Monday, October 28, 2013

Redford Week: Jeremiah Johnson

Before and after going out to see All Is Lost, I revisited Robert Redford in an earlier cinematic tale of Man VS Nature, 1972's Jeremiah Johnson.  In what would be Redford's 2nd of 7 collaborations with director Sydney Pollack, Jeremiah Johnson is the tale of a wandering former soldier who arrives in Colorado to become a mountain man, hunting "bears, beavers and other critters worth cash money when skinned".  Utilizing the vast landscape of Utah, Pollack alternates harsh winters and arid desert vistas to give us an idea of just how hard life could be back then.

At first, Johnson struggles in the wilderness to survive, his hunting skills are lacking and he resorts to trying to catch fish with his bare hands in a frigid creek.  He's taken in by a local grizzly bear hunting mountain fella who teaches him the way of living off the rock.  Soon, Johnson becomes a self described "great hunter", the "fine figure of a man" who makes "damn good biscuits".  Along the way he runs into trouble with a pack of tribal nations people who end up slaughtering his wife and adopted child.  With nothing left, Johnson becomes a famed killer of the tribe and lives on the move, always waiting for the next attack.

Jeremiah Johnson is a great adventure flick that strangely parallels All Is Lost on simple things like men choosing isolation over society, accepting each new uninvited challenge and never giving up.  There's also weird coincidences like shaving before the storm (literal and figurative storms), forehead wound placement and screaming at the sky in both.  What I forgot about the movie is how funny it is at times as well as brutal.  The action is rough and tumble but still packs a wallop after all these years.  Sometimes seeing a nasty, animalistic scrap is more effective than the most choreographed display of physical prowess.  The film was co-written by John Milius, ya know, from Conan the Barbarian and Apocalypse Now?  The guy Walt from The Big Lebowski is based on?  Exactly.  Having worked on many a studio picture officially and unofficially, Milius has it written into his contract that in addition to a fee, he receives a firearm of significant value.

Apparently, Johnson is based on a real individual who after losing his family to braves from the Crow tribe, enlisted other mountain men and rival tribes to exact revenge over 25 years.  Rumor is he would eat the liver of each man he killed as a sign of disrespect to his enemies beliefs.  Respect.

The power of Yes:

Elbow Rocket! Accountability

Looks like a busy week, time to bust out the Action Item aka To Do list so I can spend equal time on each project.  Back in the 80's, writer/director/cinema savior James Cameron had three projects going simultaneously; rewriting his directorial vehicle, The Terminator, then as a hired gun on the sequel to Alien (which he would go on to direct, with Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton starring!) and the second installment of the Rambo franchise (where little of his contribution made it on screen).  He set up three different typewriters, figured out how many pages he needed to write for each per day, played different music for each project then got to work until he was finished. Seems easy enough right?  So remember, some people are given lists to do while others make the list.  Go out and make yours, internets.

"Yeah, yeah, I know about the P.T.A., but this is just parents who don't want to take responsibility for controlling their kids.  They work or are divorced or something.  They think they don't have the time."
    - Arnold Schwarzenegger on blaming others instead of being accountable

Arnie's Twitter buddy James Cameron on being The Man:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Flicks: All Is Lost

Some more critical and award fodder with J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost starring the one and only Bobby the Robert Redford.  The story concerns a seasoned sailor in the middle of the ocean whose vessel is struck by a stray shipping container from China holding a boatload of shoes.

Then it is basically:  Redford.  On a boat.  Suffering hardship.  After hardship.  Then another hardship.  Phew.  I love Redford but I feel all of the praise his performance is garnering is a bit of an insult.  There is no dialog to speak of, it's a very realistic account of one man's quest to survive.  There are moments of true terror, the film is simple yet deftly constructed and quite a departure from Chandor's previous film, 2011's dialog heavy Margin Call.

We've seen how strong, funny, endearing and romantic Redford can be from Barefoot in the Park, The Candidate, Jeremiah Johnson, The Great Waldo Pepper and Sneakers among dozens of others.  To to hail a performance where he says next to nothing and instead gives us a how-to on seminar on boat repair and survival techniques seems erroneous.  It's a role any actor, put in the situation under the created elements, would probably receive our sympathy for.

Cinema Showdown: DC vs Marvel

Booked my tickets to the Thor/Avengers/Thor:  The Dark World marathon and yesterday watched the Captain America:  The Winter Soldier trailer half a dozen times.  It's a great age to be a comic book and film fan.  Marvel has been knocking it out of the park since they launched their own studio and carefully constructed an interwoven cinematic universe of safe and entertaining if not daring movie fare.  Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor have all been given big budget, semi faithful adaptations on the big screen culminating in mega hit, The Avengers.

