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Bicentennial Man
Directed by Chris Columbus
Written by Nicholas Kazan
Based on a story by Isaac Asimov & Book by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg
Principal Cast
Robin Williams -- Andrew
Sam Neill -- Sir
Wendy Crewson -- Ma'am
Embeth Davidtz -- Little Miss/Portia
Oliver Platt -- Rupert Burns
Hallie Kate Eisenberg -- Little Miss, 7 years old
Stephen Root -- Dennis Mansky
Lynne Thigpen -- Female President
Bradley Whitford -- Lloyd
Kiersten Warren -- Galatea Robotic/Human
John Michael Higgins -- Bill Feingold
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.

Bicentennial Man You will want to see this movie. Bicentennial Man (***) is not is good as you hoped, but it is certainly not as bad as you've heard. The critics have it in for Robin Williams. They have trouble forgiving a comic who can really act. When a comic acts, they call him a ham, no matter how successful he is.

They say this movie is sentimental. It is, but not in the way they accuse it of being sentimental. It is a personal story, but several critics report that Andrew, the robot played by Robin Williams, goes around solving people's problems, like a super Mary Worth. He does not.

What the critics don't say is that Bicentennial Man is intelligent, and carefully crafted, with special effects that are effective, but never intrusive.

The one giant misstep is to turn this into a love story. The Pinocchio story, which is also the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and of the Tin Man, was never a love story. It is the story of the desire to be real. It is a powerful story, which always brings tears. Love stories are also powerful. This one gets in the way. There is nothing wrong with having Andrew fall in love. That is part of becoming human. But it is a serious mistake to turn the last half of Bicentennial Man into a love story. For one thing, love stories are about boy meets girl. They are not about boy spends a happy hundred years with girl. The happy hundred years story is a much harder sell. But the main thing wrong with the love story is that it pushes the story of Andrew becoming human into the background. At the end, we don't even cry.


Galaxy Quest
Directed by Dean Parisot
Written by David Howard and Robert Gordon
Principal Cast
Tim Allen -- Jason Nesmith/Commander Peter Quincy Taggart
Sigourney Weaver -- Gwen DeMarco/Lt. Tawny Madison
Tony Shalhoub -- Fred Kwan/Tech Sergeant Chen
Daryl Mitchell -- Tommy Webber/Lt. Laredo
Enrico Colantoni -- Mathesar
Sam Rockwell -- Guy Fleegman
Missi Pyle -- Laliari
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Galaxy Quest Remember Spaceballs? Remember how bad Spaceballs was? Galaxy Quest (****) is as good as Spaceballs was bad. Everything Spaceballs did wrong Galaxy Quest does right.

Yes, it pokes fun at Star Trek. But the writers obviously know and love Star Trek, and so their humor is on target, and therefore funny. The sci-fi actors, caught up in a real science fiction adventure, act like egotists and hams. But they don't act like idiots.

In Spaceballs, Mel Brooks forgot that even a parody has to be entertaining. Galaxy Quest has lots of laughs, but it also has a story, and a story means characters you care about.

Star Trek is silly in a lot of ways, but it also speaks to our desire to live larger lives than the ones we live. We really want a chance to be better, smarter, and braver than our workaday world gives us a chance to be. And when real life hands us one of those rare chances to be good or smart or brave, that moment catches us unprepared and we usually blow it.

Harlan Ellison wrote a short story in which he said something to the effect that if you want to get the big things right, you have to make a habit of being good and brave and smart in all the little, trivial everyday encounters. Being a hero takes practice.

And so, in Galaxy Quest, when the actors and fans are given a chance to use their fiction to make them brave, we cheer.

Copyright © 1999 by Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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