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24 reviews in total 
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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Original, 11 April 2013

I was skeptical at first, because I didn't understand the format. I was glad when it evolved into something more varied. I have to say that I adore Russel Brand for his wit and intelligence. I love how he brings in people with hateful views and then has a discussion with them to try to mellow our their hatred, but also doesn't shy for calling them on where their reasoning is idiotic, and in an eloquent and glib way that isn't actually disrespectful. The fact that he brings homeless people into his show is very touching to me. I always think about how cool it must be for the guy to be on TV. It doesn't solve their problems, it's just a cool experience that the world has probably largely denied them. And it makes you realize that such people exist - not only the ex-homeless, but the currently homeless, with an unpleasant predicament, and they are people like you and me. Most of all, this show is funny and made me laugh so hard that I cried on a few occasions. I really hope that it stays on air.

Abraxas (2010)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Comedy and philosophy, 13 April 2011

This movie has to be read between the lines. A very kind-hearted comedy about an outsider looking for a way in, it's a story of a Buddhist monk, ex-rocker, pushed into the order by his family, who wanted to disassociate him from his destructive and embarrassing antics on the stage. Now, held together by the peace of the shrine and pills, he suffers a crisis of self and decides that he needs to play live one more time. His family and the people around him are all trying to go through the same process in different ways - should one be pushed into a social self (perhaps more important in Japanese culture than in most Western societies), or allowed self-expression at all costs? By exploring the wacky characters around Zonen, the movie takes us through a comedic story, all the while hinting at deeper questions of trying to find enlightenment. The music and camera work are fluid. I was very happy watching and re-watching it, and truly recommend it.

24 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing schematic jumble, 24 October 2010

I am a fan of both Ursula K. Le Guin's books, and Studio Ghibli's animation. I've read all of the Earthsea books, and I've seen most of Miyazaki's work, some of the movies dozens of times. I was putting off watching this adaptation, having read Le Guin's review of it, but I finally saw it and I am sorely disappointed. First of all, why are all the characters white? In the books, the peoples of most of the islands are dark-skinned (light brown to pretty dark), with the exception of the inhabitants of the Kargad lands, who are white. Notably, Tenar comes from Kargad and her white skin is the main reason why she is distrusted by the people in the village she lives in - in this adaptation, everybody is white, and so the women's dislike of Tenar was completely unmotivated, so they made her into a witch. The adaptation mixes together three different books, and rewrites all of the characters so that they are not complete and are unmotivated. If this was an adaptation of Lord of the Rings, it would be about the journey of a village of Hobbit-Elves in a fleet of ships to fight Sauron and his army of intelligent spiders. It is impossible for me to realize how anyone would be able to follow this movie without having read the books, and I myself was only able to figure out what I am supposed to think about why the characters in the movie did what they did because I recalled the original character and mentally "added" the aspects that the creators of the adaptation simplified, changed and botched. The characters are unrealistic and announce their lines with little motivation (as in you don't know why they're saying something and what it's supposed to mean), and not only they, but most of the elements of the plot and the world are unmotivated, like the people who made the movie introduced them but then forgot that they were supposed to make sense. One example is the very first scene of the movie, with two dragons fighting. Why are all those people so surprised when they see the dragons and when they fight? The books weave the world of Earthsea into one internally coherent and motivated whole, but in this movie all we get are like section titles on the index page. The main plot theme of the movie, of the wizards losing their powers, as well as the other main themes of dragons, the Equilibrium, the abuse and disregard of women from certain characters, Jungian shadows, and the story of Therru, are completely unexplained and just presented in a way that makes them pretty pictures but not a masterful story like in the Earthsea books. Even the typically gorgeous animation and artistic quality are in my view one of the worst in Ghibli's roster (apart from the beautiful backgrounds). The only thing that stands out is the Japanese voice-acting, which is top-notch, with Yuuko Tanaka's Cob the most masterful performance (although I had to get used to a female voice on that character), and Aoi Teshima's Therru also standing out. The score is also pleasant to the ear, as always in a Ghibli production. All in all, it's a hunge, washed-down, simplistic disappointment. Please do not ever watch it if you have not read the first four Earthsea books, even if you're not planning to read them - you may wind up with the whole set after a plane crash on a desert island one day, and then what you see in your mind will be sullied by having watched this adaptation.

"Arjuna" (2001)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Environmentalist misinformation in a beautiful package, 23 March 2009

First of all, I would like to urge everybody who has seen this series to research and confirm and / or dis-confirm ALL the information that this anime gave you for yourself. Use Wikipedia, and Google, and ask questions in discussion boards. A lot of the "scientific" information in this anime is merely opinion, and should be treated as questions, and parts of the plot, rather than any kind of scientific fact.

I really liked the visual style of this anime. Unlike most of the reviewers, I liked it throughout the series. There is a very interesting mix of hand-drawn animation, computer graphics, collage and live-action video. Although the animation could be better, the characters are drawn and designed in an appealing way, most of the time (especially the supernatural incarnations), and the backgrounds are very beautifully detailed. The aspect of this anime that I personally found the most beautiful was the music - I didn't even know it was composed by Yoko Kanno until I watched the whole series and looked it up, but I love her soundtracks and this one is very special, and one to remember. There are a lot of vocal tracks, and almost no lyrics, and the styles are nicely varied throughout.

What I personally didn't like about this anime, thought, is that it's religious propaganda in 13 colorful episodes. The plot development is centered around the growth of the environmental awareness of the main protagonist. Every episode introduces a new aspect of how people are destroying their world, according to the makers of this show. I am afraid that many viewers might take a lot of the information in this anime as fact, or close to fact, instead of fantasy. It works well as fantasy - there is a simplistic concept of evil, which is made flesh and presented as the antagonist of the show, a material slug-like monster referred to as "Raaja" (Japanese has no grammatical plural, so the Raja might as well be one single entity). Pollution is Raaja. Misunderstanding, argument, and the misleading openness of verbal communication is Raaja. Non-individuality is Raaja, the meat industry is Raaja, and abortion is Raaja. Juna, the protagonist of the show, has to learn how to confront the Raaja and thus save humanity, before it is too late. The problem with this show is that it offers many descriptions of pseudo-facts about the world, like: if you're really sick, you should ingest a drink made from dried human umbilical cord, which will instantly replenish your depleted store of benign bacteria and cure you; almost all diseases require no medication; bugs only eat specific parts of plants, in order to preserve the general equilibrium of the ecosystem; having sex while pregnant amounts to raping the baby (yes, there is actually something akin to a baby-rape scene in the show); pesticides are gases used in military warfare - and so forth. At times, this made me want to choke the show.

You can't choke a show, and you can't treat such information literally - assuming that the anime is not a latent introduction to Scientology, with which it seems to share a very basic metaphysical message, it is possible to assume that the authors wanted to place such outrageous hyperboles, gross oversimplifications, and plain personal opinions, into the show, in order to make the audience care about their decisions and the environment a lot more, because it's for an outrageous, impossible, yet striking image or fact to guide one's actions, than level-headed scientific information. But I just could not stand the way most of that could have been conceived as real-world fact. It really hurt the show, in my opinion, because instead of being a fantasy anime with environmental themes, it turned into propaganda in nice images.

One of the reviewers mentioned Ghibli's "Princess Mononoke", one of my favorite movies of all time. That is also a fantasy anime, with a strong environmental theme, but it manages to keep that theme in the bounds of fantasy, and works great like that, in my opinion (even imparting one with interesting insight into the potential plight of the environment). Earth Girl Arjuna is really disappointing in that respect. I have been a vegetarian (and on/off vegan) for the last 10 years, and I recycle, and save electricity and water, and I think that anime is plain misinformed. A number of changes could have turned it into a fantasy anime with an environmental theme, but here the focus is so much on propaganda and extreme simplification that I lost my suspension of disbelief. Instead of raising questions and awareness, it raises concern and, at worst, a religious-like belief. I can understand what the idea was, but as a thinking person I feel offended. A nice package, though.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
exploring the meaning of emotion, 26 May 2008

Although emotions are everywhere, in all of us, they are at the same time nowhere to be found, since everything you can put a finger on and call an emotion will be different for any other person experiencing the same state. And yet, the names of emotions seem to be self-explanatory and self-evident. Star Trek stories are never realistic, in the sense that they unroll in a world of big ideas, delivered theatrically and without the bounds of present reality. Star Trek can ask big questions and although the answers are not always thorough, I have found that of all the popular television, Star Trek is the only show where these "big questions" are centered upon so much at all.

One of the ways Star Trek does this is by having an alien race to stand for a metaphor or a symbol of one single human trait, flaw or a characteristic. The Volcans embody the rational part of us. Very often, this is portrayed as a flaw, the Volcans being arrogant and silly with their over-reliance on logic. This episode is special in that it portrays the Volcans' reliance on the suppression of all emotion and on logic as a vulnerability or disability. It also shows an interesting aspect of emotional exchanges in real human societies, that is, that emotions can be used in barter. If a person is drawn to a particular state, but depends on others to allow her to experience it, that person is susceptible to being used by people who see that they can use her need for a particular emotion to control her. This way, the emotion (be it fear, anger, lust, or security) becomes a sort of substance, like a drug, and the person who is drawn to it and must take it from others can be seen as an addict. This episode portrays this dynamic very well, along with the shame that a person who normally relies on her reason and composure to guide her in life feels when they own up to their addiction and / or find themselves incapable of resisting the need for a fix any more.

Unfortunately, this episode is not perfect, in my opinion, and this is mostly due to how Enrique Murciano plays his Volcan character Tolaris. I simply can't see how his portrayal can be read as a coherent character. My reaction to the character can be caused by an emotional response, however - I find the character disturbing. However, in general, almost every line he speaks has the same intonation pattern. He also somehow has a smile on his face most of the time. Something in this character just didn't totally "click" for me, especially that he was one of the leads. These emotional Volcans had great potential, and I feel that the episode did not explore the potential of those characters deep enough. Anyhow, this episode is certainly worth watching, one of the top episodes of the series, in my opinion. All the regulars do a great job, as usual, with Scott Bacula once again proving he is perfect as this kind of captain. Of course, Jolene Blalock's T'Pol is impeccable, as always. Really recommend this.

9 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
a deep story and a taste of what good SF can be like, 12 December 2007

I was delighted to watch this movie. I have always been a fan of science fiction literature, as well as sci fi cinema. Sadly, sci fi cinema usually presents us with VERY simplistic stories, and if we are lucky, some good entertainment. Very rarely are we treated to anything spiritually enriching. This movie has a lot of what good literary science fiction has to offer - a story with a simple science-fiction gimmick with good potential, developed in such a way that without any CGI and car chases, we get to experience something exciting and certainly worth our time. Like I said, the basic idea, of a character having lived through thousands of years, is not that original, but as both an avid sci fi cinema and story fan I can tell you that I can't think of a single story or movie which developed the idea so intelligently and coherently.

This movie gives us insightful perspectives on knowledge, memory and identity, and the impact of one's actions on the perceptions of others, and how those perceptions can be forged into reality, either through time (history) or categorization (as sane, insane, credible etc). Although the movie is mostly dialog, and at the beginning I was preparing myself to be bored by the format, what is being said is so interesting that it will certainly hold your attention, especially that we get to see strong performances from the main characters/talkers (all are good enough). Also, the movie is not too long, and has very nice pacing for what it is (not an action movie).

Strong science fiction stories found their way onto the screen before, but they were usually simplified or censored (think Twilight Zone) or watered down to fit into a simpler, action-oriented frame (like most adaptations of Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov), and there have been many examples of original screen science fiction, but the story in this movie is the work of someone with a great deal of insight on what people are, it is spiritually enriching without being moralizing at all, and is portrayed in a very nice peaceful movie too. So give yourself a treat and buy the DVD - I hear this is independent cinema, so they will need all the support you can give. Skip a box-office hit and use the ticket money to give yourself the pleasure of seeing something truly original. I really recommend this.

"Prey" (1998)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
a very silly show, 9 December 2007

I can't believe how silly this show is. Don't get me wrong, I am a sci fi fan, and I am not one of those nerds who will dismiss a show just because it is scientifically inaccurate. Also, I am a fan of the superhuman theme in science fiction. So I approached this show expecting to be delighted, and instead, it made me cringe at every mention of science it presented, since all the omni-present science in it was not only bogus, but also insanely ignorant.

The main characters of this show are brilliant scientists, there is lab work being done in every single episode and the science is always crucial to the plot. This is the case in many sci fi shows, some of which disregard scientific fact completely (like Lexx or most of Star Trek), but at least they do not pretend to be scientifically accurate. But in Prey, the creators based a lot of the plot on scientific discovery, like the central gimmick of a new species of human having recently evolved. Now I only know highschool-level biology - vaguely - but still, I wonder if most scientists would really agree that it is conceivable that a new species would evolve in the course of 40-odd years due to global warming. Also, if the new species is a species of human, are humans a new species of monkey? The basic premise is also that the new species of human (sic) is bent on eliminating the old species of human (us), just like the homo sapiens eliminated the homo neandertalis - which is just another glaring misconception of evolution as we know it - including the fact that, by the same token, humans should be driven by one single motivation - exterminate all the monkeys. Are we? I know I'm not.

Apart from the tons of silly technobabble that anyone who has read a 5-page article about genetics in a children's encyclopedia would be able to discredit, there is also a lot of bad things going on with the characters. Both humans and super-humans are very inconsistent, and not convincing. The female lead is always trailing and aiding some guy, being helped and/or rescued by some guy, or being assaulted by some guy, and she is always back on her feet and smiling within 3 seconds of having been rescued. The superhumans seem just not super enough, and often turn out to be very bad planners or simply sociopathic. By the end of the first (and only) season, you sort of wish that all of the cast be replaced, or all of the main characters be rewritten (the supporting actors and background characters are a lot less annoying and have more integrity, which, along with the presence of my favorite superhuman theme, is the reason why I gave this show such a high rating).

If this show had taken itself less seriously and tried to provide more entertainment and less pseudoscience, and if the characters had been more consistent, it might have been a better watch - as it is, although there are worse shows out there, I think I see why it was canceled (although in reality it was probably caused by something totally unrelated to the show itself). It's sad that such a nice idea was carried out so badly.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
a good SF film for kids (fun to watch for adults, too), 1 November 2007

This is a very good film. I did not want to watch The Last Mimzy, because I thought it would just be a silly kids' movie. Movies for kids these days are very often very boring and unimaginative, and they both insult the kids' intelligence and teach them nothing new. Also, although it might be harmful for the child's imagination, most kids will enjoy simple movies anyway, but most adults will find them too silly. The Last Mimzy stands out as a kids' film, as it's interesting, imaginative and non-patronizing, for a kids' film, and it can surely be enjoyed by adults as well, especially those who like (literary) science fiction (the movie is an adaptation of a story by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore).

There are very many good things about this movie, but a word of caution is due at first: although this movie CAN be fun for adults to watch (like many other films that kids can enjoy too, like the animated My Neighbor Totoro), it is NOT a mature film with children and fairly-tale themes in it (like, for instance, Pan's Labyrinth). It is a good kids movie, and should be considered and judged as such.

The CGI effects and the sci-fi-esqe gimmicks are all very cool, and all the performances in the movie are exceptional, with the female lead deserving a special mention. Somewhere half-way through the movie I noticed the seamless performance by Rhiannon Leigh Wryn - having not been aware of it before for the simple reason that it is so good that you are just watching a kid responding naturally to the situation she's in (and then you realize she's actually acting and delivering lines).

I would have given this move a much higher rating if not for the looser writing and editing in the last 10-20 minutes. It seems like suddenly someone realized they had to make the movie end and they only had 20 minutes to fit the rest of the movie in, instead of 2 hours, so what we see of the plot is really jumpy, and it somehow affects (or is affected by) the editing too. However, even when the quality of the movie goes down for the last 20 minutes, it is merely as bad, plot and editing-wise, as Artificial Intelligence: AI, and a lot of people think AI was a good movie - which means that 4/5 of The Last Mimzy is A LOT better. My dissatisfaction with some of the plot-holes at the very end diminished somehow when I realized that this was not supposed to be a hard SF movie, but a kids' film, so a lot of what happens does not have to be explicitly justified, and can be considered metaphor or something seen from a kid's point of view.

Anyhow, I seriously recommend this movie for people who like good sci-fi movies, as well as for people who have kids and would like to watch a movie together. One interesting point about this movie is that it portrays a positive view of intellectual giftedness, neither showing it as something akin to magical powers, nor as a disability, so gifted children could relate to those themes in the movie well (although they might benefit from the emphasis on a sci-fi explanation of some of the plot in a follow-up discussion of the movie).

"Planetes" (2003)
17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
a must-see for fans of good science fiction, 25 October 2007

I am truly amazed how great this show turns out to be from a science-fiction fan's point of view, and I do not mean the kind of movie science fiction which relies on CGI as its main asset and suffers from poor unrealistic plot. I mean the kind of literary science fiction that gets awarded with a Hugo award.

Perhaps one should forget that this is an anime, for the simple reason that the stereotype of anime is something like a TV show for kids where a bunch of clichéd, depth-less characters battle supernatural enemies with their superpowers. If that is what anime means for you, think of Planetes as an animated series made in Japan. Removed around eighty years from the times it was made in, it presents quite a believable picture of what space exploration might be like at the end of the 21st century, with a load of detail comparable only to the movie adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is one of the strongest points of the show - the richness of little details, like how rooms have to be adapted to zero G, makes the sci fi elements more believable.

The strongest point, however, would be how great science fiction this is. One definition of science fiction would be that a science fiction story depicts the way more-or-less imaginary technology (or the fruit of some science not directly related to technology, like chemistry) impacts human lives. Apart from the development of the regular characters of the show, every episode contains a story in that vein, with a great deal of insight and care for consistency. It is harder to show something gripping in science fiction with more-or-less realistic technology than in a flashy movie where the technology used is nothing short of magical, yet Planetes achieves that in every episode. Also, since the future gadgetry depicted is so often directly connected with the plot, and at the same time, so believable, Planetes could also be categorized as a cyberpunk show set in Earth's orbit, and I mean cyberpunk like in the later William Gibson stories, not like in, say, Cyber City Oedo 808. As I said, you won't see any technological magic, not even at the "AI virus gaining consciousness" level.

I'm sorry I can't recommend this further without any spoilers, but if you have ever enjoyed good SF literature, be sure to check out this show (at least the first 5 episodes, to see what it's like after we've gotten to know the main characters), and you won't be disappointed.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
blatantly clichéd and annoyingly boring, 25 September 2007

This movie is so cliché-driven that watching it is basically more of a "spot the cliché" type of experience than really enjoying a horror flick. On the other hand, it's not bad enough to be a laughingstock, so essentially, this is one boooring movie.

I am sorry, but how many Amitiville-esquire spin-offs can the industry make? OK, well, let's see: a desolate house in the country? We know that the previous owners were disposed of? New family moving in? Doors won't open? The little kid sees more than the adults? The family is troubled to start with... in the most insanely insipid manner imaginable, with black-and-white blandness of character and empty lines. There is no character building whatsoever, just building up the TYPE each character is supposed to stand for: OK the well-meaning loser father, the subdued wife, the alienated daughter, and the 3-year-old. Can we get any more clichés, please? OK, here's some crows. CROWS! In a horror flick! What creative brilliance. Also, all the symbolism (e.g. the meaning of the crows, the meaning of the clock, the meaning of the final crisis and resolution) is ludicrously obvious.

Dylan McDermott seems like he wandered off from a Disney family morality play and wound up in a horror movie; Penelope Ann Miller's performance made me feel that it was either going to be revealed she had just become part of the family or is the father's new girlfriend who, for some reason, chose to move in with him into a haunted house on the prairie - there is absolutely no chemistry between her and her husband, which is rationalized later on but, in my opinion, her performance is just too perfect in that area. Kristen Stewart and John Corbett are OK, but this is certainly not a movie where they had any opportunity to shine. Note that Kristen Stewart was only 16-17 when the movie was shot, so that's pretty fine (unannoying) work from such a young actress. There are a few moments where the cinematography seems to be seriously wrong (especially in the scene where the father discovers some crows have been eating his sunflower seed and the next two minutes). The score becomes catchy in odd moments and is pretty much as formulaic as the plot overall.

Everything about this movie is completely formulaic. This is the type of film where in the first three minutes you can tell what the ending will be and then you can just switch your mind off and then you see that ending happen. If you are new to horror movies, just see the original Amityville Horror, The Others and The Signs. If you're just looking for something to eat pizza and get wasted over, this is a safe choice (this movie is mediocre, it is not extremely bad). If you're looking for a good scare, look somewhere else.

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