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Monday, May 28, 2007

FULL FIGURED FLINTSTONES: WERE THE CAVEMEN CHUBBY CHASERS?



I like my wimmerns with some flesh on 'em. Full figured, "Thick." Curvaceous. "Built for comfort." And apparently so did our ancestors who took down Mastadons for dinner.

From Discovery News:

CAVEMEN PREFERRED BIG MAMMAS
by Jennifer Viegas

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Big was beautiful in Palaeolithic times, say archaeologists who have found carved voluptuous figurines made from flint.

Prehistoric men 15,000 years ago preferred full-figured women, suggest dozens of flint figurines excavated from a Palaeolithic hunting site in Poland. As almost identical depictions have been found elsewhere throughout Europe, the figurines indicate a shared artistic tradition even then. The findings are published in the current issue of THE JOURNAL OF ANTIQUITY. Co-author Professor Romuald Schild, from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences, says the artefacts offers "a cultural inventory" for the late Magdalenian era, 18,000-10,000 years ago. In the paper, Schild and colleagues describe the carvings as "stylised voluptuous female outlines" that "are cut out of flint flakes". The same symbolic representations of women displayed in the artefacts extend across Europe, adds Schild.

Because the site, near the Polish village of Wilczyce, served as a late autumn/early winter hunting camp, it is likely men created the figurines when they were taking breaks from hunting arctic foxes, woolly rhinoceroses and other game. Most of the carvings show a slight curve in the breast area. Very exaggerated curves depict the buttocks, while tiny rounded tops served as heads. One figure's head was, at one point, polished and retouched. Examination of the flint artefacts under high magnification revealed they were in mint condition with no signs of use as tools.

The book THE NATURE OF PALEOLITHIC ART by R Dale Guthrie, an emeritus professor in the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, contains images of nearly identical renderings.

It seems shapely women also inspired stone carvings and cave art, some of which date to 35,000 years ago. Among the human depictions, "female images dominate and are nude, almost every one full-figured above and below", says Guthrie. He believes most of their creators were young men. He suggests it is not too difficult to theorise what was on their minds in their free time. "Think of it, Palaeolithic people must have been surrounded by a wealth of other available images," he says.

"For example, the [art subject] repetition could have involved: babies, butterflies, frogs, song birds, small mammals, flowers, beautiful clothes, battle scenes, shields, clan symbols and so on. These are absent or virtually unknown in Palaeolithic art."

Word up, horny (and worshipful cavemen! Let's hope the new CAVEMEN TV series touches on such honarble artistic expression. OOMGAWAH!!!

THE QUEEN IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE QUEEN: CHARLES NELSON REILLY (1931-2007)

With the passing of Charles Nelson Reilly the world is now considerably less gay.

When I was in the single digits and had no idea what “gay” was, I clearly remember seeing Charles Nelson Reilly on a rerun of THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR as the flitty supporting character Claymore Gregg and asking myself “What’s up with this guy?” As time went by and some of my third grade schoolmates exhibited similar traits — shoutout to R.W.!!! — I figured it out and felt like I was in on a secret. In a time when the networks barely had any black people on the tube, there was Reilly, burning down the house and funnier than just about anybody on the game show circuit (with the obvious exception of the even more flaming and mean-spirited Paul Lynde) and his "difference" was not at all a big deal. In fact, much like Lynde, he was revered for his snarky, swishy irreverence.

Best known for his role as the evil Hoodoo the magician on the psychedlic Sid & Marty Kroft opus LIDSVILLE,

and his run on MATCH GAME, Reilly also shone as the title character on UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK, a brutal satire of kiddie shows and their inane hosts, and I caught every single episode during its blink-and-you-missed-it run.

The most succinct description of the series comes from Jim's Filmation Page:

"UNCLE CROC'S BLOCK was a ferocious lampooning of other children's shows, with Charles Nelson Riley playing the disgruntled titular part, who hated his job as a children's show host. Also featured were Alfie Wise as his sidekick Mr. Rabbit Ears and Jonathan Harris as the show's director Basil Bitterbottom. Centered around skits were Uncle Croc and a wide variety of parodied characters such as Captain Klangeroo, Bogey Bear, Steve Exhaustion/The $6.95 Man, and Captain Marbles, a play on Filmation's live action SHAZAM! series. The very popular Evel Kneievel was also parodied. Koo-koo Kneivel was a wild puppet bird in a giant coo-coo clock, and would occasionally pop out of the clock to introduce a segment in bizarre fashion."

Trust your Bunche, the show was a lot crazier than it may sound and the ultra-queer factor went through the roof due to genius move of casting Jonathan "Doctor Smith" Harris as Croc's boss, Basil Bitterbottom. If for some reason you don't recall Harris' immortal space-queen from LOST IN SPACE, all I have to do is show you this photo:

Jonathan Harris as Dr. Zachary Smith, my favorite space-character this side of Mr. Spock.

Seriously, the only way this show could have possibly been any gayer is if Paul Lynde were in the cast. If that had happened, the world would have turned lavender and assless chaps would have been the fashion of the day. And since it was the mid-1970's that would only have been an improvement.

Anyway, UNCLE CROC'S BLOC came and went in no time,and hopefully Filmation will release it on DVD since they're releasing boxed sets of far less worthy programs. I'd love to see it again, if only to have a record of CNR's strangest legacy. The guy was cool as shit.

And here's the skinny on his death. From API:

LOS ANGELES- Charles Nelson Reilly, the Tony Award winner who later became known for his ribald appearances on the "Tonight Show" and various game shows, has died. He was 76.

Reilly died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his partner, Patrick Hughes, told the New York Times.

Reilly began his career in New York City, taking acting classes at a studio with Steve McQueen, Geraldine Page and Hal Holbrook. In 1962, he appeared on Broadway as Bud Frump in the original Broadway production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." The role won Reilly a Tony Award. He was nominated for a Tony again for playing Cornelius in "Hello, Dolly!" In 1997 he received another nomination for directing Julie Harris and Charles Durning in a revival of "The Gin Game."

After moving to Hollywood in 1960s he appeared as the nervous Claymore Gregg on TV's "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and as a featured guest on "The Dean Martin Show." He gained fame by becoming what he described as a "game show fixture" in the 1970s and 80s. He was a regular on programs like "Match Game" and "Hollywood Squares," often wearing giant glasses and colorful suits with ascots. His larger-than-life persona and affinity for double-entendres also landed him on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson more than 95 times.

Reilly ruefully admitted his wild game show appearances adversely affected his acting career. "You can't do anything else once you do game shows," he told The Advocate, the national gay magazine, in 2001. "You have no career."

His final work was an autobiographical one-man show, "Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly," about his family life growing up in the Bronx. The title grew out of the fact that when he would act out as a child, his mother would often admonish him to "save it for the stage." The stage show was made into the 2006 feature film called "The Life of Reilly."

Reilly's openly gay television persona was ahead of its time, and sometimes stood in his way. He recalled a network executive telling him "they don't let queers on television." Hughes, his only immediate survivor, said Reilly had been ill for more than a year.

No memorial plans had been announced.

Friday, May 25, 2007

TRUE LIFE SUBWAY ADVENTURES: BEGGARS ON PARADE

Yesterday morning's encounter with Harvell — the Street News hawker whose son is "going to school at Berkely...for Jazz!!!" — was stranger than usual. I boarded the Times Square/Grand Central shuttle and saw Harvell, a sight that immediately engenders a sense of foreboding in me every morning, but this time he was wildly off-script. Rather than asking for money he instead harangued all Caucasian commuters within his field of vision with loud exclamations such as, "Gaw-DAMN! You's a WHITE muthafukka if evah I seen one! So bright in here I'm gonna go snow-blind! SHEEEEEEE-IT!!!" and "Don't think y'all have ol' Harvell fooled... I KNOW y'all never abolished slavery! Think I don't know nothin'..." When the less-than-two-minute journey ended, Harvell staggered out of the train, stopped next to the driver's window, stuck his head in and yelled, "I THOUGHT I seen me a White man!"

When my day ended I took a seat on the R train to Brooklyn, ready to immerse myself in the latest issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE — any comic book that brings back Dawnstar, one of the most visually spectacular members of the post-Jim Shooter Legion of Super-Heroes, has my love — when a prim thirty-something walked into the car and announced that she and her husband were homeless and in need of donations. If you ride the subway every day as I pretty much have for the last seventeen years, you get to know the regular cast of panhandlers, their gimmicks, and their scams; this woman has patrolled the N and R line for at least seven years, always looking fresh as a daisy and sometimes accompanied by her husband, a pasty bastard who whinges on about how his leg was broken but thanks to no health insurance he couldn't get it set properly and now has a limp. People who've never seen him before feel bad for him and give him cash, but those of us who've seen him a million times know he's a lying sack of shit because on one day his bad leg will be the left one, and on another it will be the right. Last night's train must have been full of longtime riders, because the lady in question did not receive one red cent.

