Recovering

I don’t get sick too often, so when I do, it’s never a pleasant thing.  But the last time I remember being this sick was a good 15 years ago.  I’ve been flat on my back pretty much since Sunday afternoon.  By the grace of God, I plan to be vertical tomorrow and out of bed.

With fever and general yuckiness keeping me from operating at my normally razor-sharp levels of intellectual prowess, I’ve been reduced to the status of passive observer.  Literally.  I’ve been watching movies.  More in the past two days alone than in the past two years or more, probably.  I’m not proud of that, but there it is.  For the grotesquely curious, here’s the rundown (Please remember my penchant for watching bad movies.  Intentionally.)

  • I, Frankenstein – No excuses, I was still half-delirious.  I’m a fan of the Mary Shelley book, and I needed something without much thought.  Mission accomplished.  I was impressed by how much of the book was actually referenced – and somewhat accurately.  However despite these admirable mentions, nothing ever really came of them.  Poor character development in favor of computer effects – the bane of contemporary action movies.
  • God Bless America – Also, no excuses.  The premise is curious, and I think the movie was deliberately offensive to drive home it’s message.  Fantastic performances by Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr in the main roles, but they remain horribly two-dimensional characters.  So much emphasis is placed on the message, which could have been conveyed just as well through additional character development and dialogue that extends beyond expletives.
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – At this point in my delirium, I decided to revisit a movie I saw with a church buddy when it came out in 1988.  I don’t remember thinking much of it at the time, but figured I’d revisit it and maybe start a Terry Gilliam-themed run of viewing.  Perhaps age has made me a little kinder (how ironic), but it was more enjoyable than I remembered, though still disjointed and more an opportunity for some great individual performances.
  • The Hustler – A really good movie.  I know I have watched it before in the distant past, but it was good to watch it again.  Paul Newman is a great actor, while Piper Laurie appears to be perpetually anesthetized.  Jackie Gleason is good in his few bits.  A great ambiance movie for a time when pool halls were not the glitzy or family-oriented places they are often today.  I wish Netflix was streaming The Color of Money so I could watch it with this fresh in my brain.
  • The Grey – This movie perplexed me when I first saw it’s release trailers.  For some reason Liam Neeson has never struck me as an action-movie sorta actor.  Not that he hasn’t done a ton of them, but I haven’t seen most of them.  And facing off against wolves?  Seemed a bit far-fetched.  And it is – until you amp up the wolf-threat a few notches with computer graphics.  The movie is extremely formulaic, down to it’s ending (that you have to sit through the credits to find).  Didn’t impress me much, and frankly it could have been about an hour shorter.  This is an example of a movie that intentionally tries to do character development so that you care about the characters more.  But given the genre of film, you know what’s going to happen, and so it’s kind of a pointless effort all around.
  • Odd Thomas – Beginning to feel human again I veer back into more familiar territory – quirky, other-worldly stuff.  The premise is interesting – but probably better suited for comic books/graphic novels (yes, I know that’s where this began).  Anton Yelchin is a good enough actor but the characters all remain very one-dimensional.  If you’re going to spend all the time and money to build on a comic book, why wouldn’t you deepen the characters more than a sheet of paper’s width?  Also curious to me is that IMDB.com gives second billing to an actress who is only in the first 10 minutes or so of the film and never says a word, rather than billing the actress who is present throughout the movie.  Get the impression that actress can’t act?  Bingo.  Knock-out looks, but anything more challenging than flashing a smile (or her navel) is well beyond her abilities.  Despite the attempt (repeated attempts, actually) at a surprise ending, it’s pretty formulaic and predictable.
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Back to Terry Gilliam again, not necessarily for the best this time.  I watched this even though I was feeling much better this morning and I knew that I would not like it.  I don’t have much sympathy or fascination for drug culture, being far better acquainted with how it ruins and destroys lives.  I’ve never read Hunter S. Thompson, though I’m tempted to pick up this book and compare.  Gilliam has a penchant for conveying the surreal.  As weird as Las Vegas is today, I can only imagine how weird it was 40 years ago.  Or I could watch this movie again.  Which I won’t.
  • Hammer of the Gods – Oooohhh…I knew this one was going to be awful and I wasn’t disappointed.  Terrible.  Terrible acting.  Terrible fight choreography.  Terrible attempt to provide depth through philosophical religion-bashing.  The best thing about this movie is the scenery – the scenes where nobody is speaking.
  • Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis – IMDB doesn’t have a listing for this, which is unusual.  I like to pretend sometimes that I’m afficianado of classic movies.  More times than not, I’m not.  The premise of this is interesting – restore a classic work of silent film using contemporary (1980’s) musicians.  I lasted about 10 minutes.  I have no culture, apparently.
  • Grosse Pointe Blank – The closest thing to a celebrity crush I’ve ever really had is John Cusack.  I’ve always empathized with the quirky outsider characters he plays, and he’s really good at those characters.  This is a smart, witty movie interspersed with comical action sequences.  Despite Cusack’s drift into action movies, I don’t see him as a compelling action star.  But he pulls it off in this movie because he uses his brains much more than physical prowess.  Now closer to my 30-year high school reunion, I can look back and chuckle at the angst and parading that I presume is typical of those events – though hopefully less so the bigger the reunion number becomes.  I’ll admit that the ending wasn’t the strongest, but I can overlook that when the movie as a whole was a lot of fun.
  • Galaxy Quest – I remember not being very impressed with this when it came out.  But I think I can better appreciate the playful interplay of spoof and tribute it weaves together.  I think the first time I was disappointed that the “real” stuff in the movie looked almost as fake as the “fake” stuff.  But I think that’s the point.  The film isn’t attempting to distance or separate itself from jabbing fun at the original Star Trek series.  Rather, it embraces it, recognizing that real life isn’t necessarily more polished or ‘authentic’ than our reproductions or imaginations of it.  Alan Rickman is tragically underutilized here, but then so are most of the actors and actresses.  Tony Shalhoub’s low-key performance is memorable, though, in contrast to the bewildered hyperness of the other crew.

So, there you go.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Mostly bad and ugly.  I could blame it on the sickness but that’s really just a small aspect of things.  It was a good excuse to revisit some previously viewed movies, explore some new ones that I was vaguely curious about, and sit back and revel in the fully anticipated atrociousness of others.

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