Sunday, June 23, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (6/16/13-6/22/13)

    On Sunday, in preperation for the next meeting of the graphic novel club, I thought I’d get myself into a Thor mood by digging up a few single issues of Thor comics I somehow acquired.  I read issue 600, which wasn’t very good.  The main story has to do with Odin’s father coming back into the world, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere, at least nowhere interesting.  The issue is then padded by a mildly enjoyable goofy comic and some bloody awful Stan Lee ‘classic’ stuff.  Meh.  Issue 601 wasn’t much better, but it was less cluttered.  J. Michael Straczynski is a frustrating figure.  He wrote one of the great sci-fi TV series, Babylon 5, but seemed (seems) unable to do much of anything else worthwhile again.  The pile was missing issue 602, but I got the gist.  603 was pretty much more of the same, though there was a really funny bit about a guy wanting an omelet.

Man of Steel:  “You can save them all.”  So, if you’ve been keeping score, with a few recent exceptions, I generally don’t like Superman.  Most of the time he’s straight up boring.  The rest, he’s bloody awful.  He’s been written by a lot of people for film, TV, comics, etc. and I haven’t ever been a fan.  Director Zack Snyder has made a bunch of movies I’ve really enjoyed, but his last film was Sucker Punch, one of the worst films in the last decade.  The trailers for this film felt like they were trying to go for that mythological, melodramatic, epic feel I dig.  And having just read All Star Superman, which also goes for that, and does such an amazing job, I was ready.  Sadly, this movie only gets part way there, stumbling almost as often as it succeeds.  It’s good, but not great.  And it felt like it should have been great.  One problem surfaced right away.  Hand-held.  No, Hollywood.  Stop.  Do I have to roll up a paper and thwack your nose?  Bad!  No hand-held!  I don’t want to get motion sickness while I’m watching a movie.  They have tripods and other rigging.  Use ‘em.  The second problem was the action.  I know this is a weird thing to say about what is basically an action movie, but there was too much of it.  The action scenes went on entirely too long.  The battle in Smallville, which seemed to accomplish next to nothing in terms of moving the story along, must have taken five minutes.  And the final fist-fight was interminable and unnecessary.  It felt like the movie had climaxed and was ready for final resolution…then another battle!  Ugh.  I was ready for the wrap-up and instead we have a second attempted climactic battle.  That’s one climax too many.  Cutting out that final battle, and trimming the other action bits by say a third, I think the movie as a whole would have been better.  And while Superman has always had religious overtones, Krypton being lost Israel, Superman being kind of a parallel of the Jewish experience in the States, then later shifted toward a Christ figure, the religious iconography and allegory got to be a bit much in this.  The scene in the church where he’s talking with the picture of Jesus right by his head…not subtle, guys.  Now that all sounds pretty negative, I know.  But I did actually like the movie, and it has a lot of good parts.  I liked Amy Adams and the Lois Lane character in general.  She’s less abrasive and harpy-like than I’m used to with Lane.  The rest of the cast all did a fine job, and it was fun picking out That Guy actors, including some Battlestar Galactica regulars (filmed in Vancouver?).  I liked the emotion and the Shakespearian grandiosity.  I liked that they did a lot with building Superman as a hero in the Nietzschian mold, something to be striven for, but not a god or a king; an ideal to build oneself into.  There is even a paraphrasing of that great line from All Star Superman, ‘They will race, and stumble, and fall and crawl and curse, and finally, they will join you in the sun.’  I also like that the film gave lots of moments to everyday human heroism.  It wasn’t just a matter of Superman saving people, it was people saving each other.  Though there was plenty of staring and screaming and running, this wasn’t the typical crowd, unable or unwilling to do anything without a superhero’s help.  So again, a good, but not great Superman film.  Certainly the best film adaptation of the character to date…but that’s not really saying much.  Next time, put the camera on a danged rig and hold it steady, and maybe have a more interesting foe.

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides:  “Oh!  He’s even more annoying in miniature.”  Though Johnny Depp’s turn as Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates movie seems to have redefined his recent career, turning the once versatile actor into a DeNero style self-parody, I enjoy the crap out of this series, and would be back every couple of years for a new adventure without any reservation.  They’re fun, light entertainment that do something rarely done before…make pirate movies fun to watch.  I know there was a time when these types of films were a dime a dozen, but I don’t know why.  Even some of the more famous, ‘classic’ pirate films are extremely boring.  While this series manages to play on all the genera tropes, it has lots and lots of fantasy fun with them, giving us not only adventures on the high seas, but all the myths and monsters of the era as well.  I’d have liked more Ian McShane and less Penelope Cruz, but it’s still a great deal of fun.  It would be difficult for me to care less about the young missionary and the mermaid love story.  I like working mermaids into the mythos, but their story is dull and the actors lack charisma.  The screen time wasted on them could have been used better focusing on McShane, Depp, and Geoffrey Rush.

    Monday night, I started watching The Mod Squad.  It’s a fairly fun cop show, and I enjoy the out of touch vision of then modern youth culture.  The ‘long hair’ rich boy who just looks like a garden variety actor and clearly is not ‘hip.’  Awesome.  Peggy Lipton is pretty in that way that would become more common in the 70s.  And I’ve always liked Clarence Williams III, so it’s cool seeing him in an early role.

    Tuesday night, I went through another disk of Space: Above & Beyond.  Had my first straight-up good episode, and the first episode where I didn’t hate Hawkes.  It’s a show that does seem to get better as it goes, though the three leads are still pretty weak.  I do wish this series had come along a decade later.  It probably would have been more consistent.  Maybe some day someone could do a Colonial Marines (from Aliens) TV series.  I imagine it would have a similar vibe/structure…though hopefully more interesting characters and better special effects.

