This was a MAAAAASSSSSSIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVVEEEEEEEE Week in Dork. Honestly, I'm amazed and disgusted at myself for cranking out 19 movies while still managing to consume a bunch of TV and comic books. Mostly, I gotta thank my buddy Darren for hosting the first (hopefully annual) Avengers Fest on Saturday. Taking inspiration from my own Shat Attack party (which I stole from Matt's annual Hest Fests), Darren put together a marvelous marathon of Avengers festivities that did not just include the Marvel Studios movies but a few surprises as well. In total, it equalled 16 Hours of straight movie watching--something I don't think I've ever done before even with my previous Shat Attack and Hest Fest experiences. At least I now know that I could totally do one of those Butt-Numb-A-Thon events down in Austin.
Another bonus of AvengersFest were the below posters crafted by Darren for our goodie bags. A few months back he asked us who our favorite Avenger was and why, and when we got there we had these cool posters with our quotes printed on them. The Captain America is mine and the Hulk is my other friend Brian's choice. Matt picked Nick Fury and his poster was a really cool Steranko mashup.
But before the Avengers Fest madness that climaxed the week, I also partook in the AFI Silver's Jack Nicholson Retrospective that will be running all the way through April, May, and June. It started with The Departed and As Good As It Gets, but since I saw those during their initial release I didn't really care about those screenings. I was super excited for the Monte Hellman pairing of The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind, and they looked great on the big screen even if their prints (well, The Shooting was a projected DVD) were all scratched to hell. Actually, I love that old film scarring. You can expect both The Shooting & Ride In The Whirlwind to be my cineAWESOME! Western reviews for next week.
Finally, the build up to next month's Shat Attack V has begun. We're going to have a big group this year at the apartment and we're going to have to get creative with the spacing. But I'm hoping this fifth year of Shatner madness will be the biggest party yet. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is going to be the main course, but the day starts at 10 AM and we've got all kinds of good stuff for consumption. From episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Shatner's first film, The Brothers Karamazov. Shatner goodie bags. Shatner food. Shatner party games. I only wish I could make this event open to the public. That's the dream. And it's going to be a reality one day.
TV OF THE WEEK!
Bored To Death Season 2: After a fairly lukewarm response to season 1, I found the second season of this half hour HBO comedy to be totally charming. What gives? Maybe I was in the wrong headspace two weeks back, or maybe I just needed my wife & Matt to keep telling me over and over again that Bored To Death was genius before it finally sank in. Or maybe, season 2 is just a whole lot better than the first. But from the very first episode where Jason Schwartzman is running around in full gimp suit mode to Zach Galifianakis' insane encounter with egomaniac Kevin Bacon, season 2 of Bored to Death had me giggling with delight. Looking forward to the third (and final) season and I'm looking forward to rewatching season 1 with fresh eyes.
Star Trek "Where No Man Has Gone Before": With Shat Attack V just around the corner, I thought it was about time to start getting in the mood with some TOS Star Trek. The Wife had never seen this episode before and she had a lot of fun spotting the oddities (Sulu's in Blue! Where's McCoy! Spock's so Green!) But for a (2nd) pilot, there is a lot of great stuff here--in fact, some of the best thought provoking science fiction of the series can be found right here with Gary Mitchell & Captain Kirk. I really do hope that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Mitchell, he'd be an excellent type of non-villian/villain for the new cast to tackle. Something different than just another Khan substitute.
Star Trek "The Man Trap": Next to the Gorn, The Salt Vampire is my favorite Star Trek alien. And I love how this shapeshifter really messes with McCoy's lovesick emotions. It takes a little time to get going, but once the lifeform reveals itself all hell breaks loose on the Enterprise. Plus, you've got some great Uhura/Spock flirtations here and I'd like to think this is the ep that gave the 09 Trek writers the inkling to spice up their love life.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Ravenous: "I said there was no food, I didn't say there was nothing to eat." Disgraced coward, Guy Pearce is banished to the wilderness of California where he finds a collection of oddball Army outcasts led by nutcracker Jeffery Jones. But a life of tedium is interrupted when crazybrain Robert Carlyle stumbles into their fort with tales of lost caravans and cannibalism. Unfairly labeled as a "black comedy" and just as unfairly dismissed in 1999, Ravenous is my all time favorite Weird Western highlighted by the Pearce/Carlyle battle of Wendigo wills and their epic climactic, gory smackdown. And as good as they are, and the supporting cast is as well, the incessant, picking score is even better. For more Ravenou raving, check out my review over at cineAWESOME!
