Monday, November 26, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (11/18-11/24)

    A good week, I guess.  More comics.  More movies.  Some Lovecraft dramatizations.  Good stuff.

The Black Hole:  A science fiction film based on Heart of Darkness?  That could be awesome.  Sadly, while kind of fascinating, this movie isn’t all that great.  It has some fantastic production design and an interesting cast.  But the script is only so-so, and the ending doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Still, it’s worth a watch.  The model work is very good.  This came out in the wave of post Star Wars science fiction, but I think owes much more, stylistically, to Forbidden Planet.  It feels much more old school.  If I didn’t know better, I’d probably assume it was made in the late 60s, not the very early 80s.

Tron Legacy:  “Bio-digital jazz, man.”  The original Tron was an interesting and ambitious film that presaged films to come, while still being firmly rooted in moviemaking techniques of the past.  A strange and wondrous world, existing within the world of computers, peopled by programs of various powers and degrees of sentience.  This film extrapolates on those ideas to create a grand adventure, steeped in history and mystery.  Gorgeous visuals and a powerful electronica score from dance favorites Daft Punk help carry the viewer into the Grid, where Flynn’s right hand man, C.L.U., has taken over, driving the Creator into the wastelands.  His champion, Tron, now serves a new master.  The games have evolved, the programs have taken over, and something has emerged that was never intended.  With the exception of the fairly bland lead (he’s not bad, just dull), the cast is excellent, selling the insanity of the world and the story.  Just a really, really fun film.

Spaced Out:  A bit of cheeky goofiness from those blokes in the UK.  A bunch of dolts wander onto an alien craft that has stopped off on Earth for some repairs.  Culture clashes, biologic surprises, and boobs, boobs, boobs.  I can’t say this movie is good.  It’s not.  But dang, it made me laugh on several occasions.  Track-suited letch guy has some of the best scumbag expressions I’ve seen.  It does prompt me to ask, why would anyone in a dead-end job with no prospects even think about turning down a ship full of wanton women begging you to travel the galaxy?  Just doesn’t make sense.   And what’s with the end?

Pride and Prejudice:  Oh, those upper class twits.  They do get up to such nonsense.  Stiff upper lips, social climbing, and the petty difficulties between the rich and the not so rich.  A world where honesty and forthrightness are vices.  I can’t even imagine what romance must have been like from the inside during this era.  I see people going through the motions, but it seems like a religious ceremony; actions with meanings I find obscure.  As far as the film goes, it is very pretty, and you can see the early stylistic flourishes of director Joe Wright.  And I feel so danged bad for Tom Hollander’s priggish parson.  He doesn’t seem like such a bad chap; just horribly awkward.  But at least this movie shows the truth.  You can be terse, difficult, abrasive, and aloof and women will still find you charming and take the time to see the inner you, so long as you’ve got money.

My mansion makes me charming!

Drive:  A quiet loner does what needs to get done.  Made vulnerable by feelings for a woman, he gets into some trouble.  Not really a new story.  But with stylistic flourishes and a slow burn build-up to terror and violence, it rises above the simplicity of its plot to become compelling cinema.  Heck, it’s 40 minutes in before you get a hint that the Driver isn’t quite what he seems.  It feels like a movie from another era, the late 70s or early 80s.  In look, sound, and pacing, it doesn’t feel modern at all.  The characters are surprisingly complex and sympathetic, even when they shouldn’t be.

Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill:  Wait, Germany had an ‘answer to James Bond?’  I guess so.  Kommissar X is the slick 60s hero with all the tricks.  But why is he American?  The bad dubbing and shoddy quality make it a bit rough.  I’d like to see a cleaned up, subtitled version.  Except that the movie is also pretty dull and generally not well made.  So watching it again isn’t on my ‘to do’ list.

So Darling, So Deadly:  “All right, let’s stop talking about bananas.”  Kommissar X is back, this time in Asia to paw and leer at a new bunch of women.  More bad dubbing.  Truly awful music.  And lots of awkward action.  Then there’s something about a shipment of bananas.

Death is Nimble, Death is Quick:  Gah.  By the third film, the smarmy shenanigans of Kommissar X have long since warn out their welcome.  Germany may have had an answer to James Bond, but it was the wrong one.  These movies are craptastic.  And did he just make a pass at an elephant?  I think he did.

    I started watching the Logan’s Run TV show.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to watch for a long time, though I’ve heard little but bad about it.  Still, Logan’s Run is one of my favorite films and I was curious to see how they tried to translate it.  It’s odd seeing the first two thirds of the film cut down and repackaged into the first ten minutes of the first episode.  At about that point, things go off in a new direction.  Not one I’d take, but potentially interesting none the less.  Though, of course, an atomic war made DC look like Southern California (see also, the Planet of the Apes TV series).  The design work draws heavily from the film, but is a bit more conservative.  And the actors, while OK, are no Michael York and Jenny Agutter.

    “I’m good at platonic.  It’s my default sexual setting, after nervous.”  I finally started season 3 of Bored to Death.  Man, I love this show.  It’s so much fun.  So many evil people trying to do good things.  Sort of.  The crazy misadventures these folks get into are so nuts.  And holy crap, Dick Cavett is still alive?!

    On Sunday, as I was waiting to give a brief presentation at my job, I listened to the H.P. Lovecraft Society’s ‘radio drama’ of The Shadow Out of Time.  It’s a good adaptation of an awesome story.  On the surface, Lovecraft looks like a horror writer, but his work is generally more science fiction.  This one features time travel, aliens, archeology, cults, and a grand scope of time.

    I also listened to their adaptation of The Dunwich Horror, which was pretty good.  Though I didn’t like it quite as much as The Shadow Out of Time.  The voice work is mostly good, but there are some wonky bits.  The New England accents are spotty, sounding more like North Dakota than Massachusetts.  It’s a cool story, though.  Danged inbred freaks and their black magic.

    The adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I think my love for the story made me a bit more harsh on it that I should be.  The radio broadcasts in the first chapter went on too long.  What could have been very effective became tiresome.  But once it got past that part, things got better.  In fact, everything after the radio snippets is excellent.  Once it moves into the straight up narrative of what the second party discovered at the camp, and the exploration of the titular mountains, it became nearly as fascinating as the story.  Like The Shadow Out of Time, this story does a lot to give Lovecraft’s ‘mythos’ a solid basis, a faux history.

    And I managed to listen to the adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu.  Another pretty good adaptation.  It’s a strange story, and this dramatization kind of revels in its oddness.  Told in a collection of flashbacks, narratives, and fragments, it creates a larger story mostly through implication.  This isn’t the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s first go at The Call of Cthulhu, of course.  They were behind the excellent silent film adaptation from a few years ago.

    Continuing with the pile of comics Brad pushed into my hands last week, I read All New X-Men #1.  Couldn’t be much less aptly named, as it’s exactly the same as X-Men has always been, going round and round the same idea over and over again with little indication that anything will change or develop in any meaningful way.  It feels a bit like watching a soap opera, where every episode features a birth, a death, a court case, a wedding, and an affair.  Each issue of X-Men features a good guy working for the bad guys, a bad guy working for the good guys, a thinly veiled social issue, a mutant ready to give up, and some normal humans causing trouble.  If my keen sense of Marvel’s stock storytelling is accurate, this arc will end with Beast sacrificing himself in some way to save everyone.  Check back in two years and let me know.  I won’t be reading to see if I’m right.

    Marvel Now! Point One seems to be some kind of set-up for the whole Marvel re-start.  It intros several new series and hints at some larger story ideas.  What’s up with Miss America and her weird dimension?  Who the crap is that alien kid living in Wisconsin?  And Forge.  He’s crazy, huh?  But Nova seems really lame and Ant Man?  He doesn’t just seem lame.  Bah.

    The third issue of The Creep continues the mystery of the missing grandfather and the dead teens.  Our ugly, pill-popping hero takes a bus into the country to aid in a missing persons search, wandering the snow covered forest.  It’s an odd comic.  I want it to be more interesting, but it’s still well written, I guess.

    Winter Soldier issue 12 finds my interest in this series waning, to say the least.  What I liked about the early issues was the way the Cold War hung over Bucky’s life the way World War II had hung over Captain America.  But, though still rooted in that era, its shadow seems to have departed.  Instead, we’re subjected to appearances from incongruous members of Marvel’s usual cast.  Wolverine, Hawkeye (seriously, Hawkeye?  Ugh), and now Daredevil.  Groan.  I’m done.  F this series.

    Fantastic Four #1 shows a lot of potential.  Getting once more to the core of my problem with comics from the Big Two, a world where Reed Richards exists should probably be a technologic utopia within a decade.  That it’s not is part of the whole status quo thing in mainstream comics.  Still, with this issue they imply that the Richards about to take a fantastic journey, putting them out in the crazy cosmic universe they should always inhabit.  I am curious to see where things go.  The Fantastic Four are science fiction characters stuck in a non-sci-fi setting.  It looks like this series may take them in the right direction…for a while.

    I like Boom! Studios.  They publish a lot of interesting comics, frequently some good ones.  But, they also put out some dogs.  Though I gather it’s achieved some success, I really, really didn’t like Fanboys VS. Zombies, as a recent example.  And I felt much the same about Freelancers issue 1.  I like girls with guns.  But this is brutal.  It’s trying to be funny and hip.  It’s neither.  The art is simplistic when it’s not ugly.  And the overall effect is that of a child telling a boring story.

    X-O Manowar issue 6 is something I read.  I can’t say a lot more than that.  The art is fine, but where’s Cary Nord?  The writing is meh.  The story feels too small.  In movies, I have always been frustrated by the budgetary constraints that force the story into the modern era to save money.  Well, a comic isn’t constrained by budget.  They could be illustrating nearly anything, but instead, we’re on earth in a jungle with a ninja.  Yawn.  This could be a really fun series, but it’s not.

    I read the second John Grimes book by A. Bertram Chandler, To Prime the Pump.  Great classic space adventure.  Once again it makes me wish there were more examples of this type of science fiction on film or TV.  Will Disney’s recent acquisition of the Star Wars franchise help to bring science fiction back into the mainstream?

    And I read Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, which I’ll hold off on discussing or posting my review of until after the next meeting of the Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club.  I’ll only say that it didn’t win me over to Marvel’s way of doing things.

    And man, after watching Tron: Legacy again this week, I got totally hooked on the score for that film again, along with some of the other excellent electronic scores from the last couple years, like Hanna.  And it all goes right along with the soundtrack I’ve been building for the story I’ve been working on.


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