A few stops later an enormous Black guy wobble-bottomed his way onto the train, his too-small t-shirt spattered with grease stains and what appeared to be the telltale crumbs of Popeye's Fried Chicken. The three-hundred-and-fifty-pounder made a feeble appeal for cash with the most marble-mouthed enunciation imaginable, and at the mere sound of the guy's words I could picture my eighth grade English teacher weeping into her hands. Not surprisingly, our lad was given the silent brush-off by the passengers, proving that if you're going to beg for food, at least have the decency to look like you haven't eaten in a while, for fuck's sake!

Then came an obviously heroin-addicted doo-wop trio who proceeded to mangle the Willows' 1956 classic "Church Bells May Ring" — one of my ten all-time favorite songs, FYI, and you can hear it at http://www.emusic.com/album/10875/10875837.html?fref=150051 — and as I tried not to laugh the rest of the car almost fell out of their seats at the unintentional (?) hilarity and hooked the junkies up with enough scratch to pay for their next armfull of China White. Hey, man, I don't care how fucked up you are, but if you're gonna ask me for money you had fucking well better entertain me, and those desecrators of the Willows' legacy certainly made me smile.

OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!-"CAVEMEN" PART OF THE ABC FALL TV LINEUP


I was dismayed to hear that ABC had commissioned a pilot based on the Geico insurance ads with the disgruntled cavemen who face prejudice in everday society, but now I'm flat out appalled to find they've actually green-lighted a series and included it in their Fall lineup. I swear to God that it's happening, I saw the promo commercial the other night! This looks to be the latest in a long line of shows so fucking awful that you've got to watch them just to witness the train wreck for yourself. I'm no pundit, but I think it's a safe bet to predict CAVEMEN will end up swiftly relegated to the compost heap of TV awfulness that includes such classics as MY MOTHER THE CAR, SHASTA McNASTY, THE MULLETS, THE HELP, THE HAT SQUAD, THE CHARMINGS, and the immortal WHOOPS!

Here's the skinny from Vulture.com:

Title: Cavemen

Stars: Nick Kroll, Bill English, Kaitlin Doubleday

Network: ABC, Tuesdays at 8

The pitch: Do you find the Geico Cavemen funny in 30-second installments? Well, then, it stands to reason that 22 minutes of the Geico Cavemen would be 44 times as funny!

Pilot report: Three cavemen live together as roommates in the suburban South: sarcastic Nick (Kroll); lunkheaded Jamie (Dash Mihok); and Joel (English), an everyman IKEA salesman. In the pilot, the three cavemen attend a country-club barbecue hosted by the father of Joel's girlfriend, hot non-cavewoman Kate (Doubleday). Each of the three encounters the prejudices faced by cavemen in contemporary society: Jamie is seduced by a woman eager for a walk on the wild side, Nick sees racism (species-ism?) everywhere, and Joel just wants Kate's father to look past their differences and accept him as a potential husband for his daughter.

Representative dialogue: "If you think you can blend right in with your snappy cocktail patter and your stylish hat, you are fooling yourself. I know these people. They've been oppressing our people for 750,000 years."


Breakout star: Tony nominee Julie White (The Little Dog Laughed) plays Kate's brittle, alcoholic mother with such comic verve that she seems airlifted in from another, better series.

Worth a season pass?: It's not like anything else is on during this time period — at least not until American Idol returns — but we're inclined to think that it won't take long for the acerbic Nick to wear out his welcome … and for the racism metaphors to exhaust themselves.



Sweet Jumping Jesus in a basket of chicken, this looks like a must-see (for the three episodes that will air before cancellation).

WANNA FEEL OLD? -"A LONG TIME AGO..." (30 YEARS, TO BE PRECISE)

Wanna feel old? Would you believe that today is the thirtieth — yes, you read that right — anniversary of the original STAR WARS?

Yes, the cinematic landmark that would later be prefaced as EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (which, contrary to popular belief, was not part of the original title) has reached three decades of influencing pop culture, setting the stylistic look of space adventure film and TV, and ensuring that legions of Jedi Knight costume-wearing fanboys will never, ever see a trace of pussy.

No, I won't go on to rant about how there hasn't been a good STAR WARS flick since the splendid THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), nor will I call for the public execution of George Lucas for fucking his own syncretic mythos in the ass ("Midi-Chlorians?" Nigga, puh-leeze!) and therefore also giving untold millions of fans the equivalent of a prison shower beat-down and subsequent deep-dicking with a freeze-dried iguana. No, this day is for appreciating one of the most entertaining films ever made, truly the modernization of the old FLASH GORDON style of space-heroics, stuff that has no relation whatsoever to actual science but is brimful of daring-do, swashbuckling, swordfights, noisy spacecraft, and scads of bizarre B.E.M.'s, all there to delight children and the child who still dwells within bitter, supposedly grown-up fucks like yours truly. Me, I'll be watching STAR WARS after work on DVD with Jessica — no, unfortunately she's not my girlfriend — as we kick back with Chinese food, brewskis, Jose Quervo, and some kind of questionable plant that somehow ended up in a wafer-thin rolling paper, and depending on how much we tap into the Force we may also do EMPIRE. (Hell, I'd rather do EMPIRE in the first place, but today's about the original, and I'm a purist when it comes to respect)

So break out your plastic lightsabers, duct tape an onion bagel to each temple and dance like a maniac to the musical stylings of the Mos Eisley Cantina band (not those Max Rebo fifth-rate Muppet fuck-sticks from RETURN OF THE JEDI). STAR WARS still holds its own against theoretically-better or more technically advanced films in its genre, and unarguably out-entertains all that have followed in its wake (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK excluded). I'll take my spaceships as dirt-encrusted models over the latest CGI-crafted star-buggy, thank you very much, so Happy Anniversary to STAR WARS, and may the...OOOOOOOH, it's too geeky for me to even write it!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

IT'S A BLACK THING

This morning I received an email from an old friend who I've known since she was in the single digits and I was her camp counselor. Back in those days we bonded because we were both misfits stuck in the hypocritical stewpot of intolerance that was Westport, Connecticut, me embodying the unholy terror of the articulate Black man who wasn't a butler or a lawn jockey, and she being very obviously on the road to being a full-blown lesbian (yes, you can tell such things if you bother to actually communicate with kids, especially as they approach adolescence). While the majority of the other counselors — to say nothing of the other kids — made her life miserable for being "different", and in some cases actually campaigned to "turn her from that path," I took her under my wing and encouraged her interest in new wave and punk music (she idolized Belinda Carlisle and the Go-Gos) while also fueling her budding comic book fan-geekery.

Perhaps the crowning moment of our association was when her mom, in 1989, permitted me to take her to see what was billed as the Damned's farewell tour (yeah, right) at the Ritz in Manhattan, and she was only twelve years old. A six-foot twelve-year-old who looked considerably older and carried herself with a maturity beyond her years, but still a twelve-year-old nonetheless. We went, with another of my friends in tow, and before we hit the show we stopped off at my favorite pub of all time, the now defunct Downtown Beirut, and when we sat down at the bar, my underage charge was the first to be offered a drink by the bartender (no, I didn't let her drink). And at the Damned show she got to see a terrific performance, and guitarist Captain Sensible finished the show wearing naught but hat, shoes and shades, his uncut British dork flopping about in all its glory. The kid had a great time, witnessed rock 'n' roll history, and had a story to tell the kids in junior high that I guarantee none of them would have experienced. No bullshit, I couldn't have asked for a cooler little sister if she were my own flesh and blood (sorry, Meredith, but I only just met you again a couple of months ago and we still have to get to know each other).

But enough with the backstory; the email I got from the now-grown camper read as follows:

OK, i got in trouble at work today because i said someone was "black"..., your thoughts????

I responded thusly:

Was the person in question black? And exactly what was the context in which you got in trouble for saying "black?" Speaking as a qualified negro, I say there's nothing wrong with the term, and I seriously doubt you said something like "Get off your lazy black ass and fry me some chicken."

The problem is the ever-escalating stupidity of political correctness enabling unneccessary changes in the terminology for any given ethnic/special interest group. Within my just over four decades on this planet I have seen my classification mutate no less than four times; when us highly rhythmic individuals were first "imported" to this country we were referred to as niggers/coons/jigaboos/etc., all unacceptable even under the best of situations. Then, after slavery was for some obscure reason abolished, we became "negroes," a term that rankles me personally because it was usually found in conjunction with such phrases as "My, what a well-spoken negro!" (If I had a dime for every time I heard that one since my family moved to Connecticut in 1972...) I use "negro" in conversation and writing solely for comedic effect and to point out just how quaint and antiquated it sounds.

