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War of the Worlds (2005)
Hmmm. . .
For reasons best known to themselves, Martians suddenly attack a post-911 Earth in this big budget, hyped-to-the-hills Spielberg film. While it's true that virtually any movie can be nit-picked to death, this loser has plot holes big enough to drive a starship through. See, when we see a film, we like it to be consistent and to make some sort of sense. This one does neither. Consider: The Martian machines were buried a very long time ago, yet suddenly pop up in Jersey City, Boston, Chicago, and a host of other cities. If they were buried that long ago, how did the Martians know in advance where we going to build our cities? Now that cities have been built, we're expected to believe that when foundations have been dug, gas, water, sewer, and electric lines have been buried, subway tubes installed, that no one ever stumbled across one of these machines, even by the sheerest accident? Hmmm. . . If these machines were left here thousands, if not millions, of years ago in preparation for a surprise attack, why wait? Are we being told that the Martians won't attack when the worst they can expect to face are clubs and flint knives, but will attack when the worst they will face are 100 megaton thermonuclear bombs? What? Hmmm. . . EMP can and has fried electronic circuitry and, if it is powerful enough, short out electrical power grids - this has already happened in Canada. So, no cars and no electric service. Okay. So, would someone please explain to us just how digital cameras and camcorders still work, when nothing else does? Hmmm. . . Then there's the Martian death ray, or whatever it is. It can vaporize human beings but not their clothes? And how about that ridiculous scene in the nutball's basement: does Spielberg seriously expect us to believe that the Martians are going to be flummoxed by a mirror? Our dog isn't fooled by one, so we guess that, intellectually, the dog has a leg up (sorry) on the Martians. Finally, there's Tom Cruise. Obviously, he was cast in this movie for box office draw. Other reviewers have described his performance as "powerful", "moving", or "one of his best". We disagree; his performance was, at best, uneven. In some scenes, he did well, such as the close up of his "I'm scared out of my mind and praying to God" sequence in the basement. But, as for his attempted portrayal of a Joey Lunchpail blue collar working stiff - it was all we could do to stop from laughing. While we're on the subject, why did Spielberg find it necessary to include this syrupy "I'm a terrible father/Days of our Lives" subplot? Wells didn't use one when he wrote the book, and his story turned out rather well. Not to mention the mawkish ending of Cruise reuniting with his family in Boston: the world has just gone to Hell in a handbasket, yet the rest of his family come out of an untouched Brownstone without so much as a hair out of place and all of whom look like they're on their way to dinner and a show. There are many more examples (the totally superfluous crashed airliner, the wrecked jet engine that keeps on going and going, the carnival-like ferry scene) but you probably get the idea by now. Bottom line: this one's a renter, not a keeper. Eye candy score:9 Coherent script score:3
War of the Worlds (2005)
a very minor skirmish
Yet another retelling of the famous Wells novel, only this time featuring a no-name, summer stock cast and amateurish CG work. This is the sort of movie you would expect to see on the Hallmark channel were it not for the fact that the whole production looks like it was shot on somebody's videophone. Even with a million-dollar budget, this film has little, if anything, to commend it. Poor directing, poor editing and continuity, poor acting, and really poor FX, the whole thing comes across as little more than a freshman film school project. Avoid it. Getting back to the budget for a moment, it should be remembered that "Silent Running" was made for $997,000.00 which, even by 1970 standards, was pocket change and featured fewer actors. This version of "War" is a hopeless mess - rent the George Pal version and watch a really good movie.
King Dinosaur (1955)
A B.I.G. Mistake
Four astronauts (2 men and 2 women, natch) are sent to explore the planet Nova, which has conveniently dropped out of nowhere to settle into a nice, stable orbit near the earth. Once they land their rockets hip there, they get out and start wandering around, gawking like rubes at the plant and animal life (most of which is amazingly Earthlike). They also find the time to do some necking, get attacked by a giant spider, and collect a honey bear as a pet.
