This Week in Geek (27/01-02/02/14)


Bought a couple DVDs this week: Silver Linings Playbook and Side Effects, both out of appreciation for their respective directors.


DVDs: Mud is a slowly-unfolding thriller about two 14-year-olds living on the banks of the Mississippi River, who find a fugitive from the law (Matthew MConaughey) on an island. The kids are great, very natural, and the film reminded me, for all the world, of Stand By Me. Is it me or is the American South recently become the unexplored frontier in American cinema (and high-end TV)? It seems we've had enough of New York and California, which is fine by me. Rural Arkansas provides great, never-seen locations, and brings the story to life with authentic people, placed and values you wouldn't find anywhere else. And though the thriller element drives the plot, the real theme of the story is love, how it disappoints you yet sustains you, and why, for the lead character Ellis (played by young Tie Sheridan), it's so important to find examples of true love in the face of his parents' separation. There's definitely another level under the metaphorical mud. And for McConaughey, it's another winner. He's really brought himself back from the brink these past few years to become one of my favorite character actors after a stretch of romantic comedies and Grisham movies I had no interest in. The DVD includes a making of that's a bit on the fawning side, but still interesting.

Johnnie To's Life Without Principle is a hard one to get into, but it is ultimately interesting. Like Babel or Crash, it's a film that uses a specific issue - in this case the economic crisis brought on by Greece's bankruptcy - to explore its impacts on a variety of characters whose lives criss-cross. There are really three major strands, all connected through the same loan shark who's making big bucks thanks to the crisis. The first is an underperforming investment banker trying to sell stocks to wary and even vulnerable customers. We spend so much time with Teresa that it feels like this is going to be her film, a sort of banking drama/comedy that might elicit laughter as much as puzzlement. It feels very true to life, but it's not the kind of thing you'd think would make engaging cinema. For me, it works. We then move to the story of a dim-witted triad enforcer desperately trying to get the money together to pay off another gangster's bail, and subsequent foray into financial trading. This too has its fun moments, and definitely more violence than the banking bits. And then there's the story of a police inspector and his wife who desperately wants to buy a flat, and the niece he didn't know he had. This is the weakest part of the film because it's not really resolved. Just too many subplots for its own good. I can still say I've never seen a Johnnie To movie I didn't at least find interesting, but Life Without Principle doesn't quite become greater through the sum of its parts.

Audio: The Lost Stories' alternate Season 20 continues with Hexagora, based on a script/story by Peter Ling (of Mind Robber fame) and Hazel Adair, developed for Big Finish audio by Paul Finch. It's a crazy story that very nearly jumps the shark - Elizabethan London reproduced on a freezing alien world and a childhood friend of Tegan's brought there and turned into an insect, WHA--?! - but by the second half, enough is explained to make it all make sense. What gets you there is excellent use of the three leads. Nyssa's nobility is explored when a courtier sees her potential to become a nee queen. The Fifth Doctor is asked to become of the queen's husbands so they can make super-children together. And Tegan has to deal with her transformed friend and former crush. The guest cast is brilliantly led by Jacqueline Pearce, and the plot's resolution is excellent. A great entry in the series.

I did expect more from The Children of Seth though. Perhaps it's that Christopher Bailey (Kinda, Snakedance) wrote the original script/story, and that it was adapted for audio by Marc Platt (Ghost Light and some really great Big Finish audios), so I thought I'd get a dense, rich script redolent with hidden meanings. It's not quite that. There's this strange sequence with Nyssa running an experiment on quantum probabilities, and the TARDIS getting stuck in a web of timelines, but that really doesn't amount to anything. I kept waiting for it to play out in the story's structure, but it never did. Instead, there's some good Court intrigue-type material as the characters explore the upper levels of an alien society, some strong guest stars in Honor Blackman and David Warner, among others, and Bailey's usual trope of the all-seeing idiot (and it's the Doctor). I like Nyssa's role, especially after her identity is wiped, but Tegan sounds way too bouncy and flighty to me. Odd subplot about androids too. I suppose a lot of this has to do with identity, but though the audio isn't unpleasant by any means, its themes don't quite shine as I've seen them do in other Bailey AND Platt scripts.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes completion: 60.4%

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.vii. Ophelia's Death

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Weird Western Tales to Wonder Woman.


idiotbrigade said...

"I got Lego: Marvel Super Heroes to play this summer, when I'm off and stuff."


Whatcha gon' do when that hits 100% before the semester's over?

Siskoid said...

Uhm... DLC? Push for a Lego Doctor Who game? Cry?

Fred Melanson said...

Unlock Gambit?

Siskoid said...

I wasn't paying attention and I mistakenly pushed the button while the cursor was on Gambit. He foiled my plan of not unlocking him until I really needed his last tenth of a percent at the end.


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