THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007) is a much better adaptation than I expected as a plucky orphan sets out to save her friends from scheming Nicole Kidman and the sinister Magisterium (though the impact of severing the daemons is much less clear than in the book) with the help of mad scientist Daniel Craig, sharpshooter Sam Elliott and polar-bear warrior Ian McKellan. A great female protagonist (reminiscent of the lead in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland) and a solid fantasy movie—though given all the problems the source book’s anti-religious themes created, I can’t imagine the creators could have pulled off adapting the second and third book, where the themes are much more prominent. Not for the book as space forces me to restrict parallel world tales (which this is) to specifically alternate history (which I don’t think it is) “It’s only one small cut.”
RE-CYCLE (2006) is one of those where I remember enough details to think I caught it before, but not enough to be certain (and I can’t find any reference to my watching it anywhere, which is unusual). This visually striking film would double-bill well with Oblivion Island as it follows the adventures of a writer in the weirdly surreal world where all abandoned things (like her recent project) disappear to. Unfortunately this Korean film would also double-bill well with Doonby for the anti-abortion theme (it turns out the little girl the protagonist is hanging with is the fetus she “abandoned” by aborting it). Definitely for the book in any case. “So the spiritual world I was writing about really exists.”
SIMON OF THE DESERT ((1965) is a short satire by Luis Buñuel in which Satan, after repeatedly failing to tempt the titular stylite off his pillar, drags him to a modern nightclub … the point of which is rather lacking (I think the implication is we’re witnessing the End Times [“This is the final dance!”] but it’s hard to say). Too slight for detailed coverage even if it was full-length (but as it’s a famous creator, it may make the appendix). “If I repent, Simon, would God restore me to my former glory?”
Rewatching THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008) was an interesting example of not stepping into the same river twice. The first time I caught this, I enjoyed the martial arts fantasy about an American teen drawn back into ancient China to help Jackie Chan and Jet Li liberate the Monkey King from an evil tyrant (though having Li and Chan play second fiddle to a bland white actor is absurd). However I now realize it’s a standard Time-Traveling Teen story, different from Excalibur Kid or Johnny Mysto, Boy Wizard only in the setting—though it is novel to have the hero actually learn to fight rather than just getting self-confidence. And given the hero saw his girlfriend expire in his arms, he really should have had a stronger reaction to meeting her exact double in the present.“He who speaks does not know, he knows does not speak—so you must be a master.”
DOCTOR WHO: The Reign of Terror is a partially lost serial from the First Doctor, now filled out with animation (they’ve done the same with Tenth Planet and Moonbase, but they’re not on Netflix yet). This story of the Doctor and his companions getting caught up in the French Revolution is familiar, but adequate (though the English accents the guest cast has sound really odd, especially when some characters come out as English spies). A nice touch to have Barbara admit she’s learned after The Aztecs that history changing isn’t an option.