Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Johnny Mnemonic

I never watched this movie.  I remember the trailer with Keanu Reeves asking if somebody ordered a pizza & showing some crappy computer graphics & so even though it was written by William Gibson I had no interest in it.  I worked at a video store when it came out with its gimmicky transparent box & orange videocassette, so I could’ve seen it for free at any point & still didn’t bother.  Part of it was I’d seen Hackers & thought it was pretty awful & showed what Hollywood thought sci-fi was about – shitty graphics.  Also I never really liked any movies that Reeves was in with the possible exception of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (more recently I have grown to respect Point Break & apparently I’m the only person who likes Constantine).

Over the years this has been one of those movies (like Tron) that everybody is surprised I never saw.  Well, this is no Tron.  While I wasn’t super into Tron, it had a cool look & a world of it’s own.  There’s a problem I have with most Hollywood sci-fi movies & especially the dystopian variety & this movie is filled with it.  They try to make a movie with dirt & grit to it, but everything is polished & the dirt strategically placed.  It’s what makes a movie like Johnny Mnemonic harder to give a suspension of disbelief than say Cyborg.  & then there’s the CGI.  If your movie is going to rely on state of the art special effects, your movie might be okay that day (in my opinion it usually still sucks on opening day, I hated Avatar, though I oddly have a great affection for Roughnecks: Starship Trooper Chronicles), but it will definitely be crap a few years down the line.  I do always get a kick out of seeing Ice T in a movie, so that was nice, but even he didn't make the movie fun.  I do like that there isn’t a love story going on (I’m surprised they didn’t throw that in actually).  Really I think one of the problems is this tries to cram too much into one movie.  It half explains a bunch of things without actually explaining or exploring anything.  I think this movie would work better without the epic over-arcing story of Reeves saving the world from a plague.  It’s like they took one okay movie & a pretty crappy sequel & merged them into one not very good movie. & what the fuck is the dolphin about?  If you’ve managed to avoid this movie so far, stay away.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Superman IV

So I pretty much always hated Superman growing up.  I always felt he must be an idiot or their wouldn’t be anyway to create stories with the character.  I think my dislike of Superman is part of why I basically didn’t buy any DC comics until I was 17 (when I started getting Shade & Hellblazer) despite the fact that I got plenty of crappy comics (I bought & read pretty much every Marvel comic from 1984 – 1989 whether I liked them or not, plenty of clunkers in that bunch!).  So while I actually did end up seeing the first three Superman movies (& to be honest as an adult they’re all decent & gave me a bit more respect for the character (plus who doesn’t love Richard Pryor?)), some how I never saw this one.  I think it’s worth mentioning for a while there was a cup from a Superman IV Slurpee that lived in the garage that my dad kept old rusty nails in.

I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate this as a kid because it has way too many dumb Clark/Superman on the same date problems.  Gene Hackman is pretty awesome as Lex Luthor & to be honest he’s probably the main redeeming quality of this whole franchise.  I mean, this movie isn’t actually good & would be better for sure if it was cut down to be only an hour long, but it’s fine as dumb fun. I hardly think it deserves only a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes when they give the first one 95%.

Teen Wolf Too

I really am not sure how I managed to never see this.  I mean, I like Teen Wolf fine & I guess I’m a fan of Jason Bateman.  But I’ve never heard anything good about it except from this girl named Melissa that was in my gym class in junior high.

This is pretty much the worst movie I can think of as far as it having nothing interesting even conceptually going on.  To even sit through the whole thing while drinking a beer & working on other things was hard for me.  I like to think the reason Michael J Fox didn’t want to appear in this is because he read the script.  It’s not even fun or stupid, it’s just crappy.  & man the musical montages are awful & way too long (check out the one below so long that it goes from studying to making out & back to studying & then back to making out!).  These folks should take Clint Eastwood’s advice, “It takes just as much work to make a bad movie as to make a good one, so you might as well make a good one.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Tribe (1999)

A post-apocalyptic show?  A show about teen angst?  A show from New Zealand?  Sounds like a perfect mix, right?  Well, maybe it is.  The kids even do their makeup & hair to look like early 1980s punk rockers.  I have absolutely no idea who this show would be made for besides me.  I mean it has teenagers after a plague kills adults fighting each other for food & water, which isn’t super child friendly.  It has the typical amount of teenagers hooking up as boyfriend & girlfriend, but it seems to lead to pregnancy pretty quickly which makes it a weird show for kids (even more bizarre, when a romantic rival has a pregnancy scare one girl pushes her in front of a truck to make her lose the baby, sounds like 1920s birth control!).  Major characters die on a regular basis. Unlike most teen angst shows it has a ton of little kids in it (5 year olds & toddlers!) & the comedy in it is reminiscent of Power Rangers?  Also the music is really Disney Chanel-ish.  I didn’t watch this whole series because it ran 260 episodes (& because they aren’t all up on YouTube), but I saw enough to be pretty intrigued & confused by it.  If I ever date a girl from New Zealand, we’ll definitely try to watch this as a couples show.  This review should already tell you if this is of interest to you or not, even I’m not sure how I feel about the show….

