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September 29 2005

Return of 'All the Serenity reviews you will ever need to read'. Part deux of Whedonesque's coverage of the massive amount of Serenity reviews that are going around at the moment. All links to online newspaper/magazine/blog reviews of Serenity are to be posted in the comments section of this thread.

Here's the link to the previous review thread

What should be posted in this particular thread:

Post the movie review link and where it's from i.e. the New York Times.
Include a brief blurb regarding whether the reviewer liked or disliked the the movie (find a quote you like).
State whether the review has spoilers in it (minor or major).
And please do not talk about spoilers in this thread.

Dallas Observer - Have Gun, Will Space Travel

"While the rest of the cast's along for the ride, shootin' and hollerin' and talkin' in apostrophes, Ejiofor's in an entirely different film--a classier and more thoughtful affair, the side of the movie that aims to be relevant, dealing with environmental disasters and other shady military-industrial dealings, rather than mere dusty shoot-'em-up. Ultimately, though, he's just a guest onboard this party ship, which is just as well. Who needs brains when there's a bullet left in the chamber? Expect a sequel; hell, maybe Serenity will spawn its own TV series, too. Oh, wait."

Myrtle Beach review - very spoiler heavy.

"The loyalists - who clamored for more when "Firefly" was canceled in 2002 after just 11 episodes - should be satisfied with "Serenity," Whedon's feature directing debut, but the uninitiated will find it engaging, as well."

3 out of 5.
The Lantern - Ohio - Spoiler heavy

"Serenity" has a few high points that make the movie worth renting once it comes to video, which probably won't be that long."
Daily Free Press - Spoilers

"Mindless Whedonites, who believe the man to be God Almighty, will find no fault. But even devoted lovers of the character-centered drama must prepare themselves for disappointment. "
Bellingham Herald - spoilers

"Whedon has an unusual gift - he can have his characters make a sincere comment, then he can make fun of it, and you will believe him both times. He's ironic, but he's also earnest, and even the title of the movie reveals that double-edged coin: It's an action movie, a very actiony action movie, and yet it's called "Serenity."

2 and a half stars.
Buffalo News - spoilers

Based on the canceled 2002 TV series, "Firefly," this film will satisfy old fans and win new ones, especially teen sci-fi action buffs. Writer/director Joss Whedon dumbs nothing down, letting novices scope out the world of "Serenity" with minimal exposition.

Complains about violence and mentioning DIRTY SEX (many reviewers are doing this).
Metroactive - Spoilers

"Whedon hasn't made the hyperjump between small- and big-screen composition. Serenity is visually noisy, with the restless jitteriness that is the way of distinguishing a TV show from a film at one glance.

Against these economical but reassuring backgrounds, Whedon stages a yarn about space Apaches, blazing carbines and a captain who doesn't stick his neck out for anybody. George Lucas may make sure every window on an imperial palace gleams in a different way, but he's long forgotten the good, dirty, meaty storytelling that's in Whedon's blood. "
Yeah it might be better if you bunch reviews in one comment rather than one post after another.
Yep, my apologies... I'm posting these as I find them so it's getting very random. I'm amused by how many reviewers are taking the time to say DON'T TAKE KIDS TO THIS THEY MENTION SEX.
What?! Becuase of the space hooker thing. Please...
No, not that - quite a few of the reviewers call Inara a geisha as it happens. It's the sex jokes. Oh, cover your kids ears - they might realise people joke about shaggin'!

Bremerton Sun - reg required, spoilers

""Serenity" takes the little TV show that couldn't and turns it into a feature film that could. "
I think I am going to stop reading these. They are just depressing me.
gossi, I'm so far from prudish it'd make your head spin. That said, many of these reviews you're citing are specifically tailored for "the Family Filmgoer," i.e., they're reviews that are geared for parents who apparently need help deciding what's "safe" for their kids. Most major newspapers in the US have Family Filmgoer-type sections in addition to the regular reviews.

