Friday, February 28, 2014

Gotta Drank! Stella Barra Pizzeria

It's been an Arclight-centric couple of weeks for movie going and right next door is newish establishment, Stella Barra Pizzeria.  I believe it used to be a gastropub but it went kaput.  The new joint is pretty nice inside, wide open with a big bar.  Thin crust, hot oven pizzas are the specialty but we just went for a quick drank before a flick.  I believe they had a Happy Hour special going for drinks that we just missed.  Their cocktails weren't too expensive and I opted for the Honey Badger which was kind of like a Hot Toddy only cold with Tequila, so not really like it at all I guess...

Last Man Standing: Harrison Ford

It's 80's time over at The Arclight as they're showing classic flicks like Aliens, Predator, The Terminator, Back to the Future and Die Hard over the coming weeks (a.k.a. Michael Biehn on the big screen 2 weeks in a row!).  On Wednesday, the Dome was nearly sold out for a revival of 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which finds the globe trotting professor fighting gangsters in China before embarking on a quest for magic stones in India where he uncovers a dark cult of heart stealing baddies.  The film looked great up on the big, curved screen of The Dome and Steven Spielberg's work still holds up with it's mix of walloping action, exotic locales, romance and buddy comedy in the purposely dark story.  Apparently writer/producer George Lucas was going through a divorce at the time and not in the best of moods and also wanted to follow The Empire Strikes Back's move into scarier territory.  If you've never been to The Dome, always sit in the middle sections, whether you're in the front row or the way in the back, it's still a good view.  Sitting on the sides is a little weird because the curvature of the screen seems to distort the image, to me, at least.

Earlier in the week and during dinner, I had been discussing American leading men and how we have so few of them coming up the ranks.  Batman, Spider-Man, Robocop and Superman are all played by Europeans.  Australians like Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth have a lock on playing tough guys while for a moment America was getting Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera shoved down our throats.  Point Break, a film about an Ohio football player turned FBI agent chasing down a California surfer, just got cast with an Australian and a Scotsman in the leads.  Don't get me wrong, we'll always have our Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Cruise and Smith contingent but those guys all started off in the 90's and are "cool guys" who were deemed pretty or funny before coming into their own.  Tom Hanks, a marvelous actor, has made a career of being the nice guy.  Where's the American ideal, the cowboy, the quiet loner, the get it done, Doer?  Burt Reynolds had his day but his good ol' boy charm just wasn't taken seriously.  Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood did it their way but apparently that's not the times we're living in anymore.

In the 90's, every big script went to 3 guys:  Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford.  Gibson is fucking harsh but his career was sold on his Australian upbringing.  Costner was a McQueen wannabe but never half as cool, in fact, he kind of comes off as a dick.  But Ford...Ford was it, Ford, in my estimation was our last American Man.  The O.G.  He was strong, dignified and fought the fight because it was the right thing to do.  In Temple, he is a movie icon for the books with his strong jawed handsomeness, dry wit and laconic personality.  A former carpenter who turned to acting, Ford brings a real life weariness and knowing confidence to the screen with his creaky gait and fit yet not overblown physique.  Turns in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner, Witness, Patriot Games and The Fugitive showcased his anchoring presence and easy going action charm.  While Air Force One gave us the only President, cinematic or otherwise, we can imagine throwing down with terrorists before tossing them off his plane.

Here's to you, Harrison Ford, for showing us how it's done.  Hopefully they manage to cram in "get off my plane" in Expendables III where he's playing a pilot.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Workout of the Day: (Tennis) Elbow Rocket!

Tennis Elbow and Lateral Epicondylitis are layman, general terms for a painful condition of the elbow caused by overuse.  Tendons in the forearms on the outside of the elbow become inflamed causing a burning or sharp pain.  While Tennis Elbow sounds like it could only afflict racquet sport enthusiasts, anyone who plays sports or has a job that involves repetitive motions can suffer.  Whether it's lifting weights, typing at a desk or turning a screwdriver, Tennis Elbow can happen to you.  Pain on the outer elbow and weak grip strength are the two most common symptoms.  You can even tap your elbow, one may be more sensitive than the other, like if you bumped into something, a quick, sharp pain in one but not the other is a tell tale sign.  There are several non-surgical treatments suggested such as taking a break from sport or work usage for several weeks, switching which hand you use a mouse with through the day, strengthening and stretching of the wrists and forearms or wearing a brace designed to rest the muscles and tendons.  Beyond that, surgery is your next step to fix the wear and tear.

In my case, lifting weights is the culprit for an elbow that has snapped, crackled and popped since high school.  When you're just starting out as a kid, weight seems to be more important than form.  Only later in life do you realize that straight bars set your body into an unnatural motion and put pressure on your shoulders, wrists and elbows.  Exercises like Lying French Press or a "Skull Crusher" put more pressure on your elbows since you're laying down with the weight overhead with gravity pushing down on your joints further.  But they're just so good at building your tri's!  I stopped doing many straight bar exercises years ago, substituting in curved EZ bars, parallel grip bars and dumbbells.  Recently I seem to have pushed too hard as I added Yoga into my workout regimen.  I figured weights in the morning and Yoga at night with a days rest in between would suffice as I've gotten away with training different parts of the upper body over two workouts on the same day in the past.  But constant plank position followed by 3-5 second push ups seem to have overexerted my elbow.  While I haven't experienced any loss of strength, any lying down extension movement has become a painful process so I've had to reevaluate.

Here's a Back and Triceps centric with light Rear Delts and Biceps Workout I did while keeping my elbow in mind:

Chin Up - Wide Grip, pull chest to bar, squeezing shoulder blades together
Bench Dip - Hands at my sides, you can do these off your bed, a sturdy chair or a counter
1-Arm Dumbbell Row - Pull the elbow up and out to work the upper back
Close Grip Bench Press - Elbows in tight to reduce stress on joints
Concentration Curl - Slow and steady, getting a full stretch at the bottom
Behind the Head Dumbbell Extension - Keeping biceps close to ears, controlling weight through
Rear Delt Raises - 1 set consists of 2 sets of 10 done in quick succession to exhaust the rear head

Other exercises that build the horse shoe without rubbing bone bumps:

Push Ups - Keeping elbows in tight, flaring out puts pressure on shoulders and joints
Dips - Elbows tight, helps tie in forearm to base of triceps
Dumbbell Kickback - Lean over, holding on to a bench, shelf or doorknob, keeping elbow high and close to the body, can be done with heavy weights for mass or lighter weights for definition
Cable Pushdowns - Use a thumbless grip and flex at the bottom, I use a rubber cable at home and burn out doing sets of 30
Lying Dumbbell Cross Extension - Lie down, press two DBs straight up, turn wrists so thumbs are now facing each other, bend elbows and lower DBs to chest.  I find these put less pressure on elbow than lowering behind the head

Training your forearms is always a good idea to stave off Tennis Elbow and Carpel Tunnel:

With a Dumbbell in each hand; do forearm curls with palms up, palms down and facing each other.

