This Week in Geek (28/11-04/12/16)


Can't resist some sales. I got the first season of both Preacher and Ash vs. Evil Dead on DVD, as well as Archer's sixth, and wanting to upgrade from my unidirectional microphone, because it gets real tight when you're seven people around one end of the table to record OHOTMU or NOT, I got a Blue Yeti (well, a gray one) with more omni-directional settings. Will try soon!


At the movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them may take place in the world of Harry Potter, on the American side, during the 30s, which in and of itself is a fun world to discover - more secret agents and urban mayhem than pastoral school hijinks - but it also feels like Eddie Redmayne auditioning for the role of Doctor Who. He's got the look and attitude, something like a TARDIS, and if we're being truthful, the story arc presented is much more about the Muggle/Companion who initiated to the magical world along with the audience. Doctor Who meets Men in Black with an urban fantasy spin. Enjoyable, by turns amusing and exciting, but we never get away from Rowling's episodic incident writing, nor Redmayne's now standard screen persona, and so while I'm more interested in this aspect of the Potterverse than its school system, I don't feel like it's revolutionized anything.

The Edge of Seventeen is a teen dramady/coming of age story, a well-worn genre, but well scripted and acted, with a strong personal vision to support it (the very end does slide into predictable cliché, perhaps). Like most ugly duckling movies, the main character Nadine isn't ugly at all, but she does think her LIFE is ugly. Ugly and unfair and her personal tragedies have pushed her into self-pity and selfishness, a karmic backlash was inevitable. Even if the ensemble is right out of CW teen soap central casting - everyone's so damn pretty - the film is at least honest with its characters, not letting them off the hook just because they might be the "heroes" of the piece. Those saying Hailee Steinfeld is a star in the making have apparently forgotten they said the same thing when she starred in the Coen Bros.' True Grit, but nevertheless, yes, she's a magnetic screen presence. Your favorite character may well become Woody Harrelson's give/take-no-shit teacher though; he's hilarious and as it turns out, his peculiar attitude is more than just a manifestation of God's uncaring nature towards Nadine.

My local theater missed the actual Whoniversary date, but exactly a week later, showed Power of the Daleks on the big screen. Patrick Troughton's first story, criminally wiped from the archives (the FIRST regeneration AND a Dalek story and no one thought to save it???), has been animated on a shoestring budget, and before the DVD comes out, they've sent it out for limited "event"-style theatrical release. I'd only experienced it as an audio and a reconstruction (with stills and the few clips that did survive), and felt it was a very strong story, with a good theme - the companions don't know to trust this new Doctor, while the extended cast don't know NOT to trust the Daleks acting like servitor machines. The animation is fairly primitive and the big screen doesn't do it any favors, but the likenesses are generally good, and the story, despite its slowish pace, withstands the test of time. My companions even tittered at some of Troughton's lines and actions, despite this being their first contact with this iteration of the Doctor, which gladdened my heart. Really, as long as the Dalek factory scene was well done (and because the Daleks were a CG model, their scenes were always the best bits of animation), and the eventual massacre striking (definitely was), I would be satisfied. It's just a trip to go see a black and white Doctor Who serial (in omnibus form, I should add) at the movie theater. The showing was followed by an assembly of making-of materials from the DVD release, so that was added value to the ticket. Certainly whet my appetite for my December SF Movie Marathon...

DVD: Frequencies (also known as OXV: The Manual) presents a world where we've unlocked the science of luck and fate. Everyone resonates at a certain frequency; the higher it is, the luckier you are, but also the less emotional you are. When an abnormally lucky girl and abnormally unlucky boy meet - and it can never be for long before the paradox tries to destroy the world - it's love... at least for the highly emotional unlucky boy. Can he cheat destiny and the bad luck that hounds him? The story is told through multiple points of view that gives you a different perspective on how that destiny is unfolding (a device that in itself makes you want to see the film a second time), and asks questions about predestination, free will, and whether the attached philosophical questions matter or not. Its premise is also rooted in social inequity, "fate" simply a euphemism for class, race, gender and geography. A lot of heady ideas and some interesting twists as well, including a cheeky final frame that again completely changes one's perspective (for fun)... I can easily see myself watching this again.

