Oh, the awe-inspiring horribleness of it all…

For as long as I remember, I have been a fan of the Beatles.

But in my youth, that love may have expressed itself…in unnatural ways.

For instance, I can remember in 1979 or 1980 watching repeatedly, almost obsessively on HBO.

Haven’t seen it in the intervening 30+ years.

I noticed at some point in the none-too-distant past that it had showed up on Netflix, and I felt compelled to watch it…you know, For Science.

I would say that it hasn’t aged well, but really, it wasn’t good from the very moment it was released. Mess doesn’t describe it—this may be the Plan 9 from Outer Space of musical movies.

Still, I will commend to you the three actual good parts: Earth, Wind & Fire performing “Got to Get You Into My Life”, Aerosmith performing “Come Together”, and Billy Preston performing “Get Back”. They all come later in the film, so I recommend judicious use of the fast-forward option.

Oh, wait, I nearly forgot! You also shouldn’t miss the utterly inexplicable group reprise of the title song at the end of the film—it includes, among others, Curtis Mayfield, Heart (though—I’m not making this up!—they only show the male members of the band; I saw these three rock-and-roll guys who seemed a little familiar, and it wasn’t until I read the credits that I realized why I couldn’t place them, because, you know, they’re the least identifiable members of that band), Stephen Bishop (as the Awkwardest White Man In The Universe—you’ll know which one I’m talking about), Rob Lowe (sorry, no, that’s a young Robert Palmer), Johnny Winter, Tina Turner, a very confused Carol Channing…and a host of others.

It is magnificent in its randomness.

The unusual cast of Alien

Hey, it was the 70’s, so maybe it wasn’t that unusual, but all of the men in Alien were surprisingly old, at least compared to what I would speculate would be the case now: at the end of the year of it’s release (1979), they were, in order:
  • John Hurt – 39
  • Yaphet Kotto – 40
  • Tom Skerrit – 46
  • Ian Holm – 48
  • Harry Dean Stanton – 53
There’s only two guys on that list who were younger then than I am now. Harry Dean Stanton is just shy of 90 these days.

The two female actresses, Veronica Cartwright and Sigourney Weaver, were both 30, which seems not entirely out of line with what casting for the movie might look like today.

Has our movie culture just become that much more youth-obsessed in the intervening decades?

(Incidentally: one of the members of the “World Securty Council” in The Avengers was played by Jenny Agutter)

“Did I get it confused?”

Apparently some people didn’t like, or at least did not look upon Quantum of Solace with anticipation.

I think they express their issues concisely and amusingly in this proposed theme song.

Personally, I thought many things about it were very beautifully presented—the chase that opens the movie may be the finest one ever done in a Bond film; it certainly takes my breath away—though the overall plot is…weird. Not the “water is the next great resource to control” part, which actually makes sense to me, but the “there is a great big pervasive conspiracy” bit that is supposed to drive the whole film, but doesn’t quite cohere enough to work as its engine.

I should also point out that I think the point of the title is quite obvious in light of the last scene of the movie. Am I the only one?

This is why the Hulk rocked in the Avengers, and has sucked in every other movie

Between Ang Lee directing one, and Edward Norton starring in the other, you’d have thought one of the Hulk movies would have been great. Or at least really good. But they both fell somewhere between boring and tedious—even while being well acted and well directed.

Because, I would suggest, they didn’t understand the character’s value. I have a vague memory of a review—I thought it was Roger Ebert, but a quick check suggests not—that suggested that watching a guy who feels like he can’t get mad get chased around was going to be fundamentally boring.

In fact, I think this deleted scene from the Avengers may do a better to explain why the Hulk as a character has the potential to matter.

The initial “Sage or Butterfly” exchange is funny, but the substance is at the very end:

“I know where I can do the most good, but it’s where I can do the most harm.”

“Well, that’s no different than anybody else.”

To do good requires changing things as they are—but anytime we are a force for change, there is the possibility that we won’t be successful, that the changes won’t take the form we wanted, or have the outcome we desired. That, in the end, we will end up being a destructive force. The Hulk is merely this truth writ large—which is why I think the other movies failed: the alternatives Banner was always being presented with were to do nothing, or be destructive, never to effect change for good. They were only ever showing half the coin.

Erik the Viking (and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen)

I’m not sure Erik the Viking necessarily counts as a great movie by any metric, but when I noticed it had appeared on Netflix, I immediately dropped it in my queue.

I remember having a great deal of affection for it a couple of decades ago, when it first came out—though I probably haven’t even thought of it since college—so it seemed worth watching.

