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Superman (1978) - ***
Superman II (1980) - ** 1/2
Superman III (1983) - *
Supergirl (1984) - **
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) - *
Batman (1989) - **
Batman Returns (1992) - **
Batman Forever (1995) - ** 1/2
Batman & Robin (1997) - *
Spawn (1997) - **
Blade (1998) - * 1/2
X-Men (2000) - ** 1/2
Blade II (2002) - **
Spider-Man (2002) - ***
X2 (2003) - ***
Hulk (2003) - **
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) - **
Hellboy (2004) - **
The Punisher (2004) - ** 1/2
Spider-Man 2 (2004) - ****
Catwoman (2004) - *
Blade: Trinity (2004) - **
Batman Begins (2005) - ****
Fantastic Four (2005) - **
V for Vendetta (2006) - *** 1/2
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - ***
Superman Returns (2006) - ***
Ghost Rider (2007) - **
300 (2007) - ***
Spider-Man (2007) - ** 1/2
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) - ** 1/2
30 Days of Night (2007) - ****
Iron Man (2008) - ** 1/2
The Incredible Hulk (2008) - **
Wanted (2008) - ** 1/2
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) - **
The Dark Knight (2008) - ****
Punisher: War Zone (2008) - ** 1/2
Watchmen (2009) - ** 1/2
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - ***
Surrogates (2009) - ** 1/2
Kick-Ass (2010) - ***
Iron Man 2 (2010) - ** 1/2
Thor (2011) - **
X-Men: First Class (2011) - *** 1/2
Green Lantern (2011) - ** 1/2
Captain America: The First Avenger - ***
The Avengers (2012) - ***
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) - **
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - ****
Iron Man 3 (2013) - ** 1/2
Man of Steel (2013) - ****
The Wolverine (2013) - ***
Kick-Ass 2 (2013) - ** 1/2
You can tell from my top 10 that my favorite types are either blonde haired beauties or Latina hotties.
Staying on Top (2002)
The amazingly superhot and gorgeous Sasha Peralto is the reason this is my favorite softcore flick.
Rating as a softcore flick: A+
Staying on Top stars Holly Sampson as Katherine Phillips, an advertising exec who's shifted out of a big account by her scheming boss Cindy La Conte (Angela Davies). Upset, Katherine quits the agency and starts her own business. This is much to the chagrin of Cindy, who needs Katherine's creative input if she's to have any hope of landing the job. To try and stay one step ahead of Katherine, Cindy uses any means at her disposal, including coercing her assistant Tai (Sasha Peralto) into spying on Katherine. It turns out Tai, who is friends with Katherine but whose career is at risk if she doesn't do what her boss tells her to, may very well be the wildcard that determines who lands the account.
When I review softcore flicks, I usually don't put much emphasis on plot but I made an exception in this case for though the story here isn't particularly outstanding, it's genuinely enjoyable and kept me on my toes with plenty of fun twists and turns. There's actually more to the story than I mentioned, which includes subplots about Katherine's photographer boyfriend and Tai's new romance with Chris. Being a softcore flick, there's obviously going to be a lot of romantic pairings, but the one between Tai and Chris is the only one presented with a real sense of sweetness and charm.
The rest of the movie involves a lot of scheming and double-crossing with the cast turning in some solid performances. As Tai, the amazingly superhot and gorgeous Sasha Peralto is charming and sympathetic, easily the movie's most likable character. Making Tai the focus of attention in the second half of the film proves to be the right choice since we're given someone to actively root for (and also left wondering who she'll ultimately side with).
Holly Sampson, also a superhottie who's never looked better, does a good job as well and is a likable character towards the end, but comes off a little too cocky and arrogant in the beginning. Angela Davies is very believable as the boo-hiss villain, one of those rare instances in a softcore flick where I was actually interested in the outcome because I was hoping to see the villain get her comeuppance.
