A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP (2009) is a Chinese historical drama in which a woman and her abusive shop-owner husband both contemplate murdering the other, only to have a scheming police captain try to line his own pocket by getting them both out the way. I watched this as part of my viewing of the Coen Brothers’ films, as it’s actually a remake of Blood Simple. Unfortunately it’s a poor substitute for the neo-noir original. “This proves I am the smart, mysterious and talented one.”
SILVER CITY (2004) is a typical John Sayles drama in which political handler Richard Dreyfuss recruits PI Danny Huston to identify a corpse before it becomes an embarrassment for dimwit candidate Chris Cooper. Sayles’ most downbeat film about corruption and development since City of Hope (though he does have Huston pull out a personal happy ending). With Maria Bello as Huston’s reporter ex, Kris Kristofferson as a scheming tycoon, Mary Ellen Place as Huston’s boss, Thora Birch as a junior reporter, Miguel Ferrer as a right-wing radio host, Darryl Hannah as Cooper’s disgusted, dissolute sister, and Ralph Waite as a former bureaucrat (“By the time I got there, it was nothing but empty pits.”). A slow start, but good in the stretch. “You do see the big picture, don’t you Dicky?”
AVENGERS ACADEMY: Final Exams: (cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli, all rights to current holder) by Christos Gage, Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito wraps up the series (I’m missing one volume following the previous two I read, but it doesn’t seem to have affected much) as superhuman entrepreneur Jeremy Briggs recruits the students with offers of a miracle cure for Hazmat and Mettle. Only it turns out the same product can be used to take away anyone’s powers and Briggs likes that idea a lot … Good, as usual, with a nice subtext that yes, the MU still needs super-heroes to punch out super-villains no matter how much people such as Briggs scoff at the concept
WEATHERCRAFT by Jim Woodring is a dialog-free story about “Manhog,” a creature rather cruelly used and tortured by two wizards of some sort. Neat to look at, but I’m not familiar with the source strip and found the weirdness hard to get into (and despite a FAQ on the back assuring us that Manhog deserves to suffer, I felt awfully sorry for him).
HILLBILLYLAND: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies by J.W. Williamson looks at the film hillbilly as buffoon, wild frontier rebel (e.g. Davy Crockett), mirror of society (The Beverly Hillbillies may mock the Clampetts but it has even more scorn for the greedheads around them), Deliverance-style monsters and mountain women (free spirited but ready to be tamed). Williamson also looks at how Southerners deal with the image themselves, from objecting to stereotypes to trying to take it back in various ways. I like this a lot though I was surprised Williamson didn’t cover the hillbilly sexpot I’ve seen in so many films (Ellie Mae Clampett or the women of Li’L Abner being prime examples).
Although I’ve listened to the score many times, the local production we saw this week was the first time I’ve caught HMS PINAFORE onstage. This story of a goodhearted British sailor falling for his captain’s daughter is an example of a parody that outlives the source material, as the stage plays of British naval heroics and romance this sent up are now utterly forgotten. The specific production was a good one, taking a 1940s RNS for its setting; still not my favorite G&S, but more fun than I expected. “Though ‘bother it’ I may/occasionally say/I will never use the big big D!”