Movie Review: DOCTOR STRANGE

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movie-review-doctor-strangeDisney / Marvel
2016
PG-13

“You’ll die defending this world, Mister…”
“Doctor.”
“Mister Doctor?”
“It’s Strange!”
“Maybe, who am I to judge?”

Dr. Stephen Strange, a young, arrogant surgeon with a promising career, loses his ability to operate after a terrible accident. Despondent and suicidal, Dr. Strange seeks advice from a mystical being knowing as the Ancient One and learns that he is the newly designated Sorcerer Supreme, responsible for protecting the planet from evil. With his girlfriend Clea and his loyal assistant Wong in tow, Strange sets out to fulfill his destiny.

So, here we have the final Marvel movie of 2016, and it’s another origin story of another Marvel character that I never really bothered to check out back in my comic book geek days. Truth be told, I was very much “meh” about watching this particular entry in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would have been more than happy waiting to watch it when it got released onto DVD. But, certain members of the Exalted Geeks felt that I should tag along and watch as a group whole the weekend of its release, going so far as to secure the reservation at the theater we were going to watch it at. That, and we normally record a podcast about it, and I had the recording equipment.

So, I watched it. And, it wasn’t that bad, really. I didn’t think it was going to be bad; like with Ant Man and Guardians Of The Galaxy, I didn’t think I would be as entertained as I was due to the lack of interest in the source material themselves. And once again, I was proven wrong. I sense a pattern, here.

Doctor Strange is the story of Benedict Cumberbatch effecting an American Accent and playing an extremely talented and successful neurosurgeon with the narcissistic ego to match. He gets into a car accident which injures his hands beyond complete repair, which sends him into a downward spiral and spending everything he has to find a way to bring his precious hands back. This leads him to Kathmandu (don’t hold your breath waiting for a Bob Segar joke, turns out the movie already makes one of those), where a mystic known only as the Ancient One reluctantly takes him in and begins teaching him the ways of inner healing…along with a bunch of trippy Hogwarts For Adults kind of things. Which all come in handy when some followers of a dark and powerful entity called Dormammu show up to destroy the three Sanctums and summon their master to this reality to cause darkness and chaos. Armed with his burgeoning abilities, along with the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto (Mister Roboto, domo), Doctor Strange must team up with the remaining slingers of the mystic forces and prevent Dormammu from coming in and messing with the Earth’s feng shui.

Doctor Strange can be boiled down as a mash-up of those Shaolin Kung-Fu movies with Harry Potter. Entertaining, yes; a nice mix of action and humor for balance, and some fantastic effects, especially with the first mystical trip-out scene. Ultimately, this is an origins movie, so the story is pretty straight-forward and not mixed in with the rest of the Marvel continuity as of yet. But, you get some glimpses of possible future usage of the future Sorcerer Supreme in the overall scheme. Most of the characters also have a kind of nuanced depth to their setup, which keeps them from being your standard “Good Vs. Evil” black and white hero story. Something they seemed to forget to do with Kaecilius, though it didn’t really hurt the overall dynamic.

In the end, Doctor Strange did turn out to be a good movie, entertaining and up to the standard Marvel Movie quality. Try and see this one in the theaters for the effects are gorgeous. Other than that, like Ant Man, I don’t really see myself seeing it more than once on the big screen.

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Book Review: FIRESTARTER

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book-review-firestarterStephen King
Viking Press
1980

Hadn’t somebody said that perfect paranoia and perfect awareness were the same thing?

In 1969 Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson participated in a drug experiment run by a veiled government agency known as The Shop. One year later they marry. Two years after that their little girl, Charlie, sets her teddy bear on fire . . . by looking at it. Now that Charlie is eight, she doesn’t start fires anymore. Her parents have taught her to control her pyrokinesis, the ability to set anything–toys, clothes, even people–aflame. But The Shop knows about and wants this pigtailed “ultimate weapon.” Shop agents set out to hunt down Charlie and her father in a ruthless and terrifying chase that ranges from the streets of New York to the backwoods of Vermont. And once they get her they plan to use Charlie’s capacity for love to force her into developing a power as horrifyingly destructive as it is seductive. What they don’t take into account is that even a child can know the pleasure of the whip hand and the satisfaction of revenge.

