Sunday, July 24, 2011

Matt’s Week in Dork! (7/17/11 to 7/23/11)

Feed the Machine!

    While my fellow Dork Brad may be having one of the dorkiest weeks ever at the San Diego ComicCon, mine has been pretty tame.  I've seen some pictures.  It looks like a wild time.  Mostly, I’ve been trying to stay out of the heat.  Sadly, I’ve done almost no reading this week at all.  Anyway, first up, the movies…

Archangel:  The shadow of Stalin reaches into the modern day in this mystery about a lost notebook and a 50 year old secret about to raise it’s head.  Daniel Craig is typically charming as the bulldog historian looking for the truth.  And Ekaterina Rednikova is the perfect mix of hard and sad as the young law student and prostitute.  The location shooting in Moscow and Latvia are both beautiful and depressing.  The script drives the action along fairly quickly and keeps interesting throughout the three episodes.  Overall, a solid mystery, steeped in the horrors of the Cold War.

The Last Unicorn:  “There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.”  That certain strange brand of fantasy that was common in the 70s and early 80s produced this strange little classic of non-Disney animation.  Pretty good voice work and a solid story keep things moving along well.  Good family entertainment, with plenty for old and young to enjoy.  Probably a good companion film for Flight of Dragons.

Cedar Rapids:  The adventures of a mild mannered dork when he goes out into the wide, wide world.  It’s interesting, playing with expectations while remaining fairly true to genre standards.  The actors and the characters they play are interesting and less two dimensional than one would expect.  Not amazing, but good and good for some laughs.

Jason and the Argonauts:  Ray Harryhausen’s amazing special effects aside, this is a rip-roaring mythological adventure film of the highest caliber.  Though the Arabian Nights setting of the Sinbad films is more my speed, this movie makes me want more good Greek myth movies.  There is a magic in these films that stands the test of time.  Grade A entertainment.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules:  More comic misadventures from the Wimpy Kid, his friends, and his awful brother.  It’s cute.  Solid kid-friendly goofiness.  It’s not quite as good as the first film, but still enjoyable.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad:  Though I prefer John Philip Law’s performance as Sinbad (in The Golden Voyage), I think this is probably the strongest of the Harryhausen Sinbads.  A dastardly villain, vile monsters, and thrilling heroics make the legends come alive.  And, it’s got one seriously awesome score by maestro Bernard Herrmann.  A thrill for Harryhausen fans, Arabian Nights fans, and probably anyone with a pulse.

The Thing:  Probably my favorite horror movie of all time, The Thing is an excellent thriller with a fantastic cast of actors playing interesting and memorable characters.  The script is tight, the music haunting, and the setting captures the essence of seclusion.  It really has everything a good horror film needs.  Everyone is in top form.  A must.

Speed Racer:  Like a role of fruit Lifesavers launched out of a neon confetti canon, this movie is a rainbow assault on the senses.  Yet, at its heart is a surprisingly heartwarming tale of brothers and of the love between a father and son.  Between the Technicolor explosions, wacky wipes, and garish design, the film manages to be fun, exciting, and engaging.  Like a cartoon brought to life (which it is), it plays fast and loose with physics and realism, yet rings true at the end of the day.  Plus, Matthew Fox is just super cool as Racer X.  If you enjoy the twisted humor of Robert Rodriguez’s family films, like Spy Kids, try this one out.

Tron: Legacy:  The original film was groundbreaking in its sense of visual wonder and conceptualization of a digital world.  In many ways, it helped shape our ideas of virtual reality and computer graphics.  It paved the way for many later films, though it was not received especially well when it was released.  This new film is a fantastic extrapolation of the original.  With a driving score by Daft Punk, stunning visuals, and a fast paced story that manages to keep its heart intact, it does an excellent job of world building that feels true to the original, while embracing modern aesthetics.  The lead character, son of the original hero, is a bit grating for the first ten minutes, but grew on me quickly once he entered the Grid.  Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return, which was a real treat.  And the film looks amazing.  My only complaint was the wonky looking ‘young’ Jeff Bridges.

Metropolis (The Complete Version):  Finally.  Finally.  One of my all time favorite films complete for the first time since its brief original run.  For this fan, this is truly an amazing thing to see.  Whole subplots are restored, the rhythm is smoother, characters have more depth.  I was especially glad to see the character of The Thin Man played by the ophidian Fritz Rasp.  In the earlier cuts I’d seen, he had but a brief appearance, and was completely unmemorable.  But I ‘discovered’ him in two other Fritz Lang films, Women in the Moon and Spies, and became quite a fan.  Now he’s back as the predator spy.  And there’s so much more.  The relationship between the senior Fredersen and the mad Rotwang makes more sense.  And young Freder’s story makes more sense as he descends into the depths of the city to find his fellow men and women crushed beneath the weight of the great towers.  I really can’t sing the praises of this enough.  If you’ve never seen Metropolis, now is the time.  If you’ve seen a cut version, see it again.

    Honestly, that’s about all I’ve managed to get in this week.  I haven’t been listening to much new music.  I did get the idea of picking up the guitar again put in my head.  I do kind of miss it.  I’d like to get into something creative outside of writing.  Painting, music, something.  But we’ll see.

    I guess I’ll leave you with a song that always puts a smile on my face.


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