Gymkata is the story of just how far into lunacy the Cold War was able to push people. See, the Special Intelligence Agency wants to build a satellite monitoring system for the U.S. in a small, unheard of country called Parmistan. They can’t, though, because when foreigners go to Parmistan, they’re made to compete in some wackadoo triathlon thing, full of obstacles and people killing you. Obviously, the only way to win such a competition is to spend the afternoon training an Olympic gymnast in martial arts. When you combine martial arts with gymnastics, you get… GYMKATA. Of course, Gymkata would only really work if you had a bunch of gymnastic equipment available to your Gymkata practitioner.
Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is the direct sequel to Silent Night Deadly Night, which you may or may not have seen. If you haven’t, don’t rush out to see it just yet, I’ll explain why in a minute. I’m also going to refer to it as SNDL from now on, because if this says Silent Night Deadly Night again, it’s going to look like a bunch of visual noise. So, SLDL is an early 80’s horror film that a lot of people were up in arms about because it features a guy dressed like Santa killing people. Everybody knows that in the U.S., we do NOT misappropriate iconic figures. The movie spawned a bunch of sequels, each having less and less to do with the original film. SNDN2 is the most pure of the sequels- although SNDN3 features the same killer (but a different actor) as its predecessor, it also features a psychic teenager…
Today’s movie is Birdemic: Shock and Terror. I won’t try to argue that this isn’t a “bad movie,” but what I can tell you is that I love it. It’s another Perfect Storm film, very much in the same vein as Ed Wood’s movies, with an opening sequence that recalls Manos: The Hands of Fate. At this point, Birdemic probably isn’t “obscure.” Like The Room and Showgirls, I think that if you’re a fan of these sorts of things, you’ve already seen Birdemic. If you haven’t, though, drop everything and go watch it. This is the sort of movie Indiana Jones would be looking for if he looked for bad movies instead of artifacts. The film was written, directed, and produced by James Nguyen, a man whose other films you’ve probably never heard of.
THIS is what I want to see when I’m looking for a good “bad movie.” I hate, though, to call this a bad movie, because I think it undermines the merits of this kind of movie. Everything doesn’t have to be Citizen Cain and Avatar the Last Airbender, so why think of it as “bad?” Samurai Cop is one of those Perfect Storm movies, where all of the right/wrong qualities converge to somehow create something really special. In this case, a long haired cop who can allegedly speak Japanese, and who fights with a samurai sword serves as your protagonist. Naturally, this movie has an awesome story, awesome dialog, awesome fight scenes, lots of boobs (and more than that!), sexual harassment that bothers no one, gun fights, a flamingly bizarre waiter, great facial expressions, mistakes, the kind of acting you really need for this movie to work, DVD cover art that has almost nothing to do with the movie itself, an explosive police chief, and Robert Z’Dar.
I wasn’t too sure I wanted to read a book about unicorns, but knowing it was written under the Bizarro banner, I figured I’d give it a try. I’d heard that Kirsten Alene’s first book, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, was really good, but it wasn’t in front of me, and Unicorn Battle Squad was, so I read it. The story follows Carl, a clerk living a fairly structured life of work and boiled cabbage, but when his father dies (or goes missing), he ends up going down the rabbit hole. Before long, he has a unicorn, he’s living with a bunch of filthy, burly men, and his city is in danger. Carl has to pass tests, fight (sort of), and take care of his unicorn, Yury, a fortified dapple with thick skin and sand crab claws growing out of it. Oftentimes, I imaged the world and characters looking like something from The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.
When I began, I was sucked into the story pretty quickly, but the book itself isn’t as consistent as the earlier chapters. Unicorn Battle Squad loses steam as it chugs along, with Carl passing out or getting buried, and suddenly, everything’s been taken care of for him when he wakes up/climbs out. As everyone else says, the ending is abrupt. Really abrupt. Often, I like it when an author doesn’t really try to explain the logic of the world they’ve created, but in this case, there are a few instances in which I think some expanded explanations might have been nice (Nathaniel, for instance)- although, if we only really get Carl’s point of view, I suppose there would be a lot we wouldn’t know.
Despite all of that, I do think that Alene has a lot of potential as an author. She puts some solid ideas into Unicorn Battle Squad, I just think it needs a little more fleshing out. I give it a solid B. It’s better than just average, but it’s not quite as good as I know it could be.
Get it on Amazon.
I’ve been thinking about trying to be less perfect lately, so I picked this book up at the right time. Cartlton Mellick III’s Adolf in Wonderland is the story of a man pursuing an imperfection that he is unable to identify through an imperfect world full of imperfect characters. Imperfect by Adolf’s standards, I mean- many of the characters and settings are really interesting, both in design and by their actions/attributes. It combines the strict order and control of the Nazis with the absurd freedom of Wonderland, and though it’s similar to Alice in Wonderland in spirit, Mellick manages to make Adolf in Wonderland its own thing.
For the most part, I thought Adolf Hitler was easy to relate to, but he frequently shows you the error in his ways. In fact, I often found myself at odds with Adolf’s decisions, probably because I wasn’t being forced to make these decisions myself. The story is a bit of a life lesson, with the real absurdity coming from Adolf Hitler himself, as you see how the quest for perfection really plays out. Mellick ties the book up nicely by closing with a quote from Haridas Chaudhuri.
At the point, I’ve read a few CM3 books, and this one is probably my favorite. One constant I like about Mellick’s books is that they are quick reads. It’s almost like you’re on a car ride, with someone telling you this really interesting story, and before you know it, you’ve arrived at your destination.
Get it on Amazon.
I don’t worry too much when I pick up a Kevin Donihe book, anymore. At this point, I know I’m going to have a pretty good read. When I saw that Night of the Assholes was a parody of Night of the Living Dead, though, I worried about it just a little. Parodies can easily go wrong. Donihe didn’t care what I thought about any of that, though, and wrote a good book anyway.
Instead of zombies, we get assholes, which are probably more terrifying than the walking dead, especially considering how easy it is to become one. They don’t have to bite you, or even touch you. If you be an asshole to an asshole, you become an asshole. It’s that simple. Obviously, it would be difficult to resist, considering the myriad forms assholes come in. What’s worse is that you can’t always identify them immediately. Assholery manifests in so many ways…
This book is increasingly topical. It’s basically a worst case scenario version of the real world, using plot points from Night of the Living Dead as a skeleton, filtered through bizarro. As with its counterpart, we follow a woman named Barbara (as opposed to the poorly spelled Barbra) who finds herself fleeing to a house to hide out from an epidemic that seems to be sweeping through civilization. Here, she’s paired up with other survivors which all mirror Night of the Living Dead characters. One of my favorite parts is when Barbara first goes upstairs and finds the note. Barbara, by the way, is a highly relatable protagonist. Moreso than her NotLD inspiration. She may be the most relatable protagonist I’ve ever encountered in a book. I’m not even sure I’d have made it out of some of the situations she finds herself in.
While Night of the Assholes may not be my favorite Donihe story, it’s nice to see him break away from his previous works a little, and successfully tackle a parody.
Get it on Amazon.
Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars, by Cody Goodfellow, has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long while. I’d heard good things about it, but getting me to actually pick up a book and read it is a chore. Finally, though, I decided it was time. Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars ended up being a good collection of short stories wrapped in a nice Alan M. Clark cover. In fact, once I started reading, it was hard to stop. More than once, I’d see that it was 2am again, and I knew I needed to sleep, but flipping ahead, the next story wasn’t too long, so maybe I could read just one more…
What was different about these stories, compared to other Bizarro books I’ve read, is that they have a strong horror vibe. I was reminded of old TV shows, like Tales from the Crypt and Monsters. Some of the stories have an H.P. Lovecraftiness to them. Though I like most of the stories here, Drop of Ruby, Atwater, Magna Mater, and Losers Weepers are probably my favorites. Goodfellow has people encountering dark forces, insanity, Platonic Forms, alchemic creations, mental landscapes, and mysterious porn booths.
I’ve seen this collection as being referred to as Goodfellow’s best short stories, and that’s good enough to make me interested in picking up more of his writing. I’d like to see what he does with a novel.
Get it on Amazon.
Deadly Prey is basically the Best Choice brand equivalent of a Rambo movie. Mike Danton, a mulleted badass Vietnam vet, gets kidnapped while taking out the trash. Stripped of everything but his tiny shorts and remarkable skill set, he’s forced to survive THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. But what his captors never expected was that Danton is THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME.
I picked The Deadheart Shelters by Forrest Armstrong without knowing much about it, other than I’d heard a few people say it was good. A blurb on the cover says it’s the literary equivalent of an Alejandro Jodorowsky film, and I like Jodorowsky, so this seemed like a promising book. Overall, it is pretty good, though I don’t know that I’d really compare it to Jodorowsky’s work, unless maybe I were contrasting the two.
The Deadheart Shelters is a bit like a fairy tale, in which the protagonist is caught in the conflict between slavery, in its various guises, and freedom. Armstrong’s language has a poetic quality (poetic prose?), and flows in a dreamlike or stream of consciousness kind of way, but it stays within the boundaries of the constrained storyline. It’s sort of like most people’s lives, where just some stuff happens within a loose framework of a story in which things are connected via the fact that they occur in a sequence, all in the shadow of The Absurd. So, in a way, it’s actually quite relatable.
While the story itself is minimalistic, it’s wrapped in some great scenery. I think, though, that its strength is also its weakness- Armstrong makes heavy, heavy use of simile and metaphor. Sometimes, it’s fantastic, but other times, it gets lost on itself, with similes embedded in metaphors embedded in similes… and it’s in these cases that the poetry of the writing may be too much for some people. In the end, though, this didn’t detract from the book, and I can comfortably give The Deadheart Shelters a 4/5.
Get it on Amazon.