30/06/2013

Rambo III (1988)

Film: Rambo III
Release: 1988, theatrical
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Kurtwood Smith
Directed by: Peter MacDonald
Previous in the series: Rambo: First Blood Part II
Next in the series: Rambo
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After his friend and mentor, Colonel Trautman, goes Missing In Action, John Rambo gears up and goes to Afghanistan.

Hans' thoughts:

So whereas First Blood was very dark, Rambo: First Blood Part II was very over the top. This movie sits somewhere inbetween, unfortunately, it really doesn't work out for it.

Let me retrace my steps for a second and talk about the plot. When we rejoin our hero in this move, Rambo is doing some pretty well-shot stick fighting. Implant this image in your mind, because this is actually the highpoint of the movie. It's all down hill from here. Rambo has gone to Thailand and chosen to live in peace in a buddhist castle, now, this could have been a great - albeit risky - film. The movie could have dealt with Rambo struggling to find a place in the world outside of warfare. Dealing with finding peace and trying to resolve his problems without violence. This could have been a nice tail-end to the roots of the franchise, veterans who struggle to find a place in the world and dealing with major trauma. Unfortunately, this is Hollywood. Money is meant to be made on this movie. This results in Rambo being approached by his former mentor Col. Trautman about going to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets (much akin to the beginning of the last movie).

To the movie's credit though, initially Rambo declines and we don't see yet another retake on American officials not respecting him. Trautman goes to Afghanistan by himself and it isn't till he's caught by the Soviets that the government officials talk him into going in to save him. It's also nice to the character of Colonel Trautman actually doing something active instead of just being the guy who defends him verbally like in the two former movies. Where this movie fails isn't really in the plot, but more in the poor attempts to marry the serious aspect of First Blood with the over-the-top action of Rambo: First Blood Part II. This results in a first half where the characters act almost as a tour-guide of Afghanistan and it's culture. Followed by a second half of an otherwise pretty serious movie being turned into action schlock. Really, the action in this movie makes even less sense than in Part II. Of course, the action is much more reserved than in the former movie. Rambo III doesn't have nearly the same amount of absolutely ridicolous explosions. One of them stood out to me though, you'll probably guess which one if you watch it yourself.

This movie could have been a lot better than it is, by choosing what it wanted to do. It could have gone the absolutely action-filled route of Part II, or sticked to it's guns on the reserved nature of Part I. As it stands, it becomes a weird mess of atmosphere. The movie is perfectly servicable though, it's just sad that it could have been so much more than it turned out to be.

Blue Thunder (1983)

Film: Blue Thunder
Release: 1983, theatrical
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Roy Scheider, Daniel Stern
Directed by: John Badham
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: A skilled helicopter pilot is struggling with Post-Traumatic stress disorder and a suspension from the force. Meanwhile, the government is testing a new type of high-tech police helicopter nearby - The Blue Thunder.

Hans' thoughts:

When you ask someone "What is the most important part of a good movie" people will give you a lot of different answers, some will say a good plot, others will say a skilled crew. While these are all very good answers, one of my top 5 necessities for a good movie is thus:

Likable protagonists. This movie doesn't exactly have that.  Don't get me wrong, the movie certainly makes an effort to try and make us like the characters but in earnest the actors are just too bland to make it happen. This ended up being a boring movie because of that, not that I think a stronger crew could have made the movie all that better. The story is paced strangely to say the least, and the motivations behind the different characters are never explained in full. You have Roy Scheider walking around trying to pull off the bad ass cop look, unfortunately he never does or says anything that gives us that feeling so he ends up just being kind of awkward towards his peers. Daniel Stern's character, the young upstart Lymangood, could have been a somewhat interesting character. Unfortunately we never learn anything about him as a person other than he apparently can't control himself when he sees cleavage and scratches at the computer screen like a 14-year old trying desperately to prove to his classmates that he isn't homosexual. Even Malcolm McDowell's villain character isn't all that interesting. Not that the poor guy isn't given much to work with, he's supposed to be a posh British guy but we never understand why he's evil. He's just kinda evil because in the 80's, people with British accents were evil. They even try to give him a catchphrase, but every single actors delivery of the line is just to flat that I just cringed whenever it's said.

The plot just doesn't make a lick of sense. So we have this police force pilot who - for whatever reason, get's a new upstart partner. The first thing they decide to do is to use official government equipment for spying on women. Then you have some sort of PTSD subplot that never really goes anywhere. Because hey, First Blood just came out last year and it's apparently a topic we bring up now! It made me feel bad for people who actually had to deal with it in their lives. So I guess it kinda succeeded in that aspect, just not the way they intended. Here's a hint guys, if your character is supposed to have PTSD, please for the love of cinema take a minute to consider how much you actually know about the condition. If your answer is "Well, they saw something bad happen right?" or anything to that effect do me a favor and donate to a PTSD charity instead.

 So all in all, this was a very bland and boring movie. I don't really think it could have been anything else with that concept. What it seems like happened with this movie, is that they looked at what elements made other movies popular at the and just kinda threw them together hoping for something coherent. This is what happens when money win over creativity.

29/06/2013

Story-liners: Fallout 3 (2008)

War, war never changes.
Game: Fallout 3
Alternate version: Fallout 3 Game of the Year Edition
Release: 2008, retail
System: PC/Sony Playstation 3/Microsoft Xbox 360
Starring: Liam Neeson, Malcolm McDowell, Ron Perlman
Directed by: Ashley Cheng
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In the year 2077, the American people sealed themselves in bunkers called Vaults to escape the impending nuclear holocaust. In 2277, you are a citizen of Vault 101. The Vault has never been reopened, and probably never would be, if your father hadn't suddenly done so. You find yourself chased out of Vault 101 and into The Capital Wasteland trying to chase down your dad and find out why.

Hans' thoughts:

Before I get to the actual review, I'd like to state that since this is a open-world RPG, the game is absolutely HUMONGOUS. Therefore, I will keep to the main story arc of the game, disregarding the side-quests and downloadable content. Sit back tight, this one's gonna be a long one:

The Fallout series has always been a very politically oriented franchise. Set in a world where the paranoia of the Cold War endured and the popular culture always held a similar vein to 50's culture. To me, this series serves as a slap back to reality for those who dare speak of the 50's as "the good old days". Funnily enough, the series does lend a certain love to the era, making a lot of the positive parts of the game be derived from the 50's. Here I'm especially talking about the in-game radio playing music from the 30's/40's/50's. Seemingly the only music that survived the nuclear holocaust were by singers like Billie Holiday - who would have thought it?

After a short intro sequence, and a narrator bringing you up to speed on the state of the universe, the game starts off at your birth. Here you'll go through character creation, followed by certain moments from your childhood all the way until you've turned around 19 your first steps, your 10th birthday, your school finals). Here, the first thing you'll notice is probably this: your father is voiced by Liam Neeson. Now, if you haven't had the urge to check the cast of the game's voice actors, you probably will now. Ron Perlman? Malcolm McDowell? The game actually has quite a few big name actors attached to it, but somehow Fallout 3's atmosphere manages to pull you so far into the story that you forget the world around you. This is what happened to me at least, in any other case I had noticed Neeson right away, just as well with Perlman. However, the few seconds of an absolutely stunning intro-sequence made me forget about everything. Suddenly, I was in The Capital Wasteland.

