Movie Review: OVERLORD

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overlordParamount Pictures
2018
R

“Three months ago, I was cutting grass on my front yard. The mailman shows up with a letter from the army. Now I’m here, and no idea where I’m going to end up.”

In-between taking over the Star Trek and Star Wars movie franchises, along with other projects, J. J. Abrams went back to making a straight-up horror movie as a kind of change of pace in the previous year. That movie was this one we’re discussing right now, Overlord. It was the movie that was originally rumored to be another one set in the Cloverfield universe that’s already three movies deep. But, Abrams squelched those rumors, stating that Overlord was going to be its own standalone horror flick, with nothing to even remotely tie it into the whole interesting-yet-convoluted anthology of films. I’m sure there were those out there that figured he was just bluffing, fully expecting another fun yet kind of ham-fisted entry in the Cover-verse.

But, no, as it turns out, Overlord is not a secret Cloverfield movie, with nothing in it that even remotely pointed to it being one in the first place. Personally, I went in not really expecting some kind of tie to that series, as I have this nasty habit of taking people by their word. It’s gotten me burned on many an occasion, yes, I realize. But I gotta be me. Anyway, what I was expecting was another zombie flick. You know, one that was set during the sequel to the War to End All Wars, World War II (Electric Nazi Boogaloo). And…well, it was, but less Night Of The Living Dead, and more Herbert West: Reanimator, if we were to compare it to previous entries in the horror genre.

So, it’s the eve of D-Day, and a platoon of America’s finest parashoot into the heart of German occupied France, with a mission to sneak into a castle being used by the Nazis as a communications base and destroy a radio tower so that the Allied troops can land in Normandy without the Krauts knowing. And before I’m bombarded with accusations of racism, I am of German ancestry, and I have to say that “Kraut” is our word, you hate-filled bigot. Anyway. after being decimated by heavy fire, the surviving troop manage to sneak into the French village where the castle is at, befriend a local member of the resistance, and holes up in the attic of her house while coming up with their plan of action. As it turns out, not only are the Nazis using the castle as a base of operations, they’ve set up a lab in the basement (do castles have basements? Wouldn’t that be more of a dungeon? Or a lower level?), where the obligatory mad Nazi scientist is conducting experiments on the local townfolk and dead soldiers to refine a serum that would turn their soldiers into long-lasting and durable Ubermensch Soldiers that would serve their Thousand-Year Reich. Planning ahead and all that. Only, there are some glitches. Ones that the Americans discover when, while trying to save the life of a dying soldier, they inject him with some of the serum, and he comes back to life really thirsty, feeling really hot…oh, yeah, and also really violent, incoherent, and hard to put down. So, due to the Resistance lady’s young brother being kidnapped by a German officer and taken to the castle, she and the remaining soldiers sneak into the stronghold to take down, not only the communications tower, but also destroy the nightmares that the mad scientist is creating.

Overlord was a rather enjoyable sci-fi horror flick, overall. I liked the way that the movie went into this as more of a period piece war action movie at first, building up not only the story and the tension, but also giving some depth to the soldier characters and even the antagonist Nazi officers who interact with the heroes. So when the David Cronenberg-level horror is introduced, it’s really effective. And that aspect is done just as well, going less for camp, and more for a gritty and chilling portrayal of the mad scientist horror, when juxtaposed with the more realistic horror of the war raging outside of the castle walls.

It’s a pity that, ultimately, Overlord kind of came and went without much fanfare. J. J. Abrams can really do a good horror movie, without having to make it an obligatory part of his mythos. I wouldn’t mind seeing more like this from him. Besides that, Overlord is recommended.

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Movie Review: LORDS OF CHAOS

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lords of chaosGunpowder & Sky
2018
R

Oslo, 1987. 17-year-old Euronymous is determined to escape his traditional upbringing and becomes fixated on creating ‘true Norwegian black metal’ with his band Mayhem. He mounts shocking publicity stunts to put the band’s name on the map, but the lines between show and reality start to blur. Arson, violence and a vicious murder shock the nation that is under siege by these Lords of Chaos.

Black Metal is such an interesting and entertaining genre. It’s an acquired taste, to be sure, and to get involved with the scene takes a special type to withstand the intensity levels it can get to. Me, I can never be considered Trve Kvlt due to the fact that A) I’m a professing Christian, and B) I have a sense of humor. Also, I do enjoy a good Scorpions song from time to time. If you get the reference, then you’ve already enjoyed this particular biopic about one of the more infamous scenes in metal, Lords Of Chaos.

Ostensibly, Lords Of Chaos is based on the book of the same name, which chronicles the rise of the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the 80s and early 90s, specifically focusing on the Black Metal Circle and the band Mayhem and its two key figures, Euronymous and Varg Vikernes, and they *ahem* mayhem they caused while trying to one-up each other. And that pretty much boils down the whole second-wave Black Metal scene: A bunch of rich Norwegian kids trying to outdo each other with their evil posturing and production of crappy evil sounding music, all the while whining about posers and taking things way too seriously.

Lords Of Chaos, the movie, focuses on this brief window in time, going through Euronymous forming the band Mayhem, the suicide of their first vocalist Dead, the opening of his record shop Helvete and the formation of the “Black Circle” with members of other local Black Metal bands, his rivalry with Varg, the arson of several churches, and finally wholesale murder, including Euronymous’ at the hands of Varg. All of which is narrated by Euronymous’ own inner monologue, American Beauty style.

First and foremost, let me get this out of the way: I realize that Lords Of Chaos isn’t 100% accurate to how things went down. But, the movie itself admits to this at the very beginning; if you’re familiar with the book, or just the whole Black Metal scene itself, no one can get their stories straight. What Lords Of Chaos is, is more of a Natural Born Killers style psychological horror movie with some very dark humor tinting things.

See, the thing about the Black Metal scene is, everyone is so serious that they don’t realize how hilarious it all is. And Lords Of Chaos manages to get that perfectly. It really does subtly take the air out of the over-bloated ego of the scene, while still maintaining a certain respect for the series of events that transpired. Mind you, there were some artistic licence used, especially in scenes where no one was really there to know what really went on, like with Dead’s suicide, or what was going on in Euronymous’s head.

Lending to the feel of this being more of a legend rather than a fact-filled docu-drama is the actors using American accents, with the only Norwegian accent I could detect were from the reporter who interviews Varg, and the guy who played Faust’s murder victim. It works, really. All of the actors worked well, especially Rory Culkin as Euronymous. Fantastic performance, methinks. Also, the style of shooting used reminded me of Edgar Wright, managing to capture the manic craziness of the era, there. That includes a lot of gore and unflinching violence, among other rather graphic content, that typified the scene. That may make some unaware soul queasy. You’ve been warned.

Overall, I rather enjoyed Lords Of Chaos. This was one movie I was looking forward to watching since hearing about it being produced a year or so ago. It didn’t make it to the theaters in my neck of the woods when it was finally released; by the time it did get a showing at the Alamo, the VOD was already released and I watched it that way. Still, I enjoyed the movie for what it is. Take this with a grain of salt, like I do with movies like Oliver Stone’s The Doors, or the recent Queen bio-flick Bohemian Rhapsody. Corpse paint is optional.

Movies+Beer: SHAZAM!

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shazam

Bit late getting this uploaded; I’m joined by Brian, Andrea and New Guy to discuss the other Captain Marvel movie to come out this year…

Albums That Suck: KNEE DEEP IN THE HOOPLA (Starship)

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starship - knee deep in the hoopla
KNEE DEEP IN THE HOOPLA
Starship
Grunt / RCA
1985

[note: this was originally going to be another SONGS THAT SUCK article, focusing on the Starship song “We Built This City”; as I continued writing, though, it became apparent that I couldn’t just stick to the song itself; I had to, in fact, talk about the entire album…sorry – Uncle NecRo]

The 80s was an interesting time for pop music. Not only was this the era where artists and bands like Prince, Madonna, George Michael and others exploded, but this was also the decade where a lot of older classic rock artists that your dad was into had a resurgence on Top 40 radio. Results varied; artists like Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Alice Cooper managed to snag a resurgence of popularity, whereas ones like The Grateful Dead, Donny Osmond and Jefferson Starship…not so much.

Speaking of the Jefferson Starship: by the time they got around to releasing their big comeback album–Knee Deep In The Hoopla–they had gone through enough personnel changes that the only remaining original member was Grace Slick, and due to legal issues, the band had to shorten things to just Starship. They had gone from 60s rock n’ roll icons to middle-aged corporate rockers, and released an album full of glossy pop rock with layered synths and electronic beats, with the band decked out like they were the fashion models for the JC Penny Back-to-School Clothing Sale catalog.

I was 11 in the late summer of 1985 when Starship released the single “We Built This City”, and I absolutely loved it. Keep in mind that the majority of my music tastes was dictated to me by Top 40 radio, much like any other preteen of, well, any era, really. I had no idea what the band’s actual legacy was, who they were or that they were once considered rock n’ roll icons to my dad. And since I wasn’t old enough to know any better, I talked my dad into buying me the cassette copy of Knee Deep In The Hoopla when he was visiting my sister and me while on leave from the Navy.

As songs go, “We Built This City” is cringe-worthy, but it isn’t the worst song on the album. That distinction goes to the cut “Rock Myself To Sleep”, personally speaking. Keep in mind, I wanted this album to listen to primarily on the strength of the song “We Built This City”. I didn’t particularly care for the second single released from there, “Sara”, which was also the second single released, although I do like the accompanying video.

It’s a good thing that “We Built This City” was the first song on the album, because that meant that I didn’t have to wade my way through what was essentially a collection of mediocre adult contemporary pop rock to get to it. It was there, leading off the album, and I could just hit “stop” afterwards and be done with it. But, I felt obligated to listen to the album in its entirety at least once. And man, this album is just boring. Full of fluff and filler. Even the song that led to me buying the thing in the first place is, in retrospect, just bad. And not in the Guilty Pleasures kind of way. I can’t hear this song now and not cringe. You can imagine what the rest of the album sounds like.

I’ve recently taken up collecting vinyl records again, with an eye out to collect the albums that I listened to in my childhood through the end of my High School years. I’ve even picked up a mint copy of Make It Big by Wham!. Even though this was part of my childhood, Knee Deep In The Hoopla will never be part of my vinyl collection. Or any format, for that matter.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: The HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

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The House With A Clock In Its Walls movie posterUniversal Pictures
2018
PG

“Be a dear. Fetch a knife and stab me in the ears.”

Ten-year-old Lewis goes to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old house that contains a mysterious `tick tock’ noise. He soon learns that Uncle Jonathan and his feisty neighbor, Mrs Zimmerman, are powerful practitioners of the magic arts. When Lewis accidentally awakens the dead, the town’s sleepy facade suddenly springs to life, revealing a secret and dangerous world of witches, warlocks and deadly curses.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls was a young adult Gothic mystery that was written by John Bellairs and published in 1973. I’ve never read anything by John Bellairs. I even went through his bibliography to make sure I didn’t inadvertently read one of his novels in grade school and just didn’t remember doing so. I was a voracious reader, even back then, and gravitated towards mysteries with a solid spooky supernatural feel to them. Weird as a kid, weird as an adult. But, no, I hadn’t read any of his fiction, which is odd, as they would have been right up my alley.

Anyway, The House with a Clock in Its Walls was the first in a series of books staring protagonist character Lewis Barnavelt, and proved to be a hit with the readers. It was adapted once before as one of three segments in the television anthology Once Upon A Midnight Scary, which was hosted by none other than Vincent Price back in 1979. Then, it was adapted into a full-length feature film in 2018 staring Jack Black.

The first thing I want to point out about this adaptation is that, this is directed by Eli Roth. Yes, that same Eli Roth who gave us the movies Cabin Fever and the Hostel series. He also did the cannibal horror film The Green Inferno, helmed the Death Wish remake, and stared in Inglorious Basterds. I’m not criticizing his movie choices; I’m merely pointing out that Eli Roth’s name isn’t exactly in the Top Five of names that pop up when we’re discussing family friendly fantasy films.

Also, I didn’t mean to use alliteration like that. Totally unintentional.

Second, did we really need to use the lettering style in the title to be a rip-off of the Harry Potter film series titles? Derivative, smacks of desperation, shows a lack of confidence on the studio’s part for letting this movie stand on its own. Ultimately, a pointless gripe. Moving on…

As a movie, I believe that Eli Roth has a bright future with young adult family dark fantasy films, if The House With A Clock In Its Walls is any indication. This movie is right up there with personal favorites like the Addams Family movies and the classic Tim Burton flicks. Jack Black is his usual fantastic self here, playing the roll as the eccentric warlock uncle Jonathan Barnavelt kind of subdued to his normal manic style. He plays off well with Cate Blanchett’s Florence Zimmerman character, the longtime neighbor and friend who is constantly trading barbs with Jonathan. Owen Vaccaro is also rather good as the child character of Lewis Barnavelt, the nephew that is brought into the world of magic, starts to learn magic himself, and then resurrects the dead to impress his friends. As you do.

It’s dark, it’s whimsical, it has some great visuals as well as a good Gothic atmosphere, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the story. The House With A Clock In Its Walls is a great movie, thumbs up all the way. Check it out if you haven’t done so already. Recommended.

Movie Review: The INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT

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The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant Movie PosterAmerican International Pictures
1971
R

“Stop jerking around. You and I are now one, dummy.”

Dr. Roger Girard id a rich scientist experimenting with head transplantation. His caretaker has a son, Danny, who is an extremely strong full-grown man, but he has theĀ mind of a child. Meanwhile, Manuel Cass, a maniacal killer, has murdered Dr. Girard’s caretaker and is badly injured himself. Dr. Girard decides to transplant the murderer’s head onto Danny’s body. The new creature, with one head of a murderer and the other with the mental capacity of an eight-year-old attachedĀ to an extremely powerful body, begins wreaking havoc…

The 1970s was a wacky time for horror and sci-fi movies.As with the fashion, the music, and generally all other avenues of pop culture at the time, I can only surmise it had something to do with the nation detoxing from the last part of the 60s.

That, at least, would be the only explanation for the existence of this here movie, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant.

This is a low budget sci-fi horror flick that co-stars Casey Kasem, America’s Top 40 radio host, and voice of Shaggy and various cartoon characters. Among other things. Here, he plays Dr. Ken, the best friend of Dr. Roger, the main character that takes the phrase “two heads are better than one” far too literally. I bring this up because the presence of Kasem is the most notable thing in this movie.

From the word go, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is about as cheesy as you would expect a movie with that kind of title to be. Of course, this was made in the era where the “psycho killer” was still characterized as a wild-eyed, grinning and manic individual, possibly high on the marijuana from Reefer Madness. And that is how the escaped lunatic killer is played, full-tilt, all throughout the flick. On the other end of the spectrum, I theorize that the only model they had to work with when creating the caretaker’s son with the mentality of a child was from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. There’s even a scene involving crazy enraged-for-no-reason bikers in here that, I’m fairly certain, was thrown in because bikers were a big thing in exploitation cinema at the time. Had this movie been made in the 80s, it would have been ninjas. Which would have made this movie better, really.

The acting matches the premise of the movie; that is to say, it’s crazy and over-the-top. The effects…well, it’s low budget, and also made in 1971. So, yeah, the whole 2-headed thing is kinda…well, it was done better on the television version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

All this to say that The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant is a glorious over-the-top mess that must be watched by everyone. Gather your friends, surround yourselves with your favorite libations, and make a night out of this.

Eastertide…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header
grave of the black sheep
So, here we are. Another Lent season, ending with Easter Sunday, has come and gone. For many, this was a holy time of reflection on their faith and what it means to them. For me…I have to be straightforward with everyone: I don’t really consider the holidays on the Christian calendar to be all that important.

Okay, okay, let me rephrase that: I don’t really consider the Big Two Christian holidays–those being Christmas and Easter–as special as any other day of the year.

Yeah, there’s just no way I can phrase this without sounding like some kind of curmudgeon. I assure you I’m not trying to rain on the celebrations of anyone observing the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Jesus’ victory over sin and death is at the very crux of my faith (pun very much intended).

As I approach my third decade as being a servant of Christ Jesus (as I told the youth group last week, I became a Christian at the age of 15, and it’ll be nearly 30 years in August; do the math), I find myself less and less enamored of any perceived “holy days” and holidays as I once was.

The reason for this, first off, has nothing to do with being sick and tired of having to put up with so many Actual Lee* types who want to nit-pick how un-Christian Easter really is and sucking the fun out of everything for everyone (although I’d be lying if I said they didn’t annoy me); nor does it have anything to do with slowly losing my faith over time.

The truth is, I find that the longer I walk down this path that Father God, Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit has me on, the less I feel the need to celebrate Easter**. At least, not as all-out as many of my fellow brethren and sisteren do.

Here’s how I see it: Remembering the sacrificial death and consequent resurrection of the Son of God is very important. But, I think, equally important is to remember that we’ve all been living in the Eastertide, the period after His resurrection and ascension. The work is finished. We should be celebrating this every day out of the year.

Shouts of “He is Risen!” Well, He’s always been risen. Do we need reminding? Probably. We are a people that easily forgets what God has done for us. We go about the rest of the year seemingly stuck in the Saturday before Easter, like He’s still dead and our hope means nothing. An empty passion play.

::END TRANSMISSION::

[*= “Actual Lee”: a type of person who always wants to correct anyone about anything, interjecting their superior knowledge on any topic of discussion, often unsolicited, usually starting with the word “Actually” (“Actually, the Easter celebration has its roots in the pagan celebration of the spring equinox, and was absorbed by the Christian church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.”) SOURCE]

[**=yes, I understand that some prefer calling it “Resurrection Day” due to not wanting to associate with the pagan roots of Easter. That’s fine, I have no qualms with that. I call it “Easter” myself, and that’s why I use it in this post.]

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