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Revelation: The End of Days (2014)
The History Channel, where the truth is history - South Park got it right...
This series is very entertaining in the same way that other History offerings like "Ancient Aliens" or "America Unearthed" are... very very loosely based on fact and historical records, a lot of wild hypothesizing making up the plot line, very science fictiony, and overly dramatic. If you give it allowances for being from History Channel, and for being over the top, it's kind of fun.
It's filmed in a jerky cinema verite' style, narrated by a reporter who comes around from being a secular humanist to believing biblical prophecy, who is recording his own version of events as they unfold.
I give this show high marks for rendering the style of media reporting within the "crapsack world" of the show fairly realistically. There are some dumb glitches, like the ominous end-timey logo on the side of a corporate headquarters captured in the background of a live TV news shot obviously looking like it was "Photoshopped" in.
They did make events seem pretty real. The apocalypse and the seven years of tribulation will be covered in HDTV over CNN and HNN style cable news networks. Extra realism credit for use of minor scatological curse words, and spoken references to Blair Witch Project and Beavis and Butthead. :)
Now, the negatives.
The final battle between good and evil will look like a mashup of vintage news videos from the 1990s of police with shields and clubs fighting street rioters, with aerial shots of Katrina like mobs at the Superdome. Reallyz?
The handling of the coming of Christ was just plain ridiculous... it was treated in the movie like a technical weather event, rather than the profound cosmic and reality-bending transformation of the world that has been described in Revelation. There was a lack of supernatural feeling to every single one of the events, regardless of their inexplicable origin. Dead Christian leader comes back to life? Sure, have him appear on a TV feed matter o' fact. And under no circumstances show any transcendental beings. Someone else described it as PC and it's as sterile of religious feel as you can get.
Not a documentary, and not suitable for Sunday school. Best enjoyed for what it is, a future mocumentary with heavy SF and apocalyptic elements that takes itself very seriously.
This film is on the same level as "A History Channel Thanksgiving" which showed the clear link between the first Thanksgiving in 1621 and alien visitation.
The one thing that redeems this movie pretty well is that they not only penetrate the fourth wall but they utterly demolish and incinerate it. Most of the movie is Grumpy Cat addressing the viewer directly.
9/10 of the movie is references to the Grumpy Cat media and her tschotske empire of branded crap. So they even play with crass materialism. They reference "memes" in the movie. The hipster's darling Aubrey Plaza is totally in her element playing the voice of a sarcastic, dismissive cat. Pretty much April from Parks and Recreation channeled through a cat.
This movie would actually be pretty good to put a recording of in a time capsule. In 100 years it would be a significant document of internet culture of the present day.
Day Zero (2007)
Shane from Walking Dead, Mad Men's Peggy ... a Viet Nam War era type movie
OK, my subject line makes this movie sound like a real mess, and it's not.
Shane Walsh takes a break from browbeating Dale and hooks up with Mad Men's Peggy Olson.
OK, I'm being ridiculous. But Netflix is currently featuring this somewhat forgotten, somewhat interesting character study movie that has a younger Jon Bernthal (Dixon in this film, Shane in Walking Dead) cast as a pro-duty draftee.
I have to think that Bernthal's rising star and his past affiliation with the now hugely popular Walking Dead is the main reason this movie is available now on NetFlix.
The reviews that excoriate this film for being anti-war or pro-war are moronic and completely false in their allegations. The war is the ever present backdrop to the characters but it's really not explored except in terms of the usual political rhetoric we heard about the Iraq invasion. I honestly think this film takes no sides: it's even handed in depicting each character's support or derision for the war. The movie was apparently filmed in 2006 so it's a good snapshot of feelings about the middle east war around that time.
This is really a film about male friendships and relationships when the friends in question are tested by a politically divisive reality, and each chooses his own path and way to deal with the news.
The writer, Elijah Wood, seems to mainly be used as a sort of comic relief until a shock scene at the end, and he appears to be about 10 years younger than his two friends - like a physical 18 year old around 30 somethings. He's terrified of being thrust into a situation where he has to display physical prowess and, well, balls. Dixon (Bernthal) is the hard-knocks-life cabbie who is gung ho about duty. The attorney pal, Chris Klein, tries to leverage personal connections to get out of the draft and researches conscientious objector status and other loopholes.
