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The Omega Man (1971)
Let's fess up....this is not such a great movie......
I saw "The Omega Man" in 1971 when I was 9 and thought it was pretty cool; having just watched it again 40 years later, I realize (with a deep sigh) that it's actually pretty lame.
It reminds me of some of those "classics" our high school English teachers had us read from time to time; you've been told for years by authority figures that you instinctively trust how terrific and epic and timeless the story is, and then, when you read it, well, it's a real struggle NOT to put it down and go on to something else more worthy of your time.
1971's "The Omega Man" is a lot like that; it's a poorly written and directed and scored and produced picture that just happens to feature some pretty good actors, who struggle very hard to make the most of what they've been given to work with.
Charlton Heston, of course, cut from the same mold of Sean Connery and Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, always makes a sub-standard film worth watching, and his performance here is focused and sincere- you can tell that he took his assignment seriously. Supporting actors Anthony Zerba and Rosalind Cash also put forth sincere and well meaning efforts towards the project.
The problem is, everything else about the film is pretty poorly done.
The scriptwriting team of John and Joyce Corrington, who also wrote the epic screenplays for the spectacular "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" and the epic "Killer Bees", (need I say more??), work their magic here with yet another flimsy script featuring plot holes galore and plenty of cheesy dialog (Richard Matheson, who wrote the original "I am Legend" story on which this movie is based, said that the bad screenplay didn't bother him as it was so far removed from his original piece).
Ron Grainer's funky 70's soundtrack, which is poorly suited for the action on the screen, sounds like a cross between the worst episode of "Starsky and Hutch" and the rejected music from 'Cleopatra Jones". It becomes downright annoying after a short time (thank goodness for modern technology and the "mute" button!)
Numerous sloppy on-screen errors (people & vehicles in the background of the "deserted" city, brightly lit interiors of buildings that have no electricity for lights!), choppy direction and rather poor, washed out cinematography add the "icing on the cake" (and insult to the audience) to a film that is more at home as the second movie at a drive-in double feature (when everybody is making out at that late hour and not watching the screen anyway).
Worth a look for die hard Charlton Heston fans (which I am), but, if you're looking for much better renditions of Richard Matheson's source material, you're better off checking out Vincent Price in 1964's "The Last Man on Earth" or Will Smith in "I am Legend" (2007).
The Green Hornet (2011)
Enjoyable but could have been so much better!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I grew up in the 60's with "The Green Hornet" on TV. OK, I can accept- and be happy with- the fact that the basic premise and plot structure and of "The Green Hornet" film is not original at all but basically a re-hash & carbon copy of the "Batman", "Spiderman", and "Iron Man" films.
Namely, in all of the above:
1. A gifted individual, not living up to his true potential, is motivated by a tragedy in his life to become a crime fighter; 2. This individual has inherited his money, is independently wealthy and uses his wealth to create a really cool hideout, high tech weapons and vehicles (Spiderman being the exception here); 3. This individual is treated initially like a criminal by ordinary society, even while he himself is on the side of the law & fights criminals; 4. Our hero has a beautiful, really hot love interest who initially doesn't know his secret identity but eventually learns it & then supports him. 5. Each film ends in a climatic showdown with the villain, where the hero is nearly killed but emerges victorious (if in tatters) at the end.
I can accept that "The Green Hornet" is constructed of all the above clichés and really doesn't break any new ground, because it's the nature of superhero/crime fighter comics & movies to be formulaic. No problem there.
The main problem in "The Green Hornet" is in the "walking of the tightrope" between drama and comedy, the careful blend of humorous moments and serious drama & conflict; unfortunately, Seth Rogan's over the top performance falls too often into farce and robs the character of any dignity and, most importantly, audience respect.
Rogan, a talented comic actor, is not entirely to blame; the script & directing undoubtedly have a lot to do with it. It's one thing to be a "beginner" crime fighter and make understandable mistakes with humorous results (as Robert Downey, Jr. did in "Ironman"), but it's quite another to play the character as an inept clown, as Rogen does. Downey, Jr's Tony Stark managed to be witty with plenty of one-liners but still be clever, intelligent, and noble; Rogen plays Brit Reid as a cross between Animal House's "Bluto" and The Pink Panther's "Inspector Clouseau", so much so that we can never take the character very seriously or have much faith in him.
