Book Review: ‘Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living’ by Nick Offerman

You will most likely recognize Nick Offerman as the anti-government government worker, Ron Swanson from the fantastic show Parks & Recreation. The real man isn’t too far from living up to the awesomeness that is his fictional counterpart. Now while his political philosophy may not be as hardcore in real life, he is just as much a man’s man and a complete badass. He’s also a die hard Cubs fan, so there is that too.

This book is primarily autobiographical. Nick tells tales of his childhood, his life, his struggles and everything in-between. He spends a good deal of time talking about the men who helped shape him into who he is.

He also discusses his love of the Cubs, his love of woodworking and his sweet breakdancing skills. He covers his thoughts on diet and health, which is important coming from the man who on television only ever seems to eat turf & turf while pillaging through cigars and Scotch. He also goes into facial hair, which is just one of many things that he has earned expert status on.

The highpoint and best parts of the book, which are sprinkled throughout, are the times where he talks about his love for his wife, Megan Mullally. The book is almost a love letter to his wife and although it is somewhat mushy and sweet, it still comes off manly as fuck and is a good lesson to other men on how to treat and see their wives or girlfriends.

Finishing this book, I wasn’t left unsatisfied. I expected it to be a good primer on who Nick Offerman is and I was left with a lot more than that. There isn’t a chapter in this book that one can’t learn something from. Paddle Your Own Canoe is not just a well-written, educational and entertaining book, it is a valuable book.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Nick Offerman’s other books: Gumption and Good Clean Fun.

TV Review: Blackadder (1983-1989)

Also known as: The Black Adder (Series 1), Blackadder II (Series 2), Blackadder the Third (Series 3), Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4)
Original Run: June 15th, 1983 – November, 1989
Directed by: various
Written by: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton
Music by: Howard Goodall
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall (cameos)

2entertain, BBC, 24 Episodes (plus 3 specials), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Rowan Atkinson is pretty much a comedic genius. Add in Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Brian Best and a bit of Rik Mayall and you’ve got a dream team of British comedic talent.

This is one of the best sitcoms ever produced. It is also quite unique in that each series was different and completely new. Series 1 took place in the British Middle Ages, Series 2 was set during the reign of Elizabeth I, Series 3 takes place during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, while Series 4 takes place on the Western Front during World War I. The one thing connecting all the shows is Rowan Atkinson’s character Edmund Blackadder or just “The Blackadder”, who is a different character each series, although each incarnation is a part of the same lineage. Many of the characters on the show are also different people within their own long lineages.

Out of the series, I really enjoy the fourth series the best. All of them are good but for some reason, in the fourth, they really hit their stride and knocked it out of the park in each episode. Going backwards, I also loved series 3, as it brought Hugh Laurie in full-time and gave the show a new and permanent dynamic that really upped the ante. Series 2 is my least favorite overall but it is still a level above the majority of televisions shows from that same era. The first series is pretty fantastic too and as good as Atkinson is in it, Brian Blessed really brings something exceptional to the show.

To this day, the show still feels timeless, is pretty damned hilarious and never really seems to get old. Maybe the the fact that each series is its own period piece, helps this show have that timeless vibe. I probably watch through each series almost annually. I feel like Atkinson’s Mr. Bean has become a more popular character, at least in the United States, but his greatest work comes here, as Edmund Blackadder.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: A Bit of Fry & Laurie and The New Statesman.

Documentary Review: Kicking It (2008)

Release Date: January, 2008 (Sundance)
Directed by: Susan Koch, Jeff Werner
Written by: Susan Koch
Music by: Barry Cole
Narrated by: Colin Farrell

Liberation Entertainment, ESPN, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

In my string of soccer films that I’ve been watching to curb my World Cup fever when the games are over at night, I came across Kicking It. This film is hosted and narrated by Colin Farrell and is about the Homeless World Cup.

For those who don’t know, the Homeless World Cup is like the regular World Cup, as it takes soccer teams from various nations and pits them against one another in a big tournament.

The difference is, this is street soccer and the players are homeless. This concept was created to help rehabilitate homeless people throughout the world and it has had much success. Many players kick drugs and alcohol, find a sense of self worth and belonging and go on to better their situations.

Kicking It follows several players from various countries on their quest to play in the Homeless World Cup in South Africa. It told some pretty powerful stories and had you cheering for all these people because you wanted them to succeed. Unfortunately, like the regular World Cup, only one team can win. The fact of the matter is that almost everyone who participated in the tournament walked away a winner regardless.

The film was inspirational and it helped remind the viewer that even when someone has fallen or done bad things, it doesn’t mean that they can’t redeem themselves and make their own quality life. That was the real message of the film and it came through with gusto.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The ESPN Soccer Stories documentary series.

Film Review: Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Release Date: October 24th, 1981
Directed by: Frank De Felitta
Written by: J.D. Feigelson, Butler Handcock
Music by: Glenn Paxton
Cast: Larry Drake, Charles Durning, Tonya Crowe, Jocelyn Brando, Lane Smith

Wizan Productions, CBS, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[about Marylee being attacked] Bubba didn’t do it.” – Bubba Ritter

For a “made for TV” horror film, this was surprisingly good. It’s tame, considering that it came out at the height of slasher movies but the suspense and the story are handled well.

We are first introduced to Bubba, a small town simpleton in the same vein as Jobe from The Lawnmower Man. He is blamed for a girl’s brutal death even though he tried to save the girl and she does actually survive. A local mob, led by an insane mailman, track Bubba into a field where he is hiding in a scarecrow. They murder him in cold blood only to find out, just after the grisly killing, that Bubba actually saved the girl’s life and is a hero.

As the story progresses, strange things start happening to the four men that murdered Bubba. One is mangled in his tractor and another is buried alive in a corn silo. The mailman goes further insane, as this spirit of Bubba and the little girl are working together to get revenge.

This film builds suspense quite well and there isn’t even a full reveal of the undead Bubba until the very end. This isn’t a film full of gore and visual horror. It alludes to things happening and does a great job of selling the majority of the violence off screen. It was made for television in the ’80s so a straight up gore fest wasn’t possible. But I think that it actually makes for a better film overall.

At times, the picture can drag a bit and seem dry but as a viewer, you want to see the mailman get his just desserts.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is effective and it used its creative limitations as strengths. It’s a well made film for the time, the budget and its format.

Plus, Larry Drake plays Bubba. You may remember him from Dr. Giggles or as the villain in the Darkman movies.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: ScarecrowsSuperstitionThe Burning.

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The DiC Era (1989-1992)

Release Date: September 2nd, 1989 – January 20th, 1992
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Stephen James Taylor
Cast (voices): Kevin Conway, Chris Latta, Sgt. Slaughter, Ed Gilbert, Maurice LaMarche, Morgan Lofting, Dale Wilson, Scott McNeil, Garry Chalk, Ted Harrison

DiC Entertainment, Hasbro, Claster Television, 44 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“What am I paying you for, anyhow?” – Cobra Commander, “You’re not paying me! I haven’t seen a dime from you in months!” – Destro, “…Minor detail.” – Cobra Commander

I recently reviewed the feature length miniseries that kicked off this era. I didn’t think that G.I. Joe could sink to lower depths than Operation Dragonfire but this series that followed proved me wrong.

Sure, I had seen these episodes before but not since I was in middle school when I didn’t have a refined palate.

The DiC era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is an example of what can happen when you take something perfect and try to replicate it with less money and shoddy resources. It’s not even like a Chinese knockoff it’s more like a North Korean knockoff. And for some reason, even though “American” is still int he show’s title, G.I. Joe are now presented as “international heroes”. So are they a U.N. thing? Or is that because the United States has a base in nearly every country anyway and this cartoon was pointing that out in a tongue and cheek sort of way? I doubt that it is the latter, as the people behind this show don’t seem smart enough to know how to flush a toilet let alone create some sort of clever, subtle and sarcastic “fuck you” to U.S. foreign policy and the military.

Well, this is an inadvertent “fuck you” to the military regardless, as it takes once heroic and badass soldiers that defended Old Glory and turns them into the Three Stooges with laser rifles. I have never seen dumber characters fighting for freedom than the ones represented here. And really, it’s a big “fuck you” to all the fans that loved G.I. Joe because the quality of the stuff before this (excluding The Movie) was friggin’ solid.

