83 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Just further down the slippery slope
31 October 2004
It's just occurred to me that while I think of myself as a fan of zombie films, that there are only three genre films that I actually enjoy: Night of the Living Dead (the original and remake), and Return of the Living Dead.

These films all have something in common; they're taut. They pick a theme, stick to it, and pile it on to an inexorable conclusion. All other zombie films dawdle and meander annoyingly, and Day of the Dead is no exception.

That's not to say that Day doesn't have a sense of inevitability about it. The whole plot progression is boringly predictable, and it's the boring part that sticks in the mind. I know what's going to happen, but I don't particularly care. Annoying people yell at each other, and I don't care. Ludicrous stereotypes over-act, and I don't care. Bub the Zombie moves his jaw from side to side, and I care a little. Then the live people take the screen again, and I go back to not giving a damn.

We know what's going to happen, but it takes so long to get there that it's actually a relief when the live cast start meeting their sticky ends. I for one was cheering for the zombies, which up to a point is what I'm supposed to do. What I'm not supposed to want is for all of the living cast, including the ostensible sympathetic heroes, to be shredded. The rapidly tacked on brutally optimistic ending is a huge disappointment; I'd far rather find out what happened to Bub than the insipid nobodies whose fate I'm supposed to care about.

This is a film that would have been far better left in the can, or better yet, as a script waiting for enough budget to afford actual actors and editing.
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Stargate: Atlantis (2004–2009)
Mediocre and cheap
12 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
What a sad, sorry little spin off, that might as well have been titled Stargate: Voyager. The actors are third rate hacks with no subtlety or range, and what little talent they do have is hidden by the sterile writing and minimal characterisation. Once free of the positive influence of its parent series, the leads in Atlantis *instantly* become one dimensional and superhumanly capable. Lacking even a momentary hint of self doubt, there can be no sense that they are ever in any peril. That wouldn't be so important if this was an effects driven show, but the small budget means lots of talking head shots, and these characters have little to say and no engaging way of saying it.

The writing is so derivative as to border on unintentional genre parody. We've seen these plots done many times before and often much better. There is no acknowledgment or attempt to explain any of the inconsistencies or deus ex good fortune. That's insulting to the viewer; at least give us a reason to suspend our disbelief.

The dark 'moody' sets mostly serve to mask the lack of budget. The outdoor shoots are just the same old Canadian outback locations from Stargate. I think I even recognised a fallen tree from the Stargate bounty hunter episode.

Production values are erratic. The incidental music in particular is far inferior to the Stargate incidentals, and the sound is muted and muffled.

The baddies, as has been copiously spoiled elsewhere, are vampires. There's little point in calling them anything else, unless it's Morlocks. Whatever, they seem to have drained the life from the production team of this show before the camera even started rolling.

At the end of the first hour of the two hour premiere, you really have to question if it's worth while watching any further. Take it from me - it's not. It doesn't get better. It just grinds on and on in the same tired way. Don't waste your time.
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100% genre compliant
30 November 2003
A badly translated script that leads to the voice talent jabbering most of the time, the usual array of characters who's personalities are blindingly apparent from their portrayals (wide mouthed buffoon, sinister moustachioed dwarf, icy bitch, spunky hero, spunkier heroine), and a plot that could be synopsised as "Two legs bad, four legs good". Oh, and tentacles. Tentacles everywhere.

Fans of anime will lap it up. Everyone else should avoid, because it's just the same old garbage, warmed up and seasoned with a few B list USian actors.
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The Bunker (2001)
Shaggy, you and Scooby go this way...
10 October 2003
This film is fine up to the opening credits, but then goes downhill rapidly. It's a tolerable enough implementation, but it's based on the kind of risible premise that really requires a flawless presentation.

None of the characters are well drawn, none of them are likable. You know they're all going to die, but you simply don't care.

Bizarrely, the best actors are killed off first. Perhaps after they read the script, they insisted on it.

Probably worth catching on cable, but certainly don't pay to see it. There really is nothing here that you haven't seen done better elsewhere. It can't decide whether it's a horrors of war morality piece, or a supernatural chiller. In the end, it falls midway and fails as both.
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Pardon me, but please get on with it
10 October 2003
Soooo sloooow... soooo duuuuuuull... soooo poiiiintless.

This film tanked not because it was badly cut, but because it was simply bad. Given that nobody paid to see it, why is it so fondly remembered now? Clearly, a generation of naughty children watched it when they were small, thought that it was daring and wonderful, and now they get to vote on the basis of that nostalgia.

