Sunday, February 19, 2012

This Week in Geek (13-19/02/12)


Amazon's clearance sales made a couple things that are usually pricey not so pricey, so I got a couple Criterion Collection DVDs - Three Outlaw Samurai and Tiny Furniture - and a video game - Saints Row 3. Plus, cheap DVD editions of Heat and Last Temptation of Christ. Not the last you hear from this sale. Plus, Doctor Who's The Sensorites and The Caves of Androzani Special Edition.


In theaters: Went to see Chronicle this week, the newest "found footage"-style movie, this one a superhero story. Thoroughly enjoyed it. They're getting really good at figuring out how to put cameras into scenes so the film can be "made", and where Blair Witch and Cloverfield gave us interrupted narratives and eerie non-endings, Chronicle manages to take us all the way through a story. It's something that would have worked well enough as a straight film about a troubled teen and his friends getting super-powers, but I for one don't mind the stylistic conceit of the found footage because it really is integrated into the plot. I could easily imagine the Chronicle to continue in other media, for example if they could find a way to make a comic with a "found documentation" vibe. Get on that, IDW or Dynamite or Dark Horse!

DVDs: Republic of Doyle is a Canadian TV show currently on its third season featuring a father/son team of private eyes operating in St.John's, Newfoundland. It's a lot of fun no matter where you come from, but as an Atlantic Canadian, it's just nice to see my corner of the planet on screen. I flipped the Season 1 DVD this week, 12 episodes of quirky action goodness that might remind you of 70s cop/P.I. shows, but with the folksiness of something like Northern Exposure. The main character is Jake Doyle who lives in his dad's house (where they run a private investigation business together) after his divorce from a slightly crazy on-again, off-again wife he's still having sex with - as indeed, Doyle can't help himself when it comes to the beautiful women who throw themselves at him. It's a show filled with strong, but flawed characters, comedy as well as drama, dramatic and unique locations, and an excess of charm. To draw the Yanks in, there are some great Canadian guest stars like Alias' Victor Garber and Warehouse 13's Joanne Kelly. Canucks will find half the cast of This Hour Has 22 Minutes (or indeed, Codco). The DVD includes a fair making of featurette and commentary on two key episodes.

Season 2 offers 13 more episodes of the same, which isn't a bad thing at all, though it seems to end on a paradigm shift for the opening of Season 3 (it's on right now, so I might catch up rather than wait for the next DVD set). There are still some changes. One cast member is demoted to infrequently recurring character and I initially missed her, but Sgt. Bennett gets a lot more to do and becomes the most touching character in the cast. Some of the bigger guest characters from the previous season show up again, and it's topped off by a tense season finale guest-starring the great Paul Gross (Due South, Slings & Arrows). The DVD includes commentary on 3 key episodes (the last sadly has volume issues) and some brief featurettes on the show's stunts.

From Hong Kong cinema's Dante Lam, we get The Stool Pigeon, a police/crime tragedy like only Hong Kong does them. The film splits the focus between an informant and his police handler, and perhaps loses itself in its subplots at times, but I tend to respect the effort to give each character an interesting (if melodramatic) background. But these do impact the story and fuel the theme of a cursed cop who changes the fortunes of those he meets for the worst, putting their lives in danger through his very function. The scenes are well played by the ensemble cast, the director makes every shot interesting, the car and fist action is well done, and the violence looks like it really HURTS. Hard to ask for more. Except from the extras. There are 45 boring minutes of behind-the-scenes footage (including the interminable real time shaving of Nicholas Tse's head), not always with sound, which are pretty joyless. Skip directly to the 15-minute making of which will tell you everything you need to know. There are also some strong deleted scenes.

Audios: David Bishop's 7th Doctor/Ace/Hex audio, Enemy of the Daleks, starts out promisingly, with driving electric guitar music and a possible twist that the Doctor should make sure the Daleks win this time, but it quickly turns into a truly annoying noisefest. Escalation is the theme, and a human scientist may be creating a counter to the Daleks that's just as bad as, if not worse than, they are. And when I say worse, I'm mostly talking about their irritating voices. The regular cast does good work (though the ending seems a bit strained), but the rest of it is rather ordinary, and the audio makes its points bluntly and obviously. No wonder Hex questions his presence aboard the TARDIS. Didn't work for me at all.

This 7th Doctor cycle ends with Paul Sutton's The Angel of Scutari, a triple historical celeb story set during the Crimean War. The Doctor has tea with the Russian Tzar, Ace cozies up to a young Tolstoi, and Hex meets his personal hero, Florence Nightingale. Each story thread has its virtues and the regulars are universally excellent, though the predestination paradox the main plot centers on (it IS a 7th Doctor story, after all) leads to an odd structuring that had me checking if I had mistakenly left my player on shuffle. The opening episode is especially confusing and leaves me wondering if the same effect couldn't have been achieved more clearly. All is forgiven by the end though, as the audio's historical elements and in particular, the heart-felt Hex strand, more than make up for any flaws.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. The Mouse-Trap


snell said...

I was less high on Chronicle than you were, because A) the found footage conceit really fell apart at the end...lots and lots of shots in there that couldn't have been captured by a camera, and B) the cliched characterizations--if Hollywood had made Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker would have been the embittered nerd to go on a revenge fest.

Siskoid said...

A) I noticed the shots you mean, so I agree, though it's not enough for me to pan it.

B) Only if the protagonist was Peter. I rather think it was Harry. His cousin was Peter. (Not really. This wasn't the Spider-Man story.) I found the characters perhaps "archetypal" but not particularly clichéed. The characters seemed to evolve with the story and weren't one-note.

Anonymous said...

Neither here nor there, but I was just watching a "Law & Order: SVU" rerun with Alex Kingston playing a defense attorney named Miranda Pond. Fan fictionnnnnn ... begin!

Siskoid said...

Hahaha! Great starting point.