Sunday, October 20, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (10/13/13-10/19/13)

    Got an early, early start to this Week in Dork with a trip to see Gravity.  Glad that movie is doing well, because that’s the kind of science fiction we should be seeing more of, even if it wasn’t great.

Gravity:  Sadly, this is one of the better films to come out of 2013.  It’s a fair science fiction adventure, if not amazing.  Lots of long takes and some beautiful imagery, along with pretty good performances make it watchable.  However, there are a few annoying little quibbles that stuck in my craw, particularly the forced religiosity.  And though Bullock does a pretty good job, and looks the part, her character is simply not that interesting, and her back-story is lame.  But all in all, it’s not bad.  And I really love the last couple of minutes, even if they were detached from the rest of the film.  The imagery and music work very well together, creating a shot that I’ve seen in my head many times, but that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a film ‘til now.

    On Sunday night, I watched some more Space 1999.  That show has some excellent episodes, some really creepy stories.  One where they found a parallel Earth that still had it’s moon, and a woman died from having an extra brain appear in her head…that was just weird, man.

Brigadoon:  “You don’t have to explain anything to me.  I don’t care.”  I just could not get into this one at all.  It’s basically Lost Horizon, but annoying, with no interesting characters and lots of singing.  None of the songs are particularly memorable.  And the fantasy element makes little sense.  Everyone in Brigadoon acts as thought they’ve lived hundreds of years, but for them, it’s only been two days.  What gives?  This modern fairy tale could absolutely have worked (as it has several times in several other films), but not here.  Maybe this works better on stage.  On film, it’s not that good.

The Expendables 2:  A bunch of meatheads spout semi-literate one-liners at each other while everything (including wave after wave of Eastern European fodder) explodes.  This is the obvious descendant of all those muscle bound action movies of the 80s, and not just because it stars all kinds of the retirees of that golden age of stupid.  It doesn’t come a lot more low brown and silly than this, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun than a dozen more serious films.  You have to go in to these films with a certain mindset.  If you’re looking for good dialog that isn’t awkwardly delivered, and a complex plot, well, look somewhere else.

Wings:  Sadly, it doesn’t take much to achieve this status, but Wings is one of the best World War I films I’ve seen.  Amazing air combat sequences, brutal trench fighting, some pretty good actors, and a solid, if not amazing story.  It’s got plenty of heroics, but also does get into some of the grit and grime of war.  Some of the violence is disturbing, even to this jaded modern viewer.  When the camera holds on a pilot as he’s shot to death and his plane plunges to the ground, it’s quite gruesome and effective.

Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla:  I’m not gonna lie.  This era (90s) of Godzilla kind of sucks.  The stories aren’t good, the effects look cheap, and they’re just sort of goofy.  And that’s without adding Godzilla’s kid (which, sadly, this film does).  I like some of the SpaceGodzilla stuff, like his weird use of crystals.  I wish there had been better stuff with the humans, that maybe would have involved trying to figure out what that was all about, and how they might do something about it to help Godzilla.  Frankly, the film felt slapped together.

Frankenstein’s Army:  I don’t generally like found footage films and this movie doesn‘t change my mind.  The story is fun, and the characters OK for this kind of film.  But the film looks too new, too modern.  Even the tricks and effects to make it seem ‘primitive’ look too slick and polished.  That said, it feels like watching someone play a really good video game, like Bioshock or something.  There’s an almost rollercoaster aspect to parts near the end, that were making me laugh (with, not at) out loud.  The retro-tech is very cool.  And it has moments that really shine.  I’d rather the film been more traditional, with steady-cam and tripod, told completely (or even mostly) in the third person.  But I enjoyed the content of the film enough to overcome the technique.  Worth checking out for those who enjoy very weird, genre-mixing horror.  Russians, Nazis, and Frankenstein’s monsters.  OK.  Why not.

Lifeforce:  “Well, here I go.”  Every time I watch this film, I like it a little more.  The sprawling story, the cast of characters, the actors, the weird effects, the crazy plot progression…and Mathilda May.  I can’t overstate how much Mathilda May does for the film.  But beyond a stunningly beautiful woman walking around naked, there’s a pretty weird and cool Lovecraftian tale of alien energy vampires, plague, and mass hysteria.  Not to everyone’s taste, to be sure, horror fans, sci-fi fans, and especially fans of the old Hammer sci-fi horror films (like the Quatermass series) need to see it.

Machete Kills:  “Machete loves everyone.”  Where does one start?  Well, I’ll start with the good.  1) Danny Trejo was really good.  That is all.  The bad…everything else.  The dialog is bad, until the women start talking.  Then the dialog is offensively bad.  The story wanders around so much that at around the halfway point, I couldn’t believe the movie wasn’t over yet.  It fails on epic levels.  For a pseudo-grindhouse movie, it lacks all the things that make a grindhouse film, except for shoddy technical production.  Bad, bad, bad CGI used instead of even the most rudimentary (and effective) practical effects (fake blood isn’t even expensive; catsup would have looked better).  Where’s the nudity?  Not here, that’s for sure.  The very beginning is so bugnuts that it got my hopes up.  The rest of the movie soundly destroyed my hopes, then peed all over their remains.  If you enjoyed the first film, skip this one.  If you enjoy things that suck and are really boring, check it out.  So much potential for something good.  So must disappointment.

Wish it was more like this.

    I finished reading Sean Faircloth’s book Attack of the Theocrats.  It’s at once infuriating and energizing.  Seeing just how religious factions in this country have done more to erode human rights, scientific literacy, and the Constitution is disturbing.

Black Widow:  Kind of an incorrectly titled film, the movie is not at all about a black widow, but about a straight-shooting guy who gets the legal bum’s rush from an aspiring writer.  When the young woman writer shows up dead in his apartment, things get dicey fast.  The nasty human behavior and double dose of crazy makes the film more watchable.  It’s not great; not at all.  But it’s worth a watch for the performances.

    On Saturday morning, I watched the first few episodes of Vikings, the new TV series from the History Channel.  It has much, much higher production values than I expected, and has some pretty good characters.  But it also has some pretty bad ones, and as much as I like Gabriel Byrne he’s top of the list.  His character is so pointlessly vile, and suffering from almost every villain cliché, that the whole thing becomes silly when he’s there.  Of course, his woman is a monster who drives him to do evil, he his own people left and right, he disgraces and dishonors everyone who shows a bit of confidence, and the list goes on.  Without his character (like Danny Huston in Magic City) the show would be noticeably better.  It could deal with a bit more sex and violence, but it doesn’t feel totally off on that count.

    Saturday night, we went out to Warrenton (the sticks) to see Dork-Wife Lisa in a production of Fiddler on the Roof.  It was quite good, with several excellent actors.  The guy who played Tevye was especially good.  And Lisa was really, really excellent.  You could kind of tell that she’s a professional singer.  I’d never seen the movie, or any other live production, so it was all a surprise to me.  And I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

    I also picked up the new Goldfrapp album, Tales of Us.  It’s pretty good.  More dreamy than dancy.  In fact, I would say her dance roots aren’t even showing here.  And I grabbed Devo’s recent album Something for Everybody.  Some of the tunes are catchy, and they still sound good.  But the thing with Devo is that I feel like their revolutionary spirit turned to bitterness, and while I need to give the songs a more careful listen, the bitterness seems to be showing.


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