Gobbledygeek episode 128, “What’s Your Heroic Damage,” is available for listening or download right here, and on iTunes here.
What does it mean to be a hero? Does “escapism” have to be a derogatory term? Can good guys be as compelling as their supporting casts and villains? To explore these questions, Paul and AJ are joined by friend of the show/Broken Magic author Eric Sipple and TV writer/producer (of Angel, among other things) Mere Smith. There’s Angel talk, obviously, but also some Spider-Man and some Rurouni Kenshin, plus plenty of Eric-bashing.
Next: Rob Hunt and Joanna Gaskell from Standard Action return to tell us all about season 2!
(Show notes for “What’s Your Heroic Damage.”)
Last week, we discussed our favorite TV series of the last year. This week, we turn to the big screen.
PAUL: 10. DJANGO UNCHAINED (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
With Django Unchained, director Quentin Tarantino takes us once more back to a terrible moment in our history, and once again asks us to indulge him his little anachronisms and revisionist revenge fantasies. This time, instead of Nazis and baseball-bat-wielding Jews, we get slavers and bounty-hunting dentists. Set in the pre-Civil War Deep South, Unchained is Tarantino’s homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of Leone and Corbucci, which he prefers to call his Spaghetti Southern. I’ll say that the absence of editor Sally Menke is sharply felt here, though. If I, of all people, notice the nearly three-hour runtime, then there could’ve been some tightening. The cast is great across the board, including a list of hidden cameos longer than my arm (among others, original Django Franco Nero makes an appearance). Jamie Foxx is great in the title role, though I imagine what Will Smith could’ve done with the part, as was the original intent. Leo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins all shine in their respective roles. Kerry Washington was reduced to little more than the damsel in distress, however, which is unusual for a Tarantino picture. But the standout here is Christoph Waltz. He is every bit as charmingly heroic and admirable this time as he was charmingly repulsive and hateful in Basterds.
AJ: 10. MOONRISE KINGDOM (dir. Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson’s films often have a childlike quality about them, whether it be his colorful storybook compositions or the petulance of many of his characters. So it’s fitting that he’s finally made a film about children, one in which the kids are on the run from what’s expected of them and their adult guardians are forced to accept the roles they’ve played in their children’s abandonment of them. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both in their first screen acting roles, give perfectly awkward performances. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are in their element here, while Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton join the auteur’s troupe with ease. Perhaps most encouragingly, Moonrise Kingdom is the first sign of life in years from Bruce Willis–who, with a movie soon to appear on our lists, proved later in the year that he’s most definitely still kicking–and Edward Norton, two actors who really needed a movie like this.
On this, the eve of 2013, Paul and I begin to look back at some of our favorite things of 2012. First up, our ten favorite TV series.
Also, let’s give a slow clap to Paul, who struggled through severe illness just to get these words to you, dear reader. A speedy recovery to you, sir!
PAUL: 10. PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC)
Season 5 gets out of the office a little bit, with Ben and April in Washington D.C. (with an evil robot congressman). Ron gets a new love interest (the always lovely Lucy Lawless). Tom starts a new business. And Andy finds a new career.
AJ: 10. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
What Game of Thrones did in its first season was nothing short of exceptional, a 10-episode narrative that goes down as one of the finest accomplishments the medium has seen thus far. And while the second season struggled at times to recapture that majesty, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The scope and breadth of George R.R. Martin’s world remains impressive; the cast, especially Peter Dinklage as the kind of noble imp Tyrion Lannister, continues to knock out high fantasy material that would crush lesser actors; and thrilling hours like “Blackwater” remind us that this is the closest thing we have to a Lord of the Rings on TV. And it’s a whole lot nastier and sexier, too.
Gobbledygeek episode 108, “Grave of the Rabbits,” is available for listening or download right here.
We know that every episode of Gobbledygeek makes you cry, but this one might especially depress you. It’s Geek Challenge time once more, so Paul has tasked AJ with watching the 1978 animated adaptation of Watership Down; in turn, AJ has challenged Paul to watch the 1988 anime Grave of the Fireflies. One is about the brutal escape of a group of rabbits from their soon-to-be-demolished warren. The other is about the brutal attempts at survival made by a very young brother and sister after their home is demolished in WWII-era Japan. Both are very sad. To lighten the mood, AJ talks about watching every episode of Childrens Hospital over the last week, and both of them discuss the addition of Ciarán Hinds to the cast of Game of Thrones.
Next: as summer winds down, it’s time to take a look ahead at the Fall/Winter Movie Preview.
(Show notes for “Grave of the Rabbits.”)
