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16 reviews in total 
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15 out of 50 people found the following review useful:
Damn good, 11 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I heard BG was being remade, I groaned, because I thought the first version was a mishmash of weak scripts and indifferent acting. I am glad to say I was wrong. (I should mention here that I have not seen the entire series, but only the pilot and the first two and three out of the last four of the 2004-05 season.) Excellent on every level--the space scenes are very exciting and three dimensional. The cast is for the most part outstanding...


I sure how Edward James Olmos has a contract for the second season--the show would just not be the same without him. However, James Callis as Baltar almost steals the show. Watching Tricia Helfer put him through the wringer is the best fun I have had in years. The only cast member who seems simply adequate is Grace Park as the various incarnations of Boomer. Reminds me of Dorothy Parker's line about an actress having a range from A to B. But then, her character is there to suffer three times over. Mary McConnell is outstanding as Laura Roslin. The minor characters are all fine, too, and have good lines, one hallmark of a superior show.

So much science fiction television is long on action and FX and short on character development and motivation. Not this one. The grim atmosphere of the series never lets up, as is appropriate for the situation.

The irony of the show is delicious. The humans are polytheists and not terribly devout. Their creations, the Cylons, are militant monotheists. Is their God human or Cylon? A fascinating question. I am very interested in seeing the backstory on that issue. Although, to be honest, the discussions of God and free will wear a little thin. Kinda got tired of the priestess, too.

One quibble: the scene where Starbuck belts Apollo. Surprisingly for a show that has so many military characters, no official consequences result from this incident, which had several witnesses. In our world, fighting between officers is a serious breach of discipline and possibly a court-martial offense.

It's also a little weird to see the presidential aide Billy pick up a very 20th-century Earth telephone receiver. Maybe telephones are part of the prophecy. :) These are minor points, though. This is a fine drama period. It deserves all the awards it receives. And it has the all-important must-have of every TV SF show: cool ships!

14 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Worthy effort, 9 August 2005

On one level this is a standard flag-waving WW2 film--which was what audiences wanted. On another level, though, this movie says some pretty harsh things about war. Mixed in with the combat footage are several scenes of wounded soldiers covered in blood, the sort of images that were censored from pictures made during the war. Some have objected to this... but I think it adds an extra layer of realism. Yes, they are shocking images--maybe that was Ray's point. We should be shocked that men get killed like this. The interplay between Robert Ryan and John Wayne is fascinating. Ryan turns in a splendid performance and Wayne surprised me with the depth of emotion he displayed, particularly when he visits his family. The movie shows us the emotional toll of ordering men to their deaths. The movie has pacing problems, particularly in the final battle, and Jay C. Flippen's scrounging sergeant wears a little thin. Still, this is a well-done war film.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
It has its moments... but, 25 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this in the movie theatres--it lasted an entire week. I see it as film that couldn't decide if it was telling a story or Sending A Message. On the plus side, Fonda got a lot out of a small budget and three locations. The time-travel scenes are simple but effective. Mountains of the Moon was an inspired choice. The lead actress was lovely... and little else. The acting in this film is remarkably uninspiring. But I am fairly demanding of science fiction films, and this one fails in crucial areas. For instance, the restriction of time travel to young people. Maybe this was explained in some plausible way, but I think I would have remembered it. It seems a plot add-on to Make A Statement About The Righteousness of the Youth Movement. The film drags once the time travelers get into the desert. And the ending... **Here comes the spoiler**. If food is so scarce that the future people have to resort to cannibalism, it seems mighty inconsistent to me that they still have the wherewithal to drive cars into the desert. Having cars implies a technological infrastructure, which in turn implies the presence of people smart enough to find a food source. I seriously doubt that everyone woke up one morning, realized all their food was gone, and suddenly decided to eat people. This movie is a prime example of what happens when Hollywood types think they know how to make a science fiction film.

