This Week in Geek (28/05-03/06/12)


The Amazon sales continue to dish out DVDs my way, this time Bon Cop Bad Cop (see below) and the Die Hard boxed set. I also got Doctor Who's Seeds of Death Special Edition (coming soon to a review near you), and for my graphic novels collection, a handsome autographed copy of Ben Costa's Pang the Wandering Shaolin Monk vol.1.


DVDs: I finally got into Mad Men, and if it took me this long, it's probably because the only thing people ever told me about it was its 60s retro-shock jokes in which pregnant women would smoke or whatever, which seemed to me like a joke that would get old fast. And sure, the dark comedy and 60s mores accuracy are part of the charm. But what they should have been telling me about is how it's a sharply written character-driven drama, how it was The Apartment: The TV Series, how much I would enjoy the ad campaign of the week seeing as I work in communications myself, and how the show rewarded close attention and reviewing because of its metaphorical content. Don Drapper is an ad man whose principal product is himself. Peggy gains a confidence that is represented visually as weight. Betty shoots down her own dreams as if they were no more than pigeons in her yard. And each episode has elements that mirror or contrast each other pleasantly in a clever and artistic way. I'm sold. The DVD package is very rich too, with one, or more frequently, two cast and crew commentary tracks on each of the 13 episodes, an hour-long making of (which is sometimes repetitive for those who listened to the commentaries), additional featurettes on the score, costumes, make-up, set design, and discussions with real advertising people who worked in the 60s.

Bon Cop Bad Cop is ye olde buddy cop movie with a Canadian twist - the good cop is a by-the-book Anglophone from Ontario (Colm Feore), and the bad cop is an unkempt, foul-mouthed Quebecois (Patrick Huard). When a corpse is found straddling the two provinces' border, they are assigned to the same case and hilarity ensues. No really, there's some good comedy to be had with the two official languages' tradition enmity, and the action set pieces are Hollywood quality, unusual for a Canadian film. And for extra Canadiana, the case focuses on a hockey-obsessed serial killer. The cop plot is the weakest part of the film, and doesn't bear close examination without the holes showing through. The strength of the piece is definitely in its characters and their families, which made me long for an epilogue at the end just so we could see the latter again. My copy had subtitles over the French, which wasn't necessary. I imagine you can find the reverse in Quebec, don't know if you can a clean print for us bilinguals. So it's Canadian Bad Boys with an extra helping of heart. No extras to speak of on this release.

Invictus is a strange sort of political biopic, and a strange sort of sports movie, seeing as it blends the two. Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela who, in the early days of his presidency, sees the national rugby team as a unifying element to bring his divided country together AND put it back on the map after years of isolation. He's great and gets all the best lines. Matt Damon plays the captain of the rugby team called out to take a hated and under-performing team and make it a national symbol around which South Africans can rally around. There are almost two movies there, but they mix smoothly and create unusual stakes for a sports story. As with every Clint Eastwood-directed film I've ever seen, Invictus is a bit long-ish and slow-paced, but not boring, in large part thanks to its characters (including a fun subplot about Mandela's mixed race security detail). There's one (original?) song in there that's quite jarring (and reprised at the end), but it's my only real complaint. While the Blu-ray apparently has more, the DVD edition's features are disappointing, limited to a featurette about turning Damon into a rugby player. I would have liked to see more on the true history pictured in the film.

The hell with it, let's make it a sports movie theme. I really liked Miracle when it came out, but I don't know, maybe I didn't pick it up on DVD because as a proud Canadian, it embarrassed me to like such a USA! USA! kind of film. Well that's just silly. Regardless of the characters' nationality, Miracle is an inspirational underdog story about team building and 100% going for the gold - with Kurt Russell in it. What most surprised me about it is how much hockey is put on film, probably more than an hour on the ice, mostly in that last key game against the Soviets. It's something that could only be done because they cast hockey players who could act rather than the other way around, and put sound and camera right on the icea with the players, giving you a player's-eye-view of the game. And while the players have their stories, it's really about the coach, and I've always liked coaching movies for their wisdom in how to inspire players and run teams (I have no athletic ability, but have coached improv teams and the job isn't much different), and there's plenty of that here. Nice DVD package too: A competent director's commentary and making of on the first disc, and on the second, interviews with the actors/players, outtakes, an ESPN round table discussion with Kurt Russell and some of the real players, a featurette on sound design, and raw footage of the crew's initial talks with the real Herb Brooks shortly before his untimely death.

Kung Fu Fridays starts its "world tour" in Russia, with Sergei Bodrov's Mongolian-language Academy Award-nominated historical epic, Mongol, starring Asano "Hogan the Grim" Tadanobu as Temudgin, the man who would become Genghis Khan. The film takes us from his childhood to his unification of the Mongol hordes never shying away from the incredibly harsh life these people led. 80% of the enjoyment is seeing a culture we know next to nothing about, somewhere between Native American and Klingon, and the impressive landscape that was a part of their every day lives. It's a hero's journey, a love story, and a feud between brothers as well, well played and executed. Hopefully, you'll forgive how romanticized the story is (there's even a hint of divine intervention in there), but the filmmakers were no doubt working more from legend than history, though there are no DVD extras to prove it. I wouldn't mind another chapter of this story if the same cast and crew were up for it (according to Wiki, a second part of a proposed trilogy started pre-production in 2008 for release in 2010, but alas...).

RPGs: More chargen for my upcoming Hong Kong Action Theater role-playing. St-Pierre made a comic relief character based on Infernal Affairs' Eric Tsang (name pending) for whom I created a new Signature Move - Unassuming. He doesn't look like he can take care of himself, so when he opens up with the kung fu, he gets a surprise attack. Marty, for his part, is playing a Rain-like Korean pop star (superstar, I should say) called Razor, who is using his international stardom to get into movies. Sword Fu training will help him sell it. I've got other platers coming in to make characters, but this core group of four players will help me debug the game and get us smoothly working the mechanics in a first game (Traitorous Shaolin, probably).
Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. Critical Reception - Olivier '48


Edward Ott said...

will have to see bad cop bon cop.

Siskoid said...

What's drawing you to it specifically?


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