After a month-long mid-season hiatus, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs splashed back onto television sets and computer screens across the USA (sorry Canada, next time!) last Friday with a double-feature of aquatic horror on AMC+ and Shudder. The Last Drive-In is known for its eclectic movie selections as well as the informative, and sometimes on-topic, rants Joe Bob is prone to deliver during breaks in the films. His co-host, the intelligent and beautiful Darcy the Mailgirl, does her best to keep him under control but he is one hard to wrangle cowboy.
Aquatic Horror Night
It always starts with a tweet. This time: “a double feature of impossible scenarios from 2 continents.” Without knowing what to expect, viewers tuned in to see what Aquatic Horror Night on The Last Drive In would deliver. Sharknado (2013) and Amsterdamned (1988) were the winners that swam into our lives Friday night.
Look out! A Sharknado!
While Sharknado might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Joe Bob’s excitement to be presenting writer Thunder Levin and director Anthony C. Ferrante’s work on The Last Drive-In for its 10-year anniversary will win more than a few people over to his side by the time they finish watching.
The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: one bikini-bar riot, a burning nursing-home swimming pool, an exploding shark, a school-bus rope rescue, and propane tank fu. “Joe Bob gives it four stars, check it out! I’d give it five stars if I could.” Which is some of the highest praise I’ve seen Joe Bob give a movie on The Last Drive-In.
In between scenes of shark related carnage, Joe Bob interviews Ferrante. “We need to know where it ranked, that hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. We need to know that precise number.” Ferrante says category 5 based on the presence of flying sharks. I agree when Joe Bob thinks it should be higher.
Other questions include which letter of the Hollywood sign crushes the sort-of heroic school bus driver. Joe Bob also demands to know who wrote the line “Looks like it’s that time of the month.” His willingness and ability to adapt his interview style depending on The Last Drive-In’s guest is truly admirable.
All Hail The Drive-In’s Mailgirl
Darcy fully embraces the unserious nature of Sharknado, and hides what I am certain are bloodshot eyes behind the sunglasses included in her customary character cosplay. At one point, Joe Bob asks her what she would do if a real life sharknado happened. I choke on my drink laughing when she giggles and replies, “Online, so I could share, like, videos and shit.” Wouldn’t we all?
She also chimes in to explain the logic of the movie with a simple, “It’s Sharknado.” While her word count per episode is significantly lower than Joe Bob’s, Darcy’s contributions on The Last Drive-In are always valuable.
The fan mail reading reveals another of Joe Bob’s strengths: his ability to tell people they are wrong in a way which never makes them feel stupid. Darcy’s ability to pick out letters which elicit amusing responses from Joe Bob is unmatched, especially when Joe Bob disagrees with the author.
It’s easy to see the love Joe Bob has for Sharknado as he goes into the different aspects of the production history. He gives Ferrante’s biography, and he wraps it into a motivational speech about the power of putting yourself out there. He dives deep into Syfy’s sometimes complicated partnership with production company Asylum. As he lists movie titles, I realize there are too many shark movies lurking out there.
Nothing highlights his love of the movie like his beautiful rendition of the theme song “Sharknado” at the movie’s end. Joined by John Brennan, The Last Drive-In’s music producer, on his guitar, he breaks into song. The segment feels like a campfire sing-a-long. These moments are an example of what makes The Last Drive-In so special. No matter where you are watching, you cannot help but feel like you are right there on set.
Joe Bob lets loose a signature bad joke to end the presentation of Sharknado. Darcy says she’s too “Sharknado’d out” to get it. I’m right there with her.
My rating for Sharknado: (3.5 / 5)
We’re all Amsterdamned
Before flying into Amsterdamned on The Last Drive-In, viewers must listen to the pre-flight boarding rant. Joe Bob declares, “The Goddamned foreigners are trampling the tulips in Bollenstreek.” Thankfully, Darcy interjects with a loud “Wow,” to show her displeasure with his choice of words. Her pushback is appreciated, and Joe Bob corrects “foreigners” with “tourists.”
