Skip to main content

Posts

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
Recent posts

The Peripheral

I watched the Amazon Prime series The Peripheral just before Christmas, but only just found time to write about it, and already it seems have dropped off people’s radar. New shows, books, and films seem to be talked about for around a week now, if they’re lucky, before attention shifts to the next new thing. The way the internet has accelerated the speed of cultural discourse is presumably something William Gibson saw coming: from his cyberpunk novels of the mid-1980s to more recent works like Pattern Recognition, he’s always displayed a keen eye for cultural/technological trends. (Although the great opening line of Neuromancer - ‘The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel,’ must be a bit lost on readers brought up in an age of digital tellies.) The Peripheral is based on a Gibson novel, of course, and it’s interesting to see what has survived the adaptation process and what has been ditched. Brother and sister Flynne and Burton Fisher (Chloë Grace

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

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

Andor

The original Star Wars film knocked my socks off back in '77 when I was eleven, but I've never had much interest in the various prequels and reboots, although I've sat through a lot of them happily enough for the sake of all the excellent production design. The Mandalorian was fun when it started, but gradually more and characters we recognise (or are clearly expected to recognise) from other SW things started making cameos, until the galaxy far, far away seemed to shrink to the size of a small town where you're constantly bumping into the same people. I’m sure it still thrills its target demographic, it’s just not for me. So I wasn’t planning to watch Andor, and   only stuck it on as background noise while I was working on some of the props for my own little movie . But after an episode or two I noticed the background noise was taking the form of some rather good dialogue, and I started watching it properly. It turns out to be a very intelligent, rather old fashion

Gwenevere: It’s A Wrap

Well, almost. We spent last Friday and Saturday shooting a few last scenes for our Arthurian mini-epic : long days, but luckily the weather stayed dry again, and I think we got good stuff. Even if it something goes horribly wrong in the edit and we never get it finished, the shoot has been huge fun. It’s certainly more enjoyable and better exercise for mind and body than writing books - if only there were some way it could be monetised. Laura Frances Martin came back to be Gwenevere, and Rosanna Lambert joined us to play a mystical maiden who pops up with advice for her at a low point in her story - she’s exactly the sort of character you’re not supposed to put in the last act of films as she’s a bit of a Deus Ex Machina etc, but she’s exactly the sort of character medieval poets and storytellers did put in their Arthurian Romances, which is very much the mood we’re going for. Rosanna is studying theatre at Chichester Conservatoire and we were very glad she was able to fit us in duri