But of course, as surprisingly fun as the story and characters turned out to be, the sex scenes are really the standout moments here. The film opens up with a scene where Holly rides her boyfriend beside a pool and the scene is so incredibly hot that it's hard to believe later scenes actually match and, in one instance, even surpasses it. One such equally fantastic scene features Holly undressing (where we get the awe-inspiring sight of her in a g-string) and masturbating in the shower, a very stunning sight indeed.
But the boner-inducing Sasha Peralto steals the movie in her two sex scenes, both of which are great (with the former taking place in a hot tub) but the latter one (which also closes off the film) is simply the best scene in the entire film, a nighttime sex scene set beside a pool with Sasha and her boyfriend going through a variety of positions before riding him to utter bliss. This scene is incredibly hot, energetic, and romantic. I've mentioned in another review that I think Sasha is the hottest woman in softcore (maybe even the hottest woman period) and this movie only further asserts that belief. Her adorable face and gorgeous body ensure that just mere sight of her is enough to take one's breath away (and induce a massive boner), but add in the fact that she's constantly nude in this flick and delivers some of the most sexually enthusiastic performances I've seen and it's enough to make one forget about all the other hot women in this flick (or any other movie for that matter) combined!
Two other memorable sex scenes feature Angela Davies inside a limo and Leila Hashemzadeh starting out posing for a photo shoot before things get a lot more explicit. Leila's sex scene actually boasts one of my favorite fetishes, with her nice-looking breasts pressed up against a shower glass door. The production values are also quite high, with a nice variety to the settings, aesthetically pleasing lighting and photography, and just a general look and feel to the production that exudes eroticism. With a fun plot, memorable characters, and great sex scenes this is about as good as it gets for sexy softcore productions.
Hot softcore flick, but still should have had more of the superhot Sasha Peralto.
Rating as a softcore film: A-
Despite the fact this film features hotties like Renee Rea, Tera Patrick, and Brandy Davis I admit the real reason I wanted to check the film out was because I noticed Sasha Peralto's name was in the credits. An incredibly gorgeous brunette with an adorable face and an amazing body, I have no trouble calling her one of the hottest women in the world. And anyone who's seen Staying on Top knows she's greatly energetic and enthusiastic during her sex scenes.
So I guess you could say I was a little disappointed she only showed up for one scene here. The show really belongs to Renee Rea, who stars as Juliette, a student who's doing a paper on sexuality and discovers the only way to do research is to experience matters first-hand. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the movie consists of people answering Renee's ads which get her into a variety of fun and enjoyably sexy situations.
The degree to which a softcore production like this works is how hot the sex scenes and women are, and both are top-notch all-around. As mentioned before, the hottest woman here is the boner-inducing Sasha Peralto, who gets in a great sex scene a little over halfway through the flick. Though I was disappointed she only showed up for a few minutes, some Sasha is better than none at all and at least this role paved the way for her scene-stealing turn in Staying on Top.
As the star of the production, Renee Rea is a very hot cutie. Though her character is a bit annoying in some respects, Rea gives off a sweet and appealing vibe that makes her endearing. The film's standout scene has to be the hot threesome with Renee, Brandy Davis, and the guy playing Davis' husband. Naturally, you can't help but think how lucky the guy must have been to be in this scene.
Tera Patrick has a prominent role as Renee's roommate, but for some reason, she just doesn't seem into her role here. Though her very presence dictates there's going to be some heat no matter what, there's still a noticeable lack of energy during her sex scenes when compared to some of her other softcore efforts. Still, Tera's a hottie and I have no reason to complain about seeing her fully nude.
As is typical of an Indigo flick, the production values are good and there's some pleasing lighting and photography. Personals was actually followed by a sequel which featured a slightly less attractive cast, but still delivered the goods with plenty of great sex scenes.
Enjoyable low-budget adventure flick with tons of nudity and gore.
