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Volstag

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49 reviews in total 
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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Well done SyFy... Well done, 29 January 2016
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the best sci-fi television shows I've seen in a long time. If it continues along its current trajectory, I might end up calling this one of the best sci-fi television shows ever.

The Expanse offers us a glimpse of life in our solar system in the somewhat-distant future. Humans have colonized Mars, various moons and asteroid belts. A somewhat fragile political state exists between the three major "factions" of the solar system: Earth (money / power / culture), Mars (military) and The Belts (natural resources). Against this backdrop, we have our three factions moving towards war.... a missing girl.... and the possibility of a mysterious alien presence.

What this show does so well, IMO, is really an emphasis on the basics. We have a compelling setting, interesting characters, competent writing / directing, and an intriguing mystery to unravel. I also appreciate that the show has somewhat of a noir-ish / Blade Runner vibe to it, and the science -- while certainly not 100% accurate -- is definitely plausible. I also really enjoy the refreshing paucity of "aliens with strange foreheads" and "futuristic techno-babble" (which seems to dominate nearly every other science fiction show).

This review was written after watching S1E8 and, as of now, I'm calling it one of the best shows I watched in 2015. What has me worried though, given that I really like this show, is that it's doomed to be canceled prematurely. I really hope SyFy gives this show enough time to capture the audience it deserves.

I rate it a provisional 8/10.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Occasionally quite good, but becoming repetitive, 20 January 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This will be a somewhat challenging review for me as, candidly, I'm largely ambivalent about TWD. With each new season, and each new episode, I'm never quite sure if I want to continue watching it, or simply give it up. I've felt this way, really, since about mid-way through season 2.

On the one hand is my love of all things "zombie" and/or "apocalypse". That, and -- every once in awhile -- TWD is capable of delivering extremely exciting / compelling episodes. When TWD is good, it can be really good.

On the other hand, there are episodes (if not entire seasons) wherein nothing substantive actually happens; the whole production feels like its treading water. It's the same basic story being told and retold over and over again with each new season..... namely: (a) survivors are on the run (b) survivors find a suitable place to hole up or call "home" (c) something bad happens (d) survivors are forced to flee (e) repeat. This is trivializing, for sure, but this basic template is used every season (or multiple times per season)..... and, unfortunately, I don't see that changing for quite some time.

TWDs viewer ship numbers, and IMDBs ratings, would seem to indicate most people are perfectly fine with this approach. For me, personally, I'm not sure if I care enough about these characters, or the (thus far) non-existent overarching story to watch 8, 11, 14+ seasons of our survivors repeatedly going through same travails. This show desperately needs an actual narrative arc. It needs to start laying the groundwork for an "end game". I want to see these characters changing and growing, striving for something beyond bumbling from set to set, fighting -- yet another -- improbably sociopathic antagonist.

Unfortunately, it appears that AMC / Kirkland (et al) are focused on milking this for as long as humanly possible -- which is unfortunate, as "open ended" dramatic series always overstay their welcome, inevitably "jumping the shark" in some egregious fashion or, perhaps worse, dwindling into nothingness until a contrived, tacked-on ending is conjured up just prior to the show getting canceled.

This "review" was written during the mid-season break of Season 6. I already know -- without having read the comics, or checking spoilers -- that the show will soon be introducing a new bat sh*t crazy socio/psychopath, and that season 6 will end with our survivors being evicted from their current "home" and/or engaging in mortal combat with the aforementioned "mystery" sociopath. I hope I'm wrong. If I'm right, I'll probably stop watching TWD..... as I've already seen this exact sequence of events in seasons 1 through 5.

I hope for the best for this show, and, as noted above, there are some truly great TWD episodes. But, by and large, I find myself becoming progressively less interested, and progressively more bored.

In conclusion, if you really love zombies and don't necessarily need an engaging narrative arc, TWD is a great show. If you love zombies, but also want an actual story (with, you know, a beginning, middle and end) I'd watch until you get bored of it. Once you make it past, say, season 4, you've pretty much seen everything you're going to see.

I'd like to rate this a 6.5 / 10, but since IMDb doesn't use fractional votes, I'll give TWD the benefit of the doubt and give it a 7/10.

"The 100" (2014)
4 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Teen Rubbish, 19 February 2015
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How this can be enjoying a 7.7/10 rating on IMDb is utterly beyond me. This show reminds me very much of "Revolution" -- nothing more than a lame excuse to parade around attractive 20 and 30-somethings masquerading as teenagers.

Admittedly, I only watched maybe 30 minutes of this filth, but that was more than enough time to let me know that this is not a science fiction show.... in even the most generous light. It is a teen drama / romance pretending to be a science fiction show. I don't expect this show, or any other show, to be 100% scientifically accurate, but I do expect them to -- at least -- pay lip service to the science.

(spoilers to follow) How is it that everyone is well coiffed, physically fit, extremely attractive, and boasting pearly white game show host teeth, when they've been trapped on a space station for multiple generations? How have they not physically withered away by living in a sub 1g environment for multiple generations? Why did they not maintain extremely tight control of their limited resources? Wouldn't they have reduced the resident population from, say, 4k to 3k over the generations to prevent this very thing from happening? When our "teenagers" land on Earth, they're not immediately gobsmacked by going from the restrictive confines of a space station to the open expanse of an uninhabited Earth? The main character and four friends are going to walk 40 miles and return "before dark" carrying enough food to feed 100 people through a wilderness environment they have no direct experience with!? It's utterly preposterous! It would take at least a full day to make that journey, and they could only come back with enough food to last a meal or two (at best).

I turned off the show right around this point. This is simply another teen drama trying to cash-in on the current craze of paranormal / magical / young adult fiction. Much like Revolution, it has a very compelling premise, with amateurish execution.

Bottom line: if you like a smattering of "science" with your "science fiction", do yourself a favor and stay away from this drivel.

"Z Nation" (2014)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not exactly "good", but definitely "fun", 19 February 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was pleasantly surprised by "Z Nation". I didn't really expect to like it, but it definitely grew on me as I continued watching.

To get the obligatory comparisons to TWD out of the way: where the Walking Dead is a much more serious / dramatic / soap opera-esque look at the z-apocalypse, Z Nation is primarily centered around fun. The show is making no attempt to take itself seriously and, as a result, neither am I (which probably explains why I let the various plot-holes and other gaffs slide w/o comment or objection). Ironically it feels more "comic book" than the Walking Dead -- which is based on an actual comic.

Most of the episodes are quite entertaining with the notable exception of S1E9 "Die Zombie Die... Again", which I found to be surprisingly weak. The acting, while not Oscar worthy by any stretch, is definitely competent. I particularly enjoy the characters of Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) and Warren (Kellita Smith). The production values of Z Nation are quite a bit lower than TWD (for obvious reasons) and, every once in awhile, the footage appears to have been shot on consumer level digital video cameras.... but, as before, I'm willing to let it slide provided the underlying material is compelling / entertaining enough (which, in this case, it is).

In the end, if you like campy / corny / b-grade horrors and thrillers, you can't go wrong with Z Nation. If you're looking for a more serious take on a hypothetical zombie apocalypse, I'd look elsewhere.

"Lost" (2004)
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Starts great, progressively slides downhill., 31 October 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Recently a friend of mine started watching Lost, and he wanted to get my opinion on the show. It took me awhile to articulate my thoughts, as Lost is one of those shows that I've loved and hated in equal measure. It also didn't help that it had been years since I watched it.

The first two seasons are amazing. I'd recommend them in a heart-beat, if, somehow, you could simply quit watching after season 2. But... if you've made it through season 2, you're likely going to continue, and that's when the problems start.

Season 3 was also quite good, but the credulity was starting to stretch, and I recall becoming somewhat frustrated. The show was starting to rely on explaining one mystery by invoking another mystery -- never really providing concrete answers. Further, the writers were spending way too much time with flashback sequences that, candidly, were little better than filler. To me, part of the "filler problem" is the absurd number of episodes they needed per season (20+ if I recall). For the sake of comparison, 2 seasons of Lost is the rough equivalent of 4 seasons of Walking Dead. That's a huge number of episodes

By season 4, I was actually starting to get angry with the show. There was simply way too much unexplained. Too many mysteries within mysteries. It was during this season that I came to the conclusion that the writers didn't have an "end game" planned for the show. They were making zero attempt to pull all these loose threads together. I strongly believe they were, basically, making it up as they went along. But, being the sucker that I am, I continued watching....

I almost quit during Season 5. Why I continued to watch it, I'm not sure. At this point, the Island and its denizens, etc, were completely baffling. There was no rhyme or reason to anything that was happening. More mystery for the sake of more mystery.

