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Thursday, July 31, 2008

YER BUNCHE'S HANDY FIELD GUIDE TO THE CINEMA OF BRUCE LEE

NOTE: parts of this post are cribbed from an earlier piece, specifically much of the movie overviews (with a wee tweak here and there), so don't get freaked out if you feel a sense of déjà vu.

Lemme tell ya about my pal Karate Hottie. She's a smart, funny, cute and pulchritudinous bit of woman who is well-versed in many areas of interest and personal achievement save for two things that myself and some of our extended family are vying for her personal guru rights over: comic books — superhero and otherwise — and movies. I can understand how she wouldn’t have been exposed to the comic book thing (which is not to say that some of my favorite women aren’t stone cold comics geeks; shout-out to Amanda, Jewish Warrior Princess, Jessica, Joan, Andrea, Jill, Heidi and Pia!), but how about 99% of the movies that everyone in the world, even as-yet-undiscovered tribesmen deep within the Amazon rain forest, have seen managed to elude her I cannot explain. Too busy being foxy I guess…

Anyway, considering her practical enthusiasm for the martial arts I was shocked to discover she’d never seen that seminal chopsocky classic ENTER THE DRAGON, the film that I would bet my left arm caused more people to sign up for martial arts instruction than any other influence (although I do know a Wing Chun master who’s studied that art since he first saw THE GREEN HORNET television series back in 1966 and was wowed by Bruce Lee’s moves, some seven years before others had their minds expanded by Lee in ENTER THE DRAGON). Once I got over being appalled at this glaring omission from her education I promised to sit her through it, but the more I thought about it I realized that while ENTER THE DRAGON may be a landmark in the martial arts movie genre, it kind of sucks ass when Bruce Lee isn’t killing everyone within arm’s length. Oh, don’t look so shocked; sure, Bruce rules like a motherfucker, but the movie has one of the most feeble of plots for a film considered a classic, and while Jim “the Afro of the Gods” Kelly is indisputably awesome, he has too little to do. And if those points aren’t strong enough for you, all I have to say to you is three little words: John fucking Saxon. Quod erat demonstrandum.

That said, I nonetheless recommend ENTER THE DRAGON for its still-awesome fight sequences, but some of Bruce’s other completed films are better or at least more interesting than his most well known effort. So, caring about nothing other than educating Karate Hottie (and by default, you, Dear Reader) on the films of history’s most popular big screen ass-kicker, here’s a handy field guide to the all-too-sparse catalog of Lee Jun-Fan.

FISTS OF FURY (aka THE BIG BOSS, 1971)

You know you're in trouble when the poster is better than the movie.

Released in China as THE BIG BOSS, when this flick fell into the hands of American distributors it was supposed to be renamed THE CHINESE CONNECTION in order to link its drug-smuggling content with that of then-recent hit movie THE FRENCH CONNECTION, but thanks to a major fuck-up that title was instead given to FIST OF FURY — a film that has nothing whatsoever to do with heroin — while this flick ended up as the pluralized FISTS OF FURY. Anyway, everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and this was Lee’s first full-length foray into kung fu movies. Taken for what it is, it’s a sub par ass-whuppin’ actioner made notable solely by the presence of Bruce, but it established his onscreen persona as the highly skilled badass who uses his considerable ass-whuppin’ talents to fight for the “little guy,” in this case a bunch of workers at a Thai ice factory who get murdered when they refuse to become part of the boss’ drug smuggling operation. The fights are not spectacular by any means, but what is there is watchable and Bruce’s intensity definitely gets one’s attention. Worth seeing only for its status as a launching pad, your enjoyment — or mere tolerance, if you will — of this film can be much enhanced with the aid of several beers (or your potent potable of choice), a bag of decent weed and a bong, properly decorated with an easily-obtainable Bruce Lee decal. Oh, and this film was heavily censored during its initial Chinese run, excising much gore and violence perceived as too gratuitous, most famously a bit where Bruce stuffs a hand saw through a guy’s head (see below). Why the fuck would you edit something as awesome as that? Well, at least a still of this glorious moment in cinema exists…

Now that's gotta hurt!

FIST OF FURY (aka THE CHINESE CONNECTION, 1972)

THE CHINESE CONNECTION is an archetypal “You killed my master!” revenge flick that has Bruce as the top student at a kung fu school in Japanese-occupied China whose master is poisoned by the dastardly Samurai fuckheads at a local karate/swordsmanship/Japstuff dojo. Bruce and his schoolmates endure all kinds of shit from the intolerably obnoxious Japanese because their teacher did not believe in vengeance, but since this is a Bruce Lee movie it’s only a matter of time until Bruce puts his slipper-clad foot right up the collective ass of every motherfucker in the dojo, all while firmly standing up for Chinese pride in the face of imperialist racism and bullshit and being saddled with an unintentionally (?) hilarious dubbed voice that reminds the viewer of John Wayne.

