A great big pile of appreciation to my fellow Sentries who helped me out while I was on vacation. I’m back now and feeling mostly better (still got a weird ear thing going on but I’m upright and working and watching films so that’s a big improvement). There were many cool things consumed this week, so lets get to it.
When Sam Raimi’s version of Spider-Man came out, I was none too impressed. I had similar feelings about Bryan Singer’s X-Men which came out two years before. The burgeoning nerd culture on the internet had gone bonkers over both films, but neither really did much for me. I didn’t grow up reading comics and while I was somewhat familiar with the main characters, they weren't a part of my childhood. I didn’t know all the back stories, didn’t get the references to the comics, and wasn’t really all that interested. Both films (and their sequels) felt like pretty good action flicks to me at a time when I was growing increasingly weary of action films.
Fast forward nearly two decades and I’m now very much a comics reader living in a cinematic world dominated by comic-book movies. My estimation of both the original X-Men and Spider-Man trilogies has gone considerably up. This first Spider-Man movie is so much fun. It is an origin story and while I’ve grown really tired of origin stories, Raimi breezes through a lot of the nonsense, takes time to develop his characters, and includes some fun little details like the little hooks on Spider-Man’s fingers that allow him to crawl up buildings and really entertaining moments where he learns how to control his web slinging. The effects still hold up well and watching Spider-Man swing from building to building is still enormous fun to watch.
Generally considered one of the best superhero movies ever made, Sam Raimi steps up his game in every way with Spider-Man 2. The characters are more fully developed, the action is more intense, the stakes are higher, and even the villain gets enough screen time to make his motivations more than just take over the world.
The effects look ever better and my god, that train sequence is still a stunner. I don’t love either of these films quite as much as everybody else seems to, but they are still really well made comic-book movies and enormously entertaining.
There are a handful of movies I pretty much always watch when I’m sick. These are really well-crafted films that are massively entertaining no matter how many times you watch them but also not so in depth of thought that I get lost trying to follow them in my various medicated states. Films on that list include Jaws, A Few Good Men, Groundhog Day, and others. With this last bout of sickness, I have included Ridley Scott’s The Martian to that list. His tale of a lone scientist (Matt Damon giving his best performance ever) stranded on Mars with only his wits and scientific knowledge to survive is crafted to perfection, stunning to look at, and a true joy to watch. I’ve seen it several times and every time I just love it. I’m almost looking forward to being sick again so I can watch it once more.
I was a huge fan of Cheers during its original run. It was so well written and acted and it continually kept me in stitches. Though it should have been right up my alley, I never really watched its spin-off Frasier. I watched and liked its first season but then I went off to college and pretty much stopped watching television shows for a few years. I’d see a few episodes on Christmas break and the like but it never became part of my regular-viewing habits. Even when I did get a television and started watching TV series on the regular, Frasier never really entered the picture. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching it on my lunch break or after work when I’m too tired to catch a movie or a show that is more complicated.
I love it. It is very well written, acted, and funny. It is definitely dated. It is more farcical than Cheers ever was, and it has that old sitcom tendency to throw out things like realism, internal consistency, and character growth for a good joke, all things I tend to frown upon. But it somehow still works. It's the perfect show to throw on when I don’t want to think to hard but need a good laugh.
Robert Altman’s follow-up to M*A*S*H is a strange, idiosyncratic little film that doesn’t really have a plot or even make all that much sense, and yet I can’t help but kind of love it. It has all the Altman hallmarks - overlapping dialogue, a rambling plot, satirical elements, and goofball characters. It isn’t quite as good as his best films nor as bad as his worst ones, but it's utterly fascinating and well worth a watch. You can read my full review here.
The ABC Murders
I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie stories and their many adaptations to the big and small screens. Amazon has just released a trailer for their new series based upon her ABC Murders book. John Malkovich is a bold choice to play Hercule Poirot and it seems like he’s going against type by playing him more or less as a John Malkovich type not the doddy-mustachioed Belgian we’ve seen in so many other adaptations. I’m all in.