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X-Men: Nightcrawler (1995)
Season 3, Episode 18
Religious Faith in Animation
7 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The plot in this episode is a fairly standard "X-Men discover new mutant who is feared because of his power, but in time the mutant is discovered to be not evil but misunderstood." What makes this episode outstanding, not only in this series but in almost all of episodic television, is the treatment of religion.

Most TV shows that tackle religion fall into two distinct camps: 1. Overt hostility to faith, with the view that those who have religious convictions are either deluded fools or hypocrites; and 2. Inept evangelizing, insisting that all tenets of a given faith must be treated as unbending laws, and that those tenets must be accepted without question.

This episode takes a different approach, showing that religious faith can be a source of personal strength and moral value, and that this viewpoint can provide a pathway through which one's life purpose may be found. The episode doesn't criticize and it doesn't preach; it doesn't offer a facile answer, and it allows the characters, in the end, to keep their unchanged world-views (for the most part).

What this story does do so well is simply show the actions born of religious faith, alongside those of personal honor, and how they strive for a common goal--in this case, an end to hostilities. And because the show is so direct and non-judgmental, it is all the more profoundly moving for simply stating its case and allowing the viewer, like Wolverine, to see the choices available and the paths one's life might take.
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Can a "movie" really exist? Yes--but do you want it to?
15 September 2010
To say this movie is terrible is not only an insult to the word "terrible," it's also not quite accurate. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is terrible, but it's terrible in its own unique way. You've never seen terrible quite like this, and if you're lucky, you never well.

The characters are colorless, the story (if I may be so bold) slow-moving, the cinematography is murky and the camera work inexplicable. Just as an example, there are extreme close-ups and sudden shock zooms when nothing is happening on screen. The acting is competent, though it's hard to tell, given the script. The lead guy, who sounds like Kyle McLaughlin, reads his lines without any trouble. The others are just kind of there, except for the woman who plays the professor. She really bites the cake with her awful flat acting, easily outdistancing everyone else in smashing any interest into a thin, watery paste.

What really stands out, though, is the dialog. Not since Edward D. Wood, Jr, has such utter blather been essayed about with such abandon. In fairness to Mr. Wood, at least his dialog had some relevance to the story. Here, there are endless, pointless discussions about everything under the sun, only occasionally straying into relevant territory. "Would you like a donut?" "Can anyone really ever 'have' a donut? Don't we actually just take one more moment from a happy childhood and cloak it in our concept of 'donut'?" That's not actual dialog from the film, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a deleted scene out there....

The whole film strikes me as a movie made by someone who had never actually seen a movie, but had heard them mentioned casually by other people from time to time. One day, this person comes across a camera abandoned in the woods. Rather than tell a story, he just films his friends saying things. He invites them on a camping holiday and films them saying some more things. He gets a couple of them jump into the lake, because he'd heard people did those sorts of things in movies.

Really, the level of ineptitude on display is astonishing--unbelievable, almost. You would have to work hard to reach these heights (or depths) and I don't think anyone connected to this worked that hard. Thus, the incredible ending strikes me not so much as an obvious rip-off of "2001" but rather an attempt to remake that ending after only being told an incomplete, rambling description by someone who'd seen it while drunk.
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Battlestar Galactica: The Young Lords (1978)
Season 1, Episode 9
A Solid Entry
9 September 2010
Most of the time, when Dirk Benedict's credit comes up, I think, "Ha ha, more like JERK Benedict!" even though I know it's not funny. For the large part of this series, Benedict's Starburk character has been the unfunny comic relief.

This episode is different, though. Starbuck, shot down on a Cylon-controlled Medieval-era planet, has to rely on his wits and leadership skills, rather than his charm and one-liners, and he shows himself to be an extremely adaptable and talented leader. His character rose a bit in my estimation.

As a bonus, you'll see more Cylons than ever in this episode, as well as "an earlier version" of the Lucifer Cylon, called Spector. It's a lot of fun to watch the two sneeringly jockey for position with Baltar. Of course, when one of you is voiced by Jonathan Harris, there's not much contest, is there? Overall, a good solid entry where the humor and the desperation balance each other well. Recommended.
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A humorous re-telling of High Noon
9 September 2010
Battlestar Galactica is one of those cheesy shows that, truth to tell, is hard to dislike.

This one is kind of an odd duck, because while the situation the Colony fleet finds itself in is serious (even dire), the episode itself plays out with a generous sampling of humor sprinkled here and there. Some of the humor is a bit too, too... (e.g, Adama being pursued by Belloby plays itself out about like you'd expect). But much of it is actually funny, and kind of charming in that 1970's way, and--best of all--the episode is never dull.

As a bonus, look for a cameo by Olan Soule, the voice of Batman in those Super Friends cartoons. He plays the guy in charge of the fleet's "agro ship."
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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Deadly (1957)
Season 3, Episode 11
Done better, but with a nice denouement
23 August 2010
This is a pretty average episode, and I'm sure they've done this same story before (maybe on the same show). Sometimes the 30-minute anthology format means that you can go back to the same well for the same drink of water, but maybe approach it from a different angle and dress it up to make it seem a little fresher.

In this case, it's well acted and keeps moving, and the 1950's morality is an interesting time-capsule moment. (In a lot of entertainment from this era, the simpler solutions were simply not possible.)

What makes it worth watching is the cheerful acting, and the ending, which is pretty predictable but nonetheless well done and very, very satisfactory.
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Bravura performance from Pat Hingle
23 August 2010
A slightly above average episode with an exploration of morality versus expediency, though both elements are well played against each other. Plotting and performance are smooth, moving easily from the expected to the unexpected and the ultimate scene where it all comes together.

The real treat here is the performance by Pat Hingle. Like most of you, I knew him as Commissioner Gordon from the Tim Burton Batman films, where he was a reliable but unexciting presence. Here, he quietly gives it his all, neither too dull or too stagy, being all too humanly real, making at least me wonder what else he might have done before he became ossified in a handful of camp classics. Need to click on his name and see what else he's done...
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Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Miss Paisley's Cat (1957)
Season 3, Episode 12
For the cat-lovers among you
23 August 2010
You might have always wondered about the "cat-Ladies" in your neighborhood, those elderly women who had hordes of cats. What other pathways do their brains follow? Does love of cats frame their thinking? What happens if--well, that might be a spoiler. In this case, there's only one cat (a charmer named Stanley), but the questions are there. And the excellent performance of Dorothy Stickney may make you think better of the eccentric cat-ladies among you...especially if you don't like cats.

An average episode, but a nice dose of humor, with a couple of interesting turns, a nearly unrecognizable appearance by the future Mr. Drysdale, and a very cute cat.
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Spend an eternity with Bill Rebane
20 August 2010
It's the end of the world with aliens invading and a mysterious plague spreading! But don't worry, Bill Rebane is here, he'll make sure things don't get scary or exciting or even interesting. You're trapped in a cabin with the most boring people in the world (maybe being dull is some kind of immunity?). Occasionally we'll cut away, once to a smarmy talk-show guy who prattles on cheerfully about the plague before introducing his befuddled guests, then to a bar with a comical drunk, and a couple of times to a bad DJ and some fleeing crowds. Most of the time, though, we're stuck with these terrible actors. The guy with the beard, seriously, he's just flat-out awful. When he tries to be romantic or funny, he makes the whole universe worse. Couple that with special effects that must have cost eighty-five cents, the most inappropriate music cues ever (I never knew one of those New Year's noisemakers meant "suspense"), dialog that makes you want to strangle your ears, and aliens who ask "How are you?" over the radio. There are two reasons to watch this: the first is the music over the titles. It's such a jaw-droppingly blatant rip-off of Ennio Morricone's "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" theme that you'll be glad you heard it, just so you can believe it. The second is the ending, which is one of those "Wait, what?" endings that make you think you must have fallen asleep and missed something crucial. You didn't, though.
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The Office: Beach Games (2007)
Season 3, Episode 22
Ooo, Pam cares about...herself
30 May 2010
So, all of a sudden, Pam feels that everyone in the office ought to treat her with the respect she feels she deserves.

All the while, failing to accord anyone any kind of respect what-so-ever. Outside of her fave, Jim, of course.

Hey, congrats, Pam, obviously as one of the heroes of the series, you can do no wrong. So congrats on your new found respectability and your mediocre artwork.

If the final season of "The Office" ended with a plague of boils, or an atomic explosion (set by Pam and Jim, of course, to blame on Dwight), well, that sounds like a winner all around.
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Samurai Jack: Episode L (2004)
Season 4, Episode 11
15 April 2010
A bittersweet episode of Samurai Jack, this is told from the viewpoint of an emotional robot who, against his better instincts, must go up against Jack to save his beloved dog Lulu...sweet thing.

The inspirations for this one are pretty obvious, from the rain-soaked narration (Bladerunner) and the shoot-out at the robot factory (The Terminator). But, though the ending is necessary, it's still sad. It's probably the only time in the series when we, as viewers, wanted to see the inevitable...less inevitable. No, no, we didn't want Aku to succeed, of course not, we just wanted...something more.

The final ending, with Jack's sad expression, is left to viewers, but I hope I am not alone in hoping that somehow, off screen, Jack made sure that Lulu...sweet thing...was duly rescued.

Many times, it's surprising how simple cartoons can affect us.
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The Twilight Zone: Sounds and Silences (1964)
Season 5, Episode 27
Louder and Louder and Then--
15 February 2010
The premise of this episode--obnoxious person gets a special, custom-built comeuppance--had been done time and again on The Twilight Zone, so as the series began to wind down I can imagine Mr. Serling thinking, "Well, it worked before, let's try it again." John McGiver is fun in a one-note way, as were his wife, the psychiatrist and the guy with the squeaky shoes. The dialog has some nice flourishes, set decoration is first-rate, and the episode was handsomely shot and moves briskly, but it's for completists only. My overall impression is a feeling that Mr. Serling was awakened one night by a neighbor's loud party and thought, "I'll get even with those jerks--in the Twilight Zone."
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Marina Monster (2008 Video)
"Paint Drying Part II" was way more exciting
9 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is completely terrible on every level. A bunch of, well, really unattractive people want to have sex with each other constantly. There's a boat race to be held, and every now and then some "shark expert" talks to us, but he tells us nothing at all. There are fart sounds and lots of what are apparently supposed to be clever double entendres in the dialog. None of them are clever, though.

Oh, and every now and then, people throw themselves into the water so that a cheap plastic shark can eat them. At least, we see people thrashing in the water, there's dramatic sting music on the soundtrack, and (now and then) we see a cheap plastic shark from the back. I think that's all the evidence we need! The thing is, no one at all misses these victims except for some lady reporter from "The Rag" newspaper (ha ha ha ha ha). Also, the shark has some kind of hypnotic mind-control (or sonic) powers that make everyone on a given wharf throw themselves into the water so that there are more victims. Still, no one cares about anyone who has gone missing thanks to this plastic shark. Life is cheap! The acting, photography, music, dialog, etc, are all so terrible that "Ha ha ha, we were just kidding!" is the only excuse that the film-makers had left to them. Alas for them, it's not "so bad it's good," it's "so bad that anyone paying money to see this thing would become a serial killer, and no jury would ever convict them" kind of film.

Well, all right, some of the "sailboats milling about the water" footage is okay. I wasn't delighted, though.

Contains no entertainment whatsoever. The film-makers should really be ashamed of themselves.
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The Twilight Zone: Cavender Is Coming (1962)
Season 3, Episode 36
Quite Charming
28 April 2009
Not sure why the previous viewer didn't like this, but I found it both funny and charming, and well performed by both Carol Burnette and Jesse White. If you were expecting a creepy or scary TZ episode, this would definitely stick in your craw, but as a comedy from a writer normally not associated with the genre, it seems quite skillful.

Jesse White, forever associated with the Maytag Repairman role, is a kind of angel who's not quite certain how to be angelic. He's read the books but never walked the walk, and his attempts to redeem Carol Burnette's life don't quite make her as happy as he thinks she ought to be. Burnette is consistently excellent in this episode.

A good atypical episode from this series, from the same direction (the worth of conscience) but employing different means. Watch it and judge for yourself.
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Better than I thought it would be, and very very close to good
2 November 2008
I'll be honest. I got this movie so I could make fun of it. I mean, come on, "Hood of the Living Dead"? What other reaction could I have? The thing is, though, the movie (and its makers) decided that it wasn't going to be made fun of. Instead, it was going to try its best to be a good movie.

And you know what? It came awfully close. A little less cheese in the incidental music, a little more professionalism in the photography, the acting, the incidentals (like the props--love the Best Buy bag)...well, it's not a classic of the zombie movie genre, but it's still a pretty neat little movie on its own. And the acting, writing and pacing are all surprisingly better than I would have expected. There's even some decent humor, as two of our leads debate how to decide if a dead zombie is really dead.

If you can overlook the low budget (which leaves its fingerprints in everything, alas) and the almost constant profanity, this can be a pretty fun time at the movies. No, it ain't great. Yes, it could have been better. But the makers, the actors, the crew, they all tried to make a good film (instead of a camp classic) and that counts for a lot. The line of campy zombie films is a mile long, and thank you, guys, for not adding to it.

Kudos to the Quiroz brothers. I'd love to see what they do next. And hey, somebody, give them a budget!
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Divergence Eve (2003– )
Excellent - Ignore the "fan service" if you can
18 May 2007
This series, along with its sequel "Misaki Chronicles," is an excellent meditation on existence, memory and human nature, wrapped up in a story about horrific ghouls invading from another dimension. And while there are plenty of ghoul attacks, creepy atmospherics and some bloodshed, the heart of the story remains the relationships forged between the women of the Seraphim unit.

The CGI is a little clunky, but the show makes up for it with atmosphere and intelligence.

And, no, you can't forget "them." This series has the dumbest "Fan Service" I've ever encountered. Every women in the show (except the android, who has the body of a ten-year-old) has an enormous chest. No one ever comments on them, or even reacts to them; this just seems to be the normal state of affairs. But since the show lacks any romance or comedy, the decision to design the women this way just seems perverse.

If you can ignore "them" (and admittedly it's difficult to do so), give the show a try. The characters are likable and very three-dimensional (in more than the obvious sense). Recommended.
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Jot (1965–1981)
28 March 2005
I only have a vague memory of Jot, though like most folks here I don't recall anything dark or frightening about it. My memory is that Jot was a teardrop-shaped creature who was very pious, not unlike Odgred Weary's Little Henry Clump but without the tragic ending.

The only episode I can recall with any clarity was one where Jot and a younger friend were trapped inside Jot's house by the rain. Jot decided to entertain his friend (perhaps it was a younger brother) by sitting at the piano and singing a song about Noah and the Art. Now that I think about it, that might be considered a bit frightening (a worldwide flood), but the aim of the episode seemed more to educate than to terrify.

I'd love to find this on any home-video format, if only to remind myself that I did, at one point, have a childhood....
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The Three Underwater Stooges
9 October 2004
This show was a lot of fun, pity it only lasted about eight or nine episodes. The premise was that Howie Mandel, a foreign-accented scientist, accidentally brought three microscopic sea monkeys into the human world, enlarging them to human size as well. The sea monkeys looked exactly the way they did in all those old comic-book ads.