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

McTeague by Frank Norris

At some point in the 1990s I started watching silent movies.  At this point in time where I’m constantly multi-tasking, I really miss watching them & know I need to start again.  They’re calming & soothing & because of needing to read & not being able to look away, I find them more engaging & submersive than most modern films.  Anyway, one of my favorite silent films is one called Greed (1924) in part because of its experimental use of color with gold painted yellow & such, but also because of it showing how quick the decline can be in friendships & relationships & morality when money becomes important.  I liked the movie so much that I named a character McTeague in my cowboy comic Just A Man.  So I’ve known about the book McTeague that Greed is based on for a long time, but I’ve never seen it anywhere & it’s fallen into the public domain so reprinting it I guess isn’t that lucrative & I’d kinda given up on it when I found an audiobook of it on Archive.org.

So this book is from 1899, which means it has a slightly different writing style than people might be used to.  The way the chapters are divided up it feels almost like a collection of short stories rather than a novel & I can’t find any information on the mighty internet about if portions of it were published prior to being in the novel or not.  The first half of the book is more or less a soap opera about living in a lower class part of San Francisco & has two best friends (McTeague & Marcus) in a rivalry for the love of a young girl named Trina.  McTeague is a dentist & he falls in love with Trina while working on her teeth after she falls down & busts some teeth out.  The bit where McTeague is trying to scare himself off the girl is handled really well with him listing off reasons to himself not to love her as he eventually finds those things appealing & attractive.  Marcus gives up his pursuit of Trina & helps McTeague to get in a position to marry her, but on the wedding day Trina wins $5000 & Marcus feels the money should be his & does what he can to screw up McTeague & Trina’s life which includes making McTeague lose his dental practice.  After McTeague loses his job, things get really creepy with typical characters being consumed with a desire for money & the slide from being someone relatable to despicable is pretty smooth as people become misers, thieves, liars, & killers.  I mean when a woman has $5000 in gold pieces she lays on the bed & sleeps naked on while keeping her husband locked out hungry on the streets isn’t particularly sympathetic & neither is the man that has given up looking for work & steals from his wife to buy beer.  Painting an honest portrait of unlikable characters in a way that is compelling enough to still be readable is tough.  So while I do dig this & think it’s pretty solid, there is something weird to me where it feels more like a collection of short stories than a novel; but then again I like short stories.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Changes (1975)

So as many of you know I’ve been on this weird post-apocalyptic british 1970/1980s television kick.  I mean, how can that even be a freaking genre?  Shouldn’t that just be one show that got cancelled after two episodes?  Anyway, I’m fascinated by it I guess in part because it shouldn’t exist.

So this show Changes seems to be one of (if not “the”) first teenage post-apocalyptic television series.  It opens with, for no apparent reason, people getting mad at technology & beating up cars & televisions & such.  The reason people do it is because of hearing “the noise” inside their heads.  Then the series follows a girl who gets separated from her parents & teams up with random folks in order to stay alive.  For the most part they don’t go back to why it is that people hate technology nor to the main character trying to find her parents, she is too busy trying to survive to think about things like that.  Which is kind of awesome.  After the apocalypse will people have more time to think about things because they don’t have television to take up their time or will they just be caught up staying alive & any down time will be spent sleeping?  Who knows?  Anyway, the ending of this series is pretty crazy because it comes pretty suddenly & out of nowhere.  I’ll go ahead & “give it away” because it doesn’t exactly make sense & I figure who but me will want to watch it?  It ends up that “the noise” is caused by someone unleashing some kind of ancient power that the last person to even try & control it was Merlin & it feels like some kind of Lovecraftian elder god trying to save the world by taking machines away from us stupid humans.  Anyway, here’s the first segment from the series….

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Tripods (television series)

I first heard of the Tripods stuff because when I was a kid they had a comic about it in Boy’s Life.  I don’t know where I got a copy of the magazine from, but I assumed the comic was some sort of War of the Worlds lift & I loved Killraven which was also a War of the Worlds lift.  I never found out anything more about it.  Then I was nosing around for some british sci-fi television shows & I found they had a program based on the same books as the comic strip.
So this television show… I guess it’s for kids… but not in subject matter.  The storyline is that aliens have taken over & humans are functioning as an agrarian society & borderline slave race.  The aliens take teenagers & install some technology to keep them from having rebellious thoughts & keep them docile the rest of their life.  So there’s a couple kids who are suspicious of this & run away & have adventures & over the course of a year or so become bona fide revolutionaries.  There is some kind of weird unexpressed idea behind the series that love/sex domesticates a person & keeps them from fulfilling their potential.  It kind of feels like a post-apocalyptic Lord of the Rings coming of age thing.  The acting quality is along the lines of the original Degrassi & most of the time there aren’t any actual special effects to speak of.  The intro to it is some really weird ominous computer animation that is interesting, but not at all indicative of the series.  As teen sci-fi goes you could do a lot worse.  I kinda liked that a lot of the characters were kind of annoying & endearing at the same time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Death Note (anime)

