Thursday, 25 October 2007

Five Random Things That Make Me Very Very Happy (2)

1: Doctor Orpheus from The Venture Brothers.


There are lots of things to love about The Venture Brothers, which is pretty much the funniest animated series on TV right now, but the thing that is 100% guaranteed to make me laugh is Doctor Orpheus. He's an obvious spoof of Marvel Comics' Sorceror Supreme, Doctor Strange, but whereas that character is a confident and worldly force for good, Orpheus is plagued by insecurity, desperate for the friendship of Dr. Venture, and miserable over his inability to gain the attentions of an arch-enemy. Scared that his best years are behind him, and stuck looking after his grumpy goth daughter Trianna (who he loves but doesn't understand), he rents a spacious room in the Venture compound and tries desperately to gain the acceptance of his landlord, even though Dr. Venture is an absolute dick. In the second season he reforms his superteam, The Order of the Triad, but even that is not enough to satisfy him.

He would be a great character anyway, but the hilariously overwrought voicework by Steven Rattazzi pushes him right over the top. There are many ways to deliver the line "Do not be too hasty in entering that room. I had Taco Bell for lunch!" upon exiting a toilet, but the way he bellows it as if delivering a hammy piece of Shakespearean verse is genius. Sadly Adult Swim are good at taking down footage from their shows from YouTube, so if you want to see him in action, I suggest you buy the DVDs. Strongly suggest, in fact. Actually, I order you. Immediately. You won't regret it.

There's only one drawback to this. I'm currently reading Austin Grossman's fantastic novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible (an awesome birthday gift from Canyon), and the main superteam, The Champions, has on its roster a sorceror called Mister Mystic. Whenever he talks, all I can hear is that hilarious voice. I'm sure the character is meant to be taken seriously, but it's just impossible. BTW, you should also buy this book. It's fabtriffic.

2: The news that production on Mad Max: Fury Road has begun again.


When I was but a little boy, of the age where I would skip to school whilst wearing shorts and a cap, eagerly on the lookout for conkers while starlings and blue tits chirped in the trees, I really really enjoyed coming home and rewatching my knackered video copy of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, just to see the Feral Child chop off a guy's fingers with a razor boomerang, or Humongous flexing his outrageous muscles like something out of a Roman gladiator movie, or Vernon Wells getting killed in a head-on collision between a tanker truck and a car.

Okay, I tell a lie. I was actually a teenager. The stuff about shorts and caps and conkers is true though. Maybe that's why the cool kids kept throwing stuff at my head. I also remember playing Car Wars, the Steve Jackson game that emulated the same post-apocalyptic car battle scenarios. Many hours would be spent pushing tiny slivers of cardboard around a flimsy map, trying to beat my game-obsessed cousin, who was older than me and actually knew the rules, thus putting me at a disadvantage. Ah, memories. The worst part of this exposure to all the grimy angry vroom-vroom is that I now think that such a future is not only entirely plausible but inevitable. And I don't even know how to drive! Man, when the world falls apart, I am so screwed. That said, I have a really bad arthritic knee and grey wings in my hair, so I've got that part of the Max Rockatansky shtick going for me.

Loving Road Warrior is not exactly controversial, but some of the guys I knew who were in the year above thought I was mad for also liking Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, as it featured kids and was therefore not as hardcore as Road Warrior. Perhaps they had a point. If I went back to it now I'd probably agree, but at the time it just made me want to live in a post-apocalyptic world as part of a community of warrior children and hang out with a murderous Mel Gibson while trying to avoid Tina Turner. She was on Radio 1 all the time when I was a kid, so I reckon it would have been a common fantasy.


It's been years since I've seen them (mostly because Warner Brothers have not bothered to release proper DVDs, opting instead for barebones cheap-ass versions instead), but I still remember them fondly, and kept wishing directorial maestro George Miller would get the fourth film underway. Sadly for the fans, the project has had its fair share of bad luck over the years: Miller directing one of the biggest flops in film history (Babe 2: Pig In The City) and then being ostracised by the industry; budget trouble; African location shooting proving problematic; Mel proclaiming loudly that the Jews are responsible for all the world's ills (I wonder if he thinks the Californian fires that menaced his house were a plot) and thus expending every last bit of good will I had towards him (until I saw the very entertaining Apocalypto, which has thrown me for a loop). I'd given up on it, especially as Miller is now working on the Justice League movie, but Moviehole have revealed the project is going ahead again, sans Gibson, and pre-production will be done during the Justice League shoot.