So far, so what? Ah, but here's where the movie really goes into high gear! They see a "forboding" island and, intrepid explorers that they are, paddle their rubber raft over to investigate. Almost immediately upon landing, they're attacked by some of the cheesiest "dinosaurs" that Lippert Studios can offer up.
Cutting to the chase - literally - they manage to escape the island, but not before they set an atomic bomb to wipe out the dinosaurs. "We've brought civilization to planet Nova", observes one of the men as the group watches the fireball expand into the sky.
Ugh. This film plays like it was written by a committee of seventh-graders. Even by the standards of the day, this film is a loser, and is really only for those people who feel compelled to watch and/or archive junk like this. The only one worse that immediately comes to mind is "Two Lost Worlds" with James Arness (spelled "Aurness" in the credits). Avoid both of these as if you very life depended on it.
The Astounding She-Monster (1957)
not so astounding
A svelte alien space-babe with alarming eyebrows and a sprayed on silver body stocking threatens Robert Clarke, a bunch of gangsters, and a bimbo in this awful 1957 sci-fi clunker. Almost unbelievably cheap (the movie only has one set), loaded with pointless running around in the woods, pointless running in and out of Clarke's mountain cabin, and one not so special effect, this has got to be the longest 61-minute movie ever filmed, and makes Clarke's next film, "The Hideous Sun Demon", play like "The Tragedy of Hamlet". Stunningly bad. Even when I first saw this movie as a kid, I thought: "This movie is stupid". Chances are, you will, too.
Not of This Earth (1957)
look me in the eye
Evil, blood-sucking alien (like there's another kind in Corman's universe?) Paul Birch is draining the citizenry of L.A. to save not only himself but the dying planet Davanna in this creepy Corman classic. When nurse Bev Garland and her not-too-imaginative cop boyfriend discover what Birch is up to, the fun really gets going: foot chases, car chases, fiery crashes - in short, the works. Even though there's something for almost everybody in this little gem (except spaceships; sorry, all you hardware freaks), "Not of this Earth" remains one of the very few Corman films that has never been released on either VHS or DVD. Supposedly, the reason for this is that Corman himself wasn't satisfied with the finished product; hence, at least two remakes, or, three if you count the stupendously awful "Star Portal." As is typical in Corman films, the budget was very tiny; so tiny, in fact, that the only piece of the original, lavish "dimensional warp chamber" to survive fiscal reality was the multi-orbed thingamajig at the very top of the otherwise spartan black chamber. Too bad. The word is that the original design by Paul Blaisdell was pretty impressive. Well, for a low-budget B/W 1957 thriller, anyway. So, while a lot of money does not necessarily a hit film make (witness "Alexander"), it doesn't really hurt, either. Bottom line: don't pay too much attention to the, er, lean FX, such as the deadly lampshade bug. The story isn't bad, the acting is, for the most part, okay (although the three bums are laughable), and you actually feel some pity toward the end for Birch and his ilk. If you can find this one, go for it. Believe us, there's A LOT worse out there
a cheapo dog-and-pony show minus the dog and pony
"The Beast with a Million Eyes" was made with whatever money was leftover from the original budget fronted to Roger Corman by American-International for 4 separate films, and, brother, it looks it. Okay, we realize that many actors will take nearly anything that comes their way - after all, they hafta eat, too - and some, like a very young Dick Sargent, must pay their dues, but really. . .! This film is so
cheaply done, so execrably written, that it actually becomes an effort just to sit through it. The word is that even Sam Arkoff, co-head at AIP, winced at the final product, and that's saying something. While it is true that Roger Corman was known for being able to grind out movies very quickly on very small budgets, this film is just plain terrible, rivaling "Plan 9" as being perhaps the worst sci-fi film ever made. Even "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" had a better-looking spaceship! If miles of stock footage of barnyard animals, or just animals in general, is your thing, have at it; otherwise, forget this awful loser. Truly, a burdock of Biblical proportions.
