Chase Moran aka Assault on Dome 4 (1996)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Gilbert Ho
Starring Joseph Culp, Bruce Campbell and Brion James.

    When Alex Windham escapes from a 'maximum security prison on Mars' (that looks suspiciously like a health spa in California). Being the greatest criminal mastermind of the 24th century he decides it's time to get all his old gang of scientists, gun nuts and bad actors together to hold somebody hostage.

    So off they fly to Planet Whereinthehell and take over 'Dome 4' a plutonium mining colony so they can create a huge bomb made out of aluminium, LED's and bendy straws.

    Unbeknownst to Alex, a maverick space cop, Chase Moran has taken the weekend off work to surprise his wife for her birthday and is left to skulk around the venting system knocking off random terrorists one by one.

What's wrong with it?

    Once again we're served up a woeful 'Die Hard in (insert location here)' rip off. This is particularly lame with some of the worst special effects seen since Plan 9 from outer space. Plus (clearly taking the Ed Wood school of filmmaking as a guideline) it features the worst mistakes in recent times, leading me to believe they only did one take per shot. Goggles fall off hooks on walls; phones bounce off sofas so obviously you almost think it's going to bear relevance to the storyline. But no.

    Joseph Culp is supposed to be the hero of the piece, but he's so damn unpleasant...Little piggy rapist eyes, sulking mouth...he even kills two security guards who attack him, he can't just beat them up (as that's SOOOO much better!) but he kills them in cold blood. Nice guy...nice and nice!

What's right with it?

    Everyone's favourite old ham Bruce Campbell as Alex Windham overacting wildly. Most master criminals after breaking out of prison would set about their plan straight away, but not our Bruce. The first thing he does after leaving the health spa (sorry prison!) is visit the nearest tailor and then spends the rest of the film poncing about in a frilly shirt, quoting Shakespeare and threatening hostages with hair tongs.

How bad is it really?

    Apart from when Bruce is about, total rubbish. The filmmakers manage to lengthen the running time by shooting EVERY single fight scene and 'entering a room' shot in slow motion. It feels like the first film to be entirely shot in slow motion. (It's not...That's Baywatch: The Movie).

Best Bit?

Bruce Campbell comes swanning into Mrs Morran's quarters (she probably had a name, but I sure can't remember) and says 'After sleeping with me, you'll never want a decent man again' by way of an introduction and/or seduction.

What's up with...?

Ratings:

Production values Wobbly sets, lame props and there's a whole heap of crap stock footage of spaceships and explosions from Battlestar Galactica and the fight scenes have an A-Team level of realism to them. 19

Dialogue and performance Only Bruce Campbell acquits himself in the acting stakes. Culp and his wife define planklike and (in Mrs Moran's case) infuriating drippy. Brion James clearly filmed his scenes in an afternoon and was edited into the explanation scenes, and the poor guy has his first name spelt three different ways on the video box...And they are all wrong! The dialogue is simply stolen from other far better movies. 16

Plot and execution Other than letting Bruce Campbell shamelessly mug at the camera for all he's worth, the director and producers do almost nothing right.  19

Randomness Lot's and lots. It's a surprisingly fun film to spot all the 'gaffs' going on in the background. It's like a moving 'Where's Wally' book. 18

Waste of potential I didn't exactly have high hopes when I pressed play. I was only in it for Bruce Campbell. 9

Overall 81%

*

The Sea Wolf (1994)

(Available on DVD only in Germany)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Michael Anderson
Starring Charles Bronson, Christopher Reeve and Marc Singer

    Based on the Jack London book about a tyrannical ship captain called Wolf Larsen and a New York gentleman who's pulled aboard when his cruise ship sinks and has to tough up and learn a little something about himself and what he's made of. Whilst living in a harsh and dangerous environment he finds out there's more to the Captain than meets the eye.

What's wrong with it?

    Being a fan of the books of Jack London I've been hoping for a really good film version of one of his books for ages. Sadly after five minutes of this made for TV it looks like my wait is going to continue.

    Whilst it seems churlish to slag off it's obvious lack of budget, it's a shame that a story about raw human emotion and power struggles is so blandly and emotionlessly made. It also doesn't help that it is terribly miscast. Charles Bronson, who would have breezed the role 15 years ago, now frankly looks too old and frail to pose any threat to anyone. He doesn't have the charisma and (dare I say it) acting prowess to convince as a cruel and psychotic leader of men.

     The story is altered for some pointless reasons (what is the point of changing the book's only female character, the socialite 'Maud Brewster' to the beautiful con artist 'Flaxen Brewster'? She doesn't even do any confidence tricks) It also completely misses out the attack from Death, Larsen's rival's ship and the whole ending is completely different. Plus it seems to have been filmed in a large swimming pool with a load of ropey stock footage of storms edited in.

What's right with it?

    For what it's worth Christopher Reeve actually seems to be putting an effort into his performance. But it's almost laughable whenever he's supposed to be scared of Wolf Larsen as he looks as if he could knock the old mans block off. Plus the bit when he fights back against the old cockney cook (who's only cockney when he remembers), it seems as if Christopher Reeve is bullying him.

How bad is it really?

    Everything in the film just screams bland. The acting, sets and direction are all a little dull. More a wet fish than a sea wolf.

Best bit?

    When Mugbridge the cook is thrown overboard tethered to the side of the ship, he has his leg bitten off by a shark. In a bizarre series of stock footage including a shark swimming, a different shark eating what looks like a lump of Tofu and ending with the least convincing effect of a severed foot ever. Remember when you'd put your arm up your T-shirt at school pretending it had been severed...that's what they do with Mugbridge's leg, only with less success as your average 11 year old. They just pulled the trouser leg over his foot and poured some ketchup onto it...And you can still see his leg!

What's up with?

Ratings:

Production values One basic ship set, a load of grainy stock footage (taken from the 1950's version of The Sea Wolf it seems) and a big swimming pool. 14

Dialogue and performance Some of the lines from the book survived, but mostly it is a succession of mumbley cod philosophy and pointless accents. The acting is pretty much wooden all round except for some wild eye rolling over emoting from Marc Singer (a long way from the TV series 'V'). 11

Plot and execution The plot is fine, but it's executed with all the excitement and enthusiasm of your average episode of Songs of Praise...with worse music. 10

Randomness Mostly gripes about butchering the book, and pointless alterations. 10

Waste of potential This could make a great film. Casting Wolf Larsen would be the hardest thing (Harvey Keitel? Tommy Lee Jones? Daniel Day Lewis?) But given a quality director, enough money to run a small country, a stirring Hans Zimmer score and some epic set pieces it could be the next Gladiator. I can see the tag line now...'Al Pacino...Guy Pearce...The oceans not big enough for the both of them! Directed by Ang Lee'. Sadly I can only live and hope. 19

Overall 64%

*

The Transporter (2002)

Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Cory Yuen
Starring Jason Statham and a bunch of human punch bags.

    Frank Martin is a transporter, basically a hired car that asks no questions. Then on one mission he opens the package he's delivering (that turns out to be a sexy Asian woman) and has to punch and kick his way through a bunch of nameless baddies for some reason.

What's wrong with it?

    From the ahem...talent behind Kiss of the Dragon and The One, comes The Transporter which follows along a similar theme: no story, cod acting and lots of kung fu.

What's right with it?

    Surprisingly it's Jason Statham. Whilst his American Accent doesn't bear much scrutiny (i.e. he can't actually do one) he actually makes an effective action star. Handling the Kung Fu with aplomb and the acting with...what's the opposite of aplomb? Oh yes...less aplomb.

    The action scenes are all well done, nippily edited car chases and there's a few ludicrous scenes of hilarity...Where they intentional? It's hard to tell and you're having too much fun to care.

How bad is it really?

    Well it's better than xXx and Kiss of the Dragon. Okay that's not saying much. It's a surprisingly effective and ridiculously fun post pub, curry film that doesn't let a little thing like credible dialogue and a storyline get in the way of bone breaking Kung Fu and cars tearing around the South of France. And all the better for it.

Best bit?

    Frank takes on a horde of Bad guys foregoing the usual choice of weaponry of sticks and stones in favour of using his jumper, bike pedals and a barrel of oil.

What's up with?

Ratings:

Production Values Surprisingly high. Nice locations, decent lighting, excellent stunts. Hampered slightly by Jason Stathams 'action-man at C & A' attire. 6

Dialogue and performance If there was any dialogue I would have loved to rate it, sadly all there is on offer is just a series of grunts and occasional nuggets of wisdom such as 'The way a man treats his car, is the way he treats himself'. Statham despite the fact his acting skills don't stretch as far as actually acting makes a strong impact as an action hero, he has the presence, the kung fu skills, the lack of emoting and the cueball noggin that worked so well with Messrs Diesel and Willis. 9

Plot and execution The plot isn't so much a plot than a flimsy pretext for a series of punch ups. But it's directed snappily and it's a lot of fun. Plus doesn't take itself too seriously. A sequel please! 10

Randomness We got disappearing trucks, random accents, surreal fight sequences involving clothing and cycling accessories...we got the lot! 16

Waste of potential I was actually expecting this to be complete shite, however...despite being complete shite it's actually really well made quality fun...and shite. 1

Overall 42%