Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Time Commanders (2003)
Alia iacta est ...
... but it's loaded against the competitors in this game. Four contestants are designated as 2 generals and 2 lieutenants and given an army to command in a computer simulacrum of a historical battle. On the technical side everything is perfect. The computers doing the simulation are running the engine written by The Creative Assembly, which is behind the Total War series of computer games (Shogun, Medieval and Rome). I can only dream about the hardware it must be running on, even 4 years later my quite modern PC doesn't make it look half as good! So far so good.
My main issue with this program is that they set the contestants up to fall. The one criticism from the reprehensibly smug military experts which was made every week (except on the rare occasions that the team doesn't fall into the carefully laid trap) is that no-one took overall command of the four man team. In which case, WHY DID YOU CALL 2 OF THEM GENERALS?? Surely it would have been more appropriate to call them General, Colonel and Lieutenants if you expected one to take overall control. The other common criticism is that the generals tended to micro-manage the action on the battle field rather than giving high level instructions and letting the lieuts decide the details of implementation. In other words, the generals spent too much time dictating tactics at the expense of enforcing an overall strategy. I feel this *is* something the contestants should have figured out for themselves.
It's probably obvious that I have played the Total War games ad nauseam. There are a few things that I learned very quickly from battles which would have stood these people in good stead. First and foremost is the eternal triangle of the battlefield: Cavalry kill archers, archers nail spearmen and spearmen are death to cavalry. There are exceptions, but 9 times out of 10 it plays out that way. I feel that they should have been told this before battles, I was not entertained by the humiliating routs caused quite often by tactical blunders which that maxim teaches against.
All in all, the part of the program I found most interesting was the computer playing out how the battle actually happened and the information given about the character and genius of old military commanders, snippets about how the different troop types, armies, weapons etc. functioned. And it is completely obvious that Aryeh has enormous respect for the Roman army and the way it went about its business, he repeatedly refers to it as a "meat grinder"!
The Core (2003)
Utterly preposterous plot, terrible script slightly redeemed by good performances and occasional humour
People often defend wildly impossible sci-fi by pointing out that the bounds of reality and scientific fact are stretched in most films. Fair enough. But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Consistency is the key point. Get all your impossibilities out of the way quickly and then don't break the rules that you have set for yourself. The best sci-fi works because it extends or transforms a small amount of modern science and then explores the consequences. It entertains and carries us along because it reveals the details of it's assumptions in a way which makes us think we could have figured it out if we'd had more time, or were cleverer. Inherent in this process is that the revelations make sense within the parameters of the fictional world. That's the right way to do sci-fi.
In "The Core", we have a pretty much perfect exposition of the wrong way to do it. Not much of what happens is connected to anything else, from a scientific point of view. There is just an interleaved sequence of shoddy science and hackneyed plot devices. There is no coherence or consistency to any of it. That's why it's a bad film. That the writing and editing are terrible too just adds to the misery. As I've read elsewhere, it's not a disaster movie, it's just a disaster!
So why the 4 rating? It has a good cast, who play it completely straight. That helps. Hilary Swank adds a touch of class, Delroy Lindo is good, Alfre Woodward is never less than great. Stanley Tucci is a bit over the top, but is funny. The special effects are pretty good, even very good at times. The lava torrent in the geode is great, pity it didn't get more screen time. And finally, there is a little genuine comedy in the mainly dire script.
Overall, it entertained me, and I might pause for a few minutes while channel surfing through it in the future. But not if there are repeats of Scrubs on.
Improper Conduct (1994)
So bad it burst through what I was doing while it was on to scream its awfulness into my awareness
I was playing cricket on my computer. This had been on for about 20-30 minutes in the background. If it had been less execrable I might have been able to ignore it for the full 90, however after a short time I could no longer fail to register that this is one of the worst films I've ever "seen". It beats "The Omega Man" into a cocked hat. It's noteworthy just for that!! Avoid at all costs. If you're reading this wondering whether to watch it or not, I'm sure there is a jar of screws somewhere in your garage which needs sorting into sizes. Or perhaps you would like to beat your head against a wall for 90 minutes. Although that might not feel quite as good when it stops.
Hill Street Blues (1981)
Oh the humanity!
God I love this show. I'm watching the episode "Hearts and Minds" right now, I think it's quite early on in the series.
I'm being reminded of the superb interplay between the characters that drew me to it in the first place, particularly the chemistry between Joyce and Frank (Veronica Hamel and Daniel J Travanti). Surely the hottest couple on TV at the time! The sparkling dialogue between the 2 of them, the arch looks, the professional conflict which embodied their passion for each other, the respect ... just fantastic. All the best dramas rise above the situations in which they place their characters and ultimately depend on the accuracy and consistency with which they reveal the characters of the principals through their interactions. In the whole of Hill Street Blues there is rarely, if ever, a false note, these people are as real to us as our friends IRL.
Something went out of my life all those years ago when I watched the very last episode and I'm so happy to be reminded of it now. Nearly 20 years after, I find myself being gripped again, against my expectations.
Tingle, tingle, tingle. Even now, this should be required viewing for any aspiring program makers out there.
Hysterical Blindness (2002)
Great performances, difficult message
I rate this highly 'cos of the performances of Thurman and Lewis. They were absolutely outstanding. I take on board the comments about the dodgy accents, music, anachronistic details, but they don't matter to 99% of the people who watch. The characterisations were great! Even if they didn't leave you precisely where intended, they were consistent and you could buy into them.
I really like the comment here to the effect that the film would have some merit if the characters achieved even a hint of self-awareness by the end of the film. This is an important point, and I would agree whole-heartedly if the film had a different title. The title is all that's needed to give this film perspective, to place it specifically and allow it to be what it is without reference to the frame that gives it meaning.
Flawed but truthful and thought provoking
I rate this 9 out of 10. Matthew McConaughey is the minus 1. In time I may assess his performance differently. I like Parker as a character, but it could have been cast better.
There is so much to see and enjoy in this film. Ellie was traumatised by her father's death, he was a loving father, they were very close. An only child, she was deprived from an early age of close human CONTACT. Ellie's obsession with SETI is easily understood.
I love the juxtaposition of science and religion, oops, sorry, SPIRITUALITY in the film, as played out in the characters of Ellie and Joss (Foster and McConaughey). There is always some antagonism throughout the film between the two, sometimes between the principals, sometimes between ancillary characters, but there is sympathy too. Kent (Fichtner) is present when Ellie travels because of "a higher power" McConaughey). When she, the hardened empiricist, has a deeply spiritual experience, he is the only one to accept what she says at face value. But then again, Joss is the reason why she wasn't chosen first. Which leads me to ...
Drumlin (Skerrit) and the religious nutter (Busey) both die. Why, in terms of the morality play subtext, isn't definite, at least not to me, but a first guess would be: Drumlin is too glib, he tells the selection panel "exactly what they want to hear", he is too political. Busey is too narrow minded, he cannot see beyond what he has always known, he refuses to grow, to evolve beyond our current condition, a major theme of the film. Both, in their own distinct ways, are off track.
All through the film the contest between the scientific and the spiritual is played out. It is quite skillful in that it manages to pose questions without giving easy answers, we are left to ponder for ourselves.
And then, on top of everything else, John Hurt as Drummond is a delight :-) "The first rule of government spending: Why have one when you can have two at twice the price?" A bit hammy, perhaps, but very enjoyable.
On a final note, I'd like to say that I've only just watched this film for the third time, having seen it at the cinema the first time, eagerly anticipated. The first two times, I was extremely irritated by it, by McConaughey principally, but also by what I saw at the time to be the lame nature of the tension between science and spirituality. I'm a lot more sympathetic to the spiritual these days, and hence enjoyed Contact a lot more.
I'm not surprised that the story is from a Carl Sagan book, rather than being formulaic Hollywood fare.
With hindsight, a good film
I have only seen this film once, about 20 years ago, when I was in my mid teens. It intrigued me then, but went completely over my head. I could dimly perceive grand themes in it, but couldn't bring them into focus. A few years ago a friend gave me a John Fowles book to read, "The Magus" and this caused me to re-evaluate this film entirely. For me, the story's strength does not lie in anything definite. It's main themes are suggestion and allegory. The creative role of the mind in human perception is very clearly depicted in "The Magus" and this is central to TFLW too. The 2 central characters, in their modern guises are caught up in this, as the audience is expected to be. Perhaps there is no central message to be understood ... maybe a viewer should just be delighted by the parallels which are revealed by telling these 2 stories in this way ...