ORBzine - Movie Reviews July 2000


Eighteenth Angel

Written by David Seltzer ( The Omen ), this is more of the same. Maximillian Schell ( The Black Hole ) is the leader of an excommunicated Etruscan band of Catholic monks who want to bring Lucifer to Earth.

Five hundred years ago a great inventor built the Astronomical Clock they use to predict the coming of Lucifer. Yes, the Renaissance and Reformation were the doing of the Devil!!!

Twenty years ago (in 1978) the technology was perfected to clone a mouse, and therefore a human. Yes, modern technology (playing god) is the doing of the Devil!!!

The mad monks must gather 18 Angels, present them to Lucifer, and he will choose the best. This bodes ill for Wendy Crewson , a teenage babe who seems marked for a terrible fate!

Stanley Tucci (Murder One) is a doctor, a friend of the girl's family.

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  • Aliens

    This Time It's War!

    Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley. She went on to star in the next two Alien films, as well as Galaxy Quest.

    Ripley is lured back to the world the alien eggs were discovered on by a sleazy Corporate yuppie named Burke (Paul Reiser). Reiser later left Hollywood to work in US sitcoms like My Two Dads (where he played a yuppie) and Mad About You.

    Ripley and Burke tag along with a team of Colonial Marines. Michael Biehn is Corporal Hicks, who becomes Ripley's love interest. The role was originally cast for James Remar (48 Hours), who had to drop out and as a result has had an unspectacular career. Biehn was the hero in Cameron's Terminator and has featured as a US Navy SEAL in The Abyss and The Rock.

    The other marines include the late, great king of UK stuntmen, Tip Tipping. Three of them ( Jenette Goldstein , Bill Paxton and Lance Hendrikson) got together again a couple of years later to play a family of vampires in the Cameron-penned Near Dark. Paxton and Hendriksen were in Terminator while Paxton and Goldstein were in Titanic.

    This is the best of the Alien series - it goes downhill from here. If you want to see a good sequel to this film, read the Dark Horse graphic novels; watch the films, but they do not fit the continuity as well.

    The Special Edition has more SPFX - the Sentry Guns to start with - but also features an extended backstory. The Special Edition brings out Ripley's motivation, the mothering instinct towards Newt, which conflicts with the Alien Queen's mothering instinct.

    Tales of Terror

    This is a trio of Edgar Allan Poe adaptions by Roger Corman , narrated by - who else - Vincent Price.

  • Morella
    A young lady returns to her family home, a mist-shrounded mansion somewhere near Boston. Her father (Vincent Price) is still haunted by the death of the girl's mother.

  • Black Cat/Cask of Amontillado
    Peter Lorre is the protagonist, a middle-aged drunkard with a young and beautiful wife. Lorre's wine-guzzling talent helps him match wits with Vincent Price, a champion wine-taster. Lorre and Price are soon good friends - but this changes when Lorre discovers what his wife and new best friend have been up to behind his back.

  • The Strange Case of Monsieur Valdemar
    Basil Rathbone is a hypnotist, called to treat a dying Vincent Price. Price passes away while hypnotised, but his spirit still responds to commands.
  • Mephisto Waltz, The

    The pre-M.A.S.H. Alan Alda is a journalist who interviews a pre- Spy Who Loved Me Curt Jurgens, and ends up the victim of a possession.

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  • Peter Benchley's Creature

    This has a number of things in common with another of his post-Jaws efforts, Beast. It was also a 4-hour TV movie, shown in two 2-hour sections. Again we get redneck fishermen and unbelieving Law-enforcement types.

    Benchley, famous for writing the book Jaws, is now a Save The Shark campaigner. The hero is also a marine biologist who wants to preserve and study the sharks. Like the scientist in Deep Blue Sea he wants to develop a medical cure (to Cancer this time, not Alzheimers). Kim Cattrall provides the babe-factor as his wife, and mother of their teenage son.

    The first half of the story introduces the characters and then starts to kill them off. Inevitably everyone blames the sharks.

