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This show had so much promise...too bad.
I am so disappointed in the direction this show has gone in with its second season. The first season of Sanctuary had so much promise. I loved the atmosphere of mystery and the mixture of supernatural and science fiction elements, and the virtual sets they used allowed them to create a world that closed in around those elements. The acting was excellent, and the characters well rounded. But alas, it seems that the producers have abandoned all of that for an amped up, action show with shoot-em-ups and monster attacks. They have abandoned much of the virtual sets concept and have gone to real-world settings, which totally ruins the atmosphere of the show. They have turned the Sanctuary itself from a secretive organization to a para-military organization that has its own Navy! COME ON! Gone is the mystery, and here comes the explosions! It really is sad because this series was so different and fresh in the beginning, as was Amanda Tapping's portrayal of Helen Magnus. But for her character as well, she has changed and not for the better. They have basically turned her into science genius with a gun, another Sam Carter but with dark hair and a Victorian accent. And I really do think she has a better acting range than that, because she showed it in the first season. And the new characters they have brought in (with the exception of Tesla) are irritating. I watched it through the season finale for Season 2, but I think I am going to drop the show from my viewing list. I have to say it again...too bad. This show had such promise. Now, I think it will end up more of a staple of Sci-Fi Saturday movies (bad monster flicks) because that is where the material is heading.
SGU Stargate Universe (2009)
AWESOME!!!! Stargate Gets New Lease on Life!!
Stargate Universe is a quantum leap forward for the universe, and franchise, of Stargate. This series is very different than the previous incarnations of Stargate, in that it does not focus on action or battling evil space aliens. Instead, it is a more character oriented drama based upon a classic film and television premise. Take a group of people, throw them into a dangerous and isolated situation, and see how they function. There is a stark and deadly serious quality to this show that reminds me of Battlestar Galactica, and this seems to fall into line with the direction that modern science fiction television is going in (less explosions and alien makeups, more drama and angst). In doing such a radically different series for Stargate's third television incarnation, the producers has avoided the trap that the Star Trek television franchise fell into. With each new Trek series from Next Gen. to Enterprise, each series was just more of the same, just different characters and slightly different window dressing. Even Enterprise, the supposedly new direction for Trek, became just more of the same after a while. Thus, Trek's TV franchise got old, and ultimately died. Funny enough, SGU is what the Trek people could have done with Voyager, but they didn't. With Stargate Universe, you still get the same universe of Stargate, with some very familiar Stargate elements and a couple of familiar characters thrown in (RDA making a couple of appearances), but in a completely new setting and new style. I predict this series will keep the Stargate franchise alive for at least another decade.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was the A-Team. I loved the show because the heroes were themselves criminals who operated outside of the law to help people. Leverage is like a modern A-Team for adults. The actors are also well cast in their roles. Each one of them brings something interesting to the show. I think what I love the most about this show is that it is FUN!! I don't mean fun as in stupid, brainless reality show fun. It's a fun show to watch and you won't loose any brain cells doing it. I sometimes feel like TV nowadays is so ultra serious. There's no fun in TV drama anymore. I feel like adventure caper TV is back, but in a slick, smart format.
Oh, and strictly from a guys perspective-Beth Riesgraf is totally hot! She reminds me of Katee Sackhoff!
This was a great movie, with surprising twists and subtext.
Hi everyone, I went to see the movie Stealth this afternoon. I have been looking forward to it ever since I saw the previews for it when I went to see Star Wars back in May. However, I went in figuring that this movie would either be really good or really bad. Well, I can happily say that I was very pleased. This film ROCKS!!!! Interestingly enough, though, I wasn't just good for the reasons I thought it would be good. The film is really advertised as an action-adventure special effects film with lots of explosions and cool jets. Well, it has all that stuff, but there is actually a great story to go with it and an interesting subtext to what is going on. Funny enough, I ran into one of my history professors coming out of the theatre, and we chatted about the film and had similar opinions about it. Here's a little run down on what I mean.
