Sunday, November 17, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (11/10/13-11/16/13)

    I’m still working on several books, but at least I finished a couple this week.  Otherwise, I’ve been continuing my Criterion kick, with a few others to spice things up.

The Uninvited:  “Dinner will be late.  It’s the lamb being awkward.”  There’s something very strange about this ghost story.  A brother and sister buy a house with a bit too much character.  There’s a long, slow build to strange events, and a most British way of dealing with things.  And there are deeper layers to what’s going on.  An interesting film, if not an amazing one.

Coriolanus:  “Make you a sword of me.”  Ralph Fiennes is an engine of hate that grinds the enemies of Rome beneath his booted feet.  When politicians turn their backs on him, depths of revenge he will descend to will shake the very foundations of the world.  This adaptation of the Shakespeare play takes place in a modern-combat world that resembles the worst of the Balkan fighting.  Vile hate, bloody vengeance, and the passions of angry and proud men.  It’s Shakespeare, man.

Repo Man:  “I blame society.”  Punk rock meets weird in this wild, strange, and totally 80s flick.  A lot of philosophy and surrealism, as strange people of all sorts come together in a search for a mysterious car with a trunk full of…something.  Obviously, not a movie for everyone, this is a must see for those willing to try something unusual.  The music is great, the performances fun, and the whole movie is, uh, special.

Crash and Burn:  In a grim, wind swept desert of a future, conspiracies and danger abound in an outland TV station.  There are hints of The Thing, as tests are done to try to figure out who is a synth and who is human, who might be an shadow agent for the obligatory evil government.  This movie was from the golden age of Full Moon, when the low budget studio seemed like they were still trying, presenting some interesting ideas that were more ambitious than successful.  And when it comes to science fiction movies, I’ll take ambitious failures over lackadaisical successes.

Robot Wars:  I respect the ‘go-for-it’ attitude of this film.  However, the script isn’t good.  And the acting…well, it’s even less good.  I think, when all is said and done, it’s more of a robot tiff, than a robot war.  But it’s OK enough to get through the fairly short runtime.  The lead male feels like a half-assed Rowdy Roddy Piper.  And the two ladies are kinda terrible (including the relatively un-surgeried Lisa Rinna and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton).  An OK entry in the Full Moon robot based science fiction file, but not one to stress out about seeing.

Hotel Chevalier:  A short film, and first chapter to the full length film The Darjeeling Limited, this takes place in a hotel room in France, where a lost guy is found by a former love.  The relationship isn’t fully clear, but it’s not good.  There’s not a lot to it, but the music is nice, and it’s full of little Wes Anderson quirks.

The Darjeeling Limited:  “Where’s those nuts at?”  Three cracked brothers meet up on a train in India, for what’s supposed to be a spiritual journey.  But that doesn’t really pan out.  As they travel from one site to another, having little adventures, each one tries to fix their relationship.  But none of the brothers has any idea how to fix themselves, much less a tattered fraternal love.  Outside of a James Bond movie, I don’t think India has ever looked more beautiful, or more like somewhere I’d want to have an adventure.  And while the train, The Darjeeling Limited, feels like a typical Wes Anderson hyper-artificial set, it’s interesting seeming him filming on real locations, taking his odd style to places that aren’t built from the ground up for his purposes.  The movie is cute, sad (very sad), funny, and of course, exceptionally bent.

Godzilla VS Biollante:  The 90s Godzilla films (this 1989 film was the second in the run) were not good.  They’re cheaper looking and sillier, but silly in a not so fun sort of way.  I like that, starting with The Return of Godzilla (aka Godzilla 1985), they tried to bring it back to its monster movie roots, making Godzilla a force of nature, not an ally of humanity.  Sadly, they’re just not good, and this is no exception.  I like the monster design, if not the execution.  A weird plant-Godzilla hybrid is seriously weird, and seeing it shuffle across the countryside makes me wish the movie was better, because that could have been terrifying.

I Declare War:  “I have killing techniques.”  Visualizing the imaginative and violent play of childhood, this film feels like something out of my own youth.  I used to play ‘guns’ with kids in my neighborhood.  Of course, we didn’t have a sociopath playing, so it never got this dark.  In fact, I think we always kept things pretty civilized.  The movie is certainly interesting, and I’m sure will stir up some controversy because of the portrayal of kids and violence.

Prince Avalanche:  “I’m pretty optimistic about next weekend.”  2013 seems to be the year of the lone wo(man).  Being alone, being lonely, or being separate has been a key ingredient of many of the year’s films.  Two guys, working together out in the middle of frickin’ nowhere, deal with various versions of being lone and alone.  Products of the City, they’re finding a slice of something (happiness? peace?) out in the Wild.  The movie isn’t amazing, or especially profound.  But it’s an enjoyable watch, funny in its way, and worth checking out.  It also looks very nice.

Barbara:  I’m still fascinated with the Cold War, likely because of growing up in its shadow, and my odd feelings toward the 50s and 60s that I won’t get into here.  I’m also interested in different perspectives on events, places, or times.  This drama focuses on a woman living under scrutiny in East Germany, while she tries to work at a hospital, and seems to be planning some kind of escape to the West.  She’s a cold figure, beautiful, but unapproachable and reserved.  But as the film progresses, I became more and more curious about just who this woman was.  Seeing a more idyllic, less industrial nightmare version of East Germany makes the ever watchful Big Brother that much more sinister.  What seems ubiquitous in an urban sprawl seems horribly out of place in the green and beautiful countryside.

Thor: The Dark World:  I continue to scratch my head as I watch this massive Marvel comics mythology building on the big screen.  As far as I can figure, it’s unprecedented.   Multiple series, all connecting into a greater whole.  It’s madness, and it’s wonderful.  And I’m not even a Marvel fan.  The second outing for the God of Thunder isn’t quite as cohesive as the first film, and I don’t think it’s overall, quite as good.  However, it’s still a great deal of fun.  I love that the movie spends relatively little time on Earth, cranks up the mad sci-fantasy, yet still keeps those little bits of awkward humor (the scene on the subway cracks me up).  I’m not sold on the style of filmmaking, which feels a bit too shaky, and blurred.  Which in this day and age means kind of generic.  Though that was hardly so extreme as to ruin the film.  It’s hard for me to review the movie, honestly.  I’m just dumbstruck by the fact that this is happening.  There’s a Guardians of the Galaxy film coming.  They’re really doing it.  How has this come to be?

    On Friday night, we met again for the graphic novel book club.  This time around we discussed Boxers & Saints, a historic fiction (with fantasy elements).  The group had a lively discussion, with lots of different opinions considering everyone seemed to like the book.

Summer with Monika:  A young woman trying to find love in the world, and a young boy with his head in the clouds come together for a bit of romance.  Their awkward awakenings to sex and love are charming and melancholic in that Bergman way.  And their adventure on a boat is full childlike wonder on the one hand, and emerging sexuality on the other.  Unlike so many movies of this type, it shows the consequences of actions.  There are several moments when you feel like the movie is going to end, when it reaches the point a movie normally would cut to credits, but then it tortures you with an ‘and then…’  It’s rough when things go from idyllic and pretty to…well…not.

Bad Day at Black Rock:  “I live a quiet, contemplative life.”  A guy gets off a train at a town full of secrets.  Things don’t go too well after that.  Spencer Tracy seems a bit too old for the part he’s playing, but he’s quite good.  And as he and Robert Ryan face off, it gets uncomfortable.  Lots of good character actors play goons of one sort or another.  It gets mean.  Real mean.

Rules of the Game:  They didn’t have to deal with the Hayes Codes in France, I guess.  This funny, but ultimately somewhat tragic examination of upper-class twits is sometimes disconcertingly contemporary.  It’s funny, it’s risqué, and it works well as a time capsule from another time.  The director, Jean Renoir, also has an important supporting role in the film, and is quite good.

    So, over the course of the week, I was able to finish Boxers & Saints, and A Manual for Creating Atheists.  Both were pretty good in their own way.  Not too much else going on.  But by next month’s graphic novel club meeting, I’ve got to come up with my choice.  I’m weighing some options.


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