Daddy-O's 2002 Movie Reviews



The Twilight Zone
Long ago, I declared that the Zone was my all-time favorite TV show, and on the whole, I'd still say that's true. So you'll be happy to know that the new incarnation on UPN meets with my approval. The shows have all felt quite authentically "zoney" so far (except for being in color), and while there have definitely been a few klunkers, most of the episodes I've seen have ranged from pretty good to Really Far Out. And although he's no Rod Serling, I even like the new host!

Willy Wonka and the DVD Commentary Track
Listening to the grown-up Wonka kids reminisce about their experiences with the movie was hilarious! I always love seeing a classic again with added audio like this, but this one was particularly enjoyable... I haven't enjoyed Willy Wonka this much since I saw it in the theater as a kid!

The Frighteners
This film is sort of like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future combined with that Sissy Spacek/Martin Sheen movie about the Starkweather killing spree of 1958, called Badlands. The result is both funny and disturbing; it's exciting and philosophically interesting, and it has great special effects, but once again, the final denouement costs the film a rating point. (It's like when a waitress is earning a great tip but then blows it at the end of the meal by disappearing forever when you just want to get the check and leave.) But I did enjoy seeing R. Lee Ermey doing a ghostly version of his sergeant character, who I've lately been seeing on the History channel as the host of Mail Call.

That Was Then
My pick for most interesting show of the new fall season was put on hiatus after only 2 episodes! (I'm getting used to seeing cool new shows canceled before they have a chance, but this sets a new record.) Fortunately, "Do Over" (another new show with the same excellent premise) is still on, and getting good reviews (at least from the likes of #12). But while both time-travel shows feature a second chance at high school in the eighties with all the memories of 2002 intact, only That Was Then provided the intriguing added hook of showing us how the main character's attempts to change the future actually pay off. I was supremely disappointed to see ABC yank this promising new series so quickly, and hope another network picks it up. In the meantime, watch Do Over on WB.

I'd already become convinced of the conspiracy by the time I finally got around to seeing this important film, but I still learned a few new questions to ponder. On the other hand, while Oliver Stone's "back and to the left" mantra is pretty compelling, I was also impressed by Penn & Teller's experiments in melon-shooting, as described in their book, How to Play With Your Food. So who knows? The more I study the matter, the more questions I have about it. But there is one thing I'm sure about: it was weird seeing Newman from Seinfeld playing a character in this movie by the name of Newman.

This is a brilliant movie... except for the final denouement, which struck me as being totally stupid the first time I saw it. But when I was watching it again on TV last night, I turned it off about 10 minutes before it ended, and it was great!

Escape From New York
A terrorist on a suicide mission hijacks an airplane and bolts the cockpit door. Below, an armed soldier watches in shock as the huge jet plane, flying low, heads for a deliberate crash landing, pointed straight at the World Trade Center. After that crash, another criminal in another plane flies directly towards the WTC towers, onto which he crash-lands. No, I'm not talking about 9/11, I'm describing some of the most surreal scenes in this now painfully-dated sci-fi classic in which Manhattan was turned into a giant Alcatraz. Made in 1982 and set in 1997, this movie is yet another great thing that was ruined for us by the terrorists of 2001.

Lathe of Heaven (2002)
There were a lot of things I liked about the new A&E adaptation of this sci-fi masterpiece -- the mood, the music, the look of the Future, etc -- but ultimately, I was disappointed with it. The problem wasn't with anything they did... it was the omissions that bugged me. Massive, glaring omissions... some of the best and most memorable moments of the story were deleted. It felt like I'd fallen asleep in the middle and missed all the best parts. All the really weird stuff was left out... they didn't even depict George's dreams! So although the special effects don't measure up to current standards, the 1980 adaptation is still the one to see.

Waking Life
Fascinating film depicting a series of philisophical conversations with characters in a sequence of dreams. The animation is entirely based on filmed images, so it has a realistically fluid yet surrealistically shimmery look. To enhance the strangeness, each dreamy segment was done in a different style, by a different animator. It's a treat for the eyes, with plenty for the brain to chew on as well.

Brave New World
It's been quite a long while since I read the book, but I thought this 1998 adaptation (featuring Leonard Nimoy) was really pretty good. One little change I found distracting though: they assigned a last name to John the Savage: Cooper. And the guy even kinda looked like John Cooper!

