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The Fifth Corner (1992– )
6 September 2004
It's been a while since I saw this, but I felt that I had to provide some balance to the other comment so far recorded for this title.

I've actually seen most of the show twice. I caught the tail end channel-hopping through late night TV, and managed to catch the whole season a year or so later.

The show reminds me a bit of "Nowhere Man" and has the same dreamy sense of wonder. I think what made the show for me was that (despite it's early cancellation) the final episode actually offers some sort of resolution.

Worth a look - I'd certainly watch it again if it was repeated.
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25 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers for most of the film ahead (or they would be spoilers if it were possible to make this film worse). If you plan on watching the movie - something I highly recommend against - don't read on.

It was a toss up between this and `Ticker', and I went by the IMDb voting for this. I can only assume that the cast and crew of the movie have voted.

Opening with some ominous music and lots of fast cutting, and an exhortation to `Get Frost - he's the only one who will know what to do', the film starts quite well. Then we flashback to the Afghan war, and the rot sets in.

Jack Frost and his band of mainly out of shape mercenaries are behind enemy lines. After we get to see how cool they all are - Frost never removes his shades (some nonsense about a phosphor grenade making his eyes sensitive to bright light), they make pop culture jokes, and they manage to take out a huge Hind CGI chopper with an RPG - the locals present them with a man they think is a demon, and ask them to kill the man. Frost's best friend, Nat, does the job because he looks into the man's eyes and sees evil, but gets bitten in the process. Nat later tries to cauterise the wound, and it seems that all is well.

A year (or two or three) later (I had already realised that this movie was a stinker of the first order so wasn't paying close attention to the subtitles), Frost is out of the Soldier of Fortune business and is painting, writing art books and (it seems) doing a bit of burglary on the side (judging by his tubby size - though it's probably supposed to be `all muscle' - he must have to get especially strong rope when he lowers himself into a museum in one scene). Nat and the rest of the guys are south of the border, involved in a revolution. In the intervening time, Nat's hair has grown ridiculously long, and he seems to have developed Vamp speed and senses (though none of his friends think that it is odd when he blurs across the room at great speed). His vamp senses save him when the generalissimo orders the squad's execution, and he wanders through the desert, collapsing in a deserted town. Even though the town's well is sealed and there appear to be no inhabitants, there is still a sheriff and a jail with three or four prisoners, who Nat quickly dispatches - it seems that you only become a vampire after your body dies.

Nat's wife back in the States is worried, and asks Frost to investigate. It seems that the generalissimo never hires the same team twice.Frost heads South, and confirms that Nat's team was executed. He avenges his friend by blowing up everyone in the generalissimo's compound.

Nat, meanwhile, has made it to the States. We get a few scenes that show he is fully vamped out and evil before his distraught wife asks Frost for his help again. It seems that Nat has tried to pick up the pieces of his old life, but the bloodlust is too strong. After pussyfooting around for a while, aided by the most open-minded and forgiving cop in movie history (`You're girlfriend's dead in a pool of blood? You think it's Nat and he's a Vampire? Well, get out there and kill him' - a slight bit of paraphrasing, but you get the gist), Frost tools up and goes after Nat, having a special gun made.

At first, this seems to be a small one-shot crossbow, but it turns out that he has had wooden-tipped bullets cast. At last, someone in a vampire film using a bit of brain-power! It will come as no surprise to learn that Frost survives, though it is a surprise that he then goes back to the crossbow as his main weapon - one slow, one-shot weapon against a fast, repeat-action one - come on! There is a slight twist at the end (in the vain hope of a sequel I guess).

Direction and especially acting are well under par - my girlfriend commented that some of the actors seem to have come from the `adult movie' school of acting, and checking IMDb shows that at least one of them literally has - but the saddest thing is that, judging from what seems to be a lot of families involved in the cast and crew, this must have been a real labour of love for some of those involved, but they turned out the worst film I have seen for years.
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Not fantastic, but not as bad as I was expecting
6 January 2003
Rumour has it that this movie was made only to retain the rights to the characters, and was never meant to be released. Taking this into account, and the fact that in 1994 CGI wasn't as cheap and usable as it is now, it is nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Apparently the cast and crew didn't know that the end product was never going to see the light of day, so this may explain why it appears as if (some of them) made an effort.

We start with Reed Richards and his friend Victor trying an experiment that kills Victor. 10 years on, Richards is about to go into space to finish the experiment in Victor's honour. His friend Ben Grimm will pilot their shuttle, and they ask two other friends – Johnny and Sue Storm – to make up the crew. Obviously no training is required, as they launch the next day. Unfortunately for them, the huge diamond that forms a crucial piece of their ship has been replaced with a fake by The Jeweller, who wants it as a gift for the blind Alicia Masters, who has caught Ben's eye.

