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Star Trek: The Deadly Years (1967)
Season 2, Episode 12
Generally weak episode with a strong finish
20 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is not one of the better Trek episodes. Star Trek stands out for its emphasis on its characters, and several act well out of character in this episode. But it's rescued by its ending.

Yes, Chekov is young, inexperienced and somewhat hot-headed (see Trouble with Tribbles) but his sheer terror on finding the dead scientist just isn't very believable.

While Kirk would no doubt resist any suggestion that he's no longer fit for command, so much of his character is built around sacrificing himself heroically for his ship that he would have readily stepped down with a little convincing that he had a problem. He certainly wouldn't have been relieved involuntarily after a long and rather dull competency hearing in which he makes a fool of himself.

Commodore Stocker is the most unbelievable character of all. He might be a chair-bound paper pusher, as Kirk says, but it is simply not at all credible that any Starfleet officer, much less one of such high rank, would be so utterly boneheaded as to violate the Romulan Neutral Zone just to get to his new job. (Then again, Captain Schettino was somehow hired by Costa Cruises, so maybe ship staffing fiascoes by upper management still happen in the 23rd century).

Yet this does set the episode up for one of the more satisfying endings; it's more common to see a promising Trek episode end with a whimper. It was fun to see Kirk reuse his classic Corbomite bluff, this time in clever combination with a Starfleet code known to have been broken by the Romulans, but which fact the Romulans apparently didn't know yet.

And it's been kinda fun to compare the "aged" characters with the actors in real-life old age. They look nothing alike.
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Star Trek: The Corbomite Maneuver (1966)
Season 1, Episode 10
Newcomers should watch this one first
15 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the classic "bottle shows", and it has always been one of my favorites. I was 10 years old when I saw it in first broadcast. It made me feel like I really was flying around the galaxy in a large starship. I most remembered the Enterprise resisting and then successfully breaking free of Balok's tractor beam.

Today I see an episode rich in character development, with everyone (except Mr. Bailey, at first) surviving by their wits against a vastly more powerful adversary. Now my favorite moment is the subtle change in Kirk's face when he realizes (thanks to his angry snap at McCoy) that their way out is to change the game they've been playing:

"Not chess, Mr. Spock. Poker. Do you know the game?"

Followed by Mr. Spock's impressed rejoinder a few minutes later:

"A very interesting game, this 'poker'"

Given the obvious comic potential, it's really too bad the show never followed through on Dr. McCoy's offer to teach it to Spock.

In contrast to the hot-headed and panicky Mr. Bailey, Mr. Sulu's calm, professional competence is on full display in this episode. You knew it was just a matter of time until he'd be promoted and offered command of his own ship.

Although this was the 10th episode shown, it was the first regular production episode. Not only were they fleshing out the characters, the episode itself is tense and well-acted, with a classic Trek moral. Newcomers should definitely watch this one first.
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Star Trek: Wolf in the Fold (1967)
Season 2, Episode 14
Excellent example of humor in classic Trek
29 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Although this episode has big plot holes, not to mention some pretty eye-rolling attitudes towards women, it's the best example of something Classic Trek did that no other Trek series or movie has since done as well: working humor into a dramatic situation.

The episode starts seriously enough as a serial murder mystery, but the last act turns abruptly into good black comedy. Much fun is had with an Enterprise crew happily stoned out of their minds on tranquilizers, though in any sane universe Captain Kirk would have been court-martialed for leaving a seriously impaired crew in control of phasers and photon torpedoes.

Still, this episode has some of the best lines in all of Trek:

Sulu (sober): This is the first time I've ever heard a malfunction threaten us.

Sulu (stoned): Whoever he is, he sure talks gloomy!

McCoy: You better be careful, you're gonna hurt somebody with that thing!

And probably the best "No sh*t, Spock!" line of all time:

Redjac (in computer): I shall feed, and this time I do not need a knife! You will all die horribly, in searing pain! (maniacal laughter)

Spock (usual deadpan): It is attempting to generate terror, Captain.
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Star Trek: The Devil in the Dark (1967)
Season 1, Episode 25
Excellent Star Trek; one of my favorites
6 November 2014
Everybody likes to say how cheesy the monster looks. But I'll be honest. It still gave me nightmares at age 10.

I also didn't like this episode much as a kid because we hardly see the Enterprise, and how can that be Star Trek? Eventually I learned that good science fiction, like all drama, is about characters and ideas, not sets and costumes and special effects. And so "Devil in the Dark" is now one of my favorite Star Trek episodes.

I sometimes wonder if it was done as penance for "The Man Trap". That episode also featured an intelligent creature, native to the planet and the last of its species, who began murdering humans for no apparent reason. But that episode doesn't fit the Star Trek philosophy at all, while this one is among the very best examples of that philosophy in action.
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Ham radio's very own "Plan 9 From Outer Space"
19 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Way back in the 1980s, watching this movie almost became a tradition for a group of us hams after meetings. We enjoyed it in the same way that general audiences enjoy Plan Nine from Outer Space.

It had all the same elements: overwrought acting, absurd characters, silly dialog, ridiculous plot elements, strong propaganda overtones and incompetent direction. A young ham is *happy* to get a personal visit from the FCC telling him he can't transmit until further notice? A German spy transmitter hidden in a cemetery grave? A spy furiously sending out Morse Code from the back seat during a car chase? The courageous hero overjoyed to die for his country?

As we've come to expect from a film with any technical content, especially one as low-budget as this one, the actors obviously didn't understand a word of their techie dialog.

Non-hams may not be able to relate to the campy nature of this film, but hams who are in the right frame of mind may get a big kick out of it. Watch it in a group, and bring popcorn.
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The Twilight Zone: Night Call (1964)
Season 5, Episode 19
Well written and acted, with an unfair, non-Zone-like ending
13 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
No question, this is one of the creepier (i.e., better) "ghost story" Twilight Zone episodes. It also makes a great campfire tale. But a few things about it still bug me.

If Twilight Zone has a unifying theme, it's the morality tale. A sociopath gets his comeuppance, or an unlucky but good-hearted soul gets another chance. In the Twilight Zone, if not in real life, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, even if we don't exactly know why or how. That's what makes the show so satisfying.

The exceptions are generally treated sympathetically, as in "Time Enough at Last" when the bookish Henry Bemis is cruelly deprived of the one thing that could make life bearable for him after the apocalypse.

"Night Call" isn't like that. An elderly invalid is quite understandably terrified by relentless, anonymous, late night phone calls far too much like the work of many real-life sociopaths. Pushed to her limits she pleads for the calls to stop -- only to discover they've been coming from her long-dead fiancé! She makes it clear to him and to us that she would have reacted very differently had she known who was calling -- a question she asked many times. Yet Mr. Serling believes that her punishment was proper for the crime of being rude to a prank caller. C'mon Rod, have a heart.
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The Twilight Zone: The Jeopardy Room (1964)
Season 5, Episode 29
ironic fun
12 August 2010
Yes, as another reviewer said this episode reeks of Cold War stereotypes. But if that bothers you, just mentally replace the Soviet nationalities of the characters with a defecting al Qaeda terrorist or Taliban operative or whatever you like because this episode isn't about communism vs capitalism. It's about the ironic (and highly satisfying) comeuppance of an overconfident sadist with a huge ego at the hands of someone he hugely underestimates.

And in that sense it's a classic Twilight Zone plot. Most episodes are morality tales that depict a fundamentally good but unlucky character getting a second chance or an evil character finally getting his due. The only real differences in this one is that there's one of each type of character and they each earn their rewards by their own acts and wits, not through alien intervention or some inexplicable supernatural occurrence.
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Star Trek: The Man Trap (1966)
Season 1, Episode 1
Not the Trek philosophy
8 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I have a real problem with this episode. The Enterprise encounters an intelligent creature, the last of its race. Knowing this, they still blow it away. Maybe that's something the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe would do, but this is not the Federation I know.

Yes, the "salt vampire" was killing Kirk's crew. Nothing, but NOTHING gets him madder. But the Horta in "Devil in the Dark" was doing the same -- after killing several dozen miners -- yet Kirk ultimately protects and defends it. (Perhaps his actions with the Horta were the result of lingering guilt over his actions here? Who knows...)

Of course, this creature must take much of the blame for its own demise. It was intelligent and (unlike the Horta) had the ability to communicate easily with humans. When the Enterprise arrived it could have simply appeared in its natural form and explained its need for salt. Crater must have told it that the Enterprise could supply it in large quantities. When the Enterprise arrived, it no longer had to kill to survive.

Given the Federation's (and Kirk's) usual tolerance toward other life forms, especially those being contacted for the first time, it would undoubtedly have been given enough salt for a lifetime.

It probably would even have been forgiven for murdering Nancy Crater, just as the Horta was forgiven for murdering many more. Both creatures, natives of their worlds, had only been trying to survive after the humans arrived uninvited.

Yet instead of simply asking for salt, it immediately began to hunt the Enterprise crew for relatively trivial amounts. And it continued even after the humans discovered its nature and began to methodically hunt it down. Why?

Maybe it really was "evil", as another reviewer suggests. But I think that label should be reserved for entities that act out of pure malice rather than from a survival instinct. Would we humans like to be considered "evil" and worthy of genocide by some highly advanced life form that has learned to live directly on stellar energy because our survival still depends on killing other life forms, plants, at the very least?

In this case a simple death wish seems more likely. It was, after all, the last of its kind. Unless it could reproduce by parthenogenesis (or had a cache of eggs hidden somewhere) its species was doomed already. Maybe it figured it had nothing to live for.

Yet Kirk and crew are still culpable. Yes, they had the right to defend themselves. But consider how the episode ends. The creature had been stunned by a phaser and was no longer a threat. It could have been easily captured at that point; everyone knew it was a shape shifter, so that trick would no longer work. Yet McCoy -- of all people! -- deliberately shot again and killed it. Was that a "justifiable shooting"? I think not.

"Devil in the Dark" was the MUCH better episode.
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Remarkably straightforward
22 January 2010
This is quite possibly the most minimal movie ever made. Except for the opening and closing credits, all we ever see is an elderly woman in closeup, apparently in her own home, talking past the camera to an unseen interviewer. He's only heard a few times. He seems completely superfluous. The interview segments are punctuated with brief blackouts.

There's no score. No film cutaways or slow Ken Burns-style pans over countless still images of the Third Reich. She just talks for an hour and a half in her native German, so much of my attention was focused on the subtitles. A few segments show her watching her own interview and making additional comments.

After watching "Blind Spot" I found on Youtube a much earlier interview in which she speaks in English. Judging from her apparent age, it looks to have been made circa 1970, probably for the British "World at War" series. She recounts many things in much the same way in both interviews, so it's obvious she's spent much of her adult life reliving the events she's talking about and pondering her own role in them. She doesn't need much prompting.

Because of the minimal production values and the subtitles, I felt more like I was reading a book than watching a movie. But this was a very good book that really engaged my imagination. I'd seen the movie "Downfall", based in large part on her recollections, but her own verbal imagery would have been vivid enough.

When "Downfall" came out there was a lot of hand wringing about how it "humanized" Hitler, some from people I thought knew better. Similar criticisms have been leveled at Frau Junge, but they completely miss the point. Accuracy is what matters in a historical account, and I have no reason to doubt hers. Whether we want to admit it or not, Hitler was a fully human being. He wasn't a highly evolved space alien or a demon from hell with supernatural powers who took human form to enslave mankind from the outside. He was one of us. We have to deal with that.

As Junge explains so well, Hitler actually had many positive personal attributes. At one time it was her job to open his personal mail, so she saw the letters he received from the countless women who absolutely swooned over him. And the only time I doubted her veracity was when she claimed not to understand why. Her own story - that she so readily agreed to become one of his secretaries - shows that she understood his attraction all too well. Not just to women but to Germans in general.

And that's precisely the point! We don't want to believe that Hitler was anything like us "normal" people. We don't want to believe that a man who caused so much destruction and suffering could have any redeeming qualities at all, much less be perceived as highly attractive. We're much more comfortable putting him on a shelf and labeling him as something unique and different, an inhuman monster quite apart from us "ordinary" people. We do the same with the German people of that era. Unlike us noble Americans, with our humanitarianism and respect for personal freedoms and rights, the Germans of 1933-1945 were stupid, gullible, unthinking automatons, blind to the obvious evil of their leaders. Why, that could never happen to us!

It damn well COULD happen to us. That's why Frau Junge's story is so important. Watch this movie.
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Brainiac: Science Abuse (2003–2008)
Spoiled by dishonesty
29 December 2009
I'm an American, and to my knowledge this show hasn't yet made it to US TV so I can't actually review it. I've only seen their now infamous clip on alkali metals.

Last night I saw the Mythbusters demonstrate that Brainiac faked their spectacular explosions with rubidium and cesium metal. I have to say that I'm more than a little dismayed. Like many people, I'd been taken. I remember thinking that the rubidium and cesium explosions seemed well out of proportion to the much less violent lithium, sodium and potassium reactions. But hydrogen/air/heat mixtures are highly unpredictable, and besides who can argue with empirical evidence?

Lying just isn't cool, even (especially) in the cause of science education. There's no greater sin in science and engineering than faking a demo.

Now I fully understand that "Brainiac: Science Abuse" is more about entertainment than science, and some forms of entertainment such as magic rely entirely on deception. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you label it as such.

But just as the occasional magician crosses the line when he claims real supernatural powers, so does an show like Brainiac when it claims to be doing real science experiments.

Now if I ever do get to watch this show, I'll be too busy continually wondering if what I'm seeing is real or fake to enjoy it. It will certainly ruin whatever educational value it might have had.

Shame on you guys.
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A young brat has a psychotic episode
20 October 2009
Basically, that's pretty much it: a totally unsympathetic 9-year-old boy gets into a pointless fight with his equally unsympathetic mom and has a serious psychotic break with reality during which he imagines visiting an island inhabited by a bunch of remarkably neurotic monsters.

Maybe it's because I didn't know this book as a kid, but I found it hard to care about anyone in this movie, "real" or imaginary. I found it hard to even stay awake.

I don't mind "dark" movies about troubled characters. Some movies about mental illness, like "A Beautiful Mind", are masterpieces. But there has to be a point or message, an achievement or gained insight, something that makes the trip worthwhile. And I just didn't see one in this movie.
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There was no "secret radiation shield"
10 October 2009
In an otherwise good review, loleralacartelort7890 says "The truth is that the Americans use a secret aluminum-anti-radiation-alloy. It is not that well-known. And the exact specifications are a secret. And why is it a secret: Well, why should they reveal it back then?? If they where in a space race with the Russians, then it would be VERY dumb to reveal that they had new technology that could shield crew against radiation." This is completely incorrect. There is (and was) no "secret" to radiation protection in Apollo. The design and construction of the Apollo Command Module has long been publicly available. It uses a lightweight "honeycomb" of aluminum and stainless steel. The entire outer surface (except the windows of course) is covered with a heat shield made of a phenolic resin, thicker on the bottom that faces forward during re-entry. These materials are actually *better* at stopping the kind of radiation we have in space (charged particles) than lead, which is better suited to stopping ionizing photons like X-rays and gamma rays.

Space radiation is a definite problem for *long term* space flight because of the risk of big solar flares. But it simply wasn't a serious threat to the Apollo astronauts. The Command Module gave them pretty good protection during their brief (1/2 hour or so) passage through the Van Allen belts. They all carried dosimeters so we know exactly how much radiation they each received: no more than 1.5 rem, and usually much less. Of the 24 men who flew to the Moon (12 of whom landed), 18 are still alive. Only two have died from cancer: Alan Shepard (leukemia) and Jack Swigert (bone cancer). The rest died from heart attacks, pancreatitis (Roosa), and a motorcycle accident (Conrad). These are actually pretty good statistics for a group of men now in their late 70s (Shepard would be 86).
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The Dish (2000)
Terrific - with one disclaimer
5 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit it, I can't judge a movie like this objectively. I was 12 when Apollo 11 landed, and 40 years later it's still one of the most inspiring events of my life. Apollo helped interest me in a career in electrical engineering, computers and communications. I've designed receivers for data that has crossed a hundred million miles of empty space. Even though I know how it works, there's still an element of magic and wonder in it for me.

So a movie like this couldn't be more up my alley. It's a wonderful depiction of a few of the many thousands of unsung but crucial Apollo support people -- and the attention to detail is amazing. They even got the Apollo down link frequency (2282.5 MHz) and signal levels right, and when Sam Neill calls "offset feed!" at the beginning of the moonwalk I almost fell out of my seat.

Some inaccuracies are of course unavoidable, but only one actually bothers me: the detour into an alternate reality for the sake of some admittedly very funny comedy when a power failure scrambles the tracking computer. I laughed as hard as anyone during the American ambassador's site visit. But not only didn't this happen, it wouldn't have. People make mistakes and equipment fails. That's expected in any space mission. But lying about it as these guys did would be highly unprofessional. It's something you just don't do.

Those who know this subject better than anyone have written about the other nits in this movie, and you can read about them here:

But aside from all that, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie.
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To Fly! (1976)
An oldie but goodie
1 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw "To Fly" at the Air and Space Museum soon after it opened. Compared to the many other IMAX movies that followed, it's simple, short and sweet. Perhaps a little quaint, too. Even at the time I rolled my eyes at the gimmick of the steam locomotive rolling into the theater.

IMAX was a brand new format, and the producers were clearly challenged to come up with enough material for even a half hour film. They pulled tricks such as tiling a standard resolution film across the screen to make it look bigger. But the relatively little full IMAX resolution footage made it all worthwhile.

I won't forget that first dissolve from the tightly cropped ground scene to the full screen aerial view from the hot air balloon. It's a cliché, but that really was "movie magic". I wonder how many kids fell in love with flight through this film.
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Lifted (2006)
Just like "For the Birds": terrific and in the grand style of the best Looney Tunes
7 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I keep waiting for Pixar to run out of good ideas, and they never do. My favorite of their shorts, "Lifted" and "For the Birds", are very much in the tradition of the old Warner Brothers. The emphasis is on characterization, sight gags, facial expressions and sound effects rather than dialog, and much of the humor comes from playing with our expectations. You simply don't expect a huge "Close Encounters" alien ship to be piloted by an inept trainee on a check ride who can't even fit his captive through the window. You don't expect a highly advanced alien flight instructor to take notes with an ordinary clipboard and ball point pen. You don't expect that a would-be abductee would stay asleep through all that only to wake up when his alarm goes off.

The WB greats also discovered that the biggest laughs often come from the smallest details. When the Coyote realized that he was about to get pounded (again) by a huge falling boulder, his eyes shrank to pinpoints. I always found that funnier than the actual boulder-pounding. In "Lifted", watch the mailbox near the farmhouse when the spaceship (unexpectedly, of course) crashes. A moment later, the flag on the mailbox falls. I missed it even in the Blu-Ray version, but once the director pointed it out in the commentary, it became the funniest part of the gag for me.
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Very well done
26 July 2006
First, a caveat: I drove the EV1 for five years, a Gen 1 from 1998-2000, and a Gen 2 from 2000-2003. I loved those cars, and I know many of the people in this movie. Like them, I hated to lose my car. So I probably can't give a wholly objective view of this movie.

That said, I think it did an excellent job of portraying the sad, infuriating story of the EV1. It's told mainly from the view of the highly dedicated EV1 drivers, but contrary views from the auto makers are also heard. It methodically demolished the various negative myths about electric cars, especially the oft-heard claim that "nobody wants them".

A market trial of a new product that manages to sell or lease every single unit made available, despite virtually no marketing, strictly limited availability, a lease-only policy and an actively hostile sales force, to highly enthusiastic customers would normally be considered a major success. But as the movie explains, GM had a strong incentive to "prove" that no one wanted electric cars: that was the loophole, the "escape hatch" in the California zero-emission vehicle mandate.

GM was taken aback by the strongly positive response to the EV1. Even when a long waiting list developed, GM refused to build more. With a straight face they maintained their position that "no one wants electric cars." The success of the EV1 was a major threat to their strategy to eliminate the ZEV mandate, so the program had to end. GM and the other automakers sued to repeal the mandate. As soon as they succeeded, GM took all the EV1s off the road, and in a heartbreaking scene, crushed them. Offers from the drivers to buy the EV1s for their residual value were totally ignored.

