This Week in Geek (10-16/06/13)

Buys

Because of the Saints Row IV build-up, I decided to get back into it with the Season Pass downloadable content. I'll flip the whole thing before getting back to you. Also bought some DVDs, including the US version of House of Cards, Doctor Who's The Mind of Evil, Ringo Lam's City on Fire, the first season of The Newsroom, and the Polish Game of Thrones-ish movie Stara basn: Kiedy slonce bylo bogiem.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: A 19th-century lawyer harbors an escaped slave on a sailing ship. A gay composer contemplates suicide. A journalist comes across deadly information about a nuclear power plant. An out-of-luck publisher is imprisoned in an old people's home. A genetically-engineered waitress becomes the figurehead of a freedom movement. A primitive Vall'ysman agrees to help an advanced Prescient on her quest to reach the stars. Six very different stories, two of them science-fiction, spanning hundreds of years, and yet all connected in some way. This is Cloud Atlas, a rather experimental film for its big budget courtesy of the Wachowskis. The film is about interconnectivity like Magnolia, Crash and Babel, but across time as well as space. It's never boring, the transitions and thematic links work very well... it's an amazing achievement to have translated the book's structure into film language at all, never mind this well. Cloud Atlas' stories are all about freedom in some way, but as a structure, it's about how everything we do has a rippling effect on the world. What keeps it from being truly spectacular is the conceit of having the same cast of actors playing different roles across time in each of the stories. While it's got a point to make and was, according to the short promotional featurette included on the DVD, one of the things that attracted the actors to the project, it rather calls attention to itself. Maybe if the make-up had been better, but it is often rather terrible, with actors usually playing different ages, races and even sexes! Even when you couldn't recognize a particular actor, you're always thinking "who's THIS now?". Very distracting.

Finished Arrested Development Season 3, which sets me up for the current 7 Years Later project (I'd rather watch it on DVD, so it can't come out soon enough), a then-final 13 episodes with America's most dysfunctional family. They get some nice guest-stars in before it's all over, including the radiant Charleze Theron as a new girlfriend for Michael with a dark secret, Scott Baio as a douchey lawyer, and Justine Bateman is a role that will make you fear for a Lannister situation. The show was always about going just a little bit too far. The characters' stories all come to an appropriate end, while still leaving room for more down the line (which we have finally reached). The lone turkey for me was the stunt-tacular episode in which they mocked the show's failing ratings by pandering to the audience, breaking the mockumentary feel of the series rather hard. This is just too topical to play as well years later. The DVD includes cast and crew commentary on three episodes, very funny deleted scenes, and an uncensored blooper reel, like the previous two seasons. There's also a chronicle of the last day on location (the boat stuff) that gives the participants a chance to reflect on their three-years experience.

Another 13-episode final season for a comedy that has featured Will Arnett? Ok, how about 30 Rock Season 7? This too had some breaking-the-fourth-wall moments I felt were going too far, but the characters and world are so absurd, it's easier to sell them. The level of quality is about the same as other seasons and there are plenty of guest-stars (mostly returning guest-stars from across all seasons, taking their characters out for one last spin). What I was curious about was how it would all end. Long-running sitcoms have a strange track record in that respect. Would it be a wild twist like Newhart, an ironclad refusal to go for sentiment like Seinfeld, a dismantling of the premise (too many to count) or a life-goes-on ending for fanfic writers (ditto)? How about a little of each? 30 Rock ended its run pulling at your heart strings and then pulling "haha sucker" jokes to undercut sentimentality, and someone STILL making you choke up despite the commitment to weirdness, right up to its final glorious moment. The DVD includes commentary on a few episodes, deleted scenes, a Jack Donaghy flash cartoon, and a set walkthrough with Tina Fey in which she talks about her favorite moments in each room, serving as a good retrospective of the last 7 years.

The Deadly Breaking Sword, our Kung Fu Friday selection, is a Shaw Bros. movie in search of a hero. Even the usually fresh-faced Ti Lung and Fu Sheng are cast as villains and scoundrels, and by the end, you're hard-put to find anyone to cheer for. That, and a couple of tonally off-putting comedy fights, is probably the film's biggest weakness. Because otherwise, it's a pretty inventive revenge film. Ti Lung's villain buys you a coffin before inviting you to a duel against his "breaking sword", a piece of which he leaves in each of his victims. There's a super-high-class prostitute who plays beautiful music, but wants her father's killer, the infamous "Killer Doctor" dead. And Fu Sheng's comical gambler-thief brings a lot of energy and agility to the screen. But it's difficult to champion any of these characters as it appears none of them have any honor. So I'm with Kara Hui (My Young Auntie) who is completely wasted in this picture as courtesan #3 (or something). The DVD includes lots of trailers and a photo gallery, and is included in the Legendary Heroes collection.

RPGs: Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG. The Shepherd Season 2 Episode 7: The Dalek Occupation of Earth
Penultimate episode of the season! Before Corey leaves (permanently or temporarily), I wanted to do something that played on his episode 2 goof, in which he gave early Daleks the idea to conquer the universe AND that Earth might be a good place to start. Yes, it's a redress of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, though with several twists. The action takes place in Oslo and Lillehammer, Norway, for example, because they player's had played a Bad Wolf on me (one of those reward cards I use), forcing me not only to use Norse myth in the majority of episodes, but also to pay off Norway Corp's take-over of its namesake sometime in the future. Well, Norway Corp invited the Daleks, dropped Earth's shields, so to speak, and allowed for the invasion and destruction of all but 20% of the population. Enter our heroes, in a scenario similar to the original 1st Doctor serial/second Cushing movie, and right up to the end, I didn't know if it would turn into cliffhanger or if the finale would have its own beginning, middle and end. It came down to the players themselves. When they failed to prevent the Daleks from dropping a device into the Earth's core, it was revealed that Norway Corp (or whoever is behind it) was playing the Daleks all along. The Daleks and their HQ are magnetically sucked into the shaft, from which a geyser of energy shoots out, each drop of "water" turning into a transporter effect that resolves into a clone(?) of Corey. This, right after the Shepherd flees the building's collapse by boarding the Dalek saucer, which promptly crashes and explodes into the magnetic event. So with this strange mystery and both characters believing the other is dead, they have to wait a week for the finale. I'm rather proud of this moment of wild improvisation, but have I written myself into a corner? Nah.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.v. Ophelia's Madness - Olivier '48

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Legion of Super-Heroes to Legionnaires.

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