Sunday, May 27, 2012

Brad's Week In Dork! (5/20/12-5/26/12)

A lighter than usual week for me, there were still a few rather nifty highlights.  Back at the AFI Silver, Matt & I caught Chinatown on the big screen.  Roman Polanski's wannabe noir has always been one of my favorite films and getting the chance to see a living print on Sunday was a real delight.  The only bummer was that the theater was not packed, and they relegated the screening to their smaller theater # 2 while the Avengers of Old British People i.e. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel played in their main hall.

The other two films I caught on the big screen were Battleship and Men In Black III, but I both film were rather disappointing-which is saying something cuz I wasn't expecting much from either flick.  I mean how could anyone expect anything of quality based on a board game, right?  

And with all the Dark Knight Rises posters and banners popping up on the internet this week I found myself surprisingly purchasing the new Batman - Knightfall omnibus from DC Comics.  It's a beast of a book and it's wonky writing for sure, but it was a fun nostalgic trip back to the goofy 1990s.


Chinatown:  "Well, to tell you the truth, I lied a little." Chinatown is at once a tribute to film noir and a continuation of the genre; Jack Nicholson is a smartass P.I. with a reputation, grabbing cash from the product of infidelity that leads him down the rabbit hole of corporate and government treachery. Faye Dunaway is the damaged goods damsel and John Huston, the smiling chomping dragon. As the plot unravels and the obvious becomes less obvious, Nicholson discovers even further depths of futility that even his hardened gumshoe knew not possible. A painful, brutal tale handled artfully by both Roman Polanski and Robert Towne. Maybe not in my Top Ten films of all time, but it's right there in the Top 20.

Battleship:  Despite some potentially wonderfully terrible lines of dialog like "Chicken Burrito her" and "Mustard done got run over by a garbage truck," Peter Berg's Battleship takes itself way, way, way too seriously and is far too much in love with itself to be any kind of fun. Taylor Kitsch continues his streak of attaching himself to doomed properties and sucks up the screen as a slacker sailor forced into action as light sensitive alien mech suits invade Hawaii for some god forsaken reason. Prepare yourself for loud whirring sounds, sparks, sparks, sparks and crash boom bang boring nonsense. Maybe, just maybe, if the script had a sense of humor or at least a wink to Michael BayAwesomeness than you could chuckle at the ridiculous board game turned multi million dollar blockbuster, but as is, Battleship is just an embarrassment.  And long.  And boring.  Sunk.

Jack's Back:  1988, 100 years after Jack The Ripper terrified the city of London, a series of copycat murders spring forth under the neon lights of Los Angeles. James Spader plays twin brothers caught in the middle of the killings with Robert Picardo's mama's boy police detective hypnotizing his way to the truth. Director Rowdy Herrington would go on to direct the 80s cheeze classic Road House, but Jack's Back is a rather weak rip off of the much superior Robert Bloch short story "Your's Truly, Jack The Ripper." Still, Spader is fun in the duel roles, especially the slimy naughty brother.

The Two Jakes:  Fifteen years after Chinatown, Jack Nicholson returned to the hanky panky world of private detective JJ Gittes and decided to step behind the camera when original director Roman Polanski simply knew better. The neo noir style is gone despite the addition of unnecessary pulpy narration and the flat eye of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Honestly, The Two Jakes is not a terrible film. It's just no Chinatown. And when your first film was so damn good, you really have to have a fantastic narrative to justify your existence, but try as he might Robert Towne fails to elevate the poisoned past plot.  This sequel is better left forgotten.

Top Gun:  Once a staple of my childhood, Top Gun now seems to slog through its fighter school plot of ass hole pilots trying to out-jackass their fellow students by spiking volleyballs, chewing gum, and causing nearly catastrophic aerial "look at me!" stunts. Tony Scott obviously loves mounting his cameras onto planes and I remember the dog fights looking fairly badass on the big screen, but trapped inside the television, the fight choreography fails to sizzle. And the relationship between Cruise and McGillis is completely lack of romance no matter how much shadowy lovemaking montages they splice together.

Men In Black III:  It's been fifteen years since Will Smith originally got jiggy with the shadowy organization known as the Men In Black and its been ten years since Agents J & K took down the abomination that was Laura Flynn Boyle. And was anyone looking for a third outing? Not me. And for the most part, this sequel feels worn-out and tired, even when it's thankfully not relying on worm aliens or talking pugs. The time travel plot involving Josh Brolin's young Agent K is kinda fun with his dead-on (and dead pan) Tommy Lee Jones impersonation but there's also plenty of missed historical opportunities and flat jokey jokes.  Jemaine Clement does a pretty good Tim Curry as the one armed baddie Boris The Animal and Alice Eve stands around looking pretty. Michael Stuhlbarg steals the show (as usual) as the fifth dimensionally challenged being at the center of the alien murders. Men In Black III is a solid way to kill an afternoon, but I would not shell out for nighttime (and especially not 3D) prices.


Batman - Knightfall Volume 1:  The 90s Epic that pit crime lord & wannabe luchador Bane against Bruce Wayne's sick & sniveling Batman. The first volume of Knightfall is a massive tome weighing in just over 600 pages, and only towards the end, after The Bat has been broken and Wayne has awoken from his coma do we get any sense that Bats is any kind of a badass. For most of this story, Wayne is on the verge of collapse. Even before Bane busts all the loonies out of Arkham, he's got the sniffels. Just taking down C List villains like The Ventriloquist and The Mad Hatter is a challenge let alone the main rogues like The Joker or Scarecrow. Honestly, seeing every issue conclude with an exhausted and frowny faced Batman is rather annoying. Especially when the mantel has to be passed to Jean Paul Valley's god crazy Azrael and this new bling bling Batman takes on Bane's underworld with such ease. Bruce Wayne is tougher than this book gives him credit. It tries too hard to justify Bane's reign over Gotham, slighting the character of the billionaire vigilante; transforming the icon into a mental weakling.

Still, it's fun to revisit this media orchestrated event. And there is a glimmer of an interesting creation in Bane, the anti-Batman. I can easily see Christopher Nolan molding this oh-so-90s idea into a brutal brawl for The Dark Knight Rises, and I really hope the final Nolan film takes its climax cues from Knightfall's conclusion. BREAK THE BAT!  And I gotta admit,  I am looking forward to venturing into volume 2 (&3!) of Knightfall. Jean Paul Valley is a serious loon and even if I don't quite understand what Wayne was thinking when he gave the suit over to this nutter, it's fun to see this razor clawed Batman beat the maniacs of Gotham to a bloody pulp.

Batman - The Court of Owls:  Collecting the first seven issues of The New 52 Batman, The Court of Owls doesn't necessarily retcon everything we've come to know about the caped crusader (this is still Bruce Wayne, the revenge?/justice? fueled vigilante, caretaker of three acrobatic wards), but it definitely has some fun with the history of Gotham. A John Doe murder sends Bats through the mirror darkly of historical conspiracy, involving a legendary court of manipulative high society bird brains and their unstoppable Talon assassins. Writer Scott Snyder takes full advantage of former Spawn artist Greg Capullo's slick and violent style, plunging The Batman into the sewers of Wayne's psyche. And his Owls creep me the hell out. I appreciate how this first volume doesn't neatly conclude the plot and even promises further exploration of Gotham's secret history as Batman & company will most definitely face off against an armada of fresh rogues. Man, it's nice to not just have another Joker punch up.


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