Thursday, August 30, 2007

A funny new comedy special and a real science fiction film are featured in this week's DVD column.


For many people the words "science fiction" all too often conjure up space operas with heroes, damsels, some kind of monster and futuristic technology.

There's nothing wrong with "Flash Gordon" at least the vintage Flash, not that re-worked series on the Sci-Fi Channel but science fiction has so much more to offer than just adventure stories. That's been the complaint of serious science fiction fans for years.

Here's a film that does take the potential of exploring what it would be like to create a robot way past an actor in a metal costume.

Ever since writer Karel Capek coined the word "robot" in his 1921 play "R.U.R," people have imagined the moral and ethical implications of creating something that appeared to be alive and whether or not it should be treated as living.

Writer, producer and director James Bai creates a story of conflict set in the future when technology is banned. Walter, a scientist, uses forbidden technology to create a robot in his own image and with his own memories and thoughts. The robot, which he dubs "Puzzlehead," is developing his own personality and with that comes problems when Walter becomes obsessed with a grocery store clerk, Julia.

Although some of the story is a bit predictable, Bai does have a couple good plot twists.

Essentially a two person drama, Stephen Galaida does well with the twin roles of Walter and his robot and Robbie Shapiro is good as the young woman who slowly grows to love one and loathe another or is it the other way around?

Bai shows what can be done on a limited budget. He obviously constructed his screenplay so he could produce a film that reaches its story-telling goals something many independent films fail to do.

There are no monsters, ray guns or stunt sequences in this science fiction film, but there are some intriguing ideas presented in a compelling way.

For more information, log onto www.puzzleheadthe

Demetri Martin: Person

Well known now for his "Trendspotting" series on "the Daily Show," Demetri Martin takes the presentation of a series of clever one-liners past how Stephen Wright performs.

Martin is a multitasker: his special, which ran earlier this year on Comedy Central, features a string of Martin's own skewed observations on life but in the form of charts, animation and musical performances.

Remaining almost always deadpan, Martin's persona is also not unlike Wright's or Buster Keaton's he is a stranger in a strange land trying to figure out what is going on.

The fact he involves family members in his act, though, gives him a grounding Wright never has had. In those segments, Martin comes across like a precocious kid who is being humored.

Despite his obvious and admitted influence from Wright's comedy, Martin is in a class by himself. I find his stuff very funny and if you like him on "The Daily Show" give this DVD a try.

For more information, log onto

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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