I watched season six out of morbid curiosity. I knew going into it that it was going to end in a completely unsatisfying manner. And, sure enough, it ended in a completely unsatisfying manner. The awesomeness of the first two seasons completely squandered on yet another inexplicable mystery. In the end, we know nothing more about the island, its point or purpose, or why anyone was even brought there. You, literally, knew as much about it in season 1 episode 1 as you did 130+ episodes later.

Do I recommend this show? Yes, I begrudgingly recommend it. My rating: 6/10.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Great premise, poor execution, 15 October 2014
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I haven't posted a review on IMDb in several years. This show changed that. Unfortunately, it's not due to the fact that this show is amazingly good. Quite the contrary.

I'd like to start off by saying that the premise of this show is extremely compelling, and it's the main reason I added it to my instant watch queue. That, coupled with the fact that I have a soft spot in my heart for, basically, any post apocalyptic movie / television series. Unfortunately, the compelling premise appears to be largely squandered on this vehicle.

I like sci-fi / fantasy as much as the next guy / gal and I typically look past plot holes, inconsistencies and contrived situations that are part and parcel of the genres -- provided they stay within a certain range of credulity, and provided the remaining material is strong and/or plausible. This is, of course, entirely subjective and will vary widely from person to person. Sadly, there's just way too much that doesn't make any sense about this show, and I found it almost immediately off-putting. For example (spoilers to follow):

* Our three "reluctant heroes" are able to blithely leave their village without anyone being the slightest bit concerned. Presumably they're necessary members of that society. Presumably they have jobs and duties they can't simply walk away from without anyone caring.... and yet they do.

* Their walk to Chicago takes all of one scene?! I suppose this is possible if they were on the outskirts of Chicago to begin with, but the show never specifies that. For all we know, they were in Minnesota or Nebraska or Oregon... which would have taken weeks (if not months).

* When our three heroes arrive in Chicago, the very first person they talk to happens to be the person they're looking for. While this is technically possible, it's extremely implausible.

* If there's no electrical processes of any kind, then human beings wouldn't be able to exist either. While I'm at it: does lightning not exist? Does static electricity not exist? The only way to explain this is through the presence of what amounts to magic.

* Why does everyone look like they just stepped out of a fashion shoot? Everyone has immaculately coiffed hair, glowing white teeth, no injuries or maladies, freshly pressed / laundered clothing, perfect skin, etc, etc. Very few people in the 19th century looked like that (note: 19th century seems like a rough equivalent to a present day society w/o the benefits of electricity).

* Why would anyone use muskets or black powder rifles? Modern day weapons don't require electricity, and, as of 2007, it's estimated there's around 290+ million firearms in the United States. If we assume there was a massive die-off in the absence of electricity (which there would be), there would be an absolute surfeit of weapons and ammunition. Each person could own several dozen guns along with tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition. Finding a musket or black powder rifle would be way more challenging than finding several dozen contemporary hunting rifles.

* No steam power? Right. Apparently the denizens of this world have no interest in a viable, non-electric, power source. It doesn't make sense.

* Ruins, ruins everywhere. Modern day houses don't crumble into ruins within 15 years. Want proof? Look at the house you're living in right now. There's a very good chance it's older than 15 years -- and I'm further guessing it's standing tall and proud w/o an undue amount of structural maintenance (if any).

I'd continue, but I think you get the point. I honestly get the impression the writers of this show didn't really think about the consequences and reality of a world w/o electricity. I also feel that, had this show continued, they could have never explained the "no electricity" issues in a logical / plausible manner. I know they would have resorted to some mystical / paranormal angle -- explaining one mystery by invoking another mystery. It's weak and, for me, ultimately unsatisfying.

"24" (2001)
2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Decent espionage/thriller, 24 August 2006
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm kinda ambivalent about 24. Some episodes, during some seasons, are entirely watchable and downright entertaining and well written. On the other hand, some episodes are so unbelievable that the show is positively silly. In some sense it's similar to watching a daytime soap opera: you know it sucks (from time to time), but you can't help watching it.

** spoilers to follow **

For me, this show would be absolute gold if it ran 12 to 16 episodes per season. With 24 episodes a season, you can really tell that the writers have to "stretch" it quite a bit. The sheer number of close calls, kidnappings, back stabbings, double-crosses, etc, tends to work against itself as the season progresses. Season 2, for example, the character of Kim Bauer experiences the following mishaps during a 24 hour stint: domestic violence, kidnapping a child, fleeing from the cops, a corpse in her trunk, escape from the police, ensnared by an animal trap, hounded by mountain lions, abducted by a survivalist, shooting at motorists, engaged in a convenience store hold-up, her dad "dies", etc, etc. As silly as it sounds, I would let half of this pass w/o question, but alas.

