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In an effort to continue cataloging the movies I see each week I’ll be posting them in this format with the “movies of the week” tag. Each post will feature this introduction and a brief review of each movie including several merits and faults. Each description will have a short prefix including the format in which I viewed the movie, which I hope will provide some context for understanding how I ended up watching the movie. “^” means worth watching. “*” means a favorite. On a rare occasion I may use “**” to donate a must see. If a movie passes the Bechdel Test, it will have an “&” sign.

Dune ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Finally got around to watching this, and I was pleasantly surprised. I have heard bad things about this movie. In fact, my roommate came in towards the end and gave me a quote about how the movie was a murky incomprehensible mess unless you’d read the book by Frank Herbert. The movie tends to garner the same criticism that most David Lynch films receive—that they are lucid dreams played out in an emotional centrifuge in exchange for letting go of real structure. In this regard, the film seems worth seeing to me. The special effects are pretty much on par with what you see in Eraserhead
, even though the budget for this film was significantly higher. Not groundbreaking to say the least. I enjoyed the costumes in the movie, particularly the desert suits that they wear on Arrakis—but perhaps the writer had more to do with the construction of that element. As always with Lynch’s films, the cinematography and general atmosphere of the film is just beautiful. 

(AMC Theater in Bloomington) Where to start with this one? I guess I’ll get right to the spoilers (of which there are many in this review). As far as I can tell, one of the messages of this movie is: If you’re a woman, and you cloned yourself as a weird hybrid man animal creature, you’d rape yourself—and you shouldn’t have an abortion when you end up pregnant with the hybrid baby. The script writing was terrible. The acting, even by Adrien Brody, was thus understandably convoluted. However, I think Splice definitely helps to fill a science fiction void in the area of genetics. Sure the science was particularly terrible, but it definitely represents something that people are anxious and curious about. The effects were quite enjoyable, even though it wasn’t top of the line CGI. None-the-less, I suppose I just wish that the movie took one of two positions. If it was going to be disjointed, the movie would do good to be less serious—and vice versa. If it was going to have such serious content and message, there could have been more structural explanation for what the hell happened. For instance, toward the beginning of the movie, Brody’s character, Clive, tries to kill Dren (get it, Nerd backwards), but only a few days later, he takes on a father role, and then literally has sex with Dren. What the fuck? I’ll admit this led to some great audience responses, but how about a little emotional transition for the audience. We see Dren’s psychological changes, but Clive seems to have no emotional reciprocation. Likewise, can we get just a little motivation from our female lead, Elsa? I mean, I understand the need for surprise and weirdness, but I feel like any rational human would be emotionally traumatized after being raped by a strange creature that happened to kill their husband. Seriously, childhood flashbacks? Prescription drug abuse? Anything? Anyway, it’s worth seeing if you’re a scifi die hard. Or, if you’re interested in seeing a good idea crash and burn and sink into the ocean, then turn into a submarine, and then crash and burn again, only to submerge once more as a boat, and…you get the metaphor.

Roxanne ^
(Netflix Watch-it-now) This is a good old Steve martin flick without much to lose. Charlie, played by Martin, has a nose that gets in the way of his romantic dreams, while it conversely has helped him develop some amazing skills (sword fighting, firefighting, insults, acrobatics, etc). It’s a really clever and fun film, albeit surreal at times. I recently saw the bar insult scene featured in a video compilation of the 100 greatest insults (see posts from last week)—needless to say the writing complements the superb acting. Definitely worth seeing again, or for the first time if you never have.

Grumpy Old Men 
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Not into it at all. I couldn’t even really finish it. Somehow I think this film has grown outdated (or maybe it was never good). I just couldn’t even begin to identify with the main character, John Gustafson, who is literally a grumpy old man. Usually these sorts of characters are comedic personalities in a greater cast of obnoxious. Here it’s distilled and exacerbated. Likewise, I didn’t find a great deal of humor in John’s childish, boring, rivalry with his next door neighbor, Max Goldman, who is a nearly identical grumpy old man. The female of the story, Ariel Truax, should illuminate the picture and bring a fresh perspective to the old men. Instead, though, I just found further childish themes—like it was preschool emotional exploration time for the elderly that somehow forgot what it’s like to enjoy life. I don’t know, maybe it’s actually me who’s not “mature” enough for this one. 

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis ^
(Netflix DVD) I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with this in my queue, but I found the film very rewarding. I had seen Flaming Creatures in an Avant-Garde class a little over a year ago in England, but hadn’t heard much else about Jack Smith. Apparently, Flaming Creatures was a mistake for Jack Smith, who later vowed to never finish works so as to avoid being a part of the ‘capitalist system’. I found it interesting that he (allegedly) directly influenced so many other popular artists (namely, Andy Warhol who plays an important role in the film, and Felini). If you’re interested in film, American avant-garde, and art history, this is a must see. I found it informative and even inspirational.

Outland *
(Netflix Watch-it-now) Set on the Jupiter moon Io, my friend Sam informed me that the film is a reference to “High Noon” (which I have yet to see), and I certainly see the Western genre connotations. Sean Connery plays new hire Marshall William T. O’Neil at the Con Am 27 titanium mining operation. As soon as he arrives, though, he is told to lay back and not get too involved in any real police work. William’s wife leaves, though, fed up with raising their child in the frontier—thus freeing William to really pursue real crime fighting. He quickly discovers that crazed amphetamine using workers have been killing themselves and damaging others increasingly over the last year. The ensuing investigation is exciting and fun, filled with shoot outs and space chase scenes. Highly recommended. 

The Mask *
Netflix Watch-it-now) When I was in elementary school this movie came out. At that time I didn’t get about half the jokes in it until middle school, but I think it made quite an impression on me. Jim Carrey’s classic med-a-reference-fantasy-over-acting style is well employed throughout the film—but I think what made the film most enjoyable this time through was the art-deco art direction. I had never noticed before but the film is a fantastic conglomeration of some really interesting pop culture references. There’s big-band and swing culture clothes, dancing, and music, as well as many other 20s themed typography choices, buildings, and interior designs. The film in general has a sort of atomic glow to it, embodied best, perhaps, in the scene at “Landfill Park” when watching a methane sunset. I haven’t seen a lot of the art deco style in movies lately, the only other recent usage I can think of is probably in the fantastic video-game Bioshock (and maybe in the upcoming film “Inception”). But, I could use some suggestions in this area (anyone?). Cameron Diaz also has a pretty good performance (for a powerless female character), but mostly she’s in the film for her cleavage. Other actor of note: Ben Stein, who plays the author of a book titled “The Masks We Wear”. He does well, though, I have to say I’m biased against him ever sense I noticed that he has some serious character flaws in real life (Intelligent Design? Seriously?). Anyway, I really enjoyed the movie after so many years, and I think that it still has a lot of cultural relevance today. If you haven’t seen it already, you should check it out.

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