Whither Wyndham?

We need to warn pipple.

Triffds of a different era

Delivered in a montone normally associated with a bored nine-year-old forced to play the shepherd in the school nativity play when he’d rather be blowing shit up on his PS3. Not the reaction you’d expect to the sight of giant, man-eating plants wandering up the M25. But that’s how it rolls in a new adaption of John Wyndham‘s classic The Day of the Triffids, the BBC’s big new sci-fi extravaganza for the festive period. The dull, Scottish brogue of Dougray Scott, and acting that it almost as unforgiveably bad from Joely Richardson, are, amazingly, not the lowlight of the two-parter. The plodding script, the leads’ habit of explaining exactly what you’ve just seen happen, the hapless portentousness (the main villain glaring at statues of Churchill before wandering into Downing Street) the spectacular plane crash in central London (more to the point, Eddie Izzard‘s remarkable survival of the above, just the kind of scientifcally imporbably cobblers you feel Wyndham would’ve striven to avoid). It truly is a dreadful, wasted opportunity.

the second episode was markedly better – it wouldn’t’ve taken much, but the presence of Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox helped. Not that the plotting improved, nor the acting. First, Izzard forgets what side of the Atlantic he’s on, and produces the kind of accent last seen in Emmerdale Farm circa 1993 – the ‘I’ve been British up until now, but since the plot seems to have been borrowed unacknowledged from a 1950s B-movie, I’d better go a bit mid-Atlantic’. Then, aid arrives care of a remote African tribe (with remarkable good English skills, all things considered), who reveal that the answer comes in mis-applied makeup. being more roots and culture (pun unintended, but entirely unavoidable) they realise that some misapplied Goth-style eyeliner can save us all, and we all live happily ever after.

Frankly the whole thing veers so far from Wyndham’s archetypal cosy catastrophe – a portrayal of global meltdown through the eyes of someone like you – that the viewer wonders what the point is. The writers clearly felt that the script was in need of references to contemporary concerns, corporate greed climate change etc… so why not write your own rather than trying to shoehorn in minor plot elements that really don’t work? Or look elsehwere for your source material.

I’ve recently finished reading a marvelous book, taking in some of the themes and sci-fi elements of Triffids but with a streak of environmental awareness running through it, references to melting polar ice caps, climate change and global warming. It’s a chilling adventure which is desperately in need of a TV adapation and would’ve made a great Christmas special for the BBC. And the real twist in the tale is that this book was written in 1953, just two years after Triffids. Its title?

Is The Box worth opening?

Director Richard Kelly‘s transition from Donnie Darko to Southland Tales is one of the more extreme example of going from the sublime to the ridiculous in Hollywood history.

His 2001 debut was a stunning, beguiling and, in a good way, incomprehensible tale of time travel, high school, mystery and superstition, set against the backdrop of a richly-realised Reagan-era California. His highly anticipated follow-up was just incomprehensible. In a bad way.

So, much rests on The Box, Kelly’s latest effort and a new take on Richard Matheson‘s short story Button, Button, previously translated into a memorable episode of The Twilight Zone (80s incarnation).

Will it confirm the potential of Kelly’s debut or suggest that Darko was notingh more than a one-off? Well… put it this way, it doesn’t involve The Rock singing along to The Killers.

Cameron Diaz takes the lead as Norma Lewis, hard-pressed wife of a wannabe astronaut and teacher at a Virginia prep school in 1976 (the historical setting is largely realised through the medium of garish wallpaper and poor fashion choices – which kind of works, much as it did in Ang Lee‘s The Ice Storm).

Her life is changed in the early hours of  by the arrival of a mysterious, disfigured stranger, Arlington Steward (the excellent Frank Langella), and the offer on $1 million – with one hell of a catch.

If she presses the mysterious button in the titular Box, her family’s financial worries will vanish. But a person, unknown to her and her husband, will die.

Matheson’s original story [well, not strictly speaking, as The Twilight Zone took some big liberties with the plot]  is played out inside the opening half hour or so (along with some spooky allusions to Sartre and Arthur C. Clarke), easing fears that a well-known tale which made a perfectly good Twilight Zone episode may not cut muster at feature length. The Box delves into the whys and wherefores of the moral dilemna and the implications of Norma’s actions.

This wouldn’t be a Richard Kelly movie if it provided solid answers, but a reliably spooky atmosphere and a pinch of the paranoid movies of the post-Watergate era makes for an enjoyable-enough ride. It’s not Darko – nothing is – but it is a thorough return to form that’ll have you waiting for the DVD release just so you can pore over the clues one more time.

Review; Took Lae Dae, Sukhumvit Soi 16

OK, so the main purpose of this website is to turn some of the review I mentally write into actual words that people can read.

Classy as ever, I start with a place I eat at virtually every schoolnight. Tucked inside Foodland supermarket, Took Lae Dae is Thailand’s answer to the Asda cafe – but there the comparison stops.

The menu is extensive and varied, with some 67 food items (They’re numbered, I didn’t count) and a healthy selection of specials (displayed on posters around the restaurant, so finding them can be something of a challenge).

The open kitchen makes a splendid job of Asian classics (Thai green curry is a particular highlight), but it’s the affordable and unusual selection of Western dishes that really intrigues.

Sure, you can get a burger and fries (the cheapest in town by some distance) and the club sandwich (which, commonly for Asia, and indeed Eastern Europe, come with egg, pah) but there’s alsosome more unusual variations that go beyond the norm, like stuff pork cordon bleu and the ‘butcher’s choice’ combination of five sausages. The American breakfast is also renowned, not to mention dirt cheap.

It’s all fresh too – the restaurant makes use of produce straight off the shelves of the adjacent store.

If there’s one downside it’s that the portions can be a little on the small side – but with few items coming in at more than 100 baht (roughly two quid UK) you can have two….

Best of all, for a night-owl like me, it’s open 24 hours a day (as is the supermarket, which has a refreshingly loose interpretation of Thailand’s ridiculous licensing laws).