Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Genres & Judgements - Comic Book Trek, Master of the Demo, and Weaponized Club Owners

First up, the song of the week:

"Sitting in the Midday Sun" by The Kinks, Preservation, Act I (1973)

Since today is the end of my vacation, I'm revisiting one of my all-time favorite songs from The Kinks. Ray Davies is one of the more under-appreciated songwriters in rock history, in my opinion, and this one really shows off his brilliance. A particularly good selection to listen to on a lazy afternoon.
We begin this entry into nerddom with a quick review of Star Trek: Countdown (2009), the comic prequel to the latest big screen adventure of Gene Roddenberry's progeny, Star Trek. I adored the new Trek movie. It and District 9 were far and away the two movies I've enjoyed most in the theater this summer thus far. However, it was not perfect.
The best thing about this comic's existence is that it nicely fills in a few of the minor plot holes I felt existed in JJ Abrams' film, partly because Robert Oci and Alex Kurtzman developed the plot for this story in addition to scripting the screenplay with Abrams. Want to know how Spock and Nero came at odds? Curious as to how Nero became a captain? Want to know what those Romulan face tats were all about? And aren't you wondering what the hell Jean Luc and Mister Data are doing on this damn cover? Read, and all shall be revealed.
In short, it's a well-executed comic that contained plot points that would have slowed the film down more than what was necessary for most viewers. I can live with their exclusion now that we have this adaptation to go along with it. This is certainly worth your time if you enjoyed the tenth Star Trek film.
Jumping from an official prequel to a quasi-prequel, fans of last season's sleeper HBO hit Eastbound and Down might want to check out Danny McBride's previous role in The Foot Fist Way (2008). In truth, the two projects have nothing to do with each other outside of McBride's presence and the involment of a few other behind-the-scenes people, including director/costar Jody Hill and producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
The biggest differences between the two are that Foot Fist is about a Taekwondo instructor while Eastbound is about a wash-up professional pitcher, Foot Fist's main character does not have a mullet while Eastbound's does (a major improvement, if I do say), and Foot Fist's dramatic elements are more prevalent than the more-humorous Eastbound.
Between the two, I enjoyed Eastbound more simply because it's even more ridiculous than McBride's earlier projects had been (okay, maybe not more so than his character in Pineapple Express, but still). The Foot Fist Way is great to wet your beak if you're jonesin' for season two of Eastbound to come back to the airwaves, but taken as an individual film, it has its moments, but overall is just okay.
Moving along to my very different Netflix entry of the week, which was also a bit of a mixed bag.
A mid-70s film noir from experimental filmmaker John Cassavetes, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) tells the tale of Cosmo Vitelli, a womanizing, modern-day cabaret club owner with a sizable gambling debt. That debt leads to the title of the film. As a noir connoisseur, I found that there were some really great bits in this movie. Unfortunately, those bits are strung far apart in the grand scheme of the film. It reminds me a little of Scorsese's Mean Streets in that it has some parts down pat, but the sum total of the story just doesn't come together into anything ultimately satisfying.
After doing some research on the film before writing here, I learned that I viewed the director's cut, which has the unusual distinction of being shorter than the theatrical release by nearly 30 minutes. Apparently the original version has even more cabaret numbers included in it, which is just complete self-indulgence from Cassavetes. At least he was smart enough to excise much of that out of his second edit of the film, because I can't imagine sitting through a half hour of extra songs (that, perhaps purposefully, were not particularly good in the first place).
Cassavetes has one of those reputations as a great filmmaker, and this was my first viewing of a directorial effort from him. I'm filled with a bit of trepidation to dip my toe in his pond in the near future, but this film probably has some artistic merit, maybe even worthy of watching the two versions back-to-back for you film deconstructionists out there.
Most-Unfortunate Person of the Week:
The way-too-excited-for-having-finally-gotten-laid, Facebook-illiterate lady shown below. (via The Daily What and Fail Blog)

Gotta love her "friends" though.
Coming Up Next Week:
  • I finished watching the first two seasons of Mad Men this week as well, but that show is so dense, I haven't arrived at anything worthy to say about it yet. Because of this, I'm going to catch up with the new season's episodes and hopefully find some words for it next time.
  • I finally got my grubby little hands on a copy of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain. I'm not sure if I'll finish it in the next week, but most of my reading efforts will be here.
  • Upcoming Netflix reviews will likely include Fanboys and The Yakuza.

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