Remember to listen to your body, if it hurts, don't do it!  Now get swole!

Hey Arnold: Thumbs Up

"I have inhaled, exhaled everything."
     - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, the King of Kings, our Lord of Lords.  Always laughing, always smiling, even when he's insulting you, because you can't get upset at a guy if he's smiling at you.  Back in 2010, while serving as Governor of Cali-Four-Ne-Yah, Arnold sent a note accompanying a veto to an Assemblyman that spelled out FUCK YOU when read like an Acrostic Poem, or basically the first letters in consecutive lines.  The Oak claims it was a wild coincidence but apparently the chances of it happening are about 1 in 10 million.  I'll chalk it up to the charmed life he's already lead.
I wonder if Conan ever asked Arnold back after this:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ghostbust In Peace: Harold Ramis

Dr. Egon Spengler himself, Harold Ramis, has died in his native Chicago at the age of 69 due to complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a disease that involves swelling of blood vessels.  Working as a writer, director and actor since the 70's, Ramis wrote classics like Animal House and Meatballs before taking on directing duties for 1980's Stripes.  That film helped launch  Bill Murray into theatrical leading man status and the two would reunite on the Ghostbusters movies as well as Groundhog Day.  Ramis would go on to work with talent like Michael Keaton, Brenden Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Billy Crystal, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and John Cusack as a director and actor in Multiplicity, As Good As It Gets, Bedazzled, The Ice Harvest and Analyze ThisGroundhog Day is one of my favorite comedies from the 90's and I doubt there's too many kids my age who didn't see Ghostbusters as a child.  A third installment has been in the works for some time with original members Dan Aykroyd and Ramis vying to recruit young blood into the series as well as woo the now notoriously picky Bill Murray back to the gang.

Laugh and Ghostbust In Peace, Mr. Ramis.

Hanging out, talking movies:

Wild Boys: Strong Men Also Cry

"I cried when I was watching Rambo 1, when they put him in a jail, it wasn't cool.  The man didn't do anything so that drew a tear to my eye.  The sheriff started it first.  I hate mistreatment.  Peace, Freedom and Democracy for all."
      - Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic

Let's get the week started with a little Mirko Monday, shall we?  As in Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, the Croatian sensation who took up kickboxing as a teen and joined the police force after the death of his father.  After serving as an Anti-Terrorist Commando, Mirko took it to the ring where his "kick of death" and devastating punch combinations helped turn him into a true legend of combat sports and also the toughest guy ever to walk out to Duran Duran.  Fighting his way through K-1, Pride and the UFC, Mirko was the archetype of  "sprawl and brawl" but always took the ground game seriously, training with noted jiu-jitsu practitioners like Fabricio Werdum and Dean Lister.  While his last bouts in the UFC showed a more tentative fighter, Mirko was always one of the most exciting to watch as his career wins contain 20 Knock Outs/Technical Knock Outs, 5 Submissions and just 3 Decisions.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Master Cast: Reign of Fire

Parts of Hollywood will be shut down starting today in preparation of the annual Academy Awards happening on Sunday, March 2nd.  Ellen Degeneres returns as host for the second time in a year dominated by nominees based on true life events like Captain Phillips, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle.  Nominees for Best Actor include Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey.  This is Bale's second Oscar nomination and McConaughey's first.  Bale had previously won for his wiry, crazy and shady portrayal of boxing trainer Dicky Eklund in The Fighter.  This year sees him being praised for his performance as a fat, hair piece wearing petty criminal in American Hustle.  Matthew's McConaughssaince has been building for several years as 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe and 2012's Magic Mike showed his serious and charming sides.  His performance as HIV stricken cowboy Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club sees him shedding his Hollywood muscle and dropping some 40 pounds in a truly great destructive and desperate showcase.

Rewind 12 years and these two Best Actor nominees co-starred in the summer of 2002's awesome, post-apocalyptic, dragon fighting sci-fi/action romp, Reign of Fire.  Bale, fresh from his hilarious and villainous roles in American Psycho and Shaft plays Quinn Abercromby, leader of a struggling colony of survivors in the ash covered ruins outside of London.  Everyday is a struggle to feed and inspire the downtrodden community as many have lost hope and want to take their chances out in the wasteland.  One day, a small army arrives at their gates, led by McConaughey's bald, bearded and wild eyed Denton Van Zan, a dragon slayer who has rebuilt a military unit and come from America looking for the papa creature he believes to be the key in defeating the winged menace.  By now McConaughey had already made a splash with performances in Dazed and Confused, A Time To Kill and Amistad.  Genre fare hit and misses like U-571, Frailty and The Wedding Planner showed a varied if uneven career path in progress.

Director Rob Bowman wanted two strong actors in the leads who would be believable and able to carry the picture beyond it's computer enhanced spectacle.  Bale sports a mangy beard while McCon's shaved head and tattoos made him nearly unrecognizable.  Of course the two leaders butt heads as Quinn believes hunting dragons is suicide and that they're better off waiting them out.  Van Zan is eager to take back the sky and planet as he views Quinn's plan as nothing but a slow death.  While survival is the goal for both men, their opposing leadership styles eventually bring them to disagreement and blows, literally.  McConaughey admits to being overzealous in their one sided fight scene and headbutted Bale for real.  Bale, a consummate professional, took the blow and finished the scene but was plenty pissed afterwards.   Bale even punked McConaughey and asked if he was OK.  McConaughey responded, "Yeah, you mad bastard - I headbutted you!"  By the end of the film, both characters meet in the middle as they realize each of their methodology is flawed.  Teaming up, they defeat the fire breathing father and humanity's future looks to be back on track.

