“Forever & Everything” #5 Lives Up To Its Name

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

When you give your autobio comics project an expansive title, you’re either pretty damn confident that elements of the universal are plainly on offer in the everyday routines of your life, or you’re just delusional. New Orleans-based cartoonist Kyle Bravo has been at it for awhile now, so if he’s delusional, he’s doing a damn good job of hiding it, but based on the evidence offered in his latest self-published mini, Forever & Everything #5, that was probably never a serious concern, anyway. Rather, he does a really nice job of finding something borderline-transcendent in the mundane, and the only thing deliberately grandiose is — yup, that name.

Still, if the shoe fits, right? Naturally, one of the first people you think of when you think of “this sort of thing” in a general sense is Jeffrey Brown, and his influence on the way Bravo structures his strips is fairly…

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The True Game of Death (1979, directed by Steve Harries and Chen Tien-Tai)

After the death of Bruce Lee, the world cries out for another great martial arts film star.  Fortunately, Hsao Lung (Lung Tien-Hsiang) answers the call.  Hsao Lung bears a passing resemblance to Bruce and whenever he trains or looks at a magazine, he imagines stock footage from old Bruce Lee movies, suggesting that Bruce Lee’s spirit has possessed Hsao Lung’s body.

The mafia, led by George (George Stephens), wants a piece of Hsao Lung’s films but Hsao Lung refuses.  The mob then forces George’s wife, Alice (Alice Meyer), to slip a powerful drug into his coffee.  They say that it will only put Hsao Lung into a coma.  Instead, it kills him!

Soon, a new chef comes to work for Alice.  The chef looks, sounds, and moves exactly like Hsao Lung but he wears a fake beard and oversized eye glasses.  After Alice explains the circumstances of what led to Hsao Lung’s death (which means that the audience watches a flashback to a scene that happened ten minutes prior), the chef removes his beard and glasses.  It’s Hsao Lung!  He’s not dead!  Everyone is stunned except for the people watching the movie because, after all, Hsao Lung’s entire disguise consisted of glasses and a fake goatee.

The bad guys kidnap Alice and this, of course, leads to Hsao Lung putting on a yellow track suit and fighting several villains in a pagoda.  It’s basically just the end of The Game of Death all over again, except there’s no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar this time.  It should be noted that the final fight scenes are well-staged and a hundred times better than anything else in this movie.  Hsao Lung fights four motorcyclists, two sumo wrestlers, and a boxer.  The boxer and Hsao Lung discuss the philosophy of combat before fighting, just like Bruce Lee and Kareem did.

Even by the standards of the Bruceploitation genre, The True Game of Death is a shoddy production.  The plot makes no sense and Lung Tien-Hsiang is good in the fight scenes but otherwise, he can’t come close to matching Bruce Lee’s screen presence.  It’s not a good sign that the best part of The True Game of Death is an almost shot-for-shot rip-off of the best part of the original Game of Death.  Outside of the closing fight scenes, my favorite part of The True Game of Death is that, before Alice gives Hsao Lung the poison, random gangsters keep showing up everywhere she goes and reminding her to do it.  Even though he’s usually no more than a few feet away, Hsao Lung never picks up on it.

The main thing that The True Game of Death has going for it is that it’s a Bruceploitation film and will therefore only be seen by fans of that very specific genre, the majority of whom will probably have a good idea of what they’re about to get even before the movie starts.  Bruceploitation is a genre that is built on some very specific tropes and The True Game of Death doesn’t waver from a single one of them.  It doesn’t demand much from its audience and if you stick with it, you’ll get a pretty cool fight at the end of the movie.

Less Is More : Karen Sneider’s “Diary Of A Monster”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

When you boil the art of cartooning down to its basic elements, you sometimes end up creating work that reminds people just why they love this medium so much in the first place — provided your sensibilities as an artist are sound to begin with, of course. When it comes to Karen Sneider, that’s something you literally never have to worry about; sensibilities come no more sound than hers.

Sneider’s latest self-published mini, Diary Of A Monster, is as immediately bizarre as it is inarguably recognizable, imbued with a kind of universal populist appeal that guarantees almost anyone will find it funny by doing something simple and timeless throughout : putting weird characters in everyday situations and finding a kernel of humor in all of them that’s easy to relate to and well-timed in its placement. The kind of thing that makes you think to yourself while you’re reading…

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Love on the Shattered Lens: Long Shot (dir by Jonathan Levine)

2019’s Long Shot is a film that truly took me by surprise.

I have to admit that, when I first saw the trailer for Long Shot, I had my concerns.  First off, it was an American political comedy and it’s been a while since there’s really been a good one of those.  There’s been many attempts, especially after Donald Trump was elected in 2016.  But, for the most part, the American films are always at their weakest when they try to be overly political.  There’s always a disturbing lack of self-awareness that, when mixed with the type of strident tone that can only be maintained by people who have never seriously had their ideas challenged, tends to make for a very boring viewing experience.  And, no, don’t you dare say, “What about Vice?” because Vice was freaking terrible.

Secondly, the trailer emphasized that Charlize Theron was playing the Secretary of State and that she was running to become the first woman elected President.  This led me to suspect that the film might essentially be Hillary Clinton fanfic.  Over the past few years, there’s actually been quite a few films and television show that have featured idealized versions of Hillary Clinton — i.e., all of the accomplishments without the albatross of her husband or the reputation for being casually corrupt.  (For six seasons, there was a TV show called Madam Secretary that basically only existed to present an idealized version of Hillary.)  Hillary fanfic, with its attempt to rehabilitate the image of a candidate so inept that she actually lost to Donald Trump, is always cringey.

Finally, as much as I hate to admit it, I was concerned that the film not only starred but was produced by Seth Rogen.  And don’t get me wrong.  I love Seth Rogen.  Seth Rogen is literally my favorite stoner.  I think that, with the right material, he can be one of the funniest performers around.  The problem is that, in the past, Seth Rogen has always been brilliant as long as he wasn’t talking about politics.  Whenever he started talking politics, he just turned into every other wealthy and rather self-righteous progressive.  While Rogen’s political tweets were never as banal as the thoughts of uberboomer Stephen King, there was still nothing about them that suggested that Rogen would be capable of producing one of the funniest and most good-hearted political comedies to come out in the past few years.

And so, like a lot of people, I skipped Long Shot when it was playing in theaters.  I waited until it was released on video to watch Long Shot and you know what?  It turned out that almost everything that I had assumed about Long Shot was incorrect.

Yes, it’s a very political movie but it’s also far more self-aware than I was expecting it to be.  Seth Rogen apparently knows that he has a reputation for being a very loud, knee-jerk leftie because he actually does a very good job of poking fun at his own image.  Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, a loud and crude journalist who quits his job when he discovers that the underground newspaper that he was working for has been purchased by Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis, playing a not-at-all disguised version of Rupert Murdoch).  Fred is about as far to the Left as one can be and he tends to assume that all of his associates agree with him, even though he never bothers to ask them.  One of the best scenes in the film comes when his best friend, Lance (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), reveals to a stunned Fred that he’s not only a Republican and a Christian but that he’s been one the entire time that he’s known Fred.  Fred never caught on because he just assumed that Lance, being black, would naturally be a Democrat.  When Lance asks Fred why he thought Lance wore a cross around his neck, a befuddled Fred can only reply that he thought it was “cultural.”  It’s a great scene and one that’s wonderfully played by Rogen and Jackson and it works precisely because it remains true to what we’ve seen of both characters.  Almost everything that Lance says over the course of the movie does reflect a traditionally conservative mindset but, like Fred, we don’initially don’t notice because Lance is being played by Ice Cube’s son.  When Fred discovers that Lance is a Republican, it doesn’t change Fred’s mindset but it does teach him that progressives can be just as guilty as conservatives when it comes to making assumptions about people based on where they’re from or what they look like.  As a stunned and chastened Fred puts it, “I’m a racist, you’re a Republican, I don’t know what the fuck’s going on.”

