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Reality TV Taken to the Extreme
27 June 2005
This is a classic action flick from the '80s featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his most memorable roles. Set in a futuristic police state where the government controls everything, including the television networks. One of their most popular TV shows is "The Running Man", where convicted felons are hunted down and killed for the entertainment of millions. It's set up like a game show, where the audience votes for their favorite "stalkers", trained killers who hunt down and kill the show's unlucky "contestants". Audience members also win prizes for correctly predicting who will be killed by whom. And the host is played by none other than Family Feud's Richard Dawson, who's game show experience makes him well suited for this role. When Ben Richards (Arnold) is falsely accused of mass murder, he is forced to play this sadistic game.

This movie is chock full of classic Arnold one-liners, such as his famous "I'll be back" right before he enters the arena. And he taunts a stalker armed with a flamethrower with "How about a light?" I could go on and on, but I don't want to spoil the movie. It's funny stuff!

Whether it was intended or not, this movie serves as a great parody of today's "Reality TV" craze. Already there are numerous programs that show people enduring pain and humiliation for the entertainment of viewers, and even court cases are televised for their "entertainment value". Running Man demonstrates what would happen if reality TV hit rock bottom, and it is a scary picture. One can only hope that the networks have the common sense not to let it go that far.

Overall, this is a fun film & I highly recommend it. 9 out of 10!
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Not a Good Introduction to the Star Wars Universe
29 March 2005
After 16 long years, George Lucas continued his Star Wars saga with this prequel, set roughly 30 years before the original trilogy. When I first saw this movie, I looked forward to learning about the events that led up to the original Star Wars trilogy, how the Old Republic governed itself, how Jedi were selected, trained and initiated, and how the Empire rose to power. But it turned out I learned very little from this latest installment. The characters Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gon Jinn are introduced, but the characters are not developed well. I didn't feel like I got to know either of these characters. Plot elements are hinted at rather than thoroughly explained. They mention the "trials" that a Jedi must go through without explaining what they are, or why Master Qui-Gon is being kept out of the Jedi Council. There is a new villain in this movie, Darth Maul, who I learned even less about. In one of his few lines he mentions a desire for revenge- revenge for what, exactly? Nothing is explained in this movie. Instead we are transported from one place to another as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon fight off armies of droids with their lightsabers. Good action scenes and great digital graphics, but without good dialog the story is empty of meaning. Good points- the trip through the planet core, the pod race, introduction to the Jedi Council and the Republic Senate, and Darth Maul's two-bladed light saber. Bad points- Jar Jar Binks & the rest of the Gungans, Anakin (sorry, he was way too chipper), plot and dialog. I recommend skipping this chapter of the saga and starting off with Attack of the Clones. 4 out of 10.
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Classic Kung Fu Fun!
10 March 2005
This movie is one of the many "Kung Fu" action films made in Asia in the late '70s - early '80s, full of cheap sound effects, dubbed dialog and lightning fast martial arts action. But unlike most films of this genre it also has a decent plot and lots of great comedy. When workers of a dye factory are forced out of their jobs by Manchu bullies, they hire a con-artist (Gordon Liu) to try to scare them off. When his attempt fails miserably, he cons his way into a Shaolin temple to learn to fight for real. But instead of making him a Kung-Fu student, the Master instead orders him to build a scaffolding to cover the roofs of all 36 chambers. Well, it turns out that while he's performing these menial tasks (stacking and tying bamboo poles) that he's learning the skills to be a Kung-Fu expert! It's sort of like in Karate Kid when Mr. Miagi teaches Daniel the basics of karate by having him do routine household chores- "Wax on, wax off" et cetera. There's lots of great comedy from beginning to end, and plenty of action at the end when Gordon Liu once again faces his Manchu tormentors. "This time it's not just tricks- it's the real thing!" Liu declares, proudly thumping his chest. If you like classic Kung Fu films you don't want to miss this one!
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Pales in Comparison to the New Trilogy
2 March 2005
I might have given this movie a higher rating before Peter Jackson's trilogy came out, but seeing the two of them side by side there is simply no comparison. The pace of this movie is rushed, many important scenes from the book are left out, and there is little character development. The animation is a strange mixture of traditional cartoon drawings and live action scenes that were painted over, which I found distracting. And the most disappointing thing about this movie is that it breaks off in the middle of the story and was never finished. There are some good points- the battle scenes are exciting to watch, and the dialogue follows the book pretty much to the letter. Watch this one if you're in a hurry and can't spend 10 hours watching the new trilogy. But if you haven't read the book you'll probably be confused, because there is a lot missing from this version. 4 out of 10.
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