Sunday, June 22, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (6/15/14-6/21/14)

    Looking at this week, it probably looks like I didn’t accomplish much, Dork Life or otherwise.  And that’s not far off.  But I was busy, in my way.  I had a moment of inspiration and started laying the groundwork for a book (don’t know if it’ll go anywhere), then had an epiphany about an old story I never finished, that recharged in my interest in it.  We’ll see if anything comes of it.  But it was a good feeling, if nothing else.

Dagon:  Why name this Dagon?  It’s an adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, not Dagon.  They’re two different (though somewhat related) stories.  Anyway, the film has some good bits thrown in, but is mostly uninspired.  The Shadow Over Innsmouth is probably the most obvious Lovecraft story to adapt to the screen, yet this is the only time I know of that it’s been attempted.  And failed.  There are worse Lovecraft adaptations.  But thankfully, there are better, too.

The Machine:  Painfully middle of the road, this movie had all the parts it needed to be really good, but not the will.  Punches were pulled, not just in terms of its made-for-TV level of violence and sex, but in its fear of pushing the concepts into new or challenging directions.  Lots of cool stuff is introduced, but none is followed through with any depth.  With low budget film, there is little excuse for making the plot progression bland.  So, this one is a failure.

Trouble in Paradise:  Ernst Lubitsch knew comedy.  Cheeky, dryly witty, occasionally raunchy, and constantly charming, this film isn’t quite as much fun as Design for Living, but it’s close.  Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshal are absolutely adorable together.  The dialog is quick and surprising.  Very much a must see.  And it’s pre-Code, so its mind is fully in the gutter, and wonderfully so.  And stalwart goofball Edward Everett Horton makes an obligatory appearance, with his usual put-upon antics and double-takes.

The Tales of Hoffmann:  Did I just trip the proverbial balls?  Imagine that crazy-ass dream sequence from The Red Shoes was turned into a feature length opera/ballet.  Yeah.  If I believed in gods, this would be against their laws.  There are lots of beautiful (and no small number of terrifying) sequences.  But I think the whole thing is so divorced from sanity as to be difficult to sit through.

Wild Strawberries:  I don’t know if it’s weird for this film to have been made by a young man, or obvious.  I think there comes a time in many a man’s life, certainly in that of the writer, when they discover and are nearly overwhelmed with nostalgia.  Perhaps it’s the realization of mortality making memories and experiences more important?  I don’t know.  But I’ve been in a place where I could have made this film (if I were a talented filmmaker), so in spite of it being about an old man’s life, perhaps it is a young man’s film.  It’s Bergman, so I’m sure there have been Film Studies papers written on the subject, and critical discussions far more profound than anything I can muster.  What I can say is that I enjoyed the heck out of the movie.  Victor Sjostrom is a charming old fellow, and manages to play kindly, sad, resigned, yet full of wonder and joy, making a rounded and complicated character.  Ingrid Thulin as his daughter-in-law is captivating.  She’s like staring at the ocean, seeing ripples on the surface, but knowing there’s chaos just beneath.  The movie is packed with emotional moments, taking you from amusement to sadness, to joy and back.  It’s cute.  It’s touching.  It’s a darned fine film.  And it’s yet another reminder that while Bergman did a few ART! films, with dense symbolism and what have you, he also made a lot of movies that are just about life, and are as relatable and watchable as can be.

    Brad and I headed over to the Mosaic Center to watch The Rover at The Angelica.  That’s when we found out that NOTHING is open before 11AM there on a Saturday.  The whole area was packed with people, yet there were maybe like three shops open, and the only restaurant we found was a Panera Bread.  It reminded me of when my friend and I went in to DC a month or so back and for blocks couldn’t find a place that opened on Saturday.  There are people running around with money to burn, and nobody to take it.  Weird.  How do shops not open by 9AM?  10 at the outside?

The Rover:  This movie shoots you in the stomach and leaves you in the desert to die.  In the burning heat of the Australian Outback, ten years after civilization collapsed, some desperate men cross paths with the wrong man.  There isn’t a lot of plot.  There’s not a lot of talking or character development.  There is a grinding, crushing sense of desperation and doom.  This is a vision of society winding down, of the world drying up, and the people turning to dust.  The slow apocalypse.  The dying of the light.  Guy Pearce is absolutely terrifying in this film.  It’s nice to see him in something good, and allowed to do his thing.  It’s been a while.  I feel like this movie would be a good companion to Mad Max.  It feels like it’s set in that same dying civilization, the same world of the rules rolling back, of people turning into animals.  And co-Dork Brad’s feeling that it’s the spiritual sequel to The Proposition sounds about right, too.

