This Week in Geek (12-18/04/10)

Buys

Only got the disappointing Boondock Saints II because I had a fit of completism, but I'm real excited by John Woo's wuxia epic, Red Cliff. Clocking in at 288 minutes, it's gonna be one long Kung Fu Friday when its time comes. Good thing summer's here!

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Watched and flipped An Education on my belated road to the Oscars, a sweet, quiet coming of age story featuring not only the charming Carey Mulligan, but great character turns for, well, the whole cast. I loved the understated humor and the ambiguity of the whole thing. It's really about the choices afforded women prior to the '60s, though it keeps its distance so as not to make outright judgments. Praiseworthy slice of life. The DVD includes a conversational commentary by the director and two leads (nice, but not too informative, though I commend it for having subtitles of its own), about 15 minutes of interviews and a bunch of deleted scenes.



Also on that road was A Serious Man, the Cohen Brothers' latest film, an exploration of the incomprehensibility of the universe filled with missed messages from God, whether that God is the Jewish Hashem or the secular power of mathematics. Both are one and the same in this film, and Their presence can be felt in what could easily become my favorite tragi-comedy of the year. I'm a sucker for Schrodinger's Cat references anyway. The Cohens don't give much away in the half hour of extras (of course they don't), which includes a brief but fun glossary of Yiddish terms used in the film and good discussion on how they recreated 1967 Midwestern America.



Moving right along the road, I then watched The Hurt Locker. This one, I wasn't as sure about. I respect its documentary style - sometimes forgetting that they weren't really filming in Baghdad - but then the action movie tropes (the maverick hero) seemed to work against the style. Then again, the events are based on the scriptwriter's observations while embedded with a bomb squad in 2004 (and his bits are the most interesting thing about the commentary track), so it may be a case of life imitating art. Certainly, while there is an "arc" to follow, there isn't really a plot. It made me think of Platoon (without Oliver Stone, which is a good thing) in its portrait of the Iraq Occupation. The DVD also includes a short featurette, and the Q&A audio set over the mandatory picture gallery. A good way to marry two features.

Off-roading from the Oscars was our Kung Fu Friday featuring Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning, a thematic prequel to Tony Jaa's break-out action film. Laudable for its intriguing portrayal of ancient Thailand (or Khmer, I guess) and some especially cool elephant-assisted fighting, it frustratingly ends on a cliffhanger (Ong-Bak 3, out in 2010 throughout Asia!), or the way I interpret it, as a way for the "complete martial artist" of the film to reincarnate into every other martial arts hero in cinema history. At least, the revenge-fueled ones. I don't think Tony Jaa doing swordplay is in any way stronger than his hand-to-hand, but there's some interesting choreography in there regardless. The special edition DVD includes a rendundant alternate cut you won't need unless you have 10 minutes less than normal to watch it, and a number of 7-minute featurettes and behind the scenes montages.

And after doing a sort of take on The Breakfast Club with my improv troupe, we promised ourselves we'd watch the film again (usually for the first time in more than a decade, or ever). That moment came earlier today and I was struck at how affecting this "reverse-Ferris Bueler" actually was. John Hughes really pegs the teenage psychology down, sometimes having them deal with major problems, but also making huge melodramatic meals out of minor ones. Point is, it's major to the characters, which is dead on. Damn you for making me teary, Anthony Michael Hall! I don't like the Hollywood-ish feel of the ending, but otherwise, great intensity, humor and mmm, emo Ally Sheedy. The DVD has a pretty fun documentary full of anecdotes and homage (though Estevez and Ringwald are sorely lacking), a small bit about the origin of the Brat Pack, and a jocular commentary track with Nelson and Hall.

Hyperion to a Satyr entries this week include:
Act 1 Scene 4
Act I Scene 4 - Branagh '96

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