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Stunning visual tour of the Saturnian system
30 September 2018
This is a fantastic documentary. I don't see how anyone can "not be amazed" by the imagery captured by this spacecraft. For those of us who grew up long before there were any planetary missions, having a man-made craft spend 13+ years zipping around Saturn, taking bizarre and amazing pictures of its moons and rings (as well as the planet itself), still feels like it ought to be pure Science Fiction. And, anyone who is isn't amazed must simply be spoiled by the current technology, to a point where they have been lulled into believing that this is somehow "easy", instead of the engineering marvel that it actually is.

I saw someone complain in an Amazon review that this contains too many animations. I would disagree with that assertion, and consider the animations to be an important/useful complimentary tool in telling the story. However, whereas someone familiar with space mission photography, will have no problem distinguishing the "real" mission imagery, from the animations, I fear that some viewers may not be able to always discern the difference. Especially when some segments are actually a combination of both Cassini imagery and animated material. In fact, sadly, I fear that some folks might actually assume that some of the amazing ring imagery is "not real", thereby causing them to not fully appreciate just how amazing this mission was, from an "imagery engineering" perspective. (One has to remember that at this distance from the sun, the available light is 1/100th of what we receive on earth, so ANY imagery at that lighting level is already a "minor miracle".)

Put simply, I found all of this documentary to be amazing, and found myself replaying some of the sequences of "ring, and shepherd moon" interactions, multiple times, because they were so fascinating. My sole complaint is that the film makers did not graphically tag some of the material to distinguish between mission photography vs. animation (or augmented imagery), simply so that some viewers would be able to fully appreciate the magic of the "real" imagery. But that's not anything that would cause me to consider this as anything less than a 10 star rating.
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Red Rock West (1993)
A "close to perfect" slice of film noir
12 July 2018
Nicholas Cage has been in quite a few throw-away films, but this is not one of them. The Dahl brothers crafted a taught, "twisted" tale, wherein Cage's character just can't seem to catch a break, as he continues to slide deeper and deeper into crap, while seemingly trying to "do the right thing". As is the case for most great noir, nothing is ever quite what it seems.

It's not really possible to delve into the details, without spoiling the fun, so be necessity, this review is brief. The script is great, and there really aren't any wasted moments. You just need to know that the entire cast is great, and Dennis Hopper, in particular, has one of the greatest scenes ever.

If you get the chance to catch this somewhere, it's well worth the time investment. It really is a classic.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996–2003)
Haven't seen BtVS, and considering doing so? What you need to know...
16 June 2018
People who've seen this series don't need to be told whether it's good nor not, so this review is solely for the uninitiated, i.e. someone trying to decide whether to invest the time in a seven season series. Here's what to consider.

This was rated, when originally aired, as TV-14 programming, but it is far from your typical YA drivel. It covered a full spectrum of emotional, violent, and sexual content, over its seven season arc. Ignoring the sex, and just considering the human (non-"creature") body count, I'm amazed at what the showrunners were able to get aired over the course of the series. Bottom line, there's a lot of "intense" content throughout the series, and it gets far more graphic in the latter seasons.

Any fantasy, supernatural, or SciFi series fails or succeeds on its "believability". I don't mean the plots, but instead, whether the characters project believability. If it "works", it will stem from a combination of well scripted episodes, but far more important, a cast that buys into, and fully "sells" (110%), their characters. BtVS had all of that in spades. Whether it is their witty banter, a plethora of deeply emotional scenes, or the larger story arcs of the seasons, and/or the overall series, as a whole, these characters are "all in", in terms of their commitment to the stories being told, within their "fantastical universe".

Throughout the series, there are always multiple (concurrent) story arcs in play. Some, especially toward the end, are even multi-seasonal. Certainly, simply because it is episodic, there is a "monster (or problem) of the week" feel, all through the series, but those stories are generally unique and interesting, and many of those play into the larger (and more important) story arcs.

In the first three seasons, the characters are in high school, and many of the plots revolve around that setting (but always with the fantasy-based twist), while the final four seasons move out into the adult world. We basically get to watch these characters grow up throughout the full series arc, and as alluded to earlier, the plots become increasingly more "raw/intense" as the series moves forward.

The most important thing is that, even from the first season, it is easy to become vested in the core suite of characters. And, when season two takes what seems to be a somewhat stable set of core characters, and turns their situation "on its head", you realize that you cannot count on anything being "stable", and consequently, can't really predict what might happen in subsequent episodes (which, obviously, is a "good thing", from s story-telling perspective).

Some of the later (especially season 5 and 6) story arcs are heart-wrenching, and easily some of the best "TV drama" that has ever been aired. Some of the episodes are also some of the creepiest that have ever been aired. The series is a constant mix of many different storytelling genres, which just happen to exist in the (fantasy-based) "Buffyverse". Unlike some series that fizzled out near their end (or simply got canceled), this series really reached its peak in its final three seasons, just continuously "upping the ante", until its epic finale. I own the series, and (roughly) every two or three years, I drag out the discs, and re-binge the whole thing, because of "Buffy withdrawal". It's always feels good to (yet again) watch it all play out, over the characters' seven year arc.

BtVS is "not perfect". There are some episodes that are (IMHO) duds ("Beer" comes to mind), and there is at least one story arc that I thought had a bit too much silliness, but "as a whole", it is easily one of the best TV series, and runs you through the full emotional gamut.

Bottom line, assuming that you "accept" a fantasy/SciFi premise in the first place (as you would with a "Star Trek", a "Fringe", or any similar series), then BtVS is truly a great series (for people of any age... and I'm "North of 60", as I write this), and I believe, well worth your time investment.

One major caution: The first two episodes of season 5 are a major "WTF moment". During its original airing, some viewers (literally) stopped watching the series after seeing those episodes, and also wrote online rants about their disappointment with what happens (avoid reading the episode synopses to avoid spoilers). Those episodes definitely DO leave you asking "WTF", but I would simply say that you MUST have faith, and "trust your tour guide" (i.e. the screenwriters), and settle in for the season 5 "ride", which, as I alluded to above, is an emotional roller coaster, with an "unexpected" season finale that sets up a similarly emotional season 6.

