Monday, June 17, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (6/9/13-6/15/13)

    On Sunday I watched a bit of Charlie’s Angels.  Not a great show at all, but fun, and good to have on in the background if you’re doing something physical.

    Also on Sunday, I read the not very good Superman and Batman Versus Aliens and Predator.  Not near as fun as it should have been.  But I followed that up with Invincible Volume 6, which was awesome.  Darned fine series.  Over the rest of the week, I also read the first volume of Boom! Studio’s Planet of the Apes series, and the first (only?) volume of The Calling, another Boom! Studios Lovecraft inspired series.  Both are OK.

Attack Force:  “She has a lot of special abilities.”  Renaissance man Steven Seagal really goes for the gusto in this film he not only produced and starred in, but also wrote, nay, composed the screenplay for.  The dialog is truly inspiring, like Shakespeare had dirty ally sex with Hemmingway.  This film brings home the classic advice my grandfather once gave to me.  Don’t bring a Goth prostitute you met at a Hungarian titty bar back to your hotel room.  Timeless advice.  I also respect the filmmakers’ choice to randomly dub Seagal’s voice with someone who doesn’t sound a bit like him.  Very artistic.  I also love the way very little makes any sense, scenes just happen, then more happen, but none seem to actually lead to the next.  A bold vision.  And the juxtaposition of student-film style with occasional dashes of professionalism makes such a poetic story that much more meaningful.  It is just so, so good.  Seagal is iconic.  He’s like the Joe Don Baker of my generation.  So inspirational.

Into the Sun:  “That’s why I brought you in, Big Papa.”  Thank goodness, when the chips are down, and you’re stuck in Tokyo with an assassination to investigate, you can find an expert on the Yakuza.  Steven Seagal!  Even the Japanese police know who really knows about Tokyo, Japanese culture, Japanese sword fighting, and Japanese organized crime.  Yes, Steven Seagal.  Being a magnanimous man, Seagal teaches the Japanese the right way to be Japanese, showing the young criminals their cultural heritage.  It’s heartening to see someone so clearly versed in another culture showing people from that culture how they should live.  Almost as heartening as seeing a middle aged fat white guy making out with a 20 year old Japanese girl.  Seagal really makes the best films.  And yes, he wrote and performed songs on the soundtrack.  You’re welcome.

His Girl Friday: “And never mind the European war.  We got something a whole lot bigger than that.”  Many, many moons ago, I’d watched this film during some kind of classic kick, but I didn’t like it at all.  Something about the tone had been off-putting.  Ha, ha, ha---Attempted suicide!---Ha, ha, ha.  But this time around, it didn’t bother me.  It’s not great, but it does have great bits.  If anything, it feels a bit too clever for its own good.  That said, the gag about how Bruce looks like ‘that guy they put in movies…Ralph Bellamy’ because he’s played by Ralph Bellamy, did get a good laugh out of me.  As did Cary Grant’s weird reference to the suicide of Archie Leach (his real name).  This is one of those movies that were more common then, where lots of characters staccato dialog at or past each other, making you have to pay darned close attention to everything going on.  I’ve seen it done better, but I’ve seen it done worse.  I always love Grant, but this still isn’t one of my favorites of his.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters:  “Once upon a time…near a shitty little town...”  I know Terry Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm had it’s problems.  But I found the film enjoyable, even if it was obvious he was just doing a forgettable mainstream movie so he could get money for something he cared about (I’m probably the only person who loved Tideland).  However, this movie seems to capitalize on all the things about Brothers Grimm that didn’t work.  Too much CGI.  Too much humor…that isn’t funny.  Most scenes featuring witches inexplicably look cheaper and more ‘made for TV’ than the scenes without.  I’m even more frustrated that they had all the people and material together to do a modern Hammer Horror type film, but made this craptacular instead.

Black Rock:  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!  This movie suuuuuuuuuucks so hard.  This movie sucks like black holes suck.  It’s the gravitational pull of a suck the likes of which even Stephen Hawking has not conceived.  The only thing that doesn’t make me swell with righteous rage is that for once, a movie set in Maine was filmed in Maine. So it looks like Maine, not Vancouver.  But who cares!?  It’s so stupid.  The dialog feels adlib, by people who suck at adlib.  The characters are all awful, shallow monsters.  It felt like a really awful student film that wouldn’t stop.

Superman Unbound:  The animation in this film is super crappy, and the script juvenile at best.  The voice work is OK, but they’ve got nothing to work with.  And weirdly, it’s very violent for such a kiddie film.  Whatever the target audience, it‘s a miss.  It looks bad, sounds bad, and is bad.

Oz The Great and Powerful:  “Oh, my.  It’s very tight in here.”  Parts of this movie feel like watching someone play a video game.  Yes, in part it’s the rampant and not very good CGI, but it’s also the way the camera moves, like an AI following certain parameters, as opposed to an artist making choices.  The CG in this film is actually surprisingly bad.  I’m used to bad CG being passed off in big budget films, but even so, this was a surprise.  It’s the kind of wonky effects, where things don’t look right or mesh well, like you might expect from the early 90s…on TV.  But getting past the technical ineptitude of the production, the script and performances are also dreadful.  I’m not the biggest fan of 1939’s Wizard of Oz.  But it deserved better than this.  And that’s not even considering the original books, which I do like.  James Franco is embarrassing.  Sadly, the rest of the cast seems to be taking their cues from him.  Even Rachel Weisz, who is among my favorite currently active actresses, is bad here.  What gives?

