Black Ops Elves

December 21, 2014

Holy crap it’s almost Christmas.  How time flies swifter than an arrow!  I attended another Pointless production and yet again it inspired a little story snippet.  I was so impressed with all of the world building my brother and Frank did that I was inspired to add a little expanded universe, Star Wars style. Also, another reminder to see any Pointless Theater production in Washington, DC or the surrounding area.

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The plane rocked a little in the wind again but nobody grumbled.  We were all once rookies and, when we were new, our stomachs would have lurched with the sudden movement.  Now we had been at this business for a long time.  Of course, it only took a month or two to become a hardened warrior.  That was what we were.  Hardened warriors in service of the Claus family though we never had any contact with the big man himself.  In fact, it’s been six months since I had seen the North Pole.  I found that I didn’t even miss it even more.  They say that you can’t go home and that’s true especially if it doesn’t even feel like home anymore.  This cargo plane feels like home or whatever shelter we bed down in for the night.
My name is Cowan Tinsletree but they have come to call me Silent Night which seems to fit a lot better.  Most elves are born to work towards the making and distribution of presents.  When you’re a kid that’s exactly what you want to do the same as all of the other people you grew up with.  My gifts didn’t lend themself to making presents or any part of the usual elf business.  Whatever it was that the older elves saw, they predicted I would be a good soldier.  I never there was a North Pole Black Ops and now I was the best sniper in the squad, capable of hitting almost any target with projectile weapons.
The newest recruit had only been with us for 68 days but she actually fits in pretty well with the team.  didn’t fit in back home either.  Gwenevere Snowfuzz is the only goth elf I have ever met and boy did she grow up frustrated.  That frustration led to her firing, arrest and deportation out here to the world.  She broods a lot and keeps to herself but in the middle of some missions I swear I’ve seen her smile.  It’s not the friendliest smile but probably more than she got back home.  She prefers to keep things close and personal when it’s time to fight.  Her blades barely flash before a target drops.
Halo Startwinkle rarely talks and when he does, it’s barely more than a word or two.  His chief job was piloting the plane which he seemed to really like to do.  He got a kind of serene look on his face even if the plane was under heavy fire.  It was actually pretty inspiring to see somebody love their job so much.   In a pinch the guy could handle a weapon pretty well but he didn’t like to do it and, of course, he would never say why.
Harmony Ciderhearth is a very charming and handsome elf.  From what I hear, he was too charming as he may have gotten too close to the Clauses and sometimes when that happens you have to go.  There aren’t a lot of choices when you’re exiled from the poles but who knows why he chose this life.  I do know that he enjoys the missions a little too much.  I was born to do this but it’s not like I exactly want to but Harmony would pick this over just about anything, I think.  He is currently our expert on magic and is a strong practitioner of Christmas magic.  We couldn’t be as fast or stealthy as we are without the same magic that Santa and the rest of the elves use for more peaceful means.
The final member of the current squad actually got here before I did.  When I left the North Pole for good, the wound he left was still pretty fresh.  His name was not allowed to be spoken and severe penalties were still being given out for talking about him.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sat in a corner of the cargo bay and puffed on a cigar, the lit end almost mimicking his glowing red nose.   I still don’t know what he did to deserve this punishment  but I’m glad he did it.  There is nobody I’d rather have at my back when the shit hit the fan.
Our mission this time was clear.  A laboratory in the human world was attempting something that none of us would have ever thought possible but they were too close to completing their task.  The Syro Corporation had somehow recovered the remains of the beloved Frosty the Snowman based on the townspeoples’ accounts of his last known whereabouts.  Our squad had actually been looking for his silk hat for a while now with no luck.  We hoped it had not fallen into the wrong hands.
Three days ago we got word that satellites had finally gotten a shot of the hat in transit to Syro Corp headquarters.  I had a feeling that if they tried to resurrect Frosty, the results would be catastrophically dangerous.  Our superiors must have shared my belief because here we were about to engage in a daring raid of their laboratories.  Operation Thumpity Thump consisted of three objectives.  First, the retrieval of Frosty’s remains so that a proper burial could be performed.  Second, the recovery or destruction of the silk hat so that this particular Christmas magic could never be used again.  Finally, we needed to destroy their hard drives.
I said a silent prayer as the cargo door opened and everybody but Rudolph and Halo grabbed a parachute.  We are the Elf Black Ops Squad and we were not here to be on the nice list.

My Top 11 Favorite Stand Up Comedians

December 3, 2014

1 Kumail Nanjiani

Kumail Nanjiani is consistantly the comedian that makes me laugh the most.  The stand up specials I’ve heard had me laughing like crazy.  His bits are so well-constructed that I did a whole routine of his and got somebody else laughing hard.  He’s the cohost of Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and is a hilarious host.  He also hosts two podcasts and guests on Harmontown all the time and he’s just so much fun to listen to.  His humor comes from very personal experience and a lot of it is mixed strangely with horror.  Most of this comes from telling stories of his childhood in Pakistan which sounds pretty terrifying.

