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Two Thrillers from Sony

Moscow Zero (December 13/08)

Asinine and interminable, Moscow Zero immediately establishes itself as an art-house mess that succeeds only in alienating the viewer with its nonsensical storyline and flatter-than-flat characters. Director Luna has infused the proceedings with an ugly, downright unpleasant visual sensibility that proves a test to one's patience right off the bat, as it's the pretentiously-named filmmaker's hopelessly misguided decision to set the majority of Moscow Zero within a series of poorly-lit underground caverns that all but assures the movie's colossal failure. The storyline - which has something to do with a priest (Vincent Gallo's Owen) who arrives in Russia hoping to find his missing friend (Rade Serbedzija's Sergei) - has been augmented with a number of increasingly incoherent elements, with Val Kilmer's head-scratching cameo as Hell's gatekeeper (!) certainly standing out as the most obvious (and ill-advised) example of this. The total lack of even marginally developed characters only exacerbates the film's many problems, as the admittedly talented cast (which also includes Joaquim de Almeida and Joss Ackland) is left with little to do other than spout eye-rollingly pompous instances of dialogue - with Sergei's penchant for talking to himself emblematic of screenwriter Adela Ibanez's inability to infuse the movie with an ounce of authenticity. Moscow Zero's subsequent and total inability to hold the viewer's interest even momentarily is nothing short of staggering, and it's ultimately difficult to recall a more objectionable direct-to-video endeavor in recent memory.

no stars out of

Termination Point (December 30/08)

Anchored by Jason Priestley's engaging performance and an intriguing sci-fi premise, Termination Point almost manages to rise above its low-budget DTV origins - yet the movie is ultimately felled by an increasingly erratic narrative and the inclusion of several head-scratching elements. The complicated storyline follows an elite government agent (Priestley's Caleb Smith) as he attempts to track down a highly-regarded scientist (Lou Diamond Phillips' Daniel Winter) who has absconded with a mysterious device, with complications ensuing as it becomes clear that said device essentially allows the user to bend the very fabric of time and space. Director Jason Bourque - working from Peter Sullivan's screenplay - has crafted a film that generally comes off as a science-fiction riff on 24, as the bulk of the proceedings revolves around Smith's efforts at locating Winter - thus affording Priestley's character the opportunity to chase down villainous suspects and growl gritty queries at them (ie "who do you work for!") Priestley's surprisingly hard-edged work proves instrumental at initially capturing one's interest, and while Sullivan has effectively peppered the proceedings with a number of intriguing elements (ie the meaning of the title), there inevitably reaches a point at which the movie seems to be spinning its wheels in an effort to pad the running time out to feature length (ie it's not difficult to envision this material employed within an above-average episode of The Outer Limits). The end result is an endeavor that's generally watchable enough, admittedly, though one can't help but feel that the premise might've been just a little too ambitious for such a low-budget production (ie those are some seriously chintzy special effects).

out of

About the DVDs: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents both titles with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Moscow Zero comes up empty in terms of bonus features (an apology might've been nice), Termination Point boasts a brief behind-the-scenes featurette.
© David Nusair