It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Max World
A channel surfer's Guide to the upcoming End Time Entertainment

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Hugh Downs Quote


Apocalyptic Program Guide


 
 

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I'm hoping to bring you the latest programming news for the true-blue Bunker Potato. So, warm up the DVR or the TiVo and grab the remote. Here's a sampling of what breathless broadcast gems to look for in the upcoming days, weeks and months:


Note: All dates and times given hail from the national US network schedules and reflect EST/PST broadcasts. I encourage you to check your own local or cable listings for the specific schedules in your area.


CHANNEL ABBREVIATIONS

ABC - American Broadcasting Company ID - Investigation Discovery
A&E - Arts & Entertainment IFC - Independent Film Channel
AMC - American Movie Classics MAX - Cinemax
BBCA - British Broadcasting Channel America MGM - Metro Goldwyn Mayer Channel
BIO - Biography Channel MIL - Military Channel
BRV - Bravo NBC - National Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcasting Service NGC - National Geographic Channel
CHL - Chiller Channel PBS - Public Broadcasting Service
CW - Columbia/Warner Bros. SCI - Science Channel
DIS - Discovery Channel SHO - Showtime
ENC - Encore STZ - Starz!
FMC - Fox Movie Channel SUN - Sundance Channel
FOX - Fox Broadcasting SYFY - SyFy Channel
FX - FX Network TCM - Turner Classic Movies
HBO - Home Box Office TMC - The Movie Channel
HIS - History Channel TNT - Turner Network Television
HIS-INT - History International USA - USA Network


Millennium - Yet another typical Chris Carter TV tease-a-thon; hooking viewers in with an oh-so-mysterious, ever-threatening, conspiracy-snuggling, potentially apocalyptic concept without having the slightest clue of an actual direction. And just like X-Files (which it crossed over into, from time to time), it dragged on and on and on and went 'round and 'round in ever more pointless, shark-baiting circles, eventually leaving its loyal suckers... er, viewers hanging out to dry without the slightest hope of a real resolution. Still, worth tuning in for the atmosphere, a riveting performance by Lance Henrickson (who's way too good to get stuck in all the B movies he does) and the reminder of just how very, very crazy people got about that whole 2000 thing not so long ago. Every day throughout Dec, CHL

Judge Dredd - Bogglingly bad Stallone stinker inspired by the Brit comic book about a gun-totin' magistrate in a scorched earth future metropolis. If that hasn't scared you off already, I offer the following three words: Co-starring Rob Schneider. Dec 1, SYFY

Babylon A.D. - An already silly tale of a mercenary (Vin Deisel) in a dystopic, virus-ridden future playing heavily armed nanny to a genetically engineered would-be Madonna is stripped of any nanoparticle of coherence by an editing team apparently made up of blind, chainsaw-wielding schizophrenics. To placate US distributers, nearly half-again the film's running time ended up on the cutting room floor, along with plot threads aplenty, character development and the vaguest whiff of comprehensibility. If, after watching, this frenetic mess makes any sense to you, you're obviously doing better drugs than I am. Dec 1 & 2, HBO

How The Earth Was Made: Yellowstone - The History Channel takes a look-see into Yellowstone National Park, particularly that lil' incidental detail about it being one of the world's deadliest supervolcanoes... Oh, and how it's on a 600,000 year cataclysm clock... And how it's currently running rather late for its next kaboom appointment... And, yeah, also how, as soon as it gets a proper day planner and catches up, its eruption will almost certainly turn the human species into fossil fodder. Dec 1 & 2, HIS

The Fifth Element - Desperately confused and often just plain desperate, this Euro-trash meets art-house meets comic book meets action hero sci-fi free-for-all is an over-budgeted train wreck of a movie. The blitherings that pass for a plot have something to do with earthly destruction via Ultimate Evil, which can only be averted by a more annoying-than-usual Bruce Willis and a chicklette dressed in glossy duct tape. Gary Oldman, who'd been playing Russian Roulette with his dignity in such outings as Dracula and Lost In Space, finally pulls the loaded chamber in a performance straight out of some ghastly Community Dinner Theatre. The rest of the cast slides down the scale from there. Not that any of them are helped by the script, which seems to have been written by lab monkeys getting way too much electro-shock. If you like movies that are all begged, borrowed and stolen style and no substance - play a video game! It'll be more rewarding than watching this. Dec 1, 2, 6, 16, 21 & 26, MAX; Dec 4, 17 & 29, STZ-CIN

How The Earth Was Made: Vesuvius - No, it isn't just for old toga party B-flicks and episodes of Doctor Who anymore! According to this episode of HtEWM, Vesuvius did not shoot its entire wad over Pompeii and Herculaneum back in 79 CE. No, it's actually been pretty active, squirting a magma load here and there over the centuries. No question that it'll pop in a serious way some time and when it does, millions will be in the future museum exhibit zone. Dec 1, 2 & 12, HIS

