Thursday, December 20, 2012
Brad's Two Weeks In Dork! (12/2/12-12/15/12)
Long time no write. Due to some technical difficulties (and a little laziness) I've been dragging ass with this blog of late. But never fear, as 2012 comes to a close, and the mad dash to witness as many "new" movies as possible consumes my every waking moment we're closing this year with some pretty epic dorkery. These past two weeks saw the blu ray release of The Dark Knight Rises, the return of Mike Mignola to Hellboy, the latest Nic Cage travesty, the horrors of The Life of Pi, the Star Trek Into Darkness prologue, and the snotty comedy of The Hobbit. But through it all I was simply just counting down the days till Christmas -- not capture Jolly Saint Nick, but to finally bask in the macaroni violence of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.
And in prep for Django, The Wife & I continued our way through the Tarantino XX box set. It's definitely frustrating that this set doesn't really offer anything new for the die hard fans (other than the kickass box art), but I really have been enjoying Elvis Mitchell's critics round table on the first bonus disc. I can listen to that man all day long (everyone should be subscribed to his Treatment podcast) even when his "right" opinions must contend with the very "wrong" opinions of Stephanie Zacharek. Seriously, what's she even doing in this discussion?
However...possibly the most anxiously anticipated movie this week was...
Magic Mike: For a man threatening to retire, director Steven Soderbergh sure is cranking out a whole helluva lotta movies. And I've been eating them up. The Informant! Contagion. Haywire. Loved 'em all. But what could he possibly do with a Channing Tatum stripper movie? The meathead from that cinematic war crime known as GI Joe - The Rise of Cobra. The block of wood that stumbled throughout the ancient travesty of The Eagle. That adorable dolt from the shockingly funny 21 Jump Street remake. Ya know what, he's absolutely charming as Magic Mike. His struggling entrepreneur/busta-move-male-stripper is rather captivating, even when the film kinda just meanders its way through the narrative. I like the idea of Tatum as Dr. Frankenstein to Alex Pettyfer's Rippling Abs Monster, and I wish their story went a heckuva lot darker than it ultimately does, but that also might be due to the fact that I want 99% of all stories to descend into bloodshed. I don't know, I just think there was potentially a really demented noir buried beneath the heart of this Tampa melodrama. As is, Magic Mike is a solid whacky stripper flick that also happens to contain the best use of foreground penis in movie magic history. And Matthew McConaughey is always welcome - especially when he's in smiley asshole mode.
The Dark Knight Rises: Forget the haters, I love this movie. ** MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD ** I love Tom Hardy. I love Bane's bobble head voice. I love the epic sweeping swathes of rioting extras. I love Anne Hathaway's sneering Catwoman. I love Gary Oldman's broken commissioner. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt's too-good beat cop. And I love, love, love this film as Bruce Wayne's swan song. No matter how you interpret the ending (really shitty editing choices ruin what could have been a rather fantastic Inception climax) but you can't ignore Bruce Wayne's retirement and the rise of Batman. The first film is Bruce Wayne's movie. The second film depicts the price of Batman. And the third film represents the ideal of Batman, and it brings a fitting conclusion to the story of Bruce Wayne & Gotham. Sure, the saga could go on and Hollywood will force it to continue, but I would really hope that Warner Brothers leaves this incarnation of The Dark Knight alone. It's my favorite film trilogy (you heard me, Star Wars & Dr. Jones fans) and even though there are minor quips and quibbles along the way Christopher Nolan has delivered an epic that this Bat Fan will always be thankful for.
All New X-Men #3: My interest dips a little with this issue. Focusing mostly on the modern day Cyclops' troubled soul and his collecting of All New Mutants, this issue offers very little in terms of the time travel high concept. Scott's struggling with his new position as revolution leader. Emma Frost is just as pissy as ever. But the last page promises a tragic confrontation in the next issue. Old vs. New - that's what really excited me about this book. Let's get on with it.
