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Space Station 76 (2014)
Reportedly adapted from Plotnick and crew's same-named Los Angeles stage play, Space Station 76 is instantly a superficially enjoyable homage to a bygone vision of the distant future as seen in such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Sleeper (1973) and Logans Run (1976). It's an alternate universe by today's standards, where design and fashion from the late 1960s to mid-70s somehow still dominate human life in subsequent millennia.
Blast from the past flared collars, turtlenecks and bad hairstyles, geometric wallpaper and wireframe computer graphics unabashedly thrive in this world, set against a soundtrack of mainstream disco and Neil Sedaka. Even the droll robot humour is reminiscent of cheesy one-liners from the likes of Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (1979). However, there are more than kooky novelties for a paying audience to tap into.
In the film, Marlowe sinks into a lonely sadness while surrounded by the growing ill-temperament of this small space station's long-time inhabitants. Despite her befriending Ted and Misty's young daughter Sunshine (played by Kylie Rogers), the women onboard remain uneasy with Marlowe's 'non-traditional' job as a female second-in-command, further exacerbated after she unwittingly confides to an increasingly jealous and territorial Misty.
Meanwhile, secretly lovesick Captain Glenn's booze-addled behaviour worsens opposite Marlowe's eager professionalism replacing Glenn's previously favoured right-hand man, taking out his bruised ego on personable pothead Ted who placates his failing marriage by fantasizing about porn.
Very little about this feature has much of anything to with these lost souls in space actually being in outer space, beyond surface context and eye candy marketing. It's more a dollar-fifty production mash-up of cult TV's Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-77) set against cult cinema's Solaris (1972), without all of the latter's deep thinky stuff. Plotnick and his team of co-writers' screenplay staggers along like a 1970s soap opera rife with then-scandalous revelations of drug-abuse, feminism and homosexuality now considered antiquated daytime fodder.
Liv Tyler's performance is equally dated and deadpan, obviously playing up the film's underlying kitschy punch line with purposely quirky awkwardness. Plotnick's often patchy and slow-handed editing choices matched by Robert Brinkmann's extremely unimaginative camera work sadly never really allow Tyler to convert that energy into a compelling enough lead role in the final cut. It's too bad, she nails the acting style. Top marks also definitely go to Patrick Wilson for bringing the lion's share of genuine laughs and managing to steal every scene with fab absurdity.
The few cameos that include funny speaking parts from Jerry O'Connell as Ted's promiscuous buddy Steve, and 2001: A Space Odyssey star Keir Dullea playing Marlowe's doddering father are also memorable highlights.
Sure to become a guilty adult pleasure among fans of 1970s sci-fi and no-budget gems, Space Station 76 won't be for everyone's taste. It's a notably flawed but weirdly fun space oddity saved by its capable cast of talent, and is well worth checking out at a cheap matinee. Groovy. Reviewed 10/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
Space Station 76 is rated 14A
by the Ontario Film Review Board, citing coarse language, sexual
references, nudity in a non-sexual context, partial or full nudity
in a brief sexual situation, illustrated or verbal references
to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, substance abuse, sexual innuendo,
implied sexual activity, and restrained portrayals of limited
violence, and is rated 13+ by la Régie du Cinéma
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