I am entertained
I notice that Stephen Den Beste has been writing interminable synopses of his latest anime purchases. This has prompted me to reflect on the stuff I’ve watched since my vacation began last Saturday.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
It’s like this: Master Shake, Meatwad and Frylock are anthromorphic fast food items with superpowers. Meatwad can assume different shapes. Frylock shoots electricity from his eyeballs. Master Shake squirts goo out of his straw. In theory, they solve mysteries. In practice, they sit around their New Jersey house and sneak into their neighbor’s pool when he’s not looking. Weird things happen – creatures arrive from the moon, a dig reveals a sandwich forged by the overlords of Hell – but the gang does their best to avoid them.
When I explain this cartoon to peers, they don’t get it. Understandable. The concept is pure Cartoon Network – ironic, cheap animation with an inherently silly core. What makes the show great (and worthy of repeat viewings) is the writing and voice work. Look for a script online, and get a flavor for how Master Shake and Carl (the neighbor) make the same riffs work in different plots and contexts.
A crack team of scientists in a futuristic undersea complex do stupid things. Dean likes it – I’m less enamoured. But I love the episodes that play with the confines of a TV show, like when it becomes an MTV-style bullshit promo for a Sealab “movie” called “Tinfins,” or when a nine-minute story is revealed to be a commercial for the jazz-themed Bebop Cola.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Tobe Hooper’s sequel to his slasher classic is pure, unmitigated shit. Realizing he can’t recreate his old documentary style, Hooper makes a Sam Raimi-style gorefest that absorbs absolutely none of Raimi’s wit, and “funny” scenes drag on for eons, getting more and more unbelieveably dull.
Poltergeist II (1986)
Strangely, Brian Gibson (director of 1998’s very funny “Still Crazy”) manages to recreate the look and feel of Tobe Hooper’s original, which is one of the 10 or 12 best horror movies since the birth of Technicolor. Stranger still, he packs in a lot of potentially scary ideas that don’t work. And he commits a truly stupid ending to film – the haunted Freeling family enter the spirit world, do battle with a scary bulbously thing, and are saved by the ghost of Craig T. Nelson’s mother in law. I mean, Jesus.
Can we make it official that Tobe Hooper was never any damn good? This potentially cool vampires-in-space movie starts like Alien and ends like Mullholland Drive, with the human antihero engaging in naked sword-sex with the alien soulsucker. Wow, what crap.
Ridley Scott’s legendary dud, which casts Tom Cruise as the feyest fantasy hero since Little Nemo, is actually a real wonder to behold. The set design is breathtaking, on par with the prettiest sights in “The Lord of the Rings.” Mia Sara, best remembered as the squeeze in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is gorgeous. Tim Curry, as the villainous Darkness, is a human cartoon. “What is LIGHT without … DARK! What are YOU without … MEEEEE!”
Glengarry Glen Ross
What the fuck? The only Oscar nomination went to Al Pacino? Unfair. Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey are all fantastic as real estate salesmen who are cracking under the pressure of a contest set down by their employers, relayed by Alec Baldwin. Don’t let the phrase “real estate” scare you off. The dialogue and acting make this one of the tensest dramas of the last 20 years.