DArtagna, why are these reviews depressing you? They've been largely glowing to pretty good.
The review embargo is lifted today - you will see hundreds of reviews today and tomorrow.
By the way, Empire Magazine is out tomorrow in the UK - Serenity gets 4 out of 5 stars, with 8 pages of coverage. "The most fun sci-fi of the year" is their press quote on posters.

[ edited by gossi on 2005-09-29 16:07 ]
Didn't like Harry at AICN's review of Serenity?

Try Capone's one instead (Minor spoilers).

Whedon’s dialogue has always been his strong suit, and it is indeed strong here. He seamlessly mixes humor, irony, and deep emotion in ways that genuinely surprise you/

phleb - I know most are glowing but The Lantern and Daily Free Press were pretty darn awful. I think I'm mostly feeling down due to waiting to hear if my mum needs an operation or not, a couple of bad reviews don't help. :)
Thanks for the continuation of this thread as I greatly appreciate being able to get the general ‘positive or negative’ vibe from the quotes while avoiding spoilers.
I really have no expectations at this point, I’m just thrilled I finally get to say “I’m going to see Serenity this weekend” (in a cool new theater with stadium seating, no less). What I care about most is seeing these characters again and being entertained without my brain rotting out because then I really would be a “mindless Whedonite” and the chip on the shoulder film critics will have won!
I suspect more bad reviews are on the way. But, good reviews are too. Hope all is well with your mum, DArtagna.

I'm amused by the person who thinks joss hasn't escaped his TV roots because of how hangs are messily framed and such. Uhm. That's kinda a deliberate effort, not "Oh shit we hired a duff steadycam guy".
This is not a review, but rather the ad in today's New York Times (and hence no link). Simon, I think you have a potential career as a seer--the ad is the poster, but it now contains this text (which I've transcribed exactly as written, i.e., the upper case letters are the ad's, not mine). The ad is about 2/3 of the second page of the Arts section. In contrast, the ad for "Oliver Twist" is about 1/10 of the the page. Here is the text:

The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Associated Press, New York Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle And Many Others Have Written About This Extraordinary, Growing Phenomenon.


Thanks gossi, me too. :) Thats what I meant as well, I very much doubt that these are the only two less than adulatory reviews. The NY Times add is brill though.
DArtagna, I also hope all will be well with your mom (mum.) I'm sorry that you're having to deal with that.

As for bad reviews, gossi is no doubt right.But at least the majority of them so far have been good.

As for the New York Times ad, I like it but I'd like it a lot more if it contained actual quotes about how good the movie is. Seen by some eyes, the ad might look like a creepy cult thing. Just my opinion.
Picked up the November issue of SFX today - seems a bit early to be in stores but I'm not complaining. Serenity scored 5/5, naturally :)
Fort Worth Weekly (Spoilery)

"So here we have the man who made his name with a failed movie-turned-successful tv show trying to turn his failed tv show into a successful movie, buoyed by the support of Firefly’s die-hard community of fans. Those fans will be glad to find the film version, entitled Serenity, with the entire cast in place, exactly the same as the show: brilliantly funny, well-characterized, poorly paced, terribly uneven, confusing as hell, and quite enjoyable."
Pioneer Press, MN and Macon Telegraph, GA both carry a positive and very spoilery Associated Press review.
DArtagna -- hope all's well with your mum. Chin up :) you've got the support of your fellow 'coats :D
Now this guy gets it: Scott Weinberg from

"A blisteringly entertaining and wonderfully unique concoction, Joss Whedon's SERENITY may have been born from a failed TV series, yet floats into multiplexes as one of the cleverest, crankiest, wittiest, wildest, and most character-driven sci-fi adventures in 25 years, and it's the best outer-space trip I've been on since the empire struck back."

and "This flick is not only a wondrous piece of science-fiction adventure; it's an absolute homage to science-fiction itself. Don't just turn your nose up because it's an odd concept starring no-name actors. You'd still feel pretty silly, to this day, if you were the guy who once yelled "Jawas? Tractor beams? Mark Hamill? Nah, I'll just stay home and watch Welcome Back Kotter.""
I'm amused by the person who thinks joss hasn't escaped his TV roots because of how hangs are messily framed and such. Uhm. That's kinda a deliberate effort, not "Oh shit we hired a duff steadycam guy".

