Explorers on DVD
Now heres a guilty pleasure! How can one not love a film in
which the protagonists are students at Charles M. Jones High School and one of
them has a mouse called Heinlein?
Joe Dantes Explorers is kind of like a cross between Robert
Zemeckis Contact and an homage to the sci fi flicks and TV shows on which
the baby boomer generation grew up.
Our heroes are Wolfgang (River Phoenix), the brains, Ben (Ethan
Hawke), the dreamer, and Darren (Jason Presson), the down to earth loner. After
Ben is contacted by an alien race through his dreams, he enlists his
friends help to build a spaceship (out of a Tilt a Whirl car, no less!)
and go to visit what obviously must be a highly superior race bent on friendly
Well, the reality is quite a bit different from the dream, or even
the expectations, but we wont spoil the fun for you.
And fun Explorers definitely is, and its enough to make the
dreamer, or kid, in anyone stand up and applaud. Sure, its silly, but so
what? We get a decent story, good performances (including a triple play by
Dante regular and Star Trek Voyagers Robert Picardo, as well as a nice
job by Dick Miller as an older version of the kids) and Industrial Light and
Magics mid 1980s state of the art.
For what more could anyone, especially kids, ask?
Explorers is also upbeat and hopeful and sends a positive message
to the young and young at heart. Even though its nearly 20 years old it
still feels young and adventurous and we get the impression that thanks to its
attitude it will never grow old. Perhaps its a kind of Peter Pan of
So if you like flicks such as Galaxy
Quest, Gremlins or The
Goonies, youll probably enjoy this tale of the good ship
The DVD is okay. Fortunately, its presented in 1.85:1
anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, but it could really benefit from a
good remastering (though we doubt that itll happen since the film was a
relative box office stinker). So theres plenty of grain, though the
colors are good.
Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and its pretty good. We remember
Explorers sounding really great on VHS Hi-Fi, but this transfer doesnt
leap out at you like the older version did. Perhaps thats as much because
weve grown spoiled by great digital soundtracks since the 1980s,
Extras are limited to a couple of short deleted scenes that
dont really add anything.
Explorers, from Paramount Home Entertainment
anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Robert
Written by Eric Luke, Directed by Joe Dante
Conquest of Space on DVD
Well, at least they made it in the first place, and have now
released it onto DVD.
Conquest of Space is a strange brew of science fact in a science
fiction setting, a wondrous adventure that isnt nearly wondrous enough
for a new millennium audience but which was probably plenty wondrous in the mid
This George Pal production (hes the fellow behind such
classics as The War of the Worlds, Destination Moon, and
The Time Machine) gives us a wheel-shaped space
station years before Stanley Kubrick did (its
a logical design, after all) and a tale of an expedition to Mars.
Commander Samuel Merritt (Walter Brooke) leads his intrepid crew
to the Red Planet in a wonderfully 1950s (or, possibly, Gerry and Sylvia
Anderson's Thunderbirds-ish) multi stage
spaceship. Their mission is unprecedented, but they are all too human and prone
to human foibles. So we get a career soldier who stows away because of his
loyalty to the cause and his leader as well as an crew member who snaps under
the pressure and very nearly causes the death of all hands.
On the other hand, this is an intelligent film with no creepy (or
silly looking) aliens, where mankind holds its destiny in its own hands and can
be both the cause and the solution to its problems.
And for the era, the special effects are darn good. The space
wheel looks really neat, even though the mattes are apparent (hey, whaddya want
On the other hand again, sometimes they seem to forget about the
laws of physics that they take pains to remember at other times.
But hell, this was a movie bent on showing the possibilities of
space exploration and was undoubtedly trying to help those lobbying for just
such a scenario. As such, one would have to consider it a success, though as a
space film Pals own Destination Moon is a far better movie.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible,
and the picture quality is pretty good, though spotty. There are times when you
pine for a loving restoration, and sometimes when youre prompted to
demand one by writing to Paramount directly. But at least it's finally
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is okay.
So while this is one of George Pals lesser efforts,
its still well worth seeing, especially if youre a sci fi fan
in which case youll undoubtedly want it in your collection.
Conquest of Space, from Paramount Home Entertainment
anamorphic widescreen ( 1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Walter Brooke, Eric Fleming, Mickey Shaughnessy, Phil Foster
Produced by George Pal
Written by James O'Hanlon, directed by Byron
Attack of the Gryphon on DVD
Where's Ray Harryhausen when you need him?
Attack of the Gryphon is exactly the type of larger than life heroic fantasy made famous by the legendary effects master in such films as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and his Sinbad movies. And for the most part, this film succeeds in recreating that old time feel.
But, please, when you're putting the name of a mythological monster in the title, it behooves you to put some effort into the title creature - and that's the biggest failing of Attack of the Gryphon.
Here's how the package describes the movie: "After 300 years, the war between Lockland and Delphi is about to come to an end. In a desperate attempt to turn defeat into victory, the King of Lockland orders the court sorcerer to unleash its ancient protector - the Gryphon - upon the invading armies of Delphi. The wily wizard, however, has other plans, and uses the Gryphon's supernatural powers to become supreme ruler of both kingdoms. Uniting against their common foe, Lockland's Princess Amalia (Amber Benson, TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Delphi's Prince Seth set out in search of the legendary Draconian pike, the only weapon that can destroy the Gryphon and end the sorcerer's evil reign."
That's a pretty good description, too. Naturally, the Prince and Princess find time to fall in love, much to the chagrin of their advisors and handlers, but it helps solidify the bond between the two kingdoms and gives us something to watch besides mayhem. Not that there's much romance to watch.
It's okay, but the whole thing is made unwatchable by the laughably lame title creature. The gryphon looks like something pulled out of an old Nintendo video game, back when gaming graphics technology wasn't anywhere near what we have today. It almost seemed that, if the human characters fighting it would have had ray guns, specific sections of the gryphon would start to shimmer in their interlaced glory before the whole thing would eventually fly apart in several large and unbelievable pieces.
Yes, it's that bad.
It's amazing what can be done on a TV budget these days, so the production budget for this flick must have gone somewhere - and judging from the star power assembled here it didn't go to the cast.
That said, the DVD is OK over all. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is good enough that the laughable gryphon comes through clearly. Okay maybe that isn't a good thing after all.
Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's fine.
The only extras are some trailers for other films in this basic genre.
Attack of the Gryphon, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
90 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Jonathan LaPaglia, Larry Drake, Amber Benson, Sarah Douglas
Produced by Ken Badish,
Written by Sean Keller, Directed by Andrew Prowse
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