Sunday, July 6, 2014

Matt’s Weeks in Dork (6/22/14-6/28/14 & 6/29/14-7/5/14)

    It’s been a busy couple of weeks, which is the reason for the combined weeks.  Good stuff, but not much related to the Dork Life.  Without more rambling…

Children of Paradise:  Beautifully produced, and filled with excellent performances, I found this movie interesting to watch, but ultimately not all that interesting.  There’s a lot of old-world charm, some sinister goings on, and a cast of colorful rogues.  Some very good bits keep you going through some of the longer dry spells.  I’m sure there are meanings and interesting aspects of the film I didn’t catch or understand.  Taken only on its surface, it was just OK.

    Thanks to the Alamo, we got to see Bill & Ted on the big screen.  Of course, I saw it on the big screen when it first came out, redefining my life, dude.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure:  One of my favorite films, and a weirdly defining one for me, this weird 80s comedy is totally silly and totally weird.  It’s also most triumphant.  Two dumbasses travel through time and meet a random assortment of historic figures.  Then crazy stuff starts happening.  This is one you’re either on board for, or it’s not gonna make a lot of sense.  I love it.

Girl Happy:   Not one of the better Elvis movies, it’s charmingly awkward, but not especially memorable.  Few particularly good songs.  It doesn’t suck, but it’s not one of the good ones.

22 Jump Street:  They made a sequel?  Boy did they.  Throughout the film, they continually have a great deal of fun having a go at themselves for doing a sequel in the first place.  Like the first film, this one is super silly, with plenty of dumb humor, lots of gross-out jokes, and the impossibly charming antics of Channing Tatum.  Few actors have turned me around as much as The Tatum.  But he’s won my heart, like he has millions of my fellow citizens.  If you haven’t seen 21 Jump Street (the movie), go out and do so.  Now.  Come back to this one later.

    I came so close to bailing on Transformers.  Not only was it a work night, but I was already crazy tired.  And I had an opportunity to go on a date with my lady.  But, I’d said yes, the tickets were already purchased, and I’m a dumbass.  I made the wrong choice.

Transformers: Age of Extinction:  One of the worst films I’ve sat through in 2014, the movie is most guilty of THE cardinal sin.  It’s boring.  Some movies feel like they can’t stop ending (see The Return of the King).  The movie felt like it couldn’t stop beginning.  An hour and a half into the film, and we were still being introduced to new plotlines.  Not twists in the original, but totally new lines for the story to go down.  And none of them were especially good.  Marky Mark was a step up from LeDouche, but he’s not that great.  And he’s as Texan as JFK.  The girl playing his daughter makes me long for the plastic dolls they had in the earlier films.  And that surfer dude?  Holy nuts.  I kept wanting to see him stomped on.  There’s so much awful dialog, it’s hard to pick just one thing wrong.  But there’s a speech near the end of the movie (the end that seemed like it would never arrive) where Optimus starts spouting this circular logic BS that sounded like something Deepak Chopra would put on a greeting card about knowing who we are and why we’re here…Good sweet crap, it was terrible.  The movie is dumb.  Not just dumb.  Boring.  It’s better than part 2.  Probably on par with part 3 (which was awful).  Not as good as part 1.  Wow.  Sad.

Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World:  The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria find themselves in a weird future, where a conniving politician is plotting to take over the world.  The twist?  The politician looks identical to the Doctor.  OK.  It’s not the best premise.  But I quickly got into the story and the various people working with and against Salamander, the charming but deadly would-be master of the world.  What’s crazy about this one is that about half way through, there’s a reveal, and the story takes on a whole different dimension that I did not see coming.  And it’s kinda awesome.  Anyway, not an amazing story, but a good one.  And I really enjoyed Troughton as the Doctor.  I hope they’ll uncover more of these old stories.

Shaolin Intruders:  I like the plot twists, and some of the fights are pretty good.  But this is very much a mid-level Shaw Bros. film.  It’s fine.  It’s watchable.  But there isn’t a lot to make it stand out from the pack.  In the mood, and you haven’t seen this one?  Go for it.  Otherwise, there’s a lot better flicks to see.

    I started watching Masters of Sex.  Three episodes in, and I’m loving it.  Great cast, great story.  I haven’t read the book it’s based on, and I know precious little about Masters & Johnson.  But I’m fascinated, for sure.

Fallen Angels:  The sort of (spiritual) sequel to director Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express, Fallen Angles features more manic pixie people, voiceovers, and fisheye cinematography.  While I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the overall vibe of the film a great deal, it never reached the emotional levels of Chungking Express.  It’s OK, and if you’re a fan of the first, it’s worth checking out.  I was a little disappointed to see Karen Mok doing her crazy, screaming, semi-comic performance.  I prefer her serious work, probably because her voice is so grating when she gets wacky.


    On Sunday morning, I cracked into Black Science, another sci-fi comic from Rick Remender.  Pretty good stuff.  I’ll be looking forward to the next volume.

MirrorMask:  This was one of those movies where the trailer was popping up forever on rented videos and the like, but which seemed to always be ‘coming soon.’  I don’t know how long it did take to get released in the States, but I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that it was more than a year, maybe two.  It seemed like it, at any rate.  So, when it was finally released, I was pretty excited to see the film…but it isn’t actually very good.  A few interesting ideas and a few interesting visuals pepper a darned boring bit of re-hash kid adventure story.  Echoes of much better movies reverberate through the whole thing.  It’s not a bad movie.  But it’s instantly forgettable.  I remember being very disappointed when I finally saw it for the first time.  This second viewing, many years later, has not changed my initial reaction.

Inkheart:  A watchable and fun, if largely empty kids’ fantasy film, I think Inkheart suffers greatly from coming out during the Harry Potter craze.  Too easy to compare, too easy not to live up.  I imagine I’d have dug the film a good deal as a little lad, but while it’s not something an adult would likely find annoying to watch with their kids, it’s not something an adult is likely to find compelling, either.

Age of Consent:  An artist returns to the homeland of his youth in Australia, where he intends to rediscover his passion for painting.  There he meets a colorful cast of locals, including the desperate to escape Helen Mirren in her film debut.  Considering the sleazy title and the subject matter, this is a surprisingly cute and almost chaste film.  Sure there’s nudity and talk of sex, but it’s not what I was expecting.  Michael Powell was a heck of a director and James Mason is always charismatic.  And you can see why Mirren would go on to be a star.  Not just because of her amazing and oft bare body, but because of a genuine talent and charm.

FDR: American Badass:  The best history film of all time?  Maybe.  Super cheesy, lowest of the low budget, goofy in the extreme, and wonderfully tasteless, American Badass is everything I hoped it would be.  Nazi werewolves giving FDR the polio?  That’s just the beginning.  Must be seen.  Must.

Maleficent:  I like the basic story of this movie, several images, and most of Angelina Jolie’s performance.  The script, however, is horrendous.  The actual dialog that is coming out of the actors’ mouths is like the Disney equivalent of a bad 80s action movie.  Compared to the recent Alice in Wonderland or Oz: the Great and Powerful, this is Citizen Kane.  But the ingredients for a solid, epic fantasy film were all there.  They simply didn’t come together, and that falls largely on the script.  Also, those comic-relief fairies were atrocious and needed to go.  Not just because the CGI on them was awful and terrifying, but because they’d have been annoying whatever the case.

Snowpiercer:  I don’t mind recycling ideas if they’re done well.  This movie has some really good bits, but is overall pretty disappointing.  There are plot twists; but they’re obvious.  There are a couple good action scenes, but a lot of motion-sickness inducing shaky cam, too.  I was so happy when there was an extended slow-motion sequence so I could steady my eyes for a moment and not need to turn away.  Many of the characters feel like they’d be interesting if we spent any time with them, but the movie jumps from one action bit to the next too quickly to give a crap about anyone involved.  Part of the pleasure in this kind of science fiction is the exploration of the strange society that forms in the wake of some tectonic civilization shift.  What is life like in a giant, constantly running train with a severe class-based society, surrounded by a hostile, freezing wasteland?  Interesting question.  Unfortunately the movie spends almost no time on that, throwing a couple quick factoids that are supposed to earn our sympathy and interest.  And then there’s the ever present mystery of the man who runs the train.  What’s he gonna be like?  Oh, boring and obvious.  Nuts.  I don’t want to sound too negative (though I can tell I have).  The movie isn’t bad.  It looks great (when the camera holds still long enough for you to notice).  There are some cool sequences and some cool ideas.  But it could have been much, much better.  Much better.

The Sign of the Cross:  Getting past the historic inaccuracies (the cross wouldn’t be a Christian symbol for almost three centuries), this movie is unfortunately kind of boring.  Oddly enough, the best stuff in this Christian martyr porn is the risqué sexuality.  From the milk bath, to the lesbian dance, to the naked women in the arena, it was the sexuality that kept me from tuning out completely.  It wasn’t the acting or the script, or the cow-eyed dullness of the religious zealotry.  Some cool sets add a bit, but not enough.  Easy to skip this one.

    Friday morning, I read Planetoid and Prophet, two sci-fi comics I’d had sitting around for a while.  I enjoyed both quite a bit.

Doctor Who: The Mind Robber:  Another OK story from the Troughton years.  I like some of the visuals, and a few of the concepts are rather weird.  At the end of the day, this isn’t my type of story.  Yet, they made it work.

    Saturday morning, I watched another disk of Masters of Sex.  Boy howdy, I enjoy this show.  I love the cast.  And a character that felt like she could easily become another Betty Draper (of Mad Men), has turned out to be as compelling as any other on the show.  Bravo.

The Lunchbox:  I found this film fascinating to watch and the characters all charming in their way.  However, I can’t help but notice cultural references flying fast and furious over my head.  India is a place I simply don’t get, and this movie heaps more on the pile of confusion.  Still, the budding correspondence romance between a lonely housewife and a surly office worker is cute.  Irrfan Khan is a charming dude, even when he’s playing a jackass.  The film also makes me want to have some home cooked Indian food.  Some of the stuff in those tins looked really good.

Lonesome:  A movie on the cusp of so much.  It’s a silent film, with some talkie scenes.  It’s black & white, but with some color tinted bits.  Featuring effects and some nice location shooting, the movie works more as a time capsule than as a film.  The story is simple and cute, but fairly forgettable.  But the costumes, the manners, the activities, etc. all sing 1928.  The movie is alive and roaring with that 20s spirit.


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