Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ask Me a Question: Conan the Barbarian w/ Sandahl Bergman & William Stout

Apparently it's been a year since Dolph Night happened, time flies huh? My quest to spread the gospel of 80's and 90's action movies continued Saturday night with a double feature of 1982's Conan the Barbarian and 84's Destroyer. The night's special guests included dancer turned actress Sandahl Bergman and production artist/concept designer William Stout for Q&A while producer of upcoming sequel The Legend of Conan Fredrik Malmberg stopped by to chat with the fans. We had several awesome guests set up in the lobby including Robert E. Howard inspired metal band Ben Morgh, The Arnold Fans with lots of great King of Kings magazines, posters and protein bars as well as comedy group Schwarzenator in costume. Also on display were several of William Stout's awesome production paintings.

Hype man and programmer extraordinaire Grant welcomed the crowd, last month saw an 80's themed Arcade program, Conan was the penultimate night in an 80's Fantasy line up and next month sees 80's Horror on display with special guests. The Conan the Barbarian print looked great and the audience was fantastic. Both Bergman and Stout watched the film and the crowd burst out into applause, cheering and laughter several times. I forgot how funny, violent and sexual the flick is. If you haven't seen it, basically young Conan's parents and village are wiped out by the powerful, hypnotic, snake loving diva Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), gets put into slavery, grows into Arnold, becomes a pit fighter, freed, finds a sword, teams up with thief and archer Subatai (Gerry Lopez), they meet leggy blonde thief Valeria (Bergman), steal some of Doom's snake jewels and are hired to return the runaway daughter of a local king (Max Von Sydow). Based on Robert E. Howard's novels, John Milius writes and directs a deliberate, sword, sand, sex and sorcery filled epic that is at times hyper violent and then reflective and philosophical.

In Arnold's first starring and iconic role, The Oak gets to play curious, strong, stoic, sensitive and vengeful in two, mostly dialog free hours. Lopez is great as sidekick Subatai who plays out like the voice of reason when necessary while Bergman's Valeria is a somewhat forgotten cinematic female ass kicker who fuels Conan's post vengeance life. Mako provides some laughs and weird wizard moments as narrator and supporting character Akiro (simply The Wizard in the first film). Watching it on the big screen you realize how grand the film is from the snow covered village to the wheel of pain to the fighting pit to scaling the snake adorned tower, the orgy scene throne room, Thusla Doom's huge temple and a terrific last stand set in a Stonehedge like rock formation in the desert. All set to Basil Poledouris' grand and fantastic score. There's exploding blood bags galore, camel punching, drunk celebrating, Arnold having sex with nearly every woman he meets, vulture killing, resurrection and the quest to find what is best in life.

After the film, Sandahl Bergman and William Stout sat down for Q&A:

- Bergman grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, ended up on Broadway then in films like Xanadu and All That Jazz before meeting with John Milius for Conan.
- William Stout had been working in comic books and advertising for years, contributing to over 120 movie posters before being brought on by Ron Cobb for Conan where he would make about 10% of the money he did in advertising.
- Both had a huge affinity for John Milius being such a character and creating a family atmosphere.
- Stout and Cobb worked on the film for a year before Arnold was cast.
- Arnold was a specimen with a great sense of humor and drive. Milius was unhappy with The Oak's bodybuilder physique and Arnold came back two weeks later looking more athletic.
- Bergman had never trained in swordplay or riding and nearly lost a finger when an extra missed his mark. Her sword was designed with no finger guard but after the accident, one was added.
- Akira Kurosawa and samurai films were required viewing before shooting started.
- Both have fond memories of producer Dino De Laurentiis, who also cultivated a family feel.
- Bergman and Arnold became buddies so their love scenes were extremely awkward to film with the duo constantly cracking up. It didn't help that Arnold squeeze Maria Shriver was on set and Bergman was dating Stunt Coordinator and 2nd Unit Director Terry Leonard.
- Terry Leonard is a badass, on Milius' The Wind and the Lion, charged down a hill on horseback, chops a dummy's head off that landed exactly where Leonard said it would.
- Sean Connery was first choice for Thulsa Doom but passed.
- Both recall James Earl Jones being a great human being with a booming voice, so strong that during a speech in front of a thousand extras, he didn't use a microphone.
- Max Von Sydow spent a lot of time looking in mirror, running lines and experimenting with make up to create his character.
- Both are not fond of either sequel Destroyer or spin-off Red Sonja. Bergman couldn't imagine a Conan film without John Milius' involvement.
- Bergman was asked to star as Red Sonja but thought it would be confusing after being in Conan and opted to be the evil queen instead.
- Stout hated the script for Destroyer, re-wrote it himself but vetoed by director Richard Fleischer and producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. Would later write a script based on Conan the Buccaneer that he wouldn't mind turning into a comic book someday.
- After seeing a cut of Sonja, Arnold and Bergman declared they would not promote the film.
- Bergman wasn't sure how to respond when asked about her portrayal of Valeria being an inspirational, badass film heroine in the wake of Princess Leia and before Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley.
- Bergman met with Milius several times in the mid-2000's about Conan: Crown of Iron, she would have played an innkeeper that is kindred spirits with Conan. Neither Bergman or Stout were surprised when Arnold ran for Governor but neither voted for him either.
- Stout found the 2011 reboot to be pretty but not much else. Bergman hasn't seen it after being so involved with original, describing it as a family adventure with no egos involving the best of the best.

Of course much more was discussed but hey, you had to be there! Another great night in the books and thanks to everyone who attended for being such a fun crowd, The Egyptian Theatre for hosting, Randy and The Arnold Fans for co-hosting, all of the Dammaged Goods supporters, Jeremy for documenting and of course our special guests Fredrik Malmberg, Sandahl Bergman and William Stout. We'll see you in September for the next one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Con-Man: Summer Swell

It's been months since I've been to a convention, months! July is going to be a Kaiju near double event with two of the biggest shows around coming in hot and in a row. Anime Expo takes over Downtown, Los Angeles July 4th Weekend while San Diego Comic-Con International starts on Thursday, the 9th. Then a new, smaller show has popped onto my radar, August's Central Coast Comic-Con on the 28th-30th before the last show of the summer, The Long Beach Comic Con September 12th and 13th, phew!

My inbox has been inundated with guest, event and press releases regarding movie premieres, new apps, products, cartoons, toys and interview opportunities for 2015's Anime Expo. It was also announced that organizer SPJA - The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, has signed a five year contract to stay in Los Angeles. AX has brought in 100,000 plus attendees and exhibitors for years and 2015's show is projected to bring in 280,000! With nearly 300 exhibitors representing gaming, fashion, toys, music, film, animation and a whole lot more, AX brings in an estimated $55 million bucks into the city during it's 4-day stay. This will be my first year attending in earnest as last year was more of a taster or lookie loo if you will. I only spent a few hours walking around but got a feel for the vibe, attendees and offerings. Basically, a whole lotta cosplay and Japanese culture. Panels run the gamut of how to survive your first con, music, karaoke, new and old anime screenings, fandom, audio mixing, e and board gaming, tips on moving to Japan, voice actor studio and much more. Recognizable brands like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Naruto, Ultraman, Robotech and Cowboy Bebop will be well with premieres and screenings. There are multiple separate ticketed events going on like the Maid Cafe, an interactive experience of dances, music performances, photo ops and more or late night Fate/Stay Night Special with screening, Q&A and a concert. Gonna get weird, gonna get crazy, gonna be weirdcrazy!

The following week is the big one, the mecca of all things popular culture, the one, the only, mother fudging San Diego Comic-Con! Comikaze, New York, Salt Lake, any Wizard World show? Children.  Amateurs in comparison. No other show gives you face value like SDCC. Your ticket gets you into the convention, exhibit hall and programming. No Gold or VIP upcharges here. No major plugging to plop down $50 bones for a photo or autograph. Heck, you don't even need a badge as there's plenty of art shows, fan gatherings, movie screenings, parties, Q&A's, concerts and the like going on outside the hall in the streets of downtown San Diego. In a first, late night TV host Conan O'Brien will be hosting four shows from a local theater and moderating a panel. In a probable other first, San Diego Comic Con is banning selfie sticks, GoPro poles, Google Glasses, streaming, e-cigarettes and drones! Good, it's hard enough walking around when a million people stop dead in their tracks in the middle of an aisle or stop to take photos of cosplayers. If anything, SDCC could pioneer small areas between booths for photos so traffic isn't as impacted.

In another step towards weeding out casual fans only looking for famous faces, SDCC has made news over which Hollywood studios would be sitting out this year. Once a part of press junkets, high profile Con flicks turned box office flops like Scott Pilgrim VS the World, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens and Ender's Game have cooled studio presence. This year Marvel, Sony and Paramount are all sitting out as they lack product to promote. Plus, Marvel doesn't need Con anymore, they've got their own events at Disney owned theaters and shows like the El Capitan and D23 Expo. Lionsgate will be back with the final installment of The Hunger Games after bypassing a panel for Mocking Jay Chapter I and The Expendables III. SyFy network has an abundance of screenings and panels lined up with the Thomas Jane starring The Expanse getting an early screening a full 5 months before it's broadcast debut in December. The King of WeirdCool is scheduled to attend. In recent years television has made up for the lack of movies and this year will be no different. Game of Thrones, Agent Carter, The Flash and The Walking Dead are all lined up for panels, some of them in the 6,000 plus capacity of Hall H.

Then of course there's a whole side of the convention center dedicated to comics, artists, toys and swag. Dogs big and small like Marvel, DC, Top Cow, Dark Horse, BOOM!, DelRey, IDW and so many more will be on site. Artists and writers like Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Humberto Ramos, Jeff Smith, Jim Steranko and William Stout are among the dozens of already announced special guests not even including the hundreds filling up Artist Alley. I'll be looking to fill in some gaps in my growing Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commando's collection as I've just about tapped out on Terminator, Big Trouble In Little China, Aliens, Rocketeer and Captain America toys and trinkets. It's gonna be mad. It's gonna be fantastic. Embrace it! See you in San Diego!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TV Dad of the Year: True Detective's Colin Farrell

True Detective Season 2 debuted Sunday night on cable programming juggernaut HBO. The business behind Fraggle Rock, Tales From the Crypt, Band of Brothers, Entourage and Game of Thrones have carved out their own niche of television that is nearly unrivaled in terms of quality, innovation, sex and fan following. Sunday saw the launch of several new series joining TD like the "Entourage with sportsball" Ballers and some show with Jack Black about the government. While I hadn't seen the first season of Detective, I've only heard good things. Season 2's cast and premise intrigued me much more with a trio of Los Angeles cops (Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch) getting involved with a murder and a gangster turning businessman (Vince Vaughn) falling somewhere in between. Basically each cop is fucked up in their own way (Farrell is crooked and drunk, McAdams has hard sex and alienates everyone around her while Kitsch can't get it up and resorts to extreme danger to feel alive).

It only took one scene to guarantee my return viewing and that included one Colin Farrell along with a set of brass knuckles. Basically, Farrell's Detective Ray Velcoro is trying to be a good dad to a kid that was the result of a seemingly unsolved rape. But his kid is his kid even if the parents are separated. When a bully messes with said kid's new shoes, Velcoro goes to bully's house, slips on some knucks and proceeds to pummel the father while making bully son watch as a lesson. It's as horrifying as it is hilarious, a real vicarious experience for anybody who's ever dealt with an asshole.

A talented and likable actor, Farrell has become a Hollywood fixture even if he's never quite been able to crack it. Early films saw him working with the likes of Joel Schumacher and Steven Spielberg opposite Tom Cruise, Al Pacino and Bruce Willis. A fun performance as Bullseye in Ben Affleck's Daredevil was followed up by popcorn leading man vehicle S.W.A.T. but 2004's ill received Alexander and 2006's Miami Vice showed an eclectic and perhaps unfocused career path reflected by his booze and women filled Hollywood lifestyle. In Bruges showed he could still be funny yet sensitive but 2012's big budget Total Recall was pretty lame. I didn't even know he was in it but his portrayal as a day dreaming, alcoholic father in Saving Mr. Banks is arguably the most impressive. Detective debuted to mixed reviews comparing it too closely to the first season while drawing in a solid 3 million plus viewers. See you next week!

Score(movies) In Peace: James Horner

It was reported yesterday that a plane belonging to Oscar winning composer James Horner had crashed. The pilot was badly burned in the ensuing fire and has yet to be identified but many outlets are presuming the movie music maestro has sadly passed. The Los Angeles native had Hollywood in his blood as father Harry worked as a set designer and part-time art director. Starting on the piano at age 5, Horner would be a student of music growing up and attend the University of Southern California. Like many future Hollywood heavyweights, Horner scored his first work for schlock master Roger Corman with the rousing Battle Beyond the Stars leading to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Commando, Red Heat, Aliens, Willow, The Rocketeer and Troy being among many others. While Horner and James Cameron clashed on Aliens due to the compressed time frame, they reteamed for the award winning and huge financial monster that was Titanic and again on Cameron's next film 10 years later, Avatar. In 1995, Horner scored a staggering six films including Braveheart and Apollo 13. Horner spent a full 2 years working on 2009's Avatar and took no other projects, citing it as his most difficult gig to date.  An avid pilot as well as musician, Horner amassed 10 Academy Award nominations winning twice along with wins at the Golden Globes, Satellite and Saturn Awards as nominations from the British Academy Film Awards.

Friday, June 19, 2015

You're(not) Terminated! Oak and Biehn Round Up

Terminator: Genisys opens in a couple of weeks and the promotion machine is in full swing. Trailers, TV spots and billboards are all over the place while master promoter Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in the public eye. A great video showing him in T-800 costume walking around Hollywood and posing as a wax statue at Maddam Tussaud's is hilarious and shows you just how social media savvy the guy is. Then there's the awesome tie-in with Wendy's with their Baconator, Spicenator and Chickenator sammiches that I'll be sure to partake in. "Don't bump my selfie stick."

With 1984's The Terminator just being re-released, the original Kyle Reese himself Michael Biehn talked to Total Film about the low budget flick that became a classic, how James Cameron's movie has jumped generations and his thoughts on co-star Linda Hamilton.

Gotta Eat! Pretzel Dog Bites Pizza

I'm sure you've seen it on the news that Pizza Hut is now offering a pie with hot dog bite crust. After years of overseas Huts creating crazy concoctions like a pizza with hamburger sliders as crust, America finally gets to partake. At only $11.99, it seemed like an excellent deal even though the tax and Delivery Fee instantly tack on an extra $5 bones...The Hut is probably my second favorite delivery pizza in CA behind Papa John's but ahead of Domino's. If I still had access to Donato's, The Hut would probably fall to number 3. But it's a glorious sight to see 28 pigs in a blanket surrounding your pepperoni pizza and we dug right in. I was surprised that the pizza was thinner crust and had some rigidity. Not exactly piping hot, the pie was pretty typical Hut with the bites being filled with small pieces of not exactly Hebrew National or Nathan's best. It comes with mustard to dip but I couldn't help but think it would be way better being served with nacho cheese to compliment the pretzel crust. While a nice change of pace, it wasn't instantly addicting in that Taco Bell or "crave it then regret it then crave it six months later" White Castle style. In the age of hybrid and fusion dining, I can't wait to see what fast food comes up with next. Until then I'll be drinking whiskey and watching Transformers: Age of Extinction that somehow clocks in at nearly 3 hours of shiny cars, fighting robots, tan women and Mark Wahlberg wearing glasses. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Craption! Showdown In Little Tokyo

Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network strikes again with an evening that included Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee classic Showdown in Little Tokyo and the Swedish made ode to the 80's, Kung Fury. Cleaned up, El Rey's presentation looked way better than my full screen DVD from Warner Brothers that had a cardboard case with a plastic snap mouth. It was also uncut so titties and baddies getting slashed, stabbed, shot, kicked and exploded in hardcore 80's yet released in 90's style along with cursing galore glory. I remember buying the flick from a video game store and my non-action movie friend not understanding why Dolph was wearing a kimono style outfit with headband and machine gun.  In college, a neighbor was a huge Dolph fan and we quoted SILT constantly, he even had a similar leather jacket to Dolph's shoulder padded, kind of short, 90's style outerwear. At the time, the film was dumped by studio Warner Brothers and written off as a by the numbers rip off of Lethal Weapon. But in true Craption! fashion, Showdown In Little Tokyo has become a cult favorite and remains one of Dolph's most enjoyable films.

Set in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, Dolph plays Sergeant Chris Kenner, a raised in Japan by missionaries who get killed by a Yakuza assassin now living like a Samurai in Southern California guy. A violent group of Japanese mafia dudes in zoot suits and driving convertibles show up, harassing local businesses for protection money, running clubs, dealing drugs and chopping off the heads of hot chicks who like to get high. After Kenner takes out a group of thugs who interrupt his breakfast, we're introduced to his new partner on the Asian task force Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee, View In Peace), a smart ass Eurasian kid who grew up in the valley with a dentist dad and only took up martial arts to appease his mother. The two mismatched cops bicker about upper body strength, fighting form and being polite. Shit gets serious when Kenner finds out the leader of the invading Yakuza is Funekei Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), the man who killed his parents! Now on a blind mission of revenge, Kenner forgets all of his calm, cool and collected Samurai wisdom and just wants to shove a red hot poker up Yoshida's bum. Murata joins the crusade on the condition they do it right as they fuck up Yoshida's drug network while picking up disgraced club singer turned Kenner love interest Minako Okeya (Tia Carrere).

Directed by Commando's Mark L. Lester with a script by Stephen Glantz and Caliope Brattlestreet, Showdown is pure 80's and 90's over the top, cliche ridden action/martial arts cheese that makes little sense but is also extremely entertaining. David Michael Frank's awesome synth meets guitar soundtrack is also a nice touch of the era. Lundgren and Lee have great chemistry with Kenner being the stoic muscleman who knows about the ancient ways of Bushido, is honorable to a near fault, builds log cabins and can flip cars while Murata is a sheltered, easygoing guy who likes to fight, can do back flips off cocktail tables, wouldn't mind a Porsche and just wants to work in Malibu. There's a terrific cast involved with just about every Asian actor/stuntman you could want. Joining Tagawa you get Toshishiro Obata (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Phillip Tan (Tango & Cash), Simon Rhee (Best of the Best), Roger Yuan (The Perfect Weapon), Gerald Okamura (Big Trouble In Little China) and Steve Park (In Living Color).  The great Terry Leonard (Raiders of the Lost Ark) handles stunts with a crew that includes Jeff Imada (Big Trouble), James Lew (Best of the Best) and Al Leong (Die Hard) while Chuck Norris disciple Pat E. Johnson (The Karate Kid) helped choreograph the fights.

There's plenty of action and muscle on display as we get Dolph showing off his most jacked and defined physique in tank tops and plenty of shirtless scenes while kicking and throwing perps across rooms, flipping a classic car, jump kicking over a moving one and pressing his way out of a crushed other. Lee shows off his nimble martial arts acumen with a style reminiscent of his famous father's bouncing fluidity but still all his own. Lots of gunfights throughout with bad guys shooting a million times and missing while Dolph fires once and finds his mark. A traditional kendo style sword fight in the streets of Little Tokyo wraps things up, after Kenner gets shot through the chest and then the bad guy inexplicably blows up...and there's even a training montage with an oiled up Dolph practicing his sword play and jump kicks. There's plenty of one liners, bad jokes and awkward dialog delivery throughout about dick size, hearing someone coming and having the right to be dead but luckily the script doesn't veer into any super cheap Asian cracks. While the villains might be typical movie gangsters, the near genetically perfect blonde hero wants to be Japanese and is assisted by a half Chinese sidekick and a Hawaiian love interest.

Studio Warner Brothers was reportedly very high on the reported $8 million dollar film, hoping to capitalize on Dolph's Rocky IV heat and being Brandon Lee's first American film. Lester had already directed the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Commando and action movies featuring larger than life heroes/physical specimens who used guns and martial arts to beat the bad guys were in demand thanks to Stallone, Arnold, Seagal and Van Damme. However early test screenings sucked the support from the film and smelling a loser, WB recut the film down to 79 minutes and only released the film theatrically in the United States, Mexico, Italy, Israel and Hungary. Reviews were mixed with the action, violence, sex and buddy theatrics praised or looked down upon. Opening in only 140 theaters, Showdown would gross $2.3 million bucks in America while it ranked #9 on Hungary's Top 10 of the year. In an interesting bit of Dammaged Goods coincidence, Showdown opened on August 23rd of 1991, the same weekend as fellow Craption! study Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.

Showdown would be the end of Dolph's career as a theatrical leading man after post Rocky IV roles in Masters of the Universe, Red Scorpion, The Punisher and I Come In Peace failed to ignite the box office. Lundgren would bounce back as the villainous Sgt. Andrew Scott in Carolco's mini-Terminator sci-fi/action/karate effort Universal Soldier opposite the up and coming Jean-Claude Van Damme. At only 26 years old, Brandon Lee was on his way after co-starring with David Carradine in a Kung Fu TV movie and low budget films from Hong Kong and South Africa. Deals with Fox and Carolco were signed and post Showdown starring vehicle Rapid Fire would be a solid showcase for him while grossing a respectable $14 million at the box office. Lee's next film, The Crow, would be a dramatic change of pace for the martial arts actor playing a murdered musician who comes back from the dead to make things right. Lee was sadly killed in an on set accident involving a dummy bullet stuck in the barrel of a prop gun.The film was finished using stunt men and digital effects and grossed a sturdy $50 million bucks upon release, spurring several sequels and a TV show.

As years pass, Dolph has always been complimentary of Lee's work and Showdown experienced a rise in popularity following his death. The film has lived on with action aficionados to become a bit of a cult classic with the scene of Japanese businessmen eating sushi off of naked women being particularly remembered.  A Showdown or Lee question always seems to pop up during Q&A while  Lundgren's cameo on Comedy Central's Workaholics hinged on one of the character's asking about the sushi scene.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Van Dammage: Eternal

Jean-Claude Van Damme is still in Los Angeles hanging out, going to the gym and setting up his next projects. On the horizon is a potential re-teaming with Pound of Flesh helmer Ernie Barbarash for an unknown project to be shot in JCVD's native Belgium. Then there's the second half of the Kickboxer reboot where Van Damme will now play the trainer to Alain Moussi's Kurt Sloan. The Muscles From Brussels has also completed a small villain role in the Chinese comedy Jian Bing Man which translates to The Pancake Man. Our man Van also popped up on a recent edition of UFC announcer Bruce Buffer's podcast It's Time where the two discussed meeting at a Hollywood club, running into each other at Gold's Gym and Van Damme's take on Mixed Martial Arts. A long time fan of the sport, Van Damme has worked out with the likes of Mirko CroCop and Georges St. Pierre. He's eagerly anticipating the title fight between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor and thinks they both have the tools to win but challenger McG is just a bit hungrier. 

Workout of the Day: The Power of Carl Compels You

After a month of my take on the Daniel Craig circuit routine, it was time to change things up. While it's good to lift weights to keep your bones strong and body working, as you get older, cardio and flexibility become a bigger part of the equation. So does what you eat but you know, I like to eat. It's no secret that guys like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Arnold Schwarzenegger start their day with empty stomach cardio. For Van Damme it's the stationary bike with some kicking and stretching, for Johnson it's the elliptical machine and for The Oak it's the bike as well. But riding a bike or elliptical for 35-45 minutes just sounds frigging horrible to me. Instead, I opt for either an empty morning weight session or Frank Zane style ab-aerobics.

For weights if I'm not doing circuits it's supersets for Chest/Biceps, Back/Triceps, Legs and Shoulders/Arms. To change things up, I'm throwing in sessions with more functional for the whole body exercises like Weight Sled Push, Battling Ropes, Step Ups and body weight favorites Chins and Push Ups. I push to get my weight sessions done in 35-45 minutes so the tempo stays high and since you're on an empty stomach, energy and focus can start to fade.

For cardio and to keep things interesting I employ Zane's method of doing any particular exercise for 1-2 minutes then moving onto an ab exercise, repeat. At home that's looking like Treadmill on an incline, Stationary Bike, Stair Climber, Jump Rope and Shadow Boxing. That way you're not getting bored and you can push it with some intervals. If you don't have access to a gym you can always get a jump rope for under $10 bucks and run sprints, do jumping jacks and mountain climbers and shadow box. A few rounds of this and before you know it, 25-30 minutes has passed. It feels good to break a nice sweat but just remember to cool off by taking a few minutes to do some focused breathing and thinking about your goals. That way you're not still frazzled and sweaty trying to get ready for the day. A few sips of ice water supposedly tells your body to stop sweating and I find sitting down in front of a fan for a few minutes while I read e-mails releases any lingering tension.

It's almost Anime Expo, San Diego Comic-Con and D23 time so keep pushing!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What the Chuck?! The Delta Force

After a nice morning workout it was time to finish up one of Chuck Norris' greatest flicks and successes, 1986's The Delta Force. A full on Cannon production as co-studio head Menahem Golan directed the flick and co-wrote with regular Norris and company collaborator James Bruner. Inspired by the 1985 Trans World Airlines hijacking where Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad members took control of Flight 847 and demanded the release of 700 Shi'ite Muslims from Israeli custody. Passengers of Jewish descent were separated from the others, traveling military personnel were beaten, U.S. Navy Diver Robert Stethem was killed and it took two weeks and intervention from then U.S. President Ronald Reagan along with Lebanese officials to free the remaining hostages. The hijackers original demands were met when Israel released over 700 prisoners. Many of the original perpetrators remain at large while one was arrested in 1987, sentenced to life in prison but paroled in 2005.

In the film, events more or less unfold as they did in reality for the first half. We meet Captain Scott McCoy (Norris) during the disastrous Operation Eagle Claw where poor planning and communication, unexpected conditions and inefficient training ended with the deaths of eight Delta Force members and the failure of rescuing hostages in Iran. Tired of the bureaucrats planning and his men dying, McCoy resigns after rescuing his teammate Pete Peterson (William Wallace) from an exploded helicopter. Cut to five years later and New World Revolution terrorist Abdul (Robert Forster) and one accomplice hijack a plane waving guns and grenades. Passengers with Jewish sounding names are separated, three military divers are beaten and the hostages come to grips with the possibility of dying. Meanwhile the smartass and crusty Colonel Nick Alexander (Lee Marvin) is given the greenlight to make up for Eagle Claw and get the hostages free. McCoy gets the call and rejoins his crew which includes Bobby (the always great Steve James) and Pete. It's a good thing McCoy came voluntarily because Alexander had a Presidential decree ordering him back to service.

While the events that inspired the film are harrowing, frustrating and sad, the film derived is a fantastic time in the 80's vein of action film that no longer exists. In actuality, The Delta Force is a bit of a odd case as it's part docudrama, part deeply cast disaster movie and part ridiculously entertaining action movie. Joining Norris, Marvin, Forster and James are familiar faces from the 60's and 70's like Rat Packer Joey Bishop, 12 Angry Men's Martin Balsam, The Inglorious Bastards' Bo Svenson, The Magnificent Seven's Robert Vaughn and The Poseidon Adventure's Shelley Winters. There's plenty of human drama in the first hour as families are separated, there's flashbacks to the Holocaust, the young Navy diver is killed and dumped on the runway and the Jewish hostages are taken while the women and children are released. This all builds up for a cathartic second hour where the commandos are given the go ahead and resources to bring the hostages home.

After landing in Beirut, the movie veers from history and gives us the story many viewers would like to have seen. Basically, the Delta Force commandos roll in on dune-buggy's and motorbikes to take out the bad guys with extreme prejudice. Like this is how America kicks ass, extreme prejudice. Working with Mossad intelligence, McCoy and Pete infiltrate the terrorist hive where their local contact is taken by Abdul and plunges to his death. His sacrifice doesn't go wasted as Chuck and his buddies do the Damme thing and show up to get the job done. There's three sites where hostages are being held and rolling in under the cover of darkness with blue lights on their vehicles and U.S. flag patches on their shoulders, it's finally showtime. By this point the action takes us by air, land and sea and into the streets. You get a pretty destructive car chase with Chuck hanging out the side firing his Uzi and several jeeps and cars being flipped and exploded. Then there's the mass hostage rescue where McCoy and Bobby blow out the floor from beneath, emerge and waste the terrorists using machine guns and night vision goggles. Plenty of baddies get riddled with squibs and tumble down stairs, Steve James gives a strong thumbs up and Chuck wastes a dude hiding under a bed then delivers "sleep tight, sucker". Outside, the main force attacks with missile equipped motorcycles and dune buggy's mounted with M-60's in a hail of explosions and property damage.

The physical stunts and destruction are pretty incredible. McCoy uses a bazooka to blow up some bad guys then takes a zip line down the building because Marvin's Alexander is in a hurry. Gunfire and squibs destroy rooms and bodies, motorcycles ramp and fly all over the place, flames burn right next to actors, every other car explodes, Norris and James fire bazookas near simultaneously then shake hands and the final big stunt involves Chuck Norris' double chasing a moving airplane, riding on on the seat of a motorcycle, grabbing a rope and climbing up...it's just terrific stuff set to Alan Silvestri's exciting and way overused yet effective electronic score. Then when McCoy catches up to Abdul, it's payback time to the max as Chuck flies in through a window on his motorbike and proceeds to thrash Abdul with punches, karate kicks and Judo throws all over the house through furniture, out a window, smashes his arm in a car door then blows him up with a rocket from his bike. Phew!

Once the hostages are freed and everyone is headed home, the Delta Force hands out cans of Budweiser beer and everyone sings "America, The Beautiful" before coming back to reality as Pete dies from his wounds. With their families waiting, the freed hostages celebrate while Delta Force carries off their dead and heads off to their next mission. I couldn't help but think this would make a great double feature with 1990's Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn starring Navy Seals, another middle eastern terrorist tinged tale of heroism, sacrifice, skill, one liners and showcase of America's ass kicking acumen. Originally set to star Cannon's "two Chucks" Norris and Bronson, the latter fell out over unknown reasons. Probably financial as they both took home up to $5 million a picture. Marvin made his deal within 20 minutes after speaking with Golan and settled for a somewhat paltry $50,000 for 8 weeks of shooting towards the end of his career. Marvin was a much better choice than Bronson at this point as he was still lithe, dignified and trim while Charlie was no longer the granite featured muscleman of his youth.

Opening on Valentine's Day of 1986, The Delta Force grossed nearly $6 million at 1,720 theaters behind Down and Out in Beverly Hills and The Color Purple on it's way to a $17.7 million total. That put it at #50 for the year but would be one of Norris' highest earners alongside Missing in Action, The Octagon, A Force of One and Good Guys Wear Black. 1990's sequel would earn less than half of the original. The Delta Force would be Oscar winner Lee Marvin's final film as he died in 1987. Cool and buff sidekick Steve James would go on to re-team with American Ninja star Michael Dudikoff in Cannon's Avenging Force and Ninja sequel The Confrontation before showing up as Norris' cop buddy in Hero and the Terror. James sadly passed away in 1993. Cannon Films would be on it's last legs as 1987's costly trio of under performers Over the Top, Superman IV and Masters of the Universe along with a crashing bond market spelled doom for the mini-major known for genre and art house films alike.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer Cinema: Jurassic World

Opening nearly 22 years after the original, Jurassic World picks up where Jurassic Park left in 1993. Earning a robust $18.5 million on Thursday, JW is expected to gross a giant $125 million this weekend. It was surprisingly bustling at the Cinemark Playa Vista where their Jameson and Ginger Beers made the film more enjoyable than it probably actually was. *TIP* Get two dranks before you go into the theatre * While JW has it's moments, it's also filled with cliches and the human characters are less interesting and have less to do than the dinosaurs.

The flick finds Jurassic World fully recovered from the events of 1993's Jurassic Park where the genetically modified dinosaurs made from original DNA mixed with frog samples run amok and kill visitors. Now a Disney meets Seaworld joint where 20,000 goers are boated in, there's shopping, a luxury hotel, water shows and safari-type attractions. Little kids Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are sent by their parents because auntie Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) runs the show. In a world of easily lost interest, the park's owner Simon (Irrfan Khan) is always looking for the next cool attraction to spike attendance. In this case, a bigger and scarier dinosaur with more teeth. Returning character Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) obliges and they've concocted a hybrid creature known as Indominus Rex which turns out to be smart, aware and able to camouflage itself...Meanwhile former Navy guy Owen (Chris Pratt looking real Steve McQueen-ish) is busy training raptors to be his homeboys that Hoskins (Vincent D'onofrio) wants to weaponize and use to replace troops in war. Of course shit goes bad, Indominus Rex escapes, the kids are stuck in the park and off we go.

Jurassic World has it's moments. There's humor, adventure, thrills and scares. They build on the story Park created and include it here. There's even cameos from Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm on book covers and Richard Attenborough's John Hammond as a statue. I was surprised that the dinosaurs were given such vital roles in the story as Transformers and Godzilla mistakenly focused on the BS human crap then left 15 minutes for the title characters doing their smashy smashy. But the raptors, T-Rex, I-Rex and Shamu-saurus (what I'm calling the water based attraction/huge dino) basically make shit happen and resolve the conflict. Howard's Claire and Pratt's Owen have a nice rapport that the lady described as Han Solo and Princess Leia-esque which I'd have to agree with. My biggest issue with the film is the kind of schlocky and tired storyline of weaponizing the dinosaurs. Didn't we already see this in the Alien series? Or in part JP2 when the mercenaries show up wanting to take some creatures back to the lab? The hybrid dinosaur felt like it came straight from a SyFy movie, I mean come on, they made history's most terrifying killer, more terrifying, with special powers! As did the whole, how do you take out a dinosaur? With more and bigger dinosaurs! Then D'onofrio's chubby, "probably never served in the military but wants to be a hero" character spouts out cliche lines like "that's above your pay grade" and "light it up!" The mainly CGI dinosaurs was also kind of a turn off as the first shot is a computer generated claw breaking out of an egg so you know what you're in for.

Jurassic Park is of course by far and away the best of the series but I would still put World behind part III. That's probably half nostalgia because it includes original characters Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler but also because it's got some real scares in it and the dinosaurs are frigging mean! They're also mainly practical puppets so it feels more convincing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

BuzzFlick: Gin and Jurassic Park III

Jurassic World opens tonight and I have my overpriced ticket for Cinemark's version of Fake IMAX. Gotta get my time in at the new Playa Vista location before Whole Foods opens and ruins it for everyone. Unlike AMC or The Arclight, Cinemark does not offer any kind of reward program so any money you drop there does not get anything back for you. Anyways, everybody has seen Jurassic Park but I missed III in theaters and watched it on DVD once so it was time to revisit. With some No. Ten Gin from Tanqueray I got ready to head back to 2001 and while finishing the bottle I observed the following:

- Opening scene is a guy and a kid para sailing near the Jurassic Park Islands. Hey, the guy is Davis (Mark Harelik) from hit 90's sitcom Wings! Name of the company is Dino-Soar. CLASSIC.
- Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (mother fudging Sam Neil) aren't together anymore?! When the hell did this happen?!
- Sam Neil, you da man. Grant role was offered to Harrison Ford?! Think of that!
- Alessandro Nivola as Grant's sidekick aka Pollox Troy from Face/Off! Tongue sammich anyone?
 - Whoa, 2001 3D printer prototype for raptor skull whistle!
- Practical raptor sitting on plane, gah!
- Movie is pretty violent with some nice thrills and scares. Nice mix of CGI and puppets.
- That dinosaur was like, "gonna have to roll it"! (Plane cabin to get the humans out)
- It's like a reverse horror movie, instead of sexually promiscuous getting deaded, guys with guns do. Or like Predator...no sport!
- That little kid Eric (Trevor Morgan) is from The Patriot! You know? The Patriot? Where Mel Gibson is the best dad in the universe? Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's final collaboration? Hold on let me find you a clip. (Pauses to watch Mel Gibson being a fucking awesome dad)
- Aliens reference with the tube in the lab and the dead specimen not being dead!
- William H. Macy from Tim Allen's Wild Hogs ladies and gentlemen!
- Tea Leoni, so awkward hot in Bad Boys, you hear 3 is being written by Joe Carnahan?
- You climb K2 brah? You know Michael Biehn and Matt Craven, brah?
-  Joe Johnston directed, hell yeah! Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, The Rocketeer, Captain America and Hidalgo with VIGGGGGOOOOO!
- John Diehl from Miami Vice! Eaten! This movie is pretty violent!
- Michael Jeter from Tango and Cash! Synthesizer! Gun boots! RV from hell!
- Man Tea Leoni needs to listen to Dr. Grant and stop being dumb.
- Uh that dinosaur just broke Jeter's neck after they already mauled and stabbed him to death. Shit.
- Allegedly cost $93 million to make and grossed $181 in the states and $363 million worldwide. Good enough for #9 for the year behind the likes of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Rush Hour 2, Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor and Ocean's Eleven.
- Way better than Lost World by lack of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and his annoying ass daughter.
- Aliens again with little kid living in duct hiding from creatures.
- That is one big can of pork and beans.
- Malcolm was high on himself and everything about chaos..."fuck Jeff Goldblum".
- That dinosaur was straight eavesdropping! They seem so mean and bitter and...human in this!
- Oh man Pollux is hiding something, maybe it's some nitro, get it out of the sun!
- Aw shit. Literally. Walked into the wrong bird cage...
- Can't believe Pollux just left him like that! Oh he's actually rescuing The Patriot kid...
- Dr. Grant just Van Damme'd that Pterodactyl with a crescent kick to the face!
- That pterodactyl just turned and looked into my soul.
- I feel like I'd leave my shirt untucked if I was running for my life from killer dinosaurs and just saw my friend get pecked to death by a bunch of asshole dinosaurs. But that's why he's Dr. Grant and I'm some guy blogging and dranking.
- Majestic stegosaurus shot with Jurassic Park theme, awwwoooo!
- Digging through steaming piles of shit looking for a lifeline satellite phone, it's like a reality show waiting to happen. Red faced unicorn dinosaur just showed up too and leaves.
- Barney is on TV. Kids love that purple dinosaur. Like they love Jean-Claude Van Damme.
- I wonder how many full size animatronic dinosaurs they built for this show. Where are they now?
- Punch that raptor, Tea Leoni! Establish dominance!
- The Navy and The Marines showed up, where the hell is Michael Biehn?!
- Oh shit the dactyls are out and headed to your house!
- Alexander Payne co-wrote?! Mother fucking Sideways up in here. You ever drink red wine with Sprite and or Coke? Really gives it some effervescence.
- Larry Franco produced. Kurt Russell's former brother in law, producer of Tango & Cash, Big Trouble In Little China and Batman Begins.

Well that was a fast and surprisingly exciting and slightly harrowing 90 minutes. Bring on World!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Paneled Goods: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos VS the Half Ad

Don't you hate being advertised to? You go see a movie and there's a commercial for Coke. You watch a video on YouTube and get 5 to 30 seconds of car spiel. Applications sans ads cost extra. DVR's and Tivo were invented so you could watch your favorite programs whenever you wanted AND skip over commercials selling you soap. Comic books have long subsided on lots of random advertising. Most ads consisted of  How to Get Girls and Muscles or sending away for X-Ray Glasses. I always love reading old comic books versus graphic novels because you get some great advertisements sometimes, my favorite being Hostess brands shelling their delectable cupcakes and fruit pies. Reading through a stack of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos I'm getting a lot of ads targeting young men who need to finish high school, get taller, get girls, learn karate or lift weights.

Comic books are a tough racket. We're experiencing a growth of young readers but for decades it was the 30 and over crowd who started reading as kids still supporting the market. In the 90's, comics were good for flipping through but not exactly high quality, costing $1.00 with an extra .06 in tax. Nowadays, 22 pages of panels, art and balloons runs $4 bucks but comes with cardstock covers and glossy pages. Advertising is always changing so why should comic book marketing be any different? Some publishers pushed ads to the last pages while I remember being shocked by an issue of Batman in the mid-2000's where every other page was an ad. Detective Comics ticked off some readers again when an excerpt showed a page of half content and half Nick Lachey Twix bar ad. While I couldn't recall seeing something like that in the past, I wasn't all that surprised by the development.

Cut to me reading Sgt. Fury # 86 from April of 1971 when I saw it, two pages of half content and half ads! In this case, Centre Coin out of Sherman Oaks, California would pay you $10,000 bucks for a certain Lincoln Penny or I could gain Strong Man Sex Appeal in only 10 minutes with no weights or bars using Mike Marvel's Dynaflex Method instead! Huh, sounds kinda familiar doesn't it? You still see $$ for Gold and BeachBody's P90X and Insanity guarantee results in just 30 minutes a day. As far as the ads go, I can't recall ever seeing the half page format like this during my formative years and it was the first to show up in vintage Fury.

Doing a quick search, Centre Coin didn't come up but there was a surprising amount of information on Mike Marvel's Dynaflex Methods available. Basically, like Charles Atlas, Marvel taught a variation of isometrics. Not even advocating bodyweight exercises that can be done with little or no equipment like push ups, body squats or chins mind you. No we're talking stretching, flexing your muscles, crumpling newspaper for your forearms and breathing exercises. There's even sections on how to drive a nail into a board and lift a car! The course is pretty thorough and includes a basic diet plan that still holds up today; eat frequently and in moderation, take in vitamin rich foods and stay away from deep fried or excessively sweet offerings. REMEMBER: MILK AND MEAT MEAN MASSIVE MUSCLES!

Thanks, Mike Marvel. Until the next Hostess Fruit Pie ad, MAKE MINE MARVEL!

Gotta Hear! The Action Elite Podcast w/ Dammaged Goods

Here's a first for Dammaged Goods, participating in a podcast! I'm slowly making my way through the pools of modern technology, bear with me. After meeting Eoin from The Action Elite in person and discussing Van Damme, Arnold, Dolph and our favorite flicks in depth, we decided to continue the chat via podcast. The Action Elite is the premiere action movie site around with tons of news articles, reviews, interviews and more. We only meant to chat for an hour but had so much to discuss we ended up going past 90 minutes.

- What is Dammaged Goods?
- Hollywood premieres of Skin Trade and Pound of Flesh
- Eoin meeting Jean-Claude Van Damme
- Our favorite Dolph Lundgren and Van Damme movies
- Movies we liked this year, ones we didn't and ones we're looking forward to
- Conan the Barbarian double feature at The Egyptian

And a whole lot more! So put us on during your drive or while you're at home cleaning and get ready for some #ActionMovieBro goodness. Thanks again for having me!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer Cinema: Entourage

Knocked off season 8 of Entourage last week to prep for the big screen adaptation. I didn't realize there were only 8 episodes so it was a quick couple of binge watches. We leave Vince (Adrian Grenier) about to get married in Paris, E (Kevin Connolly) flying off with pregnant on again, off again lover Sloan (Emmanuelle chriqui), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) becoming a millionaire due to his tequila company, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) about to experience a career resurgence and Ari (Jeremy Piven) giving up his talent agency to save his marriage. Entourage the movie negates all of that. But I wasn't upset about it as the flick is fun, consistently funny and filled with cameos from the likes of actors, athletes and business types.

Directed by Doug Ellin and co-written by Rob Weiss, the film picks up 9 days after the show's finale. We find Vince surrounded by women on a yacht as his marriage to Sophia (an unseen Alice Eve) has come undone and their union will be annulled. E and Sloane couldn't work out their shit, Turtle is just chilling being a millionaire and courting MMA champ Ronda Rousey, Drama's show with Andrew Dice Clay has been canceled and Ari taking control of a studio. His first project? Vincent's directorial debut, Hyde, a big budget, futuristic thriller about a DJ who has Jekyll and Hyde disorder and some supernatural powers. Going over budget and needing more money, Ari deals with Texas magnate Blah (Billy Bob Thornton) and his shithead kid Blah (a bearded Haley Joel Osmont looking a lot like Richard Karn from Home Improvement). Parties, women problems, pregnancy classes, pregnancy and STD scares, buff Ronda Rousey, photo punching, homosexual wedding planning, life on a Hollywood lot and cameos galore ensues.

Like the show, the crew is shown having a good time, possibly facing a career ending catastrophe and ultimately coming out on top. The routine formula somehow doesn't wear out it's welcome in the film as the heightened reality version of Hollywood and taking your big shot still provides laughs, gasps and celebration. Cameos by the likes of Liam Neeson, various models and athletes, Warren Buffett, Jessica Alba and David Spade come fast and furious with most of them playing asshole versions of themselves. Producer and partial inspiration for the series Mark Wahlberg shows up in a funny scene doing his funny gangsta impression while also hocking his nutrition line, upcoming sequel to Ted, water company and A&E television show effortlessly.

The flick moves pretty fast and provides a satisfying end that I'm sure could be destroyed by a sequel. Like all HBO shows, early seasons were known for their sex and nudity but tapered off as the final stretch had nary an exposed breast or buttock. The film makes up for it in spades though with lots of sex and nudity, surprisingly so. After salary negotiations slowed down development, it's said that Piven received $5 million to return (wow he must have a good agent!) while the guys each got around $2 million. Supposedly budgeted at a modest $30 million, Entourage has grossed $18 million since it's release last Wednesday. Looks like audiences weren't clamoring for an extended episode as much as they were for Sex In the City. But if Doug Ellin and crew get the greenlight for another go round, I'll be there to check it out.