2020年6月25日 星期四

"Dust" by Hugh Howey (2013)

"Juliette stepped back to study her father.  Peter excused himself.  The noise from outside wasn't as loud this time when the door cracked, and Juliette realised Judge Picken had allowed her father passage, was out there calming the crowd.  Her dad had seen those people react to her, had heard what people had said.  She fought back a sudden welling of tears."

Dust is the third and final book in Hugh Howey's Silo series.  For a review of Wool, the first book in the series, click here.  For a review of Shift, the second book in the series, click here.  Below are the "Reading Group Questions" found at the back of the book:

Q: "Lukas and Juliette don't always see eye to eye when it comes to her plans for the future.  Were you backing Juliette all the way in her decisions?  Or did you disagree with anything she did?"

A: Lukas isn't any better developed in Dust than he was in Shift.  I'm hazy as to what his plans for Juliette's future were.  Points of view opposed to Juliette's aren't presented in any kind of detail, and this one-sidedness makes it hard to disagree with anything she does.

Q: "Donald soon discovers that Anna was working against her father, in order to help the people of silo forty.  Have your feelings changed toward Anna since Shift?  Do you think she could have helped Donald in Dust?  How"

A: Does he he make this kind of discovery though?  He has a feeling she was working against her father, but this feeling is never confirmed by subsequent events.  Anna, like Lukas, isn't a well developed character, so I never had any feelings about her one way or the other.  Could she have helped Donald in Dust?  Well, we know that she was proficient in programming (and things of that sort) while Donald isn't, so yes, she could have helped him if she'd been inclined to do so.

Q: "In an exchange with Nelson, Juliette considers how someone 'just doing their job' can lead them to doing some very nasty things.  Other than Nelson, are there any other characters in the trilogy that you can relate this to?  Would you consider Thurman to be one of these people?"

A: This question reminds me of high school English.  It's the kind of question the teacher would ask while you were reading The Diary of Anne Frank or something like that.  Blind obedience bad!  Questioning authority good!  Unless of course political correctness is at issue.

With characters who are little more that ciphers (or placeholders) it's hard to gauge how closely they're fulfilling (or not fulfilling) the responsibilities of their jobs.  Add to this the fact that the author never really describes what anyone's job really is.I am, in other words, unable to answer the question.

Q: "Solo places a lot of trust in Jules [Juliette] - not only that she will come back for him, but that she will give him a better life than the one he currently has.  Why does he trust her so completely?  Should he have trusted her?"

A: Because he doesn't have a choice?

Q: "Juliette's decisions lead her to the truth, but they also result in numerous deaths.  Would silo eighteen have been a better place if Juliette had never returned?"

A: A better place in the short term?  Probably.  In the long term?  The powers that be would have buried them under tons of concrete.  That was the overall plan, wasn't it?

And "the truth?"  What was the truth exactly?  That there was a magic dome of nanotechnology suspended over their silos?  A dome that's beyond the technological capabilities of the time that produced it?  A dome that's never explained?  This "twist" (if you can call it that) has to be the most irritating part of the book.  Not only does the author spend way too much time foreshadowing it, but when you finally get there it's like "What?  That's it?  And now they're all free, without any lasting psychological effects?"

Q: "Shirly seals the entrance to silo seventeen, ensuring her death in the poisoned silo.  Did she really not know what she was doing?  Or did she want to end life without her husband?  Was this her way of choosing her own fate?"

A: I'm pretty sure she knew what she was doing.  Did the person writing these questions not read the book?  Her character is just barely introduced at the end of Wool, so again it's hard to gauge her motivations.

Q: "Through Elise's eyes, we see how people turn to religion in times of fear and the unknown.  What does this say about the power of religion?  Can you relate this to our society's relationship with religion?"

A: Sorry but there's just not enough about religion in the book for me to make that kind of assessment.  A few crazies pop up near the end, and the author engages in a half-hearted discussion of the role of religion plays in people's lives, but the religion under discussion is never described.  It seems to be an offshoot of Christianity, but I'm not even sure about that.

Q: "Darcy gives Charlotte the benefit of the doubt, and risks his life on what she tells him.  Would Charlotte and Donald have succeeded without him?  Why do you think he believes her so quickly?  Would you have believed her?"

A: It's obvious they wouldn't have succeeded without him, though it's never evident that Darcy believes them entirely.  This is another question that points to the book's real weakness: the psychology of several characters never makes sense.

