Serenity (2005)

Ok, this is not going to make me very popular, but here goes: I never cared much for Buffy or Angel. It’s not that I didn’t like the shows, I just never got into them, and if you consider glimpsing at an odd episode here and there for 1-2 minutes WATCHING, then yes, I watched them. Saw the Buffy movie (wasn’t it in the mid-80s), and didn’t really care to get hooked on the small-screen version, and the spin-off (Angel). But I heard it was good. In fact, the voices that kept droning on and on about just how good those two shows were – those annoying zombie-like voices was the reason I never got hooked – just don’t like anything that has an immediate cult following. It’s not natural.

Wait, let me retract – I was hooked on Lost from the premiere, I got into numerous sitcoms from get-go (Out of Practice, How I Met Your Mother – come to mind from this season). But that was my own choice – I sat down in front of TV, discovered something on my own, decided I like it, and ever since then, more and more religiously, have been watching, waiting, drooling and dreaming about that particular show. Nope, that didn’t happen with Buffy or Angel. Neither with Firefly – the short-lived series (2002, was it?) that was a precursor to Serenity, the Motion Picture. Sure, I heard about the captain of a small cargo ship, and about the cast, and of course the creator Joss Whedon, but I just don’t like to be pressured into watching things. So, Firefly came and went, got canned, and we almost forgot all about it. Except there was a movie in the making.
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Threshold (CBS)

This TV season is full or supernatural shows (trying to duplicate the amazing success of last year’s Lost. Of all the shows I am most intrigued about Threshold – a new project from Brannon Braga – the guy behind numerous Star Trek’s series. To be sure, I tuned in to watch Supernatural, Surface and Invasion, and while all of them are engaging and suspenseful shows, I put Threshold a few notches above – it has better talent and shows off more experienced writing team.

First off, Carla Gugino. She was the heart of a recent ABC show “Karen Cisco” (remember the role played by Jennifer Lopez in Out Of Sight). A great FBI caper, with interesting cases, intelligent criminals and a good cast, the show didn’t survive, but it proved that Gugino can move to small screen successfully. She’s back in a similar role – an ass kicker with a degree. An ass kicker under pressure.
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James Doohan (Star Trek’s Scotty) has passed away

Rest in peace, Scotty. We have grown up with you at the control panel as Ster Trek’s most memorable engineer. You may have been typecast after the three-year long run with the original series, but boy, what a character you created. When the ST universe came back in late 70s in a series of movies, and throughout the 80s and 90s (including the guest-star appearance in “Relics”, an episode of The Next Generation) you have been the highlight of any plot, and stole every scene with your burly tone and Scottish accent. Thanks for every line of dialogue, and may your journeys continue beyond this world.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is back with season two this week. Start your weekend early, and get glued to TV screen every Friday at 10pm on Sci-Fi (Space in Canada). NBC will be rerunning some of the season 1 highlights, and new episodes as well. If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s a brief story:

Battlestar Galactica is an old 70 miniseries that had a makeover in 2002 with a little TV movie. The reviews were spectacular, the people loved the new look and new arc, and so the creative team came back with a full season (actually only 14 episodes), and are now coming back with more. In the miniseries the cylons (robots, banished by people into space) come back with a vengeance. They take over communications and military and literally nuke the planet, and every ship in orbit. One old military battlestar survives – partly because it lacks the latest techno gizmos, and partly because its commander is more trusting of his officers than some computers or robots. OK, that establishes contrasting attitudes towards technology.
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War of the Worlds (2005)

Death and destruction everywhere. Steven Spielberg sheds the usual cutesy antics. The typically warm fuzzy feelings we associate with “his” aliens are gone out of the theater with the first strike of lightning. And there’s quite a lot of lightning in the movie. What you’re witnessing is an invasion. What will follow is a story of a small family, trying to survive, trying to out-run, to stay alive. Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins and Miranda Otto scream and claw their way out of imminent obliteration by aliens.

This is not your Star Trek universe with almost-communistic moral values. This is not the everyone-for-himself universe of Farscape or Andromeda – which were more brutal but still offered regular comic relief and self-parody. This is not “Mars Attacks” – with green, bug-eyes short little creatures running around and zapping everything in their path. Well, the zapping is still there, but it’s done by huge, screaming machines, and it’s done in a more malevolent way. At some point a character in the movie says “this is not a war, this is extermination”. Precisely. Hence the name – War of the Worlds. It’s massive and overwhelming right from the start.
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Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

It’s finally over. The saga is complete, George Lucas will hopefully move on to other projects, FOX studios will start looking for a new franchise to milk (while they’re squeezing off the last drops from SW movies), and all of us fans will have to deal with this finale, and move on to other sci-fi worlds. Luckily for us, there are plenty of good sci-fi series and movies around. Unfortunately for Lucas, his last project is exceptional only when it’s not compared to its peers.

