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Everyone misses the most interesting thing
OK, let's get the basics out of the way first. This is definitely a flawed episode. It is supposed to be an allegory, but it comes off as unsubtle, heavy-handed, and preachy. Even so, the allegory is not a bad one. In this way it has much in common with the original series episode about the half-black, half-white people.
From a plot perspective, the big problem is, as many have pointed out, that it makes no sense for Riker to be so quickly and completely consumed by this androgynous person. Someone else made a very good case showing how they are completely not his type. But even aside from that, even if we allow that he was, for whatever reason, attracted, it is still someone he has known for a very short time, and it makes no sense for him to risk his whole career over it, when usually he's not exactly Mr. Commitment. Hell, he never even married Deanna, the closest thing that could be called the love of his life! But I disagree with the notion that it was also out of character for Worf to join him. I can see Worf joining him. Let's face it, as much as Worf is loyal to Star Fleet and the Federation, you have to admit, he has a pretty dull life by Klingon standards. Here was a chance to go on an exciting, dangerous mission, *and* he could justify it by Klingon honor and values (standing by a friend)! Not so far-fetched that he would seize the opportunity.
But I think a number of people have missed the point in complaining that the episode somehow copped out. That it should have had a male play the love interest, or addressed homosexuality more directly. People, it's an *allegory*! It's NOT a story about homosexuality or transsexuality or any of that. It's a story with broad philosophical implications that can then *be applied* back to issues like homosexuality or transsexuality. Are you people *so* concrete-bound that you think it has to have *actual* homosexuality* in it to be of any value? Had they cast the love interest with a male actor, it would have made zero sense. First, this was supposed to be an androgynous character who none-the-less identified as a female. So why on *earth* would you cast such a person with a male? Second, it's hard enough, as it is, to believe that Riker would be so attracted to such an androgynous, even if slightly female, person. There's no WAY he would have been attracted to an androgynous slightly male person, unless one is prepared to suddenly, out of the blue, declare that, oh, by the way, Riker is and has always been bi. Now I'm not saying that a person like Riker couldn't be bi. But for four and a half years there had been absolutely no hint of anything remotely like this (and there never would be again for the rest of the series. Or movies). That would simply have been *bad writing*. You don't radically alter a central character for the sake of one week's episode.
But what I find remarkable is that nobody has discussed what I consider to be the most interesting aspect of the story: the ending. Through the whole thing, we are all comfortable, complacently entrenched in the opinion that government depicted is a horrible authoritarian tyranny. When they assert a benevolent intent, that their intervention really does make the targeted subjects happier, we scoff. But in the end, it seems there's something in what they claim: our protagonist-cum-victim seems to very sincerely be happy and grateful for their transformation. And this raises a really *interesting* philosophical question: does the end justify the means in such cases? Is it OK for the state to deny personal choice if it really will be to the citizen's benefit? Are there, or could there be cases where the state really does know what's best for you, better than you do yourself? Personally, I think the answer is 'no', but the story here makes you at least question and reflect. You can't simply dismiss it. I think it is unfortunate that the episode does not explore this issue more.
Everyone's wrong, it's a delight
I can't believe the low scores this episode has received. It's among my favorites (granted, with something as high quality as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I have many favorites). I've always liked Keenan Wynn and he gives a good performance here. I think it has an excellent snapper ending. And I like the way that the episode title is a pun.
*** SPOILERS BEGIN HERE *** If you haven't seen the episode, do yourself a favor and read no further.
OK, so the other thing I wanted to comment on was just how well directed the whole ending sequence was. Don't you find it eerie and disconcerting the way we see the protagonist dive into the ocean and disappear to speck with just the sound of the ship and the sea, and the overpowering lack of a woman screaming? And that's it, we never see him again, but we can surmise what happens to him. What an awful, scary fate! I just think it's wonderfully done.
Bring your truck
While this is a superficially enjoyable episode, it is deeply flawed. Specifically, you might as well bring your truck to this episode, because you'll be able to drive it through the plot holes.
We reach a point where the crisis is that the holodeck Moriarty character has somehow become sentient and taken over control of the holodeck, and is holding Dr. Pulaski hostage within his holodeck-London world. We presume that the holodeck safeties have been disabled and the good doctor is in real peril (notice that nobody actually bothers to check). Data is unable to shut down the program; the computer announces that this is because it is locked under authority of-- Geordi.
The problem is, there are about a thousand different ways our heroes could easily and safely rescue the doctor. These, then, are the plot holes: 1a) As the goofs for this episode points out, the program is locked to Geordi. So Geordi should be able to unlock it, no prob. He doesn't even try.
1b) Data outranks Geordi. So he should be able to override Geordi's lockout.
1c) If nothing else, surely *Captain Picard* has the authority to override any computer lockout set by someone under him.
2) Why not just shut off the holodeck. Not ask the computer to shut it down, but shut it down yourself. Is Geordi an engineer or not? It's just a friggin' device in the end. Pull the power cord! Open the thing up and take out key circuits. Shut down the engines so there's no power for it to draw. Shut down the whole computer! (why not? they've done it before). Or just take an axe to all the holodeck equipment.
2b) You could also destroy the holodeck from the inside. There have to be emitters that create all the stuff in the holodeck. And engineering has the schematics to know exactly where they are located. Data could just go in with a hand phaser and quickly shoot out all the emitters. Boom, no more holographic projection, just an empty holodeck room with Dr. Pulaski standing in it somewhere.
3) Or how about something a zillion times simpler: Just beam her out of there! Duh! They know she's in the holodeck room, the computer even knows she's there (presumably based on her comm badge), the sensors can easily pick her out as the only life form in the room. Piece of cake to just transport her out!
Well, you get the idea. The conundrum is ridiculously contrived. And we haven't even *begun* to talk about the preposterous notion that the ship's computer could create sentience, just by someone asking it to. Pity that Dr. Soong wasted so much of his life designing Data's amazingly complex positronic brain, when all he had to do was just ask a regular computer to create sentience.
