ORBzine - Movies on Television January 2000


When Time Expires

Richard Grieco wore too much eye makeup in the cinematically released Teen Agent (If Looks Could Kill in USA). Now he wears no makeup at all in this straight-to-video potboiler and looks about forty years old!

A top temporal agent, he beams into a remote town in the middle of the American desert with a mission that will affect the future. However, a hit-team lead by Tim Trancers Thomerson is out to stop him. Grieco's only help - his ex-partner (Mark Hamill - how the mighty have fallen!) and Cynthia Geary (Northern Exposure's blonde bimbo, now a shotgun-toting cowgirl).


This was written by
George R.R. Martin (currently responsible for the Song of Ice and Fire novels). The only noticeable face is Kurtwood Smith (Clarence Bodicker from Robocop).

This is the pilot episode of a more mature version of the show Sliders - it concerns cross-dimensional travel to alternate Earths. The second dimension featured here is one where all oils have been consumed by a bacterium designed to clean up an oil spill. As a result, petroleum/gasoline and plastic no longer exist.

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Jason and the Argonauts

This is widely accepted as Ray Harryhausen's finest work. It was made in 1963, 18 years before the star-studded reworking
Clash of the Titans but is an unforgetable piece of cinematic magic.

Jason, a hero of Ancient Greece, has to fulfil a quest - retrieve the Golden Fleece. He recruits a team of the finest athletes, and since his ship is named The Argo then they are called the Argonauts. However, among his crew is the son of his enemy, a wicked King who killed Jason's family.

As the quest proceeds the Argonauts encounter all manner of mythical beasts, played by Harryhausen's masterful creations. These include

  • Talos, a giant made of bronze
  • 2 winged harpies
  • the Hydra, a many-headed monster
  • 7 skeleton warriors - Harryhausen's piece de resistance!

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  • BBC2 SF Night

    The Time Machine

    This is one of the earlier SteamPunk films, made in the 1960s. It tells the story [originally written by H.G. Wells ] of a Victorian scientist who invents a time machine and travels far into the future. The climax, set in the world of the Morlocks & Eloi, shows the truth of a Perfect world like that of the Star Trek Federation. The Eloi, the elite, live a life of unchallenged luxury and thus stagnate. The Morlocks, the aggressive lumpenproletariat, fester into subhuman cannibals.

    Battlestar Galactica

    Battlestar Galactica This TV series was very popular in the post- Star Wars SF boom. Lorne Greene (Bonanza) and John Colicos ( Star Trek ) are the only big names in it. Richard Hatch played the central character, Apollo - he has not worked since the series was cancelled, and has spent the last 20 years trying to get the show back on the air again.

    Dirk Benedict, on the other hand, went on to star in The A-Team and was last seen in Official Denial . Here he is excellent as the Han Solo-style cigar-smoking gambler, Starbuck. This reviewer's favourite scene is when the 2 women Starbuck had seduced meet face-to-face - and just as they start to cat-fight over him, he ditches them both in favour of a poker game!

    The story is quite simple. In a distant part of the galaxy there are 12 human colonies, at war with robotic enemies called Cylons. The Cylons launch a sneak attack that destroys most of the Colonial fleet and their worlds. The Colonials load their surviving population into a ragtag fleet of space vessels. Led by their only surviving warship, the Battlestar Galactica,

    Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

    Richardo Montalban makes a comeback as a character he originally played in the TV show, 15 years previously. His sidekick is V: The Series villain Judson Scott, last seen in Season One of Babylon 5.

    Kirk, unaware that he is being hunted by an adversary he had long since forgotten about, is training a new crew for the Enterprise. Kirsty Alley plays Lieutenant Saavik, later played by Robin Curtis in ST III: Search for Spock and replaced by Kim Cattrall 's character Valeria in ST VI: Undiscovered Country.

