Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (8/19/12-8/25/12)

    Not too much new this week, I guess.  Couple of chunks of downtime, so a lot of movies.

Doll Face:  Oh, spousal abuse.  Comic gold!  A huckster boyfriend (and advocate of lady punching) and a smooth talking writer vie for the attentions of a dancer with stars in her eyes.  Based on a Gypsy Rose Lee play, I’m sure she drew on her own history for some of the bits.  The excitement and romance of bury-Q revealed!

The Duke is Tops:  Lena Horne has a thousand watt smile, a sweet voice, and gams that just won’t quit (sadly covered in this film).  What she doesn’t have is an ounce of acting talent.  Still, it’s nice to see a movie from the late 30s, featuring black actors, that doesn’t feel exploitative (except that one musical number near the end), condescending, or outright hostile.  Some fascinating characters and good performances, too.  The Cats and the Fiddle were crazy, man.  The whole snake-oil sales subplot was unexpected, and kept reminding me of Carnivale.  The depression must have been a weird time to live through, beyond the obvious economic and environmental problems.  Not only did it foster the rebirth of American religious obsession (religion being the drug people run to most in times of trouble), but it seems to have been a great time for get rich quick schemes, self-discovery and creation, and outlandish personality.  Extreme and obscure fads popped out of every corner as people were desperate to escape the reality of their lives.

Hi-De-Ho:  Cab Calloway is a lady slapping cat who sings up a storm but can’t act a bit.  His violence prone lady friend isn’t having any of Cab’s new, mousy agent.  Calloway has a ton of charisma while he’s performing music, but once his band stops, so does most of his charm.  His dance during the song ‘Hey, now.’ looked familiar.  I realized it’s because he dances like me.  Did he have a time machine?  There’s a great tap number near the end, too.  And I’m not much of a tap guy.  The music in this one is awesome, but the in-between bits are kind of awkward and goofy.

Game of Thrones Season 1:  I’m generally not a huge fantasy fan, though I often do enjoy the genre in film.  And I’m really, really not a fan of the ‘death of trees’ fantasy sagas that seem to be the fashion of the day.  All these post-Tolkien, 10 book, 900 pages per volume series that cry out to the heavens for an editor.  And after watching this series, I have absolutely NO interest in reading the books.  But, this was a good show, and I can’t wait to see the next season.  It makes me wish more books (especially ones I actually do read) would get this kind of respectful treatment (Herbert’s Dune series?  Howard’s Conan?  Burroughs’ Barsoom?  Robinson’s Mars?  Oh, the possibilities).  Doing this 10-12 episode, season per book adaptation is a great option.

The Deadly Trackers:  Richard Harris faces off against Rod Taylor in this brutal, ugly, and sadly, kinda boring Western.  It’s got some really good bits.  But the whole thing meanders through a lot of ‘seen it-done it’ pilfering.  The opening 20 minutes are probably the best, setting up for some crazy revenge.  But the actual procedural (that’s how it feels) of tracking and killing the baddies gets tired fast.  Requisite Mexican buddy, prostitute, and dumb villagers are all present.  Just missing a priest, really.

Man in the Wilderness:  If nothing else, the image of a boat being hauled through the forest that opens the film is dramatic.  The bear attack…less so.  I had actually read about the events dramatized in this film during my Western Month a couple years back.  A testament to human endurance, to say the very least.  Richard Harris does a good job of looking physically destroyed, and he’s able to carry much of the film with little more than grunts and gasps.  There is some seriously beautiful scenery.  If you weren’t in the mood for a lot of dialog, this would be a good companion film to Jeremiah Johnson or maybe The Grey.  Though I guess the way it plays out is more ‘cinematic’ than the real events, but I kind of wish they’d stayed with history on this one.  The spirit is about right, but the details all wrong.

