Blade | the Love Letter to Black Comic Nerds

Marvel must’ve saw Steel and laughed their asses off. Marvel was in a tough state around this time. Marvel was in financial problems, and it was selling their properties to different (a move they would soon be a blessing and curse for them). Wesley Snipes was hellbent on making a Black Panther film but due to preproduction, he decided to take on Blade instead, and thank you lord for this choice.

Blade IS the film that proved Marvel can create a blockbuster and it set up the future for Comic Book films. Blade started it all and helped right the ship in Comic Book Movies after the Batman films went downhill.  This movie can be summed up by one scene, the intro. The introduction to this is the best 10 minutes to a comic book film to date.  Seriously, the introduction to Blade is one of the best introductions to a Comic book character ever.  Blade in a brief description about Blade killing vampires, Blade is a half breed human and vampire sharing their strengths and weaknesses but also have enhanced abilities like being able to withstand sunlight. Blade being able to walk during the daytime, granted him the nickname Daywalker by his foes. Wesley Snipes was perfect for this role not do you see how much fun he is having in this film but how much he enjoy this character. In addition, the actions scenes were a blast with him whether by sword, shotgun, or hand to hand, Snipes was just kicking ass throughout the film.  For every good hero there has to be a strong villain, but I feel this was a misfire not on the actor’s behalf. Stephen Dorff plays Deacon Frost, a Vampire who strives for power. He was not born a Vampire, which did not give him a seat at the table, but he felt deserved one. Frost’s main objective in this film was to become La Magra, the vampire blood god and rid the world of humans.

Dorff does a good job doing a Modern take on Frost; the comic book portrayal was an elder German scientist. However, the writing team mostly David s Goyer (a guy you will hear brought up a few times in the Blade reviews) failed to really claw on his character and do some really goofy things. Perfect example is wearing a Motorcycle Helmet and gear to avoid the sunlight but in a later scene, he’s able to walk freely in the daylight (did he have on mad sunscreen??). Stuff like that goes against writing not the actors.  Speaking of the rest of the cast all the major players did great.  Kris Kristofferson plays Abraham Whistler, Blade’s mentor and the person who raised him to fight for good.  Whistler is in all 3 films (which really hurts the impact of one scene in this film), and plays a major part in the Franchise.  I enjoy Whistler as the wise cracking asshole who is not afraid to fight anyone and Kris does a great job here playing him as he do for the rest of the franchise.  N’Bushe Wright, who was drop dead gorgeous in this film, plays Karen Jensen, a Doctor hell-bent on finding the cure to end Vampires after a Vampire bit her. The most surprising and most awesome part about her character is the fact she was not the love interest in this film but someone with the same objective as Blade to stopping Vampires (TAKE NOTES ON THIS).  Ms. Wright does well here and it is a shame this was the last big role for her. Sanaa Lathan plays a very important role in this, but I will not further into that. I will say her role was underutilized and it could had played a bigger role here.

As much as I love this film, there are some problems.  The writing sometimes lacks logic in this realm and loses sight of the narrative.  How many times do we have to see Blade allow a Vampire to escape and cause more harm, one Vampire in particular at that.  The CGI is god awful to downright disturbing but those flaws get a pass because of how well the actors did their roles with what they had.  Blade is a blast to watch and a fun time. This felt like a film that could have failed but had people behind it that refuse to see that happen. This film saved Marvel big time and was the 1st to spawn a trilogy. X-Men and Spiderman will get the accolades but Blade opened the door.  The best way to describe to this film, “some motherfuckers always try ice skate uphill” (seriously how can anyone hate that line?)

 

 

Robservations | Even Men Like Flowers

Hey maaaaaan, Rob Lee here and I’ve gotten something for the first time. Today is Valentine’s day and usually I don’t get to in depth into my personal relationship but today I must write. I’ve written about girls I’ve dated in the past and I’ve detailed relationships or situationships – say it with me – situat-ion-ships – in the past. So, this is going to be a bit different.