Meanwhile DC has struggled outside of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman universe to capitalize on the thousands of characters at their disposal under Time Warner's vast multinational media network of film, television, print, video games, etc.  Justice League?  Scrapped.  Catwoman?  Please.  Green Lantern?  See ya later Ryan Reynolds.  The casting of Ben Affleck as the new Batman rankled more than a few movie going and comic book reading patrons but hey, never forget that Michael Keaton did a great job.

Why?  Because for Marvel it's all or nothing.  After years of selling off their titles and seeing cheap adaptations like 1990's Captain America (ehhhhh) and 1989's The Punisher (still best adaptation to date!) the stars finally aligned when Fox and Sony put up decent cash and directors for X-Men and Spider-Man in the 2000's, showing audiences that superhero movies could be equally exciting and dramatic.  Marvel Studios was formed to corral the remaining unlicensed characters and voila, 2008's Iron Man hit the mark and now we're moving into Phase II and Phase III of Kevin Fiege's legacy.

It's a different story for DC and Warner Brothers though, WB is only interested in the properties as brands and franchises, fodder for toy and tee-shirt deals and product in the company pipeline.  Harry Potter, Ocean's 11 and Nolan's Batman have run dry while Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit only has two more entries.  That's not a bad thing, they have to run their business.  But how else could you quantify the disjointed efforts of Superman on television, Shaquille O'Neal as Steel, the expensive mess of Green Lantern and Halle Berry as Catwoman?  Oh and it doesn't help they have David S. Goyer as their in house authority, remember when he was handed the keys to his own franchise then drove it into the fucking ground and gave us Blade:  Trinity?  The white-washed, slow motion fest sitcom?  Didn't think so.

Warner Brothers may have started the conversation with Superman and Batman but now they can't keep up because they're making the movies for all the wrong reasons.  How else can you explain Batman's inclusion into the rebooted Superman sequel?  A)  It shows how desperate they are to start their cinematic comic book universe and B)  Shows you how boring Superman is as a character.

Just like the comics, Make Mine Marvel!  With these mash up Hulk credits!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Redford Week: Winter Weather Warning

Tell me you've watched the trailer for Captain America:  The Winter Soldier!  And tell me you're not excited to see Bobby Redford aka Robert in it!  Ssssh, let's watch it again:

Doesn't that look awesome?!  I'm guessing Redford ends up being the villain and if Marvel really wants to push it, is Cap's World War II nemesis, The Red Skull, in present day!  I always thought Robert Redford would have been a perfect Steve Rogers/Cap.  Don't believe me?  Just watch The Way We WereThe Way We Were?  That chick flick with Barbara Streisand?!  Yup, Redford is the spitting image of 70's and 80's era Cap where he wasn't super muscular, had some style and hadn't been turned into a big, bland, flag waver who memorizes names of vice presidents on a Saturday night.  Oh and Redford's character in TWWW is named is Hubbell, which is also sweet.

It's like looking into a comic book to black and white photo mirror!

Paneled Goods: The Shadow Strikes

Picked up a stack of The Shadow Strikes at some Con in the last year or so and finally cracked open the plastic comic bag and started reading.  Boy did I feel dumb, sure we all gloss over words we don't know, many times the way it's used can help you deduce it's meaning.  This time, I reached for the ol' dictionary to quickly learn and just as quickly forget the meaning of multiple words.

To start, The Shadow Strikes is a DC series from 1989 from Gerard Jones and Eduardo Barreto.  For the uninitiated, The Shadow is a character created in the 1930's where his adventures were read in pulp novels and heard on radio programs.  While origins vary with each medium, some basic characteristics include fighting in World War I, traveling through Asia and learning how to cloud men's minds.  Alec Baldwin played him in the 1994 big screen adaptation from Universal but we'll get to my obsession with period comic book action movies later.

The first issue begins at a posh social club, where a federal agent loses his head, literally.  It's up to Lamont Cranston and his alter ego, The Shadow to find out whats happened.  Throw in a cult where the leader hypnotizes and seduces women and a Russian femme fatale and you've got yourself a mystery that only a figure who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men while brandishing dual pistols and a wide brimmed hat can solve!

While reading I looked up:

Nadir - the lowest point in the fortunes of a person or organization
Aquiline - like an eagle
Chartreuse - a color halfway between yellow and green
Creosote - a brown, oily liquid used to keep wood from rotting

And who says comics are only about the pictures?  Check out Unicron aka Orson Welles:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chief Goods: Business Hours

Notes from The Chief:

"People shouldn't start work before 10 o'clock in the morning. People shouldn't work weekends unless they work in the service industry and they're getting paid double time. Thou Shalt Not Work Weekends. I don't like workaholics. Don't f***ing trust them. Why are they working? I don't trust busy c***s. That's how wars start: busy f***ers. If terrorism had a weekend off, eventually they'd have a year off. Eventually they'd go, "F*** this - blowing up shit? Football's on." Thou shalt not be arsed."

