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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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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.

Caprica The television reviewer for Entertainment Weekly and I have very different tastes. He likes Caprica and gave a recent episode of Smallville an A. (By contrast, Avatar only got a B.) And he called the season finale of Heroes "lackluster." I loved it. I look forward to watching it again on Blu-ray. Caprica I find only mildly interesting -- the alien world is too much like Earth. If you took our Earth, and introduced the virtual reality and the robots, things would change. But in Caprica, the changes in technology have no effect on the society. It's ordinary, garden-variety Earth with giant robots. Ron Moore is a good writer, and there are interesting bits, but I doubt it will be renewed.

The ninth season of Smallville I find, by turns, boring and embarrassing. I loved the first five seasons, but when Miller and Gough left the show for the greater glory of writing movies, it went rapidly downhill, and now has no reason to exist. I cannot believe Clark Kent would spend years as a hero called "The Blur." The center of the show now is the relationship between Lois and Clark, but that is inconsistent from episode to episode. I give the show credit for addressing this problem. In a recent episode Lois says that she used to find Clarke really hot and now feels absolutely nothing around him. But if that's the case, then the romance is over, and old flames seldom rekindle. The basic premise of the current Smallville seems to be "how long can we put off Clark donning the red and Frankenstein blue suit?" The acting is still good, but the writing is lame, mostly. Even the Geoff Johns episode, with the Justice League of America, which I was looking forward to, wasn't that good. They allow a minor supervillain, Icicle, to fight the entire JLA almost to a standstill. Superman could have stopped him in ten seconds.

*     *     *
I'm not a big fan of horror movies, but I have a soft spot in my head for the Universal monsters. The remake of The Wolf Man, now titled The Wolfman, gives me occasion to list the Universal films about Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man, which ran from 1931 to 1948, all out on DVD:
The Bride of Frankenstein
Dracula's Daughter
Son of Frankenstein
The Wolf Man
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Ghost of Frankenstein
Son of Dracula
House of Frankenstein
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

In 1962 the television series Route 66 brought the Universal monsters back for a brief Dracula reunion, with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr. playing themselves. (Bela Lugosi, the actor who created the Universal Dracula, was dead, so Peter Lorre stepped in as the third actor.)

The new film, The Wolfman, credits the author of the screenplay of The Wolf Man, Curt Siodmak, and except for the addition of a second werewolf, the new movie is fairly faithful to the original. The acting, by Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, is excellent. The photography is atmospheric, the special effects first rate. The big problem with the movie, which was the problem in almost all of the original Universal horror movies, is that the monster really has nothing to do but die. The reason I still go back and watch the original from time to time is Lon Chaney, Jr's sympathetic portrayal of Larry Talbot. "Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright."

Copyright © 2010 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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