This was a damn fun Week in Dork. Well...besides coming down with a nasty case of the retail plague. But the plague allowed for some serious downtime in the apartment where I consumed a crap ton of movies, TV, and comics. Win! I finally jumped into the reverse Coen Brothers marathon I'd been planning for the last couple of months and I'm having a blast going back in time with these twisted siblings. And if push came to shove, I would have to go with the Coens as my favorite directors on the planet, and so far I can only think of one film of theirs that I really just have no time for...scroll down to find out which one.
Doing the marathon in reverse order has been a blast too. After The Man Who Wasn't There in 2001 there was this period in time where people thought (me included) that The Coens were winding down. Then 2007 brought No Country For Old Men, their most unique film to date, and a new era in Coen cinema was born. Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, True Grit. I love every damn one of these movies; each one has made my Top Ten lists for their prospective years. I managed to pack in the last 12 years this week, and I'm racing to get to Blood Simple.
And thanks to Matt and cineAWESOME! (their Jesse Stone eps, actually), I'm a full blown Magnum PI addict. I whipped through the first season in record time and I'm stunned that The Wife & I still managed to conclude the second season of Deep Space Nine as well. People ask me how I consume all this dorkery and sometimes I'm flabbergasted by my ability to do so as well. Seriously, what the hell? Did I create more hours in the day this week. Certainly appears so.
TV OF THE WEEK!
Magnum PI - Season One: I grew up with this show. Magnum PI, The A Team, Knight Rider, and Simon & Simon. You want to understand the 1980s than you watch these shows. Tom Selleck is so damn charismatic as the Vietnam Vet turned Hawaiian Private Dick Playboy. Five minutes into this show and I was mancrushing all over the place. I'm not afraid to admit it. Men want to be Tom Magnum and women want to be with Tom Magnum. He's the king of mustache cool. Sure, there's not much to the show. Magnum gets a case. There's a guest star (Ian McShane! Ted Danson!). He solves the case. But it's soooooooooo much goofy fun. We're having a Halloween party this year and I definitely have my costume already picked out...just need to find a Detroit Tigers ballcap.
Star Trek - Deep Space Nine Season Two: The show is still finding its ground in the second season, but the Cardassian/Bajor relations get more interesting thanks to Andy Robinson's devious Garak and Nurse Ratchet's heinous Vedak vile. The series also gets a couple of highlights thanks to an Odo flashback, Bernie Casey's Marquis baddie, and the re-introduction of the Mirror, Mirror universe. And season 2 climaxes with the introduction of the Dominion foot soldiers, The Jem'Hadar and the promise of greater future conflicts. Season 3 is where the show really finds its legs and I cannot wait for Sisko to loose his hair.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Red: Had to follow up last week's Expendables birthday bash with more nostalgic gunplay. Red is a joyous PG-13 Audience Approved Action picture with the added bonus cast of adorable Grumpy Old Men. Seriously, I just wanted to snatch up John Malkovich's LSD burn-out machine gun enthusiast like a weepy eyed puppy and squeeze him to death! "Poop On That!" indeed. But besides big boys like Malkovich, Willis, Freeman, and Miran you've got great little turns from classics like Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dryfuss, Brian Cox, and even James Remar (for about 3 seconds). And yes, the sanitized not-R violence was handled well providing a surprisingly intense MTV-cutty roustabout between Willis and Karl Urban. So, if you can handle the cuteness and the silly than you will have plenty of fun with Red. I'm ready for the sequel.
The Sitter: "Make Love To The Night!" Damn. I laughed too much at this raunchy Adventures in Babysitting remake. Jonah Hill is left in charge of three psychotic pre teens who do their darndest to prevent the oversexed loser from scoring coke from Sam Rockwell's muscle enthusiast and bagging skanky Ari Graynor. The Sitter is probably primed to leave my mind thirty seconds after writing this paragraph but it produced several good bellylaughs during its hour and twenty minutes of time killer.