Rating: *** out of ****
They really don't make movies like this anymore, and by that I mean we don't see low-budget hybrid adventure/horror flicks with constant gratuitous sex and nudity anymore, making Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals a relic of a time when exploitation cinema was at the height of its popularity. Almost thirty years later, this particular flick rates among the most entertaining of its genre.
The film opens in a mental institute, where undercover report Emanuelle (70s sex icon and all-around hottie Laura Gemser) figures she has a lead for a big story on cannibals when a nurse is bitten by one of the patients. Following up an interview with the patient, Emanuelle forms an expedition to the Amazon, where she tags along with an anthropologist, a hunter and his sex-obsessed wife (ultra hottie Nieves Navarro), a nun, and a blonde chick (Monica Zanchi) who really seems to serve no purpose other than showing skin. For the majority of the journey, the most pressing concern is who's going to have sex with who, but they eventually cross paths with a tribe of cannibals who decide on making this particular band of travelers their next meal.
I suspect the one audience that will find themselves most disappointed in the film are horror fans expecting a wall-to-wall gorefest. Except for the last ten minutes, there's very little in the way of violence and even then the actual gore effects may prove a letdown. Rather, your enjoyment of the flick rests more on the scenery, the constant nudity, and a low-budget sense of adventure through the jungle. Maybe my standards have gotten lower, but it really was enough to make for an entertaining experience.
I admit to being a fan of jungle adventure flicks, if for no other reason than to enjoy the exotic sights and sounds. Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals isn't exactly Temple of Doom in this regard, but it does a sufficient job of using its jungle locations to maximum effect so far as possible for such a low-budget flick. Of course, when the setting is mixed with hot naked women, how can I resist?
As Emanuelle, Laura Gemser is a hottie who appears perfectly natural and comfortable with her body, which seems to be the defining trait of her character. Her best moments in the flick include a hot sex scene at a pier, in which despite being clothed we still get great looks at her breasts and bush, and the last ten minutes of the movie, where she strips totally nude to fool the the tribe into thinking she's their water goddess. This actually stands as one of the most creative excuses for nudity I've ever seen and ultimately serves as a great way to cap-off the flick.
The other women in this flick are Nieves Navarro and Monica Zanchi. Navarro is an incredibly hot redhead with a fantastic body. She gets in her most memorable moment with a very explicit masturbation scene where she shows us virtually every inch of her body. It's also worth noting she bears a strong resemblance to the gorgeous Rocki Roads. Zanchi pales considerably in comparison to Gemser and Navarro, but she has a fairly good-looking body and contributes to the nudity. Like Gemser, she also spends the last ten minutes of the movie without any clothes on. It is bothersome to note that her character may have gotten impregnated by the tribe but it's an issue never brought up by anyone else at the end.
As a horror flick, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is pretty much a resounding failure. While there is gore, the film is still otherwise lacking in suspense and action. But the addition of horror elements only serves to make this a very amusing cross-genre experience. If you're into low budget 70s exploitation cinema or just like to see hot naked women traipsing through the jungle, then this is almost undoubtedly a must see flick.
Bruce Timm's DCAU has probably spoiled me.
As a kid, it was pretty common for me to spend my Saturday mornings watching cartoons. But the only stuff that usually interested me were the superhero shows, and by the mid-90s I'd make sure to catch X-Men and Spider-Man, which were coincidentally the two comic book titles I usually spent my allowance on (more specifically, X-Men and The Amazing Spider-Man back in their Jim Lee/Andy Kubert and Mark Bagley days, respectively).
Just recently, thanks to the hype surrounding Superman Returns, I made it a point to try and watch all of Bruce Timm's DC animated shows on DVD, and I found myself absolutely enthralled and in love with this animated universe. From the dark mysteries and noirish atmosphere of Batman to the epic and rousing sci-fi adventures of Superman and Justice League these were shows that delivered great animation, top-notch voice acting, mature writing, and action scenes that would put most summer blockbusters to shame. Hell, even the musical scores were amazing, with great work done by composers Shirley Walker and Lolita Ritmanis.