15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Too good to last, 14 May 2005

I am glad to see that Murder One was a hit in Europe--it deserved every success. Great acting--Daniel Benzali was outstanding. I guess audiences couldn't handle a balding, smart actor. (He played a mafia boss on NYPD Blue before this show, and he damn near stole the episode.) Stanley Tucci is always good--Richard Cross was a villain you could hate and have a great time. And it had one of my favorite actresses, Barbara Bosson (Mrs. Bochco). Season two was not as good but had some fine moments. Anthony LaPaglia was clearly hired because he was younger and good looking, but he did a fine job. The peak of season two were the final six episodes, which ABC packaged as a mini-series called "Diary of a Serial Killer". The accused, Pruitt Taylor Vince, was absolutely the most compelling criminal I have ever seen on any show. Great casting is a strength of Bochco's shows, and Murder One is no exception. I cleaned house and foolishly threw out my tape of the serial killer episodes. Bad move.

Ironically, although the American public couldn't handle a season-long series that covered only one trial, a decade later it went nuts over "24", a show that took place in one day.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Eyes Wide Open, 8 May 2005

My motivation to watch this film was the one-take concept. Ever since I saw Scenes from a Marriage, with its marvelously lengthy shots, I have been in love with long scenes. And slow, fascinating movies. And I love art and have heard so many things about the Hermitage. I was unprepared for the beauty of this film, and the meditativeness of it. The fluidity of the camera amazed me, too. I expected a long tracking shot, yes, but not so much movement. There was far more action than I expected--I guess I anticipated little more than a walk through the galleries. To begin the film outside, then to go through some very dark corridors was audacious. The scene that knocked me over was of the Romanovs at dinner--it was so intimate, and knowing that they would die soon hit me hard. I also watched the documentary, which is must viewing, since it explains some of Russian history. The documentary is quite powerful in its own way--there's a wonderful moment in that, when the shoot is over, that I will not divulge. Great cinema, and proof positive of the tremendous contribution Russia has made and continues to make to art and literature. How strange that a land whose people have endured so many centuries of unremitting suffering should produces masterpieces like this. This is one of those films, like Tarkovsky's Solaris, that will never have a mass audience, but will have a passionately devoted one. I hope it won a lot of awards, especially for costuming. Thousands of costumes, and every one of them looked authentic, even with the camera inches away. Of course, Sokolov has one immense problem--how in God's name do you top this?

11 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Visually stunning, but..., 25 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a worthy film in many ways, and it has a good message behind it. It carries more of an emotional impact that most science fiction films. The irony of the drones being better "human beings" than Freeman Lowell's crewmates is exquisite, and their interaction with Lowell when he is alone is fascinating. Adding songs to the film was a nice humanistic touch... I just wish someone other than Joan Baez had been chosen. Douglas Trumbull's decision to film the interiors in the decommissioned aircraft carrier Valley Forge adds an element of realism rarely seen.

My understanding is that in "2001", the original plan was to send the astronauts to Saturn, but Trumbull's special effects team could not create a convincing Saturn with the time they had, so they went for Jupiter. I have heard that showing the world he could "do Saturn" was one motivation for making Silent Running. He did a great job... but...

*** Spoiler starts here ***

The science fiction fan in me has to ask: why were the ark ships in orbit around Saturn to begin with? Sending ships of that size to Saturn would be enormously expensive (trillions of dollars and decades for design/construction/testing and the voyage itself). It would make far more sense to keep them in Earth orbit. This ties in with the reason the forest is dying--it's too far away from the sun. (For a back-to-nature guy, it takes Bruce Dern a very long time to realize this.) But if the ark ships are in Earth orbit, you don't get to show off your Saturn special effects. And you can rotate the crews instead of stranding them two billion+ miles from Earth, which is a surefire recipe to make people crazy.

I am sure my comments strike some folks as unnecessarily picky. But this movie was advertised as science fiction, and the science in a science fiction story has to make sense. (Note the triple appearance of the word "science" in the last sentence.) A good science fiction film, of which there are very few, should have an internally logical story--the special effects should enhance the story, not drive the plot. Trumbull would have been far better off enlisting the aid of his old boss's writing partner, Arthur C. Clarke, who co-created one of the great science fiction films.

Aside from the holes in the story logic, I rated this film highly, because it does pose important questions, and aspires to be something more than the usual space opera.