Mega Disasters: Krakatoa's Revenge - Nothing like good ol' fashioned doom by volcano to brighten one's day! ...At least until the sun is blocked out by the ejecta and one is reduced to a charred cinder by the pyroclastic flow. The folks who lived near Krakatoa (west of Java) back in 1883 learned this the hard way, as this MD installment makes plain. Still more ominous, a Krakatoa Jr. has been rising from the ashes ever since that big kaboom and its grand seppuku moment may now spell agonizing magma-choked death for millions. Enjoy! Dec 1, HIS; Dec 1, 4 & 5, HIS-INT

I Am Legend - Take a classic sci-fi novel, one mega-star and a ginormous budget and what do you get? About 2/3rds of a ripping good - if predictable - sci-fi action flick. Sadly, this tale of one lone survivor in a world gone vamp/zombie wild is undone by laughable CGI, an anti-science message and an ending loved only by the non-book readers, the deeply religious and those who get ecstatic over anything that goes, "boom". Those familiar with the source material and/or whose standards run higher than, "Goddidit! - insert explosion here" resolutions may find that final third something less than satisfying. Kudos, anyway, to Will Smith, who gives his all and then some as the increasingly unhinged final fella' and to Kona, as his adorable German Sheppard, Sam. Dec 1, 7, 19, 25 & 30, HBO-2

Day of the Dead - Undead outing #3 in George Romero's zombie series. Originally intended as a huge, epic, apocalyptic finalé to a trilogy that started with Night of the Living Dead, things had to be scaled down in scope considerably due to budget shortfalls. The result is a claustrophobic nightmare of crazy soldiers, mad scientists, zombie lab rats and certain doom shuffling and moaning just outside the gates. The acting is iffy (hey, it's a zombie movie, not Masterpiece Theatre), but the mounting atmosphere of dread and its gory payoff are well-worth the tune-in. Dec 1, TMC; Dec 7, 12, 16, 22 & 28, SHO

Aftermath: Population Zero - A virtual clone of the History Channel's "Life After People" mini and, as such, exhibiting all the same strengths and weaknesses: Fun idea undermined by redundancy, meh CGI and the nagging failure to explain where everybody suddenly skeedaddled to. It might be interesting to compare the two and see how they differ in the small, but significant details. Like how LAF suggests the Hoover Dam will last 10,000 years, while APZ insists the failure of a dam upstream will take Hoover out in less than 200. Oh, well, what's a piddly 9,800+ years between friends? Dec 1 & 8, NGC

The Mist - Frank Darabont and his cast get stuck in a mist of CGI monsters and lost in a fog of cliché, silly small town stereotypes and numbing repetition in this overlong adaptation of the Stephen King short story. A taut tale of pressure-cooked paranoid hysteria with a Lovecraftian topping of tentacled (and hairy and fanged and stinger-laden) doom is undone by overwrought acting and a pack of human characters so aggressively unpleasant and dim you end up rooting for the mist monsters. Probably best known for its controversial tacked-on ending which tends to be loved by those who haven't read the original story and loathed by those who have. Dec 1, 10, 13, 18, 22 & 28, SHOC; Dec 3, 6, 15, 19, 23, 24 & 26, SHO; Dec 12, 16, 24 & 27, SHO-2

Evolution - If you just loved the keen satiric wit and easy charm that marked Ivan Reitman's "Ghostbusters"... do not on any account bother with the vacuum-skulled idiocy that is "Evolution". A waste of time, money, talent, catering services and any other resources imaginable, it's a frantic flush into the depths of toilet humor. Ostensibly, the movie's about the wacky foibles of a snoresome foursome who try to save the world from destruction by a growing menagerie of hyper-evolving critters. But it's really just a 101 minute excuse for a lot of gooey CGI effects and lame jokes about bodily fluids, gasses and the orifices they issue from. If you didn't get enough of that kind of thing back in 3rd grade, this film should be right up your... alley. Dec 1, 11, 20 & 28, MAX

Thirteen Days - An otherwise well-crafted dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis is marred by the bizarre shoehorning of Kevin Costner into the proceedings as Kennedy assistant, Kenny O'Donnell. In real life, O'Donnell did little more than fetch coffee and keep the paperwork handy. In the movie, he virtually saves the planet... though he can't seem to save his accent from wandering aimlessly all over the map. That aside, when the film focuses on the Kennedys and the historical record, it's excellent. A frightening glimpse at how close we once came to nuclear war, illustrating how vitally important it is to have national leaders who understand that war is neither a cure-all, a distraction nor an election tool. Dec 1, STZ-CIN; Dec 17, STZ

Wall-E - About the first half of the film is a masterpiece, gloriously devoid of all humans and nearly all human speech. It sadly devolves after that, but even diminished, it's excellent; it just stops being art. Even so, the gorgeously animated tale of love among the trash-compacted ruins is beautiful. Arguably, Pixar's best. Dec 2, 3, 14, 15, 20, 21, 24, 25 & 31, STZ

The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) - You may not believe that the Earth has stood still but, watching this movie, you will almost certainly end up thinking that it has slowed down to a numbing crawl. A hopelessly wrong-headed remake of the '51 classic that trades in the fascinating Michael Rennie for the near-catatonic Keanu Reeves, a message about the evils of nuclear proliferation for a message about the evils of global warming and a coherent script for gobs of CGI. Little in the film makes any sense; least of all John Cleese as a Nobel-winning, platitude-spouting scientist. Perhaps Eric Idle or Terry Jones can play a Pulitzer-winning astronaut or a Golden Globe-winning economist in the sequel? Dreadful and pointless; chock-full of bad acting, snort-worthy dialogue and nakedly cynical product placement. The coup de gras is a surly little waif you'll be praying in vain to get Gort-zapped extra crispy. Dec 2, 5, 8, 12, 17 & 18, HBO; Dec 6, 14, 22, 23, 26 & 30, HBO-2

Broken Arrow - After being passed up for a big promotion, stealth pilot Maj. Vic Deakins (John Travolta) decides to work out some unaddressed career advancement issues by crashing a US military jet, stealing a matched pair of very lively 'nukes and stupidly holding Denver hostage in the off-ski season. It's up to baffled former co-pilot Christian Slater and near-magically bland park ranger Samantha Mathis to foil his evil plans... No, not for blowing up the city. For chewing up all the scenery... Would it be too much of a spoiler to say they fail? Dec 2, 8, 13, 19 & 20, ENC-ACT; Dec 5, 6, 13, 17, 22 & 25, ENC; Dec 13 & 29, FMC

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension - The fate of Earth hangs in the balance... or something, when the mad Dr. Emilio Lizardo and his Red Lectroid alien pals try to steal Banzai's spiffy new overthruster and zoom back to their home in the 8th dimension. If that doesn't make a great deal of sense to you, don't worry. Neither does anything else in the movie. It was planned that way, see, 'cuz it's supposed to be weird and wild and outrageous and all. A lot of people just love this flick to pieces. I am not one of them. The pic exhausts itself trading oddness for actual humor and juvenile scream fests for wit. And ironically, it even fails at being odd, as time and again poor direction and scripting blows right past sight gags and set pieces that should have been a gimme to any filmmaker with flair. A good movie only for those who've never seen a really funny film before. Dec 3, 4, 15, 26 & 27, IFC

Species II - Remarkable only for making the original Species look like a classic by comparison. Hilarious in its unrelenting, unmitigated awfulness. And lucky you! It's on premium cable, so it won't be stripped it of its sole "selling features"; its gratuitous gore and nudity. Dec 3 & 22 ENC; Dec 4, 12, 13, 14, 16 & 28, ENC-ACT

Blindness - Kind of a "Lord of The Flies" for the visually challenged. A plague suddenly sweeps through a modern city striking everyone affected with "white blindness". The government, in its militarist wisdom, responds to this by humanely rounding up the victims, dumping them in an abandoned mental hospital under armed (and sadistic) guard and leaving them to rot. From there on, it's the blind leading the blind, only the "leading blind" are the biggest, strongest, most viciously aggressive who victimize the rest without mercy. Will the lone sighted woman, who faked her way into this place to stay at her husband's side, find the strength to fight the blind baddies? Will you be wondering why she doesn't just keep tripping them all from the time she arrives? Will you be able to get half-way through the film before you stop caring? Dec 3, 7, 17, 18, 22 & 26, STZ-CIN

FlashForward - So, what made the entire world (save for two mystery guys... who actually aren't really mysterious anymore... or even interesting... but I digress) black out for 2 minutes 15 seconds? Anyone...? Anyone...? Bueller? If you're still awake and watching, then you probably know it has something to do with a couple of big-ass towers in Somalia and counting crows (not the band) and Nazis and pigeons and blue handed people who, I guess, never got over the cancellation of Firefly and "a very bad man" named, "D. Gibbons" who does not, repeat, NOT make cupcakes. I just can't imagine why this show is struggling to keep an audien... zzzzzz... Dec 3 & 10, ABC

Fringe - Yes, I thought it was an X-Files rip-off, too, when it started. And having gotten thoroughly disgusted with the real item, the last thing I was looking for was a cheap knock-off. So, imagine my surprise when Fringe turned out to be its own uniquely fascinating brand of doom-tinged weirdness. The basics are that a Fringe Division of the FBI has been charged with investigating the freakish out-of-the-norm, supernaturally-tinged cases that happen so woefully often on TV shows. It all seems to be tied in with super-secret experiments done in the past by the now very entertainingly crazy Walter Bishop (John Noble who needs an Emmy, stat) and his missing-but-not-forgotten partner, William (OMG! It's Leonard Nimoy!!! How cool is that?!) Bell. In the present tense, scary multi-national high tech corporations reign, weird bald alien guys glower, alternate universes threaten, shape shifters kill and cows wear little cute party hats. Really, what's not to like? Dec 3 & 10, FOX

Supernatural - Starting off as more a monster-of-the-week type series, with the promise of an arc dangling like a flaming carrot on the ceiling of the pilot ep, Supernatural has evolved over the years. It's now a full-fledged serial drama with a complex arc, well-developed backstory and - most important for this site - a complete and total commitment to playing Monopoly with the apocalypse. Of course, it does so in its own special way, with a kick-ass retro-metal soundtrack, off-beat characters and black, bizarre, deliciously twisted, often self-referential humor. The cast is pure gold, from the regulars to the cameos, with special kudos for Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as the demon hunting Winchester boys, Sam and Dean, Jim Beaver as benighted mentor, Bobby and Misha Collins, yummy and dead-pan hilarious as Castiel. Well-worth the tune-in. Reruns Dec 3, 10, 17, 24 & 31, CW

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea - Irwin Allen plumbs the murky depths of sci-fi melodrama with this preposterous plunge into the globally warmed briny. The CinemaScope precursor to the '60's TV series tries hard to be taken seriously... and ends up all the more beverage-snorting hilarious for the effort. Between a submarine with rooms big enough to use as Macy's Thanksgiving Parade routes, painfully dated stereotypes, FX that include sinking ice and a model sub-hating pet octopus and a cloy-a-rific vanilla-pop theme song by Frankie Avalon, it'll be hard to pick which filmic fail point is the most absurd. Personally, my vote would go to the numbskull premise of a global toasting courtesy of a flaming radiation belt (set afire by nukes), which can only be fixed by... nuking! Ah, the '60's; when there was nothing the atom couldn't do! Dec 4, AMC

Little Nicky - It stars Adam Sandler... Still reading?... Okay... It stars Adam Sandler... as the Antichrist. Well, technically, one of three. And he's the one who wants to stop the apocalypse... to save his dad... Satan. Sandler only really does two kinds of movies: the "I'm an ACTOUR! Please, someone take me seriously!" kind, and the "I need money! See this even if it's dumb enough to insult potting soil!" kind. Any wild guesses which category this gem falls under? Dec 4 & 5, STZ

History's Mysteries: Asteroids! - Oooh, doesn't that exclamation point make this sound exciting? I just don't know that I would be inclined to tune in if that wasn't there, reassuring me that death by space projectile can be cool and fun! Watch as the history of same, from the dinosaurs onward, is given the guided tour treatment by experts from hither and yon, with a dollop of doom-to-come as lagniappe. Dec 4 & 5, HIS-INT

The Running Man - It's yet another addled-brained Ahhhnold action fest. This one set in a dystopic near-future where convicted criminals (like our wrongly accused boy-wünderbar) get to play for freedom-or-death stakes on the titled TV game show... Well, at least they don't stick him in a trailer home with a pack of boring, hygiene-challenged losers or has-been celebs to see if he can last for three months. Now, that would be inhumanely cruel. Dec 4, 5, 9, 15 & 26, ENC-ACT; Dec 13, ENC

Robocop 2 - A mere shadow of the dystopic delight that was the original Robocop. Its main claim to fame is that it isn't quite as dreadful as Robocop 3 or the unwatchable TV series that followed. Dec 4 & 7, MGM

Robocop 3 - Easily the worst of the Robocop movies. Easily one of the worst movies, period. Call it dystopia for the daycare set, as it is utterly unwatchable for anyone over the age of five. Dec 4 & 7, MGM

Planet Of The Apes - The nouveau Tim Burton version, I'm afraid. To its credit, it's got some impressive make-up, (on the men, anyway... the female apes look like the results of an unholy mating between Bobo the Chimp and the late Jackie Onassis) some nice costumes and sets, plus the fun of watching the actors move around like simians. To its debit, it's got a script full of clinker dialog and painfully paraphrased "tribute" quotes from the original film, vapid characters, acting that ranges from the cardboard (Mark Wahlberg) to the cartoon, (Tim Roth... what was he thinking?!) and an ending ripped off from a mediocre episode of The Twilight Zone. Do yourself a favor and rent the Heston original, (or Edward Scissorhands, if you're pining for a quality Burton flick) instead. Dec 4, 10, 16, 17, 22 & 26, MAX

The War Of The Worlds (1953) - H. G. Wells' classic gets the Cold War once-over in this George Pal puff-pastry. Chock-full of effects that were state-of-the-art at the time, the film has held up surprisingly well through the years. It's loads of fun to watch, if only from a purely camp perspective. How much further beyond that your enjoyment goes will likely depend on whether or not you've read the book... To the readers: No, I'm afraid this wasn't filmed in 3D. Sorry. Dec 4, 26 & 30, AMC

Minority Report - Take a little spin through a Spielbergian dystopia that must have given John Ashcroft orgasms. A kind of "Who'll do it?" murder mystery starring Tom Cruise as a cop of the future accused of a homicide that (oh, details... details...) just hasn't had the fuss and bother to happen yet. But, fret not, alert citizens! The big government Pre-Crime Unit, via its wading pool-dwelling pre-cogs, has it all penciled in on its weekly schedule. Dec 5, TNT

Men In Black 2 - The sequel to the loopy '97 action-fest. The fate of the Earth once again rests with the well-dressed, heavily armed persons of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Only this time, a mind-wiped Tommy Lee hasn't the vaguest idea why. Will he catch a clue in time to save the planet? Do you really have to ask if that's a rhetorical question? Dec 5, 6, 10, 11, 27 & 28, SYFY

The Nostradamus Effect: Satan's Army - The History Channel special that asks the burning question: Does Satan really have a whole lotta bad facial piercings? And will he really appear on earth wearing cheap shoes and a tacky brown suit? Okay, that's two questions. Picky, picky, picky. I was also kind'a wondering what The Prince of Darkness was doing tacking up news clippings in a dive motel room. You'd think he could afford better digs... and a minion or two... and a laptop... Something. Of course, logic doesn't play a big role in Biblical cosmology and its appearance on this show is fleeting as an eye-blink as well. Still more breathless doom-mongering from the fine folks who can't tell history from hysteria and don't want you to, either. Dec 6, HIS

The Prisoner (2009) - AMC's new take on Patrick McGoohan's mind-bending original, now starring Jim Caviezel as the arithmophobic Six and Sir Ian McKellen as the only Two in town. Taking from the '60's series little more than the title, the numeric obsession and Rover, the world's most sinister beach ball, this Prisoner winds up being six agonizing hours of pseudo-psychedelic mish-mash. Bereft of any appreciation, much less understanding, of the original's message, the writers saddle us with an initially sinister, but ultimately heroic (yes, heroic!) Two and a moronic, whiney, incompetent Six, who dresses like Dustin Hoffman's Rainman and couldn't outwit his own shoes. If you aren't bored comatose by the endless repetition, faux freakiness and blank, brain-dead characters, you'll be disgusted by the stupidity and vacuousness of it all. Shown in three parts over as many days. Be seeing you... falling asleep. Part III Dec 6 & 7, AMC

Killer Algae - The world may not end with a bang, but with a gurgle. At least, that's the word according to this special, which introduces us to algal doom-bringer, "Caulerpa taxifolia", a neon-green, self-cloning, super-toxic, almost indestructible aquarium shrub that was loosed into the wild twenty years ago and is now pulling serious hostile takeovers in underwater habitats world-wide. Can anything be done to stop it? Or, if not, can anybody invent a salad dressing that hides that nasty aftertaste? Dec 6 & 7, SCI

Empire Of The Ants - "Them" gets crossed with "Swamp Thing" in this impossibly awful disco-era debacle. Viewers may find it hard to tell which spectacle is more terrifying; the giant radioactive waste-snacking ants or Joan Collins' hair. Dec 6, 10 & 24, ENC-ACT

Hex - To say that Hex is boring is akin to saying that the Universe is a bit roomy or that a vacuum is a trifle stuffy or that Dick Cheney is a bit of a grump. There are glaciers that move with more sprightly alacrity than either Hex's plot or the rust-clogged wheels that turn inside its character's teeny, tiny heads. Touted as the British answer to Buffy (as if anyone asked the question), Hex follows the wobbly path of Cassie and her apparent destiny to bring forth a snotty, super-fast-puberty-hitting Antichrist. More colorful, if even dimmer, than Cassie is her best bud and lesbian ghost pal, Thelma; the supposedly ancient-but punked-out "slayer" who replaces her boring ass, Ella; and the awesomely sexy fallen angel, Azazeal. The latter disappears partway through season 2 ('cause he was played by Michael Fassbender, who got cast in 300 and got out while the getting was good) and takes any plot coherence or interest with him. Great viewing for those entertained by test patterns. Dec 6, 12, 13 & 20, CHL

Terminator - The first film starring the ever-unemoting Ahhhnold as a seemingly unstoppable Militia Madonna-mulching mechanoid from the post-apocalyptic future. I have to admit that you'd be hard-pressed to find a better embodiment of cold, heartless, relentlessly destructive menace... But then, seniors, the disabled and schoolkids throughout California who've never even seen the flick could tell you the same thing. Dec 6, 14, 19 & 28, ENC

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within - The film that proves you can make a movie without real actors onscreen... But, you cannot make a movie without real writers offscreen. Yes, the sad fact is that although millions went into the CGI animation for this dead-eyed dazzler, it's clear only about $1.95 went into the script. FF doesn't really have a plot so much as a collection of old sci-fi clichés and video game gimmicks strung together like cheap beads, with a gluey dollop of New Age mysticism lathered on top for extra trendiness. For edification's sake, it's something vaguely to do with soul-chomping alien phantoms and a heroine named Aki and a Gaiian spirit force and a nutty evil General with a Doomsday weapon. If you haven't fallen into a stupor already, heed my advice and watch with the sound off. You'll thank me later. Dec 6 & 15, MAX

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) - One of the true shining classics of science fiction cinema, it still stands up today. True, its "anti-war, humans are the aggressors, nuclear proliferation leads to annihilation" message may seem a trifle simple and shopworn, but back at the height of the Cold War, this was a dangerous, even subversive, idea. Director Robert Wise endured some serious studio in-fighting to get his vision (and cast, which included Sam Jaffee, then under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee) onscreen. The results are worth his battles. Don't expect any big explosions or fabulous SFX set pieces; the film's strengths are in its characters and their interactions. And, unlike the ridiculous remake, when people talk to each other you won't feel compelled to either fall over laughing or reach through the TV to slap them silly. Must-see viewing. Dec 7, 12, 17 & 28, FMC

A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Pinocchio for the dystopic set. One keeps waiting for the premise to grow up and become a real movie. Alas, it never truly does. Gold medal performances by Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law are not enough to rescue this sluggish, poorly conceived morality tale about humanity's tendency to treat everything as producible and disposable, including love. The climax is a mish-mash, ladling saccharine Spielbergian ooze over numbing Kubrickian nihilism. Further, the film loses so much narrative clarity at this point that many viewers can't tell what's going on. For the helplessly confused, a hint and a small, but key, spoiler:...... No, they aren't aliens. They're robots. Dec 7, 16, 19, 22, 25 & 31, HBO

Understanding: Asteroids - Well, the main thing to understand about asteroids is that you really don't want one landing right on top of you. That, according to the world's top scientific minds, is not considered to be a good thing. To emphasize the point, the history of previous unfortunate impacts is given a fairly thorough going-over. And, as an extra special bonus, we get a look forward to the probe landing on the Near asteroid, as well. Dec 8, SCI

Point Pleasant - A mysterious girl gets hauled up out of the water during a storm and taken in by a local family. Her mum is sadly long dead and her dad... her dad... hmnnn... could he beeeee... Satan?! More fun than it sounds, sadly. A deadly humorless slog through the quaint old small town-based apocalypse pond usually over-fished by Stephen King, but here dredged by Buffy-alum Marti Noxon. Only started to get interesting just in the last few eps - right before Fox predictably plugged the plug. Dec 9, CHL

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior - Without doubt, the best of the Mad Max movies. Oh, true, it's basically "Shane" in Oz with post-apocalyptic biker freaks going gaga over gasoline. But, writer/director George Miller does such an incredible job hurtling this silly, action-packed free-for-all like a guided missile to its obvious, yet amusing conclusion, that one can only strap in and enjoy the ride. Dec 9 & 10, AMC

Total Recall - Several shades smarter than your typical Ahhhnold actioner, TR is a non-stop rocket ride into a dystopic future where the average Joe can get the vacation of his dreams - literally, in his dreams. Rekall Inc. will implant memories of the most exciting adventure trip ever for a nominal price, and when happy, if dopey construction worker, Douglas Quaid (Ahhhnold) decides to spring for a mental spin, he gets far more than he bargained for. Repressed memories of having been a secret agent fighting with mutant Martian rebels are quickly followed by almost everyone he knows suddenly trying to kill him (perhaps they finally got to see Conan?) and a race to Mars to find answers from the mysterious rebel leader, Kuato. Which memories are genuine? Which are false? Can Doug trust himself or his past self who keeps sending him recorded messages? And is any of this real at all, or just a wild Rekall-ection gone 'round the bend? Dec 10, SYFY

Terminator 2: Judgment Day - Der Governator returns. This time refurbished as a spanking new protagonist and adolescent ass-kicker fantasy come-to-life for a snotty little proto world savior. A bigger budget, cooler SFX, ace performances from the supporting cast and some really nice action set pieces keep the flick rocketing along at light speed. So long as you don't stop to ponder the Zen conundrum that it's pretty much the exact same plot and action arc as the first movie, it's a thoroughly amusing way to blow off two hours. Dec 10 & 11, AMC

On The Beach - The 1959 classic anti-war film about a tiny group of WW III survivors banding together for a last gasp... er, stand on a tropical anti-Club Med. Dec 10, 11 & 22, ENC-ACT

The Time Machine (2002) - Those wishing for Lord of the Rings-like fidelity to the book can break out their weeping hankies... right alongside those wishing for a reasonably intelligent plot and those wishing for real character development and those wishing for dialogue that doesn't drip with the poxied, terminal rot of Harlequin's Disease. This nouveau Time Machine is a miasma of wrongness, utterly wasting the time, talents and considerable yumminess of Guy Pearce, to say nothing of Jeremy Irons. (Who's supposed to be an Über-Morlock, but just looks like a really old, sad drag queen with arthritis and a goth fetish.) I'd include Orlando Jones in that list, but damn, I've seen Evolution... That man'll be in and do anything... tsk, tsk, tsk... Dec 10, 12, 16, 21, 25 & 29, HBO

Naked Science: Polar Apocalypse - No, the sky isn't falling, but the polar caps are melting and this National Geographic special gets right into the heart of the glacial action with great HD footage of global warming doom in action. Or as "in action" as glaciers can get. Dec 11, NGC

Lord Of The Flies (1990) - Yes, it seems that when stuck on a desert isle, there are worse fates than facing tribal council, dropping the team flag or losing points for not eating that live beetle larva in under 10 seconds - as the assorted detention-worthy school boys in this workmanlike, if somewhat pointless, remake of LotF discover. Based the novel that gives a whole new and sinister meaning to being voted off the island. Dec 11, ENC-ACT; Dec 14, ENC

10.5: Apocalypse - The most amazing thing about this dime-store disaster-fest is that it's actually a sequel to another one just as wretched. Why anyone thought the original 10.5 (an excruciating 4-hour opus about "evil" mega-earthquakes ripping the US a new one) needed a follow-up is beyond comprehension. Just as bloated and bogglingly bad as its predecessor, with cringe-ifying dialogue, particle board acting, bargain-bin SFX, reality-free "science" and a plot that would be laughable if its actual existence could be proved. Note to those who insist on tuning in anyway: The director has a crazed addiction to the zoom lens and the shaky-cam, making viewing something of a challenge without a fistful of Dramamine. Dec 12, SYFY

Meteor - A star-studded stinker hailing from that fool's-golden era of '70's disaster flicks. Micro the popcorn and gaze in awe as it lives down to every single barrel-bottom-scraping expectation the genre can conjure. Dec 12, SYFY

Earthstorm - An econo-priced Armageddon. Think of all the stupidity, clichés, stereotypes, idiot science and petrified pine acting wrapped up together with a budget of $1.29 (Canadian) and a packet of Razzles. A giant chunk of space debris comes hurtling out of nowhere to smack into - no, not New York City, for once - the moon. Being made only of poorly rendered pixels, the sad ol' satellite just starts crumbling into bits n' pieces (many of which do smack into New York City) and threatening to burst apart like an over-aged wheel of parmesan. Cue the low-wattage cast of heroes, headed up by Stephen (the other Baldwin) Baldwin and Dirk (What the hell have I done since the A Team?) Benedict, whose mission, should you decide to accept it, is to patch the moon back together using a home-made nuke and lots of magnets... probably collected off the world's refrigerator doors. Deliriously awful and endlessly hilarious. Dec 12, SYFY

Species - Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, Marg Helgenberger... are not the names you expect to see listed in the credits of a grade Z monster movie. Yet, there they are, staring back at you like some strange puzzle. Daring the viewer to imagine what hoary and harrowing photos the producers must have had in their possession to blackmail the cast into being in this stupendous load of "Debbie Does Alien" debris. That's the single most compelling intellectual exercise "Species" will provide in its seemingly endless running time, most of which is spent giving the half-alien super vixen leading lady (who does not belong in the above company) as many chances as possible to get naked. Dec 13 & 14; ENC; Dec 25, 26 & 30, ENC-ACT

Mad Max - The truth? It's little more than a glorified biker flick. Still, it does have that "world gone awry" thing going for it... To say nothing of a young, pre-crazy Mel Gibson in leather... And it did spawn the infinitely superior "Road Warrior" and "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome". Worth watching, if only for background's sake. Dec 13 & 31, IFC

Tank Girl - Punk grrrls in heavy military vehicles, scenery-chewing bad guys with British accents, kangaroo mutant men, a shrieking grunge band sound track and a plot (I use that word liberally) that has something vaguely to do with a big, honkin' comet and a teensy-weensy - well, okay, 99% - depletion of the world's water supply. All I can say is, if you like this sort of thing, you'll um,... like this sort of thing. Dec 14 & 15, HBO

Search For Noah's Ark - National Geographic proves it can be every bit as dopey as The History Channel with this goggle-eyed, credulous trot into the Turkish highlands to poke about for evidence of the Ark. Never mind that said "evidence" consists of random brick-a-brack identified only by agenda-driven bubble-bonnets with a teensy bit of a Literal Word O' God fixation, an eccentric Biblical boat recreationist eccentrically "recreating" Biblical boats and the testimony of an ex-astronaut who (possibly due to weight restrictions) clearly left a significant chunk of his brain matter back on the lunar surface. At least it's shot in HD, so the many sweeping vistas of Mount Ararat and its surroundings look appropriately gorgeous. Hey, if it scored me a free trip to Turkey, I might be tempted to bullshit having an Ark fixation, too. Dec 14, 19 & 21, NGC

The Brain Eaters - A 1958 B-Pic-azation of Robert Heinlein's, "The Puppet Masters", complete with jukebox change budget and SFX that include alien parasites that look like antennae-sprouting merkins. Sci-fi geeks look for a pre-Spock Leonard Nimoy in a very silly geezer get-up. Dec 17, AMC

The Matrix Reloaded - Remember how great the first Matrix movie was? Well, invert that and you'll just about approximate how utterly dreadful its first sequel manages to be. A sadly incoherent and seemingly endless miasma of pseudo-spiritualism, ludicrous dialogue, numbingly repetitive action scenes, been-there-seen-that-got-the-bullet-time-hole-in-my-T-shirt CGI effects, and a stupefying lack of humor. The film's "highlight" is a freeway car chase that's about as exciting (and seems to take as long) as being stuck in rush-hour traffic on the 405. Were it not for a rather tasty Frenchman and a pair of deadly, but yummy, twins, I would recommend skipping this installment and moving straight to the (still inferior, but at least mildly entertaining) final chapter. Dec 17 & 18, AMC

The Matrix Revolutions - The final chapter. Even longer, more repetitive and bloated than the second sequel, with all the hip wit and humor of an Amish funeral. It also boasts a truly cringe-inducing orgy scene that looks like it wandered in lost from some old '60's psychedelic Go-Go movie. Poor Lawrence Fishburn has been reduced to a bit player with maybe ten lines in this installment. On the good side, Keanu Reeves has, too. TMR is pretty much All About Smith. It's almost all Smith all the time - when it isn't about the awesome SFX and battle scenes that go on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. Still more interesting than "Reloaded", if only for not getting stuck on a freeway for half an hour and for actually having an ending. Dec 17, AMC

The Omen - The movie that brought the numbers "666" to the attention of more than just a small cluster of Fundie fringe flakes and gave vibrant, new cinematic meaning to the term, "SOB". Ah, so much to be thankful for! Still, it's a pretty nifty little fright fest, with an excellent cast, solid direction and a gorgeous score by Jerry Goldsmith. Dec 17, 18 & 29, MAX

2012: Startling New Secrets - The only secrets of an even vaguely curious, much less "startling", nature to be found in this show are how the producers managed to stretch so little out for two long, long, loooong hours. It's the bloated result of SyFy's desire to jump on the 2012 bandwagon before the hard, cold reality of 2013 runs it off the road, making specials like this about as re-saleable as old Y2K documentaries. Shamelessly pro-doom (save for Michael Shermer, who provides a brief voice of reason in the wacko wilderness), the show bounces from picturesque ancient ruin to picturesque ancient ruin, with host Lester Holt pitifully panting after a trio of well-known crackpots, hanging on their every delusional rant. Weird and graphics-enhanced though it all is, it still lacks the histrionic pep of the Discovery special; its main attractions being the many HD travel guide shots from Egypt and Mexico and a very special, almost Edgar Cayce-esque, fondness for polar shifts. Dec 21, SYFY

Armageddon - If one could make a laundry list of all the things in Armageddon that are lame-brained, clichéd, over-blown, logic-defying, noxious, offensive, or otherwise just plain wrong, it would likely reach from the earth to the moon and back again. But it would be easier to sum it all up in four simple words: Directed by Michael Bay. Yes, before he inflicted Pearl Harbor and the Transformer train wrecks on the world, Bay had already fired his warning shot of cinematic drivel in the form of a Doomsday comet that could only be stopped by Bruce Willis and his team of All American flag-waving, oil rig drilling, retarded yahoos. Now, you might well be wondering why, with the fate of the world at stake, NASA engineers or any of the world's other genuinely brilliant and qualified scientists wouldn't be a better choice for the job than a pack of dribbling Neanderthal grease monkeys. And the answer to that is: You might well have too many brain cells to be in the target audience for this movie. When it isn't flying frantically from one pointless explosion to another (usually involving some expendable locale that fly-over country wouldn't know or care about), the film is wallowing in hoary old stereotypes, '50's-style misogyny and cheap, bumper sticker patriotism. The script is embarrassing, the acting is worse and the plot is nothing but a clutch of hackneyed clichés pasted together by committee. And for those hoping for a happy ending, I must break the bad news with the following heartbreaking spoiler: Sorry, most of the cast doesn't die. Dec 25, ENC

First Wave - Another one of those, "OMG! Aliens are amongst us and are about to invade and take over and kill us all!! AAAAAGGGHHH!!!" series in which nothing… actually… ever… happens… Veeery… slooooooowly. Loved by those who think anything with Nostradamus quatrains tossed in must be deep, FW mainly just meanders around stretching out an increasingly annoying and threadbare conceit from ep to ep. By the time anything does threaten to occur onscreen that might change things or move the story forward, you'll likely have ceased to care. The original audience certainly didn't, which is why it got yanked after three seasons. Dec 25, SYFY

Serenity - The crew of the too-soon-canceled Firefly gets a spin on the big screen and a chance to wrap up hanging story threads. Like the series, it came and went very quickly. A pity, since, like the series, it's smart, funny and fun to watch, with snappy dialogue and quirky, very human characters. Once again, the Alliance is in hot pursuit of the damaged, telepathic River Tam, freed from a nightmarish experimental facility by her brother, Simon. Only now, the threat isn't some random clique of blue-handed men, it's a single, homicidally relentless, seemingly unstoppable agent known as The Operative. Why does the Alliance want River so badly? Can the Serenity crew outrun the Operative, wild Reavers and creditors that shoot first and extend your payment schedule later? And what is the terrible secret behind the mysterious "Miranda"? The answers are worth the ride. Dec 25, SYFY

Day The World Ended - Roger Corman rings in the end of the world with WWIII, killer radiation, atomic mutants in howl-worthy rubber suits, a house full of annoying caricatures and a cute (if somewhat confused-looking) burro. Look for a pre-Mannix Mike Conners as the designated slease-bag-deserving-of-death and listen for Chet Huntley (of pre-Huntley/Brinkley fame) doing narration duty. "Boy, are you old!" points to those who got either one or both of those references. Dec 26, AMC

Panic In Year Zero! - Ever take one of those ghastly family auto trips from hell? Well, this one takes the cake. At least, dad's not about to threaten the kids with turning around and going right back home if they don't shut up, 'cuz "home" is LA, newly nuke-fried in the rear-view mirror. Ray Milland does double-duty as the pater familias and the film's director and does a pretty gosh darn good job at both. Not a bad lil' B-flick, if very, very '60's, with some above-the-norm acting and a merciful absence of flesh-munching mutants. Dec 26, TCM

 
 






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