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Film Friday: October 2017

Business travel put a dent in my movie watching this past month. Such a hardship, having to go to London and San Francisco!

Once you are done weeping for my First World Problem, let me know what you think of the movies screened over the last thirty days at Longbox Graveyard HQ!

(Comics? — go here for that)

On The Airplane

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017): Gadzooks, what crap! An Arthur film entirely bereft of charm, wonder, romance, and drama. Relentlessly grey palette and deliberate anachronisms in dialogue and wardrobe leaves you pondering just what the hell they were thinking. How is an Arthur picture improved by taking nearly all the shields and armor out of it? Charlie Hunnam is a bag of potatoes, and Jude Law plays an ice sculpture. Aimed for cool at the cost of coherence, and wound up with neither. How can it be that after all these decades the best Arthur pictures remain Monty Python’s farce and the deeply-flawed Excalibur? Sheesh!


On Cable

The Freshman (1990): Spent a day on the couch riding out my jet lag, saw this was running on cable, and decided some Marlon Brando would suit me fine. It helped that I knew this was a lesser picture — the perfect thing to run in the background while farting around on the web and trying to remember what your home time zone looks like. Brando was big as a house in this one (I love the rumor that in later years he showed up to the set without pants, so they’d only shoot him close), but he brought real warmth to his role as an aging godfather with an entirely unofficial resemblance to Vito Corleone. He had a nice fatherly rapport with Matthew Broderick, too. Pleasant enough to watch what amounted to cute Godfather outtakes but most of the jokes fell flat and the plot about illegally importing endangered animals — with a long and tiresome chase after an escaped Komodo Dragon — was a snore.

On Filmstruck

On The Waterfront (1954): After The Freshman it was only fair I gave Brando some proper attention. On The Waterfront is one of those universally-acknowledged classics that I’d somehow never seen, so when I woke up at 2:00 AM with an aching back, a head full of swirling work details, and a body that still thought it was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, it made perfect sense to stream this one. And Brando was terrific, of course, in this very actorly drama of a palooka caught between his mobbed-up brother and the innocent sister of the mook he helped lead to doom. Even with Karl Malden or Eva Marie Saint on screen, you can’t take your eyes off Brando in this one. I love how he delivered his lines late, like a slightly-addled boxer who needed an extra beat to process. Some nice location work in this one, too.

Command Decision (1948): Based on a stage play, this is the kind of didactic, brow-beating World War 2 historical drama that I eat like ice cream, but can’t really recommend. Clark Cable was the hardest of hard asses as the bomber commander willing to accept hideous losses to ensure the Nazis can’t get their jet fighter program off the ground. Fascinating (for me and no one else) to evaluate the arguments made in this picture against the latest thinking about the dubious morality and uncertain efficacy of high-altitude saturation bombing.

Fallen Angel (1945): Second-rate noir, but man, could Dana Andrews wear a hat!

Gomorrah (2008): Harrowing and somewhat confusing tale of the mob in Naples. The locations are stark and the violence is sudden and ugly. Multiple stories run in parallel and sometimes intersect — I’d like to watch it again, now that I understand the structure and know where it is going. Full of despair and betrayal.

Nights of Cabiria (1957): Only Federico Fellini could bring so light a touch to the story of a luckless street walker who is continually robbed and nearly murdered by the shitheel men she falls in love with. Giulietta Masina was a face dancer of the first order.

Black Narcissus (1947): Nuns try to turn a Himalayan seraglio into a house of god, have their faith tested, go a little crazy (a LOT crazy in one case). Brilliant colors and moody atmosphere deliver an indirect and erotic charge — it was like watching Suspiria, but without all the murder. Vertigo-inducing matte painting work.

Plus Some TV

Briefly sampled several series on Netflix — American Vandal, White Gold, Five Came Back — but the only thing that stuck was London Spy. The story kind of fell apart by the end, but overall it was stylish and intriguing, and curious in that it was at least as much a gothic as it was a spy film. Also caught a bit of Star Trek: Discovery on Canadian cable. They sure splashed a lot of cash on this one, and if I had DVR privileges I might try to keep up with this on broadcast, but commercials are a drag so I will wait until I can binge it out on some sensible streaming service. It’s not like there aren’t way too many other things to watch …

Talk movies with me, in the comments section below! Thanks!


Star Trek: The Old Generation

(Not comics, but close enough).

Sick at home and feeling nostalgic, I watched the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix.

USS Enterprise-D

I didn’t like this series when it was first aired. In fact it was a profound disappointment. I was an Original Series guy — and always will be — and this “new” Star Trek did not meet my space opera expectations. I watched an episode or two and checked out.

Re-watching this first episode again, almost thirty years (!) later, brought a few surprises.

It was remarkable how much like silly old Original Series Trek this really was. We had John de Lancie swanning around in an Elizabethan captain’s outfit, and a catastrophically bad stunt double standing in for Denise Crosby when she did a little Kirk-Fu on a courtroom full of fur-clad extras that might have walked off the set of The Omega Glory.

gotta love the fur!

The Enterprise was captured by something that looked very much like a shower curtain.

shower curtain

Add to this the usual planet-of-the-week shenanigans and you had a story that might have been as comfortable in 1967 as 1987, albeit one with a substantially larger budget.

But there was more, of course — the skillful introduction of a whole new cast of characters, and the re-introduction of the Enterprise (with more than a bit of ship porn, what with all the undocking and docking of saucer sections). The show also took pains to show us how it would differ from what came before, with its ask-questions-first-and-shoot-later captain, families on the ship, a more diverse crew, and not a Vulcan in sight.

It had been long enough that I’d even forgotten about DeForest Kelley’s delightful cameo.

McCoy the elder

In all it was quite a bit better than I’d remembered, probably because I’ve mellowed these last three decades, and am more willing to take my Star Trek where I find it.

There were things that rankled, of course, like a captain too eager to surrender, and a tiresome doe-eyed empath staring into the middle distance and telling us how much pain she was sensing.

I sense boredom

The ship’s bridge looked like the interior of a 1987 Chrysler 5th Avenue, and there were hints of elements that would hurt the Trek franchise in years to come (technobabble and the Holodeck, rocks upon which writers would later wreck themselves). But there were some real advantages, too, like the marvelous Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, clearly the best actor to ever command a starship, and whom I realize was 47 when this series debuted … he seemed so ancient and distinguished to me then, and now I’ve got 47 five years in my rear-view mirror.


It was very entertaining, and a pleasant surprise. I’ll watch a few more. If there are now suddenly several seasons of mostly-unfamiliar Star Trek ahead of me, then that is a good thing.


(and back to comics in my next post)

Spock Block!

In a harmless bit of civic silliness, my newly-adopted hometown elected to honor Mr. Spock, given that this past week would have been Mr. Nimoy’s 84th birthday, had he not, sadly, Boldly Gone earlier this month.

Behold … Spock Block!

Coast News -- Spock Block

The inspiration: Encinitas City Councilman Tony Kranz recognized that Encinitas has a Vulcan Avenue … and of course, Vulcan is Mr. Spock’s home planet (or was his home planet, if you follow the J.J.verse).

Spock Block -- Vulcan & D

Since Vulcan Avenue is a block from my house — and since I love Star Trek — I considered it my duty to check out the celebration. Our optimistic City Council hoped Spock Block would anchor some kind of spontaneous Star Trek festival that would see fans beam down to Encinitas in droves, wearing their Original Series gear and eating in our restaurants.

But basically … it’s just a bunch of signs.

Spock Block

They’re nice signs. And there are a lot of them all around the city block in question.


City Hall Overflow Parking does remind of the hot, blasted plains of Spock’s homeworld.


This is not the Tomb of Nimoy — it’s just another one of those signs, this time atop a concrete retaining wall.

Over at the library was another of the signs, but it has not lived long, nor prospered:


And inside the library, a modest selection of books that were Star Trek … ish.


All-in-all, a nice gesture, albeit one that suffered for coming together at the last moment.

There really are a lot of signs on this block — a dozen or so. Some taxpayer group is bound to get up in arms about it. (A few local message board warriors are already pissy about it … though the City Council has already declared the event a success, and clarified that no taxpayer money was involved). I wonder what they’ll do with the signs when the week is over? Auction them off for pennies? Save them for next year?

And about next year … if they want to do this right … the Council needs to contact someone in the local Trek scene to set up a couple of events, and promote the week to Southern California fans. Plan a charity Spock Walk down Vulcan Avenue. Show Wrath of Khan in the library. I dunno. Something. Anything?

(And I am not volunteering!)

Anyway, I’m glad that Encinitas did this. It’s a goofy town.

Live Long And Prosper, Mr. Spock! We miss you.


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