Sunday, August 3, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (7/27/14-8/2/14)

    Vacation weeks are always awesome.  I got some serious movie watching in, for the first time in a while.  And I had some adventures.  So, good times.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.:  With Mechagodzilla nearly repaired, the Twins show up and demand that he not be used, that the Godzilla bones inside him be returned to the sea.  Crazy talk.  But it’s OK.  ‘Cause they say Mothra will step in and do any kaiju crushing that need be done.  Of course, trouble is brewing, and plans go awry.

Godzilla: Final Wars:  Danged aliens.  This movie is probably the second craziest, after Invasion of Astro-Monster.  It’s kitchen sink filmmaking at its best.  Tons of monsters, aliens, super-powered mutants, a kid and his hillbilly grandfather driving around in a truck with baby-Godzilla, super-tech vehicles, and the end of the world.  It’s nuts.  Salted nuts.  And it’s a wonderful, silly send-off for the franchise as it went into retirement again.

Ossessione:  An Italian take on a classic Noir tale.  It’s pretty good, but lacks a certain panache.  Like the leads in Double Indemnity, the leads in this film are unappealing.  However, where that worked in the former, it works less in this.  The Italian setting is probably the best part, lending a familiar story some exotic elements.

The Raid 2:  So, so danged violent.  This movie is intensely brutal, in your face, gut punchingly violent.  My second viewing may not have had the visceral impact it had when I saw it in the theater, but it’s still darned nasty.  Darned nasty.

Streets of Fire:  One of the most wonderfully 80s movies out there.  It’s a half 50s/half 80s fantasy cityscape of Rock & Roll and neon.  Greasers, bikers, ex-soldiers, a rocker-girl, and a dozen other cliché characters come together on the streets to set the night on fire.  Over the top 80s music.  Crazy fashion.  And so much cheesy dialog.  It’s no surprise that this is one of my all time favorite films.

    On Tuesday, my lady and I headed to DC, where we checked out the Spy Museum, which was pretty cool.  There are a lot of interesting displays, and the James Bond exhibit is quite nice.  From there, we headed over to District of Pi for some tasty pizza.  Then we grabbed a bus instead of a metro, so we could see the city as we headed for Silver Spring.  Once there, we checked out Piratz Tavern, where I drank me a big ol’ mug of grog.  It was pretty good.  Then we hit up Quarry House Tavern where the tater tots were excellent.  And then, after all that, thanks to my lady and her awesome connections, we went over to the Regal theater to see an advanced screening of Guardians of the Galaxy (take that, Brad!).

Guardians of the Galaxy:  The latest entry in the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe is fun and exciting, tapping into the wild imagination of old-timey science fiction, while developing various elements of the setting.  The writing is cute and clever, while keeping the adventure thrilling.  The main villain for the film, Ronan The Accuser, like most of the villains Marvel has thrown at its heroes so far, is somewhat lackluster.  The Red Skull is probably the only solid villain so far, and it doesn’t look like he’s coming back (though he totally could and should).  I know they’re building up Thanos.  Hopefully that works out.  Fans of the previous Marvel films should find plenty to enjoy, but the film can easily stand alone.  I can’t wait to see the further adventures of the Guardians and how they’ll work into the stories of other Marvel heroes and villains.

Finding Vivian Maier:  The fascinating and sometimes dark life of a secretive woman is revealed after her death.  When a man discovers a huge pile of photo negatives, he begins a quest to find out about the woman who took them.  Vivian Maier emerges as a wonderful character, deeply flawed, but richly talented, who created the life she wanted for herself, even if it might not have been the best life she could have had.  The documentary doesn’t shy away from some of her darker ways, including what seems to be a descent into some kind of mental illness.  But it also celebrates her way of seeing the world, and her spirit of quiet self determination.  Like some of the most interesting self-made people, Maier’s early life has a romantic, thrilling nature, with world travel and mystery.  This film is a good glimpse at an artist doing art for herself, not for anyone else.  I respect and am somewhat awed by that.

Cuban Fury:  A cute story about a former salsa dancing champion who threw it all away after being bullied.  Now, as schlubby adult, he’s prompted to take up the shoes of fire again when he meets a woman he thinks is out of his league.  It’s pretty light and goofy, but it’s funny and charming.  If you’re in the mood for a pleasant romantic comedy, this one is pretty good.  And some of the performances are quite good.

Psychomania:  The child of a woman who has sold herself to Satan, now heads a biker gang.  Of course, like any good biker gang, they all want to burn the world down, and what better way but to kill themselves and come back as immortal hellions.  Yup.  Overall, the movie was OK, in that very 70s, British horror movie way.  But it’s not quite as sleazy as it should have been, and not as weird.  I like the feel, but it seems a bit too safe.

The Bible: In the Beginning…:  Nothing puts the madness and villainy of the Bible in focus quite so much as seeing it presented in images.  I found this to be true when looking at The Brick Bible (Bible stories done in Lego), and I find it in some of these Biblical epics.  This film takes on several of the bigger stories from the Old Testament.  And they’re awful.  The God of the Old Testament is a monster; tormenting, cruel, fickle, and beastly by any measure.  In the Old Testament, God seems to be like a schoolyard bully who grabs a victim by the hand, slaps the victim across the face with it, and yells “why are you hitting yourself?!” over and over.  And the morality of his people is suspect, at best.  The Tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark, the two angels and Lot, Abraham, etc.  Each story is peppered with cruelty, evil, and human misery, as, in the best tradition of Bronze Age mythology (the gods of the Greeks are as tormenting and petty, to be sure), the divine represents the whims and horrors of nature, and things outside of the control or ken of Mankind.  The production looks good, and the cast is the usual mix of quality you got in these big budget, ‘cast of thousands’ type films.  And everyone is Bible-acting, which is much like Shakespeare, but with less passion.  George C. Scott is, perhaps, going a bit overboard as Abraham.  It would probably make a good companion with The Ten Commandments, though I’ll not be doing that double header (because The Ten Commandments is super, super dull…sorry, but it is).

Space 1999 Season 1:  The first season of this show is quite good, with a solid, classic science fiction heart and a nice leaning toward the creepy and weird.  The cast is good, most of the episodes are good, and the effects and production design are generally pretty good, too.  There are elements of Golden Age science fiction, like the stories you’d hear on radio shows like Dimension X.  And there’s some of that very British New-Age stuff of its time.  Like The Starlost, some of the better original series Trek episodes, etc., it taps in to the types of sci-fi I love the most.

    Friday morning, I finished the first volume of The First Kingdom, which was really cool.  I don’t think I’ll be delving in to the second volume right away, as it’s kind of dense for a comic.  But I liked it, and I look forward to seeing what else happens to the various characters.

Battlestar Galactica Blood & Chrome:  I’m mostly cold on prequels.  Not that they can’t be done well, but they typically aren’t.  Case in point; Caprica, the previous Battlestar prequel series.  However, this one manages to get it right, with just enough revealed to make it worth the time, while still having some mystery.  Yes, we know William Adama makes it out.  But the rest of it?  Anyone’s game.  My hope for Battlestar in the future (if there is any future for it) is not another prequel, but something that takes the setting well into its future, exploring entirely new concepts and characters.  I doubt it’ll happen, but that’s my hope.  In the meantime, this is a fine taste for those missing the show.

Cyclone:  A dumb, low rent movie about an advanced motorcycle and some tools who want to steal it.  This is the kind of thing that drive-ins and straight to video were made for.  Probably best to watch with friends, so you can give it the MST3K treatment.

Alienator:  This one has a smidge of low budget charm, but that’s about it.  Dumb characters and a dumb Terminator rip-off script don’t do the job.  If you’re looking for another movie to riff on with your friends, give this one a go.  Otherwise, move along.  Fred Olen Ray strikes again.

    Friday night, I finally got Ben to come over again, and we sat down to what I think is one of the crazier Godzilla movies, but which he thought wasn’t nearly as weird as Godzilla Vs. Mothra.  I guess he still hasn’t gotten over the discomfort caused by the Infant Island Fairies.

Invasion of the Astro-Monster:  The series goes full on Sci-fi with this rocket ship adventure film.  After two buddies travel to Planet X and discover some aliens hiding from King Ghidorah, they strike a bargain to lend Godzilla and Rodan to their defense.  You know, that old story.  I love the 60s rocket ship story, along with the always fun Ghidorah.  Plus, the story is just nuts.  And Fuji and Glenn are solid leads.  I’d have liked to see their continuing adventures.

    On Saturday, my lady and I traveled to DC once more, where we had brunch (that’s a thing I do now) at District Commons, which was pretty cool.  There was even some kind of sporting thing on the TV that I totally didn’t get.  But muscled people were running around and hanging on rings and such.  Then we walked to Georgetown, which I find to be a very pleasant place, even if the main drag is overcrowded with people who walk as slow as humanly possible.  And there we hit up the AMC theater to watch Lucy.  A lovely day.

Lucy:  This movie is pretty darned dumb, but it’s also kind of fun.  The very premise is laughable, and they never manage to sell it, as Morgan Freeman does his best to throw some 1950s movie science at you through awkward exposition.  But I’ve always enjoyed these ascendance stories.  I think it’s the Nietzschean in me.  Luc Besson is like Sam Raimi.  He hasn’t grown or evolved as a film maker in twenty years.  So the movie feels like a hodgepodge of his earlier work, mixed with elements of the cheesy action movies he’s produced over the years (Transporter, District B13, Kiss of the Dragon, etc.), even featuring the almost signature crappy techno music playing over the car chases.

The Flying Serpent:  Thank goodness this movie was less than an hour long.  This is the kind of thing that made Mystery Science Theater 3000 so good, but is kind of tough to watch on its own.  A bunch of bad actors do the various things it takes to move along a dumb plot.  The puppetry and flying footage of the titular serpent is surprisingly good considering the quality of the rest of the movie, but not so good as to be worth taking the time to see the film.

    The ending of vacations is always a bit sad.  But this was a good one, and I’m glad of it.  Up next, I definitely have to read Beasts of Burden, our next book club selection.  Maybe this week.  And I think I’ll be going to see Guardians of the Galaxy again.  Time will tell.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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