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7 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Whole season summary: Rushed, could have been much more, 16 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode hurt to finish up because I've come to love the TV show and the books with an immense passion. This review may contain spoilers from the book as well.

I feel like I've been reserving all judgment for the entire season as a whole, hinging solely upon my expectation from the last few minutes of the finale. And since they left out Stoneheart, I can more definitely say that overall this has been the blandest season yet---everything felt incredibly condensed, small-scale, or otherwise stripped of much of its importance and/or eloquence.

I also realize for the first time that the dialogue has deviated almost completely from the books. I hadn't realized when I audiobooked the first one how so many of the lines from season 1 were straight from the book. Less so in season 2. By season 3, most of the dialogue was completely original. And yet enough time was given for everything to breathe and resonate.

In season 4, the dialogue feels like a cliff-notes version of what the actual dialogue was supposed to be. Everything felt rushed, as if by the end of Joffrey's wedding, they were picking up speed and sprinting for the finish. And then they... just stop short of the actual finish. What was the rush? What could they possibly have been saving up for, especially when they couldn't even cram that anti-climax of an ep10 open into a spectacular climax for the previous episode?

And this sort of condensing suffers even worse by having so many of the colorful "flavor" bits removed---the rhyme-game Reek plays constantly "Reek, Reek, rhymes with -eek", "Only Cat", any sort of flavor or humor from Tormund Giantsbane, anything even remotely interesting beyond exposition from Meera and Jojen Reed, bits of lines from songs like "Hands of Gold" or "The Dornishman's Wife" or "The Last of the Giants", anything to justify Edd being Dolorous Edd beyond just "other guy from Night's Watch"

All of it was removed and replaced with... nothing. I didn't complain all the way back in seasons 2-3 when it was noted that the show had basically stripped all personality out of side characters like Edd and Tormund, because I figure they would eventually play in to their more fruitful roles when they had more time and weren't constantly busy (like in A Feast for Crows). I still hold out hope for this with Tormund and Edd, but season 4 has made that just all the more noticeable in its absence, and the finale has utterly broken any and all trust I had in the show creators NOT in "faithfully adapting" the book, but in making it their own in such a way that it could have some fun on its own and retain some actual drama from the books.

Literally everything in this episode felt immensely padded and simultaneously rushed, that by the time Tyrion was confronting Tywin, I thought there was no way any more than 40-45 minutes could have passed by now. Even then the scene was done in 4 or 5 minutes and left a sour taste by its lack of potential.

That pretty much sums up the entire finale: lack of potential, could have been more, just enough, average effort Even leaving out the absence of Lady Stoneheart, what exactly about this episode was supposed to "blow my mind"? Everything was set up, happened, then brushed away, with a stunning scarcity in musical cues at key moments that pretty much ruined much of the potential drama. I found the "fight" Shae put up with Tyrion to be absurd, and it utterly killed any and all shock/horror/heartbreak from that scene. Dinklage almost saved it with his facial expressions immediately after, but the whole straightforward-ness of the entire scene, and the bland earnest-ness of Jaime to just release his brother "because he's my brother, dude" fell horribly flat to me.

The lack of mention of Tysha wasn't a big deal on its own---it became a big deal in its absence by being compounded with the apparently half-assed effort put into the encounter with Shae and everything leading up to it. It became all "daddy issues" instead of "daddy oh my gods you are psychotic you've ruined literally every single good thing in my life" I can't believe it but the only thing about this season that worked was everything involving Oberyn Martell, Sandor Clegane and Arya, and the battle at the Wall. That battle was seriously mind-blowing in its relentless music, scale, diversity of going on, and the dismal realization for pretty much anyone that "This is going to keep going until we are ground to dust and given how main characters in this show aren't safe, there's a high probability that Mance Rayder could take the wall, then tell all the kings in the south 'I am King of the Wall, now send help against White Walkers or we'll invade you'" The first two-three seasons actually felt like a labor of love. Season 4 doesn't. And I look back now at that statement the showmakers made that the Red Wedding was what made them want to make the series to begin with, and if the show survived just long enough to depict that, they'd be happy. In retrospect, it feels like they got that and were happy, but now they're not happy anymore and don't care about putting forth the maximum effort.