All three characters surprise in some way by the end of the movie. We find that the cabbie is really not such an a-hole and has deeper recesses of character, the attorney is not such a coward, and the writer guy is capable of mental toughness and preparation... to the extreme.
There is a fight scene in a gay bar that is pretty cringe worthy and shows a lot of development of one character.
This is really an updated Viet Nam war movie. The rhetoric, the ideas, the ideals, and the interpersonal conflicts are quite familiar to those of us who grew up in the 1960s. Transpose Dixon with Archie Bunker and Rifkin (the lawyer) with Mike Stivic and you get the idea.
Not Citizen Kane, but worthy and very deserving of 90 minutes of your time.
The Colony (2013)
Bleak, Useless Direct to DVD Movie - Avoid
I gave this turkey of a dystopian SF movie a 2 because of great visuals and because they tried, a little. Overall it was a waste of 1:30 of my life.
In short, it's dystopian SF based on the usual people-crammed-together-in-a-stronghold theme with the overlay of harsh authoritarian community policing. It takes forever to get to anything really happening. The "monsters" are a highly inferior ripoff of "The Ghosts of Mars". Laurence Fishburne did this movie a huge favor (and his career a huge disservice) by appearing but he bites it 3/4 of the way through.
No logic, no explanation why the residents of the other colony went mad, no real backstory on the weather modification technology, and no satisfaction with the conclusion of the movie.
I watched it on Netflix and I regret wasting the time.
Documentary about a Bold Experiment in Television
I stumbled onto this at Netflix. WOW! It's not only totally nostalgic seeing the crazy opening credits to the show - apple pies, flags, Ayatollahs, Castro, American icons of all kinds, with MDJ's face in various expressions in stop motion animation, culminating in the open toothy mouth - but it's fascinating seeing the start of the obnoxious style of political commentary we have in the media today.
I was not very politically aware when I was younger, so I missed most of the importance of his show when it was first on.
The Morton Downey Jr. show at its peak was a bold experiment in audience participation - the one criteria for the show's production seemed to be to get the audience to actively participate in the harshest and loudest way possible.
I didn't realize how patrician MDJ's background was - he was a neighbor of Teddy Kennedy's family at Hyannis Port, Mass and his father was a well known Irish singing star from the 1920s and 30s. I thought he had come out of nowhere to speak the truth as he saw it - since I was younger I had no clue about the dad's singing career. But the truth is that he stumbled into the MDJ Show format after stumbling earlier into some talk radio shows and after doing some right-to-life activism that taught him that outrageousness and populism sells.
The MDJ Show pioneered the basic idea of the ideologically combative, very one sided talk format that we see today. And leveraged audience participation at an extremely populist level, which we don't see so much. Hannity, The Ed Show, Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, and to a lesser extent Bill O'Reilly are all basically the MDJ Show in spirit, but each with a very pure ideological tilt and no live studio audience. And, really, the modern shows make a lot more coherent sense than MDJ ever did.
That is another key difference with MDJ and our current popular media left and right wing ideologues: MDJ was not pure in any way ideologically: he usually went to the right but would often adopt leftist or liberal points of view which he liked. The basic idea seemed to be that he postured for "obvious" decency (obvious to the studio audience, anyway) and simple answers to complex questions. For instance, while he usually draped himself in the flag (quite literally), he also backed Al Sharpton in the Tawana Brawley incident.
This documentary is not only about the MDJ Show's life cycle but also the rise and the fall of MDJ himself. Watching this film, I was quite sad for him toward the end of his tenure as a public figure. He was quite obviously extremely insecure as a person, and just drank up the publicity, groupies and attention that the show gave him. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996 and passed away in 2001. It's probably too much to say that he was a broken man after the MDJ show but the show caused him to burn himself out with his worst tendencies and appetites.
The film never mentioned drug use. I find it difficult to believe that his frenzied attacks on the show were *him*. But apparently they were.
I also got the answer to the question as to why the MDJ Show was canceled, since I didn't pay a lot of attention to it in its heyday. Essentially, the format drove away all substantial guests, since they knew that any dissenting opinion would cause them to be crucified by the audience mob and by MDJ himself. So at the end, the show had a lot of novelty acts, like the amputee lady who played patriotic anthems with her tongue on a keyboard, or transsexuals arguing their lifestyles.
