Posts Tagged ‘Tom Holland

21
Aug
16

Fright Night (1985)The Rejection of Hot Cocoa or Why Your Girlfriend is Hotter When She’s Evil

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“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski-masks, hacking up young virgins.” – Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent: Vampire Killer in Fright Night

a Primal Root written review

By the mid-1980’s horror cinema was dominated by low brow exploitation slasher horror cinema. Every weekend seemed to bring us another holiday themed blood bath filled with nekkid, pot smoking teens being chased down and hacked into oblivion by some silent masked killer or catch phrase spouting dream demon. By 1985, the formula was old hat and there a resurgence in appreciation for the classics. Tom Holland’s fun, sexy, highly entertaining directorial debut, Fright Night, is one of the most unabashed and perfect examples of what can be done when two genres are expertly amalgamated.

Fright Night seamlessly and joyfully the hard lined, effects driven spectacle of the late 1970’s and early 80’s horror genre made famous be the likes of George Romero, John Carpenter and John Landis, along with the fun, campy nature of many Hammer and Universal Classics. Fright Night is a film that generates it’s frights, laughs and boundless charm from the audience’s knowledge of horror cinema history. Fright Night is a film that bridges a gap between a simpler seeming time in the genres past and fully embraces the gnarly, grotesque necessities of the current 1980’s horror audience and succeeds in creating something familiar as well as new and enjoyable from start to finish.

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Fright Night tells the tale of virginal high school horror movie aficionado, Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), who is having relationship problems with his equally virginal high school sweetheart, Amy (Amanda Bearse). Charlie becomes convinced that his new next door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a a serial killer, one who has been decapitating prostitutes and draining their bodies of blood…He is also convinced that Jerry is, indeed, a mother fucking vampire.

When Charlie convinces a police detective to investigate Jerry and his live-in buddy Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but once the detective and Charlie set foot into Jerry’s home and Charlie’s suspicions are made clear, he is mocked, laughed at and told he is a fool…but this also means Jerry Dandridge, who is ACTUALLY a very powerful vampire, now knows the nosey kid next door is on to him and pose a very real threat to his existence.

Jerry comes to Charlie with a compromise; forget that he is a vampire and live, or continue being a little fuck face who tries to convince people that I’m a vampire and I’ll rip your little teeny bopper head off, drink your blood and then shit it down your neck stump. Of course, Charlie being one of the rare breed, pure of heart sort of kids, refuses to ignore evil. In return, Jerry retaliates by seducing both Charlie’s girlfriend Amy and his one and only friend, Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys). Charlie, who has no siblings and whose Mom works the night shift at the hospital and has a singular remedy for  vampire onslaught in a mug of hot cocoa, which Charlie adamantly DOES NOT NEED, is totally useless. Plus his Father is completely absent without a mention of his whereabouts or existence.

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Out of options, Charlie turns to the unlikely aid of a late night horror movie host of the program ‘Fright Night’, classic horror film actor, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall, who owns this movie, by the way). Nightly, Mr. Vincent boasts about his knowledge and fearlessness when it comes to battling vampires to their undead deaths. But, in real life, Mr. Vincent is a coward when confronted with the supernatural. It is up to this unlikely duo, Charlie and Peter Vincent, to vanquish the evil Jerry Dandridge in time to save Amy, who is slowly transforming into red headed sexy blood sucking minion of the undead!

So why the lasting impression? The cult status? The deeply devoted fan base and high regard from cinema devotees? Simply put, the film is absolute god damn pleasure to watch. It plays to everyone! Hardcore horror aficionados, casual cinema goers, sick demented trash cinema collective members, Fright Night pleases everyone. The violence is so over the top, colorful, fantasy based and imaginative, it’s never really disturbing as much as it is just good old fashion spook house fun.