Day of the Warrior: "That Son Of A Bitch Has One Of Those Big Guns Too!" Yowza! Not since the first Malibu Express film has Andy Sidaris succeeded in making such a spectacular piece of garbage. Julie Strain leaves her bad girl act behind to lead the CIA Secret Super Team, the L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies! Along with the fake breast behemoths Julie K Smith (Cobra!) & Shae Marks (Tiger!) as well as the Asian Vegas showman Elvis Fu, they take on the half Native American Gunrunner/Porno Producer/Professional Wrestler Marcus Bagwell aka The Warrior. The Guns, Girls, & G-Strings set has been filled with plenty of terrible scripting, dialog, and acting but Day of the Warrior stands out as one of the absolute worst films...and as a result it is one of the most entertaining. Highly recommended for fans of trash cinema.
Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol: The fact that Tom Cruise can come off one of the craziest nutbag periods of his life--and the flop of Knight & Day (HEY! I Still Say That's A Great Movie!) and still capture the hearts of the action film obsessed masses is quite a feat. I say, people are born with an inherent willingness to love Tom Cruise, even when he's gone bonkers. Of course, a lot, if not most of the reason why MI:IV works so dang well is director Brad Bird who removes himself from his animation wheelhouse and into the globe trotting explosion world Summer Blockbuster and their unlimited budgets. Cruise & his IMF team battle Michael Nyqvist's Bond Villain within the Kremlin, atop the Burj Khalifa, and inside super tech Indian car factories. One thrilling set piece after the other, and at the credits you'll be chanting for part 5. Seems bonkers, but there you have it.
The Shooting: After his brother runs off and a fellow miner is shot dead, Warren Oates & the dimwitted Will Hutchins become hired hands to Millie Perkins' shrill vengeance seeker. Unfortunately for all involved Jack Nicholson's shootist lurks in the background. Monte Hellman directs this ultra low budget, but plenty mental Western for Roger Corman and where it succeeds is in its eagerness to tell a story. Oates is always entertaining as the hardened cowpoke and his sparring with the prickish Jack Nicholson almost as fun as the eye rage he directs towards Perkins. The shocking conclusion is not that shocking, but it works.
These Amazing Shadows: "As a child movies are not good or bad, they're just movies." That brief quote from one of this docs many talking heads struck me hard. That pretty much sums up my current outlook towards cinema and I love that I now have a quote to hang on my insanity. As far as the rest of the documentary, These Amazing Shadows is essential viewing for film fans and even though it's just one big commercial for the National Film Registry, I am totally on board. And who doesn't love hearing Rob Reiner geek out over It's A Wonderful Life or John Waters on The Wizard of Oz or John Singleton on why the Ku Klux Klan love letter Birth of a Nation needs to be preserved.
Candy Stripe Nurses: A trilogy of promiscuous nurses find numerous ways into trouble while fighting off Rock N Roll Rapists, charming gangbanger crooks, and loving Speed addicted basketball stars. All kinds of awkward 70s sex comedy mixed with horrifying violent drama...in other words, another Roger Corman (& wife Julie Corman) classic. 80 minutes of nonstop crazy, well worth a rent if not a straight up buy for fans of this sorta thing.
Night Call Nurses: Starting your Nurse film with a plummeting nude girl suicide definitely sets Night Call Nurses down a darker path than Candy Stripe Nurses and the LSD Trucker Nightmares, Black Power Prison Escapes, Mental Manipulating Psychiatrists, and Transvestite Knife Wielding Maniacs don't lighten the mood. And the complete lack of goofy fun turn the proceedings incredibly creepy and just downright uncomfortable. Still, there's another Dick Miller cameo and that's a bonus even if he doesn't play the flasher, but yet another cabbie.
The Great Dictator: Had this on in the background while my friend Whitaker & I blathered on about the state of dorkdom and even though this film deserves our full attention it was still great to fade in & out of it's brutal comedy. I'm stating the obvious here, but it struck me on this viewing how much Mel Brooks' humor comes right outta Chaplin; Blazing Saddles & The Producers are born straight outta The Great Dictator. Funny as hell, but painfully biting.