As if having two future Oscar nominated leading men weren't enough, Bowman's keen eye for casting also gives us Gerard Butler in a supporting role as Quinn's second in command, Creedy.  4 years later, Butler would star in massive hit 300 which would inspire a spate of imitator sword and sandal action movies while giving rise to a new style of Spartan-veined workouts.  Also along for the ride is 90's hot actress Izabella Scorupco, a former model and singer who popped up in Goldeneye and 2000's cheese/intense-tastic mountain climbing action flick, Vertical Limit ("Strap on the nitro.").  Here's hoping that Bale and McConaughey use their current pull in Hollywood to reunite in another flick as entertaining as Reign of Fire.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hot Damme! A Good Day to Die Hard

Say what you will about A Good Day to Die Hard but it's a perfectly functional action movie.  People complain that Bruce Willis' John McClane has lost his "human" side but give me a break, the dude was cracking wise and wasting terrorists in 1987's initial installment then fought bad guys across airports, on snow mobiles and on the wing of a moving airplane before blowing it up in Die Harder before surviving subway car crashes, racing through Central Park, falling from a bridge onto a moving freighter in With a Vengeance so please, let's just admit that the guy is a larger than life action hero the same as Stallone or Schwarzenegger only not as buff.  Sure there are dramatic, emotional, regular guy flourishes in Die Hard but they're also in First Blood with John Rambo.  However the sequels and imitations make people forget that there's actually only 4 deaths in Rambo's first adventure.

A Good Day lacks the complexity present in the first 4 Die Hard movies and gives us a boom boom boom, 97 minute action flick.  In the first third, we get a huge chase sequence involving cars, vans, trucks, big rigs and lots and lots of carnage.  Many of the gags were performed practically so you get dozens upon dozens of real vehicles being crashed and smashed seemingly on the streets of Moscow.  It's quite impressive and a little jaw dropping due to it's scope and utter disregard for public property and civilian safety as McClane drives his commandeered Mercedes SUV off a bridge, onto semi trailers and car carriers before crashing down on cars in traffic, shattering windshields and crushing hoods.  He even says "sorry, ma'am!" to a screaming woman underneath his tires.

Fox Lot mural honors DH franchise
It's said the sequence totaled 132 cars, including Lamborghini's and Mercedes Benz's at a cost of $11 million.  Director John Moore, Second Unit Director Jonathan Taylor and company planned the chase for 8 months and the resulting sub-10 minute sequence is one of the most epic motor melees in recent times.  A deft blend of location shooting and green screen, DH5 holds the record for the biggest green screen, measuring out at 1000' x 40', utilized over a highway set built in Budapest.  There's crashing, flipping, sliding, launching and a world record for tonnage flipped when a truck carrying a concrete pipe is thrown into the air and rolled to it's side. While it might not deliver the same genre defining, cinematic impact as its predecessor, A Good Day to Die Hard will forever contain one exciting and harrowing sequence that puts the viewer in the middle of the mayhem.

A little taste of the destruction:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mads Mikkelsen Week: Cool Guy

Mads Mikkelsen seems like a cool guy.  You know, like Zoolander, Billy Zane cool guy, the type you should listen to.  It must have been his performance in 2004's King Arthur that first caught my attention where he played the quiet, badass knight, Tristan.  In it, he knows how to throw knives, fights like a samurai, shoots people out of trees with a bow and arrow from a mile away and has an eagle as a friend.  While the movie wasn't great, it was an enjoyable sword swinging, men on a mission action pic that warranted two trips to a dollar theater to view.  That performance led to tracking down his Danish work where he had become a top star after breaking in with Pusher and it's sequel, a franchise based around the gritty and bleak yet fascinating lives of low level drug dealers.

Of course, it wasn't always easy finding his movies in the states but Blockbuster came through as I started to seek out more of Mikkelsen's work.  His roles and appearances varied from a nervous, cannibalistic butcher in the dark comedy The Green Butchers to a simple, in denial priest butting heads with a neo-Nazi in Adam's Apples.  2006's Casino Royale put him in the international spotlight as a poker playing, stock market manipulating, civil war funding James Bond villain who weeps blood.  That same year I got a hold of Susanne Bier's fantastic and shattering melodrama, After the Wedding where Mads plays Jacob, a man living in India running an orphanage who goes back to Copenhagen to ask a rich businessman for a donation.  Turns out the rich businessman is marrying Jacob's former lover/mother of a daughter he never knew he had.  Seriously, if you have Netflix, it's on there and is worth checking out.  If there was ever an award bestowed for best use of Sigur Ros music, After the Wedding would win, hands down.  After watching the flick, I sat down for nearly an hour, writing down my thoughts and feelings in an emotional and existential haze, it's that kind of movie.

In addition to all of his film work, Mikkelsen was also a face for H&M clothing in the late 2000's.  Today, rumors are swirling that Mads is in contention for the role of Dr. Stephen Strange, Marvel Comics' arrogant surgeon turned sorcerer supreme.  Mikkelsen had come close to starring Thor:  The Dark World as villain Malekith but his schedule on Hannibal got in the way.  I'm glad though, Malekith's role wasn't exactly a showy or interesting one so The Mads would have been wasted.

Check out this ultimate Cool Guy interview:

Snow Screen: 3 Days to Kill

It's been a big couple of years for 90's leading man Kevin Costner.  After claiming box office and Oscar gold with Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves and Dances With Wolves, the movie star turned director hit a rough patch after his 1997 costly flop, The Postman, crashed with audiences and critics.  Since then it's been hit and miss with box office takes dwindling and nary an awards contender in sight.  2009's The New Daughter went straight to video but redemption was just around the corner.  Following 2012's hit television mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys, Costner was hot again.  After a turn as Superman's Pa in Man of Steel, Costner would be recruited into the Jack Ryan reboot as the seasoned mentor with a possibility of his own spin-off movie.  That's not going to happen though as JR:  Shadow Recruit wasn't nearly the success of it's four predecessors.  After two supporting roles, this week sees Costner back in leading man mode with 3 Days to Kill

Written by Adi Hasak (From Paris With Love) and director turned studio head Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element) 3 Days to Kill continues to try and replicate the 2008 surprise success of Besson's Europa Corp's Taken.  That film transformed then 55 year old Liam Neeson from a dramatic actor into a bonafide action hero with follow up turns in The A-Team, Unknown, The Grey and Taken 2 sold on Taken's hype.  Neeson had already done plenty of physical supporting roles in Star Wars, Kingdom of Heaven and Batman Begins but Taken moved him into new territory; competing and besting aging action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.  Besson has since tried to place other known, dramatic actors like John Travolta and Guy Pearce into action films to entertaining but less successful results.

Now comes Kevin Costner's turn as a grizzled, 32 year veteran of the C.I.A.  Stricken with a mysterious yet deadly disease, Costner's Ethan Renner is only given 3-5 months to live.  He relocates to Paris in order to be closer to his estranged wife Christina (Connie Nielson, SOLDIER!) and teenage daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfield of Ender's Game).  This is where things get weird.  Because this movie is so weird.  It's literally a father/daughter drama with the missing dad trying to reconnect with his fast growing up daughter.  There's light emotions and awkward laughs as Ethan teaches Zooey how to ride a bike and slow dance 5 years too late.  Then there's Ethan's work with the agency and his handler Vivi (Amber Heard, who was a lesbian but met Johnny Depp and isn't anymore) which consists of chasing down some dirty bankers/terrorists and fighting his crew of henchmen.  Vivi also has access to a new drug that will prolong Ethan's life, as long as he keeps working.

