ORBzine - Movie Reviews April 2000


Batman Returns

Christopher Walken sleep-walks through this. He is cast as crooked businessman Max Schreck, named after the actor who played the title character in the 1922 film Nosferatu . There are two points that should be mentioned at this point. Schreck is German for terror, so the name means maximum terror. Secondly, for a much better film with Walken as a crime boss/metaphorical vampire, see the excellent King of New York by Abel Ferrarra.

The other guest-star villains are the Penguin (Danny De Vito) and Catwoman ( Michelle Pfeiffer ).

Director Tim Burton gives the same bizarre touches he has given to every film he worked on, including the likes of Sleepy Hollow

Forbidden Planet

This film is the first to star a couple of legends - Leslie Nielsen ( ) and Robbie the Robot. A 1950s classic, the story is taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest

Nielsen commands a spacecraft that lands on a remote planet. It is inhabited by Professor Mobius (Walter Pidgeon ) and his daughter, Anne Francis .

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  • The Lost World

    This is a 1960 version of the original story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle . An expedition led by Professor Challenger travels by helicopter to a plateau in South America. Once there, they are attacked by dinosaurs (iguanas with plastic horns glued on - they could not afford to hire Ray Harryhausen ) and the helicopter is destroyed.

    The expedition includes David Felix Leiter Hedison ( ) and a token red-head babe. They discover the plateau has human inhabitants when they discover a mega-babe Indian girl in a skimpy animal-skin dress.

    This certainly influenced Michael Crichton 's later works, and resembles both Jurassic Park 2 and Congo .

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    Escape from LA

    This film was made in 1997 as a sequel to Escape from New York, set in 1997.

    The USA has become a Fascist, Politically Correct hell-hole. The President's daughter, Utopia stole the black box that controls a super-weapon, and escaped to Los Angeles. LA is now an island, ever since the Big One that left most of California underwater.

    LA is now ruled by a Guevera/Castro type called Cuervo Jones, and like New York in the previous film it is an anarchic place. This is part of the irony of the new film; it is the same as the original, only reversed. In the original Plissken broke into a prison to free a prisoner - in the sequel he leaves a fascist state and enters a free one in order to execute a fugitive.

    The evil USA Police, led by Stacey Keach and Michelle Phillips , dose our anti-hero with a virus that will kill him within hours. The only way he can get the antidote is - you guessed it!

    Typical of big-budget sequels, this film is filled with cameos. Valeria Golino pops up to call the city a Dark Paradise. Bruce Campbell ( Lois & Clark, Hercules ) is the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, who wants to cut Plissken up and use him for spare-part surgery. Steve Buscemi takes the Ernest Borgnine role as helpful local. Peter Fonda pops up as a surfer.

    Of course, as is always the case at one stage the protagonist gets captured. In the original film, Plissken had to duel a giant with spiked baseball bats. In the new film, all he has to do is play bloody netball - err, basketball. It is still a girl's game. This reviewer played softball - err, baseball. Which sucked too, but what can you say? Bring back duels with spiked baseball bats, that is this reviewer's opinion.

    There are other differences. The Harry Dean Stanton type character is played by Pam Grier . Instead of escaping in a taxi they use hang-gliders and a Helicopter Gunship. And the final double-cross? Bigger, flashier and quite impressive. If only the rest of the film was not so OTT, it might have lived up to the original concept.

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    New Eden

    Steven Baldwin (The Usual Suspects) plays a convict sent to a prison planet. Abandoned in the desert he is enslaved and sold to Lisa Bonet (Angel Heart) a gorgeous scavenger. An engineer, Baldwin teaches the scavengers to purify their water supply, irrigate the land and create fertile farmland.

    Baldwin's friend and fellow convict joins the sand pirates, a gang of cut-throats who loot and pillage at every opportunity. He beds down with the female leader (who appears based on Tina Turner's character in Beyond Thunderdome ) and eventually the two friends have to fight it out.

