July 2002 Damnaliens DVD Review by Steve Sawicki
Note: order the films from Amazon by following the hyperlinks to buy  junk food for the aliens and keep them away from the dog.) Want a second opinion? We suggest www.imdb.com - Ernest

Recent Releases    /    Classics    /    SFTV    /     Anime

Summerís here and the weatherís hot and sticky (thatíd be hot and smokey for those of you in Eastern Canada or Western US, hot and leady if youíre anywhere in the middle east, and just plain hot for those of you reading this in Sub-Saharan Africa.)  Regardless of where you are on the globe thereís good reason to stay inside, cuddle up with the water buffalo (bull moose for those of you in Canada) and watch some dvdís in air conditioned splendor.  But what to watch?  Thatís always the dilemma.  It stays light too long for horror to be really effective (except for those of you in the Antarctic but then youíve got enough else to worry about), itís not the time for anything heavy (and this is where we can all praise the majority of sf and almost all the fantasy released for not taxing our gray matter (thatís grey matter for you Brits), and weíre just coming out of our depression over the most recent disappointing mega releases (except of course for the exceptional Bollywood release Hai Mali Kante Bing Bing Jalwa (the water boy gets the blues) about a young man who encounters strange forces in the rural provinces which imbue him with a mystical energy that both complicates and sweetens his life.  Much singing and dancing ensues.

Recent Releases  -

Not much singing and dancing in this one but some pretty nifty animation and a decent story.  Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius  is about everything you wanted when you were a kid, assuming you were a geek child who liked scientists and rockets.  This film appeals to both adults and children and possibly adults who have children.  Jimmy and his gang must save the universe using only things they are able to cobble together in the back yard with their imagination.  Much fun ensues and you can watch it while shaving your Llama or Alpaca.

Martin Short must get tired of playing dorks.  Unless, of course heís not playing but just being himself.  Innerspace is a recent release of an old movie.  Short plays a guy who gets injected with an experimental miniature sub and who must come to grips with having an internaut driving around inside him.  The flick has some cute moments but is otherwise a waste of time. Not funny enough to be a great comedy and not special enough in the effects arena to be good sf.  Simply another mediocre hollyworld flick.

The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick is a broken attempt at video biography in which the focus is set as much on the times as it is on Dick himself.  What the effort lacks is any sense of who Dick was as a person, instead presenting him as nothing more than another geek writer seeking enlightenment through drugs.  The flick ignores Dickís inherent paranoia, distrust of government and championing of the little ignorant man.  Get this only if itís the sole remaining dvd left after the meteor hits the rental store.

What do you do when you get old and cranky and still want to be in movies?  Check out Space Cowboys for the answer as four over the hill actors come together to show everyone that they still got the right stuff.  The movieís actually not half bad although there are some plot holes and bad writing.  Entertaining enough though for those hot summer nights when the butter comes pre-melted in the box.

If I was able to travel through time Iíd go to the future, make millions and then spend my time remaking old hollywood classics, one after the other.  The Time Machine is a weak remake of the George Pal classic flick.  What were they thinking?  Oops, I forgot, thinking and Hollywood just donít go together.  A waste of time to watch this, time which would be much better searching for equatorial Java on the map.

I was in the B-movie section of the dvd store the other day and had to choose between Bikini Academy and Battle Queen 2020.  Iím afraid I made the wrong choice.  Julie Strain (her greatest acting ability is taking her clothes off in front of a camera) stars as the Battle Queen of the title.  Unfortunately thereís not much battling going on.  Lotís of talking about really stupid plot devices though and meandering about post-apocalyptic scenery (which means they shot this in the desert on the cheap.)  Worse than leftover Siberian reindeer pudding.

Itís really only a matter of time until Holloworld realizes that they can just lift video from games and flesh it out with a few digital effects and actors and make some cash.  Resident Evil  is a great example of exactly that.  This first person shooter game transferred to film keeps all the gore and guts of the game but ads nothing of any intelligence or mystery or adventure.  If you like watching people get killed and shooting up zombies then this is definitely the flick for you.  If you expect dialogue and story and plot then you need to avoid this like a corporate lackey slipping off for the long weekend to Aruba.

Classics -

Doctor Dracula, starring John Carradine, is Al Adamsonís entry into schlock horror. Lotís of blood sucking and female vampire making mixed in between long, boring scenes of crappy dialogue and inaction.  The perfect DVD for those long, vodka laden Siberian nights.

In Our Man Flint, and  In Like Flint, we find James Coburn at his best (which is arguably pretty awful), doing a weak James Bond takeoff.  Itís been called clever satire, juvenile homage and cold war pastiche.  I refer to it more as a waste of film.  See Casino Royale if you want a spy spoof or the Presidentís Analyst if youíre just plain enamored of Coburn.  The only Flint really worth seeing was in Michigan and even that's a downer since they closed the GM plant.

(Ern says: I want a second opinion. I mean about Our Man Flint. I agree with Steve that The President's Analyst is worth watching, but I really did like Derek Flint. For what was certainly intended to be a "B" spy movie, Flint wound up with more coolness than four out of five Bonds and some of the best lines ever given a superspy. Repeat after me: You are not a pleasure unit. You are not a pleasure unit. Besides, I like the title song. Yeah Baby!)

SFTV -

Star Trek The Next Generation, The Complete Third Season,  Beverly Crusher returns, Wesley stays alive, Worf has family problems, Data has family problems, the Captain get some time off, Riker has women troubles, Geordi has engine troubles, Troi has personal troubles.  Enough troubles for a room full of tribbles regardless of where theyíre vacationing.  The show was refreshed in the third season and even ended with a great episode about the Borg.  Now, if only someone would do a Phantom Edit and get rid of the annoying Wesley.

Back in the 1970ís when we knew everything, Gerry Anderson decided to stop playing with puppets and start playing with actors, although some would dispute that he made any change at all.  UFO set 1 , is the first 13 episodes, which is actually the first half of the entire series.  Watch in amazement as the organization SHADO combats evil UFOís.  SHADO has an Earth based lair and a moonbase.  Some great effects and model work coupled with some really stupid plots and mediocre acting.  Still fun to watch though.

Anime -

Imagine Sailor Moon traveling with her giant mumbling robots to a far fantasy planet and youíve pretty much captured Escaflowne, The Movie, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000066IXT/103-1797850-7862214. Hitomi Kanzaki is the girl who wants to get off the planet.  Luckily for her, magic exists and sheís transported to the planet Gaia which is much nicer.  None of the urban sprawl or ugly crime and degradation.  In fact, she quickly gets involved with Van of the White Dragon Clan who just so happens to be fighting his twisted brother Folken, the leader of the Black Dragon Clan, in a succession war that threatens the very existence of Gaia.  Okay, so maybe everything ainít quite peachy here.  Hitomi is hailed as the long-awaited "Wing Goddess," and her power over the invincible dragon-mecha suit Escaflowne confirms her status.  Her ability to mumble fits the prophecy as well and everything goes on from there.

Hellsing, Impure Souls, is a patched together mish mosh of broken legends, old b-movie tropes and bad animation.  Thereís vampires in Britain and theyíre part of the church.  Thereís also a team of vampire hunters some of whom are vampires themselves.  Talk about major identity crisis.  Instead of getting therapy to resolve their internal conflicts everyone takes it out on society, sucking blood, stabbing stakes and terrorizing the populace.  Not as good as Vampire Hunter D and not anywhere near as good as a big kangaroo steak in Sydney.

-- Steve Sawicki

 

The aliens are loose!! Read Steve's novella, "Invisible Friends," in the Spring 2001 issue of ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE (http://www.dnapublications.com), 
make plans to read his column FAR HAZE AND DISTANT THUNDER, the best short fiction review column on the planet, appearing monthly in SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE (http://www.dnapublications.com), 
and while you're at it check out his short story, "Call Me Tandeleho," appearing in the current issue of Transversions (http://www.salmar.com/transversions/)  Order copies today!!
For more insight, visit Steve's web page: (http://www.geocities.com/soho/lofts/5240

 

© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu