I somehow got a lot of movies watched this week (admittedly, a few quite short). After finishing up the last of HestFest on Sunday morning (and then having a touch of an encore with that evening with El Cid), I started to get back into the swing of normal life. As always, I’ll start with the reviews.
El Cid: I’ve been meaning to see this for a long time, but a lot of Heston’s longer films can be a bit much (Ben-Hur and the Ten Commandments, I’m looking at you). However, this film has the pacing it needs and the epic scope you want from a rip-roaring medieval epic. Sure, it’s that weird 50s fantasy version of the Middle Ages, but the story is pretty good, and much less jingoistic than I expected. Not much of a history lesson, as it skips over 90% of what happened, it’s still a solid adventure film with a kick-ass ending. Heston in top form as the honorable man against a dirty world.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Pod People: Good sweet crap, what a terrible movie. The boys give it the business, but it’s still a painful film to see. Lots of awful people do lots of stupid stuff, and someone films it. The film editor seems to have been asleep or perhaps handicapped in some way.
Deadly Friend: This fairly forgettable 80s horror film is still fun to watch as a cheesy time capsule. But, it’s also fun to see where gore effects and violence once were, before the 90s sanitized movies. The 80s were all about having your own robot.
Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks: Those old tin cans on wheels are back. Warriors from the future are trying to stop events in the present in order to battle their Dalek masters from their own time. Watching this story, I couldn’t help but wonder what things would have been like if Jon Pertwee had been the Doctor just a few years later, with more exciting and adventurous stories and better companions. I think he may be my favorite actor to play the part, but he’s often saddled with fair, but not really good scripts. Not that this one was bad. It was pretty good. But I’d have liked to see Pertwee do more world hopping, and less defending the Earth from invasion.
The Rum Diary: There’s something about that age, the late 50s into the mid 60s that I feel a weird connection to. I can’t explain it. I didn’t live through it, and I don’t have an glowing idealized image of it. But it calls to me. And this film echoes that call. Depp is typically awkward and charming and the rest of the cast is quite good. It’s funny and odd, but not as grim as it could have been, and not anywhere near as surreal as Fear and Loathing, which I don’t think it will be able to escape comparisons to. This will go on my list of good ‘writer movies.’ Movies that are at least in part about the insane acts of choosing and trying to be a writer.
Doctor Who: The Sun Makers: The Doctor faces off with the ultimate enemy, the Tax Man. With his trusty Leela along, he battles corporate greed and disaffected rebels. Honestly, it’s not a great episode, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch. And Leela gets plenty of screen time and stuff to do.
The Comedians of Comedy: Live at the El Rey: A strangely short stand-up presentation, it is quite funny. I guess there’s not much you can say about stand-up comedy. If you like the sorts of jokes these folks tell (often saucy and ribald, if not downright perverse and frequently riddled with profanity), then you should enjoy it. If not, then not.
Night of the Hunted: Brigitte Lahaie wanders around in a daze. So do a bunch of other people. Then they take their clothes off. Then they wander around some more. Jean Rollin does not make good films. But, there’s a weird vibe, or some odd quality that makes me keep watching them (and no, it’s not just the naked women). If he had been teamed up with a good script, I think he could have done something really interesting. So far as I’ve seen, that didn’t happen.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Night of the Blood Beast: Another winner gets the treatment. Pretty funny, but the in between sketches feature far too much Pearl. The movie itself is pretty silly.
Starship: I really, really want this movie to be good. But, it’s not. There are some interesting ideas, and I like this kind of science fiction. But the movie is dull and too often silly. Some cool effects and sets. Some bad acting. And the music doesn’t really work. Worth seeing once, but it’s not very good.
What’s the Next Big Thing? Nova scienceNOW: Neil deGrasse Tyson presents a brief overview of a few interesting things coming down the road, from robots to better earthquake prediction to energy production and use. I’d have preferred a bit more depth on any one of the subjects, but it’s a nice place to start.
Can We Make it to Mars? Nova scienceNOW: More peering into the potentials of the future from Neil deGrasse Tyson. This time we get a more in depth look into a specific topic. Looking at some of the major problems we’ll face in our attempt to travel to Mars, and how some people are trying to overcome them. There is some amazing work being done. Can’t wait to see what comes of it.
City of Ember: Kind of a steampunk take on Logan’s Run, this is absolutely the kind of film I’d have been thrilled by as a kid. Even as an adult, I found the escape from dystopia adventure to be a good watch. There are some wonky bits, mostly during the actiony finale. But, overall, it’s well done.
Where Did We Come From? Nova scienceNOW: Another episode featuring fairly brief snippets of info on various fields of research, from planetary science to brain chemistry. It left me with more questions than answers, but maybe that’s good. Still, several of the topics could have used full length episodes.
Can We Live Forever? Nova scienceNOW: Looking at some of the ways we may be able to extend our lives, it’s really amazing to see some of the progress that is being made in not only longevity, but in good health. I’m there.
On the Nook I’ve been borrowing from Brad, I enjoyed reading the first of Andre Norton’s Forerunner novels, which I’ve been meaning to read for about 25 years now. It was awesome. Reminds me how much I love Golden Age science fiction. It reminded me how my focus has moved off my fiction and how much I miss and want to get back into it. I miss Flix, Chi, Sahr, Baal, and all the others. Between Norton and Clark Ashton Smith, as well as watching a lot of classic science fiction stuff like From the Earth to the Moon, I feel like I’m returning to my creative roots. It feels good to be back.
My friend Dan, who is largely responsible for me getting into comics (excepting a brief readership as a youth) will remember that I tend to respond more to European style comics. Partly this is because they tend to do more classic style science fiction, and partly it’s the art. My newest discovery is Orbital by Sylvain Runberg and Serge Pelle. Good, rousing space adventure with excellent artwork. My one problem with the series is that the volumes are fairly short (50-60 page range) and in the oversized magazine size, of which I’m not a fan. Still, the comic itself is quite enjoyable. Can’t wait to read the next volume.
I also prepared another Top 7 list for cineAWESOME! This week, we took a look at some remakes that didn’t suck.
As far as music goes, this week I’ve been enjoying a bit of classical with some Dvorak. And I’ve been turning up the class with a little Rosemary Clooney.