Geek Out #141

I'm still doing the Shudder thing, just so you know.  That's where I review films available on Shudder, and no, I'm not a paid sponsor.  2016's Train to Busan is on said website.  I dig it, but I'm not reviewing it.  I'm reviewing something else from South Korea.  I guess you could consider this to be foreshadowing.  Almost attempted a "foreskin" pun, but I retreated to avoid ridicule and embarrassment.  Smooth move.


Album Cover of the Whatever

Mariusz Lewandowski.  That name means something to metalheads who pay attention to the artwork that adorns the covers of their favorite bands' albums.  In the last three years, Lewandowski's style has become recognizable.  His talent has been utilized by Bell Witch, False, and Mizmor among others.  You know it when you see it.  The pieces usually involve imposing figures of impossible size that typically illustrate death.  Take Stygian, for example.  It's the debut release by funeral doomsters Atramentus.  It's a killer record that sounds...well, it sounds like it looks!

I don't know if Lewandowski heard a note before putting paint to canvas, but even the colors match the dolorous tones of the music.  Heh, I'm an art critic.


Rassle Inn #7

Good Friday Christ, there has been a lot of wrestling in the last four days alone.  I wanted to let it cool off before I wrote about some of it, but I couldn't even do that properly.  NXT starts in approximately 18 minutes.  Eh, I'm not expecting anything groundbreaking to happen.  So where do I want to direct my attention?  Fuck if I know!  I have way too many scattershot opinions on all things WWE, NXT, and AEW.  Should I...enumerate?  In?  List?  Form?

1) Pat McAfee proved me right.  The guy knows what he is doing in a squared circle.  The right person won, but what now?  I seriously doubt that this is the last we've seen of McAfee on NXT programming.  Here is a better question - what's next for Adam Cole?  Vince (with the much-needed help of his son-in-law) has, in effect, created his own territory system.  In the olden days, Cole would ditch this whistle-stop and traverse to the next promotion.  I don't see him winning the NXT strap again.  Is his future tinted in red or blue?  Speaking of which...

2) Poor Keith Lee.  Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with Vince McMahon?  Why change his catchy, memorable entrance music?  Why change his fucking ring gear?  It's too soon to cry burial, but at least give me a reason to be optimistic.

3) Cody versus Mr. Brodie Lee was the most indelible match/segment of the entire weekend.  It's obvious that they are taking the defibrillator route with The Dark Order in the hopes that we will forget the bulk of their peculiar anti-push.  I'm on board.  My only gripe has to do with the way they are presented on television.  If you watch Being the Elite, AEW's YouTube "vlog" show, The Dark Order is a source of hilarity.  It's basically Bizarro World.  I get that it's 2020 and kayfabe has checked out, but why can't wrestling try to maintain a semblance of realism?  I watch BTE.  I dig it.  And yet, I can't help but think it hurts the product more than it helps.

4) More Anna Jay, please.

5) This fucking Retribution shit.  Is there a point?  Will this angle ever progress?  Has Vince decided on the group's membership?  They should have been shepherded by Roman Reigns, and the reveal should have closed SummerSlam.  That would have been an actual plot twist that most fans would not have seen coming.

6) Give Asuka a raise.  Not just a great worker, but a great workhorse.  Isn't that a Meltzer award?

In a few moments (perhaps several), I'm going to retire to my torpidity cubicle and watch tonight's edition of NXT.  I'll simply go ahead and review it now.  Io Shirai was splendid!  I give it 133 out of a possible 145 tests of strength.


R.R. Incorporated: ThunderDome

I'm taking the weekend off for various reasons, not that I needed to announce it or anything.  I do have "interesting" content planned for next week, however.  What do those quotation marks mean???  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to the new Incantation record.  I suggest you do the same, but only if you want to be cool.


Geek Out #140

I was thinking geeky earlier.  "What is geeky?  What have I geeked out on lately?"  Well, I've been a Jeopardy geek for years.  I found a clip where my beloved genre is the topic of a category in the Double Jeopardy round.  How many did you get right?


Blood Capsule #98

DEAD HEAT (1988)

Through extemporaneous circumstance, I have now reviewed three comedy-flecked films in a row.  They have all approached humor in disparate ways.  Tammy and the T-Rex was the class clown of the bunch, wearing its flapdoodle flakiness on its sleeve.  Dead Heat tones down the zany.  It's still spotted with exaggerated jocosity, but the conflicts are taken seriously.  For the most part.  The script takes a sober ride with Mortis and Bigelow, two cops at their wits' end trying to disentangle a string of jewel heists.  The case leads them to a chemical company that has a "resurrection machine" in its possession.  A what???  You'll have to suspend the fuck out of your disbelief, but basically, the plot points us in the direction of zombies.  In fact, one of our protagonists becomes undead.

Dead Heat doesn't make a lick of sense, but that's okay.  It has been ages since I've had this much fun watching a zombie flick (that was fresh to my eyes).  Director Mark Goldblatt brought serious sci-fi/horror credentials to the game (he helped edit Piranha, The Howling, and The Terminator among other notable titles), and it shows in this reel's relaxed pacing.  The characters are inviting.  Treat Williams rocks as the straight man against Joe Piscopo's token goober...I mean, goofball.  Lindsay Frost seduced me with her stare.  I was just as wooed by the creamy, mucilaginous creature effects.  The two-faced biker needs his own action figure.  That dude owned it!  Christ, I almost forgot to mention that Vincent Price has a small role as a pernicious magnate.  Similarly, that dude owns it!

I rate Dead Heat as righteous.  Robert Z'Dar says, "My face isn't here, but I also loved this fuckin' thing.  I'd be honored to serve with Piscopo as my partner, or at least pull over minorities next to him."


A Band: Mournful Congregation

A little over a year ago, an online pal (hey, Tom!) turned me onto a funeral doom band to which I had never given proper attention.  I had read the name Mournful Congregation several times.  Hell, I was even a fan of the arcane sub-subgenre.  Shape of Despair served as my introduction to funeral doom (Angels of Distress is a record worth your duckets, by the way), and I came to know this glacial, dilatory music as a comfort food of sorts.  In my scholarly opinion, Mournful Congregation is the best funeral doom band on Earth.  I wager that claim applies to other planets as well.

If you're not at all familiar with funeral doom, MC may seem like a daunting project to endorse.  Yeah, the tunes are super slow and super long.  That's the gimmick.  However, these doleful Aussies (they hail from Adelaide) prioritize the one thing that extreme metal is often lambasted for brushing aside - melody.  Not counting the bassist, there are currently three guitarists bedecking the line-up.  That is great news for those of us who dig on harmonies.  Imagine the catalog of Iron Maiden jabbed with elephant tranquilizers.  Every song is carpeted with layers of guitars, bellowing high and low the euphony of sorrow.  That was a silly sentence, but trust me when I say that MC makes sorrow euphonious.

And they can shred, too!  Solos help separate this outfit from their peers.  I would highlight one particular solo, but they're all killer.  The notes chosen are just right, y'know?  As for which album to start with, I recommend reaching for 2011's The Book of Kings.  It's epic as fuck, but it won't swallow you whole.  In 2014, they released a jumbo showpiece of an EP entitled Concrescence of the Sophia that I also recommend.  It's 30 minutes of perfect doom divvied up amongst two tracks.  Easy for beginners!  What is my personal favorite MC consummation?  2018's The Incubus of Karma, which I'm afraid might be too much for someone dipping their toes into these waters.  It's gigantic.  It took countless spins to fully appreciate how fucking brilliant it is, and I don't want to weigh you down.

Did that sound turgid or pretentious?  Wait, I don't care.  This grade of funeral doom shouldn't be wasted on plebeians!  Remember, if you're going to congregate, do it mournfully.


Tammy and the T-Rex

I remember seeing 1994's Tammy and the T-Rex on basic cable in the late 90's.  It was alright.  Fast-forward twenty years and it's a cult classic...how did that happen?  I was alive during those intermediary temporals.  I was on all of the message boards.  I don't recall petitions to have this rinky-dink rom-com reissued onto Blu-ray.  No one quoted Dr. Wachenstein or asked for tips on how to complete their Helga cosplay.  You don't even know who those characters are, do you?  I didn't, and yet, I am told that Michelle and the Mamenchisaurus is a nostalgic blast from my childhood.  Eh, I'll give it this much; Denise Richards is crazy hot in her starring debut.  NOTE TO SELF: Edit a fucking dinosaur into Wild Things.

Reading about the film's production history, it's glaring that a picture analogous to Tammy would never splash the big screen in the modern day.  It was yielded for a meager million.  Director Stewart Raffill had access to a fully-functioning animatronic dinosaur before a line of the script was written.  Make no mistake, dearhearts; this kitschy commotion is the backwash of b-movie magic.  I want to be clear about something.  I derided 2019's Scare Package for its ham-fisted approach to comedy.  Here, the cackles are congenital.  They are basted into the root concept so that you know where you're heading.  The tone is consistent throughout, and yes, that makes a difference (to me anyway).

If it's not obvious, I had fun with this viewing of Amelia and the Allosaurus.  I was willing to play ball, so to speak.  That doesn't mean that every punch lands.  There are sundry one-liners that are hideously outdated.  The gay jokes...I mean, I won't cry offense, but my God, they're about as funny as the current state of Paul Walker's career.  See?  Not funny.  The plot holes are baffling.  It's hard to mount any legitimate critical attack on narrative detours, seeing as how this is a movie where a girl performs a striptease for a brain casserole (you had to be there).  You pick your battles, y'know?

The special effects range from resourceful to embarrassing.  Again, how hypercritical can you be?  It comes down to how much you enjoyed the regalement at hand.  Personally, I'd give my "handicapped parking" placard of approval to Tammy and the T-Rex.  It's a barrelling watch, most of the laughs serve their purpose, and you get the feeling that the cast actually wants to be there.  A cult classic?  Sorry, but no.  Conversely, this is a successful merger between farcical camp and gore-cushioned science fiction.  Speaking of which, the decapitations are sweet up in dis (sic) prehistoric bitch!  Now that I've written the worst sentence of all time, I'm going to end this review.



Album Cover of the Whatever

I love it when a band isn't afraid to embrace bright colors.  At some point, the members of Terminal Nation were presented with this candy apple of a cover and said, "Yep!"  Granted, it's still very metal.  If it's a candy apple, it's one thrumming with worms.  Sickly, bilious worms half-decayed from gangrene and sparkling water.  I can't be the only one turned off by sparkling water.  "Yeah, I want soda, but I don't want the yummy taste of soda.  Just give me carbonation!"

If you're interested, Terminal Nation play a riff-centric brand of death/grind.  They excel at slowing everything down to a skull-churning groove.  Decent stuff.


Rassle Inn #6

It's not uncommon for wrestling promotions to drag celebrities into their glop of sideshow pageantry.  Recently, AEW has attempted to court Mike Tyson (poorly, I might add) into engaging in fisticuffs with Chris Jericho.  That makes sense.

Tyson has name value and he does have experience cross-fertilizing with sports entertainers.  Hell, he played an integral role in kickstarting the Attitude Era.  A couple of weeks ago, NXT launched an angle where Adam Cole flipped his proverbial lid on The Pat McAfee Show.  He even used salty language!  Shoot!  Heat!  Conflict!  So here we have another instance where wrestling is trying to piggyback on the luster of a dignitary from the "straight world."  This does not make sense.

Keep in mind, I'm not picking on WWE.  I've already established that I wasn't crazy about the way AEW utilized Tyson's personage.  But tell me this...who the hell is Pat McAfee?  It just so happens that I'm familiar with McAfee, and as a matter of fact, I quite like the guy.  I watch too much ESPN in the morning, so I'm apprised of his work as a gasbag.  He's affable and has natural charisma with a microphone in his hand.  That's the thing, though; most people don't watch too much ESPN in the morning.  Most people have never heard of Pat McAfee.

Truthfully, the dude is a natural fit for the squared circle, either competing in it or commentating around its perimeter.  He will hold up his end of the bargain.  However, the only reason you would book this collision is to attract more eyeballs to your product (in this case, NXT).  McAfee nets you a hike of zero viewers.  Was that pun intended?  You bet your heart-shaped ass.  Is "zero" lowball ciphering?  It may be an exaggeration, but the actual figures won't be too far off from an absence of quantity.  I wouldn't be so peeved if McAfee's appearance on
NXT (it's in bold because I'm referring to the TV show) this past Wednesday was effective.

I won't go bullet-by-bullet, but in brief, Cole and McAfee butt heads during a match for the NXT Tag Team Championships.  The whole scenario is predictable.  ReDragon (Fish and O'Reilly) are seriously one of the best tag teams on the planet.  They don't deserve this shit.  The match itself was reduced in priority, prominence, and goddamn significance.  And it was the main event!  Again, I'm cool with McAfee, but this is a lukewarm feud that has McMahon's fingerprints all over it.  Which McMahon?  Pick one.  I could have ranted on "Raw Underground," but I'm running low on my blood pressure medication.


Scare Package

Tropes are tropes for a reason.  They have been used countless times.  Movies about tropes have been made...yes, countless times.  I never thought it would happen, but the "nostalgic video store" is a trope, and it bleeds nerd juice all over the screen.  In Scare Package, the store is Rad Chad's Horror Emporium and of course, Rad Chad is a foaming fanboy.  Y'know, even without a pandemic, a place like this wouldn't exist.  It would be forced to close its doors after a couple of months, unless it was owned by a billionaire.  I'm sorry for sounding so prickly and choleric.  This is the kind of horror/comedy hybrid that turns my stomach.  Ugh, I hate being a defeatist doomsayer, but I didn't hate Scare Package altogether.  Let's pull this tape off the shelf, shall we?

Produced last year, Scare Package is a Shudder exclusive that mines the anthology format to varying degrees of success.  Some of these vignettes are tied to the Horror Emporium in clever ways; others just start without warning.  If you're going to commit to a theme, fucking commit to it.  "Cold Open" is exactly that, only it doesn't make a world of sense.  At the very least, it tells us that we are operating under rules similar to that of Cabin in the Woods, which was a much more filling take on "meta-horror."  Scare Package doesn't spend enough time establishing its unique universe.  Like, how is the thrust of "Horror Hypothesis" possible?  I don't know.

I'm poking holes in the concept, but narrative fidgets (narrative neurasthenia?) would be negligible concerns if this omnibus was tonally consistent.  "Girls' Night Out of Body" and "So Much to Do" are relatively pokerfaced, while "One Time in the Woods" sends the very notion of parody way over the rail.  It's a cartoonish pastiche of badinage and slapstick gore.  Christ, that was almost a French sentence.  I need to get it together.  How about this for irony?  "Woods" is one of my favorite segments, despite the fact that it doesn't match half of its counterparts.  It's pretty funny and the simple effects work.  Speaking of the giggles, Scare Package is a hit-and-miss hodgepodge.

As I said earlier, I'm not fond of this brand of black humor.  The jokes feel forced (too much winking).  Look, either craft a comedy or don't.  "Cold Open" falls somewhere in between.  Blah.  "M.I.S.T.E.R." is succinct, so it's not too problematic.  This flick does have its heart in the right cadaver.  There are fun moments, but I wasn't primed for a goof-a-minute bloodbath.  You'd think that at some point during the creative process, the team behind Scare Package would have realized that the fright reels they grew up apotheosizing were not comedies.  Ingenious title, though!



Shudder to Think

I don't think this counts as an announcement, but I'm announcing it anyway.  I'm jumping back on the movie-reviewing monorail with a Shudder subscription.  What does that mean?  It means that the next...however many...films that I appraise will be available to watch on Shudder.  At least five.  No more than ten.  So I've narrowed it down!

PS-Does anyone else remember Shudder to Think, the alternative rock band from the late '80's/early 90's?  No?  Oh.