A few decades later the Civil Rights movement happened and we upped the toughness factor by embracing "black"; let's face it, "black" sounds much better than negro because it not only serves as a proud marker of hue, it's also not a place-marker of ethnicity/genetics. But then the Black Pride thing went out of control and morphed "black" into "Afro-American," which, to me anyway, sounds like an ethnic group composed solely of large, spheroid follicles. Fortunately, most black people thought that sounded stupid and "black" was swiftly reinstated.

Then the Eighties happened — my vote for the worst decade in human history — and political correctness reared its ugly head, rendering terms that had been in common parlance for fuck knows how long into bland sound bytes designed so as to offend absolutely no one. Thus, "black" morphed into African-American, and that one pisses me off because while some of my ancestry came from Africa, my beige ass was born here, so I'm fucking American. Period. My own culture has nothing whatsoever to do with that of actual Africans, and I think that term helps to unwelcomely homogenize two disparate groups of the melanin-gifted, to say nothing of insulting Africans who have a genuine, indigenous culture, relatively free of outside (read "Whitey") influences, that has been around for thousands, THOUSANDS of years.

So, no, you are in no way wrong for using the term "black," and I urge you to print out this email and wave it in the face of the over-sensitive person who was needlessly offended and allow them to read the following advice from a person who proudly calls himself Black: Get over yourself, and butch the fuck up, for fuck's sake.

-Bunche

Anybody have anything to add to this, especially my fellow blacks?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SOUND & FURY: THIS MONTH'S CD's OF INTEREST

Every month, even when I’m not flush with vast amounts of cash — which, let’s face it, is most of the time — I have a powerful urge to purchase new music that suits my somewhat…outr√© tastes. So with that in mind, welcome to SOUND & FURY, a new music column for those in need of a guide to the stranger realms of aural delight.

MINE IS NOT A HOLY WAR-Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers (2006, Cordless Recordings)

When most people think of Devo they picture frontman Mark Mothersbaugh — the ultra-dorky-looking dude with the birth control glasses — but the driving force behind the band was Gerald V. Casale, the group’s bassist, co-songwriter and originator of the concept in the first place. This album is a fun side project featuring some of his Devo compatriots handling musical chores that skillfully walks the difficult line between hard rocking party album and shake-your-ass dance record. In fact, it’s pretty much a Devo album in every way but for the band name, replete with the spud boys’ trademark ruminations about sex, political issues, and just plain weird shit. The disc is a solid rocker from start to finish, and the highlights include “Army Girls Gone Wild”— a dance floor gloss on the horrors of Abu-Ghraib — the unfairly catchy anti-Bush stomper “If the Shoe Fits,” and updated, accelerated remakes of “I Been Refused,” “Find Out,” and “I Need A Chick,” three of the more obscure gems from the Devo catalog, although I have to wonder why “I Been Refused” has been sanitized to remove mention of the protagonist’s unhealthy interest in taking pink-on-parade photos of his sister’s pussy while the explicit “I Need A Chick” leaves nothing to the imagination as it voices one man’s need to have his dick properly seen to. Sample lyrics:

Been pukin', been shittin'
Been dyin' of thirst
Ain't got no field to plow
No hole for my pole
I'd fuck a mink stole
I need a chick
To suck my dick!

But whatever, the album is a pleasant and danceable diversion, so throw on your Energy Dome and boogie your ass off while sliding down the de-evolutionary slope. RATING: 8 out of 10

A DATE WITH JOHN WATERS (2007, New Line records)

This followup to 2004's A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS is a must for collectors of theme discs crammed with hard-to-find obscurities, but much like its predecessor the results are somewhat uneven. As you would imagine, any Valentine's Day album compiled by the "Pope of Trash" has a lot of potential for musical twistedness, but Waters fails to mine his record collection to full effect, selecting songs that most fit the theme and also including non-bizarre/transgressive tunes that he simply likes a lot. What the fuck are Ike & Tina Turner's "All I Can Do Is Cry" and Ray Charles' superlative "The Right Time" doing here? They're great, but inappropriate, and if you're gonna have any version of the classic tale of homo jealously "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" why the ever-loving fuck would you choose Elton Motello's over that of the Damned? But on the bright side we do get Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home," "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake" by Eileen Barton with the New Yorkers, "Johnny Are You Queer?" by Josie Cotton, and two treasures by Dreamland Studios goddesses (?) Edith "the Egg Lady" Massey, whose version of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry" should be reclassified as a felonious assault, and my girl Mink Stole working the sultry-voiced nightclub chanteuse angle with "Sometimes I Wish I had A Gun." RATING: 6 out of 10, with extra points awarded for "Ain't Got No Home" and the Mink Stole number.

LOUD, FAST RAMONES (2002, Warner Bros.)

I've already got every sngle Ramones album but I couldn't pass up this umpteenth greatest hits album because it focuses on exactly what the title says and leaves out their softer (but still great) work such as "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow," "Ramona" and "I Want You Around." It's the perfect gift with which to indoctrinate your eight-year-old since it has no cussing or devil junk, but my only complaint is that it leaves out "We Want the Airwaves," "Durango 95," "Scattergun," and my favorite Ramones song of all time, the unjustly ignored "The Return of Jackie and Judy" from the Phil Spector-produced END OF THE CENTURY (1979). That gripe aside, this is a terrific CD, definitely worth buying if you're one of those lazy greatest hits compilation supporters who can't be arsed to check out the full albums, and the perfect disc with which to annoy the shit out of your douchebag next door neighbors. RATING: 8 out of 10

I'M ALRIGHT JACK & THE BEANSTALK-The Damned (2002, Sanctuary)

Third in line after Devo and The Cramps as my absolute favorite band, the Damned have to go a loooooong way for me to say anything really bad about them, so it pains me to say that this album, recorded in 1996, is a strong contender for the title as the worst album in their more than three decades of rocking out. This album is pretty much a showcase for vocalist Dave Vanian's poovy, overproduced theatricality, the most annoying facet of the band, usually kept in check by allowing him one or two numbers per album on which he can croon like the Broadway idol he wishes he was (the vomitous "Curtain Call" and "Is It A Dream" come immediately to mind). MUSIC FOR PLEASURE and ANYTHING are most often singled out as the Damned's weakest offerings, with STRAWBERRIES sometimes mentioned, but I'M ALRIGHT JACK & THE BEANSTALK gets my vote as their rock-bottom worst album ever. I listened to it once, barely managing to stay awake, and will never spin it again. And adding insult to injury is the fact that the best track on the album is yet another live version of "Neat, Neat, Neat," this time recorded for a BBC session, and when the eight-millionth regurgitation of that admitted classic from thirty-one years ago is the best that the band can do, I'd sadly say it may be time for the Damned to hang it up. Although, to be fair, GRAVE DISORDER was released in 2001, and that's one of their three finest albums, so there may still be hope. RATING: 1 out of 10

Monday, May 21, 2007

HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER…OR HOLLYWOOD COCKSUCKER?-SPECIAL GUEST REVIEW!!!


An old pal from my salad days at Marvel Comics, Tim Tuohy, decided to write a full-blown review of SPIDER-MAN 3 rather than merely signing in with a comment. Tim knows his shit, boths comics-wise and movie-wise, and I was delighted to receive his two cents on the whole Spidey mishegas. So, without further ado, take it away, Big Nose!

THE PATH TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS or My Review of SPIDER-MAN 3
by Tim Tuohy

Entertainment Weekly in column review began its review of SPIDER-MAN 3 with the following sentence: “It’s Product.”

I’m sorry, but I’ve invested time and money into the first two movies to be just handed “product.” This movie was so bad on so many different levels it was staggering. My wife’s first comment when the movie ended was, whoever wrote this should give the money back. Imagine her surprise when I told her that Sam Raimi and his brother wrote it!

I am going to follow the esteemed Mr. Bunche’s lead and break down the movie into sections of badness. In no particular order…

1. GEORGE LUCAS DISEASE.
Damn the directors who write their movies. There have been many films written by directors that have been exceptional. One of my favorite films of all time is ALIENS. That movie notwithstanding, there has been an increasing trend of directors getting behind the keyboard and creating some of the most masturbatory crap ever committed to film. George Lucas ruined any credibility he was due after he penned Episodes I, II, and III. Being too close to a project, takes away objectivity. While Peter Jackson avoided this with THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, he fell victim to his own hubris with KING KONG. M. Night Shamalamadingdong is incredibly guilty of this. Don’t get me started on how he blew a golden opportunity with THE VILLAGE. Sam Raimi had the world by the short hairs with the first two films. I was able to suspend my disbelief because of a well-crafted and constructed story. Did it bother me in SPIDER-MAN 2 that an energy source as “powerful as a million suns” was snuffed out by sinking it in the bay? Yup. Did I care? Nope. The quality of the story overshadowed any imperfections. By bringing himself into the story creation process Raimi’s vision was lost and so was the audience.