Directed by McG, 3 Days is a strange hybrid of action movie and drama.  Neither quite takes off as the action is pretty basic and not overly exciting.  Costner throws big, sloppy punches and front kicks while shooting a lot of people.  There are some clever and exciting moments peppered throughout but it's all very much the same with no build up to the finale.  His scenes with Steinfeld should probably be cringe inducing cheesy but the two actors acquit themselves nicely as the duo trying to build a relationship.  There's odd touches throughout; such as Ethan's dealing with a family of squatters, his kidnapping, torturing and semi befriending of multiple thugs and everyone in Paris thinking he's a cowboy because of his jeans and leather jacket.  It's these little quirks that make the movie mildly enjoyable if not memorable in the vein of McG's other work like This Means War or Terminator:  Salvation.  It's just really frigging weird...I doubt box office will be too strong on this one so let's see if Costner's next lead role in the NFL set Draft Day comes up a winner.  The trailer looks horribly uninteresting so maybe we'll see Costner show up in Expendables 4 to collect a quick payday.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Van Dammage: The Way

"'You think you're big. I think I'm big. Because, if we didn't, we wouldn't brush our teeth in the morning or wear the clothes we do. You have to think you're special to respect your soul, your body. You're living your special dream. I'm living mine. I did it my way. That's inspirational."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weird(cool) Panels: Captain America - Heart Breaker

While Captain America aka Steve Rogers has never been as much of a ladies man as say Daredevil's Matt Murdock or Spider-Man's Peter Parker, he's always managed to hold down a few long-term relationships.  There was S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Sharon Carter, who faked her death to go on a secret mission.  Then you had neighbor and glass blower artist Bernie Rosenthal who dumped Steven when she went to Law School.  In the 90's Stevie got involved with petty thief and Serpent Society member Rachel Leighton aka Diamondback.  The two went on many an adventure together, chasing Baron Zemo around the globe as he tried to complete a long lost alien weapon to fighting the Skeleton Crew and finding out The Red Skull was still alive.  Of course, Cap being the ideal of handsome and heroic yet sensitive made Diamondback swoon.  Upon returning to New York, she's mystified that he has no compunction to shaking hands and moving on.  Not looking for a partner or a girlfriend, Diamondback convinces Cap to agree to a friendly date.  And thus giving us one of the most unexpected, funniest and most memorable Captain America adventures I read as a kid, 1990's # 371, written by Mark Gruenwald with art by Cap and Silver Surfer superstar Ron Lim.

Both sides take the "friendly" date seriously as Steve enlists Avengers mainstay Jarvis to help him find some new threads while Rachel fixes her bright magenta hair.  Of course, this being a superhero comic book, there had to some high powered hijinks to interrupt their evening.  Serpent Society members Ash and Black Mamba trail our dating duo with no clue the handsome blonde guy is actually Captain America.  When Steve picks up Rachel, he's not even sure if she's ever seen him without a mask or knew his name was Steve.  First date cutesiness ensues as the two non-costumed heroes nervously make chit chat on their way to dinner.  Steve is all gentleman as he orders for Rachel and doesn't mind she drinks even though he is an abstainer.

It's amateur super villain night as the duo run into a commotion as police have surrounded the lame ass Gamecock having a dispute with his girlfriend.  Then super powered wrestlers/low level crooks Poundcakes and Jackhammer duke it out in the street.  Luckily, Ash and Mamba take care of the distractions while Steve and Rachel get to know each other.  After dinner and a magic show the two wander the streets of New York where Steve opens up and takes Rachel to the neighborhood he grew up in.  Rachel reciprocates and takes Steve to her former turf close by near Yancy Street, a nod to the Fantastic Four's blue eyed, clobbering machine, The Thing!  At the end of the night the two "friends" share a kiss which leaves them both in a romantic haze. Steve lays in bed thinking about Rachel and then Bernie as he realizes he's devoted too much time to The Avengers and Captain America than his personal life.  Across town, Rachel is smitten and happy that Steve has let her in to his life and vows to give up her criminal activities.  The issue has some great, real life heart to it and we get a sense of the nervous wonder that comes along with first dates and blossoming love.  Of course, all set to the backdrop of being superheroes while still remaining human.

Mads Mikkelsen Week: The Hunt

Starting with several episodes of Hannibal, I continued my Mads Mikkelsen viewing with a 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Nominee, The Hunt.  Denmark has produced several Best Foreign Film nominees in recent years including The Hunt, A Royal Affair and After the Wedding.  What do all of these films have in common?  Mads Mikkelsen.  Although he's starred in American films like Casino Royale and Clash of the Titans, Mr. Mikkelsen still hasn't been able to secure himself a juicy, leading man role here in the states.  Unless you count his wonderfully creepy performances on TV's Hannibal.  His frequent director, Nicolas Winding Refn, successfully introduced himself to the U.S. of A. with 2011's moody and violent heist flick, Drive (tied as my personal favorite of that year) and has since re-teamed with leading man dujour Ryan Gosling.  Refn and Mikkelsen worked together on the acclaimed Pusher series and re-teamed for the surreal "action" movie, Valhalla Rising.  Apparently the two are quite fond of each other as they do not speak to each other socially between projects then argue often and passionately while making the film.

The Hunt was directed by Thomas Vinterberg and written with Tobias Lindholm.  Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, an unassuming nice guy who works at the local kindergarten after having lost his job at the high school when it closed.  Divorced with a teenage son, Lucas lives a simple life hunting and drinking with his gang of friends while being a favorite of the students at the kindergarten.  Klara, daughter of Lucas' best friend Theo, latches on to Lucas since her parents always seem to be fighting and forgetting she exists.  When Klara's crush is rebuffed, the little girl makes up a white lie and tells the school master that Lucas exposed himself to her.  The school master immediately believes the little girl and soon Lucas' life is turned upside down as he is fired from his job and ostracized by much of the community, including his former close friends.

