This Week in Geek (20-26/11/17)


In theaters: Justice League is about two things. Getting the group together and course-correcting the tone of the DCEU franchise. All other considerations are secondary, including the very basic villain plot (which cynically tries to do Infinity Stones before Marvel can get to its end game) with a needlessly CG Steppenwolf. Between Zack Synder's grimdark, video game cut scene, baseline and Whedon's more human comedy approach, character continuity can be difficult (the BvS Batman is unrecognizable, for example), but wasn't too distracting in Justice League itself. Flash and Aquaman are definitely Whedon darlings, and I think audiences may well come out of the theater saying they were favorites. Wonder Woman is, as ever, a highlight, but Superman manages to share in her hopefulness. Cyborg is relegated to technobabble too much of the time, but does have his moments. Overall, the film successfully creates moments that are won through team work, and the lighter tone made Justice League surprisingly enjoyable given my feelings about much of the DCEU. Does it feel like a complete story? No. It's a means to an end, a stepping stone, and an adjustment. Between this and Wonder Woman, I'm actually looking forward to future installments.

The frankly pleasant Bravo Virtuoso is a darkly comic Armenian Noir about a young clarinetist who finds a cell phone and starts getting calls meant for a hitman. In need of money so he can save his orchestra from bankruptcy, he finds himself getting drawn into a world of criminal intrigue, and along the way, meets a Goth femme fatale who wants him to kill her stepfather. Director Levon Minasian (who proved to be hilarious in the Q&A that followed; this was at a film festival) creates a world built of proper Armenian (and I'd guess Eastern European) concerns, and though the comedy comes from character first, isn't above flights of pure fancy that manage to amuse and make the subject matter go down more easily. I left with a smile. The projection was preceded by a French-language Armenian short called "Méditérranée" (Mediterranean) that links the experience of Syrian refugees to the Armenian genocide using lyrical dance. It's a nice image that could have been pushed further, in my opinion.

At home: In Truffaut's famous Jules et Jim, two intellectual men (Oskar Werner and Henri Serre) both love the dangerously impulsive Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), and yet, their bromance survives. The relationships are complex for being so honest, and being based on a book, a 3rd person omniscient narrator with the dryest of deliveries cuts in frequently, lending the film its unique style. I believe Truffaut was very interested in combining the arts, so literature, philosophy, music, painting, photography, all cut into the narrative, usually with intriguing relevance. Those who call this the French Citizen Kane aren't half-wrong, every scene coded with extra levels of meaning. In fact, while some have called the film annoyingly apolitical on account of its being set astride the two world wars and yet starring a Germanic and a French character, I think the film would support a completely political reading. Just think of Catherine as cultural/political dominance and what relationships to two men have with her at any given time. It unlocks something. And yet, it can totally be viewed as relationship drama, risqué for the time, and still mature and resonant today.

Colossal is one of the most interesting giant monster movies you're likely to see because while kaiju and mecha indeed threaten the city of Seoul, the film is really an exploration of toxic relationships and how they either release our inner monsters, or else make us accept monstrousness in our lives. Anne Hathaway has a special connection to the lead kaiju in Colossal that might well make her take back control of her life (though I think her alcoholism is handled realistically and there are no easy movie outs), while Jason Sudeikis, playing her only lifeline when she goes back to her home town, may prove to be an illusory shelter. Director Nacho Vigalondo finds a way to move from comedy to weird sci-fi to dark drama effortlessly, and his images of toxicity, while not necessarily subtle, are on point and sensitive.  A quirky gem. Don't want to say too much because part of its effectiveness is in its ability to surprise.

