Friday Fisticuffs: Fists Of Fury/The Big Boss (1971)

Before getting into the actual review of this movie, I just HAVE to talka bout this poster. Look at how bonkers it is! Bruce looks nine kinds of crazy, but also pretty awesome. Also not the dude under Lee’s left armpit, he looks ridonc. Also, notice the guy who stands poised to attack The Dragon’s crotch. But, my favorite part is that tag line: “Bruce Lee claims his revenge through death and beyond.” Huh? What is beyond death and how do you get vengeance through it? Maybe it’s a philosophical thing I don’t understand.

ANYWAY, the movie. It’s okay. I hate writing that about a Bruce Lee movie because I want all of them to be amazing, but this one definitely has the feel of a guy who would be a star starring in a movie he doens’t have much or possibly any control over. Thanks to the switching of roles when director Wei Lo, Lee actually switched characters and wound up not fighting for the first 20 or so minutes of the movie (because he made a promise to a family member not to). I should also note that I watched a really crappy transfer from some budget martial arts multi-pack I bought a few years back. It looks like someone found a print of the film in a closed down drive-in with broken windows and transferred it directly. Actually, the trailer below is of far better quality than my copy. Yeah, it looks bad, but it also seems to fit the movie. I mean, we’re not talking about something as visually awesome as Enter The Dragon, this looks like a lot of other late-night cable Hong Kong action flicks.

The plot is pretty basic. Lee comes to town and starts working at a factory that basically runs the town with an iron fist (though not an iron claw hand like in Enter). Lee, along with some less-good fighters, puts a stop to it. This is all based, apparently, on a true story about a man named Cheng Chao-an which is also the name of Lee’s character.

But all that is secondary to the point of this post: the fights. They’re okay. Again, this isn’t Enter The Dragon or The Chinese Connection which he had a lot more control over. The guy who does most of the fighting in the film’s first half does a pretty good job and Lee is always charismatic on screen, but between the editing and stunt work, this leaves much to be desired. But then you realize that those are just the non-Lee fight scenes. He actually directed and choreographed his own scenes and used a much more realistic approach. Of course, you’ve got to sit through a while of boring fights to get to the gold, but they’re there. Note that the following clip is the end of the film and therefore a SPOILER.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure where you should watch this if you’re exploring Bruce Lee’s movies for the first time. It might be a let down after the excellent Chinese Connection and Enter The Dragon (his next and final features respectively). I don’t think I’ve seen Way Of The Dragon in about 10 years if at all, so I can’t speak to that one. However, watching it first might not convince you how awesome he really is. It’s a conundrum. Whatever you do, just don’t watch Game Of Death, that thing’s a travesty.

Halloween Scene Book Review: Horns By Joe Hill (2009)

After reading Joe Hill’s first novel Heart-Shaped Box, I knew he was a writer that I wanted to keep up with. I follow him on twitter and read that he’s finishing up his next novel, but in the meantime, I was lucky enough to come across his only other novel Horns at Barnes & Noble a few weeks back in the discount section for six or seven bucks. Since I’m a fan and love a good deal, it was an easy sale.

The simple concept behind the book is that suspected “sex murderer” Ig Perrish wakes up after a bender with devil horns growing out his head and a strange effect on people. When he’s in their presence, they confess some of their deepest, darkest thoughts. After visiting some folks, Ig starts to discover the truth about what actually happened to his dead girlfriend Merrin. From there we bounce around in time a bit as Hill gives us flashbacks that not only broaden the world, but give us both story and character details that help move things along at a good clip.

And that’s really where the genius of Joe Hill lies, he layered this story so well that you almost smack yourself in the forehead for not realizing that something from earlier on fits in with the ongoing story. For instance, and this is a small one, but Ig drives a Gremlin. You find this out early on and I didn’t think much of it because it’s a shit car and he lives in a smaller town, so that washes. It was about half way through his devil-ish adventures that I made the thematic connection. The key, though, is that it didn’t feel corny or cheesy, it was more like, “Well played, Mr. Hill, well played.” Or, maybe I’m just a bit slow, which is entirely possible.

Another great thing about Hill is that he really doesn’t go where you think he will. Or at least not when you think he will. At a certain point I figured Ig’s newfound abilities would be perfect for finding out what happened to Merrin. And he does, but I didn’t expect him to jump right in so quickly. Heck, I also didn’t expect him to go talk to his parents and hear what they had to really think about him. Woof.

Honestly, there isn’t anything in this book I didn’t like. It had the very special benefit of fitting very easily in with my memories from childhood. Ig first saw Merrin at church, her sitting across from him and him falling for her. I remember seeing a girl in that exact scenario and having a crush when I was a kid. Also, large portions of the story take place in a woodsy area around a burnt-out foundry. Now, I didn’t grow up near a foundry or even as woodsy of an area as this, but I did spend hours running around the small woods in the park across the street from my house unsupervised. We didn’t get up to too much trouble, but I feel that kind of exploratory freedom is not only very much a part of my building blocks, but also something that a younger generation might not be able to relate to which is a bummer.

Anyway, between everything I’ve already  mentioned, a fantastically complex morality tale and a villain that makes Dexter look saintly, I had a fantastic time reading this book and going along for the ride. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes fantastical fiction with a foul-mouthed flair and a non-traditional take on the relationship between the devil, God and people.

The Box: Mortal Kombat Battlewave #4, Web Of Spider-Man #81 & Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 #2

As I explained last week, my pal Jesse bought me a longbox packed with comics, many of which had five or six copies. I put what I had in alphabetical order, put them in my sliding-top coffee table and I’ll reach in, pull out comics at random and give them a read. Sometimes I discover a gem, sometimes, not so much.

First up, I read Mortal Kombat: BattleWave #4 from Malibu, which seems to have been purchased by Marvel at this point (1995). This comic was written by Charles Marshall and drawn by Patrick Rolo and it was surprisingly one of the best of the box so far. I figured I would be completely lost because I only ever rented Mortal Kombat games in the past. But, I actually found myself pretty interested in what’s going on.

I don’t know why the different people are fighting on their particular sides, but you’ve got Johnny Cage and Jax fighting Smoke and Jade on a crashing airplane. This is a tricky thing to write and some of the artwork is a little out of control, but I think it was handled really well. There’s other stuff I didn’t necesarrily get and a back-up story about a cat-man fighting Goro, but I was actually pretty intrigued by the world that Marshall was working with here. Iconic characters doing cool things in such a way that a new reader can understand is not a terrible thing.

Also, I dug Rolo’s art. I don’t I’m familiar with his work, but it’s got an almost cartoony, exaggerated nature that never looks too cartoony or exaggerated. In other words, I wouldn’t be upset if I found more MK comics by these guys in The Box. Bonus piece of info: Marvel editor Mark Paniccia edited this comic!

I had less fun reading Marvel’s Web Of Spider-Man #81 written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Steve Butler. The story follows two brothers, one who decides to be a good person and goes to school while the other decides to become the oh-so-90s villain Bloodshed. It’s not a bad story, but it’s one I’ve read before. Actually, it’s one I’ve read from Busiek before in the pages of Astro City: Dark Ages Books 1 and 2 which set several miniseries’ worth of comics around this idea. So, seeing it done all in a compressed format with different characters just feels a little repetitive.

Mind you, this is not a slam against this comic. I’ve come to realize that there are certain kinds of stories you can read done plenty of different ways and others that you don’t. I feel like I read this idea done really well by the writer already and just didn’t feel the need to go through it again.

I will note that Butler, an artist I’m not very familiar with, did a great jon in the issue. His Spidey looks iconic, his characters bold (when they’re supposed to be) and he gets to work with several great facial expressions that he nails.

I do admit, there is a part of me that misses villains like Bloodshed. His motivations are the same as villains today, but that look is insane. He’s basically got enhanced strength and…spikes as well as a pink ponytail for some reason. In reality, if you saw this guy, you’d be torn between quivering in terror and snickering.

Lastly, I read Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 #2 from Continuity Comics. I think that’s the title at least, I honestly can’t tell. I remember having a few Continuity books from various grab bags as a kid and never knowing what the hell was going on. That continues to be the case with this issue written by Neal Adams and Paul Stone with art by Aron Weisenfeld. Honestly, I can not tell you what happened. There’s one group of super people all with silly names like Urth and Fyre fighting another group and then a third shows up at some point.