The biggest complaints I have about this era of G.I. Joe are the same as those I discussed in my Operation Dragonfire review. But to summarize, the character designs are ugly, the dialogue is atrocious, the animation looks like shit and the writing is painful and baffling.

Granted, Hasbro is probably to blame for the character designs but this show does nothing to make them better and in fact, it enhances the vibrant colors and goofy flourishes.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was once my favorite thing on television. Then DiC Entertainment came along and took a giant f’n shit on it.

And my god, man… that theme song they did is enough to make your eyeballs melt and your ears explode.

I must run this turd pile through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: Nothing good.

 

Film Review: Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Also known as: Tales of Terror, Terror of the Doll (alternate titles)
Release Date: March 4th, 1975
Directed by: Dan Curtis
Written by: Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan
Music by: Robert Cobert
Cast: Karen Black, Robert Burton, John Karlen, George Gaynes

Dan Curtis Productions, ABC Cirlc Films, ABC, 72 Minutes

Review:

“This can’t be happening! This can’t be happening!” – Amelia

Trilogy of Terror was originally made to be a television movie. It is an anthology horror film with three different stories, all of which star Karen Black. In fact, it is this movie that may have truly cemented her as one of the top scream queens of the ’70s.

The first story is about a timid college professor becoming the obsession of a student, who drugs her, rapes her and takes pornographic pictures of her to blackmail her into doing his bidding. It’s a pretty good story with a nice twist.

The second chapter is my least favorite of the three. It deals with two twin sisters, one of whom is like a puritan nun type of character, the other is a slutty wild child. The nun-like sister believes the other to be the embodiment of evil and decides to use voodoo to destroy her and vanquish the evil once and for all. Like the previous story, this one has a big twist. The reason why this one didn’t work for me, is that I predicted the big twist almost immediately. It may have worked well in 1975 but it’s a story horror fans have seen a dozen times.

The third and final episode in this anthology takes place in just an apartment. Karen Black’s character buys this cursed tribal doll for a guy she likes. While taking a bath, the doll comes to life. The rest of the story is about the woman trying to survive being trapped in her apartment with this insane and relentless killing machine. It sounds cheesy and strange, which it is, but the doll is so incredibly nuts that it just works. Where Chucky from the Child’s Play films could be like a great white shark, this doll is more like a school of piranhas.

Trilogy of Terror isn’t great but it is entertaining, very short and goes to show the range that Karen Black had. She could play a sweet character, a killer and really, anything in-between.

Plus, that killer doll is one of the best horror monsters of the 1970s.

This TV movie was pretty popular, developed a cult following and was one of the most traded VHS tapes that I used to see at conventions when I was a kid. These days you can stream it in HD.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Trilogy of Terror II, other horror anthologies: CreepshowTwilight Zone: The MovieTales From the Darkside: The Movie.

Documentary Review: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics (2017- )

Release Date: November 12th, 2017 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: various

AMC, 6 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Since Robert Kirkman can do whatever the hell he wants at AMC, considering that The Walking Dead is such a giant money generator, he gave us this show.

I’m pretty happy with the result though because there really hasn’t been a lot of comic book documentaries in the mainstream. This show serves to tell some of the most important stories in the long history of that industry.

Kirkman isn’t on screen for this series and each episode seems to be made by different people but generally, it all has a cohesive style and each episode is pretty interesting.

So far, there is just a single season comprised of six episodes. These episodes cover the formation of Marvel and the relationship of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the creation of Wonder Woman, the legal battles of the rights to Superman, how comic books responded to 9/11, the history of Milestone Comics and lastly, the history of Image Comics.

Each episode is pretty solid and provides a lot of information that even I didn’t know about, even though I’ve known about the gist of all these stories. My favorite episode was the one about Milestone Comics because it is a story that is really important and hasn’t been told yet.

I hope that the first season did well enough to make a second season possible. I really enjoyed the show, loved the format and thought that it was marvelously produced and executed on screen.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Some of the more recent documentaries on comic books: The Image Revolution and Chris Claremont’s X-Men.