The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy * Garth Jennings * 2005

Of course I knew about the book and the film, but I never really cared to see it. A while ago I saw the DVD cheaply and later decided to just buy the film and watch this classic. The DVD makes the film into a children’s film with children’s films advertisements etc. Well, maybe the film is enjoyable for children, but it sure is for adults as well! Especially the first part of the film is stuffed with great jokes, wordplays, silly stories and odd situations. There is a subtle criticism towards the modern way of living and society. The characters are great (especially the manically depressed robot) and the big questions of life are dealt with in a very amusing and often thoughtfull manner. The guide from the title is a ‘book’ that reminds of Prospero’s Books with images coming out when opening it and a voiceover to tell a story. I really had a good laugh watching the film and I can recommand to see it to everyone still in doubt if they want to see this philosophical sci-fi comedy.

Vercingétorix * Jacques Dorfmann * 2001


I bought this film with the title “Druids” and I wondered what this title was all about. The original title is much more suiting, because this film is not about Druids, but about the man who made the Celtic tribes come together and fight their Roman oppressors. I was surprised to see that this film is already from 2001. I figured that after the succes of “Gladiator” and similar films, any historical thing that can be used to make films with massive fighting-scenes would be grabbed in order to try to make ‘the new Gladiator’. I must say that I do like the fact that filmmakers take interesting facts from history and try to make a (more or less) correct reproduction thereof. The subject of this film has my particular interest, so…
Christopher Lambert is the ugly Vercingétorix and Dorfmann shows how he grows up, lives with the Romans and tries to make the Celts one army force instead of separate clans fighting eachother. All this is well done and however the film is by far no new Gladiator, it is very enjoyable and I think a bit educational as well.

Tristan & Isolde * Kevin Reynolds * 2006

This classic medieval love-story is put in a Hollywood coat to appeal to the masses. The original story is altered a bit, which is a pitty. For the rest this film is an entertaining medieval costume warrior film about an impossible love between two people. Tristan is pushed back and forth between his love for Isolde and his loyalty to his king. Isolde can only obey her father. On the background plays the struggle between the tribes in Brittain who try to be united in order to stand stronger against the Irish invaders. Alright.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow * Kerry Conran * 2004

I remember that when this film was anounced for the cinemas, I already wanted to see it. Still it took until it was on TV before I finally did. A shame! Not only Gwyneth Paltrow (in a nice 1950’ies journalists outfit) and Angelina Joly (as a pirate) have a part (and Jude Law for the ladies), but “Sky Captain” is a visual spectacle and a very entertaining film. It looks like a comic and also the story is rather ‘comical’, but it seems not to be a comic-adaptation. “Sky Captain” is a science-fiction playing in the past. Somewhere after WWI gigantic machines ravage cities all over the world. This seems to be a plot of a dark professor. Journalist Polly and hero Sky Captain (Jude Law) try to find out what it all is. Story-wise not always too logical, but visually impressive (‘flat colours’, great atmosphere, alright special-effects) and very entertaining. If you like “Sin City”, “V For Vendetta” and the like, you may also want to see this one. <11/9/06><4>

Quo Vadis? * Franco Rossi * 1985

For some reason the series “Rome” got a major budget and also seems to be very popular. Since when are people interested in historical drama series? Since “Gladiator”? I haven’t really followed “Rome”, maybe I will watch it when it is available on DVD for a reasonable price. But to all those who do follow and enjoy “Rome”, I can advice you to buy these old series for a very reasonable price on DVD (I paid E 10,50 for these and the series “Merlin” together). Six episodes, six hours (well, alright, about 300 minutes) with a very nice series about a very interesting part of history. “Quo Vadis?” (meaning “where are you going?” btw) is based on the 1895 book with the same title by the Pole Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916). It deals with the time that Nero ruled over Rome and the apostle Peter goes around spreading the message of Jesus Christ (i.e. around 30 CE). More and more people are converted to Christianity, which religion is regarded as a plague by the authorities, so they invent an accusation which allows them to take out the hazardous sect by root. The acting is alright, the stages and costumes are marvelous and the story interesting and -like I said-, the price of the double-DVD wonderfull. A must-buy for anyone who likes the series “Rome” and for people who like historical dramas. If you look for them, there are more cheap series on DVD about Rome, such as “I Claudius” and a series totally about Julius Ceasar. I don’t know if I want to see all of them, but I certainly enjoyed “Quo Vadis?”

