Monday, March 31, 2014

Live Goods: Kings of Leon at Key Arena

Emerald City Comicon Saturday tickets secured, I sent an open invite advertising a weekend of good times in Seattle to friends.  One couple accepted and asked if there was any interest in attending a Kings of Leon concert.  If it was going to entice them to come up for the weekend, sure, let's go!  I immediately asked myself, "who the fuck are Kings of Leon"?  A quick Myspace search later (50 million free songs, do it) and "oh yeah, the Fire Sex song" realization hit me.  The show was held in the Key Arena, former home of the NBA Super Sonics and next to the Space Needle.  To prepare, milady gave me a KoL playlist of some of their popular tracks and their recently released 6th album, Mechanical Bull.

The formed in Nashville band led by brothers Anthony and Ivan Followill put on a solid live show.  Vocals were excellent and it was surprisingly not deafening loud.  Lead singer Anthony interacted lightly with the crowd, culminating in asking everyone to turn on their phones and light up the arena for a tune.  I can probably count the number of concerts I've been to on two hands so I don't know what passes for a good show these days. I also didn't realize that their catalog was so deep, providing enough low key energetic guitar based rock tracks for a 26 song set list.  Immortals, Super Soaker, Pyro, Radioactive, Don't Matter, Use Somebody and Notion all sounded great live.  I basically surmised that Sex on Fire would either be the last song of the night or they wouldn't play it at all as an artistic choice the way Oasis stopped playing Wonderwall live.

In addition to nearly 2 hours of music, Kings of Leon employed lights, lasers, vignettes of women, cars, flowers, etc to make every song seem like a music video.  It got a little dicey when one song had the bright stage lights pulsing rhythmically and seemingly inviting an epileptic seizure.  Into the final stretch of their tour, Kings of Leon put on an excellent performance and was a nice addition to our awesome time in Seattle.


Friday, March 28, 2014

(Pre)Con-Man: Emerald City Lucky Charm

It's finally Emerald City Comicon weekend!  While waiting for our flight out of Los Angeles, I spotted Alan Tudyk from Firefly and Dodgeball boarding.  But an even bigger surprise was waiting onboard as the first passenger I saw was none other than Michael fucking Biehn! That's right, Biehn and wife Jennifer Blanc were sitting in front of Tudyk and made me wonder who else in first class and in general were on their way to the show.  While it made me giddy to see Biehn a few rows in front of me in the flesh, there's not really a good way to try and get some bro time on a plane is there?  Then the bookmark I had with me?  A ticket stub from Aliens!  Just meant to be...

Of course you know I'm not much of an obvious fanboy, asking for photos or autographs and the like so when I ended up walking beside Biehn in the airport I had to just try and keep cool and not yell out a quote from one of his movies.  Biehn and Blanc are appearing at Emerald City all weekend but his panel is today so I'll unfortunately have to miss it as we're only attending Saturday.

Our Con hotel downtown is the beautiful and fancy Olympic Fairmont.  You know it's classy because there's Arcade Shops, a lower level, a lobby and a mezzanine complete with a dude playing a piano for your enjoyment.  A few blocks away is Rview, a bar and restaurant on the 28th floor of The Renaissance hotel that was surprisingly empty for a Thursday night.  The ambiance and view are the main selling points while my burger was excellent but my cider was delicious.  I can't recall the name sadly but it was just the right mix of smooth, dry and a touch sweet.  Kind of like a Magners but better.  Then it was off to Purple, a pretty slick bar with more wine bottles than I've ever seen complete with a "secret" door camouflaged by racks of fermented grape juice.  Too bad they only had one cider that was expensive and the most sour tasting I've ever had.

View In Peace: Steve James & American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

This past Tuesday night consisted of the following:  burgers and fries from Five Guys, whiskey and ginger ale, watching Michael Dudikoff and Steve James in American Ninja 2:  The Confrontation with a buddy as in tuned to the glorious 80's as I am.  American Ninja and The Confrontation were seemingly always on TBS or My 43 as a kid and you can bet your ass I watched them both.  A lot.  Then I picked them up on VHS before some genius finally put them on DVD.  American Ninja 2 finds Army Rangers Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (James) investigating a rash of missing Marines on some Bahamas-like island paradise.  Rumors of giants dressed head to toe in black suits prompts the Army to send Armstrong and Jackson as they had already taken down a weapons dealer with a Ninja training facility in part I.  Army VS Marine jokes, bar brawls, Levi jeans tucked into boots, wrist bands, sparky 80's soundtrack with steel drums, karate, genetically modified ninja, bright pastel shorts, Body Glove wetsuits, ninja laddering up rocks and ninja using a sawed off shotgun antics ensue.

Maybe it's because I've seen The Confrontation more times than American Ninja but I always liked it better.  It just moves faster and is a lot of fun.  By now, the story sees Dudikoff and James as buddies and their chemistry onscreen is palpable.  So it's a shock to learn that the two didn't get along overly well over the first two films they were paired up in, Ninja and Avenging Force.  James thinks it has something to do with Michael Dudikoff being a model turned actor thrown into an action role with no prior training.  The fact that James was a stuntman and martial arts enthusiast complete with natural onscreen charisma and a muscular build too boot would probably unnerve many a co-star.  While it was clear that Dudikoff was the star, James had some reservations and demands to be met if he was going to return.  Basically he wanted more action, more humor and at least one scene with a female costar.  All of those criteria were met and added to the fun of the picture.  As Jackson, James gets to mix it up with ninjas on the beach, locals in a bar and more ninjas at the end while armed with an auto shotgun and huge butterfly knives clad in what looked like a leather vest.  James' crazed/macho posturing, eagerness to scrap, dry sense of humor and wooing of a woman at a party give the movie plenty of memorable moments and helps make it more than just a low-budget, throwaway genre flick.

Released just under 2 years after American Ninja, The Confrontation would open on fewer screens to less box office, raking in $4 million on a rumored $350,000 dollar budget compared to the originals $10.4 million on a $1 million production.  James would return to the franchise in American Ninja 3:  Blood Hunt in 1989 before taking control of his own destiny and creating projects for himself.  Sadly, at only 41 years old, Steve James passed away in 1994.  Originally thought to have pancreatic cancer, his family believes that may have not been the case. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gotta Eat! Cousins Maine Lobster

Ah food trucks, years ago while our building café was under construction, mobile meals parked outside our building daily.  Some, like the Grilled Cheese and Kogi tacos were hits with building patrons waiting in long lines while others, like the Dim Sum one didn't draw in quite the same crowd.  Years later, our café has sadly closed it's doors and food trucks are rolling to our front curb once again.  I'd heard about Lobsta Truck rolling around Los Angeles in the past but I'm not exactly a food truck following kind of guy.  This week, we were visited by the other lobster truck, Cousins Maine.  Whoda thunk there'd be two competing marine crustacean slingers in L.A.?

Cousins prides itself on flying in quality lobster from the sustainably harvested population of Maine's ice cold waters.  Remember last year when lobster was cheaper than bologna in Maine, only costing locals $4.99 a pound?  Yeah, well throw in shipping, prep and truck costs and I was being sold a folded piece of breads worth of lobster meat for $13 bones.  Add in a cup of rich lobster bisque and my bill was $22 bucks.  While not cheap, it was pretty Damme good as I'm a seafood lover.  I wouldn't indulge everyday but they provided quick and polite service with something you don't find everyday.

