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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
My final shipment from the William Shatner DVD Club arrived in the mail today. Included were five movies, bringing the total number of DVDs I received since joining the club to fourteen. And so, as I bid the William Shatner DVD Club a fond farewell, here’s a list of all the movies I received. The five that came in the mail today are listed first, the rest are in random order.
- Soulkeeper (2001). There just aren’t enough movies with both demons and Robert Davi; at least I’ve got this one.
- Dragon Storm (2004). I know Gimli wasn’t as popular as Legolas, but could John Rhys-Davies have possibly parlayed his Lord of the Rings experience into something worse than Dragon Storm? Yes; it’s called Chupacabra: Dark Seas.
- King of the Ants (2003). There were two movies released in 2003 with the title King of the Ants. This is the other one. Featuring George Wendt (Cheers) as Duke Wayne, the cowboy electrician. Oh, and there’s a Baldwin. Which Baldwin? One of the non-Alec Baldwins. Nuff said.
- Black Cadillac (2003). The disc art on this one screams “Christine“, but will it be the tale of a demon-possessed Escalade or road rage taken to the extreme a la Spielberg’s The Duel?
- Epoch (2000). I know I saw this movie on SciFi a couple of years ago. All I remember is a big, floating alien rock. And not the good kind, either.
- The Attic Expeditions (2001). Seth Green is sentenced to a mental hospital where he is experimented on by Jeffrey Combs. Life can start imitating art any time now.
- Ginger Snaps (2000). Lycanthropy as metaphor for puberty. Your body is going to start to change in ways that you may not understand. On the other hand, you’ll be able to lick your own crotch.
- Close Your Eyes (2002) A decent supernatural thriller about a hypnotherapist on the trail of a serial killer. I’m going to count backwards from ten; when I reach one, you will no longer be lying on a table with half of your guts torn out.
- Thomas in Love (2000). A French film about an agoraphobic who hasn’t left his apartment in eight years and communicates with the outside world via videophone. Please don’t tilt the camera down any further, Thomas.
- Immortel (2004) Odd story about Horus, the hawk-headed Egyptian god parking his floating pyramid over New York City in 2095. Odd story, odd visuals, odd everything.
- it2i2 (2006). Written, directed by and starring Robert Llewellyn (Red Dwarf), it2i2 was described by the London Times as “The DaVinci Code meets The Matrix, only with a lower budget.” They certainly got the part about the low budget right.
- Falcon Down (2000). The only William Shatner DVD Club title in which the man himself makes an appearance. It’s Firefox meets Behind Enemy Lines, only with a lower budget.
- The Lathe of Heaven (1980) By most accounts this version is superior to the 2002 made-for-TV remake. It’s The Woodwright’s Shop meets The Matrix, only with… okay, no, it’s not.
- Wolves of Wall Street (2002). Eric Roberts is the head of a cutthroat Wall Street trading firm. You can tell it’s Wall Street because every other scene transition is a montage of “Wall Street” street signs. The members of the firm are all werewolves, if the nonstop barrage of ever-so-subtle double entendre is any indication. I haven’t made it all the way through this one yet.
Alas, it is true. While on vacation I received an e-mail from Full Turn Entertainment indicating that the William Shatner DVD Club was no longer able to deliver quality movies at reasonable prices. Rather than raise their rates, the club is closing its doors. I should be receiving a single shipment containing the remainder of my movies sometime in the near future.
For my birthday this year, Laura bought me a membership in the William Shatner DVD Club. Since then I’ve received the following DVDs in the mail:
- Immortel (2004) – This French film — directed by Enki Bilal, who also created the comics upon which the movie is based — is an interesting blend of live-action and computer-generated characters set against an almost entirely computer-generated backdrop. In the year 2095, the ancient Egyptian gods have reappeared in a pyramid hovering over New York City. The hawk-headed god Horus is being judged by Anubis and Set, and has seven days to… well, that would be telling. The story is bizarre, but nothing compared to the visuals, which range from stunning to jarring. Settings and vehicles are stylistic and work well, but most of the computer-generated characters just don’t mesh with their live-action counterparts.
- Falcon Down (2000) – This bonus DVD was shipped with Immortel. Pilot Hank Thomas (Dale Midkiff) is recruited by Maj. Robert Carson (William Shatner) to steal a top secret plane and microwave weapon before both can be sold to the Chinese military. As techno-thrillers go, it’s no Hunt For Red October, but it’s got some decent aerial sequences and special effects. The story has a few twists and turns, but nothing truly surprising. There’s some docuentary-style footage that really doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the plot, and the movie would have been fine (if shorter) without it.
- Close Your Eyes (2002) – Also known as Doctor Sleep, this one is a supernatural thriller in which hypnotherapist Michael Strother (Goran Visnjic) has a vision of a young girl who escaped from a serial killer. Together with policewoman Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson, who plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films), Michael follows the trail of the killer, who believes he has unlocked the key to immortality. Close Your Eyes is a fairly competent and gritty thriller, with a decent story that delves into the supernatural without going overboard.
- Ginger Snaps (2000) – I haven’t watched the DVD yet, but I saw Ginger Snaps on The Independent Film Channel a few months ago. Unfortunately, I also saw the sequel, Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, around the same time and I remember very little about the original. The story involves a teenage girl who, after being bitten by “something” in the woods, begins to undergo a transformation that’s almost as bad as going through puberty. I’ll do a mini-review after I’ve had a chance to watch the DVD.
I should be receiving another movie from the club in the next week or so. It will most likely be Butterfly Effect (starring Ashton Kutcher), the Japanese disaster film Virus, or it2i2, an independent film that has been described by the London Times as “The Da Vinci Code meets The Matrix, only with a lower budget.”