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Babylon 5.1
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. Visit his web site at comicsrevue.com.

Ratings
Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

Websites
For more information, you can try the following sites:
Rick Norwood's Website
Worldwide TV Schedule
The Official Babylon 5 Website
The X-Files
Pocket Books: Star Trek
Paramount Star Trek
Babylon 5.1 Columns

| 2012-2013 | 2010-2011 | 2008-2009 | 2006-2007 | 2004-2005 | 2002-2003 | 2000-2001 | 1998-1999 |
| Movie and TV Reviews (Page 1) | More Movie and TV Reviews (Page 2) | More Movie and TV Reviews (Page 3) |

Movie and TV Reviews
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The second Hobbit film, billed as simply The Hobbit in the opening credits, would be rated as 10 out of 10 if it were, say, an adaptation of Final Fantasy. But filming a classic raises expectations. Writer/director Peter Jackson has spent so much of his time and money on spectacular action sequences that the emphasis is all wrong. The small character bits are there, but they are overwhelmed by special effects.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
a movie review by Rick Norwood
How can you not love a story with a heroine named Katniss Everdeen? The Hunger Games franchise is a high concept series of books and movies. Kids are put in an arena and only one can come out alive. Itís reminiscent of Beyond Thunderdome.

Gravity Gravity
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Gravity is a classic, as was writer/director's Cuarón's Hugo Award-winning previous film Children of Men. Is it science fiction? It feels like science fiction. In fact, it feels like golden age science fiction. Today most sf films are either distopean or pulp. Gravity respects hard science.

Enderís Game Enderís Game
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The movie is not the book. The movie is not as good as the book. But it's not bad. The book is unfilmable now. Given the limits of what can be allowed on the screen where children are concerned, the film is as good as could be expected. It is well-acted, pays attention to detail of character and setting, and has excellent special effects.

Thor: The Dark World Thor: The Dark World
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The second major Thor film is an entertaining superhero movie most notable for the appeal of the trickster Loki. It gets off to an awkward start, with a voice-over narration by an instantly forgotten contemporary of Thor's grandfather Borr. (In the Norse Prose Edda, Thor's grandfather is Priam, King of Troy, linking the legends of the far North with the legends of Greece, much as Virgil linked the legends of Rome with Greece and Geoffrey of Monmouth linked the legends of King Arthur with Greece.)

The World's End The World's End
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The World's End is the best science fiction comedy since the Hugo Award-winning Galaxy Quest. You'll laugh out loud, and it's also good science fiction, with some new ideas. The ending was a bit of a letdown, but aside from that Rick thoroughly enjoyed it.

Elysium Elysium
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Elysium is an allegory of the one percent in the guise of action science fiction, and a very enjoyable one, if you don't take it seriously. Several reviews say the plot doesn't hold together. They confuse plot and setting. The plot holds together very well. Most action movies falter where everybody is either a sidekick or a henchman, whose only purpose in life is to delay the final confrontation between the hero and villain for an hour and a half, that is not the case here.

Pacific Rim Pacific Rim
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Most of Rick's friends enjoyed Pacific Rim more than he did, and they freely admit that what they enjoy is watching hours of giant robots fighting monsters. If that's what you like, Pacific Rim is the movie for you.

The Wolverine The Wolverine
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This is an intelligent superhero movie. One might wish it had more emotional impact, but one can be thankful for what's here. A plus for the film is that in place of the voice-overs that are typical of many recent action-adventure films, the writers show rather than tell.

World War Z World War Z
a movie review by Rick Norwood
With four writers on board, two of them very good, the movie is a roughly equal mix of smart and stupid. The hero duct taping a thick magazine around his right arm to protect it from getting bitten is smart, and a reflection of the well-known law of physics that there are very few problems that cannot be solved by a judicious application of duct tape.

Man of Steel Man of Steel
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The new Superman reboot is essentially a remake of Superman and Superman II, minus Christopher Reeve, minus Lex Luthor, minus the humor, and minus the great music by John Williams. Man of Steel has better special effects, but the Richard Donner version has more heart.

This is the End This is the End
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This is the End is written and directed by actors and, in it, actors play themselves as survivors of the Biblical apocalypse. It made Rick laugh. It made Rick jump. It grossed him out.

Star Trek Into Darkness Star Trek Into Darkness
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Like Iron Man 3, this is another extremely good film that falls short of greatness. Every time Rick goes to a major motion picture, he hopes for a Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, or Star Trek Ė First Contact. The most recent film to be that completely satisfying was The Avengers. There are only a few such films in a decade, and he is glad for fine entertainments in between.