    That’s pretty much it.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Comic Review: Fear Agent Volume 1

    Buck Rogers meets Mack Bolan in Rick Remender’s Fear Agent.  Drawn by Walking Dead alum Tony Moore, Fear Agent has the look of classic 50s sci-fi paperback book covers, with the sass and goofiness of a bawdy Playboy comic.  It feels like Remender is trying to capture some of Bruce Campbell’s swagger in lead Heath Huston.  And what could easily become tiresome, he manages to make work.

    There’s no deep philosophical discussions, no soul searching, no moral allegory.  There’s a guy with a blaster, shooting tentacled aliens and robots, and flying a rocket ship.  It’s goofy and light, and often a bit naughty.  A nice cure to all the mopy, depressing comics I’ve been reading lately.

    The art is pretty good, with enough retro-flare to get the message across.  Robots and aliens are drawn with tongue firmly in cheek, but the environments are actually quite cool.  It’s obvious that while the story is ‘having a go’ at a certain type of sci-fi, it comes from a place of love.

    If you, like me, need a break from all the Debbie Downer comics on the market right now, check this out.  Or if you just like schlocky science fiction adventure stories.  No wheel reinvention going on.  No great leaps in the medium.  Just old-time action stories with ray-guns and rocket-ships.

Fear Agent: Re-Ignition
Author: Rick Remender
Artist: Tony Moore
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59307-764-8


Matt’s Week in Dork! (6/8/14-6/14/14)

    In spite of some difficulties, I’m loving life right now.  This week, I even managed to get in some good Dork living around the other stuff.

All You Need is Kill (aka Edge of Tomorrow):  With a good amount of humor and plenty of balls to the wall action, this science fiction adventure film was a pleasant Summer Blockbuster.  Unusually, the fast cutting and hand-held camera work was good.  Tom Cruise, for all his wackiness off camera, is still a charming dude.  And Emily Blunt is awesome.  Truth be told, I wish she’d been the star of the film.  She’s a close second in an Obi Wan Kenobi sort of way.  The Groundhog Day storytelling works well and the overall vibe of the film is great.  I think the ending could have been better.  But it’s not bad.  Well worth checking out.  Give me more of these, and less Transformers/Avatar type movies.  Give me movies where the effects help tell the story, not where they take the place of the story

Girly:  Super boring.  Super British.  It’s another movie about upper-class twits going crazy and being evil.  There was a cinematic epidemic of this sort of thing in the 60s and 70s, and this is a lackluster entry.  If Steed & Peele had shown up half way through, things might have gotten interesting.  They did not.

    On Monday night, I went with Ben and Nick to a place I’d never been to before, and frankly, probably never otherwise would have gone to.  Hooters.  So, here’s the thing.  Every time anyone brings up Hooters, someone says ‘they’ve got great wings.’  I love wings.  And it’s certainly not that I’m put off by beautiful women in skimpy outfits.  But somehow (well, I think the "how" is obvious), Hooters has always had a certain something about it, in the cultural zeitgeist, that I found off-putting without ever actually going.  So, we went and yes, the wings are great.  I got all-you-can-eat, and made it worth the money, eating three plates.  The best were the lemon & pepper.  I want to go back and try all the other flavors I didn’t get to (there are like 10).  That said, the place has a very, very weird vibe.  It feels like an uncomfortable mix of family restaurant, sports bar, and strip club.  No, the women aren’t stripping, but their outfits are so out of keeping with the rest of the place that you can’t help but notice.  Whatever the case, I had a good time and ate some good food.  And yeah, I’ll probably go back, because I want more wings.  In stead of Hooters, though, they might want to call it Wedgies.

The Best Years of Our Lives:  I found this film pleasantly honest.  The lives of three WWII vets get complicated when the return home and try to pick up their old lives.  One is haunted, one is wistful, an done is physically damaged.  Each one faces his own set of demons, each one must find his own way, while forming a bond of friendship.  It’s a good movie about men, and about soldiers.  For a film made in 1946, I found it’s frank look at the damages of war to be refreshing and surprising.  This would be an excellent capper to a WWII movie marathon.  It is rather long for its type.  It isn’t an epic, but it’s nearly three hours long.  However, it’s not boring, and well worth the time. 

