Monthly Archive for March, 2011

Seaguy

Seaguy (3/31/11) Graphic Novel (2005 **) Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Cameron Stewart. In a world without heroes, Seaguy (along with his floating fish best pal Chubby) is the closest thing the Mummy King of the moon can find. Yeah, this was another of those Grant Morrison “weird for the sake of being weird” books, loaned to me by a friend. As a rule, I don’t mind weirdness, and I don’t hate dream-like logic, but in order to be at least readable a book still needs to make some kind of sense. Seaguy skimmed seductively just beyond that threshold. What’s more, its Brazil-like (as in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film) conclusion left me completely dissatisfied.

The Clockwork Girl

The Clockwork Girl (3/30/11) Graphic Novel (2011 **1/2) Written by Sean O’Reilly, illustrated by Kevin Hanna. A mechanical girl and a wolf boy named Huxley form a friendship against the wishes of their warring “parents.” This book was written by the instructor of my UCLA Extension class on Writing for Sequential Art. For a graphic novel, it was a very fast read. Kevin Hanna’s art was quite striking, but the story never really grabbed me. Though the Shakespearean touches did hint at a resonance and its heart was clearly in the right place, the story remained a bit light somehow, with its final dramatic climax turning on what amounted to a misunderstanding of character. Also, it wasn’t always clear whose story it was. The titular character didn’t have much of a presence, and while nominally the main character was Huxley, he never underwent the kind of internal change that was required.

L.A. Story

L.A. Story (3/28/11) Netflix (1991 ***) Directed by Mick Jackson, screenplay by Steve Martin, starring Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Richard E. Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker. A “wacky” Los Angeles weatherman meets a magical freeway billboard and falls in love, but not with the billboard, because that would be weird. When I first saw this film I was living in Iowa, but living now as I do in Los Angeles I have much more of an appreciation for it. It was also interesting to see how little has changed culturally here in the “City of Angels” in the past twenty years. It was clear with this film and the earlier Roxanne (1987), which Martin also wrote, that Steve Martin was making an effort to be taken seriously as an auteur like Woody Allen. He was mostly successful here, though there were still a few points in the film (like an odd Hamlet reference with Rick Moranis as a grave digger) when it felt like Martin was looking down his nose at his audience, just a bit.

The Boston Strangler

The Boston Strangler (3/27/11) TV-FMC (1968 ***) Directed by Richard Fleischer, screenplay by Edward Anhalt, based on the book by Gerold Frank, starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda. Women in Boston are strangled and brutalized, and the most likely suspect is a family man named Albert DeSalvo. This film had an unusual structure, in that the point of view established in the beginning of the film was that of John Bottomly (Fonda) and the police force hunting an unknown serial killer, then at roughly the halfway point it shifted to DeSalvo (Curtis). Somehow that worked with the material. In addition, this film is famous for its use of multiple camera views presented simultaneously, a risky technique that has been used occasionally since, including Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003).

Bedazzled

Bedazzled (3/21/11) TV-FMC (1967 **) Directed by Stanley Donen, screenplay by Peter Cook, starring Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Elenor Bron and Raquel Welch. In London, a suicidal Whimpy Burger fry cook makes a deal with The Devil (AKA George Spiggott), trading his soul for seven wishes, one for each of the seven deadly sins. This film began strongly, and Moore and Cook were certainly charming enough, but somehow along the way it lost its momentum. I think that was due in part by its linear seven-part structure as well as the fact that several of the “segments” weren’t particularly inspired. By its end I’d ceased to care about the characters and was pretty well ready for it to be over.

Planet Hulk

Planet Hulk (3/21/11) Netflix (2010 **) Directed by Sam Liu, based on the graphic novel by Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan, featuring the voices of Rick D. Wasserman and Lisa Ann Beley. The Hulk is sent into space where he crashes into a planet, is forced into slavery and is ordered by an evil king to fight gladiator-style in a coliseum. I have not read the graphic novel on which this made-for-video animated feature was based, and after watching it I don’t think I’m going to. The premise sounded interesting, but the plot got bogged down with melodrama based on supporting characters rather than anything emotionally linked to the Hulk himself. Ho-hum.

Alice Adams

Alice Adams (3/20/11) TV-TCM (1935 **1/2) Directed by George Stevens, based on the novel by Booth Tarkington, starring Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray. A poor girl with a big heart struggles against closed minds and small town class-consciousness. Hepburn certainly delivered a strong performance early in her career, and I appreciated the film on that level. However, neither the main character, the film’s “poignant” subject matter, nor the unearned “happy ending” resonated with me.

The Commitments

The Commitments (3/19/11) DVD (1991 ****) Directed by Alan Parker, based on the novel by Roddy Doyle, starring Robert Arkins, Michael Aheme and Angeline Ball. In Dublin, an impresario wannabe with the unlikely name Jimmy Rabbitte turns a rag-tag bunch of working-class hooligans into a world class band. I simply love this movie, and I’m not exactly sure why. I think maybe it’s a combination of Parker’s strong direction combined with a collection of likable, relatable characters combined with a soundtrack that’s fun to listen to. On a fun note: This film featured Glen Hansard in a supporting role. In The Commitments, Hansard’s character is last seen playing guitar for pocket change (“busking”) on a street corner. Years later in the wonderful 2006 film Once, we meet his character in that film doing the same thing. (Favorite)

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (3/17/11) TV-TCM (1952 ***) Directed by John Brahm, starring Gilbert Roland, Angela Clarke, Susan Whitney and Frank Silvera. In 1917 Socialist Portugal, three children cause a national uproar when they see a woman in a cloud. There are many levels on which one might view this film. Given the times in which it was made, it was clearly an attempt by Warner Brothers to capitalize on the Catholic movie-goers in their audience. There was also a certain political subtext that was obviously more about the iron curtain and the war in Korea than about events in 1917. As a story, the structure was very linear. And of course it also works as Christian inspiration — or propaganda — depending on your religious orientation. I’m almost certain that old 16mm prints of this film were once shown regularly in Catholic schools. In one scene the three children were taken to a police station and their faith was tested as they were led away one by one, presumably to be tortured and killed. Putting myself in the shoes of a second or third grade student watching The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima as a special “treat,” that scene must have been absolutely horrifying!

WE3

WE3 (3/17/11) Graphic Novel (2005 **1/2) Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Frank Quitely. Three experimental weaponized animals (a dog, a cat and a rabbit) don’t take the notion of “decommissioning” particularly well. This was a very quick read, taking less than a half hour. Quitely’s illustrative storytelling skills were strong as ever, but the armadillo-like design of the animals’ armor, though possibly practical, was a bit distracting. It was also a little hard to know who to root for throughout. The animals wanted to get “home,” but it wasn’t clear what that meant. Reading WE3 immediately following Vimanarama, I wondered if Grant Morrison wasn’t deliberately writing short graphic novel projects with an eye toward pitching them as feature films. WE3 would make an interesting movie.