When Two Won't Do
Maureen Marovitch and David Finch are independent film-makers in Canada who decided to make of film about themselves as they began exploring non-traditional romantic relationships. We journey alongside them during their travels across the continent, attending conferences about open-relationship lifestyles, interviewing polyamorous families, and navigating the thrills, pitfalls, and surprises of their own real-life entanglements. It's a fascinating ride, and an eye-opening glimpse into some very unusual relationships.

War on Drugs:
A War on Ourselves
with John Stossel

If you still think drug prohibition is a good idea, send me your address and I'll mail you a tape of this outstanding new ABC investigative report. Thank you, John Stossel, for this excellent journalism.

Postscript: Some readers might be interested to know that my offer of a tape of John Stossel's latest report was only accepted by two people, both of whom are already on our side but who missed the show and wanted to see it. So, either my readers are already convinced, or their heads are so deep in the sand as to make them unwilling to even consider the possibity of being wrong. I'd like to believe that those in the first category far outnumber those in the second... so when can we call off this ghastly disaster called the War on Drugs?

American Eats
History on a Bun
My favorite show on the Food Network is Food Unwrapped, which goes inside various factories to show us how different kinds of food are made. But even more fascinating is this History Channel documentary, featuring the stories behind the invention of popular American foodstuffs, many of which (like "Chinese" fortune cookies) did not originate where we think they did.

Men in Black II
Not bad for a sequel with as hard an act to follow as Men in Black. We all laughed and had a good time. I loved the contents of locker C-18 (but I thought it should have been #17...).

The Endless Summer
That image of The Dudes With Surfboards (from the movie poster) has been etched in my brain since childhood... but having never actually seen the film until now, I hadn't really understood the title before. Two surfers (and their cameraman) spend 1966 following the summer around the globe, looking for places to surf. [You might say it's like the Amazing Race except that the only type of Challenge is surfing, there's only one team, and they're not in any hurry. (And no, we still haven't heard anything about back from CBS.)] Part surfing documentary, part international travelogue, this time capsule is thoroughly entertaining, even if you don't dig surfing.

Summer Lovers
I didn't think much of this movie when I saw in 1982... but I just saw it again for the first time since then, and this time I really liked it. Perhaps it's because I no longer find the premise (a three-way romance) far-fetched... but also, I've become fascinated by this film's setting: the Greek island of Santorini. I recently became convinced (by an A&E special) that this island's volcanic destruction (circa 1500 BC) was the inspiration for the myth of Atlantis. So now, I'd like to go there. This film provides a good vicarious visit.

Secret Passages
There are a lot of great shows on the History Channel (like Modern Marvels and History vs. Hollywood) but my current favorite is Secret Passages. Each week we are taken through an amazing array of hidden doorways into every secret hiding places imaginable: bomb shelters, smuggler's passageways, escape tunnels, eccentric living spaces, underground headquarters... places you've never imagined, often hiding right before everyone's eyes. Even if you've already heard the secret data, it's wild to actually see the inside of the these amazing hidden places.

Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

R2-D2 can fly???

Overall, I really enjoyed the new big-budget, big-screen Spiderman movie... but I do have a few questions. For example, I loved seeing his first home-made costume, featuring a red sweatshirt with black stenciling... but how did he get from that to the incredibly fancy and detailed Spidey-suit he has in the very next scene? It's not like he had the money to pay for it....

The Lathe of Heaven
Trying to bring about positive change in the world by giving hypnotic suggestions to a man whose dreams become reality is like making a deal with the devil: it never works out as well as you thought it would.

I loved this enchanting French film about a young woman who devotes herself to helping others via eccentric secret favors. But Alison and Gina liked it even more than me... they both immediately declared this to be their new Favorite Movie Ever. So you know it must be good. 

What Dreams May Come
This is an incredible visual feast of a ride, with plenty of food for thought to snack on during the journey. Even an atheist can enjoy this fascinating and emotional trip through Heaven and Hell, particularly since it barely mentions God and paints (literally) an afterlife in which there is no judgment nor any requirement to reject sin or believe in Jesus. However, those of faith might find these omissions curious, or even objectionable. Regardless of what you believe, approach this one with an open mind, and enjoy the scenery for what it is: stunning. 

The Men Who Killed Kennedy
OK, I'm now convinced. There was a conspiracy, and a cover-up, and Oswald was just a hapless fall guy. So how long will it be before the public at large is convinced? When will the official lie be recognized as such, and the truth really told? It seems to me some deathbed confessions should be emerging one of these days. What will the history books say about 1963 in 2063?