Don't these "film reviewers" know about cinema verité? Don't they ever watch documentary films?
Don't these "film reviewers" know about cinema verité? Don't they ever watch documentary films?

The sad truth is that for all the critics' complaints about the current formulaic state of Hollywood, when something comes along that actually *is* different and goes against conventional rules, many of them don't really know what to do with it.

[ edited by EdDantes on 2005-09-29 17:59 ]
Josh Marshall, a blogger who was given 200 tickets for his readers, gives a brief but very positive review (no spoilers). This from someone who had never heard of Firefly before. Highlights: "Everybody I talked to after the screening loved it....It ran about two hours but felt like about twenty minutes."
EdDantes hits the nail right on the head.
Thanks for the kind thoughts guys. I am currently printing posters including some of the choicest quotes (Yay for Scott Weinberg) for some serious plastering of my university notice-boards...floors, ceilings and anywhere else I can reach. Thats another 19 000 Londoner bottoms on seats. ;) Ok, so maybe I _slightly_ overestimated the power of my mighty advertising machine. I think it just chewed up another load of paper.
Good for you, DArtagna. Excellent. Every little bit counts and you're doing more than a little bit with your paper-guzzling poster plan.

Meanwhile, the Firefly DVDs are up to #7 in the Amazon (US) list. This is our week, people.
Broken Frontier Review of Serenity

"If you’re already going to see this movie, if you’re a Browncoated fan of the television show, just know that Serenity is not Firefly. It’s like a concentrated dose of Firefly, where the stakes are higher and the mood is darker. It’s still going to be jarring, big and overwhelming, and you should see it again and again."
The Flick Filospher has posted its review of Serenity. Also, if you haven't gotten a chance, go back and read the review of Firefly as well as reviews of each individual episode.

The author writes reviews for Video Librarian, which is often used by public libraries to determine which DVDs to add to their collections.
The Stranger -- Seattle

Mostly positive review. No spoilers.

"you may want to brush up on the series before venturing into the theater. For God's sake, don't let the hardcore fans smell virgin blood."
"Better Than Ice Pirates!" - Simon who posts at Whedonesque

"Reminded me of Ghosts of Mars, but a lot better" - guy in comic book shop that Simon who posts at Whedonesque talks to.
The Flick Filospher has posted its review of Serenity. Also, if you haven't gotten a chance, go back and read the review of Firefly as well as reviews of each individual episode.

Hey! I was gonna post her review! I've been posting her Firefly reviews for days! You took it from me!

Ahem.....sorry....I'm okay now....

"Better Than Ice Pirates!" - Simon who posts at Whedonesque

"Reminded me of Ghosts of Mars, but a lot better" - guy in comic book shop that Simon who posts at Whedonesque talks to.

Hmmm, are those up on Rottentomatoes yet?;-)
Don't know how mainstream podcasts can be but The Podcast The Mungles at the Movies has a review for "Serenity" in this week's podcast.

Matt likes it: "I have to own Serenity".
Cindy doen't: "Too Choreographed".

They call it fun, good but not great. But again, they say that it's not quite a movie for a non-scifi fan and a looks too much like a TV Show.
They also review "A History of Violence" in this cast, and they give a more positive review for "A History of Violence", rather than for "Serenity"

[ edited by Numfar PTB on 2005-09-29 19:34 ]
I've been a bit amused by the TV commercials and the radio ads I've heard that say "The NY Times, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, etc etc have all written about this phenomenom" b/c it's accurate and neatly skirts the fact that they're not actually saying these sources have given Serenity glowing reviews. They've just all given the movie media coverage.

