This Week in Geek (11-17/10/10)


A couple of DVD purchases this week: Caprica Season 1.0 and Return of the Five Deadly Venoms AKA Crippled Avengers (but that title's not very PC, is it?).


DVDs: TV series of the week goes to Human Target, a big, dumb, fun action series I really liked last year when it premiered, though I missed the last handful of episodes. I knew I was going to grab this short 12-episode series on DVD in time for its second season premiere anyway. Click the Human Target tag below to see my comments on the first few episodes (as well as the comic it's based on) and expect more Human Target-related material in the future. Great stunts, great fights, really fun characters and situations, and appearances by Battlestar alumns. I'm liking the action series revival TV is currently undergoing, standing in stark opposition to the often dour "miss an episode and you're Lost" programs and cerebral detective shows that have held the idiot box hostage for the last decade. The DVD includes a good commentary on the pilot (with producers and cast), deleted scenes from a handful of episodes, and about 30 minutes worth of featurettes. An acceptable package.

There are a few 5th Doctor stories I never managed to catch on PBS back in the day, so I came to The King's Demons fresh and not even realizing it was only a 2-parter. The story involves the Master replacing King John with a robot and putting Magna Carta into jeopardy. The production values are high, with horses and jousting and songs, but just as it gets interesting, it ends. Feels like a waste, really, especially considering the unworkable robot companion (Kamelion) it was meant to introduce. Could have been something and then wasn't. Still, 2|entertain do their best to put extras on the DVD. In addition to the usual text and voice commentaries, there's a bonus director's commentary on episode 1, as well as a feature on Kamelion and on the history of Magna Carta. Both are interesting enough.

Another first-time-seen story for me, Planet of Fire says goodbye to both Kamelion and Turlough, and hello to Peri, with high production values thanks to location shooting on a volcanic island, but over-the-top performances from a couple of guest actors (including Anthony Ainley as the Master). It's a good-looking story, even if not much happens beyond the shuffling in and off of characters imposed on the writer. Director Fiona Cumming got the chance to re-edit the story as a short movie with CGI effects (as she did with Enlightenment, though here cutting about a half hour from the length). An odd choice for such a treatment, replacing cheesy video effects with cheesy CGI, though it does bounce along quicker and its sound design now gives it bigger scope. It also makes Sarn much hotter and creates a modern-style teaser for the Trion ship's crash. The DVD's commentary track gives the full story better than the short making of elements, though these are generally good. There's a return to the locations, an interview with the designer, various trims (I dare not call them "deleted scenes"), some fun outtakes with discussion on the typical studio day, and an Anthony Ainley retrospective that has an entertaining old interview with him.

Kung Fu Fridays' flirtation with sequels continues with Stephen Chow's Royal Tramp II. Flowing directly from the previous film, but with its own distinct story, the comedy is a little less centered on dick jokes this time around. A fun romp, as with the first one, and similarly confusing at times, either because we can't possibly get parodies of 1992 Hong Kong television ads, or because the title con man keeps changing sides. Thanks to a magical infusion of chi, Stephen Chow finally gets to cut loose with the martial arts, producing sequences that I really haven't seen the like before. The DVD includes the usual informative Dragon Dynasty commentary, as well as a short interview with the director.

What seems perfectly normal in Asian cinema seems out of place in an American film, and that was my initial reaction to Wong Kar-Wai's My Blueberry Nights. He's one of my fetish directors and shows again what jazz would be if it were film instead of music, but I had to get used to his lush stylistic approach all over again under English-speaking voices. But it's definitely Wong Kar-Wai despite the Western actors/characters. Strangers passing in the night, keys left at an eatery, love affairs conducted without both parties' knowledge, and even a singer in a lead role. I almost thought it was gonna be a Chungking Express remake. Ultimately, it's an artful film about obstacles standing in the way of properly connecting, with some strong performances (how charming is Jude Law in this?) and a great jazzy soundtrack.

RPGs: First (and then second) session of DC Adventures, with four heroes going back in time to prevent the Ultra-Humanite from diverting the course of World War II (again). The JSA and Bob Hope guest star. Still getting a handle on the system and screwed up a couple things (no harm done, but I blame the way the book spreads out important rules). Though the battle was going pretty fast at the end, I think I'll still try to limit their number in the future. You only really need a couple of combat set pieces anyway. The players are a little skittish about taking action or using their powers in unusual ways, but again, it's all about familiarity. Some characters stood out right away, in particular the robotic Emerald Centurion whose player has pre-recorded sound bites on his iPhone and uses them liberally for comic effect, and Tritan, whose badass metal persona quickly came along. The next session was a little more refined on all fronts, notable for my bringing back an NPC from the previous campaign (albeit in a different form). A JLI-style comedy with lots of room for interactions, which helps to get to know the characters. The combats are still going a little slow and aren't quite as imaginative as I'd like them to be (for all concerned), but other challenges are delt with interestingly. One thing I miss is the cliffhangers I was able to do in Evernight. That's the problem with one-shots.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.i. Reynaldo - Tennant (2009)
II.i. Ophelia Affrighted


LiamKav said...

Planet of Fire is also a rare old Who episode that manages to have blatant pandering to both men and woman.

(Or at least, it does if you fancy Turlough, I guess.)

Siskoid said...

There's also hot stepdad Howard in those same scene with bikini action Peri.


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