Monday, April 15, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/7/13-4/13/13)

    I figured before Brad went into fits, I’d best start up Deadwood again.  I’d started watching it a couple years back, during an awesome Western month, but things happened and I didn’t continue.  After cranking through Rome while I was on vacation last week…well, I wanted more Rome truth be told.  But instead I decided to pop this back in the old DVD player.  They sure do talk pretty in Deadwood.  C&%$suckers, @$$f*&%ers, $#!tkickers, c#!%s, and lots of other words I typically use old-style comicbook style profanity for.  There’s enough swearing in this show to make salty sailors blush.

The Seventh Seal:  “My flesh is afraid, but I am not.”  Young Max Von Sydow is bloody terrifying, with his blond hair and his chiseled face.  He has a very sinister way about him.  This meditation on death and the fear of death is set against plague ravaged medieval Europe.  Von Sydow and his worldly squire have just returned from the Crusades, tired, bitter, and nearing death.  When the Grim Reaper arrives, they begin a chess game to decide fates.  As the story progresses, we meet a traveling circus with a goofy clown, and his comely wife, and their young boy.  Each step along the way, we meet various people trying to come to terms with life and its meaning.  There are some great discussions both funny and touching about love and living.  And some dark delvings into fear and horror.  It’s bawdy and thoughtful, and rather strange.  Even Death himself is rather funny, and sinister.  Interesting combinations in the movie.

Excalibur:  “Rest in the arms of the Dragon.”  Oh, John Boorman, you mad bastard.  Stylized and surreal, Excalibur is anything but naturalistic or realistic.  It is operatic fantasy, an epic poem on film.  He even opens it with my favorite piece of Wagner, Siegfried’s Funeral March.  Everyone is Shakespeare acting, bellowing dialog at the top of their lungs like devotees of the great god Brian Blessed.  You can imagine that John Q. Public circa 1350 might have imagined the story playing out much like this.  No connection to reality or history, but dwelling in the deepest and strangest of mythology.  What always kills me about this story is how kind of awful the ‘heroes’ are.  It takes all of two seconds for Lancelot to betray his ‘best friend.’  Of course, it took all of two seconds for them to become best friends in the first place, and just as little time for Arthur and Guinevere fall in love.  It’s not that I want the film to be longer, but it feels like it is supposed to be.  It feels like large chunks are missing.

L’Incoronazione di Poppea:  “Your breast deserves a sweeter name.”  Rome still on my mind, I lucked into having this one come in.  I didn’t actually know it was about Nero and his devil-wife Poppea.  It’s well produced.  I was surprised to see that it was from 1984; it felt more recent.  I’ll admit that I’m not more than a rank amateur at this whole opera thing, but I’m pretty sure I don’t care much for Italian opera.  So far, I’ve typically preferred the German stuff.  But again, I’m kind of new to it all, and still testing the waters.  Part of it is the music itself.  I want something a bit more epic and sweeping, where the Italian stuff I’ve heard so far sounds like little more than a harpsichord and a few violins (even when there’s a whole orchestra).  If you silence the singers and listen to Wagner, it’s still compelling music.  If you silenced the singers in this opera, I’d be wondering what I should order from the wine list, and hoping the cream sauce isn’t too rich.  Now, I realize what follows is an awfully shallow observation, but I’m an awfully shallow guy.  The lead actress Maria Ewing seems built for the stage.  From a distance, like from where you would see her if you were in the audience, she appears beautiful.  But up close, she looks kind of like a Muppet.  It’s distracting.  I don’t know if it’s bad plastic surgery, weird make-up, or she’s just an odd looking woman.  But it kept weirding me out whenever the camera would zoom in.  I wonder if she’s from a coastal town, ‘cause she has a touch of the Innsmouth Look about her.  But then, the guy playing Nero looks kind of like the Fat Kid from every 80s teen comedy, so what do I know?

Prehistoric Women:  “Strangely enough, the swan dive was invented before the swan.”  You know what I like in a narrator?  I like a narrator to explain in detail exactly what’s happening on the screen.  That’s great.  It reminds me of the masterworks of Stan “The Man” Lee.  Due to a brief domestic dispute, a woman leads a bunch of her tribe away from the men (like five guys), to create a tribe of ladies who know how to do stuff (like fish unsuccessfully and get caught by giants).  Years later the children of this splinter faction return to get them some lovin’ from Not Russ Tamblyn and his buddy Not Sal Mineo.  The battle between the ladies and the men would later be echoed by the epic opening of Saving Private Ryan.  Truly harrowing.  I believe this is based on the same Shakespeare play that inspired Captain Caveman.  Certainly, the totally authentic prehistoric language, consisting of as many as 5 words, seem to encompass the range of human communication eloquently.  The film adheres to the great Raymond Chandler’s advice, “when in doubt, have two women wearing animal skins wrestle for a few minutes.”  As the narrator says, “it seems that women were women in those days, too.”  Boy, I’ll say.  I bet if you checked, you’d find that their legs went all the way up.  The erotic mating dance is pure interpretive genius.  The pteroducktyl may be the most terrifying use of stock footage of a waterfowl ever captured in cinema.  I hope the AFI will finally relent and name this one of the greatest films of all time.  It deserves the credit after all these years.  The discovery of tools, fire, misogyny, cooked meat, and how to drive off ducks all in one generation.  Amazing.  And the use of the grunting, hairy giant as a metaphor for our loss of humanity in an ever increasingly mechanistic society was thought provoking to say the least.