Mr. and Mrs. North (1942)
Definitive Proof of George Burns' Greatness
After having just finished watching this picture, I came and read all the reviews here on IMDb. And it delights me to no end to discover that my own opinion is universally shared: George Burns should have been cast as Mr. North. I'm usually the contrarian and it is rare indeed when my opinion puts me in the majority. But I'm delighted to be in the majority here. Usually Gracie gets all the praise when it comes to Burns & Allen, it is really nice to see George get his due. Because, yes, this movie sorely needed George Burns. I'm truly glad it's so obvious to everyone.
Now I've never encountered the "real" 'Mr. and Mrs. North', whether that be on the printed page or the television screen. But I get the gist of what was going on here. The idea was clearly to take a known comic star and bring her own brand of comedy to an already existing property, and to hell with the fact that she's nothing like the original character. It reminds me very much of the Marx Brothers doing 'Room Service'. And in this case, it wasn't a horrible idea; Gracie carries it off pretty well. But if you're going to do it, *do* it! Go all the way, and bring in George as well. He probably didn't fit their idea of Mr. North, but so what? If Gracie didn't match the original concept of Mrs. North, then it should be no problem if George didn't match the original Mr. North. OK, so the movie would have been more 'Mr. and Mrs. Burns' than 'Mr. and Mrs. North'. But so what? It would have been a better, funnier film. And as it was, it was really 'Mrs. Burns and Mr. North'.
But other than that casting blunder, my only other real complaint with the film is that the story is almost impossible to follow. A big part of the problem is that there are a *lot* of characters, and yet very little exposition. It is really, really hard to keep track of just who all the characters *are*, let alone how they might fit into the murder. The director needed to do something about this.
But beyond these complaints, I thought it was a fun little movie. If you don't go in with expectations too high, it is a quite pleasant diversion. No masterpiece, to be sure, but quite enjoyable. With George, it could have been great. Pity.
Sorting Out Sorting (1980)
An absolute classic
This movie stands alone in its field. Literally. That is, I know of *no* other movie *in* this field. How many sorting movies are there? How many computer science movies are there? Just this one, as far as I know. Perhaps I've missed some somewhere.
I remember watching this movie multiple times when I was on college back in the early '80's; we enjoyed it enough that we'd take any occasion to see it, even sneaking into other classes when it was being shown. In addition to being a superb visual aid to understanding sorting algorithms, it has a delightful dry sense of humor, most clearly in evidence in the climactic finish (which I won't give away).
While the basic premise is interesting enough, this episode just has too many flaws. Some of them are evidence of just sloppy writing; with a little more care, the story could have been much tighter.
1) At the opening, Picard announces that they're picked up an "automated signal" from a shuttlecraft. But just a minute later, Worf announces that communication with the shuttle is not possible because the shuttle is without power. Well, call me dumb, but it seems to me that sending out an automated signal suggests that communication IS possible and the shuttle is WITH power.
2) Polaski tries to revive Picard II and the result is that it virtually *kills* him. But then a short time later, Picard orders her to try again, and she does, and this time it works just fine. Huh?
3) The whole idea seems to be that Picard II is completely out of phase with this time, which is why his readings are all strange, why he reacts backwards to the stimulant, why he can't grasp the reality around him. But if he's so out of phase, how is it that Troy has no problem reading him at the very outset, so clearly as to be *certain* that he's really Picard? This in particular seems like a lazy means to establish plot to the audience, rather than something that makes sense within the framework of the story.
4) After an approximately one minute run of full warp power (roughly timed by my tivo), we are informed that the engines can't handle the strain and Geordi can't hold it, and they have to execute a full stop. However, at 0:46 into the episode, Geordi announces that they are again at maximum warp; at 0:47 he says "Captain, I can't hold it any longer, if we don't shut down *right now*, we are going--" and Picard cuts him off and tells him to hold position. And he does. All the way until 0:57. Now, to be fair, that included a 4-minute commercial break. But, at least *some* of that time counts, because Picard leaves the bridge as we go to commercial and arrives at sick bay as we return. So it's still roughly *10 minutes* that Geordi has no problem holding the full warp power after he protested that he couldn't. By that point, the engines should be a shambles, but he has no problem providing "all the power you can muster!" Now remember, it is well-established that Geordi doesn't exaggerate in his reports to the captain (in "Relics", he tells Mr. Scott this explicitly). So when he says he can't hold it any longer, we have every reason to believe him. Yet it's a completely lie, he holds it another 10 minutes, no problem, and still has power to spare. Again, sloppy writing.
5) Perhaps the most egregious: the whole vortex-being thing makes *no sense*. Where did it come from? Where did it go? What did it want? Why did it want Picard? Troy says the being is not thought but instinct, yet wanting one particular individual sure sounds like a thought, not an instinct. The whole point of the vortex was it was trying to pull the ship in, yet when the ship voluntarily flies in, absolutely nothing happens.
This flaw is so bad that the script even acknowledges it, having Picard muse at the end about how the whole thing doesn't make any sense. But having the characters acknowledge this flaw doesn't make it any less of a flaw.
At the end of my recent viewing of the episode, I was thinking to myself that the whole thing might have made sense if it was some kind of test by Q. Well, it turns out I was right! Apparently, this episode was originally intended to be a two-parter featuring Q. It's a pity they didn't follow through with that idea.
Woman in Gold (2015)
Well, *I* liked it!
I just got home from seeing this film, and I very much enjoyed it. I've been reading some of the negative reviews and trying to understand what they're on about, but I just don't get it. I think it was a great film and I'm glad I saw it. OK, maybe following all the legal machinations gets a little dry at points, but I'm happy with this. It means that the film makers *respect* the story. This isn't one of those atrocities that claims to be based on history, but in fact plays so fast-and-loose with the facts that what you are getting is almost entirely fiction (yes, "The Imitation Game", I'm looking at *you*). While I don't know the details of the actual history in this case, from what I'm able to make out it seems like this film stays pretty true to the facts. I, for one, am glad they resisted the trend of schmaltzing the thing up.