One final note, depending on where you obtain media, and/or from where you stream it, seasons 4-7 may or may not be wide-screen. The latter seasons were shot on 35mm, whereas the first three were shot on 16mm. Even though the entire series aired in the old (narrow) 1:1.33 (original NTSC TV) aspect ratio, and even though Joss Whedon argues that the whole series should be seen that way, I respectfully disagree. I always relish getting to Season 4, where (with my UK DVD versions) the whole series opens up, and fills up the full 16x9 (modern) wide screen. Scenes, and "people", that would have been partially "cropped" (or shifted) in the narrow format, are simply seen "in full".

So, hopefully some of the above is useful, if you are considering the series. It is definitely a unique experience.
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Deep Water (2016)
Frustrating series
26 May 2018
I caught this on Netflix, and watched it mostly because of some of the key cast members. It started out well, and the core story was engaging, but it (in my opinion) went sideways about half-way into the series, due to the ridiculously written police officer roles.

If you can look past a handful of police officers doing one stupid thing after another (especially the main character), then it's a pretty decent crime drama. If you find it problematic that the police do "really dumb things", which literally get people (unnecessarily) killed, as well as putting their whole investigation in jeopardy, and then seem to not learn any lessons from their repeated, boneheaded actions, then you probably need to skip it.
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The Rain (I) (2018– )
Hoped it might get better, but the writing just gets worse as it goes along
17 May 2018
I gave up after three episodes. The majority of the protagonists are written as being "beyond stupid", seemingly doing everything possible to try to get themselves killed. It's not bad acting, just bad scripting. It was an interesting idea for a series, and might have worked, had the characters been written as having any semblance of logical thought. You know it's bad when you start hoping that core characters will be killed off, simply to significantly raise the average IQ within the remaining gene pool.

There are too many other (good, or great) things to watch. Don't waste your time on this one.
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Lost in Space (2018– )
Pretty much "for kids only"
14 April 2018
I had read that this might be a darker take on the original, and had hoped that might also mean that it would get an overhaul in character development, but sadly, that is not the case. In what is supposed to be a group of the sharpest/brightest people, who have been selected to migrate to a nearby star system, what we get in each episode is a continuous flood of (supposed) "really smart people", doing "amazingly stupid things". Of course, many of these "mistakes" allow the characters to then be put into some perilous scenario, to fulfill the story-telling need of each episode, but all at the cost of any semblance of believable behavior. If this plot methodology only happened once or twice, you might be able to "write it off" as just one or two bad episodes, but when it becomes the basic theme of the whole series, it's just a bit too much to stomach.

To be clear, I like some of the actors/characters, and think that some of the effects look very good, but what starts as a pretty solid template for the series is ruined by poorly scripted plotting.

Maybe this reboot will be exciting for 10 year old children, or anyone who doesn't really care whether the characters depict any sort of logical thought process, but if that approach to plotting annoys you, then you should move on to some other viewing choice.
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An embarressing script. Disney should be ashamed.
25 March 2018
First, going back a second... I loved the newest characters from SW 7 (Rey and Finn), but was disappointed in the movie. SW 7 had a good story, but that was because it was the same one George Lucas gave us in SW 4, and that was the problem, it was the SAME story. After waiting almost 40 years, in the end, we just got the original movie, with new characters plugged in for the originals.

The problem with this latest film is that not only did it not really advance the story in any significant way, but it continuously uses ridiculously unbelievable plot contrivances. Even in SW 7, the First Order has clearly inherited the vast resources of the Empire (its warships, etc.), but suddenly, in this film, we get multiple, stretched out (supposedly, "nail biting") battle sequences that should have ended in "seconds" (won by the First Order), but seem to be replicas of 20th century, World War II battles, as though the First Order (since SW 7) no longer seems to have anything better than a few "tugboats", with "muzzle-loaded cannons". Despite "ruling the galaxy", we are supposed to accept that the First Order can no longer manage to wage even a basic space battle. Maybe a seven year-old might find these sequences "exciting", but for anyone else, they are really just laughably awful.

Maybe that's my problem. Maybe the target audience, now, is just young children, but for those of us who (as adults) thoroughly enjoyed the original trilogy, it is sad to see the core of this franchise evolve into something so awful.

If you want to see a Star Wars worthy film, just purchase Rogue One, and watch that several times a year. That's the "bar" that the rest of the franchise should have been reaching for. It is orders of magnitude better than SW 7 or 8, and for that matter, SW 1-3 as well. It also is clear evidence that "someone in the world" actually knows how to write a great SW script. Sadly those folks aren't writing scripts for this latest trilogy.
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Air Disasters (2011– )
Great series, albeit possibly upsetting for some.
20 March 2018
Just stumbled onto this recently (in its 10th season), on Smithsonian. Fortunately, they show previous season episodes each week, so it's possible to catch up. Also, FYI, Amazon has all of the seasons (not part of Prime).

These are reenactments, with actors. HOWEVER, on many episodes, where the original personnel are available (e.g. passengers, pilots, from survivable accidents), they are interviewed, throughout the reenactment, i.e. interweaving the interviews with the reenactment. Occasionally, when no real flight information is available, some speculative dialog or actions (extrapolations) may be depicted, but most episodes are scripted with actions and dialog from both the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder information, in an attempt to meticulously recreate each incident. And, each episode typically includes interviews with the numerous accident investigation team members from the subsequent investigation (except for super-old accidents, where those personnel are now deceased).

As someone else has mentioned, it's not like a "high-budget film", but they do use reasonable CGI, and what appear to often be aircraft simulators, to depict interior and exterior content that is quite believable.

If you have ever asked the question "why do planes crash?", this series is for you. Again, if you fly a lot, and prefer to "not know" (i.e. "ignorance is bliss"), or if true stories, which are inherently horrific, due to the loss of life, are more than you can stomach, then this is definitely not for you. To be clear, they definitely do NOT show real pictures of crash victims, but they do occasionally show real pictures of wreckage, and sometimes depict crash scenes with actors, especially when showing recreations of rescues. Certainly, there is no avoiding thinking about the horror implied by these incidents, when you see the airframe carnage in some of those pictures/scenes, even when they are simply recreations.

The episodes typically depict a (condensed) version of the resulting investigation, as they uncover individual facts and leads, allowing them to eventually understand all of the factors that lead to the accident. It might seem that they are sometimes injecting a bit of drama/tension in into the program, but I always remind myself, that they are often condensing a year-long investigation, plus in-flight reenactments, into a 40-ish minute program, and I think it's a minor miracle to pull that off, and I tend to cut the showrunners some slack, for their efforts.