2. THE "BEEN THERE, DONE THAT" SYNDROME.
Everything in this movie has been seen before. One doesn’t even have to reference some obscure film that only Bunche or a film student would know. Raimi and his crack writing partner mined the greats; THE BLOB (both versions), JURASSIC PARK, and SAVED BY THE BELL — yes, SAVED BY THE BELL — to name just a few. Didn’t you just see a young Steve McQueen flash in front of your eyes when the meteorite crashed? Shoot, how about Matt Dillon and Shawnee Smith? Steven Spielberg should be proud that Raimi ripped off the JURASSIC PARK truck in the tree scene and switched Sam Neill and that kid for Kirsten Dunst. And finally, who could ever forget when Zack took Screech’s cousin to the Max to make Kelly jealous. Zack and the poor plot device girl (more on this later) even danced to Zack and Kelly’s song. C’mon, $300 MILLION and we pay homage to T-NBC! Finally, Raimi actually ripped himself off with the Gwen Stacy in Peril scene. Wasn’t that Mary Jane in the first movie hanging from some height while dangling from a piece of masonry?

3. THE CIRCLE OF COINCIDENCE.
Let’s just say for argument's sake that there are 4 million people in New York City; Peter Parker goes to school with Gwen Stacy, who happens to date Eddie Brock, who happens to be after his job! Flint Marko just happens to be connected to the guy who “killed” (more on this later) Uncle Ben and gets to come back as a super-villain who fights Spider-Man then teams up with the guy who hates him because he took his job back and his girl away and who manages to be in the exact same church at the exact same time as Peter decides to be a genius (Reed Richards figured out the alien costume’s weakness) and use the peals of a bell to defeat the costume and stands right underneath it so the alien bonds to him…James Joyce taught me a lot!

4. THE "CAN WE PLEASE STOP CRYING?" QUESTION.
ENOUGH ALREADY. Tobey Maguire and Rosemary Harris have the amazing ability to call forth the waterworks. Thank you, but two movies of that is enough. And just an observation among many, when Sandman was presented with a watery demise Thomas Hayden Church managed to muster up enough of a panicked look that gave him believability in the part. So, how is it that he’s able to cry in the end? Seeing our hero exhibit human frailty is fine, he’s done it all throughout the series. Let’s just cut it with the waterworks.

5. THE NEGATION OF THE FIRST TWO FILMS (or Peter’s Unnecessary Re-motivation).
Flint Marko killed Uncle Ben? Huh? What? Did I miss something in all of the years that I have read Spider-Man? Now before you go pointing out my love of the BATMAN films and Tim Burton’s decision to make it a young Jack Napier who killed Bruce’s parents before he became the Joker, I have that covered! The first BATMAN film laid the groundwork. It moved the story because it was the first time we, as filmgoers, not comic readers were introduced to the inciting incident (bless you, Mark Gruenwald). By making Flint Marko responsible for Ben’s death, Raimi has now made Peter a cold blooded murderer. Raimi has also told us, the viewer, that all of the emotion that we have invested in the first two movies regarding Peter and how and why he became Spider-Man were all a waste of time. One of Raimi’s successes with SPIDER-MAN was the fact that he stayed relatively close to the source material. By diverging from the most important aspect of Peter’s motivation, he has invalidated the previous two movies. This is not the first time that something like this has happened in a genre film series. The utterly atrocious theatrical release of ALIEN3 accomplished the same destructive act. By killing off Newt and Hicks in the opening scenes, the struggles that Ripley suffered and triumphed over in ALIENS were completely wiped away.

6. GWEN STACY IS ONLY A PLOT DEVICE.
This is probably the worst usage of an actor since Danny Glover needed to pay the mortgage by appearing in SAW. Here was classic bad story stuff. Let’s introduce Gwen in Peter’s class as an intellectual rival and then squash that and turn her into a decoration. Raimi turns her into a model, a girl in peril, arm candy, and the tool for revenge. Sad. Ron Howard should have smacked his daughter in the head for this. SPIDER-MAN 3 represents her third film with an out of touch director/”writer”. The character of Gwen Stacy deserved so much more than this. Her impact in Peter’s history was so important to become what it did in the film.

7. PSEUDO-ALFRED.
Michael Gough and Michael Caine should both sue for infringement of intellectual property. ‘Nuff said.

8. THE BAD COMIC BOOK TEAM-UP OF FORMER ENEMIES JOINING TOGETHER TO FACE THE COMMON FOE(S).
If you didn’t see this coming, you should never enter a movie theater again. Here’s an idea, let’s give the initial bad guy amnesia. The bad guy and the good guy will become buddies again and all will be right with the world. But wait, the bad guy gets his memory back and in the only real highlight of the film, the bad guy and the good guy go at it. Man, do they ever. That fight scene rocked and ruled. It was great. They were using their powers but the brilliant move to keep them in civvies was inspired. James Franco stole the movie right out from under Tobey Maguire and it really wasn’t because he was the better actor. It’s because he was given the better story arc. That fight was two movies coming and it was worth it. So how does, Raimi close that thread? Let’s have them team up! AGGGHH! My wife laughed at me as I mock slashed my wrists. The whole scenario was cringe inducing. And if you were surprised by what happened to Harry…

9. BAD FILMMAKING 101.
Where to begin? Let’s start with having a resolution for all the dialog spoken in the film. Let’s mention something and reference and close it later in the film. Harry saying, “I’d die for them” was the worst bit of foreshadowing ever. Subtlety be damned, Raimi is going to tell you in the first reel that Harry is dead. Long live Harry and long live James Franco for making me care about him until his predetermined death.

10. BAD FILMMAKING 102.
Let’s glam up the new girl and make the old one look like a schlep. My best friend’s first comment to me was how bad Kirsten Dunst looked in this film. I laughed quite giddily and asked him if he really thought she had anything to do with how she looked? This was such a bad sub-conscious technique it was almost insulting. If Raimi makes Gwen everything that Mary Jane isn’t at the moment then of course we’re going to boo when MJ kisses Harry. Hello folks, this is called manipulation. Granted all filmmaking involves some type of manipulation but to again callously take a character that we’ve come to appreciate and care for and turn her or him into a whipping girl/boy is not good.

11. BAD FILMMAKING 103.
Making a character a caricature. J.K Simmons crafted the perfect, and I do mean perfect, live action interpretation of J. Jonah Jameson. His presence on the screen was an absolute joy to behold. It was truly one of those moments where I became a kid all over again and remembered why I loved these characters. Oh, well. SPIDER-MAN 3 reduced him to nothing more than pathetic slapstick. I like slapstick. That’s why Ted Raimi is in these movies. Ted is a funny guy. Funny Ha Ha. JJJ is scary funny. He is so resolute in his opinions, and that it’s funny because we know, as outsiders looking in, how wrong he is. Instead we get a poorly written scene involving medication. I needed meds after that.

12. ADDENDUM TO ABOVE — MISSED HUMOR.
Let me be clear, I love the humor in these movies one of my favorite comic book movie funny moments is in the first X-MEN. When Jean and Cyke ask Logan how they are supposed to know he is the real one, he spouts the classic line, “You’re a dick.” That was funny. Appropriate and funny. There was a moment when Peter walks into the French Restaurant. We know that Bruce Campbell has to show up sooner or later and there he is. That moment, when they look at each other, I mouthed the words, “Do I know you?” Waste of my jaw muscles.

13. ORIGIN OF THE SANDMAN.
Dumb, Hulkesque. And unsafe. Wide open top in the middle of one of the five boroughs. Please. I can’t write anymore about it.

In closing, I wanted to like this movie. But there is no way that I can. I have called this movie the ALIEN3 of the Spidey franchise, and BATMAN AND ROBIN plus and extra hour. People will say that you can’t please all the people all the time. I’m sorry that I feel $300 million should please me at all.

If Sam Raimi ever decides to make a Director’s cut of this movie please listen to others, listen to people who aren’t his family. Listen to the immortal words of James Cameron when relenting to the studio in their demand to cut ALIENS to a shorter running time: “The easiest way to edit a movie is not to whittle down a second here or a second there. Remove an entire sub plot.”

Despite what the general populace may say, remove the entire Sandman storyline. We know that the Venom stuff seems wedged in there, but it is the lesser of the two evils. The Sandman story ruins the mythos of Spider-Man’s origin for that reason alone it needs to go.

With some careful edits and restructuring, a Venom movie will be okay. And leave all of the Harry stuff except the team up and death. That’s a movie I’d pay to see again.

-Tim Tuohy

HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER…OR HOLLYWOOD COCKSUCKER?-SHREK THE THIRD (2007)

One of the sure signs that a series has "jumped the shark" is when the writers have pretty much run out of ideas and they think they can inject new life into moribund characters and situations by bringing babies into the mix. That said, the SHREK series has officially jumped the shark.

