Posts Tagged ‘James Spader’

Short takes: ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout,’ ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (2011) and ‘Stargate’

August 8, 2020
Combination image: ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout,’ ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (2011) and ‘Stargate’

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 8, 2020

I was never much of a fan of the original Mission: Impossible movie, which came out in 1996 and was based on a TV series that aired from 1966 through 1973. The 2000 follow-up, Mission: Impossible II, struck me as so-so. But the third entry in the franchise, M:I III, directed by J.J. Abrams, was really terrific, as all three further sequels have been.

The most recent outing was 2018’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout, which opens with hero secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) opting to save the life of colleague Luther Stickell (series regular Ving Rhames) at the cost of letting a terrorist organization get its hands on weapons-grade plutonium. Impossible Mission Force director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) dispatches Hunt to recover the material, naturally, but hard-as-nails CIA head Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett) insists that Hunt be accompanied by one of her agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill, once again playing an American).

‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’

The pair plan to intercept and impersonate a ne’er-do-well named John Lark who has made tentative arrangements to purchase the missing radioactive material. Unfortunately for Hunt, the broker, known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), will only sell “Lark” the plutonium if he helps her free Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the bad guy from the previous installment, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Hunt and Walker work up a plan with Stickell and another IMF regular, Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), but they find themselves having various run-ins with former British spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), another Rogue Nation character, who isn’t willing to see Lane freed.

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The bomb at the far end of the galaxy: Why is ‘Supernova’ so bad, and why can’t I stop liking it?

October 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 9, 2014

Oh, Supernova. You could have been so, so good. Instead, you were so completely awful.

Supernova, the 2000 science fiction/horror movie, is a famously bad film. Its credited director is Thomas Lee, the pseudonym chosen to replace Alan Smithee after the cover of that moniker was blown by 1997’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. According to the Internet Movie Database, the actual main director of Supernova was Walter Hill, the writer-director of 48 Hrs. and a producer of Aliens and several lesser science-fiction movies. IMDB also says that Supernova had uncredited directorial and/or editing contributions from cinema immortal Francis Ford Coppola (yes, the man who filmed The Godfather and Apocalypse Now!) and B-movie director Jack Sholder (The Hidden, which I actually remember as being quite good).

(Spoilers ahead.)

The movie’s setup is fairly straightforward. As ambulance vessel Nightingale patrols remote areas of deep space, its crew slowly adjusts to its newest member — pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader), a former military man who recently finished rehabilitation for his addiction to a futuristic drug named hazen. The crew finds Vanzant to be cool and distant; he finds them to be gruff and unorthodox.

Captain A.J. Marley (Robert Forster) is working on his doctorate in anthropology, a pursuit that requires him to watch (and comment disparagingly about) violent 20th century cartoons. Benj Sotomejor (Wilson Cruz), who is either the ship’s navigator or its information technology guy — it’s never made clear — has reprogrammed and is becoming emotionally intimate with the Nightingale’s computer, Sweetie (voiced by Vanessa Marshall). Paramedics Danika Lund (Robin Tunney) and Yerzy Penalosa (Lou Diamond Phillips) are rutting like rabbits and considering whether to have a child together. (He’s gung-ho; she’s reluctant.) Dr. Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett), who had a hurtful relationship years ago with a hazen addict, seems to spend most of her time glowering and lecturing Vanzant.

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Fascinating tale of ‘Alien Hunter’ fails to hit mark

November 9, 2012

Nearly everyone is taught not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s not always a lesson that sticks.

Take the case of Alien Hunter, an obscure (at least to me) 2003 science fiction outing featuring James Spader. It is not a book, of course, but a movie; the point is, I found it hard to resist forming conclusions based on the picture’s lurid green and yellow poster. Everything about the artwork and type (“Earth just got its final warning!”) screams B movie.

Spader’s appearance in the infamous 2000 sci-fi flop Supernova certainly did nothing to discredit my assumptions about Alien Hunter.

But while watching Alien Hunter just the other night, I found that my conclusions didn’t quite pan out.

The beginning is certainly not promising. There’s a brief opening set in New Mexico circa 1947, in which something mysterious and other-worldly appears to occur. We then switch briefly to Antarctica, where a mysterious signal has been intercepted, before popping into the 2003 classroom of University of California at Berkeley lecturer Julian Rome (Spader).

An expert in communications and decryption, and an infamous Lothario, Rome used to be an “alien hunter” with the discontinued SETI project. (The acronym, many readers will know, stands for search for extraterrestrial intelligence.) A colleague asks him to examine data on the signal; soon, Rome is flying to an isolated Antarctic base.

The outpost’s small crew is holding a block of ice containing the source of the signal in its maintenance bay. The ice is melting rapidly, but that’s not the only thing cooking at the small scientific base. It turns out that Rome’s former lover, Kate Brecher, is one of a trio of scientists conducting potentially ground-breaking agricultural experiments there. The sexual tension between Rome and Brecher as well as Rome and a technician named Nyla Olson is soon dialed up to maximum.

Rome is still analyzing the signal when the melting ice reveals an unusual pod. Goaded mainly by a hot-tempered Irish scientist, Michael Straub, the crew decides to cut the object open. It is a decision they come to regret…

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