Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE "NEW 52" COMMENCES TODAY...

(special thanks to Gilsonic)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

HAPPY 81st BIRTHDAY, SEAN CONNERY!

Still the coolest Bond of all time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

STORMING THE CASTLE

The White Castle on Willoughby Street in downtown Brooklyn's Fulton Mall area: a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Welcome to the first installment in a new series of posts wherein I'll be chronicling the madness I experience every time I get "the crave" and decide to stop in at any of the city's fine White Castle burger joints, but most especially the people-watching Mecca that is the one to be found on Willoughby Street in Brooklyn's ghetto-licious Fulton Mall area.


On Tuesday afternoon, the East Coast experienced an earthquake that reportedly measured 5.8 on the Richter scale. It shook my building a bit, rousing me from a nap and prompting me to leave before my massive industrial bookcase fell over and crushed me, but fortunately no damage occurred.

About an hour after the quake, I went to grab a snack at the infamous Fulton Mall White Castle and the place was filled with scared black people like something out of a stereotypical film made in the 1930's. Most memorable was the fat old woman who stood up and announced — I swear on my mother's eyes that this really happened — "Well, lord, if I was meant to die today, I had me some White Castles, some fries, and a drink. Now I'm goin' home and pray. Thank you, Jesus, thank you lord!" after which she stopped at the joint's exit, dropped to her knees and venerated like she was worshiping some pagan idol. She did this for three or four genuflections before finally leaving. Even the ultra-ghetto and usually unfazable White Castle loiterers were taken aback by that one. All that was missing was Mantan Moreland, with his eyes about to explode out of his skull, growling "Feets, don't fail me now!"

The other notable event during the visit was the charming sight of an old man who appeared to have passed out at his table and, due to his utter lack of visible breathing or any form of reaction when one of the staff sprayed and wiped down the table while physically avoiding him, may have actually died upon finishing his sliders. (see below)

Yep, nuthin' like a bit of local color...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

RED, WHITE AND BLEW

The hilarious Evan Stone, who was terrific as Captain Kirk in THIS AIN'T STAR TREK XXX and the Riddler in BATMAN XXX, as Captain America? Oh, hell yeah!
Judging from this cover image, whoever made this parody actually reads the comics. Please, o gods of porn, let there be a girl-on-girl sequence between Madame Hydra and Sharon Carter...And a scene where Cap not only defeats the Red Skull but also bones him up the ass would be a cinematic triumph. My only question here is who's the chick in black? She doesn't appear to be the Black Widow and there's no mention of her in the catalog copy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"RING CAPACITY" by Kirby Krackle

The best geek-centric song in ages finally has a video. And if you've never heard this song but know your Green Lantern lore, you'll instantly note that the band knows exactly what it's talking about. No casual observers, these guys.


Friday, August 19, 2011

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

It's been nearly three decades since Robert E Howard's seminal barbarian protagonist — he can hardly be considered a hero — first graced the big screen, and since that time there have been many sword-slinging warriors to follow in his footsteps, most recently and to much popular and box office appreciation being J.R.R. Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS gang. Unless you've been living under a rock somewhere in the tiny republic of Togo for the last ten years or so, you know the LOTR fantasy epics made a shitload of cash, so it was inevitable that Hollywood would try to mine the audience's hunger for fantasy in some way, and it would seem that now would be a good time to dust off Conan and his Hyborian Age wanderings. After all, Howard's Conan stories more or less defined the genre, if not outright inventing it, so why not bring back that genre's single most well-known and popular character? The audience was already built-in after three decades of fans who enjoyed the first Conan flick, released in 1982 and starring as it did Arnold Schwarzenegger in what is arguably the film that first put him on the map as perhaps the epitome of the 1980's action hero. (THE TERMINATOR didn't happen until two years later, by which time most of America knew who Ah-nuld was thanks to Conan.) And, yeah, there was a sequel, the inexplicably PG-13-rated CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984), but that film sucked and brought what looked to be a promising franchise to a screeching halt.

As the first film's cult reputation grew, in its wake followed a terrible Saturday morning cartoon wherein Conan was the bodyguard/escort for some royal kids and each week taught them important life lessons like "don't judge people because they're different from you" — I swear to god I'm not making this up — and there was also a live-action show, CONAN THE ADVENTURER, that sought to cash in on the popularity of HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, but that watered-down mess died a swift death at the end of its sole season. Now, in the current climate of reboots/re-imaginings, I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone had the bright idea of making a Conan movie for the 2000's, with what I'm sure was the intention of kickstarting another cash cow along the lines of LOTR or the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN flicks. Well, I'm here to tell all of you fellow lovers of the 1982 CONAN THE BARBARIAN that that film's status as a cult classic and textbook example of how to make a mythic "warrior's journey" film has absolutely nothing to worry about.

The current iteration opens with a new version of our sullen protagonist's origin, cribbing much of its initial thrust from the 1982 film. We first meet Conan when he is literally still within his mother's womb, and the oft-stated "he was born on a battlefield" takes on new meaning as his ready-to-pop mom is seen in leathers and armor in the middle of some random battle in which her tribe of Cimmerian warriors are dealing out death like it was Halloween candy. As the extremely pregnant woman fights with sword in hand, she is critically wounded, so Conan's dad (Ron Perlman) performs an impromptu C-section and brings his son into the world. Oh, and before that happens, the voice of Morgan Freeman tells the tale of an ancient mask of great power that was crafted from the bones of dead kings, an item so rife with evil magic that it had to be broken down into several components and hidden for a thousand years lest its possessor take over the world.

We then skip ahead by about twelve years or so and find Conan (Leo Howard) yearning to become a full-fledged warrior of his tribe, and during the trial of young men that will determine who earns that coveted position, Conan and the other lads on the trial encounter several animalistic raiders. While his fellows pussy out and hightail it back home, Conan takes on and spectacularly slays the raiders. returning to his village with their severed heads as trophies. At that point I said to myself, "This has promise," but those hopes were dashed as the remainder of the film degenerated into a rote and eventually boring trope-fest that offered little to keep me interested.

Young Conan and his dad (who looks like some kind of heavy metal orangutan by way of Snorri Sturluson) bond over some father-son arts and crafts.

Anyway, Conan's people are wiped out by Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), a conqueror who seeks the last piece of the mask — that just so happens to be in the care of the tribe's leader, Conan's pop — which he obtains with the help of his witchy and bone china-white-complected daughter (Rose McGowan, who was by far my favorite thing in the film). As the bad guys ride off with their prize and the sword that Conan's dad had forged for him, presuming Conan dead after they torched the building he and his now-dead father were in, Conan swears vengeance and the story jumps ahead by about ten or twelve years.

The ferocious Jason Momoa as Conan.

We then meet the adult Conan (Jason Momoa), who has spent the past decade or so wandering as a a thief and pirate, now living among a band of pirates and robbers who take the time to rescue a large group of peasants and very attractive topless women from slavers, thus establishing Conan and his pirate pals as decent folk who just say "No!" to slavery. (Which is a load of P.C. bullshit, because anyone who's every read any Conan story will tell you that slavery is very much an accepted part of Conan's world, with even Conan himself not being against it as a practice. If you ended up as a slave, that meant that was just your tough luck, so to avoid ending up in chains you had to be a badass.) It's during the post-rescue revelry when Conan comes face-to-face with one of the warriors who killed his people years earlier (a warrior whom Conan incidentally happened to deprive of his nose, thus making him easy to identify) and after brutally gathering info, he makes a beeline to Zym (minus the offered aid of his pirate cronies, because it's a personal vendetta). It turns out that Zym has spent years searching for "the pure-blood," a holy woman named Tamara (Rachel Nichols) whose blood is instrumental to a ritual that, using the evil mask, will resurrect Zym's burned-at-the-stake sorceress wife and, via her magic superpowers, render him a god who will rule the world. Needless to say, Conan ain't havin' it.

Rose McGowan as freaky witch Marique, stealing every scene she's in.

What ensues after that is a pretty-to-look-at hodgepodge of elements shamelessly cribbed from THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and even bits from THE MUMMY series, all of which add up to form a generic "adult" fantasy fim that's somehow replete with gore, some very nice nekkid titties and one semi-graphic sex scene, but nonetheless feels like a kids' adventure movie. Several of the set-pieces — a few of which were flat-out idiotic and laugh-out-loud stupid — evoke other films or fantasy/quest video games, and at no point did this Conan story feel like its own thing. This film bears even less of the flavor of creator Howard's visceral and testosterone-laden works than the 1982 film did, but the '82 flick at least defied its own genre by crafting a Campbell-esque warrior's journey tale with a surprisingly sweeping and epic feel. (The sword and sandal genre had become something of a moribund joke after the onslaught of Hercules and gladiator films released by the truckload during the heyday of the "peplum" craze, so the '82 film was a welcome surprise.) That sweep and sense of grandeur, plus a narrative that involved its viewers in Conan's vendetta and made us genuinely care about him succeeding is nowhere to be found here. When not aping other popular properties, this CONAN THE BARBARIAN stands as the most generic fantasy film to come down the pike in ages, and while not flat-out terrible, it is a sad squandering of a great opportunity. Jason Momoa was a decent and very ferocious Conan, and Rose McGowan as the uber-creepy sorceress Marique steals whatever scene she's in, but their considerable efforts couldn't elevate a film that in the end smacks of nothing more than "Conan by committee."