It’s a Jungle out there

Mtrthenetwork has been my longest relationship. It has outlived two long-term relationships. In its infancy MTR was just Mastermind Team’s Robcast and I did the show with my girlfriend and he cousin. It was an ok show – some of those early episodes are dreadful but I learned my voice. When the relationship ended with my cohost, Tiffany. The show was in limbo – this was a period where I took a break for a few months and then linked up with Torin & Dann. This was in 2010. The show changed and was more focused on weird news and I was just hanging with my friends. Eventually I met a girl named Theresa and we dated for a few years. That relationship ended and MTR nearly did as well. So for the next 2 years, I dated frivolously. I was tired, drained and heartbroken. I was tired of experiencing that and aspects of the show suffered – namely that I wasn’t regularly producing episodes. Once I committed to non-commitment I was able to get back to dating. Oftentimes, I would talk and even blog about relationships. Mtrocast started as me and Rob Phoenix talking about online dating and relationships. Also, there is a Oneshot I did with Yolanda called ‘Rob is a thot’. That was an interesting time in the jungle.

A Love Supreme

In reality land, I worked at a college and under my nose while the aforementioned jungle shit was happening, a woman who would eventually be my friend, then lover, then salvation was working in a polka dot dress. Kumari, the Ku, my girlface, is great she’s helped me grow so much as a creator and as a person. I’m very happy and I’m taking more risks than I have ever when I comes to dating, creating and relating (I don’t know what I mean here but it rhymes and rules of three for comedy.) Mostly, I work routines and work out my own philosophy on life with her. That brings me to today I was at the current reality land job and I get a notice that there was a package for me – flowers. I was completely surprised and had no idea what it was – initially I thought stalker, ex-lover or secret admirer. All of which gave me a touch of anxiety. I opened it and read the card which reads “Even men like flowers” – which is something I said in conversation with Ku. I was a wonderful surprise and put a huge smile on my penis…I mean face.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Lord Lee

Steel | Who greenlit this shit?

Congrats DC, you did it before Marvel but you played yourself.

This was rough like really rough, it took 6 tries to watch this and shockingly, this is not the worst on this list. Before Hollywood knew better Shaq kept getting starring movie roles.  Granted, Blue Chips is one of the best Basketball films to date and personally take a look (granted a melodramatic look) inside the NCAA. After taking his talents to Hollywood and leaving Orlando, Shaq was destined to follow up on role in Blue Chips with starring roles. First came Kazaam and thank god that doesn’t count; I would’ve threw my laptop.  Kazaam was a flop, but Hollywood did not listen and gave Shaq a DC comic property to work with in Steel.

Steel was never a huge character. In fact, he was a side character to Superman and eventually tried and failed to carry his mantle after Supes defeat to Doomsday. The character John Henry Irons (yes, his name is a pun) was the 1st black comic character to get a Hollywood blockbuster film not Black Lightning, not John Stewart’s Green Lantern, or even Static Shock ugghhhh damn you DC for this!!!!

The film changed certain aspects of his character instead of being a weapons engineer for the fictional AmerTek Industries like he was in the comics, he was a weapons engineer for the military in the film. Also, there is no Superman in this film and thank fucking god for that.  Shaq who plays Irons is discharged from the military due to how dangerous his weapons are and paralyzing one of his comrades in a practice run.  By the way, Shaq in a Military uniform is as ridiculous as it sounds.  Long story short, Shaq sees his weapons on the street and he goes under the guise of Steel to take the bad guys and get the weapons off the street. This film doesn’t deserve a breakdown, fuck that don’t see it. Don’t ask me to elaborate. Judd Nelson plays the villain and he’s just being himself here.  THIS FILM RUINED SHAFT FOR ME. Dammit Mr. Roundtree how could you?  Ray J was in this film as Shaq’s brother, son, nephew I don’t fucking know nor care, but I enjoyed him in this film. This film is bad on all levels and I’m ashamed it took me 6 tries to finish it. Don’t watch it, save yourself.

Crown City Cooking | Urban Pie vs Screamin’ Sicilian

Whenever I have a craving for frozen pizza, my instinct is to grab a thin crust, three cheese Tombstone pizza. Always delicious, never disappointing, it’s safe to say I’ve been eating Tombstone off and on for over two decades. Recently, my local grocery store ran a sale on various brands of frozen pizza, excluding my life long favorite from the list. Never shy to try out new things, I decided to grab two different pizzas and hold a side by side review, with a clear winner being declared at the end.

First up, a four cheese pizza with garden tomatoes and pesto by Urban Pie. I was drawn to this pizza because of the pesto, now I know better. It’s my new belief that you should never trust frozen pesto. While the sliced mozzarella and tomatoes cooked perfectly, the pesto combined with the overall grease, creating a weird green oil that covered the pizza like a poisonous trap set for the TMNT. With no sauce to barricade the dough from everything else, the whole thing started firm but became limp and inedible. I picked through the tomatoes and gooey moz before scrapping the rest.

Screamin’ Sicilian is a brand I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. Their adverts are catchy and the names of their foods are clever, it only made sense to pick them for the purposes of this review. I picked a four cheese pizza affectionately called “Bessie’s Revenge”. Unlike the pesto pizza, the sliced mozzarella turned out toasted, mimicking the outer skin of a marshmallow. Weird but still very edible. The dough was somewhat fluffy for a thin crust pizza but still snapped with crispy perfection. Bessie’s Revenge sported a tomato sauce that was more spicy than robust but went very well with the melty, creamy Wisconsin cheese.

You’d think by this point, the clear winner would be obvious, but you’d be wrong. While Urban Pie’s wimpy, grease filled pizza is no comparison to Screamin’ Sicilian’s crispy, flavor filled circle of wonder, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had eaten Screamin’ Sicilian before. That’s when it hit me, the spicy tomato sauce, the multitude of creamy cheese, the perfectly crisp crust… this is a Tombstone on a different level. If I had to categorize it, I would say that Bessie’s Revenge is the perfect gourmet rendition of a Tombstone frozen pizza. The ingredients are elevated, the sauce and crust a bit thicker, but the warm happy feeling you get as you take your first bite remains the same. The only real difference here is price.

 

So to reiterate, never trust frozen pesto and when in doubt, get a Tombstone.

 

– CCC

 

Robservations | Me, Dad & Jazz

Hey maaaaan, Rob Lee here. So as I mentioned in my post about Charles Mingus, I’ve gotten more into jazz. My dad, the original Lord Lee, I’m not sure if he has the nobility that I have – I may have been more of a nominal title – you know, like a doctor with no normal training. Let’s call him General Lee – naw that’s no good – he’d get that Robert E. Lee thing – which tormented his early years. Which he hated. Let’s go with proto-Lord Lee (PLL) for segmentation purposes. PLL, Rudy and I worked together at Verizon as janitors. This is the same Verizon where many of the early episodes of Robcast where recorded – specifically the ones with Torin.

Anywho, on that ride from the mean streets of Baltimore city to Hunt Valley we’d be covered in the jazzy jazz – that’s close to jizz – we’d listen to music. Specifically, Morgan State University’s WEAA 88.9 radio station. I thought it was corny and thought it boring. I didn’t get it. Like I’m pro-black but in a nuanced way – I don’t like typical shit, stereotypes and so on – many of these stereotypes are strengthen and used for financial gain from the actual people who are victimized by it. I cringe at shit like this but I’m very into people of color. Jazz is super black, black people making their rules, their music and being great – I recognize that, then I did not.

Back to the music, so Gary Ellerbe seemed like a nice guy and a qualified host – I just didn’t have anything for him or the music. I was too young, not seasoned enough. I wanted to get it but it’s that thing of you have to not like what your parents like I suppose. PLL loves jazz music – strangely my dad and I have similar musical tastes. I like The Doors, Santana and Gil Scott-Heron. He grew up to their music and, in a way, so did I. Conversely, my dad likes Kanye West, I feel responsible for this. I think when I was a kid my dad shaded my musical tastes – he described Wu-Tang Forever as just a bunch of niggas whining. That cut me deep and may, unconsciously, have triggered my shading of a whole genre of music.

Interestingly, I liked jazzy hip-hop or jazz rap that was a constant in the 90’s like A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots (shout our Questlove – we share a birthday ) and so on. I was exposed to jazz music – my dad isn’t great with computers so one exercise he’d do is him sending me a list of artists or songs to download – it would all be jazz – my fake-nemesis. I would begrudgingly download it, place it on a flash drive, and deleting it from my hard drive, never listening to it. I cut the jazz out like a cancer. So, moving forward to recent days, I was hit hard by the jazz bug. I would bond with my dad using the music as a soundtrack. I feel this is something PLL knew was coming and he is thrilled that it’s happening now. Jazz is freedom, it’s black, emotional and deep. Now I can firmly say sans pretension that Thelonious Monk, of which I enjoy a beer named after, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane are artists on my iPod. That’s no early feat.

