The Hollywood Kill Team

Recently, I was asked one of the most profound questions a cinema lover like me could be asked:  If your family was killed by a pack of Cartel narco terrorists and you sought revenge by driving down to Texas with a trunk full of whisky and five of the biggest movie bad-asses in the business, who would you pick to go with you?  They could be alive or dead and current age/status doesn’t matter, they go as they were in their prime.  I was surprised by how much time I took thinking through my answer.  Here is my list of hired guns:

Lee 11248-5040Marvin:  There used to be a Hollywood rule back in the day.  To play a bad ass on the screen, you had to be one in real life.  Few people were as bad ass as Lee Marvin.  He was the kid that was kicked out school because he was a bad boy.  Enlisted in the Marine Corps where he was shot by a machine gun during the Battle of Saipan.  He drank, he womanized, he was a real jerk.  But on screen, the guy was a panther who with minimal dialogue scared the shit out everyone around him – probably because he was a scary dude in real life.  If the whiskey in the trunk lasted, he would be good to go.

Charlpassager_de_la_pluie1es Bronson:  Born Charles Dennis Buchinsky – the son of Lithuanian-Russian immigrants who didn’t even speak English when he was a kid.  This guy worked in a Pennsylvania coal mine as a damn child laborer until WWII came around and he enlisted and was a gunner on a B29 in the Pacific Theater.  Famous for playing tough guys his entire career and it is easy to see why when you looked at his biography and his lined and scarred face – this was a guy who lived a hard life.  Famously blunt.  When introduced to another actor and his wife, Bronson sized up the situation and said, ‘I’m going to marry your wife’ and proceeded to do so.  That is so punk rock it isn’t even funny.

c31efae83bdc081e1cf627c6476a0d3bDanny Trejo:  He has become something of a household name and his Machete movies are almost a parody running gag nowadays – hell, this guy was a soap opera star prior to his Robert Rodriguez work.  But here is the thing, you wouldn’t have laughed at this guy back in the day.  In and out of prison his entire young life, he was the prison boxing champion in San Quentin.  Let that sink in for a moment, he was the prison boxing champion!  One doesn’t earn that title by being anything less than the nastiest man in the yard.  We are going up against the Cartel and need someone who speaks Spanish and kicks ass.  We need Machete.

rourkegnarlyfinnersMickey Rourke:  Speaking of boxers – you have this guy.  Before acting, he compiled an amateur boxing record of 27-3 and then fled Florida because he was wanted for burglary.  He started his career as a sordid pretty boy actor whose notable accomplishments were the jaw dropping X-rated sex scenes with Kim Basinger and Lisa Bonet (at the height of her Denise Huxtable fame for crying out loud).  This utterly shameless guy was violent and unmanageable on the set and eventually decided to go back to professional boxing where he was undefeated and pretty much disfigured from boxing injuries and fly by night plastic surgery.  Back in acting now, he now gets Academy Award nominations.   Some actors play tough guys.  Micky laughs at those guys.

images-1Steve Buscemi:  Given the nature of the mission, we are going to need some comic relief and given Buscemi’s body of work, he would fit the bill.  But no dead weight here, Steve was a New York City Firefighter prior to being an actor.  During 9/11 when several fire departments were decimated, he put back on his firefighter uniform and helped his old firehouse look for survivors – no fanfare or media statements, just showed up and did it.  He also came back on duty to help clean up after Super Storm Sandy, once again – no publicity.   Also notable was the scar on his face – he got it from being slashed in the face with a knife when attempting to help a friend in a bar brawl.  Sure if things went live, Buscemi would be there pulling his weight.

Which five actors would you take with you?

Comic Review: Transmetropolitan

The United States recently concluded its latest Election and delivered a profoundly unsettling result.  As I pondered all the bad things which could potentially happen, I realized it was time to go and read my issues of Transmetropolitan again.

Transmetropolitan was a gloriously nasty, gritty, and beloved comic book which ran from 1997 to 2002.  It was the creation of the famous Warren Ellis and it futured a cyberpunk, transhumanist, dystopian New York City 200 years from now.  The primary character was a cantankerous journalist named Spider Jerusalem, a foul-mouthed drug-using burnout whose nasty disposition hid a goodhearted man who just wanted to tell the truth about what he saw on the street and in the halls of power.  Over its five-year run, Spider’s story went through several twists and turns as his pursuit of the truth eventually earned him increasingly powerful enemies who would stop at nothing to silence him. From its anarchist beginnings to its bittersweet end, this ranks as one of the best comic stories ever told.

Especially relevant is Spider’s relationship with the President of the United States.  Spider’s quest for truth leads him to interview two different Presidents – the first is ‘The Beast’, a hulking Nixonian paranoiac who is endlessly corrupt and self-serving.  The second is worse – ‘The Smiler’, a horrific sociopath who ascends to the Presidency, hates humanity, and whose soul intention is to torment anyone who displeases him.  The interviews Spider had with both men rank up with favorite comic book moments ever.

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To say any more about the series would ruin the fabulous fun but suffice it to say, this comic book is one of the best heroic stories I have read.  Instead of a masked crusader with superpowers, you get an ordinary man who is an unlikable barely functioning human being thrust into interesting times.  He doesn’t fly or leap tall buildings in a single bound, he is a journalist who fights back against the powers to be with pen and paper.  During one of the darkest moments of the series, he pulls out a cigarette and says, “So we have a deadline.  We can do deadlines”.