    What’s a little apocalyptic downpour?  Wednesday night, we went to the Alamo, and were treated to a massive thunderstorm with out Spaghetti Western.  About 20 minutes from the end, the power went out for a bit, giving folks a break to get up and walk around.  But all was well, and the show went on.

For a Few Dollars More:  Dare I say it?  Is this the best of the Man With No Name trilogy?  I kind of think it is.  Everything works here.  It’s beautiful.  It’s funny.  It’s violent.  The music is flippin’ amazing.  Lee Van Cleef is so danged good.  And that finale?  Awesome.  Straight-up awesome.  I saw these films when I was a boy of maybe 12 or 13, and I didn’t really get them.  Though I knew I was seeing something different from the ‘black hat-white hat,’ John Wayne strutting Westerns I’d disliked on Saturday afternoon TV, I didn’t get what I was seeing.  A quarter century later, and I get it.  Darned fine stuff.

The Cranes are Flying:  Russia.  World War II.  Yup, this film is super depressing.  However, it’s also beautifully shot and filled with uplifting moments and relatable characters.  With a strong anti-war message, and a weirdly non-political (at least, non-Communist VS Capitalist) spirit, I’m not surprised that this went on to international success when it came out.  The camera work alone is more than worth the price of admission.  Forget Alfonso Cuaron’s gimmicky long-shots.  The camera here is an intimate partner of the actor in a way I’ve rarely seen.

The Horror of Party Beach:  Ultra-campy, and a ton of fun, this movie about a bunch of kids (played by very adult actors) having fun in the sun while being menaced by terrible looking fish-creatures (who are really Zombies!) this is a must see.  The MST3K boys took their turn at it, but honestly, it’s just as much fun without ‘em.  If you’re in the mood to watch a stupid movie with friends, this is a great choice.  Check it out.  And stay groovy!

The Curse of the Living Corpse:  Roy Scheider and Candace Hilligoss in a movie together?  OK.  Sign me up!  Unfortunately, that’s the best part of the movie, right there.  No, not them in the film, but that they were cast in the film.  The film is stupid.  But worse, it’s boring.  Other than some laughably bad acting, there’s nothing to see here.  Move along.  Move along.

    Saturday morning, I finished Authority, the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy.  Pretty darned good.  Can’t wait ‘til the third volume comes out in September.  Saturday afternoon, even though I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the book club, I finished off volume 1 of Preacher (thank goodness, I didn’t have to suffer through volume 2).  I know.  People love it.  But I am not one of those folks.  This was my second try reading it, and while the first time (about 10 years ago) I found it boring and didn’t finish the trade, this time around I outright hated it.  The further in I read, the more I hated almost everything about it.  I won’t be writing an extended review, so I’ll just say here that I thought the dialog seemed to have been written by a 13 year old boy trying his little heart out to be shocking.  The characters are all cardboard.  And the plot twists range from obvious to stupid.  I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes.  But I don’t care.  I got the same gut-level hate feeling I got from Saga, and like Saga, have to stare at the people telling me it’s great with a slack-jawed, dumbfounded look.  There’s obviously something I’m missing, and nobody has been able to explain to me what it is.

Colour From the Dark:  Another adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space.  It’s not too bad.  Fairly well produced (though the footage looks made for TV, the editing and composition are more ‘theatrical’), with some good creepy bits, it does fall a bit too heavy onto the Good VS Evil fallacy that is so wrong with Lovecraft.  The actors are a mixed bag.  And considering that it is supposed to take place in WWII era Italy, the fact that there are so many different accents is a bit weird.  Not nearly as good as Die Farbe, it’s still worth a watch, and better than many adaptations of the author’s work.

Riddick:  I know, I know.  I enjoy these Riddick movies.  I liked Pitch Black a lot.  I thought Chronicles of Riddick, for all its many faults, was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed Dark Fury, the animated short bridge film between the first two.  And I like this one.  This third feature is more in keeping with the original, and not just because the latter part of the film is something of a carbon copy of the first, but because it feels like it’s set more in an Alien type universe, as opposed to a Star Wars type universe (as Chronicles of Riddick did).  I really like the first half hour, where he’s kind of Robinson Crusoe on a desert world.  Once the Mercs show up, it’s not as good, but still watchable.  I’ve said this of several films in the last couple of years, but this is the sort of thing that should be a dime a dozen these days.  Mid-level, entertaining science fiction films.  Yes, I’d love for there to be great science fiction films.  But in between the great ones, I want to see a dozen or so of these more pulpy efforts.  This movie also reminds me that there’s no valid reason for not doing a live action Warhammer 40,000 film.

Oblivion:  My second viewing of this film, and darn it, I just really like it.  Absolutely, many of the ideas, if not all, are lifted from other science fiction films and books.  But so what?  My problem isn’t with lifting ideas, it’s with using them poorly, and this film isn’t guilty of that.  The movie is a feast for the eyes and the ears, with stunning visuals, gorgeous location shooting, and an excellent semi-electronica score.  Like Moon before it, Oblivion raids sci-fi of the 60s and 70s, and comes out with some very watchable stuff.

Chef:  This is definitely what the internet has termed ‘food porn.’  But it’s also a Capra-like comedy about a guy who falls on hard times, then learns valuable lessons about life and fatherhood (with WAY more swearing than Capra).  On occasion, it does stretch credibility (like, everyone talks about needing money, but they all seem to have enough to do whatever they want at any given time, including quitting good jobs with no prospects…and I’m not just talking about El Jefe).  And the very end?  OK, that seemed silly.  However, the movie has a great deal of heart, and the cast sells the familiarity of close friends.  In fact, the scenes between Favreau, Leguizamo, and Cannavale feel more true to what men are like without women around than most movies manage.  Like The Big Night, this movie makes you want to do a serious restaurant crawl.  I wanted to reach into the screen and eat some of everything.  I never had any interest in going to Miami, New Orleans, or Texas before, but suddenly the idea of a food tour is sounding amazing.

    I’m still listening to a bunch of Black Mountain.  I tapped into that 70s rock/metal vibe and can’t seem to shake it.  I may have to load up some Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Blu Oyster Cult this week to keep the train rolling.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Review: Authority

    The second book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy pulls out of the first person, expanding the world beyond the borders of Area X, and taking us into the workings (not workings) of the shadowy Southern Reach.  Following Control, a man with plenty of skeletons in his closet, as he is brought in to assess and fix the entropic decline of the people in charge of holding back Area X’s advance (is it advancing?).  That’s right.  Office politics.  Mixed with an almost Cold War paranoia and the alien horror of …whatever it is that’s happening beyond the Border.  Mystery piles on mystery.  Riddle on riddle.  And revelation upon Revelation.

    This is certainly the kind of thing that could be stretched out too far.  Knowing that there’s a third book made me a bit nervous that this book would simply create more and more questions, only to have them half-heartedly resolved in a third book.  However, VanderMeer doesn’t seem afraid of shaking things up, of defying expectations.  And by the end of the book, nothing is the same.  I have no idea where he’ll go with the third, and I love it.

    Several interesting characters pepper the weirdness, and Control himself is quite a ball of human frailties.  Like a Kafka character, or one of those dupes in a spy novel, he’s in over his head, working with too little information, running to keep up, and almost certainly being used and lied to at every turn.  But that doesn’t mean he’s passive or weak.  He’s curious and driven, and has a very interesting arc.  And what of the Biologist?

    This is definitely a must for fans of cosmic horror and weird fiction.  It’s Lost done right (look, I loved the show, but they dropped a lot of balls through the seasons).  For tabletop gamers, this is excellent Delta Green material.  It’s a quick read, but gets to you.  I found myself slack-jawed at several spots along the way.  And after reaching the end, I can not wait to see what the deuce happens in the final book.  I have NO idea what’s coming.  By the end of the book, I was reminded of some of the coolest apocalyptic stories, of the sense of rolling dread, of things winding down.  There’s a disquieting sense of doom hanging over everything, until it isn’t hanging anymore.

“Thank you for your service, for your many years. Now take your weird art and get the fuck out.”

(See Annihilation review: here).

Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0-374-10410-8

-Matthew J. Constantine

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (6/1/14-6/7/14)

    Not a lot of movies in this week.  I’ve been busy, though.  I’ve been listening to a bunch of music (really gotta do a write-up on some of that), reading, and out on the town.  Still trying to work my way through Preacher.  Man, I know people love it, but it’s a chore.

See you in your nightmares!

The Long Ships:  OK, so this movie isn’t very good.  It’s certainly not historically accurate.  And it’s got some weird, bordering on silly performances.  But, I enjoyed the heck out of it.  Richard Widmark as a Viking?  OK, sure.  Why not?

Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack:  I enjoy some parts of this movie, but it’s really not very good.  And man, does it look cheap.  It’s also weird, because it makes Godzilla a straight-up villain, with other monsters (including Ghidorah) being defending monsters(?).  It just doesn’t work for me.

A Field in England:  This is a heck of a fun, strange movie.  It’s like the lowest brow characters from a Shakespeare play stumbled into a drug-fueled nightmare.  Magic, mayhem, madness, and mushrooms.  It’s hard to describe the film.  But for those with a taste for the weird, it’s a must.

Futurama Season Seven:  The show never hit the levels of its first three seasons again, but was still quite fun throughout.  This last season has several good episodes, and the final episode is a good exit for the show, assuming it never comes back.  I love the characters, the various running jokes, and all the fun they have with various clichés and tropes of science fiction.  Any buff should watch this show, for sure.

Tobacco Road:  When I fell head over heels for Gene Tierney after watching Leave Her to Heaven, I found many fantastic photos and movie stills of her on the internet (love the modern world).  Images that kept coming up were of her as a young woman, dirtied up in a hillbilly outfit, which I found was from Tobacco Road…By John Ford.  Readers may have picked up something of a negativity on my part toward Mr. Ford.  With the exception of The Grapes of Wrath, I’ve pretty much disliked everything I’ve seen from him.  Oh, The Quiet Man.  I f’in HATE The Quiet Man.  I was skeptical of this Depression era film.  But Tierney looked so good.  Having now seen the film, I can attest to Gene Tierney looking all kinds of amazing, and you can certainly see why people took note of her.  The rest of the movie?  It sucks.  A comedy about what trash, in which their ‘down home’ ways, which keep them impoverished, are lauded as being wonderfully rustic.  And it’s NOT funny.  Not at all.  Skip it.  Unless you’re the sort who finds The Quiet Man or Donovan’s Reef amusing.  Then you might like this.

In the Blood:  Gina Carano has a certain quality.  She’s not especially good at acting or especially beautiful (though, by no means terrible), but she’s sexy and cool in a way that makes her fun to watch.  Unfortunately, that’s not enough to base a film on, as this one clearly illustrates.  It’s boring, it’s poorly thought out, and it’s shot like an amateur vacation video.  The story is dumb, the action is uninspired, and Carano has little to do but make you wish you were watching her in a better film.

    On Saturday, Rebecca and I headed in to DC, where we ate at a swell restaurant called Founding Farmers.  From there, it was off to the National Archive to see the Making Their Mark exhibit.  Some very cool items in there.  Then it was off to the National Portrait Gallery to view the American Cool exhibit, and the Presidential Portraits.  Definitely better then the last time I went, to view that lame video game art exhibit.  And no weird smells, either.  After that, we were off to Politics & Prose, where we caught Sam Kean giving a talk on his new book about Neuroscience.  That was quite interesting, and I’m thinking I might have to read the book at some point.  I also found a couple cool hardcovers on the cheap.  Then it was on to eat at Paragon Thai Restaurant, one of the better Thai places around.  From there, home.  Man, I love DC.  A good day and a nice end to a Week in Dork.

-Matthew J. Constantine

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dork Hero: Sean Pertwee

    If there’s one dude who dies on film more often than Sean Bean, it’s Sean Pertwee.  The son of the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, Sean has been a genre staple since the 90s.  I first noticed him as Hugh Beringar on Cadfael, but it was with his appearance in Event Horizon that his continual death sentence began to be carried out.  In fact, the first thing I thought upon hearing that he was cast as Alfred in the new Batman TV series Gotham, was ‘how can they kill off Alfred in a prequel?’  Still, I’m always glad to see Sean show up in films, even if it is to get killed minutes later.  And part of me still holds out for him playing the Doctor one of these regenerations.

Five Favorite Sean Pertwee Films:
5. Doomsday
4. Dog Soldiers
3. Stiff Upper Lips
2. Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie
1. Soldier


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (5/25/14-5/31/14)

    Sunday involved a lot of riding around the Northern Virginia area, seeing some parts I hadn’t seen before, and moving a bigass TV.  When I dragged my sorry butt back home, I sat down and finished Annihilation, which was really good.

Dinner at Eight:  “You’re young and fresh.  And I’m burned out.”  An all-star cast digs in to a comedy-drama about various people trying to keep it together or get it together in the post collapse world of New York City’s wealthy elite.  It’s funny and sad, in much the same way Grand Hotel was.  John Barrymore is typically charming.  It’s not as good as Grand Hotel, but it’s pretty good.