Heck, for all I know, back in 1967, this might have been the best thing going. But that doesn't mean that it's worth watching now. The score is sound, the cinematography competent, but the pace is so plodding that it's almost intolerable. Scene after scene drags on and on, and every link is the same; two buffoons doing a comedy farce tiptoe walk, or comedy farce skiing, or comedy farce falling down stairs.

Speaking of which, it's about as funny as being smashed in the face with a brick. Just an average, common, dull brick. That is, unless you find it amusing that Jewish vampires say "Oy vey!" a lot and gabble in mock-Yiddish. Laugh? I nearly did.

Actually, that's a lie. I didn't come close. Perhaps if I'd seen it before I hit puberty I might view it somewhat differently, but viewed in the cold light of adulthood, this is a dreadful confused mess of a film, burdened with a sloppy script and sparse, insipid dialog.

Avoid, at all costs. You'll never got those 107 minutes of your life back.
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Deep Core (2000)
Die, Wesley, die
27 July 2003
Chant ten thousand geeks, as Wesley Crusher appears on screen. Does he die? Frankly, who cares. With no characterisation, a plot that could be (and probably was) written on the back of a cigarette packet, mediocre actors, a sloppy score, Amateur Hour CGI and fair to middling awful camera work, it's hard to pay attention to anything happening in this B- movie.

Guys, here's a hint. When the crew turns up with Hi-8 camcorders, it's time to call your agent and see if there's any commercials going, or small car showrooms that need opened. This film does nobody any favours. It's pretty much welfare for C list jobbing actors and crew. Terry Farrel at least has the grace to look embarrased at doing the same old "lean to the left, spout some technobabble" rubbish she did on Star Trek, but Wesley actually seems to be trying to make something of his role. Unfortunately, all he manages to do is to make it highly irritating. Die, Wesley, die.

Low budget doesn't preclude a film from being fun, but this movie sadly tries to hide its budget. So cue "mass evacuation" scenes where five extras run out of a door and are filmed from three angles, sets where the paint on the plywood is barely dry, and muffed lines that are simply accepted rather than reshot (must have been running out of those Hi-8 tapes).

It's not even funny bad, it's just desultory and sad. Avoid.
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Chasing Amy (1997)
Flawed premise
9 January 2003
There are many reasons why this film doesn't work for me, but first and foremost, it's because it's badly cast. In trying to do his friend (and girlfriend of the time) a favour by casting them as leads, Kevin Smith just demonstrated the limits of their acting ability.

Joey Adams - who isn't nearly as attractive as the heavily doctored publicity stills fake her out to be - is simply annoying. I don't know a single woman who hasn't commented on how irritating her baby-girl voice is, how it ruins any attempt to empathise with her, and how it wrecks her credibility in the serious scenes. Even as a red blooded male who enjoys lipstick-lesbian content as much as the next guy, I found myself wishing that Kevin had managed to resist the urge to skip the casting couch and just cast his squeeze of the moment.

Ben Affleck brings another problem to the party, and here I can quote writer/director Kevin Smith's own words (from Mallrats): he looks like a date rapist. Really, he looks - and acts - arrogant and aggressive in every scene, even when he's supposed to be opening up. It's simply not believable that a man-shy woman would give him the time of day, let alone allow him to befriend her.

All that makes the core relationship between the protagonists farcical. Holden is scripted and acted as an ass, and Alyssa as acted (specifically, voiced) so much like a ditz that it's _irrelevant_ how she's scripted. Both of them are deceitful, spiteful and selfish, and it's hard to know whether to root for them to split up, or to root for them to get together purely to save two decent people from having relationships with them.

The only ray of sunshine is the ever reliable Jason Lee as Brodie... sorry, Banky Edwards. Perhaps it's deliberate irony that Banky is accused of dishonesty about his feeling when Banky is the only protagonist not lying for his own selfish ends, but I'm guessing not.

Chasing Amy is a self indulgent folly. That actually describes all of Kevin Smith's films, but most of them turn out being enjoyable anyway (yes, even Mallrats). This one doesn't, and it's a worrying indicator of the what we can expect from Jersey Girl, where Kevin Smith's own reports from the set demonstrate that he's more concerned with having fun with the actors than watching what their characters are doing on screen.
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Godzilla (I) (1998)
By the time it picks up pace, it's hard to care.
16 December 2002
If you were just to watch the last hour of this film, you might be able to convince yourself that it's a tolerable whole. But there are simply too many flaws to make the entire experience enjoyable.

The biggest problem is that it's simply too dull at the start. Revealing the creature bit by bit is a classic device; unfortunately, the massive hype, endless trailers and ubiquitous merchandise utterly ruined the attempt. Nobody watching this film is in any doubt about what Godzilla is going to look like, so holding out just seems like a mean spirited way to save on the FX budget.

