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19 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Revoke Scott's Credentials as a "Scientist", 6 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode has gone too far for an intelligent person to believe other than that the series is total hogwash. While the entire series is utterly lacking in scientific, technical, or historical information, this episode apparently dispenses with the concepts completely. Scott is investigating artifacts found near Tucson, Arizona which are supposedly from the year AD 800. The only technical aspect included in the investigation is geological; determining if the incrustation on the objects are appropriate for a long time underground, and whether or not the lead from which the artifacts could have been local. The investigation is called into serious question, however, by what is omitted, and obviously intentionally omitted.

The artifacts are covered in Latin inscriptions. Where was the expert in Latin to verify that the language and writing used were consistent with AD 800 usage? Not a single word was mentioned about this. Why? There was great excitement over the discovery of two "Crosses of Lorraine" on one of the artifacts. Unfortunately for Scott's investigation, the form of the crosses were not consistent with the historical heraldic form of the Cross of Lorraine. In AD 800 the Cross of Lorraine was a vertical bar crossed by two equal length cross bars. The use of unequal length cross bars is something which appeared long after the supposed time of the artifacts.

Scott jumps into his usual and extreme conspiracy theories, here trying to connect the Masons and the Knights Templar to the artifacts. Unfortunately for Scott's ludicrous theories, the Knights Templar did not come into existence until the 12th century, almost four hundred years after the supposed creation of the artifacts. He does acknowledge this time disparity, but only in one quickly passed sentence; and he never bothers to explain why he wasted a major part of the program on something which he, at some point, knew was utter garbage; and to which he refers repeatedly even after his admission that there cannot be a connection. His attempts to connect the artifacts to the Masons are beyond ridiculous. He ignores the simple fact that "masons" (or Freemasons) did not exist as an organization (other than local guilds) at the time.

Need one even comment on the asinine attempt to connect the modern Exxon logo to the Cross of Lorraine on the artifacts? He goes so far as to get an "expert" (although it is questionable if that term could be applied to the individual) to connect the red and white colors of the logo to the Knights Templar, and, unbelievably, claims that the blue bar at the bottom of the logo represents the Templers crossing the ocean to reach America. Did no one bother to think that a modern American company might want to use red/white/blue as their colors? Or did they so desperately need to include someone they could claim as an expert in the show (since there seems to be significant lack of such persons)? One can only conclude that the producers, writers, and Scott are openly laughing at the credulity of so many of their viewers.

Scott's conclusion is that the artifacts are real, base solely on the fact that the artifacts do appear to have been in the ground for a long time. This gross illogic alone should convince any viewer of two things; 1) forensic geology is not a science, at least not as practiced by Scott Wolter, and 2) the utter stupidity of this show and the series as a whole.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Highly Negatively Impressive, 29 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This has to be one of the poorest woodworking shows ever.

Although the host appears to be reasonably knowledgeable, or at least skilled, his presentation is just plain bad. The show comes across as impromptu; like something made in a backyard workshop on a whim. The host doesn't seem to have a real plan for what will happen, but rather approaches a project with a "gosh, what comes next" attitude. The resulting impression is amateurish at best.

One would expect a woodworking show to educate. This doesn't. There is no meaningful explanation of what is being done, or why it is done. Instead, the host simply goes to work and the commentary is a statement of what is happening. The viewer comes away at most little wiser, and potentially quite confused.

The show on the Star Bowl was impressive … highly negatively impressive. A large piece of wood started out at about fifteen inches in diameter and an equal length was lathed down to a bowl of about a foot in diameter by less than a half inch thick. Well over 97% of the original wood was wasted as shavings to produce a bowl … and a bowl which wasn't the promised Star Bowl (it turned out the placement of the branches in the original wood was not right for the desired end product). The result was not only grossly wasteful, but anticlimactic. This is not the sort of thing which should be on educational television.

Fortunately, only a few episodes were made of this series. Avoid them.

Art of War (2009) (TV)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
With Hindsight We Could All Be Sun Tsu, 25 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Art of War is another of Four In Hand Entertainment Group's shows which are best classified as history-for-the-uneducated-masses. The graphics are generally good (which is not always typical for shows of this type), although their applicability and quality decline as the show progresses. The accompanying photographs and video actually match the subjects which they illustrate (which is definitely not typical for such shows). Unfortunately, the show uses decidedly second rate experts.

