The Wild West.

tombstone-bannerI was born in 1976 and yet I am a fan of a time period about 100 years before I escaped my mother’s body. I don’t remember the first Western movie I ever saw. I have vague memories of seeing those old John Wayne movies that ran on our local PBS station from time-to-time.  I think my dad enjoyed westerns.  I know he was a fan of Zorro and the Lone Ranger and we would watch those old movies or serials.

I do remember that feeling of being kinda bored with the Western movies from the 50’s in that they made very little sense to me and the outfits were weird and had lots of tassels. But I did like the shootouts (regardless of cheesy production) and horse chases. I grew up in the 80’s when playing Cowboys & Indians was still ok to do and say.

But the real first Western movie that I got excited for was Young Guns. Now, don’t come at me with historical inaccuracies and what not. I don’t care for that argument and, while you’re likely correct, I don’t care. I loved that movie.  I remember wanting to see it in the theatres when it came out and being told that I wouldn’t be able to as it was rated R.  And when it came out in 1988, I was only 12.

young-gunsI remember walking into my local Video 99 store and seeing it on the shelf, months later.  And I needed it. I needed to see that movie and I grabbed it and a couple others, hoping that the clerk wouldn’t stop my rental due to the age restriction.  Which was silly because they never stopped me from renting any movie. Fuck I loved the 80’s…no one gave two shits.  I went home and I remember putting that movie in and watching it and falling in love with it instantly.  I then told my mom that I had the movie and she watched it, not because she liked Westerns but because she likely had nothing better to do.  And then the next day I took it to my dad’s and we watched it and he liked it but thought it played too much to the Brat Pack era of movies. Whatever, dad.  I’d take Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips and Emilio Estevez as Billy The Kid over John Wayne any day of the week.

I enjoyed the sequel, so aptly titled, Young Guns 2 but more because it was a Western and not so much for the actual plot.  I watched Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns and The Man With No Name trilogy. When Unforgiven came out in 1992 I had to once again wait for it to drop on VHS but ate that one up, although it was much slower than I had wanted. I did re-watch Unforgiven about two months ago and while its a good Western, its still slow and plodding.

Tombstone dropped in 1993 and wow. WOW.  What a movie.  And again, historical inaccuracies aside, I loved Tombstone.  What Val Kilmer brought to that movie as Doc Holliday was just amazing.  “I’m your Huckleberry, Johnny Ringo”.  Damn.

Recent Western’s haven’t failed to disappoint either, like 3:10 to Yuma or “modern” westerns like No Country for Old Men and, most recently, Hell or High Water.

I always thought that if I had the ability to time travel, like Doctor Who, I’d jump into my TARDIS and visit the Wild West. Of course, I would bring myself a bunch pf penicillin and maybe a bullet proof vest just to be safe, but it would be the one time period I would jump at the chance to check out.  I got envious of the visitors to Westworld because I wanted to that idea to be real!

I don’t know what it is about Westerns and why I like them so much, but I do.  From the great movies mentioned above to the arguably crappy ones like Back to the Future 3, I just really enjoy a good Western movie. Of course, I’ve never ridden a horse before and quite enjoy central heating, air conditioning and, you know, electricity.

the-westThere’s a new documentary series on Netflix The West, which is produced by Robert Redford that I recommend. I’ve watched the first 5 episodes but they’re good and much more historically accurate than, say, Young Guns.

But if I got a chance to travel in time to the time of Deadwood?  Yeah, I’d suit up in a heartbeat. Except, without the tassels.

The Walking Dead is Dead Boring.

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When The Walking Dead premiered six years ago, I was hooked.  The first season, all six episodes, were unbelievable. This was appointment viewing and I was really excited for the second season.

And then season 2 hit and  while it lost some of that momentum, I held on.  I had hope. But then, during season 2 it became  “Oh, you’re spending 90% of the season on a farm?!?!  Mmmmkay. I’ll give it to you. I’ll trust you. But this…this isn’t as good as season 1.”

I could break down the subsequent seasons but what’s the point?  None of the seasons lived up to the promise of the first season. I’ve heard so many people just go bananas for this show. And I’ve gotten caught up in the hype at times.  But I’ve always been let down. Every. Single. Time.

So I’ll just say it: The Walking Dead is boring.

Every year, the cast and creators give interviews about how amazing the upcoming season is over the previous one.  And then when the show goes on its winter break, the cast and creators hype the show up for its spring return touting how great the 2nd half of the season is and why the 1st half didn’t really work. Now, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe it just feels like that’s what happens. But I’ve given my time to this show and never really get any payoff that makes it worth the time I’ve invested.