While the main Godzilla FX are superb, the Godzuki raptors are inconsistent and a little blue-screenish. They also seem to be suffering from a strange disease where they can easily smash their heads through windows and steel doors, but seem unable to drag the rest of their bodies through. This gets tiresome very fast, and the other thing that drags this sequence down is that it's so obviously ripped off from Jurassic Park that it becomes painfully intrusive.

As a pet peeve, the military hardware in this movie really annoys me. Hollywood seems stuck somewhere in the 1950's as far as technology goes. Every single weapon or vehicle in this film is badly - and deliberately and wilfully - incorrect, and the continuity is shoddy: note how many times aircraft fire off their "last" missiles. The reason that this annoys me is that there ARE weapons that do everything the scriptwriters wanted. If they'd done TWO MINUTES of research, they could have found them. That they didn't bother to do that says a lot about how seriously they take their job. Add to that the fact that they couldn't even be bothered to invent a plausible excuse for some of the idiotic snafus (why can't the helicopters fly UP?) and it becomes plain insulting, and makes it very hard to suspend disbelief.

The actors in this film are irrelevant, and so it really doesn't matter that they range from mediocre to insipid, and that they have lines so trite that they would make a five year old blush. Honestly, it doesn't matter, so try to get over it.

On the bright side, the score is acceptable. It's blaring, but it does match the action. The sequences are well lit and shot, and there's a definite big budget feel to everything (except the cast).

I really do think that this is close to being the best possible Godzilla movie that Hollywood could make. Unfortunately it's a dull, patchy, soulless, derivative, irritating snoozefest with exactly zero unexpected scenes or twists. It's the perfect example of how to make a zero-risk film by committee, and given that it made it's money back and more, it did exactly what it needed to do, which is to pander to the sheeple that make up multiplex audiences.

Well done Hollywood, you've managed to lower the bar another notch.
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Vampires (1998)
Leeches off of better films
14 December 2002
You can see where this film was supposed to go. It's got the ingredients; hard bitten vampire killers, brutal vampire action, Catholic priests in frocks acting pretty much as Catholic priests in frocks always do in Hollywood films, pretentions of verite.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have the courage of its convictions, and turns in a stumbling zombie of a performance. There's a brief attempt to portray the genuine horror of vampirism, but this is soon aborted in favour of an overbearing score and buckets of blood. The victims are just the usual faceless fodder, completely unsympathetic. Who cares if they're killed? There's no particular reason given why vampires are any worse than the evil that humans do to each other every day. All of the main protagonists are fairly unlikable as well.

All this adds up to a film that's just impossible to care about. It's too miserable to be a popcorn flick, but too trivial to be a serious character piece like Near Dark or Ultraviolet. It treads a middle ground, and really, who cares? Not Hollywood, clearly. The combination of Carpenter, Woods, Baldwin and vampires got it made, and it made its money back, so it was exactly as good as it needed to be. For shame, Hollywood.
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Resident Evil (2002)
Just a second...
8 September 2002
This movie is an hour and a half long and costs approximately a third as much as the game. The visuals and score are better than the game, but the plot, dialogue, composition, lighting and camerawork are worse.

It's just occurred to me that a couple of generations of console or PC down the line, when game visuals reach cinematic realism and we can have proper virtual hotties, then there will be absolutely no reason why game developers should put in any more work than filmmakers.

Enjoy your quality 20+ hour games while you can, because the line between game and film is getting narrower. When they reach 1:1 comparison, games will last (pro rata) approximately 4.5 hours, or they'll be sold as 1.5 hour "episodes" for the same price as a DVD.

Shudder. I mean, Mila and Michelle are supremely hot, but I do like a *little* dialogue and imagination in my entertainment.
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Stumbling mindless drones
23 July 2002
I always get a shiver down my back when confronted by an army of mindless and aggressive drones, immune to logic or reason, utterly single minded and capable only of emitting low moans and scrabbling and clawing at anyone not of their kind.

Conveniently enough, I can usually avoid these people by asking them what they thought of "Day of the Dead". If the answer is "Coooooool, uh hu, Bub the zombie, coooool", then I know it's time for me to make my escape.

But don't give up hope, there is a cure. I too watched this awful film when I was about eleven, and thought that it was the best thing ever. I mean, it had people swearing, and it had zombies, and it had effects. What else could I ask for?

Mmm. Plot, characters, dialogue, lighting, sound, score. Mostly characters though. Because I really, truly don't care about them. I mean, as a bona fide adult now, I find myself actually cheering on the zombies.

The biggest sin though is the abrupt jump to a crowbarred ending. They ran out of money, you say? Boo hoo. Deal with it. There have been many better films made for much less money. That's not an excuse. There's at least half an hour of pointless drivel that could be cut from this film at it stands. If it had been done before it had been filmed, then the ending could have been realised. This didn't happen. The film is a failure. Romero screwed up. Get over it, and stop pretending that it's more than it is: an overlong, underwritten, badly acted and extremely boring mess.
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Ultraviolet (1998– )
Mea culpa
10 July 2002
I recant, I repent, I withdraw my previous reserved review. At the time when I first reviewed Ultraviolet (which was some time after I'd actually watched it), Buffy and Angel were at their peak, and slick, quippy vampires were all the rage. But that's been taken as far as it can be. Tiring of the superficiality of the Buffyverse, I decided to give Ultraviolet another try.

Oh my. Oh MY. It's far better than I remember. Yes, the characters are miserable, but it's clearly laid out why this is so, and it all adds to the sense that this is *serious*, and that there are no quick fixes. There are nuances to the character development that I'd missed last time (I recall being distracted and only seeing half of the episodes when I first watched it), and I really, truly felt for them as people (it doesn't hurt that Susannah Harker looks like a melancholy angel, of course). It's underplayed perfectly, with only the occasionally shoddy piece of score to cheapen the tone.

And most of all, I felt for the vampires. These aren't the disposable charicatures of the Buffyverse, and they surpass even the fleshed out characters of Near Dark. They are real, rational people, with real emotions and familiar and touching desires and goals. They just happen to be immortal and drink blood. After you've seen vampires done this way, it makes you question why it should ever be otherwise. Ultraviolet tackles the question "If I was me, but a vampire, what would I do, what would I *actually* be like?" without flinching, trivialising, or slipping up.

There are no tomes of ancient wisdom, no easy answers, and most of all, no black and white morality. Ultraviolet poses the question: if you're always offered the choice to become a vampire, and if you don't have to kill to feed, then where is the crime? Why is it *wrong* to be a vampire? Just because the Church says so?

Ultraviolet leaves the viewer to make up his or her own mind about who the bad guys actually are, and whether there are any good guys in this scenario. It's an interesting and respectful take on the genre.
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Tank Girl (1995)
Why not just show two hours of the comic books?
24 June 2002
Poor old Malcolm McDowell. He seems doomed to play villains in sci fi movies that feature such tiresome protagonists that you end up rooting for him. This is another in the series of big old messes to which he brings a much needed touch of class.

Nobody in this film (the weary veteran McDowell apart) seems to know what their character is supposed to be. There are few actual conversations, mostly confused monologues delivered to empty space; perhaps they're all too embarrased to make eye contact. There's too much budget to allow the raw charm of Repo Man, but not enough to make the FX anything other than embarrasing. Is the titular tank a tardis? Why is it the size of a winnebago inside, and is it a T-72, an M-47 or an M4? Why do bullets strike sparks when they hit sand? Everything about this film is desultory and barely adequate, and every opportunity to take a suprising direction or even provide a decent disjoint is missed. It's the slackness of indie filmmaking blended with the no-risk anodyness of Hollywood.

The biggest flaw is Petty. She switches from concussed to hyperactive more or less at random, and - while she does have a decent big eyed blank look going - she's simply too old to play a part that requires an almost unachievably idealised fantasy pubescent. Tank Girl needs the insane toothy over-confidence of youth, not the over-cosmetic and over-calculated maturity that Petty displays. She actually does manage to deliver some decently amusing one liners, but most of the time she falls slightly short of being genuinely winning.

I would have given this a full 4/10 for the (initial) geek chic of Jet Girl, and for the unapologetic premise that the only thing not in short supply in this post apocalyptic world are cosmetics and ammo. However, it gets dinged one because of the comic cutscenes. Not because they're bad, but because they're the BEST thing in this mess: that just reminds us there's a fair amount of flair and verve here, being suppressed under the stifling blanket of no-risk filmmaking. And then there's the matter of the Endearing Child Hostage. I know it's a genre convention, but it's supremely annoying and utterly, bone chillingly irrelevant and unnecessary. Then there's the slight problem that towards the end, Jet Girl discovers lipstick and suddenly seems not to need her glasses. That's so teen movie that it's not even funny. So a full 1 out of 10, then. For shame, for shame.
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Resident Evil (2002)
Does exactly what it says on the tin
7 June 2002
Resident Evil is pretty much a montage of scene from previous films in the zombie / trapped with a monster genre, with dashes of Tomb Raider and Cube thrown in when they run out of ideas.

