Monday, January 9, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (1/1/12 to 1/7/12)

    My first week without reliable access to the internet has frequently reminded me of the old Onion headline about an internet outage plunging the nation into productivity.  I read a graphic novel and finished a book in the first two days.  And in the latter half of the week, I started working on some various writing projects while also doing some major cleaning/rearranging around my living space.  Got a lot of my books out of boxes and up on shelves, which is really nice.  And that let me see a bunch of books I will either never read, or never read again.  Three plus boxes of books are now ready for a trip to the used book store.  However, without NetFlix instant and with being fairly busy, I got very little in the way of movie watching done. 

Doctor Who: Season Six:  The Doctor and friends are up to their old tricks in another round of the updated series.  Matt Smith has become my favorite of the new actors, I think, and his companions Amy and Rory are excellent.  In fact, by the end of season six, I think Rory may be second only to Leela as my favorite companion.  Lots of strange, mind bending stuff is revealed, playing on several ideas that have been introduced over the seasons.  Though it certainly has some major differences, especially in tone, to the classic series (which itself had vast differences over the years), everything still feels right, somehow.  Good stuff.  And, I think The Silence may even top the Weeping Angels in the creepy factor.

Hugo:  Another great love letter to Film, Hugo is filled with all the wonder and excitement that the movies bring out in me.  Two really good kid actors anchor the film, but the cast of adults is also fantastic, as is the story and imagery.  What starts out as a fairly standard lone-kid adventure movie turns into something so much more as the mysteries begin to be revealed.  One of 2011’s best movies, and one any fan of the movies should see.

Doctor Who: Enlightenment:  The third part of the whole Dark/Light Guardian story is certainly weird, if not especially great.  A bunch of detached beings run a crazy race through space on classic naval vessels.  Weird.  Worth a watch and it’s got some excellent guest actors.  Alas, it’s fairly forgettable.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark:  While watching Insidious last week, I was reminded of all that I didn’t like about horror films of the late 60s and 70s.  Watching this movie, I was reminded of the good.  It too had the feel of a horror movie from the 70s, but where Insidious failed, this succeeded.  Cool, creepy creatures, a mysterious location, shrouded history and myth and even a connection to Arthur Machen.  Some of the characters are a bit broad, especially Guy Pearce as the put upon father who can’t see past his own career to notice his kid in danger.  But, Katie Holmes is surprisingly good.  An unusual modern horror film in that it didn’t bore me to tears.

Appaloosa:  Star and director Ed Harris along with cinematographer Dean Semler sure can make a beautiful looking film.  Harris and Mortensen are excellent as two hired lawmen, exuding the gruff cool of dangerous men.  Unfortunately, Renee Zellweger as the female interest in the film is straight-up annoying in every scene she’s in, dragging down the overall quality of the picture.  Her character is interesting, but the actress simply isn’t up to it.  However, the film is pretty good.  And there are some interesting moral quandaries presented, too, with few answers even suggested.  Probably the most realistic shootouts I’ve ever seen, too.  Upon second viewing, I’m struck by the relationship between Harris and Mortensen.  I really enjoy watching the friendship between partners, and all the subtle exchanges between the two.

    I also watched a handful more episodes of Space Academy.  The show is OK, but never quite reaches the levels of imagination it could have.  And the cast is wonky.  The little kid annoying, and the ‘dashing’ lead guy looks like an extra confused Joey Lawrence.  Jason of Star Command was certainly better, not just in production but in writing.

    I managed to finish The Defiant Agent by Andre Norton.  I’d been picking away at it on my commute to work for a couple weeks, but wasn’t putting in any serious time/effort.  Without the internet to suck up so much of my time, I banged out that book in very little time.

    And, I still had time to read the Harlan Ellison graphic novel Phoenix Without Ashes.  Look, I know he’s beloved, but I’m not the biggest Ellison fan.  90% of that comes from the man himself.  Seeing him in interviews, on Politically Incorrect, and reading about his litigious antics, he just comes off as the worlds biggest ass (please don’t sue me, Mr. Ellison, for expressing my reaction to your public persona).  Now, that said, he has frequently been attached to projects I’ve enjoyed quite a bit.  He wrote one of the best episodes of Star Trek, wrote some pretty good Outer Limits (even one of the better New Outer Limits episodes was based on something of his), worked on Babylon 5, and though he struck his name from it, the short lived, but very cool 70s show, The Star Lost.

    It is that final tidbit, his work on The Star Lost that ties in to the graphic novel.  Phoenix Without Ashes is pretty much the pilot episode of that show done as a comic.  The idea is great, and it introduces a lot of potential, which the show went on to explore, though it never got very far.  I love the concepts.  Classic sci-fi stuff, with semi-primitive folk discovering they’re living in the ruins of a once great civilization.  Exploring not only the ruins, but the mysteries that created them.  Very cool.  However, here’s my frustration.  This seems to be a stand alone project.  I’ve seen no listing for a volume 2 or any kind of continuation.  This is an introduction, but it seems to have been left to stand on its own.  Erg.  To a degree, that’s more frustrating than the show, which got a season, but ended at a really interesting place.  Anyway, for the ideas alone, it’s worth checking out.  Sure, they’re nothing really new, but they’re done well.  And if you find out there’s going to be more to it, please let me know.

    On Sunday, Ben and I traveled once more into the DC, where we visited The National Archives.  If you’re in DC, check it out.  It works much better as an American History museum than the actual American History Museum.  It has lots of very cool exhibits, including some very interesting stuff about patents and inventions.  And, of course, the documents on display are impressive, though the room they’re in is quite dark, and many of the documents are faded past the point of being legible.  Still, you can almost taste the history.

    So, I’m learning what people did before the internet.  And you know what?  It’s not all bad.  Don’t get me wrong, the internet is awesome and a great tool.  And as soon as I’m able, I’ll get myself plugged back in.  But sometimes it’s nice to tune out for a while, take time to look around, and get back to some things you liked before instant communication became an everyday thing.  Heck, I almost feel like writing letters to folks.  Just for fun.  I’m not going to, but the thought has crossed my mind.


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