Avengers #1: Benids' reign on The Avengers has come to an end. Now it's Jonathan Hickman's turn. And it's ok. Captain America leads the movie cast (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow) to Mars where they encounter the golden god zealot Ex Nihlo & his rather lame cronies. The Avengers get their ass handed to them and Cap retreats to Earth to gather more Avengers. We get promises of Wolverine, Cannonball, Hyperion, and a bunch of other cats I don't really give a crap about. I'm on the wait and see list as far as this Marvel Now book is but what there is no denying is the utter beauty of Jerome Opena's art. There are panels in this book that I would love to rip out and frame on my wall. A few more issues of this and he might ascend to one of my all time favorite artists. Seriously, there is a shot of The Hulk charging the Martian landscape that knocked my jaw to the floor. Fantastic.
Daredevil - End of Days #3: Ben Urich continues his investigation into Matt Murdoch's final words, but we don't get much closer to Rosebud. What we do encounter is a whole mess load of illegitimate children. I mean, is there a single woman in the Marvel Universe that Daredevil didn't sleep with? I'm definitely enjoying this book, but it's not the must-read that Bendis' Daredevil run once was.
Deadpool #3: Is it just me? Am I the only one of the planet that doesn't get Deadpool? I can appreciate a good joke book as much as the next guy, but it just feels like Posehn & Duggan are trying to damn hard to earn my laughter. Deadpool and Dr. Strange have a little mini team up in an attempt to get to the bottom of this Zombie President Plague, but other than a couple of chuckles I can't really say I'm enjoying this book. Than why on Earth am I still reading it? Cuz I want to love a book in which Tricky Dick Nixon beats the living hell out of a goofy ass Wolverine wannabe. And Abe Lincoln is coming. That's gotta be awesome right? Just see Matt's review of Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.
Iron Man #3: It's Iron Man vs. The Living Laser! As well as a bunch of other losers from ol' Shell Head's lame ass rogues gallery. As Tony Stark works his way through the Extremis knock-offs, I grow rather tired of Gillen's one & done story telling. And I'm definitely already sick of Greg Land's tired artistry. I know the rest of the Internet is already screaming this, but EVERYONE LOOKS THE SAME!!!!!! And Gillen's Tony is just a subpar interpretation of Robert Downey Jr's wise arse playboy. Iron Man is easily one of the big disappointments from Marvel Now.
Thunderbolts #1: This I enjoyed. Much more than I thought I was going to anyway. George "Thunderbolt" Ross aka The Red Hulk begins to recruit the most popular anti-heroes in the Marvel Universe for a purpose not quite understood. This appears to have very little to do with previous incarnations of this super villian team, but I'm rather thrilled to see artist Steve Dillon take on these extreme hard cases. The last page depicting Red Hulk & The Punisher mowing their way through a warehouse full of mobsters. This really should be a MAX book, but its just gory enough to be entertaining in an exploitation kinda way.
Hawkeye #5: Not as clever or fun as The Tape Part 1, but Matt Fraction continues to writer one of the most charming books in comics. Clint & Kate bash their way through the Marvel Underworld and they do so in absolute style. I will say that the The Tape's revelations are a little disappointing, but I really appreciate how this book doesn't shy away from all that Avengers shenanigans where it so easily could be a book that lives in its own little world.
Detective Comics #15: This really is the weakest tie-in to The Death of the Family storyline, but that doesn't matter cuz it also happens to be one of the best Clayface stories ever concocted. The poor bastard. Even the mud man can't escape the diabolical wiles of eco slut Poison Ivy. You really do feel sorry for the dope. Especially when Batman shows up wearing his new Anti-Clayface armor. Good ol' Bruce Wayne, he's got a suit of armor for every situation...I mean, toy line.
Hellboy in Hell #1: Here it is. Possibly the most anticipated event of 2012. And I've buried it smack dab in the middle of my week. Ok. It's not a life changing single issue. But that's just it...it's just a single issue. My enthusiasm for this character is not going to live or die on Hellboy in Hell #1. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid comic. But it's just not the epic exclamation that I was expecting. This is a starter issue, a toe's dip in the water of the obvious epic that's naturally ahead. Hellboy awakens in his motherland and Sir Edward Grey meets him in the abyss. There's a good punch up with the order of the fly, and a mess load of creepy crawlies. I honestly don't know where Mignola is taking us with this book, and frankly, I'm nervous at the notion that he seems only interested in telling small arcs for the foreseeable future. And I miss Hellboy's red flesh. This muted, brown color is depressing. But I guess that's the point. And I cannot wait for the second issue. And the third, the fourth, and every singe issue until Mike Mignola drops dead and stops gifting this world with Hellboy.
