Justice League of America (1997)

Reviewed by James Holloway

Directed by Felix Enriquez Alcala and Lewis Teague
Starring pretty much nobody and the dude who played the Crypt Keeper (well, his voice anyway)

BMM Keywords: So bad it hurts, Boring, Senseless waste of solid potential

OK. Uh, where to begin. In the 90s, DC re-imagined their classic superhero comic Justice League of America (you know, with Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and so forth) as a sort of ensemble comedy, with lots of not-as-well-known heroes who spent as much time squabbling, playing practical jokes and trying to get one another into bed as they actually did saving the world. It was pretty funny sometimes. This obvious TV pilot is an attempt to translate that to the small screen, with a motley group of superheroes struggling to deal with jobs, relationships and so forth while protecting New Metro City from a supervillain who can control the weather. We also see part of the story from the perspective of Tora, a young woman who's just started to have superpowers and may have a vital clue as to who the villain is. Sounds like a good premise, right?

What's wrong with it?

Well... the script, acting, direction, costuming and effects. Text just can't convey how absurd the costumes look, but trust me. They look pretty booty. You remember the old Flash TV series? Yeah? Well, these look much much worse. I laughed out loud when the Atom first appeared, and he turned out to be my favorite one of the bunch. The effects are also awful, especially Fire's flame-shooting and Green Lantern's power ring thing. The opening scene, in which the heroes save the inhabitants of New Metro from a tornado, looks like a cut scene in one of those lousy mid-90s FMV video games. And the performances aren't much better: Goofy Guy, Smooth Guy, Mysterious Voice, Cackling Villain, Obvious Red Herring Suspect, Strong Woman, Naive Protagonist, Charming Juvenile. They're all direct from the low-rent division of Central Casting, and nothing at all about them distinguishes them from the protagonists of a hundred other failed 1990s adventure shows. That's actually not a bad analogy: this is like Cobra or Team Knight Rider in tights.

And the script. Oh, the script. At one point, the Weatherman (yup, that's his name) unleashes a deadly hail of ...um, hail... on the suffering citizens of New Metro, and the heroes show up to help. Well, OK, the Atom and the Flash show up to stand around doing nothing, and Green Lantern uses his power ring to make an umbrella to hold over his love interest's head. Meanwhile, Fire uses her flames to melt the hailstones into harmless rain. Atom to Flash (or maybe the other way around): "Look. Fire's using her flames to melt the hailstones into rain." Thanks, Helpful Stranger!

The action is occasionally intercut with some kind of home video diary thing where the heroes (in their civilian identities) talk to the camera about their problems. This might have been cool, and indeed it does provide some of the few laughs as the inarticulate Flash tries to express himself, but mostly it falls flat, because we still don't really care about these people.

Oh, and here is the obligatory comic book geek section. The heroes in the TV Justice League are:

What's right with it?

Jon "Crypt Keeper" Kassir is pretty good as the Atom. His role is basically just Loveable Nerd, but he pulls it off pretty well. His big monologue about his origin is lame and stilted, but he's mostly OK.

How bad is it really?

It ain't good. It's like a car wreck at the corner of Lack of Talent and Flawed Core Concept. 

Best bit?

Uh... Well, uh. Hrm. OK. This lady is standing in the path of the tornado, trying to get her cat out from under the house. The Atom drops down to teeny size, runs under the house, and yanks the cat's tail so that it runs out. Pretty lame really.

What's up with...?


Production values: Dismal. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you don't have any money, make a small-money movie. Don't try to get by on effects. That's not how it works. 16

Dialogue and performances: All the way from rotten to not that great. 15

Plot and execution: Poor. Plot holes, pointless side threads, and other general foolishness. 15

Randomness: High. Some of the changes made to the concepts in particular -- not so much for what they ditched as what they kept. 18

Waste of potential: The JLA comics were funny, and some of the members are classic or at least interesting superheroes. Could have been funny. 17

Overall 81%


The Order (2001)

"Unleash the Power"

Directed by Sheldon Lettich
Starring Jean Claude Van Damme, Charlton Heston and Brian Thompson

BMM Keywords: So bad it's good; appalling screwball comedy; racial insensitivity; angry donkey.