For example I take you and several other people, and bury you all in a big hole for several hundred years.  Some of you I put in suspended animation, and wake up periodically so you can fulfill certain functions.  Others I allow (or force) to live normal lifespans, to the point where your children and your children's children can't remember what the world outside the big hole is/was like.  Are you or anyone else I've put into the hole going to think like present-day people?  Are we going to have the same values?  Are we going to define ourselves in the same way?

Would I have believed Charlotte?  I don't know, I haven't been told why Darcy was put into the hole, or his personal reasons for being there.  We know he's just stopped taking the medication, but we know nothing about his worldview or what keeps him going.

Q: "Juliette has had quite a difficult relationship with her father throughout the trilogy.  Once they reach the outside, he wants to be the first to take his helmet off and Juliette agrees.  How do you feel their relationship has changed from Wool to this point?  Why?"

A: They've spent time together, they've overcome some of their differences.  That's it.

Q: "Ultimately, Donald is the one who causes the fall of silo one, and destroys what he first created.  Is this him killing himself before Thurman can kill him?  Or is this his way of atoning for his sins?"

A: But he didn't create silo one.  He only designed a small part of it.  He was going to die either way after his exposure to the nanomachines, so I'm not sure what atonement has to do with anything.

Q: "Juliette realises at the end that in asking people to believe in what she had seen, she wasn't being fair - knowing that if the roles were reversed, she would not believe it herself.  How would you feel if you were in her position?  What about if you were a member of silo eighteen?  Would you believe her?"

A: Well everyone saw her walk over the hill, and they later saw her come back, so obviously something happened.  Various other characters have also communicated with other silos, so there has to be some kind of explanation.

Q:"Throughout the trilogy, a number of the characters stand up for what they believe is right, even if it means going against the rules, from Juliette and Lukas, to Donald and Charlotte - and even Shaw in his own way.  Who do you believe is the true hero of the trilogy?  Why?"

A: I think the true hero of the trilogy is me, the guy that waded through three books in which most of the characters were never properly developed, and which are capped by one of the most infuriating endings ever.  As an example of world-building this story has a lot of holes, and not just the holes various groups are living in.  The author of this book had one job - ONE job - and that was to explain how these people had been detained in an interesting way - and he fails to do that.  I get mad again just thinking about it.

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2020年6月15日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 1983 (2)

For further background on the year in film, please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1983 entry.

Some things that happened in 1983:
  • The internet MIGHT have come into existence.  People argue about when this actually happened.
  • Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock appeared on TV.
  • The Miami Dolphins made it all the way to the Superbowl and lost.  In case you don't watch (American) football, the Dolphins are terrible now.
  • The last episode of M*A*S*H aired.
  • The first Swatch watches came out.
  • Ronald Reagan introduced his "Star Wars" defense initiative.
  • Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.
  • A massive drought ravaged the American Midwest.
  • Dragon's Lair, quite possibly the most frustrating arcade game ever, was appeared in arcades nationwide.
  • Nintendo's Famicom, the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was released in Japan.
  • The Soviets accidentally shot down a Korean airliner with a U.S. Congressman aboard.  It amazes me that this didn't trigger WWIII.
  • Huey Lewis and the News released Sports.
  • Jesse Jackson announced he'd be running for President of the United States.

1. Sans Soleil (Sunless)

Documentary (?) comparing everyday life in Japan and Africa.  At least that's what I THINK it's about.  There's a lot going on in this movie - and it doubles back on itself more than once - but I found the experience very edifying.  I was slightly drunk while viewing it, and that might have helped.  I'm sure it's great whether your'e drunk or not, but I do think that alcohol might diminish the "noise" in this movie to some extent.

Fun Fact(s): Junji Ito must have seen this.  Some of his manga Uzumaki (Spirals) borrows the spiral (Vertigo) theme from this film.  In it you can also see images from the movie House (Hausu) in the bit where people are "collectively dreaming" on the train.

2. L'Argent

Robert Bresson directed this adaptation of a Tolstoy story.  I'm not exactly sure what the central thesis is - money is the root of all evil?  An unmerciful society creates unmerciful individuals?  But whatever it is, this ambiguity only adds to the movie.  I especially liked the way the camera turns away from certain people at critical moments in the film, almost as if it was ashamed to look directly at them.

3. Danton

Yes, another French movie.  But this one is a French-Polish-West German production, so maybe that makes it different.  Gerard Depardieu stars as Danton, hero of the French Revolution, reduced to a suspected figure at the end of The Terror.  The production values are high, and its themes are still very relevant.  Many of the discussions of Robespierre's secret police and the role of a free press suggest more recent events.