Throughout the game, the player
 character is consistently referred to as
"The Lone Wanderer" and "That Kid from the Vault".
As for the other voice actors attached, they generally do a good job. However, it brought me out of the experience more than a few times on the sheer scope of how recycled certain voice actors were. You have 3 or 4 voice actors doing the voices for almost all the characters - important ones included. The only exceptions to this rule are your father (Liam Neeson), the narrator (Ron Perlman), President Eden (Malcolm McDowell), Three-Dog (Erik Pullum), Elder Lyons (William Bassett), the player character at age 1 (Jake Howard) and Amata (Odette Annable). The rest of the 50+ voiced characters in the game are done by Jeff Baker, Karen Carbone, Johnny Contino, Gregory Gorton, Peter Gil and Duncan Hood. Those are a LOT of characters for such a small crew of voice actors. Unfortunately, this also means that a lot of the work done by the 6 crowd voices are at times phoned in performances. While certainly not to the depths of some dubs I've heard, at times it is certainly a bit emotionless. This isn't helped by the fact that non-playable characters keep direct eye-contact with you during the entire conversation you have with each of them. You will notice the entire problem a lot more, when sound-files bundle up and a character speaks through 2 or 3 different voice actors because of the conversation choices you have made. A frail old man will suddenly speak with the voice of a 30-something and such.

On the right, a typical raider from Fallout. On the left, Wez from
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Stylistically this game is beautiful, in spite of the destruction of the world around you. The 200 years following the nuclear holocaust has led to mutated animals, a heavy decline in the state of buildings - those that are left, anyway - and of course the unity of what's left of humanity leaves much to be desired. Speaking of humanity, while a lot of the positive input you get from the game (such as the aforementioned radio) take a lot of notes from the 50's, a lot of the antagonists you face are grounded firmly in the 60's and 70's. An immediate threat (besides the monsters) you'll face is that of the raiders, gangs running through the wastes in packs. They are all heavily inspired by 60's, 70's and 80's counter-culture, especially that of punk. They drink a lot, they yell a lot, they curse a lot, they take a lot of drugs and a big bulk of them have Mohawks (which, if you think about it doesn't make much sense in a world where resources are very limited). Though many of them are cannibals and takes slaves, if that somehow makes it make more sense. They also wear these sorts of strapped together metal armors, I imagine their initial designs were inspired by that of the Mad Max movies.

As for the actual looming villain in the distance, this is a case of a great setup, but not that much of a pay-off. Throughout the game you see these small robots flying around, transmitting a radio signal you can play from your "Pip-boy", a sort of all-in-one computer that's strapped to your wrist (the thing also serves as the game's menu system). The radio signal is transmitted by someone calling themselves "President Eden". Eden sounds like a kindly old man, living up to the all-American patriot stereotype. He speaks of a dog he had as a child, what it means to be an American and quotes famous Americans, seemingly oblivious of the extremely "survival-of-the-fittest" world around him. The music he plays on his radio station is also music you would describe as fiercely patriotic. These are songs such as "Stars and Stripes", "Yankee doodle" and "Dixie". 
I've been thinking quite a bit lately about something we can all relate to, something that is unquestionably, inescapably… American. I am referring, of course, to our great national pastime - baseball. - John Henry Eden 
As for the pay-off, while it is certainly surprising to find out who President Eden is, the final battle against the antagonists of the game could have been so much more than what it eventually amounts to. I'm not going to spoil what it is here - suffice to say that the build up is so much better than the actual pay-off.

That is actually a very accurate description of the entirety of the main story-line of the game as well. While the game itself has some great themes, pieces of dialogue and atmosphere, the main story-line ultimately falls flat. Many of the non-canon side-quests amount to much better told stories and in some cases more well-rounded characters. Especially the optional add-on content puts a lot more emphasis on character development and detail. The father (the only other character featured in the game from the beginning to the end) ends up being a very one-note character, ultimately becoming the "father was a saint" stereotype. Throughout the game, he constantly makes a point of quoting the deceased mother's favorite religious quote:
I am Alpha and Omega. The beginning... and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life, freely. - Revelation 21:6
To the quotes credit it does end up being a great narrative tool on the hows and whys of his actions. However, the father ends up being very bland, which is sad when considering the talent doing the voice. This is a classic example of the journey being better than the destination.

Wrapping things up, while Fallout 3 is a great game game play-wise, the story ultimately feels a bit flat and rushed compared to the rest of the content in the game. I wanna re-emphasize that I only looked at the main plot in the original version of the game. This game holds a lot of great content, loads of hours of worthy gameplay as well as an entirely new ending provided by the add-on content. If you are to play this game, I suggest you play that version instead.

(All quotes and additional information was and can be found on The Vault, the Fallout themed Wikipedia)

26/06/2013

Of Mice and Men (1992)

Film: Of Mice and Men
Release: 1992, theatrical
Starring: John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, Moira Sinise
Directed by: Gary Sinise
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: During the depression, the drifters George and Lennie try to find jobs at the various farms to chase the impossible dream they share.

Hans' thoughts:

The Great Depression is a very popular time period to make movies about. Unfortunately, these stories mostly take place in places like Chicago - completely forgetting that the farms around the country were actually hit the hardest. 

This movie is based on one of the most classic novels, arguably the most well-known, about this era, and it just so happens to be about farms - how about that? 

Even people not all that familiar with this story know some elements from it. For instance, Looney Tunes' Sylvester the Cat had his own gentle giant sidekick that called him "George". This is of course in reference to the popular line "T-t-tell me about the rabbits, George!" uttered several times by one of the story's main protagonists, Lennie Small, who is played by John Malkovich in this adaptation.

Now, this is a very dark story. Lennie and George are down-on-their-luck farmhands who can't hold down a job, partially because of Lennie's affliction. Said outright, Lennie Small is mentally disabled, giving him the mind of a child, but physically he's a big, strong man. As you can probably imagine, because of this the story brings with it the danger of making Lennie into a comical character, completely destroying the tragedy behind him (Indeed, a Danish comedian named Dirch Passer tried his hand on doing this character in a stageplay adaptation with serious intentions, but could not be taken seriously by the audience, and ultimately being laughed off the stage). However, I feel that John Malkovich plays the character very respectfully and indeed the movie handles him incredibly well.
Both leads did a great job bringing these characters to life

George is played by actor/director Gary Sinise. Sinise is an actor I respect a whole lot, I've not seen him in something where I didn't like his work. Unfortunately, Sinise is one of those actors who gets typecast a great deal. This movie is no different; if you've seen Forrest Gump or CSI: New York, you know exactly how he plays the character. In this movie his style fits right in with the character of George Milton, a quick-witted and sarcastic, but kind-hearted man. 

As for the other actors, I'd like to highlight John Terry as Slim, he does a very good job both when he's being kind, and when he's being absolutely furious. I can't pinpoint exactly why, but the actor's performance just stood out to me.

Let it be known, though, that it is a very long time since I last read the actual novel. I cannot judge how well this adaptation keeps to its source material. Judged on its own merits however, this had a very compelling story once I got into it.

