ORBzine - July 2006 Movie Reviews

Superman Returns

Superman Returns Bryan Singer delivers this long-awaited follow-up. It's been almost 2 decades since the last Superman movie, though we've had 2 TV shows in the meantime. This is the Superman for the post-911 era - but since the character's appeal outlasted the second World War, this comeback has a precedent. And Singer certainly fulfills the movie's potential!

The film starts with the familiar John Williams orchestral theme. Superman [newcomer Brandon Routh] returns from 5 years away, visiting the remains of his long-dead homeworld. But the people of Earth have learned to go on without him.

Lois Lane [ Kate Bosworth ] has moved on. She's got a new boyfriend, Perry White's nephew [James Marsden - X-men ], and even won a Pulitzer prize! It was for an editorial entitled Why the World doesn't need Superman. This is misleading, of course - she needs him to save her life at least twice!

The big rescue scene, where Superman saves a jetliner that Lois is aboard, comes during a botched space shuttle launch - like a mega-budget version of the pilot episode of Lois and Clark !

Meanwhile Lex Luthor [Kevin Spacey - K-Pax ] and his annoying bimbo, Parker Posey , burgle the Fortress of Solitude. Luthor's plan is to use the stolen Kryptonian tech to build his own continent. Not only is this a bigger version of his plan from the original movie Superman (1978) , but the Marlon Brando footage as Jor-El is used!

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  • Stealth

    Stealth In the near future, US Foreign policy is achieved by a trio of experimental USN supersonic stealth jets flown by Josh Lucas [ Hulk ], Jamie Foxx [Collateral] and Jessica Biel . Lucas is a clone of Matthew McConaghy [ Frailty ], Oscar-nominated Foxx is wasted as Token Black Guy, but Biel certainly looks good in the mandatory swimsuit scene.

    This cosy triumvirate has a spare wheel added, an AI-controlled superjet. The robot plane has the ability to copy the human pilots, which is a bad idea since Lucas is a cliched rebel who disobeys orders. Lucas is also opposed to the idea of robots in warfare because he doesn't want killing to become a Video Game - ironic, since modern aerial warfare is one step away from Space Invaders.

    The robot goes rogue, and the good guys go after it to avert a diplomatic incident. This isn't enough to keep the plot going, however. The film turns into an episode of 24 - Lucas must destroy a rogue CIA Covert Ops base, then save Biel from behind enemy lines in North Korea!

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  • Undercover Brother

    Undercover Brother This is a Blaxploitation version of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery . As such it's targeted towards a niche market, and went straight-to-video in the UK.

    The good guys are the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., a group of African-Americans [and token skinny white guy Dougie Howser - Starship Troopers ] who want to stop African-American culture from going mainsteam. The villain is The Man, a sinister megalomaniac who wants to stop mainstream culture absorbing African-Americanisms. Naturally, instead of joining forces the 2 segregationist sides fight each other.

    The Man wants to stop The General [Billy Dee Williams - Empire Strikes Back ] from becoming President of the USA. Nobody accuses him of being a sell-out, though the same cannot be said for the title character when he is seduced by Denise Richards !

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  • The Flame and the Arrow

    The Flame and the Arrow Medieval Lombardy, ruled by the Austrian Empire. Burt Lancaster [ Crimson Pirate ] is a hunter who dresss like Robin Hood. He stands up to the eeevil Governor, Ulric The Hawk [who speaks with an upper-class English Accent], and is outlawed.

    The climax is quite predictable. Burt and his sidekick, the beardy mute acrobat, infiltrate the villain's castle disguised as circus acrobats. Burt's real-life trapeze skills come in handy.

    Several ambiguous characters are written out, and a happy ending is imposed. Ignoring the fact that defeating a small-time governor is one thing, taking on an entire Empire is a different after entirely. There's at least one reason there was no sequel!

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  • Blackbeard's Ghost

    Blackbeard's Ghost Athletics coach Dean Jones [ Herbie ] is the only one who can see the ghost of pirate Captain Edward Teach [Peter Ustinov - ] - AKA Blackbeard!

    Blackbeard must do a good deed. He helps Jones' boss-cum-love-interest, Professor Suzanne Pleshette , out-cheat some gangsters at gambling.

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  • Prisoner of Zenda (1952)

    Prisoner of Zenda (1952) Stewart Granger [ Moonfleet ] plays himself in 2 roles - Rudolf, an Englishman abroad, and his lookalike - a distant cousin who is King of Ruritania. Unfortunately, the King's half-brother wants the throne for himself. Rudolf has to fit into the King's shoes, and his fiance Flavia [ Deborah Kerr ].

    If this version seems familiar, it may be because not only is it one of many adaptions of the novel by Anthony Hope , but it actually re-uses word for word the script of the 1937 version! What it offers is glorious technicolour, and a chance to see new acts in old, familiar roles.

    The villain's sidekicks include lovable rogue Rupert of Henzau [James Mason - Yellowbeard, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ] and Jane Greer , who was a mistress of Howard Hughes !

    Mason is the real star of the film. The climactic swordfight between him and Granger is excellent. The long shots are obviously stunt-doubles, but in the medium shots the actors acquit themselves magnificently!

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  • Adventures of Quentin Durward

    Adventures of Quentin Durward This is a 1950s adaption of a story by Sir Walter Scott . It is set in 1465, when Scotsmen and Frenchmen both had nice English accents!

    Robert Taylor [ Quo Vadis ]is the title character, a Scotsman sent to France to arrange a marriage alliance. He ends up battling a band of bandits, who carry muskets [about 100 years early] ...

    The Duke of Burgundy is plotting against the French King [Robert Morley]. George Cole is a helpful Gipsy, and Wilfred Hyde White [ Buck Rogers ] is a servant.

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  • Spy Kids 3-D

    Spy Kids 3-D As a follow-up to his previous 2 kid-friendly films, Robert Rodriguez decided to revive the decades-old 3-D technology. The result out-does Star Wars I: Phantom Menace !

    OSS scientist Salma Hayek sends Junie Cortez into a computer game to rescue his sister from The Toymaker [Sylvester Stallone - Judge Dredd ]. For backup, Junie calls in his Grandpa [Ricardo Montalban - ST II: Wrath of Khan ].

    The game segment, the main body of the film, is set in a virtual reality world. In the original cinematic release this incorporated a 3-D system, where the audience needed 3-D specs. The televised version doesn't have this feature, but the backdrops are still incredible. The game-world is a CGI animation, which allows for scenery and action that would be impossible in other movies. The road-race itself is unbelievably good, possibly the best car-chase ever filmed.

    The climax features the parents [Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino ], as well as a host of characters from the previous films.

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  • Hulk

    Hulk Released among a slew of big-budget superhero films, this is Ang Lee 's adaptation of the Marvel comic. It uses methods like split-screen to give the film a comic-book feel. Unfortunately it didn't do well the box-office, and the director hasn't done much big-budget work since.

    35 years ago, David Banner [named after the protagonist from the Incredible Hulk TV show ] was a US military scientist. He experimented with a new formula by injecting himself. But it affected his DNA, and he passed the mutation on to his son ...

    Modern day. Dr Bruce [Eric Bana - Troy ] and his co-worker, Jennifer Connolly , are testing a formula of their own. Her ex, a scheming member of the US Military-Industrial Complex [Josh Lucas - Stealth ] gets involved. He wants the formula, and the girl, for himself.

    Bruce's dad [Nick Nolte - ] is on the loose. He wants to unleash his own superpowers, and certainly steals the show.

    The story contrasts the relationship of Father and son (Bruce Banner and his dad) with the relationship of Father and daughter (General Thunderbolt and Jennifer Connolly ). The result is a series of strange coincidences.

  • Incredible Hulk Returns
  • Death of the Incredible Hulk
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  • Batman

    Batman Tim Burton came in for a lot of criticism when he cast Michael Keaton [ Beetlejuice ] as the title character. In truth, Keaton is excellent as the troubled alter-ego, the billionaire Bruce Wayne.

    Batman, masked vigilante of Gotham City, is after gangster Jack Nicholson [ The Raven ]. However, Nicholson gets physically and mentally disfigured when he falls into a chemical vat. He becomes ... The Joker!

    Batman himself is targetted by reporter Vicki Vale [ Kim Basinger ]. The Joker, in turn, goes after her to replace his multilated Moll, Jerry Hall .

  • Batman Returns
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman and Robin
  • Batman Begins
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  • Children of the Damned

    Children of the Damned This is a sequel to Village of the Damned , which was based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoo by John Wyndham .

    In the original story, a group of creepy super-intelligent telepathic brats are born in a small English village. Here, they are each from a different continent.

    The children, though alien in origin, just want to be left alone. The governments however, want to use the children to get more power.

    This is basically an allegory about the Cold War, with selfish Superpower governments and Mutually Assured Destruction.

  • Village of the Damned
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  • Taras Bulba

    Taras Bulba Tony Curtis [ The Vikings ] is a young Cossack who lives in a Polish city, He falls in love with a Polish woman - but her brother and his thugs object.

    Curtis and his brother flee back to their father, Tara Bulba [Yul Brynner - Light at the Edge of the World ]. They join the Cossack horde, and besiege the Polish city.

    Although the setting is the steppes of eastern Europe, this was actually shot on the magnificent plains of Argentina. The scenery is magnificent, and the huge battle scenes equally impressive.

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