The Imitation Game (2014)
Feh! Don't See This Movie
So I just saw this film tonight, and I quite enjoyed it. It was interesting and engaging and entertaining and everything you'd want from a movie. I went home quite satisfied, and indeed had my interest in Alan Turing, the main character, piqued. So, when I got home, I did a little online research.
Now, I know that this was a movie, and not a documentary, so I expected that there would be some liberties taken with the story, but hoped they would not be anything too significant. Well, here's what I discovered:
It's ALL bull$hit.
All of it! The events, the characterization of Turing, all of it. It's only true in the absolute broadest outlines of the story. I invite-- no, urge-- each and every one of you to pull up the Wikipedia article on this movie and read the section "Accuracy". Then come back and tell me this was a good movie.
My initial liking of this movie has turned to bitter hatred.
Any Human Heart (2010)
Not this human heart
I just finished watching this series, and in the end, I must give it a thumbs down. It's well made for what it is. But what it is isn't anything very good.
Sure, it's well made. It's well acted, well directed; it looks good, the sets and costumes and all bring the various periods to life. It's a classy, competent product. But what is the product? What is this thing they've made into a movie? Well, I'll tell you what it is: it's the story of a man's life. That's it. There's no plot other than that. Which is to say, there's no plot at all. By definition, a plot is connected sequence of events which follow a logical sequence to arrive at a climax. There's none of that here. There's just the events of one man's life. So what we have is not a plot, just a bunch of stuff that happens.
Sorry, for me, plot is not optional, it is essential. Granted, some of the stuff that happens is interesting. Some of it is heart-wrenching. But in the end, it's still just a series of vignettes, not a coherent, integrated whole.
Silly Film, Amazing Cast
I wish I could say that I loved this movie as wholeheartedly as others here do. I really *wanted* to love it. But no, I don't love it. Still, I do like it.
It's a really silly movie, bordering on stupid. The humor is really of a rather childish, broad sort; there's little here of cleverness or wit. As such, I got a number of chuckles out of the film, but few hearty laughs. To give you an idea, there's at least one gag in there that involves the use of fast motion (a la The Munsters).
But still, I enjoyed the film, and perhaps the biggest reason for that is the amazing cast. I stumbled onto this movie as a Tony Randall fan, and I was even more pleased when I saw that Shirley Jones costarred-- I loved her in The Music Man. But what blew me away was the supporting cast. This movie is a veritable who's who of the great character actors. We don't seem to *have* character actors anymore, but I'm a big fan of the great character actors of yesteryear, and this was the golden age of them. Character actors, for those who don't know, are those actors who were never really stars, but made a career out of playing interesting or oddball characters all over the place. Thus, they are the kind of people that you probably know the face without knowing the name. Let me list some of the ones who are in this film, with a clue or two of where you might know them from.
Dick Sargent plays the hotel front desk man. You know him as the second version of Darren on the old Bewitched show.
Edward Andrews plays the hotel manager. He was wonderful in two Twilight Zone episodes ("You Drive" and "Third From The Sun"), and played an admiral in Tora Tora Tora.
Ernest Truex plays the rich owner of the hotel, but you might know him from some fine old Twilight Zone ("Kick The Can", "What You Need") and Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("The Matched Pearl", "The Pearl Necklace") episodes.
Frank Faylen, who plays one of Earnest Truex's cold coot buddies, is better known as the father on the old Dobie Gillis show.
Jim Backus, the policeman behind the desk, costarred in the old Joan Davis Show, and did the voice of Mr. Magoo. He is best known as the millionaire on Gilligan's Island.
And Howard Morris, who plays the drunk guy, only did about a zillion cartoon voices; you'll surely recognize his voice.
And there's even the great Doodles Weaver, in a relatively tiny role (beats me why they even bothered to get him, he does so little).
So there you go. It's not a great movie, but if you don't take it too seriously, it's fun. Really, I gave it six stars for the film itself, plus an extra star for the great cast.
Oh, and the true star, the lion, really does an impressive job. I really don't know how they got that lion to be so well behaved.
A Top Episode
This episode is one of my three favorites of the series. Maybe my very favorite. It's just a hilarious episode. The sundry furniture is already funny all by itself, but provides a basis from which the writers wring out a lot of laughs. I really don't want to say too much and give too much away for those who haven't seen it; if you are in that category, see it at once!
Unfortunately, the invisible powers-that-be will not let me end there; they seem to hate succinctness. I must add more lines. So be it. This episode deserves more than one review, so dammit, I'm gonna see this through.
So I'll end with this observation. Near the end of the episode, when Felix disdainfully reads the poem off of the pillow: Is the poetry really especially worse than *this* masterpiece?
"There are times when you may feel lonely.
There are times when you may feel glum.
But those times will not last if you only
Have a buddy, a comrade, a chum."
A Reply To toolkien
I am also one who counts this episode as the absolute best of the entire series. Others have sung its praises, and I do not feel the need to add to them. I only wanted to reply to toolkien's review, which cites an alleged plot hole. Rather than restate his argument, I'll let you go read his review (there aren't that many reviews for this episode, so it should be easy to find).
I assert that toolkien's argument holds no water. In fact, we *do* have canonical evidence that you *can't* just send a ship off into combat on autopilot. The *only* time that was ever successfully done was with the M-5 device, in TOS's "The Ultimate Computer", and we know that the M-5 experiment was ultimately a failure and no Federation ships since are equipped with one. Lacking one, it can't be done, and I shall prove it.
EXHIBIT A: I cite as evidence the third movie "The Search For Spock". In that movie, just to have the ship be controlled by a mere handful of people, Scotty has to create an automating device. This alone tells us you can't just go fly the ship somewhere on autopilot-- if you could, they wouldn't have needed Scotty's hack, they would have just set the Enterprise on autopilot and sat back and enjoyed the ride to Genesis. But what's more, Scotty's jury-rigging eventually *breaks down* when faced with the challenge of combat. This makes it extra-clear that combat is too hard to be auto-piloted.