Ride In The Whirlwind: Three cowboys (Jack Nicholson, Cameron Mitchell, & Tom Filer) are mistaken for outlaws after spending the afternoon with the nefarious Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton) and must result to dastardly deeds to survive. The first half of the film is filled with the Vigilante Committee's incessant gunfire, but when the canyon trapped leads stumble upon the clan of meek Millie Perkins, the film slows nearly to a halt. Not nearly as surreally badass as The Shooting, Ride In The Whirlwind is still a strong cheapie Western from director Monte Hellman and The School of Corman.
Casino Royale: Much like the rest of the internet in 2006, when he was first announced, I was not at all confident in Daniel Craig as James Bond. But once he started bashing scum's heads into bathroom sinks and crashing through walls, I was all on board for James Bond as monster. There's a little less winky charm to him than Connery's Bond, but he has all the animal of the assassin. Casino Royale has the epic scope required for this Batman Begins not-really-a-reboot flick, and even though it meanders a little bit too much in the middle, it is a great start for the new millennium's double o. And weepy Mads Mikkelsen a great, classic villain.
Quantum of Solace: This one gets unfairly maligned by the internet. Picking up immediately after Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace strips away the convoluted plot and presents a brisk 105 minute Revenge Chase picture in which Craig's Bond stabs and bludgeons his way through the bastards he deems responsible for the killing of Vesper. Sure, Marc Foster relies too much on his Bourne second unit director and the shaky cam fighting grates the nerves, but the brutal hostility on display is unlike anything we've experienced in this decades old franchise.
Iron Man: In 2008 it was hard to believe that they could make Iron Man cool for the public let alone a whole Avengers team-up. But director Jon Favreau, his army of Marvel screenwriters, and Robert Downey Jr made it possible. Taking the Batman Begins/Casino Royale approach to the origin, spending nearly the entirety of the film to build character rather than just jump from action set up to action set up, Iron Man succeeds on the charm of its super hero scamp Tony Stark. By 08 I was getting a little tired of the comic book story setups, but at least this is one of the sub genre's best examples, and all the actors involved excel in the playground.
Iron Man 2: Picking up perfectly after the "I Am Iron Man" climax of the first film, this sequel seems more interested in world building than telling a single Tony Stark story, but I am more than okay with all this Avengers prequeling (seriously, how do we live in such a blessed era?). After the events of the last film, Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark has managed to hide his vulnerably pretty well under a thick layer of booze and ego and he falls pretty damn hard before rising again to Nick Fury's Avengers standards. I definitely appreciate the Terrance Howard War Machine replacement of Don Cheadle and Mickey Rourke's slippery lipped baddie is disgustingly, cartoonishly villainous. But for me, Sam Rockwell's anit-Stark, Justin Hammer steals the show with his sniveling scenery chewing. His back & forth with Downey is the best stuff in the movie.
Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD: "Let Us Rock and Let Us Roll." While still in the thick of Baywatch, David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff took a little break to film this absolutely mystifying telling of Marvel's Howling Commando Secret Agent. And it's as terrible as you think it to be. But damn. It's a fun kinda bad. Especially for fanboys. The Hoff spits out one bad line of dialog after the next, and he chews on that cigar like his life depends on it. And director Rod Hardy knows just the right angels to shoot this leather clad behemoth. Lisa Rinna is horrifying as Contessa Valentine de Allegro Fontaine but not nearly as scary as Sandra Hess' Andrea Von Strucker Lady Viper and her intense hand acting. The proceedings feel like a failed attempt at a really awful Sci-Fi Channel original series but we can all thank the comic book gods for just giving us a taste of this atrocity and not seasons after seasons worth. Still, it's pretty fun to watch a train wreck.
The Incredible Hulk: I'm one of the few guys on the internet who actually loves Ang Lee's HULK and I was all set to enter this reboot with heaps of contempt, but dang, director Louis Leterrier and Edward Norton pull it off. The Incredible Hulk is a fun monster mash with Bruce Banner running all over South America as William Hurt's mustached general storms after him. And it's about time we get some beast on beast action with The Abomination; the final smackdown in NYC is perfect comic book action with cop cars as boxing gloves and bones being broken off for stabbing instruments. HULK SMASH!
