This Week in Geek (2-08/07/12)

Gifts

I turned 41 this week, but you wouldn't know if from the gifts I got. My friends are the best that way. Since it was Kung Fu Friday, I'll only use their KFF surnames here: Ponytail and Dragon Warrior got me a couple books, the Target novelization of Doctor Who and the Daleks with the Neil Gaiman introduction, and more as a joke, The Game of Groans, a parody of you-know-what. Mulan got me a set of Russian dolls made up to look like ninjas. Quite cute and each one has different weapons. And Iron Monkey got me a Captain Marvel Club pin circa 1948 (pictured), found in a flea market for pennies. The story goes that when he asked for the Captain Marvel pin, the guy said he didn't have that. When Monkey pointed to it, the dude said, "Oh, the Superman pin?" "Yeah yeah, the Superman pin, (sigh)". The story is worth more to me than the pin! Thanks guys!

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: When Heat's casting director credit came on, I felt like standing up and applauding. This movie is LOADED with great actors, even in the smaller parts. Marketed as Al Pacino and Rovbert DeNiro FINALLY acting opposite each other, it also stars Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, John Voight, Ashley Judd, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, William Fichtner, Dennis Haysbert, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo, Tone Loc, and kiddie Natalie Portman! I mean geez! Even though it's a three-hour heist-cop picture, director Michael Mann never lets it get boring, and even relishes in showing us his characters' personal lives. A typical film might use one of these as a subplot, but personal lives are used as additional "heat" placed on the main characters. And Pacino-DeNiro going head to head? It seems there was a choice to have them play to type, but even if their characters behave very much like other characters they've played (extrovert and introvert), it's the chess game between the best cop and the best thief that makes Heat exciting. Deserves to be mentioned more when discussing awesome crime dramas. I bought my DVD on the cheap, so there are no extras, though I know there's a Special Edition out there.

You know, if director Tom Hooper wants to indulge his fascination with history's losers, he's got a fan in me for life. The first part of such a triptych that includes the John Adams mini-series and his acclaimed The King's Speech, is Longford, a biopic made for HBO films about Lord Longford, an unusual British politician who championed prisoners' rights. He became notorious in the 60s and 70s for defending infamous serial child killer Myra Hindley's right to parole, a relationship that is the film's focus. Jim Broadbent transforms himself into this spiritual man who has made forgiveness his life's work, and Samantha Morton brings a humanity to someone most considered an inhuman monster. Lindsay Duncan as Lady Longford, and Andy Serkis as Myra's partner in crime are equally excellent. Hooper uses some archival news footage to give us context, without resorting to anything disturbing involving children (the action is all post-trial). "What can we forgive?" is a powerful question with no easy answers. The DVD includes a useful director's commentary and a short, but quite good documentary on the events that inspired the film.

I'm that guy who's a fan of Mark Steven Johnson's Daredevil (both cuts), so I wasn't necessarily thinking his Ghost Rider would be terrible, Nicolas Cage or not. Can't speak to the theatrical cut, but the extended cut has a lot going for it. From what I hear from the two commentary tracks included in this release, they cut some Sam Elliot stuff for the theatrical WHICH IS A SIN THAT SHALL NOT BE FORGIVEN, because really, Sam Elliott wins the freaking movie! As a character I was quite happy to see translated onto film. Peter Fonda as the devil calls attention to himself (the resonance with Easy Rider), but he's fine. The rest of the cast falls a little flat I'm afraid. Nick Cage's broken-down man-child Johnny Blaze is a worthy take on a character who's sold his soul, but it leaves me cold (I'd have watched his younger self, Matt Long, for the length of it though). Eva Mendes looks tired and bored as the reporter who loves him. Wes Bentley's Blackheart is deeply unaffecting. What works (aside from Sam Elliott who makes everything cool) is the action. The effects, stunts and gags are all quite fun, and justify the inclusion of elemental demons to the story. I also can't fault the genre-busting atmosphere of the gothic western, something I think they get right. The cornball romantic ending needed to be excised however (or at least re-written). The DVD includes some funky pre-viz cinematics, a long and entertaining enough making of (at 1½ hours) and another awesome 40 minutes on the comics character himself, split into four decades that interviews a lot of the editors, writers and artists associated with the character.

I really liked Kung Fu Panda, but I don't think I laughed as much as when we screened the sequel this week. The Furious Five against an evil peacock who's discovered that cannons can trump kung fu also allows for some drama as well, and as Po finds out more about his origins, we get some truly touching moments between him and his goosey dad. Obviously, the action is going to be better and more furious, with lots of standout animation. And you know what? I'd watch a whole movie in the introduction's shadow puppet style. That was awesome (Michelle Yeoh's narration was just the cherry on top). The DVD allows you to stay a little longer in Po's world, with an episode of Nickolodeon's Legends of Awesomeness series ("Has Been Hero") that focuses more on the comedy and cheats a lot of the fighting. There's also a commentary track, three deleted scenes presented as animatics (with director's intro), and a featurette on the actors who make all the characters come alive.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. Critical Reception - Fodor (2007)

5 comments:

Toby'c said...

The Kung Fu Pandas are pretty much the only films I really like Jack Black in rather than simply tolerating him. I love the bit with Tigress's reaction to "learning" about Po's adoption.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!

The Captain Marvel pin is the cat's meow.

Siskoid said...

Toby: Tigress is the best.

Anon: The cat has his own meows, can't I have just one?

Craig Oxbrow said...

Happy birthday!

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

i love HEAT but thought both Ghost Rider films were awful.

 

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