This Week in Geek (25/06-01/07/12)


Based on the strength of Drive, I went out and got Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher trilogy and Bronson. Plus, Johnnie To's Sparrow.


Books: If A Game of Thrones' first season was almost exactly beat for beat like the first book of Heorge R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the second was a very different take on A Clash of Kings. Reading the first book was like reading a collection of extended scenes. Reading the second was a whole other story. To keep the actors involved, the series did a lot of rejiggering, from new or expanded subplots for Robb and Joffrey, to natural pairings like Arya and Tywin, and Sansa and Shae. At some of the changes I wouldn't part with. The book has its own awesome beats, like the boat sequence during the final battle, the frog-eaters of Greywater, and the wolfish dreams of the Starks. And while the characters pretty much end up in the same places in both the series and the books, the divergences are enough to warrant experiencing both. And hey! The book doesn't feature the annoying "who stole my dragons?!" stuff! Advantage - books. From this point forward, I'm experiencing the books before the tv series, so that'll be yet another reading experience.

DVDs: Sliders seasons 1 and 2 are packaged together in the more awkward of DVD sets, a foam contraption that is needlessly wide on two sides and extends out from the DVD shelf. Rambrant doesn't even have his mustache on the box. Though it ran only 9 episodes its first season and another 13 the second, these were probably the show's best. If you don't know it, Sliders is about a quartet of adventurers jumping randomly from one parallel world to the other. Each week, it asks "What if..." and doesn't shy away from a little satirical humor. If you DO know it, then I'm willing to be most of the memorable episodes you can recall will be from these seasons - Soviet and British America, the world where women are on top and men the minority, etc. Watch out, though! The episodes are in the same order they were broadcast, and you probably won't be surprised to find out the Fox network screwed with it at the time so that story arcs are all over the place. Information is revealed after it's become common knowledge, episodes air AFTER cliffhangers, worse still, the creators were asked to ignore the first season cliffhanger and they negotiated there would at least be a 2-minute cop-out of it. Sliders was Fireflied before Firefly even existed. At least they're consistent - The Season 2 finale featured the first appearance of the Kromaggs, an evil alt-earth race that was meant to recur. They, too, were benched (though not forever) because Fox didn't like them, once again killing a cliffhanger. After Season 2, Fox got the production to move from Vancouver to Los Angeles, not because they were tired of seeing a snowy San Francisco, but because they felt Sliders was using the distance to ignore network notes. Of course, after that, the best things about Sliders, namely the satire and well thought-out What Ifs, were sidelined. But that's a story for another day, and I'll tell it. I did buy the entire series on sale, after all. The DVD set includes a useful commentary track on the pilot and a 15-minute making of that got hold of O'Connell (Quinn) and Derricks (Rembrandt).

Our weekly Kung Fu selection was Shaolin Hand Lock, a revenge story that went to Bangkok for some location shooting, a rare occurrence indeed for Shaw Brothers studios. David Chiang stars as a wronged son who infiltrates a Thai criminal empire to avenge his father's death. The title refers to the character's unique finishing move, a neck-snapping hold that leaves you vulnerable to back kicks and elbow strikes. The choreography is on par with most of the Shaw Bros.' output during the late 70s and early 80s, and the family politics at work on par with those of your run-of-the-mill soap opera, i.e. accidentally hilarious. But it works, even the gratuitous location shooting, and moves at a faster pace than a lot of these.

Gaming: The next day, we were all about a KFF special event, a Game-a-Thon in which we would watch four movies based on fighting games, and play a small tournament after each with the appropriate game. First up was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (we watched Street Fighter in our Van Damm-a-thon earlier this year). The film isn't that bad, but has a nonsense romance subplot between two incompetent cops, one of which is played by Chris Klein channeling both Nick Cage and Keanu Reeves. He's so over-the-top, he makes Kristin Kreuk feel like a fair replacement for Ming-Na Chun-Li. It's NOT a good film, and takes itself too seriously for its camp to work, but it's still entertaining on a "hoot and heckle" basis. Street Fighter THE GAME was, to me, the most boring, because I got pwned out in the first round, and yet it was the only one on tap I'd ever played. But I dislike fighting games, I'm just a button masher, so it doesn't matter. The second movie was Dead or Alive, a truly campy piece based on the fighting/volley-ball game where you can adjust boobage to suit your tastes. Well, this once was INSANE, completely ridiculous and gratuitous, and the most like a video game with its silly transitions. But it KNEW it, and I think it was my favorite of the day. Up there with Double Team, if you know what I mean. We didn't play the game, sadly, because the only copy that was found (for 6 whole bucks) was a softcore porn version that has a lot of pool-lounging and undressing, and not a lot of gameplay. We were still up for it, but the purchaser chose not to bring it. Ah well. Then it was the 2010 version of Tekken, a dark and dreary distopic MMA tournament picture that used the word Tekken every time they didn't know what to say or call something. It's a drinking game in the making, and a new inside joke here at the house. It starts out dark and dull (especially after two campy films), but eventually Tekkens you on a hero's journey. Make you bad guys bad, and your sexy girls sexy, and we'll eventually turn our brains to off and enjoy the Tekken out of it. The game was my personal high point, as I won that competition hands down. It's the fighting game for dummies, because I have no idea what I did to win 4 straight games. Finally, it was Mortal Kombat. I thought we'd kept the best for last (I'd seen none of these flicks before), but it's really aged badly. Bad acting, fake 80s fantasy sets, dialogue volume turned all the way down, lame fight choreography and terrible mid-90s CGI. Thank Raiden for the soundtrack, because otherwise, this was just an annoyance. As for the game, I at least got to the semi-finals, but that wasn't enough cumulatively to make me win the entire day. That honor goes to Marty AKA Iron Monkey. I tied second with Furn Sai Yuk. I dread the next time we attempt something like this, because it will probably have to involve the Mario Bros. movie. Brrr.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. Critical Reception - Hamlet 2000


Sleestak said...

I'm on season 3 of Sliders now and urgh.

Siskoid said...

Me too, and double urgh.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

i loved Sliders. it's too bad that show didn't have a bigger budget to work with. they should have ended that series when Quinn and Wade were no longer on the team. i thought the Wade character especially got a raw deal at the end having been turned into some sort of krommag cyborg gizmo.


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