This Week in Geek (7-13/04/14)


DVDs: Machete Kills brings you the same insane exploitaction the original did, this time plunging headlong into James Bond territory, and love it or hate it, a Moonraker parody (with too many Star Wars references for my taste, but I know I'm not typical in this). It plays pretty much the same as the first one, and I couldn't call one necessarily better than the other. If you liked Machete, you'll like Machete Kills. Same brand of inventive super-violence. Same anything goes attitude. Same animal magnetism you can't quite see on screen. Same wealth of guest-stars and cameos. If anything, the focus on fitting as many name actors as possible is even more present thanks to a personal favorite idea, El Cameleon, the hitman who can change his face. He's played by a wide variety of people. Machete in Space looks to have been filmed already, there's just too much "trailer" material from it not to have been, and I see no reason for not getting that one too when it comes out. Machete is a silly action franchise that never fails to entertain, in an Axe Cop kind of way.

Paid my Kickstarter money and got Off the Record with Gerry Conway, a 210-minute interview with one of the seminal superhero comics writers of the 70s and 80s on DVD. I thought I would watch it (or listen to it, it's the kind of thing you don't need to keep your eyes on, the camera is on Conway at all times, no comic art interruptions or anything) in several installments, but no. Conway is an entertaining speaker, open, insightful, honest with himself and full of memorable anecdotes, and I wound up watching it all the way through with rapt attention. A lot of attention is given to his greater works - notably Spider-Man (he killed Gwen Stacy, you know) - and how things worked at Marvel in the '70s. He's critical of today's mainstream comics, but not in a "good old days" kind of way; his arguments are sound. Really good stuff, which I'm happy to put on the shelf next to my Grant Morrison interview. Who's next? On a production level, it's a bare bones release with a homemade DVD menu. There is minimal editing to keep some topics bundled together, and my copy had a sound synching problem in the last 12 minutes. But as a fan-made document, I'm happy with it.

Our movie club decided to watch Clue, then play Clue, then play Kill Doctor Lucky. You know what? I'd never seen Clue, so here's my review. I knew the gimmick with the three possible endings, etc., but I wasn't expecting it to be this quirky and funny. It's a movie based on a board game, after all (or alternatively, a remake of Murder by Death, which I have seen and enjoyed). But the comedy does stand up, and it's fun to see the game's absurdities (that you wouldn't know how a person was killed or where sparks of forensic ineptitude, the secret passages, the color-coded names) used as comic fodder. The characters aren't all what I was expecting from their well-known appearances (Mrs. White isn't the maid, for example), so they did give themselves license to change things to make a better story. And the cast of actors is rather good, though my personal favorites are Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan and, obviously, the always surprising Madeline Kahn.
Theater: The graduating class of our local university's drama department  put on Alan Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves (in French translation) and we of course went to see it. It's a fun comedy of errors that juxtaposes two apartments on stage (above left, the actual students in rehearsal; right, the set from an entirely different production, but it kind of looked like that) and makes each of its resident couples share the space without seeing each other. A third couple comes into it, with a maverick staging sequence taking place simultaneously, but on two different nights, having dinner in each household simultaneously. Huge fun, laugh-out-loud funny, and it reminded me of Ionesco's La cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano), which I love. Marc-André Robichaud, as the forgetful, easily-distracted old fool Frank Foster, steals the show, though the script kind of wants him to. (Marc-André is only a third-year student, so he's set to be a star.) The rest of the cast is fairly solid to quite good, and provided a lively evening at the theater.

Comics in trade: I was expecting to review Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood on Hyperion to a Satyr, just like I did the original 12-issue series that chronicled Hamlet's exile to a land inhabited by Shakespeare's other characters (as is the Bard himself), but he's just not the focus of the sequel. Romeo is. Having lost the love of Juliet TO Hamlet, he falls prey to the bottle, and seeking redemption, leads the cast of characters to Prospero's island. Prospero is cast as an evil wizard who wants to usurp his creator's power, but finds being a writer isn't as easy as it seems. Andy Belanger's art isn't as dark in this 5-issue arc - the panels are laid out on a white page rather than a black one for the most part - and I find the desaturation pleasing and airy. Writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col provide the same kind of fantasy, literate and filled with repurposed quotes, while practicing a certain amount of revisionism as well. It's not to be taken seriously by Shakespearean scholars, but at the same time also has something to say about literature. I'm awaiting the next chapter.