Spies-A-Go-Go:  “Ve noticed the sign und ve are rocking und rolling enthusiasts und ve are here for the dance.”  Everything is better when it’s A-Go-Go.  In case, like me, you find the comedy stylings of Benny Hill a bit too cerebral, there are options, like this fantastic spy adventure comedy staring Arch Hall Jr. and his amazing Giant Face.  See, you know it’s funny, because there’s zany music and ethnic stereotypes.  And of course, the funniest thing ever to happen in the history of funny things, a dwarf trying to rope a cow.  Pure.  Comic.  Gold.  Cowboy Jaws knows it.  Creepy, giant faced Arian monster Elvis, Arch Hall Jr. makes for a heck of a singing secret agent.  Forget Val Kilmer in Top Secret, it’s all about having a huge face and knowing how to mug the camera…mug for the camera.  Always remember to watch out for snakes.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture:  There’s not really much plot here.  It’s kind of a summation of all the various ‘find a supercomputer’ stories from the old show.  But it also lays the foundation for Trek to come, and ideas from this film echo on.  Ilia and Decker become Troi and Riker.  V’ger becomes the alien probe from The Voyage Home, and I think partially inspired the Borg, too.  The music is good.  The effects are nice.  And I like a lot of what makes it to the screen.  But there are some unnecessary scenes, and though I like a lot of the sequences of flying through space and around objects, there as room for trimming for sure.  But I don’t think this movie deserves the derision it typically receives.  I respect them for trying to keep Trek its own thing and not just follow Star Wars’ lead by making it action heavy, as they would do in Wrath of Khan.

The Vanguard:  This low budget sci-fi horror film has a deep running, very bent sense of humor.  There are hints of Evil Dead, Mad Max, Dog Soldiers and some other lower budget, fringe films.  It’s sort of what I was expecting from Bellflower (not the hipster snooze-fest I got).  Don’t get me wrong.  It has some serious narrative flaws, giving some character backgrounds that don’t exactly add up to motivation, losing the thread a few times, and it features a let-down ending.  Still, it has enough going for it that fans of low budget stuff should find something to enjoy.  The final blood explosion really doesn’t work, though, and it’s kind of a bad way to finish up, with a memorably ineffective special effects shot.  I did like the lead actor’s weird deadpan beard acting, though.

Beyond the Valley of the Doll:  “This is my happening and it freaks me out!”  Heavy weight philosophy, the dope, rock n’ role, an aggressive ambisexual, and more boobs than a Congressional subcommittee.  The wild world of Russ Meyer, the greatest dirty old man to ever point a movie camera at some bimbos in bellbottoms.  While it is obviously a ‘bad’ movie, it’s kind of great like only bad movies can be.  It’s so danged surreal, with scenes that don’t seem to have anything to do with the plot, characters acting in ways that don’t make any sense, and a tone that would be hard pressed to be less even.  Joke joke joke --Beheading!!!  Sing sing sing -- Attempted suicide!!!  Yet, for some reason (other than the enormous boobs), I was very entertained.

Lost, Lonely, and Vicious:  “Yes, I know how it feels to be lonely…Wanna Coke?”  They may not be rebels, but they’re sure without causes…and clues.  Johnny Dennis and his vacuous jerk buddies don’t know what they want but they’re willing to sit around in a café and bitch to get it.  A young James Dean type guy is about to screw up his whole life because it’s going too well.  The glitz and glamour ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…I guess.  One day I do want a cute young lady to hold my bongos.  If it’s at a lake, all the better.  This is a heartfelt movie, if not a very good one.  It feels like the MST3K boys should take a go at it, but at the same time, it really does have a lot of heart.  The ending feels false, though.

    I watched a few old shorts on Friday night.  Crisis in Morality was a delightfully stupid Christian fluff piece about how everything fun or worth doing is evil.  Hell is a Place Called Hollywood is a nice sleazy short about the dangers of going to Hollywood, which almost certainly is the product of exactly what it’s about.  It features a bunch of cheeky nudity in the name of education.  We need to see the young starlet take her clothes off in the story of a young starlet who is exploited and made to take her clothes off.  It reminded me of that awesome Social Disease short from Amazon Women on the Moon.  Those pesky reform school girls are the subject of the third short, Little Miss Delinquent.  The lead girl in that one is surprisingly good.  I wonder if she went on to anything, or if her weird side-bite kept her from success.  And it’s Canadian, which makes it extra special.

