Marvel Finally Misses with Iron Fist

Better late then never?

At one point in the later part of its 13-episode run, Davos, fellow K’un-Lun citizen and longtime friend of Danny Rand drops a line that is so on the nose, I’m surprise that it made the final cut.

“You’re the worst Iron Fist ever!”

Damn, dude. Words hurt! But sadly, so does the truth,  because depending on what you read/who you listen too, Iron Fist is not as good as it was hoped to be – for a wide range of reasons.

I say depending, because although the series dropped to some critical and fan lashing, highlighted by rotten tomatoes scores of 17 and 79% respectively, it actually fared very well when compared against other Netflix series  when analyzed with the network’s own metrics.

I’m going to ignore all the Who-Struck-John that dusted up when Loras Tyrell (aka Finn Jones) was cast to play Danny Rand – mostly by those who wanted an Asian in the role, even though Jones in the comics is Caucasian – because I think the series would have caught grief from people regardless of which way they went with their casting choice.

All of which would have gone away if it ended up that the casting decision was a good one. Unfortunately, although Jones seems to be a  fine actor, he was woefully behind the curve on this fight choreography skills when Iron Fist started filming – a fact that is sadly very apparent in the final production – apparently because he had little time to train before filming began.

With dazzling martial arts scenes popping up regularly on Into The Badlands, some flashy action sequences in shows like Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, and hard hitting, gritty fight scenes from Iron Fist’s sister show Daredevil, not having top notch fight scenes from your star in a series based on the “Living Weapon” is borderline criminal. Especially when you factor in that co-stars like Colleen Wing and Lewis Tan are more than bringing it.

But let me push all that to the side and list three areas where I thought Iron Fist really missed the boat.

THE BIG BAD

I’m going to say it now, I’ve never been a fan of The Hand, which is TOTALLY hypocritical of me, because I’m usually all for anything that fills my TV or movie screen with katana wielding ninjas.

But to be honest, I just haven’t warmed up to them, sorry. I know, long time readers of the comics will point out that the Hand are pretty big players in the Marvel world and longtime adversaries of Daredevil. Given.

But to me, the Hand have always been the under card with other villains and anti-heroes carrying the more interesting parts of the story forward. In the first season of Daredevil they had the unenviable task of trying to out shine Edgar the Bug’s (AKA Vincent D’Onofrio) King Pin and for that show’s second season, the plot line of the Hand I felt weighed down the second half of the series mostly because it diverted focus away from Shane Walsh’s (AKA Jon Bernthal) Punisher.

The would be main bad guy for Iron Fist I guess would be the whole Meachum family, siblings Joy and Ward, and their father Harold who is dead, except that he’s not. Together Joy and Ward spend a lot of time not believing that the returning Danny Rand is indeed Danny Rand because they believe he’s dead, except that he’s not.

Problem – there isn’t a shred of menace in these three together. Not one iota of the quiet rage, or singular focused aggression that made The King Pin or The Punisher so compelling, respectively.

Harold meanwhile spends a lot of time hiding in his penthouse because people believe he’s dead, except he’s not, abusing is assistant and hoping the Hand doesn’t drop by for a visit. In the real world, only his assistant and Ward know that he’s not dead (except that he is, but he’s not) which assists Harold as he attempts to figure out if Danny Rand is dead or not. Got it? Groovy.

Problem – there isn’t a shred of menace in these three together. Not one iota of the quiet rage, or singular focused aggression that made The King Pin or The Punisher so compelling, respectively. Nope, they just kind of wade through the plot, adding obstacles when Danny needs them, and opening doors for the same reasons. But as far as lifting the show up to another level as other villains have in the past? Never happens.

Now, I’ll balance that with this – the inclusion of the Hand has brought some cool boss level fighters for our heroes to overcome. There was Nobu Yoshioka in both seasons of Daredevil, and Iron Fist gave us the very interesting (and sadly underutilized) Zhou Cheng (The Drunken Master) and the Bride of Nine Spiders.

And who doesn’t love Madame Gao? I want her on my fireplace mantle to act as my own personal version of Google Home. “Gao, What’s the weather going to be today?”

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“Ok, so…partly cloudy, then?”

If Iron Fist showed me anything, it’s that if there isn’t a very complete and interesting big bad to help carry the story, then for me the story doesn’t work, and the Hand are unable to do it by themselves, and sadly, Iron Fist is woefully lacking in complete and interesting big bads.

NOT ENOUGH K’UN-LUN.

One of the glaring omissions in my mind is the almost painful lack of back story into what makes Danny Rand tick. He just fancy walks into the building that bares his family name after a 15 year absence and starts to bring confusion to everyone who now works there.

But why? Why did he train all his life to  face and defeat the dragon, Shou-Lao the Undying, securing his role as the immortal Iron Fist, only to skip out and go walk about the first chance he got?

The show doesn’t investigate this part of Danny’s life very deeply, only showing an occasional glimpse of K’un-Lun, (where he apparently spent much of his time being whipped with a cane, because, plot!) and none of his show down with Shou-Lao.

Having that back story could have greatly fleshed out Danny’s motives, and maybe even have been used to explain why he doesn’t yet have the fighting skill level, or indeed the basic knowledge of other powers, one would associate with the Immortal Iron Fist.

Did Danny decide to face Shou-Lao even though his masters thought he wasn’t worthy or indeed, ready too? Did he beat the dragon using some Kobayashi Maru type cheat? Was his goal simply to be come the Iron Fist because he knew that would be the only way he could leave K’un-Lun, which was a long time plan of his?

