ORBzine - Disaster 2008 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark This is based on a video game and directed by Uwe Boll . It starts with scrolling text and a voiceover that provides background exposition. It goes on ten times longer than it ought to. It is not even necessary - the director should have used the rule Show, don't tell. However, apparently the test-audiences found the film confusing.

Tough-guy Christian Slater ( Hollow Man 2 ) and scientist Tara Reid have to save the world from invisible monsters. Stephen Dorff ( Blade ) helps. There is no characterisation or originality, although there are some Well-directed but unbelievably OTT action scenes.

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    Baal: God of Thunder

    Baal: God of Thunder Some archaeologists uncover an artefact from the cult of Baal, Sumerian god of thunderstorms. Unfortunately this unleashes Baal, and he starts a super-storm. The archaeologists go on a quest, and every time they uncover one of the four magic amulets Baal becomes stronger.

    Weather scientist Lexa Doig teams up with the US Military to fight the super-storm.

    This may have been written as a big-budget blockbuster, with exotic locations like Turkey in mind, but it was filmed on the cheap in Canada - and it shows! All the money went on the (quite decent) CGI SPFX and the one recognisable star. There are few extras and very limited locations. But it is a relatively pleasant way to waste a couple of hours, as long as you do not expect too much.

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    The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

    The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) Jennifer Connolly , scientific expert in alien biology, is called in by the MIBs when a UFO is detected entering the solar system. The UFO lands in Central Park, and Keannu Reeves ( The Matrix ) gets out. Secretary of State Kathy Bates and slimy Political advisor Kyle Chandler ( Early Edition ) take over and decide to subject the alien to extreme rendition ...

    Connolly and Klaatu go on the run together. They seek out alien scout James Hong ( Big trouble in Little China ) and human scientist John Cleese ( Life of Brian ).

    The original story dealt with the Cold War and McCarthyism. This time it is about Environmentalism and anti-terrorist paranoia. It seems that GWB's refusal to sign the Kyoto protocols has come to the attention of the Alien Empires. Klaatu's mission is to act as judge, jury and executioner for the entire human race!

    Colonel Robert Knoeper ( Hitman ) does his best to deal with Keannu's bodyguard, a huge alien robot. Unfortunately the robot unleashes a massive nanite swarm that threatens to destroy the entire human race!

    The climax is at Central Park, and seems more than a little reminiscent of Cloverfield !

  • Day the Earth Stood Still (1950s)
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    Dark Angel

    Dark Angel: I Come In Peace No, not the Jessica Alba TV show. This is a 1990 movie, also known as I Come In Peace.

    Dolph Lungren ( Universal Soldier ) is a rogue cop, after the drug lord who killed his brother. He teams up with by-the-book FBI Agent Michael Benben (Dream On).

    The cliched buddy-cop-duo, clad in 1980s apparel, roam the mean streets of Houston. Their target? A murderous drug-dealing ALIEN, who looks like a seven-foot-tall albino with long hair and Predator -style weapons. The Alien's Calico (a 9mm pistol) seems to fire 40mm grenades!

    This is actually quite a decent film. Cliches abound, but it is well-shot and the acting is well above average. It is well-meaning fun, well-cast and with excellent action scenes.

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    2012

    2012 It has been a few years since Sci-Fi uber-hack Roland Emmerich (now devoid of sidekick Dean Devlin) has landed us with a mega-budget disaster film like Independence Day Or Godzilla . But while the CGI SPFX have gotten even more OTT, the formula is pretty much the same.

    Scientists Jimi Mistry (The Guru) and the Operative from Serenity discover that the Earth's core is heating at a rapid rate, due to solar radiation. When informed, unlikable bureaucrat Oliver Platt ( Three Musketeers ) and US President Danny Glover ( Predator 2 ) decide to do something about it.

    By the year 2012, failed novelist John Cusack ( Identity ) tries to bond with the children from his failed marriage to Amanda Peet . He discovers from paranoid conspiracy theorist Woody Harrelson ( Zombieland ) that the world is about to end, so he must get his family to safety (it is a relative term).

    By incredible coincidence the lives of the central characters all somehow overlap. But that is another cliche of the disaster movie genre. The SPFX are great, but this is basically a very formulaic film. There are some nice touches of irony, but when all is said and done it is still incredibly predictable. To say more would risk spoiling certain non-surprises.