    Interview with the Vampire

    Christian Slater is the (un-)lucky journalist who interviews the vampire Louis (Brad Pitt), embraced centuries ago in 1791 by Lestat (Tom Cruise -
    Mission Impossible). Louis at first welcomed the Dark Gift, but when he realised the terrible cost in human life (Lestat alone killed two or three every night) he was disgusted at what he had become. The massive body count somehow never brought them under suspicion, except from Louis' rebellious plantation slaves.

    Cruise is excellent, if slightly OTT, as the monstrous Louis. However, the real monster is one that he creates. Kristen Dunst is excellent as Claudia the child-vampire. She conveys both the innocence and selfishness of childhood and the wisdom of her many years.

    Louis and Claudia travel to Paris, where they meet a vampiric Antonio Banderas, who actually seems several inches shorter than Pitt. His sidekick is a mime who can walk up walls (and whose cloak is equally unaffected by gravity). They run a theatre, and live in the catacombs beneath the city. However, there is danger for Claudia ...

    This is based on the works of Anne Rice , written back when vampires were seductive as opposed to Heavy-Metal roadie types. However, some of the things she invented for her novel appear to have entered mainstream vampire mythology. For instance, to become a vampire Louis had to drink the blood of his sire, Lestat. Also, the cliche of the tortured vampire with a soul that is so successful for Angel Chronicles ...

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    Innocent Blood

    This is a pretty terrible film. The director, John Landis , was responsible for the masterful American Werewolf in London - but this flick shows how far he has fallen.

    Anne Parillaud plays a French vampire who goes gangster-hunting in Chicago. Anthony LaPaglia is a cop sent undercover by Angela Bassett to spy on mobsters Robert Loggia ( Lifepod ) and Chaz Palminteri (Usual Suspects).

    Parillaud was incredible in La Femme Nikita, and has never risen to that level again. She does do full-frontal nudity in this (hey, she is French) but her presence adds very little to the film overall. She's not sexy, and her accent is just plain irritating; so why make her do a voice-over???

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    Weird Science

    Two geeks use their computer to create the perfect woman ( Kelly LeBrock , who was also Gene Wilder's Woman in Red). However, they get more than they asked for. She is not a woman, she is an electronic genie who controls their lives.

    A much better film about teen sexuality is Risky Business ... the perfect woman in that film is Rebecca De Mornay , and the geek (Tom Cruise) gets off with her as soon as he meets her.

    Maximum Overdrive

    When he made this flick Stephen King said he wanted it to be the trashiest film of all time - and he certainly succeeded!

    The world's machinery is taken over by a mysterious force (a UFO, according to the tag at the end of the film) and start to kill their human users. Emilio Estevez ( ) and a bunch of others are trapped at a motorway service station surrounded by killer HGVs. Familiar faces include Pat Hingle as Estevez' corrupt boss and Yeardly Smith as a young bride on her honeymoon.

    The soundtrack is by AC/DC, produced by Robert Mutt Lange - currently married to rock princess Shania Twain !

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    This is Terminator meets Mad Max - a group of comandos trek across a desolate futuristic wasteland, battling an army of time-travelling robots. The budget is non-existent (the robots appear one at a time; a single robot suit left over from The Black Hole ), the cast un-known.

    Judge Dredd: The Movie

    Stallone dons the helmet of Mega-City One's top lawman in this much-awaited 1995 flop. The ingredients are all there; great cast, promising director, proven script-writer. But the movie just does not work.

    Scripts were drafted by William Wisher (who previously wrote Terminator 2 ) and Hollywood uber-hack Steven E De Souza. And the script is the real problem. The film has other flaws - plenty of them; the fusion of comic and film just does not work. But half-way through, just as the Angel Gang make a gratuitous five-second appearance, the film completely loses its way. The climax has so many cliches it makes Lethal Weapon films look original!

    Danny Cannon is a self-proclaimed Dredd fan, and actually had some Dredd artwork (a fan-fic poster of the Dredd movie with Harrison Ford in the lead role) published in 2000AD in the late 1980s. His prior film credits included The Young Americans, a so-so Harvey Keitel thriller. Since then, all he's done is the atrocious I Still Know What You Did Last Summer . Enough said.

