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Monday, February 6, 2012

SANDS OF OBLIVION -- movie review by porfle

Oh, no!  Another Sci-Fi Channel movie with Stephen Baldwin in it!  Oh, wait--that's Adam Baldwin.  Whew!  Okay kids, false alarm--you can all come out from under your desks now.

As Sci-Fi Channel movies go, SANDS OF OBLIVION (2007) is pretty good.  The premise is interesting--while filming the original silent version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS in 1923, Cecil B. DeMille has a lot of genuine Egyptian artifacts shipped out to his California desert location, and along with one of them comes an evil curse that results in violent death for several crew members.  When the movie wraps, DeMille has everything--artifacts, sets, the whole shebang--buried beneath the sand in hopes of containing the curse for all time.

Eighty some-odd years later, however, it all gets dug up again by some film historians led by Alice Carter (Morena Baccarin, "Firefly", SERENITY) and her estranged husband Jesse (that's Adam Baldwin), thus reactivating the curse and resurrecting the jackal-headed monster god Anubis.  After several gruesome deaths, Alice and her site coordinator Mark (Victor Webster, MUST LOVE DOGS), an Iraq war vet with whom she's been getting awfully chummy lately, must find a way to defeat both Anubis and the new pizza-faced version of Jesse, who is now possessed by the evil entity. 

There's a lot of CGI in this movie, and most of it looks pretty fake.  This works in the ancient-Egypt prologue due to its storybook quality, but later when it's used to show DeMille's massive sets being torn down or to depict various evil creatures, it tends to come off a tad on the crappy side.  Anubis himself (itself?) is a guy wearing a big flap-jawed jackal head, which is okay in quick shots but not so much whenever we get a good long look at him.  He sometimes gives the movie the feel of a cheap 50s horror flick, but maybe that's not such a bad thing since it doesn't take itself all that seriously in the first place.

Partial compensation for such negatives is the fact that SANDS OF OBLIVION boasts some really nice cinematography, a good cast with appealing romantic leads, and a story that harkens back to those Mummy movies of the 40s while also giving us some pretty graphic images (one early death scene involving a runaway backhoe is worthy of THE OMEN).  The pace is leisurely at first but not boringly so, gradually picking up as Alice and Mark experience a series of narrow escapes. 

It's interesting to see Dan Castellaneta being Cecil B. DeMille instead of Homer Simpson for a change.  Charles Lister is funny as Buford, Mark's survivalist pal who supplies him with deadly weapons while getting henpecked by his wife.  In an all-too-brief cameo role, George Kennedy is a welcome presence as Mark's grandfather, who was there on the set of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS as a child and leads Alice and her crew to the location years later right before an unpleasant reunion with Anubis.

Unfortunately, the final moments of the film get pretty silly.  There's a really unnecessary dune buggy chase that isn't very well done, and a good guys vs. Anubis showdown that looks like it was finished in a hurry because everybody was tired and wanted to go home.  Anubis looks his dumbest here, and when he magically brings a bunch of two-dimensional painted warriors to life and they hop down off the walls to do battle with Mark, the man-against-cartoons effect is just plain dorky.

Be that as it may, SANDS OF OBLIVION is still a pretty fun movie that I enjoyed watching.  It does commit one major, unforgivable sin, though--it gives away the ending of CITIZEN KANE!  What the hell's that all about?  It's only, like, the numero uno spoiler of all time!  For this alone, co-writers Jeff Coatney and Kevin VanHook should have their butts kicked from one end of Hollywood Boulevard to the other. 

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Ronald King said...

Like there's anyone on the planet that doesn't KNOW about Rosebud!!!

Porfle Popnecker said...

I'll bet a lot of people these days don't even know about CITIZEN KANE!

Ronald King said...

Now that I think about it, anything older than last week is probably forgotten by the average American. Ppl blame Obama for Katrina when he wasn't even a senator yet when it happened! I constantly underestimate the stupidity of the populace.