Sunday, June 1, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (5/25/14-5/31/14)

    Sunday involved a lot of riding around the Northern Virginia area, seeing some parts I hadn’t seen before, and moving a bigass TV.  When I dragged my sorry butt back home, I sat down and finished Annihilation, which was really good.

Dinner at Eight:  “You’re young and fresh.  And I’m burned out.”  An all-star cast digs in to a comedy-drama about various people trying to keep it together or get it together in the post collapse world of New York City’s wealthy elite.  It’s funny and sad, in much the same way Grand Hotel was.  John Barrymore is typically charming.  It’s not as good as Grand Hotel, but it’s pretty good.

The Immigrant:  A beautiful film, with a fantastic performance from Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant is ultimately sunk by the male leads.  Be it performances or script (or a mix of the two), Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner are frustratingly uninteresting.  Phoenix is particularly bad, too.  It's like he's channeling Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront, where he's acting in one movie, while everyone else is acting in a totally different film.  I loved the world that was created, and even most of the bit parts and supporting players were quite good.  This all makes the failures of the film more pronounced.  There was a great film in this mix, but it’s lost the shuffle of love triangles and murder, and obscured by weird acting choices.  While worth watching for fans of the period, the movie is ultimately a disappointment.  It’s also part of that ‘all men are monsters; all women their victims’ subgenre that has become so tiresome.  That too could have been avoided by removing the two male angles of the love triangle.

A Fistful of Dollars:  “That’s not gonna break my heart.”  Clint Eastwood is just so darned likeably charming as the wandering gunslinger out to make a buck off two warring families.  This remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (itself an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest) finds the story transported to the Mexican/American West…by which I mean Spain.  Plenty of colorful characters, awkward dubbing, double crosses, and tough guy dialog.  And a lot of wacky killing.  The Western would never be the same.

    On Thursday night, Brad and I went back to The Alamo (we'd gone there to see A Fistful of Dollars the previous night).  This time dressed like idiots, draped inappropriately in the Flag, to see one of the most 80s films ever.  Walking up to the counter, our outfits tipped off a fellow to which movie we were going to see.  Perhaps it was a bit obvious.  And then, while we were getting ready to go into the theater, a rep from a beer company spotted us, asked to take our picture, and bought us beers (Rye of the Tiger).  Awesome.

Rocky IV:  “Whatever he hits, he destroys!”  The only Rocky film I’ve ever seen, and the only one I ever will, Rocky IV has been a weird absence in my life, now filled.  Such a wonderfully stupid, wonderfully 80s film.  Four montages?  Four?!  Fantastic.  It’s poorly shot, poorly written, and even the montages are clumsy (did I mention there are four?).  The jingoistic idiocy is palpable.  Dolph Lundgren and Brigitte Nielsen are about as Russian as Jack Kennedy.  And seriously.  What’s up with Paulie and the robot?  What’s up with Paulie and the robot?!  Excellent.  So dumb.  So awesome.

La Bete Humaine (The Human Beast):  This Jean Renoir film helps presage the Film Noir genre that would rise a few years later.  There’s even a proto-Femme Fatale.  But it’s also full of Renoir’s love of people, reveling in the everyday life of the working class.  If you’re a train person, this is some serious porn.  The train footage alone is worth the price of admission.

Witchville:  Another straight to video movie that seems like someone wrote the script based on an old D&D game.  The acting is all over the place…if that place is where bad acting lives.  The CG is typical TV level.  The costumes aren’t bad.  The action isn’t good.  Sadly, the film is just silly and goes over territory that lacks freshness.  I see so many of these movies made on very limited budgets, with limited resources, that manage to do some impressive things.  But they’re sunk in the scripting.  All the low-budget pluck and can-do spirit amounts to little if there aren’t some solid, interesting ideas at their heart.  All those great third string science fiction movies from the 80s are remembered because they combined can-do attitude with creativity.  With movies being easier than ever to get made (not saying it’s easy), creativity is too often skipped.

The Magic of Melies:  A good, informative discussion of Georges Melies and his wonderful films.  There are interviews and some recreations, as well as plenty of clips of Melies’s films, other films of the era, and photographs.  His story is a fascinating one, and very important to our understanding of film as an art form.  Movie buffs should see this, for sure.

My Fail Lady:  Rex Harrison is charmingly cruel as the language expert who decides to make a proper lady out of a low-class flower seller.  Audrey Hepburn…Well, she’s not so great as the flower seller.  The movie is fun and lavish, if a bit overlong (OK, maybe more than a bit overlong).  Several of the songs are quite good.  But I can’t get over Hepburn.  I know the movie is supposed to be somewhat broad, somewhat exaggerated, but her accent is absolutely awful, to the point of being distracting.  And they never really make her look like anything other than cute little Audrey wearing a funny costume.  Though I didn’t love the movie, Rex Harrison is enough fun that I still recommend checking it out.

    In between watching these movies, I’ve been watching more Space 1999.  Cool show.  I like how often episodes have a somewhat horror story vibe.  There’s certainly a lot of mystery and weirdness.  Other than that, I’ve just been trying to read Preacher again (limited success) and I started Authority, the sequel to Annihilation.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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