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10/10
Very satisfying
20 May 2005
First off, let me say that I would not take my ten year old nephew to this film, which is disturbing both visually and emotionally in places. I would say 12 or 13 would likely be fine, but the PG (parental guidance) part of PG-13 should be taken under advisement. The up-side of the disturbing images is that Lucas has finally shown a more realistic view of the consequences of war and violence, a complaint I've had with the cartoonish violence shown in the other films.

I was 13 in 1977 and read the novelisation of Star Wars before I got a chance to see the movie (it didn't come to the small town I lived in for a long time). When I finally saw the movie, I was somewhat disappointed that it didn't have the story detail that the book did. Yes, that early book referred to Palpatine and more. But the movie seemed too watered down, although I liked the realistic, lived-in look and the fun feel of the story. And what young teenager wouldn't want to identify with the nobody kid Luke Skywalker who goes on to do great things? Yet it WAS a bit simplistic and disappointing. "Sith" has a much more interesting, meatier plot.

"Sith" is the best of the six, in my opinion. It has the darkness of "Empire", x10, without the deficiencies such as that giant space slug, for example. I have to laugh whenever I hear "classic trilogy", particularly by young people not around for their initial release, in reference to episodes IV,V, and VI, as they weren't considered all that wonderful in their time. The original Star Wars was the butt of countless jokes (eg. on Cheers Sam and his vacuous date go to see Star Wars again, an indication of what lightweights they were intellectually), the second had a cheesy, awkward "romance" between the supposedly adult Han Solo and Princess Leia, plus the space slug, and the third had many problems (Jabba's Band? Ewoks? *Another* Death Star, Mr. Lucas?). But, you know, we still had fun at these movies because we overlooked their deficiencies. I think that people are forgetting that and judging the new series by some other standard. Come on people, just have fun! It's not literature.

Lucas has redrawn the character of Vader, in my eyes, from being a simplistic icon of evil to being a deeply tragic figure. The final minutes of the film reinforce that loss. It's a meaningful story.

I saw the film a second time and felt that it was virtually flawless, unlike my first viewing. I initially thought that the scene with Anakin being dubbed Darth Vader was weak, in terms of motivation for Anakin's switch to the dark side, but you have to think a bit about how the Emperor is manipulating him and cutting off his options for remaining loyal to the Jedi. It worked for me the second time. I thought Christiansen did come off well as a young man who was terrified of losing his wife, so he did his end of the job well. It was a difficult part handled very well.

I heard one young (7-ish) fellow behind me ask "where's Jar Jar?" part way through it, showing that the character did have some appeal, just not to teenagers. Jar Jar could have had a larger role, playing a more mature version of himself, but I doubt teenagers would have accepted it.

Oh, and I loved the "If you're not with me, you're my enemy" line, and Obi Wans's pithy response. Hmm, where have we heard that way of thinking before? Great job, Mr. Lucas, and thank you to all cast members for believable performances. The actors obviously dug deep for this one.
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Dogma (1999)
3/10
disappointing effort
1 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*** SPOILER AHEAD ***

I'm not a religious person - an atheist, really - but I didn't think this movie had much merit. I kept waiting for some intelligent dialogue or a good story development, but it never happened.

Affleck and Damon did well with their bad boy personas in "Good Will Hunting", but they use it as a crutch here. But it's hard to be "street" when you've gone hollywood. I get the feeling this was pitched as a religious movie with a "street" angle. Sorry, guys, a layer of excremental language doesn't mean a good movie will sprout from the mess you've created. Being obnoxious has its context, but don't be boring at the same time or I'll really hate you for it, which I did by the end of this movie.

There's lots of interesting directions this movie could have explored in the character of the protagonist, being a descendant of Christ, but they never materialized. It was probably more marketable for it, particularly with the addition of the Jay and Silent Bob, but it was not very funny nor was it interesting.
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Dogma (1999)
3/10
disappointing effort
1 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*** SPOILER AHEAD ***

I'm not a religious person - an atheist, really - but I didn't think this movie had much merit. I kept waiting for some intelligent dialogue or a good story development, but it never happened.

Affleck and Damon did well with their bad boy personas in "Good Will Hunting", but they use it as a crutch here. But it's hard to be "street" when you've gone hollywood. I get the feeling this was pitched as a religious movie pitched as having a "street" angle. Sorry, guys, a layer of excremental language doesn't mean a good movie will sprout from the mess you've created. Being obnoxious has its context, but don't be boring at the same time or I'll really hate you for it, which I did by the end of this movie.

There's lots of interesting directions this movie could have explored in the character of the protagonist, being a descendant of Christ, but they never materialized. It was probably more marketable for it, particularly with the addition of the Jay and Silent Bob, but it was not very funny nor was it interesting.
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The Outsider (1961)
7/10
Decent depiction of a real figure struggling with being a hero
29 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** This is a solid study of a historical figure (one of the GIs who raised the flag on Iwo Jima) and how he struggled to deal with the title of "hero" after the photo of the flag raising became a patriotic icon.

Curtis, as always, is superb. He was significantly older than Ira when he made the movie (the character of Ira was supposed to be a teenager, yet Curtis was 35), but Curtis is surprisingly youthful looking. Part of that is due to his ability to project youth through his acting, I think.

Notice the theme music: sure enough, it's by the same composer of the theme music for the TV show "Combat!", which debuted a year after this movie. The movie uses the same ascending five note refrain.

**** Spoiler ahead: ****

My disappointment is the ending, which misrepresents the reason that Ira died: he did not die after being disapointed after a tribal election. He died of exposure after a card game ... but that would have spoiled the otherwise Hollywood story, I suppose (at least, that was obviously the decision).
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For King and Empire (2001– )
10/10
Gripping, moving, unusual, and haunting
11 December 2002
A walking tour of WWI graveyards sounds like it might make for tedious TV, but not in the hands of Norm Christie. Christie is an historian and has a deep appreciation for these gravesites, and what happened to the soldiers that lie within them. He's created a series that brings the stories of the Canadian soldiers alive in an extremely personal way. The series combines archive footage, narration, actor's voices, still images, soldiers letters and Christie's on-camera descriptions of the battles and soldiers lives. He makes us understand the significance of the events that the soldiers found themselves in. This is an important historical record for all Canadians, and we owe a great debt to Christie for waking us up to the accomplishments and determination of our soldiers.

The tense background music strikes me as unique and haunting, and creates an air of suspense as Christie relates the stories in chronological order.

My great-great uncle, who died in the assault on Vimy Ridge, and great uncle, who survived Vimy but died at Ypres, are well-served by Christie's important effort. I intend to find their graves in France now that I've seen this series and read Christie's books (which match the episodes). You'll never look at a war memorial in the same way again after seeing this series.
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3/10
I wound up rooting for the "other side"
13 July 2002
I don't think this movie had the effect on me that was intended: seeing American soldiers shooting wounded soldiers from the other side, and punching wounded prisoners in their wounds to torture them into making them talk made me root for the other side. It certainly made the US forces look anything like "the good guys". Was this supposed to be acceptable?
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Beethoven Lives Upstairs (1992 TV Movie)
7/10
worthwhile kid's-eye view of Beethoven
23 June 2002
This movie was told from the point of view of a child, as the title implies, and I believe it largely succeeds for that audience. It's easy to see how a child would find this imposing man frightening - he bosses people around and gets away with it, he's loud, he's peculiar, and he's very angry. The journey for the boy is from fear to awe, and seeing that the Beethoven's pain and struggle had a purpose: it was not madness at all.

This is not a comprehensive portrayal of Beethoven, but shows younger viewers that people are not always what they appear, and are worth understanding. It also shows that great accomplishments sometimes have a high price associated with them.

I found this movie while channel surfing, and it held my attention partially because it made frequent use of Beethoven's wonderful music.
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8/10
Pure silly fun
16 June 2002
This is pure silliness at its best. If you plan to watch, bring your sense of silly. A native dance turns into a nightclub act; Lou the bus driver gets confused by the instructions "go ahead and back up"; and many other classic bits.

