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Death Race 2000

  I try to keep reasonably up to date with my film reviews on here, but I’m afraid this one comes a bit late - Death Race 2000 was released in 1975. I remember kids at school talking about it when it came out (though I hope they hadn’t seen it, since it’s X-Certificate stuff and these were nine-year-olds) - so when it showed up on Amazon Prime I thought it was high time I found out what all the playground fuss had been about. Death Race… came from Roger Corman’s stable of exploitation movies, and was shamelessly designed to cash in on the pre-publicity for Rollerball , another, rather more expensive, lethal-future-sport film. Based on a short story by I. B. Melchior, it plays like a sex-and-gore fuelled episode of  Wacky Races , but I suspect modern viewers are more likely to compare it to The Hunger Games . Like The Hunger Games , it takes place in a future fascist USA where the authorities control the populace bread-and-circuses style by staging gladiatorial contests. In Death Race
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The Peripheral

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White Noise

We watched this on New Year’s Day, and it turned out to be a good start to the film-watching year - or maybe a bad one, as it will be a hard act to follow: I doubt I’ll see a better film in 2023. Based on the Don DeLillo novel, it’s a strange, protean thing, shifting from campus satire to disaster movie to neo(n)-noir revenge drama before ending in a mass supermarket dance routine like something out of True Stories . To writer/director Noah Baumbach’s credit, it’s both very funny and very serious - the White Noise of the title is the fear of mortality, I think, which haunts Adam Driver’s hapless and slightly seedy college professor Jack Gladney (the leading expert in ‘Hitler Studies’.) ‘What if death is nothing but a sound?’ he muses at one point. ‘You hear it for ever. Sound all around.’ The comedy - like most comedy, maybe - springs from the absurdity of trying to live everyday life in death’s enormous shadow. But a lot of Gladney’s everyday life would be absurd anyway. At home his


Foundation is one of those famous science fiction classics I’ve never got round to reading. I did try, back in my Star Wars addled early teens, but I gave up after a chapter or two. Having watched the Apple TV adaptation, I picked up a copy to see how it compared, and I can see why I was put off. Published in the ‘50s, but made from short stories written for the pulp magazines of the ‘40s, Foundation is an odd beast. In a vast galactic empire of the far future, a scientist named Hari Seldon predicts imminent collapse, and sets up a foundation intended to preserve human knowledge through the coming dark age and help build a new society. The book hops through the centuries, giving us little vignettes to show how his descendants are getting on. There is very little description of people or places. It’s curiously male-dominated even by the standards of ‘40s sci-fi - often in those old pulp stories the hero’s missus or the Professor’s Beautiful Daughter get a look in, but in Foundation  

Tolkien Blues

I’ve been watching The Rings of Power on Amazon, and I’m afraid it’s done nothing to shake my firm belief that Tolkien is unfilmable. The stuff of Middle-earth can be put on screen - the battles, the cities, the monsters - but the budget required to do so means the resulting film or show has to be a mass-market, all-action fantasy, in which all the quieter, odder, and more profound aspects of Tolkien’s work are sidelined or left out entirely. But at least the Lord of the Rings films were made by people who knew and loved the books. The Rings of Power has clearly been designed and art-directed by people who know their stuff - the layers of detail in the sets and costumes of the Númenor sequences alone are quite extraordinary. But the storylines which have been invented to try and breathe some Lord of the Rings -ish life into the rather dry history of the ‘Second Age’ as told in the book’s appendices seldom rise above the level of bog-standard sword and sorcery. You might as well be


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Gwenevere: It’s A Wrap

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