Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brad's Week In Dork! (4/8/12-4/14/12)

Life without The Wire.  Sigh.  I miss it.  So how do I fill the void?  By rediscovering the Police Academy franchise!  Madness.  I've owned the box set of the seven films for a few years now but have never cracked into them.  Maybe because I knew that they couldn't possibly be as good as my seven year old brain remembered them.  Still, it was fun to force The Wife & Matt to watch the first film as we played Axe Cop Munchkin and even though the laughs are few & far between I have enough nostalgia to carry the day.  Don't think The Wife got it, but Matt seemed to enjoy the 80sness.

But I didn't get a whole lot of TV watching done or read a single comic or book.  And the only Dork Adventure I had came at the end of the week when I returned to my favorite spot in all of DC, the AFI Silver for a screening of the new 2011 restoration of A Trip to the Moon and the documentary, The Extraordinary Voyage.  Considering my adoration of last year's Hugo it was a great treat to see this hundred year old movie up on the big screen.  And the documentary provided for plenty of subtext.


Justified "Slaughterhouse":  Season 3 has come to a close.  Looking back, it was probably my least favorite season of Justified so far, but you still have to consider that the worst season of Justified is still the best season of anything else currently running on the boob tube.  All the plot points pretty much ended where I thought they were going to, but the finale provided for a helluva emotional downbeat for poor ol' Raylan and I was surprised to shed a few tears for the marshal.  The Mexican Standoff between Raylan, Quarles, and Limehouse was fantastic and the resulting bit of gory humor got a serious laugh from The Wife and myself.  But what I'm really curious about is to see how this season plays during a marathon run of episodes.  Will I enjoy it more?  I'm guessing so.  In the next few months I'm gonna restart Justified from the beginning and blitz through the entire Raylan saga.  But first I want to read Elmore Leonard's Riding the Rap & Pronto.


Timerider - The Adventure of Lyle Swann:  A seriously goofy time travel story written by one of The Monkees! Timerider sees Fred Ward's dirt bike champion accidentally sent back into the Wild West. There he must battle silver fanged Peter Coyote, who wants the Fire Horse riding machine to reclaim Confederate pride and win the heart of Belinda Bauer's zipper fetishist. Lots of That Guy! actors pop up: LQ Jones' hate-fueled marshall, Ed Lauter's shotgun preacher, Tracey Walter's noseless bandit, and Richard Masur's honor bound henchman. If you're looking for something to pair with The Philadelphia Experiment or Back to the Future Part III look no further.  More fanboy love to be found in this week's cineAWESOME! review.

American Grindhouse:  As with a lot of these kinda docs, there's nothing really new to be found for the uninitiated, but if you're just sinking your teeth into the world of exploitation you'll find plenty of recommendations and warnings. It's always fun to listen to talking heads like John Landis, Joe Dante, Jack Hill, Fred Williamson, Fred Olen Ray, etc...but I also appreciated how the doc went all the way back to Edison and highlighted some of the really kinky stuff from the silents and pre-code talkies. Still, there were a couple of faces missing here. Where was Roger Corman? Where was Wes Craven? Too busy? Doubt it.

Machete Maidens Unleashed:  Narrowing the focus of exploitation celebration to the 1960s/70s explosion of Filipino shot grindhouse extravaganzas, Machete Maidens Unleashed revels in the typical B Movie classics-to-some (The Big Doll House, the Blood Island saga) but also the awkward reality of the Hollywood (or Off Hollywood) funded dictatorship. Savage! needs some helicopters? Sure, just wait till they finish bombing the rebels. As you can imagine there's lots of great low budget camp fire storytelling from Roger Corman, Chris Mitchum, Pam Grier, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Sid Haig, as well as a plethora of once ready-and-willing-actresses. Whatever you gotta do to get The Hot Box filmed, you do it. You might see Feminism at work or John Landis might be right with crys of "Bullshit." But as he also states, sometimes the most fun films come from the most amoral of filmmakers.

Police Academy:  Watching the film now, it's a mystery how these old man jokes made a 7 year old Brad roll with laughter, but next to the Star Wars films, there was no other franchise as cool as Police Academy. It's very existence and the King Cool status of Steve Guttenberg is proof of the the magic that coursed through the 1980s. I'm guessing that if I watched this series now, without any sense of nostalgia, it would be easy to dismiss, but as is, I find Police Academy to be tremendous amounts of fun. Bubba Smith, Kim Cattrall, Michael Winslow, GW Bailey--I want to be in school with these guys--I want to battle ravaging extras on the backlots of TJ Hooker!

The Dallas Connection:  "That was some scene up there, remind me never to have sex with you." A trilogy of female assassins led by Julie Strain's Black Widow use the power of their fake breasts to lure their pray and steal an all-too-important-for-some-reason computer chip. The first film in the Malibu Express series to be directed by Andy Sidaris' son Drew, The Dallas Connection is wall-to-wall with awkwardly unsexy sex scenes (which is nothing new to this saga), but Strain's bad girl schtick is getting old. I miss the charm of Donna Spier's righteous government agent and even though I'm happy to see some of the regulars like Bruce Penhall and Rodrigo Obregon, the ladies are really lacking. Samantha Max, Cobra, Scorpion....where's the fun?

Into The Abyss:  The latest documentary from Werner Herzog has the air of a 48 Hours True Crime Special as it details the murders of Sondra Stotler, her son Adam, and his friend Jeremy Richardson by 18 year olds Michael Perry (sentenced to death) and Jason Burkett (sentenced to life without parole). Herzog is up front at the start, he does not agree with the Death Penalty. But what I appreciate about this film is the balance that's struck between two opposing viewpoints. If you go in pro, you'll probably leave pro. If you go in anti, you'll probably leave anti. For the most part, Herzog lets the participants speak their mind (he does occasionally force in his Herzogian wisdom) and the picture that's painted is an incredibly depressing saga of ignorant futility. A world of sons inheriting the family business of incarceration. And there are no easy outs for the perpetrators or the victims of this tragedy. It just is.

Police Academy 2 - Their First Assignment:  Even as a kid the first sequel in the Police Academy franchise was always my least favorite. The Gute and the rest of the graduates leave the school behind to join the hellhole of Johnny Fever's 16th Precinct. There are a couple of fun, goofy bits involving Michael Winslow's sudden Kung Fu skills that will serve him well in the rest of the sequels, and Tackleberry's relationship with his lady partner is somewhat cute, but the Bobcat gang feels more 80s TV than 80s movie and the script is not clever enough to handle the drop from R to PG. I'm just saying, a few more F bombs could have been a nice distraction from the hokum.

The Hot Box:  Jonathan Demme's introduction into the Corman School was this politically tinged T&A shoot 'em up about a group of nurses kidnapped by jungle revolutionaries and set against themselves as well as a corrupt murderous government. Margaret Markov is surprisingly entertaining as the whiny one and Charles Dierkop is always good for a scary screaming villain. The film delivers on the three Bs: Blood, Bullets, & Boobs and the final machine gun free-for-all is abnormally loud and held together by a string of rapid deaths. Not as Exploitation Epic as I was hoping, but it's good proving ground for Demme before he landed behind the camera of Caged Heat.

Police Academy 3 - Back in Training:  After a brief getaway, the franchise returns to where it belongs...at the Police Academy. And the graduates from the first film are now the instructors of the third; Lassard's school going up against Mauser's school with The Gute committing eyebrow hijinks and Jones mastering the powers of levitation via mysterious kung fu. If it wasn't already, the franchise is completely kids stuff at this point and the only way to find entertainment is to tap into that nonsensical, idiot seven year old within. If you still have that ability, enjoy.

The Cabin in the Woods:  If you've seen a single trailer you already know that this is not a simple college kids in an Evil Dead cabin story, but don't worry, that's not really a spoiler either since the opening scene with Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford firmly establishes the Big Brother House narrative. Joss Whedon is all over this script and your enjoyment will depend on how much you can handle his brand of winking humor; The Cabin in the Woods feels a lot like something you would find in his Buffy Season 8 comics and as much as I enjoyed his ha-ha satirizing of the genre, I still managed to find the archetypes tiring. But when the film goes Sci-Fi Channel bonkers, it's plenty fun.

A Trip to the Moon:  2012 is the 100th Anniversary of Georges Melies's surrealist adaptation of Jules Verne's From The Earth to the Moon & HG Wells' First Men In The Moon. Having garnered a lot of attention this past year thanks to Martin Scorsese's Hugo, I highly recommend that you jump on over to YouTube and check it out. However, if you really want to give it a serious spin you should pick up the 2011 Restored Color Print now available on blu ray from Flicker Alley. It will never look pristine, but this new edition is absolutely gorgeous. The visual trickery on display is thrilling, and there are heaps of humor to be discovered as these brave astronauts fend off spiny, butt dragging Selenites and claim glory for France. VF.


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