Sunday, October 27, 2013
Matt’s Week in Dork! (10/20/13-10/26/13)
I’ve been trying to get a lot of reading done, and I have. But I’m not finishing a lot. Too many things going at once. Still, when it comes to geeky stuff, this was a pretty good week for this Dork. And as I've given it more of a listen, I've been really digging that new Devo CD I picked up. Which is handy, as it plays right into some of the reading I'm doing about AI and robotics.
In the Mouth of Madness: “God’s not supposed to be a hack horror writer.” The last great John Carpenter movie, this Lovecraft inspired journey into madness is fantastic. It’s just the right mix of creepy, weird, and pulpy, with a great Lovecraftian hero in insurance investigator John Trent. Nobody pulls his strings. And he’s on the trail of Stephen King type bestselling horror writer Sutter Cane. Cane’s writing seems to be having an effect on his readers, and that effect is becoming more pronounced and more violent. Can Trent find him, find his last manuscript, and get back to civilization? Or is the Door about to open, letting the Old Ones spill back into our world?
Niagara: Joseph Cotton and Marilyn Monroe play a horribly dysfunctional couple who seem to be falling apart in their hotel room by the famous titular falls. When a happy young couple shows up, their worlds collide. I can see why this movie isn’t necessarily talked about a lot, but it’s pretty good. It’s got a kind of second rate (and I don’t mean that in a bad way) Hitchcock vibe to it. Not up to snuff with Hitch’s best, but in that spirit.
The Wall (Die Wand): Oh, my gosh. This is a danged sad, danged depressing, and danged fine film. There are elements of those ‘man alone’ films like Jeremiah Johnson or Omega Man. But it goes so, so much further. A grim meditation on profound loneliness, it’s also a sort of love letter to the natural setting of rural Europe. A woman wakes up to find herself the only living human, locked within a mysterious invisible bubble. Her only companion is a skittish dog. It’s a heck of a fascinating movie, and worth seeking out. Beautifully shot, well acted, and fascinating to see. And brutally, emotionally devastating.
Gun Crazy: Two young people go on a bullet flinging crime spree. A guy with a love of guns and a dame with a taste for money are a match made in Noir heaven. I really like the way this film is shot. The sequences where the camera sits in the back seat and just lets them talk as they head into or flee a crime scene are quite good.
Read volume 1 of the New 52 series Shazam! I definitely did not find myself as into it as co-Dork Brad. I think something in the air or water has simply soured me to DC and Marvel. Could it be the high frequency of terrible stuff they seem to put out? I’m not sure. But I’m feeling less forgiving toward them. If I’d read it a year ago, I’d probably have enjoyed it. Right now, however, they’d have to be writing some mighty fine stuff for me to give two shakes, and this isn’t it. I also read (or skimmed, anyway) volume 2 of Aquaman, which saw a drastic drop in quality from The Trench. It became scattered, confusing, and ultimately, boring. Sad, as volume 1 was one of the big surprises from the New 52.
Neither the Sea Nor the Sand: There’s some lovely footage of the UK coast. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of unlikable, unrelatable characters in weird relationships. It feels like a student film that got a big budget for reasons I don’t understand. While well made, it’s quite grating.
On Thursday night, Robert hosted Triple Horror Movie Night, an annual celebration of October. Each year, he, Brad and I choose a movie each; one fabulous (Robert), one classic (me), and one scary (Brad). This year, we changed it up a bit, and I brought the scary (or sleazy) movie, while Brad brought the classic. A few others joined us, and while I think everyone enjoyed the social aspect, I don’t know if everyone was prepared for just what it is that we were going to be watching.
Macabre: The plot for this film is just too danged complicated, with too many characters, too many previously dead people, and too many cooks in the kitchen. It’s also not very scary, even looking at it from the 50s horror movie perspective. There are flashbacks where you’re not quite sure it’s a flashback, cuts to other scenes where it seems like it might be a flashback…but isn’t. It’s weird. Not great. But worth a watch if you like William Castle movies.
Vampire Boys 2: If you thought Vampire Boys was poorly made and featured lots of bad acting, you haven’t seen anything yet. This crappy sequel looks like it was 'filmed' in someone’s basement. And that’s probably the best thing about it. Everyone is shot in close-up and nobody has the face for it. When anyone tries to act, it’s hammy. And the story is dumb, dumb, dumb.
