World on a Wire

[1.0 stars] World on a Wire (1973) on IMDb [Amazon]

It happens sometimes: a movie that Netflix thought I would love, highly rated at IMDB, and I couldn't wait for it to be over.

It is a made-for-German-TV science fiction film from 1973, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It's long, spanning two DVDs. It's based on the novel Simulacron-3 by American writer Daniel F. Galouye. The release is given the classic "Criterion Collection" treatment, given Fassbinder's reputation as a famous artsy director.

The story centers on Fred, who works for a company developing a computer system that simulates the real world; the simulation involves a thousands of simulated human intelligences, who (of course) are unaware that they're living in a constructed artificial world.

Fred has stepped into a supervisory role due to the mysterious death of his boss, Vollmer, who was acting strangely just before he met his doom. At a party, the company's security dude is about to tell Fred something shocking about Vollmer's death, but… he mysteriously vanishes before spilling the bohnen. Worse, after a short time passes, Fred is seemingly the only guy who remembers the security guy even existed. And there seems to be a shady big-business conspiracy behind it all.

This must have seemed deeply weird and inexplicable back in 1973. Without spoiling things too much: if you've seen many science fiction movies since then, it's pretty obvious what's going on.

But nobody in this movie has seen those movies, so they've got absolutely no clue. And Fred finds himself doubting his own sanity.

The movie is low-budget, slow-moving, and pretentious. (Although some find it artful.) So how much nudity could you have on German TV in 1973? Answer: Some, not a lot.

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:51 AM EDT

The Woman in Black

[3.0 stars] The Woman in Black (2012) on IMDb [Amazon]

It's Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe! And he's in an adult role! Good for him.

He plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer in early 20th century England. Arthur's a widower, his wife having died four years previous in childbirth. He's still pretty broken up about it, and his ongoing depression is beginning to bum out his son, Joseph.

Arthur is also not pulling his weight at his law firm; he's given one last chance to redeem himself: travel up to a remote village to straighten out the financial affairs of the late Mrs. Drablow, mistress of Eel Marsh House.

But here's what we know that Arthur doesn't: a strange supernatural force afflicts the village, one that causes the village's children to seek their own demise. The villagers have figured out there's a connection to Eel Marsh House, and that Arthur's likely to irk the evil spirit even more by his presence. So they're pretty hostile. Understandable, actually.

Things get darker and more threatening as Arthur gradually discovers what's going on. He (eventually) comes to realize that his plan to have his son come up for a pleasant visit was a dreadful mistake, and his only hope is to mollify the ghost in time. But will he?

Not bad, but there's a lot of Bad Things happening to kids in this movie, and that's kind of nasty. Also I didn't care for the ending, which (without spoilers) is of a type pretty common in the horror genre.

Last Modified 2012-09-21 10:44 AM EDT