Sunday, June 5, 2011

Matt’s Week in Dork! (5/29/11-6/4/11)

    Not an especially exciting week in Dorkness, but I did have a little fun.  Up first, the movies.

Pandorum:  Certainly not a perfect science fiction film, it does capitalize on some of my favorite tropes.  A guy wakes up on a spaceship that has seen better days and needs to find out who he is, what’s been happening, how long he’s been asleep, where the ship is, and what the heck those horrible things running around in the halls are.  With the help of a superior officer, a savage scientist and a crazy warrior farmer (and a few other friends he meets along the way), he may just be able to save everyone.  Creepy sets, nasty monsters, and some cool ideas make this one worth a watch.  There is a twist near the end I found annoying.  And at one point, I thought it was going to have a twist that would ruin the film in my mind (but thankfully, it didn’t happen).  But overall, it’s a good watch.

Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks: In spite of being roughly the same length as the previous story, Frontier in Space, this story moves with a better pace and feels less repetitive.  The Doctor’s perhaps too frequent enemy, the Daleks show up with a crazy plan to make their army invisible.  But the slightly more energetic descendants of the Thals (who we first saw when William Hartnell first encountered the Daleks in his second story) may be able to help thwart the evil menace.  The story is solid, some of the action is very fun (especially escaping the inescapable room), and you can sort of tell they’re prepping viewers for the exit of Jo Grant, which will happen in the next story, The Green Death.

Don't do it!

Strings:  An interesting fantasy tale presented in the creepiest of fashions, Strings is mostly effective, especially when it comes to making the viewer feel for wooden puppets with basically motionless faces.  I can’t say the film was great, but it was certainly an achievement and would probably be enjoyed by younger viewers, though there is plenty of freaky stuff that might bother the more sensitive.

Ride Lonesome:  A cool revenge story slow burns its way through this western.  Unfortunately, I found Randolph Scott (who I know is well liked by genre fans) completely lacking in anything one might mistake for charisma.  The rest of the cast is fine, and the finale is fantastic.  I’m not giving up on Scott, but as far as first impressions go, this wasn’t so great.  And yeah, I totally watched this because of it being referenced in an episode of The Middleman.  Sue me.

X-Men: First Class:  Alternately awesome and kinda lame, First Class tells the story of the origin of the X-Men.  Professor X, Magneto, and Sebastian Shaw are all very interesting and could have easily carried the whole film.  Sadly, all the other mutants are kind of dull/annoying, especially Emma Frost (played by the infuriatingly one-note January Jones) and Mystique (played by Jennifer Lawrence who will never grow up to be Rebecca Romijn).  Shaw’s rocking, swinging submarine is awesome.  The CIA’s Camp Mutant is kind of silly.  All the awkward teen scenes are terrible.  There are great sequences and moments of real power, but the whole thing feels a bit jumbled, like scenes follow other scenes only by chance and not as a cause and effect chain.  Still, the movie is cool, and I’m sure fans of the comics will find plenty to love.

Gigantor:  I found this show extremely dull.  I made it four or five episodes in before I had to quit, before I realized I was paying more attention to the dust motes in the room than I was to the TV.  The stories were just not interesting, and the voice work (English language) was terrible.  Ah, well.

I can make you SLEEEEEEP!

A League of Their Own:  A pretty good tale of life on the home front during the Second World War, it would probably make a really good family film if not for the pretty pervasive strong language which seemed a bit out of place more often than not.  A good bunch of characters all thrown together for a whirlwind tour of baseball and sexism.  There are several good moments and performances.  However, I can’t help but think it could have been better with a little tweeking here and there.  Frankly, the last 20 or so minutes lacked that drama it needed for a good finale.

Push:  While obviously setting up for sequels that will not likely be coming, Push is still a relatively entertaining superhero movie.  The cast is solid, except for doped up Cupie Doll, Camilla Belle who on rare occasion actually seems to notice she’s in a film, though I don’t think she ever actually participates in anything on purpose.  There isn’t really much new here.  It’s kind of an X-Men movie, but set in Hong Kong.  A bit of a Mission Impossible style climax helps move things along.  Not great, but not bad.  Heck of a lot better than the previous year’s extremely awful Jumper.  I wish they’d pushed some more boundaries, though.  Maybe a bit more violent, or higher stakes, or something.

    I also watched a few more episodes of Stingray and The Middleman, which continue to be a lot of fun.

    On the book front, I finally finished reading The Last Apocalypse by James Reston, Jr.  Though the time period is fascinating, I found the book sadly lacking.  After the first 50 or so pages, I just stopped caring about the Vikings.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop talking about them until page 111.  Then it’s a cursory overview of Spain, which felt like something you’d get in a high school text.  He spends only about 50 pages there, and gives it little import.  Then the last 110 or so pages are a blow-by-blow word salad of Central and Eastern European cultural clashes between emperors and popes.  Had the book been organized slightly more chronologically, perhaps with into “50 Years Before,” “The Millennium,” and “The Aftermath,” then focusing on a few major areas within each section, like Scandinavia, Spain, Constantinople, and Rome it might have worked better.  Instead, I found the timeline difficult to follow.  I thought about it later and realized that events I was reading about were taking place at the same time as events I had read about 150 pages earlier, but they seemed like they were separated by centuries because of how much unrelated stuff I’d been reading about.  This isn’t as haphazard in its organization as Maria Rosa Menocal’s Ornament of the World, but it’s also not as informative or engaging.

    I also finished volume 2 of Conan.  And got a chance to start Reality is Broken, though I haven’t made it very far in, yet.

    And I took my first solo trek into DC, where I was blocked from my destination for some time by Rolling Thunder, the annual motorcycle parade that cuts through the city and makes getting places a bigger pain than usual.  And I ran afoul of the pickiest metal detector I’ve ever seen when I went for lunch with my visiting brother and friends.  However, it was worth it for discovering yet another strange little hole in the wall in DC, the moderately creepy food court in the Old Post Office.  Such a strange vibe.  Part cafeteria, part mall food court, part bazaar.  I half expected to see slaughtered pigs hanging from racks, rugs for sale, and someone offering black lotus (Stygian.  The best!).

     And Finally, I saw this nice little video featuring a bunch of great quotes from my favorite philosopher.  I always find him to be a nice palate cleanser.  You can pick up some Nietzsche anytime, read a little bit, feel refreshed, and go on with your day. 


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