[Movie Review] Event Horizon

Event HorizonStarring: Laurence Fishburne, Joely Richardson, Sam Neill, Sean Pertwee, Kathleen Quinlan
Director: Paul Anderson
Genre: Sci-Fi
Cert: 18
Released: 1997

The thing about science fiction movies is that they are permitted a fair bit of poetic licence. When the doctor explains the way the hypothermal reactive core activator works, the average viewer is probably going to take his or her word for it. Such is the setting of “Event Horizon”, the chances that any of the scientific reality can be argued is quite slim.

The year is, curiously, 2047. Seven years previous, the Event Horizon, a ship sent to discover what existed in the furthest reaches of outer space, disappeared. But when a distress signal is identified as coming from the ship, a Search and Rescue team are sent to rescue the crew and find out where the ship has been for seven years.

Captain Miller (Fishburne – “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”, “Deep Cover”) is the aggressive leader who is accompanied by his main crew of Justin (Jack Noseworthy), Cooper (Richard T Jones), Peters (Kathleen Quinlan), Starck (Richardson – “Loch Ness”) and Smith (Pertwee). Coming along for the ride is Dr Weir (Neill – “In The Mouth of Madness”, “The Piano”, “Dead Calm”) who explains to the incredulous crew that there was more to the Event Horizon than met the eye. The ship contained a gateway device that allowed the ship to travel faster than the speed of light but soon after activating the gatweay, contact with the ship had ceased.

When the rescue crew located and board the ship they find no signs of human life and eventually it becomes clear that something else is in evidence on the Event Horizon. There is some form of life but not a form that they are familiar with…

“Event Horizon” has all the trappings of a classic sci-fi movie. The storyline is suitably dark and distant, the characters are diverse and shallow, the effects are more than effective and the action is tense at times. Unfortunately there are contriving circumstances that derail a promising movie. While the characters are diverse, they are also too familiar – seen a million times before in films like “Species” and the “Alien” series. There is the impetuous rookie, the coloured smartalec, the loose cannon, the strong-minded woman, the die-for-his-ship Captain, the science guru and the jack of all trades technician. Their familiarity lends a ‘seen it all before’ veil to the action.

While the film starts very well, it starts to peter out about half-way through. This isn’t down to a lack of endeavour from the cast who all turn in impressive performances but is rather due to the lack of identity of a ‘bad guy’. The ship displays evil tendencies but there is really no physical entity visible to direct your loathing at and soon you are fairly bored.

It’s not a dead loss by any means but I would think either of the first two Alien movies would be worth a watch again rather than this. After the useless “Shopping”, director Paul Anderson will have to prove himself to me. Perhaps his forthcoming release, “Soldier”, will make the grade.

2star

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[Movie Reviews] Wag the Dog

Wag the DogStarring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, Denis Leary
Director: Barry Levinson
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1997

There is not too much more to be said about the premise of “Wag the Dog” that hasn’t been said already in light of unmentionable goings-on at the White House.

Conrad Brean (DeNiro) is a Presedential spin doctor who is consulted by top aide, Winifred Ames (Heche), when the President is accused of getting involved with a White House intern in the Oval Office. With a Presedential election just weeks away, both of them know that they must act fast in order to divert attention from the bubbling scandal.

Brean invents an international conflict between the United States and Albania. In order to ensure that the public believe that a war is actually happening, he enlists the help of Hollywood producer, Stanley Motss (Hoffman). Motss is given responsibility for shooting scenes that will be used in news reports while Willie Nelson is hired to perform a spontaneous war “anthem”.

The CIA are not impressed. They guess what is going on and go to lengths to end the charade. But Brean and Motss has more tricks up their sleeve and they up their efforts in order to ensure a successful campaign for the President. When the war is ended prematurely in the media, they invent another scenario where troops have to return to Albania to rescue a POW called William Schumann (Woody Harrelson in typical bald-headed fashion).

The dialogue was mainly written by David Mamet and the quality in the exchanges between Hoffman and DeNiro is exquisite. DeNiro is a quick-thinking manipulative brain-box and his partnership with the insecure but intelligent Hoffman is the highlight of the film. Both of them deliver very different but striking performances. Anne Heche does well as DeNiro’s slightly neurotic sidekick and helps to add elements of fragility to the whole exercise. There are entertaining performances too from Leary, Harrelson and Nelson too.

The film moves along quickly and the entertainment is instantaneous right from the opening frame. There are times when tedium sets in momentarily – the characters at time becomes flat and the movie seems to lull into a slightly repetitve pattern. However, this is never a huge problem and thanks to the humour, biting satire (which is not too far from reality in all seriousness) and performances, “Wag the Dog” is a film that is well worth seeing.

3star

[Movie Review] Kiss the Girls

Kiss the GirlsStarring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Cary Elwes, Tony Goldwyn
Director: Gary Fleder
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 18
Released: 1997

I can’t remember if I’ve raved about Morgan Freeman before in a prior review – perhaps in my previous site and all it’s now lost material – but he is without a doubt one of the finest actors ever. Even in a rather rotten film he can keep his head above water while everyone else has to hold their breath. He returns here in a dark thriller that ironically steals inspiration from the excellent “Seven”.

Alex Cross (Freeman) is a psychologist with the Washington DC police who is helping them to investigate a series of kidnappings in Durham, North Carolina. When his niece is kidnapped, he flies to Durham to get more personally involved. He discovers that the kidnapper calls himself ‘Casanova’ (‘the great lover’ Morgan explains – clearly a case of the writer underestimating the audience) and one of his victims is then found dead, tied to a tree.

A rash of bodies is expected but don’t materialise. The reason for this is discovered when one of the abductees, Dr Kate McTiernan (Judd), escapes and tells of her experiences. She reports that she was kept in an underground warren of cells somewhere in the forest along with all the other girls that have been abducted. She then teams up with Cross in order to help capture the twisted abductor.

I have a major problem with this film and it doesn’t directly involve Judd or Freeman who are both very good here. In movies of this ilk, it is crucial to be able to fully explore the psyche of the “bad guy”. In this case there are a couple of characters that need better explination as does the relationship that exists between them. While this is left hanging as it is, it is difficult to understand exactly why certain things are as they are. It’s all too easy for movies to say ‘it just is’. I don’t accept that.

With the exception of Freeman and Judd, it’s all a bit “b-list” in terms of cast, writing and direction. Some of it is quite nerve racking and inventive but for the most part it’s mundane and unspectacular.

Kudos to Mr Freeman and Ms Judd but C- to everyone else. Must do better.

1halfstar