This Week in Geek (25-31/01/10)

Buys'n'Gifts

While I bought Fables vol. 12, what I really want to talk about is a surprise package from Folded Soup containing a Science Fiction Video Compendium Gazette (vol.1... so you working on a second?) that features the best stand-alone episodes of 15 SF shows - everything from the Treks to Futurama and the Outer Limits. He's got some nice DVD menus for them with music and liner notes that would make a good blog entry. I remember suggesting a few ideas in a conversation we had years(?) ago, but forgot all about it. Sure, I've got many of the episodes on DVD already, but not all, and it makes a good introductory grab-bag for friends of mine who don't know what they like yet. If I count the three bonus MST3000 shorts, there are 9 items I haven't seen on there, so you might hear from me on this again. Maybe I don't agree with the choices. Maybe I do! Controversy's always good for a blog post.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Kung Fu Fridays this week closed our Asian Tour Month by coming back to China and Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower. A very heavy tragedy that's not at all the non-stop action film its trailer promised (which we watch only after the film). So a more quiet evening than we're used to, but strong performances, incredible set design and cool flying ninjas made up for it. The lesson is that while yes, Tang Dynasty China was corrupt, at least there wasn't any unemployment. There's a very Hollywoodish 20-minute featurette on the DVD with a condescending narration, but we spend enough time speaking with the director and stars to redeem it.



I also watched Boondock Saints for the first time. A fun indy action film about Irish catholic vigilantes with its tongue firmly in its cheek that still means business when it counts. Really, it's Willem Defoe's gay FBI detective that makes the movie. What a great character. That, and the way the film is structured around his investigations. Very nicely done. The "special edition" DVD extras are a bit of a downer though. There are two commentary tracks, one by writer/director/bitter pill Troy Duffy (did I mention how bitter he sounds? very bitter), and the other by actor Billy Connolly who is in it for all of 15 minutes, and while he's a fan of the film, he doesn't all that much that's relevant to say about it. The second disc has a few deleted scenes and outtakes and a printable script. That's it. Hardly worth minting a second disc.

On the TV side of things, I flipped yet another season of Spooks (MI-5) - its fifth. I'll name three things wrong with the season (but bear with me): They replace two sympathetic characters with one unsympathetic one; we're still not going home with most of the characters, leaving Zaf in particular with no more character development than he had when he first appeared more than a season before; and there's a notable over-reliance on government (or MI-6) conspiracies. And for all that, it's one of the most engrossing seasons of Spooks. I ran through it in about a day. Great, great stuff, (especially as Adam unravels) and keeps you holding your breath until the very last shot. It's a case of diminishing returns on the extras though. There's a making of for the season, but hardly anything else and commentaries on only two episodes instead of the whole lot. Now for some reason, Series 6 has a higher price point than the rest and I can't explain why. It's keeping me from pressing that "order" button at the moment...

I also finished Life on Mars Series 2, the 70s retro John Simm vehicle. Is he mad? In a coma? Or back in time? The last episode answers that question. Or does it? It's at once ambiguous and wholly satisfying, with a closing shot that turns it on its head again. The real answer is that we're not in Sam's head or in the 70s, we're on tv. The creators are playing with us, but this was always a slightly meta-textual show, so it's fair. If you liked the first series, you'll certainly like this. Nice extras on the DVD, with about 2½ hours of interviews and behind the scenes material. I can't wait for the sequel, Ashes to Ashes, to come on DVD on this side of the ocean.



Big Finish Doctor Who audios: Moving right along, I listened to Terror Firma, the first "non-series" 8th Doctor audio (Doc8 now folded into the regular release schedule), by Joseph Lidster. Like Lidster's The Rapture, this was a story I didn't always like, but that I admired for its creative editing. It's the kind of thing in which you sometimes wonder where you are, but gets better once your ear is "tuned" to its style. Terry Molloy once again returns as Davros (I guess he had to meet each of the audio Doctors) and he's losing his mind to the Daleks post -Remembrance. It is a very weird story, with the last humans partying under a metal sky, and previously unknown companions of the Doctor coming out of the woodwork. Some strange ideas, but in the final analysis, I have to say I like it more than I disapprove of it.

Next up was Paul Sutton's Thicker Than Water, an 6th Doctor/Mel story that acts as a sequel to the same writer's Arrangements for War, and reveals the final fate of Evelyn. It's not her last story, mind you, but it's her last chronological story. Consequently, Mel doesn't have much to do, but the Doc6-Evelyn relationship shows why it's one of the best pairings in TARDIS history. That element is the star here, not so much the political/mad scientist plot, though that's fine.





Third and last (and least) this week was Will Shindler's Scaredy Cat, featuring the 8th Doctor with Chalrie and C'rizz. At 1h14min, this is a much shorter audio than most by at least a half hour, with very brief scenes that do not reward the lazy listener. Things move at a brisk pace indeed. The story, with an Eden-like planet on whose natives experimentation on the nature of evil is going on, made me think of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Word for World Is Forest a heck of a lot, but with silly grunting and an adult voicing a little girl. So it's a pass on this one, I'm afraid. And maybe I'm getting a little bored with Doc8's present companions at this stage.


Operas: Got snuck into the University opera workshop by the set designers this afternoon at what might just be my first opera. I mention it here because of the subject matter - Baba Yaga. Now I told my set designer friends that I'd be much disappointed if the opera didn't have the hut with the chicken legs. I was much disappointed then. But other things made up for it. First, great set and lighting design, that's a given. Second, the music was lovely, especially considering the whole thing was the creation of one of the 4th-year students, James Fogarty, who also played a role. If there's a weakness, it's in his lyrics and dialogue, but his music was great, and I still find myself humming it. One day he'll meet a brilliant lyricist and away he'll go to stardom.

Hyperion to a Satyr entries this week include:
Act I Scene 3 - Jumping into a new scene! About time!

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 12 new cards from The Deadly Assassin, not yet half what I have planned for that story. More through the week.

Neglected Posts of the Week
If you haven't been checking out Michael May's Plump Sister, in which he goes through various film versions of A Christmas Carol, you're missing out on lots of Dickensian goodness. As far as I'm concerned, all the posts on there deserve more love.

5 comments:

FoldedSoup said...

Glad you liked it - when enough time passes after a promise, it becomes a surprise!

And I look forward to your (and everyone else I've sent a copy to) discussion on why I was wrong / missed some episode or another.

Heck, I was just happy to make a DVD collection that I could watch repeatedly, not get sick of, and pass on as a gift!

I'm cheap that way.

Best!

Michael May said...

Thanks, Siskoid!

rob! said...

Have you ever seen the documentary Overnight, about the guy that directed Boondock Saints? Amazing.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I loves me some Chow Yun Fat but boy is he a bastard in 'Curse of the Golden Flower' - I like how slowly the tension build and the action is incredible especially the lesson - 'You must not take but what I do not give you' - tough to be the emperor baby but THAT is why he had the job.

Siskoid said...

Soup: You've only ignited my desire to create custom anthologies myself! After all, there's a LOT of lendin going on at my house. I'm the local pop culture library.

Rob: No! Tell me more!

Cal: And how he held on to it. Do you think I can expect the same amount of psychological complexity from this week's KFF - Way of the Dragon? ;)

 

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