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Quest for Camelot (1998)
I really wanted to like this...
I remember seeing the trailer for the movie and thought it looked good - I enjoyed movies like that back then, and who wouldn't want to see an animated story about Arthurian legend? The plot seemed interesting, the animation looked decent, and the songs sounded good (a few characters had very few spoken syllables in the preview and for those that did, when the songs meant for a certain character played with an American vocalist, you couldn't see their lips moving so never suspected a mismatch). I did see a few negative review s for it before I watched it, but I reasoned those people might not be into animated children's musicals. When I did see it, I was horrified. I'm sure my complaints will have been voiced before, but there are 2 things I enjoyed about this: the beginning 5 minutes, and the soundtrack. The film starts out making it seem like it'll be OK: the animation is decent and we meet the main character who seems like a strong heroine actually as old as the founding of CAmelot (it's the 10th anniversary) who wants to become one of King Arthur's defenders like her father. He goes off to Camelot with some delightful music of drums, upbeat flute, and a foreign-chanting choir and a short but good song plays which does move things along when Arthur joins in. Sadly, from the second the all-too-obvious (ugly, more angularly-drawn, ever-scowling) antagonist breaks in and actually says "Enough with the sing-a-long", I winced at the fact that the writers chose to make it a musical when the characters mocked the singing of a song that actually had a point. It quickly went downhill from there: Arthur speaks and his British accent does not match his American singing one, the threat from the villain met by defense from the heroine's father seems somehow abrupt so forced, and, after several years have passed and the present story begins, the same problem is noted for every character when his or her singing voice precedes or follows dialog, only to contrast it sharply. Any thoughts that Kayley will make a decent heroine go out the window when she proclaims she wishes not to work on her family's farm and eventually marry but become a knight rescuing damsels in distress...but does not know what a "damsel" is. The villain Ruber, who killed Kayley's father all those years ago, manages to send a griffin to steal Excalibur but it's lost in flight, and barges into her family's home ordering the family of Arthur's late friend escort him to Camelot, threatening Kayley as a hostage. He has a potion which turns living beings into machine-appendage-bearing evil versions of themselves (including the chicken who never spoke but was obviously a misfit among his kind before this), which is just foolish; it's always stupid when the villain proclaims they're evil. Kayley manages to escape the monsters into an enchanted forest so she can warn Arthur, but is unfamiliar with the dangers so is rescued by a blind man named Garrett who lives there so knows how to deal with them. I was legally blind so was pleased to see both a heroine and a blind hero. There's just one problem...they're both unlikable. Garrett, who has unknowingly fallen in with Merlin's pet falcon who can further help him sense things, is introduced as a rude, cold, self-pitying man, while Kayley continues to be a foolish, sometimes even complaining person who is of no help, rescuing Garrett once - after her whining to him results in his being unable to hear enemies' approach in time to prevent his getting shot. Garrett does grow on me since he proves capable, justifiably frustrated by her and the annoying two-headed, misfit, peaceful dragon they encounter along the way. I really though I'd enjoy these characters - even the dragon seemed humorous in ads, but after seeing the movie I felt sure the actors had wasted their talents, especially the big names (Don Rickles and Eric Idle as the dragon). The only characters that have any dignity are, thankfully, Arthur and Merlin...but, sadly, they have next to no screen-time. There are a few good scenes here, but they're all so brief that they aren't worth seeing the movie for: Garrett revealing he knew Kayley's father and the relationship they had that gave him hope after he tragically lost his sight, Merlin encouraging an injured Arthur to have faith in his people in the mission he couldn't go out, the otherwise pointless and annoying talking chicken tentatively asking whether dragon a la king is better than a famous recipe similar to that, the humorous wild ride of Garrett being forced to drive a carriage. Other than these, I would recommend this movie to no one. Though the songs do seem to have purposes, they're undermined by characters pointing out afterward they wish to have no more singing, and except for the actors who do their own singing, the voices are grossly unmatched. The scene ending the climax was baffling, particularly how one person did not get required help as everyone else seemed to, and I rolled my eyes when one person got a reward for a job NOT well done. I was surprised when I learned what book they based it off of, and realize it must have been difficultfor them to take ideas for such a dark plot and turn them into a kids' movie. But they certainly succeeded in taking its bare bones of a heroine and a blind hero in Arthurian times and making an animated movie out of it...if only it made sense or was funny instead of never taking itself seriously. My advice: just listen to the soundtrack where the songs are quite good on their own without contradictions by the writers or the singing characters' actors, and watch the first 5 minutes then imagine the film will proceed as you'd expect and wish.
The Twilight Zone: Love Is Blind (1989)
This was one of the more interesting episodes of the New Twilight Zone that lasted a whole half hour, but especially since this was an original work. Imagine that you enter a bar with Ken Medema (oh, all right, if you don't know who he is, he's a blind inspirationalist singer/pianist who's a genius at improvising songs based on stories heard on the spot since 1973) performing on his instrument, when he suddenly plays a song that accurately describes your relationship at home - not just generally, but to every detail. If you're wondering what to do to reconcile with your other half, he'll run through the myriad of possibilities you've already examined. If you're unsure how to gently say the relationship is at a standstill and you desperately want out, he'll go through what you've considered saying but will also mention the reasons you can't say them, how long you've been together. And, if like Jack Haines (Ben Murphy), you've overheard a phone conversation and arrive intending to shoot the man your wife is meeting, the night's blind guitarist will sing a song to his wife (though he doesn't specify that) of a decade, saying he regrets the emotions he feels and choice he feels led to based on what he overheard on the telephone. After, he approaches Jack by name and asks him how he liked the song. Jack is even more bewildered when he explains that he knew specifically about Jack's situation and that was why he sang it, and desperately advises him to recant his decision. Jack encourages him to leave him and confront another, but the guitarist explains the reason he was called to the bar apparently was Jack - when he lost his eyesight, he gained the gift of realizing strong enough thoughts and also to become a skilled musician, partly for those people...which is why he knows nothing of Jack's wife or the man she'll meet, and not just because they haven't arrived yet. Jack doubts the man is blind, but snatching off the dark lenses he wears, he learns he is. This is a really amazing story, definitely memorable. The battle of wits between the two main characters is clever and well-done, the acting is great, and the last few scenes - the action scene which had an unexpected result which I won't spoil, the way the blind guitarist kept showing up, what was learned about Jack's best friend afterward, and the last ability the songs are revealed to hold was incredible. My congratulations to the writer on this gem. I wish there were more like it - in almost every way possible, it reminds me of what a title reading The Twilight Zone should contain.
Good viewing - that doesn't need a message
This a good episode of The New Twilight Zone that actually includes interesting ideas and clever stories (I note both of them are based on short stories). "Examination Day" is set in the future, year unknown but at a point where they have cake candles that light themselves, huge TV-looking "phones" that double as numerous other entertaining machines and distributed only to those of a certain age...and the Examination Day, a point where 12-year-olds must undergo a government-required IQ test. The kid is this story, Dickie Jordan (David Mendenhall) is just celebrating his own 12th birthday and is a smart kid, so is calm, even eager to take the test that he has seen friends pass easily and knows he will excel at based on his school grades. His parents (Christopher Allport and Elizabeth Norment), on the other hand, say he shouldn't have used his birthday wish on getting a good score, and while their reason includes that they believe he's capable and he should have no need to worry, it's pretty obvious they are worried. I won't give anything away in the ending, but I will say this - there's a point where we get a glimpse of what's to come as far ass why the test is such a heavy subject: that evening (or another?) his parents ask Dickie whether he'd prefer to watch TV all night. By today's standards, we'd be pleased he'd say he'd rather read and not just because there's nothing worth watching...but why would his family ask this? The flavor of what's encouraged and discouraged in the future reminded me a bit of the atmosphere from Harrison Bergenon (which I hear hasn't received a great adaptation to the screen). I only wish they could've provided an opening and closing narration to make this theme as powerful as The Obsolete Man was. I found it to be better than the short story it was based on. I haven't read the one that "A Message from Charity" was based on, but would like to since it was interesting - a 16-year-ld boy, Peter (Robert Duncan McNeill) is suffering a fever from unclean water, that has always been common in his Massachusetts hometown...but he is able to see through the eyes of a young Puritan woman suffering the same type of fever, Charity Payne, (Kerry Noonann) who also finds herself able to experience what goes on around him. They both recover, especially since it's common for that to happen in 1985, but the connection doesn't go away. Charity is curious about the sights and sounds she records of 1985 and they each enjoy each other's company, especially Peter, who has promoted grades in school enough to always have felt isolated from other students, even at the college he's been staying in one place at. Things take an unexpected turn, though, when Charity reveals some of these experiences to a friend who take her claims that the 13 colonies will breach from England as a sign of bewitchment, added to the fact that she was spared death from the fever (not so common in 1700). The two try to learn a way to save her. The ending is sad but has an interesting final moment that makes it touching. Both segments of this episode include a lot of pain but both times, through a lesson/warning that sounds like something Rod Sterling would've cooked up and entertainment, make cheerful watching as reminders that friendship, love, and wisdom do a great deal. Probably 3/4 of this has no theme, but somehow I think it all would have been approved by Sterling's crew.
Very reflective of the series some good, some bad (even somewhat in that order)
The first episode of The "New" Twilight Zone gave us a clear picture of what the show as a whole was going to be like - the first half and segment of the episode, "Shatterday", was great and remains a favorite; the other, "A Little Peace and Quiet" was not. I don't have as much to say about "A Little Peace and Quiet", nor anything else nice, so I'll get that over with. It's a little like "A Kind of Stopwatch" where somebody gets ahold of a watch that just happens to help them stop time. The difference is that instead of an obnoxious bore, the one who finds it is an overworked, stressed housewife who has to deal with the general everyday noise of life (dog included)...along with the shouting of four little kids and an incompetent but still demanding husband. The only thing that made me smile about that was I thought it was about time somebody showed a nagging HUSBAND after all those rotten-egg wives we got to see on the original Twilight Zone! Seriously, though, the concept really annoyed me - not one of the kids had an ounce of self-control, up to the point where one had the habit of tampering with an alarm clock and another ran loose in public, the husband was useless, and the wife...well, I can't say whether it was Melinda Dillon's acting since I only saw her in A Christmas STory which I also had a hard time appreciating, or the writing, but even though her character was meant to be sympathized with, I quickly grew bored with her routine sighing and gasping. Even her voice sounded a bit whiny when thinking out loud. I thought it was a little too strange that we were really expected to believe that all previous attempts at connecting her family had failed so the watch solved everything perfectly, and even what was supposed to be the humorous part of kicking out the peace-speakers with it made me roll my eyes. Only one noteworthy thing was done with it at the end...and while the scene of despair just before was beautiful enough to make me want to join the characters crying, I was stunned the writers couldn't be more creative with what else could've been done with that watch - I'm not completely convinced that their ending given won't change 5 minutes after the camera fades. I can see why they switched the show to hold half-hours later! Anyway, I was grateful this episode wasn't a complete waste of time...after all, there was "Shatterday". I've yet to read Harlan Ellison's short story, though now I'm eager to - the TV adaptation was great! A pre-fame Bruce Willis plays a bit of a Russ Duritz-type character from The Kid - but we only figure that out after he accidentally dials his own number in a bar and is answered by someone claiming to be him, Peter Jay Novins. Whoever answers tells him he can't return home since they both can't occupy the same space, so the ringer Peter Novins cancels his bank account and insults most public companies so the guy at home can't order anything....The only problem is, the one in his home, who we believe is his alter ego, has the money and phone numbers of estranged relatives and dates at home, and is determined that he will change his other self's life for the better. As one continues to press for change, the other sickens. This is an interesting concept as we only gradually saw who was good and who was evil, and it kept me wanting to know who would win. The ending was amusing and the score, with a South American flute, had to be one of the best I've ever heard on TV. I give "Shatterday" a 10 and "A Little Peace and Quiet" a 6, so this episode totals up to a nice happy 8. Not bad for this show at all.
A good message for the right audience
I was intrigued by the concept of Death saying he hated his job enough to drop it. Though I dislike the show, this is one of the better episodes. Still, I found a few things strange. Jason Alexander uses good sarcasm/boredom for Death, but I keep thinking he didn't look the part. I expected Death either to look very old or young, and he's neither. But I can't think of a better actor - he nailed the job of a patient who has to explain himself to new physician Jay Ferguson, played just as well by Tyler Christopher, who just rescued a man. Alexander is an attempted suicidal who was apparently barely rescued, but claims he was hanging for just under a day and realized "they" (powers) weren't going to let him die since they don't want him quitting. He says he's been considering quitting since the Dark Ages, but Jay believes he's mad. Sure, he knows the name of the hospital's first casualty, but anyone can find that out, and that name could've just been written down with others that "show up" in the formerly-empty log he carries....Then he displays a paper: there's a notice reading "No obituaries today due to no deaths to report." Jay phones friends in other cities, though learns theirs read the same. But though he believes nobody is dying (today), he still can't reconcile it with the man...then instead of Death behind him, a woman calls him by a nickname. Jay swings around to see his mother, quoting her last prayer. When he looks away, Death is suddenly back, remarking on how her death inspired Jay's becoming a physician. Jay then believes who he's dealing with, and encourages Death not to give in to "them". since he sees no deaths a miracle with only bearable disadvantage (overpopulation)....Until he's called to work on several burn victims, and is convinced when they tell him the monitors give no vitals that it's a malfunction
then glimpses the monitors himself, and a nurse admits the patients are writhing and screaming, yet their skin is blackened as though dead...Jay is forced to tell Death he has to get back on the job, but who else in Jay's life will die? This was a great story, and the message it gives is great and thought-provocative life isn't life without death. The only thing is, sadly, I already knew what no death would mean to those in pain: before I saw the show, I'd witnessed two people's deaths that were depressing but really a blessing to them, since the alternative would've been for them to linger on sick for good. I guess the reason I didn't think of that right away was, my concept of immortality usually goes to people never dying of aging, not to those whose injury or disease should have taken them but didn't. The writers were clever to make that one startle me, showing it from the viewpoint of a doctor of two days! I guess my one complaint about that is, the patients' not breathing when they acted alive seemed like a weak way to show they shouldn't have been thus. I'm surprised they didn't just show their heartbeats/breaths being so slow it seemed as though they should die soon, and the remark that they shouldn't live. SPOILERS FOLLOW: I thought the ending came as a great surprise they didn't overdo the "headache" since it was mentioned once and one time where he might've suffered it was when he's shocked seeing a dead relative. My only thought was poor Jay'd be one of those who'd live with only an occasional headache instead of dying so young. The other message shown, to not only make your life worthwhile but also to live, is beautiful. It's not every day that Death holds off your time for a full day but gives you one last chance to smell the flowers, as you haven't had time for in your busy life, first. It's really ironic, since he worked so hard to get into a job where he could save lives, based on loss, and barely got work in before he died himself. Still, I'm probably the only one who thinks it was ironic that during his extra day he was trying to figure out who Death "really" was and then ended up trying a job he couldn't solve. I think there were mentions of other easier cases he treated, but it's still really strange. The only thing wrong with the ending isn't really the ending, but the narration - Whitaker's a great narrator but his writers were remarkably weak, saying Jay now lived in "The Twilight Zone", making it synonymous with death (not for the last time) instead of somehow remarking that Jay learned about life and death's coexistence from a place in between, called the Twilight Zone...or something like that. SPOILERS END. I guess the only weird thing I noticed was why Death quit when he did - he hung on through the Black Death, the World Wars, the September 11th attacks...but he chose to quit in Anytime, 2002, without mass casualties to drive him to it. Still, I love this. I recommend this to anybody...who doesn't already know first-hand about the good side of Death in their lives.
1st was decent 2nd was OK but Sterling would've loved the bar!
This is the first whole episode I've seen of "The Twilight Zone", and what a showing! "Healer", was a fine start. Handsome Eric Bogosian is Jackie, a lowlife thief with a soft spot - he breaks into a museum and steals a rock, but notices it's not just expensive after he escapes and finds the stone glowing when near his bullet-wounded chest - it heals! He rescues his mentor, Harry (Vincent Gardenia) from a heart attack, and he says he probably cheated death as well and convinces Jackie to use the healing power for money. "Brother John" begins to get a show healing, and considers broadening it ton heal more...but is dissuaded by Harry since they'll make less money, and doesn't give the stone to the Native American (Joaquin Martinez) who recognizes it as his people's. But when he can't help a former enemy who bribes him, he learns the stone requires the benefactor's selflessness to work, and suffers the wound the stone healed before (this is the only thing unexplained - maybe his avarice made him stop caring about his own soul?) and also learns who his friends are. Bogosian really is convincing as the guy who's horrified at the threat of losing a friend then later is horrified that the "friend", also believably deceiving, is prepared to let him die. My one complaint is that the ending is a bit inconclusive, and Aidman's introduction had him talking to the protagonist - other than that, it went well so it's a 7. "Children's Zoo" is OK considering it was barely over 5 minutes and the main character, a 4-year-old with dysfunctional parents, barely was put in situations to speak. For the first few moments we watch her clean her room while her parents are heard bantering in the background. One advantage to that is, listening carefully, we learn the writers sneak in the fact that she was the only reason the twerps married. The shortest trip into the Twilight Zone given feels decent but a bit empty - her parents are doubtless selfish souls based on what we listen to them say to each other at first, but when little Debbie shows them a certificate to a "children's zoo" a friend gave her, the most noteworthy thing is that the mother snaps at her and they're both reluctant to take her, though her father acts too supportive to be sincere and offers the mother to go, though they both have to attend. It's not shown just how the two finally agreed to go, but the humor picks up near the end. I guess I'll give it a 7. Though I can't say what the original Twilight Zone writers would say to Healer and know they would've deepened "Children's Zoo", I have no doubt that "Kentucky Rye" used the mold of what Rod Sterling's classic show on the supernatural was, happily adapted to the current time period. Bob Spindler (Jeffrey DeMunn) is shown cheerfully driving down the road for a brief moment and in a flashback is shown anxiously waiting to hear if he made a deal at work (wherever he works). He's overjoyed to hear he made it and got $1500, and goes out for drinks with his co-workers/friends. The only problem is, though happy as a clam and letting everyone else enjoy, he promises his wife over the phone he'll only have one more drink after he hangs up, since she asks him how many he's already had, but he has 3. The others tire of drinking before he does and try to drive him home, but he kicks them out assuring he'll get a taxi. So we're back on the road again, but now that we get a longer glimpse of his driving and see what just happened, it's obvious he isn't sober. He eventually ends up driving in the wrong lane, and swerves to avoid hitting a car. We don't hear a crash from the other car, and both he and his car appear to be relatively unhurt after he hits a tree: at least, its windshield didn't break and he's just got a head-cut. Thinking the other driver was responsible, he enters a nearby pub called Kentucky Rye, one of those cute little ones where they play country music and everybody knows everybody. He fits in after he calls for a whiskey (I guess he didn't think he needed anything besides that and his handkerchief to cure his headache) and his wound heals rather quickly. He makes small talk and manages to make a name for himself arm-wrestling after watching it some, but meanwhile notices a pair nobody else seems to be paying attention to: a light-faced solemn man sitting alone, and later a sour-looking woman, but he doesn't look their way too often. Bob is shocked to learn the bar's for sale but the kindly owner just explains it's time. The arm-wrestler he manages to beat encourages him to buy, and so does the bartender...but even though it's extra-cheap, he's $100 short. Then the loner guy steps in offering it to him, and he buys. Then everybody is quiet and, though watching him, nobody responds to his offers to drink or dance (and the jukebox breaks, and what seems like a funny but weird song is on display). He decides to have fun if only alone, so attempts pool, then finally passes out....The ending is a shock, with some more lines that maybe weren't meant to be amusing but that made me laugh anyway. I know comedy wasn't what Sterling intended in his original Twilight Zone, but he would've lovd this. The laughs just make the ending, and the surprise, seem more serious and clever. This has got to be one of the better episodes of the '80s version out there. I wish there were more like it, and wouldn't have minded seeing this take more room.
Greatest Heroes of the Bible (1978)
OK - but not great
I'm sorry to say that I haven't seen the whole of this mini-series, but only the 8 episodes that were placed on tape for a box set (Noah, Soddom and Gamorrah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ten Commandments, Samson, and David). I would've liked to have seen the rest of it, but I guess there's hope for that some other day. Right now, though, I can only talk about these - and what an interesting topic they make! On one level, I found that I appreciated each story at last to a point, since some details I never read in the Bible but were certainly realistic were brought up. I enjoyed watching Noah standing up to the abusive pagans in his time before the Flood, and showing just how righteous he was by reminding his sons that inaction wasn't an option for him. The specific doubts of the Israelites in the desert were well-played out, and they actually remembered Joseph's Egyptian name, and that the first plague on Egypt made them lose all of their water when it was turned to blood, not just its source in the Nile (most versions I'v seen don't). On the other hand...I feel a bit sorry that I don't feel like giving credit to some of the good actors, since some plots were just too far out there for me to really enjoy. Yes, to those who are looking for entertaining moments, the scenes of Abraham's sons each being threatened by a man whose son he inadvertently killed may be a winner, but for me it was just a major thorn and a distraction in what should have been a quiet but powerful story of faith. I was impressed with the closing narration to Sodom and Gamorrah and shocked to find that I actually have yet to find that anywhere in the Bible (wasn't in the Sodom & Gamorrah section) but most of the episode itself, with another subplot on conspiracy and failed attempts at abduction and murder, really took away from the main story Luckily, the ending scene of destruction was fascinating to watch. Noah's story was probably the best, with few invented subplots (the one that did come up was all of 5 minutes - it was even steeped in good reasoning; the guy who claimed himself for a god stole the sons' birthright then attempted to burn the ark that "went against" him, but luckily he was drowned soon.) and gave good suggestions on how the family would have introduced their daughters-in-law to faith or spent time on the Ark. The worst was definitely Samson and Deliah - John Beck has his hair in a braid so it didn't seem as noticeable that it was long at first, and they made it so that when a child died in an accident he lost his faith! The Ten Commandments, David and Goliath, Joseph, and Moses were OK - a few details were omitted in each except The Ten Commandments (that had another conspiracy subplot, but thankfully it was short), but they were all decent. I'd like to see the other episodes in this someday, even if they all turn out to have ludicrous subplots...there is something good in each one, even if it's just the voice of God calling his follower. I'd recommend this to those who like these sorts of works and can give a little leeway on some fabrication. Most of them evened out on the good and the bad points with me, so I give the series a 6 since most of my episodes get about a 5 or a 6.
Music and Lyrics (2007)
What does this movie have in common with The Wedding Singer? Well, they both star actors with the same birthday (Adam Sandler and Hugh Grant) as former pop stars anywhere from at least early 80s (in The Wedding Singer it only directly mentioned he was in '79), now preforming menial musical tasks, along with Drew Barrymore lending them a hand after they meet her at work...and they wind up falling for her despite challenging circumstances...Well, anyway, it seems like Music and Lyrics had the right things in common with The Wedding Singer, since it's about as enjoyable. 1/2 of the 80s duo Pop, Alex Fletcher lives in obscurity while his former partner is still successful and popular, partly because he claimed their final joint 3 hits as his own), only able to keep the meager supporters he has if he quickly composes a hit. When house-sitter Sophie Fisher happens to be at one of his numerous rocky additions to find a lyricist, she appears to be doing better than anyone he can meet, so he hires her. They're pretty different at first, drawn together only by her talent, but as time goes on and Alex begins to see hope for their work and that he'll actually gain some fame again with her advice and support, they become a little more than friends. Until a snag hits - it's not her engagement to a creep, but her reluctance to perform the song with a controversial teen-aimed Indian music video and his reluctance to voice his actually similar opinion to Cora Corman (Haley Bennet). This is a good movie with plenty of laughs but not so many bizarre oddities in the humor as The Wedding Singer - which is fine with me, even if it shoves most other characters into the role of minor ones so makes them and the plot a bit forgettable. I enjoyed how both characters learned from each other and it wasn't just a 1-way street experience. I didn't find the soundtrack quite as endearing, partly because it wasn't all 80s music, but did enjoy some songs, especially the old music video in the opening sequence. I thought the acting was great and the fact that Hugh Grant could sing was a pleasant surprise. I recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Wedding Singer - and to a few who didn't.
Could've been better
Introduced to this show through a sibling who devoured R. L. Stine's books, I found I initially couldn't form my opinion of it since the first handful of episodes I saw happened to be based on the books I hadn't read (why is it the books you most want to read are the hardest to find?), but once I was lucky (unlucky?) enough to see ones based on the stories I'd read, my opinion was: the ones whose story counterparts I hadn't seen were decent on their own, but those based off of books I had were mediocre in comparison. All of them do seem pretty formula now in retrospect: an evil threatens but only the young protagonist realizes and has a difficult time making anyone else aware. The books are almost always formula in this point too - but Stine was phenomenal in spicing the stories up by conjuring up different humorous dialogue, explanations for the evil, or details to make it seem impressive to a kid. I found the books to be interesting but the show was never enough to scare even a 6-year-old, and I wondered why Stine was actually the host on this show rather than rejecting writers Billy Brown & Dan Angel and hunting for someone more faithful. The fact that (with a few exceptions that ran 2 episodes), each story was limited to less than 30 minutes (the commercial breaks which accounted for the "less than" were surrounded by fade-outs of some new terror arising - which, even the youngest viewer realized after a few breaks, would be a false alarm when it resumed) rushed the plots of stories I laughed and fascinated over in book form, giving no time to absorb the scares, other than the phony ones resolved in 60 seconds while the camera dimmed and returned. I appreciated significantly more those that ran 2 episodes for just under an hour, even with the fade-outs still causing boredom. The plots of these left on a cliffhanger after one episode and there was usually a better twist at the end. Also, since fewer action scenes were shown in most of the single-episode simpler stories, special effects were severely limited; I never found the antagonists as terrifying as they could be in imagination. Example: the book "Let's Get Invisible" doesn't instantly reveal who the being behind the mirror is, but the show has a dead giveaway as he wears a jersey with BACKWARD LETTERING - just plain cheesy! In the 3rd series, a large number of episodes were wasted not on books, but on short stories in his compilations Stories to Give You Goosebumps, which contained 10 boring stories (the one I tried and failed to read was the one never used to base TV scenes off of, but I'm sure the others were no better) which often provoked no fear even on the page - imagine how a screen adaption even weaker than their book basis would've been! No, the plot wasn't rushed; even worse - it was as though the while plot was shown but it was a rushed story to begin with! Ironically my favorite episode (along with a 3-part story I shouldn't mention; it wasn't based on a book) of which I've seen was one of these, "Click" - I doubt it was meant to be scary, but it did make me laugh expecting that the boy who exploited a space- and time-controlling remote could so easily be punished! I just wish I could punish the writers for such a weak adaptation, even to a kid, of a kid's favorite serial.
The Incredibles (2004)
OK, but not a good kids' movie
I wasn't expecting a classic comparable to my favorite Disney movies when I saw this - nothing could surpass Toy Story in my view - but I wasn't expecting what I saw either. I enjoyed this movie somewhat when I first saw it but for each time I watched it afterwards, my opinion of it lowered rather than remained good. The plot is an interesting one with only a few problems: after being held accountable for several misfortunes such as injuring passengers when stopping a train heading for a bomb-made track gap, or "rescuing" but injuring a suicidal man (in a kids' movie?), Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) becomes the victim of lawsuits while his fellow "supers" are convicted or at least suspected of causing other problems (the most specific I can recall is that their masks let them spy on women - what a dark subject!), until it's declared they must hang up the suits and live as private citizens. 15 years later: though some of Mr. Incredible's last public words were his wishing to have less work and maybe a family, Bob Parr bitterly resents the fact that he's no longer a hero, or even a philanthropist (apparently illegally trying to literally play hero several times, he's been relocated enough that his current job, 1 of the few he hasn't tried his hand at, is insurance agent, which the 8-year-old I saw this with didn't get). He does more for his customers than his greedy boss Humph (Wallace Sheen) allows, and to compensate for his job he still attempts upholding justice while dragging best friend Lucius, once Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), along for the ride, and meanwhile seems little more than indifferent to Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their 3 kids, except he wants his 10-year-old son who has the gift of speed to compete in sports where he'd have an unfair advantage. When Humph catches on that he's illegally helping customers and Bob loses his temper enough to throw him through a wall, he declines the offer to relocate again - but accepts an offer from "Mirage", claiming to be a fellow ex-hero who needs his help in destroying an amok robot. Having done this, he actually feels fine about life and does become closer to his family - until he's duped into meeting his employer (Jason Lee), who reveals himself to be a jealous, obsessed fan who wants revenge for his rejection of him when he was a kid. He learns that Buddy Pine, now known as Syndrome, has in fact gone mad, killing off many heroes (maybe all, since the only 3 shown definitely alive are himself, Elastigirl, and Frozone who appears to be his next target). Learning that his real goal is to "defeat" his own creations after unleashing them and thus becoming the world's sole superhero, the protagonist, now filled with regret over neglecting his family and endangering his friend (maybe their being seen together when Bob's discovered is why Frozone's location is known?), must call on his family to help him and outsmart Syndrome. Really, it's not a bad story except for a few dark elements here and there - still, there are other things to look at. Acting was good, but it couldn't improve the uneven tone of the movie; Syndrome joked about the heroes' having "got busy" as far as having kids, another joke which youngsters won't get, yet earlier the idea of his taking out heroes is underplayed - it's only a certainty when 1 whom we never meet but is mentioned as missing (noted since he too was resistant to adjusting to life without a mask) is shown on his list of targets dealt with, and was hard even for the adults I saw watching it to believe. There are some good scenes such as the daughter, who unlike her brother adheres to the family rule about ignoring her power (forcefields), gains self-confidence to use it for help, or Mirage's knowledge that indifference isn't strength, but these lessons are almost completely forgotten in other, twisted messages: (SPOILERS) Parr disregards the law and attempts to remain a hero (admittedly to a point one can sympathize since the community has gone far enough to crush individuality by making a ceremony of a grade's being passed) - and ends up protecting and being thanked by the ungrateful community that once rejected him; (SPOILERS END) Helen's advice of humility is tossed aside, while Dash (SPOILER), who does unfairly beat his track competitors (SPOILERS END), is "right" in his reminder that everyone's being special means nobody is, when Syndrome echoes it later. It seems even the youngest kid could realize faster than Helen that it wasn't pride but concern for his family that made Bob want to fight solo in the climax. For some reason the writers don't explain, crimes (obviously) continue in the decade-and-half long absence of heroes - though villains, such as the poorly-worked cliché French joke that is Bomb Voyage (and I'm sure there are some just as stupid as Underminer, who pops up later declaring war against peace and happiness), are also out of business...but I doubt they retired from growing bored with having nobody to oppose them! Lucius/Frozone is the coolest and my favorite character, but he has too little screen time even if it makes sense that he is absent for most of the middle since he never learns of his friend's imprisonment. (SPOILER); But why isn't he honored with a limo ride with the main family after their works? (SPOILERS END) I still see the true morals and his character as highlights of the movie, but I wish there was more I could enjoy.