Invincible #98: Phew. I'm all caught up and back on single issue comics. This is the beginning of "The Death of Everyone" arc and I'm honestly surprised to think that Robert Kirkman might actually deliver on that painful statement. Mark Grayson vs. Dinosaurus. He's already destroyed Las Vegas. But his next target would make Galactus smile from ear to ear. Kirkman proves nearly every issue that Invincible is not the place you want to be if you want to stay safe and warm - nope, it's a book you read if you love to see your favorite characters punched to the brink of death time and time again. No other super hero book brutalizes its players quite like Invincible. And I'm afraid no one is going to survive this latest story arc. I'm telling you, issue #101 is going to unravel this saga off world.
Shadowman #2: More grisly Voodoo fun. Jack learns a little about the Shadowman mantle while duking it out with the goons of the demonic Mr. Twist. Not sure what I think of this book yet, but I dig the concept or at the very least, Patrick Zircher's monster drawings. There are not a lot of successful super hero horror comics, so here's hoping that I eventually enjoy this book in the same fashion I'm enjoying nearly all of Valiant's reboots.
Stumptown #4: Greg Rucka's missing guitar P.I. book comes to a close and I'll never think about it again. A real bummer. I'm always looking for a good crime book and I've enjoyed Rucka's stuff in the past, but this failed to excite. Stumptown is just far too ordinary to be memorable. Honestly, I find even writing these few words on the book to be rather vexing as I don't remember anything remarkable about it at all. Asshole musicians. Neo Nazi drug dealers. A car chase. Snooze.
Pulp Fiction: Each time I watch Pulp Fiction I tend to fixate on a different character. The first time I saw the film I gravitated towards Sam Jackson's religiously challenged hitman Jules. After all, he's easily the most badass character in tale with his Ezekiel speeches and brain detail sarcasm. The last time I watched Pulp Fiction, I was entranced by John Travolta's sadsack dope fiend. He's as cool as ice, but he's also just an insecure loser that meets his end after an unceremonious dump - not to forget it's his clumsy trigger finger that ignites Jules' frustration with brain detail. This time, however, Pulp Fiction was all about Bruce Willis' punching bag. His is the film noir tale of hard boiled knocks. The attempt to get out on top, while fighting impenetrable odds in the form of Ving Rhames' gangsta godfather and...gulp...those boys with The Gimp. Butch is the role you'd love to see William Holden sink into, or better yet, Burt Lancaster. And Bruce Willis nails the tough guy exterior and somehow manages to survive with his body parts in tact and the girl on the back of his chopper.
Killing Them Softly: Ugly. That's the word. Downright gross and ugly. There's been a lot of to do made of its economic crisis philosophizing, but I didn't find the bar room broadcasts distracting or out of tone with the rest of the picture. Was it a little pretentious? Yeah. But not enough to distract from all the greatness to be found in this wicked little picture. Brad Pitt's businessman killer might seem like the center of the movie, but it's Scott McNairy & Ben Mendelsohn's show as the couple of dim bulb nitwits that hijack Ray Liotta's card game. Mendelsohn (saw earlier this week in The Dark Knight Rises as the slithery corporate scumbag John Daggett) is AWESOMELY dirty and sweaty - he's all lips and spittle as he plods towards self destruction. Watching this dumb bastard navigate the crime world of Killing Them Softly is the true delight of the film. He's a monster. A dumb, dumb, dumb monster who brings devastation to all those that cross his path. And in a lot of ways this feels like the latest adaptation of Richard Stark's Parker series (much more so than this upcoming Jason Statham monstrosity), a world where crimes are just another means to a monetary end. So yeah, Obama vs Bush tv coverage rams the point home a little too bluntly but I don't really disagree with its position. And James Gandolfini gets my saddest sadsack of the year award. Death to his whoring, drunk killer would be a warm release.