Spider Jerusalem isn’t anyone’s idea of a superhero but heroes come in all shapes and sizes and this guy is the most heroic comic character I know.  Frankly, I admire him.  Transmetropolitan was ahead of its time – but as I sit here watching the news unfold on the TV, I realize its time has finally arrived.

Why I Geek

Why do I Geek?

It is a question I actually get quite a bit.  I’m moving into my mid-forties and a father of two children.  Furthermore, I have been an Army Officer for the past twenty years.  The culture of the Army, particularly in leadership can be pretty narrow in some fashion.  The ‘acceptable’ hobbies most of my peers seem to have relate to sports, athletics, partying, hunting, shooting, and other outdoor activities.  I don’t denigrate it – most of my closest friends unwind by doing the above – but things outside of those norms sometimes raise eyebrows.  Why can’t you pick something more serious to be into?

I wish that they could have seen what I’ve seen.

I have traveled the stars, rescued maidens, and stood on alien worlds!  I served aboard the TCS Victory during the Kilrathi Wars in Wing CommanderI fought with the resistance in City 17 in Half Life 2, taking down Alien Striders while hiding in the rubble.  I have stood on the frozen plains of Esamir and launched rockets at advancing Vanu Hover Tanks while tracers and laser beams lit up the dusk sky in Planetside 2.  I watched Aeris ran through with Sephiroth’s blade in Final Fantasy VII.

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I watched Flash Gordon lead the Hawkmen to victory against War Rocket Ajax.  I saw the SDF-1 lead the desperate assault against the Zentradi Grand Fleet in Robotech and I saw the Battlestar Galactica fall out of the sky and take Cylon garrison by surprise on New Caprica.  I saw John Crichton face down the Peacekeepers and Scarren in Farscape and saw Colonel McQueen take out the Chig fighter ace in Space Above and Beyond.

I saw the oppressed people of Luthadel rise up against the Lord Ruler in Mistborn.  I saw the heroism of the Union Army and Black Dow’s Northmen as they clashed in The Heroes.  I kidnapped the Enesha Queen in the Ghost Brigades and saw the Elven Cavalry fight British Tanks while Dragons and Typhoon Fighters clashed overhead in The Nightmare Stacks.

I’m not psychotic.  I know I didn’t ACTUALLY do any of these things – these were experiences watching movies, reading books, and playing video games among other things.  But does it matter?  These experiences were all precious and real to me in the ways that mattered.  They comforted and inspired and who doesn’t need such in their lives?

Anyone can visit one of the realms above but to be Geek is to live in them and to think about them when you’re not there.  I’m well-adjusted and capable enough in real life – I enjoy my family and my job and gleefully attend to my responsibilities.  But I also live in the marvelous reaches of my own imagination, fueled by ray guns and rocket ships, dragons and wizards.  I can go places you can barely imagine and I can do it at will.  This doesn’t replace my real life – this enhances it and makes it better.  And given that I’m a father of daughters, I take them along on the adventures as well.

That is why I Geek.

Webcomic: Crimson Dark

Crimson Dark is back! This morning, I was delighted to see in my Facebook feed the return of Crimson Dark after the author took a four year hiatus. Why the big gap? Well, I guess after reading over 500 pages of content, BioWare was so impressed with the world David C. Simon created that they hired him to write and create content for a little game called Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was sad to see Crimson Dark end, but was very happy for the creator and his accomplishments. I am more happy to see his return and the return of my favorite webcomic!

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“But seriously, how am I supposed to fly without coffee?” – Kari Tyrell

Now that Crimson Dark is back, I feel compelled to go back to Page 1 (linked above) from 2006 and start all over again to get reacquainted with the Crimson Dark universe. Thankfully, there is a Crimson Dark wiki to help me remember some of the finer points. If you like Firefly, Babylon 5, and of course Star Wars, you will most likely enjoy this comic. I’d say it even has some Farscape and Buffy thrown in, minus the aliens and vampires. The story primarily follows Kari Tyrell, an ace fighter pilot turned privateer who everyone wants to either kill or hire. Kari is a strong and skilled character, but also deeply flawed, suffering from a constant need to be caffeinated and haunted by the loss of so many lives under her command. Trouble seems to follow Kari, but it’s a living for her. She gets involved in epic space battles, political intrigues, espionage, piracy, and quite a few gun fights.

It’s not just Kari, of course. Early on, Kari becomes an integral member of a crew of interesting characters with their own well developed backgrounds and quirks. It’s in this crew and their interactions that you can really feel David’s homage to some of Joss Whedon’s  creations. Kari may be the central character, but she is by far not the only interesting one.

white-rim1One of the things I love about the comic is that David is an artist first and he designs some amazing spacecraft! His character art was never bad, but has certainly improved greatly over the course of the comic. His writing and dialogue are pretty amazing from the start and I was hooked after reading the prologue. The art is very impressive and I like how David writes his artist notes below most of the pages, highlighting how he achieved the effects and even berating himself when he just can’t seem to get the lighting the way he wants. I like this link to the artist and his work.

David publishes regularly, with a new page three times a week. If you’re starting out from the beginning, you’ll have 531 pages to read to get caught up, so there will never be a lack of content.