I like pirates. I enjoy inherently silly things. I’m an admirer of Aardman Animations, having greatly enjoyed Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. I guffawed at the trailer for The Pirates! Band of Misfits enough times that I ventured out to see a children’s movie on a Sunday afternoon all by my lonesome, then felt super awkward when dads started filing in with their kids. So it’s with some puzzlement that I report that Pirates! has few belly laughs, and perhaps worse, nothing that makes it particularly memorable.
For a film with a runtime of 88 minutes, the first half-hour feels like a laborious set-up for a plot that doesn’t really need to be set up. The Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) doesn’t exactly inspire fear on the high seas, manning a crew that’s strictly amateur hour; each one has as descriptive a name as their captain, such as the Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman), the Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson), or my personal favorite, the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen), a play on that old trope whereby girl pirates disguise themselves as boy pirates. Despite his ineptitude, the Cap’n still has his sights set on winning the Pirate of the Year trophy.
RANGO (DVD/Two-Disc Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Combo)
The latest in the trend of computer-animated talking animal movies was the first for the studio (Paramount) and the director (Gore Verbinski), and still manages to rank as perhaps the best of the genre. What on paper sounds like just another cliché-ridden cartoon for big kids turns out to be incredibly original, quirky, and thoughtful, with a wonderful voice cast (led by Johnny Depp as the titular pet chameleon lost in the “Wild West” of the Mojave desert), and what is conceivably the most stunning, eye-wateringly beautiful animated vistas and landscapes ever. Paying homage to everything from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Chinatown, and featuring hands down the coolest freaking cameo you’re likely to see in a long, long time, Rango is a must-own. My highest recommendation! DVD and Blu-ray special features include an alternate ending, deleted scenes, a featurette on the film’s creatures, and commentary from the filmmakers. Blu-ray extras include the ability to watch the storyboards alongside the movie picture-in-picture, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interactive trip to the town of Dirt, and more. – Paul Smith
(Originally reviewed by both Paul and myself in “Secret Origins.”)
THOR: TALES OF ASGARD (DVD/Blu-ray & DVD Combo)
You’ve seen him in live-action as the arrogant/noble God of Thunder, now you can see him in animated form, long before he wielded the hammer Mjolnir. Thor, along with Loki and the Warriors Three (one of whom, Sif, is voiced by veteran voice artist Tara Strong), quests to find the Lost Sword of Surtur. Included on both the DVD and Blu-ray are two commentaries, a making-of featurette, and an episode of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
BLUE VALENTINE (DVD/Blu-ray)
The most devastating, most gut-punching-est movie released in 2010 was Blue Valentine, an uncomfortably intimate drama from first-time feature director Derek Cianfrance. Ryan Gosling rivals his work in Half Nelson, and Michelle Williams gives the performance of her career (so far). Maybe you won’t feel “good” after you watch their marriage implode before your eyes, but you will feel like you’ve watched a real, painfully observant slice of human drama. The DVD and Blu-ray releases include deleted scenes, audio commentary, and more.
(Originally reviewed by me in “Springtime for Puffy Val Kilmer.”)
Gobbledygeek episode 44, “$20 Toilet Paper or, 127 James Francos” is available for listening or download right here. The bad news: Paul and AJ talk about the Oscars. Again. For the last time. This year. Maybe. The good news: no one talks about Charlie Sheen! Ever! Plus you have some news, upcoming DVD releases, AJ’s reviews of the new Dum Dum Girls EP He Gets Me High and Tunes: A Comic Book History of Rock and Roll, as well as Paul’s takes on the new episode of Supernatural, Hans Zimmer’s Rango soundtrack, and the 1977 Ralph Bakshi animated “classic” Wizards.
(Show notes for “$20 Toilet Paper or, 127 James Francos.”)
Gobbledygeek episode 42, “Life, the Universe, and Gobbledygeek” is available for listening or download right here. Paul and AJ celebrate the meaning of life, the universe, and everything by offering up their Deep Thought on how to approach this week’s show. Which, of course, is to fly by the seat of their pants and just talk about whatever they want. They dabble in music–AJ offers his belated thoughts on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Paul shares with us his journey through the Rush catalog; movies–reviewed are The Illusionist, Waiting for Superman, and Eric Lax’s book Conversations with Woody Allen; and sheer randomness–taking to Formspring and asking each other ridiculous questions. It’s about as fun as reading Vogon poetry! So knock back your Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, and don’t panic: we’ve laid out towels for everyone. You may need a Babel fish, though.
(Show notes for “Life, the Universe, and Gobbledygeek.”)