EXHIBIT B: I cite the TOS episode "This Side Of Paradise". At one point in this episode, the entire crew has mutinied and abandoned the ship, choosing instead to beam down to a paradise-like planet. Kirk is left alone on the ship, everyone else is gone. And here is his *exact quote*, from his captain's log: "The ship... can be maintained in orbit for several months, but even with automatic controls, I cannot pilot her alone. In effect, I am marooned here." So where's your autopilot now?
In short, there is hard evidence that a starship cannot be auto-piloted, especially in combat, and I am aware of *no* evidence which suggests it can (again, except for the M-5). But even if we speculate that by Enterprise C's time, they had developed *some* ability to autopilot, there's every good reason to posit that it might not be very good, especially at combat. Keep in mind: the *whole point* is to convince the Klingons that the Federations acted honorably. If the ship went back with no crew, just on autopilot, it is reasonable to think that the Klingons would not have been impressed by the half-assed effort that the automation system might have been able to produce. Indeed, it might well have been Yar's tactical expertise *itself* which pushed them over the line enough to win the Klingons' respect. We don't really know for sure, but if the episode wants to lean in that direction, it's on sturdy enough ground that you can't label that a plot hole.
Chasing Rainbows (1930)
Flawed but enjoyable
I don't usually see things the way that everybody else does, but in this case, I do. The other reviews here are pretty spot on. I enjoyed the film. It had strengths, but it also had flaws. In fact, three of each.
The three strengths were Jack Benny, Marie Dressler, and Bessie Love. I've always been a Jack Benny fan, and he does not disappoint here. His sharp, fast one-liners are a funny and very welcome part of the movie. This was my first introduction to Marie Dressler, and I'm an instant fan; she was just marvelous. Probably the best part of the movie. And finally, I loved Bessie Love's work here. The Carlie character she brings to life is sweet and sincere and adorable, and you quickly find yourself pulling for her. I would've gone for Carlie in an instant.
As for the flaws, the biggest is Charles King's Terry Fay. I can't even assess Kings performance, because the character itself, as written, is just so horrible. He's a romantic lummox and comes across as both moron and jerk. By the time we learn that he's married Daphne, I completely hated him and didn't *want* Carlie to end up with him; she was just too good for him and deserved much better. That's a pretty big flaw in a romance.
The other two flaws were more minor, and one of them wasn't the film's fault. First, I found the romantic resolution to be lame. After all the romantic vacillations and tribulations, we were entitled to more of a payoff at the climax. The long-awaited final get- together is just so rushed and skipped-over, its like the film makers themselves really didn't care. But part of the problem may be related to the second flaw: the fact that the film is missing a number of scenes. As others have already pointed out, there are a number of scenes which were filmed in early 2-color Technicolor (whatever exactly that is), which are missing. From the descriptions that the cobbled together available version provides, it seems like they were just set-piece stage numbers. But that includes the *entire* ending of the film. Maybe somewhere within all that missing stuff, more was developed to support the final get-together of the two leads. Even if it were all just wordless, looks and expressions and whatever. Maybe that's part of why the resolution feels so thin and rushed.
Regardless, I would pay a lot to see the film restored to its original form. If for no other reason than to get to see one more number with Marie Dressler!
A Zenith of the Series
Wow, only *one* review for this fabulous episode? How can this be? This two-parter really is Star Trek: The Next Generation at its very best. I'm reluctant to say too much, lest I spoil anything for those who haven't see it yet. Exciting, engaging plot, some good characters, some good surprises. And it wraps up a bunch of loose threads.
As a two-parter, it is hard to review what is essentially half-an-episode. Fortunately, the second half is as strong as the first, making this, in my opinion, the very best of the cliff- hanger two-part episodes. Yes, even better than The Best Of Both Worlds.
My only complaint is that much of the spoken Klingon is gibberish. Yes, "naDev ghoS" is correct for "come here!" And "Gowron, Dajon, Dajon!" makes good sense: Gowron, you have captured it, you have captured it. But, for instance, the line about the son sharing in the honors or crimes of the father does not contain anything resembling the word for father (vav), son, (puqloD), honor (batlh), or crime (HeS).
The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936)
A mixed bag of fish, but worthwhile on the whole
This movie is a crying shame. It had all the elements to be a really great comedy, but it never quite comes together. There is a lot of talent in the cast. And there are some good performances. There are some funny bits. But it never fully engages you, and by the end, you feel disappointed. It just seems like it should have been better.
Jack Benny has a nice character that suits him well. Gracie Allen has good material to work with, which isn't always the case in B&A films. I found Bob Burns' hick character to be quite amusing. The movie actually has a real plot, rather than being just a hodge- podge of scenes and performances. So why doesn't it all work better than it does?
Well, problem number one is indeed that plot. It's good for a movie to have a plot. Even a comedy needs a plot to provide some structure. But this movie commits the blunder of ultimately taking its plot too seriously. Eventually everything and everybody gets *so* wrapped up in the tribulations of the romantic participants that the movie forgets that it's supposed to be about the laughs.
And related to that is the problem of the romantic participants themselves. Maybe the intense focus on the romance would be an acceptable move, if it were a *good* romance. But it's not. *Everybody* loves the woman, and the one man that she picks to love back is a real nebish. He's about the least interesting person in the whole movie, and if she hadn't picked *him* out as the one she truly loves, you'd never even remember he was in the film. I don't know that this is really Ray Milland's fault. The character is written without any attributes. So in the end, you really don't see what she even sees in him, you really don't feel any chemistry between the two, you really are *not* particularly routing for them to get together in the end. So it just doesn't work.
But even aside from problems that distract from the comedy, there are problems with the comedy itself. While Gracie has many delightful Gracie-esque lines, on the whole I think Burns and Allen could have been used to better effect. Casting them as the sponsors of the radio program was a brilliant idea that could have and should have been exploited better. After all, the sponsor calls all the shots, and must be appeased and sucked up to. So there were enormous possibilities for Gracie to want absolutely ridiculous, irrational things for the program, and everyone would have to go along with it. Especially if George were playing some kind of supportive, my-wife-can-do-no-wrong role. As it is, George has absolutely *nothing* to do in this movie, other than get exasperated at Gracie at every turn. More room for comedy if he were having to try to somehow justify her zaniness.
Similarly, Bob Burns is used suboptimally. HIs problem is simpler and more concrete: he spends the *whole* movie searching for Leopold Stokowski to play his wacky instrument for him-- but we never get the payoff: he never actually *does* meet Stokowski. Surely some fun could have been had with that! I feel gypped that that never came to pass, after such a long setup.
Speaking of Stokowski, does anybody know what the first piece that he conducts is? The very chordy thing, before it breaks into the "Little" Fugue in Gm? While it is highly praiseworthy that the film includes something so cultural, it is truly inappropriate for them not to identify the pieces.
So, yes, this movie had a rather lengthy list of flaws, flaws that prevent the movie from achieving greatness. But it is still a rather fun affair, and is reasonably enjoyable. If you don't set your expectations too high, it's worth a watch.
Worst Episode of the Entire Series
To me, this episode has always been the absolute nadir of the series. It's just dreadful. It makes "Sub Rosa" seem like "The City On The Edge Of Forever".
Like many episodes, this one is structured such that there is a main story, and a secondary story. The main story is about the Enterprise's big-deal mission to the Romulan neutral zone to find out what happened to its lost outposts. The secondary story is about a few cryogenically frozen humans who they discover and revive. *Both* of these stories have deep flaws.
There are actually a couple problems with the secondary story. The first is that it swamps and dwarfs the main story. A crisis with the Romulans *ought* to be a big deal, and yet the story focuses mainly on these three 20th century people. And frankly, who cares? While it's sort of interesting seeing how they deal with waking up centuries later, the fact is that we the viewers already have the meta-knowledge that these people aren't important and we're never going to see or hear about them again. There's really no story about them, no plot, just watching them react in their different ways to their new lives. It all really goes nowhere.
The other problem with the secondary story is the overt smug preachiness of it. One of the 20th century humans is this straw-man caricature of a businessman, a typical leftist stereotype that serves as a tool for typical leftist bashing of business and capitalism. Sadly, the series specialized in this sort of thing in this era. The original Ferengi were exactly the same thing.
And yet, for all the problems with the secondary story, the main story is *worse*. Why? Because there *is* no main story! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS. They journey to the neutral zone, find nothing, the Romulans show up and say "We're back!", and that's it. Done. Absolutely *nothing* happens. There is no story. There is no plot. The whole thing is a ludicrous waste of time.
What damns this episode to eternal Star Trek hell is the fact that it was clearly written to be some kind of big cliff-hanger, except the next season's opener did not pick up and finish the episode. There was no resolution, nothing went anywhere with any of this. Had the next season picked up where this one left off, and had the Romulans actually *do* something, had the big-deal dramatic "We're back!" actually *led* to something, then the episode might not be quite so vile. But it didn't. And so I always remember this as the episode where absolutely nothing happened. And I detest it for that.
Not the worst-- but damn close!
Some are comparing this episode to "Sub Rosa", but for me the nadir of the series has always been "The Neutral Zone", an episode where literally *nothing* happens. I can't rate this one as worse, but it gives it a good run for its money. At least this episode *has* a plot. But you can search high and low and never find one with a plot that makes less sense.
Let us summarize: some giant alien space probe with super-advanced technology that well outstrips that of our heroes starts *slowly* transforming the Enterprise into a model of its home world, while filling Data with the personalities of its *primitive* religion. Our heroes must stop it from doing this before the ship is completely transformed and they, presumably, die (no life-support systems or anything). Data's personalities gradually reveal some kind of vague story about the sun god killing everyone because the moon good is inexplicably absent to keep her in check. So in the end Picard decides to role play the moon god, and, voilà!, the probe instantly puts the ship back to normal.
And the reason that the aliens built a probe to do *that* is....?
Take your time trying to come up with a plausible reason. You won't find one.
And by the way, what would have happened if it had been the U.S.S. Lollipop that had wandered by instead of the Enterprise, which did not conveniently sport an android among its crew? With no android to play the parts of the probe's various characters, what happens then? How are the Lollipop's crew supposed to solve the ridiculous "puzzle" that the probe requires in order to not destroy the ship?
This episode is a bad crossing of "The Inner Light" with "The Royale". At least in "The Royale", they provide a plausible explanation of *why* it is necessary to act out the fiction to the end.
Yes, as someone else stressed, Brent Spiner gives an excellent performance as all those alien personalities. But this is balanced by the rest of the crew being simply *awful* as a bunch of inept and impotent losers. Only Picard has *any* idea of anything to do, and all of his ideas ridiculously involve trying to solve the alien personalities' problems rather than his own. That is to say, *his* problem was never Masaka, it was the alien probe! By any logic, he ought to have been concentrating on doing something to disable or escape the probe. He had absolutely no way to know that putting on a mask and role-playing some mythical god figure would make the probe somehow magically put the ship back together again.
It is my natural inclination to focus on plot problems, and this episode has more than its share. But I would not want to give the impression that that is the only problem with this episode. The writing is terrible. Some of the dialog is just painfully bad. Wince- inducing.
This is an episode that just gets worse with each viewing. I admit that the first time I saw it, while I didn't rate it highly, I didn't realize how awful it is. But I just had the misfortune to watch it again for the first time in a long time, and boy does it stink!
Double Wedding (1937)
Not wonderful-- but could have been
I just finished watching this film, and to Jo Swerling, who did the screenplay, I am moved to say, paraphrasing Bill Murray in "Tootsie":
Hey, man, I saw your movie. What happened?
*Something* happened. The movie starts out strong and then utterly loses itself. It's as if Swerling picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue or something. There *must* be a story about what happened to the screenplay, because it really seems as if a fine, tight story was given over to a committee, who hacked it to pieces or something.
The basic elements of a great comedy are there. Excellent cast. Some fine, quirky characters. Powell and Loy's characters are particularly fine, setting up a wonderful contrast and conflict. But the plot is a shambles; the movie keeps setting itself up to go places that it never actually goes.
For instance: at the beginning of the film, the movie that Charlie wants to make, which is going to make Irene a big star, is a big deal, central to most of the main characters' motivations. And Charlie has it all figured out; all they need is to find some rich person to back the film. And gee, what a coincidence, it turns out that rich Mrs. Bly, who backs Margit's dress shop, is actually *annoyed* that the shop makes money-- she's looking for a tax loss! So what could be more perfect than if she were to back the film they want to make? And *then*, when it turns out that she and Charlie are actually old friends! Well, surely that seals the deal! *Surely* now part of the happy ending will be that they'll get to make the movie!
But no, actually the whole making-a-movie thing is cast aside and forgotten about by about a third of the way into the movie.
And then there's the big finale scene, where Charlie is faking that he's going to marry Irene, while it's clear he's actually plotting to have Waldo arrive and insist on marrying Irene, leaving Charlie clear to try to marry Margit at the same time. Surely, this is what's going to happen, right? I mean, come on, the movie is *named* "Double Wedding", for chrissakes!
And yet, we got no double wedding. We don't even get a single wedding. For some inexplicable reason, instead the entire final scene dissolve into one massive brawl. Whose idea was *that*? Again, seems like a committee got its hands on the script.
Well, you get the idea of what I'm complaining about. But there was, of course, a lot of good here too. Great characters, good performances, some good dialog. I definitely laughed out loud a number of times. But by the end I just felt gypped. The meandering story that can't remember what it's trying to do is just a glaring flaw. It's a shame, because handled more skillfully, this had all the ingredients to be wonderful.
Flawed: too many things make no sense
I always find this the weakest of the two-part episodes. It is a pretty good story, marred by some flaws of logic. I shall simply list some of them:
o It was previously established that *only* Data's doohickey could provide the needed sensitivity to allow for the phase change. That was a crucial point, because it was the *only* reason that Picard allowed Data to go on the mission at all. Now, all of a sudden, Geordi can build another one, no problem. If Geordi was able to build one, why didn't they try that *the first time*, instead of risking Data?
o When the landing party is assembled to go after Data, its makeup makes no sense. The initial party is supposed to be Riker, Geordi, Worf, Crusher, and Troy. OK, Riker to lead the mission, makes sense. Geordi to run the technical gadgetry, OK. Worf because who knows what dangers they'll encounter, makes sense. But Troy and Crusher? Seriously? Troy and Crusher? Because Data's going to need a doctor? Or a *counselor*??? Wouldn't a couple of security guys make more sense?
o But it gets worse. Then Picard decides to insert himself into the mission. So who does he send back to the ship? The useless Troy or Crusher? No. The now useless Riker-- (Picard himself will now obviously lead the mission)? No. Worf. The one guy it would make sense to bring when you're going up against some unknown, unseen aliens. But this is beyond just a bad assessment of the away team. Consider *the ship*. If Picard goes on the mission, *and* Riker, *and* Geordi-- and Data's already missing-- you now have *every* top officer missing from the Enterprise. When Worf is sent back to the ship-- he's actually *in command*! He's the ranking officer! You're up against mysterious aliens of unknown and apparently hostile intent, and you're going to leave the flagship of the Federation under the command of a mere Lieutenant? In the whole rest of the series we never see Worf in sole command of the ship (yeah, once he sat in the chair while Picard was waiting in the next room). *** Wouldn't it have made VASTLY more sense to send Riker back instead of Worf ***?
(Of course, these flaws stem from lazy writing. The writer, already knowing what they were going to encounter in San Francisco, had hand-picked the landing party in a way that Picard could not. For instance, they needed Crusher to discover the truth about the plague, and they needed to *not* have Worf, so as not to need to explain his Klingon appearance to the 19 century folk)
o The entire, problematic appearance of the landing party in 19th century San Francisco is completely skipped over. How did *all five* of them suddenly appear there, in Federation uniform, without causing anyone to notice or be concerned? Where did they get their 19th century clothes from? And if they were able to get clothes, why weren't they able to get rent money? Crusher was working as a nurse, that should have provided enough income to afford their one room.
o Riker asserts that if you were a time-traveling species that wanted to kill humans without attracting notice, that you'd go to some plague-ridden time. Which makes sense. So wouldn't 12th century Europe-- at the time of the actual Black Plague-- make much more sense than 19th century San Francisco? I think history provides *tons* of better choices than 19th century San Francisco. How about the Irish potato famine? World War II Stalingrad?
o Why on earth didn't Data and Guinan take Twain into their confidence? Guinan knew Twain, knew him to be an intelligent and sensible man, why wouldn't they trust him with the truth? Telling him lies and stories was obviously only making him more suspicious and paranoid.
o Um, why is Twain portrayed as such a frothing Luddite? I can find no evidence that the real Mark Twain was one. In fact, he was an early adopter (for a while, at least) of that new-fangled invention of the era, the typewriter.
OK, so far these are all somewhat minor. But this is the big one:
o Explain to me how it makes any sense at all that the *only* food these aliens can eat is human neuro-chemical energy. *Human*. Vulcan or Klingon won't do. Has to be human. The humans have never even *heard* of these people, how do the aliens even *know* about humans? How does a race on one planet evolve such that its only source of food comes from beings on a planet a zillion light years away? And all this, to get what? "electrochemical energy"? What's so unique about our electrochemical energy? It's really just chemical energy. And not even that much of it, how much voltage is there in the human nervous system? How is this not something they could create artificially? Or for that matter, why not just use animals? Humans differ from animals in the complexity of their brain structure, not in the fundamentals of neurochemistry. There's no good reason why the aliens couldn't eat cow energy. This whole we-must-eat-human-energy thing ***makes no sense***.
