Saturday, August 29, 2009

Casper Van Dien Gets Unwrapped

Reviewed By: The DarkSider 8/29/09

The Plot:
I was in a local shopping center a few weeks ago when I saw the big bin of $5.00 videos. Granted, even though the better selection of awful cinema was a single dollar store away, I figured why not paw through the pile for some options. It was then I saw a set of 4 DVDs that made me laugh out loud quite literally.

You see, I love when certain films take the guise of other popular films for attention. For example, amongst the 4-pack they had a pirate film "based" on Blackbeard. The poster had four faces of the cast lingering over a pirate ship in the ocean. Hmmm...I think Johnny Depp was in a similar film but I can't put my finger on it. Then there was a sequel to Merlin called Merlin's Apprentice with the title spelled out in lightning text on the poster. That would be similar to a boy wizard movie I had heard about back in the day. Then there was this one I'm about to review about a famous ruler in Egypt that apparently has a curse surrounding his tomb. Sigh...lets explore this "original" idea.

In a prelude that took me a few watches to comprehend, we learn of the great King Tut who ruled Egypt as a young man. Ok warning for history buffs, that is about one of the only things that mirrors any sort of historical accuracy in this film. King Tut was a young man who ruled Egypt. Abandon all historical facts after this, Ok? Moving on, RA put him on this earth to be the chosen one...or something...against a horde of flying demons who possessed the dreaded emerald tablet. What is this tablet? Why is it so important? Don't ask me, I never figured it out. Anyhow, the demons attack his people and through praying to the Gods, Tut is turned into a half assed Kid Icarus of sorts. He soars into battle and wastes quite a few demons before facing their grand poohbah. Doing what any good hero would do, he finds the emerald tablet and breaks it (aka cheats) which causes the head demon, his legions and Tut himself to be taken away in a vortex. Now, remember that aspect of the "plot" for later.

All this is told through spoken narration (there goes all hope for this film) by archaeologist Professor Danny Freemont. Freemont is played by Casper Van Dien who serves as your mediocre Indiana Jones for the next few hours. Side note on Van Dien , is he becoming the new god of B-movies? Every time I hear his name I think "made for TV" or "b-movie". Well, at least he is eating well. Moving on, he tells us of how the emerald tablet was broken into four pieces and sent all over the earth. It has been a big goal of his to find them because he wants to use them for good.

We join up with Freemont on an arctic expedition where he somehow knows which icy cavern. out of one million in the area, holds his treasure. Here is where idiocy galore seeps in. You see, at this point in his career, he had found two of the four pieces. Yet the first two times, his discoveries were automatically stolen away by the dreaded Hellfire Council. Yeah, that sound menacing doesn't it? The Hellfire Council, who is led by Malcolm McDowell, has a main go to guy named Sinclair. Apparently the Hellfire Council is a bunch of old rich dudes played "that guy" actors who are up to no good. That and it is required to have a snide British accent.

Having been owned twice before, you'd figure that
Freemont would perhaps pack a gun on his latest expedition. Of course the idiot doesn't and has the tablet taken from him like candy from a baby by Sinclair. Yep folks, this is the guy we need to cheer for in this film. This nonsense cuts to a few oddly edited scenes. In one scenario, Freemont is teaching his class on the Tomb of King Tut and it's possible location . Elsewhere, the Hellfire Council is having the exact same conversation which somehow syncs up with Freemont's lecture. What luck huh!

Once again not even ten minutes in, the train falls off the tracks. You see, minutes ago we are left to believe that King Tut simply disappeared into a vortex with his adversaries. Yet these bozos are out to find his tomb. Wouldn't there have to be a body and a grand old collection of artifacts to be a tomb? I mean did one automatically appear in his absence? Sigh...well moving on we get introduced to Dr. Azeila Barakat who is your Rachel Weisz of the film. She proves to be the snappy yet sexy character who is a know it all. Freemont talks to her in the street and out of nowhere they are approached by a madman. The nutty fellow somehow shows the future of the film, which is indeed bleak,to Freemont in visions.

Well, the Hellfire Council decides to mess around with Freemont a bit. First they get him fired from his professor gig then they get him canned from his publisher. I guess we're supposed to buy this secret society of evil rich old guys have the biggest pimp hand in the world. Sinclair and his buddies also secure maps to the tomb. While they do a bit of digging, Freemont with the help of some lackey buddies, joins up with a poker game. Apparently the main fellow playing has the REAL map to the tomb. Freemont somehow fools the hardened card players into thinking he is sick and he pick pockets the map. Idiotic enough right? Well hunker down because this leads to a rather silly chase scene involving camels. Imagine camels running...pulling carts...through busy streets.