The life cycle of this show was a great warning to anyone who believes that populism and direct rule by the public is the answer to all complex social issues and debates ... such as current political movements (Tea Party, "Occupy") that are tied directly to anger and outrage. The MDJ Show started with a "high concept" that eventually dissolved because the show lost any credibility it had at the outset. This is a warning to both sides of the aisle to understand that mobs don't have answers, they just have emotions.
The things that made the MDJ Show popular for a time were the same things that eventually buried it.
In terms of production and the documentary itself - I thought the presentation was exceptionally effective. Several commentaries from Pat Buchanan lend credibility and gravitas throughout the film, and he did a great job of tying MDJ to today's political climate. The weird graphic novel style animations which have been mentioned by other reviewers as distracting - I found them perfectly complementary to the movie. A recurring meme in the animations was the ghostly image of MDJ's father's face, grimly nodding "no" in disapproval to junior. The animations were impressionistic - a reflection of Downey's id and internal obsessions.
Machete Kills (2013)
Ridiculous and Moronic - It Delivers! Bravo!
Check your brain at the door, crack open a sweaty, edible Bear Whiz Beer, and enjoy the blood soaked mayhem of this faux 70s drive-in exploitation trash cinema, complete with a scratchy lo-fi preview of "Machete in Space" and "Our Feature Presentation" teaser.
I busted a gut laughing at the non stop violence. Sick, gruesome, over the top, cruel, and anyone can die at any time. It doesn't matter.
The big names in this movie help make it great. Even geek icon Elon Musk makes a cameo. Carlos Estevez aka Charlie Sheen.
Sick, gruesome, and uninhibited. And that's the best parts.
There are many small asides and in-jokes. "Machete does not Tweet."
The Time Tunnel (1966)
Fun/Dumb Sci-Fi Series: Irwin Allen probably set science education back 20 years in the US...
This series is clearly one of the best of the genre of big budget, splashy SF series that capsulizes the attitude of the American space race and the notion of scientific progress of the day. I watched it religiously as an 8 year old.
To answer one comment about the lack of underlying premise of project Tic-Toc, the answer is: see the US space race. We "have" to do it before the other guys do. In 1966 that's all the premise you needed.
I'm sure other reviews have covered this series quite well. I found this gem on Hulu plus the other day and I have watched the pilot and the second episode.
One clear casualty of this series is any semblance of scientific accuracy that begs one key question: did Irwin Allen ever, ever, ever pay attention in grade school in science class? I find the lack of any thought or consideration about scientific accuracy of any kind (even when you accept the fantastic premises) quite, quite dumb. Irwin Allen turned anything involving science into a cartoon. Exactly the same as with Lost in Space. Realistic depiction or dumb cartoony dramatization? The dumb cartoony wins with Irwin Allen every time.
In TTT we find out that you hear all noises in a vacuum in space. You also hear explosions. Stuff that explodes in space burns with flames.
Yarrghh!! (beats head repeatedly against brick wall.) Just so little additional attention to small details in post-production would have elevated this series from the level of little kid's escapism to decent adult drama.
But no, if you're Irwin Allen you have a God sanctioned mission to make ALL of your shows with a tiny peanut for a rationale brain.
The absolute lack of any attention to time travel paradoxes is also striking. In "One Way to the Moon" we see that clearly as one character in the present of TTT plays a role in the future being revealed to them, and nobody pulls the guy aside for questioning. The whole concept of polluting the past with the actions of guys from the future is completely ignored.
Ah, well, TTT is a great period piece.
Brilliant "historical science fiction"
I found this gem on Netflix.
Other reviews are criticizing the improbability of events depicted in the movie, starting with the involvement of France and the UK in the Civil War. That's why it's fiction: the precipitating events *did not happen*. It's a "WHAT IF" work of fiction. The film maker presupposes a few alterations to history, and then examines what would happen as a consequence. Chaos theory indicates that just about any imagined set of consequences of a few initial changes to a system are as plausible as any other.
This movie is essentially "alternative Earth" fiction. It's fanciful by definition. It has a lot more in common with something like the sci-fi series "Sliders" or the "barbarian universe" riff in Star Trek than it is to be taken as a serious critique of modern US society. It's essentially "historical science fiction", with the aliens being the citizens of the "US" (CSA) in a different reality.
