Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dirk Benedict Strikes Back!

There I am, scanning through results in Google, when I stumble upon this article: Lt. Starbuck … Lost In Castration. Now I don't have an eidetic memory but that sounds like an article I read a long while ago around the time the re-envisioned mini-series was slated to come out. But it says 2009 on the dateline, so who knows. In summary the "suits" are evil, the new Battlestar Galactica is a repugnant moral inversion of all that the original portrayed, and Hollywood is driven by money grubbing dilettantes that use formulas designed to guarantee profit margins not narrative logic.

Yeah, well, what else is new? ;)

My curiosity piqued I decided to do a quick Google news search. All I turned up was this article: Lt. Starbuck, in the Age of Starbucks . Not a bad read. For instance did you know, "[Dirk Benedict] is a veteran of a number of serious films and impressive stage productions, he’s best known for two roles — Lt. Starbuck, the roguish, cigar-chomping space cowboy always ready with a quip on the original Battlestar Galactica; and Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck on The A-Team — not coincidentally, a roguish, quip-ready soldier-of-fortune who had one arm wrapped around the waist of a different babe every week. Neither show lasted very long, but both occupy an outsize place in popular culture."

I'm not sure what an "outsize place" is but it must be something! But what's really interesting is this: "Benedict has also become known for a sparkling and witty rant against the post-modern and politically correct themes of the wildly popular Battlestar Galactica remake on the Sci-Fi Channel (a piece you can find on Big Hollywood here, in all its R-rated glory). It set the blogosphere buzzing, and Benedict the writer now seems to be attracting attention for the very thing he says got him blackballed in Hollywood — his opinions."

I wouldn't say the new series is "wildly popular" so much as it's managed to hit the trifecta of 1) nothing better being on opposite it as the Sci-Fi channel bounced it around timeslots to make sure it would be the "Meh, nothing else is on so let's watch this." option; 2) there's no quality sci-fi franchises left to compete with it for audience share; and 3) it's primary youth audience doesn't know any better and would probably be just as happy playing Guitar Hero while making fun of their uncle for wasting time trying to learn complex chordings on a real guitar. And before you get all angry and send me e-mails or nasty comments I include myself in categories #1 and #2. The new BSG is a series with appeal that, despite a shakey start, has managed to grow an audience in a unforgiving market. For that alone it deserved kudos, but it didn't exactly take off like wildfire but rather more like a fine wine, slowly fermenting until, at last, it becomes something that is enjoyed in small sips over time.

I've been tuning into the deathward spiral of BSG's last season. It's a very under whelming experience. But then again this is on the Sci-Fi channel, the purveyors of such vacuous nonsense as Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1, two of the more inane and dumbed down "sci-fi" series ever to grace the small screen since, well, I don't know what. But I digress.

Back to the article. One comment that seems odd to me was: "Given the uniformity of political and cultural opinions in Hollywood, it sounds like Dirk Benedict has reached a place in his life where Hollywood needs him more than he needs Hollywood."

I guess the article writer is trying to say that Hollywood could use some of Mr. Benedicts straightforward insight into life and reality but I could be wrong. Read the articles for yourself and see what you think. But lest you think this is merely whining from a washed up has been opining his youth check this other article out: Battlestar's Original Revival Sparks More Interest Than You'd Think.

Long story short there seems to be a news story that plans to do a movie based on the original Larson concept may be in development. To which I would simply like to say: HUZZAH!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Traditionally Space Opera is best known for spinning vast mythic tales centered on fantastical galaxy spanning battles between arrayed forces of good and not-so-good ala Star Wars, Wing Commander, Babylon 5, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, Battle Beyond the Stars, Star Crash, and to a lesser extent Starship Troopers. The Battlestar Galactica mini series presents what is more of a cross between a cautionary futuristic military science fiction drama and a post-apocalyptic tale of survival that happens to be set in space. <…> The “classic” Battlestar Galactica from the seventies was straight up, undiluted, epic Space Opera about humanity struggling to survive against an unrepentant alien menace, in the form of cybernetic beings that overthrew their creators and became dead set on wiping the nearest enclave of organic life out of existence. This miniseries is essentially a completely different story using the Battlestar Galactica name, though it does manage to retain a similar undercurrent, namely humanity facing the wrath of cybernetic beings dead set on wiping them out of existence. While this “re-envisioning” is not terrible, it is also not terribly spectacular."

