Tag Archives: space camp

Space Warriors

Space Warriors

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Today’s feature is the pseudo-remake of the 1986 flop, SpaceCamp: 2013’s Space Warriors.

Space Warriors was directed, produced, and co-written by Sean McNamara (Bratz: The Movie, 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain), with co-writers Jim Strain (Jumanji), Stan Chervin (Moneyball), and Ronald Bass (Rain Man, What Dreams May Come, Entrapment).

The cinematographer for Space Warriors was Robert Hayes, who shot two of the lesser sequels to Baby Geniuses: Baby Geniuses and The Space Baby and Baby Geniuses and The Mystery of the Crown Jewels.

The editor on the film was Jeff Canavan, who has worked on features like Bratz, Save The Last Dance, Lawnmower Man 2, Homeward Bound II, Star Trek: Insurrection, Garfield, and The Shawshank Redemption.

The musical score for Space Warriors was composed by Larry Brown, who provided music for the infamous Joe Don Baker movie Mitchell and the television series The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest.

The visual effects team for Space Warriors included Evan Ricks (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation), Josh Prikryl (Babylon 5), David Liu (The Midnight Meat Train), Laurel Klick (From Dusk Till Dawn 3, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, Mortal Kombat), Ryan Spike Dauner (Red Planet), and Des Carey (The Stepford Wives, The Legend of Hercules).

The cast of Space Warriors includes Danny Glover (Saw, Predator 2, Lethal Weapon), Mira Sorvino (Mimic, Quiz Show, Reservation Road), Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns, Zodiac, Copycat), Ryan Simpkins (Twixt, A Single Man, Revolutionary Road), Thomas Horn (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Josh Lucas (Stealth, American Psycho, Poseidon), and Grayson Russell (Talladega Nights, Diary of A Wimpy Kid).

spacewarriors2The plot of Space Warriors is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A group of kid space cadets must help in the rescue of three astronauts whose ship got stranded in space.

Space Warriors was filmed at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL, which is home to the original location of Space Camp, and was also the primary filming location for 1986’s SpaceCamp.

Space Warriors currently has a 4.4 user rating on IMDb, along with a 34% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

It is impossible not to compare Space Warriors to 1986’s SpaceCamp: though it isn’t technically an official sequel or remake, there are undeniable similarities between the two features. The biggest changes for Space Warriors are all actually pretty sensible: the child actors are all the same age, instead of a mix of teenagers and children, they aren’t shot into space, and the hyper-intelligent robot sidekick plot is totally nixed. Unfortunately, the lack of any of these peculiar elements of the first movie leads to a far less charming end product. The fact of the matter is, real Space Camp isn’t all that flashy or glorious, and that is (at least partially) reflected in this movie.

The other big drawback for Space Warriors is that the primary cast is made up of a lot of children, which is a recipe for disaster. Child actors with any modicum of talent are rare, and the odds of finding multiple ones for the same production are astronomical. Even Joaquin Phoenix, who grew into a fine actor with age, was not particularly good in SpaceCamp. In Space Warriors, the child actors are awful. Just awful. Even worse, all of the action of the movie surrounds them. At least in SpaceCamp, Tom Skerritt and Kate Capshaw offered some slight respite from the childish shenanigans of Max & Jinx. No such luck is to be had in Space Warriors: it is (with little exception) all kids, all the time.

One of my favorite things about Space Warriors is the recruitment montage at the beginning, which features Josh Lucas wandering around the world with an inflatable astronaut companion, hunting down brilliant children to bring them to Space Camp. Honestly, I would watch an entire movie that focuses just on the road trip shenanigans of Josh Lucas and his inflatable astronaut buddy. That would undoubtedly be more interesting than Space Warriors if you ask me.

width="300"I mentioned in my review of 12 Rounds that the movie comes off like a tourism advertisement for the city of New Orleans. Likewise, Space Warriors is packed with shots of both the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Huntsville, AL. It might not be excessively noticeable for someone not from the area, but for me, the constant shoehorning feels downright oppressive. Likewise, Space Warriors gives off the slightest whiff of desperation: there was clearly an intention  here to re-inspire a rising generation to care more about exploration and space travel, in an era where the interest seems to be at an all-time low. However, I don’t think Space Warriors is going to ignite any flames of inspiration like The Martian or Interstellar, given it is pretty much a pile of garbage. Then again, I’m not ten years old. Maybe kids love this shit.

