Sunday, March 29, 2015

Con-Man: Emerald City Comicon 2015 Saturday

Saturday like most cons is THE DAY with bigger crowds and panels. Since we saw so much Friday, there was no rush to get there luckily. After a quick leg and cardio workout, the meat omelet breakfast wasn't the best idea as it made me tired and dehydrated. Walking the floor I got super giddy as the same vendor who sold me the Dolph in Rocky IV figurine had some new ones today including The mother fudging Phantom! Looking super yoked and ready for action in his purple suit, twin .45 pistols & holsters and skull ring, I nearly tripped over a trash can in the crowded booth to get it. I wasn't really on the hunt for more comics but Damme one vendor had all kinds of awesomeness on the cheap. You see, comics come in all shapes and values. You got the random rejects selling for .50 cents, maybe some overstock selling for a buck or two, variants with gimmicky hologram covers or signed by the artist, then the ones graded by some governing body on their condition, etc. This one was all "reading" copies, just issues that have been through hands of readers and selling for a buck or two. I got a huge stack of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos and had to refrain from buying more. The covers are just phenomenal with splashy, eye catching art depicting Nick Fury, Dum-Dum Dugan and the rest of the Howlers saving kids, skiing into action or rescuing one of their own with phrases like "Because you demanded it, Dino Manelli fights again!! 'Nuff said!" or "Keep yer blasted head down, lady! This ain't no picnic!"...Oh man so excited to read these.

On the panels side we meant to tackle several but came up short unfortunately. The first was How To Be A Nerd For A Living where half a dozen guests including the lady who voices the Fancy Feast cat food commercials talk about their ascent up the pop culture ranks of voice acting, illustrating and production design. Pretty basic stuff, everybody has a different journey, people who make it do it because they want to, rejection is part of the game and internet comments are toxic if you take them personally. From there it was Celebrating Will Eisner's The Spirit at 75 which focused on the noir comic strip masquerading as a superhero story. A very esteemed panel included Avengers, Marvels and Astro City scribe Kurt Busiek, novelist Carla Speed McNeil and badass artist Tim Sale of Daredevil: Yellow, Batman: The Long Halloween and Spider-Man: Blue. It was basically an academic style look at the genius of Eisner's art and writing where the panel discussed the iconic character not being a superhero or very good at his job, just very persistent. Not as cerebral as Batman and always getting beat up, Busiek basically summed up the character as James Garner from the 70's; the everyman who solves the case without much finesse and ends up with a few lumps. The panelists were very versed in Eisner's work explaining that The Spirit was more or less a cypher for whatever story the author felt like telling whether it was drama, noir, horror or "action". The domino mask was a simple concession to the publisher who asked for a superhero title.

We meant to make it over to the Cos Fit panel but got side tracked by all the Sgt. Fury comics! Then we wandered around The Writer's Block area and chatted with some local artists and writers. Being next to the celebrity area I decided to get an autograph from John Wesley Shipp. As I've been able to meet so many influences and icons from my pop culture upbringing, this isn't my bag but I loved the 1990 television series of The Flash and Shipp put on one of the greatest panels I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot! Like at his panel, Shipp was super cool and seemed genuinely appreciative of all the fan and viewer support. I asked what it was like filming all the running and fast forward scenes of him eating or cleaning up. He mentioned in the pilot episode when he was cleaning up the apartment, he started off going clockwise then they brought in his stunt double to go counter clockwise so it looks twice as fast. Or when he had to sort the deck of cards out by color and denomination basically fried his brain and was only a few seconds on screen. I thanked him for mentioning alternate reality Flash's that could lead to him being The Flash again and not just Henry Allen. Shipp said he'd heard that so much from others especially as Amanda Pays and Mark Hamill are playing their former characters. He just wouldn't be excited to re-don the suit...A great encounter and I hope the new show continues to showcase his character before giving us what we really want, Shipp as The Flash once again to validate the greatness of the original show!

Some more walking around the extra packed floor and I spotted another Dum-Dum Dugan, a handful of Alien and Aliens peeps, lots of Spider-Mans, several Disney princesses and a giant MODAK wielding the cosmic cube while being surrounded by A.I.M. soldiers. Meant to make it over for some more panels like Clark Gregg or the Valiant Comics retrospective but around 4:00PM just started crashing out and headed back to the hotel. Oh yeah, for any future attendees, if you're looking for an easy lunch head over to The YardHouse a few blocks down from the Convention Center as surrounding GameWorks and The Cheesecake Factory had mobs out the door. A fun show and next year has been announced to be expanding to 4 days! I'm interested to see how they'll up the celebrity and panel quotient to fill the extra day. Until then, nice job Emerald City Comicon, keep it coming!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Gotta See(& Hear)! Laser Guardians @ Pacific Science Center

With Stan Lee's screening of The Avengers sold out, we found another fun Marvel evening event to partake in, a laser light show set to the soundtrack of this past summer's gargantuan hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. Taking place at the Pacific Science Center next to the Space Needle, the Laser Dome is credited as the largest and longest operated laser theater in the world. There was a line around the building but we got seats easy enough as many chose to just lie back on the floor and gaze. Our artists of the evening explained that the effects were done live, how that is, I have no clue.

With a puff of smoke and a dim of the lights, 45 minutes worth of colors, lights, swirls, squares, beams and animated space men, women, aliens and planets accompanied the hit soundtrack, Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 1 from the flick. The rocking, funky and weird rumblings of Blue Swede, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, The Runaways and Marvin Gaye among others made for an interesting listening party. Each song had a different laser motif going from patterns and moving parts to actual minimalist animation with a Powder Puff Girl looking character to a rocketship to the Earth passing the moon. One towards the end with straight lines to make triangles reminded me of Aliens when they cut down the door, scan the interior and find Ripley inside.

Located within walking distance of the Space Needle and Key Arena, the Pacific Science Center also had a Pompeii exhibit going on and the courtyard outside the laser dome was home to some cool dinosaur statues and the fins of killer whales coming at you in the beautiful clear water garden. Apparently they do these laser light shows pretty often so locals should definitely check it out. I could only think that this would go really well with the synth-rock 80's epic-ness of The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack cause you got The Touch if you Dare!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Con-Man: Emerald City Comicon 2015 Friday

Phew, what a day! After a morning workout it was off to the Washington State Convention Center via a parkour inspiring shortcut. Emerald City already had the doors open and we waltzed right onto the show floor. It's a little confusing as the show takes up no less than 10 separate sections of the multi-story center that is actually on two sides of the street. On the floor we passed artist Thomas Overbai who we've seen at multiple shows and picked up his postcards based on movies like Predator, Blade Runner, Leon and whatnot. His new stuff wasn't up my alley this time out though. Walking around we ran into IDW Transformers comic book artist Livio Ramondelli, who attended the Sunbow Celebration. This was after chatting with Michael Bell at the airport Thursday and we'd run into several other California based convention folk which I guess had to happen after traveling to 9 shows in a year. Nice to see the guys from Cape and Cowl again as well, see you in Anaheim for WonderCon next week!

I hope people took the time to walk around as there was a lot to see. Artist Alley, a section for writers, comic books on comic books, video games, celebrities, a small arcade, board games, toys and so much more tucked into every nook and cranny. Since we're flying, can't grab too much but ended up with a short stack of comics including Jack Kirby's Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth, some Liefeld X-Force and the collected first half of Jim Lee's "crazy sexy alien prophecy pizza boy slacker" adventure Divine Right along with an awesome figurine of Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. Funko's were everywhere as usual and a surprising amount of paper dolls you could put together yourself from Big Trouble In Little China to Street Fighter to Marvel regulars. I was surprised that we didn't see very many 8-bit magnets as I was looking to add another Chrono to the fridge. Publisher wise Dark Horse and BOOM! seemed to have the biggest presence on the floor while mother f*cking Valiant is back apparently. Remember them? They did X-O Manowar, Bloodshot and NINJAK! It was just announced that the Valiant library is headed to the big screen so there were a couple panels to reintroduce the universe to con goers as well as unveiling them to the uninitiated.

Panel wise only checked out a handful today due to timing; How to Make Beer Money With Zines and spotlights on actors Hayley Atwell and John Wesley Shipp. Zines was interesting and entertaining as writers and married couple Amanda Meadows and Geoffrey Golden explained how you can self publish a zine on your favorite subject then through friends, comic stores, conventions and online you can make enough bucks to buy yourself beer on a regular basis. Would you pay 3 bones for Dammaged Goods in Zine form? Yeah I dunno either, I can barely keep up here...The Main Hall hosted Captain America and Agent Carter actress Hayley Atwell who was only in town Friday. The room was packed and a giant space, making me think there was a couple thousand in attendance. Grant Imahara from Mythbusters and those McDonald's videos moderated a pretty breezy affair basically highlighting that Atwell kicks ass, is an icon and role model and how the success of Captain America: The First Avenger and ensuing fan reaction lead to the ABC show. It sounds like season 2 is in the works with Atwell open to having a romantic subplot as round 1 was more about the grief of losing Steve Rogers aka Cap. Even though Chris Evans didn't appear on the show itself, shooting in Los Angeles meant the two spent much time together drinking beer, playing video games, eating pizza and competing in charades. Interesting facts and revelations also included that Carter's hair is a wig and that she might have a cameo in Ant-Man. Atwell's also great at catching grapes in her mouth and accidentally kicked various stunt men in the balls at least 6 times during production. Many a young goer professed their admiration for Atwell in playing a smart, physical and capable character and the Shakespearean trained actress took it and responded marvelously with charm and grace.

There were more than a few persons in Agent Carter cosplay which might have been the most popular of the day. A few Banes were seen, one Jack Frost and lots of Jayne's and Mal's from Firefly. Pilot Snoopy was a great one as well as TARS from Interstellar and one Dum-Dum Dugan. The one panel I really wanted to check out was John Wesley Shipp: Back In a Flash, a spotlight on the Emmy award winning Broadway actor who came to pop culture prominence as Barry Allen aka DC's The Flash for one season in 1990 then played James Van Der Beek's dad on Dawson's Creek. This might have been one of the greatest panels I've ever seen as Shipp was quick witted, intelligent, caring and sincere. Originally studying music and theatre before dropping out to pursue acting in New York, the Norfolk, Virginia native ended up on daytime television during it's heyday and won back to back Emmy's which made him a Jeopardy question. After playing a good guy for years, Shipp found notice and critical acclaim as an abusive husband and psychopath. Upon landing in Los Angeles and being approached for The Flash, Shipp was at first reluctant but was urged to read Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo's script which fused superheroics with real emotions. Shipp spoke fondly of current Flash Gustin Grant as being a terrific actor and person with their scenes always being so powerful because it's two people just being truthful.

Shipp was also complimentary of former co-stars Amanda Pays and Mark Hamill, both whom appear on the new series. He did address the fact that Pays and Hammill play their former characters while Shipp plays a new character, Henry Allen aka Barry's dad aka he's playing his own father. But there was talk of going all out with the time travel and multi universe angle of the comic books so maybe Shipp will rightfully appear as The Flash in some capacity in the future like we all want to happen. For the Q&A portion, Shipp actually came down from the stage to face his audience which was a nice touch. For the Dawson's Creek fans, Shipp talked about shooting it in a tiny, remote town with four very smart young actors and having lots of fun boating and jet-skiing on the weekends. Working with Hamill was a treat as the show was long and difficult shoot so to have someone so enthusiastic coming in to bring the energy back up was fantastic. Touching on the art-deco motif of the show, Shipp talked how the production directive was to highlight the 40's - 60's and 90's while skipping the 70's and 80's. Shooting in rough parts of Los Angeles at a 1920's building meant putting down plywood boards to cover feces and syringes. Shipp was pleased to see the current Flash show handled so well as it's reached critical and commercial success. The 90's show garnered such acclaim from its first press screening that CBS became overconfident and plopped it down against The Simpsons and The Cosby Show so it was on the cusp of commercial success but fell short. Much more was discussed but it was just a great time because of Shipps enthusiasm and attitude. Sleep fast and see you tomorrow!

Workout of the Day: Stair Finish

After a night of eating and dranking I had to hit the hotel gym before heading to Day One of Emerald City Comicon. The Crowne Plaza has a decent gym with free weights, a cable station and several different kinds of cardio equipment. Changing it up from my usual 4 sets of 8 reps, I went for more of the circuit motif to move fast with minimum fuss. The power of Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport on my shirt compelled me along with a bite of a protein bar. For Shoulders and Arms I selected three exercises for each and ran through as a giant set of 9 exercises 3 times:

Handstand Push Ups/Chins/Bench Dips
Side Raise/Concentration Curls/Cable Pushdowns
Rear Delt Cable/One-Arm Preacher Curl/One-Arm Reverse Cable Pushdown

The body weight exercises really give me a pump while the isolation exercises helped me zone in on the selected body parts. I followed up with some drop sets of Dumbbell Press and Hammer Curls along with forearms and Standing Calf Raises. Being on the road, your eating isn't always the greatest so a little cardio is in order. I hit the Elliptical Machine for a quick 6 minutes and followed it up with 20 flights of stairs. It's been a long time or maybe never since I've taken that many stairs and boy was my heart pumping! I was short of breathe and dripping sweat taking a single or two at a time on my way back to the room.

Gotta Drank(and Play)! RN74, Lava Lounge & Shorty's

Hello hello, Dammaged Goods coming at you live style from beautiful and green Seattle, Washington for this year's Emerald City Comicon! The event has sold out with attendance jumping a full 10,000 and expected to hit 80,000 attendees. We hopped a Virgin flight up yesterday afternoon and saw none other than voice of Duke and Prowl from G.I. Joe and Transformers as well as Sunbow Celebration guest Michael Bell in the terminal! Mr. Bell is working on a voice acting workshop and will be a guest at ECCC all weekend with a panel on Sunday. Our flight was filled with something like 60 Australian teenage middle schoolers who were traveling the northwest. I bought tix months ago and snagged Main Cabin Select which puts you right behind First Class. There's free booze and food but here's a tip, order as soon as you sit down because they ran out of Jack Daniels and Glenfiddich quick!