And it's true. What Ron Moore managed to accomplish is nothing short of mind-numbing tedium. That might not have been the case if the series had been on a cable station or Moore given free reigns to do his own series without the albatross of expectations associated with the original Battlestar Galactica tied around his neck. Alas the new series was on the Sci-Fi channel, who are owned by NBC Universal, are a commercial station, and despite the name aren't really known for quality science fiction programming. (Their "Sci-Fi Original Movies" are the joke of the SF community.) What's more the series is an bleak, dreary, uninspiring cesspool of clichés. Considering we're currently in a global recession what most viewers want is escapism that's uplifting, not depressing. I could be wrong about that though.

Back when the mini series first came out I wrote: "The “re-imaging” has taken a once vibrant mythic story, stripped it of all sense of noble glory, gutted it of the legendary larger than life background, and overlaid a uninspired pseudo modern America-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off society in place of the truly alien feeling society of the original series in an effort to spin a pallid tale of updated 50s red menace fear mongering replaced with terrorists lurking in every shadow doom and gloom mediocrity. <…> [But] the story isn’t too bad; for all that it drags a bit at the outset, especially where it is punctuated by the rather limp and boring attempts at inserting character ‘sexcapades’ as filler between fade scenes."

Who wants to tune into a series about backstabbers and liars whoring and murdering their way across the cosmos?

Trick question. The answer is we ALL might, if the show is done well and isn't inhibited. Problem is the BSG show was not just inhibited it was more or less kept within the nice comfy box of political correctness. No nudity. Faux swearing. And lots of violence implied and realized. Yet, for all that, it wasn't filling.

Mr. Bendict complained in that first article, "For the re-imagined terrorists (Cylons) are not mechanical robots void of soul, of sexuality, but rather humanoid six foot tall former lingerie models who f**k you to death. (Poor old Starbuck, you were imagined too early. Think of the fun you could have had `fighting' with these thong-clad aliens!) In the spirit of such soft-core, sci-fi porn I think a more re-imaginative title would have been "F**cked by A Cylon." (Apologies to "Touched by an Angel.")

One thing is certain. In the new un-imagined, re-imagined world of "Battlestar Galactica" everything is female driven. The male characters, from Adama on down, are confused, weak and wracked with indecision, while the female characters are decisive, bold, angry as hell, puffing cigars (gasp!) and not about to take it any more."

Say what? Where was the "soft-core, sci-fi porn" ? Is it on DVD because I never saw anything! Seriously you want to see "soft-core, sci-fi porn" I suggest renting any of the following movies: FLESH GORDON, FLESH GORDON MEETS THE COSMIC CHEERLEADERS, FEMALIEN, FEMALIEN 2, PLEASURECRAFT, LOLIDA 2000, STARSLAMMER, SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY, or the "uncensored" version of BEAST IN SPACE.

The new Battlestar Galactica didn't have the 'nads to actually go the distance and be real "soft-core, sci-fi porn " but fell back on the one thing that Hollywood and the MPAA say is a-okay: VIOLENCE. Mindless, amoral, bloody and random violence! You can't show a woman's bare breast on American television but it's perfectly acceptable to have a woman snap a baby's neck (mini series) or intimate that her legs get spread more frequently than mayonnaise in a sandwich shop (series). But you can never show characters in flagrante delicto. One need look no further than the proliferation of "C.S.I." series to see how television series panders to violence. yet never, not once, was there anything that could qualify as "soft-core, sci-fi porn" in Battlestar Galactica (or any other series that's ever appeared on a commercial station) as nothing was ever depicted. Not a breast with areola or nipple jutting proud, not a single unshaven bush, nothing, nada, zilch! (Darn shame too!)

Had it been the ratings would probably be much better than they ever were. The lackadaisically way in which vile deeds are implied, the cowardice of insinuating sexual promiscuity as a means of exploiting the underage youth demographic, and the general laze fare attitude toward morality, religion, and military conduct are aspects worthy of complaint.

But it's all moot now: Starbuck speaks! Katee Sackhoff on the final days of 'Battlestar Galactica'

End of line.

