This Week in Geek (31/01-6/02/11)


Picked up a couple of films on DVD: The Last King of Scotland and Robert Altman's Short Cuts.


DVDs: Now done with Alias Season 3, the mystery of the lost 2 years and a nasty love triangle that brings Vaughn closer to Jack Bristow. Apparently there was pressure from "outside" to reveal the truth of the lost years sooner, and on a weekly schedule, I can see that makes sense. On DVD, it wraps up a bit early, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to do in the second half of the season. An action-packed season with lots of cool guest stars (Ricky Gervais?!), so it's really a continuation of the second half of Season 2 despite the time jump (which is relatively well used to shuffle some characters around). The DVD has commentaries on a few episodes, as usual, a stylish animated short about a mission from the lost years (I'd watch a full series of that thing), more than an hour's worth of making of featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes, an awkwardly edited seminar talk, the Superbowl teaser and Michael Vartan hangin' with the Stanley Cup. A strong package as usual.

Ashes of Time Redux is a re-edit (necessary after the master was lost) of Wong Kar-Wai's first feature film, a star-filled historical epic extremely loosely adapted from a Louis Cha swordplay novel. I wasn't sure my KFF crew was ready for Wong Kar-Wai's artiness, and I'm still not sure. I love it though. The visual poetry is enough to sustain my interest at the very least. Ashes of Time has an elliptical structure based on the Chinese almanac, but I wouldn't call it a plot. It's more like a series of short stories intersecting the life of a mercenary swordsman or "fixer". Some are Buddhist fables, other end in excitingly (but unusually) filmed action sequences choreographed by Sammo Hung. Constant are the film's visual inventiveness and the high romance inherent to the characters. The DVD includes a making of mostly made up of interviews taken at Cannes. More interesting is an English-language 40-minute interview with the director (don't worry, the interviewer eventually shuts up).

Audios: Still enjoying the first season of 8th Doctor/Lucie Miller stories... Eddie Robson's Phobos has our wisecracking pair on the Martian moon Phobos, which has become a hotspot for extreme sports, in particular an anomaly that allows for both vertiginous jumps and scary interdimensional monsters. The location is new, but the plot isn't much different from standard Who (say, Horror of Glam Rock). Sheridan Smith is well used, I thought, with Lucie Miller exhibiting a certain degree of comic timing. Looking at credits, Robson becomes an important writer for both this range and other Big Finish audios, but between this and Memory Lane (the other of his I've heard), I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing yet. The two-part finale for this season will hopefully say which.

No More Lies by Paul Sutton gains some scope when it starts in the middle of things, aboard a timeship under attack from a chronovorous race in the vortex, but like a lot of the BB7 Doc8 output, it moves so fast, you sometimes struggle to understand what just happened. These quick one-episode stories don't reward daydreamers, let's just say. And yet, they can be consumed so quickly compared to most of Big Finish's output that the energy is often enough to satisfy me. So it's very much in the New Who style. Nigel Havers, who played Sarah Jane's beau in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith guest-stars. Oh, and the music is pretty good. It's just that the villains are beaten perhaps to quickly, quickly forgotten as Lucie's arc starts ramping up at the very end.

With Human Resources Part I, Eddie Robson manages a fun and witty office satire, as Lucie gets collected by the Headhunter and returned to a job that isn't what it seems. The Doctor gets some especially good lines in both parts of this "season finale", and though Part II's monsters are advertised right on the cover, even that isn't exactly what it seems. So in answer to my own query a couple of paragraphs back, I think the wide use of Robson at Big Finish will turn out to be a good thing. At this point, he seems to have that RTD penchant for satirizing the world of today (extreme sports in Phobos and cubicle culture here) and is good at dialog (which is a necessary skill in the audio format).

Part II throws the Cybermen into the mix, but they're only one of many threats faced by the Doctor and Lucie. The most important thing here that Lucie's witness protection arc is resolved. I think it's a little too soon, and the answers we get aren't quite the ones we've been expecting. Are they BAD answers? Not necessarily, though I do think they're a little anticlimatic in a way. It also leaves Lucie without an arc for the second season, which is what (unhappily) happened to Rose in her second season. Danger ahead? I'm going back to the numbered Doctor Who audios now, so I'm a ways from finding out, but for now, I'll say this new format for the 8th Doctor adventures is a winner, especially if you enjoy New Who. Fans of the more classic self-contained 4-parters may find the quick resolutions lacking.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - Branagh '96
II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - Olivier '48
II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - BBC '80


Michael May said...

That Alias episode is without doubt my favorite thing that Ricky Gervais has done. Without qualification, it's just brilliantly played.

Toby'c said...

Short Cuts is a great movie, but it's not a great adaptation of the Carver stories. I recommend checking out an Australian film called Jindabyne, with Gabriel Byrne as Stewart Kane and Laura Linney as Claire.

Siskoid said...

Intriguing, thanks Toby.

I didn't even know it was an adaptation. I bought it because I remembered Short Cuts from a film history class way back when.

Toby'c said...

And yet Raymond Carver's name never came up? Huh.
Ironically, I watched it in a class on Adaptations, Literature and Screen last year (with a collection of the adapted short stories) and the name Jindabyne never came up. Incidentally, the story in question is called "So Much Water So Close to Home".

Siskoid said...

To be fair, I took that class 20 years ago. It probably did come up, I've just forgotten.


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