This Week in Geek (19-25/11/12)


Additions to my DVD collection include Videodrome, Safety Not Guaranteed (see below), and Season 3 of Republic of Doyle.


DVDs: I've seen a lot of time travel movies, but never one like Safety Not Guaranteed, where the motivations behind time travel are more important than the going back in time itself. A slacking magazine journalist (Jake Johnson) and a couple of restless interns (including Parks&Recs' Aubrey Plaza) follow up on a strange classified ad written by someone (Mark Duplass) looking for a partner to go back in time with. What follows is a touching dramady about regret and connecting with the future. Is the time travel element real? Does it work as a paradox puzzle movie like the best time travel movies do? I'm not telling. I'll only say that whatever the answer is, it's secondary to the human drama, AND I was satisfied as an fan of quirky genre-ish films. The DVD includes some good making of elements, including a bit with author of the very real (except it wasn't) classified ad the movie's story is based on.

Rounders is an immersive poker film that though highly entertaining, may not ever be a favorite of Gamblers Anonymous (it shows both sides, but it's still fairly glamorous). Part of the charm is the super-solid cast which includes Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturo, Famke Janssen, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich (who steals the show), and Martin Landau. It's a pretty cheap review to just list the talent involved, but I think it sort of does the job. There's not a bad apple in the bunch. Damon's character keeps getting pulled into poker games, for which he has a lot of talent, often by his sleazy friend "Worm" (Norton), leading into what would be a comedy of errors if the stakes weren't so high. There's a bit too much narration for me up front, but I like the film like I like the best procedurals. It feels authentic, part and parcel because the characters use a very specific (and potentially opaque) vernacular, and you only make sense of the important poker games because both narration and scenes prepared you for them. A strong film in the mold of The Hustler, though I worry it sends out a mixed message. The DVD includes two commentary tracks - one with professional poker players and one with members of the cast and crew (including Norton). Both are interesting. There are two short featurettes, one on the making of and the other on professional poker. Again, both are good, if brief. There's an interactive poker game on the disc, which works fine as a Texas Hold'em tutorial, but is a bit slow and static in gameplay. And finally, the four commentating pros offer poker tips in a variety of clips that would have benefited from a Play All option.

If you were paying attention this week, you already know what I thought of Doctor Who's Invasion of the Dinosaurs (better than expected, despite the duff plastic reptiles), but let's talk DVD extras. The usual high quality features are here, of course, by which I mean the production notes subtitles, the photo gallery, and the commentary track. The latter is moderated by Toby Hadoke, but split into two groups. Half the episodes are with director Paddy Russell alone and are a bit heavy-going as Hadoke does his best to get more than short answers from her. She only wakes up when discussing her non-Who career. The other group is much more lively and includes Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), Peter Miles (Whitaker), Terence Wilton (Mark), script editor Terrence Dicks, and designer Richard Morris. There's also 10-minutes' worth of commentary by John Levene (Benton) on one of the episodes. The making of is done with some humor, telling you up front that it won't all be about mocking the dinosaurs. There are also some deleted scenes, rare for releases from this era, a feature on the locations, a clip from Billy Smart's Circus featuring the Doctor and the Whomobile, and Lis Sladen's anecdotes on playing Sarah Jane in the Pertwee era (from 2003 for Doctor Who Stories). And if the shimmering re-colorized Part 1 isn't to your tastes, you have the option of watching the black and white version instead! Oh and there's a small Easter Egg.

I also flipped the Death to the Daleks DVD, which I'm in the middle of reviewing right now, if your interested (oh, the joys of being ahead of my game by a couple days!). The commentary track in this case, still ably moderated by Hadoke, features a number of "minor" roles, including Julian Fox (Hamilton), Dalek operator Cy Town, assistant floor manager Richard Leyland, costume designer L. Rowland Warne, and special sound man Dick Mills. The only headliner, so to speak, is director Michael Briant. Between this, the production notes and the making of (comically narrated by a Dalek), I found there was a lot of repetition of the same stories, which happens frequently, of course, but here seemed more prevalent. Or is it just that those stories are pretty classic and worth remembering? The making of uses some rare outtakes, but you'll find them all and more on a 23-minute studio recording feature that's a lot more interesting than this kind of feature usually is, in part thanks to explanatory subtitles. The DVD also has a featurette on behind the scenes footage from Peter Cushing's Doctor Who and the Daleks (a nice surprise), and remembrances by two Dalek operators from 2003's Doctor Who Stories.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iv. The Closet Scene - Hamlet 2000

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from C.O.P.S. to Crisis on Infinite Earths.



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