This Week in Geek (12-18/10/09)

Buys

Not in a buying mood, I guess.

"Accomplishments"

Books: Thanks to a day spent at the emergency room (I'm fine), I managed to finish TWO books. The first was Douglas Coupland's latest novel, Generation A, a sort of follow-up to Generation X, but more in the style of Girlfriend in a Coma as far as its post-apocalyptic vision went. Coupland captures very well a handful of characters that could only be the products of today and I really enjoyed the section of short stories produced by these characters. As far as the plot goes, the five being drawn together by bee stings in a near future when the bees are meant to be extinct, it perhaps takes two twists too many.




I also read a loaner from my good friend Carolynn, The Family of Pascual Duarte by 30s Spanish writer Camilo José Cela. Obviously a translation, but superbly written nonetheless, and I'm not normally a fan of naturalism. The novel is the incomplete confession of a killer that takes us through his harsh life and its always destructive twists and turns. Rather dark and depressing, but Cela's images sparkle and his portrait of a violent man, while it can be disturbing, remains sympathetic.






DVDs: Early in the week, I finally popped Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog into the DVD player and have consequently watched it about fives times this week, AND listened to its songs (and its commentary's songs) almost every day. Am I turning into a Whedonite? If you don't know about this 42-minute superhero musical, I won't spoil it for you, but I certainly admire its efficiency at making you care for the characters in so short a time. I laughed, I cried, and I mean that. The DVD has a standard commentary track with the cast and crew, but also a scripted musical commentary that is hilarious (and I think I may like its songs MORE). There are also making of featurettes and 30 minutes of supervillain auditions from fans. More than enough to make a 42-minute movie worth the purchase.

Also on my plate this week: Primeval Series 3 (or volume 2, if you go by Region 1 DVD titles). At 10 episodes, it's the longest and much of its time is spent shuffling in or out various characters. Despite my crush on Lucy Brown, I think we do end up with a stronger blend of action heroes and scientists by the end, and there's a strong resolution at the end (I could have resolved the cliffhanger in my head if they hadn't announced a new series for 2011). There are weaknesses, however. There's a new reliance on "mythical" creatures (or made-up animals that explain some legends) which tend to drain whatever episode they're in, and the show still tends to leave plot holes open and ignored for too long. Still, I'm well invested in the characters by now. The DVD has commentaries on three key episodes, an overview of Nick Cutter's story arc and a look at making a creature come alive by following a contest winner who's design was selected to star in the show.

On Kung Fu Friday, we watched Iron Monkey, a martial arts Robin Hood story that actually has its basis in history. In fact, I was both surprised and happy to see a young Wong Fey-Hong (China's greatest cultural hero) as part of the action. And there's a LOT of action in this, much of it hyper-cranked wuxia. It's a superhero movie in all but name. The DVD includes short but very informative interviews with Quentin Tarantino (who distributed it in the US) and star Donnie Yen.






Here's a coincidence: I sat down to watch a film this weekend and grabbed Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Not only did its naturalism and Spanish location (here, Mexico) remind me of Pascual Duarte, but the experts on the commentary track mention that very novel as one that influenced Peckinpah! Alfredo Garcia is an extremely dark picture which I would claim is a man's journey through Purgatory on a quest for quick redemption, a journey that damns him even more. The portrait of an impoverished Mexico is almost hallucinatory (especially the bright day-for-night scenes), at once beautiful and decrepit. Pictures of landscapes and various locations are pasted to every wall, an impossible escape. Warren Oates plays the doomed hero of this buddy movie in which the buddy in question is a disembodied head, and there's even a scene where Oates rises from the grave. It all ends in a shoot-out in God's house. The fawning experts on the commentary track tend to talk more about Peckinpah's life and how it relates to plot points or other decisions.

Hyperion to a Satyr entries this week include:
Act I Scene 2 - Enter Hamlet according to Olivier

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 10, finishing up Black Orchid and producing a handful of cards from Marco Polo using surviving production stills and tele-snaps.

Someone Else's Post of the Week
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