I also really did not feel that it was liberal or minority grievance agitprop (it was pointed out at the end of the movie that "Aunt Jemima" and "Uncle Ben" are major US brands, but I don't need to be preached that they are somehow embody racist evil.) What CSA is, is an exploration of where the US would be if certain of the values of the antebellum South had been captured through the expanding US, and had then evolved to the present day as mainstream US values. How would the US relate to the rest of the world? What would become of the Americas? What about WWII, Nazi Germany, and the cold war? What would the major political dynasty of our time be in such a country? The film explores a fascinating series of possibilities that could have resulted.
The film is only "ha ha funny" for the commercial segments. The meat of the narration is a bit satiric. The historical figures that the film portrayed, including Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas, and minor figures like Judah P. Benjamin and doctor Samuel A. Cartwright, show a serious effort to take one implausible assumption (the Union forces lose at Gettysburg to combined Confederate, French and English forces) and run with it to many logical or at least plausible conclusions.
What I found very implausible has not been mentioned by most reviewers. Given that the CSA was born as a xenophobic and virulently intolerant society, I don't see a CSA type nation as having accomplished most of what the US has done, particularly in terms of the sciences, militarily, and economic development. The white supremacist establishment would have rejected and marginalized many of the most productive and brilliant members of "real world" US society. IE, would a CSA ever have developed the resources to conquer most of the Americas? Would the CSA have been in a position to plant a confederate flag on the moon? (Great sight gag, BTW.) Would a CSA have invented radio, TV, atomic fission, and the internet? "CSA" only got this diminished society aspect partially right by showing that the arts and entertainment flourished in the Canada of the film, and therefore arts in the CSA were stunted and mostly tended to government propaganda.
The part that I felt rang very true was how values are transmitted from one generation to another. Supposing that abolition had never happened, and also supposing that it a preference of the government - what else could you say about the society? So in CSA, women in 2004 do not yet have the vote. And Canada is despised for "stealing" the CSA's slaves.
If you have an open mind and a small interest in US history, I highly recommend this movie. It's fun. It's good when it is over, and you can breath a sigh of relief for our flawed but still superior real life world.
Me and the Big Guy (1999)
I ran across this little 10 minute gem by accident. It will be absolutely hilarious to anyone who has read 1984 and watched one of the dramatic adaptations. Basically it's Orwell meets a contemporary Seinfeld show style nerd who wants to be everyone's friend. It's true to the book, too.
There is a scene with visiting thought police that is comedy gold.
Listen to the telescreen announcer, and also, watch for "Winston Smith's" book.
Highly recommended. (I am REALLY trying to get this review to be 10 lines so IMDb will accept it. There's not that much you can say about a 10 minute short.)
SGU Stargate Universe (2009)
Stargate for Grown Adults - A First
This series is a welcome departure from the turn that the Stargate franchise had taken since its move from Showtime: the "deus ex machina" driven plots, the likable-geek scientist characters, the big alien-badass "security officer" ("Worf" like Teal'c and Ronin), and most significant: the idea that normalcy was *always* at hand.
The original Stargate movie was sort of a kid's movie and both TV series moved in the direction of very doctrinaire plots and story arcs with bright, happy endings. In my opinion, in the last year or so of each, SG1 and SGA were devoid of tension. The plots were all becoming like this: find problem, have dramatic setbacks, analyze the problem, invent some crap, and save the day. Guaranteed each time.
SGU is quite different, if you give the stories and the characters half a chance.
One comment in this thread belittled the "religious freak" nature of this show. I want to attack that point. In just *ONE* episode a group recites the Lord's Prayer. Perhaps I missed other Christian references. But the point is that the Stargate franchise, up to now, has been absolutely and quite artificially void of religious references. Considering that the US is mostly a Christian culture (sorry, atheists!), this is simply conforming to objective reality - I found the lack of any reference to common religious practice in SG-1 and Atlantis to be quite contrived. If you get a bunch of Americans together in a closed space and tell them that they will probably die, they probably will start praying aloud ... deal with it.
Also, there is a lot of authentic tension in the command structure that I think is much more realistic than the "plays together like puppies" dynamic of the past Stargates. The Earth based SGC and IOA have no idea what conditions are like on the Destiny, they impose "solutions" and they pontificate that a bunch of rogues are running the show on the ship. Even O'Neill (fatso :) ) is not the character that he was in the rest of the franchise - his role is different and he is not warm and fuzzy any more.
I agree with one other comment that states that the tragic nature of this show is that the entire "crew" could vanish and there would be no effect on earth's population.
This is quality stuff.