Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spotlight on Evil: Krang!

Welp, boils and ghouls, I thought today would be a perfect day to start a new segment on The 'Choke: Spotlight on Evil. This will be my chance to showcase some of my favorite villains in pop culture history. And what better way to kick it off than with that diabolical brain - Krang!?

Krang is one of the most excellently strange super villains to ever grace the small screen. According to his Wikipedia page:
He somehow took command of an army of Rock Soldiers under the leadership of General Traag, and stole the Technodrome, a powerful mobile battle fortress, from its creator Von Drakus. One day, an unexplained, bizarre incident occurred that caused Krang to be stripped of his body and reduced to a brain-like form, also resulting in his exile from Dimension X to Earth, along with his army and the Technodrome.

While on Earth, Krang allied himself with the Shredder, who, along with his robotic Foot Soldier army, moved into the Technodrome. In exchange, the Shredder had to design and build a new body for Krang, a human-shaped exo-suit. Shredder lived up to his part of the bargain in the season 1 episode [The Shredder is Splintered], in no small part because he was unable to deal with the Turtles and needed Krang's help. Indeed, in the season 3 episode [Shredderville], the Turtles have a dream of a parallel world in which they never lived, and Shredder had no problem taking over the world. In this world, Shredder abandoned Krang after his conquest was complete, leaving him with no body and a heavily-damaged Technodrome.

I bet you didn't know all of that. But, now I've got your interest piqued, fo' sho. Krang sure does have a lot of charisma for being nothing but grey (pink?) matter, I think we all have to give him that. Let's take a look at Krang in pop culture...

When I was a kid, I had all kinds of Turtle memorabilia, including, you guessed it, a bunch of toys. I had the Turtle Sewer Base, at least a hundred action figures, the Party Wagon, even the Technodrome...but my most prized Turtle possession? Krang in his robot body. That's right, I was the only one I knew that had it, and I felt like Ricky Schroder when the other kids would come over and gawk at my terrifically tall toy. Sure, I broke the little antenna off the top of his head, but dammit if he wasn't still a glorious sight to behold. Just look at the picture to the right and tell me that you aren't getting just a little bit jealous thinking about how much fun I must have had using that thing to break apart my Construx or trample my Gi Joes.

Of course, one of the absolute coolest things that I've come across recently is this T-shirt from 80's Tees. As you might be able to gather, the shirt is supposed to make you the android body with Krang resting comfortably, helming the controls that make you're dumbass move! How delightful! But, really, someone buy me this. Please, because I really do want it.

Also, don't hestiate to check out Paper Foldables for a sweet how-to guide on making your very own Krang origami. Which, has kind of always been a personal goal of mine...

That about raps up our first edition of Spotligh on Evil. I hope we've shed a little bit of lit on the wondeful creature that is Krang of Dimension X.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP J.D. Salinger

Jerome David Salinger

Man. I knew this day would have to come soon. I didn't know whether I would care when it did. Salinger's work had a huge impact on me when I was an adolescent. Catcher in the Rye was the novel that sparked my interest in literature. I first read it when I was a freshman in high school (which is the perfect time to read that book). It grabbed me in a way that nothing before it had, I connected on an emotional level with the novel's protagonist (Holden Caulfield). I am saddened at his death. I'm fairly certain that I've read the majority of his published work, and I always loved reading the little details about the Glass family of whatever mundane things his characters were doing. He really could write the hell out of some characters. The positive in this? Perhaps those legendary stacks of work that are in his New England home will now be printed. On the other side, Salinger notoriously hated the cinema. I always thought that might stem from the fact that his wife cheated on him with Charlie Chaplin while J.D. was at war. To add insult to injury, J.D.'s son became a c-grade actor (see: Captain America). Anyway, his disdain for film led him to allow but one cinematic release of his work (My Foolish Heart), but now that he's gone we may see a whole crop of Salinger movies. Catcher in the Rye would be the obvious capper. I happen to love the cinema, but I also have respect for the artist's wishes in regards to his work. We'll see what happens.

Salinger was 91 years old.