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The actors all perform at the top of their game. Chris Sarandon as the incredibly suave and seductive vampire Jerry Dandridge conveys brutal menace and a confident swagger and joyful glee, but also manages to mix in a bit of humanity to a very old, very sophisticated creature of the night, making Jerry an unforgettable antagonist. Ragsdale is a perfect choice for the strong willed, in over his head, Charlie Brewster, likewise, Amanda Bearse as Amy conveys doe eyes innocence so well, it;s kind of annoying as shit. But it works in the favor of the character’s story arch, her relationship with Charlie keeps her almost as a child it is only when she is seduced by Jerry that her sexual awakening occurs, her physical appearance begins to change, drastically so soon after Jerry, *AHEM* slides his fangs into her causing ribbons of warm red blood to stream down her back in a not too subtle symbol of her virginity being taken. As she starts to turn, her hair goes red, she shows off her lovely tits through a see through white gown, and she aggressively attempts to seduce those around her so that she, too, can stick her fangs in them. It’s always fascinated me whenever women go evil in movies how much sexier they become. Like Lily in Legend, sure, she’s cute in all in her white gown, flowery head dress and shit, but as soon as she gets into the all black ensemble and starts dancing around with a confident, assured look of a woman who has been through Hell and back, knows pain, pleasure, desire and is world wary of these things, that’s when I find myself getting a chub. Besides, there are few turn offs greater than innocence. But that could just be me.

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Stephen Geoffries, who notoriously would turn to a career in homoerotic porn for the majority of his career, turns in one of the most excellent, go for broke performances as Evil Ed. Evil Ed is obviously an outsider, seemingly hyper active with a penchant for saying what’s on his mind, he seems like a bit of a nerd and someone who has been picked on his whole childhood. He plays the majority of the film as a kind of gonzo comic relief, but again, one of the strengths of Fright Night is when these seemingly stock and familiar characters are expanded upon. Two stand out scenes for Evil Ed always come to mind as the highlights of the film. When Evil Ed is seduced with the promise over never being picked on or bullied ever again, if only he takes the hand of Jerry Dandridge. It’s a beautiful moment as Evil Ed first cowers and then opens up to the idea of having someone, finally having someone who gives his word to stand up for him. Of course, it;s an evil creature of the night, so he will only become a kind of errand boy or good for Jerry, but I guess it beats going to high school. Also, Evil Ed’s ****SPOILER**** death is pitch perfect. It’s outstanding on so many levels, this teenage boy, who has given his soul away for vampiric powers, has now been impaled through the heart while he is in the form of a wolf. The physical effects are astounding through this sequence as we watch a dying Evil Ed in pure agony transform back into his human form slowly, painfully, mercilessly. He screams out in agony, at first as an unrecognizable half man half beast, who reaches out for comfort from a shell shocked and mortified Peter Vincent, the man who put the stake through his heart. Ed reaches for contact, someone to comfort him as he passes away and Peter almost reaches out to do so, before remembering just what he’s dealing with, and draws his hand back. As Ed fades away, and now looks exactly like himself, he gives Peter Vincent a tearful smile of regret as he dies, soulless, a being of evil and most assuredly heads straight down to Hell. Roddy andStephen are both excellent in the scene, and if you ask me, it might just be the best moment of the entire film, as these two work off one another beautifully.

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Which bring me to Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. This man is the heart and soul of Fright Night. As the aging, retired, reluctant and increasingly irrelevant Fearless Vampire Hunter, Roddy brings a beautiful, funny, sympathetic character to life with so much charm and charisma, you cannot help but love the man. He enlivens each and every scene he’s in with heart and warmth in a performance so wonderful, you;ll forget the man played a monkey four damn times.

There are a lot of overt sexual elements to Tom Hollands’ exceptional horror flick, Fright Night, but one of the messages I always found most noble is that horror, as a genre, is a necessity for youngsters. Suggesting that knowledge of how to deal with the evils of vampires and their ilk will come in handy, we just never know when. Fright Night is provocative, daring but also, in a sense innocent and nostalgic. It arrived at just the right time in 1985 as horror cinema was becoming stale on it’s steady stream of stale slasher flicks. Fright Night is among the finest horror films of the 1980’s. It’s wickedly comical, the performances, again, are all excellent and the practical effects, decades later, hold home remarkably well and are astounding to behold. It’s also  successful in transplanting the vampire myth from far away mountains of Transylvania and establishing them in the suburbs, a place where the forces of evil can move in right next door, and if you’re not paying attention, infiltrate your entire town…

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Bolstered by a rad 80’s soundtrack, Fright Night is a colorful, imaginative, well crafted and most importantly, FUN, non stop love note to horror’s cinematic history. One I feel has never been topped, let alone, matched.

