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Perkins, Nicholson, Hopkins...Zane.
9 February 2000
Initially unsure of what to expect, I admit to being surprised by the quality of Demon Knight. Is it Camp? Is it Schlock? Absolutely, but it's well thought out schlock. The plot concept was actually very intriguing, and the cast was exceptional.

The essential story is that the human race is living on borrowed time, and the fate of the world rests in the hands of the Demon Knight, a guy who has been losing a lot of sleep for a lot of years...Now, he must fight for his life and the lives of the others trapped in the hotel with him as he defends against the Collector, who is trying to steal back an "artifact" that will overthrow the balance of power in the universe. Pretty heavy for schlock, hmm?

Rarely has a villain been played with more relish than Zane gives to The Collector...He's having too much of a good time, in a Hannibal Lecteresque way. He's suave, persuasive, handsome, soothing, and just plain, well...as the politically correct would say, he has embraced his essential Evilness and is comfortable with his Demonic lifestyle.

William Sadler lends his particular brand of manic intensity to Brayker, demonstrating his customary keen grasp of the part of the reluctant messenger or unlikely hero (as witnessed in The Shawshank Redemption left and the tv series "Roswell").

And, best of all, it's easy to give a damn about these people. The supporting cast includes some of the best character actors around, namely Jada Pinkett--Jeryline, the essentially good diva with a serious attitude, CCH Pounder(Millenium) who portrays Irene the seasoned, determined innkeeper, Thomas Haden Church (Ned & Stacey) whose character Roach makes you want to write yourself into the story just so you can slap him around, Brenda Bakke, our prostitute Cordelia who just wants to be loved, Dick Miller (What can be said about Dick Miller? The man has been everywhere!) and Charles Fleischer (most famous as Roger Rabbit, but who has appeared in nearly 30 features to date)whose character Wally is some sort of sympathetic psychopath. You have to feel for the poor guy...it's the old story, boy meets girl, girl seems to finally come around, and it all ends in disembowelment. Don't you just hate when that happens?

The moral? Even good actors like a little schlock now and then.



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A great excuse to listen to Louis & Keely...as if you needed one...
7 February 2000
Although highly entertaining, Hey Boy! Hey Girl! is not exactly Oscar material...but it doesn't need to be. The music of "The Wildest" Louis Prima is loosely tied together with just enough story to bring Keely into the picture. Now, this isn't the true story of Louis and Keely, but a kindly tale of a bandleader (who just happens to be named Louis Prima) who falls for a sweet homespun Catholic girl named Dorothy Spencer (Keely's full name is Dorothy Keely Smith) who is raising her young brother alone, is a wonderful cook and housekeeper, loves all children and coincidentally has a voice to soothe both crying babies and nightclub audiences. What self-respecting musical frontman could resist? Listen also for Keely's native Tidewater Virginia accent...unmistakable.

The film features some of the signature Prima music and Sam Butera and Witnesses are whooping it up as always. There's some pretty interesting lip-synching going on here, but actually it's surprisingly well done considering Louis never did a song the same way twice. This is a fair Prima primer, but the plot, well...put it this way---at least you always know who to cheer for.

Audiophiles will find that there are now some excellent CD's out there...try "Capitol Collectors Series: Louis Prima". A great opportunity to hear the ultimate version of "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"...
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Cleopatra 2525 (2000–2001)
Post-Apocalyptic Pajama Party...
31 January 2000
After only two episodes, this Xena-meets-Barbarella post-apocalyptic pajama party hasn't had a chance to deliver much...it seems to lack focus, and the pacing is extreme--likely due to the 30 minute formatting. It's a little (okay, okay, a lot) cliche, but seems well-intentioned. The premise has promise, and I have high hopes based on the cast.

Gina Torres (Hercules' dynamic pirate queen Nebula), Victoria Pratt (Xena's Amazon queen Cyane) and Jennifer Sky (Xena's aspiring but capable young Amazon Amarice) have been Raimi/Tapert favorites for several seasons of Xena/Hercules, but so far they have been too busy screaming, grimacing and performing quadruple somersaults to act human yet.

