Earth

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Earth (B+). It pains me to say it, but all nature documentaries are starting to look a little bit alike to me. This is a good one, to be sure, spanning the globe from Arctic to Antarctic, but I couldn’t avoid a little feeling that it was all stuff I had seen before. Actually, I had seen part of it before; I have watched the first episode of the TV miniseries Planet Earth, and some of the footage of the great wildlife migration across the Kalihari Desert is used in the movie. I don’t know how much more footage from the TV show got recycled for the movie, but it could be quite a bit. Anyway, the movie is certainly well done. There shouldn’t be too much in here to upset little kids, as most of the scenes of predators catching their prey are cut just before the blood starts to flow. The camera does linger on a couple of great white sharks leaping out of the water with seals in their mouths, but even then there’s no blood to be seen.

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MST3K: 20th Anniversary Edition

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition.This is an above-average collection from one of my favorite TV shows. As extras, three of the discs contain interviews with the cast and crew about the history of MST3K, and the fourth contains footage from a panel discussion with the cast and crew as a sci-fi convention.

First Spaceship on Venus (C). My internet research indicates that this was a 1960 co-production by East Germany and Poland, dubbed into English and released in America in 1962. Scientific study of a meteorite in the Gobi Desert reveals a recording made by a civilization on Venus. A multi-national team sets out for Venus on a spaceship, survives a meteor storm, and investigates a strangely dead world. George Lucas must have seen this movie before he made Star Wars, as it features an R2-D2-like robot that plays chess with the crewmembers. A few funny riffs, but nothing particularly memorable about this one.

Laserblast (B). This is a bizarre 1978 release. A punk teenager who can never seem to manage to button his shirt finds an alien laser rifle in the desert. He enjoys blowing stuff up with it, but the thing has unfortunate side effects. First he starts to develop a metallic sore on his chest, and second he occasionally mutates into a green humanoid that enjoys blowing stuff up and killing people with the laser gun. Also unfortunate are the real actors who for some reason agreed to be in this movie, such as Keenan Wynn (Kiss Me Kate) and Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes). Funny commentary on this one.

Werewolf (A). The highlight of this collection is this 1996 straight-to-video “horror” movie.This movie has too many awesome qualities to mention them all. An appearance by Martin Sheen’s brother Joe Estevez (Soultaker). Numerous actors with bizarre and inexplicable accents. Terrible werewolf special effects. Great riffing by the Satellite of Love crew. This one can’t be missed.

Future War (B). This was a 1997 straight-to-video release about a Jean Claude Van Damme look-alike who escapes to planet Earth with an angry cyborg and his T. Rex pets in hot pursuit. An ex-hooker and junkie who’s studying to become a nun hits him with her van and then takes him back to her old halfway house. Nobody would believe his crazy story if these darned dinosaurs didn’t keep popping up and killing people. The special effects are amazingly bad, and continuity is a pipe dream. In the hero’s climactic fight with the cyborg, big red scratches across his chest flash in and out of existence every second or two. Definitely an above-average episode.

Dead Calm

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Dead Calm (C-). With the lovely Nicole Kidman’s 42d birthday less than a month away, there’s no better time than the present to cozy up with one of her films. I had not seen this one before, and I was not particularly impressed. A married couple played by Kidman (Margot at the Wedding) and Sam Neill (The Dish) are sailing across the Pacific in their fine yacht when they come across a derelict schooner. A delirious young man played by Billy Zane (BloodRayne) rows over to their boat from the derelict raving that everybody else on board his boat is dead from food poisoning. Neill’s character astutely rows back over to check out the death ship while the crazy guy is asleep. Turns out Zane’s character is a homicidal maniac, and he wakes up in time to take off with Neill’s yacht, his wife, and his little dog too. Neill goes into pursuit as best he can on his sinking tub. After that, it’s a pretty typical cat-and-mouse thriller with some typical stupidity on the parts of the good guys. Even Nic’s loveliness can’t keep this movie from capsizing.

Terminator Salvation

New movie review from The Movie Snob

Terminator Salvation (C-). I was no huge Terminator fan to begin with, but I thought they were at least above-average action fare–even T3: Rise of the Machines. This one, however, didn’t work for me. There’s an opening flashback in which a condemned murderer named Marcus Wright agrees to donate his body to science after his execution. Then we flash forward to 2018, when the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland and the war rages on between Skynet (the machines) and the Resistance (the humans). John Connor (Christian Bale, Laurel Canyon) is a charismatic leader within the Resistance, although he is not part of the high command. Wright suddenly turns up, looking none the worse for having been executed a couple of decades earlier, so he sets out to try to discover who has brought him back to life and why. Lots of stuff gets blown up as killer robots pop up every so often. The attractive Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village), plays Connor’s very pregnant wife and is given nothing in particular to do. Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) surprisingly pops up in a small role.

For me this movie had some problems rather like Christian Bale’s early bomb Reign of Fire, in which dragons(!) are roused from hibernation and lay waste the Earth. One big problem is how the humans are able to keep a decently functioning military intact, despite the robots’ awesome power and firepower. How do the humans manufacture all their jets, helicopters, weapons, and other technological wonders? And pump and refine all the oil necessary to make them go? For that matter, what do these people eat? There’s not a crop or herd animal in sight, and if there were the machines would presumably terminate them. Finally, how do these people (John Connor in particular) survive getting pummeled and tossed by the Terminators? Seems like one punch from these metallic behemoths ought to crush your organs to jelly. I can suspend disbelief as to a military computer system becoming self-aware and attacking humanity. But when a virtually unstoppable robot throws a human being across a room and into a metal girder, I can’t believe that person is getting right back up to continue the fight.

The Mummy (1932)

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The Mummy (1932) (B). I expected this old-time horror movie to be a cheesy movie centering on a slow-moving bandaged monster strangling victims in ancient tombs. It was a lot more sophisticated than that, with a plot that is fairly similar to the 1999 Brendan Fraser remake. Mummy Imhotep (Boris Karloff, Frankenstein) is reanimated when a foolish young archaeologist opens a cursed box and reads from the Scroll of Thoth. Ten years later, Imhotep resurfaces, but he is passing for a living human being, albeit of cadaverous and creepy mien. He directs a British archaeology team to dig in a certain spot, where they swiftly discover an undespoiled tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess. Imhotep’s purpose, it turns out, is to use the Scroll of Thoth to revive his long-lost love, and he will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. Given the love story, this Mummy is a rather more sympathetic monster than most.

Monsters vs. Aliens

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Monsters vs. Aliens (C). I didn’t expect much out of this animated feature, and it delivered about what I expected. Reese Witherspoon (Mud) voices protagonist Susan, a woman who gets hit by a meteorite minutes before her wedding to a jerky TV newscaster. The radiation turns her into a 50-foot giant (and turns her hair completely white), which prevents the wedding from taking place and incidentally causes the U.S. government to capture her and sequester her with some other monsters like Dr. Cockroach, the Missing Link, and a blob named B.O.B. But when an alien attacks the Earth to recover the mysterious element that turned Susan into Ginormica (her government-assigned monster name), the government releases the monsters to save the day. Susan is an appealing character, and it’s cute to imagine Reese Witherspoon behind her voice, but the plot is slight and the humor is not all that hilarious. I imagine kids would like it. The only other people in the theater with me were a woman and her little boy, and I heard them laugh once or twice.

Six Days Seven Nights

Netflix review from The Movie Snob

Six Days Seven Nights (B-). This is an utterly disposable little movie, but it was just fine for a weeknight timekiller. And somehow my pal The Borg Queen channeled it into her glorious huge TV directly from the internet, so we didn’t have to wait for Netflix to send the DVD to her! Astonishing. I noticed a couple of teensy pauses in the movie here and there, but this film is impervious to tiny imperfections, given certain glaring holes in the plot. The eccentric Anne Heche (Cedar Rapids) stars as a tightly wound New Yorker who jets off on a South Pacific vacation with her new fiance (David Schwimmer, Madagascar). A painfully contrived work-related emergency requires her to island-hop somewhere else, and she has no choice but to take a rusty old plane piloted by a Jimmy-Buffett-esque old pilot (Harrison Ford, Cowboys & Aliens). When she insults his plane, I seriously expected him to reply that it was the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. Of course they crash on a deserted island, and they bond despite their quarter-century age difference. Stupid and predictable? Yes, but sometimes that’s all you want in a movie.