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7/10
Cute show
31 December 2014
I am well above the target age for "Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn" but sometimes it's nice to watch a show that requires little thought, easy and lazy viewing for adults! The show revolves ten-year-old quadruplets made up of three boys Nicky, Ricky and Dicky with their sister Dawn (as yet, it's not been addressed whether Ricky and Dicky are both called 'Richard' and why not use 'Micky/Michael' instead of 'Dicky') and the children's harassed parents.

The show is surprisingly funny, even for those of us who have passed high school, and the kids are adorable, even if they don't look anything at all alike. My other lazy kiddie show at the moment is 'Girl Meets World' but I prefer this as the kids are more likable and they also look and act like ten-year-olds and gives the audience a soft spot for them. In GMW, some of the 'pre-teens' look almost ready for uni and the girls dress like they're on the catwalk instead of off to school.

"Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn" is definitely a nice wee show that can be enjoyed by children and their parents without the adults wanting to peel their eyeballs out in boredom!
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7/10
It gave me an adequate Trek fix!
8 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I've been a Trek fan since the age of ten and it was the show that ultimately opened to door to the world of science fiction (and geekiness!) for me. So I do hold strong feelings for this franchise and that is why I swiver over my feelings for Abrams' films.

The film opens with Kirk extensively breaking the Prime Directive and, while he does so with good intentions, he is portrayed to be much more devil-may-care and arrogant (perhaps, even adolescent) than Shatner's Kirk. But before he can suffer Starfleet's disciplinary action, Earth is attacked by a terrorist John Harrison. Determined to bring him to justice, Kirk and his crew set out after him only to discover nothing is what it seems.

Benedict Camberbatch did a good job as the ruthless Harrison but, through no fault of his, the actual character portrayal within the story meant he never quite had the same complexity of the Joker or even Loki from the Marvel-verse. Not to ruin the film too much but I do think this is the result of this franchise being restricted to two films compared with the original films, which had a whole series to build upon. I can't complain about the Enterprise characters as I do think they all do their roles justice and are worthy successors (I can complain, however, that there just was not enough McCoy- give him more scenes in the next film!).

In terms of the actual plot, it makes for a great popcorn flick that will appeal to general cinema goers who have no clue about Star Trek as well as being entertaining enough for Trek fans who do tolerate Abrams' films. As I said, it did lack some of the emotional appeal because the characters just do not have the history and level of deep friendship that we saw in the original films (and how can they when there is only meant to be a year between this film and the first one?). I also wish they would do more to recreate the Kirk/Spock/McCoy friendship that was such a part of the original series. McCoy barely has screen time here and I think that even despite being biased about my favourite character.

In all, I do think it's worth a look. It's not fantastic nor does it compare to 'Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan' but it is an entertaining film that moves along well from what was established in the first film. I hope it doesn't take them as long as four years to produce a third film. One thing though, see it in 2D if possible. The 3D is pointless and a waste of money for those of us who have to fork out extra for 3D tickets. It's time Hollywood relegated 3D to kiddie films and cartoons.
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The Snowman and the Snowdog (2012 TV Short)
9/10
A worthy successor to a classic
30 December 2012
The 1982 animation 'The Snowman' has always been a Christmas must in my house for as long as I can remember so I was delighted to hear that, after thirty years, a sequel was being produced.

'The Snowman and the Snowdog' starts with a mother and son moving into a new house with their old dog in the summer. But as summer turns to autumn, we see the heartbroken family burying their beloved dog. Then winter arrives bringing snow and it is then that the boy discovers a box under the floorboards of his bedroom containing the hat, scarf and coal as well as a photo of James and the Snowman. And so the boy decides he will rebuild the Snowman and, with the leftover snow, he also builds a little snowdog too. I will not ruin how the story ends but it is complete with a journey to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus.

There is no way any sequel could ever match the originality and enchantment of 'The Snowman'. It is a classic that will remain unequalled in the hearts of millions. However, this is a delightful little sequel that does charm, particularly anyone who has ever owned a dog. Only a pet-lover with a heart of stone would not feel tearful at the first scenes. And there is no denying that the Snowdog is absolutely adorable! The music is not as memorable as 'Walking in the Air', and it's actually a bit jarring at first to not hear the expected soundtrack of 'The Snowman', the musical score is not terrible either. And the artwork is, of course, perfect and clearly drawn lovingly with the traditional scenes of a snowy white British landscape (far removed from the damp, rainy rubbish that we are being forced to endure in reality!).

I certainly hope to see this animated film shown every year after 'The Snowman' as it nicely compliments the classic and is a great Christmas film.
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Abduction (I) (2011)
4/10
The Bourne Identity for kiddies.
2 October 2011
I have to admit that I was quite interested in this film purely because of such names as Jason Isaacs and Signourney Weaver being attached to it. I should have known better when I also saw a trailer heavily featuring Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins that this was to be a teeny-fest.

'Abduction' centres around eighteen-year-old Nathan who leads a happy life with his parents in a nice big house filled with Apple products. Happy until his class is assigned a project about missing children and Nathan then happens upon a website featuring a photo of a missing child who bears a striking resemblance to himself. After his 'parents' are murdered by assassins, Nathan finds himself embroiled in a CIA conspiracy and on the run along with his crush Karen.

The main problem with this film is that it relies too heavily on the young cast of Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins and neither of them are solely able to carry a film. What doesn't help the younger pair's rather bland acting skills is the fact that both of the characters they play are not only dull but are as thick as two planks ('yes, we know the CIA/bad guys can trace phones but let's still use the phone to call folk!' or 'let's split up despite the fact we're being hunted'). Karen is also an utterly redundant character and there is absolutely no point to her other than to provide some teen romance.

The one positive is that Lautner can handle himself in the action scenes, which again why he might have pulled this film off if he'd had a stronger actor to work alongside and guide him. In fact, they might have produced a fairly decent popcorn flick if they had kept the much more talented adult cast involved heavily alongside Lautner, for example, if they'd had Weaver or Isaac's character on the run with Nathan rather than the pointless Karen. But clearly the producers were not that bothered with making a decent film.