Top Ten Albums of 2003

To continue our series on the best albums by year, let's pick it up at 2003. To check out the rest of the entries, click here. Anyway, here is my list for the best albums of that year:

1. Grandaddy - Sumday - There is, consistently, an air of tragedy in Jason Lytle's voice that really disturbs me. By disturbs, I mean that it has the ability to interrupt my current state of consciousness and really wash over me, drenching me in a sea of melancholy. I don't know exactly where I got this connotation, but the album always reminds me of JD Salinger's short story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish", they both have the exact same effect on me. They both make me feel strangely nostalgic and eerily devoid of emotion at all. If I could explain it better, I would. Let's just say that you should own this record.

Stand-out tracks: I'm on Standby, Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World, El Caminos in the West

2. The Mars Volta - De-Loused in the Comatorium - From the ashes of the short-lived "it" band At the Drive-In comes The Mars Volta, and they came out swinging. With a deft command of language, that defies any expectations for lyrics, these guys also Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's driving guitars and Flea's explosive basswork really elevated this record to another level. In my opinion, they really lost something after this album. I think maybe after the destruction of At the Drive-In, Cedric and Omar had so much pent up aggression and artistic vision that was waiting to be released that it all came out on this first record. What I'm saying is they blew their load early.

Stand-out tracks: Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of), Televators, Drunkship of Lanterns

3. Jay-Z – The Black Album - This is Jay's eight studio record, and one of his absolute best. Billed as his final record, there's a motif throughout The Black Album of "farewell", be it through death or retirement. With that motif in place, the album carries a certain weightiness about it, not unlike Notorious BIG's Ready to Die. Luckily, Jay-Z wasn't nearly as prophetic as Biggie, and he's still alive and well. The production (credits include Just Blaze, Kanye, Rick Rubin, and The Neptunes) on the album is stellar, and Jay is just as potent as ever on the mic.

Stand-out tracks: 99 Problems, What More Can I Say?

4. The Fire Theft - S/T Obviously there are going to be comparisons to Sunny Day Real Estate here, so I'll just start off by saying that this record sounds more like The Rising Tide than any other Sunny Day album, being less raw than something like Diary and less emotionally straining than How It Feels, but still harnessing the power of Jeremy Enigk's vocals. Some of the songs can come off as a bit on the sentimental side, but I don't think Enigk has ever tried to hide that side of himself. It's a powerful record, I recommend listening to it with the volume up high.

Stand-out tracks: Heaven, Rubber Bands

5. Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below - This now classic double album really blew me away in 2003. It's somewhat of a split EP, with Big Boi mainly being featured on Speakerboxxx (disc 1) and Andre 3000 mainly being featured on The Love Below (disc 2). An interesting route for Atlanta's dynamic duo, but it works. Big Boi's effort feels more like Outkast than Andre's, but both measure up well. Let's just face it, Andre is weird. Does it stand up next to Aquemini? Probably not, but it's still fresh (and clean).

Stand out tracks: Hey Ya!, The Way You Move, Prototype

6. Deftones - Deftones - A very original, and excitingly heavy album, Deftones is both gritty and fun. The guys really wanted to go in a new direction after White Pony, they aimed for a harder sound and it worked. It's a bit of an eclectic album, combining a bit of the old, with some new. The addition of synthesizers and keyboards is welcome within the context of the album and they also included a very accessible single in Minerva.

Stand-Out Tracks: Hexagram, When Girls Telephone Boys

7. Cursive - The Ugly Organ - The Ugly Organ is Cursive's fourth studio album, and one of their best. A concept album, the record takes us into the head of the "Ugly Organist" as he deals with the depravity of his life. The whole thing is intriguing, dealing with lust and betrayal with an adept hand, and reaching its climax at the end of the record with the opus "Staying Alive".

Stand-out tracks: The Recluse, Driftwood: A Fairytale, Staying Alive

8. Radiohead - Hail to the Thief -To be honest, I didn't know what to expect with Hail to the Thief. Kid A was such a game changer that it was hard to figure out exactly what Radiohead could do to follow it up. Hail to the Thief is a decidedly different album than Kid A. It's exploratory, but in different ways than the previous album. Kid A (and OK Computer before it) defied convention and really changed the landscape of pop music. Boundaries are pushed on Hail to the Thief as well, but it's the boundaries of the band, not of pop music. This album marked an excited time to be a Radiohead fan because where the hell could they go from here?

Stan-out tracks: Sail to the Moon, We suck Young Blood, The Gloaming

9. Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon - One of the most rocking albums I have ever heard, Death Cult sounds like a mixture between Danny Elfman, Slayer, and a volcanoe. Usually filed under "Symphonic Black Metal", I urge any metal fan to pick it up, because you shan't be disappointed. This record will castrate your brain with it's intensity. Death Cult is Dimmu's sixth studio record, and Shagrath's vocals haven't ever sounded better.

Stand-out tracks: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse, Allegiance

10. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? - This Canadian ban ended their run entirely too soon. Luckily from their ashes sprang forth Islands, but still The Unicorns were an exceptionally good band. Who Will Cut Our Hair starts out with "I Don't Want to Die" and ends with "Ready to Die", everything in between seems to be about taking your lumps and learning acceptance of mortality. Heavy stuff for a sometimes silly band.

Stand-out tracks: Tuff Ghost

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

D-Pad Hero!

Guitar Hero for the NES

Some of you may remember my posts about guitar games that I did last year (found here and here) and, if so, you know how much I enjoy playing those games. You may also be aware than I am a big fan of retro gaming as well. Fortunately, someone has seen fit to take those two great loves and force them to do the dirty to create a bastard offspring! That bastard's name? D-Pad Hero!

That's right. This game is perfect for your if you've ever wondered what Guitar Hero would have been like if it were made in 1987 (and who hasn't done that?). It's awesome - and the best part is that - if you have an NES emulator - you can download and play the game for free.

Click HERE and start rockin' today!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Films from the Crypt: Episode 11 - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Films from the Crypt Episode 11: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Director: Amy Holden Jones

Tagline: "Close your eyes for a second...and sleep forever!"

Starring: Michael Villela, Michelle Michaels, Debra Deliso

It's recently come to my attention that the Slumber Party Massacre DVD has gone out of print. Being someone that owns the disc, I've contemplated selling it on eBay - some of the asking prices are outrageous on there - but I just don't know if I can part with it. You see, The Slumber Party Massacre is one of my favorite eighties slashers. I'm card carrying - I've got the shirt from Fright-Rags and have seen all of the sequels including the T'n'A'd out Cheerleader Massacre (which, oddly enough, has more connection to the first film than you would think). It's a great film - and actually a pretty fun little series.

Before we discuss the plot, let's talk about the film's humble beginnings. According to legend, feminist author Rita Mae Brown originally wrote a draft of the script that was a parody of the burgeoning slasher genre - one that served as a wake up call to the misogyny showcased in such films. Of course, when the studio got a hold of the script they trashed all the spoof elements, rewrote it, and played it straight. Strangely enough, a few years later The Slumber Party Massacre II would arrive, being a parody itself (and one I'm rather fond of - I may do an episode on it in the future).

Anyway, all of that aside, Slumber Party Massacre is a little light on plot. A few girls have a slumber party when some parents are away, the new girl feels like an outcast, blah blah blah, and then they get murdered by a power tool wielding, fresh out of the sanitarium psycho name'a Russ Thron. That about sums it up. And if that little synopsis doesn't entice you, then I can't do anything for you and your life sucks.

But, oh, SPM, why do I love thee? Is it the gratuitous flaunting of nubile female skin? Is it the fact that the kills aren't always spectacular, but are always full of vigor? Or is it the absolute lack of pretension, the lack of irony, and the unwavering feeling like you are trying to act like a real film? I think it has to be all of these things.

The kills, while fun, aren't up to snuff if you've cut your teeth on the likes of mid-series Friday the 13th or anything after that. But, I'll be damned if the film-makers didn't give it that old film school dropout try. Which is how the whole movie feels. There's a tenacity to it, and a certain built-in naivety that permeates the production. It's there in the original Friday the 13th as well. It's there in The Burning and Sleepaway Camp. But, it's decidedly absent from any of the new onslaught of slick remakes. It's also absent from films done by extremely competent directors - like Carpenter's Halloween - because they are just too good. It's a quality that can't be reproduced. And that's why I love The Slumber Party Massacre - it's the spirit of this whole damn cheapie slasher movement that is encapsulated in these early eighties films that really gets me more than anything else.

