Sunday A’La Carte: July 27, 2014

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buffet_mto_gallery

It’s Sunday again. Well, it still is for another couple of hours, as I write this. Eh, better late than never. It’s been one of those classic Midwest summers this week, where the heat index soars high as eagle, and walking outside is like strolling right into a heavy, moist wool blanket. I don’t know about everyone else reading this, but here, the weather sucks mighty buffalo. To say nothing of the mosquitoes and clouds of gnats searching for giant haemoglobin Slurpees such as myself. And as a type-2 diabetic, believe me when I say I’m extra sweet. Fortunately, I work indoors now.

Speaking of where I work, I normally don’t watch broadcast television (more out of laziness than any sense of self-righteousness, here); while the break room at work has the telly on constantly, and this commercial caught my attention:

Amusing, yes; of course, it was the use of the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” that kept me from reading my book. I did cause to pause a bit: A song from my youth, being used to hawk overpriced brand-name cookies to middle-aged ladies (which is technically my age group, come to think of it)? Nothing like the soundtrack to my carefree High School days being used to boost cookie sales to make me feel old. Besides, considering that Fiber One is supposed to contribute to dietary regularity, I don’t think “Rock You Like A Hurricane” may be the best choice.

escher get up here

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that the real hero of the Harry Potter series was Severus Snape. Besides, having to put up with the ego of that kid and his mates would make me a bit more cranky than my usual lovable curmudgeonly self.

introverts assemble

33 REASONS WHY HUMANITY IS DOOMED. Read this, and simultaneously despair for humanity, and feel like a god among the ants. It’s like a trip to the local Wal-Mart, only without having to actually go to the local Wal-Mart.

Took the CAN WE GUESS WHO YOU ARE IN ONLY 20 QUESTIONS? quiz that has been making the rounds on Facebook. Eh, it was Saturday morning, and I was what you would call bored. And everyone else kept saying this thing was way off, so I wanted to see how badly this thing could do. And after answering several  questions, here were the results:

1. You are male.
2. You are currently in your mid fifties, still working hard and enjoying every minute of it.
3. You are starting to go bald, but you don’t care about it as much as you thought you would when you were younger. You still have your good looks, your gray eyes and your sense of humor.
4. You have a beautiful loving family, great life-long friends, even the doctor is happy with your annual check up!
5. Things are generally good, and you just wish they’ll stay that way for much, much longer.

Well, they were right with me being male. The others…not so much. Especially number 5, there.

Stuff I’ve written on the blog: I reviewed the movies The World’s End and Skeleton Crew, and the book Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens.

Currently Reading: The Best Of Robert Bloch. I do so enjoy this man’s body of writing. His style is like if H. P. Lovecraft and Alfred Hitchcock got smooshed together into one being. Which makes even more sense, when you factor in that Bloch used to be pen pals with Lovecraft in his early years, and one of his novels was made into a movie by Hitchcock, a little something-something named Psycho. This collection of short stories is fantastic.

Also, Season 2, Session 18 of NECRO SHOCK RADIO is up for the listening. Bit different, but another great two hours for listening.

That’s all for this week. Hope to get more writing done, as I aclamate myself with my hours and work, and my status as reclusive introvert. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Movie Review: The WORLD’S END

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the worlds endUniversal Pictures
2013
R

“I still think nothing that has been suggested in the last 10 minutes beats ‘smashy smashy egg men’.”

20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries.

It’s interesting to note that the whole “Three Flavors Cornetto” movie trilogy concept started as a joke while promoting Shaun Of The Dead. Director Edgar Wright quipped that SotD was the first in the “Three Flavors Cornetto” series (a Cornetto being the ice cream snack brand that Nick Frost’s character craved in the movie, kind of like a Drumstick cone here in the States), and it kind of became a reality. The three movie “flavors” being Horror (Shaun Of The Dead), Action (Hot Fuzz), and finally Science Fiction, which is the focus of this review (obviously). And now I kind of crave an ice creme. Drat.

The World’s End tells the story of a bloke who decides to gather up his high school mates to finally finish the entirety of a pub crawl they didn’t manage to finish back when they graduated high school for…reasons. It takes some convincing, but they all take a holiday and head out to their hometown of Newton Haven for a fun time. In theory, anyway. Things don’t go exactly as planned, however, when they start noticing that the pubs they remember have changed. Sure, there’s the fact that it’s been 20-some-odd years, and the axiom “You can’t go home again” rings true; but things are a bit more odd–like all the pubs looking the same. Or hardly anybody remembering who this band of prodigals are. Or the fact that many of the citizenry seem to be robots. And no, I didn’t just spoil the entire thing for you.

Once again, Edgar Wright has crafted a richly nuanced genre picture that’s a bit more than the sum of its parts. Really, The World’s End is more of a smartly written character drama with a science fiction twist and generous dollop of dry British humor. All of the actors do fantastic jobs, bringing palpable depth to their characters, especially Simon Peg and Nick Frost, but that’s to be expected by now. The script was well-written, delivering some great dialogue and manages to take the hodgepodge of genre elements and making a delicious whole concoction.

Overall, The World’s End was a fantastic watching experience, hitting all the right buttons, making the time fly by. As far as I’m concerned, this is a fine capper to this unofficial trilogy, but if Edgar Wright wishes to continue making movies like this, I won’t be complaining. Taken as a stand-alone movie, The World’s End comes highly recommended, not just for genre heads. By itself or taken with the other two movies, you shall enjoy yourself immensely.

Movie Review: SKELETON CREW

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skeleton crewAnchor Bay Entertainment
2009
R

“Can’t you see? This is like a bad movie.”

In the Early 1970’s a remote mental institution next to the Russian border was shut down by the police. Before it was closed, DR Anderson made a series of snuff films using his patients. The doctor filmed all the murders in 8mm, and started to call himself “The Auteur”. Thirty years later, an American film crew arrives in Finland to shoot a horror movie about the massacre, and are unaware that they are about to become the stars of their director’s real life snuff film, they are in one. The Auteur is slaying the Skeleton Crew one by one.

Skeleton Crew is yet another low budget horror flick that goes for the “meta” style of story–i.e., self-aware, a movie-within-a-movie setting, that kinda thing. Basically, we start off with a 1970s style slasher, where a brother and sister get into a bad accident and manage to find themselves being “cared for” by a mad scientist, when someone yells “CUT!”, and we find that we’re on location in Finland, when the confines of an abandoned mental hospital, where the movie is being filmed by a director who’s just a bit on the egotistical side, and his group of beleaguered thespians and grunts. While searching around the abandoned building, they stumble upon a secret room with a projector and a bunch of films of a doctor’s, um, “hobbies” let’s just say. The rest of the crew aren’t that impressed, but the director becomes obsessed, to the point of using his actors and crew to add to this collection himself. Wackiness ensues.

Overall, Skeleton Crew was better than I expected, in as much as there was some actual competent talent in the execution. The acting was tolerable, the editing was decent and the effects doable, and it wasn’t overly long, nor did I get bored much while viewing this. There are the requisite exploitation shenanigans that horror movies always feel the need to shoehorn in. Meh.

A good way to kill some time (no pun intended), Skeleton Crew is watchable and decent, but not really that memorable. Watch once and move on with your night.

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO: Ten Little Aliens

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ten little aliens 50th Ten_Little_AliensStephen Cole
BBC Worldwide / BBC Books
2002 / 2013

Deep in the heart of a hollowed-out moon the First Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. They are the empire’s most wanted terrorists, and their discovery could end a war devastating the galaxy. But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?

About a year after the big 50th Anniversary media celebration of Doctor Who, and I’m finally getting around to reading the eleven novels released, each featuring one of each incarnation of the Doctor. And since I not so much suffer as I revel in my slight case of CDO (it’s like OCD, but in alphabetical order LIKE IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE), I’ve started with the First Doctor novel in the collection: Ten Little Aliens.

As the title implies, the inspiration for this tale was the works of mystery writer Agatha Cristie. Matter of fact, in the introduction by author Stephen Cole, the concept was essentially “Starship Troopers meets Agatha Christie”. And this is essentially what this is–the Doctor and companions Polly and Ben stumble upon a murder mystery on a planetoid in the outskirts of the Earth Empire. The bodies of ten renegade aliens are suspended in time stasis, while a team of space Marines (not the first time I’ve written “space Marines”, an something tells me it won’t be the last) arrive to do some drills with a couple of kill-bots (not the first time I’ve written…you know what, forget it), but instead stumble upon both the bodies and travelers of that mysterious blue box that really shouldn’t be there. Awkward enough, but things get weirder when mysterious living angel statues (that are NOT the Weeping Angels, I assure you) start popping up, and bodies both living and otherwise start disappearing, and the ones that haven’t disappeared are beginning to turn from human to alien. And one chapter is written like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. I’m not making that up.

As a First Doctor tale, Ten Little Aliens was fantastic. The idea to make this an Agatha Christie style murder goes beyond merely conceptual–the author actually discussed the idea with Christie’s daughter Rosalind Hicks while researching an article on the mystery writer for an article and discovered that the family were fans of Doctor Who since the early days of the show–and you can tell the amount of effort that was put into the story. This isn’t just Hardy Boys in space (though…admittedly that kind of story would be cool); the story kept me guessing, the red herrings were good and effective, and the overall feel was tense and claustrophobic, making this one hum-dinger of a page turner. Even without the inclusion of The Doctor and his companions, Ten Little Aliens would have worked as a nice sci-fi mystery yarn.

But, Ten Little Aliens is a Doctor tale, a “Who-dunnit”, if you will (I’m quoting the author from the introduction, put the blunt objects down), and it’s a good one. My copy is, obviously, the 50th Anniversary reprint. Great story, satisfying read, recommended on multi-genre levels, here.

Sunday A’La Carte – July 20, 2014

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alacarte

Welcome to another idea of mine, in my ongoing quest to utilize my blog for my various writings and brain droppings, instead of wasting them all on my Facebook page (you did know I had a Facebook page, right? No? Go friend me right now, this I command you). Basically a mish-mash of ramblings, brain droppings and news-y bits in my life, copied and pasted onto here. Hopefully, I can keep this going as a regular thing, instead of just sporadic, as it has been the past few weeks. Ready to dig in? Too bad, ’cause here we go…

…first of all, two rather unfortunate celebrity deaths to report: First is James Garner, known to many as the original Maverick (and later Maverick’s dad in the movie), and to many others as the lovable blue collar private investigator Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files. I knew the actor best by the reruns of The Rockford Files that played in the summer afternoons on the local syndicated UHF channel here, usually in a three-hour block between Magnum P. I. and Simon & Simon back in the day. He kind of reminded me of a great uncle I once had. He shall be missed.

…the second death to report is more because this one came out of nowhere: Skye McCole Bartusiak died at age 21. Don’t recall the name? She played Mel Gibson’s youngest daughter in the movie The Patriot. Yeah, that adorable little half-pint that everyone wanted to scoop up into their arms and rock to sleep. In this case, though, the cause of death wasn’t your clichéd “young Hollywood child actor” death; this time, it was epilepsy. And as someone who knows friends and family members who live with this, it turns my blood to ice to think that they could be gone like this. Scary, to say the very least. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of both actors, natch…

…overheard: “I’ve dated enough married guys to know that marriage is vastly overrated.” Um, wha? I cannot even begin to tell you what’s so very wrong with that statement…

…did you know that my ongoing experiment in Brutal Music Therapy: NECRO SHOCK RADIO, has been dwelling at the old Blogspot this entire time? I tried posting it here exclusively for a while, but decided to not close out the Blogspot and use that, simply because it allows me to use the code for the streaming bar a bit easier than it does here on WordPress, for some odd reason. Series 2, Session 17 went up on Wednesday. Go over there and check it out, my wonderful freaks…

…is it August 23rd, yet? No? Drat. Can’t wait for the new episodes of my favourite British import, featuring the new Doctor. I think he lends a much-needed old school charm to the character, just by his looks alone. Until then, I’ve been reading the 50th Anniversary set of novels, and watching some of the classic Doctor Who eps to whet my appetite for new Who. Speaking of which…

…just finished up the First Doctor novel Ten Little Aliens, which is sort of an homage to the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Was None. Think if Starship Troopers was a game of Clue!, and you’ll get the idea. Incidentally, one of the chapters is written in a Choose Your Own Adventure style. Interesting…

…on this here blog, I wrote about my beard, and reviewed albums by Soul Embraced and Chained

…and finally, a shout-out to my sister and brother-in-law, who loved me enough to pick up these awesome shirts for me during their trip to Navada a few weeks ago:

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…I have the greatest family ever.

And that’s all for this week. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Music Review: CHAINED – Grateful Sinner

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Grateful+Sinner

CHAINED
Grateful Sinner
Independent
2009

Usually, when one says “Swedish metal”, one thinks of either power metal, or at the very least the so-called “Gothenburg style” melodic death metal. Sometimes black metal. And while the subject of this review does hail from the land that brought us that famous bikini team featured so prominently on early 1990s beer commercials (look it up…or ask your dad, or something), the kind of metal Chained plays can be filed under good old fashioned heavy METAL, without all the needless adjectives. Or descriptive pronouns. Or…you know what, I get those confused enough as it is, let’s move on.

