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      27.04.2005 15:22
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      Synopsis

      Arthur Dent, an English everyman, wakes up to discover his home is about to be demolished by bumbling bureaucrats. Not just his house, which would be bad enough, but the entire planet Earth.

      Luckily, his best friend, Ford Prefect, is from another planet. They manage to hitch a lift, and improbably join up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy, on his quest to locate the mythical world of Magrathea.

      The film's pacing is very fast, and as a result it unfortunately skips lots of jokes.
      This sacrifice of comedy elements allowed them to squeeze in a side-plot involving an evil Space-Pope [John Malkovich - Johnny English]. Very topical, since an ex-HitlerJugend has been hired as the new ruler of Vatican City. But not only is this plot superfluous, it is also left open-ended - to fill out a potential sequel, no doubt.

      Review

      The Hitch-Hikers series has a long history, dating back to the 1970s. It was originally a BBC Radio series, then a novel, then a TV series. This film is obviously an Americanised version of a British idea -- it's a lot more upbeat than the original. The director, apparently English, has previously directed a couple of music videos. But in spite of his relative inexperience, he acquits himself quite well.

      Despite the vast expense on special effects, the core of the film is still the main characters themselves. Ford Prefect (Mos Def - Italian Job 2003) acquits himself well. Trillian, AKA Tricia McMillan (Zooey Deschanel - Elf) is more like Adams' brainy nerd-girl than the TV show's blonde bimbo (Sandra Dickinson) ever could have been. Marvin the Paranoid Android (Warwick Davis is in the suit, while his Harry Potter co-star Alan Rickman provides the voice) is reasonable. But Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell - Green Mile, Charlie's Angels, Galaxy Quest) is awesome! Yes, if all US adaptions of UK shows could bring actors of his calibre, they would be a lot more popular.

      The film is filled with celebrity cameos. Deep Thought is voiced by Helen Mirren, and even the news anchorwoman is Kelly McDonald (Trainspotting). For BBC fans, the League of Gentlemen make an appearance too.

      There are other nice touches, including cameos by two of the original cast - I won't spoil it for you, you can spot them yourself. Unfortunately Simon Jones, the original voice of the book, has passed away. Stephen Fry (Wilde, Blackadder) is a perfectly adequate replacement.

      Beyond great SPFX and a stellar cast, pun intended, the film doesn't really have much to offer. It's just not as funny as expected. That said, it's true to Adams' original story and nowhere near as bad as you might have been expecting.

      Also, people unfamiliar with the previous versions of the story seem quite impressed with this one. Just like the way the TV show was loved by newbies, but everyone else said the books were better.

      The final verdict? Unfortunately, for those who've read the book, it's a bit hit and miss. Like the Vogons. But if you're a newbie to The Guide, give it a try -- you won't regret it!

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      • The Mummy Returns (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 5 Ratings
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        24.07.2001 12:51
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        The Rock's tiny cameo starts off this dreary SPFX-fest. We are then reunited with the stars Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weitz and John Hannah. Although ten years have apparently passed there is no sign that they have aged - except for the happy couple's incredibly mature offspring, that is. Watch out for Donna Air 's cameo as Hannah's girlfriend. As the title suggests, the villain from the original film [Arnold Vosloo] is back. To help him are the reincarnation of his lover [ Patricia Velasquez ], and a High Priest [Alun Armstrong - Patriot Games]. Their hired muscleman is Adabesi from Oz, whose role consists mainly of babysitting the O'Connells' kidnapped son. This was written and directed by Steven Sommers who tried to re-do and out-do the original film. However, he failed completely. There is none of the original's suspense, while the characterisation is off and the plot non-existent. The only really original bit is when the characters are attacked by an army of undead pygmies. Well, they're more convincing than the Ewoks! Eventually we get to a disappointing and unconvincing climax and resolution. The villains' fates seem so ... tacked on.

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        • Down to Earth (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 2 Ratings
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          24.07.2001 12:45

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          Chris Rock plays a toned down version of himself - an African-American stand-up comedian. He is involved in a Road Traffic Accident, and winds up at the gates of the next world [run by Eugene Levvy and Chazz Palminteri]. Because he was taken before his time, he gets to use the next available body. Unfortunately for him it is a rich middle-aged white man. Yes, this is merely a terrible remake of Warren Beatty's mediocre Heaven Can Wait. The supporting cast is mediocre too. Some guy called Mark Addy [big in the USA, perhaps] plays the butler, while Greg Germann simply plays his character from Ally McBeal This is a Black film, made for the African-American niche market instead of for world culture, and avoids getting laughs when it can make political comments instead. The new-look honky millionaire tries to run his hospitals like a humanitarian, and thus runs foul of the New York money-men. According to the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, New York money-men is an anti-semitic code-word, so this film is political in more than one way.

