This Week in Geek (12-18/02/18)


In theaters: The prequel to All the President's Men, AKA The Post, is a timely film to be sure. Not only does it mirror the current White House's attacks on the media, with Nixon conspiring to keep the New York Times and the Washington Post from publishing leaked documents about the Vietnam War and the decades-long cover-up they reveal, but it also chooses to make a woman the central focus of the story. There's still some journalistic action, but we the burden of the decision to publish or not always comes back to the Post's publisher who had fairly recently inherited the paper from her deceased husband (and as such shows the inevitable board room struggle - my female friends felt this resonated strongly with them). Spielberg assembles a strong cast and lets them do their thing, but the timeliness of it makes me think it was rushed into production. Some scenes feel unnecessary or are poorly integrated or given context, and while I'm always game for an aspirational journalism story or an inspirational woman's story, the script makes its points rather blatantly. When you're preaching to the choir, you don't need to hit them over the head with a hammer to get the right notes out. All a bit obvious for me.

At home: Altered Carbon, though based on an other book entirely, pretty much comes across as Blade Runner the TV Series. It has the same existential questions about the nature of humanity, a similar pulp noir plot, and the futuristic city crosses the line from homage into copy, but it does look gorgeous. I have to admit the premise at the crossroads of transhumanity and cyberpunk is a heady one, and the 10-episode series explores various permutations of the technology that has changed the world and humanity - the digitization of consciousness. I did feel like I needed subtitles at times, with various mumblers and thick accents giving long exposition. The plot itself is probably the weakest element is probably the plot itself, with its over-complex mystery and talky "solution" scenes, but the story nevertheless moves at a good, tense clip, has several memorable characters, and an engrossing, dark atmosphere. The book had two sequels, I see, so more seasons are possible. If not, then the story feels satisfyingly complete without them.

Animated in a style partway between Batman: The Animated Series and the Batman 1966 TV series/movie, Batman vs. Two-Face is a proper celebration of the latter, starring Adam West as Batman (voice) for the last time before his regrettable death. Not only is the characteristic camp humor on show, but in spite of the title, a TON of '66 villains are represented in the story (with a very cute play on who gets to play Catwoman). Of course, Two-Face never appeared on the TV series, but if he had, he might have been played by William Shatner, and so he is. Shatner and West are a great match vocally, and it's fun to see the 1960s Shat drawn into the story. Quite amusing, and a nice way to say goodbye to the show's iconic star. The WB's animated DVDs do bug me, however, when it comes to extras. They always dump featurettes on their NEXT project, but never have anything on the current release, not even a repeat of ITS preview show. In this case, it feels even more like a missed opportunity. A tribute to Adam West wouldn't have been amiss. And I certainly don't care about the animated Dark Knight Returns.

Razorback is an Australian horror flick about a preposterously monstrous boar terrorizing a rural community in the Outback. It should be terrible, but it somehow rises above its genre conventions, hicksploitation grotesques, and somewhat disjointed plot by looking simply GORGEOUS. From the get-go, the movie amazes with its surreal landscapes (Australia is really the on-screen MVP), atmospherics, and play of light and shadow. Just enough of the monster is shown to keep its malevolence mysterious, and there's a trippy sequence in the desert. Looking at this, it tells me there's really no excuse for B-movies to look as flat or dingy as they so often do. All I ask from such fare is that they show me something new. And Razorback definitely did that, despite its plots inability to completely avoid cliché.

With Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks broke new ground (and new wind), calibrating a tone that allows audiences to laugh at aberrant racism, punching up, now down, and it's perhaps a mark against how little attitudes towards race have evolved in the past 50 years that it still feels edgy and relevant. It might not have worked without charming performances from Cleavon Little as Black Bart, the West's first and only black sheriff, and the fallen Waco Kid played by Gene Wylder who, along with Madeline Kahn's German showgirl, I find a lot more interesting than the buffoonish villains. And despite the anachronisms, slapstick, metatextual humor, and scenes right out of Looney Toons (Bart is nothing if not Bugs Bunny in this), it's got a fun story you want to follow and that sends up westerns without feeling overly familiar. It stands up. The DVD includes a director's commentary that's essentially Brooks telling the story of the making of for the first 55 minutes of the film - he's not actually watching at the same time - a good retrospective making of featurette, an all-too-brief clip from a Madeline Kahn retrospective, and deleted/alternate scenes from the TV edit. It also includes the Black Bart sitcom pilot, a contractual obligation filled with canned laughter that was unlikely to ever make it to series. The racial slurs really don't play well on television, but though Louis Gossett Jr. has screen presence, it lacks the crazy fourth-wall breaking and, bottom line, just isn't funny. Interesting DVD extra though.