    Diane Lane was most probably cast as Judge Barbara Hershey because she resembles the actress the character was based on back in 1980. Also, she is quite short, which makes her the perfect choice to star opposite Stallone. She has appeared topless in two previous films (including Knight Moves with her then husband, Highlander star Christopher Lambert), and seems to have had breast implants before she did Murder at 1600. However, her nipples are nowhere in evidence here. Sure, it would have disenchanted the hard-core Dredd audience, but can we pretend the REST of the film DIDN'T?

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    Island of Dr Moreau (1970s)

    This was the 1970s version; Burt Lancaster is Moreau, Michael York is the hero, Barbara Carrera is the token babe. Okay, it is not an exact retelling of the original H.G. Wells novel, but it is good to see a British actor in a major role. The 1990s remake is reviewed below.

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    Island of Dr Moreau (1995)

    John Frankenheimer 's movie has great camerawork and nice SPFX, but as a 1990s version it is pretty gratuitous since there was a version made in the 1970s with Michael York as the hero (here played by David Thewlis) and Burt Lancaster as Moreau (here Marlon Brando). Also, we now have Fairuza Balk ( The Craft ) as the token babe. Val Kilmer is the token American; Brando plays Moreau as a Brit. Everything has been updated 100 years - Moreau now converts animals to human form by altering their DNA, not through vivisection and surgery.

    The film starts with the theme man's inner beast - Thewlis and two comrades are adrift in a dingy, and fight to the death over the remaining supplies. Rescued by Kilmer, passing on a supply vessel, he is taken to Moreau's island and introduced to the menagerie. One of Moreau's creations is a smaller version of himself, and in a scene that obviously inspired the Mini-Me character in The Spy Who Shagged Me they perform a piano duet! Talk about self-parody!!!

    Moreau's motivation is to find a way to genetically remove man's inner beast - the animal instinct in the human psyche. If he can remove it from animals and make them more human than the humans, then all humanity's negative side can be removed. In other words, pretty much what the (mad) scientists wanted to do to the Terminal Man reviewed above. However, Moreau backs up his peaceful intent with electroshock treatment for violent rebels. Yes, peace and love are all well and good, but if they don't work then electrocute the bastards into submission!

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    The Mask

    This sees Jim Carey in a double role as both the title character (a super-hero) and his secret identity, genuinely timid bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss. He shows himself to be talented enough to acquit himself well in both roles.

    This was the first screen appearance of Cameron Diaz - who skipped from model to major Hollywood actress by landing the female lead!

    The villain is Peter Greene, who looks familiar because he played bad guys in Under Siege 2, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects and Blue Streak.

    The comedy sidekick is Richard Jeni, best known for his Seinfeld-type sitcom Platypus Man.

    This is the one example of a Comic-book adaption that actually works. The main character, indeed the whole premise, was softened and the resulting movie is a CGI/live-action cartoon. But the script is competent, the acting fine and the CGI SPFX ground-breaking. Not exactly convincing, but the film's so OTT it's not supposed to be realistic!

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    Official Denial

    This features 1970s SF TV stars Erin Gray (Wilma in Buck Rogers) and Dirk Benedict (Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica ) - still chewing a cigar!

    Gray is the wife of a man who suffers Close Encounters type flashbacks, ever since he was abducted by aliens. Benedict is an overzealous US military officer assigned to hunt down a Grey alien, the pilot of a crashed starship.

    The extremely poor 1993 CGI SPFX are blatant, as is the alien makeup. It is worth noting that this effort was made the same year as X-Files Season One, but apparently on a much lower budget.

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    Leprechaun 2

    Warwick Davis reprises his role as the USA-friendly Oirish imp. Lots of Yanks die in OTT ways. Unfortunately, Jennifer Aniston doesn't appear in this one.

