ORBzine - March 2006 Movie Reviews

Starship Troopers 2

The original film was a mega-budget blockbuster. This belated sequel was filmed over 5 years later on a tiny budget [only 3 mil], and shot in a few weeks. Special Effects Wizard Phil Tippett , the man who gave us the AT-AT and ED-209, steps into the director's seat.

The film concerns a group of Colonial Marines - I mean, Mobile Infantry - who are trapped in a fortified tower on a bug-occupied world. The troopers include a few females - Sandrine Holt, Kelly Carlson and Brenda Strong . Strong played a starship captain in the first film - here she plays an infantry sergeant, a butched-up Lucy Lawless lookalike.

The story is a lot closer to Pupper Masters that the original ST film. The books were both written by Robert A. Heinlein , so it's not that important. What is important is that people should know what to expect. The original was action-adventure with a cynical, satirical undertone. This has the film noir lighting of Aliens , and creepiness abounds as we discover some of the survivors are controlled by alien bugs inside their skulls ...

Salvation is at hand, in the form of Captain Dax [Richard Burgi - 24]. He's a cynical, hard-bitten war-hero. The character was originally meant to be Sergeant Zim, but Clancy Brown was busy on Carnivale . The name Dax is a reference to Paths of Glory, a Kirk Douglas film about the First World War - not a reference to Star Trek: DS9 . And the actual cynicism itself is reduced to a quick scene tagged on to the very end of the film!

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  • Mysterious Island (2005)

    This is based on one of the less famous works of Jules Verne . In fact, this is more like a remake of the 1960s Disney version than a straight adaption of the original novel.

    During the US Civil War, a group of Union POWs [and apparently some women and a Confederate deserter] escape from a POW camp in a hot air balloon. They drift for thousands of miles until they are in the pacific.

    They arrive on a desert island, where the animals are of immense size. Unfortunately the leader of the escxape, Kyle McClachlan, [ Twin Peaks ] is missing ...

    Captain Nemo [Patrick Stewart - Star Trek: TNG ] appears, hiding on the set of Jurassic Park . No dinosaurs, but it's definitely the same electrified fence. He's retired from the Taliban and stopped attacking the democratic, freedom-loving and tolerant British Empire, but now he plots something far worse. Like Vincent Price's character in Master of the World [adapted from a different Verne novel] he seeks to use superweapons to enforce world peace. He's built a crude nuclear weapon!

    Meanwhile, Vinny Jones [Swordfish] leads a band of pirates. Yes, pirates! 1680s swashbucklers in the 1860s, so we know we're in for a Swiss Family Robinson type climactic battle.

    The second half of this 2-part extravaganza introduces a pretty-boy good-guy pirate, a bit like Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean . Oh, and some poorly-CGI'd giant spiders.

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  • Dead End

    It's the night before Xmas. Ray Wise [ Fire Walk With me ] and his family are driving through a remote forest in North America. They pick up a hitchhiker, a young woman dressed in white, and take her to the nearest farm. That's when things get creepy ...

    This is a ghost-story, reliant on underlying tension rather than expensive SPFX. The family bicker, one of them is picked off, and a blacked-out hearse drives past ...

    This film only got a limited cinema release in the UK, and there are good reasons why. The problem is, the characters are somewhat uninvolving. Ray Wise is a non-entity of a father. The wife is an annoying shrew, though she becomes a lot more interesting after her mental breakdown. The teen son is a complete pain in the ass, and should have been given a far more gruesome death. The teen daughter [ Alexandra Holden ] lacks the impact to be a kick-ass Scream Queen, the kind of Neve Campbell character that so proliferates the Horror genre these days.

    All in all, this film seeks to emulate films like Jeepers Creepers, Blair Witch Project, Ringu - and fails completely.

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