Now I do enjoy a good action film but first we have about forty-five minutes of Nathan's boring high school life then we go from fight to chase all because the two characters are too stupid to properly protect themselves and make one stupid decision after another. In between, we are bombarded with messages about how cool Apple and BMW are (why does Nathan need a Macbook, an iMac and an iPad?).

People are comparing this to 'Spy Kids' but at least the two wee moppets in that film were smart and interesting. I'd say 'Abduction' is more 'The Bourne Identity' for kids and young teens. They should have just rated this a PG and advertised this for kids because I can't imagine anyone past high school age being interested in this (other than girls only interested in seeing Lautner).
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Warrior (2011)
Much more than just a film about fighting
24 September 2011
While I am partial to a film featuring martial arts (largely because that has style whereas boxing/wrestling/whatever seems so thuggish), I don't have any interest in professional fighting whatsoever. I only went to see 'Warrior' as there was little else to see in the cinema. And I was very glad that I did because it was a surprisingly good film that is much more than men beating each other up.

'Warrior' is a film about a broken family haunted by past domestic abuse, alcoholism and grudges. Tommy Conlan (Tom Hardy) was once considered a prodigy in the mixed martial arts cage but, now an adult, he is a Marine carrying much anger and hurt. By comparison, his estranged elder brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton)is a physics teacher leading a settled life with his wife and daughters until, thanks to greedy bankers (yes, we all know about them), he is at risk of losing his home. For very different reasons, the two brothers embark on the path to try to win a major tournament-- a quest that will leading to them being reunited after years of separation. In the midst of it, their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) is a recovering alcoholic who is struggling to regain the trust of the sons whose childhood he wrecked.

Perhaps this could easily have been a bland, violence-filled film but thanks to strong characterisation that was brought to life by three excellent actors, we have a story that transcends a basic plot about fighting. Hardy and Nolte excel at portraying two haunted characters who can't let go of their pasts while Edgerton is great as the character who has managed to carve a decent life for himself despite his boyhood hurts.

I do wish we could have had a more rounded ending, however. It would have been nice to see where Paddy's place in his sons' lives after the final fight was. But that is probably the only negative that I could find and I suppose that sometimes there are aspects that need to be left for the viewer to decide for themselves.

After a year of rather mediocre films, 'Warrior' is compelling viewing that both entertains and also offers an emotional aspect to the audience. And certainly do not be put off by the fact that it features cage fighting because that is such a small part of this film. Well recommended (and, on a side note, Hardy looks more than ready to play Bane in 'The Dark Knight Returns').
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Thor (2011)
9/10
A brilliant adaptation of the comic book
18 June 2011
I'm someone who is very excited to see 'The Avengers' in 2012 ever since I first heard about the project. Howvever, I have to admit that 'Thor' was always the film I was least looking forward too since Ironman and Cap are my favourites of the team and I also doubted if adapting the Thor comic book was going to end well. Luckily, I was very wrong! 'Thor' sets up the premise that the legends of the Norse gods are, in fact, powerful aliens who inhabit Asgard, one of nine worlds connected to each other through a wormhole system known as the Rainbow Bridge. Thor is a cocky and egotistical prince who is preparing to succeed his father Odin as king, much to his younger brother Loki's quiet resentment. However, when Thor's arrogance leads the race of Ice Giants (who reside on another of the nine worlds) to declare war on Asgard, Odin casts his son out in the hopes of teaching him humility. Thor then finds himself stranded on Earth, powerless and mortal with only scientist Jane Foster and her friends to aid him. Meanwhile, Loki is plotting away with his own plans of leadership.

Those who were worried about Chris Hemsworth's role as Thor (considering he is best known in the UK for 'Home and Away!) should relax as he carried the character off perfectly, right from Thor's conceited side to his growing maturity and sense of responsibility. By the end of the film, it is easy to see Hemsworth's Thor take his place as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Tom Hiddleston, who played Loki, was also another pleasant surprise as he was excellent in depicting the vulnerability of the character as well as his guile, bitterness and jealousy. Natalie Portman was a good Jane Foster, although this was obviously very much Thor's film and it will need a sequel to properly develop Jane as a character. And, as always, it was great to see Clark Gregg as SHIELD agent Coulson, one of the best original characters that the films have produced.

I found that the plot was near-perfect for a comic book adaptation, doing well to explain the background of Thor's character and how he evolves to being an Avenger. Loki was also nicely development as a sympathetic antagonist rather than some bland 'black and white' villain. There was a good mix of drama, action and humour and the actual story flowed. You can see how this is nicely coming together with the 'Ironman' films to finally culminate next year to 'The Avengers'.

There are some negatives. I did feel Odin could have done with slightly better depiction as he came across as a rather cold father to his sons (it's easy to see why Loki felt he had to take the path he did). Also, there was no need whatsoever for 3D. I've seen the film three times, twice in 2D and once in 3D and felt the latter added absolutely nothing to the film except for making pretty credits at the end. I wish Hollywood would stop with this fad since it's rubbish.

I do highly recommend this film to comic book fans as well as anyone looking for a good film. Roll on 'Captain America' in July!
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Green Lantern (2011)
6/10
Fun
18 June 2011
While the Green Lantern has never been one of my favourite comic book characters, I have looked forward to seeing this film since I first heard it was on the cards. It's good to see Hollywood adapting comic books (even better when they do it well) not just because I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek but also it is a huge improvement to churning out yet more remakes of old films.

For those unfamiliar with the premise, the Green Lantern Corp is an intergalactic group of heroes who protect the universe with the aid of rings which give them great powers, one of which includes solidifying whatever they imagine (I'm not sure if I explained that well enough but watch the film for a better description!). This film focuses on Hal Jordan, an irresponsible hotshot pilot, who is forced to mature up when he is chosen as the first human being to wield the ring and protect Earth from an evil threat that even the most accomplished of the Lanterns fear.

