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Gringo Fantastico is a troubled luchador presenting Troma films from the safety of a derelict recreation center nestled in chaotic Tromaville. He is tortured by the French-Canadian Demon Piñata Francois who trash talks and hurls abuse throughout the episodes. This week’s special guest is Jonah Ray Rodrigues. New episodes release on the first of each month on Troma NOW.

The poster for episode 2 of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre featuring special guest Jonah Ray Rodrigues.
Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: Francois and the Unicorn featuring Jonah Ray

Roll the Tape!

Welcome back to Tromaville for Chapter Dos of Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre! Gringo Fantastico (Nate Turnpaugh) returns to the screen with guest Jonah Ray (current host of Mystery Science Theater 3000) to proudly host Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Turnpaugh espouses his love for the movie in our most recent interview and credits his friends with helping him to discover it. “They kept trying to get me to watch it, and one day I finally did.”

On a totally unrelated note, the Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines libel as “a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.” For no reason at all, I choose to immediately correct the record and inform you that Fantastico actually hosts Herb Freed’s Graduation Day (1981).

A poster for Graduation Day. It reads "There are 200 seniors at Midvale High. And Seven days 'til graduation. The class of '81 is running out of time."

It shows a woman's face in a mirror, with a halberd shattering it.
A poster for Graduation Day (1981)

Turning Heel

We once again begin with grainy VHS footage of an interview from the luchador’s past. Much like the previous episode, Fantastico becomes upset at the prodding questions being asked of him. As this ongoing narrative continues to build, it is becoming obvious Fantastico is coming close to a breaking point.

These segments, while short, work to highlight Turnpaugh’s screenwriting ability. They feel authentic and demonstrate a solid understanding of wrestling culture. Crafting a compelling story can be difficult when it is broken into parts and spread across significant time. However, he creates bite-sized pieces of lore that manage to both satisfy and leave the audience craving more.

A Piñata by Any Other Name

Before the movie can start, Fantastico has to deal with the usual shenanigans from Francois. When it is time to bring out Jonah Ray for his interview from the Satellite of Love, Francois outright refuses. The interview must come at the cost of Fantastico’s soul. Fearing for the worst but desperate to continue the episode, Fantastico agrees to a one-day-only loan of his soul.

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Enter Francine. She’s a sassy yet loving unicorn who only wants the best for Fantastico. She is complimentary and eager to help, offering her kind words in a sugary sweet voice. For all intents and purposes, she is the opposite of Francois. And yet, she is Francois. At least, she is Francois after consuming Fantastico’s soul.

The unicorn pinata Francine and Fantastico sit in the rec center together.
Francine and Fantastico

Inner Demons

Turnpaugh continues the ongoing theme of addressing his PTSD within the episode. He explains it as, “the whole concept of self-worth with the PTSD and things like that because that is a problem that I’ve experienced. When people are constantly negative towards you and you constantly have to defend yourself and you constantly be on edge and finally something happens and you don’t have to do that anymore. But you’re so guarded when that happens that you don’t know how to act.”

Throughout the episode, Fantastico chafes against Francine’s presence. He is unsure of what to do when someone speaks affectionately to him after suffering Francois for so long. The only punishments she doles out are rainbows that make you laugh. It’s unsettling and a little uncomfortable and is exactly what working to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk feels like.

The Satellite of Love

The interview segments with Jonah Ray feel like listening to old friends banter. Turnpaugh tells me he first met Ray at the Malco Drive-In Theater last year where they both attended Joe Bob’s Jamboree. He admits to being caught off guard when Ray knew who he was and was familiar with his work.

Jonah Ray is shown on the screen of an old television for the interview segments.
Jonah Ray beaming in on the Satellite of Love

Fame and the mental games it causes one to play ends up becoming a large part of the interview. When asked by Fantastico when he felt like he had made it, Jonah Ray responds “I don’t think there is a there, there.” He likens the fame game to climbing a ladder. “You’re […] looking up […] but you rarely look back down.”

