Sunday, April 6, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (3/30/14-4/5/14)

    Another good week for this dork.  Too many sleepless nights, though.  I can’t believe the insanity of the times we live in.  For dorks like me, this is a wonderful and weird time.  Marvel Comics are hitting the big screen to critical and financial success.  Science fiction movies are starting to be taken somewhat seriously, and there are even occasional good ones.  It’s wild.  But it brings with it some negative elements, too.  I recently went back and watched some classic Doctor Who, just to remind myself why I love that show.  Like late-coming comic fans who claim their favorite superhero is Hawkeye (NOBODY’s favorite hero is Hawkeye!), the new Who has produced a good deal of new fans who make older fans like me feel kind of awkward and uncomfortable.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad the new show is a success, and I love that it’s bringing in new generations of fans.  I am.  I just can’t relate to them.  What they love about the show is not at all what I love about the show.  In fact, more often than not, what they love about the show seems to be the stuff that’s making me less and less of a fan of the new series.  Still, young nerds are our future.  I should remember that.  Anyway, on with the week.

Put the screwdriver away and use your brain!

    Sunday morning, I read the first two volumes of Abe Sapien.  It’s OK.  At best.  For part of the Mignola universe, it’s pretty disappointing.

Grand Hotel:  This pioneering ‘all star cast’ film is full of wit and charm and fun characters.  It’s gorgeously produced and keeps a good pace.  There isn’t a plot, so much as a bunch of characters going through various arcs of their life over a couple of days stay.  From residential folks to temporary guests, the quirks and concerns of people give way to humor and drama.  Everyone is so good, but my personal favorite is John Barrymore, who is so charming and so sad as the down on his luck baron in desperate need of some quick cash.  A must see film.

Doctor Who: Paradise Towers:  Ultra 80s with a strong dose of J.G. Ballard, this is one of the few good stories of the last few years of classic who.  There are gangs, oppressive guards, robots, cannibals, and a cowardly action hero.  I like the look and general vibe, which I’ve said before, reminds me of 2000AD comics.  The late years of Doctor Who make me kind of sad, but this is one of the few bright spots, and so earns some marks.  It’s what Who could have been in the late 80s, as opposed to the lackluster stories that were much more common.

Mulholland Drive:  “It’s been that kind of a day.”  In many ways this film is Lost Highway Redux.  It covers some of the same themes, similar storytelling techniques, and general mood.  The major difference is the lesbian angle, which seems to be what made critics who hated Lost Highway love Mulholland Drive.  It is some wonderful David Lynch madness, and it’s got some great performances and great scenes.  But it doesn’t feel as smooth, or as (I can’t believe I’m going to use this word) coherent.  This is a nightmare turned into a film, and as such, it’s kind of beautiful, but also very frightening in a way horror films rarely are.

Noah:  This never gets as bugnuts crazy as the source material, but it is high myth-fantasy, and as such isn’t bad.  The first two thirds of the film is the best.  Honestly, once the Flood happens (sorry…spoilers) the film drops several gears and I found myself just waiting for the eventual end.  But up to that point, it was entertaining.  I wish the Watchers and that armored dog thing weren’t the only creatures, though.  Jewish myth and a lot of early proto-Christian mysticism has so much crazy I’d have loved to see them attempt.  Where were the Nephilim?  Where were the ‘wheels within wheels and covered in eyes?’  Still, flame-burst swords, drug-trip conversations with the divine, and Rock-Ents.  Oh, yeah.  Drunken Russell Crowe.  Awesome.  Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins play exactly the same character they play in all these historic/fantasy films.  Not great, but not bad.  And easily the best thing Aronofsky has done since The Fountain.

Drink blazing hot redemption, sinners!

The Legacy:  Typical, boring 1970s horror movie, The Legacy features the conspicuous credulity of protagonists that was common in the time.  Everyone seems perfectly willing to simply accept that there’s a witch cult, that they’re doing black magic, and that everyone’s in on it.  No question, no ‘this can’t be happening,’ nothing.  The leads are super dull, and Sam Elliot does NOT work as a romantic interest.  It’s competently shot, but ultimately dull.

