My Week 48: Dark Shadows; What to Expect; MIB 3

Dark Shadows (Tim Burton, 2012)
Though it most certainly features some of Burton's recent lack of concern for contained narrative and pacing and his ever-increasingly rigid staging (not nearly enough to lump it in with "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" and "Alice in Wonderland", I might clarify) and even smacks of gothic-going-through-the-motions, I rather enjoyed "Dark Shadows". The 1972 flavoring does it many favors, and of course I loved the integration of Alice Cooper even if he was lip-synching. As if trying to honor every bit of content that made its source soap what it was, the flick features enough jumbled and undercooked stories to fill a season of programming (wait, do soaps come in seasons?) but manages to entertain easily through fun characters (Chloë Grace Moretz' being a particular highlight), relentless period references, classic vampirism done with a winning fish-out-of-water twist, and a little "Death Becomes Her" for good measure; my smile maintained for much of the duration. The best bit? No typical zooming-through-CGI-crap opening credits from Burton! In fact, we get nice aerial shots of a train gliding through the forests of Maine to the sounds of "Nights in White Satin". Boom!

Further first-time viewings:

What to Expect When You're Expecting (Kirk Jones, 2012)
Broadening the Apatow-ing of mainstream American comedy with its hip tone, the intertwining ensemble "What to Expect" is, well, what you'd expect. The surprise is that it's a rather competently assembled piece with a fair sense of pacing and genuineness, if not a great helping of laughs (though to be fair of those there are several, including the highlight of a "Reno 911!" reunion between Thomas Lennon and Wendi McLendon-Covey). The flick scoots along, checking off key milestones in the various ways one might be "expecting", some of which are more affecting than others. Dennis Quaid becomes of relative note in the role of a small-minded NASCAR hero, while Jennifer Lopez rises further up newfound scales of repute. "What to Expect" should prove innocent fun for those who have been or are going through pregnancy, but its effect does not last beyond a single night of moderate enjoyment.

Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012)
Why does this exist. Yes, indeed, it is an embarrassing trainwreck for which basal competency has been tossed out; an insult to even its apparent lowest common denominator demographic. If the "Lord of the Rings" films are the biggest low budget films ever made, this has to be the smallest big budget one. Many scenes - which one can tell are desperately yet shoddily patched together as well as the editors can manage - are blatantly cut between multiple shoots, some even between on-location shoots with a partial cast and skeleton-crew sound stage stuff, like bad '50s nickelodeon fare. Could use an education as to the definition of 'humor', to boot (watching the Fresh Prince cockily go through the motions for two hours does not count). Thankfully the awful-looking graffiti alien from the trailers doesn't make final cut, so we know it still could have been worse, but as if to underwhelmingly compensate the big bad (played by... is that the guy from "Flight of the Conchords"?) is a considerable step down from even the franchise's lackluster second installment. Actually, let's just blanket that last sentiment over the piece as a whole. Is this the worst film of the year so far? I guess that depends on how you feel about "John Carter".

Total: 3

Rewatches (3): Step Brothers (McKay, 2008), Bender's Game (Carey-Hill, 2008), Into the Wild Green Yonder (Avanzino, 2009)
- Similar to my frequent flipping back and forth between the favoring of "Bender's Big Score" or "The Beast with a Billion Backs" as my favorite "Futurama" movie, I continue to flip between "Bender's Game" and "Into the Wild Green Yonder" as my least favorite. Despite its obvious key twist, "Big Score" is perhaps as narratively ambitious as the series has been and you can really sense the creators' loving celebration of their material. "Beast" grandly accomplishes one of my favorite things the series does, and that is going boldy where no one has gone before with both simultaneously subtle and overt whimsy and intriguing questions about our universe that genuinely make you think while you laugh at their presented absurdity. "Game" is when the feature-length installments begin to feel obligatory, and the characters prosper little from becoming so referential to "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars" while cracking some of their lowest-brow quips. Still, at least on this round of viewings, "Game" proves more consistently entertaining than the lame character-heavy "Green Yonder", which drags between tangents but at least returns to somewhat interesting subject matter and has some fun with its obligatory nature (even more fourth-wall breaking observations about script clichés than usual!). But really, why have so much Mr. Wong, robot mafia, Roberto, and new groups the new Feministas and Mad Fellows, yet so little Zapp?

Episodic Television Rewatches: Parks & Recreation (Park Safety; The Master Plan); Futurama (The Series Has Landed - A Flight to Remember; Fry & the Slurm Factory - The Day the Earth Stood Stupid; In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela)
- I don't typically mention the shows my two-and-half-year-old daughter watches, and I'm still not going to bother listing which "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" episodes I've seen with her, but, well... yeah, this "brony" thing. At first I really, really didn't get it... but after around ten random episodes I'd be lying to say I don't find the characters charming and often hilarious. The internet-age sensibilities behind the expression animation goes a long way, as well. I didn't realize how much I genuinely enjoyed the kiddie show until I was talking about it with my girlfriend (and babymama) Jaime and found myself becoming unexpectedly enthusiastic about some of the storylines and character dynamics. Bravo, Lauren Faust. Bravo. Also damn you. But mostly the first thing.

NIFF Screening Committee films I'm not allowed to talk about yet: 5