Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bloodsport Mentos Commercial

This doesn't ever fail to make me laugh.

Shooter: Sticking With Me

I thought that SHOOTER would be a good movie to catch on a rainy Saturday on DVD. Instead, Andrea and I went up to the Farmington Civic theater on Monday night to catch this flick for $3 a piece. I'm glad we did.

Capably directed by Antoine Fuqua, SHOOTER boasts a terrific cast of character actors from Ned Beatty to Elias Koteas to Rade Serbedzija. Even Danny Glover, who may have been keeping me from wanting to pay top dollar to see this film in the first place, does a fair job as the lisping antagonist, Colonel Isaac Johnson, to Mark Wahlberg's skilled protagonist, Bobby Lee Swagger.

The film opens with a black ops operation where the audience is made privy to the precision and sharp-shooting skills of Bobby Lee as he takes out enemy combatant after enemy combatant from hundreds of yards away. The mission goes awry, leaving Bobby Lee in the lurch and his partner dead. From there, the film jumps ahead in time three years to show Bobby Lee in his idyllic rustic cabin along with his beer-fetching dog, Sam. This scene feels a lot like COMMANDO with Mark Wahlberg in the Arnold Schwartzenegger role and Sam as Alyssa Milano.

Three visitors--Colonel Johnson (Danny Glover), Jack Payne (Elias Koteas) and Louis Dobbler (Jonathan Walker)--come a-callin' on Bobby Lee asking him to come to the aid of the country. They hope to prevent an assassination attempt on the President. They posit that by coming up with the scenario that a long-range sniper would use, they can find the potential assassin and stop him. Of course, Bobby Lee doesn't realize that he's a bigger patsy than Lee Harvey Oswald here. After shots are fired (killing not the President but an African Bishop), Bobby Lee takes the fall (literally) and goes on the run from every law enforcement agency in the country.

Only two people stand behind Bobby Lee; his army buddy's girlfriend, Sarah (Kate Mara who has a Jessica Simpson thing going on here), and rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Peña). They aid Bobby Lee in finding Colonel Johnson and vast network of conspirators including Senator Meachum (Ned Beatty). Yes, this is pretty typical action movie stuff. As Bobby Lee goes on the run, one half-expects Tommy Lee Jones to step on screen as Gil Gerard and order a "hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area." The real reason that I think I liked this film, apart from the pacing and acting, was the Now It's Personal moment.

Every action hero has the moment where she or he just can't deny that they have to take action. Some heroes have a pretty low tolerance for this (Clint Eastwood) while others can be beat up and have their houses burned to cinders without batting an eye. Killing a partner or spouse usually is a good motivating factor (Steven Seagal) but what gets Mark Walhberg going isn't being abused by a corrupt government who wants to take his life and besmirch his name. When Bobby Lee Swagger wakes up from some surgery performed by Sarah (shades of TERMINATOR here), she tells him that Sam, his dog, has been killed; "There's something I need to tell you...they said you shot your dog because you knew you weren't coming back."

Later, Nick Memphis tries to help Swagger; "You can hire a good lawyer and I'll call the bureau and they'll work out some kind of deal." Without missing a beat, Swagger lays out his entire motivation, "I don't think you understand, these boys killed my dog." And with that, I had to cheer on Bobby Lee in his quest for vengeance.

Doktor Kosmos - Holiday

I ♥ Doktor Kosmos.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

RIP Mr. Menard

I got an email last night from an old friend of mine pointing me to a blog where I learned one of my favorite teachers has passed away.

I don't remember much about high school with fondness. Of course there were some high points but, for the most part, it was shit. And, as far as teachers go, there were but a handful who managed to make a difference in my life. Of those, Mr. Menard probably looms the largest.

It was through Mr. Menard that I really found joy in writing. It was his pedagogy that most prepared me for university. His exams were perfect precursors for "blue books" and helped me gather my thoughts into paragraphs when other teachers were happy with regurgitating bullet points. I'm sure he'd be appalled by the hell he helped wrought in Cashiers du Cinemart or maybe he would have managed to find a few sentences that stood up to his high standards.

I didn't have much interaction with the same teacher for more than two semesters apart from Band, Math, and Mr. Menard. Through several semesters of history (American, World, etc), Civics, and Religion, he was the steadfast presence in my scholastic career. I imagine that's why so many of his "catch phrases" still pepper my speech today.

