The DVDs I got this week were Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and from Asian cinema, The Stool Pigeon, Little Big Soldier, and the Korean remake of A Better Tomorrow.
DVDs: I grabbed The Ice Pirates out of a bargain bin purely out of nostalgia. It's a 1984 space opera/comedy starring Robert Urich that my 13-year-old self apparently found amusing, but my 40-year-old self found rather tepid. Maybe it makes more sense in the context of 1984 - is that supposed to be a Road Warrior parody in the middle? - but it can never quite figure out what kind of comedy it wants to be. It's too serious to be a spoof, not referential enough to be a parody, and yet still has too many stupid jokes to simply be a tongue-in-cheek adventure story. It's not all that consistent on design either, going for the Middle Ages in space most of the time, but also ripping off Logan's Run's model and matte shots (I couldn't believe it!), and running around disused factories more than David Tennant in any given season of Doctor Who. "Funny" robots share the screen with Anjelica Huston (think she keeps this on her resume?), Ron Perlman, and the head of Bruce Vilanch. I'll give them some credit for creating a whole and coherent world (shoddy as it is), but it looks like a tv movie or sitcom, one with unfortunate racist jokes at that. IMDB and Amazon comments would have you believe this is an underrated, unpolished gem. Don't be fooled.
I'm coming very late to the party celebrating The Incredibles, but here I am. Is there any bean dip left? That is one impressive film on almost every level, and puts many superhero films to shame, in particular the Fantastic Four franchise which has a similar "family" set-up. It has heart, creates its own world with efficiency, and features some truly amazing action sequences. It also goes the extra mile by proving you can make a good superhero comedy (I like Mystery Men as much as the next guy, but I don't think it proved anything). And to my surprise, it's not a sanitized superhero story. People die in this thing, so there's real jeopardy. Plenty of extras on the DVD, including two commentary tracks (which might have been merged, frankly, since they covered much of the same ground), more than an hour's worth of fun making of material, an art gallery, bloopers (computer malfunctions with a laugh track), many deleted/alternate scenes explained by the director and presented as animated storyboards, and audio clips of interviews for almost every super glimpsed in the film! There are also a number of animated shorts here: the exclusive Jack-Jack Attack, Boundin' which played just before The Incredibles (with commentary track and brief making of), and a silly 60s cartoon spoof starring Mr. Incredible and Frozone, with commentary by the characters themselves. The one thing missing is the voice actors. It's like they don't exist, barring a couple of quick mentions. There are interviews with the characters, but not the actors playing them. It's a cute affectation, but it hurts the overall product, in my opinion. They only voice work to get a feature is Violet's Sarah Vowell, who does a fun video essay. She's basically a non-actor and a quirky one at that. (And I suppose director Brad Bird is on the DVD aplenty - he plays E.)
With The Informant!, Stephen Soderbergh takes serious subject matter - price fixing and embezzlement schemes in the corn business in the early 90s - and treats it like a comedy. Matt Damon plays the bumbling FBI informant who digs a hole so big, the only way to go is down, and Soderbergh plays the action against bouncy music, and even CASTS for a comedy (the Smothers Brothers, Patton Oswalt, Tony Hale, Joel McHale, Scott Adsit, and plenty of stand-up comedians - even Scott Bakula is arguably a comedy actor). And one can see why the director would make such a choice. First, for variety. Informant stories are nothing new, but they're always played as biopic drama. Second, Mark Whitacre's story is an outlandish and ridiculous one. There's something absurd in the true facts of the case which makes it easy to play it for laughs. I certainly enjoyed it. The DVD has a handful of deleted scenes, but they're the only extra.
This week's Kung Fu Friday selection was The Shaolin Prince, the tale of two Imperial princes separated at birth by a coup - one growing up dreaming of revenge on his father's iron fingered killer, the other, oblivious, raised by comedy Shaolin monks. We did not expect this Shaw Brothers spectacular to go into supernatural territory, but it very entertainingly did! The ghost of a husband possessing its widow. Swords that shoot beams of light. Fire and Water personified as martial artists with super powers (the fire effects are really crazy too!). Having to fight the Cirque du Soleil to borrow a book out of the Shaolin library. The villain's transforming sedan chair. This is one mad tale. Unlike similar "fantasies" like Brave Archer, the story stands on its own and can be understood and enjoyed by Western audiences. It other words, it's insane but it's pure entertainment and requires no foreknowledge of Chinese culture.
Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.i. The Nunnery Scene - Hamlet 2000
III.i. The Nunnery Scene - Fodor (2007)