A simple story that yields powerful results, The Hunt is an engaging drama that looks at how words and perception can totally change someone's life.  Even though Lucas did nothing wrong, most are quick to call him a pervert and cast him out.  By the time the truth comes out, it's too late as Lucas has lost so much over nothing and will forever be seen differently by some of those around him.  Mikkelsen gives a typically great performance as the goofball kindergarten teacher as well as the man fighting for his dignity and name.  The movie pulled a reaction out of me as I would not have forgiven anyone that thought I was capable of such a heinous crime, especially without any evidence.  In fact, I'd hold that grudgement for the rest of my days...if I didn't go Rambo on the town first.  But that is the sign of a fine storyteller isn't it?  What we see onscreen seems like it could happen to us yet we still know it's a movie.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, just don't push it:

I'm a Doer! Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome back to I'm a Doer!  Where we look at men and women who take life by the horns, who grip it and rip it, the ones who aspire while inspiring.  Today we cast the spotlight on one Theodore Roosevelt.  The author of 35 books, a cowboy and a political reformist who spoke 6 languages and winner of a Nobel Prize and the Medal of Honor.  In a time of expansion and revolution, T.R. was always searching for his next challenge and looking for a good fight.  A literal tragic hero, Roosevelt was born into a wealthy New York family but was weak with asthma and had to be home schooled.  It was here that his love for books and nature would become his friends in lieu of classmates.  His father would not accept an invalid for a son so through sport and determination, T.R. built himself into a new man.  At Harvard, the future president would take up boxing and rowing while excelling in the social scene after his years of quiet seclusion.

Heartache and tragedy would be a facet of Roosevelt's life as his father passed away in 1878, followed by his first wife and mother in 1884, on the same day, in the same house.  The light of his life extinguished, T.R. headed to the rough Dakota Territory where he planned to live off the land like a cowboy.  It was tough going at first as Roosevelt was a nature lover but far from a ranch hand.  Decked out with store bought western duds and fancy equipment, T.R. worked hard to gain the respect and knowledge of the life long cowboys and learned how to rope, ride and hunt.  He would also serve as a deputy sheriff and pursue outlaws, further adding to his growing larger than life persona.  After a blizzard wiped out his herd of cattle, T.R. headed back to New York.

Working as the Civil Service Commissioner, T.R. went after unqualified slackers and the rich buddies of politicians.  Calling for many a resignation, Roosevelt began to win a favorable view with the common population who were struggling to get by.  The overworked and underpaid masses liked T.R.'s reformer image and he translated that momentum into taking a role as New York Police Commissioner.  There, he fought to clean up the most corrupt police force in the country that were enmeshed in bribe and protection rackets and filled with officers who slept on the job and hung out in bars while on duty.  Roosevelt installed many institutions such as phones in stations, bicycle squads, horse drawn paddy wagons, a standardized pistol, yearly marksmanship and physical testing while bringing women and Jewish citizens into the force for the first time.  But again, all of this was not enough.  Roosevelt needed a new challenge, a swing at the big leagues on the national and global level.

Having always had an affinity for the Naval Forces and already written a book on the subject, another fortuitous event would befall Mr. Roosevelt.  He went to work for the Navy Department under a boss who had seen much in war and vacationed often.  T.R. used his bosses absence to push through several agendas that supported his opinion that the United States must always be ready for war and he would create one if one weren't on the horizon.  Only through war and show of force could America take it's place as a true world power.  From here he would find himself second in command of a volunteer army dubbed The Rough Riders who invaded Cuba in retaliation to the sinking of The Maine.  T.R.'s successful campaigns and hill charges resulted in his promotion to Colonel and a nomination for the Medal Of Honor.  Top brass however were sick of T.R.'s headlines and he was passed over by the War Department.

His four months of service complete, Theodore Roosevelt headed back to New York where another bunch of misfits needed some shaping up, the New York Republicans.  They needed a candidate for governor and T.R. was just the man for it.  His call to the big leagues had arrived.  But his run as governor was just a warm up to his role as Vice President and eventually President.  And we all know how that went, his face is carved into a mountain so somebody thought he did a good job.  So whenever you're feeling overwhelmed or unchallenged, just think of Theodore Roosevelt and go punch the bear of life straight in the nose because he was a leader, an example and most important of all, a Doer!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Workout of the Day: Daniel Craig

It was a James Bond kind of week after watching Skyfall on the plane and then receiving a new credit card that contained 007 among the digits.  I didn't enjoy Skyfall too much upon first viewing, it seemed a bit dark, depressed, way too long.  Its Batman Begins meets Home Alone style ending complete with mansion and crusty butler fighting home invaders was just...underwhelming.  It was missing that globe trotting, smooth operating pizazz of Casino Royale.  You know, when you actually wanted to be Bond since he's rough yet charming, knows how to play poker, pick up women and generally kick ass.  He was man enough to wear skintight light blue swim trunks and still look macho.  One thing that has carried across all three of Craig's Bond outings is his pumped up physique and in Skyfall, he's shirtless quite often showing off a less bull necked upper body than Royale and is more, shall we call it, Skinny Mass.  Like Ryan Reynolds, Craig has a great build for adding muscle with broad shoulders and a lean midsection.  Neither has the bulk of a body builder (seriously, no actor ever has a big back) so they look lean and fit whether at the beach or in a suit.

To get ready for Skyfall, it's said Craig followed a 6-Day a week program that looked like:

Monday:  Full body circuit - Clean and Press/Knee Raise/Step Up/Pull Up/Dip/Push Up
Tuesday:  Chest and Back - Incline Bench/Chin Up/Dumbbell Fly/Push Up
Wednesday:  Legs - Squats/Leg Curl/Lunges/Dead Lift
Thursday:  Shoulders and Arms - Dips/Lateral Raises/Curls/Shoulder Press
Friday:  Full body circuit - Same as Monday
Saturday:  Cardio
Sunday:  Rest

I believe his cardio consisted of swimming, boxing, machine rowing and fight choreography.

Diet wise, it's said the D Craig ate 3 high protein meals a day with complex carbs and vegetables with two snacks of fruit and nuts or a protein shake.

I've always enjoyed doing full body circuits and added Barbell Curls to the above circuit to work the biceps and up the total exercises to 7.  Repeated 3 times and you've hit 21 total working sets as I tend to do 15-20 sets when I work out with weights.  It's a great workout that really gets your heart pumping and takes less than 40 minutes to complete.  Only rest between exercises enough to barely catch your breath so it becomes a cardio workout as well.  If you're unsure how long to rest, just take in 5-10 deep breathes and move to the next exercise.  If you start getting light headed or nauseous, then yeah, you've pushed too hard.

The full body/Compound moves like Clean and Press, Chin Ups, Dips, Push Ups and Step Ups activate more muscles, thus making the body work harder and up your T (testosterone) than isolation exercises like a cable curl or pec deck BS.

Personally, I don't advise doing upper body exercises two days in a row so I would do some form of cardio or non-weight workout on the day after the circuit.  For me, lately it's been DDP Yoga, shadowboxing, cycling or jump roping. 