Blankman | the Unexpected Cult Classic

This film should not work by any means but somehow it did.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Wayans family. For every film and show I enjoy by them (I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, In Living Color, Mo Money, Don’t a Menace, first two Scary Movies, The Wayans Bros., White Chicks) there is those films that I cannot (Little Man, Every Marlon Wayans led film,). However, this film, wow, surprisingly I love a lot. Now, there is a lot to be concerned with most particularly the main character as a mentally disabled figure (still a genius); which could be a death sentence for film but here, it actually worked. Damon Wayans (my personal favorite of the Wayans) played his role as Darryl Walker really well here. It did not come off as an annoying but a very sympathetic figure that you can root for.  When he attempts to save people, or use his inventions for the greater good makes him someone you can actually root. He does have scenes I can live without one in particular (more on that later).  Then there is David Alan Grier’s character Kevin Walker who is the more mature one between him and his brother Darryl. He also wants Darryl to grow the hell up. As a cameraman for the News station, Kevin seems to no time for his brother’s inventions and foolishness until he see Darryl’s persistence as Blankman, he eventually joins as his sidekick Other Guy (I love that name. The Walkers have a very standard backstory; they lost a very close relative (their grandmother), Darryl becomes inspired by Batman to help others and his brother, Kevin becomes a hero in own right being inspired by Darryl.  Their interactions are genuine and sometimes hilarious. Being cast mates in living color help shows their chemistry and they play well off one another.  The funny part is they were not the stand out in this film.

That belongs to Jason Alexander wheel-chaired character Larry Stone. Alexander is prefect here as the perverted yet selfish boss. Robin Givens plays the love interest in this film, Kimberly Jonz and there’s nothing wrong with her in this movie but being of apart of that one scene (I’ll get to it don’t worry). The villain is just another one of those trope villains with a gang of mobster. Each character shine in their own right even Darryl’s robot J-5 is memorable here.  There are scenes that went a little to far here. Most particularly the premature ejaculation scene after Darryl’s kiss with Kimberly and him not knowing what boobs are. Darryl’s nerdiness can be too much but the stereotype itself is a bad one.  One that I’m happy we can move away from. This film has its bad moments but it’s a fun film at heart and entertaining. Just like, Meteor Man this film should not be seen as a critical viewpoint but a casual viewing.  This film is a spoof/satire on the genre itself and the film plays to all the tropes most films still follow today. What made this film was the fact it should not work at all, but shockingly it does. This film is still funny and have a charm to it.

While flawed, it’s a great film if you know how to approach watching this film. Thank goodness they went this route instead of bringing the In-Living Color sketch Handiman to life that would be worrisome. As it was initially hated it came to grow into cult classic that is admired today.  This is worth watching and one you come to appreciate after each viewing.

I Put You On To | Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus Cumbia & Jazz fusion

The Black Saint & Sinner Lady

Music to listen to

Hey Maaaaaan, Rob Lee here. As I’m sure many of you know I’m a music lover, an audiophile. I get into moods and the musical genre matches my mood many times. I think music should evoke feeling or it is at least connected. Imagine listening to music that’s just phoned in – there’s no passion, seduction, nothing. It’s flat – music like elevator music.

Charles Mingus, the double bassist, composer and bandleader,  is an artist that I discovered a few month’s ago. On Fridays after work for a year or so, my dad and I listen to jazz and drink scotch as an effort to bond. It’s a really good time and a journey. I seek music – I take referrals and look everywhere for it – it has to speak to me.  I was on a musical journey that usually starts with Youtube then descends into me creating a Pandora station and reviewing the artist’s bio somewhere. It’s like I was hooked.

A found out about Charles Mingus while on a John Coltrane kick – I recently watched Chasing Trane – highly recommended documentary on Netflix – with my girlfriend. I saw all of these old jazz players like Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and McCoy Tyner. I stumbled upon The Black Saint & Sinner Lady after listening to the French cut of A Love Supreme. I thought “Hell, I’m a Black Saint…and I’ve dated sinner ladies, I should give this a shot.” It is a passionate album, a score actually to ballet I later read – an judging by the artwork of that record, he’s my type of lad, flavorful. It’s really good you should check it out. Additionally I relate to how Mingus is described in various bios from the exemplary talent followed by bouts of depression and being a large, temperamental man. Some of the sounds he generates cannot be duplicated – I love that. I want to share this with you and invite your suggestions of other Jazz musicians.

Rob Lee

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