Monday, June 11, 2012

Bad Manners (1984)

From the mind of someone severely demented comes Bad Manners, a wacky, outrageous, over-the-top comedy film from 1984. The film centers on four troubled adolescent friends who escape their crazy orphanage and set off on an adventure to save another friend whose been adopted by weirdo yuppies. The film more than lives up to its title with the kind of crass and borderline-tasteless humor one could only find in an 80’s movie.  Featuring plenty of kick-ass music, funny one-liners, naked breasts, fighting, cursing, beer-guzzling and general madness, Bad Manners is a truly entertaining and endearing 80’s cult comedy.

I recently rediscovered the film after several years of searching for it with no luck. My parents had rented it on VHS when I was a kid and the movie stuck with me not only because it was so funny and outrageous, but because I felt a real connection to the characters. I got a real sense that their friendship was genuine, and I felt the same way after finally re-watching it ten years later.  Quentin Tarantino defined these types of films as ‘hang-out’ movies, as in movies that make you feel as though you are friends with the characters, like The Big Lebowski for example. A ‘hang-out’ movie is a perfect way to describe Bad Manners.
Future voice-actor Pamela Adlon as 'Girl Joey'           
The beginning of the film is mostly episodic, focusing on how the main characters spend their everyday lives causing havoc and mayhem in the “Home of the Bleeding Heart” Catholic orphanage. They have declared war on the gung-ho head mistress Sister Serena and ex-Nazi Mr. Kurtz, who zaps misbehaving children with a cattle prod. The place is turned upside down when the eternally cool and antisocial badass Piper arrives to stir things up. Intent on escaping, Piper reignites the rebellious spirit of his peers and befriends the tall and lanky Whitey, the token black kid Blackey, the rude problem child ‘Mouse’, and a tomboy named Joey played by a young Pamela Adlon who would later go on to voice Bobby Hill.

Mouse is soon adopted by a psychotic couple of yuppies played by Karen Black and Martin Mull with absurd campiness. As Mouse wreaks havoc on their home and life, Piper and the gang manage to escape the orphanage and set out on an adventure to rescue him. Their journey leads to several hilarious scenes including mayhem at a bus station and being threatened by a taxi driver with a pick-axe.

Left to Right: Sister Selena, Martin Mull, Karen Black
The acting of the kids is actually the high point of the film, which is surprising considering the great majority of child actors suck. Like I said before, their friendship seems genuine and fun, which makes for a very entertaining viewing experience. Maybe the only reason I felt a connection to the kids is because I saw it when I was a kid and could relate to them. I could understand how an upstuck adult could see this film and consider it complete garbage. Let’s just say this movie is for the young and the young at heart.

I hesitate on calling this a cult film, because as far as I can tell it doesn’t have any following at all. For some reason this film has slipped through the cracks into near-obscurity, but it deserves so much more. It is a truly funny unique film full of personality and a spirit of rebellion. I love this movie.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hardware (1990) Movie Review

A Perfect Storm of Awesomeness
Hardware (1990)
Rating: 8/10

Any movie featuring Lemmy Kilmeister of Motorhead can’t be bad. Any movie featuring violent kill-bots gone beserk, bad-ass space marines, and smokin’ hot sex scenes has to be fucking awesome. Hardware contains all of those elements and more, blending sci-fi and horror into one hell of an exciting ride.

Dylan Mcdermott, of “Hamburger Hill” and “In The Line of Fire”, stars as Moses, a space-marine on leave of duty from an intergalactic war. Having just returned to the now radiated world, he visits a Junker and acquires a strange, dismembered robot from a scavenger. He gives the robot to his inventive girlfriend Jill, played by Stacey Travis, who reassembles the bot by herself. Unfortunately, the robot turns out to be built specifically to exterminate enemies, and goes on a killing rampage. Also in the film is the voice of Iggy Pop as the hilarious radio DJ ‘Angry Bob’.

The true strength of Hardware lies in its outstanding visuals, especially its use of light and color. It’s a film best viewed in a darkened room where the viewer can be completely immersed in the images on the screen. The orange glow of the radiated outer world give the viewer a perfect idea of the stale atmosphere and intense heat, while the blue and gray lighting of the indoor scenes give it a chilling and claustrophobic ambiance.  A common shot used in the film is one of bright lights reflecting off an actors face, representing how humans have become one with technology, and also just looking really cool.

The special effects in this movie are great for a low budget 90’s sci-fi horror. Nothing beats a man being ripped apart at the waist, blood shooting from his torso. The set designs are great as well. Very quickly the viewer is introduced to the rustic futuristic, cyberpunkish world the characters inhabit. The costumes are convincing and don’t look fake or cheesy at all.

Hardware contains all the elements of a great cult film. A sci-fi horror from the early 90’s with likeable characters, an engaging plot, great special effects and visuals, a kick-ass soundtrack, top-notch casting, and epic deaths. Hardware is a gem worth checking out. 

Mercyful Fate- Melissa (1983)

A Raw and Frenetic Dose of Old-School Black Metal
Mercyful Fate- Melissa (1983)
Rating: 95%

Exploding through speakers like a heavy metal blitzkrieg from hell, Mercyful Fate set turntables on fire with their debut album Melissa. With uncompromising heaviness, impressive musicianship, and shocking satanic imagery, the album became an instant hit with metal fans the world over.  The powerful and sinister style the band showcased on Melissa came to define the genre of black metal and exists today as a classic example of old-school 80’s metal.

Featuring the unique vocals their corpse-painted lead singer, the great King Diamond, as well as the rapid, skillfully-executed duel guitar stylings of Hank Shermann and Michael Denner, Melissa scorched like no other and helped push forward the boundaries of extreme metal. The band had already garnered cult status among the underground metal scene with their seminal EP Nuns Have No Fun, which featured a big-titted nun nailed to a burning crucifix on the cover, but it wasn’t until Melissa that the band refined their style and gained significant popularity.
'Nuns Have No Fun' EP

Like an explosion of thunder crashing down from the heavens, the heavy-hitting crunch of Shermann and Denner’s duel guitar assault kick-off the album opener ‘Evil’, a track that more than lives up to its name.  King Diamond’s high-pitched scream soars over the opening riff, introducing the listener to his uniquely sinister vocal style in a most epic fashion.  ‘Evil’ is a driving metal song that manages to be as heavy and shocking as Venom while maintaining the hard rock groove of Deep Purple. It should also be mentioned that drummer Kim Ruzz offers an absolutely frantic and pounding performance on the song that gives it an extra boost of energy. 

The more traditional, NWOBHM-inspired  song ‘Curse of the Pharaohs’ follows, offering the listener a chance to catch their breath and immerse themselves in an ominous and wicked realm. King Diamond truly shines on this track, showing off his wide-range of vocal prowess.

The following song ‘Into the Coven’ gained notoriety in the mid-80’s when it was included on the PMRC’s Filthy Fifteen, a hitlist of 15 songs recommended to be banned, cited for its occultism. Honestly, they chose the correct song to go after, because ‘Into the Coven’ is a powerful descent into madness, taking the listener on a ritual to sacrifice their soul to satan. The band continue their winning streak with two more ferocious slabs of metal in ‘At the Sound of the Demon Bell’ and ‘Black Funeral’, the latter featuring perhaps King Diamond’s greatest ever vocal performance.

Mercyful Fate in 1983. King Diamond on far-right without make-up
The epic ‘Satan’s Fall’ kicks the album up a notch in what can only be described as 11-minutes of pure Armageddon. The musicianship truly shines on this track, Shermann and Denner have a field day serving up their most devastating arsenal of riffs while the rhythm section drive the song forward with a perfect balance of power and groove. 

 The somber and doomy ballad Melissa closes the album in a depressing way. Melissa is technically great featuring outstanding vocal melodies by King Diamond and a complex structure and musicianship, but I feel as though the album deserved a more scorching and high-energy song to close with and that Melissa should have appeared earlier on. Personal opinion aside, ‘Melissa’ is a masterfully composed and performed song by a band in their creative prime and easily holds its own among the other classics on the record.

Mercyful Fate are universally respected in the Metal community from fans across the wide spectrum of subgenres precisely because their music features so many different elements and cannot be confined to any specific genre besides heavy fucking metal. Melissa stood out during heavy metal’s most prolific period and established Mercyful Fate as some of the most cutting edge music on the scene. The album still holds up to this day, influencing musicians and recruiting listeners to the legiance of satan.
Besides the original vinyl print, I recommend the 2005 Roadrunner Cd set which includes a bonus DVD and several bonus tracks one of which, Black Masses, is good enough to have been on the album itself. 

Metallica- Death Magnetic (2008)

An Impressive Return to Form
Metallica- Death Magnetic (2008)
Rating: 70%

Metallica’s newest record, Death Magnetic, is a rip-roaring return to classic form, and re-establishes the band as the reighning kings of commercial Heavy Metal. Impressive guitar work, progressive song structures, and lyrics dealing with themes of death and redemption are elements that echo the late 80’s ‘golden’ era of Metallica. Specifically the progressive thrash classic ‘…And Justice For All”.
Since their landmark commercial smash “The Black Album” in 1991, Metallica have been caught in a creative and popular decline that has lasted over a decade. This trend reached its climax with the disastrous St. Anger in 2003 and the release of an all- too revealing documentary titled ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ in 2004.

