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MTI Home Video presents
Terminal Error (2002)

"Software doesn't make mistakes, Russ. People do."
- Brad Weston (Michael Nouri)

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: November 03, 2004

Stars: Michael Nouri, Marina Sirtis, Matthew Ewald, Timothy Busfield
Other Stars: David Wells, Robert Casey
Director: John Murlowski

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and peril
Run Time: 01h:31m:38s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 039414581478
Genre: techno thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+C+B+ C-

DVD Review

Anyone who hasn't had their head in the sand for the past five years is well aware of computer viruses and the damage they can cause. Viruses and worms can destroy the contents of personal computers, launch attacks against websites, and interrupt businesses that are essential to our economy. So far, most viruses have only affected the internet, but in a world where more and more devices are able to communicate, the threat to our infrastructure is increasing. Terminal Error presents an entertaining, if rather silly cautionary tale of the consequences of this trend.

Brad Weston (Michael Nouri) leads Autocom, a company that writes automation software for all kinds of municipal infrastucture systemsóbuilding and traffic control, sewer plant management, and even nuclear plant maintenance. He's a computer genius, but lacking in people skills, and emotionally distant from his ex-wife Alex (Marina Sirtis) and son Dylan (Matthew Ewald, who looks like Robert Smith of the Cure's love child). Dylan's inherited his father's programming skills, but has been spending a little too much time with master hacker Elliott (Timothy Busfield of thirtysomething fame), who was fired from Autocom by Brad. It's no secret from the audience that it's the disgruntled Elliott who caused the explosion of Ukrainian nuclear plant, controlled by Autocom's software, via a virus hidden in an MP3 music file. When traffic lights and sewage and electrical systems start going haywire in the immediate vicinity of Autocom, all fingers point at Brad.

Terminal Error's plot moves along at a good clip, and there are plenty of explosions and chases to keep one's mind off the absurdity of the story. Perhaps the silliest of the plot devices is the virus itselfócomputer scientists have been studying artificial intelligence for decades without much success, but Elliott easily creates a virus that can learn, talk, and is self-aware. It's no surprise, then, that the virus wants to protect itself from extermination, in a plot device that's almost 35 years old, straight out of Colossus: The Forbin Project.

The virus isn't the only problem with the movie. Brad's mute partner Russ (David Wells) is able to produce an incredible assortment of rapid-fire voice synthesizer-generated quips by jabbing randomly at his numeric keypad, and this reviewer laughed out loud when "Professor of Cyber-Ethics" Alex successfully writes a virus-killer in about fine minutes on her son's GameBoy. The CGI effects are poor, and completely unconvincing in the case of the Ukrainian nuclear reactor. Performances range from solid (Michael Nouri) to inconsistent (Matthew Ewald), and Marina Sirtis speaks in some strange hybrid of an American and her native English accent.

Perhaps it isn't fair to examine what's essentially a cheesy B movie too closely. Terminal Error is reminiscent of cheap sci-fi movies from the 1950s and 60s, and like those films, the inconsistencies and other flaws are part of the fun of watching. The ultimate test of such films is whether they keep the audience entertained, and it's a tribute to the film that this reviewer watched it from beginning to end without even once glancing at his watch.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame image is somewhat soft, with black levels that leave something to be desired. Skin tones are generally accurate, although colors are undersatured, especially in the opening scenes. Edge enhancement is omnipresent and often annoying.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is fine, with good dynamic range and stereo separation. Dialogue is at all times clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Stardust, I Downloaded a Ghost
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Single-screen filmographies for the four main actors are accessible via the "biomenu." Spanish subtitles are included, as are trailers for the main feature and two of MTI's other releases, Stardust and I Downloaded a Ghost. The trailers are all full frame but otherwise look and sound fine.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Terminal Error is yet another variation on that old sci-fi standby, technology gone amok. Obviously made on a budget, and sporting some weak performances, the movie's still an entertaining way of spending a mindless two hours.


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