Book Review: FULL DARK, NO STARS

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Book Review FULL DARK, NO STARSStephen King
Scribner
2010

Stephen King excels at telling stories. That’s pretty much the basic gist of it, I guess. He’s been telling stories in many different formats over several decades, which means he’s capable of telling tales that manage to break the bounds of the genre that most have pigeonholed him in. Which, I guess, is my lame way to start off this review for his third collection of novellas to have been published, Full Dark, No Stars.

The four stories collected here lean more to the hard-boild crime chiller type of stories that, had this been a different time, probably would have been published under King’s former pen name Richard Bachman. But, before I get too far, let’s take a look at the individual stories contained herein, shall we?

“1922”
…a Nebraska farmer writes a confession/suicide note detailing the bad year he had in 1922. It’s a murder chiller that plays out like a classic story from the old EC Comics thrillers of old.

“Big Driver”
…this was a hard one for me to get through, mainly due to the subject matter of a woman who is raped and gets her revenge on the culprits. The whole violence against women thing makes me sick to my stomach; regardless, this was a good hard-boiled revenge thriller with…well, I wouldn’t say a “happy ending”. Would that even be possible ever again?

“Fair Extension”
…the shortest story in this collection, it would be a stretch to call this a novella, given that it’s just a skosh over thirty pages. And for whatever reason, I pictured Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame) playing the part as the Devil in this story. Anyway, kind of a darker Twilight Zone type of story, where a guy who’s had nothing but bad luck happens upon someone who can give him a new lease on life, for a certain price.

“A Good Marriage”
…a wife’s long-time and idealistic (if not a bit hum-drum) marriage existence gets shaken to the core when she accidentally finds out her husband might be a notorious serial killer. Pretty tense, and the ending is straight out of a Columbo mystery.

Overall, the collection within Full Dark, No Stars aren’t so much supernatural horror, so much as hard boiled thrillers from the same vein as the EC Comic and the Alfred Hitchcock pulp magazines. Obviously, there’s going to be a touch of the supernatural style, mostly with “A Fair Extension”; most of the horror, though, is derived from regular everyday people finding themselves in a very non-regular and dark situation, where there’s no hope of coming out unscathed. Like I mentioned earlier you might say these are Richard Bachman stories that King just decided to put his regular name on.

I really should note that two stories from here have already been made into movies: “Big Driver”, which was made into a Lifetime movie, and “A Good Marriage”. And there’s been news of “1922” being made into one as well. I haven’t watched any of the two movie adaptations, and probably won’t any time soon. As far as reading the book goes, yeah, no regrets doing so. It’s a Stephen King book for certain. What more can I say?

Movie Review: ARRIVAL

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Movie Review ARRIVALParamount Pictures
2016
PG-13

“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”

When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team–lead by expert linguist Louise Banks–is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers–and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a good hard Science Fiction film. You know, one that isn’t just a space opera, or an action movie utilizing sci-fi undertones. I believe the last one I watched was Interstellar, when it was originally released in the tail end of 2015. And I would understand why, in this day and age, a hard Sci-Fi movie wouldn’t be as popular as it was back in the Before-I-Was-Born days (to borrow the non-excuse that is used for not knowing about something).

Spoilers ahead, in case you have yet to watch this movie yourself. You’ve been warned.

Arrival, not to be mistaken for the 1996 B-movie starring Charlie Sheen, finds the inhabitants of this blue spinning ball we call Earth suddenly visited by twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft landing and hovering above separate points across the globe, just kinda chilling and not doing anything. This, of course, causes the entire world’s population to collectively loose their heads; the military then, in an effort to determine if these are Independence Day type aliens we’re dealing with, or the more cuddly Close Encounters type aliens, they find a linguist and a physicist to bring to one of the spacecraft to try and make contact. The two begin bickering the moment they meet, so you know they’re going to totally hook up after they’re done trying to find a way to talk with the aliens and stuff. So, through the magic of montage, the two manage to figure you the alien language, which honestly looks at first like they’re just trolling us by showing a bunch of coffee stain pictures. But, language it is, and come to a rudimentary understanding of it they do, just in time for a bunch of the other countries the ships are over to start loosing their heads entirely and decide to do what humans do best: blow stuff up. Or, at least attempt to. This only slightly annoys them, and they shift upwards into the air a few hundred feet. The linguist finally figures out that, not only is this a language, but learning it unlocks time travel properties (don’t try and think about that too hard, your head will pop), and narrowly averts mutually assure destruction by utilizing the Bootstrap Paradox theory of time travel. The Doctor would be proud.

There’s a bunch more I left out of that Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of the description, because if I went over every bit of this movie that I happened to continue to chew over long after having watched this some time ago (would you believe it almost made me late for a Sabac game at a friend’s house because I refused to just stop it 20 minutes before the end…and nothing keeps me from my Sabac games), this humble review would go on for freaking ever. I will say, though, despite my pedantic issues I have with the time travel aspect of the movie (it’s subtle, but it will make your eyes bleed if you dwell on the implications and paradoxes contained therein), I found it very, very refreshing to watch a well-made hard science fiction movie that isn’t bogged down with ‘splosions and evil aliens and possibly Will Smith. The big twist with the language is still making my head swim, but that’s just me.

Or is it? I’m sure there are many more out there that are still chewing on this movie long after the end credits. I will now say that I’m joining the bandwagon of calling this a very, very good Sci-Fi flick that you don’t have to check your brain in at the door to enjoy, and recommend strongly to check it out some time soon.

Uncle NecRo’s TOP 10 FAVORITE USE OF POP MUSIC IN MOVIES

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Just in case you haven’t noticed the pattern, I loves me some movies. I also loves me some musics to listen to. And one thing that Hollywood enjoys is to put some decent pop music in some movies, like injecting the creme filling inside a nummy donut. And now that I’m completely jonsing for a creme filled donut, I’m just going to say that I decided to rip off another article involving the best pop songs used in Comic Book movies, only mine is going to be about the best pop music used in regular movies I’ve seen. So, while I go out on a quest to find the elusive pastry of craving banishment, with creme filling of white, and sprinkles the color of the rainbow, here is my list of my

TOP 10 FAVORITE USE OF POP MUSIC IN MOVIES
(in no particular order, mind you)

The Song: “Rock You Like A Hurricane” (The Scorpions)
The Movie: Little Nicky
Don’t get me wrong, this movie is horrible. A great premise, but ruined by Adam Sandler’s juvenile style of “comedy”. But, there are shiny moments, such as the very brief few seconds where one of the three sons of the Devil, Adrian, makes an entrance near the end of the movie for the big showdown, all to the opening metal riff of The Scorpion’s “Rock You Like A Hurricane”. If only that would start playing every time I enter a room…

The Song: “Can’t Smile Without You” (Barry Manilow)
The Movie: Hellboy II: the Golden Army
I love Guillermo del Toro. I love his Hellboy movies. And I love the fact that del Toro has a sense of humor mixed in with his dark and twisted imagination. Which is why I always love the scene in this sequel where both Hellboy and Abe Sapien get drunk and have this 1970s MOR power ballad cheeseball blasting while pining for their respective loves…

The Song: “Time In A Bottle” (Jim Croce)
The Movie: X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Not a fan of the song, but the use of it during perhaps the best scene in a movie filled with memorable scenes as contrasting to Quicksilver’s rushing around super fast and messing with everything was bloody brilliant…

The Song: “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen)
The Movie: Wayne’s World
Most of you whipper-snappers would only recognize this classic due to it being shoehorned into the Suicide Squad movie. But, the best use of the song would be 25 years prior, when it was used in an iconic scene in the classic Wayne’s World movie early on….

The Song: “Shoop” (Salt-N-Pepa)
The Movie: Deadpool
Of course Deadpool would be a fan of Salt-N-Pepa. I’m glad they kept it in the movie, as it was with the test footage to try and get the movie made initially. It does much to establish ‘Pool’s personality…

The Song: “Welcome To The Jungle” (Guns N’ Roses)
The Movie: Lean On Me
I watched this movie when it was first released in theaters back in 1989. Being a big Gn’R fan at the time, I did not expect this song to be played at the beginning while showing scenes of the high school being a teenage warzone. The movie became my instant favorite right then and there…

The Song: “The Four Horsemen” (Metallica)
The Movie: X-Men: Apocalypse
And speaking of using metal classics in movies, the usage of the bangover-inducing “The Four Horsemen” not only made sense thematically (given that it was used while Apocalypse was gathering together his own “four horsemen”), but it gave an otherwise mediocre X-Men movie a moment of awesome that ended all too soon…

The Song: “Institutionalized” (Suicidal Tendencies)
The Movie: “Iron Man”
Yes, I realize there may have been other more popular songs that were used for the soundtrack; and while I loves me some AC/DC, I was hyped up when I heard the strains of this classic Suicidal Tendencies tune being cranked in Tony’s garage. All he wanted was a Pepsi, after all…

The Song: “Tainted Love” (Soft Cell)
The Movie: Coneheads
It’s fascinating how ubiquitous a song becomes after hearing it for the first time. Which is what happened when I first heard the Soft Cell hit cover of “Tainted Love”, as the very first place I immediately heard it again was when I watched the greatly underrated Coneheads. Not only do we hear it on a radio in one scene, but is sung while battling an alien monster with golf. I’m not making that part up.

The Song: “Afternoon Delight” (The Starland Vocal Band)
The Movie: PCU
To quote Homer Simpson: “Starland Vocal Band? They SUCK!” And nothing is worse than having this nauseating bit of 70s adult contemporary schmaltz come on and not being able to escape its sound crawling up inside and defiling your earholes. Which is exactly what happens in this Animal House in the 1990s ripoff comedy, as the protagonist(?) puts the song on the CD player on infinite repeat, then locks all of the stuffy Republicans in the room with it cranking. Wackiness ensues.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: DEAD WEST

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dead westRLJ Entertainment
2017
NR

A charismatic serial killer embarks on a murderous cross-country road trip in search of true love. Along the way he meets and kills several women whom he deems unworthy, eluding capture from the authorities by moving from one town to the next. When the brother of one of his victims decides to track the killer down to get vigilante justice, a revenge-fueled chase ensues. Along the way, the killer finally meets the girl of his dreams; but will they live happily ever after?

This is the third movie that I picked out going strictly by the cover art itself (the others being Abattoir and Candiland, in case you’ve clicked on this one first), and the one of the three I completely regret renting. I mean, judging solely by the cover art above, you can understand why I was expecting something in line with a horror western hybrid. Look at it. The skull on the cowboy hat. The fact that the movie is titled Dead West. I was hoping for some fun undead wild west wackiness. Instead, not only did I discover that the cover itself is several shades of misleading, but the title itself is as big of a lie as is the promise of cake.

So, apparently Dead West originally had the working title of Lady Killer, but was changed to Dead West because reasons. It would have been logical to leave it with the title that would have made more sense to the plot, but whatever. My grievances run deeper than the title and DVD artwork, though (I do wish to get the fact that, at no time during the movie, does the main character wear a hat, let alone one with a skull on the front, out of the way before proceeding).

What we have here is a kind of low-budget neo-grindhouse flick about a serial killer who favors the classic 50s look of leather jacket, white t-shirt and blue jeans, slicked back hair and traveling around this great country of ours in a muscle car with rock n’ roll cranking out of the stereo. He’s on a road trip to find the perfect girl. And he figures he’ll find ’em in the seedy bars in the small towns in the American south. And every time he discovers the perfect girl in fact has a flaw he deems unworthy (usually smoking, or having a less than virtuous reputation, or something he’s surprised to find at a roadhouse bar, those bastions of family values and all that) he kills them with his pocket knife and dumps the bodies. Somehow, he’s able to not get a drop of blood or anything onto himself–let along that pristine white t-shirt of his–in the process. He’s being pursued by the brother of one of his victims, each stop they make bringing him closer to confronting the slayer to get his revenge…which happens around the middle of the film, to which the Serial Killer wins and spends the rest of the movie’s running time meeting and talking a lot with a former call girl, to which he falls in love with, takes out her former pimp that goes by the name Sug White (gads), where they then get married by an Elvis impersonator…and he kills her on their wedding night. The end.

