Monster Brawl

They did a brawl.  It was a monster brawl.

They did a brawl. It was a monster brawl.

I’ve always been a big fan of monsters. As a boy, my friend Jason DePalma and I started a monster club, where the two of us would get together to draw monsters. We also went to see my Best Friend is a Vampire. It was a good club.

I am also a lifelong fan of pro wrestling. From Hulk Hogan to Steve Austin to John Cena, I’ve been there to root against them at almost every turn. (I like the villains). I thought I had outgrown WWE, but this year, my cousin got me back in the fold after a 6 year hiatus. He didn’t exactly have to twist my arm.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the film “Monster Brawl,” which pits legendary monsters against one another in pro wrestling death matches is something that is right up my fanboy alley.

There is no plot to speak of. The movie is presented as if you had ordered a pay-per-view wrestling event. Each match is previewed and talked up by the announce team, there’s a tale of the tape, some very well done vignettes showing the backstory of the various creatures and, in what may be the finest touch, each combatant cuts a promo on his opponent. All of this is hilarious, as long as you know what it’s spoofing… and if you’ve ever heard the words, “whatcha gonna do?, “gimme a hell yeah”, or “you can’t see me!” then you do.

Monster Brawl is a loving tribute to both movie monsters and pro wrestling. The action in the ring is cinematically enhanced slightly but it’s not too far overboard. These look like they could be WWE matches for the most part. Of course, there’s monster-style mayhem, like the ref getting killed or Cyclops using an eye laser, but that’s to be expected. Even my beloved zombies get a lot of screen time, as they are not easily contained to a wrestling ring.

I don’t know if this movie has a rewatchablity factor to it, as once you know who wins the matches, it would probably take away most of the fun, but for one night, I found Monster Brawl to be absolutely hilarious and well worth my time. Grade: A

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My Favorite Songs of 2012

In 1999, I made a mix tape of my favorite songs of the year using the local radio stations and a double cassette deck. Starting in 2003, with the emergence of Rhapsody playlists, blogs and a CD burner on my computer, I started compiling lists of favorites in order and making CDs. Year-round, I keep a notebook full of candidates and text myself names of artists and songs. (often while driving…so watch out! If I go young, that’s high on the potential reasons list, after ‘works in a warehouse’ and ‘eats hot dogs at the gas station’).

My taste in music is mostly off the beaten path. I have SiriusXM to thank for this mostly, but even before that, I leaned toward the alternative. I recall all my co-workers wishing the hard rock station would get back to the Korn and the Alice in Chains, while I was saying “OMGZ who is this?” to things like The Strokes and White Stripes. I may be an almost-middle aged, slightly overweight schlub, but my inner heart beats hipster. When someone left a comment on one of my previous lists that they had never heard of any of the songs, I laughed. While I am humming something at work, I often smile to myself and think, “I am the only one in this whole building who knows this song.” I don’t pretend to know why human beings have this need to feel like they’re in a secret club or that if too many people like something, it must be terrible, but I satiate those feelings in the world of music. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I AM TOTALLY COOLER THAN YOU BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW THIS BAND I HEARD BUT I’M GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT THEM BECAUSE I KNOW THINGS BEFORE YOU!!!!!

Of course, the world is shrinking thanks to technology and people have more access to discover things and be discovered. (Just think about the biggest songs of the year on the pop chart and you’ll see Canada, England, Australia and even Korea). The music industry has changed forever thanks to the incredible, edible internet. The next big thing used to be preordained by the major record labels who could seemingly polish up anyone, run their voice through a hit-making robot sound machine and get them played on the radio 25 times a day. That still happens, but now for every Britney Spears or Katy Perry, there’s a Kings of Leon or Foster the People or Mumford & Sons next up in the local station’s queue.

My point is that it’s getting more and more difficult to achieve that feeling of musical superiority when “your little secret band” could be the next one to strike it big. I have to accept the fact that a song I was humming to myself in January & thinking, “haha no one knows this but me!” may get some play somewhere, catch on and become the biggest mainstream hit of the year by the summer. But in the end, it’s all about the music (,man!). I can’t ignore a song that I couldn’t get enough just because everyone and their grandmother has stepped into my house and turned it into a song I totally can get enough of these days. It’s the world we live in now. *sigh* My favorite song of the year (and probably yours too) is “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye (feat. Kimbra). May God have mercy on my hipster soul.

The Best of 2012:

60. This Head I Hold- Electric Guest
59. Betty Wang- Hospitality
58. Make Up Your Mind- Here We Go Magic
57. Serpents- Sharon Van Etten
56. Adult- Ceremony
55. Warrior- Kimbra (feat. Mark Foster & A-Trak)
54. Mallrats (La La La)- The Orwells
53. Losing You- Solange
52. Open Your Heart- The Men
51. Best Friend- Dent May
50. Easy Way Out- Gotye
49. Shapeless & Gone- Porcelain Raft
48. Comeback Kid- Sleigh Bells
47. Hold On- Alabama Shakes
46. Heart- Oberhofer
45. Disparate Youth- Santigold
44. The Look- Metronomy
43. Octopus- Bloc Party
42. Werewolf- Fiona Apple
41. Take a Walk- Passion Pit
40. Heavy Metal- White Rabbits
39. Sappho-Tribes
38. Elegant Design- Pond
37. Time to Run- Lord Huron
36. Glorified High- Sarah Jaffe
35. Friends of Friends- Hospitality
34. True Romance- Citizens!
33. Let’s Go- Matt & Kim
32. Shadow- Wild Nothing
31. Savage- Hacienda
30. At Home- Crystal Fighters
29. Longevity- Yeasayer
28. From Nowhere- Dan Croll
27. Change- Churchill
26. Get Free- Major Lazer
25. Wild- Royal Teeth
24. Work Around It- Them Swoops
23. Away Frm U- Oberhofer
22. Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings- Father John Misty
21. Cut it Out- Kitten
20. Shuggie- Foxygen
19. Keep You- Wild Belle
18. Simple Song- The Shins
17. Ho Hey- The Lumineers
16. Oblivion- Grimes
15. Killing Time- Ducky
14. No Sleep to Dream- Zella Day
13. Forever- Haim
12. Safe and Sound- Capital Cities
11. Where the Kids Are- Blondfire
10. The Mother We Share- CHVRCHES
9. Angels- The XX
8. Babes- Icky Blossoms
7. My Love is Real- Divine Fits
6. I Love it- Icona Pop
5. Brothers- Tanlines
4. Come Home- Chappo
3. Default- Django Django
2. All of Me- Tanlines
1. Somebody That I Used to Know- Gotye (feat. Kinbra)

Zombie Movie Night- Dec. ’12

Another calendar year goes by the wayside for Zombie Movie Night.  Still no end in sight.  Really thought we would have seen them all by now.  Not even close.

First up was The Revenant.  American soldier, Bart (Really? Bart?  I think the Simpsons has laid claim to this name for the rest of time.  There should never be another character anywhere named Bart.  Or Homer) is killed in Iraq and shipped home.  Not long after his funeral service, Bart wakes up as the titular revenant.  He visits his best friend, Joey, and together they try to piece together what Bart has become and what to do about it.

The problem the film has is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.  The plotting, pacing, and tone are all over the map.  There are shades of a buddy comedy here, but the two leads don’t really do or say anything all that funny.  There’s a lost love subplot about Bart and the woman who was waiting for him to return from Iraq, but the woman is barely a character and the few scenes she has are played like she’s come kind of crazy person.  (I don’t think a sane person would yell, “why are you doing this to me?” when their boyfriend miraculously returns from the dead.)

The movie’s best sequence is when Bart adopts the ‘Dexter’ philosophy of “if I have to do bad things, I will do them to bad people,” and starts administering some vigilante justice in the violent inner city.  Not with a particular skill set, mind you.  Mostly just his ability to absorb gunshots.  Eventually, things get complicated and Bart’s fragile world starts to fall apart.  Not in terribly logical ways, however, and it is the ending where the Revenant really goes off the rails.  There might be some drama to mine from an immortal undead’s inability to commit suicide but not after eighty minutes of weak comedy.  Ironically, the film’s funniest moment (probably unintentionally so) comes during this serious part as we bear witness to the most incompetent SWAT team in movie history.

Ultimately, I’d have to say skip this one.  It’s frustratingly close to being something good, but it just couldn’t quite get there.  Grade: C-

Next we watched the second half of Insane in the Brain, a spoof/homage of 70’s blaxploitation films.  We had started this one last month, but the disc was damaged so I had to request a new one from Netflix.  Goldie and Sloan are two hip detectives who are called to investigate when the prostitutes at the local brothel start getting killed off.  This can only be the handiwork of some particularly horny zombies.

The film starts off slowly and badly.  The first scene is an extended sequence of some of the most annoying zombies of all time rising from their graves screaming, “BRAINS!”  My initial instinct was “this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, I want to shut this off.”  So I have to give the movie some credit for improving from “worst thing I’ve ever seen” to “I want to replace this disc to see how it ends” in about a half hour’s time.  Once you get past the brutally long zombie intro and first murder and the pointless and tiresome exposition of the prostitutes’s characters only to have them be offed, the proceedings get much more interesting.  Goldie and Sloan are likeable characters and the film starts having a lot of fun with its low-budget limitations.  The silly dialogue, wacky sound effects, looping and reversing of the same shots all give Insane in the Brain a hilarious “what the hell am I watching” kind of charm.  And when is fast motion not funny?  I say never.

It might have something to do with the split viewing, but the ending felt kind of sudden and abrupt.  The climax plays more like a build-up to a climax and ultimately, I was left wanting more.  Again, not bad considering my instinct after that opening scene.  Grade: C+

Lastly, we watched Gangs of the Dead, another in a long line of direct-to-video extravaganzas filled with slightly familiar faces, C level actors and a slew of “that guys.”  Yes, you’re right, that’s probably describing one thing in three ways.  Anyway, this is your standard ‘glowing meteor causes a zombie outbreak/rivals must work together to survive’ affair.  This has been done before and in much better fashion by The Horde and even by Mutant Vampire Zombies From the Hood.  Gangs opens with some solid zombie action but quickly grinds to a halt once the characters become trapped in a warehouse.  It wasn’t that late in the night for us both to be starting to fall asleep.  This one is just mind-numbingly boring when there was no reason for it to be.  The acting isn’t bad.  We’re given backstory on at least one of the characters and there’s even a bit of mystery as to which gang member is secretly a NARC.  But it’s all done in the least interesing way possible.  In terms of gore, plot, and overall fun, I’d say there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better somewhere else and for that, I just can’t recommend it.  I’d much rather watch a low-budget film really commit to its badness like Insane in the Brain than sit through yet another medium-budget snoozefest.   Grade: C