Some famous "Menardisms":

  1. "Don't just sit there like the flea on the fly on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea." (from the famous camping song)
  2. "This is not a barroom! My name is not 'Mabel!'" (from the Black Label campaign)
  3. "I'm appalled! But, then again, I am a Paul."
  4. "The sun always shines on Ann Arbor."
  5. "You're vociferating in an obstreperous manner."
  6. "I am the Emir of the East, the Wizard of the West, the Sage of the South, and the Nanook of the North."

I'd say that there were "many others" but Mr. Menard always hated the vagueness of "many." I could get away with "several" and "numerous" but "many" was taboo.

I never went back to see Mr. Menard after high school graduation, though many others did. It was a common occurrence for class to be momentarily disrupted by a Riverview Community High School alumnus coming back to visit the emir from Escanaba. Then, as now, he will be fondly remembered.

Fight, fight for Esky High.
Sweep down the field/court to victory;
Each time you score men,
The thunders roar men,
In dashing, crashing, smashing jubilee

Rah! Rah! Rah!

On men, on to the goal,
We want a touchdown/basket, we want this game.
You've got that mighty, fighty spirit
That brings to glory old Esky's name.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Crispin Glover in Wizard of Gore Remake

I had no idea that WIZARD OF GORE was being remade, much less with Crispin Glover. Unfortunately, it looks like any scene without him is going to suck. Kip Pardou looks like a punk and the director has a pretty bad track record. I wonder what H. G. Lewis thinks of this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Small World Report 2

I didn't add bands to the list of the small circles in which I run. I don't even consider that, really, but should. I say this as I had a conversation last week with my friend Kristen Anchor from The Degenerettes and I happened to mention my friend Leon's band, Uncle Leon & The Alibis. Little did I know that Kristen is long-time friends with one of the Alibis and had been corresponding with Leon via his myspace page.

BTW, look for both The Dengenerettes and Uncle Leon touring this summer (not together). They're both engaging in tours all around the mid-west.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spidey 3: Left Me Cold

"How was the new SPIDERMAN movie?"


That was an exchange I overheard while waiting to be seated at Zodiac in Baltimore last weekend. Despite this one-word waitstaff review, I was still looking forward to seeing the latest entry in Sam Raimi's SPIDERMAN saga.

Unfortunately, I think I'm in agreement with that sentiment. SPIDERMAN 3 is a gooey mess of a movie filled with half-baked subplots and incredible coincidences. Like the later entries in the BATMAN series, SPIDERMAN 3 suffers under the weight of three villains and the main character's uninteresting personal challenges.

The film begins with Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) on top of the world. Rather than the "wealth and fame, he's ignored," Parker seems to be doing well at school, making a good-enough living to take his girl, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), to a posh French restaurant and, as Spiderman, he's the hero of the city. Even the Daily Bugle seems to write good things about him. Despite this, bad things start happening to Peter when Mary Jane gets justifiably trashed and fired after a poor showing in her Broadway debut (apparently she needs a better agent as her contract was less than iron-clad). Peter, like so many of us, tries to cheer Mary Jane up by comparing her poor fortune (he knows about the bad reviews but she inexplicably hides her dismissal from him) to his old days when he was always taking heat as a "Spider Menace." When Peter kisses the pretty-from-certain-angles Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) at a Spiderman Appreciation Day ceremony, he sends the self-esteem-impaired Mary Jane over the edge and into the arms of their old pal Harry Osborn (James Franco).

Amazing Spiderman 136The film begins with Osborn trying to kill Peter to avenge the death of his father, Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), from the first SPIDERMAN movie. Believe it or not but Harry hits his head and gets a convenient case of cinematic amnesia that makes him into a lovable, albeit superpowered, goof who can catch falling vases and basketballs with ease but has trouble flipping omelettes.

Zany coincidences continue with a meteor hitting the ground near Peter and Mary Jane that contains a symbiote which waits around until it's most inconvenient to form a new spiderman suit that brings out Peter's darker and more dorkier side. In his nifty black suit Peter doesn't show any mercy or sense of shame, killing a criminal (kind of) and acting like a complete tool as he bops down the street like Disco Stu. I half expected to hear "Staying Alive" on the soundtrack as Peter goes shuffling through the street, people thinking he's crazy. Despite warnings from his professor, Doctor Connors (Dylan Baker), Peter throws caution and good sense to the wind by allowing the black suit to make him ever more intolerable as a protagonist.

