Monday, July 14, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (7/6/14-7/12/14)

    Not a lot of movies this week.  But I got some in, and some reading.  I also did a lot of prep work for some stories.  I just haven’t been writing the nitty-gritty of anything (outside of this blog) for some time.  It’s something I feel the desire to get my head back into, but I’ve been out of practice for so long.  It’s tough.

    On Sunday, I read Storm Dogs and Pretty Deadly.  One was good, the other kind of sucked.  Because of another book I’ve been reading, and not enjoying, I think I’ve been finding other things to read.  Probably the reason behind my recent spate of comic trades.

The Last Performance:  There are a few interesting bits in this film, but the story is kinda meh.  The main attraction is Conrad Veidt, and for fans, it’s nice to see him working his mojo.  The man can stare, with the best of ‘em.  Other than Veidt fans, though, this film holds little to recommend it.

The Ballad of Narayama:  Gorgeously produced, this film has the artificiality of a stage play, but the magical wonder of film.  The story looks at the simple life of country villagers who try to scrape out a living from the unforgiving mountains.  And one lone old lady, ready to take a spiritual (and suicidal) pilgrimage to a nearby holy mountain.  It’s also nice to see a film that feels like it’s set during that near-myth era of samurai, that has nothing to do with samurai at all.  Not a sword drawn in the whole film.  Quite good.

Pickup on South Street:  Though the ending is a bit wonky, this movie about a two-bit pick-pocket getting more than he bargained for is some classic Noir fodder.  A dizzy dame, some fist-happy cops, double dealing commies, and a heap of trouble.  Plus, Widmark is on fire as a relentless prick.  It’s wonderful.

Persona:  More the sort of thing I always thought of when I heard the name Ingmar Bergman, this meditation on the masks we present, the versions of ourselves we use when we’re around other people is challenging.  But it’s also captivating.  Typically gorgeous; the location work, the lighting, the whole thing looks amazing.  It’s charged with eroticism, but also with gut level discomfort.  I’ll certainly be revisiting this film, but it’s not one to just pop in on a whim.

The Robe:  The film assumes you already know the story of Jesus.  Probably not a bad assumption, but I always have a bit of a problem with a movie that makes assumptions like that.  It’s interesting, and there are some good performances.  But for a film that is so much about converting to being a follower of Jesus, there is precious little in the way of explanation as to why someone would.  Spiritual quest wise, this film lacked some important content.

Glengarry Glenn Ross:  Another of my cinematic resolutions for 2014 down.  The sad, stressful life of salesmen is presented Mamet style in this punchy little film.  Looking at it, you’d think it was made for TV.  But what it lacks in visual flourish or polish, it makes up for in performance and script.  Alan Arkin and Jack Lemmon are both very good.  But Jonathan Pryce and Al Pacino really had me.  Pacino is such a huckster, and Pryce such a sad-sack mark.

    Friday night, we headed out to The Alamo to check out the new Apes film.  Before the theater, though, we ate at Nando’s Peri Peri.  I’m definitely going to have to go back when there’s more time.  Because that shopping area is starting to open up, there are a lot of people, and the restaurant was pretty full.  I enjoyed the food, but didn’t feel like I had time to really enjoy the place or think about what I wanted to eat, or any of that.  Next time.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:  Humans have mostly died in plagues and wars.  The apes, after having escaped into the woods at the end of the previous film, have set themselves up a new society and are doing pretty well.  Things can’t last, as the human survivors need resources that lay in Ape territory.  Here’s the thing.  This movie is pretty good.  And all the stuff around the apes is quite good.  The problem is that the human characters are kind of ridiculously stock, and at no point did I care about them or their plight.  The apes were interesting, and I’d have liked the film to focus much more on them.  In fact, completely on them.  I could have used way, way less human parts.  Visually impressive and well made, it’s a good film.  Maybe even a really good film.  But it misses the mark on being a great film.

The Last Wave:  I wasn’t in the right headspace to watch this film.  So, while I recognize that there were some interesting aspects, and I liked the performances, I just couldn’t get into it.  I think I’m going to have to revisit it while I’m more focused.  There are some powerful images, for sure.  And I like the Michael Mann movie type soundtrack.  I have a feeling this is a movie I'll really enjoy on second viewing, when my head is on straight.

True Detective: Season 1:  “You are like the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch.”  This is a beautifully made program, with lots of excellent elements.  The last episode spoils the milk a bit, but the overall show is quite good.  I love the references to Robert W. Chambers and his King in Yellow.  I wish it had gone a bit further.  I wanted to see the mythology of the murders explored.

    Saturday night, I forced myself to push through Aya: Life in Yop City, a book I’d been laboring through.  I had to skim much of the latter half of the book, as nothing seemed to happen, and that was becoming a bit much.  Sad, because the art was interesting and vibrant, and I thought the subject matter and setting could be really interesting.  I still do; but this isn’t.  I was fully planning on writing a review of this book.  But the more I look at it sitting there, the less of a crap I give, and the less I feel the need to revisit it.  We'll be discussing it this coming Friday night, and other than some variation of 'YAWN!' I've got no idea what to say.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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