Category Archives: Movie & TV Reviews

Makers Season 2

A while back I wrote about the first three episodes of Makers: Women Who Make America.  Thankfully, the show is back for a second season on PBS.  You can watch it for free on the PBS website (check  your local station’s website).  So far this season they have run episodes titled Women in Comedy, Women in Hollywood and — my favorite — this week they ran Women in Space.

My preschooler found the Women in Space episode just as riveting as I did, so these are mostly good for family viewing and all ages.  There are a few fairly rough moments in the Season 1 episodes detailing the history of the women’s movement, and the comedy episode doesn’t bleep out everything completely, so parents should be the judge of what very young ones see.

I just can’t get enough of the women in this country who blazed the trail into space and will probably watch the latest episode at least a couple more times.  Up next is Women in War, which is another topic that is very close to home.  Can’t wait to see it.

If you haven’t watched any of the episodes yet, they can each be watched alone, but I recommend watching Season 1 in chronological order, and season 2 in any order that strikes your fancy.  Enjoy, and let me know what you thought of them in the comments!

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Ok Go’s new video is delectably full of A/V nerd awesomeness

I can’t imagine how long this video took to make.  Ok Go has always done some phenomenally good videos and has long since achieved geek superhero status, but this one really takes the cake.  It’s full of optical illusions and camera tricks and perspective changes.  It’s incredibly creative stuff.  Each shot must have taken forever to set up.

And that’s the brilliance of it – this video highlights how very cool the rewards can be if you stick with something obsessively and to perfection.  It’s  almost like a recruiting video for A/V nerds.

Enjoy.

Oh, and the song is pretty good, too – has a nice ’80s vibe to it, which is back in right now, isn’t it?

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TV review – Australia: First Four Billion Years

This show actually aired a year ago on PBS, but I just found it on Amazon Prime recently.  It’s a NOVA miniseries, and it covers four billion years of Australia’s history in four episodes.  We just finished the fourth episode tonight and the consensus in our house was that it’s fantastic.  We will definitely be re-watching this one.

The series begins with the formation of the planet and continents, and ends with early human history.  This show has something for everyone to love – both the adults and the four-year-old were completely captivated.  This show has dinosaurs, geology, marine biology, you name it.  Seriously good science-y stuff.

The four episodes are titled “Awakening,” “Life Explodes, “Monsters,” and “Strange Creatures.”  I learned a lot watching each one.  My husband and I frequently found ourselves uttering things like “cool” and “I didn’t know that!” throughout each episode.

The show has great cinematography and really good CG that blend fairly seamlessly.  There are frequent transitions between showing a fossil and a live animation of what the creature or plant likely looked like.  They also do some neat shots where they show a now-dry lakebed or sea, and then a view of what it looked like when under water.

The only irritating thing was this recurring aside where they ‘drove’ through history, complete with cutting to host Richard Smith driving along a dirt road, and nausea-inducing spinning shots of the car to simulate moving through time to the next era.  Could definitely have done without that part.

If you or your kids are fans of geology, history, paleontology, biology, zoology, archaeology, all things Australia-related, or even something more obscure like paleoentomology, this show has something for you.  We really like nature and science shows in our house, and this one was the best we’ve seen since Planet Earth.  And Richard Smith’s voice is almost as captivating as David Attenborough’s.

If you have Amazon Prime it’s free on there, or you can watch on the PBS website here.  It’s also available on iTunes and DVD.

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Movie Review: The Lego Movie

Lots of people warned me about the song, so I sort of knew what I was getting into with The Lego Movie.  I was not prepared, though, for multiple kids to be shouting, “Everything is awesome!” at the tops of their little lungs in the parking lot as we all walked back to our cars, and their horrified parents tried to shush them.   It’s really that much of an earworm.  And yes, it is certainly still running through my head as I write this.

Crazy addictive song aside, it was a good movie.  I think I enjoyed it more than my daughter did, because most of the fun one-liners and cultural references sailed right over her head.  As usual, the things in the movie that scared her dumbfounded me.  She sat through a solid ten minutes of heroes-being-chased-by-bad-guys-with-lots-of-shooting with no problem, but freaked out when they discovered a tracking device on the hero, wailing “What’s wrong with him?”

I love that the 1980s space lego guy got to be an important character.  I love anything voiced by Morgan Freeman.  And I love Legos.  So this movie was something I went into expecting to like, at least a little.  The ‘life lessons’ and ‘good triumphing over evil’ portions that are obligatory in an PG-or-less rated movie were presented with a little too much saccharine for my taste, but it definitely could have been worse.   The love story subplot was particularly sickly sweet, but at least had the comic relief of Batman.

This is a very visually stimulating movie, something that always gets bonus points in my book.  The various Lego worlds and the things the master builders put together are, to quote the song, awesome.  The voice actors are great, and you will hear many familiar voices.  The Star Wars actors actually voicing their Star Wars characters (Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Anthony Daniels as C3PO) was an especially nice touch.  The standout by far was Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop.  Such a great character and really well voiced.

The plot was fairly predictable, but with enough little twists and comedic asides to make it stiff fun to watch.  For the parents who grew up loving and playing with Legos, the movie has a lot of nice nostalgia moments.  This is also a movie I could certainly watch again, which is a lot more than I can say about the last two movies we saw together (The Nut Job and Walking With Dinosaurs).  Overall, PG movies don’t get much better than this.

But seriously, you will never, ever, ever get that song out of your head.  Don’t say no one warned you.

What did you think of it?

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Review of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Ok, finally managed to get through the episode – it was worth waiting until I could get through it all with my daughter, as she sat totally transfixed in my lap to watch it.

Overall, I enjoyed it.  They have updated the show from the Sagan years with modern CG, and the graphics and music are lovely.   It’s more basic than most adults with any kind of STEM enthusiasm or background need, but far more advanced than some really, really bad STEM-related shows in recent years (I’m looking at you and your oversimplification, The Planets).  It’s not overly simplistic, but presented in a way that’s accessible to everyone, which is exactly the point of a mainstream science show.  I think they found a nice balance – at least in the first episode.

Also, I’m not going to complain at all that a science show is on Fox.  I appreciate how great that is!  It doesn’t begin to make up for canceling Firefly or any of their other terrible decisions, but it shows that maybe, just maybe, they’re taking a step in the right direction.  So, on to the review, of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I liked the ‘cosmic address’ analogy that Neil deGrasse Tyson used to describe how to locate Earth in the Universe.  It works for those who are used to mailing addresses, but also for the younger crowd who speak in IP addresses.

DidI mention the graphics and music?  Boy, we’ve come a long way in computer graphics and animation in the last few decades.  Love it.  They also did a great mix of what is clearly real satellite imagery (I recognized a few famous Hubble shots in there) and computer-generated.  This is a very visually-appealing show.

It can keep the interest of both an adult aerospace engineer and a 3-year-old.  That’s a tough thing to pull off.  My daughter’s main concerns where whether Neil de Grasse Tyson was harmed in the filming of the Big Bang scene, and what exactly happened to the dinosaurs.  Luckily, she didn’t really understand the scene with The Inquisition.

The ‘Cosmic Calendar’ they used to show the scale of the age of the universe was very well done.  It really helped break something that enormous into chunks small enough to wrap the human brain around.

The personal story of Neil deGrasse Tyson meeting and being inspired by Carl Sagan was also a very nice touch.  Adding the current human interest element to stories that can sometimes feel impersonal – like the forming of galaxies and a long-ago story of an early astronomer – helps attract and keep a modern audience.

All that said, what was up with the weird little spaceship thing that flew around in a lot of the space scenes?  It looks a lot like the a bottle opener I have.  I also took issue with the ‘blowing clouds of cosmic dust’ or whatever that was supposed to be that Voyager seemed to be flying through – which is the kind of thing would have demolished the poor satellite decades ago.

The caption is “The Ship of the Imagination, free from the shackles of space and time, can go anywhere.” But the ship is seriously weird-looking. From: http://www.cosmosontv.com/photos/album/standing-up-in-the-milky-way

My OXO bottle opener looks suspiciously like the "spaceship of the imagination"

My OXO bottle opener looks suspiciously like the “ship of the imagination”

The weird cartoon of Bruno’s story with cheesy accents and creepy arrow-shooting cherubs.  And then flying through space scenes with cape and hair waving in the wind.  Just plain bizarre.  Also, the whole thing was a little too drawn out and dramatized with the name-calling and book-throwing and flashes to shots of torture instruments.

The good in this show far outweighed the bad.  I like the new Cosmos, and I really, really hope it doesn’t become another reason I have to buy one of those “I’d rather be watching shows canceled by Fox” t-shirts.  Fingers crossed.

What did you think of it?  How does it compare with your memories of the original?  Will you continue to watch?

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