I felt the CGI was a case of 'hit or miss' with some scenes coming off well while others seem a bit cartoony. I do feel that perhaps this was a film that should have been kept to one side for another few years until CGI had improved enough to pull the suit off well. And when will Hollywood realise that 3D is pointless and stupid. There is absolutely no need for this film to be 3D-- keep it for kids' animation or slasher flicks.

In terms of the acting, Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan was not as bad as some feared. He does suit the role of irrelevant over-grown kid that the character starts out as although he did lack the depth to show Hal's serious side. Mark Strong, on the other hand, was excellent as Sinestro, an alien Green Lantern who is very doubtful of Hal until his faith is affirmed at the end. I wish we could have seen more of Sinestro and his acting as a reluctant mentor to Hal. Blake Lively played Carol Ferris, Hal's love interest/childhood sweetheart (and who, in the comic books, will also one day become a superhero) but her presence was barely felt. She seemed to just be there to highlight how childish Hal can be and give the film some romance.

The plot was flowed reasonably well but there was no great depth to Hal's journey into becoming a great Green Lantern nor was there any great character development. Perhaps, if there is to be a sequel, it should focus on another human Green Lantern John Stewart who is a character that is easier to depict without falling into the pitfall of making the film too light-hearted.

This was a good film to see as an entertaining summer blockbuster but don't go in expecting to see 'Batman Begins' (we all know Bats is the coolest and no-one can compare to him, anyway!) or even 'Ironman', which was far superior in balancing drama with action and humour. If you do want to see a better depicted Green Lantern then check out the animated film or even the animated 'Justice League' show. However, do check this out if you're in the mood for some light-hearted entertainment.
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5/10
A tad silly
17 June 2011
While I enjoyed the original 'The Karate Kid', I am a couple of years too young to say I hold great nostalgia for it so I was not that bothered to hear of the remake (other than wonder why Hollywood can't think up new ideas any more). Since watching this, I doubt it will be held in the same regard by children and young teens today as the original was.

The film revolved around twelve-year-old Dre whose mother's job forces them to move to China. Life is hard enough adjusting to the cultural and language changes but then finds himself the focus of a gang of Kung Fu-trained bullies after he is caught flirting with a girl in their class. Luckily, the local martial artist handyman Mr Han takes Dre under his wing and teaches him the skills to fight the bullies in an upcoming Kung Fu tournament.

The main problem with this film was the ages of the young cast. Jaden Smith, who played Dre, seems to have trained for the film but he looks no more than a tiny ten-year-old child (I think he actually was only about ten at the time of filming) and he looks far too young and soft for such active fighting. At that age, he shouldn't be expected to fend off bullies alone, and his mother and teachers should be intervening to help him. It doesn't help that Dre went from picking up his jacket to becoming a wonderful martial artist who can take on kids who have been training since infancy in a matter of weeks. We see little of his progress or anything to convince us of his newfound skills.

In the original film, it worked that Daniel was in his late teens and felt he was too old to look for parental help, and his bullies were the same age as him. Dre's 'love interest' and the bullies look a good two to four years older than him, making the whole situation even more ridiculous. Even then, the bullies are still kids too so when Mr Han, with Jackie Chan in the role, looked like an oaf beating them up when he should have dragged them all home to their parents.

Another major point is that this isn't the early Eighties any more. Hollywood remember when producing remakes that what was acceptable decades ago is not what we would put up with today. Six kids physically beating up another boy to the extent that they could have seriously injured or killed him is not something that you just shove under the rug. It is an offence and would probably be a police concern today.

In terms of the film, I think primary school children would very likely enjoy it but anyone older would find these points a bit hard to swallow. With a little thought and a young cast aged around sixteen then this film might have been of more interest. As it is, it's something I would watch as background noise.
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Hawaii Five-0 (2010– )
8/10
Highly entertaining cop show
8 February 2011
I have never seen an episode of the original 'Hawaii Five-O' (although I will certainly give it a go if it is ever repeated on television) so I have no preconceptions of what to expect with this rebooted version. However, I do love American cop shows and have been looking forward to this since I first heard it was being produced. For those unfamiliar with the premise, the show is set in Hawaii and centres on a newly formed police unit consisting of ex-Navy SEAL Steve McGarrett, New Jersey detective Danny Williams (who has grudgingly moved to Hawaii to be with his young daughter), wrongly disgraced Hawaiian detective Chin Ho Kelly and his rookie cousin Kono Kalakaua (who, apparently, was a guy in the 1970s version but is played by Grace Park in this version).

'Hawaii Five-O' is very much a light, fast action show and doesn't pretend to be anything more. To watch this show, you are required to sit back, relax and suspend your belief. since the characters and story lines are the television version of 'Bad Boys' and 'Lethal Weapon'. As a fan of shows like 'LA Heat' and 'Fastlane', it is refreshing to see the car chases, cop banter and beating up of bad guys that is found in 'Hawaii Five-O'. If you are wanting realism and dark story lines then watch 'Criminal Minds' or 'Blue Bloods' instead, both of which are also good for different reasons to why this show is enjoyable. There is so much realism on television today that I do like something that is pure and simple fun although I do hope that as the show progresses, we will see the characters develop and strengthen.

It certainly a show that deserves a look-in. Even if one doesn't like the characters or the story lines, it's worth watching just to see beautiful Hawaii and the wonderful sun (for British viewers, this is probably the only chance we'll get to see the sun until June, if then!).
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Outcasts (2010–2011)
4/10
Waste of licence fee
8 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was quite excited when I heard that the BBC were airing a new sci-fi mini series as there is a lack of decent sci-fi on television at the moment. However, after watching the first episode of 'Outcasts', I was just left wondering why we are forced to fork out for a licence fee when this is the dirge we are 'rewarded' with. 'Outcasts' is set about four decades in the future when the world has been decimated by some form of disaster and remnants of humanity have escaped to this mysterious new planet, attempting to rebuild once again. It is basically a British version of the US 1990s show 'Earth 2' mixed in with some 'Stargate' and the new 'Battlestar Galactica' but, unfortunately, no-where near as good.

