This Week in Geek (22-28/10/12)


I got a bunch of DVDs this week, many for my Kung Fu Friday habit - Dynamite Warrior, Flying Swords of Dragon Inn, Legendary Amazons, and I guess, The Lady - some not, Annie Hall (see below), Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and Miranda July's The Future.


DVDs: When I first saw the trailer, I was hoping for a Mars Attacks for a new generation - a campy SF invasion comedy, this one with Moon Nazis. It's not quite that, but I like it better anyway. It really doesn't show that Finnish director Timo Vuerensola made this on a small budget (less than 8M euros), but as a result of being so well made, it becomes a strange tonal mix. On the one hand, there's a crazy, campy premise that offers some rather blunt satire (a Sarah Palin type is in the White House) and black comedy. On the other, it's a competent SF war film, with a point to make about patriotic propaganda, a strong Nazi heroine in Julia Dietze, and a relatively dramatic ending that doesn't cheapen the life of civilians the way, say, Marvel's Avengers does. And at the same time, you get a lot of eye candy, outer space battles, retro-tech spectacle, and Wagnerian music (which is better used as the film moves along, sounding much too much like Danny Elfman phoning something in in the first half). It just gets you into a strange place where you're not quite laughing, but may be kept at arm's length from feeling for the characters by the satirical layer. Americans in particular may think they're being lampooned a bit harshly (in the president, but also the sociopathic P.R. fashionista). Still, I think Europe owed the U.S. one since Independence Day. The DVD includes a fun director's commentary, a making of that's just the right length at 17 minutes, behind the scenes footage that is varied and doesn't wear on one's patience, and the internet teasers that include footage not in the film. Overall, a pleasant afternoon's entertainment that shouldn't be taken too seriously. And yes, I hope the final few seconds ARE the promise of a sequel.

I'm trying to get into Woody Allen's films later in life where, I guess, they'll do the most good. Annie Hall, heralded by many as his masterpiece, and attacked by others for being intellectual and over-rated (ha! so am I!), interested me more for its structure and narrative tricks than it did for its story and dialog, but I did generally like the whole package. It's really quite clever how it tells the story of a failed relationship (between Woody's character and Diane Keaton's, only in part based on their own love affair) as you would actually tell a story to people, some of whom might have been present. In effect, it means there's hyperbole, there's talking to the camera, there's imagination run amok, there are interventions by some of the other characters chiming in, and the chronological sequence is based on what need to know to understand the relationship and not actual passage of time. It's just like How I Met Your Mother, folks, and now that I think of it, I got it into my head to watch this film after HIMYM's Ted Mosby said it was his favorite movie. Nice tribute. No extras?! It'll just have to stand on its own.

If you were reading my Doctor Who reviews last week, you already know what I think of The Three Doctors (it's sadly stupid), but what about the Special Edition's extras? Well, I gotta say I'm a little disappointed by them too. First off, you get most of what you got on the original DVD release: A fine commentary by Barry Letts (producer), Katy Manning (Jo) and Nick Courtney (the Brig); awkward, but interesting Pebble Mill interviews with special effects artist Bernard Wilkie and 2nd Doctor Patrick Troughton (he's a nightmare to interview, obviously, and this is the one where he talks about "blacking up" to play the Doctor); a Blue Peter bit where Pertwee shows off the Whomobile before they show clips from the first two Doctors' adventures; 1990's Doctor Who weekend interviews of the writers, Pertwee and Courtney; assorted trailers; and of course, the subtitled production notes and the photo gallery. What's missing  - which means my original DVD gets to stay on the shelf - is the utterly charming 1993 PanoptiCon panel with Pertwee, Manning and Courtney. So what's new? We get a rather ordinary Making of for this story; "Was Doctor Who Rubbish?", a defense of the show and examination of its reputed flaws by fans, for fans (fairly fun as far as fluff pieces go); and the second Girls, Girls, Girls featurette, which gets Caroline John (Liz), Manning, and Louise Jameson (Leela) in the same room to talk about being a Doctor Who girl in the 70s. It's by far the best thing on the DVD, but seems strange given that Leela was with Tom Baker, not Pertwee, and that nothing is really said (say, by the presenter) of Sarah Jane Smith. For a story that's full of firsts, including being the first multi-Doctor story, I find it rather poor on content.

But what about Carnival of Monsters' Special Edition? The story, as you may have read, is one I found fun but thin on substance. The DVD release does much better than 3Docs', however. Here, we've got everything that was on the original release: The solid commentary shared by Letts and Manning, the model sequences, the illuminating behind the scenes footage, the TARDIS-Cam CGI animation (of the TARDIS flying through the vortex), the re-edited ending to episode 4 Letts made for a 1981 repeat, Barry Letts' CSO demo for his BBC overlords, the surprisingly bare photo gallery, the production notes, and the Easter Egg of the title sequence without credits. They've actually taken the deleted scenes and the immediately abandoned - yet broadcast in Australia by mistake - new theme arrangement and included it in an early edit of episode 2, to make it a more coherent viewing experience; a completely new commentary, moderated by Toby Hadoke who always does a terrific job, with some of the guest actors and the special sounds creator; a cleverly-made and rather fun Making of; an emotional retrospective look at Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan, and Andrews in this story), and his time both on the show and writing some of the Target novelizations; and a featurette on lost ships (like the fictional S.S. Bernice) and the myths around them. The only bad extra is the mind-numbing fluff piece that is "The A-Z of Gadgets and Gizmos", which "humorously" presents one Doctor Who piece of tech per letter of the alphabet. It loses almost all credibility when it puts K-9 in A for Android, then the rest of it when B isn't for Bessie. But overall, nice package.

This Friday, we were supposed to watch the Korean monster movie Sector 7, but found the disc cracked and impossible to play. It was supposed to be pretty bad, so I'm not shedding any tears over it, but what to watch instead? Well, if "bad" was on the schedule, we'd go for "very bad indeed". Fantasy Mission Force is one of the discs in a cheap Jackie Chan collection, obviously copied off a bad VHS cassette (some tape skips and even a blue programming screen at one point, and of course, all in the most atrocious English dub), but this thing is awful even if the copy had been pristine. So bad, it's good. It features major talent, including Jacky (sic) Chan, Brigitte Lin (the Bride with White Hair!) and Jimmy Yu (the One-Armed Swordsman!) in a broad, spoofy type of comedy that's an ancestor to things like Kung Fu Hustle. The genre, initially a Dirty Dozen or A-Team WWII sort of thing, keeps changing to accommodate whatever parodies the script would like to tackle, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mr. Vampire (so our Halloween month is preserved!) and Apocalypse Now (if Kurtz was in the jungle with Amazon ninja sex slaves). Jackie has a secondary role, but does his stuff when he can, and it's Brigitte Lin who really kicks ass. Unfortunately, the production values are TERRIBLE. The Amazons turn into men whenever a stunt is called for (explaining the bag over their heads in all action scenes), it looks like they raided a costume shop and grabbed anything they could (kilts, plastic armor, Elvis suits, Nazi uniforms, Mexican banditos, nothing matches), most of the production is shot from a wide, artless angle, and the editing either indulges too slow a pace or is marred by confusing cuts. Hilariously, the camp the soldiers have to raid appears to be in Nunavut (or at the time, the Canada's Northwest Territories), which I hadn't realized looked kind of like the jungles of Thailand. It's so full of mistakes, you just can't tell what's meant to be a joke. And it may just end up a little too violently for the comedy to really work, in retrospect. (Aside: Why is it so much easier to go on at length about a thoroughly bad film? Annie Hall was my shortest review here.)

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iv. The Closet Scene - Olivier '48

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Brave and the Bold to Captain Action.


snell said...

"No extras?!"

Get used to it--none of Allen's DVDs/Blu-rays have extras, apparently a at his insistence.

Nizbel said...

You watched Iron Sky without us? I am disappoint.

Siskoid said...

Snell: Oh I know. Although Midnight in Paris has a bit of a press conference at Cannes.

Nizbel: You didn't ask!


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