I'm not even the type to whine and complain about any such work doing this, but it struck me here as just so patently obvious... like they had to make a conscious effort to fail as hard as they did with this finale. Even without Stoneheart, they had the pieces there to make it one of the greatest finales of the series (not the greatest) but they rushed their sole remaining wham-moment so badly that it barely registered as much as it could have.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The bloat starts to set in, 31 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I absolutely love long movies. I hate seeing book adaptations slashed to 90 or 120 minute things, and thus am thrilled by such movies like "Gettysburg" which turned a 350+ page book into a 4 hour and 10 minute movie, and thus was able to cover essentially everything in the book.

For a series like Lord of the Rings, where the movies tend to drone on for many many hours, the length is in some cases justified. For "The Hobbit" I figured 2 movies should be more than enough for a tight, thrilling adventure.

But whereas the first movie managed to be fun despite the overly long dinner sequence and other scenes that meandered on, this one gorges itself on pointless dialogue and sprawling scenes that could have been cut down substantially or cut out entirely, and the movie suffers for it.

By my own admission, I don't particularly like Tolkien or the LOTR movies---I think the themes are overly simplistic, the action overly "Hollywood", and the dialogue is stilted, dumb, and often grueling to sit through, but for a kid's thing, or as a solely visual thing, it's great and entertaining. And yet I thoroughly enjoyed The Two Towers and the first Hobbit movie despite this.

By comparison, The Desolation of Smaug feels like the last hour of "Return of the King" spread over 2 hours, with action sequences littered in. And it's more than just "Great scene, long droning exposition, good scene, bad scene, good scene"---the "bloat" is spread almost evenly throughout the entire movie. Virtually every scene goes on at least a few minutes more than it should, like a hair stylist leaving a long luxurious mane of hair rife with split ends and not bothering to clip them off. Even the "big reveal" of the Necromancer being Sauron (not a spoiler) went on just a few seconds too long, and whilst I previously mention I don't particularly like LOTR, I was blown away by the spectacle of the reveal, only to have it ruined when it went on long enough for me to realize, "it's like the White Stripes' video for 'Seven Nation Army'" The confrontation between Bilbo and Smaug is tense and thrilling to watch for all of 5 minutes, and yet it keeps going and starts to become repetitive and dull. At the very least, Smaug openly says he's having fun so you can't bitterly ask "Why doesn't he just kill Bilbo already?" but then this escalates into an even longer sequence (the molten gold plot) that, whether it was accurate to the book or not, could have been completely removed without hurting the movie in the slightest. It seems to even acknowledge what a waste the whole sequence was when Smaug shakes off the gold completely.

Another big complaint I have, which is rather unfair given that it was the same in the LOTR series; the battles. So much emphasis---much more than even LOTR, since they had Uruk-Hai---the Orcs are trumped up as this unbelievable scourge of death and destruction that is seemingly unstoppable, and yet in every single battle scenes, the "good guys" easily waste Orcs with such immense ease that they never break a sweat.

In fact, the only surprising battle sequence is the brief fight between Legolas and Bolg, because Legolas actually ends up with a slight nosebleed at the end of it. That's about as far as any character in The Hobbit has come in the way of having any trouble fighting off the hordes of Orcs. It makes them look like piles of crap, and strains credulity when you have Thranduil panicking hard enough to close the borders of Mirkwood out of fear of the Orcs when the only Elves that get killed by Orcs are the ones taken by surprise.

It's been more than ten years since I last read The Hobbit, so I don't remember much at all or how it unfolds past Smaug. I only hope for the sake of the audience that all the sluggish doting on the story and Middle-Earth lore was done here, and "There and Back Again" is at least as tight and thrilling as the first Hobbit movie was.

52 out of 85 people found the following review useful:
Big dumb mess, 2 August 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With a hokey name like "Cowboys and Aliens", you're really not supposed to expect much more than Cowboys and Aliens, fighting.

And very little of the movie even deals with that.

Being PG-13, it couldn't go all-out in a faithful depiction of the Old West, but it seems they only really pushed it so as to show off Olivia Wilde's buttcrack and a quick shot of a a guy with a big hole shot through the chest with an alien weapon, as everything else is virtually squeaky-clean, not a hint of racism or sexism, grit or grime, and an utterly blasè attitude from everyone but Sam Rockwell as the bartender "Doc".

As the review in my local newspaper said, very little is devoted to "why" with regards to the alien, and far too much "why" with regards to Daniel Craig's Jake Lonergan, played so stony and cold you don't give a damn about any of his problems.