2 Patton Oswalt

I have laughed at Patton Oswalt until tears have run down my face and black spots have formed on the edge of my vision and I needed to stop to catch my breath.  He’s so good at forming relentless stories that hit you over and over again.  His comedy is really smart and I know he’s a big comic book nerd which puts us somewhat on the same wavelength.  I find myself nodding my head a lot when I listen to Patton Oswalt.  I’m taking that as a good sign.

3 Robin Williams

If you can get in the rythym of his rapid-fire delivery, this is really great stand up to listen to.  Robin was all over the place all the time in a manic-yet-driven style.  Beyond the pop culture references and impressions and screaming he had a point and it always felt like the truth.  Robin Williams was nothing but honest with his fans even when he was talking about his greatest faults.  Behind that bouncy and bright grin there was always a bit of a realist there.  At least, that’s how I always saw it.

4 Amy Schumer (NSFW)

Talk about honest, Amy Schumer tends to push honest through R-Rated and into NC-17 while still being classy enough to take seriously.  My first exposure to her was her special Mostly Sex Stuff which was a very accurate title.  She’s definitely not safe for work but her bits and delivery are dead on.  She also has a show on Comedy Central which is very good even if I could never watch it with my family.

5 Steve Martin

Steve Martin is one of the first stand up comedians I ever became a fan of.  I will remain loyal to him for a long time, forever if he keeps behaving the way he is.  I realize that it may be unfair to put Steve Martin on this list since he was less of a stand up comedian and more of a performance artist.  Most of the comedians I like tell stories that are mostly true.  Steve Martin did everything but tell the truth.  He was a wacky cartoon character come to life and he brought that to every role even if he was playing the straight man.  Still, I could listen to Steve Martin albums forever.

6 Chris Hardwick

Chris Hardwick has been around forever (or at least since the nineties) but only lately has he became a juggernaut in the geek and comedy worlds.  Chris has honed his craft to a sharp edge but I’ve liked him as soon as I first heard him.  He’s a big enough nerd that he adopted The Nerdist as his brand and has taken that to the bank several times over.  He rubs elbows with every comedian that matters in the business and is funny enough to hang with all of them legitimately.  I’m genuinely happy to see him show up anywhere.

7 Eddie Izzard

When I first saw Eddie Izzard, probably pointed his way by Arthur or somebody way back when, my first thought was:  “Who is this guy in the dress and why is he wearing makeup and why is nobody mentioning it?”  My second question was: “Why haven’t I heard of this guy before now? He’s hilarious.”  Like Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard doesn’t stay in one place for long and jumps along lines of thoughts towards either a conclusion or sometimes just into the ether.  His comedy is surreal and imaginitive and his accent tops it off nicely.

8 Ellen Degeneres

Yeah, I know she’s not somebody you usually think about when you think about stand up comedy.  At least not in the last decade or so.  Still, Ellen has a simple way of setting up jokes that catch you off guard.  Most of her stuff keeps away from personal stories but instead focuses on the everyday stuff we all take for granted.  Thoughts we may have half-formed ourselves but let go of pretty quickly.  Those thoughts do deserve a look though, if only to laugh at how stupid we all can be.

9 Doug Benson

Doug Benson is probably the biggest stoner who has ever held down a job with any reliability.  Get ready for a lot of pot humor since it is his bread and butter but once you’ve accepted that, it gets better.  He has a tendency to giggle along with the crowd which should be annoying but ends up being infectious. His jokes also tend to take a lot of left turns out of nowhere so I end up being caught off guard and laughing harder.  A guy I thought was a one-note stoner comedian ended up being a fun listen.

10 Gabriel Iglesias

Gabriel Iglesias is another guy who looked one note when I first heard his stand up.  He talked alot about how he’s fat (not fat, Fluffy!).  Again, this should have gotten tiresome but the thing is, he was just so damned excited about it.  His enthusiasm flows through every single word he delivers.   He talks a lot about stuff that has really happened to him or at least close enough to seem real.   He has an interesting perspective culturally who lights up like a roman candle when he tells jokes.  If that makes any sense.

11 George Carlin

I have deep respect for George Carlin.   Though, to be honest, I didn’t like his earlier work.  The hippy, dippiness of his earlier work seemed too unfocused and to insubstantial.   He was playing characters instead of speaking from the heart.  In his latter work he never talked about himself too much but he spoke straight from the heart.  He dissected language, pointed out hypocrisy and proudly stated his opinions.  Sure it could come with heavy sarcasm and deadly cynicism but I always liked that.

After Midnight with Dean Wyatt

November 27, 2014

I saw his face again and for the umpteenth time I woke up in a cold sweat.  He died.  He was dead.  It was my fault for not being there.  It would never not be my fault.  It will always be my fault.  I reached over and took a sip of water from an almost spent water bottle.  There was no going back to sleep now.  Besides, I needed to take a piss.  I climbed out of bed and almost immediately bumped into his desk.  My desk.  It’s my desk now.  I reached up and pulled the chain and blinked in the sudden light of a bare bulb.

I trudged to the bathroom and did my business.  When I stepped back out, I swore again to get somebody to clean the place.  At the very least it hadn’t really been cleaned since before he died.  With mom gone, it could have been years since it was cleaned.  His pictures and his achievements were still up on the walls.  The only thing of mine was my old high school diploma but he had hung that up.  He had been more proud of it than I ever was.

I had thought of packing it all up and moving it out more than once.  Diamond Investigations had been there for ages though.  If something operates in the same place for decades, is it not an institution?  It seemed a crime to let it all go even if it was just so I could set up shop elsewhere.  Dad wouldn’t have given up the fight so easily.

He created Diamond back in the day to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.  He always said he picked the name because it sounded classy.  I think he picked it to honor all lof those baseball games he and Pop Pop shared.  The diamond should have been green and not blue but there was no way to change Dad’s mind once it was set.

There was a little bit of coffee left in a cup from the afternoon and I sipped it with a grimace.  I hate coffee but I need it so I drink it under protest.  Besides, if I have to have it around to offer clients then I should probably drink it now and then.  It tasted no better after being left out so long.  It didn’t taste any worse either.  I pulled out my desk chair and sat down.  Since there was little hope of going back to sleep anytime soon, it would be better to look through files.  At least it was more productive than tossing and turning for an hour.

The Edwards case was pissing me off.  The husband was cheating.  The wife said she was sure of it. After two days, I was sure of it too but the slippery asshole proved elusive.  I just needed one picture and it would be payday.  Ther had to be a way to get it done.  Dad would have said what he always said: “Anything it takes, just get it done.”  Which was how I broke my in middle school.  I learned lessons and grew some character that day but I definitely got that Frisbee off the roof.

I looked to my left and there he was sitting in one of the client chairs.  Luke Wyatt, my dad.  It was as if the last few months had been a dream and he was alive.  He was right there but he wouldn’t look at me.  He was not looking at me.

“Dad?”

He stood up and started to walk out.  It reached out but he was already out of reach.  I stood up and followed but he was moving so fast.  I knew Dad had entertained dreams of playing in the minors and had run track in high school but this was ridiculous.

“Dad!?”

He still did not turn.  I followed him as fast as I could to the door but between pushing the door open and climbing the steps to street level, I lost him.  I stood in the middle of the sidewalk at a loss in my socks.  There was no sign of him.  There was no sign of anyone.

He was dead.  Wasn’t he?

My Music Collection 4

November 11, 2014

“Pop Music”

 

A mantra that I’ve had lately is “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure” which I got from somewhere on the internet.  Though I guess I would alter it to “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure (within reason)”.  The term guilty pleasure is used by people as an out so they can like something that society has decided they shouldn’t.  A housewife might state that Soap Operas are there guilty pleasure.  No, that’s not your “guilty pleasure”.  That is your pleasure.  If you enjoy something, don’t be guilty about it.  There’s plenty of stuff that I love that I used to feel weird about liking.  Then I would admit that I liked them “ironically” but that wasn’t true either.

When I worked for a political campaign in the summer of 2011, I spent a lot of days working outside in the hot sun putting up huge 4X8 foot political signs.  The work was difficult and everyday I would feel horrible, probably bordering on heat exhaustion no matter how much water and Gatorade I drank.  We drove around in a giant black pick up truck with the candidate’s name plastered all over it.  So what do you do when you’re riding around in a pick up truck and trying to psych yourself up to jump back into the heat for physical labor?  Listen to music.  What music did we up listening to the most?  Top 40 pop music.  Here I am, fan of rock and metal and we’re singing along to the radio playing Top 40 hits.

I happen to like a lot of pop music because most of it has a fast, energizing beat and and the lyrics and tone are upbeat.  When I’m angry or psyching myself up I like to listen to heavy metal.  When I’m sad or tired I like to listen to friggin’ Katy Perry.  So here’s a short list of some of the bubblegum in my collection

Katy Perry (ft. Juicy J) – Dark Horse

Really I like practically any Katy Perry song but this is my favorite.  She has a clear, innocent voice infused with energy.  I first heard her during that fateful summer when she came out with California Gurls which was so infectious that I couldn’t help but love it.  Eventually she had me singing along and had made a fan for life.  Her music is supremely confident and a lot of it speaks to being confident in your own life.  I’m not reading too much into her songs either.  Listen to Firework or Roar sometime and tell me she isn’t about positive self-image.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

Teenage me would kick my ass for including this song on the list.  When I was a teenager, loving anything mainstream was an automatic Judge Dredd-style death sentence.  I clung to the old school classic rock, metal and even classical music rather than listen to whatever everybody else was listening to.  This song is bouncy and fun and playful and it’s actually fun to sing along to.  Screw you, Past!Steven.  You were a fool.

Selena Gomez & The Scene – Naturally

This song actually helped get me through some tough Depression alone in West Virginia as I tried to come down from a few horrible weeks at work.  The song has a driving beat and by the end of the weekend I knew the lyrics of this one.   For an ex-Disney star, Selena Gomez has a pretty put together act (even if she is dating the worst thing to happen to music in a while).  Like most pop acts, her stuff is heavily produced but comes with a driving, upbeat energy that feels honest.  It may not be, it may be wholly manufactured but, again, who cares?

Ke$ha – Blow

Early on after Ke$ha first appeared on the scene I heard a lot of people trying to downplay her or discount her music because of perceived sexual promiscuity.  All of that is just flowery language for her looking and acting like a skank.  I don’t care.  No matter how much she is responsible for her music, it is fun and super upbeat.  I like pretty much all of her songs but I especially love Blow because it practically talks about an underground rave revolution movement.

Britney Spears (ft. Nicki Minaj & Ke$ha) – Till The World Ends (remix)

I honestly think that Britney Spears didn’t really get good until after her breakdown and comeback.  I don’t know if I’m seeing things but there’s a darker edge to her music and more transparency and less playfulness.  In her early career it seemed she was trading on the whole school girl thing and skirting around sex but now that she’s older she can be honest and straight to the point.  Anyway, I like her music.  It’s heavily produced and auto-tuned but who cares as long as I like it.  I respect it as a former audio engineer.  Anyway, this one is my favorite because of the combination with awesome rapper Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha.

Lady Gaga (ft. Beyonce) – Telephone

Like Ke$ha, Lady Gaga seems to live in her own reality. However, unlike the Rave Revolution Universe that Ke$ha lives in, Lady Gaga lives in a weird world where art school continues into the real world.  Being weird and quirky is a driving force and nobody is better at it than Lady Gaga.  I remember Telephone in particular as being the gateway into being a Lady Gaga fan.  The music video was very controversial at the time so I decided to check it out.  The music video is not really all that controversial at all but it is definitely weird.  Behind or beyond all of that weirdness, the music is really good.

Miley Cyrus – Party in the USA

Miley Cyrus is acting on a similar impulse as Lady Gaga.  I don’t know if she’s more subtle about it or less subtle but people actually believed that she had lost her mind more recently.  The more I think of it, the less I think she actually lost anything.  She gained a level in performance is all.  She decided that the best way to get her brand out was to completely change her image.  As far as I’m concerned she succeeded and her music advanced in the process.  Party in the USA is the song that even people who don’t like her might admit liking but I think some of her new stuff is actually pretty interesting as well.  It’s obviously not just me, her records are selling.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling 11

November 4, 2014

CM Punk

I think enough time has passed and I’m finally ready to talk with calm emotions about a subject that rocked the world of sports entertainment and is still a sore spot with some people.  In some ways it actually turned out to be less of a big deal than it originally felt like.  Now it’s just a wave of what will become nostalgia for one of my favorite performers of all time.  Of course, I am talking about the departure of CM Punk from the WWE.  At the time, it was more of a blow but now I’m pretty chill about it.

In January 27, 2014 Phillip Brooks aka CM Punk walked out of the WWE, declining to perform as a sports entertainer from that point on.  The word was that he was tired and burned out and displeased with his position in the company.  There’s no real way to know the truth as CM Punk has remained mostly silent on the matter.  At first, I celebrated the move because who among us has not wanted to quit a job we were no longer happy with?  I always loved his character and of course I sided with him. I wanted a better position for him in the company.

As the days stretched into weeks and then months I started to think he was selfish for violating his contract and taking his ball and going home.  I wondered if he was ever coming back and then he finally announced that he had retired from the business.  I felt oddly good about it.  Sure, I was disappointed that his last match was the Royal Rumble.  However, finally getting some solid news provided closure.  Over time I realized that he didn’t owe anyone an explanation.  On top of that, he was able to retire on his own terms without a life-threatening or career-ending injury being the reason.  Months later he started to make appearances outside of the WWE and I found I was just as much a fan of Phil Brooks as I was CM Punk.  I still am.

That said, I will always love and respect CM Punk for the contributions he made to the WWE and the world of sports entertainment at large.  From life in Ring of Honor to Total Nonstop Action to the top of the heap of the WWE, CM Punk was larger than life.

You could read a rundown of his career all day from various sources so I’ll just talk about my personal fandom.  I first saw Punk when he showed up on the “ECW on SyFy” show and I was instantly curious about him.  He came out to ring to some of the coolest punk/metal music and was covered in tattoos.  Most prominent of those tattoos was the symbol for Cobra.  You know Cobra, they fought GI Joe all throughout the eighties and a bit in the nineties.  The other major tattoos were the Pepsi logo and his straightedge tattoos.

I have never indulged much in drugs.  The barely interested me and I always had other  things to do.  I have dabbled here and there with alcohol but I was always worried about its effect on me.  I was always worried that alcohol would help my anxiety too much but also I was worried how it would mix with my depression.  Eventually my reluctance left me with a very low resistance to alcohol and made me a “lightweight” or “cheap drunk”.  At one point, since I wasn’t really indulging much anyway I thought about just going straightedge like my hero CM Punk.  I decided against it but I still think about it from time to time.

Punk was always a great performer both in the ring and out.  He innovated both his character and his in-ring style depending on whether he was a good guy or a bad guy.  He was one of the few performers where I did not care if he was a good guy or a bad guy.  I was always happy to see him out and performing.  I was always glad to hear his <entrance music> which was instantly recognizable.   He became a welcome sight even when the rest of the show was mediocre.  He elevated everyone around him and seemed to be a wrestling luminary even at a young age.

He also was able to highlight a lot of the inequities in sports entertainment, an opportunity that management actually afforded him.  From the Straightedge Superstar to the Straightedge Savior to the Voice of the Voiceless to finally being Best in the World.  To me he really was The Best in the World with very little sarcasm.  I’m glad that I got to see his great career but I’m also glad that I got to see him retire while he was still relatively healthy.  At least we will always have our memories of his great career and, hell, he’s really funny outside of the business too.

Halloween Briefs

October 31, 2014

I was running out of time this Halloween season and I wanted to comment on more Halloween-y content so here’s a quick look on some random good entertainment!
Seed of Chucky (2004)
I saw this movie again (along with Bride of Chucy and Child’s Play 3) on AMC last weekend and it pretty much holds up as a Chucky movie.  The great thing about all of the Chucky movies is basically Brad Dourif and later Jennifer Tilly.  The murders are strangely incidental as the two dolls are somehow enough charisma to watch for hours.  It’s as if they consumed the flesh and stole the charisma from Freddy Krueger and the Leprechaun.  I’ve seen some chatter on the internet bemoaning how the movies started to skew more towards comedy as they continued making them.  I always thought the movies were funny though from movie one.  It’s about an idiot serial killer in a doll’s body so it’s bound to be funny and it is.  A definite plus is that Baltimore legend (and former neighbor of mine) John Waters was in this one as a great, sleazy character.
Tremors (1990)
The Tremors movies are another series that I always thought skewed more towards comedy and action than horror. However, it has some pretty scary monsters in it even if Graboid is not a name that strikes fear into the hearts of humanity.  A creature who may as well be anywhere under your next footstep is paranoia inducing but it also leaves the characters sitting around on walks or cement, as if they are looking for sharks from a life raft.  Thankfully I actually like the poor, unfortunate souls who are trapped so I don’t mind the lulls between action or horror sequences.  Aside from that, the first movie has some pretty grisly deaths but that kind of fades away as the series continues.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
This movie is kind of a muddled mess.  The movie starts with the premise that Jason is dead so everything is going to be A-OK now.  Well, unfortunately we know that there’s a threat and that this isn’t going to be like Halloween 3 (Unfortunately).  So we’re looking for a guy in a hockey mask to show up and start up with the teens again.   You know, that old chestnut.  If you’re looking for cardboard cut out characters to be murdered by various sharp implements then you are in luck.  The movie isn’t even set around Crystal Lake and is a loose cash-in on the movie series.   It’s still worth keeping on in the background during October.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
This was a favorite of mine growing up, long before I even knew who Joss Whedon was.  Kristy Swanson is dead on, Clueless three years before Alicia Silverstone but with more attitude.  The real breakout in this movie is Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens who cracked me and my brothers up as Amilyn, the goofy/creepy vampire sidekick.  This movie was so much fun that I was actually put off when I first tuned in to the BTVS TV show.  Granted, the first episode I saw was about the Preying Mantis Woman so not the ideal starting point.  This movie was the rough blue print that started a phenomenon.  Do yourself a favor and watch it (it’s a little dated but whatever) and pick it up in comic book form which more closely follows Joss’ original script and dovetails a little better into the show.
Ticks (1993)
I had completely forgotten this movie until I remembered it this week.  It is a B-Monster-Movie in all of its glory about a group of troubled teens who are attacked in the woods by mutated ticks.  The whole movie sounded like if somebody read the wikipedia article on deer ticks and wondered what it would be like if they were bigger.  It kind of works and they definitely hit me in a weak spot in that I’m afraid of blood and blood being taken.  Strangely, I’m not too afraid of vampires but needles scare the hell out of me.  I don’t usually review or talk too much about B-movies on here because there’s not much you can add by talking about movies like Sharknado, Ghost Shark, Sharktopus or Sharkalanche.  I really enjoy them a lot but I probably won’t be reviewing them but I may do a rundown like this post.  If you see it, try it on for size but don’t go out of your way to see a movie like this.  Oh and Seth Green and Clint Howard are in it.
The Frighteners (1996)
Peter Jackson is a brilliant director and it was fun to go back and see this after I had started watching the Lord of the Rings movies.  It’s a much smaller movie with a less epic scope.  It’s so different from pretty much everything he’s done lately (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong) probably because it’s less polished.  Less polished is not meant as an insult here.  Not every movie has to be a masterpiece and you can hang something from the painter at the fair on your wall at the same height as a Da Vinci.  This movie has all of the fun of a movie like Beetlejuice without the intensity that Tim Burton brings.  The movie is a lot of fun and, to date, is Michael J Fox’s last appearance on the silver screen. It was also John Astin’s last movie released in theaters.  It is definitely worth a look and I’m always thrilled when people tell me they’ve seen it too.