I award Fright Night (1985) Five out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

31
Oct
13

Root’s Top 5 Tales from the Crypt

Tales

The Primal Root’s Dirty Thoughts

Greetings, Creeps! It’s your ol’ pal The Primal Root here, getting into the groove of another Halloween season. Recently Ms. Bootsie Kidd and I sat down to enjoy a marathon of the entire series run of HBO’s original series “Tales from the Crypt” based on the old and incredibly popular 1940-1950’s horror comic book series of the same name. The comics featured gruesome morality plays where evil doers always ended up of the gory end of karma’s comeuppance. The comic book series, including such title as “Tales from the Crypt” “The Vault of Horror,” “The Haunt of Fear,” “Two Fisted Tales” and “Sock SuspenStories” were censored into oblivion by the Comic book Code, which blamed the aforementioned comics as the prime contributors to our nation’s juvenile delinquency problem,  were all resurrected in the late 1980’s as an HBO series entitled “Tales from the Crypt”, which  adapted stories from every horror/action/thriller comic at some point or another. The impact of these comic books left a huge impression on the the talents who came together to breath new life and pay tribute to these once thriving graphic novels.  Filmmakers such as Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, Tom Holland, Mary Lambert, and countless others all were dying to take a stab at their favorite stories and turn them in twenty five minute long short films.  The show didn’t always knock it out of the park, but when it did, it was glorious. and, Hell, even their weakest episodes proved to be interesting, at the very list.

What I did find myself doing, however, was constantly saying “Oh, this is a great!” or “This is one of my favorites!” just about every other episode. That’s when I decided I really needed to sit down, do some soul searching and make a list of my Top Five Favorite Tales from the Crypt. It was a tough process whittling it down to only five, but I must admit, I was chomping at the bit to see which ones would make the CUT!  So, without any further a due, let’s see which Terror Tales made the final CUT!  AAARRRGGHHHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha…

5) “People Who Live in Brass Hearses” dir. Russell Mulcahy (Season 5, Episode 5)

Who knew the ice cream truck industry was this depraved? Bill Paxtion plays a scumbag ex-con Billy DeLuca, who enlists the help of his emotionally stunted younger brother Virgil (Brad Douriff) to pull of a heist that will even the score with ice cream truck driver and excellent puppeteer,  Mr. Byrd (Michael Lerner) and Billy’s old boss  Mrs. Grafungar (Lainie Kazan) after they sent Billy to prison for stealing from the till.  When everything goes wrong  and their heist ends up in a blood bath leaving the brother’s with nothing, they must turn to desperate measures in order to get the money Billy feels he so richly deserves.  But, as per usual with the Tales from the Crypt formula, nothing is as it seems, and this sick puppy has a twist ending that comes somewhere out of left field and pegs you right in the gob.  This is among the strangest episodes of Tales from the Crypt in my book and the fact that it features such an excellent all-star cast makes it every bit stranger. Once our players are established the tale hits an insane pace that feels almost like an action story, but then the meat hooks start being gouged into people’s skulls and folks begin having their skulls chunked all over the dining room from well placed shotgun blasts. Trust me, even with all these gory goodies, the episode still manages to whack you over the head with it’s sleazy, disgusting and inspired conclusion. You’ll laugh in disbelief as soon as you pick your jaw up off the floor.

