Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dick's Track: Lucky Man - The Verve

Track # 9 off The Verve's third album, Urban Hymns, Lucky Man was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. and went Top 20 in the U.S in 1997. Following the worldwide success of Urban Hymns, The Verve slowly imploded and called it quits in 1999. They would reunite in 2007.


More or less
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Oh, my, my
Coming and going
I watch you look at me
Watch my fever growing
I know just where I am
But how many corners do I have to turn?
How many times do I have to learn
All the love I have is in my mind?
Well, I'm a lucky man
With fire in my hands
Something in my own place
I'm standing naked
Smiling, I feel no disgrace
With who I am
Coming and going
I watch you look at me
Watch my fever growing
I know just who I am
But how many corners do I have to turn?
How many times do I have to learn
All the love I have is in my mind?
I hope you understand
I hope you understand
Gotta love that'll never die
More or less
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Coming and going
I watch you look at me
Watch my fever growing
I know
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
Gotta love that'll never die
Gotta love that'll never die
No, no
I'm a lucky man
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my
It's just a change in me
Something in my liberty
Oh, my, my
Oh, my, my

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dick's Literary Lightning: Kull and The Screaming Skull of Silence

A creation of prolific fantasy and pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard, stories of Kull are a unique mix of battlefield heroism and the introspective bonds of leadership. During a visit from an ambassador of Pictdom, Kull is told the tale of a castle that houses the Skull of Silence. A manifestation of an imprisoned force of nature that could force silence onto the whole of existence.
Somewhere exists the essence of silence, the soul of silence. Nothing that is something; an absence so absolute that it takes material form. How many of you have ever heard complete silence? None!
Kull and his troops journey to a wild region where the great black castle sits on a lone hill. Against the warning of his advisers, Kull approaches the door where a gong and mallet made of jade sit. Upon opening the door, riders and their steeds drop. Soldiers scream without sound and clutch their heads to stave off the throbbing, billowing waves of still horror. Still standing, Kull looks into the castle and sees nothing. The air around him moves like a wave, the escaping Silence sends a painful vision through his mind.
Men died in gibbering stillness; the roar of rivers, the crash of seas, the noise of winds faltered and ceased to be. All sound was drowned by the Silence. Silence, soul destroying, brain shattering - blotting out of all life on earth -
Kull looks to the gong, realizing it to be a final safe-guard. Like the sea, the gong is never silent and never still. Vibrating and pulsing day and night, the enemy of silence. With each strike, Kull pushes the Silence back into the castle until the Silence gives way to Sound. Like shutting the door to Hell, Kull finally triumphs over the cosmic onslaught on his soul, body and mind.

For the complete tale and many other greats, check out Kull: Exile of Atlantis, a collection of short stories and unfinished drafts, complete with new illustrations created specifically for the volume.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Lightning Across the Pond: No Country for Old Men

We check in with Dr. Tom Jolliffe as he takes us inside Best Picture Winner No Country for Old Men:
The story is brilliantly split and interwoven between three points. There’s Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss who stumbles across the remains of a recent drug deal gone bad. Dead bodies lay strewn and he happens across a case full of cash. When he foolishly decides to return to the crime scene he sets in motion a chain of events that put his life on the line. There’s also the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh who drifts around doing whatever he pleases, killing whoever he deems to have inconvenienced him. The people who think Chrigurh works for them, little realizing that he works for no one. His focus becomes locked on Moss and the cash, setting up the chase aspect of the film. The third element is world weary sheriff Ed Bell, who sets his focus on uncovering the events that lead to the drug deal gone bad, and on finding the over his head Moss. It’s three elements combining brilliantly. The film shouldn’t really work, but the ingenious thing about it, is that it does!

The script is superb. From the start of the film to the end, we gradually uncover more and more. The script offers us so many set ups and pay offs, while like all the best chase movies, there’s a brilliant logic to Chirgurh’s tracking methods. He doesn’t simply appear at the right place when the story needs to move along. In much the same way as The Terminator, there’s something systematic about the way he tracks Moss. It’s intelligent, it works, and adds depth and more excitement to the chase. The Hollywood norm is to forgoe such logic and simply has the chaser appear to terrorize the chase without much reasoning to how they got there. Terminator 3 for example had none of the intelligent build up of the first two films, or indeed No Country. No Country isn’t firstly an action movie, but it manages to be incredibly tense, pulsating during the chase scenes. It’s the mixture of clever touches, the look, the sound design (exceptional) and the performances too, but as a chase movie, it’s one of the best. Indeed what further propells this film to the level of instant classic status, is that fact that it’s got more to it than merely being a chase film. The third element of Lee Jone’s detective work and self analysing life affirming Sherrif Bell, adds a great humanity, soul, and philosophical debate to the picture. There’s several genres and sub-genres that this film becomes entrenched in- doing so to the apex of each element. As an overall piece, it’s just a joy to watch, deconstruct and marvel at.
The film is wonderfully paced. It’s both vast and self contained at the same time, a bizarre yet brilliant mixture of epic western and claustrophobic chase movie. Combining with the artistry of Deakin’s photography, the Coen bro’s paint some brilliant imagery, from the opening chase at dawn with Brolin being chased down by a pick up truck with armed adversaries inside, to Brolin's first close encounter with Bardem. It all looks great and as I mentioned every camera move seems entirely, and perfectly, thought out and delivered. It’s a movie of perfect beats. It’s the shots, the movement within shots, of shots, of cuts. In the same way as Once Upon A Time In The West is a perfectly constructed piece, No Country is of that ilk, and there are very few such movies. Carter Burwell’s score is highly effective. He doesn’t have much music in it, but what there is, is effective and atmospheric.
As I walked out of the screen, contemplating the brilliant alluring, and no doubt endlessly debated, ending scene, not to mention the preceding brilliant beforehand, I knew right then, I’d just seen one of my favorite films. I loved it, simple as that. I raved about it to my brother, with pure exuberance. He wanted to see it beforehand, but following my reaction, his desire became tenfold. We then went to see it a day later. The second viewing, in as many days I can tell you now did not fall behind even in the slightest. The film stood as tall and as proud as it had done upon first seeing it. It was, is, a marvel of filmmaking. A cult movie fans dream, a mainstream movie fans dream. For the thrills it’s exceptional, for the drama it’s powerful, poignant, and it’s all so clever. If No Country For Old Men was to have a fight with any of the other Coen movies; several of which rank as some of my favorite movies, then we’d be talking No Country as superman in the blue (and red, with a bit of yellow) corner and Woody Allen, with his arms behind his back, in the grey corner; No contest and no kryptonite in sight.

Daily Head Space

"Man with hand in pants feels cocky all day."
-Confucius, interpreted by modern scholar.

Lightning Spread: K-1 World Grand Prix 1996 Final

October 1996. Andy Hug defeats Bart Vale by first round TKO at the K-1 World GP Prix Opening Round, securing a berth to the finals. In June, Hug would join Peter Aerts, Mike Bernardo, Musashi, Sam Greco, Ernesto Hoost, Mirko CroCop and Duane Van Der Merwe at the finals. A grueling affair, the K-1 World GP Finals would find its champion through tournament elimination. In the fourth bout of the first elimination round, Andy defeated South Africa's Duane Van Der Merwe with a quick left hook in the first round. His next fight would be a legendary showdown with Holland's Ernesto Hoost, which saw the two battle back and forth for three action packed rounds. Declared a draw, Hug and Hoost went to the first of two stipulated overtime rounds where they reached a draw again. In the second overtime round, Hug would pull off a split decision and clinch a spot in the Finals Finale against Mike Bernardo.
Fierce and formidable, South African Bernardo earned a KO victory over Peter Aerts and a decision over Musashi. In two earlier meetings, Bernardo had over powered Hug, winning by TKO and KO. Finally figuring out the big man's weak points, Hug went to work, dropping Bernardo to the mat with low kick after low kick. Streamers and confetti rained inside the arena as Andy Hug was declared the K-1 World Grand Prix 1996 champion.
Thanks to a recent YouTube post, you can now watch Andy's journey to the championship.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dick Lightning's Traveling Workout