Two things I love about this movie: 1) it was adapted from a play, but never feels like a play, and 2) It never bothers with the question of whether Danton was actually guilty or not.  The director and the screenwriter knew that wasn't where the story was.
Some Good Ones

1. Cujo

Rabies, dude.  And not like in David Cronenberg's Rabid either, with doesn't actually have anything to do with rabies.  A dog chases a rabbit into a bat-filled hole and you can guess the rest.  Dee Wallace stars as a morally flexible mom, and it does a great job of setting up its story.  No, St. Bernards - even rabid ones - aren't all that scary, but Cujo is a solid horror movie just the same.

2. The Right Stuff

Scott Glenn and Lance Henriksen, two actors I get confused all the time, appear together in this film about the U.S. space program.  The rest of the cast is also excellent - Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey and even Jeff Goldblum.  It's on the long side, but critics of the day loved it.  Definitely worth watching.

Fun Fact 1: Chuck Yeager appears in this movie as the bartender in Pancho's saloon.

Fun Fact 2: A big reason for this movie's existence is the colossal failure of director Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate.  After that movie bombed hard, United Artists sold the project to the Ladd Company and it entered production.

3. Barefoot Gen

I suppose that the watching of depressing cartoons is no more and no less than a race to the bottom.  At some point I'll actually end up watching a cartoon that manages to traumatize middle-aged me.  In Barefoot Gen a boy survives the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and this event in explored in all its grisly detail.  It's good though, and worth seeing if you'd like a Japanese perspective on the event.

4. A Nos Amours

A rebellious young woman comes of age in France.  The lead, Sandrine Bonnaire, is beautiful in the way that only French actresses can be beautiful, and her character's relationship with her family is interesting if a bit hard to relate to.  The director, Maurice Pialat, also plays Bonnaire's father in the film.

5. Pauline at the Beach

Hearts are broken in a French coastal town.  Pauline at the Beach explores much of the same subject matter as A Nos Amours above, though the relationships between the characters and the situations in which they find themselves seem a lot more natural.  The lead in this movie is also stunningly beautiful.

6. Twilight Zone: The Movie

I had vague memories of seeing this as a kid, but recently rewatched it to refresh my memory.  It's a solid movie, but as 80s horror anthologies go I think Creepshow was better.  I was surprised to learn that John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller (!) directed the four segments.  John Landis' segment was plagued with production difficulties, and what you see in the movie is an abbreviated version of what they were trying to do.

7. Dark Habits

"Habits" as in the things nuns wear, get it?  In this Pedro Almodovar movie several drug-addicted women take up residence in a convent full of eccentric nuns.  It's not without a certain charm, but I think Almodovar directed much better movies later on.  The inclusion of Marisa Paredes in this movie only makes the superiority of later films more obvious.  An "attack on Christianity?"  Eh, seems like hyperbole to me.
Some Bad Ones

1. Local Hero

An oil executive visits a small Scottish town with designs on buying it.  The most famous cast member is Burt Lancaster, though you might recognize other cast members from more interesting films.  Critics loved (and continue to love) it, but I found it boring.

2. A Christmas Story

A lot of annoying kids.  The story that inspired this movie probably isn't bad, but I couldn't take the way the kids in this movie acted.  That "my little piggy" scene at the dinner table?  My mom would have slapped the shit out of me.

Like Local Hero above, I'm going to have to disagree with the critics on this one.

3. Under Fire

Salvador it ain't.  Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman star as two reporters covering a war in Nicaragua.  The two characters have an interesting dynamic, and after a shaky start it's somewhat interesting, but it goes on way too long.  Nolte appeared in 48 Hrs. the year before, while Hackman hadn't done anything since a supporting role in 1981's Reds.

Fun Fact: Why do so many movies lead back to Predator?  If you look real close, about a third of the way through Elpidia Carrillo, the "captive insurgent" from Predator appears as - you guessed it - another insurgent.  Carrillo also, by the way, appeared in Salvador as James Woods' love interest.

