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Scarecrow-88

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Tremors 5, 31 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Michael Gross made his triumphant return to the Tremors franchise, as Burt Gummer, Graboid killer, this time traveling to South Africa with camera operator, Jamie Kennedy, to eradicate a new breed of an old adversary. Recruited by Daniel Janks from SA to find and capture a Graboid that murdered an archaeologist couple and slaughtered a poacher (who happened to unluckily fall into a cave housing it's offspring), Gross and Kennedy find more than they bargained for. Brandon Auret is the other poacher who witnessed his friend killed, a bit miffed with Gross' arrival. Yummy Pearl Thusi is a doctor (with a daughter often playing in a garden; the expected child in peril scenes involve her) who Kennedy takes a liking to (and who could blame him?!), also desired by chief of security, Rea Rangaka. Ian Roberts has a memorable part as a copter pilot who is brothers of a feather with weapons expert Gummer, surviving a Graboid swallowing when it spits him out! This Graboid has tentacle tongues with heads on them that extend long distance and it can spin out of the earth into the air as if shot from a cannon and gulp victims whole! The mix of practical and computerized effects aren't too shabby considering the budget available, especially cool are the flame-ass bird-like creatures that often swoop down and snatch away human victims. Gross is an absolute blast, deservedly the star of the franchise now. While this won't compare in quality to the first film--my opinion one of the best monster films of it era and horror comedies of the 90s--it certainly breathes fun life into a franchise many hadn't thought much about lately. Kennedy is thankfully tolerable, and his courage helps make him acceptable particularly when he braves the offspring cave and rides a dirt bike to distract the main Graboid. Pearl with her bow and arrow skills come in handy during one Graboid kill involving a burning Jeep and direct shot to its gas tank. Lots of guns and explosions, as expected with Gummer running around. The location shooting is similar to the previous entries, but I can't envision a Tremors movie not in the desert. Memorable sequence involves Gummer trapped in a cage as a lion approaches, eventually urinating on him! Kennedy's secret involving Gross comes out of left field, and Gross' reaction is a hoot. Chopper missiles bomb a cave, creatures yank folks into their bellies, off into the sky, or off screen, with plenty of anticipated monster carnage. The plot doesn't escape familiarity, but exciting casting and no shortage of action with a pace that doesn't catch a breath compensates.

The Condemned 2 (2015) (V)
The Condemned 2, 30 January 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

WWE Superstar, Randy Orton, stars as failed leader of Bail Enforcement Agency, built by his pop, Eric Roberts, accidentally killing mark, Wes Studi, which leads to him pleading down to involuntary manslaughter so he can get out of jail. Studi's partner in crime (Steven Michael Quezada) sets up a human hunting "competition" pitting Orton against those members of his former bounty hunting team as wealthy gamblers bet on who will survive. One ludicrous moment has Orton agreeing to go for a ride with a friend after just nearly being killed by another pal in a diner, oblivious to the idea that he could be in danger, even as Roberts warns him against it! Big star is the New Mexico locations, and this is essentially a western in all but modern vehicles and dress. Orton has the look of an action star, translating his laconic, gruff-voiced, steely-eyed presence within the wrestling ring to the desert vistas and dusty plains where the sun is unforgiving and green of the earth scarce. Roel Reiné photographs his location grand, capitalizing on the vastness of space from birdseye view long distance sky shots, slow motion and quick edit action sequences sometimes in concert to Peckinpah his film up right. Included is a sniper killing a female deputy while targeting Orton, soon coming after him in a dune buggy with machine gun in hand, and a bomb specialist with traps set up, eventually set off a chain reaction, resulting in a fight over a grenade missing its pin. Orton isn't without his bumps, bruises, scrapes, wounds, and gunshots, so the film doesn't present him always as superhuman. Quezada has a drone in the air as his eye in the sky, with a violence-lusting clientele dropping heavy cash to see bloodshed. A few pals who decided to join forces with Orton instead of kill him plot a course directly for Quezada. Quezada makes himself a contestant, with the sniper still on the hunt, and Roberts soon volunteering to help his son kick some ass. Roberts is a welcome presence, although he doesn't get to kill a whole lot of folks. Bill Stinchcomb is Orton's first true ally with Alex Knight soon getting his head on straight to use his bomb skills as a help not hindrance. Lots of explosions and gunfire, mayhem and Kaboom! result. About what you'd expect: doesn't reinvent the wheel. The hand to hand combat is unimpressive and Orton needed a more noteworthy villain to conquer.

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The Twilight Zone - Caesar and Me, 29 January 2017
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Downright horrible developments collapse this second ventriloquist dummy episode (a far cry in quality to the overwhelmingly superior "The Dummy") of the Twilight Zone. Jackie Cooper isn't to blame for the downright cruelty in the writing or the mistreatment of a man falling on hard times. To encourage his further tumult, there's this incorrigible, nasty little girl who stays in the same apartment building as Cooper, looking to pin something on him out of sheer spite. Morgan Brittany is a real peach, a little girl with a dark soul, just placed in the episode to cause Cooper more trouble than the dummy that instigates his downfall. I have no idea why this story wishes to put Cooper through the ringer. An Irish ventriloquist who came to America hoping to make it in showbiz, betrayed by a dummy who can talk and think, with only unpleasantness its mission it seems; Cooper's pleading Caesar to tell the cops he wasn't to blame for the robberies he was led to by the dummy is outright painful to witness, as the actor deserves credit for gaining our pity. The Twilight Zone doesn't typically do this to people who endure suffering in a cruel world, but Strassfield's script is overtly evil towards Cooper. That the dummy and little girl escape without a single punishment and that there is no twist that can at least give us something thought-provoking to glean from the episode leaves a bad taste. Easily one of the worst (if not receiving top honors) episodes of the entire series. Sarah Shelby is the only character of any value in the episode who gives an inkling of humanity as the landlady. Cooper should have sold that dummy for $25 bucks in the pawnshop when he had the chance...

The Twilight Zone - Steel, 29 January 2017
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1974 boxing is now only using androids as athletes with men outlawed from performing any longer. Steel (the great Lee Marvin), a former boxer, and his frustrated but loyal mechanic, Paul (Joe Mantell), have an outmoded model, B2, no longer considered much of a factor in the sport. Paul is totally skeptical that their "Battling Maxo" could even make it through the first minute of the first round, sounding off its modicum of problems, including a bum left arm, such as its need of springs and other parts no longer available. But Steel is undeterred, seeing that his android just needs some repairs that could come with this specific payday, in some sweaty, urban boxing arena, against a superior B7 model that is the pride of Maynard, Kansas. While I think it is indeed a TZ type episode considering it was set a few years into the future during which it was made and featured android boxing, I personally wasn't all that won over as others seem to be. It was a critical hit, but I have noticed a few TZ fans just didn't warm up to it like I didn't. I love Marvin in this, don't get me wrong, but it simply involved the sport's mentality towards winners and losers, and those who lose, often lose big. Marvin's character, I realize, comes off to many as brave and gutsy, but I found him rather stupid in his decision to put himself in such danger when it was clear he could endure severe internal damage, even death. Dying gets you nowhere, and I just found that rather clumsy in its logic. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that, so I guess he acted out of a need to get some quick cash, but ultimately he is worse for wear physically (there's no reason to doubt he doesn't die from the injuries he suffered) and half a payday left him with little surplus for his B2. Who's to say he doesn't have to use the money for hospital bills? The bus ride home will cost, and the mechanics needed for his android just simply no longer exist. So in no way was he going to come out of this any better than he went in. So that thinking left me rather disenchanted with this particular episode. I felt pity for Steel, especially considering he felt he had no other choice but to face off with an android boxer he had no chance against in the boxing ring, but there was no way out of the situation in one piece. The androids in how the move and act were impressive, and their eyes are unnerving. Marvin fans will want to see it just the same; he's quite good in it.

Lost in Space - Island in the sky, 29 January 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the great opening episodes of the first season (it is amazing to compare these first few with almost the entirety of the second season), "Island in the Sky" offered promise often undeservedly spoiled by bad writing and silly characters. Dr. Smith, the derelict passenger who boarded the Jupiter 2 with plot of sabotage, is always contemplating methods detrimentally dangerous to the "Space Family Robinson". He isn't some clown but seriously a scheming, shady, manipulative, diabolical, and devious scoundrel just looking for the opportunity to rid himself of the nuisance of this family keeping him from returning to Earth. He sets in motion, it appears, a horrible plan that would command Robot to destroy each member of the party when they are alone, except Don who is of importance for driving the Jupiter 2 where he desires! The jet fuel and rockets on the Jupiter booth appeared to have been tampered with by Smith, as Penny says she saw him near the parajets John Robinson has on his suit to help move him closer to the planet for "inspection" so that he can investigate its viability as a location to land for much needed repairs. John's jets malfunctioning, as he perilously moves towards the planet without proper control, West, having to prepare for a difficult landing due to all of Smith's chicanery, will program the Jupiter 2 on an automatic trip to the surface. Once landing, the mission will be to find John and return him safe to his family. Meanwhile, once West undermines Smith's command to take Jupiter on a course back to Earth with his Robot obeying his voice only, Don places Zachary in a suspended animation pod, the "deep, deep freeze", so he wouldn't be a trouble to them.

The great cliffhanging ending has Robot, adhering to the Smith command that all "non-essential personnel" should be "eliminated", seemingly aiming its dangerous bolt circuits towards Will who was repairing damaged circuits on the Chariot. West combating Smith is great fun, Smith shows that he is cold-blooded as they come when discussing with Robot about killing off the Robinsons, Smith calculatingly offers a reasoning for wanting to leave John on the planet for a return to Earth (200 pounds now off the ship helps to give it orientation thrown off by his stowaway status) while Maureen and Don show how horrible that is to them from a sheer moral standpoint, the Chariot is introduced as is the Priplanis planet (and Debbie, the "Bloop"), and a "wildly electrified wood" encases John within its bones after he landed in a pit upon entry of the planet. A jam-packed adventure with all the trimmings. This would be followed up by further excellent planetary adventures before Smith's goofy antics and a number of daffy characters arrive to ruin such a promising start to the series. Jonathan Harris was subtle here, and his Zachary Smith never more nefarious, the behavior and thought process offering a serious threat to the heroes as he configures/devises a way to convince them he's a friend so that they can be killed off one at a time just so he can return home to Earth. Maureen deeply involved with West on finding John gives her purpose that I appreciated, while the other family members aren't quite as major factors in this particular episode except for dialogue moments scattered about. That would change as the first season continued…

"Don't trust him…he's slippery as a bucket of eels."

"Do you believe this hogwash?"

While others (although John wasn't a patsy, just realizing that Smith had points he couldn't dispute in regards to the use of Robot) were willing to go out on a limb regarding Smith, Don West was always on guard, as he ever right to be. That dynamic is particularly brought to the forefront here. West and Smith would be at odds almost the entire series, with this episode establishing their rivalry.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Twilight Zone - A Piano in the House, 22 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Earl Hamner, Jr's script for "Piano in the House" is a tough, unpleasant offering, following the path TZ often treads: a mean spirit, insufferable and hard, gets his much deserved punishment. A theater critic, Fitzgerald Fortune (Barry Morse, right on target to the point you will probably hate his guts by episode's end), revels in causing misery towards those that know him, using his biting commentary towards others' weaknesses as a means to torment them while still willing to return to his company due to his status in the art community. Beautiful and tolerant wife, Esther (Joan Hackett, never more stunning), had put up with him for six years, marrying him early in her young adulthood, naive to think there was more to him than ultimately ever offered. Instead, she is always told of how she has no talent, a piano purchased in a junk antique shop for her birthday specifically because it plays music itself so she won't have to bother trying to learn! When we first meet Fortune, he arrives in the junk shop, meeting misanthropic proprietor (Phillip Coolidge; The Tingler (1959)) of the establishment, seeing his countenance emerge changed into delight when a certain tune lit up his joy as it played on the piano. Realizing the piano brought out the hidden person and feelings underneath an exterior altogether different, Fortune eyes the opportunity to use it as a weapon for his amusement against folks in his inner circle. However, being this is the Twilight Zone, the piano might just be turned against him…couldn't have happened to a better candidate. Seeing the piano's selected tune take down the strongholds of control that often helps us conceal what we might want to remain buried deep inside can be rather unsettling, especially when the person responsible gets his kicks from the experience. His wife admitting she tried to love him, had stomached his ridicule, and now hated him, a musician (Don Durant) pretending to be totally unconcerned with love or affection speaking candidly with great fondness of Esther (in particular, an affair admitted during a vacation where a chance meeting took place!), and a heavy member of the inner circle (Muriel Landers), always willing to poke fun at her own weight, reduced to a child speaking about being a little girl and snowflake, all thin and pretty; these victims are targeted by Fortune, giddy to see them undermined by the piano, endure the revelations against their will, still willing to remain in the room with the bastard. Earlier in the episode, an unhappy butler Fortune treats horribly and wants to fire (Cyril Delevanti) appears all elated, light on his feet, bursting with smile and eventually laughter, totally dissimilar to the usual aching grimace that molds his face into a kept misery. Soon Esther turns the tables and the piano relieves Fitzgerald of latent fears, a little boy who lashed out against those that he felt were better than him, envious of humane qualities and talent he most certainly lacked. To watch Fortune rendered an embarrassment, speaking openly about his insecurities and honest about why he acted so monstrously, was a fitting conclusion to the episode. But seeing Landers' humiliated was uncomfortable and quite hard to watch. Morse played the heel well, left behind by all those who seemed to congregate around him due to his reputation, and the toy used as a truth serum putting the harsh critic in his place.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Star Trek: Voyager - Cathexis, 21 January 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the most bizarre twists in Trek history, in my opinion, closes this episode of Voyager as Chakotay and Tuvok return from a trade negotiation having encountered a mind-hopping entity out of a dark matter nebula. Chakotay has no brain function, while Tuvok experiences mind possession along with other members of the crew. Janeway wants to return to the nebula to find the ship Tuvok says the shuttle came across, but the alien moves from one brain to another and seems set on them not, interrupting course by whatever means necessary. Meanwhile the crew soon believe, besides the alien moving about, there's another consciousness also alternating from one officer to another opposing it in regards to the course towards the nebula. Chakotay's involvement in the storyline, regarding out of body consciousness able to use crew members like the alien possessor, and how Doctor can return it to his body just had me in ribbons...I just found all of this preposterous. I did enjoy the medicine wheel as a character device but it telling Janeway about planets in the nebula by Chakotay's consciousness invading Neelix had me tickled. An invasion-of-the-body-snatchers plot seems ideal to me, and I thought the episode is quite fast paced and fun for the majority but that ending just collapses all the good will it built with this viewer. Seeing the crew grappling with a ship controlled by a force invading their mind momentarily in order of course correction/stop conveys all the perplexity, paranoia, surprise, puzzlement, anxiety, and frustration obviously suffered by them all considering their situation. Tuvok invaded and commandeering the Bridge with a mass phaser burst is a startling moment. Seeing Doctor seriously considered as a fail safe for captaining the ship by Janeway really speaks volumes with how disruptive the non-corporeal entity was to the crew of the ship. Kes and her telepathic abilities viewed as a threat, with possessed Tuvok unknowingly using a Vulcan neck pinch to injure her conveys just how dangerous the entity is. A potentially great episode undermined by silly conclusion.

Star Trek: Voyager - Jetrel, 21 January 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Terrific Neelix episode has a "war scientist", responsible for heading the science team which created a devastating weapon that mass murdered hundred thousands of Talaxians resulting in their surrender to Haakonian forces, arrives in a ship hoping to board the Voyager with a request…to test Neelix to see if he has Metremia, a cellular deterioration due to the poisoned cloud covering the moon that killed his family! But there is more to this than meets the eye and it could be associated with the scientist, Jetrel (James Sloyan), himself. Obvious ties to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Oppenheimer specifically, this episode takes a serious look at the cost of war, those who suffered the effects and the loss that results from any weapon that annihilates a large swath of people. But even further this episode speaks about the enduring toll of carrying around shame and guilt, as Neelix admits to being a coward, going away to hide instead of joining the Talaxian defense force. He must forgive himself before he could ever contemplate forgiving Jetrel…if that could even be possible. Kes, there as moral support for Neelix, provides a comforting support to her beloved. Janeway allows Jetrel to board and check Neelix's vitals, informing him he does have Metremia while she tries to contemplate it all. Jetrel is a fascinating character in that he is nearly all scientist, later revealing that with science comes both achievement and consequence, returning to his home planet with a wife and family moving away from him because she considered him as much a monster like almost all Talaxians. The later revelation of using the transporter as a means to possibly return those who were eviscerated by the doomsday device, and their bio-matter existing in a state of suspended animation is quite incredible to wrap one's head around. You can see why Tuvok and Janeway are not convinced Jetrel's belief that he can bring the Talaxians back; it is all just so fantastic. Then the transporter is used to try and you can see the faint bodily form of a Talaxian emerge, as Neelix draws in closer in amazement…only for it to all be unsuccessful and seemingly impossible. And then Jetrel tells Neelix the truth and admitted that he's considered a Talaxian sympathizer, banished by his own kind, left to die in the sickbay of the Voyager. You could only hope that his research and experiments are catalogued and don't die with him…that his last fifteen years of work aren't in vain. Phillips gets some meat on the bones with his character and some dramatic back story, powerful and chilling, so Neelix goes beyond the skeleton of comedy relief…that is what Trek can do so well. That Jetrel is not presented as just a monster, some cartoonish villain, with Neelix confronting him, the two discussing the past and addressing the future, as science comes under investigation, with a ton of emotionally potent subject matter powerfully elaborated.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Star Trek: Voyager - Learning Curve, 21 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Although I do think "Learning Curve" is a good episode of the show, it doesn't exactly serve as maybe a memorable means to close the official first season of "Voyager". Just the same, as a Tuvok episode, it fits the bill nicely, I thought. Any chance to introduce conflict in the typical logic-based (and rigid Starfleet) philosophy of Vulcan Tuvok, I think it proves to be worthwhile. Though the results of this episode were never in doubt (it proves to chart a predictable path where those opposing Tuvok eventually see past the rules and regulations expected when wearing that uniform and why they must adhere to the demands of operating a Federation starship in the unknown quadrant of an uncharted galaxy), the subplot involving cheese causing an infection that is shutting down the Voyager's operating systems is more of a joke that is far from the most thought-provoking or compelling a season close could expect. Poor Neelix never had a clue his cooking of this cheese would cause the ship to face dire malfunctions possibly even shutting down life support…but Torres does a good job of easing his conscience. "Get the cheese to the sickbay!" Maquis officers having a hard time adapting to Federation protocols are selected for training with Tuvok to get them up to speed with patterns of behavior and action as Starfleet officers; Dalby (Armand Schultz; who I thought was especially good), especially borders on insubordinate with Tuvok who takes him to task over how he "fixes things" without consulting with superiors, operating more as a Maquis than Federation officer. Dalby's aggressive behavior and hardly-concealed anger (he hates the Cardassians for a nasty, sexually violent incident involving a woman he loved, admittedly joining the Maquis to kill as many of them as possible) stems from a tough past, and he's protective of Gerron (Kenny Morrison), who is riddled with insecurity and low self esteem, also having endured much during his short adult life. Included is a chatty, lazy, and defensive Chell (Derek McGrath) and defiant, resistant Mariah (Catherine MacNeal) as other Maquis crewmembers needing a lesson in working together, obedience, following orders, and understanding the duty of a Starfleet officer. Chell is quite a hoot as the chatterbox always disrupting others while they are talking and unyielding in his defense of every action and reaction committed by him.

The holodeck training program involving a rescue mission interrupted by Romulan warbirds coming out of cloak where the officers fail in what appears to be an unwinnable situation is always a fascinating determination of what those facing such seemingly inescapable odds might try, and Tuvok's response, understanding that retreat might have been an option, with the Maquis mentality in full effect for his trainees unwilling to see that as an option, produces reflection for the Vulcan on what he might should do to improve his standing with them. Neelix using flowers to emphasize what Tuvok might want to consider in reaching them proves that the unlikeliest of sources of advice that can make all the difference…Neelix proves to be an invaluable character, much in the same way Guinan was on the Next Generation.

Intense performance from Schultz as Dalby, not the easiest student to cultivate into a Starfleet officer; nonetheless, Dalby sees that Tuvok is more than capable of seeing beyond the logic, understanding that "bending the rules" can be necessary. The incident trapping them in a cargo bay, initiating an escape plan offers a chance for Tuvok to prove his meddle as a leader, willing to risk his life for one of them. The pool hologram sequence between Dalby and Tuvok sets the stage for exactly why they are at odds...it is a quality character scene showing that Tuvok is trying to reach out and understand.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Star Trek: Voyager - Q and the Grey, 21 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Follow-up to the excellent, Death Wish, has John De Lancie returning to his most famous role, Q, wanting to stop a civil war within the Continuum, caused by his lead of a freedom rally among those of omnipotent nature wanting to embrace individualism, hoping Janeway will procreate a child with him! Meanwhile the civil war is causing supernovas in the galaxy, certain to harm the Voyager if this ordeal isn't solved. Arriving to balk in her superior-to-puny-mortals attitude is a female Q (Suzie Plakston, who is good fun), calling Q to task for choosing Janeway as romantic mate over her! Q, hoping to convince Janeway, takes her to the battlefront where the old- fashioned Q (dressed as the Confederacy) wage war with him, articulating the conflict in a format of the American Civil War, De Lancie representing the Union! When De Lancie is hit by a bullet and bleeds, Janeway knows the situation is dire, not helped by Harve Presnell's Colonel Q who seems unyielding in resolving matters with violence. Whether or not Q having a "Baby Jane" is conclusively silly, I think De Lancie is such a delight to watch, and his repartee with decisively opposing Janeway so much fun, the episode is hard to resist. Plakston annoying the Voyager crew also included, only adds to the joy of it all. I especially liked Torres not taking her lip, certainly offering barbs at her over losing the Q powers, with Plakston amused at her spunk. Tuvok and Chakotay tolerating her bold remarks and commands, pointing out she needs them just as much as they need her is a pleasant development considering how the Q omnipotence is always shoved in the face of mortals. But this series should be commended for further developing the story of the Q and the never-aging De Lancie doesn't miss a beat. Seeing Q evolve also, as he does when seeing Quinn die previously in Death Wish and pleads with Presnell to spare Janeway's life in this episode has been a real pleasure. Q could have ended with the culmination of the Next Generation run, but Voyager further continued his story...and this fan of the character is happy they did! The baby introduced to Janeway might have been a bit much, but De Lancie charms with the boy on his knee, and this episode extends their relationship beyond just a god annoying a starship captain. That intercourse between Q be a touch of fingers is fitting with how they operate.


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