HAPPY NEW YEAR! That feels good. 2013 was a gas, but I'm quite pleased to be through the Holiday Hoopla, and I'm looking forward to devoting more attention to the blog. Most of this week was concerned with formulating my Favorite Films of the year as well as the rest of the Dorkies. As I stated there, 2013 ended up being one of my favorites as far as the Pop Culture scene was concerned. Nicholas Winding Refn cranked out his best film yet (Only God Forgives), Martin Scorsese proved that no matter how hard they try (American Hustle) there is still only one guy right for the job (The Wolf of Wall Street), and the more I think on it, Edgar Wright's latest (The World's End) slowly eeks its way to the top of the Cornetto Trilogy.
Not to mention, this year I actually witnessed Martin Scorsese deliver his Jefferson Lecture "The Persistence of Vision," I sat in the front row of Hall H where Samuel L Jackson actually stared me down, saw the 4K Restoration of Lawrence of Arabia at the AFI Silver, met Peter Tork, discovered the surreal genius of Keoma, and won a Tyler Stout Mondo Print signed by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, & Edgar Wright at the Cornetto Trilogy Screening of The Alamo Drafthouse, which in turn has become my new home away from home. Yeah, I should say that's a pretty good year.
Jaime Foxx Does Django For Spidey (I Took This Photo!!!)
I'm pretty gosh darn excited by the prospect of the new year. How can 2014 top 2013? Dunno, but I can't wait to find out. This particular week in transition began with another bit of cinematic shame finally getting checked off my Resolution list - Singin' in the Rain. How had I never seen this before? Not sure. I was just never much of a musical kid; I'm happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The last film I saw in the theater in 2013 was David Fincher's Zodiac (again, at The Alamo Drafthouse). One of my all time favorite films, I was a bit bummed that co-dork Matt doesn't seem to quite "get it." My first film of the new year was Man of Steel, the rewatch was prompted by a conversation I had with my brother-in-law at our annual New Year's Party. So much to love, so much to hate. But the first film I saw theatrically of the New Year was Saving Mr. Banks. I enjoyed it, but certainly not as much as The Wife. She got all filled with emotions with this Marry Poppins lovefest.
I also got off my duff and finally got back into Sweet Tooth comics. Apart from our Graphic Novel Book Club (aka The Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Graphic Novel Book Club), I feel like I've been neglecting the comic book medium lately. Sure, I hit up Big Planet Comics every week, but I've got a massive stack of graphic novels I need to work my way through. There's a New Year's Resolution for sure. Not to mention the fact that I've left both my Scorsese-A-Thon & John Carpenter-A-Thons hanging. Gotta find my Elvis dvd or simply buy another one. As far as why I haven't watched New York Stories yet.....it looks dull....but Goodfellas follows that so there are no excuses. Anyway, let's get on with the mini-reviews shall we?
P.S. I'm growing a beard!
Singin' In The Rain: "You're nothing but a shadow on film." I honestly had no idea what this movie was about. I knew there was rain in it. I knew there was singing. Some sorta romance. And yep, all those things are there. But I was kinda flabbergasted to discover that the backdrop for the film was the transition from the Silent Era into the Talkies. That must sound silly to all you die-hards out there, but once the Hollywood biography started to get hashed, my interest immediately perked up. Sure, the big song & dance numbers are fantastic. Gene Kelly is great, but I was even more enamored with Donald O'Connor's sidekick character - the "Make 'Em Laugh" number is joyous, but it also has a nice bit of biting truth to it. What's the next Golden Era Musical I have to hit? Yankee Doodle Dandy? Show Boat? Guys And Dolls? Certainly The Jazz Singer. A whole genre of film missing from my brain. Maybe that's my great quest of 2014.
Pain & Gain: This was mostly background noise while I worked on this year's Dorkies. But what beautiful background noise! Finally all of Michael Bay's weird, misogynistic, homophobic, mocking humor makes all the sense in the world. A "True Film" about a trilogy of dumbbells committing heinous acts in the pursuit of The American Dream. It's a hilarious watch, and a rather painful one if you think too deeply into the real events that inspired this idiocracy. The Rock gives his single greatest performance so far, but Mark Wahlberg should get some serious recognition as well. No one can do moronic earnestness quite like this guy. And I still argue that it has as much to say about our deeply flawed Nation as Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street.
Keoma: If I could grow Keoma's beard I most certainly would. Franco Nero is a wild man native returned home after the cataclysmic conclusion of the Civil War. A group of bandits (a perfect collection of pricks one can only see in Spaghetti Westerns) have staked claim over the land, and it's up to Nero & Woody Strode to slaughter their hateful asses. The plot is straightforward, but it's telling is so wonderfully dreamy thanks to its slow-mo gunsmoke ballets, the constant guttural caws of the score, and Keoma's metaphorical ability to walk in & out of his past. When people think of Italy's contribution to the West they think The Good, The Bad, & The Eastwood. If they reach a little beyond that then maybe they think of Sergio Corbucci or Django. But for my money, the niftiest entry of the sub-genre is Enzo Castellari's Keoma. Is it my favorite? Tough call...The Great Silence is sooooo beautifully ugly...but give me three or four more rewatches of this Weird Western and Keoma might very well land on the top.
Haywire: Steven Soderbergh is a fascinating animal. He burst onto the scene with a Sundance Classic (Sex, Lies, & Videotape) that absolutely revolutionized Hollywood and paved the way for indie darlings like Quentin Tarantino, then Sophomore Slumped for a series of films (Kafka, King of the Hill, The Underneath, Schizopolis), knocked one out of the park (Out of Sight) creating a megacelebrity (George Clooney), crafted a brilliant love letter to John Boorman (The Limey), floundered with Oscar Bait (Erin Brokovich, Traffic), made bank on Blockbusters (The Oceans Trilogy), drowned in drivel (Full Frontal, Bubble, The Good German, Che, The Girlfriend Experience), and found new life in his final series of weirdo genre pictures (The Informant!, Contagion, Magic Mike, Haywire, Side Effects). Has there ever been a career with more peeks or valleys? Of his last batch, The Informant! is probably my intellectual favorite, but the one I watch the most is Haywire. I mean - Wow! - that Fight-to-the-Death hotel room brawl between Gina Carano & Michael Fassbender is AWEsome! Possibly my favorite asskicking this side of They Live. The rest of the film is good too, but that Fassbender beatdown....that's some real movie magic. I wish Soderbergh all the best in TV Land, but I doubt he'll stay there for long. The Silver Screen will call you again sir. Whatever type of picture you decide to make should certainly prove interesting.
Zodiac: My favorite film of the last 13 years. This fact seems to baffle Matt. He just keeps saying "it sure is 3 hours long." I tell him it's the best police procedural of all time, he says he preferred The Silence of the Lambs. I'v been thinking about this. I too love The Silence of the Lambs. Great movie. Duh. But it's not really a procedural, is it? I think what elevates Zodiac so high in my pantheon of All Time Favorite Movies is how meticulous the film is with the investigation - and the obsession born from it in Robert Graysmith. There are no real answers here, but Graysmith has to hunt them down. He sacrifices family for the Zodiac. He might even fool himself in the process. It's tragic. It's ultimately pointless. And David Fincher perfects his clinical eye with this film, and it's never been more suited for a subject.
Man of Steel: 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Superman. A milestone for capes & spandex. But he's never been a character I've really gravitated towards. I guess I enjoyed the Christopher Reeve films as much as any kid my age, but when I rewatched them earlier this year they didn't have the same shine I once remembered. Reeve himself is astonishing as the character. It's a great performance. But there's plenty of room for improvement as far as the script and side characters are concerned. I thought Bryan Singer's love poem, Superman Returns was fairly fun if not utterly forgettable, and I was soooooo ready for Zach Snyder to add a little freeze-frame punch to the franchise. I am, after all, not a Snyder-hater (yes, yes, yes, Sucker Punch sucked). What I love about Man of Steel: Russell Crowe's Jor-El & his holo-ghost, Pa Kent's barnyard revelation to young Clark, Amy Adams's plucky newswoman, and the Metropolis Holocaust (yep, two gods meet in an American City...we are fucked). What I hate about Man of Steel: Pa Kent's utter fear for his son culminating in his final act, Michael Shannon's Screaming Zod, the kissy face in a crater of human ash, and the neck break. I could probably handle most of my beef if not for Pa Kent. His parenting seems all wrong for the character. That being said, there is enough here for me to enjoy the film for years to come. I can't really say I'm stoked for Batman vs Superman, but I'm certainly curious to see what they cook up, and how all these icons are going to fit with each other. But if you really want to get to the heart of the Man of Steel, and you've always had trouble like me, then please read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman. It's a beautiful depiction of Supes as well as that Golden Age of Comics.