Life of Pi: This one left me scratching my head. Cuz I pretty much hated everything about it. And I really can't go into why I hated it so much without crapping all over the ending. I was somewhat on board in the beginning when young Pi is searching for meaning in various religions while butting heads against his father's passion for reason. Then there's the shipwreck. And an hour or so of boring tiger struggle, a trip to a carnivorous island, and the cheapest trick ending I've experienced since a half dozen lameass M. Night Shyamalan "What A Twist!" endings. And what does that ending mean? Do we find God? We definitely don't find religion. What we find is a sucker. A sad man who can't deal with the horrors of his reality. Infuriating. And all this hubbub over how pretty the spectacle of it all is...I give it a big meh. There's not one computer generated frame found here that's worth a pixel of the beauty crafted by Roger Deakins in Skyfall. Ang Lee, I've been one of your greatest defenders - heck, I'm the guy that loved HULK - but you completely lost me with this pompous pap.
Stolen: It's been a rough year for Nicolas Cage fans. As much as I wanted to enjoy Ghost Rider 2 even I have to admit that it was not nearly as batshit crazy as I was expecting from those mad bastard Crank brothers. And Seeking Justice, his previous direct-to-dvd nonsense, offered little more than a few painful winces of embarrassment. So what of Stolen? You have my permission to forget it. I know I already have. Well, I do remember Josh Lucas' whole hearted attempt to Out Cage Nicolas Cage as the one legged evil taxi driver ranting and raving about Picasso. There's a few chuckles for you. But nothing else. Here's hoping Nic finds a few more Bad Lieutenants and Drive Angrys in 2013 and a whole lot less of Stolens.
Jackie Brown: It might not have the flash of Pulp Fiction or the bloody cool butchery of Kill Bill, but Jackie Brown is still withoutadoubt my favorite Tarantino flick. The dialog ingenuity of both QT and Elmore Leonard collide and the result is a crackerjack script that can't be beat. In a year where you have to turn over every single stone on the planet just to find a half decent Supporting Actress performance let alone a Leading Performance, Pam Grier is a revelation as The Woman at the center of this crime caper. She's strong, brutal, cool as a cucumber, vulnerable, and sexy. On the other side of the picture you've got Sam Jackson's walking nightmare, Ordell Robbie. He's got the slick cool of Pulp Fiction's Jules as well as a tinge of scary ass villainy. He's a gun running thug who only looks badass cuz he's got an even dumpier dope tagging along - Robert De Niro in his last great performance. Then you've got Robert Forester's Max Cherry. He's the coolest dude in the film cuz he's so darn collected. A good guy who gets to taste a little danger without destroying his soul. The unrequited romance between Max and Jackie is right up there with Rick & Ilsa. Bold words. But I believe them.
The Avengers - Children's Crusade: Read this for The Wife's book club. Can't say I enjoyed it. Which is a little bit of a bummer since I rather enjoyed Allen Heinberg & Jim Cheung's previous Young Avengers books. But in Children's Crusade there are just too many characters from across the Marvel globe shoved into this conflict for some inexplicable reason. It actually plays out like a precursor for Marvel's latest catastrophe - Avengers vs X-Men. When Wiccan travels to Wundagore Mountain in search of his soul mother, The Scarlet Witch he encounters the wretched planning of Dr. Doom as well as Magneto, Quicksilver, Kang the Conqueror and the true villain of all mainstream comics - Retcon. Honestly, of the six or seven books we've read so far for the goup, this was my least favorite. Yep, that's right. Get Jiro was better.
The above badass photo indicates the break between the two weeks. I don't have anything wise or profound to say at this point, I was just looking for an excuse to post this most amazing photo of Big Boy's gang from Dick Tracy. The blu ray was released this week and despite its complete lack of special features (seriously, not even a trailer) it's still one of the most amazing releases of the year. Dick Tracy was made for 1080p. It's beautiful and was the absolute highlight of my second week. Sorry Hobbit.
Expendables 2: The Expendable films are not what I want them to be - serious, blood drenched explosions of Hollywood masculinity that refuse to wink at the audience even when they're taking the piss outta the glorious genre born and bred in the 1980s. That being said, they're still whole heaps of goofy fun. The film never quite matches the joy of its opening with Sly and the Family Stone storming the castle to free a hooded Arnold Schwarzenegger, but there are still hints of giddy glee peppered throughout. Dolph Lundgren's Frankenstein monster. Chuck Norris' Morricone entrance. Jason Statham's "I now pronounce you man and knife." But I wish the film took the genre if not itself a little more seriously.
