This Week in Geek (26/05-01/06/14)


On DVD, got The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Limitless, but the big news is getting the Nelvana of the Northern Lights collection, reprinting every story of this Canadian Golden Age comic book heroine.


DVDs: I thought Warehouse 13's final season would be a little more arc-based, given that it was only 6 episodes, but it really isn't. Between the resolution of the previous season's cliffhanger and the big climax in the penultimate episode, there are a bunch of back-and-tag eps you'd expect in any season, with time enough for a wrap-up finale that celebrates the characters and what made the series special. If you're a fan, it'll choke you up. The DVD also includes the Christmas episode technically a part of Season 3 and that, for some strange reason, made it neither to that DVD set nor the next. You also get an extras package similar to previous releases: Cast and crew commentary tracks on all episodes, deleted scenes for most, a gag reel, and a making of featurette that covers all six episodes.

Playwright Martin McDonaugh's film, In Bruges, is a dark comedy/light tragedy about hitmen spending time in Bruges, a quiet, touristy town in Belgium, while waiting for their next contract. These killers are rather more human than the genre's usual, with their own interests and personal drama. Colin Farrell is endearingly dim-witted, but believably tortured by a hit gone wrong, while Brendan Gleeson is the tedious, disciplined veteran who could spend all day seeing the sights. Neither of these men relish killing, nor does their boss played by Ralph Fiennes, for that matter, though he seems a little on edge than they are. Naturally, it's all going to turn into a perfect Fiasco before the end. Great location, excellent acting, textured writing, strange and original moments... Thoroughly enjoyed that. The DVD includes deleted scenes (and as a Doctor Who fan, it was a hoot to see Matt Smith play Gleeson's character in a 70s flashback), a gag reel, a few short making of featurettes, and a silly edit of the film's swear words (including Bruges).

McDonaugh's next film, four years on, is Seven Psychopaths, which similarly isn't at all what I was expecting. Farrell is once again the protagonist, a scriptwriter working on a script about 7 psychopaths, but the line between reality and the world of the script is absurdly blurred and though "Marty" wants to do a revisionist picture about killers being human and about peace, his own characters still try to steer it towards a violent Hollywood ending. Part of the fun is how movie elements dovetail into what is ostensibly reality, and while that's been done before in Adaptation, Seven Psychopaths is a little more accessible. And you've got some great performances in there from Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits and best of all, Christopher Walken. It's a clever film about making genre films that keeps surprising the audience. On the DVD, several featurettes look at various aspects like casting and locations, there's also a trailer spoof where the psychopaths are played by cats, and as if to recapture the fun of the "F*** Bruges" edit of the earlier film, a sort of video using sample lines from the film (it's not so good).

You don't have to backtrack very far for my review of The Day of the Doctor, so you can easily find out that I liked it a great deal (and the comments section is full of praise for it by People Like YouTM), but what about the DVD release? It's... okay. You'll find the two prequel episodes, of course, The Night of the Doctor and The Last Day, though oddly in the reverse order in which their were originally released. Then there's a big special about Doctor Who that's meant to act as a primer for someone getting into the show on its 50th Anniversary. A very strange episode for it to be your first, but the hoopla probably created new fans, and "Doctor Who Explained" could be useful to them. Its worth to older fans is in seeing interviews by a great many actors from the show's past (both Classic and New), but the subjects discussed (regeneration, the TARDIS, etc.) are old hat. There's also a Doctor Who Confidential-type making of that's got some nice interviews in it. I like the dynamic between Tennant and Smith in these, and you can definitely see how their personalities carried over to their performances on screen.

I reviewed The Time of the Doctor only yesterday (not a big fan), but it too got its own DVD release. It has three bonus features. Behind the Lens is a standard Doctor Who making of, though the narrator is a bit oppressive, perhaps because they tried to cram too much in the allowed minutes. Tales from the TARDIS has an evocative title, but it's only the companion piece to Day of the Doctor's bonus feature, Doctor Who Explained, with more interviews from the same sessions and covering some of the same ground (even using some of the same stuff). It's more about what it was like to be on Doctor Who - the actor experience - but not a whole lot you haven't seen and heard before, probably. And Farewell to Matt Smith is a retrospective look at the 11th Doctor era, relevant to his departure disc. Again, not earth-shattering, but it's a fine goodbye to the actor no one thought could pull it off, but that somehow, few fans ever got sick of no matter what they thought of the stories themselves.

Been a while since I got into my Complete BBC Shakespeare Collection, but in suggested order of WRITING, Richard II was next. Derek Jacobi plays the title role, a man whose tragedy is being forced to negate his considerable ego. And he is all ego, which is what makes him such an ineffectual king, though perhaps not an ineffectual poet. We can't really applaud his self-pitying monologues, except as nihilistic poetry, a declension of the self that Jacobi is more than able to render sympathetically, while keeping the character's mercurial edge. Between him and Gielgud's de Gaunt, there's some dazzling acting on display, and though this is the first part of a foursome also containing the two Henry IVs and Henry V (which the BBC filmed in sequence with the same actors as they had Henry VI's three parts and Richard III), Shakespeare (and the production) juggles all those historical characters more ably than he had in his early career. I could sometimes get lost in the first Henryad, but not here. It all feels very clear. The booklet doesn't send me to Henry IV Part I right away; I think I'm going to have to wrestle with my soul not to pop Henry IV Part 1 into the machine next.

Books: Spy vs. Spy Omnibus isn't the complete Spy vs. Spy - Mad Magazine's Coyote/Roadrunner answer to the Cold War has been going on since 1961 and would make for a book twice as thick - but it does feature the complete works of Antonio Prohias, their creature, for Mad. In addition to each of his Spy vs. Spy strips, there's a selection of his cartoons for Cuban newspapers, sketches, his non-Spy Mad features, book covers and other merchandise, selected Spy vs. Spy strips by other artists who took on the feature after Prohias' retirement, and essays by friends, family and colleagues. The only thing missing, from my point of view, is material for the C64 game, which I enjoyed as a kid, properly more out of loyalty for the strip than for its gameplay. I was a Mad enthusiast in the early 80s and I swear I remembered the relevant strips when I got to them. I didn't know at the time Prohias' powers were on the wane, but reading them all in sequence, you can see his line grow sketchier in the 80s, just as the strips had become more intricate as they transitioned from the 60s to the 70s. Some ideas do recur, but the book gives you the sense of an artist who needed and wanted to keep things fresh, not an easy thing when one delivers several strips featuring the same characters and conceit every month for close to 25 years!

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.i. The Gravedigger Scene - Tennant (2009)



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