Furious 6: Not the Action-Packed Roller Coaster Revelation that was Fast Five, this film still manages to pack more fun into car crashes than it has any right. Frankly, I'm still just shocked at how much of a fan I've become of this franchise. It wasn't too long ago that I was mocking the first film and downright being a jerk towards 2 Fast 2 Furious. Now it's 2014, Paul Walker died tragically, and I'm desperately awaiting word on how they'll honor him in Fast Seven. This series is a goof. A lark. But there is something so absolutely charming about the intensity in which they support the notion of family. We all might be thieves and gunrunners, but we love each other and we know how to crack a skull when we have to. Fast Five took the franchise into the realm of the unreal, and Furious 6 practically throws a cape over The Rock while he's tossing thugs across rooms. Don't fool yourself. This is the very best of Comic Book Cinema.
Saving Mr. Banks: "The Mouse is Family." I was a little nervous going into this one. A friend shot me a link to Harlan Ellison's latest rant, and his tirade nearly brought me into a frenzy against The Disney Machine. How dare they purport PL Travers's complacency for Mary Poppins when she most certainly did not appreciate the adaptation. And maybe this film doesn't go into her eventual contempt for the film, but it also doesn't reveal her to be joyous either. This is a nifty, surface level exploration of the writing process, and the romance one can have with their creation. Emma Thompson starts this film as a shrill, nearly psychotic "Writer" battling it out with the Keeper of Dreams, Walt Disney. A cynic could easily tear this film apart. But there were several moments in the movie where I thought it understood and appreciated PL Travers's preciousness for her character. One scene (where musical & biography collide) that nearly brought me to tears in my seat. Is it the best film of 2013? No. Not even close. But I imagine if you (like my wife) already have great affinity for the Disney Film then you'll just adore Saving Mr. Banks. And when is Harlan Ellison not ranting? - don't sue me!
MST3K - I Accuse My Parents: "Can I interest you in a size of ME?" For the new year, The Wife & I have committed to watching as many episodes of Mystery Science Theater as we can. When I hear Joel, Tom Servo, and Crooooooow snicker and jeer their way through some shoddy movie it immediately takes me back in time. I'm 12 years old, it's way past my bedtime, and I'm snorting up a bowl of CT Crunch as The Killer Shrews shuffle about my tv screen. Ah...bliss. I Accuse My Parents is one of those terrible cautionary tales in which a teenage shoe salesman goes on a kill crazy rampage because his mom was a drunk. Boo hoo, kid, it's tough all over. Good jokes, but also not the finest hour for the Gizmonic Institute. Looking forward to the next one.
Sweet Tooth Volumes 3-5 by Jeff Lemire: My goodness, these are some wonderfully sad comics. Volume 2 left poor Sweet Tooth in the hands of some diabolical scientists, and Volume 3 picks up with Mr Jeppard marching to the rescue before Doctor Singh can gut the deer boy open, and dissect just how these hybrids avoid The Sickness. I enjoyed the first few chapters of this series, but once Jeff Lemire gets these guys out of the camps and on the road of discovery, the saga really begins to take shape. What is Sweet Tooth? A man made creation or some ancient god of the earth? I don't know, but I'm betting whatever the answer it's a depressing one. Not for the faint of heart...or the squeamish, Sweet Tooth is an apocalypse story drowning in dread. And I love it. One trade to go, should be done in a few days.
Drew - The Man Behind The Poster: If you're in your mid-30s and you love movies then you love Drew Struzan. The premiere illustrator who birthed countless posters for such films as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Back to the Future, Harry Potter, Masters of the Universe, and Police Academy. I've been collecting his work since I was fourteen. Behind every framed poster in my house, you can probably find a Struzan buried behind whatever current obsession. This is a typical talking-heads documentary, but I was pleased to discover how in-depth it goes into some of his creations. And I certainly appreciated hearing the praise coming from such icons as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Michael J Fox, Ken Kelly, and Steve Guttenberg. Harrison Ford at the junket, though? That's awkward. It's currently on Netflix Streaming, give it a whirl.