This is filmmaking by the numbers. Everything you'd expect to see is there, and nothing that you wouldn't. There are no outstanding scenes, either good or bad, no surprises, no moments of unexpected creativity. The script, dialog, cinematography, audio, score, pacing and FX are all absolutely adequate. How much you will enjoy this film is entirely predictable based on your response to the premise "Hot chick wasting zombies". If you think "Cool!" you'll enjoy this film. If you think "Lame" then you won't. It's as simple as that.

The one scene worthy of mention is the ending, which might as well be captioned "To be continued...". I strongly suspect that it was written (perhaps filmed) before the rest of the movie, because it is such a disjoint from the preceeding scenes.

On balance, I'd rate this on the low end of the cinematic pecking order, but still above such recent adaptations as the tedious Fellowship of the Ring, or the irritating Spider-Man, both of which are annoyingly pretentious and self important. Resident Evil sets its sights lower, gets all of its budget on screen, and doesn't promise more than it can deliver. It won't win any new converts to the genre, but it will please just about all of the existing faithful.
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Panic Room (2002)
You've got a WHAT room?
2 May 2002
The overwhelming question that I needed answered before I could possibly enjoy this film was this:

How was I supposed to sympathise with a women so well off that she can afford to buy a house with a room that serves no purpose other than for her to hide in when people break in to steal all her stuff?

I mean, I have a good job, I pay a third of my income in direct taxes, I live in a nice neighbourhood with a garden and a garage (if not a picket fence). I am Mr Average Suburban. And yet the idea of a house WITH A ROOM THAT SERVES NO PURPOSE OTHER THAN TO HIDE IN WHEN PEOPLE BREAK IN TO STEAL ALL YOUR STUFF strikes me as both hilarious and repugnant. It's so forced that it hurts, it really hurts. I simply can't suspend my disbelief, and if I could, it would only mean that I would hold the protagonist in utter contempt.

The only emotion that this insane, overblown shockfest imbued in me was disgust. Disgust at a society that would allow such a concept in the first place, but especially one that would tolerate a film with that as a premise being released as anything other than science fiction. Avoid.
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Senile dementia creeping in
1 May 2002
Poor Kenneth Branagh. When he gets it right, it's bottled lightning. Henry V, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing. But when he gets it wrong... oh dear. Dead Again, Frankenstein, and now this big old swirly mess.

Let's list the good points. Attractive women. Nice costumes. An attempt at an innovative fusion. Sound cinematography.

On the downside, the biggest damnation is that there is almost no narrative structure. There is a brief introduction to set the scene, and then a series of almost completely disconnected vignettes that could be shown in almost any order, and would still make as much sense. The insertion of newsreel clips to recap the plot only highlights how messy this production is.

Also, there are very few US actors who can do Shakespeare, and unfortunately Branagh didn't get any of them. Shakespeare is *not* a foreign language. You don't just learn it foe-net-ik-alley. You have to *understand* it to be able to act it. The contrast between Branagh's varied delivery and the flat sing song of the US cast is painful, and the fact that he steals the best lines for himself doesn't help - Branagh has never been a particularly generous director. Note that he also assigns the classiest looking actress as his love interest.

10 out of 10 for effort, but a big fat 1 for execution, Ken. And aren't you really getting a bit old to be playing young men now? Find a new direction, and find it fast.
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Unpleasantly like being drunk...
17 April 2002 the "ask a glass of water" kind of way. This extended rock video actually induced nausea in me. The most likely cause of my retching was probably the deeply cynical butchering of Anne Rice's (admitedly somewhat angst ridden and tiresome) original novels.

Not much survived. Some names. Some plot elements cobbled together from two books, at least in as much as they involved the named characters. A very few scenes. Perhaps three lines of dialogue. But the *core* of the titular novel was gutted, and most of this film is just pure lowest common denominator pulp, undemanding celluloid fantasy for the under-21 MTV audience. It feels cheap, and it feels tacky, and that's because it *is* cheap and tacky. I really wanted to shower after watching it, and not in a good way.

Then there's Aaliyah. I won't speak ill of the dead, so that leaves me nothing to say. Nothing.

There really are some films that it would be kinder to just send straight to cable. This film should have been send straight to landfill.
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Bubblegum Crisis (1987– )
*This* is classic anime?
8 March 2002
What a dreadful disappointment Bubblegum Crisis turned out to be. The episode I inflicted on myself featured a lacklustre plot about a vengeful motorist in a Batmobile, and I only managed half of it before falling asleep (literally, not figuratively).