So stoked was I by the DCAU, I made it a point to try and rewatch some of the Marvel cartoons of the 90s so I rented any available DVDs (given that most of the Marvel shows didn't have any full season releases). Alas, I was half-surprised none of these shows came close to living up to my fond memories. The writing, the animation, the voice acting, and even the music all felt shoddy compared to Bruce Timm's DCAU.
Unfortunately, X-Men happens to be one of those cartoons. Now, I can easily forgive dated animation. There's obviously no chance this series could look anywhere near as good a recent show as, say, Justice League/JLU, but it doesn't even look anywhere near as good as Superman: TAS or Batman: TAS/TNBA, its DC "competitors" at the time. It's also astonishing to make note of how terrible the voice acting was. While it's true some of the voices fit the characters well (Gambit, Rogue, and Wolverine come to mind), most of the lines are delivered in an overly dramatic fashion. I just can't help by try to stifle a giggle whenever Xavier screams and shouts "Power!" every time he's mentally hit by a Psionic attack or whenever Storm (whoever did her voice provides some of the most hammy voice acting ever) makes a point of shouting something akin to "Winds!" every time she summons her powers.
The stories seemed faithful, yet that's also part of the problem. There's such a slavish devotion to the comics that the show never really developed its own identity in the way the DCAU shows did. Part of the point of doing an animated series of a popular comic book is for the writers to make their own interpretation of the series. Timm and company pulled this off time and again, whether it was through original stories (i.e. Legacy and Apokolips...Now!, Project Cadmus, Mask of the Phantasm, and really just far too many to list), original characters (Andrea Beaumont, Harley Quinn, Mercy Graves, etc.), or superior reinterpretations of old characters (Brainiac and to a lesser extent Mr. Freeze).
With the X-Men writers seemingly afraid to deviate from the comics even in terms of characters' appearances (the X-men costumes matched those in the 90s comics), the whole show just gives off this impression of playing it safe. The series is essentially a bland, lifeless adaptation of the comics where as Bruce Timm's DCAU functions as its own separate universe, one that delivered grand entertainment and epic adventures. It doesn't speak well for the show when the only thing that's on my mind while I'm watching it is wondering just how Bruce Timm and his crew would have pulled it off.
Primal Fear (1996)
Decent thriller that relies heavily on a solid cast.
Rating: ** 1/2 out of ****
Here's a film I remembered being a huge fan of back when I first saw it in theaters in '96. Seeing it again for the third time since, it doesn't quite live up to my fond memories. Aside from Edward Norton's scene-stealing performance as suspect Aaron Stampler, there's really not much about the film that separates it from most of the genre. The plot, concerning the murder of a beloved archbishop at the alleged hands of an innocent-looking altar boy and the eventual high-profile trial, is certainly rife with potential but is never executed beyond the level that's expected of a competent pulp thriller.
But credit should be given where it's due, especially the first hour of the film, which does a pretty solid job of setting up the film as an engrossing mix of murder mystery and courtroom drama. The performances are all solid, with Richard Gere providing yet another effective variation of the slick, cocky persona (this time as a "big-shot attorney") he's mastered and Laura Linney acting convincingly stressed out and aggravated by the understandably vexing situation her character's been placed in.
But with all the pieces in place in the first half, the film never quite results in the tight, suspenseful thriller we expect. The most noticeable problem is excess baggage, with the film too often straying from the case at hand and veering towards less interesting tangents. There's just too much chaff here, with subplots that include the romantic tension between Linney and Gere, the writer doing the article on Vail, and the housing development project that simply takes up too much of the movie's already overlong running time.
Equally problematic is a major plot twist halfway through which, while effective in its own right and allows the opportunity for Norton to stretch his considerable acting talent, ultimately lessens the speculative tension that these thrillers usually rely on. From that point on, most of the enjoyment is derived from Norton's performance, and though it's not quite the show-stopper I once considered it to be (probably doesn't help I just saw this flick after his absolutely incredible performance in American History X), it's still one of the better debut performances any actor has ever put forth.
