Friday, August 3, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (7/22/12-7/28/12)

    I’ve been trying to get some more reading done recently, to varying degrees of success.  Otherwise, same old.

Clash of the Titans:  “When I spit in the eyes of the gods, then I’ll smile.”  The original film was one of my childhood favorites, but it did not stand the test of time.  Harryhausen’s stop-motion effects are cool, but the rest of the film is boring and shoddy.  This remake, though leaning too heavily on CGI (which just isn’t all that impressive 90% of the time) is far more interesting, and better paced.  Sam Worthington is still a dull leading man, but the rest of the cast is good.  I’d have preferred a less hissing and spitting Ralph Fiennes, though.  I imagine this film and its sequel will become many a child’s favorite.  It’s the kind of thing I’d have loved as a boy.  The scorpion ride with the djinn alone would have made my day.

Predators:  A bunch of killers find themselves air-dropped into an unknown jungle, with no recollection of how they got there.  It’s not long before they discover that something very, very strange indeed is happening.  Nor is it long before the bodies start piling up.  This movie does a much better job of getting into the spirit of the original film.  Plenty of action.  Enough surprises to keep things interesting.  And characters I actually like.  I wish the Aliens VS Predator films had been half as good.  This film brings in much more of The Most Dangerous Game, which I think is especially fitting for an expansion of the Predator universe.

Island of Lost Souls:  “What is the Law?!”  The best adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau, this is a creepy horror movie from the early days of sound.  I don’t think that Wells was anti-science, like all to many writers.  But I think he felt, as I do, that advances in science and technology need grow along with our ethical growth.  Responsibility along with dreaming.  Many of this stories sand as cautionary tales not about scientific advancement, but against its irresponsible handling.  Moreau is a man in love with his own ideas, not with the expansion of knowledge or the betterment of mankind.  Like the military men exploding atom bombs well after any scientific reason was exhausted, Moreau does what he does because he can, not because it will accomplish anything.  Island of Lost Souls is one of the very few movies where the addition of a romantic subplot that wasn’t present in the original actually improves things.  The book lacked a certain something and this movie finds that something.  This would be a good companion film to King Kong, The Most Dangerous Game, and White Zombie.

The Slammin’ Salmon:  “Whatever, motherf$%#a!”  This one has grown on me.  I liked it plenty when I first saw it, but as time went on, I would find myself thinking about it all the time or watching clips on YouTube.  Michael Clarke Duncan is so flippin’ hysterical as the monstrous boxing champ turned restaurant owner.  His all out assault on the English language is worth the price of admission.  The Broken Lizard crew do their usual thing, taking jokes past the point of good taste, into the realm of total crazy.

Cecilia:  Oh, Jess Franco.  You know what’s not the right music to play over ‘erotic’ sequences?  Crappy organ music that sounds like it’s being played at an old folks home dance.  Typically nonsensical, f-dup morality, and gobs of nudity.  Franco was really impressive for being so completely talentless yet maintaining a long term career and getting lots and lots of women to take their clothes off (and more when he used an assumed name).  Super awkward sex scenes, the way only the Europeans can film ‘em.  But lots of nice country and old architecture on display.  Seems like somewhere I’d like to visit, so long as I don’t have to deal with all these annoying people and their ugly sex.

District 9:  Does this movie basically take Alien Nation, update it and make it into an allegory for apartheid?  Yes.  Does it do a heck of a job?  Absolutely.  It’s a very watchable, very tough movie, with excellent special effects, complicated characters, unexpected turns, and some cringe-worthy horror both human and alien.  The cold, cruel violence of men just ‘doing their jobs,’ just ‘following orders’ is hard to watch.

The 39 Steps:  This early Hitchcock already features the director’s flare for grim comedy and ramped up tension.  The twists and turns start early, and the story takes off across England to Scotland.  The hero is classic 1930s, with wit and skill, and a devilish, cavalier grin.  The leading lady is classic Hitchcock, blond and dangerous.  Good set work, lots of cool sequences and a tight script.  Good stuff.

Encrypt:  This is very made-for-TV, but once you get past that, not bad.  It feels like an episode from a longer running show.  All the usual Made in Vancouver touches are here, including cast.  But, while not amazing, it gets the job done.  Very simple plot with a couple not that twisty twists.  If you’re in the mood for some low budget sci-fi, you could do worse.

Mirror Mirror:  Right away you see that this film has a fatal flaw.  It stars Julia Roberts.  Sure, the script isn’t that good, but Julia Roberts excels in making every moment worse.  Seriously, five minutes in and I was climbing the wall.  She’s just so aggressively awful.  Tarsem is a heck of a visual artist.  But the script is bad.  It has moments and some of the actors are pretty good.  Even the Snow White character is unusually good for a female lead these days (she’s fairly pro-active, not just reactive).  But Roberts is horrendous.  Younger kids will probably enjoy it, but it’s probably too cheesy for older kids or adults.

Das Rheingold:  “The lord of the ring as the slave of the ring!”  The beginning of the monstrous operatic epic by Richard Wagner, this serves as a sort of turning point between myths of old and modern fantasy.   Most modern fantasy owes a great deal to J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tolkien certainly owes a lot to Wagner.  He helped take scraps of myth and forge them into an epic tale.  (As an odd side note, it seems that most 20th century fantasy is rooted in either Wagner or Nietzsche, two one-time friends turned enemies.  One often accused of anti-Semitism [Nietzsche] who is often incorrectly linked to the Nazis, the other a genuine anti-Semite [Wagner] more rightly seen as an inspiration to Hitler and others of his ilk.  And while Wagner’s literary descendant [Tolkien] still holds sway over the genre, Nietzsche’s literary descendant [Robert E. Howard] has largely fallen out of favor).  In this story thief takes magic from three sisters and forges it into a powerful ring to rule the world.  The gods screw over the giants who they tricked into building a great fortress.  So Wotan is forced to go down into the depths and take the magic ring to make amends.  The version I watched, from 1991, staring Gunter Von Kannen as the thief, is lavish and strange.  Lots of weird lighting, interesting set work, and an odd semi-modern/art deco kind of thing going on.  Wotan looks like some sort of 70s folk singer/pimp.  Wild.  And the giants are crazy, man.  I also find it interesting that Loge, the trickster, is actually the best and most honest of the gods (though he is but part god).

    I finally cracked into the season 1 box set of Batman The Animated Series I borrow from Brad a few weeks back.  I’d popped it in a couple times before going to bed, but zonked out before the first episode was over.  I’m digging the show, but man they need to lay off the Joker.  With such a rich cast of villains, it’s a shame they can’t seem to get away from using that one character over and over.  I love the show’s look.  I wish more animated shows were handled with such care.

    I tried another anime series, Toward the Terra.  I keep trying because only the Japanese seem to be willing to take animated science fiction seriously.  Unfortunately, anime creators seem to be some of the least creative people on Earth, as every series is basically the same thing.  Toward the Terra is the same collection of characters you find in every sci-fi anime (oh, wait, that one guy is totally unique, because he’s wearing earphones!), doing much the same stuff.  The ships and locations are beautiful, though.  Why can’t anyone other than the Japanese do some animated science fiction?!  Science fiction is a place to let your imagination run wild, so why is sci-fi anime so flippin’ repetitive?

I've got headphones!

    I’ve had a serious hankering to see it again, so Ben and I started watching Battlestar Galactica this week.  Darn it, I like that show.  It’s so brutal.  Seeing these early episodes and knowing how things turn out for some of the characters makes certain moments more poignant or painful.  But I also find myself looking forward to certain events, certain new characters, etc.

    I also started watching some Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.  Oh, yeah.  So 70s awesome.  I definitely prefer the Nancy Drew stories, but that’s in large part to Shaun Cassidy sucking so hard as the younger Hardy.  I know he was THE teen heartthrob, but man, he’s awful.  Pamela Sue Martin’s wardrobe is flippin’ amazing.  She’d have fit right in with Charlie’s Angles, no prob.

    I read the follow-up to The Long Halloween, Dark Victory.  Good stuff.  Read my review here.

    And in keeping with my recent Batman heavy reading, I checked out the first volume of the New 50 Batman and Robin: Born to Kill.  See my review here.

    On the ‘what are they thinking?!’ front, I read the first issue of Space Punisher.  Man, Mark Texeira’s art is beautiful.  And the concept could easily work.  It’s worked a bunch of times before, going back at least as far as C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith.  A lone dude in space, earning his way by the gun?  Sure.  Even the whole revenge for killing his family bit could work, no prob.  However, Frank Tieri’s writing feels like it might be by, and is certainly for, a 13 year old boy.  This kind of mindset gave us Lobo and Venom (and worse, Carnage), and made Wolverine a star.  I keep wanting Chris Farley to walk by and say; ‘Hey Punisher…Remember that time…That time when you blew up all those bug guys with that Venom stuff on ‘em?…Um…That was AWESOME!’  The one thing I take away from this issue is that Texeira should do more science fiction adventure comics.

    My Star Wars love has certainly been abused for the last 15 years or so.  Savagely.  From the continual CG driven pooping on the original films, to the written by a ten year old garbage of the prequel trilogy.  It’s been a rough time.  The only rays of light have been from the comic writers and from the shockingly good CG animated series The Clone Wars.  So, I figured I’d give a new Star Wars mini-series a try.  In the last season of the Clone Wars that I watched, they’d brought in Darth Maul’s brother, and I knew they were talking about bringing back Darth Maul himself.  This comic takes place after that event, with the two brothers creating some kind of crazy empire.  The art is good, and there’s potentially a cool story here.  But it’s nothing especially captivating.  I suppose anyone who reads Star Wars comics normally should find plenty to like.

    I read the latest issue of Winter Soldier, the continuing adventure of a Captain America’s old chum, Bucky Barnes.  Not much happens in this issue, #8.  But it feels like they’re setting up for some bad stuff soon.  Black Widow is in some trouble, looks like a trip to Russia is in the cards, and of course, ballet.

    Hit-Girl issue 2 was pretty much more of the same.  It feels like cut scenes from the film, that were cut for a reason.  Just swearing and violence with little point.  This is not a series I’d bother reading if I had to pay for it.


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