 In the years since, old school metal has experienced a major resurgence in popularity. This can be attributed to the appeal of bands such as Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium, both of whom consider Metallica to be their biggest influence. Another factor in this phenomenon are the video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band, who introduce hordes of new fans to the music of hard rock and metal bands everyday.

The public’s newfound interest in heavy metal prompted Metallica to dig themselves out of the creative grave and redeem themselves with a record that brings new life to the monster.  In September 2008, they released the incredible ‘Death Magnetic’. Tracks such as ‘That Was Just Your Life’, The Judas Kiss’, and the album’s frantic closer ‘My Apocalypse’ are all evidence that Metallica still possess the thrash metal chops that made their first three albums masterpieces within the genre. ‘Cyanide’ and ‘The End Of The Line’ are a bit more mellow and rocking songs, but are just as effective and memorable, having melodic and fluid verses that flow into catchy choruses that sound larger than life.

Perhaps the greatest song on the album is the incredible ballad ‘The Day That Never Comes’. Beginning with a touching vocal line and lyrics dealing with lead singer and guitarist James Hetfield’s troubled youth, the song picks up near the end, before evolving into an all out assault complete with an impressive guitar solo from lead Guitarist Kirk Hammet. The song is similar to their grammy award winning epic ‘one’, which appeared on ”..And Justice For All”.

The album isn’t without its flaws though. ‘The Unforgiven III’, while not a terrible song, doesn’t quite live up to the power and beauty of its predecessors, ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Unforgiven II’. ‘Suicide and Redemption’ is a ten-minute long instrumental that seems overlong and plodding in some areas, but still features marvelous guitar playing from James and Kirk.

 Redemption plays an important part in the lyrical and musical themes of this record. The advertisements promised Death Magnetic to be ‘The Return Of Metallica’, the record that would rescue Metallica from the grave they dug themselves into over the years. That’s exactly what this record represents, the redemption of Metallica, the rebirth of their creativity, and the hope for new life and music to continue in the future.

Overall, Death Magnetic is an exhilarating dose of Metal that seems custom fit for the changing culture of the new millennium. It is the true return to form the fans have been waiting for, complete with thoughtful lyrics, riffs, and actual guitar solos. With a running time of 75 minutes, this record reveals new secrets with every listen, and never grows dull or old. With a North American tour planned for this winter, the future seems bright for Metallica, fans can only hope it doesn’t take another five years to produce a follow up.

Toxic Holocaust- Hell On Earth (2006)

In League With Venom
Rating: 80%

Have you ever gone to Ebay and typed in 'thrash' in the search box, just to see what appeared? I can tell you from experience that you can find a ton of new bands this way. Most notably for me was Toxic Holocaust. An auction was held for the Hell On Earth cd and a free patch and poster. I won the whole lot for $6.66 (how creative of the seller).  I had high hopes for this album, vintage logo, vintage art, vintage influences, I prayed they had a vintage sound.

My prayers were answered.

The Intro should give you a pretty good idea about what the album has in store, but it still comes as a total surprise when the slaying 'metallic crucifixion' kicks in. This is my favorite song on the record. Its brutal, heavy, fast, unforgiving, and strangely melodic. The only real problem with this song is the campy lyrics ("penetrate your fucking cunt with a crucifix"- beautiful) but what were you expecting when you looked at the incredible Ed Repka cover? The fucking Beatles!?!

Hell On Earth doesn't let up. Track after track is a raw heavy metal assault that reminds the listener of what a true thrash record sounds like. The title track and 'Send Them to hell' are two examples of main-man Joel Grind's ability to take early black metal to new heights of blistering ferocity.

You might sense that Im getting a bit excited about this record, but its a record worth getting excited about. Consider it the true follow up to "Under The Sign Of The Black Mark", consider it "Black Metal Part Two", or consider it the best blackened thrash metal album of the decade, which is what it truly is.

Violator: Chemical Assault (2007)

To Love Thrash is to Love Violator
Rating: 80%

Dedication to music is rare these days. Illegal Downloading and sub-par musicianship make this extremely evident in American culture. From the very beginning metalheads have had to dig deep underground for bands that truly embody the spirit of a metal warrior, to have pride in what they do, and to wear their music like a badge of honor. Violator from Brazil have redefined what it means to play the music they love. They walk the walk and they talk the talk, the talk being some of the most impressive thrash I've ever heard. 

Their sound can be compared to a buzz saw thats gone off the fritz. Its a frenzied assault of blasting metallic fury specifically designed to whip the audience into a thrashing rage. 
Violator strive to become the thrash metal juggernauts they've learned to love. Taking influence from a wide spectrum of speed and thrash bands from Forbidden, Testament and Exodus to Sodom, Destruction and Kreator. Hell, just look at their denim vests for a complete list. They do it right, and they do it well, extremely well. The guitars are heavy and ripping, the vocals are high-pitched to perfection, and their Troma-esque image fits extremely well with their sound. 

The primitiveness of the production make this all the more brutal and all the more vintage sounding, kind of like digging up that old Exodus record and playing on the old stereo you havent touched in 15 years.

Dedication to music is rare these days, but Violator prove that if you believe and love the music you make, you can realize your goals, even if that goal is to thrash yourself into a coma. Mission accomplished!!!

Fueled By Fire: Spread the Fire (2006)

The Spinal Tap of Thrash Metal
Rating: 45%

After becoming a huge fan of Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, and Merciless Death, I decided to look for more of these 'retro-thrash' bands, since they seemed pretty good. First I found Violator (amazing), then I found Evile (awesome), then, well, then I found Fueled By Fire. I had been hearing things for a while about this band, most notably in the liner notes to Merciless Death's Evil In The Night Cd. I decided to check em' out after I found Spread The Fire at a used record store for $3.99.  I was reluctant though, looking at the tracks I noticed the first song was called "Ernest goes to Hell". Ernest Goes To Hell? What the fuck is that? Is that supposed to be funny? The only thing that made me laugh was that every member of this band looks like a talentless Chuck Billy!

The rules say not to make fun of a bands image, but seriously, this band takes it WAAAYYY overboard. Their cover depicts a thrasher choking an emo kid. Okay, thats pretty cool. Also on the cover is a sticker proclaiming "THE RETURN OF OLD SCHOOL THRASH!!!!". Ummm, okay Im aware this is a thrash metal record, thank you very much. Then there are an over-abundance of lyics in the vein of "The Return Of Thrash". It gets extremely ridiculous looking at the band members posing on the inside cover. Almost as if this band is trying to convince the listener that they're thrash metal by saying it over and over and over and over. Theres an Aerosmith song I think these guys should hear, its called "Let The Music Do The Talking"

Now to the actual music itself. Its really not too bad. Pretty generic riffs, mid-paced, campy lyrics, un-inspired blandness. Actually, this is really bad. Not one track stands out. The only ones I can remember is 'Ernest' and 'Thrash is Back', only because they were insanely stupid and lame.

All in all, FBF are one of the leaders of the retro-thrash movement (yes, its a fucking MOVEMENT!), but its surprising considering there are much better bands in the genre.  Just looking at FBF, its no reason why people dont take retro-thrash seriously. Theyre posers, plain and simple. They take the image, the lyrics, and the music into new heights of heavy metal mediocracy. FBF have no power, nothing that makes them stand out from a crowd, and leaves the listener with a bad tase in their mouths, like theyve just listened to 45 minutes of a new spinal Tap album, only its more depressing then funny.

I want my $3.99 back.

A Genuine Assault of Uncompromising Thrash

Merciless Death- Evil In the Night (2006)
Rating: 75%

Another brutal album cover by legendary artist Ed Repka 

In a sea of heavy metal repetitiveness and mediocracy, few bands actually achieve the status of true defenders of the thrash metal faith. With their debut album, Evil In The Night, Merciless Death cement their position on the forefront of the retro thrash movement, along with Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, and Fueled By Fire. 

Many dismiss these bands as trendy posers rehashing old-school thrash. Evil in The Night proves these accusations to be false. The members prove to be true fans of the genre by paying tribute to their thrash metal heroes (the liner notes even include a list of bands that have influenced them). Knowing this, its easily assumed that there is a lack of creativity occurring on Evil In The Night. These assumptions are proved correct when the listener is hit with the retro vocals extremely similar to Zetro (of Exodus fame). 

The fact that this band is simply a tribute to the metal giants of the 80s is quickly forgotten as Merciless Death thrash out song after song with aggressive power. Through the madness of these incredible tracks, one becomes instantly aware of the genuine love the members have for the music they play. Its obvious that the power that Merciless Death possesses is impossible to fake and its simply ignorant to think otherwise. 

Overall, this is a fantastic album that thrashes from start to finish without any mercy or remorse for the posers that may be listening. Its music FOR metalheads, made BY metalheads. Its extremely impressive to know that this is the bands debut album. It will be very exciting to see Merciless Death grow out of the thrash metal tribute band they are today and find their own identity as musicians. Either way, you better bet your ass its gonna kill em' all.