This Week in Geek (30/03-05/04/15)


On a friend's recommendation, I bought Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, which I intend to read this summer. As far as DVDs go, I got me Birdman, Nightcrawler and Veep Season 3.


DVDs: So okay. Remember when I watch the original The Fast and the Furious only a few months ago and detested it? Everybody got on my back saying the series only got good around film #5. Well fine then, with Furious 7 coming out this week, I decided to skip ahead TO Fast Five. Because while I have absolutely zero interest in street racing, I DO have an interest in heist movies. And Fast Five is essentially Ocean's Eleven on wheels. I'd like to say a decade makes a big difference, but the original film really couldn't use that as an excuse. I'd rather blame the direction. The original was made by Rob Cohen, also responsible for the equally soulless XxX, for example. Justin Lin picked up the franchise from Tokyo Drift on, and is a much better fit. I admire Fast Five if only for the sense of GEOGRAPHY he brings to the action. You always know where each participant is in any given chase scene, and he doesn't mind pushing the action well past the line of ridiculous. If you're going to make dumb action movies that require some suspension of disbelief, just GO FOR IT. You've got to give me something I haven't seen before, and I've seen a lot of things already. I think the bank vault-dragging climax counts. Awesome, crazy idea. So with the addition of The Rock as an extreme cop who both hunts and teams up with the crew, and a style that heightens everyone's charisma just a touch, Lin churns out a winner. Not if only he could make the Tyrese Gibson's character seem at all funny...

The insane action continues with Fast & Furious 6, and this time, Lin goes for broke. Everyone talks about the infinite runway at the climax of this movie, and not without reason. It's completely ridiculous, but we've presumably been primed by the resolution of the tank chase from earlier. If you're looking for logic and grit, you're not going to the right movies. The story has The Rock hire the crew to fight evil versions of themselves and recover Michelle Rodriguez' previously thought-dead character. At the same time, it needs to set up Tokyo Drift which fits after it in the chronology, and offer a cliffhanger for the film after that. As someone who didn't watch half the movies, I thought this was well done. 6 doesn't EXPECT you to have seen the rest, so thanks. Is it as good as 5? No. It's still a rollicking, pulse-pounding action flick with a minimal plot that knows better than to step off the pedal, but the climax fudges more than it should, with murky choreography and shortcuts taken to get the characters to the next films. By next week's Geekly roundup, I'll have seen F7. I'll let you know.

Time to take another bite out of my I-MUST-CheckMovies project with How to Train Your Dragon (#18 on my list, and #104 on's). There are a lot of animated features on there, mostly because it's not something I normally seek out. But HTTYD is a real winner for me. At least, once I got past the fact the Vikings have horns on their helmets (a particular pet peeve of mine). I don't know if anyone remembers Vicki the Viking, a cartoon show in which the chief's diminutive son would help the village and win the day with cleverness alone? I loved that show, and HTTYD reminded me of that from word go. Only with dragons. And if dragons were cats. You know me as a cat lover, so yes, the inherent cuteness of the lead dragon Toothless worked on me. I can't deny it. But HTTYD is also a well-rounded action comedy, with some surprising moments of intensity, and real consequences for the characters. An exciting, funny and touching story about the importance of lateral thinking and shrugging off preconceptions.

My eclectic week ended with Tommy, Ken Russell's 1975 adaptation of the rock opera that gave us "Pinball Wizard". I'm not against the occasional head trip, but I'll admit Tommy stretched my patience at times. Not because of the surreal visuals, but because I'm not such a fan of the music. It's rather discordant and it takes too long before there's a proper song. I sometimes thought it would work better as a strictly silent film, because the rich visuals are essentially telling the story without words. By the Tina Turner bit, I was well into it, but Tommy is unrelentingly loud, garish and bizarre. Chaos on screen. A shock to the system. What it's about doesn't come easily either - the plot shifts about too much - but I think it's about the Baby Boom generation who, by the 60s, would stay silent no more and become a demographic force of unimagined influenced. Tommy "becomes aware" (literally), rejects the 50s and effects a cultural revolution as the prototypical Messianic hippie. The failure of his movement comes from Boomers' emerging selfishness at the end, which seems to be prescient, or were The Who already seeing that failure in 1969 when they put out the album? Either way, not a film I'd watch very often, but one I'd care to revisit once in a while because it's rich with subtext and symbolism, not to say coded with it.

Audios: Big Finish's final "Season 27" Lost Story is Earth Aid by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, in which the Doctor puts Ace in command of a starship and Raine returns to the fold in fun circumstances. I don't know that the season would have been as tightly plotted as this audio series has made it, but an old threat also comes back. Season 27, then, serves as a fun little mini-series. There's humor, there's excitement, and the outer space action is surprisingly clear. In the original series, this would have been the first story shown, BEFORE Ace left, so the writers have wrought a number of important changes on the script for it to work in the new context. Cartmel has been uneven on this front, but in this case, it succeeds. I kind of miss the Stonehenge element from the original story (wonder where that would have gone), but Earth Aid as finally produced seems to me more focused by its omission.


Anonymous said...

The music in the movie version of "Tommy" just doesn't match the original album. That said, the rock star from California (who married Sally Simpson) makes me laugh every time. We need to see more of him, LOTS more.

So apparently, all that is required for world peace is for Tommy to hang-glide into battle zone after battle zone?

Siskoid said...

Obviously different people are singing, etc.

Since Tommy is THE Baby Boomer, he stops wars only to start his own later when it costs too much to fill up his SUV later.

Anonymous said...

By "match" I meant that the movie's music isn't as good as the album's. If you want to appreciate the music, it's got to be the album.

Baby Boomers ... honestly, I think they get a lot of blame they don't deserve, as if their generation is fundamentally any worse than any other. I look at, for example, the OWS protesters, and I see the same "sin" that the hippies committed: they had their problems with The System, but they didn't do the hard work of reclaiming The System. Is GenX (my generation) any more or less laudable for not even having a failed movement?

In the United States, the politics of the past 50 years is defined by exactly one thing: the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That is what drove 90% of the US's racists to the Republican Party, where they continue to vote for the very worst policies just as long as the Republicans remain the party of the white man. That's simplistic, but also sadly accurate. And that started with The Greatest Generation, the men who fought to liberate Europe and then came home to oppress the black man.

I have a lot of hope for the Millennials, at least where social issues are concerned. Perhaps they will be the ones the Republicans can't sucker with racist dog-whistling. They've already proven to be virtually immune to homophobic appeals.

Siskoid said...

Well, I'm a Baby Buster, so of course I'm going to make fun of Boomers (my parents). I think any super-demographic is going to be dangerous, and that's what the Boomers were and still are. They're an alpha predator gobbling everything up, whether they mean to or not.

Obviously, whichever demographic (whether it's a "generation" or not) on top is going to be blamed for society's ills.


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