Blast Off With Rocket From The Crypt

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Travis Becker offers up his Humble Opinion.

Saturday April 5, 2014, legendary San Diego band Rocket from the Crypt wrapped up the east coast dates of their reunion tour in Washington DC in front of a capacity crowd of about 700 fans at Black Cat in Washington DC’s U Street neighborhood. While this may not really qualify as a pop culture event in the broadest sense, Sean and I were in attendance, so here are a few of my humble opinions about how it went down.

Rocket from the Crypt certainly isn’t a household name musically.  Formed in the early 90’s, the band released a prolific output of music, much of it on limited edition vinyl singles released on many different independent labels.  They almost broke through in the mid-90’s with a pair of releases on Interscope Records (Scream, Dracula, Scream and RFTC), but it was not to be and the band continued on in obscurity until 2005 when they disbanded to allow Speedo, ND, Petey X, Apollo 9, JC 2000 and Ruby Mars to pursue other projects.  The band’s influence, however, never really diminished among those in the know.  Eventually, the band reunited for an appearance on the children’s television show, Yo Gabba Gabba, a show on which band singer, guitarist and found John “Speedo” Reis had previously appeared as a character known as, “The Swami” .  A few dates in Europe followed and then, to the joy of their legion of devoted fans, a tour of the U.S.

Personally, I discovered Rocket from the Crypt around 1996.  I was working at a music store while attending college and in one shipment of cut-out product (CD’s discontinued by record labels that are then sold to retail stores at a discount to be sold in bargain bins and such), I found a CD with a gnarly-looking scorpion on the front.  I hadn’t heard of the band, but the cover was enough for me.  As soon as I played Scream, Dracula, Scream for the first time I was hooked.  The power and density of the sound was like nothing I had ever heard.  It was a wall of guitars, drums and to my great surprise, even horns.  It wasn’t long before I owned all of their records I could find and even had a tattoo of their logo done, my first tattoo experience.  The one thing that continued to elude me, however, was the live power of Rocket from the Crypt, and when they disbanded in 2005, I just assumed that seeing them in concert was a dream I would have to put away forever.  Until one fateful date last December, that was, when I saw the tour dates for the East Coast come through on an Internet presale.  I didn’t hesitate at all, even though the show was a couple of hours away in Washington, I knew I was going, no matter what.

Saturday’s performance did not disappoint the eighteen years’ worth of lofty expectations I had built up.  The band hit the stage following a short performance by opener Dan Sartain, an entertaining Rockabilly and Blues singer who recalled Dick Dale, Chuck Berry and the Ramones in equal measure through his set.  Resplendent in matching black and white outfits, Rocket from the Crypt wasted no time, launching immediately into a group of songs from their 1995 EP, the State of the Art is on Fire.  They segued into many of their better known songs from Circa: Now! right up through their most recent studio offering, Live from Camp X-Ray.  Highlights for me included the desperate sounding Young Livers, and the show closer, Glazed, which I half expected them to jam out and extend, but which worked just as well in the tight arrangement they went with.  The band played like the seasoned vets they are and the in-house sound was spot-on, but there was a loose, fun feeling throughout.  Adding to this was Speedo’s between song banter, which had me cracking up all night.

I hadn’t been to Black Cat in years, and the neighborhood has certainly grown up in the time I’ve been gone.  The lonely Domino’s Pizza I remembered was gone, replaced by a Trader Joe’s and at least a dozen restaurants that looked out of my price range and dress code.  Perhaps the only disappointment for me was the DC crowd which seemed fairly sedate for the joyous revival happening in their midst.  This is, of course, with the exception for the one guy in front of Sean and I for the first few songs who was either the most enthusiastic air-guitar player I have ever witnessed or was having some kind of seizure.  All things taken together, in my humble opinion, a great time was had by all, and in Speedo’s words, “Everybody say yeah!  Alright, the concert was a success!”  Hopefully this little reunion was successful enough to keep Rocket from the Crypt around for a few more tours and dare I dream – a new record down the road sometime.


A Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

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By: Joshua Fargason

A Captain America: The Winter Soldier review written by our very own Captain America, Captain Joshua Fargason

 

Josh’s Humble Opinion:  Like many, I have eagerly anticipated Marvel Studios latest release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CA:TWS). I’ve been a diehard fan of Captain America since childhood. Having seen the movie, I have to say Marvel has not let its audience down in the least. The latest installment of their “megafranchise” continues to build the momentum built up thus far by its predecessors.

Bottom line up front for those who are wondering: there are two post-credits scenes. If that’s all you were wondering before heading off to the movie, there you go. You’re set. Enjoy!

For those who want to know more, here we go:

I could go on at length about Evans, Johansson, Jackson, & Redford, but for the sake of brevity I will just say they all turned in excellent performances worthy of their caliber. Casting director Sarah Finn and her team did their job well with the entire cast. Standouts, for me, were two new faces in the franchise. Anthony Mackie delivers a very real and human portrayal of a military veteran who continues to serve, both as a Veteran’s Affairs counselor and later as The Falcon. Emily VanCamp’s part, though small in scope for this movie, sets her up for future work in the Marvel universe and she is also involved in what I deem the most heroic moment of the movie. More on that later. One humorous note: the stand-in for Chris Evans is named Jordan Coulson. Just can’t keep a Coulson out of a Marvel movie, I guess.

Director of Photography Trent Opaloch (District 9, Elysium) and Production Designer Peter Wenham (Blood Diamond, The Queen) and their respective teams deserve mention for excellent work that creates a believable world for this conspiracy thriller. Given that there are fantastical elements to the story, it still looks and feels realistic. I suspect re-watching this in the future will yield some pleasant surprises; I missed some dialogue because I was laughing so hard at an unexpected Pulp Fiction reference planted in a scene (see if you notice it toward the end).

The story itself keeps a great tempo. The production team and editor Jeffrey Ford (The Avengers, Iron Man 3) give enough time for great human moments between Cap & the rest of the cast that establish these characters as people without slowing down the pace. One can tell that the characters give a damn about each other throughout. The various scenes between Captain America and the Black Widow set up the multiple levels of tension in that relationship very well. Evans and Johansson’s chemistry create belief that the two characters have worked together and gotten comfortable around each other since we saw them last. Scenes between Cap and Sam Wilson, meanwhile, have a very humanizing effect on the perception of Steve Rogers: he sees himself as just another veteran and relates to other vets as brothers-in-arms, there isn’t any of the celebrity attitude one finds in Tony Stark. Meanwhile, the bits of character we get from Bucky Barnes really leave me wanting more.   While great credit goes to the actors, I feel the directing team and editor deserve accolades for how well they’ve handled these relationships.

I feel great credit for this movie’s excellence goes to fight coordinator Chris Carnel (American History X, Iron Man) and the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, & Dupree; Community). The fights and action sequences in CA:TWS are BRUTAL. The chief critique I have with hand to hand sequences in movies like the Bourne series is that while they are impressive, they are too fast in action and in the way they are shot to actually follow the story of what is happening in the fight. Not so in this movie: the fight sequences are a completely essential element of character and story development in CA:TWS. One sees from the very beginning just how hard Captain America hits with fist and shield which sets up just how dangerous the Winter Soldier is when they fight. The fights also set up that while Cap is a super-human, he’s still a mortal man who feels a punch and is not bullet proof. There is real danger for the heroes.

Without giving away too much of the story, I do want to mention my favorite moment of the movie had nothing to do with the “supers.” Right at the climax of the story, we see “normal” SHIELD techs & agents (to include Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter) faced with having to decide for themselves whether or not to do the right thing in the face of death. One particular technician becomes the biggest hero in the movie in my opinion because he lacks any sort of superpower in a superhero movie yet still decides to risk death for what’s right. This also leads to my chief critique of the movie: after that point the movie is full of regular humans fighting their hardest to do what’s right and sacrificing for it, but in the end none of them are effectual. It still comes down to just the superheroes. I think having those regular humans make more of a difference makes a greater testament to real heroism. That’s just me, though, and this is a movie about a superhero.