Sora no daikaijû Radon (1956)
We first saw this one on "Million Dollar Movie" way back when, and the superbly claustrophobic mine scenes scared the bejesus out of us. We loved it! "Rodan" (nee' "Radon") was the first Japanese monster movie shot in color, and an instant hit for Toho Productions. Although some reviewers have panned the movie as being boring (well, ya can't please everyone) and with poor effects, we beg to differ. The effects were no worse than in "Godzilla", replete with toy tanks and rocket launchers, the soundtrack was at least as good - sharp eared viewers will recognize the voices of Paul Frees and George Takei - and the film has enough quasi-indestructible monsters to satisfy nearly anyone. The film moves along reasonably well, and the acting is about par for this sort of thing. Look, you can pick apart any film if you try hard enough: obviously, such colossal creatures are patently impossible, as is their apparent invulnerability to modern weapons. But if one persists in this line of thought, then the film quickly disintegrates. Where's the fun in that? After all, this isn't exactly "The Robe"; it's lighthearted, brain-in-neutral fun. Take it at that. Make some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy!
The Flying Saucer (1950)
my flying lunch
Folks, there are no words; hyperbole fails us. This movie is so incredibly bad, so stultifyingly boring, that it has to be seen to be believed. Granted, it was made in 1950, and, granted, there obviously wasn't much of a budget, but really. . .! Yes, we will allow that it was, after all, one of the first films to deal with the subject of UFOs (and CIA cover-ups, and Russian hoaxes, and a Canadian connection) but, after a mildly promising start, the film plays largely as if it were funded by the Alaska Board of Tourism - ENDLESS tableaux of glaciers, and wildlife, and rivers, and more glaciers, but precious little action, and even less in the way of FX. The saucer, when FINALLY seen, looks like something out of "Killers From Space." The fact that this cowflop of a film was made in 1950 doesn't really save it, either: both "The Thing" and "The Man from Planet X" were made right around the same time, and are far better efforts. In the case of "The Man from Planet X", that one was made for around $50,000.00 and was shot in six days on borrowed sets, and it was still better! In short, "The Flying Saucer" isn't just crummier than you think, it's crummier than you CAN think! If you really want to see early UFO films, see the above mentioned pair; don't - repeat, DON'T - waste your time with "The Flying Saucer".
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
the film with the leaden plot
Roger Moore returns a second time as Bond in this yawner about a high-profile international assassin (huh?) and solar energy (double huh??). Complementing, or perhaps "abetting" Moore is Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, the eponymous million-dollar-a-hit hit man, who in turn is assisted by Herve Villachaize (this is all getting rather a bit too much now)as the thoroughly dis likable Nick Nack. Eye candy is provided by ex-supermodel Maud Adams and Britt Ekland, both of whom are gorgeous to look at but prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither one can act. The plot, what there is of it, seems to center around something called a "Solex Agitator", a palm sized thingamajig that somehow miraculously makes the widespread use of solar energy a practical proposition. As for the titular gun, this is unquestionably the clunkiest, least-convincing looking prop yet seen in ANY Bond film. Ever. Even Scaramanga's wildly improbable flying AMC Javelin (actually a scale RC model) was far more interesting even though it's time on camera was very short; the "gun", on the other hand, is regularly and tediously displayed time after time, looking for all the world like a Lego toy that's been spraypainted gold.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, we're treated to a return appearance of J.W.Pepper, the redneck sheriff who first appeared in "Live and Let Die" (itself a dog of a Bond film), who, um, "dogs" (sorry) Bond periodically throughout this picture, most notably during the by-now obligatory spectacular car chase. Indeed, as spectacular as the 360 degree roll performed by the stunt car was, even this scene misfires through the use of a cartoonish sound effect.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" remains, as of this writing, one of the poorest grossing Bond films yet made, and one look at the finished product will tell anyone why. Not that this is the fault of either Moore or Lee: any actor, no matter how good, can only do so much with a weak script. Just ask Max von Sydow after he made "Flash Gordon". "The Man with the Golden Gun" plays like it was written by committee and, judging by the box office returns, was probably attended by them almost exclusively. For hard core Bond addicts ONLY.
