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes.  Joining the nostalgic tough guy club that already includes Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris.

Keep punching:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Track Star: Pacific Rim

I had very little interest in seeing Pacific Rim.  The concept seemed like a mix of Transformers and Godzilla, Guillermo Del Toro is a talented and funny guy but his films don't match his fanboy worship, the trailers looked BAD with their mix of physical and computer created elements and quasi painful dialog.  Maybe it was those low expectations, not knowing what the movie was really about mixed with the fact it was incredibly well made, funny, exciting and original that made Pacific Rim my favorite film of the summer.  It was just the most fun I had and I left the theater in a great mood.  The soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi is fantastic from the very start and primes you for a wonderful 2 hours.  Even if it features a loud mouth douche on guitar but give credit where it's due.

Van Dammage: Cafe Etiquette

"Love is like milk when you get a coffee.  If the waiter forgets to bring you some, don't ask for it.  Because love is about giving, not asking."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chief Goods: GQ Awards

"You will never be as cool as your dad.  Remember that"
     - Noel Gallagher

The Chief himself has just won the GQ "Icon" Award (and took a nice dig at the Foreign Secretary in attendance).  Plans are in order for a follow up to High Flying Birds but apparently Noel's not too keen on getting back on the road for a year and a half...

A great backstage interview here.

Displays of genius:

Gotta Drank! Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge

Bachelor party recollections continue!  Coming at you one more time from Kansas City, MO is the Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge, a full fledged bar and restaurant themed around you guessed it, Maker's Mark!  You know, the Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey sold in a square bottle sealed with red wax?  I'm usually a Jameson man but MM has grown on me with it's light flavor and smooth finish.  The House and Lounge had a huge list of Bourbon, (Whiskey made in America in the style of Kentucky's Bourbon County made at least half from corn) two New Old Fashioned's later we continued our tour of the KC Power & Light District.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gotta Eat! Gates VS Arthur Bryant's Barbeque

It's almost time for me to be in another wedding and the bachelor party is this weekend.  The sunny southern California locale will be a marked difference from the last bachelor party I attended this past spring in what would be snowy Kansas City, Missouri.  While there we sampled three barbeque institutions: Jack Stack, Gates and Arthur Bryant's.  I'll only get into Gates and Bryant's since Jack Stack was more of an actual restaurant while the latter two were hole in the wall types.

Gates had the atmosphere: bustling, orders taken in code (B on B!), confusion and a hidden back dining room.  After ordering you were hustled down the line before paying so it was a little weird.  The BBQ itself is not my favorite since the meat was slathered in sauce of a vinegar base and I hate that tangy shit.  The meat was lukewarm and the flavor just didn't jump out at me, well besides the sauce...

Arthur Bryant's was more my style, easily navigated, one order window and not too hectic.  The meat came tender and without sauce, you could add your own at the table.  It was crowded but not uncomfortably so, patrons had come from all over and easily mixed in with locals.  If I were in the area again, I would definitely come back to Arthur Bryant's.

Track Star: Rod Stewart

After seeing Star Trek Into Darkness again, I had a hankering for some Peter Weller action.  Luckily he guest starred as another war mongering villain in the Star Trek universe on two 2005 episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years I've caught a few episodes of the original series, more than a few of Next Generation, a couple Voyager but not one of Deep Space Nine or Enterprise.  Imagine my surprise when the theme song was a cover of Faith of the Heart by my favorite English crooner, Rod Stewart! 

The credits list the song written by one Diane Warren who I found out is one of the world's foremost writer of songs having had her tunes belted out by the likes of Aerosmith, Stewart, Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Roy Orbison, N'Sync, Celine Dion and Canadian crooner Bryan Adams.  Warren and Stewart's collaboration was produced for Robin Williams' 1998 "medical student uses humor on patients" effort Patch Adams.  Didn't that movie end in a really messed up way?  Like his best friend or love interest got murdered messed up?

Three years later, Russell Watson would cover and rework Faith of the Heart, now dubbed Where My Heart Will Take Me for Enterprise, making it the first vocal track used for a Trek theme song.  Apparently the ol' Trek fanbase didn't love the song and petitioned for it's removal.  Producers stood firm and kept the track for the shows four years.  I can't say Watson's rendition beats the original because let's face it, who can really beat Rod the Mod, Rod the Bod when it comes to sweeping performances that get to you on multiple levels?  Soothing, uplifting, nearly inspiring...what?  I've got Tiger Blood bro, bring it!

