October 15th, 2003

Dark Tower


I've managed to see a whole lot of movies in the last two weeks or so, in part because of the lack of deadline (and the subsequent lack of ability to produce a short story just that that), in part because of various social events. Let's see what's what.

Maximum Overdrive (Stephen King)
I've said before I don't think film is a medium where Stephen King's strengths come to the surface, but despite the general critical dismissal, his one and only directorial feature really isn't all that bad. It's got some good set pieces and some interesting actors (not sure I can extend the compliments much past that) doing some fairly illogical things. The original short story is very neat little apocalyptic tale, and this adds a whole lot of generic stuff about heroism and Russian satellites to pad things out (must watch Trucks, which adapts the same story, apparently more faithfully -- and had Selena from American Gothic in it). Still, the best thing about Maximum Overdrive is possibly when King is in front of the camera -- his cameo is great ('Honey, this machine called me an asshole'), and in the trailer he addresses the audience with apparent psychotic glee.

11'09"01 - September 11 (lots of people)
We taped this when SBS played it back on 11/9, and have very fitfully made our way through the 11 stories. My favourite were the more pragmatic ones, in particular the first one from Iran, as a teacher tries to explain events to her class, as she herself prepares for the war she expects to follow shortly on. The French one was also (a deaf woman completely fails to notice events, caught up in her own problems). The American one has quite a similar premise, but didn't do much for me (and I completely failed to recognise Ernest Borgnine, which is possibly a good thing). Ken Loach's one (UK) did the best job of tying it in to a historical perspective. An interesting project, if sometimes a little too distanced from the tragedy itself.

Session 9 (Brad Anderson)
Almost unknown in Australia, this was brought to our attention (and DVD player) by the ever-knowledgable Iain Triffitt. It's a compact haunted house story, as a group of asbestos removal men tackle an abandoned asylum, each with their own problems. Maybe it doesn't all come together, but it's very well made and has a good set of characters from a working-class background (hence avoiding the Hollywood rut of middle-class America). It starred David Caruso, about who I can say little since the only other thing I've ever seen him in is a non-memorable part in Mad Dog and Glory (now there's a strange little flick for you).

Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You (Jonathan Miller)
A Warning to the Curious (Lawrence Gordon Clark)
Also courtesy of Iain, a pair of medium-length BBC adaptations of M. R. James from the 60s and 70s. Both had their share of basic solid creepiness, with some oddities around added. The first was centred around the very strange performance of a self-centred and oblivious academic. It had some fantastic fx work (presumably some cloth and a fishing line, but I don't know how they did the vision on the beach), though seemed to end rather abruptly. The second wasn't as effective, possibly because a ghost running through the English countryside is a bit harder to take seriously, but nonetheless had its moments.

Le Pacte des Loups (Christophe Gans)
Yes, that's Brotherhood of the Wolf, for all you people who don't feel constrained to translate titles back to their original. Hopefully everyone knows this is a great movie, as period French drama meets kung fu epic (and more) and pulls it off. The version we were watching was the R4 DVD, which is the 'short version', as opposed to the 'long version' which played in our cinemas (shouldn't that be the other way around?) The short version does have some extra scenes to try to smooth over the missing intrigue back in Paris, but nonetheless does tend to emphasise some of the problems of the narrative. But it's great stuff, and the DVD is full of interesting bits (we've only really got through the deleted scenes -- those that weren't in either version), with a comprehensive guide by the director.

(I assume that 7th Sea fans like this movie a lot, but haven't heard anything from that quarter for a long time. Meanwhile, if you do want to see the whole thing, apparently you have to resort to the Canadian 3-disc set! And does anyone remember the anthology film Necronomicon -- Kyla does, with reasonable fondness, though my own recollection is hazy. Gans did a segment of that, strangely enough)

X-Files: Nothing Important Happened Today
And what a dangerous thing to call a 'mini-movie' that is... Yeah, we stopped watching the X-Files after Mulder left, not so much because of the lack of Mulder, or even that we disliked Doggett, but just because Scully was in the perfect position to step forward as the strong centre of the program, and was still relegated to second fiddle. But since our local library is lending out DVDs for nix, and this was one of them, we thought we'd have a look and see what was happening mid season... um, 10?

In short, lots of Significant Dialogue when people don't actually say what they mean, various bits of intrigue we missed out on the context for, a slightly underwhelming mystery, a big explosion, and all the answers mysteriously disappearing, but it's alright after all. It was well shot, relatively diverting, the new centre duo wasn't too bad (we didn't get much sense of Agent Gish, or whatever her name was, from this, although she looked more interesting from the accompanying mini-'doco'), Lucy Lawless was an interesting addition (even when not running around naked), but the fire has long gone out.

Anything else? LXG of course, which we've already covered, and the footage of recording No More Shall We Part from God is in the House in an odd moment. We watched Nikita episode 1 last week, part of my seemingly pathological inability to find something to watch with Kate (though better than the two Millennium eps we've shown her). That's probably it, apart from the excerpts of Space 1999 we saw in return (the bits with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in them), and the DVD extras on Angel S3, which are damn fine (and I'm not just saying that because it's not out in America yet, hee hee).

And tomorrow: Kill Bill.