Work continues to dominate my time. Though I’m reading a couple really good books right now. One on the Byzantine Empire and one the autobiography of the pretty awesome Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And Friday boosted my Dork cred with another meeting of the graphic novel club.
Lincoln: This epic of American history manages to make many of the names from the history books seem a bit more like real people. Though still holding Lincoln up as the wise old god, passing down justice and always on the right, it is a bit less one-sided than most portrayals. Not nearly as maudlin as the trailers would have you believe. But getting past the cynicism, the film is uplifting and sweeping. The cast is excellent, and the relationship between Lincoln, his friends, his opponents, and the common man is very powerful. An array of ‘that guy’ actors lend support to the stars, and they bring their most excellent facial hair. Good stuff.
Anna Karenina: Highly stylized, even more than Joe Wright’s work normally is, this lavish production is beautiful, but perhaps a bit too concerned with visual flair than with story or character. The actors all do a good job, but at the end of the day, Anna is a horrible, flip-flooping, self-involved bitch, and her boyfriend is a vacuous pretty boy. It’s hard to feel for them, as they crush and destroy everything and everyone around them in the name of their empty passion they mistake for love.
Hugo: I still find this a bit odd. It starts out as a fairly typical kids’ adventure film, set in a train station some time after World War I. There are hints of mystery, the magic of books, that sort of thing. But then, about a half hour in, it takes this turn, becoming a tale of movies and the love we have for them. A broken old man in a run down old toy shop is more than he seems, and a boy with noting left is driven to find out the truth. For any film buff, this movie is a must.
Immortal: This movie is certainly visually interesting. Sadly, the script is absolute garbage. The characters make choices and say dialog that doesn’t seem to have any logic. The world created is interesting, but so vague that it’s nearly impossible to feel grounded enough to care about anything or anyone. Egyptian gods, alien incursions, mutant red hammerhead sharks, a girl with blue hair (got to have blue hair), and lots of CG people. You can kind of tell that writer/director Enki Bilal used to write comics that appeared in Heavy Metal. It has that European comic feel (beautiful but stupid). I can’t recommend the film if you’re looking for a good story. But if you want to turn your brain off for a while and enjoy some interesting imagery, go for it.
Men in Black 3: “You’re distressing. Everything about you upsets me.” It’s the sequel that nobody was asking for. The boys are back. Somehow J doesn’t seem to have come to terms with the nature of his job, in spite of more than 10 years passing. The time travel gags are actually pretty funny, though. And the 60s aliens are cool. The villain, Boris, is genuinely disgusting. The script was a heck of a lot more clever and the story more interesting than the second film. All in all, a pretty entertaining film.
Dark Shadows: Finally, Tim Burton had a chance to redeem ten years of spitting on his early success with a franchise nearly tailor made for his style. With Dark Shadows, he could embrace the Hammer Horror vibe he reached for in Sleepy Hollow and run with it, ramping up the Gothic dread and mystery. Or, he could do a crappy Adams Family rip-off. Set in “Maine” (seriously, it’s totally not the England!) in the 1970s, I genuinely think this could have been something…other than crap.
Killing Them Softly: Ouch. This is a collection of sad bastards, dumbasses, and scumbags. They all get together in the ugliest city outside of OCP occupied Detroit, to screw over, smack down, or murder each other. And all while being depressing, awful people. And the Ray Liota beatdown has to be one of the most horrible things I’ve seen. He’s so sad, and gets so much kicked out of him.
The Package: The Cold War is winding down, and an old soldier gets wrapped up in a conspiracy to keep it going. A trip to The Fugitive’s Chicago and a team of crack character actors are needed. Everything looks good and depressing as the chess board takes shape. There’s really nothing especially good about this movie, but it’s a fine bit of action/espionage fluff.
Life of Pi: Wow. If you’re looking for vacuous pap, the kind of garbage some ‘spiritual healer’ might blather on about on Oprah, then you’ve come to the right place. This is the ultimate expression of the idiocy, ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe (what silly, made up BS, that is) so long as you believe something.’ And as that ultimate expression, it is about as vapid and useless as it gets. Basically a kid wanders around and stuff happens; he’s on a boat with a tiger and stuff happens; then he’s not on a boat and stuff happens. Or not. So warm up the drum circle, pop on the Shadowfax cd, spark up a doobie, and just let the universe flow, man. And if the mumbo jumbo chicanery of the story isn’t condescending and trite enough, you can always watch the Richard Dryfus wannabe, hipster author listen with exasperated, ironic but sensitive interest to Yoda…I mean adult Pi tell his Grandpa Simpson stories (“I was wearing an onion on my belt!”). Twelve years ago, Ang Lee made one of my all time favorite films, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Now he’s making something worthy of latter day M. Night Shyamalan. What happened, dude? You used to be so beautiful.
The Campaign: “I crapped GOLD.” Featuring the best baby punch I’ve seen in film, this goofy political send-up has its moments. The jealous dogs crack me up. Everyone seems to be having a good time being silly and saying stupid stuff. But it’s not quite as tightly scripted or consistent as I’d have liked. Worth a watch if you’re in the mood for some stupid comedy, but it’s not amazing.
I watched another disk of Winds of War, this one dealing with the attack on Warsaw and the aftermath. There are some interesting characters, for sure, but most of them drift in and out of the story for only the briefest of times. The main cast is kind of drab. Even Mitchum’s character has little to do but stand stiffly and look disapproving. It’s just interesting enough to keep watching, but not much more. And I watched another disk of Magic City, which is starting to grow on me. The characters are becoming a bit more interesting. I’m just hoping that at least one of the big ‘problems’ gets resolved by the end of the season. I like Danny Huston, but his snarling ogre villain is too obvious and too pointlessly evil to stick around, and I’m hoping one way or another, he’s out of the picture in the finale. We’ll see.
Friday night, Lisa and Brad hosted another night of the Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club. This time up, The Avengers: Children’s Crusade. Opinions were split, with some people really enjoying it, and others totally hating it. I fell on the hate side, as you’ll see in my full review. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out the massive array of characters and any motivations they might have had. And trying to figure out the good guy/bad guy ratio.