It’s certainly not without some virtues; the story isn’t as quite as fluffy as you might expect (however you might regard the Pythons, they’re not intellectual lightweights, just silly), and the actors do what they can with a script that is certainly geared for laughs—the moment when Erik and company are trying to take in the differing notion of life on Hy-Brasil is played a little broadly, even though the point it’s making about cultural assumptions is pretty funny.

“What, all the time?”

I do remember thinking at the time that no one as attractive as Imogen Stubbs should have as old and frumpy a name as that. I still believe this to be true.

It actually reminded me, in production quality, of another film, from another Python, from the same year, that I had recently watched again. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen showed up on Amazon Prime not long ago, and one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I watched it.

The commonality is reasonably strong. I think it’s fair to say that both embraced their limitations, and decided that if absolute realism was not possible, they would dispense with it entirely.

In fact, the Dragon of the North Sea reminds me of nothing so much as the leviathan from Baron Munchausen.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that, upon reviewing it, Baron Munchausen no longer seemed as amazing and riveting as it did 20 years ago. Seeing Uma Thurman 19-year-old tits was as delightful as might be expected (however briefly), but otherwise, the scatter-shot quality of the storytelling seemed much more apparent to me than it did in 1989.

Still, it’s amusing to see some of the people no one knew then who were in the films. Of course, Sarah Polley was the little girl in Munchausen, and she’s gone on to do a thing or two. And I actually remember Joie Brun pointing out Sting’s cameo.

More surprising to me was recognize Ray Cooper, whom Chet and I were to see playing on tour with Eric Clapton the next year. And finally, Erik includes a young Samantha Bond in what appears to have been one of her first movie roles.

I’m not saying that either one is a bad way to spend a couple of hours, but as with so many things, the intervening time hasn’t been entirely complimentary—whether because my tastes have changed or become more sophisticated, it’s hard for me to say.

Being Elmo

Definitely a movie worth your time. Kevin Clash’s story is wonderful to witness, the way his obvious passion took him to exactly where he wanted to be. If you’re like me, the insight into the backstage part of how Muppet productions work is intensely interesting.

But none of that is really what stuck with me.

The idea that a large percentage of make-a-wish children want to meet Elmo makes perfect sense to me–if he’s so firmly associated as a source of gentle, physical, unconditional love, and you’re sick and in pain and everyone around you seems unhappy, *of course* that’s what you would wish for. And yet the idea of doing that even once would terrify me for reasons that I suspect many could understand: what if I couldn’t provide what a child needed? How could I stand knowing that this child will be gone before his or her time, and soon at that?

You know. Cowardice.

It reminds me of a piece Peter Sagal wrote a few months ago about visiting “Walter Reed”:http://petersagal.com/2012/04/walter-reed/, and how, visiting the first soldier he was scheduled to see:

bq. As I listened, I tried to focus, and control my own feelings of horror and dismay, and my growing urge to walk out of the room and tell the Sergeant, patiently waiting outside, that I could take no more and needed to leave now. (The sergeant told me later that this does happen.)

His story is a bit of a tough read, but it’s well worth it, too.


…was never one of my favorite characters. Still, I had read some favorable comments about the movie, and Hell, it was directed by [-Henry V-]Kenneth Branagh, so it should be OK, right?

I think Kat Dennings was probably my favorite part of the movie, really–cute, sassy and way more interesting than either Jane Foster or muscle-boy.

Yeah, that’s right, the two-dimensional sidekick was way more interesting than the main characters, who managed roughly 1.5 dimensions.

Hell, The Destroyer–which had no lines and did nothing other than blow things up (though it did that magnificently)–was more interesting than our ostensible focus.

Oh, well. I guess I’ll watch–and, I suspect, dis–Captain American next.

Continued hilarity in Transformers reviews…

“This one”:http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/07/driving-your-brain-off-a-cliff-transformers-dark-of-the-moon from Tor.com:

On it’s 3D-ness:

bq. Weirdly, because it’s exactly the same as a normal Michael Bay movie, the 3D camerawork seems almost understated, because there’s none of the usual “wooooooo, look at the threeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-deeeeeeeeee” foolishness. It actually makes his visual compositions a little more legible; being able to see what’s going on in a Michael Bay action scene is a novel experience, even if what you’re seeing confirms your prior thesis that what’s going on is giant robots beating the crap out of each other.