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Picture if you will: a milk shake with hands, a hovering carton of french fries with telekinetic powers, and a shape-shifting ball of meat. Their names: Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad. Together, they fight crime. Well, sort of. Mostly, they just hang out in their neighbor Carl's swimming pool. What am I talking about? Only the most bizarre and hilarious cartoon show I've encountered since Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. (You'll find them both on Cartoon Network, filed under "Adult Swim.") 

The Time Machine (2002)
In many ways, this film is excellent: the Time Traveler's machine looks fantastic, and it's even more spectacular in action. The new-in-this-version material surrounding the events of 4 years prior and the year 2037 are all quite good, and even some aspects of life in the year 802701 are well done (the Eloi city, for example, is beautiful). However, I was displeased with many of the changes made to the story it was supposedly based on. (Morlocks hunting during daylight hours? Huh?) And the ending was all wrong! My advice? Stop watching after you've seen the Eloi city, then go check out one of the more faithful adaptations, such as Richard McMurry's excellent webcomic, the 1960 movie version, the 1964 Classics Illustrated comic book (still my favorite adaptation), or even (*gasp*) the original novella from 1895.

Peggy Sue Got Married
Peggy Sue passes out at a high school reunion in the eighties, and wakes up back in high school in the sixties, with all her memories intact. It reminds me of the excellent book by Ken Grimwood called Replay (now there's an adaptation I'd like to see) except that, instead of getting to live her whole life over again, Peggy Sue's trip to the past covers only a few days. Conveniently enough, the wacky-hat wearing lodge her grandfather belonged to was founded 600 years earlier by a time traveler, and they just happened to have a ready-to-use ritual for sending someone back in time to the place where they belonged... 

The Time Machine (1960)
Although I'll admit to some sentimental fondness for George Pal's adaptation of the HG Wells classic, it really hasn't aged well. The special effects may have been Oscar-worthy back in 1960, but they're laughable by today's standards, and the script isn't much better. For a man smart and visionary enough to have invented and built a time machine by himself, Rod Taylor exhibits a surprising level of ignorance regarding the practical problems of traveling through time. About the only thing that still looks good to me in this version is the machine itself (plus a few bits of the distant future's architecture).

Somewhere in Time
Haunting romantic fantasy in which Christopher Reeve wishes himself back to 1912, to meet an actress whose photograph he fell in love with. Reminiscent of the works of Jack Finney, it was written by noted Twilight Zone author Richard Matheson, who gave Finney a nod in the form of a college professor (named Finney) who Reeve goes to for advice on traveling back in time. But about that gold pocketwatch he's given at the start of the film... if he takes it back in time and leaves it there to be cherished and eventually returned to him, then where did it come from originally?

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Even though it's been over 20 years since I read the books, I can still remember the stuff they left out and/or changed for this movie. But I'm not one of those purists who was upset by such changes... on the contrary, I thought this adaptation was quite magnificent, incredible even. (And for those in the know, just think of those missing adventures with Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-wights as being like a reward for those who go to the trouble of reading the original text.)

Desperately Seeking Susan
Remember that episode of Gilligan's Island where Mary Anne gets hit on the head with a coconut and wakes up thinking she's Ginger? It's like that, except the island is Manhattan, it's a lamppost not a coconut, and it's Rosanna Arquette who wakes up thinking she's Madonna. Oh, and people are trying to kill her and stuff.

Bedazzled [2000]
Like most remakes, this pales when compared to the original, but as long as you've seen the Peter Cook version, this one's also worth seeing. It's fun because they do different things with most of the wishes, with the last couple being quite refreshingly different. It's almost more like a sequel than a remake (either way the work of the devil, I suppose).

Cast Away
A friend of my complained that this film felt like one big ad for FedEx, but I liked the fact that a real company was featured; it made the story feel more authentic to me than it would have with a fictitious package delivery company. And I really liked the central hour of the film, in which Tom Hanks struggles to survive on a remote tropical island. But I was unsatisfied with the conclusion: the ending was at least one scene too abrupt for my tastes.

Maybe they should have called this "The Wise-Cracking Donkey" because he's the real star of this hilarious modern fairy tale.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I don't understand why people think this movie is so great. To me it was confusing and absurd. I found a lot more to enjoy in "Bring It On", a cheesy cheerleader movie I happened to see later that night. At least in that movie, when girls went flying through the air, it was because they'd been flung there, not because they could just fly somehow.



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