Monday, May 12, 2014
Matt’s Week in Dork! (5/4/14-5/10/14)
I started off the week by reading some of the comics from Free Comic Book Day. First up was Guardians of the Galaxy, which is pretty much just an introduction to the characters for anyone who isn’t familiar. OK. Fine. There are also short intros for a Thanos story and a Spider-Man story. Thanos certainly interests me; Spider-Man, not so much. The free issue of Transformers VS. G.I. Joe by Tom Scioli. Awesomely wacky. It takes all the weird silliness of the cartoons, then dials it back to a sort of Silver Age crazy. I love the weird tech, the nutty action. It’s a blast. Not a bad way to start the week. As you’ll see, this week I had a lot more time for watching movies than I’ve had most of the time recently.
The Legend of Hercules: I really do like that there have been a bunch of Greek myth based films of late. But, when you get a bunch, you’re gonna get some dogs, and this is one. That said, it’s better than Pompeii or 300: Rise of an Empire. Kallen Lutz is a beefy drone, the pseudo-300 style slow-mo action, and the generally bland story does nothing to make the film work. It’s also not super exciting. Still, not as bad as I expected. That said, the fact that he doesn’t kill the female gladiator seemed extremely condescending. She fights in the arena, she’s worthy of a fighter’s death.
The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid: Oh, man, this is terrible. I didn’t know it was Italian before I started. If the idea of an Italian family film about a sheriff from the American South and an alien child fills you with existential terror, don’t worry. It means you’re still sane. Everything you’re thinking. It’s that, plus crap.
Vampyr: Wonderfully weird and experimental, this early vampire film is dripping with atmosphere. It’s also fascinating to see a very, very early talkie, where it’s shot and feels like a silent film, but has occasional bits of dialog spoken. The lead actor would have made a great H.P. Lovecraft, too. One to see for fans of horror and fans of early film.
Wandering Ginza Butterfly: There isn’t anything wrong with this film, I guess. I simply never cared about it. Crime and ugliness in Japan. Tough people doing rough business. But, meh.
Die Fabre: An excellent adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s awesome story The Color Out of Space, this German film does a good job of modifying location and time, without loosing any of the important aspects of the story. It’s very low budget, but it’s well made. I love the way the story builds and the way various times weave together. And boy, a bunch of the stuff during the climax is unsettling. Well worth seeking out. These independent films seem to be the way to go with Lovecraft. No unnecessary love interest addition, and a willingness to stick with the concepts.
Monday night, and it was off to the Alamo to join the NOVA Roller Derby folks for a fund raiser, and a fun movie. I won a Robocop (remake) poster. So, you know that’s going up on the wall (if by ‘wall’ I mean in a tube to be given away as a gag gift at some point). B-Movie Bingo was a lot of fun, and the whole night had a very up-beat, party atmosphere. A great night out.
Unholy Rollers: Some good old fashioned sleaze. An unlikable sociopath inexplicably becomes the star of a roller derby team, and mayhem follows. Boobs, skates, and a fat lady with a whip. Bad hair, colorful outfits, and the editing skills of a young Marty Scorsese. Actually, some of the skating footage, whatever else you might have to say about the film, is quite good. And the whole thing is a blast to watch. Nutty, but a blast.
Jodorowsky’s Dune: Alejandro Jodorowsky is, for lack of a better word, insane. And it’s kind of wonderful. This is the chronicle of the time he maybe almost sort of made a film version of Dune. Had it happened, he would have beat Star Wars to the punch, and maybe, just maybe, changed the way science fiction film was made…Or not. While it’s a wonderful vision of what might have been, I tend to think the reality would have been less thrilling than the possibility. Although, that said, if someone were to use his amazing book of storyboards and combine them with modern technologies…well, I don’t know that the result would be like LSD without dropping LSD, but it’d sure be interesting to see. And while that ‘what might have been’ possibility is haunting, what did happen because of Dune’s failure was pretty amazing. I keep comforting myself by repeating that had Dune come together, there would have been no Alien. And on a completely personal note, there would have been no Metabarons, which was one of the key books to get me into comics, so I might have never done so. This documentary is very entertaining, and filled with odd cats. There’s plenty of samples of the weirdness that might have been, and the later films that drew upon it (Star Wars, Flash Gordon, etc.). A must see for fans of the weird, for fans of science fiction, and for those interested in the ‘what ifs?’ of film.
Lemora: A Child’s Tale of The Supernatural: Boring and awkward. What a great combination. There are a few cool bits in this middle of the road, typical low budget 70s Satanist/Vampire film. Unfortunately, they don’t nearly make up for the dull script and bland acting. This is what The Devil’s Rain should, by right, be (as opposed to the entertaining movie it is). But this film doesn’t have the shockingly good production design and cinematography that elevate it beyond its worth. You can skip Lemora. You’ve seen it a dozen times before in better films.
Islam: Empire of Faith: For an introduction and very surface overview of Islam and its history, this isn’t bad. It’s perhaps, a bit too gentle, a bit too glossy. But a lot of these documentaries, particularly those that deal extensively with currently active religions, tend to be a little more forgiving than perhaps they should be. It also perpetuates a duality that feels like a hold-over of Victorian history, the East Vs. West debate. The idea that Islam evolved separately from Western culture is simply wrong. It is another part of Western culture, coming out of the same region as Judaism and Christianity, steeped in the learning of the Greeks. None of these things happened in a vacuum. This documentary didn’t get me as fired up about reading more, perhaps because it glossed over a lot of stuff I’ve already read a good deal about(?). But if you’re unfamiliar with the history of Islam, this is probably a good primer.
Monsters: This is what Kaiju films can be. The monsters are an oppressive force that hovers over the lives of the main characters. The world is haunted what has happened, shell shocked by the trauma of violence and horror beyond common reckoning. It also shows the infinite ability of humans to get used to things. I hope the director’s new film, the second attempt at doing Godzilla in the States, is as good.
A Knight’s Tale: I thought I was the protector of Italian virginity. Ah, well. I do respect filmmakers for picking a style or an idea and going for it. In the case of this movie, they do go for it. A rock & roll, medieval comedy. All right. Sure. A good cast and some funny bits. Unfortunately, the story is frightfully uninspired, with every plot beat exactly where it is expected. It’s cute, and light hearted, and that’s OK. I just wish it was a bit less paint by number.
Godzilla VS the Sea Monster (aka Ebirah-Horror of the Deep): A bunch of weirdoes come across some evil doers and a giant lobster monster. What to do? Obviously, try to wake up Mothra. But will that be enough? I enjoy the jungle island adventure stuff. It feels like there were a few attempts at world building, though I don’t think Red Bamboo ever came back. Not one of the best, but watchable and fun.
Rio Bravo: “Thanks, Dude.” Another of my Cinematic Resolutions for 2014, this classic Western has received a good deal of praise from folks, even from those who (like me) can’t stand John Wayne. I’ll give him this, he does honestly seem to be making an attempt to act in this one. He fails. But he seems to be giving it a go, and that counts for something. Otherwise, I do like the rest of the cast and the odd sort of siege story.
Saturday afternoon, I finished up reading Asterios Polyp for the graphic novel club. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it. Visually, it was very interesting, and there were some bits I liked a lot. But there were things I didn’t like, too.
Godzilla VS the Smog Monster (aka Godzilla VS Hedorah): “Save the Earth!!!” One of the most pecceulier of the original films, it also features the what has to be one of the grossest of his foes, Hedorah. Spawned from an alien seed, birthed in human pollution, this giant transforming blob of corruption is nasty and disgusting. Pretty crazy stuff. And the music is nuts.
Godzilla on Monster Island! (aka Godzilla VS Gigan): “Are you people sure you’re all sane?!” I love the crazy alien invasion. I love the use of King Ghidorah and the introduction of Gigan. And I really like the human investigators. However, I don’t like the talking monsters. Part of me would love to see the cosmic side of the Godzilla franchise opened up. Several of the kaiju are not of Earthly origin. Alien invasions aren’t uncommon. What’s going on out there in space?
Dawn of the Dragon Slayer: A perfectly OK medieval style fantasy film, this isn’t particularly good or interesting, but it’s serviceable, and in the realm of low budget schlock (SyFy, Asylum, etc.), that’s saying something. There’s nothing about it that says, ‘rush right out and see me,’ but if it’s on, you could do worse. If you’re really in a fantasy mood, and you don’t feel like watching Dragonslayer or Beastmaster again, this is OK.
Charleston Parade (aka Sur Un Air De Charleston): This early science fiction short film by director Jean Renoir goes right for the discomfort zone by featuring an actor in blackface. Oh, no. I think there’s actually a not horrendous (?) message about civilization and exploitation at the heart of the movie… but the blackface. Maybe I’m being too generous, and there is no message. Or the message isn’t good. I don’t know. Again, the whole blackface thing pretty much throws me (and is even weirder, because it’s a black actor under the make-up).
And that was it. Another good week.