True Grit: Forget the original, the Coen Brothers have delivered an instant Western classic in their adaptation of the Charlie Portis novel. Jeff Bridges is a nasty, disgusting beast of a marshal and if his lack of sobriety gives young, vengeful Mattie Ross any pause, his wicked trigger finger sates her bloodlust. Matt Damon is the real surprise as cock-of-the-walk Texas Ranger LaBoeuf and his teethy bickerings with Bridges' Rooster Cogburn provide many of the films quotable guffaws. Rounding out the cast are a plethora of ugly brutes, most notably troglodyte Josh Brolin and the spitty Barry Pepper. But let's not forget the gorgeous cinematography from Roger Deakins or the mythic score from Carter Burwell. True Grit belongs right to the top of the Coen's masterful CV.
A Serious Man: "This Man Bothering You?" A brutally hilarious modernization of the destruction of Job, Michael Stuhlbarg delivers one of the great modern performances as the doomed physics professor suffering life's hateful treasures. Few films have had me aching with laughter like A Serious Man and I don't know if I should feel ashamed or commended for being in on The Coen Brothers' beautiful joke. Strangely (or maybe not), I think this would make a perfect companion film to The Big Lebowski--that other visual feast detailing a Dante-esque decent into the hell of stupidity and frustration.
Burn After Reading: "I thought you might be worried about the security of your shit." This is kinda the demented cousin to Ocean's 11. Just like A Serious Man, Burn After Reading chronicles the horrors of humanity but with a more vulgar Marx Brothers kind of lunacy. Frances McDormand's plastic surgery obsessed hardbody gets in way over her head after she discovers the unpublished memoirs of John Malkovich's blathering memoir. She and the ipod jacked Brad Pitt might see money to be made, but there's nothing to be found in this scheme but eye popping dildos and axe chopped foreheads. Burn After Reading seemed to be quickly forgotten but if yer as twisted as I am than you might discover the most quotable film in The Coen Brothers cannon. "I KNOW WHO YOU ARE FUCKER!"
No Country For Old Men: A deeply dark and depressing Western Noir that brilliantly and frustratingly thumbs it's nose at the conventions of both genres; No Country For Old Men only gets better with multiple viewings. A chase picture that sees Javier Bardem's demonic hitman tracking Josh Brolin's happenstance cowboy with an exhausted Tommy Lee Jones trailing behind their bloody wake--it's not gonna end well. No Country is both like and unlike any other Coen Brothers flick. It has the darkness of Miller's Crossing and Fargo, but lacks their wink. Whatever the case, great cinema. Putting together the best films of the last ten years, No Country For Old Men falls near the top.
The Ladykillers: "Gimme That Donut Money!" I'm a fan. So much so that I claim Tom Hanks' performance as the Foghorn Leghorn Professor Dorr to be his absolute best, and his snooty, vile criminal mastermind is one of the great screen villains. Yes, yes, yes--how dare I say anything good about a film that would dare remake the Alec Guinness classic but the way The Coens mix the presence of a vengeful God into the fray along with the ghost painting of Otho heightens this black comedy silly into magical mondo madness. And Irma P Hall is a force unto herself, the poor thieving saps never stood a chance against her righteousness. Even the normally abysmal Marlon Waynes is a treat with his profane proclamations and his hatred of Mountain Girl. So, hater, take that chip off your shoulder and try to appreciate the absurdity of one of cinema's best remakes. Otherwise, I'll sic The General on your nostrils.
Paranorman: This stop-motion monster mash is gory gobs of kiddie fun that's very much in the same vein of 80s classics like The Monster Squad, Explorers, and The Goonies. A group of disparate misfits are forced together to battle a cluster of terrified zombies and one hateful witch. Paranorman is quick and clever, and quite the relief in the sea of modern happy-happy family friendly kid fare--this is the film for your outsider child, and they're all outsiders.
Intolerable Cruelty: This is really the only Coen Brothers film that I find to be completely unappealing. Clooney is pretty much perfect as the teeth obsessed lawyer trapped inside this wannabe Tracy/Hepburn comedy, but the jokes feel incredibly staged and fall flat rather than achieving cleverness. There's a falsity to the film, and not in that charming Wes Anderson artificial beauty kinda way but just a runofthemill romcom situation. I did apprecieate the change of character for Billy Bob Thorton, this chitter chatter attacker following the slowmo thoughtful gazes of the far superior...
The Man Who Wasn't There: "Me, I don't talk much. I just cut the hair." Billy Bob Thorton's Ed Crane is another classic Coen character. He barely says a word. He smokes like a chimney. He's a barber who wants to be a dry cleaner. And when that desire leads him to the film noir nightmare that is this film we are treated with the most amazing barrage of narration ever put to screen. I would put this right up there with Miller's Crossing, The Big Lebowski, and No Country For Old Men as the absolute peak of Coen artistry. Flying Saucers and never ending hair...what's it all mean? Not sure. Just pay the lawyer and accept your fate.
COMICS OF THE WEEK!
Saga #6: Yep, yep, yep. Definitely one of my favorite books on the stands right now. Marko & Family reach the Rocketship Forest and the universe of the book immediately expands. As does the Family itself. After the shocking final pages of last issue, it’s good to see this fresh book has plenty of surprises to drop on us. One helluva cliffhanger after another. And yeah, The Will is gonna destroy Prince Robot.
Bloodshot #2: Issue two does a better job of detailing the crazy that is Bloodshot’s brain and it goes a long way in increasing my interest in the title. Conspiracies within conspiracies wrapped in great gobs of soupy blood. And Bloodshot loves his steak. Gross.
Daredevil #17: It seems like I can’t walk into a comic shop or listen to a podcast without being hassled by a dozen nerds telling me how genius Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil has been. So when I saw Madman artist Mike Allred pop on for a one shot, I decided to give the book a go. I don’t know if this is the revelation some people are claiming it to be, but Waid writes a fun Matt Murdock. Which is definiltey a change from the brooding tragic hero I’m used to…but I like my Daredevil tragic. And I guess it’s unfair to judge a book on one issue but I much much much prefer Bendis & Maleeve’s crime opera to this horse play. Still, Allred is soooooo much fun to read. And I’m really looking forward to his take on Matt Fraction’s FF.
The Victories #1: Here’s another book people seem really excited about. The Next Watchmen! Uh…yeah, I don’t think so. Sure, it’s set in an “adult” comic book universe where super heroes and villains say "fuck" a lot and shit down the throats of district judges but Greatness that does not make. And I’ve enjoyed Michael Avon Oeming’s art better in a dozen other books. It’s fun, but I’ll just wait for trade if I bother picking it up at all.
Fatale #7: Still my favorite book currently on the stands. Issue 6 read almost like a first issue, but #7 reveals how this Hollywood Cult plot will play into the overall horror of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips’ epic. B Movie star (?) Miles is definitely much more of the sadsack than Nicholas Lash or his uncle, I can see this junkie reaching a horrible and probably gory end. And the second I turned the last page I was aching for the next.
The Rocketeer - Cargo of Doom: I love the movie. I really like Dave Stevens original batch of comics. And The Rocketeer deserves a place next to the other typical comic super heroes. Written by Daredevil’s Mark Waid, Cargo of Doom is another light, fun frolic through the pulps with a mysterious shipment of scaly creatures on their way to rassel with goodboy pilot Cliff Secord. But how will this affect his relationship with bombshell Betty? And who is that creeper lurking in the bushes? I’m hoping for Rondo Hatton.
Batman Incorporated #3: Well, I had to wait an extra month but issue three was worth the wait. Easily my favorite of the New 52 relaunch books, Grant Morrison introduces Bruce Wayne’s gangster counterpart Matches Malone into the universe, and he is appropriately goofy cool. Wayne is obviously thrilled playing the mustached part with his Hollywood lingo and abrasive chauvinism. Plus, BAT COW LIVES!!!!! Damn right.
Archer & Armstrong #1: Unlike Bloodshot and X-O Manowar, I never read Archer & Armstrong during its initial run and I only have the tiniest of memories of its original plot. The relaunch is pretty interesting. Starts off in Ancient Mesopotamia with a sci-fi cataclysm and quickly jumps into present day with Creationland amusement parks and whackjob religious zealots. Archer leaves the cult for New York City and the Beast of the Apocalypse or something, and Armstrong bounces his way into the action with his ancient knowledge. Definitely curious to see where this book goes but I’m not aching for the next issue…but I guess that could be said for all the Valiant books. They haven’t reached the status of Must Reads…yet.
Fatima - The Blood Spinners #3: Just when I think this book can’t gross me out any further, I’m shocked into revulsion as a I watch a couple of Blood Spinner agents get impregnated by big black slimy maggots. Fatima can’t trust her friends after she jumps seven years into the future, but she doesn’t have time for doubt as she’s blasting junkies in the face and escaping the gullets of roving slug beasts. Just a fun, gross, and weird book.
Lobster Johnson - The Prayer of Neferu: I really want to love these Lobster Johnson books but they have yet to amaze me in the same fashion as Hellboy or BPRD. That being said, this latest one shot is a fun pulp adventure with the Lobster’s claw brandishing justice on a bunch of Mummy worshipers. Artist Wilfredo Torres should definitely stick around the Mignolaverse—his cartoony style is reminiscent of Jonathan Case’s crisp heroic characters and with Dave Stewarts colors Lobster Johnson seems to pop off the page. Disposable, but good.
American Barbarian: Tom Scioli channels the architecture of Jack Kirby's New Gods for this riotous homage to the sci-fi action of yesteryear. But this is not just drab imitation, Scioli drenches American Barbarian with uproarious vulgarity that ignites plenty of chuckles as you watch the youngest son of Yoosaman slash & bash the armies of the Two-Tank Omen. Imagine the post apocalypse of Mad Max populated with the goofy grandeur of the Silver Age and you'll get some idea for this colorful book. It's not quite the genius of Scioli's Godland, but there's plenty of crazy to enjoy.
THE ULTIMATE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BOOK CLUB!
Habibi by Craig Thompson: Our first two meetings were centered on a couple of very Super Heroy comic books (Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men and Batman - The Long Halloween). For our next effort, the group wanted to tackle something a bit more "serious." Sigh, yes, yes, I treat X-Men & Batman very seriously but it was time to expand the minds of the group-show folks that this medium is not just for capes & cowls. But maybe Habibi was too far into the deep end of the pool, and they might not have been properly prepared for the horrors that the book puts its main characters through.
The story of a nine year old girl sold into marriage; she must navigate a life of slavery as a revered member of the Sultan's harem...well, that's where the sexual horror comes into play and Craig Thompson does not shy from revealing the torture of these characters. But Habibi is also the story of two damaged children surviving their lives using the stories of the Bible, the Torah, and the Qu'arn. And somewhere in all this horror they find each other, loose each other, and find each other again. SPOILERS.....some in the Book Club were dreading a horrible end to this Epic, but I could see the light on the horizon. Unlike most of the others, I read Habibi is two quick bursts over the course of 24 hours and as I blitzed through its pages I just knew this was a book of hope. And I found myself uplifted by the endeavors of these lost kids.
I'm not sure if Habibi is the Best Graphic Novel of the last ten years, but it is a pretty damn fantastic book. Turns out, it's not for everybody-no shock there-but if you can handle frank depictions of both sex and violence while being interconnected with stories of faith than you will find this tome to be quite rewarding.
And the art!!! Yowza, Craig Thompson is a fine storyteller but his cartooning is some of the absolute best. There are pages in this book that totally floored me. The way he transforms arabic into not just the borders of the panels, but the rain, the rivers, the animals of Habibi--it's stunning. You can tear out any page in this book and hang it right on your wall. It's art.