The film takes place in the near future, figure about ten or twenty years on. An elite group of pilots is chosen to fly a new kind of superwarplane with stealth and armament capabilities to take out terrorists anywhere in the world, operating a hypersonic speeds over long distances. However, there is also a drone plane added to the program with superior capabilities that has an artificial intelligence piloting it. On a mission, lightning strikes the plane, and the A.I. develops a mind of its own and starts taking on its own unauthorized missions and will not respond to orders. The pilots of the elite squadron must take down the A.I. and its plane.
Now, the film has classic man vs. machine elements to it, but from there, it takes on an interesting twist in direction.
Its hard to compress the basic plot of this film down into that summary so it is probably a little confusing. But here is a little on the elements of the plot I found interesting.
1) The man vs. machine story is really turned on its head here. The A.I. starts off as the villain, and you think the film is going to be about taking it down. But it turns out that, in this case, man is the villain, and the A.I. ends up with more humanity than the Captain who would have seen his pilots killed rather than expose his wrongdoing. The A.I. is only learning from man's actions, and learns both rebelliousness and loyalty to its fellow pilots. Very interesting and surprising considering how the film is advertised.
2) This was a point my professor crystallized for me. A lot of times, films end up becoming a footballing of what is coming in the future. In this case, artificial intelligence in airplanes. Science fiction? Well, considering how the technology involved in military drones is advancing, it may not be that far off. Just how smart do we make the computers and how much power do we give them? The lead pilot in the film makes the point that war is a terrible thing and most sane human beings don't want to see war happen. Our morality tells us death and destruction are things to be avoided. A computer has no morality, no sense of mercy. Do we give that much power to the machine, to make war with advanced weapons? Great question.
3) The film really exposes the problem you run into with covert operations. The flight program in the film is ultra-secret, and the Captain in charge is given total authority in its execution. That's the way covert operations work. Few people are in the loop, so there is little oversight in terms of the program's execution. The only people who have oversight and power are the same people who had a vested interest in seeing the program succeed. The film really makes one wonder about things that may have gone wrong on covert operations in the past and have never been reported. Has someone in charge of an American covert op. ever gone rogue and almost caused a serious incident? Covert operations are often necessary to achieve goals, but they are a necessary evil to be sure. This film exposes that.
4) The A.I. in the film is really responding to human action, and is confused by it. He sees a human pilot violate orders to take initiative and get a job done taking out a terrorist target. So, it does the same thing on a larger scale. Then, it sees pilots protect each other, so it moves to protect its fellow pilots. It doesn't really have human emotions, but mimicks them in all of their confusion. In the film, the A.I. is basically a ball in a jet cockpit, but in its own way, it is a great character for the story because it finds itself confused by the same emotions that confuse us.
Beyond all of that, the film has a lot of great action and the special effects are phenomenal. The futuristic planes landing and taking off on the aircraft carrier look absolutely real. It is amazing. And the aerial dogfights are fantastic.
Go and see this film, folks. It is the best one I have seen all summer. You will enjoy it, in my humble opinion.
Maybe the best Star Wars of them all!!!
WARNING!! SPOILERS!!! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!! Anakin's slide to the dark side is actually extremely well handled and is very interesting. In a way, there are several parties responsible for what happens. Anakin, of course, is to blame because he makes poor choices (choosing fears over losing his wife vs. the good of the republic and the jedi, his lust for power, his ambition and jealously).
