Sunday, June 26, 2011

This Week in Geek (20-26/06/11)


The Spring Splurge turns into Summer Splurge, though I did order these before the last day of Spring. In addition to Time Unincorporated vol.3 (which I'm now reading), I got the following DVDs: Legend of the Fist, Hong Kong Godfather, Shaolin Prince, The Adjustment Bureau, Melville's Le Samouraï, and two classic Doctor Who stories, Time and the Rani, and Frontios.


DVDs: I've sent money to the Sequart Research & Literacy Organization before, so had no problem springing for Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, a documentary about one of my favorite comics writers. Director Patrick Meany interviews the man himself extensively as well as other industry professionals to paint a picture of Morrison from his youth to Final Crisis, putting his works in a biographical context. Both Morrison's memory and honesty are up to the task and it will be interesting to now revisit some of his more opaque work, like The Invisibles and The Filth. We also get some industry gossip (like his feud with Alan Moore), psychedelic stories and images, and discussion on the comics writing process. Best comics-related documentary since Crumb. The director also includes his commentary track, which gives even more insight, though it makes one pine for the unused material that didn't fit the "story" of the film (like Seaguy and New X-Men).

If the first two series of Being Human were overwhelmingly vampire stories with werewolf and ghost subplots, Series 3, I think, is the first to get a real balance between all three characters and worlds. The change of venue helps and new supporting characters are introduced, with the comic touch of early episodes giving way to grand tragedy (it's almost too much to take in) that really feels like a series ender (the next series will be much different, it seems). The one thing I don't buy is the romance between two of the characters (won't spoil it here). Came out of nowhere and lacked the proper chemistry, in my opinion. Ah well. The DVD has a few deleted scenes, "extended" cast interviews (which only amount to 20 minutes though all four stars have their say), and a fun tour of the new set.

Can a man fight fate? I'm usually up for a Philp K. Dick adaptation, though these tend to be very loosely adapted indeed. The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, owes more to something like City of Angels than it does Dark City or Inception. Though the veil of reality is lifted, this is by no real means a "puzzle movie, no, it's a ROMANCE. A "chick flick" with an interesting Dickian premise. Not quite as subtle as I would have liked it to be at times (in exposition scenes especially), I still enjoyed it immensely. The two stars are charismatic and have a fun, bantery (yet emotional) relationship. The many New York locations give the picture real breadth and authenticity. It's a world you can believe in. And hey, Terrence Stamp too. The DVD has an unengaging but solid director's commentary, a few deleted scenes and three shot but useful featurettes (on the locations, the dancing and the romance).

The Brave Acher (a Shaw Bros. martial arts film by Chang Cheh) must be termed a failure, though it has a lot of interesting or at least intriguing set pieces (the peach blossom maze, the two marriage duels, the various training sessions). Quite simply, it is mystifying to Western audiences. There's a strange voice-over where the narrator tells us the actors' names. A guy takes a skin mask off and looks exactly the same. The musical duel with the changing seasons. The huge number of eating scenes. The fact that the Brave Archer has a bow in exactly one shot, and that's during the credits sequence! And so many characters and started then abandoned plotlines, you never quite know where any given scene came from. Somewhat saved by the cute romance between the Archer and the girl posing as Little Beggar (and it's rare that Chang Cheh even features female characters, much less allows them to be equal or stronger than males), one must still contend with events that do not tie into this relationship (which is at the heart of the climax), and a clear thruline never truly emerges. The commentary track by expert Brian Camp reveals some of the reasons why. This is meant as a highly condensed first part of a trilogy based on Louis Cha's book, Legend of the Condor Heroes. The convoluted novel explains the backstories of all those characters, and expands extensively on the title character's archery training growing up in Mongolia. As Camp explains, many an abandoned subplot here continues in Brave Archer 2 and 3, though I'm really not sure my KFF core group will want this particular story to continue...

The 2nd Doctor adventure, The Dominators, also featuring Jamie and Zoe, has many problems - ridiculous monsters in the Quarks, bad costumes, loads of repetition and padding - but chief among its sins is that it is DULL. The story warns of the dangers of pacifism, of all things, and presents Yet Another "Villains Do a Bit of Evil Mining" plot(TM), with clunky robots shrilly cooing through a quarry. It does have its moments, mostly thanks to the Doctor and Jamie's energy and the set design. However, if you choose to view it as a spoof of this kind of story, it's just accidentally funny enough to get a pass. But yeah, you'll be asking the TV Gods why this story survived whole, while Fury from the Deep did not. In addition to the usual commentary tracks, the DVD features a making of that adequately explores the conflict between the writers and the BBC (among other things, the writers thought they had the next Daleks on their hands), and the 2nd Doctor installment of "Tomorrow's Times", a series that looks at the press critiques the show got during the era.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
Other Hamlets: Hambat


De said...

I thought the ending in The Adjustment Bureau was dreadful. Talk about a copout.

Siskoid said...

I'm not sure it is, since one could argue that the agents were being tested by the Chairman as much as any human in the story, or that the endgame of the Plan is that we should take charge of our own destiny (fighting for it rather than complacently letting it take us along).

I agree that it gets pretty sentimental there (I'm blaming the music as much as anything), but I don't think it cops out. Maybe the resolution goes against your own world view?

Martin Gray said...

I agree that the Being Human romance was out of nowhere. It seemed to have been made up purely to allow for an early episode rescue. It should have been done away with after that.

Loved the Adjustment Bureau!