This Week in Geek (11-17/06/12)


New DVDs now on my shelf include John Carter (see below), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and The Sarah Jane Adventures sadly aborted fifth season. Oh and DMZ vol.12 came out, the final chapter of a series I trade-waited all the way through. Still have to read vol.11!


DVDs: Though the Mad Men production team considers its third season's theme to be "change", it seems to me more about interchangeability and replaceability. It starts with one child replacing another, one boss for another, one name for another, interchangeable roles for Pete and Ken, and goes on from there. Every episode asks a question about whether or not change is an evolution or succession, and whether it is ultimately a good thing, or disappointing, or simply something a certain generation fears while another embraces. The season takes place in 1963 which, through the assassination of JFK, becomes the end of an era and the start of another. We might even say it's the end of the 1950s, which many of the characters actually belonged to, and the start of what we think of as the 60s. As long as Mad Men continues to weave such a rich thematic tapestry, I'll be on board. And the characters aren't half bad either ;). The DVD package, as usual, includes one or two commentary tracks per episode, and a number of historical documentary featurettes. The main one is about civil rights activist Medgar Evers, touchingly told by the people who knew him (it unfortunately has sound problems on one of the interviews), and it is supplemented by Martin Luther King's full Million-Man March speech accompanied by visual archives. The other documentary is on tobacco advertizing, and there's a bit on the mad artist behind the Mad Men illustrations.

John Carter's lack of success at the box office must have a lot to do with marketing (the title, for example, is terrible), because I thoroughly enjoyed its mixture of SF and fantasy, and while I know there are some important differences from Edgar Rice Burrough's book, there are very weird and wonderful things that could only have been spawned in the novels. Director Andrew Stanton's animation background is both a quality and a flaw, breathing real emotion into the CG characters, but also giving them a slightly cartoony look. But that's a minor complaint because the hero's journey is well done, the characters engaging, Utah-as-Mars impressive, and the action scenes exciting. I was particularly impressed by the editing, used for both comic and tragic effect to perfection. Big effects spectaculars often have a soporific effect on me, but not John Carter. I hope it does well enough on DVD that a sequel can be put back on the schedule. And hey! DC Comics fans can squint at it and watch the best damn Adam Strange movie never to be made. The DVD has a useful commentary track and a nice 10-minute featurette that talks about the importance of the books on the science fiction field.

Kung Fu Fridays went African-American this week with Black Dynamite, a film that's more tribute than parody of 70s blaxploitation films. First off, the look is pitch perfect, and though it winks at the camera with jokes about those films' production weaknesses (stock footage, obvious stuntmen, etc.) and highly convoluted plot contrivances (to get as many classic bits and villains into it), its cool protagonist and funky supporting characters prevent it from being a yawn-provoking "Scary Movie" type. In reality, it's not TOO far off from a lot of blaxploitation films, tongue-in-cheek and filled with guerrilla film-making (they even kept some unscripted mistakes to get the same feeling). Lots of great lines, jokes and set pieces, and if you're into the genre, you'll recognize bits from Shaft, Black Belt Jones (Michael Jai White is a much better martial artist than Jim Kelly!), Enter the Dragon, Superfly and more. And the look is authentic. I dig it. The DVD includes a jocular commentary track, 25 minutes of deleted scenes (including most of the lost crooked politician subplot), a fun making of, and a Comic-Con Q&A.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. Critical Reception - Zeffirelli '90


Servo said...

Thank you, Siskoid.

Your brief assessment of John Carter is spot-on in my book. I thoroughly enjoyed and have been saddened by its lack of success and the seeming need to be overly critcal of it. I think you hit the good and bad very well.

Señor Editor said...

I totally agree with you on the John Carter movie. My girlfriend dragged me to see it when it came out (she wanted to see "all the cool creatures") and I actually quite liked it for what it was. Also, thank you for the retweet of my Grant/Breyfogle villains article last week!:)

MOCK! said...

Going to the drive in to see The Avengers allowed my boy and me to see the opening of John Carter twice. It was too late to stay but whet our appetite to see it on DVD.

Today, a boy at his summer camp told us we needed to see it. Coupled with your comments above makes it a definite for Wednesday Movie Night in the MOCK Household!


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