Fortress 2

Fortress 2

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Today’s feature is Fortress 2: an arguably unnecessary follow-up to 1992’s sci-fi prison break movie, Fortress.

The screenplay for Fortress 2 was written by producer John Flock in association with Peter Doyle (Leningrad), with story credit going to original Fortress writers Troy Neighbors and Steven Feinberg.

The director for Fortress 2 was Geoff Murphy, who was also behind such movies as Freejack, Young Guns II, and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.

The cinematographer for the movie was Hiro Narita, who shot flicks like Hocus Pocus, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and James and the Giant Peach.

The editor for Fortress 2 was James R. Symons, who additionally cut the films Rambo III, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tank Girl, Over The Top, Cobra, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

The producers for the film included Romain Schroeder (Dog Soldiers, Feardotcom), Tom Reeve (Wing Commander), and John Flock (The Good Shepherd).

The music for Fortress 2 was composed by Christopher Franke, who has also scored shows and movies like McBain, Babylon 5, Universal Soldier, and Green Street Hooligans.

The effects work for Fortress 2 was done by a team that included Mark Pompian (Species, Stargate, Last Action Hero), Ralph Maiers (Monkeybone, The Omega Code, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation), Steve Cummings (Air Force One, Deja Vu), Terry Whitehouse (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory), Seth Tamrowski (Baby Geniuses), Erik Strauss (Hancock, Beowulf), Ghislaine Soisson (Wing Commander), Lesley Lamont-Fisher (Alien vs. Predator), and David Pride (Dark City, The Matrix), among many others.

The cast of Fortress 2 is headlined by the primary star of the previous  movie, Christopher Lambert (Mortal Kombat, Highlander II, Druids, Fortress), as well as Beth Toussaint (Scream 3, Red Eye, Dead Heat), Pam Grier (Class of 1999, Jackie Brown), and a handful of bit players and character actors.

fortresstwo2The plot of Fortress 2 is summarized on IMDb as follows:

7 years after the original Fortress movie, Brennick and his family are still on the run from the Men-tel corporation. A group of rebels attempt to gain his support but he refuses, wanting to focus on his family. A raid follows and Brennick along with the rebels are captured and sent to a new, more sophisticated fortress prison in outer space. But Brennick’s not a man to give in easily, and with a 10 year old son waiting for him back on earth, he’s going to pack some serious assault on the evil corporation.

Fortress 2 was absolutely blasted by critics and audiences alike: it currently holds a 4.4 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 0% from critics and 21% from audiences. I wasn’t able to dig up any gross information, but it almost certainly came up far short of its estimated $11 million budget.

The original Fortress, if you ask me, is a pretty fun b-movie with plenty of upsides. I am a little surprised that it wound up with a sequel though, as it was hardly a big movie. Fortress 2 is, as with many sequels, a very similar movie to its predecessor, with only some slight twists on the formula. The idea of setting the second ‘prison’ (actually a forced labor facility) in space was a pretty good concept in my opinion, and it fits well with the futuristic design of the first movie. The biggest drawback of this sequel is a weaker supporting cast than the original, which boasted the likes of Jeffrey Combs and Kurtwood Smith in memorable roles. The biggest addition for the sequel is Pam Grier, who does ham it up pretty well in her limited villain role.

Overall, Fortress 2 is a pretty long way from good, but it is generally fun and entertaining. The design of the movie looks decent, in spite of some less-than-ideal low budget effects. It isn’t nearly as memorable as its predecessor, but it is perfectly serviceable for what it is. For fans of Fortress (and b-level sci-fi in general), it is more than worth checking out.

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The Adventures of Pluto Nash

The Adventures of Pluto Nash

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Today’s feature is one of the most widely-maligned Eddie Murphy features: The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

The screenplay for Pluto Nash was written by Neil Cuthbert, who also penned the beloved Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, the superhero flub Mystery Men, and The Return of Swamp Thing.

The director for The Adventures of Pluto Nash was Ron Underwood, whose other directorial credits include Tremors, In The Mix, Mighty Joe Young, Stealing Sinatra, Speechless, City Slickers, and Heart and Souls. However, following a string of failures (not the least of which was Pluto Nash), he has been relegated to doing a whole lot of assorted television work over the past ten years, including stints on shows like Ugly Betty, Heroes, Burn Notice, Castle, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

The cinematographer for the film was Oliver Wood, who has historically specialized in shooting action movies and comedies. His credits include Die Hard 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Face/Off, Sister Act 2, The Bourne Identity, Anchorman 2, and U-571, among many others.