BOTTOM LINE: If you absolutely have to see this film — an urge that I understand, what with having been an avid Conan fan since 1974 and all — don't get ripped off by shelling out the extra cash for 3D. I saw it in 2D and there are only a couple of segments that were obviously composed with 3D in mind. Otherwise, wait for cable and have your intoxicant of choice on hand to liven up the proceedings. I was totally straight as I sat through it and I found myself rather bored about halfway through. I've certainly seen far worse films, especially in this particular genre, but this was a big disappointment. To sum up, this entire film was essentially a Manowar album cover brought to life at the cost of a reported $80 million.

The basic feel of this movie, summed up in one album cover illustration.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK (2010)

July 2nd, 1863: At a small farm outside Bent Fork, Virginia, the grossly-outmatched (at a rate of fifty-three to one) 13th Rhode Island regiment faced and defeated a massive Confederate force bent on staging a sneak attack on Washington, an herculean military routing that tested the leadership, thinking-out-of-the-box ingenuity, dogged tenacity and the general fearlessness of its four principal Union officers. Yet while many of the Civil War's military engagements remain prominent in the public's consciousness, this set-to, known as "The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek," has faded into the mists of obscurity. Fortunately, documentarian Grace A. Burns has crafted a fascinating act of cinematic archaeology with this feature-length examination of those Union-saving heroes.

The four principal figures in a forgotten chapter of American history: (L-R) Li Shau-zu, Colonel Jonathan Franklin Hale, Elijah Swan, Rowena Harris/Nick Brody.

The film's narrative goes into considerable detail on its subjects' back-stories, aided by commentary from a number of distinguished historians, rendering them into more than mere historical footnotes to the viewer. The four now-obscure soldiers whose efforts staved off the potentially devastating attack were:
  • Colonel Jonathan Franklin Hale, a twenty-four-year-old cross-dressing homosexual, infamous and persecuted within the military for his rakish deportment and insistence upon freshly-laundered uniforms for his men. Sent to West Point at sixteen, Hale was forged into a leader while enjoying every moment of the riding, drilling, stylish dress, and camaraderie of other like-minded young men, and though of Georgian origin, Hale held to his vows as a soldier of the one nation when the South opted to secede, a move that put him at direct odds with his lover, one Sinclair Whittier, a proud officer of the Confederacy. (The film traces the trajectory of that relationship.)
  • Li Shao-zu, an aged warrior who joined the Chinese military at a very young age and fought the British in the opium wars. Skipping out on his "lousy, drug-pushing whore" of a a wife who was doing a brisk drug-trading business in opposition to her husband's anti-British efforts, Li made his way to the States with the intention of getting rich during the Gold Rush, but instead found success as a pioneer in the laundry industry, eventually serving as a launderer for the U.S. Army and forging a friendship with Colonel Hale. His bravery and military experience — to say nothing of his innovations in dry cleaning chemical engineering — placed Li in a position that would make him vital to the 13th Rhode Island's martial success.
  • Elijah Swan, the result of a liaison between a wood-chopping slave and the jungle-fever-ridden wife of the slave's owner, whose early life was marked by the effects of his mother's many questionable decisions. Cast into the hardship of slavery upon the deaths of his mother and her husband (a fanatical and abstinent Calvinist whose poor vision allowed him to somehow believe that the obviously black child was his own spawn), Elijah eventually escaped and built upon his pre-enslavement education, revealing himself to be a mathematical, scientific and engineering genius.
  • Rowena Harris (aka Rowena Oaks, aka Candie Apple, aka "Poison" Apple, aka Nick Brody), the battle's most tenacious hero. A poor and once-innocent young woman who found herself thrust first into sexual slavery and then child-prostitution at the hands of the unscrupulous pimp Beauregard Ridge, Rowena, after proving herself a voracious trollop when it came to making cash from the lust of men, sought sociopathically-motivated vengeance upon Ridge with the focus of a Fury straight out of Greek mythology when her former pimp made off with all of the money she'd saved while in his employ (along with that of all of the other whores in his stable) and joined the Confederate forces in Arkansas. Adopting the identity and uniform of drowned drummer boy Nick Brody, Rowena's quest for retribution was derailed upon her left arm being amputated following catching a bullet. Adrift after that tragedy, Rowena/Nick switched sides and ended up under the command of Col. Hale, who saw nothing odd about having a one-armed drummer boy in his regiment (a decision that may have been influenced by Hale's growing opium addiction). It was during this time that Rowena/Nick experienced a full-on speaking-in-tongues mystical vision, the first of several that aided in guiding the 13th Rhode Island to its celebrated (and swiftly swept under the rug) destiny at Pussy Willow Creek.
But what exactly occurred at the battle of Pussy Willow Creek and just why was it so instrumental in the Union's eventual winning of the Civil War? There's a lot to that answer, and it's best left for the curious to discover for themselves.

The byzantine paths of the disparate figures weave together in a most compelling and improbable tapestry that illustrates just what glorious results can come from a confluence of "misfits" and those derided by general society, and rescues their story from the rubbish heap of history deemed unworthy of celebration by virtue of its protagonists' lack of an heroic image in keeping with the usual "all-American" image as perceived by its era. Packed with vintage daguerreotype images, excerpts from letters written by several of the principals and those who knew them, and seasoned with music and songs from the period, THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK comes from out of nowhere to join the ranks of such celebrated documentaries as ZELIG (1983), C.S.A.-THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA (2004) and Marti DiBergi's epochal THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), and if its merits can be judged by the company it finds itself amongst, THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK stands as an achievement to be reckoned with...

Aaah, who am I kidding? THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK is actually a straight-faced "mockumentary" written, directed and produced by Wendy Jo Cohen, and is a work of such verisimilitude that one could be forgiven for being snowed by its earnest recounting of a battle that never happened, led as it was by "a drug-addicted faggot, a geriatric heathen, a nerdy nigger, and a crazy, one-armed teenaged whore." Starting out utterly deadpan, the film slowly builds in sheer ridiculousness that ends up as a finely-layered narrative depicting just how badly the groups represented by its protagonists got fucked up the ass without benefit of Astro Glide by the nation they fought for, and its content is just as hilarious as it is riveting. Highly recommended and definitely not to be missed, the film does not yet have a release date, but in the meantime it will be screened on August 17 at 8:45 PM at Anthology Film Archives in New York City as part of the New Filmmakers Series, a one-time only deal, so here's the theater's info:

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue (at 2nd Street)
New York, NY
(212) 505-5181

Click here for the theater's website and more information. (And speaking of websites, click here for THE BATTLE OF PUSSY WILLOW CREEK's own site.)

Get your tickets today and support this triumph of indie filmmaking and comedy that wasn't shat steaming and redolent from the asshole of the Judd Apatow assembly line. This is a film for humor-lovers with a brain, and seriously, it's funny as hell. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!

Friday, August 05, 2011

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011)

And lo, the gods of cinema did hear the hue and cry of the people, and finally they did right the grievous wrong that was the 2001 version of PLANET OF THE APES. A new APES film was bestowed upon the earth and it was good. Very, very, good. Yea, verily the curse of Tim Burton was broken, and there was much rejoicing.

-excerpt from The Chronicles of Cinematic Recompense

Like many children of the Seventies, I was a staunch supporter of the era's "Ape-mania," loving the PLANET OF THE APES movies and a good deal of their attendant fallout. The sci-fi pickings in the pre-STAR WARS days were pretty feeble, so when a series of films that were (mostly) pretty damned good came along, you cherished it. The APES movies all featured a good deal of social commentary/satire on subjects such as racism, religion vs. science/anthropology, nuclear self-destruction and the ethical vagaries of vivisection, and the pondering of those things while wrapped in allegorical sci-fi trappings was something that stirred the young minds of my generation. So when it was announced that there would be a new APES movie made in the wake of Tim Burton's decade-old abortion, I questioned whether the new film would follow Burton's brain-dead lead or be some kind of return to something a tad more intellectually stimulating. (In today's utterly mindless cinematic climate of movies by committee, I did not hold out much hope.) What I got was totally not what I expected and I could not be happier with the results.