The Incredible Hulk Returns: Don't know how, but I somehow missed this one when it originally aired on tv. It's been a few years since his on the road Fugitive epic, Bill Bixy's Banner has finally settled upon a cure for his Hulking Out. Unfortunately, Tim Thomerson (Jack Deth!) and Charles Napier (His Worst Nightmare is Rambo!) have planes of their own for his gamma transformer. And that's when Thor shows up. Wha? It's bonkers but Banner and Dr. Donald Blake team up with the God of Thunder to take down some California thugs. Silly. But fun.
Thor: In the modern era of Avengers building, Thor is shockingly the most entertaining film of the bunch. Not saying it's my favorite, but you'll laugh more and cheer more at Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder than at any of the other super heroics. This is fish out of water comedy handled perfectly from director Kenneth Branagh but he also hits the Shakespearean emotion of the father/brother stuff. Anthony Hopkins is a too-perfect Odin and when he hisses at chomps at his sons its damn scary. I am still in awe of how they pulled off this Marvel concept of Asgard and made it fit in the world of Iron Man & Shield. Bravo.
Captain America: Holy Cow. And I thought the Nick Fury movie was bad? It's got nothing on this 1979 version of Captain America. But it's glorious. Acting Titan Reb Brown stars as the beach bum, water color loving Steve Rodgers who after two nearly fatal car accidents is injected with the F.L.A.G. serum transforming him into Super Soldier Captain America. He has super senses, super strength, a pretty rockin' van, and a jet assisted motorcycle. AND he's going to spend most of this film's run time driving around on the bike or driving around in his van or driving around in his helicopter. Eventually he's going to jump real high and punch a goon or two. But the gems come from Brown's crazy stilted performance and when he "jams Captain America down their throats." Uh. He loves jamming.
Captain America - The First Avenger: I still say the climax rushes too quickly to The Avengers and that WWII action montages are no replacement for straight up action sequences, but Steve Rodgers' origin story is handled so well in the first half and captures the good heart of his weakling perfectly that I hold Captain America: The First Avenger above all other Marvel Studios movies. Chris Evans is my Cap. And that makes me so dang happy. Director Joe Johnston reaches into his Rocketeer bag of tricks and presents a fun, warm adventure. And man, it really does end on a future stuck downer, but hopefully it will provide for some serious emotion in next month's Avengers.
COMICS OF THE WEEK!
BPRD - The Long Death #1-3 This was a short, brutally sad mini series from the BPRD gang. Still plagued by hate-filled rage for the destruction of his human host, Agent Johann Krauss takes a team up into Canada to battle it out with the jaguar god. Mignola & Arcudi do such a bang up job with Johann. He can be such an ass but you also understand where he's coming from. Daimo is no saint but he's a sad beast as well. And then there's Darryl the Wendigo. That's a trilogy of sadness that makes for some seriously good monster drama. Sure, it's a bummer that Guy Davis is no longer drawing this series but James Harren's interiors are breathtaking. His depiction of the zombie moose and the jaguar monster brawl is gory gorgeous. I hope he sticks around for a long time.
Ragemoor #2: Okay. So this series is going places and I have no idea what the destination is going to be...all I know is that I love it. This issue explores the grounds of the living castle with Skull Headed Ape Men battling it out with white slug monsters. Richard Corben excels with these gross, ugly panels and I wish Ragemoor would go on more than just four issues. I can sense an epic here but I know the sales are not what they should be and I'm going to have to be happy with what we get.
Secret #1: This could either be the start of something great or something I don't give a damn about. As is, I'm just going to wait and see what others think before I buy another issue. We've got some fairly typical crime/corporate espionage at work here and this first issue didn't surprise me one bit. It did and went exactly where I thought it was going to. But it's hard to judge a series on its first 32 pages so I'm not ready to condemn it yet. But I'm also not ready to care yet either.
Winter Soldier #4: Bucky & Doctor Doom team up to save the United Nations form EXPLOSIONS! Man, I want to love this series so dang much but I can't just seem to make it happen. Brubaker's first five years on Captain America was absolutely amazing but his Winter Soldier saga is starting to loose some steam for me. Still, I want to keep going. Cuz I want it to be great again. Plus, issue 5 is gonna have more machine gun monkeys!
The Shadow #1: The creator of Preacher & The Boys takes a crack at one of my favorite pulp characters and it's a lot better than I thought it was going to be. At least The Shadow bits were rather exciting. Still not sure he's got a handle on the Lamont Cranston side of things, but again, it's too early to tell. I'll definitely pick up the second issue.