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    The Lake

    Yasmin Bleeth keeps her clothes on over her Baywatch costume, and still is merely presentable instead of truly attractive. Haley Joel Osment ( 6th Sense ) plays Bleeth's nephew, whom she tries to save from the bodysnatchers.

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    Total Recall

    This was based on We Can Remember it For You Wholesale by Phil K. Dick and directed by Paul Verhoeven .

    Arnold Schwartzenegger stars in a role originally cast for Matthew Broderick ( Godzilla, Inspector Gadget ). Construction worker Doug Quaid goes to Rekall, a memory-changing company, to have a Secret Agent fantasy holiday implanted in his memory. However, they discover that his memory had already been changed and he really was a Secret Agent! Or was he? Was it all a dream?

    He suddenly finds himself on the run from an army of faceless men - and he himself appears to have highly-honed and lethal skills. With Arnie, Quaid is a believable killing machine; with Broderick the character would have been a fish out of water, and the movie would have been more thriller than action-adventure.

    Sharon Stone is Quaid's wife - but from the very first scene we are suspicious of her. This reviewer recalls an interview with a British actor who claimed he had been offered a role where he would get to kiss Sharon Stone and have a fist-fight with Arnold Schwartzenegger. The actor's name has faded from memory, and small wonder because the silly fool turned the part down and it went to Michael Ironside ( Scanners, Seaquest ) instead.

    Ironside's character, Richter, is sartorially identical to Ham Tyler, his character in V . Obviously not promoted for his marksmanship, he relies on his machine-pistol (an adapted Ingram) to spray the area with bullets while completely missing the hero.

    Ronny Cox ( Robocop ) is Cohaagen, the arch-villain. Rachel Ticotin is Quaid's love-interest on Mars. Roy Brocksmith is the head of Rekall, Debbie Lee Carrington (an Ewok in Return of the Jedi) is a dwarf hooker, and Marshall Bell is one of the rebels.

    For the Trekkies, Marc Alaimo ( Star Trek: DS9 ) pops up as Everett, while fellow Trek veteran Robert Picardo ( Star Trek: Voyager ) does the voice-over of the Johnny-Cab!

    The action scenes on Mars are scarred by the unbelievable concept that a group of highly-trained soldiers could get taken on by a bar full of hookers and gutter-trash.

    So, was it a dream? The script is deliberately very ambiguous.

    It Lives Again

    Frederick Forrest (Apocalypse Now) plays a doctor whose wife is pregnant with a hideous monster child. A secret society of doctors helps deliver the baby, and takes it to a safe-house where two other such creatures are kept.

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    Philadelphia Experiment II

    This is a shiney sequel that owes little to the original. Gerrit Graham ( Star Trek: Voyager ) plays a mad scientist in the USA, son of a mad scientist from Nazi Germany. He sends a USAF stealth plane through a time portal and as a result the Nazis win the Second World War.

    The hero from the previous film is hit with flashes of energy when Graham's experiments take place. Once the past-changing event itself takes place, the hero is thrust into a parallel world - a Nazi-ruled USA, a 1984 scenario with barcodes in everyone's wrist and cinema screens on the street walls which broadcast things like citizen thought for the day. The resistance is led by token babe Marjean Holden .

    The truth? The USA is ALREADY ruled by its military-industrial complex. As for fascism, what about the War on Drugs?

    The end? The hero uses some ruthless tactics to defeat his enemy. And do you really think a Hollywood movie would have a downbeat ending? Okay, they might - but would they let the Nazis win?

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    King Kong

    This is the 1970s remake of 1930s Fay Wray original. The hero is Jeff Bridges, son of the then-famous Lloyd Bridges. Introducing Jessica Lang , who four years later was in another famous remake - The Postman Always Knocks Twice. Other familiar faces include Ed Lauter, Rene Auberjonais ( Star Trek: DS9 ) and John Lone ( Iceman ) as the Chinese cook!

    While the first film featured a crew making a movie, the new version is about some people exploring for oil. This helps to further date the film to the 1970s - the oil crisis was big news then, but not even a memory now. The other modernised feature is the ending, which features helicopter gunships. Their tactics are anachronistic: they should stay well back and take advantage of the fact that their gatling guns have a HUGE range.

