Sunday, July 23, 2017

Get Out (2017)

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I finally got around on Saturday to seeing a movie I had been anticipating and hearing so many good things about, particularly in the BirthMovieDeath site. That movie is Get Out. Usually, when you see a movie that has been as hyped up as this one, you can't help but end up a little disappointed in the end. Not this time. The movie was amazing.

It's a simple enough premise that has been the basis of countless stories. A man goes to a strange house. Weird things go down. But writer and director Jordan Peele deftly weaves racial politics into it, like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner but with horror trappings instead of a comedy, as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes to visit his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) family out in the country. He asks if she has told them that he is a black man and she assures him that it doesn't matter to her or her parents. But when he gets there, Chris can't help but feel that something is amiss even though her parents, the Armitages (played by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford), are incredibly accepting of him and even offer to hypnotize him to help him quit smoking.

Then things get weirder from there.

To go any deeper into it would spoil some of the great surprises that the movie has. Truly, it keeps you on your toes and often disarms you with humor right before throwing you right back into the breach. The film's tone brings to mind some of the films of the 70s, in particular Let's Scare Jessica to Death, with its own lead character questioning whether the things she sees are real or a figment of her own imagination. Indeed, Chris has his hands full trying to figure out the same as he tries to get through a weekend at the Armitage house. Martin, by George A. Romero, is also brought to mind. That's no surprise as both films wear their social commentary on their sleeves and use it to weave a tale that engrosses and shocks and is utterly enjoyable.

Get Out is an exciting new entry into the horror genre from a director I can't wait to see more from. Jordan Peele has switched from comedy to horror on a dime and his work sets a new bar for those making their own debuts.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, definitely check it out. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Aquabats: Super Show!

The Aquabats!
Last night something amazing happened. I got to fulfill a dream I had for a long time. I mean it wasn't a crazy and ambitious dream, but it was a fun one. What was it? Why, seeing the Aquabats perform live on stage at the Stone Pony (of Lightning).

Who are the Aquabats? Why, only one of the raddest of the 3rd wave ska bands to hit the scene. They dress like superheroes, sing songs about science fiction and TV and pizza and put on a hell of a show. You might be familiar with them from their short-lived show on the Hub network--The Aquabats! Super Show! Their music is awesome and the show was just as cool as they are.

They tour a decent amount, but it is mostly on the West Coast, so my chances to see them are limited. The times that they've been in the area, I've been unable to go due to commitments or being out of town. This time, however, I was able to make it work.

Ricky Fitness singing "Your Love." Awesome cover.
So how was it? In a word? Awesome. From start to end, the entire concert was great. CJ Ramone (yes, of those Ramones) blasted through a wild set to start, playing quite a few of his namesakes songs and also some of his own that melted many a face. After him, Reggie and the Full Effect took the stage. I have to say I was unfamiliar with them, but they put on a hell of a show. When the lead singer comes out dressed like the Karate Kid and the band is in Cobra Kai outfits, you know that something special is afoot. The music was a great alt rock/punk sound that had me nodding my head and dancing. Plus he had a giant eagle come up on stage to hug him, so that was damn cool too.

Crash McLarson.
After another intermission and a quick PBR later, the band of my dreams finally took the stage. And boy did they do it in style. They even played The Aquabats! Super Show! theme to start. From that point on it was a set of hits old and new, from "The Cat with Two Heads" to "Super Rad" to "Shark Fighter" and more. Quite a bit of it was off Charge!!!, which is good, because it is one of my favorite albums of theirs after the first two albums.

There were inflatables galore too. The band fought a giant inflatable Frankenstein's Monster who was also the new roadie. Beach balls were flying around in the air during "Pool Party," "Burger Rain" brought us burgers and "Pizza Day" brought us giant pizzas that two lucky kids got to crowd surf on after the Bat Commander hurled them onto them off of the stage.

Yeah, it was that kind of show.

Since they have an all ages appeal, there were quite a few families with their children there seeing the Aquabats for the first time as well. It was loud, but it looked like the kids had a blast, getting high fives from the band and getting to go up on stage and dance. It was a pretty bitching time if you were a child. Outside of being crushed in a sweaty mob, that is. Fortunately, they didn't allow moshing or crowdsurfing so there wasn't any chance of them getting too roughed up.

