Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brad's Week in Dork! (2/3/13-2/9/13)

I started this week out strong.  Finishing off the Shaft trilogy with its greatest entry, basking in the 80s nostalgia of Walter Hill's Bullet To The Head, and having my brain melted by the two part Dark Knight Returns animated movies.  Then the flu hit.  And I was done.  From the midweek point I was a sleepy wreck of a human.  My Blaxploitation marathon was put on hold, and all I could do was drift through a few episodes of Rome and pick at Richard Stark's The Black Ice Score.  But the beast didn't stay with me long, and I was back to my usual dorky activities before the week was over.  Thank goodness.  I'm done with that nonsense for 2013.

Shaft in Africa:  "Cat named Shaft ain't gonna be bad with a stick."  For some indiscernible reason, the tribes of Africa travel to New York to recruit P.I. John Shaft in their war against the white slave trade.  After being drugged, tortured, and sexually teased by an African princess, Shaft agrees to travel to the dark continent and go deep cover as a champion stick fighter.  This film is beautifully bonkers, and it's everything this franchise never should have become, but somehow the once-upon-a-time NYC Street Soldier turned International Man of Mystery completely works.

Bullet to the Head:  Don't fool yourself.  The 80s are dead.  Walter Hill might be the director on this picture, but this is not the same man who helmed 48 Hours or Red Heat.  He's doing what he can, there is a taste of former glory - And that's enough.  Stallone is a brick.  And he can act where Arnie most certainly struggles.  I love watching him wield axes and punch knives through skulls.  The problem is Sung Kang's goodie two-shoes detective.  He never gets down in the muck with Stallone.  He whines and shirks at the violence.  For this film to truly take hold of its 80s Action Pride, Kang needed to match badass with badass and, unfortunately, he shrugs more often than pulling the trigger.  He's more sidekick than partner and the result is an unnecessary presence.  Still, there is that Walter Hill flavor.  Stallone is a killer.  No shine.  I certainly appreciate that.

Batman - The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2:  "Gotham City Belongs To The Mutants!!!"  These two animated films represent a geek miracle as equally significant to last year's blockbustering Avengers.  Frank Miller's revolutionary classic always seemed like an impossible adaptation - from it's abrasive politics to its downright cheerful brutality.  What producer in his right mind would touch it with a ten foot pole?  And what studio would allow it the light of day without some serious fine tuning?  Well, in a post Christopher Nolan world, Warner Brothers knows they have nothing to loose and Bruce Timm finally gets his chance to preach the graphic novel gospel.  The first film is fun enough.  Peter Weller's old man Wayne is a beast of character, having stewed in rage for ten years, his Batman returns to the deathwish streets of Gotham with a new thirst for bone breaking justice.  He finds a new Robin, takes on a mentally crippled Two-Face, and goes twelve rounds with The Mutant Leader.  But it's the second film where geeks around the world will loose their collective shit.  In part 2, we get Michael Emmerson's kill crazy Joker & the Tunnel of Love slaughterhouse.  As the Clown Prince of Crime blasts one innocent bystander after the next and thrusts his blade over & over into The Dark Knight's stomach, your mouth will be dropped.  You have never seen a Joker like this.  And you've never seen Batman's anger so perfectly detailed in a wad of spit.  Then you have Ronald Reagan's Superman.  What a tool.  His final (and I mean FINAL) confrontation with Batman is the most epic brawl we've seen in superhero cinema.  I love Nolan's Dark Knight films, but these two animated outings are perfect.  Sure, I miss the noirish machismo of Frank Miller's narration but after a few minutes you'll get over the loss.  The Dark Knight Returns is essential Bat-Viewing and I can't understand why the internet has not exploded with the proper praise.

Black Samson:  "There goes a righteous dude.  He keeps all the honky mother fuckers off the street."  Yep, there is not a more earnest hero in all of blaxploitation.  Rockne Tarkington is a man of many dashikis - he's a lion tamer, a street fighter, and a responsible owner of a respectable topless bar.  When the mob saturates his neighborhood in smack, Black Samson unites the community against the white faced devils and the resulting block war is a fist pumping crowd pleaser.  William Smith as the vein popping racist henchman is utterly fantastic in his depravity, and he makes the perfect foil for Tarkington's impassioned crusader.  It's savage villainy versus calm & cool kendo artistry.  Black Samson is simply a good night out at the movies.

Alex Cross:  I find the popularity of Tyler Perry to be absolutely perplexing.  I don't get the Madea films, and I certainly don't understand his appeal as a leading actor.  As Alex Cross, the all knowing and irritatingly pompous Detroit detective, Tyler Perry is a stern faced block of wood.  If Rockne Tarkington is the ultimate example of impassioned earnestness than Perry is on the opposite end of the righteousness spectrum.  Frowny faces and dead eyes do not make a badass.  Not to mention that the narrative is all over the place.  In one frame a character can be completely out of his mind with rage and in the very next frame he can be totally serene.  It feels like three separate scripts edited together.  Sure, Matthew Fox seems to be having fun as the serial killing cage fighter cum wannabe artist, but the rest of the film doesn't know when to just accept its b movie status.  I can't remember if this film was successful or not, but we gotta put a stop to this franchise immediately.  Morgan Freeman couldn't make it work so please don't bother.

The Black Ice Score by Richard Stark:  After suffering the banality of the Jason Statham film I found myself drawn back into the violent world of Parker.  Written six years after the original novel, this is the eleventh book in the series and yes, Parker has softened a little.  He's got a woman.  He's got something to loose.  When political thugs from the African nation of Dhaba contact Parker for a job, he takes the heist not for the money but cuz his lady might find it noble.  That sounds more damaging to the Parker character than it actually is, Donald Westlake makes the scenario work within Parker's ideology, but The Black Ice Score does feel lightyears away from books like The Hunter or even The Jugger.  Not a highlight in the series, but it got my juices flowing again and I'm already on to the next book.

The Invisible War:  Still working my way through the Oscar nominated docs and this film gave me a powerful wallop.  Filmmakers Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering interview dozens of men & women who were raped while serving in the military.  Their accounts are so prevalent and horrifying that it is hard for my brain to even wrap itself around the tragedy, of both the violent acts as well as the military's seemingly blind eye towards them.  I'm still processing the stories - the resulting anger, pain, frustration, and the expanse of the crimes.   It seems so unbelievable.  But I don't necessarily doubt's just so messed up.  I don't know...the film hurt to watch.  Just damn sad.

Star Trek - Deep Space Nine Season 7:  We finally did it!  The Wife & I worked our way through DS9 and when we past through the other side of the wormhole, the little lady was a true believer in The Emissary.  And with good reason.  This is the single greatest season of Star Trek.  With an endate in place, the Next Generation off the air, and Voyager stumbling around the Delta quadrant, Deep Space Nine had full rein of The Federation toybox and the producers of the show took full advantage.  While Captain Benjamin Sisko recovers from the murder of Jadzia Dax, the villain Gul Dukat finds his own religion in the flames of the pah wraiths.  The Dominion War consumes the season but their seemingly unstoppable evil shows signs of weakness as The Founders fall victim to the cold war tactics of Section 9, the Federation's black ops devision fronted by the delightfully arrogant William Sadler.   The last several seasons have been plagued with seriousness, but like all Star Trek, the writers still find time to be playful - but it actually succeeds in DS9 with its Romulan Baseball and James Darran's swinging Vic Fontaine.  Season 7 of Deep Space Nine really does feel like the beginning of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica, and it teases the mind for the possibilities of a modern day Star Trek show.  Where No Man Has Gone Before?  How 'bout long arcing narrative storytelling.  Make it so.


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