4. Gorky Park

William Hurt stars as a detective trying to solve a murder case in Soviet Russia.  It could have been a half hour shorter, and none of the characters in it are especially engaging.  And what, by the way, is going on with Hurt's accent in this film?  Director Michael Apted did the disastrous Continental Divide the year before, and the excellent Coal Miner's Daughter the year before that.
So Bad It's Good

1. Sleepaway Camp

Super low budget Friday the 13th ripoff with a surprise ending.  It's easy to dismiss it as talky and boring, but once you stop taking it seriously it's an amusing hour and a half.  No one in this movie went on to become famous for any reason whatsoever, though it did spawn a whole series of films.  Certain revisionists try to claim that it's genuinely good, but no, it's really not.  Yes, the ending is memorable, but it doesn't automatically make everything up to that point good.

Fun Fact: The star of this movie went on to direct videos for Slayer.

1. Carnal Olympics

A porn magazine challenges two porn starlets to a series of sexual encounters as a way of proving who's the hottest.  Round One: the lesbian threesome.  Round Two: seducing a policeman.  Round Three: an orgy in which the male participants ejaculate into a bucket.  Thankfully they don't do anything with the contents of the bucket, because that's really not my thing.  

I know what you're thinking: with such a carefully nuanced, intricately structured plot, are the actors and actresses involved up to the task?  On this score rest easy, my friend.  Not only are they all well endowed, they're also the finest film performers of their generation.

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2020年6月12日 星期五

"Shift" by Hugh Howey (2013)

"Eren smiled and nodded.  'Great, well if you need anything, call me.  And the guy across the hall goes by Gable.  He used to hold down a post here but couldn't cut it.  Opted for a wipe instead of a deep freeze when given the choice.  Good guy.  Team player.  He'll be on for the next few months and can get you anything you need.'"

Shift is the second book in Hugh Howey's Silo Series.  I'm now reading Dust, the third book in this series, and will review it here when I'm finished.  For the general premise behind this series, and for information on the author, please refer to my review of Wool.  What follows are my responses to the "Reading Group Questions on Shift," which are to be found at the back of the book.

1. Q: Thurman truly believes that he is doing what is right for his country by building the silos and forcing people inside them.  Do you agree with him based on the information of the possible threat to his country?  Or is acting on anything but a certainty of a threat too much of a risk to take?

A: Do we know that though?  We know that he appears to believe that what he is doing is right, but I don't know that this belief is ever demonstrated to anyone's satisfaction.  Thurman isn't described all that well in any part of this novel, and his personal beliefs seem very far removed from the narrative.

This aspect of the book also strikes me as completely implausible, even given the fact that Shift is set thirty years or so in the future.  So... a congressman decides that another country is threatening the United States with some kind of nanotechnology... would this congressman - however well connected - be able to then mobilize a massive construction project and then secretly lure thousands of people into this project in a matter of months?  I mean, we're talking about the U.S. government here.  As it is, the U.S. government could barely respond to the coronavirus and the George Floyd incident.

But ok, let's step back from that for a moment and get abstract.  Is acting on anything less than a certain threat bad?  Given that the whole thrust of most countries' relations with one another is anticipatory I would say no, it's not too much of a risk to act.  The real argument here is whether or not Thurman's plan is practical, and I don't think it is.  Creating a much greater number of smaller cryogenic facilities over a much largeer area would have been more practical.  Large silos would be visible to satellite photography, and thus vulnerable to nuclear attack.  Any country clever enough to produce that type of nanotechnology would probably also have an espionage program in place and a few nukes lying around.

When you think about it, Thurman's response seems more inspired by the movie G.I. Joe.  Could it be that the author has also seen that movie?

2. Q: Mick is obviously aware of the last minute switch between himself and Donald when they go down into the silo just before the rally.  Of their two roles, Donald's is the more powerful, with much more responsibility, leading to him living hundreds of more years, but he is envious of Mick's relatively normal live in a silo with Helen.  Whose position would you rather be in?

Is it obvious though?  I guess.  I can't remember that part of the novel that well.  I think the choice between the two options is like a choice between a frying pan or a fire.  "Enjoy" a family life inside a tomb?  Or wake up every hundred or so years in the same tomb, with some vestige of authority?  Can I pick Option C instead?

3.Q: The members of silo one are given medication that causes them to forget traumatic events.  If you were offered this medication freely, would you take it?  Or would you want to remember the truth about your past?

What was Shatner's line in Star Trek 5?  "I need my pain?"  Something like that.  I guess I'd choose to remember.

4. Q: Donald discovers that Anna is the reason he's in silo one, and not with Helen in a different silo, and is furious.  Do you think she put him there for purely selfish reasons?  Or do you think she thought he would be the best man for the job?  In either case, do you think she had the right to make that decision for him?