When their shuttle explodes they find themselves transformed into `The Fantastic Four', but have to contend with Dr. Doom, a super villain who has his own motives for wanting to kill them and The Jeweller, who has kidnapped Alicia. Not to mention their new found superpowers.

First off, the script is pretty corny – `Look at you – the Fantastic Four,' gushes Johnny and Sue's aunt as the group leave for space. It suffers from the need to tie everything together prevalent in many comic book adaptations, too. There's a number (!) of oddities that stuck out for me: Reed and Sue's relationship seemed a little creepy – when we first see them, he is at university (?), but she is a young teenager with a crush on him, yet by the end of the film they are in love; within what seems like a day of their return to the Baxter Building from space Reed has constructed the Fantasticar and had a honking big `4' painted on the building; Johnny, Sue and Ben all use powers that we know they have, but they haven't discovered for themselves (flight, shields and being bullet-proof respectively); and The Human Torch outpaces a laser beam (presumably moving at light speed), and then punches it out before a quick trip into space that would extinguish his flames!

The acting is generally below par, particularly from Jay Underwood as Johnny and Jacob Culp as Dr Doom. The latter seems to be auditioning to play the Cyber Leader in Doctor Who.

The costumes are fairly dire too, with tin-foil space suits and tissue paper containment suits, Sue Storm seems to be dressed c.1950 when we first see her as an adult, though she is the only one who manages to completely carry off the faithful spandex costumes she knocks up for them one afternoon. On the other hand, the `Thing' costume is very good, although it doesn't seem quite bulky enough.

The SFX are pretty poor, it has to be said, though the copy of the movie I watched was pretty ropy, so it was hard to judge fairly. However Sue's invisibility could have been from the 1940's Invisible Man, The Thing's costume was fine, though resolving fights with a Batman-stylee spin was kinda cheap, The Human Torch was too obviously animated to convince, and I'm not convinced that Mr. Fantastic's powers will ever be convincing on screen, but using a vacuum cleaner hose with a glove stuck on the end certainly didn't convince me!

Unfortunately, the film doesn't (quite) fall into the `so bad, it's good' category. In fact it's no worse than some of the TV movie comic adaptations that I've seen. On the whole, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone apart from those who have been wondering what this `lost' movie is really like. For them, it's worth downloading if only to find out if it's as bad as everyone says. Some of them might even find that, like me, they are pleasantly surprised.
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Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002 Video)
A slight improvement on Inferno
1 January 2003
...but not much of one.

Basically the same plot, but with added T&A and and appearance from Ashley Laurence as Kirsty (from parts I & II). Ms. Laurence has lost the puppy fat she had in the first two movies, and looks great, BTW. Unfortunately, she is woefully underused in yet another non-Hellraiser film with the puzzle box and a few Cenobites thrown in to sell in to fans like me who will watch it in the vain hope that it will capture some of the majesty of the first two installments.

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Dinotopia (II) (2002– )
Turn your brain off and you might enjoy it
1 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Two brothers survive a plane crash and wind up in Dinoptopia, a hidden paradise where intelligent dinosaurs and humans live in perfect harmony.

This is one of those utterly predictable films that nonetheless manages to entertain. The effects are OK, with some good shots, though the acting (especially from the three main characters) isn't too hot. I also had a problem with the "philosophy" of Dinoptopia - a blend of hippy "wisdom" and fortune cookie homilies - that is forced upon the two outsiders as the ONLY way to live. The two brothers are also deeply unsympathetic. One comes over as an ungrateful moaner, and the other as a conniving sneak.

That said, it kept me entertained for a few hours, though see below for a few of the more annoying points.


Unfortunately, it is completely predictable: at the start of the film, we are told that the "sun stones" that power the culture are failing. Guess what? The boys find a new source of the stones. The brother who is scared of heights is sent off to become a "skyback" rider. Guess what? (In a scene from Anne McCaffrey's "The White Dragon") he becomes the best rider ever. The other brother is forced to take care of a baby dinosaur. Guess what? He grows to love the little tyke.

There were a few other things that bugged me, the worst being that when the boys find their father (who has been in a cave for months), one of them asks what he did for food. His answer is "I'll tell you later - first tell me what has happened to you." And after saving the city, even though his brother and father are missing, one of the brothers hangs around for an award ceremony, after which the missing duo (who no-one can find) turn up with a honking big cart full of sun stones.
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30 December 2002
Corporate head Jack Robinson is about to discover that fairytales are very real in this revisionist take on `Jack and the Beanstalk'.

The film starts off well, with Jack (Matthew Modine) discovering that life isn't as straightforward as he thought. A nice atmosphere is created as a mysterious woman, Ondine (Mia Sara looking very cute), appears dropping dire hints as to his family's secret. Eventually Jack discovers the truth behind his wealth, and finds out that it is up to him to put things right.

The `real world' segments of this movie tend to work best, as Jack struggles to come to terms with his discovery that fairy tales are true, with the `fantasy land' segments - mainly due to some variable effects - actually detracting from the sense of wonder. While most of the performances are fine (though Modine occasionally seems to be playing Scott Bakula), the guy playing the original Jack is fairly dire.

What really makes the story work is the idea that fairy tales are history dressed up to be palatable to us (and of course not necessarily reliably related history), and the way that we might exploit magic if it were available to us.

Well worth a watch for fantasy/fairy tale fans, or if you liked the superior `The 10th Kingdom'.
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Hellraiser: Inferno (2000 Video)
More Jacob's Ladder than Hellraiser
30 December 2002
Awful, awful, awful...

Craig Scheffer stars as a coke snortin', wife-cheatin' partner framin' cop in this, the worst of the first 5 Hellraiser movies (please let it be the worst of the whole series).

After solving the Lament configuration with a mere two or three swipes of his thumb (I thought the idea was that DESIRE unlocked the box), he finds his life turned upside down.

The film adds little to the Hellraiser mythos (the idea of "personal" Hell was handled in "Hellbound"), and plays loose with the established rules - one character even reminds us that ALL the stories say that once the box is opened, THEY come.

The film resembles a remake of Jacob's Ladder rather than a Hellraiser movie (we even see some shots of the Vietnam War on a TV). If it had been an episode in a "Hellraiser" TV series, it would have been acceptable (in fact, given that most of the gruesomeness happens off-screen, it could almost be a TV episode), but as a feature film, it isn't worth the time of any but the most completist Hellraiser fan. Even Bloodline was better.
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Sweet, but predictable
29 December 2002
Demi Moore (with a blonde do) plays Marina, a clairvoyant who marries a New York butcher believing him to be the man of her dreams. Once she gets to New York she finds out that while her powers seem to be accurate when she advises other people, she may not have made the right choices for herself...

I was forced to watch this movie by my girlfriend and found myself pleasantly surprised. It's no classic, but is a sweet, enjoyable film (though it's fairly easy to spot how things will work out early on).

Over here in the UK the film received a "15" certificate, presumably for the one instance of strong language that actually jars with the rest of the film, and possibly for the lesbian character/s (though they barely touch each other on screen).

I sympathised with most of the characters, especially Mary Steenburgen's would-be singer (she has a surprisingly good voice, by the way). Marina's complete accuracy when it comes to predictions that don't involve her is a little far-fetched, especially when she gets her own life in such a mess.

Worth a look if you like low-key romantic comedies with a slightly magical twist (not a large genre!), or if you liked "Simply Irresistible" (1999) with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Not really one for most guys, though.
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Snow Queen (2002 TV Movie)
The SLOW Queen
28 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes Hallmark can get it right - like The 10th Kingdom - but many of their fantasy films plod, and this falls into the latter category. The version I saw may have been cut (a demon [?] shown in the trailer and publicity stills didn't appear), but anything that made the movie shorter can only be a blessing.


Anyway, the film updates the story to the early part of the 20th Century (?), and makes Gerda and Kay (here called Kai - being a Lexx fan, I kept expecting him to say, `The Dead do not solve puzzles') 18 year olds. Hans Christian Andersen's basic story is followed: the boy gets a shard of ice in his eye, goes bad, is taken off by the Snow Queen to solve a puzzle in her palace and Gerda goes to find him, having various adventures on the way.

As the two main characters are older than in the original, a lot of time is spent getting them together and `in love'. Unfortunately, I was never convinced that they were particularly in love, and certainly not enough in love to make sense of Gerda's quest. By the time the main plot kicks in, the movie's pace has slowed to a crawl. Alas, when Gerda begins her search for Kai, it only manages to pick up the pace to a leisurely stroll.

There are a few odd additions to the story that seem to go nowhere. At the start of the film the Snow Queen kills Gerda's mother, but no explanation for this is given. A polar bear living in the Snow Queen's palace is more than he seems (though this is possibly because the producers realised that the bear's feelings towards the Snow Queen would be OK in a Fairy Tale, but not in a modern film). Again, this is never explained. Also, hints that the Snow Queen has an erotic desire for Kai are dropped, but never followed through. The script is also full of anachronisms that really jar you out of the `fairy tale' mood.

The production looks good, though there is evidence of penny-pinching: the Snow Queen's palace is the hotel where Gerda and Kai lived covered in ice. The three main characters are played with varying degrees of success: Kai comes across as bland as does Gerda initially, but once she sets off to find Kai you warm to her. Bridget Fonda looks great as the Snow Queen, but seems to be in a different movie to everyone else.

Ultimately, the film is unsatisfying. It looks good, but drags and lacks magic.
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