Viva Las Vegas:  I’m not the biggest Ann-Margret fan, but YOWZAH!  When she appears in those white shorts…I think my eyeballs fogged up.  Vegas is a city that holds no magic for me, either.  But showgirls are showgirls and they’re A-OK with me.  Elvis and his Italian friend’s club-crawl looking for Ann-Margret’s perfect posterior is kinda awesome.  And her swinging 60s dance number at the gym; crazy!  I’ve never had much skill reading women.  But I get what her body language was saying in that dance…and you can’t say that stuff on television (not even on FOX).  I think I need a cold shower.  The final race is horrifyingly explosive, though.  Like some crazy Car Wars action.  Everybody’s smiles and sunshine at the end, but I’m pretty sure two or three of those drivers are super dead.

The Eighteen Jade Arhats:  “Well miss, your kung fu is good.”  This dvd would make a great example of why ‘pan & scan’ is the devil’s work.  As far as the actual movie goes, I have no f’in idea what was going on here.  Lots of random dialog, lots of bad cutting and sudden zooms, and awkward sound effects like you just don’t know.  Who is anyone?  Why are they doing things?  What are they doing, exactly?  Is that Asian Julie Newmar?  I don’t know.  Somebody’s dead.  I guess some folks are trying to find out who did it.  Some old guy kills people with his palm…but I guess it wasn’t him.  Watch out for old dudes in wide hats who sound like they’re in a Don Blooth movie.  DEMON ATTACK!!!  It’s all right…they’re only men dressed up.  Birth Gate or Death Gate?!  Surprise funeral!  Monk wants a little head!  Light Kung Fu!!!  Conditional killing!!!  (Glad it’s not raining!).  Is that an apron?  Is he gonna make cookies later?  Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense.  Two thirds of the movie doesn’t actually matter.  I don’t know if it’s the transfer (which is terrible) or the way the film was shot, but it’s WAY too dark most of the time, so many fights are really hard to watch.  Not one of the better 70s chop socky movies I’ve seen.

The Creature with the Atom Brain:  A wacky scientist and an angry dude get together to use science-zombies for theft and murder.  Can a pipe smoking doctor and his hat wearing chums solve the mystery of the glowing fingerprints?  A lot of the film is pretty typical Atomic Horror stuff, with all the Mr. Wizard exposition and explanation.  But it’s well filmed and the cast is charming.  I love that when doctors get together, they sure enjoy smoking those Bob Dobbs pipes.

The Venture Bros. Season Two:  Holy crap.  What levels of bad taste and surreal madness will this show not descend to?  None that I can see.  The glory of the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend.  Brock Sampson’s sweet mullet.  A Blackula hunter and a sex changing Hunter.  Good sweet crap, this show is amazing.  And finally, the true identity of the Sovereign will be revealed!  Zoinks!

The Giant Claw:  “Atomic spit-balls.”  Is it a flying saucer?  NO!  It’s a giantass space bird and it’s coming for you.  This movie has some cool stuff in it, and some great Atomic Horror dialog.  But the creature never really works.  It looks like a strung out punk rocker mixed with a buzzard, and moves like Fiona Apple.  The movie is a little over long.  And though I know it would never be handled right, and general viewing audiences are too cynical to enjoy the madness, but part of me would love to see this remade today.

Bye Bye Birdie:  “Who wants respect from a ten year old kid?”  Conrad Birdie (basically Elvis) has been drafted, and he’s gonna make some young woman’s existence mean something before he heads off.  He’s gonna kiss her on TV.  The cult of celebrity is explored in musical numbers, as women go totally apenuts for the gyrating, gold jumpsuited rocker.  Ann-Margret plays the lucky girl, and she does that all American Teen girl thing very well.  I love how she can look so sweet and prim in one shot and so…not, in another.  And who would expect that Gone With the Wind battle aftermath joke?

Lockout:  “You want some in your mouth?”  This movie is SO Luc Besson.  And I don’t think I mean that in a good way.  Awkward humor, wacky action, somewhat fun, but not as good as it should be.  When that dumb chick from Lost and that Australian guy who can’t seem to make the right career choices end up on the worst prison ever made (in SPACE!!!), full of Luc Besson-style criminals, run by the crappiest cops this side of Keystone, you know there’s gonna be a bunch of…well, cliché behavior.  This really, really needed to be R-rated.  More Crank and, less No Escape.  It’s basically Escape from New York, but written by 12 year olds, which is too bad, because Escape from New York in Space could have made for a cool flick.  I wish more movies of this type were made.  I could watch semi-low budget space-based science fiction films all the time.  But since the few that are made aren’t usually very good, I doubt that’ll happen.

Fun in Acapulco:  “No man really wants to get married.”  Ursula Andres looks like she stepped out of a Wagnerian fantasy land.  She should be clad in golden armor with a spear in one hand and a shield in the other.  Elvis finds her in a Mexican hotel where he gets a job as a singer and lifeguard.  You know.  That old story.  There’s a lady matador, a kid more connected than Ma Bell, and a champion diver who isn’t having any of it.  Though still a lot of fun, this movie is not up to some of the King’s other films.  Still, he’s like the Superman of Song.  A song needs to get sung, and he’s on it like chronic.  Elvis is kind of a dick in this, though.  He doesn’t really treat the ladies too good.  Though I think at one point, he could have had them both at the same time if he’d asked.  What’s up with that?

Die Nibelungen- Siegfried:  Fritz Lang’s silent fantasy film is another tale about dudes who should ‘just say no’ to chicks.  A great hero and a great king become best friends, but an amazon shrew and a blabbing blond spell a bloody end to what should have been a solid friendship.  There are some pretty cool scenes in this movie, but they’re weighted pretty heavy to the first half.  Once everyone comes back to Worms and the women get to work ruining everything, it’s mostly just standing around in castle rooms and chatting.  One credibility issue the film has is the ladies.  They’re…um…well, they’re…in the words of poet Austin Powers, ‘a bit manish.’  They kind of look like the Monty Python guys in drag.  Kriemhild is supposed to be a woman of such beauty that stories of her make Siegfried kill dragons, battle ugly dwarves, achieve huge honors, and brave all kinds of danger.  Personally, I’d be looking into ‘lemon laws’ if she was what I ended up with (and that’s before the whole, ruining my epic friendship and getting me killed part).  If she made up for her lack of looks by say, not getting anyone killed, or ruining everything she touches, it would be a different story.

    How could I resist?  Found Magnum P.I. season 2 for 10 bucks.  Oh, yeah.  Love this show.  It was cool seeing Tales of the Gold Monkey’s Corky in another episode as a local, by the books Navy guy.

    I checked out the first two episodes of the UK show Zen.  It’s always a bit odd watching shows as conspicuously and specifically placed in a certain geographic region where the accents are so wrong.  It’s one thing when ancient Romans all sport British accents, or medieval knights (even the French and German ones); but a bunch of British accents coming from members of an Italian police force?  It’s odd.  Made more so by the inconsistency.  Still, it’s always good to see Rufus Sewell working.

    While watching Cab Calloway in Hi-De-Ho, this past weekend, I got the idea for a great piece of art.  I want a painting of Calloway punching Hitler (perhaps over a table in a nightclub).  In the background, several members of his band are blasting Nazis with tommy guns, while the others continue to play.  Maybe Josephine Baker should be there, blasting some Gestapo goon with a derringer.  Berlin could be burning in the background.  The more I think about it, the more I like it.

    On Friday night, Lisa hosted another gathering of the graphic novel book club.  Habibi was the book of the night, and as expected, it brought out some strong opinions.  The book deals with some fairly rough subjects.  There was some spirited debate about sex and religion, about the portrayal of men vs. women in the book, and about the depiction of different ethnicities.  It was an interesting night.


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