XWP/HLJ regular Joel (Strife/Deimos) Tobeck also joins the cast as the maniacal Creegan...and yes, you can recognize him even through the Mardi Gras make-up and prosthetic chin. It's actually refreshing to see him as the Supreme Menace as opposed to his XWP/HLJ characters, who are supremely annoying (in a psychotic, endearing sort of way.)

And so, All Hail the Futuristic/ Ancient Madcap Epic formulas so beloved by the Raimis...in effect a sort of Pythonesque Terry Jones/Michael Palin tribute. And hey, there's a reason Sam Raimi sometimes credits himself as Alan Smithee, Jr., folks.

---By the Way, that theme music...what were they thinking?
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Genius (1999 TV Movie)
Excellent family fare in the longstanding Disney tradition...
23 August 1999
Disney continues to garner praise for family films, this time for "Genius", a well-conceived, well-paced, delightful comedy with a talented cast. Essentially, this is a story about growing up and feeling the need to belong-- with a twist of slapstick, mistaken identity, college hockey and a particle beam accelerator. Quite an accomplishment.

In the tradition of Merlin Jones--probably Disney's most famous teen genius (see The Monkey's Uncle and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones)--we meet Charlie Boyle, our hero, obsessed with hockey, physics, and fitting in. Trevor Morgan is wonderful in this dual role as Charlie/Chaz...he has a lot of presence for a kid his age, and a lot of promise. Emmy Rossum is very charming and natural as Claire Addison--sweet and tomboyish, she lends a little romance to story. The always incomparable Charles Fleischer is featured as Dr. Krickstein, giving a great performance as Charlie's hero, mentor and friend, and showing of his rollerblading skills in the process...

I'd love to see Disney team up Charlie, Claire and Dr. Krickstein again...there's endless adventure potential here! Take advantage of it!
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Crumb (1994)
Portrait of the Artist as a Lost Man...
19 August 1999
"Crumb" provides us with and excellent biography of cult favorite Pop/Comic artist Robert Crumb, and a fine synopsis of his work and the circumstances surrounding it. The two elements are inseparable. And, just as Crumb's art may not be for everyone, neither is Crumb the movie.

The documentary style presentation keeps the film grounded in reality (it could otherwise easily be construed as fiction, so strange is the story). Much to his credit, Terry Zwigoff conveys well that brand of train-wreck fascination we feel when seeing something profoundly disturbing. As distressing as parts of Crumb may be, it's nearly impossible to look away.

Robert Crumb himself is as unique as they come--he exudes a bizarre sort of aw-shucks perversity that inspires a strange mixture of pity and awe. His psyche is laid bare on page after page, panel after panel of his work. One has to wonder what might have become of Robert if he had not directed his energy towards art. What immediately comes to mind are the unsettling images of his brothers Charles, completely unbalanced, and Maxon, coping in self-imposed solitude, and the distant, grating voice of his neurotic mother.

Keep drawing Robert, please.

(A small note of caution to those viewing Crumb on a large screen, some of the moving shots are done with a hand held camera and can cause a little vertigo.)
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Also a Brief History of Stephen Hawking...
19 August 1999
Along with Carl Sagan, we can credit Stephen Hawking with de-mystifying the Universe. We've been fortunate to have two such men in our time with the gift of translating Physics into a format we don't need a degree to comprehend.

You will find yourself in awe of Hawking's mind, and justifiably so. It would be truly remarkable if we could find a way to venture into his brain and feel the pleasure he takes in what so many of us find abstract.

The biography of this remarkable man is just as interesting as his research. Told in documentary fashion through interviews with family and friends, we see his development from a precocious child to a mischievous youth to remarkable adult. Also, we have the chance to meet Mr. Hawking himself, who is very personable with quite a sense of humor.