I would be remiss to not mention that lessons learned from many of these accidents are VERY applicable to non-aviation settings. In any field where lives (or monetary considerations) are a factor, and where "proper training", and/or failure to properly use/follow processes and procedures, could result in "bad things happening", there are important lessons that can be learned, here. It is truly depressing, just how many of these deadly accidents come back to improper training, failure to simply "follow a checklist", or even just deciding to "not fill out some form", because it seems like a waste of time.

I would also be remiss to not stress, once again, that some of these incidents are disturbing, especially for regular travelers. There are incidents depicted here, which have occurred on (supposed) top notch airlines, where things that "should never happen", amazingly do. Cockpit crew members who appear to have never learned basic flying skills (for example, how to recover from a stall, which is something that private aircraft pilots typically learn in the first few hours of flight training), and "maintenance procedural nonsense" that has resulted in the loss of an entire aircraft, and everyone onboard. Again, if you can't handle knowing the truth, then some of these investigations will keep you awake at night.

On the flip side of that, there are some stories of amazing piloting efforts, where flight crews have done just the opposite, and saved part, or all, of their passengers and crew by applying team work, flying skills, and simply being unwilling to give up, right to the very last second.

So, this is a great series, for many reasons. It is almost a 10 out of 10 for me, but as have some other reviewers, I decided on a 9 (which might be unfair, again, considering how much they do with the time allotted).
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Enjoyed it a lot. IMHO, the acting complaints seem unreasonable.
2 January 2018
Firstly, the film is visually stunning. Saw it in the theater in 2D, but just watched it again, at home, in 3D, and then in 4K, and as has already been mentioned, eye candy is a great descriptor. Certainly, there is a definitive story arc, wrapped around a space battle that takes place just after the opening sequence (and that opening explains where the "City of a Thousand Planets" originates, and is amazing, all on its own). Then, there is plenty of FX-laden action and activity from beginning to end. I won't argue that there are a few spots that could have been "tightened up", but nothing that (again, IMHO) warrants the dislike I've seen in some other reviews.

As to the acting, the "feel" of the picture, with respect to the two main characters, seemed to be far more reminiscent of early James Bond films, and not intended to be straight-up, 100% "serious", dramatic action. Said differently, there was some intentional, tongue-in-cheek humor, and flippant behavior on the part of the characters, and that seems to simply be the nature of the original graphic novel. I just don't think that any of it was ever intended to be the hand-wringing, dramatic performances that one would expect in a humorless SciFi/fantasy drama (e.g. Alien, or Batman Begins), but instead, just an inherent irreverence by the main characters. Put most simply, it's a lighter film, by design, and the actors simply play it in that way.

There's an amazing amount of unique, visual, world-building that makes up the environment in which the plot plays out, and it all provides a backdrop that makes the film the exact opposite of boring. You could watch it many times, and always find many new things, in each viewing. The level of VFX detail in the wider shots is truly amazing (whereas other films often might have settled for objects set in a larger star field). I guess that's just another reason that I enjoy the film. In addition to a reasonable story, the film is continuously, visually stimulating.

If you go into the film, expecting Oscar-winning, dramatic performances, then you will hate it. If you take the film for what it seems to have been intended, i.e. a slight bit of humor, as has been seen in the Director's previous films, then I would argue that you will "see an interesting tale", and also be overwhelmed by the visual content.

So, I would give this an 8 out of 10, and highly recommend it.
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Black (2017– )
Long, complexly scripted story that is well worth watching
28 December 2017
I almost bailed on this, due to impressions from the first episode. Some of that has been alluded to by at least one other reviewer. One set of characters (no spoilers here) are a squad of police detectives who are somewhat inept, but in the first episode, that is a bit overdone, coming off a bit too much like "slapstick comedy, gone very, very wrong". It just seemed a bit too childish. But, based upon the IMDB reviews, and score, I went ahead and watched the next episode, which led to me quickly being addicted. There are just a continuous set of "hooks" (revelations) that keep you wondering what is going to happen next, and those are all part of a larger story that is woven together, revelation by revelation.

Although there are a handful of core characters, this is one of those stories where you have to pay close attention, as the underlying story is a much larger canvas than is obvious up front, and as more details are revealed, and events from different timeframes are woven into the story, there are a lot of "things" to keep track of (both people and events). Certainly, it works better, IMHO, to be able to watch the series in a shorter timeframe (e.g. binge-watching it in chunks), just because it has so much going on.

It is the fact that most of the ongoing revelations are not so much "adding pieces to the puzzle", as they are "turning the puzzle on its head", that makes it so interesting. Those regular "twists" are also not unrealistic, i.e. (IMHO) they aren't just ridiculous, unlikely plot devices. There are often flashbacks that show events as they happen, to further weave those ever-growing plot elements into the larger story. Again, some of those flashbacks involve the same characters, at different ages, so you need to pay attention in order to tie everything together. (Much as with another really great series, Dark, you can't be sitting on the couch, texting on your phone, while you attempt to watch this, or you will quickly find yourself lost.)

Anyway, I'm obviously providing no real details about the story, to avoid any spoilers, but suffice it to say that I believe that anyone how watches the first few episodes, will either find themselves as hooked as I was, OR, they will simply decide that it's not a story that interests them at all. Just don't bail out instantly, after the first episode. Its initial tone is simply not representative of the larger story being told. It's a long journey (some of the episodes are long), but well worth the trip.
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Doctor Who: The Pilot (2017)
Season 10, Episode 1
It felt like Moffat "called this one in".
16 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Don't get me wrong, I AM a DW fan, and as to Steven Moffat, he has written some of (if not the best) episodes, since the series was relaunched (e.g. Blink), and driven the show through some of my favorite story arcs. But this episode just seemed a bit superficial, and frankly, didn't seem to make much sense. And considering it's not just some "mid-season filler", but the launch of the first episode, of the final Capaldi season, it was a serious disappointment.

!!!!!!!Spoilers Follow!!!!!!!

Firstly, the episode starts with the Doctor, "teaching" in some university, but not incognito. He's teaching as "The Doctor". Normally, when the Doctor shows up on earth, semi-publicly, all sorts of governmental officials suddenly become involved, but in this case, he seems to just be living a quiet, uncomplicated life, doing this teaching gig, where nobody seems to know who he is. And, at one point, he stresses (about the teaching) that he is doing some "very important work" (which seems to be contradicted later on).