From the opening salvo of “My Saviour, My Lord”, two things are apparent: 1) The style of METAL that Chained plays is some very tight, very heavy, and very groove oriented and infectious, begging to be cranked at rather high volumes, and 2) Chained is unabashedly and strongly Christian in their lyrics. I would say that, if forced to make a comparison, Chained would be like if fellow Swedish classic Christian rock band Jerusalem went for more of an aggressive Motorhead sound (1916-era, if you must insist), while retaining the straightforward evangelical lyricism.

Grateful Sinner, their first full-length release, is chock full of heavy groove and rhythm with a blues base, some sick guitar shredding and an overall heavy vibe that I haven’t felt since Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind was released and overplayed in my Walkman back in the day. And like that release, there’s enough variety in the metal on Grateful Sinner that not one moment did I get bored, or feel like I’ve been listening to the same song on repeat accidentally. Songs like “Tearing Down My Walls” feature a good bluesy guitar burn one second, then smashes your face in with a thick heavy metal riff the next; then the very next cut gets dangerously close (in a good way) to all-out speed metal on the cut “Drained”, then shifts easily back to heavy, down-tuned METAL on “Conquerors” after that. The curiosity here is “The Weakest Are…”, which is mostly a spoken word piece over a bass line, with a bluesy metal riff at the break points. It’s interesting, in a good way. Like I said, a lot of variety here, without losing sight of the METAL.

Overall, I was rather pleasantly pleased when I listened to Grateful Sinner. After first listening to this on my personal media player (my poor earbuds), it has found a cherished place on heavy rotation upon my car stereo. Highly recommended.

Music Review: SOUL EMBRACED – Mythos

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soul embraced - mythos

SOUL EMBRACED
Mythos
Rottweiler Records
2013

Soul Embraced seem to be releasing albums in five-year implements. Their big “comeback” album, Dead Alive, came out in 2008, five years after Immune was to be their final album. And now this release, Mythos, comes five years after that one, in 2013 (the “Like A Corpse” single notwithstanding…besides, it’s included on this full-length anyway). I shouldn’t be complaining, though; getting any kind of release from Soul Embraced is something to rejoice in nowadays, especially after their return from that five year hiatus.

Anyway, Mythos is a release that came as a result of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to record this thing. Regardless of how you feel about fan-funded endeavors, it sounds here like the band didn’t waste any money making one of the better sounding death metal/deathcore recordings I’ve heard come out recently. I would wager to say that Mythos is actually better than the recent release from the band that Soul Embraced spun off from–Living Sacrifice’s The Ghost Thief, which came out the same year–and I say that knowing what kind of reaction I may be stirring up.

First of all, the jump from Solid State Records to Rottweiler Records is an interesting one, as Solid State would have had the resources available to make a fantastic record. But, instead they parted amicably and went the indie route, having the album funded by the fans via Kickstarter, and the official release on Rottweiler, a label that includes the likes of horror punk stalwarts Grave Robber. My personal copy is the Rottweiler official release, so it doesn’t have the bonus track “Cult Of Violence” included.

Which means that there are only nine tracks–including the instrumental “The Invocation” at the end (which is kind of an odd place to put something that sounds like an introduction rather than a postlude, but I digress)–and the overall track time is a skosh over thirty five minutes. Which is technically five minutes over a “mini-LP” (between EP and LP, if Wikipedia is to be trusted). Also, six-odd minutes longer than Slayer’s Reign In Blood…so, I really don’t know why I’m complaining. But I am. Mythos seems too darn brief for the amount of enjoyment I have gleaned from listening.

From the opening track, “They Live, We Sleep”, Mythos hits us with some very tight, very technical and heavy brutality that leans more towards the death metal with very little deathcore influence. It’s there, but it’s more of a flavoring rather than the dominant style going. Modern death metal, maybe? Eh, I’ll get back to you on that.

Whether you consider them better than Living Sacrifice, or just a curious side project of former members (personally I lean more towards the former…something I don’t say lightly), one thing is for certain, here: Mythos does not disappoint in the METAL department. Could have used a couple of more songs added, to make the song count a good baker’s dozen, but otherwise Mythos is Soul Embraced strongest release to date (and one of the coolest cover art pieces since Dead Alive), and has already gotten more than just one listen by yours truly. Highly recommended.

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