Monday, March 18, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (3/10/13-3/16/13)

    I have absolutely NO idea who I managed to fit in so many movies this week, because I was really busy and I know I spent a lot of time not watching movies.  I know I was having trouble sleeping, but that doesn’t add up.  Anyway, considering how danged tired I am and stressed out, it was a pretty good week.

I need a hug, too.

    On Sunday night, I caught Life in the Year 2030 on NPR.  It was dealing with a bunch of stuff I’ve been reading about lately, including autonomous cars.  It also dealt with ‘smart’ clothing that could do more frivolous things like change color, but could also do things like protect people from getting malaria or keep them warm when it’s cold.  And there was stuff about robots.  Can’t wait for robots.

Nemesis:  Oh, Albert Pyun, you terrible, terrible genius.  Pyun is kind of a master of crappy movies.  He embraced cyberpunk like few others, making flicks like this and Cyborg, among others.  His movies get right into the genre, even when they manage to botch all the things that make movies ‘good.’  This film, for example, has an awful script and what seems to be intentionally awful acting you don’t normally see outside of The Asylum or a George Lucas film.  Like, it’s REALLY bad acting.  And not just because poor man’s JCVD Olivier Gruner can’t speak much English.  Most of the cast can, they just don’t.  Not in any natural way, anyway.  But in spite of it all, Nemesis is kind of a blast.  Lots of shoot-outs.  Lots of running around.  Nasty old environments.  Weird characters.  Bad cyborg effects.  Awesome.  There is an interesting question of gender in Pyun’s films.  I don’t know what his thing is, but he features a lot of women who dress like men, men with classically female names and vice versa, and other odd bits (like the female body builder in the three sequels to Nemesis that all have this film’s leading male character’s name with no explanation).  Is he getting at something with it all?  Or like much of his work, is it just random and accidental?  I don’t know.  I don’t really care.  Just something I noticed.  I can’t believe this movie doesn’t have a blu-ray two disk special edition.  I actually had to get a bootleg, recorded form VHS version, because as far as I can find, it has never been put out on DVD (this needs a 2 disk, digitally remastered, unrated director’s cut!).

Double Trouble:  “Seventeen will get me 20.”  It’s not Elvis VS. Elvis like the movie poster implies.  Instead two dames want to get a ride on the E Train, but he’s a busy cat.  Unfortunately, one of them is a touch on the young side and he (rightly) tries to run the other way.  Comic misadventures and a tour of Europe quickly follow.  And all the while, some weird dudes are trying to knock off the young girl.  It’s enjoyable enough, but totally forgettable.  The girls are cute, but not especially captivating.  The songs aren’t up to snuff (it’s bad when the best one is a reworking of Old McDonald’s Farm).  I guess it’s worth a watch, but it’s no classic, that’s for sure.

Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell:  “I hope you go insane with loneliness!”  The final chapter in the series starts out in a snow covered landscape with a Blaxploitation waka-waka guitar setting a crazy tone.  Man, this series is nuts.  A sure fire sign that East and West were doing a heck of a job influencing each other.  The Lone Wolf series is as much Spaghetti Western fantasy as samurai film.  Over the top everything.  Music, acting, blood, and style.  Dropping Night on Bald Mountain into a 70s style rock tune?  Crazy.  Who would have thought, watching the first film, that we would see a massive, James Bond movie type, ski battle raging through the snowy mountains?  Maybe it was inevitable.  It’s a weird ending to the series, and I would say not really a satisfying one.  I’m not sure why it ended here.  Did tickets stop selling?  Did actors want to move on?  Whatever the case, it doesn’t feel finished.  The movie does; the series doesn’t.

The Golden Compass:  “There will always be free thinkers…and heretics.”  You can make dozens of Christian themed movies and not hear a peep, but one movie based book with an atheist bent (the script leaves out 99% of that aspect of the book), and suddenly, Christians are being persecuted, and Hollywood is holding the whip; the End Times are upon us, and movies are a tool of Satan.  It must be exhausting, trying to find more ways to be offended and oppressed.  No wonder religious people tend to be so humorless.  Though visually impressive and well cast, the script sadly misses much of the novel’s better and more interesting elements.  Scientific inquiry in the form of dashing adventurer Asriel (Daniel Craig) battles the stodgy orthodoxy of the Magisterium.   Nichole Kidman plays the diabolic porcelain doll who embodies the hypocrisy and villainy of blind traditionalism.  I’d have liked to see a better adaptation, and I’d certainly have liked it to have been successful enough to see the rest of the books adapted.  If memory serves, the movie also ends early, dropping the book’s climax.  This makes its financial failure all the more frustrating.  Half of me thinks the movie’s PG-13 rating has more to do with the Christian crusade against the film than any content.  In fact, the only reason I could see for any rating stronger than PG is a sequence where a bear gets its jaw punched off.  That’s pretty brutal.  But I don’t think it’s enough.  It’s a PG movie.  Generally fine for the family, if occasionally scary (but no more so than most classic Disney or other family films from before the 90s).  It could be much better, but it’s still a pretty good family friendly fantasy adventure film.

The Thief of Bagdad:  “Fling him to the ape!”  This silent epic starts slow, but becomes quite the effects filled spectacle.  The sets are amazing and some of the effects would have been passable in movies up through the 80s.  The creatures are nuts (underwater spider!) and the stunts are wild.  Douglass Fairbanks is filled with smarmy bravado that is partly charming and partly off-putting.  He just seems like such a jerk in the first part of the film.  But he’s got personality, that’s for sure.  The princess is kind of a dud, but her various servants are more charming and more interesting.  Not the best silent film I’ve seen, by any means.  But it’s very good and entertaining.  Sort of a Summer blockbuster kind of thing.

South Bronx Heroes:  “If I want you to talk, I’ll throw you a peanut.”  Everybody keeps stabbing everybody.  This relentless view of human misery and crime is grueling and pointlessly sad.  Really crappy movie.

The Black 6:  “Hey man.  Watch out for the goat.”  They may be from different football teams, but the Black 6 can agree on their love of motorcycles, and their hatred of jive turkeys.  Six cool dudes ride wherever the wind takes them, being chill and helping out, and enjoying life (most of all, no hassles).  All they want to do, now that they’re back from the ‘Nam, is spread ‘peace and love, brother; peace and love.’  But honkies and crackers are looking to cause trouble.  This is one of the better ultra-low budget blaxploitation films I’ve seen.  It looks to be financially on the level with Brotherhood of Death, but a better film.  There were a few words, I’m assuming racial slurs, that I didn’t get or hadn’t heard before.  That’s something.

The Black Gestapo:  “Afternoon, black gentlemen!”  Either I was in a really, really different place 10 years ago, or I’ve been mistaking this for a different movie.  ‘Cause a) I thought I disliked it, but I have no idea how that could be true and b) I didn’t remember any of it.  So, I’m guessing I was just wrong about having seen it, and I’m glad that’s been rectified.  It’s crazy over the top.  Great bad dialog.  The characters are weird and extreme, from the wild-eyed Che wannabe second in command who puts together a cracker-killing death squad, to the laidback, sunglass wearing, racist crook, to the semi-gay crime lord.  And the ending.  Dang, man.  So glad I watched this (again?).

Velvet Smooth:  “Later, Papa.”  Oh, man.  This is LOW budget.  Bad writing, worse acting, horrifying clothes, porn sets, crappy music.  Charming.  There are a lot of extended, not especially inspiring martial arts fights.  The kind where people probably got hurt, because they weren’t choreographed very well.  I was reminded of some of the stuff from Black Dynamite.  I love when the you can see the recording microphone aimed at the actors from below the camera.  It adds a little something to conversations to have a white tube pointing at whoever’s talking.  This is also the second movie in a row (the first was Black Gestapo) to feature a friendly fire, accidental throat-cutting by one bad guy against another.  That’s odd.  The finale is pretty good.  But again, this is bargain basement.  Kind of like if the crew behind Land of the Lost decided to do a blaxploitation film.

Disciple of Death:  “No doubt, we all shall meet again… …In HELL!”  This Hammer wannabe fails on every level, except to produce a few unintentional laughs.  The villain is so hammy, the rest of the cast so amateurish, and the almost rap like way the music is mixed, it’s hard to do anything but laugh.  It’s like the UK equivalent of Ed Wood saw a random Hammer film and said, ‘I can do that!’  He was wrong.

Doctor Who: Time & the Rani:  Ugh.  An inauspicious beginning to Sylvester McCoy’s tenure.  Lots of clowning, Mel, the Rani pretending to be Mel (terrifying), goofy green bird people, that new ultra-electronica opening music.  With Colin Baker, I think they were trying to recapture some of Tom Baker’s style.  With McCoy, I think they were trying to go for something of a Patrick Troughton thing; more the loveable vagabond clown, less the slightly mad trickster.  Man, I wish Mel could have spent more time screeching like an injured bird.  ‘Cause that isn’t terribly annoying.  Ace can’t get here soon enough.  And while I think the Rani was conceptually interesting, like the Master, she ends up being so foppishly, scenery-chewingly evil as to be more silly than scary or cool.  The bat creatures had potential, but they don’t work.  I think if I were a BBC exec, watching this story, I’d be thinking about cancellation, too.  I’ll say this about the episode.  Some of the effects, especially some of the composite images, where models are combined with live action, are pretty good, and show some of the places effects could have gone, if the show weren’t so close to its end.  The CG animated opening featured ground breaking technique, but I don’t like it very much.

Silent Hill: Revelation:  “I know the Darkness is coming.”  I’ve been saying for months that the entire reason this project even happened is that someone realized Sean Bean lived through the first film, and that could not stand.  I’m probably one of like 8 people who actually enjoyed the first Silent Hill, and I was very surprised they even bothered to do a second.  I’ll give ‘em this, they don’t screw around waiting to get into the action.  It’s pretty balls-out weird from the beginning.  And everything is sort of taken for granted.  Not a lot of effort trying to explain why reality is broken, or what there are monsters or what have you.  It reminds me of the Hellraiser films, especially the more mind-messing Hellraiser II and the later Nightmare on Elm St. films.  In fact, the whole movie felt very 80s.  It’s really strange.  So, does Sean Bean manage to slip through the cracks again and defy the odds by surviving?  I’ll never tell.  Is the end of the movie a bit of a cop-out?  Yes.  But I enjoyed it far, far more than I expected.

    Thursday night took me away from my comfort zone when I visited with friends Paul and Sarah, and got to hold their new baby, Joseph (totally named that because it’s my middle name…totally).  I haven’t been around kids very much, even when I was one, babies even less.  And, it’s true, I have a lump of coal running my body instead of the more traditional blood pumping muscle known by some as the heart.  Still, it’s a danged cute baby.  His rubber face makes some fantastic expressions.  I can’t imagine the soulless little monster I’d spawn.  Handsome, sure.  But that Thomas Ripley sort of handsome.

    Friday night was the latest meeting of the Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club, where this month’s selection was the hard cover collection Blacksad.  It was an odd meeting, as I think it was the first time everyone was pretty much on the same page.  Everyone liked it.  Everyone liked the art.  We basically just talked a lot about the various things we liked about it.  And there was some question of why fish would still be animals in a world populated by anthropomorphized animals.  A good meeting.  Just oddly agreeable.

Monster X Strikes Back: “‘Guilala hot cakes’ are selling like hot cakes.”  Attack at the G8 Summit:  Super goof-tastic, I guess this is a satire.  A giant monster from space (‘cause of those dang Chinese!) attacks the G8 Summit, and with the instigation of the American president, all the world leaders decide not to run, but to stand and fight.  Ace reporter Sumire, of Tokyo Sports Daily is gonna get a scoop.  Each daring and well thought out plan that somehow manages to fail, leads to more comic weirdness.  Usually I’m not a fan of non-English comedy because I miss too many cultural references and what is funny is lost on me.  I think I get most of the jokes in this movie…they’re just not that funny.  The inspirational, worshipful dance is very impressive, though.  I assume everyone will be doing it someday.  And I have to admit that I saw some things I never thought I would, like a giant kaiju god sodomized by a nuclear missile.  That was something.  I can only speak to the English speaking actors, but dang, they’re bad.  I assume the Russian, German, French, etc. are on par.  Though the Russian guy seems like he might actually be an actor.  It seems pretty clear the casting call went out for any Western actors they could find.  Heck, the UK rep has an American accent.  But holy smokes; almost every woman in the movie is either super cute, or smokin’ hot.  The array of translators?  Yowzah.

Lady Snowblood:   On a cold winter night, a baby is born; a mother dies.  Thus opens Lady Snowblood, another Japanese samurai-type film about vengeance, betrayal and murder.  20 years later, that baby is a beautiful woman with a sword in her umbrella, killing her way to satisfaction.  Welcome to Japan in the 1890s.  Another blood-soaked film in the tradition of the Zatoichi and Lone Wolf and Cub movies.  It too features some strange uses of music that gives it a fascinating vibe, even when the film itself isn’t amazing.

Doctor Who: Paradise Towers:  “Hail Pex.”  Sylvester McCoy is considerably less annoying in this story.  Mel is just as annoying as ever.  The super-80s, 2000 AD/Judge Dredd nightmare future world is weird fun.  Episodes like this are so off the wall.  Lots of creepy and strange characters, garish colors, disturbing behavior.  The two old ladies…Yikes.  Pex.  Pex, man.  If only he could have joined the Doctor.  Pex and Ace would have made one serious badass pair of companions.  Look out Daleks.  I really enjoy the set design.  I mean, it’s super simple, but effective.  This is just all around a better story than the first.  The guest cast in this one is quite good.  The DVD features an alternate score which was dropped and given to a different composer.  Frankly, I kind of prefer this alternate, original version.  It was interesting that the writer for this arc was in part inspired by the J.G. Ballard novel High Rise.  That is a novel I became aware of through a book about cities in science fiction, and took me years to track down (I don’t think it was even printed Stateside until recently).  When I’d read the original description of the book, I’d been reminded of some stuff from my youth, including this very Doctor Who story.

Black Pearl (aka 10,000 A.D.: The Legend of the Black Pearl):  “When you are feeling most lost and disheartened, smoke this.” Even if our world ends, society collapses, and eight thousand years pass, I don’t think dreadlocks or tongue and eyebrow piercing on a skinny white dude will ever be acceptable.  Though the fact that the movie opens on our Burning Man cast-off getting the crap kicked out of him, only to be saved by a Veronica Mars look alike makes more sense.  Brad Pitt wannabe hippie-warrior Jesus seems to spend his life a day late and a dollar short.  Maybe he should try washing his hair.  My hat is off to the people who made this movie.  It’s beautifully shot and goes for it, balls out, heart exposed.  And it absolutely looks silly as hell a lot of the time.  Hippie, New Age, martial arts, Native American, Hawaiian (?), and mumbo-jumbo of every sort.  But it doesn’t mess around with trying to be mainstream or approachable.  This film has more heart in it than a dozen big budget films.  Sadly, it doesn’t have any more brain.  It’s kind of like a whole movie set in that nasty future from Cloud Atlas, or some post-Fall science fiction setting from the 60s, but filtered through a couple New Age books with crystals and dreamcatchers and paintings of wolves.  I don’t know who I would suggest this film to.  I’m sure there are people who would like it, but I only have one person in all my circle of friends to whom I’m going to recommend it.

Cowboys and Aliens:  “What kind of man goes around blowing up another man’s cows?”  Science fiction has had a long tradition of mixing with the Western.  Singing cowboys have traveled to the center of the Earth; rustlers have captured T-rexes; and they’ve all gotten mixed up in time travel too many times to count.  Not to mention how many times they’ve been exported to other planets.  This time, an amnesiac, an ornery old cattle man, a bar tender, a mysterious woman, a Native chief and a bunch of others are set upon by kidnapping, gold loving aliens, and they aren’t gonna take it sitting down.  Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are perfect Western actors, handsome but grizzled with steely stares and barely checked rage.  The aliens are weird, the effects pretty good, and the action well handled.  It is an unabashed mix of sci-fi action and classic western.  And Olivia Wilde…Dang.  She’s weird looking, but in the best way.  Is this an amazing, world changing movie?  No.  But it’s solid entertainment.  Harrison Ford should be in more Westerns.

    My landlord installed a new fireplace thingy, so for the first time ever, I’ve got a working fireplace, which is fun.  I’ve found that I suck at fire.  Still, it’s cool to have.  And as this winter doesn’t seem to want to let go (I think it’s usually in the 60s or more by this time here, but the 30s and 40s won’t stop), it’s nice to have options.


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