The original SHREK (2001) was an entertaining change of pace for animated features, leaving out the dreaded musical numbers (for the most part; that "I'm A Believer" finale was embarrassing and still gives me agita), giving us a grouch as the reluctant anti-hero, painting the world of fairy tales and legends as an anachronistic haven for lunatics, having the decency to be just-subversive enough within family-friendly story, and raising a stiff middle finger to the entire catalog of similar-but-saccharine fare from Das Uber-Disney. As such, it was a near-brilliant effort, and after raking in a gazillion bucks at the box office a sequel was inevitable.

SHREK 2 (2004) was beloved by many, however I found it unbearable but for the exception of Antonio Banderas' scene-stealing delivery as Puss In Boots; come to think of it, it was blatantly obvious that the creators had comedy gold in Puss, so why didn't they just do a retelling of his story, only from the skewed perspective found in the first SHREK? I guess that would have made too much sense...

Now we get to SHREK THE THIRD, in which Shrek and his wife, Fiona, find themselves up for the throne of Far Far Away when Fiona's dad dies, a role Shrek wants nothing to do with, instead longing to return to his fetid swamp. Discovering that Fiona's teenage cousin Artie is next in line for succession, Shrek sets off to shanghai the kid into occupying the monarchy, accompanied by Puss In Boots and Donkey, hands-down the single most irritating "comedy relief" ever — well, next to Jar-Jar Binks anyway — to say nothing of the fact that he's exactly the same character essayed by Eddie Murphy in Disney's MULAN (1998), and who needs comedy relief in a film that's already a comedy anyway? Then there's the subplot of Fiona's pregnancy and Shrek's fears about impending fatherhood, sub-sitcom-level pap that doesn't add much to the story. And don't get me started on the wholly inappropriate use of Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" during the dead king's funeral, especially when given the karaoke treatment by a chorus of frogs (I shit you not).

The film is a strictly by the numbers sequel with little to recommend it, and even Puss In Boots couldn't save this listless trifle. An imaginative use of Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song" and the best CGI animation in the trilogy notwithstanding, SHREK THE THIRD is feeble, definitely not worth paying full price and barely worth a look on cable, but not quite up — or is that down? — to the level of deserving the title "cocksucker." Take the kids to Blockbuster and rent them SHOGUN ASSASSIN instead.

I fucking hate the summer blockbuster season...

SHIN KYUSEISHU DENSETSU HOKUTO NO KEN - YURIA DEN (2007)

Anyone who's ever seen FIST OF THE NORTH STAR in any of its incarnations will tell you that the female characters were pretty much there solely to be rescued or serve as sacrificial lambs at the hands of rapists and garden variety murderers, so this made-for-DVD place holder (until the next theatrical feature) beefs up the role of Yuria — rechristened "Julia" in the English version, presumably to distance her name from sounding like a urinary reference — the unintentional catalyst to the odyssey of killing that passes as a story, and adds further details to her covert role as the last general of the Southern Cross Fist (if you aren't well-versed in this series, don't ask; it's a looooong story). However, while admirably fleshing out Yuria's role the writers have rendered much of the mystery and surprise of the tale's events moot by having her serve as a behind the scenes manipulator whose actions create a whole new level of pointless retroactive continuity.

This is FIST OF THE NORTH STAR as chick flick, two terms that should never be in the same sentence for any reason, and as a result much of the insane fighting, violence and showering gore is absent, attempting to make the viewer feel guilty for enjoying the carnage that they wanted to see in the first place, and while not boring this is not what a fan of the series would want. And for those who know this stuff, this DVD recounts hero Kenshiro's origin, bits of the Rei storyline, and sets the stage for the next film, Toki's heartbreaking battle with the ruthless Raoh. Now, that's a film I want to see!

Friday, May 18, 2007

OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!-EATING PUSSY = R.I.P.?

Just when I thought life couldn't possibly suck any worse, I read this. Excerpted from this week's SAVAGE LOVE column — by the esteemed Dan Savage — in the Village Voice:

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health announced last week that oral sex—blowjobs and cunnilingus—may cause throat cancer. First, the bad news: If you and your girlfriend have had more than five oral-sex partners in your lives, PBA, you are both 250 percent more likely to develop throat cancer than some sad asshole who's never had oral sex. Researchers are too polite to point this out, but I'm not: Most Americans eat pussy and swallow cock. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 90 percent of straight men and 88 percent of straight women report engaging in oral sex. Half of all American teenagers have had oral sex; by age 19, the number rises to 70 percent. "Researchers believe," reports New Scientist, "oral sex may transmit human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus implicated in the majority of cervical cancers," and the virus lodges in the throat, where it can cause cancer. Study subjects infected with HPV were 32 times more likely to develop throat cancer; folks who tested positive for one highly aggressive strain of the virus, HPV-16, were 58 times more likely to develop throat cancer. Smoking, previously believed to be the culprit behind most throat cancers, only triples a person's risk. But before we panic—it's just one study—let's put throat cancer in perspective. Despite the fact that nearly all Americans engage in oral sex, throat cancer accounts for a tiny percentage of the roughly 1.5 million cases of cancer diagnosed every year. According to the Cancer Facts & Figures report released by the American Cancer Society in 2007, we will see 35,000 cases of oral cancer this year—that's tongue, mouth, pharynx, and "other oral cavity." That compares to 271,000 cases of digestive-system cancers, 229,000 cases of respiratory cancers, 220,000 cases of prostate cancer, and 180,000 cases of breast cancer.

And let's put HPV in perspective, too. While most sexually active adults are exposed to HPV at some point, our immune systems usually "clear" the virus on their own. So not every HPV exposure leads to infection, and not every HPV infection is lifelong. Researchers are, according to reports, working on a saliva test for HPV—because when it comes to cancer, early detection saves lives.

So while the news is alarming, and the mainstream media will doubtless go into full hysteria mode, last week's report in The New England Journal of Medicine shouldn't be read as, "Eat yourself some pussy, get yourself some throat cancer!" Engaging in oral sex puts you at a greater risk—significantly greater, admittedly—of contracting a virus that, if your body doesn't clear it, has a very small risk of causing throat cancer. It's not a certainty; it's a risk. As with any pleasurable activity, sexual or otherwise, we weigh risks against benefits and make decisions. Smart folks minimize their risks—by, say, using condoms for oral sex (har har)—but most sexually active adults are likely to conclude that the real and immediate pleasures of oral sex are worth risking a distant and unlikely case of throat cancer.

And what does your favorite Bunche have to say about all of this?

Woof.

Now, I can't speak for you, but if eating pussy is now rated as a possible carcinogen then life simply is not worth living anymore, so I'm goin' out with my tongue a-lashin' and my face glistening like a raw egg. Shit, it's a risk worth taking.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!-FRODO & THE STOOGES?


I swear I'm not making this up (special thanks to Jewish Warrior Princess for the heads-up); from dotmusic:

Elijah goes Pop
(Thursday May 17, 2007 05:18 PM)

Elijah Wood will play Iggy Pop in a forthcoming movie about the rock legend, it has been confirmed. The "Lord Of The Rings" star has been linked with the lead role in the film for some time, with shooting now expected to commence in around six months.

Apparently the film will concentrate on the initial years of Pop's career. However he has decided against getting involved, despite describing Wood as "a very poised and talented actor". Iggy explained: "The script ain't chopped liver...It was a work of art. But subjectively, I don't want to be involved in any way.

"A producer and the writer sent me a very decent letter, and asked me to write back if I didn't want them to do it... I don't feel negative about it at all."

Okay, if the Iggster himself has good things to say about both Frodo, er, Elijah and the script, that gives me hope. But Elijah had better be ready to whip out a big meat-truncheon when the onstage antics get crazy...

TRUE LIFE SUBWAY ADVENTURES: HARVELL SETS ME STRAIGHT ON BRUCE LEE

Anyone who's ever taken the NYC subway system knows it's a fascinating and often frightening study in the myriad states of humanity, with you as a captive observer (and sometimes unwilling participant) until the doors open at the next stop. Having gotten used to the garden variety loonies who infest the Brooklyn trains and buses over the past four years, I had forgotten the truly unique and confrontational denizens who roam the lines running through the Big Apple proper, the great beast that is Manhattan.