It's with some relief that I can at least say the film saves its best scenes for last (the last three minutes are quite memorable), and definitely finishes things off on a high note. Primal Fear was directed by Gregory Hoblit, who's actually proved himself a pretty skillful filmmaker when it comes to crafting thrillers. This one's merely competent, no more and no less.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Great potential, but it winds up wasted in this middling sci-fi adventure.
Rating: ** out of ****
If anyone still remembers, the early 2000s featured a glut of big-studio animated attempts at science-fiction adventures, with the likes of Titan A.E., Heavy Metal 2000, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and Treasure Planet all tapped heavily for box office or home video success. In hindsight, the studios were apparently capitalizing on a nonexistent trend, seeing as all these films were box office disappointments. Of the bunch, the only one that could qualify as a mild financial success would be Disney's Atlantis, which is baffling considering it's probably the weakest film of the bunch.
After dispensing with a spectacle of a prologue in which the titular city is flooded by massive tidal waves, the film skips to the year 1914, where linguist and generally nerdy scientist Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is once again unsuccessful in securing funds for an expedition to the fabled lost city. But he's given a second chance by a rich recluse (voiced by John Mahoney) who's put together a large team to search for Atlantis, led by a military commander (James Garner) who may have ulterior motives.
Traveling by submarine, the expedition finds themselves depleted of manpower and resources after an encounter with a robotic sea creature. Making their way through a system of underground caverns, the team eventually finds Atlantis and its native inhabitants, who greet them with an equal mix of suspicion and enthusiasm. The Atlanteans are apparently all centuries old but have forgotten how to read and write their own language. Problems arise when the commander reveals his true intentions to steal Atlantis' power source, putting Milo into action hero mode when he decides it's up to him to save the city and its princess.
Despite a potentially exciting premise, Atlantis virtually derails itself in its early scenes when it introduces its colorful cast of characters. Right off the bat, almost everyone is too quirky, be it in personality or in the manner in which they've been artistically rendered (characters' hands are drawn way too large). The worst offender has to be the horribly misguided Mole character, whose one-note schtick, that being his obsession with digging, is milked for all its worth for its humor, which is to say, not much at all, making almost every attempt at comic relief fall flat. The other supporting characters, whether it's the deadpan old lady or the sarcastic Italian explosives expert, aren't much better, but at least they're not as annoying.
As the film's hero, Milo Thatch is made fairly personable by the likable Michael J. Fox, but he's too awkward and gangly to be bought as an action hero even by animated standards. About the only characters who consistently work, either through their visual rendition or their personalities, are Helga and Princess Kida, the former oozing with sultry sex appeal and the latter quite charming and winning.
For such minor to moderate successes, it's unfortunate the most detrimental flaw of all is that the film just isn't that exciting. The first half of the picture, which details the crew's journey to Atlantis, should have been fraught with excitement and wondrous discovery, but these scenes are rushed through too quickly to sustain any sort of momentum. The second half is admittedly more successful, thanks to some surprisingly solid and charming romantic chemistry between Milo and Kida. Though the plot turns absolutely cliché at this point (what are the chances Milo's quirky buddies won't help him out?), the climactic battle delivers its share of visceral thrills, and the main villain is dispatched in a convincingly unpleasant fashion. It's not quite enough to win me over, but it does keep this film somewhat firmly above the level of subpar entertainment.
The story "borrows" quite liberally from Stargate, which itself stole from quite a few other films, making Atlantis feel almost like a second generation rip-off. Despite having been marketed to the teenage audience, I see this film being most enjoyed by younger children who have the higher tolerance for the quirky characters, the rushed pace, and the by-the-numbers plotting.