    The second half of the story consists of the monster-hunters hunting, and being hunted by, the monster. However, the monster is a convincing enough prosthetic creation, and does the story credit.

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  • Age of Treason

    This is based on the novels of Lindsay Davis Bryan Brown plays Falco, a PI in Ancient Rome.

    The title is a pun on Age of Reason - except for the central character (and the names of a few other characters) there is nothing here that resembles the original books.


    Julian Sands is a spider expert who accidentally brings an ultra-venomous arachnid back from the jungle. A year later it is living in the basement of a house just bought by Jeff Daniels.

    Roy Brocksmith ( Total Recall, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey ) is one of the local spider-fodder - err, townspeople! Yes, the 8-legged beasties start to munch their way through the human population, and Daniels must wipe them out before a super-species hatches!

    John Goodman plays an OTT exterminator of the type in Graveyard Shift (Brad Dourif) and Mouse Hunt (Christopher Walken).

    Blade Runner [Director's Cut]

    This is the first real CyberPunk film - earlier efforts like A Clockwork Orange fall far short in terms of pure vision. Some reviewers have said that this film is purely style over substance - but WHAT style! The sets, the SPFX (by Doug Dark Star Trumbull), the soundtrack by Vangelis , the whole feel of the film - they are all amazing! Ridley Scott uses the film's Widescreen format to full effect. Every corner of the screen is filled.

    The down side is that although the film is based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick , the core aspects - Mercerism, the cult of controlling emotions - all are gone. Thanks to screenwriter Hampton Fancher the basic story is all that remains.

    As in Gattacca, the rich and perfect have mostly gone to the outer colonies. Only those too young, sick or poor are stranded on Earth. Los Angeles has turned into an over-polluted suburb of Hong Kong or Tokyo.

    Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired Blade Runner (bounty-hunter) is assigned by the Police chief (M. Emmett Walsh) to hunt down a group of Replicants (genetically engineered organic robot slaves):

  • Rutger Hauer, cinematic tough-guy
  • Brion James, who became the ultimate B-movie bad-guy
  • Darryl Hannah, the only one who REALLY got big-time
  • Joanna Cassidy, who faded into obscurity

    The other notable star is Sean Young , who plays Deckard's love-interest.

    There are several blatant differences between the studio release and the Director's Cut:

  • Harrison Ford voice-over that adds to the film noir feel of the movie, and adds exposition to an otherwise complex yet slow-moving film.
  • The Director's Cut includes the Unicorn dream sequence that was cut from the original. Scott later re-used it in Legend , which was COMPLETELY style over substance!
  • The Director's Cut asks the question, is Deckard himself a Replicant? He certainly lacks the superhuman speed, strength and sensory perception of those he hunts. However, Scott has stated in an interview for Channel 4 in the UK that Deckard was indeed a Replicant.
  • The final difference between the 2 versions is the ending. The studio decided to tag on to the ending the final scene from The Shining , a Stanley Kubrick film that they released around the same time.

    Dick once read the diary of a Nazi war criminal who complained that he could not get to sleep at night because of the screams of tortured children. Dick decided to write a story about psychopaths (those left unaffected by the suffering of others) and came up with DADOES.

  • Trapped in Space

    This is a 1996 made-for-TV movie, which should give some idea of the budget involved. The only recognisable names in the cast are Craig Wasson and Kay Lenz.

    The story was written by Melinda M. Snodgrass, from the story Breaking Strain by Arthur C. Clarke . It also resemble's another of Clarke's tales, Marooned in Space . It certainly shares one of that tale's major flaws.

    The action is set on a cargo ship that travels at sublight speeds to Venus. The ship has artificial gravity, but their journey will take months - a strange inequality of technologies. Also, although the ship is extremely spaceous there are apparently no other ships of similar size that could perform a rescue.

    The ship's Captain is a negligent asshole who does not pay attention while on watch, and as a result the ship is hit by a meteorite. The Captain bales out in the ship's only lifepod, which is a one-man ship!

    Life support systems are damaged, and there is only enough oxygen for three of the five crew to survive until they reach Venus. The cadet-babe goes EVA to find a Liquid Oxygen bubble, using a space suit with a built-in rocket-pack. This is the equivalent of looking for a gas leak by using a lit match!