Secondly, the film’s romance is incredibly charming.  Charlize Theron plays Charlotte Field, the Secretary of State who used to be Fred’s babysitter.  After they run into each other at a reception, Charlotte hires Fred to work as a speech writer for her nascent presidential campaign.  You would not expect Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen to have a ton of romantic chemistry but they do.  Theron is an underrated comedic actress and there’s a lot of fun to be had in just listening to her and Rogen bounce lines off of each other.  In fact, as funny as Rogen is, I’d have to say that Charlize Theron is even funnier.  One of the highlights of the film is when Fred and Charlotte sneak away to a club, where they dance and end up taking ecstacy.  Over course, as soon as the drugs kick in, a major diplomatic crisis breaks out and an extremely high Charlotte has to deal with a hostage crisis.  Theron appears to be having a ball with the role and really, this is the film for which she should have been Oscar nominated.  Theron convinces us that 1) she’s a masterful diplomat, 2) that she could be elected President of the United States, and 3) that she could fall in love with someone as messy as Fred without sacrificing her own ambitions.

Long Shot has its flaws, of course.  Andy Serkis is a bit too over-the-top in his villainy and the film has a 125-minute running time, which is way too long for what is essentially a fairly simple romantic comedy.  Some of the scenes of Fred and Charlotte traveling around the world probably could have been cut without harming the story.  There’s an environmental subplot that feels a bit too obvious and there’s a joke about Fred accidentally ejaculating on his own face that’s never as funny as the film seems to think that it is.

That said, Long Shot is often a surprisingly charming film.  (I know what some of you are saying: “Yes. Lisa Marie, Seth Rogen ejaculating on his beard sounds really charming.”  I know, I know.  But the majority of the film is charming.)  If you missed it when it came out the first time, give it another chance.

The Covers of South Sea Stories

From 1960 to 1964, South Sea Stories brought its readers the latest in sordid, tropical drama.  South Sea Stories was actually a revival of a pulp magazine that had briefly been published in 1939.  It was very much a men’s magazine, with a mix of adventures stories and centerfolds.  The covers left little doubt that the tales of the South Sea Stories weren’t for those seeking a relaxing vacation.  Instead, South Sea Stories was all about smugglers, wild animals, and women in sarongs.

For anyone currently dreaming of taking a tropical vacation right now, here are a few of the covers of South Sea Stories.  All of these covers look, to me, like they were done by Mark Schneider but I can only definitely confirm that the first three were his work.

by Mark Schneider

by Mark Schneider

by Mark Schneider

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist’

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

I think this final cover is actually from the original 1939 run but I just had to include it because of the dead body floating in the surf.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special John Llewellyn Moxey Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

John Llewellyn Moxey was one of the best directors that most people have probably never heard of.  Born in Argentina and raised in the UK, John Llewellyn Moxey made his directorial debut with the classic horror film, City of the Dead.  Though he directed a handful of other feature films, Moxey is best known for being one of the best television directors of the 70s and 80s.  Along with directing episodic television, Moxey was responsible for directing several classic made-for-television films.  Moxey proved himself to be a master of every genre but, because he worked in television, his talent was often taken for granted.

When Moxey died last year at the age of 94, his work was in the process of being rediscoverd and reevaluated.  Today would have been Moxey’s 95th birthday and, in honor of the man and his career, here are 4 shots from 4 of his best.

4 Shots From 4 Flms

The City of the Dead (1960, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Circus of Fear (1966, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

The Night Stalker (1972, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Where Have All The People Gone? (1974, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Music Video of the Day: Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie (2000, dir by ????)

It’s Ash Wednesday!

I remember, when I was like 14, I got up early in the morning and I woke up my sisters by shouting, “It’s Ash Wednesday, bitches!”  My mom was not amused.  That said, Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite days.  I just love the ritual of it all.  Of course, I also usually wash my forehead fairly early in the day.  That’s allowed, by the way.

Now, before anyone leaves any snarky comments, I fully understand that David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes is not actually about Ash Wednesday nor are the ashes mentioned in the song literal ashes.  I understand that but hey, this is a good song and David Bowie certainly does look happy in this clip.  Around the two minute mark, he takes the time to praise the backup singers, which is a pretty classy move.

This is from a 2000 performance in London.