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Funny or Die Presents...: Episode #2.2 (2011)
Season 2, Episode 2
1/10
A Torrent of Ills
18 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
One season later, another random episode - what are the chances the quality is different? Well, a "comedy" show that begins its episode by having its "host" insulting the viewers in a way that is not even remotely clever - the only way of being funny while insulting the viewers is by being *clever* - and ends with said "host" saying, "We made some s#!t. We watched some s#!t. Mmm... Fun s#!t." can only be... you guessed it. It's just that it *still* isn't any funny.

The pace is glacial. No, tectonic. These both being words the "writers" of this episode probably don't even understand - their idea of funny is way-way-way past overlong, understandably unenthusiastically acted "sketches", one of which includes a prostitute sucking a male parrot's genitals and the parrot then having intercourse with said prostitute.

The only remarkable thing about this episode is that it *truly* is deserving of that way-too often cast vote "1/10" on IMDb. Have you ever rated anything "1/10" out of spite? Without stopping to think that "1/10" means it could *not* have been worse? Watch this and then you'll most likely want to re-cast most of your 1s as maybe 2s or 3s. This is as low as it gets. Even a sketch about eating the "host's" favorite substance could not have made this any worse.
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The Bridge: Pilot (I) (2013)
Season 1, Episode 1
9/10
Among the Top 11.76% out of 10,000 titles
8 August 2013
This pilot was, by chance, the 10,000th title I've rated on IMDb, so I was obliged to mark the occasion with a review. I only later noticed the series (or at least season 1) is a remake of a Swedish/Danish series "Bron" *and* that the original was airing on another channel. I had already missed the airings of the first episodes, but it does not matter: if a remake is done well enough, it does *not* matter how faithful it is to the original - or, even how similar the remake is. Some of the best remakes or "re-imaginings" aren't even in the same genre as the original, be they films or TV series.

The Bridge, however, appears to be in the same genre - crime - as the original and at least starts with the same genius of an idea. It's actually ironical that Americans *haven't* made a series about a murder on the USA-Mexico border - *literally* on the actual border, as it is such an obvious idea, at least in hindsight.

The first thing that is noticeable - or unnoticeable, as it may seem to some - is how confident The Bridge is. It does not pull out any special "style", "flair" or CGI-dazzle - just plain old good writing, acting and film-making (the technical aspects). That confidence pays of in the rarest of qualities in film & TV: total believability.

One will definitely have questions after the pilot, but those questions will most likely be of the speculative type, such as "Why *is* Sonya so odd?" - not of the accusatory type, such as "Why should we take any of this seriously?" Because we will take The Bridge seriously. It feels real. Sure, it has some restrictions (such as no nudity and no swearing) placed on it that would not exist in an HBO show, but like The Walking Dead, for example, it circumvents those restrictions. This is not a show in which nude sex or swearing are needed to make the viewer buy the story.

In hindsight, it is easy to say that while the pilot raises questions, it is entirely intentional on part of the makers: the answers *will* come, be they about the plot or the characters. Speaking of which: while the plot is not even at half-point at the time of writing this review, its progression has remained intriguing and utterly addictive. One should beware of making assumptions - they *may* crumble in any of the following episodes, as the multiple plot strands *may* at an unexpected moment take a surprise turn or meeting that is still entirely plausible. One simply *must* know where this will end up.

Then there are the characters. Diane "Bridget von Hammersmark" Kruger takes a difficult, oddball character not unlike Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan or Jessi XX of "Kyle XY" and makes her completely believable. Whereas the implausibly over-rational yet exactly because of that so entertaining 'Bones' feels a bit of a stretch, Sonya Cross somehow feels like someone who may exist somewhere in our world - and at this point we know her only by *some* of her eccentricities. Kruger, like the underrated Jaimie Alexander in her phenomenal role as Jessi XX, uses little expressions and subtle body language that speak volumes about the character. Alexander had the benefit that the viewers knew her character's back-story when she made her appearance in Kyle XY, but Kruger has to act without that safety net.

Demian Bichir as the other main character, Marco Ruiz, is only slightly less impressive, and that is because for the dynamic to work, his role needs to be the "average man". We learn more about his character in the pilot, but its the insight we get that matters, not the secrets withheld as in Sonya's case.

The attention to supporting characters is impressive, too. None of them comes across as a stockpile character, thanks to both good writing and excellent, experienced actors such as Annabeth Gish, the legendary Ted Levine, the fantastic Thomas M. Wright or Matthew Lillard (has it already been 17 years since Scream?), to name but a few.

There is much to praise, but A Very Special Mention goes to the show-makers for the courage of having the Mexicans actually speaking Spanish among themselves, often even while in the presence of American characters who cannot understand them, whereas the viewer can, thanks to the subtitles. And some poor subtitle-hater somewhere probably thought that because The Bridge is an American remake of a foreign show, they would not have to bear any subtitles. An impressive 9/10, one of the 942 I've given out of 10,000 (the remaining 234 are 10/10s).
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Funny or Die Presents...: Episode #1.6 (2010)
Season 1, Episode 6
1/10
NN o)))
19 August 2012
Have you ever rated anything 1/10?

Regardless of your answer, you *need* to see this mind-boggling episode. Like with the movie Gigli, the question is not "Why?" but "How?" How did they manage to do something this terrible that equals viewer torture?

Not for a second - literally - is this funny. It really is so hideously teeth-grindingly unfunny that it has to be seen to be believed. After this, you may want to think twice before rating something else 1/10. This is the perfect calibration tool.

You can guess my rating for this episode. I think the host puts it best at the end of the episode before storming away: "I can't tell how sorry I am that you had to watch that. What the f**k is this company doing?"
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Criminal Minds: Proof (2011)
Season 7, Episode 2
8/10
A View from a Hole
26 March 2012
This is great! Faith on Criminal Minds was at an all-time low after the disastrous season opener, but this seems more like something from the far superior The Closer, the absolute ruler of the Crime Procedural Drama. The Closer contains no nudity, profanity or violence unacceptable on national TV - it plays by the same rules as Criminal Minds, yet almost always comes out on top in comparison.

