Sunday, December 15, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (12/8/13-12/15/13)

    We Dorks are hardcore.  Mother Nature don’t scare us.  On Sunday night we headed to the Alamo, ‘cause no snow/ice storm is gonna stop us.  That began a rather beastly week for me, though.  Not a lot of sleep was had.  But I had some fun, and that’s what counts in this life.

Shadow of a Doubt:  Though by no means one of the greats in Hitchcock’s filmography, this tale of corruption sneaking into the innocence of small town America is quite charming.  Joseph Cotton is excellent as the charming, but twisted relative who comes to town, full of secrets and bile.  Childhood illusions are shattered and family is tested.  Again, it’s not amazing.  But it’s plenty good.

Design for Living:  This movie struck my fancy so much a few weeks back that I forced co-Dork Brad and his wife to watch it.  I can’t say enough good about its delightfully cheeky and dirty, pre-Code humor.  The actors are all fun to watch and the ending isn’t something that would have possible a few years later.

    Eat it, Nature.  Sweet Smell of Success wasn’t going to be missed because of a little ice.  Lisa, Brad, and I headed out to the Alamo to see this classic.  Sadly, others weren’t so brave.  Great movie that should be seen.

Sweet Smell of Success:  Mean dialog gets tossed around as a bunch of human sharks churn the water in a blood-frenzy of yellow journalism.  The exploits of a vicious little shit as he tries to stay alive in the skuzzy world of New York’s social/political scene.  Nobody is safe from the acid tongue of Burt Lancaster’s Walter Winchell inspired media monster.  Least of all his lapdog, Tony Curtis.

    On Tuesday night, Brad, Lisa, and myself were at the Alamo again.  This time for an advanced screening of American Hustle.  Another good time out at the movies with good company.

I was ready for some 70s fun.

American Hustle:  The 70s come alive in this tonally confusing con-artist flick.  From laugh-out-loud scenes, the film frequently descends into violence haunted threat.  There were moments where a facial expression would make me guffaw, only to expect that the next door to open might have bullets behind it.  The movie constantly feels like it’s going darker than it ever does, but that might even make the laughs that much stronger, that much more nervous.  The actors do a fine job, with Christian Bale and Amy Adams particularly impressing me.  And this is easily the best Jeremy Renner has ever been.  The music was excellent, and like the production design, not as gimmicky as the trailers led me to believe.

Fast Five: What’s big, sweaty, homoerotic, stupid, and wicked awesome?  Fast Five!  For me this is still the first film in the franchise, and I have no particular desire to explore the earlier films.  This heist epic features some of the most excellent stupid dialog, ultra-sincere family talk, and baby oil covered Rock ever committed to film.  I still can not express the surprise I have in myself for loving this movie as much as I do.  It’s one of the most stupidly fun things I’ve watched in a long time, and I have a smile on my face for most of its 2+ hour runtime.

    Wednesday night brought the monthly graphic novel club meeting, and the slings and arrows I’d been anticipating.  I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to be the only person who didn’t like Saga, and I was right.  The other opinions ranged from OK to great, but only I stood as a voice of hate.  And I do hate it so very much.  To me, it’s like country music or The Big Bang Theory.  I know that people like it, but I can’t figure out why.

    Thursday night, and another advanced screening.  This time, Brad and I headed into DC, to E-Street for the newest Coen Brothers movie.  I like trips into the city, especially via Metro train.  People watching is fun.  A good time all round.

Inside Llewyn Davis:  The Coen Brothers sure can spin entertaining and painful yarns about losers.  In the early 1960s, a folk singer and professional loafer is running out of couches to sleep on, out of money, and out of options.  But fate seems determined to teach him a lesson about responsibility.  There are scenes of powerful emotion, be it sadness or mirth.  And there’s a lot of that certain something that brings bent people like me back to the Coen Brothers again and again.

    After all of that, I needed to sleep.  Friday night, I was planning to come home and watch a movie (as always).  Instead, I stared at the wall for a few hours and passed out.  Probably for the best.  And with no plans Saturday, I was able to catch up on my viewing, anyway.