Of Mice and Men is a timeless tale of hope and loss. This movie pays a lot of respect to it and it seems that both cast and crew had a love for the source material. If you have any historical interest, even slightly, this movie is for you. If you like drama, this movie is for you. If you have the ability to sit down and enjoy a quiet tale, watch this movie.

24/06/2013

Star Crash (1978)

Film: Star Crash
Alternate title(s): The Adventures of Stella Star/Stella Crashes Beyond the Third Dimension
Release: 1978, theatrical
Starring: Marjoe GortnerCaroline MunroChristopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When the smuggler Stella Star finds the wreckage of an imperial ship, she and her companions are recruited to take down the evil count Sarth Arn.

Hans' thoughts:

I have to admit, I only watched this movie because the ridiculous idea of David Hasselhoff in an Italian Star Wars rip-off was just too absolutely glorious to pass off. As it stands though, color me surprised.

This movie is actually a lot of fun to watch. While Star Crash since then has received the tag-line "Italian Star Wars", this movie is actually very much its own thing. The storyline in Star Crash is MASSIVE. During the movie, our heroine Stella Star fights space-amazons, giant robots, a metal colossus reminiscent of Jason & The Argonauts, and even cavemen. 

I won't try to justify this costume
This movie also has some very memorable characters. There's Stella herself, played by the lovely Caroline Munro. She fills a sort of Han Solo-esque spot in this movie, as well as being the main character. Of course she is also very much a product of the 70's, spending most of the movie running around in a leather bikini. Then there's her sidekicks, the C3PO-esque robot Elle with a Texan accent and Akton. Some kind of Jedi person. That's really the best description I can give of the character Akton, he displays some jedi-like abilities and runs around with a light saber during the movie but we are never told what he is, where he came from and why he has these powers. He just kinda has them. 

Okay so it's not all good. This is a B-movie after all. This movie has some very cheesy acting, especially from main villain Sarth Arn, played by Joe Spinell. He really drags out his words and waves his cape around quite a lot. It's like a 4th grade teachers impression of Count Dracula in a school stage-play. While his acting very cheesy, he is very fun to watch. He really reminds me of the villain from Flash Gordon, Ming The Merciless. Actually I think some later Star Wars movie might have even borrowed back some elements from this movie. Which is just weird considering this was a rip-off in the first place.
I could not resist making this joke

As for the dubbing, it isn't very good. First off the voice actors struggle to hit the places where the original actors actually move their lips, making some lines have painfully obvious deliveries with pauses where there just shouldn't be any. It is also very obvious whenever an English speaking actor is on scene, seeing as the voice actually matches in those particular cases.

All in all Star Crash turns out to be a very mixed bag of an experience. On one hand you have the absolute fun that comes with a B-movie space opera. The imagination presented by the writer of this movie is just amazing and it really has a lot of stuff happening. Some of these minor plot-lines could have made their own movie onto themselves. Especially the amazon planet sequence. The special effects also have some very cool moments, while they are definitely not Ray Harryhausen or anything remotely like any of the movies they borrow elements from, you can feel the sheer love for the genre that blasts through the screen and it is very hard not to get caught up in it. This is a labor of love.

On the other hand, you have some very dubious plotholes. As I said before, a character runs around having all these special abilities and we never get any explanation for it. We also have a way too serious appearance from Christopher Plummer who at times make a face that just screams "Why in the WORLD did I sign up for this movie?!". Though he still manages to deliver an okay performance. There's also the matter of some of the concepts almost being so over the top that they almost serve to pull you out of the experience, such as Hasselhoff declaring his strange headgear an "energy shield helmet".

However, if you're the kind of person that can sit down and have fun watching a very cheesy movie without trying to take it seriously. This is for you, there is a lot of fun to be had watching this Italian love-letter to the space opera genre that was so prominent in the 70's and 80's.

23/06/2013

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Film: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Alternate title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - The Original Movie
Release: 1990, theatrical
Starring: Josh Pais, Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden, David Forman
Directed by: Steve Baron
Next in the series: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II - The secret of The Ooze
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After a spree of strange burglaries hit New York, journalist April O'Neil goes to investigate. When a group of thugs attacks her, April is saved by a very unusual group of heroes.

Hans' thoughts:

To my generation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a huge cultural phenomenon. They were everywhere - lunchboxes, cartoons, comic books, video games, action figures, board games, playing cards, even a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed band was touring around at one point. When the popularity of the series was at its absolute highest, this movie was made. Now, as I was born the year this film hit theatres, I can't say I know exactly what kids' reaction was when they heard of it. However, I can tell you that the VHS tape of this movie has been played in my home more times than I would care to count after I was old enough to work the machine myself. I have to admit though, after I've become an adult I have not seen this movie quite as frequently. So here goes:

The movie opens up with a nearly shot-by-shot remake of the first episode of the DIC cartoon show. Of course it's rewritten, both because the writers weren't completely lazy and because, well, a movie has way more time to establish the setting than a 20 minutes long cartoon episode. This is also great in another way because this movie actually spends a lot more time giving the turtles themselves distinguishable personalities. Sure, the cartoon told us what the characters were like as early as their opening theme song but in the actual episodes of the cartoon the personality traits of the characters were more of an exception than a rule. Especially the human characters are given more to do than their damsel-in-distress status in the cartoons.

The costumes in this movie is pretty well made, courtesy of
The Jim Henson Company.
The costumes in this movie look really good. They even made the turtles have distinguishable features outside of the colors of their headbands and master Splinter even looks good whereas he could just have looked like a big ball of fur, or even a dog. There's an explanation for this, these costumes are made by The Jim Henson Company, the company responsible for The Muppets, The Fraggles, Yoda in the original Star Wars trilogy and movies like The Dark Crystal. As far as I understand, the costumes (for the turtles at least) are regular padded costumes, but with animatronic masks controlled remotely. As such, the movement of the characters are the result of two seperate puppeteers having to synchronize their work for the best effect. This has various results, suffice it to say that I feel Michaelangelo comes out of this on top, with his puppeteers managing to keep the lipsyncing problems to a minimum.

As for the human characters, it's a matter of hit & miss. While I like the actress playing April O'Neil, I really wish they had given the role to a person who looked more like the character. Visually, the actors come with varying degrees of being faithful to the source material. As much as it saddens me, the weakest link in this matter is Shredder. While they certainly tried to make the design of the costume true to the cartoon version, one could argue that they should perhaps have done their own thing in this case. As for the upper spectrum of the human actors we have Elias Koteas playing Casey Jones. He both looks and acts exactly like the character. Unfortunately, this actor never went on to do anything great, which is shame because he shows real promise.

Now for the elephant in the room concerning this movie, the climax. After a pretty good set up (a gang using the troubled kids of New York as potential recruits), this movie ends up with a pretty sorry ending. This is the one thing I always hear people complain about considering this movie and I can definitely see where they're coming from. The climax is really disappointing as the battle is set up as something huge and as someone who grew up on the turtles it really saddens me to see that they didn't do this as a major fight scene. Of course, it might have been hard to do considering how heavy the costumes probably are.

The Punisher (2004)

Film: The Punisher
Release: 2004, theatrical
Starring: Thomas Jane, Samantha Mathis, John Travolta
Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After the murder of his entire family, Frank Castle gears up to take revenge on the drug lord who did it.

Hans' thoughts:

If you like over the top action movies with not much of a substantial story then this is definitely for you. This movie has chase sequences, hand to hand combat, knife fighting, explosions and of course guns. Lots of guns. 

Thomas Jane plays Frank Castle, the bad ass FBI agent on a never-ending search for a personality. In his arsenal he has a raspy voice, the ability to take disproportianate amounts of pain, high leveled car engineering, the ability to use almost any kind of weapon and of course A THIRST FOR VENGEANCE. No seriously, this guy is a walking arsenal. Apparently he can also speak a bunch of languages, the movie certainly keeps saying so, but that ability is demonstrated once in the first few minutes of the movie and never made use of again. This movie is very faithful to the Punisher comics, thing is, is that a good thing? You decide.

Yes, this movie is actually VERY comic book-y. The villains are archetypes at best and the character designs of some of these guys are just downright hilarious.
Okay, you found Waldo, now what?
I have to say, if you actually find yourself watching this movie for whatever reason, John Travolta's character will be your saving grace. He's over the top, he's bad ass, and he's one of funniest characters in the movie. Really, I believe an amazing movie could have been made just with that guy.

Other than that, this movie plays very heavily on the comic relief. While some of it is certainly funny, a lot of it just serves to make this movie a really big mix. This is because the movie also has some very dark moments, which ultimately will just be confusing.

22/06/2013

Argo (2012)

Film: Argo
Alternate title: Operation Argo
Release: 2012, theatrical
Starring: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin
Directed by: Ben Affleck
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When revolution stirs up in Iran, CIA and Canada conducts a fake film project to extract endangered American diplomats from the country

Hans' thoughts:

One of the dangers of adapting real stories for the screen is making one side look cartoonishly evil. Fortunately, just like the real world this movie is a lot of very grey areas. While the Iran government is still set up somewhat as the "bad guys" the movie constantly reminds you that America started the whole debacle themselves. The movie doesn't seem like it wants to show some kind of political agenda, rather it just tells what is a very good story. This movie is very straightforward in that aspect "here's what happened, with a bit of sprinkles to make it interesting" much in the same vein as Zero Dark Thirty from the same year. The most entertaining part of the movie is the middle part, with John Goodman and Alan Arkin almost paying tribute to The Producers in their performance. Especially Arkin is very fun to watch. However, they manage to lighten up their part of the movie without belittling the situation the movie is depicting. The climax is also very suspenseful and I was at the edge of my seat for most of it. I have to say, while Affleck may not be the most animated of actors, he definitely has his place in the directors chair.

21/06/2013

King Solomon's Mines (1985)

Film: King Solomon's Mines
Release: 1985, theatrical
Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, John Rhys-Davies
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Next in the series: Allan Quartermain and the City of Gold
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Allan Quartermain is hired by a woman looking for her father who disappeared under strange circumstances.

Hans' thoughts:

I believe myself to be a relatively calm person. I have calmly sat through many movies, good and bad, and not been over-zealous because of the things happening on screen. This movie broke me. Rarely have I witnessed the amounts of utter stupidity happening on screen. This movie had points where I was half-expecting Porky Pig to finish the scene going "T-T-T-That's all folks!". Really, we have Looney-Tunes-amounts of stupid on the screen during this movie, but the fault is that we're still sort of supposed to take it seriously. Quarterman waterskies behind a train, pole-jumps a lake of lava and they even put in the stereotypical cannibals with the giant pot, complete with a carrot joke. I mean, wow! Speaking of stereotypes, if you like laughing at Germans, then is this EVER the movie for you. One of the main villains is a World War I colonel who listens to Wagner, has a silly mustache, is small and chubby and even eats sausages. Wow. In all honesty? Just go watch the Looney Tunes. You'll have a similar experience, only the laughing will be intentional. Okay, so maybe I could be kinder to this movie. I am quite honestly stunned at some of the very beautiful locations they've found for this movie, and while the movie is mostly stupid, it certainly had me sit through the whole thing. If you are to enjoy this movie, best you enjoy it ironically. The cheese factor is very, VERY high.

Miki's thoughts:

Prepare for action! Prepare for adventure! Prepare for a whole lot of cheesy acting! Richard Chamberlain plays Allan Quatermain, an adventurer who accompanies Jesse (Sharon Stone), the daughter of an archaeologist who claims to have found the location of the legendary King Solomon's Mines, a place of immense wealth. Their journey through the darkest Africa is constantly being hindered by the very stereotypical (in Hollywood terms) German colonel Bockner and the equally evil Turk Dogati (played by John Rhys-Davies), as well as various African tribes trying to eat them or throw them to the crocodiles.
I will go as far as to say that this movie is the poor man's Indiana Jones. Although the books about Allan Quartermain preceded Raiders of the Lost Ark by about a hundred years, it is easy to see that it was trying to cash in on the adventure film genre made popular by the Indiana Jones franchise.
I will even go as far as to say that this is Indiana Jones for stupid people. Why? Let me point out a few dumb things that stand out:

Richard Chamberlain as Quatermain. His character is supposed to seem tough at first, only being interested in getting paid to do his job. But Chamberlain quickly sheds this image to play the obvious heroic guy, and delivering an over-the-top performance. One of his most glorious moments is when he fights on top of a moving train, on the side of a moving train, under a moving train, and culminating in him waterskiing behind a moving train. Yes, you read that right. Still, that doesn't exactly top jumping onto a horse from a biplane.

Sharon Stone is playing the typical blonde beauty without much of a clue, and even though she does pack a few punches, she is whiny and hysterical, although she doesn't reach the same level as Willie in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The movie is supposed to take place during the first World War, and so the German army is the main antagonist (out of many) to Quatermain. Although there were no Nazis during this period, Hollywood simply LOVES ze hilarious Nazis, and Colonel Bockner fits every stereotype. Eating sausages and listening to Wagner, carrying a riding crop and just generally being a little fat guy with a temper. Ze German army will not stand for zis, but Hollywood carries on.

Dogati (played by John Rhys-Davies) is probably the most likable character in this movie. That is, when the rest of the cast consists of over-played stereotypes trying to be funny. It's interesting to see Rhys-Davies play much of the same role as he did as Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark. His Dogati is fearful and he will surprise you more than once in this movie.

The movie is supposed to be a light-hearted take on the adventure genre, as well as a parody of Indiana Jones, so if you can switch off your brain and look through fingers with the amounts of cheese in this movie, it is an enjoyably ride.

Blade: Trinity (2004)

Film: Blade: Trinity
Release: 2004, theatrical
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: David S. Goyer
Previous in the series: Blade II
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After Blade is set up to murder a human being, he has to ally himself with another group of vampire hunters called The Nightstalkers.

Hans' thoughts:

If Blade II was a perfect example of how to do a sequel, this is a perfect example of how not to. The balance is gone, the movie focuses way too heavy on the comic relief (played by Ryan Reynolds) which would be fine if Reynolds was actually funny. He just isn't. The villains this time around is also pretty darn stupid. Not that this series has ever had that great of a villain cast but this time around they go way too heavy on the cheese factor. The only saving grace is the presence of Dominic Purcell. Unfortunately, what would could have been a very cool and bad ass villain ends up being the most stiff and boring version of Dracula I've ever witnessed, with the movie trying to play heavily on him as a warrior. He ends up being a poor version of The Scorpion King. Thing is, if you're going to use something as iconic as Count Dracula for you vampire movie, you better either be pretty darn unique and actually pull it off, or play it completely like audiences are used to. This time they tried the former and it just doesn't work. All in all, Blade Trinity ends up being a really weak movie, ruining entirely the groundwork set up by the second installment.

Blade II (2002)

Film: Blade II
Release: 2002, theatrical
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Previous in the series: Blade
Next in the series: Blade: Trinity
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Blade is forced to make an alliance with the Vampire Council when a new kind of monster surfaces, the Reapers who feed on vampires.

Hans' thoughts:

This is a perfect example of a sequel done right. It's an entirely new monster, the plot is moved forward rather than rehashed and everything is just... BIGGER. The movie actually turns out to be a far superior film in the long run. A fair warning, however: watch this movie AFTER you've watched the first one. Major spoilers for Blade are present already at the opening monologue, if you care about that sort of thing. So, in this move it is not only Blade who is out to kick ass. He has to be accompanied by this gang of highly trained vampires called "the Bloodpack" (which is a deliciously cheesy name, by the way), who get to kick a bit of ass themselves. Well, I have to admit that, of course, some of the characters don't really get to do much. They are just there to make it look like an actual group, and not just let Ron Perlman hang out with Leonor Varela and Danny John-Jules. Speaking of Ron Perlman, he seems like he is having heavy amounts of fun playing his character, Reinhardt. He ends up doing a better job than anyone else in the movie. This movie is also different from the former, in that the tone is changed. Whereas the first one sort of had James Bond-like qualities in the villain department, this one tones down the comic relief quite a bit. Which is good, because the wrong comic relief at the wrong time could have ruined a lot of the darkness. The monsters in this movie are also very cool, while the first movie just had vampires, and then some sort of super vampire on steroids. This movie certainly brings in the creepy atmosphere. The two main bad guys in the movie almost look like Max Schreck's Count Orlok in Nosferatu (1922), but with one of them having a very creepy twist. As for the action scenes, Wesley Snipes is in tip-top shape, and he actually gets more to do in this one. Of course, they have at times mixed in a bit of CGI effects to show off some outlandish jumps, but they mostly keep it to the points where the actors and stuntmen couldn't keep up. The only bad thing I really have to say about this movie is the character of Scud, played by Norman Reedus. While the character itself is written well enough, it really needed a stronger actor to pull off. As it stands, Reedus tends to drag down the quality of every scene he's in. Not to a preposterous level, but definitely weaker than the scenes without him.

20/06/2013

The Cable Guy (1996)

Film: The Cable Guy
Release: June 14, 1996
Starring: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann
Directed by: Ben Stiller
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When the ordinary Steven has cable TV set up in his apartment, he befriends the cable guy, but he might be in for a little more than what he asked for.


Miki's thoughts:

Prepare to watch Jim Carrey in a role as extreme as in his other 90's movies, but ultimately a LOT creepier.

When the ordinary office worker Steven (played by Matthew Broderick) is getting cable TV set up, he enters a friendship that will change his life for better - or for worse. There is no inbetween. Jim Carrey shows his usual brilliance as a master of expressions, using his rubber face to play another whacky character, but something is definitely off here.

It quickly goes downhill for Steven, as what begins as a casual friendship with a well-meaning fun-loving advice-giving guy who just wants a new friend, dangerously turns his life around. In the cable guy's own words: "I can be your best friend... or your worst enemy". I will not tell you any more about the plot, as you should definitely check out this movie to experience Jim Carrey take his wild, comedic acting to a whole new level in The Cable Guy.

I have the feeling that when Matthew Broderick grew up from being known as the chaotic Ferris Bueller, his adult roles were mostly comprised of slightly boring everyman characters, like his character in Deck the Halls  opposite Danny Devito. Steven here is no exception, working an office job and generally being quite bland, but I guess it's the polarization with Jim Carrey's character that is the catalyst of the plot. Generally, his role is to react to the cable guy's actions as any 'normal' individual would.

Jack Black has a small, but to me interesting role, especially because he is one of the most sensible characters in the movie. He, as well as the audience, knows that something is terribly wrong.

Cable guy was directed by Ben Stiller, and he himself has a very clever cameo as not one, but two characters, and their subplot is sort of connected to what is happening between Steven and the cable guy.
All in all, it is difficult to describe this movie, so I would suggest that you watch it, and perhaps I will have a more in-depth review of it in a video sometime. But it is definitely worth watching. The 5.9 rating on IMDB is mainly due to people reacting badly to Carrey's much darker performance. It is dark, but hilarious.

Blade (1998)

Film: Blade
Alternate title: Blade - The Day-walker
Release: 1998, theatrical
Starring: Wesley Snipes, N'Bushe Wright, Stephen Dorff
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
Next in the series: Blade II
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Blade, the only vampire who can walk in both night and day, hunts his own kind to protect humanity. One day, what seems to be a typical vampire hunt leads him to protect


Hans' thoughts:

This movie is better than I remember it. When I first decided, "I'm gonna rewatch Blade", I had expected to be a little bored during the talking scenes, but actually they were alright. Of course, these are mostly the talking scenes where Wesley Snipes is not there, or either speaks just one line. Wesley Snipes, as good a martial artist as he may be, just isn't a very good actor. Oh, he can do Blade, but the character of Blade in this movie mostly just stands around grunting at everything. Go Wesley...? If you watch this movie, please don't put too much thought into Blade himself as a character, there's not really much to him personality-wise. As for the rest of the characters - they do a pretty decent job based on what they've been given. However, as this is a vampire movie, having people smile because they're happy is not something you see all that often. Oh sure, there's a lot of evil plotting grins, and the comic relief is smiling some of the time. Vampire-wise, don't expect to be creeped out by these things. They're mostly there so the main character has something to punch. Thankfully, this movie stays more true to the well-known vampire legend than most newer incarnations normally would. They also give a pretty plausible explanation for why, say, not all the myths are true. As in, vampires are firmly established in legend, but some things have been added along the way, as is the nature of superstition. I didn't really buy the explanation for why vampires are so prominent in the world though. They give some kind of throw-away line about vampires having political relations with humans but it's hard to see how that would go down, as a politician could just have exposed them to sunlight. I've been bashing this movie a lot in this article but it is actually pretty good stuff. If you like movies like Underworld or The Matrix, then this is for you.

19/06/2013

Titan A.E (2000)

Film: Titan A.E.
Release: 2000, Theatrical
Starring: Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, Drew Barrymore
Directed by: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After the destruction of Earth by the Drej-empire, humanity's last hope is a map hidden in the genetic code of a young man who wants nothing to do with it.

Hans' thoughts:

I honestly have a hard time deciding whether I liked this movie. While the story is certainly good, somewhat lifted from the biblical tale of Noah's ark, it suffers greatly from lack of padding. This could have been saved by either cutting the intro sequence or splitting the story into more than one movie. Instead what we have is a movie with a lot of interesting concepts, beautiful visuals but characters that are just kinda, there. Here's an example of what I mean, the main character is supposed to have been brought up by an alien character. This character is in the intro sequence, but by the end of the first 15 minutes of the movie the character is completely gone. Never to be mentioned or heard from again. We're supposed to believe that the main character has some sort of established relationship with the alien, but we never see the alien actually do something remarkable at all. It just kinda leaves the movie. Visually, the movie is very pretty. Don Bluth movies are almost always stunning animation-vise. Unfortunately the 3D graphics are kind of hit and miss. Some times they look absolutely stunning, unfortunately most of time it's just kind of distracting, if it doesn't outright ruin the picture. This isn't however a case of me being spoiled by modern technology, but more the fact that the movie is plastered with 3D effects even when it doesn't need them. So should you watch this movie? Well, it depends. It's a curious little piece that's very typical of it's era, around this time Disney movies such as Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire came out. If you like this kind of high adventure science fiction there may be something for you here, just don't expect a masterpiece as this movie falls just short of being good and ends up kind of bland.

18/06/2013

Peter Pan (1988)

Had to scan my VHS copy for this one
- Hans
Film: Peter Pan
Release: 1988, video
Starring: Phillip HintonKeith ScottDaniel Floyd 
Directed by: Franco Cristofani
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Every night, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell listen to the stories told in the Darling household. One day, circumstances turn to Peter showing the Darling children his homeworld Neverland where he intends to make the oldest, Wendy, the new mother of the lost boys.

Hans' thoughts:

This is a very different take on the tale of Peter Pan. Peter in this version is endlessly egotistical, Tinkerbell is downright cruel and for some reason Captain Hook is kind of obnoxious. The voice actors has also chosen to, for whatever reason, make weird sounds for the characters whenever there isn't any scripted lines. This results in the characters, the pirates especially, making a lot of weird grunts. The character model also comes off almost constantly, making them sort of fluid. This happens a lot to especially Hook (who looks nothing like this cover by the way). Is the movie any good? Well if you don't like Disney it provides you with an alternative. It at least sticks very much to the story, but don't take it for anything more than what it is. That is, if you can actually track this version down. I do have some compliments, while the characters are very much off model the glowing effects on Tinkerbell is very well done. To the point of it being hard to see the actual outlines on the characters. But she definitely glows. The backgrounds are pretty well colored. It's actually a pretty beautiful movie if you remove all the characters. But that kinda removes the point of it being a movie, does it not?

17/06/2013

The Phantom (1996)

Film: The Phantom
Release: 1996, theatrical
Starring: Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Treat Williams
Directed by: Simon Wincer
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When a New York business man steals skulls of mystical power, The Ghost Who Walks is called into action.

Hans' thoughts:

Credit is due for the mere fact that they actually dared making a movie with this character. The Phantom is one of the lesser know superheroe-esque characters and he wear a bright purple outfit while on duty. So props is definitely given for even trying to make modern audiences take this character seriously. As for the actual movie, it's a mixed package. On one hand you have some pretty cool stuntwork and an epic tale, you even have a very nice score and this could very much just have gone as an Alan Quartermain or Indiana Jones movie. It has mystical artefacts and junglestunts and our hero is both daring and skilled. On the other hand you have a very by the book plot, and the villain (Treat Williams) is really hamming up the acting to the point of it going from sorta amusing to just downright obnoxious. He's very camp. Some of the mythos is also not explained very well, at points we see the main character talking to a ghost that no one else can see but it's never fully explained who it is except in throw away lines. A lot of the story is told in throw away lines. At one point of the movie, the main character even feels the need to retell his entire origin. However, if you like period piece adventure and really well-done action it is certainly entertaining.

How Beer Saved The World (2011)

Film: How Beer Saved The World
Release: 2011, Television
Starring: Henry Strozier, George Armelagos, Charlie Bamforth
Directed by: Martyn Ives
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In acient times, beer caused the agricultural revolution and has followed humanity in it's scientific evolution ever since. This documentary gives us the whole story.

Hans' thoughts:

This was a very comedic documentary. Throughout the thing it seemed almost as though they had pulled the narrator directly from movies like George of the Jungle or Monty Python and The Holy Grail. This is a good thing, because one cannot deny the jokey nature of what they're trying to convey. However, the facts are for most part actually there. We're actually shown how bacteria act at times, we're giving real technical explanations and everything is not just told through funny little animations. Albeit some of it is. I do have a minor gripe with it and that is lack of clarification of the experts. The narrator mentions their names and jobs but it would have been nice with the traditional info-bars at the bottom of the screen when they were on. The movie is called "How Beer saved the World" because I guess "How beer was randomly present at some major historical discoveries" didn't sound quite as good. While some of the arguments do make sense, in that yes, Pasteur using Beer to discover microorganisms is a cool connection some these things are a bit of a stretch. A good example is them jokingly saying Beer built the pyramids because it was a major source of nourishment in ancient egypt. They're also saying that beer invented writing simply because the worlds oldest language have 160 words for it. However, it is a funny little show and there is a lot of fun trivia to share across the pool table in it. So it's good to kill time.

15/06/2013

Man of Steel (2013)

Film: Man of Steel
Release: 2013, theatrical
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Zack Snyder
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In the midst of a hostile military takeover and the destruction of his homeworld, Jor-El the lead scientist on Krypton sends his infant son to a far away and more primitive planet to grow up amongst it's inhabitants.

Hans' thoughts:

After so many years, so many other heroes making their mark on popular culture, Superman has returned. Is this movie more powerful than a locomotive? Or does it try to impress us with Super-Weaving? The answer is yes, to the first question. This is a very good superhero movie. Futher than, it is also a pretty good movie overall. Let's take the good things first because I do have some minor gripes with it. Okay, the good: 

The action, as is commonplace for director Zack Snyder, totally awesome. I have not seen other director do hand to hand combat quite as well as Snyder and he is back in full form with this one. We feel the impact of the punches and kicks, we also actually see them which is also to his credit: The shaky cam is not as bad as in most other modern action movies. Which is what this is, this is very much an action movie. Okay let me clarify, the beginning of the first act and the climax of this movie is almost non-stop action. We've got explosions and space ships and cars being thrown through the air. If you came into this movie expecting to see Superman use his superstrength you can rest easy: There is plenty of punching. It is also a spectacle movie to the point of it almost being a natural disaster movie in the same veins as 2012. The first time we see Superman himself is him saving people from a disaster. Henry Cavill is also a very good Superman, like with the former movies the crew of the movie seems to have made sure of casting someone relatively unknown: This builds his status as something of awe and wonder. It cements his status as an icon. Likewise, Amy Adams also does a very good job as reporter Lois Lane. Seasoned actors on the set like Kevin Costner also does a really good job even though they're put into the supporting cast member seats. Finally there's the designs. The Kryptonian costumes and Supermans costumes is actually very believable. This looks like clothes that could be actually worn. I'm also very much in favor of the special effects, the flying felt like looking at a jetplane. Which it should. It also bears mention that Snyder has toned down his tendency to slow-motion. This, however, is most likely due to creative consultant Christopher Nolan who also made the recent Batman trilogy. I'm glad to say that yes, Warner Bros. IS capable of making a good superhero movie not staring Batman.

Okay, so as I said I do have some minor gripes with this movie. First off, the movie played a bit too heavily on the science fiction aspect of the Superman lore. Superman himself is played very foreign to our world, and the concepts of his adversaries is very typical of science fiction. There is a shot in the movie which is almost taken completely from the 90's movie Independence Day. While I did just compliment the designs of the costumes, I do feel that most of them were a bit too brown. The color scheme of the homeplanet Krypton is very much bronze and brown. This is not to say the designs were stupid, but it IS a very big contrast to say, the version of Krypton we saw in the Richard Donner movie. However, like that one, this version of Krypton is very much set in the tendencies of modern science-fiction. So I don't blame it. The musical score was also very forgettable, I couldn't hum it to you off the top of my head and I'm writing this right after getting back from the movie theatre. This is a shame, cause I know that Hans Zimmer was behind the score of the movie. Unfortunately, the sound effects just defeaned it out. Also, and this is a very nerdy gripe. The title of the movie. Calling this movie "Man of Steel" rather than "Superman" seems like a pretty obvious marketing trick. It is most likely meant to make audiences thing of "The Dark Knight", the most successful DC Comics movie to date. This movie however, is by no means as good as The Dark Knight. That's not to say it's bad though.

The gripes out of the way, you should definitely make an effort to watch this movie. As far as superhero movies go, this is in the upper half of the spectrum. As far as movies in general go, you will definitely have a good time.

Superman II (1980)

Film: Superman II
Release: 1980, theatrical
Starring: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder
Directed by: Richard Lester
Previous in the series: Superman The Movie
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When Superman saves Paris from a hydrogrenbomb by throwing it into space, the explosion coincidentally frees three menaces of his homeplanet Krypton from the phantom zone. Meanwhile on Earth, Lex Luthor escapes from prison to get revenge on Superman

Hans' thoughts:

This one is pretty different from the previous one. While the previous one was a very basic Superman story that could have found in the fleischer bros. cartoons or the old comics, this one is based heavily in the lore. General Zod (who we saw being sentenced by Jor-El in the very first scene of Superman The Movie) is the main villain, making Supermans adversary someone just as powerful as himself. The stakes are higher, the fights are bigger, the special effects are more frequent. Unfortunately this movie, while good, suffers from the story being a mess. I'm sorry to say that there is just way too much going on in this movie. We have 3 plots going on at the same time, first off you have the invasion of General Zod and his two followers Ursa and Non. This one continues theme of the audience learning more about Krypton, unfortunately the actors assigned to it is kinda, odd. Ursa being the most interesting doesn't show much emotion, Non doesn't speak at all instead making a lot of weird faces and grunts, and then Terence Stamp chewing scenery as much as he possibly can as General Zod. They all speak in monotone voices, but the voice Stamp gives Zod is just way too weird. At any moment I'm expecting him to twirl a menacing mustache and tie Lois Lane to some railroad tracks. The second plotline is Lex Luthor escaping from prison to take revenge on Superman. Unfortunately, a lot of what made Luthor fun to watch in the first movie was the banter between him and his subjects. In this one he is very much in the background, although he's still by far the most well-written and fun of the villain characters. He has that kind of Jack Sparrow vibe of an incredible ego where he's definitely the most fun character but him being alone just doesn't give actor Gene Hackman enough to work with. Then there's the last plot thread of  Lois Lane discovering the identity of Superman. On one hand it's nice to see them finally confessing their love and there's some very funny moments between actress Margot Kidder and lead Christopher Reeve. It also serves to give a reason for why General Zod's story is put on the backburner for a good chunk of the second act. On the other hand, the pay off is just not there. We get all this investment and time into the development between the two romantically involved characters but then a cheap flip of a switch sort of undoes everything and puts it back to status quot.  Finally there's the special effects. Everything in this movie is bigger, there's more fighting, more action, more explosions, tons and tons of reaction shots. Great stuff. But again there's a problem: Some of the powers are just not explained. Well okay, why they have the powers IS explained but the characters all display powers that are either only used once or were never used by Superman in the previous movie. For all the gripes I give this movie, please don't be scared away. It's actually a very good movie, and still at the top of the line of superhero movies. It's just less Superman The Movie or The Dark Knight and more X-Men 2 and Spider-man - quality vise that is.

14/06/2013

Superman The Movie (1978)

Film: Superman: The Movie
Release: 1978, theatrical
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman
Directed by: Richard Donner
Next in the series: Superman II
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: His homeplanet Krypton on the verge of the destruction, the infant Kal-El is sent to safety on the far away planet Earth to live among humanity as one of their own.

Hans' thoughts:

Super. The word means excellence, perfection. Superman himself being called this because he is the closest thing to the complete man. An icon. This movie is not really all that different. Of course, it's a movie of it's time. It manages to update Superman for audiences of all ages while still keeping that glimmer in it's eye of it being based on a comic book. It is really hard to find anything wrong with this movie, from the fantastic John Williams score to the apparent love for the source material. All throughout this movie, Superman does what he does best. He saves the day both from big and small catastrophes. While yes, this movie does have a main plot and a main villain the movie doesn't forget the fact that Superman is known best as the guy who sees the big picture as well as the small one and does his best to make EVERYONE safe. At one point he even saves a cat from a tree - how many other Superhero movies does that? One. Pixar's The Incredibles. And that one was a parody.

Of course the movie does have it's dated points, the most apparent being the design of Krypton. It is deeply set in the New Age space religions of the 70's, some of the characters are also very camp (Luthor's henchmen being the most obvious). But then again, this is from before the era of the dark and brooding superhero. This movie was made before the release of such comics as The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, the success of both being given as the reason for the darker tones being implemented in comic books. A Batman movie without Robin would've been considered insane at this moment in time. This movie however, does not seem ashamed of it's roots.

Clark Kent is just as bumbling and awkward as he should be, giving us a nice nod to the Fleischer bros. cartoons by contemplating changing clothes in a telephone booth. Heck, the opening shot of the movie is a black and white shot of the comic books being narrated by a young boy, we know what we're in for right at the get-go. There is however a scene that seems very out of place, the very first scene in the movie may not have made very much sense to audiences of the time. Historically we can say that yes - this was all a precursor to the events of Superman II (which was filmed back-to-back with this one) but before the internet, only movie savvy audiences may have known that a sequel was already planned at the time of release. I'm not ashamed to say that by the end I got very invested in the characters, even getting kinda foggy eyed at a certain moment. It's not surprising that to many, today's superhero movies are still measured by the standards of this one. Even if you're not into superheroes, you should consider watching this movie. Maybe even you'll believe that a man can fly.

13/06/2013

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Film: Rambo: First Blood Part II
Release: 1985, theatrical
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Previous in the series: First Blood
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window

Description: John J. Rambo is in jail for his crimes in the previous movie. He is approached by his mentor Colonel Trautman, the government will consider giving Rambo a pardon if he returns to Vietnam for a covert ops mission.


Hans' thoughts:

This was a radically different movie than First Blood. Rambo is now back in Vietnam fighting Soviets and Vietcong displaying all the skills of the former movie - and more! Yes, as the poster most likely indicates this movie is very different indeed. First off, the movie is much closer to the military action movies of it's day. Movies like Predator, Robowar and Platoon. While this movie still has some aspects of the tone of the previous movie, it's a lot more action oriented. Things are being blown up left and right. The villains in this movie is cartoonishly evil, the Soviet leader seeming like he will utter the words "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE!" at any moment while he's on screen. The Vietcong soldiers are all nameless and pretty much used simply as cannon fodder for the hero. The movie bears the same message as the previous, but this time trying to hammer the point in maybe a bit too hard. Stallone's character is flawlessly good, superbly skilled and always in the right. It is probably meant as a slap in the face towards the peace marches. While the previous movie had it's quiet moments and was actually quite dark, this is mostly a fun action movie that takes itself a bit too seriously in spite of how over the top it is. It is however, very awesome! If you like action movies, this is a must-watch.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (2012)

Film: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
Release: 2012, Video
Starring: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Next in the series: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window
Description: 10 years after the retirement of Batman, Gotham City is once again being consumed by crime. This time a gang turned terrorist organization called the Mutants is slowly taking over the youths. In the midst of chaos, Bruce Wayne decides to don the mantle of the Bat once more.

Hans' thoughts:

This is probably the best example of an adaptation improving on the source material I have ever seen. The source material of course, being the excellent graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. The movie is the first one in a two-part series of the adaptation, which is for the best. The original work has a lot of subplots going on. I'm actually astonished that it has taken this long for an adaptation to be made, seeing as the original work was very cinematic.

If you're familiar with Millers work, 300 and Sin City, you'll notice the very strong opinions being thrown at you in this movie. It almost serves to poke fun at liberals a lot of the time. You have the psychologists who are made up to be whining, and even a guy who comes with a real "peoples rights" speech but turns out to not actually be a citizen of Gotham City. However, the movie manages to tone it down to serve the broader appeal, making the movie bearable in this aspect, even if you disagree with Miller a lot of the way like I do.

You also have a very cool version of Harvey Dent, delving into what happens when medical treatment just comes way too late. I'll also like to highlight the art style: This movie pays tribute to the source material while updating it to be a little more easy on the eyes. It is though, very recognizably an adaptation. If you'd like to see what the Christopher Nolan Batman movies is most likely based on, or if you're just a Batman fan in general you definitely won't be disappointed with this movie.

10/06/2013

Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)

Film: Joseph: King of Dreams
Release: 2000, video
Starring: Ben Affleck, Mark Hamill, Richard Herd
Directed by: Rob LaDuca, Robert C. Ramirez
IMDB Page: Link opens in a new window

Description: Joseph is the youngest of a huge group of brother but gets special treatment from his parents. After a while the brothers come to be so jealous that they sell him as a slave and send him to Egypt.

Hans' thoughts:

This is a sort-of sequel to the very stellar movie Prince of Egypt. Despite what I assume was good intentions, this movie turns out incredibly bland. It retells the biblical myth of Joseph, and like Prince of Egypt it tries to play big on the brotherly aspect of the story. But Prince of Egypt succeeds in making the two main characters act as brothers put in that sort of situation would, Joseph: King of Dreams just sort of mentions that: Oh yeah right, these guys are brothers. Honestly, everything in this movie is very bland. The music is as frequent as the previous movie but very forgettable (as opposed to the amazing soundtrack of it's predecessor). The voice actors, even the big names like Ben Affleck and Mark Hamill seem uninterested in their perfomances as well. The character models are also weird and some of the side characters seem downright bizarre. I especially recall a guardsman who looked like a piece of beef on tiny legs. Everything also seem rushed, one minute Joseph is in prison and the next he's governing the country. At least the backgrounds are very well done and the dream sequences are beautifully animated. Unfortunately, it just can't save this very forgettable little movie.

The Room (2003)

Film: The Room
Release: 2003, theatrical
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sistero
Directed by: Tommy Wiseau
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window

Description: Everything seems to be going well for Johnny, but without him knowing his fiancé is growing bored and planning misdeeds

Hans' thoughts:

If you did not have a drinking problem before watching this movie, chances are you have trouble not getting one by sitting through it. Albeit sitting through it alone is a great challenge. Consider romantic pulp fiction for women, the kind of dime novels that can be found on train stations for a trip. The stories are nonsensical the characters are utter two-dimensional. Those books are more well-written than whatever this movie is supposed to be. The movie is the love-child of one man, Tommy Wiseau. He plays the main character, He directed the movie, he wrote the script, he funded the movie, he published the movie, he produced the movie AND he executive produced the movie. The movie is notorious for frequent crew changes and the utter strangeness of it's existence. Wiseau himself also has an unplaceable accent and the most eccentric delivery of his lines I have ever seen on screen. After sitting through the first 10 minutes, you have either turned the movie off or decided that it just too fascinatingly bad to look away from. Wiseau has since the bad reviews of this movie come forward to state that this is actually a black comedy. So either this movie is the worst and most bizarre triangle drama ever or the most elaborate practical joke made for the silver screen. Plot threads appear and disappear, as do characters. Actions are taken out of nowhere and none of the characters seem to have any personality. The "villain" of this movie, the lead female act, is most likely one of the most successful villains ever, and by the end you will hate her. If you manage to get into the plot of the movie at all. At least the main score is somewhat good, as opposed to the inserted popsongs during the lovemaking scenes. Which by the way, are not only horribly choreographed but also downright strange and way too long. If you need to take a break during the movie, feel free to do it during these scenes. You will have ample time to get snacks as these things are unfortunately very frequent. If you are going to sit through this mess, I recommend doing it at a public screening. Bring plastic spoons, the rest will be explained when you get there. Oh and bring cab fare, you will most likely want to go drinking afterwards.

Flushed Away (2006)

Film: Flushed Away
Release: 2006, theatrical
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen
Directed by: David Bowers, Sam Fell
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window

Description: The upper-class pet rat Roddy St. John is celebrating alone time in his Kensington home when a sewer rat appears and ends up flushing him down the toilet. Roddy is transported to a rat-sized replica of London and a lot of problems he didn't ask for.

Hans' thoughts:

This movie was, surprisingly good. I have to admit that while I know quite well that Aardman has so far only does quality movies I have become somewhat weary of the Dreamworks logo. My weariness was unfounded though, as the is one of the funniest animated features I've seen in a while. It is filled to the brim with spectacular slap-stick and it even manages to throw some jokes in for the adult audiences. Hugh Jackman was to me, completely unrecognizable as the main character. He really changed his voice for this one and I had to remind myself that "Oh right, this is Hugh Jackman!". They do however, throw a nice little nod to his role as Wolverine in the opening credits of the movie. This movie is actually filled with a lot of references, even some that I doubt the kids will understand. Though I think they do let on to thick with the nods to adults some of the times. An example of this is two of the henchmen in the movie yelling "To the Rat mobile!" followed by an old timey screen transition in the style of the 60's Batman tv-show. Some of the jokes are also pretty dirty, such as the main villain wanting to repopulate the city with.. Well. You'll see when you watch the movie. This is definitely a strong kids movie and it's even entertaining for adults.

Project Wonderful 3