This would be OK in a movie that's a straight, unapologetic comedy (like "Airplane"), but "The Green Hornet" bounces back and forth constantly between slapstick comedy and deadly seriousness; the result is an uneasy mixture of the two leaving the audience emotionally confused.
As stated before, it's OK to be a novice crime fighter who's noble and well intentioned, but just makes early mistakes due to inexperience (like Peter Parker and Tony Stark), but Rogen's Brit Reid is not only inexperienced, he acts downright foolish & stupid sometimes (if not most of the time), and there's very little nobility to be found in foolishness & stupidity. It definitely hurts the film.
And most superheroes start out a little incompetent at the beginning and then gradually grow into their role & become better throughout the film as they gain experience & confidence, allowing the audience to grow with them- here, Brit Reid starts out a reckless, incompetent clown and pretty much ends up that way at the end, with very little maturing and seasoning of the character in-between. It's very disappointing.
On the plus side, Cameron Diaz is always fun to watch (even if her talents are pretty much wasted here in a small and confusing romantic subplot between Kato & Britt Reid). Jay Chou is excellent as Kato, and Christoph Waltz puts a good effort as the somewhat ordinary and strangely uninteresting villain (again, the script is at fault here, not the actor).
Lots and lots of exciting action sequences and flashy gadgets, cars, etc., so no complaints there.....the film is not dull! Production values- sets, photography, costumes, etc.- are excellent.
All in all, better than I expected, and definitely watchable, but a wasted opportunity. What a shame.....
Star Trek: Voyager: Workforce (2001)
One of the better 7th season adventures!
The story isn't completely original, of course (crew members held captive on an alien planet requiring other crew members to "go under cover" to rescue them is a fairly common Star Trek adventure), but fortunately it has been tweaked enough so that it ends up being a fresh approach with lots of clever surprises at every turn.
Coupled with really outstanding visual effects & sets representing an alien city, some genuinely suspenseful moments, and the fun of seeing the cast play "themselves" in an alternate reality, this installment ends up being an excellent and highly enjoyable Star Trek adventure, certainly one of Voyager's very best.
Although the entire cast shines here, Tim Russ and Robert Picardo are especially noteworthy for their excellent performances.
Star Trek: Voyager: The Void (2001)
Not terribly original but likable adventure....
The "oh, my, we're trapped in a mysterious dark void with no way out" concept has been used and reused many times in the Star Trek Universe (ST: Next Generation's Second Season installment "Where Silence Has Lease" is a good example that comes to mind) so don't expect any surprises or new territory here....we have seen this all before. This eliminates any suspense from the get go (as does the fact that this is not a two-parter), so we just know from the very beginning that the crew will manage to escape in 60 minutes and that they are never in any real danger.
What makes this episode enjoyable, though, is good solid acting and interplay by the regulars and some fun performances by some likable (and not so likable!) guest stars.
Not a bad show by any means, but it's a shame this couldn't have been a two parter...this would have helped to build the suspense a bit and also would have provided more time to see & learn more about all the different ships & species trapped in the void, which could have been quite interesting.
Star Trek: Voyager: Prophecy (2001)
Not bad..but certainly a wasted opportunity...
A fairly entertaining Season 7 installment- with a particularly funny subplot involving Neelix & an amorous Kilingon woman- but the rest is rather mediocre.
The appearance of Klingons in ANY Star Trek show always brings the promise of high drama, action, and adventure...unfortunately here, the promise isn't kept. This particular episode features the Klingons spending much more time in staff meetings than in battle or in conflict.
The plot moves along quite slowly. A great opportunity to explore a very old Klingon battle cruiser from Captain Kirk's(!) era is squandered early, and the main "action" of the piece..a battle showdown between Tom Paris and an aggressive Klingon challenger...is devoid of any real drama because all the actors- including Robert Duncan McNeill- are so nonchalant about it that no dramatic tension has a chance to build, and so we never really feel that Tom is ever in any danger or at risk at any time (which one would ordinarily expect when one is forced to fight an angry Klingon).
The "poor casting" gremlin that seems to haunt Voyager's last two seasons strikes again here with the casting of Wren T. Brown as the Klingon leader Kohlar. Although a competent actor who turns in a sincere performance, Mr. Brown lacks the Klingon "edginess"- (the simmering and chilling threat of barely restrained aggression that could burst forth at any moment)- that the best Klingon actors in Star Trek possess (Michael Dorn, Robert O'Reilly, Christoper Lloyd, Christoper Plummer, etc.) Mr. Brown's portrayal is quiet, subdued, polite, and soft spoken- not threatening at all, and certainly not Klingon. It should be noted that two of Mr. Brown's previous roles include a turn as Whoopi Goldberg's comic relief brother in Whoopi" (2003-2004) and as a reoccurring character in "The New Adventures of Flipper" (1995). Hmmmm...I rest my case on the casting issue.
Not the worst Voyager adventure by any means, but don't expect to be on the edge of your seat during this one..rather, you're more likely to be comfortably settled in it and possibly dozing off from time to time.
Star Trek: Voyager: Repentance (2001)
A bit preachy but very powerful & watchable....
Strong emotional performances by regulars and guest stars alike, plus a well written & directed story, make this installment one of the better outings in Season 7.
Not a lot of outer space action in this one but, in the best tradition of Star Trek, the cast tackles a controversial human rights issue and leaves the audience with much to think about afterwords.
An especially enjoyable show for me because it finally underscores a major plot hole in ALL the major Star Trek incarnations (with the exception of Star Trek: Enterprise)- the use of force fields for jail cells instead of ordinary bars. Although force fields are certainly more "high tech" (and allow a better view of the guest star prisoners for the television audience), from a practical standpoint they make no sense at all. Force fields require constant power, maintenance, and are always at risk of disappearing during a power failure (which is exactly what happens here, allowing the prisoners to escape and wreak havoc).
Even in the advanced 24th century, wouldn't just plain old fashioned steel bars be much better for confining prisoners? They are relatively cheap, easy to install, require no maintenance or power source, and won't disappear during a power failure. Just a thought.......
Star Trek: Voyager: Lineage (2001)
Well intentioned but forgettable episode...
The famous motivational speaker Zig Zigler has a great expression for people & projects that start out with the best of intentions but soon pan out to nothing of significance...he calls it "squatting to rise (up), but getting cooked in the squat". "Lineage" does this very thing...it starts out with good possibilities, but falls flat very soon.
Its failure has nothing to do with the energy of the actors- all the regulars give it their best effort, in particular Robert Duncan McNeill & Roxann Dawson, who turn in perhaps their most emotionally charged performances of the entire series. Rather, the major faults here include poor writing and poor guest star casting.
With respect to writing, the plot moves at a snail's pace, with little or no action, and very little humorous interplay to fill this void. And the plot holes make the Grand Canyon look like a drainage ditch. In a series franchise like Star Trek that has time and time again passionately preached the message that ALL life is sacred, special, and worthy just as it is, B'Elanna attempts to have her baby surgically altered by using unethical and illegal means (commondeering ship systems, locking out Voyager's security team, reprogramming the Doctor) and yet she is not punished or reprimanded in any way.
And, speaking of which, what ABOUT that very sneaky trick of diabolically altering the Doctor's program to make him an unwitting accomplice to an "ethnic cleansing" of the unborn child? True, she does apologize to him, but in the "respect everyone's individual rights at all times" world of Star Trek, shouldn't the consequences of her dangerous actions be a little more severe than her mild embarrassment at having to apologize to him? Finally, poor guest star casting makes the situation worse. The actor cast as B'Elanna's father is just too wimpy too be believable..he's a good actor, but he is simply the wrong choice for the part. We're supposed to believe that this rather effeminate & "milk-toasty" guy won the admiration of...and married.. a KLINGON woman? He seems more suited to play the mild-mannered Dad on some Nickelodeon show or perhaps The Disney Channel, not the husband of a woman from an aggressive warrior race that values strength and power above all else.
The story and end result here mirrors many of Voyager's Seventh Season installments- good concept, but poor execution.
Star Trek: Voyager: Drive (2000)
A good idea that suffers from choppy presentation...
(SPOILERS) The idea of a "race in space" has never been introduced in the Star Trek Universe before, and so there was great opportunity in "Drive" for a truly exciting and unique Trek adventure. Unfortunately, the end result, while not terrible, falls far short of its potential.
The main fault seems to be too many subplots (the race, warring factions & sabotage, AND Tom & B'Elanna's relationship problems), which require the viewer to constantly jump from one to another to the extent that one feels almost as if one is watching three different episodes at the same time instead of just one. In trying to be many things, "Drive" fails to by any ONE thing, and so the show ends up with a "choppy" and jumbled feel to it.
I, for one, would have loved to have seen more emphasis on the race itself- the individual racers, the bizarre vehicles they were piloting, the potential unknown hazards along the race course, etc. (The pod race in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" (1999) is a great example of how visually interesting- not to mention fun & exciting- a multiple species space race can be).
Finally, I was rather disappointed that a major Star Trek Voyager event- the marriage of Tom Paris & B'Elanna Torres- happened off screen and was somewhat haphazardly tacked on at the very end! What's up with that? One would think that the marriage of these two major characters would deserve at least a token amount of screen time.
Perhaps "Drive" would have worked better with a little more "breathing space"- as a two part story arc, there would have been more time to explore & develop all the subplots. As it stands, it seems a little rushed & out of focus.
Star Trek: Voyager: Spirit Folk (2000)
"Star Trek" becomes 'Little House on the Prairie"...
(SPOILER) Even before I had seen "Voyager", I read about fans describing the shows episodes as "hit and miss"...this installment is certainly a textbook example of that, an astonishingly dull & pointless follow-up to the equally dull & pointless "Fairhaven".
Perhaps part of the reason is that both episodes seem to focus on the "feelings" of holedeck characters- and the Voyager crews' sensitivity to this- which makes about as much sense as being concerned about the self-esteem of Mario, Luigi, or Donkey Kong.
The best episodes in Star Trek..in all the series incarnations...contribute a little something to the franchise as a whole, whether through character development, introduction of a new idea, fact, species or technology, etc. "Spirit Folk" does none of this and, interestingly enough, the Voyager regulars play second fiddle here to the "zany" antics of the holedeck characters. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem if the holedeck characters were interesting or had anything interesting to do, but they aren't and they don't- not exactly a good recipe for exciting or meaningful sci-fi television.
On the plus side, fans of the talented Robert Picardo will enjoy some very funny scenes with the Doctor playing an overly dramatic village priest. And the Voyager cast seems to be having a sincerely good time romping around in this colorful period piece (which features on location shooting at Universal Studio's European Village Backlot set, which the cast undoubtedly enjoyed). Unfortunately, the cast are the ONLY ones having fun, and the audience is left to suffer through it.
The largest plot hole, in my opinion, is the fact that the Voyager crew spends an incredible amount of time, energy, and attention worrying about, and fussing with, this pointless holedeck program and its characters. Surely the crew can find better & more meaningful things to occupy their time and the ship's resources (like exploring the UNIVERSE, maybe?) than fiddling with a 3D video game. I know that if I was in a starship in the Delta Quadrant, I wouldn't be sitting sitting in my quarters the whole time focused on my XBox360.
It's just a holedeck program. When all is said and done, who cares? In the end, certainly not the audience.
This is supposed to be "Star Trek"...not "Lost in Space"!
(SPOILER) Many enjoyable things in life are best enjoyed in small doses- chocolate cake, for example, is wonderful as a dessert or occasional treat, but most rational people would quickly tire of it...plus get a little nauseous...if they were eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
That's the trap that "Bride of Chaotica!" falls squarely into. Momentary glimpses of Tom Paris' "Captain Proton" adventures have been a welcome relief from time to time during the course of Voyager's many hazardous adventures, and have provided a welcome chuckle or two before we get down to some serious space drama. but an entire hour devoted to the camp humor and over-the-top performances of the "Proton" characters is simply a bit too much and after awhile becomes annoying rather than amusing.
There is a fine line between excellent satire and just plain silliness, and this installment quickly strays into the latter and stays firmly there. There is supposed to be a serious subplot involving a previously unknown race of photonic aliens (REAL Star Trek stuff) but, unfortunately, this is "lost in space" (pun intended) as an unending barrage of sight gags and campy dialog destroy any possibility of dramatic tension or interest in the plot or characters.
I'm sure that this story probably looked great on paper, and no doubt the principle actors had some fun with it, but we've seen far too many "we can't shut the holideck down" episodes not only in "Voyager" but in ST:TNG and ST:DS9 as well, and the idea has long since worn out its welcome, so lets move on already (but kudos to the production designers for some affectionate, faithful, and highly detailed "Buck Rogers" style costumes & sets).