The characters are horribly one-dimensional and predictable, and there were so many instances in the film where not only me, but a large group of people, burst out laughing. And not when the movie was being funny.

Not going to spoil it, but the big "revelation" moment with Olivia Wilde's character caused some very loud and noticeable derisive laughter from many of us in the theater, and the moment with the alien that Jake had first met having a final standoff with him at the end was so hackneyed, it provoked chitters and groans.

For a movie that felt so long and, by concept, seemed to be aiming for something big, it sure felt small, like a Syfy original movie with some big-name actors in it.

But the absolute biggest plothole involves the aliens interacting with the people. Not only is it never explained WHY the aliens are randomly abducting people, but as it turns out, their ultimate reason for coming to Earth, and their goal, not only has little to nothing to do with humans, but considering their technology, they could EASILY achieve without EVER interacting with the humans at all! Considering how a clichè'd Hollywood flick like this ends with the good guys winning, these aliens could've saved themselves a lot of trouble by not looking to pick a fight with the natives for no reason. But then we wouldn't have this big dumb mess we call a movie.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Poor effort, seriously lacking in historical accuracy, 2 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Coming from a DVD set of many of these sorts of mini-movies, this one is surprisingly one of the weaker, though the one on Spartacus was pretty atrocious as well.

Firstly, CRATEROS AND AGRIPPA! The guy who played Krateros in "Alexander", Rory McCann plays Attila, and Allen Leech, who played Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, plays Edeco, the main character.

There's little to no evidence as to what Attila and the Huns looked like or where they were from. The only source of Attila's appearance marks him as vaguely Asiatic, "Short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with grey; and he had a flat nose and tanned skin, showing evidence of his origin" Rory is tall as hell, though he is broad-chested. His beard is thick, and he has big big eyes and a thick Scottish accent. He is also the antithesis of the "Scourge of God" character that Attila has been noted as historically. Not a bumbling, rabid barbarian, but a cunning, calculating, highly political leader.

Here, he is thoroughly unremarkable. He seems like a generic Hollywood-style leader who, after the fact, the writers remembered is supposed to be a feared figure, and so superficially added instances or dialogue showing him as brutal and vicious. He's less like Attila and more like a greedy Robin Hood.

The filmmakers also seem to have completely forgotten that the Huns are essentially cavalry soldiers. They're said to be on horseback all the time, urinate on horseback, eat on horseback, fight on horseback and so on.

The Huns are NEVER on horseback in this ENTIRE film except for the opening sequence involving a diplomatic meeting.

The film looks fine and is acted well enough, but it's very badly executed, poor in historical accuracy, and ultimately, a bore.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The same act, yet somehow better, 20 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw the "The Pee-wee Herman Show" from 1981, and was shocked at how people laughed wildly at every little thing, when the show itself had very little funny bits to it. It was a huge disappointment, and it seemed as though the people in the crowd were largely high or drunk.

Here, a large portion of the material is the same, from Pee-wee's wish to fly, to his using it on Miss Yvonne and Cowboy Curtis (previously Kaptain Karl but his role is replaced by Cowboy Curtis, as Phil Hartman died. Phil LaMarr fills in place of Laurence Fishburne), and yet somehow it comes off much better, with some of the lame bits being funnier this time around, if not due to slight changes in content, then the method of delivery.

There's lots of surprisingly witty or absurdly brilliant bits, matched with Reubens' expert timing and delivery, makes this a great show, made more fantastic by how old and seemingly dated the characters and setting is, and with the ability of Paul Reubens to update it ever so slightly, while remaining true to its base.

Odd note; IMDb listing has John Moody credited as Mailman Mike. I don't remember if he was in the 1981 version, but... IMDb has John Moody as a black man, and the Mailman Mike here is a white man.

New character Sergio nearly stole the show.

2 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly gross, 9 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Of the near two decades of Simpsons episodes, this one I found shocking. I wasn't offended, and it wasn't particularly good, but they did a whole lot of jokes that I'd think are pretty not TV-PG, and even aside from that, were pretty gross and tasteless.

Probably one of the most cringe-inducing was Homer talking to Moe on Skype, and the joke being that the connection seemingly froze, but Moe saying his Bells Palsy is acting up, then pretends to have Bells Palsy. Others include the kids skateboarding out of a treehouse, crashing to the ground, and one of them saying "Check out my gnarly backwards foot" showing his broken foot, twisted backwards. Another has Cletus eating fire embers from fireworks, baby Ralph being dropped on his head, Lisa being disconcerted for being inside the comic book shop due to a prop of a scantily clad woman chained to a moving boulder.

3 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Apparently, prejudice against pedophiles is okay!, 14 December 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I acknowledge that pedophilia is a crime, and that pedophiles are criminals. I know of the psychological, physical, and emotional damage that can be done by adult men and women to prepubescent children.

Those facts are barely given a token mention in this episode filled with heavy-handed discrimination and visceral hatred of pedophiles.

Much like the awful, awful episode which villainized REPENTANT PEDOPHILES who NO LONGER molested children, this episode not only villainizes pedophiles, but implies that pedophilia is somehow the fault of the pedophiles, as if it were a choice, the way homophobic religious groups consider homosexuality a choice.

And just to make sure that EVERYONE makes sure the boylovers are the proverbial N-words of the episode, the suddenly homosexual Dr. Huang (maybe he came out in a prior episode, but it comes out of nowhere when you watch reruns on USA without any episode order) condemns Kevin O'Donnell and can't even control himself from blurting out in court that he's a rapist.

From a show that deals with Special Victims, You expect and know that the child rapist will go to jail. But the real child rapist in this episode gets 20 years in jail, while the figurehead, the guy supporting child-loving, gets THREE THOUSAND YEARS in jail. That's 3000. One three, three zeros.

There is no easy solution to pedophilia. There may not even be a solution. But damning a person or an entire group of people based upon something they cannot help and cannot change is called Prejudice and Discrimination. Molesting children is a crime, and has severe repercussions for the children, but dehumanizing EVERYONE with an attraction to children is downright disgusting.

Stupid people do stupid things, 6 December 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On its own as a horror thriller thing, this movie has appropriate atmosphere to be compelling enough to watch. But as it moves further and further along, it becomes rather clear that the whole reasoning behind why the events in the plot happened, as well as the responses of people involved, are directly the result of stupidity.

Unlike the sort of "on the fly" stupidity in movies like "House of Wax" (2005) where you could possibly justify their stupidity in that they were in the heat of the moment, the biggest bouts of stupidity come from situations that had more than enough time for forethought longer than six minutes planning.

For example: the plane. For the sake of avoiding spoiler (though it's not even that important a spoiler), I'll just say that a very important military airplane crashes in a location... and they don't even reach the area until some two or three days later. It's a tenuous stretch, but it causes even more stupid decisions...

Like, the military suddenly swarming into town, busting into houses Iraq-style, and arresting EVERYONE and taking them to detention camps where parents are separated from children, and people are scanned. People asking questions are told to shut up, and are occasionally beaten up with assault rifle butts.

Considering that they RELEASE the people they scan that are clean, it was completely not surprising that a bunch of rednecks in a truck SMASH into the compound, SMASH APART the ULTRA military defensive chainlink fence, and get slaughtered in the firefight... while also letting out ALL the people taken in the camp, infected and not infected.

So because the military didn't bother setting up patrols, or defensive borders, or even TELLING people WHY they are being rounded up like criminals or terrorists, even with a token lie in order to prevent panic, their entire endeavor collapses and tons of people have to die.

And EVEN WORSE than that, the thing they were scanning people for to tell if they were infected... elevated temperature.

And given that a pregnant woman in average health was detected for elevated temperature, I think it'd be safe to say this would be like testing people by spraying them in the face with dust and considering anyone who sneezes to be infected. They don't even bother to realize that MAYBE she has high temperature because she's pregnant or sick or both or has a mild fever or maybe THEY'RE JUST A LITTLE HOT FROM BEING AMBUSHED LIKE CRIMINALS, RIPPED OUT OF THEIR HOMES, AND PUT IN A CAMP WITH A THOUSAND OTHER PEOPLE IN CLOSE QUARTERS.

So because of that level of sheer stupidity, along with their handling of people like terrorists, it's supposed to be a SHOCK when the people react violently, and then the infected escape and spread and they have to nuke the town. Yes really. They nuke the whole town. Because they were too damn stupid to put more than six minutes of thought into a containment plan that would NOT cause wild panic and terror.

