Lobster Johnson, Coneheads, and Northern Ireland

Lobster Johnson 2: The Burning Hand: characters created and designed by Mike Mignola; written by John Arcudi; illustrated by Tonci Zonjic and Dave Stewart (2011-2012; collected 2013): Introduced years ago in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Depression-era pulp hero Lobster Johnson gets his second miniseries adventure here. Illustrator Tonci Zonjic’s style fits the material as his art works in the clean-lined, retro tradition of period-appropriate cartoonists that include Roy Crane, Noel Sickles, and Milton Caniff. John Arcudi’s script presents New York-based Lobster Johnson, still a crime-fighter on a learning curve, with both a challenge from the Mob and a challenge from beyond. 

As this is the universe of Hellboy and the BPRD, supernatural menaces abound. And while fighting a gangster, Johnson and his associates find themselves fighting a seemingly unkillable supernatural being with the ability to destroy people and things with an unquenchable black flame. It’s pulpy fun in the tradition of the Shadow and Doc Savage, with a little H.P. Lovecraft thrown into the mix. Recommended.

The Boxer: written by Jim Sheridan and Terry George; directed by Jim Sheridan; starring Daniel Day-Lewis (Danny Flynn), Emily Watson (Maggie), Brian Cox (Joe Hamill), Ciaran Fitzgerald (Liam), Ken Stott (Ike Weir), and Gerald McSorley (Harry) (1997): Daniel Day-Lewis and writer-director Jim Sheridan team up for the third time (previous collaborations were Best Actor Oscar-winning My Left Foot and docudrama In the Name of the Father). 

Set in a Northern Ireland on the cusp of a peace agreement between Great Britain and the IRA/Sinn Fein, The Boxer follows Day-Lewis’ Danny Flynn, a once-promising young boxer who’s been released from prison after 14 years. His prison sentence came in part for covering for IRA accomplices, but the IRA has no time for him — disgusted with his own complicity, he refused to socialize with them while in jail. He’s back now, trying to avoid sectarian politics while he re-opens the boxing gym he himself trained at. Of course, things are going to go awry. As he’s still in love with the daughter of the local IRA chief, she herself married to a jailed IRA man, his personal life may go a bit wonky. 

The acting is strong throughout. Day-Lewis seems pitch perfect as always, making Flynn a man who’s learned to control his anger without ever eradicating it. Emily Watson is almost literally luminous as his now-married former lover. We get just enough background on the politics to see the problems with both sides, and the frustration of those who would like to have no part of either. Belfast plays Belfast in the second-unit photography, while Dublin stands in for parts of Belfast when the actors are in the frame. The whole presents a city run down and defaced in a way that almost makes it look like Day-Lewis and Watson are appearing in another adaptation of 1984. Recommended.

Coneheads: written by Tom Davis, Dan Aykroyd, Bonnie Turner, and Terry Turner; directed by Steve Barron; starring Dan Aykroyd (Beldar Conehead), Jane Curtin (Prymatt Conehead), Phil Hartman (Marlax), David Spade (Eli Turnbull), Michael McKean (Gorman Seedling), Michelle Burke (Connie Conehead), and Chris Farley (Ronnie) (1993): I really like Coneheads. Many do not. But I think it’s one of the five best movies based on characters who first appeared on Saturday Night Live. The script and performances are funny, the cameos are almost ridiculously abundant, and even the product placements (there are a lot of them) are weirdly funny at times. I mean, I’m not sure anyone would go to Subway based on the way its sandwiches are eaten here. Even the science-fiction elements are intermittently more well-thought-out than those one would find in a dramatic science-fiction film. the film even uses David Spade perfectly. Recommended.

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