The main problem with 'Outcasts' is that while there is a cast of apparently decent actors including Hermione Norris, Jamie Bamber, Liam Cunningham and Daniel Mays, there is a lack of likable characters. Instead, the show is laden with smug, whiney, self-righteous and irritating characters who the audience just want to see dead. The one engaging character (played by the actor who will have drawn in many sci-fi fans) is killed off in the pilot thus ending my own interest in this show since I am now left with watching a show filled with characters I couldn't give a toss about.

The other problem is the absolutely lack of an engrossing plot-- a major ingredient as you can imagine. This is meant to be a sci-fi show about humanity thrust into a dire situation and forced to become pioneers in an alien world where they lack provisions and technology. We have families who have been torn apart and characters who will have faced death countless times. In all, we should have been expecting an exciting programme filled with action and drama. Instead, the characters walk around in a stilted daze and there is no discernible plot other than whingeing from politicians who think they know best.

I doubt I will be watching any more, especially when I can easily watch the same plot done better by slotting in a 'Stargate: Atlantis' or 'Battlestar Galactica' DVD. This show just proves that, aside from 'Torchwood' and 'Doctor Who', the BBC is best leaving the sci-fi to the Americans who can actually do it well. Instead of wasting money on this trash, they would be better off producing more 'Sherlock' (something that they can actually do well yet are making us wait months for).
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Sherlock (2010– )
9/10
At last something decent produced by a British TV company!
6 August 2010
I am not a fan of British television (too dreary and depressing for my liking) and do not watch much produced by the BBC other than the news so I was fully prepared to dislike this show. In fact, I only watched it because my interest in Sherlock Holmes had been kindled by the 2009 Robert Downey Junior film. So, I was astonished to find myself enthralled by this show from the moment the first episode opened.

'Sherlock' is not yet another tedious adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle novels but instead updates the characters all together and sets them in 2010 London while still retaining the traits and personalities that make them the characters we know and love. It could so easily have descended into a mess were things not handled so well that the audience is left wondering what Holmes ever did without a mobile phone and laptop! Purists needn't fear though because although this is 21st century London with all the technology that goes with it, Holmes and Watson are still very much themselves.

Benedict Cumberbatch, as Sherlock Holmes, does an excellent job portraying this almost dark, pragmatic character who can be infuriating one minute yet likable the next. He perfectly nails down the obsessive nature so inherent to the character as well as his hidden empathy (I firmly that Holmes is not a sociopath and he does want to do good even if he doesn't openly show it). And Martin Freeman is a perfect Doctor John Watson, depicting him not as some meek little sidekick but very much an equal to Holmes. Watson's loyalty to Holmes is evident from the start as we see their friendship develop but he is no pushover in the slightest when we see numerous scenes of how he too can be pragmatic and strong-willed. Other characters are portrayed just as well, including Inspector Lestrade, Mrs Hudson and Holmes' elder brother Mycroft. We also have the introduction of Lestrade's colleagues, who are at odds with Holmes' way as one would expect of 21st century police officers being shown up!

This show definitely is becoming a firm favourite of mine and I'm glad to see the extortionate licence fee finally being put to use to produce something that can rival American imports that have, for years, been far superior to British television. I certainly hope the BBC will be airing more episodes than the three mini-films shown over the summer and highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes and/or crime dramas.
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Eleventh Hour (2008–2009)
8/10
Excellent show
20 April 2009
'Eleventh Hour' is a new show to UK screens but, so far, I'm liking what I'm seeing. Based on the same premise as a British show of the same name, this show centres around Doctor Jacob Hood, a gifted science adviser to the FBI who investigates cases with heavy science implications. Assigned as his bodyguard is FBI Special Agent Rachel Young, who ensures Hood's safety and also has to reel him in when he goes off on a tangent.

Part of what makes this such an interesting show is that it offers a mix of detective action drama and science fact with a dabble of science fiction. 'Eleventh Hour' deals with Hood and Young becoming involved in cases which sound like science fiction only to have a real science origin to them and, in come ways, can be described as a detective/FBI version of 'House' (with the male lead being far more amiable than House!). Rufus Sewell and Marley Shelton, as Hood and Young respectively, do well in their roles and have a great chemistry together even from the first episode. They give the characters a likable edge that compliment each other well.

I've not seen the British version of the show but I imagine there are quite a few moans that this show exists. I agree that there are some instances where American remakes are pointless and mediocre, however, I don't feel this is one example. I have to admit that when it comes to cop shows, I do prefer my US imports as they are not so dour-natured. American shows tend to offer a more positive outcome with characters who actually smile and, yes, they do tend to be flashier which I like.

'Eleventh Hour' has proved itself to be a promising show so far and certainly deserves a chance (not least to be judged on its own merit, without being compared to it's British processor). I do hope that it is given a second season because I'm getting sick and tired of seeing good shows being cancelled before a proper run.
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7/10
A worthy sequel
11 April 2009
There was much complaining to be had when it was first announced this film was in the making. Understandably, fans of the previous two 'Witch Mountain' films were concerned that this was to be an unnecessary remake and a shoddy one, at that. However, 'Race to Witch Mountain' is not a remake but a sequel to the 1970s Disney films and, as someone who was worried themselves, I have to admit that it is actually quite a good film in its own right. The film begins with a space ship crash-landing on Earth, near Las Vegas, and agents of some sinister government group quickly work out that there were two occupants of the crash who are now on the run. It is then revealed that the two aliens are, in fact, fourteen-year-old siblings Sara and Seth who have psi abilities and have attached themselves to taxi driver Jack Bruno thus embroiling him in their adventure to allude the agents and an assassin from their own planet while retrieving an object that is the key to saving both their home and Earth. Along the way, the trio gain assistance from astrophysicist Alex Friedman and Junkyard the dog.

