Sunday, May 29, 2016

Van Dammage: Day of Days II

As you should have gathered by now, it's been a long few weeks and months with my office project finally being completed but there's still lots to do. Many days I didn't feel like I could get ahead and just this week I to pop in at 11:00 PM and be back at 5:00 AM. An end of day meeting invite turned out to be a ruse as I walked into a room and there he was, again, the one and only JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME. With him was long time assistant Kathy and a man I recognized instantly as Kamel Krifa, a childhood friend of JCVD turned actor, trainer and choreographer who popped up as the bartender in Double Impact ("just the way you like it boss, very hot") among many other flicks as well as a young fit, tattooed covered gentleman who handles the social media. I was totally surprised, thinking I'd walked into and interrupted a meeting but it was all planned in a wonderfully thoughtful gesture after some very long weeks.

Mr. Van Damme rose to his feet to shake my hand, at first looking a little tired and mentioning the photos we took the last time we met. We chatted about his recently wrapped Amazon show from Ridley Scott and Peter Atencio, how he had just flown in and was dead tired at the Hollywood Keanu premiere and how they wanted him to play a passive trainer in the Kickboxer remake which he said he couldn't so they added some unique fight scenes. A September release is in the works but JCVD is not involved with the currently shooting part III. By now Van Damme is coming to life, animated, smiling and joking around as he playfully pulled my sleeve up, complimenting my chest and biceps. For a guy who is world famous, arguably the most well known person from an entire country, inspired millions to follow their dreams and hit the gym, Van Damme is very funny, humble and makes you feel at ease nearly immediately.

Now it's time for some photos and knowing JCVD's talent as an artist, I suggest he sign the social wall which leads to a doodle of a muscular man performing a jump kick. We joke about Stallone and Seagal, Van Damme does a hilarious impression of Stallone, and then strips off his sweater and tells me we have to roll our sleeves up to flex. But holy cow are his arms ripped and I did not want to try and compete so I played up the "whaaaa" factor instead. We take lots of photos messing around, in the karate "on guard" position then bring in the rest of the team to take some funny group shots. A giant teddy bear had caught Van Damme's eye and he ran over to take some more hilarious photos.

People in the office are drifting over wondering what the heck is going on because we were having a little party. I chatted with Kamel a bit who was super cool as we talked Double Impact, my screenings with Sheldon Lettich, him knowing Jean-Claude since they were teens, how he ended up in Los Angeles, popping up in Under Siege and working choreography with Seagal and his death scene in Maximum Risk. I look forward to doing a full interview with him in the future.

I had now had my second once in a lifetime encounter with the second most influential man in my life behind my father, several dozen photos and a beaming smile that would last until the next day. It was a firm reminder to keep pushing, keep training, keep smiling and of course, keep it #MEGAPOSITIVE.

Summer Cinema: X-Men Apocalypse

The summer cinematic superhero season continues as X-Men: Apocalypse is poised to pass $200 million worldwide by the end of the long Memorial Day weekend. It's been an interesting road for the genetically mutated and wondrously powered X-Men after Fox bought the screen rights from Carolco's bankruptcy and placed Bryan Singer at the helm with Wolverine at the forefront. 2000's X-Men was the first of it's kind and with Spider-Man, ushered in the big budget comic book era we currently live in. Back then comic book movies were still wildly uneven and X-Men was given a decent if unspectacular $75 million budget and a mid-level cast of familiar faces and strong actors if not box office stars like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Halle Berry. Production was stopped twice and it's July box office success was a bit of a shock. Afraid to truly embrace the comic book nature of bright costumes and whiz bang action, X-Men tries to ground things in reality, makes being a mutant akin to being a suppressed homosexual or tortured prisoner of war and the costumes are very The Matrix-esque with black leather replacing blue and yellow tights.

Fox has always chased the stars as X2 put Halle Berry's Storm up front after the actress won an Oscar. The same happened after Jennifer Lawrence went supernova in The Hunger Games and all of a sudden the shape shifting henchman Mystique was now a lead character. Minor character Gambit, played by Taylor Kitsch in Origins: Wolverine was now going to be a standalone film starring Channing Tatum, hot off of Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street but after diminishing returns on Jupiter Ascending and Magic Mike 2, the project has seemingly gone quiet. While X2 became a standard of quality in the genre, X-Men 3 suffered from a troubled production which saw Bryan Singer jump ship to DC and Warner Brothers for the ill fated Superman Returns, replacement Matthew Vaughn left shortly before production was to begin and Brett Ratner was brought in last minute, smashed two scripts together and became the franchises' whipping boy even though his effort is totally watchable and leaps and bounds better than Origins: Wolverine.

First Class breathed new life into the franchise by taking the action back to the 60's but the film grossed less than the four films that preceded it. Fox made the wise move of blending the original X-Men trilogy with the new cast while more or less rebooting the series with Days of Future Past and grossed a franchise high $747 million bucks. Then the long gestating Deadpool turned the genre on it's head with a modestly budgeted, foul mouthed and violent R-rated juggernaut to become the highest grossing film in the series. Now comes X-Men: Apocalypse where our heroes and villains battle a powerful mutant from Egyptian times. We're reintroduced to the likes of optic blasting Scott Summers aka Cyclops, super telekinetic Jean Grey and the blue skinned teleporter Nightcrawler who are now youngsters in the 80's. Sitting in the darkened theater I was surprised how much I enjoyed the film. No X-flick has truly been great but after 16 years, it seemed like they were finally embracing the comic books and Apocalypse was the X-Men'iest film to date. While some might be frustrated at the shoe horned number of characters in the film, they're all given their five minutes, even if that means no one gets to stand out or really shine. I just had fun watching so many characters, many in costume, flying and jumping and running and fighting while using their powers in a world that was finally simply presented instead of explained.

Sure you could nitpick about lack of character development or epic-ness and questionable CGI but overall I had an excellent time and would see it again. Though for a film set in the 80's there's a distinct lack of neon, synth, Dazzler and awesomely 80's as hell Longshot, the dude with spiky blonde hair, a mullet and a black leather outfit. On an even more personal level, I was just happy to see Cyclops not be the bitch of the series like James Marsden's version was in the past. I laughed out loud when we got a glimpse of his 90's style outfit where straps, pouches and shoulder pads were all the rage. Franchise fatigue has definitely set in for the X-Men as reviews have not been kind and box office grosses coming in lower than projected. Contracts for stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are all fulfilled. Fox is already focusing on a Deadpool sequel, X-Force and The New Mutants but young Cyke, Jean and Nightcrawler Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee are all signed on for at least two more films. The stage is set for a kinetic and action packed, more contained story set in the 90's so here's hoping we get it.

Gotta Eat & Drank! Sambar

On Thursday night we hit Culver City for some happy hour and latest X-Men flick, Apocalypse. Since moving to the west side, we've slowly discovered some cool and favorite spots around the Marina Del Rey and Culver City area. Downtown Culver City is quite beautiful with classic architecture and a bevy of spots to eat and drank like Rush Street, Honey Kettle Fried Chicken, Lyfe Kitchen, City Tavern, The Culver Hotel and Coldstone for dessert. That also brings people in so finding a seat can get tricky if you don't time it right. There's plenty of places to check out but we were running late and missed Happy Hour at several joints, one ended at 5:45 PM, what the f*ck...Across the street from the Arclight is Sambar, a beautifully built Thai and Indian infused restaurant. It felt pretty classy but service was very friendly as we sidled up to the bar and ordered cocktails, lamb meatballs, spicy calamari, bacon and cheese naan and chicken masala. The bartender was whipping up some test cocktails and gave us one to try, it was smooth and tasty. The food was all excellent, very light, well spiced and flavorful. Full, slightly buzzed and happy, we made our way to the theater. Sambar's Happy Hour runs 4:00 - 7:00 PM Tuesday to Sunday and we'll definitely be back.

Paneled Goods: G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero # 228

Today we're joined by guest writer Diana Davis, a G.I. Joe expert and owner of Gallery of Duke. We met while putting together the awesome Sunbow Celebration at The Egyptian Theatre where the movie, comic book and Joe aficionado set up some terrific pieces from her extensive collection of G.I. Joe field leader Conrad "Duke" Hauser that included rare design sketches, toys and more.

Earlier this month, comic book history was quietly made. Comic fandom was given exactly what they’ve been asking for, and most of the ones doing the asking probably missed it. Was it the fault of the publisher or IP holder? Was it the faults of the thousands of fans who should have been reading, but for whatever reasons reality and experts unearth- haven’t? No matter the hows or the whys, the Larry Hama scripted G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero # 228 was 100% female, and hardly anyone noticed. The protagonists were women. The antagonists were women. The incidental characters were women. Not one man, in one panel, on one page for the entire book. You know what else was missing? T & A. No booty shots or boob windows. No licking the barrels of guns with fingers frighteningly placed on the trigger. No need to take the cover back to the artist and demand he cover up any leather-clad asscheecks with M-16 clipart. 

This is a comic you can hand to your daughters. Or your son without wondering if the pages will be sticking together when he gives it back. Full disclosure: I’ve been a GI Joe fanatic since 1983. Second disclosure: I am a female. Let’s get this out of the way. Comic readers are by far people in an age bracket that fully embraces romance and sexuality. Both male and female heroes can sport skin-tight costumes that reveal attractive bodies that are enjoyed by male and female readers. The real issue for me is the gaze, and the context. Does the costume or pose make much sense? Many make no sense, and not just because they’re drawn by men who like skin tight costumes on a cold lonely night. Sometimes, they’re just silly- like the jacket craze of the nineties. But if there’s no real reason to draw a character, male or female, butt in the air or boobs in your face, beyond giving Jimmy a little boost through puberty, than it’s kind of an obvious kowtow to the male gaze. …and if the women in the comic don’t actually do anything but pose, sleep with, get rescued by/tied up/seduce and cling to the men, then I’m not only not buying it, I’m going to have a twingey, eye-twitchy moment when I walk by it on the rack or by you at a con. But that’s not really a problem with any GI Joe comic, save for a few issues in the aforementioned nineties when they barely dodged the “everyone gets a trenchcoat” phase but not the amazingly mobile hair and insectoid body with inflated boobs and tiny feet trend. 

The modern era of Joe, from 1983 on, has been remarkably open minded and fair when it comes to representing a spectrum of characters as actual human beings and not token guest appearances or condescending “girl power” PSA episodes. Having a massive cast and a solid team of writers on the comic and cartoon provided the kids of America with a Joe who not only looked like them, but acted in a fashion they could aspire to. We’ll just forget about that baseball issue, shall we? And yes, the Baroness is a cavalcade of male fantasies tied together, but not in her actual on screen or on page form. You can thank the fanboys and a few toy sculptors for that. Just please stop asking voice actor Morgan Lofting to record dirty phone voicemail messages. She doesn’t like it. (She doesn’t. Really.) Still, the history of GI Joe in the media has, in fact, been one that stands above the rest in terms of representation in terms of gender and ethnicity. So I really didn’t expect Larry Hama to do anything less than tiptoe up to a stereotype and smash it to tiny pieces. Such is a comic like GI Joe, A Real American Hero # 228, published by IDW, drawn by Shannon Gallant, and inked by Brian Shearer and colored by J. Brown. Gallant, Shearer and Brown also collaborated on a set of covers that I would love to hang on my wall.

Summer Cinema: Captain America Civil War

This is a little late but remember when I told you I've been busy?! Of course we kicked off the summer cinema season with a Thursday, May 4th screening of Captain America: Civil War at The Arclight Hollywood in laser 3D. We followed it up with a 2D screening at The Chinese Theatre's luxurious but still not real sized IMAX that Saturday. My original consensus was that Civil War was a terrific Marvel film with excellent action, lots of characters, cameos and funny bits. But it wasn't a terrific Captain America film as it's diluted by the inclusion of Iron Man and needing to introduce Black Panther and Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus it's misnamed as there's more Avengers in this Captain America film than there were in the actual Avengers movies. As a Captain America fan, I've long been annoyed by Cap's use as the MCU placeholder. First Avenger was an excellent, rock'em, sock'em throwback with it's World War II setting and sci-fi tinged sensibility that set up The Avengers. While The Winter Soldier was more or less the SHIELD movie as it ended the arc of the secret organization. Then Civil War caps off The Avengers phase by breaking them up while launching two other franchises. Meanwhile, Thor and Iron Man have gotten their own movies without having to keep viewers informed of what's happening in all things Marvel land.

Upon second viewing I did appreciate the Captain America dynamic a bit more as the material with Cap, Falcon and Bucky is all solid, Cap gets to stand tall for what he believes and smooches his lovely former neighbor Sharon. You can forgive the Marvel-ness of the affair, the Giant-Man cameo was awesome, I still just wish they'd believe in Cap and give him a standalone movie. It was a little weird that Cap has now become Superman, being able to survive any fall or beating, can stop a helicopter from taking off and take punches from Spider-Man. Pretty impressive for a guy who's basically supposed to be an Olympian who doesn't get tired. But with all this interconnected blah blah blah for better or for worse, that's just not going to happen. Can you imagine if Zemo was actually Baron Zemo with ties to Cap from WWII? Instead of having a flashback sequence with Bucky performing a hit, it could have set up Cap and Zemo's feud from the 40's then cut to today, they're both back. Whether it's the original Zemo or his kid like in the comics. You then have Falcon and Cap looking for Bucky and the three teaming up to try and stop and eventually face off with Zemo's sleeping super soldiers. Could be a fantastic Captain America movie that's two hours instead of a pseudo Avengers flick that runs two and a half and is 40% Tony Stark/Iron Man.

With each Marvel star's long term contracts coming to an end, I wonder if Chris Evans will reenlist or take a break. He doesn't seem to be starving for work, given that he's only done what, Snowpiercer and directorial effort Before We Go in between Marvel films. Always in shape but if you notice, Evans is shirtless in part I, in a tank top in II and dons a tight tee shirt in III so maybe he's getting tired of the workout routine as well. While Chris Hemsworth has fallen flat as a leading man in Rush, Blackhat, In the Heart of the Sea, The Huntsman and definitely needs his Thor alter ego to keep his career going. As well as appear shirtless in about every film appearance and may be on his way to Zac Efron territory who can't find work without working out. It's no secret that Robert Downey, Jr. has made a mint from Marvel and has stated more than once that Iron Man 4 is not a priority. But a Tony Stark cameo in the rebooted Spider-Man is rumored while Civil War sets Cap up to appear in Black Panther while they could both return for the two part Avengers: Infinity War so we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

This, I Demand! Kindergarten Cop 2

After that 12 day stretch, I was really ready to kick back a bit. I caught a few minutes of The Expendables and EX II on Spike, picked up an Escape Plan t-shirt at a garage sale then called it a day by watching Dolph Lundgren's latest starring effort, Kindergarten Cop 2, sequel to Arnold's 1990 hit. Universal has been cranking out Direct To Video fare for the likes of Death Race, The Scorpion King, Jarhead and along with Cop 2, has a Hard Target follow up coming. Stars like Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke and Luke Goss appear in these I'm guessing shot in 4 weeks for around $5 million bones efforts. Kindergarten Cop 2 is now available to stream on Netflix as well as Amazon. With whiskey in hand, I sat down to live blog this baby:

- Directed by Don Michael Paul, writer of HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN!
- Imagine Entertainment title card?! They really must need the credits after recent Chris Hemsworth misfires Rush (excellent flick) and costly flop In the Heart of the Sea (haven't seen it).
- Ok, blonde chick in a crappy hotel room, Dolph's chick or daughter? Oh yeah, it's his chick. Dolph be looking good though so it adds up.
- Guy playing Zogu looks familiar, was he in Assassination Games? Oh no, it's Aleks Paunovic, the a-hole karate dad in This Means War.
- Dolph just kneed a dude in the first fight scene, now give me a Dolph roundhouse kick!
- Bill Bellamy as Dolph's wise cracking, has 5 kids partner. From MTV personality to actor in stuff like How to Be a Player and Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday.
- Huh, Dolph's character is a bit of a dog in this flick.
- Is that the Space Needle? We in Seattle?! Yup ,we are. Pretty sure it was shot in Vancouver though.
- Dolph's Zack Reed lives by the water in a trailer, drives a classic car and has a rudimentary gym set up of weights and punching bag.
- Oh shit, Dolph is working out by the water. MAXIMUM POTENTIAL throwback! Or possible teaser for a sequel since his book finally came out? I could be the Perfect Man...
- Holy crap, so many writers...oh, David H. Steinberg and three who wrote original.
- Dolph is strutting into the office, now give me a patented Dolph nod.
- Dolph and Bellamy are skeezy cool together. He didn't really like that blonde chick earlier, act-ting!
- Oh man, Dolph is about to shoot the vending machine after his Twix bar got stuck. That happened to me once, but I lifted it from the top/front to try and slam it down and rattle my booty loose but instead the machine turned off and needed to be reset...
- Shoot that f*cking thieving vending machine! Oh yeah, screaming lieutenant guy, couldn't they get Bill Duke for this? Or Faizon Love?
- Gunfight in the dark! There's also a lot of music in this flick.
- Oh man, Dolph and Bellamy are using that shitbag vending machine as an armored transport, reminds me of Double Team when a Coke machine saved JCVD and Dennis Rodman...
- Ok, Dolph is eating a Twix now, this is some interesting product placement.
- Surprised by the character nuances with chocolate and screaming lieutenant's schtick of putting gum behind his ear.
- Alright, Dolph is going undercover at a prestigious kindergarten to find a flash drive containing a stolen FBI database. Said school costs 50 grand a year. One of these little @$$holes better cure cancer or invent the flying car.
- Aw Damme, throwback to original film with a little kid talking about girls having a vagina.
- Dolph eating a Twix! I wonder if Dolph actually eats that kind of cheap, refined crap in real life.
- In original, school is in Astoria, Oregon, a single parent capital. Here, everybody just thinks Dolph is hot and muscular. Both stories check out.
- Darla Taylor has some white teeth, is also young enough to be a daughter or lover. Looks like she's a lover. And is totally Canadian. Ab-out.
- All these political correct gags are probably supposed to be funny but really it's the wussified world we live in, isn't it? As Tim Allen said, "GET OVER IT!"
- Uh, subtitles are extremely unnecessary for the Asian kid. Is this racism masquerading as humor?
- Life lessons with Dolph: Sharing is overrated, you're better than some people, air punch! Liberals!
- Dolph's character Reed does 90 minutes of weights and cardio, bring on the gluten you babies.
- Peanut allergies! I know this pain, have we always been so weak? This is a strange metaphor for our modern times and not in a good way.
- Dolph front kick! Oh shoot he's yelling, go into Andrew Scott monologue, "kiss ass, or kick ass"!
- Dolph just snapped his fingers at Bill Bellamy and promises not to bone his young, cute co-worker chick, cause we all know he could if he wanted.
- Surprisingly tender first date conversation about hooking up and Dolph's muscles.
- Oh what, they go line dancing?! This movie checks off a lot of Dolph firsts or forgotten abouts, last time I can think he dealt with kids and danced was in John Woo's Blackjack.
- Oh man, bad guy showed up and is talking to Dolph's chick. Rip his heart out, Dolph! Roosters Country Cabaret, is that real place in Vancouver? It is, has a very low Yelp rating.
- Ah, they turned the abusive dad plot point on it's head. Some real life sh!t.
- Acrostic poem? Like when Arnold said F*ck You to that one guy?
- Fight in the water, class dismissed, bitch.

It's been a long time since I've actually watched a Direct to Video flick but Universal seems to have a better sense of quality control than most others. Kindergarten Cop 2 has some fun moments, mostly of Dolph getting to do something different, be a little funny with a capable supporting cast, some decent action and making use of a beautiful school and natural locales. 

Workout of the Day: Break and Push

It's always good to take a break from training, get away from the mental and physical stress, scheduling time or dealing with people. After a week of mostly walking and taking stairs, it was back to the weights, easing in as I prepare for my summer session with the one and only Frank Zane. I've been focusing on more maintenance, getting a pump followed by cardio versus trying to add beef for the sake of beef. Every workout starts with weights followed by aerobics, abs or twists.

Day # 1: Front Press/Chins/Incline Push Ups/Concentration Curls/Dips/Side Raises/Calf Raises x 3
Followed by 90 seconds on the Elliptical machine alternated with crunches or neck for 20 minutes.

Day # 2: Parallel Bar Deadlift/Weighted Sissy Squat/Leg Curl/Seated Calf Raises x 4
Followed by a mile of rowing and 300 trunk twists. This really killed my legs and stairs became my mortal enemy for the next two days.

Day # 3: Incline Dumbbell Press/EZ Bar Curls/Decline Flys/Hammer Curls/DB Pullover/Incline Curl x 3 Followed by forearms, standing calf raises and 20 minutes of ab-aerobics with Frog Crunches.

From here I'll alternate between a total body day, leg day and bodybuilding day like Back/Triceps or Shoulders/Arms. With my tan line reaching an all time contrast, it's time to tighten up for summer!

The 12 Day Stretch

You may have noticed the ol' output on Dammaged Goods has been a bit muted in May. I had a huge office project crescendo and executed over the last 12 straight days. Time at the gym took a week long break while I racked up one 22 hour day, helped unload, place and move 10 truckloads of stuff, walked 30,000 steps on two consecutive days and didn't sleep more than 5 hours a night for nearly a week. But my efforts, planning, organization and fortitude pushed me through as I was called The Terminator, indefatigable and dubbed the guy who knew. Being mentally prepared always helps as once you get the scope in mind and expect a tough challenge, when it ends up being not so bad, your spirits are up instead of burnt out. I took pride in my efforts as my plan was always to have one day be the bitch or the bear so the rest of the project would be easier each day. Luckily planning the work and working the plan worked out. I had To Do lists and goals for each day along with projects everyone could work on.

Of course there were times I wanted to call people out for being less than helpful or not using common sense but in the end I never flipped my top as many around me thought I had every right to do. But our true character is revealed when we're tired or upset right? Getting pissed, throwing a hissy fit or getting demoralized wasn't going to help anything or anyone so I had to keep pushing, communicate, and follow up so everyone felt supported. Of course I wasn't the only person involved and was set up for success but much of directing traffic fell on me and as a natural dot connector, I just had to do the Damme thing. So remember, do the best job you can, have a plan and don't be afraid to ask for help or delegate. Take the wrap for mistakes, learn from them and move on and in the end, don't be be afraid to accept accolades. Until then, keep (figuratively) racking that shotgun and blasting that seemingly unstoppable machine a la Kyle Reese aka Michael Biehn or picking yourself up from the mat like Van Damme in life and Bloodsport!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ask Me a Question: The Nice Guys w/Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Shane Black & Joel Silver

Leave it to The Alamo Drafthouse to put on an epic sneak preview of one of my most anticipated flicks of the summer, The Nice Guys! Yes, this screening took place a couple of weeks ago but I've been frigging busy, ok? I believe a press embargo is still in place but let's just say that the Shane Black directed and co-written tale of a private eye (Gosling) and bruiser (Crowe) investigating a missing persons case involving a soft core porn star with implications of government cover ups is a great time at the movies. Part comedy, pulp noir novel, buddy flick, action movie and physical gags, The Nice Guys is a fun and R rated time at the movies with a couple of well known actors who share fantastic chemistry. Gosling and Black were first announced then joined by Crowe and super producer Joel Silver. A few highlights from the Q&A:

- Russell Crowe needs more EQ in his microphone to sound heroic.
- Black wrote the script with writing partner Anthony Bagarozzi back in 2001, went from modern times to 70's in between and Joel Silver championed film the entire journey.
- Took so long as Black would work on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, go uncredited on Iron Man then be drafted to write and direct Iron Man III.
- Gosling signed on as Black jumped on a plane to Russell Crowe's home in Australia to pitch the Oscar winner. Crowe saw a list of contemplated co-stars and thought it didn't fit into his view of what the film would and could be. As an actor, Crowe chooses projects by narrative and character and was prepared to cook Black a steak, make him a cocktail then turn the movie down.
- Black showed up, doesn't drink anymore as he's "allergic to alcohol, I break out in handcuffs", then told Crowe that Gosling had signed on leading Crowe to agree.
- Film was shot in Georgia and Los Angeles, it was cold in Georgia.
- Gosling would crack Crowe up constantly leading Silver to chide them one night when they had shut down Sunset Boulevard. Which is pretty expensive apparently.
- Asked about stunts, Crowe responded classically something along the lines of, "I'm an old man that has given his life to cinema, whatever I have left, is yours". While Gosling's stunt double had been stabbed fully in the chest on the set of Fury but reported to set ready to go, the star stepped up and decided to fall through a window in his place.
- Crowe is all about social media and Tweeted during the sometimes awkward Q&A as the moderator tried to find questions from Alamo's Twitter.
- Warner Brothers wants Crowe and Gosling to be more engaging on social media as they open against Angry Birds, Gosling stated they were the angriest birds you'd ever see.

On and on it went, the panel was totally hilarious and seemingly didn't give a f*ck. Crowe dominated with his intelligent yet kind of @$$hole that knows he's an @$$hole personality. Black we've seen in person before who is just as witty and funny as you could ask for from a writer-director. Gosling was generally kind of quiet but weirdcool while Silver chimed in appropriately to give you a little behind the scenes of filmmaking. A terrific night and I hope you check out the movie.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

New Tube: Dice

Remember Andrew Dice Clay? I honestly don't remember him during his rise in the 90's but was a fan of action-comedy starring vehicle The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. The outrageous and inappropriate comic was banned by MTV (wussies) for reciting X-rated nursery rhymes before being branded a homophobic misogynist by middle America yet performed for 100,000 people a week at his height. After a few quieter years, Dice has experienced a steady resurgence after appearances on Celebrity Apprentice, Entourage, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, stand up special Indestructible, autobiography The Filthy Truth, Martin Scorsese's Vinyl and his own current Showtime series Dice. All six episodes were released simultaneously on Sho's on-demand platform but thanks to a free year long subscription, I'm watching the show every Sunday night. And you know what? It's pretty funny.

Created by Old School co-writer Scot Armstrong, Dice sees the Diceman living a quiet life in Las Vegas with live in ladyfriend Carmen (Natasha Leggero) as he tries to keep his career going and stave off bankruptcy. He takes long lines of credit from the local casino, in the hole for $100,000 then going on a hot streak and winning $200,000 when he's supposed to be at his lady's brother's homosexual marriage. Character ace Kevin Corrigan plays buddy/assistant/confidant Milkshake and we meet him drinking a cup of gravy. The second episode finds Oscar winner Adrien Brody hilariously shadowing Dice to build his character for an off Broadway show and it's simply fantastic. Brody is a talented actor and pokes fun at the Method Actor dynamic, soaking up all he can from Dice, eating Combo's, interacting with people, trying on fingerless gloves and even wants to watch Dice "do the f*cking". The Vegas setting sets up some fun cameos and scenarios like Chriss Angel mind freaking Dice and a bachelor party on a bus gone wrong. Dice's fading celebrity and past are used for the show, creating an amusing self deprecating humor that at once gives you a glimpse at the human side of the comedian while reminding you why he was famous with bursts of angry, profanity laced observations on modern life. All in an enjoyable 30 minutes that I wish extended beyond six parts.

Captain America Prep: The First Avenger

Captain America: Civil War is poised to gross a staggering $170-190 million this coming weekend and early word of mouth is only positive. Cap has been my favorite superhero since I first started reading comics as a 7 year old so seeing him become a popular culture and Marvel Cinematic Universe icon has been both gratifying and frustrating. Since 2008's Iron Man, Marvel has been creating a movie universe with intertwining stories, characters crossing over and distinct Phases to form a larger story. Civil War finds Cap at odds with Tony Stark's Iron Man over government regulation of super powered beings. To get ready for the film, I popped in my favorite MCU film so far, 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. Coming off the heels of two Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk and Thor, Cap seemed like the most risky solo film as the red, white and blue clad fighting machine could potentially offput foreign audiences with the name and costume alone.

Joe Johnston, the director of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, THE ROCKETEER and Jurassic Park III is in familiar territory here given the period setting and special effects driven action. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (PAIN & GAIN) craft the tale that begins and ends in the modern age but transports us back to 1942 for an origin story. The film does a great job of tying together so many elements of Captain America, from scrawny Steve Rogers becoming the subject of Operation: Rebirth, getting blasted with vita-rays to become bigger and stronger to career nemesis Johann Schmidt aka The Red Skull obtaining the Cosmic Cube, Cap's original triangle shield then Army outfit from The Ultimates to support from The Howling Commandos. Everything moves at a clip with lots of rock'em, sock'em fisticuffs and armies battling with Thompson machine guns, laser rifles and explosions galore. The cast is excellent throughout from leading man Chris Evans to fan favorite Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter with Tommy Lee Jones (especially amusing), Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci and Sebastian Stan providing support.

First Avenger would gross a healthy $370 million worldwide while Cap became the center of the MCU for better or for worse. Sequel The Winter Soldier contains arguably the best action of any Marvel film and grossed over $700 million worldwide. FA still holds up as the most rewatchable Marvel flick for me as you just don't get too many superhero meets World War II Men on a Mission with a sci-fi tinge stories these days. The fights are well done with lots of punches and kicking shot in wide angles instead of up close and hyper edited. Cap is also surprisingly violent as lots of G.I.'s and baddies are shot, blowed up, thrown out of airplanes and one turned into meat sauce after meeting a plane propeller. First Avenger also has arguably the most subdued and melancholy finale as Cap crashes the Red Skull's giant ship into the arctic to save innocent lives while talking to his would be love Peggy before waking up in the modern age, 70 years out of his time. I still think it would have been more emotionally impacting if the film stuck to the comics death of Bucky as the two race a motorcycle down a runway, ramp off the end, grab onto a flying rocket then Steve's last memory is watching his best friend get blown up by a booby trapped door as he plummets into the ocean and takes an ice nap. But maybe that's just me.

(Pre)miere! The Nice Guys

Besides Captain America: Civil War, Shane Black's 70's set buddy action-comedy The Nice Guys is my most anticipated summer flick. Now thanks to our friends at The American Cinematheque and Alamo Drafthouse, you can win tickets to a sneak preview of the film this Wednesday, May 4th at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood! Writer/director Shane Black along with co-star Ryan Gosling are scheduled to attend for Q&A! Co-written by Anthony Bagarozzi, The Nice Guys finds Ryan Gosling as down on his luck Hollywood private eye Holland March as he teams up with hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to investigate a missing persons case and death of a porn star before uncovering a wide reaching conspiracy. The trailers are terrific with a mix of laughs and violence while Gosling and Crowe's chemistry looks like a winner. The duo have been participating in a series of hilarious couples therapy skits to promote the film which hits theaters on Friday, May 20th.

This is a members screening with no tickets being sold. The Cinematheque holds exclusive early screenings frequently so sign up and support cinema on the big screen as it's meant to be seen.

*All tickets have been claimed, thank you for the enthusiastic response* For your chance to win tickets to Wednesday's 7:00 PM show, e-mail Dammaged Goods, winners will be notified by Wednesday morning with tickets left at the box office.

Shane Black burst onto the 80's cinematic scene scripting 1987's classic Lethal Weapon and co-starring with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator the same year. From there Black became Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter for the likes of The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. In 2005, he wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang co-starring Robert Downey Jr., who drafted Black to do some uncredited work on 2008's Iron Man before taking the reins for part III in 2013. Ryan Gosling has been performing for the camera since childhood, starting as a Mouseketeer before seguing into stints on Breaker High and Young Hercules. 2001's The Believer put him on the map as an actor before The Notebook made him into a meme and heartthrob. Subsequent roles in edgier and quirky fare like Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, personal favorite Drive and recent awards contender The Big Short have provided both critical and box office success. Plus he seems like a funny guy so should be a good Q&A.