Movie Review: CHOPPING MALL

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Movie Review CHOPPING MALLLionsgate Home Entertainment
1986
R

“I’m just not used to being chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”

Some people will kill for a bargain…and at the Park Plaza Mall they do! Here, you can shop til you drop…dead! High tech robots equipped with state of the art security devices have been recruited as the new mechanical “night watchmen” for the Park Plaza Mall. When a jolting bolt of lightning short circuits the main computer control, the robots turn into “killbots”…on the loose after unsuspecting shoppers! Four couples are trying to make it after-hours in a mattress store. They make it all right…in the morgue! At Park Plaza, you can save on everything but your life!

Look at that DVD back-cover blurb up there. Just…gaze upon it. That, my fellow cinema fiends, is rampant abuse of the exclamation point right there. And to use them pared off with attempts to sound like Tales From The Crypt bon mots…they make me cringe. Also, this may be the first time I used “bon mot” in a sentence of any kind. But I digress.

Chopping Mall is a movie from the mid-1980s that poses the question: What if Short Circuit was a slasher horror flick, instead of a whimsical sci-fi family adventure? I mean, sure, you could argue that Chopping Mall came out a mere two months before Short Circuit and thus this would be a moot point, but let’s get real here. Chopping Mall is for those wishing Short Circuit had a body count and even goofier main characters. As a matter of fact, Chopping Mall was originally released under the title Killbots, which would have been far more on point with the plot of the movie, but was changed to the current name when it was re-released.

So, after a brief scene at a demonstration of the high-tech security bots, we’re introduced to the horny 20-somethings that work at various shops at the local mall. One of them is the son of the guy who owns the mattress store, and he and his buddies decide to bring in their respective girlfriends and have a product testing party after hours. This just also happens to be the same night that the fancy-schmancy security bots at the mall got shocked by a power surge due to an electrical storm outside, and they all surpass the Three Laws and begin killing all humans. So now, long after all the other smarter humans have left the mall and the kill bots have been deployed, the only live bodies left are those horny 20-somethings, and now it’s a matter of survival trying to get out of a mall that’s been put in lockdown, while being stalked by the three security robots. Things don’t go well.

First thing I really need to point out here, is that, for a movie titled Chopping Mall, there is absolutely zero actual chopping. Oh, there’s plenty of electrocuting, stabbing, choking and being shot at by lazer blasts (seriously), but absolutely no chopping whatsoever. I have to say, I am very disappointed, movie. You promise chopping, and then fail to deliver said chopping. I don’t care if it was the alternate title choice, the video cover promised chopping, I expect chopping. That said, Chopping Mall was a nice bit of cheesy 80s-tastic fun. The script itself oozed dated 80s pop culture, right down to the use of the words “bodacious” and “to the max”. The effects were delightfully low-budget, and things get so over-the-top you have to really check your brain in at the door and just sit back and enjoy the wackiness.

Misnomer title aside, Chopping Mall was a lot of unintentional fun to sit through. Easily making my list of So Bad It’s Good movies you need to watch and rip on with friends one night.

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Music Review: CRIMSON THORN – Plagued

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crimson thorn - plaguedCRIMSON THORN
Plagued
Independent
1993

Once upon a time, two lads from Minnesota met at a Barren Cross concert, became friends, and formed a band called Obidiah. From there, they created the legendary Crimson Thorn, and recorded the cassette-only demo Plagued in 1992, and released it in 1993. Obviously, since then it’s gone out of print and hard to find, until it was included on the Morphine Records re-release of Unearthed as bonus material.

The reason why I’m writing about this now is because, as of this writing, Bombworks Records has recently released the official 3-CD boxed set featuring all of their releases, which includes this demo, with all of the material given a well-needed remastering that the originals were sorely lacking, including this and the aforementioned Unearthed. I wanted to discuss the music itself separately, so I can focus on the quality of the remastering when I get around to reviewing the boxed set collection here soon.

