Thursday, April 19, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/8/12-4/14/12)

All right!

    This week seems to have happened, but I’m not really sure where I was for most of it.  Watching the Val Lewton movies feels like forever ago, but I didn’t exactly light the world on fire with grand adventures or anything.  Ah, well.

Futurama Season Six (part 2):  “Better cover your nads.  It may get a little non-Newtonian in here.”  While the later seasons of this show tend to lack some of the awesomeness of the first two, there’s still a lot of awesome, and a few really great episodes.  This second half of the season features mostly good episodes, some really good.  I love The Simpsons, but Futurama is just my kind of thing.  I really love it, even when it’s not totally up to snuff.

The Leopard Man:  Val Lewton produces another Noirish, psychological horror tale.  I love how these movies take such sensationalistic titles and turn them into thoughtful, eerie, and moody tales that leave just the right things vague.

Ghost Ship:  On his first journey out to sea, a young officer tries to come to terms with the strange ways of his new captain.  Is the captain just unusual, or is he a dangerous madman?  As usual in Lewton produced films, the characters aren’t simple, and not always what they appear.  I don’t get the whispering mute’s narration, though.  It’s awkward.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery:  Parodies of James Bond and the like aren’t new.  Matt Helm, Flint, and others have been around for some time.  But Austin Powers still manages to get me in fits of laughter.  It’s clever.  It’s low brow.  The plays on 60s film and culture, seen through the eyes of the 90s make the film an unintentionally interesting time capsule.  Just watch out for those ill tempered mutant sea bass.

Vanessa:  I’m curious if there was some specific reason so many Euro-smut movies were filmed in Hong Kong during the 70s.  Simply a matter of budget?  I wonder.  Wall to wall nudity is A-OK in my book, and this movie has it.  But I found other aspects of oddly charming.  Like the crazy black magic sub-plot with the guy who looks like Nick Cave.  The almost random way the story drifts along.  Awesome.  And oddly, there are some genuinely beautiful shots.  I don’t know if they were intentional or not.  But one specific moment while the title character is riding in a boat on the harbor is really nice.  Frankly, it belongs in a better movie.  For Euro-trash, this one is fairly entertaining.

Police Academy:  Super 80s, with extremely broad humor and lots of goofy acting, this is still a great deal of fun.  Is it good?  No, not really.  Is it funny?  No, not really.  But it’s pleasantly goofy.  And it’s fully of 80s ‘that guy’ actors.  What I found really odd is that it’s barely even an R rated film.  My memory of it was that it was very strong, but other than a couple boobs and a few lewd jokes, there’s hardly anything especially offensive.

Rough Magic:  There’s a good story here; a good concept.  It just doesn’t work.  Not only because the final act feels forced and the finale descends into romantic comedy schlock and awkward humor, buy because it feels like nobody was quite sure what kind of movie was being made.  On the one hand, it kind of goes for it with its whole post-WWII, hardboiled Mexican adventure with a dash of Indiana Jones or even Clive Barker.  But, on the other hand, it never follows through nearly enough to become the weird fantasy it wants to be, nor does it get gritty enough for a solid Noir-like tale.  Hints of Lord of Illusions and similar weird tales are tantalizing but ultimately doomed by standard 90s gutless filmmaking.  I’m not a fan of Fonda at all, and I can take or leave Russell Crowe, but both do a good enough job here.  If only the film had been a little more bold.

The Extraordinary Voyage (Le voyage extraordinaire): A pleasant documentary from France, this would have been a great special feature on a DVD collection of subject Georges Milies’ silent films.  As a stand-alone, it’s informative, but feels a bit too short, too surface.  There is a lot of original Milies footage, which is nice, and some frequently clever use of stock footage.  But probably the highlight of the documentary is the explanation and demonstration of the actual process of film deterioration and restoration.  The primary focus is on the restoration of A Trip to the Moon to its original hand tinted color splendor.  I’d have liked this to be a longer documentary, dealing with more of Milies’ films and with their production and distribution.  But, as a primer, it’s nice.  And if you watched last year’s Hugo, you should surely see this.

A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune):  110 years old, this 14 minute film is still fascinating and funny.  The theatrical nature of the sets and costumes, and the dream-quality created by combining them with hand tinted colors create a weird dream world akin to puppet shows or fairy tales.   Seeing it on the big screen at the AFI theater in Silver Spring Maryland was a real treat.

Torchwood Miracle Day:  The fourth season of the show sees Jack and Gwen making some new friends and rebirthing Torchwood when suddenly everyone stops dieing.  Things get exceptionally grim very quickly, as the meat-hook reality eternal life, especially without eternal youth, sets in.  The population begins to spike, illness becomes epidemic, economies and governments begin to fail.  In the kind of mid-point of the series, things wander, becoming a bit too serial-like, with too many twists for the sake of having them.  The last couple episodes bring things back in line, thankfully.  There are lots of surprising cast choices that come and go across the season, the production values are nice, and I enjoy the world hopping, not just from Wales to the US, but beyond.  Though not nearly as strong as Children of Earth, Miracle Day is still a fairly good season.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  Look, I know the book is funny.  It’s very, very funny.  I just don’t enjoy reading comic fiction.  Funny books are fine, but I don’t find funny novels engaging, no matter how funny they are.  So, while I have always enjoyed the idea of Douglas Adams’ books, I’ve never actually enjoyed reading them.  But, I liked the TV show, audio versions of the book, and I’m sure I’d dig the radio show that started it all.  And you know what?  I really enjoy the movie version.  Exceptionally British, clever, silly, weird, and beautifully realized, I simply like it.  It’s a flurry of nutty bits flying at your brain, without a lot of time spent explaining itself.  If you like a healthy dose of the unusual, give it a go.

    Also watched a couple episodes of Charlie’s Angels last week, while I was killing some time.  Even though I do like Cheryl Ladd, I’m just not feeling the second season like I did the first.  It’s still fun, but…I don’t know.

    Tuesday night, while Brad and Lisa were nice enough to put up with me for a few hours, and we watched the great American classic Police Academy, we also finally cracked into the much anticipated (by Brad and me) Axe Cop Munchkin.  Wow.  I’ve played three variants; the original, Cthulhu Munchkin, and now Axe Cop, and I have to say, Axe Cop is the most fun yet.  The rules are pretty much the same.  It’s not a different game exactly.  Just that the crazy of Munchkin and the crazy of Axe Cop seem to complement each other exceedingly well.  I look forward to more rounds of that game soon.  Which reminds me, I have to host another game night…which reminds me, I should have posted my write-up about the last game night a long time ago…which reminds me how much not having consistent internet is starting to be a real drag.  In some ways, it’s great.  But when push comes to shove, I’d rather have it.

    On the book front, I finished a book about Celtic mythology (read my review here).  But didn’t really tap into any graphic novels this week.  I did see a couple super-sweet hardcover reproductions of first edition Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars and Tarzan.  Very nice volumes, but also not cheap, and I’m not a collector, as such.  I’m probably going to have to get the Disney editions that came out just before the movie, though, as they’ve finally reprinted the whole series in three volumes, instead of the first three, or at best, the first five, like everyone else.  And I saw that there’s a Kolchack: The Night Stalker graphic novel out there from Moonstone.  Now, Moonstone hasn’t exactly wowed me before, with their typically low quality art and not especially inspired writing.  But, I do love Kolchack.  Has anyone read it?  If so, what are your thoughts?

    I also read (?) the first volume of Owly.  Short and simple as it is (it took me about 10 minutes to finish the 157 pages), I’m not going to post a full review, so here are my thoughts after reading it:  The first volume of Andy Runton’s Owly contains two stories, The Way Home and The Bittersweet Summer.  With little animal characters, image balloons instead of dialog, and simple messages about life and nature, these stories are great for little ones.  But, honestly, as an adult, I still found the brief tales heartening.

    Last minute, I scored a copy of Iron Butterfly’s Heavy, which is very groovy.  I’ve been in the mood for trippy 60s/70s type stuff lately, enjoying some Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Procol Harum, and the like.  Not sure what that’s all about, except that Spring often makes me feel nostalgic, sometimes in gut wrenching ways.


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