This Week in Geek (8-14/10/12)

Buys

A couple of DVD buys this week, Iron Sky and How I Met Your Mother Season 7.

"Accomplishments"

Movies: Went to see Looper at the local cineplex, a brutal time travel thriller co-starring Bruce Willis - in that sense I don't blame people for comparing it to Twelve Monkeys - but actually closer to Terminator in plot and in how it deals with paradoxes. The story takes place in the future, but in a future decades away from that, time travel has been invented. Because humanity is pretty horrible, the technology is controlled by crime syndicates who, unable to dispose of bodies efficiently in their present because of super-CSI, send victims back in time to be shot and disposed of by "loopers", so-called because one day, when their usefulness is at an end, they will have to shoot their older selves, get a pig payday, and then wait some 30 years before closing the "loop" and getting shot by their younger selves. What happens when Bruce Willis (older Joe) refuses to let that happen and escapes his fate at the hands of younger Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)? The future can be changed, but I think temporal pundits will likely spend some time graphing out the timelines and which one we're actually seeing at any given time. Still, it's less about working that stuff out than it is about the characters (it's like Back to the Future in that sense), and how a person becomes another over time. Saw a couple leaving the theater due to violence, you've been warned, but it's likely not the perfect date movie. Though there's some humor, especially in the two Joes meeting, it's ultimately a very dark and ambiguous vision. Oh, and Jeff Daniels is DA BOMB in his supporting role.

DVDs: Flipped 30 Rock Season 6, which provides the same level of comedy as previous seasons. Not suffering from fatigue yet, I don't think. What helps is that a few characters are being pushed to evolve (Liz and Kenneth in particular), and a couple of likeable new characters have been introduced, namely James Marsden as Liz's new boyfriend, and alluringly goofy Kristen Schaal as a stalkerish new page. The show has some fun with its format, with a full episode of Queen of Jordan (Tracy's wife's reality show) and another live show which celebrates the history of live television and is filled to the brim with guest-stars. The DVD also includes the West Coast version of the live show (many different jokes and cameos), the audience warm-up for that show and a short making of about the live experience, as well as commentary on a few episodes (these have dried up considerably since the first Season set) and lots of deleted scenes (which would have benefited from a Play All option given how short they are). Look for Easter Eggs too, but don't expect them to be amazing.

You already know what I thought of Doctor Who's The Mutants if you read last week's daily reviews, but how about the DVD extras? Well, obviously there are subtitled production notes and a photo gallery, there always are, and I never have anything negative to say about these. For the commentary, I like Nicholas Pegg as moderator less than I do Toby Hadoke, but I suppose he does the job well enough. His guests include the entertaining Katy Manning, Garron Hagon (Ky), director Chris Barry, script editor Terrence Dicks, co-writer Bob Baker, special sounds supervisor Brian Hodgson, and designer Jeremy Bear. They have some fun, but the latter two allow for different parts of production to be explored. The Making of documentary is rather ordinary, and there's a short clip from Blue Peter where Peter Purves introduces some monsters from an exhibition (no Mutts though, so this feels random). The real highlights are the other two features. First is "Race Against Time", a documentary narrated by Noel "Mickey" Clarke about the representation of non-white actors in Doctor Who and the whole of British television. It's a very honest piece (Classic Who's track record is very poor on this) and one that discusses complex issues of colonialism, imperialism, and the place of minorities in the UK. The second is a lively interview with Oscar-winning costume designer James Acheson (geeks here will know him as a the designer of the Raimi Spider-Man's costume) who started doing Doctor Who with The Mutants. He gets to talk about everything he did on the show and why he eventually left, and laughs the whole way through. While The Mutants isn't a story I'd recommend, these last two pieces make the purchase well worth it for Doctor Who fans.

A Chinese Ghost Story was our Kung Fu Friday selection (as part of Halloween Month), a well-regarded classic from 1987 about a scholar down on his luck (Leslie Cheung) who falls in love with the ghost of a girl (Joey Wang). It is, quite simply, one of the most bizarre mash-ups ever put to film. On the one hand, it's a slapstick (i.e. Cantonese) comedy with plenty of chuckles and a strange one-off musical number. On the other, it has tense horror set pieces with zombies right out of Evil Dead/Army of Darkness, and giant tentacles rampaging through the forest. So it's a creepy slapstick fantasy horror kung fu romantic comedy. Gorgeously shot and scored too, in the same vein as the more serious The Bride with White Hair. I wonder how the sequels and remake stand up? No extras on this disc, not even an English dub or way to even access/disable the subtitles.

Theater: Because I'm a big Mamet fan, and because a number of old improv cohorts were involved, I went to see a production of Speed-the-Plow, or actually, a French translation called "Plus vite la charrue" presented by the Escaouette theater. I was afraid the translation wouldn't do the text justice, but I was pleasantly surprised. I could still hear Mamet's rhythm, and clips of English-language productions I've looked at online weren't any better for being in the original language. Performance-wise, those clips were actually inferior. My hat is definitely off to Robin-Joël Cool who completely convinced me as smarmy movie producer Bobby Gould, a con artist by any other name who is convinced to change his stripes by youthful and naive Karen (Joannie Thomas), although her agenda is ambiguous. I've seen the role played as a kind of vamp, which I find too obvious. Joannie gave it an entirely different spin, creating the kind of character you often see in the Hipster class, operating on feeling alone, like someone stoned trying to explain something greater than themselves, so entirely more realistic (and funny). Rounding out the cast (not meant as a fat joke) was Dave Losier as Charles Fox, the producer lower on the totem pole and Gould's corruptive call to reason. Dave's got great comic timing and instincts, which served him well in this role. He gets all the funniest lines. Made me want to rewatch GlenGary GlenRoss (AKA The Secret Origin of Jack Donaghy) this weekend, so I'd call it a success.

Zines: Hey! The latest (19th) issue of Diary of the Doctor Who RPGs just came out and it's got an article by yours truly, way at the back after the most complete guide to any role-playing game I've ever seen (on FASA's Doctor Who RPG). I'd love to see works like this about other RPGs, wow. Anywho, this week I also finished reading issue 7, the "Music Issue" published in March 2011. It discusses how you can use music in your role-playing games (which I do, thanks) and does a good job of it. It also includes a great many suggestions for music albums that can be used in a Doctor Who campaign, and an adventure module with imbedded musical tracks specially created by one of the Diarists. The adventure, based on Victorian newspaper drawings is too gory for emulating the show per se (it's really a Call of Cthulhu scenario) but your campaign may withstand it. The musical tracks provide nice atmosphere, but don't sound Victorian. They're electronic though, so they'll sound like classic Who! In addition to this, there are also two other scenarios, both good, one with the Silurians in their heyday which could work as a continuity plug to explain Homo Reptilian difference in the new series, and a western that prefigures A Town Called Mercy. Also included are reviews of the Micro Universe Game and FASA-era miniatures; a look at Doctor Who's close-up exhibition (lots of pictures); a number of essays entitled "My Most Awkward RPG Moment" which is part-confession, part-lessons learned, with a list of common GMing mistakes serving as epilogue; an article on how to run a campaign with multiple GMs (which I wish was deeper or had more examples... intriguing though); and a few product announcements and short comedy pieces.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iv. The Closet Scene

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Blackhawks to Blue Beetle.

3 comments:

MOCK! said...

I think this seals the deal...I'm seeing "Looper" this week!

Teebore said...

Still need to check out Looper, but I've been hearing good things about it.

I might need to check out those 30 Rock DVDs just for the West Coast feed of the live episode.

Siskoid said...

Teebore: They did the same thing with the previous live show.

 

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