Snitch:  Basically a social commentary film about the dangers and abuse of the ‘mandatory minimum’ laws.  It’s a pretty meh story, but Dwayne Johnson is really good in it.  Man, I love The Rock.  I don’t know how this guy has become one of my favorite actors out there, but he has.  He’s so danged charismatic.  And he puts in a darned fine performance here.  I guess if this movie makes people think about how completely upside down our criminal system is when it comes to drug related sentencing, that’s probably a good thing.  But I don’t think anyone out there with more than three brain cells to rub together thinks the current system works.  So, probably not an issue.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s good enough, and The Rock is really good.

    On Friday night, we had our monthly meeting of our graphic novel club, hosted by Lisa and Brad.  This month we read All-Star Superman.  A few people seemed very taken with the book (myself included), several seemed nonplussed by its weird take on the iconic character.  A lot of characters from the big two interest me, but typically I don’t actually like what I read about them.  Silver Surfer?  Honestly, haven’t read anything I’d call ‘good’ with him in it.  Wonder Woman?  Same.  Black Panther, Doctor Strange, the Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange.  The list goes on.  In most of those cases, there is some essential idea, some ideal or archetype that attracts me to the possibility, if not the actuality.  All Star Superman gets to that essential concept of the character, its mythological center, and explores not just some adventure for a hero to go on, but the very nature of who and what that hero is.  It’s a treatment I so wish other characters could receive.

Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis:  “What are you?  Social workers?”  Ace and the Doctor have returned to England in 1988, where Nazis, aliens, and Ren-fair expats are up to no good.  There’s a lot of goofy nudge-nudge humor based around Windsor Castle and royalty.  Kind of indicative of this late era Doctor, it’s very kitchen sink storytelling, with too many balls in the air, and not enough holding it all together.  This was the 25th anniversary story, and it’s interesting to see all the location shooting.  But the story is pretty crappy.  By this point, the series seems to have lost its way, going off in directions that feel off-key and confused.

Tron Legacy:  I think this was my fourth time watching it this year.  Perhaps that’s overkill.  But I wanted it fresh in my head for my more extensive review.  I really do like this film.  Audio-visual stimulus of high order, and a philosophical bent I like a lot.  It’s always nice to see science fiction that isn’t anti-science.  And man, Olivia Wilde is cute.

Jaws 3D:  OK, here’s the thing.  I saw this movie, in 3D, when I was about 7 years old, in the theater.  And as a 7 year old kid, I thought this movie was flippin’ stupid and that the 3D sucked.  Seeing it again, all these years later, I was totally right.  That said, seeing it with friends and a good crowd at the Alamo Draft House theater, it was an enjoyable experience.  I have to give the filmmakers credit for embracing the silliness and gimmicky nature of 3D.  So many things are pointed or splashed or thrown at the audience that you constantly want to turn away.  And the editing is so egregious, it makes things all the funnier.  Shots hold WAY too long time and again.  Scenes are clearly over, but two or three beats past where you’re starting to feel uncomfortable, the cut finally happens.  There’s one reaction shot that goes on so long, I think the actor was breaking character to get on with whatever had to happen next, but the camera was still going.  What gives?  The script is laughable, the acting frequently worse.  And from the roaring shark, to the fat guy on the bumper boat, it’s filled with giggles and gaffes.  And Luis Gossett Jr.’s character feels like a bag of insensitive ethnic stereotypes (made worse when it’s revealed the ONLY other black person in the film is supposed to be his nephew…oh, dear).  It’s an absolute garbage film, and in 2D, has nearly nothing to offer.  If you enjoy the cheese of the 3D gimmick, it’s worth checking it out.  Otherwise, just avoid it like sane people would.

The Wicker Man:  “Heathens!  Bloody heathens!”  A stuffy cop played by Edward Woodward travels to a picturesque island populated by strange folk with a bit of a pagan bent.  It’s bad enough when they sing dirty songs about the landlord’s daughter, but things become intolerable when they start having relations in the fields.  And when Britt Ekland starts filming an erotic music video in the next room over, it’s time for a full on freak-out.  A deeply weird movie, it is an interesting look at a modern battle between Christianity and old world Celtic paganism.  Neither is portrayed as especially good.  But it’s a surprisingly non-judgmental, non-supernatural take on the Old Religion.  Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward are fantastic, the supporting cast, including the extras, were quite good.  And the location shooting is very nice.  Again, it’s a powerfully strange film, but one you should certainly check out.

    Well, dang it.  I managed to see two of the worst films released this year over the course of the last week.  I would not be at all surprised to fine both Oz the Great and Powerful and Black Rock on my 5 worst films of the year list come January.  Black Rock isn’t as bad as Bellflower (see two years ago) but it’s bloody awful.  And Oz just proves that Sam Raimi hasn’t evolved as a director in 30 years, but he’s using new technology.  A bad combo.

She read the 'script.'


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