Getting Bonded:

Snow Tube: Hannibal

Skimming around Amazon Prime I found they have NBC's Hannibal available and decided to give it a whirl since I've been a big fan of star Mads Mikkelsen since The Pusher series.  Four episodes later and I'm slowly working my way through the violent, moody and nightmarish program that chronicles the work of non-official FBI profiler Will Graham and his relationship with Dr. Hannibal Lector inspired by Thomas Harris' novels.  Lector, the cannibal therapist who of course was played to cinematic villain greatness in 1991's The Silence of the Lambs by Anthony Hopkins but before that was seen on screen in 1986's Manhunter and portrayed by Brian Cox in an effectively threatening yet helpful manner .  Mads Mikkelsen takes over the role in the series and is the best thing about it.  He manages to be creepy and ominous yet charming and stylish with poise for days. 

Hugh Dancy picks up the role of Will Graham after a haunted badass turn by Manhunter's William L. Petersen and an OK one by Red Dragon's Edward Norton.  Dancy's look and voice reminds me of Justin Bartha from The Hangover only instead of a neurotic nice guy we get an uneasy and unstable serial killer expert who is slowly being pulled back into the field regularly to deal with the monsters.  Samuel L. Jackson, I mean Laurence Fishburne shows up as Will's boss, Jack Crawford and shouts a lot.  The show is visually attention grabbing with it's slick f/x and shocking for network TV violence.  Blood spray and posed corpses are in every episode thus far.  There's also some unexpected bits of sick humor throughout that have kept the first four episodes interesting, mostly referring to Lector's unspoken but shown affinity for eating humans and serving it to others.  Oh and Mads is always dressed really well and the ties on every character are really wide with awesome fat knots.  Double Windsor anyone?

Developed by Bryan Fuller, Hannibal is taking a cable model and putting it on network TV with 13 episode seasons and a 7 year arc already mapped out that would consist of original material, the Red Dragon era when Graham and Lector go head to head, then into Silence of the Lambs territory when Lector is in prison, moving into the Hannibal days when Lector has escaped and one of his victims comes looking for revenge then a final season that would resolve Lector's story.  Unfortunately the show hasn't exactly set the world on fire ratings wise in it's Thursday night slot and has been scheduled to return on Fridays which isn't exactly viewer paradise unless you're an established name like Tim Allen or Tom Selleck.  So we'll see how things go when Season 2 starts in a couple weeks and find out if we'll get to Season 7.

Check out the awesomely bad 80's style trailer for Manhunter:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Con-Man: Emerald City and the Price of Fandom

Seattle's Emerald City Comicon is just around the corner and this guy will be attending his first out of California popular culture convention in quite some time.  Originally I thought about heading to Oregon for the Wizard World there in January but those shows tend to be based around celebrity signings with programming coming in a distant second.  Emerald City seemed to boast a nice mix of media and comics guests while highlighting each with screenings, panels and signing sessions.  As all conventions, Emerald City has been growing like a mofo in the last few years and is looking to welcome more than 50,000 attendees again this year.

Their guest list is impressive and on the comic book side you've already got Art Adams, Mark Bagley, Kurt Busiek, J. Scott Campbell, Frank Cho, Peter David, Klaus Janson, Erik Larsen, Ed McGuinness, Dustin Nguyen, Stan Sakai and Jeff Smith among dozens more scheduled to be on site meeting fans and slinging art for the weekend.  Media wise there are plenty of familiar faces on tap like MICHAEL BIEHN, Richard Dean Anderson, Eliza Dushku, Cary Elwes, Kelly Hu, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Alan Tudyk and Karl Urban.  So there should be plenty of people to see and swag to buy.  Here's where it gets tricky for Con goers.  I've never been one for celebrity sightings, autographs or photos with famous peeps.  Why?  It just seems kind of pointless.  It's not like if I take a photo with Michael Biehn then he's going to go home and show it to his friends, know what I mean?  Shows like these are ways for actors and artists to make money and interact with the fans that help keep them going.  While you can commission your favorite artist to create a custom piece of personalized art, getting a glossy photo with your name and some signature on it doesn't quite seem to have the same depth.

As I was looking through the guest lists and the prices for their autographs or photos, I was shocked to see MacGyver and Stargate's Richard Dean Anderson would be charging $85 for an autograph and an additional $85 for a photo!  Everyone else on the list was in the $30 to $50 range which to me, still seems like a giant waste of money.  I can understand actors needing to make a few bucks between gigs but come on, do people really pony up nearly 100 bones to get Anderson's sloppy Sharpie signature?  They must if he's charging so much more than everyone else.  Do you know how many comic books, toys, statues, shirts or just random cool stuff you can get at a Con for $85?  Or you could spend the money on food and drinks while making new friends and seeing an awesome city.  Unbelievable.

When I saw Lance Henriksen at Long Beach, I wasn't interested in a signed photo of him, I wanted to see how much his autobiography, Not Bad For A Human was going for.  I figured on getting gouged since we were at a convention and he needed to collect some gas money so I was quite surprised that a hardcover book AND a glossy photo of my choice would only set me back $35.  Then he signed both to me and was super cool too boot.  So Richard Dean Anderson, I don't know if you've got ex-wives and kids to feed but you're no Lance Henriksen.  Just like Joel Kinnaman ain't no Peter Weller, bro.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hype or Die Friday

Sometimes you just wake up feeling good.  I finally slept more than 6 hours last night and woke up feeling refreshed.  Then I decided it was a Hype or Die Friday.  What the heck does that mean?  I dunno, whatever feeling energized and wanting to break stuff in a celebratory non angry way means, I guess.  Or it could mean channeling your inner Mirko "CroCop" and kicking ass today!

Hmm, Youtube won't let me start this at a certain time so click on 3:20!

Still not enough for you?  How about some Samurai VS Ninja action?!

If that's not enough for you then well, I guess you'll just need to find some other random, non sequitur online diary to read!  Smack your hand against something that won't break it and let out an "awwooo!" for Friday!

Snow Screen: Robocop

Happy Robo-tines Day!  Ya know, because for some reason Presidents' Day weekend fell on Valentine's Day and the new Robocop is hitting theaters?

1987's Robocop is one of my favorite flicks of all time.  It's a great piece of existential action satire meets technology western.  Peter Weller is terrific in the role and Paul Verhoeven makes his U.S. directing debut one of the greatest of all time.  When I heard they were making a reboot, I figured it made sense in this world of big budget, special f/x driven superhero movies.  Nothing can detract from the original and let's face it, the ho-hum sequels, TV series and animated show had already diluted the brand so to speak.

