This Week in Geek (29/04-04/05/14)

Buys

DVDs purchased this week include Ripper Street Season 2, Doctor: The Web of Fear, Broadchurch Series 1, all three seasons of Bored to Death, (500) Days of Summer, and Another Earth. Books purchased this week include the firt Big Finish Companion, and Behind the Sofa: Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who, with four Marvel Essentials bringing up the rear thanks to an FCBD 90% discount, Sub-Mariner, Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, and the last two volumes of Marvel Two-in-One I was missing.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Gattaca's writer/director, Andrew Niccol, returns to the sf parable with In Time, a more overtly 99%-influenced story than his previous opus, where the economy runs on time. Everyone's got a clock in their bodies and when you run out of precious time, you die. The rich can live forever, people in the ghettos are living day to day. Literally. It's a little silly when you think about it, but the metaphor and world-building are coherent enough, if a little obvious, with a dash of youth worshiping thrown in, à la Logan's Run. Justin Timberlake is a fair action hero trying to take down the system in this, taciturn more than flashy, but street smart in an entertaining way. Amanda Seyfried is the other half of this Bonnie & Clyde pairing and always watchable, with Cillian Murphy tracking them down in the Javert role. Ultimately more frivolous than worthy, In Time is entertaining from start to finish, but never quite gels as a morality tale or a science-fiction action flick, believable as neither. A few good deleted scenes are included on the DVD.

Atom Egoyan's Felicia's Journey could suffer from my saying too much about it, so beware of spoilers. Based on William Trevor's novel, it follows two characters (and you indeed have to follow along, because of Egoyan's trademark achronology) - Felicia (Elaine Cassidy), a young Irish girl just arrived in England looking for her estranged boyfriend; and Hilditch (Bob Hoskins), a secretive caterer obsessed with a 1950s TV chef. Both characters seem from an earlier time. Felicia has an old country, almost 19th century sensibility, while Hilditch is strictly 50s. Their paths cross, and they might help each other out. Spoiler: The story takes a left turn and becomes a vicious, uncomfortable thriller. Egoyan's great strength as a story teller is how he reveals his characters' secrets, and there are plenty here. Every shot tells a psychological story. The DVD includes an enlightening director's commentary, as well as deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, a small making of, the untreated video from Hilditch's tapes (including the cooking show), plus the recipes if you'd like to throw a queasy theme party.

With Great Power... The Stan Lee Story is more pro-Marvel propaganda than it is straight documentary, like something someone might have put on Disc 3 of a Marvel Studios release. Of interest to comic book fans, it features interviews with plenty of industry greats as well as actors and directors who've worked on the films based on those comics, and Stan Lee in this own interactions is a lot more gracious than he's been in DVD extras over the last 15 years. He's clearly trying to set the record straight in places, giving co-creator credit to his artists in a way we haven't really seen elsewhere. It STILL doesn't give the whole story of Stan or Marvel, and quickly tries to sweep under the carpet any negative feelings any piece of information might generate (say about conflicts with Ditko and Kirby, or the fraud committed by Stan's partner in Stan Lee Entertainment. I don't really mind the love letter to Marvel Comics, mind you. The documentary's real failing is in its editing, breaking chronology and, for example, having a 70s Stan Lee answer Dr. Wertham's 50s allegations. It's not too coherent a narrative. It does offer a lot of period clips of The Man, and the best bits are perhaps the ones in Stan's home, featuring his wife. She's quite a character. The DVD includes pretty weak filmmaker commentary (they gush on Stan and make the same points he does), and tons of featurettes, either things cut from the finished film, or looking at various facets of making it. Lots of nice material in this, including excerpts from Q&As. And for the button pushers among you, there's a listing of every Marvel character ever created by Stan with pics. No character is too obscure. It's looonnnng.

Speaking of Stan Lee... Iron Man 3 on DVD was an entertaining experience even if the surprises have all been spoiled by my seeing it in theaters. I still like how it's a Tony Stark movie FIRST and an Iron Man movie second, stripping the character down before building him back up. Really, we get the best of all worlds. Iron Man stuff. Tony without the benefit of working armor. And Iron Man at his most powerful. The action is also easier to follow on a TV screen, and I'm struck at how memorable and interesting the action scenes are. I certainly haven't seen the barrel of monkeys airplane jump before (mostly done practically as the only featurette on the DVD shows), nor the armor-jumping final battle. Also worthy is the idea that the Marvel Studios movies are linked in more than their use of the same characters. The events of Marvel's Avengers weigh on Tony and inform what he does in this film. They're very much turning into chapters of an interlocking saga. Don't miss a single one!

Katniss Everdeen returns in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, second in the trilogy, as she's forced to participate in an "All-Stars" season of the Games. It's all her fault, really. Her defiance in the previous games has given the people hope that the regime could be overthrown, which has just made things worse. The third chapter is no doubt the "Revolutions" story, while this is necessarily Hunger Games "Reloaded", bringing more of the same, but I shouldn't compare it to the Matrix films that way. This sequel is much better than those, even if I can't quite call myself a fan of the franchise. It's fine, I'm just not very excited by the slow pacing. I don't just mean how long it takes the film to get to the arena (again), but that every scene seems to start a second too early and end a second too late. It's decontracted. Works for the human story, but a little slow for something that resolves with an action-oriented act. The fact she has more All-Star allies this time around means there are more people to care about, but the reality of the arena means the outside threats they face feel as random as ever. I'm not even sure they're believable in the context of what happens at the end. The director's commentary is as eloquent as the previous release's and you'll also find a few deleted scenes on the DVD.

If you'd like to know what I thought of Doctor Who Series 6, just check out the last month's daily reviews (slow to start, ended big, essentially). But I just flipped the DVD, so what can I say about that? Well, for one thing, the subtitles are AWFUL, frequently misrepresenting what's been said. They don't seem to be working from the scripts, but rather from what the typist thinks they've heard. The big key episodes have commentary tracks, entertaining enough, and the DVD also includes all the additional scenes (prologues first available on the web,  Time and Space produced for Comic Relief, and the interlocked stories of Night and the Doctor), and select featurettes culled from Doctor Who Confidential (one for each story, including the mini-eps, and specific looks at the design of various new monsters). I sometimes think I'd rather have New Who DVDs that were as completist as the Classic Who ones, but if they included full-length Confidentials and more, they'd be monstrously long and expensive.

Audio: Jago & Litefoot's third series of Big Finish audios co-stars Louise Jamison as Leela and a temporally-dangerous new threat, so it's probably the closest the duo's adventures will come to The Talons of Weng-Chiang. It's great to hear Leela again, of course, and she's on a mission from the Time Lords to fix time breaks in the era, and stop whoever's responsible. That arc is still interpreted in various ways, but it's certainly the most coherent season of J&L yet. Dead Men's Tales (Justin Richards) introduces the premise and does nice things with the interplay between the characters, but the story is rather slim, and one has to get used to modern-day sounds and voices filtering through to the Victorian world. The Man at the End of the Garden (Matthew Sweet) uses a children's book as a narrative device and while it doesn't move the plot a whole lot, is perhaps the best stand-alone tale; it's unusual and evocative. Swan Song (John Dorney) is my favorite, with a strong time-spanning, emotional story tying into Jago's theatre. It flows right into Chronoclasm (Andy Lane), an exciting finale that brings the villain out from the shadows and connects the dots that have been uncovered since the first chapter. Now what's this about Leela sticking around longer?

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.i. The Gravedigger Scene - BBC '80

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