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by Bill Gibron

28 Oct 2009


Before mass communication, globalization, and the easy availability of information, superstition was the stuff of horror. Myths and legends, folklore and faith mutated into a kind of communal angst, a way of dealing with the unexplainable, the unfathomable, and in many cases, the unconscionable. Early civilization was riddled with conflicts, wars and crusades meant to purge the world of certain evil ideas, and yet with each new battle, an entire series of fallacies were forged.

During the early part of the 16th Century, Russia and Finland clashed for pride and property. After nearly 25 years, a truce was agreed upon and signed. Now, with aggressions ceasing, a band of surveyors are out drawing borders between the powers. Led by ex-soldiers and military officials, the process involves cunning, negotiation, and more than a little glorified game playing. But when two brothers, Knut and Erik, commit a horrible crime in one of the remote villages, they feel haunted by more than their duty to the crown.

Things come to a head in a small uncharted town smack dab in the middle of the proposed border. Most unusual, there’s a building in the center of a swamp, a place the fearful residents claim is either evil or ethereal, an oasis of horrid darkness or sin-free soul salvation. Thus begins the provocative, potent period piece fright flick Sauna, an amazing work of subtle menace by Finnish director Antti-Jussi Annila. Similar in style to the brilliant Let the Right One In, this story of blame and belief, terror and trepidation uses an unfamiliar era and event to lay the foundation for one undeniable work of fear.

Thanks to its antagonistic premise, the Russians and Finns constantly clashing back and forth over every little element of the treaty, we easily buy the actions of Knut and Erik. Anywhere else, they would seem like cruel opportunists, men using the foundation of enemy to relegate human life to an afterthought. As the story progresses, as the superstitions of the mystery burg begin to affect our heroes, we see that Annila has something even more serious to say. Sauna is, at its heart, a morality tale where no act goes unpunished, where irrational fears and baseless dread turn individuals against each other. It’s also a thought-provoking indictment of atrocities, since our main characters are literally “haunted” by an act that, just a few weeks before, was celebrated as patriotic (or at the very least, part of the process of war).

Thanks to the dour and grimy atmosphere, a time when swordsmanship was more important than the ability to read and write, we understand and accept the baseless brutality. We sense why Knut is so afraid, and why Erik is so melancholy. These men are tired - tired of the hypocrisy of mediating claims they battled over for years, tired of the long trips away from their homeland, tired of the dirty looks and intentional deception of the Russian, and tired of having to support each other out of familial obligation. There are many times in Sauna when we believe one brother will turn on the other. It’s not a matter of sibling rivalry, but the internal ravages of bringing death.

For his part, Annila creates a very terrifying if tactile environment. Light barely illuminates the sets and some of the sequences are purposefully lost in a never-ending darkness. Even better, the dirt and fifth of the 16th Century bathes everything in a kind of medieval sadness. We feel the pain these men have gone through, indirectly experiencing the senseless nature of their enterprise with every frozen step. The landscape is as bleak and lifeless as the soldier’s purpose and Annila takes every opportunity to use nature as a means of undermining their resolve. The endless snow, the dead forests all seem to suggest that nothing good will come from Knut and Erik’s mission.

And then there is the title element, the surreal concrete building which the villagers swear brings about penance for and freedom from one’s sins. Of course, such a sentiment flows reciprocally, but no one in Sauna sees it that way. After a quarter century sparring over small parcels of land, all they want is to be forgiven. But payment for one’s crimes can be equally cruel. This is especially true of our two leads. They carry a greater burden than one found in armed conflict. The sequences inside the structure have a sinister edge, even as they promise something far more righteous. Religion is not a major part of Sauna, except for the notion of how faith (and blood rituals) can battle even the most entrenched failed folklore.

Thanks to its wonderful cast (Ville Virtanen is especially effective as a gaunt and ghoulish Erik) and a primitive location, Sauna finds a way to get deep under your skin. This is the kind of horror movie that has you thinking more than shrieking, that offers dread in how it presents its ideas vs. how creepy things will get. We don’t necessarily indentify with these men or their mission, and recognize that they require punishment more than deliverance, but in the end, that’s not really why we watch.

Instead, director Annila works a kind of wicked magic over the audience, involving them in a time and predicament far removed from their current frame of reference. Even in this, the 21st Century, there are still parts of the world that drape their cultural ways in ancient, almost archaic beliefs. As Sauna shows us, the reaction to said convictions are often as unholy as the initial fears themselves.

by Bill Gibron

27 Oct 2009


They remain the last cinematic taboo, a sinister subject that gets bandied about once every decade or so before crawling back into the annals of scary movie manipulation to fester for a few more years. Each time it’s dragged out, audience respond with a combination of shock and indignance, wondering how anyone could taint the innocent of a child like that. You guessed it - the evil kid killer is back, an archetype made infamous by Patty McCormick in 1956’s The Bad Seed.

Since then, we’ve had grindhouse versions (Harry Novak’s The Child), post-modern rewrite (The Exorcist, The Omen) noble TV attempts (Child of Rage) and the notorious Macaulay Culkin vehicle The Good Son, each one taking the offspring and turning them into something awful. Sadly, none of them can match the latest installment in the wicked wee one horror show, Orphan (new to Blu-ray from Warner Home Video). What it lacks in scares, suspense, thrills, chills, pacing, plot development, logic, realism, authenticity, and satisfaction, it definitely makes up for in fudged up homicidal brattling…and that’s about it.

Esther is an odd child. When John and Kate first meet her at a local orphanage, she is shy and distant. Taking an instant liking to the family, the couple feels safe in bringing her into their fragile home. You see, Kate is a recovering alcoholic, and during one particularly memorable bender, her deaf daughter Maxine slipped into a nearby pond and almost drowned. John saved her life, and helped his spouse sober up. Along with son Daniel, things were starting to look up for the Colemans. Then Kate’s last pregnancy ended in a stillbirth. Thus, the decision to adopt.

At first, Esther is odd addition to the clan, but tries to fit in. She wears frilly dresses and ribbons around her neck and wrists. She draws the ridicule of her new classmates, and Kate begins to grown suspicious of her new, nosy daughter. Within a few short weeks, Esther has scared poor Maxine and Daniel into submission, and a few “accidents” have left people injured…or missing. When Kate decides to look into Esther’s past, the unassuming kid turns from polite to psychotic, doing anything she can to protect her “secret.” Suddenly, the Colemans are all in danger.

If you’re looking for a fright flick that does its damnedest to get by on contrivances, coincidences, and outright plot convolutions, Orphan is it. Existing in a parallel universe where nine year olds are adopted without much legal (or medical) wrangling, where the local branch of Child Protective Services is apparently on extended vacation, and where the prissy manipulative nonsense of an Eastern European eccentric takes precedence over common sense, supposed intelligence, and the obvious arrival of some incredibly bad luck. No one seems the least bit concerned that Esther is a cheeky manipulator, overplaying her “glad to be part of the clan” conceits to the hilt. Everyone assumes it’s an expression of happiness, even when her “Helter Skelter” maniac eyes give her away.

Even worse, parents John and Kate (how apropos) have opposite ways of dealing with this newfound affection. He thinks Esther is just peachy keen, capable of nothing more than big fat hugs and butterfly kisses. She thinks her new daughter is a demon. Such extremes make many of the interpersonal machinations between the couple hard to swallow. Every time Kate has a legitimate concern about her safety - say, when Daniel’s treehouse goes up in a blaze of lighter fluid fueled-glory (with Daniel in it), John thinks she’s nutso…or worse, back on the sauce. Even during one of the film’s most outrageous moments, he blames himself for giving off the wrong signals to Esther (rationalizing with a grade schooler - never a good sign).

And then there’s the pacing. House of Wax remaker Jaume Collet-Serra spends so much time setting things up, over an hour’s worth of handwringing and touchy feely kvetching that we wonder if Esther’s secret is that she’s just an incredible asshole. Granted, actress Isabelle Fuhrman gives good jerk, but it’s not until much later in the plot that she lets her inner Voorhees shine. By then, we’ve been lulled into a sense of scripted stupidity. David Leslie Johnson apparently created his narrative out of old fright flick beats, false scares, and one iffy reveal, telegraphing much of his purpose (beyond the ending) to anyone old enough to remember the rules of terror. Sure, we feel our pulse race when Esther removes the parking brake and sends the family SUV careening down a hill, little Maxine inside and a sequence shrouded in blacklight also works well. But to get to that material we have to slog through moments crafted directly out of the direct to video terror tome.

You really do have to buy a great deal of bullspit to believe in what Orphan is offering. No one thinks like its 2009, an era of skepticism and overreaction. Everyone is nonsensically gullible to a fault. Even the deleted scenes and alternate ending offered on the new Blu-ray release of the film fail to fill in the gaps created by an attempt at atmosphere over realism or rationality. Instead of turning Esther into Michael Myers with worse fashion sense, why not show how a young child deals with being adopted into a troubled family, her missed signals and unmet needs slowly turning into confusion, and then rage. But then we wouldn’t get the serial killer slice and dice at the end, or the overwrought “huh” of the twist.

While it’s true that some of Orphan works (good vs. evil smackdowns always have a way of satisfying our innate bloodlust), but most of it is one big schlock tease. When taken in total, Esther is a remarkable creation, something that could have functioned expertly within a much better film. But Collet-Serra style is so frustrating, and Johnson script so aggravating that we wish a studio-sponsored killer kid would show up and simply thin out a few in the crew. There is nothing wrong with bringing back the evil child for a post-millennial update and Fuhrman’s performance guarantees that she’ll have a few more cracks at making a major motion picture impact. But Orphan is not very good. At 90 minutes, it might have been amazing. At two hours, it’s tedious.

by Bill Gibron

27 Oct 2009


Rowan Atkinson’s brilliant Blackadder franchise, consisting of four fabulous series and a couple of clever one-offs, is frequently misjudged by the press. No, not in the lists of British Best-Of, where it frequently gives other English classics like Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and The Young Ones a run for “greatest sitcom ever” accolades. And not in the arena of available talent. Along with the future Mr. Bean, we get stunning, starmaking turns from Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry as well as creative input for comic savants Ben Elton and Richard Curtis. In fact, when wedged up against those previously mentioned UK laughfests, Blackadder typically beats them all. So why is it never a true part of the pop culture discussion? Why does it take something like the sensational new DVD release of remastered episodes to get the show some significant international love?

Of course, it’s a massive hit back home, recently voted the second favorite comedy of all time - and this might explain some of the disconnect. One of Blackadder‘s major selling points is its twisting of British history, retrofitting the facts (and occasional tall tales) to turn the adventures of a conniving little cretin named Edmund, his manservant Baldrick, and the various incarnations of the man throughout traditional English folklore into sidesplitting satire. The first series, simply entitled The Black Adder sees the secret record of Richard III/Richard IV’s reign used as a backdrop for Atkinson’s seminal sneak. Blackadder II is set during the court of Elizabeth I and amplified the character’s sinister nature. Blackadder the Third finds the Regency Period utilized as a means of highlighting the relationship between the Prince of Wales and his butler, our scheming antihero. We shoot forward a century to World War I, where Captain Blackadder Goes Forth, trying to find ways of avoiding his military duty to God and Country.

As with most UK series, all four Blackadder offerings consist of six individual installments. They cover subject as intriguing as the authority of the Church (“The Archbishop”), witch hunts (“Witchsmeller Pursuivant”), baby-eating bishops (“Money”) and intoxication (“Beer”). By the third go round, we get plots revolving around politics (“Dish and Dishonesty”) old stage superstitions (“Sense and Senility”) and The Scarlett Pimpernel (“Nob and Nobility”), while the final tour of duty presents tales of pigeon murder (“Corporal Punishment”), aviation (“Private Plane”), and music hall variety (“Major Star”). In addition, the DVD set also offers the masterful Blackadder Christmas Carol take-off, the 15 minute Blackadder: The Cavalier Years set during the English Civil War, and the time travel extravaganza Blackadder: Back and Forth. Along with a wealth of bonus features (including commentaries, interviews and documentary features on the show and its impact), we get an in-depth lesson in all things silly and snide - and it’s all absolutely brilliant.

Indeed, what one takes away from such an overview is how radical and revisionist Blackadder really is. Imagine a series that poked gentle fun at American ideals and factual truisms, all for the sake of a character that is mean, neglectful, incorrigible, cutthroat, bumbling, brazen, devious, shrewd, and on more than one occasion, completely off his nut. Without Aktinson in the lead it would never work. Though he is usually the butt of the situational joke most of the time, Blackadder (in all his carnations) remains a significant comedy creation. He’s not just the man you love to hate - he’s the slimebucket you obsess over like a moonstruck school girl. There is just something so amazingly awful, so delightfully despicable about the man that you can’t help but hang on his every wicked wisecrack and/or deed. No matter if it’s aimed at royalty or a peasant, Blackadder does not suffer fools - not lightly, not bloody likely.

Though great almost from the beginning, the series did struggle a bit at first. The BBC did not like the high cost and low return of The Black Adder, and then demanded changes before the second set of shows was okayed (and even then that took nearly three years to accomplish). Aside from the casting, which saw the heroic Brian Blessed replaced by more comic-oriented actors, the character of Blackadder was altered as well. Instead of a blundering fool who seems to fall into treachery, Curtis and Elton reconfigured him as a more astute and cunning antagonist. Much of the moron material went directly to Tony Richardson, who mined the always filthy manservant Baldrick for all he could. In was also discovered that Atkinson was a master at making already idiotic people look even worse than they really were. Thus the constant state of stupidity surrounding Blackadder, from a dim Elizabeth I to an insufferably dense Prince of Wales.

By Goes Forth, the writing was so polished, the performances so honed and perfected, that the series never misses a beat. Even when dealing with a subject as tricky as war, Blackadder finds the truth and then turns it on its crazy, crackpot head. Even better, with each new generational jump, the historical elements become an indirect supporting character. Another reason the show often suffers in syndication is that many of the quips are incredibly insular, known to only those whose country is being deconstructed and/or those familiar with the eras and events. Granted, the dialogue is not all dates and declaration. The Blackadder series is sublime in its unique and complex insult strategy, a combination of scatology and dead-on satire. It’s not every show that can work a statement about feces, incest, and the failed Feudal system into a rejoinder, but that’s the beauty of Edmund and the gang.

As the DVD set points out, the series was a truly labor intensive affair. Actors had to learn to ride, wear ridiculous, epoch appropriate garb, and trust the intricacy of the scripts vs. adlibbing at will. Injuries where suffered and opportunities missed, and many have fond memories of the results if not the specific means of achieving them. During a few particularly poignant moments, several members of the cast are visibly moved by their memories of their show. Aktinson, a rather reclusive star who rarely gives interviews, uses the new bonus features to address rumors, quash misinformation, and generally make his final statement on the show, period. Oddly enough, there have been rumblings both pro and con for another series of the show. While many recent comments argue otherwise, the material here seems to suggest that, if the right subject came along, and a network was willing to back them up, there’s a contingent that’s keen to do it.

And why not - the Blackadder conceit seems to work no matter the time or place you put it in. Like most classic comedies where one character spends his or her time looking down their nose at the rest of the rabble, only to realize their as guilty of being as plebian as they are, Rowan Aktinson successfully argued for his place as one of Britain’s greatest living humorists. While his next outing, Mr. Bean, would reinvent slapstick for the post-modern age, it’s his time traveling through various phases of UK lore that will always illustrate his truest gifts. No matter the lack of universal respect, Blackadder remains a singular achievement. It’s great, because everyone involved is as well. You can’t argue with that kind of creative strategy.

 

by Bill Gibron

27 Oct 2009


When Deep Throat became a media sensation, giving a smidgen of legitimacy to what was otherwise verboten hardcore pornography, the exploitation impresarios were dumbfounded. For decades, they had been delivering the kind of sensationalized pseudo smut that made the raincoat crowd happy. While they pushed the boundaries of permissiveness, they never went “the full monty”, so to speak. But now, a 42nd street phenomenon was looking to supplant their softcore cash cow. Enter various attempts at recapturing the crown, including something called blaxsploitation. It was an attempt to speak to a different demographic than they had before. Heavily marginalized by Hollywood heavy hitters looking to horn in on the profits, the ghetto fabulous filmmaking flared brightly, but like any flash in the pan, petered out before long.

Now, nearly four decades after Melvin Van Peebles put a foot up the Man’s ass with his brilliant Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, indie filmmaker Jonathan Lewis, with the help of some of his more miscreant moviemaking pals, has dreamed up Black Devil Doll. Part homage to the hilarious surrealism of Petey Wheatstraw and, to some, a respectful rip-off of Chester Novell Turner’s Black Devil Doll From Hell, this outrageous example of Joe Bob Briggs’ patented “three Bs - breasts, blood, and beasts” is so insane, so silicon injected and silly that it’s almost impossible to take seriously. In fact, Lewis does try for a bit of social commentary before dragging out the strippers to show off their dirigible-like dirty pillows. From then on, it’s nothing but sex, scatology, and lots and lots of skin.

Heather is a buxom babe who gets bored one night and uses an Ouija board to contact the dead. Unbeknownst to her, an infamous black militant radial serial killer is being fried in the local electric chair. A few incantations later and the spirit of the evil African agitator is transferred to the gal’s goofy ventriloquist doll. With the addition of a Black Panther monster make-over and mandatory jive-ass jargon, the horny horror is born. At first, Heather satisfies all this perverted puppet’s needs. But when one white girl is not enough, the Black Devil Doll demands a humptastic hen’s night. So our heroine invites her friends Natasha, Candi, Buffy, and Bambi over for a little risqué R&R. Little does she know that this trim-seeking terror toy is really out to continue his menacing, murderous ways.

Like a 14 year old suburban rap fans wet dream doused with a heavy helping of skankified sleaze, Black Devil Doll is truly demented. If you’re looking for subtlety, careful characterization, logical plotting, and in-depth political grandstanding, go find Spike Lee and sit him down for nice long chat. Lewis is Hell-bent of being as derogatory, depraved, and disgusting as possible, and he truly does deliver. He finds front-heavy actresses eager to see his wanton vision through, and then has them undress for endless sequences of slut-tastic exposure. These are the kind of chicks that teen boys cream over, who resemble cut-outs from a particularly prurient men’s magazine or workers at a dive bar brothel. There is no denying their flagrant frizzled sex appeal. Black Devil Doll never tries to turn its victims into human beings. Instead, it’s straight up objectification - and these women have the over/under the muscle scars to prove it.

Of course, humor is an integral part of the experience, and Black Devil Doll is very funny indeed. Most of the jokes are aimed below the belt (and sometimes, even lower) and Lewis does go slightly overboard with the race baiting repartee. But for the most part, it’s just mindless burlesque, cheekiness for the sake of satire. While it may have a hard time proving its interest in a high purpose, Lewis does sneak in a bit of ‘70s era earnestness. Whenever the Black Devil Doll “conquers” one of his female victims, a psychedelic montage of Civil Rights symbolism and African American iconography plays in the background. It reminds us that any interracial combo - even one involving a hopped up puppet - creates its own subversive subtext of ethnic controversy.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this film is one not seen on the recently released DVD. When it was making the rounds this last summer, Black Devil Doll received a great deal of bad press for being a horrifically insensitive and morally objectionable work of outright trash. Of course, Lewis embraced said statements, even if many of them were made with the flawed foresight of not actually seeing the film first. Indeed, some even questioned the intent behind the movie, arguing that it was created specifically to instill anger in the African American community. Clearly, anyone seeing the final results will be laughing in the face of those self-ascribed watchdogs. Black Devil Doll is nothing more than a farce, an extended riff on a stereotype taken to ridiculous, raunchy extremes. Besides, it’s hard to see the bigotry with all the breasts flopping into the lens.

In fact, if anyone should be unhappy with Black Devil Doll, it is the current crop of artificially enhanced actress. Reduced to discussing their bowel movements and lesbian tendencies as signs of significant three dimensions, the girls here are nothing more than carnal eye candy for the settled self-abuser. Yet because Lewis never really exploits them, never has them doing things they wouldn’t normally do for a dollar, there’s none of the grimy scumbucket sensation involved.

Black Devil Doll will probably become a must-see member of the direct-to-DVD circuit, something that plays better in the privacy of your own home with a group of like-minded friends than in a packed movie house (though the recently released disc offers a ‘you-are-there’ audience experience that argues for the film’s universal appeal). While the original examples of blaxploitation were hardly this retarded, they would definitely support Lewis’s vagrant vision. The best advice one can give is to simply sit back and let a bedeviled brother work his magic on you. Who knows - you might just enjoy it. 

by Bill Gibron

26 Oct 2009


Before he became the king of disaster porn, manufacturing more and more outlandish ways of destroying the planet and all the people on it, Roland Emmerich was trying to become the master of mediocre sci-fi. He built his still questionable resume on the back of such hack classics as Making Contact, Moon 44, and Universal Soldier and it was on this latter bit of Jean-Claude Van Damme-age that he met future collaborator Dean Devlin. Together, the duo would embark on a solid set of schlock masterworks, including the ridiculously ripe Independence Day, the goofy Godzilla remake, and perhaps the most notorious speculative nonsense of all - Stargate. While many now know the name thanks to its tired TV series retread, Emmerich first hit considered commercial paydirt with this specious interstellar claptrap involving aliens in pyramid shaped spaceships, Chariots of the Gods, Egyptology, and a US military team doing a bit of manufactured worm hole spelunking.

You see, several centuries ago, aggressive ETs landed on Earth and absorbed as much ancient culture as possible, including the physical image of comely caveboy Jaye “The Crying Game” Davidson. Fast forward to present day and James Spader is a Erich von Däniken wannabe who believes the pyramids were built by visiting space travelers. Just as he is being booed offstage at a science seminar, he is given a chance to work for Uncle Sam and decipher the symbols on an unusual object found in the Middle Eastern desert. It turns out he opens up a ‘stargate’, a way to travel between far off cosmic worlds. With Kurt Russell in tow as a military man recently reinstated after a personal tragedy, a reconnaissance team travels through the portal and ends up on a backward planet where everyone is a slave, building yet another set of pyramids (that function as starship ports) for the same despotic alien race that traveled to Earth eons before.

No matter how you slice it - original theatrical version or retrofitted director’s cut (complete with nine minutes of additional footage), Stargate is silly. It’s backwards science as up to date falderal, an episode of that ‘70s staple In Search of… dragged out to wholly demented ends. In the commentary track and bonus features offered on the brand new 15th Anniversary Edition DVD and Blu-ray, Emmerich makes it very clear that he wanted to take an unconventional approach to this film - unconventional casting, unconventional plotting, unconventional subtexts. That’s why indie Method man Spader is sparring side by side with Snake Plissken himself, why the interstellar natives speak in a weird foreign tongue that never gets translated, and why we find ourselves shaking our head in rather conventional disbelief. It does make for some inherently goofy charms, especially when both of our leading men fall for emotional substitutes (Spader, the hot chick - Russell, the son he recently lost).

But that doesn’t prepare you for the outright audacity of the movie’s design. Even if you grant that the pyramids seem like the work of extraterrestrials, seeing it actually play out is a lot like looking backstage at a magic show. Once you realize how it’s done, it doesn’t seem quite so amazing any more. Similarly, the minimal CG used to mechanically remove the alien’s elaborate Pharaoh inspired headgear looks incredibly dated. Granted, Emmerich’s attempts at being epic does give Stargate some scope, especially when Spader and Russell investigate the huge triangular structure set against a three satellite sky in a endless sand dune milieu. But its big ideas that make sci-fi sing, and in the case of this blasé boy’s adventure tale, we are dealing with junior high conceits at best.

The notion that highly evolved space travelers would enslave indigenous people’s simply to build their landing stations seems surreal. After, they manufacture these amazing flying ships - why do they need manual labor to construct its dock. Similarly, Russell and the gang sure get the peoples restless in a hurry. One moment, they are talisman wearing gods. The next, they’re Angela Davis in designer fatigues. The last act assault on Jaye Davidson’s stronghold seems unlikely to succeed, and the whole “regeneration” subplot seems stuck in if only to provide a third act out in case one of our leads bites the big one (hmm…I wonder if they do…). While there is a restless sense of fun flowing in between all the UFO sturm and drang, Stargate is really nothing more than the Discovery Channel gone gonzo.

Of course, if you believe the added content stored on the various home video incarnations of the title, there is a lot of “truth” behind the decidedly dumb movie. We get experts popping in and out of the picture-within-a-picture information featurettes, each one explaining concepts that were debunked back when Jimmy Carter was still slinging peanuts. As they sit in their smug superiority, interplanetary backdrop providing a small modicum of ComicCon credibility, we realize that someone might actually think Stargate serious, that buried in Spader’s paycheck cashing casualness, in Russell’s buzzcut bravado, Emmerich and Devlin are actually championing ancient astronauts. It puts a whole new perspective on the film, one that falls far outside the typical big budget blockbuster effort we actually see. Serious support is one thing. Stargate, however, cannot solidify such speculation.

Still, this is a decent little diversion, the kind of pure popcorn fodder that would find a far more ballsy form when Will Smith took on city-sized flying saucers in Independence Day. Indeed, one can see Stargate as a warm-up for all the Day(s) After Tomorrow to come. While its F/X are not as eye-popping as they were 15 years ago, and the premise has been peeled apart and reconfigured to fuel a more or less unnecessary TV take on same, what we have here is a prime example of cinematic cheese - fatty, slightly nutritious, and capable of deep satisfaction if served correctly Roland Emmerich has made an entire career out of such highfalutin fromage - and we, as a gullible, guilty pleasure appreciating audience just can’t get enough.

//Mixed media