So much backstory and motivations for Danny could have been filled in by focusing on this part of his story, and since it didn’t we don’t have it, and Danny just seems to do things because he does.

LONILINESS

No, I’m not talking about Danny’s alienation when he returns to New York or his love life (I’ll never feel sorry for a guy who winds up at the end of the day with Colleen Wing), I’m talking about the fact that Danny Rand is the only Defender to show up in Iron Fist.

From a production point, it takes some of the “he met, she met” that needs to happen out of The Defenders

I can understand why, the producers probably wanted the show to fully explore and flesh out the Danny Rand character, and probably felt that the inclusion of another Defender would somehow take away from that goal. My question back – did including Luke Cage diminish Jessica Jones in any way? No.It.Did.Not.

Adding another Defender would have helped jump start the formation of the titular group as well as allowed the show to have a path with which to move into The Defenders. From a production point, it takes some of the “he met, she met” that needs to happen out of The Defenders thus allowing that show to have more time to devote to story (consider The Defenders appears to only be 8 episodes), plus puts a very interesting aspect into Iron Fist allowing them to remove some of the slower moments of that show.

Who would not have wanted to see Madam Gao once again irritated by the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, or even a nick-in-time save by Jessica Jones. And don’t tell me fans wouldn’t have fist pumped or left their seats the first time they saw Luke and Danny, the team that in the comics becomes known as “Heroes for Hire”, standing next to each other ready to demolish a Handful (get it) of ninjas in a classic battle.

No…whoever made the choice to make Iron Fist only about Danny Rand…I feel they made the wrong one.

And that’s it. That’s the three bullet points I took away after watching Iron Fist. The show is OK at best, but sadly flawed, and really hurts when compared against the shows that have come before it.

Bring on The Defenders.

The Defenders drops on Netflix on August 18th, 2017.

The Walking Dead “New Best Friends” – With Friends like These

…who needs Negan.

When we last left Rick and rescue team 6, they had just been bushwhacked (or is that junkwacked) by a new group. Are they new friends? New enemies? Or simply the people you courteously nod to when you pass on the street while you’re out scavenging for the Saviors?

Let’s find out as once again with another non-beer related post (maybe I’ll start to mention the beer I’m drinking while I’m watching to tie it all together) where I run down some random remarks about this week’s episode. As always my comments from this week’s Facebook live chat that inspire these thoughts are in bold. Spoilers.

Morgan wants his stick

Oh man, some douche took Morgan’s non-killing stick. There are rules, douche. Don’t tug on Superman’s cape, etc, etc. And Morgan said “please”.

Seriously, this renders our most prolific non-killer inactive until he gets his non-killing stick back so that he can return to his non-killing ways.

And he will, douche. One night when you least expect it, Morgan will come and not kill everyone between him and you and then not kill you and take his non-killing stick back, because Morgan will not say please again. You’ll be able to feel the non-death in the air.

In the meantime I guess Morgan will just have to sit around and not kill people. What a waste of a non-killer.

NAME!!!

Richard is trying not to let his dick plan go to shit but Daryl’s having none of it. The man with the crossbow asked you a question, Richard. I don’t think he’d have to ask me twice.

And it’s a pretty serious dick plan. Get the Saviors to discover Carol so they can kill her and piss off the guy who thinks he’s king? Holy crap, what kind of ass drain thinks of a plan like that? The kind of ass drain that deserves to have it all go to shit when he’s forced to spill the beans to one of only a handful of guys remaining in the world who would kill him on the spot for even thinking about such a dick plan.

I’d write that scene. Carol gets struck by lightning. Richard shits his pants.

After Daryl gets the name and puts all the pieces together he gives Richard (who we should now just be referring to as Dick) a rundown of things that better NOT happen to Carol, like rug burns, irritable bowel syndrome, even getting struck by lightning – or someone now referred to as Dick is going to get it.

I would totally do that last one just to see the looks exchanged between Dick and Daryl, “Sorry Dick, I said no lightning. Look at the flowers while I get my crossbow.” The comedy element would be hysterical and watching the fans melt down would be more entertaining than this episode was (not that I didn’t enjoy this episode, I just would enjoy watching that more).

A tad unlikely you say? Remember, we’re talking about the woman who walked out into a one lane, one way street and managed to get hit by one of probably only 20 cars that were still running in Atlanta and probably one of only 5 white paneled station wagons still running in Georgia. If anyone can stumble into the way of lightning, it’s Carol.

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We call it Thunderdome.

Yeah, we know there’s no dome here, but Thunderlandfill just didn’t have the right pop, you, know? Still, we have a woman leader with funny hair and combat sports for fun. No, no methane producing pigs or crashed 747s though. Hmmm, guess we’re not at all like Thunderdome.

Synchronized abduction is the new post-apocalyptic Olympic sport.

Did you see the Scavengers walk our gang into their garbage alley and then on command snap together quickly forming two almost perfect concentric circles around them! That’s some high level group capturing choreography right there, folks! It’s as if one of the surviving groups were made up entirely of the more goth inspired members of your local high school marching  band. Stay tuned for the half-time show.

What should we do with this new character? “Give her a Vulcan haircut!” Brillant! And ears!! “No not the ears. Let’s not get carried away.”

Man, I don’t know who Pollyanna McIntosh’s (who I’ve only seen in a horror movie entitled Let Us Prey alongside Davos from GoT) hair artist is but they either had an old, banged, Vulcan wig from any number of old Star Trek shows/movies laying around, or a serious Moe Howard fetish.

