This Week in Geek (10-16/12/12)


A couple of DVD this week, both of them reviewed below: The Dark Knight Rises and The Bourne Legacy.


DVDs: Starting with a couple of recent blockbusters I could not see at the movie theater for schedule reasons... The Dark Knight Rises probably benefits from my seeing it in my living room, since my bony ass didn't need to survive its indulgent(?) 2:45 hours in a theater seat. I should really just make a point of waiting for the DVD on anything that's more than 2 hours long. So after consensus-building hit that was The Dark Knight, the odds were stacked against the third part of the trilogy. Tell you what, it works best AS a trilogy's finale, and less well as a stand-alone film. Batman Begins didn't have a lot of baggage going in, and TDK had a more thought-provoking theme, but neither was perfect (loud but flat action scenes, Daredevil vision). So it is with TDKR. What I like is that Nolan doesn't try to stick to the comics, which makes for quite a few surprise twists (the most satisfying being the ones I'd guessed at then discarded and forgotten). It's more fanboy-proof than most. And it's a story the comics can't really do, can they? A fun Catwoman, an interesting Bane (sadly, they've put an interesting actor like Hardy in a mask that hides his expressions), and plot threads that go back to Begins. In many ways, Batman has always been the weakest part of these films (can't get Abed out of my head), and he's not in it that much. That's far from a condemnation. Plenty of Bruce Wayne, lots of great actors besides, and the audience identifier, Detective Blake, played by the always watchable Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So, IS the length indulgent? In the final analysis, I don't think so, but then I'm seeing the trilogy as a long novel and I want each of those scenes to be in there, the characters to have that depth because of them. This DVD has a featurette about how the various ideas for Part 3 came together. You'll probably have to get the Blu-Ray for more.

Hollywood seems adamant about turning Jeremy Renner into an action star with Avengers, Mission: Impossible and now The Bourne Legacy, and I, for one, won't complain. No easy task, this, making a Jason Bourne movie without Jason Bourne, and I'm sure it's gotten some flack because of it. I think I might go on record to say I still liked Legacy more than I did Identity (my complaints there are that it ripped off too much from the superlative Ronin). The conceit is a believable one. While Bourne is making headlines in New York, the CIA is attempting to burn every connection to Treadstone, including later projects like the chemically-and-virally fueled Outcome, of which Aaron Cross (Renner) is an agent. While this franchise has had some incredible, gritty action and stunts, it's always been about the characters and the thriller elements for me. The final chase is slightly overlong, but the high standard is still maintained. The connections with Ultimatum are mostly pleasing, but really in the background, and Cross is a likeable alternative to Bourne. I'd welcome more films with him in the role. The DVD includes filmmakers' commentary, a few quite good deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and two featurettes, one a brief making of and the other focusing on the motorcycle chase.

It took Miranda July half a dozen years to make another film after You, Me and Everyone We Know, and in a sense, The Future is about why it took so long. It's really about waiting for your life to begin, a feeling not at all alien to people of my generation. The story follows a thirtysomething couple who realize they haven't really set themselves up to leave a mark on the world and give themselves a month to change their lives. They soon find you can't force it, that it might be too late after all. The symbol of all this is a found cat waiting for them to pick it up at the vet's, a heart-breaking voice played by Miranda herself (she's also the female half of the couple). At the center of the film is a magical moment where time literally stops, but while well-observed, offbeat and melancholy, the movie never really dismounts from that moment properly. I love the last scene's ambiguity, but there are some dodgy moments before we get there. July provides a commentary track that's mostly anecdotal, while the making of documentary handles the themes a little more thoroughly. There's also a deleted scene July has turned into a tiny film.