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
It, er, "repeats" on you
Vincent Price hambones his way through an otherwise fair-to-middlin' sequel filled with overused sight gags, painfully lame one-liners, and over-the-top death plots. Along for the ride are Peter Cushing and the late John (Inspector Morse) Thaw. Thaw, by the way, is barely recognizable but thoroughly enjoyable as the almost comedic Olde Salt, complete with parrot, while Cushing delivers his usual understated and veddy British performance as the Ship's Captain. This is, as we mentioned, a direct sequel to "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", and if you liked that one, you'll probably like this one, too. If there is anyone doing yeoman work in this farrago, it must certainly be the poor stiffs (no pun intended) toiling away as the mechanical musicians. Guess ya gotta really love your craft. Truth be told, we really do like the "Dr. Phibes" movies, though we really can't give you a good reason why. If you're into films featuring undying love, resurrection, campy death schemes, mystical mumbo-jumbo, over the top performances, and Vincent Price, this is definitely the film for you. Bring on dem Tanna Leaves!
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
so, what's the attraction?
A man-made element grows and grows - and grows some more - in this 1953 Ivan Tors technothriller. On the downside, this film is overloaded with incomprehensible technobabble ("It's unipolar! Antigravitic!"), badly matched stock footage (an F-80 Shooting Star is shown taking off, but somehow magically transforms into a swept-wing F-86, and without the wingtip tanks of the F-80!), and hilariously, if painfully, obvious cheap effects (the scene, early in the film, of the hardware supposedly tossed up to the ceiling of the hardware store). There are also little problems like the close-up of what is supposed to be an engine on a Super Constellation, but is, in reality, an engine on a B-25 medium bomber. On the plus side, it does star Richard Carlsen, King Donovan, a very young Strother Martin, and John Zaremba. A must-see: the Canadian Deltatron going into overload. What a light show! All things said and done, at least the premise is somewhat original, and the film does manage to hold your interest. To the best of our knowledge, this movie has never been released on any format, which is kind of a shame; it's really not that bad. Honest.
X the Unknown (1956)
Y should you see this film
Dean Jagger battles radioactive goo from the center of the earth in this 1956 Hammer outing. Unlike "The Blob", released 2 years later, this creepy little horror story is played straight; no attempt at camp here! Dean Jagger, Leo McKern, and Anthony Newley play their parts with a subtlety and professionalism that's rarely matched in similar period pieces. While this film was overshadowed by it's American counterpart (see above), it remains one of Hammer's better efforts and should be judged on it's own. Yes, the premise is a bit hard to believe, but, once you get past that, everything else in this film works, from the direction to the score to the dialog, and of course the acting. In short, this is an underexposed, tight little chiller that has just the right amount of genuine suspense and believable characters. Don't miss it.
Fiend Without a Face (1958)
brain stem cell research
A fringe scientist involved with mind over matter experiments unwittingly unleashes a horde of horrible, invisible, brain-sucking
whatchamacallits in this 1958 thriller that isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. Although Canadian sci-fi films are usually an oxymoron, this one is at least entertaining, even though it makes use of the standard fifties cause celebre: atomic radiation. As a payoff for the audience, we finally get to see the "fiends" when the power from the conveniently nearby nuclear reactor is cranked up to reveal them as. . .brains. With brain stems. And antennae. And some surprisingly good stop-motion animation. Marshall Thompson, that staple of fifties B movies, does yeoman duty in this film by not only starring in it, but actually taking over the reins of director when the "real" director Arthur Crabtree showed up on Day 1 and refused to direct! It seems that Crabtree angrily told the producers "I don't do monster movies" and walked off the set, whereupon Thompson, to his credit, stepped up to the plate. Crabtree came back, a few days later, and the rest, as they say, is history.
