Sunday, July 27, 2014

Matt’s Weeks in Dork! (7/13/14-7/19/14 & 7/20/14-7/26/14)

    Due to a technical difficulty, I present two weeks…


    On Sunday, my lady and I headed in to DC to see the National Building Museum and its human sized maze.  An informative tour and a nice exhibit on House & Home.  But darn it, that maze was cool.  Mazes have always been a fascination, and getting to go into one was a treat.  Part of me would love to do one much, much larger.  From there we went to The Hamilton (where I felt distinctly under dressed) for a nice brunch, and then to E Street, where we saw Life Itself.  A good day in DC.

Life Itself:  This portrait of the famous populist movie critic Roger Ebert does a fine job of showing the man behind the face.  Not all one thing or another, a character, and a great ambassador of film.  His story feels like one of those old time movies, where a plucky young kid gets a dream job and has a meteoric rise, with the usual pitfalls of wine and women, and the eventual triumph.  But there’s more to it than that, as there always is.  And telling his life story, intercut with the story of his death, the ravaging cancer that would claim him, bit by bit, until it finished him off, was poignant and heartbreaking, but also uplifting and dare I say it, a bit inspiring.  A colorful character with an interesting life.  And a documentary well worth seeking out, especially (but not exclusively) for movie buffs.

The Lego Movie:  This cute CGI film is a lot of fun, occasionally very clever, and perfectly enjoyable.  It’s not amazing.  But it’s good.  I like the story, I like the voice work, and though heavy handed, I like the message.  If you have kids, this is a good one, as there’s plenty for an adult to enjoy, too.

    Friday night we met for the graphic novel club, where we discussed Aya: Life in Yop City.  I think only one person hated it, nobody seemed to love it, but a few enjoyed it enough to want to read on.  I didn’t hate it, but certainly have no plans to read any more.

    On Saturday evening, Brad and I headed over to Wolf Trap to see 2001 with live music.  This was my second time to the venue, which I’m not in love with.  But it was certainly better than I remembered.  I suppose I can see the charm of sitting on the lawn, though I don’t think I would be well suited for it, with my gimpy legs.

2001:  Just a darned amazing film.  I’ve written about it many times before.  What I’ll say this time is that seeing it, projected on a big screen, with live orchestral accompaniment was a whole new experience.  Because so little dialog happens, and when it does, it’s not with music, this movie is sort of like a silent film, witch lends itself to live music.  When I saw Casablanca with live music, there were issues because of the constant score and the original mono recording.  This was much better.  And seeing it with a thousand or so people…really something.  People nervously or knowingly laughing when Hal starts to crack.  Kinda amazing.


    So, on Sunday, my computer had some rather profound technical difficulties, taking me not just offline, but off writing in any serious way.  I got some more reading done, and some more movie watching, but I also had kind of a busy week.

In the Mood for Love:  Gorgeously shot, wonderfully dreamy, this romance doesn’t play the way one would expect.  It feels like you’re constantly watching surreptitiously, voyeuristically as two people come together, expressed in brief moments, looks, and seemingly innocent encounters.  Where some of Wonk Kar Wai’s films have a frantic, hand-held feel to their cinematography, this is shot wonderfully still and painting-like.

Under the Skin:  Upon second viewing, my problems with the film’s finale abated somewhat.  I think I get the idea more, so it doesn’t bug me as much.  Whatever the case, this is a fascinating film, a science fiction/horror movie with no exposition.  At no point does the script give you any information.  You just watch as things happen and are forced to make up your own mind.  There are some beautiful moments, some haunting scenes, some surreal and some wonderful things.  It’s not going to be for everyone.  But I really like it.  The closest thing I can compare it to is the rather obvious The Man Who Fell to Earth, but I was reminded of recent weirdly quiet films like Only God Forgives, too.

Fanfan La Tulipe:  France’s answer to Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, this light hearted swashbuckling adventure film is charming and fun.  Nothing too serious.  Nothing too heavy.  Pretty women, handsome men, daring-do, and some humor for color.  Good times.

    I read the second volume of Prophet, which continues to amp up the Dune-type insanity.  I’m really loving how crazy this book is.  Can’t wait to see where it all ends up.

How to Train Your Dragon 2:  There are some bits near the end that I wasn’t enamored of, but overall, this is a pretty good sequel to the surprisingly good How to Train Your Dragon.  I like the cast of characters and the setting created.  The animation is quite good.  And they do a fantastic job of giving the dragons, particularly Toothless, a great deal of personality.  These are the kinds of fantasy films I’d have gone absolutely mad for as a lad (and still dig as an old man).  And the comic relief doesn’t suck.

The Innocents:  A well shot and creepy horror film that adds little to the genre, The Innocents is perfectly watchable.  If you’re in the mood for something like The Haunting, this is a good option.  The performances are good and the mood is thick.  The story is a bit blah, but what do you expect.  Ghost stories, especially haunted house stories, all pretty much play out the same way.

Bluebeard:  If it wasn’t for the totally exploitative use of hunting footage, where we’re shown real animals of various types really getting shot and killed, I would be singing this film’s praises.  Excepting that, it’s campy fun of the highest order.  Richard Burton is so far over the top you have to wonder if he even knew there was a top.  The women are pretty, the clothes are optional, and the comedy is weirdly good.  Again, if it wasn’t for the real animal killing footage, I think I’d have run right out and bought a copy.

    On Friday afternoon, I read the new humorous book, Fun with Kirk and Spock, a parody of the old Dick and Jane books.  It's very cute and funny.  I love me some classic Trek.

The Golden Goose:  Not one of the better German folk tale adaptations I’ve seen, this one is more annoying than good.  There are some good bits, and it teaches (as fairy tales do) some valuable lessons.  But the songs kind of suck, and the constant laughing gets creepy quick.

Elena and Her Men:  I’ve liked several Jean Renoir films, and I love Ingrid Bergman.  But this movie never got my attention.  I didn’t connect.  I suppose it’s cute, and there are some good scenes.  However, I never became invested in the characters or the story.  And honestly, I didn’t really like Bergman in it.

Demetrius and the Gladiators:  Possibly more ham-fisted than The Robe, and sadly lacking in Richard Burton, this OK sequel does feature a good performance from William Marshall and some gladiator fighting.  Not much else, sadly.

    Co-Dork Brad is at the San Diego Comic Con, sending reports back.  So far, the two most interesting tidbits to come out of the con are about the Godzilla sequel that’s going to feature Mothra, Rodan, and my favorite all time kaiju, King Ghidorah, and that there are plans to do a Skull Island film.  My hope is that this is a return adventure to the birthplace of King Kong, and not some kind of prequel or reboot.  There’s no reason the story shouldn’t be a straight-up sequel to 2005’s Kong.  And one of my complaints about that movie (which I love) was that they didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring the island and its history/mythology.  Fingers crossed.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla:  I like the story of the disgraced soldier who redeems herself through piloting Mechagodzilla.  And this one has some pretty cool fighting.  But anyone who’s survived trashy 80s sci-fi/horror films knows, you don’t use the body parts of killers when you make your killing machines.  Don’t do it.

    I didn’t finish it, as it’s kind of like reading the Bible (or worse, 1960s Marvel comics), but I’ve plowed through a good deal the first volume of Jack Katz’s First Kingdom.  I like it a lot.  There’s something magical about it, like golden age science fiction, classic myth, and some nameless something.  Very cool.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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