Film Review: Machine Gun McCain (1969)

Also known as: Gli intoccabili (original title), Killer MacCain (Denmark), The Untouchables (European English title), For A Price (English alternate title), At Any Price (US working title)
Release Date: April 1st, 1969 (Italy)
Directed by: Giuliano Montaldo
Written by: Mino Roli, Giuliano Montaldo
Based on: Candyleg by Ovid Demaris
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland, Peter Falk, Gabriele Ferzetti, Florinda Bolkan, Tony Kendall, Salvo Randone, Gena Rowlands, Luigi Pistilli

Euroatlantica, Euro International Film, 116 Minutes

Review:

“What do you do? Sell women? Sell marijuana? – what d’you do? Where’d you get the twenty-five thousand? I wouldn’t give you twenty-five cents. What d’you do? – you go out and you hustle yourself all over the street. Small time – no dignity! You don’t beg.” – Hank McCain, “That’s why, Hank – I need this chance. I got tired of being small change.” – Jack McCain, “You’re gonna be small change all your life.” – Hank McCain

If you like Italian gangster films, you should actually check one out from Italy, as opposed to American films about Italian-American criminals doing mafioso shit for the umpteenth time. The Italians weren’t just known for spaghetti westerns and sword and sandal movies back in the ’60s, they also made solid horror and badass crime pictures.

Gli Intoccabili, also known as Machine Gun McCain in the United States, is a high octane, gritty Italian crime thriller that stars a badass American, John Cassavetes. This also has a young Peter Falk in it. But the real treat is the lovely Britt Ekland, who I crushed on hard when I was a kid and saw her in The Man With the Golden Gun.

I like this movie but if I’m being honest, it is completely elevated by Cassavetes, Falk and Ekland. Without them, it would have just been a fairly mundane gangster movie.

There isn’t a lot of stylistic flourish to this film, which is surprising being that it came from Italy in a time when that country was experimenting with very colorful and vivid cinematography. I’m not saying that this needed giallo flair but it does look quite pedestrian when compared to what else was coming out of Italy in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

I really enjoyed Cassavetes’ McCain and I totally bought into his chemistry with Ekland. Falk was an absolute scene stealer though and for fans of his most famous role on Colombo, his part here is a real departure from the norm. It’s also worth noting that one of Sergio Leone’s favorites, Luigi Pistilli, has a small part in this. You may remember him as the priest brother of Tuco in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly as well as a member of Indio’s gang in For A Few Dollars More.

I should also point out that movie music maestro Ennio Morricone did the score for this. While it’s not as memorable as his work with Sergio Leone, it is still a nice score that enhances the film and gives it more life than it would have had with a less accomplished composer.

Machine Gun McCain is a film that probably sounds cooler than it is but if I’m being honest, it’s really damn hard to say something’s “uncool” if it’s got John Cassavetes in it.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The Burglars, The Italian Connection, Robbery and Grand Slam.

Tapas Is Bullshit

*The Bullshit Series started on an older blog but I wanted to bring these articles back here, as I have new installments for the series that I want to release over time. The series focuses on things that I think are bullshit… like filet mignon, Zubaz pants, the Pro Bowl and diets.

*Written in 2014.

Tapas. Even the word annoys me. It sounds like someone with a lisp trying to say “tap ass”. By the way, I do like to “tap ass”. So when someone says “tapas” it pisses me off more because of the confusion.

You see, the whole concept of tapas baffles me. Someone once told me and I think it is a common belief that the word “tapas” means “little bits”. Well, according to Wikipedia, that’s bullshit because it is a word derived from the verb “tapar”, which means “to cover”. Well, I don’t know what the shit it’s covering because I’m still hungry. And to refer to them as little bits, which technically they are, just proves that they aren’t a very manly food. To be straightforward, if someone were to ask me, “You hungry, you want some little bits?” I’d quickly and angrily respond with, “Fuck no, I want a big ass piece of red meat and a goddamned bucket of whiskey or three!”

Tapas has become a big trend in American dining over the last several years. It’s a trend that came over from Spain, a country that enchants me on their soccer and wine fields. However, they seem to have lost sight of being respectable in the culinary arts. I’ve always been a fan of Spanish cuisine but the tapas thing makes me question my once loyal allegiance to one of the tastiest of European regions.

I mean, how did the Spaniards come up with this? Did the Conquistadors of yore pillage a village of midgets somewhere and thus, stole their tiny cuisine? Was there some sort of subculture we don’t know about where people pretended they were mice and ate little bits of food? Did some royal cook get killed for not putting a casserole together properly and then the king found out that he actually enjoyed all the little ingredients by themselves?

Additionally, who wants to eat a bunch of small food that is already cut up for you? I told my mum to give me the knife at 4 years-old because even as a child, I didn’t need mommy cutting up my steak into tiny bits. I was more of a man at four than these tapas eating adults today! When I see adults eating tapas, I see drooling toddlers carefully picking away at their tiny dinners. They might as well serve this shit on plastic Bob the Builder plates.

Let’s call tapas what it is, appetizers. Tapas is the Spaniard version of mozzarella sticks, jalapeño poppers, Southwest egg rolls, sliders, mini quiches and whatever else tiny piece of food one would eat because they’re hungry right now and the steak takes longer to cook.

Now the way Spain handles tapas, doesn’t offend me. They have them in bars, which people frequent after work. They are there to nibble on and enjoy because in Spain, people don’t eat dinner till after 9 o’clock. You see, tapas isn’t a meal, it is just an appetizer to hold you over until your meal is in your face.

In America, we’ve got it all fucked up. There are all these tapas restaurants and all the snooty white girls and their lapdog boyfriends have to frequent these culinary pits and dine on tapas – for dinner! Bitch, if all you’re eating for dinner is appetizers, you’re a special kind of stupid. You might as well just go sit at Applebee’s and keep ordering Potato Twisters for fifteen straight courses.

But I get it, with tapas you can order multiple things and “try” the food. Well, that’s all fine and dandy but that’s why I go to fucking Costco and at least there, the shit’s free! Also at Costco, I can buy the big version if I like something. Because what if, while trying all this stuff, you find something that makes you go, “Okay, right there! That’s the one!” Well, what do you do then? It’s an American tapas restaurant, can you simply order a 12 oz. portion of the fried goose liver with Pamplona glaze on a dainty little Melba Toast? No, you can’t. You can probably order a bunch of it as tapas but then the overly tanned white waiter who is pretending he is from Barcelona will just look at you like a pretentious douche because how dare you challenge the ancient discipline of tapas etiquette! The point is, why are you “trying” all the food if you can’t even order a decent portion of it? If you find the one thing you like, too bad, you just get a bite and are stuck munching on some other crap you don’t want.

My boss had a big company dinner about a year ago and he took us to this big tapas place in Las Vegas. Everyone raved about it and all the people who went were so excited to dine on tapas. We got there, I ate a bite of twenty different things and then it was over. I was still hungry and was like, “All this little shit is fine and dandy but where’s my goddamned entrée?” Nope, no entrée. Just a bunch of appetizers and a big check. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay for it. After I left this place that my boss described as “awesome”, I ditched my co-workers and hit up Del Taco. Why? Because tapas did not inspire “awe” and I was fucking hungry.

That was just one of several experiences I have had with tapas and after giving it a try a half dozen times or more, I’m just not impressed. Tapas places in the U.S. that at least offer actual entrées in addition to their fancy appetizers are at least considerate and doing it the right way. If an establishment only sells tapas, they’re bourgeoisie assholes that get off on starving while honoring trendiness over practicality.

Spain must laugh at us because I am. I mean, wouldn’t we in America laugh if some other country had some trend going where they opened thousands of restaurants only to serve fried pickles, kettle chips, tempura green beans and artichoke dip? And wouldn’t it be somewhat insulting if they referred to it as the pinnacle of American cuisine?

At the end of the day, do what you want, it’s your life. However, if you are some tapas connoisseur that values eating like a mouse toddler over eating like a full grown human being, you’re brain is about as big as the morsel on your coffee saucer dinner plate.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: The Sinister Six

Published: June 1st, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko

Marvel Comics, 75 Pages

Review:

This story premiered in the first ever Amazing Spider-Man annual. Plus, it was written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by the great Steve Ditko.

The plot is pretty standard fair for ’60s Marvel and it sees six of Spider-Man’s toughest villains come together to form the original version of the Sinister Six. That being said, the Sinister Six have been one of my favorite villain groups of all-time and this storyline didn’t just create a supervillain team to test a single hero but it created a trend in the comic book medium that saw other heroes have to take on similar teams of multiple rogues.

I like how the plot was structured, in that Spider-Man had to run the gauntlet on the Sinister Six and fought each one individually. This is actually a great setup for the future, which would see the Sinister Six up the ante and take on Spidey all at once. However, in future battles, Spidey would get some help of his own.

This group consisted of Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Mysterio and the Sandman. While the group would rotate some other villains in over the course of time, I really liked this group and how having them come together in this story made it feel like a Spider-Man themed Royal Rumble.

For a first time reader, this had to be a fun read, as it forced Spider-Man to face multiple challenges in the same story. Plus, it just looks great with the Ditko art.

This is not my favorite Sinister Six story but we wouldn’t have gotten the other ones without this happening first. Plus, it’s quintessential Stan Lee in how this all plays out.

It’s hard not to love this.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era Spider-Man comics.

Comic Review: Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special

Published: April 26th, 2017
Written by: Brian Maruca, Jim Rugg
Art by: Jim Rugg

Image Comics, 43 Pages

Review:

I’ve been aware of the Street Angel comic for a few years but I wasn’t too familiar with Jim Rugg until seeing him on Cartoonist Kayfabe alongside Ed Piskor (and sometimes Tom Scioli). Since then, I’ve come to admire his style and his opinion on comics, especially his recommendations.

This is the first Street Angel title I picked up and it was a lot of fun. It’s an easy, quick read at 43 pages.

I thought that the story was cute and energetic and I loved the art style, overall.

The plot deals with middle schooler Jesse Sanchez, who goes to the worst school in the worst ghetto of Angel City. She’s a homeless skateboarder and a badass martial artist. She fights all types of villains but here, she deals with a male bully in a fight after school.

None of the comic books share any actual continuity, from what I understand, but that’s fine, as each story is self-contained and works well on its own and doesn’t require any knowledge from other Street Angel tales.

Ultimately, this was a cool comic. If I’m being honest, I wish it were a bit longer or that the story somehow carried on in another release, as it ends in a place where you want to see what develops next between Jesse and the bully due to the result of their fight.

There are a lot of ongoing comics that don’t have enough meat and potatoes to justify them carrying on past a single arc. This, however, could benefit from that, as I like the characters and want to get to know them more intimately.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Street Angel comics, as well as Jim Rugg’s other work.

Film Review: Viking Women Vs. The Sea Serpent (1957)

Also known as: The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (complete title), Viking Women (UK)
Release Date: December, 1957
Directed by: Roger Corman
Written by: Lawrence L. Goldman, Irving Block
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: Abby Dalton, Susan Cabot

American International Pictures, 66 Minutes

Review:

“Get your filthy hands off her, you big slobbering dog!” – Ottar

This is one of a few Roger Corman films that has eluded me for years. It’s also one of the few movies that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I hadn’t seen until now. But I missed it when it aired, back in the day, and it’s not one that has been all that accessible on streaming services. Maybe that’s due to the broadcasting rights contract they had back in the early ’90s for this film.