© Copyright C. Demetrius Morgan

Friday, February 27, 2009

Idaho Transfer

The Movie: Idaho Transfer

Year: 1973

Director: Peter Fonda

Run Time: 86 minutes

Cast: Kelley Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Dale Hopkins, Keith Carradine, Fred Seagraves, Ted D'Arms, Joe Newman, Susan Kelly, Meredith Hull, Roy Ayers, Judy Motolsky, Kim Casper, Debbie Scott, Devin Burke.

Premise: A group working on a secret government project in Idaho discover a way to travel into the future. They discover the future to be bleak and barren of humanity thus decide to clandestinely recruit youths into the program to send them forward in time to repopulate the Earth.

The Reality: Idaho Transfer is a dull, plodding, time travel non-epic marred by an unclear plot which is not helped by the inclusion of a central character who is an outpatient from a mental clinic. As it is around this character whom most of the action occurs this becomes problematical as her character back story serves only to confuse the audience. It's unclear whether the movie is supposed to be viewed as part of a hallucinatory psychotic episode or stark reality. The latter may have been intentional on the part of the scriptwriter as the character is not introduced right away alas the audience is left scratching their heads in bewildered consternation as this character's ever increasing erratic and borderline irrational behavior slowly, agonizingly, unfolds on screen.

The Story: Without revealing plot "secrets" this movie could be summed up simply as one woman's descent into madness. Alas Idaho Transfer is an unfocused confusion of plodding narrative flummery. The science fiction trappings of a time travel experiment against which the story unfolds makes watching Idaho Transfer a perplexing experience that defies all sense of logic or reason. The basic idea underlying the plot is old hack in time travel short stories. Yet this reliance on cliché could have been forgiven, if not for the ending. .

Assessment/ Verdict: Aside from the fact the entire premise of the plot turns out to be a red herring, or so the audience is left to ponder/wonder at the unexpected Twilight Zone ending, the story is a pretty straightforward examination of the pitfalls a group of twenty something youths encounter in a world devoid of humanity. Thematically Idaho Transfer's philosophy is typical of 70s era hippy culture. (Or would be had the movie actually focused on developing the numerous threads of plot narrative it introduced.) Sadly the movie is very stream of consciousness.

Idaho Transfer, despite being filmed in the 70s with a cast of long haired youths, is far from the hippy anthem one might expect such a movie to be. It's bleak, thought provoking, yet also convoluted and confused. Frustratingly it's impossible to discuss the problems inherent with the plot as this movie is intended to be viewed without foreknowledge of these "facts" and to reveal them lessens the impact Idaho Transfer has on the audience. Alas, what message the director was trying to impart to the audience is as unclear as the movie is unfocused. Is Idaho Transfer about the futility of human endeavors or merely an exercise in futility?

The basic story would make a great 30 minute Twilight Zone episode alas, as a full length feature, the premise is lost and buried under muddled barely coherent nonsense. Thus the less forgiving will likely find this a disappointing and unsatisfying experience. However, due to the perplexity of this feature, I'm going to suggest two other reviews for those curious about this cinematic oddity. Be warned much of the plot and story is discussed, which may potentially lessen the impact (and confusion) of the movie.


Million Monkey Theater - This link takes you to a very in depth, and opinionated, review of the movie. Lots of screen caps.

Unknown Movies - An interesting review that provides some insights into the director and the movies perceived faults.

Archive dot org - Link to the movie at Archive dot org. You will need Javascript active to watch the movie, page includes downloads.


Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Monday, February 23, 2009


The Movie: Cybertracker

Year: 1994

Director: Richard Pepin

Cast: Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, Richard Norton, Stacie Foster, Joseph Ruskin, John Aprea, Abby Dalton, Steve Burton, Dana Sparks

Format Viewed: DVD (R1)

MPAA Rating: R (For non-stop mindless violence.)

Premise: In the not too distant future the United States has become a socialist corporate state. Corporate computers tell citizens what to think, how to live, what to buy, and when to die. However all is not yet the perfect neo Marxist/Maoist paradise. There is a resistance movement.
The Reality: Tragically bad formulaic low budget ROBOCOP/TERMINATOR inspired action knock-off nonsense with cut-rate special effects. .

Minimalist sets reminiscent of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. .

And an anemic "plot" following the basic pattern of: gun battle, things blowing up, car chase, plodding poorly scripted melodramatic rubbish interspersed with martial arts pugilism; wash, rinse, repeat. I kid you not.