No Andy Lau in Jonnie To's Running Out of Time 2, but Lau Ching Wan returns as Inspector Ho who is once again contacted by a master thief who wants to play a game with him. Though the basic template is the same, To creates a very different movie than his original here. The thief this time around is literally a magician, which taps into its miraculous strangeness. It's Christmas in Hong Kong, so why not a few miracles? It's not all misdirection. As in To's Sparrow, which had a maverick shanking action scene that could have come out of a musical, he's trying to redefine what an action scene is in this film as well. Action bird watching? Sure. A bicycle duel? Yes again. Who's "running out of time"? Lam Suet's loser character in a subplot about flipping coins has only a few days to come with money owed, and it's in this side-story that the theme is brought out. I would have liked the thief to be a little less enigmatic, but overall, a Johnnie To movie is always original and interesting, in its flaws as much as in its strengths. On the DVD is a brief featurette where they talk to the two leads, but sadly, not the director.

Books: Mad Norwegian's About Time series is the most in-depth critical resource on Doctor Who. Each book gives you facts on characters, monsters, planets and the production, as well as critiques, contextual explorations and nitpicking. In addition, there are essays on various subjects the tie into the mythology of the entire show. The series started with Vol.3, presumably because the Pertwee era was a better seller than the black and white worlds of the first and second Doctors, but ironically, because it was first, it was the thinnest volume by far at 180 pages covering 5 seasons. After all 8 of the original Doctors had been covered, one of the writers, Tat Wood, came out with the Expanded 2nd Edition. Pertwee's volume now stands as the thickest, telling the tale in 507 pages. It's practically all re-written, with material added to practically every paragraph, with additional essays no less. Time has made it possible for Wood to react to reader feedback and explore new theories. He's also using the New Series for information, something that was rarely mentioned in earlier volumes. It took me a long time to read it because I never wanted to get ahead of my daily Doctor Who reviews. So when I'd be done with a Pertwee story, I'd give myself permission to read its lengthy entry. As usual, I'm not always in agreement with About Time's assessments, but it's always got me thinking. The latter half of the book does seem to have more typos than usual, but in a monster book like this, that was kind of bound to happen. My only complaint really. Bring on Volume 7 and the New Series, Master Wood!

Games: I can't help it. When I play a video game, I play only that game until it's 100% done. Even if it takes a year. After playing Saints Row the Third like that, I found a cheap combo version of Saints Row 1 and 2, and soon got to it with the very first release in the GTA emulation franchise. But I've stopped in the mid-90s percentile and started on 2. Why? Well, some of its activities are at once boring and frustrating. I hate the races, and the Hitman missions require you to drive around with hopefully the right weapon equipped when you find the subject. They're hardly ever where they're supposed to be too. So screw it, I've had my fun anyway. So how was the game? Undeniably more primitive. Stuck in full screen, no bikes, a bouncy avatar (limited to male, and here I thought I could make it so I played the same character - an Asian woman in 3 - through the whole series - except I did, but it's a tale for when I flip SR2), that never had much dialog. Given the graphics, I was surprised the cut scenes had such fine acting at times. And a major frustration is how missions are incredibly long and have no savepoints, so you'd have to start them over when they failed (something fixed as of 2). Still some fun gameplay, don't get me wrong, but we're not yet at the level of crazy Saints Row will become known for. Unless you count the fact the last mission kills you in an explosion and then you have to play from the old savepoint if you want to keep doing so. It's a weird, downbeat finale, that's for sure.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.iv. The Closet Scene - Slings & Arrows
III.iv. The Closet Scene - A Midwinter's Tale

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from DC Universe Presents to Deathstroke.


idiotbrigade said...

Running out of Time 2 felt like a step down in comparison to the first for me. Its still good, in that we get the whole cat & mouse aspect; there's the down-on-his-luck officer who's running out of time with a Shylock.

But it just feels less of a Cop drama, more of a Cop comedy, and I don't think it pushes the envelope enough in either direction to satisfy either itch.

Siskoid said...

Well, one has Andy Lau in drag. The other doesn't.

Buryak said...

I played Saint's Row for awhile. I made a guy who looks just like Charles Bronson. I pretended he was Charles Bronson in Death Wish, if Death Wish was made today. I found it funny to do so. The novelty wore off with the boredom and frustration of the missions you spoke of. I may get the third and try it all over again. Maybe.


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