DVDs: On the strength of Drive, I watched Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson this week, an art house biopic about Charlie Bronson, Britain's most violent/famous inmate. As with Drive, it makes wonderful use of music and is about as atypical of its genre (the prison film) as Refn could make it. This is a film about a man who wants to stay in prison, a man who, through violence and solitude, metamorphoses into an artist. He's a bare-knuckle-fighting Oscar Wilde. And brilliantly played by Tom Hardy too. Though sourced from a true story (and Bronson is still alive and still incarcerated), the film is an anarchic dark comedy full of flights of fancy, handling narration (which I usually dislike in films) into a bonkers theatrical conceit. There are some slow bits here and there, but mostly, it's a fascinating character study of an extreme personality. I've read the UK release has an excellent commentary track. Us Region 1 folks must be content with strong interviews with Refn, Hardy (whose candor is tops) and Paul Daniels (who plays a smaller role). We also get a fair making of, a look at Hardy's training to bulk up to specs, some behind the scenes footage, and audio monologues by the real Charlie Bronson, which I wish had subtitles given the sound quality.
Archer Season 2 continues the irreverent animated comedy of the previous season, but features much stronger spy action set pieces. So now it's exciting AS WELL AS funny. This time around, we get some back story or the characters in the cast - how Lana and Mallory joined ISIS, who Carol really is, etc. - and the show continues to allow them to evolve while slinging great stand-alone episodes at us. Where the first season DVD had mostly technical extras, this one piles on the laughs with various animated shorts. Archersaurus makes a comeback, Archer answers fan questions and sends a message to the boys in Afghanistan, and one short re-images Archer as the actor playing him (cognitive dissonance!). The only live-action piece is some 15 minutes of fun footage from an Archer panel at Comic-Con.
Kung Fu Panda 2 had a second disc attached that I thought would have more material or else I wouldn't have scheduled it as a Kung Fu Friday (good thing we also scheduled the Samurai Jack pilot the same night). Secrets of the Masters disappointingly clocks in at less than a half hour, disappointing because it would have been nicer at twice the length. Though Po, Tigress, Mantis and Shifu appear in their 3D (and original voice) splendor, they basically serve as a framing device for a 2D story (as all flashbacks in the Kung Fu Panda universe are, and a gorgeous one it is) about Masters Rhino, Ox and Croc, which is nice since they got so little play in KFP2. The disc also has a featurette on a panda cub named Po born in captivity (too cute!), a guide to pronouncing and writing certain words in Mandarin, and some pretty basic (arcade) games for kids (the CD-Rom one is definitely better than the DVD one). All in all, they could have dropped the KFP animated series episode on the first disc, dropped in most of these materials and kept it a simpler, more efficient release.
Books: Took me a couple months, but I finished A Storm of Swords, the third volume in the Song of Ice and Fire (AKA A Game of Thrones) series. It's a brick at 925 pages, but an exciting one. If the first book was a great set-up, and the second kind of meandered, this one is the big climax (before the series goes back into set-up mode, at any rate). I will not spoil those awaiting seasons 3 and 4 of the television series here, though I will ask whether or not George R. R. Martin has something against marriage. Because if there's a moral to this story, it's that you should NEVER EVER EVER get married. The theme, though, is more along the lines of fates denied, which is a major engine of the story (or of its multiple story strands). Plus, we finally get some revelations to mysteries set up in the first book, and a much better arc for Daenerys. I won't lie, the book still dips in the middle, but the last third rocks it out. Now I want to take a break from the series, perhaps waiting until next summer to plunge into A Feast for Crows. Seems like a good place for a pit stop.
Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iii. The Confessional - Kline '90
Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Arsenal to Aztek.