This Week in Geek (23-29/01/12)


Amazon replaced the Boxing Day sale package that got stolen from my mailbox, so I got the following at extreme bargain bin prices: Parks and Recreation Seasons 1-3, Republic of Doyle Season 1-2 (gotta boost my Canadian content), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Seasons 1-2, and Get Shorty.


Books: You know how I like to "flip" (i.e. read, play, watch and listen to everything) before putting whatever media back on the shelf and giving my opinion, but I'm going to declare MetaMaus UNFLIPPABLE. I don't mean that in a bad way though. It's just that there's SO MUCH information about Art Spiegelman's seminal comics work Maus in this luscious, full-color, abundantly illustrated hardcover that it seems too much to get through unless I was doing a Master's or Doctor's thesis on it. The core of the book is quite good and insightful though. Like Maus itself, it's structured as an interview with Spiegelman, and is split into three real questions. Why the Holocaust? Why mice? Why comics? Lots of illustrations from Maus itself, as well as Spiegelman's notes and sketchbooks, Holocaust documentation, etc. help the reader understand the artist's method and approach, while the interview style keeps things jaunty and easy to read. For people who really want to delve deeper, there are vast excerpts from Spiegelman's transcribed interviews with his father and others, and a DVD-ROM (how old school!) filled to the brim with even more sketch comparisons, video interviews with Spiegelman, sound from the actual tapes he made, historical documents, etc. I've always wanted to give a class in (let's make it university level by choosing the right pretentious title) Sequential Narrative Art, and if I ever did, and students picked Maus as their semester project, I wouldn't expect or need more than MetaMaus in the bibliography.

DVDs: How do we describe Capellan Mailling's Norwegian Ninja? Imagine you asked Wes Anderson to make an action/martial arts film in the style of Blair Witch Project, featuring a real person famous in the 80s but re-imagined as a zen Norwegian James Bond, and use traditional stunts, models, and computer effects from the 80s. What might you get? I don't even know if it would come close. SEE THIS FILM! It's primed to become a cult favorite. It is INSANE. It tells the "true story" of how real-life diplomat/spy Arne Treholt, condemned to 20 years in jail in 1985 for doing spy work for the Soviets and Iraq, was actually the head of a Ninja force pledged to protect the Norwegian way of life with chi power, ninja invisibility tricks, Bondian vehicles and enlightenment, all from their base on a remote island/animal preserve. It weaves in mysterious and unsolved terrorist attacks and incidents from the time. It's obviously a spoof, but the fact it is so earnest and never winks at the camera is what makes it so good and crazy. And the action scenes are well done too, with plenty of style. I say again, SEE THIS FILM. The DVD has a good extras package, including a few deleted scenes, "bonus scenes" that range from fake action figure commercials to behind the scenes footage to the full cuts of certain montages, an interview with the director, producer and lead, and featurettes on various sequences and production areas.

Audios: So I finished the Key2Time trilogy (a Big Finish's 5th Doctor sequel to the Key to Time arc) with Peter Anghelides's The Chaos Pool, and though it starts off quite well, with a ship full of angry slugs from the beginning of universal history, and the promise of an appearance by Lalla Ward's Romana (intimately linked to the original Key to Time story), it sorta fizzles out at the end. Too many explanations and almost magical happenings that even the return of the Guardians from the previous story can't really rescue. Part of the problem is that the arc was too short. The original story spanned half a dozen stories, one per segment of the Key, but the sequel is less than half as long. That means that one-shot companion Amy gets her story resolved entirely too quickly. After two pretty stellar opening stories, The Chaos Pool has just too much plot to get through to achieve much of anything on its own.

So now it's off to the 3rd series of the 8th Doctor and Lucy Miller adventures. These are shorter than the Big Finish norm, and though cut into two half hours, they're more in the style of the current televised series. The opening story, Orbis, puts the Doctor and Lucy back together again after what appears for him to have been 600 years. He's been stranded on a planet of jellyfish ever at war with a race of oysters from another world. If Alan Barnes and Nicholas Briggs' premise sounds daft, don't worry, the script fully acknowledges this is a comedy. And quite a likable one, though it does suffer from the Doctor and Lucy not being together for most of it. What worked so well in the previous two seasons is their great comedy double act. I missed it here, but the Doctor was still in good, uhm, hands with his lovestruck jellyfish assistant.

Jonathan Morris's Hothouse is a disappointment however. It's a Krynoid story by way of a Cyberman conversion plot and though it started with an intriguing teaser that used a tv broadcast, it soon became business as usual, bog standard 70s Who. It even goes too far with the violence, just like some of 70s Who did (and by our standards this time). That all could be forgiven if we at least had our Doctor/Lucy double act back, but no, they're separated again for most of the story, and the Doctor acknowledges he's still working on regaining his chemistry with human beings after so long on Orbis. Paul McGann has the nicer bits of interview in the extras, but really, you could skip this chapter and not miss a whole lot.

Barnaby Edwards' The Beast of Orlok finally gets the 8th Doctor and Lucy working together (of course they eventually get separated, this is Doctor Who, but at least it's not from the very beginning). Lucy is like Donna - she's not all that impressed with the Doctor - and that's what makes their interactions so fun. The comedy comes from the two main characters, leaving the rest of the story to be serious and deadly. I think that's the best Doctor Who model. In this audio, the TARDIS lands in 19th-century Germany, where a mysterious beast is killing the townspeople. Of course, it soon turns into a mad science, aliens among us story, but a good one. Edwards makes use of the era and location to good effect by referencing various elements associated with them, though it doesn't turn into allegory or anything. The season is back on track!

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. Instructing the Players - Kline '90
III.ii. Instructing the Players - Hamlet 2000


Lazarus Lupin said...

Norweigian Ninjas...
*sound of hand slapping forehead...repeatedly*

When I saw this my jaw just dropped. It's an amazing work.

Lazarus Lupin


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