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22 reviews in total 
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Life After People (2008) (TV)
6 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Some questionable science amidst the entertainment, 21 May 2009

Impressive visuals, but this is as much science fiction as science fact - the level of speculation that goes on mars it. It routinely ignores non-degradable garbage and nuclear waste in its prognostication, there are huge leaps in logic - for instance, involving zoo animals. They present the only issue as whether they can get out of the zoos, not if they can actually survive the wild, they will actually mate, if there is enough diversity to even create a gene pool for the species to survive. In essence, this show takes incredibly complicated issues with multiple factors and boils them all down to more simple ones. Plus, they misrepresented an area of Chernobyl in order to make their point! There was something vaguely Republican about the whole thing, the idea that no matter what we do to the Earth, it's okay, because it's going to turn back into a pristine Garden of Eden anyhow! Enjoy this for what it is - a science fiction documentary.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Falls short of its promise, 16 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

300,000 Ugandans dead and we have to see the story unfold through the eyes of a Scottish jerk? Unfortunately, my intense dislike for that character only put me at arm's length from the story and made me care not one bit when he is strung up by his nipples at the end. In fact, I was sorry that so many Africans had to die, but this selfish idiot gets away. I understand that was partially the point of the film - it's bluntly stated at the end for those of us who might have missed it the same statements of intent earlier — but it didn't service the suspense very well, especially since if you know anything about history, you already know how it will end — and also because it's no great insight any longer that white people in Africa are condescending, horrible elitists who have little respect for the people of the continent. There has to be some more insight than a few toss off lines and some oblivious guy looking for adventure. I also would have appreciated walking out of it with more insight to Amin - unfortunately, the story unfolds through the eyes of someone who is naive and selfish, so he doesn't actually notice the horror for most of the film and when he finally does, it's in the form of a very confusing stylized scene that doesn't really serve much more of a purpose than to shock you with brutality. Yes, we GET Amin is brutal, but I also know there's more to the whole damn thing. This could have been a fascinating political and psychological study — especially given Whitaker's fantastic performance — but instead I found it diversionary but very shallow.

66 out of 88 people found the following review useful:
Pleasant surprise after all the jaded eye rolling, 1 September 2007

Actually, I was quite surprised at how much fun I thought this movie was. Hardly perfect by any measure and, sure, there were some elements that were intrusive, but I found it to be quite faithful to the TV show - it used plots and elements from the early episodes. Even with the newer designs, they incorporated older aspects - the planet REALLY looked like a better version of one of their old sets.

Furthermore, Oldman managed to peg Dr. Smith perfectly, taking in all the old camp elements and putting them to very good use - even using some old catch phrases in different ways.

As diversionary, light sci-fi adventure goes, I thought this was great and I'm usually very picky about this kind of thing. It was fun and a pretty good kids' movie.

The only thing really missing was Billy Mumy.

Tideland (2005)
20 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
Bad art, 5 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Any film that starts out with a defensive disclaimer from the director explaining to the viewer how the film "should" be viewed is immediately suspect to me. It implies that what I am about to see wasn't done right and the director needs to do a lot of backtracking to make it seem like the whole thing was on purpose.

And that is exactly how "Tideland" unfolded.

Though sold as "bold" cinema for those who aren't happy to be placated by Hollywood junk, "Tideland" is nothing of the sort. It's a pretentious folly - it tries so hard to shock that it comes off like an old John Waters film without the youthful snickering and it seems to think that if you wrap it all in very forced allusions to "Alice in Wonderland," you've got yourself some art.

The first problem with the film is Gilliam's assertion that it is a testament to the resilience of children. The ending implies that adversity is bludgeoned from the soul with the right amount of imagination, but the whole film is populated with horrible adults who were not resilient children in the slightest - they are damaged, broken people lashing out. There is no resilience on display anywhere - and even the ending doesn't reveal resilience so much as dumb luck.

Furthermore, Gilliam's proposition is an either/or one, a simplistic proclamation of a complicated circumstance. Surviving does not mean wholeness, as Gilliam's rose-colored glasses ending implies. There are degrees upon degrees of subtle trauma that such survival entails - surely the topic deserves more than his standard theme of people retreating into their imagination in order to survive in the world they find themselves. It's the same story for every movie the man has made and it feels incredibly tacked on in this one.

