Monday, July 29, 2013

Punk Rock Holocaust 2

There are two glaring problems with Punk Rock Holocaust 2.
The first is one I expected and had come to terms with before I even put the DVD into the player: there is a severe lack of Aquabats through most of the movie.
The second problem is the movie's misguided attempt to have a plot.
While all of Punk Rock Holocaust 2's script is stupid (product placement abounds!), parts of the movie are very funny, the violent scenes are incredibly entertaining and I enjoyed the live concert footage sprinkled throughout the movie. It was made to promote the Warped Tour, after all, so the live music (and, sadly, the product placement) is necessary. Even when I wasn't particularly enjoying a band's music, it's always fun to see people performing.
The Headless Executioner running around, pulling off people's heads, wearing victims's heads and killing even more people was lots of fun. Those scenes were also much fewer and further between than the cover art (and even the name of the movie) would lead one to believe.
It seemed most of the movie's running time was devoted to two female reporters, one doing in-studio interviews with a man insisting that devil worship is involved with the massacre and one wandering around the tour trying to uncover the truth behind the Punk Rock Holocaust, and almost all the fun of the movie came to a screeching halt whenever the story turned to one of the reporter women.
Some funny scenes emerged from the woman wandering around at the tour (her encounter with a girl and her new boyfriend horse was pretty funny) but for the most part it was boring. Every time a dialogue scene began all I could think about was either "I wish they'd get back to killing people" or "I should just give up and watch that Aquabats part again."
So basically Punk Rock Holocaust 2 is a movie that made me not interested in sticking with it 'til the end because there was too much story and not enough slaughter (and because the people I tuned in to see were the first victims). I did make it all the way through and can say with absolute certainty they have not piqued my interest in any of the other Punk Rock Holocaust movies.
It would have been much more entertaining as ninety seconds of plot exposition followed by ninety minutes of punk music and wacky decapitations.

End of line.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Aquabats at the San Diego House Of Blues, Thursday July 18, 2013

My home has become awash in Aquabats Fever over the past several months, thanks to my decision to introduce my niece to The Aquabats! Super Show!. Usually when I'm obsessed with something, nobody really listens to me but Mokey took it and ran with it and now we're all crazy about them. Thanks a lot, me! (Or something like that?)
(Fun side note: my brother, who first introduced me to The Aquabats back when I was in high school, was the last one in the house to grow to enjoy the TV show.)
So it was only natural that I would spare no expense in getting to see The Aquabats in concert when I found out they were playing in San Diego. The show was tied to Comic Con, which is something I haven't been to in five years and have no intention of going back anytime soon (too crowded and expensive) but I have friends who live in San Diego who have an air mattress they let me sleep on and, since they were going to Con, let me ride into downtown with them the day of the show.
I shan't bore you with what I spent most of the day doing (short version: walking around) and skip straight to the good bits.
The Aquabats opened with Fashion Zombies, enhanced by some pretty sweet classic horror movie clips playing on a screen behind them and my brain shut down and went into Fangirly Concertgoer Mode, where I turn into a screaming, cheering, dopey smiling, bouncing fangirl nutball. I usually have this terrible need to always be in control of my actions and my brain, to always have some semblance of decorum in pretty much every situation. The only time that shuts off and I revert entirely to instinct is when I'm at a concert, I'm in the front row and a band I love is playing loud, awesome music directly in front of me.
And if that band is The Aquabats and The MC Bat Commander is standing on the barricade and stepping on my stuff, so much the better.
My memories of the show come in fits and starts; I remember bits and pieces of the evening but not what order they go in, just that they happened and they were wonderful. A few standout moments:
- Jimmy popping a bubble with his mind
- The MC Bat Commander trying on an audience member's Warriors vest
- throwing plastic balls at a wizard who came onstage to jeer The Aquabats
- blowing a kiss to Crash and him blowing one back to me
- the Commander making up a song called I'm So Sleepy I'm Gonna Go To Sleep
- Warren Fitzgerald of The Vandals coming out to sing I Have A Date
- Jimmy saying "purple is a fruit" and then smiling at me when I cheered
- Eaglebones and Chainsaw having a guitar duel that quickly devolved into playing each other's guitars
- the title card from Rad popping up on the screen behind them during Super Rad and the weird pink dragon that "flew" across the stage during Luck Dragon Lady
- The MC Bat Commander periodically opening bottles of water to fling onto the overheating front rows of the audience (and subsequently fogging my glasses but what are you gonna do)
- Jimmy mumbling his way through Robot Dreams, even with the lyrics in front of him
I tried my best when I got back to Shelby's that night to write down all the songs they played but I'm certain I missed some. If I had any complaint about the show it would be that they didn't play much of their older, ska-ier stuff.
If I had a second complaint about the show it would be that The MC Bat Commander did not do a backflip.
But those complaints are so miniscule that they may as well not even exist.
Remember when I saw Local H and was completely blown away by them, so in love with the concert that I couldn't believe I hadn't been listening to them all along? I had a similar feeling during this Aquabats concert but for reasons on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
That Local H show was small, intimate and consisted of two blow-you-away talented musicians on stage, performing for an audience. Then Scott Lucas duct taped a microphone to his face and jumped into the audience and I had a "where have you been all my life?" mental reboot. It was small and magical and chaotic.
The Aquabats show was much larger and not nearly as intimate, size-of-venue-and-audience-wise, but it was just as magical and chaotic (possibly even moreso), and they made up for the lack of intimacy by the guys in the band doing their best to interact with the audience, providing us with plastic balls to throw at the wizard, doing their best to banter with and talk to the crowd, and in the out-and-out chaos that was Pool Party.
You see, the show was all-ages and The Aquabats pulled onstage as many of their little homies as they possibly could (as well as a bunch of kids from backstage). Then they re-brought out their special guests, Chainsaw, Rick-the-guy-on-the-bike and Warren Fitzgerald, as well as opening act DJ Lance Rock. Then the song started, beach balls and inflatable sharks and plastic balls started bouncing around the audience, along with pool floaties and two giant Rover balloons. Then the confetti came. And there were plenty of smoke-filled bubbles floating out over the crowd and the stage all night, so those were there, too. And midway through the song I realized that I have been to concerts where the band interacts with the audience, I have been to They Might Be Giants and Gogol Bordello shows that feel like parties (and in the case of TMBG, have included confetti), I've been to punk shows where things have gotten crazy or out of hand.
But I have never been to a show that felt anything near like the family friendly punk rock party insanity that The Aquabats invoked during Pool Party.
After the show I drank pretty much an entire bottle of water in one gulp, bought some stuff from the merch table and went outside to wait for the band to come out. Which they did and, being the super awesome and friendly guys that they are, they hung around to talk to people, sign things (in my case, an Up All Night trucker cap) and take pictures with the fans.
So I got to meet Crash:
and I inadvertently said something that I think made him feel old and I still feel bad about that and cringe at myself a little bit when I think about it.
Then I got to meet Ricky:
and I guess Ricky Fitness is my camera's favorite Aquabat because it was so excited to take a picture of him that it fainted out of my hand and smashed on the ground and broke its lens and I had to get the rest of the pictures on my phone's lousy camera. (Ricky tried to make me feel better by telling me he'd had, like, three of those cameras and the lenses broke on all of them.)
Then I got to meet Jimmy:
and it turns out he was the one person in the band who froze my brain more than any other. I wanted to talk to him but just couldn't make words form.
Then I got to meet the Commander:
who turned out to be the easiest member of the band to talk to, which surprised me because I assumed he'd be the one I'd be the most starstruck by. But he was so friendly that I managed to chat with him like he was just some guy. (Which, in a way, he is...)
Then I got to meet Chainsaw:
with his remarkably dashing beard.
And I thought I had missed Eaglebones but it turns out he was just standing a bit away from everyone else, so I not only got to meet him:
but I also got to see him say goodnight to Jimmy and as I was leaving he handled it very well when I momentarily forgot how handshakes work.
(Also, before Jimmy said goodnight to his bandmate he tried to talk to me about the trucker caps and how they looked just like the ones on the show but my brain froze again and I don't recall if I actually said anything to him in reply. I know I opened my mouth to offer to give him one, realized that was silly and then shut my mouth again; I certainly do hope I said something.)
It was an amazing show, a fantastic night and words can't begin to express how much fun I had and how much I want to go to another one.
They may have beaten Local H for Best Concert Of 2013.

End of line.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Monsters University

But first, The Blue Umbrella, the pre-movie short. My review of The Blue Umbrella will be written in the form of a letter:

Dear Pixar,
Tacking on a happy ending does not make up for the abject misery you just made me sit through.
This letter applies to almost all of your pre-movie shorts.

Okay, now on to Monsters University.
Parts of it were funny and overall it was a very good movie but I can't exactly say I liked it.
I didn't hate it. I didn't even dislike it. I just didn't like it. It made my heart hurt.
The pre-credits opening made my heart hurt for Little Mike Wazowski who all the other kids in his class picked on. The introduction of Randall Boggs as a cheerful, likeable lizard creature made my heart hurt knowing he's the villain in Monsters Incorporated. College-Aged Mike Wazowski's undying desire to be a scarer made my heart hurt knowing he never moves on to that career. The old "jocks picking on the nerds" trope throughout the movie made my heart hurt because it always makes my heart hurt.
I saw the Carrie homage coming a mile away and the scene after it, with one fraternity humiliating another, was the first of many scenes to make me cry.
People never seem to understand why I don't like Pixar and it's really hard to verbalize, but I'll do my best:
Pixar revels in cruelty. Pixar loves to see its characters suffer. The reason I love Brave is because it's the only Pixar movie that doesn't rip your heart out and show it to you. (Except Cars. Or maybe Cars did do that and I was just too stupifyingly bored to notice.)
What Monsters University truly is at its core is a Root For The Underdog Sports Movie. Which is not a genre I seek out but in this case its done very well. The main characters are all one hundred percent lovable and the bad guys are classic, cartoonishly assholey jocks who (in my experience, anyway) don't exist in real life. Admittedly I never went to college but in high school I never saw any "jocks versus nerds" conflict. It was all more "everybody hangs out with their own groups of friends and doesn't bug anybody else."
The point is, it's a plot device I never liked to begin with. It's manipulative and painful to have to watch. Too much sadness there. I can't completely enjoy a movie that focuses on it.
There is a lot of good in Monsters University, mostly from the Oozma Kappa fraternity members, John Goodman's performance as Sully (they gave him almost all the really strong emotional moments in the movie and he gives a damn good performance. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I genuinely don't trust anyone who claims to not like John Goodman) and the impressive animation on the grumpy, dragony dean. There were a lot of parts that made me smile and I think there were one or two parts that even made me laugh.
But overall I walked out feeling sad.
I almost always walk out of Pixar movies feeling sad, even when they end on a happy note.

End of line.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Good gravy, how many different movies called Alice can I possibly watch??? This is the third I've reviewed on this blog.
This particular Alice is a Sci Fi Channel miniseries that uses Alice In Wonderland as a jumping off point to tell its tale. A woman named Alice chases some men who have kidnapped her boyfriend, falls into a looking glass and ends up in a futuristic Wonderland where the Queen Of Hearts has been kidnapping people from Alice's world to harvest for emtions, which are sold to Wonderland residents as drugs. In her attempts to save her boyfriend, Alice gets mixed up with the resistance that wants to overthrow the queen.
I wasn't sure at first whether I was enjoying the miniseries or not. Once again they annoyed me by throwing in a Jabberwock (annoying because they're always dragon-type monsters and because Jabberwocky is just a poem Alice reads and is not something that actually happens) and ... I don't remember, I think something else bugged me. But when I started explaining the movie to my mom I realized how invested I was in the story.
A lot of it was predictable. I couldn't help but roll my eyes when they threw in a love triangle and could pretty much tell how it would all end. But it was still a whole heck of a lot of fun to watch. It kind of reminded me of The Tenth Kingdom in a lot of ways (although this time the absent parent was a dad instead of a mom) and I really quite liked The Tenth Kingdom. And this was even one-up on that by being a couple hours shorter, less convoluted and stuck to reimagining one classic story instead of every classic story.
And special notice must be paid to Matt Frewer, who played Charlie, the White Knight. I like Matt Frewer. I haven't seen him in a lot of things but every time I see his name in the opening credits of something, I smile. It kind of bums me out that he seems to always get the part of "token crazy guy" because while watching Alice I was repeatedly drawn in and impressed by his performance. Every Token Crazy Guy he plays is a different kind of crazy and it really sort of hit me all at once midway through this miniseries just how talented he is. How is he not more famous?
So, yes, despite its predictability Alice has an interesting enough story and a damn good cast enough to be worth the three hours it takes to watch it. I might even watch it again sometime.

End of line.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Galaxy Of Terror

Some amount of years ago, a crew went on a mission to a planet and only one of them returned. Now she's a grizzled, grumpy captain who has been sent on a mission to see if there were any survivors from the first mission. With her is her expert team: Elderly Commander, Blonde Lady, Robert Englund, Lando Calrissian Lookalike Contest Winner, Surly Violent Guy, Quiet Big Guy, Psychic Lady, Scaredyman and Ray Walston.
Any plot beyond that was filled with space mission mumbo jumbo but basically boiled down to "let's find excuses to isolate someone so they can get killed."
Therefore, Galaxy Of Terror, while not a perfect movie, is quite entertaining.
Death setpieces range from Attacked By Own Weapon to Zuul Monster to Giant Rape Bug, and the filmmakers prove they know what a girl likes by including a scene with two Robert Englunds, a good one and an evil one.
There was a lot of talk in the movie about a The Master, who apparently ordered the space missions in the first place and I think if I had understood that, I would have understood the ending which, as it stands now in my slow, sleepy brain, didn't make a lick of sense.
It was still fun to watch, though.

End of line.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Shock Treatment

Denton is a city (I think) that is a television station and the lives of the people who live there are intertwined with all of Denton's shows, which are all connected to each other. For instance, Brad and Janet Majors are chosen to take part in a marriage counseling program, which leads in to Brad being committed in the mental hospital on a soap opera while Janet is seduced by both stardom and Denton's new sponsor, Farley Flavors.
I've had a theory for years that, since I hate The Rocky Horror Picture Show I would probably love its hated-by-lots-of-people sequel Shock Treatment and it turns out I was mostly right. Much like Rocky Horror its plot mainly revolves around Janet being drawn away from her husband and it hits a point near the middle where the movie turns quite boring.
But it also has things in common with its prequel that I actually like: Richard O'Brien's songs (and singing voice) for instance, and the stunning Patricia Quinn who I think I may be in love with at this point. Much like Lords Of Salem, she drew my attention even if she was in the background doing essentially nothing.
Shock Treatment also had something in common with Repo! The Genetic Opera (a movie which is often unjustly compared to Rocky Horror): nurses in shorty short skirts. So there that is.
But enough comparing it to other movies, how was Shock Treatment on its own two legs?
Well, it was colorful and campy. The music was catchy, the singing was top notch and there was no terrible, overplayed dancealong song to make me want to gouge my eyes out.
Yes, it did get a bit boring near the middle but not unbearably so. My mind just started to wander. And eventually the movie did throw in another good song or two to try to win me back, which kind of worked.
It wasn't the best movie I've seen, certainly, but I'm standing on the edge of wanting to say that I loved it. Colorful and campy is probably the easiest way to win me over and most of the acting was better than it probably needed to be considering the fact that Shock Treatment is essentially a "B movie." (Although B movies are usually the best movies. Maybe the acting was as good as it needed to be.)
Cliff De Young, for example, plays both the straight and narrow Brad Majors and the swaggering business jerk Farley Flavors and I don't know that I'd have known that if the end credits hadn't told me so. And Jessica Harper has been great in all two movies I've seen her in; I really ought to watch more of her work.
So as far as I'm concerned Shock Treatment is much, much preferrable over the movie that it sequels. That being said, much as I enjoyed the music in this movie, not one of its songs can hold a candle to Science Fiction Double Feature.

End of line.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gleaming The Cube

The late 1980s and early 1990s had a genre of movie that is much harder to come across these days. I don't know if it has an official name but if I had to call it something, I'd call it "skatesploitation" because it's as good a moniker as any.
Even though it's about BMX racing rather than skateboarding, I'd say Rad fell into that category along with movies like Airborne and Grind and Prayer Of The Rollerboys (which is a rollerblading movie, but still) and our subject this evening, Gleaming The Cube.
I'd be a liar if I said I'd seen many skatesploitation movies. If you include the one I watched tonight, I've seen two (the other being Rad) but I'm going by the rule that you can judge an exploitation film by its trailer; regardless of what happens in the movie, the trailer plays up what the movie is exploiting to get butts in the seats.
But enough of my babbling, what is this movie about?
Gleaming The Cube is about a Christian Slater who hangs around with his skateboarding buddies and shares a room with his adopted brother Vinh, with whom he plays chess and bickers (but in a loving way). Vinh works at a video store run by his girlfriend's father, who is involved with a charity that provides medical supplies to Vietnam. He's also involved in shady goings-on. And Vinh finds out about those shady goings on and then all kinds of shit hits the fan. So Christian Slater has to get to the bottom of the mystery and [SPOILER, for those who haven't seen the trailer, which gives this away] avenge Vinh's death.
I spent a great deal of Gleaming The Cube feeling like plot points weren't connecting. Heck, more than plot points, I felt like entire sections of movie weren't connecting. There's the first part, which Vinh is really the star of until he's suddenly out of the picture. The Christian Slater does some detective work. Then he's changing his image from a skateboarding slacker to a clone of his brother for reasons I only half understood. Then he explodes some stuff. Then he's helping the cops get the bad guys. I'm sure there was a story in all of those setpieces but I couldn't quite follow it.
In all honesty, I don't know that I liked Gleaming The Cube. It was no Rad, I can tell you that much. Rad may not be a better movie (BMX professionals and Bart Connor are not great actors; however, Tony Hawk has a small role in Gleaming The Cube and is quite good) but the story is easier to follow. The story is also a lot more innocent and maybe I like that. I guess I don't want a lot of murder and arms dealing in my skatesploitation movies; I just want to watch dudes on skateboards. And there were really not a lot of dudes on skateboards, sadly. They opted to go the having-a-plot route instead.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that the only reason I watched Gleaming The Cube at all is because Christian Jacobs is in it. He is not in it a lot. I think he has two lines (the best one being "There's my mom's house! And there's my dad's house!") and not a single closeup. Which is probably okay because he was a teenager when they filmed it and if I thought he was cute I'd feel kinda creepy about it. (The curse of having a fangirl crush on a former child actor. Though I really don't think he got attractive 'til he got older.) But, yeah, it could be I'm disappointed in the movie because there wasn't nearly enough pre-Aquabats Bat Commander for my taste.
I tried to be invested in the story but it was just too choppy for me to keep caring and I found that my favorite part was probably the end credits, which showed Christian Slater's skateboarding double (at least, I assume it was a double; all his skateboarding scenes were shot in that charming '80s body double kind of way) skating around and doing tricks. That's the sort of thing I expected to see in the first place, dang it!

End of line.