Netflix: The Book of Eli is a Hughes Bros. postcapocalyptic western in which Denzel Washington plays a holy warrior called Eli taking the last remaining Bible to a place out West where the Church can start again. Gary Oldman is the robber baron looking for the book whose town Eli unfortunately walks into, and Mila Kunis the young girl he rescues and turns into a disciple. Despite its big idea, and its kind of clever (but undersold) final twist, this is really just as action movie made with relatively little means. Its over-saturated sepia look smothers everything in deep black shadow, which at times seems to have been chosen to hide the cheap CGI's rough edges. Watchable, but just okay, which is how I feel about the other high-concept Hughes film I can name off the top of my head, From Hell.

Co-written, produced and scored by its star, Jacqueline Kim, whose sci-fi claim to fame is being Sulu's daughter in Star Trek: Generations, Advantageous is a character study set a couple decades in the future, a detailed future we recognize in several ways as the one towards which we're heading. The focus, however, is the ultimate body modification - body switching - and how it becomes necessary for the lead character, a beautiful but aging woman, to undergo the procedure just to keep her job. Upward and downward mobility for women is at the heart of the film, as lyrically expressed in a strange scene where Kim's daughter (played by her actual daughter, yes) listens to women in the upstairs and downstairs apartments, and a rise in misogyny paraded as "traditional family values" should seem pretty familiar in today's climate. Advantageous feels immediately relevant, whatever minority we think it might be talking about, but for women who have been asked to change their appearance for work, it will seem very familiar. As plot takes over from characterization in the third act's necessary action, my attentions strays. For some, the reflective nature of the ending will frustrate; for others, stimulate more thought and discussion.

Youtube: Our girl DJ Nath loves Christmas movies and specials. Even terrible ones. Last night, I was subjected to We Wish You a Turtle Christmas, a horrendously cheap Christmas special starring the live action Turtles badly lip synching dialog and numerous songs which looking for gifts to buy Splinter. Terrible? Or terribly fun? Beyond chuckling at the 90s-ness of it, and the fact there's really no plot here, the editing reuses shots all the time, and the kids asked to participate often don't seem to know what's happening or that they're on camera, the songs (some of them Turtleverse parodies of Christmas classics) are generally catchy. After it was over, we decided to take the volume down and play other rap songs over "Wrap Rap" and lo and behold, the mouth movements are so haphazard, it seemed to fit everything we try. So we watched the Turtles cover the Beasty Boys, Eminem, Childish Gambino, everyone! Talk about turning a Bebop's ear into a silk purse!


Andrew Gilbertson said...

My wife surprised me with tickets to Power of the Daleks (which I hadn't realized was getting a theatrical screening for our on-a-budget anniversary. :-) I found it a little sad- hearing scrabbling on the soundtrack or seeing the minimalist-animation have the Doctor standing stock still while he delivered post-regen lines of dialogue, and knowing that large parts of Troughton's ever-brilliant, very-physical performance would not be captured by the medium... but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless.

While I've watched the reconstruction, I found that this version definitely held my attention better, and toward episodes 5 and 6 (where, despite my best efforts, I think I'd begun to tune out a bit in the still-pictures version) I was able to follow the story- particularly Lesterson's breakdown and excellent death scene- far better.

As always, just really makes we wish Fury from the Deep, Daleks Master Plan, Evil of the Daleks, and any number of others would get the same treatment...

John said...

I think you're absolutely right about the parallels between Fantastic Beasts and Doctor Who, and it only reinforces my desire -- formed while reading the first Cormoran Strike novel -- to see J.K. Rowling's take on the Doctor. I imagine it's rather a pipe dream, but what I wouldn't give to see it come true.


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