In modern day San Francisco, scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) seeks a cure for Alzheimer's, something sorely needed by his aging father (John Lithgow) whose mind is deteriorating on a daily basis. Working within the corporate labs of the Gen-Sys pharmaceutical corporation, Rodman develops a serum that when tested on chimpanzees causes the brain to repair itself and generate new neural pathways, fixing Alzheimer's and boosting intelligence to amazing levels. Following an incident in which a particularly gifted female test subject, "Bright Eyes," goes berserk and escapes from the lab, resulting in her being gunned down by corporate security during the meeting that would have led to the greenlighting of the drug's testing on human subjects, it is revealed that that she was protecting the baby she had given birth to and hidden below her bed. Ruling the drug a failure, Rodman's money-hungry boss orders all of the test chimps destroyed, but since the baby was discovered after its mother's rampage and is thus known only to Rodman and the lab's chimp-handler, Rodman adopts the adorable little orphan and raises him at home in secret. For the next eight years, the chimpanzee, dubbed "Caesar," enjoys life in a loving home where he forms deep familial bonds with Doctor Rodman and his dad. Unbeknownst to his Gen-Sys superiors, Rodman continues the testing of the drug on his father and the results are both swift and spectacular. Meanwhile, Caesar displays intelligence far beyond the garden variety chimp, even exhibiting functioning and skills beyond humans of a relative age and development. (Though Caesar himself was not directly administered the experimental drug, his mother sure as hell was and the effects of the serum are proven to be genetically transmissible.) But things take a turn for the worse when the drug's effects upon the elder Rodman are reversed as the old man's body builds an immunity to it. Wandering into the street, the confused old man gets into a confrontation with the next door neighbor that is observed by Caesar, who launches into violent defense of his family member. Though the neighbor is not killed, poor Caesar is court ordered into the custody of a specialized home for great apes, a place where our simian protagonist experiences firsthand just how cruel man can be. It is during this incarceration that Caesar's resentment of mankind is forged, and from there he launches a revolt that — along with a couple of other factors that I won't spoil — leads to the beginning of the end for the human race's planetwide dominance.

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES comes from out of nowhere (and from beneath the shadow of Tim Burton's atrocity) to not only be my favorite film of the summer blockbuster season, but also takes its well-deserved place as one of the best major studio films of the year. The script is surprisingly intelligent and does not at all cater to the moronic demographic Hollywood has spent well over a decade dishing out mindless celluloid candyfloss to by the truckload. I honestly believe the filmmakers involved looked at the Burton fiasco (and also some of the gaffes made in most of the films in the original series) and decided not to make the same mistakes as what came before. This is the origin story of Caesar I had never dared to hope for, and I have every intention of seeing it at least once more during its theatrical run.

Items of note in the film:
  • The excellent motion-captured performance by the brilliant Andy Sirkis, the guy who so deftly brought Gollum to life in LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. His Caesar is simply impossible not to care about and root for, and I can honestly say that by halfway through the film, the entire audience wanted to see him and his all-ape army win. While Rodman's story is certainly interesting, the film belongs to Caesar and his point of view during its events.
  • The sometimes ham-fisted social commentary of the original series has been wisely kicked to the curb in favor of a hero's journey story fused with what can be seen as an animal rights piece from the point of view of animals.
  • The other featured apes are also pretty cool, especially Maurice the orangutan (think about that one for a minute, o my fellow geeks) and Duke, a very large and understandably pissed-off gorilla.
  • Pay attention whenever any TV news reports are seen, especially those relating to a space mission to Mars.
  • The effects on all of the apes are outstanding and believable. The somewhat spotty footage seen in the trailers and TV ads do not do the work seen onscreen justice, so don't judge the film on what you saw in the previews of the past few months.
And there has been much discussion in the media and in online geek forums of how obviously impossible it would be for a relatively small force of apes, even organized and super-intelligent ones, to take on armed police and the national guard and have even the slightest chance of winning, but let me assure you that that question is very directly addressed and the answer quite satisfyingly requires very little suspension of disbelief. Hell, I bought it and I am one exceedingly critical son of a bitch. Believe that!

BOTTOM LINE: I simply loved RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and very highly recommend that you see it in the theater. A franchise movie of this caliber that does not talk down to its audience is rare indeed, and it should be shown appreciation with your box office cash. But one word of warning: The story gets very emotionally intense in some areas and it greatly affected the grownups in the audience, so bear in mind how children react to animal characters that they come to care about. Kids will love Caesar, so expect them to become quite upset during a lot of what he goes through. (Plus to say nothing of the awful demise of his mother.)

Monday, August 01, 2011

30 YEARS OF MTV

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of MTV so, as a member of the first generation infected by its baleful influence, I figured today was the perfect day to run the following:



Man, I can't believe I had just barely turned sixteen when that cornucopia of shit debuted...