There is some new anomalous "thing", apparently left behind by some visiting extraterrestrial entity, and what we discover during the course of the episode is that this thing (which resembles "a puddle of water") has every bit as much capability as the TARDIS, e.g. it can miraculously travel to the end of time (i.e. the end of "our universe"), chasing the TARDIS, and just as easily, it can travel anywhere else, and to any time, to which the TARDIS travels, while attempting to continually escape it. So, in short, the "wonder" of the "amazing" time-lord-invented TARDIS. (And, obviously, even though it really isn't just "water", it appears to be nothing more consequential than water.) So, the fact that anything (this insignificant) can "easily" do those sorts of things, trivializes the whole concept of the TARDIS.

And then, after the "new companion" is essentially derived from her accidental encounter with the water puddle, resulting in the previously mentioned, trans-time, trans-universal chase, the Doctor suddenly decides to make a (seemingly ad hoc) decision to "pack up", and head off on another round of universal journeying, with his new companion, not bothering to explain why it's OK to simply bail out, on that "supposedly important" teaching gig. It pretty much came off as "I've been looking for an excuse to dump this boring, teaching thing, and just get back to doing something more time-travel fun".

There weren't any (IMHO) major cliff-hanging, season-launching (or multi-season-launching) proclamations (e.g. "I wonder how/why that crack got in your wall?"), and it all just seemed like a basic (semi-lame) story, that certainly didn't justify jettisoning his current life.

So, maybe it's a brilliantly composed, intentionally understated bit of Moffat-magic, and I have no right to judge a book by its (one episode) cover, but I can't remember any prior "new season" episode that was as trivial as this one, and left me this unexcited (and mostly uninterested). Really… it just left me feeling like it is time for the series to go into another multi-year hiatus, awaiting a future relaunch, will some new (writing) blood, and some grand new ideas.
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The Crown (2016– )
A different perspective on why this is so engaging, and worthwhile viewing
20 November 2016
I'll start by saying that for me, this is a ten out of ten. Others describe the excellent production quality, as well as the cast, so I'll put a different spin on "why" this is so interesting to me, and might be (ought to be?) interesting to others.

I'm not a "royal watcher", so I don't spend time wondering about (or worrying about) what goes on in the monarchy of the UK (and it Commonwealth). But the focal point of this series is on Elizabeth, and one cannot be somewhat amazed, and curious, about her life. I'm in my 60's, and she's been on the throne since before I was even born, so I am, at a minimum, intrigued by her longevity, especially considering how she ended up on the throne in the first place.

Remember that for the first ten years of her life, there was little expectation that she would ever do anything other than live on the royal family periphery. But, her uncle's abdication, and father's early death, changed all of that, and only in her mid-20's, she found herself thrust onto the throne.

What makes Elizabeth so interesting? Just contrast the state of our world, at beginning of her reign, with a few simple facts: There were no man-made objects in space (and wouldn't be for another five years); Computers were in their infancy, and were as large as some people's home; WW II had only ended 5 ½ years earlier; With the possible exception of the monarchy, women in any position of power, was pretty much unheard of.

All of the things that we take for granted today, be it technology, spacecraft that are now in interstellar space, etc., women in leadership roles in business and government… those transformations have all transpired, while she has been on the throne. With such drastic change, one can easily imagine a variety of reasons how/why the British monarchy could easily have lost some (or all) of its relevance. But somehow, if anything, it would seem that just the opposite has happened, and one cannot help but think that Elizabeth is the reason why.

And also, as an American, even Elizabeth's lineage becomes a thing of interest. Queen Victoria (arguably the most renowned monarch before Elizabeth II) was Elizabeth's great, great grandmother, and Victoria's grandfather was George III (yeah… we sorta had a bit of a war of independence with him, once upon a time). And here is the current monarch, Elizabeth, George's direct descendant(and not that many generations removed), who has been alive for more than _one-third_ of our nation's existence, and on the throne for more than _one-quarter_ of its existence. Relatively speaking, we (Americans) are still not that far removed from the throne that she occupies, which generates (for me), yet another level of interest in exploring her life and reign.

For me, this series boils down to an opportunity to learn more about someone, who it would be hard to deny, is a fairly remarkable woman, and who (with a few missteps along the way), seems to have managed to shepherd the institution that she sits atop, through one of the most rapidly changing eras in the history of humankind. It's hard to not be interested in a person who can pull that off, and imagine that there might be some interesting lessons, or at least, insights, that might be drawn from her life.

The fact that this "learning opportunity" comes in the form of a fantastic production, with a fantastic cast, ends up being the icing on an already interesting cake. Certainly, there may be some "royal soap opera" moments, but never forget that this is also a significant history lesson. I have thoroughly enjoyed this initial series, and can't wait for what comes next.
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Good Behavior (2016– )
Dark, Seductive, and in the best Film Noir tradition
16 November 2016
I was not familiar with the books, on which this was based, so I was a bit stunned, early on, when this took a hard, right turn, into territory that you might not typically expect for TNT. I was stunned, not in a bad way, but simply because it was more like something I'd expect to see on HBO, where they can get away with sex, murder, and just about anything goes (all of which seems to be on the menu here, as well).

Suffice it to say that the main characters are a "bit flawed" (understatement, intended), but, of course, that's what makes it all so interesting. It didn't take more than about 10 or 15 minutes for Michelle to shatter her Downton Abbey image, and chart a completely different course in the acting universe, all of which she handles just as smoothly as she did the role that put her on our radar in the first place.

I'm only two episodes in (the two-hour pilot) at this point, so it is hard to fully judge the motive behind some of the character's actions, but at this point, all I know for sure is that I "really want to see more", and find out where this is all going.

Sorry, but in the effort to avoid any spoilers, I'm being intentionally vague, and leaving out any salient plot details. I'll simply say that this program, although having nothing similar in plot, seems to be in the vein of a program such as "Breaking Bad". You know that you ought not to like the main characters, but you just can't help yourself. Bottom line... I'm already hooked.
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Not your typical concert film (which makes it all the more special)
14 October 2016
Gabriel always seemed to have had a "thing" for "performance art". (I still remember, IIRC, him showing up on an early SNL episode, dressed as a giant sunflower.) In this concert, he manages to strategically blend a number of "unusual" (and entertaining) activities on stage, with some of his best musical work, all of which provides for one of the more enjoyable concert experiences that I've seen.

I managed to squirrel away an HD version of this concert, on my DVR, more than a decade ago, and have hung onto it ever since, because I found it to be so special (always worrying that I'd lose that hard-drive-based recording). I was elated to finally see it released on Blu-Ray (in late 2016), which I immediately pre-ordered, and am writing this review as I watch the BR (that arrived today). I just felt like it deserved another high-rated "plug", as this BR release finally affords a new opportunity for others to take in this concert.

Aside from the musical selection, and some of the aforementioned, on-stage antics, the camera work is one aspect that makes this so special. Virtually the entire concert is filmed in (sometimes extreme) close-up, by a significant onstage camera crew, and that just gives it a feeling of being extremely intimate.

If you have only listened to Peter's work over the years, and have enjoyed it at all, I would highly recommend this as a super-entertaining way to take in that music again (and again), in a far more visceral manner. The concert is just over two hours, so there is a large selection of music to be had
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Timeless (2016–2018)
Wasted Opportunity
9 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
**** Mentions plot details from the first 10-15 minutes of the 1st episode *** As a Sci-Fi fan, I really wanted this to be good. But the pilot devolved into lunacy almost from the beginning. It's no spoiler that it is about time travel. However, when you select a team (of three), for a time-travel mission to potentially "save the world", you would think that someone would take five minutes to provide them with minimal time-travel "rules of engagement" (even though someone with an IQ of 5, would probably not need to be schooled on the basics). Of course, rule #1 is: Take no action that might potentially alter the timeline. Yet, within minutes of arriving in the past, one of the three travelers (the requisite "military guy", sent to provide team security) proceeds to allow his libido to overrule any basic common sense, and suffice it to say, without giving away any of the plot details, nothing good comes from that initial, unnecessary, boneheaded move. All of this happens in the opening few minutes of the 1st episode.

With a plethora of television options these days, I want someone to engage my interest from the get-go, not just with an interesting premise, but also with some indication that the scripts are being written by someone who understands the genre for which they are writing. This just feels like it has been written for 12 year-olds, instead of adults. I suppose that, if "logical thought" is not an important criteria for the characters in your Sci-Fi entertainment, then this might be a series that would interest you. I guess that I just expect the bar to be set much higher, in an era when so many cable/streaming offerings are so well scripted, from the very beginning. There's not enough "bandwidth" to waste time on mediocre efforts, "hoping" that they will "eventually" have some sort of reasonable story line.
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This is "the" film version to watch. The others all pale in comparison.
28 February 2016
I'll make this relatively short. Others provide far more detailed reviews, but this has always held special meaning for me, so I finally decided to weigh in with some comments.

I saw this when it was originally released in the US, while I was a high school aged teen. It is difficult to describe the depth of its impact on me, mostly because it was such a perfect film. Zeffirelli's genius abounds, in so many different ways, but aside from the genius of the film script (involving more than just him), by far, the primary thing that separates it from the long list of other "attempts" to film this story, was the casting of two actors in their early-to-mid teens (the proper age for the two protagonists), instead of using twenty (or in some film variants, thirty) year old actors in those roles, as had been done in so many previous efforts. Having actors in other films who were sometimes twice the appropriate age for those roles, attempting to pull off those performances, simply never rang true.

Second only to the casting, was the absolutely perfect "tone" of the entire film. Filmed in Verona, where the play was obviously set, plus the cinematography, and then the unbelievably perfect score, all facilitated its translation from its original stage-based home, to what is a true film masterpiece.

It is the actors' (appropriately) youthful innocence, and that perfect tone, that make this depiction of the tragedy stand out, from other efforts. It is also what makes it so "rewatchable". You can't help falling in love with them again, in each viewing, as you watch them (so innocently) fall in love with each other. And, when that seminal moment plays out against the backdrop of the soulful rendition of "What is Youth", the "hook is set", and despite the inevitable train wreck that is coming, it's just impossible to walk away, because you are (yet again) simply too invested in these two teens' tragic journey.

To be fair about the age comment, I should say that I'm not blind to other film interpretations, which have utilized age-appropriate actors, e.g. Luhrmann's take on R&J. But the varied attempts (like his) to take the play, and place it in some bizarrely modern setting, have never really worked for me. It just feels "awkward" (like a square peg in a round hole). The only time that I have been comfortable with some R&J inspired story is when someone simply takes the basic theme, and retools it entirely, e.g. the classic, and equally tragic "West Side Story" being a perfect example.

In short, this is simply one of the most moving, and beautiful films that you could ever hope to see, regardless of whether you are, or are not, into Shakespearean classics. And it would be difficult to imagine anyone ever doing a better job of translating this play into film. (For insight into Zeffirelli's scripting choices, I would highly recommend reading film-222's IMDb review. See:
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Firefly (2002–2003)
Epic, Human Struggle for Survival (that just happens to have a SciFi setting)
14 February 2016
Firefly is at its heart, about "family", albeit not necessarily families "by blood", but what counts for "family" when you are fighting/scraping to stay alive in a hostile, unforgiving environment. And, it's a retelling of the cyclical pain and suffering that is inevitable, when, throughout human history (since our ancestors left the trees), humanity has forsaken the "safe and familiar" to see what lies beyond the distant horizon. Historically speaking, the pioneers, on the leading edge of those wanderings, have never fared too well (statistically speaking), and the advantage of "family", has often been what tipped the scales, for those who managed to survive.

Firefly's "universe" is about humanity, having had to abandon the planet that we knew (and "used up"), for another star system where the planets or moons available were either suitable to support immediate life, or, with a bit of work (terraforming) eventually transform into something survivable. The problem is that this is no "Star Trek" universe, with some slow, well-planned migrations, but instead, is more like a mass exodus of humanity, crammed into whatever transport they can manage (so as not to be "left behind" on the rotting planet earth), and at the far end of that journey, many of them being dumped into landscapes where technology is non-existent, and an agrarian lifestyle may be the only means of survival (think "a few acres, and some livestock", if you are lucky…).

Of course, in that scenario (as in all that preceded it of human existence) there were the "have's", and the "have nots", and prior to the series timeline, in this new solar system, there has already been a major war, to attempt to rectify some of those injustices (which, of course, failed to rectify anything). Thus, this "new home", of multiple planets and moons, is a mix of both wealth and poverty, not to mention being not too dissimilar to any other "new frontier", in that it contains its mix of rogues, bandits, and worse, who are always ready to exploit the weak. And, due to the vastness of the space that separates all of the livable worlds, there really isn't any effective means of policing any of that, so it truly is just a space-born version of the early, American West (i.e. a mix of civilized population centers, bordered by large swaths of "no man's land").

