This Week in Geek (22-28/12/08)

Buys'n'Gifts

Only one purchase for myself, and that's Suspiria on DVD. Postmodern Barney peaked my curiosity recently and a new 2-disc edition came out exactly at the right time. I'm not a big horror fan generally, but Argento looks to be interesting.

Gifts: I gave my roommate a stand-up Dalek (to replace that old Captain Sherridan we once destroyed during a binge) and Inside Delta Force, cuz he's a big fan of The Unit like me. Others to be revealed when I actually hand them out.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: First flipped is Sarah Jane Adventures Series 1, the Doctor Who spin-off for the younger set, and it's a brief one. 6 stories (all but one told in two half-hour episodes). They stand up to adult scrutiny a lot more than I expected after seeing only the Bubble Shock pilot, especially the last two stories. And hey, baby Slitheen? That's HIGH-larious! The DVD is a little bare when it comes to extras. No commentary tracks, strangely enough considering that Doctor Who and Torchwood have them on every single episode. Disappointing. Interviews with the cast are from tv sources (Blue Peter and the like). Fun feature: Outtakes unlocked by completing an easy quiz.

Doctor Who Series 4 took quite a deal longer to flip, what with a commentary track on each episode (the best is on Silence in the Library - listen to Moffat and Tennant flip out when Julie Gardner dares say the Doctor has a wife!), the full run of Doctor Who Confidential, deleted scenes presented by producer Russell T Davies, a half hour special on ± the end of an era, and Tennant's at once touching and hilarious video diaries. It's a great package with some great episodes (from the Agatha Christie episode on, there are very few false notes) and Donna turns out to be a great companion. Reminds me that I really should do some Doctor Who posts for the Series, which I harshly neglected last spring.

Macbeth (1979) was next. That's the Thames Television production of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1976 minimalist version with Ian McKellan and Judy Dench. I know it's Macbeth, but this thing is bleak. Practically monochromatic, no sets, it's all played on the actors' faces. There's only so far a psychopathic Macbeth can take me, but I did enjoy the way the visions were integrated into the story, i.e. as not exactly magical at all. Creepy dolls! The DVD has what I wish the BBC Shakespeare DVDs would have: extras! Ian McKellan has a good long interview (more than 30 minutes) recalling the production and how they went about it. Discussing the plays is key to these things, I feel.

A bargain bin copy of tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible was next, just because I needed some popcorn cinema to cleanse my palate. Now, Mission: Impossible isn't a bad movie per se. Certainly, it has a couple of iconic set pieces. So what's wrong with it? It's the title. It's just not true enough to the source material. The team not only takes second seat to the single star, but gets massacred in the opening sequence. Worst of all, the only character FROM the tv series turns out to be the villain. Deconstructionism gone wrong. The movie does stand on its own, but it pisses in the fans' corn flakes. The DVD extras are annoying however. The material has way too much Tom Cruise ego stroking for my tastes. Montages of his films, acceptance speeches, plugs for MI3, and a LOT of accolades (too many considering he's the film's producer). Meanwhile, an extra on the effects basically just says "hey, we have effects, cool eh?" and nothing more. A visit of the Spy Museum is the highlight, and like Sarah Jane, a quiz also unlocks extra material.

While I was at it, I flipped MI:2. A more entertaining film and DVD package, even if it gets further and further from the tv series. But by this point, it's its own franchise. I'm a fan of Asian cinema, and John Woo gives the film a stylish, romantic look. He also provides a commentary track; he has something of a thick accent, but understandable. I don't think the sequences are as iconic as the first Mission's, and the script has an almost misogynistic streak to it in spots, but Thandie Newton is incredibly watchable, isn't she? The DVD includes good behind the scenes features on the stunts and such, but a bonus disc only has the Tom Cruise festival already found on MI1.

I got Matchstick Men because it was a Ridley Scott movie, but it's a rather understated one. I'm a big fan of con artist stories, and maybe that's why I saw the big con coming very early (despite Ridley's commentary protestations that it isn't possible to do so). Well, I say I guessed, and I did, but I suppose I was more suspicious throughout, but it could have gone another way entirely and for a while I thought that was actually the intended effect: In a world of lies, can you ever believe the truth. Either way, that's still kind of the point and it's a fantastically well observed movie. The DVD has a long making of feature and the commentary features Ridley and the script's writers (which was more interesting to me).

Audios: The Kingmaker is one of Big Finish's audios for the 5th Doctor, also starring Peri and Erimem, written by Dead Ringers' Nev Fountain (and featuring fellow Ringer Jon Culshaw doing Tom Baker's voice). It's an outrageous spoof, not to be taken at face value to be sure. In it, the Doctor goes back in time to record the truth about Richard III's life in a clever script that uses historical accuracy, Shakespeare's play and temporal paradoxes to great effect. Editorial robots, a bit of transvestism, and evil Shakespeare with a raygun. (I guess I'll have to wait a while yet before Who gives me a palatable version of the Bard.) Just a bit of fun which I listened to for a card I was making...

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 17 cards which wrap up my Relative Dimensions 4 box. These include everything from Shakespeare with a raygun to the Dalek Chronicles to a d20 joke.

Someone Else's Post of the Week
Scipio has the unique ability to write the most interesting analyses of DC Comics' promotional two-page ads and then turning them into love letters to the DC Universe and revealing why it's the cat's meow. Battle for the Cowl is the latest.

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