My new job is located one block and a couple of avenues from Grand Central Station, and to get there from where I reside in Brooklyn I take the Manhattan-bound R train to Times Square and transfer to Grand Central on the shuttle that runs between the two 42nd Street traffic hubs; during the two weeks of this commute, I have several times encountered Harvell, a Black late-fifty-something Viet Nam vet who begs money to allegedly send his son to the Boston Conservatory for Music and hawks STREET NEWS — a newspaper whose procedeeds supposedly go to NYC's homeless — and generally irritates the living shit out of the daily passengers, rendering a one-and-a-half minute shuttle ride nigh unbearable. And, as my buddy Jared will tell you, for some reason I am a magnet for every fucking looney in the Manhattan subway system, and during my first week on the job I attracted Harvell's interest with a large button fastened to my carryall bag, a badge that reads "STILL AGAINST WAR." He barred me from getting off the train just to tell me that he appreciated the sentiment and then marred cool peacenik moment with the beginnings of a rant about Jesus, a move that allowed me to channel my inner Jesse Owens and bolt from the train.

This morning I threw on my gaudy Bruce Lee Hawaiian shirt, one of the most comfortable shirts I own, and made my way to work. Once I hit the shuttle there was Harvell, and when he saw my shirt he stopped me cold, pointed at the image of Bruce and said, "Now THAT was the MAN, mothafukka!!!" Not knowing what else to say, I responded with a polite, "Indeed he was" and swiftly moved to the far end of the car. Harvell followed me, elbowing his way through the wall of human congestion, and shouted, "Young man! YOUNG MAN!!!" I pretended not to hear him, but Harvell soon thrust his finger into my face and stated, "When I was in Viet Nam I was in Korea, and a martial arts master told me that the old-time masters were pissed the fuck off at Bruce Lee, so one of them hit him with a delayed-reaction pressure point move, and killed his ass!!!"

Now if there's one thing I am sick to fucking death of, it's all those idiotic theories about the "real" cause of Bruce Lee's death, a bunch of postulations straght out of a comic book that ease the blow of his untimely death at thirty-two because so many just can't accept that their badassed superhero was after all just another mortal man. The autopsy determined the cause of death as an allergic reaction to the ingredients in an aspirin tablet that caused a cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain, and not the long-rumored "Dim Mak" death touch administered by an irate martial arts adept, so get over it already!

Anyway, I shot back with the autopsy info, and Harvell's head nearly exploded; his only retort was "Naw. nigga! That's the way is was, Jack, and it was just his time! God is in control, and we think we know every fuckin' thing, but we don't know nothin! GOD IS IN CONTROL!!!" He then composed himself long enough to squeese in one last appeal for money to support his son's education, now purported to be taking place at Berkely College, "for jazz," and I made my escape into the throng of Grand Central.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

YER BUNCHE'S TOP TEN GRINDHOUSE FLICKS

Seeing how the ambitious project that was GRINDHOUSE has officially and oh so undeservedly tanked at the box office, I thought it would be a good time to steer you toward some of the classics of the genre and ambiance it sought to recapture. Those films strove for nothing more than to entertain the audience with sleazy, lowbrow thrills that just might have some evidence of directorial craft thrown in for good measure, and the films that follow are prime examples of what I’m going on about. They aren’t for all tastes by any means, but they're each worth a look for reasons that will be made readily apparent. In no particular order:

FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (1977)

Hands down the most incendiary of the race hate genre — well, maybe not; keep reading — this flick is a textbook example of just what an exploitation film should be; three psychos escape from prison and subject a family of devout Black Christians — dad’s even a preacher — to a home invasion that could only be made worse by including torture with a blowtorch. FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE is very strong and offensive stuff, and would have gone down in grindhouse history anyway for the shameless manipulation of audience emotions and for being a “kill Whitey” movie that actually delivers what it promised, but the thing that truly made it a classic is William Sandersen’s balls-out performance as Jesse Lee Kane, easily the single most racist piece of shit ever to grace the screen and wind up Black moviegoers into a berserker rage, a state of apoplexy stoked by the fact that the guy’s a scrawny, inbred runt who’d be getting his ass handed to him in two seconds by everyone in sight if he didn’t have a gun pointed at their heads, even a baby in a fucking highchair! (SEE BELOW)

Kane hurls endless physical and verbal abuse upon the family — including a wheelchair-bound grandma, a sweet pre-teen boy, and his beautiful sister (you can guess where that leads) — and if you need a refresher course on ethnic slurs, I urge you to have your notebook at the ready. The torment escalates to ludicrous levels, and by the time Kane forces dad to tap dance and sing spirituals at gunpoint, the characters and the audience are more than ready to kick the living shit out of the guy, take a big, greasy dump down his neck so he’d once more be filled to the brim with shit, and then kick said shit out of him once again. When the payback happens, even the Caucasians in the audience will be ready to kill redneck trash with impunity and join their highly rhythmic brethren in rioting in the streets. Sandersen’s performance is nothing short of masterful, and serves as a pointed contrast to his real personality and later roles in BLADE RUNNER, NEWHART, and DEADWOOD, so much so that he’s very uncomfortable discussing the flick for fear that people will think he’s really like the character he played, and even declined to participate on the commentary for the DVD release. And as if the film itself didn’t shamelessly play the race card, the filmmakers even prepared two different trailers, one geared toward general audiences, and an hilariously over-the-top version aimed at inner city audiences that highlighted the violence and proclaimed, ”This film will make you stand up and shout I AM PROUD TO BE A BLACK MAN!!!” I didn't echo that sentiment, but the movie is definitely not for pussies and shouldn't be missed by lovers of sleazy, offensive trash.

MAD MAX (1979)

Now rightly enshrined as one of the milestones of the action genre along with its sequel, THE ROAD WARRIOR, aka MAD MAX 2 (1982), its grindhouse origins have been pretty much forgotten these days. Sort of the flipside of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, MAD MAX depicts a dystopian near-future Australia fraught with cruelty, lawlessness, and tribal mentalities from the point of view of the police, themselves a clan of borderline-homoerotic leather boys in skin-tight fetish gear. The only thing these adrenaline junkies love more than each other is their souped-up vehicles, fuel-injected chariots that have less to do with apprehending offenders than blowing them off the road in what amounts to territorial pissing combined with aggravated assault. A young Mel “Sugartits” Gibson achieved overnight stardom here as Max, a cop who has wearied of his violent vocation, realizing he’s almost as bad as the psychos he pursues after run-ins with the Toecutter and his flamboyant gang of biker scum, themselves disciples of the Night Rider, a homicidal joyrider relegated to death in a sepulcher of twisted, flaming metal by Max. From that point on, it’s a symphony of sadistic and spectacular vehicular one-upmanship that builds to a tragic crescendo for Max and his family, causing him to go mad and settle the score with his enemies as decisively and violently as humanly possible. It’s a great slow-burning revenge film that paradoxically moves at a near-dizzying pace, stopping for breath only for the brief character bits before once more taking to the highway in an orgy of beautifully edited high speed violence. Far artier than it has any right to be, I take MAD MAX over its more popular follow-up for its not-quite-as-fantastic setting, characters, and sights, as opposed to Max being allowed to roam in a post-apocalyptic barbarian wasteland that drips with mythic intent and references; THE ROAD WARRIOR may be a fucking great movie, but it just isn’t as intimate in its simplicity as this first of an eventual trilogy, soon to be a quadrology (?) with the recently-announced MAD MAX: ROAD OF FURY, although it remains to be seen if Sugartits will return to the role.

SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980)

Seamlessly edited together from parts of the first two LONE WOLF & CUB movies, this flick occupies the number two spot on my list of all-time favorite films. Reducing two plot-heavy samurai films to barely ninety minutes of wall-to-wall, exquisitely choreographed, ultra-gory sword fighting violence and have it actually end up compelling, visually stunning, and coherent is nothing short of a miracle, and SHOGUN ASSASSIN sure as shit made a believer out of me when I first saw it twenty-two years ago. Tomisaburo Wakayama’s portrayal of former-imperial-headsman-turned-wandering-assassin Itto Ogami is a classic, as is his relationship with his toddler son, an adorable tyke who rides about in a lethally tricked-out baby carriage and provides matter-of-fact narration via voiceover. The cut and paste version of the story has Ogami and his son on the run from the pissed off shogun, a major asshole who, for reasons that remain obscure in this version, frames Ogami for treason. Wrongly disgraced, Ogami renames himself Lone Wolf and sets out on the road to Hell, losing himself on his odyssey of carnage and becoming demonic in his ferocity. The guy’s killing skills are formidable on superhuman levels, and that point is proven again and again in battles against scores of ninja — both male and female — and the three-way threat of the Masters of Death, with severed body parts littering the proceedings and things getting so sanguine that blood flies as though from a garden hose, even splashing onto the fucking camera (seriously!).

Those used to Kurosawa’s more restrained bushido opuses are in for quite a surprise when sitting through this, the chambara genre’s most succulent offering to the gorehound, so if you can’t take blood by the literal bucketful I suggest you stick with BEACHES. You fucking pussy.

GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972)

This whole film’s pretty good, if dated, but the thing that sets this one squarely in the exploitation firmament is the still-shocking setup: a young couple’s choice for lover’s lane action proves disastrous when they park in a graveyard and a hungry vampires rises from the earth in search of sustenance. The vamp kills and drains the boyfriend while the horrified girl screams in terror, but her day gets worse when the undead murderer drags her into the open grave and rapes her (thankfully off-camera, allowing our imaginations to conjure up something far worse than what could have been presented directly). She survives the ordeal, considerably less sane for her trouble, and gives birth to a pale baby boy who won’t breastfeed. When mum accidentally cuts her finger with a knife and her blood falls onto the babe’s lips, he laps up the red stuff with gusto and his mother immediately begins lacerating her breasts to feed her little one. As the years go by mom perishes from blood loss, and the half-nosferatu child grows up into hulking biker film mainstay William Smith who sets out to take vengeance against his father. In a novel twist, dad is a professor of legends and mythology at a university’s night school, and as he begins preying upon the student body his son signs up for a night course. What follows is a game of cat and mouse that erupts into a knock-down, drag-out ass-whuppin’ of a showdown from which only one can walk away, and while I ain’t sayin’ nothin’, there is no happy ending…

NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985)

Eighties to the core and an hilarious counterpoint to SHOGUN ASSASSIN’s artful cut-and-paste construction, this flick takes footage from an unfinished film and two bizarre extant releases, sets them lose amidst a framing device that features God and Satan (SEE BELOW)

reviewing the footage as the stories of people who will be sent to either Heaven or Hell when their sordid tales play out, sprinkles in an interminable and horrendous party of FLASHDANCE/FOOTLOOSE rejects breakdancing and singing the ironic “Everybody’s Got Somethin’ To Do (everybody But You),” (the douchebags in question are seen below)

and drops the whole mess aboard the titular locomotive as it whizzes its way to an inevitable crash. The stories themselves are all over the map, as would be expected from what amounts to FOUND FOOTAGE: THE MOVIE, but we get a gory yarn about a guy who gets brainwashed and for no adequately explained reason dismembers women for a questionable hospital, a digest version of the incomprehensibly strange DEATH WISH CLUB (1983) in which assorted morons join a club that allows them exotic ways to off themselves, and finally a truncated version of the not bad demon flick CATACLYSM, aka THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS (1980). Loaded with gore, nudity, a couple of sub-LAND OF THE LOST animated critters, a guy who looks like a fey version of Jimi Hendrix whose head melts, a Hoppity-Hop bouncing toy spray-painted (unsuccessfully) to resemble a wrecking ball that squashes a guy’s skull, and a FLASHDANCE-esque male dancer who you’ll instantly want to punch right in the face, this rock-bottom horror anthology is cheap, stupid, hilarious, and at times so mired in its decade of birth that it’s painful to watch, but it’s far more entertaining than the similar NIGHTMARES (1983).

SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975)

Originally released as THE JEZEBELS and second only to the immortal FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! as the greatest “bad girls” movie of all time, this rollercoaster of exploitation gold has it all: terrible acting/dialogue, characters straight out of a comic book, violence, nudity, drunken parents, delinquent teens who couldn’t be a day younger than twenty-five, Black militant lesbians who storm the neighborhood in a homemade tank (!!!), eye-wiltingly-ugly bell bottoms, and even an obligatory women in prison sequence, all brought to you by one of the undisputed masters of the genre, Jack Hill. No bullshit, run out and rent this right now and be prepared to laugh your ass off with a classic of unrepentant, sleazy entertainment (believe me, Hill knew exactly what he was doing).

HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1981)

Did you ever wonder what monsters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon did with the human women they abducted? This movie answers that burning question in amazingly tasteless and gory fashion when a bunch of horny fish men start graphically raping the living shit out of bikini-clad (or not) victims — though we don’t see the monsters’ dicks —

and dismembering all who would put a stop to such shenanigans. Almost uncomfortably sleazy and prurient, HUMANOIDS is so questionable that you just have to laugh at its excesses, but keep in mind that this is definitely NOT a date movie, and under no circumstances should the final scene be witnessed by pregnant women. (SEE BELOW)

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

Sort of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE meets BOSTON PUBLIC, this gem of steadily-building-tension-headed-toward-well-earned-retribution is easily the best of the post-punk, 1980’s delinquency flicks that feature gangs of wispy kids in “new wave” gear and haircuts causing mayhem that would not only have gotten their asses kicked by the general public, but would also have landed them under the jail. Perry (MANDINGO) King stars as a music teacher assigned to the worst high school imaginable, only with the added sci-fi twist of all the worst delinquents being white. The malevolent Stegman (Vince Van Patten) looks like the wimpiest thug in the world, but with his gang of enforcers he keeps the entire school in a tight grip of fear. The gang’s activities include tormenting the staff just because they can, shaking down underclassmen for their lunch money, holding open auditions for their on-campus prostitution ring, preventing students from learning, and just generally being vile, so King’s teacher must naturally take a stand against them. Not a good idea, because the enmity between teacher and gang escalates in some truly nasty ways — did I mention that the teacher has a pregnant wife? — even driving meek science professor Roddy MacDowall to snap and hold his class at gunpoint after he discovers his beloved rabbits flayed and strewn about the science lab. The final showdown between King and the gang is harrowing stuff, particularly a gag involving a table saw, so get beady for it, along with an early role by a pudgy, pre-FAMILY TIES Michael J. Fox, whose character gets stabbed in the middle of the crowded lunchroom.

GOODBYE UNCLE TOM (1972)

There are some who say that the legendary ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS holds the crown for most morally bankrupt exploitation film ever made, but they are dead wrong. Totally out of its mind in terms of both concept and content, the Italian-made GOODBYE UNCLE TOM —aka FAREWELL UNCLE TOM — is a fake documentary, complete with interviews of the subjects, on the horrors of the slave era Old South as filmed by a helicopter camera crew who somehow turned up there with absolutely no attempt at an explanation. Beyond tasteless and offensive, the flick wallows in as much rape, torture, cruelty, nudity, relentlessly depressing imagery, and general degradation of the human spirit as can possibly be crammed into one feature, and even by the standards of this hardened exploitation movie fan the flick is some seriously hard shit to take. But what blows my mind most about it is how it has come to be embraced by many Black militant and activist groups as one of a handful of films — among them my beloved MANDINGO — that “tell it like it was” in regards to slavery and should be taught in public schools, despite the blatant intent of the filmmakers to exploit such misery for all it’s worth. I may not be able to support it, but it is certainly a one-of-a-kind film, and every serious student of the grindhouse genre should eventually witness its finger-down-your-throat evil for themselves.

VIXEN! (1968)

To some the most beloved of Russ Meyer’s boobs-and-bad-gals sagas, VIXEN! Is nothing more than a feature length excuse to have star Erica Gavin’s ultra-slutty bitch of a sex fiend fuck the crap out of nearly every other character in the entire film, regardless of gender or genetic ties (she fucks her biker brother). There’s virtually no plot, just Vixen getting it on with whatever sentient life forms happen to be available, just after showering them with scathing verbal abuse that clearly influenced John Waters’ script writing chops, and then a ridiculously overacted “Irish” character shows up to hijack Vixen’s husband’s charter plane from British Columbia to Cuba. The guy’s a rabid commie, and once he shows up you can kiss the sex and nudity goodbye as he attempts to sway the lone Black character to Castro’s point of view, a rant in which I guess Meyer intended to point out his own opinions on the madness of communism because the Irish guy is obviously a loony. The sex would probably qualify for a “soft” R these days — no genitals are seen — but the women on display are pretty tasty (provided you can overlook Gavin’s aggressively-penciled-on Sub-Mariner eyebrows) and natural (read deliciously fleshy and silicone-free), as you’d expect from Uncle Russ.

It’s even acceptable as a date movie because your girlfriend will probably laugh her ass off at the ludicrous dialogue, and maybe even buy into the film’s purported feminist subtext (yeah, right).

So, what do you readers have to add to this scholarly discussion? WRITE IN, DAMN YOUR EYES!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'M GLAD YOU'RE DEAD, DOUCHEBAG: JERRY FALWELL (1933-2007)


During my time in the Marvel Comics Bullpen I had the pleasure of working alongside several Born Again Christians, and had many of my deep-rooted prejudices against them and their faith shattered by seeing the ones I worked with as excellent human beings who didn't bother others with their convictions and put forth a genuine love of their fellow man. I had hated Born Agains and fundamentalists since my tween years, and now the main cause of that blind distaste lies deader than the box office take for FROM JUSTIN TO KELLEY. Yes, Jerry Falwell, one of the founders of the so-called "Moral Majority" finally had the simple common decency to die, thus becoming no longer able to utter such gems as this statement made on the Christian television show THE 700 CLUB regarding the tragedy of 9/11:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen."

And when that monolith of stupidity naturally blew up in his face, he responded in a phone call to CNN with:

"I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize."

"Left that impression?" Motherfucker, you cited several groups and organizations by name, so that shit wasn't left to the imagination, it was premeditated. And that's just a nugget from the mountain of horsehit to spew from Falwell's poisonous mind over the decades.

A denouncer of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, as well as being a vocal supporter of apartheid and an all-around colossal asshole, I genuinely hope that if Hell exists Falwell is being ass-fucked by a Satanic Rottweiler with glowing red eyes and a two-foot flaming penis. But enough of my petty fantasies, the last word shall go to the Dead Kennedys with an excerpt from their song "Moral Majority" (1981):

Circus-tent con-men and Southern belle bunnies
Milk your emotions then they steal your money
It's the new dark ages with the fascists toting bibles
Cheap nostalgia for the Salem Witch Trials

Stodgy ayatollahs in their dobble-knit ties
Burn lots of books so they can feed you their lies
Masturbating with a flag and a bible
God must be dead if you're alive

Blow it out your ass, Jerry Falwell
Blow it out your ass, Jesse Helms
Blow it out your ass, Ronald Reagan
What's wrong with a mind of my own??

BLOOD, GORE, AND SO MUCH MORE: THE COLLECTED HOOK JAW VOL. 1

"Sharks cannot be tamed, they cannot be domesticated, they cannot be herded into game parks, and they cannot be exterminated."
-Jacques and Phillipe Cousteau, "The Shark — Splendid Savage of the Seas" (Cassell, 1970)

What's not to like about a mindlessly gory comics series featuring a gigantic Great White shark as the protagonist?

The British weekly boys comic ACTION (1976-1977) was a short-lived, balls-out-crazy attempt at cornering the lads' adventure market by ripping off the violent movies that kids wanted to see but were too young for proper admittance, and amping up the mayhem and gore to hilariously over-the-top levels.

Spearheaded by the legendary (and still working) editor/writer Pat Mills, ACTION gave boys across the UK exactly the kind of testosterone-laden thrills craved by kids just a bit too young to have begun considering the merits of a covert grab of blossoming titty over those of playing soldiers in the back yard. My pals who grew up across the Pond reading this stuff when it came out hold a great fondness for it in their corrupted little hearts, citing such strips as DREDGER (a Dirty Harry swipe) and DEATH GAME 1999 (ROLLERBALL without a hint of restraint or good taste in the storytelling) as being more entertaining than a monkey with a fresh tube of K-Y jelly and a watermelon with a hole cut in it, but the magazine was killed by loud protests from parents and other defenders of public decency, the post-censorship neutered version sinking down the bowl faster than a hearty high-fiber turd, a sad fate for a magazine that ran the following blurb beneath one of its comics: "If ACTION doesn't make your hair stand on end — You must be bald!"

The history of ACTION is fascinating to say the least and can be found in more detail here, so I urge you to check that out. There was even an entire book written chronicling the rise and fall of the magazine — ACTION! THE STORY OF A VIOLENT COMIC (1990, Titan Books) — and from the ashes of ACTION arose the seminal sci-fi weekly 2000 AD, where Mills went on to co-create JUDGE DREDD and SLAINE, and wrote the excellent original run of THE A.B.C. WARRIORS and NEMESIS THE WARLOCK (with art by future LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN illustrator Kevin O'Neill). But when it comes to his work on ACTION, one piece stands out, head and gore-splattered shoulders above the rest, namely HOOK JAW.

Mostly written by Ken Armstrong — an unsung genius/madman —with assists from Mills, HOOK JAW is, at its most basic, a flagrant JAWS ripoff, but with a twist that greatly appeals to the nine-year-old in me: the shark's the hero! In the first episode, an innocent Great White is just minding his own business, sharking about the Caribbean, when he runs afoul of a game fishing boat. When an obnoxious, probably American tourist tries to reel him in, a crewman shoves a gaffing hook through through his jaw, which promptly breaks off and remains sticking out of his face (a truly ridiculous visual — "What's badder than a Great White Shark? A Great White shark with a spear sticking out of his face!!!"), hence the name "Hook Jaw." Since he ain't havin' dat, the shark smashes into the boat, sending the fisherman into the drink, thus rendering him the very first in a loooooooong line of victims. The narrative then skips ahead by a year for no apparent reason, and we find ourselves at an oil rig in the middle of the ocean under the thumb of money-crazed boss Red McNally, a guy who uncaringly sacrifices his men in the name of black gold. Rick Mason, the only crew member to openly oppose McNally, constantly finds himself in the ocean facing the legion of Tiger sharks that use the area just below the rig as a mating ground, along with the near-sentient and sadistic Hook Jaw, who is also apparently about fifty feet long. The script comes at the reader fast and furious, sacrificing such unimportant narrative devices as characterization, logic, or even an actual story in favor of filling each chapter with copious amounts of graphic violence and much futile he-man posturing; macho histrionics are all well and good, but what the fuck good is that when you're facing what amounts to an enraged force of nature?

The average chapter features a minimum of setup, pretty much any excuse to get humans into the water so they can become tomorrow's shark shit, followed by the maximum amount of gore that could be gotten away with in a children's comic at the time (a move that not surprisingly lead to the magazine going tits-up just over a year after its launch); the carnage involves dismemberment and ingestion by the ravenous protagonist, an unfortunate diver literally blown to chunky bits by explosive decompression, a guy in a shark cage being nibbled to death by tiny, newborn Great Whites (Hook Jaw's kids, the spawn of a mate whose death of course spurs a murderous rampage of revenge), a blistering battle between Hookjaw and a giant squid in which a diver named Pat Mills gets a massive hole through his guts while the squid devours his innards, impalements on marlinspikes, a fire on the oil rig that forces much of the burning crew into the waiting mouths of dozens of sharks, a pre-JAWS 2 bit with a helicopter getting sunk by a Great White, and that's just the first twenty-two pages of a ninety-six page volume! Then a fucking hurricane comes from out of nowhere, just as an airliner suffers massive engine failure and crashes into the rig, taking out the derrick spout and landing in the water, providing an a la carte feast for the sharks, lead by Hook Jaw, who, in characteristic form, noses through the cockpit and eats the captain's head, just before devouring a stereotypical Jewish-American bank president (Herbert J. Rosenheim).

Oh, and let's not forget the second story; the setting shifts to the Gulf of Mexico one year after part one, and Mason is now employed as a "water sports expert" (no, not THAT kind of "water sports") at a holiday resort, and then Hook Jaw shows up, entering an allegedly impregnable lagoon and starts feasting on the tourists. Of course the asshole resort owner won't close the place for fear of losing business (gee, where have I heard that one before?), and then there are the local natives, a bunch of blacks who refer to Rick as — I shit you not — "Massa Rick" and conduct a voodoo ritual to banish the shark menace... After reading certain parts of this story I am absolutely convinced that the makers of JAWS 3-D read HOOK JAW and ripped it off, an amusing ripoff of a ripoff, so I guess it all evens out on a cosmic scale.

If all that sounds exhausting, it is, but I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time, and I'm only fifty-one pages into the fucking thing! I'll finish it on my subway ride home this evening, but I will already recommend it without hesitation to those who love sheer ludicrousity on a grand scale. It's grubby, sleazy, drawn with exploitative gusto by Ramon Sola (who looks like he's having the time of his life), and is the definite spiritual ancestor to early 2000 AD's killer polar bear saga SHAKO!, which I reviewed a few months ago. Seriously, no other Two-Thou strip wore its ACTION influence on its sleeve like SHAKO! did, and that's too bad because the simple fact of the matter is that over-the-top violence and mayhem can be extremely entertaining if handled correctly. In fact, HOOK JAW would make for a breathless feature film thriller and probably rake in mountains of cash if any studio would have the stones to really go there with the material, namely keeping it as stupid as it is and not ruining it with an actual plot or a romantic interest; this is an ultra-violent tale of man versus sea-monsters, no more, no less, and it just cries out for a big screen adaptation. And I know there are those of you out there who hated DEEP BLUE SEA, which was kind of the same thing, but you can go fuck yourselves. You douchebags probably liked that BLAIR WITCH PROJECT bullshit.

My only real complaint about the HOOK JAW collection is the dinkiness of the overall package; for something that's been in production for at least two years, the book has a no-frills, black cover design (SEE BELOW) that almost caused me to gloss over it on the new comics rack at Manhattan's Midtown Comics, and a total lack of any kind of introductory material that places the strip in historical context or gives any background on ACTION and the controversy that surrounded it. Nonetheless, it's a hell of lot of fun and should be thrust into the hands of any pre-teen in need of corruption. Hey, I started out on the nudity-and-gore-laden CREEPY and EERIE when I was still in the single digits, and look how I turned out. Okay, bad example since those comics weren't aimed at kids, but HOOK JAW was, and that's a beautiful thing.