This Week in Geek (29/02-06/03/16)


In addition to the Oscar stash I won (read all about it and weep; those Oscar pool movies will get a notation in This Week, as to whether I end up keeping them or giving them away next year), I also added some DVDs to my collection: Weird Science, the original Solaris, and Paddle to the Sea.


DVDs: I wasn't a big fan of the first Taken - it was fine, but not particularly memorable - and Taken 2 is really more of the same, but with a director - Olivier Megaton - who thinks he can out-Greengrass Paul Greengrass and completely fails to. The split-second cuts and shaky-cam action is so unclear as to be annoying, and Liam Neeson's sad sack action hero persona wears pretty thin even when the camera isn't being hyperactive. This time, the city is Istanbul, and it's used well enough. The Albanian mob whose guys Neeson killed in the first film want revenge and take him and his wife, forcing their daughter to step up and be a hero (it works, though it gets stupid in the car chase). Overall, I liked it about as much as the first one, which is to say, I found it just okay. The DVD includes an alternate ending that isn't just a quick button on the end, but a full-on 25-minute restructuring of the last act that pays some things off a little better, but has perhaps less momentum. You'll also find a making of featurette. #OscarPoolResult: Unenthusiastically keeping it.

Hadn't seen Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors in at least a hundred years, and I'd forgotten just how impressive the puppetry was. I mean... I can't... I don't even know how it could be achieved. I've heard the stories - 60 technicians at a time, Rick Moranis acting in slow-motion so they could over-crank the camera and make Audrey II more mobile... - it's an incredible achievement. Give or take the man-eating alien plant, this is really Rent meets The Muppet Show, with visual gags right out of the Muppets, and actors who really could be made out of plush. The acting is very theatrical and cartoony, but it works for the film and the world it creates. Plus, great songs, lots of fun cameos, and the blackest of comedy. If you haven't seen it in a while, pop it in. It's still works.

I talked up The Man from U.N.C.L.E. when it came out last year, and I don't want to repeat myself, so what else can I say now that I've seen it again on DVD? Well, let's talk about the 60s feels, for one thing. Guy Ritchie really does pay homage to the era visually, with Technicolor shades and fun split screen activity, and in the sound as well... I should check out that soundtrack. And then there are the stunts, which the lone DVD featurette explore, a lot of them more practical than you'd think. As much as possible, they had the leads sitting in the actual vehicles, which your eye associates with trickery today, but I was surprised to see how much of that material was done for real, with the help of special rigs, but nonetheless, physically not digitally. And I'll end with an appeal for a follow-up, as I did last time. These are characters I want to see work together again.

Theater: Le froid est un détail de l'hiver (The Cold is one of Winter's Details) is the most recent play put on by the Théâtre de la Cigogne, friends of mine who have been going from strength to strength in their theatrical productions as far as I'm concerned, a two-hander about estranged sisters coming together one last time to bookend the tragedies of their lives. One is an awkwardly loquacious snowmobile enthusiast who was left behind in her pudunk town while the other, dreaming of greater things and strangely obsessed with flightless birds, took off as soon as she could. Part uncomfortable comedy (one of my favorite modes), part family drama, part artful poetry, the players transition from the kitchen to the icy lake effortlessly, as we come to piece together the mystery (and misery) of their past and their future, weaving their twin obsessions into an Icarus metaphor that's both amusing and sad, and full of imagery. Nice production design too, a stark palette of white and caution-orange, and the capacity for the actresses to use puppetry skills they'd learn for a previous project. Right now, the Cigogne offers the strongest new voice in Acadian drama, and I'm probably not just saying that because I know most of the people involved in the company.



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