Amidst that dystopian future, is the ship Firefly, and her small crew, which consists of a strange collection of (loosely speaking) "outcasts". And despite the limited episodes in this series, we still get to see (and enjoy) the genesis of, and evolution of, the relationships that make these characters so endearing to the legions of Firefly fans. And all of that plays out, as this core characters attempt to carve out a living doing "odd jobs", shipping some form of cargo from one habitable planet/moon, to another. Some of that cargo isn't always on the "up and up", so that adds a bit of complexity (often "life threatening") to some of those so called "jobs".

It is in that setting, that Firefly plays out, with this "family" sometimes dealing with internal strife, while at others, banding together tightly, often to fend of "life or death" scenarios. What makes this all so very special is not only how well these characters were written (and that is understatement), but the instantly synergistic relationship of the cast. Whereas it takes some casts a number of episodes to "find their way home", to a proper understanding of their characters, this cast was "already there", right out of the gate. They "felt like family" from the beginning, and you were immediately invested in their fate, and well-being. This all assumes that you actual view the season in the order that was intended. One of the things that almost certainly led to its demise, is Fox's interference with the series, resulting in episodes airing completely out of sequence, and the two-hour pilot not even being aired as the pilot episode. When you get to see the whole series "as was intended", it is truly a work of art. And the final episode is easily one of the most tense, and moving television episodes ever. It was a pivotal episode, for this space-faring "family", with significant "reveals" that would have set the stage for much of what should have followed.

Thankfully, Whedon (and company) got to eventually tell the key aspects of that story, when Universal supported the making of the movie, Serenity, which is the bookend to the series, and should be thought of as the "final episode", with any viewing of the TV series (which again, should be seen in the proper sequence, starting with the first episode, also named Serenity, and ending with "Objects in Space".

So, that's at least an attempt to provide a spoiler-free description of the "nature" of the series, as well as what made it special for me. It's just rare to see so many things done this well, which makes it that much more despicable that a bunch of network yahoos managed to muck it all up, by meddling in something that they clearly did not understand. It's one of those experiences that is so special that you pull out (in my case) the Blu-Rays, and regularly make another run through the whole series (and movie), just because you always feel better, afterward (and then, unfortunately, also re-live the lament, and loss, because it was all so short-lived). But, make no mistake, there is a COMPLETE story here. You won't be left "hanging" at the end, and the IMDb ratings should be evidence that you won't be disappointed.
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Roswell (1999–2002)
Season 1: 10/10; Season 2: 8/10; Season 3: Don't watch it (You cannot "un-see it!")
9 February 2016
Season 1: One of the best pilots ever, followed by an excellent, well-plotted, well-written, first season.

I should say that I am probably not in the normal Roswell demographic (being much older), but I am a sci-fi fan, which was an initial draw. Although this may have been targeted at a younger audience, anyone who passes on the opportunity to view it (with that "younger audience" excuse in their head), is missing out on something quite special. The best analog is Romeo and Juliet, which even though it has a bit of teen angst moments (as does Roswell), was, in fact, a quite serious ("deadly serious", in the literal sense) story revolving around a pair of "star-crossed" protagonists, and so it is with Roswell.

Although the first season of Roswell has some characters who provide some (very slightly) levity, the real gut of the first season's storyline is just as serious (and often deadly) as what was dished up by Shakespeare. Roswell is a taught, well-written drama, and not simply "young adult" fodder. The fact that it is also artfully woven into the fabric of (arguably) one of the most famous elements of sci-fi lore… well that just makes it that much better.

Suffice it to say that Season 1 is an enjoyable roller coaster ride of many different story threads, all of which lead to a finale that, although not necessarily a cliff-hanger, does leave some threads in place, to carry the story into the next season.

Season 2: There are a handful of shows in this season that I really don't care for (and I see other reviewers that feel the same way). They just don't "fit the mood" of the first season (as well as the mood of most of the second season). Although most of the second season retains the dramatic mood of the first season, there are a few episodes that are decidedly "lighter", and then those others (that I don't like, e.g. "Meet the Dupes", and its follow-on episode, being the primary problems). Again, IMHO, they "just didn't work". Although it is possible that those episodes may have been derived from story lines in the original books (and I haven't read them, so I wouldn't know for sure), they feel more like plots lines stolen from an old Star Trek story line.

That said, the second season still works pretty well, albeit not quite the "home run" that was the first season, but you just have to "look past" a number of annoying episodes. Some very unexpected things happen in this season, that certainly add to the drama and tension, but the most important thing to know is that the season finale ties up a lot of the season one/two plot threads, and, although you still might wander what will happen to these characters after that season two finale, things end well enough that you can use your own imagination to spin up any variety of "possible futures" for the primary characters, even if you never see another episode. (And, that is very fortunate, considering what follows.)

Season 3: OK. I said it in the title, but have to repeat it here. If you want to walk away from this series "feeling good about it", and thinking that you've watched something "really special", that you can savor for years to come, then you HAVE TO absolutely, positively pretend that Roswell was canceled after the first two seasons! I really feel like the writers ran off on some "retreat", between the second and third season, and then proceeded to ingest large quantities of hallucinogenic drugs (maybe for days on end), and then proceeded to plot out the third season episodes, while they were tripping their brains out.

Again, avoiding spoilers, I will simply say that from the very first episode, the whole season goes off the rails. If you had a six year old watching this episode with you, even at their age, they would likely be saying "why did (those characters) do that?" And "that seems like a really stupid thing to do". (And they, the six year-old, would have plenty of opportunity to repeat those questions while watching numerous other episodes, throughout season three.) You wonder if (while on their drugged-out retreat) the writers decided to watch Ally McBeal (or maybe Bewitched) reruns, while they were high as a kite, and then said "Hey!, Let's try some of THAT stuff on Roswell!".

Again, I'm being intentionally vague, but if you still aren't convinced, I'll simply say that one season 3 episode comes complete with a "laugh track", and even the Star Trek influence gets far more literal. It simply is "not the same show", or the same characters, that you came to love, and care about, for the first two seasons.

So, "you have been warned". Watch TWO seasons of Roswell, and I expect that you will have a very enjoyable experience (and may even re-watch them again, and again, as I have). If you watch the third season, you will never forgive yourself, for having ruined (or "fouled") the experience.