But at the same time, a lot of the reasons behind Anakin's fall is the fact that he is being manipulated big time by almost everyone around him. Palpatine is screwing with his head, making Anakin think that Padme will die in childbirth if Anakin doesn't explore the dark side to find the power to prevent it. The scene with Palpatine telling Anakin about how a sith lord once learned how to prevent death was chilling. "Can I learn this power?" asks Anakin. "Not from a Jedi," says Palpatine. Ian McDiarmind's performance as Palpatine was superb on many levels, but in this scene he comes across as some kind of father telling his son a bed time story, but in a very twisted and manipulative way. Palpatine is both a seducer and a repulsive, evil force. Absolutely brilliant! Yet Palpatine isn't the only one manipulating Anakin. The Jedi Council is doing the same thing, using his relationship with Palpatine to spy on the Chancellor because the council doesn't trust him. Of course, the Jedi are well motivated in their actions, but Anakin is right--it is very un-Jedi like to use Anakin they way they are.
The result--as Anakin says to Padme in one scene, "I feel lost." And it is very understandable why he would feel that way. Even his own Master, Obi-Wan, is in league with the Council's decision, albeit reluctantly. He doesn't know where to turn, and once Palpatine's seduction is complete, for the first time, Anakin feels there is order in his life. He becomes a blind follower of Palpatine.
I really love the way that Anakin's vision of good and evil becomes so logically twisted. In a way, the nature of good and evil are at the center of the story. Sometimes, it is very hard to recognize, and evil is sometimes so seductive that it turns even the best of people to its side.
Plus, I think of all the Star Wars movies, this one had the most emotion in it, which is quite an irony because so many critics have said that the new Star Wars trilogy lacks the emotion and characterization of the original films. But in this film, I think the emotional content is there in a big way. Love, hate, fear, sadness, helplessness, are all felt by the characters, and well expressed in the performances.
I think something that helped the acting in this film is that all of the actors are a little older and more experienced now. Natalie Portman has matured into a very good actress, and Ewan McGregor shines in this movie with his multi-faceted performance. Hayden Christensen also does well in going from the confused young man Anakin was to the self-assured, hateful Darth Vader that he ends up becoming. There is one scene in particular that Hayden did well with. After he has slaughtered the Jedi in the temple and the Separatists leaders on Mustafar, he stands on a balcony. On his face is a look of hateful satisfaction, but tears are flowing from his eyes. He is both pleased and sad with himself, and with that one look, Hayden's performance tells the whole story of what Anakin has become. Then, after he thinks Padme has betrayed him and Obi-Wan maims him, Anakin loses that little bit of humanity left in him, and becomes the machine-like, evil that is later hidden behind the dark mask.
Plus, the action in this film is awesome. There were more lightsaber fights in this film than in any of them, and the one between Anakin and Obi-Wan was INCREDIBLE! I have never seen such a fast-moving, almost operatic fighting sequence. Those sabers were moving so FAST, and there was a great deal of emotion in the fight backing up the swordplay.
Star Was 3 was an absolutely brilliant film that has the scope of a massive galactic war on multiple planets, but at the same time has a very human and emotional story at its heart. I recommend that everyone see the film. You will not be disappointed.
National Treasure (2004)
This was an AWESOME FILM!!!
I just went to see this film tonight, and it was fantastic. A great action-adventure film with an intelligently written script and excellent plot twists. This is a great film on so many levels, but I think one of the great things about it is the fact that it is a nice, PG rated adventure film that the whole family can get into. Too often today we see films that adults would want to see but are not appropriate for kids, or we see films for kids that adults are bored stiff watching. This film is a rare kind nowadays because it is a great film for both adults and children to be entertained with. I also love the way they integrated elements of American history into the films plot, which is a great way to get movie watchers into history. As a historian myself, I very much enjoyed that element of the film, and the fact that Nicholas Cage's character reacted in the same way I might have in his place in many situations in the film. Now, is some of the stuff a little far fetched, like treasure maps on the back of the Declaration of Independence? Sure. But this only puts National Treasure in the tradition of other great action-adventure yarns like Indiana Jones. So, go see this film with the whole family, and have a great time.
King Arthur (2004)
Best Arthur Movie EVER!!!
