Movie Review: SERENITY

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Movie Review: SERENITYUniversal Pictures
2005
PG-13

“Way I remember it, albatross was a ship’s good luck, ’til some idiot killed it. Yes, I’ve read a poem. Try not to faint.”

Set in the not-so-near future of Joss Whedon’s sci-fi series Firefly, a genetically enhanced and telepathic girl escapes the government-controlled experiments subjected on her, and hitches a ride with her protective older brother in tow on the Serenity, piloted by the cynical Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his motley crew, themselves at odds with the coalition dominating their universe. After inadvertently discovering a massive cover-up involving a supposedly “failed” planet colonization, the crew find themselves on the run from a deadly assassin, fighting their way through traps and hordes of cannibalistic Reavers to uncover the conspiracy, with a human cargo that may be their biggest threat. Just another day in the life of the Serenity crew, really…

Let me preface this review by stating that I, your beloved Uncle NecRo, have yet to see an episode of the series Firefly, the short-lived show that this movie is based on.* Chalk it up to lack of interest, as the only things with the Joss Whedon stamp that I was interested in at the time happened to involve vampires. Namely, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel (Angel being my favorite of the two). Firefly was more sci-fi with a western feel kind of show (i.e.- no fangs…and definitely no Spike), and while I did want to check it out sometime, the affiliate it was shown on didn’t really give the show much of a chance, showing the episodes out of sequence and such. So, before anyone thinks that this is one of those kind of reviews that slathers this movie with praise because the author is already a ravenous and drooling fanboy of the mythos its based on, keep in mind that I walked into the theater with something of a clean slate.

That said, I also want to point out that, the moment the opening credits rolled, I was captivated by one hell of a well-written, well-directed, and just flat-out fantastic sci-fi adventure movie. Once again, as with his writing on both the other two shows and on the impeccable Astonishing X-Men comic (the only X-Men comic I’ve ever read, save for my brief lapse of sanity involving the Grant Morrison run on New X-Men…geek boy roots showing again), Joss Whedon has woven one hell of a space yarn that’s really more of a western with space ships. You know, like how the classic Star Wars movie was. You got intense action, captivating drama, some interesting plot twists, and some very outstanding special effects. The fight scenes were kept low-key by today’s standards (meaning, no wire-fu, just some good-ol’ classic martial arts and fisticuffs), and the final stand-off between the crew and the Reavers was just…unbelievable. In a good way. And, true to Whedon’s method, I’m sure there will be some fans of the series that’ll be taken aback by some unexpected plot turns involving the cast. That’s his way. I remember standing up and screaming at the television when he offed Fred for no apparent reason in that episode of Angel…but again, I’m getting away from the subject. I digress…

Bottom line, this is a fantastic movie that both fans of the series and anyone who’s never heard of Firefly can enjoy. Too bad I saw little to no advertising for this, and apparently it’s taking a dive at the theaters. But word of mouth from other geeks on the ‘net have praised it, so word of mouth can keep this sucker in a strong “cult” standing. Highly recommended…a good use of your $8…

[* = this was posted nearly ten years ago…I have since then not only watched the entire series, but I own them, and watch them all back-to-back at least once a year…in case anyone feels the need to troll, and all that – Uncle NecRo]

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Sunday A’La Carte’ – September 28, 2014

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unnamedI know, I know—technically, it’s Monday morning now. Forgive me, but around the time when I get around to actually start writing these bits, I found myself rather wanting to sleep off a sudden onset of depressive funk (not the fun music style, either). It’s been a surprisingly heavy day, first not being able to go to church in the morning due to some overheating issues with the Aluminium Falcon this past week, then receiving word that the church I attended from childhood through graduating from High School—Uehling Congregational Church—is closing its doors for good at the end of the year. And to top it off, I finally caught up with the season premier of Bones…AND THEY KILLED OFF SWEETS. Oh, um…spoilers, there. It was like having a rather loyal dog killed in front of you. And I’m a cat person. At that point, I thought: “You know what? I’m just going to escape reality for a bit. Nap time.” That was at a quarter to 6pm, CST. My body dragged me kicking and screaming from the Dark Realm around a quarter to 12am. So, I figured I’d get some writing in before heading back for a few more hours…

habits of the common book wormI guess I should go ahead and make the unofficial announcement here: I’ve decided to effectively end production on NECRO SHOCK RADIO. I shall explain more in-depth in my more official announcement / explanation in a few days, but the general reason is that my heart just isn’t in it like it has been. I might just do a special Final Session, where I just play the songs I like, rather than throw everything into the Randomizer and pick them out that way. But, yeah, to quote The Doors: “This is the end.”

