REVIEW: STARGATE (1994)

CAST

Kurt Russell (Big Trouble In Little China)
James Spader (Crash)
Jaye Davidson (The Crying Game)
Alexis Cruz (Dark Wolf)
Mili Avital (Mossad)
Erick Avari (Heroes)
Viveca Lindfors (The Exorcist III)
Leon Rippy (The Patriot)
John Diehl (Crimson Tide)
French Stewart (Mom)
Richard Kind (Gotham)
Djimon Honsou (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Carlos Lauchu (The Silencers)
Derek Webster (Godzilla)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)

James Spader in Stargate (1994)A massive metal ring with engraved cover stones is discovered in the sands of Giza, Egypt in 1928, by an archaeologist named Langford and his young daughter, Catherine. Many years later, the elderly Catherine Langford offers Egyptologist and linguist Daniel Jackson the chance to translate the Egyptian hieroglyphs on the cover stones. Jackson accepts and travels to a US Air Force installation where he examines the stones. Special Operations Colonel Jack O’Neil arrives to take command of the project and he declares it “classified” before Jackson can begin his research.Jackson deduces from the hieroglyphs the existence of a “stargate”, a device used to travel to distant worlds. He discovers that the accompanying non-hieroglyphic symbols are star constellations used in a three-dimensional coordinate system. When selected in sequence on the metal ring, they create a stable wormhole to some other place in the galaxy. O’Neil leads a team with Jackson through the Stargate, and they find themselves inside a pyramid in the middle of a desert. The team cannot return home because the necessary coordinates are missing. Jackson, O’Neil, and the others explore the surrounding area and discover a mining operation run by humans. The miners assume that they are emissaries of their god Ra.Jaye Davidson in Stargate (1994)Jackson attempts communication with the locals using pantomime, and later realizes that they speak a modern dialect derived from Ancient Egyptian. The soldiers develop a friendship with local teenager Skaara and his friends, and Jackson is given the chieftain Kasuf’s daughter Sha’uri as a gift. He initially rebuffs her, unaware that she is meant to be his wife, but they develop a friendship that blossoms into romance. Jackson guesses that Sha’uri may know the location of the cartouche containing the return coordinates for the Stargate. Jackson learns that the Egyptian god Ra was an alien lifeform who came to Earth seeking a cure for his impending death. Ra discovered that he could maintain a simpler Human body indefinitely, and he “possessed” the body of a human youth, enslaved the youth’s people and transported some of them to another planet to mine the mineral on which all of his technology is based. The enslaved Humans on Earth eventually rebelled and expelled Ra, and buried the Stargate. Fearful of a similar rebellion on this planet, Ra outlawed reading and writing so the people would forget their origins. Jackson discovers six symbols of the return coordinates but the seventh symbol is missing.At night, a pyramid shaped spacecraft descends over the pyramid. Returning to it the following morning, O’Neil and Jackson are captured and taken to Ra, still alive in the form of an androgynous human youth with glowing eyes. O’Neil tries to disarm the guards and kill Ra, but Jackson is killed and O’Neil and his team are imprisoned. Jackson is regenerated in a sarcophagus-like device and meets with Ra. Ra reveals his intention to return to Earth an atomic bomb brought by O’Neil, its destructive power now enhanced 100-fold with the addition of the mined mineral. Ra states that he will kill Jackson and everyone who has seen him unless Jackson kills the rest of the team to remind Kasuf’s people that Ra is their true god.Once Ra has the local people gathered before the pyramid, Skaara and his friends create a distraction while Jackson turns one of the guards’ weapons on Ra. In the confusion, Jackson and O’Neil’s team escape and take shelter in a cave with Skaara and the others. The next morning, Skaara draws a picture of the victory against Ra, and Jackson realizes that Skaara has drawn the seventh symbol needed to reactivate the Stargate.O’Neil and Skaara’s group attack and overpower the overseers of the mine and convince the people that their “gods” are human. With their help, O’Neil’s team return to the Stargate to deactivate the bomb. Faced with open rebellion, Ra prepares his ship to leave and launches fighters to counter-attack. Sha’uri is killed in the battle, but Jackson takes her into the ship and resurrects her in Ra’s sarcophagus device. Ra orders the augmented bomb be sent to Earth immediately. Ra’s guard captain discovers O’Neil, and they fight. Jackson and Sha’uri are captured by Ra, but O’Neil overpowers the guard and activates a teleportation device. The beam decapitates the guard captain and sends the head to Ra, while retrieving Jackson and Sha’uri. As Ra’s craft escapes the planet, O’Neil and Jackson teleport the bomb to Ra’s ship. The bomb detonates, killing Ra and destroying the ship. Skaara’s people celebrate their freedom and Jackson decides to remain on the planet with Sha’uri. O’Neil and the survivors of his team return to Earth.James Spader and Mili Avital in Stargate (1994)Loved Stargate when it originally came out and watched every episode of all 4 shows. I’m glad the directors cut came out on Blu-Ray. The special edition which added a little more to the movie. This will always be a film classic.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 2

