Wow. So, The Wife was out of town for work all week and that left me to wallow in the loneliness of my DVD collection. I choose to devote most of my dorkery to my childhood action idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger and I dove into a whole batch of movies I haven't seen in quite some time. You know I watch Commando and Predator on a fairly regular basis (along with The Terminator), but it's not too often that I crank into Red Heat and Raw Deal. Great pleasure was found in watching Arnie go Barbarian and cuddle up with Kelly Preston.
But I guess the real big news this week was the derecho that tore apart Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. I was hard at work when it hit around 10:30 PM Friday night and I didn't really even notice anything until the lights went out. On the car ride home I was dodging fallen trees left and right and several homes around me were struck by fallen branches. Thankfully none of my friends and neighbors were hurt during the storm and the only real inconvenience was some power outage and the lack of the internet (hence my late WEEK IN DORK posting). We can't really complain around here while that fire rages across Colorado.
Anyway, back to the Arnie madness...
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
There Was A Crooked Man: "The date for your hanging has not been set. In the meantime, obey the rules." Kirk Douglas outcharms all others as "The Son of a Bitch" outlaw imprisoned on account of a whorehouse peephole. His moral clash with Henry Fonda's warden is goofy and jovial, but the climax reveals a mean bastard behind the scalawag's smile and the cutesy comedy score simply masks the cynical ideals of a 1970s Western. A great cast lead by two of Hollywood's greatest talents, do not let this film remain forgotten. Read more of my Crooked Man ramblings over at cineAWESOME!
Commando: Easily one of the most gratuitously violent and ridiculous action films of the 1980s, Commando is Arnold Schwartznegger at his rip-roaringly butt-kickin' best. When people talk about their favorite One Man Army action heroes and they don't mention John Matrix, then they don't know what the hell they are talking about. But a film is only as good as its villains and John Matrix has a blast butchering his way through slimy David Patrick Kelly, meaty Bill Duke, marble-mouthed Dan Hedaya, and fashion expert Vernon Welles. "Let Off Some Steam" indeed. And yep, that climactic assault on The Island!?! Arnie must kill 80 to 100 evil mercenaries. Shootings. Necks slit. Chests stabbed. Arms hacked off. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. Death Toll as pop art. Genius.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: This gimmick flick is straight B Movie territory and it's not nearly as silly as it should be, but there is an epic stampede battle in which horses are simultaneously used as weapons and platforms for axe wielding chop socky. So that's enough silly to enjoy. Writer Seth Grahame-Smith's screenplay barely connects the vampire hunter to the politician but if you just shrug your shoulders and go "OK" you'll have fun with the absurdity. And you gotta love a slo mo Confederate Vampire attack with the Gettysburg Address layered on as DRAMAtic narration. Plus, Mary Todd Lincoln gets her musket on.
Predator: A shining beacon in the absurdist action cannon of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is the 80s equivalent of The Dirty Dozen plus an ugly mother from outer space. These badass expendables include Carl Weather (Action Jackson!), Bill Duke (The Breakfast Green Beret!), Jesse Ventura (the other Governator!), Shane Black (the man wrote Monster Squad!), Sonny Landham (a real life crazy man!), and Richard Chaves (um...he's cool in Days of Our Lives...maybe?). So much sweaty man muscle! But the real star is Stan Winston's mandibled space man and the "Stick Around" one-liners.
Total Recall: "I Am Quaid." The iconic action of Arnold Schwarzenegger meets the beautifully horrific ultra violence of Paul Verhoeven. Total Recall is a bloody, limb tossing science-fictiony action flick that might butcher the source material, but it doesn't really matter when you're having this much fun freeing Mars. Michael Ironside's spurned government assassin is a scenery chewing monstrosity and he really does rank as one of Arnie's best foils. And Ronny Cox hits the Robocop rewind playing another wonderfully skeezy corporate tool. And Marshall Bell's Stomach Man!!!! Yes! Total Recall is the best kind of over-the-top.
Red Heat: "The Soviet Method is more economical." Reusing the comic buddy cop formula done so well on 48 Hours, director Walter Hill partners action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger with the SNL-lite Jim Belushi and it has all the smoke, neon, and explosive squibs you want from this kinda venture. Arnie's gargantuan Gumby is all kinds of goofy stern face and Belushi seems to take extra relish outta mocking his high wall hair and stilted foreign accent. But there's no breaking the Soviet. Ed O'Ross is a perfectly sleazy villain and shockingly scary. Maybe not the go-to classic like Predator, but Red Heat is essential viewing for fans of the Austrian. "I'm a holy man. I have no need for testicles."
Raw Deal: "This must be what they mean by 'Poetic Justice'." Disgraced government agent Arnold Schwarzenegger is lured back into undercover work by G-Man Darren McGavin. Raw Deal is probably one of Arnie's most dramatic works but he doesn't let the narrative get in the way of brutal 80s action violence. The film drags a bit in the middle with awkward Robert Davi friendships and even more awkward drunken fumblings with muscle lover Kathryn Harrold. But the climactic machine gun shootout is EPIC and Arnie's ease with shotgunning mob goons in the back is grotesquely thrilling, especially when he dumps candy on their corpses. And you gotta love the crying suicidal terror he strikes in the hearts of scumbags.
The Running Man: "This is a sport of Death & Honor! Code of the Gladiators!" Loosely based on a Stephen King (or Richard Bachman) novel, this classic Arnie cheese fest aims to please with its litany of goofy-cool stalkers (Jim Brown as Fireball! Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom! Professor Toru Tanaka as Sub-Zero!). Made at the height of Schwarzenegger cool, squished right between the high art entertainment of Predator & Red Heat, The Running Man offers up some of Arnie's best worst one-liners: "Here's Sub-Zero, now Plain Zero!" "Have a light." "He had to split." Good game show dystopian fun, and Richard Dawson is an amazing prick of a villain.
Conan The Barbarian: A masterpiece of High Adventure, John Milius' Conan The Barbarian might not perfectly capture Robert E Howard's creation but it definitely ensnares the spirit of Frank Frazetta's iconic paintings. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a beast of a man, forced upon the Earth by James Earl Jones' thirst for steel and flesh. A brutal fantasy adventure that has not been matched despite many anemic attempts to capture the power of The Barbarian. And has Schwarzenegger ever been more perfect for a role? I think not.
Twins: The result of a conveniently mysterious genetic experiment, Arnold Schwarzenegger is gifted with strength (soooooo many shots of his shirtless muscles) and brains (he likes reading - ooooooo) while Danny Devito is just a heap of the leftover crap. Separated at birth, the very 80s comedy comes from their eventual collision of philosophies and sizes. There's some thrown in action nonsense involving a suitcase full of cash and yet another mysterious bit of shiny technology. But the charm of this Ivan Reitman comedy comes from the goofy, silly cheer that radiate from Arnold's constant chuckling island born naivety. At the very least, Twins is a good palette cleanser after a marathon of violent Arnie action flicks.
The H-Man: "Liquid Monster Dissolves Human!" Following similar themes as Godzilla but with less building smashing and more people puddles, The H-Man centers around a group of scientists and police officers attempting to restrain a living pool of goo slithering under the sewers of Tokyo. The film is filled with far too much chit chat and not enough puddle murder, but the puddle murder it does contain is heaps of drippy fun. A really strange flick that would be great to watch next to The Blob or THEM!
BATMAN MOVIE NIGHT!!!
Finished off the week with a spur of the moment Movie Party on Saturday night. With a few minor exceptions, 2012 has been an infuriatingly abysmal year at the movies and I'm really hoping that The Dark Knight Rises is gonna kickstart a golden second half of the year where every weekend a new movie knocks my socks off. And to properly prepare for the coming of Gotham's Reckoning I think it's necessary to explore the weirder and wonkier side of The Dark Knight.
After all the Silver Age lovefesting going on in Grant Morrison's run on Batman and the cartoony glory of The Brave & The Bold I was definitely craving some Adam West madness. Thankfully, my buddy Robert had the show handy.
"The Purr-fect Crime" & "Better Luck Next Time": This Catwoman two-parter sees the tightly fitted Julie Newmar snatching up some priceless Egyptian art and dumping the dynamic duo into her tiger pit. You cannot properly understand the joys of Batman without witnessing the beauty of Adam West's endless utility belt. Bats is not all about Frank Miller doom & gloom. It's also about teaching Robin the importance of safety belts as well as foreign tongues. "Adios amigos."
Batman: "I have given a name to my pain and it is Batman." It's been more than 20 years since Tim Burton's Batman busted the blocks of my childhood neighborhood and the blind excitement of seeing the brooding caped crusader on the big screen has definitely faded. Still, I really do love Jack Nicholson's violent makeover of Caesar Romero's maniacal clown prince of crime and you cannot deny the beauty of those Gotham sets & miniatures. And what a relief it is to see a superhero plot that jumps right into The Batman story; not messing about with routine character origins. Michael Keaton is a solid Bruce Wayne; his Bats is a little creaky but that just might be the fact that he can barely move in that rock hard rubber suit. Kim Bassinger is totally unnecessary and her love for the whacko millionaire is simply a clingy one-night-stand. And those Prince songs...I STILL LOVE 'EM!
Batman - The Brave & The Bold "Shadow of the Bat": Another glorious oddity from the third and final season of the show. The opening sees Batman & Robin swinging on jungle vines as they battle it out with Catwoman and her giant jaguar. But the rest of the episode sees the Martian Manhunter and The Demon teaming up against a vampire Batman. It's a typically crazy strange episode of the show that's shockingly dark after Alfred gets it in the neck.
Batman & Robin: If you are going to enjoy the Schumacher Bat films in any shape or form than you really have to watch them in the context of the original Adam West show. It's a fabulously goofy and neon cheesefest with plenty of BIFF! THWAP! ZOINKS! (but no RAAAKKKKK!s) and if yer digging the craptastic vibe than Batman & Robin is far more entertaining than the similarly stupid Batman Forever with Arnie's endless string of WTF? puns--"Ice To See You!"--and the apishly stupid Bane "Bomb...bomb...bomb..." And you gotta appreciate how both Arnie and Uma Thurman commit themselves to these questionable comic book interpretations. Goofy crap, but it the mood hits you...see a doctor!
COMICS OF THE WEEK!
Batman - The Return of Bruce Wayne: Batman R.I.P. Yeah, well we all knew that wasn't going to last. And it's kinda frustrating that Bruce Wayne has been tumbling around the timeline similarly to Ed Brubaker's Steve Rogers in Marvel's Rebirth and it's nowhere near as good as that and Rebirth wasn't all that hot. Not to mention that my memory of last year's Final Crisis is pretty weak at this point and I can't remember why or how Darkseid used Batman as a time bomb in the first place so some of the exposition in this book makes no darn sense to me. That being said, I love the old school whacky of a Caveman Batman, a Pirate Batman, a Cowboy Batman, a Noir Detective Batman. And all this crazy time jumping gives Grant Morrison some interesting opportunities to explore the Bat Apocalypse Madness he'd been building towards in Batman & Robin. Fun, but I'm glad Wayne's back and we can all just move on from here.
Spider-Men #2: Peter Parker & Miles Morales finally clash in the Ultimate Universe and after some gee golly gosh Parker confusion and a serious spider sting, the plot of this latest mega event book reveals itself. There is at least one great confrontation between Black Nick Fury & Peter Parker and there is a pretty fantastic narrative reveal concerning the Ultimate Version of Mysterio that kinda rocked my geek brain; similar to the way Mysterio shocked me in Kevin Smith’s Daredevil run. Don’t dismiss ol’ Fish Bowl yet. Man, I’m really excited about the territories this mini series could take us.
BPRD - Hell on Earth Exorcism: This looks like its going to be a fun two parter. Telling the story of two/maybe three exorcisms set during two different time periods (1890, Present Day) and three different locals (East Africa, Indiana, Mexico) writer Mike Mignola introduces us to another rookie Agent getting herself wrapped up in horrors way over her head. I love these little stories depicting the minor characters being affected by the larger Hell on Earth story. And who knows, this might eventually tie in to the greater plan being worked out in The Devil’s Engine.
Hit-Girl #1: You know, I wasn’t going to buy this. I really did not love either of the Kick-Ass books and the idea of a story following the foul mouthed Mindy makes me roll my eyes a little. But dang, John Romita Jr’s art is sooooo good in these books. Never better. And he’s drawing some of the most vile and graphic depictions of beautiful violence. I cannot look away. I should probably wait for trade but I’m doing it in singles.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century 2009: Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neal bring the third volume of The LXG to a close and it is magnificent. For the last 100 years Mina Harker, Allan Quartermain, and Orlando have been trying to prevent occultist Oliver Haddo's birthing of the Anti-Christ. But it's 2009 and the Moon Child has already reached puberty and you'll never guess what childhood darling will bring about World's End? LXG remains a treasure trove for literary/cinematic geeks with cameos from several of our favorite James Bonds to a couple of Doctor Whos and, of course, our favorite time hopper Norton. And just like the last volume, Moore & O'Neal bring serious revelation to our characters but I really hope this is not the end of the saga. Time to take these characters into the future. I could read these adventure stories for the rest of my life.
Batman - Time and The Batman: This collects the disposable Grant Morrison Batman issues #700 (“Time & The Batman”), 701 & 702 (“R.I.P. The Missing Chapter”), and 703 (“The Great Escape”). Frankly, the whole Missing Chapter business confuses the hell outta me and as I said earlier, I really do need to crack back into The Final Crises event before I can really comment on what the hell is really going on here. The Great Escape is meh. But I did enjoy the Time and The Batman anniversary tale that jumps between the Bruce Wayne of yore, Dick & Damien’s Batman & Robin, and the future dystopian nightmare of Damien Wayne’s Batman Death Wisher and his horrid collection of baddies (Two-Face 2…gross). And yeah, there’s some Batman Beyond references that are fun as well. Not an essential trade but if you’re reading through Grant Morrison’s run like I am than you gotta check it out.
ROAD TRIP OF THE WEEK!
(Photo Courtesy of ME!)
The Big Planet Comics Podcast #50: On Wednesday, Matt & I drove down to Vienna for the live recording of the Big Planet Comics podcast. They packed them in tight, filling every centimeter of the store with chairs for guests. There was free soda! Free cupcakes! Free icing! And Kevin, Jared, and Nick bantered wittily trying their darndest to act normal in front of the crowd. They did their usual routine chatting on about the week's news and releases, and even if I was a little disappointed that the final chapter in LXG was not mentioned they did point me to a few books I'm gonna have to seek out - "Fatima The Blood Spinners" and "The Furry Trap." I never did work up the courage to ask a question, but Matt got in some good airtime even if he wasted the opportunity to plug the blog--tsk tsk co dork. All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday night and I really do hope the boys do another show.