Lock-down Godzilla

Hey there, friends. Today’s post is a little different. In some ways, one could probably consider it a part of my Great Music series, but I that I wouldn’t do that in this case. As you all know, the world’s in a bit of a shitty spot right now with a certain virus-related thingamabob going on. I’m not trying to make light of it, I just don’t wanna say its name too much, as you already know what it is. Anyhow, it’s not just us regular folks who are in lockdown. Famous artists are stuck too, which means they can’t really be out touring and playing gigs… but that’s not stopping some from entertaining the masses.

Recently a video was posted to youtube by one of my favorite bands. That band of course being Blue Öyster Cult. And in it, we have the current band members Buck Dharma, Eric Bloom, Danny Miranda, Richie Castellano, and Jules Radino sitting in their respective homes, giving us a fresh rendition of their 1977 classic “Godzilla”. Not only do I like this because I adore the band in general, but I also like it because the guys clearly still got it. Really, it’s just a fun little video that I’ve been enjoying recently. And I thought I’d share it with you guys, because I enjoy sharing things that I like with my friends.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 2 (1997 – 1998)

As some of you may know, earlier this year my mother and I started our rewatch of this show. And I promised to document said journey. Episode-by-episode thoughts will be posted to my twitter as soon as an episode is watched. And as each season gets finished, I will (as seen here) write a review of them all. Enough dawdling, review time!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 2!

Summer holiday is over, which means Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) makes her return to Sunnydale after spending some time with her dad in L.A. Which means it’s back to business as usual: Trying to get good grades in school while also working to save the people of Sunnydale from various supernatural threats, including the newly arrived vampires Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau). Season 2 takes the basic setup of the first season, and improves upon it tenfold thanks to increased budget and confidence in the writing. The main arc(s) in this season mesmerizes, creating an emotionally resonant experience that leaves a unique emotionally visceral impact by the end of it all. The highs of this season are even higher than the first one. Yes, there are still a dud or two, such as the much maligned “Go Fish” or the messy “Bad Eggs”. But then you get some truly awesome experiences in exchange, such as the wonderful “Halloween” or the spectacular and gut-wrenching “Passion”. So while there are a few less than stellar episodes, the overall package is a huge leap in quality from the first season, making for a fucking terrific batch of stories.

The characters in the show are still very colorful, fun, and entertaining, but also get a shitload of development, deepening our bond to them even further. Sarah Michelle Gellar of course returns as the titular vampire slayer. She gets to go through a loooot of stuff this season, and whoa, by the end she has developed so much as a character, which is truly compelling. And Gellar is great in the role, really getting to flex her acting muscles even more than in the first season. David Boreanaz returns as Angel, the vampire with a soul… that means he’s not a bitey bastard anymore, for you uninitiated folks out there. And like Buffy, he goes through a lot of stuff this season that is really interesting to see, both in how it affects him as a character, and how it affects his relationship with Buffy. And Boreanaz is great in the role. Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, and Charisma Carpenter return as Buffy’s friends, and they’re all great, both on the character and acting front. Anthony Head is still wonderful as Buffy’s Watcher/mentor Giles. Now let’s talk about some newcomers… namely Spike and Drusilla, the newly arrived vampires. Spike is an anarchic punk, an absolute dick who likes to cause chaos and fear where he goes… and that kind of makes him the best character, because he’s just a blast to watch, especially since James Marsters clearly has a blast with the role. Next is Drusilla, Spike’s girlfriend, and resident crazy person. I don’t wanna say much more, since I find her personality and arc to be more fascinating to experience rather than told. But I’ll say that she’s interesting and Juliet Landau does a good job in the role. And with people like Robia LaMorte, Kristine Sutherland, Armin Shimerman, Seth Green, Danny Strong, and many more filling out the supporting cast, you get a lot of solid performances.

Season 1 composer Walter Murphy did not return for this second go-around, with compsing duties being handed over to Christophe Beck. And just like with the storytelling and character arcs, the music of season 2 is a vast improvement on the first season. Way fewer synthesizers to emulate orchestras are used, with real instruments getting to take center stage. And while there are some big, bombastic pieces for action set pieces, the overall vibe of the score this season is somber, giving off an understated feeling of sadness that still manages to have some hope behind it. Of course this is best shown in the track “Close Your Eyes”, but it does show in a few other pieces too. Beck really brought his A-game here. There’s a few licensed tracks used throughout too, and they’re fine.