4) “Four-Sided Triangle” dir. Tom Holland (Season 2, Episode 9)

I’ve always been an admirer of down home horrors and “Four-Sided Triangle” is one fine example of horrific wages of dysfunctional rednecks. This episode is a small, intimate one featuring three players on a isolated farm. Old married couple, the limping, strict, and stern Luisa (Susan Blommaert), her lecherous, scheming and alarmingly horny husband George (Chelcie Ross),  and their young, voluptuous, sexy as Hell captive farm worker, Mary Jo, (Patricia Arquette). As you might expect, the story revolves around George trying to get his monkey tail down Mary Jo’s sweaty bloomers. In fact, the very first scene features George’s wide eyes peering into the chicken coup as Mary Jo bends over and writhes around as she sexily, yet innocently, collects eggs for her white trash captors all while displaying her ample bra-less bosom in a tiny tank top and her robust booty in a pair of well worn, skin tight pair of LEVI’S.  After a failed rape attempt in which Mary Jo gets the living snot beat out of her by George, she stumbles into the corn field where she hallucinates that a scarecrow reaches down to help her. Her brain must be batter, because she becomes obsessed with the scarecrow and declares loudly and frequently how much she loves him while singing songs about how she doesn’t care about chicken pot pie.  Anyhoo, Luisa is on to George’s lustful yearnings for Mary Jo, even going as far as to threaten him with performing the same procedure on him that they do when they want to change a bull into a steer.  As we all know, these threats typically fall on deaf ears when it comes to horny rednecks and “Four-Sided Triangle” culminates in a  conclusion that is both bloody and inescapable.  We can see where the story is headed but the tale is so well directed, staged and acted, you feel every bit of suspense and horror and the doomed “Four-Sided Triangle of the title meet their doom. This was among the first Tales from the Crypt episodes I ever saw and it made a lasting impression on me. And introduced me to Patricia Arquette, for which I am eternally grateful.

 

3) “What’s Cookin’ ” dir. Gilbert Adler (Season 4, Episode 6)  

One of the smartest, sickest, most wonderfully depraved episodes of Tales from the Crypt, “What’s Cookin” features a great comic turn from Superman himself, Christopher Reeve, as a struggling restaurant owner named Fred. See, his restaurant specializes in one thing and one thing only… Squid. Yes, squid. As you might expect, the restaurant he runs along with his wife Erma (Bess Armstrong, from My So-Called Life) is way overdue on their rent and hasn’t seen a customer in weeks, well, with the exception of officer Phil (Art LaFleur) who drops by for coffee from time to time. Their busboy, shady drifter, Gaston (Judd Nelson) keeps prodding Fred to try out his family’s classic barbecue recipe, but Fred won;t stand for it. The man’s got a dream and refuses to give up on it. That dream nearly ends when Chumley (played in a bit of truly inspired casting by Meatloaf), the landlord, shows up and evicts Ed for being over two months late on rent. The following morning, as Fred and Erma begin to shut down, Officer Phil comes in for coffee and eggs. To Erma’s astonishment, there are a half dozen fresh steaks in the fridge than Gaston brought in from his own, private supplier. Erma cooks this up for Phil, and just as he takes his first bit Gaston reveals to Fred just who is supplying the steaks. Yep, there in the meat freezer, to Fred’s dismay, hangs the corpse of Chumley. Soon, Fred and Erma’s Steakhouse is an overnight sensation with everyone in the city stopping by for a bite of their delicious, hand cut steaks. Only problem is, the police investigation into Chumley’s death is paving a pth right to Fred and Erma’s restaurant and as Fred’s feet get colder and colder Gaston begins plotting a double cross. “What’s Cookin'” is one very macabre and gruesome episode with a wicked streak of dark comedy. The performances are great and the final twist in the end, in typical Tales from the Crypt fashion, will leave you just as satisfied as one of Fred and Erma’s steaks. Is it wrong that this episode always makes me hungry?

 

2) Showdown dir. Richard Donner (Season 4 Episode 8)

Originally created as part of a three piece pilot for a rejected pitch to FOX for a “Two-Fisted Tales” spin off series, “Showdown” spins the tale of Billy Quintaine (Neil Giuntoli), a hardened, remorseless, legendary gunslinger who is cornered in a small desert town by an equally notable Texas Ranger Tom McMurdo (David Morse). After a facing off in a shoot out in which Billy murders Tom, he enters a nearby saloon for a drink, and after ingesting some snake oil from a traveling salesman, realizes he might not be as victories as it might seem. Showdown is one of the most poetic and beautiful episodes of Tales from the Crypt and manages to pack in a plethora of themes including the inevitable outcome and price of violence, the inevitability of death and our current irreverence for our own bloody past and re-marketing it as family friendly, tourist bullshit. Character actor Neil Giuntoli gives a hauntingly human performance as gunslinger Billy Quintaine, as he becomes slowly and painfully aware of his own fate we watch this cynical, callous, man breakdown before our very eyes reminding us that the most despicable  character is, at the end of the day, also a human being. “Showdown” is frightening in it’s implications on a far deeper level than it’s Tales from the Crypt brethren and deals with life and death on a far more thought provoking and meaningful level than the typical epsiode. All that said, “Showdown” ends on a moving, up lifting note leaving us with the hope that when we shed this mortal coil, when all these pretenses are dropped, perhaps we can all finally ride off into the sunset as brothers.

