ORBzine - Space Opera 2008 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Zathura

Zathura Tim Robbins ( City of Ember ) leaves his kids alone in the house. There is his teenage girl ( Kristen Stewart ) about whom he worries about (because he saw Thirteen), and a couple of young boys who are always arguing. Letting them play a space-based version of Jumanji probably was not the best idea!

  • Jumanji
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    Star Crash

    Star Crash Star Crash is a late-70s (Post- Star Wars ) effort from Lewis Coates (AKA Italian director Luigi Cozzi ). This reviewer had seen the film on TV in the 1980s, and it proved nowhere near as watchable as memory had led to believe. If anything, it is like an ultra low-budget version of Dino De Laurentis' production of Flash Gordon . In fact, it is one of the worst B-Movies available!

    It is a time of civil war. The evil Count, Zarth Arn, plots a rebellion against the Emperor of the Galaxy (Christopher Plummer). When the Emperor's son (David Hasselhoff - Knight Rider) goes MIA while looking for the Count's superweapon, smuggler Stella Star (Bond girl Caroline Munroe ) is roped into searching for him.

    Stella spends the entire film in a very impractical costume, and gets chased by dodgy stop-motion models. One scene is blatantly cribbed from the Telos scene in Jason and the Argonauts ! That said, if one ignores the SPFX and concentrates on the costume, the film might be considered watchable ...

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    Avatar

    Avatar James Cameron is back in action! He has not directed for the big screen since Titanic ( Dark Angel does not count, it is only a TV show).

    Sam Worthington ( Terminator: Salvation ) is a wheelchair-bound Marine who is hired by a Mining Corporation to work on an alien planet named Pandora. The Corporation is willing to risk destroying Pandora's entire ecosystem in order to obtain a vital ore named Unobtainium. He is genetically bonded to an Avatar, a remote-controlled entity identical to the planet's blue-skinned natives. Of course, he then falls in love with the local Pocahontas ( Zoe Saldana ).

    The story is a rehash of Dances With Wolves, but no more so than The Last Samurai. However, it pales in contrast to Star Wars: Shatterpoint - the finest story of this sub-genre so far.

    The film also owes something to Aliens , and not just in terms of the visual look of the futuristic technology. Giovanni Ribisi ( The Gift ) is a more sympathetic version of Carter Burke, while Michelle Rodriguez is a kick-ass chopper pilot instead of just a trigger-happy grunt like Vasquez.

    The thing is, this is not just a film, it is an amazing 3-D experience to be enjoyed in all its glory. You can forget about the story and just enjoy the ride!

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    Velocity Trap

    Velocity Trap A series of Robocop type TV ads introduce this. Thrill-seeking miner Jorja Fox and some space pirates try to hijack a ship. Olivier Gruner ( Codename Eternity ) is an honest cop who has been framed. Nice SPFX.

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    Riddick Franchise

    Chronicles of Riddick

    Chronicles of Riddick Riddick (Vin Diesel - ) discovers that someone has put a bounty on his head. He tracks down the people responsible - the Imam (Keith David - The Thing ) and an Elemental ( Judy Dench ). They wanted to find him so they could hire him to fight the Necromungers - a strangely-named gang of stormtroopers led by the Lord Marshall (Colm Feore - Storm of the Century ), his Generals - Roger R. Cross ( First Wave, Taken ) and Vaako (Karl Urban - Ghost Ship, Lord of the Rings ) - and Vaako's scheming wife ( Thandi Newton ).

    As a side-trip, Riddick is captured by bounty-hunters Nick Chinlund ( X-Files ) and Christina Cox . They take him to a barbaric prison on a Hell World, where he meets his old friend Jack ( Alexa Davalos ).

  • Pitch Black
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    Riddick

    Riddick Riddick (Vin Diesel - ) was last seen as ruler of the Necromungers. However, he ends up getting left for dead on a dusty desert world. Presumably Vaako (Karl Urban - Ghost Ship, Lord of the Rings ) is the new Lord Marshal - he gets a brief cameo, but this story is not about Riddick taking revenge on him. No, it is about survival in a desert ... just like in Pitch Black .

    Riddick is chased by bounty-hunters. No, not Nick Chinlund ( X-Files ) and Christina Cox , this is a new bunch or rather, two new bunches. One is a ragged gang of gunsels including Dave Bautista ( Guardians of the Galaxy ). The other is a clean-cut crew of professionals led by Ra's Al Ghul from Arrow and including Katee Sackhoff and Bokeem Woodbine ( Blade: The Series ).

  • Pitch Black
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    Star Wars Franchise

    Star Wars: Clone Wars

    Star Wars: Clone Wars After the first Star Wars trilogy we got the Ewoks cartoon and the straight-to-video Ewoks films. Now, we have the Clone Wars cartoon series and this film, a CGI cartoon voiced by stand-in voice actors.

