This Week in Geek (15-21/10/12)


Two DVD buys this week: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 7 and DOA: Dead or Alive, both very much in the guilty pleasures category.


DVDs: If you thought Scream was meta, let me introduce you to The Cabin in the Woods. A product of Buffy writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's imaginations, Cabin is as much commentary on horror films and why we like them, as it is a tribute to the great movie monsters in horror film history. It's SF that turns to horror then back to SF and again to horror as you delve deeper into its world. A genre-bender that can, if you let it, change many horror movies you've seen or have yet to see. And it's funny, in the same way Buffy was, coming from a place of character and Whedon's approach to the unexpected. Very fun. The DVD extras are also imbued with a sense of humor, often deprecating. We get a writers (and thus producer and director) commentary, a half-hour making of, separate featurettes on the practical and digital effects, a half-hour Q&A, a tour of the Cabin and of some of the props. We're really missing a piece on the featured monsters and how the cellar relates to each, but I'll say no more, so as not to spoil anyone.

This week's Kung Fu Friday selection was also a blend of horror and comedy, though leaning more on the latter, the classic Sammo Hung production (he's not in it though), Mr. Vampire. I'll admit, it's a little hard getting into this one because the mythology surrounding the undead in China - and all attendant superstitions - is so incredibly bizarre and alien to Westerners. That, and the most tender hearts may be shocked at a few animal deaths captured on film. But once you learn the rules of this world of hopping vampires and seductive ghosts, you're in it to the end. Mr. Vampire is funny (if broad), surprising (sticky rice does WHAT?), and has some great kung fu action and pretty cool 80s special effects. A weirdie but a goodie.

Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America is another comedy with a strange and violent tone (I swear I didn't do it on purpose this week), about an ordinary shmoe, played by Mad Men's Joel Murray, at the end of his rope and fed up with America's culture of cruelty and rudeness, as glorified in the media. Naturally, he goes on a killing spree, joined by a (let's face it) psychotic teenage girl (Tara Lynne Barr). It's a black, black comedy about kindness and common courtesy in which vigilante justice gets a lot of rude people and reality tv stars killed. Most scenes in the film go on just a little too long or go just a little too far, which is what I ultimately like about it. It gets you under the protagonist's skin, a man who finds American life and culture unbearable. It's not the most subtle satire ever made, but it has heart in large part due to Murray's sensitive portrayal, and laughs, and cool action. Plenty of extras too: A director/actors' commentary, a strong making of, a few deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, a photo montage of production pics under an original song, and a pretty unnecessary HDNet featurette (built on clips from the aforementioned interviews).

A lot less edgy was Season 7 of How I Met Your Mother, but no less funny. Well, maybe a little less funny this season because of the character of Robin's boyfriend Kevin. He (and Kal Penn's deliveries) just never seems to fit the tone of the show, which is perhaps the point, but he gets too many episodes for it to be "thematic". We do however get the sense that we're getting closer and closer to Ted meeting the Mother, so it's time to gear the other characters towards their end games. Some apartment shuffling, new relationships and the deaths of old ones, shifts in character dynamics (a baby will do that)... The show's not afraid to change its status quo. And there's still the wholly satisfying play on the narrative structure, with Robin getting to meta-narrate a couple episodes, and an 7 minute-incident told from various points of view. Extras include commentary on a few episodes, Neil Patrick Harris getting his star on Hollywood Boulevard (funny speeches), brief on-set interviews with various guest-stars, making of featurettes that illuminate how much of the plot points actually happened to members of the writing staff (the Drunk Train is REAL), plenty of deleted scenes, and a gag reel.

Books: Pawnee - The Greatest Town in America is an abundantly illustrated fake guidebook to Leslie Knope's hometown, as featured (the town AND the book) on my new favorite comedy this year, Parks and Recreation. Written in Leslie's idiom and with her enthusiasm for what is in reality a pretty horrible town to live in, the book also features the voices of the show's other characters in the form of guest essays. The book is filled with those gory and insensitive City Hall paintings, maps, fake signs and ads, menus, historical documents, and pictures of all sorts, and it doesn't stop with references to what's been established on the show. It goes much farther into the history and people of Pawnee. Love the footnotes too, where the best jokes are often to be found. The only real flaw I found was the picture of City Hall that doesn't have a third floor, but otherwise, a fine tie-in book, just as funny and positive as the show is.
Games: Every year, I help mastermind a campus-wide "Amazing Race" at work, which works just like the show does. This year, we tried to make it a lot less about zig-zagging the campus, and yet some still managed to get lost and run around much farther than they should have (know your campus, kids!). Teams were asked to run through natural art exhibits, make origami school mascots, eat Acadian dishes (the Quebeckers were NOT happy about this, haha), and compete in everything from badminton challenges (one of our vps is a former champion) to science experiments. So my congratulations to the Arts team for winning the Race, for the first time I think, beating out 15 other teams, including last year's winner, the Athletics team (born runners) by a few minutes.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iv. The Closet Scene - Branagh '96

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Blue Devil to Boy Commandos.


Teebore said...

I had such a blast watching Cabin in the Woods. Already one of my favorite films of this year.

Agreed on Kal Penn on HIMYM. Apparently his character was meant to be Michael Trucco's one-off character from an earlier season, but they couldn't work out the schedules, so they created a new character for Kal Penn that served the same general purpose.

I really need to get the Pawnee book, as I adore that show.


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