Monday, January 7, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (12/30/12-1/5/13)

    On Monday night, I attended Lisa and Brad’s New Years party, which was also Lisa’s birthday party.  I thought I was finishing up a cold, but it turned out I hadn’t even begun to fight.  The rest of the week was dominated by cold medication and attempts at sleep (including two 12 hour stretches).  So, I didn’t do much, outside of watching some movies, sleeping, and propping myself up at my job (sometimes reacting as though conscious).  At least I’m finally getting past it.  Ah health.

The Bloody Vampire:  “Look at it.  Look at it!”  Man, that was a boring and silly vampire movie.  Bad dubbing makes for some humorous moments, but otherwise, it’s a tough slog.  Not much happens.  A lot of people talk a lot.  Bad editing seems to kill most of the victims.  The end doesn’t work at all.

Jack Reacher:  Tom Cruise is a former cop who doesn’t play by the rules.  Yup.  It’s one of those movies.  Very 80s, with lots of moments that show Tom…I mean, Jack is oh, so cool.  It’s a bit sanitized, with much of the violence off camera, or cut away from.  But it’s still pretty violent (on a James Bond level, I guess).  And it’s fun, but fairly forgettable.  Herzog is kind of awesome, if somewhat pointless, as the villain.  And Rosamund Pike’s near cosmic cleavage should probably get its own agent, if not become a licensed hypnotist.

Wrath of the Titans:  “We had power before we had weapons.”  Breaking away from the remake territory of the first film, this is a more original, and more interesting story.  Plus, Sam Worthington is a lot less dull this time round (still not very exciting).  One of the things I like about this is that the monsters are monstrous.  The chimera at the beginning is straight-up disgusting.  I’m never a big fan of the ‘the magic is dying,’ ‘the time of the gods is ending’ kind of thing.  But, this is still a good deal of fun.  There’s a whole fathers and sons thing going here, which I guess is pretty common in fantasy film.  Fantasy in general, really, going back to the mythologies that gave rise to our religions.


    So, that was 2012.  Not really the best year.  But not the worst.  Living on my own has been fantastic.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up forever, but it has been a really good experience.  Keeping my own schedule without worry, just being free like you can’t be with a roommate, it’s awesome.  Not having internet has been a pain.

Sucker Punch:  I’m all for Mondo filmmaking.  Crank it to 11.  Go for it.  Don’t hold back.  Or, as they said in the 80s, ‘take it to the limit.’  So, when I saw the totally insane trailer for Sucker Punch, I thought, ‘Yes!  Here is my kind of madness.’  After all, Zack Snyder had made a whole bunch of movies I’d really enjoyed (the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, Legend of the Guardians, Watchmen).  So an epic, dimension shifting pile of crazy with some girls slow-motion destroying their way through WWI battlefields, fantasy castles, and futuristic weirdness?  You know I’m down with all that.  But this movie is a mess, a total, aggravating mess.  Scattered, poorly thought out, disjointed, and too often emotionally forced, at every turn, it could be something really fantastic, but isn’t.  If it were limited to either one reality (best case), or two realities (if absolutely necessary) it might have worked.  But the third level of reality spoils everything, talking away the power of anything that happens.  Why does it matter if it’s a dream?  It really doesn’t matter if it’s a dream within a dream.  I mean, she’s imagining she’s a badass warrior while she’s imagining she’s dancing in a whorehouse, while she’s in an institution.  Ugh.  It doesn’t help that all the girls (many very pretty) are done up to look about as disgusting as could be.  The worst being Emily Browning, who looks like an anime fanboy/pedophile jackpot in her schoolgirl costume and ridiculous fake blond pigtails.  The film is such a disappointment, as any one of the dream settings might have made for a cool place for a complete story, especially the crazy fantasy-WWI.  Instead, each visit serves as a reminder of how the film could have been much better.

All Skanky on the Western Front

There Was a Crooked Man…:  I guess in the 70s people just liked their humor mixed with horror.  Cracking jokes one minute, and stone cold murder the next.  Ha ha ha, he killed that guy accidentally.  Ha ha ha, that woman is going to get raped.  Ha ha ha, a whole bunch of people got killed.  Oh, that rapscallion got a bunch of people shot down like dogs…isn’t he a charmer.  Like with my recent viewing of Fuzz (and movies like Mother Jugs and Speed and Mash) I find the humor in poor taste and most of the characters impossible to like.

Ha ha ha.  Murder.

Venture Bros. Season 4:  “He musta gut sucked into my enigma hole.”  Hunter and Brock talking about how sad a stripper’s breasts were had me actually crying with laughter.  I don’t know that this season is quite as good as earlier ones, but it’s still pretty danged funny.  Part of the problem is that Hatred is a much bigger part, and frankly, less is more with Hatred.  Though, when Hank becomes a private dick, there’s a whole lot of the old magic.  And Henchmen 21’s story is fantastic.

Doctor Who:  Revelation of the Daleks:  “Only fools would take the risks I do.” Doctor Who was such a strange show, and this story introduces a really nutty situation.  On a winter planet that is devoted to funerary arrangements, something rotten waits.  An evil mastermind’s head in a jar, the requisite idealist rebels, wacky 80s hair…zombies?  The later run of classic Who was downright nuts, with an almost surrealist/satirist streak akin to some UK comics, like 2000AD (featuring Judge Dredd!).  Several odd characters with their own somewhat extreme motivations are thrust together in a typical downward spiral of violence and madness.

Cosmopolis:  Look, David Cronenberg has made many great films.  So the man gets a bit of leeway from this film fan.  But after last year’s pretty darned disappointing Dangerous Method, this pretentious snooze-fest came as a pretty rough body blow.  It’s all people talking at each other, saying half-baked snippets of pseudo-intellectual stuff the actors clearly don’t understand.  Everyone seems drugged and listless.  There’s a lot of anxiety about technology and the future, themes Cronenberg has explored much more successfully and interestingly before.  I was reminded of the William Gibson documentary No Maps for These Places (I think that’s what it was called), which though it featured a lot of interesting stuff from Gibson, was so painfully arty (ART!!!) it was hard to sit through.  This  is the kind of thing I imagine college film students going nuts for.

I can't believe I'm listening to this crap.

Beasts of the Southern Wild:  “Want a chicken biscuit?”  In a strange world of have nots and crazies, people await the apocalyptic storm that is destined to drown them all.  Separated from the dry, safe world by the levy, people party and live with passion, because they’ve got no future.  A little girl watches the world with the wide eyes and a brave heart.  Her father is kind of a monster, but his brutish ways teach her self reliance, community, passion, and a will to survive.  There’s obviously a post-Katrina vibe to this film, but the world created feels like something out of a cyberpunk novel, with people on the outside of the technologic world.  These are the people who would live on the underside of Gibson’s domes.  In spirit, it reminds me somewhat of Tideland, in that it captures the pain, the fear, and the wonder of being a child, learning to deal with loss, danger, and the inevitable ends of things.

Killing Car:  I Know What You Did Last Summer as made by Jean Rollin.  If memory serves, this was Rollin’s first film after a fairly lengthy hiatus.  And it is missing a couple of his signature bits, like two women and a graveyard.  Still, you can tell it’s his work.  Not a lot of dialog, what there is doesn’t make a lot of sense, slow pace, dreamy logic, and a bunch of nudity.  It’s certainly not one of his better movies.  Partly, it’s the lackluster leading lady, party it’s the more obvious than usual budgetary limitations.  I don’t know, maybe there was too linear a plot for a Rollin film?  If you like the director’s work, you might as well check it out.  If not, this won’t win you over.  And if you’re unfamiliar with his work, this isn’t a good place to start.

Predators:  A bunch of predators and a bunch of Predators battle it out on a hostile world.  This is a much more proper sequel to the original film, and I’d like to see them go on in this fashion.  The cast is good, the effects are good, the action is good.  And it’s a cool story and setting (if simple).  There are lots of callbacks to the original, but the film is hardly slave to it.  Solid.  Now, when is the next one coming?

The Wolfman:  Clearly inspired by the original Universal Monster classic, I think this actually feels more akin to the Gothic horror of Hammer, with mist shrouded moors, deep family secrets, Gypsies, and fearful peasants.  I’m not in love with the CG, but it doesn’t totally suck.  I’m also not a huge fan of the wolfman design, but honestly, I didn’t like the original Universal one all that much either.  I guess I like my werewolves more biped wolf than man with wolf features.  It’s a pretty good flick, and I really like the mood of it.  I wish more horror movies would remember mood, instead of focusing so much on cheep jumpy bits.  It’s easy to startle people.  It’s hard to capture mood.

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan:  “Don’t ever mess with Lady Chun.”  This movie seems to be sleazy when it shouldn’t be, and chaste when it should be more sleazy.  After abuse and the murder of an attempted savior, a young woman becomes the ultimate courtesan…for revenge!  There is some pretty cool fighting in this one, and some awesome sets.  But I had a hard time getting into the story, partly because the characters were generally unlikable.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole:  An epic fantasy quest movie featuring heroic…owls?  It’s impressive how much emotion animators are able to get out of completely inhuman CG animals (sadly, more than many human actors seem capable of).  It’s really a gorgeous film, with shot after shot looking like some classic fantasy paperback cover art.  And interesting cast of characters, a dangerous journey, action packed battles, betrayals and heroics.  The only sour note is the crappy auto-tuned pop-song montage, seemingly an industry standard for kid aimed animation.  But the patented Zack Snyder slow-mo mixed with classic WWI style air combat (with owls instead of biplanes), is kind of cool.

An Angel for Satan:  This is a surprisingly sharp looking movie; one of those late black & white films that has the look of a modern movie done without color for reasons of style.  Barbara Steele is an odd one.  She’s almost beautiful, but somehow repellent at the same time.  Something about her Susan Sarandon eyes, I think.  Like they’re gonna fall right out of her face if she gets too upset.  And as is not uncommon in women with especially distinct features, she aged quickly, and not well.  Still, she is striking in her way.  The movie doesn’t feel Italian, and sadly, that’s because it’s technically well made.  Story wise it feels like something out of Roger Corman’s Poe era.  Replace the Count with Vincent Price, and the village idiot with Jack Nicholson, and nobody would know the difference.  Overall, not too bad.

    Other than that, I think the only thing I accomplished was reading a short story from A. Bertram Chandler’s To the Galactic Rim, With Good Intentions.  It was pretty good.  Really, that’s about it.


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