Mortal Kombat (1995)

Plenty of critics dismiss the Mortal Kombat video game franchise as nothing more or less than gory, juvenile escapism. You know: crap. Plenty more go on to dismiss the very idea of a movie based on a video game. How can you blame them? Look at Street Fighter. Look at Double Dragon. Look at the anime version of Tekken if you can find the damn thing. Should I mention Super Mario Brothers? I could’ve brought that thing home and really given myself some ammunition for a good rant…but no. Instead, I’m gonna pick on this defenseless little excuse for a movie. Brainless monument to corporate synergy though it may be, Mortal Kombat has managed the strangest of hat tricks and become the high water mark in the perpetual kiddy-pool of video game based movies.

Which is amazing when you stop to consider it. Beat ‘um Up games like MK, by their very nature, are short on plot and long on action. A Character (you) is magically whisked from one flashy arena to the next and must hit an opponent until he/she stops moving. Repeat. In this respect, many reviews of this movie are correct: it is slavishly faithful to its source material in terms of both structure and style. Consequently, Mortal Kombat is light years away from being a good movie. Many of the things that made the video game so poplar are either truncated or forgotten in the haze of this (presumably) franchise-launching production. {More}

Supergirl (1984)

"I just don't sure you're not staring at my 'S'?"Both comic book and movie begin with Argo City, a civic center blown free from the planet Krypton with its gravity and atmosphere completely intact (take that, laws of physics). I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that the Action Comics team threw in a few pictures with this story. Not so here. Opening with a “bang” is one of the first things to go out the window, despite this film’s nominal connection with the wider Superman franchise. After all, why show us something we can just talk about it? And have Peter O’Toole stand around, waving his magic wand?

O’Toole is Zaltar, Argo City’s apparent savior. See, in this version of the story, Krypton’s death blasted Argo into a funky, negative universe called “innerspace” (narrated by William Shatner). Zaltar’s the guy who figured out how to keep the air in and everyone’s feet on the ground. How? Magic of course, with a little help from the film’s MacGuffin: a shinny pokeball called “the omegahedron.”

More than a miniature Unicron, the omegahedron can “create the illusion of life,” power the entire city, provide oxygen and (we assume) nourishment for its numerous inhabitants, and do all of this from the palm of Peter O’Toole’s hand.

Wait. What is this thing (so vital to the city’s basic survival) doing in the palm of Zaltar’s hand, anyway? Oh, he “borrowed” it. I see. Wonderful. This can only end well. {More}

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

''Commander Chakotay, the early years.''ou have to wonder what goes on in Roger Corman’s smooth, smooth head.

Wait, no you don’t. Certainly not anymore. These new “Roger Corman Classics” discs each come stamped with a personal reminiscence from the Man Himself. Mr. Corman, it seems, is growing into his Cult Icon status quite well. Almost seems as if he’s trying to morph into B-movie fan’s Stan Lee. All that’s missing is an “excelsior” or two.

I’ll let Mr. Corman introduce today’s feature, as he pretty much sums it all up with his usual candor and grace:

“This was the most expensive production I had financed. I always liked science fiction and my idea was to do something with the feeling of Star Wars. What I came up with was The Seven Samurai in Outer Space….” Mr. Corman goes on to mention some of the hot young talent he was able to put behind the camera. John Brother From Another Planet Sayles penned the script. Gale “don’t you dare call me Cameron” Anne Hurd scared up all the money (and proved so good at it she would go on to make a career as one of top bean-counters in Hollywood). James Horner scored up this mother. And a young Canadian pup named Jim Cameron would emerge from the bowls of the art department to become effects cameraman and chief model builder. {More}