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Excellent movie, poor shuffle of scene choices
19 November 2001
It was all I wanted it to be, and I'm a grown-up. My husband and I did notice a breaking down of narrative logic about half-way through the movie, and we forgive it this time, but I hope when the other movies are filmed, the scriptwriter/s remember to show Harry and the kids putting the parts of the problem together.

There were some poor choices of scenes to keep and scenes to discard; for some reason, my husband wanted to see the logic problem with the potion bottles that Hermione solves--he claims it would make the awarding of points to her at the year-end dinner logical. I would have appreciated another scene with Snape at the end of the movie (just because I like Alan Rickman), either to explain why he was being a hard-case on Harry, or at least Dumbledore should have explained it in the infirmary [and if you're impatient, Snape and James Potter, Harry's father, detested each other as much as Harry and Malfoy do, but James did something Snape could never forgive him for--James saved Snape's life, so Snape felt he owed a payback to Harry].

At no point in the movie do we learn that Dumbledore sent the Invisibility cloak to Harry for Christmas, nor do we see Harry in the nice sweater (that's 'jumper' in British) that Mrs. Weasley knit him. It would have been nice if there were a montage of months between each of the significant scenes in the movie; remember, the book covered a whole school year, we don't actually get a sense of that on the screen. It would have been nice if Warwick Davis, who plays Professor Flitwick, didn't have as much prosthetics on his face; and it would have been nice if the Potions laboratory wasn't quite so dark (doing alchemy in the dark is not safe!).
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Spice World (1997)
This was never meant to be serious
4 August 1999
This movie was never intended to be serious ART (for that, go watch "Hamlet"--pretty much any version). I'm way too old to be a Spice Girls fan; my husband and I saw this on cable, and my main reason for scanning it was to see Roger Moore.

Let's get the obligatory bashing out of the way: the Spice Girls can't act very well, they sing a little better, they've got a good media machine hyping them, a good arranger for their tunes, and I liked the "2 Become 1" video on MTV.

The script for this movie, however flawed, was a little gem. And in regard to all the other posters decrying Roger Moore's involvement in the movie, I recommend that you catch the flick on cable or rent the tape and watch Mr. Moore's scenes again, carefully. He's always in Chief's minimalist office/sitting room, there's no one there but the animals (and behind the cameraman are the lighting guys and the animal wrangler), and Mr. Moore works wonders with jaw-breakingly nonsensical dialogue. Not only all that, but he ended up with probably the most sophisticated and opulent wardrobe of anyone in the movie!

Oh, and for those folks who think Mr. Moore may have been desperate for money to do this movie--Do you remember that little programme on the telly back in the 60s? "The Saint"? Five series (seasons) in black and white and two series in colour? Mr. Moore was co-producer of the two color seasons and gets his bit whenever a videotape is sold or the package is aired, which is quite often on both counts. It's kinda like having an American 401(k) retirement plan, but with better music and clothes.

Love & Lasers! GalaxyGal
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SpyTek (1998 TV Movie)
A documentary espionage history buffs should have
25 June 1999
Originally broadcast on The Discovery Channel in three parts, "Spy-Tek" is a fascinating insider's look at real espionage in the US, United Kingdom, and the former USSR. It includes recreated footage of spies being caught, and exfiltrations being made, interviews with former (and current) intelligence community operatives, as well as interviews with imprisoned spies.

The individual segments are guided by an historian of espionage, linked and contrasted by clips from James Bond movies, and the entire series resonates with the comforting, silky, and unmistakable tones of Roger Moore.

The viewer can do a lot with this mini-series--students can use it in political science, history, and science courses as a source for term paper or project ideas. History of espionage buffs will want this for the extensive catalog of espionage technology detailed in it. Fans of tv and movie spies should watch this series every now and then to remind themselves what espionage is really like. And finally, it is a gripping story of people who did amazing things, with the threat of great harm to themselves always hanging over them, and the telling of the tale will keep you on the edge of your seat.
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The Saint (1997)
A movie we can all be ambivalent about
25 June 1999
My husband and I saw this on cable, so some of the impressiveness of the big screen was lost. This definitely wasn't The Saint of Leslie Charteris, and it wasn't even Simon Templar as Roger Moore played him. The bits and pieces of scenes describing Simon's background seemed the only reason to make this a "remake," otherwise, the producers could have used a different title and made Val a different character.

Considering how witty Moore's Templar was, it made Val seem grim in comparison, and Charteris never intended Simon to be grim. But the story that was told was okay, Val and Liz did as well as they could with the script they were given, and the stuntmen had their work cut out for them. The producers made a decision to design and film the movie in a particular way, and comments here and elsewhere show that those decisions didn't meet the audience's complete acceptance.

Perhaps the only "aw!" moment in the movie was at the end, as Simon speeds away from the police and turns on the radio to hear the newsreader announcing multi-million dollar mystery donations to global charities--that comforting and silky voice is Roger Moore's. It would have been nice if there had been a touch more "saintliness" about Val throughout the movie (and it would have been nice if the producers had done some research).
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They do their best to make the paranormal-babble make sense to the viewers.
16 February 1999
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that this series is trying hard to be a more skeptical competitor to "The X-Files." It doesn't have the political tension, the sexual tension, or the atmospheric tension, if you will, of "The X-Files," but it's got an amazingly good ensemble of actors, most of whom we've never heard of down here in the U.S.

Leading the people we _have_ heard of before is Matt Frewer, who ought to be considered the Actor-Saint [God?] of Latex (well, he and Andreas Katsulis, but I digress) for having done Max Headroom (no, kids, that's NOT cgi, there's a man under all that plastic). Frewer worked full-time filming Edison Carter, and then the fx people put 4 hours' worth of Max on him to shoot in front of bluescreen and then work that over in post. IMVHO, Frewer can do no wrong, even when he gets lame "Psi-Factor" scripts, he is still amazingly good.

The other person we have heard of before is Nigel Bennett, formerly "Lacroix" in "Forever Knight." His is an intermittent character, I've only seen 7 or 8 eps and he's made only one brief appearance, but it's so nice to see him without the vampire contacts and _with_ a day job (yeah, that was a vampire pun; I couldn't resist).

The other actors are just treasures; these folks really ought to migrate to L.A. and take a whack at the big time. Barclay Hope is a cute late-20's, early 30's dude with a too-short haircut who reminds me of Chris O'Donnell --but it's the kind of too-short haircut that makes physics and psychology look _cool_. Colin Fox as the senior researcher Anton has the requisite mature demeanor and speaks the dialogue he's been given without messing up the psychobabble, and in fact making the psi-babble seem to make sense, which is the essence of this series.

There are two actresses on the show; now, why can't I remember their names, besides their characters'? (oh--I'm watching Matt). They both have gads of talent just spilling out of each of them, other than having forgettable names. Claire the pathologist (Autopsy Queen a la' Scully) is beginning to have some kind of effect upon Frewer's character, Praeger, and I am reminded (positively) of some of the bits in "MIB" between the lady coroner and Agent Jay.

A real treat is the scenes at beginning and end, where Dan Ackroyd does the Robert Stack thing and tells us that these episodes are taken from case files of the Office of Scientific Investigation and Research (OSIR), a real agency that researches paranormal claims. I'm sure the case file research was never as exciting, or dramatic, as the stuff Praeger and team research every week. The essence is that the scriptwriters and actors do their very best to make the paranormal-babble make sense to the viewers, and while the writers may fall short every now and then, Frewer, Hope, Colin Fox, and the women do their best to overcome any shortcomings of the scripts.
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Max Headroom (1987–1988)
Ahead of Its Time, Natch
12 January 1999
Everyone seems to remember Max Headroom, the character and Coke pitchman, but a lot of people forget about the series Max was in. The other thing a lot of people forget is that Max in the TV screen was _not_ cgi; Max was pre-cgi, and Matt Frewer did incredibly good acting as Max. Besides that, Matt also was the lead in the series and did a lot of work as Edison Carter as well as Max.

The series didn't last nearly long enough for me; the original title, "Twenty Minutes Into the Future" is very accurate-- technologically, stylistically, and in terms of content and post-production, "Max Headroom" was ahead of its time. It was a mid-season replacement and never found its audience; the database lists the tv-movie, the series (14 or 15 eps), and the original talk show which started the whole thing. I'm still amazed at the wisdom (or lack thereof) of television execs who can cancel a series halfway through a season. Then again, "Max Headroom" was about television, making some eerily accurate predictions (CNN, tabloid talk shows), and television execs are nothing if not chickens.

Still, it would be too, too cool to see Max pop up to comment about the millennium...
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A blast of an episode from the Best Brains!!
19 September 1998
It was a blast! If you, the viewer, are not familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000, better known as MST3K, I recommend that you rent/buy/borrow, beg, or steal tapes to become a tad familiar with the concept.

The concept is: riffing a B-or-worse-scifi-movie; the victim, er-- subject, in this case, is "This Island Earth", a classic from the 50's. There's this guy (Mike) who's been shot up to an orbiting space station (the Satellite of Love, or SOL) by a Mad Scientist (Dr. Clayton Forrester). Mike is a replacement test subject (Joel, who made the robots for companionship, escaped), and he and Joel's 'bots (short for ro-bots) ease the stress of being test subjects by making wise@$$ remarks while the movie is running. Then there are little interval segments that attempt to tell a coherent narrative.

The catch is that the bots are actually only puppets made from a gumball machine head, salad bowl, Tupperware interlocking set of flower vases, and armatures from folding adjustable desk lamps. The original actor who voices Crow T. Robot is Trace Beaulieu, who also plays Dr. Forrester (ah, the magic of motion pictures!). The guy who voices Tom Servo is Kevin Murphy-- well, if you really want to see him, you'll have to find the episodes on tape and go looking for his appearances as other characters.

This movie is much better than the episodes that have appeared either on Comedy Central or the Sci-Fi Channel, primarily because Best Brains, the production company, had more money to make better sets, props, and better staging of gags. The Hubble was great, as was the amusing and embarrassing segment where Dr. Forrester ends up in the Metalunan guy's shower. [aaagghhh!!!]

The only two things I miss are Joel Hodgson, who was the original host, and Frank Conniff, who played Dr. Forrester's assistant, "TV's Frank". Joel was a much different "test subject" than Mike-- Joel was more introspective, did many more musical bits on the show, was more creative ["Invention Exchange" was Joel's idea; as a comic/magician, he made most of the bizarre and funny inventions on the show.] I feel that Joel's presence, as writer and actor, would have given a tighter, more coherent slant to the experiment (but then, again, I could be biased!).

Frank Conniff, as TV's Frank, was the best inept sidekick an inept Mad Scientist could have, and Frank was the perfect foil for Forrester. Their gags tended to be more physical, slapstick comedy.

But MST3K: The Movie is, I hope, the first in a long line of franchise movies (like Star Trek: The Motion Picture!). I hope that Best Brains, Inc. does another MST3K movie--it's like no-calorie chocolate!!!
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