Film This week I watched some films, which I'll talk about in a moment. On other nights, as well as Doctor Who (which you hear enough about already), Freaks and Geeks (which I'll talk about when I've completed its eighteen episodes) and Australia's The Code, BBC Four's latest transcontinental import this time from Australia which began last Saturday and most people don't seem to have watched due to the scheduling carnage on the other side and not just in Mummy on the Orient Express. Nothing about it is original. Some of it's a bit Homeland. Some of it's a bit State of Play. Some of it's a bit The Thick of It. Some of it's Broadchurch in the outback. There's also lashings of Attachments of all things (or the blogging scenes in Netflix's House of Cards if you want to be kinder). But it's also entirely gripping, has some fabulous performances and has a bonus of being over in six episodes so you know it's not going to meander on like some US and UK shows with their multiple episodes of filler and red herrings. There's one scene in the second episode in which what seem like they're going to be huge mysteries that will sustain the thing are explained in about two sentences indicating immediately that there's more exciting enigmas ahead.
The Zero Theorum
A week's worth of films about lonely men which is just the sort of thing you don't need when you're unmarried and pushing forty (two weeks to go) (yes, Halloween) (I've heard that one) (and that one too). Transcendence wasn't well received on release (19% RT) which as ever seems to have been born from high expectation, a marketing campaign which suggested it was something it isn't and the kind of pack mentality which also killed the likes of John Carter which was also equally fine if not quite spectacular. Inception this isn't. What Wally Pfister's produced instead is a homage to the genre films of the late-70s/early-eighties, The China Syndrome, Electric Dreams, War Games, and um, Capricorn One, but focusing on contemporary concerns about the potential sentience of the web and were it might logically lead. Coma especially is suggested in the large white rooms that the entity ultimately inhabits. If there are problems, it's a lack of focus in relation to the protagonist, which should be Rebecca Hall's character, but because there are so many other great actors and Pfister feels the need to service them, her agency is depleted at just the wrong moments. Except those other actor's characters feel underutilized too only really turning up for expository purposes. Odd.
The Zero Theorum is a pretty good argument against home working and is just how I imagine it must be for people who work on the Amazon Mechanical Turk. A bit of a greatest hits package from Terry Gilliam, an 80s retro Brazil with Parnassus's fantasy sequences. It's obtuse rather than entertaining and it's dispiriting to see him falling back on some of his old tropes when he is given creative freedom for a change (albeit on a modest budget). For all that, it's good to Christoph Waltz in a complex, sympathetic lead role and the production design is as atmospheric and remarkable as any Gilliam film. I was also reminded how few of Gilliam's films have strong female characters that aren't objects of desire. Only two female characters have speaking parts here and only one, Mélanie Thierry's MPDG any great stretch of screen time. I've never really considered him a blokey director, but apart from The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys, in the both of which he was "for hire" rather than working on personal projects as such, females above the age of tween tend to be damsels. On the upside, the QR Codes on the street advertising actually work if you pause the blu-ray and scan them, offering extra textual messages and jokes. If only all films had that attention to detail.