A couple purchases this week. First is Fables vol.11, a series I still only follow in trades. It's tough when those monthlies tantalize you from the racks... And in my continuing quest for good DVD versions of Hamlet on film, Olivier's Shakespeare, a boxed set that's a better value than just the Criterion Hamlet, also containing Henry V and Richard III, which actually have extras. Now I can retire my old VHS tape of Olivier's Hamlet.
DVDs: Flipped John Woo's Hard Boiled, because sometimes, I really need my dose of Hong Kong cinema. Hard Boiled is an exhausting action movie - you feel you're consistently in the climax - and even John Woo admits its action pieces are too long, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. Though Chow Yun Fat is nominally the star, Tony Leung (one of my favorite actors of all time) steals the show, just as total badass Kwok Choi does from the film's nominal baddie. The DVD has an expert's commentary track (not bad, though sometimes tedious), and a number of interviews with Woo, his producer, Kwok Choi, and others. Dragon Dynasty completes the package with a ton of Hong Kong movie trailers, a location guide to Hard Boiled, and promo featurette for the Hard Boiled video game, Strangehold.
Next up was Chungking Express by Wong Kar-Wai. Not so much a movie as two movies, with common locations and themes, but no intersecting plots. Both feature lovelorn cops and Wong Kar-Wai's lyricism and poetry. In the first, a cop obsessed with things (and relationships) having expiration dates crosses paths with a bewigged drug smuggler, but doesn't know what he's got. In the second, a slightly crazy girl redecorates another cop's apartment in his absence, replacing his ex-girlfriend inch by inch. The screwball romance stars Tony Leung again, but it would have been my favorite anyways. Another expert's commentary (this time, truly insightful), an interview with the director and his d.p., Chris Doyle, and a pretty good essay in the booklet.
Getting back to North America, I then flipped David Mamet's Redbelt (so not too far from Asian sensibility), a well-researched story that takes place in and around the Ultimate Fighting world. I've heard people say the ending isn't satisfying, but I disagree. Mamet excels at not giving everything away, and his ending has the right kind of ambiguity. To understand the film properly, the lessons of jujitsu spouted throughout must be applied to all characters' behavior. Very strong performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen and Emily Mortimer, and interesting fighting scenes besides. The DVD has Mamet and Randy Couture on an entertaining commentary, and about an hour and a half's worth of features, include the making of, a piece on mixed martial arts, another on Ultimate Fighting, and a bitingly funny Q & A with Mamet (among other things).
Improv: We had a show this week - another one of our patented improvised plays. The kids at the high school we played asked for only one thing: That the play be called "Dynasty of the Pirates". So we lugged in some appropriate costumes from the university theater, spent a half hour constructing makeshift islands on stage and the idea of boat in the middle and went right to work. The result was more parody than anything, but I did enjoy the way it started and ended in the present day, where a carven idol made the contemporaries also act like pirates. I mostly stuck to a mute secondary character, since I was losing my voice at the time (now it's done), but my boys Sly and Bass (and Carolynn in the background) were in full pirate drag.
Not pictured: Etienne as a native witch doctor.
Video games: Big Halo/Rock Band party this weekend. 16+ players, 5 screens, 5 xboxes... I got slayed a heck of a lot. Good thing I'm a regular guitar hero.
Someone Else's Post of the Week
Caleb does it again. Yes, Everyday Is Like Wednesday gets my prize for the umpteenth time. The title: "I'm not sure if anyone's ever pointed this out before or not, but Rob Liefeld doesn't seem to be a very good artist." And Caleb tries to draw like him to see just how bad!