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Friday, July 1, 2011

FEROCIOUS PLANET -- DVD review by porfle

About halfway through the TV-movie FEROCIOUS PLANET (2011), star Joe Flanigan brings viewers who have joined the film in progress up to speed:  "This is a hell of a day...a science experiment goes wrong, sticks us in a monster-filled parallel dimension with six hours to get home."  Viewers looking for something really good to watch immediately switch channels, while those of us with nothing better to do stick around and are mildly entertained for awhile.

If you catch the movie from the beginning, it doesn't take long to see that this entry in the SyFy Channel's "Maneater" series is one of those bad-CGI "monster of the week" flicks that they seem to churn out like sausage these days.  Alternately lighthearted and lightheaded, it at least manages to rise above its much stupider brethren by avoiding, for the most part anyway, the farcical and ridiculous.  Even so, this is hardly ever more than just a bunch of people in the woods running away from some fake-looking monsters.

Joe Flanigan plays a wrongly-disgraced Army colonel now doing security work in a lab where Dr. Jillian O'Hara (Dagmar Döring) and her nervous assistant Brian (Robert Soohan) are demonstrating their new invention to a skeptical senator (John Rhys-Davies with a really bad accent) and the President's science advisor, Dr. Karen Fast (Catherine Walker) in hopes of securing more funding.

Sort of a parallel-worlds viewer, the machine malfunctions and sends the group, along with part of the building they're standing in, into one of those hostile worlds filled with large creatures who want to eat them.  With only six hours to fix the device and return home, they must venture into the woods to find fifty gallons of water to power it (I didn't catch why) while avoiding the jaws and claws of numerous hungry whatsits.

Filmed mostly in the woods in Ireland, FEROCIOUS PLANET plays kind of like one of the more run-of-the-mill episodes of "Stargate: Atlantis" with Flanigan pretty much doing his Lt. Colonel John Sheppard character.  The humor is weak ("We're gonna need a bigger boat!" Flanigan incongruously quips upon first sight of a big creature) as is most of the other dialogue. 

Direction and camerawork are bland, while the performances are competent enough.  I liked Catherine Walker as Dr. Fast, whose dedication to scientific discovery compels her to set off on her own toward a distant building in hopes of meeting extraterrestrial beings.  What happens to her is pretty much the only thing in the whole movie that I cared anything about.

The rest of the story is your basic "fix the machine in time to get back home before the monsters get us" stuff, with various supporting characters periodically snuffing it in semi-gruesome ways.  This usually involves CGI gore, which isn't real gore like they had back in the good old practical-effects days so it has little dramatic effect.  The creatures come off okay in closeup, but for the most part they're so artificial-looking that they constantly took me out of the movie.

The DVD from Vivendi Entertainment is in widescreen with English Dolby 5.1 sound.  No subtitles, but does feature closed-captions.  There are no extras.

As a made-for-TV creature feature, FEROCIOUS PLANET isn't one of the worst I've ever seen but it definitely doesn't come close to being one of the best.  While watchable and even kind of fun at times, it isn't something I'd go out of my way for.

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