    Jabba the Hutt's son is kidnapped. The Jedi send Anakin and Obi-Wan to save the boy. Anakin ends up with a Padawan of his own, a young Twilek girl. She is actually quite likeable - her potential annoyingness musty offset her Master's!

    Christopher Lee turns up as Count Dooku, though the cartoon character does not look much like the actor. However, Jabba's uncle has been compared by most reviewers to Truman Capote, and this reviewer has to agree.

    The action is pretty good, and Amidala even pops up briefly. She has more to do in this cartoon than in the entirety of SW3: Revenge of the Sith , in fact. It is not a vast, world-changing adventure the way each of the main films is, But it works well as a stand-alone venture.

  • SW1: The Phantom Menace
  • SW2: Attack of the Clones
  • SW3: Revenge of the Sith
  • SW4: A New Hope
  • SW5: Empire Strikes Back
  • SW6: Return of the Jedi
  • SW7: The Force Awakens
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    Rogue One: A Star Wars Tale

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Tale Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen - Valhalla Rising ) is conscripted by the Empire to help build their most top secret weapons project. His daughter Jyn Erso ( ) is adopted by her father's best friend, a rebel fanatic named Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker - Repo Men ). How those two people managed to be best buddies is never explained.

    Years later, Jyn Erso has become Felicity Jones . She is recruited by the mainstream Rebellion, who are a bunch of murderous cut-throats willing to torture and kill people who are on their own side. They want her to help them destroy her father's creation, the Death Star. The odds are sorely against them. However, the Empire's elite stormtroopers can be easily beaten unconscious by hitting their helmet with a stick.

    The movie's visuals are intended to make it grittier, more like a standard war movie than a heroic fantasy. However, this is totally undercut by the movie's inability to respect the laws of physics. The dusty desert city, supposed to be reminiscent of Baghdad in movies like American Sniper, has an Imperial Star Destroyer hovering over it like the Visitors' flying saucer in V: The Series . As all Star Wars fans know, the ISD does not have repulsorlift capability for hovering in mid-air. Later, the Saving Private Ryan beach scene has the Death Star looming over it, much larger (and thus closer) than it could be without gravity pulling it into the planet's surface.

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    Star Wars IV: A New Hope

    Star Wars IV: A New Hope It is a time of Civil War. Princess Leia ( Carrie Fisher ), a leader of the Rebellion, is on the run with the plans of the evil Galactic Empire's superweapon, the Death Star. She entrusts the plans to her droids, R2D2 and C3PO, to get them to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness - ).

    Farmboy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill - The Guyver ) teams up with the droids, Kenobi and interstellar gunslinger Han Solo (Harrison Ford - Raiders of the Lost Ark ). They must save the Princess from the villainous clutches of Darth Vader (Dave Prowse - Clockwork Orange ) and Governor Tarkin (Peter Cushing - Dracula ) ... then save the Galaxy from the Death Star!

    This is the ultimate Space Opera. It has been repeatedly duplicated in sequels, copied in rip-offs and parodied in comedies ... but never EQUALED! Star Wars spawned a thousand imitations, but this is a sign of its superiority. This is the film that defines a generation!

  • SW1: The Phantom Menace
  • SW2: Attack of the Clones
  • SW3: Revenge of the Sith
  • SW: Clone Wars
  • SW5: Empire Strikes Back
  • SW6: Return of the Jedi
  • SW7: The Force Awakens
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    Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back

    Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back Years after the events of the first film, and the Empire is still hunting for the Rebellion. Luke and the others are hiding in ice caves on the frostbitten planet of Hoth. Unfortunately, they have to cope with the native creature, the bloodthirsty Wampa ... and the Empire's enormous All Terrain Attack Transports (AT-ATs).

    Luke goes to Dagobah to find Obi-Wan's teacher, Jedi Master Yoda. meanwhile, Leia and the others are chased by Darth Vader. They hide out with Lando Calrissian, an old friend of Han's. But Vader has hired Bounty Hunters ...

    This is regarded by many Star Wars fans as the greatest of the series. It was directed by Irwin Kirshner , who was George Lucas' tutor at Film School. The film certainly has a strength to it.

  • SW1: The Phantom Menace
  • SW2: Attack of the Clones
  • SW3: Revenge of the Sith
  • SW: Clone Wars
  • SW4: A New Hope
  • SW6: Return of the Jedi
  • SW7: The Force Awakens
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    Star Wars VI: Return Of The Jedi

    Star Wars VI: Return Of The Jedi Six months after the events of the previous film, the survivors must recover from their defeat. R2D2 and C3PO are sent to Jabba the Hutt's Palace, to negotiate for Han Solo. This leads on to intrigue and adventure ...

    The second half of the film concerns the Rebellion's attempt to destroy the Empire's second Death Star. Luke, Leia and the others lead a commando team to the forest moon of Endor. If they succeed, Emperor Palpatine's evil reign will be ended. But taking on a Sith Lord is not as easy as they think!

    This is the climax to the series. It was directed by Richard Marquand , a relatively inexperienced newcomer who was easily manipulated by Producer George Lucas . As a result, this film has a lot more Prequel-style cheesiness than either of the original films. However, it still contains some of the most potent scenes in the entire series. Luke's final duel with Darth Vader stands out.

  • SW1: The Phantom Menace
  • SW2: Attack of the Clones
  • SW3: Revenge of the Sith
  • SW: Clone Wars
  • SW4: A New Hope
  • SW5: Empire Strikes Back
  • SW7: The Force Awakens
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    Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

    Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens This is the revival of the series. It was directed by JJ Abrams , a relatively experienced replacement for George Lucas . As a result, this film has a lot less Prequel-style cheesiness than any of the other films.

    In an effort to avoid revealing any spoilers, we shall discuss things only in the most general way possible. This film is set over three decades after SW6: Return of the Jedi , but not much has changed. There are a few new characters, but they just re-enact scenes from the previous films. The landscape is littered with debris from the war against the Empire, but the New Republic has not bothered to clean things up. They have not even established a regular military - it falls to General Leia ( Carrie Fisher ) to run a new Rebellion group, known as The Resistance. They are against the First Order, a bunch of Imperials who have teamed up with a Darth Vader wannabe.

    This film is much-lauded by critics and audiences alike. Certainly, it has a visual flair that the Prequels lacked. But while the direction may be better, the writing is certainly inferior. Gone is the epic feel, replaced only with remade scenes from older, better films.

  • SW1: The Phantom Menace
  • SW2: Attack of the Clones
  • SW3: Revenge of the Sith
  • SW: Clone Wars
  • SW4: A New Hope
  • SW5: Empire Strikes Back
  • SW6: Return of the Jedi
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    Star Trek Franchise

    Star Trek: Insurrection

    Star Trek: Insurrection There is a saying that the odd-numbered Trek films are sub-standard. Well, Jonathan Frakes directed this one. He did his best, but it was not well received ...

    Things are going well for the Enterprise crew. Geordi has eye implants. Data has been reassigned to a surveillance mission, where he apparently went haywire. Picard takes the Enterprise to investigate.

    Starfleet Admiral Anthony Zerbe ( Omega Man, Licence to Kill ) and his ally F. Abraham Murray ( Last Action hero ) take on six hundred Luddites, because The good of the many outweighs the good of the few. Naturally, Picard objects. And since his opponents are rent-a-villain actors, things are more than a bit predictable.

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    Star Trek Nemesis

    Star Trek Nemesis This is the Tenth Trek film, with a story by Logan, Berman and Spiner. The Antagonist (Tom Hardy - Dark Knight Rises ) thinks he is Picard. He hangs out with freaks, is obsessed with Troi and has never been with a human woman. Why they thought this character would be a good villain for Trekkies is a mystery.

    The Romulan senate is taken over in a coup by an Admiral who is backed by the Remes. The Remes were enslaved by the Romulans, who are a Vulcan sub-race. The Romulans use the Remes as slaves and cannon-fodder. The Admiral is human, cloned by the Romulans from a sample of Picard's DNA in the hope of creating his equal in strategy and tactical ability. He does not look much like Picard, except for the bald head (strange, since Picard lost his hair in middle-age, not at birth!), but he is confident he can out-fight him.

    Janeway is now an Admiral, when all she has done is get lost for seven years. Picard, who has twice the experience in years and Alpha Quadrant duties, is still only a Captain. But while Janeway is presumably doing paperwork somewhere she has no actual responsibility, Picard is sent to enter diplomatic relations with the Romulan Admiral. Ron Perlman ( Blade 2, Hellboy ) is the Reme Viceroy, who acts as the villain's psychic sidekick. En route, the Enterprise detects a positronic signal. The source is an android, one of Data's brothers.

    There is a saying that the odd-numbered Trek films are mediocre, while the even-numbered ones are the best ones. This film is the tenth, following a disappointing ST9: Insurrection , and it is based on ST2: Wrath of Khan . But it is unfortunately just not a very good film. Apparently about fifty minutes of film was cut, and evidently they sacrificed the character-based scenes in preference to SPFX-intensive action scenes.

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    Star Trek XI

    Star Trek XI Deep Space, and a Starfleet vessel falls foul of a super-weapon commanded by a time-travelling Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana - Hulk ).

    In clips set over the next couple of decades we see James T. Kirk grow up as a rebellious young man, until Captain Pike intervenes and gets him into Starfleet Academy. However, as a Starfleet Cadet Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) falls foul of the young Spock (Zachary Quinto - Heroes ). But Nero is back, in an amazing coincidence - just in time for the Enterprise (with the younger versions of the ST:TOS crew aboard) to fly off on a great adventure ...

    The film works on a number of levels. It is good science fiction, acknowledging that time travel creates alternate universes. There are enough references to the extensive continuity of Star Trek for the most hardened Trekker to accept it. And finally, it is an excellent action-adventure film.

    This actually feels a lot more like Star Wars than Trek in many ways. The Transporters are used extremely rarely, with shuttles and escape pods (and sky-diving) given preference. That said, a film made by hard-core Trekkies could never have used the irreverent humour that really brings this story to life. There are a lot of unlikely coincidences and plot holes (Somehow, Kirk is the only one to realise that the Romulans are to blame for what is going on) but it is best to ignore them and enjoy the ride.

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    Star Trek Into Darkness

    Star Trek Into Darkness JJ Abrams delivers a follow-up to the Trek reboot he brought out a couple of years previously. This one is best compared with ST 2: Wrath of Khan , the best-loved of all the Trek movies. That is quite ambitious of Abrams, because he has to deliver something equal to the one that set the standard for the Franchise.

    Mickey from Dr Who (2005) blows up a Federation base. The suspect is a traitor (Benedict Cummerbach - Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug ). Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team are called in by Admiral Peter Weller ( Robocop ) to save the Federation.

    The plot actually has a twist or two. It turns out that the villain's target was Section 31. The Federation has its own agenda, to enable its survival in the brutal new universe that Nero created in the previous film.

    The story's soap opera elements are toned down from the first one. Things seem to have cooled down between young Spock (Zachary Quinto - Heroes ) and Uhuru ( Zoe Saldana ). Instead of re-introducing characters, this movie concentrates on the action and adventure.

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    Star Trek Beyond

    Star Trek Beyond JJ Abrams has given up on making Star Wars movies in the Trek univers, and has moved on to making ACTUAL Star Wars movies like SW7: The Force Awakens . This has left Simon Pegg ( Shaun of the Dead ) and director Justin Lin free to tell a story that feels the most Trek-like of the reboot series so far. Just as the third Bond movie in every batch is the one that sets the tone, so this film has finally delivered what the fans have been waiting for.

    Kirk and the Enterprise crew stop off at the Federation's capital, a massive space-station with vertigo-inspiring geometry. Soon they get called off on a rescue mission, but end up marooned on a desolate world by space-pirate Krull (Idris Elba - 28 Weeks Later ). Spock (Zachary Quinto - Heroes ) and McCoy get lots of interplay, Uhuru ( Zoe Saldana ) faces the villain while Scotty teams up with an ass-kicking alien woman. Even Chekov (Anton Yeltsin - Fright Night 2011 ) gets lots of screen time, which is all the more poignant since the actor died before the film's release.

    The villain's agenda is basically to punish the Federation for their pacifism. The problem is that when the Federation was formed, Starfleet abolished all military forces like the Makos from the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise . The narrative is that the Feds did not have any truly aggressive enemies. By Picard's time, the Klingons had become passive towards the Federation and the Romulans stayed quiet on their own side of the Neutral Zone. Even the highly aggressive and militaristic Cardassians are ignored as a threat. In fact, it took the encounters with the Borg to create the two things that protect the Federation best - the USS Defiant and Benjamin Sisco!

    The previous film was a rehash of Star Trek: Wrath of Khan . The inspiration for this effort is a bit more difficult to pin down. It certainly shares the ethos of a lot of episodes of Star Trek: DS9 , which is deemed by many fans as the show that strays the farthest from Roddenberry's vision. However, of all the films it seems to share the most with the much-hated Star Trek: Insurrection .

    The bottom line is, this movie basically proves that the villain is correct. Were it not for Captain Kirk, a renegade who by his only admission joined Starfleet on a bet, the entire Federation would be destroyed. It is a corrupt institution that absorbs smaller cultures and removes from them everything that makes them strong and unique. In comparison, the Borg merely add technological distinctiveness to their own, rather than repress entire cultures.

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    Captains

    Captains William Shatner, best known as Captain James Tiberius Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series , goes on a quest to interview the other Captains from the Star Trek television shows and movies.

    He has an entertaining series of one-on-one discussions with :

  • Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: TNG )
  • Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisco in Star Trek: DS9 )
  • Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: VGR )
  • Scott Bakula (Jonathan Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise )
  • Chris Pine (James T. Kirk in the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot series).
  • The interviews are not shown in sequential order, but rather they are intercut with each other so each actor's views on certain topics are aired. For example, the problem of working 18-hour shifts every week while raising a young family is given consideration.

    Since Shatner is a regular at the annual Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, he did some filming there. Not only did he interview a number of supporting actors from the various Trek shows, he also greeted a couple of differently-abled fans..

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