The Prisoner (series) * George Markstein & Patrick McGoohan

‘Where am I?’ – ‘In the village.’
‘What do you want?’ – ‘We want information.’
‘Whose side are you on?’ – ‘That would be telling.’
‘We want information. Information, information’
‘You won’t get it!’
‘By hook or by crook, we will’
‘Who are you?’ – ‘I’m the new Number Two.’
‘Who is Number One?’ – ‘You are Number Six’
‘I am not a number. I am a free man!’
(manic laughter)

The Prisoner TV series are so old that you have to look for people to remember them. The series was first broadcasted in 1967 en 1968. In came in a flood of secret agent series such as The Saint or The Avengers and after Danger Man in which Patrick McGoohan also played a very special secret agent. Apparently McGoohan wanted something more, since he is not only one of the inventors, but also a director for the series (the last episode, the strangest of them all). I never really knew about the series even though it was smacked around my ears constantly. The “The Girl Who Was… Death” cd of Devil Doll is one big The Prisoner ode and this was even mentioned to me once. Colleagues mentioned it and eventually Collin Cleary wrote a lengthy review of the series in Tyr journal volume one of 2002 that I only got this year. That was the limit, I started to look around and bought myself the series. You can get a pretty expensive American box, an also pretty expensive UK box and the also pretty expensive separate five DVDs. The first four DVDs (I got the separate ones) contain four episodes each, the last DVD the last episode, an alternative version of another episode, a documentary and some other things. The other DVDs have some extras as well.
To the series then. Patrick McGoohan is a nameless secret agent who resigns. This is shown at the beginning of every episode. Because of his resignation, McGoohan is kidnapped and brought to “The Village”, a community seemly with the only purpose to get information from people (mostly secret agents who resigned). In The Village people have no names, but numbers. Number 2 is the outwardly leader of The Village and a new number 2 appears in (almost) every episode. The Prisoner is number 6. In every episode the leader of The Village comes up with a new way of trying to get “the priceless information” from number 6’s head. This mostly involves psychological experiments involving futuristic machines, drugs, hypnosis, etc. This results in marvelously weird situations in which number six always comes out as ‘the winner’. Therefor in the end, he is granted “the gift of individuality”.
In the series you can clearly see some critical views on modern society, democracy and science. Cleary has written magnificently about various elements in The Prisoner. There are -by the way- many strange elements to the series, such as a big white ball that comes out of the sea to punish people, the fact that you never get to know “who are the prisoners and who are the warders”, the strange machine in the control room, the eye-like cameras, weird characters, etc., etc. I think for these things the series have been seen as The X-Files and Twin Peaks of earlier decades. I don’t really agree with this, because The Prisoner is quite different from either series. The strange elements and sometimes the atmosphere (and characters) may remind especially of David Lynch’s masterpiece, but The Prisoner looks much more like James Bond to me than like Twin Peaks.
In any case. Even though the series are considerably older than myself, they are in colour and look “fresh as ever”. They are wonderfully shot, didn’t get oldfashioned and still highly enjoyable today. It is a series that make you think, “what do they mean”, “who is number 1”, “why doesn’t he just…”. They got a great sense of humour, recognisable situations, but also completely over-the-top scenes, philosophy and action. You can lend it to you parents who may watch it as James Bond, you can discuss it with your friends or on the many internet sites dedicated to The Prisoner. It seems that after the DVD release the popularity is raising a little and not without reason. The Prisoner is a magnificent, 17 times 50 minutes of TV. In my opinion maybe not as good as Twin Peaks, but probably a very agreeable second personal place in TV history. Buy and enjoy!

