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Reviews

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint
(1987)
Episode 1, Season 1

Riker watches Encounter at Farpoint on TV
Clunky first episode. The Q story was bolted on to make it movie length. Good thing ultimately because the Farpoint plot is quite weak.

There is a positively surreal scene where Riker is watching this very episode on TV.

Battlestar Galactica: Saga of a Star World
(1978)
Episode 1, Season 1

Great show- Fox sued why, now?
It's pretty strange Fox thought they had any claim of this show stealing from Star Wars. Star Wars didn't invent space opera and other than good guys and bad guys, it's hard to see much similarity. Maybe the Cylons looked a bit too much like Storm Troopers? I don't know, especially considering Star Wars is itself a pastiche of older material. The story isn't remotely close.

Though, I'm sure the huge success of SW is what got this pilot green lit with a handsome $8 million budget.

Anyway, this is a great pilot. Still holds up fairly well. The spaceship battles and such are pretty dated, but the interiors of the Colonial ships are still pretty believable.

Colossus: The Forbin Project
(1970)

Great predecessor to War Games and Terminator, though not as fun
It's a very good movie, with that splendid attempt at super-realism of the late 60s into 1975 or so. It's in the same vein as The Andromeda Strain and even 2001. While these films are, of course, still rather fanciful, they attempt to paint their world in believable settings.

I miss this style likely because I grew up with it, and it lasted on TV until the end of the decade with things like The Six Million Dollar Man and even The Incredible Hulk.

This film is almost comical in how straight laced it is, kind of like watching NASA or IBM engineers at work. And this film makes a pretty good effort to depict actual computer scientists at work.

The downside to this approach is that it's just less fun than later movies like Terminator and War Games.

Though this particular film also feels almost Bond-ish at times, starting with the extremely vast computer, then later, the White House Situation room and the like.

Troll
(1986)

How they don't own Rowling et al I'll never understand
Rowling's Harry Potter franchise is far better but clearly she pulled from this, intentionally or not. And somebody at the publishing house clearly didn't do their job. The name certainly should have been caught and changed. Rowling herself has said the name was wasn't important.

This is better than widely believed. The simple plot of the relentless apartment complex takeover works pretty well. Though, some of the troll takeover scenes go on way too long. The singing scene seems to go on forever.

This has definite cult appeal from the largely well known cast. It's hilarious to see June Lockhart in one of her foul speaking roles. Sonny Bono is Sonny. For those of us old enough, the little girl is the same actress that saved the world in V. Pretaynama!

Superman II
(2006)

Doesn't really work especially with the ending
I understand why they wanted to do this but it's so badly flawed that it's really only for completists.

Perhaps the tone is better without the seemingly discordant slapstick moments Lester put in the battle in NY. Perhaps. I do recall the first time I saw this, long ago even as a kid, that those slapstick moments seemed out of place. It's silly stuff, like someone talking on a phone booth that's knocked over, people in a KFC completely unaware of the mass battle occurring just outside. Some of that is lame. However, the first film did have a lot of quirky humor too. And considering one of the three villains is ash idiot, it's obvious some kind of goofy humor was intended.

But having the same turn back time ending as the original film is just ridiculous.

I get that Donner got screwed by the Salkinds and had a legitimate beef with the Lester cut, but that doesn't mean this was worth doing. And it seems like they excised needed Lester material out of spite or whatever inappropriate motivation considering the film does need to make sense.

There are great examples of director's cuts that improve films years later. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the best example I know, where 20 years later a new cut was released that greatly improved the film. However, this was because in the original, they ran out of time and the theatrical cut simply wasn't compete. For the DC, they were able to fix certain effects, give it a proper sound mix and tighten the editing. (The theatrical release was notoriously edited so down to the wire that the film print taken to the premiere was still wet.)

But while Star Trek had production problems, it primarily had to do with an fx house being unable to deliver. Having two different directors with very different styles is quite a different issue.

And the end of the day, there IS NO Donner Superman II. It was never fully filmed and by doing things like using screen tests for footage, they're basically duct taping this thing together.

Again, fine for completists and the like, but if you want a solid coherent movie, the Lester cut is the one.