Audio: The First Sontarans by Andrew Smith is a perfectly fine 6th Doctor/Peri Lost Story from Big Finish, but I kind of wanted it to be more than fine. It has the Sontarans and Rutans, and an origin story for the former, but every fan theory about the Sontarans I've ever heard is actually more interesting than the one provided here (and that would have been canon had the script made it to our television screens as planned). It's certainly fun to hear Dan Starkey doing Sontaran voices, since he's become THE new series Sontaran (most notably as Strax, the goodie Sontaran), but the script just seems to skip around too much. We start in Victorian England and end up in space, the kind of 2-episode juxtaposition the 6th Doctor era was known for, certainly, but not my favorite structure. That said, it's a well-produced audio with fine performances, and even a little more thought than usual given to guest characters' back story and personal arcs.

The 2nd Doctor Lost Stories boxed set is a very odd package. On the one hand, it presents two stories that stand as documents representing that particular era (the late 60s). On the other, they don't play particularly well for a modern audience. It starts with Prison in Space (written by Dick Sharples and adapted by Simon Guerrier), a Doc2/Jamie/Zoe adventure that tries to outdo Galaxy 4's sexism in an egregious way. You've got your cookie-cutter society run by military-minded women who send men who get uppity to a space prison. Fine. Zoe is to be rehabilitated, might actually start a reverse-sexual revolution, and ends up across Jamie's knee, getting the reprogramming spanked out of her. See what I mean? The performances are fine, with Frazer Hines of course doing his great 2nd Doctor voice, et al., but that plot is so dated, it's a non-starter. If it had made it on television, it would be an embarrassment today. So as a historical document of what might have been, sure. Does it work as a story today? Not really.

If Prison in Space had been included with a stronger story (the 1st Doctor set contained both Farewell Great Macedon and The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance, which were both superlative), the 2nd's set might have been forgiven for it. Unfortunately, the other release is The Destroyers,  which isn't a Doctor Who story at all! It's really a pilot for a Dalek show, and only connects to the 2nd Doctor era because 1) it was written in 1966 while Troughton was the Doctor, and 2) Terry Nation's hopes for his creations resulted in the tyrannical pepperpots getting temporarily written off the show in that era. It features Sara Kingdom, a 1st Doctor-era character, who in the adaptation by Nicholas Briggs and John Dorney, is given the bigger role (Nation's space corps people are fairly interchangeable), so Jean Marsh can narrate the action and be a big part of it. I would listen to that woman read me the phone book, so I'm not disappointed in that sense. Where The Destroyers fails is that it's a Terry Nation script, and I've seen a lot of those before. Daleks, sure, but also matinée serial jeopardy, living jungles, the same old stuff he's always doing. And because it was an attempt to bring something to series, it ends with loose ends dangling in front of our faces. Is it even on continuity? There apparently wasn't enough interest for Briggs to turn it into a Dalek Empire-style series to try and resolve things.

Cleansed the palate with the first Jago & Litefoot audio, The Bloodless Soldier by Justin Richards. The series had its "pilot" in the Companion Chronicles' The Mahogany Murders, and I'd loved it. I wasn't the only one, and the two Victorian detectives (if we can call them that) are going on their seventh series now! Each series contains 4 stories, and The Bloodless Soldier the very first. Love the theme music, let me start with that, and I love the actors, great voices, etc. That's a given. On an intellectual level, it's interesting to see events that are indubitably set in the Whoniverse, but come off as supernatural because he isn't there to explain them. And the ending is likely darker than if he had. On an emotional level, our heroes are put through the wringer, and their friendship strengthened by it. Jago ISN'T relegated to the clown's role, even though he can be very funny. There are consequences to their adventures, and the duo can actually be quite touching. As strong an official debut as this is, I've still got a bone to pick with the title. The Bloodless Soldier is a fine evocative title, but doesn't seem to fit the werewolf story actually told. But if that's my only complaint...

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.i. The Gravedigger Scene



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