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Eric Millegan (The Phobic)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Christine Estabrook (Spider-Man 2)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Ann Cusack (Stigmata)
Sam Witwer (Supergirl)
Alex Hyde-White (Pretty Woman)
JoNell Kennedy (Dreamgirls)
Jessica Capshaw (Valentine)
Leah Pipes (The Originals)
Kathleen Gati (Arrow)
Heath Freeman (Skateland)
Christie Lynn Smith (The Crazies)
Jim Jansen (A.I.)
Keri Lynn Pratt (smallville)
Lamont Thompson (Evan Almighty)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
John Kassir (Pete’s Dragon)
Cerina Vincent (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Kali Rocha (Man With A Plan)
Lisa Thornhill (After The Sunset)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Amanda Carlin (Superhero Movie)
Grace Fulton (Shazam!)
John Marshall Jones (Con Air)
Nelson Lee (Blade: The Series)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Benito Martinez (Sons of Anarchy)
Julie Ann Emery (Better Call Saul)
Charles Mesure (V)
Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend)
Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer)
Amanda Fuller (Last Man Standing)
Joshua Leonard (Bates Motel)
Michael Trevino (Roswell, New Mexico)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Loren Dean (Apollo 13)
Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Ryan Cutrona (Changeling)
Ty Panitz (Because I Said So)
Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta)
Eddie McClintock (No Good Nick)
Alex Winter (Bill & Ted)
Eric Jungmann (Not Another Teen Movie)
Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters)
Meredith Monroe (Dawson’s Creek)
James Earl (The Lazarus Effect)
Jonathan Slavin (Santa Clarita Diet)
Chris Conner (Walk of Shame)
Steve Braun (The Trip)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Deborah Theaker (A Mighty Wind)
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)
George Coe (Kramer vs Kramer)
Wendy Braun (Atypical)
David Burke (The Tick)
Johnny Lewis (Sons of Anarchy)
Tom Everett (Dances with Wolves)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Ian Anthony Dale (The Event)
Glenn Morshower (Transformers)
Brian Hallisay (American Sniper)
Hillary Tuck (Life as a House)
A.J. Buckley (SEAL Team)
Roxanne Hart (Highlander)
Joe Nieves (How I Met Your Mother)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Billy Gibbons (Two and a Half Men)

David Boreanaz, Jessica Capshaw, and Ty Panitz in Bones (2005)The start of the season sees a new boss, Cam, arrive at the Institute. Not only is she very hands on, she is a former love of Booth, and Tempe and Cam do not hit it off in the early episodes. The new character is well written and softens as the season progresses until it is hard to imagine the team without her input. Meantime Zac undergoes a make-over in order to secure a permanent place on the staff once he gains his doctorate, and Hodkins and Angela begin a tentative office romance.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Booth and Brennan continue to spar verbally with each other and some of their exchanges will have you laughing out loud. When a fellow agent, Sully, begins a relationship with Tempe, Booth’s feelings are confused – but as is observed, Tempe “is rubbish at being a girl” and her own complicated life does not bode well for a permanent relationship. Tempe continues to put her foot in it socially, particularly when a case involves Booth’s Catholic religion.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Among the classy episodes are ‘The Girl with the Curl’ about child beauty Queens, (with a wonderful scene of Tempe trying to talk to a group of 8 year olds at a dance class!), ‘Aliens in a Spaceship’ which has Tempe and Hodgkins buried alive by a serial killer, and ‘The Headless Witch in the Woods’ which has more than a nod to The Blair Witch Project. David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Guest stars this season include Stephen Fry as a laid back, insightful Psychiatrist whom Booth must see after he shoots an ice cream van, and Ryan O’Neal as Tempe’s estranged and mysterious father whose elusive character comes into his own when Booth is targetted by the Mob. And, once again, Angela’s instantly recognisable father – from ZZ Top – pops up!