So I went in to 2014's Robocop with no expectations but glimmers of hope as Jose Padilha's Elite Squad is terrifically intense and exciting while the casting took a cue from Batman Begins and Man of Steel by surrounding it's unproven leading man with great actors, this time including the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton.  After a clever opening involving the MGM logo and Jackson as a big mouthed TV newsman, my hopes were dashed as I honestly didn't give much of a shit about Joel Kinnaman's Alex Murphy, a Detroit detective investigating dirty cops and gun runners.  I had not seen any of Kinnaman's work before but his faux tough talking from the streets quickly got on my nerves.  Later I learned he hails from Sweden and does a similar American tough guy act TV's The Killing.  He just comes off as extremely bland.

After pissing off a local crime lord, Alex gets a face full of car bomb and his wife signs off on him becoming an experiment to merge man and machine in a bid to save his life.  You see, evil conglomerate Omni Consumer Products, OCP, has dispatched combat drones all over the world to fight terrorists and violence while not putting human, American lives at risk.  But they need to crack America or they're going to go broke.  Only problem is, America is "robo-phobic" and won't allow artificially intelligent drones on the streets.  Guy at the top Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) pushes benevolently brilliant Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) to find a solution that puts the heart and conscience of a man into the efficiently engineered shell of a machine.  Murphy's remains, literally: his brain, face, lungs, heart and right hand become the basis for Robocop.  Robo then sets off to solve his own murder, reconnect with his wife and child then fight the evil corporation that basically killed him and brought him back.

As a standalone film, Robocop goes for it and isn't too restrained by winking to the original which is nice.  One of my biggest issues with reboots and remakes these days is their need to try and reference and honor the original.  The original still exists, just make your own damn movie!  But I really lost interest and started to nod off during Murphy's transformation into Robocop origin story after the first 20 minutes.  Things picked up towards the end when Robo actually has something to do, i.e. solve his own murder, go after OCP, etc.  The flick ends with another great Samuel L. Jackson moment so while I can say Robocop 2014 started and ended well enough, everything in between just wasn't very compelling.  Kinnaman's weak performance didn't help either.  He just brought nothing to the table and gave you nothing to root for or be interested in.  Samuel L. Jackson and his amazing coifed hair were the real stars of this show.

While it's better than the Total Recall remake, Robocop probably won't be one for the history books.  Starship Troopers is next so let's see if Paul Verhoeven can make it 3 for 3 in beating remakes of his films.  Oh yeah, towards the end they tried to cram in a line from the original, "Dead or alive you are coming with me" which made me involuntarily blow raspberry and throw a thumbs down at the screen.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Flash Acting: John Wesley Shipp

It's been a good week for DC Comics on television as Fox's Gotham has cast it's young James Gordon, Alfred, The Penguin and more while CW's Flash just announced that former television Barry Allen/Scarlet Speedster John Wesley Shipp would be joining in an unspecified but important role.  If you'll recall, CBS ran an awesome adaptation of The Flash back in 1990 which only ran for one season when it collided with the deadly combination of juggernauts The Simpsons and The Cosby Show on Thursday nights.  I don't watch much television now but grew up on 80's and 90's fare like The Flash, Knight Rider, Miami Vice, Home Improvement, Lois and Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman and The Magnificent Seven so to see the star of one of my favorite shows getting some recognition in a new adaptation is a treat.

In the mid 80's, writers Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo were working on a film adaptation of The Rocketeer with creator Dave Stevens while also pitching a superhero television show to CBS that would have involved The Flash, Green Arrow's daughter, Dr. Occult and Legionnaire Blok.  Set in a future where superheroes are outlawed, Unlimited Powers would have been just a little too much for audiences used to the campy Batman series with Adam West or the more serious but still two man show, The Incredible Hulk.  After a change of management, a show based on a single character was developed and The Flash was off and running.  Produced by CBS and Warner Brothers for a cool $6.5 million, The Flash would be one of if not the most expensive pilots ever produced by the two studios hoping to ride the cape-tails of 1989's massive hit, Batman.  Out of over 60 hopefuls, stage and small screen actor John Wesley Shipp was selected to don the red boots and hood.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Shipp was a theatrical youth who sang and played the piano, dropped out of drama school and headed to New York.  By the late 1980's, Shipp had appeared on several soap operas and picked up a Daytime Emmy Award.  As Barry Allen, Shipp brings a determined yet nice guy charm as well as a strong physique to the role.  The signature costume was molded over his own musculature (sweet traps!) and the suits cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 for the season.  Described as like wearing two wetsuits, the Flash costume didn't breathe and would soak up sweat causing Shipp to easily lose 6 pounds a day.

After the pilot was picked up, production ramped up on the Warner Brothers back lot and the 22 episodes were shot on a grueling 9 day schedule over 9 months.  Influenced by Batman and The Rocketeer, The Flash doesn't overly ape either property but instead takes the best bits from each to make an enjoyable blend of action and drama with some light humor and superhero excitement set in a stylized yet grungy pulp world.  The big, Batman/40's style orchestral soundtrack punctuates the action and gives the show a grander feel.  While not exactly a documentary, the creators and actors built their own reality within the show's universe where Allen's family dynamics and simmering romantic subplots share time with special effects driven superheroics.  The pilot finds police scientist Allen on the revenge trail after his older brother and stalwart police officer, Jay, is killed.  After a bolt of lightning sends Allen into a shelf full of chemicals, the once cerebral Allen is now also super fast.  With the help of STAR labs scientist Tina McGee (Amanda Pays), Allen dons a suit that can withstand the tremendous pressure and wind of his newly acquired speed and sets out to catch the crooks who greased his big bro.

As the show progressed, comic book style villains emerged in the forms of The Trickster, Captain Cold and Mirror Master.  Ally The Nightshade and his violent counterpart The Deadly Nightshade would add additional pulp flavor to the series and were some of my favorite episodes.  One of most memorable bits from the show was Allen's constant need to feed in order to keep his metabolism up.  Whether it was giant bowls of cereal, stacks of pizza or a vending machine's worth of candy bars, Barry Allen just Gotta Eat!

CBS decided to slot their expensive new show on Thursday nights against NBC's family favorite, The Cosby Show.  Fox then decided to get into the fight and moved animated champ The Simpson's to Thursday as well.  Having already spent millions on advertising, CBS didn't flinch and was now going head to head with two of TV's biggest performers.  Ratings for The Flash were good but the show couldn't fight off the Cosby or Simpson clans.  The Flash was then moved to the odd spot of 8:30PM to avoid the fierce competition but things did not improve.  The subsequent move to 9:00PM did little as well.  All in all, The Flash averaged over 9 million viewers for the season compared to The Simpson's 13 and The Cosby Show's 17.  Given the series' stiff $1.5 million per episode cost, The Flash would not sprint into a second season.