Logan's Run
(1976)

Crazy movie well worth watching
Everything about this is thoroughly nuts and the sets and miniatures are hilariously bad. It's about like a really high budget episode of the original Star Trek. Costume design as well and perhaps even more so. You wouldn't think this had a feature film budget.

Ultimately the apparent utopian society with a very dark underside is Trekian too, as is the end which is both silly (a computer error destroying the entire facility) and actually quite dark-- most of these people from the city are going to die.

But it's quiet a fun movie and well worth watching.

Superman
(1978)

Set the standard for superhero features
It's truly astounding how good this movie is. They really hit it out of the park.

Christopher Reeve may be the best cast actor in a role ever. And he really makes you believe someone can get away with a paper thin disguise.

The rest of the cast is splendid. Gene Hackman creates a fantastic Lex Luthor. Margot Kidder is perfect as Lois Lane. She's very pretty but not some overly gorgeous Hollywood starlet, and she creates a perfect image of a Red smoking gritty New York reporter. (Though how in the world can she afford that apartment on a tabloid reporter salary ;) )

Obviously the effects are dated in this 40 year plus old movie, but while I haven't seen Superman Returns, Superman flying looks a lot more real than Neo flying in Matrix Reloaded. There's a very simple reason: Christopher is filmed on wires and using other tricks, while Keanu is a CGI fake that couldn't be more painfully obvious.

Superman Returns
(2006)

An editor should have returned
Far too long and quite plodding. It's actually hilarious how much money was spent making this and advertising it.

It's weird to have set it to follow Superman II in continuity, yet Supes immediately forgets his lesson learned in II, to not abdicate his responsibilities and disappear. Plus, abandoning his child.

Quest For Peace is as good as this, overall, because at least it doesn't bore you to tears and it has Supes behaving responsibly.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Masterpiece Society
(1992)
Episode 13, Season 5

Underrated, but with one annoying flaw
It's slow, but it's all put together with lots of believably characterizations, with one notable exception I'll mention later.

This is a great one because what this colony is doing is absolutely plausible based on human history and absolutely chilling for the same reason. Of Trek stories, this is very high on the "possible" scale.

The part of the leader, Aaron, is well written and very well played by John Snyder. This kind of role could easily be written as a mustache twirling villain, but that's been done to death and then some. He's personally, honest and earnest.

The colony's scientists behave very believably when they see what's beyond the dome. They think their society is ultimately a silly joke, and for reasons literally bred into them- they are curious and want to see what's really out there.

I thought the romance subplot between Deanna and Aaron was the best of its sort I've ever seen in Trek, and I'm hardly a fan of romance subplots. It's gradual and believable and doesn't feel at all tacked on. They KNOW they are being very foolish and let things get out of hand. Also the chemistry between the two is far higher than it ever was between Deanna and Riker.

I do think they overly hammered the anvil of the fact that Geordi would never have been born in this society. It's good, but they kind of beat it to death.

However, the way Geordi instantly knows Hannah is lying about the dome breach because his visor would pick it up is great. It's low key and perfectly consistent with the capabilities the visor has previously been depicted with. And it was great that Geordi waited until they were alone to confront her.

Now, the annoying flaw is that Picard seems to keep reversing himself, and especially at the end suggesting the Enterprise visit was as damaging as the colony being destroyed by the comet. Makes no sense.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Burning Bright
(1974)
Episode 11, Season 1

A very weird one, Shat was perfectly cast
This one was pretty far out there for Six Mill, but Shatner played his part with gusto and his interpretation really works.

The Fall Guy
(1981)

I could never really deal with Steve Austin in this
Heh, the show is ok, but I grew up with The Six Million Dollar Man from a very young age. When this started I was 11 or so, and probably vaguely understood acting and actors, but it still seemed so weird :).

But it's certainly good to see that Lee Majors was continuing to have great success.

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
(1989)

Lousy back door pilot for Daredevil
Just like the first reunion movie, it's a failed back door pilot, this time for Daredevil.

Parallel
(2018)

Nifty idea but a few stumbles
This film feels strikingly similar to the 2014 Time Lapse, and is kind of a "what if the main characters weren't morons?" answer to that film. And the music has motifs that occasionally echo that film, and the leading lady in Parallel reminded me so much of the leading lady in Time Lapse, I thought it was the same person.

However, they are still very different films. I think though, in most respects, Time Lapse pulls the "kids find device that gives them a weird time related power" a lot better.

The first thing, IMHO, Parallel would benefit from significant trimming throughout, but especially in the middle. One example is the little Godfather spoof scene that goes on forever. Basically, because they found a way to make as much money as they want, they dynamite a huge pile of it. That's the real gag here, but there is also: the guys critiquing each other's Brando impersonation, Josh approaching the pile with a lit stick of dynamite, then the dynamite apparently not working before it goes off.

The second thing, replacing Josh is quite an interesting concept. I'm sure 99.9% of the time when this trope is used, we see it from the Josh character's point of view. There is so much to explore here that it's a disappointment the film barely explores it at all. It seems like an entire film could be built around that.

Related to that, Replacement Josh seems to figure out sort of what's going on (or at least who's doing it) way too easily and quickly. I think there's no chance at all he would figure anything like this out without a lot more than what we saw.

Replacement Josh SHOULD have have thought he was losing his mind. There's nothing in his reality to support that anything weird (like, say, involving a verse teleporting mirror) is happening at all. There are some indications Leena feels guilty about what they did, which was really rather horrific. I would have liked to see a lot more of her trying to "help" Josh get through this. That kid stepped into the Twilight Zone and has no idea. Also, there's that entire other world they stole Replacement Josh from.

Another biggie is the issue of time passing at different rates in the different realities. That seems like quite a cheat.

There was also a stinger at the end that seemed cheap and yawn inducing.

The Outer Limits: Abduction
(2001)
Episode 16, Season 7

Compelling, emotional and seems to create a believable scenario
Well, aside from the alien that abducts them-- ha ha.

But the story of the lead character Cody is compellingly plausible, and casting someone who at a glance you wouldn't expect to have any significant high school problems at all, it becomes rather haunting. It's written and played very well, creating a very believable character.

A couple of complaints... the students Cody course were all stereotypes, which actually makes perfect sense. However, the science nerdy kid is either written badly or is a poser.

Secondly, the alien's voice was hard to understand.

The Outer Limits: Lion's Den
(2001)
Episode 18, Season 7

Well, I liked it
Maybe it's because I had watched the show pretty randomly, not in order by any means. So I didn't have any conceptions of the show. In fact, one of the first I ever saw was the excellent Abduction, and it appears to be set in the same high school. (Or at least, certainly, the same set.

It's true it's a bit of a space whale Aesop against steroids and the like, but whatever, it's still nicely made.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Code of Honor
(1987)
Episode 3, Season 1

Oh dear what a disaster
This is definitely a train wreck that's rather awkward to watch. Perhaps it was a good thing they did a very TOS style episode early, and figured out quick that was the wrong path. After the great success TNG ultimately became, it's hard to really understand the difficulties of reviving a 20 year old show. It's not unreasonable to expect fans want more of what they clamored for.

There are some good regular cast moments.

There are tantalizing ideas brought up then dropped on the floor, like Lutan's alarm that the holodeck can create people "without souls" and even his statement to his lieutenant that the humans are very strange. Those ideas had far more promise than a remake of "Amok Time".

The Incredible Hulk: Proof Positive
(1980)
Episode 13, Season 3

Nice idea but very weak implementation
It's a pretty good and reasonable premise, but ultimately severely lacking. It just goes in such repetitive circles between the boss and McGee. It probably would have been better if they had trimmed that and put in more clips.

There is a funny shot in the plant where the Hulk just goes bounding by. I think it's funny because it's pretty far out of the blue compared to how we usually witness the Hulk.

There's a stand in for Bixby as Banner that is surprisingly bad. He jumps frantically around in ways Bixby never does. He was probably directed to do this, as a standard TV double technique, but it's way too much. I suppose we can wank it as McGee or his boss's perception of Banner.

Midsommar
(2019)

Would have been far better without so much explicit gore
For me, anyway.

There's very effective psychological horror here and the excessive lingering gore shots just make me not want to watch it again.

They clearly borrowed a few things from Silence of the Lambs in the gore department. Though, this more reminds me of the abysmal Lambs' follow up Hannibal where there's lots of lingering bloody gore. If I wanted to see Hellraiser imagery, I would watch Hellraiser.

