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.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Stat Lightning: Dublin Davis Irish Report

And we're back. Dick Lightning and friends hope your Holidays were happy as we bring in the new year with Coach Obrynba's Dublin Davis Irish 8th Grade Girls Basketball team . Still looking for the shut out victory, the Crazy Ukrainian Daren Obrynba will have to go back to the drawing board, as the new year heralded the end of Dublin Davis' SEVEN game winning streak. Going into the Holiday rush like an exploded dam, the 8th grade girls of Dublin Davis waved goodbye to Westerville St. Paul, doubling the efforts of their competitors en route to a one sided 30-14 victory on 12/20.
But success coupled with school vacation led to a loss of focus when the Girls returned to the hardwood gymnasium floor on 1/8 against Hilliard Memorial. In an off night, the team wasn't able to get the offense going, scoring only 4 points, the entire second half. Obrynba's Dublin Davis Irish fell to 7-1, by score of 21-17. Looking to rebound quickly two nights later, the Dublin Davis Irish took on Hilliard Weaver but were unable to secure the victory, trailing 24-19. With five games remaining in the season, there's still plenty of time for Coach Obrynba and the 8th grade girls to rededicate themselves and come back swinging.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dick's Throwing Low's. Kicks that is.

The low kick. A vicious yet underused tool in today's Mixed Martial Arts scene. Not as glamorous as a knock out or slick as a submission, the low kick seems relegated to being viewed as a jab with the leg. But in the arsenal of knowledgeable fighters like Keith Jardine, Georges St. Pierre, Andy Hug and Mr. Low Kick himself, Rob Kaman, the low kick can turn an opponent into a grimacing, bruised and staggering victim of defeat.
High kicks aimed for the head can produce shocking knock outs, but more often than not, high kicks sail over an opponents head, can throw a fighter off balance and opens them up for a takedown. The low kick isn't meant to be a one hit fight stopper. Instead, low kicks disrupt footwork, inhibit mobility and pay dividends over time. Like a jab, the low kick can be used to set up further offensive attacks or to gain distance out of the pocket.
Using the shin as a weapon, thus providing greater surface area to strike, the low kick can be aimed to the outer and inner leg around the knee and thigh.
Rather than kicking with a straight leg, the low kick is thrown with a bent knee to allow full hip movement and energy transference. Opposite of snapping the kick, the low kick is focused on sweeping the leg and kicking through the target. Avoiding and checking the kicks, by bending and lifting the attacked leg are the best defense. A fighter may absorb low kicks without consequence early on, but sooner or later, bruised flesh, instability and limping are sure to follow.

Check out legendary kickboxer and Van Damme pal Rob Kaman demonstrating the low kick below. Imagine you're the training partner but not holding a pad.

Dick's Dog: Rowlf the Bartending Piano Player.

Rowlf: Stay away from women. That's my motto.
Kermit: But I can't.
Rowlf: Neither can I. That's my trouble.

An early creation and signature character of the fabled Jim Henson, Rowlf came to early prominence while appearing on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963-1966. With a world weary panache and penchant for beer, women and the piano, Rowlf was far from a typical children's animal novelty. But was such an adult edge too much for mainstream popularity? Or were the eccentric yet non-threatening personalities of Kermit the Frog, Fozzie the comedian bear, Gonzo the Whatever and Ms. Piggy the diva more palatable for the general public? Opinions may vary but one thing's for sure: Rowlf is Dick Lightning's Top Dog.

Dog barks.
Rowlf: Yeah, bark bark!
Dog barks faster.
Rowlf: Uh-huh, wolf wolf!

A loner by design, Rowlf was never constantly paired up with a complementary cast mate a la Kermit and Fozzie or Gonzo and Rizzo. His introduction in The Muppet Movie finds him working behind the bar and ivory keys of a rowdy dive. The Great Muppet Caper has him playing piano in an empty, guest free hotel in England. On The Muppet Show, Rowlf would recite poetry and occasionally lead the orchestra but would never become a member of house band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. He would later show up in animated form on The Muppet Babies. Getting into various nursery adventures with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter and Skeeter. A mix of bartender and blues pianist, Rowlf dispensed nuggets of wisdom while showcasing a laconic sense of humor.

Miss Piggy: I may be a nurse but I am a woman first.
Rowlf: No, you're not. You're a pig first. Nurse second. I don't think woman made the top ten.

Following Jim Henson's tragic premature death, Rowlf was all but
retired as a leading or supporting player on the Muppet stage. Appearing silently in the background, Rowlf was a reminder and remembrance of the imagination and creative force of a man who truly left his world better than he found it.

Up to date Muppet news:
Full Rowlf report:

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lightning Across the Pond: Die Hard

And we're back, once again we welcome the knowledgeable and affable Tom Jolliffe as he takes us to number 19 of his personal 20 favorite films, with DIE HARD.

Tom writes:
Continuing my top 20 movies, at number 19 is probably the greatest all out action flick out there. It is of course Die Hard. Die Hard has a level of awesomeness about it that few action flicks ever come close to capturing. It’s quite simply the text book by which good action films should be written around. It’s got all the elements in it, that make a top quality guns n' ammo ruckus. Namely, cool action hero, awesome badguy (with awesome bad guy crew) and it’s also got great action scenes. However what sets Die Hard apart from most other action classics, is the fact that above all else, it’s just a really clever film. The plot is fairly simple, Han’s Gruber takes control of the Nakatomi Plaza, keeping the office Christmas party folk hostage (No mince pies for that man!), while he and his boys break into the vault using the hostages as a diversion. John McClane is of course the best example of the wrong place, wrong time, action man that there’ll ever be, and it’s down to him to stop them.

What makes it genius though is so many clever touches littered throughout the script. There are so many seemingly incidental moments that later on reveal themselves to be important elements in the films plot. For example our introduction to our action hero sees Maclane being given relaxation tips from a fellow airline passenger. The tip involves McClane taking his shoes off so he can curl his toes on the carpet. It sounds meaningless but it’s an awesome use of an incidental moment as when the building is taken over, McClane is thrust into immediate action, forgetting to put his shoes back on. This leads on to the infamous “shoot the glass!” action scene later on.
The film is loaded with great moments like this (the importance of Holly Genero/McClane’s brand new xmas gift watch is another example). As well as the intelligence within the script, the film is also darn funny. It’s not a comedy, it’s not trying to be, but it’s got some great, clever, comedy. It’s funny without even really trying, in the same way as films like Superman and Back To The Future. The Agent Johnson gag is classic, as is the moment when Al Leong (henchman to the action bad guy masses) raids the candy stall while waiting to commence a shootout. All this and we also have McClane at the centre of the film, who lets fly with all manner of zingers and brilliantly funny incidental actions (acknowledging a nudie poster at an inopportune moment).
The cast in this piece of excellence is spot on. Bruce Willis almost instantly became the coolest everyman action star with this flick. McClane is character gold, and Willis brings him to life brilliantly. He does it so superbly throughout the series of Die Hard films, but not more so than in the first, and by a stratosphere, the best. The ultimate action hero thus needs a suitably and worthy counterpart, and that is exactly what we get with Gruber. Alan Rickman brings Gruber to life. He’s intelligent, ruthless and in complete control. Gruber is a sociopath, but at the same time he is totally, completely, sane. There aren’t any screws missing with Gruber, which make him a whole new level of adversary in this sort of film. Gruber knows exactly what he’s doing, and how to do it. That’s what makes him scary. Rickman is great, and invented the super-smart, suited, euro baddie template. Gruber is aided by Karl one of the best bad guy henchmen ever. Elsewhere the film has the best un-met partner (Powell) the best smarmy weasel character (Ellis) and the best incompetent chief (Dwayne T. Robinson) ever.
John McTiernan prior to this had done the guntastic, bicep-fest, Predator. Die Hard truly cemented him as one of the great action specialists of the 80’s. Under McTiernan’s watchful eye, Die Hard remains tight, slick and the action scenes are exceptional. Set piece after set piece, the film delivers, while McTiernans free reign, regarding Willis’ adlibbing, pays off dividends. The film looks great, it sounds great, the setting is a masterstroke, and the whole package is given atmosphere thanks to it’s soundtrack, and Michael Kamen’s score. Elsewhere the editing, the beats, are perfection.
Overall Die Hard remains a classic. It’s one of the most re-watchable films out there, with little nuggets always being picked up with each revisit. It remains a brilliant cohesion of action,
intelligence, humour and character which few films have ever managed to emulate since. Many have copied from and aspired to be Die Hard, but all have failed. It’s simply a one off for this genre. Dagnabbit I’m off to watch it again! I’ll be back soon with number 18 in countdown.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Lightning Spread: Andy Hug VS. Ernesto Hoost

