This Week in Geek (16-22/05/16)


Got a couple books for summer reading this week, including Jonathan Franzen's Strong Motion and China Miéville's Railsea. Also, a bunch of dice, travel size, because you can never have too many d6s in at least two colors.


At the movies: Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin was a great subversion of the thriller genre, and his new film, Green Room, follows a similar template. Basically, Saulnier plays chess against himself. He asks himself what he would do in his characters' situation, works out what would actually happen (not "movie happen"), then takes the place of the opponent and does the same, rinse, repeat. What you get is a thriller with a recognizable premise, but not a formulaic plot, and no way to know where it's really heading. In Green Room, a punk band is forced to play for a crowd of White Supremacists, sees something it shouldn't have and gets locked in the compound's green room. As with Blue Ruin, the cinematography is lush and artistic, and you'll find hidden layers of motifs and meanings in the script. Plus, this time Saulnier's got a hold of more recognizable actors, including Patrick freaking Stewart. Blue Ruin was more of a revelation, but I'm content to follow this writer-director to his next projects until he exhausts his ideas for the genre.

DVDs: I jokingly called Hyena Road "Canadian Sniper" when the trailers came out, but though there's a sniper team in the film, it's more than a sniper story, and director Paul Gross' starring role is that of an intelligence officer navigating Afghanistan's difficult history and cultural mores. I don't think everything clicks - you wonder why there's narration at all, since there's so little of it, and the sound mix, at least on my TV, had the music so loud I had to put the subtitles on - but I liked the film overall. First, because you don't see the Canadian military in films very much, and there's definitely a difference. I don't mean ethical (though the way Canada sees itself is part of the equation), I mean the little things on base. Documentary footage is slipped in to give the film more verisimilitude, but even in the fiction, there's great attention to detail (including the sense that military action in that part of the world is mostly futile). More Generation Kill than, say, Jarhead. And for my money, the best characters are Afghan, which is hardly something you expect. Not one of the great war films of our age, but well made and interesting. The DVD includes a few all-too-brief featurettes.

Netflix: Daredevil Season 1 was... fine, I guess. For a character that's one of my favorite Marvel heroes, I should be more enthusiastic. I suppose part of the problem is the look of the show. It's so damn DARK. I don't mean the content, I mean the high-contrast visuals that manage to create deep pools of darkness even in the daytime. Was this an attempt to plunge us into a blind man's world? Or just to hide the dodgy fight choreography (it gets better, but early on, it doesn't match the standard set by Arrow, though I appreciate the pseudo-realism). Full points for making Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk mirrors of each other - losing their fathers, trying to save Hell's Kitchen, growing into the Daredevil/Kingpin personae, and both struggling with the morality of their actions. That said, it goes on a bit long, and could probably have worked in 10 episodes instead of 13. Now on to Jessica Jones, the show I ACTUALLY wanted to get to.

Books: Don't Point That Thing at Me is Kyril Bonfiglioli's first Charlie Mortdecai novel. Mortdecai, you ask?! That terrible Johnny Depp movie? I was keen to find out just how badly they mangled these well received books on the big screen. The movie uses a lot of the elements from this first book, but mixes in pieces from later books (the marriage, the mustache) and unfortunately, a lot of sex, fart and puke jokes. Not to say the book doesn't have a scatological streak, but not to the film's juvenile extent, and what works in print - a subversive contrast between 70s scat and flowery Wodehousian wit - doesn't necessarily work as a visual. Don't Point That Thing at Me is a fantastical banquet of words where the protagonist doesn't entirely understand the plot, but won't skimp on the details when it comes to art history, food and sleeping conditions. It's quite a fun read, but not one with a definite resolution. Is it MEANT to be continued? Or was Bonfiglioli writing an ironic, short story-style ending? I'm game to find out sooner than later.

I enjoyed srsly Hamlet, the first book in the OMG Shakespeare collection which translates the Bard's work as a series of modern-day texts. YOLO Juliet does the same with Romeo & Juliet (by way of writer Brett Wright), and manages the same amount of chuckles. Whether it's Lady Capulet signing her texts the way many parents do, or Romeo suffering from FOMO, or his murder of Tybalt being discovered because he put it on his Facebook status, YOLO demonstrates a familiarity as much with the source material as with the way people communicate today. All in a nice, glossy, full-color, pocket hardcover. Very slick. Even if I fear a certain sameness across several books, I nevertheless want to check out the MacBeth and Midsummer Night's Dream volumes.


Brendoon said...

I had a crack at a Mortdecai novel too. Not that one, but I THINK the very first one.
I only read a few chapters before skimming the middle then abandoning it.
It was certainly more Flashman than Lord Emsworth, I was hoping for Campion but didn't get much of that.
I can't remember if the writing was good or bad, just that the character was completely morally bankrupt, a true villain.

I like dark, I like shady, I like "a bit grey", I like "above the law," but I find it hard to read novels about actual bad guys.
I must have some sort of brown-bread Hero Worship Complex hindering me...

Siskoid said...

Mortdecai is a villain in the same way Gulliver is. He paints himself as the hero of his story, but drips with dramatic irony (fittingly, it's filled with Browning quotes), so you understand he's a terrible person. Not a problem for me since we're asked to basically laugh at the character.

And I can confirm this IS the very first one.


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