Fallen Ones, The

Let's start this off with a simple statement, so you understand where I'm coming from: I honestly don't know how the other critics do it. By "it" of course, I mean write about movies they hate.

My thoughts are if a movie is so chock full of suck that you are driven to drink in order to forget the terrible memory of what you've just forced yourself to sit through, the last thing you want to do is sit down and write 500 words about it, right?

Before the Cable nets got all uppity and started making original television shows that were better than what the broadcast networks were doing, they were the haven of television reruns, infomercials, and late-night movie marathons. TNT in particular, before they knew drama, were intimately familiar with B-grade splatterhouse schlock.  Of particular note was a Saturday night show called Monstervision that started in the early 90's and ended in 2000. Every episode the host of the show, Jo Bob Briggs, would enthusiastically talk about the movie we were about to see together-frequently throwing in bits of trivia about the cast, crew, or the making of the film. This guy loved these movies no matter how bad they were, and his excitement was seriously infectious. The best part of his reviews though, were his lists, where everything ended in "FU". An example of his breakdown style, for Vampire Cop (1990):

The special effects consist of about ten seconds of a drug dealer's face turning into Silly Putty and getting fried off in the sun. My kind of promotion!

  • Twelve breasts.
  • Twelve dead bodies.
  • Multiple neck-fanging.
  • Wrist-cracking.
  • Double vampire sex in a bathtub. (Don't ask--you don't wanna do it.)
  • Flesh-burning.
  • Co-anchor bashing.
  • Kung-Fu.
  • Fang-Fu.
  • Fe-Fi-Fo-Fu.
  • Gratuitous "Hot Bod" bikini contest.

Well, the point of all of this is that I now get why he did it that way.  Sometimes it's easier to do a breakdown list than actually talk about the movie in detail. Sadly however, I notice that I still have about a hundred words left to go in this review, so maybe I should actually talk about the movie this review is supposed to be about.

The Fallen Ones tells the story of Matt Fletcher (Casper Van Dien), an archaeologist who digs up a giant mummy, only to find out that it's the son of an Angel who raped a woman thousands of years ago (Navid Negahban), and who's now trying to resurrect his son to start a new war on heaven...or something like that. To be honest, by the time they get around to explaining motives or anything, you'll be deep into your drink, trying hard to forget the stabbing pain behind your eyes this movie induces. The vaunted giant mummy on the box cover appears in the first 5 minutes and the last 10, that's about it.  Everything in between is people talking or dying off camera.

The best part of the picture is Tom Bosley-the dad from Happy Days-playing a rabbi. Sadly he gets offed early in the film, so the only thing left to you is more booze to try and slog it through the full runtime. Lest you think I kid about this: At our Cavalcade screening, a non-drinker sucked down 4 Rum and Cokes to make it through the pain. Further evidence in our continuing theory that the more Casper Van Dien is in a movie, the more one must drink to forget it.

There, 574 words. I've done my duty.

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Starship Troopers

Around you the ragged breathing of your comrades in arms can be heard as you survey the sun-battered alien landscape that streches out before you. Far off in the distance, you can see them coming. The Bugs. You don't know where they came from, you don't know why they're here, you only know your duty. The ground rattles beneath your feet. They're coming. You peer out at the wasteland once again. The giant behemoths are rampaging now, tearing their way to you. "This is it", calls your commander, "it's time to prove yourself as a citizen!"

You look back over your shoulder at him, tall and thin in his fetishistic nazi-style uniform, stalking the ramparts with a confidence he Doogie Howser never showed before in the Hospital and you knew you were going to win.

After falling flat on his face with the surprisingly boring crap-fest that was Showgirls (1995), Dutch-born Paul Verhoeven, director of genre-favs Robocop (1987) and Total Recall (1990), returned to the realm of Sci-Fi action with this movie adapted from a story by Robert A. Heinlein. Though where the book was an examination of a future where compulsory service was the norm and how a society that bordered on fascism was a good thing, the film focuses on large Arthropods  operating with surprising military efficiency and mankind's struggle to rage against the dying of the light.

In other words: BIG COMPUTER GENERATED BUGS MUST GO SQUISH NOW.

Big. Dumb. Loud. Three words that perfectly sum up this picture. Focusing on a group of young high school grads, the film primarily tells the tale of Rico (Casper Van Dien), Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer), Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards), and Ace Levy (Jake Busey) as they move up the ranks of the military during the afore-mentioned war against an alien race of bugs (who can fire asteroids out of their.... butts).

You can already see where the film is going to go wrong in the first 10 minutes or so, where the film decides to develop it's "characters" with scenes of them still in high school and interacting with family. The failure, of course, is that both Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards are interchangeable with posterboard cutouts, something that hasn't changed with subsequent appearances in other films. Only when you get grizzled Michael Ironside (Total Recall) and Clancy Brown (Highlander) toting pulse rifles does the film become even remotely watchable. In the director's cut we watched, these scenes are even longer, delaying the set-piece eviceration-by-insect scenes that are this movie's hallmark.

Oh, and Neil Patrick Harris is a Psychic who can scramble bug minds while wearing very Gestapo-ish gear. When the film was released, he still hadn't shed his Doogie Howser image, which made this the best part of the movie, really.

The effects, which were state-of-the art CG in their day, hold up better in some scenes then others. The problem is that the film relies heavily on them to try to distract from the sheer level of suck everywhere else in the production, from script to direction. Verhoeven pulled out all the stops, with Bullets, Booms, and Boobs-alongside the trademark satirical television spots that frequently outshine the rest of the film. These, with the twist at the end, almost make the film worth sitting through and actually pay attention, but not quite.

All told, this film failed to generate any real excitement in our Cavalcade, but I'm still going to give it a recommendation as long as you watch the shorter theatrical version simply for the sight of Neil Patrick Harris in full gear. Just have the remote handy, in case you need to skip ahead to the entertaining bits.