The teen leads AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig do a good job in portraying their roles as the young aliens who are more somber and restrained than typical human teenagers. They do well in both expressing this 'alien' awkwardness to their characters but differentiating themselves by the depiction of Sara as more empathic (in part, due to her telepathic skills) and open compared with Seth, the stand-offish sibling who initially doesn't trust humans. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, who plays Jack Bruno, is actually a bit of a surprise to me in this film because he proves he can bring a sensitive nature to his character and do more than just look good and jump around in action-packed scenes. While he's not quite ready for a part in 'Schindler's List', he does stretch himself as an actor and prove he can do the paternal with a deeper emotional side role with some flair.

In terms of the actual storyline, 'Race to Witch Mountain' is quite dark compared to recent Disney films over the last decade or so and it is a refreshing change to find a Disney film that is actually aimed at most of the family rather than primary school kids and shallow teenagers. The characters are put in danger, they are hurt, they have guns aimed at them (well done to Disney for this rather than dumbing down a la Spielberg with his rubbish re-release of 'ET') and they are hunted by adults who are not nice and never will be nice, and this all makes for a film that can be enjoyed by everyone over five. In fact, this is a very good film for sci-fi fans to introduce their children/younger siblings to the genre since there is a lack of age appropriate science fiction films out there for children. What was also a huge positive to this film was the absolute lack of teeny booper romance, as if Disney realised that it is possible to have a film featuring teenagers who don't fall in 'love'.

There were a couple of negatives to the film. It may have 'Witch Mountain' in the title but it really does not have much connection to the previous films other than cameos from the two former child actors of the 1970s film and the inclusion of male and female siblings. Although that does not diminish that this film is enjoyable in the slightest, it just seems that there could have been at least some tie-in/homage to the prequels. The character of Alex Friedman should have contributed more to the plot or should not have been included since she seemed to be there just for the sake of it, added on as an after-thought to provide a female adult lead.

In all, 'Race to Witch Mountain' is good family/sci-fi lite film to catch over the Easter holidays and it certainly does not let down the 1970s films. It's a film that almost reminds me of the 'old days' (pre-2000) when Disney was good for producing worthwhile family flicks that did not condescend entirely to the nine to thirteen crowd and with characters that were likable rather than obnoxious or snotty adolescent brats.
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The Mentalist (2008–2015)
8/10
So far, so good...
9 April 2009
'The Mentalist' is the latest American crime drama to make its way to British shores and so far, it is proving itself to be a promising show which will hopefully continue to flourish. The show revolves around Patrick Jane, a mentalist (someone with a highly developed sense of observation who can give the illusion that they have psi abilities) with a haunted past, who uses his unique skills to help the California Bureau of Investigation solve crimes.

A show of this genre is obviously going to attract comparisons to other shows like 'Medium' (which is ridiculous because Jane is steadfast in his view that he is not psychic and there are no such thing as psychics) or 'Psych'. In the case of the latter, admittedly, there are similarities to be had but 'Psych' is very much drama-lite comedy whereas this show can be dark and is a serious take on having an adviser with such abilities working with law enforcement.

Simon Baker does an excellent job depicting Patrick Jane as a man who, on the surface, is genial, charismatic and arrogant but hides his dark emotional problems that we catch glimpses of as the show progresses. Jane, for all his relaxed persona, is a man who cannot come to terms with his tragic past and is an insomniac with anti-social tendencies and a cynical view of the world around him. He is a truly fascinating character and it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop. The rest of the cast do well but for now their characters take second place to Jane. Female lead character Teresa Lisbon is the leader of the CBI team that Jane liaisons with and is starting to stand up as a character in her own right as well as someone who is beginning to understand the secrets of Jane. However, everyone else still need time to be develop, which is understandable for a show only in its infancy.

In all, 'The Mentalist' continues to excel and seeks to be yet another success from America (so, CBS, please don't cancel it!). It offers a unique insight into crime and the people involved. It also involves tantalising characters who leave the viewers desperate to uncover what makes them tick. Here's looking to a good few seasons to enjoy.
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Ben 10: Race Against Time (2007 TV Movie)
5/10
A mildly entertaining wee kiddie flick
8 April 2009
I am definitely far older than the average age demography of fans for the 'Ben 10' fandom but I do enjoy watching a kiddie flick on occasion. These films serve as good background noise if I'm also reading or on the computer and often have plots that don't require much investment and, as such, can be relaxing. 'Ben 10: Race Against Time' certainly qualifies as one such film that fits the profile. This film centres around twelve-year-old Ben Tennyson, who has the ability to turn into various alien forms for up to ten minutes at a time with the aid of his Omnitrix. After a summer of fighting aliens and saving the planet alongside his grandfather Max and his twelve-year-old cousin Gwen, Ben is now struggling with the normality of school. However, it seems the excitement is not over when a mysterious villain stalks Ben and is intent on possessing the Omnitrix for himself.

I am not in the least familiar with 'Ben 10' so cannot really comment on how faithful this live-action film is to cartoon show and only on what I saw as an unbiased source! In terms of the actors, I thought Graham Phillips and Haley Ramm did a reasonable job in their respective roles as Ben and Gwen, depicting the characters in a realistic age-appropriate manner (although if Ben and Gwen meant to be only ten then they were a shade too old). Ben was prone to showing off, could be moody yet was brave and determined to protect those around him while Gwen was slightly more mature and equally as loyal but could be impatient and snippy, which is exactly how I see children of their age acting. In fact, it was actually refreshing to see children acting like children instead of mini teenagers (not one hint of teeny-bopper romance!) or cool, collected little adults who have the answer to everything. Lee Majors played the role of Max Tennyson, the steadfast and loving grandfather to the cousins, and he was effective as the character without over-shadowing the two child actors since this was more their show.