Also, observant viewers will notice a few "gaffs" in the alleged "real-time" aspect of the show. Occasionally a character will show-up at a location within a time-frame that's not plausible, or even downright contradictory to what the viewer already knows. For example, in season #1, Tony Almeada shows up at Terry Bauer's residence within 4 or 5 minutes of departing. Once he rescues Terri, he informs C.T.U that it will take him "20 minutes" to return to the office. His he taking the scenic route? In season #3, Almeada returns from the hospital to C.T.U. in the space of approximately 3 or 4 minutes. Is the hospital right across the street? This is nitpicking, for sure, but it tends to detract from the believability of the show. Also, as someone who has been working with computers for over 20 years, I find some of the office "techno babble" to be completely laughable.

But, in the end, the show is entertaining to watch -- as long as you're willing to occasionally suspend your disbelief.

6.5/10

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Smart Horror, 15 August 2006
7/10

The Descent features a team of British spelunkers exploring a cave system in the Appalachian region of the United States. As you can imagine, the deeper they delve, the more harrowing their situation becomes.

The Descent, unlike most horror movies, features characters that are for the most believable. And, more importantly, they behave in a somewhat rational manner. There's no bimbos checking out "mystery sounds", all alone, clad only in bikinis. It's tough chicks in for the fight of their lives.

The movie does an admirable job of conveying a sense of claustrophobia and urgency in the beginning. To be honest, I thought the lead-up to the "introduction" of the creatures was quite a bit creepier than the creatures themselves. As a matter of fact, once the creatures make their presence known, the movie does tend to devolve into more traditional slasher fare.

But, in the end, it's a decent horror movie with some downright chilling moments. Definitely worth checking out.

7/10

5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Didn't live up to the expectations (for me), 4 August 2006
6/10

I'm a huge Will Ferrell fan. I've liked (loved?), and laughed at, most of his movies. Talledega Nights, however, just didn't live up to the expectations I had going in. I'm not sure if this a problem with me or the movie itself.

In a nutshell, the movie simply wasn't as funny as I was hoping it to be. I really thought I'd be treated to the same level of hilarity that I found in "The Anchorman" (for example). Sadly, that wasn't the case. While there are certainly some gut busting moments, when viewed as a whole it just wasn't firing on all cylinders (pun intended). There were several stretches of the movie where I found myself barely chuckling, and _almost_ wondering when it was going to be over.

I thought many of the characters, notably Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Mrs. Dennit (Molly Shannon), were under utilized. I also felt like the ad-libbing (if such was the case) simply wasn't gelling as well as it has in previous Ferrell vehicles.

In the end, it's a moderately funny movie (with a few gems), but don't expect anything on the level of "The Anchorman" or "Old School".

I gave it a 6/10.

0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Kinda confusing and preachy, 29 July 2006
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie, as noted above, suffers from being overly preachy and inchoate. There's also a disturbing amount of "dead" footage that should have been left on the editing room floor.

** spoilers ahead ** Anyway, the core of the film revolves around Johnny Johnson's (Billy Dee Williams) desires to "stick to the man". Unfortunately, they never really do an adequate job of convincing the viewer (in my case anyway) that Johnny has it rough enough that he should foment a riot and kill people. Sure, he's passed over for a job that he's qualified for, and he's arrested by the cops for no reason... but other than that, his life seems to be pretty decent. In fact, he spends the majority of one day going to a party, dancing with a hot lady, going out to eat, buying some clothes, then making sweet love to the aforementioned lady. If that's indicative of "the man" keeping you down, then sign me up! The narrative is told via a largely confusing series of flashbacks that don't make a whole lot of sense -- primarily because a character will flashback to incidents/people that they weren't even a party to. For example, Luanna (Pamela Jones) asks Johnny to explain a comment he made during a conversation that she couldn't possibly been privy to. About half-way through the movie I simply stopped trying to make sense of it.

Like most of the movies I comment on, I was hoping this was going to be in the "so good it's bad" category. While it was close, it falls short of true ineptitude... which is my way of saying the movie wasn't that bad (though it wasn't that good either).

Good movie score 5/5. Bad movie score 5/5


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