Obligatory Memorial Day Post (2017 Edition)

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arlington cemeteryToday is Memorial Day here in the United States of America, where I dwell. A day where we remember and acknowledge those veterans and soldiers who have fought for our freedoms in the past, and are currently fighting for them now. Also a day to remember the loved ones that have shuffled off this mortal coil, some far too soon.

Since I hold my family to be a very important part of my life, I thought I would take a moment to share a list of the names of the family members I remember fondly while growing up:

Bill Wheatley (Great-Grandfather)
Charlotte Marie Case (Great-Grandmother)
Robert Case (Grandfather)
Esther Case (Grandmother)
Gerald Strand (Grandfather)
Betty Strand (Grandmother)
Orland Krohn (Grandfather)
Fern Krohn (Grandmother)
Douglas Erickson (Great-Great Uncle)
Natalie Erickson (Great-Great Aunt)
Janice Nuzum (Great Aunt)
Bill Rabe (Great Uncle)
Murial Rabe (Great Aunt)
Barry Rabe (Second Cousin)
Janet Donahey (Aunt)
Janel Case (Sister)
Allen Donahey (Cousin)
Jerry Donahey (Cousin)

…this is not a complete list, of course. And by no means is it by order of importance. These are the ones that I remember as have being part of my life. There have been others, and there will be others to come. Such is the nature of living.

Anyway, happy Memorial Day, and thank you for all who have served, and are still serving in some capacity. Cheers, all…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: BAD KIDS GO TO HELL

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Movie Review BAD KIDS GO TO HELLPhase 4 Films
2012
R

“Like a massive gravity sinkhole, he deforms every positive thought he encounters before sucking it into a vortex from Hell.”

On a stormy Saturday afternoon, six students from Crestview Academy begin to meet horrible fates as they serve out their detentions. Is a fellow student to blame, or perhaps Crestview’s alleged ghosts are behind the terrible acts?

Giving credit where credit is due, I only learned about Bad Kids Go To Hell by way of this movie’s sequel, Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy. I was browsing the Upcoming Rental Releases on the Family Video website (I usually go there to see what’s coming up, then use that to see if I can rent the streaming video on Amazon or Google Plus or whatnot). I came across the sequel title, did a bit of research, realized it was a sequel, and then checked out the original one first to watch, because OCD.

Useless fact: Bad Kids Go To Hell is based on a “best selling” graphic novel that I’ve never heard of (no surprise there, as I had forsaken all comics since that “One More Day” abomination that Marvel did with Spider-Man), and was seemingly released nationwide in December of 2012 to presumably every other theater except for any in Eastern Nebraska, because I don’t recall any of the theaters in Omaha or Lincoln getting this. But, I digress.

Having watched Bad Kids Go To Hell (for some odd reason, I presumed it was British in origin…it is not…sadly), I must admit that I was surprisingly entertained. It’s kind of a mash-up with The Breakfast Club (including Judd Nelson as the school’s headmaster) and a Scooby-Doo mystery, with a lot more murder and mayhem.

After an opening that starts things off at the end of the movie, we then flash back to a few hours earlier in the day, where a bunch of stereotypes kids from mostly affluent society are gathered together in the library for weekend detention. We learn that the library itself was recently remodeled, and is rumored to be haunted. The stereotypes kids begin doing that “bonding” thing that most movies aping John Hughes movies from the 80s do, and then try to bust out of the library, only to find the going rather…tough. Then the stereotypes kids start dying off in horrible ways, paranoia begins mounting as they try to figure out who’s doing the killing, and the mystery as to whether or not the ghost of the Native American whose land was stolen and the school is currently standing on is causing all the weird things happening. Spoilers: it isn’t, but the twist reveal behind everything will make you appreciate the work the culprits put in for everything. Then final confrontation wackiness ensues, and then we’re back to where we started, and the poor kid is carted off to an insane asylum while it looks like everything has to do with a (local) government conspiracy with the janitor of the school. The end.

Overall, Bad Kids Go To Hell was amusingly good for what it is. And that is a dark comedy thriller that has a tongue in cheek delivery while borrowing generously from other tropes, which results in something that doesn’t really pretend to be original, but gives us some fun times. Definitely worth a rental, here.

Movie Review: ALIEN: Covenant

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aliencovenant20th Century Fox
2017
R

Sleep well. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David, the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

Wild-eyed speculation time, again. You see, I have a theory about the recent couple of Alien-centric movies that Ridley Scott has produced in recent years. That theory being that he’s secretly trolling everyone with Alien: Covenant due to not being able to continue with the whole Prometheus storyline proper, and gave in and did a half-arsed Alien prequel sequel as a playful middle finger to studio suits and those who complained that Prometheus wasn’t “Alien enough”. This is the only logical explanation I can think of to explain this rather lackluster and mediocre entry in the overall Alien franchise.

If you recall with my review of Prometheus (it’s here if you need a brush-up, it has been five years after all), I actually rather liked the movie, mainly because it dared to do something different than your standard Alien movie. I was hoping for a continuation like this that eventually tied into the current Alien timeline set forth in the 1979 original classic. Instead, it was evident that the powers that be wanted more of a conventional Alien movie, so then we got this.

I should point out that I’m going to be spoiling the earwax out of this movie from here on out. Here we go, then…

After a bit of a prelude that shows the interaction between the android (or is that “replicant”? I think that it’s been established that the Alien universe is loosely tied into the Blade Runner universe as well) David from Prometheus and his creator Peter Weyland, starting things off with a nifty discussion on the existential nature of existence and the relationship between creator and its creation. Off to a nice start, here. Flash forward to about ten years after the events in Prometheus (I keep referencing a better movie, that’s not good), and the colony transport ship Covenant ship is en route to a habitable planet to set up shop for several thousand humans frozen embryos from Earth. They’ve got a good 7 years to go at this point, when a neutrino burst hits the ship, killing some colonists as well as the captain while in cryo-sleep. As the rest of the crew–along with their upgraded Android/Replicant named Walter–go about repairing the ship, they pick up a distress signal emanating from a nearby habitable planet that they somehow overlooked while picking out another planet to Manifest Destiny the heck out of. Recognizing it as a John Denver song, and reasoning that the popularity of John Denver probably isn’t powerful enough to reach beyond Earth, they decide to check it out.

Is any of this beginning to sound familiar, here? No? Let us continue, then…

The landing party discovers the planet in question is something of a paradise [SYMBOLISM ALERT!], and yet seems to have evidence that it was once populated by an intelligent life that at least figured out how to cultivate wheat. Not counting the one person they left at the shuttle, the landing party splits into two groups–one to run some tests to see how habitable the land is, and another to find the source of the transmission that got them there in the first place. Of course, aforementioned source is emanated from the crashed Engineer ship from the end of Prometheus, and is overtaken with overgrowth. A couple of guys from the landing party manage to get infected by the Fungal Spores of DOOM, and after a rather quick bit of an allergic reaction, each have a cute widdle neomorph pop out of them. The shuttle blows up, several from the group die horribly, and the survivors are saved by David the android and taken to his bachelor pad. Everyone freshens up, the two androids bond over music and existential discussion, and a fully grown neomorph decides to drop by for a bite or two to eat. That’s when David unveils his main hobby, and it doesn’t involve basket weaving. Wackiness ensues, they manage to fight off a full-fledged xenomorph and make it back to the Covenant, then another xenomorph shows up on board, more wackiness ensues, the alien is then knocked off of the ship with a couple of terraforming rigs, and both the survivors snuggle into their cryo-sleep pods, finding out too late that the wrong android/replicant came back with them from the planet. The end, for now.

The thing is, for all intents and purposes, Alien:Covenant isn’t a bad movie, per se. Ridley Scott manages to once again squeeze every ounce of gorgeous cinematography out of the scenes, resulting in some very breath-taking shots. Couple that with some atmospheric Gothic style interior shots of both the derelict Engineer ship and the ancient edifice that David made his home for the past 10 years. When it comes to the characters, though, it’s hands-down Michael Fastbender’s show, playing both David and his updated successor Walter, and interacting with…well, himself wonderfully. Danny McBride as ship jockey Tennessee was decent as well. The rest of the cast were, um…adequate, I want to say. And by that, I mean the crew wasn’t exactly the best of the best, here. Come to think of it, that seems to be the case for every one of the Alien movies.

The biggest weakness I found with Alien: Covenant was the feeling of been there, done that. The plot really does tread the similar ground that the other Alien movies went. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a complete retread of the very first Alien movie, but the similarities are rather stark when it isn’t trying to shoehorn in the events of Prometheus to try and make things work as a prequel. In the end, there are more questions raised than actually answered.

Overall, I don’t think Alien: Covenant went so far as to ruin the Alien franchise, but it doesn’t really present an argument that we shouldn’t let the franchise die with some dignity left. Worth at least one look, but wait for VOD.

Movie Review: GREEN ROOM

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green roomA24
2015
R

“It’s funny. You were so scary at night.”

Down on their luck punk rockers The Ain’t Rights are finishing up a long and unsuccessful tour, and are about to call it quits when they get an unexpected booking at an isolated, run-down club deep in the backwoods of Oregon. What seems merely to be a third-rate gig escalates into something much more sinister when they witness an act of violence backstage that they weren’t meant to see. Now trapped backstage, they must face off against the club’s depraved owner, Darcy Banker, a man who will do anything to protect the secrets of his nefarious enterprise. But while Darcy and his henchmen think the band will be easy to get rid of, The Ain’t Rights prove themselves much more cunning and capable than anyone expected, turning the tables on their unsuspecting captors and setting the stage for the ultimate life-or-death showdown.

I know, I know. I had the chance to see the movie Green Room during its blink-and-it’s-gone run time in the theaters. I kept hearing very, very good things about the movie, how it’s not only a tense independent thriller featuring great performances from the cast as well as a fantastic cinematography that really brought out the claustrophobic nature of the story, but I kept hearing from acquaintances in the underground punk scenes that the depiction of the hardcore punk aesthetic was quite legit. The thing was, I rarely want to go to the movies alone nowadays, and since most if not all of the Exalted Geeks I would go with aren’t into horror movies, I decided to wait until the VOD release.

My mistake. I admit that now. I should have worked past my anxiety to take in this flick on the big screen when I had the chance. Because, boy does Green Room pack a significant roundhouse kick to the midsection with a steel-toed boot.

So, here we have a story about a hardcore punk band, named the Ain’t Rights, trying to get by on their DIY ethos and playing some seriously righteous hardcore punk wherever they can. Before they decide to call it quits on the tour, they’re given a shot at an out-in-the-boonies bar for a decent payout for gas to get back home. Only, the bar has a rather narrow kind of clientèle–namely, skinhead Nazis. But, money is money, and they do the set anyway, and when they’re getting set to leave, they accidentally stumble upon a murder in the titular Green Room, and now they have to spend the rest of the night trying to survive getting snuffed by the bar’s owner and his army of skinheads to cover everything up. Things…don’t go well.

There are two things that make Green Room a fantastic horror thriller: 1) the depiction of the whole hardcore punk aesthetic, I’m told from acquaintances who adhere to that scene, is pretty authentic. I say “I’m told”, because I don’t claim to be part of or even an expert on the scene; while I read up and try to understand and have an appreciation for the scene and the music, I also hold no delusion as to claiming I’m part of it. The ones I know of who are have given their seal of approval, though. As long as they’re not really messing with Poser Boy here, I’m going to accept it. 2) This is a well-crafted and tight horror thriller that is claustrophobic, quick-paced and doesn’t take any easy way outs. There were a few times where I caught myself drawing my knees up to my chest and getting unnerved at the goings on I was witnessing. Add to this a fantastic performance from none other than Patrick Stewart as the head Skinhead, and you’ve got yourself a chilling time.

Really, don’t make the same mistake I did. If you haven’t watched Green Room, do yourself a favor and rectify that oversight. Highly recommended by your Uncle NecRo.

Movie Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol. 2

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guardians of the galaxy 2Marvel / Disney
2017
PG-13

“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”

Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen the items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. As the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter’s parentage is revealed.

Leave it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to effectively ruin the rest of the Summer Blockbuster Season right off the bat. Again. It happened last year with Captain America: Civil War. And now, we have all witnessed the kind of big action blockbuster that will effectively ruin all other movies that would come out after during the coveted Summer months. Yeah, I’m gonna call it:

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is the best Summer movie of 2017.

Seriously, all of the others that are coming out in the next few months after this have their work cut out for them. And this is a movie that, really, doesn’t even have much of a concrete plot. Regardless, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

So, after the greatest opening title sequence ever realized, we find our motley crew of space heroes on the run from the very race they were hired to protect, where they stumble upon Peter “Star Lord” Quill’s father, who just happens to be Ego, the Living Planet. And in case you’re wondering just how a planet would get it on with a human lady from Earth, there was a Kurt Russell avatar involved. All the other questions about that are actually handled in the movie, so please don’t ask me. I want to be able to sleep at night. Anyway, Quill, Gamora and Drax go with Ego and his consort named Mantis, while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to both repair the wrecked Milano, as well as guard Gamora’s sister Nebula. Only, the Ravagers are looking to capture the Guardians for a payout, and after a bit of wackiness that sees both Rocket and Groot captured, along with the help of Nebula, the Ravagers decide to mutiny against their leader Yondu. Which, of course, eventually turns out to be a bad idea. Meanwhile, Quill’s getting some quality time with his intergalactic sperm donor, learning that he’s half Celestial (essentially a demigod) and uses his new-found powers to…play catch with Ego. How heartwarming. Of course, underneath all this shiny-happy outer shell lies a chewy nougat center of horror, as Ego’s true plan is finally revealed, and it’s up to the Guardians to take him down before Ego’s plan destroys the universe as we know it. No sweat.

So, what we have here is a rare sequel that is better than the predecessor, but also manages to flesh out the main characters to the point that when repercussions happen, you feel them in your gut. You get the feels. All the feels. But, you never think that you’re being manipulated into this, and actually balances out the action and comedy that works so well together.