As with season 1, Joss Whedon and a bunch of other cool people handled writing and directing for the season, and generally it is all really well handled (yes, even in bad episodes). It’s well shot, fight choreography ranges from alright to really good, the craft is just generally improved from the first time around (wow, saying that is really getting old). You can tell that the creatives behind the show really cared, trying to bring it to 110% each time (with varying results). Even the effects are improved… even though that doesn’t say much, because we’re talking about late 90s tv budget CGI for certain effects. The practical stuff looks fantastic, but hooooo boy, some of them there fancy computer effects aren’t so fancy anymore. It doesn’t ruin the experience for me, but it’s worth pointing out. Generally the craft here is terrific.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating. On Metacritic it exists, but with no critics rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10.

While it does have one or two low points, season 2 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a great sophomore outing that takes its simple premise and elevates it to something really special. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/action/effects. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 2 is a 9,78/10. So yes, that is correct, it does indeed get the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

Season 2 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is now completed.

“Go Fish”, more like “Go Fuck Itself”.

Great Music #34

Well hello there, friends. Time for the first Great Music piece of 2020. Are y’all excited? I know I am.

So to kick off a new year of me obnoxiously telling you all what songs I like, I might as well ease y’all into it. And by ease you into it I don’t mean some soft, radio-friendly ballad. No, but ease into it I mean that we take a song from a band that everyone knows. Iron fucking Maiden.

I adore Iron Maiden, they’re one of my favorite bands, having made a ton of songs I love. So there were a lot of options for me to choose from. But like I said, to ease us into a new year of these posts, I thought I’d go with what could be considered their most accessible song… “Wasted Years”. It’s a song about how fleeting time can be. It’s something we all can relate to on some level, which is partly what could make it one of the band’s more accessible songs for anyone that hasn’t really given the band much of a shot. The structure of the verses and chorus is also the closest the band has ever really gotten to a typical power ballad sound, without fully sacrificing their own sound in the process. Bruce Dickinson gets some really good vocal sections, Steve Harris still of course has some damn fine bass licks, and the guitar work is as good as it’s ever been. Guitarist Adrian Smith did a wonderful job in writing this song, creating what might be my favorite tune from the band… well, it’s either this or “Run to the Hills”, I kind of go back and forth from day to day which I like more. Either way, “Wasted Years” is a wonderful song.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 1 (1997)

Oh hello there. So you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about this show. Well, frankly, it’s because I’ve been a fan of it for quite a while, but it’s been years since I actually properly watched it. So my mother and I recently sat ourselves down with the DVD box set and started a rewatch. And that made me think “Hey, maybe I could talk about each season on my blog as we get through them”. So that’s what we’re gonna do for however many months this’ll take. I’ve been looking for a long-term thing to do on this blog (like the Mangoldathon I did in 2017), so this might be a decent one for now. Anyhow, let’s get on with it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 1.

After she gets kicked out of her old school, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) moves to a small town called Sunnydale to start over. However, things aren’t just classes, boys, and parties, as the town lies upon an ancient secret called the Hellmouth, which brings all kinds of demonic bullshit to the area. And since Buffy is the Slayer, a young woman chosen to fight off demons, it is up to her, with the help of her new mentor (Anthony Head) and friends (Nichols Brendon, Alyson Hannigan) to deal with any demonic threats terrorizing Sunnydale, including the sinister vampire lord known as the Master (Mark Metcalf). The story here is a weird roller coaster. When it focuses on main stuff regarding Buffy’s development as a Slayer, and the Master’s plan to take over the world, it can be quite interesting, as the creators put their own unique spin on vampire mythology that still honors the traditions set by older adaptations. But then there’s also a fair bit of filler throughout, which is very hit-and-miss. From the really dumb “I, Robot, You, Jane” to the surprisingly high concept “Nightmares”, you can feel that they hadn’t quite found their footing/voice yet. This does not dismiss the entire season as outright bad though, despite its tonal and stylistic inconsistencies. It just means the road is rocky, but is filled with enjoyable and sometimes even compelling highlights (see the aforementioned “Nightmares”). So overall the story stuff here is… fine.

Where the plot may falter at times, the characters make up for it thanks to being interesting and entertaining. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Buffy, the titular teenage vampire slayer. Like every girl her age, she doesn’t want all this responsibility of having to save the world, but is of course begrudgingly drawn into it because it’s the right thing to do, and she’s a good person and all that. And seeing her duty vs. desire sides clash creates some interesting dynamics for her. And Gellar is really good in the role. Nicholas Brendon plays Xander, one of Buffy’s new friends. He’s a bit of a dork, but also knows when to stand up for those that need it. He gets a tiny bit of development this season, but not enough to make him as good as he could be, though he is still an enjoyable presence who I wouldn’t trade for anything. And Brendon is really good in the role. Next we have Alyson Hannigan as Willow, Buffy’s other friend. A shy, slightly timid nerd, she’s the brains of the main trio, but it’s also clear that she has a tougher side to her somewhere deep down. And Hannigan is really good in the role. Anthony Head as Giles, the mentor/Watcher is great, bringing a sort of father figure presence to the group. Charisma Carpenter plays a mean girl at the school, and she kills it in that role. Mark Metcalf is deliciously villainous and campy as the evil Master. And there’s a lot of other supporting characters/actors I could talk about, but I won’t, but they’re all good.

The score for the season was composed by Walter Murphy, and I know the show at this point ran on a ham sandwich budget, but jeez Louise, it sounds bad. Not like “Resident Evil” director’s cut bad, but it’s not great. They have fun ideas for some action/horror tunes throughout, but due to its weird synth-pretending-to-be-orchestra sound, it often falters. But then we also get a few piano-based pieces throughout, and those sound great. So I’m weirdly split on it, because parts sound less than stellar, and others sound really good. Oh, and the main theme by rock band Nerf Herder is pretty good too.

Based on the movie of the same name, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was created for the WB network by Joss Whedon, who also wrote and directed some of the episodes, with some help on other episodes by other cool people. And here’s where I have a lot of praise for the show. It’s pretty well known that season 1 of “Buffy” was running on a ham sandwich budget, which can often break a lot of shows. But the crew really push every penny to its absolute god damn limit. Yes, some of the effects look a bit… not great, but for the most part the crew does wonders with the few means they have of creating monsters, eerie sets, and vampire slaying tools. There’s even some decent shot composition every now and then.

The show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10.

While it’s a little rocky throughout, season 1 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is still a solid start to the show. It has an okay plot, really good characters, great performances, meh music, and good writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is a 7,80/10. So while flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 1 is now completed.

Nice to have another blog series going.

Great Music #33

Well howdy, ladies and gents. You all doing okay? Anyway, time for me to ramble on once again about music I like. Which I last did in… September. I’m getting better at keeping semi-regular intervals with this series, it seems. Oh well, let’s chat about a tune.

The year is 1967. A group of people come together to form a band. This band was called Soft White Underbelly. This name wouldn’t last too long however, as in 1971 they would change their name into what we know them as today… Blue Öyster Cult. Best known for their legendary super hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, from the band’s 1976 album “Agents of Fortune”, the band went on to become fucking huge in the rock/metal scene. But today we’re not talking about that one song that needed more cowbell. We’re talking about an earlier track of theirs. It’s the final track from their 1974 album, “Secret Treaties”. This is “Astronomy”.
The song opens with a little piano piece that makes the listener go “Hmm, what’s this?”. It’s slightly mysterious. Then it gets more mysterious. Then Eric Bloom opens his mouth and starts telling a tale… and by the end, it has given us one of the band’s best songs. Though that maybe doesn’t say a lot considering how many great songs they have. But if it wasn’t for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, then “Astronomy” would be my favorite song by Blue Öyster Cult. From Bloom’s engaging vocals, to the eclectic instrumentation, to the absolutely perfect structure and pacing. The song is a beautiful crescendo, starting with that simple and mystic opening, to a somewhat bombastic, yet dramatic-sounding finale to cap off the album. Again, this is my favorite song from the band… if you discount the cowbell song.

What are your thoughts on “Astronomy”? And what’s your favorite Blue Öyster Cult song that isn’t “Don’t Fear the Reaper”? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.

Movie Review: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Ah the disco trends of the late 70s. Such an interesting era for music and clothing. Not much else that I can say, it’s just fun.

Ladies and gents… “Saturday Night Fever”.

Tony Manero (John Travolta) has a pretty shitty family life, always getting put down by his parents. So to get away from that shitshow, he often goes to a local dance club, where he absolutely dominates. So we follow Tony as he deals with life. And this plot is as mediocre as it gets. It tries to be layered, it tries to be nuanced… but it’s not. It thinks itself clever, but it’s a shallow and uninteresting look at the life of this dude. The tone is also all over the place. Now, I can watch a movie switch between tones without any issue as long as the writing is good enough to make the switch feel natural. But the writing here isn’t good enough to carry the tonal changes that occur throughout the movie. This movie doesn’t always know what it wants to be. Is it a character study or is it a boogie-woogie dramedy? Because either way, the plot here never really goes above a “meh”.

The characters in this sometimes feel like they have personality, but in the end I feel like they are mostly these inconsistent husks. John Travolta plays Tony Manero, the kid with the titular medical condition. Working class jerk by day, boogie-woogie master by night. He is a very inconsistent character. Sometimes he’s a total douchebag, and sometimes he’s a nice dude. This isn’t natural character growth for him even, as it just kinda happens on a dime. At least Travolta gives a good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Donna Pescow, Martin Shakar, and more. And while most of the characters could’ve used a few rewrites, the performances were good.

There was a score at a few points in this movie, composed by David Shire. And it was fine, it’s not too noticeable. But you know what is noticeable? All the disco music throughout. Bee Gees, The Trammps, KC and the Sunshine Band, there’s a ton of old school stuff here, and it’s awesome. Not just because it’s overall a bunch of fun music, but because it just works so well for the setting, it helps really build a mood and give the movie some extra energy. So yeah, this movie has good music.

This movie was directed by John Badham, and I think he did a good job here. While the story and writing is lacking, Badham’s direction gives it all an energy that makes it so much easier to watch and feel invested in. And let’s get to the elephant in the room, the dance sequences. For what is a disco inferno without someone lighting up the dance floor? Well, I have to admit, the dance sequences in this are fucking incredible. The way that the character movement blends with the cinematography makes for some really mesmerizing sequences.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,8/10. The movie was nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Travolta).

Soooo, a lot of people call “Saturday Night Fever” a classic. But I think it’s just… fine. It has a meh plot, meh characters, good performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Saturday Night Fever” is a 6,11/10. So while very flawed, it can still be worth a rental.

My review of “Saturday Night Fever” is now completed.

Oh dear. Boogie woogies out of the room.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Final Part)

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen. The final part in this year’s 12 Days of Christmas series. It’s been fun, but it’s time for it to come to an end. So let’s go out on a note.

I was considering going with “Jingle All the Way” for this last one, as it was on tv earlier. But then I decided against it because I’d prefer to not get annoyed by a movie on christmas fucking eve. So instead I went with a different thing that was on tv, something that airs every year, same Bat-time, same Bat-channe- damn it, wrong old thing. This is “From All of Us, to All of You”. In this interesting piece of Disney animation, Mickey Mouse and Jiminy Cricket host a sort of christmas show in which they give us some “christmas cards” from various characters. These “cards” are short films, some actually christmas related, and some just clips from movies like “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book”. And for some unknown reason, it has aired on Swedish television every year since 1960. So yeah, living here in Sweden all my life, I’m kind of familiar with this. I feel nostalgic about seeing it, but at the same time it almost gets a bit same-y, since nothing new is added. Okay, I lied, at the end they show clips from new/upcoming Disney movies, but other than that, it’s the same thing as always, with only minor edits throughout the years. That said, there’s something a bit nice and warm about it, and it brings a nice sense of joy every time I see it. “From All of Us, To All of You” is a charming little compilation with a fascinating legacy.

On the last of christmas’ days, Markus wishes your ass, happy holidays, and a merry fucking christmas.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 8)

BAH, HUMBUG. There, I did the thing. Can we get on with the talks about the christmas-y thing now?

There are many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. There’s the Patrick Stewart one, there’s the Muppet one, there’s the Bill Murray one, there’s the creepy CGI Robert Zemeckis one… so picking one wasn’t easy. But I finally decided to settle on the first version I ever saw. This is “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”. You all know the story, cranky cheapskate Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge McDuck/Alan Young) is a dick (or duck, ba-dum-tss) to everyone around him. So when he goes to bed he is visited by the three ghosts of christmas, and they show him how he’s a giant fuck-up, and like I said, you know what happens. Everybody knows this story. The only real difference here is the use of beloved Disney characters instead of actor/humans. But I like it, adds quite a bit of charm. Plus, Scrooge as Scrooge is a match made in obvious. But the animation is good, the story is timeless, the voice cast is stellar… plus, it’s only like 25 minutes, so it won’t consume much of your day. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” still holds up 35 years later.

On the eighth day of christmas, Markus gives y’all a hug, because he doesn’t wanna tell you “Bah, humbug!”.

12 Films of Christmas 2018 (Part 4)

What? Did you think all these would be made-for-tv schlock? Wrong. Sometimes I do old stuff too.

As you could probably guess from the header image, today we are talking about Rankin/Bass’ beloved 1964 classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. And you guys already know the story. Even if you haven’t seen this thing, then you’ve absolutely heard that song. And if not, then I wonder what cave you’ve been living in for the past millennium. But to recap, there’s this reindeer, his name’s Rudolph, he has a red nose with the watt count of a fucking spotlight (and it apparently also has a dimming option). This little thing makes the other reindeer mock him, despite it doing no actual harm to anyone. So we follow him as he tries to fit in. That’s basically it. All I wonder is how in the shit they stretch this out to a 50-minute runtime. I mean, the inclusion of snow monsters, an elf that wants to become a dentist, and a prospector packing heat certainly might help in extending it a bit. But this is also the aspect that drags this special down a bit… that runtime feels dragged out. 25 – 30 minutes would have sufficed, but somehow it’s 51 minutes long. Yes, this special has a ton of charm and some really catchy tunes… but it all feels a bit dragged out. I mean, it’s good… I’m just not in love like those who grew up watching this.

On the fourth day of christmas, Markus decided to pick, a thing telling you not to be a dick.

Movie Review: Halloween (1978)

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here. The final review in my Month of Spooks series. I’ve had fun with it, but as you know, all good things must come to an end (for this year at least, wink wink). So let’s go out with a bang by talking about the movie with the perfect title for this occasion.

Ladies and gentlemen… this is “Halloween”!

Fifteen years after he killed his sister and got sent to a mental hospital, Michael Myers manages to escape, returning to the town of Haddonfield to kill once again. So now we have our slasher plot. And I think it’s actually pretty great. While this is kind of the grandfather of slashers, setting up several of the cliches of the genre, but it also does it with a lot of subtlety, relying more on slow tension-building rather than just jumpscaring the audience every five minutes. It is a slasher… but one with nuance and subtlety as it’s primary ingredients, and that’s why the plot holds up so well here.

The characters in this are likable and interesting. First up we have Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, a high school student who just wants to have a chill and enjoyable halloween night. But as we all know, that takes a bit of a left turn when a certain someone comes to town. She’s a nice, fairly normal, and relatively crafty young woman who I liked following, hoping she would make it. And Curtis is really good in the role. Next we have Donald Pleasence (R.I.P) as Sam Loomis, the doctor who tried helping Michael for years, but ended up giving up in more recent years when he saw that Myers was beyond helping. He knows that Myers has to be taken down, but there’s also remorse behind his eyes, as if he’s sad that he failed at helping Michael, making him a compelling character. And Pleasence is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Nick Castle, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by John Carpenter, and it’s really good. Heavily based in synth, it creates an atmosphere that just oozes suspense and uneasiness. There are a couple of the more typical horror stings that aren’t great when repeated a couple times, but for the most part the score here still holds up very well. And man, that theme is still exquisite.

As you all know, this movie was written (with the help of Debra Hill) and directed by John Carpenter, and he did a great job. Remember how I mentioned that the story relies more on subtlety than on just blatant horror bullshit? Well, that translates to Carpenter’s direction as well. It’s slow, subtle, and generally helps create an eerie vibe that absolutely creeped me out. Adding to that is the cinematography by Dean Cundey, which not only looks great, but also helps sell the almost uncanny vibe of Michael Myers’ stalking.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 81/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,8/10.

So yeah, “Halloween” is still great, 40 years after its release. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Halloween” is a 9,78/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Halloween” is now completed.

The night HE came to my blog.