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    Battle Beyond the Stars

    John Saxon (token white man in Enter the Dragon) is an interstellar dictator with an army of green-blooded mutants and a weapon that can destroy an entire planet.

    The only one who can stop him are a ragged band of seven magnificent space-gun slingers.

  • Richard Thomas ( It ) is the farmboy who recruits them.
  • Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE) is the only one of the original Magnificent 7 who makes it to Sci-Fi.
  • George Peppard (The A-Team) is Space-Cowboy, whose very presence reveals the origins of the script.
  • Sybil Danning is Sadex the Valkyrie. Not only does she get some cleavage-boosting costumes, she also gets some sexually-tilted lines. What I would do with that boy - stimlate his solonoids ... you know, sex!
    You've never seen a Valkyrie go down!
  • Beastmaster, The

    An evil Priest (Rip Torn) plots to sacrifice the unborn child of his King, to prevent his prophesied death at the hands of the infant. The priest is led away in chains, and exiled to live among the barbarians. One of his witches magically implants the child in the womb of a cow, and takes it away for sacrifice.

    The child is rescued by a passing sell-sword, and raised to become Marc Singer. The mercenary names him Dar, and teaches him how to sword-fight. He also has a throwing weapon that seems a cross between a hatchet and a frisbee.

    The barbarians arrive at the village, led by Rip Torn, and burn it to the ground. Dar is the sole survivor - the bastards even kill his dog - and sets out to find his destiny.

    Dar has developed a telepathic link with animals, and befriends certain creatures as he quests to regain his rightful heritage. His animal friends include a hawk, a pair of kleptomaniac ferrets and a black tiger. He also meets Tanya Roberts (fresh from Charlie's Angels), who is the film's babe factor.

    The film's cinematography is quite impressive. The music, OTOH, does not compare to the Wagnerian chords of Excalibur and Conan the Barbarian - it is merely a lacklustre version of the Battlestar Galactica theme tune.

    Singer's earlier roles included a guest appearance in the Planet of the Apes TV show, and a supporting role in Burt Lancaster movie Go Tell The Spartans. He is most famous for his role in V , and also starred in SF film Watchers II . He is also star of Beastmaster II, which came out about a decade after the original. The sequel transports Dar to 1990s Los Angeles, and pairs him with a Valley Girl played by Kari woo-woo Wuhrer.


    Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon play a couple of handymen who work in Perfection Valley in MidWest America. They wire up the fences, haul the garbage, empty the sewage tanks ...

    For some reason, the State University has seen fit to position a lot of valuable seismograph equipment (and a Grad student - the babelicious Reba McIntyre ) in the middle of the desert, in case of an earthquake or volcanic erruption. And however unexpected, there actually are some readings ...

    The handymen are on their way out of the valley for good, when they discover that something is mysteriously killing off the residents and eating their sheep and vehicles.

    The survivalist couple survive rather well, which is unusual for Hollywood.

    Written and directed by Ron Underwood , this is a fun film that allows a couple of Hollywood's better supporting actors take the lead.


    Directed by Paul Verhoeven , this film is a futuristic revenge thriller. The central character is obviously inspired by Judge Dredd , though this film is far superior to the ACTUAL Dredd film that was released seven years later.

    The cast is filled with familiar faces.

    Peter Weller ( Naked Lunch ) plays a cop who is gunned down by gangsters Kurtwood Smith ( Doorways ) and Ray Wise ( Swamp Thing ).

    Corporate yuppie Miguel Ferrer ( Tales from the Crypt ) has Weller's body used to create Robocop, a cyborg police officer.

    Ferrer's boss, Dan O'Herlihy ( Halloween III: Season Of the Witch ), is pleased with the outcome - Ferrer's rival, Ronny Cox ( Total Recall ), is less than happy.

    Robocop and his partner, Nancy Allen (Philadelphia Experiment), team up to take down the gangsters.

