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The Cat in the Hat (2003)
OK, almost everyone seems to agree that this movie is really bad, so I'm not going to bother getting into that same discussion.
What I do want to highlight is the hostility towards kids that this movie has. I can't understand it, and I'm really kind of appalled. Looking at the credits now, I see that all three of the writers were from the show Seinfeld. I'd love to know who thought that was a good team to adapt a Dr. Seuss novel, because even without knowing what the results were I think I could have predicted that train-wreck.
In the first 20 minutes of the movie the Cat in the Hat not only insults the two kids, and slams the little boys face into a book, but he makes fun of him by calling him a bed wetter. I'm no expert, but as far as I know, a lot of kids wet the bed, and it's really inexcusable for a movie aimed at children to make fun of that.
Almost all of the jokes are inappropriate for children in a similar way, like the one about circuses torturing elephants. Some people don't approve of circuses, especially animal acts, and I'm fine with that, but a children's movie like this should be full of wonderment and delight, not cynicism, cruelty and dream-crushing.
I can only assume that Myers signed on to play the cat before there was a script. Although, as hundreds have pointed out before me, he's still responsible for playing the cat as if it were his character Linda Richmond.
The Daily Show (1996)
a comedy show until it's not
The Daily Show loves to hide behind the shield of being a comedy show when they are accused of being partisan in this election year, but Stewart, the host, becomes serious and logical whenever anyone attacks the left. In defense of John Kerry, Stewart often makes comments that begin "Well clearly what Kerry meant was..." but if George Bush stammers for a second during a speech, he is cut no slack whatsoever and is portrayed as a near-moron.
Essentially, it's a comedy show when they are talking about Republicans but a news show when they are talking about Democrats.
In my opinion there's nothing inherently wrong with being a partisan television program, but the denial, the pose of being only interested in what is funny, is a little contemptible.
Meet the Press (1947)
always relevant but clearly biased
Meet the Press is a must-see for anyone concerned with current events, if for no other reason than that it's a must-show for the participants in those events. It's a show with a clear liberal bias, but compared to most of today's news programs I would call it pretty even-handed.
Russert is a skilled interviewer, able to pose a question and then shut his mouth for however long it takes the guest to respond fully, but he has a tendency to become overexcited about his hypothetical constructs, as in "If you knew then what you know now, would you still do what you did?" It's hard to imagine any sane, self-respecting person trying to answer a question like that, but somehow they all take a stab at it. (In fairness to the guests, Russert is so over-enthusiastic with these that he rarely takes "I really don't know," as an answer to such questions.
In my opinion the greatest strength of the show is the way it confronts guests with their own press and allows them to respond to it. Russert is well-known for describing a video clip of the guest that's about to be played, and then saying briskly "Let's watch!"
If Joss Whedon wanted to make Westerns there's a perfectly good genre just for that.
Not that it's a bad show, but my expectations have never been so thwarted as when I watched Firefly expecting to see a sci-fi show. And in fairness to me, all the commercials seem to feature spaceships, but the show itself is more about train hijackings, horses and wagons and knife fights. I don't even know if I've seen a laser fired yet. Even the soundtrack is cowboy music.
Crank Yankers (2002)
Funny or not (and it's not) I can't believe anyone can think it's a good idea to make a television show about harassing people as they go about their lives.
This show is juvenile in the worst possible way, and has about as much entertainment value as watching someone commit property damage, or a mugging.
I'm reminded of a line from Dennis Miller, talking about another show but certainly in the same spirit as Crank Yankers: "Their next project: kicking grandma hard in the stomach."
Red Planet (2000)
Preachiest movie ever.
Drinking game (Be careful you don't give yourself alcohol poisoning): every time the movie's writers directly lecture you, the viewer, on your failure to live up to your ecological responsibilities, in the guise (barely) of dialogue and exposition, take a drink. But on the other hand, where would we be without the stabilizing moral and ethical example of Hollywood.
I think Red Planet was poorly conceived and even more poorly executed, failing to remain consistent even to its own premise. Elements of plot and back-story are introduced and discarded with no apparent attempt at cause and effect, to say nothing of relevance. In the middle of the movie I was reminded of a line from the Simpsons when, at the end of an episode, the entire family is trying to deduce the moral of the story. Bart says something like "There is no moral, it was just a bunch of stuff that happened." This movie is a lot like that.