Monday, April 22, 2013
Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/14/13-4/20/13)
Sunday morning, Paul, Ben, Brad, and myself went out to see Trance, and more importantly, to eat at Denny’s Baconalia. Oh, man. Bacon, maple syrup, and ice cream. Great combination. I think it has become a new tradition. If they do it every year, and I’m not dead, I think we’ll be back. Otherwise, it was a kind of normal week. Not much new or different.
The comic reading spree that started Saturday kept going on Sunday with issue 8 of X-O Manowar. That’s a thing. The primary reason I was interested in this series was Cary Nord’s art, and he left the line after like three issues. The introduction of the character Ninjak pretty much killed it. Too 90s.
I don’t fully understand how the Dark Horse Star Wars comics are done. So when I picked up issue 1 of the five part Fire Carrier miniseries, I didn’t realize it was issue 23 of the Dark Times series. So there was a bunch of stuff that happened before I didn’t know about, or that it mentions in passing. Still, the first two issues of this mini are pretty good. The stuff with young Vader is kind of blah, but I guess they have to bounce back to him occasionally to keep the overall thread of the series. The stuff with the young Jedi kids and their master at a sinister refugee camp is good though. Timely. It has a touch of Nazi Germany, but also of the refugee camps in various warzones of today.
Having The Avengers come out last year was a trip. Look, I’m not much of a Marvel fan. I don’t think very highly of The Avengers. The few comics I’ve read about them have been ultra-lame. Still, it was an amazing thing to have such an extremely geeky property get a major, big budget release that didn’t substantially dilute the comic-crazy, and draw tons of box office bank. As crazy as that was, it absolutely did not prepare me for the announcement that one of the next big Marvel movies was going to be…Guardians of the Galaxy. What? That’s crazy. First, they’re fairly obscure. Second, they’re the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket Raccoon, man. Rocket Raccoon. Anyway, they’ve re-launched a comic and I figured I might as well give it a go. Issue 0.1 (what is it with comics and their cute numbering systems?) and issue 1. It’s nothing special so far, but it doesn’t suck. I prefer my comics cosmic, so I’m more inclined to go for something like this than say X-Men. I don’t get why Tony Stark is in it. I haven’t been reading Iron Man (‘cause it sucks), so I don’t know what’s going on there that would make him want to go into space. Seems odd. But I’ll keep reading if it doesn’t turn to crap. Of course, the fact that the last page of issue 1 has them heading back to Earth doesn’t fill me with confidence. The last place I want cosmic characters (Green Lantern Corps, Silver Surfer, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.) is on Earth. That’s sort of like a ninja drinking coffee or a dog trainer watching bowling; odd for a moment, but not something to build a comic series on.
Trance: “Strawberries.” I can’t say I really liked this movie, but I was mostly entertained by it. The last ten minutes or so, I checked out. I look at it as too many ‘shocking’ reveals, but those I saw it with think it’s one long reveal. Either way, once it started unraveling, I tuned out. At least it wasn’t a) all a dream or b) that the two male leads were the same person. Had it been either of those, I think I’d have screamed. I like the cast, and it was sooooo nice to see Rosario Dawson in something that didn’t totally suck. It’s been far, far too long. She’s an actress I want to like, but she keeps doing the worst films (now, if only Olivia Wilde would make some good choices…). In a week, I’ll probably only remember how cute (and naked) Dawson was, the film itself being of little consequence. In fact, only hours later, most of my memories of the film are of her, not the plot or the action.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “Buried aliiiiiiiiive!” Like The Motion Picture, there really isn’t much in the way of story here. They find Khan, he’s angry, they fight, the end. What elevates it is the design, the performances, and the music. If you took out any one of those elements, the film would likely have failed. There are some problems, especially in the light of continuity. Why are all Khan’s people blonde now? Why do Khan and Chekov know each other? Why does nobody think about the whole Ceti Alpha 5 thing before they land? Still, it’s a fun, action packed film with some great visual elements. Unfortunately, it’s more action heavy focus would become basis for most subsequent Trek movies, with exploration and problem solving taking a distant back seat. As it is kind of a re-start, it is also the first in a continuous story that creates a trilogy within the series.
Fraggle Rock Season 2: “Come on everybody. Let’s push this greased up monster outta here.” The stories continue to be just as good through the second season. This is some of the best youth-aimed entertainment I’ve seen, managing to be profoundly thoughtful and moral, without being preachy or condescending. If I were ever to have kids, and could let them watch only one show, this would be it.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: “He’s fruity as a nutcake.” Like The Motion Picture, Star Trek III gets a lot of guff. The second film in the trilogy within the series, this is about both loss and rebirth. One could argue that though enraged, Kirk doesn’t get nearly as upset about the loss he suffers in this film as he did with Spock. But then, how much of a connection did he really have with the person who dies? And part of me wishes they’d waited, either until the very end of this film, or the next film, to actually find Spock. There’s really not much of a ‘search’ for him. It’s more like the opening credits end and ‘oh, hey, there’s Spock.’ I guess ‘Star Trek III: The Stumbling Upon of Spock’ isn’t as catchy a title. But the movie has a bunch of good character moments, and the emotions in the post climax feel genuine. The Christopher Lloyd Klingon story is the weakest element of the film, and I think distracts. They could have had the whole tale be nothing but the investigation into the problems on the Genesis Planet, what was going on with hyper-aging Spock, and what David had to do with it. I think the Klingons are a distraction, and sadly kind of cement the Kirk VS. X thing that, with the exception of IV becomes the formula for the rest of the films (replace Kirk with Picard for the Next Gen movies).
Kiss Them for Me: “I sleep in the raw.” I love Cary Grant, and this is a funny movie. But Jayne Mansfield is dreadful. Grant’s reactions to her…uh, wit(?)…hysterical. The movie itself is pretty good, it’s tone light, yet dropping in some serious business along the way. Three buddies (and another kinda friend) go to San Francisco for a four day leave. Each man has something on his mind. One is cracking up a bit, one has his sights on political position back home in New England, and one is bitter about it all. They find romance and fun, drinking and drinking and drinking their way through night and day. There is a lot of awkward dialog looping, especially from the women which occasionally becomes distracting. But all in all, it’s a genuinely interesting look back at life near the end of the War (from a decade later), with bits about women workers, injured (physically and psychologically) soldiers, and the like. You can learn a lot about a time from its entertainment. Oh, sure, it may not be 100% accurate, but you get a taste of cultural shifts, concerns, attitudes, etc.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 4: “I’m not much of a talker.” The fourth season is not as impressive as the first two, but it’s still got several good episodes. Again, the show’s major failings are all related the movies, and trying to maintain connections to them. The lamest characters, the dumbest storylines, the inevitability of stupid plot twists that viewers of Revenge of the Sith already know will largely void various aspects of the series. The last several episodes of the season do reach some of the highs of the first couple, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the reintroduction of a character that should never, ever have come back. They also did a lot to make the bald villainous chick into a much more interesting character than when she was originally around, working for the Separatists. Several of the final episodes of the season follow villains about their business, which becomes far more interesting than watching Skywalker be a snotty jackass.
Solaris: “She’s a bit tricky, but I guess she’s worth while.” This movie takes a lot of flack, because it’s too slow for many viewers and not slow enough for fans of the original Russian version (nor does it feature enough excruciatingly slow zooms into a guy’s ear). But I really like this meditation on loss, the hunger for connection, and the hope for second chances. This is Quiet Clooney, so there’s a lot of him sitting, walking, and looking, and not a lot of him talking (see also: The American). When he is called to a research outpost floating above the planet Solaris, he finds a lot of questions, not many answers, and way, way more than he went there to find. And then his wife shows up…his dead wife. Well, that ain’t right. The film is beautiful, the music hypnotic, and the story thoughtful. The unfolding of these fractured people’s past is painful, but relatable. Clooney plays a guy haunted by his past. Natascha McElhone is that past, a mysterious and challenging woman with a darkness and sadness that consumes. Don’t go in looking for an action movie. But if you like drama or quiet science fiction, this is worth checking out. And no mater what the Criterion cultists say, I still like it better than the Russian version.
Yeelen: Years ago, I went on something of a quest to find African fantasy films or books (not going into the story behind that right now). I found little to nothing, and certainly nothing to match what I was looking for. Well I finally have. It is an odd tale about a young man on the run from his evil father. Both are wizards of a sort and do some crazy magic. The young man has several adventures where his magic helps him win the day. I know, straight up, that there were large sections of the movie I didn’t get. But, this is an interesting experience. And it is a fantasy film based on African magic, which can’t be a common thing. Did I like it? It was OK.
Friday night was the latest graphic novel club meeting hosted by Lisa and Brad. We had a somewhat spirited discussion of Hawkeye’s first volume. I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t all fired up about it. But opinions varied, from those who really enjoyed it to those who hated it. I’m on the slightly likeier side of middling. It’s better than a lot of the Marvel stuff on the newsstands right now, but it wouldn’t even be on my radar if not for Brad’s constant evangelism.
Gappa: “Stupid bird-lizard!” An expedition to the South Pacific takes a band of scientists to a volcanic island that appears to be the remnant of an ancient civilization. Yeah, the same one Easter Island was a part of…when all the islands in the Pacific were one…millions of years ago. You know. Science. Those darned primitive descendants of old civilizations sure do love to dance, play drums, and worship volcanoes. It seems to have been all the rage on lost islands. There’s not much new here, and it’s obviously not on a technical par with Toho. The models are kind of cheap and the action clunky. Still, it’s a perfectly watchable bit of Kaiju fun with plenty of great bad dubbing. Why do these giant monsters always get along with kids? I guess kids were the primary target audience, but still. It’s weird. I guess this was supposed to spoof the genre, but a spoof of a genera that is already super weird is difficult to pull off. Maybe I’d get the spoofiness more if I understood the language.
Marquis de Sade’s Justine: “I spend my days painting.” My fascination with trash cinema and the enjoyment I’ve recently had of the madman Klaus Kinsky, plus the film’s early production date, prompted me to ignore my Jess Franco Alarm and rent this anyway. Franco’s early work still has a freshness and enough production value to make watchable, if not good. And this does appear to have been shot on quality film by a cinematographer who understood how to work the machine (not always true of the director’s work). It’s not awful. Frankly, it’s pretty tame considering the topic. The thing that makes it almost worth the effort of seeking out is Jack Palance. He’s treating the scenery like a pack of Hubba-Bubba. It’s kind of amazing, even for Palance.
On Saturday morning, I finished up Book Four of Saga of the Swamp Thing. Alan Moore’s run is uneven, but this volume was really good. It’s a character I think could hold a lot for this reader, if handled by the right writer. Moore certainly fits the bill, taking the old green monster into some interesting places.
“Now imagine them with rockets.” I also read The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, which was all kinds of fun. I love the Rocketeer, and was always bummed Dave Stevens hadn’t done more with the character. I’m glad to see that people are paying his memory proper respect with a great adventure tale like this one.
I got a chance to hear the new How to Destroy Angels album this week. It’s pretty good. Just on first listen, I like two or three songs right away. And I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like. Give me some time with it and we’ll see. I’ll be curious to see how long this project/band goes on.