I really loved this film on so many levels. First, I for one am glad that the filmmakers decided to get past most of the romanticized chivalry related crap that has been tacked onto Arthurian legend over the centuries, in order to get to the roots of the story of Arthur (well, mostly). For those who found this confusing, its probably because they are used to the glittery, knightly, courtly stuff they see in most Arthurian related films like First Knight, Excalibur, etc. But scholars who study Arthur in order to find who the real man might have been would say that most of that was added on by later bards and storytellers to bring Arthur to more relevance in their own time. Now, granted, the filmmakers who made this movie do the same thing. King Arthur does try to appeal to modern audiences with wisecracking heroes and Braveheart like action.
But at the center of the film is the core story of who Arthur probably was. Most Arthurian scholars now believe that King Arthur was a Roman general, possibly of Britanic heritage, who commanded forces in Roman Britain around the time of the fall of the western Roman Empire in 476 A.D. When the Romans began to pull out of Britain to defend their own home city from Barbarian invasions, the Saxons (a group from another part of Europe) invaded. Arthur and those forces who remained loyal to him joined forces with the Britons to drive off the Saxon invasion. Arthur became King, and a time of peace and prosperity came to Britain. That's the core story.
Now, what about the round table and Camelot and Lancelot and Guinevere? Most scholars think most of these characters were added by later storytellers, along with Merlin the wizard and Excalibur and the mists of avalon. Its like telling a fish story. The fish gets bigger and bigger every time you tell the tale.
What is so brilliant about this film is that it correctly places Arthur in terms of time and place, but at the same time preserves some of the characters and situations of later Athurian myth in such a way that it makes a nice mesh of historical facts (as far as can be determined) and folklore. This creates a wonderful texture of a time and place in our distant past, and one that is filled with fictional characters that are very interesting and exciting. The fictional characters themselves are created in such a way that they also belong in that time and place. Arthur's knights in the film, for example, are Samanian warriors from another part of Europe conquered by the Romans. They were drafted into the Roman Army for a certain term of service in Rome's provinicial forces, in this case their Britain garrison. This conscription really did occur in the later Roman imperial period. What you are really seeing on the screen in a historical context is the death of the Roman world (and the ancient western world along with it) and the birth of the Middle Ages.
Beyond the historical stuff, this is a great action/adventure picture, filled with excellent sword play and medieval archery. Its very reminiscent of Braveheart in this respect. I highly recommend this film to everyone. The reviewers who panned this film are just plain wrong, in my humble opinion.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Totally based in falsehoods and distortions of fact.
I've read all of these critics given this film high marks, and I couldn't understand it at first. Until I realized that they were mainly critiquing Moore's film techniques. I guess in those terms, the film is good. But there is one problem. This film is supposed to be a documentary. Documentaries are supposed to be a kind of film that presents factual information or ideas based in fact. Moore's film is NOT a documentary because it does neither. Its an editorial piece, meaning its an expression of opinion that does not necessarily have to be based on fact. This should not be called a documentary.
Now, the big problem with this film-it is full of falsehoods and misleading distortions of the facts. For example-the film presents the conclusion that the U.S. went into Afghanistan to put in an oil pipeline. Those who think that oil companies are the root of all evil will agree with it. But there is one problem-there is absolutely no factual evidence that this is true, while there is overwhelming evidence that the U.S. went into Afghanistan to get the people who sent terrorists to kill thousands of people in New York and Washington.
Can Michael Moore say that he believes we went to Afghanistan to get an oil pipeline? Sure. I can say that John Kerry married a member of the Heinz family because he likes ketchup. It doesn't make either true, because there is no evidence supporting either conclusion. Now, here's the rub. Moore uses a technique of going to people and asking them a general question, then using that as evidence of some specific claim. It would be like me finding an interview with Kerry where he is eating a burger with ketchup on it, and my using that as evidence that he married his wife because he likes ketchup.
2+2 does not equal 10. That's why Moore's film is so full of crap.