Having said that, CA:TWS is an excellent movie full of some very human moments, great action sequences, and heroism on many scales. It certainly changes the Marvel movie universe on a fundamental level. I believe it is a must-see for anyone interested in film for both the handling of the storytelling and to keep track of how this “megafranchise” beast that is likely to become the new paradigm works out. I’m anxious for the next installment.


Reckoning

Reckoning


Noah Plot Summary Revealed…CAUTION SPOILERS BELOW

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Noah is a young boy, standing on a hill with his father Lamech. Lamech is about to give him the serpent’s skin of the original serpent in Eden, which has been passed down for generations. Suddenly, a large crowd approaches, led by a young king named Tubal-Cain, who wants to make that hill into a mine. Seeing Lamech, Tubal-Cain kills him and takes the serpent’s skin, while Noah runs.

Many years pass. Noah is living with his wife Naameh and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, when he sees a small miracle: a drop of water hits the ground and a flower grows instantly. That night he has a dream where he sees the mountain his grandfather Methuselah lives on, and water covering the earth. He realizes that the Creator is trying to send him a message. He and his family run to visit Methuselah. On the way, they find a group of recently killed humans, and among them, a girl who is still alive, named Ila, and they adopt her. Also, Tubal-Cain’s men chase them, but they are afraid to enter the dark region that is inhabited by Watchers, fallen angels who look like stone golems.

It is recounted that the Watchers are friends with Methuselah because he saved them once. They came to earth to help the humans, but after learning from them, the humans tried to enslave and kill them. They tried to run, and Methuselah helped their escape by fighting the waves of human soldiers with a burning sword.

Noah speaks with Methuselah and receives a seed passed down from the Garden of Eden. He plants the seed on a plain, and an entire forest grows upon it within seconds. This miracle convinces the Watchers that Noah is chosen by the creator. Noah announces that all the wood will be used to build an Ark, and they start to help with the construction work.

Roughly eight years pass. As the Ark nears completion, animals start to leave the forests and walk into the ark, where they are put to sleep by incense that Noah prepares. Meanwhile, the surrounding lands have been running short on food, and the humans, led by Tubal-Cain, are beginning to eat human flesh. A horde of about 200 men, led by Tubal-Cain, approaches the Ark, and Tubal-Cain threatens to storm it, but the Watchers force him to turn back.

Noah realizes that his three sons need wives, and that Ila cannot serve because she is barren. He disguises himself and goes into the human camp in order to find three women, and take them into the ark. At the human camp, he sees humans being slaughtered for food, and some people behaving badly, and intense crowding and filth. He is stunned by this and gives up the effort, and becomes convinced that the Creator wishes for the entire human race to come to an end. Back at the camp, Methuselah blesses Ila and her barrenness is cured.

Shortly before the rains start to drop, Ham decides to go to the camp himself and find a woman. He falls into a pit filled with the dead and encounters a frightened young girl named Na’el. She is willing to go with him, but as they run back to the ark, her foot gets caught in an animal trap. Noah comes to help but sees the human horde coming to raid the ark, so he forces Ham to leave her behind and save himself. Seconds later, the human horde reaches her and tramples her to death as it passes. All of Noah’s family gets in except Methuselah, who chooses to die in the flood. As the ark gets launched, all the Watchers sacrifice themselves fighting the endless human waves. This allows them to return to their original forms and return to their Creator, who has forgiven them. As the flood waters rush toward the ark and his remaining soldiers drown, a wounded Tubal-Cain seizes the opportunity to survive and crawls up a pathway to a high point of the ark, hacking his way inside the vessel where he is eventually found by Ham. The wicked old king plays on Ham’s anger toward Noah for allowing Na’el to die. Outside, the family listens to the dying screams of those outside the ark. His family implores him to let some of them in, as they “have room,” only for a shell-shocked Noah to reply that there is no room for them.

Ila wakes up, feeling ill, and goes to Naameh who deduces that she is with child. At this exact moment, the rains stop completely. Ila says it is because the Creator smiles upon the unborn child. Naameh, Shem, and Ila inform Noah of this, but the patriarch rationalizes that the Creator’s wish to destroy humanity also extends to his own family, who he initially thought would simply die of old age once the flood waters recede. He tells the family that if the child is a boy then he will replace their youngest as the last man, but if a girl is born, he will kill the child upon her birth, much to Ila’s horror. Not truly willing to do such a thing so much as feeling it is a duty to the Creator, a tearful Noah climbs to the top of the ark and asks for the Creator’s counsel. Finding no answer, Noah resolves to do as he told his family. Meanwhile, Tubal-Cain finds aid from the naive Ham (eventually acquiring the boy’s help in a plot to kill Noah) and Naameh makes one final, unsuccessful attempt to dissuade her husband.

Many months pass. Ila, now hugely pregnant, and Shem build a small raft to escape Noah’s plot to kill their child. Noah burns the raft. The shock of this causes Ila to go into labor. With Naameh’s assistance, the terrified young girl gives birth to twin girls. Hearing the babe’s cries, Noah pursues Ila to the top of the vessel. As Ila sings to the crying infants to pacify them before they die, Noah looks upon the girls and decides to let them live.

Tubal-Cain has seemingly manipulated Ham into believing the king is killing Noah for the sake of Ila and Shem’s offspring as well as vengeance for Na’el, and Ham lures Noah to the tail end of the ark on the pretense that the animals have awoken and have begun cannibalizing each other. As Noah and Tubal-Cain engage in a brutal fight, the ark hits a mountain and Tubal-Cain is thrown through the shattered wall of the vessel, being greatly injured. As the king rises and attempts to finish a similarly injured Noah off, a repentant Ham stabs Tubal-Cain in the ribcage, killing him.

As the rest of the family begins making a new life for themselves, Ham decides it is time for him to leave, still angry at Noah for what happened to Na’el. Ila confronts Noah on allowing his grandchildren to survive, telling him that the Creator gave him the choice of whether mankind should be saved or not. When she asks why he didn’t kill them, Noah reveals he had nothing but love for the babies when he first saw them, because he saw the goodness of mankind. Later, the family stands atop a cliff face and Noah blesses them all as the beginning of a new human race. They watch as the Creator sends a rainbow from the sky, covering all of the Earth, signaling his promise to never destroy mankind again.


The Walking Dead: Alone – According to Travis

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In Travis’ Humble Opinion:

In attempting to review this week’s episode of the Walking Dead, I’ve had a hard time not making it about all the things that are and have been frustrating me about the entire series.  Maybe it’s because this week’s episode was a good example of a bunch of them or maybe it’s just that some of the issues the show is having are making it harder for me to enjoy it.  Either way, big sigh, here we go.

                Right out of the gate we get a completely irrelevant flashback about character Bob Stookey, about whom we know little at this point, other than he was/is an alcoholic and he has some medical training maybe.  So here we go with the writers (and I feel inclined to blame Robert Kirkman primarily because I don’t like him) beating us over the head with this “new found” focus on character development.  So what does this little flashback tell us about old Bob?   Ummmm…that he wants to be around people because wandering around by yourself sucks?  That he’s not afraid to die?  I don’t even know really.  Then, following the pattern set up for this season, or this half of this season, or whatever it is, the focus is on a couple of smaller groups, in this case some Maggie/Sasha/Bob and some more Daryl /Beth, as if we didn’t get a full dose of that pair last week.  Although, I can see why they added the Bethryl  (did I just do that?) interludes as the material for the other mini-group is pretty poor. 

                So stuff happens, conversations are had, characterization happens for some of the people we didn’t know that much about, and at the end of the day, down the road we go again with no end in sight, save some vague place called Terminus that we know even less about than Bob Stookey at the end of this episode, which isn’t much.  My opinion?  The tease on this place has been way too long already and there’s no way it will live up to this kind of buildup.  This is what drives me insane about this show.  There is no forward momentum whatsoever, no narrative drive.  I mean, I realize they’ve been out there a long time and survival is key, but shouldn’t they at least be attempting to see if there is any salvation to their predicament?  Maybe try to at least leave the state of Georgia or the tri-county area at large?  Could be the zombie pandemic ends as you head north when you stop seeing Stuckeys, Rick and company will never know because they never leave the 20 mile area around where they’re from.  As Sean is fond of pointing out, perhaps T-Dogg’s “let’s head for the coast” idea is starting to look a little more appealing.

                So we’ll see what happens next week.  Looks like we’re getting a big ol’ dose of Tyrese and Carol, i.e. another week of running in place.  I pretty much feel like I could tune out for the next couple of weeks and come back for the season finale and won’t have missed much.  In fact, maybe that’s the strategy for the Walking Dead.  Watch the first and last episode of each half of each season and just skip all the filler.


The Walking Dead: Alone – According to Sean

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In Sean’s Humble Opinion:

The Walking Dead’s pace lately has been snail-like at best.  Extending this season to 16 episodes is probably one of the worst things the show could have done.  We’ve had far too many “walk around / sit around looking glum” episodes and not enough “defend the prison, fight for your life, run from the walkers, exciting” episodes.  I will say that the shining light was Rick hiding while intruders came into the house he was staying in, that at least sparked some excitement and suspense.  Other than that the sluggish pace can be blamed on the fact that the creators/show runners want to focus on characterization…fine with me, but surely there are ways you can do this and be more exciting than Ben Stein calling attendance, “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…”  Here are my biggest issues with the most recent episode Alone.

  • Okay, I know I said “this episode” but I have to get this off my chest.  When you watch The Walking Dead lately, are you like me in that you think you’ve accidently turned on the Outdoor Network?  I mean I understand the survivors want stay away from populated cities where there’s lots of walkers, but seriously these characters spend more time in the woods than Jeremiah Johnson.
  • Characterization:  The opening flashback of Bob walking alone.  Okay, if it was to help us learn more about him, about the only thing I learned was that…he got used to walking alone.  Oh and he’s an alcoholic, sorta.  I mean all it really shows is him sipping on some cough medicine right?  And haven’t we already established he’s a drunk?  He openly admitted it to Daryl at the beginning part of the season.  If you want to develop characters through the flashback concept, then take a cue from Lost and show what these characters were like BEFORE all this happened.  I mean honestly, Glenn, a character that’s been with us since the beginning, all we know about him is that he used be a pizza boy?  Oh and don’t treat the past like a big mystery.  The whole, “What did Daryl do before the apocalypse” was somewhat entertaining, but why not treat the viewer to a flashback of what his life was really like.  Instead of him telling the story about him, Merle and the tweaker, show it!  Doing this will help the viewer’s connect more with the characters and be a welcomed change of pace.
  • The Fog scene – Pretty cool – But really?  4 seasons that span what…3 to 4 years and you just now came up with it?
  • Daryl and Beth coming up on a graveyard was pretty ironic I thought.  Though I was little confused when Daryl says, “We’ll just take some” then in a shot later in the episode it looks like they pretty much took everything…screw whoever lives here!
  • Maggie, Bob, and Sasha’s camp.  Seriously?  How close do you want to let Walkers get?  The trip wires with hub caps tied on were close enough a walker could pretty much reach out and grab one of them from it?  Even if you heard the hub caps clang together, you’d have about what 5 seconds at most?
  • Why is there any argument whatsoever about going to Terminus?  Sasha doesn’t wanna go because she wants to “survive” and they should stop at the first town they come to.  Hey, why not travel to a town that says…”Those who arrive, survive” seems like you’ll be accomplishing your survival goal if you head that-a-way that right?  It was a pathetic excuse to have this group break up and then have a big emotional reunion at the end.  I can still see Maggie walking up and smiling ear to ear so happy to see Bob again.  Hey, you could have solved all this by…not leaving in the first friggin place!  You can’t have a great joyous reunion with people who voluntarily left one another!
  • Our perceptions of these people are based solely on assumptions or stereotypes we subscribe to.  I keep reading about how these characters have changed so much, but what evidence do we really have to base that on?  Glenn was a pizza boy; we’re assuming he’s changed because we have assumptions of what a pizza boy’s life would be like.  Okay, yeah they’ve changed since we first met them, but the show could take this so much further.  We assume Rick is this natural leader with morals of the highest regard, but think back to when the series began and he was talking about the issues he was having with Lorrie.  Maybe he had an affair that sparked all that, maybe he was a drunk before it all happened too.   There’s just so much you could do with the flash back idea that would create a little momentum in the show and not this ho-hum, “let’s get to Terminus and have it not live up the hype that we’ve created for it whatsoever” vibe.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Is A Completely New Take On Ryan

