• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Outland

TITLE: Outland

YEAR: 1981

GENRE: Science Fiction

Fans of the history of science fiction should be aware of the major influence that old school westerns have had on the genre. The original TV show “Star Trek” was originally pitched by Gene Roddenberry as a “’Wagon Train’ to the stars” to network executives, the 1970’s television show “Battlestar: Galactica and its subsequent SyFy Channel reboot closely resembles a futuristic version of the John Wayne film Stagecoach, and the Star Wars saga contains numerous standard western characters such as the farm boy turned hero (Luke Shywalker), the mysterious gunslinger (Han Solo) and his silent sidekick (Chewbacca), the bounty hunter (Boba Fett), and the villain always clad in black (Darth Vader). The truth of the matter is that early sci-fi authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury were heavily influenced by the works of western classic author Zane Grey and Zorro creator Johnston McCulley, and those stories were revised to create a futuristic world for those standard storylines. Outland would be one of those films that would have its roots firmly planted in the prairie grass and tumbleweeds of the old west, and it does an acceptable job in creating a well produced sci-fi mystery although the storyline is a bit stale.

Federal Marshall William O’Niel (played by Sean Connery) is assigned to bring law and order to a rowdy mining colony on Io, one of the moons of Jupiter. During his tenure as the main law enforcement officer Marshall O’Niel discovers that many of the miners are dying miserable, painful deaths as the result of erratic behavior. With the assistance of Dr. Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen), Marshall O’Niel discovers that the dying miners have been taking a type of synthetic amphetamine-type drug that allows the miners to work for days at a time without rest until they have a psychotic episode. Upon investigating the ring of dealers, Marshall O’Neil comes to a startling conclusion: the drugs are being supplied by mine owner Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle) in order to boost production to increase profits. Marshall O’Niel must now continually look over his shoulder as Sheppard sends assassins to murder the investigating officer

Outland does have some influences from the western classic High Noon and at times the film does seem almost too familiar. Connery might as well have a cowboy hat at times as he plays the town sheriff almost to a T and complete with an 1800’s style badge and a pistol on his hip. The addition of drug influence in the storyline was fitting for the time considering that Americans were starting to sway their opinions relating to the current drug epidemic with the election of anti-drug crusader Ronald Reagan for President. The sets are quite futuristic and are excellent in their portrayal of a futuristic working class working environment complete with a rowdy, almost honky tonk-type bar complete with prostitutes. Outland did use a type of filming for the first time which allowed foreground, background, and midground shots to be placed together which gives Outland extra depth when characters are walking around much smaller set models. The action throughout the film does have a B-movie feel with the exception of the fight scenes in the zero gravity outside of the spaceport which were especially well done considering this was a dozen years before CGI. One fantastic aspect of Outland is the sound production by Neil Burrow (Lethal Weapon, Eraser), which has lots of registering low end which gives the film a more rich sound than one would expect from a movie from this era.

Director Peter Hyams was famous at the time for his conspiracy theory classic Capricorn One a few years back and later directed sci-fi films 2010, Timecop, and End Of Days. Outland does have some redeeming qualities and the technical aspects are outstanding, but Outland’s influences show through too much and the overall story does not have much new material to offer cinema fans. It just seems that a similar story has been told countless times and as a result Outland seems limited in the storytelling department. Outland is not a stellar production, but it is not terrible either. A mixed bag if one ever existed.

* * *

–Mark

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One Response

  1. i watched this for the first time on TV a few months ago. I’m always up for SF and Sean Connery, but a family member said the movie was just so-so. I must have a soft spot for old school SF flicks, because I really liked it! it goes to show that you don’t need good special effects to make a good SF movie, you need freakin’ Sean Connery!

    and Doc Lazarus was a riot. If this movie had been made today, she’s probably be played but some 22 year old model and be named Doctor Christmas or some such idiocy.

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