I first found out about Death Note when I was looking at the graphic novels of a Borders going out of business. Normally I don’t get manga books because it takes seven books to tell one story, but they had The Complete Death Note so I assumed it was a whole story. While I was thinking about it someone else grabbed it, so I grabbed Death Note Vols I & II which were all they had & about the same thickness as the complete one. So I was surprised & a little let down that not only did the second one complete the story, there were another five volumes. Even though I liked the story, I never got used to the modern manga translations going right to left & I didn’t want to drop $50 to read the rest of the story. Then one day Hulu recommended the anime of Death Note to me.

So I have to say it’s fairly awesome. The premise is a high school kid finds a notebook a demon uses to kill people & rather than use it on rival students, he uses it to make the world a better place by taking out serial killers & war criminals. The police wise up to him & then it’s a slippery slope of killing innocent policemen in order to serve the greater good. So all about moral ambiguity, which seems like a big interest of mine lately. If it sounds interesting to you, you should probably watch it. It kind of reminds me of Breaking Bad in the way you just are on edge waiting for the train wreck to happen. It also pretty much has total closure, which I also like in a series.

I will say though that the last 1/3 of the series they use a metal song instead of a j-pop song as the intro & somehow that makes those episodes way less interesting to me. It’s funny how much of an impact music can have on things.
Original intro:

Metal intro:

Watch the First Episode on Hulu

Holy cow, I just found out there’s a live action movie!:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Survivors (1975 BBC)

I first heard of Survivors when the 2008 version was playing on BBC America. It sounded like something I’d be into – post-apocalyptic survival, british, it even starred a girl from Doctor Who. I tried to watch an episode & I remember it suffering from a few things that made me never give it a chance. It had the video game cinematography, it had a ton of characters, & things that were supposed to be dirty felt clean (I think it’s really hard to get dirt right, because almost no one ever does – or maybe as actors & actresses are more & more reliant on good looks than acting skills they realize dirt has a negative impact). So I blew it off completely. Then I was reading a thing about british sci-fi & they mentioned Survivors being a TV show written by Terry Nation of Doctor Who fame that was on from 1975 – 1978. I’d had no idea that the 2008 one was a reboot, so I decided to check out the original.
Wow, this show is pretty bleak. It starts off with introducing you to plenty of characters, but you don’t really need to know their names because by the second episode most of them have died of a plague. A typical dark scene is a woman has shacks with a guy who breaks his leg & she decides to leave him to die & find another dude to help her survive in the post-apocalyptic world. & that is pretty much what this series is about, watching your own sense of right & wrong decay with the world. It starts off it’s okay to shoot someone to defend yourself & then it’s okay to shoot someone to defend your loved ones & then it’s okay to shoot someone to defend your home & then it’s okay to shoot someone to defend your food & then it’s okay to shoot someone to steal their food. It’s all very logical. It brings up & explores things about the purpose of government & leadership & whether democracy is communistic & if martialism or monarch may be superior to democracy & whether or not people are ever willing to accept personal responsibility. This show does suffer a bit from when Terry Nation leaves that the new writers don’t seem to have a guidebook (it starts out that no two people related have survived nor even any two people that have ever met each other before to there suddenly being tons of family around) & it does have a thing where they introduce a new character so you can grow attached & watch them die in a couple episodes. I think the show definitely jumps the shark when it shifts from trying to have individual bands of people survive to trying to rebuild national & global powers, but I imagine it was super influential to all the post-apocalyptic stuff I love from the ten years following it. So if you are one of those people like me that realizes when zombie movies are good they aren’t about zombies & horror & gore; but about the decay of human spirit & moral ambiguity & if survival is reason enough to stay alive, then this is worth checking out.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I’ve always known about Tron.  I remember seeing the ads for it when it was coming out & the ads for it being on television as a kid & the thing that always made me steer clear of it was the billing “Disney’s Tron” because Disney made crap for kids.  (With the exception of The Jungle Book, I’ve never had much affection for any of the classic Disney stuff & the only time I’ve been to Disney World was when I was three & the main memories I have are waiting in lines & being briefly separated from my family in a crowd (which was pretty frightening).)  My one brother had a pocket version of the light bike game & that was pretty awesome (in fact I have a flash version of it up on the Silber website) & I thought some of the action figures looked kinda cool (turns out the design for most of this movie was by Moebius & Syd Mead (Blade Runner), but I still avoided it.  Over the years I would see clips on a regular basis in documentaries about sci-fi movies or computer culture or whatever, but they never gave me an urge to watch it.

A few months ago I turned the Tron: Legacy movie on while assembling mini-comics & I thought it was kinda crap, but I did think some of the character design looked cool.  Then I saw the new Tron: Uprising cartoon & it was pretty awesome (right now you can watch it online here).  It reminds me of Aeon Flux in both themes & art style (end up one of the designers for it, Eric Canete, used to be a protege of Peter Chung (Aeon Flux)).

So I decided it was finally time to watch the original.  So the original, it’s a mess.  I guess it was supposed to be a movie so computer geeks (then maybe 10% of the population instead of today’s 30% of the population) could show their kids that they were cool.  The plot is a computer programmer gets digitized & sucked into the computer world & has an adventure trying to find his way out & all the people look like real world counterparts in what I assume is a Wizard of Oz reference. The villain has the typical villain flaw of toying with enemies & letting them kill him instead of just destroying them at the start.  The graphics, which didn’t look particularly good at the time, I enjoy as a weird aesthetic that goes against the modern computer special effects that I hate.  It brought up all these weird theological ideas with the programs that believed in mankind being an outdated religion, but did nothing with them.  Granted I was assembling comics while watching this, but there were parts where I felt like a scene was cut out or something because it didn’t follow clearly.  If you’ve managed to not see this so far, I’m pretty sure you’re fine without it & would be better off checking out Tron: Uprising.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Michael Jackson: Thriller

This came out when I was in the second grade.  My older brother who was into metal got this through Columbia House Record Club for some reason (I guess it was the automatic monthly feature) & promptly announced that it sucked.  So I believed him.  Of course it went on to be the best selling album of all time for over twenty years.  One day in school they had an assembly where all us kids watched the video for “Thriller” & then a documentary on the video & I suppose I preferred the opening werewolf bit to the dancing zombie bit.

I guess I was 25 when I realized I should hear the album Thriller after hearing “Billie Jean” on the radio.  I figured I’d get it used at a thrift store for a dollar, but oddly (unlike Billy Joel’s The Stranger) it was never there.  I’d occasionally bring the album up to other music friends & while no one seemed to own it, most open minded people seemed to be of the opinion it must be a pretty great album.

So this morning I was at a buddy’s house & “Beat It” came on VH1 Classics & I said I’d been wanting to hear the album to review, but had as yet to be willing to pay $5 for it.

So he loaned me his copy saying it wasn’t as good as people think.  He’s right.  I thought it was going to be a tour de force – a dance pop equivalent of Guns N Roses’s Appetite for Destruction.  It’s not.  It’s four or five decent dance pop songs & four or five songs in the ballad style of “Ben” (only “Ben” is cool because it’s about loving a mouse).  I don’t know if the mixes of the dance songs (“Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, “PYT”, “Thriller”) are longer than the mixes they play on the radio, but I think they’d all be more effective with a minute trimmed off of them.

I feel like it was really important to hear a record that somehow became of such worldwide significance & that propelled a man from being a singer to a megastar; but it’s kind of depressing that regardless of me not personally liking it, it’s simply not solid as an album.  My advice is enjoy the singles when you hear them on the radio or in the grocery store & don’t worry about checking out the album.

Quatermass (1979)

A few years ago a girl I was going out with told me about Quatermass.  Quatermass is essentially the granddaddy of X-Files.  It’s about a scientist (Professor Quatermass) investigating crazy crap like alien invasions.  It’s from all the way back in 1953.  We watched some of the episodes from the 1950s & they were pretty great & their influence to Doctor Who is pretty clear.  (It’s worth noting there were some Hammer films made from Quatermass, but I think of those as non-canonical even if they are just essentially the same stories with the plots trimmed down & shot in color with different actors.)  I always assumed we’d eventually watch the rest of the series together, but things kinda fizzled out between us.

So I was super-surprised when I found out there was a version of Quatermass from 1979 (I thought there was just the 1950s stuff) & I stumbled on it from typing “dystopian sci-fi” on YouTube.  It takes place in what I assume is still 1979, but an alternative 1979 where (at least in England) roaming gangs of kids rule the streets killing people for fun & over things like a can of beans.  So a pretty dark place.  Quatermass is asked to make an appearance on television to comment on a joint space mission between the United States & the Soviet Union & he goes on the air saying both super powers are total cocky jackasses & the only reason he is there is to show a picture of his missing granddaughter who’s runaway from home.  In the middle of his rant the USA/USSR spaceship blows up & the story really starts.  Aliens are somehow getting young people to gather at megalith locations & shooting them with giant lasers.  So Quatermass is trying to save the Earth & find his granddaughter at the same time.  I don’t want to give away too much, but the ending is a lot darker than I expected.  It is about 4 hours long & done as a serial & not meant to be watched in a single sitting.  It was made for TV in the 1970s.  There are plenty of things that are introduced & discarded or unexplained.  Still, I think this is top notch & would put it up against any other sci-fi show.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kafka (movie 1991)

So as a teenager I got interested in Kafka.  Which I suppose is common to pretty much anyone that would ever get interested in Kafka.  I found out about this movie called Kafka when I was 23 & me & the girl I was living with had switched video stores after a run-in with her ex-boyfriend where we normally rented.  The new video store had this sitting on an end cap for some reason, but she’d already seen it & I think we ended up renting some bad horror movie instead.  I pretty much never fell into a period of life where I regularly rented movies since then, so I’d forgotten all about this & of course it is not a movie that appears on TV.