Landing in Seattle it was beautiful and pushing 70 degrees as we walked to the convention center to get my press pass and then around the Pike district for happy hour and supplies. I had scouted out RN74 on my Happy Hour hunt and as soon as we sat down we spotted some copper cups filled with Downtown Donkey's, their version of a Moscow Mule. Two of those please! But with Jameson. Alas, disappointment, it was literally a cup full of crushed ice and just really sour. Would have been better off going across the street to YardHouse because I know their mules are excellent. Food was good though, Deviled Eggs, Chinese Pigs in a Blanket, Sliders and the especially the Duck Fat Fries. Crisp, delicious with three dipping sauces, mmmmm. On Thursdays they also have oysters on the shuckin' shell but I've never had good experience with raw ones. Nice joint, good food but a little pricey for what we got.

Meeting up with some friends over in Belltown near the Space Needle we hit up tiki themed dive bar Lava Lounge. Apparently Ginger Beer is big in Seattle with many local brands. But they're like pop, not alcoholic like Crabbie's so no black out juice tonight...They had Street Fighter II: Championship or Turbo Edition in the back but I didn't get a chance to play. Right next door was Shorty's a Coney Island style joint with pinball machines as tables, who knows how old hot dogs on a 7-11 style roller thing and a room full of pinball machines along with a back room bar with awesome Captain chairs.

I tried my hand at X-Men because it had Jim Lee art but there were some old school ones like Centaur as well as Indiana Jones, Wizard of Oz and The Walking Dead machines. Cool spot. Again, Ginger Beer as a mixer versus a double booze hit. Then it was off to dinner at Buckley's, a sports bar with TV's at your table. A little much but people be loving that sportsball. A great kick off evening to what is sure to be a fun weekend. Pumped to see the exhibition floor and panel with The Flash John Wesley Shipp!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hey Arnold: House of Mouse

"This is Mickey Mouse stuff. You train. Or you don't...
If you do something then do it. Go all out."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger on texting at the gym

Arnold Schwarzenegger. The King of Kings, our Lord of Lords. It's been a visible month for The Oak as the first weekend heralded the return of the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. Starting in 1989 with a focus on bodybuilding, the event has turned into a long weekend extravaganza of competition, athletes, exhibitors, vendors and more. Nearly 200,000 attendees travel from around the world to attend the mecca of fitness with fencing, gymnastics, cheer leading, bodybuilding, martial arts, archery, power lifting, table tennis and WWE all part of the mix. An Australian version popped up this year as well. In attendance Arnold cheered on a new world record in dead lifting and sat down with goers for an intimate chat.

On the movie front, rumors of a new Conan film shooting in the fall have been rampant as Terminator: Genisys ramps up for a July release. Arnold graced the cover of Empire Magazine recently and promotion will kick into high gear soon. Just today, the delayed and somewhat mysterious zombie project, Maggie, saw it's first trailer hit the internet. In what looks like a dramatic take on the genre, Arnold stars as the father of a young girl turning into a zombie (Abigail Breslin). It looks surprisingly low key and dramatic with response being very positive and surprised at Arnold's emotional depth. This is the guy who convincingly played a naive virgin in Twins so I've always known he had talent. Hitting theaters in a quick to be here May 8th, it will be interesting to see how Maggie performs in the wake of recent enjoyable flicks but box office misfires The Last Stand and Sabotage. On the small screen, Arnuld popped up on the finale of Two and a Half Men playing a cop in a funny performance that was the best part of that non-Charlie Sheen appearing but totally dependent on Charlie Sheen piece of sh!t. The Oak also made an appearance on the new Late Late Show, whipping host James Corden into shape at the gym.

On the society front Arnold continues his crusade to fund after school programs as they promote improved attendance, graduation rates, health and wellness. Data shows that juvenile crime reaches it's peak between 3:00 and 6:00 PM, the most likely time kids are unsupervised. If affecting the lives of millions wasn't enough, Arnold also took the time to brighten the day of one demoralized gym goer. After falling in the gym to the laughs of onlookers, the young man took to Reddit where Arnold chimes in frequently. Upon hearing about this one case, Arnold again showed how awesome he is by telling the kid not to be afraid of failure. He fell down, big deal. Everyone has to start somewhere but all he has to do is get back up and take another step and keep moving forward. That's why Arnold is the greatest. How do you climb a mountain? By going up!

(Pre)Con-Man: Emerald City Comicon 2015

Taking off for Seattle tomorrow via Virgin America for the annual Emerald City Comicon! This was one of three out of state shows we attended last year and the only one we're headed back to. Con hotel rates downtown were stupid cheap, costing nearly a third of what I paid during a work trip a few months ago. Not only excited for the show but also for hanging out in Seattle. It's a cool city that I'd totally live in if it weren't for the rain and gloom. Anywho, latest story out of ECCC is the slew of cancellations. Due to shooting commitments and whatnot, the likes of Dante Basco (Rufio!), Karen Allen, Morena Baccarin, LeVar Burton and Brandon Routh have had to drop out. You still have the likes of Curtis Armstrong, Hayley Atwell, Michael Bell, Anthony's Daniels and Mackie, Stan Lee and John Wesley Shipp attending so we're still in great shape. A few people be complaining but hey, cancellations are just part of the game. Then someone tried to say Salt Lake City's show was better than Emerald City. Having gone to both last year and experienced some major bullsh!t at SLC, I'm going back to ECCC this year and not SLC so what does that tell you? Sure it's a little confusing with the show utilizing half a dozen floors and areas in the Washington State Convention Center but that's not the worst problem to have...

Friday looks to be the more interesting day for me panel wise with spotlights on how to make some bucks or a living with fandom and self published comics, pitching and writing, history of Valiant and focuses on Atwell and Shipp along with looks at Udon and a new documentary about daily comics, Stripped. Saturday has some interesting stuff like Fight Club 2, Image Comics, Anthony Daniels, Will Eisner's The Spirit then writing and designing video games. We're taking off Sunday morning and will sadly miss panels on Kevin Eastman, Funko's, Michael Bell and Stan Lee...Outside the show the ECCC Cinema Series welcomed Michael Biehn, Alan Tudyk and Karl Urban for special screenings of The Terminator, Serenity and Dredd. But this year cancellations have struck two of the three shows as Karen Allen was to attend Raiders of the Lost Ark and Brandon Routh for Scott Pilgrim VS the World. Stan Lee is on deck for The Avengers which sold out quick. I wish they'd add another night... There's parties galore featuring video games and cosplay, the guy who plays Hodor DJ'ing and a laser light show set to the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy. Board, card and arcade games will be hosted at the show and I've already searched for a local barcade to add to my list. Last year we checked out sky high dining and drinking joint Rview but sadly it has closed. Did a search for Seattle's best Moscow Mules and have some options to check out. See you in Seattle!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chief Goods: Hypocrite

A few years ago Noel Gallagher commented that he didn't like the fact that Jay-Z was headlining a night at the Glastonbury Festival. His main point being that generally guitar driven rock and pop acts had headlined in the past including his own band Oasis, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, The Who, Paul McCartney, Muse and Radio Head among others. Ticket sales were sluggish and the festival looked like it wouldn't sell out for the first time in 15 years. Gallagher thought the hip-hop superstar was the wrong artist for the job and was promptly called a racist and an angry old man. Jay-Z started his set with a mocking rendition of Oasis' Wonderwall while strumming a plastic white guitar. Cut to today and Oasis has broken up and Noel is a successful solo artist while Jay-Z is a corporation onto himself with their media made beef ancient news.

In an interesting development, 100,000 people have signed a petition to block hip-hop superstar with his own opinions, Kanye West, from headlining this years Glastonbury. The petition basically attacks Kanye's outspoken view of himself and music and asks for a rock band instead. While ticket refund requests have only numbered in the single digits, it seems like the internet has spoken on their feelings for Kanye. But honestly, 100,000 e-signatures isn't much in the grand scheme of things, he's probably sold more records than that in a day before. It's just interesting that nobody is being called a racist or angry old man now for pointing out the fact that some people don't like Kanye or his music and want a rock band to headline. And that my friends is what happens when you have an opinion, people attack you. Even when it's supported by facts! Happened to Noel, happened to Kanye. Noel just comes off a bit more clever and less egotistical. So keep educating yourself, say what you mean and mean what you say.

Gotta Eat! Pono Burger

It was a weekend of driving around randomly as I started in Playa Vista then up to Santa Monica over to West Hollywood down to Buena Park and finally over to Rancho Park. On Saturday we hit one of the few rent controlled yet most expensive cities in Los Angeles County, Santa Monica. I learned that Rent Control mainly impacts buildings constructed before 1978 but if your landlord wants to raise your rent 10% they're obligated to provide a 30 day notice. For 20% they owe you 60 days lead time. Anywho I've never really spent a lot of time in Santa Monica for one reason or another but it always just seems packed with traffic and people looking like they're heading to or from a yoga class. Bike lanes are a big thing there with bright green painted streets so I'm sorry I almost hit a cyclist while trying to park.

A former co-worker was speaking at an event in Santa Monica so a few of us decided to lunch it up. I searched for some spots close by and two popped up that caught my eye; Bay Cities and Pono Burger. Bay Cities is a pretty well known sammich shop that was even featured on Entourage. It's a deli and market known for their foot longs but apparently on a Saturday could be a bit of a sh!t show. We drove right past it and yup, sh!t show with some cheenius dropping someone off and blocking traffic when there was a metered spot right in front of them. As Bruce Willy as John McClane said, "f*cking California..." Right around the corner is Pono Burger. At first glance I thought it was Ponyo Burger, like that Studio Ghibli movie? Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyoooo or Porno Burger for you dirty minds. There was plenty of street parking but apparently they have 90 minutes underground by some apartments. Interesting set up as you go into one structure to get seated and there's an old shed/hangar thing next door. Beer and wine joint with one cider option. Wasn't a brand I'd heard of before but it was nice and crisp and not too sweet.

All of their burgers are touted as organic, grass fed, better for you types and mine came with onion rangs. I made it a double to get my G's up so it ended up being a very tall burger with 10 ounces of Medium cooked beef. It was a surprisingly simple and light meal (I always eat my burgers sans buns so I can eat fries and not feel quite as bad). Fries aren't included though but they have sweet or Russet options with aioli on the side. I think that's just like fancy mayonnaise right? Garlic, olive oil and egg yolks, yup, fancy mayo. Being in Santa Monica down from the beach and serving up healthier options, it's not an overly cheap burger coming in at $16 bones for a burger and fries. But nice place, service and good food so I couldn't complain. Plus everybody complimented my Van Damme with poofy hair Bloodsport shirt.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Cinema: Rush Hour & Speed

Spring is officially upon us as of this past Friday, March 20th. The New Beverly has been celebrating the 90's all month and this weekend was screening a traffic titled double feature of Speed and Rush Hour. It was announced last minute on Friday that Rush Hour helmer Brett Ratner would be attending the screening. It's said to have been an informal affair with Ratner talking about the first time stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan met, how hard it was to get Michael Jackson's permission to use his music, shared a few directing tips and even mentioned trying to get an Enter the Dragon remake going because he loved the original and Lalo Schriffin's music so much. For some reason reaction has been poor but EtD has already been remade, didn't you see Mortal Kombat? A martial artist enters a mysterious tournament to avenge the death of a loved one, teams up with other fighters with opposite personalities, instead of a muscular Chinese right hand man that kills dudes for fun there's Goro, the four armed prince working for an evil yet manipulative, power-hungry boss. Or when Ninja Assassin was coming out, it was announced that star Rain would appear in an Enter the Dragon update. But when Ninja disappointed at the box office, talk of the new Dragon and Rain's career went away.

Anywho, some friends and I ventured to West Hollywood Saturday for the early show of 1998's Rush Hour and the prime time Speed. It's nice to see the joint cleaned up and concessions are cheap! A Coke and a Twix only set me back $3.50 while popcorn, hot dogs and White Castle sliders are also available. There was a giant Rush Hour poster in the lobby and the pre-show consisted of a 90's Mountain Dew commercial featuring an unknown Channing Tatum. Then, to continue the Chris Tucker theme as stoner/ghetto comedy Friday was screening at midnight, a Dr. Dre music video from the soundtrack played. In it's entirety! Rush Hour follows Hong Kong cop Lee (Chan) as he travels to Los Angeles to find the kidnapped daughter of the consulate while fighting a mysterious crime syndicate. He's teamed up with big mouth LAPD detective Carter (Tucker) and the mismatched duo tick off the FBI and bad guys alike as they figure out the case themselves. It's a classic buddy picture with both leads getting to shine. Chan looks surprisingly beefy in this with a thick neck but classy as well in his black suit and red tie. Trademark acrobatics and "use everything in the room" fight scenes are great along with practical stunts like hanging off street signs on Hollywood Boulevard or falling onto a giant banner from the rafters of the L.A. Convention Center. Also endearing is his chemistry with the up and coming Tucker who's funny, charming and talks too much. Great supporting cast too with Tom Wilkinson, Tzi Ma, Ken Leung, Chris Penn, Mark Rolston, Rex Linn, Elizabeth Pena, John Hawkes and Elizabeth Pena (View In Peace) rounding out a crew of familiar faces and old school professionals. It's Ratner's ability to make a well shot and produced entertaining flick with a solid cast that always keeps me from being a basher. Some people are just jealous of others I guess but if it was so easy to be successful, people would be out living their dreams instead of taking pot shots at others.

Next up was 1994's Speed, one of the surprise hits of that summer. The New Bev is playing True Lies tonight and I think those two would have been a great, summer action double feature. Surprisingly enough, the tag line for Speed is "Get ready for rush hour...". Keanu Reeves, Jeff Daniels, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper star in the intense action flick where mad bomber Hopper exacts his revenge on cop Keanu by rigging a city bus to explode if it goes under 50 m.p.h.. It's a total 90's movie from the cold metal look of Andrei Bartkowiak's cinematography and Mark Mancina's catchy, invigorating yet slightly sad score. I loved the slick, moving shots with cars, motorcycles and choppers moving in and out of frame and the film does a marvelous job of keeping the tension up without wearing you down. There's also a great sense of humor throughout. Keanu is pumped up and heroic, Bullock sassy yet cute, Daniels funny as the older partner, Hopper hammy and eccentric while 4th billed Joe Morton gets to be the cool yet tough commanding officer. The flick goes on for a bit towards the end with a rehash of an earlier ridiculous stunt but for the most part, still a great ride even if improbable if you broke it down. Plus the bus number is 2525 which added together is 50, genius!

The 90's theme has worked out for The New Bev this month with something like 13 sold out shows. Speed was packed as several friends couldn't get in. The Bev is now offering just about half of tickets online with the remaining seats being sold at the door. I'm excited to return tonight for Cutthroat Island and True Lies before Heat next weekend.

#HicksLives! aka Michael Biehn and Alien 5?

Since images of a proposed Alien sequel started popping up on Neill Blomkamp's Instagram account on New Years Day, the internet has been rife with rumors on what was going on. Blomkamp is a known fan of the Ridley Scott and James Cameron films and had revealed he'd been working on an Alien movie in his spare time without Fox's awareness or permission. The young director had just worked with Alien star Sigourney Weaver on the yet to be released Chappie and had apparently run ideas past her. Weaver's interest was piqued and soon it was officially announced that Blomkamp would be making a new Alien film, possibly two, that would follow the events of 1986's Aliens.

Fans were semi-divided on the inclusion of alive in Aliens but dead in Alien 3 Corporal Hicks, played by one Michael Biehn. Blomkamp's artwork showed off an older and scarred Hicks so unless it's a dream, the events of Alien 3 would essentially be jettisoned. I honestly don't have a problem with that as Alien 3 was released 20 years ago and was not exactly a celebrated entry into the franchise. Take into account that Hicks doesn't die on screen in Aliens and I don't see many casual movie goers being too upset about it. Approaching the release of Chappie, Weaver was announced to be returning to the series that would aim to be a sequel to Aliens without totally ignoring 3 and 4th flick Resurrection. Ridley Scott's Prometheus that was an entertaining if overreaching pseudo prequel/reboot to Alien that no one is clamoring for a follow up to. Chappie failed to garner much in terms of box office gross or positive reviews but Alien 5 is still moving forward. Scott is producing and asked Blomkamp to make a simple story change to not affect Prometheus 2.

With Weaver back, what did that mean for Biehn? With Hick's image and character so prominently displayed, readers were questioning if he would return. At a convention in Florida, it's alleged that Biehn was aware of the new film and had been contacted. Cut to last week and news hit across the internet from Empire to Dark Horizons that Michael Biehn's private Instagram was announcing his involvement in Alien 5 and his return as Hicks. The only problem is that Biehn isn't on Instagram as confirmed by wife and producing partner Jennifer-Blanc Biehn via Facebook. While it sounds like Biehn is interested and talks are in progress, nothing is official unfortunately. But on a congratulatory note, it looks like Blanc gave birth to son Dashiell Biehn this past weekend and is in good spirits.

Until then #HicksLives (maybe) and #F@ckAlien3!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cro Cop: Comeback Kick

Ever since the UFC partnered up with Fox, the brand and their events have been everywhere. Averaging four cards a month for Pay-Per-View, Fox, FX or online Fight Pass, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is definitely in it's go-go years. With so many cards to fill, local talent in expanding markets are given the call while many a big name out of title contention can still headline. On April 11th, former K-1 kickboxer, Pride champion and UFC fighter Mirko "Cro Cop" Filopovic returns to the octagon after retiring in 2011 on the heels of three losses. The former commando and member of parliament wouldn't stay out of the fight game for long as a return to kickboxing saw him attain K-1 Gold along with a 7-1 record. Mirko would also return to MMA under the IGF and Legend banners going 3-1. His last victory came via vintage head kick and punches on New Years Eve.

Cro Cop has now signed a three-fight contract with the UFC, the first being a rematch with Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga set for April 11th in Krakow, Poland. The two first met in what would become one of the greatest upsets in all of MMA history in 2007. At that time, Cro Cop had just won the Pride Fighting Championship Open Weight Grand Prix and was contemplating retirement. An offer he couldn't refuse came from the UFC and after dispatching Eddie Sanchez, a title shot against Randy Couture was thought to be next. However a match up against up and comer Gonzaga would forever change Cro Cop's future. Known for his devastating high kicks, Mirko was unable to mount much of an offense against Gonzaga, being taken down off of a caught low kick. Dazed by some elbows, the two were stood up where Gonzaga unleashed a Cro Cop-esque high kick that knocked the Croatian out cold. From there Cro Cop would never regain his momentum and would struggle against the likes of Cheick Kongo, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir, Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson. The once ferocious killer now seemed gun shy and afraid to engage. Glimpses of Cro Cop's highlight reel attacks surfaced in his fights with Pat Barry, Roy Nelson and Satoshi Ishii where high kicks, feints, combinations and brutal uppercuts made their welcome return. After two runs in the UFC, Cro Cop left on a disappointing 4-6 record and underwent some eight surgeries for his nose, elbow, knee, etc during the same time period.

Gonzaga would fight in the title bout originally thought reserved for Cro Cop against Randy Couture in August of 2007. In a bloody affair that left Gonzaga's nose battered and Couture's arm broken, Gonzaga would lose in the third round by Technical Knock out. Since then Napao has fought exclusively in the UFC while putting together two and three fight win streaks but has been unable to climb back up the ranks. He's fought tough guys like Shane Carwin, Ben Rothwell and Junior dos Santos but has recently fallen to Stipe Miocic and Matt Mitrione.

While many fans thought Mirko had broken down mentally and needed to get out of the comforts of his home camps, Cro Cop has shown renewed vigor lately fighting at least three times a year and returning to the UFC to right some things versus doing it strictly for the money. With two kids and his family in Croatia, Cro Cop is unwilling to leave his native land to prepare for a fight away from them for months at a time. On record as saying the loss to Gonzaga was the worst in his career and that he will beat Napao in a rematch or die trying. To help him prepare, Mirko has brought in one of Croatia's best boxing trainers along with young UFC heavyweight Stipe Miocic as his main sparring partner. Win, lose or draw, I'll always be rooting for Cro Cop and hope this third run is the charm.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dolph Days: Keeping Up

"Like none of this shit ever happened? It happened! And it doesn't just go away. 
You just can't walk away, do you hear me?! 
Do you hear me? (holds up necklace made of human ears)"

That's our boy Dolph Lundgren as Sgt. Andrew Scott in the 1992 classic action karate flick from Carolco, Universal Soldier. If you'll recall, Dolph Night at the Egyptian screened two of Mr. Lundgren's most well known works, Unisol and Rocky IV. Come April and Dolph is hitting Australia for a double feature tour featuring the same line up. Fans in Sydney, Melbourne and on the Gold Coast can meet the big Swede and see him on the bigger screen on his week long tour that also includes appearances at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo alongside other genre favorite actors, artists and writers.

For the stateside fans, Dolph popped up on Comedy Central's 90's loving Workaholics as himself looking oh so suave in a blazer, deep v-neck shirt and white pants. Dolph appeared throughout the episode in the forms of a life size standup doing karate and various photos in an obsessed fans computer slideshow. A burning question about Showdown in Little Tokyo ended the episode which also included references to Jean-Claude Van Damme and Unisol. TV viewers may also catch the Iron Man in a new Fox event series based on film series for older cinematic tough guys The Expendables. Details are scarce at the moment besides star Sylvester Stallone producing and hoping to reel in some TV icons of action. I'm not sure why they don't just use Dolph, Terry Crews and Randy Couture's characters as a base then add a guest star or five each episode.

On the film front, a new trailer and a poster for Dolph's passion project Skin Trade hit the web recently showcasing an awesome cast that includes Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Peter Weller and Ron Perlman. So that's He-Man, Ong-Bak, Spawn, Robocop and Hellboy all in the same 90 minutes! Inspired by real life human trafficking, Skin follows Dolph's detective as he interferes with a gangster's business then teams up with a Thai cop to exact bloody, high kicking, explosive and bullet riddled revenge. The trailer looks solid with lots of practical stunts, martial arts and a terrific cast. Magnolia releases the film on VOD in late April followed by a theatrical release Friday, May 8th. Horror flick Shark Lake just finished shooting, World War II men on a mission flick with Luke Goss and Mickey Rourke War Pigs is in post-production and a small role in action thriller 4GOT10 alongside Michael Pare, Johnny Messner and Danny Trejo recently wrapped.

If that still weren't enough, Dolph was interviewed for the upcoming The Art of Masters of the Universe coffee table book from Dark Horse hitting shelves on April 15th that will take a deep look at the phenomenon of cartoons, comic books, toys and the live action movie.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cable Sunday: Michael Biehn

The X-Men film franchise started as a major gamble for studio Fox which saw 2000's first film given a decent if unspectacular budget of $75 million, a few familiar faces in the cast and a relatively new director in Bryan Singer. Production was shut down in the middle of shooting to reassess and scripts from the likes of Joss Whedon, Ed Solomon and finally David Hayter had piled up for years. It was a $300 million grossing hit and paved the way for six follow ups in 14 years. The 80's set X-Men: Apocalypse begins shooting soon as does the lower budgeted take on 4th wall breaking, Merc with a mouth Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds to follow last year's near $750 million dollar grossing Days of Future Past. Last summer, rumors of an X-Force script began to circulate and it was confirmed that Never Back Down and Kick-Ass 2 filmmaker Jeff Wadlow was penning a draft. Then came reports that Channing Tatum would pick up the bo staff, playing cards and New Orleans accent of X-Man Gambit for his own standalone flick.

An X-Force flick could work pretty well as the team is a bit more rough and tumble than Professor Xavier's crew. Instead of a soothing, intelligent and mentor style leader, X-Force is headed by the gruff and calculating soldier from the future Cable. With a scarred face, cybernetic arm and always carrying a huge gun, Cable was designed to be the opposite of the wheelchair bound, talk and think it out Charles. This guy is all about the action and taking down the bad guys "cold, hard and mean". Training his young mutants to be more of a military style response team, X-Force runs into the Mutant Liberation Front and their pack of super powered terrorists working for dude in a ton of armor with a superiority complex, Stryfe. X-Force is made up of Cable's chick and comrade in battle Domino, high flying southern guy Cannonball, the blood thirsty wolf-woman Feral, explosion tossing smartass Boom Boom, native tribesman strong dude Warpath and man from another planet/dimension bred to be a warrior Shatterstar. Whipping this rag tag team of outcasts to fight an organized and maniacal threat to humanity is total fodder for a high octane, fast moving action flick filled with hand to hand battle and CGI spectacle. With more of a focus on close quarter combat, you could build up some match ups and showdowns between characters heading into the I'm sure to be explosion and destruction filled finale. Which would be a nice change of pace from previous superhero flicks where our team fights an army of faceless goons a la X-Men: The Last Stand or The Avengers.

Way back in the 90's, Wizard Magazine nominated Clint Eastwood to play Cable in a yet to be produced X-Men movie that also included Michael Biehn as Cyclops, Dolph Lundgren as Colossus and Jean-Claude Van Damme as Gambit. Creator Rob Liefeld has read the first draft of X-Force and could barely contain his excitement. While production is still a ways off, The Liefeld dropped names like Tom Hardy, Jon Hamm and Stephen Lang for Cable. It's an interesting role to fill as Cable is an older character; white haired and grizzled with scars on his face. Not exactly Hollywood's favorite casting call. Tom Hardy seems a bit young for it while Hamm has the jawline if not the presence. Stephen Lang is a pretty close call given his role and appearance in Avatar as the hard ass, pumped up military leader with scars down his head. But for me, I can't help but think this is a role for the one and only Michael Biehn. Given Cable's time traveling history, sent back to prevent an incident with future repercussions is at least in passing similar to Biehn's Kyle Reese in James Cameron's The Terminator. If you'll recall, Skynet's machines have risen, wiped out most of the human population with nuclear strikes and uses the remaining survivors as labor. Leader of the resistance John Connor is a pain in their side so they send a killing machine back to 1984 to kill his mother Sarah before he's born. Soldier Reese travels back to protect her, essentially giving his life for a woman he's never met but fallen in love with through stories and a single photograph.

From there Biehn donned a headset, body armor and giant Pulse Rifle as a space Marine in Aliens and has played his fair share of gun toting and futuristic cops, soldiers and secret agent types in flicks like Navy Seals, The Rock and Planet Terror. Now pushing 60, the Biehn is the perfect age and amount of grizzled to play Cable. His memorable baggage as a time traveler and space soldier make a nice through line to the metallic mutant. Still lithe and athletic, it's not hard to imagine Biehn pumping up a bit and donning a white wig and fake scars while running around barking orders, firing off future guns and being the hard yet reliable heart of the upstarts. Just think the vulnerable physicality of Kyle Reese with the taciturn hard ass-ness of The Rock's Commander Anderson only with shoulder pads and a metal arm. Since Cable is always dealing with potential futures and alternate time lines, it would be a weird fan theory full circle as X-Men was originally set up at Carolco at Cameron's request before being sold off to Fox. Biehn would have been an awesome Cyclops in a Cameron produced X-Men film from the 90's and Cable is actually Cyke's kid in the comics so if he couldn't play the father, how about the son?

Unfortunately X-Force is stuck in development as producers are leery about having more than two X-Men related movies in a year given the glut of superhero flicks from Marvel, DC and Fox's own Fantastic Four hitting theaters in the next few years. After casting hot at the time Taylor Kitsch as Gambit in the woeful Wolverine Origins flick they've upgraded to Tatum for a follow up so I'm sure they'll go with someone with more heat for Cable if a flick ever does get made.  But here's hoping Biehn returns for Alien 5, it's a huge hit and it leads him right into X-Force.

Body slide to HQ...

Cable Sunday: Paneled Goods

After picking up the collected Cable: Classic at Long Beach Con and a fistful of X-Force from Earth 2's parking lot sale, I was ready to strap on my shoulder pads and pack my belt and suspender pouches full of 90's action awesomeness. The 90's are dubbed the most action packed decade in comic book history. And for good reason. With splashy, vibrant, kinetic art from the likes of Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Mark Silvestri, Ron Lim and a host of others ruling the sales charts, the 90's became the era of the artist. Men were hyper muscular and women super impossibly hot in poses looking like they were always flying and action that screamed spectacle and splash pages. Created by Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld, Cable was to be a "man of action" and opposite to the wheelchair bound, tolerance spouting Professor Charles Xavier from the X-Men. Cable: Classic collects his first full appearance in 1990's New Mutants # 87, two part series Blood & Metal and the first four issues of his own ongoing series.

The action starts with a force from the Mutant Liberation Front storming a secret facility to bust out some captured young mutants. After the super powered strike force of Wildside, Forearm, Reaper, Strobe, Tempo and Thumbellina take out the facility guards, from nowhere a huge man decked out in giant shoulder pads, future guns, a metal arm, spiked bracelets and a big scar over his eye appears. This is Cable, time traveling soldier from the future. We don't get too much of his personality besides being a hardass tracking down the same mutants the MLF is after. We're introduced to the armored, masked and spike covered Stryfe, leader of the Liberation who is out to prove mutant superiority over humans by breaking into their facilities after his demands are not met. Cable nearly takes out Stryfe's group single handed but ends up losing his mechanical hand and the MLF breaks out the mutant captives.

From there we move into 1992's two-shot, Blood & Metal from Fabian Nicieza and John Romita, Jr. Here, we go back in Cable's past as a member of the Wild Pack, also known as Six Pack along with Domino, G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane, Grizzly and Hammer. The bandanna wearing, shoulder pad suited and heavily armed unit lands in Iran, wasting a ton of hostile locals about to execute some hostages. That's just a cover though as the hardcore group is actually there on behalf of a rich corporation and blow up a competitor's building. Cut to years later and the team has been disbanded, some members being permanently injured from a job Kane believes Cable turned on them and left them to die. Cable tracks a team of MLF'ers stealing artifacts from various parts of the world and across numerous centuries on Stryfe's behalf. After getting caught in an explosion on the botched mission; Kane is now the armored up, metal armed, hand disengaging Weapon X and tracks Cable down to his safe house in Switzerland where the two brawl through the house and outside in the snow, hitting each other with trees. Kane joins Cable in his quest to stop Stryfe from collecting the artifacts on the condition that the future warrior help their wheelchair bound former comrade Hammer. Cable had to shoot Hammer in the back on the disastrous mission to stop him from jeopardizing it. That's leadership, kids. The two jump to the future where Kane is made whole again with the intention of bringing back some technology to make Hammer walk. I really dug Blood & Metal, John Romita, Jr's art is very clean and dynamic. The over the top costumes actually look somewhat practical and streamlined here versus Liefeld's early mish mash of pads, bracelets, belts, pods and ammo. The black ops style military group was a key theme in the 90's with many of your Image Comics being based on military teams who imploded on that one bad job and how members come back to haunt the others years later after feeling betrayed or left behind.

The action was pretty interesting as you had guns and mutant powers, robot soldiers, mech suits, ninjas and the Silver Samurai! Cable is fleshed out here as being a tough leader who makes decisions for the best of the mission rather than his team leading to future conflict. Then throw in his turtleneck lounge attire when at his tech loaded safe house and you get more than just some brooding grunt. I'm still not exactly sure what Stryfe's endgame is but you see that he and Cable are spitting images of each other, clones, twins or something or other. All of this Six Pack stuff comes back to haunt Cable in his ongoing series as G.W. Bridge went on to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was sent to capture his former teammate, Hammer becomes a revenge seeking threat and Cable totally makes a chick cry after they got busy when he thought she was someone else...Key phrases like "stab his eyes" (son of a bitch?) and "body slide by" (call for teleport) are prevalent.

Over in 1991's X-Force # 1, Cable is now leading the former New Mutants as their own unit of part rebels, part heroes consisting of the flying Cannonball, strong man Warpath, wolf like chick Feral, explosion tossing Boom Boom and bred to be a warrior alien Shatterstar. It's all action for the first 21 pages as X-Force locates and attacks a Mutant Liberation Front base, again confronting Stryfe but losing him, again. Hands get chopped off, bodies are slashed, POONTH! shots are fired, Stryfe teleports and X-Force body slides out. We learn that in addition to Cable's mechanical arm and battle experience he actually has some telekinetic powers as well. It's interesting to see how Rob Liefeld's artwork changed between New Mutants and X-Force as I think it got worse. I'm not sure if he was working under a deadline or just tried to do too much but X-Force # 1 just isn't as clean as his previous work, everyone has angry expressions on their faces and nobody has pupils. Meaning it's just a bunch of slanted white eyes...The haircuts are 90's atrocious mullets or big square do's and body language has become increasingly awkward. While Romita, Jr was able to streamline and make the outfits look somewhat plausible, Liefeld draws Cable with outrageous dimensions, outlandish shoulder pads, arms and thighs three times the size of his head making it look like a guy in an exo-suit of sorts. Still you get lots of action and banter with appearances from Juggernaut, Black Tom Cassidy and Spider-Man in the first half dozen issues. Cable's purpose is more or less highlighted when he states: "We're here to do what the police and the Avengers-types are unwilling to do -- put an end to this situation -- cold, hard and mean!" Superb.

X-Force # 1 was packaged with a limited edition trading card and became the best selling comic book of all time with a staggering 5 million copies sold. Liefeld was featured in a Levi's 501 jeans commercial directed by Spike Lee where he talks about drawing comics since he was 7 years old and never receiving any formal art training. X-Force's record would soon be broken by Jim Lee and Chris Claremont's X-Men # 1 which sold over 8 million copies with it's gimmick of having 5 different covers. Liefeld, Lee and many of Marvel's other superstar artists would then disband from the mother company and form Image where they could have more creative freedom and own the rights to their characters and art. Liefeld's Extreme Comics would produce best seller Youngblood and land the young artist on Dennis Miller's late night chat show. Brigade was another super powered team oriented book with a Cable looking leader where several of the characters die in the first issues through getting their intestines punched out or fingers sliced off. Liefeld would be kicked out of Image/resign after consistently late shipping books and poaching talent from other in house banners. In 1996, Liefeld and Lee returned to Marvel to help launch Heroes Reborn where Captain America, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers all died in a universe shaking battle and be brought back in new, alternate reality universes. Cable would pop up there too.

In 2004, Liefied and Fabian Nicieza relaunched X-Force with Cable still hanging/training/banging with Domino but being haunted by Skornn, a long dead being that feeds off mutants like humans eat cows. Warrior from another planet/time/dimension Shatterstar is training with some monks but signs up for some mindless violence because that's what he does. You see, Cable was originally sent back to our time from a thousand years in the future to stop some kind of catastrophic mutant event. But even all those years ahead, mutants and mankind are still at odds. Some ninja looking baddies from the future aka Agents of Humanity show up looking for The Five Fingers of Annihilation sword, the only weapon that can defeat Skornn, it's up to the reunited Cable, Domino and Shatterstar to stop them. With jump kicks, double bladed swords and punches to the face. In subsequent issues we catch back up with Cannonball, now living a peaceful life on a farm in Kentucky while Tabitha Smith aka Meltdown and formerly known as Boom Boom along with Warpath rejoin the team. Liefeld's art is substantially more palatable years on with cleaner lines along with less ridiculous body shape and sizes. Backgrounds are a little plain or non-existent but pupils are more frequent and hair styles are much better. A scene from the future takes on an ethereal and shiny quality with coloring that looks more akin to paints than vibrant and smooth computer coloring. While the story jumps back and forth between eras, it never gets too confusing or clunky.

Phew! Some fun reading with lots of ads for Marvel shirts and toys that made me miss my awesome double sided Jim Lee X-Men shirt from 4th grade. It wasn't as extreme as Brigade though as those comics just got me amped up and the test (testosterone) flowing making you want to lift weights and punch holes in walls. Until next time, body slide by one...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ask Me a (Video) Question: Transformers and G.I. Joe Sunbow Celebration

Just a quick update for your Friday. Hopefully it's beautiful and sunny where you are as it's frigging blazing and 80 something out here in Los Angeles. The positive fallout from the Sunbow Celebration double feature of The Transformers & G.I. Joe: The Movies keeps on coming as video from the evening has surfaced. To get you primed for Sunbow, first watch this awesome video of the opening credits from both films. Turn it up loud!

I missed the pre-show panel with writers Flint Dille and Buzz Dixon, voice actors Bill Ratner (Flint), Neil Ross (Springer & Shipwreck) and Michael Bell (Prowl & Duke) and voice director Wally Burr as I was out in the lobby schmoozing and making sure things were running smoothly. Michael Floyd stepped in last minute to moderate:

After Transformers, it was time for our main panel with a whopping 9 guests: Don Jurwich (G.I. Joe director), Buzz Dixon, Flint Dille, Larry Houston (storyboard artist/director), Bill Ratner, Wally Burr, Hank Garrett (Dial Tone), Neil Ross and Michael Bell. These guys were great guests and so gracious with their time over the evening doing these panels and meeting attendees. The key to a panel this big is knowing your shit and doing your best to engage each guest and get a conversation going. I meant to ask about Starscream and Cobra Commander voice actor Chris Latta as I heard the stand up comedian and actor was totally nuts in the best way as well as ask how professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter got involved, next time:

Many thanks to all who attended, our guests and YouTuber RealistikkVideos for posting.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Van Dammage: Grudges

Remember when Jean-Claude Van Damme was in Menlo Park visiting Facebook Headquarters? It may be a coincidence but now you're seeing Brainfail's JCVD Quiz pop up to see what character you are. After answering 10 quick questions, I ended up with Kickboxer's Kurt Sloane as I'm driven by Pride and Revenge! I'll also stop at nothing for loved ones! Sounds about right. "I want you to teach me Muy Thai"...cut to yoked and tan Van Damme kicking a tree and drunk dancing! What a coincidence as JCVD is shooting or about to start on his part in the Kickboxer reboot. He's been looking in great shape recently, feeling alive and hitting the gym in pajama pants, trying to lift buildings and says mentor/instructor Claude Goetz is joining him on set.

If you'll recall, Kickboxer: Vengeance started shooting last year in New Orleans with a cast that includes Georges St. Pierre, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, Darren Shahlavi (Train in Peace) and martial artist Alain Moussi. The John Stockwell directed, Dimitri Logothetis and Jim McGrath scripted flick ran into financial issues that saw the crew not being paid for their last several weeks of work. That's not exactly unheard of in the independently financed world but it was interesting to see Van Damme's name used to bolster the headlines even though he's not a producer and hadn't even worked on the picture yet. One of the producers strangely took to social media to tell the crew not to talk about it as if he was threatening them for being upset over not being paid...The Thailand portion of shooting looks to be ramping up and IMDb is reporting a $17 million dollar budget.

The trailer for Pound of Flesh, Van Damme's latest headlining actioner hit recently promising a gory and shady mix of organ theft, revenge and salvation set to high kicks, car chases, shootouts and Bibles to the throat on the streets of Hong Kong. Aki Aleong, who played Muy Thai trainer Khao in Van Damme's 1996 directorial debut The Quest, plays an ally. Darren Shahlavi looks like he's playing the main henchman here so be prepared for some high kicking meets rough and tumble MMA style fight scenes. The action and mood of the flick looks solid with Van Damme playing a mercenary type scheduled to donate his kidney to his niece. But after a crazy night out he wakes up in a bath tub full of ice and missing his organ. Teaming up with his peaceful bro, the duo set out to get the kidney back and save the young girl. Even in the short trailer, Van Damme looks pissed, mean and truthful, talking about damning souls to rescue the girl. 6 Bullets and Assassination Games director Ernie Barbarash helms a script from Joshua James. Hong Kong based Dammaged Goods supporter Mike Leeder produced this bad boy and the release can't come soon enough. Big Mike is on a tear as the Mark Dacascos and Matthias Hues (I Come In Peace) lead Ultimate Justice recently finished shooting in Germany.

Speaking of Germany and Van Damme connections, frequent collaborator and Lionheart writer/director Sheldon Lettich along with co-star Harrison Page attended a special event in Kassel to commemorate the release of the Cult Platinum Edition Blu-Ray. A European print was found, cleaned up and screened theatrically with a Q&A with Lettich and Page after. The duo will also be hitting a local comic convention this week.