Apparently the black suit has the same effect on Peter Parker as the "tar kryptonite" had on Clark Kent in the third SUPERMAN film.

Other subplots and narrative threads include Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), a hot shot photographer who happens to be dating Gwen Stacy and who's after a staff job at the Daily Bugle and Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), a criminal with a heart of gold (he's desperate for cash to save his sickly daughter) who suddenly is written into the Spiderman back story as the man who killed Peter's Uncle. Marko is the unfortunate victim of some really slipshod scientists doing experiments out in the open at night with an uncontrolled environment. This turns him into the Sand Man, one of Spidey's long-time foes from the Marvel Comic books.

Along with the malicious meteors and amnesia there are some other big coincidences happening in SPIDERMAN 3 such as when Spiderman decides to take off the black suit in a church tower and accidentally hits a big bell, revealing the symbiote's weakness for loud noises (he doesn't even realize this until far later). Who else is in the church? None other than Eddie Brock who can see Peter Parker's struggle (and face) from the ground floor. (Does anyone not know who Spiderman is by now?) The symbiote takes over Brock and amplifies his hatred for Peter Parker (who got him fired from the Bugle) and turns him into "Venom," yet another spider foe.

Secret WarsEventually Harry regains his memory, Venom teams up with Sand Man, and Peter dons the classic blue and red suit again. This leads to the film's final over-directed special effects-laden conclusion which continues to show that Spiderman has absolutely no spider-sense ability in this film.

I suppose that SPIDEMAN 3 comes as more of a shock to the system after SPIDERMAN 2 was such a solid story that primarily dealt with one super criminal while continuing to explore the pathos of Peter Parker. SPIDERMAN 3 feels like someone grabbed a handful of "Amazing Spiderman" issues and ran them through a shredder. They pasted together a few bits and guessed at the rest to create a Frankenscript that just barely holds together and crumbles under scrutiny.

This is another example of why you should always tip and trust your waitress. Had I believed her, I would have been up $14. I just hope there's something here that the Fan Editors can salvage. Eliminating one out of the six or more subplots would definitely help this rough beast.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Turkish Superman

While doing research on my upcoming SUPERMAN RETURNS article I had a lot of fun with finding Superman's unsanctioned appearances. TURKISH SUPERMAN is coming out on DVD on May 25, 2007.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pre-Order Cashiers du Cinemart #15

The latest issue of Cashiers du Cinemart is now available for pre-order via the fine folks at Atomic Books. Visit their order page via Stories in the next issue include:

  • David Goodis: Retreat into Obscurity
  • James Ellroy: White Men doing Bad Things
  • The Top Ten Time Travel Movies of All Time
  • Superman: The Killing of a Hero
  • Red Sovine & The Teddy Bear Mystery
  • Plus Taylor Negron, Americathon, All-Star Cameos, Fantastic Fours, Grindhouse, and much more.

Order Now -- Estimated Release Date: July 2007.

Monday, May 07, 2007

No Accounting For Taste

Wow. I'm flabbergasted. I just got done reading an article called "Top Ten Sequels That Are Better Than The Original." While I agree with a few of their choices--very few--the rest are laughable to down right offensive.

  1. Back To The Future 2 - I haven't seen this film since it was at theaters back in 1989. I remember it as being a dismal affair rife with bad make-up aging effects and an endless sequence involving flying skateboards. I'd watch BACK TO THE FUTURE any day of the week. You'd have to tie me down and clamp open my eyelids a la A CLOCKWORK ORANGE or NEXT to make me watch this ill-conceived sequel.
  2. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior - Yeah. That's pretty much right.
  3. Army Of Darkness - I may be unpopular for this but I'm not a big fan of "The Medieval Dead." Give me EVIL DEAD for chills and EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN for laughs but ARMY OF DARKNESS is good for a few soundbytes and not a whole lot else for me.
  4. Die Hard With A Vengeance - John McClane worked hard (die hard) for two movies to save his wife, Holly, only to have him unexpectedly divorced in this film. Couple that with this being set in the dead of summer rather than Christmas and you've got the first two ingredients for a really lame actioner. At least DIE HARD 2 had William Sadler and John Amos.
  5. X-Men 2 - No arguments here. This is one of the strongest superhero sequels ever made. It even beats SPIDERMAN 2. And Hally Berry wasn't even that bad in this one.
  6. Aliens - I can't fully endorse this. While I'll watch ALIENS any day over ALIEN, that comes solely from my age. ALIEN was forbidden fruit as a kid while I caught ALIENS in a theater. While ALIEN was a thriller, ALIENS was an action film. They were two different genres that really only shared the same creature and heroine. That is, ALIEN was apples while ALIENS was oranges.
  7. Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan - I whole-heartedly agree with this. Going back to the original series and bringing back Khan was a stroke of genius. Writer/Director Nicholas Meyer's utilization of Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, et cetera gave the film the weight it deserved.
  8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day - I can't endorse this. T2 was fun when I saw it the first time but it doesn't hold up. Even the cutting-edge special effects look cheesey as heck now. Worse, Eddie Furlong's performance is the cinematic equivalent of a papercut under lemon juice.
  9. The Godfather 2 - No. Again, this takes the wisdom of the ages to realize that the cross-cutting between Michael and Vito Corleone was a neat idea but that Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro can't match up to Marlon Brando. THE GODFATHER flowed beautifully from end to end. Watching THE GODFATHER 2 feels like going from paved road to gravel and back again.
  10. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - Again, I can't say that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is necessarily better than STAR WARS. It's definitely more mature and far different but it's not the popcorn film that STAR WARS was.