He also used editing techniques which deliberately set out to make American soldiers and President Bush look evil. He shows footage of dead Iraqis and women crying over the bodies of their dead loved ones. Then, he immediately cuts to footage of American soldiers saying how they like the adrenaline rush when they go into a firefight. Then, he shows more footage of dead Iraqis, then shows President Bush laughing, at what we don't know.
What I want to know is-where is the footage of American soldiers wounded with arms and legs blown off in Iraq? Wouldn't that be a good anti-war statement for Moore to use? He doesn't. Why? Well, let me make a statement based on some evidence. He doesn't care about the American soldiers who have died in the war. What's my evidence? In Caen, he told reporters that he hopes more American soldiers die in Iraq, to teach America a lesson. Does that sound like someone who cares about wounded or killed American soldiers, by hoping there will be more?
Back during the Monika Lewinsky scandal of the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton spoke of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to get her husband. I think there is clear evidence that was true. But now, America faces a vast left-wing conspiracy to get President George W. Bush, made up of people in the media, editors of major newspapers, and Hollywood types, all of whom do not like President Bush and conservatives like him. They know that the big issue of this election is not going to be jobs or the economy or the environment. The statement "its the economy, stupid" does not apply in the world we live in now. The big issue of the election will be the war on terror conducted by the Bush administration from 9/11/01 to now, in Afghanistan, Iraq, here in America, and in other places. This is an area where Bush is strongest. But Bush is not a very articulate person, so its hard for him to combat attacks on him that are not necessarily based in fact. So, the vast left-wing conspiracy can use mis-information campaigns against him with greater ease than they could against, say, Reagan during the 1980's.
Michael Moore is a part of that conspiracy, and this propaganda film is his contribution to the left-wing's efforts to remove Bush from the presidency. His techniques are Stalin-like in their use of mis-information and twisting of historical evidence. Don't believe the mis-information. Don't bother seeing this film.
Van Helsing (2004)
This film is horrible!!!
I didn't want to see Van Helsing in the first place, but my friends talked me into it. I was not disappointed because I went into the film with low expectations. My expectations proved valid. What the makers of this film have done to the character of Van Helsing is a disgrace. In the original Dracula novel, Professor Van Helsing is the scientist and scholar who uses his wisdom and knowledge to defeat the evil of Dracula. Its sort of a metaphor of science's victory over superstition.
The makers of the Van Helsing films have taken this character and turned him into a long haired, pretty boy vampire hunter more akin to Buffy the Vampire Slayer than the character for which he is named. Doing this to Van Helsing would be like taking Sherlock Holmes and turning him into a Rambo like character that blasts Professor Moriarty with machine guns. I am sick of modern movie makers taking gothic horror stories, situations, and characters, and turning them into amped-up action films. Now, the one exception would be the Mummy, because they did do a good update to that character, a big improvement over the old bandage swathed skulking villain of yesteryear.
That being said, they could have made an acceptable action based film of this sort, with the Van Helsing character. You make Van Helsing true to what his character should be (the old, wise scientist), and team him up with a young Hugh Jackman character that is a vampire hunter. Brains and brawn brought together to defeat the monsters. But what they did with this film is absolutely disgraceful.
The only good thing that has come out of Van Helsing's release is that Universal has re-released many of the classic horror films from the 30's and 40's to DVD as a marketing tool. I will buy the old films on DVD. When Van Helsing comes out on DVD, it will not be on my shopping list.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
This film prooves the slasher film is dead.
I am actually a fan of well done horror pictures, which is why I despise slasher films. They are artless, plotless, pieces of filth that have come close to ruining the horror genre for the past two decades. The only modern slasher film that was any good at all was "Halloween", because it did have a plot, genuine scares, and relied on suspense and atmosphere, not gore and violence, to scare the audience.
