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Some of my favourite composers:
Jerry Goldsmith (RIP)
Barry Gray (RIP)
James Newton Howard
Basil Poledouris (RIP)
Some of my favourite movies:
Back to the Future The Wedding Singer Beauty and the Beast Die Hard The Last Starfighter RoboCop
Some of my favourite ladies:
Some of my favourite TV shows:
The Simpsons The Wild Wild West Batman: The Animated Series Heroes Buffy the Vampire Slayer China Beach
Star Trek: Voyager: Real Life (1997)
"If I don't like it, I can always get out..."
Though a way for the Doctor to understand about loss and real families, this still has some flaws - why is it B'Elanna's or ANYBODY'S business how he should live his holographic life? And sad to relate, the Doctor being on the verge of leaving his family when he can't cope with tragedy is EXACTLY what some actual human beings would do, despite what Paris might think.
But the most telling aspect is that his family is never again mentioned in any episode. Ever. And it's not like this series hasn't brought up other family members for characters before and since, either; his family is, after all, just a holographic simulation which he can (and presumably does) switch off... which ultimately makes the episode, though good, pointless if it has nothing to affect future stories.
The summary comes from the scene in "Soul Man" when C. Thomas Howell points out to James Earl Jones that he doesn't really know what it's like to be black - Jones has no choice, but Howell (being white) can get out. Just like the Doctor, who as he himself once said has a programme instead of a life, also gets out...
Alpha and Omega (2010)
Not Crufts-level, but not a complete mongrel.
First things first - in animation terms, "Alpha and Omega" isn't in the Pixar league. Or the DreamWorks league. In fact, it's not that far above the "Jakers! The Adventures Of Piggley Winks" league... which kind of fits, since the movie seems more suited to the small screen than the big.
The animation (done in Mumbai, not Japan, contrary to one previous reviewer) is sadly suited to the script; never really surprising and pretty derivative - the climax manages to rip off "The Lion King" (fathers trapped in a stampede), "Jurassic Park" (they're protected by a tree) AND "Far And Away" (the camera pulls back up away from Kate and zooms back down - it's her spirit going up to wolf heaven and coming back into her, get it?) -, the story's conclusion is foretold from the beginning and though it's got its moments, there aren't really enough to make it a must. The howling scenes are always good value, the cast tries with what they have, and there's a welcome lack of pop culture references and romantic ballads over the credits - but while it's not unwatchable and never really terrible, this probably isn't the screen farewell Dennis Hopper fans had in mind.
The movie would have gotten a 4/10, but it's raised to 5 because of a) the effects work of the clouds at the beginning and end (Digital Domain are featured in the end credits. Hmmm...), b) the aforementioned night howls, and c) it being less lame than the last animated movie Hayden Panettiere lent her perky little voice to which got a proper theatrical release, since "Hoodwinked Too" is still stuck on the shelf ("Dinosaur").
As far as I'm concerned, the answer to the question "Are you on the list?" is "Yes."
(Viewers reading this who haven't seen all of the first season, proceed with caution.)
Ever since "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ended, there's been something missing in my TV viewing; there's been a gap for something essential, something that's a true appointment. Though I watched "Charmed" from first episode to last, that wasn't it; "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" also don't really count.
And then along came "Heroes."
At the time of writing, it's airing on the UK Sci-Fi Channel (but they sadly won't have season two thanks to the BBC), but I've managed to see the entire first Volume; maybe the season finale didn't have all the expected fireworks, but that's pretty much in keeping with a series which puts people above FX. In any case, what's come before has been too effective for this to count as a letdown - yeah yeah, it's not blazingly original, but what matters is how it's executed, and Tim Kring and chums executed it well without a genuinely bad episode in the bunch; some better than others, but no stinkers. In fact, you can come up with a by-no-means-comprehensive list of 23 good things about "Heroes" (one for each chapter):
1. The eclipse logo.
2. The presence of Bryan Fuller on the first season roster (any show involving him will be worth a look).
3. The fact that they aren't obliged to have all the characters every week.
4. Not explaining everything, but not leaving almost everything hanging either.
5. Hiro (who's been exulted over extensively elsewhere, so I won't add to it).
6. Future Hiro.
7. James Kyson Lee as Ando. As deserving as Masi Oka is, Mr. Lee doesn't get enough credit for being a sidekick who's almost a hero himself.
