This Week in Geek (22-28/11/10)


Three DVDs added to my collection this week. One is a Kung Fu film, Brave Archer, and the two others are classic Cyberman Doctor Who stories, Revenge of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis.


DVDs: Flipped Samurai Jack Season 3, which attempts to take our favorite temporally-displaced samurai into different types of stories. I can't very well say the silly comedies are among the best, but I did like the western and the ghost story very much. And this is the season with the two-part Aku origin story, "The Birth of Evil", which certainly deserves its Emmy win. It is wonderful and poetic, despite being essentially Jack-less. Fittingly, that story gets the feature commentary by the makers. The DVD also includes a featurette on the real-life martial arts depicted in the show, and a lost artwork gallery with commentary. Before I start talking about the next "accomplishment", let me show you a screen shot from the western episode in which Jack fights with my fetish weapon, the Battle Shovel... on a moving train!!!
'Nuff said.

Kung Fu Friday had us watch Tsui Hark's 2001 mythical epic Zu Warriors AKA The Legend of Zu, a special effects-heavy remake of 1983's Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, and obviously based on Chinese legends. Being neither familiar with Chinese myth, nor the 1983 original, my entourage and I admitted to being a little lost. Not that we couldn't follow the story, but we just had no context with which to interpret the pretty light show. It's hard to identify with gods, after all, and the audience identifier played by Zhang Ziyi hardly appears despite her prominent place on the DVD cover. Wu Jing has a small comedic but heroic role that's actually quite fun, but you're usually left wanting to play whatever video game follows this 1h50 cut scene. It does grow on you, by which point you're likely to call it an "experience". The DVD includes an English dub version that's 25 minutes lighter and makes wide use of narration by Zhang's character, as well as a pretty basic, but not uninteresting 20-minute making of featurette.

I also flipped Joss Whedon's Dollhouse Season 1. Though Whedon's work usually has strong thematic underpinnings, I wasn't sure I liked the uncomfortable premise of young people lending themselves over to have their memories wiped and having others dumped on them. The good news is that the show knows this is creepy and makes good use of the gray area. Eliza Dushku is more engaging than I would have thought as Echo, an "Active" who evolves into something new through the season, dispelling a couple other reservations I might have had (about her ability to play all these roles, and about following a series whose lead has no constant). Not to say there's any set formula to each episode - like some kind of Quantum Leap, let's sort someone's life every week, type show - it unfolds as a sci-fi thriller filled with twists and turns and a more than capable ensemble cast. If you stopped watching Dollhouse after a couple of episodes, you may have done yourself a wrong. Allow it to play out, by all means. The DVD includes both the original pilot (partly cannibalized by the actual series) and a post-apocalyptic new episode made for the DVD that acts as a proper series finale set some time in the future. The series managed to hold on for another year (which I'll promptly slide into the DVD player), and there's a sequel to "Epitaph One" at the end of the second season, so canceled or not, we've got closure. The DVD also has commentary on three episodes, a half hour's worth of deleted scenes (the bulk of which features alternate "engagements" for the original pilot), and a bunch of making of/cast and crew opinions featurettes. I wasn't sure what to expect with Dollhouse, but I'm coming off the first arc definitely liking it. Looking forward to exploring these ideas even more in the second season.

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 29, most from Warriors' Gate, but a handful from The Eleventh Hour.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. New Arrivals - Branagh '96


Dan said...

Samuri Jack is awesome, I still need to pick up season 4!!!

Siskoid said...

Me too!!!!

De said...

Maybe I'll give Dollhouse another try via Netflix.

Siskoid said...

How far did you get, De?

(Assuming Fox aired the show in any kind of coherent order... see Firefly.)

De said...

I watched the first two episodes and the music video in the mountains made me switch off the third. The series struck me as a vapid attempt to be more than it was.

Like I said, I'll give it another shot. I ended up liking what I saw of Firefly. Didn't think it was the "OMG Greatest Show Ever!!!!" (in Whedonite speak) but enjoyable.

Siskoid said...

The show was originally meant to be more relationship-driven, but FOX asked that it be more action-driven. So those first few episodes have action engagements.

Whedon calls ep #5 the third pilot, because it gets into what he really wanted to do will Dollhouse, which is get us away from (solely) engagements and into the House and its rammifications. FOX also requested a more thriller-like storyline and that's where it kicks in, not to the show's disservice.


Austin Gorton said...

I wasn't sure what to expect with Dollhouse, but I'm coming off the first arc definitely liking it. Looking forward to exploring these ideas even more in the second season.

Ditto on all counts. Despite being a huge Whedon fan, I was reluctant to get into Dollhouse and put off watching it, but ended up liking it a lot.

Whedon calls ep #5 the third pilot, because it gets into what he really wanted to do will Dollhouse

Yeah, that's when things really kick into gear.


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