This Week in Geek (19-25/03/12)


Got some DVDs this week, including three new Special Editions of Doctor Who stories I already own (what can I say?), Flying Guillotine II, The Muppets and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.


DVDs: Justified Season 2 was, if anything, even better than the first, with the same commitment to character and dialog for an additional 13 episodes. New season means new villains, and the Bennett Family arc is a tighter than Season 1's Crowder story, with fewer detours (not that I minded them). The Bennetts are all incredible creations, especially Mags who is apparently based on a real life woman from Harlan County. She's the Ma Dalton of Kentucky. I can't wait to check out what's already cooking in Season 3. Can I wait for the DVD?! This particular release features no commentary tracks, but still some deleted scenes and outtakes, an excellent tour of the sets and locations with the production designer, and a making of for the season that talks to most of the actors.

Sometimes, Kung Fu Fridays are a little closer to home. Kung Fu Panda was this week's choice, and though it's an American film with lots of American stars doing the voices, the design ethic, philosophy and martial arts could all have come out of Hong Kong cinema. What else should I have expected from a movie that has two characters called the Shaw Brothers? Incredible animation on the action (the highlight for me is the chopstick fight) makes up for a certain lack of texture at times, though you know what? I wouldn't have minded if the whole movie had been in 2D like its awesome, Samurai Jack-type opening sequence. I was surprised to find Jack Black's performance pleasantly subdued. This isn't one of those Shreks or Aladdins filled to the brim with anachronisms. Authentic and sweet, and I won't mind putting up the sequel on a future Friday. Lots of extras here - a director's commentary, making of elements with behind the scenes footage of the actors reading the parts, lessons on how to make noodles and use chopsticks, a bit with Jack Black about saving the pandas, a music video, and some games for the kids.

Finally saw the latest Muppet movie, and it was as wonderful as everyone said it was. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are just the purest souls on screen, and perfect to act against everyone's favorite puppet ensemble. The songs are fun and memorable, and there's a lot of clever and funny meta-textual humor. Most genius of all, this isn't a story with the Muppets in it. It's a movie ABOUT the Muppet Show, and INCLUDES a Muppet show in it! So if you're a fan of the show as well as the characters, you're getting everything you need. Made me smile uncontrollably. I've got minor complaints - Amy Adams doesn't always look comfortable singing and dancing, and I miss Kermit's original voice - but these are small indeed. Oh, I have another one. I should have gone for a bigger, pricier edition of the DVD. Having loved the film, I'm wanting more than the 8-minute blooper reel (as fun as it is). But that one's on me.

You know what has pretty much the same plot as The Muppets? Greg the Bunny's pilot episode! I loved this series 10 years ago, and I think I love it even more now without Fox's airing everything out of order, though the network still messes with the show in other ways, the result being a less funny second half of the show's only season. It's not just Firefly and Futurama, is it? Greg the Bunny's world is the same as the Muppets', and these often get name-dropped in jokes about their personal lives (it's one of the funnest things, so of course, Fox nixes them), but the show's puppets are much closer to our world's celebs, as well as victims of racism (oooh, political, Fox to the rescue in the back half). Fox even forced Greg to get proper eyes instead of the cute little buttons he had. Boo. But for all that, even those last episodes aren't bad. The comedy is good, and when you've got comic talent like Seth Green, Eugene Levy and Sarah Silverman (well... they do make her play the straight man), you can't exactly go wrong. That first half though... real belly laughs. There's something about the incongruity of puppets with human vices that just reaches in and grabs me. Lots of extras too, from commentary with cast, crew and puppets, making of featurettes, deleted scenes, images, puppet auditions, a poignant existential Greg sketch from the AFI stuff, and many Easter eggs of outtakes.

Audios: Still going through my Lost Doctor Who episode CDs vol.4, featuring the second Doctor and Jamie (and various other companions), with linking narration from Frazer Hines. In The Faceless Ones, we lose Polly and Ben, almost as unceremoniously as Dodo (they disappear, but at least they do return for a proper farewell). As replacement companion, we get "brassy Scouser" Samantha Briggs, and I quite like her and wish she'd actually stayed on. The story takes place at Gatwick Airport, where aliens called Chameleons have been kidnapping young people. It's a fun story, with good performances, but it does end on a strange lack of resolution. On the one hand because a rare compromise is reached, and on the other because the TARDIS gets stolen at the end, sending us into the next story without that familiar groaning sound. So off we go...

The Evil of the Daleks is the first big, huge season finale the show's ever known. Unlike the Doctor Who we know today, all previous seasons ended wherever the scripts seemed to run out, not necessarily on the big moment (so the first Doctor's departure, for example, was 2 stories into the 4th season). Evil is MOMENTOUS. It finds a way to fill its 7 episodes with variety both in genre and character, and ends on the then-final destruction of the Daleks. The first third is in the present day, with the Doctor as a detective. The second is in the Victorian era, with Wellsian mad science and Jamie finally fed up with the Doctor's secrets (I've never loved him more), and the third on Skaro as civil war brews and the TARDIS finally picks up a new companion, Victoria. Raw sound from Skaro's destruction, the last scenes without narration, and a Dakek voice session are also included. The boxed set's bonus disc of interviews is included in this story's case, but if you don't mind, I'll review it at the very end when I do a piece on the box itself.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. The Mouse-Trap - Kline '90


idiotbrigade said...

Season 3's villains are even more Elmore Leonard-y! Main antagonist played by "Dum Dum Dugan" from Captain America (Neal McDonough), and also "Bubba Gump" (Mykelti Williamson) as a wild card element in Harlan County.

Considering they only do 13 episodes a season and 10 are out already, you only have to suffer the pain of getting 1 episode a week until the season finale comes out on the 10th of April.

Also I'm pretty sure Mags Bennett lady won an emmy for her performance. I'd've given her all the emmies for some of that "Apple Pie".

Siskoid said...

Checked, and yes, Margo Martindale won an Emmy for her work in Justified.

Austin Gorton said...

Amy Adams doesn't always look comfortable singing and dancing

I noticed that too, which is odd, considering she has a background in musical theater. She cut her teeth back in the day at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, one of my local theaters, and had no issues singing and dancing in stuff like Enchanted.

LiamKav said...

To be fair regarding Kermit's voice, it has been different for two decades. I suppose it depends if your first thought with the Muppet's is the original TV show, because a lot of younger people will think of the 90s movies first.

(I had a friend who complained that a few voices were "off". Considering that one was Gonzo, who is probably the only "original" Muppet still being voices by his original performer, I wonder if there were some people who imagine the voices different than they actually are.)

Siskoid said...

I'm not a younger person ;-).

My comment was meant less as a criticism and more as a sign that I miss Jim Henson being in this world.

LiamKav said...

I think the world in general misses Jim Henson... :(


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