Captain America: The First Avenger:  I still wish this movie was a more solid Captain America film, and less of an opening chapter for The Avengers.  I wanted the whole thing to be set during World War II, and for those couple of montages to be spread out into the meat of the film, the battle against Red Skull.  That said, watching it again, and looking at the film as part of a greater whole that Marvel/Disney is building, the film works much better.  That’s something I’m finding interesting about all this crazy business.  They’re making movies that are individually OK, that when taken as a whole are kind of amazing.  All the connections, all the world building, all the ground work being put in place for an ever expanding series of films.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier:  This is a sort of nerd nirvana that is still blowing my mind.  The story in this is OK.  It’s a pale shadow of Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier comic, but it’s not bad.  Characters get more time, we see Cap deal with some of the effects of his dislocation in time, and we get many nods to various comic characters and ideas that I need a guide to figure out.  I really enjoyed the addition of Falcon, and I liked him and Cap as a team.  I’m still not really sold on Black Widow in the films.  I don’t know if it’s the actress or the writing, but whatever the case, she’s typically the most iffy part for me.  There’s much more of her in this film, and while not bad, it wasn’t holding my interest.  Which is too bad, since I’d liked her so much in the Captain America comics I read.

Black Plague (aka Anazapata):  “Don’t look at us! There’s none of us can write.”  A kind of run of the mill Medieval mystery/drama.  It’s well made, I suppose, and fairly well produced.  But it’s simply not all that interesting.  And as the movie goes on, you start to realize it’s another one of those movies where all men are monsters and all women their perpetual victims.  And the film isn’t even French.

Moby Dick: “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!”  Obsession and madness drive men to their graves in this adaptation of the nautical classic.  Like Joseph Conrad, I’ve never been able to get into reading Melville, but also like Conrad, I find elements of story and theme that resonate, even if the writing doesn’t.  The finale of the film is pretty awesome, and I love the look of the whale and its violence.  However, it felt like the movie was overall, a bit too stodgy, a bit too traditional.  It’s a story that begs for a more Gothic or even Noir style.  I wanted the extremes of the men to be echoed in extremes of design and cinematography.  Instead, the somewhat utilitarian filming seems tone deaf.  That is, except for Orson Welles’s opening sermon and the film’s climax, which are pretty wild.

Dredd:  This is the hardcore, ultra-violent cyberpunk movie I’ve been hungering for since Robocop.  They finally get Dredd right, get his world right, and make a heck of an entertaining movie.  The cast is good, the effects are kind of beautiful, and the violence is crazy…and also beautiful, it its way.  Grim, bloody, and tough as hell.  I love it.  It’s developed quite the cult following since hitting DVD.  Here’s hoping that gets enough attention to get a sequel.  But I doubt it.  Still, we got a proper Judge Anderson, finally.  Even if it is as a rookie.

Forbidden Planet:  I was kickin’ around when this popped up on TCM, and I had to watch it.  Great movie.  I’ve seen it many times before, and I love it every time.

    I had Forbidden Planet on while I was working on my list of hoped for Marvel movies of the future.  And after working on it, and thinking about Captain America 2, I had to put on my copy of Trouble Man.

What if Marvel Madness happened in the 70s?!

Trouble Man:  “T is the last man in this world I want looking for me.”  Mr. T is one seriously bad dude.  He’s got the world on a string, but somebody is looking to start some trouble.  As he unravels the conspiracy, he chews through the underworld.  Robert Hooks is super cool.  This one is right up there, near the top of the list when it comes to great Blaxploitation films.  I don’t know why it isn’t talked about as much as some of the others.  It should be.  See it.

    And that’s it.  This ended up being a bit of a weird week, where plans fell through a couple times, and a lot of stuff ended up playing out differently than I’d expected.  But it all worked out.  And I did finally, finally get a little sleep.  I’m still trying to get more reading done.  After that surge of comic reading last week, I’ve been somewhat lax.  And I really, really need to finish Lord of Light, which I started a dogs age ago.  But it’s tough.  You need to be focused, and I’m not.  Anyway, next week is already shaping up to be a good one.  So, ‘til next time.


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