Kool Kat of the Week: Fast Times at the Star Bar with Phoebe Cates and the Attractive Eighties Women

Posted on: Feb 26th, 2015 By:
Lazer Tag 2 by Josh Meister

Attractive Eighties Women. Photo credit: Josh Meister

Hammerhead Fest IV: Weekend at Burnouts thrashes the Star Bar back to the punk and metal glory days of the ’80s and ’90s Fri. Feb. 27 and Sat. Feb. 28 . Throw on your combat boots and get ready to thrash at this two-day event of bands, booze and debauchery. Co-headlining are comedy core “divas” Attractive Eighties Women (Fri.), who mix classic punk with ‘70s stadium rock, and self-described hardcore “jerks” The Vaginas (Sat.). Also on the killer bill are thrash metal Death of Kings,  Misfits-style punk SHEHEHE, Gunpowder Gray, Spray Tan, Hatestomp (from Tennessee), Bigfoot (featuring Kool Kat Jett Bryant), DROPOUT, Divided Heaven (featuring members of The Boils), Bottle Kids and Magoo’s Heros.

ATLRetro caught up with Phoebe Cates, recently to find out what happens when all that testosterone…er female power gets pent up in one bar. She’s one of the four Attractive Eighties Women, which also include Kelly McGillis, Christie Brinkley, Shelley Long, and Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. The comedy-core band has rocked the Atlanta music scene back to MySpace days and are known for fun little ditties like “Mama Get a Mammogram,” “Murder Kroger” and “They Shoot Hipsters, Don’t They?”  “Lightning Bolt,” a jab at live-action-role-play, even made it onto AdultSwim’s FRISKY DINGO.

If that’s not enough to earn Phoebe a crack at Kool Kat of the Week, we’ve got to admit we sure dug her in GREMLINS

ATLRETRO: What’s the secret origin story of the Attractive Eighties Women?

Phoebe Cates: We were all fans of the Scottish prog-rock band Hot Eighties Ladies, so we decided to form a cover band. The seven original members of Attractive Eighties Women all met in 1997 in an IRC chat room for HEL fans.

How did you get your band name? We heard it had something to do with a self-help video so we assume you guys are pretty fit and stable.

The original name of the band was Guitars Aplenty—because we had four guitar players. Our friend Miss Lady Flex of Le Sexoflex suggested “Attractive Eighties Women” because our band is composed of some of the most attractive actresses of the 1980s. After she pointed that out, it was kind of a no-brainer.

Album Art by Mack WilliamsWhich of you is the most attractive and why?

Me, Phoebe Cates. Why? Because of this infamous clip which I’m sure you’ve seen. Christie Brinkley thinks she’s the most attractive, but she also thinks “Uptown Girl” was written about her. What an idiot. 

Classic punk mixed with ‘70s stadium rock sounds like an oxymoron. How do your reconcile the basic antipathy felt by each toward the other, or are you simply schizophrenic?

It’s 2015, who cares about multisyllabic words like “antipathy” and “schizophrenic.” Rock & roll is for the people, baby! Whether they’re in a shithole dive or the Georgia Dome, AEW is for everyone regardless of race, income level, gender, sexual orientation, smell, complexion, hair height, shoe size, IQ, political affiliation, blood type, dick length, vagina depth or BMI. Except Georgia Tech fans. They’re not welcome at our shows.

You’ve been getting airplay at major media outlets lately with the Murder Kroger getting renovated and cleaned up into the Beltline Kroger. So how do you feel about that makeover? Be honest, is Atlanta losing a landmark? 

“Murder Kroger” the song is far more famous than our band. That makes us a one-hit-wonder, just like Joan Osborne and Tag Team. If that song is our legacy in the city of Atlanta, that makes me very happy. Getting upset about gentrification or the death of small businesses is pointless. I prefer to spend my time contemplating the cosmos and writing songs about beer shits. Murder Kroger will live forever in the minds of those who experienced the filth and the fury themselves.

hammerheadfestShould hipsters still be shot?

No one cares about hipsters anymore. What’s a 2015 hipster? What was a 2007 hipster? I say shoot everyone under the age of 25.

Why should ATLRetro readers be sure not to miss Hammerhead Fest IV?! 

Attractive Eighties Women on Friday, and our friends The Vaginas on Saturday. I really like Death of Kings, too, and I’ve heard good things about Dropout and SHEHEHE, though I’ve never seen them myself. Is that Elvis Vault still there? Also, Shelley Long promised to whip it out during our third encore.

Looking at your Facebook page, can we expect Lazer Tag?

Yes, you can expect the hell out of it. 

OK, you don’t want to give away any spoilers, but for folks who have never seen you “ladies” live, what can they expect? And for those who have, why should they bother seeing you again?

Every Attractive Eighties Women show is unique, just like human dental records. Coincidentally, that’s what the authorities will need to identify the bodies in the audience after our sick riffs burn the Star Bar to the ground.

Hot Tub by Josh Meister

Attractive Eighties Women. Photo credit: Josh Meister.

What else are you up to now? Tour? New songs? Album?

There are no plans for any of that stuff at the moment. Immediately after the show is over, I’m being whisked offstage and flown back to Thailand, where I’ve been living for the past five years. I am doing a lot of meditating and training at a Buddhist temple. It’s very similar to the beginning of RAMBO III.

What question do you really wish someone would ask you? And what’s the answer?

Q: What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? A: What’s it like to be a virgin in your 40s?

All photographs are provided by Attractive Eighties Women and used with permission. The cover gallery photo credit on the ATLRetro home page is by Josh Meister.

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RETRO REVIEW: Don’t Get Them Jolly! GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH Brings Hell-iday Cheer to Splatter Cinema at Its New Location Cinevision!

Posted on: Dec 7th, 2014 By:

splattergremSplatter Cinema presents GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990); Dir. Joe Dante; Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Christopher Lee; Tuesday, Dec. 9 @ 8:00 p.m.; Cinevision Screening Room; Tickets $10 (cash only); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema is back! After a brief spell hosting films at the Chambers of Horror Halloween haunt, Splatter has teamed up with ATLRetro Kool Kat Ben Ruder’s Enjoy the Film and the Cinevision Screening Room to bring us the brilliantly bloody and the sublimely sickening. And while this month’s feature probably isn’t the first flick to spring to mind when you think “splatter,” its wildly imaginative and horrific effects work, combined with its completely uninhibited attitude, all add up to a perfect way to kick off a new era of Splatterdom this holiday season. Because after a seven-year search for a 35mm print, they have returned to bring you…GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH.

There are people who sincerely believe that a sequel is automatically inferior to its predecessor. They’ll tell you, for instance, that STAR WARS is a de facto better movie than THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK because it laid the necessary groundwork for the latter film’s existence. These people are what I like to call “wrong.”

Case in point: GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. Now, don’t misjudge my feelings: I unabashedly love the original GREMLINS. It’s one of my favorite Christmas movies and I’ve gone on about it at length here before. But I have a special place in my heart for its sequel. And that place is front row center. While GREMLINS paints a raucous picture of monster-fueled anarchy breaking out in idyllic Small Town, USA, GREMLINS 2 is pure madness in the Big Apple from start to finish.

As opposed to the more direct plotting of the first film, the storyline in GREMLINS 2 is more a series of hooks from which director Joe Dante can hang gags; and as such, it’s pretty all over the place. After the death of Gizmo’s owner Mr. Wing, the mogwai falls into the hands of the science division of Clamp Enterprises (headed by the always-welcome Christopher Lee). He is rescued by old friends and coincidental Clamp employees Billy Peltzer and his fiancée Kate Beringer (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, reprising their roles from the first film). However, a series of accidents cause more mogwai to be created, and havoc erupts in the locked-down Clamp Center as the gremlins plan to escape into New York City. There are constant sub-plots about disgruntled cable-show hosts, Billy’s job prospects and his flirtatious boss, out-of-town visitors, etc. But as I said, they’re mainly there to provide launching pads for parodies and jokes.

gremlins-al lewisWhile the first movie evoked the feeling of Chuck Jones Looney Tunes shorts with its self-referential send-ups of Spielbergian cinematic suburbia, it still played within the confines of a Spielberg movie or a late-period Jones cartoon. It was dark and violent, but still warm in the way that producer Steven Spielberg’s family films and so many of Chuck Jones’ later cartoons frequently are. Jones’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, for instance, lets us relish the Grinch’s delicious villainy by softening the blow with redemption and acceptance. Lessons are learned, people get better, and he—he himself, the Grinch—carved the roast beast.

GREMLINS 2, on the other hand, channels pure bizarro Jones. I’m talking DUCK AMUCK. THE DOVER BOYS AT PIMENTO UNIVERSITY. DUCK DODGERS IN THE 24 ½TH CENTURY. It’s almost nothing but wall-to-wall psychosis and fourth-wall breaking. It knowingly and overtly parodies GREMLINS. (At one point Leonard Maltin shows up to pan the first film, and is attacked and devoured by mogwai.) It features Christopher Lee as…well, Christopher Lee playing a villain. Sure, the character is nominally Dr. Catheter, but the point of his presence is for Christopher Lee to be identifiably playing Christopher Lee playing a villain—much like how he shows up in THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN to play Christopher Lee playing Dracula. There are countless in-jokes hidden away in background details, like some Will Elder story in a 1950s issue of MAD. There are parodies of other films, like RAMBO, THE WIZARD OF OZ, KING KONG, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and many more. Daniel Clamp, the head of Clamp Enterprises with a burgeoning cable television empire, is a parody of both Donald Trump and Ted Turner. Even Al Lewis’ late-1980s stint for Turner as “Grandpa” hosting horror flicks on TBSSUPER SCARY SATURDAY is parodied. Hulk Hogan shows up for no good reason whatsoever. A plot turn that sees the mogwai become genetically mutated not only allows a Wile E. Coyote-esque “super genius” gremlin to exist, but also creates a hotsy-totsy female mogwai in order to bring us some “Bugs Bunny in drag” sequences. And to drive the point home completely, Bugs and Daffy Duck bookend the movie. If the first movie let the insanity of a Warner Brothers cartoon invade our mundane reality, this movie rejects your reality and substitutes its own.

All this to say that there is nothing in this movie I do not love wholeheartedly. Far from being sleek and streamlined, this movie is maximalism in action: gag piled on top of gag, with everyone involved in the movie completely game. Joe Dante is at his peak here, with impeccable timing and incredibly nuanced detail all in the service of pure wackiness. Christopher Lee gets to show off his rarely utilized comic chops. Tony RandallTony Randall, people!—is absolutely perfect as the super-intelligent Brain Gremlin. Dick Miller has a sizeable role, and that’s practically reason enough to see it right there. The screenplay by Charlie Haas (OVER THE EDGE, MATINEE) captures just the right balance of meta-humor and cleverly constructed plot dynamics so that we are never just bogged down in jokes; there’s a solid through-line that propels us along. Throw in the typically top-notch (and at times both monstrous and disgusting) effects work of Rick Baker and his crew, along with the gift of a bigger budget, and you’ve got a sequel that is every bit the equal of its predecessor, if not surpassing it.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

 

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Retro Review: Deck the Halls With Splatter Cinema: GREMLINS Invade the Plaza Theatre!!!

Posted on: Dec 10th, 2012 By:

Splatter Cinema Presents GREMLINS (1984); Dir: Joe Dante; Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton; Tue. Dec. 11 @ 9:30 p.m.; Sun. Dec. 16 @ 3:00 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

One of the most notable aspects of the classic Warner Brothers Looney Tunes series of cartoon shorts is that while they were created for the enjoyment of children, they were written to also entertain those parents accompanying their kids to the theater. They’d frequently wink at the audience, breaking the fourth wall and commenting on the ridiculousness of what was transpiring. Few directors have the right touch to pull this off in live-action filmmaking the way that Joe Dante does, and fewer films succeed at this to the extent of GREMLINS.

From his more cartoonish collaborations with Allan Arkush (HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) to his somewhat more restrained horror features (PIRHANA, THE HOWLING), Dante’s modus operandi is to pepper his films with sly humor that acknowledges the fact that we’re all watching a movie. In the hands of some, it could come off as condescending—a kind of “look at us: we’re intentionally making a bad movie, hyuk hyuk!” attitude. But Dante loves this stuff too much to be condescending. In his hands, it all comes across as gleeful subversion; he seems to say that it’s okay to have fun with this medium and the things we love about it. That it’s okay to throw in a special appearance by Robby the Robot for a laugh because who doesn’t love Robby the Robot? That casting Dick Miller in every movie you make and frequently crediting him as “Walter Paisley” (his character from A BUCKET OF BLOOD) is fine, because Dick Miller is a legend and A BUCKET OF BLOOD is fantastic! More than even Tarantino, Joe Dante is the movie nerd’s movie nerd. His films take the attitude that they can have fun with established movie tropes because you should be having fun, and nothing is more fun than the movies.

Which brings us to GREMLINS. Like the classic Warner Brothers cartoons (hey, there’s Chuck Jones in the bar scene!) and Dante’s previous work, it blissfully screws with expectations about what you’re watching. And what it’s playing around with is Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Like E.T., the film is about a small-town kid who winds up taking care of an adorable, otherworldly creature, gets in over his head and madcap antics ensue. The first twist to the formula is that Billy (Zach Galligan), unlike E.T.’s Elliot, is college-aged, pursuing his old high school crush (Phoebe Cates) and still living with his folks. But still, that’s not such a departure that it necessarily alters the story dynamic, right? I mean, after his dad (Hoyt Axton) presents him with a precious little Mogwai named Gizmo, even if he breaks the final two of the creature’s three rules (1. Keep him out of bright lights. 2. Don’t get him wet. 3. Never feed him after midnight.), how bad can it get? It’s a Christmas movie, for crying out loud!

GREMLINS' Gizmo is darned cute when he's not wet. Warner Brothers, 1984.

Things can get really bad.

Rather than the film conforming to the E.T. template by having a force from outside threaten the poor little guy and his human pal, and eventually giving us a warm and affectionate send-off, Dante and screenwriter Chris Columbus have Billy make a couple of boneheaded mistakes and potentially doom the entire town. Thanks to Billy, an army of scaly, green and ugly little beasties are running about the place and gleefully killing and eating townspeople just for kicks. Gremlins are gruesomely killed in food processors and microwaves. Phoebe Cates recounts a horrific story about her father’s death. Nobody is safe. It’s almost as if Dante knew that the movie-going public would see Gizmo looking like a little bipedal pug and making high-pitched Howie Mandel noises and generally being so adorable you can barely stand it, and bring their kids to unwittingly witness THE MOST VIOLENT PG-RATED FILM OF ALL TIME. Okay, maybe INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM has it beat, but not by much, bucko. Instead of the heartwarming and heartbreaking farewell of E.T., Billy’s family gets chewed out at the end as a proxy for the entirety of Western Civilization being a bunch of jerks. And all the while, you can practically hear Joe Dante, standing just off-screen, laughing himself half to death.

Predictably, parents were horrified. One of the teachers at my high school refused to let her kids see the film because the Gremlins “were obviously demons from the pit of Hell.” Outrage from Responsible Parents over the violence in this (and yes, in TEMPLE OF DOOM) is what led to the establishment of the PG-13 rating. But kids? Kids ate this up. They ate it up like pancakes covered in ice cream. Because even if the Responsible Parents didn’t get it, the kids did. And the Irresponsible Parents (like mine, bless ‘em) got that this was all a huge, happy joke.

Don't be fooled. The caroling GREMLINS aren't here for good cheer. Warners Brothers, 1984.

Unfortunately, GREMLINS wasn’t originally released at Christmastime. Fearing that they had nothing to offer for competition during the summer of GHOSTBUSTERS and (again) TEMPLE OF DOOM, Warner Brothers rushed the release of the film and pushed it up by six months. It’s a shame, too, because despite the absolutely epic violence of the film, it’s practically the perfect Christmas movie. Let’s face it: the best Christmas entertainments are fueled by a perverse viewing of Things Going Wrong. Would IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE be what it is without spending the vast majority of the film watching everything that could possibly go wrong in George Bailey’s life go even worse? Would HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS be as enjoyable without watching the Grinch attempt to ruin everybody’s life? Santa Claus in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET may just actually be insane. RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER runs away from home and hangs out with a bunch of losers and reprobates. There was that YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS. It’s not A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS without watching Chuck’s life spiral into a void of existential dread. Christmas is a time for joy and merriment…and bloodshed and death.

…All of which makes GREMLINS the perfect choice for Splatter Cinema to screen at the Plaza Theatre this month. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense at first (Spielberg produced it! Its hero is a little fuzzy critter!), sit back and enjoy one of the few Christmas movies to fully embrace the notion that over-the-top violence can be joyful.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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