On the plus side, the animation is superb, I won't contest that. Both the beauty and action scenes are handled with genuine style and panache. And while we're praising, there was a half decent effort to convincingly portray a disturbed individual slipping into insanity.

But all that is ruined, utterly and completely by the genre silliness. The whole concept of the "gal group kicking ass" is childish, but it doesn't have to be and childishly handled. What is a simpering bimbo doing in the group? You'd evict her in a second. The essentially juvenile fantasy fulfillment grrl action jarred badly with the pretentions towards serious drama with the Batmobile driver. It was just a big old mess.

I'll mention That Film again. Akira showed that you don't have to stick to the genre plot devices or risible charicatures to produce an anime film. I fell in love with Akira (yes, I know, pronounced AHkih'rah, not Ah-KEEra) and found the subtitled version far superior, and I've been waiting ever since for something of equal maturity. Monoke Hime came close, very close, but Bubblegum Crisis is just embarrasing. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
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Scrubs (2001–2010)
First impressions are often wrong
2 March 2002
For example, my first impression of Scrubs was that it was a genuinely sharp and offbeat comedy with real potential.

But, uh oh, we're only five episodes in and it's already peaked and is now turning stodgy and anodyne. That's some trick; usually shows starts in an uncertain way, pick up in season two, then run out of steam somewhere in season four or five. Scrubs started flawlessly from the very first moment, but seems to have run out of courage and ideas *already*.

On the plus side, the acting is absolutely flawless. It's such a pleasure to see a talented cast working like a well oiled machine. Every line, every nuance is delivered perfectly. Unfortunately, the writing is going downhill fast. The characters are losing their edge, and are slipping into sad stereotypical roles. It's nice that they're doing it in a self aware post modern way and poking fun at it, but that doesn't actually *excuse* it, or make it any less pitiful.

For example, it was nice that they made the iconoclastic point that junior doctors spend a lot of their time clearing impacted bowels and delaying inevitable death for old patients, but after setting up Scrubs as showing the humour inherent in *real* situations, they then wimped out and restricted themselves to pretty patients and nice clean live-or-die situations. Such a shame, such a missed opportunity.

And frankly all the hugging and Learning Valuable Lessons is getting real old, real fast. At this rate, everyone in Scrubs will group hug themselves into an omniscient hive mind organism by the end of season 1, and we can call it a day and enjoy our fond memories of the first few marvellous episodes.
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Alias (2001–2006)
So derivative that it actually hurts
2 March 2002
Is it La Femme Nikita? Is it Dark Angel? Is it Charlie's Angels? Is it Mission Impossible? Is it the conspiracy thread from X Files?

No! It's the worst bits of all of the above. Although to be fair, it's overwhelmingly Nikita, even down to the angst ridden protagonist.

What more needs to be said? Well, on the plus side, Alias has the courage to end on cliffhangers, which makes for an interesting change. That's about it though. The acting is sadly mediocre. The main character is bland and uninteresting, and (as with Dark Angel) the actress has clearly been cast to fit a preconceived look (collagen-lips-on-stilts in this case) and not for any particular acting ability. That's a damn shame, especially when you consider that X Files showed that you don't *have* to cast valley girls to attract viewers.

The supporting cast demonstrates that you get what you pay for, although what John Hannah is doing slumming it in this mess is beyond me. The blaring score jars with the attempts at genuine tension and drama, and they are so keen to showcase the star's mediocre physical skills just because they can that they never pause to wonder if they *should*. Leave the kickboxing to Buffy, guys, it's essentially frivilous and fantastical and ruins the pretentions towards a gritty feel that you insist on putting on.

Alias gives you no reason to care about its protagonist, other than the artificial Saturday Serial cliffhangers. On tha basis alone, it should be consigned to the archives as soon as possible. Unfortunately, audiences and critics aren't just tolerating it for being the least-bad of the current slew of Men In Black shows, they are rather sadly confusing least-bad with actively good. I guess that means that we get exactly the quality of show that we deserve. Sad, sad, sad.
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What About Joan (2000–2002)
Too much all about Joan
19 February 2002
Normally I wouldn't waste my time reviewing such a shoddy show, but "What About Joan" is just so overwhelmingly awful that I feel behoven to warn potential viewers.

First, let me be clear that I have enjoyed Joan Cusack's previous roles. In the right environment, she is a fine actress and can provide a quirky and fun disjoint.

Unfortunately in this travesty, it's ALL about Joan. The whole show revolves around her character. The tiny problem is that her character is simply vile. She is neurotic, self absorbed, ungenerous, aggravating without being in the least bit charming, and thoroughly unattractive in every sense of the word.