umbrellaOne of the things that has me rather down (among the other ones, mind you) is the fact that the era of Saturday Morning Cartoons is officially over. No more lazy Saturday morning blocks of fun, animated goodness to watch with a big bowl of artificially colored and over-sweetened cereal of choice. It was more than just mindless entertainment, though. I credit them for the stronger bond that I have with extended family members. No matter our disagreements, Saturday Morning Cartoons brought us all together. Well, other things too, but for the sake of the issue at hand, Saturday Morning Cartoons played a big part. I mean, sure, cartoons themselves are going nowhere. And in this day and age, with entire cable channels dedicated (for the most part) to cartoons, and websites offering 24-7 animated nostalgia fixes, it’s a good time to be a cartoon geek. But, I can’t help but feel that a little bit of Americana has gone the way of the buffalo. To think that there will be an entire generation of youngsters who will never know the joys of getting up at the crack of dawn, pour some cereal and watch several hours of cartoons on a standard broadcast television channel. Rather disheartening, really…

forbidden doorsA few days ago, I posted some spontaneous brain-droppings on how the so-called “grown-up” birthday parties I attend now are really bigger versions of the kind I attended as a kid. Kind of like how Dave N’ Buster’s is the grown-up version of Chuck E. Cheese’s – all the fun with way better food. Anyway, the actual celebration happened Saturday evening, and by all accounts was completely awesome. We stuffed ourselves with sushi, home-made pretzels and red bean buns were brought, along with several mixers for those who partook of the adult libations. Discussions on computer programming, some sort of roll playing card game was being played on the dining room table, an 8-bit style video game called “Crawl” was the point of amusement for a bit, then we all gathered into two groups and played the space-faring interactive video game called Artemus. Think Star Trek, with cooler looking ships. I was the Science Officer. Essentially, I scanned enemy ships in various quadrants, and reported on their weaknesses for optimum blowing up. I had to leave before Midnight, alas, on account of the hour-long drive ahead of me. I have no qualms with that. Galloping around the cosmos is a game for the young…

Have to get back to bed. Needing to get the Aluminium Falcon into the shop to have her looked at, then work again. Here’s to a better week. I leave you with an episode of one of my all-time favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon shows back in the day. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: SEED OF CHUCKY

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Movie Review: SEED OF CHUCKYRogue Pictures
2004
R

“I don’t know much about myself. I know I’m an orphan. I know I’m a freak. And, of course, I know that I’m Japanese.”

When it comes to the Child’s Play franchise…yeah, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. My irrational phobia of dolls aside, the further along these movies went, the more enjoyable they became as campy fun psychotic slasher doll flicks. With Bride Of Chucky, things came to its logical conclusion in a way, with more of a post-modern self-referential black comedy horror release. And while they could have stopped there and I would’ve been satisfied, obviously someone felt there needed to be a riff on the “Son Of…” classic movie titles with a franchise that gloriously revels in its own awesome campiness.

Kind of taking off loosely from the end of Bride Of Chucky – and letting the viewer know right off the bat with a silly CGI rendering of little wigglies making their way up the trench to fire the torpedoes into the exhaust port (Star Wars euphemism!) – we find a mysterious living doll that’s haunted by nightmares and is trapped by a scuzzy Brit using it to further his career as a renegade ventriloquist. Seriously. The doll finds itself in an existential quandary, not knowing who the parents are, and fearing heading down a dark path despite wanting to be good and friendly. You can probably see where this is heading. After seeing the now-dormant Chucky and Tiffany on a news report covering a horror movie set, the doll escapes and heads across the pond to meet the long-lost parents. The duo are revived, and of course wackiness ensues.

I enjoyed the earwax out of this movie. By this time, to expect anything besides a fun horror flick with blood, splatter, tons of dark humor and more than a little self-satirical tongue-in-cheek attitude is rather…well, stupid. Yes, it’s a dumb horror flick. But it’s a highly entertaining horror flick as well. It doesn’t take things too seriously. I mean, it’s a couple of homicidal dolls here. “Highbrow” shouldn’t be even close to being expected.

Redman (who, I’m informed, is something called a “rapper” and sometime “actor”) and John freakin’ Waters are glorious kill fodder, and Jennifer Tilly…well, she’s in the movie too. But the angle of Chucky and Tiffany having to come to grips with their offspring who doesn’t want to kill and abhors violence, which leads to great twisted amusement later on in the film. The ending is no big twist, but still a good way to cap off 90 minutes of great twisted mindless fun. And this is probably the last of the original Chucky movies, as there’s a remake of Child’s Play in the works. I say, rent this with Bride Of Chucky, get some friends over, and enjoy yourselves.

Movie Review: SCREAM

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Movie Review: SCREAMDimension Films
1996
R

“And what movie is this from? ‘I Spit On Your Garage’?”

Inspired by slasher genre movies past, a serial killer donning a cheep Halloween costume from Oriental Trading Company is bumping off teenagers, adhering to the unwritten “rules” of the horror genre. While the kids use this as an excuse to get freaky, on the case to find out who’s on the murder spree are the insecure local deputy and his tabloid journalist girlfriend. Lord help us all…

I remember working at the Oriental Trading Company’s mail order catalog product ordering center back in the summer of ’97, working the phones and taking orders for the crap that the company sells. One of the calls I got was from a guy with his buddy in the background who requested, and I quote, “That cool Scream mask.” Mind you, I had no idea what he was talking about, because due to certain circumstances at the time, I had no idea that this movie even existed, let alone what the killer’s trademark mask was. The conversation was rather amusing: “Dude, you know…that mask from Scream?” “What’s Scream?” “You know, that movie.” “There’s a movie called ‘Scream’?” “Duuuuuude…you need to see that movie, man! It’s awesome!” “Riiiiiight…so you have no other description of the mask, other than ‘the Scream mask’?” “You know…the Scream mask! The Scream mask, man!” “Thank you for calling, sir.” *click* I stand by my decision. I wasn’t about to waste time coaxing a better description out of someone who obviously adhered to the Wake-N-Bake philosophy. Anyhoo…

For all intents and purposes, for those wondering why I’m reviewing this movie when I’ve bashed it in the past, let me clear something up: I didn’t bash Scream, the movie, per-se. I just rag on the many who, for some reason or another (perhaps waking and baking), think that Scream is the greatest, be-all, end-all horror movie ever made. It’s not. Sorry. Truth hurts, I know…

That said, I thought Scream was a better-than-average slasher movie. Yes, it’s a paint-by-numbers concept that shamelessly borrows horror concepts from past horror movies, but it openly admits to this in the movie itself. Therein lies what sets Scream apart from the rest of the New Wave Of Teen Slasher Flicks that followed- the script is a gleeful romp in horror formula, paying tribute to both the greats that have inspired and the ravenous fans that continually quote from them. Had that angle not been used, Scream would have just been another mediocre teen slasher featuring whoever was hot at the time.

Speaking of which, the cast, while using the hot, A-list 20-something teens of the time, and some from the past, are particularly strong. I will always have an on-going crush on Drew Barrymore, regardless of being married briefly to Tom Green. She makes a brief but memorable Scream Queen victim right away. Neve Campbell is…well, I’ve always thought she had very minimal range as an actress. Quiet, morose, and whiny. Props to Henry Winkler’s Principal. He owned in that scene where he’s chewing out the two students for pulling the killer-related pranks. Liked the little nod to Craven’s other franchise with that janitor in the Freddy sweater. Rose McGowan was her usual annoying self, as was her on-screen boyfriend. Wanted to slap ’em both. Although McGowan did die in a rather amusing way…let’s just say that having a hefty bust line does have its drawbacks. David Arquette plays…well, David Arquette with a badge. He’s the deputy who gets no respect (I tell’s ya), and goes all goo-goo eyes for Courtney Cox’s smarmy reporter character. My favorite character (by default, really) was played by Jamie Kennedy, the horror fiend who works at the local video shop, and has a running knowledge of all things creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky.

Admittedly, the ending did twist things a bit. Not with the whole “Villain’s Discourse” at the end…I pretty much deduced the motivation behind the killer about fifteen minutes into the movie (“Hmmm…rapist who killed her mom is in jail waiting execution? Wonder if her boyfriend’s the guy’s son…”). No, it was the unconventional…um, I’ll just stop there. You’ll have to see it yourself. Oh, stop pouting. Overlord of Funk and Evil, remember?

All said and done, Scream is like that Big Mac value meal…you know what’s expected, you may have had it before several times, but it satisfies. Just stop thinking it’s the greatest horror movie ever made. Go rent The Exorcist, or any of the other movies referenced in Scream. Get you some edumucation…

Movie Review: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

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Movie Review: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLDUniversal Pictures
2010
PG-13

“We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff.”

In case you’re wondering, no. I haven’t read the comic book series this movie is based on. It’ll probably make the indie comic readers snort in elitist amusement (ironically, of course), but my tastes in comics are based in the superhero and supernatural genres, both the mainstream and indie comic industries. And while I have an appreciation of the cult following the Scott Pilgrim title has, on first glance my thoughts were that it seemed like a comic that needed more zombies.

I’m always down for a little comic book adaptation action, though, regardless of whether or not I’ve read the source material (for instance, I absolutely adore Ghost World, though I’ve never picked up the comics its based on). So it was inevitable I’d see this movie sooner or later. And since I had some time to kill that Friday afternoon, and would get the matinée discount, I figured why not?

Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained with this movie. It’s quirky, non-linear, heavy with the video game geek references, has tremendously witty dialog, and the cinematography and effects were beautify shot. The cast worked pretty well, despite having a Culkin that isn’t Macaulay playing the token gay guy character. I do think Michael Cera is in danger of being trapped in typecasting limbo, as he plays another awkward geeky character.

Non-sequiturs abound gloriously, and I liked how nothing is attempted to explain the high level of quirkiness, leaving the viewers to just assume it as a given. Or maybe this kind of thing happens all the time in Canada. I’ve never been there, this could be a documentary for all I know. Add to this, it’s directed by Edgar Wright, the guy who made some of my favorite genre flicks in the past decade. He did a good job making something outside of the box, indeed.

With all that’s going for Scott Pilgrim, one has to ask: Why didn’t I love this movie to pieces? Well, aside from the unfamiliarity with the source material – which is a minor thing, really, as I’ve mentioned before – I didn’t really feel anything for the characters. Really, the title character came off as self-absorbed and clueless, dumping on his current girlfriend who’s completely devoted to him (if not a bit on the creepy stalker kind of way) for someone who doesn’t really seem even remotely interested in him, even at the end of the film. All I really felt for the character was annoyance and mild contempt. The same goes for the rest of the characters, really – self-absorbed wankers and unlikable. That, and indie music. I really don’t like or care for indie music.

So, basically I completely dug Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World on a visceral level, but overall it didn’t make me want to check out the comic it’s based on. Or own the DVD. For that matter, I could have just waited to rent it, instead of watching it in the theater, matinée discount or not.

Movie Review: SAW III

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Movie Review: SAW IIILions Gate Films
2006
R

“Suffering…you haven’t seen anything yet…”

Jigsaw has disappeared. Now aided by his new apprentice Amanda, the puppet-master behind the cruel, intricate games that have terrified a community and baffled police has once again eluded capture and vanished. While city detectives scramble to locate him, Dr. Lynn Denlon is unaware that she is about to become the latest pawn on his vicious chessboard. One night, after finishing a shift at her hospital, Lynn is kidnapped by the deranged Amanda and taken to an abandoned warehouse where she meets Jigsaw, aka: John Kramer, who’s now bedridden and on the verge of death. Lynn is told that she must keep the madman alive for as long as it takes Jeff, another of his victims, to complete a game of his own. Racing against the ticking clock of Jigsaw’s own heartbeat, Lynn and Jeff struggle to make it through each of their vicious tests, unaware that Jigsaw and Amanda have a much bigger plan for both of them…

Y’know, I just don’t seem to understand all the criticism the Saw franchise has been getting since it exploded into theaters in 2004. Sure, at first glance the movies just seem to be yet another serial-killer-torture variety, with kinetic ADHD-style editing and washed-out photography. People I’ve talked to about this movie seem to parrot the same things: The acting was terrible, the plot was unimpressive, it wasn’t scary, and the overall effect was either dullness or unintentionally funny. Which leads me to think, “Did they actually watch the movie? And if so, which movie were they actually watching?”

Speculation on all that aside (I’ll just go ahead and assume that my take on the movie is superior), Saw III is definitely the best one of the bunch. From the opening scene, taking off moments after the ending of Saw II, to the “didn’t see that one coming” twist at the end, I loved every minute of this movie. There is a considerably lower death count than the previous entries, for certain, but that’s only secondary to the real star of the movie- the relationship between the Jigsaw Killer and his protégé. Very rare is it that a movie like this can also squeeze emotion out of the story like this has. Also, the game itself is a bit different: Instead of being in danger of dying from the game (well, sort of- there’s a two-hour time limit before the entire warehouse locks down permanently), Jeff instead has to choose between holding onto his rage and vengeance and forgiving and saving the ones who are in the traps- the ones who were involved in the tragic death of his son. Now, how many horror movies like this actually makes you think seriously about forgiveness and the consequences of vengeance? Not many. Mind you, its done in a very gory, twisted and disturbing sort of way, but there is a method to the madness.

What’s sad is, it’s been reported that Lion’s Gate is planning on making more sequels in the Saw franchise. Which is a pity, as Saw works more as a trilogy, and not letting it go out with a bangSPLAT! as this one did, they’re eventually make it into the lame series that others are now complaining it is. I’d also like to see how they’re going to resurrect Jigsaw, as he clearly died at the end (you’ll have to watch to find out how…you’ll love the twisted little ending there). I’m probably going to watch ’em, but only consider the first three as the canon (I am such a geek). Regardless.

Saw III = great movie. I command thee to check it out…

Movie Review: SAW II

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Movie Review: SAW IILions Gate Films
2005
R

“Oh yes, there will be blood.”

The infamous cancer-ridden sociopath Jigsaw is back, playing his “How much blood will you shed to stay alive?” game. Only this time, he’s upped the rules a bit, having kidnapped a group of former criminals and placed them inside a house filled with Jigsaw’s traps and hints. One of the group happens to be the son of the detective hot on Jigsaw’s trail. Now the clock is ticking, and Jigsaw’s the one who’s pulling the puppet strings…

As a big fan of the original Saw (regardless of what certain friends of your Uncle NecRo says), when news came out that there was going to be a sequel released merely one year after the first one, I wasn’t too pleased. Obviously, when a sequel is pumped out a year after the first one, especially when the original is an unprecedented success, the quality of the sequel comes into question (remember Nightmare On Elm St. 5? Case closed). Which is one of the reasons why I held off watching this in the theaters when it was out, and waited for the DVD release.

Now, looking back, I’m kicking myself for not watching this in the theater. I would have loved to watch the crowd’s reaction to some of the most twisted, sick and downright imaginative setups and kills that rivals the ones in the first movie. Instead of being an enigma, Jigsaw is placed in the forefront, which is a kind of ballsy move considering that it usually means the villain like this looses some of his mystery. Not so here, as the character was expertly written to actually make him seem even more unsettling while he was explaining why he does what he does to the haggard Detective Mason. The screenplay and plotting were expertly done, keeping things clipping at a very high pace, from the opening “Venus fly-trap” scene (made me squeamish…and that wasn’t even the kill itself), to the caught-in-a-maze situation the group of people were stuck in, to the twists and turns along the way that not only tied things together, but also tied things up with the end of the first movie. And like the first Saw, the ending to Saw 2 kicked me square in the junk, the effects of which I’m still mulling over in my head as of this writing. Nicely done, methinks…

On the downside, though, I do admit that the script maybe was a bit rushed to get this movie out, as things just didn’t seem to explore all the possibilities. Mind you, I was satisfied, but I couldn’t help but think that there could have been more to the whole thing, like getting half the fries in your meal deal. Then there’s the scene where the group of victims are waking up inside the house, no one ever knowing how they got there, and no one knowing each other, only to realize that there is one thing that ties them all together…kind of like the concept found in the Cube series.

All said, Saw 2 is a nice 90-minute thrill ride that will definitely keep you in a vice all the way through. Rent it in conjunction with the first Saw…

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