So YouTube recommended this one to me.  I am still confused by what movies are there in their entirety & the legality of it & the moral implications of me watching them, but I watched it all the same.  It’s mostly in black & white & mostly an homage to Orson Welles version of The Trial (which is awesome if you’ve never seen it), but makes a lot of references to other works by Kafka (The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony, The Castle) & also has a vibe that reminds me of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.  I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m not sure who I would recommend it too.  It’s slow & boring & yet intricate enough to easily lose track of what is going on – which I suppose is true of Kafka’s stories in general as well.  I suppose if a movie based on Kafka’s stories translated into a biography sounds good to you, you’ll enjoy this.  It does have good cinematography & acting & I can’t think of a way it fails at being what it tries to be.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Liquid Sky

I first heard about Liquid Sky when I was in grade school.  Some of the other kids that were being raised by television had cable & I guess this was on HBO at the time.  A few years later in my parents’ house we got a VCR & when video rentals got popular I remember always seeing the box to this & thinking about getting it, but I never bothered.  I don’t know why.  Over the years it would occasionally come up in conversation & people would be surprised I never saw it.  Well, now I’m doing some repetitive assembly tasks so I was looking for something to have going on in the background while working & I remembered about this.

Well, first off, I thought this was a dystopian/post-apocalyptic movie, but instead it’s a 1980s New York hipster setting.  The production values & acting quality are on par with an afterschool special or at best a pre-MTV music video & despite having some aliens in it for no apparent reason & a ton of swearing, it mainly feels like a cautionary tale about sex & substance abuse.  I don’t really understand why anyone would honestly like this movie or how it gets a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes instead of 94% rotten.  Maybe I just don’t understand what makes people like movies.  I mean, I guess this movie is supposed to be shocking & is a train wreck between things like Ladies & Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains & David Bowie & Adam Ant & The Germs.  There is one thing I do think this movie briefly touches on that is interesting & that is that the nihilism of some punk rock is a reaction to the failed hippie vision of peace & love of the parents & teachers of that generation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cyborg 2

I guess I’ve always known about this movie.  When I used to work at a video store, this was on the new release wall.  They had a policy of not taking anything out of new releases until the tapes had paid for themselves (new releases used to cost about a hundred bucks & then drop down to twenty bucks a year later if there was a demand for them by the public) which took about thirty rentals.  It had Jack Palance on the cover of it right around the time his claim to fame was being Curly in City Slickers, so despite my affection for the first film (see the review on Nostalgia Equals Distortion) I never felt any need to check this out.

So I watched this after watching the original Cyborg.  This is odd right from the start because for whatever reason they call assassin androids cyborgs (I guess the Terminator franchise set the precedent with that) & it has some clips from the first film for no apparent reason (this really has next to no relation to the original).  Jack Palance is doing some sort of Max Headroom impression most of the movie appearing only as a mouth on a television screen trying to help an assassin android & her trainer that have fallen in love escape.  In general it’s okay as direct to video sci-fi.  It doesn’t try to be more than it is & the acting isn’t terrific & the characters act a little inconsistently at times (android assassin or damsel in distress?  Flip a coin to decide for this scene.), but it’s fine.  I guess I need to go ahead & mention this movie’s claim to fame – this is an early Angelina Jolie movie & she has no problem showing her boobs in the couple of sex scenes in it & probably that’s a big sale for a lot of people.

I’m interested in the questions of discrimination & slavery & the rise of artificial intelligence & when does something indistinguishable from human become human & when does a human that’s more machine than man stop being a human that this movie & other sci-fi brings up.  So I’ll go ahead & say you could do a lot worse than having this one play while you are doing some paperwork or whatever.

Cyborg III: The Recycler

To be honest, I had no idea there was a third movie in this series.  The backstory of this is interesting enough I guess – most of humanity died off in a plague & so a slave class of androids (called cyborgs, whatever that’s about) was developed & they eventually rebel so human society collapses & humans start to hunt the androids to use their parts as prosthetics & jewelry.  This movie actually more or less picks up where Cyborg 2 ends with the character of Cash (now played by a different actress who doesn’t really even look similar to Angelina Jolie) sad because she just spent 60 years hanging out with her boyfriend & he grew old & died.  So she thinks that her body is acting funny because she’s sad, but then she finds out she’s pregnant because what android designed as an infiltration assassin doesn’t have an artificial womb built in that kicks on for an immaculate conception after their 90 year old lover dies?  Anyway, this movie isn’t good.  It seems pretty lazy as far as not caring about continuity within the film.  I mean, maybe somewhere there’s a decent B movie trying to get out, but it doesn’t happen here.  I don’t have any idea what makes somebody make a bad movie instead of a good one, but I would guess this movie had some money behind it as it has plenty of explosions & some crappy special effects & even a bit part by name actor Malcolm McDowell.  Is bad acting the fault of the writers or the actors or the casting director or the director?  Why am I still thinking about, much less writing about, this movie?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Captain America (1979)

I remember trying to watch this when I was 4 & what I remember is my parents needing to wake me up when Cap actually got on screen.  So I went with FCIO instead of N=D for this one.

So I guess CBS had a hit on their hands with The Incredible Hulk & were trying to get another hit with Captain America.  It’s interesting because it’s about an hour in before Steve Rogers becomes Captain America & he doesn’t put on the classic uniform until the last minute or so.  It’s a new origin for Cap & I actually kinda dig it a bit.  It’s the 1970s & it’s not your daddy’s Captain America (oh, wait I guess maybe it is?), it’s his son & he’s a struggling artist, ex-marine, & former dirtbike racer living in a van!  He’s in an accident & they have to inject him with super serum (here called F.L.A.G.) to keep him alive.  He ends up a bit stronger than the typical Captain America able to do some mildly Hulk-ish things with breaking a big pipe with his bare hands & what not.  To be honest I kind of like the idea of a hippy Captain America living in a van traveling the country randomly helping people & occasionally doing a government mission like he’s the Six Million Dollar Man or whatever.  But this is just a derivative version of SMDM that is a little goofier because of the superhero outfit & the motorcycle, so I can’t fault CBS for not picking it up as a show.  For me this is way better (though surely way less canonical) than the 1990 Cap movie.

Captain America (1990)

So I’ve always known about this movie.  I was still going to the comic shop weekly around the time it came out even though I wasn’t getting any superhero books anymore.  So I heard about it & there was a lot of speculation that it might actually be good after Tim Burton’s Batman (& to me personally the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher) had been fairly well received.  But it ended up direct to video (never a good sign) & even my brother who likes movies gave it a pretty negative review.  Not to mention the fact that I always thought of Captain America as a goody two shoes hero anyway.  A few years later while working at a video store I walked by the box every day & never even bothered to pick it up & look at it.

In 2006 I saw the Ultimate Avengers cartoon movie & I was blown away by the opening sequence with Captain America crashing a plane on the beach at Normandy & flying out of the windshield to start beating the crap out of people & I gained a new found respect for the character.  Then I got a collection of the first 25 issues of the Avengers & gained even more respect for the character where he’s a quasi-suicidal hero without any super powers needing to get bailed out by actual superheroes each issue.  In 2011 with the new Captain America movie coming out (which I still haven’t seen) there was a lot of buzz & nostalgia for this in geek culture.  So I finally checked it out.  The opening fifteen minutes isn’t good, but better than I expected.  Everything seems about at the level of the stuff that direct to video studios like Full Moon were putting out at the time.  Then it starts to get worse.  I feel like half the cast is from A Christmas Story & that nothing after Captain America emerges in modern times is connected to Captain America more than a generic spy character & he is semi-incompetent as a superhero.  I don’t even know what I want in a Captain America movie to be honest & I guess all I know about the character is what he was up to in the 1960s & the 1980s so I’m not a scholar on the whole thing, but I know what I don’t want is this.  Even multi-tasking by drawing a comic while watching it felt like a waste of my time.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Stranger (1967) – movie based on Camus novel

So like every young quasi-suicidal disenfranchised intellectual youth, I loved Albert Camus’s The Stranger when I read it in high school.  I felt like the Meursault character was more or less me – isolated, alone, & unsure how humans were supposed to actually act.  I guess finding out I had Asperger’s Syndrome years later makes feeling like that make more sense.  It makes me wonder if being a disenfranchised white guy is a side effect of Asperger’s or just part of who I am, but it doesn’t matter either way.  Anyhow, I had heard that a movie of this existed & I imagined it was some semi-surreal affair based on the cover of the paperback I read.  But I never managed to track it down nor meet anyone who had actually seen it.
By the time I was in my mid-20s I had forgotten about Camus & all the other existential writers of his era in favor of stuff like the Gen-X writers & the American pulp authors of the first half of the twentieth century.  I mean, I would notice when they mentioned Camus in pop media (you see him being read by angsty teens on sitcoms), but it was no more interesting than seeing someone in a Misfits t-shirt or whatever.  Anyway, YouTube somehow recommended I watch this movie.  So I was like, “Yeah, I should watch this, maybe re-read the book & re-live my childhood!”  This movie is pretty awful.  I’m scared to read the book if it’s anything like this.  It’s slow, boring, & pointless – but I guess a lot of people like movies like that anyway.  It actually kind of reminds me of when they made the American Psycho movie & I felt like their interpretation of the book had little to do with the book I read (scenes in common for sure, but some books are mainly about tone & I think American Psycho the film captures more of the director Mary Harron than it does author Bret Easton Ellis – at the very least more Mary Harron than Brian John Mitchell).  Maybe these people got the movie right & I got the story in my head wrong.  Maybe I’ll re-read the book or maybe re-writing it as I remember it (Kathy Acker style?) would be a better way to spend my time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Richard Corben’s The Dark Planet