Bud and Lou obviously had a great time making this movie (Lou is hysterically funny). A smile never left my face during the last half of it, even though this a 60+ year old movie now. I'm sure it was popular escapist fun for Allied troops during WWII.
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U-571 (2000)
5/10
Good performances, but the revisionism stinks
9 June 2002
First off, let me say I thought the performances were good. I also liked all the darkly lit scenes, as I had a migraine while I watched this.

But while I do accept this somewhat as "fantasy", and acknowledge that they put a dedication at the end (after the Brits protested) that it was the British who captured the Enigma from a sub first, the revisionism that comes from Hollywood insults our intelligence. Ok, so the biggest movie market is the US, but I think this kind of revisionism is just money-grubbing, in my opinion.

Why am I so annoyed? I recall a recent comment from an American criticizing Canadian forces recently saying that "you've never entered a war without the US entering first". What?! (How about the first few years of WWI and the first couple of years of WWII?). It's because of that amazing level of ignorance that seems to keep rearing its head in the US that films like this bug the rest of the non-American world (as much as we love and support our American Allies in the current crisis).
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10/10
great plot, extremely enjoyable and absorbing
18 May 2002
Without revealing anything, I'd like to say that as a history buff who has read widely about the rise of Nazism (eg. "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by Shirer, "The Gathering Storm" by Churchill) that I saw many parallels between the subterfuge that takes place by the Sith in this movie and the rise of Nazism (re. the acquisition of emergency powers). Clearly, some though went into the plot in this one, and I was extremely impressed at that depth of recognition about just how surprisingly dirty evil people can get. Good isn't necessarily smarter than evil.

I enjoyed everything about this movie. I think some of the critics are being far too hard on this movie, and look upon the original trilogy somewhat romantically. I well-remember seeing A New Hope back in 1977, and it didn't impress me as much as I had hoped (though I read Lucas' novelization first, and enjoyed that). The Empire Strikes Back was a fantastic movie, though I hated the scene with the space slug, and how they could walk around outside the ship unproducted - major gaffes in an otherwise good movie. Return of the Jedi was quite uneven - has everyone forgotten the Ewoks?

What everyone DID love unabashedly about the original trilogy at the time was the wonderful detail, and I had a friend who essentially became an artist because of it. Lucas put an effort into building a world. I think he knows that was one of its strengths, and the latest movie has an unbelievable amount of texture and detail that demands repeat viewings. Yes, the battles were frenetic and overwhelming in action, but shouldn't they be between Jedi and mechanicals?

Christensen was a big strength of this movie, and in fact he reminds me very much of a teenage relative in terms of his angst. It was a spot-on portrayal, as far as I was concerned. Yes, the love scenes were awkward and the dialogue was a bit formal and awkward ... but Lucas IS trying to portray a romance between (essentially) a teenage knight and a queen, and this IS Anakins first love, and he IS a disturbed character. It Anakin had lines that were completely polished I would have found it too unbelievable. Were we any smoother as teenagers in our first love?

Thanks, George, I can't wait until the next one.
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10/10
Extremely enjoyable, maybe the best of the series
16 May 2002
I thoroughly enjoyed this film: the story was interesting and had a sense of mystery about it, the pacing good this time (better than Episode I), and the action breathtaking. Even with Lucasfilm's army of artists, it's amazing they was able to put together scenes with this level of imagination and consistent quality in such a short period of time. The battle scenes had a sense of realism in them and detail far beyond the other movies. Lucas' imagination is really quite amazing.

The Padme / Anakin subplot was very well handled. Lucas was lucky to find two actors so well suited for their parts. Christensen was outstanding with all of his scenes.

Yoda is apparently completely CG, but looks fantastic.

C-3PO had great lines and was a welcome comic relief.

"The Empire Strikes Back" was my previous favorite, but I think this one was better.

My schedule is extremely busy, but I was very glad I took the time to see this. It was so captivating that I thought of nothing else during the movie: in short, it was an absorbing experience, exactly what you want from a movie. Thanks, George!
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9/10
brings a smile to my face every time
12 May 2002
This is a fun movie, no two ways about it. I enjoy catching it whenever it's on for its light-hearted humour. I think this is the best of the Star Trek movies, mostly because the sci fi part is not at all embarrassing. How could it be, in a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously (a problem with much of Star Trek)? If only the later series would have as much fun with the stories as this movie did.