The truth is, I’m a married guy with two young kids.  My free time is precious and exceptionally limited.  TV shows have to deliver for me on a consistent basis, otherwise I will cut them out and replace with the million other things I have going on, be it other shows, movies, gaming or reading.

And that’s where I am with The Walking Dead. I saw the start of this 7th season, where Glen made out with a baseball bat. And I think I watched the 2nd episode of the season and that was it.  The show is not, for me, delivering on how great it could be.  Its too slow. It doesn’t have to be action for the full 60-mins but there needs to be some speed and pace and there’s nothing.

So I’ve moved on from the show and I don’t miss it for a second.  The Walking Dead is, well, dead to me.  How about you?  Still a fan?  Am I just missing something?  Let me know.

Suicide Squad. What’s It Worth? 

img_6612This movie is an example of when the marketing for a movie is far better than the actual product. The lead up to Suicide Squad was unreal. I couldn’t wait to see it. The trailers made it look so damn awesome.
And then the movie hit in August (2016) and…it was ok. I mean, it wasn’t a big pile of shit. But it wasn’t the awesome spectacle that the trailers made it out to be.

I’ve stared it before, I’m a DC comics fan. I want these movies to work. I want them to be awesome and fun and looked at with the same love as Marvel movies are. But so far, DC movies are a distant second to Marvel.

Suicide Squad was released in December on home video/digital download. The price for the Blu Ray/DVD combo (extended cut) was $30 Canadian and then settled down to about $25 CAD. That’s way too much for Suicide Squad. Sorry, but that’s the truth. As a DC fan, I want to own this movie but not for $25.

Imagine my surprise when I was shopping at Costco (Canada) on Saturday and found it, on sale, for $14.97. Now this?  This is a price I can get behind. And I know some people would disagree and say that $15 is too high a price for Suicide Squad. But I plunked down the $15 gladly and look forward to watching it again.

Of course, part of me is nervous it’s gonna be worse than I remember.

Sigh.

I Love Comics. Part One.

I’m 40 and I love comics.

When I was growing up,  there was a stigma around those who read comics. This was usually fueled by the people that didn’t read comics.  I guess you were either a comics-kid or you were “cool”.  For some reason, you couldn’t be both.  Which, now that I think of it, made no sense because I think I was pretty cool.  Maybe not.

For many, comic books were only for summer camping or cottage vacations.  You’d grab them off the spinning cart in the local convenience store.  Sometimes, they would have these multi-packs…like, five comics in a bag. You’d see two of the comics on the outside but never knew what you were gonna get inside until you got back to wherever you were staying and ripped open that plastic.  Usually they’d be shit books but every once in while you’d get a decent Spider-Man comic inside.

I liked comics from a young age. I grew up watching the Super Friends on TV; I remember Spider-Man on the Electric Company TV show in 5-minute cameo spot. I had Undroos underwear with all the heroes on them.  Superman bed sheets that I still had when I was a teenager. Hey, nothing says “lets have sex!” when you bring your girlfriend home and she takes a look at your bed and wonders what the hell is she getting herself into.

I remember reading the Toronto Star when they ran Spider-Man comic strips in the Saturday  and Sunday papers. When my parents split up, we would visit my dad on Tuesdays and he would grab a bucket of KFC and a stack of comics and he, my brother and I would sit down and read the comics, passing to the next person when we were done, while gnawing on a greasy drumstick.  Needless to say, those books would never appreciate to any collector status, what with the greasy fingerprints and all.  I still have some of those books in my basement.  They’re the ones not in a plastic bag and board, but instead have the yellow-tinge gracing the pages, a sign of time (and grease) eating away at my childhood memories.

I had spent a good number of my formative years growing up in a small town.  The local comic shop was located on the top of a John Deere Rent-All place.  The building was old, wooden floors adorned the main level where all the equipment was on display. The owners son was a comic collector and seller and he let his son run a comic shop out the top of the place. I don’t remember this guy’s name, but he was in his 20’s…lets call him ‘John’.  Anyway, no one would know a comic book store was up there as his dad wouldn’t let him advertise. But John would put a handwritten sign in the window that if you squinted enough, you could make out “comics here” written in black.

My dad had told me, at age 12, to get a job.  This was unrealistic, especially in a small town where everything closed at 6pm.  That summer he and my mom were going through their issues that eventually led to their breakup and I guess he didn’t want me around the house too much to witness the insanity. I don’t know.  But I remember asking him where he thought I could get a job and who would hire a 12-year old??