One of the best portions of the interview is when Jonah Ray goes full meta and begins roasting the ego necessary to take on the role of a media host. It’s hard not to laugh when you remember this is coming from the mouth of one host straight into the ear of another. It is important to note that both men are playing characters as hosts, which according to Ray changes the dynamic.

New Place, Same Thing

Jonah Ray also spends time talking about the difference in production having moved away from Netflix and onto Gizmoplex. He says it has been a lifelong dream to host MST3K and the move has allowed him space to better bring his vision of hosting to the screen. Netflix, while important in bringing MST3K back, seems to have sucked some of the soul out of the show. He believes moving to Gizmoplex helps with delivering the level of quality fans expect.

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Turnpaugh is familiar with format shifts, having moved his show from YouTube onto Troma Now. I ask how this has changed things in terms of production and he says while he has never felt more supported, he has started placing more pressure on himself. “The pressure is never from Troma.” Lloyd Kaufman clearly believes in the show, as he’s recently started giving it top-billing on the site. 

Back to Basics

The end of the episode brings back an extremely confused Francois. It seems consuming Fantastico’s soul didn’t go exactly as planned. Turnpaugh promises that audiences have not seen the last of Francine and that some answers may be coming sooner rather than later. You’ll just have to tune in next month to see what insanity happens next in Tromaville.

Francois sits in his ripped up picnic basket.
Francois the Demon Piñata

My rating for the episode: 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Follow @realfantastico on the platform formerly known as Twitter to join in with the rest of the Fantasticats as they live-tweet each episode the Friday after release. Episode three features special guests Toby Poser, John Adams and Lulu Adams. 

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Kait (she/her) haunts the cornfields of the Midwest after being raised in a small Indiana town built on sickness and death. She consumes all sorts of horror-related content and spits their remains back onto your screen. You can follow her on Twitter at @ KaitHorrorBreak, where she live tweets The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs and posts other spooky things.

Movies n TV

The Boys, Beware the Jabberwock, My Son

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We’ve reached episode five of The Boys. And after the last episode’s emotional bombshells, this one had some much-needed levity.

And then a whole bunch more emotional trauma.

The story

We begin this episode with Homelander and Ryan in a meeting regarding a new teenage show. But Ryan doesn’t want to be on a show. He wants to be an actual hero. He wants to do real good and help people. And Homelander, fresh from his therapeutic killing spree, is in a mood to support his son.

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Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

For now.

Meanwhile, The Boys are searching for a virus that can kill sups. The last time we saw this virus, it was in the hands of Neuman. They borrow Stan Edgar from jail and go to the lovely family farm upstate.

There, they discover that Neuman’s been testing temp V on farm animals. And it works as well on them as it does on hamsters. Soon the boys find themselves batting killer sheep, chickens and bulls. Hilarity and blood ensues.

What worked

The first thing we have to talk about is the superpowered animals. This was such a fantastic, hilarious situation. I especially loved the flying homicidal sheep. They were hilarious, unexpected, and incredibly gory. One just doesn’t expect to see a sheep covered in blood and guts. But it was delightful.

Karl Urban in The Boys.

The main pull of this episode, though, is the evolving relationship between Homelander and Ryan.

Homelander realizes that he doesn’t want Ryan to be brought up the same way he was. He wants his son to be happy.

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He isn’t trying to be a better person though, and I think that’s important to remember. He loves his son, and he wants his son to be happy. And if being an actual hero and actually helping people will make Ryan happy right now, then that’s what Homelander is going to do.

Except that, since he doesn’t care about people, he is really bad at being a good person. Which is what led to a director getting beaten to death by his assistant.

I’m not saying this beatdown wasn’t cathartic. I’m just saying that it was maybe not something a good person would endorse.

I honestly think this new desire to be an actual hero is going to make Homelander more dangerous. If such a thing is possible.

What didn’t work

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Of course, this episode wasn’t perfect. It brought to light a weakness that’s been irritating me this whole season. And that is the storyline with Hugh Senior.