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        • Evolution (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 2 Ratings
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          24.07.2001 12:35
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          This is the new SF comedy by Ivan Reitman [ Ghostbusters ]. David Duchovny and Orlando Jones play a couple of science professors at a college in Arizona. Seann William Aston plays a character similar to his one in Dude, Where's My Car , although what little comedy there is in this film has been extremely toned-down to achieve a PG rating. Aston's drop-out wannabe-fireman discovers a meteor, and the two scientists investigate it ... The most original aspect of the film, a life-form which is carried on a meteor and un-terraforms Earth, seems stolen from Chaga by Ian McDonald . The other thing carried over from McDonald's book is the paranoia against the US military-industrial complex. Here that is personified by Ted Levine [Silence of the Lambs], the stereotypical warmongering US Army general. Julianne Moore plays a clumsy CDC scientist, an attempt by the writers to add both slapstick and a love interest for Duchovny's character. Neither attempt is convincing. Dan Ackroyd, last seen as a US Naval Intelligence Officer in Pearl Harbour, here plays the Governor of Arizona. As with the monster movies that this attempts to parody, the alien menace displays the ability to overwhelm the entire world. Of course, the military option leads to complications remiscent of those in Andromeda Strain and The Blob . Our motley crew of heroes have to take on the monster and save the day - Godzilla anyone?

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        • Dracula 2000 (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 1 Rating
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          24.07.2001 12:27
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          Christopher Plummer plays a millionaire antiques dealer named Van Helsing, who's top-security vault is broken into by Omar Epps and his team of incredibly hi-tech [and incredibly stupid] thieves. They make off with a silver coffin that holds some incredible secret ... Plummer heads off to America after the villains, with sidekick Jonny Lee Miller [ Hackers ] in tow. The other thread to the plot is Van Helsing's daughter. She has a telepathic link to Dracula, who travels to New Orleans to corrupt her and add her to his harem. Beyond the compulsory Mardi Gras and LaFayette Cemetary scenes, there's no hint that it's New Orleans at all! Dracula [Gerald Butler] is apparently jaw-droppingly attractive to young Merkin women. However, his performance is so lacklustre that this reviewer sincerely hopes he does not succeed in replacing Pierce Brosnan as the next James Bond . He prances around in his swirly black trench-coat and his Kevin Keegan hair-do, but manages to look less impressive than even David Boreanz! Plummer is merely the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the story, while the usually-reliable Miller is disappointing beyond belief. Jennifer Esposito and Jeri Lynn Ryan play a couple of incredibly sexy blood-sucking parasites - that's BEFORE they become Brides of Dracula. Esposito gets most of the screen time, while Ryan has a three-scene cameo. In some ways this is similar to John Carpenter's Vampires , not least of which is the link to a big-name director - in this case Wes Craven . However, while Carpenter actually directed his, Craven [an inferior director, in this Reviewer's opinion] only produced this lame effort. Also, both films attempt to give a biblical explanation for the existence of vampires who are repelled by Christian iems like the Cross and Holy Water. This effort seems to have taken inspiration from the superior Stigmata as well.

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        • Series 7 - The Contenders (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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          24.07.2001 12:20

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          This is not part of the Hollywood trash-factory. It is an Independent film, with the resultant low budget which makes it all the more effective. The film has no stars, just talent - and a great script. A reliance on big-name stars and fancy SPFX would have ruined it. It is a parody on the current craze for reality television. The show depicted in the film is similar to the show in Schwarzenegger's Running Man . Six randomly selected people, the Contenders, must hunt and kill each other. The last one standing is the champion, who will appear in the next series. The returning champ is a pregnant woman [Brooke Smith - the girl down the pit in Silence of the Lambs]! Like the Arnie movie the game is Government-orchestrated, and like the Arnie movie this film is increasingly cynical about its subject.

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        • Planet Of The Apes [1968] (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 4 Ratings
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          24.07.2001 12:09
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          Astronaut Charlton Heston and his crew go into cryo-sleep for 6 months, and wake up an estimated 700 years later. Their plan? To settle a new world. The astronauts total 3 men and only one woman, with a maximum of 10 kids. But one man and 3 women would have given a maximum of 30 offspring. Since the film is to be re-made, this reviewer suggests himself for the lead role and our erstwhile Charlies's Angels [ Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu] as his companions. The film is set on an M-class world, with breathable air and abundant h^2o [except in the desert]. To anyone not accustomed to SF movie conventions [ie ALL planets look exactly like Hollywood back-lots and ALL aliens speak American-accented English!] the answer is blindingly obvious. Although the humans are apparently social and semi-intelligent creatures [they have villages and crops] the only one given a name or any real screen time [Nova, played by the babelicious Linda Harrison ] makes no attempt to communicate with Heston [or with Franciscus in the sequel]. Producer Arthur P. Jacobs bought the rights to the novel by Pierre Boulle [le planet de singes] who had also written Bridge on the River Kwai [BOTRK]. Jacobs was that rare thing; a Producer who was an ideas man. Rod Serling [Twilight Zone] completed over 30 drafts of the screenplay adaption. However, due to budgetary constrictions the ape civilisation had to be reduced from hi-tech to lo-tech. The budget escalated to $5.8 - including $1 million for make-up and costumes. They needed 80 make-up crew for up to 200 apes! The Studios were extremely reticent about making the film. However, Jacobs met with Charlton Heston, who signed up to the project. Richard Zanuck had just taken over FOX from his father, and liked the ideas. However, he insisted on the creation of a $5k test reel in which Edward G Robinson played Dr Zeus. Robinson dropped out from the proper film, because he was uncomfortable with the l
          engthy make-up process. The key to the film was prosthetic makeup for the apes. The man selected was John Chambers, a former WW2 medic who designed the vulcan ears for Star Trek! It won him a special Academy Award for outstanding services to the industry. The ending is remarkably Anti-war, which is notable because Heston is currently President of the NRA [National Rifle Association]. It is also reminiscent of the cry Madness! at the end of BOTRK!

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          • Ginger Snaps (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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            24.07.2001 11:46

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            Just when we thought the teen horror flick had become unsalvageable, along came this genre-breaking film. The cliched characters are all there - the bitchy cheer-leader type, the cannabis dealer and so on. What's different is the plot, a refreshingly original revamp. Unsurprisingly, this is not a Hollywood product. It was made in Ontario, Canada, and while it seems to be a low-budget effort the makers spared no expense on their creature. Ginger [ Katharine Isabelle ] and Brigitte [ Emily Perkins ] are a pair of death-obsessed semi-Goth mid-teen sisters who live in a town where the local pets are being killed off by some ferocious unknown beast. When Ginger gets attacked by the creature, she starts to undergo strange physical changes. Although they may be archetypal, here you actually care about the characters. This is undoubtedly the best werewolf movie since ... well, ever, really. The scientific explanation of the Lycanthropic infection seems similar to the Martians' biological imperialism in the 1980s TV show War of the Worlds The film was directed and co-written by John Fawcett who has directed episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess . Lucy Lawless did an uncredited cameo as the school's tannoy announcer. The only other recognisable name is Mimi Rogers , who gets a supporting role as the girls' mother.

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            24.07.2001 11:42

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            Finally it arrives, the film that promises to be the biggest of the summer. Simon West [Con Air] delivers the worst film of the year so far. The action scenes are boring and predictable - you either don't feel that the characters are threatened, or don't care. What about the babe factor? Well, Angelina Jolie 's legs are shorter and stumpier than Lara Croft's. Also, since her bra is padded [to boost from 36c to 36d] we all know that there is nothing much to gawk at. At least she can manage the plummy upper-class accent, so it's not all bad news. The so-called plot consists of Lara's efforts to retrieve the parts of a magical triangle that can control time. No shit. She must race against time not only because of a planetary alignment, but also because the triangle's power is sought by a secret society called The Illuminati. Their henchman is Iain Glen, the guy who did the naked handstand in Nicole Kidman 's stage play The Blue Room. Chris Barrie [credited as Christopher] plays Lara's butler. The other recognisable face is Jon Voight [ Enemy Of The State ], Jolie's RL father cast as Croft's father.

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          • Jurassic Park 3 (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 1 Rating
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            24.07.2001 11:37
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            Oh god no, I hear you cry. They made a third one! This time Spielberg only produced, and left the directing to his pal Joe Johnston [whose previous features are the similarly CGI-SPFX intensive Honey I shrunk the Kids, Rocketeer and Jumanji ]. We start with Sam Neill meeting with his old colleague Laura Dern . He tells her that he has discovered that velociraptors have almost human-like intelligence. She tells him that she is now married to an important bureaucrat in the US Government's State Department. Like most things about this film, the two facts are vital to the plot and incredibly convenient! For example, when Neill's sidekick [Alessandro Nivolo - Face Off ] mentions he is an Extreme Sports enthusiast, we know there are some fancy stunts lined up ... William H. Macy and Tea Leoni hire Neill to act as a spotter on their air-tour of Site B, the location of the second film. They bring along a few gun-toting mercenaries, including Bruce A. Young as the token black guy and Dubois from Green Mile . Their mission, unbeknown to Neill, is to rescue their twelve-year-old son. As you can no-doubt predict, things go wrong. As always. They are trapped on the island, with no hope of survival ... Luckily for them, things just happen to be incredibly and unbelievably convincing. If you head in a straight line through a jungle, directly for the coast, then you will somehow manage to bump into every that would make the movie interesting. The kid has survived, just like Newt did in Aliens . The mercenaries and dinosaur experts are befuddled, but a pre-teen boy thrives! None of the human characters is interesting, and there's no real character development. The dinosaurs only pop up when it's convenient, and just like in the sequel we get to see NEW kinds! The film has several moments of self-parody. One is where Sam Neill tells the kid that two toy dinosaurs would fight, and then goes on to witness a battle of giant CGI carn
            ivores battle to the death. Another scene contrasts a giant super-predator with the purple childrens' character, Barney the Dinosaur. However, the most fitting piece of self-parody is when the humans have to dig through gigantic piles of dinosaur crap, which they discover is littered with bones and other indigestible stuff. That is what we as viewers feel like ... all the good stuff was used in the first film and regurgitated for the second, while all we get is the indigestible remains. And the crap, of course.

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            05.12.2000 00:17

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            Ron Ely [then famous as Tarzan in the 1960s TV show] plays the title character. Together with his mis-matched companions [each an expert in their own scientific field] they journey to a Latin American country, the Republic of Hidalgo, to solve his father's murder. The villains are led by Captain Sieze, a Bond villain without the apparent physical impairment. He has conscripted a tribe of South American natives to do his dirty work. Their secret weapon is the venom of agreen snake. The venom can somehow form into a snake made of pure energy and float about the room. Hey, I never said it made much sense! The cast is unremarkable except for Pamela Hensley [Buck Rogers] in her first screen role.

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          • Freejack (DVD) / DVD / 1 Reading / 3 Ratings
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            05.12.2000 00:08

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            Emilio Estevez is a Formula One racing driver, and Rene Russo is his girlfriend. He is killed in a crash, and finds himself 20 years the future - a disutopia where he meets foul-mouthed nun Amanda Plummer. Estevez is pursued by bounty-hunter Mick Jagger, in the pay of Corporate sleazeball Michilette [rent-a-villain Jonathan Banks]. They want Estevez' body so they can transfer their boss' mind into it. Anthony Hopkins pops up as Russo's employer. Yes, she was chose for the role because she could play a character who ages 20 years between her 2 appearances. Hopkins took this role just after playing Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

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          • Flight Of The Navigator (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 6 Ratings
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            04.12.2000 23:24
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            A young boy goes for a walk, and when he gets home he discovers that 8 years have passed. His parents [Cliff De Young and Veronica Cartright] are overjoyed, but naturally curious as to what happened. Meanwhile, the US Government has recovered a crashed UFO. Howard Hesseman [ ] plays the scientist in charge of researching the UFO. He has the boy taken into government care, to establish what happened to him. Sarah Jessica Parker is a friendly intern at the base who introduces the kid to 1980s inventions like music videos and different varieties of Coca-Cola. The kid manages to get aboard the UFO, and flies off it. This is the core of the film: we get to see the UFO fly around thanks to some then-groundbreaking SPFX. The UFO has a kid-friendly AI and a menagerie of cute beasties collected from distant worlds. The moral of the story? Well, one kid's selfishness is more important than mankind's progress to the stars. Also, because the ending has an easy get-out clause the real issues the film evokes do not have to be answered.

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            • Friday The 13th Part III (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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              22.11.2000 01:52

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              This starts with the end of the second film, where Jason wears a cloth sack over his head a la Elephant Man. He is left for dead, but as ever ... The local trailer trash listen to a media broadcast that a mass murderer is on the loose in the area. They take this as an opportunity to investigate a mysterious figure loitering around their back yard ... As always in this series, a group of teenagers take a holiday beside Crystal Lake. Jason is seen only in the shadows at first, though near the end he dons the famous hockey mask! The climax is taken from both the first and second films.

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            • New Nightmare (DVD) / DVD / 1 Reading / 3 Ratings
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              22.11.2000 01:15
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              This is Wes Craven 's attempt to bring the dead villain back for one last scare . The film centres around the actress Heather Langenkamp , who played Nancy in the first film and here plays herself. 10 years after Nightmare on Elm Street she has a husband and a ten-year-old son. Everything seems fine and rosy, but there is a worm in the apple. Heather receives some anonymous phone calls from someone who sounds like Freddy. Her son is suffering from sleep deprivation. As the film progresses, things get more and more frightening ... Heather's co-stars Robert Englund and John Saxon appear, playing themselves. Wes Craven himself pops up to give exposition. The film has an anti-censorship theme. To start with, it points out that children have always enjoyed scary stories such as Hansel & Gretal. Also, Craven states that his film is about an evil that is controlled by storytellers, but when the story is forgotten [or banned] then the evil is freed. Finally, the nanny state rears its ugly head when Heather's son is hospitalised and Heather herself falls victim to interfering bureaucracy. This is one of the few films set in California where there are earthquakes!

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