ORBzine - May 2006 Movie Reviews

The Day the Earth Stood Still

This takes place back in 1951, when people were obsessed with Flying Saucers and the Cold War, and life took place in monochrome.

A spaceship lands in Washington DC, and a humanoid alien named Klatuu gets out. He's treated with suspicion by the McCarthyite forces of the US military, so he escapes and passes himself off as a US citizen. He can speak perfect English - learned from TV and radio broadcasts, of course.

Klatuu represents an interplanetary UN, which seeks to prevent Earth having a nuclear war. When the feuding Earth Governments don't submit to his wishes he uses his power to stop all electricity in the world. The Earth doesn't stand still for a full day, only 30 minutes. And exceptions are made - hospitals, planes in flight and so on.

This has a pacifist message, opposing the paranoia of The Thing From Outer Space . The alien, Klatuu, rises from the dead - like ET, Aslan and some guy who was nailed to a tree a couple of thousand years ago. Neat trick!

This is a nice attack on McCarthyism, but we must be careful about how we interpret the pacifism message. The film was made during the Korean War, which was later mocked in the MASH film and TV show. It would be nice if the true aggressor, Stalin, was brought to heel by super-powerful aliens. Crushing McCarthyites is always a good thing, but world peace comes at the price of removing the world's villains.

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  • A.I. Assault (AKA Shockwave)

    This is a long-awaited TV movie, made for the US SciFi channel. Cult favourite Hudson Leick gets third billing, though she is only a gangster's moll [and is listed sixth in the end credits, as Tiffany]. She, along with a couple of cliched robbers and a handsome square-jawed pilot, end up on a Hawaiian island.

    George Takei [ Star Trek: TOS ] flies a Jumbo Jet carrying Robert Picardo [ Star Trek: Voyager ] and Alexandra Paul . And a pair of killer robots, which escape and kill everyone. The plane disappears of radar near the same island.

    General Michael Dorn [ Star Trek: DS9 ] and sidekick Billy Mumy [ Babylon 5 ] send a team of US Navy seals to the island to collect the robots. These pretty-boys wouldn't last 5 seconds against any fictional military unit commanded by a Michael Biehn Character, but nobody notices.

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  • Vampire's Kiss

    Robert Bierman delivers a low-key pseudo-thriller set in New York City.

    Nicholas Cage [ Face/Off ] has sex with girlfriend Kasi Lemmons , when a big fat rubber bat flies in the window and disturbs them. Next night he has a one-night-stand with Jennifer Beals , and she sucks him off ...

    Maria Conchita Alonso has a supporting role.

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  • City Beneath The Sea

    Made in 1970, this is the kind of thing one would expect from director Irwin Allen . Basically, the USA constructs an underwater city at the bottom of the Pacific ocean. Its name, predictably enough, is Pacifica.

    Stuart Whitman [Devil's Brigade] is the admiral in charge, while Robert Wagner [ Austin Powers ] is the boss of the underwater construction crews.

    There are the usual construction accidents and human melodrama. Then it is revealed that Pacifica will replace Fort Knox as depository of the US Government's gold and nuclear fuel. Of course, this is a temptation for bullion thieves ...

    Half way through, we discover that a planetoid [a glowing red ball] is flying through space, on collision course with Earth. Naturally it will hit Earth ... around the location of Pacifica!

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  • Bell, Book and Candle

    James Stewart falls in love with Kim Novak . He's a publisher, she's a ... witch!

    This is a love story, but there's no chemistry between the leads. A pity, since Hitchcock did okay with them in Vertigo.

    There's a humour element as well, though this isn't actually funny. A conspiracy theorist wants to write a book about modern-day witches, and stumbles across the real thing! Stewart pays him an advance to write it, and one of Novak's warlock buddies co-writes it.

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  • Mission: Impossible III

    The film starts with Tom Cruise as a prisoner, and Philip Seymour Hoffman holding a gun to his love interest's head!

    After this nail-biting kick-start, the rest of the story is flash-back. It's really a cross between the other 2 MI films, with huge chunks of Alias thrown in for good measure.

    Tom Cruise is retired from IMF, settling down in twenty-something Alias style house-parties with his leggy generically beautiful doctor fiance. Like Bridget Moynahan in Sum of All Fears. However, he is called back for One Last Mission.

    Tom has to defeat villainous arms-dealer Hoffman. Of course, there is an IMF team - including Ving Rhames from the first 2 movies. But these are all background faces, with no real purpose other than to feed Tom his lines. The movie's about him and what's-her-face.

    After capturing Hoffman, they don't take him to Gitmo or Alcatraz or wherever. No, they drive him across the big long bridge where Sanchez was rescued in Licence To Kill . You know, the one where Big Arnie strafed the convoy in True Lies .

    Problem is, there's a rogue IMF agent. Just like in BOTH the other M:I films! Cruise is framed [again!], with Laurence Fishburne [ Event Horizon ] in the Kittridge role. God, this is so derivative that the superweapon plot-device they are after is hinted at being like the virus in the second film, but they don't even waste their time by saying what it is!

    JJ Abrams wrote and directed this. He's the creator/director of Alias and Lost , and he acquits himself well here. But what really makes the film is the budget. It provided not only tons of SPFX and stunts, but more importantly Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's the one that makes the film watchable!

  • Mission: Impossible
  • Mission: Impossible II
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  • The Mask of Zorro

    Don Diego [Frank Langella - Dracula 1979 ] is a successful military officer in Madrid, but he quits his commission when he is summoned home to the Spanish Imperial province of California.

    California has been taken over by a greedy Governor, backed by sword-wielding Captain Ricardo Montalban [ Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan ] - in the most painfully embarrassingly tight trousers ever!

    Don Diego poses as a spineless fop [like The Scarlet Pimpernel] to woo Anne Archer . He transforms into his black-mask costume for swashbuckling feats as Zorro [The Fox].

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  • The Adventures of Don Juan

    This is a swashbuckler from 1948. Errol Flynn plays Don Juan, a 16th Century Spanish lothario, duellist - an Errol Flynn type, really.

    Don Juan returns to Spain to discover that the Duke de Orca is plotting to start a war. This militarism is ignored by the feeble King, and DJ must help the Queen set things right.

    Since this was made just after WW2, the pacifist theme in an action film makes sense. Flynn's role is something of a self-parody, which he executes marvellously.

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  • Beetlejuice

    Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin die in an accident, and end up haunting their own home. A new family moves in, including goth-chick Winona Ryder . To evict the newcomers, Davis and Baldwin hire a professional haunter named Beetlejuice [Michael Keaton]. And hilarity ensues.

    That was the idea, anyhow.

    Tim Burton directed this before he did Batman . He liked Michael Keaton so much, he made him the title character in that as well!

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  • The Triangle

    Triangle This is a US made-for-TV effort, in 3 feature-length parts. Craig R Baxley directs, Dean Devlin & Bryan Singer produce.

    In the first part, Sam Neill [ Jurassic Park ] hires a team of investigators to discover the truth behind disappearances of his ships within the Bermuda Triangle. Catherine Bell , Bruce Davison [ X-Men ], Eric Stoltz [ Fly 2 and an australian bloke ...

    Poor Lou Diamond Philips [ The Big Hit ] is relegated to a subplot as a Triangle survivor who has confusing flashbacks.

    In part 2, our heroes run into MIBs from the US Government. Later they discover that alterate realities have something to do with the problem. Not real science, which the kids in Physics class are experimenting with.

    In part 3, they discover how to save the world.

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  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

    This is the original Bounty movie, though 3 later versions were also made. It starts with a cleanshaven Clark Gable pressganging sailors for the Bounty's crew, even though the country wasn't at war and the real crew were volunteers.

    Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

    Captain Bligh [Trevor Howard - ] is harsh with discipline, and orders Richard Harris [ Orka ] flogged for a minor offence. Fletcher Christian [Marlon Brando Superman ] looks on disapprovingly, even though Bligh gives good justification for his actions.

    The Bounty (1984)

    This version was made a generation later, and is very different indeed. Instead of demonising Bligh [Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ] it is told from his perspective, as he recounts the tale of the Mutiny in front of a Royal Navy tribuneral.

    Christian [Mel Gibson - Braveheart ] is Bligh's friend, hand-picked for the job. However, the temptations of Tahiti [rather than the punishments of naval duty] drive him to lead the crew in mutiny.

    There are some amazing actors in the supporting cast. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the officers, while Liam Neeson [ Krull, Star Wars I: Phantom Menace ] is a mutinous crewman.

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