What are we doing here?

While Hughie’s dad’s health issues are sad, and the sudden reintroduction of his mother is interesting, it has nothing to do with the rest of the season. Every other storyline blends and ties together. You can’t pull one string without all of them coming unraveled.

But not this story. So far, this storyline could be removed entirely and the whole rest of the season would remain pristine. All this storyline seems to have done is to have popped our main character out of the main storyline altogether.

Hughie’s absence is a deficit. I would have loved to see him freak out over the killer chickens. But I also would have liked to see him work with Neuman. I would have liked him to be there to defend Butcher. I would have liked to see him interacting with any other characters at all.

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At this point, no character is purely good or purely bad. And I think that’s important. I’m invested in the story of every single character. And with three episodes left in the season, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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The Boys, Wisdom of the Ages

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Episode four of The Boys was possibly the darkest episode of the series so far. And I am aware that this alone is an intimidating prospect.

It should be.

The story

Our story in this episode mainly consists of the single most dickish action I have ever seen anyone perform. Sage and Firecracker set up a four-hour show outside Starlight House, to talk about how horrible of a person Annie is.

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Four hours.

Valorie Curry and Susan Heyward in The Boys.

Annie gets everyone out of the building safely but then decides to watch the entire Anti-Annie show. And it is horrific.

The real horror show of this episode, though, is Homelander’s little adventure. After a fight with Ryan, he’s decided to visit his childhood home. Or, at least the place in which he grew up. Because he was raised more like a science experiment than a child.

I don’t think we’ve seen so far exactly what Homelander went through. The horrors he faced as a small child. Things no one should ever have to experience.

Things that the rest of his world will now have to pay for.

What worked

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If you’re paying attention to politics, this episode got way too real. The absolute hypocrisy of our current political situation was on display with superpowers. I especially liked (and by that I mean was enraged by) Firecracker saying that accidentally blinding someone at age thirteen was worse than being an adult and assaulting a minor. Those two things are not the same, and one of them is obviously worse.

Another thing that I appreciated in this episode was the new, and horrific, information we got about Homelander’s childhood.

Do I maybe feel bad for Homelander now? After seeing the dismal and dark little world he was raised in, yeah, I do. That is a monstrous way to treat a child. It’s no wonder he ended up how he is. Even the milk fetish makes more sense. And I am not any more cajoled by the fact that these people were just doing their jobs than Homelander was. That has never been an honest or adequate justification.

This, of course, doesn’t justify the horrors he’s inflicted. It just makes it easier to see how he got to where he is.

Antony Starr in The Boys.

The best fiction inspires strong emotions. It makes us feel things for people who are not real and feel passionate about events that did not happen. It does this by showing us glimmers of real people and real events within these bags of bones and false narratives. And it is because of this that The Boys is succeeding. It’s taking very real moments we are all living through, and embedding them into a fictional narrative. And that’s always going to be more impactful than just burning someone alive.

What didn’t work

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I only had one complaint about this episode. But it did bother me.

When Firecracker’s show starts, Annie makes a point of getting all the kids out of Starlight House to safety. That’s good. But then she sits down with her friends to watch the show.

Why would you watch a four-hour-long live show about why you are a terrible person?

I get asking someone else to watch it and take notes, because in a position like that you need to know what the opposition is saying about you. But for Annie to just watch that unfiltered was asking for trouble. And it’s exactly the sort of trouble that Annie ended up in.

In conclusion, this episode was almost too real. It had my blood boiling. It had me yelling at the TV. And that’s exactly what I want a good story to do.

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We’re halfway through the season now, and I think we’d all better buckle up for what’s coming.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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House of Dragon: S2E3 – Family Feud for Dummies

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In this great episode, we see something we have yet to see in any of the GoT/HoD shows–a dysfunctional family. Wait. I meant, SSDD.