He didn’t care and told me to figure it out.  So one day I went to the comic shop as I did from time to time – I had to save my allowance to get anything, so I wasn’t a regular per se – and while browsing the bins, I asked John why he didn’t have any of his books in order?  Either alphabetical or by hero or by company (Marvel or DC or Archie).  John had no real good reason but it drove me nuts trying to find stuff.  John said that he didn’t have the time to organize it all and he didn’t have anyone to help him, either.

Bing!  This is the sound that the light in my head makes, just FYI.

I asked John if he wanted me to be the organizer of these fine, four-colour comics. He told me that he couldn’t afford to pay me, but it would be helpful.  “Well, you can pay me in comics” I said to him.  And with that, we came to an agreement. My first “job” in the summer of 1988.

I had my eye on a couple of comics: The Dark Knight Returns, which had come out two years earlier in 1986; John Byrne’s Man of Steel comic which also came out in 1986 and The Killing Joke, which was published in March of 1988.

When it came to the Man of Steel book, it was the cover that grabbed me.  That iconic ‘S-shield’ on the cover. This was a reboot or realigning of Superman and his powers.  The powers had gotten outta hand in the years before Man of Steel and Byrne came in and nailed down what powers Superman actually had: Flying.  Heat vision. Bullet proof. Freeze breath.  Super hearing. X-Ray vision. Bryne also set down the origin of Superman and how Krypton looked (which is still used now, 30+ years later) and….sorry, geeking out there a bit.

Anyway, that was my summer. Bryan Adams had his summer of ’69.  I had my summer of ’88.  Admittedly, I was a pretty crappy employee.  I mean, I got the job done and it was done quite quickly.  But I came in when I wanted and most times, once John left for a bit to help his dad, I would sit on the floor and just read comics.  Lots and lots of comics.

I can still remember the feel of the wooden floors, how lop-sided they were and the dust that would fall like snow in the shine of the sun that came through the windows. The smell of the comics as I put them in the plastic bags.  The look of them scattered on the ground as I tried to alphabetize them.

By the end of that summer, John was supposed to pay me in those three books. I mean, I had been “paid” with other books but those three, The Dark Knight Returns, Man of Steel and The Killing Joke, those were supposed to be mine. My compensation. But then John reneged. He said that he could get them sold for more than cover price and instead wanted to give me a stack of other comics that I really couldn’t care less for.  I don’t remember what they were, I just remember they weren’t what I wanted. And that pissed me off.  I remember looking at John and saying “fuck you” as I got on my bike to ride home.

I never did visit that store again.  Looking back on it, I guess I should have put up a bigger fight for those books but at the same time I thought to myself how lucky I was to have read all those comics, for free, as often as I wanted. I spent a good portion of my summer reading comics, when I wasn’t playing war with my friends or watching old WWF wresting videos.

And maybe that’s where I gained an appreciating for the art of the comics. The stories that they wove.  The absurdity of most of them and the holy-shit moments from the rest. It’s funny.  As I write this out…I never did get the Dark Knight Returns or Killing Joke in my collection. Maybe I should grab the trades (short form for Trade Paperback) and add them to my collection.

I wish I was reading a comic right now.  Fuck, I wish it was 1988 right now. Things were a lot easier back then.

 

 

 

Die Hard: Five Films, Four Too Many.

die-hardRecently I had a conversation with some coworkers about the merits of how good the Lethal Weapon movies were and still are.  I’ve talked about that here and here. And, as it naturally does when discussing Lethal Weapon, the conversation shifted to Die Hard.

I make no bones about it.  I love Die Hard. I love it for likely the same reasons that I love Lethal Weapon – they’re both pure, 80’s action fun.  Both of these movies still hold up and I would throw both of these in the ring against any two action movies of the last decade. In fact, as I said in this post, the sequels to Lethal Weapon are just as much fun.  I argue that Lethal Weapon 2 is on par with the first movie and that numbers 3 and 4 are just action-comedy at its finest.

You really cant say the same about the Die Hard sequels, can you?  Yes, Die Hard is a sick movie and one that I love to watch each year at Christmas.  John McLane was the everyday guy…wrong place at the wrong time.  Perfect.  Then the sequels hit.

die-hard-2

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is very much the same and not as good but still enjoyable and fun. Its really Die Hard at an airport. I think the ‘jumping the shark’ moment came when John McLane was ejected out of the airplane as it was exploding.

But it did have a guy get murdered by an icicle so…there’s that.

die-hard-3

Die Hard 3: Die Hard with a Vengeance is…ok.  Samuel L Jackson makes this movie more fun that it likely deserved to be.  But it was decent.  John McLane is back in New York and is a raging alcoholic who has to stop Jeremy Irons from blowing up a school or two.  I can get behind this.  I would likely watch this one over Die Hard 2. But is that really a winning statement?

die-hard-4

Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard is when things went bananas with the Die Hard series.  As crazy as Die Hard 2 was with the exploding jet and ejection seat, this movie went balls to the wall stupid.  I mean, John McLane jumped on a fucking jet!  A jet!!!!   Think about that for a second.