In terms of negative aspects to the film, the CGI was terrible but I don't think you can expect multi-million pound Hollywood standards in a made-for-TV film for kids. There also seemed to be something wrong with Ben's parents since they acted like flaky, clueless freaks who had escaped from a Sixties hippie commune. It would have been more interesting to see them as normal, concerned parents who know there is something important going on in their son's life. And where were Gwen's parents since she seemed to just wander around like an orphan (which perhaps she is in the show) with no mention of them? It would also have been a nice addition to Gwen's character had she done a bit more in terms of the fighting.

Overall, 'Ben 10: Race Against Time' is not going to win any Oscars nor is it a remake of 'The Godfather' or 'Citizen Kane' but it is an entertaining enough flick, especially for younger kids who like plenty of action and characters they can root for. It also isn't terrible enough that any adult, who has to watch it with their children or young siblings (or as background noise!), will feel the need to poke their eyes out.
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8/10
The one where Alexander returns...
21 March 2009
'Sons and Daughters'~ Season six, episode three.

This episode explores the precarious bonds between parents and children as we see Alexander, the now adult son of Worf, return as a recruit on a Klingon ship that his father is serving on. Meanwhile, on a DS9 that is still occupied by the Dominion and the Cardassians, Ziyal tries to foster a friendship between her father Gul Dukat and Kira, who is intent on forming a Resistance to fight back for control of the station.

We haven't seen Alexander since he was a pre-adolescent boy in TNG and I had wondered if the producers had forgotten he even existed until this episode. In 'Sons and Daughters', however, he is no longer the child determined to embrace his human side and is instead desperate to be accepted as a Klingon and is bitter that his father never pushed him more in his childhood to learn the warrior ways, skills he is now lacking and leaving him struggling to be accepted by his Klingon peers. This offers a very interesting insight into the characters of father and son since in TNG, Deanna Troi often made Worf feel inadequate as a father for being so hard on Alexander while encouraging the boy to be human. Yet this episode makes it clear she was wrong to interfere in the father and son relationship whose culture she did not fully understand. It is a turn on the portrayal of Ben Sisko and Nog where Sisko did not approve of the way Nog was being raised yet did not interfere until the boy was old enough to decide for himself, resulting in a young man who became both comfortable in Ferengi and Federation culture.

Equally as compelling is the storyline set on DS9 where we see Ziyal further fleshed out into a likable, if slightly naive character torn between her love for her father and her sororal relationship with Kira. It is becoming continuing apparent that something has to give at some point, especially since Ziyal is also aware that Dukat is not a very moralistic person and her own allegiance has to lie with the Bajorans/Federation.

All in all, this is a well-depicted character-driven episode that nicely deals with familial relationships before the action-packed episodes that are to come later in the season.
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Stargate: Atlantis: Harmony (2008)
Season 4, Episode 14
6/10
The one where Shep and McKay babysit...
21 March 2009
'Harmony'~ Season four, episode fourteen

'Harmony' revolves around Sheppard and McKay reluctantly agreeing to accompany the haughty thirteen-year-old Princess Harmony on her pilgrimage that she must undertake before she is crowned queen of her planet. What starts as a babysitting gig turns into a quest to protect the girl from those who have their own agenda for who will inherit power on the planet.

Kids and sci-fi don't mix well so it is no surprise that this episode will not be a favourite for many since it heavily features a child, and one who is annoying at that. However, I did enjoy 'Harmony' because the child character is meant to be very much a brat and Jodelle Ferland, the young actress who undertook the role of Harmony, clearly revels in being exactly as pesky and obnoxious as possible. This is a humorous filler episode about Shep and McKay being lumbered with an annoying kid, who they could happily drown were it not for little things like morals! If you are determined to look for a lesson to be learned from the episode then it is perhaps an insight into the precarious nature of adolescent crushes (poor Shep's face when he sees the picture at the end nicely depicts that!) and just how ridiculous it is to allow bloodlines to determine leadership, especially when it forces an immature, inexperienced person forward to lead. However, overall, this is just a fun episode that is meant to just entertain.
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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Visitor (1995)
Season 4, Episode 2
9/10
The one about fathers and sons...
21 March 2009
'The Visitor'~ Season four, episode two.

This episode explores the love and devotion between Jake Sisko and his father when an accident occurs which sees Ben Sisko being lost in time. As Jake, now all but orphaned, struggles to cope, Sisko re-appears and continues to do so through his son's life. Sisko remains unchanged but Jake grows up and enters adulthood, becoming an obsessive man who is unable to let his father go and is determined to bring him back whatever the cost.

This is a truly poignant episode that wonderfully depicts the bond between Ben and Jake Sisko, all the more touching because relationships between parent and child depicted in Trek are often shown to be turbulent and fractious (Picard, Riker, Bashir, Paris, Torres, Chakotay, Ezri Dax and Spock, to a degree, are such characters that this is a trend in). Cirroc Lofton and Tony Todd do an excellent job of portraying Jake through various points of his life, both as a grief-stricken teenage boy and as a single-minded, intense man who is unwilling to give up on his father. They interact well with Avery Brooks' Ben Sisko, as the father who is forced to watch Jake grow up without him and eventually realises just how far his son will go to save him. The very down-to-earth, human aspect to Jake is apparent in this episode and it is all the more clear why he always a Trek child who viewers could tolerate and identify with far more than the irritatingly perfect Wesley Crusher. 'The Visitor' is an episode which proves DS9 can do heavy emotional story lines with a flare often just associated with Patrick Stewart's Picard.
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Stargate: Atlantis: Whispers (2008)
Season 5, Episode 7
8/10
The one where things turn rather creepy...
21 March 2009
'Whispers'~ Season five, episode seven

In what has to be one of the most creepiest episodes seen in mainstream science-fiction, we see Sheppard and Beckett joining an all-female SG team to investigate a seemingly desolate planet where they believe Michael has been conducting his experiments from within an underground chamber that tunnels to an abandoned village.

This episode introduces Major Anne Teldy and her team of 'the best' (who, she tells a stunned Beckett and Sheppard, were hand-picked because she knows women are the best) and they are depicted to be interesting, well-fleshed out characters who give our two guys a run for their money. It's a shame the show ended as it did as it would have been great to see Teldy's team again. I would have loved to have seen McKay and the gung-ho Sergeant Mehra interact! Light-hearted moments aside, there are many scenes in 'Whispers' which are genuinely chilling and this is certainly one episode not aimed at young fans of the show. It is an episode that veers more towards horror than sci-fi but it's handled well and the grim atmosphere does succeed in helping the audience to empathise with the characters' terror.
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Stargate: Atlantis: Vegas (2008)
Season 5, Episode 19
9/10
The one where we see SGA: Else-world...
21 March 2009
'Vegas'~ Season five, episode nineteen

In the penultimate episode to SGA, we explore an alternate reality where Sheppard left the Air Force after his incident in Afghanistan and is now a world-weary detective in Las Vegas leading a rather bleak life wrought by addictive gambling and isolation from any friends or family. However, his life is set to change when he finds himself investigating a series of murders involving people who seem to have had the life sucked out of them (a la Wraith-style).

This is a unique episode because it moves so far away from the SGA that is featured in every other storyline and it is far more than a homage to 'CSI'. It grimly explores how the characters we have come to know and love could easily have walked a different path and become so unlike the people we see in the show, and how each have come to influence the others for the better. Just as we witness the emotionally dark depths Sheppard could have descended to without a team and the camaraderie he so enjoys, we also reflect on how pragmatic and cold McKay could have been if he had not learned the meaning of friendship.

It was a shame 'Vegas' came so late, as the show was about to end. It would have been nice to re-explore this else-world again. It was an adventurous piece of script-writing and this episode will definitely be a favourite among sci-fi fans like myself who appreciate insights into alternate realities.
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Blue Dolphin Kids (2006– )
6/10
A nice insight into Hawaii
21 March 2009
I discovered 'Blue Dolphin Kids' on some obscure Sky channel early one morning. A documentary for children that explores the sights and culture of the Hawaiian islands, it's a cheery, bright show clearly put together by people who are proud of Hawaii. In many ways, it reminds me of those little tit-bit information segments from 'Sesame Street' featuring topics like how crayons are made or how children in other countries live. Both fun and informative as well as a cute show to teach children about another part of the world, what truly attracted me to this show was the beautiful scenery of Hawaii and its unique culture, especially since I come from a rather cold country prone to rain and dull skies!
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9/10
Might not be a perfect adaptation but an excellent film, nonetheless
26 June 2008
'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' proves that the 'Narnia' series just goes from strength-to-strength as the films progress and it went beyond my rather high expectations and kept me entertained from start to finish.

The film is set one year after 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and we see the Pevensie siblings-- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy-- are back in London, living ordinary lives as schoolchildren. In Narnia, however, a thousand years have passed and the world there is a much different place. The animals and various magical creatures have been forced into exile by the Telmarines, a human population who dominate over the land. But things change when Prince Caspian, heir to the Telmarine throne, is nearly assassinated by his uncle Lord Miraz, who is intent to kill the boy and seize power for himself and his own son. Escaping into the forests, Caspian blows the horn to bring the Pevensie children back to Narnia and the battle which awaits them...

While the actors playing the four Pevensie children are far from Oscar-winning, they are far superior to the mostly wooden efforts of the 'Harry Potter' young cast. William Moseley, as Peter, and Anna Popplewell, as Susan, give a fair effort but it is Skander Keynes, who plays Edmund, and Georgie Henley's Lucy who shine out throughout the film. It will be interesting to see these two both in future 'Narnia' films and in other projects. When it comes to Caspian himself, I have to admit that I was surprised by the casting of Ben Barnes, who is older than William Mosely. The 1980s BBC adaptation of the book had always left me imaging Caspian to be around Lucy's age but, watching the film, I think they were right to cast an adult since it was a role that would have been too physically demanding for a young adolescent, not to mention it would look a tad ridiculous to think people would allow a child to lead them into battle. That said, Barnes might not have been terrible but he was stilted at times and didn't carry the film as well as he could have (although, thankfully, Moseley and Henley stepped in when needed).

The film did veer off from the book on many occasions but most of the changes were forgivable (although I was only about eight when I read the novel and it's quite hazy in my mind now!). The battle scenes were depicted with flair, especially the heart-breaking taking of the castle, and the CGI of both these war scenes and of the animals cannot be faulted. And Aslan's return was every bit as breath-taking as it should be. I quite liked seeing the girls playing a larger role in battle. Yes, they didn't in the books and it would be expected of 1940s girls to be more dainty but I think young female fans needed to have someone to relate to and cheer on. It was also a nice touch giving the Telmares an non-English accent, showing they are from a distant world so far away from the Penvensies' native Britain.

'Prince Caspian', nevertheless, did have negative points to it. While it was acceptable to age Caspian to his late teens/early twenties, they should have made him more self-aware of his destiny as king instead of retaining the impression that he is a clueless child who isn't even aware of his uncle's dark side. The romance between him and Susan was also unnecessary and clearly was added just to pander to the minority of empty-headed teenagers out there (let them watch 'Hannah Montana' and leave this film to those of us with brains).

Overall, though, this was a wonderful film, which nicely followed on from TLWW. It was fittingly darker, reflecting on Narnia becoming a darker place over the milenia that had passed, yet there were moments of humour to lighten the mood at times. There were scenes that might have been too mature for very young children but then, a film of this length isn't suited to toddlers in the first place. 'Prince Caspian' might not be quite on the level of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy but it gives a very good attempt and does come close at times. I now look forward to 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'.
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The Happening (2008)
6/10
Not brilliant but it is worth a look
13 June 2008
When I first saw the trailer for 'The Happening', I was quite excited at the prospect of another film by M. Night Shyamalan. After all, I enjoyed all his previous films, save 'Lady in the Lake', and was sure he would deliver another breath-taking blockbuster. Sadly, I was wrong and while the film was not a turkey, it was not of the excellence I had expected.