I realize that when a character’s life has been reduced to fighting dead people and gathering supplies for others, they may not have the time or motivation to get that slamming haircut that says, “I’m confident, sexy, and the leader of a group of people who live in a junkyard”, but seriously, you could plane wood with those bangs.

Does that one girl have a fucking bicycle pump?

When a scuffle breaks out among the groups I could swear that one lady was leading the charge with an old-time bicycle pump. And I don’t think it’s the non-killing kind of bicycle pump either. That bicycle pump looks like it’s seen some action. My heart aches for a show down between the girl with the killing bicycle pump and Morgan with his non-killing stick. Which could happen soon, because he’s getting that back, trust!

Celebrity death match!!! Rick strikes first with the ice cube tray!

When Rick squares off against Winslow, who is the ZAE (Zombie Apocalypse Event) version of Chopper, the junkyard dog from Stand By Me, (if Chopper were a zombie encased in metal and covered with sharp spikes) it’s in an area that is totally surround by high walls of garbage. The only weapons Rick has are his wits and whatever the Fergusons threw out before the world ended.

It was a kill or be killed moment, so Rick grabbed the first thing that he could, which looked like a large plastic ice cube tray. It shattered pretty easily, so I don’t think it was, but it definitely wasn’t a good first pick from the wall of weapons. But it was a pretty funny moment and staggered this reality’s version of the Tin Man enough for Rick to set up his killer Dim Mak Death Palm, with less than stellar results…

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Your Death Palm Gung Fu is no match for my headdress.

Here we go again folks. I can hear the “this is where Rick finally loses his hand” people now.

I love how this show sometimes dicks with the people who read the comics. Case in point, we all know what happened to Glenn in the TV show, which was the same thing that happened in the comics. And the show twisted that knife several times by having Glenn and a baseball bat intersect several times during the show.

Same can be said with Rick’s hand. Rick gets his hand cut off in the comics and the show has also teased about playing that card several times. This possible time arises when Rick decides to use his Dim Mak Death Palm against Winslow only to be foiled by Winslow’s Metallic Spikes of the Dead.

But eventually Rick gets the upper hand (really, it is upper because it’s stuck on Winslow’s forehead for a bit) and it’s just a matter of pulling a bunch of garbage down on top of the old boy and then dispatching him after some first class coaching from Michonne. Good game guys! Way to play defense!

Drive me home, baby. I’m drunk. Or bleeding out. I can’t tell.

Rick is kind of loopy after his cage match, which is understandable because the dude is losing blood from his hand at about a 0.6 on the Muta scale. Seriously, if you or I had this wound in the real world, we’d have three towels wrapped around it while yelling at the person next to us to drive faster.

But not Rick, he’s a man’s man and even though he’s dropping puddles on the floor like Ric Flair, he still takes the time to have an emotional man-to-man with his priest and go shopping for his girlfriend (more on that below).

The King’s Cobbler, still a better story than The Rock in The Road

Well, it’s taken a ZAE and the loss of her abusive husband, but Carol is final experiencing what it’s like to be one of the pretty girls. She just wants to be left alone, but all the guys keep coming to her house and asking her to the dance.

Here’s a tip for you guys, if you ever have to start a conversation with, “I know you said you just wanted to be left alone…”, then maybe you should reevaluate your decision making process.

But luckily, the man who thinks he’s king has come bearing his majesty’s peach cobbler, which is either simply all the king’s bakers know how to make or the official coin of the realm now. I don’t know which.

I saw that metal cat and I just had to have it! It’s so you! I know, right!

“Victory!! Well, not really. Uneasy understanding!! That’s more like it. So, we got grabbed by this group, I got forced to fight a walker encased in armor and spikes, forged a very, very shaky alliance once I proved my worth and just for the hell of it, I’m taking this metal cat for my girlfriend. Like, I’m not even going to ask. And fuck if it belongs to anyone in this marching band trained, American Pickers group, because I’ve lost half my blood and all I can think of right now is how much I just heart my girl. Whoa! Soooo much blood loss.”

What a missed op, Daryl. If you’d have told Carol the truth she’d have been all, “Really, hold my beer.”

Some people on my FB group disagree with me on this, saying that Carol is broken, needs to find herself, work through her issues, blah, blah. Look no doubt, but here’s the thing, unless the writers deviate from cliche character writing 101, you know it’s going to happen sometime, so my thought is let’s just get on with it.

Carol finding out who Negan killed may be the kick in that ass she needs, because you know, we don’t need mopey, contemplative Carol. No, we need the Carol who goes all John Wick on large groups of evil doers and can blow up a propane tank from 200ft away with a bottle rocket, which was about a 6.5 on the WVIS (white van impossibility scale) but that’s how bad ass Carol is. She could probably even turn Morgan’s non-killing stick into a killing stick. That’s some Baba Yaga level power right there!

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“People keep asking if I’m back. And I haven’t really had an answer. But now, yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back!”

I ship Daryl and Shiva

Nothing makes me smile more than when a guy and a CGI tiger bond. It’s so heartwarming. Nothing fake about it what so ever. Well, except the tiger.

The Talking Dead were commenting on how funny it would have been to see Shiva pull Daryl through the bars and kill him, BUT NOT SO FAST BOYS! Save that one for later, because Daryl has to be alive to make my Carol getting struck by lightning scene work.

Tell you what, let’s woodshed in the writer’s room and get this all worked out. Lots to do. Plus we have to figure out how Morgan is going to get his non-killing stick back in the most dramatic and violent non-killing way. We may need to get some coffee in here. Looks to be a long night…

…which means I’m outta here! Was this one more shitty than last week’s post? Let me know in the comments and I guarantee it will have no baring on how shitty next week’s is.

The Walking Dead “Rock in the Road” – Well We’re Walking.

…..and walking.

The Walking Dead continues to be one of my favorite shows on TV and I look forward to it every week. That doesn’t mean that the show sometimes makes me scratch my head, or just confuse me outright.

I watch the show while at the same time participating in “Live Chat” on a WD Facebook page with like minded people. We watch the show while at the same time making inspiring comments about it, some are deep value adding comments on the technical issues of the show while some are just stupid. Think MST3K. But without the talent. Or the budget.

I wrote a buddy who I used to work with when the show went on mid-season break, but moved to another job not long after. He wanted to know what I thought, and after tossing together some musings on the show based on some of the chat comments I made I thought, why not rewrite it and post it.

I’m always wishing to expand the posts on this blog from just beer related stuff and so here we are. You wonderful people, are the benefactors of this whim. I won’t be posting it on my blog’s FB page as I think I should keep that all beer related, so only you fine people who follow through WordPress or get my blog through email get to see this. Yeah, you!! Happy Valentines day!

The comments in BOLD are what I wrote during live chat, the normal text underneath as context to the comment. OH – and spoilers.

“Do happy tears count?”

This was in response to someone who asked if anyone would cry if Father Gabriel died after raiding  (loudly, I mean isn’t anyone on guard) the pantry and driving off in a car. I’ll admit there really wasn’t an out pouring of support from the group for the man, but a tear is a tear, right? But I was told the tears had to be in sadness. Sorry, no can do. I mean, for Jerry who is the new bitchin’ character on this show, yes. Father Gabriel, no.

As for Father Gabriel? He’s dead now because we’ve all seen enough horror movies to know that the person who sat up in the car as he drove away was probably some deranged killer and we all know what happens next.

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I know what you did – 5 minutes ago in the pantry.

“Yeah, a boat, looks like the Minnow…just sit right back”

There’s now a picture of a shipwrecked boat in the opening credits montage – because why not? I guess Oceanside is going to be such a big part of this story this year, that they get their own nod in the credits. I mean, it doesn’t look like that boat from that other show that now doesn’t have a boat, but used have a boat – so I think we’re safe.

“googly eye…no s”

Someone in our group accused Coral of giving Enid googly eyes. I had to correct them. But damn that kid was working his eye patch on her. I think she digs the patch.

“Coral is your second gunman?? The one-eyed kid?”

Really? After Rick states that the group only has two guns we find out that Coral is holding the second one. WTF? The one-eyed kid who has a disturbing habit of siting his guns with the non one-eye?

Negan stated in the previous episode that the kid, “mowed down several of my men with a machine gun”, but I don’t think he should get gun privileges for that since that wasn’t his goal going into the whole situation! His objective was to kill Negan, who he missed in spectacular stormtrooper fashion.

Besides, we’ve already established that most of the women in the group are better shots than him even back when he could make googly eyes. No, give the gun to Sasha and let Coral put his patch to less dangerous uses, like flirting with Enid.

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What could go wrong?

“Pot plants! Pot plants as far as the eye can see”

Come on. Guy thinks he’s king, has dreads (that’s racist) and has a CGI tiger which everyone in the kingdom acts as if it is real (come on guys, we know it’s the emperor’s new tiger). Guys run around in catcher’s chest protectors and think they look cool? And Jerry? Well Jerry is just too happy for a guy who is one mistake away from a Roy Horn type CGI tiger attach. You know they’re smoking something. Those tomato plants are hiding something.

“I’d like to see Ezekiel say, “what the fuck was that story about!!?!?””

The story about the dick king who put a stone in the middle of the road which basically crippled his people. The one who put a bag of gold under it because the person who decided to move the stone should be rewarded. That story. WTF? What was the point?

Oh, and not fair that the little girl in the story lost her family’s beer. That’s boss level dickdom right there! What kind of mother tells this story? But then again, Ezekiel uses Martin Luther King speeches as bedtime stories so I guess that’s just the way the world is in this show.

“OH, and hey Morgan, who did Negan kill? How about the two A list characters that aren’t in the room right now.”

Funniest question of the night was when Morgan asks who Negan killed. Who is not there that you’d care about, Morgan? Carol? No, you know where Carol is. Aaron’s husband? No, no one cares about him. In fact, most viewers were probably like me and totally forgot that Aaron was married because the show doesn’t even care to show much of the relationship because even they know it’s boring. The goat from your award-winning standalone episode? Ask the CGI tiger.

Oh, and I love Rosita throwing shade at Morgan, “think you were right, now?” after telling him who is dead. Ah, he was. He told you not to attack the Saviors. If you’d have listened to him Mother Dick and Pizza Boy would still be alive. But Rosita is bringing the Latino heat tonight (more on that in a moment) so I guess she’s not going to let the facts get in the way of a good burn.

“OK guys what do we want to do for this episode? “Group walking. Lots of group walking.””

Really, this episode puts the ‘Walking’ in The Walking Dead. Cue up the Proclaimer’s “500 miles” at the beginning of the credits and I’m sure it syncs up perfectly with the rest of the show. The group seems to spend 1/3 of the TV time walking in loose group formation. It’s like the scene in Deadpool at the end when they’re epic walking toward the bad guys to DMX. Except none of our group are chrome, has a Sinead O’Conner haircut, regenerates axed limbs or knows DMX. Gripping TV.

“Damn Rosita……”

I always thought fucking the same dead guy automatically made you friends, or at least pinky buddies. I mean, who else are you going to commiserate with at the funeral? Well not in Rosita’s world. The funny thing is just the episode before when the group all re-united, the sisters in blood gave each other a “we cool” nod and I thought Rosita nodded first. Oh well, just goes to show you Rosita don’t give a damn if you’ve fucked the same dead guy – which I’m hoping will become the new running gag for the show where all the women take turns pegging Rosita’s men – and then the men die.

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“This is Negan on 94.7 FM on your radio dial bringing [you] all of the post zombie apocalypse hits”

The team gets a walkie-talkie (courtesy of Jesus because, plot!) to listen in on Negan’s men and we find out that Negan doesn’t really want to be a spaghetti cooking mean girl, husband to 100 women, or ruler of the world. No, all he wants is to be an FM radio disc jockey!  Really, Negan’s over the airwaves eulogizing of Fat Joey was funny as shit, not to mention very important information for his men, because you know, now that fat Joey is dead, thin Joey has been promoted to just Joey. You wouldn’t want to make that mistake at the next spaghetti night.

“that was COOL AS FUCK!!”

As totally impractical and impossible as it was, that Slice Capade (credit to the fine folks at Talking Dead for the name) scene was dope as hell. Just when you think you’ve run out of ways to kill a herd of zombies in one glorious CGI blood bath, Scott Gimble and his gang says, “hold our beer” and we get a presentation of zombie purging that just makes you laugh out loud (as opposed to LOL which is an entirely different thing) plus the most impressive demonstration of cable related carnage since Ghost Ship.

Yeah, it was about an 8.5 on the white van impossibility scale, but it still was an awesome visual and a gratuitous reason to toss zombie guts all over the camera.

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“He went to find Jesus…doesn’t know he’s one town over”

Where did Father Gabriel go? That question was asked many times throughout the night. I suggested he left to find Jesus. The thing is that in this world finding Jesus is easier than you’d think. He’s usually in the next town over distributing communication equipment. Oh, he goes by Paul now because this time around Jesus is way more down to earth.

“HE SMILED!!!!! HOLY CRAP THE GUY SMILED!!”

When they were in the car after the Slice Capade, Michonne asked Rick to smile but he didn’t. I commented that he couldn’t smile, and then in the last shot, he did. What did he see? Or was it who?

The show’s producers say it was because Rick realizes he’s found his army, but I think he was just happy with all the women because it gives him more dating options because you know Michonne has lived well past the “Rick Grimes love interest” shelf life that this show has established.

And there you have it. Just some random stupid thoughts about a show that just seems to ask for them. Not sure if this will become a weekly thing or not, but you never know. If you liked it, subscribe to find out. If you thought it was shit let me know in the comments. I won’t promise that it will make the next one less shitty, but I will promise that you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made no impact on its quality what so ever.

If nothing else, I’ll probably be doing a review of Iron Fist when it drops in March, which won’t be the first time I’ve written about the Netflix Marvel universe.

Cheers!

Beer in Movies – That Thing You Do

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Movie Poster for That Thing You Do

I haven’t done a “Beer in Movies” post for awhile because, well, I just hadn’t found the right movie.  I don’t want to do over the top movies like Beerfest or Strangebrew.  I’d like to focus more on dramatic period movies in which a beer or brewery makes a cameo, rather than goofball comedies with beer cans exploding all throughout them.  Mind you, I LIKE the goofball comedies.  I just don’t want to write about them as part of this series (although at one point I may have to do Smokey and the Bandit, you scum bums).

So there I was the other day playing ‘speed TV guide’ with the remote when my eyes caught one of my favorite fluff movies, Tom Hanks’ 1996 That Thing You Do.  Deciding that I could take a few minutes of retro-60s music, I was quickly rewarded with a brewery cameo and realized that I’d just channel surfed my way into my next “Beer in Movies” post.

The film, set in 1964, tells the story of four Erie, Pennsylvania kids (Jimmy, Lenny, Chad, and as a running joke in the film, a bass player who’s never named and credited in the film as T.B. Player), who are trying to get their pop band off the ground.  When Chad breaks his arm in an unfortunate parking meter hopping accident (an original X-Sport, they really should have made those things higher so kids were not tempted to try this) the remaining three enlist the help of Guy Patterson, a salesman at his father’s appliance store by day,  and basement jazz drummer at night.

Guy’s induction into the band proves to be the needed catalyst to jump start them.  It starts slowly with a quick practice for a talent show, where a comment by Guy leads to the bands new name, The Wonders, which Jimmy, trying to be creative at first spells as ‘The Oneders’ which everyone in the movie mispronounces as ‘OH-Needers’.  But like a roller coaster going over the first hump, what starts slowly gets very fast in the blink of an eye (literally) when at the talent show, Guy starts the should be slow ballad at a much faster tempo.  While Jimmy is initially angry with the change, the crowd reaction soon wins him over as suddenly everyone in Erie is talking about the song and his band.

What follows is a nicely paced story of a band who suddenly finds themselves with a hit record climbing up the Billboard charts.  The film follows the band from local radio to state fair tours to headlining an Ed Sullivan type TV variety show, The Hollywood Television Showcase.

