Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quatro de Mayo

Sad shit will still be sad next week, but Noir at the Bar moves on. Expect to raise a glass to the late great Cort McMeel at Saturday's N@B event at Meshuggah in St. Louis. We'll hoist liquids to our fallen comrade, and sally forth because we've scorched too much earth to sally back. Sooooo - come prepared and prepare to come for our specialists who've been training their whole lives for this. Really, J. Christopher Dupuy has been feeding his bail and false ID account since he was kicked out of preschool and John Hornor Jacobs has been drinking non-stop since the first grade. I fully expect Dan O'Shea to wander in hungover and smelling like the fluids of cheap book-groupies of the debut-novelist variety and Tawny Leech to be armed to the teeth and ready to throw down on some Show-Me state fucks lookin to start shit. It's going to be painful. But pain is the first indicator of life and, by God, I want to live.

Who else may be hanging around the event? Might we see Matthew McBride and Scott Phillips? Perhaps David Cirillo and Matt Kindt will show up with Brian Hurtt on a leash? There is, I hear, even a possibility of a Benedict appearance. If so, be sure to bring your copy of The Devil's Oven for Laura Benedict to sign (hell, may as well have Jacobs draw on it too - he designed that kick-ass cover) and we can perhaps get the skinny straight from Pinckney Benedict about his work's recent forays into film. The short film adaptation of his story Miracle Boy has been winning some prize money at film fests, and check this the hell out - looks like a feature length adaptation of Pig Helmet & the Wall of Life! Can't wait to find out.

And speaking of film festivals, Paul von Stoetzel's short flick Viscosity will be playing its eight-millionth festival on Friday, May 10 at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF - how appropriate is that?). It'll be part of the special -sex-themed- event Indepenetration hosted by stand up phenom Emmett Montgomery. Ought to be entirely comfortable environment. Lots of rain coats. Wish I could be there.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cort McMeel: RIP

If the energy and vitality Cort McMeel expelled taking a nap could have been harnessed and focused on a single, rotating national problem for week at a time - in a year we'd have had a shiny new completely badass country. 'Merica'd have beat its own myth by half, I believe it. Talking to him was like stepping out of the shower onto a live wire - just a righteous bzzzzzttttzzzzztttt that you were powerless to disengage from, and afterward struggled to remember clearly as you grasped dazedly at the gold dust left hanging in the ether in his wake.

The ideas, man. The enthusiasm. The passion. The sincerity.

Though I only spent a single weekend with him, Cort McMeel had about as much important and true impact on my life as any writer, editor, publisher I can think of. It was his (and Michael Langnas's) vision for and execution of Murdaland magazine that was my first literary drill Sgt. slapping down my lazy, smirky writing and chewing me out but good about what the fuck I thought I was doing, and why didn't I just do the world a favor and man up or shut up. I didn't even have to read the thing to know bullshit had been called on my ass. The image of Cort leveling his weapon at the reader on the cover of the first issue set the tone. Back away from this book with your presumptions and your MFA. Back off - your skin must be at least this (      ) thick to proceed.

But I did read it, and like Saul on the road to Damascus, was struck temporarily blind and knocked off my ass. When the scales fell from my eyes, I was a born-again zealot. I went forth with new purpose and vision.

A few years later, I made my first contact with him to learn more about his efforts alongside Eddie Vega with Noir Nation and Bare Knuckle Press. The immediacy and eagerness of his response made my inbox hum - the reply message rattling the bars of its electronic cage. Opening that message was like turning the final crank on a Jack-In-the-Box and what jumped out at me was the most frenetically insistent dervish of goodwill and great notions I've ever had the pleasure of being swept up by. Our correspondence was sporadic, spasmodic and spun from finer, stronger cords than I seem capable to conjure otherwise.

Last April Cort brought Les Edgerton to St. Louis for a Noir at the Bar event and we were joined by David James Keaton and Erik Lundy for a night of readings unparalleled in this dimension. I spent Friday night to Sunday afternoon with Cort and when dropping him off at the airport remember thinking that this had to happen again. This was going to be a semi-annual summit. As Cort put it in an email, "Last line of Casablanca applies here."

I never saw him again.

David James Keaton, Matthew McBride, Frank Bill, Jedidiah Ayres, Cort McMeel, Les Edgerton, Erik Lundy

We had big plans tho. The biggest. Man, we were going to set the world on fire and roast chestnuts or something. It was always Cort out front too. I tagged along like literary padawan he condescended to be associated with. He took the momentum from that time and made good on one of the plans - establish a Denver chapter of N@B (which he accomplished alongside compatriots Jon Bassoff and Benjamin Whitmer) - but for each checked-off ambition, a dozen new ones budded without ever becoming overwhelming. I believed that with Cort involved, anything was possible. The contact high from that weekend didn't wear off for a year.

Saturday morning I woke to an email with the terrible news that Cort had taken his own life. I still can't... What everyone who knew him knows is that he took with him a significant part of each of our lives too. I'm devastated for his wife and children. I'm angry. I'm gagging on a backup of emotions looking for their outlet and I'm lost.

It doesn't surprise me that someone with such brightly burning highs would know the other side too. I wish... I wish that I'd pried into his life more. I wish I'd been less content to benefit from the runoff of his life-force and pushed back a little harder when, in retrospect, he clearly needed it.

Y'know what I want, brother? I want five minutes in the ring with you followed by a big weepy, pulverizing hug and a fresh brainstorming session over something cold. I want you to turn me on to a dozen new books and authors in as many minutes simultaneously impressing upon me the weight of my ignorance and that your strength was mine to lean on, that, with your boundless energy and generous spirit at my disposal, I'd find the fortitude to rectify my pitiable situation.

I want the opportunity to return the favor.

Read more memorials to Cort by: Les Edgerton, Benjamin Whitmer, Mario Acevedo, Andrea Dupree, Brian Lindenmuth, Kevin Hardcastle.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Oops, I Did it Again

Are you good and stoked for some more rude, crude semi-literate, nearly-obliterated dudes to read you a bad-night story? Too bad, they're going to anyway.

And who, you may ask, have we secured to unsettle you with tales of sex, violence and unnatural appetites? Well, because we're some slow on the uptake motherfuckers over here at N@B, we failed to learn our lesson the first time with brother Dan O'Shea (his first visit chronicled above - l-r Matthew McBride, Jonathan Woods, me, Chris La Tray, Dan, Scott Phillips -panther pose- and Cameron Ashley). I went and inebriatedly invited his Old School ass back for another notch on his arrest record. Seems his debut novel is going to drop like an object compelled by gravity any day now, and I got the terrible impulse to celebrate that fact.

Debut? But, I thought I'd read that crotch-pot before. You have, or you should have. Perhaps you recall his tale of meth-heads knocking over a Girl-Scout stand, Thin Mints in Noir at the Bar (Vol. 1), or you caught him reading live his tale of a man deciding to crash his car in hopes that it may kill his not-strapped- in wife in the passenger seat on absolutely the final trip to Wal-Mart he can haul her morbidly-obese ass on (these stories and more are also collected in his er, collection Old School, btw). So, yeah, perhaps now, you're realizing the magnitude of our mistake. I understand Dan will be dressed pretty, too.

And, and, and - who else? Sorry, we brought back the Hornorable John Hornor Jacobs (or His Horniness, as he likes to be called). Last time he was here, his debut novel Southern Gods hadn't even been released yet (let alone short-listed for a Stoker Award), or his second novel, This Dark Earth, or his short story collection, Fierce as the Grave, or the first installment in his supernatural YA (really, you're gonna let your kids read this guy?) trilogy The Twelve-Fingered Boy (insert Sleepers/Freddie Got Fingered mash-up joke here). And the first book in his next trilogy The Incorruptibles certainly hadn't sold yet. Nope, back then he was just some dude trying to help Steve Weddle not embarrass himself with Needle Magazine. Yup, I think I'll officially claim credit for all of his success.

Here's a picture from that night, in case you forgotted (l-r back-row Matthew McBride, John, me, Fred Venturini, front-row Frank Bill, Aaron Michael Morales, Scott Phillips, Matt Kindt, David Cirillo). Just in case that memorable night wasn't entirely John's fault, we're bringing him back.... so wear protection.

