Thursday, December 6, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (11/25-12/1)

    Work continues to take up much of my time, though I’ve managed to get some reading in this week.  I’m getting a powerful itch to do some gaming again, so I think sometime in January I’ll try to host another game night.  It’s been too long.

Ultraviolet:  OK, look.  This is NOT a good movie.  No.  That’s misleading.  This is a really bad movie.  The script is garbage, and about 90% of the cast is almost as good.  Milla, who I love, is dreadful here (imagine her Alice performance from later Resident Evil films, cranked so far past 11 that it seems like self parody).  And Cameron Bright…gah, just looking at that kid makes me feel ill (I have a fear of Renaissance cherubs).  But I love Nick Chinlund and his germ phobia.  And William Fichtner’s sensitive vampire doctor is all teeth and unrequited love.  And I like a lot of the weird future setting.  The more surreal aspects (technology, especially) would have been nice in the MUCH better Aeon Flux.  I gather this film was heavily cut and suffered from studio interference, before release.  I kind of want to see an extended version.  It should be R-rated for absolute sure.  But at the same time, I don’t think another 30 or 40 minutes, even involving character development and ultra-violence, would actually fix it.  And the odd, CG gloss that hangs over everything, like someone went nuts with Photoshop blurring effects is just…weird.  Equilibrium, though extremely derivative, made me think that Kurt Wimmer might be a really strong new voice in science fiction, but this movie brings him down to Paul W.S. Anderson levels.  Not that I wouldn’t enjoy something schlocky piece ever year or two.  But I’d like to see more good stuff, too.

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy:  As the first generation of Cold Warriors begin to fall to age and irrelevance, a deadly secret resting at the heart of England’s intelligence circles comes to light.  Is there a mole at the highest levels?  Which one of the trusted cadre of old spies might have been selling out to the other side for decades?  It’s up to a discarded old fossil and a young up and comer to find out.  Twists, turns, betrayals of the heart, of country, and of self.  Shadows, glances, and dark allies.  This is the stuff of Cold War dreams and nightmares.  An excellent cast plays a deadly game of chess in the shadow of the iron curtain.  The film does a fine job of recreating the era, from costumes to behavior.  It looks like the stuff of my early days (taking place just a couple years before I was born).

Hanna:  I ended up watching this movie again.  I just really dig the way Joe Wright handled familiar concepts.  Less about the destination, and more about the journey.  The cast, the music, the visuals.  It all comes together.  I wonder what Wright’s career is going to be like.  Mostly costume dramas, so far.  But this shows sign there might be something more.

Mystics of Bali:  “This is good blood!”  The most powerful wizard in the world is just a weird old man…or woman?  He’s like a pervert, shape-changing Yoda.  This movie reminds me how mysticism and mythology are full of really weird, really stupid ideas.  The lesson seems to be, don’t go to another country and learn their forms of black magic.  The bad dubbing and silly dialog should make for fun with friends.  Otherwise, this is a pretty bad flick.

Thirteen Days:  The Cuban Missile Crisis gets a tense, serious, and surprisingly non-sensationalistic take in this Cold War procedural.  The cast does a fine job, the tension is never nail biting, but still palpable.  And it shows most of the characters in a sympatric way, so that even many of the more boorish military types are seen as men trying to do what they think is right.  The dangers of miscommunication and lack of communication are clear, as well as being a slave to the past and expectations.

Rites of Frankenstein:  Poison Ivy as a blind vampire?  Some nice locations accidentally add quality to the film, but it’s still Jess Franco, so it still sucks.  I’m always a little impressed by how bad Franco botches everything he does.  A few good looking ladies.  A lot of boring talk.  A third of the movie is out of focus.  Yup.  Franco.


