Sunday, April 20, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/13/14-4/19/14)

    Good times this week.  I’m so happy that this year has already produced several movies that I’d be happy to put on the top ten of my 2014 Dorkies.  Particle Fever, Monuments Men (yeah, I liked it a lot…bite me), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Grand Budapest Hotel, Tim’s Vermeer, and now Under the Skin.  Six movies I wouldn’t be upset to find on a top ten list (though I’m hoping to see enough more that several of these won’t be).  This has already been a better year than the past two.  Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Under the Skin:  I like science fiction.  I like quiet films that don’t muddy things with too much dialog.  I like weird stuff that puts the viewer on edge.  I like films that don’t shy away from nudity.  And I like visually interesting movies that hold shots for a long time.  Under the Skin fulfills all of that.  I don’t know that I loved the movie, but it certainly tickles my various fancies.  It’s reminiscent of late 60s, early 70s science fiction, the most obvious (though not only) example being The Man Who Fell to Earth.  You’ve got to get your Scottish ears on, as the movie features a lot of Scottish people talking, with full on, nearly unintelligible accents.  And if you’re uncomfortable with nudity, you should probably stay away (or try growing up and not being such a prude).  On a related note, it was nice seeing a woman with a normal body, not some stick figure with plastic bits.  There’s lots of beautiful imagery, including some natural settings, some urban settings, and some very good motorcycle driving footage.  It’s very interesting to see a movie in which none of the dialog is about the plot.  There’s literally zero exposition.  It is presented before you for you to figure out.  Keen.  My one complaint is the ending.  What happens in the woods that leads to the actual final moments of the film seemed weird and somewhat out of place.  Off key from the rest of the film.  Excepting that, I thought it was excellent.

Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol:  It’s stories like this that make me so sad the last several years of classic Doctor Who weren’t very good.  I enjoy the heck out of this strange story and weird production design.  If other stories from late Colin Baker through its cancellation under Sylvester McCoy had been half as good, the show might have had legs to stand on.

The Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox:  I don’t really get The Flash.  He’s one of those DC champions I never really enjoyed.  But I do like a good alternate world story, and this one is pretty cool.  Something done by the Flash’s old enemy…Professor Zoom…has changed the world to one where heroes and villains took very different courses.  It’s a crazy story, but it’s cool seeing some of the powerful heroes doing what they’d most likely do if not checked by other elements.  Wonder Woman and Aquaman are carving up the world while Batman and Superman have very different lives.  And man, is there anything scarier than the potential of sad, angry, tortured Superman?

    I sat down and fought my way through Uber.  Boy, that’s a disappointing book.  Some very cool ideas, but such terrible execution.

    Tuesday night found Brad and I at the Alamo again, this time to see Purple Rain as a ‘sing-along.’  Now, this was Brad and my first time seeing the film, and it turned out it was a lot of others’ as well.  I don’t know how much singing was going on.  But we were provided glow sticks and tambourines, so no complaints.

Purple Rain:  In a sense, every movie has two ratings/grades.  There’s an objective (sort of) rating.  How ‘good’ is the film?  The acting, the script, the cinematography; were there any boom mics visible; was the editing smooth; etc.?  And then there’s the question of how much you, the viewer, enjoyed watching the movie.  It’s final grade is some synthesis of that, which is why I have movies I know are technically awful listed among my favorites (Cyborg, for example).  Purple Rain is such a crapterpiece.  The script, the acting, and the music were terrible (sorry, the music is bloody awful), but I had an absolute blast watching it all.  Prince, our would be hero, is a terrible person who does one slightly nice thing and all is forgiven.  His parents are totally insane.  His girlfriend is a self-made emotional and physical punching bag.  His friends all stay loyal to him, even though he doesn’t show one single ounce of friendship or loyalty to them.  And by the end of the film, he hasn’t really learned anything or grown as a human being.  He’s still a piece of crap, and it’s pretty clear he’s going to remain one.  And Prince is soooooooooo awful.  I can’t say he’s wooden, because at least a piece of wood has a chance to have some character.  He’s so stiff, so awkward…It’s impressive.  Also, through the whole movie (including her disgusting song Sex Shooter), it seemed like Apollonia was written to be a man, but the studio wasn’t willing to make a gay romance movie.  It would have made a lot more sense, as at no point did I suspect Prince had any interest in women.  And not just because he treats Apollonia like a frat-boy treats a nerd.  Then there’s the moment when he hauls off and decks her, because she said something he didn’t like.  At that point, the point where a character who was horrible to begin with now adds ‘woman puncher’ to his list of traits, I wanted to watch him utterly fail.  Of course, it was the 80s, people unfathomably loved Prince, and he was supposed to be the film’s hero, so he wins.  But he shouldn’t have.  The movie should have ended with him actually hanging himself, like in his vision.  Roll credits.  Still, though technically and morally awful, watching this madness was a heck of a lot of fun.

     I also managed to watch a few episodes of the BBC series Atlantis.  It's not very good.  And it should be called Minos, as that's really where it takes place, thought they keep calling it Atlantis.  I like that they're going for it with the mythology; I just wish the show was good.

Frozen:  This film’s heart is in the right place.  Unfortunately, its head isn’t.  The praise it’s received for having proactive female leads is deserved.  However, the story is bland, the music is more bland, and the animation is dull.  And then the snowman shows up.  Ugh.  And the singing.  The singing.  It doesn’t stop, and it’s not good.  So, while putting the focus on the female characters, and not making the men the eventual rescuers, gets a tip of the hat, next time, cut the pop songs, cut the awful comic relief, and cut the crap.  Just tell a good story, and we’ll watch it.  Brave, and now this.  It’s like Disney is really trying, but they just can’t get it right.

Sparks:  I respect what this film was reaching for, but at the end of the day, it’s just not that good.  It feels like an attempt to capture some of the spirit of Watchmen and some of the spirit of Kick-Ass, with some of the tools of (the film versions of) Sin City and The Spirit.  The story is one of those onion-types where each layer is a revelation that some previously established or believed fact is actually wrong.  With each layer, you find that heroes are villains, friends are enemies, up is down, jelly is better than syrup, mass hysteria.  Several of the twists were actually pretty obvious.  Still, it has its charm and low budget can-do sensibilities.  And it’s kind of neat to see that we’ve reached the point where they’re making (for all intents and purposes) straight to video superhero films.  I’d sooner watch a dozen films like this than another found footage/Haunting in X New England Town films, that’s for sure.

    I watched a bunch of Ultraman episodes.  The show is a lot of fun, and has occasional dashes of the stuff I love in Kaiju films.  But it is pretty darned cheesy.  Part of the show’s problem is that when there is a really cool idea, they’ve only got twenty-five minutes to explore it, which isn’t enough.

    On Friday night and Saturday, I found myself in need of some social hibernation.  I’ve been very busy for a while, and I’ve been going out a lot.  It’s been a lot of fun, but I started to realize I wasn’t getting the usual down time I need as an introvert.  Even walking to the post office on Saturday found me listening to music, hunching my shoulders, and keeping my eyes on the ground.  It was weird.  But I’m feeling better now.  But because of it, I ended up not making it to the graphic novel club meeting.  This month’s selection was volume 1 & 2 of Sweet Tooth, which I thought was kind of a half-assed Y: The Last Man.

Laura:  The film begins in the aftermath of the murder of a beautiful young woman.  A cop begins to piece together the life of the dead woman, feeling out various suspects.  The characters are all interesting and strange, letting the various actors really bite into the parts, cranking up the eccentricities.  Interestingly, though I saw this movie some time ago, and I’m about as taken with Gene Tierney as all the men in this film, this wasn’t the movie that captured me.  That was Leave Her to Heaven.  Still, seeing it again, I understand why this was the movie for so many.  She’s gorgeous, obviously, but she’s got that elusive something that makes her more than her pretty face.  Dana Andrews is a bit drab in the film, but that seems to accentuate the uniqueness of the others, to let them all stand out against his gray.  Good twists and turns.  This is a must watch, for sure.

    As Laura wrapped up, I realized TCM was showing three Gene Tierney & Dana Andrews films, so I hung around and stayed up past my old-man bed time to watch them.  I had seen Where the Sidewalk Ends many years ago, and never even heard of The Iron Curtain.

Where the Sidewalk Ends:  “Where the devil am I?  I keep coming and going.”  Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney again, in an Otto Preminger film.  Andrews has a lot more to do in this film than in Laura.  Tierney’s role is fairly thankless, but she’s perfectly good in her part.  It’s more on the hard boiled side of Noir, with a brutal cop getting into some trouble with some crooks, and creating a lot of his own problems by not coming clean when he’s got the chance.  Honesty is the best policy.  Of course, things get way, way out of hand.  A lot of good character actor performances in this one.

The Iron Curtain:  Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews team up in another film, this time portraying Soviets assigned to Canada during the frigid seasons of the Cold War.  This is one of those semi-documentary type films that were oddly popular for a while.  Frequently, the narrator jumps in to recite facts and keep the narrative moving.  I really enjoy Dana Andrews in this.  The ending is a bit unsatisfactory, and I think, due to that ‘documentary’ voiceover, it doesn’t age well.  Still, a good time capsule of the early days of the Cold War.

    I’ve got to get more serious about reading.  I’m into too many books right now, and have too many more I’m hungry to read.  One of these days, I’ll have to sit down and do another graphic novel reading day, maybe crank through the B.P.R.D. 1940s books Brad loaned me.


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