There can be only one...or so...

So after acquiring the map, Freemont and his flunky buddies have a bunch of guys dig for the tomb. This stops because they find out Freemont isn't paying them. Lets see...a thieving deadbeat without common sense. Yep, Freemont is a guy I can look up to as a hero. Um yeah...elsewhere, Sinclair demands more from his workers in extreme measures. He ends up slicing the foreman's throat when the workers demand better working conditions.

Back to
Freemont who finds the odd prophetic fellow from earlier speaking gibberish about Tut. He sends a boy to fetch Azeila, who at this point had been fired from the museum gig. Fremont has basically the same visions as before in the film which I'm assuming is set up to kill screen time. Azeila arrives and recognizes the gibberish as really ancient Egyptian. Ooooh, how intriguing. Then out of nowhere, a few symbols burn into the chest of the madman. Fremont, who apparently thinks calling the paramedics to help this poor man is overrated, quickly plops a piece of paper on the fellow's chest and pencils it. Why, well apparently this is the real map to the tomb.

Freemont follows the map and starts to dig a bit until he finds the golden mask of Tut. I must remind you again how stupid this discovery is seeing that Tut disappeared into a vortex. He was not embalmed in this movie, nor was he put into a pyramid...he just went "poof" and left the world. OK, I know you get the point about this but I simply can't fathom the logic behind all of this crap. Oh well...Fremont decides to plant the mask at Sinclair's digging site to throw him off the trail. Sinclair doesn't really buy into much but gets major flack from his Hellfire buddies. Meanwhile, Freemont finagles himself more diggers, a sponsor, and Azeila as his right hand woman.

Eventually, they stumble upon the tomb but before they enter, Azeila asks for a canary. After coming back with a parakeet (don't ask me, I just review here) the air is proved to be clean.
Freemont and the gang go in to find treasures galore but call it a night so they can search properly. Freemont chases down an old journalist friend of his to tape their research. When they get to the actual tomb, they open it to find...really bad CG leaving it. Well actually no one really notices it, but it does end up taking the form of the the flying demons from the beginning. Which leads into part 2 of this endeavor.

Leaping into the um...exciting conclusion of this movie, we join up with
Freemont and company cleaning out the tomb. Freemont calls upon the village madman again to channel Tut. I guessed at this point that the madman had Tut's spiritual cellphone number or something. Tut answers and gives them cryptic instructions on acquiring the final piece of the emerald tablet. I often wondered why otherworldly spirits in films like this have to use riddles. Why can't they just tell the character where the damn thing they're looking for is located? Well, luckily Freemont finds the final piece of the tablet right before his arse gets kicked out by the Egyptian government. Apparently Azeila was behind this backstabbing but she at least allows Freemont to take the tablet piece with him. What a gal.

"To hell with history, we're selling this sh*t on Ebay."

That evening, Freemont settles back with his buds for a drink. He leaves the resturant, with his bag presumably containing the tablet, and gets abducted. So...I pointed out that he is toting his bag for a reason. You see, minutes after his departure he is abducted by Sinclair's men. Once Sinclair gets hold of him, he semi-tortures him for the location of the last piece. Please reread the sentence a few sentences ago about Freemont toting his bag. Although I guess we can assume maybe Freemont hid it somewhere, the logical aspect would be he'd have it on him at all times. I guess looking at this movie logically is probably a bad idea.

Sigh...before Sinclair can mummify
Freemont alive (darn it), Freemont's team of flunkies come to save him. A few scenes later, Sinclair visits one of Freemont's buddies who is dying from TB. He cures him and offers him a million dollars if he can secure the location of the last tablet piece. Through this fellow, Sinclair does secure the final piece of the table but after an unnecessarily long chase scene, Sinclair ends up offing him.

Sinclair proceeds with putting the tablet pieces together which gives him all sorts of power. He can suck the life out of people through his mouth (yep, they went there), control fire which he uses to kill everyone on the Hellfire Council and sends demon hordes out to assault the masses. Meanwhile, Freemont mounts a counter attack with his buddies but ends up having hallucinations about Azeila. In a bit of cheap CG, Azeila turns into an evil creature. I'm assuming the film had run out of special effects money at this point because it quickly switches to Freemont alone in the room shadow boxing. Luckily, the film doesn't prolong this idiocy long. Unfortunately, it gives way to one of the most idiotic things I've ever seen in a movie. You see, Freemont realizes what he is experiencing isn't real and wakes up back in the room with his friends. Freemont then goes into a tirade about how to fight the evil. In other words, the power of the mind with the help of King Tut goes a long way.

I don't think I can take this film much longer...

Freemont and company steal back the tablet and head back to Tut's tomb. For whatever reason, Sinclair gets to keep his powers without it. I gave up questioning plot idiocy at this point. With Sinclair on their heels, they find a secret entrance into an underground section of the tomb. In a massive array of time killing, members of the group get slowly killed by giant snakes, vortexes and other nonsense. Somehow, everyone finds a route to the underworld where they seek out Tut. Through use of the tablet, the remaining few resurrect Tut who is a little worse for wear. Sinclair, who kills off just about everyone at this point, reacquires the tablet and uses it to call upon the head demon from the beginning. He does this because...well I don't really know. It seems like he had everything under control in the evil department. Well, either way it ends up being a bad choice because the head demon kills off Sinclair.

In a lackluster final battle, Tut uses some Hadookens of sorts to kill off the head demon. Tut transports Azeila and
Freemont, who manage to survive, back to the main tomb. However after bidding them farewell, Tut closes up the tomb for good. Azeila and Freemont return to the city to find it peaceful once again. That's cool, at least they didn't end with something as stupid that involved everyone who died returning to lead successful lives. Oh wait a minute...they do. That and the ending finds Freemon and Azeila in love. Sinclair and his buddies don't get to come back because they're mean or something. Oh and to sweeten the moronic pot, Freemont gives his map to Howard Carter who indeed is the historical figure who found it. Too bad its several days and buck shorts later for historical accuracy in this piece of tripe.

So its a bit more than obvious that this film would be the
equivalent of the Indiana Jones and Mummy franchises taking a dump on top of each other thus clogging up the toilet making it overflow with simply awful imagery. In other words, who the hell were they honestly trying to fool by making this film? Its like the Kidz Bop version of the Mummy. Watered down and nowhere even 1,000 miles near it's big money making counterpart in quality. Really, they go over and beyond "borrowing" ideas from the franchise and it still comes off as one of the worst films I've ever viewed. I mean even the poster, which of course has nothing to do with the film's imagery, is in this grand scheme of blatant retarded film cloning. But it doesn't stop there my doesn't stop there.

Just about everything in this film is horrible to watch. Let me point out the editing first. So many scenes in this endeavor are laced together with no rhyme or reason. One minute we're watching the Hellfire Council meeting about something.

Then it switches to Freemont hanging out with his friends. Then it goes to Azeila doing something in the museum. So on and so on until your mind needs a healthy dose of ADD medicine to get your focus back. Imagery wise, although its not the worst CG I've seen its generally low budgeted and horribly video game looking. Acting wise...well we're going to need a whole paragraph for that one...

When one looks at this cast, one might think that they could have pulled off something decent. Its laced with several decent, but not really famous, "that guy" actors who I've enjoyed in other film watchings. Regardless of their talents, the one I'm most shocked at is Malcolm Mcdowell. Mcdowell, who I rank in my top 5 favorite actors of all time, made me cringe while watching him in this role. I mean this is the guy who gave us many stellar performances in the 70s through the 90s. In this one, he simply seems to limp through the dialog and delivery which I'm assuming is because theres no inspiration script wise. Id say thats par for pretty much everyone else involved in the script.

Oh and for those of you who thought I wasn't about to point out Jonathan Hyde's role as Sinclair, let me assure you I haven't forgotten. Think back to 1999 when The Mummy came out. Do you recall a character named Allen Chamberlain who led the Americans on the search for The Mummy's tomb? Yes my friends, that would by Mr. Hyde in that role. Here he is several years later in the poor man's version of the box office smash playing one the antagonists. Arrrrrgggggg! I mean seriously, how far was this film willing to go up The Mummy franchise's @ss? Would tasting what they had for lunch suffice?

I guess if anything, the film isn't 100% unwatchable. It was after all made for the Hallmark Channel which I personally equate with movies revolving around mothers and daughters getting along. This film is a challenge of how long you can stay in there watching it. I'd say its like an actual mummy. Dry, one plain color and rotted out. However, parts of you look at it with interest wondering how it was ever made.

(the A-Holes of the film get their moment)

The Hellfire Council

Aka the Legion Of Doom for Senior Citizens.

The Demon Leader

It doesn't seem right that the utmost evil in
the universe can be controlled by something
resembling a decorative plate.

Overall Grade

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