Doctor Who Titles: The Awakening stars Rebecca Hall as a ghost breaker in the 1920s, invited to a boys' school to investigate a ghost sighting that may have resulted in the death of a student. That ghost breaking stuff is really great, and I would gladly have followed Hall's character into a franchise had the film been built for that. But when a real ghost is made manifest, it's almost disappointing. I do respect the film melding the concept of real ghosts and those traumas that haunt us just as well as ghosts, and though I'm not an easy mark, like, AT ALL, for horror movie thrills, I did feel a chill going down my spine a number of times just thanks to the creepy atmosphere and the way Hall draws you into her emotional reality. Despite narrowing my eyes at the third act twist, it all paid off quite satisfactorily.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The 11th Doctor, Amy and Rory visit 1921 and make quick friends with the ghost breaker, and only Rory believes in ghosts. Which of them is in for a surprise?

The question isn't how 1982's amateurish Mysterious Planet was made, or even released, but how it hasn't been turned into an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 yet! Perhaps it's just TOO badly made, or else it's that it really is hard to find. YouTube has Russian and German dubs, Dailymotion has a French one, and if you think they don't do the film any favors, you're right. Except the original soundtrack apparently has both the voice on set/location AND the looping - you hear both simultaneously. That's when you can hear anything over the location noise. The best thing about this cheap SF version of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island is the admittedly old-fashioned stop-motion monsters, and none of them have even been painted! There's literally no part of this that isn't shoddy. Non-actors, running around the outdoors and fighting the occasional monster, impenetrable space action, and a glacial pace even at 70 minutes. So yeah, totally in need of a joke track.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The 5th Doctor lands on the planet with Adric, Tegan and Nyssa and probably lose sight of the TARDIS or they'd leave immediately. They fight monsters, build weapons, meet what appears to be an A.I. dragon... I don't think we really need any human guest stars.

And now for some actual Doctor Who... Planet of Giants is a Hartnell story I covered back in January of 2012, an amusing change of pace in which the TARDIS crew is miniaturized and must survive a garden and a country laboratory at their new sizes. The DVD includes a reconstruction of episodes 3 and 4 as they were meant to be broadcast - an impatient BCC asked for them to be collapsed into one so the show could get to a Dalek story faster - which fixes a number of problems I original had with it (reevaluation HERE). The DVD also includes a short making of the reconstruction, but not the story itself (there are very few survivors, I will admit), a commentary track with several technicians but no actors, delightful 2003 interviews with Carole Ann Ford (Susan) and Verity Lambert (the show's original producer) on the eve of Doctor Who's return, plus the usual trivia subtitles, photo galleries, oh and less usually, the Arabic soundtrack.

Possibly tying into this year's Christmas special, The Tenth Planet marks the end of the Hartnell era and the first appearance of the Cybermen. Important moments, even if the story itself can be a dull NASA procedural at times. BBC World nevertheless marked the occasion by animating the missing 4th episode (my reevaluation HERE) and putting out a 2-disc extravaganza that also includes the Loose Canon reconstruction. You also get a commentary track featuring all the surviving actors and a couple of technicians, a grumpy 1966 William Hartnell interview, anecdotes by Anneke Wills (Polly), an examination of whether or not Doctor Who ever had a "Golden Age", a featurette about male companions (with Peter "Steven" Purves, Frazer "Jamie" Hines, and Mark "Turlough" Strickson), another on why the Doctor needs companions (including a psychologist's takedown of the character), Blue Peter's 10th Anniversary Doctor Who retrospective (yeah, many of these, worthy as they are, have little-to-no connection to the story), plus de usual photo gallery and trivia subtitle track.


Unknown said...

I was really suprised with JL because the bar was set so low for me. Strong showing of almost every super heroes. I really want more of that JK Simmons Gordon. The CGI was horrible and the villain was really bland but at the end of the movie, you want to see what's next for the JL and the other stand alone movies.

Brendoon said...

Might even go see JL a second time. Haven't done THAT for ages.
there were a cupla cheeky references to Jackson's LOTR in there too. It gave a weird moment of satire... unexpected in the genre. Something for everyone, eh?

Doc_Loki said...

Colossal was one of the standout films of the year to me - such an odd mix of elements that nonetheless work together brilliantly. There's not a lot of kaiju movies that are anywhere near so grounded in real human emotions.


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