The film sees some sort of mysterious ecological event leading to people committing mass suicide, the phenomenon spreading first from large cities then to smaller towns until it is clear a huge chunk of the East Coast is affected. At first, it is assumed to be a terrorist attack but, as more and more people are spontaneously kill themselves, it is clear the cause may be something else entirely...

One of the problems with the film was the quality of the acting and the characters themselves. Mark Wahlberg stars as Elliot, the science teacher who is our main protagonist, and he does flounder in many scenes as if he forgets he's playing an intelligent but ordinary everyday guy, not a gung-ho military hero who is cool in all situations. He could have injected more emotion into his performance. Zooey Deschanel plays Elliot's girlfriend Alma and she too fails to make the audience care for her with the way she depicts the character to be some sort of an escapee from a teeny-booper romance flick. To be fair, it is not entirely Deschanel's fault as Alma is a weak, self-centred character with the emotional capacity of a young adolescent (for example, she puts Elliot and a child at risk a couple of times with her stupid decisions and, at the start, when it's clear people are dying, she is in a huff because Elliot and his friend 'hurt' her feelings).

When it comes to the actual storyline, the plot does start off intriguingly and there are many chilling moments when we see people are coolly committing suicide like mindless zombies. However, the finale doesn't deliver what the build-up promised. There are no real explanations or solid end result. In many ways, this film is similar to Shyamalan's previous project 'Signs' both in terms of a mass disaster and no real end resolution to the events but 'Signs' worked better because the characters were more effectively portrayed and their personal storyline was enough of a finale to compensate. This is not the case in 'The Happening' where the storyline fizzles out.

Overall, this is by no means a terrible film. It is enjoyable and fits nicely into the apocalyptic genre but 'Signs' has done this sort of idea before and did it better. That said, there was not only moments that had me on the edge of my seat but also lines which were quite humorous. And certainly, it does make one think about the state of the planet in regards to whether humanity does have it coming to them and how we would cope in such an event. It is worth a look, especially in a week when the other premiere is 'The Hulk, a film aimed at keeping twelve-year-olds' entertained.
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Street Kings (2008)
6/10
Entertaining enough cop flick
7 May 2008
'Street Kings' is one of the most recent films to focus on police corruption and it does handle the storyline in a reasonable manner, although there is nothing that special with the film. Set against the backdrop of a gang-ridden Los Angeles, the films centres on Tom Ludlow, a cop who isn't above breaking the law to catch (or rather, kill) the bad guys and he does so with the approval of his team captain Jack Wander and fellow cops. However, when a former friend, himself a cop, is murdered brutally, Ludlow is implicated and slowly awakens to the moralities of his actions when he uncovers a darker side to his precinct during his struggle to prove his innocence.

Keanu Reeves does a good job in his role as Ludlow, successfully demonstrating the character's moral ambiguity that leaves the audience undecided on whether to cheer him on or not. Forest Whittaker makes for an excellent Wander, though we expect no less from him, while Chris Evans does well as Paul Diskant, the young cop who works with Ludlow and who thinks he understands how things work yet, next to Ludlow, only shows how naive and inexperienced he can be.

The storyline wasn't meaty enough when it came to properly handling the premise of police corruption in terms of the repercussions and delving into how Ludlow became who he was (and, in turn, why he was able to pull away before becoming too caught up in the darkness). I think I would have added an extra star or two if Hugh Laurie's character-- the Internal Affairs captain who is ultimately a good guy but one who knows he has to play the game a little to catch the big fish-- had been developed more and we saw a deeper insight into Ludlow realising the implications of his actions, further developing the idea that the film tries to question over moralities, sacrifices, what makes someone 'good' and when do the good guys become the enemy.

As such, while I did enjoy the film, it is ultimately just a cop action flick with plenty of shooting scenes and chases. It does entertain but 'Training Day' and 'The Departed' do better in exploring the issues 'Street Kings' touches upon.
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Iron Man (2008)
10/10
Excellent comic book adaptation- others could learn from it
7 May 2008
'Iron Man' has to be up there as one of the best comic book film adaptations and is certainly one of the most enjoyable films of the year so far. The film, based upon the Marvel comic, centres on billionaire Tony Stark, who has continued with his father's successful weaponry business. However, when a trip to Afghanistan to sell missiles to the US military ends with Stark being held as a prisoner of war, he begins to see the darker side to his work and resolves to change his ways by using his technology and intelligence to do good. And the first step to doing so is for Stark to become Iron Man...

Robert Downey Junior is not exactly a big named actor but he easily steps into the role of Tony Stark, the spoilt playboy, and Iron Man, the hero Stark strives to be. Perhaps his own personal issues helped mould Downey to play a role of a man who realises he has to grow up and accept the consequences of his actions but, whatever the case, he definitely brought strength to the character, walking the careful line between delivering jokes and sustaining the serious nature to the film. He was well-supported by a wonderfully evil Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard as the loyal best friend who perhaps will play a larger role in any future sequel and Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's personal assistant who keeps him grounded. Shaun Toub also made his presence felt as the short-time mentor who sets Stark onto his path of heroism.

When it comes to the visual effects, 'Iron Man' had it nailed. The action scenes were breath-taking without compromising on the script (since there is nothing worse than a film with excellent CGI and rubbish storyline). As it should be, the plot was what made this film so successful. Unlike other adaptations, specifically 'X-Men', this film never pandered to kids and maintained a more mature storyline and development of the characters. Stark wasn't turned into a twelve-year-old, there were no wee moppets popping up to appeal to children nor was the villain of the piece some two-bit, two-dimensional terrorist.

This is an excellent film that should appeal to those who love action flicks as well as comic books/sci-fi. Here's looking to a sequel being released some point in the near future because it is certainly a franchise Marvel should expand upon.
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