The Immigrant:  A beautiful film, with a fantastic performance from Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant is ultimately sunk by the male leads.  Be it performances or script (or a mix of the two), Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner are frustratingly uninteresting.  Phoenix is particularly bad, too.  It's like he's channeling Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront, where he's acting in one movie, while everyone else is acting in a totally different film.  I loved the world that was created, and even most of the bit parts and supporting players were quite good.  This all makes the failures of the film more pronounced.  There was a great film in this mix, but it’s lost the shuffle of love triangles and murder, and obscured by weird acting choices.  While worth watching for fans of the period, the movie is ultimately a disappointment.  It’s also part of that ‘all men are monsters; all women their victims’ subgenre that has become so tiresome.  That too could have been avoided by removing the two male angles of the love triangle.

A Fistful of Dollars:  “That’s not gonna break my heart.”  Clint Eastwood is just so darned likeably charming as the wandering gunslinger out to make a buck off two warring families.  This remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (itself an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest) finds the story transported to the Mexican/American West…by which I mean Spain.  Plenty of colorful characters, awkward dubbing, double crosses, and tough guy dialog.  And a lot of wacky killing.  The Western would never be the same.

    On Thursday night, Brad and I went back to The Alamo (we'd gone there to see A Fistful of Dollars the previous night).  This time dressed like idiots, draped inappropriately in the Flag, to see one of the most 80s films ever.  Walking up to the counter, our outfits tipped off a fellow to which movie we were going to see.  Perhaps it was a bit obvious.  And then, while we were getting ready to go into the theater, a rep from a beer company spotted us, asked to take our picture, and bought us beers (Rye of the Tiger).  Awesome.

Rocky IV:  “Whatever he hits, he destroys!”  The only Rocky film I’ve ever seen, and the only one I ever will, Rocky IV has been a weird absence in my life, now filled.  Such a wonderfully stupid, wonderfully 80s film.  Four montages?  Four?!  Fantastic.  It’s poorly shot, poorly written, and even the montages are clumsy (did I mention there are four?).  The jingoistic idiocy is palpable.  Dolph Lundgren and Brigitte Nielsen are about as Russian as Jack Kennedy.  And seriously.  What’s up with Paulie and the robot?  What’s up with Paulie and the robot?!  Excellent.  So dumb.  So awesome.

La Bete Humaine (The Human Beast):  This Jean Renoir film helps presage the Film Noir genre that would rise a few years later.  There’s even a proto-Femme Fatale.  But it’s also full of Renoir’s love of people, reveling in the everyday life of the working class.  If you’re a train person, this is some serious porn.  The train footage alone is worth the price of admission.

Witchville:  Another straight to video movie that seems like someone wrote the script based on an old D&D game.  The acting is all over the place…if that place is where bad acting lives.  The CG is typical TV level.  The costumes aren’t bad.  The action isn’t good.  Sadly, the film is just silly and goes over territory that lacks freshness.  I see so many of these movies made on very limited budgets, with limited resources, that manage to do some impressive things.  But they’re sunk in the scripting.  All the low-budget pluck and can-do spirit amounts to little if there aren’t some solid, interesting ideas at their heart.  All those great third string science fiction movies from the 80s are remembered because they combined can-do attitude with creativity.  With movies being easier than ever to get made (not saying it’s easy), creativity is too often skipped.

The Magic of Melies:  A good, informative discussion of Georges Melies and his wonderful films.  There are interviews and some recreations, as well as plenty of clips of Melies’s films, other films of the era, and photographs.  His story is a fascinating one, and very important to our understanding of film as an art form.  Movie buffs should see this, for sure.

My Fail Lady:  Rex Harrison is charmingly cruel as the language expert who decides to make a proper lady out of a low-class flower seller.  Audrey Hepburn…Well, she’s not so great as the flower seller.  The movie is fun and lavish, if a bit overlong (OK, maybe more than a bit overlong).  Several of the songs are quite good.  But I can’t get over Hepburn.  I know the movie is supposed to be somewhat broad, somewhat exaggerated, but her accent is absolutely awful, to the point of being distracting.  And they never really make her look like anything other than cute little Audrey wearing a funny costume.  Though I didn’t love the movie, Rex Harrison is enough fun that I still recommend checking it out.

    In between watching these movies, I’ve been watching more Space 1999.  Cool show.  I like how often episodes have a somewhat horror story vibe.  There’s certainly a lot of mystery and weirdness.  Other than that, I’ve just been trying to read Preacher again (limited success) and I started Authority, the sequel to Annihilation.

-Matthew J. Constantine