Catherine Hicks played her straight part perfectly, allowing Shatner to get away with lines like "Hello Alice, welcome to Wonderland!" and was a very attractive and realistic leading lady. Nimoy was hilarious in his part as a spaced-out version of Spock - he could have played Jim Ignatowski on Taxi - and deserves a huge amount of credit for this relatively daring departure for a Trek story and for his direction.

Everyone clearly had a lot of fun on this movie, and there are so many funny moments. Spock and the punk rocker on the bus. Scotty (James Doohan) playing with the Mac. Chekhov asking the suspicious cop about the whereabouts of the "Nuclear Wessels" is a great scene, which of course was particularly funny in 1986, during the Reagan era of the Cold War. But Doohan gets the memorable, oft quoted line "Admiral, there be whales here!"
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10/10
this is what movies are all about
20 April 2002
This movie is around three hours in length, but aside from being a bit sore, I would have sat through another hour. Based on a legend, which turns out to be a great story, this movie shows that certain themes are universal, despite a completely alien (to most of us) setting. What's fascinating here, too, is how a different culture deals with these problems. Great stuff! Like all landmark movies, you're carried away from your time and place and return feeling positive about the power of great film. And this was directed by a first-time director! The tension near the end of the film as the story resolved itself was fantastic. I think the credits indicated that the writer passed away before the film was completed, but his spirit is surely infused through this movie. Incidentally, the entire crowd stayed to watch all of the credits.

If you're Canadian like me, you'll feel even more proud to experience this movie and walk away realizing it was done by and is about our Inuit citizens up north. I hope the director puts more stories on film for us to enjoy.
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Das Dritte Reich - In Farbe (1998 TV Movie)
10/10
Chilling, as you might expect
14 March 2002
The quality of the footage is superb, and the effect stops one cold because you sometimes think this could be happening right now. The vividness of the imagery makes you could step into the picture. That makes the individuals shown - including average Germans, gypsy children, Jews in the concentration camps, blood spattered corpses, and Hitler himself - seem disturbingly real. This narrowing of time between then and now brings the viewer back to the central mystery as revealed by Nazi Germany, which seems to deepen the more one learns about it: What combination of characteristics in human beings could allow this insanity to have happened?

This is a simple film, and the narration is suitably understated as we witness a panorama of life and death in Nazi Germany, but the effect of the two hours of high quality footage makes one think long and soberly about what we human beings are capable of.
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Duel (1971 TV Movie)
10/10
spielberg's purest accomplishment
14 December 2001
Spielberg made this movie right at the beginning of his career, when he was very young, yet I think this movie is the most flawless he ever did, a pure accomplishment. The uniqueness of this movie, with its minimal dialogue, the unseen villian (at most a boot or an arm extending from his big, sinister truck), and the solitary point of view of the Everyman, Weaver the businessman, is wonderful. This is original filmmaking.

Note the Spielberg touches all the way through (contrasting wide angles and closeups of men and machines, views in the rear view mirrors, unique camera angles, overly bright scenes). His style was well-formed right out the box - that's genius.

The whole movie rests on Weaver's performance, of course, and it's a similarly flawless effort.

It's one of those movies you can't turn away from whenever it's on. I first saw it on its first run as kid of 8 in 1971, and it's still a pleasure.

I wish Spielberg didn't become "complicated" and cliched, and still made films like this.
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Duel (1971 TV Movie)
10/10
spielberg's purest accomplishment
14 December 2001
Spielberg made this movie right at the beginning of his career, when he was very young, yet I think this movie is the most flawless he ever did, a pure accomplishment. The uniqueness of this movie, with its minimal dialogue, the unseen villian (at most a boot or an arm extending from his big, sinister truck), and the solitary point of view of the Everyman, Weaver the businessman, is wonderful. This is original filmmaking.

Note the Spielberg touches all the way through (contrasting wide angles and closeups of men and machines, views in the rear view mirrors, unique camera angles, overly bright scenes). His style was well-formed right out the box - that's genius.

It's one of those movies you can't turn away from whenever it's on. I first saw it on its first run as kid of 8 in 1971, and it's still a pleasure.

I wish Spielberg didn't become "complicated" and cliched, and still made films like this.
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Magical Mystery Tour (1967 TV Movie)
2/10
we lost friends because of this movie
2 December 2001
About five years ago my girlfriend and I invited another couple over to see this movie. None of us had seen it before.

Oh, how we wished we hadn't. Clearly this was in the Beatles drug period. The music was great, the movie painfully bad. Even "plan 9 from outer space" was more fun than this.

We never saw that couple again.
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Waking Life (2001)
1/10
Pretentious, poorly executed - blah!
11 November 2001
Oh, if only I could have that 1 1/2 hrs of my life back.

I had the impression that screenwriter read some books on philosophy that excited him, and thought that by cutting and pasting those passages into the script he'd convey that excitement. That's the way the "dialogue" came across, anyway. The result is a pedantic, pretentious, disjointed mess that also lacked a decent plot.

The "jiggle vision" animation didn't help, either. I found myself closing my eyes to eliminate the distraction so I follow the dialogue, but it wasn't worth it. I found the monologue approach preachy and insulting, a lazy effort on the part of the writers where ideas were spouted quickly and unchallenged, and heavy-weight philosopher names were dropped (answer to question in the movie: "laziness"). I kept thinking "Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" as premise after questionable premise and argument was tossed forth, but left behind as the volume of philosophical babble increased, but not the quality. It reminded me of a bad 3rd year philosophy class I took once, but far worse. Some of the speeches in this movie might have impressed me as a teenager, but they smacked of confused pseudo-intellectualism instead.

It's too bad, really. I'm pleasantly surprised that something so unusual could find its way into the theatres. I'll give the filmmaker full marks for trying something different, even if I was in pain for 90 minutes as a result. At least it wasn't formula. The animation approach could have been interesting, if applied better to pointedly enhance surrealism, but it was wasted here. I didn't see any real art in it. *Some* of the observations and remarks made by the characters were superficially interesting, but unfortunately nothing was done with any of these points (like actually integrating them into a lucid story, even a surreal one, and thereby creating context). "Jacobs Ladder", which had live actors, took a similarly surreal approach to dreams, but was far more effective and intelligent.
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Sergeant York (1941)
10/10
Excellent performance by Cooper
10 November 2001
Gary Cooper turned in an incredible performance in this movie. Although I've been familiar with his name for as long as I can remember, I was a little unsure as to why he was so highly regarded as an actor. Now I know. Just watch his face throughout this movie - he's incredibly expressive in communicating York's confusion and emotions during the changes he goes through.

That said, it's somewhat unfortunate that the movie simplified York's life (eg. in reality, he was stuck with a hefty mortgage on that nice house). The lightning-bolt incident didn't happen, either. But these are minor complaints, as the movie stays true to the key events of York's amazing story.
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Of Mice and Men (1981 TV Movie)
10/10
Excellent adaptation
7 May 2001
I haven't seen this in a long time, but I recall that Blake was outstanding. His "George" became a reference point for all other versions. I should point out that I became a fan of Steinbeck's books after seeing this. I felt that Blake did great justice to the character. Blake is completely convincing as a guy who's been through a lot and carries the world on his shoulders, yet remains warm-hearted (probably because that's very much like the man himself). His ability to portray this type of character also probably accounts for his great success with his Baretta character, which I enjoyed when it first ran back in the 70s.
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Luna Papa (1999)
10/10
Innovative, funny, and surrealistic
29 April 2001
I'm not sure I liked the ending, which was a bit on the surrealistic side even for this movie, but otherwise I was engaged by the humour of this movie. There aren't too many movies that surprise me repeatedly. I was afraid to leave my seat, as I figured the movie could go in any direction.

This isn't Hollywood. Instead, this was movie with peculiar, amusing and imaginative twists and turns, not to mention the odd sight gag.

I saw "A time for drunken horses" about a week before this. "Horses" was about Kurds and set in Iran on the border with Iraq, while "Luna" was set in breakaway republics of the old Soviet Union. There are lots of similarities between the movies: deep poverty, dealing with ignorant, unkind small town people, running a gauntlet of soldiers to do commerce, and so on, yet "Luna" is a great comedy and "Horses" very much a bleak drama. What you take away from both movies is that life is still very difficult and provincial in some parts of the world. Geographically, too, the films are set in locations that are not very far apart (at least from the perspective of a North American!). Woman are treated in a crappy "old world" way in both places, too.

Moritz Bleibtreau as Nesreddin, the brother, is brilliant. Perhaps he is the reincarnation of Harpo Marx.

If you're sick of Hollywood formula films and you want to have a good time, I'd recommend this one.
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10/10
A worthwhile look at a slice of (a very difficult) life
21 April 2001
I wasn't sure where this movie was going for the first 15 minutes, but before long I was drawn into the story like the rest of the audience. This could be considered in the "Indy" film class, but whatever rough edges it might have only add to the impact of the story. Reason tells me it was fiction, but I really had the feeling we were there, or at least that one of the characters was filming the whole thing with a handicam.

The filmmaker did what he set out to do: He make a film that makes us care about some of his people. The conditions these people struggle under are appalling, and are made all the more difficult by politics. My girlfriend and I left the theatre wondering where we could find out more about these people and what can be done for them.

The young actors, especially Madi, are as good as - and perhaps better than - any $20 million Hollywood superstar. This is Film, not a Hollywood formula flick, and the story is worth seeing, however bleak it may seem at times.
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Citizen X (1995 TV Movie)
10/10
Brilliant performances
23 February 2001
Rea, Sutherland, DeMunn, and von Sydow (in a small role) are all brilliant in their performances. Sutherland is particularly adept at this sort of role, where he must portray a character whose morality is, at first, uncertain to the audience. As is so often the case with Sutherland's characters, we must ask "is he a villian [in this case, a minor one], or a hero?"

This is a disturbing story, intelligently told, about the incompetence and fearful bureaucracy in the old Soviet Union that impeded the efforts of extremely competent people. As Sutherland's character wryly notes, "The measure of a bureaucracy is its ability not to make special exceptions". The "committee meeting" (between Rea and Sutherland's characters) after perestroika is enforced, with its revelations, has enormous emotional impact. You can feel the suffering of the dedicated people who labored in that system.

The handful of dramatic scenes portraying victims' family members adds emotional resonance to the impact of the story. This is seldom a feature of a film with this sickening subject matter, but effectively reminds us that the victims had lives, and were loved.

This is a sad, but very important film, which deserved its showcase on Canada's History Television.
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History Bites (1998–2008)
History class meets SCTV
19 February 2001
This is a brilliant combination of comedy and interesting history. Try to imagine the result of the SCTV cast (John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, etc.) taking on the teaching of history, and you have a good picture of the result.

The premise is "what if TV had been around for the last 5000 years?" and depicts modern shows (eg. Seinfeld, etc.) as if they had been done in those periods. The witty parody of these shows is reason enough to tune in. This is fine comedy.

Some of the topics are pretty specialized (Math Cults, for example), but the learning is painless, and will frequently have you laughing out loud.

As far as I can tell, this is only available on the Canadian History Television network, though you might want to check with the US History Television channel and your favorite PBS affiliate.

"Only in Canada, you say? Pity."
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Awakenings (1990)
10/10
De Niro and Williams are amazing
21 January 2001
I didn't understand why De Niro was considered one of the world's greatest actors until seeing this film. His mastery of this part, with all its complex physical and emotional nuances, is the mark of a very gifted individual.

This is also the role where I think Williams did his best work to date (2001). The contrast of his character with the patients is obvious, yet works well; while they are confined by their physical condition, he is highly confined emotionally. Williams' performance is therefore a vital component to the story.

It's nice to see the talented Kavner do something other than Marg Simpson; she has the unusual role (for her) of being the Dr.'s romantic interest, but it works very well.
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