Ticks (1993)

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"In the woods, something hungry is about to hatch"

Directed by Tony Randell
Starring Seth Green, Alfonso Ribeiro and Clint Howard

    When a group of dysfunctional teenagers and their Scout guides go on a camping trip to the California mountains, it turns out a group of redneck Marijuana farmers have been spraying their crops with a ‘Neuro-toxin miracle grow’ formula, causing normal wood ticks to mutate to abnormal size. These nasty bugs go on a munching rampage gradually pegging off teen actors and redneck farmers (mostly Ron Howard’s siblings). Token black guy gets bitten, turns into a giant highly inflammable tick and eats the Evil British farmer. The unhappy campers escape by blowing up the tick with a flaming broom and drive off back to LA, only for a Tick chrysalis to be brought back from under their van.

What’s wrong with it?

    Ticks is a deeply unpleasant film (what did I expect from Brian Yuzna of Mutronics and Society fame). It’s gory almost to the point of being unwatchable. It follows the standard ‘campers go into the woods, and nasty things happen to them’ rules. The shagging couple don’t actually get killed though, but the chick gets bitten and starts to hallucinate whilst the buffed jock gets his leg ripped off.

What’s right with it?

    Not much.

How bad is it really?

    It’s very gooey and sticky gore. High in the ‘Yuck’ factor. If you dig stuff like that, it’s great!

Best Bit?

    Seth Green about to perform a daredevil swing across a clearing full of deadly ticks to their van.
    "If I can manage to swing out far enough and then defy the laws of gravity and meet the van on the backswing…(Girlish hysterical laugh then suddenly macho) I’ll need a torch!"

What’s up with…?


Production Values – The special effects are pretty good, and the director gets good usage out of the woodland setting. The lighting and sound quality are okay too. 9

Dialogue and performance – No one really stands out, or has anything memorable to say or do other than scream in pain or wrestle rubber bugs. Seth Green seems fairly uninvolved in it all. 15

Plot and execution – The plot is just a flimsy pretext to show off some yucky bug effects and is a bit all over the show, but the film is mercifully short. The director could probably do something a little better if he had more to work with, whenever the story threatens to get boring he throws in a gruesome death, so it’s rarely dull. 13

Randomness – Several characters turn up shot dead for no reason (the Sheriff) or just vanish from the plot (the Vet) and there’s some shocking continuity errors at the end. Plus the whole ‘mutated hallucinogenic giant bugs from our toxic dope fields’ thing. 18

Waste of potential – As a mutant ticks eating people’s flesh movie I’d say it was a roaring success. 8

Overall 63%


Antitrust (2001)

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Directed by Peter Howitt
Starring Ryan Phillipe, Rachel Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani and Tim Robbins

BMM Keywords - Boring, Shameless bandwagon-jumping

   Computer genius Milo Hoffman (Phillipe) and his friends invent a new uber-compression algorithm for data transmission, and are invited by Gary Winston (Robbins) - the head of the world's largest computer firm - to work for him on the development of his new universal software. The friends decline, but Milo accepts, and becomes a yuppie overnight, as well as Winston's personal protégé. He works on the programmes, and keeps being fed new bits of code, until he starts to become suspicious when his best friend is murdered in his home.

    With a little nifty hacking, Milo discovers that Winston has been keeping tabs on every garage hacker in the world and stealing their ideas. He also tracks ways to dispose of his people if they betray him, such as planting Milo's girlfriend Alice (Forlani), who turns out to be an ex-con, and noting his fatal allergy to sesame seeds, or knowing that the office babe's abusive stepfather could be framed for her murder. Enlisting the assistance of Lisa, said office babe, Milo tries to avoid the security manager, find and steal the evidence, and use Winston's own satellite system to broadcast it to the world.

    He gets the goods, but Lisa turns him in to Winston's goons. However, with the aid of the honest security chief, his old buddies, and his surprisingly OK girlfriend, he pulls a fast one, and the message goes out. The day is saved, Milo slips off with his girlfriend and open source rules the world.

What's wrong with it?

    It's really boring. Nothing much happens in the first hour of the damn film, and not even in a good, tension-building kind of way; just nothing happens. He goes to work, he does his job, flirts a little with the office babe. That's pretty much it. In the second half, the action is piled on so fast that nothing makes sense, especially when you're still trying to adjust to the shift in pace. The plot is also contrived beyond belief, with Winston having cameras installed in the garages of all promising young hackers. ALL OF THEM! Not to mention setting up the girlfriend to be in just the right place at the right time.

What's right with it?

    Well, on the plus side, no one ever talks in l33t-speak.

How bad is it really?

    Bad. Achingly, bone-warpingly dull. Please note that I was unable to name a single character in this film without looking them up on the IMDb! Moreover, it's just a retread of every hacker conspiracy theory in the world, even if it does feel the need to throw in a few 'Bill Gates is a half-arsed evil emperor' jibes. I didn't even pay for this film, yet I felt ripped off that I surrendered two hours of my life to watch it not be remotely involving.

Best bit

    Hum...Little sticks out really.

What's up with...?


Production Values - such as they are - this being a techno-thriller rather than a sci-fi movie - production values are OK. The world almost invariably looks very dingy though; not sure if that's deliberate or just bad cinematography. 10

Dialogue and performances - most of the actors in the film are actually pretty much OK, and Tim Robbins is - as usual - very good. Unfortunately, they are given the most uninspiring pap to speak that their skills go pretty-much for naught. Even the dramatic conspiracy revelations fail to grip. 16

Plot and execution - the essentials of the plot of Antitrust could be etched on the back of a silicon chip. There's a grand total of about one real twist, and that a pretty lame one. But more than this, the pacing of the non-plot is bad. Great bouts of nothingness slide by, with far less panache than is achieved by the French auteurs the director may be trying to emulate. In short, it's dull, and it's directed in such a way as to make it more so. 18

Randomness - Aside from the wackiness of the whole plot, there's not a huge amount of sudden randomness. 4

Waste of Potential - There's still mileage in the evil empire techno-thriller, but even The Net was better than this. 15

Overall 63%


Judge Dredd (1995)

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In the future, one man is the law.

Rated by Simon Drake

Directed by Danny Cannon
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jurgen Prochnow and Armand Assante

    Based on the 2001 comic book character, the film has the usual, futuristic, ‘society has crumbled, and a new breed of law has evolved’ plot with obligatory rainy neon lit cities and desert based mutants…Blah Blah Blah.
    Hard core law enforcer ‘Judge Dredd’ (Stallone) gets framed for murder by his evil brother-clone, and is sent off to ‘Aspen Penal colony’ (nice ski programme I’m told!). Dredd teams up with wise-cracking criminal ‘Fergie’ (a not really very funny Rob Schneider) and runs around trying to clear his name by blowing things up and shouting "I am da law!" a lot.

What’s wrong with it?

    As Tim Burton and Bryan Singer have proved, it is possible to make a decent intelligent comic book into a decent intelligent film. Sadly the makers of this seem to have forgotten the process. Director Danny Cannon has since claimed that his ‘vision’ was re-edited, and the producers interfered on set and the money ran out midway; all of which shows in the surreal casting, woeful acting, incomprehensible plot and duff special effects.

What’s right with it?

    The opening credits, which (much like Flash Gordon) show images from the comic books as heroic music plays.
    In fact, the opening, set in Mega City 4 has impressive sets (include a great aerial sweep through the cityscape) has some pretty good action, big fucking guns…and even bigger guns.
    Sadly it all goes downhill from there.
    Oh the giant battle droid is cool too, if sparingly used (that I’m sure has some cool name…But I can’t remember, and have little desire to watch it again just to find out).

    In the film, the robot is referred to simply as an ABC (Atomic, Bacterial, Chemical; these being the things that the robots are designed to withstand so that they can fight wars in contaminated areas) war robot. It is shamelessly based, however, on the character Hammerstein, from the 2001 ABC Robots series, except that he had a personality. Hammerstein was partnered in ABC robots by a sewer-cleaning bot called Ro-Jaws.
    This film does the same thing to poor Mean Machine, relegated as he is to grunting a little, stabbing Ming the Merciless, then getting killed - The Prophet

How bad is it really?

    It’s just an accumulation of a thousand Sci-Fi/comic staples…It just fails to work.

Best bit?

    The opening ‘lets establish Judge Dredd by having him stride into buildings full of armed punks and have him blow them all away’ scene.

What’s up with…?


Production Values – They start really well, then degenerate into the cheapo ‘film in the desert’ or ‘film in the Dr Who set’ locations. The old action favourites, stars being chased by flaming fireball, space cycle chase and the finale punch up draggling from high things. All expensive, none exciting. Also the sound quality is very poor (or maybe it’s the actors) with a tendency to mumble the plot in slurred whispers (and not just Stallone either) 14

Dialogue and performance – Stallone as Dredd? Max Von Sydow as the Obi-Wan esque mentor? Joan Chen as a scientist who wears an improbably short skirt? It’s all a bit topsy turvey. The script too is little more than one-liners and (unclear) explanation. 15

Plot and execution – A bit of a mish mashed plot. Something about cloning here, and spaceship there…Dredd’s evil clone…World domination…Danny Cannon clearly trying to keep it all together, but frankly he’s out of his depth. What we are left with is a soggy mess. 13

Randomness – Joan Chen shows up. A Robot shows up. Diane Lane shows up. The explanation stays hidden. Dredd and Fergie dash from one set piece to another. And who was Jurgen Prochnow again? Oh right, an evil dictator…I only knew that as it was Jurgen Prochnow. 20

Waste of potential – This could have been great. It has great sci-fi elements, good fan base, amazing potential…If only Tim Burton hadn’t been making Ed Wood at the time. Although Danny Cannon’s Ed Wood anyone?…Hmmmmmmmm. 20

Overall 82%