Before I start getting hate mail for bashing the wonderful world of Yoda, let me say this: the third film is truly magnificent. Darker, more mature, with breathtaking sequences, and compelling heroes. The problem is that this is the comparison I get when putting it next to Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. It may even be more engaging than Return of Jedi. But it does not beat parts 4 and 5. Now that Lucas managed to pull the story lines together between the first and second trilogies, these “entertainment” factors stand out even more. I liked the film, but I wasn’t entertained by it.
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Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

Don’t panic. The movie adaptation of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (which in a way is an adaptation of an old BBC radio show) is not as bad as some people on the internet will have you believe. Sure, the naysayers have a point – the source material (a trilogy in five parts) is so big, and full of unbelievable characters and events, it’s tough to bring everything to a big screen. So, if you’re expecting to see the entire book in a movie theater – you may just stay home and read the book. But if you’re in the mood for an odd sci-fi comedy (think Spaceballs, Farscape or Galaxy Quest), you’ll enjoy this cute little film.

If you’ve read Douglas Adams’ books, just skip this paragraph. For novices, this is vital. The books were not written as one part – they were moved to paper after a phenomenal success of an stint on the radio back in the late 70s. You should also remember that just because something was popular in Britain, doesn’t make it universally popular or even interesting. But bear in mind, this brand of humor goes along the lines of Monty Python, so if you can chuckle at Pythons, you’ll enjoy “Hitchhiker”. If you take your sci-fi seriously, just stay away, spend 10-15 bucks on the books (the entire trilogy, of course), give them a shot, and then decide for yourself if you really want to see this colourful universe on the big screen. Personally, many things looked better in my imagination, when I was reading the books, but I got a lot of laughs in the theater.
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Constantine (2005)

When I went into the theater to see Constantine I thought I prepared myself for the worst. I didn’t read the graphic novel this movie was based on. I decided not to look it up. I made that mistake before—I looked up The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel before I saw that movie. BIG MISTAKE—I almost walked out of the theater on that one. I wanted to go to the theater with an open mind. I even read a few negative reviews about Constantine, so that I would not expect much and would surprise myself by really enjoying the movie. That didn’t happen.

I was so frustrated with this movie I didn’t want to write a review. I thought, why bother. I would be too negative. I would turn people off when in reality it’s not that bad if you’re a Keanu Reeves fan.

Before I get all over Keanu’s ill-acting ass, let me state for the record that I love movies that deal with the occult. I was a fan of Buffy and Angel. And now that Medium is out I watch it too. Because of my love for the occult I sat though movies far worse—like Lord of Illusions. It was only few years ago when I saw it again I realized how bad this movie really was. Brrr.
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I, Robot (2004)

Will Smith returns once again, around July 4th festivities (that’s “his” weekend, been that for years, right?), to kick some robot butt. The surprise here is that the movie is pretty good, even engaging at some points. Here’s our review.

Three things you need to know right off the bat:

1 – Will Smith’s best acting work was in “Six Degrees of Separation” back in early 90s, when he was still in that sitcom. You know, THAT sitcom. So no matter how hard he tries to “act”, his ego always takes over his charisma and it’s a shame because he has such an expressive face.
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Hellboy (2004)

Another comic book adaptation is brought to the big screen. It’s not a familiar Marvel universe, and things are definitely not “been there, seen that”. Still, the unusual casting, the direction, and quirky geek references make this a worthy entry.

It seems that every comic book out there longs to get on the big screen, open with $50 million, and gain thousands of new readers over the weekend. Sometimes, this works (remember how quickly “Superman” got to $200 million), very rarely it works again (“X-men United” was well-received and it made decent dough). With “Hellboy”, however, I’m a little torn. I would like the saga to continue, and am impressed by character development, but it seems the writers have ended up in a corner. The movie spends so much time establishing the characters and setting up the first showdown (all good by me), by the time it’s over, there’s no setup for the sequel.

Let me restate that – “Hellboy” is open-ended, but there’s no looming conflict there, to threat. We just know the adventures will continue, but have no clue about the villains, only the existing conflicts between the characters. Then again, having never read the comic book, maybe these conflicts are at the core of Hellboy, and the villains are on the side. In this case, the movie worked.

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