When you're on the road, working out and eating clean can be tough. But not that tough. If fitness is ever going to become a lifelong habit, you need to be able to work out anywhere at anytime. Sure you're used to seeing people running up and down the sidewalk. But jump rope in a parking lot and people think you're a weirdo. Alas, as Dick Lightning always says, "Their loss is your awesomeness." Just remember to pack your training shoes, a jump rope and a few protein bars.
During a week of Illinois foot high pie, Missouri pizza and beer, Flagstaff Thai, Las Vegas Buffet and California Dim Sum, Dick Lightning correspondents VienDammage and Carpetbomb Slick managed to stave off the traveling slump and keep on rockin'. Here's how!
Arms and Shoulders at the University of Missouri-Columbia Student Recreation Center. Three stories of weights, cardio machines, a rock wall, swimming pools and a juice bar that sells Myoplex at un-jacked up prices! Go with a student and get in free.
Cardio and push ups in the parking lot of the La Quinta Sedona. Forty miles south of Flagstaff, a gorgeous resort town complete with golf courses, tours by helicopter and Humvee, dozens of art galleries and a lot of folks over fifty. Use the curb to change your push up elevation and prepare to be asked, "So what are you training for?" by random hotel guests, some of them twice. This workouts free baby, you just have to do it!
Cardio at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Twenty minutes off the famed Las Vegas Strip, we channeled our inner Randy Couture and Evan Tanner by hitting the sandy trails. The elevation hits you in odd ways, VienDammage was breathing for his life but didn't feel his heart beating. CarpetBomb Slick got a slight headache buzz from the altitude. After braving the ups and downs of the Calico Hills path, we hit the rock formations for a little free climbing and hoping we didn't fall into the crevices below. It's a National Preservation Area so a car costs five bones.
Cardio with triceps and back at Huntington Beach. We hit the sand early for a coastal jog, the wind blowing salt water at us like somebody just spit on a fan. After the run, we found some old bike racks and did some pseudo pull ups and rows. Nearby we pumped out some bench dips on a concrete barrier. Park at the Pier side shopping center and the only bucks you'll have to cough up are for the Jamba Juice afterwards.
It's all out there, you just have to figure out how much you want it. Or how you can steal it.

Tom's Day at the Movies: No Country For Old Men

Tom takes us on a trip to see the Coens' latest lauded offering, No Country For Old Men. Here's part I of Doctor Jolliffe's pleasant experience.
Not long into 2008, merely weeks, and I decided to go out of my way to a nearby cinema to see No Country For Old Men. Out of my way as such because my two nearest, and favoured multiplexes decided not to show this particular film (though following its box office success, they have since put it in their line up). I knew No Country For Old Men would be good. I’d seen a few good reviews without delving to hard into too many, so as not to give anything away. I also knew it was vintage Coen, and given that I’m a big fan of the brothers C, I was excited to say the least. So off I ventured- a 20 minute bus ride, to the Regal Picture house in Henley On Thames. I got there, whipped out my still valid Student ID (even though it’s been a over a year since I was a dirty tax dodging student!), and got my self a nice little discount. A clean, round fiver for my ticket, a good wedge less money than the bigger multiplexes, even after student concession. A word on the Regal picture house in Henley, well it’s a delight! An old fashioned, very British style cinema. We’re talking 3 screens, not huge, but big enough for that “cinematic” experience, while the sound system is loud, punchy, but not obnoxiously so like the more American styled cinemas I usually go to.
Indeed I watched Sweeney Todd a week or so after No Country, and aside from finding that film watchable, yet highly overrated, it’s wretched songs where played about 100 decibels higher than wretched songs should be. But the Regal was homely, relaxed, tasteful, and impeccably presented. With ticket in hand and a now emptied bladder (in preperation for the 2 hours plus running time that I didn’t want interrupted) I casually strolled into screen number 1. Given that this was a midday showing on a Tuesday, the screen was currently empty- and by the time the film started only two other people entered to watch this sucker. I felt no shame in watching this alone. It was after all a spare of the moment decision, and being as my days off are weekdays, and most of my buds have weekends off, I felt inclined to just go myself rather than wait on when I could rope someone else in to see it too.
The trailers came up, nothing really distracted me from my Coen inspired level of concentration I was building up, that is until There Will Be Blood’s trailer popped up on screen. A cracking trailer and for one main reason, Daniel Day Lewis. Even in this 2-minute trailer, every truncated glimpse and tease of Day Lewis’ performance had me fascinated, intrigued, engrossed and just in awe. The guy’s a great actor, to the point he spews forth immense charisma, immense gravitas into the short preview. Definitely one to mark in my diary. Trailer, over, and now to the main event! Tune in next time as Tom breaks No Country For Old Men wide open!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tower of Troof Photography Presents

Vision of the West
Tower of Troof Photography owner/operator James Coats has kindly provided Dick Lightning with an exclusive sample from his "Live Natural" set.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

White Lightning: "I Ate the Worm: T-Shirts, Tequila and Mezcal."

And here we go again. Dick Lightning proudly presents a new addition to the team, as Jason !El Guapo Guero Loco! gives us his thoughts on a South of the border staple.

At some point in your life, you have almost certainly seen a stereotypical “party naked co-ed” shirt from Cancún or Tijuana boasting tequila-inspired “I ate the worm” slogans. Available at countless tourist stores and roadside souvenir stands in any Mexican city catering to tourists with more money than sense (or taste), these unfortunate shirts are a chronic hallmark of the week-long drunken orgy known in the US as Spring Break. Featuring bright cartoons of what look like earthworms with giant smiles and sombreros, these silkscreen wonders have spawned popular myths and misconceptions about tequila and tequila drinking. Although I’m generally not a fan of such spectacularly tacky souvenir t-shirts, more to the point is that I don’t like the display of drinking ignorance they perpetuate. But that’s ok, read and learn. If there is one booze I really enjoy it is tequila, and I’m here to help you enjoy it too.

There are two basic things wrong with those shirts. First, although there is a tradition of floating invertebrates in some Mexican liquor, tequila never ever has a worm in it. If you ate the worm, you weren’t drinking tequila, and instead you probably had a smashing hangover from a rougher booze called mezcal. Sometimes spelled “mescal” or “mexcal”, this fiery beverage is closely related to, but distinct from, the more famous tequila. Although mezcal and tequila are both distilled from a group of desert plants called agaves, they are produced from different varieties. Whereas mezcal can be made from a handful of agave varieties, tequila is manufactured from only one kind: Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety. Also called blue agave (in Spanish, agave azul), this plant is famous in the tequila-producing regions of Mexico for the greenish-blue hue of the long, spiky leaves. Mexican tequila distilleries use this type of plant, and only it, when they make tequila, and cultivate huge fields of it in Central Mexico.

Besides the main ingredient, another important difference between tequila and mezcal is how the two are produced. Both liquors are distilled using the extracted plant sugars from agaves, but tequilas are distilled at least twice and are carefully filtered to remove impurities. On the other hand, mezcal is considered finished after one distillation only. As a result, mezcal often has a more bold color and a more pronounced smoky flavor. Although I don’t personally enjoy the smoky taste, which is the result of baking the agave in an underground kiln, it is considered one of the desirable traits of mezcal. Because of the multiple distillations and filtering process of tequila, especially the more refined types, it tends to have a smoother and mellow taste. To me, this is more palatable.

Returning to the sombrero-wearing worm, happily swimming in mezcal (not tequila), brings us to the second basic mistake. The thing floating around in the bottom of a bottle of mezcal is called a maguey worm, but it is in fact not a worm at all. It is really the larva, or caterpillar, phase of life of a moth that lives around agave plants. The “worm” eats agave leaves before it transforms into its adult form, and in large numbers can devastate agave crops. Some mezcal producers insist that because the caterpillars eat agave leaves, they absorb the “essence” of the plant and enhance the flavor of the liquor. Although on mezcal plantations the insects are collected and bred, they are destroyed in fields dedicated to tequila production because they weaken the plants.

The tacky t-shirts that the next-door fraternity picked up while binging south of the border only function to conflate tequila and mezcal. Mezcals tend to be cheaper than even cheap tequila because of the wider variety of agaves and shorter period of distillation that are involved in production, and as a result are easier on the bankrolls of college kids who just flew 1,200 miles to party in Mexico. So, it tends to be bought and drunk more often if you are a drinker on a budget and don’t know any better.

If your face crinkled up into an expression of disgust after taking a drink of mezcal, like mine did, savor the memory of having tried something new and different. However, I would also encourage you in trying something else new and different: a nice shot glass of 100% agave azul tequila meant for sipping, not shooting. You’ll be surprised at the difference, and you won’t even have to worry about the worm. Salúd!
Tequila suggestions:
One of my personal favorites is Gran Centenario Añejo. Aged in oak barrels for at least a year, this mellow tequila is a fantastic (if somewhat expensive) buy. Worth every penny, I like to savor the taste of this spirit completely by itself, no salt, no limes, and one sip at a time. Tastes great with tortilla chips and a salsa loaded with chopped cilantro.
A cheaper alternative is Sauza Hornitos, a brand of mid-range tequila you can find in any decent liquor store. It’s not bad if you like to do tequila shots, jello shots, body shots, what-have-you. It makes for a great mixer and I like to use it when I make my own margaritas.

Dick's Cardio Obliteration

Jean-Claude Van Damme's face is dripping sweat. A vision of agony, hunched over a stationary bike's handles like Lance Armstrong, legs pumping furiously, sweatshirt soaked through. He postures up, slowing his pace and taking his pulse. "It's about 600 calories in 40 minutes, which at my age, 42, is pretty good."
-Excerpt from Dans la peau de Jean-Claude Van Damme?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Daily Headspace

"El Caballito" or something like that. A "caballito" is the traditional shot-glass that tequila is served in. They're thin, straight-sided, and tall, much like many super-models. I will continue to mourn the loss of the American hour-glass figure in favor of the anorexic rails in fashion these days. But, that's a different column entirely. An alternative name would be "A Drop in the Glass", it may be a little less presumptuous and more approachable than El Caballito.
-Jason "El Mucho Guapo" Fenton

Dick's Time Out: Baldwin's on television.

Anyone else notice that all four Baldwin brothers are on television? No, not Alec on reruns of Saturday Night Live or Inside the Actor's Studio. Not Stephen in the umpteenth showing of The Usual Suspects on TNT. Nor William on USA's millionth airing of Backdraft. Not even Daniel on Homicide: Life on the Streets in syndication. Dick's talking current, prime time gigs on major networks. Go ahead, flip through and you're bound to find a Baldwin on a lauded satire, raising money for charity with a billionaire, as a spineless politician or trying to get others to stay in rehab while he plots his own escape.

Yep, Alec, the reputable brother with the flaring temper, star of The Hunt for Red October and host of Saturday Night Live a whopping sixteen times is on NBC's 30 Rock with Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan. Stephen, the goofy joker of Bio-Dome and The Usual Suspects, raises money for breast cancer research and children's hospitals alongside Gene Simmons, Lennox Lewis and other celebrities on NBC's The Apprentice. Leading-man William of Backdraft and Fair Game mixes it up with Donald Sutherland on ABC's Dirty Sexy Money. And last but not least is the jowliest Baldwin, Daniel, of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and John Carpenter's Vampires on VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

Since their acting debuts, each Baldwin has attained a degree of success in film and television. Their personal lives are also well documented in the cases of Alec and Daniel. With each being on current television, have the brothers hit an equal plateau? Not really. Alec is still the leader, garnering rave reviews and an Emmy nomination for his work on 30 Rock. Big brother was even called in to help on an episode of Celebrity Apprentice where Stephen's all male team went on a three week winning streak before seemingly imploding in its own success. William maintains his role as the "other Baldwin" as Dirty Sexy Money attains mild success in a career of mild successes. After battling cocaine and pain killer addiction, Daniel came to Dr. Drew's rehab facility to help others, acting as a rock to withdrawal suffering patients like Jeff Conaway and Jessica Sierra. But after a facility barbecue gets a little too raunchy, Daniel makes like a tree, and gets out of there.

Who's next? Will the stars align and send Keenen Ivory, Dwayne, Damon, Marlon and Shawn Wayans to network television success? Nah, they're still doing pretty well in the movies.

Lightning Spree: London and Led Zepplin

Back for part two of our English Double Shot as Dick Lightning correspondent Cochise gives us his quick thoughts on traveling across the Pond and the mighty reunion of Led Zepplin.

Nobody was wearing sweat pants or tennis shoes with their jeans. Everybody had on nice, casual clothes, nobody was fat or dumpy looking.

You see all these signs, oh it's only 4 pounds...then you realize, wait a minute, that's 8 bucks...

The guy took my order and said something to me but I couldn't understand him, so I just kinda said yeah and looked around. Then he said it again, that they'd bring my sandwich out to me so sit down. Oh, right.

It was intense man. He'd just be going off, like in a daze or a trance, drooling on himself. It was awesome.

The place is clearing out but there's still people going against the crowd, coming in to go to the after party backstage. All of a sudden the crowd kind of parts, and there is he is, less than three feet away from me, Noel Gallagher.

There's no turnstiles for the train. It's all honor system. So I'm just hopping on it back and forth all weekend. Then on my way to the airport, the guy asks for my ticket. Uh I don't have one. No ticket? That's a charge! Yeah man I know, how much?

Lightning Across the Pond: Missionary Man

In the first of our double shot from England, Dr. Tom Joliffe takes a look at Dolph Lundgren's newest starring and directing outing, Missionary Man. With more buzz than usually reserved for a direct-to-DVD action affair, Missionary Man hit the US Top Rentals at # 26, raking in $2.15 million in rental revenue. The Swedish karate champion turned chemical engineer turned action movie icon returns to the Top 50 for the first time since Detention rang up $760,000 in January of 2004.

Tom writes:
Dolph’s latest film, and his third foray into directing, is once again one of his career best. Like The Mechanik, Dolph puts to bed some of the murkier days of his back catalogue, and proves, that the best man to help bring Dolph Lundgren back into the limelight, is Dolph Lundgren! Delving once more into a film with a theme of revenge, as in The Mechanik, there might have been a niggling worry, that re-treading that ground could breed familiarity. But what Dolph delivers is an action film in style, tone, and look, that is not only far removed from what he’s previously done, but a film that just looks and feels fresh. There aren’t many action films out there like Missionary Man, on a visual, tonal level. There’s a kind of Frank Miller vibe at times, and a bit of Robert Rodriguez too.

In Missionary Man, Dolph stars as Ryder, a mysterious stranger who rides into town for a friends funeral. Pretty soon he’s rubbing local oppressor John Reno up the wrong way. As the film progresses we start to see Ryder has other motives for being in town. It’s a modern western and has some great western trademarks, including a fantastic climax. However though on paper the story has similar arcs as Dolph’s previous directing effort, Missionary Man is such a contrast. It’s a whole different style of flick, and with Dolph’s increased level or creative control since his last directing gig, it’s a more complete vision. Perhaps unfinished business that Dolph touched upon in The Mechanik.
As director, Dolph really has a great visual eye here. What’s great about the film, is that beyond the choice of super-16, it feels as if Dolph is in complete control. He’s constrained by a tight budget certainly, but he spends it brilliantly, and really creates a great atmosphere. Dolph, his DP Bing Rao, and steadicam operator, George R Niedson combine to create a visual delight. There’s some great shots in this film, and it has a feeling of being a graphic novel brought to life, particularly with some almost picturesque still shots. Dolph has gone all out here. He’s really put the work in, and he’s really experimented with his choice of shots. At times it feels quite arty, and considering this is a DTV film, and a Dolph Lundgren film, that’s quite something! The choice of super-16 is one that can be fraught with peril. There’s a graininess to it, and the way it picks up light and colour can sometimes make a film look bad if not in the hands of a capable or inspired DP. Seagal’s Urban Justice is an example of a super-16 film that looked particularly horrible. No such problems though on Missionary Man. Of course not only is the film well shot, but given it was shot on super- 16, there was the advantage of it being mastered directly onto HD. This also allowed for easier digital grading, as well as ensuring the film looked crisp. I mean this sucker has a great transfer. Dolph makes full use of the grading tool, and gives the film an almost monochrome look. The de-saturated picture adds to the foreboding atmosphere, and is also ably helped along by the low key and effective score by Elia Cmiral (Ronin, The Mechanik).
Elsewhere Dolph knows action, having worked with the likes of John Woo, and he delivers here. Obviously given the budget, there’s no huge set pieces, but in a film like this, it wouldn’t feel right anyway. There’s short punctuations of violence throughout the film, before the inevitable, and just downright badass showdown. Dolph just goes Terminator on some biker dudes and it rocks the action Kasbah!
As actor, Dolph does well here too. He’s no Olivier, he knows it himself, but he plays to his strength, playing the Eastwood style man of few words, but immense badassedness (not a real word, but should be!). Parallels with Clint will be made of course, both being movie tough guys who made the jump from actor to writer and director. Dolph will not likely have the success of Clint, but he’s the straight to video equivalent I guess, and there’s no great shame in that anymore. Even Al Pacino has tasted the nectar of straight to video, even Morgan Freeman too. Dolph’s got that tough guy charisma. Nowadays what we lack in cinema is action stars, with the sheer hardness and tough as nails presence that Clint, Bronson, Arnie, Sly, and the likes of Seagal and Lundgren, used to deliver. We’ve not had any new action men come along who had the same presence, merely pretenders like Vin Diesel and The Rock. There’s also been thesp’s like Matt Damon, who while magnificent as Bourne isn’t gonna settle down into the handing people their asses genre. You do have to, with the odd exception, have to look in the direct to video market for a good old school hardass action flick, and visit the old guard like Dolph and Jean Claude. There does some to be a new resurgence now in old school action flicks foregoing the overly complex ideas, reliance on CGI, avid fart stylistics, and pg-13 namby pambiness. Along with the advent of digital screens, meaning cheaper distribution, we might just see a return to the multiplexes for the old guard. Sly’s hit a resurgence, and in the DTV market, so have Van Damme and Lundgren, and no one would deserve another shot at the big time, and the cinema, more than Lundgren, out of the DTV action heroes.

The remainder of the cast are mixed. Given the films budget, the support cast isn’t great. The incidental characters, probably including locals given a place on screen, aren’t great. Thankfully though the important roles are well filled. As Reno, Matthew Tompkins makes for a good bad guy. Also starring is August Schellenberg a very good actor who fans of Free Willy will likely remember, and he adds a bit of gravitas to proceedings. Young actress Chelsea Ricketts is superb, and surely has a bright future ahead of her (the kid who plays her older brother isn’t great to be honest- but his role is insignificant). John Enos III stars as the lead biker and Ryder’s main foe, and though he only comes in toward the end of the movie, he does a great job.
Overall, while the film won’t win originality prizes, it feels fresh because of the style. It’s just a good old fashioned R rated action film, proving big set pieces and oodles of CGI do not make a good action film (*cough* Transformers!! *cough*). Dolph is getting more assured behind the camera with every film, while also showing a versatility to switch style and tone. All three of his films have been markedly different, but Missionary Man stands out as something that is perhaps his most unique work. Action fans will not be disappointed. I’d love to see Dolph given a bit more money to play around with. Plus given how much of a badass Dolph looks during the finale, I’d hope we might see him appear somewhere in a Tarantino, or Edgar Wright flick, someone with a gift for the surprise cast. Fingers crossed, cause the big man deserves it. ****

Stat Lightning: Dublin Davis Irish Report

He's back. They're back. It's all back. Following a post-holiday slump, Coach Obrynba's Dublin Davis Irish 8th Grade Girls Basketball Team has stormed back into the winning column, taking FIVE of their last SIX games, including a victory in Tournament action. When we last left Insane from the Ukraine Coach Obrynba, the journeyman was searching for a way to reinvigorate his team after suffering back to back losses. Well bottle it up and sell it from the trunk because reinvigorated they were as Dublin Davis conquered the Norton Wildcats like poachers unleashed in a nature preserve, winning by 32 points for a final of 43-11. From there, the Irish dropped one contest to Hilliard Heritage 19-27 but rebounded with three straight victories to end the regular season. Overcoming Dublin Grizzell 28-22, Dublin Karrer 28-9 and Dublin Sells 36-7. Do you see the pattern emerging? I hope so because it's pretty obvious. Hungry for victory, the 8th Grade Girls Basketball Team took on Worthingway in their first game of Tournament Play, triumphing 29-15. Stay tuned as we continue to follow the Dublin Irish in their quest for the gold.

Lightning Will: Cap on Drugs!

What happens when you give the specimen of metabolically enhanced human perfection a concentrated dose of designer stimulant? One of the greatest mini-series in Captain America history, that's what!
That's right. For seven issues in 1990, Captain America fought a new battle. The battle against being a junkie. Not intentionally of course. Caught in a warehouse explosion filled with street candy ICE, Cap's system is overloaded with the potent pick me up. Erratically navigating his way through the streets and meeting up with the likes of Daredevil, Diamondback, Black Widow, The Red Skull, Crossbones, Bullseye and The Kingpin himself, Wilson Fisk, Captain America finally ends up alone in a dank alley. Coming down hard off of his super high, a shambled sight of paranoia and unfocused aggression.
The FDA's new Anti-Substance Abuse Slogan:
Use drugs and Cap will whup that @$$.

Captain America # 372-378. Gruenwald. Lim. Bulanadi. Marvel Comics.

Check out for issues. for Captain America details.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lightning Showdown: Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp

Tombstone. The tough and taut action picture showcasing Wyatt Earp's struggles in a growing Arizona town. Wyatt Earp. The sweeping epic biography of one of America's most mythic figures. While both films tackle the same general subjects, they are vastly different. But both films share a glaring similarity, they include two of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled on film. Let's take a look at how the teams stacked up against one another.
To start things off, we step into the boots of the man that started it all, Wyatt Earp. In Tombstone, the Wyatt Earp Kurt Russell plays is a man retired from law enforcement, looking to settle down with his brothers and make some money. Charming one minute and violent the next, Russell gives Earp a manly yet deceitful quality that suits the part well. Meanwhile, we actually view Kevin Costner's Earp through a long character progression. Coming into law enforcement and mighty reputation through sheer accident and luck, Costner plays Earp more internal than Russell. Unsure he's doing the right thing at times and brooding under the weight of responsibility. Russell gives a more lively and fiery performance with his natural alpha male machismo and bombastic voice. Kevin Costner does his Kevin Costner thing, mistaking cockiness for confidence and forever looking dour even in moments of excitement.
Kurt Russell is Wyatt Earp (He even named his kid Wyatt!).
As important and fascinating a part of the Wyatt Earp mythos, dentist turned gambler John "Doc" Holliday plays a crucial role in both films. Tombstone's Val Kilmer brings a coolness to the southern gentleman turned gambler and legendary gunfighter which exudes self assurance. Coughing fits and exhaustion brought on by tuberculosis can't stop the unrivaled gunman from dispatching his enemies when needed. Whereas Wyatt Earp's Dennis Quaid brings a more human touch to the character. Looking gaunt and sickly, Quaid never strikes as an iconic sight that Kilmer does. Instead, he opts to play a man who's given up on life and taken up alcohol, women, gambling and killing to fill the void. Playing the role closer to the cuff of what Holliday's life was probably like, Dennis Quaid is Doc.
Older brother and lifelong lawman Virgil Earp is played by Sam Elliott in Tombstone and Michael Madsen in Wyatt Earp. Elliott brings his usual strength to the role, playing the hard case of the family. His Virgil is not one to be trifled with and accepts the role rejected by Russell's Wyatt to give the town some law and order. Michael Madsen steps out of the way at every chance to let Costner's Wyatt take charge. Madsen plays Virgil as a simple man, happy to accept his position as a lawman in life and nothing more. Elliott is simply given more to do and does so with ardor and force. Sam Elliott is Virgil Earp.
Rounding out the quartet is little brother Morgan Earp. Played by Bill Paxton in Tombstone, Morgan hangs out with Virgil and backs his brother's play when Virgil becomes the local law. Paxton creates a naive sense about himself, pondering the afterlife and belief that killing a man wouldn't leave it's mark on his soul. Wyatt Earp's version of Morgan finds Linden Ashby playing the little brother as an upstart, itching for and not bothered by violence. His brash competitive nature is offset by a lewd sense of humor most can appreciate. Neither actor or role seals the deal in this case. Paxton's Morgan is fine as the little brother eager to emulate his elders while holding his own and learning about himself. Ashby's Morgan is nearly chomping at the bit, ready to throwdown at a moment's notice or shoot the sh*t to put a friend in a better mood. Too close to call. Bill Paxton and Linden Ashby are Morgan Earp.
And there we have it. Tombstone goes 2-1-1 as Wyatt Earp falls short at 1-2-1.
Give me Kurt Russell as Wyatt, Dennis Quaid as Doc, Sam Elliott as Virgil and either Bill Paxton or Linden Ashby as Morgan. Tune in next time as we take a look at the villains, Curly Bill, Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo and so many more.