Thursday, October 11, 2012

Matt’s Week in Dork! (9/30/12-10/6/12)

    Though starting slow, the week built up to HestFest 2012.

Starship Troopers: Invasion:  Look, I hated the original movie.  I hated it for a lot of reasons, and the fact that it was an atrocious adaptation of a good book wasn’t anywhere near close to my biggest problem.  But the CG TV series was shockingly good, even though the animation was pretty primitive.  This, however, is like the worst of the movie, mixed with cut scenes from a Japanese video game.  You know the script is ‘adult’ because they swear a lot and there’s nudity that looks like the animators have only ever seen a naked woman in the pages of Playboy.  It’s not well written, or especially interesting.  The voice acting is very meh.  I wish this was better.  I’d love to see more animated science fiction.  But like so many of these tie-in animated projects, in spite of the work that must have gone into this, it’s lazy.

Resident Evil: Dangnation:  A made-up Eastern European nation is the setting for this CG film based on the venerable, if not always especially good, Resident Evil franchise.  It’s sure a heck of a lot more like the video games than the Milla films.  Is that a good thing?  I don’t know.  I can say that this is a MUCH better movie than the last CG one done a couple years back.  And it has some genuinely cool bits.  When that zombie’s head bursts into a mass of whipping tentacles.  Frickin’ awesome.  The action scenes in the third act are pretty crazy.  It’s OK, and frankly, that’s surpassing expectations.

Looper:  Anyone who ever actually messes with time travel has clearly not watched many movies.  It’s just a bad idea.  It will not go well.  Also, don’t trust mutants.  They’re probably better than you.  Life lessons aside, this was a pretty cool, weird time travel story with some solid performances and lots of cool visuals.  The script is pretty clever, even if a few of the ‘twists’ are pretty obvious.  It kept putting me in mind of the really frickin’ brain breaking novel The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson, which if you value your sanity, you shouldn’t read (but if you’re not a wimp you’ll check out).  If you’re familiar with science fiction or can listen, this shouldn’t be too hard to follow.  People unwilling to pay attention to a movie may experience dizziness.  Everything is spelled out for you pretty clearly.  Definitely one of the better films this year (admittedly, it’s been a bad year) and one I’m sure I’ll enjoy watching again.

Torchlight:  Don’t freebase, man.  Don’t do it.  Especially if a sexy, sweaty Ian McShane (in a bathrobe?) is pushing the pipe in your face.  Steve Railsback LOVES the pipe, but Nancy Drew isn’t into it.  That spells marriage trouble.  This movie sucks.

    On Thursday night, I got an early start on HestFest.

Touch of Evil:  Orson Welles is so mumbly and disgusting as a beast American cop who comes into conflict with an idealist Mexican cop in a sleazy border town.  So many nasty characters do so many bad things.  And it’s all exposed in lurid detail by the mad genius director Welles.  And man, he is not afraid to make himself look so terrifying and so repulsive.  Every time I see this, the attack on Janet Leigh becomes more and more disquieting.  And the blaring music combined with jarring images will rock your socks off.  I’ve seen some folks give Heston guff for playing a Mexican cop, but that doesn’t hold any water with this guy.  First, there are a heck of a lot of Mexicans who are as European in descent as any Chicago born actor.  And secondly, unlike other actors from that era, he doesn’t ham it up, put on a crappy accent, or do any over the top mannerisms.  Died black hair is the extent of it.  Otherwise, it’s a perfectly respectful portrayal of a cop dealing with an international incident.

    On Friday night Brad, Lisa, and I got the festivities started with a double shot.

Gray Lady Down:  A great cast is squandered on a rather boring film.  Tension should be ramping up, but it feels like they keep hitting the snooze button.  Sacrifices are made, but I don’t care.  Triumphs are achieved, but I still don’t care.  The actors all do fine jobs, but blah.

Mother Load:  Heston is the Miner 49er, drawling out a wonky Scottish brogue while two young folk look for their lost friend in the lonely mountains.  Heston directs too, and the movie does look good.  But the two leads (Mancuso and Bassinger) are kinda awful.  To the inexperienced eye, it might appear that Brad and I fell asleep during this movie (Lisa having bailed during the opening) and that it auto-played three or four times while we slept.  This is of course not true, which is why in the morning, we didn’t bother to replay the ending to find out what happened.  We were just concentrating so hard it looked like sleep.

    The main event began Saturday morning.  It was just Brad and I for some time.  Then Lisa joined, and around 6, others began to arrive.  Ben, Sarah, Paul, and Robert helped make for another good night.  Food, drinks, and some more good conversation.  I’ve got to entertain more often.

El Cid:  One of the good ones, this doesn’t suffer from sloppy pacing like Ben Hur, or just straight-up dull scripting and acting like Ten Commandments.  This is one of the better Heston epics.  El Cid is a complicated man, and no one understands him…especially his woman (the fickle shrew Sophia Loren).  Everything he does, he does for the greater good of Spain, and idealized vision of a united and peaceful country (that probably did exist a couple hundred years earlier, but would never exist again).  It was more historically accurate than I expect from Hollywood of that time (or any other).  He isn’t simply portrayed as a Christian warrior bent on driving out the Moors, but as someone willing to work with whoever if it furthered the purpose.  Granted, he’s also shown as much more of a devout idealist than the mercenary he really was.  Still, pretty grand and a very cool ending.

Julius Caesar:  Shakespeare’s play gets a pretty good adaptation, with an excellent cast.  Though Jason Robards does NOT work.  Look, I think Robards is an excellent actor of his type, but his type doesn’t work for Shakespeare.  He’s too low talking, too grumbly, too mumbly, and too deadpan.  Still, Heston and the rest are all great.  Heston’s ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ speech is badass.  And Robert Vaughn’s cornucopia of facial expressions is worth every penny.

Antony and Cleopatra:  Heston is in the directing chair, as well as one of the titular roles in this follow-up adaptation.  Sadly, unless they simply botched it hard, it seems like this play is one of the Bard’s weaker.  The movie looks great and the cast is top notch.  But it’s dull, dull, dull.  And the last act/post climax seems to go on FOREVER!  I hardly think it would have fixed the film, but apparently Heston wanted Diana Rigg for the role of Cleopatra, and I think that would have made it more watchable at least.

The Omega Man:  HestFest favorite, this pretty terrible adaptation of Richard Mathison’s I Am Legend is also probably my favorite Heston film (though my favorite movie he’s in is probably Planet of the Apes and the best movie he’s in is probably Touch of Evil).  Crazy, crazy music, a bunch of quotable lines, and lots of Heston being awesome.

Planet of the Apes:  “It’s a mad house!  A MAD HOUSE!!!”  One of the best danged movies ever, it starts off as a science fictiony exploration film and becomes a colossal bitch-slap of social commentary about science, religion, the treatment of animals and men, heroism, the human condition, logic, faith and even a little sex.  One of Jerry Goldsmith’s more experimental and extreme scores drives the action as Charlton Heston tries to survive in a world so close to his own, but so alien.  Science fiction allowed writers to talk about things they couldn’t talk about in more typical dramas.  Still does.  And this is one of the best examples of that.

    I watched a few more episodes of The New Avengers.  The show is OK, but lacks something.  I think part of it is Joanna Lumley, who I don’t find attractive (like Steed’s previous partners), and who has a rather drab personality.

    And after much prompting from Brad, I finally started watching season 4 of Fringe.  Good show.  I love how much the cast is able to play with variations on their characters, and how nutty things tend to get without blinking an eye.  The first few episodes, though good, and with some bits of story building, do feel a bit like filler.  One episode could probably have covered all the story arc material.  The rest of it, this late in the game, felt distracting.  I don’t want monster of the week stories this deep in.

    Issue 2 of Archer & Armstrong has more weird cult stuff, a bunch of secret history, and the seeds of some kind of messianic devilry.  Mostly, I’m curious where they’re taking this story.  It feels like it should build to something big and specific.  What will that be?

    Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom’s second issue is more high-flying fun.  Betty is such a bitch, though.  You really have to wonder what Cliff sees in her, or is it just what he sees that’s the issue (‘cause she looks like Betty Page).  She just continually berates him and denigrates everything he loves, and constantly believes he’s cheating on her even though he’s shown no indication of doing so at all, then complains that she might be loosing him.  Ugh.  Otherwise, the insanity of the revealed enemy plans is totally turning things to 11.  Wow.  And the potential for some fun action is certainly there.

    The second issue of Godzilla: Half-Century War annoys me a bit with its stereotypical portrayal of the American general, and his assurance of 100% victory in spite of all evidence.  Still, the arrival of Anguirus, the favorite whipping boy of the Godzilla universe was nice.  Plus, it looks like next month, Smog Monster!!!

    Issues 4&5 of X-O Manowar are more of the same.  The story seems OK, but it’s moving at far too slow a pace for the monthly format.  The brief chapters barely push things forward before ‘next issue…’  And what’s up with Ninjak?  It’s a lame name, and he looks super 90s.  Still, it’s not bad.  And where’s Cary Nord on issue 5?  Has he already left the comic?

    I’m pretty shocked at how much I liked issue 1&2 of Bloodshot.  That was a comic that didn’t look even a little interesting to me in all the previews and write-ups, but it’s actually pretty good.  The titular character has potential to be interesting, and the events circling around him complicated and dangerous.  And it’s SUPER violent, with people getting faces and arms ripped, shot, blown, and punched off.

    Issue 10 of Winter Soldier is mostly about picking up the pieces after a nasty betrayal.  But what worries me is that they seem to be hitting another of those irritating comic ‘reset’ buttons on a character, so all the recent stories about said character (read it; I’m not giving anything away) won’t matter anymore.  My guess is they’re going to take that character in a new direction and don’t want baggage.  Lame.  Issue 11 moves on to the chase, as the Winter Soldier hooks up with…Hawkeye (ugh) to try their target.  Is this building to something?  Something that will reflect relationships in a certain popular movie?

    Throwing lots of swearing and sexual references isn’t enough to call your comic ‘adult.’  But that seems to be the case with The Victories issue one.  Nothing especially interesting.  Just a Batman type vigilante in a Gotham type city…with swearing and prison rape.  Not very impressive.

    At Brad’s fevered prompting, I read Wolverine and the X-Men #17.  Doop, huh.  That’s a thing.  I don’t know what the crap is going on in the X-Men universe, but this is one weirdass comic book.  Some special guest stars and a lot of head scratching.  Comics, man.

    Still reading a few issue zeros.  Teen Titans is a line I won’t be reading, but its issue Zero is more of the story of how Tim Drake became Red Robin (later a member of the Teen Titans).  So, it fits more with the whole Batman thing.  It’s OK.  His parents are a little too nice.  OK, a LOT too nice.

    Issue zero of The Flash is…well, it’s The Flash.  Like Green Arrow, this is a character that has never, even for a moment made me care.  I mean, I liked the TV show, but mostly because I had a crush on the lead actress (from her time on Max Headroom…and yes, in Leviathan).  OK, he’s fast.  But with a seemingly pathetic and lame rogues gallery, not much in the way of interesting background, and a pretty wooden personality, Barry Allan, the Fastest Man Alive is trapped in the amber of disinterest.

    Superman issue zero is more ‘back on Krypton’ with Jor-El trying to wake people up to the end of the world, and being thwarted by some kind of doomsday cult.  And then there’s some weird monster blowing a horn.  OK.  The art is more manga than I like, though not terrible.  The page layout is sometimes interesting and creative, but occasionally too clever for its own good, so it’s hard to follow.  But the coloring is really pretty.  Some of the better I’ve seen in a while.  Overall…well, I still just don’t care about Superman.


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