• A.I. Assault (2005)


    SciFi Channel LogoA.I. Assault (2005)

    Starring Joe Lando, Joshua Cox, Alexandra Paul, Bill Mumy, George Takei, Michael Dorn, Robert Picardo, Hudson Leick, Lisa Lo Cicero, and Jack Deth.

    Directed by Jay Andrews.

    Jay Andrews (whose real name is apparently Jim Wynorski, and who directs under a host of pseudonyms including Thaddeus Wickwire, Bob E. Brown and H.R. Blueberry 1No, seriously.) has an interesting filmography, one glance at which should be enough to set proper expectations for A.I. Assault; and by “proper” I mean “low.”

    To his credit, Andrews/Wynorski directed The Return of Swamp Thing, which is a campy, fun super-hero movie. He also directed The Bare Wench Project, 2I’ve not seen The Bare Wench Project or any of the four sequels Wynorski also directed, and I don’t know that I could bring myself to write a review if I had. Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade, Busty Cops, Raptor, Gargoyle: Wings of Darkness and The Curse of the Komodo. Sometimes referred to as a modern day Ed Wood, Wynorski seems to have made a career bouncing between sci-fi/horror schlock and T&A.

    Good work, if you can get it.

    A.I. Assault features some fairly well-known names from science-fiction and fantasy, all of whom were apparently unfamiliar with the director’s previous works. George Takei was Sulu in the original Star Trek series, Michael Dorn played Lt. Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Robert Picardo was the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, Hudson Leick was in Xena: Warrior Princess and Bill Mumy played young Will Robinson (“Danger! Danger!”) on Lost in Space. Tim Thomerson played the title role in Dollman and its sequel, Dollman vs. The Demonic Toys, not to mention five movies in the Trancers franchise. 3I met Tim Thomerson a couple of years ago at Cleveland-Hopkins International airport, and we had a very nice chat on our way to baggage claim. I had recognized him when I boarded the plane in … Continue reading

    The cast is divided into five groups: those who are killed in the first five minutes, a separate group killed in the second five minutes, a group of thieves who take their sweet time dying throughout the remainder of the movie, a group of military-types who do the same, and a second group of more important military-types who stay the hell away from whatever is killing everyone else.

    Most of the killing is handled by the titular artificial intelligence; multi-limbed, heavily-armored combat platforms created by the military. The military has lost control of their new toys, which proceed to do what every other uncontrollable artificial intelligence in the history of uncontrollable artificial intelligence has done: kill everyone.

    The movie begins with one of the rampaging Assaulticons 4The official military code name was something just as silly, but I can’t recall it at the moment. chasing folks through the desert. After the chrome-plated critter tracks down and kills everything with a pulse, the credits roll and the movie continues on a government charter plane bound for Australia. The Assaulticon has apparently been subdued, but not for long. Mother Nature intervenes, the plane crashes, and the Assaulticons (now numbering four) are let loose on an island in the South Pacific.

    A group of survivors takes a radio and heads to high ground, hoping to call for help. They intercept a looping message in French, which Shannon is able to translate. Doing some calculations based on and automated counter in the message, Sayid is able to determine that it has been looping for–

    Whoops, wrong island in the South Pacific.

    After robbing a cruise ship, a group of thieves boards a helicopter piloted by Jack (Joshua Cox, AKA Josh Coxx) and flies into the same nasty storm that downed the plane. As (bad) luck would have it, Jack is able to land the helicopter on the very same South Pacific island on which the Assaulticons have recently taken up residence.

    The military, eager to have their expensive killing machines back, sends an elite squad of commandoes to the island on a search-and-destroy-or-maybe-retrieve (but probably just destroy) mission. The commandoes are briefed by Susan Foster (Lisa Lo Cicero), the daughter of one of the scientists who designed the Assaulticons. Ms. Foster accompanies the commandoes to the island, because it wouldn’t make much of a luau without a few hula-honies.

    During the briefing, Susan Foster informs the commandoes that the Assaulticons’ armor is made of a new titanium alloy matrix, rendering the metal monstrosities impervious to anything short of a 5,000 pound bomb. Despite this, the commandoes fire away with everything from pistols to machine guns and rocket launchers every time they come into contact with the Assaulticons. This is most likely because Ms. Foster failed to yell, “Listen up, maggots!” before she began the briefing. Those protocols are in place for a reason, lady.