Plunkett & MacLeane * Jake Scott * 1999

This is one of these films that I wanted to see for a long time, but for some reason I never really came to it. Now that I did see it, I regret not having seen it before! Plunkett and MacLeane are two different people living in 18th century England who decide to work together stealing from the rich. This fact makes this film a nice crime film playing in the past with some nice scenes and good humour. What adds much to the film are some totally unorthodox elements that musicvideodirector Scott added to the film. Just imagine an 18th ball-scene with technoish music…? More then, Robert Carlyle is Plunkett and Carlyle we of course love for his part in Trainspotting. So, should you have been as dumb as me to skip this film, go and see it, it is worth the watch!

Ninth Gate * Roman Polanski * 1999

I saw this Polanski horror with Johnny Depp when it played in the cinemas. I remember not liking it too much, but I still watched it again was it was on TV recently.

Ninth Gate is one of these early ‘horror’ films with an occult theme. This time the story is that Depp is a ‘book-detective’, a collector of old books to sell them with profit. Boris Balkan is a fervent collector of works about the devil and he has one of the three remaining copies of “The Nine Gates To The Kingdom Of Shadows”, a truly magical book from which big powers can be drawn. Balkan hires Dean Corso (Depp) to compare his copy with the other remaining two. Corso discovers that the copies are not identical, the nine engravings are not the same. Six are signed by the author, three by Lucifer. The story goes that the author poured directly from the devilish source. Corso figures that the nine engravings of Lucifer will unravel the secrets of the book, but of course his quest isn’t without problems. Corso’s employer at least tries to gain ultimate power with a childish ritual, but when Corso himself has the real and original nine engravings, he only has to walk through the ninth gate. A mediocre film with a terrible end.

Merlin * Steve Barron * 1998

DVD distributors have discovered the market for older films and (old) TV series which are sold cheaply. “Merlin” is a three hour epic about of course the Celtic wizard Merlin (Sam Neil). I got this DVD for only E 3,50 (second DVD half price), which is for the better, because the film is not really good. The story is a bit too loosely based on different Celtic myths about Merlin and King Arthur and the presentation is a little childish. I think “Merlin” will appear more to Harry Potter fans than to people interested in Celtic mythology. It is no boring watch though, but with a little effort, the result could have been better.

Lost * J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof * series 1 2004

I remember when the first series came on Dutch television. Big anouncements, advertisement in tv-guides, raving commentaries. In that time we just had “Operation Robinson”, a “Big Brother” like “real life soap” and I expected “Lost” to be the original or at least an American counterpart. Later I heard that “Lost” was “Twin Peaks on a deserted island” and similar expressions and then people who followed the series were very enthousiastic about it and I understood that it was an actual series and not some time-filling “real life” thing. So in the end I watched the first series.
The two episode pilot is superb. Extremely realistic scenes of a crash-site of an airoplane, flashbacks of the crash which are also very realistic, survivors who stranded on a remote island with ‘something’ on it. A very nice mix between a disaster series and a Stephen King story. As the series continues the episodes do not have much to do with eachother, some are simple soap things with relationships that form or break, pragnancies, etc. In some episodes some strange things happen, but the high tension of the first two episodes never returns. What people like about the series is that in flashbacks you get to know a few of the characters and how they are connected to eachother. Personally I don’t think that this has much to do with the fact of them being on a deserted island. The series become a bit boring, but towards the end, things get better. The last two shows are again to parts of one episode and I feared that the series would suddenly end to announce the second series. Indeed, the last two episodes are again good, but just when things get really interesting again, it is “to be continued”, thank you for watching, goodbye. Very irritating, especially now that I see that there is already a third series. The different series do not stand on their own as in, for example, “24”, so I have my doubts if I want to see the second series only to have to wait to be able to see the next. Besides, “Lost” is not that good, so will I keep following them? You may see.