Thursday, November 27, 2014

Project A

I just read Jackie Chan's bio. It got me in the mood for some Jackie Chan action so I put in a flick I haven't seen in 25 years...Project A. And boy was it good!

At first I was buuuuuuuuumed cuz it was fucking dubbed. It was a cheap DVD and I didn't even think twice. So yeah, that kinda sucked. But once I got over the initial shock I got right back into it like I was 10 years old again.

Project A is set in late 18th century Hong Kong and it's about pirates. So right off the bat you know this isn't your run of the mill kung fu flick. By this time Jackie had gained clout and was starting to make the films HE wanted to make. This is golden era Jackie Chan: he wrote, directed and starred in it, and his co-stars were his old buddies from the Chinese Opera Theatre...Samo Hung and Yuen Biao.

It's full of physical humor ala Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Jackie does some BIG stunts and so does his incredible cast. Three quarters of the film is pretty much punching, kicking, and jumping. It's fucking amazing. The physicality of his films are unparalleled. He's a true inspiration. Mad respect.

If you like kung fu and you have a sense of humor then you can't go wrong with this. It's awesome. Even when it's dubbed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Of Dice and Men

Chillin' in the hotel in Orange County. Beautiful weather outside. I bet it's 20 degrees in Detroit right now. I'm in a t-shirt. Just sayin'...

I started this book a little while ago and read the final two thirds on the plane ride over from Minneapolis. I had a baby shitting its pants next to me and then getting breastfed. It wasn't ideal so I immersed myself in clerics, orcs, balrogs, and polyhedral dice for the majority of the flight.

Of Dice and Men is, as the subtitle describes, "the story of dungeons & dragons and the people who play it." The author attempts to write a book that is high level enough to appeal to the uninitiated, yet peppered with enough nerdisms to give any dork a nerdgasm. I straddled the fence. I was interested in the anthropological and historical aspects of D&D, but I also have always wanted to play it.

As a youth I stared in fascination at the miniatures set up at my local Games Workshop stores. I was super into Lego as a child, read find-your-fate fantasy novels, and got into heavy metal early on, but I never made the full leap to D&D. I owned Hero Quest and Space Crusade, but I was a one man gamer. I had no idea how to play either game so I just made it up in my head (much like D&D). But I was alone. I never had that mentor or older nerd to initiate me into gaming proper. So I just hung around the periphery of the gaming scene.

Anyway, this book is about the genesis of D&D, its rise to fame, infamy, its fall, and its rise again. The tome looks at the politics involved, the relationships formed and dissolved, and the cultural legacy. It's an impressive story to say the least. Inspirational.

If you have a casual (or serious) interest in D&D then you'll enjoy this book. Hell, even if you literally don't know anything about it, this is still a good read. But I'm not gonna oversell it. It's not the greatest thing since twenty sided dice. But it's good. Check it out. Find your fate...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action

I picked this book up for $2 at a local record store. Unexpected but very welcome find.

As a huge Jackie Chan fan since the 80's I was excited to delve into his history. Find out where he came from and how he got to be the most amazing martial artist the silver screen has ever known. The bio delivers the goods. I'd say a good fifty percent of the book is all pre-movie stuff. It's all about Jackie growing up in a Chinese Opera School. He meets the likes of Samo Hung and Yuen Biao, and develops life-long friendships and partnerships with them.

You learn about Jackie's parents, his upbringing, his first loves, his friends, and then his whole life as the biggest celebrity in Asia. The failures and successes, the Triads, Jackie's unwavering spirit and determination, and his generosity. It's all there. As well as his many injuries and hospital visits.

I love books that have super short chapters. This one is written with an average of 3 or 4 pages per chapter. It makes for a quick read. You fly through it from stunt to stunt.

I've got the Project A DVD sitting on the shelf. This has definitely motivated me to move that right up to the top of my queue. It's been a loooooong time since I've seen that. I went through a "let's see what Jackie Chan films are on Netflix" phase a couple years ago. I watched a bunch that I hadn't seen since I was 9 or 10. Some should stay hidden, and some are just straight up classics. I NEED to see Police Story again. Pronto. Pickle and I watched that movie over and over and over again as youths. Best action movie of all time. Bar none.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Design is One

Design is One is a documentary about Massimo and Lella Vignelli. You don't know them but you definitely know their art. Everything from the NY MTA wayfinding signage to the American Airlines logo to the Bloomingdale's logo. Ducati, Ford, JCPenny, United Colors of Benetton, Knoll...the list is endless. Their influence is profound. It's shocking.

They design anything and everything from clothes to furniture to buildings to logos to corporate identities to housewares to whatever.

If you saw the Helvetica documentary you were probably amused by Massimo's interviews. He's very passionate and very straightforward, but without being a dick. He's opinionated, but approachable. Funny dude. Talented as fuck.

So, this is a doc focusing on their design impact. I recommend it to anyone who cares about aesthetics. Period.

Go stream it on Netflix.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I've waited 25 years for this! The Director's Cut of Nightbreed is finally here.

I pre-ordered this blu-ray as soon as I was aware of it and watched it as soon as it was delivered. Nightbreed came out in 1990 and mesmerized my ten year old brain. I loved it. I related to it. I played the video game on Commie 64. And looking at that, kids today have no idea. But I digress...

The movie was based on Clive Barker's book, "Cabal." He had just directed two very successful Hellraiser flicks and this was his next movie. But this was different. This was a story that placed humanity as the devil. The humans were evil. The "monsters" were sympathetic. The "monsters" were the good guys. It flipped everything upside down. But that didn't jive with the suits in Hollywood. They "couldn't" market Clive's original artistic intent, they needed to cut the film and sell it as a slasher to make money. So they brutalized Barker's vision and fucked his film over royally. Twenty-five years later, and now the film has a proper release that's much closer to Clive's original intent. There are 40 new minutes of footage. Some major sub-plots have been reinstated that totally change the complexion and denouement of the film. It's a huge fucking difference.

As a ten year old I didn't know any of this and I loved the movie for what it was. But now it's a lot sweeter to bask in the nostalgia, but with an even BETTER version than the one I remember.

The new Director's Cut blu-ray has over an hour and a half of documentary footage on the disc plus an intro to the film by Clive.

There's actually a three disc version I just found out about. That version has even more extras including 20 more minutes of footage. Probably from the "Cabal Cut" that's floating out there. So if you're hardcore enough...track down that version.

If you like 80's horror then this is the jam.

Conan of Cimmeria: Volume 6

I picked up this original paperback from a great local bookstore on Woodward. For all the Conan I've read, it's always been in comic form and never the original short stories. So I finally started reading the stories as told by Robert E. Howard in all their black and white glory. They're great. No shock there.

Great diction. Good pace. Immersive. Very enjoyable read. I look forward to buying that big-ass anthology...