Space Warriors isn’t a movie that was aimed for general audiences like SpaceCamp was: it is unapologetically a kids movie. As is the seeming standard for children’s entertainment, the humor is low-brow, the acting is bad, and the whole thing looks and sounds like garbage to anyone who is older than 12. However, I have trouble blaming that entirely on the movie, as much as it is a plague of the genre in general.

I’ve never understood why children’s entertainment isn’t held to a higher standard: it seems like there is essential no quality test for anything in the genre. Children’s movies should be aimed to inspire and educate while also entertaining, like Wishbone. It doesn’t need to be a compilation of loud noises, farts, and pratfalls like The Garbage Pail Kids: that’s actually the worst possible thing that we as a society could be forcing children to consume. That how you wind up with a generation of Adam Sandler fans if you ask me. To Space Warriors‘s credit, its heart is certainly in the right place in this regard, in spite of some lapses here and there. I don’t want to be excessively hard on it, but I’m also certainly not going to recommend it to anyone. Unless you are a big fan of SpaceCamp and are curious about this re-imagining, then skip it.

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SpaceCamp

SpaceCamp

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Today’s feature is the most famous bad movie to come out of my home town of Huntsville, AL: 1986’s SpaceCamp.

The credited writers for SpaceCamp include producer Patrick Bailey, Larry B. Williams (Friday’s Curse), Clifford Green (The Seventh Sign, Bless The Child), and someone named Casey T. Mitchell, who has very few other credits.

SpaceCamp was directed by Harry Winer, whose credits include a handful of Veronica Mars episodes, a documentary called The Legend of Bigfoot, and House Arrest.

The cinematographer for the film was William A. Fraker, who has shot such movies as The Island of Doctor Moreau, Street Fighter, 1941, The Exorcist II, Rosemary’s Baby, Bullitt, and Gator.

SpaceCamp had two credited editors: John Wheeler (Rocky IV, Star Trek: First Contact, Rhinestone) and Tim Board (Ladybugs).

The music for SpaceCamp was provided by the one and only John Williams, who is perhaps the most recognizable film scorer in the history of the medium. On top of his astounding five Academy Award wins, he has countless Academy Award nominations spanning from 1968 to 2014.

The special and makeup effects team for SpaceCamp was made up of Zoltan Elek (Timecop, Double Team, Street Fighter, Leviathan), Katalin Elek (Double Team, Rocky V, Legend, Leviathan), and Chuck Gaspar (Waterworld, Mitchell, The Exorcist II).

spacecamp8The visual effects work for the movie was provided by a massive team that included Tom Anderson (Dune, Philadelphia Experiment II), Jeff Burks (Trick or Treat, The Abyss), Charles L. Finance (Battlefield Earth, Leviathan, Dune), Jammie Friday (Robot Jox, Apollo 13), Rocky Gehr (Face/Off, Over The Top, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Jingle All The Way), Robert L. Johnston (1941, Die Hard), David S. Williams Jr. (Leviathan), Christopher Nibley (Predator 2), Mark Stetson (Leonard Part 6, On Deadly Ground), Richard Malzahn (Trick or Treat, Leviathan, Suburban Commando), Peter Montgomery (Mortal Kombat), Barry Nolan (Leviathan, Maximum Overdrive), and Doyle Smiley (DeepStar Six),

The cast of SpaceCamp includes Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom), Tom Skerritt (Alien, Top Gun, Poison Ivy), Terry O’Quinn (Lost, Primal Fear, Tombstone), Lea Thompson (Howard the Duck, Back To The Future, Jaws 3-D, Left Behind), Kelly Preston (Jerry Maguire), Larry B. Scott (Iron Eagle), and Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, 8MM, Inherent Vice, The Master, Walk The Line, Her), credited under his childhood name of “Leaf.”