It’s rather fascinating to learn that, given the kind of death metal the band is famous for playing and releasing, that the music on the Plagued demo is thrash metal. Not thrash metal with death vocals, like on Mortification’s self-titled album, actual thrash metal with standard thrash metal vocals. Mind you, this is some very good thrash metal, so there’s no complaint about that. I just wonder what prompted the change from the Exodus style thrash sound to the Cannibal Corpse inspired death metal goodness that appeared a year later on their debut full-length release.

Anyway, despite the less-than-stellar production on the demo itself (it’s to be expected, really, and the Morphine Records release didn’t do any remastering), the metal here rips with some fantastic thrash riffs and thick rhythms anchoring things down. The vocals, like I said, are of the deeper thrash shout vocals, the likes of which bands like Scourged Flesh and Sacrament have employed, among several others. I think that, had they stuck with the thrash metal direction, they would have been just as fantastic at that as they were with the eventual death metal direction they eventually went with. Regardless, the Plagued demo is very much worth checking out, and since this is included in the boxed set, it’ll be easier to do so, rather than trying to track down an affordable copy of the cassette-only demo itself, or even the Morphine Records re-release of Unearthed on which it is included (with a mixed-up track listing, I might add). Recommended.

Movie Review: RADICAL JACK

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radical jackEdgewood Entertainment
2000
R

Back in the early 1990s, I don’t think anyone could anticipate the kind of career trajectory Billy Ray Cyrus would take. After hitting One Hit Wonder gold with the infernal Country earworm “Achy Breaky Heart”, he seemed to have parlayed his lukewarm music career into various acting endeavors, as well as spawning more successful musical progeny. You have to admire his tenacity and work ethic, if not his talent.

In 2000, the Mulleted One starred in a low-budget “action” flick named Radical Jack. This movie’s premise seems to smoosh together two better movies: Road House and Stone Cold, only with hardly any of the charm and cheesy goodness of those. Radical Jack is an action movie so vanilla, so devoid of actual action or substance, you can’t help but continue watching out of pity, really.

Radical Jack tells the tale of ex-CIA operative “Radical” Jack (“Radical” was his code name, presumably chosen by a 10-year-old son of a Colonel) who is recruited begrudgingly to scope out illegal weapons trade happening in a small po-dunk Southern town of nondescript. Since “Radical” Jack rides a motorcycle and rocks a sweet, sweet mullet, of course the moment he hits the town he immediately gets a job at the local bar, but not until after he does his laundry and have sepia-toned flashbacks. He runs into the gang of ruffians lead by the son of the…gangster? Illegal gun fencer? Whatever you call him…all I know is he likes to sit outside on the porch of his nice home in the finest of polo shirts and have brunch and coffee a lot. Anyway, that guy’s kid and his slack-jawed yokel friends like to drive around in a Hummer and generally be assbutts to everyone in the town, including the waitresses at the bar that “Radical” Jack now works at. You can probably see where this is going. So, several confrontations happen, a bunch of tough-guy posturing and badly choreographed fight scenes ensue, and eventually the biggest non-surprising non-twist happens and the movie is over. Finally.

I have no idea who came up with the bright idea to try and make Billy Ray Cyrus an action star. Trying to take a guy who is closely associated with all-American wholesomeness and turning them into a grizzled antihero type just fell flatter than Garth Brooks’ attempt at his Chris Gaines persona. And I just now realized that I seem to know way more about 90s era country music than I’m comfortable to admit. That crap was everywhere, man. Anyway, the dialogue spouted was beyond horrible, the “action” scenes laughable, and if it wasn’t for some face palm-worthy bits of swearing that Billy Ray doesn’t seem to be able to pull off and some surprise nudity, I would swear this was a Family Channel attempt at edgy action television. The only redeeming quality of this movie happens to be that it’s one of those movies so bad that you can’t seem to stop watching, like a train wreck.

Fortunately, there was no further attempt to make Billy Ray into an action hero star. Unfortunately, Radical Jack still exists. And if you come across it…grab your friends, and rip this one to shreds. You’ll have a jolly good time.

Music Review: IMMORTAL SOULS – Once Upon A Time In The North

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immortal souls once upon a time in the north

IMMORTAL SOULS
Once Upon A Time In The North
Fear Dark Records
2005

The melodic death metal outfit Immortal Souls got its start in 1991, forming in Finland. They recorded and released a couple of demos, released a split CD with Mordecai and their debut album Under The Northern Sky as well as The Cleansing EP as a sort of teaser for the album at the same time. Then, the label that released the split and debut album (Little Rose) went under, and so the band signed with Fear Dark Records, who released this 2-disc retrospective of their music up to that point.

Disc One starts off with a couple of never-before released songs–“Painweighted” and “Down In My Grave”–which, this is just rampant speculation on my part, might have been two of the songs on their never-been-released Vision Of Hell demo (it’s nigh-impossible finding information on that thing). If anyone knows for certain, let me know. Anyway, after that is the entire The Cleansing EP, the entire Divine Wintertime EP that was released with the split with Mordecai, three songs from the Reflections Of Doom demo (“Hate Sender”, “I Am Me”, “Realm Of Hatred”) and one song from the Immortal Souls demo (“Immortal”). Disc Two is the entire Under The norther Sky album.

I acquired a copy of Once Upon A Time In The North mainly because of the two unreleased songs and the songs from the two cassette demos. Otherwise, I already owned copies of the two EPs and Under The Northern Sky. Although I’m not what you would call a “completest” collector, I didn’t mind double-dipping for this. It’s a good package, a great retrospective of earlier Immortal Souls music, and it has a write up from founder/bassist/vocalist Aki Särkioja in the CD booklet. Mind you, Immortal Souls is one of my favorite bands in existence. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of checking them out, this is a good retrospective of their earlier work for an introduction to these guys. Recommended.

Movie Review: ELOISE

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Movie Review ELOISEVertical Entertainment
2017
R

Four friends break into Eloise, an abandoned insane asylum, in search of a death certificate which will grant one of them a large inheritance. Unbeknownst to these four trespassers, what begins as an in-and-out adventure will evolve into their darkest nightmare in a place haunted by evil doctors, tortured spirits and unspeakable memories.

Here we are with yet another Abandoned Haunted Medical Facility type movie, this one featuring the likes of Elza Dushku and Robert Patrick as actors. My track record with movies like this one is rather dismal, and I only end up watching them more out of morbid curiosity, almost daring the movie to do something different–some kind of creative twist to a tired movie trope–to make me like it even a little bit. Does Eloise manage to do this? In a word…nope.

So, the movie involves a young, 20-something blue collar man who just learns of the death of his father. While at the insurance office following up, he’s then made aware of a long-forgotten aunt who was interred at the Eloise insane asylum decades prior, and has bequeathed a large sum of money to him. Though she’s been presumed long dead, the kid (sorry, I’m in my 40s, so 20-somethings are looking like kids to me) needs to get the official death certificate to prove her to be dead-dead, so he can get the money awaiting him. And the certificate is located in one of the abandoned buildings of Eloise, naturally. So, he enlists the help of an old friend of his, a bartender he met the night prior, and the bartender’s brother, who happens to be a fount of information on Eloise, to break into the abandoned facility and try and find the death certificate. The inside of this place is creepy enough as it is, especially in the dead of night; but soon the standard set of supernatural shenanigans begin happening, progressing predictably to what you would expect in something labeled as a “horror movie”.

Well, now…this was an unsurprisingly boring movie to sit through. Most independently shot horror flicks involving haunted asylums or hospitals of some sort usually are, as they all seem to go the route story-wise. You know the drill: bunch of young adults break into the abandoned structure for whatever reason, said abandoned structure turns out to be haunted for realsies, wackiness ensues. Usually off screen. Nothing new to see here, folks. Move along, move along.

Mind you, there are several things going for the movie’s favor, like being shot on location at the defunct Eloise mental institution outside of Detroit, Michigan, and capitalizing well with the eerie atmosphere of the interiors of said building. The history behind the facility also lends to the atmosphere and amps up the dread when they’re inside the place. This being director Robert Legato’s first film–a guy who is better known as a long time VFX specialist for several well-known Hollywood directors, as well as helming a few Star Trek episodes in the 90s–he did a very good job shooing and editing the movie itself. And the story does start off with a promising premise. But, once they finally get inside the titular building, it goes the route every modern haunted asylum movie has gone before, and not very memorably I should hasten to add. The actors were all adequate in their respective rolls, with Eliza Dushku being the default standout of the bunch. The worst part is about two-thirds of the way in, when the movie introduces the dimensional time-shift aspect to the plot, in an attempt to answer the mystery behind the evil of the…

Ah, forget it. I give up trying to explain things about this movie. Eloise has flashes of good ideas, but ultimately falls flat. So far, the only good abandoned asylum movie in existence is Session 9, and you would do well to watch that one again instead.

Movie Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW

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Movie Review EDGE OF TOMORROWWarner Bros. Pictures
2014
PG-13

“Now listen carefully. This is a very important rule. This is the only rule. You get injured on the field, you better make sure you die.”

When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Major William Cage, an officer who has never seen combat, is assigned to a suicide mission. Killed within moments, Cage finds himself thrown into a time loop, in which he relives the same brutal fight–and his death–over and over again. However, Cage’s fighting skills improve with each encore, bringing him and a comrade ever closer to defeating the aliens.

Edge Of Tomorrow is a science fiction movie that I remember seeing the teaser trailer for once while waiting for another movie to begin. It consisted of Tom Cruise in a mech suit of some kind, wondering around a battlefield with things blowing up around him…and that’s about all I remember before my brain began drifting to other, much more interesting things, like wondering if there was time to go get a package of Reese’s Pieces to mix in with my popcorn (I opted not to go). I wasn’t really planning on ever watching Edge Of Tomorrow, more out of disinterest in yet another gritty science fiction war movie, let alone one that features Tom Cruise in there. But, yet again the great ogre that is boredom reared its ugly head one weekend afternoon, and spying this on the streaming decided to kill off a couple of hours. The resulting reaction was…mixed, at best.

It’s the near future of…2015, and in a totally ironic reversal, Germany has been invaded…by a horde of intergalactic aliens called the Mimics, sort of a hive-minded Lovecraftian horror that managed to kill all the humans in their way. Five years later, the world’s combined military forces have finally managed their one victory, led by a sergeant in a mech suit that was dubbed the Angel of Verdun. This provides a much-needed boost of moral for the humans, and before you know it a major offensive in France is planned, with public affairs officer Major Tom Cruise William Cage being recruited to cover the day of the assault. Major Cage has a slight disagreement with this idea, and so he’s busted down to Private, labelled a deserter, and assigned to the J Squad for the battle. Of course, the battle itself doesn’t go well, and Private Cage dies taking out a rather large Mimic, getting covered in its blood with his dying breath. The End. Oh, wait, no…Cage wakes up again, reliving the last 24 hours leading up to the battle, with the memories of the previous attempt fresh in his head. Realizing he’s stuck in his own personal Groundhog Day hell, he proceeds to spend maybe hundreds of the reiteration of the same day trying to figure out a way to stop the Mimics once and for all. And this involves hundreds of times trying to convince the Angel of Verdun that he’s not nuts and help him do so. Of course, the standard time loop wackiness ensues, leading to finding the Big Alien Brain behind all this, which might involve Cage having to make the final assault without his timey-wimey powers.

