Friday, 27 April 2012

I DEMAND SPACESHIPS


Give me spaceships, cheap costumes and convoluted intrigue. Right now. I don't want gritty realism or perfect special effects, or a cast of great actors. I want loud, silly space adventures filled with cheap alien costumes, characters painted different colours, plots that sound like playtime games and big, stirring theme tunes.

I have been craving old-fashioned sci-fi shows of late, and have thus been stocking up and revisiting things like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, Farscape, LEXX and... Andromeda. Yes, I admit it, I liked Andromeda. Even the first season, with bloody Rev Bem in it.


Shows featuring Kevin Sorbo delivering 'witty' one-liners aside, I have really been craving some spaceship action this week, and as such have been revisiting all of these televisual treats and more. It seems that the age of space-based drama is finally dead, and I miss it. For years on end I was an addict of anything set in space, be it on a ship, a colony or a station. I couldn't get enough of that stuff, and even sat through the bad years of Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise to get my fix.

Babylon 5 is a particular love of mine I have been revisiting, and despite the clearly dated effects and sets, it holds up very well as a story, and once you are immersed in that world again, it's absolutely wonderful. It has its detractors, but I am most certainly not one of them. Then there was Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff which lasted a mere 13 episodes but was wonderful (despite the TERRIBLE music used throughout each episode). Hell, I even enjoyed The Legend Of The Rangers. The Lost Tales was fun to watch, but need more oomph, really. More B5 please!


LEXX was a guilty pleasure, too. That show was insane, and not always in a good way, but lead characters Xev and Stanley Tweedle were delightfully different to the usual good guys on our screens. 



However, it was Farscape which really got it right for me. The mix of characters, the mix of computer-generated effects and Jim Henson Workshop practical puppets and effects, a multi-layered story which was at once high-concept and easy to understand, a superb cast and a very different production style (it being a joint Australian/Canadian production, if I remember rightly) all added up to a beautiful science fiction franchise which was ended before its time with the lacklustre finale to series four.

Of course, there was sufficient demand for the show to get a proper ending, and as such the miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was produced, and ended the Farscape story properly. The only other example of a series coming to such a stylish end is, of course, Joss Whedon's Firefly.


Again, there was a show with a great cast, a great production style and some superb stories, which was cancelled way before its time. In Firefly's case, it only lasted one season, which was criminal. The movie Serenity eventually saw light of day, and capped off the series with a feature film which was both a satisfying climax for the legions of TV show fans and also a fine science fiction adventure movie in its own right. In fact, I saw Serenity before I saw Firefly, and was blown away by the character interplay and the background to the whole mythos.

Stuff with spaceships in it makes me happy, and, dear world, you don't need something to be gritty in order for it to be entertaining. You just need spaceships. And more spaceships.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

TRAILER TREASURES: SCANNERS (1981)

One of my all-time favourite films, Scanners is a beautifully handled mix of science fiction, horror and thriller which still grips me completely. It's dark, bleak and nasty, but utterly compelling from start to finish.

This trailer does what it news to very well, and yes, it features THAT famous shot (or at least part of it). Scanners remains a powerful piece of genre cinema, and its power hasn't been diminished by the awful sequels which followed it. Perfect.

TRAILER TREASURES: TERRORVISION (1986)

Here's a film I'd love to track down on VHS, if only I could find a copy with wasn't ludicrous expensive. Terror Vision is one of the films I remember seeing on the racks in video shops when I was far too young to rent anything other than cartoons, and I've wanted to see it ever since.

The trailer for it really wasn't what I expected the film to be when I used to glimpse its eerie cover back in the day, but to be honest it looks even more fun. A massive rubber alien who only befriends metalheads? That's about as cool as it gets. The film looks ridiculously fun, in that special way that only tongue-in-cheek 80s horror can really get right. Enjoy!


Friday, 20 April 2012

DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE (2006)


This film is either a work of unremitting genius or a piece of utter, lowest-common-denominator trash. Possibly both. Based on the 'classic' beat-em-up video game with all the class of a damp wino, the big, glossy movie version is extremely well choreographed, but as a film it absolutely stinks. A bunch of colourful and suitably oddball badasses (mainly pretty girls) are invited to go to DOA island and partake in the ultimate fighting championship – DOA: Dead or Alive. Of course, there is a darker plot at work, too.

Attempting to cram a bunch of character back-stories and sub-plots into one narrative turns the whole thing into a mess, and that's before you consider the dialogue or the acting. Jaime Pressley is the most convincing cast member, thanks to her dry Southern drawl giving her lines some much-needed humour and dryness. The rest of the cast, including Devon Aoki, Holly Valance and Eric Roberts, struggle to keep a straight face while delivering painfully embarrassing lines.


In development, it probably sounded like the greatest movie ever to be made, but the finished product is too slick, too cartoony and too, well, crap to be any use. It has long since been very popular with teenage boys, which is understandable considering both the imbecilic plot and the amount of female flesh on show. It's like a cross between the Charlie's Angels movies and a sugar overdose.

I do like some nice touches in the film, like the use of actual energy-level bars straight out of the games, and the visual nods to the source material. There are some spectacular action sequences and visual effects, but absolutely nothing in the film holds together. An absolute and total mess of a film, awful on every level but the wholly visual, and yet it manages to be ridiculously entertaining as well as just ridiculous.