The casting is good, with Hanks wearing one of his many hats in this movie (he additionally wrote or co-wrote a good portion of the music) as the band’s manager Mr A.M. White; and Tom Everett Scott (American Werewolf in Paris, Southland), Johnathon Schaech (Roadhouse 2: Last Call, Quarantine), Steve Zahn (Night Train, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) , and Ethan Embry (They, Eagle Eye)  starring as The Wonders (the actors spent months learning how to play their instruments because Hanks wanted their playing during the film to be authentic).  The film also stars Liv Tyler as Jimmy’s girlfriend/want-to-be fiance, Bill Cobbs (Demolition Man, Air Bud) as jazz legend Del Paxton, and marks the third film appearance by Charlize Theron as Guy’s Erie, PA girlfriend (it should be noted that the woman looks hot even in 1960s curlers and hair drying cap).  Sharp eyed movie watches will also catch Giovanni Ribisi (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Avatar) as Chad, musician Chris Isaak as Guy’s Uncle, and Bryan Cranston (John Carter, Total Recall, Breaking Bad) as astronaut Gus Grissom.

But the movie wouldn’t be nearly as effective in telling its story without good music.  And in that regard, That Thing You Do does an admirable job capturing the 60s music scene on the verge of being consumed by the British Invasion sound.  The state fair shows have a nice diversity of music with the TV Detective show theme styled “Mr Downtown”, the three part girl-group harmonies of “Hold My Hand, Hold My Heart” (complete with The Ronettes “Be My Baby” style clapping) and the 60s torch-style song  “My World Is Over”.  There’s also a nod to beach movie music with the song “Shrimp Shack” performed by Cap’n Geech & The Shrimp Shack Shooters, a fictitious band that The Wonders are shown portraying during the filming of the equally fictitious movie Weekend at Party Pier.

But all that would probably be for naught without a rocking, gem of a song to play the part of The Wonder’s hit record.  And the self titled “That Thing You Do” (written by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, and sung by Mike Viola) is perfectly cast in the role.  With it’s almost cliche drum into, jangly C#m/Fm verse turns, patterned harmonies and simple guitar solo (lead into by a textbook Beatles type scream), “That Thing You Do” is a master class in early 1960s pop song writing.

The song also serves as a great barometer of The Wonders’ growth as a band, as you can see the evolution of it through out the movie.  From the intense concentration of T.B. Player and Jimmy as they try to keep up the first time the song is played up tempo, to a more polished, tighter performance later with T.B. actually adding a third harmony.  Sadly, as the performances become more polished, the song seems to lose a bit of the five-take church recorded charm that makes it infectious in the beginning of the film.  Or maybe by this time in the film, you’re just bored by it.

While the movie chronicles the rise of “That Thing You Do” to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the liner notes to the soundtrack (written in ‘mock-u-‘ form the soundtrack credits the movie performers for the songs and contains a historical recap of the band by A.M. White) claim the song made it to #2.  In real life the song didn’t fare as well, although it still made a respectable climb, peaking at #41.

So is this movie about a group on the cusp of long term super stardom, or a movie about four kids who ride their one hit song to the top, only to have everything dissolve when they get there?  I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, although people who catch an obvious, slick  play-on-words contained within the story should be able to figure it out.

So where’s the beer in this movie?  Well we’re first rewarded very quickly within the first minute of the opening credits.  The front of Guy’s father’s appliance store is shown several times during them, revealing an advertisement for Erie Brewing Company sitting on top of the store.

Eire Brewing Company Sign

Eire Brewing Company Sign 2

Later in the film the band is approached by local talent manager Phil Horace who tries to convince the boys to sign with him.  During his pitch (in his RV while he’s cooking a pan full of chilli), Phil pulls out a couple of beers from the fridge stating, “I hope it’s not too early for one of these.”

Bottles In Trailer

The beer can be seen clearly sitting in front of Lenny during the rest of the scene.

Bottle in front of Lenny

So what is it?

Koehler

Although the styling is a little bit different, it’s definitely a vintage 1960s Koehler label.  Koehler became part of The Erie Brewing Company in 1899,  almost sixteen years after Jackson Koehler bought the Eagle Brewery and began producing his beer.  Jackson’s father was himself a brewer, and indeed both of Jackson’s brothers, Louis and Fred, were also brewers.  In 1899 Fred would also find his own brewery becoming associated with The Erie Brewing Company.

The Eagle Brewery site was still producing Koehler beer in the 1960s.  In fact, it didn’t close down until 1978.  The building was demolished in 2006.

The label shown in the film appears a little different than the real label.  The side panels appear to be more silver in color than the label shown above.  The blue panel seems to be a little darker in the middle, which isn’t a problem.   Koehler used different colors on their bottle labels for their different beers.  Red was Lager, Black was Ale, and Blue was Pilsener.  But there was also a beer named “Jacks Beer” that had a center panel that was more of a royal blue.

In fact, the label on the bottle actually seems to mimic the color scheme for the cans.

Koehler Can

But no matter the little differences, I applaud the prop guy, and That Thing You Do, for getting it right (although they then turned around and showed a Sabian cymbal on a drum kit.  That company didn’t start making cymbals until 1981).  As far as the movie is concerned, I’d recommend it to anyone who has a touch of nostalgia for the 1960 musical sound.  The movie is chock full of references and hat-tips to the Beatles, including a ‘band running around montage’ reminiscent of “Can’t Buy Me Love” from the movie Hard Days Night.  Tom Hanks also wrote in a lot of neat Easter eggs from other movies he’s been associated with, especially Apollo 13.

To learn more about Koehler Brewing check out these great articles:

Art’s Erie Beer Collecting Page

Old Time Erie

Beer In Movies – The Three Stooges

“Hellooooo, hellooooo, hellooooooo.  HELLO!” Tomorrow the Farrelly Brother’s Three Stooges movie hits the big screen so I though it would be appropriate to take a look at a couple of  the classic shorts from the original Three Stooges that featured beer within the story.  For the record, I’m not in favor of the  movie.  And it’s not because I”m some ubber purist that believes that no one could top the original (I am), but instead it’s due to a distinction I make about the type of act they were verses other actors playing “roles”.

While actors change in roles all the time, the Stooges weren’t just actors in a role.  Ted Healy started what would be called “Ted Healy and his Southern Gentleman” in 1922 when his friend Moe  Howard joined Healy’s vaudeville act.  Moe’s brother Shemp would join the act a year later with Larry Fine being added two years after that.  From that moment they began honing their particular brand of slap stick comedy, working with Healy under several different line ups (Moe’s brother Curly joined when Shemp left)  in several different films.  In 1934, the group – minus Healy – signed a contract with Columbia to star in a series of two-reel shorts.  From those early times, to the signing of that contract that finally dubbed Moe, Larry, and Curly officially The Three Stooges, to Moe’s (the last Stooge) death in 1975 they were always The Three Stooges.

According to Widipedia, the Stooges made 190 shorts for Columbia.  During that span, Shemp (having left the group to pursue a solo career) was the only Stooge to appear in more than a couple of movies outside his “Stooges” character; appearing in such ventures as the Charlie Chan movies and The Thin Man series.  They were the Stooges.  They had not been hired by casting call.  They were not trying to be someone who had come before them.  And in that sense to me, no one can ever take their place.  So while I wish the Farrellys and the actors in the new movie well with their endeavor (I don’t wish failure on people just because I’m not on board with their ideas), I hope they forgive me if I don’t run down to the cinema to see it.

As I said, the Stooges started out as a vaudeville team with Ted Healy.  With Healy, they recorded 11 shorts of which you can still find clips floating around the internet.  Their second short Beer and Pretzels finds the guys ending up as waiters in a high end restaurant, only to wreck the place in true Stooge fashion.  One scene consists of a musical number that includes singing bartenders  performing while pouring beers and ending in a tap dance routine on top of beer barrels.  The scene shows Curly playing the spoons along with the music.

In the 1935 short Three Little Beers, The Panther Brewery (a play off of bad beer tasting like Panther Piss) hires the boys to help improve their deliveries.  After some typical Stooge like mayhem loading the truck they discover that the company is holding a golf tournament.  As luck would have it their first stop is the local golf course so they decided to get in a little “practice”.  What follows is face slapping, eye gouging Stoogery at its best.  After destroying the course, the boys are chased away in the overload beer truck only to end up dealing with rolling beer barrels on a busy hill street.  This episode also has the distinction of giving us one of the most iconic Stooges photos from the trio.  A production shot from Three Little Beers with the Stooges posing in their golf outfits and clubs hangs in probably 7 out of every 10 sports bars throughout America.

But without a doubt the best example of beer in the Three Stooges comes during the 1946 short Beer Barrel Polecats.  After striking out in 16 bars while looking for beer, the boys decide to brew their own.  Every home brewer should watch this scene, it will make any disasters you had during  your first batch look tame in comparison.  After a miscommunication leaves all three Stooges each putting in three cakes of yeast into the beer, it foams up like an over soaped washing machine.  Stoogery unfolds as they struggle to contain the foaming beer into everything from a sack, a suitcase and a bathtub Curly drags into the kitchen.  One of the funnier brewing lines happens as the boys try to figure out why their beer had issues.  As each one assures the others that he put the yeast in, the trio flinches, looks up and says in unison, “We ALL put the yeast in!”  The short switches focus as the boys end up in jail due to what’s explained as Curly having sold a bottle of their home made beer to an under cover policeman.  While in jail the boys give us another valuable beer lesson, never put a barrel of beer under a hot light.  A lesson thoroughly learned by everyone in the room with them when the barrel explodes.

This short is bittersweet in that I really enjoy its focus on beer in the beginning.  But sadly at the time of filming, Curly had already suffered several of the strokes that would debilitate and eventually kill him.  He’s leaner in the beer scenes and you can tell he’s slower and struggling with the timing in some of the gags.  Unable to rely on Curly for the whole short the planned shot was canned, and scenes from two other shorts So Long, Mister Chumps and In The Sweet Pie and Pie, were used to finish the film [Note: I found one reference that suggested this was not the reason for using the two other shorts to finish BBPs, but couldn’t find more information on it.  Many Stooge related sites list this as the cause, so I’m going with it for now].  Only a few years later, Curly would suffer a career ending stroke while filming, necessitating Moe to once again turn to his brother Shemp to return as the third Stooge.

Even though the Stooges only focused on beer in a couple of their shorts, Panther Brewing became immediately recognizable with them.   So much so that early in the 2000s Three Stooges Beer from the Panther Brewing company started hitting the shelves.  I of course bought some, and from what I remember it wasn’t very good.  The brewery was listed as being from Utica NY, and one old link I found rerouted me to Saranac Brewing.  Now if you want to try it,  you’ll have to out bid collectors on EBay.

As a long time Stooges fan I know that their particular style of humor is not everyone’s cup of tea (the delineation seems to be largely along the X/Y chromosome lines) so I’m not going to end with any kind of statement that  you should go watch them.  No, you have probably made the decision on whether-or-not you’re a fan a long time ago and and have adjusted your viewing habits accordingly.  If you are, I hope you enjoyed this little toast to the boys and their escapades in beer.  If you’re not a fan – well then “pick two fingers.”

Time for another beer….

Beer in Movies – The Shawshank Redemption

Movie Poster for “The Shawshank Redemption”

This past weekend I got caught by what I call the “6 or 7 film barrage”.  That’s where a TV channel will take a film and show it at least 6 or 7 times over a span of several days.  The pattern will usually go something like this, once on Thursday, once on Friday, twice on Saturday, and twice on Sunday, sometimes with one more broadcast tossed in somewhere for good measure.  On top of that, one of the days where they broadcast the movie twice, it will be shown back to back.  The movie this weekend was Frank Darabont’s  The Shawshank Redemption.  After stumbling across it several times channel surfing, I finally landed upon it at it’s begin and decided to give it a re-watch (I guess that’s part of the network’s master strategy, toss it at you enough times and sooner or later your resolve will break down) even though I’m not usually a fan of the cuts and edits network TV will normally do to films.

Released in 1994, The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of an intelligent banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and sentenced to 2 life terms in Shawshank prison.  Once there, he meets Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) with whom he begins a friendship with along with Red’s circle of inmate friends.  The movie is filled with themes of man’s attempts to find hope and dignity in an impossible situation; which Andy finds himself in when he’s pulled into service by Warden Samuel Norton who uses Andy’s expert banking skills to launder money Norton is receiving for using the prison inmates as skilled labor in the public sector.

The movie has a couple elements that make the it note worthy.  First, it was based on a novella by Steven King entitled, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” that was published in his 1982, “Different Seasons” collection.  Also the movie began what I call, “the Morgan Freeman” narration.  The scenes of the movie are tied together by a voice-over performed by Freeman’s character Red.  Freeman’s deep, non-wavering voice throughout the movie has become iconic and has been parodied on everything from TV commercials to Family Guy.

One of my favorites however is Clancy Brown who, as Chief of the Guards Captain Hadley, delivers one of the best profanity laden performances in a movie by a non Drill Sergeant character.

The movie  benefits from a stellar cast.  Robbins and Freeman are both excellent in their respective rolls, and Bob Gunton is superb as Warden Norton.  One of my favorites however is Clancy Brown who, as Chief of the Guards Captain Hadley, delivers one of the best profanity laden performances in a movie by a non Drill Sergeant character. Sadly, you miss out on this on network TV as most of Brown’s tirades are either cut or overdubbed.  The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards including best picture and best actor (Freeman) but sadly went home with none having been over shadowed that year by Forrest Gump.

As I mentioned, a common theme through the film is man’s constant struggle to find dignity in the brutal environment of prison.  This theme is very well depicted when, tarring the roof of one of the prison buildings, Andy over hears Hadley bemoaning to the other guards about a large sum of money he’s just come into and how the I.R.S is going to take a large portion of it.  Andy informs him (while Hadley is about to push him off the roof for ease dropping) that he can keep all the money tax free if he gifts it to his wife.  This exchange really shows off cinematographer Roger Deakins at his best.  When Hadley pushes Andy against the edge of the roof the camera shot is over head looking straight down Andy’s back to the ground below.  The camera then pans over head and down behind Hadley, catching Andy in his first line of the shot and then swings around along side the two for a dialog exchange and then ends behind Andy on Hadley’s face for his last line of the shot.  Andy offers to do the paper work to set up the gift for a price – three bottles of beer for each of his co-workers who are tarring the roof. The next scene shows Andy’s co-workers (and the guards) sitting on the roof of the building enjoying what Red’s voice tells us was, “…ice cold Bohemian style beer.”

“Bohemian style” beer, was (back in the time frame of the film) a common term used in America to describe pilsner beer.  Pilsner gets its name from Pilsen, a city in Bohemia which is in today’s Czech Republic. Brewers in the city of Pilsen started producing beers with bottom fermenting yeasts rather than the more commonly used  top fermenting yeast and aging the beer in caves to produce a clearer, better quality beer.  The beer type can be considered the father of the early American lager beer as many of the beers initialed brewed back then (and still brewed today) came from a Bohemian style background and indeed, used the term “Bohemian” as a description.  The best example today is probably National Bohemian Beer (or Natty Bo, as it is known in the region) which has been brewed since 1885.  Another brand known for its Bohemian label is Stroh’s which started brewing in Detroit in 1850.  Other examples that have long since faded into time (or prohibition) are Knapp’s, Burger, Duluth, Weideman, Old Tap, Forest City, Prager, Dorf and Cooper’s out of Philadelphia

So which beer are the men supposed to be drinking on the roof ?  The movie never says.  But if you compare the images below, I think we can make a strong case for what the movie makers thought was Andy Dufrense’s  “bottle of suds” of choice.

Left and Center: Screen shots from Shawshank Redemption.
Right: Post 1950’s Stroh’s beer bottle label.

While The Shawshank Redemption might not be for all people with its hard look into prison life and rough language, I highly recommend it.  Its gripping story, excellent acting and Oscar nominated cinematography make it a definite American classic.  Just make sure you have some ice cold Bohemian style beer to go with the popcorn.

Time for another beer.