Have You Ever Seen...
White Dwarf (1995)
You know those films and tv shows that you had seen and long forgot about, but the vague memories of scenes and characters still haunt the folds of your brain? I thought I had cleansed myself of all those phantoms and put names to the majority of the memories, but out of the blue I was plagued with random ass recollections of that wonderful oversized muppet mug you see in the image above. So after some deep digging I was able to find the name of this made for TV disaster pilot that played on Fox back in 1995 and was able to watch it on Youtube. And I say disaster, but it actually has some redeeming qualities.
The show takes place in 3040 and follows a snobbish doctor (Neal McDonough, who played Dum Dum Dugan in Cap America) who is completing his internship on a rural planet called Rusta. Rusta is tidally locked, and one half of the planet experiences eternal night while the other lives in eternal day. McDonough's character is an obnoxious twit, but thankfully his superior played by Paul Winfield is generally more important and gets plenty of screen time. I have to admit that I took a lot of my joy from the fact that the Darmok alien was essentially the BAMF of the film who could kill with just his voice. Meanwhile, everytime babyface Dum Dum Dugan popped up.......
Anyway, there's a civil war between the light and dark sides, a royal assassination, a couple evil worms, magic surgical gloves, a lot of bad special effects, and enough annoying children that it's not a mystery as to why this wasn't picked up for a series. The best aspect of the show was the story about the Warden that oversaw the Keep that kept order between the two warring sides of the planet. Essentially a neutral power, Warden Osh was a giant fish faced monster man who kept all political prisoners alive for millennia. Osh secretes an ooze that stalls the aging process, essentially causing immortality and therefor creating a sort of hellish existence of infinite imprisonment for criminals. The nice twist is that Osh fell in love with one of these prisoners, a woman known as Lady X. And while she can't really hate or love Osh, he is literally all she has so they have an interestingly unique relationship. I just want a whole story about them to be honest
Other positive highlights include:
- The main nurse at the hospital is played by CCH Pounder, and anything with CCH Pounder in it is better regardless of how bad it may be. Such is the power of CCH Pounder.
- The oceans essentially consist of blood and the wailing souls of the dead. Doesn't get much more metal than that.
- The day/night split is a fun idea if handled well. Unfortunately, they just decided the night side was medieval and the day side was Victorian-y, despite space age technology existing that would obviously change both sides. Oh well.
- This was actually co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, so just have fun trying to piece together the scenarios in how this was created.
White Dwarf was a smorgasbord of ideas offered on cheap and fragile dinnerware, and despite a few good performers and some nice monster makeup it's still drowning in bad acting and low production values. I think it's worth a look but you have to have like zero expectations for quality. Then you'll be somewhat impressed with whatever positives arise and you kinda get something out of the deal.
Anyway, here's a nice pick of Osh that was actually posted last year by one of his creators.
You think trailers still exist for stuff like this? Here, the whole thing is up on Youtube.
I always felt like this kinda got the short end of the stick in its release and marketing. My DVD copy highlights Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov on the front cover with nary a mention of creator/director Shane Acker, so that already feels kinda bleh.
The story follows a newly born ragdoll creature given the name 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) who has to figure out the mystery of his creation and the post-apocalyptic steampunk world he's awoken to. While being hunted by a chimera like machine monster, 9 befriends others like him and they need to try and save what's left of their world. It has a pretty great voice cast that includes John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, and Fred Tatasciore. Toss on top of that some really nice animation, a well executed story, and a uniquely designed world and you have a pretty solid viewing experience.
I think general critic complaints centered on a fairly simplistic plot and narrative, but I'll take a simple plot with a strong visual style and consistent sense of tone and storytelling any day. I think the only fault for me really is that it walks a vague line between it's steampunk/industrial horror tones and the odd alchemy/metaphysical concepts it plays around with that deal with the fragmenting of the soul. I like all of these elements and would like to see everything fleshed out more, but I also think they did a solid job with the 79 minute run time.
If you've never seen the short film that Acker did before this feature length expansion it's worth checking out. And if you've never seen the full movie then maybe check the short as a concept teaser and see if you're into the world design.
Night Train to Munich (1940)
When it comes to classics and mainstream popular films I won't have too much worthwhile to add to the discourse, but I'm just now getting into Carol Reed stuff and this Criterion release was really nice with some great features and crisp transfer. Also, love that cover art.
The plot centers on the Nazis trying to capture a Czech scientist but instead they capture his daughter Anna as leverage. There's a back and forth of her getting away, being captured again, and then having to escape again with the help of a gentleman spy named Dickie Randall. Randall posses as a German officer as he attempts to get Anna and her father to Switzerland, then shenanigans ensue on the train to Munich.
Highlights for me include:
-Besides being my first time seeing this and being my first Carol Reed exposure, I believe this was my first Rex Harrison film and I really loved his performance. He brought a ton of charm and humor to his role, and there was just a lot of sassiness.
- I love that there's like a sub-cinematic universe featuring the characters of Charters and Caldicott. If you're unfamiliar, they're a pair of travelers that appeared in the 1938 Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes and are cricket enthusiasts that just want to get back to England to watch a game. They carry over into Night Train with the same obsession for cricket (but actually help fight Nazis this time around), and they were so popular that they just kept appearing in other movies albeit with different names sometimes.
I've also recently watched Reed's Odd Man Out (which I'll chat about later), and that film is absolutely beautiful so I'll be tackling more of his works over time. If you've never seen this classic I heartily recommend it, especially as an initial step into Reed's filmography.