1) “Death of Some Salesman” dir. Gilbert Asler (Season 5, Episode 1)

Good God, this episode is revolting. It’s a buffet of loathsomeness where, as a viewer, you ill wonder if you should laugh, cringe, or go for the barf bag. “Death of Some Salesman” is the story of Judd Campbell (Ed Begley Jr.), a charismatic, sleazeball con-man posing as a cemetery plot salesman. The man is a gifted liar, using his skills to con old widows out of their inheritance and even to convince  nubile young waitresses to “drop their panties” by pitching love and escape. The man is a scum bag that you know will be paying for his trespass and the man get’s his rotten just desserts in the form of The Brackett family. By blind luck, Judd ends up knocking on the door of Ma and Pa Brackett (Both played by Tim Curry). Judd’s invited in and the sale seems to be going incredibly well as Pa and Ma Brackett head down to the basement to get Judd the money for two none existant cemetery plots. That is, until Judd discovers the decaying corpses of several dozen salesmen who previous had the misfortune of knocking on the Brackett’s door. Judd is captured with Pa Brackett intent on killing him, but Judd sees a way out if he can only convince Winona Brackett (also played by Tim Curry), Ma and Pa Brackett’s comically hideous daughter that he loves her. This is the pitch of Judd’s life as he must chock down the bile and try to convince the skeptical Winona that he does, in fact, love her. the lengths of which Judd must prove is unwavering devotion is extrodinarily and will have you groaning and laughing on your couch. Tim curry gives the performance for the ages as The Brackett family, managing to blend mirth and menace in equal amounts. And the always game Ed Begley Junior should have received the medal of valor for this things.  “Death of Some Salesman” encompasses everything I love about the old E.C. Comics horror anthologies.  Sick humor, nasty violence, a damn fine twist ending, and a fantastic morality tale. Curry and Begley Jr. who are performing what is basically a two man show, give such phenomenal performances it practically MAKES the episode.  It’s a stomach churning, hysterical tale which taught me at a young age that deceivers and liars will invariably find themselves in a world of hurt.

Well, kiddies, there you have it! My Five Favorite Tales from the Crypt! A mixed bag, but a damn good time, if I do say so myself.   Feel free to let us, here at The Trash Cinema Collective, know what your favorite episodes are! Have a Trashy Halloween!

-Root

19
Aug
11

Welcome to Fright Night…Just Kidding.

Wait...did Charlie even use that axe he's holding in this poster?

a Primal Root written review

My friend Sam wanted to see this movie. He was stoked. His enthusiasm lead me to go along with him. Hell, how bad could it be? As the songs goes. “I wish that I knew what I know now…when I was stronger.” We both left the theater in agony around 2:00 this morning…

I really had no interest in this remake. At all. Fright Night is one of my all time favorite horror films of the 80’s, Hell, it’s one of my favorite horror movies period. Under the masterful direction of Tom Holland, Fright Night was a vibrant, funny, spooky, gruesome love letter to horror’s Golden Age updated with many excellent in-camera effects and some down right awesome performances by everyone involved. Holland even managed to give all the characters involved (even those in supporting roles) back stories, the space to breath and in turn, gave the film a lot of heart. All of this is why Fright Night endures as a horror fan favorite and why audiences keep coming for more.

And then there’s Fright Night 2011…Remember, I saw this movie for you.

Don't feel bad, Colin, I hear it happens to lots of guys...