I'm actually not sure what to make of the radio ads that completely hype the popularity of the screenings but really tell you nothing about the movie. Especially since they don't sound like movie ads and I didn't even realize I was listening to a Serenity ad the first time I heard it. On the other hand, I've heard them several times (when I haven't changed channels when commercials came on), which is gratifying. And I've seen so many TV commercials that my poor bf, who was trying to avoid seeing trailers or commercials or anything even minorly spoilery, has inadvertently almost watched 2 commercials and watched a 3rd yesterday while poking through our DVR menu b/c they just kept coming on =).

As for these reviews, I really appreciate this thread and I know I'll be revisiting it and its predecessor after I watch the movie. I kept clicking on reviews yesterday and getting inadvertently spoiled for some plot detail or the other, so it's nice getting the highlights of the general gist of the reviews without the actual spoilers. Thanks!
They also review "A History of Violence" in this cast, and they give a more positive review for "A History of Violence", rather than for "Serenity"

Well, speaking strictly on filmmaking merits, I'd probably give "A HIstory of Violence" a stronger review too... But they're totally different sort of films, not really comparable. "Violence' is a "serious" (not necessarily better) film, while Serenity is much more about entertainment and being a really fun popcorn flick that tells a great story. Again, doesn't make one necessarily better or more worth seeing, but Violence is (totally IMO) the more taut, better-made film, with a bit more "meaning" to it, and one that will probably garner a lot of attention come awards time. Not nearly as much fun as Serenity, though, and no good quips :-) Plus, some seriously gruesome violence, as one might expect from the title.
Gig Matrix has two positive reviews up here and here (mildly spoilery).

"Serenity isn’t so much a glorified episode of the series as the apotheosis of Firefly’s aborted potential. All of Whedon’s series have managed to juggle several disparate genres—comedy, action, horror—but Serenity does it so deftly, so surely, that it stands out from any other sci-fi film you’ve ever seen."

Not sure if it's ok to post my own stuff (and if it's not, by all means take it down), but just wanted to share the love.
Cindy doen't: "Too Choreographed".

Hah! That actually reminds me of Amadeus, where the Emperor says there's 'too many notes' in Mozart's opera! I guess action scenes should all be pure improv....

Btw, this is just me nitpicking but on Rottentomatoes, there's 14 positive reviews against 4 negative ones, and somehow the 'meter' is still claiming there's only 11 reviews in total. Is that standard refreshing schedule or are they just lazy?
aeron -- okay to post your stuff in comments.

sidenote -- History of Violence is based on a comic, which is fun. Heard a lot of good things about it and will make time to check it out post-Serenity opener and Mirrormask.
acp - Yeah, more than anything else, I think that A History of Violence has all the signifiers of a "serious" movie, while Serenity looks, at least, like a popcorn flick (which it is, it just also has a dozen other things going on too). In the end, coming second to one of the best directors around working at the top of his game ain't bad at all.
Film Threat

Given that this year we’ve all ready seen one classic science fiction series end with a fizzle, it is nice to see one end with a bang. This is a film that exists because of fans, was written for the fans and yet can be enjoyed by just about anyone willing to have a good time.

The review itself doesn't seem that much more positive than the dozens of other thumbs ups that we've been seeing, but the reviewers gives Serenity 4.5 stars, which kicks the metacritic score back up to 70, after being brought down by the LA Weekly.

There's a major spoiler in the review, although without specific details.

[ edited by bobothebrave on 2005-09-29 21:44 ]

(SPOILERS) Ebert's review. (SPOILERS)

3 out of 4 stars.

We're halfway to "two thumbs up."
Holy crap, that's great, theonetruebix! He likes it, he really, really likes it.
Newsday (mostly positive, no spoilers)

Screenwriter Whedon (the wiz behind "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") has a facile imagination, but he crowds his saga with underexplained subsidiary characters whose back stories zoom over our heads with Serenity speed.

