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Doctor Who: Kill the Moon (2014)
It is, of course, foolish to expect a show like Doctor Who to sedulously adhere to a scientifically accurate line, and I don't.
I do, however, expect it to not contradict high school physics, and that kind of unthinking error wrecks a story like this beyond all repair, especially when those schoolboy errors are what drive the plot.
I was already leery at "the moon is gaining mass". Uh, no it isn't. Not without adding matter. Period. Now, this could have been corrected -- all it would have taken was a little hand-waving about submicroscopic white holes or some such. But scriptwriter Peter Harness couldn't even be bothered to go that far, he just hung his plot on that and hoped no one would notice.
I gave up when they had plastic spray bottles out on the airless surface of the Moon. There's no way to write around that; that's just plain impossible -- in some ways, more impossible than a time traveler in a blue box. Time travel has not yet been ruled out by the currently known laws of physics. However, it is impossible to have a thin plastic spray bottle of liquid on the airless surface of the moon without it exploding and freezing.
The "hatching" of the moon? Multiple obvious problems. You have a creature clearly massive enough to have its own gravitational field, moving in such a way as to disrupt the center of mass of the Earth-Moon system. You have all the chunks of "shell" many of which would be hurtling towards Earth to impact as very large and deadly meteorites. And you have the creature then laying a replacement egg-moon that's visibly larger than it is, in exactly the same place the moon was, with exactly the same angular momentum and disappearing, presumably taking all the pieces of lunar shell with it.
And on top of this, you have the otherwise intelligent character of Clara, presented as genuinely believing that the people of Earth, faced with planetary destruction, will "vote" to let the destruction proceed.
There is a difference between suspending one's disbelief, and hanging it by the neck until dead, dead, dead. This isn't a writer being reasonably unfamiliar with an abstruse point of cutting-edge theory. This is a writer with utter contempt for the intelligence of his intended audience.
"Kill the Moon" without question is the worst Doctor Who story of *both* eras, and it's almost entirely the fault of writer Peter Harness -- some blame has to be shared by Moff for approving this appalling pile of rubbish in the first place.
I had been very much looking forward to The Hobbit.
Let's start with some blasphemy first: I don't really like Tolkien much. I refer to him as the Charles Dickens of fantasy fiction, and that is *not* meant as a compliment. I don't question his ability to write, or his importance to the genre, but great googly-moogly, I don't need every leaf in the forest described for me any more than I need the details of every cobble in the streets of Victorian London.
The parallel with Dickens is even closer -- both writers have produced one book I love: 'A Christmas Carol' for Dickens, and 'The Hobbit' for Tolkien. They *were* both capable of writing a story that didn't digress all over the world... they just generally didn't.
So while I haven't seen the whole LoTR trilogy due to a complete lack of interest, I was very interested in The Hobbit, especially when I heard Martin Freeman would be Bilbo.
Freeman has rapidly turned into the greatest everyman actor of our time. He was the best part of the Hitchhiker's Guide movie, he's the best Dr. Watson since Michael Williams on the BBC Radio 4 adaptations, and he was unquestionably the best part of The Hobbit. He has the rare ability to snuggle down into a role and carry you along with him, making his character's experience the audience's experience.
Unfortunately, the overall experience of this episode of The Hobbit is that of an amusement park ride, rather than a story. It's weighed down with stunt casting and padding. It was great to see Sylvester McCoy (still my favorite Doctor), but Radagast's expanded presence in the story interfered rather than enhanced. I just can't buy Dame Edna as the Great Goblin, and the whole underground goblin cave sequence was nothing more than a roller coaster on film. Worst of all, on the wake of that, Bilbo's discovery of the ring comes off as trite and corny rather than critical to the overall story arc.
Sometimes padding is necessary -- 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' would have been about an eight minute cartoon without Jones, Hague, Specter and Ogle tacking some brilliant schtick onto the story, and doing it without interfering with Dr. Seuss' original narrative.
