Friday, October 31, 2014

Sgt. Rock Day: Between Hell & A Hard Place

After reading the superb mini-series, The Prophecy, I dug into my comic archives and came up with the preceding visit to Sgt. Rock and Easy Company, Between Hell & A Hard Place.  While the story takes place AFTER Prophecy, the comics were released 3 years earlier in 2003.  After a long layoff from the character, Joe Kubert was asked to consider doing covers for a new series then those talks became focused on Kubert doing the actual book.  Not wanting to take on writing and artist duties, DC's Vertigo brand lined up 100 Bullets' Brian Azzarello for scripting.  Set in 1944, Hell & Hard finds Easy Company in the woods along the Belgian and German border where units are being torn apart daily by German troops.  Replacements arrive to fill ranks but the fresh from the mint greenhorns are more of a hindrance than a help.

In this case I had the series collected into a beautiful graphic novel that included an opening page introducing Sgt. Rock and his Combat-Happy Joes.  Here you are reminded that Rock's first name is Frank and that he hails from Pennsylvania where he was a professional boxer turned steel mill worker before being drafted.  Bulldozer is actually Horace Nichols, Ice Cream Soldier is Terry O'Riley, Wildman is Harold Shapiro and Little Sure Shot is Louis Kiyahani.  Unlike the slice of life Prophecy, Hell & Hard fleshes out the characters as we learn that Ice was in prison and the Army was a way out, we see the friendly yet edgy dynamic between Wildman and Sure Shot, that Rock is there to wipe their behinds and noses, etc.  The realistic approach to storytelling starts right away as Ice visits with an injured comrade who has lost both hands in battle.  From there things only get worse as another soldier gets promoted to Lieutenant after his two superiors are killed while on patrol.  Stuck in the dense woods, patrols are getting ripped up regularly as the Germans push in.  A new detachment finds itself under fire and panicking when they run into the stoic Sgt. Rock and his men.  Of course Bulldozer and the rest don't want new replacements, especially inexperienced ones to have to babysit but orders are orders.

A very interesting beat is when Sgt. Rock tells the new kids not to introduce themselves and gives each one a nickname as who they were back in the world no longer matters and after the horrors they'll face in the war, they'll want to leave their nick names behind and go back to their real identities.  So you get Grease, Tinny, Cowboy and the like.  After stumbling upon a group of German soldiers in their foxholes, Rock and friends capture four SS Officers but after a skirmish, three of them end up dead, executed, and the fourth has escaped.  While the troops are used to the killing, the murder of the three SS Officers seems wrong, even in time of war and the finger pointing begins.  Could someone from Easy Company just murdered three unarmed men?  From there, Easy Company is tasked with taking a town where they deal with snipers, dug in troops and Tiger tanks as they pursue the escaped SS Officer.

Kubert's art seems surprisingly different here than in Prophecy, lines aren't as tight and everything has a washed out, mushy feel but upon comparison, it's the color job that makes the difference.  Whereas Prophecy has a drab, solid appearance, Hell & Hard utilizes a color palette that reminded me of water paint with its variations in texture and fill.  It's still dynamic and exciting with lots of details in the woods, expressions on faces, explosiveness in the action scenes and in a very unique editing choice, full on music bars and lyrics to accompany a woman singing in French.  It's also very violent with impalement, burning alive, grenades, close quarter combat, headshots, booby trap mines and lots of spilled blood. Azzarello's script reminds you of 2001's Band of Brothers, particularly the Bastogne episodes where they're holed up in the woods being shelled by Germans then invade the town.  There's moral conundrums galore as our characters discuss killing versus murdering, doing what they have to in order to survive, revenge, punishment, good vs evil and the like, it's all very interesting but also very familiar in a Hollywood sense. 

Sgt. Rock Day: The Prophecy

Once upon a time at some Southern California con I picked up a Sgt. Rock mini-series dubbed The Prophecy.  As I plunked down to read them, I realized I was missing the final issue.  I'm sure I meant to find it from another vendor at the show but here I was, 5/6 of the way into an engrossing tale of World War II with no end in sight.  Cut to a while later and I finally grabbed issue 6 and of course, had to sit down and reread the entire series.  Introduced in 1959 by editor and writer Robert Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert, Sgt. Rock has long been one of my favorite non-superhero comic characters.  Written in a punchy, realistic tone, Sgt. Rock follows the title character, a dependable Sergeant and the "get shit done" motley crew of Easy Company who have fought the war from Africa to Italy and into Germany.  Unlike Marvel's Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, Rock stays a bit more grounded versus the fun, over the top machismo and derring-do of the 1963 introduced Commandos.  Running until 1988, Sgt. Rock would pop up occasionally before returning in 3 mini-series in the 2000's, Between Hell and a Hard Place, The Prophecy and The Lost Battalion.

In 2006's Prophecy, we find our guys dropped into Lithuania in 1943, north of the Allied lines and smack dab in between Germany and Russia's daily back and forth bombings and attacks, to receive a package and deliver it to a rendezvous point.  Joining Sgt. Rock this go around are Ice Cream Soldier, Bulldozer, Wildman, Shorty, Curly, Four-Eyes and Sure-Shot as they meet a scary, local civilian army leader nicknamed Bear who introduces them to David, a young Jewish rabbi known as The Prophet due to his devotion to God and ability to see the horrors of Hitler's plan to eradicate Jews and "lesser peoples" under the Aryans.  It is believed that David will be able to share his visions and give hope to those under Hitler's heel before a Holocaust occurs.  With 100 kilometers to walk to the extraction point in Estonia, Rock and company trek their way across the war ravaged country filled with the dead bodies of innocents and witness the brutal savagery of war.  Along the way they encounter tanks, retreating German soldiers, merciless Russian Calvary, a concentration camp filled with the ashes of the dead, a mine field and an untouched town where locals gave up their Jewish neighbors in exchange for money and local authority among other obstacles.

Written and illustrated by the then 80 year old Joe Kubert, The Prophecy is a terrific and quick read as well as a visual feast.  From the opening splash pages to the drab locale to the quick bursts of violent and explosive action, Kubert creates a somber yet realistic account of a horrible time in our history without depressing the reader.  His crisp lines, weathered faces, expansive backgrounds and simple yet dynamic style mixed with a no nonsense, unglamorous portrayal of the war seamlessly blends the history and horror of the time.  Having just seen the hardcore WWII flick, Fury, I further appreciated Kubert's straight forward approach rather than sensationalizing or adding more spectacle. The action comes out of nowhere and happens fast and furiously in a raw and messy fashion with knives, machine guns, grenades and close quarter scraps.  Not all of our guys make it to the end and are killed suddenly and without a glorious moment, friends and enemies show up and disappear and we're never quite sure if the man is worth the mission but there's no doubt they'll die trying. The characters aren't given much background but you get the sense of who is who as big ox Bulldozer shows his heart when he adopts a little puppy, Wildman challenges a loud mouth local to duke it out rather than argue, tribal nations member Sure-Shot is cynical towards the flag waving Americans who tricked his people, etc.  Sgt. Rock of course is unflappable as usual, not questioning the mission, just doing his best to accomplish it and keep his men safe.  While David believes in a higher power or being, Rock believes in himself, his company and the men it's made up of.

The comics are given a nice, heavy stock cover and a matte finish.  I don't read a lot of DC Comics but I distinctly remember an issue of Batman where only 2 pages were laid out sequentially as every other page was an ad.  Here, the inside front cover is an advertisement but then we get 22 pages of Rock before several DC ads in the back and a few for video games and cars.  Sadly, no cool time capsules like Arnold selling workout courses or Hostess Cupcake ads that were included in some 60's and 70's issues I recently picked up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

(Pre) Con-Man: Comikaze 2014

Los Angeles' biggest comic book and pop culture convention returns to downtown this weekend as family spun Comikaze celebrates it's 4th year in existence.  We've attended every year and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Last year welcomed some 55,000 attendees over 3 days and I'm sure 2014 will match or explosively exceed that figure.  Teaming up with Mistress of the Dark Elvira and Stan "The Man" Lee, Comikaze is your typical new age show with media guests, autograph and photo ops, writers and artists, exhibitors and Artist Alley.  Comikaze does things a little differently on the programming side as they tout their most popular guests on a main stage on the floor.  While it's cool that everyone can participate and view, it's also awkward and uncomfortable to stand for 20-30 minutes.  Like any show based on selling autographs, Comikaze is offering VIP packages to get a little more up close and personal with guests from television shows like Arrow, Serenity and Game of Thrones.

Comics wise you've got some big names attending like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Mark Silvestri, John Romita, Jr., Brian Michael Bendis, Peter David, J Scott Campbell, Whilce Portacio and Len Wein.  Media guests you're looking at Kevin Smith, Adam West, James Hong, Kevin Conroy and peeps from True Blood and GOT.  I'm actually a little surprised at how low-watt the media guest list is, considering this is Los Angeles but I'm guessing it's a little more special and lucrative to go somewhere where you won't see a familiar actor on a day to day basis like in Iowa or Oklahoma.  Comikaze is known for reuniting casts from your favorite shows and in years past have welcomed Salute Your Shorts, All That and Pete & Pete.  This edition it's a Mad TV celebration along with 1966's Batman.  Programming wise, again, I'm a little surprised at how many fan run panels there will be instead of the actual people involved in the comic, show or movie we're all there to talk about but hey, it's their expo.  Outside the show there's a cosplay after party and a Tetris, 30th anniversary thing where participants can pay to dress in a Tetris piece outfit and create a real life version of the game? 

Gotta Drank! Oldfields Liquor Room

Situated on Venice Boulevard between Overland and Sepulveda is a randomly small but cool joint called Oldfields Liquor Room.  I found them online after doing a search for late Happy Hour and Oldfields has specials from 5:00-9:00 PM of $7 cocktails and $5 beers.  There's plenty of street parking and the place has a great, been there A LONG time feel with the tiled floors and walls.  It was extremely dark inside, the space barely lit by candles on the tables.  The bartender was super cool and the vibe very chill with all kinds of tracks from 2010 bumping like MGMT, The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Killers and some 2004 Bloc Party.  Having recently discovered the magic of Mules, Oldfields has a section of their menu dedicated to them where you pick a liquor and they top it off with their house made ginger beer.  Instead of a copper goblet they were served in an old metal cup you'd think to find in a 1950's hospital.  There's no food beyond Hot Dogs but they're totally cool with you having something delivered or bringing grub in.  The party next to us had pizza dropped off while a buddy of mine walked a few blocks to McDonald's and came back with a huge bag of deliciousness in the forms of McNuggets, Double Cheeseburgers and McChicken sammiches.

Oh yeah, they also do huge punch bowls of dranks:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ask Me a Question: Carl Weathers Night

Honestly, this post could be called Predator & Action Jackson reunion night as we had so many people in attendance who worked on both of tonight's films.  To spice up the evening, I secured author David J. Moore to appear in the lobby talking to attendees about his work covering action, horror and genre movies, his recently published book on post-apocalyptic films World Gone Wild and his next literary effort, a guide to action movies.  We also had Shannon Shea from Stan Winston's Studio set up with tons of behind the scenes photos and some video he shot during the production of Predator.  Was crazy to hear how the guys working on the Predator suit were all in their early 20's and younger, how it was crisis mode all the way for the 5 weeks they had to prep and get down to Mexico to shoot.  Mechanical Designer Richard Landon joined Shannon while Mr. Carl Weathers, stunt coordinator and director Craig Baxley, editor Mark Helfrich and a slew of stunt guys who worked on both films mingled and reunited in the Egyptian Theatre's lobby.

Mark Helfrich was cool enough to provide his original crew jacket from the then titled, The Predator, to give away as a prize.  I got to chat with Mr. Helfrich out in the lobby for a few minutes and he was just an awesome, funny guy who has shaped memorable flicks like Revenge of the Ninja, I Come In Peace, Rambo: First Blood Part II and all of Brett Ratner's films.  Weathers, Baxley and everyone who worked on Action Jackson signed a VHS copy that I gave away as another prize.  The house lights went down and it was time for 1987's Predator.

This is the 2nd or 3rd time I've seen it on the big screen and tonight's digital print looked absolutely beautiful.  The spaceship drop off, the incoming choppers, the quick introduction of the Arnold Schwarzenegger led military squad all set to Alan Silvestri's pounding, memorable score and Carl and Arnold's epically macho handshake make for one of the greatest openings in cinema history.  Even though I had watched it at home recently to prep, seeing it on the big screen with big sound highlighted how quickly the film moves.  The John McTiernan directed film is full of iconic scenes from the handshake, to the helicopter ride and sexual tyrannosaurus talk, finding the mutilated bodies in the chopper wreckage to the huge end to Act I's assault on the complex sequence.  Man I did not realize how much carnage there is in that sequence between the rolling truck with a bomb in the back, machine guns, grenades, explosions, bodies flying, projectile machetes, wow.  Baxley has always shot incredible action in camera and for the first time I noticed Carl Weathers running through a scene with an explosion going off behind him and flames all around, all real.

After the flick, I took to the mic to introduce our special guest of the evening, Mr. Carl Weathers. Who I should note had just been so great through the whole process of getting this night going.  Just a kind, easy going, funny and smart guy.  It's odd, being up there, I honestly don't remember everything we talked about as I was worried about not looking stupid or asking dumb questions (which I ended up doing anyway...), boring the audience, etc.  But I love Carl's work and had done my homework so our discussion just flowed naturally.

- Acting bug bit him from a young age, stage plays through high school and majored in Theater but girls loved the football player so he went down that route.
- Never had a problem balancing acting and athletics, just did things his own way, once he latched on to something, just went after it with everything he had.
- Landed in Los Angeles looking to play for the Rams but ended up in Oakland with the Raiders then Canada, always wanting to get back to L.A. because that's where the acting jobs were.
- Didn't really struggle much once focused on becoming a professional actor, landed 10's of episodics on television then Rocky.
- Rocky audition, just lots of huge guys around but Weathers was chomping at the bit and the producers were having trouble filling the role.
- Knew it was something special early on, during production, told everyone it was going to be huge.  - Met Mark Hamill who had just come off of Star Wars who had a feeling his flick was going to be big as well.
- Got a call from manager that Rocky II was happening, says he made 15 cents on first, made a dollar on the second, it was a nice paycheck.
- Predator came onto his radar through his talent agent who said producer Joel Silver really wanted to meet him, read script but just wasn't there, character didn't even have a name.  Met Silver who said they wanted him and would make it what he wanted.  Met with writers who took his notes.
- Dillon wasn't even named in the script, came up with Marshall Dillon because it was just a "macho ass name".
- Gives props to Arnold and everyone involved for delivering solid performances, McTiernan being so talented behind the camera.
- Arnold had a gym brought down to Mexico so would use that before getting on the bus out to location, sometimes at 4:00 AM.
- The whole cast was so bent but he was the straight guy, had a lot of fun.  Totally ridiculous on and off set, lots of tequila involved.
- At this point, someone yelled from the audience and it was cast member Richard Chaves!  Who played Poncho in the film.  This was totally unplanned but just added to the evening's reunion feel.  Everyone in attendance had nothing but love for each other.
- Chaves says Weathers saved his life but wasn't that macho as on set. Watched for 3 months as Weathers took care of a little bird and fed it using an eye dropper each day.
- Handshake came from having these two physical characters reunited and how they would interact, had a little beef that Arnold got the angle to show off his bicep but I told Carl I could see his pumped, vascular forearms.
- Craig Baxley joined us at this point and I asked about the infamous assault on the complex scene and keeping actors safe among all the Boom Boom Boom.
- Sequence originally scheduled for 3-4 weeks of shooting but production was running out of money. Joel Silver told Baxley he had 6 days and would be given the full cast.
- Jim and John Thomas had written a terrific scene that Baxley rewrote to fit the schedule with their blessing and got it done.
- I asked about the young, unknown, Jean-Claude Van Damme working as the original creature. Weathers remembers JCVD was one of the most ambitious people he had ever met and was constantly talking about becoming a movie star.  Wanted to do some kickboxing in the suit because that's what he was good at.
- Baxley recalled seeing JCVD coming down a hallway with a 10 person entourage, called out to Joel Silver and jumped in the air, doing a 6 foot full split.
- Van Damme didn't tell anyone he was claustrophobic so when he put on the $10,000 creature head for the first time, he shuddered, pulled it off and threw it to the ground, breaking it.  Joel Silver fired him on the spot and uttered the famous line, "you'll never work in this town again!"  Which you know, wasn't true.
- Weathers works out more as an actor than as an athlete.  Actors have nothing to do between jobs so just got into pumping iron, worked out with Vince Gironda for years who had a tiny gym filled with tons of equipment and approached bodybuilding as sculpture.
- Action Jackson came from Weathers and Joel Silver talking about blaxploitation films on set.
- Title came from an Australian crew member then Weathers went off to flesh out the story of a cop after a high profile businessman villain, started with the name, Jericho "Action"Jackson.
- Many stunt performers from the film were in attendance and Baxley gave them all a shout out.
- Baxley has ghost directed lots of films, had just come off of 5 years of The A-Team on TV and worked with likes of Warren Beatty and Walter Hill.
- Had 3 weeks to prep 32 day shoot, 5 days of 2nd Unit, Silver gave them carte blanche as he was more concerned about getting to know Sharon Stone.
- Made huge profit for Lorimar Film division, among their top earners.

More and more was talked about of course but I don't want to bore you.  I took one question from the crowd and it was my mistake not to preface it with "a succinct and good question" as the asker went on for a bit after we had already been talking for at least 45 minutes, still had a signing and another film to screen.  So apologies to anyone who didn't get to ask a question as lots of hands went up.  Weathers took to the lobby to do a quick signing and photo session.  Was great to see the enthusiasm of the fans who all wanted a Predator shake or fists up Rocky photo.  A surprising amount of Action Jackson DVD's, laser disks and the like showed up as well.

It's hard to process these things as they happen but it was a great night with so many wonderful people in attendance.  Lots of total strangers congratulated me on a job well done so I'll take it where I can get it. Big thanks to the American Cinematheque for having us, Grant and Christian for their support and guidance, Oliver for getting everything set up, Carl for being such a great guest, Craig Baxley, Mark Helfrich, Shannon Shea and everyone who worked on the films for being so cool and approachable, friend and photographer Jeremy for documenting, Dammaged Goods supporters Tammi, Tim, Anna and Phil for working the crowd and of course any of you who attended, I hope you got one of the custom shirts.

Until the next one...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ask Me a Question: John Wick w/ Keanu Reeves

Hardcore action thriller John Wick hits theaters this week, critics are surprisingly loving it so we'll see how audiences respond to Keanu Reeves playing a badass hitman in a straight forward, violent as shit, moody action flick.  For my full review, head over to Action A Go Go where I contributed my thoughts on seeing the film a few months ago at a sneak preview but only now published in respects to the parameters of the early test screening.

A sold out Arclight Dome audience soaked up the film's relentless action and violence before welcoming star Keanu Reeves, directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, producer Basil Iwanyk and writer Derek Kolstad:

- Kolstad's original script was about a 70 year old man, also hates being in front of people
- Agent received 5 offers on script, suggested not taking highest offer as Iwanyk's Thunder Road Pictures would actually make the film quickly
- Written, sold and produced in 2 years
- Brought Keanu Reeves on, revised, adding many more deaths, original script only had 12, current version probably has 5 times that by my estimation
- Reeves thought his The Matrix stunt coordinators/2nd Unit Directors Leitch and Stahelski would be great to direct, Iwanyk had already talked to them and was about to suggest
- Leitch and Stahelski approach film as Character, Story and World
- Shot in 46 days, ran out of money
- Reeves trained for 3.5 months in martial arts and tactical gun handling with SWAT and Navy Seals
- Reeves was one insisted more people die to make it "MORE!"
- Reeves was quite funny and sweet, thinks the film should be a drinking game, a shot of whiskey for bullet to the head, beer for to the body and tequila for something else I can't recall...
- Leitch and Stahelski very influenced by Asian action cinema, love Tony Jaa and inspired by long shots in camera the Thai filmmakers were able to accomplish
- Working on big movies with David Fincher, Jim Mangold, Wachowski's (on 6 films) was the best film school they could ask for
- Give full props to a reluctant Reeves for being a martial artist and putting in more time training than most black belts

It was a good time and of course more was talked about.  I hope the movie does well this weekend and we see more from Leitch and Stahelski.  Not sure what it is but Q&A's at The Arclight are always a little stiff.  Maybe they try to get too prestigious with it but unless the guests are really into it, things just kind of plod along.  Happened with Larry Franco, David Michod & Robert Pattinson, luckily Tim Allen & Dean Parisot (rumored director for Bill & Ted 3) didn't need a moderator to show the audience a good time.  The moderator didn't even ask the directors any questions for a while and you could see them about to speak then stopping themselves.  Oh well, just another example of what I won't be doing when I'm up there.  Thanks to Neither Here Nor There for the pics.

Bronson of the Day: Death Hunt (w/Lee Marvin & Carl Weathers)

Tucked in my dvd collection has long been a copy of Death Hunt, a flick starring no less than Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin and Carl Weathers.  Released in 1981, I wasn't too keen on watching Bronson and Marvin in the elder years of their lives and careers.  As younger men the two had co-starred in 1966's biggest box office earner, The Dirty Dozen and were the epitome of badassness; quiet, cool,  hard and unflinching.  Back then, Marvin was top dog and Bronson was one of the 12 convicts given an opportunity to acquit themselves of charges by going on a suicide mission.

Cut to 1980 and Charles Bronson has become one of the world's biggest movie stars thanks to action vehicles from the states and Europe.  His bankable days numbered and formerly granite face softening, Death Hunt is a welcome surprise as Bronson would embark on his payday Cannon Films/Death Wish sequel days immediately after. Filmed in and around the beautiful and snowy Canadian Rocky Mountains, Death Hunt was co-produced by Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest, of kung-fu and Bruce Lee flicks then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame.  The tale is based on a true story of a trapper who kills a man and then becomes the target of a huge, country wide man hunt in 1931 which of course is highly fictionalized for the big screen.  James Bond veteran Director, Editor and 2nd Unit Director Peter Hunt helms a not great but ruggedly entertaining affair with surprising bursts of old school squib violence.  The vista of nature, log cabins, muddy towns, fur coats and snow give it a very authentic feel and change of pace from Bronson's usual shitty city or European countryside motifs.

Basically, Bronson's Albert Johnson walks into a town one day where a gang of men are watching a dog fight.  Johnson doesn't like what he sees and buys the injured, losing dog off cruel owner Hazel (Ed Lauter) with a smack in the kisser and non-negotiable price.  Loud mouth Hazel approaches the local Mounties, Millen (Marvin) and partner Sundog (Carl Weathers) to do something while new recruit Alvin (future film producer Andrew Stevens) arrives looking to do things by the book.  Of course, the law doesn't always apply to remote areas so Millen and Sundog have to school the eager youngster on what and what not to act on.  While Millen, Sundog and Alvin get to pal around, talk about women and booze, Bronson as Johnson surprisingly doesn't share many scenes with anyone for the duration of the film.  With new dog in tow, Johnson purchases two new rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition before retreating to his secluded cabin in the woods where he fortifies the joint, saws off a shotgun and practices shooting two rifles from the hip.  Some of Hazel's buddies arrive looking for revenge and leave dead.

Things go bad and Johnson hits the trails, trekking across the snowy terrain and living off the land with Millen, Sundog and Alvin in pursuit as well as an angry mob of justice seeking townies.  Millen, being an old school, crotchety fella who's seen a few things may be tasked with bringing Johnson in but Damme it if he doesn't respect him.  He doesn't even think Johnson is guilty of anything and would have acted the same way in the situation.  When things aren't going as quickly as HQ wants, The Royal Air Force is called in, thinking technology will win the day.  Then we learn that Johnson is an old school badass himself, having served in the Great War working intelligence and secret op stuff.  Bronson isn't overly iconic in the role but his calm demeanor and weathered face are more than enough to infuse his portrayal of Johnson as a man looking for peace but unable to stay out of trouble due to jerks and injustice.  Marvin is expectedly crusty and salty, the cool asshole who's seen it all.  Weathers is fine as the buddy who likes to drink, crack jokes and have fun with the ladies with a little snow on the mountains while Stevens is effective as the coiled up new guy.

With a reported budget of $10 million, Death Hunt would only muster $3 million in box office revenue.  On set it's said that Bronson was very to himself which isn't surprising considering he doesn't really share scenes with many actors and you know, he was just like that.  Marvin was the center of attention and entering the twilight of his career, appearing in only 3 additional films. Bronson would go on to star in his first Death Wish sequel then move into his million dollar payday, near parody performances Cannon Film years, reuniting with director Hunt on Assassination.  Fresh off of Rocky II, Weathers would go on to co-star in Rocky III and IV before appearing opposite Arnold in Predator and headlining Action Jackson.  Andrew Stevens would reunite with Bronson shortly after for 1983's 10 to Midnight before becoming a schlock-tastic producer and director for 90's fare like Scorned, Body Chemistry, Virtual Combat and Storm Catcher.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Workout of the Day: The October Man

With so much to keep me busy and inspired this month; Jean-Claude Van Damme's birthday, Arnold Schwarzenegger on the big screen twice and Carl Weathers night, I've kept up the month long pump but had to start mixing things up.  I don't know about you, but after about 3 weeks with any program I start to get a little bored.  Doing straight bodybuilding style workouts, 2 opposing muscle groups a day, supersets, 3-4 exercises for 20 sets total, seemed like overkill since I'm not a bodybuilder and was just getting tiresome.  Enter my next favorite style of training, Circuits, where I'd work my entire body over 9 exercises and just under 30 sets.  The fast pace, variation and feeling like nothing was being neglected helped clear my mind but with only an exercise or two per body part I felt like it wasn't enough.  Since I've been a bit busy this week prepping for Carl Weathers night, I've snuck in a workout wherever I could.  In the apartment, in the complex gym, at the real gym, etc.

Early Morning Cardio:

2 Miles on Seated Bike/5 Minutes on Stepper/1.5 Miles on Treadmill/1 Mile on Bike

They say cardio first thing helps you fry more fat because your blood sugar is low from sleeping and the body turns to fat for energy.  Hopefully, this will make up for the big, food court lunch I know is in my future.

Total Body Two-a-Day:

A.M. - Dumbbell Squat/Deadlift/Leg Press/Leg Curl/Leg Extension/Standing Calf Raise

This is quick and easy leg workout you could do in any gym, big or small, with or without weights, the key is to keep a fast pace, focus on form and feeling the muscles working since you're not slamming around big weights.  I just recently started doing Leg Extensions again but with manageable poundage and good form, putting a lot of pressure on your knee like that can lead to injury.

A haircut, the grocery store, a movie and whatnot later, I returned for a quick Upper Body session:

P.M. - Shoulder Press/EZ Bar Curl/Bench Dip/Dumbbell Upright Row/Hammer Curl/Cable Pushdown/Side Raise/Concentration Curl/Lying Side Extension

This was just me walking around the apartment gym, doing tri-sets for Shoulders and Arms utilizing everything in the room to get an afternoon pump.

Short on time, I went for a Chins and Push Ups workout in the apartment the other night, doing 7 sets of chins with alternating sets of push ups and corner dips (where the kitchen counters meet is a great dip bar).  The next morning I only needed the space of a yoga mat to perform Dolph Lundgren's Maximum Potential Leg workout of squats and lunges along with some shadow boxing and abs.

I've also been doing some Shadow Boxing and Jump Roping on days I don't feel like lifting.  Bas Rutten's Workout Tapes are great as a personal trainer as you're throwing punches, kicks and knees for 2-3 minute rounds, working your muscles in ways you usually wouldn't.  If I had more time I'd definitely look into some boxing lessons or regaining some flexibility as I'd be hard pressed to kick someone in the face these days.

No matter how busy you are or think you are, there's always a few minutes in the day for your health.  Now drop and give me push ups, then air squats then some chins!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hey Dalton: Nice

"I want you to be nice until it's time to not be nice."
     - Patrick Swayze as Dalton, Road House

They say nice guys finish last.  While not completely true, there is a bit of truth in the statement.  People usually respond to challenges and negativity while taking consideration and politeness for granted.  I've always been a nice guy with a low bullshit tolerance so people either think I'm great or an angry asshole.  This past weekend I ran into several unhappy people; a loud mouth at the movie theater, an in a bad mood comic book shop worker and a less than happy to be alive or at work cashier at the grocery store.  Through their unhappiness, I rediscovered one of my life outlooks that Arnold and Dalton taught me, Smile and Be Nice.  Now I'm not talking about being a punching bag, I'm talking about being nice to make people realize they're being assholes or to genuinely express your gratitude.  I want people to see me having such a great time and life that they're either A) Inspired to make their lives better or B) Realize how much of a piece of shit they are. 

Why do this?  Because I can.  I have a great life and I'm not so self important or insecure that I need to try and make people feel poorly if I'm in a bad mood.  But I'm also not here to be a stepping stone, so if you come at me with negativity, I'll do my very best to throw it back in your face with a smile.  Remember, nobody can call you a jerk if you're smiling, it's physically impossible.  Without self respect and personal standards you might as well just count yourself among the common, shitty people.  But I believe in you, so be a doer!

(Nearly) Ask Me a Question: Carl Weathers Tribute w/Predator & Action Jackson

Well kids, it is almost time for Carl Weathers night.  Hopefully you've seen the lovely piece Susan King of the L.A. Times conducted with our special guest that ran in this past weekends edition.  Last time we spoke, I was excited to announce that Craig R. Baxley, the Stunt Coordinator on Predator and Director of Action Jackson would be joining us for an introduction.  Today, I'm happy to announce that we'll also be welcoming a couple of Stan Winston's crew for the evening as well! 

Shannon Shea has been in the Special Effects arena since the 80's as a puppeteer, special makeup effects artist, shop foreman and sculptor.  For Winston's Studio, Shea was on awesome flicks like Predator, Monster Squad, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park.  From there Shea hooked up with Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero's K.N.B. Effects Group for From Dusk Till Dawn, Hulk, Kill Bill and Planet Terror among many more before working with industry icon and childhood idol Rick Baker on Men in Black 3.  Today, Shea is moving into becoming master of his own destiny having provided Special Effects for indie horror flick, Scream at the Devil and is lined up to write and direct Mr. Beebee, starring Ghostbusters' Ernie Hudson in the near future.  He's also collected his memories from working on the films into a collection of E-books that will be available soon.

Richard J. Landon also started in the 80's at Winston's Studio and has worked steadily as a puppeteer, make up artist, in the mechanical and animatronic department and designer on classics like The Terminator, Tremors, Predator 1 & 2, Galaxy Quest, Iron Man and Pacific Rim.  I'll have to ask them if they had any contact with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing the Hunter before the creature was redesigned and played by Kevin Peter Hall.

Shaping up to be a fun night, hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Van Dammage: To Be or Be To

"I knew I was going to succeed, and I have got a trick in life. If you can say thank you in advance for something, if you really believe in something then you've got to accept it's done...Be To Have - I am an actor, becoming an actor is just a work, and two: it's already gone, I'm on my way there so Be To Have, we have to think we are that person before becoming successful and saying thank you, in advance, to the Gods of life. So when I came to America and Hong Kong I knew I was an actor and a movie star, even if no one knew me. But I put this in myself and I was acting like I was the biggest star I knew and by doing that you present yourself to people with conviction and slowly it will happen to you."
Jean-Claude Van Damme

And there you have it, the philosophy, along with an extremely hard work ethic and the ability to do the splits, that lead The Real JC...VD to becoming a household name.  Mr. Van Damme celebrated his 54th birthday this past Saturday, October 18th.  I felt a little funny not throwing an office party for the guy as I have done for the last three years complete with champagne, appetizers and a ten-foot Double Impact banner.  Alas, times change.  Today, JCVD is in Turkey to attend a soccer match between Galatasaray and Borussia Dortmund...yeah I have no clue about soccer or futbol but that's cool. 

While 2011's reality series, Behind Closed Doors just started airing in the United States, it's been a little quiet on the JCVD news front.  Action thriller Pound of Flesh is in the can, the tale of a man who attempts to help a woman in trouble and for his efforts wakes up the next day missing a kidney.  Car chases, kicks to the face and shootouts ensue, I'll bet.  Van Damme looked a little thin on the set to which he countered that a real actor would know what a man would look like after losing a kidney.  6 Bullets and Assassination Games Ernie Barbarash directs what looks like a cool action thriller shot on the streets of Hong Kong.  I hope he teams up with a mainstream Asian star in the future a la Jackie Chan, Jet Li or Donnie Yen.  Over the summer, former UFC welterweight champion and Van Damme fan Georges St. Pierre challenged his idol to take the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS.  Van Damme obliged, dumping a bucket of ice water on himself in the shower then challenging his three kids.

Long gestating passion project Full Love resurfaced at the Shanghai International Film Festival where JCVD rubbed elbows with the likes of JC Jackie Chan before the gala premiere.  Strangely, reviews and word of mouth from the screening are scarce.  Van Damme has been reediting the movie for years now and added some intense action scenes recently after initial reviews found the film a little too out there for a drama-thriller starring the Muscles From Brussels.  Still no release date on the film though.  In the meantime you can play with your own miniature version of Wham Bam Van Damme in the form of an Enterbay Real Masterpiece statue/action figure complete with 30 points of articulation to recreate his famous split.

Happy birthday, shidoshi!

Comic Shop of the Day: Comic Bug

There's a surprising abundance of comic book shops on the west side of Los Angeles.  I can name four off the top of my head within minutes of my office.  One place I kept passing on Overland caught my eye because it was next to a Chili Parlor!  The owner recently retired and sold stake so it's now called The Comic Bug.  The guys working were great, very chill, helpful and easy to shoot the shit with.  There's a front room of toys, graphic novels and the like while a separate room has all the latest issues displayed for easy viewing and snagging.  Back issue wise they had a decent selection and I grabbed the final installment of Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy along with a short box to organize my collection. 

Sadly, Tub's Fine Chili next door wasn't open on this Sunday so I'll have to come back and check them out.  There's a private lot for the strip mall which includes a liquor store, all we need is a karate dojo and you'd never need to go anywhere else.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Flicks: Fury

It was a guy's night out for Brad Pitt's latest, the World War II set, tank riding action-drama, Fury.  Written and Directed by future Dammaged Goods Hall of Famer David Ayer, Fury opens up deep within Nazi Germany in 1945 where a desperate Hitler has every man, woman and child fighting for their dying cause.  We meet the crew of Fury, a Sherman tank that has treaded a bloody path through Africa into Europe.  Leading the outfit is Wardaddy (Pitt), a hard ass who whips his men and kills the bad guys but suffers in solitude.  Behind him is Bible (Shia LaBeouf), bespectacled, respectable, little brother type to Wardaddy who always seems to be on the verge of tears.  Loading the cannon and fixing Fury is the scary and brutish Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal) while been there, done that know it all Gordo (Michael Pena) drives the big rig.  When their gunner is killed in a skirmish, meek administrative typist Norman (Logan Lerman) is assigned to the crew and learns the ways and horrors of war from the experienced team and first hand.

To start, I found Fury to be terrific.  If you read this online journal regularly you know that World War II movies are among my favorites.  So one with a big budget and a talented cast and crew behind it is right up my alley.  Fury is brutal, it's intense and it's funny.  If you're familiar with any of Ayer's previous work like Harsh Times, Street Kings, End of Watch or Sabotage, you know to expect a gritty, reality based tale of (mostly) men working in violent professions and the bond between them.  While that hard edged machismo can come off near ridiculous in modern affairs, it suits Fury perfectly as Ayer doesn't glorify violence as much as show you the consequences, physically and mentally, in a time when the enemy was clear cut and soldiers were asked to execute and endure harsh realities.  Wardaddy pushes his men to stay on their toes and do their jobs, which is to kill Nazi's.  Especially crime against humanity extremist members of the Schutzstaffel or SS.  They get it first and they get it bad.

Story wise, Fury doesn't explore anything we haven't seen in World War II movies before.  War is hell, our troops were spread too thin, under trained and the finale is a few versus many.  What makes it resonate into it's own memorable feature is the camaraderie between the crew members, the depiction of brutality of what these men had to do in order to survive and ultimately win the war.  Brad Pitt is solid as Wardaddy, in a sense he's like the father of his men, riding them so they'll rise to the challenge and not get themselves or others killed.  He's also surprisingly still yoked for 50 years old as a lingering shirtless scene shows Pitt's still got it and must have his Troy workout routine written down somewhere.  LaBeouf is like the sensitive little brother and doesn't have the same kind of necessary mean streak as his comrades.  Jon Bernthal is straight up terrifying as the savage of the group and I wondered if he was going to end up squaring off with Wardaddy or turning on the team.  Ayer alum Michael Pena gets a lot of laughs as the wise ass while Lerman injects his role as the greenhorn who must adapt or die with believable nervous, boyish humanity.

All of Ayer's work focuses on the daily lives of characters who live and work in dangerous worlds.  End of Watch and Sabotage neared docudrama levels as it felt like the audience was basically along for the ride.  Fury, with it's period setting, shares the same closeness but doesn't come off quite so mechanical as just tagging along.  The action is violent with faces and limbs being blown off and people being burned alive.  There's a great fight between the Sherman and the German's faster, better armored Tiger that must be among the best depictions of close quarter tank battle ever put on the big screen.  There's a mention of tracer rounds so you can see what you're shooting at but it seemed like every shot fired in the film was traced in a green or red line, giving it a strange, laser beam like feel.

While some might find the film nihilistic, I found it to be inspiring and a reminder to the great men and women who gave up their daily lives and were transported halfway around the world to fight, suffer and die for the greater good.  Ayer continues to be one of my favorite directors working today with his unrelenting, raw and realistic approach to familiar genres where punches aren't pulled and an R rating is guaranteed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ask Me a Question: The Terminator 30th Anniversary

I think I've seen The Terminator 7 times on the big screen.  3 in the past year alone, I believe.  I've seen it with guests like the f/x crew from Stan Winston's shop, cinematographer Adam Greenberg and mastermind James Cameron but tonight was even more special as it's nearing the 30th Anniversary and The Real J.C. would be joined by not only co-producer Gale Ann Hurd but also the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  American Cinematheque members got first crack and the remaining tickets sold out in minutes the following day.  Humans From Earth rebounds from a quiet couple of months with a huge event for one of the most influential films of all time.  Unfortunately, Arnold had to bow out due to illness but hey, The Real J.C. is more than enough to keep an audience entertained, educated and inspired.

There were 30th Anniversary posters everywhere along with a T-800 endo-skeleton replica, courtesy of Legacy Effects, in the lobby.  Our seats were in the middle of a sea of reserved rows for Fox Home Entertainment, Legacy and other more special guests.  I spotted Tom Woodruff, Jr., the result of watching A LOT of Aliens documentaries, coming in the front door and quickly introduced myself.  Mr. Woodruff, Jr. was on the Terminator Special Effects team then worked on classics like Predator, Aliens, Monster Squad, Tremors, Starship Troopers and many more while forming Amalgamated Dynamics with friend and fellow effects legend Alec Gillis.  ADI just completed production on a Kickstarter funded, physical effects creature feature, Harbinger Down, starring genre favorite Lance Henriksen.  Behind Woodruff, Jr. was a dude dressed in total Terminator garb, complete with half his face missing and exposed red eye. 

To start the evening, Humans From Earth producers Geoff Boucher and Grant Moniger welcomed us before showing a quick video from Arnold in bed.  The Oak apologized and explained he just got back from Europe, where he caught the flu.  He's happy we're still talking about Terminator 30 years later with a new installment coming next July.  He has the highest respect for James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd and of course, told us he'd be back.  A handful of 35mm trailers played including Conan (surprisingly bad trailer for a great film), Red Heat (80's glory and Arnold looking his Clint Eastwood-iest), Predator (very effective, great reaction from the crowd, we got a quick shout out for next week's screening with Carl Weathers) and Commando (another great time capsule of action, puns and one-liners).  An Arnold imitation contest followed with one of the participants being a little kid, which I loathe, because they just slide by on being a cute kid, not actually having any talent or knowledge and are most likely pushed up their by attention starved parents.  One guy talked about being Governor, another quoted Kindergarten Cop then the guy in Terminator attire just started making a lot of Arnold groans and sounds.

It was a beautiful Digital copy, most likely the same one we saw at Hero Complex a few months ago.  I can't say I noticed anything new this time around besides really realizing that despite the career and impact Arnold has had, this movie isn't about his character.  It's about the love story between Mother of the Resistance Sarah Connor and Father of the Future Kyle Reese, played by Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn.  The Tech-Noir shoot out sequence and ensuing car chase(s) remain one of my favorite movie moments all time favorites and of course, it was great to have a full house watching soon to be Cameron regular Michael Biehn on the big screen.  Sadly, Hamilton and Biehn don't get enough love for this film. 

The Q&A was a bit all over the place with not that much time devoted to The Terminator.  Same thing happened at Hero Complex, James Cameron sits down and it becomes about his career and ideas rather than the movie we're supposed to be celebrating, which is kind of annoying.  Producer Hurd actually steered the conversation back to The Terminator when things were headed in different directions.

- Cameron has the two biggest movies of all time, Hurd has TV's biggest show, The Walking Dead.
- Hurd got away from film because not everyone is James Cameron and was tired of hearing "less character, more boom".
- AMC told them to slow Walking Dead down and let it breathe, which was a shock.
- Nobody believed in The Terminator, but it just takes that 100th person to say yes after 99 no's.
- Aliens might not have happened if not for Dino De Laurentis pre-emptying Arnold for Conan the Destroyer, leading Cameron to take on writing assignments Rambo, First Blood: Part II and Aliens.
- English crew did not respect Gale Ann Hurd, literally asked her how a little woman could produce a big film, and meant it.
- Terminator actual cost was $5 million and change.
- Studio pitched O.J. Simpson as Terminator and Arnold as Reese, thinking it was an amazing idea.
- Cameron met Arnold for lunch, not wanting to like him.  Arnold was great, enthusiastic about the script and talking about The Terminator instead of Reese.  Cameron AND attending producer forgot their wallets.  Arnold paid and Cameron joked that's why he got the role.
- Still friends with Arnold, talked to him earlier and jokingly thought he was faking being sick.
- Were two young, hungry go getters who thought they could do it better and cheaper than the old farts running studio.
- Roger Corman fired James Cameron because he was painting a set.  Devised a system where crew would stop working when Corman visited the set so it looked like everything was done.
- The Abyss Blu-Ray is coming soon, the Fox Home Entertainment exec was sitting in front of us, I thought he yelled out January something but I could be way off.
- Shout out to everyone in the audience who worked on the film, to Stan Winston and his crew.

There were no questions about Sarah or Kyle and the only mentions of the actors playing them came from Hurd talking about Hamilton needing to run on a sprained ankle and Cameron mentioning Michael Biehn in a scene with a flaming car.  This just seemed like such a missed opportunity as both Hurd and Cameron have worked with both again (personal relationships not withstanding considering Cameron was married to Hurd, then Hamilton), their love story is probably what makes the film so timeless and if you watch that film with fresh eyes you realize that this is their movie. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

(Almost) Ask Me a Question: Predator & Action Jackson

We're just over a week away from Carl Weathers night at The Egyptian Theatre where we'll be getting a double dose of 80's macho madness with Predator and Action Jackson on the big screen.  Mr. Weathers recently met with the wonderful Susan King from the L.A. Times for a piece which should be hitting early next week.  In addition to the usual pre-movie trivia, prizes and custom tee shirt giveaway customary to Dammaged Goods nights, I'm excited to announce that Predator Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator and Director of Action Jackson, Mr. Craig R. Baxley will be joining us to help introduce the films!  A third-generation filmmaker, Baxley has worked since 1971 as a Stunt Man, Driver, Coordinator and Director with such talents as Walter Hill and Warren Beatty on films ranging from The Warriors to Reds.

Before embarking on the tough, Mexican jungle location shoot of Predator, Baxley worked on long running action series The A-Team for it's 97 episode duration.  His first feature film credit as Director would be 1988's Action Jackson, the story of Detroit's Jericho Jackson, a police lieutenant who got busted down the ladder after nearly tearing the arm off a sexual offender whose dad just happens to be a high ranking automotive executive rubbing out the competition.  The flick starts off with some truly impressive stunts like a guy being set on fire, thrown through a window and falling from the top of an office building.  It's not only about the physical though as the flick is pretty funny and has a terrific supporting cast like Robert Davi as a strung out old friend, Sharon Stone as a trophy wife, singer Vanity as a drugged up singer, Back to the Future's Thomas F. Wilson as a smartass street cop, Bill Duke as Jackson's stern yet never shouting Captain and a surprisingly menacing Craig T. Nelson as villain Peter Dellaplane to make for a crazy and fun action flick when a hero could do a standing somersault over a speeding car.  Action fans will also spot familiar Asian dudes Al Leong and James Lew crashing into and kicking things.

Baxley's next directorial effort was 1990's cult hit I Come In Peace aka Dark Angel starring Dolph Lundgren, which is one of my all time favorite films.  How can you not love a flick about an alien drug dealer in Houston who gets people high on heroin then sucks endorphins out of their brains?!  Dolph plays a tough cop who does things his own way teamed up with a square, rule abiding FBI agent.  Together they mix it up with former decathlete Matthias Hues as the alien drug dealer through karate, gunplay, car chases and lots and lots of explosions set to Jan Hammer's awesome synth score.

After director Bruce Malmuth burned through half the budget of football star Brian Bosworth's film debut, Stone Cold, in just weeks, Baxley was called into finish the shoot.  What started as an attempt to be more than the typical one man army action flicks of the day, Heart of Stone was the story of a family man forced into going undercover to bring down the biker gang that killed his father.  There was a wife and kids and Malmuth spent 4 weeks shooting character scenes.  When said scenes weren't matching up and the budget dwindling, production was halted, Malmuth got the boot and Baxley came in to shoot stunts and explosions.  Already over budget and behind schedule, the family subplot was cut out and Stone Cold, a ridiculously fun if not intellectually challenging action cult classic, was born.  In the flick, Bosworth plays a macho yet funny cop who has a pet lizard and goes up against sneering and scary biker baddies Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe.  The flick struggled upon release but ended up one of the top selling titles on VHS for the year.

Also in my VHS collection is Deep Red, a made for TV sci-fi/noir/action flick from 1994.  Michael Biehn stars as burnt out private investigator Joe Keyes who gets caught up protecting a young girl infected with Deep Red, an alien substance that may or may not grant immortality, from an obsessed scientist.  It's reminiscent of The Terminator but given a moody and more sci-fi attitude as Baxley delivers a cool little flick that blends genres, complete with aliens fighting space prologue, Michael Biehn introspectively questioning the meaning of life and then using a flame thrower. 

From there, Baxley has directed volumes of television episodes, movies and mini-series including several based on the works of Stephen King.  Looking forward to hearing about his incredible career and working with Carl.

Monday, October 13, 2014

(Pre) Grudgement Day: Captain America Three

It was reported today that Robert Downey, Jr. is in final negotiations to join the cast of upcoming Marvel sequel, Captain America Three.  It's rumored that the role would only require a few weeks work but RDJ requested his part be expanded upon in the threequel that will tackle the comic book inspired Civil War.  In Marvel's cash grab mini-series, Iron Man and Captain America find themselves on opposite sides of a new Superhero Registration Act that requires all costumed heroes to reveal their identities and work for the government at their beck and call.  Of course Cap thinks this imposes on his and society's civil liberties and refuses while ol' Shell Head attempts to put him in his place.  We've already seen Cap-Iron friction in The Avengers so looks like we'll see a few rounds between the two in 2016.

On paper, it makes sense, RDJ has been coy about a fourth Iron Man up until now and in my opinion, has shitty villains cinematically speaking.  In part One he faced a bigger version of himself, in part Two he fought a bigger version of himself and a bunch of drones then in Three he took on a Mortal Kombat style, fire breathing villain in lieu of comic staple The Mandarin.  So shoving him into Cap Three gives audiences more of the character, adds some heat to the project and gives RDJ another fat payday without being center stage and not having to work the entire production.  This rubs me the wrong way because I honestly don't feel like Captain America has gotten to be the star of either movie in his own franchise.

Let's rewind a few years.  At seven years old, my mom bought me a copy of Roger Stern and John Bryne's collected run of Captain America: War and Remembrance.  That spectacular 9 issue run forever ingrained Cap in my brain as my favorite hero.  I've long been annoyed by the fact that writers portray him as some flag waving, boring, football playing meathead.  The guy was a sickly youth in the Depression that took to books and art then lost both parents at a young age.  That doesn't make you a jock douchebag, that makes you sensitive and complicated.  When his body catches up to his mind and ideals thanks to a bath of vita-radiation and shot of Super Soldier Serum, Steve Rogers becomes the embodiment of the man who can stand up and fight back.  Not because he's told to, because he wants to and now has the power to do so.  With every heart breaking event that happens to him, the passing of his mother, watching his best friend die, fighting in World War II, losing 50 years of his life in suspended animation, etc, Cap never loses the ability to learn from his experience and move on.  Never becoming jaded or cynical, his resolve is resolute.  He's not some flag waving propaganda tool, when a KKK like group demonstrates in Central Park, Cap doesn't automatically go after them, it may pain him but it's their right to speak their mind in a legal, non-violent fashion.  If they were to get out of line, he'd also be the first one to punch them back into shape.

So it's really frustrating that Cap can't even star in his own film.  Sure, sure, I liked the use of Peggy Carter, the Howling Commandos, Bucky, whoever Tommy Lee Jones played, the Red Skull, Arnim Zola and Howard Stark in the first film but part Two was literally the SHIELD movie.  It's like Cap has to be the place holder of the Marvel Movie Universe.  Want to know what happens after The Avengers?  Here ya go.  Think there should be a Black Widow movie?  This is a nice warm up.  Gotta keep the struggling television show relevant?  Ok we'll just go ahead and destroy the whole thing while hanging out with Robyn, Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.  Correct me if I'm wrong but pretty sure Iron Man only teamed up with a little kid for 20 minutes while that annoying blonde love interest showed up for a few scenes along with Don Cheadle's War Machine in their third installment.  Then in Thor Two, Loki had a part to play but was far from close to stealing the show or runtime from the God of Thunder.  Heck, they even got some family drama and light love triangle stuff in.

I'd be interested to see Cap going on an actual solo journey with familiar faces popping up along the way.  If we're talking comics, remember the time Cap shot a guy at the airport then gave up being Captain America when the Government tried to make him their lackey?  Steve goes underground, ends up fighting crime under a new moniker while the government enlists a mentally unstable, roided out patriot named John Walker who goes crazy and Steve has to take the mantle back, with his fists.  In the comics, former partners The Falcon and Bucky assume the Cap mantle and there's already fans clamoring for that.  Why is Cap the only hero in the Marvel Movie U that you could replace as an actor or character?  Fans would shit a brick if tomorrow we found out RDJ was being replaced by Zac Efron or if Liam Hemsworth picked up the hammer for Thor Three, I'm sure we'd all notice.  While DC's big blue boy scout, Superman, one of the most uninteresting characters out there due to his god like power but constant exploited weakness, Cap just can't seem to get no respeck as writers and creators keep treating him like a one note superhero when he is a whole lot more.

And where the heck is the Got Dammed Infinity Gauntlet already?!