This Week in Geek (12-18/05/14)


This week I got In Bruges on DVD, and American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1960-64 on uhm... paper.


DVDs: Watched Broadchurch Season 1 this week, the gritty hit series from ITV and Chris Chibnall about a child murder in a small town. David Tennant and (especially) Olivia Coleman are highly effective as the police detectives in charge of the case, but the entire cast is good. As can often happen when a case takes as many as 8 episodes to unfold, there's a risk of the destination not being half as interesting as the journey, and that happens here. I don't really buy the solution. But that doesn't invalidate the acting, dialog, realpolitik, and setting (Broadchurch is one of the geographically clearest places in fiction). It's a complete and textured mystery, a bit dour but not without humor, and though it's a complete arc, there's apparently a second season planned (not to mention a needless American version called Gracepoint set in California, but also starring David Tennant). The DVD includes a good 25-minute making of, and even longer in deleted scenes.

Killing Them Softly is an odd gangster film. The plot is fairly slim - a gambling den is robbed and Brad Pitt is the hit man called in to take care of it - but it's more about representing organized crime as a business than anything else. Set against the 2008 election, talk of the sinking economy and promises of a turnaround are a more consistent soundtrack than any musical cues, and that's the key to understanding the film. Organized crime is also hurting, and we've got hitmen (Pitt and memorably, James Gandolfini) who would rather not kill people if they can avoid it. They're blue collar guys who would rather be home with their wives and girlfriends. The never-seen bosses talk to Pitt through a lawyer, and are even more squeamish, doing everything by inoffensive committee. And at the bottom of this food chain, desperate people living in disaffected neighborhoods. Whether the director is trying to draw a parallel between legitimate business and the mob isn't clear. Is it good? I liked it without being overwhelmed. A lot of good scenes, and the film's take on the material creates a darkly comic vibe. But in many ways, it's an anti-mobster film, and that may turn people off. Once you get what it's doing though, it may feel like it's hammering on its message too hard. The DVD includes a few deleted scenes and an acceptable making of.

Every once in a while, I watch some experimental film that's a little hard to get into, but winds up really growing on me. That happened with Holy Motors, a (mostly) French film by Leos Carax, starring the impressive Denis Lavant as Monsieur Oscar, an actor traveling Paris in a limo, going to his various "appointments", basically acting gigs as a variety of characters, but where no camera is visible. The first few are very strange (the absurdist Beauty & the Beast riff would be harder still to watch if it wasn't accompanied by the Godzilla theme), but later ones are more realistic and include a musical scene with Kylie Minogue as another of these nomadic actors. So you could see it as a character actor's career compressed into a single day. Or a metaphor for how we're all actors on the stage of life, playing different faces of ourselves. Or the film might even be decoded as some kind of Christian allegory (not that I'm able to). Just when you think you might be able to figure it out, it throws a loopy ending at you. I guess Holy Motors will always be a kind of enigma, a surprising and inventive one, and a lot more accessible than other "experimental" films I've seen. No extras on the DVD to light the way, I'm afraid.

Bored to Death's third and final season tries its hand at a theme, that of parent-child relationships. So Jonathan is looking for the sperm donor who begot him. And Ray gets a chance to be a father to the child a lesbian couple had with his own donation. And George tries to reconcile with his estranged daughter. These elements carry the comedy and drama well enough. I'm more perplexed by the detective stuff, which has become so big, epic and ridiculous that it only really works if you think of it as Jonathan's fantasy or hyperbole. However, nothing in the first two seasons, or really, in this one, would justify your jumping tracks into, say, the world of his book. It's not unentertaining, but the tone's become a little erratic. The DVD includes fun cast and crew commentary on half of the 8 episodes, lots of outtakes and deleted scenes, and a conversation with the real Jonathan Ames about each episode. As a whole, the series and its DVD packaging have been quite pleasant, hitting their peak with Season 2.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.i. The Gravedigger Scene - Kline '90
V.i. The Gravedigger Scene - Hamlet 2000


snell said...

Yeah, I didn't buy the Broadchurch solution either--completely unearned, with no real clues during the story that could have led us to that solution. FWIW, the American version is supposed to have a different outcome...

Siskoid said...

That's what I read. Even if they improve on the mystery, I still think the series is redundant.


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