Sunday, May 13, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (5/6/12-5/12/12)

The Fiend (aka Beware My Brethren):  Young Kenneth loves three things; his mom, Jesus, and killing young women.  Some crazy religious family values drive a lot of bad behavior.  And young girls drop like flies.  The music is so surreal and inappropriate for the film, it’s almost worth the price of admission.

Tarzan Triumphs:  “Nazi hyena dead now.”  Jane is away, Nazis are sniffing around, and a lost city with the smokin’ hot princess Zandra, waiting for plunder.  It’s weird how Africa doesn’t seem to have any black people.  I do like the idea of Tarzan fighting Nazis.  I guess every recurring character in that era had to, but I like it more here than in the Sherlock Holmes movies, where it doesn’t make a touch of sense.  I can’t help but wonder how Jane would feel about Tarzan’s new friend Zandra, their swimming together and dinner cooking.

Tarzan’s Desert Mystery:  Jane is still away, dealing with that darned War.  Tarzan, Boy, and Cheeta are off to find a cure for Jungle Fever (no kidding).  I guess, somewhere in the middle of the jungle, there is an Arab populated desert community.  Still no black people in Africa, though.  What’s up with that?  Can Boy get the smart-talking city girl to help get Tarzan out of a jam?  Can they stop the evil outsider from getting one over on the kindly sheik?  Then…Dinosaurs!  Killer Plants! A Giant Spider!  And Vile Treachery!

Captain America: The First Avenger:  My second viewing of this movie was a bit more enjoyable.  I still think the first two thirds of the film are the best, with the end becoming a bit too obviously designed to set up The Avengers.  Sadly, my favorite part of the movie, and what I wish most of the movie had actually been, was a montage.  What I wanted from this movie, especially since it was directed by The Rocketeer helmer Joe Johnston, was Cap fighting Nazis.  I wanted the retro-adventure, but this felt like a tease with no intention of following through.  Still, if you can accept that and just enjoy it as an extended introduction to The Avengers, it’s pretty good.

Seconds:  “Arthur had been dead a long, long time before they found him in that hotel room.”  Rock Hudson puts in the performance of a lifetime in this extremely disquieting science fiction thriller from the mid 60s.  It starts out unsettling, becomes uncomfortable, and ends up truly terrifying.  No space ships or robots, but great science fiction none the less.  Who are we if we don’t have a past?  Like the best science fiction, it makes you think, takes you out of comfort zones, and leaves you with some questions.

Scott Pilgrim VS the World:  Like the unfairly maligned Speed Racer, this movie is a technicolor explosion of frantic, surrealistic cinema.  It’s also a fantastic ode to geek culture, from video games to music to comics and beyond.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but also painfully accurate in its view of fringe love, loss, and confusion.  It’s sometimes really heartbreaking, especially in the case of young Knives.  It felt kind of like watching a cartoon, or like reading a comic book, with all the weird physics and reality breaks.  And since the film is based on a long running comic, I guess that makes sense.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:  The movie that redefined Star Trek, made it accessible to the general public, and unfortunately created a mold that nearly every Trek film since has followed.  It’s an action movie, with very little in the way of universe development, but lots of thrilling heroics and character moments.  While most of the actors get at least a good scene or two (more for McCoy and Spock), it is really Kirk VS. Khan.  It’s two titans duking it out in starships.  Ahab and his whale.  Well, kind of two Ahabs.  I still have to imagine that the finale of this film must have been pretty darned devastating for Trek fans at the time it came out, not knowing what the next film would be about.

Project Blue: Earth SOS:  “We have the power of Science on our side, don’t we?  We’re gonna be all right.”  Man, I wish this series wasn’t an anime.  We might have been spared the horrendously annoying lead characters and stupid names (Lotte Brest), not to mention terrible dialog.  If you muscle past that, there’s actually a lot of cool stuff.  Great vehicles and some cool, weird alien invasion ideas.  Unfortunately, it’s still frequently sunk by typical anime cliché and silliness.  You might as well just watch Captain Scarlet, which goes over a lot of the same material without all the anime crappiness.

The Alcove:  A soldier comes home with a bunch of trinkets and such…and a woman.  Laura Gemser once again plays the exotic center of erotic attention.  Awful, wall to wall racism.  Mostly on the part of the characters, but partly on the part of the filmmakers.  She’s supposed to be some kind of African, even though she’s southeast Asian.  It’s all very Italian.  And then there’s the score, which sounds like someone’s got a Kenny G CD on repeat.  I don’t remember the whole licking ceremony at the last UN conference.  The end is really out of nowhere and kind of horrible.  What’s the moral of this story?

    On Thursday, Ben and I watched Thor.  You can see my review for it a couple weeks back with Avengers Fest!