Okay, so I had absolutely never heard of this.  Someone on Facebook mentioned Philippe Druillet’s Nosferatu comic (which is awesome by the way, my song “10,004” is about that comic) & I Googled it for nostalgia & it brought up a trailer of animated version on YouTube & then a related video was Richard Corben’s The Dark Planet.  Now Richard Corben did Den of Earth which was one of the segments from Heavy Metal The Motion Picture & I’ve always thought of myself as a fan of his even if I didn’t own much of his work.

So this movie is bizarre.  It’s kind of a huge mess of “what the fuck is going on?”  It starts off with a bunch of stop motion animation stuff that I’m sure took some time & then when it gets into live action it gets even more bizarre.  I feel like this movie might be the kind of thing that would happen if I grabbed three of my semi-arty buddies & we went to stay at a cabin for a weekend & said, “Hey, let’s make a movie so we have something to do besides exclusively drinking.”  “What’s the plot gonna be?”  “We don’t need a plot, let’s just do some shit that looks kinda cool & the plot will take care of itself!”  “What are we going to use for props?”  “We can get some shit at the dollar store!”  All that said, there is something undeniably interesting about this movie.  I couldn’t look away from it.  It feels like a dream in the way there are random juxtapositions.  It is probably also worth noting that all the sound is dubbed in & there are no decipherable spoken parts & there is some not particularly sexy nudity.  I’d actually recommend this to some people.  If you are a fan of student films that became cult hits like Dark Star, Bad Taste, & Eraserhead then I’d recommend this.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Carpetbaggers (movie)

I’ve been meaning to see the movie (& possibly read the book) of this for years. Back in 2003 or so when my Grandmother first moved in with me, we got on this kick where we were watching westerns together. There was one movie that stood out to me & I have seen well over a dozen times now. That movie is Nevada Smith. I even wrote a song about it & talked about the movie at most of my live shows from 2003-2011. Anyway, Nevada Smith is a character in the movie/book The Carpetbaggers & the movie Nevada Smith is a derivative work. So I wanted to check this out, but never found it anywhere. Which seemed odd given it’s supposed to be such a popular & high selling book despite it being from 1961. The things I’d found out looking around for it were it was vaguely based on Howard Hughes & it was seemingly more a collection of scenes of sex & violence rather than a novel (which actually sounds more interesting than a novel to me).

Today I was chatting with a buddy of mine & mentioned something about wanting to read The Carpetbaggers & he said it wasn’t really that great & had I ever seen the movie. So I looked around for it on the internet & there it was in its entirety on YouTube. The movie actually stars George Peppard (known to folks of my age as Hannibal from The A-Team) & Alan Ladd & a ton of character actors that any fan of movies from the 1950s & 1960s will recognize. This movie is odd to me as it is strangely lacking in action & of course the sex scenes are so tame by modern standards. It is not a pleasant movie to watch in anyway, it reminds me of The Last Time I Saw Paris as far as it just having a lot of non-likable characters being jerks to each other, but quite a bit clumsier. I still kind of want to read the book.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Saga of the Original Human Torch #1-#4 (1990)

So as some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of the original Human Torch story from Marvel Comics #1 (1939) & I actually think it might be my favorite comic story of all time. I only first read it a couple of years ago & I’m kind of glad for that as I’m sure I wouldn’t have appreciated it as a kid. So I’m fascinated by this character who’s come to be called “The Original Human Torch” (not to be confused with the member of the Fantastic Four). He’s an android who ignites into flame because of some kind of design problems & who abandoned his maker to try to become a human instead of just being used to make money. In the late 1980s he had a revival & became a member of the Avengers right around the time I stopped getting mainstream comics & this series came out in 1990. I actually stumbled across this looking for something reprinting golden era stories of the Torch.

Well, I don’t know what I think of this series. The first issue is just a re-telling of the first story of the Torch & is pretty great, but the three issues afterwards try to bridge the entire fifty year history of the character & reads like what it is – a reader’s digest that makes as little sense as the way they have occasionally ret-conned the character. It’s unfortunate that such a clearly incredible intellectual property has never been thoroughly explored by top young talent in the way so many semi-obscure comic characters have been over the years. Especially now when the machine trying to become a man has become a popular story, it seems like the Torch would be a natural for a basic cable television series.

