Published by: Digital Journal | Sarah Gopaul

Anaconda (Blu-ray)

A documentary film crew headed by anthropologist Steve Cale (Eric Stoltz) and director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) travel down the Amazon River in search of a mysterious Indian tribe. On their journey they save a man, Paul Sarone (Jon Voight), from a sinking boat. He offers to help in their search for the tribe, but he is actually a snake-hunter looking for the legendary Anaconda snake. When an accident leaves Cale unconscious, Sarone takes charge of the boat, leaving the rest of the crew in grave danger.

Monster movies haven’t ever really gone out of style, though the type and featured creature has varied over time. About 20 years ago, the aforementioned stars got together with Ice Cube to fight a giant CGI snake with a go-to move of rapidly wrapping itself around its victim and crushing them to death. Though the snake species is real, its behaviour is certainly exaggerated for the picture, which runs with the few known cases of the reptile eating humans. Voight is a great villain, playing the sleazy hunter that is both a lifesaver and threat in one. Stoltz’s screen time is limited, leaving it up to Lopez and Cube to save the day. It’s still very cheesy, but also works if you like that kind of thing.

Double Team (Blu-ray)

A world-class counter-terrorist (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his flamboyant but deadly weapons dealer (Dennis Rodman) team up to escape from a penal colony and rescue his family from a terrorist (Mickey Rourke).

This wasn’t a typical Van Damme action movie as it fell into a goofier category with Rodman bringing a somewhat surprising sense of humour to the picture. In a Bond-like introduction, a retired JCVD is called back into duty to takedown an old foe because he knows him best. Of course, the familiarity goes both ways and the villainous Rourke evades capture and takes his revenge by kidnapping the agent’s pregnant wife. The organization’s retirement policy is uniquely unexpected and adds an additional obstacle, though nothing can stand in the way of the hero’s rescue. Between some expert MacGuyvering and Rodman’s reluctant help, they get the job done with ridiculous inaccuracy.

Excess Baggage (Blu-ray)

Desperate for attention, Emily Hope (Alicia Silverstone) stages her own kidnapping. But before Emily can enjoy a happy reunion with her father, her car gets stolen by Vincent (Benicio Del Toro) with Emily still inside.

While Silverstone was still riding the success of Clueless, Del Toro got his first shot at being a romantic lead in what was basically a teen rom-com. It’s not the best the ‘90s had to offer, but their weird dynamic is fun as she’s the more dominant of the pair and he’s just along for the ride. Moreover, Emily is an attention-seeker and Vincent is very chill, making them complete opposites that don’t discover their attraction until late in the movie. Christopher Walken is also in the picture, playing a character who is part surrogate father, part investigator tasked with recovering Emily at as little cost as possible — conflicting roles that make the “adults” in the movie seem overly callous.
Ghosts of Mars (Blu-ray)
Long inhabited by human settlers, the Red Planet has become the manifest destiny of an over-populated Earth. Nearly 640,000 people now live and work all over Mars, mining the planet for its abundant natural resources. But one of those mining operations has uncovered a deadly mother lode: a long-dormant Martian civilization whose warriors are systematically taking over the bodies of human intruders.
The simple storyline of good vs. evil unfolds on another planet, which allows it to be somewhat looser in its interpretation of the age-old tale. The Martians are ruthless annihilators, faster and stronger than their human enemies. The narrative operates on a loop of battles and regrouping with the same general results – heavy losses and the Earthlings barely escaping with their lives. Led by Natasha Henstridge and Ice Cube, the team is outnumbered and stuck on a planet with limited resources but plenty of weapons. Directed by John Carpenter, the Martians definitely bring a horror element to the narrative via their appearance and ferocity.