If I had to pontificate on this same subject (because I haven't already), I'd have to submit these films for consideration.

  1. For A Few Dollars More - My favorite of the Dollars films.
  2. Sanjuro - Yes, I like this even more than YOJIMBO.
  3. The Color of Money - I found THE HUSTLER to be a bit of a bore while THE COLOR OF MONEY is a goofy romp.
  4. Lone Wolf & Cub 2 - Whenever I introduce people to the Ogami Itto story, I always begin them with the second film because it lack the cross-cutting that makes the first film confusing to new viewers.
  5. Bride of Frankenstein - The love story between the creature and the bride is iconic and feels more faithful to Shelly than the original.
  6. Batman Returns - Far darker than even the original with a lot of Hitchcockian touches and, hey, Christopher Walken.
  7. Batman Begins - Yes, I liked this even better than the Burton films.
  8. Cannonball Run 2 - Two words: "These bleeds."
  9. Dogma - The best of the Jay and Silent Bob films.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Games Children Play

“Were your neighbors halfwits?” Andrea often asks when she thinks back to a conversation we had a while ago about playing Tag in my neighborhood. She just can’t get over that we called the”Safety Zone” in the game “ghoul.”

“Do you mean goal?”

”No, ghoul.” She shakes her head and wonders what kind of kids would do such a thing.

We weren’t lovable scamps. It was me and a group of three (and eventually four) brothers that hung out at the end of my block. There were some special guest stars from around the corner or across the park but, for the most part, it was we four playing and, more often, torturing each other. We played games like Mercy where we’d hold each others hands and try to bend the other person’s wrists backwards until they screamed, “Mercy!” There was Iron Horses where one guy would get on the shoulders of another and attack another mounted pair until someone toppled.

There were less-violent games like Statue Tag, Red Light/Green Light, and Mother May I. But, during these peaceful contests we’d be doing some of our running monologues like “What’s Grosser Than Gross?” This recurring topic consisted of trying to verbally create the most disturbing image possible. “What’s grosser than gross? Falling off a ten story building and catching your eyelid on a nail on the way down.” “What’s grosser than gross? Finding a pubic hair in the bottom of your mayonnaise jar.” And so on. That two of the three brothers in our group were older made for some interesting additions to my vocabulary (like pubic).

The age disparity also gave me early insight into sex (Playboy Magazine) and violence (the graphic novel for ALIEN). This neighbor family also gave me my first glimpse of White Trash. While my family quietly seethed and put on a happy middle-class face, this White Trash family had no problem with knock-down drag out fights, trash strewn back and front yards, and a collection of KISS posters that I envy to this day. If it wasn’t for them, I’d have never seen the famous Farrah Fawcett poster in its proper context or have gained exposer to Black Sabbath.

While my Mom had me listening to classical music in an effort to broaden my mind, my neighbors were peppering my speech with song lyrics. For example: whenever someone would express a desire for something they usually garnered the response, “Anyway you want it, that’s the way you need it, anyway you want it.” Any painful injury where tears were imminent was accompanied by the chorus of “Jamie’s Crying” and other “ classic rock” taunts ("If you want it, here it is, come and get it") fit other situations with ease.

Sometimes I think that we were halfwits. The rest of the time I think we were just bored.