Wait, there are TEN of these things?
What up, MAMFAM!
That's right, this is your TENTH MAM Newsletter. Oh boy, oh boy. What an empire we've created. We're coming up on three-hundred episodes and now we're at ten newsletters. Take that, everyone ever who said we wouldn't amount to anything! We've got some good stuff coming in the next few months. Check out our store (here) and check out our new t-shirt design and some new merch coming soon.
2017 is already our best year yet. Let's goooooooooo.....
Bill Paxton (1955-2017)
By: Jason Davidson
On Oscar Sunday, we learned of the untimely passing of the great Bill Paxton. Paxton was one of the great character actors of his generation, a man whose presence was always bigger than his character required. Paxton was a force on screen, by all accounts a genuinely great guy, and a local (Dallas-Fort Worth) icon. I asked our friend Jason Davidson to write a eulogy for Paxton and given Jason’s affinity for the man’s work, he gladly obliged.
Bill Paxton was my favorite actor. He was never going to be the odds on favorite to win an Oscar but he NEVER mailed it in. He was always great, always fun. From the early stuff like Aliens and Weird Science, to his oddly mainstream run in films with 'T' names like Twister, Tombstone, True Lies, and Titanic, and all the way to his recent work like his recurring character on S.H.I.E.L.D.
Back in 1993, I discovered Aliens with my friend Aaron. This was before cell-phones and fun so we had to work hard to keep ourselves entertained. Two to three times a week we’d do one of two things. We’d buy a two liter of Mountain Dew and a large bag of cheese puffs for each of us and randomly drive around Columbus, Ohio at night until we passed the rural outskirts. Once we were thoroughly lost, we’d try to find our way home. Good times. The other thing we did was rent Aliens. Over and over again, we’d rent Aliens (also with cheese puffs and Mountain Dew).
That summer started my love of movies. I had watched plenty of movies, but never thought about them beyond the moment. With Aliens I started paying attention to everything. I listened to every line, looked at every shot, focused in on each character. I started thinking about the false endings and the back stories of the team and the characters (Sgt. Apone wants a nice clean dispersal THIS time? What happened the LAST time!?!). Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I started paying attention to the actors themselves. Especially Private Hudson. Bill Paxton. Tombstone came out that winter and when Aaron and I realized Morgan and Hudson were the same person, we started a quest to see all of his movies. I never let this quest die.
I started acting in the fall of 1993 because of this growing love of movies. Over the past twenty-four years I’ve written, directed, and performed in all sorts of productions. In 2014, I joined a local film studio to produce my first feature film. Through the production of this film, we developed a relationship with the Lone Star Film Society and at their 2015 Film Festival, I was able to meet Bill Paxton. It’s the biggest fan boy experience of my life. Now with his passing, it’s also become an incredibly poignant moment for me. Paxton is why I started this journey and he was there when it culminated.
We’ve lost so many great actors in the past year. A number of them enjoyed more critical success than Paxton and will be celebrated on a larger scale. But I’ll miss him more than any of them. He was, and will likely remain, my favorite actor.
If you aren’t familiar with his work, here are what I consider the musts.
1.) Aliens. Bill Paxton is at his Bill Paxton-y best in this film. Every. Single. Line. is quotable. And I promise you’ve head a bunch of them, even if you don’t realize it.
2.) The rest of the James Cameron series. At the festival, Paxton told the story of meeting Cameron. They met on a Roger Corman set when Paxton showed up to paint. At one point Jim (as Bill called him) told Paxton he was a writer. Bill asked what he was working on. Cameron replied, “Oh, it’s a movie about a cyborg traveling back in time to kill an unborn baby who will eventually become the leader of a resistance movement against a future dominated by sentient robots.” They became great friends and Paxton appeared in several Cameron films. He had supporting parts in Titanic and True Lies and a memorable cameo appearance in Terminator. For extra credit, watch the documentary Ghosts of the Abyss and check out the Cameron directed music video for “Reach”, by Martini Ranch. Because Paxton was in a band.
3.) Movies with a budget. Tombstone, Twister, Apollo 13. Bill being awesome in big budget movies.
4.) Movies with less budget. Near Dark, Frailty, A Simple Plan. All three of these are darker indie films and each one features great work from Paxton. Paxton directed Frailty.