As you can probably imagine, Dead West was quite the slog to sit through. The setup is decent enough…only that’s pretty much dashed when you get around to the acting itself. Yes, it’s what you would expect for an ultra-low budget movie of this sort. The biggest insult is when you realize that this movie is attempting to be a much deeper movie than what it is, and is failing miserably.

Dead West sucks. It’s forgetable, and a complete waste of your time. Pass on this one.

Farewell to the Youth Group…

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haunted hallwayFor the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

I’ve been silent. I know I have been silent, not posting my brain droppings or reviews or such these past few weeks. There have been some paradigm shifts, the major of which was where I said goodbye to my youth group last night.

It was known that this was Shelli’s last year of doing the youth group, as she had been faithfully doing so in the Student Venture capacity for 25 years. Not counting the few years before when it was just a weekly Bible study in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While she had said she was retiring every two years or so, this time she meant it.

It just so happened that I had gotten involved with Student Venture when it was started back in February of 1992, and have been involved in some capacity for approximately 17 out of the 25 years. There was that wilderness period between 2000 and 2009 that I’m not going to go into right now. Sufficed to say, I needed that time. When the Lord saw fit, He drop-kicked me back with the youth group to serve the leaders. Then I moved up to one of the co-leaders. We kept the name Student Venture long after Campus Crusade decided to change their organization name to CRU, and then the last year it was decided to break off entirely with being associated with CRU, more because we were affiliated in name only. The break was very amicable, really. That was also the last year we would exist as a youth group as we know it.

The original plan was to pass on responsibility of the group to myself and another friend–Darla–who were helping co-lead (for lack of a better word, this early in the mourning as I write this). Then, a few weeks into the new season, Darla left to to focus on her family (I swear I didn’t mean to evoke Dr. James Dobson’s old ministry, sorry); I realized that I would be the one taking over the lessons and teaching the group after Shelli was gone. And, after the initial period of anxiety, I  fell back to what I knew best to do: leave it up to God to do what He does, and let the Holy Spirit guide me as I merely serve to the best of my ability. Remain faithful in presenting the Truth of the Bible and Who Jesus is, and let God do the heavy work in the kids’ hearts and minds.

You know, what I’ve always been doing. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and all that.

Then, without getting bogged with the details, a chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes was started at the High School, and Shelli decided that the torch should be passed to those starting up FCA and dissolving Student Venture entirely. It’s logical, really, as there are so many more opportunities for the kids to grow and mature in their faith and interact with peers from other FCA groups, and it’s headed up by a couple of instructors from the high school. I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t a little bit upset at the sudden shift. Then again, the group wasn’t mine to begin with.

So, last night I said goodbye to probably the best bunch of kids I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with. To watch the Holy Spirit work in their lives, seeing them want to dive into what the Bible says, reading it chapter-by-chapter, and most importantly getting to introduce them to Jesus. It was the one day out of the week I looked forward to. It was…difficult, to understate the situation. Hugs and tears and laughter all around.

So, the torch has been passed for the kids in Hooper, Nebraska. And various surrounding communities. It’s difficult to imagine not being a part of their lives in the future, but I believe they’re in good hands. As for me, I foresee a bit more Wilderness Wandering. Or to put it another way: While it’s true that when God closes one door, He will open another, no one wants to talk about the period where you’re wandering around the hallway waiting for Him to open up the other door.

Can I praise Him in the hallway? Do I have a choice? Am I really going to end this with rhetorical questions? Sure, why not? Cheers, all…

::END TRANSMISSION::

NECRO SHOCK RADIO – 2017 Easter Special

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2017 EASTER SPECIAL

Featuring Cuts From:

NECRO SHOCK RADIO – 4-8-2017

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APRIL 8, 2017

Not even having a massive head cold will stop Uncle NecRo from dispensing the Brutal Music Therapy!

Featuring cuts from:

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