This Week in Geek (7-13/08/17)

Buys

I hope DC's Young Animal imprint is to my liking, because the projects published under that (mystifying) banner certainly sound like they're up my alley. I got the first trades of Doom Patrol and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye to find out.

"Accomplishments"

In theaters: Atomic Blonde plays as the last story of the Cold War, in the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a magnetic Charleze Theron in the lead role as a cold and ruthless MI-6 agent and potentially unreliable narrator due to the film's structure built around her debriefing. The film successfully recreates the character's and the era's paranoia, as well as her attention to detail (perfect set design will do that), with brutal kinetic action that why at times extreme, still feels real because its choreography is so natural and improvised, and the characters are allowed to become tired. Above all, this is a stylistic triumph, the drained acid colors and wonderfully edited 80s synth pop soundtrack evoking not one but two Berlins. And while the story is dark, it's not without fun. The style essentially smirks at the Cold War tropes and makes them fresher as a result, and the film really does know it's part of a tradition, or else it wouldn't drop Casablanca references the way it does.

DVD: iZombie takes the broad strokes of Gwen's character from the Roberson-Allred comics series and aside from comic booky transitions that borrow from Allred's art style, jettisons everything else in favor of a crime-solving model with Gray's Anatomy-style narration (which I dislike), even going so far as renaming the lead Liv Moore. I chafed at this at first, but through Season 1, the concept and characters grew on me, perhaps because it has shades of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is a strong thematic vibe running through the series the writers don't state overtly, and that's mental health. Being a zombie is akin to depression, and when Liv eats the brains of murder victims and absorbs their memories, she also gets their particular pathologies. People who think they've seen zombies think them delusions, and so on. And yet, the show is amusing, filled with puns and fun villains. The theme certainly elevates even the mystery-of-the-week when, perhaps, you'd rather be seeing more of the larger zombie arc, which goes all sorts of crazy places. By the end of Season 1, I was primed for the second. The DVD includes some deleted scenes and a decent ComiCon panel.

iZombie Season 2 is the season when the show goes foodie and might make you want to buy a recipe book for brains. The food doesn't just look good, its clever chosen based on the murder or themes of the episode. What you liked of the first season is simply amplified, changes in status quo taking the story in crazy new directions, becoming more and more serialized as we go forward, and pushing us to a mad, crashing finale. Comparing it to other WB shows based on DC Comics properties, iZombie's writing is actually quite a bit smarter (by the makers of Veronica Mars, after all) and the acting stronger. So the WB tics, like repetitive dialog for distracted viewers, is much less prevalent and annoying. Same DVD package, though beyond the origins of the show (found on first seasons), I find ComiCon panels to be tedious - largely unfunny and teasing elements the DVD viewer is already well past - but some good stories come out of the audience questions.

John Waters' Cry-Baby spoofs Grease, Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story with wild, camp abandon, and manages to be its own animal in the process, with memorable songs, characters and set pieces. But if this is Baby Boomer nostalgia, it's a nostalgia filtered through a satirical lens, reminding us that the greaser 50s weren't as romantic as memory and movies make us think it was. It's a 50s teen musical for the CHILDREN of Baby Boomers, forced to sit through the real thing every holiday season (and then endless talk about how your parents used to dress like that, dance like that, be racist like that). If the characters are largely caricatures, it's part of the point, and entirely amusing. Fair warning, there are some John Waters jokes in the film that might gross out or even disturb, but it all works with the ridiculousness of this world where teenagers live too passionately, only one dimension removed from our own, really.

As You Like It is a rare treat for the BBC Shakespeare Collection, shot as it is on location (one of only two plays to get the treatment) at Glamis Castle and environs. It does mean that the sound isn't always under control and that Helen Mirren, as one of Shakespeare's great female wits Rosalind, is frequently batting at flies. That, and the terrible reading given by David "Darth Vader" Prowse as a mountainous wrestler, give this one a difficult start. But once Rosalind is embedded in the countryside as a boy, making word play and match making for herself and others, it really takes flight with amused enchantment and clever comedy plotting. Mirren is, as you might expect, quite wonderful, and when you think it's all over, Shakespeare has a rather marvelous treat in store for the audience. I quickly forgot the first half's problems.

Twelfth Night is one of the BBC's most compact and efficient productions at a mere 128 minutes, and is all the better for it, bouncing along pleasantly, and even making the so-called "zanies" fun to watch (that's not always a given). I know a Shakespeare adaptation is well worth it when it makes me notice a character I never really gave much thought to before, and this is the case with Sinéad Cusack's Olivia, whose intelligence makes her a good match to Viola's great wit. And that Viola is Felicity Kendal, a wonderful comic actress who I immediately love in the role. She's funny, clever, wistful, resigned, twinkling, and touching. Possibly the most song-filled of Shakespeare's comedies, Twelfth Night is a perennial favorite, and I've seen a few versions of it. Between this and Branagh's for Thames TV, I'm not sure which one I consider the more definitive, but this one certainly has a solid claim to the title.

Doctor Who Titles: The Gunfighters is a 1987 TV movie about three cowboy brothers who are forced into becoming outlaws by a land baron trying to steal their land. If I were to judge it in the context of when it aired, I'd say it was meant to trade on a certain part of the audience's nostalgia for the clean shaven westerns that filled television schedules 30-20 years earlier (it's written by veteran TV western scribe Jim Byrnes). And while a badly edited/staged bullwhip duel made me think there might be SOME original ideas, it quickly becomes a string of cliché western tropes, as if Byrnes was trying to check as many boxes as possible in the time allowed. While I can't find confirmation anywhere, the lack of closure at the end and a theme song popping up every so often would seem to indicate this was a pilot that failed to get picked up. One wonders what story types were left to be told after this...
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The 7th Doctor and Ace land in Kansas and fall in with the Everetts, playing an important part in resettling their status quo before the corrupt law gets to them. Ace is great as a stagecoach robber.

4 comments:

snell said...

Re: Atomic Blonde, I highly recommend that you read Coldest City, the graphic novel it's based on. I was kind of shocked when I found out Atomic Blonde was based on Coldest City, because on a surface glance they seem nothing alike. It's a fascinating experiment in styles, because while both have fundamentally the same plot, Johnston & Hart's comic is the John le Carré’ version, the movie is the Jason Bourne version.

Siskoid said...

Definitely. While I didn't read the comic, I did research it and saw the art and notable differences in plot. This is what I like in an adaptation. It reinterprets the material in a way that makes a good film without taking anything away from the original work. Both can be enjoyed on their own terms without making the other redundant.

Anonymous said...

I liked Atomic Blonde too; it seems like it falls somewhere in between James Bond and George Smiley. And you're right about the fight scenes being realistic. They reminded me of the fight scenes in the Netflix Daredevil show; after two straight minutes of punching people, your arms are gonna feel like they're made of cement.

Mike W.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to see an episode of "iZombie" where Rose McIver couldn't completely become the personality the script required of her. She is an incredible actress. Probably my favorite of her acting jobs happens in season 3, where she assumes the traits of a certain sort of dad: the kind who seems annoyingly friendly when you're a teenager, but once you grow up you realize he is an unstoppable engine of helpfulness.

Ravi, though ... I know he's a fan favorite, but I wish he'd dial it down a bit. I have a problem with characters who are supposed to be "charming" because they try to be witty and funny at the wrong times. Tone that down and I'm good with Ravi.

 

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