Kill Bill Vol. 1: I still remember the first time I saw the trailer for Kill Bill ahead of Gangs of New York. It absolutely floored me. It looked nothing like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, or Jackie Brown. And I was right. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is the start of a new era in Tarantino - the curtain is torn down, long live Grindhouse Nostalgia! And I love every second of this bloody rampage of revenge. Uma Thurman gets her role of a lifetime as The Bride, the angry psycho killer karate chopping her way through an army of goons just to taste some cold Klingon vengeance. There is nothing cooler than her blood drenched assault on the House of Blue Leaves, and as you spend nearly half the film watching her slice and dice these masked hoodlums you cannot help but get caught up in the pleasure of violence. And then you've got Tarantino's pornographic ear for reimagining iconic film scores to fit his needs - screw you Death Rides A Horse, I'll show you what to do with Ennio Morricone! This is Love Letter cinema as high pop art.
Journey 2 The Mysterious Island: I'm not going to lie. This movie makes me giggle. And it's further proof that if you stick The Rock into your sequel he can make any franchise totally awesome. He's fixed The Fast & The Furious, this kiddie fare, and I cannot wait to see how he helps out GI Joe next year. The man is just so darn charming. And when you partner him up with the Adam Sandler comedy of Luis Guzman and the treacherous old man humor of Michael Caine, the result is simply sublime. Plus, he rides a bee!!!!!!! I've always been a sucker for giant animal films, and the original Mysterious Island is my favorite and absolutely under appreciated Ray Harryhausen flick.
Machete: A lot like The Expendables, Machete is too winky for its own good. But where else can you got to get Danny Trejo as your top billed actor and Steven Segal as your monstrous Mexican drug lord? Nowhere. And I enjoy Machete's winks and nudges a little more than Sly's...well, that's my feeling this week. It's trying too hard to be cool, but dang it, Jeff Fahey is so delightful in his snidely whiplash mode and Robert De Niro sure seems to be having whole heaps of fun as the racist Texas Congressman. And let's not forget Introducing Don Johnson. He's gotta be happy to be back up on the big screen. My only real complaint is Jessica Alba. She really knows how to bring a party down with her sack of potatoes acting. Seriously, some one needs to stop her.
Dick Tracy: This movie still amazes me. I've never really cared for Warren Beatty. I've always found him to be kind of a bore. But in Dick Tracy he's a tough, hard boiled champion of cool. And how can you not adore his conviction for the artificial, the massive comic book brows and the beautiful matte painting backdrops. This is the Wes Anderson of crime fighter flicks and its the highlight of early 90s Disney cinema (and yes, I'm including The Lion King). Sure, I can take or leave Madonna's Breathless and her Blank revelation is tremendously lame, but Al Pacino, William Forsythe, Ed O'Ross, Mandy Patinkin, Paul Sorvino, RG Armstrong, Henry Silva, Dustin Hoffman - all chewing up the brightly colored scenery. Everyone's going for broke in this film, and unlike Machete or The Expendables the script never winks at the audience. This is life and death stuff. It's weird and goofy, but the stakes are real and the characters treat it as such.
Avengers - Arena #1: If it hadn't been such a quiet week at the comic shop I never would have bothered with this title. It's easily the weakest high concept of the Marvel Now books. Writer Dennis Hopeless takes his Avengers Academy brats and drops them on Arcade's Murder World Island for a fight to the death. Yeah, right? The Hunger Games by way of Battle Royale by way of The Running Man by way of Lord of the Flies by way of who gives a crap? But ya know what? I actually kinda enjoyed it. It's got Darkhawk after all and he's cool, right? Wait, is that my 90s kid brain talking? I think it is. Not sure if I'll continue with this book but it definitely passed the time in an enjoyable fashion.
Cable and X-Force #1: And speaking of book I normally wouldn't have purchased, it's another Dennis Hopeless book in which I don't give a darn about any of the core characters. I mean, there's a kernel of an interesting father/daughter story with Cable & Hope Summers but its still got a nasty taste of AVX to it for me to be properly engaged. And the Cable has a brain tumor or whatever subplot is a little annoying. If I get the second issue, I'll be surprised.
Fantastic Four #2: Hey look, it's an actual Marvel Now book I enjoy! Reed Richards is still hiding his cellular degeneration from his family, and gathering the ingredients for the new FF. Along the way we get a rather amazing cameo from Marvel's past - Devil Dinosaur & Moon Boy!!! Too cool. Matt Fraction has been kicking butt on the humor front with books like Hawkguy and that signature smile is present here, but I'm looking forward to Marvel's First Family taking their dimensional vacation and for the plot to thicken. Cosmic Adventure Ahoy!
Iron Man #4: Still not loving this book but I'm also still buying it. However, I gotta admit that I actually enjoyed this issue. Tony Stark's still hunting for Extremis freaks and this month that quest takes him to the catacombs beneath Paris. There he encounters vampires. Kinda. Tony Stark's technology vs. creepy crawly supernatural monsters. This is old world Iron Man comics here and I dig that. Plus, who doesn't love Stark's gargantuan War Machine suits.
Winter Soldier #13: Just end already. You were beautiful once, but that time has long past. Bucky Barnes is back under the roof of S.H.I.E.L.D but he seems no closer to rescuing Natasha after a bad bout with Daredevil and a minor scrape with Wolverine. And then Captain America drops by for a gust spot. I can't believe how frustrating this series has become. I know I've said this before but Brubaker's Bucky/Cap stories used to be so damn amazing, and this feels like something workshopped by a completely different human.
Batman #15: Three issues into Snyder's Death of the Family story arc and I'm not yet convinced this is the greatest thing to ever happen to comics. Sure, Greg Capullo's Joker Leatherface is creepy as hell and he gives me a serious case of the heebie jeebies but I have yet to be wowed by the horror perpetuating Gotham's Vigilante family. At least not in the way The Court of Owls stuff grabbed my attention. I hate to admit it, especially with Matt so close by, but this Joker business feels like more of the same. Still, the backup in this issue offers up a lot of promise and I'm very interested to see what the other inmates of Arkham Asylum have to do in the arc.
Archer & Armstrong #5: X-O Manowar has had its Ninjak guest star and now Archer & Armstrong gets The Eternal Warrior. The immortal assassin Gilad attempts to slaughter Archer while Armstrong defends his honor. This is a basic chase comic as our two heroes attempt to reach The Geomancer before the new misunderstood hero takes them out. What's a Geomancer? Doesn't really matter at this point. It's a chase book with a lot of chuckles. Archer & Armstrong continues to be my favorite of the Valiant relaunches.
Bloodshot #6: Bloodshot takes on a batch of cybernetic monstrosities while storming the compound of Project Rising Spirit. I love the presence of Bloodshot's nanites outside of his body aka "The Kid." His encounter with Walker is fantastic, but not nearly as fantastic as the appearance of the Twilight Zone monstrosity knows only as Gamma. She's a beast cracked straight from the horrors of Rod Serling's brain...or more to the point, Joe Dante's brain by way of Rod Serling.
The Creep #4: Well this turned out to be a bit of a let down. I really, really enjoyed the 0 issue but from that point on I was never that enthralled with the P.I. case. When the big mystery is revealed its a little sad, but not that complicated and certainly not surprising. As I turned the last page I pretty much just shrugged my shoulders and went on with my life. Not much more to say. I do dig Jonathan Case's art and I want to see him on more books. And John Arcudi's work on B.P.R.D. is gang busters. But The Creep just never had me.
The Collection: The movies starts out promising. A disco tech full of lifeless teenage trash is brutally mutilated by a SAW-like contraption lawn mowing its way outta the ceiling. But once that crew of extras has been reduced to KNB pulp we're left with an annoying collection of no-names and kinda-sortas. The best of which are Lee Tergesen (of HBO's OZ) and Andre Royo (of HBO's The Wire) but they're playing second banana to Emma Fitzpatrick's boring final girl. I never saw the original film, but I don't think I missed much. The Collection is just another slasher film lost in the shuffle.