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  • Body Parts

    Jeff Fahey was excellent in Psycho 3 , but has been consistently bland in everything he has done since then. The plot is a basic rip-off of Hands of Orlac . He is an amputee who gets a serial killer's arm grafted on, and soon becomes a suspect in a murder spree.

    The best line is when a reporter asks Fahey, shortly after he has had a new arm attached to replace his severed one, Will this affect your sex life?

    Mars Attacks

    This is Director Tim Burton 's take on the infamous 1950s collectors' cards, filled with CGI SPFX and famous stars. There are three main groups of characters, whose stories overlap.

    The Washington Characters.

  • Jack Nicholson [Mr President],
  • Glen Close [Mrs President],
  • Natalie Portman [President's daughter].
  • Paul Winfield [Nice General],
  • Rod Steiger [Nasty General]
  • Pierce Brosnan [Wimpish Science Advisor]
  • Michael J Fox [slightly nasty version of his Spin City character],
  • Sarah Jessica Parker [slightly ditzy version of her Sex in the City character]

    The Las Vegas characters:

  • Annette Benning,
  • Tom Jones [as himself],
  • Danny DeVito,
  • Jim Brown,
  • Pam Grier

    The third group of characters are a redneck family living in a trailer park. Joe Don Baker is Paw, Christina Applegate is the local slut and Lukas Haas ( ) is the black sheep of the family.

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  • Galactica Discovers Earth

    Kent McCord and Barry Van Dyke play the next generation of warriors aboard Battlestar Galactica.

    This is just cobbled together from a couple of episodes of the disasterous Battlestar Galactica spin-off, Galactica 1980 . Usually the second part is the cylon ship crashes on Earth one - this time it is the go back to 1944 and stop Dr Xavier from helping the Nazis story.

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  • Alice in Wonderland

    This appears to be a British made-for-TV effort from the early 1990s. There is an extensive cast of celebrities that makes this seem like a big-budget pantomime for the American market.
  • Miranda Richardson is the Queen of Hearts
  • Whoopee Goldberg is the Cheshire Cat
  • Gene Wilder ( ) is a turtle. Don't ask.
  • Drop Dead, Fred

    Rik Mayall is the title character, an imaginary friend from the childhood of Phoebe Cates . She discovering her husband (Tim Matheson, playing the same ever-slimy pretty-boy he always plays) , is having an illicit affair with a ditzy Bridget Fonda character. Carrie Fisher pops up as Cates' best friend.

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    Back to the Planet of the Apes

    This is the pilot episode of the 1970s TV show. As in the first movie, a group of human astronauts crash-land in the strange futuristic wasteland ruled by intelligent gorillas, chimps and orang-utangs. Unlike Heston in the original film, this time they land in the year 3085 in the San Francisco area. The apes include a couple of familiar faces - the ancestors of Cornelius and Dr Zeus. The villain is General Urko, played by Mark Lenard (famous as Sarek, father of Spock in Star Trek .

    The climax is not violence-intensive, but rather of the let's all work together and get along variety. Which is certainly a nice break compared to the ass-kicking encouraged by the likes of Buffy.

    Arabian Nights

    This is the big-budget BBC adaption of the arabic tales. Scheherazade (Israeli actress Mili Avital ) is married to the Sultan (Dougray Scott - Mission Impossible 2 ), and tells him cliff-hanger stories to stop him chopping her head off. The poor girl is wasted on this violent, impatient monster.

    The tales she tells include:

  • Ali Baba (Rufus Sewell - A Knight's Tale ) and his brother Kasim (Andy Serkis - Lord of the Rings ) try to outsmart the Forty Thieves.
  • BacBac the Hunchback (Alexei Sayle - Indiana Jones And the Last Crusade ) is the victim of a comedy of errors. This seems to have influenced a particular Hitchcock film.
  • Aladdin (Jason Scott Lee - The Jungle Book ) gets magical wishes from the Genie of the Lamp (John Leguizamo - ).
  • Salem's Lot

    Based on the novel by Stephen King , this story sees Starsky & Hutch star David Soul as a journalist who goes to a small town in New England.