    Friday night, Brad and I began the annual William Shatner celebration Shat Attack V.  We began with a couple episodes of Trek while Brad and Lisa worked on putting things together.  Court Marshal and The Return of the Archons (I hear you’re not of the body).

The Brothers Karamazov:  Lee J. Cobb, Yul Brynner and yes, William Shatner star in this classic adaptation.  Sadly, like pretty much every Russian themed piece of art I’ve seen, this is depressing and slow.  Still, Brynner is flippin’ awesome, and Shatner is sinister as all heck, with a creepy sort of piety that I found disquieting from moment one.

The True Story of Puss ’n Boots:  Holy craptastic cartoons, Batman.  William Shatner does a creepy old lady voice as the titular Puss, a demented trickster trying to foist a peasant on a princess who looks like a ten year old boy in a tutu, in this bloody awful animated feature.  Ugly, ugly animation.  Terrible voice work.  Dreadful music.  Don’t even get this for the kids.  You won’t want to watch it with them, believe me.

    We cleansed the palate with an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, where Shatner plays an astronaut who’s had his brain ultra-boosted by some space electricity.

The People:  This made for TV adaptation of the Zenna Henderson stories starts out pretty odd, with a young teacher going out into the sticks to teach some Amish looking weirdoes.  Things get more strange when Shatner shows up as a local doctor who can’t figure why the People don’t seem to get sick.  Something in the water?  There’s potential here, but it’s made-for-TV nature, as well as when it was made, do not help much.  Some cool ideas are not explored with much skill.  Seems like this would be better today, handled by the right folks.

    Following up the sleepiness of The People, we checked out a pretty good episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called Mother, May I Go Out to Swim?  He’s awesome as the momma’s boy looking for love.

    After that, we watched the Thriller episode The Hungry Glass, about the dangers of mirrors.  It’s a cool weird story, and Shatner pulls his usual freak-out.  Very Twilight Zone.  I miss anthology shows like this.

The Devil’s Reign:  A Shat Attack favorite, this evil Satan cult film is of a far higher technical and artistic quality than the content has any right to be.  Basically a typical 70s devil movie, with all the usual lurid sleaze and bad folks, it looks fantastic, with really gorgeous cinematography.  Look, it’s not a great film.  But I’ve come to really enjoy it, in spite of its very present problems.

    For a light turn, we popped in an episode of Boston Legal.  The Thanksgiving episode of the final season is all kinds of charming for fans of the show.  If you haven’t watched a lot of it, you’ll probably be lost.

    Then we watched the Barnaby Jones episode, To Catch a Dead Man.  This is the episode I’ve passed out while watching at least twice before.  Shat starts out with a rockin’ fake beard.  Buddy Ebsen just bothers me.  There’s just some sinister good ol’ boy vibe that makes me really not trust him.  Kind of like John Wayne.  Like he’s always a breath away from uttering the most racist thing you’ve ever heard.  I made it through awake.

William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet:  A documentary about the creation of a ballet based off the fantastic Shatner album Has Been, this is what you want it to be.  It’s a glimpse into the weird, bent, completely self-involved life of William Shatner.  Honestly, the ballet isn’t very good.  Oh, I’m sure their dancing is technically fine, but it doesn’t mesh with the music in any way I can figure.  It is an enjoyable documentary, with yet another angle on the making of his mad album.

    After the documentary, and while getting ready for folks to show for the main event, we checked out some Burke’s Law.  A pretty girl is found wrapped in some chain, floating in the water.  The odd bits of humor feel somewhat out of place considering the grim nature of the story.

    To get the main event up and rolling, Brad popped in the classic Trek episode, The Enemy Within.  Not just one, but TWO Kirks!!!  Shatner gets a chance to go hog-wild with crazy.  Excellent.

Impulse:  One of the all time great bad movies, Impulse is really a find.  In the post-Trek TV, pre-Trek The Motion Picture, Shatner fell on some hard times.  Those times where you take whatever you can get, not because you enjoy doing everything that comes along, but because you need anything that comes along.  The horrible outfits are a garnish on a meal of poor choices.  There’s the awful use of ‘day for night’ filming (where they shoot it during the day, but attempt to make it look like it was done at night…which is very hard to pull off).  There’s the poor use of flashback.  There’s the casting.  There’s the slow chase through the carwash.  It’s glorious.  And keep your eye out for movie highlights, like Shatner’s run in with a balloon carrier at the park or personal favorite, the big reveal at the funeral home.  A great movie to watch with a group, this has Mystery Science Theater 3000 written all over it.  Sadly, Mike, Joel and the bots never got their chance with it.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t.

    We took a break between movies to play Shatner Jeopardy.  I guess everyone thought I had some kind of unfair advantage, so they all teamed up to take me out in Double Jeopardy.  I was kind of a badass, though.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier:  This could and maybe should have been Treck’s final send off.  It’s almost universally hated and generally considered to be the worst Star Trek film (though I disagree…I think Generations and Nemesis are FAAAAAAAAR worse).  I’ve seen it now a few times, and I will say that it has grown on me.  Perhaps this is the influence of some folks I know who really like it, and have shown me some of its good.  Perhaps it’s just my Trek love evolving.  I don’t know.  But, to all the haters I say, accepting it’s flaws, Star Trek V is (along with the other mostly hated The Motion Picture) probably the most true to the original show of all the films.  It’s not just Kirk VS Khan or a Khan surrogate.  It’s an exploration of a concept.  In this case, like so many episodes of the original show, the idea that what we think of as bad about ourselves, may actually be key in defining who we are and driving us to be more.  This manifests partly in people’s need to search for meaning, be it in gods or what have you.  But I think Kirk makes the right choice, ultimately.  And without firing a phaser or throwing a punch.  The film also focuses a LOT on the Kirk, Spock, McCoy dynamic, giving the others their moments, but like focusing on the original core three.  I think because of the movies and the large cast of Next Gen, many forget that Scott, Uhura, Sulu, and the rest were always supporting cast, not the stars.  They got their moments in occasional episodes, but their names still flashed by in small print during the end credits along with Lt. Kyle, Lt. Leslie, Lt. Hadley, and others.  I don’t love this movie, and it does have some major problems.  It also suffered studio interference and deep budget slashings.  But it has a lot of good, too.  Yes, the dialog is awkward at times.  Yes, the Scott/Uhura romance feels really wrong (Uhura and nearly ANYONE else, other than maybe Chekov probably would have been fine).  And yeah, there were a lot of bad choices made.  But it’s not all bad.  Not by a long shot.

The Captains:  So scripted, so awkward, so Shatner.  Bill talks to all show captains in the most convoluted and uncomfortable of ways.  He and Kate Mulgrew is bitter and confrontational; Scott Bakula is…well, Scott Bakula; Patrick Stewart is charming and wise, if more than a little embarrassed; Chris Pine is young and confused; and Avery Brooks is…COMPLETELY F’N INSANE!!!  On a personal note, Brooks was JUST like he appears in this documentary when I saw him at a comic convention a while back.  Now I wish I’d met him in a smoky piano bar.  I’d be wearing a beret and have a very mod young woman at my side.  There’d be a guy with no shirt playing the bongos.  Very happing, man.  Very groovy.  Anyway, back to this excruciatingly uncomfortable viewing experience.  Basically what you learn is that they’re all crazy people who were good enough actors to not appear that way on screen.

    Brad then put in Secrets of a Married Man and I face planted on the floor, going unconscious for much of the rest of the festivities (hope I didn’t snore!).  So, for me, Shat Attack V was finished.

    And to say the very least, I would be remiss in mentioning Lisa's AMAZING work on the food for the occasion.  I don't have the menu in my hand right now, so I'll miss a lot of the stuff, I'm sure.  But everything from the matzo soup to the whiskey chili was flippin' fantastic.  (And thanks so much to Jill and others for bringing along more food.  Jill, those cookies were painfully good).

    I read the Free Comic Book Day issue of Boom! Studios new book, The Hypernaturals by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.  It’s got potential.  I do tend to prefer more ‘cosmic’ comics, though I tend to be less thrilled with super-teams.  This is both, like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or DC’s Green Lantern Corps.  I’m not in love with the art, but it’s on the better side of Boom!  They’ve been getting better artists as they’ve amassed more titles and authors.  The setting seems interesting, and I’m probably intrigued enough to grab the first trade of this when it comes out.  It makes me think of my long time complaint about The Fantastic Four.  A world where Reed Richards exists should be a technologic utopia within a decade or two.  This world of 100AQ is about what I’d imagine Earth to be if Marvel were brave enough to take the Richards character where he obviously should go.

    I also checked out Valiant 2012, which is a very, very brief sampling of a few new comics from that company.  X-O Manowar was what got my attention in the first place, because it’s illustrated by former Conan artist Cary Nord who doesn’t seem to work all that much, but produces some beautiful stuff.  But it also has teasers for Harbinger, so brief I really nave no idea what to think; Bloodshot, which looks like The Punisher with some weird sci-fi thrown in; and Archer and Armstrong, which certainly seems like it has potential to be cool, but didn’t really get my excitement levels up.  It sounds like Valiant is trying to do something like Crossgen did, with all their various lines building a greater universe, with threads weaving them all together into a whole.  I like the idea of that, and I think if handled well, it could be really cool.  But that’s a tough balance to maintain, and I don’t know that I’m all that interested in reading more than maybe one of their books.  Heck, I’m not even sure if I’m all that interested in reading that (X-O).

    Finishing off a week like this makes me happy and sad.  Great times you want to last forever.


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