Even though the film didn't work for me, I am nonetheless quite glad the movie had even been made in the first place. American studios don't usually market their big-screen animated productions to the sci-fi and action/adventure crowd, so part of me still gets a thrill or two that Disney actually gave it a shot. They'd try again a year later with Treasure Planet, and though that film was unquestionably a financial disaster, it was a massive improvement upon Atlantis in every conceivable manner.
A noble effort, but overall a mediocre animated series.
It was pretty clear to me even as a kid that this show was never a match for Bruce Timm's Batman or Superman animated series. The animation, the storytelling, the voice acting, the action scenes, and even the music were all noticeably inferior. I think what kept me watching the show (aside from the fact that I was a huge Spidey fan at the time) was its emphasis on long story arcs. While there are no arcs here that come close to matching those in the DCAU, namely the Darkseid saga in the last several episodes of Superman: TAS or Project Cadmus or the Legion of Doom/return of Darkseid in Justice League Unlimited, I still appreciated the emphasis on continuity.
But the show's flaws were apparent from the start. From the mediocre voice acting to the simplistic dialogue, the show limited its appeal with its kid-oriented approach. Each individual episode had the tendency to move at a far too frantic pace, and this coupled with the long story arcs, ensured that missing even one or two episodes could mean taking quite a bit of time to catch up with the plot. I also had mixed feelings about the use of Peter's inner monologue. While it's an interesting approach to gathering his thoughts, too often these thoughts of his just dumb things down, especially when he's either stating the obvious or talking about things we could have figured out for ourselves.
Each individual episode had the tendency to move at a far too frantic pace, and this coupled with the lengthy story arcs, ensured that missing even one or two episodes could mean taking quite a bit of time to catch up with the plot. I also had mixed feelings about the use of Peter's inner monologue. While it's an interesting approach to gathering his thoughts, too often these thoughts of his just dumb things down, especially when he's either stating the obvious or talking about things we could have figured out for ourselves.
Another major sore point in the show was the use of the enigmatic (and that's putting it kindly) Madame Webb. I'm totally unfamiliar with this character and have no idea if she was even in the Spider-Man comics, but her presence is absolutely grating, sort of like the Oracle in The Matrix movies only ten times worse because she tends to pop out at random and has a voice that's akin to fingernails on a chalkboard.
Even worse were the attempts at depicting violence, with cops carrying silly-looking laser guns and Spider-Man never throwing a punch towards his opponents. Consequently, the action scenes seemed watered down, faring all the worse compared to the more violent and visceral battle scenes in the DCAU (where characters would actually bleed from severe cuts and punches). It may seem silly to think this stronger emphasis on violence would help a show, but watch Superman's Legacy or Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and tell me the sight of two opponents bloodied after an exhausting battle doesn't make the sequence all the more powerful and intense. This was something missing in ALL of Marvel's animated shows.
Taken in perspective, I suppose the animation was pretty decent (I remember Carnage looked awesome), superior to most other Marvel animated efforts, but lacking the energetic fluidity of its DC competitors at the time, namely Superman: TAS, Batman: TAS, and The New Batman Adventures. In fact, the animation in Spider-Man had the tendency to move in a choppy manner during the action scenes, which was pretty distracting.
From what I've heard, the series ended with a cliffhanger that was never resolved, much to the dismay of fans. A few more Spider-Man shows have since cropped up in the last few years, including one from MTV. Didn't much care for that one, either, but I admit its action scenes and voice acting were at least superior to this 90s rendition.
Not the best start for a series.
Rating: * 1/2 out of ****
My enjoyment and appreciation of Star Trek has the tendency to wax and wane. While I enjoyed most of the movies and am a huge fan of TNG, the rest is more or less up for grabs. I have only seen two season's worth of the most recent incarnation, Enterprise, and I find it a very underrated series, thanks in particular to the knockout season 3 Xindi story arc. Voyager did little for me, with its subpar cast and bland storytelling hindering its otherwise enticing premise. But it's Deep Space Nine that baffles me the most.
