This Week in Geek (2-08/05/16)


This week, got A History of Violence on DVD, and the newest Doctor Who RPG sourcebook, The Silurian Age (all about dinosaurs and spaceships) in pdf format, hardcopy pending.


At the movies: I was not familiar with Key and Peele's sketch comedy when I went to see Keanu this week, but that scarcely matters. Started off slow, thought, but once it got going - when the two less-than-badass leads were forced to play gangbanger to get their kitten Keanu from gangsters - I thought it hit the comedy out of the park. Obviously, there are absurd elements, like the cat that's so cute, it because the MacGuffin prized by all the bad guys, but the film plays it straight, give or take some pretty excellent dream sequences. I wasn't expecting anything from this, and frankly, the poster did not inspire confidence, but I got laughs and heart and action and a fair few surprises along the way. (By the way, that kitten calendar needs to be a real thing.)

DVDs: Treme got a half-sized season (5 episodes) to finish its story lines, but Season 4 as a whole feels more like ending on a whimper than a bang. Such is life, and this show did purport to show real life unfolding in post-Katrina New Orleans, but even one episode that sags, when you get so few, is a disappointment. The season starts with hope in the wake of Obama's election, but quickly disabuses the characters of any such notion, and in some ways, it's the darkest season yet. When I thought it would go the way of The Wire, it managed a final grace note thanks to a perfectly chosen song, and an even more perfect final speech from DJ Davis (Steve Zahn), who, we realize, has been our guide all this time. Life continues in the Treme, whether we are privy to it or not, and the last episode does manage to find finality without really bringing things to a close. The DVD includes commentary tracks on the first and last episode, breaking from the rest of the DVD series' format, as so often happens at the tail end of a release.

Oscar Pool Stash Forced Watch: Been way too long since I tried to get through some of the movies I won on Oscar Night and agreed to force-watch. Let's run through a few, shall we?

Heralded as the worst mainstream film to come out last year, Mortdecai isn't quite that, but its comedic intentions are in so completely the wrong place, it fails massively despite what could have been a fun, witty con man comedy. At times, the source material shines through (and at the very least, the movie has made me interested in the books), and the dialog and situations take on a Wodehousian or even Wildean bent. The non-love affair between Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor's characters, for example, actually elicited laughter from me. And the art theft plot is clever. HOWEVER, as if fearing modern audiences would not find that kind of wit funny, they've lathered on terrible fart, vomit and filthy language jokes that just aren't funny. There's a complete lack of focus to the comedy when Mortdecai's man servant (played by Paul Bettany) already has a shtick (getting hurt but brushing it off) and they tack on another (having sex with random women) which doesn't add anything to the story. And then there's Johnny Depp, who really ought to get out of his cartoon phase, because it only ever worked for Pirates of the Caribbean. His caricatured performance is irritating and in addition to be the lead, he narrates the film as well. Ugh. I'd basically rather watch any other character in this thing. The DVD includes an okay making of featurette, and another on the film's score.
#OscarPoolResult: Not QUITE bad enough to put back in the pile for next year. I like those Paltrow-McGregor exchanges.

I've never watched Robot Chicken, so neither of its two preceding Star Wars specials, but I don't think it's necessary to get most of the jokes in Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III. Which is a terrible name, because it made me think it was only about Vengeance of the Sith, which I loathe. It's not. The short sketches featuring stop-motion toys are random gags from each of the six original films, loosely held together by Palpatine's narrative. A lot of it is bathroom humor, which just doesn't really tickle my fancy, but there are a lot of clever jokes as well, and the way the characters are comedically reinterpreted is fun. I wouldn't mind seeing the first two, college humor and all. The DVD has a lot of features, including four separate commentary tracks, deleted scenes (shown as animatics, with video introductions that really take the piss), several behind the scenes featurettes, a promotional trip across America, an abbreviated convention Q&A, a visit to Skywalker Ranch, a gag reel of hijinks by the makers (not the puppets), and the guys joking with George Lucas in a boardroom.
#OscarPoolResult: If I have Episodes I-III on my shelf - and I do - then there's no reason Robot Chicken would have to go.

Direct Contact is a cheap Dolph Lundgren vehicle shot in Bulgaria in which his character, a black ops guy rotting in a Russian prison, is given his freedom so he can rescue an American girl kidnapped by local gangsters. Except he's being played, so it's everyone against him in this Léon-type set-up. I've always found Lundgren to be a very ordinary action star, and this is a very ordinary action flick. None of the set pieces are particularly memorable, though it does have a lively chase scene shot with some immediacy. The dialog is risible, and in that sense, it's watchable, especially with other people ready to point, laugh and throw popcorn at the screen. The miscast villain alone... I'd say the one real irritation is Gina May as the girl, a terrible, terrible actress in this, but again, if you're in that kind of mood, by all means, take a shot every time she fake cries.
#OscarPoolResult: Keeping for some kind of drinking game night, I guess.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

"Vengeance of the Sith, which I loathe."
Sounds terrible. is it related to Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, by any chance? ;-) (I gotcha, though. I don't go as far as 'loathe'- I reserve that for Attack of the Clones- but it is my second-least favorite Star Wars movie. Only because I find the last minute or so rather beautiful- what with the reprising of Princess Leia's theme really making it feel like Star Wars is 'coming home' to its warm, familiar roots- and a strong score, do I find it to have any redeeming value as a Star Wars film at all. well, plus- even in tripe, Ian McDiarmid is pretty amazing...)

Siskoid said...

I like to play dumb and call those movies by slightly different names, because that's the best they deserve.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Also fair enough. :-)

Michael May said...

I liked Mortdecai slightly more than you did, but I'm glad you found some laughs in it, too.

And we're in total agreement on Keanu. That was great fun and I love how it doesn't try to get out of the consequences for everything that happened. I was surprised by the level of violence and then pleased that the movie took that (kind of) seriously.


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