So, if you can find it, I heartily suggest that you pick yourself up a copy of The Slumber Party Massacre and give it a watch some Friday night. Watch it with a bowl of popcorn in your jammies, maybe with a group of friends (if you have any, nerd). I guranty you will not regret it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Survival of the Dead Release Date Set

Romero is Back From the Dead
So, since Magnolia Pictures subdivision Magnet picked up the rights to George Romero's Survival of the Dead last month, it seems that the ball has quickly started rolling. According to Fango, Magnet has scheduled a US release date of May 28th, with a Video on Demand release set for April 30th. This is good news for me, as I live fairly close to a Magnolia theater - and I would assume this should play there. As with Bruce Campbell vs. Frankenstein, I'm a little hestistant to get too excited about this due to the lackluster offering that was Diary of the Dead. Of course, I am always willing to give Mr. Romero the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the old man still has something up his sleeve to surprise us with. Judging from the trailers, I kind of doubt it, but you never know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bruce Campbell Vs. Frankenstein

Ash vs. The Monster

Apparently Bruce "Don't Call Me Ash" Campbell has recently sent a message over to the guys over at AICN discussing the upcoming sequel to last years messy My Name is Bruce. Anyway, here's the email:

Hello everyone. Bruce Campbell here. This urgent message is short, because my keystrokes are monitored and I fear for my life. My partner at Dark Horse comics, Mike Richardson (normally a very rational and talented man), threatened to have his foot soldiers "crush my spleen" if I did what I am about to do. But the fans deserve to know, so with great trepidation I officially announce Bruce Vs. Frankenstein, the sequel to My Name is Bruce. Principal photography begins this fall in Oregon. I'd like to live long enough to see the cameras roll, so please, for the love of God, do not tell anyone - I can't risk this announcement getting back to Mike! Thank you.

Seeing how My Name is Bruce was a disappointment, but not a total disaster or anything, it's not so easy to get excited about this news. Of course I'm going to buy it, but I just wish I could get more jazzed about a project that's this high on the fanboy nerd-o-meter.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Top Ten Vampire Flicks

Top Ten Vampire Flicks

Lately vampires have been all the rage (specifically with teenage girls, it seems). Of course, there's a lot of crap being produced, but I don't want to focus on that. Let's take a look at the ten best vampire flicks ever made.

10. Thirst (2009) - Part of a recent run of more artsy vampire flicks (perhaps a backlash to things like Twilight?), Thirst comes to us all the way from South Korea and the mind of genius director Park Chan Wook (Oldboy). It's the story of a priest with a death wish that is unknowingly changed into a vampire during a blood transfusion (which he was doing to advance research/martyr himself). From there on out, we see him struggle with his convictions as the more base urges take over. The conflict that results from his newfound vampirism and his priesthood are amazing to watch play out. It's actually a great character piece that speaks about a number of things including religion and the human condition. A bit of trivia - the poster I'm using was actually banned in South Korea (eventually they photoshopped the woman's legs out, and deemed that appropriate).

9. Shadow of the Vampire (2000) - A fine piece of meta-fiction, Shadow of the Vampire is the story of the making of Nosferatu (see number 1 on this list). John Malkovich plays FW Murnau and Willem Dafoe does a spectacular job playing Max Schrek. Oh, but did I mention that in this movie Max Schreck is actually a vampire? How else do you think that Murnau got that performance out of him, dumbass? Of course he was a vampire. If that's not a storyline that you want to watch them, I'm sorry, maybe you should find a new genre.

8. The Lost Boys (1987) - A distinctly eighties film, The Lost Boys manages to capture everything that was right about being a kid in that decade. Everything from the soundtrack (which includes Gerald McMann's theme "Cry Little Sister") to the fact that it has BOTH Cories in it make it amazing. In the eighties, you could make adult-themed films with child protagonists that appealed to everybody. I don't know if you can do that now, but movies like The Monster Squad and The Lost Boys were really able to capture something so fun, and special that it just feels good to watch these movies.

7. Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey (1932) - Often unheralded, and unseen, in horror circles, Carl Theodor Dreyer's beautifully haunting Vampyr is a true gem. Now, be forewarned, this is an unconventional film. It's something like experiencing a nightmare. I don't know that it would even be classified as horror at all, really. Oddly, it's Dreyer's first picture with sound but he still relies heavily on silent film style cards to tell most of the story, only using dialogue in sparse amounts. This is likely because he had to record dialogue in three different languages. The story, such as it is, follows Allan Grey, a young wanderer, as he goes through a waking nightmare in Courtempierre. Luckily, for anyone looking, The Criterion Collection has recently released a definitive edition of the film that looks fantastic.

6. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) - Otherwise known as Danceo of the Vampires, Polanski really hits the stake on the head in, what amounts to, this zany re-telling of the classic Dracula story. Professor Abronsius and his assistant, Alfred, find themselves in all sorts of trouble when their search for vampires leads them to Transylvania and the mysterious Count Krolock. For some reason vampire comedies seem to work for me. I enjoyed Vampire's Kiss, Love at First Bite, and, hell, even Vampire in Brooklyn, but none of them (save Fright Night) tickle my fancy quite like Polanski's fun fanged out film.

5. Fright Night (1985) - Fright Night is a bit of a throwback piece. Maybe "homage" is a better word for it. I mean, for the Pete's sake there's a character named Peter Vincent. Anyway, it's another movie about a teenager in trouble. Young Charlie Brewster, avid horror fan, notices that his new next door neighbor keeps odd hours and wonders if there is something more. Spoiler - there is. His neighbor is a blood-sucker! That's why the movie is on the vampire movie list, you see. Anyway, Brewster enlists the help of Peter Vincent, a "fright night" television host, to kill the ghoul next door.

4. Near Dark (1987) - This may be the movie that Bill Paxton was built for (and I'm fairly certain he was built - by machines of awesomeness). It's the tale of a group of marauding vampires that kick tons of ass in the great Peckinpahian revisionist Western style. They could be like their own little super villain team or something - The Vampyros! Anyway, there's also a story about a teenager and a girl, but the real meat of this thing is the ASS KICKING. Lots of great violence and some great turns by the likes of Lance Henriksen and the aformentioned Paxton. It's a really dark film, with some fun black humor peppered in for good measure. My only qualm with the film is that the ending is pretty laughable, but what can you do?

3. Let the Right One In (2008) - I've written about this little Swedish number a few times now, but I'm just going to repeat myself: This movie is absolutely the single best vampire movie I've ever seen. It is a wonderful little Swedish masterpiece, full of all the things horror movies never contain. The movie is rather sweet, has endearing characters, features young romance, and all of the things you never knew you wanted in a horror movie. Luckily, the craftsmanship behind this cold beauty carries everything, it's an absolutely breathtaking film, the cinematography is spectacular, and the direction is sometimes inspired, and always very good.

2. Dracula (1931) - Tod Browning's gothic masterpiece shines as the best MGM monster movie. Of course, Bela Lugosi stars as the titular Count Dracula and he is the most iconic vampire there is. When you think Dracula, you think Lugosi. When you think Lugosi, you think Dracula. And that's no accident, as Bela gives a phenomenal performance in the lead role - managing to be both devilishly charming, and mysteriously menacing at the same time. Obviously it's not the most faithful adaptation of the Stoker work, and has been heavily truncated, but somehow Browning is able to create a new mythos out of the Dracula character with the film.

1. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) - What really needs to be said about FW Murnau's classic German Expressionist silent film? I guess a lot of people have never actually seen it, but it is basically the Dracula story with name changes (due to copyright issues, if I remember correctly) to the characters and a few other deviations. For instance, Max Schreck's character is named Count Orlock instead of Count Dracula. But the power of the film lies not within the plot but in the performance of Max Schreck and in the crafty direction of FW Murnau. It's as beautiful a movie as you're ever likely to see and Schreck's performance is on par with the greats of silent cinema. Something that might interest all of you horrorfiles to know is that there is a remastered DVD in which Type O Negative does the score and David Carradine hosts the film. I've been trying to get my hands on a copy for a while, but with no success.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Congratulations Andre Dawson

The Hawk

Batting average: .279
Hits: 2,774
Home runs: 438
Runs batted in: 1,591

8× All-Star Selection
8× Gold Glove Award Winner
4× Silver Slugger Award Winner
1987 NL MVP
1977 NL Rookie of the Year
1987 Home Run Derby winner
Montreal Expos #10 retired
HOF Class of 2009

Monday, January 4, 2010

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