Anna, like her father Thurman, isn't a very well-defined character.  I couldn't say whether her reasons were selfish or not.  I also couldn't say whether she thought Donald was the best man for the job or not.  I suppose if their insane project made some kind of logical sense then yes, she had the right to make the decision for him.  But their project was neither sane nor logical.

In Conclusion: If you loved Wool you'll like Shift.  It's much longer than it needs to be, and it adds very little to the premise set up in the first book.  Giving the silo more of a backstory would have added interest IF the characters at the center of this backstory are presented in compelling detail.  This book never manages to do that.

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2020年6月2日 星期二

Some Other Movies From 1982 (2)

For further background on the year in film please refer to the Some Other Movies From 1982 entry.

1982 was a good year for movies.  I feel like the 80s really got going that year, with classics like Conan the Barbarian and Tron released alongside one another.  Just as most movies from 1970 and 1971 feel more like 60s movies, most movies from 1980 and 1981 feel like they belong to the previous decade.

Some things that happened in 1982:
  • The Commodore 64 home computer was released.
  • The first computer virus was spread.
  • The planets aligned on the same side of the sun.
  • The Falklands War began between Britain and Argentina.
  • Lebanon started to fall apart.
  • Vic Morrow was killed while filming Twilight Zone: The Movie.
  • Mexico announced it was unable to pay its foreign debt.
  • The first CD player was released.
  • Helmut Kohl became Chancellor of Germany.
  • Solidarity, a trade union, appeared in Poland.
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller was released.
  • Gasoline prices plummeted.

1. The Verdict

Paul Newman stars as an attorney trying to do the right thing.  Sidney Lumet directed from a script by David Mamet.  Newman was great in a lot of great movies, but this just might be the best thing he ever did.  If you enjoyed 2015's Spotlight you'll also enjoy this one.

Fun Fact 1: Newman would win the Academy Award for Best Actor four years later for The Color of Money.  Newman was also nominated for The Verdict.

Fun Fact 2: If you look real hard you can see Bruce Willis in the back of the courtroom toward the end of the movie.

2. Fanny and Alexander

It's Ingmar Bergman, so don't expect sunshine and rainbows.  Every time I hear Bergman's name I think of Scenes from a Marriage, one of the most depressing things I've ever forced myself to sit through.  Fanny and Alexander may be more historically-oriented, but it's also depressingly Scandinavian at times.  It's unquestionably excellent however, and the ending is a lot more upbeat that what you'd expect given the director's filmography.  Break this movie into two sittings and you'll enjoy it a lot more.
The Gay Citizen Kane?  Or So Bad It's Great?

1. Querelle

Ranier Werner Fassbinder's last film before his death in 1982.  It's one of the gayest things I've ever seen, and also gloriously weird into the bargain.  Fassbinder filmed this after completing Veronika Voss (below) and in this movie the director (perhaps unintentionally) makes a more personal statement.  If you're the kind of person who can appreciate more recent volumes of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure or John Waters' earlier films you'll get this right away.

Fun Fact: Brad Davis, the star of this movie, appeared in Chariots of Fire the year before and Midnight Express four years earlier.  That line in Airplane! about Turkish prisons is a reference to Midnight Express.
Some Good Ones

1. The Secret of Nimh

A mouse tries to save her babies from a plow.  Sounds stupid but yeah, that's the plot of The Secret of Nimh.  It's not as traumatizing as the earlier Watership Down, but it shares with that movie a certain brutality.

Fun Fact: There are plans for a live-action (?) remake of this film, with the Russo Brothers producing.

2. Veronika Voss

Beautifully photographed film from director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  In Veronika Voss a reporter falls for a washed up actress.  I'm not that well-informed when it comes to German films, but I have the feeling this is one of the better known movies from that country.

3. Deathtrap

Another film from Sidney Lumet.  In this one Michael Caine stars as a playwright past his prime, with Christopher Reeve (!) as his protege.  Dyan Cannon costars as Caine's wealthy wife.  Caine starred in Educating Rita the same year, Reeve would star in Superman III the year after, and even though both actors turn in strong performances in this talky thriller it isn't nearly as memorable.  It isn't, for that matter, remotely as good as Lumet's The Verdict (above).

4. The Dark Crystal

1982 was a good year for nightmare-inducing children's movies.  In The Dark Crystal Jim Henson forsook the usual muppets for some altogether freakier creatures, telling the story of a young orphan in search of a piece of a crystal that keeps his world going.  Put this movie together with The Secret of Nimh and The Plague Dogs and you've got a triple threat that'll have any kid wetting the bed within hours.  People love to mention Jim Henson in connection with Labyrinth, while The Dark Crystal seems relatively forgotten.

