I have been battling a nasty viral infection all week. My head has felt like its been hit with a sledge hammer, my throat has felt like I’m swallowing rocks and if I stood up for too long I’d get really woozy. I mostly stayed in bed and slept. When I wasn’t sleeping I watched television programs and movies. But mostly I just laid there and moaned. In fact I haven’t laid in bed moaning so much since my honeymoon. <rimshot>
I think I’m finally on the mend, but it is slow going. I managed to do a little work today and I actually got out of the house so that’s a start. But enough about me and my hacking, moaning self and onto the cool things I caught this week.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I need to watch it again before I make an official proclamation but this just might be my favorite Spider-Man movie ever and it might just be one of the best comic-book movies I’ve ever seen. It is so much fun to watch. It's consistently laugh-out-loud funny, it piles on terrific action scene after terrific action scene, and is insanely visually compelling. The story involves Kingpin blasting into the multiverse which brings to our Earth (or whatever Earth the film is set in) a wide range of other Spider heroes including Peter B. Parker, an older and jaded Spider-Man; Spider-Gwen; Spider-Man Noir; Spider-Ham; and an psychically controlled spider robot thing. The film wisely keeps its focus on Miles Morales, who is also bitten by a spider and gains spider powers and Peter B. Parker who acts like a mentor. The other spider heroes are mostly background characters who are there for laughs. And laughs they give. Man, is this film funny. And fun. And stunning to look at.
All the President’s Men
Every time I watch this film, I find more about it to love. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about their reporting on the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover up which ultimately led to President Nixon resigning, the film should be a total snooze. Especially when it is so razor focused on the day-to-day work of investigative reporting. No film before or since has made the shoe-leathering, phone call-making work of tracking down a story so exciting. It helps that the reporters are played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman at the top of their game. Alan J. Pakula brilliantly directs it and transforms this nuts-and -bolts story into a true thriller for the ages.
You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix gives an brilliant, brooding, unsettling performance as a troubled hit-man who goes looking for a missing girl and winds up in the middle of a sex-trade organization specializing in young girls with ties to the highest officials in the New York state government. Director Lynne Ramsey supplies his backstory in a series of quick flashbacks that also reflect on the characters slurried state of mind. She fills it a little too full to be honest - he’s a veteran who saw terrible things in the war, a former FBI agent who saw horrible things in the line of duty, and an abused child who saw his father do horrible things to his mother - but it's done with such bravado direction I never really minded. It is a dark, graphically violent film yet tinged with just the slightest amount of hope and possible redemption.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
I loved this movie as a kid. It was so exciting and the special effects were incredible. It played on cable all the time and so I watched it dozens of times and constantly talked about it with my friends. I hadn’t seen it in decade, but on a lazy Sunday I plugged it in and watched it with my daughter. As an adult, I can see that the script is pretty weak and the editing choppy, but those Ray Harryhausen effects still really hold up. Sure, they look like the stop-motion puppets that they are, but there is something really charming in that. I especially love his work on Medusa and that whole scene is a real stand-out. I’ve not seen the recent remake but I can’t imagine even the best CGI looks as good as the effects do here.
Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy
Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and Leela (I had forgotten how much I love Leela and her knife-wielding jungle magnetism) land on a human space station in the outer reaches of the solar system. There they find a crew that have been attacked by some kind of space virus with plans on dominating the universe. The Doctor gets infected and has to clone himself and Leela where they are then miniaturized and wander about inside his brain in order to find the nucleus of the virus swarm. If that’s not enough to keep you intrigued, then I’ll add in that this is the story where K-9 is introduced (of course, for many that may be reason enough to stay away from this one).
"The Revelator" with Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz
I’ve become a pretty big Chris Thile fan over the years. He’s insanely talented on the mandolin and a great singer. He’s also rally charismatic and seems like a nice guy. When he took over A Prairie Home Companion a couple of years ago, I wasn’t sure he could really pull it off, but he has. And then some. He did so by making it his own. Instead of corny jokes and old times radio hokum, he concentrates on what he does best, playing music. In this clip, he and Sarah Jarosz cover one of Gillian Welch’s best songs and it is so darn good.