Passion:  Fresh from Cinemax circa 1992 comes this bland, awkwardly forced, sexually semi-charged thriller wannabe about corporate climbers who (we’re told) are really good at their job, but must backstab, betray, and murder their way to success.  They wear business suits and have meetings.  They have video chats and worry over getting that position in New York, so they must be upwardly mobile young women.  And there’s sexual tension.  I know there’s sexual tension, because the movie won’t stop saying it’s there (thankfully, because it would have gone unnoticed otherwise).  None of the characters are well thought out, and why they’re doing what they’re doing is vague at best.  And it all leads to a silly, bordering on offensively dumb ending.  Like Sam Raimi, I feel like De Palma is stuck in his ‘glory days,’ unable to grow as a director, unable to look beyond his once fresh sense of style.  That might be OK if the scripts were better.  But this would be Hitchcock script wouldn’t make the grade in a 70s porno without adding several more visits from the pizza delivery guy.  De Palma, come on.  Some part of me still enjoys the throw-back gimmicks, but you’ve got to do better.  A lot better.  The lady ballet dancer is quite cute, so the movie isn’t a total loss.

Jayne Mansfield’s Car:  A bunch of broken, sad people try to deal with their life and their sorrow.  The whole picture is shadowed by the wars of the 20th century and how each generation dealt with and thought of war.  It’s a great ensemble cast with especially strong performances from Billy Bob Thornton (who also directed and co-wrote), Kevin Bacon, and Robert Patrick as three WWII vets, each with his own war related demon.  It’s a family drama, with lots of awkward humor and fun little twists on expectation.  At the end of the day, I don’t think I connected with the movie as much as I’d have liked.  I think perhaps seeing it in a theater might have helped me be more captured by the glaring Southern Sun and the Vietnam era production design.  But a solid film, if not one I was especially enamored with.

The Living Skeleton:  Uh…OK.  So this movie is steeped in the gimmicky silliness of William Castle, and the moody noirishness of Val Lewton, but with the script of an American International Vincent Price vehicle.  And while that all sounds great, it doesn’t turn out as amazing as it should.  I liked the film, and there are some cool, creepy bits.  But by the end, I was having a devil of a time trying to figure out who anyone was, what they were doing, why they were doing it, and generally what the hell was going on.  It was kitchen sink storytelling, and when the mad scientist appeared…with no foreshadowing, I might add…I spent the rest of the film scratching my head.  Still, the lead actress, Kikko Matsuoka was quite pleasing to the eyes in a sort of Connery-era Bond Girl way (edit: she actually did appear in You Only Live Twice, apparently).

Winter’s Bone:  “Is this gonna be our time?”  Hillbillies got no money, mo problems.  The uglier side of mountain man poverty, drug abuse, crime and such.  Dumb people living small little lives of petty villainy and tainted hope.  The movie is well made, but these people are so pathetic and awful I have a hard time getting in their corner.  I’ve never much enjoyed the company of the terminally ignorant.  The actors do a good job, especially John Hawkes.  But I still found it all unpleasant to sit with for a couple hours.

Movie 43:  It definitely isn’t as consistently good as The Kentucky Fried Movie, or even Amazon Women on the Moon, but this sketch comedy movie does have its moments.  I think the trouble is that the humor is a bit too one-note.  Every sketch is pretty much just a variation on a gross-out bit.  Some of them are really good (neck-balls), others not so much (first period).  A weird number and variety of actors show up in small rolls.  Some are the sorts who will do anything that comes along, but others are A-listers with agents who normally keep them out of stuff like this, and that gives the movie a bit of extra awkward charm.

Genocide:  Atomic bombs and killer insects.  Trouble all around.  Like the other Shochiku horror films, this movie is all over the map, pretty wacky, and ultimately, not all that good.  The insect world is apparently annoyed with our constant fighting, and while it wouldn’t mind us killing ourselves off, it’s afraid we might take it with us.  So, all the world’s bugs are gonna take us out before we can do it to them.  I guess.  While some of the wacky ideas and scenes might be worth lifting for a better film, the overall piece never goes as crazy as it could or as interesting as it should.

    So, that was about it.  Along the way, I started putting some thought and effort into my plans for January, where I’m going to try to finally get an RPG up and running.  I’m still hungry for some Ars Magica, but I’ve got plenty of other games that could and should be a great deal of fun.  I’ll be very curious to see what everyone else will be into.


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