5. Airplane II: The Sequel

NOT hilarious.  One chuckle.  Maybe two.  Thing is, if you're watching movies to get a sense of pop culture during a specific year, comedies like Airplane II can be a goldmine.  A lot of the jokes in this movie reference that year's news items, and even though they're no longer that funny they offer an interesting window into what was on people's minds in 1982.  For me an added plus was the fact that I watched this right after finishing Arthur Hailey's novel Airport, upon which the movie of the same name was based, which the first Airplane! was satirizing, and which Airplane II also borrows from heavily.

Fun Fact: If the woman standing next to William Shatner looks familiar, it's because that's Sandahl Bergman, who appeared as Valeria in Conan the Barbarian the same year.

6. Burden of Dreams

Documentary about the making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo.  For me this movie had five points of interest, these being: 1) This movie, like the engineering feat at the center of its plot, really was an insane undertaking, 2) Jason Robards and Mick Jagger were originally set to star in this movie, and had filmed as much as 40% of the film before illness or production delays forced them to quit, 3) The relations between the German film crew and the native people who both helped make and appeared in this movie were very complex, 4) Herzog was completely willing to risk people's lives in the making of his project, and 5) He even went so far as to hire prostitutes for the film crew to avoid trouble with nearby tribespeople.

7. The Plague Dogs

Nightmare-inducing kids' movies?  I hereby give you The Plague Dogs, which makes Watership Down look like a walk in the park.  In this animated feature two dogs escape from a British laboratory.  It's too long for its own good, but it's a thought-provoking story that says as much about people as the animals they experiment upon.

Fun Fact 1: Despite the British setting this film was animated in San Francisco.  Brad Bird was among the animators involved.

Fun Fact 2: John Hurt, who also voiced one of the rabbits in Watership Down, voiced one of the two dogs in this movie.
Some Bad Ones

1. The Last Unicorn

Like The Hobbit another Rankin/Bass production.  The first half is alright, but the second half feels very random.  Worse still are the songs in this movie, which sound like they were made up on the spot.  Fans of Spirited Away might enjoy the Topcraft connection, but others will be bored by it.  Critics at the time loved it, though in terms of online scores it's not as well received as The Secret of Nimh (above).

2. Firefox

Clint Eastwood's sent on a mission to steal a Russian superplane.  It's definitely not one of Eastwood's better movies, and in terms of guys stealing weapons above their pay grade it pales in comparison to Blue Thunder.  I saw it many times on HBO when I was little.  Didn't make much of an impression then, and doesn't make much of an impression now.

3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

John Carpenter might not have directed this movie, but he produced it and did the soundtrack.  Audiences in 1982 were undoubtedly wondering where Michael Myers was.  Strange as it may seem, he's nowhere to be found in this movie.

Instead we've got a doctor who runs afoul of an evil novelty company.  The first half isn't that bad, but I was having a hard time understanding what happens after the bad guy reveals his evil plan.  What does the fragment of Stonehenge do, exactly?  And how do the masks change people?  And what's the deal with those "robots?"  Are they mechanical, or do they have something to do with the bugs?  I'm also having trouble understanding how some guy could call television stations from a gas station on Halloween and get them to stop running a certain commercial - on more than one channel - with just an assurance that trouble is coming.  I guess it could all be explained away as "magic," but is that an explanation that would satisfy most viewers?

4. The Man From Snowy River

Kirk Douglas plays two roles in this George Miller (!) film about the Australian Outback.  The plot is strangely hard to follow, and it took me way too long to figure out that handsome cattle baron Douglas and peg legged prospector Douglas were supposed to be two different people.  It reminded me at times of Baz Luhrmann's Australia, but that sense of similarity might be due to the fact that I haven't seen as many films from that country.

5. Evil Under the Sun

My biggest complaint is probably more of a complaint about the Agatha Christie novel it was adapted from: the murderers' plot is completely implausible.  That business with the wristwatches?  The feigning of vertigo?  The switching of one person with another?  How would any of those things have come together into a convincing alibi unless all of the other characters were paying an abnormal amount of attention, or if certain other characters hadn't been complicit in the plot?  Add to this the amazing coincidence of the body which is discovered at the beginning of the film, and add to this the fact that this discovery ties so neatly together with the murderers' sudden lapse in judgment at the conclusion of the story.

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