This Week in Geek (23-29/05/16)


Got a few kaiju DVDs this week: Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, Godzilla on Monster Island, Steve Jobs... no wait, that's not a kaiju movie. Also, Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace, and Game of Thrones Season 5 (I should really catch up, shouldn't I?). And a book too: China Miéville's The City & the City.


At the movies: Shane Black does it again. The Nice Guys is the full entertainment package. I love watching a Fiaco unfold, and this violent but hilarious 70s mystery centered on the porn industry fits the bill. Ryan Gosling is quickly becoming one of my favorite comedy actors, and his loser single father P.I. is well matched to Russell Crowe's professional legbreaker - a double act I would want to see again despite by ambivalence about sequels. Maybe we could catch up to these guys (and the frankly more competent daughter) in the 80s? It's rare to get an action comedy that actually treats the action AS comedy sequences, but The Nice Guys manages it, and judging from the different patches laughing at different times in the audience, the movie tickled varied tastes. We've already started using some of the lines in every day conversation...

DVDs: Speaking of fiascos, Big Trouble (NOT in Little China, but in Miami) is definitely one of those. A large cast that includes a lot of fun cameos to boot see their characters intersect in a complicated plot surrounding a stolen nuke. Tim Allen makes an unusually effective hero and narrator to what amounts to complete lunacy, a sort of Snatch with the comedy dialed up. Rene Russo, Stanley Tucci, Dennis Farina, Janeane Garofalo, Tom Sizemore, Sofia Vergara, Jason Lee, Ben Foster and Zooey Deschanel as kids... Lots of recognizable faces in fun performances, many of them as the "stupid criminals" required of the genre. You're really never sure where this thing is going, but the ride proves more than random, with every little amusing bit becoming important somewhere down the line. The DVD includes a very good director's commentary and an 8-minute edit of the film (whatever).

Over the Garden Wall is a 10-episode fantasy-comedy from one of the makers of Adventure Time, clocking in total at 2 hours, about a teenager and his rather stupid kid brother getting lost in a dark wood and encountering all manner of surreal, creepy people and monsters. Genuinely funny, especially over time, there's nevertheless a strong sense of unease that's punctured only by the odd musical number. The show is almost overtly inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, and though thrown in a blender, features the same soul-searching journey and mad vistas (reinterpreted as old school animation). Over the Garden Wall make you laugh, makes you think, creeps you out, warms your heart, and dares to end in a satisfying, yet still elliptical manner.

Books: Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman is another strange journey into the recesses of the soul, somewhere between Alice in Wonderland (an obvious inspiration, especially the mathematical grotesqueries) and House of Leaves (obviously inspired by it, with its crazy footnotes and impossible spaces). The tone is playful and metaphysical, and completely absurd. O'Brien couldn't publish it during his lifetime because it was such a wonderful piece of nonsense. Perhaps it doesn't explain itself enough, but the reader always feels that "sense" will make itself known on the next page over. The story, about a murder mystery where the killer/narrator has forgotten his own name, looking for a fabled cash box and perhaps, the love of a good bicycle, amuses, distracts and evokes all manner of thought experiments, but ultimately, and this is part of the point, can't really amount to any solid answers. A maze of words with an entrance, but perhaps no exit.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes is a fun little "coffee table" book written by Jon Morris (who unfortunately doesn't lend any of his cool cartoons to the volume, which is my only complaint - love your stuff, Jon!) compiling, in Golden, Silver and Modern sections, comicdom's strangest superheroes, those that were almost designed to fail. Okay, there are a couple of brighter lights like Doll Man and Rom Spaceknight (to which Jon is particularly gracious), but I'm pretty familiar with obscure superheroes and even *I* didn't recognize many of them. Each entry has at least a page of well-researched, humorous text, and at least a page of full color artwork from the original sources. Very entertaining even if you do know Fatman the Human Flying Saucer and Madam Fatal. Had a blast with it.


rob! said...

Fun Fact: I contributed the scans for the "Holo-Man" chapter of the Regrettable Superheroes book!

Siskoid said...

That makes sense! Power Records connection, right?

Anonymous said...

I think it's really a shame that Big Trouble did not get a bigger release. It's one of my favorite comedies of the past 20 years. Unfortunately, it was struck by a case of really poor timing. It was originally scheduled for release around Thanksgiving of 2001. Then 9/11 happened, and the movie studio thought that with the final sequence involving a plane and a nuclear bomb, it was probably better to bury the movie the following April.

Other than the Toy Story movies, this is the only movie I enjoy Tim Allen in.

Siskoid said...

Ever seen his dramatic villain turn in Redbelt?

LiamKav said...

He's great in Galaxy Quest, I think. Or Galaxy Quest is great and so everyone in it is touched by that greatness.

American Hawkman said...

Big Trouble is both a film cursed by a poor release date, a poor DVD release (it took me seven months to track it down, being a fan of the book), and a rare instance of the film being better than the book. Great flick, and one I recommend.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Sweet. Both those kaiju folms, and Underwater Menace, are on my wish list. For my money, vs. the Sea Monster is the best (besides the original) of the showa era, despite being a (barely) rewritten King Kong pictute. The cinematography of that one, though... some really gorgeous scenes (which I won't go into in case you haven't seen).


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