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    District 9

    District 9 This starts as a documentary set in an alternate world, where Aliens landed on Earth in the 1980s. They did not land in Los Angeles like in Alien Nation , but in Johannesburg, where they have been allowed to build a shanty town. The Apartheid system takes on as new look when you use it against non-humans.

    The protagonist is a middle-management Afrikaner (Sharlto Copely - Powers ). He is put in charge of the clear-out of the slum, transferring the aliens into a new concentration camp. But during the clear-out he gets infected with an alien fluid that causes him to metamorphose.

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    Heatstroke

    Heatstroke DB Sweeney ( Strange Luck ) and his team of plain-clothes Special Forces goons (including the compulsory blonde bikini babe) are on Hawaii, hunting for aliens monsters that give people nightmares and cause Global Warming.

    The creatures, who stalk their prey using imitation Predator heat-vision, turn out to be CGI lizard-men (like cheap-looking velociraptors).

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    Battlefield Earth

    Battlefield Earth This starts with a gratuitous intro text, explaining the Alien Invasion and the fact it is now the Year 3,000. This is also explained in dialogue!

    Humans have been reduced to the Stone Age. The hero is captured (nice stunts and SPFX). The Alien security chief (John Travolta - Face Off ) has some terrible scenes. The aliens are a mining corporation!

    The hero is Barry Pepper - you will not recognise his name, this film did not help his career much. He gets enslaved, but he is very rebellious. Travolta chooses him for language training. Unlike John Connor, the hero does not mess about.

    The climax involves cavemen flying thousand-year-old harrier jump-jets. There is also a planet-killer nuke.

    Plot holes aside, the ending is well shot. This film actually had promise.

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    The Invasion

    The Invasion Nicole Kidman is a psychiatrist, treating paranoid Veronica Cartwright . Anyone who has seen Ms Cartwright's previous sci-fi films (including the original 1979 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers ) will know she is never paranoid without good reason. Yes, this is the THIRD remake, not counting the original source ( The Puppet Masters ) or excellent parody The Faculty .

    As Kidman feels the creepiness ramp up, she takes her son to live with her ex-husband - creepy US Government Official Jeremy Northam ( The Net ). He was probably creepy BEFORE he became a pod person, which is the only explanation possible.

    Now Kidman must try to survive in a city full of pod people. Her only helpers are a couple of other doctors - BoyFriend Daniel Craig and his token ethnic best buddy Jeffrey Wright. Yes, they are better known as Bond and Leiter in the rebooted Casino Royale .

    The old cliches are continued. Male protagonists usually go back for the damsel in distress. Like Ellen Ripley, Kidman goes back for the child ...

    The Pod People manage to bring about world peace. It is a wonderful idea, but is the cost too high? The ending, entirely unconvincing as it is, gives us something to think about.

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1950s)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1990s)
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    Children of Men

    Children of Men This is as horrid a dystopia as one might wish to see. The story is set eighteen years after a flu pandemic sterilised every woman in the world - much like a certain evil plan in Stargate SG-1 . This time, fear has caused reactionary fascist governments to take over. With an aging population, Britain has decided to expel all asylum-seekers. The people live in fear of the fascist regime, more convincingly than in V For Vendetta .

    Clive Owen ( Sin City ) is hired by former GF Julianne Moore to help escort a woman to safety. The girl they are helping is ... pregnant!

    Our merry band of do-gooders are pursued by terrorists and fascists. Michael Caine ( Dark Knight ) pops up as a helpful old hippie.

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    Virus

    Virus It all starts when a Russian space station sends a signal to a research vessel. Apparently hostile aliens can travel as energy bursts, like in The Astronaut's Wife .

    Eight days later an American salvage ship discovers the Russian vessel adrift in the Pacific. Captain Donald Sutherland ( Don't look Now ) is going insane, while Jamie Lee Curtis and a Baldwin brother try to survive. Marshall Bell ( Total Recall (1991) ) is an old sea dog. Cliff Curtis ( Hercules: The Legendary Journeys ) rounds out the cast. He is tragically under-used, but this is one of the few roles in his career where he gets to acknowledge his maori heritage and to play someone who is not a villain.