Supernatural Televison 2

October 30, 2014

Here are couple more supernatural shows that I was able to dig up and sample.  Now that I mention the word “Supernatural” yes I realize that that show exists.  It is really good but my experiment here was to watch some stuff that was new to me.  That is why I’m not talking about Buffy, Angel, Supernatural, Charmed and a whole whost of good supernatural/creepy television shows.  I mean I could go on and on about how much I liked the Mockingbird Lane pilot but I’ll spare you guys that for now.  Onward.

Penny Dreadful (2 Episodes in)

I am an avid reader.  I have been a big reader since I was really young and some of the books I remember enjoying during summer reading were the classic horror novels.  I ripped through books like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  So imagine my excitement when they combined all those sorts of horror stories and added a dash of history of the day to make the story feel a little more authentic.  I still don’t know what to make of this show but it really is captivating and spooky and I really like it.  I can’t fully understand the plot yet but a lot of it looks like it is supposed to be a mystery so they are still pussyfooting around certain things.  It’s an incredibly powerful show with plenty of gore and foreboding so check it out.  Come for the Billie Piper and stay for the naked Frankenstein Monster.

The Strain (1 Episode in)

Holy shit.  This show scared the ever loving bejeezus out of me several times.  Leave it to Guillermo Del Toro to creep me out to a level where I kind of needed a hug.  Instead I had to settle for episodes of the Muppet Show (also a cure for the Woman in Black).  The show weaves together a lot of common fears like: harm to children, worms, disease, blood and the darkness  into a very scary tapestry.  We get Sean Astin who is always a good thing to happen to us.  We also get David Bradley who has acted in a lot but most recently as William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time.  I don’t recognize anybody else but that’s not a bad thing.  It seems to have a solid cast who will have to deal with a supernatural/biological threat or something.  I definitely recommend watching it but with the lights on.

Sleepy Hollow (3 Episodes in)

I have found my new show to binge watch.  I started to watch this show and did not want to stop watching it until all of the episodes were behind me.  Still, I wanted to sample more shows and movies at the same time so I was torn.  There’s plenty of time to watch the rest of it anyway.  The show follows a version of Ichabod Crane who kills the Hessian mercenary but that mercenary also turns out to be the first horeseman of the Apocalypse.  Thrust into the modern age, the two of them and a police detective are locked in a fight for the fate of the world.  Even with all that the show feels very personal and vaguely true to the original Irving story. I’m not a stickler. I definitely recommend this one.

Supernatural Television

October 26, 2014

I have not only indulged in scary movies this October but there is actually too many Halloween-flavored television shows out there.  I’m not talking Walking Dead because I am sooo over zombies and the show never really struck a chord with me.  Granted I only watched one episode but whatever.  I might break down and watch it at some point but right now I doubt it.  There’s no need to watch it as there are plenty of other shows that I can sample this month (and into the future).  It’s an excuse to check out paranormal shows that I have been meaning to watch.

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (Two episodes in)

This show is a parody on supernatural/paranormal shows like Twin Peaks and Dark Shadows.  In the fictional world of the show, Darkplace is a showcase for fictional horror writer Garth Marenghi who was commissioned to write and star in a drama for the BBC.  The BBC canceled Darkplace before it was even aired but, now that they are short on programming, they begrudgingly air the show along with commentary from Garth Marenghi and his producer.  The show within a show is cheesy as they emulate all of the poor acting, bad special effects and horrible writing of a low budget series.  There is a lot of eye rolling goodness and they cover a lot of supernatural ground.  I really like it and I will watch more but the show is already over and, like other BBC shows, did not last beyond the first series.  In fact, there are only six episodes.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (Three episodes in)

Like most seasons of American Horror Story, the show sets up a pervasive creepy and twisted mood.  There aren’t really that many outright scares but instead it explores the darkness inside everyone.  There are circus freaks (or insert the PC term) but they aren’t really frightening or repulsive, just interesting.  They do a great job of creating more rounded characters and even extras are given a little business that makes them seem more full.  Jessica Lange is pretty brilliant and recently revealed that she can sing as well as she can act.  The plot kind of meanders a lot and sometimes it feels like they are making it up as they go.  They lean heavily on atmosphere, interesting characters and good acting instead of focusing on plot.  Maybe I’m wrong and I just can’t see what they’re doing yet.  Only time will tell.  If all else fails, I recommend seeing at least one episode just for the much publicized creepy killer clown.

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (9 Episodes in)

From Dusk Till Dawn was the beloved result of two friends (Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino) pairing together to create a Vampire/Action/Comedy movie.  The story follows two criminals and a family of three who get attacked by vampires in a strip club.  It was pretty simple but had some nuanced bits in it, mostly because of stellar performances from Harvey Keitel and George Clooney.  The TV series basically takes the movie and fleshes it out, making it longer and allowing for there to be more at stake (no pun intended).   I think they fill in a lot of the mythos for the show using the backstory laid out in the Dusk Till Dawn Sequels but I can’t remember because those movies were pretty boring.  I try to remember them and I pretty much get white noise.  Anyway, the show is pretty creepy and has a lot of great performances including great ones from Wilmer Valderrama and Robert Patrick.

I have some more that I’m going to check out so I’ll get back to that as soon as I do.

The Woman in Black (2012)

October 21, 2014


I recently watched The Woman in Black.  I actually started my usual method of riffing comments as they pop into my head but that plan died about three minutes in.  I’m not saying that this movie is unriffable but it just seemed wrong after a while.  This movie was too well done to really make fun of.  I was actually really looking forward to seeing this movie because way back in the day I actually designed lights, sound and helped build the set for a stage production of The Woman in Black.  (Most long time readers won’t remember this)

I realized that I never really talked about the rest of that experience.  Like any writer/artist I shudder when I look back at my old stuff and that was a full six years ago.  I was having a lot of fun playing with a new digital camera and I was genuinely impressed with what we were doing.  I continued to work on the show and it was an amazing production even if I was usually pretty frazzled back when I worked at Tri-State Actors Theater.

The show was very intense work and I fell into my usual ten to thirteen hour work days followed by sleeping late.   I built sets and hung and pointed lights in the late morning until the evenings.  The set was pretty much just a giant false proscenium with a black scrim stretched across it.  The structure was mammoth and it took three people to rig it to the ceiling with the cable and fittings we had picked.   The lighting was dark and subtle and a great fit for a dark, gloomy horror story.  I was really proud of all of that work because I had never done any work in horror before.

These long days originally left me doing all of the sound work in the middle of the night in my tiny, cold room that I rented in the back of a framing shop.  In retrospect, I probably should have seen a lot of parallels between my late night, solitary work and the work Arthur Kipps was doing.  Eventually, doing this work at night started to take its toll.  Finding horrible recordings and building sound cues like “Horse and Child Drowning in Swamp” in the middle of the night started to make me a little crazy.  I had to switch to doing the sound work in the morning and do the lighting work late at night instead.  My psyche thanked me for it.  Eventually we built a rich soundscape and true horror includes plenty of sound cues.

So after all of that, how did the movie stack up?  I really liked it.  Daniel Radcliffe plays a complex version of Arthur Kipps and gets a lot of mileage with very little dialogue.  He has come leaps and bounds from his time in Dumbledore’s Army and has really grown up.   The rest of the cast is spot on with a special nod to Ciaran Hinds who gives an especially moving performance.  The voice overs for the title character were well done and held the right amount of grief to the point of insanity.

The story is a rough one to get through and I forgot how much it terrified me.  I would warn those who are parents that any version of this story is going to be especially rough on you.  The terror is mixed so much with tragedy, sympathy and deep, dark emotions related to being a parent.  Themes include untimely death, revenge, grief, guilt, isolation and depression which are all incredibly heavy.  The story is told in a straight forward manner in the movie with very little actual dialogue.  The stage version has a framing device which actually adds a terrifying little twist but the story can do without it.

A little ways into the film I thought there was going to be too many jump scares and not enough real horror.  Jump scares are nice for startling the audience and jangling their nerves but it is startling, not terrifying.  The jump scares in this film are far more psychological and logical and pretty much none of them are the standard “Cat Scare” which have become so overdone in horror.  The movie can actually be really relentless and my heart was pounding pretty hard in parts.  The filmmakers obviously took a lot of care to go for a more literary horror than we’ve seen in bad horror movies in the past.  Hooking us like fish, ratcheting up the tension and letting us go and then reeling us back into terror until finally we realize there’s no escape.

One of the things that I liked so much about the movie was the attention to detail.  The production design was very intricate and most of the effects seemed to be practical instead of digital.  I am not putting down CGI effects because a bad practical special effect can look just as hokey as a bad CGI one.  This movie blended everything together pretty seamlessly but, as I well know, it can be easier to cover up flaws in the dark.

I would freely recommend this movie to anyone and everyone who enjoys horror movies and does not have a heart condition.   I don’t know what I want to review next but it probably won’t be Victorian Horror.  Probably.

Leprechaun 3

October 18, 2014

I really wanted to review this one because I recently finished reading Warwick Davis’ autobiography.   When Warwick Davis originally took the role of the Leprechaun because he had tax debt up to his eyeballs.  He managed to make the role memorable and really started to enjoy himself.   When he talked to Ron Howard about taking the role, Ron’s advice was: “Whatever you do, don’t do more than one.”  Warwick ended up doing six of these films to which Ron Howard replied: “Well, my kids like them so whatever they like can’t be too bad.”

So without further ado, sit back as I enjoy another holiday classic!

“I love rhyming villains.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for rhymes.  I love Etrigan in DC Comics and various other villains who speak in rhyme.  When I was way younger I used to think that poetry had to rhyme and enjoyed searching out the best ones.  One Easter I even wrote a whole scavenger hunt for children in rhyming couplets.  It was a lot of fun but a lot of work so I appreciate the hard work it takes to get the Leprechaun rhyming correctly.

“Another Leprechaun film where I instantly want the protagonist to die.  Wow, even more than Jennifer Aniston.”

I absolutely hated Jennifer Aniston’s character in the original within seconds.  They did a really job making her totally unlikeable and they do the same for the protagonists in this film.  I guess the point is that the heroes are supposed to learn a lesson.  I think it instead allows me to feel good about them suffering.  I really enjoyed watching these people suffer.

“The Lucky Shamrock Casino?  OK, I’ll allow it.”

For this movie, the writer (or somebody high up) created a fictional casino that is somewhere on the Las Vegas strip.  They name it the Lucky Shamrock which I am actually surprised never existed.  Yeah, it’s a cheap gag but it makes a lot of sense in the movie’s logic.  The outside looks cheap and the inside looks pretty cheap so it all matches up.  Also, they could set the thing in their fictional casino and not involve any of the actual name casinos on the strip.  Things were probably simpler that way.

“There seems to be a Daffy Duck thing going on.”

The Leprechaun spends much of the movie mugging and cracking jokes and engaging in slapstick and wordplay.  This follows from the first two movies but goes to ridiculous extremes in number three and only gets worse as the series progresses.  It is actually not a bad thing as most of the enjoyment of the Leprechaun films is watching the Leprechaun be the zany, evil thing that he is.  It’s similar to the Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play films.

“The ‘overbearing’ boss is more likeable than his put upon employee.”

In fact, all of the so-called villains were more likeable and better characters than the white meat protagonists.  It certainly didn’t hurt that their IQs seemed to be leaps and bounds above the protagonists.  The mobsters, the sleazy boss, the scheming employee and the arrogant magician.  They were all actually pretty good but they had good actors portraying them.  Well, good actors by horror movie standards.

“They’re making this shit up as they go along!”

A hallmark of the Leprechaun series is that in each of the movies, they add new rules and facets to the mythos.  Suddenly the Leprechaun can’t stand iron or later on he can’t stand a special medallion.  His powers only increase each movie and he becomes more and more of a threat.  He also becomes more sadistic.  Again, kind of like Freddy Krueger.

“There’s actually a plot in this horror movie.  What?”

They really don’t need to include plots to teach the heroes a big lesson.  I’m fine with mayhem being incited and the big bad chasing the heroes around for over an hour. In this one, they eventually merge all of the plots into the main plot and the movie actually gets cooking.   It’s really not a horror movie until the heroes are fleeing in terror, right?

“This went into a weird place. Where’s the Leprechaun?”

The Leprechaun disappears for way too long so that all the other characters can do funny stuff and have conflict.  It’s kind of useless padding but it does make me want them all to get mowed down so that’s an added bonus.  They were too likeable anyway.  They kind of make up for the Leprechaun not doing anything by showing clips of him on the Las Vegas strip

“Wow, it finally got really creepy. Awesome.”

They start to bring out some of my worst fears and some legitimately creepy stuff.  Killer sex robots, body transmogrification, mind control and bondage all make an appearance.  It takes a while but the movie moves from Warner Brothers cartoon to humorous horror film.  The thing is, the first part puts you off your guard by being so purposefully lame.

“Important: When the villain summons you somewhere, you have to go there.”

It’s been said a million times but the heroes in horror movies are complete idiots.  It’s a time honored tradition to yell with frustration as they hide when they should run or any number of stupid choices.  If they made correct decisions they probably wouldn’t be too bothered by the Leprechaun or the myriad other villains.  They would be in Los Angeles doing whatever young people did at the time.  Oh, one of them was supposed to go to college.  Never addressed again.  Thanks movie.

All in all I would recommend this movie.   Sure it has its flaws but I have seen way worse.  Warwick Davis is really fun to watch despite his cheesiness or maybe because of it.   This movie is chock full of cheese and goofiness but sometimes that’s exactly what I wanted.   Next time I’ll try to review something more terrifying and not just funny/creepy.


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