Close your eyes and listen, tell me you don't have visions of clouds, sailing and winning:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer Cinema Shootout: May

It's Labor Day!  You know, the "yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country". Hopefully you're doing something relaxing or fun, unless you work in the service industry and are getting some nice Over Time.

Labor Day marks the end of the summer cinema season, not just big, special effects filled blockbusters but outdoor screenings in the grass as well.  If this summer's films taught us anything, it's that 1)  Hollywood crams too many movies into a short time and 2)  Audiences can only take so many big spectacle action films.

Thanks to surprise hits like 1998's Deep Impact, 1999's The Mummy and 2000's Gladiator, early May has officially become the start of the summer movie season.  It's great to be first before viewer fatigue sets in as Marvel learned since they've slotted Iron Man Two, Thor and The Avengers there, essentially getting while the getting is good.  This year my May consisted of:

Iron Man Three:  Great way to start the summer.  Fun and surprisingly funny.  Ben Kingsley's Mandarin was superb even if Guy Pearce's Mortal Kombat-esque villain, Gwentyh Paltrow's presence and inherent subsequent annoying media quotes and too many damn Iron Man suits flying around make you wonder where they can really take the franchise from here.

The Iceman:  Not exactly a summer blockbuster but a nice change of pace.  Small, character driven, well cast and executed.  Michael Shannon's killer warm up before going full out for Man of Steel.

Star Trek Into Darkness:  The summer's best use of Peter Weller.  Exciting and funny but with some real high peaks and really low valleys.  Still talking with Trek purists about their loathe for the film but hey, they tried to get Benecio Del Toro to play Khan!  Not sure if J.J. Abrams told Karl Urban to go complete Deforest Kelley... "Are you out of your corn fed mind?!"

Fast & Furious 6:  Good times with car chases, destruction and fights.  A couple truly "What The Fuck but I'm going with it" moments to keep you paying attention.  Diesel and company need to learn from Arnold that the hero shouldn't be noticeably bigger than the villain because when hero wins it's not exciting.  The Rock has become a caricature of himself though and not in a good way.  Well, he was great in Pain & Gain...

The Hangover Part III:  Got a little dark, got a little who gives a shit...I'd rather watch Old School.

May Champion:  Close fight between Iron Man Three and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Great clip of Peter Weller talking about how he got involved with Trek:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Workout of the Day: The Dark Knight Rises

Watching The Dark Knight Rises while sick inspired today's workout.  In the flick, Batman has just been pummeled by Bane and had his back broken.  Now locked away in a remote prison to suffer, an inmate punches Bruce Wayne in the spine to reinsert a disc.  Fueled by anger, Wayne begins to mend and starts a prison regimen of pull ups, push ups and sit ups to get back in fighting shape.

Technically a Pull Up uses an overhand grip (knuckles facing you) and work more of your back/lats and shoulders while Chin Ups are underhand (palms facing you) and use more bicep.  I think it's a pretty stupid distinction to make because variety is a spice of life and training.  If you're only doing Chins with one grip, you're hurting your own physique.  Pulls are a smidgen safer since there's no pressure on your wrists like a Chin.  But you only have to worry about that if you have sloppy form and are flaring your elbows out.  Hands Parallel is the ultimate no wrist impact position though.

So why not do all three?  That's what my session entailed, hands wide, shoulder width, close with an overhand grip, then the same three repeated with an underhand grip, finally it was two sets of parallel grip wide and narrow.  If you make the effort to pull to your chest, the pecs and delts get more involved as do your abs.

They say the average male cannot do one chin, that's not surprising because how often do people even think of doing them?  They probably harken back to some kind of bad high school memory of gym class.  But chins are one of the best exercises you can do as they work your forearms, biceps, shoulders, core and chest.  If you can't do one yet, no biggie.  I started out struggling to do one as a sophomore in high school and built my way up to doing 135 in one workout.  It just takes time and persistence, if you can't do a full chin, then use a chair and step into the top position and lower yourself down, controlling the movement.  In college, I installed a chin up bar in my apartment and took Arnold's advice and did 50 chins on a given day.  No matter if it was 50 sets of 1 or 5 sets of 10, I just got to 50.

Push Ups can have the same variety, hands wide, shoulder width and close, fingers facing each other, fingers out, hands staggered, on knuckles, etc.  You can work your chest, shoulders and triceps with just a changing of hand position or putting your feet up on a chair.  Keep your elbows tight to avoid shoulder strain and to keep the pressure on the muscles you're working.

The brawl that started it all: