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Archive for May, 2013

Years ago at this point, Jesse Bullington and I co-wrote a column called Films of High Adventure that ran on a semi-regular basis. For those of you who never read it, but are for some reason reading now, the deal was basically this: I never really watched most of the big-budget cheesy fantasy/action/scifi/whatever movies that came out back when I was a wee Tanz, only developing a love of such things in later life. Jesse, who’s watched like every movie ever, plus used to manage a video store, made suggestions and watched them along with me. Then we’d write up some Stalter and Waldorf-style commentary.  Anyways, we had to drop the column due to being pretty busy, but when a friend said she wanted a “full report” on Masters of the Universe (she kindly let me borrow her DVD—see below) I figured this would be a fun way of providing her with such. Here’s our old intro:

The Film: Masters of the Universe (1987)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? A Golan-Globus production (The American Ninja Series), because of course it is. Direction by Gary Goddard, who never made another feature length movie but went on to direct numerous theme park attractions, including Star Trek: The Experience and Jurassic Park: The Ride. Written by David Odell, whose experience in writing dialogue for lifeless puppets in The Dark Crystal and The Muppet Show served him well when it came time to work with Dolph Lundgren. Shameless Star Wars rip-off soundtrack by Bill Conti. Acting, such as it is, by Dolph (chemical engineering Masters grad, Olympian at the 96’ Summer Games, and recipient of a Fullbright scholarship to study at MIT … and star of the first, fifth, and sixth Universal Soldier movies), Frank Langella (the world’s sexiest Dracula, at least until Gary Oldman came along), Meg Foster (They Live, Hera from Hercules and Xena), Billy Barty (Frequent Films of High Adventure alum; see our columns on Legend and Willow), Robert Duncan McNeill (uh, a leading role on Star Trek: Voyager? Molly adds: That… that was Tom Paris? WTF?!), James Tolkan (“hey, it’s the bald principal from Back to the Future!”), Chelsea Field (Dust Devil, The Birds II: Land’s End, and wife of Scott Bakula), and Courtney Cox (something called Cougar Town? Ouch). Aside from a bunch of extras, there are maybe five other people in the whole movie with speaking lines—one of said extras won a contest toymaker Mattel held to be featured in the film, and this lucky lad, Richard Szponder, got to play the stirring role of “Pigboy.”

Quote: “Where are your friends now? Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man—is it equal to the loneliness of evil?”

Alternate quote: “You mean this used to be an animal…?”

First viewing by Jesse: Right after the video release arrived at the local Uni-Mart gas station from which we rented most of our movies when I was a kid. So probably a few years after it actually came out, which would put me at maybe seven or eight years old.

First viewing by Molly: A few weeks ago. Jesse and I had wanted to do Masters of the Universe for Films of High Adventure back when we were doing the column regularly, but the local video store doesn’t have a copy. Go figure! Anywho, somehow this became a topic of conversation at StarFest, a local Denver con, whilst hanging out with Stephen Graham Jones and Carrie Vaughn, both of whom were appalled I’d never seen it before (specifically because of the Teela-thinks-meat-is-gross moment I quoted above … they know me). Carrie very generously volunteered to loan me her personal copy, much to my husband John’s extreme pleasure, so we watched it on his birthday weekend.

Most recent viewing by both: A few weeks ago

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Moderately high, but for all the wrong reasons—this turkey was the first time I remember experiencing deep, palpable disappointment from a film. I was young, stupid, and loved all things He-man, so a live-action movie couldn’t possibly let me down, could it? Turns out, it could and it did. I remember that right up until the end I kept expecting Battlecat to show up, or for Dolph to don a pink tunic and turn into Prince Adam, or even just have Teela pop her collar and/or take off her pants. Not even one maniacal Skeletor cackle? Weaaaak.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: None. I totally played with He-Man toys (still have a scar from where one pinched me badly), loved the show. Loved She-Ra too, of course. I wasn’t aware there was a feature film until I think John told me about it.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Weaaaak. I would estimate that between my first childhood viewings and the modern day, I’ve watched previous Films of High Adventure entries Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, and Yor: The Hunter from the Future a dozen times each, easy. Masters of the Universe I never rewatched, not even when it came on tv—some wounds never heal. I unsuccessfully petitioned that instead of watching it, we instead screen some episodes of the (total classic) cartoon, or even just watch the ten-hour version of this:

Did Molly listen? No she did not.

Molly’s thoughts prior to watching: I was super-stoked, no lie. I … kind of love He-Man. I spent some quality time revisiting the cartoon a year or so ago, and while I had to stop watching due to how much Orko is crammed into every 22 minutes (what is up with that? NO ONE EVER LIKED ORKO), some of the earlier episodes are really quite good. “The Creeping Horak” in particular was kind of … cosmically horrible, if I may? Also: Teela! Also also: Skeletor and Evil-Lynn’s kinky, weird-ass relationship. Also also also: Skeletor and He-Man’s kinky, weird-ass relationship. Okay … so the obvious fight between those two over who is the leather-daddy and who is the leather-boy is pretty much the best thing about watching the show as an adult.

So obviously when I heard there was no Orko in the film, plus Teela was a vegetarian, kind of, and also Frank Langella was playing Skeletor, despite everyone in the world save John, Steven, and Carrie telling me the film sucked, there was no turning back.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: It’s pretty much as stinky as I remembered, though as grown-up I’m (somewhat) more able to articulate my displeasure then I was as a tot. I’m also better equipped to parse just why it’s so bad, which doesn’t really redeem the film, but does make me even more depressed about the fan-fucking-tastic He-Man movie that never was. So, yay for adulthood?

As a kid, I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t on Eternia for most of the film, where all the cool monsters were, why did the costumes suck, etc. Looking back on the project, it seems likely a one-two punch of frugality and copyright law. A movie that largely takes place on California backlots with stupid American teenagers running around is easier on the investors than a movie set on an alien planet populated by freaky creatures. Apparently for the film they secured the rights to the toyline, but not to the cartoon series, so it was probably also easier to just invent new characters and storylines then to, you know, adapt the source material that everyone loved. Like I said, understanding why it burns you like an eyeful of Skeletor’s crazyjuice doesn’t do much to mitigate the pain, but whatever.

Yet for all that, watching it with little hope of actually liking it did let me appreciate some of the subtle nuances I never appreciated as a kid. For example, Evil-Lyn, Teela, and Man-at-Arms were perfectly cast, even if there costumes were lacking. And Skeletor’s gold lamé Godmode outfit at the end does answer the age old question of, “What if the What if comic series had an issue titled “What if … Galactus Ran Studio 54?”

Frank Langella was certainly game, and contrary to the above image, kinda took Skeletor in a slightly less-campy direction. That said, I generally prefer my Skeletor like I prefer my friendly neighborhood street musicians: coked to the gills, shuddering with deranged laughter, and just plain weird. But Langella’s take on the villain has more, uh, gravitas, and points for trying, I guess. By the Sorceress’ ridiculous bird suit, did I really type that? I did. That’s what happens when you look for a silver lining on this brown cloud.

Here’s the thing: He-man, being a toyline that grew into a narrative instead of the other way around, is totally fucking insane. Everyone in the show is either howling mad or balls-dumb, and the plot follows suit. It’s just a bazonkers storyline, and it needs to be in order to provide the joy one feels when Prince Adam explains his backstory:

What kind of powers does He-man possess? Oh, that’s right, fabulous secret powers, with that allusion to the world’s dumbest origin story delivered with an animated smirk that Dolph Lundgren could only dream of pulling off. Rather than embracing the random craziness of the toyline and the cartoon, however, the filmmakers decided to make things comparatively coherent, which results in a cinematic disaster that is nowhere near as campy as it needs to be. Which is saying something, considering that camp is about all that the movie has going for it. Alas, I say, alas and alack.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Everyone lies! Well, everyone except my husband, Stephen Graham Jones, and Carrie Vaughn, I guess. Masters of the Universe is totally good. It’s as if Warlock and Beastmaster had a moviekid, and that kid was a Mattel tie-in film ripping off Star Wars. What’s not to like about that?

I mean, there is certainly enough about MotU to incur frequent skeptical head-tilts, especially in re: the plot, the quizzical lack of Prince Adam, Battle Cat, or SNNNNAKE MOUNTAIN! (sorry, but you gotta always scream it like Skeletor), the whole conceit that 80s teenagers would assume any old piece of equipment with lights on it was a “Japanese synthesizer,” the ending, Billy Barty playing an Orko substitute somehow just as annoying as Orko … but I dunno. Even with all that, it was awesome. Sure, the writing is leaden, Dolph is terrible, and it makes no sense overall, but it’s great in a super-80s kind of way. I mean, come on! That scene where Teela shoots stuff and turns around, grinning like it’s Christmas on Eternia and she just got a new jumpsuit, saying “Woman at arms!”? Has there ever been a fluffier “Take that, patriarchy!” moment in 80s cinema? I challenge you to think of one.

Additionally, while they abandoned most if not all of the stuff I love about He-Man (what can I say, I can’t get enough of that one recycled animation of He-Man throwing a big rock at stuff, and there is ZERO big-rock-throwing action in MotU!), they kept the central weirdness of the love triangle between Evil-Lyn, He-Man, and Skeletor, and they should be commended for that. I mean, even calling it a love triangle is too simple. While Wikipedia, source of all unbiased knowledge, lists Evil-Lyn as Skeletor’s “significant other” there is so much more to those two than that, right? They’re certainly a couple, but more of a “She makes him tea and listens to his feelings and also on slow Saturday nights she lets him read her his bromance fanfics about how on “Alternate Eternia,” Skeletor and He-Man are on the same side and also sometimes are girls and sometimes they also invite over Prince Adam, that goody two-shoes, to have adventures” kind of couple than … anything else. AND FOR ONCE THIS ISN’T JUST ME, OKAY? The movie pretty much proves it, right? I mean, what exactly are Evil-Lyn and Skeletor doing in that scene where he’s staring at her while she kneels in front of him? Furthermore, why else would He-Man shout at Skeletor that it’s always been about the two of them, while getting laser-whipped, or whatever? Uh huh.

Totally. Good.

High Points: That one moment when Skeletor is being weird to Evil-Lyn, staring right in her eyes but not making out with her; when Dolph finally belts out I HAVE THE POWER whilst getting whipped by a laser-whip, much to Skeletor’s obvious titillation … when the cop stays in Eternia because duh, and also, pretty much everything. (So sez Molly: Jesse will save his points for the next section)

Low points: Billy Barty as not-Orko, being goddamn Orko. The whole “instead of making a He-man movie, why don’t we just make another bland, broke-ass ‘warriors from another time and place comes to earth’ picture” thing. Everyone except Dolph wearing entirely too many pants.

Final Verdict: Molly gives it two thumbs up. Jesse remains solidly a Skeletor-sized “hater.”

Next Time: Only the gods know…

I have super-tight Achilles tendons and calf muscles. Basically this means my knees won’t move past my toes if I try to drop into a squat without assistance. (On a Smith machine or with TRX bands I can get into a deep squat, but only if I distribute my weight in an unusual fashion.) In the past, this has never been a big problem for me, because I can run, hike, lift weights, whatever, I just tend to be up on my toes a lot when active. Even in yoga it’s never mattered so very much—in down-dog, my heels are off the ground, but so what. It’s not pretty, but I’ve never been graceful so no surprises there.

Unfortunately for me, my current athletic endeavors focus on the ankle and calf quite a bit. Squatting is important, as is keeping my heels planted on the ground at all times. I figured over time my ankles and calves would loosen naturally through practice, but this hasn’t proven to be the case. Thus: Project Increase Ankle/Calf Flexibility. I know this isn’t the most fascinating blog topic, but it’s taken me a while to assemble a good routine to treat this issue, and only from consulting several sources including physical and massage therapists. So yeah, I figured I’d consolidate what I’ve learned here in case anyone (like me) googles ankle/calf flexibility and finds the same old stuff (stuff that hasn’t been particularly effective for me).

This is now what my daily routine looks like:

In the morning before getting up for the first time, I sit on the edge of the bed and do 20 ankle circles in both directions, then 20 repetitions of pointing my toes and then flexing my feet. Then I trace the alphabet with my toes. This warms up my ankles nicely.

Later in the day, after I’ve walked around/warmed up a bit, I do two calf stretches: this one, and then this bent-knee calf stretch. I hold both for at least a minute. Then I do a few sun salutations, focusing on downward dog. I “walk the dog” and do one-legged down-dog, focusing on stretching my weight-bearing heel downward toward the mat. Then I squeeze one ankle between the big and second toes of the other foot, and try to physically use my non-weight-bearing foot to drag down my weight-bearing ankle. I think that makes sense, how I’ve typed it.

Next I face a wall, placing my toes a few inches from the baseboard. I try to then touch my knee to the wall, slowly pulsing back and forth. I do this 10 times per leg, holding the last one (wherever I’m at that particular day) for a minute.

Because sometimes tightness in the calf can lead to shin pain, I then walk around on my heels with my toes as up in the air as I can manage to balance all the calf stretching. Then I round out the routine with some super-skaters, to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and calf, and work on my balance. (The demo starts at 0:50, there’s an annoying long intro.)

At night, I repeat the circles, flexing/pointing, and alphabet routine. Then I ice my ankles.

That’s it. It doesn’t take too long, and my ankles definitely feel stretched at the end of the day, but not overly so. I feel like I’ve made some slight gains already, and hope to make more steady progress. I’ve also followed up on the recommendation of sleeping in a night splint (yesterday I finally ordered one). It’s super-sexy bedwear, as you can see. The purpose of this is to keep my foot in a neutral position for the time I’m sleeping. (My ankles/calves are so tight that when sleeping my toes point forward like a ballerina’s.) Given the price I just got one, and am going to alternate feet every night. Typically these are used to treat plantar fasciitis but now a physical and massage therapist have independently told me they’ll help my ankles, so here’s hoping.

Anyways, if you’ve had this problem, and feel like sharing stuff that’s worked for you, that would be awesome! I’m amenable to adding in more stuff.

I love the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. I had an amazing time last year meeting people and watching a ton of movies. This year I had a different sort of amazing time hanging out in the immaculate weather, much of the time on Andrew Fuller’s porch, meeting a few new friends, and doing stuff around Portland. I hardly saw any films at all—just Dunderland, and I’d say 25% of Prince of Darkness, which despite having Victor Wong and Dennis Dun, was so very boring I snoozed through it. And startled awake at one point, spilling an entire cup of water over Nick Mamatas. He was very kind about it, though.

Portland is my very favorite city, and this trip I took advantage of being there. I got some great food, and many great drinks. Eh, at least I’m a giddy drunk! With … forgiving friends.

Picture time! I actually remembered to take some.

At the Moon and SixpenceFirst day: Hanging out with Nick, Camille Alexa, and Andrew, hanging out at The Moon and Sixpence (a rockin’ British pub) after the VIP reception. I got to try Deschutes’ The Abyss on tap (pictured!), a beer I wanted to try last year but never got a chance. I got the 2012; Andrew the 2011. They weren’t much different, but I think the 2012 was a little more coffee-tasting.

Voodoo Doughnuts!