Where the show fails the most, is in the writing. As with all similar shows, it has a point, and manipulates history to support that point, right; wrong, or not too inaccurate enough to be disbelieved. The heart of the problem with the script is; either the writers did not understand what the experts told them when preparing the script; or the "experts" weren't very good in their attempts to apply Sun Tsu's principles. Listening to the experts' comments, there seems to be at least as much of the latter as the former.

A number of Sun Tsu's principles are presented sequentially. After each is introduced, it is typically followed by a CGI/re-enacted demonstration of how Sun Tsu used this in war. Then, a more modern (19th or 20th century) example is examined, showing how the principle was followed or violated.

The show claims that Sun Tsu's principles of military strategy are universal; but it fails to point out that attempting to apply the principles to any one specific situation before the fact, is, at best, extremely difficult (which is why professional military officers are employed). However, it is fairly easy to sit back and criticize the historic decisions after the fact (which is how many military historians, like those on the show, make part of their livings).

Each of the individual segments of the show could have its multiple faults addressed in detail, but two examples will be used here to save space.

First, is the concept of "death ground". A principle of Sun Tsu is to put you troops on "death ground" and they will have no fear. According to the show, that is what was done at the D-Day landings. The first problem with this, is that the position of Allied troops on the beaches of D-Day was not consistent with what Sun Tsu describes. It might look like it to someone who does not know the more detailed history of the planning for D-Day (i.e., the targeted viewer), but the troops were not on sun Tsu's "death ground", and were not motivated by the desperation and the lack of retreat which Sun Tsu's strategy invokes. A second problem is that Sun Tsu's principle can only be discerned in a battle selectively after the fact. The idea is to place troops in a position from which there is no retreat in order to inspire them to courageous combat. If such troops are victorious, the experts rush to point out how Sun Tsu's concept works so well. If such troops are defeated, experts rush to point out what a fool the commander was, to place his army in a position from which they could not retreat. The real lesson from this segment of the show? Critics show how a commander violated Sun Tsu's concepts; professionals learn Sun Tsu, but deal with reality as it confronts them.

Second, is the critique of General Lee's actions prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. The expert claimed that Lee violated one of Sun Tsu's principles by letting operational developments override strategic goals. So, once the movements of the Union army became known, Lee gathered his troops around Cashtown and Gettysburg. It seems like an obvious failure by the general who lost the battle. But, the commentator later criticizes Lee for failing to react to developments in the field, directly contradicting their own expert. Further, had Lee not gathered his army, he would have been criticized by the same expert for failing to concentrate his force in the face of the enemy, especially a larger enemy force. It is easy to criticize the actions of a general in the field and to pick which of Sun Tsu's principles were violated when one has 20-20 hindsight. This applies to each of the segments of the show.

Unfortunately, each of the segments addressing one of Sun Tsu's principles contains the same set of problems; questionable selection of examples, questionable interpretations of the principles, and the application of 20-20 hindsight without regard to what generals knew at the time.

Is The Art of War worth watching? Yes. But do so with a clear understanding that it has a specific and restricted point of view, and it is at best, only an extremely limited starting point for understanding Sun Tsu's military concepts. If it gets someone started on further study, then it has accomplished something good. If someone watches it and things they now know something useful, they are fooling themselves.

Rage of the Yeti (2011) (TV)
23 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
Watch It Once, 12 November 2011

As this is being written it is just over twenty minutes into the movie (including commercials). So far there have been numerous technical errors, an utterly stupefying plot, poor CGI, and a complete lack of acting ability; and those are the high points.

The movie does have three notable things about it.

- First, it is a well advertised SyFy movie feature on Saturday evening, so you know before it starts that it can't be very good, and you can keep your expectations low.

- Second, it took well less than ten minutes to confirm that the previous point was correct.

- Third, David Hewlett did not exactly repeat his Dr. Rodney McKay character from the Stargate series. What he did provide were a few scenes shot in a day or two so that his name could be included in the movie.

The only reason to watch this movie - once - when you have absolutely nothing else to do, is so that you never have to watch it again in your life.

