This Week in Geek (21-27/05/18)


In theaters: If you liked Deadpool 1, Deadpool 2 is more of the same, with a comparable level of quality, humor and action. I personally liked it a bit better, as it had more Marvel characters showing up and a more touching emotional core, as Deadpool tries to out-Logan Logan. Now, I don't care about Cable, never have, but he makes a pretty good Terminator-type for the purposes of this movie, out to kill that kid from Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Julian Dennison) who I'm real happy to see again. The stand-out character, however, has got to be Domino. Wow. Zazie Beetz is totally cool in the role, and they really make her power set shine. I see she's in 2020's X-Force movie. Bring it on. Man, I'd see it even more if it were just a stand-alone Domino movie.

At home: The Legend of Tarzan's main problem (aside from uneven CGI, secret origin flashbacks awkwardly edited in, and some WB-imposed dinginess) is perhaps that its politics are a little fuzzy. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) goes back to the Congo to fight colonialism, but the character is himself a sort of colonial ideal; and Jane is written as a feminist, but is still mostly a damsel in distress. But some of that goes to the core of the concept, and does it then mean Tarzan stories shouldn't be attempted? If Legend has a theme, it's that of asking forgiveness FOR colonialism. It just can't get away from its White Messiah. To be sure, this is an odd story for the King of the Jungle. It's more or less a team-up with Django Unchained (George, played by Samuel Jackson), with Jane in tow as an equal partner in the marriage (Margot Robbie can do no wrong is one of my mantras), versus Christoph Waltz plays Christoph Waltz as a Belgian slave trader. Pulp Africa is interesting, Tarzan is played like a superhero with animal powers (I have no problem with that), and most of the characters, even in small parts, have some personality. I don't feel like everything was adequately developed, but it's a fine and entertaining jungle action movie, nowhere near the disaster some critics would have it.

Was Into the Badlands this gory in Season 1? Maybe it's something I forgot when I sat down to watch Season 2, or this one just had more sword action than the first chapters, but yeah, they might be overdoing it with the CG blood spurts. I don't mind it, really, but it sometimes got into slasher film territory. But then, what's one more ingredient in a soup that's already equal parts kung fu films (Badlands adds a kind of Shaolin temple this season), westerns and Mad Max movies? In this 10-episode season (adding to the original 6), Daniel Wu's Sonny is on a quest to save his family while the Badlands' baronic system starts to fall apart. I still don't get the show's insistence that Marton Csokas' over-the-top drawling plantation owner Quinn should be the big bad (ugh), but whoever thought of casting Nick Frost as a roguish Sammo Hung type is brilliant. He adds a lot to the show, and I want to follow him to the fabled lost city than the insipid M.K. And of course, mostly great fight choreography throughout, with at least one showy melee every episode.

The 90s cycle of Gamera films ends with Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris, a more emotional entry in the franchise than usual, and the one with the best effects, though 90s CG is still 90s CG. Looping back to Gamera 1995, we find out Gamera stepped on a young girl's family during its fight with Gyaos, and indeed, the film does show the incidental terror caused by even a heroic kaiju. That girl survives and 4 years later finds a kaiju egg, and bonds with the creature that comes out of it, which she dubs Iris after the family cat. Well, Iris grows up to want to destroy Gamera and the world, and part of the story has to be about the cast from the previous films trying to make the girl see reason. Huge battles. Lots of destruction. A Gamera that is getting sick of humanity and is perhaps a more ambivalent monster. And a lot of world-building too, playing with the myth of Gamera and Gyaos, tying it into Chinese astrology, etc. There are, in fact, so many intriguing ideas here that it's a real shame they didn't go on to make more Gamera movies in this universe. Its lack of focus puts it just behind Attack of the Legion for me.

Doctor Who Titles: I'm not entirely sure what to think of Eli Roth's Knock Knock, starring Keanu Reeves as a family man who gets a visit from two sexy girls on a psychotic bender and they just won't leave until they've ruined his life. I mean I don't know if it's objectionably misogynistic or not. Does the male/female reversal on the question of consent and rape make it an attempt to understand consent from the other side? Or is it just a male fantasy coupled with the psycho bitch trope? Is Reeves' character sympathetic enough that we allow for the mistake that apparently leads to all this? I'm really not sure. As a thriller, it's effective enough in making the audience apprehensive, so I guess I've got to call it at least a partial success. Just don't expect great dialog, or acting, or all the plot holes to be filled in.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The 12th Doctor and Clara get on the trail of sexy alien home invaders. I mean, they have to be aliens, right?

Oxygen is a fairly gritty cop thriller that in some ways reminds me of a stage play. It's more literate than most and features an important two-hander in Maura Tierny, as a self-loathing police detective who seeks refuge in an extra-marital masochistic affair, and Adrien Brody, as a kidnapper who models himself after Harry Houdini. The ticking clock: Harry has buried a woman alive in a coffin. The hook: He's one of the those types who loves to play with your head. The 90s noir that springs from this set-up has some interesting shots, some good dialog, something to say about destructive escapes from one's life, and memorable characters. Tierny's cop and the world she lives in feel textured and real. Despite the tired "I will only talk to this one cop!" trope, things move logically, characters' reactions make sense, and no one is a "super-cop" (quite the opposite). I'm kind of glad I came upon this sweaty little thriller.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The 8th Doctor, Fitz and Compassion must track down a time-displaced, insane Houdini and return to him to his time before someone gets killed.

Books: Douglas Coupland's Bit Rot is a collection of essays and short stories written between 2005 and 2015, all dealing in some way with how the human brain has been rewired in the 21st Century thanks to the Internet, other technological advances, and post 9/11 realities. While there is an apocalyptic bent to some of these texts, especially the short fables included (many of them first published as part of the novel Generation A), Coupland welcomes these changes as a necessary evolution of the human spirit. Nostalgic, yes. Sad or angry? No. And so he brings his breezy humorist's pen to topics ranging from spellcheck to airport security, inventing apps we may well see in the future, looking forward as much as he does behind in this exploration of the present.



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