The first encore was "Fashion Zombies" too, which had me super jazzed as I absolutely love that song. Then it was "Pool Party" and the show was done. So was it a good time? Hell yeah, it was a fantastic time. Even though it was a long day with work and then the show and rolling out of Asbury Park at almost 11pm and getting to bed even later and then waking up to go to work again, it was definitely worth it. I even scored some sweet shirts for my family and a poster to remember it all by. Can't wait to hang that up in the bar.

If you have a chance to check out The Aquabats live, do it. You won't be disappointed.

Aquacadet Worsel of the Stone Pony of Lightning Chapter, signing off.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Memoriam: George A. Romero

In my youth, I didn't really take notice of who directed a film I rented from Easy Video or Blockbuster. I just cared if it was scary or gory as hell and fun. There was one movie that made me stop and take notice of who directed it. It was a film I had heard of when watching the Horror Hall of Fame on channel 9 one night. Night of the Living Dead.  The director? George A. Romero. This was about the same time that I started collecting Fangoria and Gorezone to get the backstory on the movies I loved. As you might imagine, his name popped up a lot, particularly in reference to a Dead trilogy. So yeah, I had to rent them.

As you might have imagined, my preteen mind was blown by what I saw. Zombies were everywhere and the gore was absolutely divine as they munched their way through the heroes and villains of the films. All from the same director! This man was clearly a genius and I needed to see the other films that he made.

I wasn't disappointed.

In fact, one was a staple on the cable networks already and I didn't even know it, as it was overshadowed by the other name involved, Stephen King. Yes, the movie I'm talking about was the awesome anthology film Creepshow. Oddly enough, my favorite segment actually didn't features zombies, but the werewolf-like creature from "The Crate" segment. That didn't matter though as I loved the whole thing to pieces.

Once I knew that, of course I had to view it again with the knowledge that the director who so impressed me was the one who brought these wonderful visions to life. Then I found others. Two Evil Eyes. Knightriders. The Crazies. I even tracked down Season of the Witch when it played on Sci-Fi one afternoon. All of it was great. But really, for me, what it all came down to was zombies. I absolutely loved zombies and he was the reason.

This started a whole new obsession where I began tracking down other zombie films I read about in the pages of magazines and later, on the internet., that continues to this day. But I never forgot the greatness of that trilogy that inspired it all. And it did more than just inform what I watched, but what I wrote. Without NOTLD, I wouldn't have discovered Richard Matheson and his writings. More than that, I learned how to try to instill my own horror with a message of sorts, shallow as it may be, and to, no matter the budget, make the best damn work that I could.

No matter the subject matter, Romero left his stamp on the film that made it indelibly his. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite, but one of the films that I keep coming back to when I need inspiration is Martin. This almost dreamlike tale of a young man who believes himself to be vampire is a haunting tale and despite the atrocities that he commits, we feel for Martin and his affliction, be it supernatural or mental. It takes a master's hand to evoke that kind of emotion and Romero had that in spades.

I didn't get to see many of him films in theaters. In fact, I've only seen one. Land of the Dead. Some panned it but I thought it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen in theaters. This was a continuation of the series I had grown up watching again and again. And there it was, on the big screen, with me, my brother and my friends experiencing it. It was amazing. Plus it had Asia Carrera, but that's a story for another day. I even watched the follow up films that essentially rebooted the series and enjoyed them as well.

It's sad that I won't get to see another new Romero movie in a career that is full of fantastic films, but I'm glad he made them and gave so much enjoyment and inspiration to me and other horror fans out there.

Rest in Piece, George. Thank you for all of the great movies and my condolences to your family.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

It's been awhile since the last Spider-Man movie, and even longer since the last good one. Sure we got a great appearance in Captain America: Civil War, but that isn't quite the same as one where the wall-crawler features all by his lonesome. No, there's just something about a solo film that really lets Spidey shine.

Understandably, some were cautious about the film, especially after the fairly abysmal pair we just got. We already had a taste of what Tom Holland could do, however, so there was some hope that the resulting film would be good. I'm glad to say that it is better than good.

It is amazing. (I'm sorry for that joke. Honest.)

