This Week in Geek (11-17/02/13)


None, but my participation in HeroPress' make-a-monster contest recently did score my a copy of With Great Power... the Stan Lee Story, a DVD which arrived in the mail straight from the UK this Friday! Thanks Tim!


DVDs: It took a couple of episodes for Misfits to convince me, I have to admit. Though all the episodes have a sort of rock'n'roll aesthetic, the first ep has some rather extreme shaky-cam, frame rate thing going that kind of made me nauseous. The Brit-TV series features a gang of troubled kids doing community service together when a strange storm gives them (and many others in the area) super-powers. It's Heroes, sure, but with a delinquent, irreverent edge, and at 6 episodes, none of the slow pacing problems of its older American cousin. They give Buffy as a reference on the DVD cover, but really, it gave off more of a Being Human vibe. At turns making me laugh out loud, or feel severe apprehension, Misfits manages to remain true to its flawed characters while also endearing them to us. In this first season, the kids bond over a shared tragedy, which keeps coming back to haunt them. I can't wait to get my teeth into Season 2, already on my shelf. My favorite episode so far: The one in which Curtis rewinds time back to the night he ruined his life and that of his girlfriend through a coke deal gone wrong. I'm a sucker for time travel stories, and this is a good one. The DVD includes brief interviews with the cast and crew, stylishly edited; some funny films made by Simon the invisible man, including one where Nathan tries to trigger his unknown power; and some longer making of featurettes on specific stunts and sequences, and on assembling this near-unknown cast of young actors.

Archer Season 3 has perfected the formula of this animated spy satire - adding more "oh no you didn't!" moments to various relationships, and paying tribute to yet more spy films, as is usual - but they've improved the show in a couple of important ways. One is the car action, which is as exciting as anything you'd see in a Bond film or one of those Fast and Furious things (I'm guessing on this last one, never seen a F&F movie). It's so well done, I'm wondering how they do it. The other is the number of quality guest voices the production managed to wrangle this time around. Burt Reynolds is especially awesome as himself, but there's also Joaquim de Almeida, George Takei and Jack McBrayer. The DVD extras feature commentaries on three episodes, though the cast and crew will jabber and anything and everything, not really paying attention to what's on screen. You have the option of watching the three-part opener as a single, uninterrupted story. And the usual original sketches (a Gator 2 trailer!) are amusing. Unfortunately, what looks like footage from a ComicCon panel isn't a repeat of the fun banter seen on Season 2, but rather the weakest animated sketch of the bunch, used to introduce the panelists. Ah well.

Hunkering for some Shakespeare, I decided to watch the BBC's dramatic presentation of Antony and Cleopatra (1980). I originally came by this play via John Dryden's All for Love Or The World Well Lost, a Neoclassics-era remake of the Bard's last act. I'm afraid it's infected my thinking about A&C, because it had such a strong theme of emasculating Mark Antony by making all the other characters more decisive that he was. His failed suicide, Cleopatra's successful one, expanded roles for Octavia and the eunuch... it all resolved into a fertile pseudo-feminist concept for the play, and I kept looking for that in the original. Even when I try to put that out of my mind, I do still think Jane Lapotaire's Cleopatra could have been a little stronger. Her Cleopatra is a great manipulator, but she's also an emotional trainwreck, and strident at her MOST emotional. Colin Blakely was more to my taste as Antony, a man weakened by his natural bias toward the woman he loves. Ceasar is, in comparison, a more controlled man, logical and impassive, the great contrast between reason and passion, between Rome and Egypt. My favorite character remains Antony's right hand man, Enobarbus, but when you're played by Emrys James, it's hard not to have that effect on the audience. Overall, strong performances and wonderful words, quickly making me forget my initial raised eyebrow at the decidedly un-Egyptian sets and costumes. It makes sense historically, but is still not what you expect to see. No extras on these except for the scripts in pdf.

You already know what I thought of The Robots of Death - great script and design sometimes hampered by directorial mishaps - but what about the Special Edition DVD? Robots was one of the first releases and it shows. The picture is murky, there are no production notes or even proper subtitles, and the extras are slim. The Special Edition puts the story's picture quality and extras more in line with the rest of the range. There are two commentary tracks, the 2003 original between producer Philip Hinchcliffe and writer Chris Boucher, and a new one with Tom Baker (the Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Pamela Salem (Toos), and director Michael Briant. Both have their virtues and tell different sides of the story. The DVD also includes a making of, well produced, and not too redundant for those who listened to the commentaries; a humorous docu-sketch about robots in history and in Doctor Who, by Toby Hadoke, good stuff; an example of the original studio sound with the muffled voices of the robots; a somewhat interactive map of the studio sets (would work better as a pdf); black and white model tests; a continuity announcement; and the usual production notes, Radio Times listing, and photo gallery we've come to expect. Middling as far as BBC World's DVD packages go, but a huge improvement on the original release.

Audios: In the first of three Big Finish Companion Chronicles radio plays I listened to, Home Truths, Simon Guerrier finds a way to bring back Sara Kingdom from the dead so she can tell stories in this format too. There was certainly a motivation to do so. Jean Marsh is an incredible actress who lends the story an amazing amount of naturalism, more I think than anyone has yet managed to. There are two mysteries jockeying for attention in Home Truths, a haunted(?) house visited by Sara, Steven and the Doctor sometime during The Daleks' Master Plan, and the how and why Sara is seemingly alive to tell the story to a visiting constable. But as intriguing as both of these are, they take second place to Sara's introspection throughout the play. Here is a character who, though she traveled with the Doctor for a short time, shot and killed her own brother. In a sense, she still needs to redeem herself in the eyes of the Doctor Who audience, and by entering this world through her eyes, I think that's exactly what happens. One of my favorites in the range for sure, and I can't wait to listen to the next Guerrier/Marsh collaboration.