A bridge is about to collapse that he is on and he decides to jump onto the canopy of a flying, hovering jet!!  And yes, I know its a scene ripped out of True Lies…but at least True Lies was a parody of crazy action movies.  In Live Free or Die Hard, it was made to be serious!  A JET!!!

die-hard-5

Die Hard 5: A Good Day to Die Hard. Maybe the final entry in the series?  What a pant load.  John McLane in Russia trying to figure out why his son, who is CIA or FBI or DEA or KFC, is investigating some bad guys and then they have some typical father-son drama and seriously I don’t care.

I only saw this movie once and have no real interest in revisiting it again. Ever. If I was to sit and do a movie marathon of series, like Lethal Weapon or Alien…and I was to include Die Hard…the OCD purist in me would feel the need to watch this movie. And yet the very thought of forcing myself to watch it makes me feel nauseous.  Like at Thanksgiving when you were forced to eat brussel sprouts and if you didn’t, no pumpkin pie.  Ugh.

Where Lethal Weapon 2 was on par with its predecessor, Lethal Weapon 3 and 4 were great chapters in the quadrilogy. They complimented the first two.  Die Hard‘s 2-5 did neither. With the possible exception of #3, Die Hard With a Vengeance, the rest of the movies did nothing but come close to tarnishing the original movie.

What say you?  Are you a fan of any of the sequels?

 

Lethal Weapon

lethal_weapon1Last week I wrote about a number of movies that were bouncing around inside my head that I needed to watch (I’m a Movie Junkie. It’s True) and last Friday night I watched Lethal Weapon.  Again.  For some uncountable time…maybe 50-something times.  Or more.  who knows.

Regardless, I watched it and I loved every minute of it.  I love the Lethal Weapon movies.  In fact, all four of them are just really, really good movies.   Its hard to find a movie where all the sequels hold up.  And while they’re not as good as the original, I think a case can be made that Lethal Weapon 2 is right on par or just under.  3 and 4 were more comedic and yes still a lot of fun action involved.

Every time I think of Lethal Weapon 2, all I can think about is “Diplomatic Immunity!”.  Fuck I love that line.  I often wonder if, when my kids are able to watch these movies, they will find the pure joy in them that I have or will they think they’re too dated and old and crappy?

There is something so pleasurable about seeing a good, hard action movie that doesn’t involve tonnes of special effects and computer wizardry.  That’s likely why I love the Lethal Weapon series.  You don’t need to be The Matrix all the time.  You don’t need green-screen, computer graphic-based action movies to be good. In fact, most times those movies cost hundreds of millions of dollars and suck ass.  Just give me a good action movie with fun and guns and fighting and you’ve got my money. Take it!

But again, maybe this is all because I grew up in the 80’s and find the quality of these flicks to hold up better than modern action movies. I dunno.  What say you?

Oh, and I know there is now a Lethal Weapon TV series.  I’ve begrudgingly watched the first few episodes and I’ll discuss that later in another post.  Suffice it to say, though…go watch the movies instead.

 

John Wick 2? Yes, Please!

johnwick

John Wick was one of those movies that looked cool in the trailers but then came and went in the theatre before you could get a chance to see it.  I really wanted to watch it when it came out in October 2014 but just never got around to it.  So when it dropped on Blu Ray/DVD in February 2015, I rushed to grab it as a ‘blind buy’.

I love this movie.  I seriously love this movie.  Oh, it has its flaws. The plot is pretty basic.  Guy’s wife dies.  She gives him a dog to remember her by.  He gets robbed of his car and the thieves kill his dog.  The thieves are Russian gangster punks.  The guy who was robbed and lost his dog is a former contract killer who, supposedly, terrifies the Boogey Man.   That’s John Wick.  And John Wick gets his revenge.

Let’s be real – it ain’t rocket science and it’s not winning an Oscar. But fuck, who needs it??  John Wick is pure ruckus!  Its so much fun, it crazy. So when word came that a sequel was being made?  I was beside myself with so much joy and excitement, my wife considered having me committed.  I think its hard to find movies nowadays that are just pure fun; movies that you can watch over and over again and not get bored.  John Wick is that movie.

So John Wick 2 opens today and yes, I have my tickets to see it tonight.  I cant wait.  I am giddy with anticipation.  Also, its a night out from my wife and kids.  All that plus some John Wick ruckus?  I am a king among men tonight.  For 90-minutes, anyway.