This Week in Dork was all about the Alien Saga and the build to Friday's Prometheus. Not just one of my most anticipated films of the summer, but of the whole year, Prometheus stirred up some complicated emotions I was not really expecting. As a means of preparation for the new Ridley Scott film, I decided to watch the Alien films in reverse order. That may or may not have been a good idea. Not sure if I should have bothered trying to fit Prometheus into that cannon...at least not Aliens, Alien 3, and Resurrection.
The other big news this week was that I made my Podcast debut on the After Movie Diner's special report on the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con. It was a great honor to appear on the show and I really had blast discussing my insane Shatner love with Jon and he didn't seem to mind my inane Cosplay ramblings. Hopefully you wont' either. Also, if you listen closely you'll hear Matt giggling in the background as I proclaim my Moontrap love. Hopefully this will be the first of many Podcast appearances; a new wave of ITMOD world domination has begun.
If by some crazy psychological mixup, you're not listening to the After Movie Diner than you're really missing one of the whackier and extremely entertaining podcasts out there. Absolutely loved the last ep dissecting Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, and featuring a great interview with actress Barbara Crampton. Really looking forward to her appearance in the home invasion flick You're Next.
To listen to the episode just click HERE.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Alien - Resurrection: "A Beautiful, Beautiful Butterfly!" If you watch this film after Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3 you might come away filled with a shrugging, eye-rolling hate. But if you watch Resurrection alone...and try to forget everything else you've seen before in the franchise...than it's not all that bad. For Joss Whedon, the crew of the Betty is a dry run for the crew of the Serenity and I really do love Brad Dourif's taunting affection for his cloned creations. However, there's no denying that Jean-Pierre Jeunet directs the performances into the uber-heights of screaming melodrama, and his Newborn mewling baby still gives me a serious case of oogie nausea. That thing is just gross.
Alien 3: The 2003 cut of Alien 3 adds a little more religion and sacrifice to the conversation and it hints at a possible Great film behind David Fincher's lens. But what I take away most from the third act in the Alien franchise is just how filthy and disgusting the prison planet, Fury 161 truly is--roaches, roaches, roaches. Aliens was always going to be a tough act to follow and maybe going back to the formula of the first film was the right choice, but in making another space slasher you guarantee comparisons to greatness where James Cameron cleverly avoided that by jumping genres. Still, this is not the crap film most would have you believe. Weaver is fantastic as the brutalized Ripley, and the monstrous convicts she has for help are a fascinating collection of characters. Much more interesting than James Cameron's gung ho marines.
Aliens: I've seen Aliens so many times I can watch the film whenever I want just by closing my eyes. And with such a familiarity, some of the shine has worn away. Sure, James Cameron took the original haunted space house narrative and transformed it into one of the best action films of the 1980s. But the action thrills don't grab me the same way that the chills and world building of the original still manage to muster. Sigourney Weaver's Ripley is dragged back into the xenomorph horror with the help corporate stooge Paul Reiser, and Michael Biehn leads a platoon of supreme badasses against the alien threat. But the real stars of the film are Stan Winston's beautifully grotesque creatures crawling outta the walls and bursting from chest cavities. I miss puppets.
Alien: My 10th Favorite Film of All Time. Alien does not simply succeed on the success of HR Giger's Alien design or the stunning set work. With the exception of possibly John Carpenter's The Thing, this cast is unparalleled in genre cinema. Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, and Sigourney Weaver. They sell the environment around the dinner table, their joking, their barbs, their vitriol. And when the star beast starts slashing its way through the cast, they sell the terror with their fear shrieks and cries of anger. Ridley Scott masters the build with Alien, and the creature feature climax does not disappoint thanks to the first 2/3rds of character & tension building.