Hitchcock: Having suffered through the awkward rapist horror of HBO's Hitchcock flick, The Girl it was rather pleasant to partake in this refreshingly lighthearted exploration of the making of Psycho. This film is a lark, and it's obvious that Anthony Hopkins is having a blast portraying Hitch on screen. Sure, Toby Jones' sociopath might have been closer to the truth (or not, who the hell knows?) but what I want from a Hitchcock bio is a good time and a devilish chortle. The bits where Hopkins breaks the fourth wall a la Alfred Hitchcock Presents or all the Ed Gein sidebars. This is a light confection, but an affectionate treat for the fanboy.
Savages: "I have orgasms. He has war-gasms." Ugh. Oliver Stone's latest abomination is another embarrassing mark on a once interesting if not always successful career. Taylor Kitsch & Aaron Johnson are a couple of vacuous bros attempting to man-up in the drug trade. But when Benicio Del Toro's slothish enforcer kidnaps their lifeless play thing i.e. Blake Lively all hells breaks loose...and by "hell" I mean the same old typical crime crap you expect from this middle of the road flick. Salma Hayek appears occasionally to ham it up with her scream acting but fades away, thankfully we've also got John Travolta to screech about. Yuck.
Kill Bill Vol. 2: The first volume was all action, but with Volume 2 Kill Bill really lets loose, and struts out the meat of the melodrama. Michael Madsen's Budd is soooooooo dang sad hole'd up in his Texas trailer tomb, sulking and shrinking from the bombardment of Larry Bishop's hurtful strip club jabs. But he's still the only jerk in the whole saga to get one up on The Bride, and that makes him kind of a badass. Then there's the Pai Mei's tutorial flashbacked at us while Kiddo zens her way outta that coffin. And it's all building towards her final confrontation with her baby's daddy. It's the perfect send off for David Caradine's career even if he refused to stop making movies for nearly another ten years. Part 1 might be the more fun of the two, but it's here where the saga reaches its proper epic status.
Star Trek Into Darkness - 8 Minute Prologue: Much has been made about Benedict Cumberbatch's villain. Is he Khan? Is he Gary Mitchell? Is he really just some Starfleet nimrod named John Harrison? Frankly, it doesn't matter at this point. Everything I've seen from this movie has me pumped. Not to mention that the 2009 film kicked some serious ass despite a serious amount of trepidation on this dork's part. The 8 Minute preview continues to jab the internet troll community with its Cumberbatch identity questioning, but before Doctor Who's Noel Clarke gets an answer we flash to an unknown planet where Kirk & McCoy are hijinksing it up with some religious primitives. The set up is very old school Original Series, but the colors of striking and Michael Giacchino's score is riveting. I don't understand these Trekkies moaning about the underwater Enterprise are simply just missing out on the thrills. Sure, this is not your Daddy's Star Trek (or even my Star Trek) but the franchise is genuinely benefitting from JJ Abrams' Star Wars worship. Granted, I hope Into Darkness is more than just another cowboy punch 'em up and Eric Bana's Nero was perfectly fine as a Khan substitute. Cumberbatch should be his own thing.
The Hobbit: The fatal flaw in The Hobbit prequel is that it's a Hobbit prequel. In writing The Hobbit first, JRR Tolkein was discovering the world of Middle Earth; he was building towards the Epic of The Lord of the Rings. In the cinematic universe by starting out with The Fellowship and working backwards you're immediately taking away the power of the introductory story. The Hobbit is not The Lord of the Rings. It's a much smaller story with fewer stakes at play. And when Peter Jackson decided to split the tiny book into a three part, nine hour epic a lot of padding had to be born. The result is a bloated kid's story nearly reaching three hours and peppered with various orc decapitations. Sure, a lighter tone for the whole family but I'm not really sure who this film is going to ultimately satisfy. It's not bad. But it's certainly not great. Martin Freeman does a fine job imitating Ian Holm's Bilbo. Andy Serkis is still stunning as Gollum. The riddles in the dark set piece is easily the film's highlight. And I did see the flick in the new fancy schmancy 48 frames per second. It was extremely distracting for the first fifteen minutes, but after a while I got used to it. Not sure I'm a member of the HFR converted, but I enjoyed the experience of trying something new.