All in all, "Fiend without a Face" may not be in the same league as, say, "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", but it's not really all that bad, either. Make a big bowl of popcorn, or get some decent pizza, and enjoy.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
march of the wooden actors
Ancient, malevolent aliens duke it out with the U.S. military in this 1956 B classic from Columbia. On reflection, perhaps the assignation of "B" to this movie is a bit optimistic, since it really is pretty goofy. According to Rumor Control, UFO enthusiasts of the time, like Truman Bethurum, Donald Keyhoe (whose book allegedly inspired the film), and others, were all a-twitter over the prospect of this film being a "fact"-based, rip-the-lid-off style expose'. They weren't real happy when what they got was cowboys and Indians, in flying saucers and zap guns. Undoubtedly adding to their, um, chagrin, was the almost unbelievably stilted acting, the most egregious perpetrator being Hugh Marlowe a.k.a Dr. Russell Marvin. Watching him clubfoot from scene to scene couldn't have gone over well. Come to think of it, we can't remember a single film that we've seen him in ("12 O'Clock High", "Day the Earth Stood Still", and "World Without End", to name just a few) where he DIDN'T look like someone put too much starch in his clothes. To add insult to injury, most of the other actors weren't any better; Don Curtis, as Maj. Hoagland, looked and sounded like he was reading his lines for the first time, and that cop! We mean REALLY!! Curtis, of course, was every bit as wooden and lifeless in "It Came from Beneath the Sea", but that's another story. It is just barely possible that the explanation for Marlowe's mechanical performance could be attributed to the unbridled outpouring of affection from his newlywed wife Carol, played by Ice Queen Joan Taylor. According to the script, she and Marlowe were married two hours and she won't even let him kiss her. There's a marriage made in Heaven, huh? Special-effects-wise, Harryhausen does his level best with this sadsack, and the saucers do look pretty good, but it's painfully obvious that the whole thing was shot on a shoestring budget, with scenes lifted from "Day the Earth Stood Still", music reused from "Sahara", and lots and lots of stock footage. Now, having said all this, you might have gotten the idea that we don't like this film. Au contrere! We actually do like this clunker, but we really can't give you a good reason why. Go figure.
oh, mercy, mercy me
An environmentalist group ( a la early 70s ) somewhat sensationally named "Doomwatch" takes an interest in some peculiar goings-on on a small island near the UK. As a disclaimer, we never saw the BBC series so we don't have any previous notions to compare this film against but, having said that, the film is an enjoyable, cautionary tale about pollution and official stonewalling. Some people have lamented over the film's obviously modest - read: small - budget, but in our opinion this does not handicap the effort. If anything, it serves to highlight what can be achieved by the use of good writing, good acting, and good directing. Though not a horror film per se, its moody atmosphere and imaginative makeup does blur the line between suspense and horror quite effectively, and does actually manage to make you care about the people in it, most notably the character of Dr. Shaw. It's been pointed out that this film does bear a certain resemblance to "The Wicker Man", but in our opinion this has been overstated; yes, in both films an investigating official is stranded on a small island with lots of local strangeness, but that's about the only common ground between the two. Both are enjoyable, but for totally different reasons. Bottom line: while "Doomwatch" may not be a great film, it is a pretty good one. Try it.
The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)
hay-ulp, hay-ulp. Ay mawn-ster is lewse.
!! WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!! An American cowboy in Mexico battles a rubber dinosaur in a film every bit as bad as it sounds, with stop-motion animation so awful it would make Gumby cringe. To give you some idea of just how bad this movie really is, we first saw it on free TV many, many years ago on the "Zacharly" show, and even the normally unflappable Zach had a hard time keeping a straight face. About the only good things that we can say about this cowpie, aside from its relatively short running time, is that Guy Madison looks and sounds very professional, the female lead rides her horse well, the actors manage to hit their marks, and there are lots of location shots (ie; outdoors. Somewhere.) That's it. We mean it. In the end, the creature expires in a pool of quicksand almost as quickly as the careers of most of the other actors do. To the best of our knowledge, this five-alarm stinker is not currently available on any format, which is probably just as well. This film, like "Dinosaurus" (which see review), are best left for very young children and/or very uncritical older viewers. For anyone else: feh.
