Scream 2
DURING a class debate in Wes Craven's quick follow-up to his enormously successful Scream, one character says "Sequels suck!" Examples are then cited of exceptions to this usually hard-and-fast law, like Aliens and The Godfather Part II. But don't expect Scream 2 to join that short list in a scene probably being worked out already by fan scribe Kevin Williamson for Scream 3.
Not that Scream 2 is bad. It's an easily digestible reheated trifle best described as the thinking man's House on Sorority Row. But it's a minor effort in contrast and barely builds on the shrewd achievements of the far superior original. By upping the body count, pointing the finger at additional possible serial killers and engineering more jolts for maximum impact, Scream 2 does indeed twist and turn the genre rules of the game again for its own ends. So I suppose by those criteria, it is indeed the perfect sequel.
(Starburst rating: 6)

IF Event Horizon was 'Solaris on a spaceship', Sphere is 'Solaris underwater'. Far more successful in conjuring up a scary atmosphere than Paul Anderson's former misfire, Barry Levinson's adaptation of Michael Crichton's best seller from a decade ago should have been with us around the time of James Cameron's The Abyss to have got the best possible reception. It does look slightly dated now and there are too many derivative reminders of other genre classics from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Forbidden Planet, 2001 and Alien for Crichton's cerebral story to successfully float to the surface in all its full glory. But give Levinson's deluxe Leviathan leeway and it's a buoyant entry in the submerged Science Fiction stakes. Using chapter headings to drive the story forward without needless exposition and managing to pull some pretty crafty shocks from the deepest waters of narrative cynicism, Sphere, in common with all of Levinson's work, is more about a group of characters thrust into an extraordinary situation than the situation itself.
(Starburst rating: 8)

The Postman
ILL Postino? It's probably going to be held against me as much as my favourable review of Howard the Duck still is, but I liked Kevin Costner's impressive Science Fiction Western epic a great deal. At first I thought it was just a natural response to the bad word of mouth. Often when something is supposed to be so awful, it never really is as wretched as all that in reality. And that's certainly the case with The Postman. Yes, it's hokey, preachy and sentimental at times - some of the pro-American/pro-family values rhetoric deserves to be greeted with derision - and, sure, director Costner takes a few missteps as his adaptation of David Brin's 1985 novel sprawls all over its thematically gigantic canvas.
But, despite initial resistance on my part - an 'Okay, I dare you to entertain me' stance - I must admit to becoming interested, then engrossed and ultimately moved by Costner's post-apocalyptic vision. It's easy to be cynical over The Postman and I'd normally be the first one to knock the arrogant ideological notions Costner offers as ones that will save the human race. But you cannot deny the man's obvious sincerity and heartfelt passion behind this labour of love. If you have a sneaking regard for Costner, as I do, then his Road Warrior meets Dances With Wolves curiosity will work its magic. If you don't, avoid his futuristic Field of Dreams at all costs because your constant hooting and laughing will only annoy those in the audience around you enjoying it.
(Starburst rating: 8)

"I must admit to becoming interested, then engrossed and ultimately moved by Costner's post-apocalyptic vision"
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