I like, needed doughnuts the next morning, so I took the Max into town and got some Voodoos at Voodoo Too. I think this is the maple stick I’m holding up so you can see my gross bite. Also you can see their ridiculous Froot Loops doughnut, the classic Voodoo, a Oreo-covered one (BREAKFAST!), and one covered in Chik-o-Stix. Voodoo Doughnuts are so good, the fact they do both raised and cake-style fucking rocks. I didn’t make it through them all, but I brought some home, where they were promptly devoured by my family. They stayed amazingly fresh!



The second day Wendy Wagner joined our little posse, and we saw a reading and then attended the Bizarro panel. Oh, and Nick lifted Scott Nicolay, as you can see. Later we went out for pizza at Sizzle Pie, where we met Barry Graham, he of The Big Click fame and extreme niceness. At first he thought I was Raechel, which goes to prove that people think we are the same person even over the internet.


We dipped through Powell’s to get to a cocktail place Camille likes for “dessert martinis,” and en route I was convinced to get over myself and sign my books. By the time I went back to buy a few things on Monday (Bruce Lee’s Chinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Denfense, which is also turning out to be so good, though obviously in a different kind of way), they’d turned my book out! Very exciting stuff, I tell you what.

the first of many beers, at the VIP event (with Cameron Pierce and Ross Lockhart)

the first of many beers, at the VIP event (with Cameron Pierce and Ross Lockhart)

That second night I fully planned to see, like, something, but the theatres were the temperature of the inside of the sun and packed to the gills. Innsmouth joke! Hilarious. So I dipped out, went to the Moon, and later went to Tony Starlight’s, where I got to hang out with Orrin Grey and Amanda Downum, as well as Miss Wendy, and others.

The final morning I went to brunch, which is apparently a big Portland thing to do, then did my reading with Nick and Camille. We all read from Fungi, so I got to do my Tubby voice. I only cracked up a few times, all after the, I dunno, ionization in the audience changed when they realized it was a story about gross-ass talking cats. I also watched the panel on writing supernatural fiction. Later we went for dinner/cocktails at a vegan bar (!!) called Sweet Hereafter, where I had a boss Bahn Mi and a drink called “The Mature Sour” which I figure I’ll adopt as a nickname. Then we went to another place fore more cocktails and food for those who did not care to eat at Sweet Hereafter (which, btw—the Bahn Mi was 100% totally delicious, but the Buffalo soy curls sammich is the way to go!), and by the time we got back we’d missed everything showing and had to do more hanging out and having fun instead. OH WELL!

DC Veg Philly Cheez

Monday morning I felt a little sad, because HPLFF is the only con I get a little sad at the end of, but I made do with having another awesome day. I went to Powell’s, as I mentioned, and grabbed lunch with Cameron Pierce at DC Vegetarian, on the advice of David Agranoff. Then we got a beer and I hopped on the Max to head to the airport. It was a little traumatizing … the Max wasn’t running across the river due to some technical concerns, and while that morning the Tri-Met people had thought it would be done by afternoon, that turned out not to be the case. Thus I cut it very close indeed, getting to my flight, which anyone who knows me knows is like, my number one source of travel anxiety. But, all’s well and whatever.

I had such a good time. People I saw but briefly, and wish I’d seen more: Nick Gucker, Joe Pulver, Mike Davis, Lena and Mike Griffin, the rest of the Bizarros, Wilum Pugmire, Ross Lockhart, and I dunno, everyone else, including the people I saw the most of. At HPLFF pretty much everyone is nice, and clean, and personable, and super-stoked about Lovecraftiana. I always get writerly ideas there, too: Something about Portland, and the festival, and everyone just … recharges my batteries. But today I’m catching up on life stuff, like laundry and whatever, and hanging out in my fucking sweet new Miskatonic University hoodie. OH YEAH:

Miskatonic Miskatonic Ia Ia Ia!

Bye, Portland. See you again, as soon as I possibly can!