This Week in Geek (3-09/08/15)

Buys

I added a few DVDs to my collection: Box Trolls, Paddington, and Time Lapse. And to the bookshelf: Alexander McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club.

"Accomplishments"

At the movies: In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays a notoriously promiscuous magazine writer who falls for a dorky sports physician played by Bill Hader. The whole point of the film is gender role reversal, with many of the men being romantic saps, and the lead woman in the "womanizer" role, who must be tamed. I think the movie's been a target for vitriol from certain quarters (HIND quarters, if you know what I mean) because of it. For female audiences, it probably works as a sort of sweet revenge, seeing men treated this way by a woman. That wasn't a component of my enjoyment, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It had some genuinely funny moments, and director Judd Apatow used his particular talent to make it poignant as well. The film is full of interesting characters, many of them played by recognizable comedians (or sports stars, I guess), so it's correspondingly full of fun little moments. For me, there are things that don't play as well as others, in particular the sports setting. Like the Amy character, I think sports are kind of stupid and uninteresting (though I've liked sports movies because there they become a metaphor for struggle), so the jokey references to sports went way over my head, or else called attention to themselves in an irksome way. But I really liked the rest, especially before we get to the inevitable romcom climax (still funny, but formulaic at that point). Mind you, I wasn't really aware of Schumer's act going in, so it's possible those that are won't find the comedy as fresh.

DVDs: House of Cards Season 3 shows Underwood in the Oval Office, attacked domestically in a Democratic primary, abroad by the ruthless President of Russia, and at home by the First Lady. We're in the second act of the overall story where everything wants to fall apart. Plot-wise, it seemed to combine elements of the second and third series of the UK original, with President Petrov in the role of the new King (a clash of statesmen), and the third series' focus on legacy. They're really pushing for Stamper - Underwood's former chief of staff - to become the show's third lead, giving up the entire first half-hour to his story alone. I sometimes felt like I lost track of why he needed to track down Rachel - perhaps a bit more information in episode recaps, Netflix? - but it does pay off nicely. Still, the big star of the third season (maybe of the series) is Robin Wright as Claire Underwood. Here we have a woman who was accomplished in her own right, and who suddenly finds herself sidelined in the role of First Lady. The toll it takes on her and her marriage often plays out just in her enigmatic expressions. Underwood likes to talk to camera, but she remains a mystery, one we grasp and understand in the most intimate of moments. The DVD includes a making of where cast and crew talk about the writing, acting and production of the season as a whole.

Obviously, and I say this every 24 days or so, you can find out what I thought of The X-Files Season 5 by going through the daily reviews. As a whole, I will say that this is the strangest of seasons. Atypical and oddball episodes succeed each other, and more traditional ones feel like THEY'RE the change of pace. The leads are often separated because they had to work on the movie coming out the following summer. And generally, because they've allowed Scully to believe more and more, and rocked Mulder's own beliefs to their foundations, the production is obviously searching for the show's new paradigm, fearing, perhaps, that they'd lost the show's premise due to character growth. It's Season 5 of 9, so very much the pivot at the center of the series. The DVD set is pretty much exactly like past sets: commentary on a couple of episodes (no spoilers, thankfully), random clips in other languages, and deleted scenes that annoyingly branch off the main episode feed.

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