Moviestuff: Shatner DVD Club Mini-reviews (Part the First)

To commemorate the closing of the William Shatner DVD club, I watched four WSDVDC movies over the weekend: Thomas in Love, The Lathe of Heaven, Black Cadillac and Soulkeeper. I enjoyed them all, for different reasons:

  1. Thomas in Love is something of an experimental film, as the story unfolds entirely on the monitor of the title character, who has not left his apartment (or had visitors) for eight years and communicates entirely by videophone. It may sound gimmicky, but the premise works well and leads up to a satisfying (if somewhat predictable) climax. I use “climax” with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, as much of Thomas in Love involves the difficulties inherent in a sexual relationship with an agoraphobic who is deathly afraid of coming into contact with other human beings.
  2. The Lathe of Heaven, based on the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, tells the story of George Orr, a man whose dreams become reality, and Doctor Haber, a psychiatrist whose attempts to use George’s “effective dreaming” to solve all of mankind’s problems turn result in one calamity after another. This version was originally broadcast by PBS in 1980 and was not available for purchase until 2000. While the movie itself (particularly in terms of special effects) is definitely dated, the story still stands up very well. One of the extras on the DVD is Bill Moyers interview with Ursula K. Le Guin, which is definitely worth watching. The movie made me want to read the book, and I consider that a compliment.
  3. I didn’t have high expectations of Black Cadillac, especially since Randy Quaid receives top billing. It’s not that I don’t like Randy Quaid — he was hilarious in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — he’s just not an actor I associate with the suspense and/or thriller genres. Despite my initial trepidation, Black Cadillac is actually pretty good. Based on an actual incident from writer director John Murlowski’s mis-spent youth, the story follows three friends as they are menaced by a black 1957 Cadillac El Dorado. I think “inspired by actual events” would probably have been a more accurate description, as Murlowski admits that the movie veers sharply away from reality when the reasons behind this apparent case of road rage are revealed. The movie is suprisingly dialog-heavy, which leads to some good character development and results in some flawed-yet-sympathetic protagonists. Murlowski uses the El Dorado very effectively, without descending into rampant cheesiness. Sympathetic protagonists + effective antagonist – cheese = good movie.
  4. Soulkeeper was positively wretched. It had an interesting premise — the amulet worn by Lazarus absorbed some of Jesus’ power when Lazarus was resurrected — that was all but obliterated by some truly awful acting (Brad Dourif’s accent was especially ridiculous) and some of the worst outdoor sets I’ve seen since Plan 9 From Outer Space). The trick to enjoying Soulkeeper is pretending that you are Tom Servo or Crow T. Robot while you watch it.

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