Not great, but worth a watch for the true fan
The quickest and easiest way to know what's wrong with this production is simply to watch the credits. If you do, you'll notice that, except for Randall and Klugman, there's just about *nobody* involved in this thing from the original TV show-- neither in front of nor behind the cameras. They badly needed to get back more of the original people. They needed the original Murray. They needed the original Gloria. Either of the original Edna's would have been a nice touch.
But most of all, they needed to get back some of the original writers. I once saw Tony Randall on a talk show (might have been Letterman), and he was asked what made "The Odd Couple" so good, and without missing a beat, he answered "Great writing!" Well, nobody is likely to confuse *this* script with great writing. A lot of the gags are tepid. The logic isn't always there; for instance, it strains credulity to think that Oscar couldn't instantly tell that the poker guys were *letting* him win. I'm still trying to figure out what all that physical training, running around in the park, had to do with helping Oscar's voice.
And yet, I have to say, I enjoyed watching this movie. Just because it was fun to see Oscar and Felix again. However weak the script, the boys still give it a fine performance, they've still got it. And having Penny Marshall back as Myrna really helped a lot; her scenes with Klugman was some of my favorite stuff in the film. Not hilarious, but just fun.
But I do wish they'd had more tie-ins to the original show. More references to things that all us fans remember. They did have the gorilla, and they mentioned the doings on the night Edna was born. But why wasn't the apartment flaming peach? (surely Oscar wouldn't have gone to the effort, hassle, or expense of repainting!) It just would have been nice if there could have been some passing mention of Spot Moscowitz, or Unger Woo, or the time Edna ran off to follow Paul Williams. It would have been nice if, upon returning to the apartment after so many years, if Felix discovered that there still remained one last can of canned squid.
But again, still, I enjoyed it. I guess that, after so many years of watching reruns of the same episodes over and over, it was just nice to have something akin to a new episode. Even if it isn't a great episode.
Story does not stand up to scrutiny
So explain this one to me: allegedly, all the brouhaha with the subspace aliens started when Geordi tried out his funky sensor enhancement. So how come Riker was missing sleep, clearly being abducted for 2-3 days *prior* to Geordi first turning on the magic sensor thingy?
And while we're at it: How do these aliens know so much about humans that they understand that humans sleep for some 8 hours at a stretch, and that that would be the perfect time to abduct them with nobody noticing they're missing?
And how do they know what time people sleep on the Enterprise? Or even what "time" it is on the Enterprise?
And just as a small by-the-way, what on *earth* is accomplished by cutting off someone's arm and then re-attaching it?
No, it's an interesting initial premise, but it's not thought out all that well. Oh well.
Walk Don't Run (1966)
Better than I expected
So, having seen a lot of mixed reviews of this film, I went into it with fairly low expectations. But I wanted to see Cary Grant's last film, even as a curiosity. But I actually found I liked it a great deal!
OK, let's be clear: this is no "Philadelphia Story" or "His Girl Friday". There are definitely comic scenes that just don't work. But there are also plenty that do; I laughed out loud several times during the film. I'm still chuckling right now, remembering one of my favorite bits: Cary giving up his seat on the bus.
One thing I particularly liked about the film was Grant's character. He's not *trying* to be the suave romantic lead anymore, and he's totally comfortable with that. He's clearly happily married, to the point of having four grown children. He goes through the movie almost deliberately showing his age, struggling to see without his glasses or unable to keep up with all the standing and sitting for toasts. It's almost like it's a shared joke between him and the audience, as if he's winking at us and saying "Yeah, I know, I'm not the young stud anymore. ;-)" But whatever he's lost with age, he's gained in wisdom, a particular kind of wisdom that resonates with me: the wisdom of realizing that's what's most important in life is to have fun. He treats life as an adventure. Note the way that he chooses to stay in the apartment, even when his lavish hotel suite is ready for him. His climbing all over the building. His stripping down and running in the race. His total and instant distaste for the stuffy, no-fun English diplomat. This is *my* kind of character! Reminiscent of someone you might find in "You Can't Take It With You", or even the early Marx Brothers.
OK, the sad truth is, Cary is really what makes the movie; without him, it's all pretty slim. The rest of the cast is nothing to write home about. Still, on the whole the writing was pretty good. Some witty lines, and the plot was well constructed. While this is essentially a remake of "The More The Merrier", it really uses only the bare skeleton of that film, and does its own, fresh take on it. Frankly, I consider this "Walk Don't Run" to be superior to "The More The Merrier" (which I found started off excellently but bogged down very badly in the second half), and I don't care one whit that I seem to be the only person who thinks so. Though I will admit that the anal-retentive morning schedule thing was handled better in the earlier film.
So, all in all, I think it was a very fitting swan song for Mr. Grant. Not an ideal film, but an ideal character for him to go out playing.
The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)
Not exactly "To Be Or Not To Be"
Well, just because this movie isn't nearly as bad as Jack Benny always made it out to be, doesn't mean it's great. It's not. Indeed, it's highly flawed. But it's still mildly funny and mildly enjoyable.
It had some good, creative ideas. The conception of Heaven was very interesting, with the notion that heaven is truly heaven for the entire universe and that Earth is just one tiny, insignificant planet even from Heaven's point of view. And I thought that the celestial- sized orchestra was brilliant, both in conception and execution; the camera work where we keep moving deeper and deeper into this endless orchestra was delightful. I loved the protagonist's completely naive take on life on Earth, and the schtick with the elevator was a nice touch.
But what sinks the movie, really, is just poor writing. There are some laughs, but not nearly as many as there could have been. There's a fine supporting cast that is largely wasted-- especially the great Margaret Dumont (she deserved better than to have her main gag be that she falls in a hole). And the whole outer-story about falling asleep during the commercial is just an utter waste of time: it adds nothing to the story, and really detracts from it by letting us know up front that the whole angel story is just a dream anyway. Much of the comedy seems heavy-handed and forced; for instance, why is Jack's trumpet playing *so* frightfully horrible during the pre-commercial rehearsal? How could he even have gotten a job as a musician playing *that* badly? It's stupid and doesn't even make sense. Contrast that with the way Benny always played bad violin on radio and TV: his lack of skill was much more subtle and underplayed, he didn't deliberately flub every note. And as such, it worked much better and was much funnier. The humor here too often seems to be aiming at 6-year-olds.
And, of course, the ending renders the entire proceedings pointless and unsatisfying.
But again, when the humor is allowed to be a little more subtle, the film can inspire some laughs, or at least genuine chuckles. There are worse ways to spend your time.
Finally, for those who don't realize it, the "Cliffside Park", over in "Joisey", is a direct reference to "Palisades Amusement Park", which was a big deal park just outside of New York in New Jersey. I used to love to go there as a child.
Marred by poor writing
This is really a very poorly written episode. There are gaps in logic small and large which mar an otherwise decent story.
Let's start with the small stuff:
o Picard is put in command of a squadron of three starships. But except for one brief mention of notifying the other two ships about a false alarm, we never see nor hear from or about the other two ships. Why did they even bother putting that in the script?
o The Enterprise gets fired on by the Borg, then gets all damaged going through the space-subway-tunnel-thingy, Worf announces that the shields are down to some dangerously low level... but then a short time later, the ship is just fine, all that damage is just forgotten.
o Data leaves in the shuttle, and the Enterprise is a mere minute or two behind him. After they go through the space-subway-tunnel-thingy, it takes them another couple of minutes to find the shuttle. But when they actually land on the planet, they assess that the shuttle had been sitting there for three hours. How could Data have gotten there three hours ahead of them, when they were only about 5 minutes behind him? Huh?
o They find the shuttle in the middle of nowhere, cumbersomely distant from the actual building they eventually find Data and Lor in. Why on earth did they decide to park the shuttle *there* and walk all that way to the building? Huh?
OK, enough with the small change, let's move on to the Big Flaw. The big, fat, ridiculous flaw. The one that really drops the episode down to stinker level: the absolutely preposterous, ridiculously contrived way that Dr. Crusher ends up in command of the Enterprise.
They've traced Data to this planet, and conveniently can't scan the planet and have to go searching for Data on foot. So Picard orders down search parties. OK. But not just regular search parties, he's going to send practically *everyone* down to the planet, and leave just a skeletal crew on board. Let's say that again: in essentially a time of war, he's going to leave the flagship of the fleet with just a skeleton crew. Including virtually all the officers.
But even that is not enough, he *personally* is going to go down to the planet on the search. Huh? WHY???? What's so special about him that *he* needs to be on a simple search party mission? When he's *clearly* needed on the ship? He has sent himself and at least the next four people in the chain of command down on a simple search mission, leaving him to leave in command of the Federation's flagship... the ship's *doctor*???? Double Huh???? Why didn't he just send the doctor on the search mission instead? And how is it that, for the first time ever, Riker doesn't object? Not even a little bit?
And remember, it's not just his own ship he's abandoning, *he's still supposed to be in charge of the three ship squadron!* He's utterly abandoned *that* responsibility! What happens when one of those other ships calls in with something critical? What, *Crusher* is going to make a fleet-level command decision???? And all of this, this incredible risking of both his own ship and the Federation's very security is for the priority-taking reason of... locating and retrieving one lone officer???
OK, let's put this in perspective. Imagine that during the gulf war, the second officer of a U.S. aircraft carrier flew off in a plane during time of war, and went and landed on an island somewhere. The carrier tracks the plane to the island, and starts sending out landing parties to the island to find this guy. Now imagine that the captain of the aircraft carrier orders *everybody* except a skeleton crew, including all the top officers, to join the landing parties looking for the second officer. And then he himself also leaves the ship to join the search, and leaves the ship's chief medical officer, with no actual command experience, in command. Which means a United States aircraft carrier is basically just floating helplessly there off the shore of the island. Can you fathom that actually happening? Can you *imagine* what the court-martial trial would be like? Do you think that that captain would ever be permitted anywhere near a naval ship ever again?
And yet this is what we're supposed to swallow.
Oh! And just as an extra bonus stupidity: when Picard gets to the planet and leads his four-man scouting team, one of the members is *Geordi*. Geordi. One of the highest ranking officers on the ship. Why wasn't Geordi leading his own team???? Or better, why wasn't Picard sitting on the bridge, with Beverly in Georgi's team?
The answer, of course, is that a) they wanted to contrive a way for Beverly to be in command, and b) they wanted to contrive a way that when one of the search parties just happened to stumble onto Lor's hideout, that all the cool central characters would be there. Laudible aims, perhaps, but the laziest, sloppiest, poorest thinking went into achieving those aims.
This really represents some kind of nadir for the series.
Island of Love (1963)
My tivo recently found this movie, so I gave it a watch. It wasn't awful, but it was pretty disappointing. It seems like they spent all the budget on the cast and location setting and had none left to hire any decent writers. The story is clunky and forced, the laughs tepid and infrequent. Robert Preston and Tony Randall gamely do what they can with the script, but it's really not enough to save the picture. Randall in particular just seems wasted. And Walter Matthau gives the worst performance I've ever seen from him; he not only doesn't help save the picture, he helps sink it. He just sounds so weird, wrong, and fake with that preposterous accent he's using.
I gave it 5 stars because I'll confess I did laugh out loud a couple times. But just a couple. Watch this movie as a curiosity, should the occasion arise, but don't go into it with any great expectations.