Stewart Sheargold's The Darkening Eye is a huge letdown in comparison (to the whole range, actually). First, it has the distinction of being the first Companion Chronicle to star a companion that's already starring in the main range of audios. We know Nyssa (and Sarah Sutton) very well, and we've heard her pair up with the fifth Doctor quite often. The Chronicles are a great place to hear new voices and to hear untold tales of Doctors who AREN'T regularly featured on audio. If the story had been good, I might not have griped, but it really isn't. Sure, the Dar Traders and their flesh trade are fairly memorable creatures with unique motivations, but the script just isn't on par with the rest of the series. It's full of "I said, adverbially" tags at the end of every piece of dialog, he typed, neologistically, perhaps because Sutton's voice doesn't create a distinction between the various voices - the Doctor's, Adric's, Tegan's (a very small hint of Aussie accent), her own. Not leaving it all at her feet though, since it's really the stilted way the story's been written for her to read out. The final punchline is good, but can't redeem the dull dull script.

In The Transit of Venus, Jacqueline Rayner puts Ian (and thus, William Russell) and the first Doctor on the Captain Cook's Endeavor in the month leading up to the discovery of Australia. Where are Susan and Barbara? Well, in a shocking twist, the they and the TARDIS are thrown overboard! What follows is a nightmarish journey with some truly creepy elements and some real confidences by Ian, telling this story at some point in the future (no framing tale justifies it, which is refreshing in its way). Rayner manages to get the first Doctor's era down pat, with long voyages (à la Marco Polo) and companions disappearing while actors go on holiday, but also give it a creepy, horrific edge and some real tension. I mean, how do the girls get out of this one? The answer isn't completely convincing, but I think it works, and for its handling of the Ian/Barbara relationship, it gets top scores.

Graphic novels: Somehow, I read the third and last of Darwyn Cooke's Parker adaptations, The Score, first. Didn't really matter, so far as I can tell. It's a brilliantly-done heist story, done in one, with a large cast, but each character very easy to differentiate thanks to the mastery of Cooke's staging and pacing (and obviously, of Richard Stark's original novels). Taking place in 1964, Cooke gives the small hardcover an appropriate vintage look with a single, pale orange color added to the black inkwork, like those 60s readers every home seems to have, and to match the desert exteriors (the other books are in blue-gray tint). The story, about stealing an entire mining town blind is superbly constructed and pretty original, and in perfect heist fashion, makes the plan crystal clear so that you can see how it goes off the rails eventually. I guess now I'll be going back in time.

Video games: At 100% and with most activities and diversions done, I'm officially quitting Saints Row 2 for less difficult pastures. I've got a couple of stunt jumps I must've missed somewhere (out of 80, so it's a pain to do them all again), flying planes is just too wonky to do their 2 races and the barnstorming list, and the tow-truck diversion is just as impossible. So I am done. If you've been following my story through Siltwater, I first started with SR3, where my cool Asian chick took the city over, before going back to SR1 and finding out I couldn't prequel her story. You could only play guys. Well, I shouldn't have worried because SR2 starts with you getting severe plastic surgery, and in my case, a sex change. So it WAS her all along! SR1 was kind of rough going at times, with poorer graphics and a somewhat serious storyline, but SR2 gets us closer to the crazy, anything-goes version of Grand Theft Auto I loved so well in Saint's Row The Third. The opposing gangs include voodoo-using Jamaicans, sword-yielding Yakuza and tattooed truckers, and plenty of insane violence. It's the true precursor to its ultimate evolution. Some of the side-activities are frustrating, but there are new things to do like shoot sewage to bring down property values and play bodyguard to polarizing porn stars. The game plays well, and some fun secrets all around the map, and some good music on the radio (which your character sometimes sings to). I might replay parts of SR3 to see the connecting joins, but mostly, I think I'm off to another city now... Hong Kong? I'll tell you about Sleeping Dogs in 3 to 6 months (am I the most dedicated, least versatile gamer in history, or what?).

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
Act IV, Scenes 1-3 - Kline '90

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Genesis to The Great Ten.


snell said...

"(I'm guessing on this last one, never seen a F&F movie)."

You realize you've just set yourself up for your Oscar pool videos this year, right?

snell said...

"Antony, a man weakened by his natural bias toward the woman he loves. Ceasar is, in comparison, a more controlled man, logical and impassive, the great contrast between reason and passion..."

So, Kirk as Antony, Spock as Caesar? Discuss...

Siskoid said...

1. Can't be worse than the 5 copies of Crystal Skill that have somehow resulted from last year's win. But I really don't plan on winning for a third time running!

2. In the JJ Abrams version, it could work! Wait, who's Cleopatra in the Trekboot?

Anonymous said...

And of course, the three leads of "The Trailer Park Boys" were in that train episode of "Archer".

Tim Knight said...

Glad to hear the DVD arrived. Look forward to reading your thoughts on it.


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