The movie also depicts the hydrogen fuel cell as a "bait and switch" tactic used by the car companies to eliminate the ZEV mandate in exchange for a vague promise to develop fuel cell vehicles at some future time, which always seems to be 20 years off.

This movie is an excellent companion to "An Inconvenient Truth". That movie explains the threat of uncontrolled CO2 emissions, but it doesn't really suggest any fixes. This movie shows one highly promising contribution to the fix that died far before its time. But maybe this movie will raise public awareness, and the EV will someday be resurrected.
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Why did they have to cancel MST3K?
29 May 2004
I can't think of any movie made in the past 5 years more deserving of the full treatment by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang than this one. Cheesy dialogue, ludicrous plot holes, cardboard characters, overused disaster movie clichés, bad acting; you name it, this movie has it.

The bad science appears in almost the first frame. And it gets much, much worse. But we can count on Hollywood getting the science wrong, because (it is claimed, probably correctly) most movie goers are so scientifically illiterate that it just doesn't matter. Besides, expecting Hollywood to respect the laws of physics is about as reasonable as expecting George W. Bush to respect the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights; it just Ain't Gonna Happen. So I won't belabor the point.

But what about the things that movie audiences are supposed to care about? Stuff like character development, plot and dialogue? Well, this movie doesn't seem to think they're terribly important either. In this regard, this movie is just the latest in a long line of cheesy, big-budget disaster movies such as the Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, Earthquake!, Airport 1975, Armageddon and so on.

The major subplot of Day After Tomorrow centers on the efforts of an ultra-smart scientist in Washington DC to reach his teenage son, holed up in the New York Public Library with a bunch of fellow nerds as they ride out a cataclysmic snowstorm. How do we know he's ultra-smart? He speaks at UN conferences and personally advises the Vice President and the President. (We're already starting to suspect that maybe he's not so smart.) And what does our ultra-smart hero do? Disregarding his own emphatic advice to the President that people should either flee south or (if they're too far north) ride out the storm indoors, he sets out for New York to find his son. What exactly does he plan to do once he gets there, especially since it quickly becomes clear that his son is a lot smarter and better able to take care of himself than his dad? This is never explained.

Naturally, such subplots has to have a happy ending, so there is no suspense at all in this particular story line. That leaves a lot of admittedly fun special effects, such as Los Angeles being destroyed by tornadoes, a Russian freighter cruising past the New York Public Library, and a shot of the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the ice. (When I saw this, I just had to say "They blew it up! Damn them all, they blew it up!", much to my wife's annoyance.)

The directors throw in a few obvious jokes and comic reversals, such as the discovery of the US Tax Code as a particularly suitable source of fuel for a fireplace, but the unintentional hilarities were far more numerous.

Don't waste your money seeing this one in a theater unless you're a special effects junkie. Rent the DVD when it comes out, gather a bunch of friends, and do your best to imitate Joel and the 'bots on MST3K.
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Seabiscuit (2003)
Trite, predictable, formulaic Hollywood schmaltz
21 February 2004
I must confess up front that I'm not a horse racing fan. Personally, it has always seemed like a form of ritualized animal cruelty practiced for entertainment. Nor do I think much of any kind of professional sports.

But even if I were a racing fan, I'd still have to say that this is just another trite, predictable potboiler from the Hollywood schmaltz factory. Even though I knew nothing about the history of the real Seabiscuit, nothing in this movie came with the least bit of surprise or real suspense. Even Red Pollard's major accident was fully telegraphed well in advance; that sort of plot development is absolutely de rigeur in a movie like this! But I'm sure none of this kept a lot of people from crying over how wonderful it is.
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Race to Space (2001)
Stupid, contrived, ludicrous, insipid
30 January 2004
Anyone even mildly annoyed by the character of Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation will want to throw their TV out the window when they see this turkey. Remember how, week after week, young Wesley would always find some amazing way to pull the Enterprise out of trouble and all those highly trained and experienced Starfleet officers could only stand around and gape in wonder? Well, this movie is far, far worse. Anyone even remotely aware of the real history of Project Mercury will retch at the liberties taken with basic facts by this movie.

I don't expect historical accuracy in a film like this. But this movie is full of tired cliches (such as James Woods' German scientist) and ludicrous plot holes that even kids should see right through. For example, our hero discovers that a corrupt NASA manager has sabotaged a launch to gain a lucrative position with an aerospace contractor. Now one would ordinarily expect someone in such a position to immediately inform the appropriate security officials, right? Not in this movie. No, the kid, his father and a few of his co-workers secretly fix the rocket themselves!

I suppose this movie might amuse some very, very young kids, but that's about it.
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Hiroshima (1995 TV Movie)
12 July 2003
This is an outstanding production. And I think it no coincidence that it wasn't produced in the US.

Over 50 years later, American emotions still run high about our use of nuclear weapons against Japan; the recent backlash against the Smithsonian exhibit is proof. This film is a nuanced, balanced, objective treatment with, as far as I can tell, remarkable historical accuracy. One sees just how simplistic and myopic the leaders of both sides were as they made (or avoided making) momentous decisions that affected the entire future of the human race. The one voice of reason, scientist Leo Szilard, is brushed off with hardly a hearing.

This film is an effective indictment of our human propensity to place enormous powers in the hands of just a few individuals. I doubt any American producer could have made it.

The film deftly mixes historical footage with re-enacted scenes using actors. Normally this sort of thing is rather jarring, but here it works. Even the transitions between the real Truman in newsreel footage and the actor playing him work well.
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For the Birds (2000)
23 May 2003
I've watched this short a dozen times, and I still laugh out loud at the main gag. This film is comic perfection.

Remember how the Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons always looks plaintively at the camera whenever he makes a mistake, the pupils of his eyes narrowing just before he falls off the cliff, the boulder crushes him, or the dynamite explodes in his face?

That was the kind of touch that made those old cartoons great. And it is clear from this film that the spirits of Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and the other classic animators are alive and well at Pixar.
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Son of the Beach (2000–2002)
One of the best TV comedies
13 March 2003
As you can tell from the other comments, this show is not for everyone. It's definitely not for kids or religious bluenoses. But if you like your humor with a highly irreverent and politically incorrect edge, this show is one of the best.

Yes, "Son of the Beach" is a "Baywatch" parody. But that doesn't do it justice. It's a Baywatch parody that mixes elements of "Police Squad!", "Get Smart", the 1960s "Batman" TV series and "South Park" with Timothy Stack's own brand of humor.

The show has its share of sight gags, but clever dialogue is its real strength. Almost every line is a sexual double entendre, tortured word play or horrendous pun. It helps that most of these fly right over the heads of the characters who, save one, are far too thick headed to catch on. The one exception is straight-laced, overly serious Kimberlee Clark (Kimberly Oja), whose embarassed frowns and double takes are always fun to watch.

The leader of the "SPF-30" lifeguard unit is Notch Johnson, played by chief writer Timothy Stack. A running gag is that everyone sees and treats Johnson as a perfect physical specimen even though Stack is middle aged, balding, has an overbite and is definitely not in the best possible physical condition. Stack gives himself most of the show's best lines.

All the other characters are humorously broad caricatures. Chip Rommel (Roland Kickinger, obviously cast for his close resemblance to a young Arnold Schwartzenegger) is a good-natured but brain-dead hunk who's surprised to learn that America and his native Germany had fought wars with each other. His incomplete command of English is always getting him into trouble, and he never knows why. (Example: he decides to help kids with attention deficit disorder. He calls his program "Chip Rommel's Concentration Camp").

Anita Massengil (Lisa Banes) is an evil, sadistic scheming politician in the Cruella DeVille mold. B. J. Cummings (Jaime Bergman) is a naive bimbo from the rural south. Jamaica St. Croix (Leila Arcieri) is a streetwise black from an urban ghetto. A late addition was Porcelain Bidet (Amy Weber), a bitchy, jealous, gold-digging bimbo.

All in all, if you are not easily offended and revel in outrageous, politically incorrect humor, you will love this show.
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