The scripts basically played like some long-lost Three Stooges shorts, with the three sea monkey brothers getting into various kinds of trouble due to their unfamiliarity with the surface world (and their natural ineptness). Guest stars included Gilbert Gottfried, Stephen Furst, Larry "Bud" Melman, Vernon Wells and others. There was also a fellow who did great imitations (Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin). Eliza Schneider (who now does voices for South Park) played their friend and confidant. Her father was always trying to get rid of the sea monkeys but always ended up foiled.

Curly, Larry and Moe--excuse me, Bill, Aquarius and Dave--ought to be re-shown on Nick at Night or something. Or perhaps a deluxe collector's issue DVD!
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5 June 2004
This film is pretty cheap and dire, with occasional flashes of fun and a lot of very dark cinematography.

The amazing thing is, I think it's supposed to be funny. There's a scene where the police detective (who believes the kids' story about the monster) says that what they're dealing with is a "Geophysical Gaseous Goon." He helpfully writes this on a blackboard for his bemused subordinate.

He then suggests that they abbreviate it to "GeGaGoo" in order to refer to the creature. Really. Someone wrote that, and someone else filmed it, and everyone thought it was good enough to put in the movie.

I think "Wow" is the appropriate response.
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The "Airplane!" of Horror Movies
26 May 2004
This film is a huge valentine (in a nice, blood-red heart) for fans of 80's horror movies. The pre-credits sequence alone is great if you've seen (and enjoyed) Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The rest of the movie is wonderful too, the perfect film for those of us who have, alas, seen way too many horror movies and still think the world ought to work that way. Teri Copley and Monique Gabrielle are gorgeous, sexy and funny, and Angus Scrimm, "Ace Mask" (uh, okay, Mr. Mask) and Robert Vaughn acquit themselves well with the material. Male lead Steve Altman doesn't make himself too tiresome, which is better than I expected, and there's a nice out-take from the late great Boris Karloff. The plot? It's all over the place, yet familiar at the same time, and makes all the right moves. See it if you love horror movies, and if you don't love horror movies...well, what are you doing here anyway?
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Lots of Fun
30 March 2004
Sammy Hagar and band (Mona, bass; Jesse Harms, keyboards & percussion; Vic Johnson, guitar; and David Lauser, drums) play a concert in Chicago, playing songs from his current work all the way back to his days in Montrose. I'm not a big heavy rock fan, but Hagar is a consumate performer with an excellent stage manner and he seems to truly love his fans (and they him). He even signs an autograph on stage in the middle of a song without missing a beat. He won me over. This show is a lot of fun and it made me wish I was there. Image and sound quality are excellent. Some backstage pre-show moments with Sammy and his band add to the fun. There's a bit of profanity and some scantily clad assistants, but this is a lot of fun for rock & roll fans of (mostly) all ages. Let's hope he keeps rocking as long as he can.
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Jack Frost (1997 Video)
Makes me laugh every time
29 July 1999
I don't know what it is about this film, but I find it hysterical. Jack Frost and a couple of beers and the day just turns around.

One of my favorite scenes is when Jack is dissolving into the snow. The expressions on the van driver's face are amazing. He looks puzzled, winces a bit, then smiles to himself. It looks like he's watching Penn & Teller doing a magic trick.

Let's all rent Jack Frost again, so they'll make a sequel, OK?
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Midnight (1934)
Defective Transfer
15 July 1999
This film is hard to judge on its own merits. Because of a bad mastering job, the sound is out of sync and the whole film is like the botched premier scene in Singin In The Rain. This makes it somewhat hilarious but difficult to enjoy in and of itself.
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So bad it's wonderful
8 June 1999
This is one of the best bad movies ever made. Hilariously awful from start to finish. I can't begin to do justice to the "plot". >If you ever have the urge to drink an entire six pack at one sitting, rent this movie instead. You'll thank me. You get the same effect and only kill half the brain cells.
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