Miller is one of my all-time heroes. The closest he's got to making a bad movie was The Witches of Eastwick; when people complain about the Hollywoodisation of a book I get so mad at the implicit snobbery in that phrase, but there is no other word for Michael Christofer's adaptation of John Updike's bizarre novel. All of the risk has been surgically removed, and the only thing that redeems the movie is Miller's muscular direction. I still love it, and have seen it a trillion times, but it's not the movie it should have been. Other than that, he's made some great stuff. Lorenzo's Oil, Babe 2, the Mad Max movies; all great. I even enjoyed Happy Feet lots and lots, and think it gets a ton of unfair criticism. Whatever. The master is back now he has an Oscar in his hand, and hopefully this second wind will see him restoring his reputation as one of the great storytellers of our age (and if you think I'm gonna apologise for the hyperbole, you can forget it), as well as making a movie set in a world that is more relevant than ever. I really cannot wait. Plus, the release of the new movie might spur Warner into giving the original movies a proper big DVD re-release, with all the bells and whistles! ZOMG!

Until then, check out Ain't It Cool's coverage; Merrick has been nice enough to put clips of the final chase sequence from Road Warrior. It's not a clean, speedy scene with nimble cars doing outrageous things; it's more a war of attrition, with outrageous violence and masterful stunts. Cinema at its best.

3: Frank Caliendo imitating John Madden on Letterman:

My only real exposure to John Madden is through playing the game, but you don't need to know what the real guy is like. This works beautifully anyway. The fact that it's an uncannily accurate impression is just a bonus. As with great Moments in Presidential speeches, this never fails to amuse.



4. Vern's work in the field of Seagalogy.

Speaking of Ain't It Cool, one of the site's more entertaining features are the reviews by Outlaw Vern, which are works of chaotic, grammatically dodgy brilliance. For years he has been working on a book of Seagalogy, and it finally got printed this week (I think; well, I found it today, so I'm sticking with that). Criticism can often be such a perfunctory thing that when you come across someone with a singular voice, it doesn't matter if you often disagree with them. It's just good to find entertaining and thoughtful writing about pop culture. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times, Stephanie Zacharek and Andrew O'Hehir of Salon, Moriarty from AICN, the AV Club guys; I head straight to them every week.

While they will review most things released, Vern focuses on the long discredited action genre, and treats it with the respect it needs. His particular area of expertise, obviously, is the filmography of Steven Seagal, and he has the same love/hate relationship with him that I do with David Caruso. All you need to know about his credentials is that he thinks Out For Justice is Seagal's masterpiece, and it is, so he gets full marks for accuracy. Yes, I have often disagreed with him, but he makes me laugh even while I think he is horribly horribly wrong.

His entertainingly incoherent writing (almost certainly a pose, a bit like the wonderful Ami Angelwings) can be bought as real actual books or downloads from Lulu, and I heartily recommend them. Wow, I'm really trying to shill stuff out today.

5: We Both Reached For The Gun by Kander and Ebb, from Rob Marshall's Chicago:

Canyon recently recommended I watch Rob Marshall's film version of Chicago, and though a few years ago I would have said, "But the NO!!!", this time I jumped at the chance. Since seeing Once More With Feeling and Guys and Dolls (with Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski), I've started to love the genre. Chicago was better than I had expected, and I wonder if the lukewarm reviews it occasionally got at the time had more to do with the garishness of the visuals compared to the starkness of the stage version. As far as I could tell, Marshall did a pretty good job of mimicking Bob Fosse's directorial style, and though it was a little flashier, it worked very well.

Of all the songs in the show, We Both Reached For The Gun is my favourite (with Mister Cellophane coming close behind), but it was the scene itself, with the conceit of Roxie and the attendant press corps as puppets at the whim of Billy Flynn, that appealed to me most. If I'd give the movie an 8, this scene gets an 11. It's just genius.

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