There are some explanations along the way but they just wind up confusing more. I’m not the biggest fan of those basic information recap pages, like the ones that Marvel did in the mid-2000s, but it would have been immensely helpful in these comics, even more so considering these are brand new comics from a presumably brand new comic company. I didn’t do any research (yet) on Continuity or what was going on because I like to go in fresh, but I probably should have. The art doesn’t help matters any either. This was in the middle of the 90s heyday where nothing comes in a grid and all the panel lines look like they’ve been singed. It’s like mental color overload with stuff you’re not given enough information to care about. I think it’s also environmental, which makes it feel like a more “extreme” version Captain Planet, which I do not want to read.

Oh, I forgot to mention, this book was polybagged AND came with a trading card. Anyone want to trade for Firebat?

Quick Movie Review: Skateland (2010)

For some teenager, Skateland will be a revelation. It’s a coming of age story set in the 80s about a kid working for an about-to-close skating rink who hangs out with his buddies and has no real ambitions in life. The first movie that came to mind when I heard about it, because I’m not very creative, was Adventureland, but almost immediately, the film had a very Dazed & Confused feel to it with a little Empire Records thrown in. I think the place that plays the part of Skateland is actually the same place the kids hang out in in D&C, but couldn’t tell for certain.

Anyway, the comparisons to those other flicks definitely loomed over my viewing of this film, but unlike those others, this one’s mission statement seems to be “let’s dump on this kid as much as possible.” The following are SPOILERS, I guess, so if you don’t want anything ruined for you, move along. Our main character, Ritchie not only finds out his parents are getting a divorce and that his mom is cheating on his dad, but has been for seven or so years. His older buddy who went off to become a race car driver also comes back into town and there’s clearly something wrong with him. That dude winds up hitting on a local thug’s girlfriend which puts makes them looming around the background ready to start trouble. Ritchie’s also trying to figure out what’s going to happen between him and longtime friend Michelle (Ashley Greene, who looks like Kristen Stewart so much she might be a slightly altered clone). Oh, there’s also the matter of what he’s going to do with the rest of his life.

The movie feels like a series of vignettes, but by the end of the story–which gets even sadder as it progresses–everything comes together nicely. Overall, it’s a solid movie with good performances by the whole cast and nice directing by newbie Anthony Burns, but it’s really difficult for me to separate it from the other movies I mentioned. For a kid who hasn’t seen nearly as many movies, though, this will be like those other movies I mentioned were to me when I was a kid. But, having seen them, it’s hard not to compare and that can make for a distracting viewing experience. I’m definitely curious to check out what other movies the cast has done (not Twilight) and whatever Burns makes next. Lots of raw goodness that just needs maybe a bit of refinement.

Ad It Up: Bubble Bobble

Just look at all that text on the right column of this ad! Was any kid going to read that? Probably not, though it might have been good because this ad makes the game look silly. Actually, lets be honest, Bubble Bobble is absolutely a silly game. You’re people who got turned into bubble-spitting dragons trying to…not die through 100 levels of insanity. Or something. I was never really clear what the point of the game was, but that didn’t diminish my love for it whatsoever.

My pal Geof had the NES game. There were several summers where I would spend nearly every day over at his house hanging out with him, his brother and sister and a few neighbors. I can’t tell you how much we played this game, but it was a lot. I think we also got to the very end, but I honestly can’t remember if we ever beat it. That end boss is HARD. Maybe Geof will read this and remember better than me.

For what it’s worth, Bubble Bobble is the only NES game I ever downloaded onto our Wii from whatever the Nintendo archive is called. I think I got all the way to the end again, but couldn’t beat the final guy. It’s been a while since I’ve even turned the Wii on, so that tells you how long it’s been. Actually, writing this makes me want to fire that little white box back up and play with some dragons.

The Challenge Battle Of The Exes Finale “I Will Always Love You”

After last week’s weak finale lead-in, I’ve got to say, tonight’s finale was actually a pretty big nail biter. Leads were won and lost, teams came from behind, but who came away with the big money? You’ll have to hit the jump to find out! Continue reading The Challenge Battle Of The Exes Finale “I Will Always Love You”

Wildstorm Trade Post: Authority & Wildcats World’s End

The Authority: World’s End (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Simon Coleby
Collects The Authority #1-7

I talked about and explained the whole concept behind Wildstorm’s World’s End event in last week’s Trade Post where I wrote about the Stormwatch and Gen 13 installments. Today I’ll be reviewing the two Authority collections from the same time as well as the second Wildcats one (I thought I had the first when I started reading these trades, but soon realized that wasn’t the case).

As I said in that previous post, the Wildstorm Universe basically came to a crashing halt and all the heroes had to figure out how to go on in the face of such widespread destruction and death. In the case of The Authority, their headquarters, The Carrier, a gigantic ship that can travel through dimensions and is powered by a baby universe, got all messed up and crashed in London, fusing with the city. The new world is so polluted that Apollo can only stick around for a few moments, Engineer can’t access her nanites and Jack Hawksmoor doesn’t have any cities to draw power from because they were all destroyed. Midnighter and Swift are both alright and doing their best to keep the survivors they can find safe.

It’s a really interesting dynamic because, for their entire lives as characters, the Authority have always been the king turds of poo mountain. They had the best powers and the best tech to back them up, but they only worked best for the world they were living in and not the one they are living in. Abnett and Lanning do a great job of chronicling how they deal with these new circumstances. This collection shows how Midnighter stands against an unkillable enemy, what a new virus is doing to people, how a few other survivors are doing and gives alternate angles to a story from Stormwatch where the two teams meet up.

The Authority: Rule Britanna (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Simon Coleby, Brandon Badeaux, Drew Johnson & Mike S. Miller
Collects The Authority #8-17

The Stormwatch crossover at the end of the previous book got the team back up and running in some respects. The Carrier powered up a bit as did Angie and Hawksmoor. On the other hand, Apollo still can’t handle the atmosphere and, as if that weren’t enough, he’s got that Warhol virus running through him.

This collection deals with a lot of the Authority’s previously-fought enemies, showing how they survived the apocalypse and have even taken advantage of the situation. You’ve got the blue guy from Sliding Albion, Kaizen Gamorra and his super powered weapons and even Cybernary. We also find out a little bit more about whatever happened to the Doctor.

It might sound like this book is steeped in continuity and might be difficult to slog through, but I didn’t find that to be the case. It’s one of those things where you’re told enough about the characters, but if you’re really interested, you can find out more online or in other collections. It makes a great companion to the first volume, but like Stormwatch and Gen 13, the last issues of the series have never been and might never be collected. Again, the appeal here is the creative use of the Armageddon situation and how it has changed this team of badasses.

Wildcats: Family Secrets (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Christos Gage & Keith Giffen, drawn by Neil Googe, Pete Woods, Phil Jimenez & Ryan Sook
Collects Wildcats #8-12

I don’t usually read through a series of trades without having everything, but I was too far into my World’s End re-reading when I realized it and, honestly, it doesn’t matter too much. I remembered enough of the basics–or so I thought–to read on and still enjoy the second volume. Turns out I don’t remember many of the specifics of those first six issues, but I do remember that the ‘Cats are still in New York in the Halo building and, like The Authority or Stormwatch, help as many people as they can. There’s also a cool nod to Joe Casey’s Wildcats 3.0 that I liked as a Wildstorm fan: people are going butt nuts crazy over getting the Halo batteries that never run out of juice. This is a great example of taking an elements from a shared comic book universe and using it in a later story that I really dug.

Anyway, the bulk of the story in this collection finds the Wildcats dealing with Majestic, a fellow alien who has created his own island paradise–and also knocked the Earth back on its axis after the Armageddon event, if you were curious–and gone crazy. Actually, on the surface, he’s okay, giving people a well built paradise to live in, but behind the scenes, he’s keeping his daughter captive and trying to make a child with her.

Meanwhile, Ladytron has made friends with a bunch of fellow robots which also lead to problems with the Daemonites kicking back up. When the Wildcats went off to encounter Majestic, they left Ladytron behind. The Daemonites took this as the perfect time to attack and did so. By the book’s end the two storylines come crashing together and leave the ‘Cats in a much different place than they were when this whole thing started. Again, I think there’s enough fun action and drama in the book that anyone can enjoy it, but I’m not sure how accessible it might be to a new reader. I like to think it is, at least someone interested in checking out the existing World’s End books.