Sunday, April 22, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/15/12-4/21/12)

    Wow, this week went out with a bang.  As usual, I was all over the place. 

The 7th Victim:  Oh, those darned devil worshipers.  A young woman gets mixed up with some bad goings-on after her sister goes missing.  Who knows where she is?  Is she dead or in hiding?  What was she into before her disappearance?  A sinister cadre of mysterious folk seem to be trying to cover their tracks, but why?  Honestly, this isn’t one of the better Val Lewton produced horror films, but it’s still dripping with mood, gorgeously lit and shot, and has a few really good moments.  The story also has some unusual implications that I’m a little surprised got past the sensors.

Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy:  Lots of good interviews and an impressive collection of photos, along with the narration by James Cromwell help drive this informative documentary about the great 40s horror movie producer.  It’s fascinating to see how this guy got saddled with these crappy titles and told to make some B pictures, but turned things around and made these really fascinating psychological pictures.  Along the way, he fostered some talents who went on to be much more successful later.

Equilibrium:  Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 seen through the lens of The Matrix, this Christian Bale action vehicle came and went in theaters with little notice, but became quite the cult classic on DVD.  While not amazing and not really anything new, it’s solid distopian fun.  There are some pretty cool fights and gun battles, and the oppressive cement city makes a nice depressing stage.  Good cast, too.

Cabin in the Woods:  I’ll admit, I wasn’t very excited about this movie.  Frankly, the trailer made it look like a pretty typical horror movie, with usual stupid characters doing usual stupid things, with a dash of Cube thrown in for a ‘twist.’  However, it actually had a lot more Halloween III: Season of the Witch than I was expecting.  And yes, that’s a good thing, as Halloween III is the only one of that franchise I enjoy (Throw your tomatoes.  I can take it.).  The cast is good.  The script is clever.  And the end was more ‘climactic’ than I was expecting.

The Darkest Hour:  Another one of those movies that isn’t great, but is a heck of a lot better than it looked and than I had any expectation of.  There aren’t really a lot of new ideas, stunts, or gags in it, but they’re still mostly well done and the Moscow setting gives it a different feel than you’d usually get in L.A. or New York.  It even managed to surprise me once or twice, killing off people in a somewhat unexpected order.  The music is a little too emo, but I guess that goes with the age and the cast.  I think I’m simply not in touch with those young people, man.

Emanuelle, Queen of the Desert:  Laura Gemser was a really, really gorgeous woman, and she seemed to have no issues whatsoever disrobing.  Unfortunately, she was in mostly drab Euro-crap.  This movie looks like it was shot on video.  The DVD was surely copied from video, as it looks like a low greade VHS.  The dubbing is somewhat entertaining in its crappiness.  The music is awful.  The plot, if you can call it that, revolves around a bunch of stupid guys who can’t keep it in their pants, wandering around the countryside familiar to spaghetti western fans.  It felt like there was little thought or preparation for this film.  More like, “we’ve got a camera, a few dudes, and Gemser’s willing to take it all off…Let’s make a movie.”

Casino Royale:  Like the best of Bond, and often the best of film, this has a timelessness that transcends.  I’ve raved about it before, how it’s the best Bond since From Russia With Love, how Craig is the first to play Bond as the beast he should be since Connery’s first couple go-arounds, how it’s the first to capture that 60s wonder of exotic locations in a long time.  It’s just a darned fine film.

Or, as I call it, a Saturday.

    All right, so on Saturday I attended Avengers Fest 2012, hosted by my friend Darren.  It seems Darren was inspired by Brad’s ShatAttack, which was in turn inspired by my HestFest, to do his own.  And it was flippin’ EPIC.  Sadly, I’m an old man, and have a very difficult time staying awake after 10PM, so I missed the end of it (see Brad’s Week in Dork!).  But, up to that point, it was awesome.  We went in expecting to see the movies that lead up to The Avengers.  But we ended up with a few surprises along the way.

Iron Man:  On what I believe is my third viewing of this movie, I’ve gotten past my initial disappointment.  When I first saw the film, I was annoyed at how ‘by the book’ the story was.  Well, it still is, covering all the typical superhero plot points in all the typical ways.  However, I’ve come to enjoy the film much more, focusing more on the performances and dialog.  The effects are pretty good and lots of stuff blows up, but it’s Robert Downey Jr. playing the foppish Tony Stark that carries the film.

Iron Man 2:  The follow-up to the smash hit breaks away from its origin story mold to build on what was started in the first film.  Downey Jr. is still doing his thing, hamming up Stark’s larger than life personality, and the rest of the cast follows along nicely.  Sam Rockwell slips into his dorky coward character with ease, and is good for plenty of laughs.  And man, Don Cheadle is such a HUGE step up from Terrance Howard.  I don’t generally like when they switch actors, but it’s well worth it here.

Surprise number one:

Nick Fury-Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.:  “From one of the writers of Batman Begins.”  Oh, yeah.  This movie, coming before X-Men helped reshape people’s idea of what comicbook movies could be (read: well done and successful), is total, made for TV garbage.  Entertaining?  Heck yeah.  Good?  No way.  Bad effects, awful dialog, worse acting.  The Hoff is so terrible, you have to wonder how he ever got work.  I’m fairly certain he’s drunk in most of this, too.

The Incredible Hulk:  So, I’m on that very, very short list of people who not only liked Ang Lee’s Hulk, I actually loved it.  One of the things I liked about it was that they took a character I was never overly fond of, and turned him into someone I cared about.  So, when I saw the first trailer for The Incredible Hulk, which made it look like all the stupid Ang Lee had left out, I was less than excited.  To my surprise, when I did finally see it, I ended up really enjoying the film.  Norton is pretty good, the story is solid, and the action exciting.  It’s not the high drama of Hulk, but it’s still a good movie.

Surprise number two:

The Incredible Hulk Returns:  Dr. Banner has settled down, kept calm, and slowly worked out a way to get rid of his greed side.  But, when a dorky ex-student shows up with a bag full of hammer, there’s trouble to be had.  The Thor business in this film is really weird.  But, kind of awesome.  Thor is just a dude who wants to have a good time, and he wants the little nerdy dude to man up.  It’s so wacky, and so 80s, I just couldn’t help but smile.

Thor:  They’re making a Thor movie?  Really?  A movie about one of Marvel Comics more ‘huh?’ characters?  OK.  I have to admit, I wasn’t especially interested in this movie.  And the interest I did have was almost all wrapped up in my liking of the director.  So, color me shocked when I ended up enjoying the heck out of it.  It’s funny at the right moments, dramatic when it needs to be, and surprisingly bold in its scope.  Where Green Lantern failed by spending too much time on Earth and not enough in space, this film succeeds by embracing Asgard and all that it implies.  I still can’t believe this film got made.  And I can’t believe I liked it so much.

    With good food, good folks, and good films, Avengers Fest 2012 was a great way to help kick off the summer season of blockbuster movies.  And the bag of goodies I came away with was awesome.  A new poster for framing, a sweet mug, and a bunch of cool Nick Fury swag.  Maybe next time I down a pot of coffee and make it for the whole thing.  And I really feel like I need to step up my game for HestFest this year.

    As far as stuff not Avengers Fest, I got some reading done, finally finishing the second Aliens VS Predator Omnibus (see my review here).  And I listened to Douglas Adams’ Salmon of Doubt (my review here).


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