And sometimes the padding needs to be cut away, like Jackson did with the LoTR trilogy.
Here, the padding just grinds an otherwise brilliant story to a halt, repeatedly, and it wrecked it for me. I haven't seen the second part, and I shan't see the third. I shall stay with the book.
Bill Kennedy at the Movies (1956)
When Local TV Was King
'Bill Kennedy At The Movies' is one of the reasons TV used to be so much better than it is now. Alongside Sir Graves Ghastly on channel 2, The Ghoul variously syndicated on 20 and 50, and in my home town of Toledo such local staples as The Big Show on 11 (with themed weeks and "Dialing for Dollars"), I learned about movies good, bad and mediocre. And while it was great fun to watch Sir Graves and The Ghoul mercilessly lambaste a bad movie, it was as nothing to seeing Bill Kennedy talk sometimes lovingly, sometimes painfully, always knowingly about what really goes into making a movie.
You'd think with a thousand digital channels, there'd be room for home-made product like this... sadly, no.
We could do with a lot less so-called 'reality' TV, and a lot more real people like Bill Kennedy.
Johnny Slade's Greatest Hits (2005)
My new favorite mob movie
I seem among commenters to be alone as someone who came into this movie not as a Sopranos fan, but as a Larry Blamire fanI've only seen The Sopranos once. It was good, but not enough for me to get cable hooked up again.
So no, I come in as a rabid Skeleteer, a fan of "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra". And I was *going* to quote my IMDb review of Lost Skeleton, wondering what Blamire's directing style was like when he was shooting for himself and not emulating a style or genre, but looking at it, I see I never actually made that query in that review, so apparently I'm going to have to quote a hallucination.
It is *definitely* a question I had in mind after one of my (large but still finite number)th viewing of Lost Skeleton: if he's shooting a movie for its own sake, how would he do it? The answer is: extremely well. When you take the camera off lockdown, he moves it sensibly, a welcome relief from the vertigo-inducing roller-coaster Peter Jackson used on 'King Kong' or the attention-deficit jump-cuttery of Michael (spitspit) Bay. Personally, I found his technique reminiscent of Altman: the camera moves with purpose, not just because it can. The violence is handled with care: real enough to underscore the plot, not so real as to derail the comedy.
I'm looking forward to further non-genre projects in addition to The Lost Skeleton Returns Again, Dark and Stormy Night, and whatever else he may have in mind.
The writingheck, I'm still giggling over "Some of the biggest comedians in the world have done comedy!" It's perfect. Some of the well, it's too twisted to be a simple 'turn of a phrase'. Some of the phrasing is very reminiscent of Lost Skeleton. Like the directing, however, when freed from the restrictions of the genre, we see whole new dimensions to Blamire's work.
John Fiore dove in all the way to the character of Johnny Slade. I can't even begin to think of how many takes it required in studio to get a clean take on those lyrics. He's completely committed to the character, and so is Vincent Curatola as the mysterious and weirdly creative Mr. Samantha, and watching their interactions as their relationship evolves over the course of the movie is terrific.
Highly recommended, whatever the title (it'll always be "Johnny Slade's Greatest Hits" to me"Meet the Mobsters" just doesn't swing). It's funny all the way throughI had several 'pause for an extended gigglefit' moments.
Devil Winds (2003)
Sucks harder than an EF-5
Adherence to current meteorological theory and good storm-chasing practices was not a hallmark of Twister. The science was atrocious and real storm chasers doing the bonehead things that our heroes did would've ended up smeared across vast stretches of the Great Plains. However, it more than made up for its factual flaws by being one hell of a great roller-coaster ride.
And in comparison to 'Devil Winds', Twister is Citizen Kane, and a National Weather Service documentary to boot.
It isn't so much that the science is bad in Devil Winds.
It's non-existent to the point of being insulting to one's intelligence.
It isn't bad enough that an allegedly professional meteorologist attempts escaping a poorly-CGI'd tornado by trying to out-run it. For the record: if one is caught on the road, drive at a right angle to the tornado, so that as quickly as possible it's not heading toward you anymoreit's passing behind you and moving away.
But no. Not only does Our Hero drive directly away from the digital funnel cloudwhich is about forty or fifty feet behind him at mostit follows him around an s-curve in the road.
Let me repeat that: it *follows* the *curve* in the *road*.
Upon reaching his destination, the tornado takes a twenty minute coffee break. It has been some fifteen meters behind him the whole time, and when he stops the car and gets out to protect an endangered building, the titular Devil Wind is suddenly nowhere to be seen. Why? Maybe it stopped off for a Slurpee. It would make as much sense as anything else in this movie.
There's more, but it all seems so very irrelevant. It's all formulaic and predictable. It should come as no surprise that the building where the tornado's coffee break occurs is an Incredibly Dangerous Disease Storage Center at which the obligatory Estranged Offspring® of Our Hero worksand of which, of course, the boss is a crook.
About the only cliché left out was having it built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Sheesh.
This was first run on Pax (now ION), so unsurprisingly the Estranged Offspring® and Our Hero have by the end of the movie a Tearful Reconciliation© wherein All Is Forgiven (pat. pend.). And It couldn't have been more perfectly telegraphed by Samuel F.B. Morse himself.
In short, Devil Winds is poorly thought out, poorly written, and poorly executed, and a bigger waste of a disc than anything outside of an AOL free trial.
Save this for a MST3K Home Game.
First, let me say that 300 was a good movie.
However, it wasn't a *great* movie.
Our print was grainy (I'm told a hazard of shooting Super 35), and the line between the set and the green-screen effects was painfully obvious. Periodically switching between ancient-inspired music and loud thrash guitar was annoying and distracting.
Flaws in the green-screening aside, the visual design was stunning, there are no two ways about it. Several scenes were not merely inspired by Miller's work, they clearly took extra pains to *duplicate* Miller's art in a moving medium--a daunting task under any circumstances and several times pulled off with staggering precision. The violence--and there's a lot of that, too--is softened a bit by its game-like rendering. The performances were good, and Gerard Butler was magnificently intense as Leonidas.
And let's be absolutely clear about this.
The very last thing that Sparta would have gone to war for was 'freedom'. If you know the slightest history of that era, you know that. And when Snyder and Johnstad and Gordon decided to replace the graphic novel's central theme of 'duty' with 'freedom', they took a movie that I could've easily given an 8 or 9 to, to one that I can in good conscience give no more than a 6.
Dispensing with heavy Spartan armor to emulate the classical Hellenic 'heroic nude' style is one thing: it's stylistic, and is in keeping with the look of the era as passed down by the great sculptor Phidias (a young contemporary of the actual events at Thermopylae, though certainly not there himself) and his even greater successor, Praxiteles.
Dispensing with the entire reason the original 300 (and allies) died is another matter entirely: it's revisionism, nothing more. Sparta was emphatically not a state built on freedom, and had even less interest in preserving their great rival Athens' democracy (with whom Sparta promptly went to war once Persia's invasion was finally repulsed and the Greek peninsula was safe).
Worse, it's the sort of revisionism that weakens the whole story from beginning to end, and reduces what could've been a great movie to a merely good movie.
6/10, and I think it'll look better on your TV than it did on the big screen. Let's watch that matting, guys.
Clear and concise
Although over twenty years old (as of this writing), "The Mechanical Universe" remains a high mark not only for the presentation of physics on TV but for educational television in general. Aided by Dr James Blinn's computer animations and bookended by the very personable Dr David Goodstein, "The Mechanical Universe" presents physics entertainingly, but without talking down to the viewer, and covers everything from Galileo to Gell-Mann. You don't even need a science or math background to appreciate it--although the program definitely assumes that you have a basic grounding and interest in both.
Recommended? Heck, this should be *required*. It airs periodically on PBS, or Educable--keep an eye out for it. It deserves a far wider DVD release than the limited (and unspeakably expensive) one it's getting.
The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001)
Lost Skeleton of Cadavra became one of my favorite movies on first viewing. Equal parts parody and homage (and sometimes both at the same time), it's easy to tell just how much writer/director/star Larry Blamire loves the genre. That love is positively infectious: the script contains gems worthy of Ed Wood and the performances are spot on (im)perfect. If there's any anachronism here, it's that the weaving of the three plot threads is a little *too* well done for a genre piece.
With so few performers--only nine, not counting the Skeleton himself--any weakness would stand out like a sore thumb, but there are no weak performances. Andrew Parks and Susan McConnell, as the aliens Kro-Bar and Lattis, however, particularly stand out as goofily brilliant, and Robert Deveau makes the most of his brief appearance. In fact, it was his directions to the cabin that let me know I was in for something special...
This is one you can watch again and again and again. If you have any appreciation for the great Bs of the 50s, Lost Skeleton belongs on your DVD shelf--the "virtual skelectables" on the DVD are unbelievable! I can't wait for 'Trail of the Screaming Forehead'.
New World (2002)
I saw this at the Ohio State Fair in 2002; I wasn't sure what to expect, but being a fan of both SF and B-movies, I figured it should be interesting at least.
Sadly, I was wrong. 'New World' limped and staggered from incomprehensible scene to incomprehensible scene, plodding slowly without doing much in the way of exposition.
The alien ship designs were interesting, but poorly integrated: they looked like special effects, not alien ships. The acting was uninspired, but no worse than I've seen in a host of other B-movies.
The real problems with 'New World' are pacing--somewhere between glacial and geologic--and attitude about itself. 'New World' takes itself *far* too seriously, becoming pompous in very short order. This was what made sitting through it difficult. With a lighter touch--or at least without the self-importance--this could have been a very fun movie. I went into it because I'm a genre fan. I came out of it wishing MST3K were still on the air, because it was right up their alley. 2/10
A fitting addition to the H2G2 family
Okay. Before seeing it, if you haven't yet, please remember the following sequence:
--The radio series came first.
--The book differed from the radio series.
--The TV miniseries and record album differed from each other, and from the book and radio series.
--The text adventure game differed from all the preceding.
--The graphic novel followed the book rather closely, but still differed from it and all the other preceding.
--I haven't seen the towel version, but I suspect it also differs from all the preceding, too.
That said, I went into the movie expecting it to be roughly the same story more or less, but not at all expecting to see the book faithfully translated to screen word for word.
That's because, of course, the core of the screenplay was Adams' work. He started it, he can make the adjustments he sees necessary.
And in short, I loved it.
The movie runs at a breakneck pace, but not so blindingly fast that you miss some of the little details here and there. It even lingers on a couple of wonderful nods to the TV version, and there are a few excellent nods to Adams himself.
I wasn't sure about Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin anymore when we first met the character, until he delivered one line so perfectly, I have utterly forgotten why I had any reservations at all.
Mos Def makes an acceptable Ford Prefect, although he seems to be all over the place, in terms of his motivation. Zooey Deschanel makes a splendid Trillian, and Sam Rockwell's Zaphod runs the range from the merely manic to the medicatably psychotic--it's quite a difference from Mark Wing-Davey's snarky would-be hipster, but it works well.
Ah, but Martin Freeman. What a gem! Simon Jones is sadly too old to take up the reins anymore outside of radio, and Freeman is a worthy successor as everyman Arthur Dent.
The updated animation of The Guide is absolutely terrific--it's reminiscent of Lord's work on the TV series in its minimalism, and yet carves out its own niche (complete with subtle sight gags)
Highly recommended for the H2G2 fan--not sure how people who haven't read the book are going to do with it, though.