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Anyone want to critique my review *Spoiler Alert*

I just finished two different media reviews and I was wondering is anyone on frihost would like to critique my work. Here they are.

Dark Shadows:

Dark Shadows was a popular Gothic mystery series airing daily, Monday through Friday, from June 27, 1966 to April 2, 1971. It still maintains a loyal following with a yearly convention and was aired most recently in the US on the Sci-Fi Network, ending in December 2003.

The full series, episode 1 through 1245, has been released on home video in VHS and is currently in the process of release on DVD. The episodes are all unedited in their original form.

I just had the opportunity to view DVD Collection 25 of the DVD release, containing episodes 1186 (January 11, 1971) through 1226 (March 8, 1971). This being my first introduction to Dark Shadows, I started off a little confused but quickly became interested. I found it a very entertaining and refreshing experience.

The story is centered on the Collins family in their home at Collinwood, and the people of Collinsport, the nearby village. In addition to romance and ambition, the intricate and unpredictable plots involve mystery, witches, warlocks, vampires, ghosts, curses, and supernatural events such as a parallel time band in which the Collins family still exists, but having made different choices in the past, are living totally different lives, providing for an additional story line.

Dark Shadows DVD collection 25 drops you into the middle of a trial where Quentin Collins is being tried for witchcraft, having been framed by Girard Styles who is possessed by an evil warlock, Judah Zackary. Meanwhile, a room is discovered by several characters in a closed wing of the Collins’ mansion to be a supernatural portal to a parallel time band, where at times the parallel world can be viewed from outside the door. The nasty and conniving Gabriel Collins works his plan to eliminate his brothers, rivals to the Collins estate. Several romances bloom and a magical stairway is used to travel through time.

Once these plots come to a close, the story shifts to the parallel time where the Collins family is dealing with a curse. The curse is a mystery except for the understanding that, when called to do so by the spirit, a member of the Collins family must spend a night in a cursed room, where every Collins thus far has either died or left the room insane.

My first feeling when watching Dark Shadows was of being at a play. This may be due to the conveyance of the story mostly through dialog. This dialog is also rather clumsy and deliberate, obviously learned perhaps the day before or earlier that morning and filmed without a second take. This may have made for a more realistic experience were it of a misspeaking nature. However, with blunders such as, “We’re the only ones alone, we’re here” and “We had to go to the police – We had to lock her up or she would have gone to the police”, hasty line memorization was apparent.

At first I found such amateurish stumbling humorous, as well as the few action scenes which were a polite representation of struggle. After a few episodes, however, I realized that I was witnessing a very fine group of actors pushing the limitations of their craft for their time.

Similarly, microphones would peak into a scene or be out of range, failing to adequately capture the actor’s voice. Sets would shimmy or malfunction, and I’m pretty sure I heard the crew drop something.

Some limitations, such as lighting, I found to bring more realism in comparison to modern film. In modern films set in this time period of 1840, sophisticated lighting brings out every expression and nuance of their high paid cast, supposedly somehow produced with candles and oil lamps. Dark Shadows, with its many dark shadows sometimes obscuring faces, for me made a more sincere environment for depicting pre Edison times.

Also adding to the realism of the story’s setting were beautiful and honest costumes. Everything including materials and styles were very authentic looking and fitting to the characters. The sets were filled with many wonderful antiques, real paintings, and lovely furniture. Also to my delight, the characters hair styles were well within reasonable abilities of people living in 1840. I don’t know about you but I feel there is something wrong with modern films depicting 19th century people with loads of modern hair products.

My favorite thing about Dark Shadows is that the story does not rely on high tech features; dialog is the main tool of the cast. When spoken dialog is not appropriate, such as Daphne’s thoughts alone in the closed wing after viewing parallel time, the character’s thought are narrated. Or the character speaks aloud, as Gabriel did while contemplating his fowl plot, speaking to himself and to his murdered wife as if she could hear.

An interesting trend throughout these episodes was the high propensity for characters being locked in different rooms and not finding their way out, with the exception of the caretaker’s daughter; she managed to make handy use of a window. If you plan on visiting with the Collins, I would recommend purchasing and learning how to use a lock picking set.

The audience is brought carefully through the many twists and turns of this very unique and mysterious story. The creativity of such aspects as time travel, parallel time, and magic, leads down an unpredictable and suspenseful path.

The characters are represented well with individual personalities and contributions to the story line; no one is left out.

A great example of this is the lottery the Collins family traditionally has held to decide who of them must spend a night in the cursed room. Each of the Collins vide for the how’s, when’s and who’s of the drawing, while visitors and friends of the family must be consoled or kept ignorant of the process and its implications.

Only having watched 40 of the 1225 episodes of Dark Shadows, the only major character development I witnessed was of Valarie the witch and parallel time Daphne.

Valerie, toward the end of the first plot series, decides to risk her self to save Quinton, and more so to earn the admiration and love of Barnabas. This act is contrary to her attitude up to this point and requires her to go against her master, Judah.

Daphne makes a transition from a subordinate child to a strong woman, able to petition her needs and desires even to the most dominant character, Barnabas. This seems to be initiated by her realization that, even though she is of age, she is still treated and feels like a child.

I am glad that I have now been introduced to Dark Shadow. It was interesting and has given me a new found appreciation for film in general. I also find myself curious about the episodes previous to this collection and more so the following episodes. It is certainly not a time-filler though; one must be mentally engaged to follow the complex story and characters.

If you appreciate a good novel or play, suspenseful and mysterious plots, or a fine representation of film heritage, you will certainly appreciate Dark Shadows. I would recommend starting off with the first episode rather than with this DVD set though.

Ben 10:

Ben 10 is an animated series on the cartoon network currently in its 3rd season and created by Man of Action Studios (Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle). I had the opportunity to watch a DVD set of the first season consisting of thirteen episodes. I found the series to be fun, action filled, and well written for its target young American audience.

The plot begins in episode one, And Then There Were Ten, by establishing the main character, a ten year old boy named Ben, as having a super hero’s attitude but not a super hero’s super power. When Ben tries to rescue a boy from a group a bullies he ends up hanging from a tree by his underwear along side the boy he was trying to rescue. The story is then set in place with Ben, his cousin Gwen, and Grandfather Max setting off on a summer RV camping trip. Ben is annoyed at the presence of his cousin and is expecting a boring and uneventful summer.

After arriving at their first camp site, Ben goes off into the woods exploring. Meanwhile in outer space a battle between two alien space ships is taking place. One of the ships is badly damaged, injuring the main villain Vilgax. The other ship is completely destroyed, but not before it is able to jettison a pod to the near by planet earth.

This pod crashes on earth near Ben, almost hitting him. After recovering himself, Ben examines the pod which has opened up revealing a watch-like device, the Omnitrix. Ben reaches for the device causing it to suddenly leap up and attach itself to his wrist. Finding the ‘watch’, as he refers to it, impossible to remove, he begins experimenting and discovers its ability to transform him into any of ten different alien super heroes.

The injured Vilgax attempts to retrieve the Omnitrix by sending in several robotic probes and a robotic warrior. With the help of his new found powers, and his cousin and grandfather, Ben manages to destroy them.

The ensuing episodes follow two different formats. Three of the next episodes (Hunted, The Alliance, and the last one of the season, Secrets) involve Vilgax’ further attempts at stealing the Omnitrix. The rest of the episodes follow a format familiar to animation fans where at each stop the main character encounters a new super villain, requiring his powers to overcome saving the world.

One thing I really like about each episode is the life lessons, focused toward children but good for all of us. Such as the down falls of arrogance, crying wolf, and expecting awards. These lessons are also key to the character development of Ben-10 throughout the series as he learns the great responsibility that comes with great power.

In episode Kevin 11, Ben goes on a tantrum toward his grandfather about not being allowed to use his powers for personal gain, in particular using them to sneak in to guarded presentation room to preview a new video game. He runs away and befriends a family-less boy who possesses the power to absorb and control energy. This boy also believes in using one’s powers as one pleases. Later this boy tries to steal Ben’s powers, teaching Ben a lesson about being on the other side of selfish behavior.

Another episode that represents this character building aspect of the show well is Hunted. In this episode, Vilgax recruits three alien super villains to go after Ben, promising the successful individual a reward. In the first battle, the three villains would have had the upper hand had they worked together. However, they chose to work against each other thinking only of the reward. Ben is doing no better. As usual, he chooses which super hero to transform into based on physical strength with no regard to strategy.

Due to his arrogant and hasty use of his powers, Ben eventually finds himself about to be destroyed but is suddenly rescued by one of the villains. This villain reveals to Ben that he is a covert good guy on a mission to protect the Omnitrix and reprimands him for his unwise use of the powerful device. He explains to Ben that he could have won the battle easily with a clever strategy. The two remaining villains combine forces against Ben and his new wise warrior friend but are defeated when Ben takes the advice and uses his brain rather than his brawn.

Also developing throughout the series is Ben’s knowledge and skill with each super hero incarnation. He gradually learns new powers and better ways of using each one. Diamond Head goes from super strong and tough to being able to generate weapons and fire projectiles. Heatblast learns to fly. Stinkfly learns to shoot mucous from its tentacles. Ben starts to find many valuable uses for Upgrade, which is an incarnation able to meld with machines, improving them. Nearly every battle brings forth new abilities and improved techniques.

Some of the episodes make an attempt at a science lesson, although this is a little ironic since most of the action scenes are full of contradictions to physical law. In Tourist Trap, for instance, Ben’s grandfather brings them to a town renowned for its display of the ‘It’. The It turns out to be a large ball made from rubber band. Ben decides to transform into Fourarmes, a strong four armed giant of about twelve feet in height, and play with the ball. He ends up dropping it and somehow the ball manages to bounce around town destroying all kinds of stuff. This also allows the mischievous electric monster within it to escape. We then learn the difference between an electrical conductor and insulator in the pursuit and capture of the now multiple electric monsters.

There are two underlying mysteries throughout the series, in addition to the mystery of the origin and purpose for the Omnitrix. One, which is partially settled in the last episode of season one, is Ben’s grandfather Max. Max seems to have a better than usual understanding of the circumstances and seems to recognize the threat that is Vilgax, even recognizing his name. The other mystery is why the Omnitrix seems to have a mind of its own, not always changing into the super hero Ben wishes. This happens throughout the season so much so that, on one occasion after Ben turns himself into Heatburst, Gwen jokes that this must have been the first time he had ever intentionally turned into that hero.

As for those of you who become fans of this series, and for whom simply watching the program is not enough, don’t worry; Ben 10 is heavily merchandised. For each of the 10 alien super heroes Ben has to choose from, you have several different types of action figures to choose from. That’s not one action figure per alien super hero, that’s several each. Of course all the other characters are available too in different forms too, as are some space ships, the Omnitrix itself, and what ever else can be made out of plastic. There are also shits, hats, video games, and a ‘play set’ – whatever that is.

You can catch Ben 10 at 4:00 pm on week days and 10:00 am or 6:30 pm on Saturday, eastern time. I enjoyed the series and I think it is a good program for the kids. It teaches life lesson, it’s not violent or profane, and it sticks to simple humor. There are certainly worse thing on during its time slot.
waw thos two reviews are wonderfull you made me intrested in thos two things lol I can't see nothing wrong with ether one good job!
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