REVIEW: INDEPENDENCE DAY

CAST

Will Smith (Suicide Squad)
Bill Pullman (The Grudge)
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Judd Hirsch (Tower Heist)
Robert Loggia (Psycho II)
Randy Quaid (Kingpin)
Margaret Colin (Gotham)
James Rebhorn (Meet The Parents)
Vivica A. Fox (Idle Hands)
Harvey Fierstein (Kull The Conqueror)
Adam Baldwin (Firefly)
Brent Spiner (Star Trek: TNG)
James Duval (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Lisa Jakub (Mrs. Doubtfire)
Giuseppe Andrews (Cabin Fever)
Mae Whitman (Boogeyman 2)
Bill Smitrovich (Iron Man)
Kiersten Warren (13 Going on 30)
Harry Connick Jr. (The Iron Giant)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Leland Orser (Daredevil)
Devon Gummersall (Roswell)
Raphael Sbarge (Risky Business)
Bobby Hosea (Xena)
Jay Acovone (Stargate SG.1)
Thom Barry (Cold Case)
Robert Pine (Red Eye)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Rance Howard (Nebraska)
Kevin Cooney (Legally Blonde)
Jim Piddock (Mascots)
Tracey Walter (Batman)

On July 2, 1996, an enormous alien mothership that has one fourth the mass of the Moon enters orbit around Earth, deploying 36 smaller spacecraft, each 15 miles (24 km) wide, that take positions over some of Earth’s major cities and military bases. David Levinson, an MIT-trained satellite technician, decodes a signal embedded in the global satellite transmissions that he determines is a timer counting down to a coordinated attack. With the help of his former wife, White House Communications Director Constance Spano, Levinson, and his father Julius, gain access to the Oval Office and warn President Thomas J. Whitmore that the aliens are hostile. Whitmore orders large-scale evacuations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., but it is too late; the timer reaches zero and the ships activate devastating directed-energy weapons, killing millions. Whitmore, the Levinsons, and a few others, narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as the capital is destroyed, along with other locations over which the ships are positioned.On July 3, international military leaders begin ordering individual counterattacks. Their aviation forces attack destroyer ships positioned above the ruins of the cities, but they are protected by force fields. Each destroyer launches a swarm of attack fighters, which wipe out the human fighter squadrons. Captain Steven Hiller, a pilot with the Marine Corps squadron VMFA-314 based out of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, survives by luring his attacker to the enclosed spaces of the Grand Canyon and sacrificing his plane, forcing the alien to crash-land. He subdues the injured alien pilot and flags down a convoy of refugees, hitching a ride with former combat pilot Russell Casse. They transport the unconscious alien to nearby Area 51 where Whitmore’s group has landed. Through Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki, they learn that a faction of the government has been involved in a UFO conspiracy since 1947, when one of the invaders’ attack fighters crashed in Roswell. Area 51 houses the refurbished alien fighter and three alien corpses recovered from the crash.When eccentric scientist Brackish Okun examines the alien captured by Hiller, it regains consciousness and attacks. It telepathically invades Okun’s mind and uses his vocal cords to communicate with Whitmore before launching a psychic attack against him. Whitmore sees visions of the alien’s plans: their entire civilization travels from planet to planet, exterminating all indigenous life and harvesting the planet of all natural resources. After Secret Service agents and military personnel kill the alien, Whitmore reluctantly authorizes a nuclear attack; a B-2 Spirit fires a nuclear cruise missile at an alien destroyer positioned above Houston, but the ship remains intact.On July 4, Levinson demonstrates that the key to defeating the aliens lies in deactivating their force fields, and devises a way to do so by uploading a computer virus into the mothership. He proposes using the refurbished alien fighter to implement the plan, which Hiller volunteers to pilot. The two are able to implant the virus and deploy a nuclear weapon on board the mothership. With military pilots in short supply, Whitmore enlists the help of volunteers with flight experience, including Casse, and leads an attack on a destroyer ship bearing down on Area 51. With the alien’s shields deactivated, the fighters are able to inflict damage but their supply of missiles is quickly exhausted. As the destroyer prepares to fire on the base, the last missile, equipped on Casse’s plane, jams, and Casse decides to sacrifice his own life. He flies his plane kamikaze-style into the directed-energy weapon port, which results in an explosion that destroys the ship. Human resistance forces around the world successfully destroy the other craft using this vulnerability. As humankind is rejoicing in victory, Hiller and Levinson return to Area 51 unharmed and reunite with their families. They and military officers nearby accompany Whitmore and his daughter in watching the wreckage from the mothership burn up, resembling a fireworks display as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.Independence Day is arguably one of the greatest SF disaster movies of all time. With REM’s ‘It’s the end of the world’ sampled near the beginning of the movie, you definitely know that Roland Emmerich’s view about alien encounters is more akin to War of the Worlds than E.T. Filled with stunning special effects, stirring music, unpretentious sentimentality and laced with good natured humour there is no need to bemoan the lack of character development or obvious narrative coincidences. There is no pretence at being a great cinematic masterpiece examining deep philosophical themes. This is a two hour long, ludicrously enjoyable, preposterously pompous, unbelievably incredible ‘backs against the wall’ slice of SF fantasy which still entertains after numerous viewings.

