This Week in Geek (14-20/03/16)


It's DVDs and books this week. DVDs (mostly thanks to sales): The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Captive, Grease, Deliverance, Cool Hand Luke, and Blazing Saddles. Books: Five novels by local postmodernist France Daigle (Sans jamais parler du vent, Film d'amour et de dépendance, Histoire de la maison qui brûle, Pas pire, Pour sûr), two young adult books by friend Justin Guitard (volumes 1 and 2 of his trilogy Voilà pourquoi cette fille n'est pas ta mère), and the first Doctor Who Adventures book, All of Time and Space vol.1.


In theaters: 10 Cloverfield Lane is a side-story happening somewhere else in the U.S. of A. during the original Cloverfield attack, and like the original film, it's a monster movie made with relatively little means. But instead of the overused found footage premise, this is a  made as a tight thriller, a three-hander set in closed confines, playing out in the margins of a monstrous invasion (it's closer to Signs that way). The script is highly efficient, with everything you see or hear having relevance to either the plot or the deceptively rich themes. If this is an estranged sequel to the original, then all the characters likewise suffer from parental estrangement. The insanely good and understated John Goodman seeks to replace his daughter with Mary Elizabeth "MacGyver" Winstead, who would merely be trading one abusive father figure for another if she were to accept his bunker's domesticity. John Gallagher is more big brother than love interest, but there are Oedipal ramifications to his presence. Exciting, funny, mysterious, tragic, clever, empowering... That's a heck of a lot of boxes for a silly genre sequel to check.

It's too bad The Little Prince isn't heading for theaters in the U.S., but apparently Netflix is picking it up. I realize the book the animated film is based on isn't required reading there the way it is in French-speaking countries, but the movie is in no way a straight adaptation of Saint-Exupéry's classic. It's in there, but as a story TOLD within a larger framework which merely uses the book's themes of friendship, sincerity, grief and imagination. And while I love the papery stop-motion of those sequences, today's more standard CG animation of the frame tale is as good, original and expressive as anything put out by Pixar, Disney or Dreamworks. What we really have is something akin to Up, in which a young girl living in a too-ordered gray world where everything must be made "essential" befriends an old man living in a chaotic patchwork house, and learn to access her imagination. Full of charm and fun, like the book, it's a real tear-jerker too (doubly so for me because the "voices" I hear reading the story in my head have all passed away), though the pacing runs into some trouble in the final act's adventurous dream, since it seems like we've already hit the climax by then. But well worth seeing, whether you know the book or not.

DVDs: Excision is an unusual horror flick about a disturbed teenager obsessed with surgery (or is it necrophilia?) who seems headed for a dark and terrible crime. It's the making of a serial... something, set against the pressures of normalization in a suburban-perfect Christian family. In a sense, it's a parody of what it is to be a misfit and seek parental approval, but never really getting it, even when you, for example, graduate from medical school. It's a very dark comedy with most of the horror and gore shown in dreams and hallucinations, subverting the genre somewhat, but while you have no idea where this thing is going, once you're there, it's been earned. But part of the reason you don't know where it's going is because it does seem to meander - shocking dreams, prayer sequences where the character's delusions are given power, misbehaving scenes in high school and family life, etc. - it's hard to put all the pieces of the puzzle together while you're watching it. But they do come together in your mind after percolation...

I'd never seen the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie before, but I think it holds up very well more than 25 years later. For one thing, Jim Henson's Turtles (and rat) look better than what I've seen of Michael Bay's CG horrors! And the Golden Harvest connection seems to insure the martial arts are also pretty legit! The story is pretty simple, with Shredder acting like a cross between Ra's al Ghul and Fagin, but juggles very well a large cast of characters (okay, Raphael gets more to do than the other Turtles, but to me that's a feature not a bug), and is thematically consistent (families, both actual and those we make for ourselves). Some of the jokes fall flat, of course, the fashions and music date the film badly, and Shredder's giant helmet is pretty stupid, but overall, TMNT is a fun all-ages action flick.

Oscar Pool Stash Forced Watch: Josh Kirby... Time Warrior: Chapter 2, The Human Pets - subtitles run rampant - is the second part of a 6-telefilm story made in the mid-90s, about a teenager who gets embroiled in a quest to find the segments of the Key to Time (pretty much exactly) going through space and time on various adventures trying to keep apace of the tale's villain. Guys, it is terrible on every level. First and foremost, there's the format, which necessitates a 5-minute recap at the beginning and still leaves you confused. If each movie has its own story, Chapter 2 actually spends half its running time bringing Chapter 1's to a conclusion (in the Middle Ages) before moving on to Kirby and friends becoming the toys of a giant alien baby. It's a mess. But please, throw in a creepy nearly inanimate animatronic troll doll companion, 90s CG, juddering stop-motion, badly-choreographed fights, dull pacing, sets that bend under the actors' weight, terribly campy performances (that's a generous evaluation), annoying music, lame dialog, comic sans graphics, unconvincing situations, rubber masks without an inkling of expression, and unclear "what is going on here?" moments. The series trailer pretty much tells me where this is all going and I don't think I'd be missing anything by not experiencing it. There's also a photo gallery on the DVD.  #OscarPoolResult: Going back to the pile, but can I do this to another human being?


LondonKdS said...

And also, bizarre use of a well known Terry Pratchett cover artist's name for the ttle character.

Siskoid said...

Coincidence? Or just another crime committed by this film series.

Michael May said...

I wasn't able to get excited about Cloverfield Lane until your description of it. Thanks!

Siskoid said...

I choose to believe I've done you a favor.


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