The second problem is that Gillliam populates the film with cartoon characters that don't elicit any real sympathy or horror. I understand that he is trying to do the fairy tale schtick, but it doesn't work because the moral he is pushing is so flawed that it needs nuance more than archetypes to address the real thematic concerns that can come out of this story. Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly aren't particularly menacing, they're just goofy. They seem like Hollywood actors pretending to be camped-up degenerates. They are like something out of the Batman TV show.

The third problem is the lead actress, who just hasn't got what it takes to carry a whole film, particularly one that spends A LOT of time with just her talking to herself. She seems so directed, so controlled by what Gilliam wants her to do, that there is nothing natural in her performance at all - she is more like Gilliam's idea of what a child acts like rather than a real person - and the portrayal of this character is so grating between the actress' limitations and Gilliam's inept conception of her that she brings no sympathy to a character who should demand much.

The fourth problem is that it is long and boring. A good half hour needs to be cut out just to stop the meandering. The supposed shocking nature of the film comes off as the desperate attempt of an old director to prove he still has his edge - it's not jarring so much a coma-inducing. And that's the saddest part. For all the implications of the disclaimer at the end, it actually doesn't deliver in its promised provocation and it becomes obvious that it just never occurred to Gilliam that the reason some people didn't like it isn't because it's scandalous or because they don't understand what he was trying to do, but because he just didn't do it very well at any stage of the production.

I respect him for trying something different, but the nature of an experiment is that the chance exists that it might fail and anyone with any real grip on the creative journey needs to accept that and be able to examine what went wrong, rather than be defensive about it.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Don't bring a fine tooth comb if you want to enjoy, 13 April 2007

The first series of "Life on Mars" is fun enough, but frustrating in that it doesn't finish the story. Unfortunately, the second series feels like a concept that has been stretch beyond its limits and only the last two episodes are much of interest - everything that comes before them is really more of the same.

The problem lies in the fact that the time travel story is far more interesting than most of the cop drama - and that is because a lot of the cop drama is cartoonish and sometimes a bit sloppy. Investigations often hinge on coincidence and are plagued by the need to suspend your disbelief incredibly - often, you are left wondering why they didn't think to look into this or that, things that seem obvious but they are oblivious to. They're the worst group of investigators since the Torchwood gang. You can write it off to the dream world quality of the series, but one would expect even if the 70s cops are shoddy, Sam Tyler would not be.

It also suffers from the fact that every time the character of Gene Hunt seems to be progressing - which he did in the first series - he is drawn back to square one - brutal, boorish. The character is really stuck in one gear after awhile, which makes no sense within the logic of the actual story and, eventually, just becomes unpleasant.

All that said, if you leave your common sense at the door, the show can be fun - and the performances are often the reason it holds interest. They rise above the scripts astoundingly and are to be highly commended for holding the show together.

Christopher Guest is coasting, 10 April 2007

I wouldn't call it a bad movie by any measure - it's well put together and performed, certainly - I wouldn't necessarily want to portray it as a good one either. Leastwise, it's certainly not a very satisfying one.

The reason for this is that so little of it is funny. That's really the bottom line there. The only things that made me crack up were one line from Ricky Gervais and just about everything out of Jennifer Coolidge's mouth. The rest was met with slight chuckles and silence.

Part of the reason that it wasn't very funny was that the film lacks something very important - a moral and/or sympathetic center. This is usually the function of Eugene Levy, but it was abandoned in favor of a one-joke character that he could do in his sleep. Catherine O'Hara's performance as an aging actress was extremely good, but I wouldn't call it sympathetic.

This leads to two other problems. One, it becomes a big insider joke, which can be boring to the rest of us out here in the real world, and two, because all the characters appear to be treated with maximum disdain by the filmmakers. If the filmmaker hates his characters, why should the audience like them? I have had some doubts about Christopher Guest since "A Mighty Wind," a movie I mostly liked, but was annoyed by as well. I couldn't understand why Guest was giving so much screen time to the cheap laughs from the one-joke entity of the Main Street Singers, thus stealing away precious moments with Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara's tale of funny sadness. Then I saw all these DVD outtakes with some great scenes between those two which were apparently expunged in order to include more porn jokes and I thought "this guy has lost any sense of sophistication in comedy." "For Your Consideration" did not make me feel any better about him.

Cracker (2006) (TV)
3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A waste of Coltrane, 9 December 2006

The social commentary was way overblown and the mystery itself is built and solved through a series of implausible coincidences that were entirely unbelievable. Nothing has changed in Fitz's personal life in the past decade that makes it remotely interesting.

I even had trouble understanding why he was complaining about his stay in Australia as compared to the opportunities to solve mysteries that he has in England. Can he not insinuate himself on the Australian police? It seems like a very artificial plot point to get him involved in a crime investigation.

The latter episodes of the original series were pretty melodramatic and implausible, sometimes bordering on silliness, and this one picks up that mantle rather than returning to the focus of series one. Sad.

"Afterlife" (2005/I)
2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Major Disappointment, 4 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Given Lesley Sharp's involvement, I had hoped for something as special as "Bob and Rose" or "The Second Coming," where the story-telling wasn't reliant on some obvious clichés. While Sharpe's performance adds uncountable dimensions onto her character, not much else in the show does - it's the most "American style" UK show I have seen in ages.

The set-up isn't very original - skeptical rationalist doubts that the medium is real, but his skepticism isn't drawn from his intellect and desire for actual proof, but from his own personal tragedies that taint his logic. In fact logic and rationality are presented as believing Sharp's character at face value - the dead do walk - and if you don't, it's just a shame that you are so blinded by your emotions. It's an unsettling turnabout in logic and it doesn't help that the skeptic is portrayed as an intellectually bullying, emotionally needling, selfish prat. The decks are stacked, conflict wise, and you already know where the series is going.

I also take issue with the fact that these spirits torture Sharpe's character, demanding that she pass on messages and, yet, show quite clearly that they have the ability to take matters into their own hands - they can affect reality quite easily and often get what they want - which nullifies the entire point of the series. If the spirits are so adept at doing this, why are they bothering with using this woman to get their message across when it is so inefficient - hardly anyone believes her and she ends up having to take two steps backward for each step forward - when the spirits handle their own problems, it is much more efficient.

A waste of the enormously talented Lesley Sharpe, to be sure.

22 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
LIghten up, it was a sweet little romantic comedy, 3 July 2006

In a season that has bee populated by shoddiness - often good ideas are either poorly executed or laden with useless plot gratuities that have become so ho hum lately or the character of Rose is just annoying - this one is more like a little science fiction romantic comedy that just happens to feature the Doctor and Rose and could easily be viewed and enjoyed without ever seeing any other episode of the series ever again.

The plot concerns a guy who becomes very interested in this mysterious figure the Doctor and hooks up with a club devoted to the same pursuit that he meets online. The club is filled with the same kind of awkward but friendly types and their discussions of the Doctor eventually morph into pot luck dinners and a cute, silly little rock band that does ELO covers - until a mysterious fellow shows up and commandeers the group in order to find more out about the Doctor.

Marc Warren is sweet and goofy as Elton and Peter Kay is nicely over the top as the mysterious guy who takes over. It's very light entertainment, but nonetheless touching and funny . . . and out of left field, really. It's nice to see that in this season of retreads and by-the-numbers half thought out junk that writer Russell T. Davies could take a moment to try something a little different for a change.

10 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Waste of Time, 27 November 2005

It was a weak book to begin with and the screenplay does little to add anything to it - it smelled like the first book Chris Van Allsburg wrote specifically to be turned into a movie. I prefer the cartoon series of Jumanji to this.

As for the family values, the film is really about the bonding of males rather than the bonding of family - the parents are divorced and the mother goes unseen and the sister is a waste of space, mostly there to be bitchy and self-centered (even at the end, she hasn't changed - is she a stand-in for the mother? Did the screenwriter get divorced recently?) and for the camera to have an unseemly preoccupation with body. Everyone I saw it with was pretty weirded out by the way the camera leered at her.

It's a shame, because Elf was a good movie, but Van Allsburg's quiet books don't seem to translate to the screen very well.

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