    The REALLY scary thing about this flick? Apparently there are two more sequels to this one!

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    Channel 5 SF Night

    Avon Calling - Paul Darrow looks 20 years older, 20lb heavier - my god, it makes this reviewer sick to think that Blake's 7 could have run for so much longer than it did.


    The hero is a student (20 going on 30!) who finds himself on the run from a gorgeous blonde, hunted by interdimensional fascists. Rutger Hauer ( Blade Runner ) takes the Obi-Wan role. The villain is reminscent of David Warner, and leads a group of Matrix -like reality-bending MIBs. Another film seemingly influenced by this is the terrible Mortal Kombat 2, about which the less said the better.

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  • Morons from Outer Space

    This sees interstellar trailer trash (portrayed by Brit actors Mel Smith and Jimmy Nail) land on Earth, and baffle scientists there. The film was written by long-time comedy duo Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, who also star, and like The Terminal Man was directed by Mike Hodges.

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    Queen of Outer Space

    This features a group of Earthmen in Forbidden Planet uniforms who get captured by the minidress-clad minion-babes of the title character. The movie stars Zsa Zsa Gabor as an alien woman who helps the Earthmen escape and overcome their captors.

    Twins of Evil

    This is the third (and last) of Hammer's Karnstein trilogy, famous for the studio's use of the more European-style lesbian vampires. Peter Cushing ( Star Wars ) is Gustav Vile, a puritan-dressed witch-hunter who burns young women at the stake for fun. And he's the good guy!

    Vampiric slayings have occurred in the realm of the immoral and decadent Count Karnstein, descendant of the infamous Camilla/MirCalla. Vile's nubile twin nieces come to town just as things begin to get interesting ...


    This is an excellent film, so good the plot was recently ripped off for the regretable End of Days . New York City is besieged with supernatural happenings, and when the keymaster puts it into the gatekeeper the gates of Hell will be opened, and evil loosed upon the world. However, in this movie the keymaster is Rick Moranis (five feet tall) and the gatekeeper Sigourney Weaver (6 feet tall). Yes, unlike Dogma this time the nerd gets the babe!

    The only guys who can save the world are a group of bumbling ex-scientists played by Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis. Fired by their University they set up business ghost-busting. They hire Annie Potts (The Hot One) as their secretary and Ernie Hudson (Oz) as the token black guy, and rent themselves out as freelance exorcists.

    The Terminal Man

    Written by Michael Crichton (Andromeda Strain) , directed by Mike Hodges ( Flash Gordon ). George Segal is a scientist who received minor brain damage in a car crash and afterwards suffered personality changes (blackouts and violent tendencies). To solve this a microchip is implanted in his body to control the negative side to his personality - an effort at mind control that the doctors, police and politicians wish to extend to the general population. Of course, the implants have the opposite effect to the desired one, and when TPTB discover what they have done they do not go out of their way to capture him alive.

    The Andromeda Strain

    Written from a novel by Michael Crichton , and directed by Robert Wise, this could be seen as little more than a cast of nobodies running around a 1970s SF studio set.

    A US satellite, codename Scoop, returns to Earth near a small town in Texas. Scientists discover the entire town dead, their blood clotted instantly on contact with an airborne organism brought back from outer space. They take the satellite, and the only two survivors (a baby and a crazy old man) back to a secret lab, codename Wildfire, where they try to find a cure before the organism destroys all human life on earth.

    The experimental 1970s split-screen method (last used in Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino ) appears twice. It certainly makes far more convincing that the elevator conversation in Blue Ice, where Caine and Hoskins talk for 5 minutes on a 3-storey elevator!

    This is a wonderful look at early 1970s SF - the kind of pre-Star Wars Hard SF (okay, Crichton is not Arthur C. Clarke but you know what I mean) that is hardly ever seen these days. The only real equivalent to this film would be Outbreak, where Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo struggle to save a town in California from the Ebola virus.

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