Masters Of Science Fiction (Anchor Bay, 2007) Creator: Mick Garris, w/ John Hurt, Judy Davis. Rating: NNN; DVD package: n/a
Half-empty or half-full? If you come to this from a love of old Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes, you'll be happy to find intelligent, imaginative science fiction based on stories by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein and Robert Sheckey. They're well-acted and feature great production values.
If you come expecting the brilliant little movies and solid extras package of creator Mick Garris's previous effort, Masters Of Horror, you'll be disappointed. The episodes look and move more like TV than movies. They clock in at a mere 42 minutes each, including signature opening and closing credits, and there isn't a bonus feature in sight.
They're also talky. Imaginary futures demand exposition. Some of the writers handle that well. Some not so much. Science fiction wears its conscience on its sleeve. Get set for some heavy-handed moralizing.
That said, three of the six episodes are gems.
The Discarded, co-scripted by Ellison from his own story about wildly disfigured plague victims condemned to eternal exile in space, offers a biting and tragic view of human nature. Brian Dennehy and John Hurt are at the top of their game.
Little Brother, scripted by Walter Mosley from his story Futureland, delivers tense courtroom drama: a mere nobody (Clifton Collins Jr.), charged with murder and armed with nothing but his wits, squares off against a fully-computerized judge-jury-and-executioner system.
Anne Heche, Malcolm McDowell and the rest of the cast strut considerable comic chops in Jerry Was A Man, a Heinlein-based tale of an airhead heiress who conceives a passion for a genetically engineered subhuman. Costume designer Deborah Everton elevates silliness to high art with designs that never look deliberately goofy. The tone here is farce, the underlying moral pure poison.