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TV Wasteland: Happy Independence Day
Rod Serling and serial killers help celebrate the 4th
By Rob Vaux
July 02, 2012
The 4th of July is usually fairly quiet, but this week we have two events worth noting. The first is Syfy’s annual Twilight Zone marathon, a chance for the station to step away from wrestling and absurdly cheap movies to remember their actual roots. Rod Serling’s seminal horror series sports its share of boners, but when it hummed, nothing in the history of the medium could touch it. Syfy is including some of the best episodes of all time in its rotation, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “To Serve Man,” “Time Enough at Last,” “Eye of the Beholder,” and “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” as well as “I Sing the Body Electric,” based on a story by the late Ray Bradbury.
Then on Sunday, Dexter returns for a new season, joining True Blood and Falling Skies in the strongest evening for genre entertainment right now. Fans have been eagerly awaiting resolution for last season’s cliffhanger, in which Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) finally learned what Dexter (Michael C. Hall) does with his free time. We’ll be reviewing every episode of the new season here on Mania, and considering its sterling reputation, I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
The Twilight Zone Marathon runs all day Wednesday on Syfy. Dexter premieres this Sunday, July 8 on Showtime at 8:00 PM EST.
Eureka (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST) An experiment gone wrong traps the citizens of Eureka in town and may wipe them all out if they don’t find a way to reverse it.
Lost Girl (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST) Class warfare informs a new series of murders which Bo and Dyson are investigating.
Teen Wolf (MTV, 10:00 PM EST) Revelations about the shapeshifter send Scott and Stiles hurrying to protect those close to them.
Independence Day (AMC, 8:00 PM EST) It’s not a great one, but it fits the holiday, so we’ll give it a pass. It reruns multiple times throughout the week.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST) Andy Serkis nails another career high point, playing a genetically enhanced chimp who decides we no longer have the right to run things. It’s shocking how good this movie turns out to be.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Spike, 8:45 PM EST) This, on the other hand, stands as the undeniable low point in the Star Wars saga: a love story told by a director whose grasp of human emotions is tenuous at best.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (FX, 8:00 PM EST) Yeah, let’s make Galactus a giant cloud. That won’t piss anyone off.
Blast from the Past (FMC, 7:00 PM EST) Brendan Fraser uses all of his considerable charms to pull off the story of a young man who emerges from life in a bomb shelter without the first clue of how the modern world operates.
Open Water (IFC, 8:00 PM EST) Seriously guys, how hard can it be to take a manual head count?
Ginger Snaps (IFC, 9:45 PM EST) Considering the climate and the general zeitgeist up there, you’d think that Canada would produce more great horror films like this one.
Haunted Highway (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST) Syfy returns once again to beat the dead “haunted investigations” horse, this one involving ghosts on isolated roads and highways.
Drive Angry (Showtime, 10:00 PM EST) I hate to say it, but this bit of drive-in exploitation loses a lot when it isn’t in 3D.
Spider-Man 2 and 3 (FX, 7:00 PM EST and 10:00 PM EST) To celebrate the new movie, FX is showing the last two Sam Raimi entries: one flawed but interesting, and one ranking among the very best comic book adaptations ever.
Final Destination 5 (HBO, 9:30 PM EST)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Spike, 8:45 PM EST) George Lucas recovers some of his lost mojo just in time to close out his seminal sci-fi series in fine fashion. Yes, the dialogue still stinks. Live with it.
The Twilight Zone Marathon (Syfy, 8:00 AM EST) Rod Serling’s in the house. All. Freaking. Day. See the top of the article for more.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST) The Harry Potter series begins rather quietly, as the new cast works to find their rhythm and director Christopher Columbus exercises perhaps more caution than necessary.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (FMC, 7:30 PM EST) This amiable children’s film about the Loch Ness monster and its adorable spawn doesn’t leave much of a memory, but it certainly taste good enough going down.
The Prestige (IFC, 10:30 PM EST) Christopher Nolan delivers the best film of his amazing career: a tale of two rival magicians whose efforts to outdo each other lead them to some very scary places.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Spike, 6:00 PM EST) Frankly speaking, the dialogue and characters here aren’t any worse than those in Episode I-III. We just don’t have Jar Jar to deal with.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Starz, 7:05 PM EST) There are two better movies about magic and magicians on tonight, but this one ain’t bad.
TRON: Uprising (Disney XD, 8:00 PM EST) Not much info here, but the plot of this show is really irrelevant. Look, they’re powering up the light cycles again!
The Matrix (AMC, 8:00 PM EST) Welcome to the desert of the real. Try to forget that there were sequels.
