Sunday, June 19, 2011

Matt’s Week in Dork (6/12/11-6/18/11)

As always, we begin with the movies I checked out this week. 

His Kind of Woman:  If for no other reason, this movie must be seen for the Vincent Price performance.  Mitchum is cool, sure.  And the twisting story of mob bosses, dames, plastic surgery, and drunken expatriates is fine.  But Price is far more then worth the price of admission.  His genius performance as a twisted version of himself is alternately sad, charming, and exceptionally funny.  A good deal of it actually feels adlib, and I gather this film was kind of slap-dash, with script pages being written on the day.  But it doesn’t stop it from being entertaining.  And, certainly Jane Russell is easy on the eyes, but she’s also charmingly tough.  The ending is a touch drawn out, but the film is enjoyable.

The Secret Service:  Another Gerry and Sylvia Anderson supermarionation show, this one uses a distracting amount of live action material, including nearly all long distant shots and much of the driving about.  And generally, it’s just not all that interesting.  A vicar/secret agent handler and his shrinking agent solve various, not especially good problems.  Meanwhile, they continually play up the gag that when the vicar is talking to his agent, people think he’s praying.  That gets old within the first episode, but doesn’t stop throughout the first six episodes.  It’s not bad, but it’s probably the least exciting and watchable of the  Century 21 Television Production shows I’ve seen so far.

Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon:  The Doctor returns to Peladon a generation after his last visit to find that trouble is still brewing.  The story is pretty good, with a nice twist in the middle.  But, as with many Jon Pertwee stories, it’s a bit overlong.  It is nice to see the effects of time passing on a location the Doctor visited.

Doctor Who:  Planet of Spiders:  This one takes a while to get going, including an excessive chase sequence that takes almost an entire episode and serves pretty much no purpose beyond extending run-time.  However, once they actually reach the titular planet, things get interesting.  While not amazing, it’s a solid send-off for Pertwee.

McQ:  Oh, the 70s, where charisma-lacking old men could still draw the ladies.  Where rough cops made their own rules, roused the occasional beatnik, and blasted their way to justice.  Overlong and filled with the typical genre cliché, it reminds me of all the reasons I don’t like John Wayne movies, even when he’s not riding a horse.  Some good supporting performances help, but it’s not enough to make an interesting film.  Not even Clu Gulager.  Good music though.

The Emperor’s New Groove:  There’s some good stuff in this film.  It’s occasionally quite clever.  But honestly, another Disney animated musical comedy?  I kept wanting the jokes to stop, but it seems like telling a serious story has long since gone out of fashion with the powers that be.  It’s worth watching, but has none of the timelessness of a good Disney film.

Halo Legends:  Much like The Animatrix and Gotham Nights, this animated anthology is uneven and too weighed down by anime cliché .  The Halo universe is surprisingly well thought out and interesting for a first person shooter, and the idea of an anthology to explore it is great.  Unfortunately, like the afore mentioned anthologies, the powers that be equate ‘adult animation’ with Japanese animation.  Thus we’re subjected to giant eyes, pointy chins, long weird pauses in action, and vaguely depressed leading characters.  Still, there are some beautiful images, and a couple of the shorts were pretty good.  But then, right in the middle there’s a comedy story that is absolutely painful to sit through.  For fans of the game, this is probably worth a watch.  I don’t see that it would be of much interest to anyone else.  I wish it had more substance, and perhaps some non-anime directors working on it.  But it’s watchable. [Upon watching this for a second time, I’m struck once again by the limitations and rampant cliché in anime.  I swear, there are like 8 plots, 8 characters, 3 art style variations, and maybe 3 themes.  They just mix and match over and over to produce something ‘new.’]

Haven't we been through all this before...frequently.

Brokeback Mountain:  Between the near constant, almost tuneless guitar picking and Heath Ledger’s mumbling, the first 45 minutes of this film are a grueling trek.  Yeah, mountains are pretty.  Buy a postcard.  Eventually things pick up, becoming simply dull.  If the two leads weren’t gay, this would be just another forgettable Lifetime movie.  People lying to each other and themselves.  Crying.  A little yelling.  And a whole lot of me needing a cup of coffee to keep my eyes open.  Yeah, Ang Lee makes beautiful looking films.  But he’s also been known to make interesting ones.  This isn’t on that list.

Yep.  Dem sure are some purty mountains.

Green Lantern: First Flight:  Origin stories, origin stories.  Honestly, how many do we need.  Much of this film could have been done in a flashback, but it’s still fairly watchable.  DC certainly seems to have a good handle on the animated film.  I just wish they’d stop doing origin stories (well, and Batman/Superman films).  Good voice work, pretty good animation, and a quick pace.  If you don’t know anything about the Green Lantern or his particular patch of the DC universe, this is a good introduction.

    On Wednesday, Brad and I played a bit of Halo.  I’ve been wanting to play it again for a while, plus, I’ve got access to a 360 now, so I may finally be able to play Halo 3.  While reading Reality is Broken, I was reminded of how much I enjoy the game, and recruited Brad to help me out.  Having not played it in a while, I’d sort of forgotten that the game is ten years old.  Seeing it, on an HD TV, you can really tell that graphically, it’s not up to snuff with modern games.  I mean, what do you expect?  But the scenery is still gorgeous and the gameplay still fun.  All the little Aliens references.  The beautiful ringworld setting.  Bouncing across the landscape in that dreadful Warthog.  It comes together quite well.  And the cooperative play is a lot of fun.  It was one of the first games I ever played with that good a cooperative mode.  We didn’t get very far, and haven’t really gotten into the story yet.  But it was a nice little intro.  I believe on our next go, we’ll be storming a Covenant ship.  That should be fun.  Seeing the game again, and having just seen the announcement of Halo 4 last week, I’m just glad to see a serious science fiction property being developed.  Yes, it’s basically one of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers teaming up with the Space Marines from Aliens to fight the Church on Larry Niven’s Ringworld only to discover Heinlein’s Puppetmasters.  But though derivative, it’s still solid and a great deal of fun to play.  And it does have a good story.

    Sure, I’d love to see a Halo movie.  I mean, it kind of lends itself to film.  But then, so did Wing Commander, and look how that turned out.  What it really makes me long for, however, is some old style, grand scale science fiction.  The big idea stuff that was more common in the 50s and 60s, before everything became so filled with fear and an obsession with human weakness.  I want to see Foundation, Ringworld, or something like that.  What the original Star Trek had aspirations of being, but not the budget or technological capability.

     I'm almost finished with Reality is Broken, and it's been something.  Very readable, but very challenging.  I want to do more than just write a review when it's done, so stay tuned.  And I did finish the fourth Conan volume, The Hall of the Dead and Other Stories.

     I had a nice surprise this past week, when my old high school friend Serena Andrews released a new music video.  It's very catchy. 

     And I continue to enjoy Kate Nash, who does such a good job of capturing the pain and awkwardness of fumbled love.  This song was kind of a gut-punch, having gone through the same thing myself.


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