For the past several weeks, I've been trying to catch up on DS9 so that I could follow the Dominion War arc, and I started from season 3's The Die is Cast, which proved to be a pretty exciting episode so I decided to give the series a shot. And from there on out, it's been up and down for me. I wasn't able to catch all the episodes, but I tried my best to see those that pushed the Dominion story forward. The end result was an often frustrating mix of engrossing episodes (The Way of the Warrior, Broken Link, Apocalypse Rising, Tears of the Prophets, The Siege of AR-558) mixed with plenty that I found rather overrated (In the Pale Moonlight, season 6's Dominion-occupied DS9 arc).
But I'm pretty glad to see that the series on ended on a high note thanks to the Final Chapter arc, which concluded with the terrific two-hour What You Leave Behind, which proved to be one of the Star Trek franchise's most exciting and moving episodes (other solid episodes in this arc include The Changing Face of Evil, When it Rains, Tackling the Wind, and The Dogs of War). Consequently, I was pretty curious to revisit the first episode and see how it all began, and while watching Emissary worked as a curiosity for a while, it wasn't long before boredom set in.
Not that Emissary doesn't get off to a decent start. The opening sequence depicting the Battle of Wolf 359 is a fast-paced way to get the series going, even if the battle itself appears way too small in scale. The actual introduction of the station and its crew is handled fairly well, and it was nice to compare and see how the characters progressed over the years, the most obvious instances being Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and the Ferengi Nog. Kira is actually one of my favorite characters on the show, so it's particularly interesting to see the hostility she displays towards the Federation in this episode, especially compared to how she handles being in charge of the station by the final episode.
Most of this premiere suffers because it has to establish a none-too-exciting set-up. In this case, it's watching Sisko deal with the prophets while coming to terms with his own emotional pain. Undoubtedly, it's the emissary/prophets storyline that I like least about DS9 (well, maybe it's a bit better than those annoying Ferengi episodes), as I don't think the series ever did a particularly good job of making the prophets or their motives intriguing. Their presence has also been ripe for some deus ex machina moments (Sacrifice of Angels comes to mind).
It doesn't help that some the acting comes across rather amateurish, particularly Terry Farrell as Jadzia Dax and the actress that plays Sisko's wife. Even the typically solid Avery Brooks slips in quality on occasion here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best performance is delivered by Patrick Stewart, who makes an enjoyable cameo appearance as everyone's favorite French British starship captain. So maybe this wasn't such a good start, but it's nice to know the series would improve and I am looking forward to seeing how the Dominion are introduced.
SeaQuest DSV (1993)
Has some charms, but it didn't live up to my fond memories.
I was a bit of a sci-fi nut growing up, so you can imagine the joy I experienced when sci-fi on the small screen made a strong resurgence in the early to mid 90s. Yep, those were the days, back when I found myself glued to the television, eagerly watching and awaiting the newest episodes of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, The X-Files, Earth 2, Sliders, The Outer Limits, and NBC's Seaquest DSV.
Seaquest caught my attention for three particular reasons: the premise of an undersea world was immensely appealing, the series was being executive produced by none other than Steven Spielberg, and the star of the show was one of my favorite actors, Roy Scheider. With all these ingredients, I just knew this was going to be a sci-fi classic and given how undemanding a sci-fi fan I was back then, this show won me over from the start. Watching season 1 again, it's a bit tougher to imagine why I was so fond of this show in the first place.
Certainly, there's a handful of bright spots to be expected. Scheider, as always, does a great job of playing the fatherly authority figure/everyman role that I'm sure he's grown used to. The f/x and sets, very "90s" in look and style, were quite impressive for its time and are still passable enough today that they don't often distract the viewer. The series even occasionally delivered its share of high adventure and mild suspense. I also liked John Debney's main theme, which is actually kind of catchy.
But the series never came together like it should have. From the start, Seaquest was clearly aping ST: TNG, what with the UEO/Federation parallels, the captain/ship's doctor romance, and the brilliant but annoying teenager who served no other purpose than to draw in a younger demographic (even though Jonathan Brandis, RIP, was a better actor than Wil Wheaton, I still found Lucas far more irritating than Wesley Crusher).
This would all be perfectly forgivable if the show actually delivered on its fantastic premise. Unfortunately, Seaquest is cluttered with too much vanilla-bland writing and cheesy dialogue. Seemingly 3/4's of the episodes attempt to deliver an important "lesson," but this tends to come off as self-consciously heavy-handed and corny. The show was also clearly intended for a family audience, hence the mostly light tone and lack of any material that might come across as potentially offensive; this must almost be entirely attributed to Spielberg's presence, as I cannot imagine Rockne S. O'Bannon pandering to younger audiences.
Looking back at the first season's 23 episodes, I wouldn't say they're awful; in fact, I found most of them just plain and mediocre. The only one that stood out was Episode 4, entitled "Games," which managed to deliver sharp suspense for most of its duration, still unfortunately marred by a cheesy climax, which became a staple of the series. Of all the shows I mentioned above, this rests with Earth 2 as the worst of the bunch (TNG still the best, of course).
Is Seaquest a bad series? For the most part, yes, but I've got too much of a sci-fi slant to hate it. Anyone completely weaned on today's sci-fi shows (Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Firefly, Stargate, Enterprise) aren't going to find much in Seaquest that would appeal to them. But those who grew up on early 90s sci-fi...well, you've undoubtedly seen this show enough times already to know if it's up your alley or not.
Good setting and some nice atmosphere, but the rest is pretty terrible.
Rating: * out of ****
The straight-to-video market has actually produced a number of quality horror films in the last few years, so no longer should we automatically expect crap from the genre just because it happens to end up on rental shelves first. Quite hyped up by straight-to-video standards, Boo is unfortunately one of the more disappointing films I've seen in recent memory, not nearly the taut, scary experience I'd expected. Heck, it's not even fun to watch, which is the least I'd hope for from a movie about a group of teens stuck in a haunted hospital.
What I just mentioned was the gist of the plot, though there's also a subplot about a guy searching for his sister in the hospital but it's about as awkwardly introduced as just about anything else here. Take, for instance, the opening scene, which seems to want to poke fun at the self-conscious horror flicks that once swarmed the market, but it's a scene that fails to produce any tension or laughs.
This is indicative of the rest of the film as a whole. Though the movie appears to be a straight-up horror flick, it's hard to tell if there's an underlying layer of self-awareness to the whole thing or if it's just because the acting is so stilted, it's difficult to discern if the cast was even taking the film seriously.
That's not to say there aren't already plenty of problems with the plot, the most obvious of which is that rather than playing it in a simple, straightforward manner, the script tacks on some of the most annoying plot devices the genre has to offer, most particularly the girl who has that inexplicable "psychic link" with the hospital. Any time the film looks like it might gain some momentum, this "psychic link" rears its ugly head and brings the pace to a griding halt.
But weak as the story is, the acting is definitely worse, with not a single passable performance among the entire cast. They're not even convincing when they're re-animated "ghosts," to the extent that the director even ends up resorting to using reverberating voices to make them sound scary. I'm usually lenient when it comes to quality acting in the genre, but I'm beginning to realize how important competent performances are, seeing as I'd like a character or two to root for or at least someone who genuinely looks terrified by the situation around them.
The gore is a mixed bag. Not badly done, but when created with CGI it fails to mesh in well with the more atmospheric approach that director Anthony C. Ferrante is clearly striving for. Though the film mostly fails to deliver, I've got to give the filmmakers credit for achieving a fairly decent sense of atmosphere and a pretty good setting, but that's as far as it goes. Such qualities do little good when the rest of the film is otherwise flat and lacking in scares, suspense, or even a sense of urgency. Worst haunted house flick since Dark Castle's Thirteen Ghosts? Probably so.