Intense and violent as hell, complete with some of Bruce’s — and martial arts cinema’s — most spectacular fights, and the mother of all downbeat endings, this is simply the best film Bruce Lee ever made and it’s painfully obvious when Bruce stepped in to stage and choreograph the fights with his Hollywood trained eye since the hack director handles every other sequence in a rather pedestrian style that was common to much of Hong Kong cinema at the time. Seriously, if you're going to see only one Bruce Lee movie in your short time here on Earth, this is the one you should see.

RETURN OF THE DRAGON (1972)

Originally THE WAY OF THE DRAGON, this was released in the West after the success of the US/Hong Kong Warner Brothers collaboration ENTER THE DRAGON — more on that in a moment — , hence the cash-in moniker. The story, involving Bruce as a badassed country bumpkin sent to Rome to protect a relative’s Chinese restaurant from abuse by the Mafia, is no great shakes, but this is the only finished film completely directed by Lee from start to finish, and the fights rock some major ass. The highlights include Bruce decimating the mob’s attempts to fuck with his countrymen, employing hand-carved darts and two pair of 'chuks (nunchaku), and a stunning one-on-one battle between Bruce and Chuck Norris in the Colosseum that has justly been hailed as one of the classic set-tos of the entire genre.

Fuck WALKER, TEXAS RANGER! This is Chuck Norris at his very best.

And just look at that kick! Sheer beauty.

But to be totally honest, the only real reason to see this is for the fights. The story kind of just sits there and only comes to anything resembling life when Bruce is caving in heads with his limbs or a couple of pairs of deftly-applied 'chuks. Some form of inebriation is recommended here, probably a couple of stiff shots of tequila.

ENTER THE DRAGON (1973)

Perhaps no other film exemplifies what Westerners think of as a kung fu flick as much as this textbook tournament story. Bruce is a Shaolin monk/bad motherfucker sent by British intelligence to participate in an exclusive competition on a kung fu megalomaniac’s private island while simultaneously searching out a missing British operative/mole and gunning for the gweilo scumbag (Bob Wall) who caused his hapkido badass sister (Angela Mao Ying) to kill herself rather than endure being raped. The James Bond angle is a bit of a reach and in no way fits in with Bruce’s established “badass for the little guy” persona, plus the story is virtually non-existant, but when you have this much wall-to-wall, balls out ass-whuppin’ who fucking cares?

Lee’s fighting skills verge on the superhuman and there is not one other character in the whole piece that is even remotely a challenge for him — certainly not an out-of-his-league John Saxon — with even the final battle against the claw-handed main baddie being pretty much a case of Bruce Lee kicking an old man’s ass, but it’s a two-hands-on-your-cock pleasure nonetheless to see him and Jim Kelly, the god of the over-the-top Afro, beat the snot out of all comers.

Jim Kelly, taking time out from kicking ass and being generally awesome. NOTE: his 'fro is somewhat held in check in this pic thanks to his headphones, but I assure you it's a thing of great beauty and excellence. In fact, it's downright inspirational (well, it was to me at least).

ENTER THE DRAGON's highlights are many, but I have to single out two bits in particular:

1. Bruce’s so-unfair-that-it’s-embarrassing beat-down on Bob Wall, in which Lee’s movements were so fast that the film had to be overcranked — which renders the footage somewhat slower than live speed — so they could be seen on screen, and even then his leading fist is a virtual blur.

Bruce vs. Bob Wall: the very definition of "cat & mouse."

No bullshit, this sequence showcases some of the fastest and most beautiful hand techniques (Bruce's) that I've ever seen. When this part comes on I've been known to hit rewind and watch it over and over in slo-mo. Excuse me, I have something in my eye...

2. The battle in the underground dungeon/heroin processing plant where Lee takes on about a hundred guys using his fists, feet, a pole, two Escrima clubs and a pair of nunchaku.

The sequence that launched countless at-home concussions by way of (failed) imitation.