May, 1996. Andy Hug defeats Mike Bernardo in the K-1 World Grand Prix Final Finale. Unleashing a barrage of constant leg kicks and punches, Hug felled the formidable South African early in the second round. Yet the path to what looked like an easy match was nothing but. Earlier in the evening, Hug went head to head and toe to toe with another K-1 legend in the making, Ernesto Hoost. K-1 terms stipulated three rounds of action with a possible two extra rounds if the fight was deemed a draw. In what would be their second meeting out of four career fights, Hug and Hoost did not disappoint.
Mr. Perfect Ernesto Hoost came out in usual fashion, stalking and pushing Mr. K-1 Andy Hug back and into the corner, unloading knees, low kicks and punches. But the Iron Man Hug withstood all attacks and in typical strategy defended only to come back swinging. As the match wore on, Andy started charging in with hands up, tying Hoost in the clinch and slugging away. Hoost would respond in kind by trapping Hug in the corner and landing punches and kicks that stumbled but never toppled Hug. In the third round, Hug began to rally, going slightly more on the offense, moving forward, getting in close with Hoost then quickly regaining distance with one-two punches and a low kick to signal his exit.
At the end of three rounds, no clear winner had emerged. Hoost had been the more aggressive fighter. Many a time Hug looked to be in trouble, turtling up under storm after storm of strikes. But perseverance was one of Andy's most dominant traits. Just when it looked like he was finished, he came back fast and hard, creeping in punches through Hoost's defense and landing low kicks. The judges declare it a draw and the fighters prepare for Extra Round Number 1.

Hoost and Hug come out more hesitant, choosing their attacks more carefully. Hug sets the pace, throwing high kicks and immediate punches that land. Hoost uses his reach and size, pushing Andy against the ropes. Already exhausted, the two tie up frequently, throwing hooks and roundhouses. Both men look like they could collapse at any time. But Andy continues to have the better of the exchanges, connecting with multiple strikes and kicks. It looks like Andy has just sealed a berth to the finals. Hoost and Hug appear enervated as they await the decision. Judges call it a draw. Extra Round Number 2 coming up.
Hug's cardio looks to be holding up better than Hoost's. Andy throws a flashy spinning hook kick and scores with high kicks and punches. Hoost throws out some sloppy kicks and pays for it as Andy presses, landing more hooks and low kicks. Hoost catches Andy in the clinch, tripping him up with a low kick that is credited as a slip, not a Knock Down. Smothering Hug with a blanket of uppercuts and knees, Hoost makes one last break for victory. The bell rings and both men hoist their fist into the air, believing they are the winner. The first judge declares Andy the victor. Hug raises his hand in triumph as the next judge agrees, giving Andy the split decision. That night turned out to be the culmination of Andy's hard work and high point of his career. He would not defeat Ernesto Hoost in their subsequent bouts, the next being the finale of 1997's K-1 Grand Prix.

Lightning Panel: Snake-Eyes & Storm Shadow

The ninja and the commando. The soldier and the assassin. G.I. Joe mainstays Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow have shared a tumultuous and convoluted history since their introduction 25 years ago. Originally friends in the Vietnam war, the two have traversed the plane of existence as the best of friends and chiefest rivals. The rift started when Storm Shadow invited Snake-Eyes to travel to Japan and join the family business. The ninja business. There, Snake-Eyes learned physical and emotional control, garnering the attention of clan leaders Hard and Soft Master. Storm-Shadow soon became jealous and was forced to flee when Hard Master was murdered. The killing tool: one of Storm Shadow's steel arrows.

Years later the two have met again. Snake-Eyes went on become a founding member of G.I. Joe while Storm Shadow sold his talents to terrorist organization Cobra. When Snake-Eyes finds out shape shifting Cobra mercenary Zartan is the true assassin, he enlists Storm Shadow to infiltrate the near impregnable Cobra island. Upon hearing the truth, Storm Shadow sets out with one goal. Zartan gets deaded.
The duo hack and slash their way through Cobra troops, filling them with bullets and arrows. But they're too late, As Cobra Commander has put the unconscious Zartan in a jet, ready for take off.
The lust for blood overwhelms Storm Shadow as he tries to sacrifice himself to stop the take off. But Snake-Eyes shows his inner compassion and saves his former friend. In their escape, the duo is separated and Snake-Eyes is rescued by his G.I. Joe comrades. Storm-Shadow fights through more Cobra troops before being gunned down by the Baroness on a nearby beach.

G.I. Joe # 45, 46, 57
Marvel Comics 1982
Larry Hama/Script
Rod Whigham/Pencils
Andy Mushynsky/Inks
Joe Rosen/Lettering
George Roussos/Colors
Dennis O'Neil/Editor
Jim Shooter/Editor in Chief
Mike Zeck/Covers

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