8. The moment when Claude shoved Peter off the top of a building to his non-death, which confirmed that Milo Ventimiglia has improved since his days of annoying me deeply on "Gilmore girls." Because I DIDN'T wish he'd splatter over the tarmac and never come back.
9. "Save the cheerleader, save the world."
10. The reduction of Mohinder's rather pointless voiceovers as the first season went on, although they came roaring back for "How To Stop An Exploding Man."
11. Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman's music - not your usual superhero scoring, but this isn't your usual superhero show.
12. Characters getting actual development, even non-favourites (e.g. anyone connected to Niki Sanders, including Niki Sanders).
13. Sylar, with thanks to the producers for not letting us see how he consumes the DNA of his victims.
14. "This is Claire Bennet, and that was attempt #6."
15. Not overdoing Claire's power of regeneration and still managing to make her one of the show's best characters.
16. The ongoing story of Mr. Bennet.
17. "Company Man," "Five Years Gone," "Homecoming," and come to think of it most of the other episodes.
18. The fact that poor Claire has Steven Carrington for an adoptive dad and Jim Profit for a real one.
19. Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg, Adrian Pasdar and most of the cast.
20. "Holy sh- " - To Be Continued...
21. The winks to comic fans being kept relatively restrained so the series doesn't become one big in-joke.
22. Missy Peregrym's Candace getting her clock punched in the season finale (she was just as annoying here as she was in "Stick It," so it was justified).
23. The wonderful Hayden Panettiere (one of my TV Girlfriends, with apologies to the "Television Without Pity" book). Hayden, you're totally my hero.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
"Smokin' Aces" is neither smokin' nor ace.
Someone help me - has Ryan Reynolds ever been in a good movie? "Blade: Trinity," "The Amityville Horror" and now "Smokin' Aces," a nasty, brutish but sadly not short movie that isn't remotely as funny or as thrilling as it thinks it is. And it can forget about stylish either.
Writer-director Joe Carnahan's bid to give the movie style is its biggest problem; an essentially simple story of the FBI, skiptracers and assassins all after a Las Vegas entertainer-turned-snitch (Jeremy Piven) is subjected to endless stretching out, fantastically annoying touches - way too many connecting scenes have one sentence carried over to another, there are far too many characters and too few of them given any room to grow, and moments that want to be quirky but just grate (why do we have to see Jason Bateman wearing women's underwear? What is the point of a small boy giving karate chops and getting an erection?) - and utter, utter stupidity; "Smokin' Aces" is the kind of movie where three bad guys who look like a punk rock group manage to get into a hotel without anyone seeing them.
Meanwhile, while Carnahan's indulging himself (note how many of the scenes go on longer than necessary, like Matthew Fox's cameo) the movie's few moments of interest are lost, and the actors are left struggling with their receptacles for profanity - as opposed to proper characters. All of which makes the movie both hypercharged and boring; it just doesn't matter whether or not they get to Piven's character, you just find yourself wanting to say "Oh for goodness' sake just END already." On the upside, Ben Affleck is pretty good in his glorified cameo (before getting abruptly killed off) and Alicia Keys does quite well as a sultry lesbian assassin. (Her contribution is entirely acting-related.) The movie's ultimate payoff would also probably be more effective had the movie been shorter, or better developed.
But since it ain't, all this movie is is, as Chief Wiggum once said, "Lots of flash - no depth."
La déraison du Louvre (2006)
A very artistic short. And then some.
"La Déraison du Louvre," shown as a video installation at the London gallery/restaurant Sketch, is a strange short movie in which a young woman tours the titular gallery late at night, and takes in a variety of their exhibits (including the Mona Lisa). The title translates as "The Madness of the Louvre," and the paintings and statues do have an effect on the young woman...
