Movie Review: PIRATE RADIO

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pirate radioFocus Features
2009
R

“The way I look at it, the world couldn’t survive without my comedy, and who’s going to have the moral backbone to play the Seekers when the mood is right?”
“They’ve split up.”
“I intend to celebrate the back catalogue.”
“I intend to stop you doing so.”

It’s 1966–pop music’s finest era–and a bunch of ramshackle DJs play rock & pop 24 hours a day, broadcasting from Radio Rock, an infamous pirate radio ship in the North Sea. On board arrives 18-year-old Carl, which is instantly plunged into a serious of hilarious and life-changing adventures and misadventures. His mother thought the boat would straighten him out–a spectacular mistake!

I don’t often watch non-horror movies. And I don’t always often watch non-horror movies that exist in the genre of “comedy”. And if you’re expecting some kind of wry attempt at that particular meme, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Anyway, once in a while I do fancy a nice funny ha-ha movie, especially when it involves my long-time hobby as an on-air DJ enthusiast. And despite the lackluster hype blurb on the back of the DVD case, taking a gander at the list of actors staring in this flick was enough to get me to check this movie out. Bill Nighy? Nick Frost? Kenneth Branagh? Philip Seymour Hoffman? I figured I was in for a treat.

So, I should really point out to those who weren’t aware (or cared), that Pirate Radio was the name of the movie that was given to the American release. This being a British film, over across the pond (as they say), the movie is known as The Boat That Rocked. I’m unsure as to which one would be the optimum title overall. I mean, the original title has that subtle British quality of pun. But, the American title kind of plays off of our current obsession with pirates. Eh, pointless bunny trail, this. Let’s get to the movie, shall we?

Set in the height of the Swingin’ Sixties, the story mostly takes place on a ship that’s anchored in the North Sea, a ship that broadcasts all the rock n’ roll you can handle on a 24-7-365 basis. You see, the BBC doesn’t believe that the morally corruptive devil music that is rock and/or roll should be officially broadcast over their airwaves, so this nautical pirate radio popped up to fill that much needed void in everyone’s lives. It is on this derelict barge that young Carl was sent to after being expelled from school, as his godfather runs the station. One has to wonder what kind of rehabilitation his mother was expecting a boat full of quirky rock n’ roll dee jays with a rebellious streak to give, but needless to say it doesn’t take long for the staff to take Carl under their unorthodox tutelage, showing him how to stick it to The Man with rock n’ roll…and have lots of fun doing it. Less wackiness ensues, as does hijinks on the high seas, I guess.

In execution, Pirate Radio (or The Boat That Rocked, depending on what country you’re reading this at) seems less of a narrative and more of a series of situations thrown together that don’t really advance a story in the traditional movie watchin’ sense. This seems more a collection of snippets from a failed situation comedy thrown together, with some footage of a bit of a plot filmed to give the movie more of a narrative.

It’s not to say Pirate Radio is a bad movie. It’s highly entertaining, with some fantastic performances from the mostly-British cast working off each other wonderfully. The movie got quite a few chuckles, a handful of chortles, and a couple of outright laughs. The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring a lot of deeper cuts from the era. It does drag a bit at certain areas, though, and the sub-plot (for lack of better word) of the government minister’s various attempts to shut the boat down seemed more shoehorned in as an afterthought.

Overall, Pirate Radio was an entertaining, if disjointed, period comedy. It’s worth a rental look, at the very least.

Movie Review: GODZILLA (1998)

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godzilla 1998TriStar/Columbia/Sony
1998
PG-13

“That’s a lot of fish.”

Yeah, let’s just go ahead and get this long-standing regret of the past out of the way. It’s been ignored by your Uncle NecRo for long enough: it’s time to finally get the review of 1998’s Godzilla out of the way. It’s been festering for so very, very long, really.

Yes, nearly twenty years after the fact, we can look back at this as the poo emoji it is. But, I swear to all reading this, for the months leading up to the release, the prospect of a modern American take on one of the most iconic monsters in cinema history was just bloody exciting. Keep in mind, for those of you too young to remember, the mid-to-late 1990s, in terms of Summer Blockbusters, were kind of a dark time. But, this Godzilla had a couple of things going for it: Model CG effects, and Roland Emmerich–still hot off their success of Independence Day–handling things.

I remember sitting in the theater one evening, and the first teaser trailer came on. It just featured the foot, crushing a T-Rex display. But, that was all that was needed for me to get all sorts of fanboy giddy. Then, I saw the fisherman teaser trailer, and that pretty much got me starting a countdown to whenever that movie was going to hit theaters. And when it did, I went with a bunch of friends on opening night, Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” blaring from my car’s speakers for some cheesy build-up goodness, and settled in with expectations and excitement high.

I’ll spare you all the end results. Point is, it wasn’t pretty. To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement. This was not Godzilla. A giant monster movie, yes. But Godzilla, it was not. And here is why:

While going through the standard “Dinosaurs are COOOOOL!” phase as a grade school-er, my all-time favorite dinosaur wasn’t the standard T-Rex, or Brontosaurus (which was still a thing back then, for any aspiring pedantic pseudo-paleontologist out there…and sorry about the arbitrary alliteration); my prehistoric boy was the Allosaurus. I don’t know why this smaller version of the T-Rex appealed to me more (forever cementing me as the “weird one” in grade school and beyond), but it just did. And the point of bringing up this seemingly unrelated childhood flashback is this: The 1998 Godzilla looked like an over-grown Allosaurus with a severe underbite, and not the classic Japanese icon that we know and love. This iteration of “Godzilla” was less Science Run Amok Metaphor and more Force Of Nature Spectacle; here, instead of being a monstrosity that we helped to inadvertently create biting us in the collective butts, this is a prehistoric iguana wanting to lay its eggs in Manhattan.

And that’s the major issue with this 1998 Godzilla: this isn’t so much a Godzilla movie, as it is a loose remake of a movie called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Seriously, the plot to Godzilla ’98 is the same as that 1953 movie (which had the great Ray Harryhausen doing the stop motion effects).

So, anyway, if you happen to be one of the blessed ones who have not watched this iteration of Godzilla, here’s the synopsis: A giant mutated lizard beast arrives in New York and stomps around and does some major property damage, and then manages to allude the US military by hiding really good, somehow. So then they bring in Ferris Bueller, who’s an expert in radiation effects on animals and stuff, to bumble around awkwardly and say things like “that’s a lot of fish”, while his television journalist ex-girlfriends bums along with him and the French Secret Service to get in the way a lot. They find out that Godzilla is pregnant, because he/she can reproduce asexually I guess, and then stumble upon a bunch of Godzilla eggs, finally killing Godzilla, but then the eggs hatch and next thing you know we’re ripping off the Raptor chase scenes from Jurassic Park, and…by this time you’ve been struggling to pay attention through the many fake endings they make you sit through, and it just goes on and on and on and then ends on sequel-bait. That was the true terror, here.

Godzilla 1998 is an amazingly bad movie. It’s such a mishandling of a pop culture icon that I’m surprised Japan hadn’t declared war on us for doing this to their star monster. There are some cool parts to this, mind you; the whole rampage through New York City in the first reel was awesome, as was the part when Godzilla whipped out some classic atomic breath. But, that was all spent up early on in the movie. After that part, Godzilla goes away for most of rest, while we’re treated to a bunch of very uninteresting characters interacting while trying to find the main reason we spent money to watch this movie to begin with. And I’m well aware that, with the other Godzilla movies in the stable, the title character doesn’t really show up until the later part of the movies…but that’s the thing. Here, the big destruction part that everyone waits to see is gotten out of the way early on, so there really no reason to sit through the rest. Even by the time you get to the actual end of the movie, you’re feeling more than just a bit ripped off by the experience.

The ironic thing is, the obligatory Saturday morning cartoon series that spun off from this atrocity was actually a bazillion times better. Mainly because it seemed to understand the spirit of the original Japanese movies better than Roland Emmerich ever did. I would urge you to never watch this Godzilla…instead, check out the short-lived but ultimately superior cartoon version that takes up where the movie left off.

There. It’s been reviewed. Now to take a long shower to wash the ick off of me for having to revisit this…

Movie Review: BETHANY

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bethanyUncork’d Entertainment
2017
NR

“You’re not just some stinky zombie, honey. You’re my stinky zombie.”

After Claire’s mother dies, she and her husband move back to her childhood home only to have the abusive and traumatic memories of her mother come back and bring unrest to the house. Unfortunately, Claire soon finds herself in a fog of past and present when her imaginary friend from childhood begins haunting her memories. What is this terrifying thing that is trying to reach out to her, and what does it want?

I first heard about the movie Bethany by way of an article on Cracked.com a few months ago. I can’t remember which article it was, as I usually read them first thing in the morning at work while waiting for my shift to start. I do recall, though, the author making a reference to his “friend’s movie” called “Bethany” which was the “best horror movie this year”, or something to that effect. I can’t be bothered to find the actual article for the sake of “accuracy”, so that’s why I’m using “quote marks” on this part. Sorry, not “sorry”. See what I did there? Anyway, because of that mention, I looked into this movie, and when it became available on VOD, I gave it a watch.

As to the claim of Bethany being the “best horror movie” going…no. Maybe, if I’m feeling generous, “watchable”. Certainly not “memorable”, at least not because it was a “good movie”. Let’s get into that, shall we?

So, there’s a lady named Claire, whose mother had just died and willed her the home she grew up in. So, she and her husband (who seems to be the grown-up bully kid in some Christmas movie I’m told I need to see otherwise I’ll die, or something) move in to begin a fresh new chapter in their lives. Only, almost the very moment they do so, Claire begins to experience all sorts of creepy things, things that no one else seems to notice. Then the flashbacks begin, and we see that her mother took her parenting advice from the movie Mommy Dearest. Also, there seems to be a ghoulishly masked apparition of a girl showing up here and there to add to the general wackiness, a girl that Claire seems to recall as being an imaginary friend growing up. Is the haunting real? Or is Claire going slowly insane? And why is Tom Green totally unrecognizable and playing against type?

On the surface, Bethany has some good ideas, and does manage to get a decent cast together (I was totally serious about funnyman Tom Green playing it completely straight here, which completely makes me rethink my opinion of the guy as an actor…while you might say Shannon Doherty is playing to type), and there were moments that, had I not seen them coming, could have been some very effective scares.

And that’s pretty much what regulates Bethany into the realm of “meh”: it’s a bit clunky, has some leaps of logic going on, and while one or two times I found a scene squeamish to watch (especially at the end, that involves a mask and a sewing needle), in the end you get the feeling you just watched a misfired attempt at making a stylistic remake of The People Under The Stairs.

Best Horror Movie of the Year? Er, no. Imaginatively unique? Again, no. Maybe if you’ve never seen a horror movie made before 2005. I don’t know how, but people like this exist. I give Bethany points for trying something different, beyond the general “haunting of…” style. But, the execution itself left something to be desired. Worth at least a watch, at least.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Rainbow’s End

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resurrection band - rainbow's endRESURRECTION BAND
Rainbow’s End
Star Song
1979

Resurrection Band’s second release continued on in the heavy rock n’ roll style that they went with on their first studio release, which may have ended up being both a blessing and a curse simultaneously. For whatever reason, the label that took a chance on them on their first album, decided to drop the band after this release. I can’t really find any official reason why they were dropped; maybe it was a change of personnel at Star Song Records that decided they didn’t want such a radical sounding rock band on the label (wild-eyed speculation, as they would release the third Petra album on that label the same year…though it could be argued that Petra was less a “rock” band at that time, but I digress), maybe they got too many complaints from the normals because of the genuine bluesy hard rock style that evoked comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, and Canned Heat. Maybe Star Song wasn’t as satisfied with the quality of the album as the band was. I don’t know. Again, this is wild-eyed speculation on my part. Point is, after releasing Rainbow’s End, the band suddenly found themselves looking for another label.

As for the album itself, Rainbow’s End turned out to be a good, solid follow-up to their debut release. If there was a question of quality, maybe it has something to do with the kind-of thin production on this, but keep in mind Rainbow’s End was recorded on a small Christian label using late seventies technology. But, trust me when I say that the band makes up for that minor shortcoming in some very gritty, very passionate hard rock n’ roll.

Ten tracks are contained overall, with eight of them being some very tasty guitar-driven classic hard rock (“Midnight Son”, “Strongman”, “Afrikaans”, “Skyline”, “Rainbow’s End”, “Sacrifice Of Love”, “The Wolfsong” and “Everytime It Rains”) and two ballads (“Paint A Picture” and “Concert For A Queen”), the music is, without a doubt, a genuine rock album played by musicians that know what they’re doing, injecting an authenticity into a sea of superficial falseness. This is also the beginning of the band injecting politically-motivated lyrics, challenging the Christian listeners to examine our motivations as believers and putting the “love your neighbor” thing into practice. It’s probably what contributed to their sudden loss of a record label.

So, overall, as a follow-up to arguably one of the classic releases in Christian rock, Rainbow’s End really did take it to the next level with both the music and the message, daring to go beyond the standard Happy Christian Fun lyrics and delving into some rather heavy and dark themes. This was re-released on the band’s own Grrr Records in 2007, but I would recommend finding this on vinyl, as I would wager it would sound fantastic in its original format. Gads, I sound all hipster-y now.

Movie Review: MANOS: The Hands Of Fate

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manos the hands of fateMill Creek Entertainment
1966
NR

“I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.”

Everything that can go wrong does on a young couple’s terrifying vacation. Lost and unable to find an inn, they stop at the door of a mysterious house. They are told by the disfigured Togar that the Master does not like visitors, but with no other shelter in sight they decide to spend the night. Their presence ignites the fury of a Devil cult that preys upon their innocence. The family is forced to suffer interminable psychotic rituals. Unrest with the cult provides a chance for escape, but the Master will not free them so easily.

When talking about bad movies, there are certain ones that have achieved legendary status due to just how bad they are. Plan 9 From Outer Space. Trolls 2. Birdemic. The Room. These titles and more, so many have heard about, but few have been brave enough to venture into watching them, for fear of losing whatever tenacious grasp on their sanity they have. I have seen many, but one that I have put off for a very long time was one of the worst ones ever made, the subject of this particular review: Manos, The Hands Of Fate. But finally, my inner Movie-Watchin’ Masochist got me to watch the copy that came in one of those 50 Horror Movies for $20 packs. The horror. The horror. And not the good kind, either.

What we got here is essentially a movie that was made on a bet by a dentist claiming that making a movie was easy enough that even he could do it. So he did. With a local theater troupe, a hand-wound 16mm camera that could only take 32 seconds of footage at a time, and a budget that would make a shoestring seem like blockbuster money.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate tells the tale of a couple and their whiny young daughter and equally annoying doggie taking a drive in their convertible out in the desert, on their way to a vacation getaway in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, they get lost, and after getting worthless directions from a couple making out, and after driving and driving and driving and driving through many a cut scene, they end up even more lost, with twilight coming upon them, before stopping at a building they figure they could spend the night at. They’re met by an odd gentleman with an odd walk and an even more odd way of talking, telling them that his master doesn’t want them to stay there. But then he lets them stay there. Then the dog disappears, then the young daughter, then the curator of the building begins to creep on the wife, stuff happens, and then the aforementioned Master awakens, along with his wives, who then argue about letting the wife stay and be part of the cult’s harem or not. I wish I could say “wackiness ensues”, but I would be lying.

So, this movie was made, and was immediately lost to the void of cheep independent Z-Movie Hell, as nature intended. But, decades later, because humanity is being punished for our sins, the movie was rediscovered and given a mutated new life of Cult Status, due to its So-Bad-It’s-Good nature. I call it the Ed Wood Effect.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate has the magical effect of bending time and space, making you think that the running time is hours upon hours longer than it really is, and your perception of reality after watching it will make you stare into the void for hours afterwards, trying to process what exactly it was you just watched. Watching Manos: The Hands Of Fate made me want to re-watch The Room for something fast-paced and exciting. I hope you’re getting the point, here. Manos: The Hands Of Fate has the excitement of watching your Great Aunt’s old vacation videos. Even the MST3K working barely made it watchable. I happened to watch it without the help of the boys in the Satellite of Love. Watch at your own peril.

Movie Review: WONDER WOMAN

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wonder womanWarner Bros.
PG-13
2017

“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learned this the hard way, a long, long time ago.”

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

So, by now, if you’re reading this, you fall in one of three categories: 1) you’ve already watched Wonder Woman (perhaps multiple times), 2) you have yet to watch Wonder Woman, as you’re still iffy about the possible quality due to the track record of the previous DC movies in the past couple of years, or 3) you’re trying to find something to be angry about to satisfy your inner sense of political self-righteousness. I wish I could say I was joking about that last part.

Anyway, Wonder Woman. Officially the fourth movie in DC’s Extended Universe, this one had the stigma of needing to be not as bad as the previous films turned out to be. I say this as the general overall perception of the previous films; you might recall that I ended up liking Man Of Steel a bit more than most of all fandom did. Batman v. Superman was a hot mess, while Suicide Squad was also a hot mess, but a far more entertaining hot mess. As such, by the time Wonder Woman rolled around, my expectations were rather low. All the movie had to do was not suck obnoxiously, and it would be the best DCEU movie of the bunch. And on that basic front, Wonder Woman succeeded. Boy howdy, did it succeed.

After a prologue scene where Diana Prince receives a special package from some guy named Bruce Wayne, we’re taken back to the Greek island of Themyscira, the home of warrior women called the Amazons, at a time when she was a precocious little tot who wanted so badly to be a warrior like everyone else, but her mother–Queen Hippolyta–would rather she pursue a more mundane existence, for her own good. Diana’s aunt, however, disagrees with the sentiment, and begins training the young girl in secret. In time, though, they are found out, which leads to…Diana getting even more training. And after a surprise hint as to Diana’s true nature, in comes the first male to visit Themyscira since ever, with WWI pilot Steve Trevor crashing into the coast. After Diana rescues him, the Germans soon invade, causing havoc and, after interrogating Trevor, Diana decides that Aries, the god of War is behind this World War (under the guise of German General Ludendorff), and sets off to kill him to bring peace to mankind. After a brief stint in London, Diana, Trevor and a motley crew travel to the front lines, where Diana wastes no time in invading No Man’s Land, takes out a machine gun nest, whups a bunch of Germans into submission, and punches a tower (the tower loses) to liberate a small Belgium village from the occupation it was under. However, General Ludendorff decides to wipe out the village the next day with a big ol’ Mustard Gas bomb, which pisses Diana off even further, and she goes off and manages to kill Ludendorff…only Ludendorff isn’t Aries. In a twist that everyone saw coming miles away, the real Aries shows up, he tries to explain that mankind isn’t under his spell, that mankind is capable of all sorts of atrocities by themselves, which clashes with Diana’s sense of altruism, which leads to a big fight with lots of damage and ‘splosions and stuff. Meanwhile, Trevor sacrifices himself to save London from being hit with a cargo plane full of Mustard Gas, Aries is defeated, and we flash back to current times where Diana decides that the power of love will blah blah blah, something-something I’m Wonder Woman now. The end.

It took them a few times in this shared universe of theirs, but DC has finally stumbled upon the formula for making a superhero movie feel like a genuine superhero movie. The tone and feel really brings back the sense of (no pun intended) wonder that Richard Donner’s Superman The Movie did, where you’re watching and manage to go beyond seeing some actor dressed as Wonder Woman, and believing it really is Wonder Woman. With maybe the exception of the CGI heavy boss fight at the end (yeah, it did feel like a video game cut scene), the two-and-a-half run time didn’t seem that long at all.

I went into Wonder Woman expecting it to fail, and wound up suddenly having hope for the other DC movies coming up after this. We’ll see. In the meantime, if you still haven’t seen Wonder Woman, go do so now while it’s still in theaters. Assuming you’re reading this while it still is.

NECRO SHOCK RADIO UPDATE

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nsr-logo-long

closed for renovation

Greetings and salutations, my wonderful freaks. This is your Uncle NecRo, finally getting around to a long-overdue update of sorts to let everyone know what’s going on with the ongoing experiment in Brutal Music Therapy we do here on NECRO SHOCK RADIO.

Getting right to the point: We’re taking the summer off. And by “we” I mean “I”, and by “summer”, I mean the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The reason for this is a pretty good one, actually.

For the past couple of years or so, I’ve been posting the recent shows on my regular blog, Confessions Of A Christian Freak. I’ve been planning moving NECRO SHOCK RADIO back to its own home, to streamline things and make it a bit easier to see what’s available and just have a nice solid place for everyone to get their Brutal Music Therapy fix.

A friend of mine has the NECRO SHOCK RADIO domain, and has been waiting for me to do something to use it on. And after ten years of doing this, and no indication that I’m going to be ending things any time soon (no matter how many times I try), I’m going to take the summer months allotted to build something nifty for everyone to play in.

The idea is, besides posting the shows there with the streaming and links for downloading the show, but to also provide a comprehensive list of what’s available in the legendary Therapy Vault for anyone to request (if that ever happens, that is). I haven’t decided to host all of my music reviews there as well, that may be overkill, but it’s a possibility.

So, I cannot express my appreciation for everyone’s continued support of NSR. I can’t wait to finally open up the new digs come Labor Day, and we’ll kick that one off with a special 10-Year Anniversary Special Session. See you all then.

Ten years. Gads. Cheers, all…

– Uncle NecRo

::END TRANSMISSION::

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