Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brad's Week in Dork! (6/19-6/25)

Started off this Week in Dork right with The Monkees at Wolf Trap.  And it was loads of fun.  For whatever reason, when most girls were heartthrobbing after boybands like Backstreet Boys and *NSynch my wife got starry-eyed for Micky, Davy, Peter, and Mike.  She still has all their albums, all their TV episodes (VHS & DVDs), their bobbleheads, magazine appearances, and even The Monkeemobile.  And through her I've become quite a Monkees dork as well.  Nothing to her level, but I've been loving the music, the TV show (and as you'll read below), the amazing cinematic experience that is HEAD.

Now Mike no longer tours with The Monkees, so seeing Micky Davy and Peter up on stage this past Sunday  might not be the full experience, but the boys still cranked out an excellent 2 Hour show without an opening act or an intermission.  They played all the expected classics as well as a few select choices from HEAD.


Green Lantern:  Green Lantern AKA So Much Wasted Potential. Ryan Reynold's doesn't actually suck up the place, but Blake Lively and all the other Earth based blahness sure as hell does. But I'm not gonna lie, seeing Abin Sur, Sinestro, Kilowog, and Tomar Re walking around still managed to fill me with geeky tingles but the GL Corps' presence in the film is so minuscule it's nearly infuriating. Really, really wish Green Lantern embraced its Science Fiction origin but what you've got is another superhero origin story that I'm guessing really wants to be the DC Universe Iron Man. Lame.

Superman and the Mole Men:  I really enjoy George Reeves' Clark Kent. He's a real reporter, not just a bumbling baffoon...well, except when he says "I just saved-I mean, Superman just saved that kitten." His Superman is cool too; he can fly and bend rifles but that's about it. When a small town oil company accidently drills to the center of the Hollow Earth they unleash an army (well, three) mole men! But, in Twilight Zone fashion, it's the raving lunatic townsfolk that are the real problem and Supes has to come to the rescue of these curious burrowers. Fun, light entertainment.

Dracula 2000:  Sigh. Late 90s Early 00s flick that tries. Unfortunately, Johnny Lee Miller (remember when he was gonna be the next big thing? Me neither) and Justine Waddell are just utterly forgettable leads. It's fun to see Gerard Butler as Dracula and the origin revelation might have been a little interesting if handled properly, but at the end of the day he falls somewhere just ahead of that Van Helsing Drac and the Blade Trinity Drac as the all time worst interpretations. But I do get a kick outta the very PG-13ish Brides of Dracula comprised of Jennifer Esposito, Jeri Ryan, and Colleen Fitzpatrick and if they had gone 80s R on us, they might have made the flick for me. Thankfully, Patrick Lussier would go on to Drive Angry glory.

Kiss Me Deadly:  "Woman are worse than flies." Ralph Meeker is the first cinematic Mike Hammer and he's easily the most brutal, loathsome, and angry incarnation of the famous P.I. An animal enjoying a vicious contempt for his prey. After his little hitchhiker is snuffed out under his watch, Meeker slaps and pummels his way through a variety of lowlifes and poor bastard bystanders. Kiss Me Deadly eventually erupts in one of the Great Noir climaxes, and it would make an excellent double-feature with Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street.

Twins of Evil:  One of the lesser known Hammer Horror films, Twins of Evil is an absolute delight of camp that sees Peter Cushing burning potential witches/vampires left and right while dealing with the inappropriately dressed twin nieces that have been forced upon his moral sensibilities. Medeleine and Mary Collinson (Playboy's first ever identical Playmates) relish the opportunity to sink their teeth into the Hammer genre and even though there are plenty of unintentional laughs, Twins of Evil is an absolute watch for the studio's fans.

The Tree of Life:  Despite never quite connecting to the central story of the 1950s Texas family, The Tree of Life is nevertheless captivating with Malick's uncontrollable visual poetry and existential narration. In fact, I found myself relishing the Big Bang excursions, the Dino predators, and the sea of sunflowers more so than Brad Pitt's overbearing father or Sean Penn's struggling offspring. And Brad Pitt is excellent, another stellar turn in his quality-increasing and happily eclectic career. Maybe not for everybody, but there is plenty to ponder in The Tree of Life.

The Rite:  Having now seen The Rite, why would I (or you) ever rewatch this film when you can easily just as watch the far superior The Exorcist? I am amazed at how ineffective this Devil tale is when it comes to the scares or the philosophy of the characters. I do like the brief appearances of both Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer and it's impossible to not like Anthony Hopkins even in these paycheck roles--and his CGIed screaming face is maybe a little eerie.  But, come on!  This will never be seen as anything but an Exorcist wannabe.

