SFRevu
Vol. 3.8 © 1999 by Ernest Lilley

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Free Enterprise Video Sawicki's Picks

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Free Enterprise  Regent Entertainment
Running time: 115 min.       Review by Ernest Lilley

Cast: Rafer Weigel (Robert). Eric McCormack (Mark), Audie England (Claire), Patrick Van Horn (Sean), Jonathan Slavin (Dan), Phil LaMarr (Eric Wallace), William Shatner (William Shatner), Deborah Van Valkenberg (Marlena), Marilyn Kentz (Gail/Mom), Holly Gagnier (Green Girl/Laura), Daniel Schweiger (Schweiger), Dave Parker (Parker), Jennifer Sommerfield (Trisha), Lori Lively (Leila), Russell Young (Andrew), Ellie Cornell (Suzanne Crawford), Joey Viera (Hal Pittman), Spencer Klein (Young Robert), Ethan Glazer (Young Mark), Carl Bressler (Mort Burg), Annika Brindley (Astrid), Mandy Ingber ("The Munchkin" )

Production: Director/Editor Robert Meyer Burnett / Writers Mark A Altman & Robert Meyer Burnett

Do you steal Science Fiction dialogue to use in everyday speech? Do your friends think you're weird because you know the name of every Star Trek episode? Worse, do they think you're weird because you don't? On approaching your 30th birthday, are you more likely to reflect on what turning 30 meant in Logan's Run, or that you'll never be trustworthy again?Do you own a Star Trek Christmas tree ornament? Is it the original Enterprisetm? If so, do you know what it's worth? If not, will you sell it to me for 20 bucks?

If any of these questions are even comprehensible to you, go see Free Enterprise. If you can find it. If not, hope it's released on video soon. (It will be! The video relaease date is 11/20)

Last year at Worldcon (did you know that the pilot episode of Star Trek was first shown at a Worldcon?), Steve Sawicki and I saw the trailer for Free Enterprise and loved it. Steve predicted that this excellent assault on Trekdom (and on anyone who takes SF too seriously) would never make it to the theaters. He was very nearly right. Many of you aren't lucky enough to live near a major city, but we managed to see it in Greenwich Village at the Art Greenwich, which specializes in interesting but limited-appeal films. In a way that's just as well. The audience was as self-selected as a Science Fiction convention, and though the theater was only half full, everyone "got it."

Free Enterprise is about an L.A. film editor and his best friend, the editor of a Science Fiction magazine. Both are about to face Lastday (as turning 30 is termed in Logan's Run) and both are SF Fans, principally of the Trek Original Series persuasion. Written by Mark A. Altman, the former editor-in-chief of Sci-Fi Universe, it has a chillingly autobiographical tone.

One day, while browsing in a bookstore in LA, they come upon William Shatner (playing himself…more or less), reading a copy of Hustler. Oblivious to his discomfort, they fall at his feet and begin worship. "Bill" sets the mood right away with his response to being hailed as one of the greatest American actors ever. "I'm Canadian." he demurs, deadpan.

Only when it turns out that the pair have industry connections does Shatner warm to them. That and their willingness to buy a number of green ("Soylent Green is people") cocktails.

Bill has a dream. He wants to put on a musical adaptation of Julius Caesar in which he plays all the parts. "Wouldn't you have to stab yourself in the back?" queries one of them. After a boozy pause, Shatner replies, "I've done that."

Robert, the film editor, has just lost his last girlfriend because he blew the rent money on an action figure. Early in the film he meets a girl in a comic store who, unbelievably, actually understands and likes the whole SF/comic/Trek scene and he falls head over heels for her. The standard romantic plot ensues, with much dialog transported from Trek, Star Wars, 2001 and Logan's Run.

By the way, the women in this movie are unilaterally attractive and the epilogue leaves little doubt that the whole project has elements of both fantasy and autobiography. ("This is how it really happened, or at least, how I wish it had happened.")

Literally everyone in the film, Shatner included, gets to do Kirk impersonations. First prize goes to Eric McCormack (Mark) for his impassioned Kirkian monologue on relationships.

Though the classic SF film references are thick and varied, they only date back to 60's. The movie omits Film SF of the 50's and all written SF. . Still, it requires an excellent working knowledge of the genre to catch all the references. . Not that you need to get them all to enjoy the movie. Besides, the folks at Regent Entertainment put a glossary on the www.freeent.com website. Free Enterprise doesn't miss a chance to show us how each generation decides that things began with them when one of the boys starts harassing a member of the next generation (e.g. a child) in a Toys R Us store because his idea of early SF is Star Wars.

The pacing is fair, the production values demonstrate that it is an independent film, and the special effects are used sparingly. Thank God. The story is formulaic, and the real fun comes from seeing ourselves portrayed so clearly in the characters on the screen. Or from wishing we were the characters on the screen.Or being glad we're not. Or all the above.

It's funny, it's romantic, and it's chillingly accurate in its portrayal of SF Fandom. Hopefully it will be shown at the next con you go to.

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Video: Sawicki's Picks

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Go to Steve's Web Page

Dark Star / Wing Commander / Virus

It’s the end of summer and either you’ve been pleased with what you’ve found at the box office or you’re disgusted with yourself for once again having wasted so much valuable time watching so much crap. Or maybe you just avoided the whole thing and spent the summer surfing. I wouldn’t watch television myself, but recreation time is, after all, a personal thing. All that is behind us now as we look forward to a new television season, a weak movie release schedule (at least until Thanksgiving), and the coming of the cold. The only bright spot is that there will be videos aplenty to choose from. Miss a film you wanted to see? Significant other wouldn’t go see that scary or chick flick with you? Dog get sick on Phantom Menace weekend? Don’t fret, the video stores are bursting with releases. But how do you know what to pick? Not to worry, I can guide you. Just close your eyes and ignore the sensation of movement in your back pocket.

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Dark Star (1983), John Carpenter Productions, 83 minutes

Starring: Brian (Who?) Narelle as Doolittle, Andreijah (who??) Pahich as Talby, Carl (no really, who?) Duniholm as… I forget, after all it’s been 16 years, and Dan (which end of this thing do you look through?) O'Bannon as Pinback

Director: John Carpenter         Music: John Carpenter
Producer: John Carpenter Screenwriter: John Carpenter
Caterer: John Carpenter Coffee perked by: John Carpenter

Also screenwritten by: Dan O'Bannon, who not only wrote and acted, but did Production Design, Set Decoration, Special Effects, and baked the cookies for the cast parties.

This is a new director’s cut of this film. It’s not like the original wasn’t tedious enough, but now we have to slog through all those additional minutes that Carpenter is putting in. This re-release proves two things -- that people can learn from their mistakes, and that the past is rosier in hindsight.

Okay, for those of you who might have missed it, this is the story of a deep space vehicle with a bomb and a surfer and a frozen guy. Carpenter plays weird electronic music as the crew of the ship goes slowly mad. It’s sort of a Catch 22-in-space, only not as well written or acted, and with cheesy special effects. It’s supposed to be darkly ironic and sardonic as well -- a commentary on the culture of the time. It’s also a cult classic. And like most cult classics, THX 1138 comes to mind, it's far better left on the shelf and to memory. No amount of added footage can help this dated, boring, dull, early effort. Sure, Carpenter went on to become great, but that doesn’t mean we have to slog through the footage he shot at his sister’s birthday. Remember this one through the haze of history. Pick up the box and chuckle, but when the urge comes to watch it again, fight back.

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Wing Commander, 20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Starring: Freddie (smiley) Prinze, Jr. as Chris Blair, Saffron (is that a French accent?) Burrows as "Angel" Deveraux, Matthew (I know two emotions) Lillard as "Maniac" Marshall, Tchéky (no-one’s pal) Karyo as Paladin, and Jürgen (where did I put Das Boot?) Prochnow as Gerald

Director: Chris Roberts Screenwriter: Kevin Droney
Music: Kevin Kiner

Okay, maybe you should have grabbed Dark Star after all. This is the movie based on the game stolen from Larry Niven’s Known Space series. Somehow, in the transition from book to game to film, a lot got lost and mixed up. Must have been one of those bad transmissions we are always hearing about. "Hello, hello, logic and story? Say again, you’re breaking up..." "They’re gone, sir." "Damn, just when we needed them most. Sparks, call us an engineer and we’ll cobble something together."

The spacecraft look like either submarines or early WWII fighters. There’s even a scene where one ship fires first torpedoes and then a broadside at another. And this is the part they got right. Possibly one of the worst adaptations ever. Play the game -- it’s way better in terms of action, special effects, and acting.

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Virus, Universal, 100 minutes

Starring: Jamie (Mikey can’t swim) Lee Curtis as Kit Foster, William (cripes, there’s yet another one) Baldwin as Steve (you gotta love the name) Baker, Donald (Mumbles) Sutherland as Captain Everton, and Joanna (next movie I play a character with both names) Pacula as Nadia

Director: John Bruno Screenwriter: Dennis Feldman
Music: Joel Mcneely

Okay, somehow this space thing manages to miss Earth but it hits the Mir space station. Talk about being unlucky. Not only that, but it hits the Mir just as the Mir is downloading a transmission to a Russian science vessel in the Pacific ocean. This space thingy destroys the Mir and gets beamed to the Russian ship. At the same time, but in a different place, the crew of the Sea Star is battling a hurricane. The Sea Star gets pretty wrecked and the crew's only hope of salvation is to find another boat. Luckily for them, the Russian ship is drifting just a short distance away.

This is Alien at sea, basically. Not done badly, either, if you can accept the whole string of circumstances which have to happen in order for the thing to get started, and the whole string of stereotypes which are required to make the whole thing work -- drunken captains, Russian science ships loaded to the gills with weapons, crews so stupid it makes you wonder, and a creature that is incredibly smart right up to the moment the idiot crew manages to kill it. I liked it. It had motion. It had drama. It had Jamie Lee Curtis in tight sweaters. It had creepy monsters and an insidious plot. It held my attention for the whole 100 minutes. It’s the only one worth renting of the three. Boy, I can’t wait until the summer release blues are gone.

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