    The commandoes have one weapon that could destroy the Assaulticons, an experimental LASER rifle. Unfortunately, they give it to a guy who can’t shoot straight. With a LASER. Thanks to Joe Shaky, the Assaulticons are able to steal the weapon and whisk it away to Jack’s helicopter, which they’ve stolen and are in the process of repairing. Seems the Assaulticons don’t like it on the island, and they want to spread their robot loving far and wide across the globe.

    The commandoes are in a race against time. The military plans to nuke the island if the Assaulticons aren’t neutralized by 0700, but the rogue robots may well be long gone by then if they can repair Jack’s whirlybird; their LASER in the hole is gone, they have no way to communicate with their superiors, and half of the squad has been chopped up zapped or crushed by the Assaulticons.

    The thieves are pretty much hosed, too. They’ve been sliced and diced, tossed around like ragdolls and generally mistreated by their robot overlords. 5Did I say overlords? I meant protectors. Joining up with the commandoes hasn’t helped much, either.

    I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that—mercifully—A.I. Assault has one. It’s not especially satisfying, and there’s a little more denouement than is necessary. So much so, that I expected one of the Assaulticons to come back to life, climb out of the backseat or otherwise to something to make those last few, awkward minutes before the end credits rolled at least mildly entertaining. No such luck.

    A.I. Assault is mediocre, even by “SciFi original” standards. The first fifteen minutes are terribly disjointed, the special effects — while not utterly wretched — are very clearly special effects, and most of the actors of note are either killed after three minutes of screen time or relegated to standing on the sidelines well away from the action. This is probably the worst thing about the movie, especially given that SciFi Channel used their names to promote the movie.

    Next week (20 May 2006): The SciFi original movie, Abominable. Let’s hope the heroes remember that bumbles bounce.

    1 No, seriously.
    2 I’ve not seen The Bare Wench Project or any of the four sequels Wynorski also directed, and I don’t know that I could bring myself to write a review if I had.
    3 I met Tim Thomerson a couple of years ago at Cleveland-Hopkins International airport, and we had a very nice chat on our way to baggage claim. I had recognized him when I boarded the plane in Phoenix, but the seating arrangements did not allow for conversation during the flight; he was in first class and I was in steerage.
    4 The official military code name was something just as silly, but I can’t recall it at the moment.
    5 Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.
  • Bookstuff: Wild Cards and A Song of Ice and Fire


    Once upon a time, I was a member of the Science-Fiction Book ClubActually, it’s at least thrice upon a time, as I seem to re-join every six or seven years for some reason.
    and I forgot to promptly return the “Selection of the Month” cardThis happened more than once, and I have several books on my shelf because of it. One other that I can recall off the top of my head is Marrow by Robert Reed, which I’ve not read. Yet.. As a result, one of the books I received was George R.R. Martin‘s A Storm of Swords. I probably would have sent the book back, but I’m a huge fan of a series of books that Martin edited back in the 1980’s called Wild Cards.

    The Wild Cards series is a sort of alternative history of Earth, one that diverges from our own history slightly after World War II. The key event is the release of an alien virus into the atmosphere; a virus that radically alters a significant portion of the population of first New York City and eventually much of the world. Those affected by the Wild Card virus gain super-human abilities (Aces), become hideously deformed (Jokers), or die immediately (referred to as “drawing the Black Queen”).

    Wild Cards is a collaborative universe, with stories written by George R.R. Martin, Walter Jon Williams (Dread Empire’s Fall), Melinda M. Snodgrass and Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber), to name a few. The authors each created several characters that inhabited the Wild Cards universe, from Doctor Tachyon, the alien who brought the virus to Earth to Father Squid, the Joker priest, to Jack Braun, the Ace known as The Golden Boy (and later The Judas Ace).

    Wild Cards: Death Draws Five

    The series spans seventeen volumes, but I only have the first thirteen. There was also a four-issue limited series comic book published by Marvel’s Epic imprint, which I own in its entirety, and a GURPS supplement, which I do not. Though I thought the comic book was a merely mediocre, I absolutely loved the novels. I’ve re-read most of them at least twice, and went through all thirteen volumes I own last year. The most recent installment, Death Draws Five was published just last month. Volumes fourteen through sixteen have proven to be somewhat difficult to find, but I’d certainly like to complete the set eventually.