With insight like that, he can give Bruce a run for his money on being known as "The Boss".

Thank you for the good times:

I'm Hot! I'm Big! Life Lessons

"What the hell you doing on the ground? It's supposed to hurt! That pain's what's gonna save your life. Your cells remember where it hurts and that's where they get strong. It's called pain and gain, don't be a little bitch."

How's your Tuesday starting off, internets?  Looking good, feeling good?

After a night of stuffing my face, I woke up early to get in a workout to even it out.

1)  Clean and Press/Chins/Incline Push Up/Dumbbell Row/DB Fly/Dip/Shrug
2)  Squat/Deadlift/Reeves Squat/DB Lunge/Calf Raises

Did each circuit twice then pedaled for 15 minutes.

Role model (for assimilating into the community, not hurting people):

Gotta Drank! Ralph's VS Costco

Monday was for math when I tried to figure out the cost difference for the world's best selling Irish Whiskey, Jameson, between Ralph's "Buy 6, get 30% off" deal and Costco's daily price for their super sized bottle. Basically, Ralph's sells 750 ml for around $22.00 with the discount. Buying 6 of those means 750 x 6 = 4,500 ml at a cost of $22.00 x 6 = $132.00 and with 1,000 ml = 1 liter that puts Ralph's at $29.33 per liter of Jameson. While Costco sells a 1.75 l bottle or 1,750 ml for $36.00. I bought 2 bottles so $36.00 x 2 = $72.00 for 3,500 ml which means Costco charges $20.57 per liter. Phew! Apparently, Jameson has been coming out of Ireland since 1708 and sells something like 48 million bottles a year. Keep it up guys.

 About 3 seconds before the action of this clip, Daniel Craig downs 3 shots like nothing:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Workout of the Day: Bicep Trauma

I love training in gyms but in Los Angeles, they're a bit of a pain.  However, there's nothing like a warehouse full of equipment filled with naturally and un-naturally buffed out persons to get you motivated and change up your workout.  Thus was the case this weekend when I hit up Gold's Gym in Hollywood while my car was getting some routine maintenance nearby.  I trained at Gold's last year with a Groupon deal and would frequently see Will Ferrell dripping a sweat at 6:00AM while rocking tee shirts of his own films and a hella nice mustache, must have been getting ready for Anchorman:  Da Sequel.  If you're wondering, he did a lot of circuit training.  There's also lots and lots of people in short shorts, which would be nice if some of those people were women...

Today was a shoulders and arm session that included:

1)  Arnold Press/Preacher Curl/Dumbbell Extension
2)  Rope Pushdown/Preacher Cable Curl/Side Delt Machine Raises
3)  Rear Dumbbell Raises/Low Incline Dumbbell Curl/Lying Dumbbell Extension

Followed by Forearms and 15 minutes on the bike.

Gold's of course has a smoothie bar which serves you protein dranks in brightly colored cups reminiscent of Panda Express.  I felt pretty good afterwards but that night and the following day, my arms would be SCREAMING in dull aching pain.  Pretty sure that's a sign I overdid it.  Damn you Van Damme and Larry Scott!

In case you didn't know, Preacher Curls are a great way to add thickness to your biceps and really help fill in the space between your muscle and elbow, giving you that nice, football shaped muscle.  Some people have short, naturally high peaking biceps so they're better off doing exercises to accentuate said peak like concentration curls.  I myself do not have that so go the Scott and VD route using Preacher and Spider curls to work the brachialis (muscle between bi's and tri's) that can make your arms look wider.  Scott also advocated doing half reps at the end of each set so really induce a burn which is probably whey I'm in pain today...

Animate in Peace: Lou Scheimer

It was Comic-Con 2012 when I saw Lou Scheimer at a panel discussing and celebrating his work at Filmation, the studio he founded and ran in the 1980's.  Battling what I think was Parkinson's disease, the man behind the animated adventures of He-Man, She-Ra, Flash Gordon, Fat Albert, Marshall Bravestarr and hundreds of others was in the room but not on the planet if you know what I mean.  Later, on the convention floor I stumbled across a booth where he was signing and he graciously put pen to paper on this snazzy banner showcasing the multitude of characters he'd helped bring to life.