Pluto Nash had two credited editors: Alan Heim (American History X, Copycat, Bless The Child, Network, The Twelve Chairs) and Paul Hirsch (Lake Placid, Falling Down, Footloose, Carrie, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).

The team of producers for Pluto Nash included Bruce Berman (Deep Blue Sea, Red Planet, Swordfish, Torque), Martin Bregman (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Matilda), Frank Capra III (Eraser, Bulworth, Drive), and Louis A. Stroller (Scarface, Carrie, Snake Eyes)

The musical score for the movie was composed by John Powell, who has provided music for such films as Be Cool, Face/Off, Shrek, Antz, Rat Race, Gigli, Happy Feet, Paycheck, and the recent 2015 flop, Pan.

The makeup effects work for Pluto Nash was done by a team that included Jocelyn Bellemare (300, The Fountain), Annik Boivin (Battlefield Earth, The Aviator), Vera Steimberg Moder (The Haunted Mansion, Norbit), and Sylvania Yau (Taking Lives, Timeline).

The experienced special effects unit for the film included common elements with productions like The Sixth Sense, Van Helsing, Ghost Dad, They Live, The Running Man, The Thing, Cellular, Wild Wild West, Congo, Last Action Hero, Rhinestone, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, The Golden Child, Driven, Jingle All The Way, Death To Smoochy, and Jason X, among many others.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash required an immense amount of visual effects work, which was provided by a number of different companies. These included Flash Film Works (Death To Smoochy, Red Planet, Deep Blue Sea), and Cinesite (Edge of Tomorrow, World War Z), as well as a handful of other post-production companies.

The cast of Pluto Nash includes Eddie Murphy (Vampire In Brooklyn, Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, Saturday Night Live), Rosario Dawson (Clerks II, Death Proof), Randy Quaid (Kingpin, Christmas Vacation 2, The Last Detail), Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, The Departed, Beetlejuice), Jay Mohr (Suicide Kings, Small Soldiers), Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix, Memento), Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights), James Rebhorn (Cat’s Eye, The Game, Independence Day), Pam Grier (Class of 1999, Jackie Brown), John Cleese (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Burt Young (Rocky, Going Overboard), and Peter Boyle (The Dream Team, Red Heat, Young Frankenstein).

plutonash2The plot of The Adventures of Pluto Nash is summarized on IMDb as follows:

In the future, a man struggles to keep his lunar nightclub out of the hands of the mafia.

Reportedly, the screenplay for Pluto Nash went through countless rewrites over the course of its production, though Neil Cuthbert ultimately had the unfortunate privilege of receiving sole credit for writing the movie.

Alec Baldwin, who plays a not-insignificant role in the movie, hated the ultimate product so intensely that he managed to have his name entirely taken out of the movie’s credits.

The Adult Swim comedy show Robot Chicken had a popular sketch that played off of the disastrous reception to Pluto Nash, in which numerous scenes of carnage and violence are shown breaking out following the opening of the movie, causing the government to officially declare “Pluto Nash Day” to remember the dead.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash is widely remembered in the public consciousness as one of the greatest financial failures in movie history. In total, it lost a shocking $95 million dollars, grossing less than $5 million in its theatrical run on a $100 million budget. As you might expect, the public reception wasn’t any better: it currently holds an IMDb user rating of 3.7, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 5% from critics and 17% from audiences.

There are certainly a lot of issues with The Adventures of Pluto Nash, but the biggest one is probably the lack of humor in the script. On paper, this movie should be an action-comedy, but somehow none of the comedy wound up getting through. Outside of some quirky set design and an oddball soundtrack, there’s nothing about the movie that resembles even an attempt at comedy. Eddie Murphy, who is usually the comedic center of his movies, plays a too-cool-for-school straight man, which isn’t something he does well. The closest thing he has in the movie to a comedic foil is Jay Mohr, who is also playing against type as an incompetent buffoon. The result is a theoretically comedic movie with hardly any laughs.

It is hard to imagine that anyone involved with Pluto Nash expected it to be a hit after seeing the final product. However, I don’t think anyone anticipated that it would fail as spectacularly as it did: I’m sure a loss was expected, but usually a movie with a significant budget is guaranteed some minimum gross from advertising. Somehow, that went totally awry for Pluto Nash, in spite of a lack of serious competition in the field of new releases.

Outside of watching this movie for the sake of the experience and cultural knowledge, there’s nothing particularly entertaining about it. Eddie Murphy, who is capable of bringing comedy to movies devoid of laughs (The Golden Child), totally fails to deliver in Pluto Nash. He seems too wrapped up in appearing cool that he forgot to provide any of his comedic talents to the movie.