Author Topic: What was the last movie you watched?  (Read 1581610 times)

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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16770 on: May 08, 2016, 01:37:27 AM »
Accessibility for sure.

Good intro Bergman films:

Smiles of A Summer Night (my first)
Fanny & Alexander (IF you aren't put off by the length of it - It's my favourite)
Wild Strawberries
The Seventh Seal (Not nearly as slow and painful as the parodies would make you think)
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Online stethacantus

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16771 on: May 08, 2016, 01:10:31 PM »
Golden Needles ( 1974 )
It's a Kung Fu film! It's a Kung Fu film made by the same team that had made Enter the Dragon a year earlier!! It's a Kung Fu film starring Joe Don Baker!!!

...or at least it was supposed to be a martial arts film when the project began.

The whole thing began with a meeting between Bruce Lee and James Bond in 1973. Or more precisely, former Bond actor George Lazenby, who retired from the franchise after a single movie because he did not want to be typecasted like Sean Connery, only to discover that Hollywood was not knocking at his door to offer him roles as he had expected. Unable to find work, he took a friends advice and headed to Hong Kong where he though their film industry would be tickled pink at the opportunity to have a well known Hollywood star act in their films. After traveling to Singapore ( by mistake ), he arrived in Hong Kong, set up a meeting with their biggest studio Shaw Brothers, and was promptly turned down. The Shaws already had actor Richard Harrison on the payroll, who had thought of seeking work in Hong Kong before Lazenby got there, and was about to star as Marco Polo in a big budget Shaw Brothers extravaganza. Lazenby's next stop was Hong Kong's second largest studio, Golden Harvest, home of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee had just completed filming Enter the Dragon and wanted to get back to his passion project Game of Death, which was to be the martial arts film to end all martial arts films. He had so far shot fight scenes with Dan Inosanto, Hapkido master Ji Han-jae, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ( who was his student at the time) before taking a break to film Enter the Dragon. Lee wanted to shoot more fight scenes, with a possible cast that would include Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Elvis Presley, Muhammed Ali and Chuck Norris. After a brief closed door meeting with Lazenby, Lee emerged asking studio head Raymond Chow to sign him to a three picture deal. Lee wanted Lazenby  in Game of Death, as well as his next scheduled film which happened to be a spy drama where Bruce takes down a drug cartel selling a dangerous new drug. Chow was reluctant to sign Lazenby, but wanted to appease Bruce Lee, who was his studio's biggest star. A few weeks later Lazenby was invited to a party thrown by Chow for Lee to sign the contract. After the signing Lee left the party early to visit actress Betty Ting Pei. Less than an hour later Chow received a frantic call from Betty saying that Bruce was passed out on her bed and could not be revived. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Golden Harvest's biggest star was dead, and they were now stuck with George Lazenby.

A few months later Enter the Dragon was released, and became a worldwide box office success. Golden Harvest was interested in working with the same producer and director again. That would be producer Fred Weintraub and director Robert Clouse, who in the years that followed collaborated on several notable American martial arts films including Black Belt Jones ( 1974 ), Force: Five ( 1981 ), Jackie Chan's Hollywood debut The Big Brawl ( 1980 ), and Gymkata ( 1985 ). Chow offered them the chance to craft a film for their new star George Lazenby, and work began on a project that was originally titled The Golden Needles of Ecstasy. Meanwhile the studio had already rewritten Bruce Lee's spy drama to include a partner played by Lazenby, and it was ready for production. A slight alteration of the script changed Lee's character from male to female, and Lee's part went to Angela Mao. With Lee gone, Mao was now the studios biggest star. But she was not yet known outside of Asia. George Lazenby was. So he was given top billing, and the film was to be named after his character. But when Stoner ( 1974 ) was completed, the studio realized that despite Lazenby's insistence that he knew Karate, his screen fighting skills were terrible. 

Weintraub and Clouse began crafting their movie to give Lazenby as few fighting scenes as possible, while bringing in Jim Kelly to pick up the slack just as Angela Mao had in Stoner. But then something happened. Weintraub had brought in Warner Bros. as the co-producton company and worldwide distributor. But after they saw Stoner, they backed out of the project.  American International Pictures signed on, but wanted Joe Don Baker as the lead. Once Lazenby was out, Golden Harvest dropped out. Golden Harvest compleated Lazenby's contract by casting him as the villain in two more films. The Man From Hong Kong ( 1975 ) was to be Jimmy Wang Yu's introduction to the international film market as the new Bruce Lee. While the movie failed to make Wang Yu an international star, it did prove to be a star maker for the band Jigsaw, when the movie's theme song Sky High became an international hit, reaching #3 on the American Billboard chart. Both Wang Yu and Lazenby, now seen as damaged goods at Golden Harvest, finished out their contacts as villains in the movie International Assassin ( 1976 ), which was not released in America until the 80s as A Queen's Ransom. ( In fact, it went directly to television in America as part of World Northal's first Black Belt Theater syndicated package, and was one of five films in that package that Metro Media, which owned Channel 5 in NYC, thought were so bad that they refused to air. )

Golden Needles had been a movie I wanted to see for years. Not just because of it's connection to Enter the Dragon and Bruce Lee, or because it costarred Jim Kelly, or because it was an abandoned project on the crazy George Lazenby/Golden Harvest three picture deal. But because it was one of the more notable movies from the forgotten early days of Hollywoods attempt to make their own martial arts films. Rather than casting foreign actors who knew martial arts, the studios insisted on known American actors who had no fighting skills, resulting in films such as Sudden Death ( 1977 ) with Robert Conrad and the Billy Jack franchise with Tom Laughlin. Hollywood would eventually hit it's grove in the 80s by promoting actors like Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme who actually had fighting skills and nothing much else. But the early days of those 70s American Kung Fu flicks have been long since buried and forgotten, with exception to the handful of Blaxploitation/Kung Fu mash ups that mostly starred Jim Kelly. Like most of the 70s films, Golden Needles had never been released on home video. But then a couple of years ago it was released as  part of the MGM Limited Edition DVD-R series, giving me the chance to see exactly how bad it was.

George Lazenby's onscreen fighting skills may have been bad, but Joe Don Baker's skills are non existant. At least because of his days working on that one James Bond movie, Lazenby had been taught that fake High Karate style that was used in the spy films of the 60s and 70s. And it seemed he made some sort of effort to learn some more martial arts moves when he had attempted to become a star in Hong Kong. Joe Don Baker's fighting style is limited to a sort of lumbering punch, which is adequate for a drunken barroom brawl, but useless in a martial arts film. Never the less, Baker is able to take down several baddies with that move, thanks to the addition of the same punching sound effects used for Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. Also aiding Baker are several well placed rooftop windows and skylights that gives him some place to push his foes through and down to their deaths rather than actually beating them up. As usual, Baker plays an unlikable slob of a hero who treats the movie's damsel in distress like crap.

The move itself borrows heavily from The Maltese Falcon, only this time the McGuffin is an ancient golden statue with needles in it. The statue is an acupuncture guide to show where to place the same golden needles in patients. If done correctly then the patient gets an orgasm so strong it rejuvenates him. Done incorrectly results in a painful death, thus the statue is needed for reference. Over the centuries the mythical statue has passed through many hands, mostly due to theft and murder. In the beginning of the film a kindly Chinese doctor in Hong Kong is using it on an elderly patient, giving him a boner and allowing him to once again walk without the use of a wheelchair. But then two criminals with flame throwers enter the room and burn to death the doctor, the elderly patient, and the three hot girls in teddies who had been in the scene for no particular reason. The men had been hired by Elizabeth Ashley, who was tasked to obtain the statue by her boss. But when she attempts to retrieve the stolen statue from the men she hired, their boss ( Roy Chiao ) demands more money. Not willing to pay the extra money, Ashley instead tracks down Joe Don Baker who is ( where else ) in a bar getting drunk and loosing money on the bar's illegal backroom gambling tables. Baker has retired from the theft business, but apparently owing the bar owner money for his gambling losses, reluctantly agrees to steal the statue for $30,000 as long as Ashley agrees to allow him to feel her up in front of everyone in the bar and tell him out loud that she loves him. Remarkably, the next time they meet she invites him to her hotel room for sex, even though she was clearly not into him back at the bar, and was clearly being molested.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that the bar owner he owes money to is Ann Sothern, which was hardly threatening enough for Joe to think he needed the money. Joe steals the statue which involves getting into a fight or two. The statue is hidden in a jar of oil and smuggled back to America to be received by Joe's friend in the smuggling business Jeff ( played by Jim Kelly ). But for some reason Joe does not bother to tell Jeff that contraband is in one of the jars. So the wrong jar is sent to the house of Ashley's boss. When Joe and Jeff arrive at the home to receive the promised $30,000, they are instead threatened by the boss because the jar contained nothing but oil. The head bad guy here is played by Burgess Meredith, who plays the role as a lovable bowtied prankster, and not the threatening villain as the movie demands. ( And we know that Meredith can play a threatening villain. He did so several times as The Penguin in Batman, so this was mostly the director's fault. ) But as much as a letdown as Burgess Meredith's character was, those scenes did delight me because of their location. They were filmed at Greenacres,  film legend Harold Lloyd's estate. This was a year before the family was forced to sell the estate to a developer, who in turn had most of it torn down. What an unexpected delight to see the characters drive through the estate's gate, past the fountain a superstitious Lloyd insisted on driving past counter clockwise, and then walk through the now long gone gardens, and past the now long gone cascading fountains. The walk through the gardens was unnecessary. But even a hack director like Robert Clouse could not ignore the importance of that location. So for no reason instead of walking directly into the mansion they had just pulled up to, Ashley suggests they walk through the gardens "because it is faster". In reality it isn't. The front door they walk through is just feet from where the car dropped them off. But it allows us to see the fantastic gardens Lloyd designed for his Greenacres one last time, and perhaps the only time that completely. And even though the estate house still exists intact, the scenes filmed in it's interior were a joy to see. The movie may have been crap, but it inadvertently gave us this invaluable record of a wonderland long ago bulldozed for profit.

And that was the high point of the movie. Admittedly, only a high point for someone who recognized the estate, but never the less the film's only high point. Joe, Jeff and Ashley are told to find the missing jar of Oil, or else. What follows is a search for the missing statue that eventually takes them back to Hong Kong. The Maltese Falcon this is not. An unsatisfying story with an unsatisfying conclusion. Roy Chiao is decent enough as the second villain ( or perhaps only villain, as Meredith's character does not live up to the task, ) but is underused. Joe Don Baker is useless, as usual. When things get tough for him, he is joined by actors who really do know martial arts. Jim Kelly, who received screen credit for choreographing his own fight scenes, is really only given one scene to fight in. Asian actress Si Ming under her Anglo screen name Frances Fong plays the mysterious character Su Lin who suddenly shows up to help Joe, but refuses to tell him who she is, or why she is helping him. She gets a couple of scenes to demonstrait her screen fighting ability. Both Kelly and Fong leave Joe Don Baker as the odd person out, making the viewer wonder why he is even able to defeat a couple of thugs. ( It should be pointed out here that Si Ming's Anglo screen name is the same as another Asian actress named Frances Fong, and good old IMDb has them both listed as the same actress, combining both their films. ) Elizabeth Ashley makes a poor heroine, especially after she just paid thugs to burn elderly men to steal the statue. Joe Don Baker's character is even more despicable. It is a movie where you do not care about anyone, and a statue who's power is so underwhelming that you do not care about that either. Martial arts wise, the decision to use a lead actor with no fighting ability doomed this film from the start, resulting in very little actual martial arts. If not for that one location at Greenacres, I would have said I wasted my money and time.


Omega Doom ( 1996 )
From a remake of The Maltese Falcon we go to a remake of another classic film, A Fistful of Dollars ( 1964 ) which in turn was a remake of another even more classic film Yojimbo ( 1961 ). Both movies centered around a town that was overtaken by two waring gangs who were at an uneasy truce, until a lone stranger wanders into town and tricks both factions to fight each other. Omega Doom takes place in the future, long after mankind was exterminated by robots, and the two warring factions are robots in a bombed out town. Only, the film is so low budget that instead of robots, we get actors pretending to be robots. Much like the robots in the Terminator franchise, these robots have skin, which saved the director money. Special effects are cheap, and very often not completed. In some cases where a robot had it's body blown open and you are suppose to see gears and stuff inside, instead you see the green patch that was suppose to be replaced with special effects. In a couple of scenes where a robot leaps through the air you can clearly still see the ropes and wires that were suppose to be digitally removed. The cast includes Rutger Hauer as the drifter robot, formerly named Omega Doom, but now roaming the world with no name. The rest of the cast are no name actors who do a very decent job considering the movie they are in, and the shoestring budget. This movie was just barely interesting, and that was mostly due to the musical score, which was a generic rock oriented western theme that often drifted into a ripoff of Pink Floyd's Time. Still, it made the movie seem much cooler than it actually was.

The only reason why I even bothered watching this was because it came as a second feature on a double feature disc. I initially wanted a letterboxed copy of Blind Fury ( 1989 ) ( which will be watched at another date, ) but currently the stand alone release of that movie is out of print. So I guess I should not complain about a second movie I got for free. But watching it made me wonder why I do not yet have either A Fistful of Dollars nor Yojimbo in my library, and now I have this crap remake.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2016, 01:28:33 PM by stethacantus »


Offline NRRork

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16772 on: May 10, 2016, 05:24:57 PM »
Captain America: Civil War

Well, Avengers 2.8 or so, really, but no one seems to care and neither do I. It was outstanding. It's kind of like the iron Man trilogy now: I was surprised by how much I loved the first one, the second one I didn't think was as good but still enjoyed, and the third was just fricking AWESOME.
I used to have an image here, but Photobucket got cheap about remote linking. I guess I'll have to think of something witty instead. Which I will. Later. It caught me by surprise, in all honesty. It's hard to be clever on command, I mean, YOU try it. Be funny: NOW! See, tough. So, gimme a bit, 'kay?


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16773 on: May 10, 2016, 05:33:43 PM »
The first is my least favourite Marvel movie. The second one is my favourite. The third was really awesome, but I won't rank it until I see it at least once more...
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Offline Relaxing Dragon

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16774 on: May 12, 2016, 11:20:41 PM »
The first is my least favourite Marvel movie. The second one is my favourite. The third was really awesome, but I won't rank it until I see it at least once more...

Almost my thoughts exactly  (I apparently enjoyed the first one a lot more than you)


Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16775 on: May 12, 2016, 11:29:30 PM »
I put Captain America far above Incredible Hulk.  But there ain't none that I don't like so far (still haven't seen Ant-Man, but I'm sure I'll like it more than Incredible Hulk).


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16776 on: May 12, 2016, 11:31:21 PM »
Just because it's my least favourite, doesn't mean I don't like it a lot. One of them has to be at the bottom of the list!
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Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16777 on: May 12, 2016, 11:35:02 PM »
I hear that.  Hasn't been a bad apple in the bunch, just good-to-great.


Offline ScottotD

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16778 on: May 13, 2016, 06:59:38 AM »
The Good Dinosaur
Apparently people are mad about this movie? I loved it, the story itself is WAY more basic than most Pixar but the emotional depth is still there.  If anything the simplicity of the plot gave it a joy and ability to get involved with the characters even more. 

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Offline Kete

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16779 on: May 13, 2016, 08:09:20 AM »
Just because it's my least favourite, doesn't mean I don't like it a lot. One of them has to be at the bottom of the list!

I say the same thing to my kids.


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16780 on: May 13, 2016, 04:16:31 PM »
Just because it's my least favourite, doesn't mean I don't like it a lot. One of them has to be at the bottom of the list!

I say the same thing to my kids.

Next LoC?
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Offline Kete

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16781 on: May 13, 2016, 06:59:00 PM »
Just because it's my least favourite, doesn't mean I don't like it a lot. One of them has to be at the bottom of the list!

I say the same thing to my kids.

Next LoC?

Oooo. I'll get started on my list


Online stethacantus

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16782 on: May 14, 2016, 06:36:55 PM »
The Legend II ( 1993 )    a.k.a. Fong Sai-yuk II
This movie had a lot of things I don't like from Hong Kong movies. Bad wirework that detracts from the action scenes. Action scenes that were poorly filmed and/or edited, making the action hard to follow. Bad comedy. An overly complicated sub plot. The primary plot short changed and often forgotten. And characters you are suppose to care about, but are so annoying you don't. But it does have an effective action sequence at the end of the movie, with Jet Li fighting with the villain on a tower built out of benches. To bad the rest of the movie was not as good.


Offline Kete

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16783 on: May 16, 2016, 11:16:26 AM »
Jungle Book
Surprisingly good.

Sing Street
Freaking sweet

Green Room
Freaking sweet


Offline Charles Castle

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Re: What was the last movie you watched?
« Reply #16784 on: May 16, 2016, 09:04:44 PM »
It was perhaps inevitable that Hollywood would come calling on the Robert A. Heinlein estate in the early 1990s. The previous decade had seen filmmakers becoming interested in literary science fiction thanks to the cult success of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (a version of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) and the blockbuster success of Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall (based on Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"). Hollywood's infatuation with Philip K. Dick continues to this very day, unabated, with recent versions of Radio Free Albemuth and the Amazon series based on The Man in the High Castle premiering in 2014. By the early 1990s, Hollywood began to expand their field of interest to writers like William Gibson (Johnny Mnemonic) and Isaac Asimov (Nightfall, The Bicentennial Man, I Robot), writers with caché in pop culture. Heinlein must have seemed a fertile ground for development: his books had name-recognition well beyond the occasionally insular community of science fiction fandom. Heinlein was, after all, the first science fiction writer to place a book on the New York Times bestseller list. Name recognition is an important quality for an industry that likes to sell audiences products they already know everything about. It's ironic that The Puppet Masters (1994, directed by Stuart Orme) should be the film to kick off this interest, given that it's the novel at the heart of The Brain Eaters, the last "adaptation" of the 1950s.

The Puppet Masters is an awkward compromise between the studio who funded it (Disney) and the filmmakers who actually made the film. Screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio intended the film to be as faithful to the book as they could make it. Disney wanted a blockbuster action film. Neither party really got what they wanted. The plot of the movie is largely the same as the plot of the book: a team of secret agents investigate the apparent takeover of a small town in Iowa by alien parasites who turn the townspeople into compliant automatons. This basic plot provides a sturdy genre platform on which the book builds extrapolations about the way societies adapt to threats, about free will versus enslavement, about what it means to be a free human being versus a part of a collective, about the fundamental viciousness of humankind as a species. It's a hard-nosed book, one that's deeply reflective of Heinlein's libertarianism and his abject horror of the co-option of the individual by the collective. The movie, even though it retains almost all of the book's plot, manages to omit virtually all of what makes the book compelling. Instead, the film provides stale thrills. The film screams late-1980s genre hackwork, and almost seems out of time, given that it appeared in 1994, after films like The Abyss, Jurassic Park, and Terminator 2 had dramatically raised the standard.

Still and all, it's watchable. Enjoyable, even, so long as you approach it with diminished expectations. The Puppet Masters is the beneficiary of thirty five years of advances in film craft, so that even as a relatively low-budget thriller, it has access to special effects, production values, and actors the likes of which would have been a fond dream for the makers of The Brain Eaters. And Heinlein's fingerprints are still on the film even if his ideas have been attenuated. True, you don't have society at large adopting nudism as a means of assuring one's fellow human beings that they aren't being ridden by an alien slug, but you do find some of Heinlein's perverse attitudes toward women here. One member of the team is Dr. Mary Sefton, an exobiologist, who is presented as hyper competent in her field. In one scene, she (correctly) notes that a man is being controlled by a slug because he doesn't glance at her cleavage (the notion that the man might simply be gay or respectful isn't raised). Julie Warner, to her credit, plays the scene and the part as a whole with a straight face. Good acting will cover a lot of sins, and fortunately, the film doesn't engage in some of the writer's views on rape and other kinds of sexual violence. Donald Sutherland plays the movie's spy-master and he's a familiar archetype in Heinlein's work. He's the wise patriarch who blusters and manipulates his younger friends into doing things. He's a variant of Stranger in a Strange Land's Jubal Harshaw or Lazarus Long from the Future Histories. Sutherland is a better actor than the film could have hoped for, and he's impish enough to really sell the part. The weak link is Eric Thal as Sam Nivens, the ostensible hero of the film. The movie, as does the book, turns plot points involving one or another of its central characters becoming enslaved by the slugs, including a long passage in which the protagonist, Sam, becomes controlled. This works fabulously in prose, as the tone of the writing changes. It's less arresting on film, because we're never privy to Sam's internal sense of self. Thal tends to telegraph his performance in his scenes under the thumb of the parasites, just in case the people in the back row miss it. Sutherland is better in his scenes when The Old Man is controlled, but you would expect that.

The craft of the film is certainly competent, but it is often no more than that. Compared to the best comparable films of its time, it comes up wanting. A useful comparison is Jack Sholder's The Hidden, which has a similar premise. That film is ruthless when it comes to exploring the implications of being controlled by an alien parasite. This film is less so. It lacks The Hidden's pile-driver pace. The Puppet Masters does have fine monsters, though, brought to life by practical effects just at the end of the practical effects era. And, in truth, it's the first film based on Heinlein that manages to tap into the writer's skill not just as a science fiction visionary, but as a storyteller. Many of Heinlein's books are framed as espionage thrillers, and spy plots are a natural fit for films. As compromised as The Puppet Masters is, it's the beneficiary of its genre mash-up. Still, it lacks the book's galvanizing ending, when it's hero oversees the first wave of rocketships dispatched by humanity to take the war to the parasites. He writes to his father, The Old Man:


"...I feel exhilarated. Puppet masters--the free men are coming to kill you.
Death and Destruction!"
You know, if the space man puma thing turns out to be the correct religion, I for one will be very surprised.