Projected on twelve screens, half of them present the young woman touring the gallery, with no dialogue but plenty of disorienting sound effects and photography as the visitor all but steps inside the exhibits, so overcome is she by the artistic riches in the Louvre. Art by name and art by nature, it's all about the visuals - and with one of the world's most famous galleries and one of the world's most beautiful women as your "guide" (the visitor is played by Laetitia Casta, who's quite a work of art herself - and the reason I sought this out, since I take any opportunity I can to see Laetitia Casta on screen in the UK), it's a pleasure on that front, even though it's very much up to you to decide what the point is. (Other than a plug for the Louvre, that is.)
The other half of the screens take over for the second half, which entirely focus on Laetitia bobbing underwater in a bathtub in slow motion (unlike the first half of the short, the screens never show the exact same image at the same time). Presumably the intent is to show how the visitor has gone from admiring the art to becoming an exhibit herself, but your guess is as good as mine.
DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
The fifth best video game movie ever.
There have actually been good video game movies.
By this I mean movies like "WarGames," "The Last Starfighter," "Cloak and Dagger" and "Tron" - movies that had video games at the core of the story but weren't based on real video games. I do not mean movies like "Mortal Kombat," not "Street Fighter," not "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life" and definitely not "Super Mario Bros." "DOA: Dead Or Alive" (produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, not a good sign - I've never forgiven him for "Mortal Kombat" and "Event Horizon") is from a real game, but it sucks less than most of its ilk. Not that that's saying much, because it's still something of a missed opportunity.
Never mind the plot - island princess Kasumi leaves her sanctuary to track down her brother at the Dead Or Alive tournament, wrestler Tina wants to prove that she's a real fighter, thief Christie is out to steal the cash, blah blah blah - the movie knows what counts; babes and brawls, and it's got lots of both of them. Devon Aoki (Kasumi), Jaime Pressly (Tina), Holly Valance (Christie), Sarah Carter (the adopted daughter of evil Eric Roberts) and Natassia Malthe (the bodyguard sworn to kill Kasumi for leaving) adequately fill the quota for the former - they even throw in a completely gratuitous volleyball game! - and whenever the movie threatens to be swamped under a serious story moment you can bet the swords will be flying and the booty will be kicked very soon.
The movie also has an endearingly tongue-in-cheek tone (which has to be courtesy primary screenwriter J.F. Lawton, he of "Pretty Woman," "Under Siege" and "VIP" fame) and it comes in at well under 90 minutes... but somehow it doesn't take off the way it should.
It's tempting to say it's because of the acting - Devon in particular behaves as if English is her fifth language, and Eric Roberts... well... - but who goes to movies like this for the acting? The problem is more to do with Cory Yuen's direction - the action's heavily stylized but at its most thrilling when it's filmed straightforward; no abrupt changes in speed, no overactive cameras. It's also a pity that the makers upped the "hard to take seriously" factor by including comical sound effects for blows; you never got that on "The A-Team," thankfully.
And ultimately it falls short on the guilty pleasure scale compared to the first "Charlie's Angels," although I did admittedly watch it after spending hours and hours on various buses AND after eating an entire spiced loaf by myself. I think I'd have liked it more if I had been a bit more alert... but "Bloodsport" for the "Zoo" generation is still preferable to "Bloodsport" for the Jean Claude Van Damme generation.
Flimsy but watchable.
The Black Dahlia (2006)
Scarlett Johansson looks as if she knows this is dull, confusing and pointless. And can you blame her?
As I write this, there's a rerun of "Close To Home" on TV; despite the fact that Jennifer Finnigan isn't a two-time Oscar winner like Hilary Swank or a BAFTA-winning international sex fantasy like Scarlett Johansson, any episode is much, much better than "The Black Dahlia." It shouldn't be that way.
Brian DePalma and cameras remain a good combination, but even his wizardry can only give this sow's ear so much of a silk purse treatment; James Ellroy's novel must have been better than Josh Friedman's script makes it seem. Ostensibly based on the real-life unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, the movie might have been better if it had stayed focused on said horrible crime - but from the off, when Josh Hartnett's endless voice-over kicks in over riot scenes, we're in more for a drama about a cop. And a not very interesting cop at that (Hartnett seems about as hard-edged as Hong Kong Phooey).
