Sunday, June 23, 2013

This Week in Geek (17-23/06/13)

Buys

Got two reference books this week - The Comic Strip Companion to Doctor Who 1964-1979 by Paul Scoones (a recommendation from a writing partner), and DC Adventures Universe, the fourth and final book from Green Ronin's pre-Flushpoint RPG Mutants & Masterminds supplements, and the closest thing we'll get to a Who's Who for the post-Infinite Crisis age. It's gorgeous and covers the temporal and spatial geography of the DCU, a lot like the Atlas of the DC Universe from the old DC Heroes game. It's already informing the next step in my gaming activities.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: I can't help but compare the U.S. version of House of Cards to the U.K. original which I watched a few weeks ago, but it compares favorably. Ian Richardson was a more charming protagonist, but at 13 episodes (already passing all three U.K. series in terms of length), Kevin Spacey has more time to build up his character. Obviously, the U.S. government is very different from Britain's Parliament, so Francis Underwood (not Urquhart) has a more complicated road to travel to the top. This is very much the Earth-3 version of The West Wing! The length also means Francis fails more, or at least suffers more reversals, and improvises more, and it means other characters are given more space to grow. His wife Claire, played by Robin Wright (oh Princess Buttercup, how mean you've gotten) has her own plots and machinations. Overall, the series has taken just enough from the U.K. original (the asides, the novel's premise, some broad plot points) to make them of a piece, but between the completely different setting and format, has gone far enough afield that it becomes its own experience. The DVD package offers no extras, which is fine, but I do hate the disc sleeves that force me to dig with my clumsy fingers to get them out. Enviro-friendly, I suppose, but puts me in fear of scratching one every time.

Even before I got The Newsroom's first season on DVD, I'd probably seen each episode three times. I admit it, I'm a sucker for everything Aaron Sorkin's ever done. So yes, granted, there's a lot in The Newsroom that's overly familiar to Sorkin fans, who will recognize tropes recurring from Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60. And yes, granted, if you're primarily interested in the journalistic ideal element and the commentary on current (near past) events, the "jealousy games" comedy could be an irritant. I can't say they bother me. As an outspoken critic of the crap that passes for journalism these days (especially TV journalism), the idealistic fantasy of The Newsroom speaks to me. It's got a great cast, crisp dialog, endearing characters, and intelligently dissects real news events from 2010-2011 as a clever way to advance the characters' personal stories. Can't wait for Season 2 to start mid-July. The technical awkwardness I sensed in the pilot quickly goes away too. The DVD extras include cast and crew commentary tracks on 5 of the 10 episodes and a few deleted scenes. Sorkin takes us through his thoughts about each episode in little featurettes attached to each, with another short bit on the production design. And there's a 25-minute round table discussion between cast and crew looking back at the season. The extras are sometimes redundant (Sorkin might say the same thing in three different formats), but none overstay their welcome.

One of the protagonists of Kill 'Em All mocks the situation he's in by calling it a video game plot, which hits a bit too close to the mark. Eight hitmen from around the world are kidnapped and wake up in the "Killing Chamber", a modern-day dungeon in which they must fight each other until there is one man (or woman) standing, or until they inevitably try to make their escape and kill the boss. Like a video game, the "cut scenes" are pretty short, and it's wall-to-wall fighting. Not bad fighting, mind you, but I've seen better. It all builds to a climax with kung fu legend Gordon Liu, and I'd have been disappointed if he didn't get to fight. I wasn't. He is easily the best thing about this movie, though I could stand to watch Zom Ammara in more action films and can't believe her only other credit is a small part in the outstanding Chocolate (the one by the Tony Jaa action team). She's good and she's hot.

If you've been reading the blog this week, you know what I think of Doctor Who's The Visitation (summary: blargh), but I also flipped the Special Edition DVD for you fine folks so we could talk about extras. First off, the first disc is exactly the same as the original release. You'll find the same commentary track with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse and director Peter Moffat, the same production note subtitles, the same isolated score track and the same photo gallery. The DVD also includes (as it did then), solid interviews with the director about his entire Who career, and with both writer Eric Saward and composer Paddy Kingsland about their work on The Visitation specifically. And there are a few film trims, more outtakes than deleted scenes. The second disc holds the new goodies, including a 45-minute making of that capitalizes on the camaraderie between Davison, Fielding, Sutton and documentary producer Mark "Turlough" Strickson (sorry Adric) by having them visit the old locations from the story to reminisce and recount fun anecdotes (others are interviewed too). The same basic idea shows up in a featurette about BBC Television Center (minus Sutton). Finally, there's an featurette on Doctor Who's audio adventures (Big Finish and others), which, as a fan, I've been waiting for a long time. Its one weakness is that Davison isn't in it despite being one of the audio Doctors, which makes it a strange addition to this particular story's DVD package.

Radio: This week, I was asked by CBC French Radio Acadie (covering the Atlantic Provinces) to talk about the link between Superman and Christianity in the wake of that sermon guide sent to pastors by the WB. My friend and religious studies teacher @Johanne_4 passed the buck on that one, though I should really be on CBC French Radio's speed dial since I used to work there and knew the journalist quite well. I guess there's not much call for geek culture stuff on that channel. Anyway, you can be sure that I strongly underscored Superman's Jewish origins - his creators, Golem powers, Moses in the basket going down the Nile, the El family name - and how the character was co-opted by Christianity mostly by the movies by way of giving Jor-El a giant talking head role as The Father, with a wink to the Death and Resurrection of Superman in the 90s. I kind of miss having a regular radio gig, but my free time isn't what it used to be.

RPGs: I was all set to talk about our Doctor Who RPG finale, but scheduling problems made us push it back to this afternoon, so I'll only write it up next Sunday. I CAN say, however, that there'll be an important DWAITAS-related announcement on this blog tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.v. Ophelia's Madness - BBC '80

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Lobo to Manhunter.

1 comment:

Teebore said...

As an outspoken critic of the crap that passes for journalism these days (especially TV journalism), the idealistic fantasy of The Newsroom speaks to me.

Well said, and same here. As a fellow Sorkin devotee, I thoroughly enjoyed Newsroom despite the expected tics and bumps along the way. Very much looking forward to Season 2.