Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Netflix: Hidden Gems

After having to sit on the sidelines and enviously watch my friends in the USA enjoy their service for the last few years, Netflix’s online streaming finally launched in Canada last week. There’s a lot of grumbling about their limited selection, which is true when you compare it to the USA’s catalog, but in isolation I think it’s still very worthwhile. The documentary section in particular is extremely impressive. As long as you aren’t expecting first-run or new-to-DVD movies, I suspect most people can easily find the four hours or so of content per month that makes it worth your money.

Here are a list of some of my favourites that you might not be aware of. These aren’t the big obvious selections that everyone will pick up on, like Mad Men or the newer movies, but hopefully things you might not have heard of before.

Nova: Battle of the X-Planes

One of my favourite documentaries ever, this film is an inside look at the competition between Boeing and Lockheed to design the Joint Strike Fighter. The crew had full access to both teams during the development process and the finished documentary is gripping, unique and extremely cool!

The Day of the Triffids

This is the 1980’s BBC version of John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, featuring some nasty plants (as well as man’s inhumanity to man, the benefits of high-calibre weapons and oddly, seawater). It may look a little dated now but it’s brilliantly written and acted and has some really creepy scenes.

Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth

This is a fantastic documentary about a fascinating man. Ellison is one of the most celebrated sci-fi authors in history, and happens to be one of the most angry and irascible persons you’ll ever meet. Despite his near-constant fury he comes across as quite lovable in this film. I’m sure he’d hate to hear himself described like that.


An absolutely amazing movie from the hit-and-miss, incredibly prolific Takashi Miike. I don’t even want to tell you what genre it’s in. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read anything about it and just watch it, but not with the kids!

For All Mankind

A beautiful documentary covering the Apollo space program. It’s not really like any other documentary on the subject, concentrating almost entirely on the images shot by the astronauts themselves. It’s powerful and visually stunning.


Yeah, the movie about the talking pig. I know, I know, you’re far too manly to watch this. I had to be almost forced into seeing it by a friend over a decade ago, and it remains one of my favourite finds. It’s amazingly funny and also, if you can stand it, heartwarming. And if that’s still not convincing enough for you macho types, it was directed by George Miller, who also gave us Mad Max!

Step Into Liquid

Visually mindblowing surfing documentary. Whether you’re into surfing or not (and I’m not), this is worth your time.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Forget the movie of a few years ago, this is the original BBC TV production, scripted by Douglas Adams himself. Hilarious, with an iconic presentation of the eponymous book. Unmissable.

So there you go. Plenty to watch, in case the new TV season didn’t have enough for you already. I’ve already found a lot more good stuff available, so I’ll do another one of these posts at some point.

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We hit the milestone at work on Friday! Woohoo! The game looks AMAZING. It’s still early days but at this stage I think it’s probably the best game I’ve worked on. We just need to keep the intensity up and deliver the rest of the content but I’m really, really optimistic. Can’t wait until it’s announced, not too much longer now I hope.

Another milestone occurred last night – I saw Watchmen.


I first read Watchmen when it was published as a graphic novel (as opposed to the single issues it was originally published in over a couple of years). So probably 1988 or 1989. I’ve re-read it every year or two since, and without fail, every time I read it I find something new. It’s one of the most rewarding pieces of fiction I’ve read. What really sets it apart from lesser works for me is the incredible amount of background detail, the asides and sub-plots, the color and texture that transform the main plot (which is already complex by itself) into something truly multi-dimensional.

So I suppose you could say I’m a fan :) However I’m not one of those people who demand that an adaptation absolutely must follow the original work exactly. In fact, in the case of Watchmen, it would be impossible. The original comics play with things like the panel layouts to achieve certain effects, which just can’t map to a different medium. So I absolutely expect and even welcome changes for a movie adaptation; in fact, the most important thing is that it works AS A MOVIE, as long as certain basics are kept intact.

So for me, the movie both succeeds and fails. It succeeds in that it tells the story of the main plot, in a mostly coherent and stylish manner. It fails in that occasionally, style gets in the way (such as the love scene in the Owlship), and most importantly, almost all of the details, the little story touches that really anchor the world in the comic have been stripped away. I don’t mean visually; the sets are beautiful, and have lots of little details that I’m sure will make it fun to pause the eventual blu-ray version and try and find them all. But things like the the story of the criminal psychologist who treats Kovacs and the heartbreaking effect it has on his life and his marriage; the subtleties of Jon Osterman’s life story; the effects that Dr Manhattan has had on culture and technology and so on are just GONE and the work is poorer for the lack of them.

But that’s the central problem. The film is 2 hours 45 minutes long WITHOUT all of those things in it, and the dozens I didn’t mention. If anything, in a perfect world we’d have had an HBO miniseries instead of a movie. But we’re not lucky enough to live in that world, and there are certain commercial realities in this one (ie. you can’t make a 5 hour movie because nobody would sit through it, and I doubt the property is seen as important enough to split it into multiple movies like LOTR). Given that, I think Snyder has made pretty much the best possible version of Watchmen that we could expect; I just don’t know that it’s enough for me.

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