So, I read this particular novel by Stephen King around my Freshman year in high school, which was when I was beginning my grand quest to read all of King’s books, but still wasn’t completely hooked as a fanboy. And at the age of 15, I wasn’t exactly the best at keeping focus on what I was reading. So, unfortunately, I have to admit that reading through Firestarter–King’s sixth published work–was a bit of a slog to get through at the time. Again, this was less to do with the quality of the story and more to do with my ability to get distracted by something shiny. Or have something in what I’m reading set off a chain reaction of thoughts that take me away from the reading experience. It still happens now, just not as out of control. Anyway…

The story involves a father and his young daughter on the run from a shady government group. The reason being that, years prior, the father and his future wife participated in covert experiments involving special drugs that would give those either psychic powers, or a psychotic break. They, of course, developed powers, and got married because they fell in loooooove while being tested on, and had themselves a kid that seemed to have developed an interest power of her own: setting stuff on fire. Now, after a series of horrendous events involving the government agency trying to round them up for more experiments, the mother dies and the father and daughter are on the run. Soon, those government officials and the mercenary they hired to capture them are going to realize that preteen girls are scary enough without powers; what’s gonna happen when they finally anger one with the ability to char broil you with her mind? Hint: nothing good.

Now seems a good time to get this out of the way: I never have seen the movie that stars a young Drew Barrymore. Never felt the need to do so. As far as the book goes, I think this would be another one I’d have a better appreciation for at this age I’m at now, rather than the 15-year-old me who read it back in the day. It had an interesting cat-and-mouse premise, and the more scientific–albeit closer to a mad doctor style, but still–buildup behind the father and daughter’s respective powers has this more as a psychological thriller with a bit of a science fiction base than a straight-up horror novel. Maybe that’s what was causing me to loose focus all that time.

Uncle NecRo’s TOP 100 CHRISTIAN ALBUMS FROM THE 1990s, Part 1: 100-81

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So, some time ago, I came across a bunch of lists that the members of one of the Facebook Pages that I am a member of were doing. Namely, they were listing their top 100 favorite albums by Christian bands and artists that were released in the 1990s. I thought I would go ahead and write out my own list; the thing was, I was also in the middle of organizing and uploading the posts for the entirety of October, all of the Halloween’ing articles, and put the list on the back-burner to focus on getting all of that taken care of. I went back to it, and…well, I decided to not post it in the group itself, but instead share the outcome with everyone, along with some blurbs on the ones I picked.

Before I share, I want to point out that I had a couple of ground rules: 1) no live albums, and 2) no greatest hits type albums. Also, this list developed from the top down, as I thought of them, with very little messing with the final lineup. This is all as they came to me, so they’re in no particular order per se. So, now, without further adieu, here is my list:

carman-addicted-to-jesus100 – Addicted To Jesus (Carman)
…yes, I actually owned this one, way back in the day. It still remains a bit of a guilty pleasure, really. Especially with “Satan, Bite The Dust” on here. Pure, delicious sanctified cheese.

petra-beyond-belief99 – Beyond Belief (Petra)
…’tis the only 90s-era release of Petra’s that I don’t find myself flinching at too much while listening to. Also, that riff on “Seen And Not Heard” that everyone knew was a rip-off of the riff from the KISS song “Heaven’s On Fire” but couldn’t admit to in public circles because that would be admitting to knowing what a KISS song is.

adventures-of-the-o-c-supertones98 – Adventures Of The O. C. Supertones (The O. C. Supertones)
…there was a brief time in the mid-1990s where everyone claimed to like ska. Well, the so-called “third wave” ska that seemed to pop up like a rash after using the public pool. I’m afraid this wormed its way into my collection due to peer pressure. This album is the equivalent of that one person you know that tries so very hard to get you to be as bubbly happy as they are, you can’t help but want to kick puppies into traffic. Good production, though.

dc-talk-jesus-freak97 – Jesus Freak (DC Talk)
…there was also a time in the 1990s where there was a list of albums you needed to own, otherwise your sincerity of claiming to be a Christian was called into question. This was one of those albums. The thing is…this still holds up.

bloodgood-all-stand-together96 – All Stand Together (Bloodgood)
…it’s a pity that the majority of the good Bloodgood albums were released in the 1980s, because they needed to at least be represented. This particular album, unfortunately, is not that great. But, it’s on here in hopes to get someone to check out their previous releases before this one.

third-day-third-day95 – Third Day (Third Day)
…remember what I said about Jesus Freak being one of those albums you needed to have in your possession to justify your Christian existence? This was also one of these albums. That’s all I’m gonna say about this.

miss-angie-100-million-eyeballs94 – 100 Million Eyeballs (Miss Angie)
…would you believe I got this after seeing the video she did for “Lift”, because I developed a bit of a fanboy crush on her voice and style. The album is pretty good, too, kind of a Veruca Salt vibe to it.

grammatrain-lonely-house-cover93 – Lonely House (Grammatrain)
…one of the actual decent releases from the glut of Grunge music that came out two years after Grunge died out in the mainstream. That’s the usual gestration period for a genre to be co-opted by the CCM market.

mike-knott-strip-cycle92 – Strip Cycle (Michael Knott)
…I like to pop this one on after someone claims they only listen to acoustic singer-songwriter music. Nine times out of ten, their heads explode. I also like to que up “Rock Stars On H” when the youth group is stuck inside the NEKRON 7 with me just to hear the uncomfortable silence.

galactic-cowboys-space-in-your-face91 – Space In Your Face (Galactic Cowboys)
…look, I agree that this should be quite a bit higher, had this been an actual ranking-of-the-worst-to-best list, but as I mentioned in the intro (in case you skipped it directly to the list, like I usually do with posts like these), this was thrown together as they came to mind. And this is my favorite of the Galactic Cowboys discography.

swirling-eddies-sacred-cows90 – Sacred Cows (The Swirling Eddies)
…finally. Proper renditions of Christian favorites. This has the superior version of “Satan, Bite The Dust”. Sorry, Carman.

steve-taylor-squint89 – Squint (Steve Taylor)
…this is a classic. You need to own this, if you don’t. Period. Yeah, I realize I would say this to all of Steve Taylor’s output, but this was the only one of his solo albums released in the 1990s. So, there you go.

crashdog-the-pursuit-of-happiness88 – The Pursuit Of Happiness (Crashdog)
…released at a time when punk was still underground and yet to be made into a joke, this release is legit.

tourniquet-microscopic-view-of-a-telescopic-realm87 – Microscopic View Of A Telescopic Realm (Tourniquet)
…Ted Kirkpatric’s “Tourniquet” goes back to playing “metal”, and the result is adorable. Eh, still better than Crawl To China.

kings-x-dogman86 – Dogman (King’s X)
…very raw, very dark and very angry. My favorite King’s X release. You know, whenever I’m in that kind of mood.

way-sect-bloom-effloresce85 – EfFLoReScE (The Way Sect Bloom)
…something I came across while first exploring the industrial and Gothic side of Christianity. Produced by Celldweller, released on Flaming Fish, and one of the more interesting electronic industrial releases I came across.

scaterd-few-grandmother-spaceship84 – Grandmother’s Spaceship (Scaterd-Few)
…the legendary scaterd-few’s third full-length release I don’t really listen to as much as the first two releases, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something to overlook, here.

tourniquet-vanishing-lessons83 – Vanishing Lessons (Tourniquet)
…Tourniquet back when they still had a few members of the classic lineup left, plus a new singer and a streamlined sound. Eh, still better than Crawl To China.

holy-soldier-holy-soldier82 – Holy Solider (Holy Soldier)
…some say this self-titled released by Holy Soldier is better than their sophomore release. I disagree. Still a good album.

dig-hey-zoose-strugglefish81 – Struggle Fish (Dig Hay Zoose)
…while I grant that Dig Hay Zoose actually tried to do something unique with their music, rather than just aping a style, this is a delicious hot mess when compared to their second album.

::END TRANSMISSION::

CALLING IT A YEAR, FOLKS (A Metapost)

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header

2016-badLet’s just cut right to the chase, here: 2016 was a trying year. I’m not saying it was a bad year, per se; here we are, a bit less than two months to go, and looking back there seems to have been enough bummers to send even the most sunny smile-wearing optimist into a downward spiral of existential quandary.

Mentally picturing that last part I wrote just put a smile on my face. Excuse me for a bit while I regain my composure.

2016-good

There we go. Where were we, now? Oh, right.

I’m gonna call it a year right now, folks. I know, I know, it’s only the beginning of November. And no, I assure you it has nothing to do with any “Post-Halloween Depression”. It hasn’t been that bad this year, as a matter of fact. It’s just that, given the recent happenings in the ongoing dramady that is my life, I thought it prudent to take the rest of the year off to regroup, deal with the fallout that’s happening right now, and try and look forward to the near future. Namely, next year.

Without going into detail, there was another death in the family on Halloween night itself. As of this writing, tomorrow (November 5th) is the funeral. Then there’s the beginning of the period of the year I like to refer to as the “Holiday Clusterbomb”, which is always a stressful time, regardless of how much I try to not get involved with this superficial time of the year.

I’m just tired right now. I need to try and get things reorganized, especially with my writing, and get some kind of rhythm back on. Writing and posting on this blog, along with producing sessions of NECRO SHOCK RADIO have been my few outlets of creative joy in my life, something I haven’t been able to get back to as much as I’d like.

So, until the beginning of 2017 in a couple of months, I’m going to take the time to recoup a bit. Focus on finally finishing up the backlog of articles and reviews I’ve started but put on hold for whatever reason, then scheduling in advance for next year. Work on getting some Sessions of NSR in the can. Mind you, there will still be your periodic post here and there in the remaining weeks of 2016, mostly reviews of the new theatrical movie releases (there’s Doctor Strange, and also Rogue One with the Exalted Geeks on the docket) and the yearly OBLIGATORY YEAR END REVIEW post I try and get out on December 31st-ish. But for the time being, please excuse the proverbial radio silence from here on out.

If I’m still alive by the end of the year, I shall emerge again in 2017. Have a happy something-or-other, my wonderful freaks. And please disregard all the blood.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: STAR TREK Beyond

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movie-review_-star-trek-beyondParamount Pictures
2016
PG-13

“It isn’t uncommon, you know. It’s easy to get lost. In the vastness of space, there’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.”

A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. The assault came from Krall, a lizard-like dictator who derives his energy by sucking the life out of his victims. Krall needs an ancient and valuable artifact that’s aboard the badly damaged starship. left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race while trying to find a way off their hostile planet.

Everybody seems to want to hate on Star Trek Into Darkness. I don’t get it, really. I found myself rather enjoying the movie, despite it’s flaws. Maybe it was the flaws that gave it the flavor I enjoyed. Or, maybe people just feel funny if they admit to liking something on the Internet. Whatever. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness. That said, I also understand why it took a while to get a third installment of what is now referred to as the Kelvin Universe of these shiny new Star Trek movies. And, I guess, deep down I was also kind of hoping that the next movie would draw its strength from an original story, rather than borrowing from past Trek storylines.

And fortunately, despite some misgivings about the first trailer shown, it turns out Star Trek Beyond manages to hold its own, with an original story that feels more like a classic episode of TOS Star Trek. Something that’s hilariously lampshaded in the beginning of the film, I should say.

Here, the crew of the Enterprise is in the middle of its official five year mission, and everyone seems to be stuck in a rut. Captain Kirk contemplates taking on an Admiral position, which would mean he couldn’t captain a ship, while Spock considers taking up the mantle of Ambassador to Vulcan in the place of the recently deceased Prime Spock (is it just me, or does “Prime Spock” sound like an entree at a steak house?). This is put on hold when they head out to a distress call that turns out to be an ambush that results in the destruction of the Enterprise (again…I swear this happens every other movie, now) and the majority of the crew taken prisoner by an alien that seems to have a mad-on for the Federation. Kirk, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Chekov, and Scotty manage to evade capture, but they’re all scattered on the planet they crashed on, and it’s a bit dangerous going trying to find their way back. Fortunately, Scotty runs into someone who has been hiding out from the alien bad guy for much longer, and helps them all to free all the captured crew and thwart a plan to destroy the nearby Federation Puzzleball Space Station.

Overall, I think I may actually like Star Trek Beyond better than the first two. Yeah, I said it. Mainly because there’s more depth of character development, and it wasn’t just the Kirk and Spock show. Here, it’s Spock and McCoy together for the majority of the time, and the chemistry between those two works so well, I found myself demanding more screen time for those two. There are a couple of groaning points, mind you: The big twist reveal at the end that just made me (and probably more than just me) go, “Wha…?” And then there’s the way the Beastie Boys factored into defeating the enemy. Yeah. That happened.

So, basically, if you’ve been holding off watching Star Trek Beyond because you can’t get over the whole “inverted rip-off of Star Trek II” thing, get over yourself and go watch this. Recommended.

Book Review: The DEAD ZONE

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book-review_-the-dead-zoneStephen King
Viking Press
1979

The crowd had the plump, righteous, slightly constipated look that seems the exclusive province of businessmen who belong to the GOP.

Johnny, the small boy who skated at breakneck speed into an accident that for one horrifying moment plunged him into The Dead Zone. Johnny Smith, the small-town schoolteacher who spun the wheel of fortune and won a four-and-a-half-year trip into The Dead Zone. John Smith, who awakened from an interminable coma with an accursed power—the power to see the future and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone.

Back when I was 16 and a sophomore in High School, I was in full-on Stephen King junkie mode. I was in the process of trying to read all the Stephen King books I could lay my hands upon, and The Dead Zone being part of the King bibiliography, I of course was obligated to read the novel.

It was around this time of reading the book, where I made the discovery that not every King book is going to knock it out of the park for me. It took me a bit longer than usual to work my way through The Dead Zone, as it didn’t really capture my full attention to keep me going with the story. Keep in mind, again, I was 16 at the time, and hadn’t developed the focus to the laser-honed something-something as it is now. Squirrel.

Revisiting The Dead Zone, I find the overall story of a man who awakes from a coma to find he’s developed some precognitive skills that nearly drives him insane and then decides to take out a Presidential candidate because he foresaw a bad future to be a bit more interesting than I did back when I was barely old enough to drive. But, not much more than that. Mind you, The Dead Zone isn’t a bad novel by any means. Far from it. I just don’t find it to be one of the ones that I would enjoy revisiting again. Matter of fact, I haven’t seen the Christopher Walken-staring movie version; but, I have seen the first season of the television show. Weird.

Movie Review: PETE’S DRAGON (2016)

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movie-review_-petes-dragon-2016Disney
2016
PG

“I know the forest like the back of my hand. I wouldn’t have missed a dragon.”
“You missed Pete.”

Mr. Meacham, a woodcarver, delights local children with stories of a mysterious dragon that lives deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. His daughter Grace believes these are just tall tales, until she meets Pete, a 10-year-old orphan who says he lives in the woods with a giant, friendly dragon. With help from a young girl named Natalie, Grace sets out to investigate if this fantastic claim can be true.

I’ll just get this out of the way right now: Yes, I was a fan of the original 1977 musical version of Pete’s Dragon that was a campy animation-meets-live action flop for Disney. I watched it every time it played on HBO back in the day. I was also 7 years old. Looking back, of course it didn’t age well, but I still find some kind of whimsical charm to the whole thing. I still break out in a rousing chorus of “Bill Of Sale” whenever I’m grocery shopping, for whatever reason my brain decides on.

It was around the time when I watched Tim Burton’s “remake” (really a sequel, but whatever) of Alice In Wonderland when I thought that, of all the Disney movies to remake, Pete’s Dragon could befit with the ol’ patented Burton dark whimsy. Well, part of my fanboy desire was realized, as Pete’s Dragon was remade as more of a straight family drama, only by some guy whose previous body of work I don’t recognize, and not by Tim Burton. Ah, well. At least this time around, they done good with Eliot and the gang.

And by that, I mean they went the wise route to keep the spirit of the original movie, but craft its own tale independent of the previous one. This is not a musical (I doubt there’s anyone who’s disappointed with that, really),
the story is set on the other side of the country, and the means in which Pete finds his giant green companion…well, I don’t want to give away too much. Let’s just say, the opening few minutes aren’t going to be very pleasant for the small kiddies.

The story was pretty good, if not a bit ham-fisted with the inevitable environmental message; the child actors were quite good, meaning I didn’t find their performances annoying. And, there were some moments that managed to tug on my blackened heartstrings a bit. Fortunately, the theater was dark, and I made up for that by blasting away a bunch of kill-bots with my youngest nephew afterwards. You read that right.

Of course, the main attraction of this redux is Elliot himself. Obviously not the Don Bluth animated cartoon, but also not your traditional dragon with the scales and the…well, scales. Elliot is more of a big, ginormous puppy with green fur and wings. And the ability to make himself invisible in a way that was rendered at least plausible.

Maybe the only disagreement I have with the movie is the placement of the two main guys: I would actually believe the creepy kid from American Beauty to be the man more concerned with hunting Elliot, than have New Bones from the rebooted Star Trek movies be the…well, not necessarily a bad guy per se, but at least the guy who is clearly the heel in the story. You cannot manipulate me into hating Karl Urban, movie. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.

Anyway, the Pete’s Dragon redux is a surprisingly good movie. It had the spirit of the original, while crafting something much better, with some fantastic effects and a brisk adventurous story, in my estimation. Worth a look-see.

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