REVIEW: GODZILLA (1998)

CAST

Matthew Broderick (Election)
Jean Reno (Leon)
Maria Pitillo (True Romance)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Michael Lerner (Elf)
Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap)
Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl TV)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Ali Afshar (Power Rangers Turbo)
James Black (Kick-Ass 2)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Ken Lerner (Robocop 2)
Lance Reddick (John Wick)

MV5BYzVjY2QyZjktMWQ5NS00OTZlLTk1NGQtY2Y0YmJiMWUxNjY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_Roland Emmerich specializes in movies that are practically critic proof. He populates his films with amazing spectacle, blockbusters packed with explosions, disasters, and well known landmarks destroyed in various ridiculous ways — exactly what people want to see when they desire entertainment that won’t spoil the taste of their movie theater popcorn with intellectually challenging issues or drama. Emmerich therefore makes sure to keep things simple with his films, which means a sacrifice of character development and depth, logic, and general believability. Emmerich’s 1998 remake of Godzilla is no exception to the rule. While there’s a definite sense of grandeur and epic destruction, it is like a paper-mache pinata. When you hit it hard enough with a bat, there is certainly some disposable candy to be found. But what’s truly there is now a broken, empty hull that never really had any substance.MV5BNDI4M2RkZjgtZDhkZS00YzczLWFhYWUtNDhiMjY0MjAwMjEwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_

The plot manages to be simple and yet garbled. The US military recruits a humble Nuclear Regulatory Commission scientist, Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), to investigate some strange discoveries, namely a shipwreck with giant claw marks in the hull and equally giant footprints in the French Pacific. Before Niko figures out what’s really going on, a giant pregnant lizard starts attacking New York City. It lays eggs in Madison Square Garden and smashes up the skyline. There’s also some business with the French Secret Service, and Niko’s college sweetheart, but these subplots are thin and underdeveloped. The focus of the movie is really about a giant lizard destroying NYC.  What Emmerich gets right is the spectacle. While nothing on the scale of global destruction of his earlier Independance Day, he again shows that he knows how to deliver shock and awe in an entertaining way. The sequence where Godzilla chases a taxi through the streets of New York, and the taxi (defying all reason) desperately manages to evade the giant lizard is just one of many that simply work on a visual and visceral level. The action keeps a swift pace punctuated with destruction, distracting your brain with explosions and the like so you don’t have time to think about any flaws in logic that might come up. You can’t really knock the effects and the action sequences, even if the CGI of Godzilla seems a little clunky and obvious by modern standards. The reason Emmerich manages to keep getting audiences to come see his films is that he delivers pure eye candy, the kind that appeals to a mass audience.This would work just fine and dandy if Emmerich kept the pace plowing forward without pausing. Sadly, he takes the time to try and explain things. The instant the pace slows down and we return to the characters, we can’t help but notice that they’re cardboard cutouts, shambling around New York City having conversations that don’t sound anything like how real people talk. Every time we get into a slow sequence, there’s practically has a neon sign in the background flashing the word ‘Exposition’ just in case anyone was missing that fact. We are taken out of the action into these sequences that are utterly useless and draw attention to the weaknesses of Emmerich’s style. Lets face it, do any of us really care about the particulars of why Godzilla is smashing up New York? No. We just want him to carry on doing it, while we enjoy our buttery popcorn and big gulp sodas. Now, Emmerich does have a reason for this exposition. It’s a sad attempt to make us feel for this Godzilla creature. In many ways, he’s trying to set up this empathy, in that ‘the animal was just scared and doing what came natural, it didn’t want to hurt anyone’ sort of way. You see, Godzilla is rampaging New York just because he came to lay some eggs and make a nest. So it’s just Godzilla’s hermaphroditic mother bear rage, and who can’t empathize with that, right?

…Okay, yeah, it’s totally ridiculous and feels like the plot point was plucked straight from Jurassic Park. The entire effort to make Godzilla empathetic while at the same time more beastly and unintelligent than the old Toho version simply doesn’t work. Godzilla in this movie is a completely different creature than the familiar dinosaur of the Toho incarnation. Patrick Tatopoulos’ design is much more lizard-like, and is nominally more realistic looking (if giant monstrous lizards can be realistic at all). The difficulty here is that the beast is almost too based in reality. It’s just a giant grey lizard, with little true character or feeling of intelligence. When we get flooded by a ton of raptor-like baby-zillas, it’s again feels like an attempt to cash in on the success of Jurassic Park. This Godzilla, often mockingly labelled ‘Notzilla’, is so bland and characterless that we miss the joy of watching a Godzilla movie.  Emmerich’s movie gives us a generic monster with the name Godzilla slapped on, and it really isn’t worthy of the name.The human characters fare no better than the title character. You can easily sum up all of them in a single sentence. Niko Tatopoulos is the goodnatured scientist who’s still hung-up on his college sweetheart. Victor Palotti (Hank Azaria) is a snarky Brooklyn-born camera man. They get little backstory, and in most cases none. You simply take them at their face value, stereotypes that are tired yet familiar. If you form any sort of attachment to these characters, its for reasons external to the movie. Maybe you really love Ferris Bueller, and that will help you be attached to Niko. Personally, I’m a fan of Jean Reno, so I really only cared about his character solely on that basis. This is utterly ridiculous for a film, that we form no sort of real attachment. We have no reason to actually care if Godzilla actually murders them all. In fact, given how obnoxious some of the characters are, you might actually hope Godzilla wins. The most ridiculous of the characters is actually the mayor of New York. This is not merely a cardboard-depth character. It is a wafer-thin caricature of famous film critic Roger Ebert. Emmerich’s earlier films had been rightly blasted by the man, so Emmerich takes revenge in a childish and immature way. He places Ebert into the film as an inept, sleazy, sugar-guzzling political opportunist. Mayor Ebert is constantly making decisions for his own sake, not the good of the city. He’s probably the least sympathetic character in the whole film, and it just feels like a stupid joke gone too far. It detracts from the film immensely.

I also have to make note of something that is of no fault of the filmmakers. Godzilla was released in 1998, three years before the 9/11 tragedy. Every time you see NYC skyline, you can’t help but stare at the World Trade Center. The film even has a terribly creepy line from Harry Shearer’s reporter character, talking about how the initial devastation from Godzilla is “worst since the World Trade Center bombing.” Obviously, this is in reference to the 1993 bombing, but now it serves as a terrible reminder of the more recent tragedy. When the helicopters blow up the Chrysler building, it hits the viewer in a terrible and unsettling way, and a dreadful unease takes you out of the movie.
1-godzilla-1998-1438781993Emmerich brings nothing new to the giant monster table other than a large budget, creating something that is pure edifice and no real substance. His Godzilla is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing — which is really not too much of a problem for the undiscerning movie goer. Going back to the earlier analogy, there’s nothing wrong with a pinata full of candy. You just have to ignore the sad, broken hull that remains afterward. So either you can shut off your brain and enjoy this bastard child of Emmerich’s making, or you don’t bother and watch something like Cloverfield instead.