ORBzine Movie Reviews October 2000

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The Hollow Man

This is yet another SF extravaganza directed by Paul Verhoeven ( Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers ). Unfortunately this is nowhere near as good as the others. The SPFX are breath-taking, but the plot is sadly lacking.

The top-billed star is Elizabeth Shue , although she is not the central character - and actresses usually get listed in second place to the male actors. Anyway, nobody ever played 6 degrees of Elizabeth Shue.

The central character, both the title character and the point-of-view (POV) character for the first half of the film, is played by Kevin Bacon ( Apollo 13 ). He is a scientist, in charge of a group that is conducting research into invisibility. Other members of the group include Ms Shue, Josh Brolin and Kim Dickens as a feisty veterinarian.

Rhona Mitra has a cameo as Bacon's babelicious neighbour who leaves her curtain open while she undresses. William Devane ( Space Cowboys ) has a cameo as the Pentagon Official who funds the project. If you have seen the trailer, you will know what happens to him.

At the start of the film we discover that the team has long ago managed to make animals invisible. The problem is, there seems to way to reverse the process. However, Bacon makes a breakthrough that helps them make a test animal visible again. He takes the opportunity to become the first human to become invisible, but things do not go as expected ...

The first half of the film is told from Bacon's POV. The second half is from Elizabeth Shue's POV - she is the real hero, worthy of a James Cameron film. This, and the fact that she was Oscar-nominated several years ago, are the only conceivable reasons she got top billing.

The moral of the story is that power corrupts. Since Bacon's character is obnoxious to start with, he is quick to corrupt. When he finally goes on the rampage the supporting characters flounder about like headless chickens. The more of them that die, the better their solutions get - which makes the viewer ask, Why did they not just do that in the first place?

The villain is merely a naked man, not a Terminator. Yet like all villains in cliched horror films, he just keeps on coming!

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Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps

The original Jerry Lewis Nutty Professor film was a romantic comedy. However, this is a gross-out comedy of the kind formerly made by the Farrelly Brothers . If you want a romantic comedy, check out their latest film - the very toned-down Me, Myself & Irene.

Eddie Murphy plays the title character - not just Professor Klump but his entire fat-ass family. Even the over-sexed granma! Janet Jackson plays the love interest, a fellow African-American scientist.

Buddy Love, Klump's alter ego from the first film, is back! However, he has the baser instincts of a dog! We also get a pretty gross scene involving another genetic freak, a giant hamster!

SF fans should watch out for the dream sequence that has references to Armageddon Star Wars and even 2001!

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Space Cowboys

This starts with some black & white footage set in 1958. The young USAF crew, training towards being the first Americans in space, speak with the voices of our stars - Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner. However, thanks to their malicious boss (James Cromwell - Star Trek: First Contact ) they are replaced with chimps and thus lose their chance to become astronauts.

Forty years later and NASA has a problem. A Russian satellite is about to drop out of orbit, and the only man who can prevent this is the one who designed the navigation system - Eastwood! NASA staffer Marcia Gay Harden persuades Cromwell to bring Eastwood in, but Clint insists his three buddies come along for the ride.

The old-timers struggle to pass the NASA tests. William Devane ( Hollow Man ), himself no spring chicken, keeps an eagle eye on them in case they start any mischief.

There is a cameo by US Chat Show host Jay Leno, when the four aging astronauts appear on his show.

This film takes into account the age of the stars - unlike the more recent Sean Connery films, for example. Sutherland's character is a sixty-something babe-hound, despite the fact that he wears glasses that look like the bottoms of coke bottles. At least Eastwood, who Directed and Produced the film, chose to have his character married to a woman of his own age.

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The Little Vampire

This is adapted from a set of childrens' books. There was a previous adaption made in the 1980s for US TV. The hero is an 8-year-old American boy, an only child who has been moved to Scotland from San Diego so his father can oversee the construction of a Scottish Laird's golf course. The wee Yank is very unhappy. At school he is bullied by the Laird's grandsons, who are xenophobic and obviously think that they are William Wallace.

When he finally does make a friend, it Is the title character. The vampire's parents are played by Richard E. Grant ( Hudson Hawk ) and Alice Krige ( Star Trek: First Contact ).

As in the original, there is a Vampire Hunter in the area. However, this time he is not a Van Helsing type. The new Hunter is obviously based on the James Woods character Jack Crow in John Carpenter's Vampires

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What Lies Beneath

Director Robert Zemeckis has made his feature-length homage to Alfred Hitchcock . Really, someone should have pointed out that ONE Hitchcock was more than enough.

The first half of the film is a big take on Rear Window, and at the end there is even a reference to Diabolique. Pfeiffer discovers her new house has a haunted bathroom, and suspects the ghost is the new neighbour's missing wife.

This is really a Michelle Pfeiffer film. It is her first film in half a decade, and she is excellent in the role. Harrison Ford is merely a supporting actor - for the first half of the film he is exceedingly wooden, although admittedly in the second half he is NOT the Harrison Ford that viewers are used to seeing.

The trailer gives away the first half of the film. The ending is a stream of climaxes, and finishes in the most contrived manner possible. Even for a movie about the supernatural, this is pretty unbelievable.

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Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows

The first film purported to be a documentary. This one purports to be a fictionalised recreation of actual events. In a move to blur fiction and reality, the characters all have the same name as the actors that portray them.

Instead of three characters there are five - on a tour led by a guide named Jeffrey (Jeffrey Donovan - Burn Notice) who has previously been hospitalised for mental health problems. His four guests are a married couple who are writing a book, a Wicca babe named Erica ( Erica Leerhsen , and a sexy Goth chick named Kim ( Kim Director ) who claims to be psychic.

They go out into the woods, and spend the night camping at the ruins of Ruskin Parr's house. This is not the house from the first film; it is merely a few brick walls, and there is no cellar. They wake up next morning in a state of disarray. The cameras have been trashed, it is raining scraps of paper from the writers' research, and nobody knows what happened in the last five hours.

They all head off to the guide's house - which is a deserted factory complex in the middle of the woods. Strange things continue to happen. The first film implied that the characters saw and heard things: this film has the budget to show us ghostly images.

At the end we get to see the footage, which tells us what went on in the missing hours. And we know more or less what happened. Well, less. Sad fact is, the script asks more questions than it answers.

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