Not a lot going on this week outside of trying and failing to sleep. Weird week, though. I somehow didn’t watch a movie between Monday night and Friday night. Weird. I did spend a bunch of time on the Dorkies, and I’ve been doing some reading and prep-work for my upcoming game.
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto: A gorgeously shot movie about a couple of young men who want to become heroes, samurai. Each takes a different path after their first battle. The film deals a great deal with life in 1600 Japan, from politics to the daily doings of simple people. The place of women, the role of men, what is important in life, religion, and death. I’m certainly interested in what will happen in the rest of this trilogy.
The Man Who Never Was: This World War II thriller has some of the feel of a 40s police procedural, but with a British, stiff upper lip sort of mindset. The actors all do a fine job, with Gloria Graham getting chance to deliver a couple emotional scenes. It’s good. It’s perfectly watchable. And if you’re in the mood for a WWII movie that isn’t about the combat side of things, this is a nice choice.
Hollow: Gah. Found footage. It can be done right. This ain’t how. There’s a potentially cool Wicker Man type pagan tale hinted at that might have made for a cool movie. This ain’t it. Typical of modern horror films, especially found footage films, the characters are all bloody awful and I couldn’t help but anticipate their inevitable end. And man does it go on. There’s probably about 30 minutes of worthy material in a 90 minute movie. Bah.
John Carter: Though I do still find this film somewhat frustrating, what with its almost complete squandering of an awesome book series, I do still enjoy the movie. It’s nowhere near as balls-out crazy as it needs to be, not as over the top, wild, adventurous or fun. And yeah, Taylor Kitsch is kinda awful in his drab portrayal of the titular hero. But it does have a lot of cool stuff, some good design work, and some good sequences. In some ways, they did manage to put some good images of Burroughs’s Barsoom on screen, even if they didn’t get any of its heart. I realize there is never going to be a movie that does it right. Not really. There’s never going to be a movie where the entire cast is naked, but for pieces of armor and jewelry for the entirety. But I would still like to see a movie get more to the essence. Whatever the case, I hope that some kid(s) out there saw this movie and were wowed by it, leading them to read the original novels and more. That’s the best thing this movie could do; inspire a younger generation to read the classics.
Zodiac: The late 60s and 70s are beautifully reconstructed in this crime solving epic. Police officers, reporters, and the public must come to terms with a new kind of crime (at least, new to them), while dealing with old guard methodology, red tape, and politics. The actors are great and the production design is impeccable. And while I find the story engrossing while it’s on screen, I don’t find myself carrying anything away from the movie. Nothing stays with me. I do feel like this would be an interesting companion to Bullitt and Dirty Harry, though.
Beyond the Black Rainbow: This movie has quickly become one of my favorite go-to films. There’s this mysterious magic that captures something from my youth. The director has said that it was partially inspired by late night movies and VHS covers spotted in rental shops from his childhood. I believe it. It captures all the mystery and weirdness of the best late 70s/early 80s movies, and the potential of all those descriptions for films that didn’t live up. Intensely strange, beautifully shot, with pulsing and jarring music, it’s the perfect film when you’re in the mood for classic Cronenberg but want something a little different. It also touches on a bunch of things I find fascinating, including the post-Hippie attempts to mix science and new age magical thinking into new forms of society and perception…and the failure thereof. You have the failed seeker and the enlightened one, and their deadly conflict. Even though the end seems a bit out of tune with the rest of the film, I’ve found that on repeat viewing, it works for me more. Great stuff.
Hell Baby: Sometimes extremely funny while at others, flat; Hell Baby is the newest effort from those nut-jobs behind Reno 911...and it shows. Overall, worth watching if you enjoy some ignorant, gross out humor. And one scene had me laughing so hard I was in tears (cable installation van). Most of the stuff with the two priests and with the two cops gave me the giggles, and Rob Corddry was very good throughout. A surprising amount of Riki Lindhome nudity. Was 2013, for all its many faults, the year that full frontal nudity came back? I’ve been noticing the welcome if gradual return of nudity over the last few years, after a painful 20 year absence (yes, there were some exceptions). But much like male nudity, full frontal remains largely in the domain of Cinemax (or Starz, the new Cinemax). What changed? Is this a trend? It’s a welcome change from the puritanical 90s, whatever the case. I’m sure as heck not against violence in film, but I’ve always been a bit bothered by people’s willingness to accept the most horrendous acts portrayed in the most graphic of fashion, while turning nearly blue with rage and offence if a nipple gets flashed. So stupid.
The Prodigal: The story of the Prodigal Son gets a typical 50s Hollywood take. In watching these, I can’t help but find most of the lead characters to be raging a-holes, which actually fits with my re-reading of the Bible. Unwilling to give even an inch in the name of politeness our hero spits in the face of everyone who doesn’t agree with him, defies law and custom, and generally makes a spectacle of his pointless defiance. Still, there’s some lavish spectacle.
I started watching some episodes of Voyagers!, the old 80s show. It’s good kid’s entertainment. Enough for me to keep watching, I guess. It’s basically Quantum Leap meets The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, shot on all the usual locations (the whole world looks like Southern California).
That’s about all I’ve got this week. Here’s hoping the new year is better than the old. Time to start making things happen.