Here’s your trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger

Some day I’ll get past my irritation over the fact that Marvel’s next movie labels Captain America as “The First Avenger,” even though any self-respecting comic book geek knows that Cap didn’t join the Avengers until issue #4. But today is not that day. Still, the trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger looks pretty damn cool.

See? That is pretty damn cool. It makes sense to me that this film takes place during World War II, as Captain America in modern times was always an uncomfortable character to watch. Much like Superman, he was born during a period in our history when the lines of morality were much clearer. My memories of ol’ Cap as the leader of the Avengers were mostly feelings of annoyance over how he held the team back from really kicking ass.

Of course, even that was more pleasant than the dismal 1990 Captain America movie, featuring Cap’s arch-nemesis, Red Skull, as a swarthy Italian super-villain. It’s gonna be hard for Hugo Weaving to top that.

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Venture Bros. wrapup: “The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part II)”

I think I’m gonna need some more time to process the season 3 finale of The Venture Bros., but for right now I can’t help but feel a bit let down. I think that’s because Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer haven’t yet figured out what they really want their show to be.  Do they want it to be an homage/parody of the action/adventure genre, or do they want to fully invest in their own universe and mythology?

All signs pointed to the latter as season 2 progressed, and that was reinforced this season with so many plot- and backstory-laden episodes.  The laugh-out-loud moments decreased in general this year, but the payoff was ostensibly a series of richer stories and an opportunity to appreciate the show with more than ironic detachment.

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Venture Bros. wrapup: “The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part I)”

No more flashbacks, no more character sketching, and no more filling in questionably important bits of history – the season finale of The Venture Bros. is all about moving forward.  All the buildup and all the backstory is done, so I hope you were paying attention.

Actually, if you think about it almost all of this season’s back end has really been the finale, since most of the episodes have picked up right where previous ones left off.  So in that sense, everything from “Tears of a Sea Cow” forward has been part of one big story arc.

(One caveat before we move forward: the first few minutes of this week’s episode were cut for the television broadcast.  If you want to see the entire episode uncut, you can watch it on

In the cold open, things look bleak for the Venture clan.  The Monarch and his crew have infiltrated the compound yet again, but this time they mean business.  The family is taken hostage, while Brock is beheaded by the Monarch’s apparently razor-sharp wings.  And in the strangest twist of all, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch finally gives in to her lust for #21!

Except that it’s all a simulation, designed for training.  Mostly satisfied with the results, the Monarch declares that they’re ready to storm the compound (for real this time).

Back at the aforementioned compound, Brock is dismantling his beloved Charger (“Her name was Adrian.”), since it tried to kill him and stuff in last week’s episode.  He also announces to the Venture clan that they’re not safe, because he is now a target for assassination.  He plans to bring everyone to Spider-Skull Island and seek refuge but before they can get going, said assassins arrive, led by none other than Molotov Cocktease (making her first appearance since last season).

Molotov tells Brock that the O.S.I. asked her to kill him, but she refused the job.  It went instead to three professional assassins – Herr Trigger, Go-Fish, and Le Tueur (French for ‘the killer’), each with his own weird little fetish (Le Tueur, being a lover of Silver Age comics, is my favorite).

Meanwhile, the Monarch and his gang are making their way to Venture Industries, but not in the cocoon, because that’s what Venture would expect.  But when the Hover Tank flies past them, it looks like they’ve been beaten to the punch once again by Sgt. Hatred.

Brock’s first stop after leaving the compound is to see Col. Gathers, perhaps his only true friend.  After dealing with a horribly inappropriate and hilarious pass by Rusty, Gathers confirms that Brock is in fact in deep, deep trouble and hooks him up with some wheels (“you are not gonna like looking for the keys!”) and a list of ex-O.S.I. agents who can help him.

Brock’s plan to leave the family at Spider-Skull Island hits a snag when Hank stows away in Brock’s car.  This follows a sad scene where Brock declares that he never loved the brothers and that protecting them was only a job.  I don’t buy it, frankly, but I understand why he needed to say it.  What follows is a thrilling chase and narrow escape from Herr Trigger.  (the whole chase sequence reminded me a lot of the old Spy Hunter game)

At the compound, the Monarch strikes out big time.  Not only are they too late to catch the Ventures, they’re left to deal with an inconsolable Sgt. Hatred (who is about to become a bachelor and finds out he’s no longer Dr. Venture’s archenemy).

Brock’s next stop is the dock, where he meets Shore Leave and Mile High (now Holy Diver and Sky Pilot, since Jesus slew their demons of homosexuality).  And while Brock tangles with Go-Fish, the classic Ephesians sequence starts (“Is this going to take long?”).  Boom!  Yummy!  But with no help from the former spies, it takes a bit of clever – and gross – subterfuge for Brock to win the day again.  And what’s with all the beheadings on this show anyway?  Someone got a bit of a Highlander fetish?

The final of Brock’s trials takes place at an unnamed hotel (well, a blurred out name), where he faces a showdown with Le Tueur.  Poor Hank finally finds someone who shares his love of Batman and he turns out to be a killer.  Brock escapes death at the cost of one nipple, but just after he dispatches of Le Tueur a pair of armed men bust into the room.  At that same moment, the Monarch’s flying cocoon happens upon the X-1, and is close to closing in on the Ventures…

Obviously I can’t fully evaluate this week’s episode without seeing how it plays out next week, but it was still pretty awesome.  Some laugh-out-loud lines and a metric ton of action, all rendered beautifully.  It’s interesting to me that in spite of all the new characters we saw this year, it all comes down to the core group of the Ventures and the Monarch/Dr. Mrs. The Monarch.  Either way, this was exciting viewing.  Is it Sunday yet?

Final grade: TBD

Best lines/moments:

  • “It’s the Monarch!  Pop’s most feared enemy!”
  • “OK, this is why I’m anti-Moppet.  Right here, this crap.”
  • #21 messing with the mannequin for Dr. Mrs. The Monarch takes his infatuation to a whole new and awesome level.
  • “Give him time, boy.  Thinking’s new to him.”
  • “People have been trying to kill me since I could pee standing up.”
  • “Look at it?  I don’t even want to think about it!  I hate my henchmen.”
  • “Anything to declare, Mr. Le Tueur?”  “Excelsior!”
  • “Piss off you horrible buzzard!  Tsetse fly, buzz!”
  • “You call parking a supersonic jet in front of a titty-bar inconspicuous?  Who taught you how to spy, f&$@ing Gallagher?!”
  • “At least now we have the septic system mapped out.”
  • On second thought, Herr Trigger is my favorite of the three assassins.  The whole mix of violence and eroticism was too much.  Reminded me of Æon Flux.
  • “You wanna end up like Gary Busey?”
  • “This is worse than calling Orpheus.”
  • “That’s a big cell phone.”  “I’m a big boy!”
  • “Holy cow I think I’m in love…with that towel!”
  • So Hank remembers jumping off the roof in his Batman costume and killing himself.  Interesting…
  • “Why do you sword guys always gotta talk about how cool your swords are?
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Venture Bros. wrapup: “What Goes Down, Must Come Up”

Well that was…f&@*ed up.  It seems poor Doc Venture is once again left to clean up one of his father’s messes.  And speaking of Jonas Venture, the shine sure has come off his apple this season, eh?

What Goes Down, Must Come Up

The action this week returns to Venture Industries – deep below Venture Industries, in fact (just how friggin’ big is this place anyway?).  Rusty and Brock drop through the floor of the compound and find themselves trapped in different areas of what’s revealed to be a giant nuclear fallout shelter.  While Brock ends up chatting with a miniaturized cohort of the late Dr. Venture (the cleverly named Dr. Paul Entmann), Rusty fares considerably less well.

It turns out the shelter is still inhabited, and has been since a 1978 accident forced its closure.  Well, maybe accident is stretching things a bit.  In any case, the shelter is populated by a bunch of drugged-out, Jonas-worshiping crazies, who take his recorded words as gospel.  They don’t really well to Rusty, despite many of them having been members of his fan club.

Meanwhile the boys, anxious over their dad and bodyguard’s disappearance, enlist the aid of Dr. Orpheus to find them.  The good doctor, in turn, summons the other two-thirds of the less than enthusiastic Order of the Triad.  When their efforts at using magic to find the missing pair fail, the task falls to Pete White, who finally succeeds.

That success comes at a price, as they inadvertently activate M.U.T.H.E.R., the computer intelligence in charge of the shelter.  M.U.T.H.E.R. demands to see Jonas, and when no one can produce him she decides to go all WarGames and launch a nuke.  Why Jonas decided to keep a nuclear missile in a fallout shelter is beyond me, but whatever.

“What Goes Down, Must Come Up” was almost like two different episodes.  The first half was a straightforward mystery/action story, and contained the bulk of the laughs.  The second was entertaining but considerably darker.  As dark, in fact, as any episode of The Venture Bros. outside of perhaps “¡Viva los Muertos!” or “Return to Spider-Skull Island”.

The transition from the more comedic front half of this episode to the weird half was a bit jarring, but this was a very well-done story nonetheless.  It was so much story, in fact, that once again we get the 3-second opening.

Character-wise, Brock was a bit wasted, seeing as he spent most of his time jawing with Dr. Entmann, but Jackson Publick had to have a way to provide backstory. And anytime the Order of the Triad makes an appearance it’s a welcome sight, although the rising tensions within the team may be a bad portent.

Final grade: B+

Best lines/moments:

  • “Alright, that’s it.  You promised no penetration jokes.”
  • “There was even talk of french toast, but there was none to be had.”
  • “He wrote a little poem to his dollies.”
  • For the second week in a row Brock takes shit over his ‘do – “So that’s really how people wear their hear now?  Men?”
  • “Aw, now I got the blue balls in my Blood Eye.”
  • “Hey man, I gotta go where the blacktion is.”
  • “Would you rather be Spock with a bald spot?  I’ll trade you.”
  • I’m sure the underground denizens represented a myriad of music references I don’t get, but even I couldn’t miss Keith Flint of The Prodigy.  (“He just keeps saying he’s the Firestarter.”)
  • “And I’ll check for Blackulas.  Nope, no Blackulas.”
  • “Geez, Jefferson, you ever hear of Jergens?”
  • Who knew the boys had an extra pair of Spider-Man pajamas, in adult size?
  • Rusty and Pete spy on Brock and his women?  And use tissues?  Yuck.
  • “We’re gone two minutes to heat up some pizza rolls, and we come back to World War 3?”
  • I can’t be the only one who just found out what a Scopitone was.

Oh by the way, Jackson Publick finally updated his LiveJournal after a long absence.  Production on season 4 has begun!

Book report: The ODESSA File

Having only ever read one other Frederick Forsyth book (his 1971 debut, The Day of the Jackal), I had high hopes for The ODESSA File.  And while it isn’t quite the classic that his first novel is, it’s a damn fine yarn just the same.  It did prove, without a doubt, that the greatness of Jackal was not a fluke.  Of course, his long and successful career proves that too, but I digress.


The story takes place in 1963-64 and centers on a young freelance German reporter, Peter Miller.  Miller drives a flashy car, makes a lot of money, and sleeps with a stripper.  He knows little of the Nazi atrocities committed during World War II and, like many Germans of his generation, really doesn’t want to know much.

That all changes when, totally by chance, he comes into possession of a diary written by a recently deceased concentration camp survivor.  Upon reading the diary, Miller’s outlook and attitude change completely and he vows to hunt down a man from the diary identified as Eduard Roschmann.  Roschmann was an officer in the notorious SS and became one of the heads of the concentration camp at Riga.  Roschmann’s brutality and inhumanity earned him the nickname of “The Butcher of Riga.”

Miller sets out on his quest, but finds that going through official channels isn’t very productive – many of the state and local government employees and policemen who control the information he needs are themselves either directly or indirectly involved with the SS.  Seemingly in control of all of them is ODESSA, an organization of former SS dedicated to hiding, protecting, and aiding their own.  Before long, Miller ends up on their radar and they determine he must be dealt with.

That’s as much of the story as I care to divulge here (I’ve probably said too much already).  One thing became clear as I read The ODESSA File – Forsyth is not afraid to do his homework.  The level of historical detail in this novel is extremely impressive.  It was all I could do to not get bogged down in it, for it was as fascinating in and of itself as the story.

Fortunately, that story is never weighed down by these details.  Indeed, the narrative bears a lot of resemblance to the fast-moving Jackal.  On one side there is a lone, driven man on a mission.  On the other is the force trying to stop him at all costs.  Forsyth’s particular skill lies in making both sides’ (actually three, in this case) stories fascinating, and in effectively building the tension as the they head toward their inevitable showdown.

If I had any doubts about reading more of Forsyth’s novels, I have none now.  This one and Jackal were extremely engrossing, and motivated even a slow reader like me to get moving.  There’s even a film adaptation starring Jon Voight that I will check out.

One word of warning – there is a frankness in the level of detail in this book concerning the activity at the Riga concentration camp that some may find rather unsettling.  I know I did.  Nevertheless, it’s a highly recommended book for fans of action, spy novels, or historical fiction.

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Venture Bros. Wrapup: “Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny” (S03E01)

Ahhhhhhhhhh, that’s better. After months and months of waiting, Season 3 of The Venture Bros. is finally upon us. And true to form, the season opener, “Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny,” was full of surprises (so if you don’t want to know them, stop reading now).

The Monarch

The first surprise is that no one with the surname Venture appears for more than about 10 seconds in this episode, and even then they have no dialogue. Rather, this was all about the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend (who will apparently not be changing her name to Dr. Wife despite her recent marriage to the Monarch). The story of their odd courtship is told through a series of flashbacks, with the framing device being another Monarch trial – this time held by the Guild of Calamitous Intent.

Second surprise — turns out the Monarch got his start in super-villainy as one of the Phantom Limb’s anonymous henchmen (#9 to be precise, thus the name of the episode), known as the Shadowmen. This was an unexpected and awesome development. I especially loved how #24 was shown to be just as pathetic as one of Phantom Limb’s henchmen as he is as one of the Monarch’s.

So while the Monarch is consumed with his tribunal (excuse me, “crucible”), his own henchmen are now under the leadership of Dr. Girlfriends’s murderous moppets, who prove to be surprisingly efficient and cruel. They drive the Monarch henchmen to rebuild the destroyed flying cocoon, which I hope is insured for all the damage it takes. The henchmen, probably upset over being forced to actually work for a change, enlist Brock Samson to kill the moppets but that plan predictably backfires.

The Monarch’s trial wraps up, and the result is that he and Dr. Girlfriend are officially approved by the Guild to operate as a duo. Their first assignment: to liquidate the Phantom Limb, now a fugitive from the Guild.

Overall, it was a great episode and made the wait worthwhile. Now we just need to get the rest of the regulars back into the mix, and I’ll be all set for a great summer of all things Venture.

Final grade: A

Best moments/lines:

  • “I know he wears an awful lot of purple for a white guy.” (The Monarch on Phantom Limb’s attire)
  • Guild member A: “I always say it’s a crucible.” Guild member B: “Oh, that’s way cooler.”
  • The Monarch reading his uniform upside down and thinking he was Shadowman 6.
  • “Silence!” “OK, you need to do that when she’s talking. Now I completely forgot what I was saying. Thanks!”
  • Apparently Monarch’s dream girl was Markie Post. Go figure.
  • In an obvious nod to comic book geeks, we find out that the Monarch kept a giant penny in his lair, just like a certain Bat-themed superhero.
  • I love how the song playing during the makeout flashback sequence had to be replaced because of licensing issues. And that the sequence even had a screen wipe.
  • I really didn’t need to see the Monarch in his animal print banana hammock.