Video Reviews

Videos that hit the Easter 1998 - Easter '99 weekly top ten charts but failed to do so regularly enough to take them into the Concatenation SF rental top ten of the past 18 months, or whose release was too recent for them to accumulate sufficient points (i.e. one or two are really very good).

Back of Beyond

(Imagine, 15)

This is a cross between a 1950s American detective story and an episode of the Twilight Zone. The owner of an Australian outback service station takes in a jewel thief. Though the supernatural twist is somewhat stale, the movie is high on atmosphere and the acting is fair.

Crimson Tide

(Hollywood, 15)

Things get decidedly sweaty when in the middle of an international crisis a US nuclear submarine loses radio contact with the outside world. Gene Hackman is all for firing the sub's missiles while Denzel Washington plays America's conscience. Though technically not SF, if this movie had been made thirty years ago it would have decidedly been classified as such. This is an explosive movie that many SF fans will enjoy.

The Invaders

(Polygram, 15)

A nostalgic trip to see this spin off from the 1960s TV series of aliens quietly taking over the Earth. Great to see David (Roy Thinnes) Vincent is still looking out for mankind, though we could have done with seeing more of him. Though this 'sequel' is not that faithful to the original, it is faster and more visual. Certainly worth a view.


(Columbia TriStar, PG)

Jumanji is the name of a board game that comes to life. The two foolish players encounter Robin Williams who has been trapped in the game for 26 years. With brilliant effects and an express speed storyline this movie is a solid romp from beginning to end. The big question remains is why it did not do better in the video ratings even though it came close to being in the top ten. One answer might be that the effects are worth seeing on the big screen.

Lawnmower Man II: Beyond Cyberspace

(First Independent, 12)

Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer takes over Jeff Fahey's role as the gardener (lawnmower man) whose goal is to control cyberspace in the 1992 original. Patrick Bergin takes over Pierce Brosnan's role as the scientist who has to prevent the take-over. The effects are all right, but nothing special and certainly do not make up for the lack of creativity in this sequel. Not surprising it did poorly on the video rental front: our advice is to catch it on TV or at the Festival of Fantastic Films where the presence of a like-minded audience will undoubtedly add to the atmosphere.


(MGM/UA, 18)

This build-an-alien-in-the-laboratory movie failed to live up to its cinema launch hype. It even failed to live up to its video release hype typified by one video reviewer as "easily the year's best Sci-Fi thriller". Sci-Fi maybe, but serious science fiction it ain't. It has all been done before and not surprisingly the video failed to climb high in the rental charts.

Star Trek: First Contact

(Paramount, 12)

This first solo film outing for the Next Generation crew is one of the better offerings in the Star Trek series, so a pat on the back goes to Commander Riker who makes his debut as a director. With fewer holes than the usual Trek film fare, this fast-paced adventure sees the return of Next Generation's most feared adversary the Borg (who sound a bit Swedish), Classic Trek's Zefram Cochrane (from the episode 'Metamorphosis' and of whom Spock said "planets were named after him, great universities... cities"), and even a short cameo from one Voyager character.

Only its recent release onto the video rental market prevented this popular space opera from accruing the necessary points to take it into the top ten. Had our market monitoring window been several months later then this one would have surely been up there in the hit list.

The Tomorrow Man

(Fox, 12)

An enjoyable little B-movie in which Julian Sands is an android from the future out to change the past, our present, and who is chased by a government technician for the 'historic' data he contains about our future. The World is saved yes, but what of the future? We will not spoil the ending for you.

Twelve Monkeys

(PolyGram, 15)

Director Terry (Brazil, Baron Munchausen) Gilliam once again produces such a masterpiece for the discerning viewer, that the opiate-hooked masses failed to rent it in sufficient numbers for the film to sustain its entries in the weekly top tens for more than a few weeks (in the time period on which our Concatenation chart is based)! However Twelve Monkeys did stay in the top ten a while as well as remain in the UK video top 50 for many months so countless fantastic film enthusiasts must have already enjoyed Terry's latest offering.

Bruce Willis is an amnesiac time traveller sent back to prevent the start of a plague. Gilliam brings an almost Hitchcockian sense of paranoia and suspense to the film together with his own sense of bizarre visuals, while the script has many onion-like layers to intrigue. Essential viewing for the buff. SF in its best light.

Village of the Damned

(Universal, 15)

John (Dark Star, The Thing) Carpenter is a legend among fantastic film buffs, so who better to ask to remake the 1960 British SF classic. Village (American this time) falls into a coma and then months later all its women give birth to kids with white hair and super powers to match. With stars including Christopher (Superman) Reeve and Mark (Star Wars) Hamill one might well expect this to be another hit. Unfortunately Carpenter seems to have gone for atmosphere and not entirely succeeded; leastways the video failed to make it into any weekly top ten rental chart! Buffs might like to watch it to find out why.

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