(director/writer: David Twohy; cinematographer: Hiro Narita; editor: Martin Hunter; music: Arthur Kempel; cast: Charlie Sheen (Zane Ziminski), Ron Silver (Gordian), Lindsay Crouse (Ilana Green), Tony T. Johnson (Kiki), Teri Polo (Char), Richard Schiff (Calvin), Leon Rippy (DOD 1), Buddy Joe Hooker(DOD2), Alan Coates (Terraformer), David Villalpando (cabbie); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Thomas G. Smith/Jim Steele; Live Entertainment/Orion; 1996)

The CGI alien special effects are only so-so, but the film is rich in ideas, well-executed and is pleasingly entertaining even if silly.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

David Twohy (“Riddick”/”Below”) is the writer-director of this suspenseful B film sci-fier, supposedly an answer to TV’s The X-Files. It revisits the 1950s formula alien invasion films, and also delves fully into conspiracy theories.

When the California-based NASA radio astronomer Zane Zaminski (Charlie Sheen) discovers a radio transmission that originated from outer space, his boss at JPL, Gordian (Ron Silver), responds by ignoring him and then firing him on the lame excuse of cutbacks and destroys his cassette with the evidence. Zane’s lab partner (Richard Schiff) backs up his claims and is soon carted off dead in an ambulance. The wronged astronomer, who discovers he’s been blacklisted from government scientist jobs and labeled as a nut, decides to investigate on his own by hooking his neighborhood up with free satellites he steals from his new low-level tech job and attaches all the satellites to his. From his attic workroom he receives an earth-based signal from aliens that comes from central Mexico. Zane goes there and meets in town the UCLA-based climate scientist Ilana Green (Lindsay Crouse), who is studying global warming. She becomes alarmed that the Greenhouse Effect is occurring at such a rapid rate and also ventures to central Mexico to check out the radio signals.

The American scientists dine out together and when Ilana returns to her hotel, she’s met under the sheets by deadly scorpions. Earlier in the day an assassination attempt was made on Zane while he was taking a bath and a cast-iron tub fell through the wooden floor above. When the assassin was cornered, he bent his knees and miraculously jumped from the street to atop a tall building to escape.

On a taxi ride to a power plant in the jungle just out of town, on private property, the suspicious scientist discovers it’s home to aliens, who use some kind of technology to transform themselves into humans so they can be in town. Zane freaks out noticing the police chief at the plant looks like Gordian.

In danger, Zane flees the jungle and returns home to discover his equipment is gone. Returning to JPL, he confronts Gordian and learns the aliens plan to buy a number of power plants in Third World countries so they can change the atmosphere to kill off the human race. Their plan is to colonize the Earth since their planet is no longer livable.

The aliens also possess a devise called an “imploder,” a volleyball-sized metal sphere with doors that rises to create a mini black hole, sucking up everything in its range.

Well, it’s up to the fanatical, bug-eyed, chubby scientist to save the world.

Teri Polo plays the astronomer’s brokerage house girlfriend he is unsure of, as their relationship has become rocky. Tony T. Johnson plays the astronomer’s black helper, a street-smart kid living next door with his grandmother, whom he confides in without really knowing him.

The CGI alien special effects are only so-so, but the film is rich in ideas, well-executed and is pleasingly entertaining even if silly.