That’s not to say the movie wasn’t without its weaker points. I didn’t think the character of Mantis was really that necessary, except for some exposition (maybe she’ll get fleshed out more in the inevitable sequel of this sequel), and while still a joy to watch, Drax seemed…off. I can’t really explain why, he just does. And probably the most minor quibble would be that the movie throws so much at you during its run time that you really do need to take in a second showing to process it all. Or even a third.

Regardless, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 once again proves that James Gunn is not only a very competent director, but can turn a potential dud into a fantastic blockbuster. That is no easy task. Especially when we’re talking about sequels. My advice, go see this while it’s still in the theaters. It’s worth the price of admission, plus the overpriced soda and popcorn.

NECRO SHOCK RADIO – May 6, 2017

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MAY 6, 2017

Finally, after taking two weeks off to deal with a massive sinus cold infection, Uncle NecRo is back to continue the weekly dispelling of the Brutal Music Therapy we all crave…

Featuring cuts from:

Movie Review: GREMLINS 2

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Movie Review_ GREMLINS 2Warner Bros.
1990
PG-13

“They put me on at 3am. People who are awake at 3am aren’t afraid of the Wolfman. The only thing that frightens those people is sobering up and going to work.”

The rules are the same but the laughs are bigger and the thrills are better. This time Billy and everyone’s favorite Mogwai, Gizmo, must face off against a new batch of Gremlins that definitely think New York is their kind of town.

There’s no denying that the original Gremlins is a classic. It managed to take a standard horror movie premise and turn it into a whimsical Christmas gem, which remains so to this day. So, of course it was inevitable that it would get a sequel to cash in on all the merchandising…er, movie magic that it’s spawned since. The only problem being that they waited six years to actually make one. And while the suits at Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment managed to get the original director Joe Dante to make the sequel, Dante had no interest whatsoever to do so.

And who could blame him? The story in the original Gremlins was wrapped up nicely, with Mr. Wing walking off into the night with Gizmo, back to the safety of his shop, after a night of terrifying wackiness. Gremlins didn’t really need a sequel. And on the cusp of the Summer of 1990, we got a sequel, whether we wanted one or not. And boy howdy, what a sequel.

I don’t think anybody was prepared for what we got when we sat down in the theater seats, awaiting the second installment of mogwai wackiness. If we were expecting something like the first one, we were sorely disappointed. Instead, we were treated to a biting satire of sequels in general, as well as a gleeful deconstruction of the first Gremlins movie.

We begin this movie with the death of Mr. Wing, along with the demolition of his shop, forcing Gizmo to vacate and suddenly finding himself the acquired property of scientists working in a New York high-rise business building owned by the Clamp Corporation. Coincidentally, this is where Billy and Kate from the first movie have ended up working at, and manage to rescue Gizmo. Of course, it’s just a matter of time before two of the Three Rules get violated, and soon the entire business building is overrun by the nasty scaly gremlins. And one of ’em has gained some super-intelligence and has plans for world domination.

Of course, when I first watched this movie in the theaters back in 1990, I didn’t really like it as much as the first one. Because, like pretty much everyone else, we were expecting something like the first movie, and were confused as to the tone and general absurdity of this one. While the concept of different style of mutated gremlins was cool (Spider Gremlin! Electo-Gremlin! Super-smart Gremlin with the voice of Tony Randall!), we also got a very thinly veiled jab at the movie industry’s need to do sequels that gleefully goes for the jugular. The Clamp Corporation is clearly a send-up of the Ted Turner mass media empire of the day, complete with a division that handles the colorization of classic movies. We have the late, great Christopher Lee as a mad scientist that stumbles upon the whole genetic splicing of the Gremlins thing. There’s also a wacky meta thing where the Gremlins apparently break into the theater you’re watching this at and breaks the film, causing Hulk Hogan to get rather annoyed at it. I am not making that up. Apparently, there’s an alternate take of this bit for the VHS release, but I’ve only really watched this at the theater when it was released, then on one of the premium cable movie channels at my grandparents’ place whenever it was on when I was visiting, so I only know the theater-centric version. And, to top it all off, the big climatic ending involves a musical number.

And it is just that kind of gleeful abandon and surreal absurdity that, over time, makes Gremlins 2: The New Batch to be just as good–dare I say, even better–that the original Gremlins. Because you cannot compare this with its original counterpart. This is a perfect example of comparing apples with pineapples. They both have the word “apple” in their names, but they are completely different fruits. Or, a berry and a fruit, if you want to get pedantic about apples technically being berries or whatever. What I’m trying to say is, Gremlins 2 is a different entity in and of itself.

So, watch and enjoy Gremlins 2, and admit to liking it. Just don’t try and compare it with its predecessor.

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