This Week in Geek (25/02-03/03/13)

Oscar Pool

Every year, we get together to watch the Oscars, pool choices at the ready, to try and win some loot from one another. Everyone puts DVDs in a box and top honors gets the box, minus anything they put in or already have, the rest going to 2nd place, then 3rd, and so on. Though I won the last couple pools, I only came in second place this year, bowing to last year's runner-up Joelle. That still somehow netted me 12 DVDs, and as per my own ridiculous rules, I must now watch and review all twelve before the next Oscars, and can only put back the very worst of them. Oh man... Well, there are some I'm actually happy about - Young Frankenstein, Gomorrah, and 21 looks pretty good. Not my cup of tea, but which may at least be acceptable - Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Disaster! The Movie, 1914's His Majesty the Scarecrow of Oz, Joe Versus the Volcano, and The Notebook (in full screen... wait, is this is BOOTLEG?). And then there are the painful ones, since everyone takes joy in trolling the winners with real turkeys - Fat Albert, RV, and two American Pie Presents movies, Band Camp and The Naked Mile. White Chicks was in the total pile, so I at least dodged THAT bullet. It's still gonna be a long year...


DVDs: I watched Argo right before the Oscars and enjoyed it thoroughly, so its win, while not what I had marked in my pool, was still appreciated. What most struck me about the film is how incredibly clear it all was, a complex situation scripted and edited to perfection so that I could be transported back to the late 70s and early 80s as if they were just yesterday. The story is an engagingly clever one, and though it happened for real, some things were condensed to make the action clearer, more immediately tense and snarkly satirical, as evidenced in the lone extra which goes back to talk to the real people who lived through these events. In true thriller fashion, it leads us to the tensest last half-hour of any film in recent memory, though perhaps overdoing the intensity music-wise. But that's me trying to mitigate too favorable a review with a caveat. There's hardly a false note in this film.

Sammo Hung's Knockabout, a comedy kung fu vehicle for Yuen Biao, is about a pair of con men getting into trouble, cheating people and often getting cheated themselves. After getting clobbered one time too many, they become students to a master who may not be on the up and up. As the movie progresses, silly Cantonese comedy gives way to more and more intense action, which is entertaining all the way through for both reasons, but isn't really balanced correctly. You may become tired of each element in its respective section. So while this is a perfectly good comedy kung fu film in the Sammo/Jackie/Yuen tradition, the DVD has a major technical flaw. There's a relatively long section where the subtitles are out of synch with the action, and intermittently, they disappear altogether. Given that there's no English track to rely on, only Mandarin and Cantonese, it turns some scenes into gibberish. Of course, if you've seen a lot of kung fu films, you can pretty much guess what's going on and you'd be right. Still, bit of a headache.

Audios: Did a lot of walking this week, so I got through four of Big Finish's Companion Chronicles, getting through the rest of Series 3. Steve Lyons' Resistance is a Polly-narrated second Doctor adventure in German-occupied France, and has a neat twist of including a pilot/spy who may or may not be her uncle (he shares the narrative duties). That's an interesting wrinkle for a straight historical, one we really don't see a lot of. What happens when a companion tries to change their family history? Father's Day was very immediate, but an uncle who apparently died in WWII and whom you've never met... Would that be allowed? Anneke Wils proved she has what it takes to narrate Doctor Who with her work on the BBC audio reconstructions of lost episodes, and she does an equally fine job here. An understated success that picks up steam in the later train sequences.

The Magician's Oath by Scott Handcock is a third Doctor UNIT story narrated by Richard "Mike Yates" Franklin, who does a great job of making his character's wistful sadness come across. He's bringing an alien artifact back for storage after many years, and tells its story. It's all about a "magician" who turns out to be an amnesiac alien... I don't want to give too much away, but the audio creates some memorable imagery that probably wouldn't have fit the original series' budget. Jo becomes a hostage of this alien, giving Yates a chance to show his affection for her. There's very much a sense of regret in Yates' point of view, as there should be given his dishonorable discharge from UNIT, and I hope there's room in the range for more of his stories.

The Mahogany Murders is a neat change of pace by Andy Lane, a completely Doctorless Victorian story narrated in tandem by Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot, the celebrated double act from The Talons of Weng-Chiang. These guys went on to star in their own Big Finish audio series, and you can see why. Trevor Baxter (Litefoot) sounds just like he did back in the day, it's amazing, and while Christopher Benjamin's voice is a bit gruffer, he still brings Jago's bluster back in force. The story is about criminals transformed into wooden puppets, a murder mystery turned strange steampunk, and is appropriately creepy and weird. However, it's the telling of the tale that is most charming, the two characters bouncing off each other in the most delightful way. Jago exaggerates, Litefoot interrupts to get the continuity right, one steals the other's thunder. It's humorously done and a great tribute to the interplay created by Robert Holmes and the actors all those years ago. Recommended!

Nigel Robinson's The Stealers from Saiph is the first Companion Chronicle to use a single voice talent, that of Mary Tamm, the first Romana. She certainly hasn't skipped a beat since she last played the character, and is variously adept at doing the accents of the 1920s high society types inhabiting this story of a cruise on the Mediterranean running afoul of a Lovecraftian entity about to be released from its millennia-long imprisonment. While Tamm does a good job with the material, I didn't find it all that original, perhaps because I was watching Image of the Fendahl at the same time. The two stories certainly share a long strand of DNA (and with The Masque of Mandragora too). Still, the monster itself is well described and memorable, even if it feels like the fourth Doctor has already dealt with the same.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
Act IV, Scenes 1-3 - Fodor (2007)

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Green Lantern vol.2 to Green Lantern Corps vol.3.


S said...

Oh, Joe Vs The Volcano is really good, you'll like that one.

Austin Gorton said...

Yeah, perhaps it's just because I watched it when I was younger, but I found Joe vs. the Volcano to be both a little odd and oddly charming. Of the "Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan" sub genre of romantic comedies, it's certainly the one I'd be most eager to rewatch (which is, perhaps, damning with faint praise).

Congrats on your second place finish. I got demolished in my pool this year (thanks largely to an overly complicated system I've devised over the years that allows for variable points for each entrant in any given category), but at least the guy who's won the last several years lost as well.


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