After years of origin stories to kick off every new superhero film, we are instead brought right into Peter Parker's life post Civil War. He's had a taste of the big leagues and is understandably anxious to get back in on a new mission. He's given up on most of his school activities and instead spends his afternoons and evenings on patrol, trying to keep NYC safe from crime but really just biding time until the day Tony Stark/Iron Man calls him for help once again. Unfortunately for him, that day is a long time coming. Even worse, when it comes time to shine, Peter isn't quite sticking the landing, putting him in hot water with Tony Stark and also his Aunt May (the ever-awesome Marisa Tomei.) However, when Peter stumbles onto an illegal weapons ring lead by the villainous Vulture (an amazing performance from Michael Keaton), it is up to Spider-Man to save the day any way he can.

This movie is a treat from start to finish. Tom Holland bubbles with youthful enthusiasm, the kind we would all have if we were bitten by a radioactive spider and got sweet powers one day. It's understandable that he's dejected that the other heroes don't see him as Avengers material. That doesn't stop him from trying and learning to be a better hero in the process. Helping him is his best friend Ned, another geek who is even more excited when he discovers his best friend is Spider-Man. Together they try to navigate saving the day from a man with mechanical wings and the possibly even worse minefield that is high school.

There's also some amazing action scenes. Spider-Man looks better than ever and the Vulture, whose concept art I wasn't really crazy about, comes together nicely and looks absolutely fantastic on screen and it makes sense for the redesign considering his endgame. The brawls between the two are fast and furious and even the battles with petty crooks have a polish and fun about them the other films have lacked.

I was a huge fan of the Raimi films  (yes, even Spider-Man 3) and didn't think anyone would be able to top them. I am happy to say that I have been proven wrong and I look forward to seeing what director Jon Watts and the rest of the crew have in store for the future.

It's a good time to be a Spider-Man fan. Check it out.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Baby Driver

It's not often that I get out to the movies lately. Going by myself to see a non-family friendly flick is even more rare. I found myself with some free time alone while on vacation this week and got out to see a movie I've been pumped for. That movie is Baby Driver.

Part heist flick, part music video, part romance and all cool, this movie by writer/director Edgar Wright hit just the right spots. It follows Baby, a getaway driver for a crime boss who does his job and does it exceptionally well, as we find out from the start when we find him doing just that for a heist that is set completely to "Bellbottoms" by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. All the while Baby zooms around the streets of Atlanta, he's got his earbuds on and is blasting the tunes that are the soundtrack to his life.

And for good reason. Due to an accident he was in as a kid, Baby suffers from a buzzing in his ears that he drowns out with music so he can get through the day and the heists. He doesn't seem to have much choice about either, as he's paying of a debt to the boss, one that is almost paid up so he can try to live a normal life. When he meets a beautiful waitress that he finds himself falling for, getting out of the crime business is his top priority. Unfortunately, that type of business has a way of pulling you back in.

The use of music in the movie is amazing. From the choreographed car chases set to the beat to the opening credits that feature lyrics written all of the environment as Baby goes to get coffees, to shootouts where the staccato bursts of gunfire are in time to the beat, it all comes back down to the songs being played on Baby's iPod and you'll find yourself tapping your foot in time to them as the action plays out on the screen.

The cast is simply wonderful Ansel Elgort dances his way across the screen as Baby, moving to the music that most of the time, only he can hear. Lily James shines as Debora, the waitress that Baby pines for. Kevin Spacey brings his dastardly best as the crime boss that Baby is indebted to and Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are menacing madmen in their own special way, the former as a stone cold psychopath named Bats and the latter as Buddy, a charming kettle of rage ready to boil over and destroy anything that would harm his wife, Darling, played by Eiza Gonzalez.

And the soundtrack. I actually bought it before I saw the movie and thought it was a blast, a perfect selection of tracks for heists, dates and everything in between. Now that I've seen it, it is on repeat and getting worn out on the turntable as I can't get enough of the music from Baby's world.

I know there's a lot of blockbusters out there this summer, but if you want a truly unique experience that is one good time after another, be sure to fit Baby Driver into your viewing schedule.

Check it out.

Monday, July 03, 2017

On Vacation and Playing with Toys

These are the things that I do when I should be doing laundry. Or you know, writing, like a good little writer should. I told you I really liked GLOW. I had this shot running around my head for a few days and finally got time to take the shot, such as it is. I like to pretend it is Zoya vs. Liberty Belle, anime style. Enjoy.