    Rudy (Van Damme) is a burglar specialising in rare antiquities. When his father, a professor, goes missing in Israel, he sets out to find him, aided by his father's friend Findley (Heston), who is promptly shot. Rudy runs around Jerusalem a bit, causing mayhem, then gets tangled up in a plot involving an ancient order which aims to unite Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    Seems the new leader of The Order (as it is officially known) is up to no good. He's called Cyrus and played by Brian Thompson; what a shock that he's evil. Anyway, he wants to blow up the Dome of the Rock or some such and start a worldwide, tri-faith jihad then rule what's left, and only Rudy and an Israeli security cop ex of The Order herself can stop him.

    Which of course they do.

What's wrong with it?

    The Order is a mess, not knowing if it wants to be dramatic or amusing, and ending up farcical. Van Damme has seen better days - and even those weren't much good - and the supporting cast isn't great. Thompson makes a great goon of course, and Chuck is da bomb until he takes one in the chest, but the rest is dire. Also, the Order themselves don't make a great deal of sense; they seem very public to be professing such 'heresy' in Jerusalem.

What's right with it?

    Not very much, really.

How bad is it really?

    Well, it isn't painfully bad, but it's not exactly memorable or anything. It passes the time without making you want to gut yourself with a bottle opener, and that's more than I can say for most of the films I watch.

Best bit

    Fleeing the Israeli security police, Rudy 'hilariously' disguises himself as an Hassidic Jew (see, it's funny 'cause he's got the hat and the bangs and...hem). He ducks down an alley and to his horror ends up in the Muslim part of town, where the camera lingers on evil glowers from the locals: Angry Muslim grocer; angry halal butcher; angry Muslim donkey.

    The angry donkey makes it art.

What's up with...?


Production values: Shiny and understated. Some nice establishing shots of Jerusalem and decent camerawork. Then they go an ruin it all with the dodgy explosion at the end. 10

Dialogue and performances: Uninspired and uninspiring. Aside from Chuck, naturally; and the angry donkey. 13

Plot and execution: The plot is thin and heavily padded, and the film runs around like a headless chicken for at least half and hour in the middle. 16

Randomness: The entire middle section is random, plus a bunch of incidental 'but waits'. There's also the wacky, wacky 'Rudy steals a Faberge Egg' scene, including comedy camouflage make-up. 15

Waste of potential: There's good mileage in secret religious orders, but this is no worse than most attempts to milk it. 9

Overall 63%


Sabotage (1996)


Directed by Tibor Tackáks
Starring Mark Dacascos, Tony Todd and Carrie-Anne Moss

BMM Keywords: Dull; dull; dull; dull.

    Former special forces assassin/hostage rescue sniper type Michael Bishop (Dacascos), who was almost killed by mercenary Sherwood (Todd) during a mission for General Tollander (Graham Greene) in some embattled European country or other, is working as a bodyguard when his principal is offed by Sherwood. Enter suspicious FBI single mum Lou (Moss) and Bishop's gay, English, wheelchair-bound, chess-playing ex-intelligence consultant mentor Follenfant (John Neville), add suspicion and child kidnapping; mix well.
    Blah, blah; it's all a set-up by the dying Follenfant who wants Bishop to kill him so he can go out with a bang.
    Everyone but Bishop, Lou and the kid get dead.
    The end.

What's wrong with it?

    As ever, Tibor Tackáks turns in a performance akin to housepaint: A good, workmanlike job, but really, really dull. Dacascos is his usual boring self, Moss is unremarkable, Greene has no opportunity to revel in a rare bad-guy role, and John Neville is criminally underused as the stereotypical flaming queen.
    Oh; and I'd like to put a shout out for the child-minder, who once more pays the ultimate price during the kidnapping of the little girl. It is a thankless task to be a domestic in a thriller, and no more so to be the SWAT team: A shout out to the SWAT teams, in this and all the others; first in, first dead, and no-one ever says sorry.

What's right with it?

    Tony Todd; having a ball as ever, bless his evil, size twelve cotton socks.

How bad is it really?

    Sabotage is just mind-numbingly dull. Even the action sequences.

Best bit...

    Not really, no.

What's up with...?


Production values: Certainly not actively bad, aside from a couple of iffy slow-mo bullet-cam moments. 8

Dialogue and performances: Rubbish. The script is not so much poor as simply entirely unremarkable, and the performances range from Neville's scene-chewing to Dacascos' usual lethargic effort. 14

Plot and execution: Competent, but deeply uninspiring. Tackáks carries off his usual trick of not doing anything wrong by not doing anything much at all. 16

Randomness: Basically the plot hinges entirely on you never asking why. Nothing actually hangs together, making the whole film essentially random. 18

Waste of Potential: All the ingredients were in place for a really dull movie, and guess what...? No real surprises here. 8

Overall 64%