And, for those who think that twenty minutes is not sufficient time to form an opinion about this garbage; the rest of the movie was, if anything, worse.

16 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
0 of 10 would be too high of a rating, 3 October 2011

Nothing about this show was believable. Each of DiSchiavi's scenes/interviews felt like it was scripted. DiSchiavi himself apparently channels bad 1950s detective movies, and seems completely artificial. The people he interviews don't come across as real, especially real people interviewed on camera for the first time; but rather as bad actors. Having a self-proclaimed medium as the second part of the investigation team highlights the bogus nature of the show. The reputation of mediums for fakery is a long established tradition in ghost hunting. This doesn't mean that Allen is a faker, but the profession cannot normally be taken too seriously, and rarely comes across as believable on film.

Whether or not the two investigators speak to each other before or during the investigation, a highly touted aspect of the investigator's relationship, is irrelevant. You know there are support personnel, and there is no way to know how they influence what the main investigators know or say. Even more importantly is the final editing, which can be used to include or exclude whatever is needed to produce the desired result.

Finally, the most important question for any show such as this is; Do the show's characters come across as effective and trustworthy. Whether they actually are or are not such, they come across as bogus.

The show is a waste of time and electricity, which, given the current popularity of the subject with some groups of high credulity, means it will, unfortunately, be around for a while.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Unexpectedly Marginally Adequate, 25 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A made-for-SyFy movie -- everyone knows it is going to be bad, probably very, very bad. While Morlocks is not a "good" movie, it does unexpectedly rise above the typical movie garbage on SyFy; up to the level of marginally adequate.

While the movie has the standard amount of bad or even meaningless science, overall it has the unexpected good sense to just not try to explain some things. Of course, all of the characters are dumbed-down to insure that no one does something too smart which might end the story half way through the movie. Also, the plot is completely transparent. Within the first fifteen minutes almost the entire story line is evident. Plot progression is strictly by-the-book, and almost completely lacking in imagination.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the movie is its ability to combine so many standard disaster movie conventions blatantly into one story. 1) The major disaster was unexpected but probably preventable, not fully or correctly understood by the experts, and not stoppable by simply pulling the plug, but rather requires exactly one special person to save things. 2) There is a stereotypical bad guy military commanding officer with some sort of ulterior motive, who steadily goes completely out of control, but who is never questioned by his subordinates. 3) There is a rogue or disillusioned scientist who wants nothing to do with the project, but comes back for personal reasons, usually an ex-spouse or ex-lover. 4) There is a heroic, almost superhuman, junior officer who although at times is a hard-ass, is naive regarding his command officer, but is extremely capable and personally quite brave. 5) There is a beautiful girl who must be rescued by one of the main male characters, possibly to the detriment of the mission to save the Earth/project/etc. 6) There is a beautiful auxiliary fighter who is jaded but able to kick butt at critical moments, usually saving secondary male characters. 7) The ending cannot allow things to be resolved, but rather there must be either a potential continuing problem or a tie-in to the original problem. 8) There are many more, but the point should be clear. The plot was written from a checklist of stereotypes and clichés.

The movie has some good points which should be noted (considering its pedigree). 1) It is reasonably fast paced. There are no long waits for the plot developments. 2) There was nothing confusing about the plot. Everything is pretty much up front for the viewer to see. Even the hidden agenda is easily seen and understood from (too) early in the movie. 3) Unexpectedly the acting was generally quite decent. No one is going to win an award for this, but the actors appear to put effort into their characters. 4) The CGI is tolerable but by no means notable. By SyFy movie standards it is even good. 5) While there is violent death and some blood, it is not excessive and is consistent with the reasonable needs of the story (there was the potential for a lot of needless gore).

The two best known cast members are David Hewlett (Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis) as Radnor and Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager and Stargate: Atlantis) as Colonel Wichita. Hewlett brings his Dr. Rodney McKay character straight into Morlocks. Except for lacking McKay's humor, much of the movie could easily be mistaken for part of an episode of Stargate: Atlantis. Picardo brings his heavy / bad guy character seen in a number of movies and shows over the past few years. While at times he is reasonably convincing it such roles, it doesn't work as well here. The problem seems to be that his character so quickly goes off the deep end, to a point which would, in a non-contrived setting, result in his being relieved of command. That may stem from bad direction, poor general writing for his character, and certainly an obvious lack of knowledge by the writers about how the military and military research projects really work. Unfortunately, this was the least convincing of all the characters.

Finally, the movie is worth watching at least once. Go in knowing that it is a great idea which is poorly executed, and always remember the horrible reputation of the production source (SyFy). If that is done, the viewer will get what is expected and it should be worth the time.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Great Potential, Poor History, 21 August 2011

A thoroughly second-rate presentation of history, and a sad example of how history is presented in the common media. Apparently the only way to get people to watch history is to flash historic pictures, depict action with often inaccurate video-game quality graphics, provide a general commentary liberally splashed with superlatives, and intersperse the presentation with brief "I was there" comments and third-rate "experts".

The big feature of this (and similar) series is the CGI which purports to show what the commentary is describing. Unfortunately, much of the graphics are inaccurate, inconsistent with the dialog, or just plain wrong for the situation. An example is commentary describing GIs slogging their way through mountains against a dogged enemy defenses, yet the accompanying CGI shows tanks rushing across plains with no resistance. Also, the use of the same few pieces of CGI over, and over, and over again in each episode eventually causes one to begin ignoring the graphics altogether.

In addition to the CGI, is the constant barrage of historical pictures thrown onto the screen, often too quickly to be understood. While a potentially very helpful part of the presentation, the inaccuracy of so many of the photographs destroys much of the good they could do. Many of the period pictures have nothing whatsoever to do with the commentary. For example, in the Messina episode, the commentary describes how dangerous the German "88" was. Unfortunately, of the six quick-flash pictures shown, only three are certainly of the 8.8cm FLAK gun (the others appear to be a late ware 12.8 cm anti-tank gun, a 10.5 cm field howitzer, and something which may not even be a piece of German equipment).

The personal comments come from three sources. First are "historians" -- and this is in quotes, since many of the individuals are total unknowns in the field of history, often with a single coffee-table book to their credit. Second are veterans who were present in or near the action described. Unfortunately, many of their comments, while potentially interesting, are not applicable to the immediate subject, and too often serve only to distract from the current history. Third are current military personnel. While well intentioned, only one or two of these people appear to have any actual knowledge of the history presented, and simply provide comments which anyone with a grain of common sense would already know.

Interspersed all too rarely in the presentation are brief descriptions of specific weapon systems. These are the one decent thing in the programs. A weapon which is being described in the dialog is presented in the video equivalent of a text side-box. The details are reasonably (and unexpectedly) accurate as is the associated graphics. Unfortunately, these ten to fifteen second presentations are too short to give the viewer even a marginally adequate understanding of the equipment.

The series concept has great potential, unfortunately, it in no way lives up to that potential. The only way to effectively watch these shows is with someone who knows the history and can fill in the massive holes in the commentary and explain what to ignore.

2010: Moby Dick (2010) (V)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Movie Which Should Never Have Been Made, 18 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I didn't have any good expectations about this movie. 1) The concept was obviously absurd. 2) The believable reviews were all highly negative. 3) It was on the SyFy Channel. Almost unbelievably, it was far worse than expected.

This movie has not even one redeeming quality.

- As a rework of the Moby Dick story, it is asinine. A submarine chases a giant whale, attacks with nuclear weapons, and conducts a near hand-to-hand melee with it on a beach.

- The CGI is not good enough to be called pathetic.

- What little science referenced about whales is blather, and the one slight effort made to explain the possible origin of the beast was blatant nonsense.

- The technical aspects of the military, its weaponry, and its technology are not even vaguely in touch with reality. The writers appear to have learned everything they know about the U.S. Navy from other, almost equally as bad movies. We might also note that there is no one credited as a military or naval adviser, and it shows.

- The final big fight with the whale at the island is too outlandish to consider. It boggles the mind to think that anyone, no matter how fever or drug crazed, would think that such a sequence would be accepted by any watcher. (I won't attempt to describe it here, since no one who hasn't seen the movie would believe it anyway)

Originally I had no intention of watching the whole thing. I was drawn through it, not by interest, not by fascination, nor by any good quality of the movie; but rather, by the uncountable errors. Within the first couple of minutes there was a glaring goof. It was written up and submitted. By the time that was done, a number of more goofs had occurred. The movie ended before all the goofs were submitted. It actually took about twenty minutes longer than the movie to prepare all the goofs (and that was only the most notable errors - there just wasn't time for all of the "little" continuity, plot hole, etc. goofs).

This movie achieves a status which few (thankfully) are able to reach - the list of movies which should never have been made. It is a complete waste of the time and materials used to make it, and it isn't worth the materials needed to store it. It also should be considered a major embarrassment in the careers of everyone involved, and hopefully something will happen to all of the copies so that future generations will not associate it with anyone currently alive.

And, finally, in case there is any confusion on the part of the reader -- I really, really didn't like it and don't recommend anyone waste time or money on it.

6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Parody or Disaster - or Both, 12 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Asylum is perhaps the most consistent motion picture production company on the planet. They have shown an uncanny ability to produce one piece of utter trash after another. Battle for Los Angeles is, unfortunately, well rooted in this tradition.

Other than ripping off a number of science fiction movies BfLA started off as just another poor CGI, no plot, badly acted, and technically flawed Asylum production. Then, after the introduction of poor game quality alien killing machines and an unbelievable ninja-like female fighter, it seemed that there might actually be a theme developing -- parodies of a plethora of science fiction movies with a few shooter games thrown in for good measure. Sure enough, Independence Day, Close Encounters, Tomb Raider, MIB, and others all flashed by. Perhaps if there had been anyone in the production staff with even a slight amount of talent, original thought, or imagination, they might have pulled it off.

Unfortunately, like everything produced by Asylum, the movie fails to live up to expectations, unless those expectations are for a bad movie. Unexpected, unexplained, and just plain ridiculous plot twists coupled with improbable events and situations eliminate any ability to suspend disbelief and leave the viewer wondering if the writer's job was anything other than stringing together a preselected set of parodies.

Topping off the movie's problems are poor CGI (especially early in the movie), an obvious lack of military knowledge, and one predictable scene after another.

The movie seemed to be played as a serious parody. As such, it failed. If it had been played for humor, it might have had a chance -- at least to the extent that it already was able to produce howls of laughter at how silly some of the scenes were when played on the level.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Flawed, Factually and Otherwise, 17 February 2011

This was the first episode of this series seen. If it is an example of the series, then there is no point in watching it. In the first twenty minutes there were numerous factual errors plus many questionable opinions presented as facts. Two examples of blatant factual errors; 1) At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese Navy's battle line included more and superior battleships compared to the U. S. battle ships. -- Only in one, limited situation can part of this statement be true. At the start of the war, the IJN had ten battleships, plus the battleship Yamato which was about to be commissioned. The USN had seventeen battleships, including the two new North Carolina class battleships, which were superior to anything in commission in the IJN. If the meaning of the statement applies only to the US Pacific Fleet, then the IJN is superior in numbers, with ten to nine battleships; however, the poorest of the USN Pacific Fleet ships were clearly superior to all but the two newest IJN ships (the Nagato class).

2) At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese Navy had nine aircraft carriers with the US Navy having only three. -- One must wonder what the writers thought about the other four USN carriers? Yes, there were only three active USN carriers in the Pacific, but that is not what is said, and the Panama Canal was built to enable the USN to reinforce the Pacific reasonably quickly.

If these two errors were the only one, there might be hope for the show. But it seems like hyperbole and the desire to inflate everything to make it sound more exciting got the best of the writers.

Another issue is the pacing of the show. The first half is used to provide background information on Admiral Yamamoto and the beginning of the Pacific war. Having gotten the war started with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the story jumps over the war situation to get to the beginning of the US attack on Yamamoto's flight. Once the flight of the US attack group starts, the pace slows to a crawl. It isn't that there is a lot to present, the narration just slows down and the show relies on CGI (which is adequate but not notable).

Finally, where is the "Mysterious Death"? There is very little which is not known about the attack on Admiral Yamamoto; and the show makes no effort to suggest otherwise. Did someone fail to tell the writers what the title would be? It looks like this is another one of the seemingly innumerable second rate histories being prepared quickly to fill the schedules on the various "History" channels.

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