Reviews written by registered user
|11 reviews in total|
A long time ago, in a childhood far, far away...
I remember seeing 'Buck Rogers' in the theater in 1978, back when 'Star Wars' was king of the box office, 'Battlestar Galactica' was smashing all ratings records, and science-fiction was experiencing a renaissance of sorts - it was a great time to be a kid.
'Buck Rogers' struck me as an all-right kind of guy: dashing with the ladies, quick with a punch, did a nifty spinning side kick, had a way with a laser pistol, occasionally danced a little disco.
The movie itself was a harmless piece of fluff. Even as an 11-year-old, I found it to be simple, low-key, even charming. I bought the requisite number of toys, talked about it with my friends, and enjoyed the occasional episodes (once the film left the theaters and went to the small screen) with a bowl of Cheerios in my jammies. Life was good.
Looking back now, it's pretty obviously a product of the '70s. Sure, it had chicks in spandex. Sure, it had the gravity-defying hairdos (and bosoms) of some of Hollywood's most buxom beauties - who can forget the 'Volcanic Hot-Tub Room' scene in "Planet of the Slave Girls?", or Jamie Lee Curtis in "Unchained Woman"? Sure, it had the simple, brainless plots typical of '70s television. Sure, it had the unredeemable stupidity of the 'Searcher' episodes...
But, for a time, it was the best thing going for sci-fi on television.
Remember, this is a time before Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or Star Trek: Fill-In-The-Blank. Science fiction on television wasn't a sure bet, nor was it always a ratings winner...even with it's target audience. Which, at the time, was me.
But 'Buck Rogers' had something going for it, something none of the other sci-fi shows ('Battlestar Galactica', et al) had going for them.
Oh, yeah. Erin Gray.
Let me tell you, one of the dates that stands out in my mind the strongest is January 3, 1980 - the date that the episode "Space Vampire" premiered. The day I became a man. :)
Okay, not really...but you have to understand - Erin Gray, spandex and vampires all combined to give my 11-year-old brain (among other things) something to think about with regard to women. Since then, no woman is truly attractive to me unless she can say in a sultry voice, "I like the taste of fear best." :)
Come on, it's only television! It doesn't have to be smart to be funny, it doesn't have to be expensive-looking to be cool. Just ask David Hasselhoff if he'd be in Baywatch Heaven without a certain Trans-Am, or if Dirk Benedict would have REALLY been as interesting to watch on the A-Team if we'd never seen him battling Cylons.
Erin Gray. Spandex. Vampires.
See, it all makes sense.
'Buck Rogers' appeals on the intellectual level of an 11-year-old, and for most of us, that's saying something.
'Buck Rogers' fueled a lot of my early television viewing entertainment, folks. Watch it, and you'll see why.
Of course, it helps if you watch it from an 11-year-old point of view, but that's more than most of us can muster anyway, yes?
As a kid, my dad wasn't there for me much, and my mom was always working
hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Without much to
do, I'd spend a lot of time drawing or reading comic books. Some of the
first words I learned to read were in old issues of Action
Superhero movies have always been something of a draw for me, and most of them have been disappointments. With the exception of the first two "Superman" films, and the first "Batman", the field has been littered with the corpses of the dead...witness "Batman and Robin", and the dreadfully awful "Superman IV - The Quest for Peace". So, it was with much trepidation that I went to see "Mystery Men", a comedy that makes fun of the conventional superhero mythos of old. The most surprising thing about the film?
I actually liked it.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have no illusions that this film will be the next "Titanic", or reach the dizzying heights of popularity of "Blair Witch", or the Star Wars films. "Mystery Men" is a modest creation, one with much quiet subtlety, even among it's obvious toilet humor. I mean, hey, any movie that features Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) as a flatulent superhero with an "Eek the Cat"-lisp has GOT to be worth a look-see.
The film's weakest point is in it's story. The same old tired tale of the underdogs saving the day has been done to death, especially in our cynical age. However, "Mystery Men" does it with such loving care and aplomb that you can't help but admire it's tenacity. Sure, it's obvious and mostly crude, but that happens to be part of it's charm. The dialogue and sight gags are delivered with such simplicity and subtlety that it almost seems natural. These guys really DO act like second-rate superheroes, and we really want them to succeed. The problem is, even when they succeed, the film fails to generate much excitement. Chalk it up to the delivery, and not the the individual performances. The director and screenwriter are at fault here in not living up to our expectations of what this concept and cast are capable of.
Kudos to the cast for a job well done, applause and hurrahs to the effects and design crew, and smiles and cheers to the original creators of this concept...a bunch of guys who read too many comic books. The director and writer of the film will undoubtedly be remembered for other things, hopefully, but this film will probably be forgotten. See it to watch some of the funniest bits you will ever see in a superhero flick, but don't see it expecting to be amazed, astounded and astonished. There is none of that here. However, it IS a good waste of a Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, I'll go back to reading my comic books.
"Star Wars" had "Battlestar Galactica".
"The Abyss" had "Leviathan" and "Deep Star Six".
"Babylon 5" had "Deep Space Nine."
"Last Broadcast" has "Blair Witch."
All the above were films or TV shows with original ideas that were used and/or usurped by other studios. Some of the spin-off ripoffs were better, some were not.
"Blair Witch" fans defend their film, made and released nearly a full year after "Broadcast", by saying that their film is only identical on a surface level...teens travel into the woods to make a documentary and are killed. The truth runs much deeper.
Both films used video instead of film, both films used a pseudo-documentary format, both showed what happened to the characters using footage they shot to tell the story, both leave the audience wondering just exactly what happened. The main difference is that "Broadcast" told you the story from a different perspective...the point of view of a documentary filmmaker involved with the killings. "Broadcast" is, in this respect, much more intelligent than "Blair Witch". "Blair Witch" is more frightening, more eerie, where "Broadcast" doesn't get really creepy until the end, where you realize where the story has taken you. You have been led down the garden path, past the lies that pass as truth, and face-first into the face of darkness. "Blair Witch" is more personal, first-person driven rather than detached. This is more impressive, but it is also louder and more obvious.
I enjoyed both films, but I respected "Broadcast" more. It did it first, it did it well. "Blair Witch" will make more money off the backs of the filmgoers who were fooled by the hype, but "Broadcast" will love on as it's predecessor. Don't go into "Broadcast" expecting a scarier movie, just a more intelligent one.
I've seen the hype. I've seen the documentary on the Sci-Fi Channel. I've seen the movie. I've seen the movies that "Blair Witch" is either based on or similar to. I've seen the reviews. I've bitched about how similar it was to "The Last Broadcast".
Now, the good things and a few more bitches.
"Blair Witch" was a creepy flick. Heather Donahue did an EXCELLENT job. The lack of music score keeps you from becoming detached, and the fact it's on video leads you to fool yourself into thinking it's real (i.e. - film is fake, television is real).
It was NOT an original movie, at least, not for an indie film or a public access project. I've seen similar shows done on public access. The producers of "Blair Witch" just used what they had to make a movie that would have required a MUCH larger budget otherwise.
As a film, "Blair Witch" is adequate. The only thing in this movie that made people queasy was motion sickness. The movie starts off promisingly, moves along ploddingly, then lurches to a halt just when it's getting interesting. The ending, which is supposed to show us a hint of the terror that awaits our intrepid filmmakers, instead betrays the buildup the producers worked so hard to craft. I understand that it relates to something said earlier in the film, and that the ending is SUPPOSED to leave the fates of the characters to our imagination, but there's TOO much left to our imagination. This film has no real conclusion, no real closure or satisfaction at the end. Creepy? Maybe, maybe not. I guess it depends on how easily frightened you are. I found it to be obvious and unsatisfying.
For those of you who say that the similarity between "Blair Witch" and "The Last Broadcast", a film nearly identical in it's story and motivation, is irrelevant and pointless...think again. Most of what the critics who love this film have to say about "Blair Witch" is with regards to it's originality. "Last Broadcast", whose tone is less eerie and more of a documentary, is superior in that it doesn't treat the viewer like a child. Small wonder that "Blair Witch" is so popular with the teen crowd. Take away the claim that "Blair Witch" is an original idea, and you have a moderately scary supernatural suspense film.
Check out "Cannibal Holocaust", "The Last Broadcast", and "Man Bites Dog" to see just how "original" this movie is.
Don't get me wrong; my last post notwithstanding, I thought that "Blair Witch" was just fine...but it was NOT original, it was NOT scary, and it was NOT worth the hour-and-a-half of my time, and the eight bucks I spent to see it. If not for the hype on the Sci-Fi Channel, it would have gone straight to video.
For those of you who went to see "The Blair Witch Project" and gasped in
both horror and delight at how "original" it was...listen to this.
I saw "Blair Witch", and thought that it was a fine bit of filmmaking. It told it's story well, the performances were adequate, and the film was interesting visually.
This film almost seems to rip it's plot element-for-element from another independent mock-documentary entitled, "The Last Broadcast" released
last year. That story also involved a group of filmmakers who went out into the woods to shoot a documentary and were mysteriously murdered. The film also made liberal use of "documentary" footage taken from video cameras to tell it's story. The problem is that "Last Broadcast" was filmed and released nearly a full year before "Blair Witch". In my opinion, "Blair Witch" is both a blatant rip-off of the same essential plot and construction used for "Last Broadcast", and that irks me.
What irks me more is the fact that so many people have said over and over again just how "original and inventive" this film is. I thought "Blair Witch" was merely adequate. Where "Last Broadcast" was thoughtful and sneaky in it's approach, "Blair Witch" is loud and obvious. I found many of the visuals used in "Blair Witch" to be remarkably similar to those used in "Last Broadcast", to the point where "Blair Witch" almost seems like a sequel or spin-off.
In the end, there will be many copies of "Blair Witch" released by rival studios, trying to cash in on it's success. But in my opinion, the producers of "Blair Witch" cheated. "Last Broadcast" stands as my favorite between these two nearly identical films.
Despite all the hype leading up to this film, I can't help but look forward
to it. Having been a producer of lots of low-budget television fare, and
having worked on a LOT of public access shows, it always tickles me when
someone manages to make something special on this kind of
Now, I haven't seen the film yet, but I'm looking forward to it. My biggest gripe about the film so far, hype aside, is all the claims of this film not being like anything ever seen before. This film was actually beaten to the punch by a remarkably similar, though less frightening film called, "The Last Broadcast."
"Broadcast" was originally shown in theaters nationwide in limited release in October, 1998...nearly a full year before "Blair Witch". "Broadcast", too, dealt with amateur filmmakers working on a project in the woods who disappeared under "mysterious" circumstances, and was also shot on video as opposed to film.
Where "Blair Witch" is a terrifying, horror mock-documentary, "Broadcast's" mock-documentary did not focus on mysterious sounds or shadows in the woods - it was more of an intriguing "whodunnit". The fact that they are extremely similar may be due to simple fate and circumstance, but the fact remains that these two very similar films are separated by nearly a year, with "Broadcast" getting first blood.
Which film is better? I've seen "Broadcast", but the jury will still be out on "Blair Witch" until it comes out in wide release. See both films for yourself, and you decide. Until then, I'll keep waiting...and watching the shadows in the woods.
"The Last Broadcast is one of those movies that sneaks up on you, taps you
on the shoulder, then bashes you in the face with a frying
I was fortunate enough to have seen "Broadcast" during it's original theatrical run in Portland, Oregon. Actually, it's original "broadcast" would be more accurate, since "The Last Broadcast" was actually transmitted via satellite to select cities and projected onto the silver screen using the latest, state-of-the-art digital projectors.
Technical wonders aside, the real draw in "Broadcast" is it's suspension of disbelief. Shot on a budget usually reserved for lunch money, and using video as opposed to film, "Broadcast" seems more like a reality-based TV show than a movie, and that works to it's advantage. While you're ignoring the lack of budget, the movie sneaks up on you with it's real story.
Presented as a documentary, it's easy to forget that the film is actually a dramatic presentation - a "whodunnit" as told from the point of view of a documentary filmmaker with a "unique" perspective of the chilling murders of three public-access show crew members in the lonely Pine Barrens of New Jersey.
Shot nearly entirely on video, with the exception of a short piece at the end shot on film, "Broadcast" is gritty and darkly entertaining. The story is so engaging, and the characters so believable and real, that it is nearly impossible to find fault with it, despite it's obviously low budget. The twist at the end, while not entirely unexpected, is still shocking, and calls into question the very nature of truth on television...what you see is not always the truth, some of it is edited for television.
"The Last Broadcast" may never see the light of the silver-screen again. Catch it while you can on such venues as the Independent Film Channel, before it fades into obscurity. If you miss it, you'll be sorry.
Oh, and to the guys who directed this film? Give me a call if you're ever in the Portland area...I'll buy you lunch!
A funny thing happened to me on the way to
the video store...I ran across a sci-fi
film that didn't rely on space battles,
incredible special effects, or magnificent
sets and costumes. Instead, it relies on
a touching and compelling human story of
survival, hate and conflict - and of
bitter enemies becoming unlikely allies
and, eventually, close friends.
"Enemy Mine" is one of the ten best "forgotten" sci-fi classics - those rare little gems that got overlooked on their initial release, but live on in video release.
Practically abandoned at the box office, "Enemy Mine" found new life on video among fans of the kind of science fiction we only read about as kids - stories that expanded our horizons and made use look at the world in a whole new way, not just wowing us with their dazzling effects.
It is the story of hotshot starfighter pilot Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) who, after a dogfight with the reptilian, alien Drac, is stranded on a hostile planet with one of the enemy. At first blinded by their hatred of each other, the pair soon learn that they can only survive by working together. By doing so, they develop a strange friendship that helps break the wall of distrust between enemies.
If you get the chance to check out "Enemy Mine", give it a chance. It's not likely to go down in history as the best sci-fi movie ever made, but it does have heart.
"The Last Starfighter" will probably be
best remembered as one of the first
science-fiction films to feature fully
computer-generated images instead of model
shots, and that's unfortunate.
Slick, fun, and full of energy, "The Last Starfighter" is one of the ten best "forgotten" science fiction classics - a movie with fun characters, an involving story, and enough action and adventure to keep both kids and adults entertained.
Granted, "Forbidden Planet" it's not...and it's no "Star Wars", either...but "The Last Starfighter" packs enough punch in it's proton-torpedoes to sink the worst naysayer who thought this film stank in it's initial release (it was a box-office bomb).
A compelling story of friendship and adventure, "The Last Starfighter" is a fun story in the Saturday Morning kidvid vein - mostly for kids, but fun for adults who are in the mood for it.
A great Saturday afternoon time-killer.
Watching "Space Mutiny" is the metaphorical equivalent of drinking cat
urine...there's no way it can be any good for you, so why even
The special effects in this film are, I'm not kidding now, stock footage from Battlestar Galactica (played backwards, in some cases), or shot on what appears to be low-resolution video using models probably built from discarded "He-Man" toys. Unfortunately, that's about the best thing in the movie.
The acting...my God, the acting...I have NO idea who came up with this dialogue. Reb Brown is ridiculous, John Philip Law is absolutely NOT to be believed, and the rest of the cast, as well as the costumes, look like outtakes from an episode of Buck Rogers! (The second season...the really STINKY one!) The whole damned thing looks vaguely like a fever dream I had as a child after drinking sixteen cans of "Jolt"...and it's equally incomprehensible. My God, they actually announce the arrival of a pirate fleet by having some dope on a microphone say, "This is the pirate fleet...surrender or be turned into astro-dust." I think they shot the whole thing in a brewery with Go-Karts and used the same shot of a hops bin blowing up no less than four times. This movie has to be seen to be believed. I actually bought a copy for three dollars, just so I could show my friends that I was NOT making it up. Run, don't walk, away from this film.
0.0 stars out of a possible five.
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