Arachnophobia (Cinemax, 8:00 PM EST) Here’s a fun one: a horror-comedy about a poisonous South American spider accidentally shipped to a North California town and havoc its spawn wreak on the local population.
Pathfinder (FMC, 7:00 PM EST) I’d like to tell you what this movie’s about, but I can’t; the ruptured-septic-tank cinematography keeps me from seeing a goddamn thing.
Babylon A.D. (FMC, 9:00 PM EST) Vin Diesel, what are we going to do with you?
Fight Club (IFC, 8:00 PM EST) Looking back, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Brad Pitt as the chaotic saboteur whose underground fight clubs form the basis of a full-bore social uprising.
Blue Velvet (Sundance, 9:00 PM EST) David Lynch has been more disturbing, but he’s never been this flat-out freaky in a film whose power has diminished not a whit with age.
Angels and Demons (Syfy, 8:00 PM EST) If you look closely, you can spot the exact moment when America stopped caring about Tom Hanks.
The Night of the Hunter (TCM, 10:00 PM EST) Robert Mitchum stars as an evil preacher chasing two children in search of stolen money. A creepy fair- tale atmosphere and one of Mitchum’s greatest performances make it something no fan of unusual filmmaking should msis. Also, while it’s not a genre film, you may want to tune into TCM at 8:00 PM EST for Ace in the Hole, Billy Wilder’s brilliant satire about a corrupt newspaperman (Kirk Douglas) who turns a small story about a trapped miner into a literal media circus.
G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (USA, 9:00 PM EST) What do people think: will the sequel suck as much as this one did?
Burn Notice is off for the holiday.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (ABC Family, 7:00 PM EST) Chris Columbus finds his footing and the Harry Potter franchise kicks into high gear with this marvelous second entry.
Deliverance (AMC, 8:00 PM EST) In case anyone out there feels like squealing like a pig.
The Matrix Revolutions (AMC, 10:15 PM EST) *Checks* It still stinks. That is all.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (FX, 7:00 PM EST)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (HBO, 9:30 PM EST) The first part of the last chapter in the Harry Potter saga does a lot of heavy lifting plot-wise, but still more than holds its own as stand-alone entertainment.
Just listen to Sam Jackson. He knows what he’s talking about.
Shark Zone (Syfy, 10:00 PM EST) It’s just like Jaws, except it sucks.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Spike, 6:00 PM EST) Now this is pod racing. Lawrence Kasdan’s sparkling script eliminates Lucas’s biggest Achilles heel and the Star Wars saga gets its greatest chapter as a result.
The Walking Dead Marathon (AMC, 11:30 AM EST) AMC spend the whole day on its popular horror series, giving you a chance to catch up on any episodes you missed.
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (Syfy, 6:30 PM EST) I like to think of this as a great series of Indiana Jones vignettes that don’t quite coalesce into a successful film. And I’ll say it again: Crystal Skull is better.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST) But for the immortal original, this easily stands as the best Indiana Jones film to date. It repeats Sunday night at 6:00 PM EST.
The Thing (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EST) Not the John Carpenter original (which was itself a remake), but the middling prequel that relates what happened at the Norwegian camp before the titular monster reached the Americans. Some good gross-out gags and a plucky turn from Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the lead can’t hide the fact that Carpenter did the same thing much, much better.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (ABC Family, 8:00 PM EST) Imelda Staunton steals the show as the horrible Delores Umbridge in one of the series’ stronger entries.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Spike, 6:00 PM EST) Spike closes out its week of Star Wars with slave girl Leia and singing teddy bears. Enjoy!
Dexter (Showtime, 8:00 PM EST) The new season opens with Dexter attending his 20th high school reunion, and possibly reenacting the climax of Carrie in the process. Incidentally, I’d like to thank Showtime for not scheduling this at 9:00 PM, which is overstuffed with genre programming as it is. See the top of the article for more.
True Blood (HBO, 9:00 PM EST) Bill and Eric have the balls to ask Sookie for help in hunting down Russell. Good luck with that, fellas.
Falling Skies (TNT, 9:00 PM EST) The unit nabs itself another skitter, even as an old comrade returns with sketchy motives. They’re not saying who, but we’re betting on Pope.
War of the Worlds (Syfy, 9:00 PM EST) Steve Spielberg scores a potent but frustrating near-miss in his update of the H.G. Wells classic.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (ABC Family, 8:30 PM EST)
Severus Snape and his nebulous motives take center stage as the Harry Potter saga approaches its climax.
Aliens (Cinemax, 6:30 PM EST) James Cameron equals the iconic original with a fast-paced sequel that finds Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) returning to LV-426 with a passel of marines in tow.