In spite of some difficulties, I’m loving life right now. This week, I even managed to get in some good Dork living around the other stuff.
All You Need is Kill (aka Edge of Tomorrow): With a good amount of humor and plenty of balls to the wall action, this science fiction adventure film was a pleasant Summer Blockbuster. Unusually, the fast cutting and hand-held camera work was good. Tom Cruise, for all his wackiness off camera, is still a charming dude. And Emily Blunt is awesome. Truth be told, I wish she’d been the star of the film. She’s a close second in an Obi Wan Kenobi sort of way. The Groundhog Day storytelling works well and the overall vibe of the film is great. I think the ending could have been better. But it’s not bad. Well worth checking out. Give me more of these, and less Transformers/Avatar type movies. Give me movies where the effects help tell the story, not where they take the place of the story
Girly: Super boring. Super British. It’s another movie about upper-class twits going crazy and being evil. There was a cinematic epidemic of this sort of thing in the 60s and 70s, and this is a lackluster entry. If Steed & Peele had shown up half way through, things might have gotten interesting. They did not.
On Monday night, I went with Ben and Nick to a place I’d never been to before, and frankly, probably never otherwise would have gone to. Hooters. So, here’s the thing. Every time anyone brings up Hooters, someone says ‘they’ve got great wings.’ I love wings. And it’s certainly not that I’m put off by beautiful women in skimpy outfits. But somehow (well, I think the "how" is obvious), Hooters has always had a certain something about it, in the cultural zeitgeist, that I found off-putting without ever actually going. So, we went and yes, the wings are great. I got all-you-can-eat, and made it worth the money, eating three plates. The best were the lemon & pepper. I want to go back and try all the other flavors I didn’t get to (there are like 10). That said, the place has a very, very weird vibe. It feels like an uncomfortable mix of family restaurant, sports bar, and strip club. No, the women aren’t stripping, but their outfits are so out of keeping with the rest of the place that you can’t help but notice. Whatever the case, I had a good time and ate some good food. And yeah, I’ll probably go back, because I want more wings. In stead of Hooters, though, they might want to call it Wedgies.
The Best Years of Our Lives: I found this film pleasantly honest. The lives of three WWII vets get complicated when the return home and try to pick up their old lives. One is haunted, one is wistful, an done is physically damaged. Each one faces his own set of demons, each one must find his own way, while forming a bond of friendship. It’s a good movie about men, and about soldiers. For a film made in 1946, I found it’s frank look at the damages of war to be refreshing and surprising. This would be an excellent capper to a WWII movie marathon. It is rather long for its type. It isn’t an epic, but it’s nearly three hours long. However, it’s not boring, and well worth the time.
What’s a little apocalyptic downpour? Wednesday night, we went to the Alamo, and were treated to a massive thunderstorm with out Spaghetti Western. About 20 minutes from the end, the power went out for a bit, giving folks a break to get up and walk around. But all was well, and the show went on.
For a Few Dollars More: Dare I say it? Is this the best of the Man With No Name trilogy? I kind of think it is. Everything works here. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s violent. The music is flippin’ amazing. Lee Van Cleef is so danged good. And that finale? Awesome. Straight-up awesome. I saw these films when I was a boy of maybe 12 or 13, and I didn’t really get them. Though I knew I was seeing something different from the ‘black hat-white hat,’ John Wayne strutting Westerns I’d disliked on Saturday afternoon TV, I didn’t get what I was seeing. A quarter century later, and I get it. Darned fine stuff.
The Cranes are Flying: Russia. World War II. Yup, this film is super depressing. However, it’s also beautifully shot and filled with uplifting moments and relatable characters. With a strong anti-war message, and a weirdly non-political (at least, non-Communist VS Capitalist) spirit, I’m not surprised that this went on to international success when it came out. The camera work alone is more than worth the price of admission. Forget Alfonso Cuaron’s gimmicky long-shots. The camera here is an intimate partner of the actor in a way I’ve rarely seen.
The Horror of Party Beach: Ultra-campy, and a ton of fun, this movie about a bunch of kids (played by very adult actors) having fun in the sun while being menaced by terrible looking fish-creatures (who are really Zombies!) this is a must see. The MST3K boys took their turn at it, but honestly, it’s just as much fun without ‘em. If you’re in the mood to watch a stupid movie with friends, this is a great choice. Check it out. And stay groovy!
The Curse of the Living Corpse: Roy Scheider and Candace Hilligoss in a movie together? OK. Sign me up! Unfortunately, that’s the best part of the movie, right there. No, not them in the film, but that they were cast in the film. The film is stupid. But worse, it’s boring. Other than some laughably bad acting, there’s nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.
Saturday morning, I finished Authority, the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy. Pretty darned good. Can’t wait ‘til the third volume comes out in September. Saturday afternoon, even though I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the book club, I finished off volume 1 of Preacher (thank goodness, I didn’t have to suffer through volume 2). I know. People love it. But I am not one of those folks. This was my second try reading it, and while the first time (about 10 years ago) I found it boring and didn’t finish the trade, this time around I outright hated it. The further in I read, the more I hated almost everything about it. I won’t be writing an extended review, so I’ll just say here that I thought the dialog seemed to have been written by a 13 year old boy trying his little heart out to be shocking. The characters are all cardboard. And the plot twists range from obvious to stupid. I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes. But I don’t care. I got the same gut-level hate feeling I got from Saga, and like Saga, have to stare at the people telling me it’s great with a slack-jawed, dumbfounded look. There’s obviously something I’m missing, and nobody has been able to explain to me what it is.
Colour From the Dark: Another adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space. It’s not too bad. Fairly well produced (though the footage looks made for TV, the editing and composition are more ‘theatrical’), with some good creepy bits, it does fall a bit too heavy onto the Good VS Evil fallacy that is so wrong with Lovecraft. The actors are a mixed bag. And considering that it is supposed to take place in WWII era Italy, the fact that there are so many different accents is a bit weird. Not nearly as good as Die Farbe, it’s still worth a watch, and better than many adaptations of the author’s work.
Riddick: I know, I know. I enjoy these Riddick movies. I liked Pitch Black a lot. I thought Chronicles of Riddick, for all its many faults, was a lot of fun. I enjoyed Dark Fury, the animated short bridge film between the first two. And I like this one. This third feature is more in keeping with the original, and not just because the latter part of the film is something of a carbon copy of the first, but because it feels like it’s set more in an Alien type universe, as opposed to a Star Wars type universe (as Chronicles of Riddick did). I really like the first half hour, where he’s kind of Robinson Crusoe on a desert world. Once the Mercs show up, it’s not as good, but still watchable. I’ve said this of several films in the last couple of years, but this is the sort of thing that should be a dime a dozen these days. Mid-level, entertaining science fiction films. Yes, I’d love for there to be great science fiction films. But in between the great ones, I want to see a dozen or so of these more pulpy efforts. This movie also reminds me that there’s no valid reason for not doing a live action Warhammer 40,000 film.
Oblivion: My second viewing of this film, and darn it, I just really like it. Absolutely, many of the ideas, if not all, are lifted from other science fiction films and books. But so what? My problem isn’t with lifting ideas, it’s with using them poorly, and this film isn’t guilty of that. The movie is a feast for the eyes and the ears, with stunning visuals, gorgeous location shooting, and an excellent semi-electronica score. Like Moon before it, Oblivion raids sci-fi of the 60s and 70s, and comes out with some very watchable stuff.
Chef: This is definitely what the internet has termed ‘food porn.’ But it’s also a Capra-like comedy about a guy who falls on hard times, then learns valuable lessons about life and fatherhood (with WAY more swearing than Capra). On occasion, it does stretch credibility (like, everyone talks about needing money, but they all seem to have enough to do whatever they want at any given time, including quitting good jobs with no prospects…and I’m not just talking about El Jefe). And the very end? OK, that seemed silly. However, the movie has a great deal of heart, and the cast sells the familiarity of close friends. In fact, the scenes between Favreau, Leguizamo, and Cannavale feel more true to what men are like without women around than most movies manage. Like The Big Night, this movie makes you want to do a serious restaurant crawl. I wanted to reach into the screen and eat some of everything. I never had any interest in going to Miami, New Orleans, or Texas before, but suddenly the idea of a food tour is sounding amazing.
I’m still listening to a bunch of Black Mountain. I tapped into that 70s rock/metal vibe and can’t seem to shake it. I may have to load up some Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Blu Oyster Cult this week to keep the train rolling.