Whenever you hear about Scheimer at conventions, there's always panels at Comic-Con or Power-Con, former employees speak fondly of the man who knew how to stretch a dollar while keeping it in the United States.  Unlike other powerhouse animation studios like Hanna-Barbera, which farmed out most work overseas.  What also set Filmation apart and probably hurt it in the later years, was their penchant to include morals in every episode and life lessons in the form of PSA's at the end of each adventure.  Along with non-Filmation entity G.I. Joe (Now you know and knowing is half the battle), those PSAs probably molded more than a few kids to become better adults.

Today's lesson:

Elbow Rocket! Monument Man

Nothing like coming into work at 7:00AM to meet a contractor only to have them run late, ah Monday...I could be bitter or upset but I choose not to be.  Shit happens.  Now if people do something to intentionally harm or agitate you then yeah, it's time to take it all the way.  Because it's not one eye for one eye, it's two eyes, for one eye!

Take Monday down, down to Chinatown.  And maybe one day you can touch the ass of a statue of yourself.  Go forth, internets!

Let me ask you something:  "Do you like, my ass?"  It is nice!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Flicks: Escape Plan

It's officially Van Damme Friday but before birthday shenanigans commence, I squeezed in a Sneak of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone's latest team up, Escape Plan (formerly The Tomb).  Sure Arnold popped up in Expendables I and II in near parody cameos but Escape Plan sees the two Hollywood heroes on near equal ground and screen time.  Apparently Bruce Willis was up for the lead role before Sly came on and drafted Arnold for support.

The story goes like this, Stallone plays prison expert Ray Breslin who breaks out of maximum security facilities for a living.  He's offered double his usual rate to test out a new, privately run, for profit establishment.  Of course things aren't what they seem and now Breslin is locked in a prison designed from his own studies run by Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel of being Jesus fame).  Needing to escape to find out who set him up, Breslin teams with Emil Rottmayer (King of Kings Arnie) and bromantic action thrills ensue.

Seeing this last summer at a test screening, I thought the flick was pretty solid.  It had two showy roles for the aging titans of action cinema, despite some Direct to DVD qualities it looked like a decent amount of money went into the production and nearly every role is filled by a familiar face like Vinnie Jones, 50 Cent and Dr. Alan Grant himself, Sam Neil. It's nice to see Sly and Arnie not playing simple lunk heads, the script is a little more cerebral (or tries to be at least) than their latest comeback outings The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head.  There's bits of action, excitement and humor sprinkled throughout with explosions, torture, fist fights, gun fights, water fights and even a slow motion shot to showcase how badass Arnold still is on screen.  Nothing too over the top a la The Expendables though, it's like a procedural heist movie mixed with an action thriller.

Sweden's Mikael Hafstrom (1408) does a good job pulling the strings even if he has a penchant for close ups then pulling out to super wide shots of CGI blah-ness.  I wonder if Stallone agreed to play the straight arrow to Arnold's showier role or if it was in the script or just came together that way on set.  Afterwards, I couldn't remember anything memorable Sly's character uttered while Arnold had puns and one liners for days, my favorite being, "you hit like a vegetarian!".  While it's a valiant effort on everyone's part, Escape Plan falls short of being an actual good movie, sure it's fun and you leave feeling happy but it's just hard to watch these guys you grew up with in their prime try to recapture that lost glory.  They both have charisma and talent, in Sly's elder form, he'd kill as a mafia don or any man in power with or without having to perform action hero theatrics.  Arnold's acting is a little stiffer and he's better suited playing over the top roles that can poke fun of and utilize his fantastic career.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Workout of the Day: Van Damme Week

Too much boozing and eating had me feeling pretty damn (Damme) lazy but it being Van Damme week and all I figured I owed it to the Muscles From Brussels to get in a few sweaty sessions.  I once read Van Damme lost up to 14 pounds of sweat in one workout, I've only been able to drop 10 myself.  I guess we're both hot men, like Sean Connery (who did a scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in his boxers because he "sweats very easily").

A.M. Session:
- Dumbbell swing/Close grip push up/Close grip chin ups/Good morning/Concentration curl/1-Arm tricep extension/1-Arm preacher curl/1-Arm side extension

8 exercises performed non-stop for 3 circuits equaling 24 sets that worked shoulders, legs and lower back with a focus on triceps and biceps

P.M.  Session:
- Squat/Lunge/Deadlift/Calf raise/Jump squat then 1-2 minute intervals of jump rope, shadow boxing and recumbent bicycling for 4 rounds

Both sessions were immediately followed by a whey protein shake and a few glugs of Gatorade post shower.  Oh and I popped in Double Team for the P.M. session, the crazy 1997 spy action thriller starring Van Damme, Dennis Rodman and Mickey Rourke directed by Tsui Hark.  Allegedly Van Damme was at the worst of his coke years during production.  Besides some obvious doubling in fight scenes, it still holds up as a kinetic, bright, ridiculous and action packed flick.

Home training with Jean-Claude:

Watcha Watching?

It's been a long time since I've actively watched a television show, probably since my youth.  Shows like Knight Rider and Miami Vice have stayed with me and I remember video taping CBS' Magnificent Seven (Michael Biehn!  Ron Perlman!  Eric Close!) on Friday nights in the late 90's.  But since then, besides reruns of The Simpsons, Home Improvement, Futurama and random non-reality competition food shows, TV just isn't my thing.  Sure I've watched Game of Thrones and How I Met Your Mother with the lady but I wouldn't take the time on my own. 

People say we're in the Golden Age of television but everything I've seen is just a lot of blah blah blah talking heads.  The same direction comic books took post 2000's X-Men and 9/11.  Dour, dark, self serious and way too fucking boring.  What used to happen in 1 episode or issue is now stretched across 3.  Can any of you really tell me the answers to the million questions Lost posed in the first season?  Didn't think so.  What's the difference between Twitter and Game of Thrones?  Twitter is limited to 140 characters.  I thought 24 was about Kiefer Sutherland but he only appeared in about 10 minutes and 1 of 3 storylines going on in episodes I watched.

Finally, in the year 2013, I've come across two shows from the 2010's that has kept my attention.  Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age or just reminiscing about the 90's but Justified and Last Man Standing marathons are becoming commonplace at the ol' abode.  They're both simple shows about men going through life their own way. 

Justified's US Marshall Raylan Givens, played by Timothy Elephants, does his job well but the desensitized yet super touchy public doesn't condone his shootings of gun runners, drug dealers and white supremacists.  I suddenly have a hankering for moonshine and firearms...Meanwhile, Last Man Standing's Mike Baxter (Buzz Lightyear) deals with living in a world uber sensitive, participation award, entitled don't-ers and vents his frustrations over video journals while waving guns and knives.  I have no idea if either show is a blockbuster in the ratings or critical darling but hey, I'll catch them while I can.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Van Damme Week: Bloodsport

Having just secured his first leading role, Van Damme realized he was in deep shit.  He needed an agent, a lawyer and if the film was going to shoot in America, a Green Card.  Luckily the film wound up being shot in Hong Kong but not before Van Damme nearly lost the role when his newly acquired lawyer balked at Cannon's 3-picture deal worth $25, 50 and $75,000.  When said lawyer thought it was a bluff and stalled the deal, Golan became upset and Van Damme signed on immediately, knowing this was his shot after so many years of waiting.

Shooting for two months in Hong Kong, Bloodsport is the (now debunked) true story of Frank Dux, a martial artist who participates in a secret, underground fighting tournament dubbed, The Kumite.  Co-starring as villain Chong Li was Bolo Yeung, a Chinese bodybuilder and on screen fighter who had previously appeared opposite Bruce Lee in 1979's Enter the Dragon.  Donald Gibb, Ogre from 1984's Revenge of the Nerds played Jackson, Dux's fellow American fighter and eventual broheim.  Future Oscar winner Forest Whitaker shows up as a young investigator on Dux's case while Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom villain Roy Chiao plays Van Damme's mentor and karate spirit instructor, Senzo Tanaka.

With little acting experience and a thick accent too boot, Van Damme's portrayal of Dux draws more from his own charisma and physical abilities than thespian skill.  His soon to be trademarks like the full split (shown 7 times as grueling training, meditation and during a fight among others), graceful kicks, jump spinning helicopter kick and butt shot (watch as he pulls his underwear up twice) are all highlighted.  His performance wouldn't win him any Oscars but you can see the effort in both emotion and action driven scenes.  Helmed by career Assistant Director Newt Arnold (Blade Runner, Godfather II, The Abyss), Bloodsport would make excellent use of the exotic as well as dingy Hong Kong locales and give audiences plenty of what they were looking for, brutal martial arts action.

 A template for video game phenomenon Street Fighter II, Bloodsport cast colorful international characters of all shapes and sizes implementing a variety of disciplines like karate, kung-fu, muy thai, sumo and animal styles against each other in full contact combat to find the greatest fighter in the world.  One could even make the connection of creating the early inspiration for today's boom of UFC led Mixed Martial Arts which started as a competition between the best fighters of respective styles going head to head.

After deeming a rough cut "very bad", Golan shelved Bloodsport.  Van Damme, knowing it was his ticket to Hollywood, begged the mogul to let him re-edit the film in a bid to salvage his now dwindling career.  Working in secret with The Towering Inferno editor Carl Kress, Van Damme reshaped the film into it's current cult classic form.  Throw in a memorable soundtrack by Paul Hertzog featuring Stan Bush and Michael Bishop and you now have a perfect time capsule that surprisingly stands the test of cinema. Still not convinced was Golan who sold the rights to France and Malaysia where it hit number one in both countries.  Van Damme paid his own ticket to France for promotion and Golan knew he had a hit on his hands.  Once released in the US, Bloodsport would gross $11 million on a $1 million budget and Van Damme was officially on the map.

Studios came calling but Van Damme was now stuck in a low paying contract with Golan who knew he had a hot commodity.  Instead of giving Van Damme a raise and making him part of the Cannon family along with $1 million earners Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson, Golan only paid him the original $50,000 and $75,000 contracted fees.  It wouldn't be all bad memories though, through Bloodsport Van Damme met writer/director Sheldon Lettich who would go on to work with Van Damme on at least 8 films.  Villain Bolo Yeung would pop up in VD's first big budget picture, Double Impact in 1991 and the flick remains a classic in the martial arts genre while arguably being Van Damme's most well known film.

Pseudo music video:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ripspirational: Van Damme Week

"Passion can kill you.  It hurts your eyes, your nose, your arteries, your bones.  But I prefer to live for passion than to be careful.  Passion can make you squat, a mountain."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

Hologram Fist! Pacific Rim Tuesday

Oh yeah, my Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital HD copy of Pacific Rim showed up today via Amazon.  If you'll recall, Pacific Rim was my favorite film of July, the summer and so far is sitting comfortably at # 2 on my Best of the Year list behind Pain & Gain.

The loaded disk (featurettes, commentary, Director's notebook) comes complete with snazzy hologram cover featuring Jaeger Gipsy Danger and Kaiju Scunner, a Category IV monster with four arms and heavy bio armor used for battering the shit out of stuff.  Rim was one of those casualties of the summer where poor tracking, no movie stars, an original concept and a known if not household director all combined to make an extremely entertaining film that got lost in the summer shuffle of sequels, reboots and adaptations.

All together now:  Oooooooooooooh!

I'm sure this is on the disk:

Gotta Drank! 3rd Street Station

A stones throw away from my office is 3rd Street Station Pub & Brasserie.  I know what a pub is but what does Brasserie really mean?  Something with meat?  Nope it's actually French and basically equates a relaxed setting, single serve dishes and meals.  It also means brewery or brewery business so 3rd Street Station ain't lying.  It was very relaxed inside and cleanly decorated.  The bartender was casual and polite, probably because there weren't many people inside. 

Happy Hour runs 5:00 - 7:00PM, Monday through Friday and we feasted on Duck Fat Fries, flat bread pizza, macaroni and cheese and special of the day, meatballs.  The service was quick, the food was tasty and very filling.  Booze wise there's $5 well drinks and wine but we opted for their house cocktails, specifically the Gold Rush, which was basically honey, lemon and Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey Whiskey.  With a sweeter and smoother finish than regular Jack, these Gold Rushes were easy drinking trouble.  Upon further investigation and deconstruction, a Gold Rush is basically a Hot Toddy (which is usually hot tea, honey and whiskey) only served cold, genius!

I'm Hot! I'm Big! Life Situation

"If I believe I deserve it, the universe will serve it!  Right?  (silence) That's why you're working at a Sears, bro!"

Tuesday, like everyday, is for Doing.  Let the Don't-ers waffle and circle around the problem sniffling while you take care of business.

On a side note, I've heard many a viewer of my favorite film of 2013, Pain & Gain, remark that they couldn't quite enjoy the film because of, let's call it, the human condition.  After all, Mark Wahlberg's character is driven, funny and let's face it, a bit ripspirational.  But at the end of the day, he's based on a real human being that committed horrible acts and atrocities on his fellow man.  Not that I'm forgetting or overlooking that aspect but hey, inspiration comes in many forms and if I can take something positive away from a cesspool of depravity then I most certainly will.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Van Damme Week: Humble Beginnings

The story of Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg is the stuff of Hollywood legend.  Or TV movie of the week for sure.  Born in Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgim, Jean-Claude spent his youth as a hyper kid who hated school and history, was an awkward, bespectacled blonde runt with a lisp.  Skinny and not physically gifted, Jean-Claude's father, Eugene, sent him to train in shotokan karate with Claude Goetz at age 11 to "make him into a man" after seeing the David Carradine television show, Kung-Fu.