FINAL NOTE: At the time of this writing, Roswell can be streamed from both Netflix and Amazon (and maybe other places?). However, Amazon seems to have a monopoly on episodes that are presented in their full 16x9 format. Despite the fact that the original series aired in 1:1.33 (pre-widescreen format), it was "shot wide" (as were most programs at the time), and (unlike the DVDs, or Netflix) the Amazon episodes are all full, widescreen episodes. (To be clear, they are NOT in high definition, but simply contain far more "visual content".) Bottom line, they are far more enjoyable in their widescreen format!
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Watchable for nostalgia factor alone. LK, JJ, et al. should be ashamed of this script.
3 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
First the good… (no spoilers here.)

Rey and Finn: Daisy and John deliver delightful performances, and are extremely likable "new heroes", around which to attempt to re-launch this franchise.

As mentioned in my title, it's hard to argue with the nostalgia thing. For true fans, it's hard not to have your adrenaline level rise, the instant that John William's score kicks in, followed by the perfunctory crawl, giving us the skinny on what has happened since Episode VI, and as "old faces" later begin to make their way into the film, it does start to feel like home.

And, in my opinion, that's pretty much the end of the "good things".


But now, the bad…

The problem is that it feels "just a bit too much" like home. If we only consider the "real" SW trilogy ( episodes IV thru VI), and ignore Lucas' foray into unnecessary special effects craziness (episodes I thru III), then we've now endured three out of four films (counting this new one) where the "empire" has constructed planet killing technology, and "the rebels" spend the last third of the film concocting an elaborate scheme to discover, and then exploit (with a "desperate, down to the wire" effort) the "design mistakes" of the empire, in order to "blow up the planet killer", and "save the day".

But for episode VII, it's actually far worse than just that. You pretty much feel like someone took the script from episode IV, and did "search and replace" changes in a Word Processor, i.e. the script for VII is pretty much just a "treatment" on the IV script:

Crash landing on a desert planet at the beginning: "check" As yet, unknown, future hero living on that same desert planet: "check" (but we'll do a gender change on the "future hero");

Cute droid (with secret/important message), who finds its way into the hands of the "future hero": "check";

Bar room scene: "check" (but we'll move it to a "forest planet", instead of a "desert planet", so that it "won't be the same");

"Save the day" hero with a troubling past: "check";

Dark-side-related "father/son problems: "check";

Rebels infiltrate base, and miraculously disable planet killer "shields": "check";

Hero/pilot makes miraculous attack on planet killer: "check";

And on and on.

I mean… jeez… nearly 40 years of waiting (since this all started), and the billions that Disney sunk into this franchise, and the best that we can get out of Abrams and Kasdan is a recycled version of "A New Hope"?

Disney needs to remember that the Star Wars franchise isn't heroin, and we are not just a bunch of crazed addicts. Wait… maybe I'm completely wrong about that? As it will apparently break every box office record in existence, maybe fans are willing to eat anything that gets doled out, but if that's the case, then that is truly sad (and I guess that they deserve whatever they get).

So, I'll go back to my original thought… for me (at least), I am not addicted, and I can "take it, or leave it". In order to continue buying tickets, I want to see some "something completely different". Aside from the core canon, and the requisite characters, somebody is going to need to "tell me a story" that won't leave me with another "been there, done that" feeling. If I want to see the "same old story" again, then I'll just stay at home, and continue to just toss IV thru VI into the Blu-Ray player, and it will be far more satisfying.

I really do like the newly introduced characters, and I really do want to see where this franchise might take them, so PLEASE get off your tails and give us a truly original story in VIII that will leave us all begging for this to go on forever.
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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015– )
I guess I'm "crazy", too….
13 October 2015
…. but I enjoyed this. Yes, it has some (well done, IMHO) musical numbers. If this makes your eyes roll back in your head, then nothing else that anyone says will probably make much difference to you. Is it different? Yeah, sure it is. As someone else already proclaimed, it is "refreshing". With so many other "attempts" at comedy programming, which simply retread the same formula (ad infinitum), it's enjoyable to see someone do something completely different. I also thought that the premise of the show was clever, as well, and thought that the initial musical presentation of that "plot" enhanced it, instead of detracting. (It pretty much "enhanced" and legitimized, the craziness of it all, which I assume to have been 100% intentional.) As I'm only one episode in, it's hard to know how the writing will hold up. I'm far more concerned about the fact that (in most parts of the country) it's head to head, with three, double-digit ratings, "big network" programs. That may say more about its ability to survive, than future scripts, musical numbers, or anything else. It feels a lot like the CW has simply offered it up (from the get-go) as nothing more than a sacrificial lamb. In fact, it's probably the absolute worst possible time slot, in that it's up against two reality shows, one involving singing, and the other dancing. If there's an audience that might have actually been "the most likely to enjoy" a comedy that folds in full (singing and dancing) musical numbers, it's probably the folks that are already invested in two of those three double-digit (ratings) programs! Anyway, if you are interested in trying a "different comedy flavor", at least give this a try.
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Fringe (2008–2013)
Epic, Extremely Satisfying, SciFi Journey
2 May 2015
It's been just over two years since this ended, and I have been remiss in not writing this review sooner. To avoid spoilers, one can obviously not be too specific about plot. Certainly, it had a bit of the same feel as X-Files (in its better years), but Fringe was (IMHO) a far more complex offering. Fringe had several (at least three, and some might argue even more) major plots lines that that were initiated in the earliest episodes, and then drove the story line right through to the last minutes of the finale. Certainly, it was episodic in its story telling (something new, interesting, and bizarre, most weeks), but all of that was stitched together as part of those key, often interwoven, plot lines. And lying beneath all of that, there was a tight-knit cast, whose character's lives, relationships, and emotions (and sometimes extremely raw emotions) were the foundation for the entire series.

Aside from the cohesive story, some of the other things that made the show special, include:

Some of the episodic science fit the show's name, but some of it (including one of the key plot points) was drawn straight from modern, theoretical physics. But even (the former) "fringe science" could be rationalized to the degree that it was always semi-believable, and always engaging.

"Walter Bishop". Again, avoiding spoilers, suffice it to say that having to wait, week to week, to hear the next crazy thing that would come out of this character's mouth, was always a difficult wait. Walter was the glue (or maybe, more appropriately, the "crazy glue") that stitched the characters together, in the same way that those full-series arcs, stitched the episodes together.

