Had a strange week as far as my movie watching was concerned. Lisa and I are still plugging away at Tarantino's cannon and I was hoping to crank out the Pirates films in preparation for On Stranger Tides, but never got around to it. Instead, I watched a lot of random stuff. A lot of Netflix. And a couple of really fine Criterion blu rays.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Priest: Based on a manga that I've never (and probably will never) given much attention to, Priest is a Judge Dreddish/Weird Western post-apocalyptic flick in which The Church guards its citizens like prisoners behind great city walls, while outside the poor country folk are besieged by eyeless vampiric beasts. Paul Bettany is a kung-fu warrior priest that leaves The Church behind so he can hunt down the hybrid Black Hat (the always entertaining Karl Urban) that has snatched up his purty niece Lily Collins. Along the way we have entertaining character turns from Brad Dourif and Christopher Plummer. But Hollywoodland needs to stop giving roles to Cam Gagandet and Maggie Q even though this is probably some of their least offensive work.
Chronicles of Narnia The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Younger sibs Lucy and Edmond (along with their annoying as all-heck cousin Eustace) are swept into the bright fantasyland of Narnia via a leaky painting. Maybe it's the chemistry (or excitement)-less trio of heroes or the hohum doldrums of a plot, but this third outing in C.S. Lewis' realm failed to engage this viewer and I found myself craving some of the buggier elements of the first two films. Really, it all feels a little played-out.
The Illusionist: A sad cartoon. Beautiful, sure. But sad. And it left me feeling just sad. Not enriched, not thoughtful. Just sad. I thoroughly enjoyed Chomet's last film The Triplets of Bellville which was just a joy of animation, but this story of a fading Illusionist and his girl hanger-on left me utterly cold. Suicidal clowns. Drunk ventriloquists. Wheelchair bound dogs. Thanks France.
No Strings Attached: I should probably hate myself for enjoying the film as much as I did, but I just can't help myself when it comes to decently executed romantic comedies starring doof magoo Ashton Kutcher--he's just such a jammy devil...sigh. It's cute, okay! Natalie Portman can't love cuz her daddy died and Ashton's a clinger! Give it time, they will love each other forever! Yeah, with each ounce of enjoyment you pull from a A-B-C romcom you loose some cool points, but there are worse ways to spend a date night.
Something Wild: "It's better to be a live dog than a dead lion." Maybe it's that goofy, original 80s one sheet but I once dismissed Something Wild as a quirky-for-quirky's sake romantic comedy that director Jonathan Demme piddled with before he could get to the awesomeness of The Silence of the Lambs. And, so, I never bothered. Of course, when Criterion included it in their lineup I scratched my head and decided it was time to finally bother myself with a viewing. Man, I should have checked it out much sooner. This is not just an oddball comedy--in fact, it's not really a comedy. Sure it's funny in places, but it's also scary as hell and sweet in places too. Watching Jeff Daniels cut-a-rug is charming and pathetic. Newbie Ray Liotta is absolutely terrifying. And the film's climax is epic. Definitely a worthy Criterion release.
Les Diabolique: "Bitches! Bitches! Daughters of Bitches!" The Devils. A perfect title for a film circling around a trilogy of vile human beings plotting murderous deeds while drifting through the education of unwitting pupils. Yes, there is the bathtub. But what really sticks in my psyche is the rotten fish dinner & "Swallow!" as well as Clouzot's masterful ratcheting of cardiac suspense. The new Criterion blu has a much improved transfer from their initial standard release.
Kill Bill Volume 2: The real meat of the story can be found here in Volume 2. My favorite stuff of the series appears here within Chapters "The Lonely Grave of Paula Schwartz," "The Cruel Tuteledge of Pai Mei," and "Elle & I." Michael Madsen's Budd is absolutely my favorite character of the Kill Bill saga; his life is absolutely pathetic, but he's also the only one who gets one over The Bride. He's a lost Badass. I want to see a prequel all about his life. Of course, some people have a problem with the anti-climactic final duel between Kiddo and Bill but for me it really adds a heartbreaking quality to the story. I do hope that one day Tarantino does a sequel revolving around Fox's daughter revenge questing against The Bride for killing her mother. Elle Driver and Sofie still alive and puppet mastering the whole bloody affair. But that's probably another QT wet dream. Oh well.
The Other Woman: Natalie Portman is an emotionally crippled woman dealing with the loss of a child and her failing relationship with her husband's bratty child; The Other Woman is a painfully manipulative movie that treads similar ground as the far superior Rabbit Hole. Yes, melodramas are supposed to pull & tug on your emotions and Portman does a fine job with the manipulations, but this feels trite and exhausting. Towards the end I was counting the seconds till the credits rolled.
Black Lightning: An entertainingly bizarre wish-fulfillment flick about a young man who learns to fight crime after discovering a flying/rocket-launching car, Black Lightning is obviously crafted by a bunch of crazy Russians who totally geeked out over Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. You've got your Mary Jane, your Uncle Ben plot point, the villainous father figure, and your Marvel Crowd interviews. It's overlong for sure, but it's also fun enough for a rental.
Sherlock Holmes in Washington: Absolutely my least favorite in the Rathbone series so far, Sherlock Holmes in Washington is groan inducing with its Gosh, America Is Grand with its bubble gum and buddy slang and monuments of democracy. I hate the fawning Holmes and the missing "important" document plot is dreadfully dull. Honestly, it's going to take some serious effort to trudge on with this blu ray collection and I really can't wait to get out of The War.
VIDEO GAME OF THE WEEK!
LA Noir: I'm not a huge video game guy. I've got a PS3, but I use it mostly for blu rays and Netflix instant. But every now and again I'll grab a game off the shelf. Recently, I've been obsessed with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Red Dead Redemption, and the latest Mortal Kombat. Now, I've got the latest bit of sandbox madness from Rock Star Games, LA Noir. I've only given about 3 hours of gameplay but already I'm hooked. It's definitely got that James Ellroy vibe with Black Dahlia and LA Confidential leanings. I love the newly added interrogation feature and it does seem like some serious detective work is gonna be required. Can't wait to see where the story goes.
On Saturday, my wife Lisa received her Masters from George Mason University, and after the ceremony friends and family made their way over to the local Putt Putt extravaganza The Perils of the Lost Jungle! There we went to war. As John Williams' Raiders and Temple scores blared from various hidden speakers, we putt-putted our way through lost ruins, avoiding animatronic charging boars, spitting crocodiles, charging gorillas, dart-spitting headhunters, and even a rambling African Queen era Bogie. According to the local tv commercial below, they were labeled a Top 5 Course by Newsweek magazine. It's definitely the coolest putt-putt I've ever played through. And, yes, I crushed my wife and as Champion she had to buy me the Raiders fertility idol you see at the top of this post. Her day of celebration turned into my win.