Doctor Who Titles: 1976's Voyage of the Damned assembles a great cast to tell the true story of almost a thousand Jewish refugees put on a luxury liner by German authorities in May of 1939, as a clever propagandist ploy to create a pariah ship, boost antisemitism abroad, and thus get better political will for the Nazi regime. Though there is political intrigue, mostly in the original destination of Cuba, most of the action takes place on the ship itself, tracking several of the real people making the voyage, taking its time so as to let the audience get to know both passengers and crew. Unfortunately, Stuart Rosenberg's direction is very flat, on the level of a TV movie, and though the storylines are adequately juggled, it failed to get the proper rise out of this viewer, even when the high drama required it. Interesting, but lacking in craft.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... Sarah Jane Smith and the fourth Doctor appeal to the captain to get his good will, and do, but some parts of history tragically can't be changed.

Forest of the Dead is a cheap Canadian cannibal zombie flick made on video in the not-so-wilds of Ontario in 2007 (not to be confused with the similar Severed AKA Forest of the Dead made two years earlier). This this is ropy AF on just about every level. The look is crappy, but it's the dirty sound that really makes it feel cheap. It really takes its time showing your its silly gore-horror moments, and when it does, there's no real explanation for why things are happening. It spends most of the movie with a certain group of college kids, then switches gears and introduces another cast entirely. The two French-Canadian characters are not played by actual French Canadians, which is borderline offensive. I don't know why we should care about the characters, because all the bros are idiot a-holes who deserve to get killed, and all the girls are fools for liking these douches. There are a couple of moments that are so arch and camp that made me think it could be enjoyed as horror comedy made by a bunch of friends in an abandoned camping ground. Alas, it's only a couple of moments in a 75-minute piece that felt more like two hours of snarky sex talk.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The tenth Doctor and Martha get there at the end and have to solve/explain how this is all due to an alien virus/influence.

Oscar Pool Stash Forced Watch: I guess if you absolutely need another "chosen one" Young Adult story, there's The Mortal Instruments - City of Bones. To say it borrows from a bunch of other fantasy properties (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Underworld, Twilight, Star Wars...) is perhaps a bit charitable. There's in fact very little in this that feels fresh. Are the books as creatively bankrupt? Oh, there are a couple of interesting monsters, but the heroine with the dreadful YA-style name of Clary Fray spends the entire movie standing around gawking or getting rescued, or else discovering, rather randomly, her magical powers. It's poorly written, with characters contradicting themselves sometimes in the span of a single scene. In the final balance, there's too much set-up for what ultimately failed to become a viable franchise, and the romance therefore comes off as creepy for its ambivalence. The DVD includes a number of making of featurettes with cast, crew and author.
#OscarPoolResult: Not the worst of the worst and I think I must therefore keep it. But I'm tempted to throw it back.


Anonymous said...

But if we streep Hanks he weell get a cheell!

Siskoid said...


Brendoon said...

Thanks for that post!
There's cupla good leads I'm determined to follow up in them thar hills.

John said...

The Mortal Instruments in fact started out life as a Harry Potter fanfiction, and the author is infamous in fandom circles for her habit, back in her fanfic days, of using catchphrases and dialogue from other media properties, uncredited, in her stories. And that's not to mention the credible accusations of out-and-out plagiarism. Which is all to say, it's not surprising you felt like it borrowed from other properties.

Siskoid said...

I guess I should just be relieved it's not Harry Potter with the magic replaced by S&M.


Anonymous said...

"I guess I should just be relieved it's not Harry Potter with the magic replaced by S&M."

Yes, I imagine "relieved" is the word:


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