Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brad's Week in Dork! (6/23/13-6/29/13)

Skipped a Week in Dork for a Family Getaway to the OBX (only read a chunk of the Lone Wolf & Cub manga, and binged some Law & Order SVU when The Wife was sick for a day), but dove right back into the thick of it with some serious Movie House consumption.  I went back for seconds on both This is The End & Man of Steel, and although I won't give you double reviews here I can say that I enjoyed Superman much more the second time around; once I got past a lot of my comic book baggage I was able to enjoy the computer punching.  This Is The End, however, is still my film of the Summer.

I can hardly believe it, but I only read one single issue comic this week - Age of Ultron #10.  I've been up & down on this Marvel Event, and I'm sad to report that the final prognosis is negative.  Not the worst crossover Marvel's attempted (ugh, Fear Itself), but the time travel hijinks were obvious and ultimately boring.  As with all things Marvel, the story is all about what's coming next, and not the story you have in front of you.  As fascinating as all the Neil Gaiman/Todd McFarlane Angela mumbo jumbo is, I really do not care about this character's introduction into the Marvel Universe.  Who knows, maybe Bendis & Gaiman can do something great with her in Guardians of the Galaxy, but she's certainly not the O...M...G...moment you want to climax Age of Ultron.

Also this week, Alamo Drafthouse hosted their Silence of the Lambs Feast, which paired the classic chiller with actual Fava Beans & Chianti.  An expensive treat gifted to me by my lovely bride of four years.  Sadly, her job got in the way, and she could not attend the anniversary dinner.  So my co-dork Matt scored the date night, and we had an absolute blast chugging down glass of wine after glass of wine.  Not to mention that the Buffalo Bill Skinless Chicken Wings were amazing!  Only in America folks, "U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!"

The other treats this week came from Scorsese & Spielberg.  Rewatched Jaws in celebration of its 36th birthday, and finally witnessed his first film Duel as a remembrance of Richard Matheson.  I entered a new stage in Scorsese's career with The Color Of Money, a film rightfully neglected in his cannon, but also one containing some of his finest sweeping camera moves.  And finally, this Summer's big screen entries (World War Z & White House Down) were just a couple of turds.  No shock there.  Anyway, on to the reviews....

Jaws:  I watch this one at least once a year.  Still ranks as my fifth favorite film of all time.  No question.  I tend to direct most of my love towards Robert Shaw's Quint, and his epic USS Indianapolis storytelling, but Roy Scheider is the one who really makes this movie well as Spielberg's confidence to let the screenplay breathe before plunging him into the oceanic serial killer finale.  Scheider just embodies good guy morality.  He perfectly sells his fear of the water.  We're given an hour of beach cringing, ferry boat anxiety, and autopsy horror before the Chief chokes down his fear and gets on the boat.  The guy does right in the face of community conspiracy as well as the cavernous maw of the beast.  He is everything I would want to be in the situation.  Hero Dad.  The craft and thrills are amazing, but they're only successful due to the heart placed in the characters by Benchley, Gottlieb, Spielberg, and the actors.  Can you imagine a tentpole movie these days spending so much time to establish love between characters?  It's rare now to get anything but bullet point emotions in Blockbusters, and Jaws is one reason film fanatics look back so fondly at the cinema of the 1970s, and rejoice in bashing bloated non-entities like Michael Bay's Transformers...despite the knowledge that Bruce the Shark birthed these B-Movie at A-Budget monstrosities.

The Color of Money:  This is a painfully mediocre movie.  I can't say I was bored during any particular part, but I was certainly left uninspired as the credits rolled.  What's evident is that Scorsese is perfecting his camera theatrics, and that Paul Newman commands the screen whenever he's projected upon it.  Young Tom Cruise though?  His pool hall wiz kid routine grates the nerves like nails on a chalkboard, which is an essential aspect to this teacher/student story, but the film fails to reach beyond genre cliches.  I've never seen The Hustler, so I could be missing essential aspects to this sequel, but at this point in my Scorsese-A-Thon I'd rank The Color of Money at the very bottom of his filmography.  It seems like a financial stepping stone to his long-desired The Last Temptation of Christ.  Whatever you gotta do, I guess.

World War Z:  Everything Jaws does right, World War Z does wrong.  The Hero Dad here is Brad Pitt, a supposed everyman who gave up the high stakes stress as a UN Investigator to play Mr. Mom.  When the world goes to the walkers, the remaining bits of the US Government swoop to his rescue, choppering his family to a floating fortress in the Atlantic Ocean.  Why does the US of A need Pitt?  Cuz only he could babysit a think tank geek across the globe, and discover the zombie plague's point of origin.  Really?  Ok, whatever.  It doesn't matter anyway since the brainiac lasts three seconds on screen, and the rest of the film chases Pitt across the world as he hits one dead end after the other.  I suppose the emotion of this film is meant to be found in the cellular conversations with Pitt's weepy wife, but the screenplay only gives them seconds to be teary before the next CGI swamp blobs the frame.  Much has been made of the troubled production, the chop-shopped screenplay, and the last minute reshoots.  Maybe if Pitt's team had more confidence in Max Brook's source material then we could have been blessed with a scary Ken Burns styled mockumentary instead of this PG-13 limp noodle.

Wrong:  "I looooooove pets."  Quentin Dupieux's Rubber followup is another art house student film done right.  With the help of William Fichtner's mysterious Master Chang, unemployed sadsack Jack Plotnick attempts to relocate his dog.  Did he simply run away, or was he dognapped?  There's some other kooky business involving Eric Judor's gardner & Alexis Dziena's pizza slut, but the main focus of the film is solving the riddle of the pooch.  Well, talking about focus when discussing a Quentin Dupieux film is problematic if not downright pointless.  A bunch of weird shit happens.  You're either into it or you're not.  I enjoyed Rubber more as it was easier to define as a deconstruction of the horror genre.  Wrong is just...weird.  I'm either not smart enough or stoned enough to discover its essence.  I love Fichtner & Plotnick.  I could watch these two bumble through an Oscar Meyer commercial.  And I'll certainly be there for Dupieux's next film.

Age of Ultron #10:  The first five Bryan Hitch issues of this comic were a beautifully broad look at the Marvel Universe laid to waist.  Then you get Wolverine's time travel band-aid.  Ultron leaves the story, and a new batch of whacky chaos occurs.  Issue 10 finally brings us back to Ultron and it's the mini-battle we saw during Free Comic Book Day a couple years back.  And then we get a bunch of blather about the space time continuum.  Just groan.  This series certainly had its moments (again, those first five issues), and I'm gonna give it another go in a singular sitdown reading, but I am left yet again with a tepid Marvel Event.

Duel:  A solid little flick that certainly shows the makings of a master filmmaker.  Steven Spielberg's Duel is a simplistically torturous thriller.  Dennis Weaver's salesman zigged when he should have zagged, and in one throwaway instant brings upon the ultimate epic of road rage.  Spielberg succeeds in holding our attention, no mean feet considering the film never leaves one stretch of highway.  Weaver is a disgusting mess of twitches and screeches, and half the time I wasn't sure if I wanted him to knock the beast off the cliff or get squished into road pizza.  I can't rank Duel as one of my favorite Spielberg courses, but it's certainly indicative of the primal power the maestro contained in the 70s & early 80s.

The Silence of the Lambs:  "He's some kinda vampire?"  Before Anthony Hopkins Freddy Kurgered the Hannibal Lector character into absurdity, Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs terrified audiences with its masterful true crime fetishizing.  This grisly procedural might have been spun from the real life horrors of Ted Bundy & Jeffery Dahmer, but by embracing the theatricality of Spaghetti Western closeups and scenery chewing performances, Demme's film never feels exploitative.  In fact, Hopkins' Lecter feels more at home with Dracula & The Wolf Man than his real life counterparts.  Jodi Foster excels as well as the southern sleuth battling daddy issues while navigating the grotesque.  She's prim, proper, troubled, and badass.  Her conversations with The Cannibal are as suspenseful as any of the bloodshed, and her climactic duel with Buffalo Bill is the cherry on top of this hideous feast.

White House Down:  Why do I keep showing up to Roland Emmerich movies?  Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC, 2012.  The man makes one dreadful film after another.  I've never been a fan, but I keep showing up.  Is it time to cry NO MORE?  I think so....but then I'll see the trailer for ID4Ever; Channing Tatum will be punching a grizzly bear through the cockpit of a spaceship, and I'll get all excited for craptacular filmmaking and toss my cash in Emmerich's lap.  There's one of me born every minute.  White House Down attempts to recall your nostalgia for Die Hardy action films of yesterday, draping Tatum in a McClane wifebeater and buddying him up with President Air Jordans.  Unfortunately, the DC disaster show is a crappy collection of blurry CG, the dialog an abomination of wisecracks, and the homeland threat an embarrassing peek into James Woods' mortgage planning.  Max Renn's gotta eat!  I like silly.  I like dumb.  But ultimately White House Down is just a bore.  I don't like that.


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