    Further difficulties mean that there is only enough oxygen for 1 of the crew to survive. And as the clock ticks down they start to wipe each other out.

    The Whole Wide World

    This is based on the book One Who Walked Alone by Novaleyne Price, here portrayed by Renee Zellweger , and tells of her relationship with Robert E. Howard (Vincent D'Onofrio). Howard was the greatest pulp-fiction writer who ever lived, and is famous for creating (among others) Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conquerer.

    D'Onofrio was no doubt selected for this role because he played a socially-inept reject in Stanley Kubrick 's Full Metal Jacket. He went on to play the drunken loudmouthed redneck-cum-Alien in Men in Black , and there is a lot of that character in his portrayal of Howard!

    This reviewer has not yet had the opportunity to read Ms Price's book, and certainly did not know Mr Howard as well as she did. However, the portrayal of him in this film is certainly in keeping with this reviewer's opinion of him as gleaned from the forewords written to his books by those who knew him. Coming as he did from the USA's Deep South he may well have referred to his stories as yarns, and certainly there is a grimness to his tales and the world he set them in.

    The Fly

    This is David Cronenberg 's remake of the 1950s B&W Fly films. Like all Cronenberg films there is a lot of disgusting goo and slime, though not the excessive gore that most horror films have.

    Jeff Goldblum plays a mild-mannered scientist who invents a teleport pod. Geena Davis is a reporter who becomes his girlfriend. Together they get the pod to work, but when Goldblum tests it on himself a common housefly is trapped in the pod with him. The pod combines the two at a genetic level, and we are shown the gradual process of Goldblum slowly changing into a gigantic insectiod thing. Typical of Cronenberg, this features tons of goo and gore.

    This is not the only time the then-married couple, Goldblum and Davis, worked together. A year after this film was released they did another SF film together, Earth Girls Are Easy.

    Universal Soldier

    No, this is not an adaption of the comic strip in 2000 AD. It is the start of the partnership between German film-director Roland Emmerich and Korean-American screenwriter Dean Devlin. Every two years after this they released an SF film - Stargate, Independance Day, Godzilla. The soundtrack is by Ice T, who later went on to act in films himself.

    This film starts in Vietnam, where Private Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) tries to save some civilians from his kill-crazy Sergeant (Dolph Lungren). Both soldiers are killed in the fight, and listed MIA - their bodies shipped off for secret medical experiments.

    In the early 1990s a babelicious reporter is investigating the Unisols, a secret US Govt anti-terrorist unit. The Unisols (Universal Soldiers) are zombies of US troops killed in action. They include Van Damme, Lungren and Ralph Moeller (recently a Gladiator in the film of that name by Ridley Scott ). The reporter is played by Ally Walker , who never made it big in Hollywood and went on to work in TV instead.

    Walker tries to spy on the Unisol team, and gets chased the Unisols. The problem with this perfect weapon is that the Unisols start to regain their memories. Van Damme tries to save the civilian, in this case Ms Walker. Lungren, on the other hand, tries to slaughter the Deserter and POW.

    Van Damme and Walker hide out at a motel run by Robert Trebor (Salmoneous in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys ). Their only hope is to find Jerry Orbach, the doctor in charge of the experiment.

    The climax is just like every other Van Damme film; the muscle-head from Brussels gets beaten to a pulp, and develops superhuman strength in the last round. However, at least here the muscle-men admit they use steroids! :)

    Babylon 5: Thirdspace

    This is a TV movie that was made after the fifth Season of the TV show. It is set in the year 2261, in the middle of Season 4. This is not part of the Story Arc of the show, and is a completely stand-alone film.

    It was written by JMS himself, and proves that his creative juices were still flowing after the end of B5. Which begs the question, Why the hell is Crusade so bloody awful? JMS had enough talent, and he certainly had enough material in this movie to pad out the unbearably dull second half of Season 5. So what the hell went wrong?

