Fat Man in a Little Shirt

You can’t honestly tell me after seeing that picture you weren’t humming the tune “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” to yourself.

It took me until this morning to finally see the season premiere of Burn Notice because my DVR has been having some pretty major issues. It likes to freeze at a certain time, thus missing anything it was supposed to be recording until it’s reset. I know, it’s time to get a new one.

The important thing is that I finally got to see it and it was everything I hoped it would be. Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) returns with a vengeance, causing what is, I’m certain, a large number of women to spontaneously ovulate and wish their lives were just a little more dangerous (it’s all in the smile). Then of course Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) shows up in that little shirt and all bets are off. Fionna’s (Gabrielle Anwar) appearance is just icing on the cake.

I don’t want to talk too much about this episode because I’m not one to give spoilers and I firmly believe that if you haven’t yet watched this series, you should. As a matter of fact, if you haven’t watched the USA Network lately you are missing out on some of the best programming on TV. I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve been so captivated by one network. Between Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Monk (which I don’t watch regularly, but only because I want to see it from season one) I can only think the executives at USA are so high they’re not paying attention or they’ve been replaced by space aliens in the first wave of an invasion. Whatever the reason, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nothing changes anytime soon.

If you need a basic rundown, see my post here. Believe me, this show is well worth your time. And, just to make things easy for you, you can find the first season on DVD here. If you’d rather rent I’m quite certain you can find it on Netflix.

The Man. The Legend. The King… and a Mummy?!?

If you read my review/first look of Burn Notice you would know that I’m kind of obsessed with Bruce Campbell. Actually, I really don’t know how you’re not obsessed with him. I mean, he’s Bruce Campbell: B-movie god and just all around cool guy. Seriously, how can you not be obsessed with a man who wrote a book called Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way?

Anyway, we’ll move past the fact that if you aren’t a Bruce fan you obviously don’t take your entertainment seriously and go directly into my take on Bubba Ho-Tep.

Elvis (Bruce) is far from dead; he’s been living in an old folks home somewhere in Texas under the name Sebastian Haff for years. Of course, nobody believes him – except the black guy down the hall who insists he’s really JFK and he was dyed black so nobody would know who he was. Not exactly what you would call a ringing endorsement. Is it any wonder the elderly rock ‘n roll icon spends almost all his time lying in bed contemplating the possibly cancerous growth on the family jewels?

Then several tragedies strike. What’s an aging rock ‘n roll star with a growth on his nether-regions to do when a soul-sucking mummy shows up and starts taking out the elderly at the Shady Rest Nursing Home? Don his rhinestone-studded white suit complete with cape, throw on his huge sunglasses, and pull out his walker, that’s what.

Luckily, he’s not alone. Jack (Ossie Davis), the black man who believes himself to be JFK, also joins the fight, which is a truly hilarious picture when it also involves a motorized wheelchair. Together they’re taking it upon themselves to rid Shady Rest of the cowboy hat-wearing Egyptian mummy Elvis dubs “Bubba Ho-Tep”.

Is the story cheesy and over the top? Yes. Is the idea of an ancient walker wielding Elvis and a possibly black-dyed motorized wheelchair riding JFK teaming up an exercise in rampant silliness? Yes. But is it funny? Undoubtedly, yes.

Bruce is in fine form as the elderly Elvis. It’s not just how he talks, it’s also how he handles his walker; you can clearly see he hates the thing but he’s stuck with it. Then there’s the way he insists he’s Elvis when nobody else will believe him. Except for Jack, of course, but as mentioned above he thinks he’s JFK and that he’s been dyed black to keep anybody from knowing who he really is. His room is a hilarious museum of pictures of people having to do with the JFK assassination and even a model of the street in Dallas where he was shot. I think the thing I love the most about Jack is how indignant Ossie Davis plays him. He’s clearly fed up with continually telling people he’s really JFK and dealing with their placating yet totally disbelieving tones.

The mummy himself is a slow-moving creature that survives by eating the souls of others from one of the body’s more, shall we say, uncomfortable orifices. For some odd reason it also runs around dressed like a cowboy, which almost forces you to ponder all the possibilities of an ancient Egyptian ruler (like King Tut) in a cowboy hat, boots, and pants that are entirely too tight held up with a belt buckle the size of Texas enjoying a day at the rodeo. Because the mummy moves so slowly old people are his only option for what I guess you could call survival and at Shady Rest it’s clear he’s hit the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Probably one of the greatest things about Bubba Ho-Tep is that even the little things give you a laugh, but it’s not forced. Outlandish maybe, but no more so than a 2,000 year old Egyptian mummy dressed like Garth Brooks terrorizing a random Texas nursing home that just happens to house Elvis and a black man who thinks he’s JFK. My favorite little moments have to do with the guys tasked with picking up the bodies of the nursing home’s most recently departed. Having worked in medicine myself and seeing some horrible things I’ve had to develop a morbid sense of humor and I’d imagine working with dead people also forces you to develop a similarly morbid sense of humor, some of which is, I’m sure, completely unintended.

Verdict: A-. While not as strong as the movies in The Evil Dead series Bubba Ho-Tep is definitely worth seeing if you are a Bruce Campbell fan and let’s face it, everybody is, some are just in the closet about it. Bruce Campbell was able to take material that would have ended up as MST3K fodder for sure and turned it into a hilarious romp through absurdity. You know you want to see this film.

Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violent images.

When You’ve Been Burned, Call on the Man with the Killer Chin

Everybody knows spies are interesting. How else would you explain the thousand – and counting – 007 movies, Mission: Impossible, and the Bourne trilogy? We are obsessed with spies, the things they do, and how they live. What we’ve never really seen before is what happens when a spy is cut loose, or given what is known as a “burn notice”.

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is a spy with a major problem: Somebody has put a burn notice out on him and in doing so has effectively wiped him out. His accounts are frozen, if he leaves Miami he’s dead, and the people he used to work with and for refuse to talk to him. He has essentially become persona non grata and he wants to know who arranged it and why.

As interesting as the premise is, I started watching this show for one reason: Bruce Campbell [edited to add link]. The B-movie king himself. At this point I feel it prudent to ask who is really going to admit that they don’t like Bruce Campbell because, really, the man is a legend. If you have not seen any of the Evil Dead movies- even if it was just a late-night showing of Army of Darkness on TNT – I seriously have to question your dedication to entertainment. We’re talking Bruce Campbell here. But enough about my unhealthy obsession with the greatness that is “The Chin” and your craziness for not having that same unhealthy obsession.

It turns out there are plenty of reasons to watch this show that don’t involve Bruce. For one, there’s Jeffrey Donovan, a man I’ve never seen before but who I’m really starting to like just because of this role. Michael Westen has become a fixer, but he’s not a humorless musclebound meat-head with an overwhelming desire to see if he’s got the bigger gun. He plays it smart, often building crazy contraptions out of different electronics (usually involving cell phones). I never thought I’d say this – and I realize it may just be blasphemy to even think it – but this guy could probably give MacGuyver a run for his money. What he works with is higher-tech than MacGuyver. Still, when a man can take pieces of a cell phone and merge them with the motion sensor from an outdoor floodlight and create a remote alarm you just have to be impressed. That’s not just tech-savvy, that’s artistry in motion.

Aside from being the MacGuyver of our time, he’s also got “the smile”. I can’t really describe it to you, you’ll just have to watch. And trust me, if you do, you’ll know it when you see it. It’s charming and, given the context it’s given in, completely disarming for the viewer. You get the sense that he’s seen these types of situations so many times all he can do is smile. And, to shamelessly steal a line from Rachel Lucas, if you are a woman you just might spontaneously ovulate when you see it.

His ex-girlfriend (who is really his girlfriend sans the ex) is former IRA operative Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar). She’s skinny, pretty, and easy to mistake for a girl that needs protection, though nothing could be further from the truth on that last one. She’s feisty, well-trained, and considers violence to be foreplay. She’s no wilting flower. I’d hazard a guess at saying she’s every intelligence agency’s worst nightmare: she’s pretty and knows how to use it either disarm or get information out of just about any man. I am in awe of her awesomeness.

Then there’s “The Chin” himself as Sam Axe, former intelligence operative and Navy SEAL. He seems to have only one goal in life: to live off of whatever wealthy woman he happens to be dating at the moment. He’s one of exactly two people who once worked with Michael who is willing to actually still talk to him without guns or pointy things pointed in his direction. But part of that has to do with the fact that the FBI is squeezing him for information. This of course works out for Michael because he now has his own double-agent sending the FBI chasing after their tails.

This all really points to one thing: this show is awesome. It combines everything you could ever want in a series, whether you are a man or a woman: spies, double agents, FBI agents, Bruce Campbell, Gabrielle Anwar, Jeffrey Donovan’s smile, and a higher-tech MacGuyver-like quality that has me bouncing off the walls waiting for July 10th. Consider:

  • The Dark Knight
    Release date: July 18

  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe
    Release date: July 25

  • Burn Notice
    Season premiere date: July 10

  • Psych
    Season premiere date: July 18

Plus there will still be new episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and In Plain Sight airing. July just may be the most perfect month in entertainment this year. Now if only they were releasing a video game that I really want. Bah, who cares. A new X-Files movie and a new Batman movie in the same month? I’m positively wetting myself in anticipation. Then you add on these very awesome shows (all on the USA Network, which has become my most-watched network, BTW) and I could jump off my apartment building roof and my joy would cushion the fall.

Now, the first season of Burn Notice is on DVD and I command you to rent, buy, borrow, whatever you have to do to watch it because it’s awesome and “The Chin” is calling you.