And then, there was an intentional nod to the problem/puzzle-solvers ("think outside of the box") audience that the producers expected to be drawn to the series. The sort of folks that would already be drawn to the SciFi nature of the series. Again, vagueness intended, to avoid spoilers, but if you haven't seen the series, and do dive into it, then it shouldn't take you long to catch on.

Suffice it to say that I was deeply disappointed when the series came to an end, but its final season (which the writers/producers were fully aware of) was one of its best, and certainly the most moving (emotionally), and was a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic series.

If you missed out the first time, then buy the full series blu-rays, or find a way to binge watch your way through it. It's an enjoyable ride.
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High Energy Extravaganza
8 April 2015
There are fantastic concerts, which are extremely simple and low key, and about nothing but an intimate performance (think: Adele, at the RAH), and then.... there are concerts like this one (also fantastic), that seem more like a non-stop, three-ring circus.

Her music is already infectious, and often energetic, in only its audio form. With only a slight respite in the middle (for some of her more quiet, personal songs), this concert (or maybe a better description would be "event") seems to perfectly translate the energy of her music to the stage.

The concert utilizes a huge stage, which extends forward, well into the audience, and Katy, along with an ensemble of fellow performers, continuously utilize all of it, bouncing, dancing, and in general keeping everyone engaged visually, as much as musically. It's easy to imagine her losing a few pounds, in the course of the show, just from the (almost) continuous workout.

The thing is, it's all super engaging. The songs already suck you in for the "catchy, chorus, sing-along's" (as the audience does, throughout the whole show), and there is a continuous feast for the eyes. But as well as the sing along, it absolutely makes you want to stand up, and bounce/dance right along with her and her troop of performers. (She is so energetic at times, that it almost makes you feel guilty, and a bit lazy, if you don't get up and dance along.) And, of course, as in her past concerts, Katy undergoes something like a half dozen complete wardrobe and hair changes, all to fit in with a similar number of complete theme changes in the staging of the performance. She does everything from jump rope, to fly around the auditorium, during the course of the performance, while belting out one top ten hit, after another.

This is a highly enjoyable, and highly recommended, two hours of addictive fun.

For the record, the performance consists of these songs (in this order): Roar, Part of Me, Wide Awake, This Moment, Love Me, Dark Horse, E.T., Legendary Lovers, I Kissed A Girl, Hot N Cold, International Smile, (A snippet of Madonna's "Vogue", slipped in here for good measure), By The Grace Of God, The One That Got Away, Unconditionally, Walking on Air, It Takes Two, This Is How We Do, Last Friday Night, Teenage Dream, California Gurls, Birthday, Firework
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Scorpion (2014–2018)
Ridiculous script
22 September 2014
I was hoping that this might be decent, but the first episode was so ludicrous, that it started to seem more like comedic parody, instead of something serious (which I certainly doubt was the intent).

I can't imagine this surviving much more than a partial season, without some sort of total reboot (and a completely new writing staff). Sad, because I do like some of the actors who are involved.

I won't delve into spoiler land, by listing all of the places where I laughed out loud, as I suspect many others were doing the same thing (and, if they weren't, then maybe there is some sort of audience for this craziness).
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The Host (2013)
3 September 2014
One of my favorite books (actually "audiobooks", as Kate Reading's rendition of the book is simply stellar). The audiobook is a 23+ hour story, but this screenplay not only (effectively) skips 9 out of every 10 pages, such that NONE of the character's motivations make a lick of sense, but it then tosses in "action flick" scenes, presumably to "spice it up" a little. (The book did NOT contain car chase scenes, car crashes, and other such nonsense.) All of that would be ridiculous enough, but then there are activities that take place in broad daylight, that were all done under cover of darkness in the book. Obviously, done in the dark to avoid detection, but as seen in the film, you just keep saying (in multiple scenes), that a 10-year old could see, and capture the people that are supposedly avoiding high-tech aliens.

I had refused to see this in the theater, just having seen the previews, as I could already see too many things that had nothing to do with the original story, but then decided to try to watch it on Netflix (for free), but ultimately bailed out (at the halfway point), because I just couldn't bear to watch any more. It was just too awful.

If you know nothing about the book, I still wouldn't recommend it just because nothing makes reasonable sense. And if you loved the book, you should avoid it even more, because it will turn your stomach.

Maybe before I die, someone will do a proper treatment of this book. I always thought it would have made a great mini-series (similar to the SciFi series "Taken", or a more current model might be something like the Starz treatment of Outlander). It's a fantastic story, but without 10 or more hours of air time, upon which to methodically build the relationships, and motivations, that give the story its true "heart", there is absolutely no way to do it justice.

If IMDb offered the option of "0", that would have been my vote.
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Veronica Mars (2014)
Perfection. I was not disappointed. Well worth the wait.
14 March 2014
Rob (and Diane) would seem to have had a difficult task in writing this. How to tie two threads together, over such a huge jump in time, how to craft a plot that accounted for things like the season four trailer, and how to make it all feel seamless. I recently re-watched all three seasons on Amazon, and I can only say that when I watched the movie, I felt like I was "home", and that all that lost time just didn't exist.

I can't imagine anyone who enjoyed the series, not fully enjoying this effort (and wishing that it would somehow "go on"). I would hope that it would have the potential of pulling in a larger audience, but that is more difficult to judge, having been a fan to begin with. I thought the series was super well written, many notches above a lot of other TV dribble, and had a killer cast to boot, so I was always amazed that it didn't get the numbers that one would have expected.

As with the series, the script is dripping with wit, both from Veronica, and also (as others have already mentioned) in references to events from the series. Newcomers might not pick up on some of it, but they would also not be distracted by any if it either. Those referential bits simply provide a few more "smile moments" for the rest of us, but are not required to follow or enjoy the story.

If you get off on action movies, with dialog written for 10-year olds, then you probably need to skip this film. If you enjoy well crafted scripts, with intelligent dialog, and with a love triangle and murder mystery thrown in to drive the plot, then even if you never watched the series, I would expect that you would still enjoy this film. You might even get hooked enough to find yourself streaming the series (all in HD, by the way), to find out what you missed, the first time around.

For the everyone else, who's simply been in "can't wait" mode for the last year, wondering if this great, ensemble cast could actually pull this off, and "be" those characters that you have missed. The answer is a resounding "yes".
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