This Week in Geek (02-08/04/12)

Buys

Only a couple DVDs this week - The Greg the Bunny IFC Original Series Best of the Film Parodies, both volumes.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Though Eureka Season 4.5 is the continuation of Season 4, it has its own arc and feels like a complete package. One of my favorites too. They continue to milk the aftermath of the temporal changes wrought in 4.0 to give the show a good characterization backbone, added Wil Weaton and Felicia Day to the cast of regulars, but most of all, made the arc about a space race to get to Titan. I'm a huge sucker for space program stories, and the continuing story of crew selection provided just the right background for all each week's A-story. Nice guest stars along the way (like Ming-Na, Dave Foley and Grand Nagus Zek), and it builds to an exciting finale. The DVD includes some extended cuts and commentary tracks on key episodes, lots of deleted scenes, a gag real, a featurette about the seasonal arc, and the crossover episode with Warehouse 13 "Don't Hate the Player".

The Wrestler is a raw look at a broken down pro wrestler played with intense naturalism by Mickey Rourke (and mirrored in the broken life of stripper Marisa Tomei) by Darren Aronofsky, and I use the word naturalism in more than one sense. The performances ARE very naturalistic, bordering on the documentary, as we learn the tricks of the trade and see pro wrestlers interact before and after matches. It looks to be a hard life, but one with camaraderie. It's also naturalism in the literary sense, with protagonists unable to elevate themselves beyond their present positions. It could be a depressing film, and it is a tragedy, but it avoids it, I think, by celebrating its main character and not judging him, only presenting him. Like the Black Swan, the Wrestler may die doing what he loves, and is that really a sad thing? The DVD only has Bruce Springsteen's video of the title song as an extra.

Equilibrium is one of those grand dystopias like Farenheit 451, 1984 and Gattaca - and it may remind you of any of these - but it has its own message. In the world of Equilibrium, emotion has been outlawed, and agents known as Clerics are tasked with finding those who aren't taking their meds and destroying the emotion-inducing works of art they hoard. Christian Bale is perhaps the best Cleric that's ever been, but when he misses a dose by accident and starts to feel, he turns against the regime. So it's about self-medication and desensitization, and while I wouldn't call it an iconic SF masterpiece, it is at least a solid entry in the genre. The marketing seems more geared towards action fans, and it does have some of the sweetest gun fu I've ever seen. The DVD is supplemented by a short making of and two very illuminating commentary tracks (director and director/producer, the latter more about the production details than the ideas at work).

The Men Who Stare at Goats would make a good companion piece to Norwegian Ninja (a film I've shilled for this year because it's bloody brilliant, that's why). Both films are based on real-life alternative warrior manuals, both are completely ridiculous, and both are incredibly sincere. The Men Who Stare at Goats is the more mainstream of the two, however, with a stellar cast (Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey) and heartfelt comedy. It's about the U.S. military's real life efforts to use psychic powers in the field and makes creative use of the book by the same name, crafting a fictional story set in Irak to present its research. You won't want to believe it, but there it is. Very funny, surprising, and ultimately, a feel-good movie. One thing that bugged me is that the super-soldiers are called Jedis (this is real), and they have Ewan McGregor play a guy who seems to never have even heard of Star Wars. That called attention to itsel even though, as the director's commentary explains, they didn't even realize he'd played a Jedi before when they cast him. The DVD also has a second commentary with the book's author telling us what's real and what's a fiction, a featurette that talks to the real Jedis fictionalized by the film, a making of, and a few deleted scenes.

When I finished Greg the Bunny' s only (half-)season on Fox the other day, I was left wanting more. Well, there WAS more. The Independent Film Channel, where Greg and Warren the Ape were before Fox picked 'em up, took them in again in 2005 to do more film parodies for them as a way to present specific films. The first season features 14 episodes ranging from 7 to 15 minutes each, a blend of 2005 material and some of the classic stuff from 1999. There are some great puppet parodies in there of the Godfather, 2001, Plan 9 from Outer Space and Natural Born Killers, for example, and a really disturbing Eraserhead parody, but where the most yucks are for me, is when the indulge in the behind the scenes stuff (which is often). The Pulp Fiction episode had me busting a gut because it was all behind the scenes. I just love to see puppets being interviewed with a cigarette in their hand and flipping out at the disrespect, you know. Fun DVD package too. Like the Fox series DVD, each menu has a soundtrack with various characters doing improv, and there's a commentary track for every episode and all the deleted/alternate scenes. The 20-minute outtake reel has some funny stuff as the puppets go off-script. And there are galleries of behind the scenes pictures as well.

Our Kung Fu Fridays selection? The Bastard Swordsman, a late (1983) Shaw Brothers film, and one of their rare full-on magic wuxias. WHAT A STRANGE AND WONDERFUL FILM! The plot is nothing new. A clan challenges another clan, but a third clan has infiltrated the first one and attempts to steal its secrets and destroy from within. Our hero is a poor, bullied servant who is being secretly trained to do kung fu at night by a mysterious benefactor. Convoluted, but simple enough. Into this comes some really crazy chi tricks as characters fly around the room, gravity gives out entirely, people shoot laser beams from their hands and our hero gets encased in a cocoon and comes out a beautiful butterfly. That last one is only a mild exaggeration. There is actually some chi-powered web-spinning in this. Whenever you thought you'd seen it all, there was more. At everyone's insistence, I and my rubber arm immediately ordered Return of the Bastard Swordsman, because we just have to know if the guy with the Fatal Skill also gets his ass handed to him.

Audios: Finished The Ice Warriors, as narrated by Frazer Hines. Even if only a third of its 6 episodes are lost, the BBC still made an audio for it in its Lost Episodes series. It introduced the Ice Warriors to the world, a monster I wish the new series would bring back (though I fear they won't do another Reptilian species so soon after the Silurians), and I can't wait to watch the surviving episodes to see what it all looked like. Moving glaciers and ice caves and of course, the aliens. There's also a large human cast and a strong theme of science vs. nature that I quite liked. The Volume 4 boxed set ends here (damn it, so much of Troughton is gone!), but it does include a bonus disc with interviews with the box's two narrators, Anneke Wils and Frazer Hines. Both have some interesting anecdotes to tell, though the former's sounds like outtakes of the interview she recorded from the previous box. Not complaining, as I love her to bits. I don't think they'll release Volume 5 before I get to its stories in the daily revues though. Ah well.

Hyperion to a Satyr
posts this week:
III.ii. The Mouse-Trap - Fodor (2007)

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