And the coup de grace:

bq. This should not be confused with my thinking Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a good movie. It’s absolutely, categorically not. Calling it a movie is giving it too much benefit of the doubt. Michael Bay is engaged in a parallel medium, using all the equipment other people use to make movies, but creating something that bears only cursory resemblance to actual cinema. It’s a mechanism for stealing the brain’s car keys, forcibly duct-taping the pleasure center’s accelerator pedal to the floor, and sending the whole nervous system flying toward a cliff. While on fire. It’s very possible to enjoy oneself in such a state, but it’s equally possible to feel assaulted.

The funny thing is that I actually now, through a total accident of, “What, that’s an open-box you have that’s an upgrade from the TV I wanted?” own a 3-D TV. Not that I have any intention of actually using this feature, but it’s there.

The funniest line out of a movie review I’ve read in a while…

From “a review”:http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/06/28/transformers-dark-of-the-moon-review/ of _Transformers: Whatever the Subtitle Is_ on “Bleeding Cool”:http://www.bleedingcool.com/

bq. The main action of the film revolves around the good guys slowly coming to understand the monstrous improbability of the villains’ plan while Bay smashes all his action figures together and makes the smaller ones say annoying Jar Jar Binks stuff.



It had slipped my mind that last weekend while Anne was out of town, as part of my Festival of Dubious Movies, I also watched _Kick-Ass_.

In its comic-book form, this was the title that finally made me realize that I mostly don’t like Mark Millar’s writing. It’s not sarcasm-over-a-layer-of-caring like Warren Ellis (_Transmetropolitan_). It’s not dark and compelling like Frank Miller in his heyday (_Elektra: Assassin_, _The Dark Knight Returns_). It’s not dense like Alan Moore (_The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen_), or deep and beautiful like Neil Gaiman (_Sandman_). It’s not convoluted and mystical and self-referential like Grant Morrison (_The Invisibles_, _Doom Patrol_). It’s not clever (even if it never quite delivers) like Brian K. Vaughan (_Y: The Last Man_, _Ex Machina_). It’s really just middle-of-the-road superhero comic stuff–the sort of thing that Geoff Johns (_Green Lantern_) or Brian Bendis (_Avengers_) do, and do pretty well–but with a big old helping of *super-violence*.

Mark Millar is the comic book world’s answer to Alex from _A Clockwork Orange_. I don’t even bother to look at anything he does anymore.

Anyway, I did watch the movie, and actually kind of enjoyed it. Yes, it was absurdly violent, but some of the details they changed from the original gave it more humanity, more empathy, than the comic book ever displayed.

I wouldn’t want to spoil things for anyone, but the comic book chooses to make Big Daddy’s death a result of pointless bad choices on his part. At a certain age, I probably would have thought that much more impressive than I do now, but now it just seems cruel, and all it brings to the story is a sheen of nihilism that I find banal and unattractive.

Have I mentioned that I don’t find Mark Millar worth reading?

It’s still not a movie I would care to see again, or really recommend, but it’s not actively *bad*. And Nicholas Cage finally found the part he was born to play: a knock-off Adam West portraying a knock-off Batman. It’s at least as weird as his performance in _Vampire’s Kiss_.

Who is more foolish…

the fool who makes the bad movies, or the fool who watches them?

While Anne was gone, I spent my Saturday afternoon doing the thing I always seem to do while she’s away: watching bad movies. And boy were some of them bad.

First up, “_Resident Evil: Afterlife_”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1220634/. Remember: if the Director is married to the Lead Actress, the movie is going to be horrible. Yeah, sure, you can come up with a couple of possible exceptions–[“_Much Ado About Nothing_”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107616/], perhaps (though it still had Keanu Reeves in it), maybe others–but in general, you’re in for bad news. In fact, this fourth installment in the already-three-movies-too-many _Resident Evil_ franchise amazes me in that it even got made. That there’s a fifth on the way leads me to despair.

Second, “_G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra_”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1046173/, which fascinated me in its utter badness. I expected to watch the first five minutes, snigger a bit, and then move on to something at least watchable, but the level of spectacular trashiness this displayed fascinated me. And with actors who should know better: Dennis Quaid? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Jonathan Pryce? I mean, is there any way this could have read well on the page? No. I just can’t imagine a paycheck big enough. Maybe I need a drug habit to understand, or something.

Finally, “_Salt_”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0944835/, which wasn’t actually bad for what it was, though I saw the twist coming from pretty much the moment Liev Schreiber showed up. I’m fairly certain I didn’t remember it from “his slip on The Daily Show”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0944835/trivia?tr=tr1477426, but you never know, sometimes my brain files away things in odd places.

I sometimes wonder at the pathology of my addiction to bad movies. Is it that I find so few of even the movies people consider “good” to be of interest, I figure it’s better not to get your hopes up, just watch things you know are going to be bad? Is it the sort of car-wreck fascination of trying to understand why anyone would watch this movie and enjoy it? I dunno, but I should probably see a doctor.

The Interpreter

I caught a chunk of “this movie”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373926/ while channel surfing a week or two ago–from about 15 minutes in for about 20 minutes–that seemed pretty decent, so I TiVO’d it.

I am not all that discriminating a movie viewer–which is funny, because I don’t bother to watch them very often, either–and I have to say, this was horrible.

I mean, it would be cruel to suggest that this movie actually killed Sidney Pollack, but I was thinking just that an awful lot, especially toward the end.

Sadly, “IMDB suggests”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373926/trivia that, in fact, it may have been Pollack himself who was responsible for some large part of its horribleness:

bq. The original twist ending involved Silvia Broome having made up the idea of the assassination in order to blackmail a political official from causing genocide in Africa. Although director Sydney Pollack signed on for that draft it was one of the first things he had changed. This in turn changed a lot of the structure of the script so Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian were brought on to doctor it up.

About the only overused thriller trope that it didn’t indulge in was having the principals sleep with one another; everything else was straight out of “Thrillers for Dummies”, and big wodges of the dialog landed with the wet thud of a movie critic jumping off a building in despair.

Thinking further on it, I think the thing that made me give the film a chance was the fact that the bit I stumbled across included Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had A Boat”.

bq. But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said kemo sabe
Kiss my ass I bought a boat
I’m going out to sea

Perhaps I should watch Animal House again sometime

I don’t think I’ve watched any significant portion of Animal House in two decades or more. But I happened across a note in “Wikipedia’s page on Robert Cray”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cray that notes that he was the bass player in the band performing “Shout” at the party.

That, plus the always amusing scene of Donald Sutherland dissing John Milton seems worth a re-watch.

Obscure comic-book note

So, I watched _Superman Returns_. Oh, Bryan Singer, how did you fall so far?

But rather than dwelling on its many issues–starting, I think, with its desire to reference the 1970s movies to a fault, and ending with it’s conveniently fluid take on the effects of kryptonite on Superman–I will take the time to note that James Marsden has played a comic-book character on screen (Cyclops) who, in an issue of the comic book (X-Men #176) has also ended up in a bad situation in an amphibious plane.

Useful knowledge? Hells no. But the moment I saw him in the plane, that’s what I thought of.

Watchmen is either going to rock…

or it’s going to suck so badly no one will be able to escape its event horizon.

In the “hope for the former” arena, we have “side-by-side versions of the original ads and movie posters”:http://scavgraphics.livejournal.com/247613.html that show that there’s a fair bit of attention being paid to the source material. It’s almost slavish, except, honestly, I like it better than Dave Gibbons’ art, which was always the low point of book for me.


Not one, but two “Does not compute” items

First, Helena Bonham Carter is on track to be the bad-guy “in the next Terminator movie”:http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=3&id=58332. Which is frigging bizarre and inexplicable. I mean, Christian Bale has been in enough stuff like that ([_Reign of Fire_] anyone?) that I didn’t bat an eye–but other than _Planet of the Apes_ (which I’ve always assumed was the casting equivelent of a mercy-fuck for Tim Burton), HBC has generally steered clear of quite such popcorn-y movies.

But if that weren’t enough, she’s replacing Tilda Swinton. Weirder and weirder.

This must be one frigging magical script, especially given that the director, “McG” has done nothing to suggest that he’s not a hack.

Well, that was a bit of a kick in the gut

I saw _The Dark Knight_. It was well-written, generally well-directed, fairly well-acted (except for Heath Ledger, who was amazing), and I have no immediate desire to see it again.

Let me back up a bit: I liked _Batman Begins_ a lot. A *lot*. It was one of the finest super-hero movies ever. I think X2 may have been a *little* better, but I have more affection for the characters. Factor that out, it’s a dead heat.

I don’t mean to be pejorative when I call _Batman Begins_ a super-hero movie. I like super-hero movies. I wait for good ones to come out all the time.

But I contend that, deep down, _The Dark Knight_ is not a super-hero movie–the level of nihilism it displays on all sides far surpasses even its spiritual source material, _The Dark Knight Returns_. The relentlessness with which the Joker drives forward the story is entirely in line with the implacable onslaught of the creature in _Alien_. Like the creature there is no respite from the Joker.

Like _Alien_, when we’re not being asked to imagine the horrors that the creature visits on the crew of the *Nostromo*–and the movies are similar in that most of the real gore is implied, or happens very, very quickly rather than being lingered over and sensationalized–we’re asked to be fascinated with the creature itself; this is the thing that drives Christopher Nolan to show us the Joker lurching out of the hospital in a nurse’s uniform, the same way Ridley Scott would show us the creature unfolding and unpacking itself from some improbable space, moving with an inhuman quality.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a well-made movie. It affected me viscerally. But I don’t find its horror-movie-in-super-hero-clothing to be something I feel the need to repeat any time soon.

I was never a Buffy guy.

The movie amused me, especially Paul Reuben’s death scene, but there’s something about the TV show that never grabbed me. And although I liked _Serenity_ I haven’t yet actually gotten around to watching _Firefly_.

I am a very, very bad consumer.

Furthermore, I was not entirely pleased with the end of Joss’ run on _The Astonishing X-Men_. I want my superhero comics to be brainless, loud and immature, not glorious, beautiful and heart-rending. Besides, what is it with killing off the female characters? Someone should look into this.

Nonetheless, I find myself awaiting July 15th, and the arrival of “_Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog_”:http://drhorrible.com/index.html.

Does the world truly need another?

You know, I like the novel “Dune”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_%28novel%29, and I even have some affection for the “1984 film version”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_%28film%29, as horrifyingly flawed as it was, and thought the “Sci-FI Channel miniseries”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Herbert%27s_Dune was decent (the sequels covering _Dune Messiah_ and _Children of Dune_ were better, IMHO).

But fook, those are all arguments *against* the world needing “another film version of the novel”:http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=3&id=55493.

Another one of those “which part of this is weirder” moments.

Specifically, is it weirder that “someone is making a movie of _Radio Free Albemuth_”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Free_Albemuth or that “Alanis Morissette”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alanis_Morisette has “just been announced as having joined the cast”:http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=3&id=45072?

In a way it’s appropriate…

Most of “H.P. Lovecraft’s”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.P._Lovecraft best works with something that is maybe a little odd, becomes decidedly strange, and then slowly descends into madness.

That pretty much described my reaction to seeing that 1) there was a film supposed to be released this year called _Cthulu_, based on Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (though the screenwriter seems to be suggesting “in this interview”:http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=23128 that gay people are more aware of the horrors of small-town life than us straights, which seems somewhat myopic), 2) it had Tori Spelling in it.

I never would have thought Damian Lews is was British, either.

I caught the first couple of episodes of “Life” and found it intriguing enough to drop a Season Pass in the TiVO.

Some things are a little overdone–they seem to believe that every episode requires a scene where Charlie is able to make a nigh-magical connection with someone they need to talk, presumably because of his time in prison–but hopefully the writers will see fit to abandon those more obvious tics.

Only time will tell if the writers have actually created depth in the character, or just the illusion of depth–at two episodes in, they’re still in the “hinting at bigger, deeper things” stage.

Anyway, I mostly gave it a chance since I liked Damian Lewis immensely in _Band of Brothers_. Imagine my surprise in going to IMDB and finding out that he’s both British and younger than I am.

Well the reviews aren’t making me want to run out and see it…

as they all seem a little tepid…but maybe the the appearance of _Stardust_ “on the big screen”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0486655/ will get me to finally go out and buy the original “comic”:http://www.dccomics.com/graphic_novels/?gn=6325.

And who knows, maybe I’ll just go see it for the helluvit.

But what got me to write this entry (the first in far too long) is that I ran across “a review in the Austin Chronicle”:http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Calendar/Film?Film=oid%3A513707 that made me laugh with the first line:

bq. “Fairies wear boots,” recalled a sage and seasoned wise man whose name eludes me at the moment, “I tell you no lies.”

The man whose name alludes him would, of course, be Ozzy Osbourne, since the line comes from the (eponymously named?) song “Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots” off of “Paranoid”:http://www.amazon.com/Paranoid-Black-Sabbath/dp/B000002KHH/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-3541773-8222844?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1186773814&sr=8-1

OK, this is fucked-up

Little Miss Sunshine leads to The Last King of Scotland?

As shown at right, Netflix is suggesting I should get _The Last King Of Scotland_ because I liked _Little Miss Sunshine_. One suspects their algorithm contest has not borne the sweetest fruit.