Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
March 1st, 2009

Capricorn On

Capricorn One
Directed by Peter Hyams
Written by Peter Hyams
Starring Elliott Gould, James Brolin, O.J. Simpson, Sam Waterston
Produced by Paul N. Lazarus III
123 mins
1978 / 2008

So Lions Gate, for reasons that baffle me to this very second, apparently decided they were running out of direct to video horror titles to release into the marketplace and instead started digging around in their vaults. They then found Capricorn One, a development that I'm actually glad for.

The plot is actually fairly complex--a space capsule meant to carry three astronauts has a major mechanical failure. True to life, this failure means bad news for NASA, whose funding is hanging on by a thread as it is. This failure may well mean the end of the space program. So in a last-ditch effort to save a whole bunch of cushy government jobs, the head of the space program stages a Mars landing set and attempts to convince the astronauts involved to work with him. And by "convince", of course, I mean "threaten to kill their families". The only way the space program can ensure that their ruse will go unnoticed is to arrange for the deaths of the astronauts upon the space capsule's "re-entry". The astronauts aren't terribly interested in cooperating at that point, and stage a desperate escape attempt while an investigative journalist pieces together the clues that something is gravely wrong from outside the whole thing.

It may be one of the deepest and most complex movies I've seen in a while--in fact, it's almost TWO movies packaged together in one. You have the astronauts on the one hand trying desperately to escape various assassination attempts, and you have the journalist trying desperately to figure out what's going on while dodging various assassination attempts. By the time the two stories coincide, you've got a real barnburner of an action flick here with just a little schmeer of science fiction.

Remember all those tinfoil-hat types that swore up and down the moon landing was faked? Well, here's a fair idea of how it may have went down. It's doubly interesting seeing the effect get staged with a Martian surface, and is sufficient to make you wonder: with all our CURRENT technology, what could we fake right this second if we were sufficiently inclined to do so? I bet we could CG-up a spectacular fake Martian landscape. Bet we could land on Pluto next month!

But my own tinfoil-hatting aside, Capricorn One is a fun and action-packed look at government chicanery, especially welcome in these times.

The ending, however, is a little hackneyed and running a bit toward cheesy--I would've liked to see more aftermath of the whole affair than I did. Still, not terrible, and not much of an impediment to the rest of the movie.

The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, audio options, audio commentary tracks, a behind the scenes featurette and a trailer for Capricorn One.

All in all, this blast from the far-distant past shows us that, even back then, people suspected the government of malfeasance enough to make a movie about it. Kinda nice to get a bit of touchstone into the past, especially one so downright entertaining.


Directed by Michael Linn
Written by Michael Linn, Keith Davenport
Starring Tonantzin Carmelo, Michael Spears, Carla-Rae Holland, Charlie White Buffalo
Produced by Chris Eyre, Carolyn Linn, Michael Linn
80 mins

I really hate movies that promise so much more than they deliver.

Reading the back of the box plot synopsis for Imprint suggests a ghost story of frightening magnitude. They even tried to compare it to The Sixth Sense. And of course, I was pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing.

I would find little more than disappointment, however.

This time, it's a Native American attorney, Shayla Stonefeather, who's just wrapped up a big case prosecuting a Lakota teenager for murder, and is on her way home to visit her ailing father and see the rest of her family. Upon her arrival, she begins seeing visions and hearing voices that lead her to connect these occurances to the disappearance of her brother two years earlier. Shayla follows the various clues until she reaches a shocking conclusion.

And from the sounds of that, you'd think it's scary, until you consider one thing. It won a best film award at a film festival...but not a horror film festival. It won at a Native American film festival.

There's a very good reason to bring this up--Imprint is a lot of things, but what it's very much not is scary. Mentioning The Sixth Sense in the same breath as this sludge is an insult to halfway decent Shyamalan. In fact, much of Imprint was boring and slow-moving with little payoff. The "visions" they mention so breathlessly on the back of the box only occasionally appear, and when they do, they're either visions of normal things incongruously located (a hook and pulley appears where a phone receiver once hung), or of poor-quality CG humanoids that vaguely resemble smoke.

I will, however, give credit where credit is due--Imprint has a real corker of an ending. Indeed, it's a very good ending that brings together a lot of seemingly disparate elements in a fantastically full-circle conclusion. The only problem with this, of course, is that you have to slog through about seventy minutes of the most boring crap on the face of the earth to get to it.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, audio options, a blooper reel, cast and crew bios, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for Imprint, Ghost Image and Hide.

All in all, Imprint is really, really hard to get through. Once you do, however, you get a pretty nice payoff. It's up to you, however, if the struggle is worth the surprises.