5.) Navy Seals. This movie sucks. It’s everything that sucked about 80’s action films. Paxton plays a sniper with the call-sign ‘God’. Frequent Paxton and Cameron collaborator Michael Biehn shares the lead with Charlie Sheen. The love interest is Val Kilmer’s ex-wife. It doesn’t have a plot. You should really see it.
6.) The worst movie I’ve ever seen. The Dark Backward. From IMDB: “A man pursues stand-up comedy encouraged by his fellow garbage man. Though his friend, who accompanies him on accordion, continues to tell him how great he is, he actually stinks. When the "comedian" grows a third arm out of his back, the friend uses this twist to get him signed up with a sleazy talent agent, and it begins to look like his career is on the move, even though his girlfriend has left him.” Paxton is the friend with the accordion. This movie is truly, truly awful.
But that’s the thing about Paxton. He commits so much energy and enthusiasm to his role in The Dark Backward you’d actually wonder if he thought he was in a blockbuster. He treated every role like that.
Jason Davidson is a longtime listener and friend of the show, having been featured on numerous episodes. He can be found on Twitter @Jdavidson214. His film, Aria Appleton, will soon be available.
Op-Ed: Top 5 Wolverine Stories
By: Ariel Rada
For all my love for and (supposed) knowledge of comic book movies, I have very little experience with the written world these movies are based upon. Last month, I asked Ariel Rada, host of the Geek101 Podcast and a true comic nerd, to give me (and you) a starting point for Batman in comic form. His list was so good that I asked him to come back for a Logan-themed list this month. I actually read Old Man Logan last month, the first comic I’ve read in years, and loved it and I imagine the rest of Ariel’s picks will wind up in my collection soon. If you, like me, are looking for an easy entry point into the comic world of Wolverine, have a look at what Ariel suggests.
Logan - Brian K. Vaughn & Eduardo Risso
After 2005’s House of M the Marvel Universe went through some rippling changes. One such change was the fact that Wolverine regained the entirety of his lost memories. Brian K. Vaughn’s Logan is a story set in Japan that splits its time between a recollection of Logan’s haunted past and his ever dangerous present. Eduardo Risso provides the gritty art that embodies Wolverine while Vaughn gives you a simple story that truly explores the depth of the character.
Old Man Logan - Mark Millar & Steve McNiven
Mark Millar is somewhat famous for his violent and graphic comic books so who better to tackle than the man who is the best at just that! However, instead of telling your typical tale featuring everyone’s favorite X-man, Millar told a six-issue story of a world where Wolverine is a simple farmer and superheroes no longer exist. Highly regarded as one of Wolverine’s best, Old Man Logan gives you a unique vision of an America that is as desperate and violent as Wolverine’s tragic past. Steve McNiven is one of Marvel’s artistic superstars and provides visuals that go claw-in-claw with what Millar is trying to tell you. Old Man Logan is a must read for any Wolverine fan.
I must inform you that this comic series does not reflect the film Logan despite the fact this it has Wolverine actually showing his age. (Editor’s note: I did not know this when I set out to read Old Man Logan. Thanks for telling me now, Ariel.)
Enemy of the State - Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.
Mark Millar’s second entry on this list is a great showing of Wolverine’s reputation as “the best there is at what he does”. After an ambush by Hydra and the Hand, Wolverine eludes capture and attempts to kidnap high profile figures around the Marvel Universe. From a storytelling standpoint, this book isn’t as solid as others on this list; there are head scratching moments. However, it is the best representation of Wolverine as a master spy, cunning assassin, and killing machine.
Wolverine - Chris Claremont & Frank Miller
The most famous Wolverine story in comic book lore was a very wordy piece written in the 80’s by X-men phenom Chris Claremont. It also featured visuals from famed Daredevil artist Frank Miller. The story follows Wolverine as he travels to Japan to confront his former lover Mariko and gets entangled in a web of samurais, ninjas, and beautiful Japanese women. Miller’s art is energetic and the story is a classic piece of Wolverine’s history.
Uncanny X-Force - Rick Remender & Jerome Opena
The only team book on this list is so featured because it’s freakin’ fantastic and has Wolverine at his finest. In Uncanny X-Force, you find Wolverine at the head of the X-Men’s secret Black Ops division titled X-Force. Logan leads Psylocke, Archangel, Fantomex, and Deadpool as they carry out the dark but necessary deeds that the world should never know about. A team full of killers led by the comic world’s greatest killer. Remender gives you Wolverine at his peak drawn beautifully by Opena. We can only hope that the rumored upcoming X-Force film is half as good as this run.
