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Appellate Judge James A. Stewart's Blog

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart • Location: Butler, PA
• Member since: June 2005
• 440 full reviews
• 308 small claims

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A star goes silent
March 27th, 2006 9:07AM

I just read the obituary on Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem. I learned a lot about his extraordinary career, with 27 million copies of his works sold in around 40 languages, while reading about East German sci-fi movies for the review of The Silent Star, based on Lem's Astronauci. He also wrote the book that became the movie Solaris. The full obituary from the Associated Press can be found at:


The movie was a bit slower than similar Western films, but it's worth a look.

Who is The Doctor?
March 17th, 2006 7:15PM

"If you've seen him, Rose, then one thing's for certain. We're all in danger. ... If he's singled you out, The Doctor's making house calls. God help you." -- a computer geek's take on the mysterious Doctor

Who is this Doctor and is he worth making an appointment for an hour on Friday nights?

Rose (Billie Piper) is ending a shift at the department store when she finds that the mannequins are coming to life ... and they don't look too friendly. A strange man grabs her and gives her a simple word of advice: "Run." (Perhaps Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate would have been better off with that advice.) Soon the department store blows up behind her. One problem, though. Rose still has the arm that came off one of those mannequins.

That opening scene looks more like Dawn of the Dead than any previous incarnations of Doctor Who. If the first episode, "Rose," is any indicator, the plots are still slightly absurd, but with a new, improved look that gives the absurd, including an attack by a plastic garbage bin, a grounding that makes it look much more realistic. Enough to compete with Stargate SG-1 and other Sci-Fi Channel entries.

Christopher Eccleston plays The Doctor in this big-budget (at least relatively) version of Doctor Who (although a new Doctor has already appeared on the BBC). In this first episode, he appears to be a tougher, more menacing character than his quirky predecessors. He snaps a lot at his new friend and calls humans "stupid apes." By the end of the episode, we know he's edgy, but this Doctor is still very much a mystery.

As Rose, Billie Piper's a bit bolder than some of the Doctor's earlier companions, actually saving the day herself here, even as her boyfriend cowers in fear and wants to bail. We also see a little bit of Rose's everyday life instead of just seeing her pop into the TARDIS.

The neatest touch here was presenting "Doctor Who" as a mysterious urban legend, with a computer geek dishing out theories on who this strange man is.

Heck, I might miss the cheesiness eventually, but I liked the first house call from this Doctor.

If you missed Friday's debut, watch for reruns Sunday at 11:30 p.m. and Monday morning at 10 a.m.

Coming soon ... with Irish scenery
March 15th, 2006 10:33AM

As St. Patty's Day nears, I've been watching Ballykissangel: Season Four on DVD for review. It won't be finished by Friday, even with the Luck of the Irish, so I thought I'd say this:

If you want to see some beautiful scenery from County Wicklow on Friday, check this series out (if you haven't already). The production team is very good at showing off the green hills of Eire.

Make that four ...
February 7th, 2006 9:12PM

I just saw the DVD News Blog. A new cartoon with a modern-day Zorro on his Tornado-Z motorcycle was announced. Make that four I've reviewed that are being turned into new TV shows.

There's hope for Eolomea: The Series yet.

Creature Comforts on CBS?
February 3rd, 2006 10:42AM

Aardman Animation is making seven Americanized episodes of Creature Comforts for CBS sometime in the 2006-07 season, according to Reuters (via Yahoo!). The show's stop-motion animated animals speak with the voices of real people who were interviewed by the Aardman folks, better known as "the Wallace & Gromit people."

Check out the Reuters brief at:


or check out the DVD Verdict review at:


Oddly, that's not the only one I reviewed in 2005 that got on a TV development list:

I've forgotten where, but I saw that ABC is plotting a Mr. and Mrs. Smith series. It was a great one-off movie, but probably would be tricky to execute weekly. I'm waiting to see whether the team involved goes with a prequel or a sequel.

A Sin City TV series has also been mentioned. Sounds like the perfect Showtime original, but I never saw which network wanted it.

Now if they'll only do a series version of Eolomea . . .


Going for the Golden Globes
December 13th, 2005 1:13PM

Noticed that The Girl in the Cafe, which I reviewed earlier this year, netted Golden Globe nominations for performances by Kelly MacDonald and Bill Nighy. For very good work, I'll add.

No, he wasn't talking about the 7-11, after all ...
November 14th, 2005 7:57PM

"He said he'd come to Las Vegas because he could at least have his choice of several places to get food and other sundries at odd hours during the night when he'd be up and working." -- real estate agent Aline Sedgewick, who unwittingly sold a house to a murderous vampire in "The Night Stalker."

Finished reading the original Jeff Rice novel tonight. It is, of course, the rambling account by reporter Carl Kolchak of a series of strange murders in Las Vegas, which he believes were committed by a vampire. I enjoyed it, mainly for snappy observations and dialogue like the fragment above. Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it takes away some of the surprise value when you've seen this type of story in the long-running "The X-Files" and other similar shows. Still, it's a good page-turner. TV Kolchak fans, take note: the ending here is one that is rather final, indicating that Rice didn't have any long-range plans for Kolchak (although he did write a novelization of "The Night Strangler" TV movie).

While surfing, I found mention of this book as "The Kolchak Papers." My copy, a 1973 paperback with the more familiar title, points out that the TV movie had "75,000,000 viewers -- a television record."

By-the-book television
November 12th, 2005 9:21PM

This new fall TV season saw three TV series that were inspired, each very loosely, by books: the now-closed Kitchen Confidential, based on Anthony Bourdain's biographical book of the same title; the more successful Bones, based on Grave Secrets and other Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs, and The Night Stalker, which I suspect will be either reworked or retired soon (a suspicion raised by ads that announced a resolution to this Kolchak's MacGuffin -- his wife's murder -- next episode), based on a Jeff Rice thriller.

I just found a used copy of Rice's Edgar-winning The Night Stalker. Flipping through, I noticed in the prologue that Carl Kolchak does move to L.A. after the events of the novel, by the way. Since I've already read Bourdain's excellent Kitchen Confidential and Reichs's Grave Secrets, an OK read that loses its best element, the bilingual Montreal setting, in the TV translation, I'm feeling a rush of couch-potato pride because I'll soon have read one of the original books behind each of the "literary" new fall shows.

"Lost" -- by the numbers
October 21st, 2005 3:01PM

An ironic note about the popularity of Lost. The mysterious numbers on Hurley's lottery ticket would have packed the least punch if they'd have hit in the Powerball on Wednesday.

According to E! Online, a lottery official said more than 840 people across five states played the numbers -- 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 -- in the drawing. If 840 was it, that would have worked out to just over $130,000 finally for each -- about as much as a second-place would have claimed; if there were others across the 27 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in which Powerball is played, that could go down dramatically.

Not enough money to be a good jinx.

The Bonds of age
October 14th, 2005 10:43AM

If, as I am, you're one of those geeks who has hoped to as suave as James Bond in the movies when you got to be his age, take note:

I just saw the bio on Daniel Craig, announced as Pierce Brosnan's replacement in Casino Royale. He's just a shade younger than I am, and I'm not that suave yet.

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