Having seen it now, I can say that I didn’t miss out on much.

For the most part, the film is slow and goofy. It’s enjoyable in that hokey Roger Corman way but for a film promising a sea serpent, the monster’s time on screen is pretty minute.

Also, the creature looks exactly like you’d expect being that it’s a simple sea serpent and showcased in a Corman film of the ’50s. It’s basically just a rubber tube with some fins glued to it and a dead, gnarly face. But I love this sort of shit so I can’t hate it. I just wish there was more monster and less pointless conversation throughout the movie.

The majority of the movie is just viking chicks paddling a boat and walking around on an island. This has some action but it’s nothing to write home about.

This is far from the worst Corman picture but it is also far from the best.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other late ’50s and early ’60s Roger Corman pictures.

TV Review: The Expanse (2015- )

Original Run: December 14th, 2015 – current
Created by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Expanse series of novel by James S. A. Corey
Music by: Clinton Shorter
Cast: Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shawn Doyle, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, Chad L. Coleman, Jared Harris, Francois Chau, Cara Gee, Elizabeth Mitchell

Penguin in a Parka, SeanDanielCo, Alcon Entertainment, Legendary Television Distribution, Syfy, Amazon, 36 Episodes (so far), 42-44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, this show really leaves you with a lot to unpack and process. And I mean that in the best way possible.

I had heard a lot of good things about The Expanse and it has been in my queue for a long time. But I figured the time to watch it was now, as it is getting ready to be resurrected by Amazon after it was recently cancelled by Syfy.

Having now seen this, I can’t imagine how it was cancelled other than the ratings just not being there. A show like this is expensive to produce but at the same time, it’s also one of those shows that’s special and you can see that it will find its audience. But maybe that just didn’t happen fast enough for Syfy, just as Halt and Catch Fire had its plug pulled by AMC after four seasons before it started to catch on through word of mouth and streaming services. Now I hear people talk about that show more than when it was on and that seems to be the same with The Expanse now that people feared its axing would be permanent.

I was immediately captivating by the opening sequence of the first episode of this show. It lured you in, was bizarre and it kicked off a big mystery. Little did I know that the mystery itself was just a tiny thread on a large tapestry that once pulled, would keep unraveling in surprising and shocking ways.

This show throws a lot of curveballs while hitting you in the feels and as turbulent as the narrative can be, it works and it keeps you hooked. In fact, this show starts out quite slow but it keeps adding new layers. This is meticulously crafted and I’m not sure if they knew what the long term plan was when they started writing this show or how closely it follows its source material but just after three seasons, this show has a mythos with a lot of depth and a richness that is missing in most television shows and films.

The show does an absolutely stellar job of developing its characters. Almost everyone is likable, even if everyone has very apparent flaws. Somehow, everyone is pretty relatable. Well, except for the human monsters that are doing terrible things behind the scenes.

Additionally, the show is superbly acted. Thomas Jane was a big factor in getting me to watch this in the first place but he’s just one of many talented people. The one person that just shines incredibly brightly is Shohreh Aghdashloo. I’ve always enjoyed her in other things but man, she was born to play the role of Chrisjen Avasarala. She is front and center of every scene she’s in and she makes every talented actor around her, just a bit better.

The world that this takes place in his a future where Earth has colonized Mars, the Moon, the asteroid belt and some of Jupiter’s moons. Things start with tensions at an all-time high and war could break out at any second. And while this features spaceships and space travel, I love that the weapons aren’t lasers and photon torpedoes but that the ships are decked out with Gatling guns, rail guns and nuclear warheads. It makes this world seem more plausible and closer to reality than stuff like Star TrekBattlestar Galactica or The Orville.

The Expanse may not grab your attention right away but it is worth sticking with into the second season where this show’s universe really starts to open up and expand in unforeseen ways.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s hard to say, really. There’s nothing like this show but the closest would probably be the modern reimagining of Battlestar Galactica.