Jacktown:  “All of a sudden you’re like…Gettin’ headaches.”  Whenever I review a uh…movie, I think I’m gonna dramatically uh…pause.  This is how you know I’m very uh…serious.  The two dimwit punks we meet seem to have a uh…inability to talk about what they’re talking about.  It’s like those villain conversations where the bad guy talks about ‘taking care of’ someone, or somebody ‘having an accident,’ but never actually says what he means outright.  When Blondie McDouche gives an underage waitress the business in his sweet convertible, he goes to the slammer for the statutory rape.  What follows is a kind of After School Special type prison experience, as the emotionless surfer-dude goes through the prison paces.  Then, through the ultra-kindly platitudes of the warden and the ministering of his bobbysoxer daughter, he gets the Jesus in him and becomes a good boy.

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks:  The beginning of the final stretch for classic Who, this is the episode I always think of when I remember Sylvester McCoy’s run.  The Doctor and Ace head back to 1963 and uncover some funny doings.  A annoyingly typical military dullard is in control of a unit of soldiers investigating, at odds of course, with the scientists who are trying to figure out weird energy sources.  Ace is especially cute in this one, letting her hair down a bit, and getting a chance to drop the hammer on some baddies.  She’s probably the closest companion the Doctor ever had to the great Leela.  The storyline makes interesting connections to William Hartnell, implying that he had some specific reasons for being on Earth at the beginning of An Unearthly Child that he was unable to accomplish.  I like when they build on the Doctor and his past, dealing with things he did even so far back as the first stories.  This is a pretty good Dalek story, and certainly feels more like traditional, pre-Trial of a Time Lord stuff.  One complaint I have is the voice of the Daleks; there’s something off about them here.  But I like their look, one group in white and gold, another in black or grey.  And the ‘special weapons’ Dalek is fab.

Monsters:  “The vibe just changed.”  Scoot McNairy does something I’ve rarely seen in film here.  At the beginning of the movie he makes you hate him so much; not because he’s bad, but because he’s just such a sniveling turd.  But as the movie goes on, he wins me over, growing as a character and maybe becoming more of a man.  And he does one of the only really effective drunk performances I’ve ever seen.  Beyond that, this low budget science fiction/horror film is surprisingly effective.  A photographer is tasked with getting his bosses daughter back home to the United States from Central America.  The problem is, most of Mexico is covered in what is known as the ‘infected zone,’ a region covered in invasive alien life.  I suppose there’s an element of social commentary, looking at how giant disasters effect those without the financial means to escape and the extreme methods people use to get to America (not to mention the advantage taken of those who try).  But overall, it’s a road trip adventure movie mixed with elements of classic Kaiju.

    I finished Scatter Adapt and Remember, a pretty darned good book about how we might survive an oncoming mass extinction.

    “The greatest Bruce in rock is Bruce Kulick, guitar player for Kiss 1984-1996, from Brooklyn.  Case closed.”  I read issues 7, 8, and 9 of Hawkeye.  It’s a fine comic, but I still don’t get what the big deal is; why people are going so apenuts for it.  There are some funny bits, and I like that they’re keeping a lot of the more outlandish superheroes and villains out of it.  But I still hate the art, and I still don’t see what makes people so gushy about it.  I guess it’s like E.R., or Seinfeld and Friends, or Richard Geer.  I know they’re popular, so they must have something that makes people watch.  But whatever it is is totally lost on me.

    “Gods are such beautiful creatures, I’ve never been more sure of that.  Because I’ve seen what they look like on the inside.”  I then read issues 2, 3, and 4 of Thor: God of Thunder.  Only one more issue to go in the God Butcher story arc.  The first issue was great, with a lot of ‘holy cats!’ kind of potential.  Once the story really gets going, though, it’s only pretty good.  I don’t know if maybe, like Godzilla The Half Century War, it should have been a bit longer, like say 10 issues, or if the idea wasn’t quite as good as it seemed like it might be.  I’ll have to read the final chapter in the story to find out for sure.  Still, I love the art and there are a lot of intriguing ideas.  I want more of Thor doing intergalactic P.I. work.  Even the appearance of Iron Man, which initially bothered me (the first panel, with the two of them flying together, gave me that heart sinking feeling when you’re hoping for a new pony but get a pair of socks), is handled pretty well.

    “Get the boys to load her into the car--Then you can dump her like a gentleman.”  On a roll, I figured I’d read the first two issues of the new Rocketeer miniseries, Hollywood Horror.  Now, I love the Rocketeer and I love Lovecraftian horror.  And I even see ways they might work together.  This ain’t it.  I dislike the narrator intensely and I absolutely hate the art.  It’s like a super-crappy kids comic, the sort of thing only kids would be so lacking in sophistication as to accept as passable.  It looks like the worst stuff Cartoon Network dishes out.  Anyway, in spite of my Rocketeer love and immense gladness that the property is being developed, I can only hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come, simply a speed-bump along the way.

    “I really hope that brown river has something to do with chocolate…”  Yeah, they’re not that great, but Futurama comics give me a nice bite sized chuckle.  The writing is about on par with later seasons of the show, not the classic amazingness of the first few.  The art is fine.  It’s not something anyone needs to rush right out and buy, but if you’re looking for something quick that gives you a laugh, it’s a pretty good choice.

    And to round out my comic reading for the week, I ended up finally sitting down to the two Morbus Gravis trades I picked up years ago.  Man, I like the art.  I don’t think much of the content, though.


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