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In My Humble Opinion:  Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a ridiculous departure from the Jack Ryan character we’ve become familiar with.  If you’re unfamiliar with the character Jack Ryan, he is a character featured in Tom Clancy’s novels as well as their big screen adaptations.  If you haven’t seen the films surely you’ve at least heard of:  The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears.  Now since I haven’t read the novels I will be referring to the movies because those are what I’m what familiar with.  Ryan is a CIA analyst (though I believe he’s retired in Patriot Games) who finds himself thrust into dangerous situations where he’s forced to operate outside of his comfort zone in order to save the day.  He’s kind of an everyday man dealing with situations he’s not used to and is generally unprepared for.  To me, that’s what always made him a little bit more relatable and realistic knowing he was in over his head; that was always the appeal of his character.  This all led me to ask the question after seeing trailers for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, “Why?”

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit breaks formula and features Ryan as a CIA field agent who must travel to Moscow to prevent an imminent terrorist attack.  If you’ve seen the trailers perhaps you agree that the premise looks more James Bond / Jason Bourne than Jack Ryan.  It’s just too much of a departure in my opinion.  I remember with all the other movies that preceded Shadow Recruit there was a running gag in which Ryan had to remind anyone and everyone around him that he was just an analyst.  Alec Baldwin (my favorite Jack Ryan) put it best in The Hunt for Red October when he said, “I’m not field personal, I’m just an analyst. I’m not an agent, I just write books for the CIA.”

So back to my question of why?  Why reboot a character that still has plenty of source material to pull from?  There are still five other Tom Clancy novels featuring Jack Ryan that haven’t been made into feature films.  Why not adapt those and stay true to the character?  Why not just start fresh with a brand new character instead of trying to cash in on the name Jack Ryan?  I mean if Hollywood really wants to bring a literary figure into the action film genre why not tap into the character Mitch Rapp?  Mitch Rapp is a character featured in the novels written by Vince Flynn (awesome spy name by itself right?) that IS a spec ops, black bag, CIA spy type that travels the globe preventing terrorist attacks, keeping America safe, etc.  Personally, I think he’d be the perfect character to be brought to the big screen.  Sorry for the rant, just doesn’t make sense to me.

 

THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO TOM CLANCY AND VINCE FLYNN

 

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TOM CLANCY PASSED AWAY ON OCTOBER 1, 2013 FROM UNDISCLOSED ILLNESSES.  HE WAS 66 AT THE TIME.

 

 

 

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VINCE FLYNN PASSED AWAY JUNE 9, 2013 AFTER A THREE YEAR BATTLE WITH PROSTATE CANCER.  HE WAS 47 AT THE TIME.

 


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