The Land Unknown (1957)
unknown? We should be so lucky
Ya know, it isn't easy to make a film about a marooned helicopter crew and a pretty girl being menaced by dinosaurs dull, by Universal just managed to do it in this 1957 clunker. Jock Mahoney does reasonably well as the intrepid crew commander, and the pretty girl is okay, even though her clothes are in tatters but her hair is perfect throughout. But the dinosaurs! You CAN'T be serious. Twenty or so years earlier, the brontosaur (or whatever it was supposed to be) that charged out of the swamp in "King Kong" was far more convincing than the plesiosaur in this loser. And the idea of attacking a tyrannosaur with the whirling rotor blades of a Sikorsky R-5 is just plain ludicrous. Still, we must admit that a man in a monster suit interacting with a model helicopter is probably the best they could have done back then, regardless of budget. Allegedly, the movie was inspired by the discovery, in 1947, of unexpectedly warm water in Antarctica. Swell. But is this movie really worth searching for? Well, actually. . .no. If this is the sort of movie you want, the silent version of "The Lost World" would be a much better choice.
The Phantom Planet (1961)
should have done a disappearing act
!!WARNING -- MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!We first saw this incredible loser on network (!) TV way back when, before cable, and thought it was a sort of "Gulliver's Travels" in space, only not nearly as good. Oh yeah, it also had dopey dialog, stilted acting, REALLY cheesy effects, and evil aliens that were about as menacing as a toilet that won't stop flushing. The producers of this dog evidently thought they were doing something fine and unique, with realistic-looking spaceships and spacesuits and reasonably good effects. So did Ed Wood when he made "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Diagnosis: these people are delusional. Take it from us, there is absolutely nothing fine or unique or realistic about "Phantom Planet". At its best, it's an inept tale about tiny people on a tiny asteroid locked in mortal combat with silly-looking tiny alien monsters. To supply the drama (and, believe us, using that word qualifies as heroic charity), throw into the mix a normal-sized human astronaut who shrinks down to the same size as the aforementioned people, gets involved with court intrigues, finds the love of his life, and eventually returns to normal size and blasts off for Earth, sans girlfriend. Wow. We've seen this one on the "Reduced for Quick Sale" rack at local bookstores. Ya know what? It ain't there by accident. At least "Plan 9" was campy fun; this one just plain stinks.
The Tick (2001)
networks are a harsh mistress
Unquestionably one of the funniest and most original comedies to come down the pike in years, this show was nevertheless canceled by Fox after airing only a relative handful of episodes. Why? According to the producers, Fox execs were caught up in the minutiae of the character: Who is The Tick really? Where did he get his superpowers? One of the most important answers that eluded Fox was that THE VIEWERS DON'T CARE!! The show is funny! If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Beyond clever writing, the characterizations were spot on. The choice of Patrick Warburton as The Tick was little short of inspired. In fact, all of the characters were perfectly cast even though, when approached to do the character of Batmanuel, Nestor Carbonell initially turned it down, claiming that he was tired of doing Hispanic parts. The producers said nonsense; you'll do it, and you'll be brilliant. They were right. Time was when a network announced it's fall lineup, you could pretty much count on any given show hanging around for at least a season (although, to be fair, "Batman" was a mid-season replacement on ABC), but not any more. With "The Tick", Fox had a winner and didn't see it, which is our loss. Happily, "The Tick" is available in it's, er, "entirety", on DVD. We heartily recommend this one.
Genesis II (1973)
days of future past
The story of Rip Van Winkle is one of the most endearing - and enduring - tales in Western literature. Too bad Roddenberry decided to rewrite it so ham-handedly. Mind you, it's not like he didn't try to front-load "Genesis II" with familiar and/or pretty faces, like Alex Cord as the stalwart scientist and the stunningly beautiful Mariette Hartley as Lira-a, or the hulking Ted "Lurch" Cassidy as Isiah. Problem is, this alone can't carry a series; other things help. Little things like good writing, decent sets, decent, if not state-of-the-art effects. "Genesis II" was short on all counts. One thing it wasn't short on was goofy ideas, like the deification of Freud, or Hartley's dual navels (what was THAT all about?). Taken on balance, the whole show probably started out as a good idea from a timeless classic that was run into the ground by an overdose of Post-Hippie murky philosophies, ridiculous dialogue, and a general air of "we've seen this before. Somewhere". Occasionally, in this life, some of us, if we're lucky, will publish a Pulitzer Prize book, write an Oscar winning screenplay, or perform to standing O's at Carnegie Hall. If we're real lucky, we may get to do it again. Roddenberry wasn't one of those people. He apparently had the Midas touch: everything he tried after "Star Trek" turned to manure, the worst being "The Questor Tapes". Now, that one you could fertilize the Sinai Peninsula with. As far as "Genesis II" goes, some things, as Alex Cord must have undoubtedly realized after being revived, are best left buried.
Alien Nation (1989)
invasion of the eggplant heads
Like many other series before - and since - "Alien Nation" was adapted for the small screen from a big screen motion picture, in this case starring Mandy Patinkin and James Caan, if you can believe that. Gary Graham reprises the role played by Caan of Det. Sgt. Matt Sykes, a bigot LA cop. Graham, of course, is probably best remembered for the good job - well, okay, adequate job - he did in "The Hollywood Knights" and the not so good job in "Robot Jox". Like the movie, the series concerns itself with a shipload of basically human-looking aliens, who are in fact escaped slaves, that arrive on Earth and try to adapt to human culture. They have their quirks, like getting drunk on sour milk, and their weaknesses, like dying horribly on contact with salt water, but basically they just want to get along. In their efforts to do just that, they adopt human-sounding names, which leads to one of the show's running gags. Sykes' alien partner, for example, is Det. Sam Francisco. Once, it's cute. But more than once, or even occasionally, it can easily get out of hand, and did, with characters like Pete Moss, Mike Raphone, et al ad nauseum. Did this show get silly and tedious at times? Yup, but no more so than other sci-fi series, like "Timecop", the brainchild of Harve Bennett (yes, THAT Harve Bennett), "RoboCop", "Mantis", "Viper", and a whole raft of other sackrace losers that all fell out of a Crumbum Tree and hit every branch on the way down. Having said this, we actually liked this show, and didn't for one centon believe Fox's reason for cancellation, to wit: the makeup costs of the actors prosthetic headpieces for a weekly show were just too high. Tell it to someone who believes it. This was, in the last analysis, a pretty good show as these things go, and really deserved better
Seaquest DSV (1993)
It's hard to describe just how titanically awful this show was. We must confess that we were inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt for awhile, but the insanely Politically Correct "Cheeseburger" episode finally sank this one for us. Roy Scheider evidently knew when it was time to bail;
too bad none of the other principles did. With the sole exception of Michael Ironside ( who at least got other relatively high profile jobs ) everyone else on this seadog went down with the ship. Speaking of which, the buzz at the time was that the producers originally wanted the "SeaQuest DSV" to resemble the "Enterprise" on "Star Trek"! What outstanding hydrodynamic qualities that would have had! As it was, the sub eventually wound up looking rather like a gigantic squid, which is at least somewhat believable, except for the MagLev trams that the crew used to get around this monstrosity, and the grating "Thank you for riding MagLev" canned voice whenever the tram stopped. That wasn't very believable. Beyond question, the most irritating character on the show, besides Darwin the dolphin, was The Kid. WHY do producers feel the need to include such supercilious characters like this? Wesley Crusher was bad enough, but this one. . .sheesh, give it a rest awready. Like "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", this show soon degenerated into one absurd storyline after another including, in a desperate and rather obvious attempt to boost sagging ratings, that old standby: THE ALIENS HAVE LANDED!!!!! Ya know what? By that time, nobody cared. Another Spielberg PC small-screen catastrophe that should be purged from your memory banks. Feh.
Earth 2 (1994)
the only planet with a dress code: no uglies allowed
There are those who doubtless consider this trainwreck a work of art. This just in: IT STUNK!!!!! To begin with, the people responsible for writing and producing this show had never before written, produced, or were in any meaningful way involved with the production of a sci-fi series. When questioned about this, they replied that they didn't consider this to be a handicap; in fact, they said, this was one of their strengths! Granted, all sci-fi series strain credulity to some extent, but this is way over the top.
It quickly became apparent that these people had no idea what they were doing. Not that it mattered much: the viewers quickly became uninterested in what the actors were doing. The plots, such as they were, were often incoherent, the special-effects weren't really very special, and there were so many internal inconsistencies that, pretty soon, you just didn't care what happened to anybody on this misbegotten loser. Everyone - literally everyone - in the cast looked exactly like what they were: one from Column A and one from Column B central casting types. Nobody had bad teeth, or warts, or acne, or anything that might have made them just a bit more interesting. And their technology? Well, let's see: these people have interstellar travel and at least some control of gravity, yet they need rockets to travel in space? What? And the aliens? What aliens? Sometimes ya see 'em, sometimes ya don't, yes they really are here, no it's all in your mind . . .puh-leeze. One of the colonists is stung by a native animal and apparently dies. So, the other colonists bury him. With dirt. But wait! Turns out he's not really dead after all, just unconscious from the "venom". HELLO!! If he wasn't really dead before you buried him, he sure as heck is now! Or do people not need air to breathe in the future? Bottom line: this show was the walking unemployed from Day One, and if you've never seen it, consider yourself lucky.
worst case of acid reflux we've ever seen!
!!WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!! A self-regenerating, prehistoric monster is accidentally dredged up in Scandinavia and returns to life to wreak havoc on Copenhagen. Yawn. Or rather, it would have been a yawn were it not for the amateurish effects, cut-rate production values, and ham handed direction. But then, this is an AIP production, so we suppose it sort of goes with the territory. The phlegm-spewing monster itself is so obviously a puppet that you can't stop yourself from laughing out loud, looking for all the world like a Halloween gag from the "Crank Yankers" TV show. Y'see, Godzilla had fiery, electrified breath, Rodan had his supersonic slipstream, but Reptilicus has acidic, corrosive. . .phlegm. Charming. The animated sequences of Reptilicus letting fly said phlegm, and of the hapless farmer being eaten alive, are howlers of ineptitude, as is the climactic scene of the bazooka shell exploding in the monster's mouth. The first half (and, come to think of it, a lot of the second half), are very little more than a travelog of Copenhagen, done no doubt to pad out the running time. As is so often the case, the book (yes, there actually was a paperback!) from which the screenplay was adapted, was much better and somewhat racier although, to be fair, the film itself does follow the original story reasonably well - minus the racy parts - and the ending is pretty faithful, though it omits the monster having it's scales pried off with crowbars and then being torched. Believe it or not, there was actually a comic book from Charleton Comics which, after the first few issues, did away with the snake-like appearance of Reptilicus and substituted a far more menacing and grandiose creature. On balance, however, Reptilicus fails to satisfy, due largely to it's modest budget, shoddy production values, crummy acting, and not-always- convincing voiceovers, one of which is done by Robert Cornthwaite, aka Dr. Carrington from Howard Hawks' "The Thing". In sum, "Reptilicus" is the sort of film that's best left to collectors of the genre who, for some unfathomable reason, feel compelled to archive second- and third-rate garbage like this.
The Hollywood Knights (1980)
hot rods from heck
We first saw this little opus on cable, and rushed out to get a blank tape right away. The first major film for Tony Danza, Michelle Pfieffer, and Robert Wuhl, "The Hollywood Knights" is funny, gross, bawdy, and nostalgic all at the same time. Is it a rip-off of "American Graffiti"? Um, yeah, but it's still a very funny film in its own right. Is it gross and lewd in spots? Well. . .yeah, but we can think of more egregious examples, like "Porky's". Does it deserve an "R" rating? Not when you consider some of the other dreck that's been put in the can. Undoubtedly the most memorable scene is Newbomb's rendition of "Volare'" in the school gym; a masterpiece of lowbrow humor, but funnier than. . .well, you can fill in the blank. Bottom line: a small-budget gem, if you can take it. If you're easily offended, lighten up. After all, there's LOTS worse out there!