Cat People: I absolutely love this movie. The longer I live with it, the more I enjoy it. I love the cast and all the characters they play. I love the kinky love story and the even kinkier obsession story. New Orleans has never looked better or more like somewhere I’d actually think about visiting. The slow build takes it to some powerfully strange places. And the ending is so crazy.
Then Friday night was the latest meeting of the graphic novel club. We read the New 52 Aquaman (first two volumes) this month. The reactions were mixed. I liked the first volume, but not the second. Lisa didn’t like the 4th wall break in the first volume (blogger talking about how much Aquaman sucks). Many found the second volume needlessly complicated and scattered. But many also came away with a new appreciation of the character.
After an extremely stressful week (and last couple months), I decided to do a sort of Horror movie day. I sat on my couch, ate Boo Barry cereal (thanks to Robert), had some snacks, grabbed a Firehouse sub while I was out for a walk in the middle of the day, and enjoyed a day of watching various horror films. A nice way to spend a Saturday.
Taste the Blood of Dracula: Three bored rich guys looking for kicks get way more than they bargained for in this Hammer Dracula film. Overall, it’s not bad, though not especially interesting. I like that the tale has an unusual plot progression, though the atmosphere is still mainline Hammer. Fans of the studio’s Gothic thrillers should certainly watch it, but it’s not one of those ‘rush right out and get it’ titles.
Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang: Victorian London is the scene of some sinister goings-on involving a shadowy Chinese cult and a horrible little thing. It’s a cool story, rooted in Sherlock Holmes tales and that sort of thing, but with plenty of the usual Doctor Who madness. You would not be wrong to say that there is some outright racism on display. In part this is reflective of the time the story is set within, but of course, Li H’sen Chang being portrayed by a guy in ‘yellow face’ makes things pretty awkward. Still, this is the kind of ‘historic’ story that worked best on Doctor Who. I usually prefer the more out-there science fictiony tales, but the horror themed histories work fairly well.
The Fly: A reclusive scientist falls for a plucky reporter, then has dirty, unsafe sex with his own genes, getting pumped through of inhuman DNA. Jeff Goldblum is do danged awkward, and things get really nasty pretty quick. Watching it, I was struck by how danged weird it was, and how a lot of pretty out-there stuff was made for mainstream audiences in the 80s that would likely not fly today.
Godzilla VS Destroyah: “What radioactivity!” Every time I watch one of these later films in the series, I can’t help but pine for the older ones. There’s some really cool stuff, but the production feels shoddy, the ‘science’ is so extremely stupid, and the human stories are totally uninteresting. I feel like a lot of the creature sequences would never have flown in the original run. I like the introduction of a hoard of little creatures, more human sized problems in this one. Of course, by the end, it’s a giant monster that has to go up against Godzilla. But it makes me want to see a better Godzilla film that features little things for people to deal with, too. There have been hints of that before, with radiated parasites left behind my the big guy, but it hasn’t been very well explored. The Godfather-like assassination of Godzilla is weird, too.
Hellraiser III: I stalled on my attempted re-watch of the Hellraiser series a while back, in part because I knew this was the next on the list, and I remember really disliking it. Well, things haven’t changed. The script for this one, as well as the acting and production design all feel very made for Canadian TV. The creepy, mysterious, and weird are replaced with awkward cheese. Totally lacking in any kind of passion or imagination, everything feels so bland and by the numbers that at no point do I care what happens to anyone. Lifeless. That’s the word for this movie. And as a side note, why the hell did Doc get turned into a Cenobite? There was no indication that this was a path he was on. It doesn’t just happen to random victims of Pinhead. It happens to those who seek it out. F’ing stupid.
Rodan: Rodan has what I’m looking for in a Kaiju film. It takes its time, develops a bunch of human characters and follows them through their investigation of strange events. Then, quite a way into the film, it brings out the big guns and starts the mass destruction. But the ‘ground level’ story is still a major part. Rodan is a giant bird, and some kind of master of the wind. So this movie features lots and lots of stuff getting blown to pieces, which is strange, but kind of cool. It’s also steeped in the post-Hiroshima fears of fallout and poisoned earth. Giant mutant grubs are the first thing that tips people off to the problem, and they’re disgusting and creepy.
I read the first issue of The Star Wars, which is right up my ally. It's an attempt to adapt George Lucas's original Star Wars script into comic form. You can see a lot of similarities, but there are also some pretty big differences. I don't know if it would have worked as well, and maybe some of those changes were needed. But I like some of the characters more, especially Luke, who isn't a child.