That fight shocked the living Hell out of people when it was first seen, and I can tell you from personal experience that when I first saw it I felt like someone had shoved a live power cable carrying four million volts right up my ass, so astounded was I by the incredible display of "fatal ballet" on the screen. I'd already been into the martial arts, but that scene was the moment that cemented that interest for life and also led me to learn how to use nunchaku; like many an errant youth, I was was mostly self-taught in the use of that particular weapon, and years later I was relieved to discover that I was not alone in nearly caving-in my skull during my trial-and-error efforts (Cocobolo wood is one seriously hard sonuvabitch, lemme tell ya!)

The sequence is also notable for an appearance by a very young, pre-eye surgery Jackie Chan on the receiving end of a savage neck-snapping.

Yup, that's Jackie Chan about to get turned into a human Pez dispenser.

Simply put, a perfect mindless Sunday afternoon popcorn muncher with enough violence for the guys and shirtless Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly as eye candy for the ladies and gay dudes. Short on plot and brains and existing for no reason other than to hand you spectacular scenes of human carnage, much like RETURN OF THE DRAGON this film really only jumps into high gear during the fights, but at least the filler between set-tos won't put you to sleep. And don't ever watch this film under the influence of hallucinogens such as mushrooms or LSD; TRUST YER BUNCHE and take my word for it that if you approach this one while seriously dosed, Bruce's flayed rabbit physique will totally freak you out and bring to mind the less appealing aspects of what can sometimes be found in the local butcher's window.

Oh, and I don't care what anyone says: Bruce's character in ENTER THE DRAGON — the imaginatively-named "Lee" — is definitely a superhero. Could Batman kick this guy's ass? I answer that question with an unequivocal "no."

GAME OF DEATH (1978)

One of the most vile acts of crass exploitation in the entire history of film, GAME OF DEATH was released some five years after Bruce's untimely demise at the age of thirty-two in an attempt to give a Bruce-hungry fan base something, anything, new and rake in big bucks for the "filmmakers" in the process. You see, before Bruce took the dirt nap he had begun shooting a film that he both wrote and directed, and all that exists of this work is a sequence wherein Bruce and two other Chinese dudes who are best left out of it ascend a pagoda and Bruce fights a martial arts master of a different style on each level, finally ending up in a visually bizarre and stunning throwdown against one of his real life students, namely all seven feet and two inches of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Unfortunately, production was interrupted when Lee was offered the chance to make history in ENTER THE DRAGON, the first martial arts flick made by a Hollywood studio (Warner Brothers), but he died before that film was released and was thus unable to resume the film he was crafting on his own. About ninety minutes of footage for the un-fucked-with GAME OF DEATH was shot, much of which was apparently lost or misplaced in the Golden Harvest studio's warehouses.

Some five years passed after Bruce's death, but then enter the greedy bastards at Warner Brothers and Golden Harvest studios (the company that gave Bruce his start in big screen martial arts films, by the way), who took the footage and crafted a “movie” around it featuring an utterly unconvincing double for Lee, and the resulting film is not only stultifyingly dull but it also has the nerve to paste a photo of Bruce to a mirror during a scene in which his double peers into the looking glass. I swear to God! But while the actual Lee footage used was pretty good stuff, the film upon which it was hung is an absolute floating turd of a movie that's on par with the typical bottom-of-the-barrel crap that was being churned out in Hong Kong by the boatload in order to meet the demand during the brief martial arts movie boom of the 1970's (roughly between 1972-1979), soon to be supplanted by the also brief ninja flick craze of the early/mid-1980's.

The lamer-than-lame plot is not even worth mentioning, but it goes without saying that since Bruce Lee had been moldering in the ground for five years it was necessary to find a lookalike to play him in the scenes that weren't shot for the unfinished film. The result is an eighty-five minute tortuously-boring endurance test that rewards die-hard audience members (victims, if you ask me) with just over eleven minutes of unseen fight scenes and a couple of clips from RETURN OF THE DRAGON. The "new" fights feature Bruce clad in his now-iconic yellow and black track suit, fighting his way up several levels of the aforementioned pagoda and encountering the master of a different combat style on each one (also aformentioned). His encounters with the first two masters are merely passable, but the real selling point of the entire misbegotten film is the fascinating battle between Lee and Abdul-Jabbar as "Hakim," the proponent of an "unknown" style.

