Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (11/4/12-11/10/12)

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading, writing, and odds & ends research this week.  I’m also getting very antsy about the fact that I haven’t hosted a game night in a long time.  All the more antsy because several people have been on my case about it lately.  I’ve got to look at doing one soon.  But with the season upon us, schedules are not on our side.  Anyway, to the movies, etc.

Farscape Season 2:  Scorpius makes for a heck of a lot better villain to overshadow our heroes’ lives.  And this season ramps up the horror and villainy.  But it also cranks up the wild heroics and completely bugnuts daring do.  And what’s wrong with John?  How often do you have a show where your central lead may have gone completely insane?  The show doesn’t always avoid cliché, though it often turns it on its head.  And these first couple seasons do pull some punches (some) as they find ways around dramatically changing or removing characters.  But that’s not to say things don’t change or evolve.  But the return of Scorpius and the fall of Crais does signal a change in more than just the face of villainy, but the very heart of the show.  Season one was kind of disjointed, the writers clearly not having a handle on either the direction the show would take, or on who the characters essentially were.  By the end, things had started to coalesce.  With season two it is clear that the characters are more understood and that there is a more directed vision behind the scenes.  The characters begin driving the stories to a much greater degree, as opposed to stumbling into them (not that they don’t stumble into a lot).

The Ninth Gate:  Though it bares little resemblance to the book upon which it is based (The Club Dumas), this movie about a book detective and a mysterious satanic text is a cool caper film, steeped in European style.  It’s very strange how this movie has grown on me, after being severely disappointed in it upon first viewing.  Now it’s a staple, semi-annual viewing.  Great score, awesome look, and good performances, especially from a lot of the supporting cast.

Missile to the Moon:  Not at all one of the better 50s rocket ship adventure movies.  A couple of interesting twists can’t make up for its otherwise repetitive story.  But, the rock creatures on the surface of the Moon are cool.  I really like them.  Otherwise, meh.  Easily skipped.

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us:  Hey, you know what sucks?  It feels like the screenplay was based off someone’s D&D game, with all the cliché characters and bad high school ‘cool’ dialog.  The werewolf hunting team even starts out at the inn.  Yup.  The inn.  They try to crank up the gore, but that doesn’t make it more interesting.  This movie gets suckier and suckier as it sucks its way through Suck Town.   (Suck Town is a small hamlet just outside of Milwaukie, Wisconsin.  It was founded in the late 1700s by fur trappers from France).  The movie has a couple twists and turns, but none are especially unexpected.

Soldier:  Perhaps not the most subtle film, this is still a cool sci-fi flick with a great stone-faced performance from Kurt Russell.  He does more with his eyes in this movie than Marlon Brando did with all his mugging and sweating in any ten films.  The story is simple, the action good but not especially inspired, and the music keeps sounding like cribbed parts of the Aliens score.  Yet, I can’t help but enjoy this movie from start to finish.  And it’s got a great cast of ‘that guy’ actors, which I always enjoy.

The Amazing Spider-Man:  Gah.  OK, I’m not a fan of the first three movies.  1 was OK, 2 was a bit better, and 3 was appalling.  And doing a remake/reboot of a franchise within a decade of the first seems…I don’t know.  Stupid, certainly.  Unnecessary.  Weird.  Lots of other adjectives.  There’s nothing new here.  It’s just another boring origin story like every other (and like we’ve already seen with this character).  It has a better cast, but they’re mostly unused.  Campbell Scott?  What, two lines and gone?  Bah.  Andrew Garfield makes me want to bash him with a hammer almost every time he speaks, and while I’ve liked Emma Stone in pretty much everything else I’ve seen her in, I couldn’t stand her in this.  Their relationship is almost as awkward and chemistry-free as those two in the Star Wars prequels.  Rhys Ifans is phoning in his villainous role, as are many others.  The CG sucks almost as bad as in the previous three films.  And Spiderman is such a relentless, annoying dick that I don’t want him to succeed at any point.  Frankly, I’d rather the reptile scientist win at the end of the day.  Skip this.  Watch some other comic based movie instead.  Was it as bad as the third movie?  No.  But it wasn’t good.

Fascination:  A creepy blonde dude screws over some bad folk and goes on the run.  Finding a beautiful home with two beautiful women sets him up for some of the usual Jean Rollin style goings on, with naked women everywhere, threats of violence, odd behavior, and beautiful location shooting.  It has pretty good technical level for Rollin and a somewhat coherent plot (if thin).  And this is probably the best appearance of his frequent collaborator, Brigitte Lahaie.  Her walking around with the scythe; that’s some iconic imagery, that’s what that is.

Films of Fury:  I could have dealt without the animated narration bit.  This very surface documentary is really more of a highlight reel.  It gives you but a taste of a much, much larger subject, and consequently doesn’t go anywhere near as deep as I would have liked.  Still, it does make me hungry to watch a bunch of the movies it shows clips of.  If you’re just getting into martial arts movies, it’s a nice brief intro lesson.

The Secret of Sweet Sixteen:  “Satan has no sense of humor!”  Euro sleaze!  I love the look of these movies.  Technically, they’re generally awful, with bad editing, horrible dubbing, and stupid stories.  But beyond the obvious charms of pretty women taking their clothes off, the glimpse back in time they provide is fascinating.  Cars, fashion, and just the general look of European cities of that era.  The voice work in this one is especially dreadful, but delightfully so.  The disk also features Looking Good.  Holy crap.  Holy crap.  Seriously.  Holy crap.  I imagine this is what Italian TV looks like to this day.  This is just an exercise video, made kind of awesome by the horrible voice over and ridiculously overt sexuality (even for exercise videos).  Euro sex kitten Laura Gemser sits in a chair reading a book while a bunch of stripper/dancers cavort about in what looks like a high school gym, while awful 80s music drones on.  The moves look like something porn performers would do for warm-ups.  And dude!  They do the robot!  It’s excruciating.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox:  “That’s just weak song writing.  You wrote a bad song, Petey.” Wes Anderson turns his weird eye to stop motion animation in this tale of animals pulling a heist on some evil farmers.  Weird characters, strange situations, and all the awkward pauses you expect from his live action work translates perfectly to the world of Roald Dahl.  It’s funny, cute, clever, and all the things that can be great about family friendly entertainment.  I find it interesting that it does such a good job of showing what it’s like to be a man these days; confused by what society expects and what genetic demands; wanting to be important, even if only to the ones he loves, but with little in the way of obvious outlets for excellence.

    With a powerful hunger for some more space opera, I figured I should get back into watching Farscape.  I left off at the beginning of season 2, which is really where it starts getting awesome (not that season 1 wasn’t good).  This is the kind of shameless, balls out, over the top, crazy idea, insane situation science fiction that is so danged rare on TV and almost non-existent on the big screen.  The show is so strange, pushing any kind of boundary or expectation, taking the characters through ringer after ringer.  At times it almost feels like a science fiction Simpsons, not because it’s funny (though it often is), but because I find myself scratching my head and thinking “how the heck did they ever come up with this stuff.”  The chain of people who had to say “yes” in order for this to appear on screen is amazing.  I cranked through season 2 and got a few episodes into season 3.  Now, if I can just get co-Dork Brad to watch this show.  Alas.

    I also read Philip Reeve’s book, A Web of Air.  It’s the second book in the Fever Crumb trilogy, which is a prequel to his fantastic four book series now called ‘Predator Cities’ (formerly ‘Hungry Cities;’ was it changed to avoid confusion with Hunger Games?  I don’t know).

    I’ve also been playing around with the roleplaying game Diaspora.  The original reason for starting game nights was to eventually assemble a solid group of players for a regular roleplaying game.  As schedules and other things became an issue, that kind of evaporated.  But it’s still in the back of my head.  And man, I’d love to give Diaspora a go.  But it’s definitely a game I’d need the right players for, as it’s very, very group driven.  The whole group works to design the setting, and the various relationships between characters and societies.  But it could be just the thing for my space opera sweet tooth.  Diaspora, Ars Magica, Star Trek, Call of Cthulhu, and Middle Earth.  Those are the things I’m really itching to run right now.  But each poses different problems.  And trying to get a group together that can meet with anything like the frequency and regularity I want will likely continue to be a major problem.


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