Monday, February 6, 2012


So I love Joy Division.  Anyone who’s heard much of the music I play knows it.  I’ve loved them since I first found out about them in high school.  I used to take acid & listen to them & then read the books about them (many of which are suspect in the level of hero worship).  Eventually when the Touching from a Distance book by Ian Curtis’s widow came out with all these extra lyrics never placed to Joy Division songs I actually wrote her about putting together a compilation where people wrote songs around the words & she responded saying the only musicians she’d want to do that is New Order.  (I suppose it’s worth mentioning for those that don’t know, that Joy Division’s singer Ian Curtis killed himself & the remaining members went on to become New Order.)  So yeah, I’m pretty much about as big of a fan as you get even if I don’t buy all the stories of them as these visionaries instead of just some blokes trying to play/write some music they like & even though I’m still uncertain about how I feel about their interests in fascism & even though my favorite thing by them is the bootlegs from when the band was still called Warsaw.  So you’d think when the movie Control came out that I’d be chomping at the bit to watch it especially since it was directed by Anton Corbijn who did the music video for their song “Atmospheres”  & actually new the band.  But I’d seen half of 24 Hour Party People & thought it was awful & most of the reviews I read were like, “If you liked 24 Hour Party People, you’ll love Control.”  So yeah, I just let it pass figuring if it was worth seeing I would eventually see it, but it seemed like no one really talked about it a year after it came out.

Well, now I finally watched it about five years later on.  I am not sure I can say I’m disappointed, because I didn’t expect a lot.  As such a fan, some of the factual inaccuracies irked me a bit & to be honest watching it I realized that I am not too interested in the way the story telling works in any of the wave of biopics that came out over the past ten years or so.  & I’m never really impressed by the actors doing a caricature of them with actual singing rather than lip syncing which is what I’d prefer.  I don’t know.  I’m pretty certain that the dudes involved with Joy Division were more just dudes than pretentious tortured artists as I am pretty certain is the actual case with most artists (as opposed to the legends that are later made of them) (maybe this is an attempt to make them seem more like me since I relate to them?), but I know that’s not the story most people want to see even if it is the story I want to see.  I think the way for the story to be told where it makes sense is for it to be a TV show that’s on for five seasons (representing 1976-1980) & maybe a sixth season about the rise of New Order.  In the end I’d advise watching a Joy Division documentary or some live concert footage or listening to an album over watching this movie, but I’m sure that’s not going to stop you if you’re interested in it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dark City

So people have been recommending this movie to me for well over a decade. So much so that I bought it when I saw it for a couple bucks a few years ago. Still even with it sitting in my room it took me a few years to watch it.
Well, I can see why people think I would like this as it is clearly influenced by things like Metropolis & City of Lost Children & Brazil visually & it has the dream life plot that I’m often pretty into. To be honest, maybe if I’d seen this when it first came out I would have liked it quite a bit more as this pre-dates The Matrix & the countless other films making the dream-life plot trite & of course some of the special effects are a little dated. What’s weird is watching this I actually think it would’ve worked better stretched out over a much longer format. I could see this working really well as a six or eight hour thing with the mystery solved a lot slower. I don’t know, it doesn’t quite work for me & I can’t quite figure out why. I think part of it is the lack of proper explanation or even hints of what the city they live in is (seemingly a space ship) & how the reality of the city works nor why the lead character can control reality in the city much less control it to a greater extent than the Strangers nor how understanding the human soul will fix the dilemma of their dying race. I don’t know there’s nothing to make this movie particularly bad nor particularly good. I think in the end it might be that when you are trying to make a movie about something a little weird & out there you’re probably better off not needing to dumb it down enough to fit it into the Hollywood system.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

So this is a silent movie from 1927, which already means a ton of people won’t like it & that’s fine. Personally I really like a lot of silent movies, but because my general movie watching experience is letting something play in the background when I work on something else, that really doesn’t work at all with silent stuff & so I haven’t really seen as many as I feel like I should have. This one I stumbled across because it was listed as one of the greats by American Film Institute.

It is pretty great. I like how this movie (like a lot of silent films) combines a couple of film styles that don’t seem like they’d fit together. This movie starts out about a man planning to kill his wife so he can move to the big city with his mistress & I thought it was going to be too dark for me to take it & then it goes into some comedic bits about going to the city for almost an hour before twisting back around to things involving the wife murder plot. I really like how they do the intertitles where at times they are semi-animated instead of just being typed out.  If you like silent movies in general, I’d say this one is unquestionably worth your time (though it wouldn’t be my top pick for a silent film, that honor goes to Laugh Clown Laugh). If you complain about the acting style of the era, this is not the one to change your mind.

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