This Week in Geek (20-26/10/14)


Rob Kelly of the Aquaman Shrine sent me his book Hey Kids, Comics! for a tiny favor I did him, for which I am forever grateful. As for purchases, I got a few DVDs including China Beach Season 4, and for my possible indie(ish) SF movie marathon, John Dies at the End, TiMER and The Double. More on that later, I should imagine.


DVDs: More Halloween fare this week, but to cleanse the palate after heavier art house films, we're dipping into horror-comedy. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil was up first, an extremely fun slasher flick parody in which the creepy hillbillies are the rather sweet heroes and the college kids become victims of their own fears and paranoia. How the Three's Company-level misunderstandings pile up just as quickly as the bodies do is very funny, and takes the edge off the gore that is necessarily part of the slasher tropes being turned on their heads. It's by the makers of Zombieland, so if you enjoyed that, it's more of the same tone. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk show a lot of heart in the central roles, and their "scream queen", Katrina Bowden (you know her as Cerie in 30 Rock) is open-faced and likeable, even if she dresses, well, like an escapee from one of the films being lampooned. If you haven't gotten onto this particular pick-up truck, I heartily recommend you do so.

ParaNorman is a fun Halloween-themed movie for the whole family by the fine folks at Laika, the current kings of stop-motion animation (now I regret not making the time to see the recent Boxtrolls). It's about a kid who sees ghosts and whose destiny is to prevent a witch's curse from causing havoc once a year in his Salem-like town. ParaNorman doesn't talk down to its audience and freely embraces its classic horror roots, providing scares even for older kids and plenty of laughs, tension, mystery and thoughtfulness for older older kids (that's you and me). And it just looks beautiful. What they can do with stop-motion these days, it's incredible, and I much prefer it to computer 3D animation. I do have a question about the voice casting. It's not something I particularly care about because big names do not necessarily translate as distinctive voices, and there are few big names here (John Goodman and Anna Kendrick are the biggest, with Elaine Stritch and Tempestt Bledsoe in there for the more nostalgic among us), but it looks like the characters were "cast" to be recognizable actors who do not resemble their namesakes. Norman's chubby friend is a dead ringer for Jonah Hill, for example, and the zombie judge is either John Lithgow or Jack Palance. Other faces and "performances" look really familiar in the same way. I wonder if Laika used them as models and/or hoped to get some of them to do the voices.

Meanwhile, Teeth is a black comedy about, well, vagina dentata. There's this teenage girl who is part of the Purity movement who, when she finally loses her virginity, discovers she has teeth in her vagina that, accidentally and sometimes not so accidentally, allows her to bite penises (or whatever) off. It's the ultimate rape revenge fantasy movie, and not as exploitative as it might sound. In other words, it shouldn't work, but it does and yes, I'm recommending it. Jess Weixler in the central role of Dawn is actually quite effective, even if the aggregate feeling brought by shlockier cast members takes Teeth over the top in terms of melodrama. This is, after all, a universe where our protagonist must be consistently threatened by sexual assault so she can use her powers. To me, this was Buffyesque. Not only is it about a young blond girl who gets strange powers, but it's also a thinly-veiled metaphor for adolescence. Dawn's first time is horrific and bloody and she never sees the guy (alive) again, which certainly plays on the reality and anxiety of teenage sex. The more sex she has, the easier things become, the more control she has, and the more she learns to use her sexuality as a weapon. Teeth is actually about something. Who would have thought. It's also absurd and viciously funny, played straight, though the knowing direction puts a definite grin on it.

With its second season, Veep came into its own, getting further away from its roots in The Thick of It. The British version of this show is about an ineffectual system breeding ineffectual people. I would say Veep is about a very effective politician, continually hamstrung by an ineffectual president, administration and staff. Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Selina Meyer gets a more important role in policy-making this season, tackling hostage rescues and government shutdowns, among other things, but she gets screwed by politics and the media, so her victories tend to be Pyrrhic at best. And because we're dealing with more serious subject matter, the show gives itself permission to be more dramatic as well, and some realities hit the VP quite hard. She never does go to the United Nations like the DVD cover suggests, but I'd love to see it. Speaking of the DVD, it includes cast and crew commentary tracks on 4 our of 10 episodes and deleted scenes for each. A step down from Season 1's package, but still adequate.

Gaming: Been a while since we played Fiasco, so I introduced four new players to the game (two of which played the same, schizoid character). The playset - Transatlantic, a luxury cruise ship set in 1932. Nothing bad ever happened to a boat that size, right? I got to play a wealthy invalid, heir to a pickle fortune, who fell in love with at least one of the schizoid's personalities, though she was really trying to get out of a loveless marriage to an obsessed and brutal detective on the trail of an Indian prostitute/thief whose father my character had drowned in brine when she was a child. Melodrama much? It's Fiasco - you gotta go for it. I especially liked the climax, with the lovers holding on to wooden wheelchairs as a rogue wave hit the ship and winding up on top of a chimney, but as Sir Oswald Cumberpickle stood up in a rage after seeing his beloved's husband-induced black eye and shooting at the bastard down below, his legs gave out again and he slipped. Mary/Catherine grabbed his hand, but her wheelchair started rolling forward... It was "I'll never let you go" from Titanic all over again. It only went down hill for the characters after that... (While it was fun, a part of me does wish I'd taken the "Cultists" relationship option when I had the chance and gone full Cthulhu on this scenario. Maybe next time.)

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.ii. The Readiness Is All - Zeffirelli '90


Jayunderscorezero said...

Bit of a Freudian slip towards the end of your Veep review.

Siskoid said...

Wow, that was horrible. I ballsed that up. There. Equal opportunity innuendo.

Jayunderscorezero said...

No worries, bit of The Thick of It slipping in, there.


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