As I was watching this, I kept asking myself, who was it that decided that Tom Cruise, of all people, needed to be an action star? This seems to be his modus operandi with movies since the end of the 20th Century. You would expect him to maybe be in a parody of an action movie, like with Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots) and his brother Emilio Estevez (Loaded Weapon 1). I don’t watch a lot of Tom Cruise movies, but going over the filmography page on IMDB, it seems that after doing Eyes Wide Shut, there’s been a lot of action movies on his list. And okay, he was in the action movie comedy Tropic Thunder, which is an awesome movie and everyone should go see it. But still, Tom Cruise still seems…off as a choice for action hero material. But, I digress.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I say that I’m unfamiliar with the Japanese novel this movie is based on, All You Need Is Kill. Which is a very Japanese sounding name, there. And from what I’ve gleaned on the interwebs, there was a lot of plot streamlining for the movie, so one could say that Edge Of Tomorrow is loosely based on the novel. That said, my impression of Edge Of Tomorrow is essentially Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. That’s the movie in a nutshell, minus the having to travel to distant planets to battle the alien horde. Mind you, I happen to dig the whole “stuck in a time loope” trope, when it’s done well, and here it’s done pretty good. Also, you get kickass mech suits and the late, great Bill Paxton as the Master Sergeant, with a whole lotta stuff blowing up. In other words, it’s an sci-fi action movie that tries to be smarter than what it really is, and the result is a rather enjoyable popcorn flick that you don’t have to think too hard about, as all the technical stuff is spelled out for you. You can just sit back, munch on some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Overall, I did enjoy Edge Of Tomorrow the same way I enjoyed the original Independence Day, right down to the “hooray human endurance” happy ending. Mind you, I don’t understand why Warner Bros. decided to play up the movie’s tag line–“Live. Die. Repeat.”–upon the home video release. To many, that’s the actual title of the movie. I had a co-worker refer to it as that, asking “Have you seen Live Die Repeat?”, which took him describing the plot to make me realize he was talking about this movie. Regardless, you should check this out some time as a rental if you haven’t done so.

Music Review: CONSECRATOR – Image Of Deception

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consecrator - image of deceptionCONSECRATOR
Image Of Deception
Bombworks Records
2004

Consecrator is (was?) a thrash metal band that was formed in Texas in 1989, released a couple of demos, then broke up in 1993. Then, if the Metal Archives site is to be believed, the group reformed in 2004, which coincided with the release of this particular compilation collecting their two demos on one CD on the Bombworks Records label.

I’m going to take a moment, here, and make mention that, at the time of this writing, Roxx Records is getting set to release a remaster version of this compilation, with new artwork, a never before released song from 2004, and a bonus DVD featuring a live show from the band back in the day. I do this because I want to urge you all to get in on the re-release from Roxx of this album. Not only because this Bombworks edition was only limited to 300 copies, but Roxx has been fantastic with the remastering and re=releasing of several long out of print classics. And no, I’m not on their payroll. I’m just a satisfied customer, is all. Anyway…

Concerning the music that Consecrator put out, after the initial listen to this collection, I stand in awe at the fact that these guys never managed to get signed to any of the labels back in the day. I mean, this is some rather great thrash metal, here, worthy of inclusion on R. E. X. Records roster of thrash metal bands at least. This is some blistering thrash metal, here, chock full of hooky riffs and finger-melting solos and solid rhythms to give you the biggest bangover of your life. Of the two demos that are included on this release, Image Of Deception is the better quality over Demo from 1990, from a production quality perspective. I don’t know if they only had a worn cassette copy of the first demo, but there were some parts that were almost unlistenable. Which is the pity, because the metal on both is epic thrash and metal played very well, very tight and very, very ferocious. This is the primary reason I mentioned the Roxx Records re-release. Because I am of the opinion that everyone should check out Consecrator’s work, and in the best possible quality available.

Will I be purchasing the re-release when it comes out? Boy howdy. In the meantime, though, this copy of of the Image Of Deception compilation will get further plays until then.

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