Centurion (2010)
8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Run of the mill action flick, 13 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Everything in this film is unbelievably predictable, stale, by-the-numbers, and obvious. You know right away that the minorities will die first; the Numidian (black guy), the Assyrian (arab guy), the Greek (arab-looking guy), etcetera. There's the standard archetypes, as opposed to characters; the grizzled old soldier, the straight sidekick, the noble superhuman leader who just knows everything on how to survive, including fluent Gaelic, even the token fist-fight with weapon just out of reach and bad guy and good guy racing to get the weapon in time.

I don't particularly mind the use of British accents, not just standard British, but the "lower" class type, Cockney, Liverpudilan, Scottish, Irish, etcetera to represent a wide variety of accents that such a mixed Roman Imperial army would have, but it becomes highly disorienting and rips you out of the immersion when they don't just speak with the accents, but use heavily British mannerisms in their speech.

There's virtually little to the characters to make them in any way compelling or likable. In particular, the General is said to be so great, like a father, brother, and even god to his men, yet this is never displayed. It's what TVTropes calls an "Implied Attribute", when a character is said to be in a certain way, yet it's never displayed on screen.

The sole token battle scene inspired promise initially, as they show a very well-executed display of Roman discipline, as they quickly got into Schiltron formation, making circles with their shields and spears pointed outward, but once the battle actually unfolded, it devolved to generic Hollywood 'one-man-army' type fighting, with the shields suddenly gone and the swords being used to block axes, and loads of gratuitous gore that at the very least isn't pointless, but is used to such excess that you start to easily spot CG gore, particularly when the blood is just TOO solid in tone---with no variations in color tone based on lighting or shadow.

The rest of the story is just the band of archetypes on the run from Etain, a Brigante who betrays the Romans in such a clear and obvious way, who hunts them viciously until a fight where just three of them survive.

There's even a token romantic subplot which is not only painfully devoid of chemistry, but completely and utterly pointless, without any relevance to the plot, likely just to inflate the run-time by 10 or 15 minutes (the movie is only 1 hour and 30 minutes).

There's not much of interest in this movie. It's typical in being problematic with historical accuracy, has some action, but hardly anything remarkable or not seen in other movies, and done better.

It's the sort of film you'd watch on TV once, maybe while doing something else.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
You're a low, pitiful little man, Dr Franklin, 8 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the plots of this episode involves discovering that the Vorlons actually made telepaths over 9000 million years ago or whatever.

The main plot that receives more time involves Dr Franklin prying into a species called the Hyach, shocked that their modern historical records only go back a few hundred years, whereas they have been spacefaring for longer than that.

So because Dr Franklin says he needs ALL possible information about the Hyach in order to help them with a disease and declining birth rates. Because the Hyach are too damn stupid to give him a good reason not to pry, and actively behave suspiciously, he breaks into their records, and discovers via a lone surviving transmission that there was a species on the Hyach planet called Hyach-doh.

The Hyach then, rather than pressing charges against him for breaking and entering or espionage, just admit to him freely that there used to be a species called Hyach-doh on their planet thousands and thousands of years ago, and the Hyach annihilated the entire species, and it turns out OOPS the Hyach-doh were necessary for interbreeding with the Hyach, as the Hyach birth rates begin to rapidly decline over the years, threatening them with extinction.

Leaving aside the incredibly flimsy explanation and shady pretexts and the typical run-of-the-mill sci-fi complete misunderstanding of evolution, they then tell Dr Franklin that this was a shameful period of their history, so much so that they've actually gone to great measures to suppress this part of their history... which begs the question of how exactly these two are so well-versed in it, unless they mean suppress it from outsiders learning of it, which would make sense.

However, Dr Franklin says he CANNOT FORGIVE them... EVEN THOUGH these two Hyach weren't even alive back then and couldn't have done anything and are against genocide and everything else. He says he STILL cannot forgive them.

And he's supposed to be a doctor? A saver and healer of lives? An educated man who learned not to hate the Dilgar after learning that a Dilgar doctor had saved the lives of his father and other Earth soldiers when all the other Dilgar that had captured them wanted to? The same Dilgar doctor then being executed by the other Dilgar for saving them? This coming from a man whose national ancestry (given his American accent) includes the genocide of millions of native tribal peoples, not even expanding upon his entire race, having committed countless vehement, vicious, genocidal acts in their history, including arguably rendering a whole sentient species (Homo neanderthalensis) extinct? You're a low, pitiful little man, Dr Franklin.

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