Five Elements Ninjas:  “Secret weapons!  You bastards!”  Oh, man.  Right from the start, we’re treated to some classic chop-socky bad dubbing.  And some crazy weapon combat.  I was jazzed right away, because, while I do love hand to hand fighting, I’m generally more of a fan of weapon combat.  And this movie had oodles of weapons clashing.  That said, the barehanded vs. katana fight is all kinds of badass.  A half hour in and I had learned two lessons.  First, fighting ninjas sucks.  Second, taking off a cape and tossing it aside just before a fight makes you look totally badass.  And treating evil ninja-ladies like crap will turn them good and make them love you.  I hear tell that the ninja skill is very elusive, though.  This is probably the most enjoyable Shaw Brothers film I’ve seen to date.  Great fighting, amazing bad dubbing, and a crazy story.  If you enjoy this kind of movie, you’ve got to check this one out.

ParaNorman:  Not quite the kid-friendly movie I was expecting.  Not to say kids won’t like it, but it was more clever and a bit darker/more macabre than I figured.  There are some rather ghoulish bits, lots of surprising turns and some disgusting stuff.  It felt more like a kids/family movie of the early 80s, not as sanitized and non-threatening as most more modern kids movies.

Bored to Death Season 3:  “I do have a lot of sadness.  I’ve been very melancholic lately.”  The final season of this genius show is keeps me wanting more.  Twisted freaks orbiting around each other, self-obsessed monsters trying so hard to make a go at life.  One of the best comedy series I’ve ever seen, but frustratingly short.  Though it’s brevity means it never had time to outstay its welcome.  It’s nice to see a show about people as narcissistic and awkwardly confused as myself manage to get by.

Blow Out:  “You swallow a whole box o’ animal crackers?”  What the De Palma?  Boy, Brian De Palma loves Alfred Hitchcock.  But, Mr. De Palma, you sir are no Alfred Hitchcock.  It’s weird watching a movie where Nancy Allen is supposed to be sexy.  Not that she’s not an attractive woman.  I guess she is.  But she’s always had something of a soccer mom look, not a sex kitten.  And she’s so stupid in this one.  And Travolta is still a goofy bastard.  If there’s a lesson to be learned form this movie, I think it’s ‘invest in some danged curtains.’  Though the film is admittedly interesting looking, with plenty of visual gimmicks, the writing simply isn’t there, the acting is uneven, the music kind of sucks, and the tension rarely never gets very strong, sabotaged as it is by frequent silliness.

It's like the opening of 2001.  Where's the bone?

The Deadly Bees:  Swinging London has a bit of a bee problem.  Seems some strange cat has made an army of killer bugs with which he gives expression to his displeasure.  This feels like something half way between a Hammer and an American International film.  All those UK ‘that guy’ actors you’ll know if you’ve seen much from the era.  Suzanna Leigh is an odd leading lady, kinda weird looking, but kinda cute, too.  What I’ve come to call ‘ugly-pretty.’

    After a long hiatus, I got back into a few episodes of Charlie’s Angels.  Yeah, I know.  It’s not a good show.  But the ladies are beautiful and it’s fun playing ‘spot the future star.’  It’s still tough watching Kate Jackson getting relegated to the van with a turtleneck.  And I got through another disk of Farscape.  Love that show.

Oh, no!  Evil Angels!

    “If it looks bad, don’t look!”  I listened to The Shadow Over Innsmouth audio adaptation.  One of Lovecraft’s most ‘cinematic’ stories, it’s got plenty of mood, action, and a classic twist.  The cast does a good job on this one, even with the New England accents.  They’re not amazing, but don’t sound too far off or forced.  I hope the H.P. Lovecraft Historic Society keeps going with these stories.

    I finished Sam Harris’ book, The Moral Landscape.  There’s some food for thought.  Lots of great quotes.  The guy makes you think.

    And I read volume 4 of Invincible.  Definitely the best super hero comic out there.  And it’s so refreshing reading a book like this, where there’s a unified and consistent vision, unlike the Marvel and DC stuff I’ve been reading.  Stuff that happens changes what will happen later.  And it doesn’t just get written off and ignored every two years.


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