That said, George Lucas could learn a thing or two from Whedon. "Serenity" flies with sass and spirit, qualities that have been in palpably short supply in that "Star Wars" series since, well, "Star Wars."

And while we're at it, my (positive, non-spoilery) review is here.
Rottentomates now shows 77% positive with 17 good 5 bad!!!

eta: thanks for heads up on the typo of 22 good instead of 22 total.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2005-09-29 21:47 ]
Great news about Ebert (though I was hoping for 3.5!) RE: The L.A. Weekly -- once again, a second string critic, though an interesting one but one with really, really, picky/quirky taste. He writes TONS of these backhanded reviews, esp. of better mainstream fare. He's the kind of guy for whom cinema means Godard, Antonioni or really grungy stuff. Not into mainstream stuff at all (and "Serenity" is mainstream, though in a quirkily old fashioned kind of a way), so I consider his review a win.

A rave from Ella Taylor or Scott Foundas would have been better, of course, but their tastes are pretty dang unpredictable too, though more mainstream friendly, at least in principle.

Still, things are shaping up very, very nicely. In fact, maybe it's good that it's not getting COMPLETE critical hosannas. I'm only half kidding when I say that too much of that stuff might actually depress box office or even hurt it's "legs" by creating overly exalted expectations.

To me, "Serenity" is the kind of movie that critics wind-up re-evaluating later on. Just watch, when the sequel comes out (and it will) at least one of the critics who gave it mixed review/pan will suddenly the first one great and but this second one, not so much.
theonetruebix, you beat me to it! I've been waiting for Ebert's review all day. Awesome. Better still, he likes it. Yay!
So many good review quotes coming now that I've had to split my fan poster graphic into two parts -- via mouseover, you'll find the second one with additional quotes.

So much to keep up with! Not that I mind, heh.
Rottentomates now shows 77% positive with 22 good 5 bad!!!

Certified fresh! Finally that "Horrible" review is getting buried.
(and it's 17 good, 5 bad, 22 total)
Just watch, when the sequel comes out (and it will) at least one of the critics who gave it mixed review/pan will suddenly the first one great and but this second one, not so much.

Oh yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. I can almost see those reviews now.

As for Ebert, well, color me surprised. Didn't expect him to like it. In the old days, with Siskel, I liked Siskel better, but I think now I've found myself going with Ebert more than with Roeper. But who knows, he may like it as well. Anyway, it's good one to have in our corner.
Ebert is no Siskel, but he looks like the greatest critic ever compared to Hacky McGee, aka Richard Roeper.
Actually, I have a feeling Roeper will like it... didn't he haev a whole piece in his publication, because he was angry that the WB pre-empted "Graduation Day Pt.2"?
I actually was pretty sure Ebert'd like it. I just didn't know if he'd *like* it *like* it. I understand his take on films and film criticism much more since I've gone to a few of his film analysis sessions he does every year in Boulder.
By Robert K. Elder
Chicago Tribune staff reporter 3½ stars (out of four
And oh, what a movie it is. "Serenity" is a brash, funny, action-packed bit of sci-fi ecstasy—and a giant raspberry to the execs who let "Firefly" fall out of the sky.
I'm so sorry that I don't know how to get this link in here. Can someone help and do this for me? It's such a GREAT review!!!

[ edited by Equalitynow on 2005-09-29 22:46 ]

[ edited by Equalitynow on 2005-09-29 22:49 ]
Here you go, Equalitynow. Nice review.
Thank you so much my friend!
Very nice review at 4 1/2 stars. This is a film that exists because of fans, was written for the fans and yet can be enjoyed by just about anyone willing to have a good time.

I'm not sure exactly how to link stuff(sorry!).

[ edited by Danica on 2005-09-29 23:09 ]
In addition to the above ChiTrib, we got the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ("solidly hits the mark").
Danica, here's an example of how to embed a link: [a href=""]Film Threat Review[/a]

Only instead of the brackets, use the sideways carat thingies (above the comma and period on your keyboard).
Orlando Weekly short blurb, very positive, no spoilers.
Furiously paced and packed with delightful characters, Hawksian banter and oft-deft action, Joss Whedon's adaptation of his "failed" TV SF Western, Firefly, is almost embarrassingly entertaining.

Also, Rotten Tomatoes is now at 80%. [Oops, never mind--that's the Cream of the Crop percentage.]

[ edited by tehipite_tom on 2005-09-29 23:38 ]

[ edited by tehipite_tom on 2005-09-29 23:40 ]
Since according to an above poster, it's okay to post one's own work in a comment, I shall put my review here. This is not to toot my own horn, but it's because I labored forever on this website and am so happy that I managed to get it up a few days before seeing Serenity. Plus, I just want to spread the word of how great the movie really is.

It's not a "professional" site but it has 30-some reviews, and as an avid fan of film, I'm hoping y'all will find my opinion just as valid as that of the critics...

My review at Reel Picks - Minor spoilers, with some hinting at bigger things

Serenity's world feels so real and so tangible that resisting it is almost impossible. The characters are all fleshed-out, three-dimensional people, bringing a fresh human element to a genre that has long been stale.

**** out of ****, natch, being a Browny-coated kinda guy.
L Magazine Review a rather annoying negative piece in a free NY listings rag which, happily, will seem lonely amidst the slew of positive write-ups we've been seeing today. "(Whedon) can't resist the urge to fall back on his TV-honed glibness and hackery, pandering to teen self-righteousness...Fillion's hero seems less like a war-hardened space cowboy than a perpetually hung over college student." Mal a 'teen' ? Some people seem determined to misconstrue things. Minor spoilers.

[ edited by The Devil's Robot on 2005-09-30 00:22 ]

[ edited by The Devil's Robot on 2005-09-30 00:27 ]
Well now Rottentomatoes IS up to 80% positive overall. Looking good. Metcritic 73% but that has substantially fewer reviews.

Mal a 'teen' ? Some people seem determined to misconstrue things. Minor spoilers.

Wow that's a really bad one. Man, I still have yet to encounter a negative review that isn't just bitchy name calling. Lemme see:

-one critic didn't even remember why they wanted River, (did he actually watch??)
-one dubbed Mal 'an obvious stand-in for Whedon himself' (shows what she knows)
-one actually expressed his hatred of the fans' happiness and his glee at the shows' cancellation, (I visualize this moustache-twirling villain somehow)
-one somehow believes that River is called a 'death machine' in the opening sequence. (Pay more attention next time Harry, thanks)
-Some complained it was 'too much like a TV show' and others that it 'wasn't enough like the TV show'. (we should put them in a room together)
-One complained that they had old technology among new stuff. And why guns weren't more developped. (It's very simple: right now, most of the earth does NOT own a computer or a cell phone either. Why would every poor person in the future own all the good stuff? See what the idea is there?)
-and now this one that Devil's Robot just mentioned that feels that somehow this is all teeny-bopper stuff (Mal, a 'college student'... Did any of them actually watch it?)

Really, I'm willing to hear the movie's weaker elements pointed out, or some well argumented piece, or even an honest admission that taste will simply always be a factor. But so far all the truly negative ones have been of this rather poor caliber. And a lot of them actually get paid.
Another positive review (B+) from a Phil Davis at the St Petersburg Times. "The film, Serenity, shoots adrenaline into the heart of a genre plagued with wooden dialogue (recent Star Wars films) and ponderous opening sequences (all Star Trek movies)." Minor spoilery.

[ edited by spikeangellover on 2005-09-30 01:14 ]
I don't think this one's been up yet. Another AICN review from a fella name of Capone. He apparently watched the Firefly DVDs in one sitting and loved it. It's only a short review but very positive.

(One funny thing, he seems to think that River is played by Jewel Staite. I love it when movie sites get their facts straight. But he's a fan so he's forgiven;-)

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