This time, the world of Criminal Minds seems more like the world of The Closer: a complex mixture of endless shades of gray, multiple viewpoints and not just black and white, right and wrong. Also, the repercussions of Prentiss' return are now allowed to play out - something that was crucially lacking from the "All Is Well" spirited season opener.

Normally, it would be necessary to give spoilers in order to point out the flaws, but not here: The plot and unsub-of-the-week are both layered, complex and surprising. More importantly, everything holds up in the end. Most importantly, the disturbing atmosphere established in the opening refuses to dissipate over the course of the episode and for once, not everything ends up neatly tied up in a pretty package. The unsub's methodology has a progression similar to John Doe's in SE7EN, yet is different. The unsub is more human than ever before and harder to simply brand as "a psycho" or a sociopath. You might even feel sympathy for them. *This* will linger in the memory for a long time.

Without the damage to the overall credibility to Criminal Minds that the Reaper arc and the Doyle arc did to the series, this would be a 9/10. Now it's "just" an 8/10 - but that is still great!
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Criminal Minds: It Takes a Village (2011)
Season 7, Episode 1
4/10
Minefield
26 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After Prentiss' "death" in #6.18, "Lauren", the six remaining episodes managed 6/10 at best. They were lacking, in more ways than one. It was also troubling that Seaver (Rachel Nichols) was not even given a proper exit scene in the season finale. As of this episode, she's just gone. Prentiss (Brewster) and JJ (Cook, already present in Season 6 finale) are back, so all the writers need is to come up with a satisfying conclusion to the Doyle arc.

They fail. First of all, they reuse the hearing structure from #5.9, "100", the conclusion of the Reaper arc that did irreparable damage to the credibility of the series. It barely worked then, now it just doesn't. At start, we are told in the hearing that "two members of the team" are dead, yet we are shown JJ and Morgan alive, limiting the possible dead core members to Prentiss, Rossi, Reid and Hotch. Knowing that this is also Prentiss' return to fold, the stakes are effectively halved immediately.

It gets worse. Sooner than you can say "Redshirt", two nameless agents are revealed to be the dead ones. Way to keep up the suspension! The writers do, however, introduce a mystery to the flashbacks: someone had Declan, but it was not Doyle. A new player to mix up the game?

Then comes the heart of the episode: Hotch and JJ revealing to others that Prentiss' death was staged and the funeral merely a hoax. Conveniently, there is no time for Morgan to blow his fuse or Reid to point out to Hotch that the team leader betrayed his partners. Everyone must rush to find Declan.

Cue more retconning. Contrary to original status, Declan's mother isn't dead either! Doyle was only lying in Season 6. It's hard to believe the writers would have planned this when most of the stuff on this show is made up as they go along and retconning has become more common.

From thereon, it's all downhill. Sure, the climax stirs some adrenaline, but what the writers still haven't grasped is that for the audience, it is *really* hard to care about the fates of characters introduced in the same episode. Also, just like with Hotch totally losing it with the Reaper, the team breaking the strict rules and going all Jack Bauer, everyone is only chastised with a stern speak. They will be "closely" watched. Really? Seriously?

Ultimately, it's a combination of elements that are faulty already on their own - together they just make the whole episode collapse. Over-complicated plotting. Limited character moments. Lack of suspension of disbelief. Worst, once again the writers have forgotten that important rule of drama: "Without a sacrifice there is no heroism." It's also practically a safe bet that this show will *never* pull an "Amber Benson" on us like Joss Whedon infamously did in Buffy... This is a barely tolerable 4/10 and understandably I was ready give up hope, but surprisingly, the next episode, "Proof", is actually great!
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Iron Sky (2012)
9/10
Yes We Can!
16 March 2012
"Anyone familiar with Star Wreck?" director Timo Vuorensola asked today on an 'Iron Sky on Tour' screening. What seemed like everyone in the sold-out screening raised their hands.

"Anyone familiar with Moon Nazis?" he then asked. Somewhere in the back, someone raised their hand.

"You know, we did a survey and there *actually* are people in the real world who do believe there are Nazis on the dark side of the Moon. Oh, and the genre of this movie is Diesel-punk." (This from my memory - and translated into English.)

With this in mind, you know this movie is comparable to the immortal Airplane! and the best of the Python movies. Except that with barely 7.5M euros, the filmmakers have created a movie that contains, as the director explained, about as much CGI shots as Transformers: Dark of the Moon (now *that* reference must be very intentional as this is definitely the better movie) and looks about as good as a 2D version of that movie.

So, the camp humor may not be to some people's liking, but if you like camp, this is a nearly-perfect sci-fi specimen of the genre. In all categories of movie-making from script to screen, this is a triumph. Only nitpicks would complain. It's so hilarious, the audience roared in laughter throughout and even applauded in the middle of the movie. No one did that in a screening of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Not only "may" this be the cult hit of the year, it would be *very* surprising if the rest of the year brought along a bigger cult hit. This is a 9/10. Miss this at your peril. Or if you just lack a sense of humour and/or hate non-serious sci-fi.
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Ultraviolet (2006)
1/10
Welcome to Hell
28 January 2012
The question is not "why?" but "how?" when it comes to the terribleness of this "movie". It's obvious the makers had delusions of grandeur, but were forced to work under restrictions.

They had no budget, so all the FX is self-consciously "stylicized" to look unreal. Sadly, it just looks absolutely ****. How did they manage that?

They had to deliver a Guns & Blades Movie with a PG-13 rating, so all the fights are "coreographed" so that no blood ever spills on screen. Sadly, it just makes all battles totally unengaging and laughable: Violet's blades never even become bloody, no matter how many men she stabs! How did they ever think it would work?

The movie is also horribly overwritten, forgetting the Rule of Cool: Unless your movie is Inception or The Matrix, do NOT try combining the cool and the cerebral - just pose like hell and don't outstay your welcome. Even at 88 minutes the movie manages to be too long. The six minutes longer unrated version is not likely to improve the movie because of the final "how?"

How can the movie look so painfully unreal that after 20 minutes your eyes are likely to start bleeding? When the prevents the viewer from suspending their disbelief and constantly screams at the viewer that they are watching a lousy, lousy movie, any attraction for the movie is impossible.

One of the worst "movies" I've ever seen. So ironical that it is a Screen Gems production... Well, at least it was on TV for free.
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Criminal Minds: Lauren (2011)
Season 6, Episode 18
6/10
No Good Can Come of This
1 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I was cautiously optimistic about this episode: the ingredients for a brilliant mini-arc-ender were there, but would it deliver? It starts well, with the Prentiss' return to the bar where she was first introduced to Doyle by an intermediary, Jack Fahey. And we flashback to that meeting. Now we're getting to the meat of the story! Meanwhile, her team tries to figure out where she's gone. Prentiss lies in wait for Fahey and reveals her cold former agent persona by finishing questioning him with a shot in the back of his head - or that's what it seems from outside the car they are in. Immediately alarm bells ring: for those quick to leap into a conclusion, Fahey is dead, but for those who've been disappointed by Criminal Minds, he'll probably turn up later with only a flesh wound. Giving the viewers the impression that Prentiss killed Fahey is pointless unless he actually killed him. Well, we'll see...

The team logically reasons that Prentiss will take the fight to Doyle to protect them. They detain Clyde Easter and the fantastic Sebastian Roché is wasted by using him in only three scenes. More flashbacks reveal how Prentiss and Doyle became lovers. The most important question here drama-wise is, "Did she love him as he did her?" That would offer fantastic drama, since we already know from previous episodes that in the end, she betrayed him. Obviously things have changed, as Prentiss illegally ambushes Doyle and uses lethal force (it just happens that no-one is unlucky enough to die), but walks right into Doyle's trap for her. Cue scene with gratuitous cleavage ("Not that there is anything wrong with that!") when Doyle brands her breast. The BAU, meanwhile - OMG! - arrest Fahey, who is, indeed, still alive, albeit with a bandaged ear.

Predictable and familiar-feeling mind-games between Prentiss and Doyle and between Fahey and the BAU ensue. There is a scene with tremendous potential, but the show-runners take the safe route out. After six years, they still have not learned anything from their more successful competition - 24, CSI and NCIS, to name a few - first build main characters the audience cares about and then kill off one or more of them. Criminal Minds rarely has the courage to kill off even supporting characters.

Seaver and Easter (now there's a name for a spin-off!) bring fresh perspective to the rest of BAU. Another flashback reveals that Doyle's housekeeper had a son Doyle treated as his own. Doyle also wanted a child with Prentiss. And she offered to get him "out", but Doyle would not give up his calling. Doyle's thirst for revenge is revealed: he has seen the evidence the boy was killed. But Prentiss staged the evidence! Doyle's son lives! And the BAU somehow come to the conclusion that the only place Doyle would be holding Prentiss is where his son's death was staged. Except for the fact that Prentiss had to *manipulate* Doyle into taking her there. What a nice coincidence it all worked out and the BAU rushes to rescue with an assault team at the exact moment Prentiss gets free and gets into a fight with Doyle!

Both are wounded. Doyle disappears (so much for FBI's ability to establish a perimeter) and Emily apparently dies on the operating table. Except, after the none-more-clichéd TV funeral, we switch to Paris, where JJ gives a "mystery" woman three passports and generous amounts of money. We can hear it is Prentiss, but we do not see her face. What is the point of hiding her face? The knowledge that Prentiss will return after a summer-and-seven-episodes hiatus just makes matters worse. There is no closure. Nothing is resolved. American viewers had to wait for six months for Prentiss to return. What is the point of that? Especially in a series that tries very hard to offer easy entry into episodes for new and casual viewers. This is a mess. And somehow - though consistently when compared to the series history - manages to waste all the great ingredients with which it started. With a heavy sigh, I'll give this a 6/10 - it looks good and passes the time effortlessly, but in the end only manages to leave a hole in the show. A hole they had to refill six months later, whether planned or not. For memorable examples of how to do this better, watch NCIS #2.23, "Twilight" and #5.18 & 19, "Judgment Day". Compared to them, this is only average at best.
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Criminal Minds: Valhalla (2011)
Season 6, Episode 17
8/10
The Art of Redemption
29 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I have to praise this episode. Over the past seasons, I've been very *critical* of Criminal Minds because of its un-evenness. There are gems, but there are also turkeys. This applies to almost every series ever made (The Wire being *one* notable exception). However, continuity and believability seem to be of a lesser and lesser concern for the show-runners of Criminal Minds as time goes by. But this latest mini-arc that centers on Prentiss goes a long way to redeem Criminal Minds' credibility and has already almost made me forget the mess that was The Reaper arc. Almost.

Though we are not yet at the climax, this episode stands out because it is a Format Breaker. Yes, there is a killer of the week, but it's not an isolated case and the way it connects to the big picture is handled really well. Criminal Minds has rarely been this captivating, their opponent so compelling. We get new information and twists at a steady feed, plus genuine shocks, the biggest of which is pretty hard to see coming. From script to the final product, all is great. There is even a firefight that is reminiscent of Michael Mann's classic Heat, and, unlike in most other cases that recall Heat, this firefight does not come across as a botched homage or imitation.

So why not more than an 8/10? Well, the story hasn't climaxed yet and there really is nothing *exceptional* here, "only" solid craftsmanship. Also, the whole "the Secret Past of Emily Prentiss" idea is still Retconning, no matter how well done. And master storytellers do not resort to Retconning - they plan everything *in advance*. Yes, in American TV this sadly often leads to potential left unrealized as shows planned to run 3 to 5 years are canceled after Season 1 (see Invasion, FlashForward, The Event, etc.)... but *the fact* remains. That being said, one cannot wait for the climax episode.
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A Very Married Christmas (2004 TV Movie)
5/10
Indifferent Suns
26 November 2011
This is a baffling movie. The TV just happened to be on when it started, but I only took attention when I heard Joe Mantegna's voice. Now there is one actor who can always be relied on not to phone in his performance. Then I saw Jean Smart, who had impressed me as the First Lady of USA in '24' as one of the most believable characters in a show that was full of nonsense – entertaining nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. The iconic Charles Durning, still with us at the time of writing, gave me one more reason to watch. And when the severely underrated Kari Matchett appeared, I knew I had to sit this one through, though I had, based on program information, beforehand dismissed this movie as "Yet Another 13-in-a-Dozen-American-Xmas-Movie". Matchett had managed to fly 6 years under my radar until she appeared as the only good thing in the miserable Cube 2: Hypercube. Thankfully she's received plenty of roles after that movie, appearing as a guest star in many high profile series such as '24', 'ER', 'Ugly Betty' and 'Criminal Minds', but ironically all her proper star roles were in series that were short-lived: she was superb in 'Invasion', great in 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip', did what she could in the doomed 'Heartland' and delighted in 'Crash'. I'm looking forward to see her in 'Covert Affairs', which predictably lasted only 27 episodes in USA.

But I digress. 'A Very Married Christmas' surprised me positively at the start. The scenes of Joe Mantegna's character Frank imagining his wife's "hobbies" were hilarious and his narration was witty. Also, Mantegna reminded us with his facial expressions and timing that he is also a great comedian. The writer and director seemed to be on fire as well, surprising us with office comedy, well-placed match cuts plus rare iris-ins and iris-outs. Scenes and shots had imagination: the mall bench scene, the doorstep shot, the pie shot, the bed shot, the "carried away" scene, the "incident" scene and "the office meeting" scene. But then something happened.

At around three fifths into the movie, at the "closing time" scene, the movie suddenly fell flat on its face. It seemed that from that point on, a team of replacement writer & director took over, despite not having the talent that had delivered what we had seen so far. We had seen some quality dramedy (which is a really hard genre), but the replacements could not even decide whether to do "serious" drama or "plain" comedy, let alone provide either. Worse still, one character spoils the ending for the audience, the writer treating us like dummies, and another character is not even given an exit scene – they just vanish from the movie! And then there are the mandatory "life lessons" and American-Xmas-Movie clichés, which seemed so blessedly absent over half of the movie.

In all senses, the first three fifths are an entertaining 8/10 movie, but then there is an abrupt collapse into a dreary 2/10 waste of time – and you can tell from the actors' performances that they too have lost the joy. It's hard to rate such a schizophrenic movie, so an indifferent 5/10 that's just below the IMDb average of 5.5 (at the time of writing) seems appropriate. *Now* I understand why it took *seven* years for this movie to get a premiere in Finland. I wonder if the original novel is better…
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Criminal Minds: 25 to Life (2010)
Season 6, Episode 11
7/10
One Thought
10 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a good episode. It could have been a classic, though. The main plot is solid, and while it isn't revolutionary (an man is out to prove he committed no murder), it is told in more confidence and without almost any of the usual stylistic problems that plague Criminal Minds (for once, the flashback at the crime scene doesn't come off as clumsy), and the guest actors perform really well. The best bit is that until the second kill after the man's release from prison happens, the viewer can't be absolutely certain that Morgan was right when he recommended to the parole board that the man be released back into society. From that point onwards, the main plot offers no surprises for anyone whose watched hundreds of episodes of crime procedurals. Though the way the BAU compare serial killers to power mad businessmen is borderline genius. They are, of course, completely right.

So, the lack of surprises in the second half is the first problem. Were it the only one, this would have been an *excellent* episode. But there is another problem: the way-overlong pre-credits sequence is, at 10½ minutes, simply a textbook example of a structural car-wreck and quite probably the longest pre-credits sequence on TV ever, anywhere. The *function* of the pre-credits sequence is to give a *taste* of what's to come, not to be a complete act in a four-act episode. Luckily, *this* time, it isn't that damaging to the overall dramatic structure.

But the most pressing problem is the character of Strauss. For a moment it seemed, that since Hotch is absent, we would be able to pretend his problematic character did not exist in the show, but then Struss walks into Rossi's office and delivers exposition with all the subtlety of a crowbar. How Hotch is *now* taking time off since it's *almost* a year since his wife was killed (actually, if the original air dates are to be taken as *approximate* dates when each episode takes place in the show's world, it's been 10 days shy of 13 months since she died). Anyway, the problem is Strauss was OK when Hotch *did* beat an unarmed, defenseless man to death with his bare hands, but when she learns that Morgan *may* have made an error in his profiling, thus leading to a killer being released, she goes all kinds of crazy, especially when she starts to want to play it safe near the end. There is *no* consistency in her character. She should have said, "You made a mistake, just like Hotch. And if that politician is the killer, go bust him. Beat him if you want to." This is sarcasm, just in case someone didn't notice - after all, the writers of Criminal Minds treat their audience like dullards most of the time, unlike, say, the writers of The Closer or the late, great, possibly never-to-be-beaten The Wire.

So, two points off, and we end up with a 7/10. Which is still good. Just not great.
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The City: Lost in Translation (2010)
Season 2, Episode 12
3/10
Elimination
23 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As an episode that is supposed to make the viewer want come back when the next season premieres, "Lost in Translation" is average. As a final episode of a series - not that it was *intended* to be one - it's just as disastrous as The City as a whole was.

In an earlier episode Erin noted that Olivia has friends in high places. That is the only possible explanation for why she was allowed to keep her job at Elle despite her consistent failings on every level. That is the only possible explanation for why Joe acted as if he had no knowledge of the true nature of the events where he was not present but were documented in the series and therefore must have become known to him. That is the only possible explanation for why Joe did nothing to Olivia despite her lies to him and her mistakes being aired on TV. It's just atrocious.

For Whitney's part it's a shame the show was canceled just as some drama had entered her life. Unlike Olivia, Whitney had to face consequences for her actions, even those not of malicious intent (Olivia had nothing but malicious intent) and/or of just plain bad luck. I'm betting many viewers felt sympathy for Whitney, who comes off as a really sweet person, whereas most people would gladly see Olivia vanish from the face of the Earth. One can only hope that Whitney succeeds and Olivia fails in the future after this schizophrenic series where Whitney's sections were clearly truly documentary and Olivia's sections were some twisted fairytale controlled by The Powers That Be. If there is a lesson here, it is that only power matters. Great job, MTV.
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NCIS: Dead Reflection (2011)
Season 8, Episode 21
7/10
Reflection
12 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The second part of what proves to be at least a three-parter, continues the arc superbly, especially with the shocking side-lining of Team Gibbs, who get assigned to a totally separate case, while Team Barrett continues the investigation of the Port to Port Killer. And what a team she has! Tony and McGee are completely emasculated by Barrett's agent Cade, a hulking brute who happens to be more intelligent than Tim, and agent Levin, whose movie knowledge and *experience* far supersede Tony's. To make things worse for the guys, Abby takes liking to Cade, making McGee jealous. Long-time viewers rooting for team McAbby *feel* his pain. Meanwhile, Barrett proves to be of the jealous type, grilling Tony about his time with Ziva, who's suddenly a threat to her as a newly single woman. After the Tony-Ziva-Barrett scene one wonders why Tony would ever choose Barrett over Ziva. Considering the latter half of season 7 was littered with hints of an intimate night in Paris.

Plotwise, the Port to Port Killer arc builds up and up, but the murder Team Gibbs are assigned to be proves out to be a complete fiasco. Not only is the resolution mundane, but the seemingly impossible murder is solved with a simple use of the most hideous of all TV tropes, The Enhance Button. Without being able to enhance the security footage from Pentagon, Abby would not have solved the case. Unfortunately, zooming in on a pre-recorded image (still or moving) and revealing hidden details is *factually* impossible. Contrast with The Closer, where Buzz is often asked to zoom in on a *live* camera feed to reveal details. *That* is not only possible, it's normal. What *no-one* can do, is change the focus of a pre-recorded image. The up-scaling Blu-ray Disc players that make DVDs "high definition" also lead the viewer astray, since the up-scaling does not increase the *information* of the DVD picture as the BD players use algorithms that "guess" what the picture would look like in HD. Look it up, this is not the place for a lecture.

What the use of The Enhance Button sadly means, is that the solving of Team Gibbs' case is *dependent* on magic, not science, and thus loses half of its stars. Fortunately, Team Gibbs' case is only half of this episode, and Team Barrett's case makes up for it. Team Gibbs, 4/10, but Team Barrett, 9/10. As a whole, this episode gets a 7/10, with yet another great end reveal making one want to see the next Port to Port Killer episode ASAP.
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NCIS: Two-Faced (2011)
Season 8, Episode 20
8/10
Killing Spree
12 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great episode. Not only is the plot good, seeing as it starts up what seems to be another multi-episode-arc like the one that ended season 7 and started season 8, but it also has great character moments, especially considering how much great material the usually acting-starved Mark Harmon gets as Gibbs who finally gets to show more of his character. The return of Special Agent Barrett in itself does not particularly excite, but her clashes with Gibbs are what makes this episode stand out.

Ziva's "boyfriend" Ray, first alluded to in the season opener, the 163rd episode, while this is the 182nd, fails to impress after such a long wait. Especially when Ziva then breaks up with him. ("Hurrah!" for Team Tiva!). One cannot but help wonder if the *only* purpose of this 20-episode character "arc" (in the loosest sense of the word) was to waste another season avoiding the question what happened between Tony and Ziva in Paris in the 151th episode. That was 31 episodes ago! Will it *ever* be revealed? Will the writers ever man up and pair Tony and Ziva up? Especially now that Tony has proved with Barrett that he is willing to break Rule #12.

Tiva-niggles aside, the creepy surprise end reveal comes totally out of the blue and makes one want to see the next episode ASAP. 8/10 greatness achieved.
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Criminal Minds: The Longest Night (2010)
Season 6, Episode 1
8/10
The Legacy
9 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Criminal Minds does not exactly have a stellar backlist of season openers. #1.1, "Extreme Aggressor", was good, but not great; #2.1, "The Fisher King: Part 2", failed to deliver on the promises of the excellent Part 1; #3.1, "Doubt", was of equally generic fare; #4.1, "Mayhem", was a near-total disaster after the magnificent #3.20, "Lo-Fi"; and *only* #5.1, "Faceless, Nameless", achieved greatness (ironic, considering the title). So, did that episode break the curse for good? The answer, for now, seems to be 'yes'. The opening scene echoes the opening scene of the previous season's ender, and then, in *less than a minute*, we are plunged straight into horrific action. This is the most assured opening of a season opener so far in the series history. The plot picks up directly from where we left of, and it doesn't really matter that it's hard to care at the character who was killed in the previous season's finale because we first saw them in the same episode, since the focus is now *elsewhere*, unlike in the disappointing "Mayhem", where the death of what's-her-name didn't really register, the BAU members carried the Idiot Ball and clichés piled up with handy coincidences and right-out impossibilities (the Enhance Button trope). Looking back, I see that some fans unable to accept that there are flaws in the plot of "Mayhem" have voted my review of that episode "not useful". How childish.

There is a disturbing twist in the plot that makes this episode so memorable. Also, the pacing remains frenetic, meaning we are not really kept waiting at any point. In the end, it's quite amazing how much happens in this episode. Tim Curry, naturally, dominates, his delivery of his character Billy's answer to Ellie's question of why he kills people being particularly creepy. A genuine surprise here is Isabella Murad, who portrays the young Ellie. She could develop into a major talent if all goes well. However, the biggest surprise is that JJ, ironically considering her character's "arc" is about to end, gets to be in the central role, and A.J. Cook seizes the opportunity to shine.

Some niggles remain. Though Paget Brewster's red, cleavage-revealing t-shirt from the previous season returns to please those of us who like it, this reviewer included, it really isn't FBI standard issue, is it? Contrast JJ's white-collar long-sleeve shirt. Morgan's fury, meanwhile, is pure Writing-for-the-Dimwitted, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Poor Robert Davi is left with minimal screen-time consisting mainly of expository dialog now that his character no longer has a function plot-wise. Reed, Rossi and, not that it is a shame since the character hasn't been believable anymore, Hotch all pretty much just hang around. Kirsten Vangsness is really lucky in that Garcia *always* has something to do, and her character has the most of the best dialog in the series. But deep inside, even the deniers know that Gracia is just a poor man's Abby from NCIS.

We can all pretty much guess how the story ends, but it is all done with such conviction that it's more important how it is presented on the screen. It's all the more relate-able because Morgan remains professional when confronting Billy, unlike Hotch did with The Reaper. Again, if the writers' Hand-Waving of Hotch's loss of control with Strauss' subsequent approval of it, plus Hotch's miraculous recovery from the trauma didn't remain a constant burden in this series' continuity, this would be a triumphant 9/10, but as it is, this cannot be higher than an 8/10. A real shame. Once continuity is established in a series which started firmly in the episodic territory, the writers cannot just ignore that continuity by "forgetting" what happened when they realize they made a mistake in the writing.
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Criminal Minds: Our Darkest Hour (2010)
Season 5, Episode 23
8/10
One Man's Fate
6 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Criminal Minds season finales tend to deliver. They are usually good, like #4.25, "To Hell… And Back", and occasionally even 9/10 like #1.22, "The Fisher King: Part 1" and #3.20, "Lo-Fi". Of course, there is also the exception that proves the rule: the flawed #2.23, "No Way Out, Part II" (notice the inconsistent use of numerals). So how does the fifth one fare? The five-minute opening justifies it length, seeing as this is the first part of a two-parter. There is a nice montage that portrays the passing of decades, something that will be understood later. The unsub is kept out of view, his attack presented in still images. This too is not done because of style over substance (a common mistake in this series, and, ironically, the style chosen often does not even work). He preys in the dark, so he is kept in the dark. Plus, it allows for the later reveal of the actor performing the unsub.

It's clear that more effort was put into this episode than a typical one: we have Tim Curry, Robert Davi and Eric Close, all in fine form (though Davi, a regular on Profiler, could do this kind of role in his sleep). Curry naturally steals the show. He's aided by the script that, on the rare occasion that his character speaks, the lines are golden. Also, this is the biggest, baddest case Hotch's team has yet faced. And, three quarters in, there is a marvellous twist. To cap it all, direction, camera-work and music are on the level with the script.

There's only one flaw. No lessons were learned from #4.1, "Mayhem" – a character introduced in this episode is killed off and we are supposed to find it shocking. Unfortunately it's hard to mourn a character less than 40 minutes old. Not to mention the fact that ever since #5.9, "100", the credibility of Criminal Minds has been highly debatable because of the way Hotch's brutal actions in that episode were swept under the mat and his son seems in no way traumatized by the loss of his mother. Ever since that mess, the fictional world of Criminal Minds loses one star until Hotch is out of the series. Which is probably as long as the series runs. Too bad, since this would have been the third 9/10 season finale out of five, but the burden of continuity makes it only an 8/10.
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Criminal Minds: The Internet Is Forever (2010)
Season 5, Episode 22
4/10
Furthest from the Truth
30 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Season 5 of Criminal Minds has definitely been the most disturbing. It's apparent that the show-runners are pushing boundaries, and that is a good thing *if* it produces innovative, gripping episodes. "The Internet Is Forever" sure seems to be one: it's turning the social networks of Internet as the hunting grounds for the unsub(s) of the week. An environment familiar to modern people and therefore all the more relate-able. After this episode, you should be just a little bit more terrified of the social networks. Also, after Rossi's questioning of the point of the social networks should make you think about spending less time logged into them. These are both excellent points.

But the episode is just starting. The victims are not just picked from the social networks. The situation is much worse. It has been dealt with in the flawed but horrifying 2002 movie My Little Eye. So, Criminal Minds is recycling an idea almost a decade old. If you've seen the movie, you can pretty much guess where the episode is going – the new addition is the social networks that did not exist in 2002. Not that recycling an idea is bad in itself – some remakes and re-imaginations are actually better than the original idea. And as this episode progresses, it starts to seem that it will bury My Little Eye forever. The tension builds masterfully, and things get more and more disturbing. There is a sequence around the middle of the episode that is just nerve-wracking, making this one of the most memorable of the 112 episodes the series has produced by this point.

Then, just as it seems the writers are about to pull a classic where the unsub is a criminal mastermind (Rossi even describes him as one) to rival Hannibal or John Doe, they find their creation to be *too* much for the BAU to be able to logically capture. So, instead of doing a rewrite where the unsub is less genius, the writers lower themselves into using the old, tired cliché of the dreaded Enhance Button, through the use of which the BAU is able to determine the unsub's location and catch him. For those unaware of this trope, a brief description: The Enhance Button is a trope where a photo or video image is "enhanced" (hence the name) by *enlargening* it. And it always produces details that earlier where too tiny for the eye to see. There is just one serious problem with the Enhance Button: it is *factually* impossible to do in real life – it would require magic, and the last time I checked, Criminal Minds was not a fantasy show (except when it comes to science, ironically). Why doesn't the Enhance Button work in reality? Because the laws of physics and mathematics state that You. Can. Not. Create. Information. That. Already. Wasn't. There. There is such a thing as 'focus' on both photographs and video. Unless your high definition camera is *focused* on the area being enlarged, all you get is pixellated mush. Try it. And so, with this fatal flaw, the whole episode collapses like a house of cards. Not the first time in the history of the series. Sadly, probably not the last. Because of the flaw, the entire ending becomes implausible, a mere fantasy, and runs this potential 9/10 to the gutter of 4/10. A real shame. And an insult to the viewers' intelligence.
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8/10
The Beloved
30 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Hard Times… once again shows how teen shows have changed in the last 20 years: Max Owens' bullying of RJ *and* Amy's ultimatum that RJ "man up" if he wants to have sex with her will resonate for all viewers who've experienced the same things. Something that we didn't see in the shows of 20 years past. Also, we didn't see Suzanne and Jeriba share a cupcake…

The "good guys of the round table" gather again, and formulate a plan that will result in RJ "manning up". It is exactly what every bullied teen would want to do: to strip the bully of his power. Of course, in reality, it is very hard to do, and the writers acknowledge that by showing that RJ's "Max Bash" is not exactly the best idea. Added drama comes from RJ's parents' divorce: RJ doesn't want his dad to see his mom with the Coach at the birthday party. What's he to do? Comedy, on the other hand, comes mostly from Max's counter-plan (a clear parody of typical teen movies of the 1980s and 1990s) and its execution.

The end result is an episode which has a nearly perfect constantly ascending trajectory. It gets more dramatic and funnier by the moment, and, pardon the bad pun, climaxes beautifully. But it's far from perfect. The biggest problem is that Jenny has only two lines that consist of four words. In the entire episode. Even Max's grunt Patterson has more dialog! It was unexpected when she and RJ broke up, but in this episode one would have expected at least a scene where she congratulates RJ on his birthday. She clearly is proud of RJ when he announces the "Max Bash" birthday party. Yet we only get a glimpse of her at the party sequence. Then of course, this episode isn't exactly revolutionary, even if it is evolutionary. So, an 8/10 is still great, better than most episodes of most shows.
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The Hard Times of RJ Berger: Hunkeez (2011)
Season 2, Episode 9
7/10
Ride
30 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This episode of Hard Times… opens with a dirty gag that cleverly simultaneously presents RJ's most pressing problem – poor writers would have settled with the dirty joke only. So, RJ needs to pass his driver's license test *and* get some wheels. The driving instruction video, "Skid Marks" is hilarious, though the overlooked 1980s comedy Moving Violations has one with an even better name… Also, that movie stars Jennifer Tilly *and* Don Cheadle, which is enough to make it worth seeing.

But I digress. The "Jenny getting bullied by Robin" plot line continues, leading to a surprising and very funny sequence where Jenny and Lily have a sleepover together. It also deepens both characters – and makes Lily finally more likable! The A-plot, however, brings us the outrageous revelation of Rick Bergers new car *and* his hidden past… There are plenty of laughs balanced with the drama of the Bergers' divorce, meaning that this is another good, 7/10 episode, but not among the best ones like #1.4, "Here's to You, Mrs. Robbins" and 1.9, "Nerd's Gone Wild". Promisingly, the preview clips at the end hint at the following episode achieving greatness...
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The Hard Times of RJ Berger: Give Me a 'P' (2011)
Season 2, Episode 8
7/10
My Hope, the Destroyer
25 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Few would dare open with a shot that *immediately* tells there is an Inception spoof starting. Especially when your series doesn't have the budget to make a spoof that would be visually on the level of even the lame "spoofs" in the poor Idiot Movies. But the show-runners turn their limitations to their advantage. The spoof *is* funny.

Hard Times… continues to slip some genuine seriousness among the jokes. RJ's mother provides some exemplary comments at the dinner table. RJ tells Miles the truth Miles tries to deny. RJ's dad is mourning his divorce. Amy tells RJ the truth. All of the above naturally delivered via witty dialog.

To make up for their relatively minor parts in the previous episode, Jenny and Robin have a major part in the hilarious, 100% comedy B-plot involving Miles. This episode is also notable for the first appearance of the "good guys of the round table" – RJ, Miles, Jenny, Lily and the now regular characters Amy and Hamilton all have *lunch* together. This provides a nice, plausible way for their characters to gather together in every upcoming episode. Simple, and most of all, endlessly re-usable. Also, the RJ's dad's new job provides plenty of opportunities for comedy with Coach Sinclair.

The A-plot of RJ's parents' wedding anniversary isn't as hilarious as the B-plot, but it doesn't need to be. For a show only 20 episodes young, Hard Times… shows uncanny awareness of the fact that you can get *only* so far with just dirty jokes. We actually have relate-able characters and situations that will provide longevity for this series. And the surprise twists keep on coming. Since Jenny has already shown that she is attracted to what a man is like *inside*, suddenly we cannot out-rule the possibility that she *might* end up with Miles, whose character is actually evolving! So, a good 7/10 episode, with a morally deliciously dubious turn – RJ's mom and Coach Sinclair getting RJ and Amy drunk – and a surprisingly emotional ending.
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Criminal Minds: ...A Thousand Words (2010)
Season 5, Episode 20
7/10
Born
18 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A very good episode, this one. The opening scene is reminiscent of the discovery of the Sloth sinner in Se7en, different enough that it doesn't feel like a rip-off. Actually, it's pretty clever – in Se7en, the police *thought* they were entering the killer's apartment, but here they actually *are*. Only to find him dead. And his latest victim quite likely still alive, but missing. Also both in here and in Se7en, the killer turns himself in.

The episode takes place in Florida. Heat = tight shirts for Morgan, Prentiss and JJ. What a nice coincidence! For some reason, Rossi and Hotch remain fully suited while Reid doesn't wear a jacket. Could the episode be more obviously gratuitous? Not that I'm complaining – Criminal Minds has always lacked sex appeal, whereas most other crime procedural shows have plenty. Prentiss' red shirt is used in other episodes as well, the reason of which is pretty much a no-brainer.

The script is pretty innovative, giving us something new in the show's 110th (by IMDb's count) episode, not a variation of any of the past episodes. Even the BAU members are baffled by the killer's suicide. Dean Norris (of Breaking Bad fame) does great job as the Police of the Week, making his detective stand out from the crowd he belongs in. Of course there have been others as well, but they aren't a different matter. Compare him to the tattoo artist who is ripped straight out of cliché stock. Dude.

Because of the novel idea here, it's very hard to say how it will end. In this case, the series' overall unevenness works in this episode's favour – this *could* be the brilliant episode that is long overdue. There hasn't been a 9/10 since Roadkill, and that was episode #88 (or #4.23, if you will)! While the plot takes a creepy surprise twist before the final act and the ending certainly offers food for thought, it doesn't negate the middle of the episode, where the plot drags because of too much talk, not enough tension. So, as a whole, this is "just" very good, a seven, as it happens, just not a Se7en.
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Criminal Minds: Mosley Lane (2010)
Season 5, Episode 16
8/10
Furnace Funeral
14 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great episode. However, it is *not* perfect. I watched it three times. It starts impressively, with a disappearance of a child – putting children in danger always raises the emotional impact on the viewers. Also, the immediate reveal that this is just the latest in a string of child disappearances over a decade combined with the creepy situation of the latest child and the gruesome fate of one of the earlier ones raises the tension sky high. Unfortunately, all this takes *six and a half minutes* - way too long for a pre-credits sequence in a series with episodes lasting 42 or so minutes. Surely the opening title sequence could have come sooner? Writers' bad. Director Matthew Gray Gubler (Dr. Reid), on the other hand, makes one heck a TV directing debut here (he's directed only short films before). Of course, he's aided immensely by the spot-on score by Fantini, Fantini & Gordon. The music here is *really* impressive.

Now, where the writers go wrong again is the "BAU agents imagine being in the moment of the crime" scene, which this series *never* seems to get right. Well, at least they are consistent. There's not much Gubler can do with such a clumsily written scene. The writers really should study The Closer, the classiest, most convincing crime procedural in recent memory and not underestimate the audience's intelligence. Fortunately, that scene is briefly over and the creepiness comes back with the "spreading of the ashes" scene. From that point on, the script is pretty much quality stuff, except for one weird fault: in the ashes scene they reveal the male unsub, making the later "questioning of the suspects" scenes where the BAU agents visit *innocent* creeps absolutely pointless. We now know what the man looks like and have a pretty good estimate on the woman. Why did they have to show his face earlier? Why?

Acting here is great all around, meaning that the story remains convincing despite the slight problems with the script. The character of Charlie serves as a great cause for conflict among the parents of the missing children and also raises complex questions, which is always good. The resolution, however, lacks the required big punch and raises the question "who exactly taught Charlie to shoot?" His kidnappers don't really seem stupid enough to *let* him know firearms, let alone teach him on how to use them, considering how clever they are otherwise portrayed to be. It would make sense that Charlie's general knowledge is not on a much higher level than when he was kidnapped.

The epilogue is harrowing, which makes amends for the faults, but overall, for every achievement in scriptwriting there seems to come a disappointment in return. And then there is the fact that the series seems to think 'continuity' means that mentioning that AJ now has a 1½ year old child is enough. Once you've established continuity instead of the good old Reset Button, the fact that Hotch moved on without barely a tear after his wife was executed by The Reaper becomes a *major* fault that, for as long as the series runs, will always hinder the series' plausibility, and hence, credibility. An 8/10 is as high as this can get, all problems considered. Sadly, this could have been even a 10/10.
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8/10
Temporary Peace
13 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After the previous episode's twist ending, where it was revealed that Coach and RJ's mom are having an affair, the series has more than just RJ and Amy's potential relationship to work with. Yet, we aren't even through the *opening credits* when it is made clear that Lily and Hamilton are now an item. Seriously, the plot in this series makes most hour-long series with 22 episodes per season look like they are treading water. Which most of them *actually* are.

So, RJ asks Amy out to a Weezer concert, but needs fake IDs. In a handy coincidence, which still makes perfect sense in this series twisted universe, Coach has some shady connections that will help. RJ only needs to tell him what to get for Suzanne. This leads to yet another set of one-joke characters, Fidel, his "Nana" and Lil' Chang, who do not outstay their welcome thanks to the writers' use of good sense. In some Friedberg & Seltzer Idiot Movie they would be with us from the beginning to the end.

Before you even have a chance to wonder about them, Max and Robin make an appearance, reminding us that the writers haven't forgot them – the characters just aren't needed to play a big part in this episode, but they have a role in one *crucial* scene later on. Before that, RJ and Jeriba still have some unfinished business, which provides much amusement. After that, the twists keep piling on, and just when you think Jenny is completely absent, she appears too. Again, only when she is *needed*. In the end of this great 8/10 episode, pretty much everyone's life has changed since the series premiere, and it's anybody's guess what the next episode will bring. Well, the preview clips kind of spoil some of it.
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4/10
Insipid
11 September 2011
Obviously even the idiots in charge of making decisions to finance the first Librarian movie realized where they had gone wrong: a writer, who had delusions of grandeur and a director who couldn't direct if Christopher Nolan was directing *him*. So, they hired a new writer who came up with a less convoluted, less FX heavy script, and most importantly, a director, who has some solid directing credits: Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: First Contact, several TV episodes).

Then they cast the actors. No more *loads* actors whom obviously had ended up deeming the first movie's script and their paycheck an insult to them. No, limit the number: Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin and Olympia Dukakis all return, but their screen time is kept to bare minimum. The main roles here go to the ever-reliable Eric Avari (a regular guest star of tens of TV shows), Robert Foxworth (he used to star in Falcon Crest in the 1980s), and Gabrielle Anwar, at this point *still* best known for her role in Scent of a Woman - 14 years earlier. Of course, she'd come to escape the prospect of starring in Librarian 3 by getting roles in The Tudors and the magnificent Burn Notice. Bottom line: less actors, and more importantly, less demanding (in terms of money).

Now, they had money left. The sets in this second movie no longer look laughable, they are actually passable. The FX no longer looks incredibly painful, it's "just" lame. Unfortunately, all these improvements come with a price: the script is dull, dull, dull - because it can't *afford* to be exciting. Of course, had they chosen a better writer, they could have filmed this practically in one room and still made it exciting (Cough! Reservoir Dogs. Cough!) Also, by the time the climax was being filmed, the production seems to have run out of money again - cue horrible CGI.

No, while a staggering improvement over the first film, this still rises no higher than a 4/10 complete waste of your time. Even Frakes can't work miracles from such a dull script. Apparently a third one exists, so if they show it, I'll check it just for completeness' sake.
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2/10
Scorn
11 September 2011
Believe the reviews that rate this movie poorly - the praising ones are obviously either false reviews done to promote the film or by people who are too in love with the subject matter to be able to write *objective* reviews. At first, I did not intend to bother reviewing the movie, but upon seeing the sequel, I kind of had to.

So, this first Librarian movie is a made-for-TV original movie. This, of course, limits the budget. There's nothing wrong with that - unless the makers get overambitious. And they did. Result: what little money and time they had to be spread so wide amongst all aspects of production that absolutely *none* of them work - you simply can't get quality results with little money and severely limited time.

The biggest problem, of course is the script. Had the writer been paid more and given more time (or replaced by a better writer), the script might have made more sense, and more importantly, it might have been more tailored to fit the allocated budget. As was the case, we got poor plot, poor dialog, FX sequences the FX department couldn't afford, and sets the props there was no money to build. The result is a movie which is actually painful to watch.

We have actors, who have proved they are capable: Noah Wyle (ER), Sonya Walger (pre-Lost), Kyle MacLachlan, Kelly Hu (X2), Jane Curtin, Olympia Dukakis, Clyde Kusatsu - but obviously they were paid so little most of them probably thought, "Frak it, I'm gonna do the bare minimum and go home." And, damningly, "director" (and I can't stress in how loose a sense I use the word here) Peter Winther apparently was OK with all of the above - or he too thought like the actors.

Please do not watch this. It is 2/10 crap, no matter how much you try to spin it.
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