The fight between the two is visually and conceptually interesting thanks to there being over a foot-and-a-half of difference between the combatants' heights, as well as Abdul-Jabbar having an exceedingly long reach with both arms and legs. The match is silent (save for various yells and grunts) and intense, but it in no way worth sitting through the entire film. Luckily the extant footage from Lee's original vision for GAME OF DEATH was put to far better and more respectful use over two decades later, but more on that in a moment. Despite all of the explanation you've just waded through, all you really need to know about the final theatrically-released version of GAME OF DEATH is that your life will in no way be diminished if you never see it, and if you loved what Bruce Lee did and was about, both onscreen and off, you owe it to his memory not to particpate in this wanton act of cinematic necrophilia. Truly ghoulish and offensive, this is one of the worst films ever made for a plethora of reasons, so I suggest you avoid it like the plague and stay home and mine your own ass-crack instead. The turds you extrude will be of infinitely more legitimate creative value, and will stink considerably less.

BRUCE LEE: A WARRIOR’S JOURNEY (2000)

Of the many Bruce Lee documentaries — most of which were cheap and offensive cash-in exploitation trash, and I should know because I've seen them all — this is hands down the best and it does the Nobel Peace Prize-worthy service of including the full-length fight sequences from the unfinished Lee-directed GAME OF DEATH, thereby sparing you the torturous experience of sitting through that posthumously-released act of cinematic necrophiliac rape. But never mind that bollocks; the documentary is both fun and informative, with a wealth of screen tests and home movies, and of course the un-fucked-with ass-whuppin’ footage.

So, to sum up: next to THE CHINESE CONNECTION, I'd rate BRUCE LEE: A WARRIOR'S JOURNEY as the must-see of the lot, followed by ENTER THE DRAGON for historical and ass-whuppin' reasons, and RETURN OF THE DRAGON, mostly for the fight with Chuck Norris. You can totally afford to miss FISTS OF FURY due to it being mediocre, and, as you may have gathered from my unbridled vitriol, GAME OF DEATH is recommended only if it's a choice between seeing it and having your genitals slowly torn asunder with a pair of pliers wielded by an expert and uncaring "interrogator" while you're tied to a chair with no hope of escape or rescue.

There you have it, Karate Hottie (and by default, you, Dear Reader). I hope this little lesson has been of some small use.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

DOOMSDAY: UNRATED EDITION (2008)

No one involved in the making of this film ever saw THE ROAD WARRIOR. Nope. No way.

Sometimes I just don’t understand what the fuck is wrong with movie critics. These so-called arbiters of quality and taste love to throw their encyclopedic knowledge about film genres in your face — I know I do — so one would think they’d be cognizant enough to get what a particular filmmaker is attempting to craft within the parameters of a given area of storytelling. Which brings me to the inexplicable critical disdain held for director Neil Marshall’s DOOMSDAY, a film that came and went in the blink of an eye and was tarred as a flagrant ripoff of any number of post-apocalyptic movies from roughly the past three decades. I had suspicions about the lambasting the film endured because I loved Marshall's two previous features, namely the stunning DOG SOLDIERS (2002) — the best werewolf flick since AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON — and THE DESCENT (2005), but I somehow never got around to seeing DOOMSDAY in the theater for the .02 seconds it ran, and seeing how fast it left the various multiplexes I figured that maybe the critics may have been right in their assessment.

Oh, how wrong I was, and lemme tell ya I won’t make the mistake of missing another one of Marshall’s films when it’s fresh. DOOMSDAY would have been a blast to see it the visually opulent but actually rather ghetto multiplex that I frequent over on Court Street in Brooklyn, since the audiences there get into flicks loaded with ultra-violence with the same zeal one would expect from those in the cheap seats during the days of the bloody spectacles found in the Roman Colosseum.

On a whim I sat through the unrated DVD of DOOMSDAY last night, and from start to finish a huge grin was plastered across my face. It’s a love letter to many of the director’s favorite visceral action/exploitation/sci-fi/horror flicks, most obviously ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE ROAD WARRIOR (MAD MAX 2), with helpings of the original MAD MAX thrown in for good measure, but the seasoned genre goon will practically be buried beneath nods to ALIENS, DAMNATION ALLEY, 28 DAYS LATER, EXCALIBUR, RESERVOIR DOGS and even THE WARRIORS. Many pooh-poohed this aspect of the film as “unoriginal” and “derivative,” but Marshall is the first to state on the record that his intent was to cherry pick from the films he’d loved so much and throw them together as an answer to all those genre parodies/homages that have come out in recent years, only this time being just as crazy and outrageously over-the-top but handled here with a completely straight face, or as he himself put it, "Right from the start, I wanted my film to be an homage to these sorts of movies, and deliberately so. I wanted to make a movie for a new generation of audience that hadn't seen those movies in the cinema—hadn't seen them at all maybe—and to give them the same thrill that I got from watching them. But kind of contemporize it, pump up the action and the blood and guts." And I’ll be goddamned if it doesn’t work. If you go in knowing DOOMSDAY’s a genre flick “greatest hits” cornucopia and not THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN, I’d bet you’ll have a good time with it.

In 2008 the deadly Reaper Virus turns Glasgow, Scotland into a charnel house and the government sends troops to cordon the place off and prevent the disease from getting out. As the military vainly attempts to quells thousands of crazed and fearful rioters, a mother manages to get past the throng with her little girl (who loses her right eye in the process) and hand the child to fleeing soldiers in a helicopter. After that we’re given an info lesson nearly identical to the one seen at the beginning of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, only this time around it details the erecting of a wall to cut Scotland off from England and the country’s subsequent quarantine from the rest of the world that’s enforced by turning the area into a no-fly zone and mining the surrounding waters as heavily armed vessels patrol the coastline. Many of those stuck within the hot zone perish horribly from the virus (that apparently turns your flesh into a landscape of boils and pus while making you spew chunks like Regan MacNeil), while the survivors immediately devolve into a state of complete and utter lawlessness that results in murder, rape and cannibalism becoming par for the course. Though promised help by the government, the people of Scotland are basically left to die and the Reaper virus is pretty much ignored or forgotten until it resurfaces in 2033, this time in the heart of London. The government has secretly kept tabs on what’s gone down in Scotland for the past twenty-five years via satellite and discover that there are thriving groups of people running about the place so there must have been a cure discovered by Kane (my man Malcolm McDowell), a doctor who ended up stranded in behind the wall when the quarantine went into effect. The government sends Major Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) — once the aforementioned little girl — , leading a crack medical/military team, through the barricade to track down Kane and bring back the cure, thus making a hero out of the useless Prime Minister (DEEP SPACE NINE’S Alexander “Dr. Bashir” Siddig), or more accurately his vile puppeteer, Canaris (David O’Hara). But what no one planned for is the living nightmare awaiting the Major and her team once they pass through the wall; the place is infested with ravening punker/barbarian tribes familiar to anyone who saw THE ROAD WARRIOR, only about a hundred times nastier, and their equally brutal but more upscale counterparts who’ve based their society on a medieval theme, complete with outfits that would be right at home in a King Arthur or Robin Hood movie. From the second the heroes cross into Scotland all bets are off, and the movie morphs into a high octane, ball-kicking, skull-crushing, flesh-eating study in giving the fans of barely coherent ultra-violence exactly what they want by the truckload, and, dumb as it is, I enjoyed every moment of it.

Major Sinclair: don't give her no sass, or she'll kick your ass!!!

Rhona Mitra’s a revelation as Major Sinclair, and comes from out of nowhere to assume a well-deserved place among the pantheon of harder-than-hard woman warrior heroes alongside Sarah Conner (T2 version), Beatrix Kiddo, Charlie Baltimore, Ellen Ripley and Coffy. Sinclair is one seriously badassed motherfucker whose martial skill set would give even Modesty Blaise pause, what with being quite proficient and effective with a variety of ordnance and hand-to-hand techniques, as well as making very intelligent use f her cybernetic right eye. She’s all business and more than up to putting her combat boot right up the ass of anyone stupid enough to give her any shit, as is proven many times before the film’s climax.

The film also includes car chases straight out of the Mad Max series that test their vehicles to the limit and beyond (as well as giving me a hard-on for a black Bentley), a jarring transition in tone from the Mad Max stuff to the medieval angle that will literally make you exclaim “What the fuck???,” gladiatorial combat pitting an unarmed Sinclair against a fully-armored knight who goes after her with a spear and Morningstar,

automatic weapons-a-blazin’ a la ALIENS, warrior cannibals proving they know how to party by merrily boogieing down to Adam & the Ants’ “Dog Eat Dog” and Bad Manners’ version of the Can Can before committing a truly appalling act of sadistic execution and anthropophagy, a cookout that you’d want absolutely no part of, and a ton of other balls-out madness that leads to the most perfect — if admittedly nonsensical — ending one could come up with for a story this wild and wooly.

Sean Pertwee — son of John Pertwee, aka the third Doctor Who — prepares to meet one of the worst fates in recent film history.

It only takes a spark...

...to ignite the Cookout of the Damned!

Yes, DOOMSDAY is every bit as derivative and unoriginal as claimed, but it’s so knowingly playing with the influences it wears on its sleeve that, as the director himself says, it’s “so outrageous you've got to laugh.” The fact that it’s all played straight only adds to its madness, and it’s got nothing on its mind other than to entertain the grindhouse crowd, and it succeeds mightily at that task. So for that humanitarian intent I love every mussed-up hair on DOOMSDAY’s hopelessly insane, schizophrenic head, and strongly urge you to check it out for yourself. It falls very much into the same territory as GRINDHOUSE — especially the PLANET TERROR half — so if you got a kick out of that, TRUST YER BUNCHE and add this crazy motherfucker to your NetFlix queue immediately!

(Oh, and watching this with a six-pack or some illegal smokables wouldn’t be a bad idea; I saw it straight, but it transported me back to my salad days of watching questionable cinema in theaters like the Sono Cinema and the late, great Norwalk Theater, entry into both of which guaranteed at least a contact high, and if you negotiated wisely you could trade some of your popcorn for a Budweiser or two from one of the already-wasted neighborhood bums who bought tickets so they’d have a place to sleep it off undisturbed since it was highly unlikely that the ushers would bother to kick them out. Ah, memories…)

Poster from the theatrical release.

A PUBLIC APOLOGY AND PROMISE TO KENNY AT PIERCING METAL

Kenny-

I'm posting this apology in a public forum so that I'm sorry for the delay and after weeks of promises I will finally deliver the long-due articles to Piercing Metal. You know the litany of excuses for not having done so, so I won't go into that here, but I'm putting this up publicly so that by stating my intention for all to see I'll finally take care of business or else be deservedly labeled a douchebag. Since there's no deadline and I'm doing it gratis I have definitely abused that leeway, but that's over and done with. I'm giving myself the deadline of 6PM a week from today, so there you have it.

sincerely,

Yer Bunche

Monday, July 28, 2008

DOCTOR WHO: SERIES FOUR (OF THE NEW STUFF)-Part 4

Episode 12-"The Stolen Earth"

Fuck the Scooby Gang: it's the Who Crew!

The Earth is stolen from its orbit and transported to another galaxy where it finds itself among twenty-six other hijacked worlds, and as if that's not bad enough the Daleks show up and pretty much conquer the planet. Yeah, things are pretty damned dire, but the Doctor has a group of valiant (if not a small tad ragtag) supporters to help in the fight — dubbed "the Children of Time" by the Daleks — , namely UNIT agent Dr. Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness (crossing over from TORCHWOOD), Sarah Jane Smith (crossing over from THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES), Rose Tyler, Mickey, and Rose's mum, Jackie (all having sneaked in from the parallel universe from which all of them could supposedly never return). As that motley crew does what they can to combat the Daleks, the Doctor and Donna make a beeline to the Shadow Proclamation to find out just what the hell is going on and hopefully get some help, but when they arrive the Doctor discovers that planets have been kidnapped out of time as well as space, and that when properly aligned the fit together to perform some sinister purpose. Meanwhile on Earth, Martha Jones is entrusted with "the Osterhagen Key," a key to be used only when things look bleakest for the Earth, and she makes her way to Germany to put the key to use. A whole bunch of other stuff happens, including the umpteenth return of Davros, creator of the Daleks,

The new, improved Davros, with a bitchin' metal gauntlet.

and the Doctor getting shot by a Dalek and starting his regeneration process again, all of which leads to the best cliffhanger in sci-fi TV since STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's "The Best of Both Worlds Part 1."

Episode 13-"Journey's End"

After the Doctor regenerates enough to heal from the Dalek blast, he transfers the remaining regenerative energy into his severed hand (kept in a jar in the TARDIS' control room) and opts not to change his appearance, while Martha discovers that the Osterhagen Key enables the detonation of twenty-five nuclear bombs hidden beneath the Earth's crust, completely obliterating the planet but not allowing it to fall into alien hands. Then a whole lot of convoluted and idiotic shit happens, including:
  • The Doctor's severed hand flowing the excess energy through Donna Noble, thereby inexplicably creating a duplicate Doctor that has only one heart and is half-human, and infusing Donna with half of the original Doctor's fantastic intellect, thus rendering her half-Time Lord.
  • Davros's master plan turns out to be the detonation of a "reality bomb," causing a cataclysm that will wipe out everything in every universe, parallel or otherwise. Now I don't know about what you think, but doesn't that mean Davros and the Daleks will also end up wiped out of existence?
  • The duplicate Doctor, presumably because of his human influence, wipes out the entire Dalek fleet using the reality bomb equipment, somehow managing to single out the Dalek race and commit genocide.
  • Upon returning Jackie and Rose to their alternate Earth, the Doctor leaves his duplicate with Rose in hope that her influence will have an effect on his genocidal twin. Rose at first protests getting stuck with the duplicate, but when he whispers in her ear what the original Doctor couldn't bring himself to say to her when he first left her in the other reality — presumably "I love you" — and upon hearing those words Rose immediately accepts the duplicate as her potential lifemate. Yeah, right.
  • The totally useless and uninteresting Mickey stays on the regular Earth, where he came from in the first place, and fucks off with Jack Harkness and Martha Jones. I was terribly disappointed that he was not among the guinea pigs the reality bomb was tested upon.
But the most appalling development is the final fate of Donna Noble, a character who when introduced was grating in the extreme, but as she progressed she became one of the classic companions and the audience grew to love her. But, I guess because of Catherine Tate's other commitments, they wrote Donna out by having her turn out to be highly unstable once she became half-Time Lord, necessitating the Doctor to erase her memories of all the time she spent with him and strip her of her Time Lordiness, finally stranding her back in her mundane existence none the wiser. As the Doctor set off once more into time and space, alone and not scheduled to resume a regular full series until 2010, I almost threw my TV out the window and loudly cursed Russell T. Davies — the series' executive producer and head writer since the show's relaunch in 2005 — for fucking a good thing straight up the ass before his announced departure. My hot and brilliant pal Red Stapler warned me about this and when asked to lend her words to this post by way of a second opinion on the awfulness, she allowed me to crib the following from her own live journal:

Boy, am I mad at what happened to Donna. Like, wow.

RTD Catherine Tate did an amazing job of taking the most irritating character I have ever seen on a show, and turning her into the most amazing personification of AWESOME ever. Every week, Donna became more and more awesome. So to take her memories away? To negate the last two years of her life? Oh fuck YOU, RTD. Fuck you twice.

Blah, blah, blah, human physiology can't take Timelord Consciousness. Eat me.

While Donna is inherently awesome, it was meeting the Doctor that made her realize it. She may one day yet be awesome again, but yikes. Way to cut someone's emotional growth off at the knees. I wanted to see Donna on Torchwood. THAT would have been rad. (Mickey? Really?)

And also...

I haven't written about the finale yet. I knew as soon as it was over what bit would stick with me, and why. And I wasn't incorrect. The whole bit about The Other Doctor, and sending Rose back to Pete's Universe just....what. Mickey got to come home, why not Rose? And The Other Doctor? WHAT? It's like bad fanfic. I mean, I get why, and textually, I'm glad it happened, but what. I've been in long distance relationships. I've been the wild-might-have-been. I've wondered what would happen if...? In short, I've been Rose. And I've never gotten "my clone-of-the-object-of-my-desire;" it's like the ultimate wish fulfillment, in everything. Not just Doctor Who. I'm frustrated enough with the wild-might-have-beens and almost-was's and maybe-will-be's of my own life; I wasn't really interested in seeing a "Staples-Easy-Button Happy" resolution of one in the finale of Doctor Who.

Well said, RS. I'll give the new stuff a chance, but this season ender was every bit as bad as part 2 of STTNG's "The Best of Both Worlds" and in many ways is far, far worse. But when taken as a whole, series four only had two outright stinkers — "Midnight" and "Journey's End" — and a horrible Christmas special to hold it back from being an across the board winner, and when you only have thirteen episodes per year (and one Christmas special) that's not a terrible average.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

WANNA FEEL OLD? IT'S MICK JAGGER'S 65th BIRTHDAY!!!

Mick knocks 'em dead with a rousing live rendition of "Mother's Little Helper."

"What a drag is is getting old..." Not when you're a multi-gazillionaire rock star who's had more pussy than a litterbox! Happy birthday, you big-lipped freak!

Jagger reenacts his days at the Dartford Grammar School.

Friday, July 25, 2008

LAST CALL, FINAL ORDERS: R.I.P. BAR BQ (2005-2008)

And so it came to pass that Bar BQ, a humble Brooklyn barbecue joint, is no more, and its quirky Twilight Zone on Greenwood spirit will flourish only in the hearts and memories of those who knew it during is three years-plus as a neighborhood fixture. The staff were a disparate band of ragtag dreamers, loonies and artsy types, each of whom infused the place with their individual flavors — no, Health Department, not like you think — and provided the patrons, regular or otherwise, with a singular dining and social experience unmatched in the South Park Slope area. The entertainment and conversation veered wildly between the erudite and the obscene and if you couldn't take it you could take refuge at the douchey, overpriced, wannabe-West-Side eatery next door. But if you stuck it out you were likely to become a regular and thereby a part of a wide-ranging, bizarre and semi-dysfunctional family.

The good times had at Bar BQ were many, so how could the place's final night, especially one that fell in the middle of the work week, hope to match the legendary shindigs of the past? The simple fact of the matter is that it couldn't, so the last hurrah ended up being a rather low key affair presided over by the too-cute-for-words Danielle — the second of the establishment's over-six-foot blonde barkeeps, hence her designation as "Tower 2" — , Marius (resident swashbuckler and fellow martial arts loon), and Shun of the Kitchen, with founder Frank and his family in for one last dose of the 'cue food. Regulars of note in attendance included Velma and Soren, and UK expatriate Phil, and I ended up seriously getting my Cuervo on and singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" while showering myself with soda water from the bar's drinks hose, so the place went out with a bang anyway, which makes my heart glad.

So farewell, Bar BQ. You helped me get my Buncheness back after my negative experiences during my last two years in the comics biz and two years of unemployment, so I thank you for that and the crazy friends I made while there. It's all good, and I close with a wish of good luck in future endeavors to all who worked there.

Oh, and here's a mini-gallery of memories from the final night and glorious evenings that passed in a haze of tequila and madness; I have tons more at home, but I have to scan them in since they're non-digital.

THE FINAL NIGHT

Danielle, aka "Tower 2."

Yer Bunche, appreciating the Nordic wonder of Tower 2.

Tracey the Waitress Goddess, with baby Aurora-Morrigan and the Lady Velma.

Shun gets down.

The last-shifters represent.

BAR BQ FLASHBACKS

Our Founder.

Yer Bunche, Tracey the Waitress Goddess, and Joy ("the Frost-Giant's Daughter")

Big Smokey.

Yer Bunche and Pete, commiserating after being molested by "U.P.S.," a vile closet-case who fancied us fat lads.

Two of my favorite Irishmen: Garth Ennis and Steve Hughes.

Yer Bunche with Danny Lilker, bassist for the awesome Stormtroopers of Death, perhaps the seminal thrash band.

Two Negroes welcome the summer.

Scott, the Crooklyn Cowboy.

With regular Vince Martin, crooner of the fifties hit "Oh Cindy."

Bar BQ: the home of fashion.

Ultraman guards the kitchen.

The infamous "Bad Chicken Pussy."

Jeff finds something horrible under the bar.

My alter ego, Porkbelly DuPree. He only came out in the wee hours, coaxed into existence by copious amounts of beer and Jose Cuervo.

Reason #47 not to look behind the curtain: pulled pork looks like vomit.

Porkbelly meets Kate.

Tracey explains to Brendan that she's leaving him to join the local forest elves.

Yer Bunche after we won the first of several awards for best pulled pork barbecue in NYC.

Joy vamps for Mardi Gras.

Roasted piglets for the Superbowl pigskin blowout: tastier than mortal man deserves.

After hours fun with firearms: a Beretta...

...and a Glock. (Don't worry, they're props from a movie Marius was working on. Hey, we're not that crazy!)

Lanei introduces Suzi to the barbecue joint.

The night when the Mystery Machine broke down and let out two Velmas. God DAMN, I dig the one with the long hair... (*DEEP SIGH*)

Medusa versus Beowulf.

Rex, diminutive terror from the Great White North, with worshippers.

What can I say? It was cold outside.

Halloween = titties!

LLBM (Ladies Love Big Mikey)

Marius: a rare and wonderful human being who kept me sane on a daily basis.

Portrait of four staunch regulars: Johnny Hot Sausage, Rex, Jesus Rob, and Rolls.

L-R: Joy, Marius, Rolls, Pedro, Chris, Pete, one of the Twins, Apples.

Rex rocks it Valkyrie-style.

The Lady Velma.

The Lady Velma, Soren, and the Bar BQ Cock.

Kate and Dan: one of the power couples of the joint.

Cheese sauce a-brewin'!

The regulars voice their opinion of the place closing.

Brennan's infamous recounting of seeing THE BOURNE IDENTITY in Morocco.

Maggie: badassed Bar BQ bartender babe.

Rolls, Bar BQ's answer to Fozzie Bear (making one forget what the question was).

The Greenwood United Melanin Front, muthafukka!

Ready for the arrival of Ted Kennedy.

A premature announcement of closure...

...and the fanfare-less actual final night.