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An American Carol (2008)
I thought it was funny
Okay, before anyone levels accusations, I have seen the movie and I'm writing this on behalf of myself, not some organization on either side of the political spectrum. Now, that said, here's my opinion...
Is this the funniest movie ever made? No, it's not. Is it your civic duty to see or avoid this movie at all costs? No, it isn't.
I will say, though, that I thought the movie was very funny. In some parts (like the "documentary" about "radical Christian terrorists"), it's both funny and sharply satirical. And, in other parts (like Malone getting constantly knocked around), it's more garden variety slapstick comedy. Either way, I laughed and so did the other people in the audience. And, as noted, there are a couple of scenes that actually try, and do, provoke some thought, mainly the scene at St. Paul's. Finally, when you get right down to it, Malone (the pseudo Michael Moore) doesn't come across as all that awful a guy, even if he is a self-absorbed jerk.
I know that this movie has inspired a considerable amount of controversy and has resulted in heated exchanges. All I'll say, though, is that I thought it was OK and I enjoyed it. And if it does inspire some kind of dialogue about conservatism (or the lack thereof) in Hollywood, so be it.
I will admit, though, it was nice to see a movie that at least tries to show the U.S.A. in a favorable light. That's become somewhat rare.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
A really fun movie
I'm really surprised at the hostility towards "The Clone Wars" by supposed fans. Apparently, they were unaware that this is pretty much a preview of the upcoming new cartoon series, that it's geared towards kids, and that it's not Episode VII. It's pretty much one big action movie that mostly sets aside the more disturbing elements from "Revenge of the Sith" in favor of high adventure.
Personally, I had a lot of fun watching this one. While the character animation was not what I expected (I wasn't aware of the intentional "Thunderbirds" influence), the battle scenes include some pretty astonishing visuals, particularly during the cliff battle on Teth. I thought the voice actors did a good job, particularly James Arnold Taylor (returning as Kenobi from the original "Clone Wars" series) and Christopher Lee (reprising his live-action role of Dooku). I also liked the musical score from Kevin Kiner, which features some more exotic-sounding themes (like during the aforementioned cliff battle) that are an interesting change of pace from the scores by John Williams. And while the script was, at times, a bit too fast-paced, it was still OK and even pretty funny, especially the battle droids.
That's not to say that it's all just flat-out action, though. The filmmakers do include small touches that deepen the characters, from Kenobi's cool-headed attempt at "negotiation" to Anakin's dark reaction to questions about his past. This is best presented in the way the clonetroopers are shown as real characters, rather than just faceless soldiers. You start to appreciate their bravery and root for them, in spite of what you know they'll ultimately do later on.
While it's not perfect (as noted, it sometimes moves too fast), it's still a fun movie that mainly appeals to the younger "Star Wars" fans, or those who are still able to feel as such. And if the more hard-core, utterly serious ones can't get past the lack of grit, angst and Dark Side machinations, so be it. I'll take this movie and eagerly await the upcoming series.
Return of the Ewok (1982)
A fun movie...if you can find it
This is a very charming little movie (excuse the expression). Obviously not meant to be taken all that seriously, it's a funny story that gives viewers a chance to see (sort of) behind-the-scenes footage from "Return of the Jedi", as well as some priceless comic bits (like Threepio demanding more movie star perks).
I'd heard about this movie for several years, and even saw part of it at the Denver "Star Wars Celebration" in 1999. I didn't see the whole film until 2005 at the "Celebration" in Indianapolis. There, I was lucky enough to see a presentation featuring Warwick Davis himself providing live commentary.
At the time, Davis said that an official release of the film would be all but impossible, due to rights issues and a lack of high-quality source material. Bootleg copies are reportedly available, but your best bet to see it is at a fan convention. In any case, I recommend this movie for fans of both "Star Wars" and affectionate "Star Wars" spoofs.
House M.D. (2004)
Fine "medical detective" show
I'll admit that the main I reason I first watched this show was to see Hugh Laurie in a drama series. Besides his role in the film "Peter's Friends", I mainly knew his work from his comedy roles in "Blackadder" and "Jeeves and Wooster". Now, having seen him in "House", I find that he's a fine dramatic actor, as well. From previous reviews, you'll have read that Laurie plays Dr. House, an ill-tempered, disabled yet brilliant physician who doesn't like patients, but is challenged by unusual ailments. Aided by a small team of younger doctors, he tries to figure out a correct diagnosis and treatment. In the meantime, he also must deal with patients that he is forced to see in the hospital's walk-in clinic. As noted, Laurie's performance is very good; the early talk about an Emmy nomination for him is quite justified. The rest of the cast is also good, though the scripts have yet to fully examine each character. (Viewers may remember Omar Epps from his earlier medical role as the ill-fated Gant on "ER".) The stories, while set up as brain-teasers, are also refreshingly complex about the doctors, the patients and the hospital; they don't resort to the done-to-death "HMO's are the source of all evil" plot line. These doctors are brilliant, but not perfect; mistakes are made. In the end, I hope that Fox will allow the show to continue. It's good to see an interesting medical show on TV, now that "ER" has degenerated into a "tragedy of the week" soap opera. And, as for Hugh Laurie's accent, I've heard better, but I've heard a lot worse. Give him time. (In a recent episode, he got to use his native English accent for a joke.) One important note: "House" is not for the squeamish. There are some pretty graphic and disturbing scenes in the series that some viewers may find upsetting. (For example, one episode featured critically ill infants and pulled very few punches.)
Great on MST3K, good on its own
I've seen this movie both MSTed and unMSTed. When it was featured on MST3K, the movie is a laugh riot. When viewed on its own, it's still pretty good. The pop art visuals and 60's Italian movie-style music are real hoots. Marisa Mell is attractive as Eva, and John Phillip Law is OK, if a bit bland, as the anti-hero. The original film does have one advantage over the MST3K version: more scenes with Terry-Thomas. Unfortunately, you also get a brief yet distasteful shot of Eva getting roughed up.
All in all, it's a fun flick if you're willing to relax and go with it. All together now: "Deeep deeep dooowwwnnn..."
American Taboo (1984)
Well worth tracking down
From the title and plot, one would expect an exploitative, soft core flick. One would be wrong. This is in fact a very sensitively made film about the developing relationship between a shy and emotionally-guarded photographer and a very attractive, though certainly not dizzy, teenage girl. The performances by the two leads are quite good, as is the scripting and direction. While apparently little known and not seen on TV, it's worth the effort to locate.
CONTENT NOTE: The film is rated R for nudity and sexual situations.
Wild Wild West (1999)
Not a Total Loss...
This movie version of the fondly-remembered TV series features a well-made opening title sequence (recalling both the TV series' titles and the Bond film titles) and some good visual effects.
But that's it. The rest is painfully bad. I advise you to stick with the TV series.
The Sandbaggers (1978)
Forget 007, forget UNCLE
"The Sandbaggers" is the best spy drama ever made for TV, and is certainly the most realistic. Focusing on a group of special agents of the British SIS, it shows spies as they probably really are: overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and expendable.
The acting in the series is top notch by all of the cast, particularly Roy Marsden as the workaholic Burnside and Ray Lonnen as the amiable Caine. There's also particularly good work by Alan MacNaughton as the wily Wellingham. The plots rely less on action and more on intrigue, with battles won and lost in "drab dusty corridors in Whitehall", as Burnside puts it. There isn't any real gunplay until the sixth episode, in fact.
The first season of the series, with all episodes written by series creator Ian MacIntosh, is the best. It follows a rough story arc involving the introduction of troubled agent Laura Dickens (well-played by Diane Keen). It leads up to the powerful season finale "Special Relationship", which is a stunner.
The second season isn't as good. Other writers besides MacIntosh are involved and there are some ill-advised plot developments. Also, there are less-than-successful changes in some characterizations. But, still, it remains a superior and thoughtful drama.
I highly recommend this series. It's well-worth tracking down on video or on PBS. Just remember what Burnside says in the first episode: "If you want James Bond, go to a library."
We've got MOVIE SIGN!
Critically well-received, yet barely promoted during its theatrical release, this is a top-notch, very funny movie. Made by practically all of the same people who made the TV show, the film version has Mike and the 'bots riffing on "This Island Earth", a better-produced-than-usual target, but with a goofy quality that suits the show. Unlike most big screen versions of TV shows, the makers stuck with what worked on TV and just made it bigger.
The movie isn't perfect, though. It's too short and studio interference mandated some ill-advised cuts. But it's still funnier than the majority of the alleged comedies put out by Hollywood. If nothing else, it's a great intro to "MST3K" for those unfamiliar with it. Besides, you have to start slow before you get to the heavy stuff, like "Manos" or "Castle of Fu Manchu".
Doctor Who (1996)
Just what the Doctor ordered!
I thought this was top notch! At last, a "Doctor Who" story that takes place on this side of the Atlantic, and has the budget the show always deserved but never had. The production design and visual effects are the best ever for "Doctor Who", particularly the new TARDIS control room. The direction and editing are fast-paced, and the story, dealing with the Doctor's own Y2K crisis, is interesting and, more or less, faithful to the TV series. But the acting is what really shines in the movie. Daphne Ashbrook is a funny and pretty real companion for the Doctor, while Yee Jee Soo does well as a streetwise companion for the villainous Master. Sylvester McCoy, with little dialogue and screen time, nonetheless delivers a marvelous performance as the departing Seventh Doctor. And Eric Roberts is very good as the most utterly evil incarnation of the Master we've seen. But the best performance is by Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. He's funny, heroic, touching and thoroughly engaging. Only the peerless Tom Baker scores better with me, Doctor-wise. This movie has caused much controversy among fans, regarding certain plot points. I think they're blowing it out of proportion. The movie is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the show. All in all, my only complaints are that rights problems have prevented it from being re-broadcast or released on video in the US (it's available in Britain, though), and that it didn't lead to a revived "Doctor Who" series. Not yet, anyway. I heartily recommend this movie!