Retro Movie Review: Rollerball

Rollerball started life as a short story by William Harrison called Roller Ball Murder.  This story, published around 1973 became the basis of the first Rollerball movie in 1975.  Rollball holds a special place of personal nostalgia because it was one of the first movie for adults that I remember watching (R-rated) and one of the first big scifi movies I remember seeing (there were other excellent movies before Rollerball, but I had yet to see them).

Rollerball is a strange story.  It’s set in the future where corporations have become governments and those corporations used sport to foster both loyalty to the corporation and, in the case of rollerball, prove that the individual is not important, only the group.  Rollerball accomplishes the latter because the game is designed to be extremely violent and players, then, would typically have a very short career.  However, Jonathan E. didn’t  fit the mold.

Jonathan E. survived and excelled at rollerball.  By surviving, he put the corporations in an awkward position.  They couldn’t just sack him; he was too popular.  So, they told him to retire.  However, the game was all he had left in life so he refused.  Thus the story become the conflict between the corporations that want him gone because he disrupted the purpose of the game and Jonathan, a relatively simple man, simply did not want to quit.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of James Caan’s portrayal of Jonathan E.  I think he played it fairly well since I think Jonathan’s character was that of an uncomplicated person struggling in a life where everything around him is full of schemes and machinations.  He’s a classic reluctant hero.

Overall, I still enjoy this film.  I like it’s setting (which turns out to be filmed in Germany), the music (classical score), and stark contrast of the incredible violence of the rollerball games and the  “intellectual”  settings almost everywhere else while all of it being a bit insane.

In contrast, Rollerball 2002 was a disappointment.  It is totally possible to make a better movie than the original, but it just didn’t happen in this case (despite the star-heavy cast).  Instead of a futuristic (and arguably unrealistic) world of the original movie, this movie is set former Soviet  Union and the game itself is a centerpiece of business.  The game itself in hard to figure out – why are they going through that tunnel?  The overall plot seems more like a story about human trafficking – most players are poorly paid, and once they’re in they can’t get out. A few scenes in the movie appeared to emulate scenes from the original, but they simply didn’t have the power of the original.  I really didn’t care about anyone in the film, about the setting, or the game.

Beginning the process of dropping cable TV

In our house, we’ve decided to do the unthinkable: drop cable tv.  We haven’t actually gone through with it yet since it’s a little harder to do than you might think.  The idea isn’t to flat out give up on TV; it’s to get as much TV bang for the buck.

Cable TV actually has a great deal of TV for the buck, just not that much of what we want.  There was a move years ago to pass regulation that would allow the subscriber to pick and choose what channels you want instead of having to have the Golf channel.  If we had that system, we’d probably have less than 20 total channels and would be happy.  Instead, we have to have to spend a ton and get a bunch of channels we don’t want just so we can see 1 or 2 that we really want.

So, what are our alternatives?  First, an antenna – we can get about 20 channels, maybe 5 we want.  The drawback?  It’s an antenna plus all the signals are digital in incompatible with our family TV (we do have a compatible alternate though).  Second, media purchasing sites like Amazon or iTunes.  These cost money, but if you buy carefully it’s cheaper than buying Cable TV.  Third, subscriptions such as Blockbuster and Netflix (we’re still trying these out).  Fourth, the library.  Libraries have a lot of content.  Sure, it’s older, but if you haven’t seen it it’s still new to you.  Fifth, free services like Hulu.

The biggest missing piece of this puzzle is children’s programming.  Nothing here is really operated with children’s programming in mind.  We still need to look at Netflix, but at least Hulu has some older children’s content.  I can imagine that a Hulu-like service that focused solely on children’s programming could make a mint.

As I mentioned before, our TV is a bit dated for this approach.  However, it’s not the only thing that’s dated.  We don’t have a relatively new computer for serving media (we have an old one, but I’ll post again on that!), nor do we have a blu-ray player.

We have a lot to do to make this transition happen.  We’ll see when we fully go cable TV free!