Unknown:  Liam Neeson and his special set of skills are at it again, but instead of chasing down his daughter's kidnappers in Taken he's battling Aidan Quinn's villainous doppelganger and remembering how to kick his ass. I've always loved Liam Neeson--he's Darkman for cryin' out loud! But after Batman Begins, Seraphim Falls, Taken, The A-Team, and now Unknown I AM LOVING BadAssKicker Liam Neeson. Knockin' dudes through walls, slamin' sharp objects in their throats. Yep, Neeson is my favorite contemporary action star and I want to see more of him. Like Taken, Unknown could have benefited from a stronger rating and the conspiracy is typically blah but it still manages to be loads of fun. And it's got a great knockout supporting performance from everyone's favorite Hitler, Bruno Ganz.

Head:  Written in the basement of Harry Dean Stanton's home by Bob Rafaelson and Jack Nicolson, HEAD takes the joyful hippie silliness of TV's The Monkees and cranks the Acid up to 11, delivering an AWEsome 60s culture roller coaster that explodes through bonkers backlots that apparently rest atop the luscious locks of Victor Mature. Holy Cow. Bask in the glory and acknowledge HEAD as the greatest Rock n Roll cinematic entertainment to ever force its way onto the screen.

Cop Hater:  This early adaptation of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novel is not particularily good, but I definitely enjoyed the shockingly young Robert Loggia and his throttle carpet headbashing antics. The film is also notable for one of the best Punch-Outs in cinema, blink and you'll miss the THWACK WHAM FLOOR. Other than that, Cop Hater is pretty ordinary.

Superman Returns:  Maybe a little too in love with the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve era, Superman Returns is an entertaining if plodding comic book adventure with an excellent lead in Brandon Routh and a so-so villain in Kevin Spacey's not-quite-goofy-not-quite-scary Lex Luthor. And again, real estate plots? Sigh. But I kinda dig the bravado of the Lois child subplot and I like that James Marsden's fiance is not an expected a-hole, but a good guy trying to do what's right. Curious to see where this franchise would have gone if given the chance.

Gordon's War:  "You Tell That To Spanish Harry, Bitch!" Paul Winfield has been a part of a lot of excellent genre pictures (Trouble Man, Star Trek II, The Terminator, White Dog), but in Gordon's War the audience is blessed with an intense lead performance in which Winfield's Nam Vet takes vengeance on the pimps & pushers responsible for the devastation of his much beloved Harlem. Directed with exploitation class by Ossie Davis, Gordon's War never goes as bugnuts viciously violent and angry as I would like, but it's a solid execution with a pretty fantastic climactic chase sequence.

Off Limits:  Mix the buddy cop banter of Lethal Weapon with some Vietnam commentary and you've got yourself Off Limits, an enjoyable Military Police procedural that doesn't rock your core with its obvious climax but does deliver an appropriate amount of intrigue. Plus, some seriously fun supporting turns from Keith David (he watches the MOD Squad!), David Allen Grier, Fred Ward, and the kinky Scott Glenn.

Steele Justice:  The kind of movie my thirteen year old self would have stayed up till the wee hours of the morning watching on the USA Network, Steele Justice is a low-budget 80s action flick worth a rental but not serious thought. Martin Kove of Cobra Kai fame sneers seriously while brandishing himself in various forms of inappropriate neck ware (snakes and pink sweaters) and somehow manages to maintain a relationship with music video choreographer Sela Ward while gunfights constantly interrupt her MTV world. Nice, but forgettable appearances from character actors Ronny Cox, Bernie Casey, and Shannon Tweed add to the ridiculous entertainment.

Razorback:  From the director of Highlander! (and Highlander 2...) comes this really fantastic killer pig movie. First off, it's beautiful. The opening burning house rampage sets the epic tone for this stunning bit of Aussie Horror and you'll be screaming/choking on the smoke along with the brutalized first player. Secondly, the charging, monstrous beast is pretty darn brilliant for a muppet. And thirdly, similar to great bits of Zombie terror, it's the people who are the real threat--and eventual fodder for Razorback, who you'll be cheering on as the film progresses. Available from the Warner Archive, Razorback should belong in every exploitation junkie's collection.


Black Dynamite Slave Island One Shot:  "His Afro's So Bad It Won't Ever Relax. When He Go To The Barber They Part His Hair With An Axe!"  The Retro Adventures of the Rawly Majestic Black Dynamite continue on the four-colored page, and Brian Ash's Slave Island perfectly captures the ridiculous but somehow sweetly sincere tone of the Michael Jai White film. When Black Dynamite learns of the resort getaway Slave Island he vows to Burn That Muther Down! Along the way he tears apart a Great White Shark, makes serious good outta 61 Hours, and starts a revolution. Best of all is Jun Lofamia's amazing art that really does capture that late 70s comic book look. I really hope Adult Swim delivers on the Black Dynamite cartoon promise but if it doesn't I definitely want more comics.


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