This Week in Geek (7-13/02/11)

Buys

Bargain bin shopping for DVDs has yielded Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, City Slickers, Galaxy Quest, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Slumdog Millionaire. I also got Doctor Who's The Mutants, the Doctor Who TV Movie (finally available on these shores!) and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Christmas special. My favorite thing in the comics pile this week, so I have to mention it, is Robert Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics collection from Drawn&Quarterly.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Taking a break from Alias, but I realize, not from spy shows, I flipped the 8th season of Spooks (AKA MI-5) this week. I won't spoil the details, but there's a lot of shaking up when it comes to the cast in this one, though I was happy to see Ruth (Nicola Scott) return to the program. Spooks gets more and more into a "24" vibe as it progresses, with an over-arching conspiracy across the season, though it retains its threat-of-the-week format and doesn't overstay its welcome at 8 one-hour episodes. It seems that like The Unit, Spooks was fated to walk from a realistic procedural into Jason Bourne territory, but while I miss the original tone, I can still enjoy what has followed. The extras are slim, with commentary tracks only on the first and last episode (a nice way to thank and compliment the cast and crew, but not all that interesting for fans) and two short but interesting featurettes on how two key stunts were achieved.

Our Kung Fu Friday selection this week was Robin B Hood, which is basically Jackie Chan in Three Men and a Baby. Partnered with Louis Koo, Michael Hui and a super-cute baby, Jackie and director Benny Chan offer up a diverse entertainment that combines slapstick comedy, heartfelt drama and outrageous stunts. Warning: To Western audiences, it may seem like they put the baby in danger, but according to the extras, nothing could be further from the truth. Still, I think mothers might be a little flummoxed by the whole thing. The DVD includes a Chinese-language commentary (with subtitles, obviously) from the director, a 40-minute interview with Jackie, and shorter interviews with the director and another actor. Everybody gets to speak in the two 20-minute making of featurettes (no reason why these were split, really, though the second has a Jackie Chan music video and the Chinese promo spots). Sadly, the many deleted scenes alluded to in the commentary are not included.

Audios: I.D. by Eddie Robson is a three-episode 6th Doctor solo outing featuring a virus communicated from servant robots to cyberjacked humans, which becomes a (thin) exploration of personal identity in a culture that routinely modifies personalities like ours does bodies. One less episode than usual does mean we get to the heart of the matter sooner, and the sound design is excellent throughout, but the quick pace does make the audio a little confusing if not listened to in one sitting (which is how I experience them, in 20-minute chunks walking to and from work). The fourth episode is a very interesting stand-alone story called Urgent Calls that takes place entirely in telephone conversations. It's part of a virus-themed series of short stories spread across the year's Doctor Who output, though I don't know that they're otherwise linked. Here, Robson crafts an unusual and intriguing story that's perfect for audio. There's also an interview with one of the actors included in the package.

Valhalla is a solo 7th Doctor outing that's got a lot to recommend it, but is also disappointing. It wouldn't be if it weren't written by Ghost Light's Marc Platt, but given that I rate some of his audio works (Auld Mortality and Body Parts especially) as the very best Big Finish has to offer, I'm sad to report Valhalla is nowhere near as textured as those. The Doctor is at a crossroads in his life, and that's well done, as he puts a notice that he's looking for employment on the colony of Valhalla. Great lines, Marc Platt really gets Doc7. It becomes a pretty standard Doctor Who story when giant sentient termites attack though. So a bit dull despite good performances, and not helped by the sound design in this case. The CDs do include long swathes of the music, as well as multiple interviews with the cast, in which Michelle Gomez is particularly hilarious.

Books: Colin Brake's Judgement of the Judoon starts a cycle of the 10th Doctor books in which each novel focuses on a popular alien race. It's a cheeky tale that teams the Doctor up with both Veronica Mars (or rather teen private detective Nikki Jupiter who works at her father's agency... pretty obvious) and a Judoon commander with a sense of humor. It's a cheeky and rather entertaining noir crime thriller that's fun, though its twists are perhaps not that hard to devine. Still, the trio of starring characters work well together, and Brake does a good job of creating a living, breathing future world with lots of detail (not so easy given these books' page count).

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - Zeffirelli '90
II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - Kline '90

3 comments:

snell said...

You had me at "Veronica Mars."

Siskoid said...

Then I should have STARTED with the book review.

Matthew Turnage said...

I just finished up the extras on Doctor Who The Movie last night. Excellent package. "Seven Year Hitch" is one of my favorite Who DVD documentaries so far.

I start diving in to The Mutants tonight. I'm looking forward to the "Race Against Time" doc.

 

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