Altered States
(1980)

"Take on Me" is actually better
A-Ha's music video for "Take on Me" seemed to have borrowed a bit from this movie, specifically the ending. And that video tells a much better and self consistent story than this movie.

This movie is amazing for about 30 minutes. The hallucinations are spectacular and has rather striking religious imagery. And the film starts with philosophical and religious issues, sensory deprivation, mental health and such. If they had kept it along those lines, it could have been very cool-- aided in no small part by none of that being disprovable. So this stuff "could" be happening. And the visions were actually rather frightening.

But sheesh when he starts to devolve, instantly it becomes ridiculous and like a very lousy Star Trek episode. Worse than that.

And Hurt literally changing into a gorilla is just the start. It's actually quite surreal how insane this gets.

The whole thing smacks of a teenage stoner plot. "Hey man, what if they trip balls in an isolation tank and like revert to animals, man".

They clearly had no good idea where to take the amazing world that was set up in the first act. Ultimately it becomes a love story. Like, seriously??

And how is that even the end? Hurt's character is behaving quite literally like a drug addict. Is there ANY reason to believe he won't do this again? And now that the other scientists know for absolute certain something physically real is occurring, they would also want to continue this research. This Is What PhDs Live And Breathe For. This is a discovery of e=mc^2 proportions.

And yes, "Take on Me" does make more sense and is every bit as plausible as this movie.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Skin Of Evil
(1988)
Episode 22, Season 1

Really good except the Armus as a person effect
I always thought this was quite good. As Roddenberry believed, a likely fate of a security chief would indeed be something like this.

Granted, it does seem like a rather contrived situation to kill off a character, but still Armus is a fascinating creature that you actually feel bad for.

The attempts to resuscitate Tasha were tense and felt real without overly dramatizing it. It's notable that PICARD turns away when he realizes the way this has going.

I also liked the splotch on Tasha's face. It's very strange and fake looking and yet that strangeness works because in death situations like this people often focus on weird things like that as a mental excuse for "this can't be happening."

The worst part is Armus, when he's standing up like a person. It's a dreadfully obvious effect.

The Nines
(2007)

Pretty weird and nifty, The Illustrated Man meets Memento
It kind of reminds me of a cross between The Illustrated Man and Memento. It's really a feature length Outer Limits.

I think the acting, directing and overall production raise this above the script itself. It's a good script, but takes a serious deep meta dive into Hollywood itself. That's really rather esoteric since most people won't understand it well enough to notice the weird things going on.

That said, the meta Hollywood stuff is really rather fascinating.

Time After Time
(1979)

Such a fun clever story
Merging HG Wells with his own time travel story, with Jack the Ripper to boot.

It definitely feels budgety. Even though it had a only a very small amount of special effects, they're surprisingly atrocious.

But the great story and acting easily make that up and then some. Definitely a winner.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Vengeance Factor
(1989)
Episode 9, Season 3

Mixed and largely feels phoned in
As others have noted, there is NO justification for Riker evaporating a Yuta. They could have beamed Chorgan or Yuta away, or Riker could have advised Chorgan to run, etc. And since Beverly knows exactly what she's been attacking people with, most likely she could cure the guy anyway.

And Chorgan didn't know right there what was really going on. When he gives thanks to Riker, it could be him thanking Riker for killing the last of his clan rival!

I also like how Riker fires a phaser set to incinerate with Picard almost directly behind his target.

There's a lot of good stuff here though.

The Acamarians are surprisingly flushed out. Ballbricker plays her character quite believably. We get to see Picard doing actual diplomacy and the Acamarian/Gatherer negotiations are surprisingly substantive.

Brainstorm
(1983)

Nifty and unique but keeps genre shifting
It starts as mildly sci-fi and soapy and ends as a caper with big dollops of slapstick.

It's so weird, it's hard to believe it's the same movie.

It doesn't help that the underlying soap drama wasn't very strong to begin with.

Star Trek
(1973)

Surprisingly authentic
The animation itself is quite primitive and the music excessive even by TOS standards, but they got most of actors, and the stories are generally of equal quality to the original.

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