Monday, April 29, 2013

Brad's Week In Dork! (4/21/13-4/27/13)


Yes, I stalled on the Martin Scorsese-a-thon.  No real reason.  Just haven't tracked down a copy of New York, New York yet.  Looks like I might have to dive deep and purchase the blu ray to make that happen.  But the rest of the week wasn't that crazy.  I found myself in a work stretch of 7 days, coming home and not really wanting to blitz through cinema.  I read a good batch of comics, but nothing I really want to focus on here.  The big news came from the big screen.  Pain & Gain (thanks mostly to The Rock) earned a spot as my second favorite film of 2013 so far (yes, Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects still reigns supreme and I find that so completely strange).  But both Oblivion & Lords of Salem proved to be interesting theatrical experiences, but also films I just couldn't back fully.  I'm still waiting for that Great Movie.  Iron Man 3 hits next weekend, fingers crossed for flawless Summer entertainment.


Animal Man - The Hunt & Animal vs. Man:  Running side-by-side with Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing, but where Alec Holland battles The Rot from the The Green side, stuntman turned super hero Buddy Baker battles the decaying force from the side of The Red.  Green = plant lifeforce.  Red = animal lifeforce.  The big difference here is that where Snyder is completely & utterly faithful to the Saga that came before (you cannot ignore Alan Moore), writer Jeff Lemire has little interest in following Grant Morrison's footsteps.  Morrison's fourth wall shattering comic is written off as nothing more than a dream.  Lemire's Animal Man is as new as The New 52.  And that is absolutely not a bad thing.  The first tradepaperback centers around his daughter Maxine taking on the powers of The Red - after she resurrects the corpses of all the neighborhood pets.  Their journey takes them into the realm where Animal Man's powers began and together they discover the real deal behind Buddy's origin as well as the invading force of The Rot.  The second tradepaperback takes Buddy & family on the road with three servants of The Rot chasing their tail.  Hellblazer John Constantine appears to point Buddy in the direction of The Swamp Thing, and the two books rush towards each other.  Lemire relishes the grotesque, taking full advantage of artists Travel Foreman & Steve Pugh.  These guys know gross.  They've been waiting their whole careers for The Rot.  Twisted creatures covered in tumors, claws, tentacles, and leaking blood & puss.  You want monsters (and who doesn't want monsters?) then you'll get your fill on Animal Man.  The vaults & crypts of EC Comics are not locked shut, but are thrown wide open in The New 52.  Take a peak.


Oblivion:  "That is one pissed off weapon!"  Joseph Kosinski follows up the underrated Tron Legacy with this post-apocalyptic mystery reminiscent of...well, Everything.  Planet of the Apes, Alien, 2001, Outland, Zardoz, Moon, Wall-E, and I Am Legend (the book as well as all 3 adaptations).  As a science-fiction film about science-fiction films it's a good enough time at the movies.  Tom Cruise fights for the users; the human race has fled to Titan after a cataclysmic war with The Scavengers left Mother Earth decimated.  He's a worker bee.  Looking after the drones that guard the hydro towers converting what's left of Earth's natural resources.  Don't want to get too much into spoiler territory here, but whatever the revelations they're too familiar to be exciting.  Tom Cruise makes it work though.  The man knows earnest.  His scowls & shouts can pretty much sell any ridiculous sci-fi trope.  Doesn't hurt either when Morgan Freeman pops by to add an extra layer of exposition.  Production design is the real king of the film.  From the sweeping icelandic landscapes to the industrial Scav bunkers, the world of Oblivion feels legit even when the story settles on homage.


The Lords of Salem:  For the first ten minutes I thought I was going to love this movie.  The opening scene depicting the Satanic Rights of Meg Foster's coven are so delightfully Devil's Rain, and I was hopeful that Rob Zombie's latest would offer another grande trip down genre memory lane.  After all, The Devil's Rejects is a perfect piece of 70s exploitation and the gore hound's crown jewel.  Then the misses shows up.  And Sheri Moon Zombie is not the actress this movie needed.  Her disc jockey banter grinds the film to a halt.  Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, & Sheri Moon - just a couple of chums chuckling it up with absolutely zero chemistry.  But every moment Meg Foster is on screen with her wretched staring contests is utterly unnerving.  And when Dee Wallace teeny boppers her way through the black rights, The Lords of Salem is a barrel of dead monkeys.  Rob Zombie is an expert at showcasing nonsensical dream imagery - he makes a great music video.  Goats.  Neon Crosses.  Smoke banks.  Jiggly mutant midgets.  Satan worshiping werewolves.  When he relishes in the blasphemy The Lords of Salem is a creepy, wrong-headed enchantment.


Django Unchained:  I just can't stay away.  Six watches.  I know I said this last week, but this is definitely my favorite of the Tarantino flicks so far.  You may be able to argue the superior quality of both Jackie Brown & Inglourious Basterds, but Django Unchained is the flick QT made for Brad.  Yeah, it's a Western or Southern - whatever.  So already you're playing in my favorite genre.  But then you add the hero's quest against the backdrop of America's great shame, and the resulting rage is not just cathartic but highly entertaining.  Tarantino drags his audience through the muck and filth of history, a horrendous reminder, but when Django stands victorious in front of an exploded plantation I am on my feet in twisted joy.  It's a brutal watch, but a necessary one.  Entertainment as social conscious.  


Pain & Gain:  Shave 30 minutes from the runtime and we might have had the first great film of 2013.  It's certainly the most captivating performance from The Rock to ever assault an audience.  His Paul Doyle is a born again cokefiend convict who falls in with the Sun Gym Gang when The Church grabs for his manbits instead of his eternal soul.  When rags goes to riches and riches to cocaine, The Rock goes full demento, acting to the heavens and achieving comic genius.  Finally, an actor who understands his Baysplosion surroundings.  And as he's proven in Ted & The Other Guys, Mark Wahlberg only excels when he's wrapped in the absurd.  His orgasmic slow motion expressions are almost as entertaining as The Rock's green inked beard & toeless panic.  Yes, Michael Bay's sophomoric, homophobic, misogynistic comedy has finally found a place in this "True Story" attack on the American Dream.  Should we forgive him now for those Transformer balls dangling over John Turturro's head?  Hell no.  It just so happens that Bay's indulgences fit swimmingly into Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely's screenplay.  The Rock, Walhberg, and Anthony Mackie are a tremendous trilogy of dunces and it's a hoot to see them stumble into the atrocities resulting from their criminal delusions of grandeur.  But should such a gross and tragic "True Story" be a hoot?  It's a little awkward to laugh at The Rock grilling severed hands on his BBQ when THE IS STILL A TRUE STORY crawls across the screen.  It is a messed up and bizarre crime spree that is also funny as hell.  Darwin Awards couldn't possibly do these dolts justice.  Pain & Gain certainly doesn't idolize the dimwits, but the reality makes my enjoyment a little complicated if not distressing.


Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention - Cherry Hill, NJ:  After work on Friday, The Wife & I braved DC traffic to travel north to the strip malls of sunny New Jersey.  There, tucked away in a corner of the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza, Creation Entertainment was hosting their Official East Coast Star Trek Convention.  This was Lisa's first Trekkie Con and I was kinda hoping for something epic, but Jersey doesn't do epic.  Billed as the 20 year celebration of Deep Space Nine, the con was little more than a dozen Vendor tables & a sprinkling of Trek Celebrities.  The big names were Avery Brooks (Capt. Sisko), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Nana Visitor (Major Kira), Rene Auberjonois (Constable Odo), and Armin Shimerman (Quark).  They rotated the tables, no one celebrity sticking out through the entirety of the convention, and for the most part we were happy with our awkward fandom interactions.  Lisa chatted vegan lifestyles with Dorn.  Nana Visitor complemented us on our matching Niners ballcaps (aren't we adorable!).  And Rene Auberjonois was very pleasant in accepting Lisa's full-on Boston Legal lovefest.  Every couple of hours one of them would take the stage for storytime.  Nana Visitor revealed Odo as her best DS9 lover "Just think of the shape shifting possibilities."  Cirroc Lofton droned on about his encounter with The Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, refusing to take questions from the crowd.   Michael Dorn chanted ballbreaking lies of Gates McFadden stripping for the cast of TNG.  And Avery Brooks managed to take a bevy of questions, but offered no answers.  The man is wonderfully jazzy & zen, and probably bat shit crazy.  "Either you're a god or you're not.  I'm a human being...relationship with the divine...it doesn't change me.  I'm not fooled!  I still see you out there!"  Whoa.  Anyway, it was a hotel con.  Quiet.  Odd.  More expensive than you'd like.  But another fun weekend in the weird world of dorkery.


--Brad

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