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Sympathy for the Devil, or at Least Understanding for George Lucas…

Next week, George Lucas will release his complete six Star Wars movies on blu ray. Truth be told, I’m not sure that I’ll buy them. This isn’t a note of protest against the director’s seemingly incessant tinkering with the movies that helped define a generation, but just one of indifference. The franchise doesn’t feel essential any more, even though I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I can’t help but feel that – were I to buy the complete set – I wouldn’t be getting the iconic films that marked a collective cultural experience, but George Lucas’ heavily revised notes on those films, which is something quite different. That said, I can’t bring myself to spew the type of vitriol at Lucas that most on-line fans seem to enjoy producing, if only because I can almost respect what Lucas is attempting to do.

Whatever happened to light entertainment...?

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Non-Review Review: Mars Attacks!

I have a genuine affection for Mars Attacks! It’s certainly not Tim Burton’s best work, but it’s also miles above some of his more disappointing output. It feels like an affectionate homage to Ed Wood, putting together the kind of movie that the old B-movie director would have approved of, except with the judgement to play it as a comedy rather than entirely straight (although Wood’s filmography is typically “so bad it’s good“, one could scarcely accuse the director of being in on the joke), and made with a more significant budget. Seen in that light, it’s hard to resist the movie’s (admittedly uneven) charms.

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they say...

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Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh (Review)

I love Matthew Graham. After all, the writer who gave us Life on Mars is surely something of a British national treasure. however, his track record on Doctor Who seems just a little bit spottier, with his previous contribution being the somewhat… poorly received Fear Her way back at the end of the second season. So, perhaps giving Graham a two-parter, especially the two-parter directly before the cliffhanger before the break in the season might have seemed like a bit of a gambit. Fortunately, The Rebel Flesh is a much stronger entry than Fear Her, even if it’s not quite as spectacular as last week’s episode.

Flesh and bone?

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Non-Review Review: Source Code

A special thanks to the guys over at movies.ie for sneaking us into an advanced preview screening.

Duncan Jones really grabbed our attention with Moon, one of the most boldly original films of the last decade. However, it’s often the second film of a promising young director that is the most fascinating to watch, as the weight of expectation is measured against a (typically) larger budget and profile. Too many young talents fizzle out or stumble at the second hurdle. I’m glad to report that Jones manages to make it safely across. While Source Code might lack the power of his debut, it’s still a fascinating little science-fiction thriller, one I’m still thinking of hours after I left the screening. And that is certainly a mark of quality.

Has Colter gone off the rails?

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Non-Review Review: Sunshine

Sunshine is a science-fiction movie. Well, duh, you proclaim, looking at the screenshots or having read the plot synopsis, it’s about a bunch of people in space flying to the sun. Of course it’s science-fiction! It’s hardly a comedy or musical! However, I’m talking about something more essential than its setting or its superficial elements. Although the story of a bunch of astronauts planning to reignite the dying star at the centre of our solar system may distract you, Sunshine works so well because it grabs the sorts of philosophical ideas at the heart of the best science-fiction: it’s an exploration of the conflict between the rational and the irrational, the logical and the emotional and the place of man and his understanding of the world around him. It’s movie that is far smarter than it pretends to be.

Going for gold...

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Non-Review Review: Terminator 2 – Judgement Day

Terminator 2 is a pop culture classic, a film that single-handedly made Arnold loveable despite films like Junior and Jingle All the Way, typecast Robert Patrick as a distinctly unpleasant individual and reminded us that not all teenage protagonists had to be eye-roll inducingly bad. Spielberg’s Jaws is frequently regarded as “the first blockbuster”, but I think the case can be made that Terminator 2 redefined the kind of summer movie we saw – for better or worse, it laid down a blueprint which has been followed countless times since.

Prepare to be blown away...

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Looking for Christopher Nolan’s Superman…

Superman is a tough character to get right. In any format. I remarked earlier in the week that there are very few truly classic stories featuring the character. While I’m more than a little delighted that Christopher Nolan has been handed the reigns to the franchise, I’m also a little bit nervous. Is there a way to make Superman a viable commercial franchise for the twenty-dirst century? I’d argue there is, if we look in the right place. Here’s my opinion: Look! Up in the skies! I think that the place to look to take the character back to his roots is the sort of wonderful ‘out there’ science fiction of the fifties. Batman does noir, so let Superman do hokey sci-fi.

"You will always be a child of two worlds..." Wait, sorry, wrong monologue...

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Caprica (Pilot)

Part of me wonders how a prequel television show is supposed to work. It’s worrying that the only other example which springs to mind is Star Trek: Enterprise, which suffered from failing to explore its premise for three years before finally engaging with the mythos in time to be resoundingly cancelled. I wonder whether I can sit down and watch a prequel day-in and day-out. In a way, no matter how good the show is, it has been spoiled for you. No matter how sharp a left turn the writers may stick into a particular episode, you just know they’ll have to straighten it out down the line. The very premise for Battlestar Galactica is a spoiler for Caprica: mankind is wiped out by the robotic Cylons, former soldiers and slaves who rose up and rebelled. As a result, there’s no suspense when Daniel Grayson finds himself up for a government contract or attempts to crack A.I. – unless the series is a gigantic red herring (and, though I wouldn’t put it past the creators, it is far too early to show their hand if it is), we know that his actions will create robotic killing machines made just a little too perfect.

Oh, the lawyer and the computer genius should be friends... oh, the lawyer and the computer genius should be friends...

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Battlestar Galactica – Season 3

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”

– The “Mysterious” Song, Crossroads, Part II

The series continues to be one of the most interesting television phenomenon of the last decade as it enters what is, technically at least, it’s penultimate season. This is the point where mythology-based shows typically come apart, crushed under their own weight – the point where they have to start answering at least some of their own questions, rather than simply posing them to the audience. The problem is, as many shows have found out, answering questions isn’t nearly as fun as posing them. Battlestar Galactica, seemingly afraid of the potential comfort that giving those answers would offer, instead opts to delve even deeper into the rabbit hole – picking answers to questions suggested by earlier events and then using that to move the show forward in a fascinating momentum. Because of this weird combination of answers and deeper questions, the show somehow manages to increase its complexity and its fascination year-after-year.

Full of nebulous concepts...

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Battlestar Galactica: Season 2

This isn’t about Sharon. It’s about something much bigger than that. It’s about the long term survival of the Fleet. It’s about the way we conduct ourselves in all of this.

Laura Roslin, Sacrifice

You know, when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question, why? Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we’ve done.

– Commander Bill Adama, Miniseries

This year, mankind is its own worst enemy. The remnants of humanity are driven to the bring of civil war not once, but twice. The series lands in its sophmore season running, though it seems to run into a bit of bother balancing itself over a full year. That isn’t to say that it isn’t still spectacular television – far from it – but that there are moments here when the series appears to lose focus (if only for an episode or two at a time). Still, it remains one of the most interesting and dynamic television dramas ever conceived.

bsgstorm

It's some kinda storm out there...

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