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The Unit (2006)
Better and better
I tuned in to this show for the first time after reading several negative comments here on IMDb. And to be honest, I saw some of the flaws that people had pointed out: action was not cool enough (read "big budget enough") while the plot of the wives back home was better but not gripping enough to tune in again.
I see a trend in television: use clichéd characters to save narrative time and flesh them out as the series progresses. Provide nuances and wrinkles that add interest after you have captured an audience based on lowest common denominator viewers. I personally see this as a dangerous trend, but still, I can see why it is done. Perhaps the early episodes suffered from this "shorthand" technique, notwithstanding the excellent pedigree provided by David Mamet and Dennis Haysbert.
Nevertheless, I have watched a couple of new episodes lately and I think it is truly engaging television. I am hooked. So now that I have formed this addiction, I hope the network doesn't yank it away and send me into withdrawal. Shows like this need time not only to garner a respectable audience, but also to settle into a rhythm and allow quality to take root.
Scary Movie 2 (2001)
If you like toilet humor, you'll enjoy this movie. If you like plot and dialog and acting, you won't like this movie at all. I gave it a chance and actually laughed in a few places because the exaggeration and over-the-top political incorrectness appealed to me.
Tim Curry and James Woods do a pretty good job in their scenes. But their performances indicate that the director was looking for clichés and slightly stilted delivery as part of the humor. Having said that, this movie may offer one of Tori Spelling's best career performances.
These kinds of movies seem to be a hit with teenagers and college kids, and I always try to rekindle my youth by watching them. I admit I laughed, but then I wondered why I had. Still, I give the Wayans brothers credit for getting a laugh out of me in the first place.
What's wrong with this show?
Critics of this show say there is a fundamental flaw with the concept of E-Ring: the main characters, including the protagonist played by Benjamin Bratt, are not really heroes.
The line of thinking says that characters have to operate completely autonomously to be considered heroic. The comments I've seen point out that Bratt and his colleagues (including boss Dennis Hopper) direct others to do the work but need to get approval from above for that work to be carried out. In other words, they don't DO anything themselves.
I watched the episodes I've seen with a jaundiced eye, the critics' words in mind. But Bratt comes off as, while slightly arrogant and naive, a true crusader who is learning to work the system to get very heroic things done. Along the way he designs some pretty creative military missions.
Jerry Bruckheimer may be stretching himself a little thin, but this one is pretty darn good. I would give it 7 out of 10. For one thing, the acting and writing (discounting a few egregious clichés) is better than CSI: Miami.
Over There (2005)
Perhaps serious subject matter should get serious treatment. But it rarely does. Over There is no different from almost any other drama that fictionalizes real events. My wife watches medical shows and winces at all the mistakes they make. My lawyer friends gripe about how fake the legal dramas are. My cop friends laugh about the flaws in most police dramas. I don't know any forensics folks, but I am sure they whine about the lack of verisimilitude on CSI.
The fact is that we should discount all the "accuracy" complaints and focus on the complaints about the show's writing and acting. I enjoy the show, but it is really did start out full of clichés. I think as each episode reveals more about the characters, the clichés are diluted. This is actually a pretty standard TV-land approach: don't make the audience think too much at first. Paint characters in bold bright colors that the audience can understand without much dialog or explanation. In other words: tap into stereotypes to save narrative time.
I hate that firefighters feel slighted by Rescue Me and veterans feel offended by Over There. I wish fiction could be created without upsetting these people who have served so bravely. Over all, I think that Over There is no better or no worse than most of the fare out there, and in some ways its presentation on cable allows it to push boundaries that would otherwise not have been encroached upon.
Speaking of where it is presented: in Canada the show appears on the History channel. That network is fueling the impression that this represents an accurate portrayal of the military experience. I blame History TV though, not Bochco.
This show is a candidate for resurrection
This was one of the great shows that didn't last.
The teamwork shown by the group working behind the scenes was perhaps too "upbeat" for people. You didn't watch the show expecting the good guys to fail, but instead tried to guess which specialist or gadget would get them out of a jam this time.
I don't remember how good the writing and dialog was, but I clearly remember Burgess Meredith's character as a very compelling influence in the "control room". I would love this show to return to the air or come out on DVD, but I suppose it has been gone for so long that any chance of that happening is pretty low.
In any case, it is good to see the show immortalized to some extent by being listed properly here (I searched for "Search" a long time ago and couldn't find it).
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Music and laughs in a lower key
This is a low key movie, but I still found myself cheering for the trio of hapless escapees from a prison farm. The clever script is a mix of highly-articulate banter and whimsical illiteracy. Bravo once again to the Coen Brothers.
Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
Laughing in spite of myself
The visual jokes are juvenile and usually designed to gross out the audience. Some of them made me feel so squeamish, it was difficult to tell if I was laughing at the image or my own reaction to it.
All in all, the movie was entertaining enough that I could live through the occasional queasy feelings and cheer for the unlikely hero -- or heroes depending on how you look at it. Jim Carrey is simply unmatched in this kind of over-the-top role.
The Farrelly Brothers have made an art form out of gross-out flicks, but this one is somewhat inferior to their comedy classic, There's Something About Mary.
As the World Turns (1956)
2000-01 was a great season for this series
The number of nominations this soap opera received at the 2001 Daytime Emmy Awards is just one indicator of how excellent this show has been lately. The writing has been especially good, and the acting seems much better than most daytime fare. Of particular interest is the dual roles of long-estranged twin sisters Lily/Rose played to perfection by the talented Martha Byrne. Her scenes opposite herself are brilliant.
This soap opera's best feature, though, is the pace at which story lines move along. There is no spoon-feeding the audience. You have to watch consistently to get involved in the plots: there are no recaps of the past month's twists. Conversely, there have been incredible flashbacks and memories using real original footage from as far back as the series first season (1956). This really adds a warm sense of continuity for characters like Nancy Hughes, played since the beginning by Helen Wagner.
City of Angels (1998)
Attempt to impart surrealism fails
I like a film to know what it is. This film could not decide if it was a sentimental romance, an artistic view of heavenly inhabitants, or a metaphorical view of spirituality.
The haunting images of angels in their black garb gathering in various places were eye-catching, but not mind-blowing. The soliloquys were pleasant to the ear, but not as clever as they thought they were.
The script seemed to dip between melodrama and surrealism. I came away unaffected.
A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
While many would consider this film "uneven" because of its wild swings between campy humor and gory tragedy, I allowed myself to get swept up in the melodrama and the quirkiness of the characters. Ewan whines well, and Cameron plays an atypical spoiled rich girl. Overall it was worth a watch.