Ariel Rada is the host of the Geek101 podcast. You can find him on Twitter @DreadPirateRada or @Geek101podcast and subscribe to the show on iTunes and everywhere else.
New to Home Viewing in March
Each month in this space, we take a look at what movies and TV shows you’ll be able to (legally) watch in the comfort of your own home in the coming weeks. I recommend a couple of properties I enjoy, highlight one I haven’t seen but I’m looking forward to checking out, and something I desperately want you to avoid. I’m just doing my part to help you make smart decisions with your precious free time. Am I a hero? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
WHAT I’VE SEEN AND YOU SHOULD, TOO:
A Monster Calls – Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson (Available on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 28th)
Pete’s Dragon – Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Robert Redford (Available on Netflix March 13th)
Cheating a bit here to give some love to my two most overlooked studio films of the year, which also both found a spot on my top 10 list. A Monster Calls is beautiful, tragic, and haunting while Pete’s Dragon is just beautiful and both deserve so, so, SO much more attention than they’ve received up to this point. Both feature great direction, strong performances, stunning visuals, and child actors who have bright futures ahead of them. Please watch these movies, okay?
MAY I ALSO RECOMMEND:
What We Do in Shadows – Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh (Available on Amazon Prime March 1)
Later this year, we’ll be treated to Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi is an interesting choice as director for a big blockbuster like this but his talent and wit are immense and I expect he’ll take Thor in fun direction. If you want a taste of what got Waititi the job, check out 2016’s The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (GREAT) and this mockumentary about a group of vampires who all live in the same New Zealand flat. One of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years, Waititi’s sensibilities pair perfectly with the film’s narrative and all the cast members buy in completely to their absurd characters. Highly, highly recommended.
WHAT I HAVEN’T SEEN BUT INTEND TO:
Lion - Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Sunny Panwar (Available on DVD and Blu-Ray March 21st)
I know, I know. How can I call myself a semi-professional movie critic when I haven’t even seen all the current Best Picture nominees? I TRIED, OKAY! I tried to see Lion a half dozen times and upon each occasion my efforts were squandered due to work, child, etc. I’ll get to it now, okay?
WHAT I’VE SEEN SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO:
Assassin’s Creed – Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons (Available on DVD and Blu-Ray March 21st)
Passengers – Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Lawrence Fishburne (Available on DVD and Blu-Ray March 14th)
I saw these movies within days of each other and boy, let me tell you what a treat that double feature truly was! Assassin’s Creed continues the longstanding Hollywood tradition of trying to make video game movies happen no matter what. It’s not going to happen, Hollywood. Passengers was simultaneously not QUITE as bad as its reviews would indicate and also more frustrating than a truly awful movie would be in that somewhere in there you could find a good movie. Lazy filmmaking and a mad dash to conclude the film after what seemed like seven hours of setup left me bored and wishing both Pratt and Lawrence would’ve spent their time on something else.
March 7th – Moana, Jackie, Trespass Against Us
March 14th – Fences, Elle, Solace, Red Dawn
March 21st – Sing, Miss Sloane
March 28th – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Patriot’s Day, Silence, Why Him, Planet Earth II, 20th Century Women
NETFLIX – Amy Schumer: The Leather Special, Archer Season 7, Better Call Saul Season 2, The BFG, Blazing Saddles, Chicago, Déjà Vu, Friday After Next, Grace and Frankie: Season 3, Hands of Stone, How to Get Away with Murder Season 3, Jurassic Park I-III, Kung Fu Panda, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, Life in Pieces Season 1, Love: Season 2, Marvel’s Iron Fist, Memento, Midnight in Paris, Million Dollar Baby, Must Love Dogs, Nacho Libre, Rosewood Season 1, Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane, The Craft, This is Spinal Tap, Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, The Vampire Diaries Season 8, The Waterboy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit
AMAZON – A Man Called Ove, Anthropoid, Charlie Bartlett, Chicago, The Dressmaker, Emma, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Gambler, Gimme Danger, Hand of God Season 2, Hannibal, Hoodwinked, Nine Lives, Orphan Black Season 4, Vampire in Brooklyn, W., What’s Eating Gilbert Grape