Monday, June 30, 2014

Van Dammage: Leg Meat Perfection

In honor of the huge success of Dolph night, today's Van Dammage is a double pump of Jean-Claude Van Damme reflections and wisdom from the Universal Soldier experience:

"I was surprised by the power of his legs, he has powerful legs 
cause he's got big meat.  He's got long legs."

Being 6'5", Dolph Lundgren has always seemed larger than life on the big screen.  Throw in the muscles and athletic prowess and you have a comic book style superhero who doesn't need a costume.  I've always loved some of his signature moves like the step in sidekick we saw in flicks like Showdown In Little Tokyo and Universal Soldier where you feel like he could send some poor goon through a frigging wall.  I Come In Peace features a beautifully thrown and cringe inducing spinning back kick as Lundgren's Houston detective stops an armed robbery with his feet.  Apparently it looks so good because the actor missed his mark and Dolph slipped coming in so the kick made contact and knocked the guy down.

"When you make a film as a director, you do the best you can. Because time is in the issue.  
So you do the best you can.  But then you will always feel sorry.  
Something is missing always because perfection exists.  Somewhere."

That sentiment sums up my experience with Dolph Night and part of my life philosophy in general.  Guys like Arnold, Van Damme and Dolph showed me that self belief comes from self improvement so whether that's changing yourself physically or learning a new skill, we can only move forward when we challenge ourselves and know what we are capable of.  While things can always be worse they can also always be better.  I have to work on simply enjoying the moment as the days and weeks leading up to Dolph Night were tiring and filled with frustration due to my day job.  I tried my best to keep my mind clear and focus on what was arguably one of my life's most successful personal accomplishments but it was hard for me to relax as I kept thinking everything could fall apart at any moment.  Of course it didn't and a great time was had by all but I couldn't help but see all of the flaws of the evening instead of all of the great things that were happening.  Now that I've had a few days to reflect, I can learn from the evening and come back stronger for next time while giving myself a little credit.  Onto Live Event # 3!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ask Me (Another) Question: Universal Soldier w/DOLPH LUNDGREN

I gotta tell you, it's a bit of a trip and I hope someone has video of it but to be standing in front of a crowded theater and be joking with one of your child to adulthood idols, I can't even describe it.  I've got a big mouth but every time I'm on a microphone people can't hear me.  So I had Dolph himself shoving the mic in my face and telling me to speak up, good times.  While introducing the flick we learned that Andrew Davis was fresh off directing Gene Hackman in The Package and wanted to turn Universal Soldier into an elaborate, political, European set revolution story that saw Unisols Luc Deveraux and Andrew Scott in bit parts.  Baumgarten balked and Davis said the young producer was about to get fired.  The next day, Davis was gone.  Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin produced 30 pages of treatment in 2 days and the movie was back on track.  Dolph talked about making his character a bit off the wall and discussing with Emmerich his ideas like throwing grenades and squawking like an Indian or celebrating like a baseball pitcher.  His impression of Emmerich chain smoking then saying "very interesting, I like it" in a German accent was hilarious.  Dolph did an English accent next when telling a story about the first day shooting with Jean-Claude Van Damme.  The scene called for The Bulging Belgian to kick a gun out of Dolph's hand and on the first take, JCVD kicked hard and the gun went flying.  Dolph was a little shocked at the full bore take but shook it off.  Next take, same thing.  That's when Dolph's English karate instructor simply said, "knock him out" if it happened again.  That message was relayed to stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong whose eyes got wide as did Van Damme's when he was told.  Next take?  JC delivered a pillow tap of a kick.  The rest of the shoot went great and the two have co-starred in an additional 3 films.

We had a section of seats reserved for Dolph and Craig's party while Dammaged Goods had an entire row behind them.  Sitting behind Dolph while watching the opening of Universal Soldier?  There's only a few things left I need to accomplish in my cinema fan life.  You could tell he enjoyed the movie, the warped sense of humor and brutal 90's violence as he laughed and whispered to his friends as the memories came back.  The print was a bit soft at the start but got better throughout.  The story of two soldiers in Vietnam who kill each other but are brought back to life by "hyper accelerating dead flesh" 25 years later as super soldiers part of the Universal "Unisol" Soldier program then face off once again when their memories return, Unisol is a prime example of what made the 90's action era so great.  The film looks big with great production value from the rain soaked jungles of Vietnam (a converted golf course in Arizona), the Unisol introduction scene at the Hoover Dam with high falls and rappelling face down the huge dam to the giant, mean looking, expanding Unisol truck to the destruction of just about every location via machine gun fire, explosions or bar fights, Universal Soldier packs a punch but still has room for laughs and even a quiet dramatic beat or two.

Universal Soldier is definitely one of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph's best films.  It's a real movie with a decent budget and a talented crew.  Germany's Roland Emmerich was hungry to show what he could do in America and really pushes it as the film is more or less an exciting, prolonged chase scene.  Beyond that, the film contains one of JC's best performances and maybe Dolph's greatest in his career.  Van Damme is youthful, innocent and funny while Dolph is just plain crazy and sickly hilarious.  From the necklace made from human ears to the sudden bursts of violence balanced with evil yet comedic brooding, Dolph delivers a fantastic performance.  The supermarket scene where Sgt. Andrew Scott talks about "kicking or kissing ass and busting heads" has always been one of my all time favorite moments in this or any film.  I had to jump out and catch the D-train so I missed their epic rain and fire filled clash but escorted Dolph back into the theater and got to watch him watch Van Damme kick him into a combine and throw the switch.  Again, hilarity.

Geoff and I had discussed some talking points since we really wanted to make the night and Q&A a tribute to Dolph's inspirational life and awesome career.  They took the stage and were recorded for the Humans From Earth podcast and Dolph was simply wonderful.  Funny, smart, animated and gracious.

- Stallone was so famous around Rocky IV that he needed a police escort.
- When Dolph's boxing boots were the wrong color scheme, Stallone flipped out, called the Adidas factory in Germany, had them open over the weekend, make new boots and ship them to Vancouver for Monday's shooting.
- On way into Rocky IV, was on the arm of Grace Jones, after the film people are looking at him and now she's on his arm.  Life changed completely in 90 minutes.
- Back in the day directors didn't have video village of monitors and just had to know what they were doing and Emmerich was a great director.
- John Woo sat behind 8 monitors chain smoking and direction consisted of walking up to Dolph, getting really close, then walking away.
- Back in his day, you had to do more yourself and could only have a stunt double for long shots.  Today, a good actor with a good stunt coordinator and 4 doubles can be an action hero.
- Cites Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold, Clint Eastwood and Robert Mitchum all had real life experience and played characters closer to their personalities and skills as "tough guys".
- Sly had made Drago a sympathetic villain and the call to play All-American hero He-Man was difficult and a lot of pressure.  Almost froze wearing costume that was the size of a stamp and couldn't go out in public because of his mullet hair extension.
- Has liked working out since a teen and it's part of the business, also keeps him young.
- Likes producing, on it from day one and get to shape the project unlike a director or actor who sometimes just get the call and show up.
- Skin Trade came from reading an article years ago about a van full of women being brought to America from Mexico, abandoned and suffocated to death.  Wrote the script never thinking it would be made but just finished in Thailand and in post production.
- Sex Trafficking is 3rd biggest criminal enterprise in the world behind drugs and guns.
- Craig Baumgarten came up to discuss more about Skin Trade and the great cast: Tony Ja's first English speaking film, Michael Jai White, Ron Perlman and Peter Weller.
- Weller had a comical fit on last day of shooting as all of the stars were on set and Weller came late and got the smallest trailer.

Dolph said he would do some signing so we didn't need to whisk him away.  As soon as the Q&A ended, wow, a rumbling herd rushed Dolph so we moved to the lobby where things could be a little more orderly.  Dolph was great as he signed and took photos for quite a while.  Getting him out of there was a bit nuts as there was still a mob after him and I was one of those guys who walks in front of celebs clearing the way and saying stuff like "get back" or "we're done" and "don't get hit by a car".  All in it was a crazy, fun, memorable and educational night that I still haven't quite processed yet as I had to be back at work the next morning at 8:30AM.

Thanks Dolph, Craig, Lori, Grant, Christian, Tammi and Geoff.  Victory!  We'll do it again soon.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ask Me a Question: Universal Soldier w/DOLPH LUNDGREN

WOW.  What a night.  My brain hasn't quite computed everything yet but I'm told Dolph Night was a rousing success, we had a great enthusiastic crowd and the D-Man was awesome.  I'll put up a full post later but thank you to everyone who showed up last night.  The American Cinematheque, BeyondFest, Humans From Earth and Dammaged Goods all worked together like a movie bro Expendables to make for one hell of a night.  Now let's rewind.  The night started off running around getting things set, anticipating Dolph and producer Craig Baumgarten's arrival.  I had posted up outside in the courtyard where several Dammaged Goods, StalloneZone, VanDammeFan and plain ol' action fans introduced themselves and I handed them a custom shirt for the night.  Later inside, I look up and one of the guys who got a shirt said, "he's here!" and there was Dolph, in all his muscular, suave and cool guy glory.  He, Craig and their party actually arrived early so we whisked them away to chat about the evening and I got to hear some stories about Carolco, the production and original director Andrew Davis' script that was ultimately rejected.

Dolph, fan, custom shirt!
Then it was time.  Grant and Geoff from the Egyptian Theatre and Humans From Earth gave us a lowdown of what's coming up, that the first HFE podcasts are up and then it was my turn.  I welcomed the crowd and told them how my first movie in theaters was 1987's Masters of the Universe starring none other than Dolph Lundgren and that I'd been a lifelong fan ever since.  So it was a pleasure and kind of bewildering to be in a giant, beautiful, historic theatre about to watch him on the big screen.  As a thank you, I had prizes but you had to earn them!  Up for grabs were an original 1992 Universal Soldier button, a VHS signed by Dolph and Craig and a custom shirt for the night.  I was really sweating it if my questions would be too hard but the audience knew that Dolph did Kyokoshin karate, Sgt. Andrew Scott's designation was GR-13 and that Roland Emmerich directed the movie.  Then Dolph and Craig came up to say hello to the audience and I asked them what first memories came back to them when they heard Unisol was being screened.  Craig elaborated on the Andrew Davis debacle while Dolph regaled the audience with the story of threatening to knock Jean-Claude Van Damme out on their first day.

More later...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dammaged Goods Round Up!

Tonight's Shirt!
Holy crap what a week.  Pulled a 17 hour day yesterday and working through weekend but it doesn't matter because Dolph Night is here!  It's not a bad Friday when you see that both Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme have shared the event you've help put together to about 14 million peeps!  I'll be doing intro, trivia and prizes tonight so if you're there, please say hi, we action movie fans must stick together!

Just so you know, Dammaged Goods is now on Facebook and Twitter so come talk some trash!

Tonight, I'll be handing out custom Dolph shirts for Dammaged Goods supporters and trivia winners.  Then, go pick up a WWJCVDD? shirt and have your own Universal Soldier and The Expendables week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Workout of the Day: Double Pumped & Dolph Week!

On top of it being Dolph Week, I'm also in the midst of a huge project at the office that will require 11 straight long days of work.  No big deal, I've planned the work and will work the plan.  Remember, be a Doer!  To maximize my daily output, I've set myself on a sleep schedule from 12:00 - 6:00AM because once you're mentally prepared, the body will follow.  With time being of the essence, my training needs to be short and sweet and fit into my day whenever it can.  Whether that means yoga and jumping rope in the morning, a quick weight session at night or taking 20 flights of stairs at work, it's up to me not to use a busy schedule as an excuse to pig out all week.  Dolph would not approve.  A while back I posted a routine where I did two exercises for the same body part in a row and dubbed it the Double Pump, you fine readers seemed to enjoy it so here's a workout I got in over this past weekend that got me swole up in record time.  The key is to do two exercises that don't tax the muscles in the same fashion.  That way you're not wearing out your joints and tendons, risking injury.

Chest: Push up and DB Fly - To build, stretch and shape the pectoral muscles
Back: Chin and Barbell Row - For lat width and upper back thickness
Triceps: Dips and DB Side Extensions - For mass and definition of the horse shoe
Biceps: Barbell Curl and DB Hammer Curl - For density, shape and width along with forearms
Delts: Arnold Press and DB Side Raises - Shape, mass and definition

Since I was under a time crunch, performing the exercises back to back got my muscles engorged quickly while keeping my heart rate up.  That's 10 exercises per Giant Set and I repeated the circuit 3 times for a total of 30 sets to work my entire upper body.  Later that night, I started to get a bit tight and sore which is always a good sign and then I slept like a person who likes to sleep a lot.

Wanting to get some cardio in and work my legs, I took a page from Dolph's Maximum Potential and completed the Warm Up, Cardio, Leg Sculpting and Abdominal portions and jump roped during the Upper Body section since I had just trained Chest and Biceps at 6:00 AM.  You wouldn't think 12 sets of body squats, lunges and calf raises would be very difficult but boy howdy, the pace Dolph sets and doing 4 sets straight for one body part had my legs screaming and I was dripping a sweat.  During the Abdominal part I paused the video after each exercise and got in 300 quick skips with the rope and threw in an extra set of trunk twists with a pole on my back.  Now it was time for some meditation to slow down my brain and some salmon, rice and salad for dinner before doing some more work.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Con-Man: BotCon

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Transformers, BotCon and Hasbro put on one heck of a show.  Starting on Friday with a group outing to the Transformers Experience at Universal Studios followed by a live performance by Stan Bush (!), the three day extravaganza was live streamed via Shout! Factory's booth from the lovely Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Conference Center.  Being a smaller show, there weren't tons of people walking around outside letting you know you were in the right place but a few strategically placed signs got us to where we needed to go.  Surprisingly, the show didn't offer programs.  At least I didn't see any or see anyone carrying one around.  Instead, there were blown up schedule of events around the area and staff members told you where to go for panels.

The exhibition hall boasted over 200 dealer tables in a decent sized room with oh so many toys from the various lines over the years.  Starting with the original metal figures all the way to the cheap, kiddy looking new series, there was about every kind of toy, model, figurine and statue a Transformers fan could want.  I was snooping around for something Hot Rod or Jazz related but at $60 bucks a pop for a loose figure, it just wasn't my day.  Many fans had armloads of boxed figures and many booths had spare parts for sale.  Hearing some die hard fans speak about variants, international versions and custom figures made me realize how much of a creative culture Transformers can be.  Not only do you have cartoons and comics but the toys are there for you to collect, play with and make your own versions of.  BotCon hosted a build your own Transformer contest which saw entrants designing their own characters or staging scenes with dioramas.  There were prints, buttons, postcards and posters galore from various Transformers artists as well as t-shirts, hoodies, hats and the like.  Besides Transformers, several booths were selling fellow Hasbro product G.I. Joe while I read a blurb about Bronies being present at the show as Hasbro also produces My Little Pony.  Suffice to say I did not see much My Little Pony merchandise for sale or a Brony.  While walking the floor I stumbled upon Stan Bush's booth and nearly seized up as the guy's music is literally the soundtrack of my life.  Dare and The Touch from Transformers: The Movie, Streets of Siam and Never Surrender from Kickboxer, Fight to Survive and On My Own from Bloodsport?  I thought I should just throw money at him to say thanks for making such honest, upbeat and rocking tunes that have kept me going for decades.

There was one room designated for panels in another wing of the center so we checked out a G1 Retrospective, G1 for Generation One, the original cartoon series from 1984.  To little fanfare or set up, our panel was trotted out:  Hal Rayle from Transformers, G.I. Joe, Bionic Six and The VisionariesJem of And the Holograms fame herself, Samantha Newark.  From Robotech, Transformers and G.I. Joe, Michael McConnohie and lastly, totally awesome old guy Jack Angel from Joe, Transformers and Voltron.  There was no moderation, at all, and the panel started taking questions from the audience.  I must say, I've seen a lot of panels but this one was a keeper.  Without prodding each guest had plenty to say answering questions and telling stories about the good ol' days of voicing animation in the 80's.  Angel was the diamond today and told many great stories, one of them concerning his ranking in the world's most popular actors.  Along with Tom Cruise, Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson, Jack Angel has appeared in so many films that he was number 4 on the list at one point.  In an interview, Jackson stated Angel and fellow voice over actor Frank Welker weren't "real" actors but Angel says he'd meet Jackson anytime in a studio to see who could do some real acting.

Many of their shows' voice direction was done by former World War II tank commander Wally Burr who had a studio all of the actors would perform from in the same room.  That way they could feed off each others energy, mannerisms and camaraderie.  Writers and animators present would take note of actors' physicality and traits then use them to flesh out their characters.  These days, much of voice over work is done alone in a booth with a director or engineer outside which just doesn't deliver the same level of performance.  The panel told fun stories about Muppet Babies, Real Ghost Busters, Duck Tales, Transformers and G.I. Joe vet Frank Welker who could produce white noise and drive engineers crazy in a studio or imitate the sound of a door opening to make people look up.  The panel joked that they figured Burr could have done their job since everything was run through a synthesizer for Transformers.

The panel was hilarious, gracious and even inspiring as Angel told the crowd that life is a game so play it fast and if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.  After being discharged from the Army, Angel never had a real job as he was a disk jockey for 18 years where he would have to work 3 hours without lunch before segueing into the voice over business.  Each panel member seemed very pleased and happy to be there as none of them expected to be talking about cartoons 30 years on and thanked the crowed for being so passionate and crazy.  They also provided an inside glimpse into the business of all of these syndicated cartoons as Sunbow and Marvel Productions canceled several shows and regrouped after fighting a losing battle with Barbie.  Jem and The Holograms was a number one rated show for several years but government regulations stipulate that a show cannot advertise for itself, thus risking a 30 minute commercial.  This opened the door for competitor Mattel to use the popularity of Jem to advertise it's Barbie line and come Christmas, the blonde doll flew off the shelves in comparison to the pink haired Jem. 

All in, BotCon was a fantastic day.  It was great to see so many dedicated fans show up for something not movie or celebrity related and the surrounding area was excellent for a show as several restaurants were right across the street.  Parking was a little frustrating as the door we came out of, we couldn't get back in and elevators didn't lead back to the structure, etc.  But now we know, and knowing is half the battle...oh wait, wrong show...I hope BotCon stays on the west coast next year but if it moves back east, maybe we'll go check out G.I. Joe con.  Now Transform and roll out!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ask Me a Question: Back to the Future

About this time last year I was walking around downtown Los Angeles with two of my closest bros as we waited for our suits to be tailored for one of their weddings.  We walked to a nearby arcade I'd read about and passed two old school theaters being renovated, The United Artists and The Rialto.  I hadn't spent much time downtown but knew it was on the up and up with L.A. Live near the Staples Center bustling and pockets of nightlife helping to bring people out.  I didn't even realize one of the buildings I marveled at was used in the shooting of Predator 2!  Cut to Saturday night and the United Artists Theatre was hosting it's first public film screening since 1990!  The accompanying building has been rebuilt as the boutique Ace Hotel and looks to use The Theatre for premieres, concerts and live events.  The interior was absolutely gorgeous with intricate design work that was to evoke a cathedral but for films as instructed by UA founders Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.  With a balcony and 1,600 seats, the place feels grand but not hollow. 

Saturday's screening of Back to the Future was part of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats series, a 28 year strong program of classic films screened in historic venues.  The LA Conservancy is a local non-profit that recognizes and preserves historic architectural and cultural landmarks and communities through walking tours, programs and events.  Now with 6,000 members, it's the largest local preservation group in America.  While most of the other films in the series skew to the 30's and 40's, 1985's Back to the Future would be a rare title that would help draw in a younger audience.  After some introductions from members of the Los Angeles Conservancy and Ace Hotel, film critic and author extraordinaire Leonard Maltin warmed us up stating that he usually doesn't get to introduce films he saw during their first run as BTTF is 29 years young.  He then listed the top grossing films of 1985 which included:  Police Academy 2, The Goonies, Rocky IV, Rambo: First Blood, Part II and of course the years biggest hit, Back to the Future.

The enthusiastic crowd welcomed future Mayor of Hill Valley Goldie Wilson, Donald Fullilove, Marty's girlfriend Jennifer played by Claudia Wells and Lorraine Baines herself, Lea Thompson.  Christopher Lloyed was scheduled to attend but canceled last minute, pretty sure he was at some comic convention making some cash.  Fullilove and Wells were both wearing shirts promoting the film and all three participants looked great and were in good spirits.  Surprisingly, much of the brief session was devoted to original Marty McFly Eric Stoltz being replaced by Michael J. Fox 5 weeks into production and how the actors had to re-shoot most of their scenes.  Thompson welcomed the chance to do it again as she thought her first attempt was weak.  Fullilove mentioned how his initial audition with director Bob Zemeckis was just being asked some strange, philosophical questions then on set, was just told to "go ahead".  Wells had auditioned for The Goonies, Gremlins and Young Sherlock Holmes for Amblin Entertainment but failed to land a part.  The 4th time was the charm meeting the same producers and casting directors.  Wells remembers not knowing how to act on a movie set coming from television where 10 pages a day is normal but on a film, it was only 1 to 1.5 pages a day.  Thompson recalls Zemeckis being so happy to be there and adding little easter eggs that audiences could discover upon subsequent viewings.  Fullilove can't believe they're still talking about the film nearly 30 years later but loves the energy and passion of fans then took a selfie of himself with the audience in the background.

This was the 7th or 8th time I've seen Back to the Future on the big screen in the last maybe 4 years.  If you need a synopsis then you're really reading the wrong online diary. It's still a fun romp with a great soundtrack and performances from all involved.  Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson, Thomas Wilson etc all shine with ultimate 80's supporting player James Tolkan showing up as the hard ass school teacher and young Billy Zane as a silent friend.  This time around I really noticed how much the Clock Tower and town square were used in the 1985 and 1955 scenes without ever feeling repetitive or small.  It was a fun and educational night but phew did it get warm in there and those seats had me all scrunched up.

In 2012 the building was sold and the Theatre began it's renovation:

Cro Cop: Glory Death

Last night Los Angeles hosted Glory 17: Last Man Standing featuring Feather and Heavy weight tournaments and headlined by a rematch between Croatia's Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and New York's Jarrell Miller.  The two had previously faced off in Croatia during a K-1 tournament with Mirko winning a, to some, arguable decision.  Although Mirko has fought nearly 30 kickboxing matches in his career, this would be his first on American soil.  Miller talked huge amounts of trash through the week, claiming he was going to retire the Croatian while in his typical style, Mirko said he'd do his talking in the ring.

At 39, Cro Cop has competed in a steady streak of fights since leaving the UFC after a lackluster run.  Winning the K-1 World Grand Prix in 2012, Cro Cop has gone 7-1 since returning to kickboxing since his last bout in 2003.  After a losing 3 straight in the UFC, Cro Cop has posted a 1-1 record in MMA.  We've all seen fighters go on past their prime but looks like Cro Cop still has plenty in the tank judging from his busy and successful record.  While his fights don't have the same devastating pop they once did, it's easy to see Mirko still has some stuff in the basement.  Going into the fight, The Croatian Sensation stated "I'm training every day...I never take some day off, it's my way of living.  I'm training every morning...that's me, I like it.  It keeps me alive, maybe it sounds pathetic but it's true.  My fighting keeps me alive.  One day when I decide to stop fighting...definitely feel like part of me, died.  And I don't want to die."  A gentleman and a gentle man.  Who can kick your ass...

Tonight, Cro Cop showed his guts, experience and glimpses of his killer instinct as he faced the 21-1 Golden Gloves, World Combat League and K-1 vet Jarrell Miller.  Outweighing Cro Cop by 40 pounds, Miller looked light on his feet and kept busy, throwing lots of punches and knees in the clinch.  Nothing really seemed to land flush though except for a couple of knees to Cro Cop's groin.  Seriously, the dude gets hit in the nuts, a lot.  Round 1 saw Mirko fighting a little tentatively until finding his rhythm and landing some hard shots to the body with a sidekick and a smacking roundhouse to the ribs that made me wince just watching it on my computer; imagine seeing/hearing that in person!  In Round 2, Miller still seemed the busier fighter but couldn't do much damage while Cro Cop looked like he may have hurt his leg after landing a nice body kick.  We saw quick reminders of Mirko's awesome punching power and combinations as he landed a few nice hooks from the outside and some uppercuts in close quarters.  The fight was anybody's to take going into Round 3 where Miller was busier again, smothering Cro Cop and throwing knees in the clinch but not landing.  Mirko threw some nice crisp punches and knocked Miller off balance with a couple trademark high kicks and was awarded a Majority Decision.

While we may not be seeing too many highlight reel knock outs, it's great to see Cro Cop still in shape and doing what he loves with his classic mix of physicality, stoicism, intelligence and humor.  Hopefully Cro Cop returns to the states for more matches so I can see one of my favorite fighters do his Damme thing in real life.  Until then, Hype or Die!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

BotCon Prep: Transformers - More Than Meets the Eye

Oh yeah, BotCon weekend!  Let's take it back to the beginning with 1984's 3-part pilot, The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye.  Similar to G.I. Joe, Transformers hit the market with a three prong attack: toys, comics and cartoons. Toy maker Hasbro licensed rights to two Japanese lines of transforming toys, Diaclone and Microman, then enlisted American writers to create an overarching storyline with animation to be done by Japan's Toei.  Millions of years ago on the planet of Cybertron, a civil war rages between the peaceful Autobots and the destructively evil Decepticons.  Resources run low and the Autobots flee Cybertron in search of replenishment, followed by the Decepticons, they crash on earth and lie dormant in the side of a volcano for another couple million years.  An eruption wakes the ship which activates the machines as they take the form of earth friendly subjects like cars, trucks, jets, cassette players, dogs and eagles.

The Decepticons realize earth is ripe with resources and convert oil, hydroelectric electricity, crystals and rocket fuel into Energon.  Noble Optimus Prime leads the Autobots while the maniacal Megatron heads the Decepticons as they try to wipe each other out and collect enough energy to return to Cybertron and win the civil war.  Along for the ride are franchise staples like Prime's right hand robot Jazz, sparky scrapper Cliff Jumper and the optimistic yet undersized Bumble Bee.  Megatron is assisted by the likes of wannabe leader Starscream and tape player Soundwave.  It was interesting to see how many characters were in the first episodes.  One scene there only seems to be a half dozen, in the next there's a dozen new cars and jets hanging out like Wheel Jack, Hound, Side Swipe, Sun Streaker, Iron Hide, Ratchet, etc.  Each has a certain personality with Cliff Jumper in particular cracking me up with his hot head, ready to mix it up attitude.  When Cliff is sent to see what Megatron and his cronies are up to, homeboy decides to take a potshot with a frigging bazooka!  Then you have evil Starscream vocally challenging Megatron's leadership at every turn but never actually being able to take command.  The Autobots are soon assisted by human roughneck Sparkplug Witwicky and his son Spike, who thinks Prime would make a great president.

The animation is quite good with detailed backgrounds, fluid action and transformations throughout.  The unmistakable electronic clacking of the machines changing form is probably branded into many an 80's and 90's kid's head.  Actors playing the voices are also part of the nostalgia as Peter Cullen and Frank Welker do terrific jobs as Prime and Megatron with Cullen sounding a bit like a robot John Wayne to me.  Then you have The Shining and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's Scatman Crothers as the cool as shit Jazz, Casey Kasem (Voice In Peace) as pint sized badass Cliff Jumper then G.I. Joe regulars Michael Bell and Jack Angel as multiple characters throughout.  Things are goofy and convenient with hands becoming axes, ball and chains, grappling hooks, extending paws, etc.  The Autobots are written as peaceful, non warrior types so Prime gets to drop life lessons like conquering fear and there being a thin line between being a hero and a memory as Iron Hide gets all amped up and goes after 20 Decepticons himself and gets that ass whupped.  After all these years Transformers still holds up as a mix of action, laughs and good VS evil robots in disguise shenanigans.

Time to Transform and roll out!

Where Were You In '92? Dan VS Dave & MTV Sports!

With all this recent talk of Image Comics, Universal Soldier, Tim Allen and the sort, it's just been a 1992 tinged June here at Dammaged Goods.  Let's take it back to that glorious year with some random ass popular culture nuggets starting with a subject that doesn't get much love here: sports!  Remember Dan VS Dave?  Sure you do, Rebook ran ads for 8 months hyping up the rivalry between decathletes Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson as they prepped for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.  From Greek with deka meaning ten and athlon meaning feat, decathletes compete in a traditionally 2 day event that sees them run, jump and throw in the 100 metres, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 metres, 110 metre hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and 1500 metre.  With such a variety of athletic prowess, strength, agility and quickness involved, Reebok dubbed the campaign the search to find the world's greatest athlete.

Dan and Dave were both top ranked decathletes and expected to medal at the Olympics.  With Reebook losing ground to Nike, the sports apparel giant embarked on a $25 million dollar ad campaign to break their way into the growing track and field demographic.  However things didn't quite pan out as Dan O'Brien failed to qualify for the Olympic games after being unable to clear the pole vault opener.  The ads were then modified to show Dan cheering Dave on.  Then Dave Johnson suffered a stress fracture in his foot and against doctor's advisement, went on to compete and win the bronze medal.  In 1996, Dan would win the gold medal in Atlanta but nobody made commercials about that did they?  Drafting off of Reebok's massive campaign, Ryder Trucks would employ the duo for a parody of their rivalry to hock rental trucks.

Now let's talk about sports, MTV style.  Remember Rock n' Jock?  Where celebrities, entertainers, actors and musicians played modified versions of basketball and softball?  Where else could you see MC Hammer, Tone Loc, Keanu Reeves, George Clooney, Daryl Strawberry, Mark McGuire, Jose Canseco, Dean Cain, Pamela Anderson, Derek Jeter, Kevin Costner, the casts of Baywatch, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210 etc being coached by the likes of Sammy Hagar and Dan Cortese?!  Cortese was a college athlete with a Broadcasting degree and was an MTV staple in the 90's with his extremmeeeeeeeeee personality and homeless athlete chic with his long hair usually being held in place by a beanie or bandana.  MTV Sports traveled the globe to bring audiences the best in extreme sports of the time like mountain biking, sky diving, skateboarding and snowboarding for 5 seasons.  Cortese segued into acting starting off with a small part in Stallone's 1993 futuristic actioner Demolition Man as a singing piano player at a high end Taco Bell.  Yup.  And he's fantastic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

(Pre) Con-Man: BotCon

I know I've been busy lately but that's no excuse for me not knowing that a frigging Transformers convention is happening in my backyard this weekend!  That's right, BotCon will be celebrating 30 years of the Robots In Disguise this weekend in Pasadena.  Sponsored by toy giant Hasbro, BotCon is being held at the Convention Center and touts special guests, panels and seminars, an exhibit hall with over 200 tables of merchandise and swag, a film festival, local tours, autographs, contests and much more!  It was a bummer to hear the He-Man and She-Ra centric Power-Con was heading to NY this year but here's another fine toy/animation franchise show to take it's place.  Perusing the site, there will be panels and seminars covering collecting, voice actor spotlight, official updates from Hasbro and I'm sure a sneak peek at the new film hitting theaters next week.  The organizers have done a terrific job of engaging patrons coming from out of town and state as they've arranged group outings to Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios for the Transformers Experience as well as a tour highlighting local Los Angeles landmarks like The Chinese Theatre, Santa Monica Pier and everything inbetween.

Since I wasn't aware of the show, I missed out on special ticket packages that include Convention exclusive toys and swag, early entry and a whole lot more but no biggie, General Admission is available at the door for the low, low price of only $20 bucks!  Looking forward to seeing all the sweet toys, models, merchandise, tee shirts etc of all the greats like Optimus Prime, Jazz, Hot Rod and Wheelie.  I love these genre/brand specific conventions like BotCon, Power-Con and G.I. Joe Con.  BotCon got it's start in 1994 in Fort Wayne, Indiana and has since been held all over the country in Ohio, California, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Texas and Florida with international versions popping up in Japan and the United Kingdom!  Recent years have had actors and writers from the cartoon series and live action movies in attendance as well as 1985 soundtrack rock n' rollers Vince DiCola and Stan Bush on deck to play the hits.  So Dare and remember, You Got the Touch!  I want those guys to play my birthday party...

Getting excited now...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hey Arnold: Routine

"I do the same exercises I did 50 years ago and they still work.  
I eat the same food I ate 50 years ago and it still works."
-  Arnold Schwarzenegger

It was already on my action item list to do a Hey Arnold post today but then the new Expendables III trailer hit so it just seemed like fate.  As I try to dial it in for Dolph night, I'm doing my best to eat clean and train consistently.  To me, that consistency is key.  I run into so many people who want to lose weight and work out but never stick to it for more than a few weeks.  Like I've said before, when it comes to weights, you either have it or you don't.  Nobody puts themselves through aches pains and super swole spasms for fun.  For Arnold, he took quite a few pot shots during his Governorship as less than flattering images of his formerly muscular body hit the internets.  When he got back into movies and had more time, The Oak reverted back on his old school regimen of cardio in the morning and weights at night to prepare for his return to the big screen.  With years of heavy squats leaving his knees in disrepair, Arnie is said to be a big fan of the bike in a gym or on the beach, performing intervals to get his heart pumping.  Weight wise the former 7-time Mr. Olympia is still performing super sets on machines and free weights at a quick pace.  Always one for mixing things up, Arnold still considers free weights the best way to build muscle and in my experience, rings true.  Ever seen someone get yoked by doing cable curls?  Nah.

Cut to today and Arnie is looking solid and swole at 66 as evidenced in recent photos prepping and from the set of Terminator: Genesis.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ask Me a Question: The Rover

In a bit of summer time counter programming, it was time for Australian semi-post apocalyptic, revenge thriller western The Rover at The Arclight in Hollywood.  Writer/director David Michod was scheduled for Q&A afterwards and late in the day it was announced co-star Robert Pattinson would also be joining for a chat to hype up the limited release.  Michod had previously given audiences the low key yet engrossing family crime saga Animal Kingdom in 2010.  The Rover starts off by telling us it's been 10 years since The Collapse.  Then we cut to the arid desert of Australia where we find Guy Pearce's Eric sitting alone in his dusty car before he enters a near empty, makeshift bar playing some kind of Asian music.  Outside, a trio of criminals flee the scene of their latest job with one bleeding from a gunshot wound.  We hear them arguing over leaving someone behind and in the heat of the moment, a fight breaks out and they go crashing into the side of the road.  Their vehicle temporarily disabled, they hop into Eric's car and drive off.  What follows is a deliberately paced, shockingly violent and well made piece of revenge and redemption cinema if not the most enjoyable or engaging.

On the trail for his car and possessions, Eric comes across Rey, the thought dead 4th bandit and brother to gunshot afflicted Henry (Argo and Killing Them Softly's Scoot McNairy).  Eric takes Rey to get cleaned up and in the process turns him into his prisoner/guide to find big brother.  Dubbed a "half-wit", Pattinson convincingly plays Rey as equal parts dim, cocky and innocent behind fake teeth, mumbling southern accent and a bad fade haircut.  Throughout the film of course their antagonistic relationship turns symbiotic as they come to an understanding and help each other through.  We learn more about Pearce's mysterious Eric through bits and pieces that he was a soldier, formerly married, etc but Michod is smart enough to keep the reason why he's so keen on getting his car back a mystery until the very end.  We're never told exactly what The Collapse entails but there's still businesses open (that only take American cash), cars on the road and guns galore so it's not exactly Mad Max but Michod does an excellent job of setting up the run down, violent world without much explanation. 

Pearce plays Eric as focused yet disheveled with little dialog for vast stretches of the film.  Pattinson does a fine job acting in an unglamorous role and shows he's serious about using that Twilight fame to anchor an actual career.  Being shot in remote Australia gives us plenty of long takes of rocky and desolate landscapes and we can feel the heat and grime through sweaty brows, filthy clothes and flies buzzing about everywhere.  The music and sound are used to great effect, helping to build up tension then break it like when Pattinson sings along to a random pop song in the car out of nowhere.  Similar to fellow Australian film-making like John Hillcoat's The Proposition or Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly, The Rover is equal parts quiet, violent, impacting, beautiful and sad.  I can't say The Rover kept my interest the entire duration but at the end it was an experience to watch but not something I could ever imagine viewing again.

After the film, a Q&A hosted by an excited yet kind of goofy critic from Access Hollywood welcomed David Michod and Robert Pattinson.

- After Animal Kingdom, Michod's world was turned upside down.  Endless meetings, reading scripts he knew he'd never direct.
- Channeled professional and personal frustration into The Rover.  Feels that climate change is biggest threat to the planet but no one cares and for first time, the future does not seem very bright.
- Animal Kingdom and Warrior's Joel Edgarton has a Story By credit but there was no mention of his involvement.
- Pattinson had seen a teaser from Animal Kingdom and knew it was something special.  Read The Rover, was blown away by it and signed up.
- Got the look from seeing some white trash type but can't remember how he came up with the accent.  Being on a set of Australians, nobody could tell if it was good or bad.
- Shot in remote parts of Australia where it was 120 degrees and used night vision goggles to star gaze since there wasn't much else to do.
- Music came from various sources and inspirations but Michod cited going down an iTunes rabbit hole for 7 hours and discovering some out there stuff.
- Much was discussed about the film's conclusion, themes and story but I feel those would be spoiler heavy.  It's a simple movie so no need to ruin it here.
- Michod talks about hating to do "action" scenes because he gets 1/3 of the shots he would usually get in a day and it's not about talking to actors, it's just about technical garbage.

Like many of the Q&A's at The Arclight, The Rover's wasn't great.  For some reason, maybe it's because it's The Arclight, but it feels like the energy is sucked out and the moderators are looking for some highfalutin, important discussion on cinema and the state of blah blah blah.  It didn't help that our host had some really poor questions and the audience didn't change course with their mundane queries about favorite scenes to shoot and other crap I can't remember but it just wasn't very memorable.  More than several attendees left before the end and Robert Pattinson made for a borderline horrible guest.  Not that he was rude but he just didn't have much to say and barely looked up the entire time.

Now, that time Tim Allen and Dean Parisot did Q&A, it didn't matter that the moderator was blah, they just riffed without prodding and gave the audience great stories and background on the making of Galaxy Quest.

"By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be entertained!"

Gotta Drank! Carthay Circle Restaurant @ Disney California Adventure Park

For whatever reason, you can't drink at Disneyland but you can imbibe across the way at California Adventure Park.  While renewing our annual passes (allegedly Southern California members number 1 million and Disney has opted to postpone sale of new memberships of that level) we wandered into Carthay Circle Restaurant to check out their open seating lounge.  Reservations can be made for their upstairs portion but we just figured on grabbing a drank and some appetizers.  Named and modeled after the picturesque theater on Buena Vista street where Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, the inside of Carthay is very classy and low key with that homey, golden sheen of the pulpy 30's.  The drink menu is actually quite large with plenty of wines, beers and spirits available and even Walt's signature drink, The Scotch Mist (Scotch over crushed ice with lemon peel, like a boss!), there for your tasting.  I opted for The Derby which was simply Bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey.  A simple yet smooth concoction that packed a bit of a punch in the back of your throat.  Our server was overly kind like most are at sit down joints inside either park and our food and drinks didn't take much time at all to arrive.  While our dranks were just fine and not overly expensive, the food was a bit of a pricey letdown.  We went for Deviled Eggs, Vietnamese style Beef Tacos and a Spicy Chicken Roll.  Our first selection was delectable but the Tacos and Roll were just overly salty and didn't leave me clamoring for more.  In fact, I could have went for a burger and fries after to actually satiate my appetite.   

You can even take a tour!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

End of Watch(ing): Spartacus - Blood and Sand

It must have started at Calgary Expo when we saw Manu Bennett on stage during The Middle Earth: EXPOsed event.  I had absolutely no idea who he was but he came out riding a piece of stage equipment and then showed off some sword play choreography with one of the other panelists.   He seemed like a cool dude and had a noticeable air of rugged yet funny charisma  but I couldn't place him in The Hobbit.  Upon further research, we learned that he performance capture played Azog the Defiler, leader of Orcs and ruler of the abandoned Dwarfish mines.  Then I started watching Arrow, where he played Special-Ops soldier Slade Wilson and he did a good job there teaching Oliver Queen how to fight while at the same time insulting him.  One article I read about him showed a very humanitarian side where he engaged a physically disabled fan behind the scenes at Comic-Con while another had him blaming Jean-Claude Van Damme for the collapse of his career in the late 2000's.  It seemed like his professional output took off with 2010's Spartacus series on Starz, which I recall creating quite a stir with it's over the top portrayals of sex and violence.  A friend was a big fan of the show and let me know how the seasons rolled out as IMDb just has all 4 just lumped together.

Now, this ain't your father's Spartacus i.e. The Man Kirk Douglas' 1960 epic film.  No this is Spartacus for the post-300, graphic novel, rated R age.  The 13 episode season starts off with Thracian fighters duped into assisting the Romans in fighting off a threat but the civilized Romans treat the tribal Thracian's like crap.  When one rebels, he's thrown into the arena to die by combat but ends up winning and embarrassing the brass.  Separated from his wife, this lone warrior joins the House of Quintus Batiatus, who along with his wife Lucretia, look to conspire and back stab their way into high society.  Dubbing the rebel Thracian Spartacus after an old king, our protagonist must now deal with life inside gladiator academy and learn to fight for the crowd if he intends to survive and be reunited with his lost wife.  Batiatus' champion is a fighter named Crixus, an undefeated Gaul and secret lover to Lucretia.  At first unwilling to participate, Spartacus slowly comes to realize that he is property and if he ever wants to see his wife again, he'll need Batiatus' help.

Through the season we watch Spartacus become a champion and legend in the arena while Crixus is injured and must fight to reclaim his former glory.  There's melodrama galore as Lucretia befriends Llithyia, the wife of the high ranking military commander Spartacus defied and educates her in the primal and taboo ways of a slave/gladiator facility while Llithyia teaches Lucretia how the other half lives.  Batiatus has his own plans for Spartacus and manipulates the new champion with promises of finding his wife.  By the end of the season, there's been so much betrayal and so many lies, there's only one thing for Spartacus to do: rebel!  In the first episode, the use of green screen, digital backgrounds, fake blood and way too much slow motion had me worrying I'd just purchased a dud of a season of TV.  I'm not the biggest fan of 300 so if Spartacus was just going to coast by trying to be a weekly version of the film, I would be out.  Luckily each episode got better as the relationships between gladiators, slaves and owners grew and the action helped highlight the stories, giving them weight and a sense of urgency.

The cast all do a splendid job starting with Andy Whitfield as the quiet yet strong Spartacus, The Mummy's John Hannah as the increasingly evil Batiatus, Xena's Lucy Lawless as his conspiring yet sympathetic wife Lucretia, guy in everything Jai Courtney as gladiator and Spartacus bro Varro and of course, Manu Bennett as asshole turned chick magnet turned ally Crixus.  The drama and subplots are all crafted quite well with plenty of shocks and surprises throughout the season and unlike Game of Thrones, doesn't string you along, it's all in your face and you feel it.  Action scenes are sword and shield heavy with lots of fake CGI blood and horrific yet funny stabbings, bone breaking and swords going through heads.  Spartacus has an odd sense of humor from the explicit sex and nudity (male and female) to the extreme, laugh out loud (knife to the eye!) or cringe inducing (Spartacus fights in bloody, underground matches) violence to random moments like Spartacus day dreaming about killing everyone or the heavy use of cursing and insults between the testosterone filled gladiators ("Jupiter's cock!"). 

Spearheaded by the likes of Steven S. DeKnight (Buffy, Smallville and the NetFlix's upcoming Daredevil), Robert Tapert (Xena, Hercules), Joshua Donen (Legend of the Seeker) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man), Spartacus again uses New Zealand's tax breaks to produce an action oriented show that is like the raw and edgier evolution of kid and family friendly Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess from the 90's.  Only instead of utilizing the lush landscapes of the island like those shows, Spartacus is all shot on sets with green screen.  It doesn't hurt or hinder the style of the show but it would have been nice to see something that wasn't on a stage like some real grass or trees.  As 300 featured a cast mostly in their underpants and started a new fitness trend, the gladiators of Spartacus are all in tip top shape thanks in part to a 6 week Gladiator camp that put the actors through physical training to get lean and mean as well as fight choreography.  Leading man Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin Lymphoma so a 6 episode prequel, Gods of the Arena, was produced while Whitfield sought treatment but he was later replaced by Liam McIntyre for seasons 2 and 3, Vengeance and War of the Damned when he died in 2011.  During his fight against the disease, documentary Be Here Now was produced to capture his struggle and ultimate defeat.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rando Calrissian: Weekly Round Up

Welcome to Rando Calrissian, a smorgasbord of things randomly interesting that I came across this week.  Where else will you find blurbs about Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, BeyondFest and Friday the 13th?  Exactly.

- Tim Allen and Tom Hanks to star in Disney's
"Jungle Cruise"? 
Not sure how I missed this announcement back in 2011 but apparently Disney wanted to follow the "ride into a movie" successes of Pirates of the Caribbean and make a live action feature film based on the popular attraction that transports you back to the 1930's as you travel the exotic and dangerous Mekong, African Congo, Nile and Amazon rivers.  Opened in 1955, the 7-minute ride employs animatronic versions of tigers, gorillas, elephants and African tribesman in various scenarios.  Allen and Hanks have already teamed up multiple times for the award winning, tear jerking, massive money making Toy Story trilogy and TV specials as animated heroes Buzz Lightyear and Woody the Cowboy.  Shrek's Roger S.H. Schulman was hired to write a script to be produced by The Fighter's David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman.  It's been pretty quiet on the development front, I wonder if the lackluster performance of The Haunted Mansion slowed things down?  Anyways, I've always wondered when Allen and Hanks would team up in a live action flick so here's hoping it comes together.

- BeyondFest's Christian Parkes joins Alamo Drafthouse
Parkes is a friend and mentor to Dammaged Goods so I'm very excited to see his recent hard earned and well deserved success in creating and curating Los Angeles' BeyondFest, the world film festival that hosted Goblin, Clive Barker, Richard Donner, Joe Dante and more during their inaugural event.  Parkes will act as Chief Brand Officer to the Austin based Drafthouse empire that runs cinemas, film production and distribution, festivals and poster printing to form one cohesive vision for the fast growing company.  Starting at Puma then moving to Nike, Levi's, Myspace and Nasty Gal, Parkes has plenty of marketing savvy to help Alamo knock it up a notch.  While at Levi's, Parkes help shepherd the Rolling Roadshow, a nationwide tour of free outdoor 35mm film screenings that took place at locations used in the movies.  Fans watched Rocky from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, took in Robocop at the finale's rundown Industrial Complex in Michigan and rocked out with The Blues Brothers at Chicago's Joliet Prison during the month long slate.

- It's Friday the 13th AND a Full Moon
For office dwellers, Friday is the best day of the week but in some circles it's considered unlucky as is the number 13 so when a Friday falls on a 13th, roll yourself in four leaf clovers cause shit's coming down.  12 is considered the gold standard of completeness as there's that many months in a year, hours on a clock, deities of Olympus, Apostles of JC, signs of the Zodiac and years in the Buddhist cycle! In the past, 13 has been deemed irregular and goes against the rule.  Superstitions can run so deep that some buildings omit labeling a 13th floor in elevators.  As for the Full Moon, I dunno, something about the earth, moon and sun are in alignment but the moon is on the opposite side of the earth so the sunlit part is facing us.  From werewolves to serial killers, lunar phases have been fodder for explaining surges in mental instability as well as affecting the ocean tide.  Our next scheduled Full Moon and Friday the 13th won't happen again until August of 2049.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

(Pre) Ask Me a Question: DOLPH LUNDGREN in Person! Universal Soldier & Rocky IV

After the nerve wracking fun of The Van Damme Double Dip, Dammaged Goods Live is getting serious...and prestigious!  Very excited to announce that I've teamed up with The American Cinematheque, the non-profit organization that runs the historic Egyptian and Aero Theatres in Hollywood and Santa Monica, for a night of cinematic clashes of the titans and Expendables 3 prep with Universal Soldier and Rocky IV on the big screen!  Chemical engineer, karate champion, action movie icon, director, producer, author and all around Perfect Man Dolph Lundgren is scheduled to attend for a Q&A between films!  We've also invited studio executive turned producer turned manager extraordinaire Craig Baumgarten to join us for the evening so we can hopefully hear some crazy stories about working with Van Damme, Dolph, Carolco and more during the good ol' 90's.  As with the Van Damme night, I will be doing trivia and prizes before the movie, giveaways for the first people in line as well as unveiling custom Dolph shirts for the evening!

After Universal Soldier, I'll turn it over to Geoff Boucher, the former LA Times and Entertainment Weekly writer who now runs Humans From Earth, a monthly screening and podcast series, for the Q&A.  Our host, The American Cinematheque is a non-profit organization out of Los Angeles dedicated to the public presentation of the Moving Image.  Created in 1981, the Cinematheque launched its first screenings in 1987 hosting festivals, tributes, retrospectives, independent films and more.  Since 1998, the Cinematheque has been presenting programs from Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, following a $12.8 million dollar renovation.  The 600 seat theater is gorgeous and even sports a smaller screening room inside named after Steven Spielberg.  Built in 1922, The Egyptian holds the distinction of holding the first ever Hollywood film premiere, Douglas Fairbanks' Robin Hood, in 1922.  Four years later, Grauman built his even more famous Chinese theatre just down Hollywood Blvd.  The Egyptian's courtyard has held movie premieres, dinner receptions, masquerade balls and more.  Over the years I've seen awesome programming there including The Back to the Future Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Terminator double feature and a Tribute to John Carpenter among dozens of other titles, many for the first time on the big screen.  Dolph Lundgren will be the latest guest the Cinematheque has hosted following an impressive run including Steven Spielberg, Mel Gibson, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Al Pacino, Michael Mann and oh so many more.

See you there!  Now get your tickets!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Workout of the Day: Bar None

Working out at home, you gotta make things convenient for yourself or it's just too Damme easy to lay down on the couch and watch more Deadwood, Cobra, Spartacus or Wings.  When planning my training, I try to use the same equipment for multiple exercises in order to be able to move between sets with little down time, thus keeping myself in a breathless state.  This past weekend I utilized a Triple Threat Giant Set to work my Shoulders, Biceps and Triceps.

1)  Barbell Shoulder Press - Lowering the weight in front of my chin, focusing on keeping elbows back and lower back locked into position to avoid straining - if you lower behind the head, really pull those elbows back and don't go down too far to avoid shearing
2)  Bent Over Barbell Curl - Standing Barbell Curls can put pressure on your wrists and elbows, bending down takes that risk out and keeps your delts from getting involved
3)  JM Press - From Larry Scott's routine, a skullcrusher meets close grip bench press where you lower the bar towards your chin so your elbows move forward

1)  Dumbbell Upright Row
2)  Dumbbell Incline Curl - Stand with your back against a door frame then step forward so you slide down a few inches, mimicking the angle of an incline bench, start with weights at your side and curl up, turning your pinky up towards the ceiling
3)  Lying DB Tricep Extension - Lowering to the side of my head, one arm at a time

1)  DB Raises, Scott and Van Damme style - Using light DB's, bend elbows, raising weight to your waist then doing 5 raises to the side, rear and front with slow control
2)  Concentration Curl - Since DB's were already loaded with weight from previous set, the concentration curl is a perfect exercise that requires heavier poundage
3)  DB Kickback - Using heavier weight, bend at the waist and grab a bench, drawer or doorknob and pull the weight up like a row but when elbow reaches parallel to body, kickback

Followed up by some forearm and neck exercises and my weight training was complete.

Take it to the limit!  With sunglasses on:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Zombie Squad Cinema: Cobra

What happens when you hear that Beverly Hills Cop was originally going to star Sylvester Stallone but he dropped out 2 weeks before filming was to begin and took his ideas and put them into a different script and then you can't sleep one night and need a movie to pop in at 3:00 AM?  Yup, you sit down and put on 1986's Cobra!  Based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling, I have no clue if Stallone's screenplay follows the book.  I kind of doubt it... Basically, a cult, a New Order of psychos is looking to kill the weak and let the strong survive.  One of their young, ambitious leaders is witnessed killing a woman on the street by a super model and she must go into protective custody.  Enter Lieutenant "Cobra" Cobretti, a hard ass legend who works the Zombie Squad squashing murderers, rapists and thieves in a hard charging, shit talking, no rulebook, violent fashion that draws the ire of wussy bureaucrats and hypocritical journalists.

From the film's gravelly yet sneering opening voiceover of Stallone reciting stats on violent crimes and the ensuing grocery store melee where Sly drops kick ass lines like: "I don't deal with psychos, I put'em away" to "You're a lousy shot, I hate lousy shots" to telling the armed assailant to go ahead and blow up the joint because he doesn't shop there to the knife throwing followed by multiple gunshot death, Cobra is just too hardcore for words.  80's hardcore.  Bankrolled by Cannon Films 80's hardcore.  Clad in tight jeans, black Henley, black jacket, black gloves, black boots, shades and a pistol with a Cobra on the white grip, Stallone is equal parts gunslinger, superhero and badass.  Then there's Cobra going home to his bachelor pad and some homie is parked in his spot.  Cobra first pushes the car out of the spot then puts his hand over the thugs mouth to pull a cigarette away and tears his shirt open.  What?!  Yup.  Alpha as fuck.  Then how does he relax?  By watching TV, eating cold pizza and cleaning his gun.  What a man!

So anyway, the New Order and their leader The Night Slasher (Brian Thompson from Terminator, Lionheart and The Van Damme Double Dip) are on the hunt for "dances with robots" model Ingrid (Beverly Hills Cop II's Brigitte Nielsen, then Stallone's wife) who saw him waste some chick on the street.  After a botched assassination attempt at the local hospital, Cobra and partner Sergeant Gonzales (Dirty Harry's Reni Santoni) take Ingrid upstate to a safe house but not before engaging in a huge car chase scene which showcases Cobra's suped up 1950 Mercury and his trusty submachine gun.  Betrayed and tracked down, Cobra has to finish off the New Order army, protect Ingrid and face off with The Night Slasher.  Guess who walks away from that scrap?

Cobra is only 87 minutes long so you'd think it would be go go go, in your face action all the time but honestly there's a surprising amount of quiet moments worked into the film that gives you just enough meat to keep you interested between action scenes.  I was surprised at the build up before set pieces with a great use of eerie music and sweeping vistas of worn down, back road California settings.  Character wise, Cobra is the man, Gonzales is his trusted sidekick, Ingrid is the target/love interest, The Night Slasher is bad and then you have supporting characters like Cobra's supportive superior, his bitch ass superior and a chick who sells him out.  You don't need to know more about them then what you're given and it works perfectly.  While many probably just cast off the flick for it's violence, it's important to note how funny this movie is.  Stallone has always had a dry sense of humor and Cobra showcases it in spades with comments about his partner eating too much sugar and being violent to watching Ingrid drown her fries in ketchup and waking her up because he's putting guns together to naming his character Marion to offset his manliness.  Fight scenes are crisp and pack a wallop with Stallone showing off the best punches and running in cinema (sorry, Tom Cruise) then you throw in car/truck/motorcycle chases, ax fights and some light slasher movie antics and you have the feel good movie of Memorial Day weekend.

While lambasted by critics, Cobra opened to $12 million bucks, which at the time was distributer Warner Brothers' biggest opening ever!  Like he did on Rambo: First Blood, Part II, George P. Cosmatos acts as a capable shooter to Stallone's influential star/producer with a heightened reality, western style confrontations and kinetic action sequences.  It's said that the original cut ran just under 2 hours but after the success of Top Gun, WB and Stallone got nervous and went to cutting the flick down to it's sub-90 minute released form so theaters could play it more times in one day in the same way First Blood helped revolutionize the action film.  While Cobra wouldn't be Stallone's next Franchise after Rocky and Rambo, it's still one enjoyable piece of action cinema.  Especially at 3:00 AM.

You're a disease.  And I'm the cure:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gotta Drank! Kate Mantilini

Ever seen the movie Heat?  One of it's many notable moments is a showdown between acting legends Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, playing the best of the best in law enforcement and professional criminal.  Tracking down DeNiro's crew, Pacino asks him to coffee where the two men discuss the path of their existence, their calling and the destruction it wreaks on their personal lives and what will happen when they come face to face in an unfriendly confrontation.  Michael Mann filmed Heat all over Los Angeles and used Kate Mantilini's on Wilshire in Beverly Hills for the historic scene.  We stumbled into Kate's one random Sunday afternoon on our way back from Anaheim's WonderCon in April.  The first thing that caught my eye was a drink dubbed "Table 24" in honor of the scene from Heat.  Realizing we were in the restaurant where the scene filmed, I got suddenly giddy and sent a text to some other fans of the film that a piece of it's production was literally next door to us for the last 5 years.  On your way out is a large framed photo of the two stars filming the scene.  It was pretty empty on that Sunday afternoon but we went back with some Heat aficionados to celebrate the film (and were seated next to 24) and the fact that Kate's is closing after 30 some years as a Beverly Hills landmark.  Unable to come to terms with rising rent costs, management has decided to shutter it's doors and focus on their remaining Woodland Hills location.  The joint is upscale American fare with crowd favorites like Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Pot Pie and Meatloaf along side a decent sized Brunch menu.  The Table 24 is a Scotch based citrus medley complete with huge square of ice and blackberry garnish which got me feeling a little happy after one and a half of them...

Kate Mantilini's closes it's doors in Beverly Hills for good on Saturday, 6.14.14.  Get there!

That's the discipline: