Monday, December 30, 2013

Weird(cool) Panels: Thor

It's always fun to come across a randomly weird issue of mainstream comics.  Whether it's Bruce Banner's bachelor party or Steve "Captain America" Rogers going on a date, these offbeat stories are usually a nice break from the monotony of superhero comics.

In this case, it started in Thor # 364 from I believe 1984 for several issues in which God of Mischief Loki turns Thor into a frog!  But since he's Thor, he's a super frog with enhanced strength.  Roaming the ponds of New York's Central park, Frog Thor comes across Puddlegulp, a frog who is recruiting other amphibians to fight an army of evil rats looking to poison the water supply of NY with all the traps set out for them.  Throw in some sewer crocodiles controlled by a dude with a flute and you get one of the weirdest comic book scenarios I've come across in quite a while.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Straight Flexing on the Net(flix)

In case you haven't heard, Netflix is about to lose a shit ton of titles to herald the year of the machines 2014.  Read the full list over at Dark Horizons and start crafting your To Watch list!  Among the digital casualties:

Jean-Claude Van Damme:  Hard Target, Lionheart, The Quest, Street Fighter and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.  Looks like the 65 million views his Volvo ad mustered couldn't save the Muscles From Brussels' Universal catalog along with his early appearance in Boogaloo.

Mel Gibson:  Braveheart, Gallipolli and We Were Soldiers

Cannon Films:  Breakin' 2 and Revenge of the Ninja

Lance Henriksen:  Pumpkinhead and Hard Target

Sylvester Stallone:  Stop!  Or My Mom Will Shoot (we still have Staying Alive and Antz though!)

Michael Biehn:  Dead Men Can't Dance (alongside the TV Highlander himself, Adrian Paul)

Tom Selleck:  Quigley Down Under

Arnold Schwarzenegger:  Not affected, we still got Conan The Destroyer and Jingle All the Way!

Between loads of laundry, I worked on my expiring Instant Queue with Running Scared, Peter Hyams' 1986 buddy comedy starring Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal, most memorable for an impressive car chase on top of Chicago's L train tracks and a cop car with bullet proof glass.

Next was 1988's I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, the Blaxploitation parody from Keenan Ivory Wayans featuring no less than Isaac Hayes (Duke A-Number One!), Bernie Casey (Nerd savior), Chris Rock, Jim Brown and the best sidekick who was cooler than the hero, Steve James, of American Ninja fame as Kung-Fu Joe.

Michael Dudikoff and Steve James in a Cannon Films classic:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Biehn Scene: Alien 3

I love Aliens.  I've loved it since seeing it as a kid on CBS Saturday night then running around the house with a Super Soaker thinking it was a Pulse Rifle.  Years later I'd see it in all it's uncut glory on VHS and then the Special Edition in 1990 that reincorporated 17 minutes of James Cameron preferred footage.  Michael Biehn's portrayal of soft spoken, thrown into command, Biehn there, done that Corporal Hicks was a revelation.  Even though it was Ripley's movie, Biehn's turn as Hicks was calm, cool and badass while forever ingraining himself as one of my favorite actors.  Whether he's the vulnerable action hero of The Terminator, Navy Seals and Timebomb or the crazed, misunderstood mustached "villain" of Tombstone or The Abyss, Biehn always delivers a performance that can only be described as equal parts sensitive and intense...Sintense!

My love for 1986's Aliens was so strong that I never had a desire to watch 1979's Alien let alone 1992's Alien 3.  I may have caught bits and pieces of both but I didn't sit down for Alien until last summer to prep for PrometheusAlien 3 was still dead to me since I knew Hicks was not featured and had only heard bad things about the troubled production.  Thanks to the magic of in depth special features, we get to hear about all of those struggles from the people who lived them.  Following the success of Aliens, the producers went to work on a third installment but were stuck creatively.  Even though Sigourney Weaver's Ripley had become a north star for women in science fiction and garnered her an Academy Award nomination, female moviegoers still did not flock to Alien or Aliens.

For Alien 3, ideas were fleshed out and screenplays commissioned focusing on the male action hero Hicks could represent.  For whatever reason, Biehn, the man who brought Hicks to life, the consummate professional who replaced another actor already cast in the role over a weekend, was not going to be asked back.  When the flick finally started to roll under first time director David Fincher's eye, Weaver was center stage and Hicks was dead.  Already dead at the start of the film, Hicks was to be a carrier of a chest burster, thus bringing the xenomorph threat to new settings.  Once Biehn got wind of it, he and his agent protested and threatened to sue if his likeness was used.  Finally, a photo of Biehn from Aliens appeared on screen, for which he was paid nearly as much as his salary was on the previous film.

Now I'm trying to watch the prison planet set Alien 3, which has it's merits, but it's no Aliens and I nodded off several times.  Even though each Alien film is it's own self contained story, it's hard to watch Alien 3 and see everything Cameron and crew had accomplished in Aliens negated and jettisoned in the first 15 minutes.  That, and the cast and characters just can't hold a candle to Hicks, Hudson, Bishop, Apone, Drake or Vasquez.

Hicks lives!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Van Dammage - Dolla Dolla Bills

"Money is shit.  I mean, money is beautiful - hear me - it's good for you; it's good for the family, for buying a house, a car, for security.  But money is only paper.  If you do a good movie, you'll be a legend."
             Jean-Claude Van Damme

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Arnold 24: End of Days and Jingle All the Way

Remember that time I told you about how I watched 5 Arnold movies in a weekend?  Yeah you do.  This past Saturday included an early morning viewing of 1999's End of Days as I shook off the previous night's holiday party followed by 1996's festive classic Jingle All the Way before popping in newly remastered The Terminator from 1984 later while cleaning up the house.

End of Days brings two memories to mind: the first being the breakfast shake Arnold puts together when his character; a sloppy and suicidal ex-cop working private security, is introduced.  It contains no less than coffee, leftover Chinese food, a piece of pizza picked up off the floor, Pepto Bismol and beer.  The second memory being that when EOD was released, it was a bit of a question mark as Arnold hadn't headlined a movie in 3 years and underwent heart surgery in the interim.  Arnie came back a bit haggard compared to his usual clean cut appearances as EOD's Jericho Cane is a man without hope and barely holding on when he comes across the bizarre case of Satan coming to NY looking for a wife.

Hitting screens during the Thanksgiving rush, Days wasn't quite the welcome back party Ah-nuld expected and was the start of his box office decline as 2000's The 6th Day and 2002's Collateral Damage would ring in middling returns.  EOD still managed to land in the Top 20 Worldwide grossing films of the year with a tally of over $200 million.  At the helm was Peter Hyams, who had experienced a bit of a career resurgence thanks to Jean-Claude Van Damme's attempts to branch out beyond simple martial arts fare in 1994's Timecop and 1995's Sudden Death.  Arnold's trusted friend James Cameron recommended Hyams for the job which turned out not to be quite as successful a pairing.  According to Arnold, Hyams didn't take many of his suggestions and bashed Cameron's filmmaking style which forever branded him a moron in the eyes of The Oak.

Much more enjoyable is Arnold's family Christmas flick, Jingle All the Way.  I've always loved this movie and tend to watch it frequently as it just cracks me up.  Jingle tells the story of hard working mattress salesman Howard Langston who always seems to miss out on his son Jamie's growing up.  Determined to make it up to him, Howie goes off in search of the season's hottest toy, Turbo Man.  Crowd trampling, unchecked capitalism, counterfeit toy rings, Mall of America, animatronic reindeer, exploding mail and mother fudging karate hijinks ensues.  The flick boasts an impressive credit list on and off screen as producer Chris Columbus brought us Home Alone, Gremlins, Mrs. Doubtfire and would later work on Harry Potter while director Bryan Levant was fresh from Beethoven and The Flinstones.

The cast is also great and filled with familiar faces like Sinbad, Rita Wilson (Tom Hanx's wife), Phil Hartman ("Oh these cookies!"), James Belushi, The Big Show, Chris Parnell, Booger himself Curtis Armstrong and Robert Conrad from TV's The Wild, Wild West.  Also a Thanksgiving release, Jingle also got caught up in the holiday shuffle, grossing less than Arnold's previous comedic attempts Twins and Kindergarten Cop but doing much better than his "man getting pregnant" flick Junior.  The Oak hasn't headlined a comedy since which is a huge loss because he is hilarious.  HILARIOUS.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gotta Drank! Vast

While Christmas in California is a little weird since it's in the 70's, a week ago I experienced temperatures in the 20's in Iowa, 40's in Missouri and 60's in Oklahoma which required long sleeves.  Upon arriving in Oklahoma, it was dinner and drinks at Vast, a classy, upscale joint located on the 49th floor of a downtown Oklahoma City skyscraper.  I opted for an Old Fashioned which was very smooth and refreshing.  The view of course, is incredible as the million person population, stadium and half dozen highways of the city were spread out below in a funnel cake of lights and concrete.  My friend requested they reference an episode of Knight Rider as our reservation which they first rebuffed but ultimately carried out.  Because Trust Don't Rust.

Workout of the Day: Pec Pop

What do you do when you can't sleep and wake up at 5:00 AM for no particular reason?  In my case, it was time to work off a weekend of only eating 2 meals per day made up of fast food burgers or pizza.  So where my daily calories might have been lower than usual, it was still time to kick some endorphins and get ready for the holiday week.  Didn't feel like hitting the gym so I opted for a push up centric workout at home.

Like Chins, Push Ups are a great exercise you can do a million ways, anywhere and at any given time.  You only need enough space to get into position.  To spice up my session, I did sets to hit all three parts of the pecs:  upper, middle and lower.  You need to work the upper portion to tie into your shoulders, neck and clavicle while middle gives you that mass and width so you avoid narrow bird chest syndrome then lower tightens up the edges and bottom for that good slab like appearance.  I also recommend elevating each hand individually so you get a little more stretch out of the exercise.  In my apartment's spare room/office/gym I just use a couple hard cover novels about 2 inches thick.  Hand position wise I opted for normal, just outside shoulder width and wide.  Remember to keep your elbows close to the body so you're not putting all the stress on your shoulders.

For Incline, just put your feet up on your bed, a stool or a Swiss Ball if you've got one.  Doing them off a Ball will make it a little tougher as you've got to maintain stability so your core gets more work.  For regular, feet on the ground is fine while decline you can place your hands on a stair, a small box or even a coffee table, whatever you have around.

Phase I - Push Ups & Barbell Curls:  For mass, size and shape I alternated these two exercises doing 2 sets each of incline, regular and decline push ups.  For Curls, I bent at the waist, keeping my back straight and gripped the barbell at shoulder width.  It's kind of like a Spider or Preacher curl without a bench.  To really pump up my bi's, I would complete 8-10 full reps then do 3-4 partial "half" reps.  When the weight started to get heavy and I couldn't complete many reps, I'd strip the bar every few repetitions until I got 8-10.

Phase II - Dumbbell Fly's, 1-Arm Preacher Curls, Pullovers and Concentration Curls:

Since I was working out at home, I chose simple exercises that could be done back to back, superset style with little rest or weight/equipment changes in-between.  Doing Fly's on a Swiss Ball you can roll your body into incline or regular position.  As the weight got heavier I switched to Pullovers and Concentration Curls to avoid strain on my shoulders or elbows.  Pullovers can be done on the Swiss Ball or on the floor with a rolled up towel or throw pillow under your upper back.

That was it for weights then I moved downstairs for cardio consisting of 1 mile on the bike as fast as I could followed by jump roping for 2 minutes then abs.  I repeated this 3 times and called it a morning.  It wasn't even 7:00 AM yet but my Monday was already moving right along.

Arnold on the comeback trail:

Snow Screen: 47 Ronin

On Christmas Day you can enjoy no less than 4 major new releases at your local cinema after you've finished a holiday feast or opening presents or going to church or working or relaxing or whatever you're doing.  You've got the latest from Leo Dicaprio and Martin Scorsese, living up 80's excess in The Wolf of Wall Street.  Or you could opt for Raging Bull VS Rocky in Grudge Match.  If seeing old men Stallone and DeNiro trade puns and punches doesn't sound appealing then you can go on a fantasy adventure with Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty.  Or you can check out a Japanese myth retold for the umpteenth time only paid for by American studios.

The story of a band of master less samurai, or ronin, 47 tells the tale of a mysterious half breed teaming up with a driven warrior to avenge the death of their slain master at the hands of a rival lord and his witch powered oracle.  I thought this was going to be a clunky, comic book movie retelling of the old legend but 47 Ronin was a surprisingly serious and straight forward samurai and swords action drama with some unexplained supernatural elements.  While it never rises to the "oh shit!" chaotic crescendo of 13 Assassins, travel the depth of Twilight Samurai, or go West meets East like The Last Samurai; Ronin manages to be an entertaining 2 hour affair and quite a departure for any American studio since every scene but one features a cast of Japanese actors along side co-leading man Keanu Reeves.

Apparently, things weren't quite smooth sailing on this one as first time director Carl Rinsch was handed the reins to a $175 million tent pole with global appeal.  A friend saw a rough cut years ago that clocked in one hour longer and her reaction was not good.  Now, 5 years after the project was announced, the flick is finally hitting screens.  Reviews haven't been kind and with such a crowded market, the prospect of becoming a sleeper hit seems limited.  It's been 10 years since Warner Brothers backed Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai (a worldwide hit in 2003) so it may be a while until you can see another samurai tale in theaters without subtitles.

If you haven't seen 13 Assassins, Netflix that joint!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Con-Man: Long Beach Comic & Horror Con 2013

November's 5th annual Long Beach Comic & Horror Con was a blast as usual.  One of the great things about utilizing the Long Beach Convention Center is the abundance of entertainment outside the show.  So if you need a break or want to grab some non-Con food, you're covered.  The awesome $1 bookstore was still rockin' and rollin' and I grabbed a handful of books about Tim Allen, the state of politics according to Jesse Ventura and World War II.  I was meant to visit the store that day as a Vanity Fair from 1993 featuring Sylvester Stallone was the first thing I saw.

Walking up to the show, they had more replica and prop vehicles than ever, including my first viewing of the Batmobile from 1989's Batman!  Totally missed out at Comic-Con when Warner Brothers had all of the Batmobiles out at their offsite stage.  We've seen the Back to the Future Delorean before and if you donate the owner shows you little hidden things on the car, pretty cool.

More from inside the show coming!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gotta Eat! Bacon Breakfast

Woke up at 5:30AM on a Sunday and felt like having a large breakfast since I only ate twice on Saturday.  First up?  Bacon!  Of the Applewood Smoked, Thick Sliced Center Cut variety.  Now I don't know how you like your pig but I'm not a fan of frying it up, grease goes flying and it seems to take forever.  Instead, I use the oven and just set it and forget it (I wonder how bacon would turn out in Ron Popeil's Showtime Rotisserie Grill and Barbeque...).  Since I've never invested in a baking rack, I just folded up some tin foil like an accordion to channel the fat out.  25 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and I had a plate full of beautiful, crispy pork that I ate with a fork (not really, my hands function as a plate, spoon and fork) along side some pizza and eggs.  Even better than Sno Balls and Mountain Dew, baby.

Mmmm, educational food programs:

Arnold 24: Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Rolling back into town just in time for my company's national conference and holiday party after my adventures in Middle America, I somehow found time to watch part and or all of 4 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Terminator 2, End of Days, Jingle all the Way and The Terminator.  It's like Pringles, once you (pec) pop, you can't stop...or something.

Post conference and pre-party it was time for 1991's Terminator 2:  Judgement Day, James Cameron's record and ground breaking sequel to his 1984 cinema changing tech-noir thriller, The Terminator.  Even though I have two different versions of it on DVD, I skipped the step of popping it in and opted for streaming it on Netflix.  I've long had issues with the quality of Netflix as I find the pixelated images and non-black blacks annoying and would rather watch a disk or even a VHS.  To my surprise, Terminator 2 looks great on Netflix with virtually no image distortion at all for much of what I viewed.  I'm sure I could fix the issues with an upgrade in internet speed and television but that's just wasteful so shut up you tech whore.  Technology represses the inner beast.  Remember that.

A sequel with remake qualities, T2 follows young John Conner (Edward Furlong) as he learns about his future as leader of the human resistance 20 years ahead of time while evading the liquid metal T-1000 (Robert Patrick, who has somehow never co-starred opposite Michael Biehn) with the help of a reprogrammed T-800 (Arnie, duh!) and his mother, Sarah (future Cameron ex-wife Linda Hamilton), now life hardened and awaiting the machine brought Armageddon.

T2 is an amped up version of part I with many of the same story beats repeated only replacing human hero and father of the future Kyle Reese (Michael "fucking" Biehn!) with Arnold's nicer, good guy Terminator.  When Ah-nuld helps Sarah escape from a mental facility, he repeats the same line Reese does upon finding her in part I:  "Come with me if you want to live".  With over ten times the budget of Terminator, Judgement Day was an action and special F/X extravaganza combined with great production design, a killer cast, strong characters and a few laughs along the way.

Seeing T2 a couple years ago on the big screen, it's amazing to see how well it still holds up.  The main reason, in my opinion, is that Cameron only used the then ground breaking visual F/X (first developed for his own The Abyss) for the T-1000.  The morphing, puddle melting, knife handed, Silver Surfer walking villain was something audiences had never seen and I'm sure is one of the main reasons for repeat attendance.  Cameron's crew shot everything around the T-1000 practically with physical stunts, make up, sibling twins, miniatures and rear screen projection.  So when the T-1000 walks out of a ball of fire, he's the only visual effect on screen as the exploding truck wreckage is real VS today's CGI on top of CGI = video game cartoon shit.

Judgement Day was a product of now defunct independent mini-studio, Carolco; the 90's powerhouse started by Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna.  Like a classier version of 80's juggernaut Cannon, Carolco was the place for big budget, high concept, movie star powered fodder with worldwide appeal.  The two got started distributing films in the foreign market and soon went into production themselves on 1982's First Blood, which would become Sylvester Stallone's second franchise after Rocky.  An extremely troubled production (Stallone claims to have offered to buy the flick and burn it), the film was retooled several times before hitting screens to modest success while redefining action cinema forever.

That success led to the mega hit sequel, 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II, the second highest grossing picture of the year.  Kassar and Vajna set out to pool established and rising talent, over paying for the services of James Cameron, Walter Hill, Mickey Rourke, Arnold, Sly, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Paul Verohoven, Michael Douglas, Renny Harlin, Roland Emmerich and Oliver Stone.  But by 1990, Kassar's hot headed attitude pushed calming influence Vajna to depart and start his own company.

When Carolco hit, they did so on a global scale as Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Terminator 2, Cliffhanger and Rambo II collectively brought in over $1.5 billion in theaters alone.  Costly critical hits like The Doors and Chaplin showed they had an eye on expanding the company repertoire while epic flops like Showgirls and Cutthroat Island highlighted Kassar's lack of quality control.  By 1995, the party was over.

While Carolco and Kassar might not be the kings they once were, Terminator 2 remains a jewel in their and cinema's history.  Grossing $500 million worldwide, T2 would be 1991's most successful film by a large margin and become a landmark in movies and technology.  Arnold would parlay the success into having a studio at his control for 1993's Last Action Hero while James Cameron would make history again years later with Titanic.

Thumbs Up:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gotta Drank! Up - Down

Located in lovely downtown Des Moines, Iowa is a dive bar for the 80's and 90's ages, Up-Down.  Steps away from the capital building and Ray Gun, the joint is filled with arcade games like the two-screen, six player X-Men (Jim Lee console art!) and nostalgic hits like Wrestlemania, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Contra (frigging rip off!), Street Fighter II (so slow!), giant Jenga and Connect Four.  I was impressed with the wall decor, a mish mash of 80's and 90's pop culture wall paper featuring The Goonies, Back to the Future, Pauly Shore, Pulp Fiction, AC Slater and Jean-Claude Van Damme!  The bar was stocked with beers on tap, Strongbow in the fridge and a 2-4-1 token special for Saturday night.  I've been to several arcades lately and this had the best working games by far.  The selection and variety of games is solid but I'm still on the lookout for Avengers (America needs your help!) and the G.I. Joe run and gun shooting spectacular.

Van Dammage - Yesterday

"I was not the guy of today.  I was less responsible.  I'm very sensitive, and sometimes when you have those obstacles in your life, it can derange the way we are normally."
          Jean-Claude Van Damme

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Workout of the Day: Suite Life

Pardon any spelling mistakes and lack of embedded videos this week as I'm on the road in beautiful and frigid middle America.  While traversing several states seeing friends and capitals is fun, it can also lead to many a meal out, drinks, lack of sleep and other physique busters.  Now this place ain't about starving yourself and taking shirtless selfies.  It's about enjoying yourself without melting into a dumpy and grumpy mofo.

Arriving in rainy Kansas City, Missouri, I enjoyed a mix plate of BBQ from Gates (their sauce is not my fave) and owed myself a leg workout.  Utilizing the small gym on site I sweated out some brisket with the following routine:

Warm Up:
Jumping Jacks/Mountain Climbers/Shadow Boxing
1). Dumbbell Squat w/ DB Deadlift

The gym was equipped w/DBs through 50 lbs so I started with 30's and moved up 5 lbs per set for 5 total.

2)  Treadmill Sprints

Started at 5 mph and went up to 9 with an incline of 10-12, allegedly running uphill is easier on the knees and burns more calories.

For these I ran for 20 seconds and rested for 10 on the sides of the treadmill and repeated for a 1 one minute interval cardio blast.

3)  Seated Calf Raises

Just sit on a bench and place DB's on knees.  You don't get the bottom stretch without a box to put your feet on so I held the top position for 5-10 seconds each rep.

4)  Towel Twists

I didn't have a broom handle or dowel rod so I grabbed a towel at each end and pulled.  The tension gives the same stability.

A few crunches later I finished with 5 minutes of jogging, stretched it out and meditated to calm down and stop the sweats.  Then it was road trip time!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow Screen: The Santa Clause

Monday was a pretty good day.  Got a few packages in the mail, received some pleasant news at work and found out on the day we were going to Disneyland, they'd be screening their 1994 holiday hit, The Santa Clause, starring our favorite TV dad Tim Allen!  If that isn't destiny I don't know what is.  You might think it's weird to go to Disneyland and watch a 20 year old movie but we've hit the park hard for 3 years already; Fantasmic anniversary, Mickeys Halloween Trick or Treat, early entry, Club 33 (dinner is way better than lunch, ambiance!)...our current record stands at 5 rides in 1 hour and that included the 3 dealies at Cars Land!  So not real worried about going on Star Tours for the 20th time, which we did anyway.

The flick was playing on Main Street where Great Moments With Abraham Lincoln usually rolls.  Had no idea the place sat 485 peeps!  After a brief introduction, they hit play on the DVD player.  Clause is the story of Scott Calvin (mother BLEEP-ing) Tim Allen, a successful marketing exec at a toy company and divorced dad trying to spend Christmas Eve with his annoyingly cute yet disconnected son.  That night, Scott startles an intruder on the roof who turns out to be Santa Claus!  Spooked Santa tumbles off the roof and dies (kid's movie?!) and Scott grudgingly picks up the mantle to appease his kid.  North Pole, grumpy animatronic reindeer, children as elves, real life divorce shit, Judge Reinhold in ugly sweaters, Armand Assante and gift giving hijinks ensues.

Clause holds up remarkably well, as in it hasn't aged into a dated, schmaltzy, hollow cash grab that it could of.  The pace moves quickly, blending the fantasy Claus elements with the pseudo realistic family drama.  It might not be a Christmas classic but it serves its purpose better than recent attempts by Vince Vaughn and Allen himself in Four Christmases, Fred Claus and Christmas With the Kranks.  What's interesting is that Allen, a raunchy, opinionated, former drug dealer comedian would have a career defined by family entertainment funded by Disney.  For a week in 1994, Allen had the number one sitcom, movie and New York Times Best Seller in America.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lance Henriksen Week: Millennium & Tales From The Crypt

During and after reading Lance Henriksen's autobiography Not Bad For A Human, I of course had a hankering to see the man in action.  With so many credits to his name, it was hard to find a starting point.  Of course his work in James Cameron's Aliens and John Woo's Hard Target holds a dear place in my heart and VHS collection turned special edition DVD's, director's cuts and revival theater screenings.  Oddly, I ended up not watching a film with our guy but two episodes of television where Mr. Henriksen guest starred.

The first was a 1999 installment of The X-Files.  Now I've never seen an episode of The X-Files nor Millennium but a sizable chunk of Human is dedicated to Henriksen's portrayal of former FBI profiler Frank Black and the effect it had on his mind and career.  The brainchild of X-Files creator Chris Carter, Millennium was written with Henriksen in mind and became one of Fox's most watched pilots of all time.  The grueling pace of television took it's toll on its star who equated a season to TV akin to making 10 or 11 movies in a year.  His method approach combined with the dark subject matter made it difficult to jettison the role once shooting ended.  However, Henriksen's work was recognized with 3 Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance and 2 Saturn Award nominations for Best Genre TV Actor.

Season 3 ended on a cliffhanger and was then canceled by FOX.  That brings us to "Millennium", episode 4 of season 7 on The X-Files where Agents Scully and Mulder investigate exhumed graves of FBI agents who committed suicide.  A cult with ties to the Millennium Group are reanimating corpses and only Frank Black can stop them.  Well, sort of, we find Black living a quiet life in a mental institute and refusing to assist in the investigation.  It was actually kind of funny to see Henriksen's first two scenes in the show have him acting in a bath robe.  By the end though, Black is back and rescues Mulder, who is trapped in a basement full of zombies.  Since I was unfamiliar with Millennium as a show, I have no way of knowing if this was a satisfying conclusion.  According to Henriksen, it wasn't.

More satiating was my next viewing, a 1991 episode of HBO's horror anthology series, Tales From The Crypt.  Executive produced by Hollywood heavy hitters like Richard Donner, Joel Silver, Walter Hill and Robert Zemeckis, Tales translated old comics and short stories into creepy and eerie star powered installments.  Henriksen appeared in two episodes of Tales: Cutting Cards by Walter Hill and Yellow by Zemeckis.  The credits of Yellow alone are insane.  Director of Back to the Future, writers of Predator, composer of The Avengers, featuring Kirk Douglas, Henriksen and Dan Aykroyd! 

Yellow is set in the trenches of The Great War aka World War I where a cowardly lieutenant couldn't care less if his troops follow the general's orders or hide out in in the mud.  Unfortunately the general (Douglas) is his father who can't risk having his son be viewed as an incompetent coward.  Henriksen plays Sergeant Ripper: a tough, sneering, snarling soldier who can't help but despise the lieutenant.  Ripper and the lieutenant are sent on a dangerous night mission to fix a downed communication line.  In the field, Ripper tries to instill some confidence in the lieutenant as his and the life of his men are at risk.  The lieutenant loses his nerve, fails to warn Ripper of approaching enemy troops and they're all gunned down with Ripper catching the brunt of a grenade blast.

The lieutenant retreats back to base where he claims they were ambushed and he was the only survivor.  But badass Ripper makes it back to camp, holding his guts in and all to tell the general his son is yellow and left them to the episode to find out what happens, it's worth it.

Man, this was some good stuff all around.  Henriksen as Ripper was a phenomenal performance in a short amount of time.  He's angry, intense and feral while appearing sympathetic when necessary.  According to Human, it was also a milestone for Henriksen who had been inspired to hit the road by Douglas westerns like The Big Sky and Lonely Are The Brave.   Now, decades later, Henriksen was sharing the screen with his idol who complimented his acting prowess.  That's what we call coming Full Circle, John (Rambo).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cyber(dyne) Monday!

Dang you Amazon!  Well actually no, they had so many good deals I couldn't not buy them!  Stayed away from brick and mortar shops Friday as a new TV or blender isn't really worth physical harm to myself.  Sites like Dark Horizons had deals all week long so I steadily added more and more to my cart.  Their Prime membership service is pretty sweet, you get to stream movies and TV (so many Food Network shows!) cheaper than Netflix and you get free two day shipping.

Then we got word that those geniuses want to roll out a system of delivery drones for customers within a ten mile radius of shipping plants.  It's literally the rise of the machines!

This years Cyber Monday was the biggest in history with $1.735 billion in desktop spending.  Black Friday clocked in at $1.198 billion while Thanksgiving Day tallied $766 million.  Some of the growth from last year is in the double digits so pretty soon our computers will shop for us before they eventually become self aware and launch nukes at our enemies...

Never forget:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Van Dammage - Gotta Eat!

"It's like when you go to the restaurant, every day you have steak and French fries.  And then you go to another restaurant and you have a different plate.  You've got some steak, you've got some venison, you've got vegetables, whatever you want.  You have so many options, it's really difficult to find out what you like the best."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme on celebrities and women

Workout of the Day: Double Pump

It's been a little cold here in Los Angeles lately so I decided to stay in the house and get in a quick weight session.  Was feeling a little flat so I opted for a Shoulder-Biceps-Triceps routine utilizing supersets but each exercise for the same body part instead of alternating.  The moves work different parts of the muscle from different angles so I don't have to worry about straining tendons and joints while achieving a nice pump since the muscles stay engorged with blood.

1)  Handstand Push Up w/ Dumbbell Upright Row - You can do this a few ways, flip up into a handstand against a wall or start in a push up position with your feet against the wall and walk your way up or put your feet on a chair and hold your upper body at a 90 degree angle.

2)  Close Grip Chin Up w/ EZ Bar Curl - Chins for the forearms and brachialis while curls hit the biceps more directly.

3)  Close Grip Push Up w/ Dumbbell Side Extension - Push ups work the triceps, front delts and inner chest while the DB move helps tie in the rear part of the muscle.

4)  DB Press w/ Cable Lateral Side Raise - Presses for size, lateral raises for definition

5)  EZ Bar Reverse Curl w/ Incline Dumbbell Curl - EZ Curls for forearms and bicep mass with Incline Curls done in a doorway (middle of back against frame, take a step out and slide down) for definition, peak and shoulder/biceps tie in.

6)  Lying EZ Bar Skull Crusher w/ Dumbbell Extension - These two exercises work the triceps in about the same way but using DB's gives you a little more range of motion without stress on the wrists.

I did each superset twice, increasing the weight then finished off with some more shoulder raises and forearm exercises because I was watching Expendables II and Stallone still has crazy forearms.

Here's a Super Shoulder Routine, get it?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lance Henriksen Week: Not Bad For A Human

This year's Long Beach Comic & Horror Con was awesome.  As always, it's easy to get to with plentiful parking and tons of food/entertainment choices steps away.  You also have a view of the ocean from the steps of the beautiful LB Convention center.  The exhibitor floor was cracking with artist alley at full capacity.  Vendors were selling all types of cool swag and we picked up A LOT of stuff which I'll highlight later.

It was a bummer to see Thomas Jane had to bail this year due to his movie or TV shooting schedule but the good news was that Lance Henriksen, who was only scheduled to attend Sunday was now appearing Saturday and sharing TJ and Tim Bradstreet's RAW Studios booth!  If you don't know who Henriksen is but still find your way over here I really, really commend you.  After passing by a few times, the line had finally let up and we made our approach.  Henriksen was set up selling copies of his autobiography, Not Bad For A Human along with the usual variety of 8x10 glossy photos for autographs.  His deal of the day was a copy of the book and a photo of your choice.  Of course I selected the photo of him as Bishop from Aliens where he's lying on the floor, torn in half with his artificial person innards spilling out. 

I've never been one for photos with celebs as it takes away from your chance to actually engage them as a person because you're fiddling with a camera, getting into position and generally not being able to say much.  That rationale served me well this day as I got the chance to chit chat with Henriksen for a few minutes about the origins of his book, his work on Hard Target (Jean-Claude Van Damme as a modern day samurai with greasy mullet alert!), the last movie he worked on and the strangely awesome fact that he's worked on three different movies about sasquatch/abominable snowmen.  Luckily the lady snapped a pic while we chatted.  Henriksen was super cool, funny and nowhere near as intense as his usual gruff/scary performances in TV/film.  But his voice, that great voice, is real.

The book was a pretty fast read as the author and Henriksen move through his life and career with additional comments from several directors and actors he's worked with.  Henriksen was born in New York to a father who wasn't around and a mother who couldn't take care of him.  Inspired by Kirk Douglas westerns, Henriksen would drift around the country working odd jobs, visiting relatives, getting into trouble, joining the military and getting kicked out before finding his calling as an actor and pottery enthusiast.  Acting helped Henriksen deal with his anger, authority and abandonment issues while also making him confront his inability to read.  With the help of scripts, he forced himself to learn so he could make a go at acting as a career.

Reading through, you forget how many movies Henriksen has been in and the sheer magnitude of talented people he's worked with.  Sidney Lumet, James Cameron, John Woo, Sam Raimi, Ed Harris, Phil Kaufman, Walter Hill, Chris Carter, Steven Spielberg, Stan Winston, Robert Zemeckis...Starring opposite the likes of JCVD, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Dennis Quaid, Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Sigourney Weaver, Kirk Douglas and a hundred more.

It was interesting to see how personally invested Henriksen was in each of his roles, going straight method and staying in character.  That commitment is probably why so many people like working with him.  It's also a little sad to see how that dedication and work ethic would undo his personal life as he couldn't let go of each role immediately and brought the darkness home causing friction with the wife(s). 

Staying busy as ever, Henriksen had no less than 6 movies released in 2013 and another 9 in various stages of production along with his voiceover work in animation, video games and commercials.  Time to skim through his hundreds of credits and find a few to watch...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

(NOT) Love Actually: The Last Stand

Award season is in full swing for movies with serious, adult themed dramas and tragedies filling up Cineplex's for hours at a time.  We'll start seeing best of lists from people who have never made a movie and then we'll get that bullshit meat market, campaign trail, old white guy mecca known as The Oscars.  Hundreds of films are released a year but the big, noteworthy ones find themselves in a glut around holiday time to fight for voter attention and critical prestige.  A movie with no award prospects but one I thoroughly enjoyed upon release and have revisited since is Arnold's failed comeback vehicle, The Last Stand.  The flick tanked back in January, grossing a meager $12 million on a reported $40 million budget.

I'm not here to talk about what went wrong, I'm here to rap about what went kick ass about the flick.  The pedigree behind The Last Stand is quite impressive; producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has enjoyable credits like Four Brothers, Red and Transformers to his name while Korean director Kim Jee-Woon makes his US debut after the lyrical action drama A Bittersweet Life and gonzo western The Good, The Bad and The Weird.  A low watt yet recognizable cast including Forest Whitaker, Harry Dean Stanton, Luis Guzman, Peter Stormare, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander and Rodrigo Santoro show up to support the aging Arnold.

The Last Stand shows Arnold's intelligence as an actor coming back to the game after a long layoff.  Instead of beating the drum of his own one man band a la Stallone, Arnold again aligns himself with a strong director and talented crew.  The flick is about the best example of a past era movie star trying to compete in the current cinema landscape.  Arnold's portrayal of sheriff Ray Owens is a little stiff but he's still strong, charismatic, funny and able to handle himself in the action.  As Clint Eastwood continued to convincingly play tough guy roles into his retirement years, Arnold carries the tradition if not quite as successfully.

The flick concerns an egomaniacal Mexican cartel leader escaping the feds and making a run for the border in a stolen, souped up Corvette.  Said villain pulls a fast one and avoids the major entry point, opting to have his lackies build a bridge over a narrow canyon in the town of Summerton; sheriff'd by none other than our "worked in LA, saw too much blood and came back to the quiet town" guy Arnold.  With a ragtag crew of rookies and outcasts, Arnold takes on the cartel's goons and makes, The Last Stand.

From beginning to end, The Last Stand is a fun flick.  A flick audiences can feed off each other's laughing and cheering.  It's funny, fast, violent and exciting.  Shootouts, car chases, car flipping, foot chases, cornfields, brawling, falling and grannies with guns provide cathartic mayhem.  I saw it at a preview screening and couldn't believe how much fun it was.  The crowd was so into it and walking out there was a general buzz of good feeling.  Unlike Stallone's Bullet to the Head where audience members didn't know whether to applaud or be appalled at the hyper violent and racist goings on to the point that goers shushed and made fun of each other.

Nods are made to Arnold's age and history as a badass but the film never makes him out to be Superman or tries to recreate his image as the stoic and pumped up hero of Predator or Conan.  That's what I like about the flick, it's doing its best to take Arnold's baggage into a new direction.  He's not the guy from Commando or Terminator anymore so let's not try to hide it.  Whereas Stallone struck higher financial success with The Expendables, the clunky ass action series that highlights his plastic surgery and supplement regimen while showcasing the fact he can't let go and always has to be top dog.  But Arnold then and now, is always concerned with "the movie" and making it the best it can be.  With The Last Stand, he proves again why he'll always be The King of Kings.

Arnold needs to do more of these things:

Gotta Eat! Jack In The Box

You're probably thinking, does Jack in the Box really warrant it's own post?  And you're right, Jack is far from my favorite fast food joint.  It sits well behind McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's.  But you know what advantage Jack as on the competition?  Their menu is 24 hour.  So when you wake up and feel like having a burger, fries and two tacos there's literally no other option. 

You might also be thinking, man, why work out if you're just going to eat that crap?  Because if I didn't train then the food would take it's toll on me.  About a year ago I went to the doctor for a physical, my first since a half assed one in high school.  I was afraid they'd tell me I had high cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure or something but you know what they told me?  I'm in excellent health.  So if a "heavy" user of fast food (according to Super Size Me) like me can eat my burger for breakfast and have my biceps too, then all them posers going on juice cleanses can continue to be dumpy and suck it.

Mascot party:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chief Goods: Happy New Year

Who's ready for their lumps?!

"She was on TV recently, Miley Ray Cyrus, and it was just like, "What the fuck is all this about?" I don't know. It's a shame, because it puts all the other female artists back about fucking five years. Now, Adele and Emili Sande – that music, to me, is like music for fucking grannies, but at least it's got some kind of credibility.

It's just embarrassing. Be good. Don't be outrageous. Anybody can be outrageous! I could go to the Rolling Stone office and fucking shit on top of a boiled egg, right? And people would go, "Wow, fucking hell, that's outrageous!" But is it any good? No, because, essentially, it's just a shit on top of a boiled egg. That's all it is. If I was to go to your office and play you a song that I'd just written that was amazing, that would be better, wouldn't it?"

- Noel Gallagher on Miley Cyrus and women in the music industry

That singer from Beady Eye:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dammaged View: Sports Movies

I ran late this morning after popping in Moneyball and getting caught up in the story of failed player turned manager Billy Beane's attempt to rebuild the Oakland Athletics after losing three key players.  Using statistics, averages and economics to assemble a rag tag team of ignored, undervalued and past super stars; Beane's reject squad makes history and wins 20 games straight.  The film itself is immaculate in its simplicity and clarity.  Brad Pitt's frustrated swagger mixed with Jonah Hill's straight laced number cruncher makes for quite the cinematic duo. 

Moneyball is a subtle reminder that sports movies are a heck of a lot more enjoyable than sports.  I could give a shit about sports.  In fact, I loathe team sports because it turns individuals into assholes and crowds into mobs.  I didn't know what a corner back was while I played football in high school, I read about it later in a Foxtrot comic strip.  But give me Rocky, Major League, Any Given Sunday, Warrior, Miracle, heck even Coach Carter and I'm on the edge of my seat, heart swelling with the highs and lows of the athletes on screen and feel like I know something about boxing, baseball, football, basketball, MMA and hockey.

What's the difference?  Characters.  Personalities.  Filmmakers humanize the athlete because if it was just about the sport, non-fans would get tired after 15 minutes.  But the story of the under dog, the person trying to better themselves, the family dynamic of teams, losing but coming back for more, for that one last shot of's beautiful.  You forget about all the bullshit baggage sports can bring like infidelity, drug abuse, sex addiction, dog fighting rings, illegal possession of firearms, gambling dens, fans beating each other to death...and can just enjoy the game.

Every great sports film includes at least one goosebump inducing motivational speech.  Such as:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Van Dammage - Menu

"I ate something, but not food.  You know what I'm saying?"
         Jean-Claude Van Damme