WHAT I WATCHED - JANUARY 3-9 2016:
- I can usually find something good about just about any movie, no matter how bad it is. But this one left me disappointed AND pissed off. Disappointed because the concept (alternate universe Britain where soldiers are fighting for a Falklands-like island) could have been good; pissed off because it was so bad and wasted a fairly good cast.
The story is just downright sloppy and doesn't make sense. The acting is ridiculous, like everyone was trying to play their characters as mentally-challenged. Usually-great actors like Guy Pearce and Ray Winston are awful in this - Winston tries to be quirky but comes off as silly, Pearce mumbles his way through his lines.
The music is terrible, alternating between thumping techno music and the keyboard noodling of a three-year-old. One scene involving a dance for soldiers and their prospective girls feels like something out of a Dr Who episode, but it's only a fleeting moment. It's a shame the whole movie couldn't have been like it. Avoid at all costs.
Carnivale, Season 2 (2005) DVD
- After finishing off season 1 in a day it didn't take long to get into season 2 and get it finished as well, that's how addicting this show is. If anything season 2 was better, as the characters were established and more actually happened. The entire season headed towards the inevitable showdown between Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl) and Brother Justin (Clancy Brown), while answering other mysteries (who and where is Hack Scudder, who is Management etc) and taking in sub-plots involving all of the carnival folk. My favourite characters are Jonesy and Stumpy, the former for his no-nonsense attitude and the latter for his comic relief.
The season reached a somewhat-satisfying conclusion while also setting up future seasons that never came to be. It's a great shame, because this is one of the finest TV shows I've ever seen. If internet streaming is allowing shows like The X-Files to get new life years later, why not Carnivale? Come on Netflix!
The Lost Tribe (1983) DVD
- During the recent Boxing Day Sales (our version of America's Black Friday, held the day after Christmas) I picked up a bunch of quite-obscure New Zealand films for dirt cheap, this being one of them. A thriller set in remote jungle, it tells the story of a missing anthropologist and the search for him, headed by his wife and twin brother. As the name suggests, there might be a lost tribe lurking in the woods, ready to consign them to the same fate as their lost loved one.
A lot of 1980s NZ films have a certain charm to them that's hard to put a finger on, and this one definitely feels that way. Aside from that it's just a solid little thriller with some nice atmosphere and a satisfying climax.
Trial Run (1984) DVD
- Another Boxing Day pick up, this one and I have something of a history together. Unlike The Lost Tribe, I was actually familiar with this New Zealand film before going into it. However, I had never actually seen it. Let me explain... this showed on NZ TV in 1984 when I was 9 years old and the teaser ads for it terrified me. In particular a scene involving "something" outside a kitchen window and the growling, animal noise it made. I'll never forget it. Of course I didn't watch the movie, but the night that is showed on TV, my mum watched it and I could hear the movie from my bedroom. In some ways that was worse than actually watching it, because my imagination ran wild.
So, 30-plus years later, is it as terrifying as my memory tells me? Well, no, of course not. In fact, it's hardly scary at all. It's a psychological thriller about a woman staying in a remote location to study wildlife, while also training for a marathon. The locals start acting weird, she hears things at night, strange things happen... and there's a twist at the end that no-one would probably see coming, because it doesn't make a lot of sense. It's hard to recommend this one to anyone who doesn't have nostalgic reasons for giving it a watch.