Oblivion (1994)

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We love Full Moon Entertainment here at the ISCFC – we’ve reviewed many of their films, and are always happy to point people to http://www.fullmoonstreaming.com where for a low low monthly price you can have access to their entire back catalogue. They’ve been going, under a variety of names, keeping genre fans happy for over 30 years (although I don’t think anyone was happy with “Puppet Master: The Legacy”).

Predating “Firefly” and “Cowboys vs. Aliens” by many years, 1994’s “Oblivion” is a sci-fi-western-comedy. Well, really it’s a Western, with funny bits, set on a far-distant planet, but you get the idea. To those cynics among you wondering if Full Moon got offered a Western movie set and decided to write a film around it, hush because there’s plenty of care taken to incorporate the different elements – the town’s doctor also fixes robots, there’s an ATM next to where the horses are tied up and the alien streetlights dominate the skyline.

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Red-Eye, a lizard-alien, and his gang of goons have murdered the sheriff of Oblivion and are trying to take over. It’s all about a substance which we’ll call, for ease of my typing fingers, X – value demonstrated when a guy looking for it throws a huge hunk of gold away. Super-valuable, and it shorts out electrical circuits, meaning the cyborg Deputy of the town is no use against the gang either. Into this fun comes the Sheriff’s son Zack, bringing with him a “native”, Buteo, who he rescued from being eaten alive by gigantic scorpions. Zack’s a pacifist, but will he be able to put this aside to fight Red-Eye and save the town?

The cast is absolutely packed with genre superstars. Doing double-duty as Red-Eye and crazed prospector Einstein is Andrew Divoff, and he’s great in both roles; ISCFC favourite Musetta Vander is his leather-clad electric whip-wielding sidekick; Isaac Hayes has a cameo as the X buyer; Catwoman herself, Julie Newmar, is “Miss Kitty”; Carel Struycken (whose name you won’t recognise, but whose face you definitely will) is the undertaker; and George Takei is Dr Valentine.

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Of all these, Takei is the biggest name, and this fame allowed him some hefty leeway. He’s drunk almost his entire time on screen, and he’s terrible at acting drunk; plus he ad-libbed an absolute ton of Star Trek-related lines, which scriptwriter Peter David has completely disowned. One Star Trek line, okay, it’s pretty much expected if you hire him, but there were loads of them. It’s not like Isaac Hayes sang “Shaft” during his scenes.

As well as the typical western movie beats, there’s some really funny scenes in “Oblivion”, including the funeral being held in the same building as a game of bingo; and the response to the Undertaker is always good – given how rarely you see Struycken actually talk in his other roles, you’d assume he’s no good at it, but he’s fine in this. There’s a surprisingly good English accent from South African-turned-American Vander, and the two main roles – Zack and Buteo – while being interchangeable at times (they both criticise the other for philosophising too much) are fun and their motivations are clear. Musetta Vander comfortably steals every scene she’s in, as well, absolutely understanding what sort of movie this is.

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This is the sort of film that Full Moon were made to do. Getting every penny from their budget, having a lot of camp fun and doing something the big studios would never even think of, much less spend millions of dollars on. This was filmed back-to-back with its sequel (there’s a “to be continued” at the end, which you don’t often see at the end of movies because, you know, you paid good money to see a complete story, not the first half of one) and was the last movie in the relationship between Full Moon and Paramount, meaning from now on, expect lower star-power and budgets from them (there’s a bit of a gulf between this and, say, 2000’s “The Dead Hate The Living!”) But they’re still doing it and still having fun, so more power to them.

A true clash of genres, made with love and a knowing wink, it’s fallen into a little obscurity compared to some of their other output but it’s absolutely worth watching. And with Full Moon’s streaming service being so comprehensive, you don’t have to hunt it down.

Rating: thumbs up

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Space Milkshake (2012)

Ducked! Ahahahahahahaha

Ducked! Ahahahahahahaha

Sci-fi comedies have a long and glorious history, starting (to all intents and purposes) with “Dark Star” in 1973. With its crew of slackers and oddballs, it showed that space wasn’t all clean corridors and humanoid aliens, but dirty underwear, things breaking down and weird beachball-with-feet aliens. We fans of both genres are living in its debt, and the makers of this film are definitely doing so too.

Robin Dunne, Billy Boyd, Kristin Kreuk, and Amanda Tapping are our heroes, the crew of an orbiting sanitation station, sort of a rubbish bin / recycling centre for all the junk left in space. They keep the space lanes clear but they’re seen as no better than the garbage men of earth. Bog-standard incompetence and petty jobsworth-ness on their part leads to an unscheduled transport getting blown up, and it contains two things – a rubber duck and a blue glowing time cube (the deadliest machine in the universe, so we’re told). One quick beaming to an alternate universe later, the duck starts mutating, while still retaining the personality of Tapping’s ex-boyfriend (and the voice of George Takei), and a robot double of Kreuk’s beams on board, kills her and starts behaving very oddly.

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There’s little in life worse than an unfunny comedy, and sadly for way too much of its running time that’s what this is. These people are all awful to each other, with the exception of Dunne as he’s the new guy on the station, and that snark and unpleasantness is used in the place of jokes and funny situations. You can tell where the jokes are supposed to be, but unless you think unnecessary rudeness is hilarious then you’re not going to get a great deal.

There’s also a lack of care over the finer points of the film, which worries nerds such as I. People making monstrously large words in Scrabble is a pet peeve of mine (you only have seven tiles, dammit!) and when they make a big point of the computer voice having changed, there’s a scene where it’s changed back and no-one seems to notice. Still, in the history of movies very few people have ever said “I would have loved that hilarious film, except for a lack of verisimilitude when it comes to Scrabble” so ultimately it didn’t matter.

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Gives an unrealistic expectation of how much fun this film was

The acting is absolutely top-notch, as you’d expect from a cast such as this, full of TV and film veterans. Boyd pokes a little fun at his Lord of the Rings role, while suffering from a mild case of Small Man Syndrome; Kreuk does well with her two roles; and clearly Tapping and Dunne must have had fun working on TV show “Sanctuary” together for four years, as they’re both producers on this. All four of them are clearly capable of comedy, but I feel the problem isn’t them so much as the writing. And now I feel bad because it’s a low budget movie made with several Canadian tax benefit packages, and was filmed in a little over two weeks…but then “Dark Star” had a tenth the budget of this and was a classic.

I love that people are making more sci-fi movies now, and they’re trying to do different things with them. And this certainly isn’t a bad movie, but it’s just not quite good enough. I presume there’s a hilarious story behind the title, too, but I don’t care enough to find out what it is. Still, I’d be happy to watch this cast do something else together, and given it’s the director’s first movie, he may improve too.

Rating: thumbs down (sorry)

EXTRA: The film’s website is remarkably similar to the film, having lots of little games to play which look fun but are in fact sort of boring and pointless.