The Story: Body guard witnesses an assassination. Body guard has shoot outs, gets chased by the bad guys, and blows things up. Bad guys send a Cyborg assassin after body guard. Body guard has more shoot outs, gets chased by more bad guys, and blows yet more things up (including the Cyborg). Bad guys send another Cyborg assassin after body guard. This continues until the viewer either stops playback, falls asleep, or their eyes weep tears of joy as they realize the end credits have begun to scroll.

Assessment/ Verdict: The following quote from the movie pretty much sums up how I feel about Cybertracker: "I just want somebody to tell me what the hell is going on here!"
Cybertracker is a mindless action flick that uses all the clichéd standards of the genre: gun battles that expend more ammunition than a clip could actually hold, car chases, pyrotechnical explosions, threadbare plot driven by stupid people doing stupid things, and poorly choreographed martial arts kick-fighting with the usual Junior High level mind numbingly bad dialogue used to punctuate action scenes. Characters were introduced who talked about things and stuff only to be quickly forgotten as one tediously senseless action scene melded into another. Most dialogue is recited by rote with all the passion and vitality of road kill bloating in the high noon sun leaving the audience scratching their heads in confusion.

Based on snippets of dialogue spread throughout the movie the setting is apparently a bleak future United States in which the White House has been burned down and the government taken over by corporations who have replaced the judicial system with computers; more specifically the United States Computerized Judicial System. Flesh and blood police officers are in the process of being replaced by "Core Trackers" (basically Cyborg terminators) and that's where the movie bogs down.

Cybertracker wastes so much of it's runtime trying to look like other Cyborg movies that it comes across as soullessly derivative. Worse, the movie is just one great big ruse for "Don 'The Dragon' Wilson" to exhibit his rusty martial arts skills. Had the premise, loosely outlined as it was, of the back story and it's cultural ramifications been explored this could have been an interesting political allegory ala THE SECOND CIVIL WAR. Instead it's all throwaway dialogue used only to provide dull pauses between action scenes. Cybertracker is thus the sort of pointless timewaster that's okay to have on in the background while you're cooking or working on a essay. Otherwise this movie should be reserved for testing the will power of bad movie aficionados and interrogating terrorists.

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DVD Sales Officially in a Slump, D'OH!

I've been complaining for what seems like years now about the LACK of choice/variety in DVD product in-stock on the shelves at brick and mortar stores. And now I'm seeing the economic doom and gloom reports turning, finally, to the DVD market place. But I'm not sure the authors really get it. Here's one of many similar banner headlines I've been seeing: DVD sales plummet, Blu-ray unable to save the day

Really? You're going to blame this all on Blu-Ray?

Some choice comments from the article: "The numbers for 2008 are in and they don't look good: DVD sales are now showing the first signs that they're about to go into free-fall, just like sales of CDs did a few years ago. <…> DVD's purported savior -- Blu-ray -- has been unable to rise to the rescue so far. Blu-ray (and leftover HD DVD) disc sales <…> [don't] nearly make up for the loss in sales of DVD media. Since Blu-ray discs are more expensive than DVDs, the overall unit sales decline is even more worrisome for Hollywood <…> Naturally, the recession is being targeted as the culprit for all the bad news, but pundits say other factors are at play."

No sh^t Sherlock! There's plenty of other reasons, starting with the fact retailers made a choice to NOT STOCK certain DVD product, thus effectively closing out a section of the market. This has nothing to do with Blu-Ray, and yet everything to do with Blu-Ray, but not in the way these articles insinuate. They make it sound like it's all about the lack of Blu-Ray sales but that's not it at all.

Consumers can't buy something if brick and mortar stores refuse to stock it. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs were competing for space with standard def DVD. Long before Blu-Ray won over HD-DVD retailers started clearing shelf space to give room over to these competing formats, but the offerings were all the same boring standard Hollywood titles. The only difference was often the price, with the new formats costing a heck of a lot more than a DVD. That set the HD formats up as a high end niche. Not exactly a smart move to bank on a niche market during a economic downturn but I suppose it makes as much sense as blaming lack of sales for loss of projected profit. And what if a consumer didn't want to double or triple dip on a movie or didn't care for the title of the week Hollywood was dumping on the market?