A fuzziness in execution is this movie's downfall; the murder of Miss Short almost seems to take a back seat to a whole load of other things, and if our hero is supposed to be obsessed enough that he falls for a woman who looks like her it doesn't come off, in part because Hilary Swank doesn't look much like Mia Kirshner. At all. (That Kirshner, seen almost exclusively in film footage, delivers a more heartfelt performance than the caricatured Miss Swank doesn't help her case.) This also makes the implied ending of the movie fairly senseless - the main murder is solved in this movie (it may be a "This comment may contain spoilers" review, but I won't give away the killer's identity), but given that the real Black Dahlia lived a wild life and got the name because of her fondness for the colour black, and that a key character who winds up dead has a wild life and loves wearing black, if we're supposed to be thinking that she's the "real" Black Dahlia (the man who kills her is, by implication, never made to pay for his crime) it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And renders the preceding two hours or so utterly pointless... or should that be, even more pointless, since we've been made privy to several utterly confusing plot points that come along without rhyme or reason, until the impression is left near the end that the makers realised they've got to tie together everything somehow, never mind if it doesn't make sense.
To make matters worse, the movie manages to take story factors like lipstick lesbianism (and the genuine article), boxing cops, what used to be called "stag" films, riots, and gruesome murders and make the entire movie dull and uninvolving. The acting doesn't help for the most part (except for Aaron Eckhart, Mia "girls on girls a specialty" Kirshner and a nice cameo from Rose McGowan, most of the cast don't seem to be in the spirit - Scarlett in particular never looks at ease, though the script is more to blame), with Fiona Shaw particularly excruciating as Hilary's mum. And Mark Isham's score is reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's score for "L.A. Confidential," but not as good.
"The Black Dahlia" is, paradoxically, both good to look at and a bad watch.
High School Musical (2006)
Abandon cynicism, all ye who enter here.
"High School Musical" is corny... it's about as realistic as "The Bash Street Kids"... it's never going to be mistaken for a classic...
...and I adored it.
Just as anybody watching "Prison Break" and expecting it to be "The Glass House" or "Oz" is grasping entirely the wrong end of the stick, so anyone watching this expecting "Jesus Christ Superstar" will be inevitably disappointed. True, the songs aren't exactly Menken & Ashman; yes, some of the singing sounds treated; and for sure, some of the lip-syncing (especially Vanessa Anne Hudgens') is Hall of Fame poor. But everyone proclaiming this the Worst Musical Ever really needs to take a look at something truly inept like "From Justin To Kelly," and then come back and apologise to everyone involved with this TV movie; unlike that misbegotten vehicle, "High School Musical" overcomes its limitations and emerges as what it wants to be - a charming little diversion.
Zac Efron and Miss Hudgens make up for their involvement with "Summerland" and "Thunderbirds" respectively, but Alyson Reed as the cellphone-hating drama teacher and Ashley Tisdale as the egotistical would-be scheming ice queen of the school are the standouts (I say would-be because the movie's biggest roadblock in the way of our heroes isn't actually placed by her); the movie's extremely eager to please and doesn't have a mean bone in its body, and Kenny Ortega's improved as a director since the stodgy "Newsies" - this is great fun throughout, and the characters are likable and sympathetic (and, it has to be said, very attractive, which is hardly a minus for this kind of thing).
Its message about it being okay for people to be who they are may be obvious, but it's harmless and appealing - it's aimed squarely at younger audiences, but not all older viewers will be squirming... I say not all because my older sister is 38 (two years older than me) and likes "Grey's Anatomy," but if it was a choice between an hour with boring old Meredith Grey and watching Troy and Gabrielle breaking into "Breaking Free," I know which one I'd go for. "High School Musical"'s a delight, which is more than can be said for quite a few Disney movies made for the BIG screen lately.
This could be the start of something big indeed.
Can you wait for a remake of "The Swarm" or "When Time Ran Out..."? Yes, so can I.
Boats don't seem to be lucky for Freddy Rodriguez on screen; his character met his maker on a cruise ship in the last episode of "Six Feet Under," and in "Poseidon" he's the first of the band of heroes to be killed off. In one of the few moments that indicate how much of a better movie this could have been, it's not so much his death as the circumstances of it that are striking (it tops similar moments in "Vertical Limit" and another (but far superior) disaster movie with Emmy Rossum, "The Day After Tomorrow," because it's not a heroic self-sacrifice like the latter or a convenient way to kill the villain, save the good guys and atone for personal guilt at the same time like the former - Richard Dreyfuss basically, and to be fair unwillingly, has to kill him so that the others have a chance)... but then nothing much is made of it. Or much of any of the characters.
Wolfgang Petersen certainly knows his water what with "Das Boot," the climax of "Air Force One" and the logo for his company (Radiant Productions - sun shining over a tranquil sea), and this isn't as bad as I was afraid it was going to be (it's certainly more watchable than "Lost in Space," which ain't that hard anyway), but even without comparing it to the original movie it almost never catches fire; with most of our heroes mono-dimensional no-narks (it figures that the liveliest one, Kevin Dillon, should be among the ones to bite it) it's pretty hard to care whether or not they make it out - yours truly kept getting Josh Lucas and that guy who plays Miss Rossum's boyfriend confused, which isn't a plus. Dreyfuss and Mia Maestro do manage to make some kind of positive impression, and it's amusing to see Kurt Russell start to turn into Nick Nolte, but most of the others are either wasted (Andre Braugher in particular) or nondescript.
The hand of Akiva Goldsman had to have been brought onto that dialogue (Russell: "Everyone can see..." Rossum, playing his daughter: "The twins?"), the reduced running time is more the work of savage editors than the script (although Mike Vogel's aching legs after being pulled out from under the wreckage in the disco never seem to hinder him again...), the standard army of FX studios (ILM, The Moving Picture Company, Giant Killer Robots and so on) turn in work ranging from excellent (like the capsizing) to dire (like the shamelessly fake oil that ushers in a pillar of fire), and unfortunately this was one time that Petersen left the music intact; Klaus Badelt proves that he's no John Williams (like we didn't know already), and the less said about Her Butterfaceness Queen Stacy of Ferguson and that awful sub-Celine Dion dirge over the end credits the better. This all seems a bit like a video game rather than a movie, with people facing challenges to get to the next stage. And about as emotionally stirring.
But as I said earlier, there are some strong moments - the air vent sequence is genuinely tense (and it's refreshing to see an air vent in a movie which isn't big enough to fit an SUV in for once), the opening journey around the boat is pretty decent, and a couple of the fates met by key characters are truly affecting. Overall, though, the best thing you can say about the movie is that it's better than "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" - although if you must watch a big-budget box office bomb with Josh Lucas, you might be better off with "Stealth." I never thought I'd say that.
Night Stalker (2005)
This isn't "The Night Stalker," and not only because the definitive title isn't there.
Whether on its own terms or as an update of the '70s series, "Night Stalker" ultimately deserved to be chopped by ABC after seven episodes (although as is often the case, all ten produced shows turned up over here, via Bravo this time - bravo! Not).
It's not so much that Stuart Townsend's no Darren McGavin, although it's certainly a minus... it's that developer Frank Spotnitz is a graduate of "The X Files," and he brought the same sensibility to this re-imagining (copyright by everyone who slagged off Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes"). So while the two TV movies and the series made no bones about the supernatural being out there, the new take on it endlessly pussyfooted around (not to mentioning throwing in yet another big arc, surrounding the death of Kolchak's pregnant wife) and tried to focus more on psychological horrors than ghoulies, ghosties, etc.
Not that that in itself is bad, it's just that it almost never really worked (apart from the episode about people literally scared to death). Maybe the creative staff felt that the go-for-broke approach wouldn't work these days, that "Night Stalker" would have to be "real" to be effective - but the makers of "Supernatural," by all accounts (I don't watch the show), were less troubled with that aspect, and that's coming back for a second year. Either way, the bottom line is that "Night Stalker" just wasn't absorbing enough, and for the most part also wasn't scary enough. But it WAS unbearably serious enough; dreary gubbins, essentially.
Three stars for getting Philip Glass to write a swirling piece (far superior to Michael Wandmacher's scoring for the pilot and all the episodes), and for Gabrielle Union as a very sexy Scully to our hero's Mulder... but if "Night Stalker" had been better, Union's chocolaty goodness would have been a mere bonus. Here it was the only reason I watched. Not good.