Two Moon Junction:  “I’m not a princess.”  My Twin Peaks journey drove me to check out this bit of late 80s trash.  Bad ADR and harsh lighting make it look made for TV.  But at least the story is stupid.  No bleach-blonde young socialite can resist the rugged charm of a be-mulleted carnie (I know.  Richard Tyson just has long hair, not a mullet…but I’m in it for the laughs).  Sherilyn Fenn is darned cute, though she looks super-weird as a blonde.  I guess it’s a sign of what actors do, but I don’t really find her especially compelling or attractive (we’re talking charismatically, not aesthetically) in this film, like I do in Twin Peaks.  Richard Tyson is a very 90s actor (his diagnosed shirt allergy is tragic).  I don’t know how else to describe him.  He’s bland and slightly abrasive…like that decade.  But I’ve always been kind of surprised he didn’t do better in the 90s.  And holy crap!  Little kid Milla.  Weird.  It feels like this movie was the basis for Cinemax.  Like everything that came after it, Animal Instinct, Wild Orchid, and all of that, spawned from this dumbass film.  No surprise from the guy behind The Red Shoe Diaries.  She’s naked.  He’s holding a puppy.  It’s so romantic.  Oh, wait.  I mean stupid.  For an ‘erotic’ film, this movie lacks pretty much anything I would call eroticism.  It’s like a boring episode of Thirtysomething…with boobs.

The Pit and the Pendulum:  “How can they confess if they don’t have tongues?!”  One of the first Full Moon movies, and along with Aliens, the beginning of my Lance Henriksen fandom, this is a pretty good low budget take on the classic story.  It’s all about the Spanish Inquisition, and the insanity of religious bureaucracy gone too far, and power put into the hands of a zealot.  It’s pretty darned over the top, but a lot of perverse fun.

Hellraiser:  “We have such sights to show you.”  If the stars shifted, the Old Ones returned, and I found myself in charge of a major film studio, there are a few remakes I’d like to do.  One would be, like Peter Jackson before me, to do my own version of King Kong.  Since he beat me to it, I may just have to pass on it now.  Second would be to do my own version of The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Oh, man, would I do an upsetting version of that film.  Eat your heart out remake of Cat People!  But third on my list would be either the Phantasm series or this, Hellraiser.  Clive Barker’s adaptation of his own novel, The Hellbound Heart, is interesting but not actually all that good.  It hints at more, at better things.  The sequel picks up on some of those, but still misses the boat.  I would love to get my hands on it.  The idea that the Cenobites are more than just demons or angels, that they are some kind of extradimensional beings, explorers in the realms of sensation and experience, is full of potential.  And the box is a powerfully iconic artifact that could be explored in lots of different ways (I actually do like a bunch of what was done in Hellraiser: Bloodline).  Kirsty Cotton (ignoring where the series takes her) is not an especially interesting protagonist, nor are her uncle and stepmother especially powerful villains.  Her dad seems like a nice guy, and her boyfriend is a snore.  The movie is really best looked at as a treasure trove of ideas.  Sadly, most of those ideas don’t bloom here.

Heat:  “That lady who wears dark glasses at night asked me to give you this.”  Burt Reynolds, man.  Burt Reynolds.  It’s weird to see him picking on someone because of a bad hairpiece.  It’s a strange film.  He’s a hired goon who needs money to move to Italy.  His hooker friend gets all stove up and wants revenge.  That nerdy guy from Ghostbusters II is nerding it up.  The plot wanders around a bit, with people coming in and out.  It feels a bit ‘slice of life’ in the way the story progresses.  Honestly, Reynolds is pretty good in this.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s watchable.  And Reynolds does harpoon a dude with some rebar.

Man of Steel:  OK, so friend Ben didn’t get to see this the first time ‘round, so I accompanied him to what was my second viewing.  My first and biggest complaint is still the shoddy hand-held camerawork.  It’s atrocious, and makes me feel seriously ill on more than one occasion.  My other complaints remain, as do my positive assessments.  The second viewing does make me realize that I actually really like the movie up until one specific point, marked by the death of someone close to Clark and the re-introduction of Zod and cronies.  From that point on, the movie goes from a solid B (marks off for shaky cam) to a C.  The wanton and callous destruction does seem a bit much.  In another movie, like a disaster, war, or alien invasion film, it might have felt a bit more on target, but the fact that Superman doesn’t seem to take much note of what must be millions of people being blown up, squished, gravity gunned, burned, and otherwise ended, seems a bit odd.  That he takes the time to make out with his girlfriend in a wide open field that seems to be made of the ash of millions of dead people also seems…ill advised.  This could have been better with a few tweaks to the plot, a few re-workings of the dialog, and a frickin’ tripod for the camera.  It’s OK, but it could have been good.  This second viewing is probably enough for me.  While almost certainly the best Superman movie, it’s still not that great, and I still don’t give two shakes about the character.  If there’s a sequel (ha, ha…if), I’m sure I’ll be there to see it.  But it won’t be making my most anticipated list…Unless things get really dark in the land of movies.

    I read the science fiction short story The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth.  It’s an odd one, and has a great nasty ending.  It would probably make a really good short film.  And on Friday morning, I finished the fourth and final volume of B.P.R.D.’s Plague of Frogs epic.  Man, that series is waist deep in the apocalypse and still charging forward.  Can’t wait to see what the rosy sounding ‘Hell on Earth’ storyline will bring.

    And finally, on Saturday, I rejoined the modern world with the internet.  I imediately plunged into an orgy of time wasting, blankly looking at all the various sites I haven’t had time to regularly check up on, poring over old blogs, and watching episodes of Q.I. into the deep hours of the evening.  I’m back.


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