We start out with two people fighting. Why? Why not. I guess they have a blood feud for ages. I mean AGGGGGESSSSSSS. So, of course, we don’t know anything about them what-so-fuck-ever.

Basically, the scene is two girls slapping each other and then one gets an arrow to the knee. The end.

Dead hookers, Kings Hand, and a War Plan

Next up, we have two dead twins, but enough about my sex life. In the show, there are two dead uhhh twins (note to self: deeper holes for twins). Alas poor ermrmm….let’s call them the Ging Twins. We hardly knew. ye.

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Ohhhhh I love this part where a knight that’s fucking the queen and got Poor Sir Ging killed is being late to his first day of class. Naughty Naughty. The rest of the scene is like ‘oh new peeps in white, something something, King is Big Warrior!’. So, this is what it would be like if Joffrey got laid? Hmmmmm….

Daemon arrives at Harrenhal–buyers remorse incoming

Daemon apparently wanted to take over something so he took over a shit hole. It’s almost suspenseful. Almost. I think it would be better to have drug the scene out more to give a sense of how Daemon was thinking about taking this big stronghold but slowly finding out it’s just a ghetto of shit.

For all the grief I give HoD for rehashing old tropes/plots from GoT, this is the one connection that makes sense so far. I like the exploration of a place we hear about in GoT but never got to see much into it. The connection is a way of doing exposition for a series we cared about. This is the first time it really feels like a prequel and not just a stand alone ‘shit pile’ they put the skin of GoT on.

We also get to see something of a character development for Daemon. This is something I really. hope others get a chance to get–characters. Maybe this is just the actor putting everything on his timey-wimey shoulders. Maybe that’s what the real turn for the character is–Matt Smith just going ‘fuck it’ and hitting for the fences.

Rhaenyra’s Diplomatic Mission, Some Politics, and Ser Cole Gets Jiggy Wit It

So like even though you fucked my dad and like made sure I wasn’t queen and then like started a war and like your bastards killed my son and like, you know, maybe we can be friends and end this war?

I heard this part of the scene was ad-lib. The writers had just this for direction: Think of the stupidest thing you can think of for your character to say and just go with it! Oh, and if you can tie in a previous episode of a better show into it–even better!

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While that happens, political people are like ‘lets use a dragon. The show is called house of dragon, not house of weird random call backs to the future happenings of GoT’. Speaking of GoT, remember when the small council meetings were interesting? Like you wanted to know the twists and turns of it? You know why those were better? Because you gave a shit about the characters who made up the council. Even when the Queen remakes her council after her dad’s death, we still cared. We didn’t know them as well, but we cared because we knew the people they replaced were better for the job. So we had an interest in ‘how doth they fucketh this up’.

Here is more like…well, put it this way. Take pictures of the people on both councils. Then cut them into single head shots. Now, shuffle. Can you name the person? Hell, can you even name which side that person is on? That’s my point.

Oh and Cole goes off with the queen’s brother to attack something. A dragon happens. They go awwwhwhwhwhwhwhw!! Then run away like little girls.

Change your whores more than you change your undies

So pirate eye blondie is caught by king blondie using the same whore as he did before. Guess this is what rich kids count as shame.

Oh and surprise to nobody–the Queen admits that maybe Rhaenyra should have been ruler, but shit happens so it’s like too far gone stop now. Let’s have everyone kill each other and that way the gods will decide who the king really meant to give the throne to when he said, ‘I want my daughter Rhaenyra to be ruler’.

Final Comments and rating

It’s starting to pick up, but it seems that every time that it does pick up the writers go ‘fuck it’ and swerve directly into the ditch.

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I don’t think the lack of action is a problem in this series. I think taking things slower in places and cutting down the cast to a manageable number (or at least give them a different look/name type so we can tell them apart) might be the thing needed to bring this show into a better footing. Will it ever be GoT? No. Sadly, I think it’s trying so hard to connect to GoT plots that it waters itself down. Instead of giving us a fascinating look at an older time, we get a constant reminder of just how much we miss GoT. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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