But that's not all, is that ever all? No, we've got some new blood to spill in the persons of Tawny Leech and J. Christopher Dupuy. They've been forewarned, fore-armed, twelve-fingered and dipped 'n chipped. The results are up to them.

SO??? BE THERE, MAY 4, 7pm Meshuggah Cafe... or listen to the live broadcast on a police-scanner near you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Snuck Up On Me

Hummingbird - Steven Knight - I loved, loved, loved both Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, so how could I not be stoked to check out (the scribe of those two pics) Knight's new film as writer/director? Will it be more a Knight movie or a Jason Statham movie?

Everybody Has a Plan - Ana Piterbarg - Speaking of Eastern Promises, Viggo Mortensen's new flick looks fit to kick me square in the nutbag, but have me pleading for more. Holy crap, this looks fantastic.

Trance - Danny Boyle - And, it's been a good while since I was interested in a Boyle flick, but hey, it looks crimey and he's the guy who gave us Shallow Grave after all. I wanna checkerout.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

2013 In Comics: The First Quarter

American Vampire - Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Stephen King - In an effort to re-establish the mythic vampire as a nasty, foul animal and scour away any residual sparkle left on the fangs after the tyranny of teen chastity castrated the creature for a significant popular culture moment, and further, to re-invigorate the American myth with new er, blood, American Vampire sets its sites high with Skinner Sweet the titular sucker. Sweet's the all-American vampire and that's a vastly different beast from, say, a European hemoglobin goblin. Intriguing, but far from self-contained, opening chapter. I'll be interested to see where the series goes.

Axe Cop: Volume Three - Malachai Nicolle, Ethan Nicolle - I just saw that there's an Axe Cop television entity about to debut with Nick Offerman lending his voice talents to the mustachioed menace, and while I welcome the attempt to make with the motion pictures and all, I can't imagine that the roiling, schizo-frenetic sensibility of the web-comic-cum-paper-funnies-book can satisfactorily be harnessed and expressed in a medium as labor-intensive as scripted, televised, animation. Speaking of non-sequiturs, Bad Guy Earth was an amazingly cohesive (and full-color) bit of long-form Axe Coppery, but proved perhaps too-exhaustive an undertaking to follow up in kind. Volume Three is back to the mostly black and white and more vignette-heavy fare that is available at For those un-initiated out there, the creators, the brothers Nicolle consist of writer Malachai (now 7, 5 years old when they began) and illustrator/prompter Ethan (30) who fleshes out his younger sibling's vision. It's full of fantastic ultra-violence, fart-humor and grade-school misogyny (Axe Cop checked The Dumb List to see if The Girls were on it. The Dumb List is a list of Good Guys and Bad Guys who cannot be on Axe Cop's team. "Look: All Girls are on The Dumb List." This made The Girls super mad, and they wanted to fight Axe Cop. So Axe Cop smacked them all in the head with the side of his axe to knock them out. He didn't chop their heads off because they were not bad guys - They were just dumb and bad at fighting.) It's pretty fantastic.

Get Jiro! - Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Langdan Foss - Bourdain sees a future where chefs rule - hold all power and influence (as it should be, right?) - and rise to the level of their own skill, ideology and corruptibility. They are the new gangsters, rock stars and cult-leaders and in Los Angeles, two major kitchen war-lords vie for the soul of the city and the allegiance of an independent warrior - a sushi samurai with no fealty, but to fish. Jiro is a purist who might behead a customer for vulgarity in his humble strip-mall temple, and who will play both poles against the middle in this rather bizarre and uneven re-imagining of Yojimbo. Clever at times and satisfying, for sure, to witness the slaying and mutilation of many a wrong-headed foodie and Phillistine, but you're still better off with Kurosawa's original (or Sergio Leone's A Fistful  of Dollars... or even Walter Hill's Last Man Standing) for a kick-ass, bad-ass story.

The Massive - Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, Dave Stewart - Happily-Eco-After is probably not in the cards for the earth of The Massive - already more than halfway to Waterworld (but without behind-the-ear-vaginas), but all the better for a stem-the-tide adventure for deciding the way the end of the world may play out. Mystery and intrigue and pirates and a fantastically-realized half-submerged Hong Kong make more installments of The Massive a big anticipation for me.

Punk Rock Jesus - Sean Murphy - More social satire than religious  send-up, Punk Rock Jesus sets ridiculous on eleven and then does its damnedest to follow through. Entertainment as religion - as life - political violence, science abuse, substance abuse, child abuse, redemption and damnation, not to mention music, are all topics disgust in this wild messianic tale.

Rat Catcher - Andy Diggle, Victor Ibanez - An underworld legend - an unstoppable mob assassin - and a feeb on collision course is a set-up I could easily get behind, and the rocketing-high body-count kept me turning pages right up to the end. Pulp that does it right - delivers the goods without aiming too high or making you hate yourself for digging it.

Red Handed - Matt Kindt - Not since Kindt's one of a kind Super Spy have I found anything so delightfully... Kindty... Kindt-esque? Kindtred? Where-in the deceptively simple style of the pages belie the density and complexity of the images - the pictures are worth at least a few thousand words apiece, and the surface whimsy of first impression gradually gives way to a deeper, resonant melancholy that would overwhelm any heavier-handed pen. But then there's that light touch again. The strangeness of the crimes chronicled in the case files of the brilliant detective Gould is compelling for a while, but it's the emotional connectedness and firm faith in the wholeness of the project that make each successive puzzle piece land in fitting arrangement with surety and satisfaction - each chapter illuminating and bolstering the previous - so that you want to turn from the last page back to the first and re-experience the work of an artist experimenting and exploiting with gusto the singular qualities of his chosen medium.

Ride: Southern Gothic - Paul Azaceta, Kody Chamberlain, Tomm Coker, Toby Cypress, Nathan Edmondson, David Lapham, Jody LeHuep, Rick Leonardi, Ron Marz Tom Raney, Andrew Robinson, Dexter Vines, Doug Wagner - An auto-centric crime anthology anchored by The South? Sounds like a sure-fire winner to me. As with any anthology, the tone and voice change with each new interpretation and exploration of the bounds, but the quality is consistent. Short bursts of sex, violence and general ruination that are just right to ingest with your lunch and carry you through the rest of the day in your life that you previously thought was so miserable.

The Sixth Gun: A Town Called Penance - Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Tyler Crook, Bill Crabtree - The struggle for the six mystical weapons wielded, for now, by Becky Montcrief and Drake Sinclair just keeps getting bigger. The supernatural supra-western world gets even weirder. The occult, militant masonic societies, and the deformed and deranged of frontier grotesquery are all trot out for your entertainment. And what a heady mix. This trade also includes the 'entirely silent' issue - an action extravaganza that doesn't hold back. Looking the hell forward to seeing the NBC dramatized version in the Fall.

Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case - Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Rico Renzi - Finally! Stumptown returns! Fuckin' stoked! The continuing adventures of Dex Parios, Portland's not toughest, not smartest, not most cunning, but certainly resolved, resilient and ballsy private detective. You like your PIs to be sexually-frustrated hustlers scraped off society's shoes with the rest of the city-grit? Stumptown's for you. Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case feels a bit slighter than The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini, but it rocks along in stride and features a truly show-stopping car chase sequence - really, how do you pull off a car-chase that exciting in a comic book? Let's just hope there's more coming soon.

Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods - Jeff Lemire - Started this series just as the final issue was hitting stands. Glad to know it continued and very interested to see where it concludes because damn, if this ain't some weird-ass shit in the first trade. Part The Road, part The Road Warrior, this post-apocalyptic, mutant, monster epic walks a winding trail through a waste-land of deep, dark Americana. Harsh, inventive and moving. Where do we go now?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2013 in Crime Flicks: March

Crashout - Lewis R. Foster - Hunted this one down after reading Jake Hinkson's great piece God's Murderous Men over at The Night Editor, and boy-howdy am I glad I did. This, in my book, is just about perfect movie making (or screen writing, really). Starts like a shot, elegantly slips us an exposition mickey while we're catching our breath, then sets up a gauntlet of tense set-pieces that whittle down our cast of hard-bitten escaped cons hunting down buried loot. Great under-championed film noir. Best moment: two cops wander into a hostage situation in a roadhouse.

Dead Man Down - Niels Arden Oplev - Opening scene really dished out more hope than it had any business doing that this was going to be a stiff drink of a crime flick only to quickly slip into a standard, silly, complicated revenge pic. Which is okay, just... silly. Not near as satisfying as what it teased me with. The complicated revenge thriller falls prey to silliness as often as the silly romantic comedy falls prey to complication when what audiences truly crave out of both genres is a human moment (in revenge - ground me in this character's pain and make me care - not, dazzle me with the genius of the cold-serving machine's machinations: in rom-com - give me two people with a genuine connection and some real obstacles, and then show me how they work it out - not, tease me with coincidence and cartoonish afflictions). Astounding leaps of logic and some pretty drafty plot-holes don't entirely spoil the fun though. Oplev (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) proves himself a stylish and confident servant of the script... I'd just like to give him a chance with something really meaty. Best moment: Colin Farrell does Noomi Rapace a favor.

Driller Killer - Abel Ferrara - Ferrara himself (billed as Jimmy Laine) stars as the titular slasher in this shrill, low-budget cringer.  While not a slasher aficionado myself, this one did stand out to me as a peculiar example of the genre for a couple of reasons - first that the story was the killer's, it was all about his slide from frustration to mass murder, and second was that he was not an agent of chaos villain (ala The Joker) but essentially a repressed square trapped in the lifestyle of a bohemian painter in late seventies NYC. Probably more effective as New York punk pic than a horror flick - more Taxi Driver than Halloween - it's a mixed bag of moments awkward and some surprisingly graceful. Nowhere near my favorite from Ferrara, but interesting to catch up with. Best Moment: Laine lectures room-mates on their excessive phone use.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - John McNaughton - Probably been about twenty years since I'd seen it, and holy hell, it's a sick flick with a career-making performance from Michael Rooker (inspired by the life of Henry Lee Lucas - and Ottis Toole) who manages to squeeze an ounce or two of empathy out of you before ruining your whole week. Man, what a downer, but yeah, glad I checked it out again. Best moment: Henry tips a waitress. It's chilling how pleasant and genuine he seems - hell, he probably is, he's so compartmentalized - it's the small, quiet moments like this one when Rooker is so natural and polite and easy going that really lend the awfulness a nastier edge.

The Imposter - Bart Layton - This stranger-than-fiction doc tells an intriguing story of a con-man trapped in the chewy center of an assumed identity scam, and the farcical lengths people will go to sustain a favorable illusion. One too many red-herrings probably lessen the impact of this genuinely uncomfortable and disturbing tale, but that's only in hinds-sight. I predict your rapt attention on first viewing. Best moment: A detective with a shovel.

Kansas City Confidential - Phil Karlson - Fantastic slice of late-first-wave film noir. Great visuals (those masks make everything work), great cast (Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef together and it's not even a western!) and great pacing keep it lean, mean and fun to pick out all the parts subsequently hijacked and re-apropriated by future influential film makers. Best moment: John Payne flips Elam in an underground Mexican casino.

Purple Noon - Rene Clement - The first screen representation (movie - that is) of Patricia Highsmith's cultured killer Tom Ripley, portrayed by Alain Delon - who sets an unimaginably high bar best just ignored by subsequent Ripleys (Dennis Hopper, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper, John Malkovich... wait, has Pierce Brosnan never played Ripley? How could that be?) - is as smooth and unsettling as... as you'd expect from a Delon Ripley. Best moment: dragging Freddie to the car.

Robbery - Peter Yates - Was Yates un-fucking-touchable for a few years there or what? Between '67 and '73 he gave us Bullitt, The Hot Rock, The Friends of Eddie Coyle and this one - inspired by the infamous 'Great Train Robbery' of '63. True, some would say he gave us one of the worst films of the '80s (Krull), but I wouldn't be counted among them. This is precisely the kind of detached, no-frills, criminal procedural that I am looking for, and am disappointed not to find, when I watch shit like, like, like... most of the shit I end up watching that's all slicked-up action, cast with muscle-y bad boys with pricey haircuts and tattoos, cut like a music video and over-selling me on the righteous motivations of one or two of the crew. Best moment: the opening heist and getaway chase set the tone awfully well.

Sleepless Night - Frederic Jardin - After riding the raw sugar rush, last year, of Fred Cavaye's Point Blank, I was, perhaps, less surprised by the jagged adrenaline trip that Sleepless Night turned out to be, but even more excited afterward to think that Point Blank and Sleepless Night may not be flukes. Perhaps the French have got a something floating in their collective consciousness that thriller film makers are tapping into and producing these stick-lean and ampheta-mean action flicks. 'Cause, wow, just wow, they start like a shot and end like a runaway train. These are some tightly controlled, solidly structured, excitingly executed movie-stuffs conveniently distilled into potent shots of kinetic-cinematic impact. Best moment: Kitchen fight. Brutal bout betwixt dog-tired pro-an-tagonists just clobbering the shit outta each other with anything they can lay their hands upon.

Total Recall - Len Wiseman - Why bother? Well, 'cause it's got some pretty tight action bits and some super-cool visuals - lifted, though they are, from pretty much every Philip K. Dick adaptation that's come before (ooh, that bit's from Blade Runner, that one's from Minority Report and remember that awesome thing from Paycheck? Neither do I, but I'm sure it's in here too.) Pretty slick. I enjoyed it. Will I remember it like I remember Paul Verhoeven's version? Surely not. Already not. But not a bad time at the show either. Best moment: The-Drop-zero-grav-fight sequence. Nuff sed.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning - John Hyams - I defy any of you to watch US:DoR and tell me it doesn't kick the necrotic shit out of earlier installments. This is largely thanks to Hyams, who took over the series with installment three... or four... or five... Universal Soldier: Regeneration - making Reckoning number 6 (the confusion comes in when pondering where to place the Matt Battaglia made for cable vehicles Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms and Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business - but I digress). Nobody told Hyams that this was some low-rent shit or that the muscle-y Brussellite was washed up. He's reinvented the series, injected it with some seriously dark and melancholy vibes, and grown up the notion of zombified super soldiers - and is beginning to squeeze the fermented good stuff out of that notion. Sure, it's derivative - a touch of Blade Runner, a dash of Apocalypse Now a dollop of Fight Club - but damn, it's potent. Best moment: the brothel sequence.

Von Ryan's Express - Mark Robson - As I recall, a favorite of my father's that I enjoyed with him, as a teenager. Hadn't seen it in over twenty years, but yuuuup, it holds up swell. Great WWII POW escape flick with a super cast and a great premise - four hundred Allied POWs overthrow the train they're being shipped to Germany in, and tear ass along the boot-leg of Italy toward an escape into the Swiss Alps. Best moment: the climax. That helpful?

The Ward - John Carpenter - Swing and a miss. Travels well-worn tracks through genre territory which I wouldn't mind so much if the genre weren't "surprise ending" or "big twist". This particular twist has been on heavy rotation since 1999 and needs to be put to rest for a good long while. Still, I loves me some Carpenter work. Please, please, please, JC, don't stop. Best moment: Wheelchair escort down the nightmare hallway. Go ahead and scream, we're miles from where anyone can hear you.

Young Guns - Christopher Cain - The Brat Pack goes west really shoulda been a far, far worse movie, and the opening title sequence makes promises of shittiness that the rest of the film simply fails to deliver on. After the opening MTV-ish silliness with each hot young star's name appearing beside their face and then all six whipping out their young guns and unleashing all that raw fire power straight at the camera, the movie turns into a pretty good-looking shoot 'em up. Got a nice, lived-in, dusty quality to the costumes and sets, and a more often than not winning sense of humor. Emilio Estevez as William H. Bonney carries most of the burden and your enjoyment of the film overall mostly rides on your response to his maniacal chuckle and the thrill-killing glint in his eye, but most of the cast do their job competently, in fact, I wish we had the option of a Dirty Steve outtakes feature on the DVD. Dermot Mulroney pulls off lines like "We're gonna die here, and he's out there doin' it with his horse!" without playing it for laughs, making Dirty Steve a stand-out among the cast. Best moment: Watching the troops assemble outside the house - "I like these odds."