This is the most intense game of “Hollywood Squares” I’ve ever seen.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, M. Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Bryan Singer
2011’s X-Men: First Class is that rarest of things: a prequel that works. Full of snap crackle pop, First Class breathed new life into Marvel’s soggy mutant movie franchise (now fifteen years old) and emboldened 20th Century Fox to put together a sequel wherein an X-Man goes back in time and tries to erase the stuff from the original movies nobody liked. Actually, the heroes in Days Of Future Past seem to want to snuff out the first three X-Men films entirely, and who can blame them? Wouldn’t you rather live peacefully in an upstate New York mansion, teaching little childrens and apple picking in your spare time, instead of living on the run out of some military grade jet while humanity and other evil mutants are constantly nipping at your heels?
The line between good and evil is in truth a tad blurry in Days Of Future Past; yes, Wolverine (Jackman) travels to 1973 to prevent the assassination that kicks off humankind’s war on the mostly benign mutant species, but he also enlists a minor to help him break an incarcerated Magneto (Fassbender) out of his Pentagon jail cell. You see, in the future, Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto have buried their hatchet, and they convince Wolv that he needs to get them together in ’73 to make sure everything’s on lock. It should come as no surprise that young Magneto, whose personal allegiances similarly blow around like a windsock, decides at a critical juncture to take matters into his own hands, gumming up the entire ballgame.
And then there’s shape-shifter Mystique (Lawrence), the assassinator, convinced she has to kill her target (a gov’t contractor who builds giant mutant-hunting robots) no matter how many people from her past or her future show up. Nobody can convince her this shooting kicks off a major human / mutant conflict. They should have just cracked open a history book for her. Hey dumb dumb, ever hear of Archduke Ferdinand? Pearl Harbor? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda? You know, I won’t fault you for missing that quote, you were busy with infinitely better movies when the Jedi master dropped that one.
Though clumsy in places, Days Of Future Past serves up a pretty fun slip through time and delivers everything you want in an X-Men movie: Wolverine whuppin’ up on dudes, Mystique whuppin’ up on dudes, political intrigue, a few yuks, a take on Richard Nixon that would be at home on “MADtv,” and tender bromance moments between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the aged Xavier and Magneto (respectively). If you don’t like it, don’t worry: at some point Days Of Future Past will be retconned out of existence just like every other comic property, because that’s the way this business works.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half funky ’70s duds (out of four).
“Norm Macdonald Live” can be pretty hit or miss; this episode with David Koechner is total hit, possibly the best they’ve done. Discussion of / jokes about the Replacements, “SNL” lore you haven’t heard a squillion times, and Norm’s frighteningly accurate Nixon impression. As always there are some NSFW moments, but the toilet humor seems to be developing a deft hand. Is Norm starting to care, slightly?
Whatever the case, I give it five stars, Jim Bob says check it out.
A: No. I’ve never really thought of myself as having the right kind of body for tattoos. I always figured they’d look weird, like I was trying to look tougher than I actually am. Like overcompensating.
Only once did I seriously consider getting inked. When I was nineteen I accompanied my friend Justin to a tattoo parlor in Daytona Beach because he was getting some asian symbol on his arm (as was the style at the time). During that trip I almost convinced myself to get Black Flag’s famous logo stamped somewhere on my frail barely adult torso, but I didn’t have quite enough cash and I was also worried that I might not be championing Damaged as strongly at age eighty. So that was that.
For a while in the mid-2000s I joked with people that I was going to get a back piece of Chewbacca driving the Ectomobile through downtown Oslo with the Ramones and Richard Nixon in the back, all wearing ghostbusters jumpsuits, but that would probably take centuries to complete (and hurt like a bastard).
Perhaps you read my Top Ten Albumz Of Twenty-Ten post for Crawdaddy.com (or, perhaps, you loathe end-of-the-year list-based nostalgia, and you didn’t). I was looking over this piece last night and, apropos of nothing, suddenly began wondering to which U.S. president each selection most closely corresponds. After an hour of furious pencil scribbling and equally frenzied naugahyde chewing, I had the answers below.
1. Kvelertak – Kvelertak
Teddy Roosevelt. Blustery, forceful, hearty. Doesn’t give up until its final breath.
2. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
Bill Clinton. Charismatic and focused with a layer of devious sexuality bubbling just below the surface.
3. OFF! – First Four Eps
Harry Truman. Short, cranky, but not without an indelible charm.
4. Bloodlights – Simple Pleasures
Dwight Eisenhower. Not breaking any new ground, but strangely comforting in its self-assured rule.
5. Devo – Something For Everybody
Calvin Coolidge. Keeping cool and using aloof as a weapon.
6. Das Racist – Shut Up, Dude
John F. Kennedy. Coasting on wit and intelligence just as much as image.
7. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Richard Nixon. Unexpected accomplishment overshadowed by comically awful persona.
8. GBH – Perfume & Piss
Andrew Jackson. Charging in, causing a ruckus, refusing to apologize for boorish behavior.
9. The Sword – Warp Riders
Jimmy Carter. Laid back, on message, maybe a little too soft at times.
10. Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime
Barack Obama. Thin, somewhat tropical, will probably make you smile despite fifteen minutes of saying nothing.
Even though it wasn’t the REAL Robocop, Richard Nixon was still excited. He knew that this was one of Robocop’s many helpers who went around using his eyes to videotape the Christmas wishes of Republicans all over America.
Look at the expression on Fauxbocop’s face. It’s like someone tricked him into this photo op. “Dammit, Gary, I’m gonna murder you for this. You know I hate Richard Nixon.”
Related topic: I came up with an awesome parody of Robocop last night called Rowboatcop. It’s basically just Robocop in a row boat, chasing after criminals across lakes and fjords. I bet he could row pretty fast, right? The only danger would be the water. If his hard drive got damp, he’d probably freak out, drive to his old house, and punch a TV again.
I pitched this article to the current list-happy version of Cracked about a month ago and they passed. Little too depressing, they said—at least I think that’s what they said; it was hard to hear through all my tears. Anywho, the darn thing came up in conversation recently and a few people expressed interest in reading it, so here it is, in all its first draft glory (pardon the numerous tense changes).
SIX REAL-LIFE DEATHS THAT ALTERED THE COURSE OF “SIMPSONS” HISTORY
By James Greene, Jr.
The hilarious, self-contained world of “The Simpsons” is a fictional entity whose popularity at times has eclipsed that of Jesus, oxygen, and Walter Mondale. Yet the continuity of Homer and Bart’s fake yellow world has been interrupted and altered on several occasions by real life, three-dimensional expirations. Consider now these six instances of human mortality that forever skewed the show that birthed Kent Brockman and Disco Stu.
1. RICHARD NIXON
THE SITUATION: In the episode “Two Bad Neighbors,” notorious one termer George H.W. Bush moves across the street from the Simpson clan. This naturally leads to some classic hi-jinks as Bart becomes Jay North to Bush’s Joseph Kearns (or Gale Gordon, depending on which version of Mr. Wilson you preferred on the old “Dennis the Menace” TV show). After a wild climax involving a fight in the sewer and a box of locusts, George and Barbara vacate their Springfield residence, setting the stage for the entry of another infamous Commander-in-Chief.
POST-MORTEM: According to the Season 7 DVD commentary, the original choice for Springfield’s second presidential resident was perennial “Simpsons” punching bad Richard Nixon. However, Nixon died during the production of “Two Bad Neighbors,” and in a rare show of restraint, the writers decided not to kick the disgraced politician while he was permanently down. Their next idea was Bob Dole, who was gearing up for a presidential run the same year “Neighbors” aired (1996). That didn’t seem like a good gamble, considering Dole didn’t have a shred of a chance against incumbent Slick Willy Clinton. Eventually, it dawned on them—who was the only living former prez at the time who’d even consider hanging out with Homer? Gerald R. Ford. Thus, Jerry was dropped in for a satisfying “Two Bad Neighbors” conclusion.
2. ANTHONY PERKINS
THE SITUATION: “Last Exit To Springfield,” often considered the BEST…EPISODE…EVER, centered around Homer’s attempts to unionize the workers at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. One of the bald guy’s major motivations for this was his daughter Lisa, who needed braces the family couldn’t afford without the company’s oft-neglected “DENNAL PLAN!” A key role in this story was that of Lisa’s evil, creepy dentist. Originally, the part was offered to Anthony Hopkins; he turned it down, as did Clint “I Work With Baboons But I Don’t Do Cartoons” Eastwood. So Matt Groening and crew called up the third bone-chillin’-est guy in Hollywood – Norman Bates.
POST-MORTEM: Psycho star Anthony Perkins gladly accepted the role as sadistic Dr. Wolfe. Sadly, Perkins expired from an AIDS-related death on September 12, 1992, before he could record a line of dialogue. Dr. Wolfe’s role was filled by jack of all “Simpsons” voices Hank Azaria (who probably endured severe psychological damage of his own during that infamous turn in 1998’s Godzilla).
3. HAING S. NGOR
THE SITUATION: Homer Simpson’s trophy case is noticeably barren in the bowling-themed episode “Team Homer.” In fact, the poor sap only has one trophy—an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor that he stole from The Killing Fields‘ Haing S. Ngor, scratching out Ngor’s name to carve in his own. As if living under Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge wasn’t bad enough, now Haing S. had to deal with Mr. Plow swiping his Oscar.
POST-MORTEM: About a month after “Team Homer” aired in 1996, Haing S. Ngor was brutally murdered just outside his home in L.A.’s Chinatown area by alleged Khmer Rouge sympathizers. Refusing to let the actor’s memory be tarnished by Homer’s theft in subsequent reruns, “Simpsons” animators changed the Oscar in question to that of Don Ameche. Ameche, who won his statue for being all wrinkly and awesome in 1985’s Cocoon, had died in 1993 of prostate cancer. Thus, no one cared about fucking with his legacy.
4. DORIS GRAU
THE SITUATION: Doris Grau was the “Simpsons” script supervisor, but more people knew her as the gravely voice of Lunchlady Doris. Under the guise of Springfield Elementary’s number one tater tot slinger, Doris offered up such classic lines as “More testicles mean more iron!” and a non-plussed response to Groundskeeper Willie’s passionate demand that she “grease” him up.
POST-MORTEM: Doris Grau died from lung cancer (who could have guessed?) on December 30, 1995, a scant eight days before the aforementioned “Team Homer” aired. The episode was dedicated to her memory and the character of Lunchlady Doris was retired out of respect…until 2006, when “The Simpsons” was so desperate to be good again they let Tress MacNeille take a crack at Doris’s smokey voice. The idea that “Team Homer” is a cursed “Simpsons” episode has yet to gain momentum outside of my apartment complex, but hopefully this article will help spread that around.
5. THE PASSANGERS OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD
THE SITUATION: The Season 3 entry “Radio Bart” featured one of the most amazing musical sequences in the history of “The Simpsons”: Homer Simpsons singing the 1970s trucking hit “Convoy.” Here was one of the stupidest characters in animation history singing one of the stupidest songs in American history on one of the stupidest devices in global history (the Superstar Celebrity Microphone). Comically, it was pure win. Originally, though, Homer J. was slated to sing another Carter-era hit, “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”
POST MORTEM: Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 hit seemed like perfect comic fodder for the Simpsons patriarch until creators learned of the unique royalty arrangement surrounding the song. Lightfoot had worked it out so that the surviving family members of those who perished aboard the titular bulk carrier (which sank in 1976 in Lake Superior) had to give their OK for the song to be used in any kind of media. With a death toll of 29, weaving through those associated with “Fitzgerald” seemed like a logistical nightmare. So the producers said, “Fuck it, let’s use that dumb-ass truck drivin’ song.”
6. PHIL HARTMAN
THE SITUATION: Seasoned “SNL” funnyman Phil Hartman first appeared in the Season 2 episode “Bart Gets Hit By A Car” as smarmy attorney Lionel Hutz. A classic recurring character was instantly born thanks to Phil’s talents, but he didn’t stop there. Three episodes later, Hartman debuted struggling has-been actor Troy McClure, possibly the most hilarious and iconic “Simpsons” character outside the central yellow family. Although we didn’t literally remember him from such films as Leper In The Backfield, Dial ‘M’ For Murderousness, and They Came To Burgle Carnagie Hall, we gladly pretended we did and never tired of learning Troy’s past accomplishments.
POST-MORTEM: In perhaps the most unexpected and sad Hollywood-related crime of the 1990s, Phil Hartman was shot to death by his mentally unstable wife Brynn (who shot herself the same day) on May 28, 1998. Troy McClure made his final tv appearance that September on the episode “Bart The Mother.” Fans were devastated, knowing they’d never again hear the chipper, syrupy tones of Springfield’s favorite fish-philandering thespian. Perhaps the greatest creative casualty here was the instant death of the much-talked about live action Troy McClure movie Phil Hartman was apparently very keen on doing. That certainly seemed to have more rich comedic possibilities than the live action Krusty the Clown vehicle Matt Groening came up with wherein Krusty lives in a house on stilts that’s constantly in danger of being destroyed by beavers (no lie).