Sunday, August 11, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (8/4/13-8/10/13)

    I was on vacation this week, and I didn’t get much of anything accomplished.  Didn’t even get much reading done.  All things considered, I didn’t watch many movies, either.  Still, got into DC once, and hung with friends a bunch, so not too bad.  Still, I kind of need another week to get to all the projects and tasks I took this week off to do.  Alas.

Europa Report:  As I said when I saw Oblivion earlier this year, there should be movies like this coming out all the time.  If that were the case, this would be a solid, average semi-realistic science fiction film.  However, due to the rareness of films like this, it’s one of the better to come along in a while.  The story is fairly simple.  A bunch of astronauts are on a long journey to Europa, the moon of Jupiter, to investigate the potential for life.  As happens in these movies, things don’t go especially well.  However, unlike movies like Sunshine, the cast of characters doesn’t seem like a collection of maladjusted sociopaths and mental incompetents thrown into a slap-dash bargain basement ship.  These folk are mostly competent, sane, and even under extreme pressure don’t break down.  They may crack a bit, but they don’t break.  Also, the ship technology doesn’t break down constantly or at every key moment (like in Sunshine).  Though the movie is about the dangers we may face in Humanity’s ventures into space, it is also about the glory and wonder of facing those dangers.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla: “Relax.  We’re with the government.”  The newer Godzilla movies are missing something, an essential charm.  They feel too rooted in modern Japanese science fiction, which is by and large total garbage, and less in the traditional Godzilla spirit.  This is no exception.  While the story of the disgraced soldier on a path to becoming a Mechagodzilla pilot is interesting, overall, the film is not.  And the monster fight effects are not good.  Everything looks cheaper, more made for TV.

2 Guns:  First, the good.  1) I’m glad this movie did well, so that Boom! Studios gets a cash influx, and maybe a bit of prestige.  Hopefully, that will turn into more of their comics getting adaptations, and in general, an improvement of titles they produce.  I  like Boom!  They tend to do the sorts of things I like to read (less superhero, more weird/science fiction stuff).  2) The Paula Patton nude scene is totally integral to the plot, and absolutely not gratuitous…Oh, wait, I mean had no reason for being there and was absolutely gratuitous.  Excellent.  After that, it’s all down hill.  Right from the start the dialog was awful.  The action scenes were boring.  And the whole plot was drab.  It felt like a second string 80s movie.  Like something Lou Diamond Philips would headline and Walter Hill would produce, but not direct.  Very bland.  Very typical.  No surprises.  No point.

King Kong Escapes:  Doctor Who (seriously, look it up) and a sinister governmental agent have finally figured out the best way to mine ultra-powerful radioactive elements from beneath the arctic ice.  Obviously, with a giant ape.  But where to find one?  Well, remember King Kong?  Yeah.  Right.  Well, we can’t get him.  So, uh, build a giant robot ape!  Duh.  But giant robot apes don’t do well with radiation.  And it turns out King Kong is around, and fighting dinosaurs on his island.  And boy is he horny.  Yup.  King Kong Escapes.  A whole bucket full of ‘what the hell’s wrong with Japan?’  But it’s also a lot of weird, silly fun.

The Host:  Holy balls, this movie is amazingly terrible.  It’s like the sad fantasies of a lonely high school girl.  Every line of dialog, every character decision, every plot turn feels like it was written on the back of a Trapper Keeper while listening to Debbie Gibson cassettes.  Many of these actors are better than this material, as is the director.  Frankly, the whole thing made me sad.  Not because the script was sad, but because it felt like watching a smart, beautiful woman descend into drugs and prostitution.  That’s what this movie felt like to me.  Sad and depressing.

It's so symbolic!

Yongary, Monster from the Deep:  “I’m going to see that monster.” Slow paced, low production value, and little of interest.  It’s not even up to the level of Gamera films.  Don’t bother.

Logan’s Run:  What can I say about this that I haven’t already?  One of my all time favorites.  It’s got all the stuff I love.  Dystopia, trippy music, Jenny Agutter in the buff, ruins of civilization, all that kind of thing.  A fun and twisting adventure of a style rarely done these days.  It scratches below the surface of a pretty paradise, digs into the underbelly, than rises up into the sun.  Awesome.

Elysium:  Overpopulation and climate change have turned large parts of the world into desolate urban sprawls.  The wealthy elite have fled, with their technology and know-how to a space station, where they’ve done a fine job of closing their eyes to life on Earth.  The look and feel of the movie is great.  The story is pretty basic sci-fi that’s been told scores and scores of times before.  A young man must rise from his humble place to free all the people from the oppressive regime.  Luke Skywalker, Jesus, Neo, Maria, the list goes on.  There aren’t very many twists.  It plays out in the expected ways.  But it’s well enough done to be enjoyable.  There is an over reliance on the dreaded ‘shaky-cam’ which is the bane of modern action film.  While not as poorly used as say Man of Steel or The Wolverine, it is still a black mark on the film’s record.  When will this nightmare of directors/producers/studios thinking that extreme close-ups and shaking cameras makes for good ‘tension’ end?  It just makes me sea-sick and angry.  But the thing I take away from this movie is that we’ve finally been given a really good vision of William Gibson’s cyberpunk world of Burning Chrome and Count Zero.  This movie is to Gibson and cyberpunk what In the Mouth of Madness was to Lovecraft and cosmic horror.  It isn’t based on any one work, but steeped in the genre, reaching for its essential center.  Is this going on my list of ‘best science fiction films’?  No.  But it’s a good one and worth checking out.  A good companion to The Running Man and Soylent Green.

Gantz II: Perfect Answer:  There are some extremely cool ideas at the heart of Gantz, but it fails in all the ways Japanese films tend to fail.  A sphere of ill-defined origin, with ill-defined motives, uses ill-defined powers to manipulate undefined characters on some ill-defined missions to terminate ill-defined aliens.  The Gantz anime had some good ideas too, but was stretched out over far too many episodes and never came together in any kind of satisfying way.  This two part adaptation condenses the series pretty well, and gives a better resolution.  Also, though not better defined, the characters are far less annoying and useless in this live-action version.  That said, Gantz II (and Gantz) is still a deeply flawed film with far too many problems and nothing especially amazing to make me recommend viewing.

    Wow.  Yeah, that’s pretty much my week.  Well, I did watch one other thing.  I powered through the first four seasons of Peep Show (It’s UK, so that’s not as impressive as it sounds. The seasons are only like 6 episodes long.).  The show is a touch painful, as David Mitchell’s character reminds me a lot of myself (actually, David Mitchell reminds me a lot of myself), and not always in a good way.  Funny.  But painful funny.


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