By G. Michael Dobbs
A look at some new British television DVD releases makes up this week's film review column.
Red Dwarf X
The British science fiction comedy "Red Dwarf" has been around since 1988 and although it has many fans, it hasn't cracked through its cult status to reach a wider audience here in the U.S.
Perhaps this new release of the 10th series of the show will cause people to try it out.
"Red Dwarf" tells the very twisted story of a low level technician named Lister (Charles Craig) who is a member of a crew of the mining ship Red Dwarf in the far-flung future. There is a radiation leak on board that kills everyone except Lister who has been placed into suspended animation by the ship's computer.
Fast forward three million years when the radiation has finally died off and Lister is awakened to the awful truth. His shipmates now include Cat, the human-like mutation from what was once his own pet cat, a hologram created by the computer of his former bunkmate Rimmer and a robot named Kryten.
The 10th series consists of six episodes, which I found to be pretty funny. Filmed before a live audience, there is a real energy to the performances that adds to the fun. Although the preceding series seem to have a dramatic core to them of Lister wishing to find a way back through time and space to Earth, this series focused on comedy. The humor is not as multi-layered as Monty Python, but is more sophisticated than Benny Hill.
I am now interested in seeing the previous series. Give "Red Dwarf X" a try and you might be as well.
An Idiot Abroad: Series Two
British comedian Ricky Gervais and his creative partner Stephen Merchant took radio producer and sometime colleague Karl Pilkington and placed him in situations designed to push Pilkington to his absolutes limits for their and our amusement in this sequel to their original series "An Idiot Abroad."
At first, I felt badly as Pilkington, who seems like an amiable Everyman at first, was tricked and coerced into traveling places and doing things he didn't want to do on film. He takes the Trans-Siberian railway across Russia. He hates it. He goes to Australia to "swim" with sharks. He can barely get into the water without fainting and retching. He is sent to Uganda where he sees a family of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. He's not impressed.
The bulk of his tasks include things that would intrigue many people, but Pilkington basically hates it all. He is the ultimate creature of comfort who isn't interested in expanding any of his own horizons. The more he dislikes something; the more Gervais and Merchant pile on surprises that they know he will hate.
Since Pilkington is far from sympathetic my initial wariness about the show changed and I found it amusing not as hilarious as other reviewers did by their hyperbolic quotes, though.
When left on his own devices Pilkington choses to visit a colony of little people in China who perform in their own theme park that is pretty creepy and travel to a city on Thailand dominated by monkeys who prove not to be as cute as he thought they would be.
Part travel series, part prank show, "An Idiot Abroad: Series 2" isn't comic genius, but it's not a bad time.
My buddy Mark and I wondered just how Michael Rooker, a very busy character actor, was roped into this cheapjack rip-off of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon." Well, everyone has to pay the rent.
Rooker plays a family man who brings his wife and son up to some frozen lake to ice-fish every winter. Fishing isn't very good this year, though, and we all know why: there's something in the lake.
When an obnoxious city slicker shows up and realizes that there is some sort of monster in the lake, naturally he wants to catch it. His zeal is only made worse when the bodies start to pile up.
Other than a game performance by Rooker this movie offers absolutely nothing fresh or new. Its primary sin, though, is a very dumb looking monster suit. A good-looking monster has helped save many a mediocre horror movie, but this one doesn't.
Avoid at all costs!