This Week in Geek (4-10/03/13)


As I may have mentioned a few days ago, I went and pre-ordered all 11 Doctor Who Sourcebooks Cubicle 7 is putting out this year, and they've already sent me the preview pdf copy of volume 1. Judging from this one alone, it's going to be an awesome series of books for Doctor Who gamers and fans alike.


DVDs: Still need to get through that Bond 50 boxed set! For Your Eyes Only gets me through the first half, and after Moonraker went way too far off-genre and into camp comedy, new director John Glen repositions the franchise by getting away from the 70s' excesses. Roger Moore's Bond is far less dependent on gadgets in this one, and consequently more resourceful and skillful. Instead of a hybrid with some other genre (the 70s really tried to cash in on other formulas, showing little faith in Bond's own), we get a real spy-adventure film, with nice locations, big stunts and chases, and a relatively light summer movie tone. The use of every Olympic winter sport in one particular sequence is a sure sign that the film hasn't let go of all its comedy (as is the teaser, which incidentally, is the first Bond I ever saw before my mom sent us to bed). Roger Moore is getting older, so a more vulnerable Bond works well, though some might lament his loss of libido. This sweatery Bond refuses a lot of female attention, possibly because Moore wasn't keen on bedding girls too far from his own age. The Bond girl is really the Huntress, isn't she? A crossbow-toting beauty who wants revenge for her parents' death? Yeah, Huntress. Really, my only complaint is a mild one - the 80s music which dates the film more than anything else. The DVD includes three commentary tracks: Roger Moore's is the usual collection of pleasant if not always relevant thoughts, and two Fleming Institute assemblies (director and cast, and crew) with linking production notes, an informative format that's better than the last few movies' conversational commentaries.

The Raid: Redemption is an Indonesian action film written and directed by a Welshman, Gareth Evans, and totally deserves its reputation as a game-changer in the action genre. Aside from a short scene in which the hero Rama (Iko Uwais) tells his wife goodbye before going to work, there's little in the film that's not part of the SWAT raid on a building controlled by a god-like crime lord. (If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the plot of Dredd, which is why I doubly question the need for the American remake apparently in the works.) At first, this is a war film, heavy on casualties and visceral in its depiction of violence. As the SWAT run out of bullets (and men), it turns into a thriller (specifically, survival horror) and a dynamic martial arts picture. The action is insane, a mix of done-for-real and subtle effects that increase the realism (I've never seen such savage knife fights, for example). You'll feel the impacts of every hit along with the characters, and will be amazed at the speed of the action. At its core is still a story about family, so it isn't just action without empathy. I look forward to the sequel Evans is currently filming, which apparently takes place only 2 hours after the first one. Lots of DVD extras too, including lots of making of elements discussing stunts, story, effects, casting, and music (by Linkin Park's Mike Sinoda). You'll also find a long Q&A with Evans and Shinoda, and a darkly funny Claycat claymation spoof of the film. Top marks.

Dante Lam's The Viral Factor is another atypical action film from Asia, also featuring brothers on opposite sides of the law (Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse). It's atypical because it looks like a big Hollywood blockbuster in the tradition of The Bourne Identity. Usually, Hong Kong action films take place in Hong Kong, maybe Thailand, and while the action is slick and the characters involving, you come to recognize the locations from film to film. The Viral Factor (Uphill Battle in the Chinese original) mostly takes place in Malaysia... and Jordan! Wall-to-wall action in a heightened by realistic mold (i.e. no wire work), with both gunplay and martial/stunt prowess, it has an international thriller plot about weaponized smallpox, a balanced mix of Chinese and English dialog, and a strong emotional core despite being very nearly wall-to-wall action. I think it'll play well to Western audiences, though I also wonder how memorable it'll be in the end because it looks like a lot of similar American flicks. I don't know why the DVD extras are timed at 74 minutes on the box, because there are just 50 in reality. A strong 50 minutes though, with a good making of and interviews with the director and two stars.

According to my reviews earlier this week, I was disappointed by The Sun Makers, a fun satire weighed down by a plot I've seen too many times before. Still, I think it grew on me on second viewing, where I caught a lot more of the humor, financial puns, etc. But let's talk about the DVD extras. The audio commentary features Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, as well as Michael Keating (Goudry... not exactly one of the main characters) and director Pennant Roberts. It's fun and lively. For more information, turn on the production notes subtitles, which are at their usual level of quality, though the vocabulary used sometimes made me think of Pip and Jane Baker's overly verbose scripts. I needed a dictionary next to me. The making of documentary is quite nice, covering things the commentary didn't and providing a key to what Holmes was really talking about - his tax problems, his finger raised at the BBC, the miners' strikes, and damn it, it reminded me it takes place on Pluto because the Doctor fights a plutocracy, should have seen it!) - and commenting on the world's science and literary antecedents. Part 2 of the conversation with Doctor Who composer Dudley Simpson, this time about his 70s work, continued on from the one included in The War Games. It's fine, though a little dull for my tastes, at least until he gets to the part where John Nathan-Turner fired him. There's a cut series of outtakes all from the same scene. And of course, the usual Photo Gallery (mostly shots of the sets). The size of the DVD package is, I think, proportional to the place the story has in Doctor Who canon.

Audios: Simon Guerrier continues his Sara Kingdom arc with The Drowned World, another moody, Gothic piece in which the House That Thinks It's Sara tells a tale that in a way mirrors the events and mood of the framing tale. This time, Robert the investigator returns to the House, which is surrounded by dark, dangerous waters, and Sara's story is about a water creature. Once again, Sara's fate is in Robert's hands, and both characters' regrets and potential for self-sacrifice dominate. That's what I most appreciate about this three-story arc, how well the three pieces fit together thematically. Or the 6 pieces, if I consider the framing tales as their own strands. Jean Marsh is, of course, wonderful. The themes, atmospheres and acting all elevate what is actually very simple 1st Doctor story to something much greater than its synopsis would seem to indicate.

The Guardian of the Solar System is Sara's last story, probably the best in Guerrier's trilogy, in which she may find her humanity again and creates an opportunity for Marsh to play Sara in the main range (YES PLEASE!). The story she tells is an untold chapter of The Daleks' Master Plan in which she visits her own recent past, before she killed her brother, before she knew Mavic Chen was a traitor. It's a story about fate and how history can't be changed no matter how much you want it to, and is thematically represented by a giant clockwork on which Earth's empire is secretly built. By the end, it's possible Sara even caused the events she regrets so much. A very touching audio tale and a great and meaningful finale to the story. I can't praise Guerrier enough for having dreamed this whole thing up. Inventive, clever, and sensitive.

The Suffering is Jacqueline Rayner's contribution to the Companion Chronicles, a double-sized 1st Doctor adventure featuring the talents of both Maureen O'Brien (as Vicki) and Peter Purves (as Steven). Twice the companions, twice the time allotted, and it doesn't waste a second of it. The story has the TARDIS crew discover the famous Piltdown Man jawbone in 1912, which turns out to be of alien origin, and able to take control of females. The female alien mind at the heart of the story gets herself (and Vicki) involved in the suffragette movement, with deadly consequences. Rayner's trademark humor is present in the interplay between the two narrators, as they try to decide how to tell the story among them (shades of the excellent Jago & Litefoot story), but she brings to the subject matter great sensitivity as well, with harrowing and touching moments involving the alien's experiences with her world's official misogyny. The result is an audio play that sandbags you with its shockingly emotional climax. I'm on record as disliking Rayner's novels, but she's one of the audios' very best writers. This is definitely her medium.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
Act IV, Scenes 1-3 - Tennant (2009)

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


Andrew Gilbertson said...

I want to hear a dramatization of the next 5 minutes of in-universe time after the end of that last Sara story SO badly...!


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