It will be interesting to see what direction the new Flash show will run and how Shipp will be used.  I didn't get into Smallville much with it's freak of the week redundancy and Arrow just seems to be about it's star running around shirtless in a dark and serious manner.  It's nice to see Shipp's inclusion in the new show that will hopefully be a nice wink to the fans and provide a little generational continuity between characters since unlike Marvel, DC heroes tend to have more than one man behind the mask over time.  It also highlights what a bunch of poseur bullshit The Big Bang Theory is since all of them are supposed huge fans of The Flash yet Shipp has somehow never appeared over it's 7 bullshit seasons as a recurring, guest or even a cameo.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Van Dammage: Boz Killer

"People still #$&* me.  It's very difficult to become...ah...invincible.  Stallone, Arnold and all those guys were screwed on the way up.  Oh my God!  Stories you wouldn't believe.  Me, too."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

While digging through some items in storage I came across a couple press kits for JCVD flicks like Double Impact and Maximum RiskDouble Impact was Van Damme's first decent budgeted flick but got short changed when fellow Stone Group Pictures production Stone Cold, featuring football player and wannabe movie star Brian Bosworth, went over budget.  While DI cost around $15 million, SC started at $10 then ended up costing around $25 million after original director Bruce Mulmuth (Steven Seagal's Hard to Kill) was fired weeks into production and replaced by Craig R. Baxley ( I COME IN PEACE!). 

Bosworth's football career had already stalled out after 3 years of injuries and more exciting trash talk than field stats.  After turning down small roles in Stallone pictures, The Boz was only interested in leading man status and was named Action Star of Tomorrow by The National Association of Theater Owners.  Articles compared him to established action icons Arnold, Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal while Van Damme's name is nowhere to be seen.  But like his gridiron days, Stone Cold quickly faded into obscurity as DI grossed a healthy $30 million while SC could only muster a take of $9 million.  Van Damme went on to star in his 2nd most successful movie, Universal Soldier while cementing his position as a challenger and usurper to Arnold Schwarzenegger while Bosworth wouldn't pop up in a movie for another 5 years.

It's not quite Cobra but still pretty Damme entertaining:

I'm Hot! I'm Big! Chicken

"You know I could have got you ripped, man.  But you know what your problem is?  Skinny ass quads.  You got no quads, man!  That was my problem, spent a lot of time building up these bad boys."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gotta Drank! Ashland & Highland

After appetizers and drinks in Polaris, we ventured back to Dublin after picking up a friend at the airport.  Ashland & Highland was a spot my hosting friends had wanted to try so we painted our wagons and came along.  It's a New York style bar on the outskirts of Columbus.  I'm glad we were with them as this would have been a horrible date night.  Not in a bad way, more like an awkward, painful growth way.  We were the youngest patrons in the place by far but it was pretty crowded on a Friday night.  Some of our menus had food on one side and drinks on the other while some had food on both...They did however have 3 kinds of cider available.  The night before I had ventured into grocery market Giant Eagle where I was amazed at the three rows of cider offerings.  Remember, 5 years ago you couldn't find Strongbow or cider in a regular grocery store.  Now, I could buy a six pack of Magner's for crying out loud.

Ordering took a little while because they were literally out of at least 5-6 things on their menu.  The food was actually pretty good though so points for that.  We found out that the place had recently been under the care of a "bar rescuer" after the original owner, with no experience in owning a bar or restaurant, was about to go belly up.  That's why they were out of so many items because they were trying to figure out where all the money was going and streamline the ordering system.  The staff was nice enough and gave us a free drink to apologize for the multiple items out of stock.  Then I felt like I was on a reality show and started looking for hidden cameras.  Alas no one asked me to sign a waiver or release so I guess I won't have to worry about seeing myself on some random show on the cable I don't have.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Live Goods: Expendables II, Premiere!

Today, two friends expressed their surprise to me that a third Expendables movie was in the works.  I explained to them that Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes and Harrison Ford were joining the 80's and 90's cinematic tough guy party and how I was pumped for all the press coverage August of 2014 is sure to hold.   It reminded me of the awesome summer I had in 2012 when The Expendables II was being released.  My birthday fell during San Diego Comic-Con where I saw some of my favorite actors and movie icons like Sly, Arnold, Dolph, Jackie Chan, Michael Biehn, Michael Jai White and Thomas Jane among many others.  I almost ran into my favorite comic book artist of all time, Jim Lee, as we both entered a room for a  panel about himself.  Things were just coming up Milhouse, know what I mean?

In August I attended two firsts, a movie premiere and a taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  My friend is a die-hard Stallone fan and got a hold of some premiere passes.  We jetted over to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood and got in line with some other action fans, tourists and people who randomly had passes.  I was wearing one of my custom WWJCVDD? shirts while my friend donned an Expendables tee from the first movie.  Maybe it was the power of our combined shirts but a security guard approached us and told us to follow.

We ended up being taken onto the black carpet and placed in the arrival zone across from all of the press.  How cool is that?  We were going to get to see all of the arriving stars and guests which would include new villain, Jean-Claude Van Damme!  A few random actors walked the carpet to little fanfare then a handful of returning Olympians from the London Games showed up, donning their medals and all.  They came over and asked how we got such good seats for the star gazing and were very down to earth.

After a while, things got serious as the main cast was starting to arrive.  I believe Dolph Lundgren was the first and he came over to sign autographs and take photos.  He would soon be followed by Stallone and Arnold who also came over to shake hands and greet the fans.  Mr. Van Damme did a few quick interviews before being whisked down the carpet as the fire Marshall began threatening to close down the parade if it didn't clear out.  While waiting I ended up recognizing Van Damme's assistant and we chatted about the movie he recently directed, insane travel schedules, etc.  Since the media outlets were more interested in talking to the household names, I had the chance to talk to Universal Soldier co-star Tiny Lister about that awesome 90's action flick as well as Ralf Moeller, who also appeared in Unisol and showed up with friend Arnold and his sons.  Moeller seemed genuinely surprised I recognized him but was cool enough to talk action movies with me for a few.

Chuck Norris and Terry Crews were on hand but stuck to the press line and didn't make their way over.  By now the sun had set and the Marshall really wanted the carpet cleared.  The press crews started to pack up as Jason Statham showed up and just hung out talking to fans and not giving a Damme about the movie playing inside.  Unfortunately the theater was packed so we didn't end up seeing the flick that night, we just had to settle for seeing all the stars up close.