    The film starts with a space-battle against some Raiders. The B5 fleet sends its POWs into slavery on a Drazi penal colony, no doubt for much-needed supplies since they are still quarantined by Earth. On their way back through hyperspace, Ivanova's Starfury Squadron stumble across a massive ... thing in hyperspace.

    Shari Belafonte pops up as a xeno-archaeologist working for IPX (Inter-Planetary Expeditions). IPX has a history of duplicity where B5 is concerned, and Ms Belafonte is no expection; she has her own secret agenda from the get-go.

    Meanwhile, Lyta Alexander ( Patricia Tallman ) is slowly driven insane by telepathic visions of the Apocalypse. We are also given the explanation of why Lyta and Zach never got together; it is about time JMS tied up this loose end!

    The artefact is a jump-gate to another space-time continuum - not normal space or Hyperspace, but a thirdspace. The problem that nobody has thought of is, the new dimension is inhabited with a species of ultra-hostile aliens. This seems to be a blatant steal from Star Trek: VGR 's Species 8472 - but as has already been reviewed in this web-zine, VGR messed up its' super-villain species and made it cute and fluffy!

    For babe-fans there is even a brief cat-fight!

    Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory

    This is a 1970s film adaption of Roald Dahl 's childrens' book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As with other Dahl stories, it is something of a morality tale.

    Gene Wilder ( Alice in Wonderland ) is the title character, owner of the most wonderous chocolate factory in the world. He holds a competition; five golden tickets are concealed inside the wrappers of Wonka choc-bars, and each ticket allows one child and one guardian to have a tour of Wonka's factory. The winners are young Charlie (who is unbelievably poor!) and four extremely rich, spoilt brats!

    The film has the trimmings of a musical - Wonka's midget sidekicks the Oompa-Loompas do a little song&dance routine every time one of the nasty kids gets what they deserve, to rub in the message.

    The problems with the message of this film are too numerous to dwell on. Charlie in his own way is as greedy and spoilt as the other kids.

    Incredible Shrinking Man, The

    This is basically a bigger-budget version of Land of Giants. While sailing, the hero's boat drifts into a strange mist and he gets covered in glitter. Back on shore, and as the weeks drift by he loses both weight and height. Eventually he is living in a matchbox, believed dead by his unsuspecting spouse!

    Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

    George Miller and Mel Gibson ( The Chicken Run ) return for the third Mad Max film. Set a couple of decades after the other 2 films, this borrows much from the second film. The pilot and the kid are both back, in different forms, and the car chase at the end is a complete rip-off.

    Max wanders the Outback and finds himself in Bartertown, run by Tina Turner and her balding sidekick, Angry Anderson. They recruit Max to face off against Master-Blaster, the 2-man team of a dwarfen genius and a retarded giant. Turner needs Blaster out of the way, because he is Master's linchpin in the control of the methane supply that Bartertown needs to survive.

    Later, in the outback he stumbles across a group of children, a colony of plane-crash survivors. One of the kids is Rebekah Emalogalou (whatever), who went on to appear in the soap opera Home and Away.

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  • Silent Running

    Bruce Dern spent the 1960s playing bad guys against Kirk Douglas; here he gets the lead role, and just about the only speaking part.

    In the far future the only terran vegetation still in existence is aboard a fleet of orbital space-ships. Dern and his three crewmates run one such ship. The government decides that keeping plants alive is a waste of resources, and orders the crew to jetison their cargo. Dern mutinies, murders his comrades and sets course for ... well, away.

    That is about everything interesting that happens - this is a very lacklustre film. Most of it is the psychologically unhinged Dern ordering around a trio of cute robots (which may have partly inspired R2D2).

    Project ALF

    The infamous Alien Life Form , the star of the late 1980s comedy show, has his own 1996 movie! Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) is a military commander who manages to capture the furry alien. Yes, ALF is in the custody of the USAF. He's turned himself into a kind of short, furry Sgt Bilko. However, Sheen wants to kill ALF by testing poisons on him until one works.

    Miguel Ferrer ( Robocop ) pop ups up as an ex-Astronaut turned UFO expert.

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  • Stephen King Adaptations


    Robert John Burke ( Robocop 3 ) plays a grossly fat 300lb lawyer who specialises in getting gangsters like Joe Mantegna (looking much meaner than he did in Godfather 3) off from murder charges.

    One morning a group of gypsies move into town, including the unbelievably sexy Kari Wuhrer . That night Burke is driving home, and because he is receiving fellatio from his wife he is distracted - and thus accidentally knocks down and kills the lady friend of the Gypsy King.

    The death is found to be accidental, and the Gypsy King curses Burke with the word thinner. As a result, Burke dramatically loses weight. He quits his diet, but keeps losing weight. He stuffs his face all day, but still loses weight.

    Burke discovers the Judge and Sheriff have suffered similar curses - and he realises he must have the curse removed or he will die. As he tries to track down the gypsies his efforts are hindered by his wife and doctor, both of whom want him committed.

    Eventually Burke confronts the thieving gyppo bastards and, when their curse is not revoked, uses a curse of his own. The curse of the White Man from town.

    Stephen King himself appears as the pharmacist, Mr Bangor.

    Cat's Eye

    As a Stephen King film, this includes the usual gratuitous references to his other works. The film starts by introducing the cat that joins the 3 story threads together. It is chased by Cujo and almost run down by Christine.

  • Quitters Inc James Woods plays a man who wants to quit smoking. A piece of typical King fan-wank, Woods watches The Dead Zone on TV.
  • The Ledge Robert Stack tries to run off with a gangster's GF, and has to walk around the OUTSIDE of the man's penthouse flat.
  • Cat's Eye The cat finds a home for itself with Drew Barrymore (in her post- ET, pre- Batman Returns childhood phase). Drew's on-screen mother hates the cat, and tries to have it killed. However, the cat is the only one who can save the wee girl from a tiny troll that lives behind her skirting board and sucks her breath out while she sleeps at night.

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  • Graveyard Shift

    Night shift at the dilapidated Bachman Mill, which is overrun with rats and sited next to a toxically polluted graveyard. The operator of the cotton-grinder is killed by a mysterious beastie.

    Next day a drifter comes into town, and he is the only man that the sleazy manager (Stephen Macht - Galaxina ) can get to run the Grinder. He meets up with the rest of the crew who end up assigned to clean up the basement. Brad Dourif has a eye-catching cameo as The Exterminator, a psychotic rat-hating Vietnam veteran. The hero's luurve interest says she is from Castle Rock, a piece of fan-wank for all King fans. Her best friend, Macht's GF, also makes the clean-up crew.

    Under the basement is a hidden sub-basement, and a maze of mysterious tunnels. Random characters are attacked by something that resembles one of the bird-monster things in Beastmaster . It must have an incredibly fast metabolism, because it gobbles down most of the cast in about half an hour.


    This is yet another movie based on a book by Stephen King , but this time it is a superior effort - it was adapted for the screen by William Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner .

    James Caan plays a novelist who is in a car crash in the Rockie Mountains. He is rescued by his biggest fan (Kathy Bates), but soon discovers that she is dangerously unbalanced and he is her prisoner.

    Caan started his comeback with this film, which introduced him to a new generation of moviegoer. For Kathy Bates , on the other hand, this was the start of her career. The other stars include Lauren Bacall who has a cameo as Caan's publisher, and Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story) as the local sheriff.

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  • Storm of the Century

    A small island, Little Tall Island, off the coast of Maine in the USA is beset with the greatest storm it has seen in a century. The local law-enforcement officer arrests a french sailor, and locks him in the jail cell.

    The prisoner seems to know everything about his captors - including every sin they ever committed.

    The island's residents start to comit suicide, with the words Give me what I want and I will go away. as their only suicide notes.

    References are made to Derry (where the nearest abortionist is) and Delores Claiborne, who apparently did something to her husband during an eclipse.

    The villain was responsible for the disappearance of the Roanoak colonists, and he will make the Little Tall inhabitants disappear too.

    The ending? Once you know what it is the villain wants, the ending itself is disgustingly predictable.

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