They were S-O-L. Why? For starters the corporations have plunked down millions, if not billions, in marketing to convince consumers that the older formats were crap. This worked when they wanted to phase out VHS in favor of DVD. And they had a great worm to dangle, better picture and sound quality! Problem is we, the people, have stopped biting. Enough is enough! We're tired of corporations playing Trick or Treat with us. To blame consumers for the loss of projected corporate profits is B-S! Consumers have become wise to these 10-year tech switch out plans and, frankly, are sick of having to re-buy their stuff. One day the world may become a socialist corporate state but we're not living in that neo Maoist/Socialist paradise of enforced consumerism, yet.

More simply the loss of sales is about a lack of choice. I can't begin to count the times I've walked OUT of a Borders with an 30% off coupon in my pocket because I could NOT find anything on my list of things I WANTED to buy; not a book, a CD, or DVD. That is criminal neglect of customer's needs and wants on the part of the retailer. Retailers are the real culprit in this "poor sales" debacle. They set themselves up for failure alas they continue down the path to destruction. And Best Buy seems to be leading the Charge of the Light-headed Brigade. Viz:

Best Buy to Use Fewer Movie Vendors

Brilliant! Your model of stocking shelves with new releases for a week or two then clearing the shelves for the next batch, thus cutting out the price of warehousing, and thus the investment having a vested interest in caring about stock engenders, isn't working so let's just cut back on the number of titles we're going to stock. Never mind the fact I've been in stores asking for a title and told to just DOWNLOAD it off the Internet. Not buy it through the Best Buy web site but DOWNLOAD IT! When you have people working in your store advocating piracy over buying DVDs because you wont stock an item there's something wrong. But, hey, who cares right?

I, YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMER, DO THAT'S WHO! If you don't stock it then consumers can't buy it! If consumers can't find it in your store then don't blame them for your lack of sales. You want to know who to blame? Look in the mirror.

Best Buy (and all you other retailers holding on the by the skin of your teeth) if you learn NOTHING from the failure of your competitor Circuit City take this to heart: Stupid is as stupid does.

Call me crazy but I'd really rather buy DVDs in a physical brick and mortar store. I don't need to, I don't have to, but I want to. But if you're going to go out of your way to make my shopping experience a hassle then there's always online vendors. Who'd you rather get my money?

Sometimes I wonder at the debit of intelligence in the retail market. Luckily there is some intelligence out there. Witness this quote attributed to producer Bill Mechanic: "You can't flood the market with every TV show, every reality show, and dump your library into the market all at one time and not have some kind of game plan in terms of pricing."

Amen brother!

The above was from this article: Bill Mechanic Talks About the Decline of DVD Sales. However the same site also has the following article: DVD Sales Way Down; High-Def Slow to Rescue; which states, in part, that:

"The latest sales numbers are not pretty—and they’re going to get worse. Is it the recession, or a much deeper problem? <…> For years now, there’s been rumbling that the DVD market – the studios’ most reliable and robust cash cow – has been flattening, with Hollywood treating the news like a 4.1 level earthquake in Corona. <…> And the introduction of high-definition DVDs is not proving to be the saving grace that studios had prayed for."


Honestly. .

Look the answer is simple. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Retailers you don't want to warehouse stuff, fine, the economy is bad and we all understand the need for frugality. But here's the thing. You need to make an effort to keep consumers from walking out the door. That means hiring more than work a week or two minimum wage idiots who get angry when consumers ask them for something. Inspire loyalty in your work force. They are the face of your company. I, as a consumer, should NEVER be told by one of your employees to download a movie and burn it to DVD, ever. If you don't have a title in stock that employee should make every effort to get it for me, whether by special order or by checking on the in-store computer to see what, if any, other stores have it in stock.

Do you understand that I have money and actually want to spend it but can't if you don't actually stock the items I want?

Stop playing the blame game. Blu-ray has nothing to do with it. It's your business model. Fix it!

Thank you very much.


Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Moon 44

The Movie: Moon 44

Year: 1990

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Michael Paré, Dean Devlin, Leon Rippy, Brian Thompson, Malcolm McDowell, Stephen Geoffreys, Lisa Eichhorn, Roscoe Lee Browne, Jochen Nickel, Mechimed Yilmaz.