Dragnet: Yeah. That's right. I love Dragnet. The Movie. Forget the tv show. The movie is where it's at. Dan Aykroyd never cracks a smile as Detective Friday, even when he's partnered with the hyper sexual lug that is Tom Hanks' wisecracking Pep Streebek. The film is totally 80s with its high hair, pointless strip club sequences, Dabney Coleman lisping, and Alexandra Paul's ultimate hapless virgin. Christopher Plummer is far too entertaining as the priest gone P.A.G.A.N. and his sleazy smile steals every scene. Cheeze. But glorious cheeze.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming-
Prometheus: Full disclosure. I am going to have to see this movie again. I've been looking forward to Prometheus since its production start, but my anticipation for the Alien prequel exploded when I first glimpsed footage at last year's San Diego Comic Con. So, as with most similar cinematic situations, the film failed to match my ridiculous fanboy anticipation.
While watching Prometheus I couldn't help but recall the crew of the Nostromo, a crew of space truckers scrounging the cosmos as a means of making a buck; who fall victim to corporate greed and a pesky intergalactic terror. As stated above, what works so dang well with that original Alien are the interactions between the characters and the twisty path their narratives take--the typical heroic Captain fails to save the day, the science officer goes white blood crazy, the pushy intense Number 2 takes the lead and saves the cat, etc. But the crew of the Prometheus never wanders from their cliched archetypes. Noomi Rapace's true believer scientist runs the show with her faith and never wavers, Charlize Theron's ice queen plants herself as an unlikable witch, Michael Fassbender's mysteriously untrustworthy droid remains mysteriously untrustworthy. There's barely an arc to their story. Very frustrating.
But maybe it's unfair to compare the two crews. Maybe I just need to accept their placement within the plot. Focus on that. Ok. It's a solid science fiction tale in which a group of scientists attempt to discover the engineers of mankind and it's all kinda woo-y Chariots of the Gods stuff. A staple of UFO genre fiction.
Where the film really works is in Ridley Scott's eye. He paints an absolutely beautiful picture with brilliant sets, costume design, special effects, and yes, creature work. Charlize Theron & Michael Fassbender are phenomenal even in their narrowly defined roles and surrounded by bumbling dimbulb biologists--AND don't even get me started on that punk rock geologist. Fassbender's David is probably the most fascinating character in the film with his daddy issues and cinematic hero worship. And damit, I kept hoping Theron & Fassbender were going to wrestle the script away from Rapace and her super annoying boyfriend. There was a great film tucked behind their characters, just waiting to break free.
Again, I want to see this movie for a second round. Since the credits rolled it's all I've been thinking about. So that right there means it had a serious effect on me. And I'm guessing now that those pesky expectations can be put to the side, I can just sit back and enjoy. And I really cannot wait to see this flick on blu ray.
COMICS OF THE WEEK!
Batman - Death By Design: This is one of those stand alone Batman graphic novels that doesn't quite fit into the continuity of the comic, but doesn't negate it either. Writer Chip Kidd & artist Dave Taylor look to the Batman of yesteryear for a retro tale of corporate fraud, architecture terrorism, and The Joker (yeah, him again). It's an absolutely stunning book and even if the story had been absolutely crap, this hardcover would totally be worth its $24.99 price tag. Thankfully, this art deco beauty has a fun narrative as well. A young Bruce Wayne is still finding his way under the cowl when a series of devastating mishaps occur during the construction of the new Wayne Central Station. What do these "accidents" have to do with his father's legacy? And who is the mysterious Exacto? And why does the Clown Prince of Crime seem so interested in Wayne's crumbling foundation? I would hate to think this is a one time deal from Kidd & Taylor, as I would like to see a whole series of retro Bat adventures from them.
Batman - Knightfall Volume 2: Bane has broken The Batman. Crippled, Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham in the hands of the brainwashed Jean Paul Valley aka Azrael, the psychotic vigilante haunted by the ghost of his father and the religious order of St. Dumas. Bwwwwaaa huh? Wayne should probably have done a little more research on his successor, and for 600 + pages, this new techno Batman brutalizes the rogues of Gotham. Sure, sure, sure, he fights the usuals like The Joker and Clayface Three (uh, don't ask), but the real fun of this ridiculously 90s epic are the whack-o, who-the-hell-are-they villains like Gunhawk, Abattoir, and the quickdraw cowboy twins Tom & Tad. You need these newbie freaks for Psycho Bats to execute. After all he can't be the one to actually take down The Joker. Honestly, I much preferred the this volume of Knightfall to the first if only cuz Batman is not such a sickly, wimpy mess. And I kinda adore the idiocy of these 90s bad guys. Yep, looking forward to Volume 3 where Bats takes back the cowl.
Baltimore - The Curse Bells: Christopher Golden & Mike Mignola team up once more for the second volume of Baltimore. Set shortly after the events of The Great War, Lord Baltimore travels to Lucerne Switzerland on the hunt for the one-eyed vampire beast that killed his entire family. The Curse Bells feels like the best of Hammer Horror, Ben Stenbeck's monstrous illustrations deliver chills as vampire nuns cry tears of blood and a wannabe dictator carves his fate from a sacrificial womb. This is epic comic book horror. The first Baltimore trade was fun, but The Curse Bells is one of the best horror comics to come our way in a long, long time. A Must Read.
Before Watchmen - Minutemen #1: Well, here's the first in DC Comics' Watchmen cash-in event. And yeah, it still feels funny. And pointless. Don't get me wrong, Darwyn Cooke's art is bloody fantastic and he's the perfect fit for the origins of the Minutemen crime fighting team. But based on this first issue, I just don't get the point of exploring the backstory of these minor characters from Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' original book. We got all we needed back in the 80s. This just feels unnecessary. I'm not gonna bother with the other books unless I start to hear rave reviews, and I probably will only pick up the trade of Minutemen cuz I love Darwyn Cooke's art so much.
X-O Manowar #2: This reboot on the other hand I'm absolutely enjoying. Not sure if I care about the other new Valiant books but with its crazy brains alien religion, visigoth warrior mentality, mighty morphin power suit, and Cary Nord's stunning art, X-O Manowar is one of the most entertaining books on the stand right now. Granted we're only two issues into the new series and it can all go tits up but so far soooooo good. And now that the keeper of Shannara has been chosen, it looks like we're gonna get a whole bunch of spider alien hate crimes. Excellent.
Ragemoor #3: With only one more issue of the mini series to go, we're finally starting to get some focus to the plot. Master Herbert's desires for Anoria are threatened when the sneaky poacher Tristano sneaks into her bed chamber for some late night loving. Well, as a groundskeeper of a living castle, he's got a whole mess load of diabolical masonry and skullheaded baboons at his disposal and his actions will be devastating. But will the lovely Anoria be persuaded by his charms or just chuck herself into oblivion? Not being a cheery book, Master Herbert might have to find new beauties to obsess over. Plenty of squid creatures and beetle men hanging around.
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth - The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell: Here's a quick one-shot that finally reveals the origin of the nutjob occult investigator JH O'Donnell and it's all very typical BPRDish kinda stuff. Spooky houses, cult sacrifices, and plenty of sadness. Via flashback, it's great to see Hellboy pop up for a little while and I really hope that artist Max Fiumara returns to the series on a more regular basis since his illustrations perfectly capture the depressing nature of this new world Hell on Earth universe. But this is just a breather until we're back on board The Devil's Engine.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK!
Avery Brooks' Here Album: The Wife picked this up last week at the Philadelphia Comic Con and I've been listening to it in chunks during car rides back and forth from work. It's a typically jazzy creation you would expect from the man called Hawk, and it is laced with the beautifully weird and wonky philosophy glimpsed at during William Shatner's The Captains documentary. Here is definitely not for your average joe, you gotta have some serious Star Trek or Spencer For Hire love to truly appreciate it's tones, but if you're willing than you'll have a blast with both the jazz and spoken word (soooo much spoken word).
Art by Francesco Francavilla