||[Apr. 24th, 2006|12:05 am]
Not getting around terribly well and the lack of a working computer has meant I've been watching a bit of stuff. Here's a snippet.
I, Claudius - The grandeur of the Roman Empire done by the BBC on a budget of about 2 pounds, approximately double its budget for Doctor Who. Brilliant. Slow but enthralling. Livia is a wonderful character and villain, slowly eliminating everyone who gets in the way of her ambition. And Brian Blessed gets the most amazing death shot, over two minutes of a full-screen close-up of his face staring unblinking directly into camera as another character walks around in the background delivering a monologue. Just try not blinking for two minutes! Most of the characters are well formed and at the time of writing we're just getting to young Caligula. Great stuff.
Steel - At the opposite end of the spectrum, comes Steel. Based on the DC comic character that appeared during the death of Superman series, Shaquille O'Neal proves that as an actor he makes a great animatronic puppet. I'd like to say Shaq is the only bad thing about the film, but it's basically a 70's blaxploitation piece done in 1997, complete with token white bad guys and blacks that only talk in street slang. Thing is, it knows what it is and tries to show us that it's all part of the fun. Nice to know that Marvel isn't alone in doing crap comic adaptations, though they are still the masters.
Baby - Secret of the Lost Legend - As you can see, I'm catching up with the things I've been putting off watching. This was actually better than expected, helped by the majority of the cast playing it straight. Patrick McGoohan puts in a solid performance as the villain. William Katt was obviously having a terrible time, as he's wearing the same face he did in the original teaser, where he gives the camera a grumpy wave and Sean Young appologises for him, saying he's having a bad day. The interesting thing about this 1985 film is that the brontosaurus' are played by people in suits. It's surprisingly good, even though the costumes themselves aren't great. There's a level of realism that comes even with a bad creature suit, subtleties of interaction with the enviroment that we subconsciously 'read' even though we aren't aware of it. I actually found myself enjoying the film just on the basis that here were real things in an actual environment. The brontos do look incredibly crap up close, moreso when they're running, however they are far more realistic than Shaq.
Monkey - Just when I think I've seen how bizarre Monkey can get, I see the episode 'Stoned'. It's about a demon child that Monkey takes under his wing to teach demon magic. As if that wasn't strange enough, Monkey ends up flying into the kid's mouth to fight the bacteria in his bad tooth. As if that wasn't strange enough, the bacteria actually dig away at the kid's tooth in a choreographed dance sequence. My favourite quote is from the titular stone ape, "I didn't know bacteria wore red skirts!"
Lexx - Been working through the TV movies and extras. I love Lexx, it's rough as buggery and visually stunning often at the same time. The writing manages to be original, dark, funny, bizarre, creative and juvenile all at once. And as one actress commented, 'They say less is more in acting. In Lexx, more is never enough!' The movies and series are as far removed from Star Trek and almost any SF show you care to mention, as Trek is from the Brady Bunch. This is not a nice universe, the tech is bio-mechanical and often doesn't work smoothly. This is not a slick production, it uses an awful lot of CGI, greenscreen and model work to tell its stories, and does it quickly and on a budget. It isn't full of high morals. Stan wants to get laid, preferably with Zev. Zev wants to get laid by anybody except Stan, and she is in love with Kai. Kai is a reanimated corpse and assassin, who would most likely prefer to be dead. 790, a robot head, is in love with Zev. And the Lexx itself, well it just wants to obey its Captain, eat and blow up planets. I think everyone who likes SF should try to sit through Lexx from beginning to end once. It's the most orginal sci-fi universe since Doctor Who in 1963.