    The research vessel seems to be abandoned. However, the Americans discover a survivor ( Joanna Pacula ) who provides them with some exposition. The scenes between her and the female lead, who is closer to an action hero than a traditional final girl, actually make this film pass the much-vaunted Bechdel test.

    The ship has been taken over by an alien life form, an electronic entity that acts like a computer virus. In a great play on the meaning of the title, the Artificial Intelligence regards humans as a virus and intends to exterminate them. This concept was echoed the following year as a main theme in the film The Matrix .

    The ship was equipped with a number of workshops, and the A.I. uses them to construct killer robots. Despite officially being an unarmed vessel, the ship also has a pile of AK-47s and RPGs aboard. Many explosions ensue.

    This was written by Chuck Pfarrer (Navy Seals) and produced by Dark Horse. It can be dismissed as a mediocre attempt in an over-used genre, with no real originality. At its most basic level it is just popcorn entertainment, although it places the emphasis on action-packed set-pieces rather than suspense so it can be categorised as Tech Noir rather than Horror. The director worked on a couple of James Cameron projects, and this effort suffers in comparison to them. It had potential but is actually quite unmemorable.

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    Terminator Franchise

    Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

    Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Arnieís back - again! Skynet has its third crack at john Connor. It sends back the T-X ( Kristanna Lokken ), which has some shapeshifter abilities but also some solid ones. The best of both worlds, perhaps, although the T-1000 was probably the best anyway.

    The terminator (Arnie) is sent back to protect John (Nick Stahl - Sin City ) and his wife to be ( Claire Danes ). Of course, she does not know about the terminators, or the fact that she is on the hit-list of a robot from the future, or that she and John are meant to fall in love ...

  • Terminator, The
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day
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  • Terminator 5: Genisys
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    Terminator 4: Salvation

    Terminator 4: Salvation John Connor (Christian Bale - Batman begins ) is a junior leader in the Resistance. There are so many survivors from the regular military that he is still a junior man. But Skynet still has plans to kill him, no matter what.

    After a raid on a Skynet facility, one man escapes alive. He tries to seek out the Resistance, so he can join up and help humanity fight back. He treks across California, dodging robotic attackers in an effort to find John Connor. He is joined by the compulsory kick-ass babe ( Moon Bloodgood ), perhaps the most blatant cliche in the entire film.

    This was directed by McG In an attempt by him to become a more respectable mainstream film-maker. The result isnít entirely terrible. It is let down by a poor script as much as anything. The casting is not the best, either.

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    Terminator 5: Genisys

    Terminator 5: Genisys This is supposed to be a return to the old Terminator films that we loved, but it is a sad mish-mash of the best ideas from different parts of the franchise. Also it is PG-13, so there is the bare minimum of violence, nudity and swearing.

    The story starts with the events of the first film, as told from the perspective of greasy grungy PTSD-ridden Kyle Reese (now looking like buff male model Jai Courtney from Divergent ). Somehow the Somewhere in Time photo of Sarah Connor in the jeep survived burning up, and that is the first clue something is different. John Connorís wife is also missing, so evidently the events of Terminator 3 & 4 are being ignored altogether. Also, in a strange crossover Matt Smith ( Dr Who 2005 ) is visible in the crowd scene - and he plays a vital role to the plot.

    Reese finds himself in an alternate 1984. He is chased by a T-1000, but saved by Sarah Connor ( Emilia Clarke ) who has lost four inches in height, but since the actress is playing ten years younger than her real age the shortness works to her advantage. Like John Connor in Terminator 2 , Sarahís father figure was a friendly Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

    By destroying the Terminator pieces in 1984 they destroy the Terminator 2 Timeline. The next step is to steal an idea from Sarah Connor Chronicles (which itself negated the Terminator 3 Timeline) and time-jump forward to destroy Skynet. This means John Connor will be removed from that timeline, but nobody cares. Also, Reese has learned that Skynet has changed. It is not the Cold War AI that controlled nuclear weapons. Its new plan is to release an online Operating System that will link every cell-phone in the USA. This might in itself accidentally cause The Singularity, but it is not explained how this would create a nuclear apocalypse.

    The movieís one original idea is to cast JK Simmons (Jonah Jameson in Spiderman ) as a good guy for a change. Also, it is nice to see Sandrine Holt cast as a SFPD detective, although she does not have any actual dialogue.

  • Terminator, The
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
  • Terminator 4: Salvation
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    Predator Franchise

    Predator 2

    Predator 2 LAPD detective Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) investigates a series of mysterious massacres. Everyone thinks they are linked to a drugs war between Puerto Ricans and Rastafarians, but Glover knows different. He realises there is an invisible alien slaughtering heavily-armed gangsters.

    Gary Busey ( ) leads a team of Men in Black who are conducting an investigation of their own. This was originally meant to be Arnold Schwarzenegger repeating his role from the original. However, Glover's team includes a couple of former Arnie co-stars - Bill Paxton ( Terminator, Aliens ) and Maria Conchita Alonso . Robert Davi ( Goonies ) and Kent McCord ( Battlestar Galactica 1980 ) also round out the cast.

    The result is a great hybrid - a good action cop film, and a good monster movie

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    Predators

    Predators Stone-cold mercenary Adrien Brody ( The Village ) wakes up in free-fall over an unknown jungle. Luckily someone has strapped a parachute to him. When he lands, he discovers that he is not alone. He teams up with other unwilling parachutists, including an IDF/CIA sniper ( Alice Braga ), a Mexican Cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo - Machete ), a Death row inmate (Walton Goggins - Hateful Eight ) and a harmless-looking doctor (Topher Grace - Spiderman 3 ). But after they stop fighting among themselves, they discover they are being hunted.

    This is a generational improvement on the original Predator movie. Instead of one Classic Predator, the team are being hunted by a trio of Super-Predators.

    The cast is outstanding, all playing their usual niche roles. Adrien Brody is incredible as an action hero, relying on his Oscar-winning talent rather than on weight-lifter muscles. And Laurence Fishburne ( Event Horizon ) has a scene-stealing cameo.

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    Aliens vs Predator

    Aliens vs Predator Weyland (Lance Hendricksen - Terminator ) and his sidekick (Colin Salmon - The World Is Not Enough ) hire a group of unknown actors to explore a pyramid that is concealed under the Antarctic ice. Unfortunately, it was built by the Predators - and they have returned, to use it for an Alien hunt!

    The Aliens are unrealistically overpowered, especially compared to the comics. Against them are dumb and weak Predators and some equally unimpressive humans. Disappointing, to say the least!

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    Aliens vs Predator 2: Requiem

    Aliens vs Predator 2: Requiem This takes off where the previous film ended. The Predator ship crashes in Colorado, and the Predalien and facehuggers attack the local humans. It turns out that the Predalien is female, and thus can impregnate victims ...

    On the Predator homeworld, a veteran Predator receives the ship's last transmission. He decides to take on the Predalien and its Xenomorphs single-handedly. Not only does he have cool hi-tech weapons, he also has the ability to head-but his way through concrete walls.

    The humans are a motley bunch of newcomers, but they are more normal and likeable than the crew in the previous films. There are few stereotypes, and no unrealistic feel-good escapes. This is much closer to real horror than most mainstream films these days - it is like something from the Seventies.

    Reiko Aylesworth is a US Military helicopter pilot, just home to see her family after a tour of duty. She is no Ripley, unfortunately. She gets to do a bit of shooting in the climax, but the central protagonist is an ex-Con named Dallas.

    Avid fans should watch out for the final scene, which introduces Ms Yutani ( Francoise Yip ).

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    Prometheus

    Prometheus In the year 2093, Last Girl Elizabeth Shaw ( Noomi Rapace ) and her BF Logan Marshall-Berman ( ) are archaeologists searching for traces of Ancient Astronauts. They get corporate sponsorship from the Weyland Corporation, which sends them on a starship to a distant planetoid. They want to find The Engineers, a race of giant genetic engineers.

    The Weyland Corporation, as always, has a secret agenda. David the Robot (Michael Fassbender - Haywire ) seems nice and helpful, but can he be trusted? His boss, ice princess Charlize Theron , may even be a robot herself. Captain Idris Elba ( Thor ) and the rest of the cannon-fodder seem just along for the ride.

    The astronauts discover the alien outpost, filled with vats of Mixmaster - a toxic chemical from the Tremors TV Show . This turns any life form it touches into a Dia Noga or other hostile life-form. In fact, the best film to compare this to is the recent prequel to The Thing . The difference is, that film actually tied up loose ends while this just makes more.

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