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Space Station 76 DVD Review

Space Station 76 (2014) movie poster Space Station 76

Theatrical Release: September 19, 2014 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jack Plotnick / Writers: Jennifer Elise Cox, Sam Pancake, Jack Plotnick, Kali Rocha, Michael Stoyanov (stage play & screenplay)

Cast: Patrick Wilson (Captain Glenn Terry), Liv Tyler (Lieutenant Commander Jessica Marlowe), Marisa Coughlan (Misty), Matt Bomer (Ted), Jerry O'Connell (Steve Harrison), Kylie Rogers (Sunshine), Kali Rocha (Donna Harrison), Keir Dullea (Mr. Marlowe), Matthew Morrison (Daniel), Jack Plotnick (voice of Space Station 76 - uncredited)

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The comedy Space Station 76 takes us back to a time when Star Wars
had yet to put its indelible mark on science fiction. It is set in a frugal future conceived in the 1970s, one full of retro designs, cords, clunky tapes, and the like.

The Omega 76 Refueling Station offers food, lodging, and fuel to those passing through and those who intend to call it home for a while. There are only a few people falling into the latter class. They include Captain Glenn Terry (Patrick Wilson), the ship's standoffish, closeted gay pilot; maintenance technician Ted (Matt Bomer); his manipulative, judgmental, self-pampering wife Misty (Marisa Coughlan); their oft-unsupervised daughter Sunshine (Kylie Rogers), the only kid on board; and new arrival Lt. Commander Jessica Marlowe (Liv Tyler).

Patrick Wilson plays Glenn Terry, Space Station 76's captain who is pained by the secret of his sexual orientation. Sunshine (Kylie Rogers), the station's often unaccompanied only minor, enjoys a taste of zero gravity.

Though set in space with this very specifically antiquated vision of the future, the film doesn't seem all that interested in sending up sci-fi. Instead, it's more interested in recreating and, in a way, celebrating the 1970s for its gaudy fashions, prevalent social drinking, and lax attitudes towards smoking and sex. Nostalgia is the chief ingredient of this soap opera, which is as inert, slow, and quiet as any comedy in recent memory.

The film has some fun with sci-fi ideas: Ted has a robotic hand, people gather in a projection room to be surrounded by the sight of Earth's trees, Misty frequents a robot therapist and receives instant Valium from a pharmaceutical vending machine, and there's a mother-in-law in hypersleep who's being treated like any travel baggage. It's all very strange and almost never funny. Jokes are few and far between, yielding scant laughter. It looks interesting and would never be mistaken for any other sci-fi movie, but there just isn't enough in that premise to entertain or excite with such mundane characters and stories.

High maintenance space housewife Misty (Marisa Coughlan) spills her heart to Dr. Bot, her tiny robotic therapist.

Space Station 76 originated as a Los Angeles stage play in the early Noughties. Its five playwrights are each credited with the screenplay as well (most of them also fill supporting roles). They include Jack Plotnick, an actor and acting coach making his feature directorial debut.
It's tough to believe that he thought there would be an audience for this choppy, lifeless space opera.

Nonetheless, this untested filmmaker was able to attract a cast of some distinction, although when you think about it, only Wilson has been thriving and even then it's uncertain whether his lead roles in successful James Wan-directed paranormal thrillers are leading anywhere or making him a movie star. This is certainly not a project a movie star would pick even in a clout-lending way. The rest of the cast has been either on the wane or flirting with obscurity.

Space Station 76 premiered last March at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival. It was chosen as the closing night feature of Outfest, an LA LGBT festival which perhaps speaks to the film's appeal. It then received a very limited theatrical release (which elicited no official box office record) in mid-September in tandem with Digital HD availability before reaching DVD (but not Blu-ray) eleven days later from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Space Station 76 DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in Chinese Traditional, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Black Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

For a film that devoted as much thought and effort to production design as this one, the lack of a Blu-ray edition has got to sting. The DVD's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is good, but noticeably hampered by the limitations of that format. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fine. Though often quiet and melancholy, the mix does spring to life for some needle drops. The movie goes heaviest on Todd Rundgren, but also prominently features other forgotten mellow '70s pop songs.

Steve (Jerry O'Connell) appears in one of the shorter deleted scenes. Liv Tyler sticks her tongue out for the camera in the outtakes reel.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Space Station 76 receives a pretty standard offering of three bonus features on DVD.

First up come three deleted scenes (3:31). The first two give us more of Matt Bomer's character, while the third and longest cut is a mother-daughter moment between Misty and Sunshine.

A long reel of outtakes (7:26) shares with us takes ruined by laughter and punctuated by profanity and ad-libs plus a bit of Liv Tyler dancing for the camera.

First-time writer-director Jack Plotnick explains the film's look and origins in "Zero Gravity: Making 'Space Station 76.'" Patrick Wilson looks serious with a cigarette in his hands on the special features menu.

Finally, "Zero Gravity: Making Space Station 76" (12:45) provides some welcome context for the project.
Interviews with cast members and, more prominently, director Jack Plotnick, explain the idea and the allure. Plotnick leads the discussions of the film's production design, sets, costumes, and Stanley Kubrick influences (more The Shining than 2001, despite the Keir Dullea cameo). Everyone displays passion that should have made for a more interesting film.

Finally, "Previews" repeats the six trailers with which the disc automatically opens. They promote Roger Corman's Operation Rogue, Sniper: Legacy, The Calling, Grace: The Possession (red band), Home Sweet Hell (red band), and What If. Sadly, for Space Station 76's own trailer, you'll have to look to other recent Sony discs.

The static, silent main menu gives us a very mild variation on the cover art.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the silver disc in the uncut black Eco-Box keepcase.

Fast friends Ted (Matt Bomer) and Lt. Commander Jessica Marlowe (Liv Tyler) share a lie-down on the grass of the space station's garden.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Space Station 76 is a lot more interesting in theory and on paper than it is in execution. This homage to the 1970s is thoroughly unlike other sci-fi comedies, which would be easy to appreciate if it didn't put you to sleep with its rarely funny soap opera storytelling. The novelty alone ought to have yielded more enjoyment than it does. Unless you're utterly taken by '70s nostalgia, you'll probably find this movie quite lacking.

Sony's DVD adds some worthwhile bonus features to an adequate feature presentation. While the lack of a Blu-ray edition is troubling, it is easily justified by what are sure to be slow sales figures for this uncommercial venture.

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Reviewed October 16, 2014.



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