It might seem cruel, but it's really fair comment that Joan looks every day of her 39 years. If fact, truth to be told, she looks closer to 50 than 40, even given the liberal over use of smart-soft-focus to try and hide the worst of the wrinkles. Given that she is acting like a spoiled teenager, and that her unbelievably tolerant but bland cookie-cutter friends keep referring to her as a "young woman", this is frankly embarrasing and insulting.

Content wise, there isn't any. Take any whiny two page ego piece from any 30-something woman's magazine, replace the self important heroine with Joan, and you're there. Shouldn't a comedy have, well, comedy in it?

Even given all of this, an actress of Joan Cusack's talent could have rescued this. I want to believe that at least. Unfortunately, she has chosen (or has been obliged) to take the low road of shameless mugging and over emoting. She spends most of her time with her face wrinkled into an indefinable grimace that makes me want to perform a Heimlich manouver on her. Actually, after watching half an hour of this tripe, I rather wish someone would perform one on me.
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Why does IMDB voting require you to give even 1 out of 10?
25 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
And another thing, the IMDB bottom 100 has got a lot to answer for. For one thing, it convinced me to watch this, er, "movie" just to see if it could really be that bad...


It's so bad that you will claw your own eyes out rather than watch it, and your friends and family will find you stumbling around, bleeding and babbling in tongues, never again to look on the good, clean, sane light of day. Unless of course, you convince your friends to watch this with you, in which case *they* will claw your eyes out for you.


Simply put, all of the budget, time and effort went on the mummy, and nothing else. Nothing. If it had just been 90 minutes of the camera panning round the mummy, as it mumbled "I'm the mummy, I'm the mummy" over and over, it would have been a better film.

For (just one) example, the mummy stumbles slowly along, not in reverence of the classics, and not to build up tension, but so as to keep the, er, "action" in focus and inside the tiny sets. If the victims had run, that would have required cutting to another set. And there were no other sets. Nor was there enough celluloid (sorry, video tape or maybe - maybe - digital camcorder memory) to allow reshoots, or FX. Any FX.

Here's a charitable assumption. The actors were told that all of their final takes were rehearsals, or they were crew gophers who were all convinced that they were just doing "stand-in" takes with/for the real actors. The director was told that the FX would be added with CGI later (ahem, spiders?). The writer rode the short bus to the special school, and wrote this as part of some sort of "care in the community" program. The video chains/networks bought it on the basis that they were seeing a rough cut that would all be fixed in post production to match the box art.

On that last point, this film is clearly nothing other than a very shoddy attempt to cash in the (fairly) shoddy Brendan Fraser version of The Mummy. The very fact that some chains and networks have actually bought it shows that in the straight to video market, you simply *can't* be too cynical or mercenary or underestimate the amount of dead air that needs filled.
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Compromises don't come much finer than this
18 January 2002
I sat down to watch this film certain that it would be a horrid compromise of British humour and US influenced shmaltz. The casting of Renne Zellweger over the likes of Minnie Driver aggravated me. There's just no *need* for it. And the news that Renee had the same voice coach as Gwyneth Paltrow filled me with horror. Paltrow's English accent is very credible Standard English. The only trouble is, nobody except newsreaders speaks Standard English. Everyone - *everyone* - in the UK speaks a recognisable dialect.

And initially, Renee struck me as similar. Her accent is Standard English, except where it verges into generic over-rounded "posh". It's not a dialect, and it rings just a little false. Oh well, I thought, here we go. At least it's not Dick Van Dyke.

But to my delight, five minutes into the film, I'd (nearly) gotten over it. Because Renee *is* Bridget Jones. She looks perfect, and her mannerisms are flawless. I was won over, and quite in love, and considering that Bridget is actually not a sympathetic character, that's quite a feat.

And from there it was plain sailing, because the rest of the cast acted as though the roles were written for them. Colin Firth's role *was* written for him (in the original columns and book) in fact, and Hugh Grant's might as well have been. The support were equally as comfortable and recognisable, with only a couple of exceptions: Cosmo, who should have been more Tim Nice-But-Dim (British reference, but it's a British film) and Julian, who, to be fair was playing one of the few characters that had been changed significantly from the book.

Highlights were the scenes that were recognisable re-workings of the 1995 BBC miniseries of "Pride and Prejudice", lowlights were the slightly kludged ending that actually veers away from the Diary (and Austin) original, and the couple of Americanised scenes.