I strongly recommend reading the book A Brief History of Time to accompany the film...it picks up where the film leaves off regarding the sciences, and is less biographical, except for his brief summaries of such luminaries as Newton and Galileo.
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First Strike (1996)
Fantastic Stunts and Martial Arts from Jackie (again)
17 August 1999
Some Martial Arts sticklers and dedicated Jackie fans complain that First Strike may not have Chan's best fight scenes (with the exception of the now famous ladder scene), but this is one amazing film for stunts, and a good introduction to Jackie for those who have never seen him. The plot is not the strongest in the "Police Story" series, but this film rates high for the "He can't be doing that!" factor.
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Supercop (1992)
One of the very best of all of Jackie's adventures...
17 August 1999
It's unusual in the saturated action/adventure movie market to find a film that is as outstanding as Supercop. Jackie Chan is back! Well, he never really left... This is really Jackie at his best, with all of the finely choreographed fight scenes we expect from Jackie and some of his most innovative, breathtaking stunts ever.

Supercop has it all...great direction, solid story, good pacing, and best of all, it has Michelle Yeoh! No other woman has ever been able to keep up with Jackie--most don't even try--and Michelle makes it look easy. It's also easy to see why in her homeland, her nickname translates to "Beautiful vase made of iron and steel" and why Jackie Chan has said "Women should not fight, except for Michelle".

If you're interested in wall to wall action and a little slapstick comedy, as well, this is definitely for you. Long live Golden Harvest...

Dedicated Chan fans should also check out Drunken Master and Drunken Master II.
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No one does action like Chan...
17 August 1999
Trying to relax during Operation Condor would be like trying to take a nap on airport runway. This movie never quits, and Chan never stops challenging himself. Not for the faint of heart, especially the motorcycle chase or the wind tunnel scenes. Thanks, Jackie.

The best commentary on the film, however, actually came from the guy sitting behind me in the theater who had never seen Jackie Chan before... unfortunately, most of his comments are unprintable. Let's just say he was extremely enthusiastic and uninhibited in his vocabulary. Hey, we were all thinking the same thing.
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Lucas has so much to tell, but so little time.
16 August 1999
I admit to being vaguely disappointed with Episode 1.

The concepts are excellent, the effects are without equal and it has a beautiful score of remarkable intensity. So why was I disappointed?

Admittedly, this is a massive undertaking, and a challenge to even a fine and experienced director like Lucas. The result, unfortunately, is that watching Episode 1 is like trying to tour the Smithsonian in 3 hours-- there's just too much to cover to do it thoroughly and really appreciate everything.

Due to this sometimes breakneck pace, our heroes are denied the opportunity to develop any real bond. Somehow, this lessens the overall impact of the film. True, extraordinary things are happening (in all their CG glory), but how do we feel about the outcome? We are forced to establish our connection with the central figures based on what we know from the original trilogy. For those interested in learning more about the souls and histories of the characters, I would recommend the book (although even the book falls a little short in some areas).

I did find the film entertaining overall, but it somehow lacked the heart of the originals. I will, however, still go to the theater when Episode 2 arrives, hoping for a little more.
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Funny Bones (1995)
Artfully filmed, beautifully acted dark comedy...
13 August 1999
Although mostly overlooked at the time of release, this is undoubtedly one of the best films of the 90's. Elegantly surreal, Funny Bones is filled with wonderful visuals and a timeless quality.

At the center of this story stands Tommy Fawkes, a reluctant young comedian struggling in his famous father's (Jerry Lewis) shadow. Fawkes is masterfully portrayed by Oliver Platt, an incredibly talented actor who is often placed in supporting roles. Adept at all roles, it's always refreshing to find him as our lead. Platt has a particular gift for portraying the edgy hero, reminiscent of Karl Malden at his best. Somehow, he manages to make Tommy dark, yet uncomplicated.

In contrast, we have Jack Parker--seemingly the simplest of characters, he is the darkest and most complicated of all. This offered many of us our first glimpse of Lee Evans, a brilliant young UK actor/comedian with an astonishing penchant for physical comedy. His energy alone is enough to leave the viewer completely awestruck. If Fate is kind, we should have the good fortune of seeing a great deal more of him.

As for the rest of this stellar cast, Leslie Caron is charming as ever, George Carl and Freddie Davies are pure energy, and Jerry Lewis is, well, Jerry Lewis (there is no higher compliment I can pay him).

Essentially, this film is a requisite for anyone who enjoys surreal, dark comedy with a philosophical edge and an often slapstick pace.

"The dark moon, she pulls the tides also." --Thomas Parker (Freddie Davies)
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A delight for any dedicated Marilyn Monroe fan!
9 August 1999
Olivier and Monroe...an unlikely combination, it would seem. Yet Olivier's blustering pomposity and Monroe's giddy naivete create a surprising chemistry. Sir Lawrence is ever the blue-blood in this well conceived comedy, the tale of a lovely, bubbly young American showgirl who is invited to spend the evening with the smitten Prince.

Monroe is absolutely wonderful--her performance is well thought out and very strong, using every ounce of her famed comedic skill . And she's beautiful as always...even in a pristine white, elegantly beaded evening gown she fairly radiates sensuality.

What truly holds the film together, though, are the outstanding performances by Richard Wattis (the unerringly English, ever mindful Majordomo Northbrook) and Sybil Thorndike (the Grand Duke's hilariously incomprehensible mother-in-law the Queen Dowager).

The movie is well filmed and well paced, with the exception of the coronation ceremony segment which could have been edited considerably. Overall, the story is a winner... a very charming tribute to the virtues of persistence! We learn that our Prince isn't nearly so cold and conniving as he'd like us to believe, and Miss Elsie Marina isn't nearly the wide-eyed ingenue we thought she was...
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Intense, Dramatic, Well Crafted Suspense...
6 August 1999
Well filmed, beautifully acted, and painstakingly directed, this film deserves the highest praise.

James Stewart brings his customary stammering, quirky charm to a role that could have easily become overwhelmingly serious. Lee Remick is seen establishing her early image as the somehow fragile, undeniably seductive pawn (see also "A Face in The Crowd"), while Gazzara wavers intensely somewhere between heartless murderer and protective husband. The supporting cast is strong, creating a human backdrop for the senior players, keeping the story in the real world, effectively preventing this from becoming an exercise in legal theory.

This film is noteworthy for a myriad of reasons, but most specifically because it addresses the still controversial issue of acquaintance rape, and presents us with a victim of questionable morals. At the same time our murder victim is seen as a monster, then a friend and father. There really are no heroes here, no noble defenders, no pristine heroines, no completely innocent bystanders...both sides take their turns pointing fingers, each claiming that the other only got what they deserved.

We are forced to re-evaluate our thoughts on what constitutes justifiable homicide--the unwritten law that Manion speaks of in the film versus the law as written that Biegler must now interpret. This manipulation of intended meaning sets a somewhat tragic precedent evident in the legal system we work within today.

This film is highly entertaining, and excellent for discussion. Watch it with some of your more philosophical friends.
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Pocahontas (I) (1995)
A fairy tale, not a historical tale, but kids will enjoy it.
5 August 1999
Pocahontas is a beautifully scored and breathtakingly animated movie. The songs were lovely, Irene Bedard was moving and sincere. So why was I so disappointed? Perhaps because I live within walking distance of the Jamestown National Historical Site and Jamestown Settlement. Perhaps because I know that the animators spent many months doing extensive research on the sites and then ignored much of it. If you come to visit, you'll see Jamestown is beautiful, but don't expect the sweeping vistas and towering cliffs, and certainly don't expect to see any moose wandering around (we're a little far South for that)!

Bring your children to see the real story if you can...or at least read the real story to them...it's just as interesting as the Disney version, but less marketable.

How disappointed was I? I went out and rented "Plan 9 From Outer Space" afterward.

And by the way guys...if you light the fuse on a gun and jump through a waterfall, chances are it's not going to fire.
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Kids, Dinosaurs, a Parade...It just can't lose!
23 July 1999
The basic plot: Four dinosaurs (made more intelligent by a kindly scientist) are given the chance to delight children by coming into the future to live with Dr. Bleeb at the Museum of Natural History.

Why it works: Kids love dinosaurs (especially big cuddly talking ones that sound like John Goodman), kindly scientists, time travel, and (when given the chance) Natural History.

The animation is good quality, the basic premise is fun, the music (with a surprise by Thomas Dolby) is good and well placed (no one bursting into an annoying song every 30 seconds) and the voice talents are wonderful, featuring well known actors such as Martin Short and Rhea Perlman, voices we know from elsewhere--Walter Cronkite and Julia Child, and veteran Voicers Yeardley Smith (the unsinkable Lisa Simpson) and the remarkable Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit).

Some characters needed a little more character...a little more explanation (such as Professor Screweyes--who went mad and turned evil because he lost his eye--??). But hey, this is a kids' movie, right? Let it slide.

Will kids' like it? Absolutely. And the adults? Relax and have a good time, and try not to think too much.
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A dark look at ourselves and the forces that dictate our lives...
23 July 1999
Possibly the most powerful sleeper ever.

To those raised on television, Andy Griffith is a sweet, kindly man, an honest man full of good sense, faith and grass roots wisdom. This is not the same Andy Griffith--not the simple bullheaded hick from No Time For Sergeants, and definitely not Sheriff Andy Taylor.

Simply put, Griffith delivers the performance of a lifetime as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, an Arkansas drifter with a less than innocent past. Yet up until the time he meets Marsha (portrayed stunningly by Patricia Neal) the small town radio hostess, his transgressions have been minor--petty theft, vagrancy, public drunkeness. As he now hosts his own radio program, Larry gets his first taste of power. His mild, smooth talking country ways disguise the cunning, intelligent, self-serving man within him. His power increases, the opportunities grow, the relationships change, and Larry's grasp of reality departs. Somehow, Griffith dredges up within him a sort of manic depravity that is completely unexpected.

On the surface, it appears to be a tale of a simple man corrupted by his own absolute power. But in reality, this is the story of man who at the core was always ready to be corrupted...he simply had never met with the opportunity. He had learned to lie and scheme and misdirect all his life...a sort of psychological magician. A very dangerous, manipulative man.

Patricia Neal brings a great deal of honesty to this role...not many new garde actresses can touch her depth (perhaps Frances McDormand). Matthau makes the transition from the tolerant straight man to the unexpected hero of the film beautifully. Lee Remick and Tony Franciosa are the standouts in a talented supporting cast.

This film is as dark as it needs to be, avoiding the pitfall of becoming a self-parody. It has all the elements of a great classic story. In short, it is a well balanced tale of an unbalanced life.
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Cosmos (1980)
Carl Sagan's great gift is now our own...
22 July 1999
Sagan. Who else could reveal the Universe to us so eloquently? Who else could make those humans who scarcely even notice the world around them gaze up at the skies with wonder? And all the while, he was never condescending... He awakened so many ordinary minds--he made us all acolytes to the extraordinary. Amazingly, drew us in to his world, even those of us who felt that true Science was beyond their grasp. His love of the subject was always apparent, and although his knowledge was overwhelming, his presentation of it never was.

I was in school when Cosmos was first broadcast...for me and for many people I know Cosmos was the first time the Universe came to life. I recommend it for anyone of virtually any age...Be enthralled by what's within and without...

Also recommended: The Connections Series (1, 2 and 3) and the Day the Universe Changed (with James Burke)...Also, A Brief History of Time.
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Xanadu (1980)
The gripping tale of Love, Art and Roller Disco...yeah, right.
22 July 1999
Let's see, the ancient Muse comes forth across the sea of time to help save a roller disco...um, wow. This movie screams early, early 80's from the first frame--glittery and self indulgent. Olivia Newton-John was lovely enough to make all the 1980's 6th grade girls want to look like her, but this isn't her best work. Biggest points of interest in the film? The Tubes and Gene Kelly...How often do you get to say that? There are better ways to spend a Saturday night, trust me. This Muse does not necessarily amuse. Artistically, this movie's one big airbrushed poster of a hot fudge sundae.

(But hey, Gene Kelly make a great link from old Hollywood to new Hollywood if you're playing 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.)
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Perfectly over the top, just like any good cartoon should be...
20 July 1999
It's rare to have such a high profile production that keeps the appeal of a cult classic, and even more rare to have a movie come out with such hype that actually lives up to our expectations. The visual effects are excellent, and the story is a prime lampoon of the classic film noir private detective stories of the time...in short, it works! Hoskins is great as our troubled gumshoe, Cassidy does her tough-as-nails Tess Trueheart best as his girl, Christopher Lloyd as Doom is almost more of a cartoon than the cartoons are... perfectly over the top, as always. Kathleen Turner turns out a sultry femme fatale worthy of Barbara Stanwyck, and manages to keep that heart of gold hidden (beneath that bosom, how difficult can it be?)... And, of course, there's Roger, voiced by the remarkable Charles Fleischer (who also voiced Benny the Cab, Greasy and Psycho). No one but Fleischer could have played this character! This is the perfect cartoon rabbit, the ultimate hapless hero...a lover, not a fighter, and funny, too!

It's a great movie for any age--like the old WB cartoons, adults will appreciate it on a completely different level than kids will.
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Dragnet 1967 (1967–1970)
Primetime in the Garden of Good and Evil...
20 July 1999
Dragnet is a classic, one of the last times when not only were the patrol cars black and white, the issues were, too. That may be what makes it so enjoyable to watch...no question of who the bad guys are here! Gannon and Friday--the Odd Couple on the job, and a perfect working combination. And where else could you see the guy who was Crimson Crusader one week be a stoned hippy student the next, then a worried bigamist the week after? Or the gun runner who becomes a doctor or a shop owner? And just how many times was Virginia Gregg on that program anyway? And hey, when was the last time anyone could drive from downtown L.A. to Toluca Lake in 6 minutes?
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Red Line 7000 (1965)
Dirt tracks, redheads, bad music and big egos...
20 July 1999
Although well intended, this is a real melodrama, a tale of the daring, reckless, untamed men of stock car racing and the women who love them... oh, please. The racing sequences are good, but these guys are pulling stunts that would have made even early NASCAR officials nail them to the wall.

Caan's acting is good, but he's not yet the fantastic actor we know today. He does well with the often stilted dialogue, some of which has gaps you could drive a truck through. MST3k material. Gail Hire (Holly) has a voice that makes Lauren Bacall sound like Minnie Mouse...You haven't lived until you've heard her baritone song/rap "Wildcat Jones" and seen George "Mr. Sulu" Takei dancing the Pony. This film is funnier than it was ever meant to be... and in ways I doubt Howard Hawks ever intended.
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9/10
A tale of the Civil Rights movement, told in a way no textbook ever could.
19 July 1999
Populated with a cast of some of the heaviest hitters in Hollywood, this film is incredibly powerful. It never pulls a punch from frame one...you feel every bit of fear, anger, pain, frustration and outrage that radiates from the screen. Hackman and Dafoe are remarkable as the two FBI agents Ward and Anderson...the tension between them is completely believable. Yet the most outstanding performances are given by two of the finest chameleon actors around; Frances McDormand (who garnered an Oscar for this film) and Brad Dourif (Oscar nominee for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), both of whom are so complete in their work that it actually takes a moment to recognize them--you forget they are actors. This cast managed to tell a difficult story about a difficult time and never once did the characters become caricatures.

Look also for a moving performance by a young Darius McCrary who later became Eddie Winslow of Family Matters fame.
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Deadly Friend (1986)
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy creates lethal cyber-barbie...
19 July 1999
With the Wes Craven/ Kristy Swanson combination, we should have the makings of a cult favorite here, but this film somehow lacks the under-the-bed, behind-the-door, in-your-face terror of the usual Craven offerings. Somehow, Freddy K.--who dwells in the realm of dreams that we don't really understand--is a little more terrifying than Samantha/BB the deadly neighborhood cyborg. Actually, one of the more disturbing things in the film is having BB's (Charles Fleischer) voice coming out of Kristy Swanson's face screaming "BB!". Brrrrr.
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Connections (1978– )
Intriguing, entertaining, and accessible...
24 June 1999
The Connections series I, II and III are the most delightful and accessible approach to the history of the world and its' sciences since the Cosmos series. Compelling and Addictive... something on television that's truly worth watching. Companion books to the series are also available. The Connections series' blend of humor and Zen are incredibly entertaining--- Call it Life As We Know It 101.

Also recommended: The Day The Universe Changed series.
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