I cannot even think of where to begin…well, the beginning is as good a place as any. We are introduced to our new Charlie Brewster who lives in a modern suburb of Las Vegas where every house looks exactly the same. The camera glides over the houses showing us how uniform they all are and as I watched this new Fright Night that was the final moment I felt hope…Maybe the film would be some kind of commentary on how interchangeable we all have become in a world where individuality is pushed aside for convenience sake? I dunno, needless to say, I was over estimating this corn riddled turd of a film.

Charlie (Yelchin) is now a dirt bike enthusiast who is trying to grapple with his past so that he can still hang out with the cool kids at school and get the sticky finger from his uninteresting girlfriend, Amy (Poots. Tee-Hee) See, Charlie used to play some kind of roll playing game with his old nerdy best friend “Evil” Ed (Plasse/McLovin’) and Charlie must keep this past and the existence of his old best friend buried at all costs or else he won’t be popular anymore.

I guess the decision here was to make every main character unlikable from the get-go, especially Charlie.  Rather than giving the audience a surrogate in Charlie as the original had ( a bit of an awkward nerd, passion for horror movies, having girl troubles and attempting to defeat the forces of evil) instead we get this Charlie.  He has a dirt bike and is trying to be popular. How…interesting…

So, Jerry (Farrell)  moves in next door to Charlie and his single Mom, Jane (Toni Collette! What are you doing in this mess?)  and is introduced as he does his yard work…as the sun is just beginning to set. Let me remind you, Jerry’s a vampire. Of course he’s charming, suave, built and ready to fuck and/or eat anything that moves and, true to form, the ladies around town are instantly drawn to this type of undead, evil, sociopath…

"And may your forehead grow like the mighty oak."

I think possibly the saddest thing about Fright Night 2011 is how quickly Jerry is revealed to be a full force vampire. Literally, ten minutes in and one of the main protagonists is attacked and turned.  Jerry’s reveal in the original takes time to build, the tension grows as does the suspicion and the paranoia until Jerry finally confront Charlie. In the new Fright Night he basically walks up a goes. “Hey, I’m a vampire.” Yep…quite the reveal.

The filmmakers try to punch up the long spells of boredom and Collin Farrel mugging sly smiles to the camera before sniffing the air in all directions, with uninspired car chases, cameos from previous cast members (of whom I felt deeply embarrassed for) and David Tennant grabbing his testicles for inspired comic relief as our new Peter Vincent, the leather pants wearing, premature ejaculating host of Fright Night. No, Fright Night is no longer a late night cable access spook show… now it’s a Las Vegas magic show.Tennant’s portrayal of Vincent is a dreadfully over the top performance that’s given no real gravity or sense of reality especially once the back story of this new Peter Vincent is revealed.

The Smarmy goes to 11.

Fright Night 2011 is nothing more than product. There’s not a whole lot for me to talk about in this review because there’s nothing there. It’s vapid, empty and a complete waste of time, effort, talent, money and celluloid.  Characters that were believable, that you once felt for whether they were human or monster, are reduced to terrible one liners and the most senseless and dull headed characterization I’ve witnessed since those fucking Transformers movies took off. Oh yeah, it’s that kind of bad. Perhaps, even worse, since Fright Night had such incredible source material to plunder.AND DON’T SEE THIS THING IN3-D! It’s a waste of money. Unless 3-D doorways and apple eating is worth an additional 5 bucks to you…

Maybe I am just getting too old. Perhaps references to Google, Ebay and excellent Century 21 product placements aren’t enough to make me laugh. It just makes me roll my eyes in my old man disgruntlement knowing what I am watching is nothing more that a cheap, piece of shit knock of of a once inspired and wholly entertaining story. A film that in 1985 reminded us of how imaginative and fun horror cinema could truly be! Hell, I watch it today and I still wish people strived to make movies as great as Fright Night (85). Movies where  you walk out of the theater feeling exhilarated and wishing you could spend even more time in that universe.

And then there’s the new Fright Night. Where you walk out feeling like you were the one who just had your blood drained. It seemed they tried to walk a middle ground where they might appeal to old fans and new. In the end, they ended up with something I feel will appeal to neither.

Perhaps you should just stop TRYING to be so cool, Brewster…




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