The Marvel Cinematic Universe continued this week as well. Thor - The Dark World didn't take over my heart (RDJ still claims that real estate), but as we get deeper & deeper into the comic book mythos I find myself positively giddy for super heroes. Since we all know what's coming down the pipe, Thor's mid credit tag was no real surprise, but it left me bewildered at the reality of next year's big summer movie. Also, October might be over, but I'm plugging away at my Reverse-John-Carpenter-A-Thon with his greatest effort, The Thing. I've seen it a million billion times, but I'm still wildly in awe of its power. So yeah, maybe not the most packed Week in Dork, but I had a blast. Need to get some reading done though. Darwyn Cook's next Parker adaptation is almost here and I'm a few novels behind.
The Big Combo: "Shoot yourself in the head, you'll make everything a lot simpler." When Cornel Wilde's investigation into Richard Conte's numbers racket goes cold, he sets his sights on Conte's terrified girlfriend for some sleazy backstory evidence. Wilde is a bit of a bore as the lead, but Conte's diabolical gangster is deliciously hateful and certainly makes this a must-see noir. It doesn't hurt that Lee Van Cleef & Earl Holliman chew the scenery from the sidelines as a pair of hitman lovers quick to machine gun dames as they are to choke down salami sandwiches. The climax apparently apes Casablanca, but it manages to strike a nerve all on its own. Bullets, bastards, and fog. Just what you've been craving.
Gilda: "Women are funny little creatures." I loved this movie. Sure, it's a classic - you have to love it. It's one of those films that has lived in the pop culture consciousness for decades, but while the iconography of Rita Hayworth's hair flip appears over and over in critic's top ten lists, the details of the story are left unknown to the mass audience. Gilda is a brutal, angry film that gleefully depicts the rage of a romance gone sour. Glenn Ford finds a new life in George Macready's South American casino, but whatever happiness he has, is shattered when Macready's new bride reigns down some serious sexual terror. I've loved a lot of Femme Fatales in my time (Gloria Graham, Barbara Stanwyck), but none are hotter or as mean-spirited as Rita Hayworth's dance hall moll. I don't think I will ever really think of Gilda as a noir (the emotionally out-of-place climax stricken it from the genre), but the film has all the hallmark rat-a-tat dialog you come to expect, and it's delivered exceptionally between the battling sexes.
The Asphalt Jungle: A solid heist flick directed by master filmmaker John Huston. But if you compare this to The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, or even The Man Who Would Be King than The Asphalt Jungle certainly feels like a lesser entry. Sterling Hayden is a street level hood looking to make some extra scratch by falling in with a group of thugs committing crimes above their intellect. It's your typical collection of baddies populated by character gems like Louis Calhern, Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, Anthony Caruso, and even Special Guest Star Marilyn Monroe. The scheme would have gone swimmingly if not for the typical double crosses and downright bad luck. Good, not great.
Thor - The Dark World: It seems like I'm one of the few folks out there in Internetland that really loved the hell out of the first Thor film - in fact, pre Avengers, I'd say Thor is my favorite of the Marvel Movies. I love how small it is. Chris Hemsworth's Asgardian navigating the absurdity of Middle America and falling in love with Natalie Portman's dogooder scientist. I really appreciate the low stakes of the story. The world does not necessarily hang in the balance like it does it most tentpole pictures. But Marvel listens to its audience. You want more Asgard, you get more Asgard. Not enough Loki, here's a whole lotta Loki. The Thor sequel is a lot of fun, but it's also fairly ordinary is this comic book landscape. The villain is certainly the weakest aspect of the story - The Dark Elves want to bring about absolute darkness using something called The Aether & what ties does it have with The Infinity Gems???? None of that really matters, it's a rather weak McGuffin that puts the God of Thunder back on Earth and in the arms of Portman. The Dark World offers more of the Nine Realms and hints at the goofier science-fiction that will hopefully dazzle us in next year's Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a fun sci-fi fantasy adventure in the spirit of Krull. Is it a Marvel Masterwork? No, but the beauty of their cinematic universe is that not every film has to be The Avengers. Bring on the talking trees and rocket raccoons.
The Thing: "It's weird and pissed off, whatever it is." I watch this film at least once a year, and will mostly likely do so until the day I die. It is absolutely my favorite monster movie, and still ranks as my third favorite film of all time. A shapeshifting E.T. is awoken from a centuries long slumber by a group of half-baked & totally cracked pirate scientists morally led by Kurt Russell's helicopter badass. Half the film's fun certainly comes from Rob Bottin's still stunning makeup effects, but this film deserves its place among the All Time Greats because of the terrifying paranoia carefully cooked by filmmaker John Carpenter. I can forgive a thousand Ghosts of Mars thanks to to power evoked by this not-so-simple monster mash.
The Visitor: "Aren't you a cripple molester?" Yep. This is a weird flick. And in that weird way only the Italians can produce. I dare you to watch the Alamo Drafthouse trailer and tell me differently. The film has something to do with an evil alien child, her mother, an evil cult led by Mel Ferar, and a good cult led by Franco Nero. John Huston's Jerzy is the heroic babysitter of the piece while Lance Henriksen is the demonic stepfather commanding a murder of pigeons. Glenn Ford stops by for a couple of scenes as a doomed detective, and Sam Peckinpah lends his face, but not his voice as the abortionist ex-husband. The plot is secondary, but that's what you want when the visuals are so beautifully absurd. What's it all about? Who cares? The style is the substance. And I need this on blu ray now.
The Misfits: "If it wasn't for all the nervous people in the world, we'd still all be eating each other." The final film for both Clark Gable & Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller's The Misfits as realized by John Huston is Film Noir smashed into the dying Western that's preparing for the modern morality of the 1960s. Monroe is a seemingly naive divorcee but reveals that Femme Fatale heart as she storms through the lives of Gable, Eli Wallach, and Montgomery Clift. This trilogy of man is a real sorry lot, a group of studs desperately trying to stay outta wages and hold on to their irrelevant cowboy lifestyle. At times, Monroe's performance borders on the shrill (please stop screaming), but more often than not she proves an actual talent and not just that pretty face from The Seven Year Itch. I imagine, if given the opportunity, Monroe could have matured into a bevy of meaty roles. Again, similar to Gilda, The Misfits feels like a story that wanted to take you down a much darker path than its actual conclusion allows. The venom being fired from the characters is just too dang heated to result in a "happy" ending.
The Central Park Five: I don't even know where to begin. This doc will set your blood to boil. In 1989 five black youths were arrested, bullied into five separate & wildly different confessions, and convicted of the rape of a young New York jogger. It took 13 years for the truth to finally be revealed, but by that time lives had already been ruined. Who do you blame? The cops? Certainly. The Media? Yeah, them too. Mayor Ed Koch? Yep, F that guy. To hear Koch openly dismiss the concept of "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" on the air is mind numbingly enraging. I'd love to think that something like this couldn't happen today, but you know that's a falsity. The Central Park Five is a great reminder of the casual evil committed by us all every time we nod our heads to the nightly news.