5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Can't make that leap, 14 May 2005

I grew up reading a lot of science fiction books. Unlike on television, written SF has to be scientifically plausible and as accurate as possible. This is why I saw the first episode of Space 1999 and watched only sporadically. The premise that a nuclear waste dump could explode--they can't by the way--and that the explosion would knock the Moon out of its orbit and send it flying into space is absolutely ridiculous. It's the kind of idea that someone almost completely ignorant of celestial mechanics would think is cool. The Andersons' earlier show, UFO, was better thought out than this.

But then, I am not surprised. So much of what is labelled science fiction on TV and in film is action/adventure with spaceships and rayguns. You could transfer everything to the Old West and use the same storyline. Now I have a lot of fun watching action/adventure with the trappings of space travel... but I don't consider it science fiction. Read some Heinlein or Clarke or Asimov (for starters) for the genuine article--stories that owe their existence to technological change. 2001 is a perfect example--the story could not happen without interplanetary travel and artificial intelligence.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Tolerable, 22 July 2005

Star Trek fans are the world's most forgiving. They wait ten years for a movie, then get this mediocre mess. Harlan Ellison called it Star Trek: The Motionless Picture, and he was right on target. (Bear in mind I am talking about the theatrical release--haven't seen any other versions). It starts off on the wrong foot with this somber music over the titles. Then the first scene, with a Big Space Thing attacking a space station. The actress in this scene, who mercifully does not appear again, gives one of the worst line readings ever. Later we see Kirk flying around the new Enterprise. He looks at every square inch of it for what seems like hours. (I am told the studio insisted on getting in as many shots as possible of their expensive new set.) Kirk replaces Stephen Collins as captain, which is a good move--Shatner is not exactly stretching himself in this role, but Collins is severely charisma-challenged. Tho he is a better actor than Persis Khambatta who is bald and beautiful and nothing else. The Big Space Thing finally arrives, and the camera flies over it at tricycle speed while the crew Stares In Awe. Somewhere along the line, the producers and writers lost touch with a simple truth. The TV show was so much fun because it had real villains--you know, nasty folks with attitudes and zap guns, who spoke lines of threatening dialogue instead of hovering menacingly. If this film has arrived in theatres without the legend of the show and the years of fan-mania, it wouldn't have lasted two weekends. We should all thank our lucky stars that Star Trek II had all the humor and action that made the TV show a classic.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Favorite moments..., 8 May 2005

One of those rare shows where everything came together--cast, characters, writers, stories.

Bill Daily kept me in stitches. One episode he bought a stand-up bass--the Hartleys were going nuts from his practicing, which consisted entirely of Howard strumming the same string over and over. Best line: Bob: I feel like I'm living inside a heart. Best joke of all--Howard was a navigator. Thank heavens he wasn't a pilot.

Or the night when Jerry and Bob and Howard drove to a cheap motel in Illinois to watch a Bears game that was blacked out in Chicago. Probably the best drunk scenes ever.

And the bedroom dialogues with Emily and Bob. Particularly the night Bob was eating cereal, and Emily noticed that he chewed each mouthful exactly 47 times. (I forget the exact number.) What an actress--she made you believe that Bob was a hunk. As I recall, when the show began, Suzanne Pleshette was known mainly for cheapo movies of the week and insipid Disney comedies. Hats off to the genius who thought of casting her.

Gotta love it.

20 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Made staying at home on Saturday nights respectable, 8 May 2005

The jewel in the crown on CBS's Saturday night comedies. In one night you saw All in the Family, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, bob Newhart, and Carol Burnett. There was never that much great comedy on one evening, before or after. Must-see TV years before NBC. Me and my family stayed glued to the set from 8 to 11. A great cast and consistently funny; I found out later that several Mad magazine writers were on the staff. I did get tired of Harvey Korman breaking up very week... but opposite Tim Conway, who could resist? I remember a sketch where Harvey was in a dentist chair; Tim was the dentist. All was going well... until Tim injected the Novocaine into himself and not his patient. Various parts of his body went numb. I remember him slapping his dangling right hand with his left--the numb hand swung back and forth like a half-filled water balloon. Then the left half of his face went slack. Then the right. The his right leg gave out and he had to sit on the chair with Harvey. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard, and poor Harvey almost slid out of his chair with laughter. A class act, all the way. It's a shame Harvey Korman never went on to comedy stardom, when marginally talented folks like Adam Sandler became millionaires.

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