SPACECAMP, Tom Skerritt, Kate Capshaw, Tate Donovan, Lea Thompson, Joaquin Phoenix, Kelly Preston, Larry B. Scott, 1986, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.The plot of SpaceCamp is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The young attendees of a space camp find themselves in space for real when their shuttle is accidentally launched into orbit.

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger tragically broke apart barely a minute into its flight, killing the entire crew aboard. At the time, SpaceCamp, which prominently features the looming threat of a shuttle disaster, was scheduled to release within weeks. Wisely, the studio chose to delay the film’s release to the summer, but it flopped at the box office none-the-less.

In early drafts of the story, SpaceCamp was to have a Rocky IV-style ending, in which a Russian shuttle (piloted by children) is dispatched to rescue the American kids stranded in space, signifying a new, post-Cold War era of peace and harmony.

spacecamp2SpaceCamp was the feature film debut of Joaquin Phoenix, whose older brother, River, broke out due to his role in Stand By Me, which also released in 1986. Joaquin is credited under the name “Leaf,” which he took on early in his childhood, but shed in his teens.

The budget for SpaceCamp has been estimated to have been between 18 and 25 million dollars, on which it only took in less than 10 million dollars on its lifetime theatrical run. The reception to the film was less than glowing: it currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.6, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 40% from critics and 50% from audiences. In spite of the poor returns and reviews, SpaceCamp received a spiritual remake in 2013 in the form of Space Warriors.

The Huntsville, AL location of Space Camp (The US Space and Rocket Center) that features in the film doesn’t have an actual space shuttle or a launch pad: it only has a mock up (Pathfinder) that was used for basic testing purposes. Even then, it wasn’t on display at the Space and Rocket Center until 1988: two years after this movie’s release. This makes the entire premise of the plot of SpaceCamp even more impossible that it was to start with.

spacecamp7Obviously, the plot of SpaceCamp is beyond preposterous. NASA didn’t have any hyper-intelligent robot friends in 1986, Space Camp attendees aren’t the same thing as astronaut trainees (and go nowhere near functioning shuttles), and, in spite of a mixed track record, we’ve never accidentally shot a shuttle into space. All of that said, SpaceCamp seems to relish in its obliviousness, and seems shocking uninterested in the fantastic reality of space flight, choosing to substitute in a bizarre, fictitious world in its stead. I can only imagine how disappointed an entire generation of kids were when they discovered that Space Camp doesn’t turn children into astronauts, and no adorable robot companions were included in the program.

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They certainly don’t do much to dispel those misunderstandings, though.

Thanks to the utter ludicrousness of the screenplay, SpaceCamp holds up as a charmingly inept love letter to a scientific pursuit that was far beyond the writers’ comprehensions. I would pay good money to watch this movie with a panel of physicists and astronomers (cc: Phil Plait), because I can only imagine the mix of guffaws and exasperated head-shaking this screenplay would incite from them.

SpaceCamp is an under-appreciated bad movie classic if you ask me. You don’t see it covered very often by the big b-movie reviewers, but this flick is the perfect mix of a financial failure, a recognizable cast, an utterly inept screenplay, a high dose of nostalgia, and maybe the worst cultural timing of any movie release in history. I might be a little biased given it is a hometown feature for me, but I implore any detractors out there to give this movie another look. Watch this film today, and try not to laugh at it. I dare you.

Bargain Bin(ge): Tape Ape VHS Swap Meet

Tape Ape VHS Swap Meet

Yesterday, I decided to check out a local VHS market that I heard about recently. Tucked away in the back of a semi-dilapidated building, boxes upon boxes of VHS tapes were laid out on tables, brought in from people all around the region. I usually stick to DVDs, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity to find some rarities and flicks that haven’t made the jump to a disc or streaming release. And, sure enough, I found some cool stuff.

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On to the actual haul: here is a shot of all of the tapes I procured together. You can look forward to a good number of these popping up here on the blog for full reviews before too long, particularly the Larry Cohen flicks (“Deadly Illusion” and “Perfect Strangers”).

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Santa With Muscles

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I’ve covered this Hulk Hogan holiday flick before at length, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally snag a physical copy of it. This might be the only Mila Kunis movie worse than “American Psycho 2.”

Carnosaur

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“Carnosaur” was Roger Corman’s answer to “Jurassic Park,” and is a flick that I have been meaning to catch for a long time. I’ve seen a bunch of clips from it over the years, and can’t wait to see that adorable little dinosaur in action. Interestingly enough, I also almost picked up “Tammy and the T-Rex,” but decided against it.

Stay Tuned

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I first heard about “Stay Tuned” from an episode of “We Hate Movies,” and the concept behind the story sounds pretty interesting to me.I mean, of course Satan would be involved in show business somehow, right?

Space Camp Adventure

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This is a promotional video for Space Camp from 1994. From what I can tell, it was made at least in part in my home town of Huntsville, AL. At the very least, this is going to be packed with some solid nostalgia fuel. If it is anywhere near as ridiculous as the movie “Space Camp,” I will be very happy.

House

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“House” is a bit of a horror-comedy cult classic, but it is one that I have never actually gotten around to before. I’m expecting it to be very much up my alley, though. I mean, Steve Minor directed “Lake Placid” and “Soul Man,” so surely this is going to be on point! /s

Body Parts

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This is another flick that I know thanks to We Hate Movies. It sounds like a bizarre little body horror flick that I knew I had to track down after I heard about it. It reminds me a little of the Christopher Lambert “Se7en” knock-off “Resurrection,” which is another flick that I absolutely need to hunt down again soon.

Shark

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“Shark” is a Samuel Fuller flick with a lot of interesting back story. A stunt worker was killed by a shark during the production due to a tragic error, and Fuller ultimately abandoned the production entirely due to the producers’ shenanigans. The film is supposedly awful as a result, in spite of a hefty dose of Burt Reynolds in the lead role.

Perfect Strangers

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“Perfect Strangers” is a Larry Cohen movie that I don’t know much about, but it has not been easy to track down thanks to the immensely generic and oft-used title. The fact that it has been such a pain in the ass to find leads me to believe this is probably one of his lesser films as far as quality goes, but I might be surprised.

Communion

Communion

I didn’t know anything about this movie until after I bought it. You have to take risks in life sometimes, and I am willing to gamble on a movie about Christopher Walken being abducted by aliens. The director was apparently responsible for a couple of the sequels to “The Howling,” as well as something called “Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills,” so I think I may have a winner here.

Deadly Illusion

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“Deadly Illusion” is another one of those Larry Cohen films that has been a pain in my ass to track down. It stars Billy Dee “Lando” Williams and Vanity (which is awesome), but it is apparently not about a serial killer magician like I had initially hoped. Still, I always have high hopes for Larry Cohen to pull out the stops to create an interesting story. Maybe a magician will be involved after all.

1990: The Bronx Warriors

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I have heard an awful lot about “1990: The Bronx Warriors,” and all of it leads me to believe that I am in for something special with this thing. Fred Williamson’s presence gets my attention for just about anything, but just look at that ideal box art. It is “The Warriors,” but with less money and more nonsense. Perfect.

 

 

Bargain Bin(ge): May 2014

Welcome to the latest installment of Bargain Bin(ge)! I spend a lot of time in the bargain bins of used DVD shops all over the country looking for potentially forgotten or overlooked cinematic atrocities, and I document all of the highlights here.

Today I’m featuring a spectacular failure to adapt a popular (and personally beloved) anime to film, a local 80s movie that has rightfully been forgotten to time (but “launched” a lauded film career), a low-budget deep-sea creature-feature, and a Lucio Fulci “Django” knock-off. Let’s get started!

G-Saviour

I am a huge fan of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” anime franchise, and have been for well over a decade. That said, I have been aware of this live action stinker from 2000 for quite some time. Like most Gundam fans, I try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, it does, and I found it in a bargain bin just a couple of weeks ago while I was on a business trip. I’ve never watched it before, but just from the trailer I can tell that this is going to be a painful experience. I think there should just be a standing policy that anime shouldn’t be translated into live action unless someone really knows what they are doing. Director Graeme Campbell still does a fair number of made-for-TV movies and work on various series, but it doesn’t seem that he’s been able to cut it in the big time. Likewise, the writers have credits on Sci-fi shows like “Mutant X” and “Tripping the Rift”, but not much else to speak of. A number of the actors have gone into voice acting or B-level TV and movie work, which are the most successful stories to come out of “G-Savior”.

For those unaware, the “Mobile Suit Gundam” franchise has a following in Japan not unlike “Star Wars” does here. It is absolutely huge, and has been consistently produced in one form or another since the original series debut in 1979. A number of the series were cut in order to be released theatrically in segments, and are actually pretty impressive. So, to have a live action “Gundam” whiffed on so badly was a huge disappointment.

Realistically, you just couldn’t do a convincing mech live-action movie until pretty recently. Stuart Gordon’s “Robot Jox” in 1989 wasn’t quite impressive enough with audiences, and that was the best mech movie on the table for decades. With the recent successes of “Pacific Rim” and (ugh) “Transformers”, I’m curious if we’ll see someone pick up the baton and try another go at “Gundam” on the big screen in the not-too-distant future.

Space Camp

This one is a bit of a local stinker. Filmed on location in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama at the US Space and Rocket Center, the whole film oozes the essence of the 1980s, including featuring an unnecessary robot companion a la “Rocky IV”. Both of the screenwriters have almost no other credits before or after this, outside of a couple of unimpressive Christian movies. Director Harry Winer has done a fair amount of TV work in the decades since this film, but never managed to break out in films (I expect for good reason). Proving that some were capable of getting away from this beast with a successful career, this was cinematic debut of Academy Award nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix. How about that? The cast also includes such sort-of notable names as Kelly Preston, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, Terry O’Quinn, and Tom Skerritt, who have all had at least respectable acting careers. I’m mostly just looking forward to that good ol’ child acting from Joaquin Phoenix. Here’s a taste:

Oh my fuck.

The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues

To give you a sense as to how successful this movie was, director Dan Milner only directed one more movie after this feature (of his three total), and then concluded his career as an editor for “Popeye the Sailor Man” and “Bozo: The World’s Most Famous Clown”. So, it didn’t exactly take off. However, this lowest-of-the-low B-movie supposedly has a lot of entertainment value to it, along the lines of a Roger Corman flick. I’m always on board for a cheap monster movie, so I’m hoping this has promise.

Massacre Time

Ah, Franco Nero. What a beautiful, beautiful man. I’ve talked about him way, way back when I covered “Django (1966)”, but haven’t really come across him since then. However, he is in “Omega Code 2”, so the isn’t the last I’ll see of the gorgeous original Django. As for “Massacre Time”, this flick came out stateside in 1968, despite being made in 1966. Directed by infamous filmmaker Lucio Fulci, who would a decade later film a zombie fighting a shark in his notorious cult classic “Zombie”, and written by prolific Italian filmmaker Fernando Di Leo, this movie looks as spaghetti as spaghetti movies get. As you would expect given the success of “Django”, this movie was sold and distributed as a clone/knockoff to play off of Nero’s leading role in the film. The movie even went by such names as “Django: The Runner”, “Django: Der Hauch des Todes”, and “Djangos seksløber er lov” in various foreign markets. I’m quite looking forward to this one, and have my fingers crossed that it will be a good (massacre) time.