Iron Man 3 Iron Man 3
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Iron Man 3 is a highly entertaining, unbelievably expensive film. If not great, it is at least very, very good. The Shane Black script is excellent, though Rick Norwood's favorite Shane Black script remains not this, not the Lethal Weapon series, but The Last Action Hero. He writes about flawed heroes and puts in plenty of clever bits to keep the jaded movie-goer on his toes.

Oblivion Oblivion
a movie review by Rick Norwood
There is a tradition in written science-fiction of making sense. The graphic novel never had their John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding who taught science fiction writers two important lessons: 1) know something about technology and how it works, 2) show, don't tell. Robert A. Heinlein took Campbell's lessons and made them work, and he is still the most enjoyable sf writer of all time -- not the greatest, but the most fun to read. Oblivion breaks the most basic rule in the very beginning.

Oz, the Great and Powerful Oz, the Great and Powerful
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Not as deeply satisfying as the original 1939 film, the new Oz movie is beautiful and clever and is easily the second best Oz film of all time. There are some slow moments early on, but the characters are delightful and it all comes together in the end.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Hobbit is good enough to rate four stars from Rick but he still finds it disappointing. He thinks his expectations were too high. He wanted to mention that The Hobbit is easily one of his ten favorite books of all time, up there with titles like Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy, Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility, and Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man.

Cloud Atlas Cloud Atlas
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This is a historical/romance/contemporary thriller/comedy/science fiction/fantasy unlike anything you've ever seen. Whether it is the wave of the future or a flash in the pan, Rick enjoyed it far more than he expected. What a less media savvy audience would make of this series of quick, vivid images that tells six different stories remains to be seen.

Looper Looper
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Looper is an original but flawed time travel movie. A number of mainstream reviewers have found it hard to understand. SF readers familiar with Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombies" will find the time loops in this film elementary. H.G. Wells once advised science fiction writers to stick to one impossible idea at a time. If you have a story about flying pigs, don't add flying broomsticks. Looper has two science fiction ideas, time travel and telekinesis.

Dredd 3D Dredd 3D
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Americans have no idea who Judge Dredd is. They're staying away from this movie in droves. Which is just as well, since this Americanized version of Judge Dredd is a milksop compared to the version from the British weekly comic paper 2000 AD.

Total Recall Total Recall
a movie review by Rick Norwood
There was really no point in making a mindless action film based on another equally mindless action film based on a cute short story by Philip K. Dick. The basic plot of both movies and of the short story starts out with a character who longs to go to Mars, arranges to have memories of a trip to Mars as a secret agent implanted in his brain, and during the implant discovers that he really is a secret agent who went to Mars.

The Dark Knight Rises The Dark Knight Rises
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This is a long, silly, disappointing costume hero film with a number of memorable flaws. One is Batman and Bane fight by punching each other in the face. We saw infinitely more exciting movie fights in the previews. Wasn't Batman supposed to know some martial arts? The Karate Kid could beat both these guys with one hand tied behind his back.

The Amazing Spider-Man The Amazing Spider-Man
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The big trouble with the new Spider-Man is that we've seen it all before, and Sam Raimi, director of the movie Spider-Man, did it better. Also: are we really supposed to believe that there are giant mechanical cranes lined up on Broadway, with operators standing by where they can reach their machines on a few minutes notice?

Prometheus Prometheus
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Prometheus is a major science fiction film, most notable for its thrilling action sequences and outstanding special effects. Some claim it is a prequel to Alien, and the ending paves the way for it to be the first of a Prometheus Trilogy.

Brave Brave
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Brave is a modern fairy tale, occasionally a post-modern fairy tale (the witch has an answering machine). A few chauvinist piggies have suggested that the heroine, Princess Merida, is a lesbian because she doesn't want to get married. Idiots!

The Avengers The Avengers
a movie review by Rick Norwood
John Steed and Mrs. Peel join forces when the Earth is attacked by gods and monsters. No? All right, you know better. You've almost certainly already seen The Avengers, and chances are you loved it. It may be the best superhero movie ever, and while it is a little too much of a fanboy film to win the Oscar for best picture, it will be on the short list.

Men in Black III Men in Black III
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The third Men in Black film is a clever and sentimental entertainment. You won't believe it for a minute, but it has enough charm that your suspension of disbelief will be willing. After the achingly bad Men in Black II, I'm glad Hollywood, in a rare moment of sanity, realized that an intelligent writer was needed.

Battleship Battleship
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Battleship is not nearly as bad as many reviewers would have you believe, certainly not, as one reviewer said, the worst movie ever made. It took quite a bit of ingenuity to get an actual battleship into the film. (There are no battleships in the modern Navy.) And it took a certain cleverness to have a reason for warring combatants to use a strategy not unlike that in the Battleship game.

Dark Shadows Dark Shadows
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The new Dark Shadows move has some good bits in it, but the inconsistency in character and tone, as when Dr. Julia Hoffman gives Barnabas Collins a blow job, are enough to spoil it for any Dark Shadows fan, and not enough to endear it to fans of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Here's what you need to do to enjoy Dark Shadows.

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games
a movie review by Rick Norwood
In some situations the only moral thing to do is to die. The Hunger Games acknowledges that fact. But it also rigs the game in order to have a happy ending. John D. MacDonald, in his books about Travis McGee, will sometimes have Travis McGee in a situation where the only moral thing to do would be to die. Travis McGee does not die. He is a deeply moral man, but to preserve his own life, he will kill any number of innocents.

John Carter John Carter
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote ten novels set on the planet Barsoom, starting with A Princess of Mars in 1912. There is an eleventh book in the series collecting two shorter works, one by ERB, the other by his son John. Andrew Stanton has written some of the greatest animated films of modern times, including Finding Nemo, Toy Story III, and Wall-E.

Chronicle Chronicle
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Chronicle is a fun movie about teens with superpowers. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it does take itself seriously enough. It is in the genre of found footage (remember The Blair Witch Project?), and also in the genre of teens who love making movies (remember Super 8?), but is better than either of those.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Rise of the Planet of the Apes
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The new Planet of the Apes movie is enjoyable, favoring appealing characters over heavy-handed satire. This film is a new beginning, and the setup for a new series. Whether it will take us all the way to the half-sunken Statue of Liberty remains to be seen.

Captain America: The First Avenger Captain America: The First Avenger
a movie review by Rick Norwood
They killed Bucky! No, just kidding. I mean, of course they killed Bucky, but they always kill Bucky. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America in a simpler time, World War II, when comic book stories were complete in one issue, or even had several stories in one issue.

Cowboys & Aliens Cowboys & Aliens
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Cowboys & Aliens is in the sf western genre, which goes back at least to The Phantom Empire, a Mascot serial starring Gene Autry. The movie starts well, finishes badly, and doesn't really have anything new to add.

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon
a movie review by Rick Norwood
There is quite a good movie hiding inside the over-loud, over-long third film in the most recent incarnation of the venerable Transformers. It's likely that you have limited interest in watching two almost indistinguishable robots pound each other, and the plot contrivances that allow puny humans to determine the outcome of the battle become increasingly strained. But there are any number of small moments that make the film a joy.

Green Lantern Green Lantern
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Green Lantern movie isn't as bad as Rick had feared. He particularly liked the first face-to-face meeting between Green Lantern and Carol Ferris, where something happens that he has wanted to see happen for years.

Super 8 Super 8
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick wanted to like Super 8 more than he did. It is not a bad movie, neither is it a great one. There is a character in the movie who says that movies are not just about action, they are about making the audience care about the characters. Rick got the feeling that J.J. Abrams was trying too hard.

X-Men: First Class X-Men: First Class
a movie review by Rick Norwood
In two comic books, both with a cover date of Sept 1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created two new superhero teams, The Avengers and The X-Men. The Avengers was Marvel's answer to DC's Justice League of America, a team-up of their most famous solo characters. The X-Men was something else entirely, all new heroes attending a school for mutants. Jack Kirby based the story loosely on Wilmar Shiras's book Children of the Atom.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Better than Thor, not as good as Pirates of the Caribbean II and Pirates of the Caribbean III, not nearly as good as the first film in the series, this fourth Pirates movie has good acting, some clever dialogue, but a very weak plot. It's not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Thor Thor
a movie review by Rick Norwood
When a major high-brow director makes a movie based on a comic book, it does not usually turn out well: witness Ang Lee's Hulk and now Kenneth Branagh's Thor. Rick loves Branagh's Oscar-winning film of Shakespeare's Henry V. Thor, not so much.

Source Code Source Code
a movie review by Rick Norwood
An intelligent script can turn an old idea into an entertaining film. Source Code is that old chestnut about reliving the same experience over and over in the hope that, this time, it will not end badly. The filmmakers tacitly acknowledge that the idea is unoriginal by casting Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula in the voice role of the hero's father.

Paul Paul
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick had high hopes for this sf comedy, because Simon Pegg worked on the script of Shaun of the Dead, as well as playing Shaun, and did a wonderful acting turn as Scotty in the new Star Trek. As the bishop said of the egg, parts of it were very good.

The Adjustment Bureau The Adjustment Bureau
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Adjustment Bureau is about that old chestnut, predestination vs. free will, but it is fast and smart and a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It is also about the ever popular idea that every man and every woman have one true love, something Rick responds to as strongly as the next man, despite never having seen it in real life.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick loved this film. The weight of critical opinion says it's the weakest of the Narnia series. Rick liked it best. Other reviewers found it uninvolving. Rick cried. Some critics complained that the characters were cardboard. Rick loved the characters.

Tron: Legacy Tron: Legacy
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Tron: Legacy is essentially about a stock character (rebellious teen abandoned by father) fighting meaningless battles (I can throw a Frisbee faster than you can) amid 3D special effects that are supposed to be awesome but aren't.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick has seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 twice now, and enjoyed it more the second time than the first. The action sequences, of which there are many, are not as exciting as those in, for example, Unstoppable, the runaway train film. But it is extremely good.

Inception Inception
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Critical reaction has been mixed. Some critics didn't understand it, others didn't like having to think so hard, others sincerely believe that the only purpose of art is to reveal human character, and that cleverness detracts from the purity of film. And some critics liked it.

Iron Man 2 Iron Man 2
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Is Iron Man 2 a romantic comedy or an action thriller? Actually, it's a four-star romantic comedy and a three-star action thriller. It is long enough to be two movies, and yet Rick was always entertained. But he liked it best when Tony Stark wasn't wearing tin underwear.

The Book of Eli The Road The Book of Eli and The Road
movie reviews by Rick Norwood
In both The Book of Eli and The Road, a man walks the roads of a devastated future trying to preserve something precious, in one movie a Bible, in the other a child. The book, The Road, is a classic. The movie version makes many changes, all for the worse. The Book of Eli is more fun.

Avatar Avatar
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Avatar is the first real science fiction movie in a long time that is not part of a franchise. It's an action adventure movie from one of our best action directors -- only Lucas and Spielberg are better. It is the first movie to show us the complexity of life on an alien world. Not only that, it is well on its way to becoming one of the top box office films of all time.

The Time Traveler's Wife The Time Traveler's Wife
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Time Traveler's Wife is a very good example of mundane science fiction. The boundary between genre science fiction and mundane science fiction is nebulous and getting vaguer all the time, but on one side you have 1984, Brave New World, and, more recently, The Road, which get reviewed in The New Yorker, and on the other side you have I, Robot, Starship Troopers, and Rainbow's End, which don't.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick has seen the new Harry Potter movie twice, but he's still not sure whether it deserves four stars or three. It's an excellent film, fun to watch the second time around. The attention to detail is amazing. The three young stars have grown into their roles. Acting, direction, script, and special effects are all first rate.

Terminator Salvation Terminator Salvation
a movie review by Rick Norwood
According to Rick, this is a stupid movie. Beginning with the previews giving away the "surprise," Rick goes on to detail why he thinks it is stupid in scene by scene. Rarely do five minutes go by without something stupid happening on screen.

Star Trek Star Trek
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Emotionally, Rick was caught up in the whole experience. It hit all the right notes, from the action filled beginning to the closing credits. Captain Kirk looked like Captain Kirk. Rick loved Scotty. Rick didn't even mind the Romulan who was thoughtful enough to bring along a bladed weapon, just to give Sulu somebody to fence with.

Battle for Terra Battle for Terra
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick really wanted to enjoy this 3-D animated science fiction movie. It is a real sf film, not in that increasingly common genre of animated movie he thinks of as "guinea pigs in space." It has a good heart, and some cute characters.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine X-Men Origins: Wolverine
a movie review by Rick Norwood
There was a time when most science fiction movies and all superhero movies were badly written. There were fewer writers in those days, so even bad writers could get a job writing B-movies. There may be more great writers now than there were then, but there are a lot more good writers. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a well-crafted entertainment.

Knowing Knowing
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Knowing is a dumb movie. The special effects are good, but you can catch most of those in the preview. Rick flunked out of M.I.T., and he can testify that the character Nicolas Cage plays couldn't pass for an M.I.T. professor at a senior prom, much less in a classroom.

Battlestar Galactica Battlestar Galactica
a TV review by Rick Norwood
Rick has learned a number of thingswatching the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica. Here are five:
Life in a state of nature is beautiful, bountiful, peaceful, and clean.
God's is in his heaven, and if you have faith in him, he will send angels to save you. Except when he doesn't.

Watchmen Watchmen
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Often when a film adapts a book, it tells the story of the book, instead of translating the book into a series of dramatic scenes that draw you into the story. Watchmen draws you in. The writer and director know what we want from a super-hero movie. We want to see the hero beat the shit out of a bunch of bad guys.

Coraline Coraline
a movie review by Rick Norwood
See it, and by all means see it in 3D. But it could have been so much better if it had just stuck to the book. A book is not a sacred text. The changes Peter Jackson made in The Lord of the Rings were, for the most part, improvements. But the changes Henry Selick made in Coraline weaken the story and are hard to account for.

Inkheart Inkheart
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Inkheart is a moderately good children's fantasy, much like last year's City of Ember. For the first few minutes, Rick had high hopes that this would be one of those memorable children's films, like the The Thief of Bagdad or Monty Python's Time Bandits.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The 50s are a Sargasso Sea of science fiction amid an ocean desert of movies with not even a hint SF. There were great SF films in the 30s and earlier. But there was no science fiction (except low-budget movie serials and monster movies) between Things to Come, by H.G. Wells, in 1936 and Destination Moon, by Robert A. Heinlein, in 1950.

City of Ember City of Ember
a movie review by Rick Norwood
City of Ember is a charming children's science fiction movie. Rick's rating is based on the appeal of the movie for young children. If your child loved last year's children's fantasy The Water Horse, they will love this film as well. Intelligent moviemaking for children is not to be scorned. Teens, on the other hand, will probably be bored.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Jules Verne really wasn't a very good writer. The James Mason, Pat Boone version of Journey to the Center of the Earth really wasn't a very good movie. Neither is this one. But Rick has a soft spot in his head for all three. They have charm.

The Dark Knight The Dark Knight
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This movie certainly gives action fans their money's worth -- there is enough action on the screen for a double feature, a Batman vs. The Joker movie and a Batman vs. Two Face movie. This film is much better on all counts than Batman Begins, where Rick has to take time to even remember who the villain was -- oh, yes, Ras Al Gul, but not the memorable Neal Adams version of that character.

WALL-E WALL-E
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick loved WALL-E. But... First, the movie is beautiful and moving. The brilliant visuals are in stark contrast with the pedestrian animation of the new Star Wars movie, the previews of which were shown right before this Pixar film. In fact, all of the animated previews before WALL-E looked pretty lame by comparison, except Madagascar II.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army Hellboy II: The Golden Army
a movie review by Rick Norwood
In order to enjoy movies these days, it's best to turn off your brain, using the same quantity of drugs the writer/director uses to make the film. Sad to say, Rick's beatnik days are behind him, his IQ has risen into the triple digits, and it has become difficult for him to attain the state of consciousness necessary to really appreciate Hellboy II.

The Incredible Hulk The Incredible Hulk
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Incredible Hulk is a moderately entertaining, by-the-numbers, semi-sequel to Ang Lee's Hulk, lacking the exciting directing but also the murky storytelling of the earlier flick. It is very loosely based on the Hulk stories in Tales to Astonish #90 and #91 (April and May 1967), "The Abomination" and "Whoever Harms the Hulk," by Stan Lee and Gil Kane.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The new Indiana Jones movie is the best action-adventure film seen in a long time. You would have to go back to the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie for one as good. But it is not as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, or The Lord of the Rings. For a film to be that good, it has to be a new idea, with new characters.

Prince Caspian Prince Caspian
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Andrew Adamson, who helmed this film of the second book in the seven book Narnia series, decided to go all out for big-budget action this time. Maybe the studio pushed him in that direction, but he deserves the credit and blame for turning a human adventure into a special-effects extravaganza. In the middle is an entire battle sequence that isn't in the book and doesn't advance the plot.

The Happening The Happening
a movie review by Rick Norwood
What pass for horror movies these days are seldom designed to induce fear. Fear, after all, is an unpleasant emotion, though the relief afterwards is pleasant. There are the horror movies where you experience self-righteous satisfaction when women who have sex out of wedlock are killed or when teen-agers who have sex before marriage are killed. And there are the horror movies which produce roller-coaster thrills where each horrible death produces a shriek of laughter.

Iron Man Iron Man
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Iron Man is a fun superhero film, certainly a lot more fun than the comic book upon which it is based, whose highpoints are when the lead character became a drunk and when he turned fascist. The film is based, loosely, on the origin story in Tales of Suspense #39, with the action moved from Vietnam to Afghanistan and the story where the red and gold suit fights the old Iron Man suit, from Tales of Suspense #65.

The Spiderwick Chronicles The Spiderwick Chronicles
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a charming children's movie, which adults can enjoy -- though probably not the same adults who enjoy, say, 30 Days of Night. It is aimed at a younger crowd than The Golden Compass, and requires a certain tolerance for "cute." Still, it is considerably better than the pervious fantasy film aimed at this age group, The Dark is Rising.

The Golden Compass The Golden Compass
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Golden Compass is one of the most beautiful and original fantasy films of all time. Sadly, the call for a boycott by the Catholic League of Decency caused the money men to order a short film, an hour and fifty-three minutes. Only about half the book made it to the screen, but everything there is opulent and intelligently crafted.

Stardust Stardust
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick is happy to report that the movie Stardust is much better than expected. The previews made it look sketchy and perfunctory compared with other fantasy movies crowding the screens, but Stardust turned out to be quite delightful. It uses the book, as movies will, and leaves out a lot and puts in a lot, as movies will, but the mix works more often than not.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The latest Harry Potter film is a solid, satisfying dark fantasy. Maybe it is a hair less good than the preceding film, but we have been lucky so far. None of the Harry Potter films have suffered from the kind of series-itus seen in most of this Summer's blockbusters. Even the critics are coming around, setting aside their distaste for anything popular and granting that the Harry Potter films might be entertaining.

Spider-Man III Shrek the Third Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Spider-Man III,
Shrek the Third
and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

movie reviews by Rick Norwood
The three summer blockbuster threequels are not as bad as the reviewers would have you believe. They are, to praise them with faint damns, the best genre films so far in 2007. So, three stars each for Spider-man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. The bad news is that none of these is as good as the second film in the series, which in turn was not as good as the first. To find a film trilogy that actually improved in the third film, you need to go back to The Return of the King, and before that to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer is a fun film. It isn't a great film -- it doesn't pretend to be. Unlike some Summer films, it does not try too hard and wind up deeply flawed. Instead, it aims at the same brand of lighthearted entertainment found in the Jack Kirby and Stan Lee comic books, and hits the mark.

Next Next
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Next is one of those all too common films where craftsmanship on the part of the actors and technicians is rendered pointless by a total lack of craftsmanship on the part of the writers. The gimmick is that Nic Cage can see two minutes into the future. If there were such a person, Rick'll tell you later on what his life would really be like, but that doesn't happen in the movie, because the writers never bother to think.

The Last Mimzy The Last Mimzy
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This slight, surprisingly pretty, mildly enjoyable film is based on a classic science fiction story of more than sixty years ago by Henry Kuttner and his wife, C.L. Moore. Thanks to the film, a collection of their stories has been reissued in paperback, under the film's title and spelling.

Ghost Rider Ghost Rider
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Ghost Rider has two things going for it, good visual effects and Nicholas Cage. Sadly, director Mark Steven Johnson does not think he needs a writer, even though he lacks basic writerly skills himself. He does come up with some clever bits. But he has no idea how to establish a character, twist a plot, or build suspense.

Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick was disappointed by Pan's Labyrinth, the most favorably reviewed film of 2006. Leaving the theater, he overheard enough comments to know he was not alone in that disappointment, especially from people who had brought children. This is not a film for children.

Children of Men Children of Men
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Along with Pirates of the Caribbean, this one of the two most entertaining films of 2006. From the previews one might think it would be a bummer, but it has all the virtues of pulp fiction that Hollywood so often forgets. We care about the people, because they have both character and individuality. The plot makes sense, and throws seemingly insuperable obstacles in the hero's path. And there is a consistent theme that holds the story together.

Eragon Eragon
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Eragon is a dragon movie that does not have an original bone in its body. The writers were saved the trouble of actually doing any writing, since the entire plot is borrowed from one source or another, and pasted into the template of the farm boy who saves the princess and fights the evil king, a plot that was old when the brothers Grimm were young.

Déjà Vu Déjà Vu
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Déjà Vu is a smarter film than the previews would lead you to expect, with a strictly defined SF idea the consequences of which are played out according to the rules. A window in time is opened. It reaches four and a half days into the past. If a living thing tries to go through the window, its heart stops. An act of terrorism is committed in New Orleans. Detectives try to use the time window to solve the crime.

Stranger than Fiction Stranger than Fiction
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Stranger than Fiction could be based on a Theodore Sturgeon story from Unknown or it could be based on a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, but actually it is an original script by Zach Helm, who prior to this film has written one TV movie Rick never heard of, acted in one TV episode Rick didn't see, and directed one film that won't be out until next year.

Stranger than Fiction The Fountain
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Fountain is not fantasy or science fiction. It is the story of a doctor whose wife is dying, and who foolishly tries to save her life instead of enjoying their last days together. That's it. So, why is it being reviewed for a science fiction web site? Why, to save you seven dollars and fifty cents, of course. Rick is always thinking of you.

A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly
a movie review by Rick Norwood
One thing is clear. Everybody connected with this movie has done a lot of drugs. The dialogue perfectly captures the narrow line between irony and stupidity, between mock violence and real violence, between paranoia and real noia.

Lady in the Water Lady in the Water
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Samuel R. Delany has written that enjoyment of art depends on the tension between the expected and the unexpected. Too much of the expected, we yawn. Too much of the unexpected, and we become confused. A lot of people evidently were confused by this highly enjoyable, completely original film. America is not ready for an urban fairy tale.

Superman Returns Superman Returns
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The worst thing about Superman Returns is the actor, who has a variety of facial expressions similar to that of the plastic Aurora Superman model -- except on two or three very brief occasions when he looks so much like Christopher Reeve that he may have had a little help from CGI.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This is the best new Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon since Chuck Jones passed away. Chuck Jones -- the man who discovered that the laws of physics can be funny. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have learned that lesson well. Everybody LEAN this way. Good. Now everybody LEAN that way. Good. Lean this way. Lean that way. This way. That way. Grab. Oops, missed. Again. Lean. Lean. Lean.

X-Men: The Last Stand X-Men: The Last Stand
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The third X-Men movie is the best so far, which is saying a lot considering how good the first two were. You may be afraid the new director and writers would not maintain the quality -- as has happened with other threequels -- but have no fear, true believer. The writers know their Marvel comics. They pick the best stuff from hundreds of issues and weave it into a seamless whole.

V for Vendetta V for Vendetta
a movie review by Rick Norwood
This is an old fashioned movie, fashioned from words and images instead of villains and violence. It is not as good as the comic book. It is a kinder, gentler terrorism -- a terrorism that blows things up but doesn't actually hurt anybody (except for bad guys of course).

Nanny McPhee Nanny McPhee
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Emma Thompson is a rare bird -- two great talents, actress and writer. And how she writes! She won an Oscar for her script for Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility and the IMDB credits her as unsung script doctor for the recent Pride and Prejudice. She wrote and stars in this first fantasy film of 2006. The script has its good points and its bad points.

King Kong King Kong
a movie review by Rick Norwood
When he first saw the original King Kong, Rick was just a kid. He remembers being bored for the first twenty minutes or so, but once the ship reached Kong Island, he was thrilled. Every scene is indelibly etched on his memory, and he thinks that he could recreate every stop-motion lash of the Tyrannosaur's tail.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
a movie review by Rick Norwood
There have been two previous TV adaptations of the book, one animated, one live action. They were well intentioned, but proved that certain stories cannot be filmed with investing a great deal of money. Everything here looks real, from the snowflakes falling from the sky to the battles featuring centaurs, ogres, and a rhinoceros. And then the special effects have the grace to step aside, and allow the human characters center stage.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The new Harry Potter film gets off to a shaky start. No sooner do we get used to one setting than we are snatched away to another. One might worry that the task of adapting a 636-page book had been too much for Steve Kloves, who has written all the Harry Potter movies. Then, Harry arrives at Hogwarts, and it turns out that Kloves knew what he was doing -- get the first third of the book out of the way, fast, and concentrate on the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

Zathura Zathura
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick loved Zathura. The use of telling details makes it easy for you to believe three impossible things before breakfast. The box that the old game comes in is foxed. The sound of the metal game as it is laid down on a hardwood floor is exactly right. That is the sound that the old Tom Corbett -- Space Academy toy made when you put it down on a hardwood floor. The illustrations in the game perfectly capture the style used in science fiction toys in the late 40s and early 50s.

Serenity Serenity
a movie review by Rick Norwood
"This is going to be the shortest review I've ever written. Go see Serenity. And do not let anybody, not even me, tell you anything about it before you see it."

The Brothers Grimm The Brothers Grimm
a movie review by Rick Norwood
It is a delightful movie, with much more originality both in plot and visual effects than most fantasies. It gets off to a rather rocky start; initially the brothers are not very likable. They make their living by swindling the gullible and they don't get along with each other all that well.

Stealth Stealth
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick doesn't ask much from a Summer movie. He doesn't expect it to make sense. A few nice explosions are all he asks for and Stealth provides them, though Cliché might be a better title.

The Island The Island
a movie review by Rick Norwood
There is some fun to be had from the car chases and explosions, if you can accept the idea that an evil corporation thinks that crashing a helicopter into a skyscraper is a good way to cover up its wrongdoing. Just a few of the explosions in this film would be enough to spark the biggest investigation since 9/11.

War of the Worlds War of the Worlds
a movie review by Rick Norwood
It owes as much to the 1953 film, The War of the Worlds, as it does to the H.G. Wells novel. The opening narration is adapted from the novel, but the closing narration is adapted from the film. There are significant omissions from Wells' first paragraph. Wells writes that the Martians have "intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own". In other words, the Martians are not supernatural, but are creatures like us, subject to scientific law. They are smarter than we are, therefore they know more science, therefore are more powerful.

Fantastic Four Fantastic Four
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Fantastic Four were the first squabbling super-heroes of the Silver Age, and you have to have been there to realize what an innovation that was, after the namby-pamby friendships of the D.C. super-heroes, who always got along and never ever argued. The conflict between the characters is a high point of the film.

Howl's Moving Castle Howl's Moving Castle
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Of the myriad Japanese animation directors, Hayao Myiazaki is the most prestigious, even if Cowboy Beebop and Trigun may be more fun. Myiazaki's anime are beautiful and poetic, but they tend to wander all over the place, without really rising to a climax. Rick's favorite of his features is still his first, The Castle of Cagliostro.

Batman Begins Batman Begins
reviewed by Rick Norwood
Batman Begins is a major disappointment, a muddled mess. It begins with an hour-long origin story, which is almost identical to the origin story in the movie The Shadow -- not a great movie, but a better movie than this one.

Revenge of the Sith Revenge of the Sith
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The last of the Star Wars movies is, sadly, also the least. It is certainly one of the most spectacular films ever made. But while it is often beautiful, it is never joyous; often exciting but never thrilling.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
a movie review by Rick Norwood
It is not as bad as you feared nor as good as you hoped, very different from any other version, but with a lot of the same lines. The movie version essentially adapts the first book with the cards shuffled, a few cards borrowed from other decks, and quite a few wild cards.

Robots Robots
a movie review by Rick Norwood
It is very much what you expect from the makers of Ice Age. The dance on ball bearings was Rick's favorite bit. Robin Williams delivers so many one-liners that a few of them are bound to be funny. Like so many postmodern cartoons, the movie mocks sentimentality at the same time that it relies on sentimentality to keep the viewer interested.

Constantine Constantine
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick liked the opening few minutes, which introduce a McGuffin which is promptly forgotten about until the very end. Rick liked the rubber duckie. Rick liked the angel. Rick kinda liked the devil, except that he's about as menacing as Sid Caesar.

The Polar Express The Polar Express
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick gives The Polar Express four stars because it succeeds in showing you things you've never seen before, some of them exciting, some beautiful. It admirably does what it sets out to do. But there is a sick worm at the heart of the rose.

The Incredibles The Incredibles
a movie review by Rick Norwood
It is very enjoyable but not transcendently great. Essentially it takes Stan Lee's idea for the Fantastic Four -- superheroes who have problems with their job, family, and love life -- and applies a budget, technical polish, and special effects far beyond the Lee and Kirby creation. It bears roughly the same relation to The Fantastic Four that the Star Trek films bore to the original television Star Trek.

Shaun of the Dead Shaun of the Dead
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The joke here is that our everyday lives are so mindless that when people start turning into zombies, things aren't all that different. The problem with the film is that that's the joke -- the only joke. There is, however, a theory that if something isn't funny, you have only to say it in a working class British accent to make it funny.

Team America: World Police Team America: World Police
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Rick laughed out loud. That's a good thing. It doesn't happen often at movies, probably because he does not find human bodily fluids automatically hilarious. It has been a long time since he has seen a film in theaters as funny as, say, Buster Keaton in Our Hospitality.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Every schoolboy knows the story of how Kerry Conran vanished into his basement for twenty years, and came out with six minutes of computer-generated film good enough to convince Hollywood to hand him a zillion dollars so he could make the motion picture of his dreams. Less well known are the unsung creators of the images that Conran brings to computer-generated life on the screen, illustrators for comic strips and digest science fiction magazines such as Clarence Gray, Frank R. Paul, and Ed Valigursky.

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