All in all, a splendid adaptation and a splendid film in its own right. The big outstanding question is: if they film the sequel, which features an interview with Colin Firth, who will they cast to play him? Enquiring minds want to know. ;-)
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Firestorm (1998)
Damp squib
12 January 2002
The actors are generic stereotypes or look-a-likes (Janeane Garofalo laughed at your offer, eh?), the script is a random cut-and-paste from various other films, the plot is irrelevant, but the cinematics and score are suprisingly good. You won't sit down to watch this film, but you won't have to switch channels in embarrasment if someone walks in on you either.
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Kicked in the kidneys by my true love
4 January 2002
I went in to this movie with cynicism suspended - my faith in the magic of movies having been restored by "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" - and with my arms held open and a song in my heart.

I emerged feeling like I'd been mugged by my beloved grandma.

Peter Jackson is, quite simply, a coward and a scoundrel. He has cheated his masters at AOL-Time Warner, and he has cheated us, the paying customer. Here is why:

He spent his producers' money filming most of the book, then allowed *half * of each sub-plot or piece of character development to be cut. Cowardice. If you're not going to show where Bill the pony came from, don't waste our time saying goodbye to him. OR, don't present Gimli's antipathy to elves, and then cut the reversal of it. CHOOSE ONE STORY AND SHOW IT! I'm sure that all this will be restored and forgiven in the director's cut (wait until 2004), but that's a devious and underhand way to build an enduring legacy.

The action scenes however, cannot be rescued. They were set up largely to showcase the talents of Peter's friends at WETA. CGI and brutal jump cuts were used *instead* of any kind of choreography or placement or motion. Compare with "Starship Troopers", which had as much showcasing, but supporting and not dictating the action.

The acting... oh, the acting. Good old Sean Bean stuck out like a sore thumb by actually expressing two or more nuances at once. That's at least one more than everyone else, sometimes two. There was enough over-emoting here to make Olivier blush. Fortunately, the heavy handed and woefully generic score overbore more of the monologues, and so we can pretend we didn't hear the more embarrasing pronouncements.

Camerwork? You used to know how to do that, Peter. There were so many extreme close ups that I wonder if this film was sponsored by a makeup company. Either that, or the camera leapt out to pan around a piece of empty landscape with a blurry piece of CGI architecture perched precariously (and erratically) on top of it. The quality of the CGI in these scenes was no better than the painted backdrops on old Star Trek sets.

And the pacing. It made me weep. Days of dreary dawdling in the Shire, then RUSH to the next scene, then linger longingly over a piece of WETA CGI, then RUSH again, dawdle, linger, RUSH, linger, RUSH, dawdle, RUSH, linger, cue Enya, roll end credits. Cut some more scenes, coward! Peter might as well have not filmed Lothlorien at all, for all the spectacle or drama or the development that it provided, and have had Frodo pick up the Phial at Rivendel from Arwen. That's no bigger a heresy than cutting Bombadil and the Barrow, and having the hobbits receive their swords from Aragorn - who happens to be carrying exactly FOUR hobbit sized swords. Lucky guess, eh?

Nothing sums this film up better than the Indiana Jones scene in Moria. It's about 3 minutes long, utterly pointless, and is resolved through providence rather than action. It exists for two reasons only: to showcase WETA (yet again) and to crowbar in two "jokes" aimed at the sort of viewer who finds "Jackass" amusing. Consider that those three minutes could have gone on character development. Split that between Gimli and Legolas, and that would have given them, oh, ninety-FIVE seconds each. John Rhys-Davies had the skin burned off his face by an allergic reaction to his makeup (five hours to put on!), and THIS is his payback? Six lines, and being the butt of goofball "humour"? For shame.

So, we have a movie with no characterisation, poor camerawork, shoddy action scenes, awful score, pace that is both dawdling AND rushed, and scenes cut from the book to make way for unnecessary CGI. It's telling that the highlight (for me) was Sean Bean commenting that Narsil is "Still sharp". I heard that as "Still Sharpe," Sharpe being the character that Sean is most famous for portraying. It might *not* have been a sly reference, but I choose (dear god, I choose) to believe that it *is*, because I so want to like anything Peter Jackson produces. And nothing else in this big old dull mess comes anywhere near to the standard that I expect of him.

Raving fanboys, explain to me what's left to love, because I'm at a loss. As a movie, this is simply awful. If you think otherwise, you're judging it as something else entirely.

I propose that Peter Jackson would have better served everyone involved - himself, his cast, us, and AOL Time-Warner - by just replacing Gimli with Arwen and having her do a lot of bathing under waterfalls and such. This is both a token and mediocre adaptation AND a poor film: a strong nudge either way could have rescued it, but Peter chose to took the coward's middle ground and left us with movie popcorn - loud, tasty on the outside, superficially satisfying, but eventually leaving you feeling empty and craving something more substantial.
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