Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (12/9/12-12/15/12)

    Oh, man.  I Doctor Who’ed out for the first two thirds of the week.  Man, I love that show.  I focused mostly on Tom Baker stories.  Otherwise, I was mostly busy with work, which took up a good deal of my time.  Though I did get some reading done.  Two non-fiction books I’ve been picking away at, and Y: The Last Man.

Doctor Who: The Pyramids of Mars:  The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith go back to 1911 to deal with a mummy, possession, and some ancient evil alien action.  With a lot of the Gothic vibe of Hammer, a bit of Universal’s monster movie look, and a dose of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, this is one of the better Earth based stories.  Sarah Jane is a bit less screamy here, too.  That’s nice.  Good actors and good locations help a lot.

    On Sunday, Ben and I decided to sit down and watch the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy.  It’s a heck of an undertaking, as each movie is well over two hours long.

Batman Begins:  Anyone who has heard me blather on about comic book/superhero movies knows I don’t care much for origin stories.  Look at Iron Man as a prime example.  You can call almost every moment and event before it happens, because it follows the pattern of origin stories so slavishly.  Yet, in spite of that, Batman Begins is still my favorite and I think the best Batman to ever grace the silver screen.  Excellent direction, good script, top notch cast.  And it’s a really good story about the creation of an icon, the purposeful design of an alter-ego and the forging of a will.  It’s a sweeping story, crossing the globe, but centered on Batman’s traditional home, Gotham.

    A break for lunch and the comic shop were in order.  Tried a new pizza place in Vienna.  Not too bad.

The Dark Knight:  This is a good sequel, and a good middle film, taking the hero into a dark place, where he is forced to confront his opposite, The Joker, and his own ideal corrupted, Harvey Dent.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this movie is as strong as it could, and should have been.  Partly, it seems too scattered.  I’d have rather had either The Joker or Two-Face.  Doing both doesn’t work.  And I think, focusing on the Joker, and having Harvey only become Two-Face in the finale would have been more powerful (setting up for some kind of later confrontation).  And, unlike the first or third film, you really feel its runtime.  It’s only about ten minutes longer than the first, but feels much longer.  I think the last 30 to 40 minutes could have been largely cut or altered to move much quicker and be more dramatic.  Still, it has plenty of good stuff.

The Dark Knight Rises:  The final chapter in this masked vigilante epic is pretty darned epic and sweeping.  Here we really get into the idea of the idea.  Batman is more than Bruce Wayne.  He’s bigger than any one man.  Even when that man is broken and exiled, Batman must go on.  With a story that ties deeply into the first film, and takes Bruce, Batman, Gordon, and Gotham itself to the brink and beyond  It is a very worthy ending.

    A really excellent trilogy.  Epic in scope, action packed, and filled with cool characters and crazy plots.  Taken as a whole, it’s a very good story.

Doctor Who: The Face of Evil:  “You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common.  They don’t alter their views to fit the facts.  They alter the facts to fit their views…” The Doctor shows up on a primitive world of superstitious savages.  But pieces of technology and hints of something big are strewn about.  And who is this Evil One everyone keeps mistaking the Doctor for?  He teams up with a young savage girl, Leela, who has been questioning the beliefs of her tribe.  Things become even more complicated when the Doctor and Leela cross an energy field to find another group of people, very different from the savages, and an ancient secret connected to the Doctor himself.  It’s a pretty fun story.  And of course, it introduces one of the Doctor’s best companions, Leela.  If I hadn’t already been a fan of the show, the introduction of Leela probably would have hooked me.

Doctor Who: The Horror of Fang Rock:  “Gentlemen, I’ve got news for you.  This lighthouse is under attack, and by morning we might all be dead…heh.”  The Doctor and his deadly companion Leela end up on a lonely island with a lighthouse and an incoming fog.  A falling star, fog, a mysterious death, weird cold, power problems.  What’s it all mean?  Nothing good, to be sure.  Things get more complicated when a bunch of jerks get shipwrecked.  More bodies for the slaughter.  This story has always been among my favorites.  The old time (30s, I think) era and awesome secluded setting, Leela, and a bunch of fun characters.  Man, I wish Leela had stuck around longer.  Her episodes are always a bit cooler.

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks:  “Oh, look!  Rocks.”  The Doctor returns to a planet which seems familiar.  Rocks…radiation…Oh, crap.  It’s Skaro!  The Daleks have come back to their wasted world looking for something.  And some creepy silvery Egyptian looking folks, along with a bunch of cosmic castaways are looking to cause some trouble for our old tin-can friends.  What will the Doctor and Romana II do?  I’ve always kind of liked this story; probably more than it deserves.  I think it’s largely because I like the look of the weird silvery aliens, and I always wanted to see them come back.

Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden:  “W-Work FOR?  I don’t work for anybody.  I’m just having fun.”  Two space shops get locked together, and a crazy German is using way better than 3D tech to capture alien creatures in crystals.  You know, that old story.  Things get complicated when weird creatures start getting out.  Strange monsters.  Killer plants.  Drug dealers.  Fun stuff.  Apparently, this was a very troubled shoot.  But it was a perfectly enjoyable story.

Hitchcock:  “Hold the ‘cock.’”  I’m generally not a fan of bio-pics, but that’s because they’re generally lacking in focus, trying to hit the highlight reel of a person’s life.  Those few good ones typically pick an event and zoom in on it, which is the case here.  By centering on the making of Psycho, the filmmakers are able to look at the artist at the height of his career, with all his skills and flaws well established.  The actors all sink their teeth into playing the various personas, and do a pretty good job.  I think the movie was probably a bit nice to the man, frankly.  He seems to have been something of a monster, in reality.  But, while his quirks and obsessions do play into things, he seems like a pretty good chap at the end of the day.  If I have a complaint about the movie, it’s that they actually spend very little time on the nitty-gritty of filmmaking.  There are a few sequences of filming, but very few.  A bit more of the technical stuff, including a bit more of the editing/post work would have been nice to see; a bit more of the genius actually at work.  But the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife is kind of heartwarming…in a way.

Abraham Lincoln VS Zombies:  “Chamberlain, that’s enough!”  I sometimes wonder if The Asylum instructs their actors to suck more.  But then, I know some folks who made a movie, and the worst actor in the movie was the one professional.  As folks wander around some historic parks, occasional zombies fall before the switchblade-scythe of Honest Abe.  The movie is pretty lame, and while it had a few fun moments, was fairly bland.  The guy playing Lincoln wasn’t bad.  I’d have liked more of him fighting, and less of his band of spec-ops troops.

Doctor Who: Earthshock:  “Even under the threat of death, he has the arrogance of a Time Lord.”  Adric is all depressed and stuff, so he tries to convince the Doctor to return to E-Space.  While trying to plot a course back to that alternate dimension, they stumble across a mystery (shocking!).  Earth’s future, a missing group of archeologists, creepy robot ninjas, some soldiers, lots of caves.  And then a space freighter.  This story has a pretty shocking ending, really.  And a great, memorable exit for a long running character.

Detour:  A dumb schmuck hitchhiking cross country in search of his dame gets picked up by a blabbermouth sexual predator.  When Handsy McGrabby finally stops jawing about the woman he tried to grope, he goes and croaks, and our loogen doesn’t know what to do.  Being as he’s so smart and all, he decides to dump the body and takes the guys jack, duds, and bus.  After all, he doesn’t want anyone to think he did anything wrong.  Everything seems jake when he comes across a wild-eyed, hard drinking, sex hungry dame with a quick tongue and emotions that shoot back and forth faster than a tennis ball at Wimbledon.  She knows what he done, and she’s going to use it to get rich or die trying.  He’s in over his head, and doesn’t have a clue how to swim.  Low budget, and occasionally wonky, this is still a pretty cracking flick with some broken folks doing ugly to each other.

2103: The Deadly Wake:  Look, I love these little sci-fi schlock movies that try to go for something way beyond their budget.  This one has some charm, and Malcolm McDowell gives a solid performance (though the rest of the cast is pretty much crap).  But it’s over long, and several things happen kinda at random.  This is best expressed by the magic fight with the cyborg killing machine (Wait! There’s a cyborg killing machine?  Wait!  There’s magic?).  A better script, a few better supporting actors, and this might have been pretty good.  As is, it’s fairly forgettable.

For Greater Glory:  Holy frickin’ crap, Peter O’Toole is so danged old and crazy looking.  This cloyingly Catholic movie is basically a propaganda film about the evils of secularity and questioning the religious and expecting them to live by the same rules as everyone else.  As is typically the case, the loving and peaceful followers of a ‘religion of peace,’ pick up weapons and start killing their way back to power.  It’s hard to feel bad for an organization responsible for so much death and crimes against humanity, or for those hungry to murder and die in its name.  This movie even tries to gloss over the faithful’s atrocities by making them not really the fault of the men who committed them (he was forced to kill all those people and desecrate bodies; he accidentally burned all those innocent civilians to death on that train; etc.  Oops).  Do I think governments should ban the practice of whatever mumbo-jumbo people believe in?  No.  But theocracy, always the eventual goal of those who mix religion and politics, has only one result, human misery.  Religion as state (Saudi Arabia) or state as religion (North Korea).  It is the same.  So, throughout this movie (which is quite long), I kept thinking about movies like Rambo III or The Living Daylights, where the resistance fighters we’re supposed to feel for will go on to great evil.  Murder, rape, child killing, torture.  It’s all part of God’s plan, or something.  Anything can be justified in the name of a character from an old book, the vaguer the understanding of that character, the more can be justified.  The movie does have a bunch of solid actors, from Andy Garcia to Bruce Greenwood.  It’s well made, but the ultimate message feels dirty; stained with darkness and blood.  That much more when you know what these Christian warriors made of their country.  A good lesson of this movie?  If you’re a woman smuggling ammunition to the underground, stop dropping your bullets all over the place as soon as soldiers show up!

The Outlaw Josey Wales:  “Not a hard man to track.  Leaves dead men wherever he goes.”  Driven mad by the slaying of his family, an old solder goes a’hunting for revenge.  Lots of ugly characters and weird folk populate the post-Civil War world, and Josey doesn’t have much to say to any of ‘em, except maybe with bullets.  This is 70s PG, so it’s not for the kids.  It features, among other things, a very disquieting attempted rape, and plenty of brutal violence.  Lots of classic character actors, including a bunch of western regulars.  Some beautiful scenery, more than a taste of danger, the hope of the frontier, and the sadness of failure.  The stuff of the great westerns.  Heck, you can almost (I stress, almost) see what Eastwood saw in Sondra Locke here, too.  Her creepy huge eyes give her a sweet sort of innocence that makes her almost cute, when she’s not horrifying.

Beyond the Law:  Lee Van Cleef, a staple of the Spaghetti Western sub-genre, is back with his charming laugh and sinister stare.  And he doesn’t like it when rude dudes talk nasty to burlesque dancers.  This is a fun little movie with a few clever plays on genre standards.

Apache Blood:  Shoddy editing, and all the hallmarks of low budget film do nothing to help the uninteresting plot and characters.  It takes inspiration from the same source as the much better Man in the Wilderness.  But it’s plodding, with really bad acting and script.  It has the look of something made for television.

    I read the first hardcover volume of Y: The Last Man, our next graphic novel book club selection.  Dang, it’s good, but brutal.  And the second volume is even more wild.  Rough stuff.  The third volume is more of the same.  Makes for pretty sprawling epic that transcends comic books.


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