He proceeds with everything from airline price fixing to pirates. His dedication to broadening the cultural worldview of his audience is admirable, even if his less than politically-correct language frequently makes Darcy shake her head. The contrast between Joe Bob’s old-school style and Darcy’s more modern sensibilities helps The Last Drive-In strike the necessary balance between offensive and progressive.
Amsterdamned is written and directed by the Dutch film director Dick Maas, and is about a scuba-wearing serial killer who sneaks through the city’s canals to murder random unsuspecting victims. Joe Bob describes the movie succinctly as Dirty Harry (1971) meets Jaws (1975).
The Drive-In Totals include but are not limited to: a gunshot through the shattered diving goggles, throat slitting, a boat paddle to the cranium, juvenile psychic-sleuthing, and spear gun fu. Although he believes Amsterdamned “sounds like a title they thought up with when they were drunk,” he still gives it three stars.
Joe Bob starts by calling Darcy out. “So, you’re the weed expert.” Despite Amsterdam’s reputation for weed tourism, Darcy is much more chipper and bright eyed for the start of this movie. As the serial killer evades and torments the detective hunting him, Joe Bob breaks in with critical information. This includes how to tie a one-handed bowline knot, the virtues of the Golden Earring hit song “Radar Love”, and the perpetual misrepresentation of musketeers.
His segments also offer a plethora of information about Maas and Amsterdamned. The smash Dutch hit features well known actors in the region with a quarter of the Dutch population seeing it upon release. Darcy unfortunately runs to the store for more snacks during the movie. Without her breaking in to keep him on track, these segments of The Last Drive-In can feel more like info dumps than usual.
One of the more fascinating tangents Joe Bob shoots into includes the drug lord Klaas Bruinsma and his use of the city’s canals to stage a prison escape. When Joe Bob continually references a “frog man,” my literal-thinking brain conjures up something much different than a man wearing scuba gear.
All of the stunt men in Amsterdamned (including stunt horses) were imports from England. Joe Bob Briggs praises the 8-minute boat chase scene near the end of the film, saying it alone is almost reason enough to watch. He specifically calls out Nick Gillard as the stuntman responsible for the scene. It is nice to hear as Joe Bob gives recognition to the often-forgotten stunt crew.
Darcy returns, wearing sunglasses again, at the end of Amsterdamned. She quickly falls back into familiar banter as the two debate whether the end of the movie made any sense. Joe Bob vehemently believes the ending is terrible because the killer is never previously mentioned or seen. She believes the ending is great because of the song that plays over the credits.
Before he refutes her, Brennan returns to the set for an incredible rendition of the song, aptly called “Amsterdamned”. Neon lights shine and someone turns on a bubble machine. It’s hard to not want to join the costumed production crew as they dance. As the song ends, Joe Bob sits unmoved and perplexed in his longhorn-adorned chair. He continues the argument, and Darcy stands firm in her beliefs.
My rating for Amsterdamned:(3 / 5)
Landing at The Drive-In
The episode ends with the final fan mail. Before he reads the letter, Joe Bob Briggs is off on another tangent about the use of live animals as college mascots and the intricacies of crossbreeding bovines. As the author of the letter, Zach Crockett writes, “Your commentary and monologues make the show great fun.”
Without knowing what will be shown, viewers continue to tune in to The Last Drive-In. They have faith in Joe Bob Briggs and his seemingly endless pool of film knowledge, and you should too. My rating for the episode: (4 / 5)
Kait says check it out.
American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain
American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.
Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.
Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.
Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.
But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.
Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.
You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby.
AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.
Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.
This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us.
I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.
This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.
What didn’t work
Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!
Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here.
I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.
I feel like they’ve been railroaded.
All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring. (4 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends
Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined.
One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now.
He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex.
Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.
Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are.
Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her.
While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over.
What could go wrong?
The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.
I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around.
One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that.
What didn’t work
One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me.
I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.
I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.
But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her.
It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined.
Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums.
Now, let’s see if it stays that way.
(3 / 5)
Fantastico Disasterpiece Theatre: Francois and The Unicorn Review
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My rating for the episode: (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.