MPAA Rating: R

Format Viewed: DVD (R1)

Label: Artisan

Runtime: 102 min (listed); 100 min (actual)

The DVD: Bare bones, full screen, with decent sound but grainy video that seems too dark at times.

Premise: In the future Earth's resources have been depleted forcing man to turn to space. Resource acquisitions in space are controlled by paramilitary mining conglomerates. Hostile takeovers are literally just that, hostile takeovers with the asteroid, moon, or planetary holding of a corporation being forcefully annexed. As usual the workers, being on the front line, get the sh!t end of the stick.

The Reality: Michael Paré gets to do what he does best, play a misunderstood tough guy who saves the day by the skin of his brooding antihero teeth no thanks to the evil authority figures; the rest of the movie is just window dressing.

The Story: While in the middle of a hostile takeover Galactic Mining Corporation discovers their shuttles are mysteriously disappearing from Moon 44, which also happens to be the next of their resource moons in line for acquisition by rival, Pyrite Corporation. The reaction of Galactic Mining's bigwigs? Outfit the moon with attack helicopters, send in a bunch of prisoners to be pilots and, oh yeah, have one of their Internal Affairs officers pose as a prisoner to infiltrate the mining facility in order to do a bit of detective work. What?
I don't even know where to begin. The Pyrite Corporation has this hulking carrier mothership full of space fighters piloted by SHORT CIRCUIT robot clones. .

If you don't see the problem then let me spell it out: Modern militaries don't send helicopters against jets so why would the producers think an modern audience would find it remotely plausible helicopters could go up against what are, one assumes, rocket powered spaceships?

My guess: BLUE THUNDER started a trend in helicopter themed action-adventure movies that spanned the mid 80s to mid 90s. MOON 44 is BLUE THUNDER in a OUTLAND setting. Problem is someone wasn't using all the cognitive faculties G-d gave them when they pitched this, either that or something went wrong between the premise stage and production. For instance it seems the script writer never heard of missiles. If I were chairmen of GMC, that's what I'd be looking into. Sentry missile platforms. I'd ring my moons with defensive missile batteries and a few laser platforms to. .

Wait, what am I saying? These are supposed to be CORPORATIONS for the love of Mercury. What the heck are they doing blowing up assets?

Assessment/ Verdict: MOON 44 is a charming yet convoluted action flick attempting to meld too many concepts into a amalgamated dark future sci-fi setting. First, the evil mega-corporation common to the cyberpunk genre. Second, the choice to try to cash in on the low budget TOP GUN styled helicopter combat flicks of the 80s (BLUE THUNDER, AIRWOLF, FIRE BIRDS, &tc). Third, the inclusion of a totally superfluous rape-revenge subplot. Fourth, a ludicrous premise involving prisoners impressed into service as fighter jocks. Put together it makes for one fine mess.

I originally saw this back in the 90s probably around the time it hit video. A friend rented this and came over saying he had a movie I must see. Before revisiting MOON 44 I remembered it as gritty, like OUTLAND, with great miniature work that gives it a je ne sais quoi that set it apart from similar DTV fare. .

Yet I only vaguely recollected the story. Having revisited it I'd like to send a note to the writer(s), producers, et al: THIS IS SET IN SPACE! Couldn't you take the time to learn sci-fi lingo? I mean, c'mon, what's up with this. .

Airport? Even a teenage mutant samurai squirrel would know if you set something in space and have spaceship's it's called a SPACE PORT! But, wait. .

Aircraft? Either the writer was a hack just lazily retooling a spec script who couldn't be bothered to update the terminology to fit the genre his script was being adapted for or someone working the computer SFX dropped the ball. While we're nitpicking a movie several decades after it's release I have two words to add: MASS DRIVER.

If I'm CEO of an evil space corporation why waste money on drones and carrier craft? It's not cost effective. If I, evil corporate CEO, want to take over another corporation's planetary holdings, and I'm vile enough to launch a destructive assault, a simple mass driver enabled vessel to launch a ship-to-ground bombardment should do the trick nicely. Also, attaching engines to a few asteroids and flying them into the planetary ops center could work. Then again why, if I were looking to take over operations, would I want to blow up the ops center? If I blow it up that means I have to build my own ops center, which means expending yet more money and resources! It would be strategically, not to mention economically, better to take over operations, including the equipment and personnel- whose contracts can always be renegotiated- as intact as possible. But I digress.

It may look dated, the plot may have flaws, but MOON 44 is proof a decent looking sci-fi movie can be made on a budget. If you're tired of Sci-Fi channel's "original" movies with their crappy CGI rent MOON 44. It may surprise you.


Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Saturday, February 7, 2009

DOOM (2005)

The Movie: Doom

Year: 2005

Format Viewed: DVD (Unrated Edition)

Premise: The year is 2046. The place, a research facility on the planet Mars. Something happens. Something critically bad. A special-ops force is sent, from Earth via transmaat portal, to investigate. All hell breaks loose.

The Reality: The basic plot has been recycled so many times over the years that it's best to just say this movie fits into the "Alien knock-off" sub-genre of sci-fi and leave it at that.

The Story: A group of soldiers are sent into a volatile situation involving aliens but aren't fully briefed on the situation. After searching the top secret facility, encountering alien strangeness, a cat and mouse chase ensues with the hostiles. We've seen it all before; wash, rinse, repeat.

Assessment/Verdict: I have one complaint: It's too dark. Granted exploring dark rooms was a big deal in the game but, in the movie, it's a eyesore. I mean, c'mon, just take a look at this random screen cap. .

And now, for comparison, a relatively well lighted scene. .

Movies are a visual medium and for them to work the audience needs to be able to SEE the action. The game had gamma correction and most players probably cranked it up, I know I did. You can crank the brightness up but the movie doesn’t look right. It's annoying! That said the extras were okay but mostly seemed to be targeted at XBOX gamers. So if you're not into XBOX the extras are kind of lame.

Being a fan of the SF genre with a few years worth of movie watching under your belt can be handy, if you're a reviewer, but if all you want to do is just watch a movie it can be a curse. A curse because it's hard not to notice that this movie is RESIDENT EVIL takes a MISSION TO MARS. It could even be called a retread of PREDATOR in a ALIEN inspired setting. Similarities with movies like THE TERROR WITHIN, CREEPOZOIDS, or HYBRID are easy to spot but DOOM is actually far more reminiscent of ALIENS; perhaps too much so.

But what readers really want to know is how well the movie stacks up to A) the FPS computer game on which it was based and, B) if it's worth watching.

As for "B" there is nothing really original here, yet it's not quite like any of the movies in it's genre. So if you like these sorts of movies, and I do, then yes it's worth watching. However, as for "A", plot wise this is nothing at all like the game. To me DOOM, the movie, seemed more like an retelling of a old 3D FPS from Apogee, BLAKE STONE (1993), or perhaps Capstone's somewhat similarly themed CORRIDOR 7 (1994). . .

Both were fun first-person shooters that came out roughly the same time the original DOOM, and it's game engine, was gaining popularity. (It was the Guitar Hero of the 90s.) From what I recall Blake Stone's plot followed a rather Bond-esque hero slash agent who was sent to infiltrate the space station of the megalomaniac villain where he ends up fighting human soldiers genetically altered as part of a world domination scheme, or maybe it was an alien virus that got loose, either way there were soldiers/guards and weird critters to shoot. Corridor 7's back story involved, IIRC, an alien artifact (discovered on Mars) brought back to a secret military base on Earth that, of course, turns out to be a portal device. Once activated the aliens invade the base and you, as the last surviving soldier, are humanity's first and last hope to fend them off. Doom's back story, as I remember it, involved a dimensional portal opening a gateway to Hell and demons. Unlike Corridor 7 the action took place entirely on Mars.

I have to admit that I probably played a lot more of Blake Stone and Corridor 7 than I ever did of Doom so it's no surprise the movie really doesn't capture Doom as I remember it. Then again I never really played multiplayer mode as my then system just couldn't handle it. So while I thought having the movie center on a cooperative team, which Doom was really the first FPS to do, was a nice touch the rest of the movie didn't resonate with me as being Doom.

Part of the problem is the basic premise of the plot was changed, specifically from humans battling demon spawn to humans battling genetically mutated humans. I thought it a bit odd the producers would make a change mimicking the premise of RESIDENT EVIL, then perhaps that was point. Alas Doom fans will probably want to pass on this. However, if you're a fan of sci-fi, especially the whole "humans vs. alien monsters" sub-genre, and can forgive the movie changing so much of the basic premise of Doom, or never played Doom, then this may be worth renting.


Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan