This Week in Geek (14-20/04/14)


After I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, I realized that not only did I have only one Wes Anderson film in my DVD collection (Bottle Rocket), I'd seen very few. So I bought the six I was missing (5 of which I've never seen) at discount prices, even the first two which are Criterion Collection: Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Darjeeling Unlimited and Moonrise Kingdom. Oh, and The Wolf of Wall Street on top of that.


DVDs: Extended (unrated) version or not, Forgetting Sarah Marshall takes it time (the theatrical is 111 minutes, the unrated cut 118, which is rather long for a comedy), but because I laughed several times, and comedy is usually a hard sell for me, I'd say it was worth my time. Jason Segel's script is about a loser (himself) dumped by a famous TV star (Kristen Bell) and who finds himself at a Hawaiian hotel where she and her new rock star boyfriend (Russell Brand, whose character was my favorite), with Mila Kunis in an inevitable romantic comedy role. Plus, loads of recognizable comedy stars in smaller roles. Some of it is formula with an extra dollop of raunchy-ish humor, but a lot of it is quirky and original, with a fun take-down of Hollywood and the music industry, with funny songs and fake television material. And ultimately, there's a lot of truth in the doomed Siegel/Bell relationship. But since Brand stole the show, the long pathetic comedy bits before we get to Hawaii are weakest for me. The DVD includes a fun large-cast commentary track, some worthy deleted scenes, lots of alternate lines, a gag reel, a small bit of read-through, the full rock video, and a making of featurette for the rock opera climax.

Audio: The Jago & Litefoot audio series from Big Finish really is superlative. I'm devoured five one-hour chapters already this week. The Bellova Devil by Alan Barnes (the second story from the first set) presents a supernatural thriller, like the previous one, but a more convoluted one that may or may not have supernatural/sf underpinnings after all. We're in something more akin to Sherlock Holmes territory, with secret societies, vicious serial killers and a bit of grave-robbing thrown in for good measure. It's not a simple tale, so perhaps best bears repeat listens. As usual - and this is pretty constant through the whole series - Trevor Baxter (Litefoot) and Christopher Benjamin (Jago) are just a charm, and the sound design, dialog, etc. get top marks too. I'm especially impressed at how each story finds a good hook for both characters, never leaving it up to their friendship alone. They're always motivated from their own point of view. In fact, this story splits them up for long periods, though a structure similar to their Companion Chronicle is used to tell each segment in their own sparkling vernacular.

The Spirit Trap by Jonathan Morris uses the character of Ellie the barmaid to good effect, and deals with the death of an ancillary character (in the The Bloodless Soldier), as a medium may or may not have hornswoggled the young girl. Jago knows all about the world of seances and doesn't trust it, while Litefoot has a more experiential approach, but still gets drawn in by a side-mystery involving spontaneous combustion. It's the most overtly sci-fi of the first series' stories, though the characters still see it as a branch of the supernatural, and most solidly grounds the series in the Whoniverse where things always have a "rational" explanation (but only because the Doctor says so). Probably my favorite of the first lot.

The Similarity Engine by Andy Lane features the return of the villain from The Mahogany Murders, Jago & Litefoot's "pilot". He's sort of being built-up as their Moriarty, with hidden connections to other stories, but that somehow weakens him. The plot is this one, an attempt to take over the world using a deadly ore, and whatever else he's got cooking, means his particular shtick from his first outing (and still in use) is at odds with it. It's like he's got too much going on, so really should have been a new character without the Mahogany baggage. There's also a plot point that prevents Christopher Benjamin from playing Jago the usual way. But still, even if this might be the weakest of the first four stories, it still has a lot to offer, and gives Sgt. Quick (yes, P.C. Quick from Talons got promoted at some point), as a member of the extended cast, a bigger role.

Litefoot and Sanders, the first chapter of J&L's second series (by Justin Richards), tests its central friendship by having Litefoot partner up with someone else in an effort to keep Jago safe from whatever vampirical shenanigans are going on. So it's Litefoot and Sanders tracking the monster, even as Jago tracks them. He may have protested his cowardice a little too much, but the hero will be out! All this does it highlight how strong the two friends' bond really is, and the climax, in which they are reunited, is exciting and true to both characters. There's also a shocker here, and the cast may never be the same again. I'm not sure what I think about that yet. The series are bundled together for a reason though, and it's definitely not the end of that story. There are consequences in Jago & Litefoot's world, and that's what keeps the listener hooked.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.i. The Gravedigger Scene - Branagh '96



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