Not as trendy as they once were, food trucks are here to stay:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Workout of the Day: Big Legs and Karate

Getting back into the swing of things after being mildly sick for a couple weeks, I've taken a basic approach to training this week.  Weights followed by cardio, DDP Yoga, repeat.  Training legs at home requires a bit of rethinking as most of us don't have a squat rack and enough weight around to perform a traditional gym style workout.  Instead, I aim for getting a good pump and strict form to get the most of my exercises to help keep the shape, strength and flexibility of my lower appendages.

Taking a page from a Marky Mark Triple Threat Superset and an article on the recent 300 flick, I got in a giant set of the following:

1)  Deadlift
2)  Goblet Squat - Hold a weight with both hands in front of your chest, squat low to at least parallel, touching your elbows to your thighs.
3)  One Legged Bridge - Lie on your back, bend your knees and plant your feet, extend one leg out while pushing off the floor with the other.  This works your quads, glutes and hamstrings.

I did a pyramid rep scheme, completing sets of 5-10-15-15-10-5 before tackling calves with some standing raises holding a dumbbell.  After that, it was 5 sets of plyometric jumps up my staircase, 1 step, 2 steps, 3 steps, to help build explosive power and to keep my heart rate blasting.

Now show me one of your special kicks:

Gotta Drank! 3Dog Cantina

After a movie at the Arclight we walked up Cahuenga Boulevard in search of sustenance.  Old standbys Big Wangs and Kitchen 24 didn't seem too appetizing nor did newish burger and beer joint, Stout.  All of a sudden, I realized there's a lot of bars on this corner with the aforementioned trio, swanky gastropub Saint Felix, a new, tiny cocktail joint called The Powder Room and I believe semi recent additions The Blue Boar Pub and 3Dog Cantina.  The last two share the same owner but I was in the mood for some Mexican grub and we went with Cantina.  This used to be a pretty big and I thought happening sports bar where I'd viewed a few UFC fights.  Not sure if it's the same owner but the interior was completely renovated but still spacious.  It was surprisingly quiet on a Sunday evening but hey, I hate crowds so no complaints from this guy.

Their drink menu has plenty of variety with the expected tequila and margarita offerings as well as some mother fucking moonshine, which I am an imbiber of and quickly ordered.  Complimentary chips and salsa started us off and they have 3 varieties of fresh made guacamole available.  Food wise, you've got your tacos, burritos and fajita selections.  My carne asada tacos were very tasty if a little pricey at $16 for 3 but ya know, it's Hollywood.  Most surprising was their kale Caesar salad, if you're not a fan of salad or kale, I urge you to try this just once, it's that good.  Happy Hour runs through the week with specials on food and drinks so we'll definitely be back to take advantage.

Hitting the Thunder Road:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hannibal Week: Manhunter

As I'm all caught up on Hannibal's weekly adventures on television, it was time for a trip back to his cinematic voyages, starting with 1986's Manhunter.  Based on Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon, the title change came about so audiences wouldn't think it was a karate movie.  Written and directed by Michael Mann, who by this point was known for his work on hit television series Miami Vice and features Thief and The KeepManhunter is the story of Will Graham (William Petersen), a former F.B.I. specialist who had tracked and caught two notorious serial killers and is brought back in when a new menace who seemingly kills at random stumps authorities.  His former boss, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), intends to keep Graham as far away from the ugliness as possible but with time running out, Graham must recover the mindset and find the killer dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan).  To help Graham find the scent of his past, he visits Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), an intelligent former psychiatrist who killed at least 9 people and scarred Graham for life mentally and physically when found out and taken down.  With Lecktor's insight, Graham tracks down the killer before he can plot his next series of murders. 

To start, I love this movie.  Michael Mann is one of my favorite directors and this 80's masterpiece is a prime example of why.  It's very of it's time with the style, fashion, music and attitude which may seem dated to others but makes it all the more memorable for me since I love the 80's.  Like all of his pictures, Mann had his cast do heavy research for the film with Petersen working with real F.B.I. profilers but eventually being told to back off so he wouldn't become desensitized to it.  If you've watched the series, you see that Graham and Hannibal start off as professional associates, maybe even friends, before Hannibal starts pushing Graham to the edge and frames him for several murders.  I'm not sure how the book plays things out but I will soon find out as I started reading Harris' novel just today. 

In the film, there is no mention of Graham and Lecktor having any real prior relationship other than the fact Graham caught him and had to quit after the mental toll of being in the mindset of a serial killer.  Also missing but very prevalent in future Hannibal adaptions is the killers penchant for eating his victims.  I don't think there's one allusion to Hannibal being a cannibal.  Instead, Lecktor pushes Graham, citing the two are the same and if he wants to recover the scent he only need to smell himself.  It's clear that Graham has trouble balancing his work for the law when his mind works the same as the killer behind bars.  Unlike The Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal the series, Manhunter is all about Will Graham.  In fact, Lecktor only has a few scenes in the film and interacts face to face with Graham just once early on.  Brian Cox's performance is solid as he is charming, analytical, intelligent and manipulative all at the same time.  Hannibal seems a tad obsessed with Will Graham since after all, Graham was the one who brought him in.  While he helps Will work the case, he also endangers Graham's family when he provides the FBI agent's home address to The Tooth Fairy.  Like the best kind of villain, Lecktor has no use for physical threats as he's behind bars for the duration of the film.  Instead, all of his power comes from perceived threats and his calculating intelligence.  Both of their conversations in the film revolve around the fact that the two are nearly the same mentally and with the right push, Graham would be the same as Lecktor.

As Graham, William Petersen is the fucking man.  While Hugh Dancy portrays Graham on the show as more of an unstable academic type who gets in too deep, Petersen plays the part like a volcano ready to erupt.  Fully aware of what he's capable of and maybe afraid of it, Petersen's Graham is all quiet intensity with moments of explosion like when he grabs tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds, flips him through the air and down onto the hood of a car.  Or his outburst in an argument with boss Crawford about how far they're going to push catching The Tooth Fairy.  Both Petersen and Farina have a great knack for basically saying "go fuck yourself" with their eyes and silence.  Then there's the scene where he's talking to himself in the reflection of a window with rain pouring down outside.  Or, in maybe the film's greatest scene, when they find The Tooth Fairy's home, Graham eschews waiting for back up, charges the house and jumps through a frigging window.  Mann stages all of the procedural and action bits with facts, force and energy.  Vibrant colors help add to the visual stimulus of the picture as well as help convey it's theme of duality.  Throw in lots of wide shots of Graham brooding, an awesomely ominous 80's synth score, blaring 80's tracks, tons of pastel shirts, lots of square ties and you've got yourself an engaging, stylistic and influential time capsule for the ages.

Upon release, Manhunter was met with mixed reviews and meager box office, taking in just $8.6 million on a reported $15 million budget.  The film has lived on though through it's connection to the hit adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, the sequel Hannibal, a young Hannibal film and now the television series.  Mann would go on to direct critical and box office hits like The Last of the Mohicans and Heat while solidifying himself as one of America's greatest directors.  Petersen preceded Manhunter with another 80's classic, To Live in Die in L.A. for The Exorcist director William Friedkin as a role model badass, hot dog Secret Service agent.  It too would be met with indifference but go on to become a cult hit and Petersen would then make a huge splash on CBS' series C.S.I.

The following video has been edited to remove a use of a critically placed curse word:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Van Dammage: Almighty

"I can name you five Gods--Buddha, Allah, God, whatever--but it comes down to, if you do something bad to me and I do something bad to you, you know it and I know it. To me, that's God. My guiding philosophy is this: What goes around, comes around. So I try to be nice."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme

Vernal Viewing: Divergent

We now live in a cinematic age of comic book and Young Adult fiction adaptations, why?  Because they're a readily available source material that have name brand recognition to at least one segment of society and studios are just looking for that next hit franchise a la Iron Man, Twilight, Harry Potter and Batman.  So far, the YA market has seen it's hits like Twilight and Hunger Games as well as it's misses including Mortal Instruments, The Host and Ender's Game.  This past weekend, new challenger to the throne, Divergent, opened at # 1 with a healthy $56 million take and a solid A cinemascore.  A sequel has already been greenlit but it's being helmed by the guy who did RIPD so we might be in trouble...While I can't wrap my head around why people like Hunger Games, I did enjoy the crap out of Ender's GameDivergent fell in-between for me.  The story of a future Chicago where a wall protects the survivors of a great war and the population is split into five factions based on a test and the subject's choice whether they're kind, smart, honest, fearless, etc.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a young woman who has parents in the caring clan (they all have names but my memory isn't that good) that run the government.  Since she was a young girl she's dreamed of joining the Dauntless aka the wild boys who run free and protect the city.  Her test results show she's Divergent, which means she isn't just one trait, she's all of them and better.  But she has to hide it or risk being hunted down and killed as being different is a threat to the society leaders run by Titanic's Kate Winslet.  On the day of faction choosing, Tris goes against her parents' wishes and joins Dauntless, where she meets James Franco's athletic older brother Four (Theo James), who along with Eric (Jai Courtney), train all the new recruits and select how and where they'll end up serving.  Tris pushes herself physically and mentally to be accepted into the clan but her Divergent powers begin to show themselves in later phases of mental training.  Soon, all heck breaks loose as Winslet plans a coup d'état to overthrow the current governing body, drugs the Dauntless to become her personal army and begins her quest to wipe out any objectors.  Tris, with the help of her parents and a few rebels, fight back and save the day.

All in, Divergent has a lot going for it.  Director Neil Burger sets up the world so it seems less flimsy than The Hunger Games' shaky foundation of opulence and poverty taken straight from a text book.  There's a low watt cast of familiar faces throughout like Maggie Q, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer and Ashley Judd to support the young and talented Woodley.  There's a lot to do in the movie and much of it includes setting up the world, Tris' training, developing her relationship with Four, exploring her Divergent-ness so by the time the shit starts to hit the fan, you're wondering how much longer it's going to go on.  Like a John Woo movie or Return of the King, Divergent could have ended at least 5 times but kept going.  What made it more interesting for me was that Tris actually does stuff in the movie, she goes against her family, goes outside her comfort zone and joins the clan she's always wanted to be part of.  She won't be left behind and is always moving, not just reacting or getting dragged along like Mystique was in Hunger Games.  Film universe wise, I hope the filmmakers and writers sent a thank you note to the crews of Starship Troopers and Equilibrium because there's a lot from both of those movies here.  You can literally count off the Troopers similarities:  co-ed showers, a remark about statistically hitting a target and then a whole knife throwing/hand incident.

On the negative side, Miles Teller and Jai Courtney's unimpressive performances basically spell doom for their future portrayals of Mr. Fantastic in the Fantastic Four reboot and Kyle Reese in the new Terminator series.  Teller plays a bully here but seriously, who wouldn't slap that weak chinned, K.D. Lang lookalike in the face and send him crying?  Then Courtney, from Die Hard 5 fame, continues his hard man/brute routine only this time with a Macklemore haircut.  Kyle Reese is a sensitive action hero who gave up his life for love.  I just don't see Courtney being able to pull that off.  Oh and also, for future Chicago, there's two Asians and I don't think any Latinos.  This was strictly a white people party with a few black guests future.  Most of Tris' contemporaries are young, white males with brown hair, so when one of them is revealed to be a threat, you can't even tell which one he is.

Getting the early buzz going:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Damme Words: Not So Quiet On The Set

Books!  Check'em out!  Remember that PSA starring the California Raisins?  Well I sure do.  They say you cannot become a reader later in life, you have to start young.  I read my fair share of comic books as a youth and of course, the obligatory literature for school but I was never a devourer of novels and non-fiction as a kid.  As an adult, I try to have my nose in something but I doubt my annual tally is very high in the double digits.  However, over the course of three days, I polished off a 300 page autobiography.  How did I get through it so fast?  Simple, the subject matter interested me and I was eager to read what happened next.  Not So Quiet On The Set:  My Life In Movies During Hollywood's Macho Era is the tale of one Robert E. Relyea, a young man who was whisked into filmmaking during the waning days of the studio system and worked his way up the ladder as a Second Assistant Director, First Assistant Director, Production Manager, Second Unit Director, Producer and Partner in production shingles over several decades.  The book was co-written by his son Craig and includes short vignettes of the boy's memories of his father's work and co-horts.

Movies from the 50's and 60's are arguably my favorite, neck and neck with flicks from the 80's.  The 50's and 60's saw leading men who were strong and took charge of their destinies as heroic, anti-heroic, swashbuckling, cynical, macho and completely captivating to watch on screen.  Many of them had rich backgrounds that included military service to world travels to rising out of poverty to performing in the circus.  All of which gave them character, magnetism and enhanced their cinematic authenticity.  Relyea worked with dozens of the biggest stars, directors, writers and producers in a time when independent productions were on the rise and the under contract payroll system of the studios was coming to an end.

Relyea's writing paints a picture of the movie industry as fast moving, exciting, unglamorous and deadly on par with military or political service.  Having worked his way up from being an unneeded Second Assistant Director on a one day shoot to traveling the world filming Second Unit to developing projects for the world's biggest movie star, Relyea seemingly has seen it all.  Not So Quiet gives us in depth, behind the scenes looks at classic movies like The Great Escape, West Side Story, Bullitt and The Magnificent Seven while providing insight on directors such as John Sturges (means what he says, no BS), William Wyler (made a woman quit acting with his barbs), Richard Brooks (wore duplicate shabby outfits to intimidate stars and crew) and Robert Wise (talented, honest and kind) and letting us know what movie stars Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and John Wayne are like to work with.  This is good reading; direct, funny, insightful and surprisingly somber at times to remind us that movies are a business as well as a personal endeavor.

Throughout the book, Relyea describes studio honchos, directors, actors, actresses and producers through his first hand encounters with them and a stated "low bullshit tolerance" view that is personally relatable.  Particularly memorable is John Wayne berating an old woman asking for an autograph then being challenged to a fight by a co-star.  Relyea worked with Charles Bronson multiple times and describes him as a party animal with a chiseled physique and not much of a sense of humor about himself.  On Kid Galahad, Bronson split his hand open and broke bones when he thought Elvis' karate trained board breaking was a farce.  Elvis, in the book, is described as extremely humble and talented who made coffee for people on set and unable to live a "normal" life.  Relyea worked with Steve McQueen throughout his career when McQueen was just a guy on a television show through becoming one of the world's biggest stars.  McQueen is remembered as moody, honest, insecure and hard working.  The two formed a partnership that yielded the hit cops and car chase film Bullitt but dissolved when racing picture Le Mans spiraled out of control and McQueen accused Relyea of betraying him.

Stallone once said if a movie shoot went well for him, the movie usually ended up terrible.  The same went for Relyea as multiple pictures he worked on had some great tragedy or death occur, usually on the first day.  The freak accident death of a stuntman on The Hallelujah Trail had Relyea vow he'd never shoot Second Unit again.  As it's billed as his life during a certain era, the book semi-abruptly ends after a story about meeting with McQueen several years after their falling out and shortly before the stars' death.  There are quick allusions to his more recent work as an Executive at Sony and we even learn that a remake of The Magnificent Seven was in the works in the mid 1990's with Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back, Mumford) handling writing and directing chores.  I would love to have read and learned more about Relyea's career, he's one of those guys you would happily buy a meal or a drink for just to hear stories about his work but he passed away in 2013 after living a very full life.

A terrific making of with comments from the man himself:

Craption! Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

Encore has it going on.  While staying in the Disneyland resort, one morning and two channels had the following movies playing:  Legend, King Arthur and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.  The latter is a forgotten gem of 90's Craption.  The story of two lifelong friends, Harley Davidson, a biker and petty crook and Marlboro, a former professional rodeo rider and general rabble-rouser played by Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson.  The duo reconnect in their hometown of Burbank, CA where the local airport has now gone international and their favorite watering hole is about to get gobbled up in the beautification process unless they can come up with $2.5 million smackeroos.  Harley recruits Marlboro and their old high school gang to pull a quick armored truck job but things go bad when there's no money to be found.  Instead, they've just hijacked a shipment of Crystal Dream, the newest, most destructive drug on the street.  Now with a posse of heavily armed and seemingly indestructible goons on their tail, Harley and Marlboro hit the trail before returning home and taking care of business.

Remember, me categorizing this as Craption isn't an insult, it's a compliment.  Why?  Because while critics and audiences didn't sing the films praises back in 1991, I discovered it and enjoy the heck out of it.  How many other future set, sci-fi tinged action westerns with a sense of humor can you name from the 90's?  Not many.  But seriously, if you can, send them my way because I love that shit.  Harley wasn't even a slapdash, direct to video effort, this was a big budget studio picture starring two hot commodities.  Mickey Rourke had established himself as a great on screen presence but still hadn't headlined a successful film and was becoming more known for his off-screen antics and asshole attitude.  Don Johnson was coming off his run on the hugely popular and trend setting show Miami Vice but hadn't had much luck making the jump to features.  With a healthy $20 million plus budget, Harley was reined by capable director Simon Wincer of Lonsome Dove, Quigley Down Under and later The Phantom fame.

As it stands, Harley Davidson and The Marlboro Man is a fun flick.  It's ludicrous and exciting, ridiculous and entertaining.  You've got fisticuffs, gun fights, merciless bystander death, guys jumping over the wreckage of a sliding flaming bike, female nudity in the first minutes, a motorcycle riding montage set to Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive, airplane graveyards and professional wrestler Big John Studd throwing Rourke out of a window into a car among much more.  Rourke was paid his highest salary to date for the film, bringing in something like $2.7 million but of course, in Rourke fashion, trashed the film and said he only did it for the money.  In the film, his effortless cool is put to good use and Don Michael Paul's script gives him some quirky traits like being a horrible cook and not being able to hit shit with a gun.  Johnson gets a few more laughs as the downtrodden, former cowboy about to lose his woman.  He's dragged into each mess by Harley and lets his friend know what he thinks of each harebrained plan while trying to show Harley guns are meant to be shot, not thrown.  Marlboro's gags include prepping many a phrase with "My old man told me, before he left this shitty world" and constantly repairing his crumbling cowboy boots with duct tape.  Later we find out the boots were given to him by his father on the day of his first professional rodeo appearance.

Along for the ride is a spectacular supporting cast from the era including Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, Tia Carrere, Chelsea Field (Masters of the Universe!) and Vanessa Williams while Branscombe Richmond, Sven-Ole Thorsen and Kelly Hu pop up for a hot minute.  The filmmakers do a credible job of attempting to instill some character and drama beats between the absurd action sequences that are all done for real in the pre-CGI age and we get big explosions, motorcycles racing around the streets of Los Angeles, a jump from the roof of a Vegas hotel into the pool below, etc.  Harley is made out to be a sensitive loaner as he pines over the woman that left him without a word while Marlboro's nomadic lifestyle and "I am what I am" philosophy just isn't enough for his once a month girlfriend and true love.

While Harley Davidson and The Marlboro Man has lived on as a futuristic, macho action western thanks to cable and video, upon it's theatrical release in late August of 1991, it opened at # 7 with a paltry gross of $2.2 million on it's way to a wimpy $7.4 million total.  That would put it behind other 1991 actioners like Stone Cold, The Perfect Weapon, Van Damme's Lionheart and Double Impact.  Rourke would take a hiatus from acting to embark on a short lived boxing career while Johnson would return to headline another popular TV series, Nash Bridges, after subsequent film roles did little to raise his profile.  Director Simon Wincer would find solace in television as well, directing 6 episodes of George Lucas' Young Indiana Jones series and striking box office gold with boy meets whale hit Free Willy.

Until next time, keep squeezing, not jerking, those triggers and remember:  it's better to be dead and cool than alive and uncool.  See you at the video store...that no longer exist...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hey Arnold: Dolla Dolla Bills

"Money doesn't make you happy.  I now have $50 million but
I was just as happy when I had $48 million."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
 Now let's go get a tan that doesn't suck!

Grudgement Day: George RR Martin

"I mean, The Flash is actually managing to do moderately well,
despite the fact that it is appallingly bad."
     - George RR Martin, circa 1990

Welcome to Grudgement Day, where I call Bullshit on things I just think are Bullshit.  People sometimes think I have an anger issue but I don't.  I just have a critically low tolerance for Bullshit.  Today, let's talk about Game of Thrones author George RR Martin.  In the 80's and 90's, Martin was working in television on shows like The Twilight Zone, Max Headroom and Beauty and The Beast.  While trying to prep a super hero centric show, he made the above disparaging remark about CBS' big budget adaptation of DC Comics' The Flash.  Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I'm entitled to mine.  Martin's show never saw the light of day and with his TV career stalling, went back to novels and in 1996, A Game of Thrones was published.  Four novels have followed and in 2007, cable juggernaut HBO purchased the rights and here we are, a month away from the launch of season 4.

I've seen every episode of the show thus far and my lady has read all the books.  While it has it's merits, interesting characters, shocking moments and whatnot, overall you know what?  It's fucking Bullllshittttttt.  Nothing happens.  The entire show is based on who holds the throne and who will control the lands while centering on the death of Eddard Stark, head of the Stark Clan and ruler of Winterfell.  But what has happened in 30 hours of programming?  Has anybody taken revenge for Eddard?  Hell no!  Has the much mentioned battle for the throne happened?  Yeah right!  Stark's bastard son cries, gets sent to a wall, cries, escapes, cries, gets kidnapped by marauders, cries, escapes from them, cries some more.  Stark's youngest daughter is all about taking revenge for her dad but when she's asked by Batman/Ninja like soldiers who she wants dead, does she name anyone responsible for her father's death?  NO!  Then they invite her to come train with them at Batman/Ninja school, you know, where she could learn how to 187 the fools who killed her father and tore her family apart...and she refuses so she can wander around the woods some more.

Another issue with the show is that there's so many God Damme characters in it whose storylines amount to diddly squat.  Squat!  Rob's one friend who takes Winterfell with 20 soldiers in 5 minutes then gets kidnapped by some random guy who cuts his deal off? Ok...Instead of actually moving forward in the Stark or Dragon Queen story line, we just get more characters, more subplots and more BS deaths that take things nowhere.  Hey, what's the difference between Twitter and Game of Thrones?  Twitter only allows 140 characters.  Season 3 needed TWO full episodes just to catch you up on all of the frigging storylines taking place.  When I ask if my issues have been resolved in the 5,000 pages of novel, I'm told the answer is no.  So it's double bullshit.  Sorry I'm not sorry The Flash could actually tell an enjoyable/exciting/funny/dramatic story in each episode with only a few lead characters and a handful of supporting players.  Sorry I'm not sorry that they didn't try to lead the audience on waiting for a payoff that you know will either not be forthcoming or be worth the wait.  But hey, people love to stand in line for 30 minutes for hot dogs and hamburgers yet talk down on McDonald's so I guess they deserve the circle jerking.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vernal Viewing: Terminator Four(th time)

Today is coincidentally the first day of Spring aka the vernal equinox aka warming temperatures, equal days and nights and the rebirth of flora and fauna.  What does that mean?  Another night at the Arclight Hollywood, this time for a Dome screening of 1984's The Terminator.  If you'll recall, this is the 2nd week in a row I've seen a Michael Biehn/James Cameron joint on the big screen after Aliens on Wednesday last.  There must have been some kind of writer meet up because I spotted a huge table of folks I recognized from Comic-Con panels.  Basically, they choose a year and go through the awesome genre movies that came out and then present/discuss them.  While it sounds like a neat concept but with so many speakers and topics, it's hard to keep the "mommenemum" going.  A few years ago I corralled a party of 11 to go see a Predator/Predator 2 double feature and it remains one of the proudest accomplishments of my life.  Tonight, we had a group of 8 but hey, for a 30 year old movie, that's still pretty good.

Before the flick, an Arclight staff member welcomed us and let us all know he was a huge fan of The Terminator as well.  To start things off, there were some trivia questions and giveaways of their famous caramel popcorn.  Who won one?  This guy.  With the answer to the question, what was the name of the night club Sarah Connor first encounters the Terminator and saved by Kyle Reese?  Why, that's Tech Noir!  Sadly, the theater wasn't very full but we had great seats and were ready to take a trip back in time and into the future...

As you've read on this online memoir plenty of times, I love James Cameron, Arnold, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, The Terminator, Aliens, etc.  This would be my fourth viewing of The Terminator on the big screen in as many years.  This time around I noticed more of the "heart" of the movie, the scenes between mother of the future resistance, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her time traveling protector/father of the future, Kyle Reese (Biehn).  These quiet moments are tucked in between shootouts, foot races, car chases, explosions and hyper alloy combat chassis shenanigans.  The Tech Noir sequence, where Reese zeroes in on the Terminator and sends him through a window with shotgun blasts really starts my favorite section of the movie.  The ensuing alley chase then cars screeching around the streets of Los Angeles, Reese's explanation of who he is and what the Terminator is, into another car chase, the police station assault and Reese exclaiming "I didn't build the fucking thing!" ...great stuff.

This time around I also noticed how well rounded the three characters are and how skillfully efficient Cameron's script is.  While Arnold is the title character and "star" of the show, Reese and Connor have equally important weight in the picture.  Reese is the storyteller, letting us know what's happening, what happened and what's going to happen next.  He's there to protect Sarah at all costs and guide her on her journey to becoming a formidable leader that will help mankind defeat the machines in the future.  Meanwhile, instead of just being thrown into the mayhem and screaming along like a damsel in distress, Sarah Connor is never dragged along helplessly, she quickly accepts what's happening and learns to adapt, lead and survive.  Of course Arnold's T-800 is there to wipe out Connor's existence and does so with muscular, silent menace.

People like to give Cameron a hard time that he's more interested in technology than telling a story which is total and utter bullshit.  You don't have screenings of 20-30 year old movies if it was only about the whiz-bang.  The Terminator, like all of Cameron's films, is at heart, a love story.  Kyle Reese travels across time for Sarah with no chance of ever getting home.  He's memorized every curve and nuance of a photo of Sarah and fallen in love with her in the process.  Always wondering what she was thinking about when the photo was taken, we the audience learn that she was thinking of him.  If that's not swoon worthy, I don't know what is...

Come with me if you want to live!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Workout of the Day: Mads Man

Whenever we hit Disneyland over night, we tend to stay at The Red Lion.  It's a decent spot for a decent price and they have a nice gym.  Before heading back this past Tuesday, I wanted to take advantage of the room full of weights and equipment since I work out at home with basic stuff and advanced imagination.  Mother fucking Legend was on Encore but that quickly ended, what came on next?  Why it was King Arthur from 2004!  You may remember that my boy Mads Mikkelsen co-starred as the quiet badass Tristan a la Brit from The Magnificent Seven a la the Kyuzo from The Seven Samurai.  To get the maximum pump and work out of my time, I opted for doing two exercises in a row per body part for my entire upper body.  On an empty stomach I got in:

1)  Chest - Incline Push Up w/Flat Dumbbell Flys
2)  Back - Chin Up w/Straight Bar Cable Row
3)  Shoulders - Arnold Press w/Side Raises
4)  Biceps - One Arm Preacher Curl w/Dumbbell Hammer Curls
5)  Triceps - Straight Bar Cable Pushdown w/Lying Incline Dumbbell Extension
6)  Calves - Standing Raises with Dumbbell in hand w/Seated Calf Raise (sit on the bench, put feet up on the metal frame and place DB's on knees)

I went through this twice then added one last Giant Set:

7)  Cable Row/Dumbbell Pullover/Shoulder Raises/Concentration Curls/Cable Pushdown

Followed by some ab crunches, trunk twists and a few miles on a bike while watching King Arthur and his knights hacking, slashing, arguing and drinking their way through a rescue mission.  By the end, I felt good and pumped up, ready to tackle the park.

As you can see, this routine worked each of my muscle groups and pumped more blood in without straining my muscles or joints as each exercise works a different part of the muscle.

All in, the workout took under an hour and I settled for some chocolate milk as a post session shake.  Then it was time for Disneyland where it was crazy crowded with I'm guessing Spring Breakers.

Born Ready: Kurt Russell

Not only was this past Monday St. Patrick's Day, it was also the birthday of one titan of cinema and life: Kurt Russell.  While Russell didn't inspire me the way Jean-Claude Van Damme or Arnold did as a kid, his films and attitude were definitely a big part of my formative movie watching years.  Always a perfect mix of funny and physical with a rough around the edges charm, Russell just effortlessly comes off as a cool guy.  After hearing stories about him and then seeing him in person last year, I can definitely say I still believe it to be true.  A few weeks ago I opined that America doesn't have many leading men of the durable and capable variety and I would argue that Russell was one of our last.

Coming off a string of television work and Disney features, Russell transitioned to Hollywood leading man the help of directors like Robert Zemeckis, John Carpenter, Mike Nichols, Garry Marshall, Ron Howard and Roland Emmerich while playing a multitude of iconic characters like Snake Plissken, R.J. MacReady, Jack Burton, Gabriel Cash, Captain Ron and Wyatt Earp.

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Used Cars - Probably Russell's funniest and most dialog heavy role of all time where he plays salesman Rudy Russo, a small time hustler/charmer trying to raise enough money to join the Senate and skim all the graft he knows is waiting.  Socially irresponsible with some great practical car stunts.

Escape From New York - The B-Movie classic that helped launch his career and a character that has lived on through a sequel, comic books, toys and more.  The ultimate wise ass anti-hero before there were wise ass anti-heroes.

The Thing - Drinks whiskey, plays computer chess, flies a helicopter, wears a huge sombrero and blows shit up.  What more could you ask for from an arctic set, alien thriller with Cold War paranoia?

Big Trouble In Little China - Arguably my favorite Russell flick since the time I saw it late night on TBS then bought the VHS at Saturday Matinee in the mall.  Russell's turn as blowhard trucker Jack Burton is hilarious and shows his gameness for not giving the audience what they expect as he's actually the sidekick but doesn't know it.

Tango & Cash - A beautiful love story between two hard working men just trying to make it in life.

Captain Ron - Good times.  Again shows his willingness not to be pigeonholed as he seemingly plays a buffoon in this broad family comedy who isn't actually an idiot.

Tombstone - The master class example.  Russell plays legendary lawman Wyatt Earp in this popcorn western action classic that nearly fell apart but was saved and came out a winner unlike the bloated attempt by "serious" actor and Oscar winner Kevin Costner.

Executive Decision - Showcases Russell's ability to play heroic but not cartoonish as an intelligence analyst thrown into a combat/hostage scenario after leader Steven Seagal plunges to his death aboard a Stealth Bomber 1/3 of the way into the movie.

Breakdown - Russell plays regular here, very regular as a guy moving cross country with his wife and becomes the target of a kidnapping scheme run by truckers out in the middle of nowhere.  Very freaky and became my mind's worst case scenario when thinking of pulling up stakes and driving cross country to California.

Soldier - Is it a good film?  That's debatable.  Is Russell awesome in it?  Yes.  As a silent career soldier facing his younger replacement, Russell is built like a tank in this science fiction action flick set on a near deserted trash planet in the same universe as Blade Runner.

Mr. Russell had taken a hiatus from filmmaking as he and life partner Goldie Hawn have been busy running a winery and producing their own label.  He's slowly coming back as Canadian heist flick The Art of the Steal has rolled out this year and a part in the latest Fast and Furious chapter is in the works.  Russell had already turned down an offer from friend Stallone to appear in The Expendables, citing he wasn't interested in ensemble acting or looking back.  While it would be nice to see him in one of the 90's reunions, you gotta respect the fact he doesn't need the work and is still setting out to do his own thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Green Day aka Happy St. Patrick's Day

No, not that shitty garage band from the 90's, Green Day as in St. Patrick's Day!  You know, the religious and cultural holiday to celebrate one Saint Patrick of Ireland?  Apparently the dude was kidnapped and taken to Gaelic Ireland where he worked as a Shepard then found G-O-D.  Upon returning home he worked tirelessly to convert pagans into Christians using the Shamrock's three points to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost), hence, leading us to wear green.  I doubt many establishments delved too deeply into Patrick's story before shelling out green beer, green party hats and green beads but hey, that's capitalism right?  A few years ago I was in Chicago to see the annual parade and was surprised at how they turn the river green.  Basically, small speed boats dump coloring in and then do doughnuts in the water, swirling it in until the appropriate color has been reached.  Simple yet effective.  McDonald's placed a large, tipped over Shamrock Shake cup on the bank of the river so it seemed as if someone spilled, get it?

What else comes to mind when you think of Green?  The Hulk.  Kermit the frog.  Money.  Jell-O.  Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element.  After that it gets hazy...broccoli?  Grass?  Spinach?  Anywho, The Hulk is a pretty easy go to for me, I mean come on, what kid doesn't wish they could be the Jade Giant and freak out then smash everything?  Thanks to comics, cartoons, the 70's television show, two standalone movies and his appearance in The Avengers, The Big Green has firmly enmeshed himself into society.  The television series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno was fantastic with that hauntingly memorable theme and it's mix of drama with action.  Sure it's dated now but Bixby's sympathetic portrayal of Banner and big Lou's green slipper clad mountain of green painted muscle will always be a certain generation's ideal of the character.  Apparently, the show was canceled because show runner Kenneth Johnson didn't want to cut the budget down to only one Hulk out an episode.  New brass at CBS didn't care that ratings were still high for the show, they just wanted to slash spending across the board.  Years later, a series of TV movies hit NBC which were also back door pilots for never materialized attempts at Thor and Daredevil.  Apparently, a TV movie with She-Hulk was in the works but was scrapped due to budgetary concerns.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

(Pre)Con-Man: Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo 2014

This year marks my first venture in attending out of town conventions.  Town is a relative term as the 8 shows I went to last year were all in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego County, i.e. Southern California with the furthest being 130ish miles away (which I made door to door in 94 minutes, you do the math).  But this year I'm cranking it up a notch by hitting two out of town shows in less than a month.  One of them is actually out of the country and I need to get an updated passport to attend!  It all started with rumblings of this show in Calgary, Canada, a city in the province of Alberta about 600 miles (or 970 kilometers) east of Vancouver and north of western Montana.  The only thing I knew about the place was that it was the home of "the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be" professional wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart.  I randomly found them on Facebook and started keeping up with this show that seemed to be booking tons of great guests and providing endless amounts of fan centric events and opportunities. 

From loads of comic book artists and writers to a bevy of familiar faces from television and film, the Calgarians (that sounds like something out of fantasy literature) were putting on a fucking show.  Then to start things off, they held a Cosplay parade that wasn't just a few dozen folks in costume.  Oh no, we're talking hundreds of people in homemade outfits filling the streets and 60,000 attendees.  2014 looks to be another great show in the making and then shit got real as the organizers of Calgary Expo and Coolwaters Productions announced they would be putting on Aliens EXPOsed, a celebration of James Cameron's seminal sequel from 1986.  Sure there have been plenty of Aliens screenings and whatnot before this, heck, I just attended one last week.  The New Beverly hosted a The Terminator and Aliens double feature that saw Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Mark Rolston, Jenette Goldstein and Ricco Ross show up and shoot the shit.  I unfortunately could not because I was attending an out of state wedding...

But Calgary is coming on strong with the announcement that Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver, would attend this little shindig along with Biehn, Henriksen, Rolston and Goldstein IN ADDITION to convention newbies Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser and Carrie Henn.  Now that's some fucking organizational skillz.  EXPOsed is being held outside the actual convention and requires a separate, not cheap ticket.  But hey, this is basically the entire main cast of one of my favorite movies we're talking about here and they're treating it right, using a local stadium to house the event.  So how did I spend my Saturday morning?  By getting tickets to EXPOsed, then moving right into securing passes to Calgary Expo (Friday and Sunday still available!), booking flights and checking out all of the beautifully swanky downtown hotels the Expo has teamed up with provide discounts for show goers.

Next up, finding Calgary's tastiest chow down spots via lots and lots of Food Network and Travel Channel programs.  See ya up north!

It was either a tourism pitch or a Bon Iver song...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mel Gibson Week: Destiny

It's been a randomly Mel Gibson filled week in my life and that's just fine by me.  Mr. Gibson's public struggles have been well documented but I always stood up for the guy because none of us really know what happens in someone else's life if we're not there.  Whether you like him or not or think he's crazy or not, he's been a part of some great fucking movies.  I was never a Mad Max guy but the Lethal Weapon series, Maverick, Ransom, Payback, The Patriot, Chicken Run and Signs were some of the jams of my movie upbringing.  Edge of Darkness, his Taken twinge'd comeback picture didn't set the box office on fire but I thought it was very well done, intense and used its violence to chilling effect.  Plenty of 90's superstars have failed to reignite their leading man careers; from Stallone to Costner to Ford to Russell but it's just easier to kick Gibson when he's down because people love to judge others but not themselves.  Follow up piece The Beaver was a somber look at depression and while effective, went widely unseen.  With that, Hollywood's most reliable truth became clear again, if you're not making someone money, game over.

My (online) week with Mel all started with an article over at Deadline Hollywood, where a reporter who had viciously attacked Gibson in the past, had over the years actually become friends with him and asked the creative community to give him a break.  Sure we've heard this kind of stuff before, Robert Downey Jr. and Jodie Foster have been vocal supporters of the Gibs while filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez enlisted him to villain duty in Machete 2 and Stallone tried to get Mad Mel to helm Expendables III but had to settle for Riggs playing the baddie instead (and getting swole!).  I remember a few years ago, the American Cinematheque announced a Mad Max triple feature with a Q&A from Gibson and I nudged my lady, expecting some boos which of course came while I clapped and later found out the event sold out the 600 seats of the joint.  While there, Hollywood's shittiest but most well connected moderator asked Gibson about the last few years where Gibson simply stated, “Everybody gets ups and downs. It’s either sink or swim or you just don’t wake up one morning. But I kept waking up, so I figured what the f—?”.  Right on, Mel.  In an age where child rapists get nominated for Oscars, I'll still support Reverend Hess' work.

Isn't it illegal to record someone if they don't know they're being recorded?  Yet when those tapes came out, phew, it was not good for Gibson.  Apparently she turned down a settlement offer from Porter and that's when she leaked the tapes in a bid for more moola.  But she wasn't smart enough to know not to talk about it so an appearance on Howard Stern violated the confidentiality agreement and she is no longer entitled to payment.  Throw in the fact that she recently claimed to be broke and got turned away from Vanity Fair's Oscar after party, things are just tough all over.

On the work front, a potentially awesome team up project was announced to shockingly little fanfare on Impact Online that says Jackie Chan and Mel Gibson are partnering up for a period action adventure flick called Dragon Blade.  The flick would see Burt, I mean, Bret as a Roman Legion commander fighting in China where he comes across Detective Inspector Lee and the two team up to take on a formidable foe.  This of course led to instant excitement and wishful titles being bandied about like Shanghai Mavericks, The Sugar Tits Gung Fu Express and Drunken Crazy Cop Master.  Hopefully this flick goes into production and we get a big, vast, violent action-adventure saga of survival and camaraderie.

Lastly, my awesome boss of all people sent me a link to an online quiz about What 80's Action Hero Are You?  After careful consideration of each question, guess who I got?  Mother fucking Martin Riggs.  Cause I'm honest yet crazy, enjoy childish things but keep my word like an adult, would risk myself to take out an asshole and would totally try to buy $100,000 worth of cocaine with whatever cash I had one me.

So here's to you, Mel Gibson, and the massive career you've had thus far.  Keep waking up and charmingly fucking shit up.

Excuse me while I pop in Lethal Weapon...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Van Dammage: Border Run

"When I came to America I was unable to buy a Dannon yogurt.  Taco Bell was my Sunday - I enjoyed that Taco Bell from the beginning to the end.  Even if I've got millions, billions, trillions of dollars, my children are going to finish their melon.  Because I paid for it.  I worked for it."
     Jean-Claude Van Damme on not wasting food

Workout of the Day: Down with the Sickness

Being sick sucks.  I'm not even that sick but just being a little off your game sucks for men.  Because men are babies.  They say if it's just a cold (neck and up) and not the flu (neck and down) then you're fine to keep working out.  They say a good sweat can be good for it even.  I took that advice and did a short body weight workout today to keep moving but not push so hard that it wouldn't be able to fight the infection. 

Taking a page from the Dolph Lundgren book of home workouts, I completed:

1)  Body Squat
2)  Chin Up
3)  Incline Push Up
4)  Lunges
5)  Chin-Row
6)  Handstand Push Up
7)  Sissy Squat - Stand next to a door frame for balance and let your knees sink forward and down as you lean back then push back up to standing
8)  Face Pull - Lift yourself up like a chin up then pull your face to the bar and push back out, kind of like you're curling your body instead of the bar
9)  Dips
10)  Calf Raises - On a stair, 15 reps with toes forward, out and in

I started to get a little tired so I cut it short after doing 2 rounds instead of my usual 3.

Earlier in the week I did a little cardio with a DDP Yoga video which opened up my throat and followed it up with quick bouts of jump rope, cycling, abs and jumping up my staircase, plyometric style. 

Now let's work the chest:


Gotta Drank! The Bowery

The 80's keep on rocking and rolling at The Arclight Hollywood this week as screenings of Aliens and Back to the Future remind us how great they are.  This would be my 2nd viewing of Aliens on the big screen while it was something like the 7th of BTTF.  Yeah, that's a lotta Flux Capacitating!  It's also week one of two of seeing Michael Biehn on the big screen as next Wednesday it's time for The Terminator.  The crowds have been a little subdued this week but you can bet your ass I'll be clapping and getting rowdy for Arnold, Biehn, Cameron, Paxton and Henriksen.  The last time I saw The Terminator, it was preceded the week earlier by a screening of The Abyss.  Hopefully Navy Seals and Tombstone are next in my double Biehn screen viewing.

Anywho, before Aliens, we walked a couple blocks over to Vine where there's a slew of bar and restaurants like The Well, grilled cheese house The Melt, some Italian joint and The Bowery; a cozy and dimly lit establishment that claims to have the best hamburger in Los Angeles.  I've had it and wasn't wowed but then again, it's served on an English muffin.  To me, English muffins are only good if they're toasted to a nice crispy finish and slathered in butter.  Bowery has some other tasty selections as well though on it's small menu.  Happy Hour runs the entire week I believe from 4-7.  As I'm fighting a cold, it was Hot Toddy time.  You know, whiskey and hot tea with lemon and honey on the side?  This might have been the best Hot Toddy I've ever had simply due to the fact that they gave me a shot glass full of honey with it.

Goodnight, future boy!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Way We Weren't: James Cameron's X-Men

I always wondered what a "Carolco" superhero movie would have been like.  Carolco, if you'll recall, was the independent mini-major studio run by Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna then only Kassar, who overpaid for top talent like James Cameron, Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin, Paul Verhoeven, Renny Harlin, Walter Hill, Arnold, Sly and Michael Douglas but gave us big budget, ballsy Hollywood epics like Terminator 2, Cliffhanger, Rambo, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Universal Soldier.  In 1989, Carolco bought the rights to Marvel's X-Men comic book.  James Cameron was going to produce and his then wife Kathryn Bigelow was set to direct.  Bob Hoskins was the favorite to play Logan/Wolverine while Angela Bassett was tipped to play the weather controlling Storm.  Noted X-Men comic book writer Chris Claremont and the man himself, Stan Lee, visited Cameron in 1990 to talk X movies but were quickly derailed when Lee brought up Spider-Man.  Cameron's eyes lit up and Carolco ended up buying the rights to Marvel's web-slinger as well.  Cameron wrote a scriptment for Spidey and even storyboarded numerous scenes.  However, the bankruptcy of Carolco sent everything into a mess of litigation and by the mid 90's, X-Men went to Fox and Spider-Man to Sony.  Cameron had already moved on and was waist deep into Titanic.

Sigh, a 90's X-Men movie from the makers of Aliens, Terminator 2, Near Dark and Point Break?  It almost breaks the heart.  While giving a property to an eccentric, imaginative visualist like Tim Burton is fine and dandy, there's something to be said about handing it to a guy or gal who knows how to tell a good story, make it look interesting and have you on the edge of your seat as they take you on a pulse pounding, nail biting ride a la Cameron, Verhoeven, Harlin, Bigelow or Emmerich.  It probably would have had a lot more action than 2000's ok but kind of staid version to say the least and you could have gotten some strong and familiar actors to fill the roles.  Like whom?  Glad I asked!  Back in 1995, Wizard of Comics magazine posted their wish list for an X-Men movie cast.  Like the staff, I would have preferred Cameron to direct but Bigelow would have killed it too.

Professor Charles Xavier - Patrick Stewart.  Yeah, I'm cool with this.  Apparently so was Fox since he's about to play Professor X for a 6th time.

Lucas Bishop - Michael Dorn.  I'm fine either way with this choice.  Dorn has the voice and size to play the time skipping mutant.

Piotr "Colossus" Rasputin - Dolph Lundgren.  Hell yes, perfect casting.  90's Dolph had the physique and quiet strength to play the shy Russian farm boy who has super strength and organic metal skin.

Scott "Cyclops" Summers - MICHAEL BIEHN.  Even perfect-er casting than Dolph.  A calm, cool headed leader who likes to mix it up and is also an under the radar babe magnet in a 90's James Cameron joint?!  You couldn't ask for a better choice to portray Cyke.

Remy "Gambit" LeBeau - Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Fuck yeah!  A roguishly charming ladies man who fights with a bo staff and martial arts complete with a New Orleans accent?  Why would you ever think of Taylor Kitsch, Channing Tatum or Josh Holloway for this?  Boggles the mind.

Elizabeth "Psylocke" Braddock - Tia Carrere.  I'm ok with this, not sure what her action chops were but she was in movies with Dolph, Brandon Lee and Arnold so...

Ororo "Storm" Monroe - Iman.  Uh who?  Sorry, I'll take Angela Bassett's beautiful yet strong presence over some rail thin supermodel for this one.

Jean Grey - Nicole Kidman.  A pretty redhead with acting chops to play the lust of all X-Men that eventually goes crazy and destroys an entire population of aliens?  Yeah, I'm down.

Logan "Wolverine" - Glen Danzig.  Get the fuck outta here.  Bob Hoskins would have been fine.  Have him lose a few pounds but he would have been solid as the short, surly, beserking asshole of the team.

Cable - Clint Eastwood.  This one is a wash, I mean who better to play a grizzled, hardass, time traveling soldier?  He might have been a little old at the time but I'm having trouble conjuring up a suitable 90's alternative.

Erik "Magneto" Lensherr - Rutger Hauer.  Good choice.  Blade Runner and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Hauer is great at playing that Euro-trash villain with equal parts menace and grace.  Ed Harris would be a good choice too.

Victor "Sabretooth" Creed - Clancy Brown.  Highlander's Brown has the size, voice and maniacal moxie to tear shit up as the eviler version of Wolverine.  "There can be only one!"

Cain "Juggernaut" Marko - Big Van Vader.  Pro-wrestler Vader had the girth sure but I think this is a villain you could have kept out of a 90's X-Men film.  Or cast a tall, muscular guy like Ralf Moeller to fill the role and shoot him at perspectives to make him even bigger so when Colossus defeats him, it's not an empty victory.

Emma "White Queen" Frost - Rebecca De Mornay.  Yup.  With 90's hot yet talented actresses like DeMornay, Kidman and Carrere around, this would have made a heck of a lot sexier X-flick than what we've been given with the actual movies.

Hey Arnold: Up and At Them

"For me life is continuously being hungry.  
The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, 
but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer."
     - Arnold Schwarzenegger

It's that kind of thinking that makes Arnold one of a kind.  I contend that the man is driven to a fault.  He's made billions of dollars while inspiring millions if not billions of people around the world.  Has he screwed up in life?  Absolutely.  And he'll be the first one to admit it while not blaming others.  Instead of dwelling on what he can't change, he keeps moving forward like Conan or The Terminator. Even upon first arriving in America, Arnold didn't only spend his time lifting weights and tanning at the beach.  He was taking business classes and starting construction companies while buying up real estate.  He was a millionaire in his 20's so by the time he switched gears to acting, he could be picky with his roles instead of playing bit parts as a brute or truck driver for a paycheck.  What Hollywood agent ever thought a guy with that last name and physique would become the world's highest paid movie star?    Exactly.

It really ticks me off when I hear people pigeonhole Arnold as a steroid user and cast him off.  The drugs were legal when he was using them and besides, he still looks better than 99% of others on the juice.  As a teenager, he went AWOL from the military to compete, that's what we call dedication.  There's lots of in shape guys running around in the world but how many of them have aspired or accomplished as much as The Oak?  Look at any modern bodybuilder today, they all look the same:  grotesque mountains of muscle that probably don't do anything but eat and train.  What kind of life is that?  Anybody who gets into drugs to give themselves a better body is a loser, it's like the woman who gets over sized breast implants then still wonders why men don't want to date her or pay attention to her.  It's a fundamental flaw in their thinking.

In an age of the masses being desensitized but really fucking touchy, I'm glad Arnold can look at his body of work with a sense of humor.  While Stallone is making $15 million an Expendables flick yet charging 800 bucks for an autograph and photo while crowd sourcing for movie budgets; Arnold uses his history and image for good.  Always one to make fun of himself, Arnold exploits his charm and public persona for charity.  Right now you can donate to his After School program for a chance to meet the legend, work out with him and ride around in his tank.  Apparently he's matching user contributions up to $500,000 as well.  What a guy.

Arnold and Epic Meal Time Gotta Eat!

For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.
For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.
For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.