    A Storm of Swords is the third volume of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Since I’d enjoyed Martin’s collaborative work in the Wild Cards series so much, I thought I’d give his solo stuff a shot. Rather than jumping into the middle of the series, I went out and picked up a copy of the first volume, A Game of Thrones. I read the first few chapters and then something new and shiny caught my eye, so I set it aside. The novel (which weighs in at 800+ pages) sat on my shelf for several years, until I was looking for something to take to the hospital when it was time for Kyle to make his debut. In the week Laura and I spent running back and forth to the Cleveland Clinic, I managed to read about a quarter of A Game of Thrones, quickly learning that the point where I’d stopped reading years ago was the chapter immediately before the plot took a very interesting turn.Should you happen to be reading/have read A Game of Thrones, I am referring to an event involving a young lad who likes to climb things.

    A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

    A Song of Ice and Fire puts the “epic” in “epic fantasy.” In the first volume, Martin is setting the pieces on the board, but it is very clear that the game is already well underway, and has been for quite some time. It’s a big game, too. Each chapter focuses on one character, and eight characters share the spotlight in A Game of Thrones. Six of the characters are from a single family, the seventh is a dwarf who is at one turn admirable and at another replusive, and the eighth isn’t even on the same continent as the others. All of these characters are involved in a “game of thrones,” attempting to prevent one faction or another from siezing control of the Seven Kingdoms, plotting to take the throne themselves, or even simply watching helplessly as the game is played out around them.

    I finished A Game of Thrones just yesterday, and I’m itching to run out and buy the second volume, A Clash of Kings. The fourth volume, A Feast for Crows was released last year, but at about eight hundred pages per installment—not to mention dozens of other unread books on my shelves—I’ve got plenty of reading to keep me occupied until it is released as a paperback. Of course, between volumes two and four is A Storm of Swords, which I already own in hardcover and will probably purchase in paperback just to make the reading experience a little more enjoyable. I should keep that in mind the next time I’m tempted to join The Science Fiction Book Club again.

  • Coming to DVD: Threshold


    Slice of Sci-Fi reports that the short-lived alien invasion series Threshold will be available on DVD this summer. Like The Tick and Firefly, the DVD will include episodes not aired during the show’s initial run. That’s a whopping six episodes of Threshold I haven’t seen (but Canadians have; where’s the justice?), which might be enough to entice me to buy the DVD set.

    Bit o’ Treshold trivia: one of the episodes took place in Painesville, Ohio, where Laura was born. I still say she’s not an alien.

  • The Boob Tube: What I’m Watching


    Time to talk about the idiot box for a little while. Why? Because I said so.

    You may or may not recall that I picked a few new shows out of the fall lineup that looked like they might be interesting: Invasion, Night Stalker, Surface and Threshold. Two of the shows, Night Stalker and Threshold, bit the dust early in the season. I was sorry to see Threshold go, because it was actually getting pretty good. Night Stalker wasn’t great, but the last episode aired was the first in a two-part story, and I would have liked to see the resolution.

    Surface had a good start, but it kind of lagged in the middle of the season. The few episodes leading up to the season finale really kicked the story into high gear, and the finale itself was pretty damn good (save for two things that I have filed under “Not Bloody Likely”). Rumor has it that NBC is waffling about whether or not to pick the series up for another season and a final decision won’t be made until May. I’m guessing that time frame might have something to do with DVD sales, but I could be wrong.

    Last on the “new stuff” list is Invasion, which has recently begun to get interesting. Unfortunately, ABC has apparently decided to put the show on a six week “hiatus,” during which they’ll quietly cancel it. Invasion, like Surface, seemed to be stalling in mid-season. Though one could argue that the story was making progress, it didn’t seem like creator Shaun Cassidy and company were especially eager to reveal anything significant about the alien invaders, and that’s very frustrating. While Surface has pulled the curtain back on some of its mysteries, Invasion is almost as inscrutable as it was in the first episode. Still, I’m interested enough that I don’t want to see it cancelled.

    I’ve also been watching the second seasons of Lost and Battlestar Galactica. Since Laura and I both watch Lost, I try not to watch it unless she can sit and watch it with me. As a result, we’ve got about five unwatched episodes on the TiVo right now.

    Timing aside, there’s another reason I haven’t been eager to keep up with Lost: Michelle Rodriguez. I hated Michelle Rodriguez’s character in Resident Evil, and she plays the same damn character in Lost. The main difference between the two roles is that she hasn’t been killed by zombies in Lost, but there’s always next episode, right?

    Last but not least, we’ve got Battlestar Galactica, which is the best thing on SciFi. That’s not saying a lot, but it really is a good show. For the most part. See, season 2.0 ended with a cliffhanger after the battlestars Galactica and Pegasus stumbled upon one another and Admiral Cain (Michell Forbes) assumed control of the Colonial fleet, as she outranked Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos). Cain’s hard-line, cutthroat command style didn’t sit well with Adama or the ailing President of the Colonies, Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell). The conflict between the characters set up a very explosive situation, and season 2.0 ended on a cliffhanger. Season 2.5 resolved the cliffhanger over two episodes, but rather than force Adama and Cain to resolve the conflict themselves (either by diplomacy or force), Galactica‘s writers opted to simply remove Cain from the picture. It was an incredibly weak, clumsy resolution to a very intense conflict, and I was terribly disappointed.

    All done. I guess I won’t feel compelled to talk about the teevee for another six months or so, by which time all I’ll be watching is Baby Einstein and The Wiggles. Stay tuned!

  • Firefly: The Complete Series (DVD)Laura and I finished watching the fourth (and final) Firefly DVD after dinner last night. Now we’re all set to see Serenity when it is released in theaters next month. I think Laura likes the series more than she lets on, though I’m sure she’ll deny it. One thing we do agree on: the theme song sucks. Not the music, mind you, the music is good. The lyrics (and the guy singing them)… that’s another story. Die-hard Firefly fans get all weepy about the theme, but I fast-forwarded through it after hearing it twice. No thanks. I do listen to the instrumental version that plays over the end credits every time, though. That one I like.

    I completely missed Firefly when it was on Fox. Not surprising, since I tend to avoid Fox (except for Family Guy and occasionally The Simpsons) whenever possible. Don’t even get me started on the local Fox news program. By missing Firefly, I also missed the hubbub surrounding its cancellation. I know that there was a massive fan outcry that led to Serenity being green-lighted, but I wasn’t part of it and really didn’t think much of it until I actually sat down and watched the series.

    And? It’s a good show. The concept (Stagecoach in space) sounds a little weird at first, but it works surprisingly well. It helps that so much attention has been paid to the look and feel of the universe as a whole. The particulars of the story are very interesting, and the primary cast is quite good. I wasn’t all that taken with Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Filion) at first, but he kind of grew on me. The crew of Reynolds’ Firefly-class spaceship, Serenity, is an interesting bunch. There are nine altogether (including Captain Reynolds), so I’m not going to get into each of them, but my favorites are Book (Ron Glass), Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Kaylee (Jewel Staite). Book is a mysterious “Shepherd,” a wandering holy man with a hidden past. Jayne is a straight-up mercenary who is entirely capable of selling out his shipmates if the price is right. And Kaylee… sweet, sweet Kaylee is a dream made real, the embodiment of innocent beauty. To quote Wash (the ship’s pilot), “Were I unwed, I would take [her] in a manly fashion.” Yeah. She’s something else. Oh, and I guess she fixes the ship, too.

    After we watched the last three episodes and a couple of the special features, I went upstairs and fired up Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption.

    Alas, it just wasn’t good night to be a vampire. Christof, Wilhem and Serena were given permission by the Kindred Prince of Prague to enter Ardan’s Chantry to learn more about the disappearance of several humans and Kindred. Ardan is a member of the Tremere clan, and his Chantry is occupied by numerous Tremere Regents, Neonates and Apprentices, most of whom can cast fireballs. Vampires don’t much like fire. After several unsuccessful attempts to defeat the Tremere and their creatures (gargoyles and annoying, frog-like beasties called “hoppers”), I decided to trade in my fangs for spandex and superpowers. I completed a couple of missions in City of Heroes and then went to bed.