Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Scorpio One (1998)

Scorpio one poster

Tagline:

At the edge of space, patriotism and terrorism are about to cross the line.

Quick Blast Review:

The Scorpio One is an orbiting research station and it's just been sabotaged, leaving all the occupants dead. NASA has no idea what has happened so sends up a new team lead by Commander Wilson (Steve Kanaly), Carter (Robert Carradine), Pilot Hutton (Michael Monks, Hijack) and Shannon Brey (Robin Curtis, Saavik from Star Trek III and IV), with the assistance of a squad of marines captained by Jared Stone (Jeff Speakman) and Till (Brent Huff). After docking the shuttle with the doomed Scorpio One, the rescue team board and are immediately attacked, leaving one member dead. An attempt is then made on Stone's life but he manages to escape and inform Commander Wilson that one of their own team is responsible and trying to steal the scientific research from Scorpio One. That's when Till and his allies take over the shuttle by force, demanding the research computer discs or hostages will start dying and ships start exploding!

You can rely on Royal Oaks to deliver a decent 90 minute time-waster as much as you can bet on Nu Image and PM Entertainment. In that regard, this was pretty decent, even a bit more cerebral (only a bit, mind you) then I was expecting. It's not often these made-for-TV actioners involve political intrigue and espionage, but this one did. We also got two separate sources of action that tied up both ends of the story, which itself is also unusual, but appreciated. Whilst the by-the-numbers Die Hard on an Orbiting Space Station goes on (ala Fallout), down on Earth a deadly plot implicating a Senator in the Scorpio One sabotage is discovered by CIA Director Wilfred Parlow (George Murdock, adding some class to the picture), who sends a small team of two to break into a security facility to gather evidence, and random Agents being knocked off with a roll-on deodorant that makes your heart explode.

The special effects in the film are rubbish (probably the worst shuttle model I've ever seen, and why are these people firing lasers in 1998?) and the science offensive - in one sentence Brey says that the space station's artificial gravity is functioning perfectly, but that there is a gaping hole in the ship that has sucked out all its atmosphere - but it moves at a fast pace and is enjoyable enough. Huff doesn't do much for 45 minutes except drink coffee, but once he shows his true intentions (beginning with ejecting one of the astronauts into the airlock and depressurising it, blowing him into chunks) he appears solidly for about twenty minutes being a bad guy. Speakman only gets two quick hand-to-hand fights but he gets to remind the audience that he is good at this Kenpo thing and can swing a roundhouse-kick or two - one of them pointed at Huff's head.

Special mention has to go to the pointless but highly entertaining ten minutes at the beginning that sees Speakman rescuing a soldier in Iraq from captors in a bloody melee, then being choppered away while yelling "Nooooo!" to his man left behind. And I've not mentioned Carradine much in this review because, well, despite his top billing he really doesn't do anything.

The Final Fifteen:

Hutton (who turned bad) has run off with the space shuttle after Stone kicked Till into the airlock and into outer space. With Scorpio One rigged to blow, the only option is the single escape pod. Back on Earth, Speakman has found out that Director Parlow is just as corrupt as the Senator and gives him the option of a trial or driving his car off the top of the building - he chooses the latter.

Sourced From:

I found this on VHS at a charity shop for 20c. You can get a DVD as well in most territories.

Trailer:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No Contest II: Access Denied aka Face the Evil (1997)

6305103321 01

Tagline:

She's the right woman, in the wrong place, at the wrong time... again! 

Quick Blast Review:

Sharon Bell (Shannon Tweed), an action movie starlet has gone to visit her sister Bobbi at the art gallery she curates, along with her Director Jack Terry (Bruce Payne) in order to convince her into allowing a scene in her film to be shot there. Eric Dane (Lance Henriksen) happens to be conducting business at the gallery regarding a recovered statue from Nazi Germany. Suddenly terrorists shoot up the joint and Eric Dane reveals himself to be Eric Dengler - he revealed it in a way that seemed to indicate I should have know who that was; perhaps somebody from the first film which I've not seen - and hostages are taken. Eric is after a biological weapon hidden within the Nazi statue, with which he could sell for vast sums of cash. Just as John McClane was in Die Hard, Sharon Bell happened to be elsewhere in the building when the action kicked off. Thus begins Sharon needing to quickly change from action star to action hero, save the hostages and dispatch the bad guys.

This was actually pretty odd. The time passed super-quick (I looked at the clock once to find myself an hour in), the action was there... but the characters just weren't likeable. Lance was technically great as the maniac, but he was too sadistic for the rest of the film. I mean, we have a film that starts with an old switcheroo scene of Shannon doing her action movie scene on set making us, the audience, think this is what we are getting the whole movie... and then we end up making tear gas from paint tins for weapons, but then also a scene where Dane/Dengler forces hostages to act Shakespeare and get shot repeatedly for doing it badly. I dunno, it just didn't seem to gel for me. It's a little like crossing Last Action Hero with Die Hard and a sadistic Korean revenge-thriller.

It's interesting to see Shannon Tweed in this kind of role; an action film star who has to play for real. I get what she was doing, trying to make it look like many of her kicks and punches were 'dumb luck', and genuinely looking frightened and cowering in certain scenarios. I guess that's just not what I wanted. I was hoping for another Cynthia Rothrock - somebody who was well versed, well grounded and knew precisely what they were doing in the action department. Tweed's character was the equivalent of somebody performing CPR based on what they saw on TV. Bruce Payne was interesting playing a good guy, as I best know him as the terrorist from Passenger 57.

This was a case of most things being in the right spot - the machine guns rarely stopped firing - but the characters were either incompatible with the movie or just unlikeable, so I'm not entirely sure I'd recommend it. It's quite hard to nail down, but I guess I just watched the whole thing with a slightly confused look on my face. Maybe I'd enjoy it more the second time round?

The Final Fifteen:

With all the henchmen disposed of, but Sharon, Shannon and Bruce all trapped in the building together, they agree to a cease-fire in order to all get out of the locked building. After some double and triple crossing, Eric Dengler ends up locked in a glass chamber with the biological weapon which goes off and melts him, slowly.

Sourced From:

Literally pulled out of a two dollar bin after decent rummage, the old Hollywood R4 DVD presents the picture in an average fullscreen presentation that looks like it was sourced from a suspect master. It gets the job done but it's not the best. Runtime 86 minutes.

Trailer:

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