    Two young boys go missing while walking home one night. Suspicion falls on James Mason ( ), an antiques dealer who has recently moved into the local mansion. One of the boys turns up, with a mysterious medical condition that the doctor can only diagnose as pernicious aenemia.

    In the second half, the town has a virtual epidemic of pernicious aenemia. We also see the appearance of The Master - a Nosferatu-looking creature that was copied for Buffy and inspired the Thomas Ian Griffiths character in John Carpenter's Vampire$.

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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    This is the movie based on a script that was later spun off into a major TV franchise. Creator Joss Whedon was never happy with this film, blaming interference by the big-name actor, and has pretty much disowned this project. However, many hallmarks of the later show are visible here. Also, it is notable for how many of young actors in it later became much bigger stars.

    Kirsty Swanson is Buffy, a High School cheerleader in California, USA. She spends her days hanging out with mean girl Hilary Swank (who went on to be The Next Karate Kid and won an Academy Award for Boys Don't Cry) and nerdy girl Cassandra ( Natascha Gregson Wagner ). She also has a love interest - Pike (Luke Perry - Jeremiah ), who is rather reminiscent of Xander.

    Buffy's life is turned upside down with the arrival of the Watcher (Donald Sutherland - Don't Look Now ). He tells her she is the Vampire Slayer, and must fight evil. Unfortunately this is too late for David Arquette ( Scream 3 ) and Seth Green ( My Stepmother Is An Alien ), who both end up as minion vamps. Paul Reubens, best known as Pee-Wee Herman, is the sidekick of the villainous Master Vampire (Rutger Hauer - Blade Runner ).

    Many other familiar faces can be spotted in the background. Rikki Lake is the waitress, and Ben Affleck ( Batman Vs Superman ) is an opposition player in a High School basketball game.

    Buffy in the TV show is relatively smart and witty; here she is just a slutty bimbo. OK, so there is no real difference - but in the movie these traits are exaggerated in extremis. The whole thing has been dumbed down and the comedy has been played up.

    One scene is a reference to Salem's Lot - Arquette appears at Perry's window and begs to be let in. Of course, writer Joss Whedon decrees that vampires can't get in if you don't invite them - no doubt a reference to The Lost Boys , which starred Donald Sutherland's son Kiefer.

    Swanson's Buffy comes off as a lot more mature than Gellar - but on the other hand, while Swanson displays acrobatic talent in keeping with the cheerleader role we must not forget that Gellar is a Brown Belt in Tae Kwan Do!

    The Craft

    Robin Tunney and her father leave San Francisco for Los Angeles, and when she starts at the local R.C. church-run school she falls in with Fairuza Balk, Rachel True & Neve Campbell the three local witches. They are outcasts who no doubt took to witchcraft. However, their spells all turn out to have terrible side-effects.

    All except True have had other successful SF films. Campbell's performance is by far the best in the film - subtle yet entirely convincing.

    Skeet Ulrich here plays the BF of Tunney and Balk - he also played Campbell's BF in the overrated Scream a year later.

    Cliff deYoung is Tunney's screen father, a role typical to his filmography of supporting roles of countless TV shows.

    Assumpta Serna , the Spanish actress famous for her role in Matador by Pedro Almodavar , pops up in a couple of scenes as the owner of a shop that sells witchcraft items.

    This film owes a debt to Witches of Eastwick , which is even acknowledged in Ulrich's reference to the babes as the Bitches of Eastwick. In turn the film seems to have inspired the terrible TV show Charmed - yes, the reason the great theme tune to Aaron Spelling's rubbish seems so out-of-place is that it is stolen from this film!

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    The Witches

    This film is based on the novel by Roald Dahl . A young boy and his grandmother go to stay in a hotel on the coast of England. The manager is that mainstay of British comedy films, Rowan Atkinson.

    The boy discovers that the hotel is host to a convention of Witches, including Anjelica Houston and Jane Horrocks . They capture him and turn into a mouse - he meets his own pet mice, who are very patriotically called William and Mary!

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