The slasher film has been a dying oddity for some time now. There was a brief resurgence in the mid-1990's with films like "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer", but these were actually new twists on the old tired theme of the slasher film. Most of the attempts at producing slasher films since then have been failures (Halloween H20, Halloween Resurrection, Jason X, Valentine, Scream 2). Now, "Freddy vs. Jason" represents the latest, and most desperate, attempt to breath new life into the nearly dead slasher film sub-genre. I actually went to see this with a friend, but we didn't go to get scared. We went to laugh and make fun of the film, and we had a good time doing it. "Freddy vs. Jason" is such a stupid film that clearly shows how the slasher film is a dead form of horror picture. Most of the people in the theatre were laughing and joking about it. Slasher films just don't scare people anymore.
Its funny how history repeats itself. The classic horror genre of the 1930's and 1940's began to become tired during the mid-1940's. So, the studios tried to combine their monsters in one film. Thus, you had "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman", "House of Frankenstein"(featuring Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Wolf Man, the mad scientist). These films pretty much marked the death of this genre of horror film, which did indeed pass into oblivion soon after these films were released. Now, we have "Freddy vs. Jason", a last ditch attempt to breath life into the tired slasher sub-genre of horror films. Alas, it will fail, and thankfully so. Finally, we can put the nails in the coffin of the slasher film genre, and hopefully develop more artfully crafted horror films that rely on suspense, plot, and atmosphere, not blood, gore, and violence, to scare an audience.
Enterprise gets back to the roots of Star Trek.
What is really magnificent about Enterprise is that it get backs to the original roots of Star Trek. If one looks at the original series, the characters in that series were really exploring a "final frontier", and going "where no man has gone before". However, in the new Trek series, starting with Star Trek: the Next Generation, the galaxy that the characters operated in seemed a lot more explored, settled, and controlled. There wasn't that sense of facing the unknown. Star Trek: Voyager was an attempt to try and get Trek back to that premise, but suffered from poor characterization and poor conception of the supposedly new things the characters were encountering. How many times did they meet the Borg, or some supposedly new species that was basically a race of klingons with celery for hair?
With Enterprise, Trek goes back to that sense of adventure that the first Star Trek had. The characters are truly alone in exploring a vast galaxy, where the unknown is around every corner. They are also very human characters, who aren't the stoic, in control types we saw on Next Generation or the other later incarnations of Trek. Instead, they are explorers who must adapt and deal with new problems that come their way. Scott Bakula brings a great deal of humanity to his portrayal of Captain Archer, as does the other cast members with their roles. The characters in this series are also given a chance to grow, develop, and change over time, whereas in the past, Trek often suffered from lack of character change. Kirk was the same Kirk in the first episode of Star Trek as he was in the last episode. The viewer is also allowed to see the early development of concepts, both large and small, that later are an integral part of the Star Trek universe, such as the Prime Directive and transporter technology.
Most of the criticism that has been leveled at Enterprise is from Trekkers who tend to take Trek a little too seriously. When something happens on the series that may not fit exactly with later Trek shows, they jump all over it. "OOH! Tucker, the Engineer, turned this on, but Scotty said in episode 9, scene 4, line 15 of the original show..." If one focuses on the big picture, Enterprise does fit quite well with what we know of the future of the Trek universe after the events portrayed in Enterprise. For example, fans recently had a field day with whether the Enterprise crew could have encountered the borg. But, that encounter fit in with the events of the Star Trek film, First Contact, and the Enterprise crew never did find out what the borg were called. So, it does fit. Where Enterprise gets it right is with the really important stuff, like stories, characters, and theme.
If one judges the show on its own merits and on its overall presentation of characters, plot, and theme, Enterprise really does come off as a first class production. Trek was hurting for new life in the late-1990's, with the less than stellar Voyager and the abysmal film, Star Trek: Insurrection. But with Enterprise, Trek has shown that there is still life in it, and has done so by getting back to what Trek was about to begin with: "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."