There, Goetz's inhuman training (running 10s of miles, wearing a padded suit to wrestle dogs, torturous flexibility exercises) began to shape the young lad.  But to Goetz, endurance wasn't enough, to create powerful striking, Jean-Claude needed resistance training for strength.  Adding in ballet for grace and stretching (as well as lots of beautiful girls), Jean-Claude transformed himself into a 200 pound beast who could jump spin kick over your head and do a full split before dropping out of high school and opening his own fitness mecca, California Gym.  Not content with the gym business and winning karate tournaments, having seen big sweeping epic movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Ben-Hur and motivated by his ability to be picked out a crowd for modeling and bit parts; Jean-Claude left his family, business and first wife to pursue his dream:  To become a movie star.

After collecting business cards from producers and distributors at the Milan Film Festival, Jean-Claude headed to Hong Kong where he briefly met Jackie Chan but struck out in the movie industry.  His next cache of cards was from Americans so Jean-Claude landed in the pancake of lights known as Los Angeles, saw a limousine with two wheels on the back and knew he was in the right place.  Working with childhood friend Michel Qissi, Jean-Claude lived hand to mouth for years on the streets performing odd jobs like teaching karate, bouncing bars, laying carpet (where he married the bosses daughter), driving limo's and as a masseur.  He would train at Gold's Gym in Venice at 4:00AM when nobody checked membership and then take a free shower.  When he wasn't working, Jean-Claude would spend hours chasing producers and going to auditions.

Believing he needed a more American moniker, Jean-Claude Van Varenburg became Frank Cujo.  Unfortunately an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Cujo was released in 1983 so Van Varenburg became Van Damme, the name of a friend from Hong Kong.  A chance meeting with Chuck Norris saw young Jean-Claude Van Damme auditioning at Norris' home to become his trainer.  Impressed with JCVD's kicking skills, Chuck took him on where Van Damme trained Norris for months, for free.  Norris eventually got VD a job at his wife's restaurant, Woody's Wharf, in Newport Beach and took JC on two movie shoots.  Van Damme would land his first on screen credits in 1984 as the Gay Karate Man in Monaco Forever and a scene stealing dance extra with Qissi in Breakin'.

Responding to an open audition for martial artists, Jean-Claude would knock out a loud mouth bullying other hopefuls and landed the role of Ivan the Russian in Seasonal Films' No Retreat, No Surrender.  Playing the villain to a high school transplant trained by the ghost of Bruce Lee, NRNS is far from classic cinema but is entertaining with some of VD's greatest fight scenes.  Made for well under $1 million, NRNS earned $5 million in the US alone and garnered Van Damme some attention.  Around this time Van Damme met superstar female bodybuilder Gladys Portugese on a photo shoot in Mexico.  Apparently, she fell in love with his affinity for wearing suspenders.  The two married and had their first child in 1987.

His personal life going well, it was time to ramp up his professional output.  Jean-Claude ran into 80's super producer Menahem Golan at a restaurant on La Cienega.  Golan was one half of Cannon Films, the go-go mini-studio of the 80's.  Where some studios had 10 movies in development, Cannon had 100.  According to Van Damme, he saw Golan leaving the restaurant with some Asian buyers fresh from the American Film Market happening in Santa Monica.  Jean-Claude threw a kick over Golan's head, pointed to himself and introduced himself as "Jean-Claude Van Damme, karate guy".  The crowd impressed, Golan gave JC a card and set a meeting for the next day.  According to Golan, VD was a waiter at the restaurant and while holding a bowl of turtle soup, kicked over Golan's head without spilling the soup.

The next day, Van Damme would visit the penthouse of Cannon Films, the most successful independent studio of all time.  Golan and his partner Yorum Globus were kings of cheap, exploitative fare, reusing sets and foreign pre-sale funding while also taking risks on edgier, artistic fare from known talent.  Sylvester Stallone had just signed a $10 million deal to star in Over The Top, the arm wrestling/father-son/road trip opus.

After 7 hours, Jean-Claude finally had his meeting with Golan and was nearly in tears.  After struggling for five years, Van Damme sold himself as a young Chuck Norris, maybe a Stallone.  He was very cheap, Golan could buy him for a piece of bread and make money with him.  To accentuate his boasts, Van Damme took off his shirt to reveal his muscles then placed two chairs beside him and did the splits between them.  Impressed, Golan laid down the script for Bloodsport, telling Van Damme, "you want to be a star, I'll make you a star".

Bloodsport would launch Jean-Claude Van Damme's career but it almost never saw the light of day.  Stay tuned as we look at the movies that changed Van Damme from a karate kicking Arnold wannabe action star to a critically praised, self destructive actor and household brand.

Promoting Bloodsport:

Live Goods: Hugh Jackman - One Night Only

Saturday's return to Hollywood was for Hugh Jackman's one man show at the newly rebranded Dolby Theatre (formerly The Kodak Theatre).  Hollywood's nicest and arguably most talented guy has done plenty of stage performances in New York so this first time, one off show to support the MPTF (Motion Picture & Television Fund), on his 45th birthday, was truly a historic event.

Home to the Academy Awards Oscars ceremony, the Dolby Theatre is of course, quite nice.  Which makes the shoddy plumbing a bit of a surprise.  Seriously, during the intermission you could barely wash your hands and the women's restroom was closed on two floors.  Anyways, the show itself was a testament to Jackman's vast skills as an actor, singer, dancer and entertainer.  Accompanied by a full strings and horn section, Hugh regaled the 4,500 audience members (that included heads from Fox and Dreamworks, Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer) with anecdotes and photos of his life coupled with vocal performances and full on musical dance numbers. 

Throughout the show, Jackman was joined by a handful of guests including 30x platinum singer/song writer Richard Marx and a trio from Australia to promote Aborigine rights flown in just for the occasion.  His wife Deborah took the stage to lead the crowd in singing Happy Birthday and each seat had a celebratory cupcake under it.  After the show, Jackman conducted an auction for items like Wolverine props, movie premiere tickets and a personalized Fiat electric car.  All in, the night raised $1.8 million for the MPTF which supports actors during and after their careers.  After all of this, Jackman boarded a plane and headed to China to promote The Wolverine.  I got to sit for 40 minutes trying to get out of Hollywood.  Fucking Hollywood...

I'm guessing this was the last time Hugh hit The Dolby:

(Not so) Live Goods: Gravity at Grauman's Chinese

Saturday was all about Hollywood.  First was a screening of Gravity in IMAX 3D at the newly renovated Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Holding up to 932 guests, Grauman's is now the largest IMAX theater in the world...for seating capacity.  The screen looked bigger than Fake IMAX aka LieMAX but still wasn't so large as Universal Citywalk where you have to whip and tilt your head to keep up with the action.  Or maybe the seating is just designed better so you don't have to.  Remember kids, there's only a handful of REAL IMAX screens in Southern California, Universal Citywalk, The Bridge at Howard Hughes and Edwards in Irvine.

Gravity has been gobbling up box office moola and has glowing reviews to match.  It's definitely incredibly well made, exciting and intense.  It's nice to see Sandra Bullock still on top of the game 20 years after Demolition Man ("Take this job and shovel it.") and Speed ("Get your ass behind the line.") while Julia Roberts struggles to stay relevant.  George Clooney delivers a typical performance which means he's affable, funny and easy to like.  I kept wondering when he was going to get blown up since this was a Sandy feature.  It definitely makes you want to watch more space movies like Armageddon, Space Cowboys and The Right Stuff.

The 3D was pretty solid with grand vistas of Earth, space, flying debris and first person shots but again, it can't quite be immersive when you can see the edge of the screens and peoples heads in front of you...the sound was the first thing to catch my attention as the sound (or shock) waves rippled the fabric of my pants.

Trailers for sequels to Hunger Games and The Hobbit looked great on this screen though:

Elbow Rocket! Van Damme Week! With Arnold and Stallone!

Monday, October 14th, 2013.  Just another day?  Not quite, for today marks the start of Van Damme Week!  Co-Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

On Friday, October 18th, Jean-Claude Van Damme will turn 53 (still ripped) years old.  Also, the King of Kings, Arnold and the Italian Stallion, Stallone's latest film, Escape Plan (formerly The Tomb) hits theaters.  If this isn't cause for you to be motivated already I'm bout to give you Samoa (Get it?  You don't get it.)

So anytime your day gets tough, things aren't going your way, you feel the world is against you, you think you're being overlooked, just remember:

"Hey, this is the American dream here.  This is the land of opportunity.  Anyone can come over here, marry a Kennedy and become a millionaire."
     - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Now get out there and take what's yours, Internet.

Escape Plan is out on Friday.  It's a fun flick with solid roles for Sly and Arnie:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Van Dammage: Numero Uno

"Great!  Fantastic!  Agghh!  I'm blind!  Pacino!  What an actor!  Number one!"
     Jean-Claude Van Damme on Al Pacino in 1992's Scent of a Woman

Friday, October 4, 2013

Van Dammage: Brand New Start

Hello? Are you out there internet? It's been a long, crazy and educational couple of weeks. The house I grew up in for 20 years was emptied out over 2 days. What items I didn't send to myself were donated to a local church group. The first package arrived yesterday and it's nice to see my tastes have matured over the years, oh wait...

"I've got news for you -- I'm nothing special. You are talking to a guy who was not raised on the street, who didn't do drugs or crazy stuff, who comes from a simple country with simple people. I'm not deep, not super smart, not stupid, just a normal guy. I have two dogs, a house. I like to train, I love life."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme