Asterix in Britain (1986)

Album cover
Film: Asterix In Britain
Release: 1986, theatrical
Starring: Roger CarelPierre TornadeGraham Bushnell
Directed by: Pino Van Lamsweerde
Previous in the series: Asterix Versus Caesar
Next in the series: Asterix and The Big Fight
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Britain has been invaded, and Rome has declared marshall law. In a small village, the only free britains try to hold off the legions. The warrior Jolitorax is sent to his cousin in Gaul for help.

Hans' thoughts:

50 B.C. All of Gaul has been overtaken by the Roman military machine. All? No a small village - oh whatever you know this part. It's Asterix. If you for whatever reason don't know who Asterix is by this point, you must've lived under a rock for most of your life. Having been represented in video games, childrens books, cartoons and of course comic books Asterix has become one of the most iconic characters when it comes to the European comic book industry.

Released in 1986, this is the 4th time Asterix has been brought to the silver screen and the 3rd adaptation of an original Asterix comic book adventure. Actually, I like to call this movie the second in the "Asterix globetrotting adventures". The first one being Asterix and Cleopatra (1968) with the third and fourth ones being Asterix in America (1994) and Asterix and the Vikings (2006). I might be the only one that feels this way though. With the exception of the latter two, none of them were released back to back.

My weird habits aside, this is one of the better Asterix movies. It's arguably the one that's aged the best, most of the Asterix movies being very grounded in the period it was made. This has resulted in some strange occurrences (such as Justforkix owning a cellphone pidgeon in Asterix and The Vikings from 2006). 

This movie also does a lot better animation-wise. Grounded, the former movies (especially Asterix and Cleopatra) had very good, imaginative pictures. However, this movie has better colouring, better backgrounds and the characters stay much more on model than in former installments. This looks like a big budget movie. Though I have to say the shading is very sparse, the artists instead choosing to make the colors flat a lot of the time. This leads to some of the scenes feeling very flat, it feels like you're watching a movie and that is a problem. It's a bit weirding seeing as Asterix Versus Caesar from the prior year had fantastic shading. 

This is a fun movie, it doesn't allow you to put much thought into what's going on and instead just throws 90 minutes worth of laughs at you. The cheese factor is high in this one, so if you're picky about history you might want to turn off your brain for a bit. It allows for a lot of silly explanations for real world things, such as why tea is so big in England. This story is a jestful mocking of neighbours from the French, not feeling mean spirited in any way.

After the Storm (2001)

Film: After the Storm
Release: 2001, Television
Starring: Armand Assante, Mili Avital, Benjamin Bratt
Directed by: Guy Ferland
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When a luxury yacht goes down outside the coast of Binimi, the race is on for the treasures within

Hans' thoughts:

This movie is based on a short story by the award winning author, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was the creator of the so-called Iceberg style, a writing style in which you only get the visual representation. Like a floating camera in the room, you never get to see or hear a characters thoughts. This movie follows that type of narrative, unfortunately it just doesn't do it very well.

Let's start with the feel of the movie. The movie is very slow, making the audience put effort into not falling asleep. I'm thinking it was supposed to feel like a person would on a hot day, the story taking place in a tropic klima. This could have worked with a stronger cast. While Armand Assante did a very good job at portraying Jean Pierre, every other actor just sort of waddled through the movie. Benjamin Bratt for whatever reason choosing to channel Dirty Harry in his performance. None of the other actors do a much better job, as it felt like I was watching a school play. The actors having quickly rehearsed their lines before coming to stage.

As for the look of the movie, this is it's strong point. You get the sense of suspense from when the shark is around in the sunken ship. A dark place where everything is very cramped and claustrophobic. But that's really the only points I can give it.

Unless you really love this story beforehand, I recommend giving this movie a pass.


The Wolverine (2013)

Film: The Wolverine
Release: 2013, theatrical
Starring: Hugh JackmanTao OkamotoRila Fukushima
Directed by: James Mangold
Previous in the series: X-Men: First Class
Next in the series: X-Men: Days of Future Past
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Logan is in exile, haunted by memories of Jean Grey when he's approached by the young woman Yukio, her employer was saved by Logan during the Nagasaki bombing and wants to thank him before his impending death.

Hans' thoughts:

X-Men is one of those very long and complicated comic book series, always very reliant on drama. I consider it the hardest series to keep track off if you've been out of the loop for a while. Jokingly, you could call it the "Days of our Lives" of superhero comics. Of all the characters on this long running team, one of the arguably most popular is Wolverine. He's a tough, no-nonsense, animalistic warrior of a man. Armed with claws coming out of his fists and a regenerative ability making him nearly immortal. Which is why it makes sense that Wolverine got his own spin-off series, originally done by comic book superstar Frank Miller (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns, 300) in a 12-issue mini-series. In it, Wolverine went to Japan, fighting as a sort of superpowered samurai against larger than life foes. This movie is based loosely on that series.

The same goes for the movies actually, The X-Men series might be the longest single run of movies based on a single superhero franchise thus far. What I'm trying to say is, you might want to brush up on the events of the original X-Men trilogy before choosing to see this movie. I saw a lot of people in the theatre mumbling confused to each other, some of them even ending up leaving the theatre. I personally didn't find the story all that hard to follow though.

Geeking out aside, this movie is in the upper half of the X-Men movie spectrum. X-Men and X-Men 2 were arguably the best ones, followed by First Class and now this one. Then you have X-Men: The Last Stand and in the far bottom X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So where does this differ from the other Wolverine centered movie? Well, while the former Wolverine movie was a prequel movie about his (very complicated) past, it actually didn't focus much on story. Instead it was just a series of action scenes with a loosely put together plot. This however, is an actual story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It doesn't feel the need to throw in action merely for the sake of action but instead it goes for making the events seem like natural results of what occurs on screen. If that makes a lick of sense. X-Men Origins: Wolverine also had a lot of cameos, the most infamous being that of popular team member Gambit, who were in the thing for about 5 minutes, seeming like he was there for the sake of putting a stop to the fanletters asking for him to make an appearance. Thankfully, this movie doesn't pull something like that either. If you're expecting something akin to the other X-Men movies, you're out of luck. This movie has a complete tonal shift from the others, being more akin to Japanese samurai movies. Of course it's rated PG-13 so it has a lot less blood splatter than an actual Japanese movie would have. It's overall darker, whereas the X-Men movies is pretty much "Look at all the cool stuff all these characters can do" with a lot of special effects and action this one doesn't actually as heavily on mere eye candy. No, this movie instead digs deep into the drama. This is something I've hoped for, for quite a long time.

Of course, this story also had a lot easier time being told. Wolverine's backstory has had an oceans worth of reboots. It seems like every new writer wants to offer their own take on what and who Wolverine is. With that out of the way however, there's no need to explain who Wolverine is. This is a sequel, and it rightly assumes that most of the audience knows the character. Though I would have preffered a big "2" on the end of the title, as to better inform audiences but that's a general pet peeve of mine. The story also has a pretty good twists, and some of the most fun action scenes the series has managed to put on screen in quite a while. Of course it has to be mentioned that yes, there is indeed shaky cam in this movie. However, aside from one scene inside a train (Where I had to squint to spot the action) I really didn't have any trouble seeing what was going on.

If you're like me and missed some substance to balance out the action in some of the former installments, rest assured. This is actually a good movie. I had a lot of fun watching it. It's also pretty entertaining if you just missed Hugh Jackman playing this character and needed your Wolverine fix in the waiting time for X-Men: Days of Future Past.


The slowing down of updates

Due to various personal matters, as you may have noticed, the updates have slowed down significantly. As such I'm making this update to make you know that yes, the site is still very much alive. Tons of stuff is going on behind the scenes and we may have some new kinds of content coming your way in the future. That's still in the future though and therefore all I can ask you to do is keep checking back, if you want to know about new stuff right away, I urge you to click the handy dandy Facebook button on the left of this article and liking our page. There, we will post a link to the new articles as soon as they're up. For now, I can only say enjoy what's left of your summer and we'll be sure to bring you new content as soon as possible.


Story-liners: The Last of Us (2013)

Game: The Last of Us
Release: 2013, Retail
System: Sony Playstation 3
Starring: Ashley Johnson, Hana Hayes, Troy Baker
Directed by: Bruce Stanley
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: 20 years after the near-destruction of mankind, the smugglers Joel and Tess are hired to escort a young girl through the now dangerous and overgrown lands of the former U.S.A.

Hans' thoughts:

Already when the trailers for this game came out, it was apparent that this would be a visually stunning experience. However, looks isn't everything when it comes to videogames, so thankfully the gameplay goes right along with it. But this is story-liners! So how about the story?

As little as I'd like to admit it, female characters have never found much dignity in gaming. Video games are, to this day, primarily a male oriented hobby and it shows; Female characters are almost always grounded in the prospect of eye-candy. In a few cases, characters is too fancy a description of some of the female representations in gaming. I tell you this because Ellie, the main female protagonist, may very well be the most dignified, complete female character I've ever encountered. She may not be brave right out of the bag - but she's believably concerned. After all, this is a world infested with zombies - and this bunch is a nasty one. Not only does Ellie not seem perfect at the beginning, she doesn't seem completely broken and useless either. She's grown up in a quarantined area and has a such never had to fend for herself - she learns how to do that and so much more. Ellie is resourceful, witty and nice to be around. The player get's genuinely concerned for her safety, giving the player an incentive to look out for her - beyond the mere aspect of it being the objective of the adventure. Now, this could have been a case of just one really well-written female character with the others being two-dimensional but no, every single female character we actually get to spend time with grows as a character, and shows us a lot of sides of their personalities. You'll find no sultry femme fatales or damsels in distress here. But likewise, the characters aren't just need-no-man tomboys. They're just people who live in a very, very dangerous world and has had to adapt to that fact.

Other than females, this game also handles loss extremely well. As it should, again, this game takes place after the gosh darn fall of human civilization. Our main character Joel has seen some serious stuff and has done less than honorable things to survive for the last 20 years. We see him before and after the fall of humanity and see just how different he's become. Which he should have, people grow all their life and Joel is not exception. Is he a bad person? Well the story seems to let the audience decide that for themselves - not through the popular method of a moral choice system. No, the game is actually pretty linear, they just show Joel as he is and the things he does in order to make it to the next day. That said, he's thankfully not completely cold about murder and he's not ignoring the moral ambiguity of the things he's done. He's just learned to live with it in order to survive - that's what makes him compelling to me. He knows what he does is completely insane, but he doesn't dwell on it. He doesn't joke about it either, he just doesn't talk about it.

As for the actual plot - while some outcomes are sort of obvious in the eyes of the trained viewer, the story actually threw me through a loop more than a few times. This story has some great twists and turns and everytime is as surprising as the next. It doesn't go Shyamalon however, it knows how to balance out the surprises with the heartfelt interaction between characters and the absolute horror of the dangers they face. Let's keep it to just stating that zombies isn't the only threat waiting for the main characters out there. Far from it.

If you want a great send-off to this console generation, as well as just one of the best survival stories out there, you should pick up The Last of Us. While zombies have become fairly frequent these days - most times less successful than others, The Last of Us doesn't actually make this a body-count fest and instead focus on what made the genre good to begin with. The human race and what happens to it when everything goes completely haywire - as told by some of the most well-rounded characters in story-telling.

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Film: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
Release: 2007, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: David Yates
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When Harry and his muggle-cousin Dudley are attacked by Dementors, Harry is expelled from Hogwarts for fending them off - underaged wizards aren't allowed to use magic outside of school.

Hans' thoughts:

Here we are, the fifth story of the bunch. Like Prisoner of Azkaban, this had a lot of potential for basing the movie on a main theme. No, this movie actually takes after Goblet of Fire. Only the quality has started to not only fall into blandness, but stagnate. Granted, being true to the source material is more important than anything - but making the movie actually enjoyable to watch should be deemed just a important. Order of the Phoenix is a story about trust, standing up for your values and learning how to rely on the help of others. It's a pretty good morale, and had the movie delved into the story's theme as much as Azkaban did, there could have been something great here.

Unfortunately the movie just seems to blurt out an abridged version of the book of sorts. These are the most important moments from the book - read it if you care to learn more. I have to say that I suspect the character of Grawp wouldn't even have been introduced had he not been a part of the story's climax. This story also does the same thing I liked so much about Azkaban - to a lesser extent. Whereas in Azkaban, the villain was merely a result of Voldemort in this movie Voldemort himself appears yet again for the final battle. Although through most of the movie the more immediate threat is that of Dolores Umbridge, the newly appointed high inquisitor of Hogwarts delegated by The Ministry of Magic.

In the book, Umbridge has a lot of facets that makes her a complete character, from her insane devotion to the Minister of Magic, her sadistic nature, to her ultimate driving force being that of order - inspiring such 'charming' aspects as actually being downright racist towards magical creatures. This is sort of acknowledged in the movie, but it doesn't really drive the point home as much as I had hoped. Dolores Umbridge is a pretty obvious caricature of the former Prime minister of England - Margaret Thatcher. 

So the whole issue of the movie is as such: Voldemort has returned in full force. Of course, the only one that actually witnessed his return was Harry himself. Meaning that now the ministry of magic is too comfortable with peace to believe him and he has to deal with the pressure of everyone considering him a liar. This could have been a great movie about dealing with that, the whole thing could have been based on the nature of trust because the original story was so grounded in that concept. Everyone's trust gets tested in this story, and they could have gone so far with it.

So that's the movies biggest fault, it tried way too hard to just play it safe and do whatever happened in the book without questioning why. The movie is all presentation and no substance.


Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (2005)

Film: Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
Release: 2005, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: Mike Newell
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Leading up to his 4th year at Hogwarts, Harry is taken by his friends the Weasley family to see the Quidditch World Cup.

Hans' thoughts:

So once again we have a new Harry Potter and once again we have a completely different movie than the former. With Alfonso Cuarón out of the picture we now have Mike Newell. Whereas Cuarón played very much on the horror aspect of the franchise, Newell's approach is much more grounded in traditional fantasy.  That said, this is also a story in which we get a lot more information on magical creatures, and some more insight into the politics of the wizard society.

Of course the main event(s) of the story is thus: Harry is back at another year at Hogwarts, everything seems quite simple - they even cut out the Dursley's this time around. Which is quite refreshing, as the stories were getting rather formulaic. This time, Headmaster Dumbledore announces that Hogwarts has been chosen as host for a major competition called the tri-wizard tournament. What it basically is, is some kind of Olympic Championship wherein the three biggest schools of wizard society participate in skill. This also gives us a little bit of insight - not much though - in international wizard relationships. This is something this movie is the first one to do, in the books however we did get the odd mention of international wizards when Harry read the news. A running gag seems to be middle-eastern countries refusing to give up flying carpets. In any case, none of that has been mentioned in the movies and here we get our first meet with international wizards. We get the french school of magic for girls, Beauxbaton. Apparently all girls at Beaubaton must wear revealing capes and make suggesting gestures towards the men of Hogwarts. 

Where Cuarón had changed a lot of stuff from the second movie to his own, this movie curiously enough decided to stick with his changes - the character (played again, by Warwick Davis in what should have been a cameo appearance) that's never referred to as Professor Flitwick in "Prisoner..", merely "the conductor", suddenly lends it's appearance as what would become the permanent appearance of Flitwick for the remainder of the movies. Another consistency is the color-scheming of the movie, as this also settles very much in the grey and light-blue patterns. Albeit a bit more colorful than "Prisoner". 

As for the acting, I can finally tell that a lot of these actors have grown into their roles. I have to say though, if there's one change from the books to the movie I wouldn't have minded it would be the removal of Cedric Diggory. Cedric wasn't much of a character in the book and being played by stone-faced Robert Pattinson in the movie version certainly doesn't help his cause. I would call him a two-dimensional character, but that would argue he had a character to begin with. As such I would hereby like to grant Cedric Diggory the prestigious "Pointless-character-brought-into-the-forefront award". Congratulations Cedric, may this award be as rare as it is snarky.

Is this a bad movie? No it isn't. It's saved by the interesting plot that the book had - but trust me, it doesn't really have much else. It serves to move the plot forward, but whereas the former stories had such pronounced themes, this one just kind of happens. It's a spectacle movie first and foremost, and by now most of the audience had started using the "Might as well finish the series when I got this far" excuse, giving the company leisure enough to not really try anything out or go all-out. While still attempting to make the movie bearable or entertaining enough to not completely bore it's audience. It's a shame, because the story could have offered so much more. As it stands, this leaves me with the feeling that the quality of these productions had started to stagnate.


Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

This was actually the least awful poster
Film: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Release: 2004, theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After running away from home in the time leading up to his 3rd semester at Hogwarts, Harry Potter learns that a convicted felon named Sirius Black has escaped the wizard prison known as Azkaban and is looking for him.

Hans' thoughts:

This one marked the change of a few things for the Harry Potter cinematic series. First off, It starts the era of mood-change. Having left the directors chair, Chris Columbus left a significant gap that other director had a hard time filling out for a while. The series not getting a returning director till the release of Order of The Phoenix, the director in question being David Yates. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. This is the work of Alfonso Cuarón, a man who's work both before and after this movie is not particularly well-known. Not going to hold that against him though. The mood of this movie is a lot more haunting than the former movies. While Chamber of Secrets did delve into the potential for horror the franchise has, it was still firmly grounded in the action-adventure genre. This one not so much. The theme of the story is very much fear and helplessness, and the creators sure managed to drive that point home. The story features the scariest Harry Potter creation yet, The Dementors. Faceless hooded creatures that live off of fear and makes you relive the darkest moment of your life. This is dark stuff, and it fits the surrounding environment very much. The color scheme of the movie has also changed a lot. Whereas the former movies had a lot of warmth, most of Hogwarts being dimly lit by torches, this movie has a lot of cold colors. Grey and white are very much dominant in this movie. It actually got to a point where it got a little too much, they could have loosened up on the darkness just a little bit.

Bookwise, this story is my favorite of the lot. Partly because it's one of the few books that actually kind of ignores Voldemort. Whereas the villain in the two former stories was the Dark Lord himself in some form or another, this one actually just tells a story about how bad everything can turn up when you let your life be ruled by fear. This story also by far has the best twist, and the most mystery surrounding the main villain. We never actually get to see the Prisoner of Azkaban till the final part of the final act, everything up until then being foreshadowing. Some of the foreshadowing being better than other I should note - if you know the story already some of the foreshadowing actually gets a bit tedious. Speaking of tediousness, while the comedy of the book was the best of the series this movie just kind of falls flat. Now don't get me wrong, you will most likely laugh at one or two jokes, but the best part of the book is the physical comedy - which the movie seems to ignore completely save for a single moment. A moment that the movie was kinda forced to show, due to the plot. I'm not saying they should have engaged it completely as it wouldn't match the tone but really, it would have been nice with just something to lighten up the mood sometimes.

As for the sets, did they lose the old ones? Hogwarts looks a lot different this time around, some locations having completely changed from where they were in the previous movie. The most obvious being the entrance to the Gryffindor quarters. They moved a whole corridor, did they think the audience wouldn't notice? Speaking of goof-offs, when we first meet Ron and Hermione this time around, Harry walks through a corridor where we clearly see Crookshanks (a cat) chasing Scabbers (a rat) in the opposite direction. However, when the camera pans to the end of the corridor following Harry, Ron and Hermione is at the end of a staircase each holding their respective pet. This could have been fixed by just making the cat and rat run in the same direction Harry was facing, so Ron and Hermione holding them would've been plausible. There's also a few things we get explained in a single line of dialogue in the book, that they apparently decided to ignore in the movie - such as why Remus Lupin knows about the Marauder's Map. We're just kinda meant to assume on that point.

My gripes aside, it's a perfectly serviceable movie. When the movie came out and I saw it as a kid, I remember absolutely hating it. However, after I've become older and rewatched it for this review. I kinda liked it. It did a lot better job tail-ending a lot of stuff it set up, and when they actually bothered with showing us magic it looked pretty plausible. So color me pleasantly surprised.

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Film: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
Release: 2002, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Previous in the series: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's stone
Next in the Series: Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Before his return to Hogwarts for his second school year, Harry Potter is visited by the house elf Dobby who warns him not to return for the sake of his own safety.

Hans' thoughts:

Once again we're brought into the magical world of Harry Potter, this time giving us a bit more insight into normal day-to-day wizard life. While "Sorcerer's Stone" was very much about being introduced to the wizard society and had a very adventurous feel to it, Chamber of Secrets is the first of the Potter stories to anchor onto the horror aspect of the series. Something that would be a defining feature for the movies to come. As far as sequels do, this movie does exactly what a movie should do. It has more locations, more characters, higher stakes and a larger than life story. Chamber of Secrets is just a much bigger movie overall. Now, this movie does have some aspects of which it is lesser than Sorcerer's Stone. First off, the shots are not nearly as ambitious as the former movie, Indeed it straight up copies the famous shot from Alien. The movie also has a lot more of a cartoony feel to it. It plays much more on the comedy of the book, which is kinda weird considering the high potential for horror this particular story has.

However, to it's credit the comedy kind of works out as a saving grace. As the movies tone manages to keep the creepiness abound but without making it completely dull - which I imagine a full-on childrens horror story could have done. As such it becomes more of an adventure story. I have to admit, I absolutely adore the sets of this movie. While the actual CGI has aged a bit worse than in Sorcerer's, the sets are as great as ever. From the look of the Weasley household, to the staircase leading up to Professor Dumbledore's office. The actual Chamber of Secrets is actually very creepy, though a bit of a letdown after all the build up. I mean hey, the title of the thing is "Chamber of Secrets" so I didn't expect it to be so.. empty. However, as it stands the climax is exciting enough to make it unnoticeable. The villains of the movie is also a lot more interesting, Lucius Malfoy making for a very real threat. We also get some backstory for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In all seriousness, if we're only going by the movies this was needed - badly! He was barely established in Sorcerer's. 

As for the acting, I can't feel the difference when it comes to the child actors. They're still kind of stumbling through it, but good enough that it doesn't take you out of the experience. The addition of Kenneth Branagh is a fun change though, He makes for a fun character. This is the movie of the series I've seen the most, as this is the one that came out when my Harry Potter fandom was at it's peak. As such, this remains to this day my absolute favorite - as opposed to the ones coming up. But we'll talk about those when we get to them.


Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

I personally think this particular poster is
some of artist Drew Struzan's finest work
Film: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone
Alternate Title: Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone (original British book-title)
Alternate Versions: Theatrical/Ultimate
Release: 2001, Theatrical
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Next in the series: Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Harry Potter lives under the stairs in the house of his extended family, The Dursleys. Being an unwanted houseguest most of his life, everything changes when an extreme amount of strange letters arrive at the household.

Hans' thoughts:

Harry Potter as a franchise, is quite the rarity. Nevermind the actual quality of the individual works in the series (movies, books or otherwise). No, what makes Harry Potter special is that for a few years, everyone was talking about fantasy. For whatever reason, right there and then in the early 2000's tons of fantasy stories was being adapted to movie form. This includes series like Narnia and The Golden Compass. I like to think that this is due to the success of this movie, and the other major fantasy movie coming out that year - The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Suddenly out of nowhere, two of the biggest fantasy book series get movie adaptations the same year and they both completely wrecked the notions of how niche-genres do at the box office. Suddenly, geekdom took over Hollywood.

Other than that, imagine how risky it must've been to actually pour money into this movie. Here you've got Warner Bros., a major movie-making company since the birth of Hollywood pouring a severe amount money into what? An up-and-coming British children's' book series starring mostly child or somewhat unknown actors and with a high need for special effects! They really took a risk with this, popular books or no we're talking about a movie that needs to believably feature: monsters, ghosts and flying broomsticks amongst other things. Meaning a lot of the budget was poured into the special effects I imagine. You've also got some pretty big names attached to it (Maggie Smith, John Hurt, Alan Rickman). Whoever pitched this movie must've had a tongue made of solid silver.

That's great and all, but how does it hold up today? Well, not too shabby I'd say. With regards to acting, I'm actually impressed with how well some of the child actors did - considering that for most of them, this was their debut. The special effects are still kind of nice to look at, while some of it tends to look a little bit dated (a certain beast in a certain bathroom springs to mind) I have to say I had a hard time telling how old is was at times. The best example of a scene that's aged really well is what I will simply refer to as "The Chess Scene" where the animation was top notch. The movie also presents some stunning shots, the most iconic is probably the rowboats with lanterns crossing the lake in the dark, with the screen panning up to reveal the dimly lit castle of Hogwarts.

Now, I do have some gripes with this movie. While some of it's problems can be explained with "It's a childrens story" I have to point out the flaw of the pacing. The most of the movie is actually paced quite well, you have Harry exploring the wizards alternate world and you get to see how detailed the universe is. From it's own fully realized sport down to what kind of candy is available on a wizards train-ride is in this movie. However, I could have done with some more screen time for some of the teacher characters of the movie. The book did a much better job of setting up the twist at the end of the movie and we could overall just have done with more scenes of the characters going to class. As it stands though, I realize that children probably couldn't have sat through how much longer the movie would have had to be to address that.

As far as kids movies go, this sits in the upper-half of the spectrum. It managed to capture the imagination of millions of children worldwide and turn a whole generation of gamers and TV-slaves into readers, at least for a little while. The movie manages to be enjoyable to adults as well, and I am glad I decided to revisit it.


50/50 (2011)

Film: 50/50
Release: 2011, theatrical
Starring: Joseph Gordon Lewitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: The young radio-editor Adam finds out he has a rare form of genetic spinal cancer. The movie follows his experiences with trying to cope with it.

Hans' thoughts:

So when I heard that this movie was a comedy about cancer starring Seth Rogen, I didn't exactly jump for joy. Cancer is a touchy subject to say the least, and Rogen is a very silly actor.

Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised, this movie not only manages to be touching, it manages to capture the pressure that everyone is under when someone in the family is going through something awful. I really like that, I feel that a lot of fiction dealing with something like this, medical tv-shows in particular, only focus on what the person dealing with the decease have to go through. They tend to forget that the rest of the family and friends is dealing with the potential loss of someone close to them. This movie addresses that part pretty well, without over-simplifying the problems of the main character.

I also feel that the comedy of this movie was pretty good. The problem with reviewing comedy is of course that everyone has their own sense of humor. But I think the jokes were general enough that anyone could "get" them. They manage to keep the funny parts funny, and the serious parts.. well, serious. It's actually a pretty big compliment from my side as not many movies get that balance right. Either they make it completely comedic or they just wallow in tragedy, making the movie watching experience almost unbearable.

I'll recommend this movie to couples especially, it sits close to what many would call "chick flicks" but without being overly dramatic or romantic. The men in the couples will actually manage to keep awake for this one, mostly due to the presence of Seth Rogen as the main characters best friend. Does this movie have failed jokes? Well. Yes. There are some of the jokes related to his job that kinda fall flat - mostly because we don't actually see that much of his day-to-day life. What we see is mostly circumstantial.

All in all, this ended up not being a comedy with a dramatic centerpiece, but rather a pretty touching drama with a couple of jokes thrown in to lighten the mood. Are the actors good? Well, while Seth Rogen does his job pretty well, I have to say that Lewitt himself felt kind of - wooden. There wasn't very much of an expression on his face most of the time and sometimes his delivery just felt read aloud. He was better than some of the minor bi-roles but not by much. Especially the two female leads in the movie were very two-dimensionally written. But I guess that's the terms of writing romance as a sub-plot. It makes it feel kinda forced if it isn't done well.


Help! I'm a Fish (2000)

Film: Help! I'm a Fish
Alternate title: A Fish Tale
Release: 2000, theatrical
Starring: Alan Rickman, Terry Jones, Aaron Paul
Directed by: Stefan Fjeldmark Michael Hegner Greg Manwaring 
Description: When three kids sneak out for a fishing trip, an accident involving a strange potion and a nutty professor turn them into aquatic animals. They have to get the antidote before 48 hours has passed or they'll be sea creatures forever!

Hans' thoughts:

This movie was a very big deal when it came out. It was a fully-fledged Disney-like Danish produced animation. While Denmark has certainly produced animated movies before, never to this extent. 

So you have this pretty cool setup, three kids encounter a friendly but bumbling professor and through unfortunate events they end up turned into aquatic animals and thrown into the sea. Well, I say aquatic animals but through the movie all three of them are referred to simply as "fish". This is strange, considering that only one of them are actually turned into an actual fish. The two others are turned into a starfish and a jellyfish. I know the word "fish" is in their names but that doesn't actually make them.. oh you don't care.

The strongest point of this movie is it's visuals. Well-deserving of the setting of the sea, this movie has some beautiful sceneries and visuals. At times, this movie get's considerably dark, the villains live in a sunken freight ship which lends itself really well to some absolutely grim imagery. The high-point of this being a scene in which Joe, played by Alan Rickman, has his villain song. It draws a lot of parallels to nazi germany, north korea and soviet russia. You see, the potion that would just have served as an antidote to the kids actually works to make normal sea creatures more intelligent. It's not very plausible but it makes for a nice plot device. 

The songs in the movie is well.. it was made in 2000, so you get a lot of 90's Europop in there. There are two songs sung by actual characters in the movies, but they could be so much better. I have to admit, I'm not really a fan of Alan Rickmans singing voice compared to the Danish version. Rickman has this very pronounced voice that's easy to recognize but it just doesn't lend itself to singing in deep monotone. If you want to hear Alan Rickman singing considerably well, go check out Sweeney Todd.

All in all, I consider this movie to be fiercely underrated, certainly better than some of the Disney movies that came out at the same time (Pocahontas spring to mind). However, that isn't really saying much. You can take this as proof that European animators know their trade just as well as Japanese or American.Kids will probably love it though.


Garfield The Movie (2004)

Film: Garfield The Movie
Release: 2004, theatrical
Starring: Bill Murray, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Breckin Meyer
Directed by: Peter Hewitt
Next in the series: Garfield 2 - A Tail of Two Kitties
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Garfield the cat lives with his owner Jon Arbuckle on a dead-end street. Garfield being a walking ego, lives in total luxury until Jon is talked into adopting a dog by the vet he has a crush on.

 Hans' thoughts:

Of all the properties to make a movie about, Garfield is a very weird choice. Well-known for the newspaper strip of the same name, Garfield is a about a fat house cat that tortures those around him to feed his own greed. He likes lasagna, he loves to watch TV and he embodies cats as well as their owners pretty well. I can see why some might think that the humor of Garfield might translate well to the big screen, but as a live-action movie? Eh..

Okay let's get the casting out of the way first. As far as Garfield himself goes, Bill Murray is pretty much the perfect choice as the sarcastic cat. Murray's own comedic career is based very much in being a sarcastic, self-centered jerk on screen and that goes very much hand in hand with Garfield. The rest of the casting is pretty weird, the most questionable choice being Jennifer Love Hewitt as Liz the vet. In the comic strip, she's just as sarcastic as Garfield but in this movie she's played very much as the one-note love interest for Breckin Meyer's way too socially capable Jon. No seriously, in the comics Jon is supposed to be this wacky, socially awkward loser but in the movie he just seems like.. some guy. He's just way too successful in this movie.

The movie is filled with weird choices like this, such as making Garfield the only entirely computer generated character. The other talking animals in this movie are just real animals with weird looking computer effects pasted on top. I realise that making every single animal computer animated would have been expensive and that making Garfield just a normal-looking cat wouldn't have lent itself well to the visual gags - but really, I'm questioning the purpose of making the movie live-action at all as it stands.

This mix-up of CGI and real animals was just way too distracting
As for the plot, well it stays sort of true to the comic strip. We get a new origin story for Odie, we get Garfield just wasting time in front of the TV and we get a lot of familiar characters thrown in. There are new characters here, but they're not really imposing that much on the regulars. In actuality, even the main villain barely gets screentime. Speaking of the main villain, could they have tried any harder to make the perfect opposite of Garfield? He's a bald guy with an inferiority complex that's allergic to cats and hates lasagna. It's like the black smurf's from the Smurf comics that's evil and nasty because, well, the story tells them to.

As far as a Garfield the Cat story goes, I suppose you could have gone with a worse plot. I just really think they should have considered just making it an animated feature instead and stuck with it. The cgi cat certainly looks like Garfield, but it just looks so out of place in a live-action feature where it's the only cgi animal around. In the Scooby-Doo movie, the only animal aside from the random passing bird in the far away horizon was Scooby himself. It sort of worked because there were no real animals on screen to compare it to. The jokes in this movie are also really hit and miss, while Garfield himself gets the occasional one-liner there's not really much to salvage in it.

This movie would only serve well on services like Netflix or Hulu. Maybe a rental at best. If you're curious, sure. Give it a try. I just personally think you're better off watching the 80's TV-show Garfield & Friends instead. That or just reading the comic strip. As it stands, this movie is just downright bland.

Korkusuz (1986)

Film: Korkusuz
Alternate title(s): Rampage, Turkish Rambo
Release: 1986, theatrical
Starring: Serdar Kebapçilar, Hüseyin Peyda, Sümer Tilmaç
Directed by: Çetin Inanç
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When a wealthy businessman is captured by a gang of mountain bandits, the only one that can save the day is the war veteran Serdar - His only goal, to live honorably!

Hans' thoughts:

Sometimes, a movie comes along that is just so crazy that it's really hard for me not to have at least a slimmer of affection for it. No matter how absolutely ridiculously bad it is. This is such a movie.

This movie is actually harder to describe than I thought it would be, In essence it's a pretty blatant rip-off of the Rambo movies but with a original plot. Serdar is some kind of commando/war veteran that gets blamed for the kidnapping of a wealthy businessman. He's sent to jail, and makes a deal with his cellmates to help break them out if he can join the mountain bandits that did the kidnapping in the first place. Throughout the movie, Serdar himself doesn't really speak a lot of dialogue. Instead he just stares at the camera. 

Had this been a better movie, less would have been more. Serdar is obviously not all that good an actor - this is visible even through the dub. Making him be mostly silent could have been a very good choice. Unfortunately, the camera work of the movie is just not strong enough to convey what the actor can't so instead the characters motivation become sort of vague. Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that? I found myself getting kind of distracted by looking around the room to pass the time because I barely understood any of what was going on, on screen.

While the other characters motivations are definitely clear, their actual personalities are barely existent. This is a shame because some of these actors seem like they could have done a very good job with a better script. Instead the villains are dimensionless and the heroes are kind of, wooden. A lot of the henchmen also do a lot of laughing for no apparent reason. The movie seems to try and set up Serdar as this patriotic, family oriented hero. At one point he saves a family from a gang of mountain bandits and while it could have been a very fun little scene, it feels kind of forced.

As for the actual action, it is what you would expect from a low budget production. The weapons act kind of off, although the explosion work is actually pretty good. Unfortunately, the main source of action in this movie is hand-to-hand combat. The hand-to-hand combat in this movie is one of the most ridiculously over-the-top spectacles I have seen on screen for quite a while. I've seen student projects with more believable combat than what this movie provides. On top of that, the stage falls have this kind of unprofessional delay, sometimes with a whole second after the cause between the falls. Indeed, even the death-scenes are kind of awkward, as the actors in question seem like they tried to make their falls as comfortable as possible, or are just careful not to damage equipment. An old man in this movie clearly puts his walkietalkie neatly to the side before lying his head down on the ground, dead. 

Speaking of the walkies, if you're going to use toy-walkies for your movie, here's a hint: Do not zoom in on the logo saying "Junior". The walkies even looked very believable, so the choice to zoom in on them just baffles me. I have to say though, props for sticking to your guns and straight up roll with it. I'm guessing the budget was the cause of using children's toys, but other film makers had tried to hide that fact as to not kill the audiences suspension of disbelief.

All in all, this movie was a neat little piece of history, a testament to how utterly strange the world is sometimes. I have to say though, this DVD will most like not be seen again in my household for quite a while. Until such a time comes, it will sit on my shelf as a fun little oddity alongside Reptilicus. I'm not saying that I regret I saw it, I probably just won't revisit it.


The Lone Ranger (2013)

Film: The Lone Ranger
Release: 2013, theatrical
Starring: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, Tom Wilkinson
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: On a train headed for hanging sits Butch Cavendish, the worst outlaw in recent memory. On the same train sits the newly appointed district attorney John Reid, and he's about to get very much in over his head.

Hans' thoughts:

I don't think most people from my generation really know who The Lone Ranger is. This is why I kind of doubt the validity of making a Lone Ranger movie so long after the original serials run. It's also strange considering that The Green Hornet already had his modern movie years ago. But I guess that's how it is. Movie companies are willing to revive almost any franchise these days on the slim chance that it will make them a quick buck.

This movie is very much a product of the times we live in. Now, more than ever, Hollywood pumps out adaptations of every character that even smells of superhero. It's a money-making movie, but that doesn't mean it's bad. No actually, while the movie may ride on the success of both Pirates of the Carribean (the connection to that movie series being mentioned in all promotional material) and the current success of the superhero movie genre - I really found myself enjoying it. Indeed, the connection to the Pirates movie series is not actually that far fetched, beyond the casting choice of Johnny Depp I mean.

The movie plays very much the same nature as the first Pirates movie, Armie Hammer being the wide-eyed, by-the-books innocent hero to bounce off of Johnny Depp's very energetic broken hero. It is very much the same character dynamic as that of Orlando Blooms chemistry as Will Turner with Depp's insanely popular Jack Sparrow. What it seems to me they tried to do, was make a repeat performance of what Pirates did. In essence, take a genre that has seen a decline and try to put it back in the minds of the children. It is very much a high adventure movie that seems to focus on catching the attention of kids. I'm not saying it's a bad business plan, I just think the timing is a little weird. Opening the movie the same weekend as the sequel to an already popular franchise (in this case, Despicable Me 2) is never all that good of an idea. 

Even though she's on the EU poster, Carter doesn't actually
get all that much screen time in this movie.
So to those of you that don't know (and I expect a lot of you) The Lone Ranger was a radio-play turned cinematic series in the 40's and 50's. It followed the adventures of a masked cowboy riding with his partner and mentor Tonto to be vigilantes in the old west. Most of the clichés you think of when you think of the cowboy genre originated in this series. Right down to the use of a sped-up version of the Wilhelm Tell Overture, today a piece of music very much associated with westerns right along the theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The Lone Ranger was very much a part of the reason kids played cowboys and Indians back in the day.

As such the movie actually manages to capture the spirit of The Lone Ranger very well. Intentionally or not, it is also very much full of elements from the Lucky Luke comic book series. That being the type of humor used. If you're still not so hot on the concept of a Lone Ranger adaptation, you can think of it as a Lucky Luke adaptation instead. The movie has a lot of the elements you would combine with the western genre, chases, train robberies, the cavalry fighting native Americans, they even put in an old fashioned whorehouse. 

The plot is what you would expect from a PG-rated western. It encompasses the newly built railroad, the relationship between native Americans and the newly formed U.S. government, the dog-eat-dog world that the romanticized west has and a bit of weird spirituality thrown in to give the movie a mystical element.I'm actually quite impressed with how accurately the movie recaptured the spirit of that particular genre while still staying somewhat fresh. It most definitely uses CGI unnecessarily at some points but at the same time the special effects are mostly used for comedy so it's kind of forgivable. No Hollywood, CGI rabbits will never look good.

Is this movie anything special? No, it most definitely isn't. It's kind of forgettable in how "okay" it is. But as a summer blockbuster it does it job. If you happen to go to the cinema to waste an evening or afternoon, this is worth the price-point of entrance. But nothing more. If you don't have the cash to go see it in theaters, consider tracking it down after a price-drop. It's serviceable enough and a lot of fun while you actually sit in the theater. And I'm okay with that, sometimes you don't need any more.

Bean (1997)

Film: Bean
Alternate title: Bean - The Ultimate Disaster Movie
Release: 1997, theatrical
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Peter MacNicol, Pamela Reed
Directed by:  Mel Smith
Next in the series: Mr. Bean's Holiday
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After the chairman of the Royal National Gallery is denied the power to simply fire Mr. Bean, he sends him to America for the unveiling of the famous Whistler's Mother painting instead. Under the guise of an intellectual art professor.

Hans' thoughts:

How do you turn an almost completely silent character into the turning point of a 90 minute movie? Is it even possible? Mr. Bean is the character in question - and they certainly did a very good job of trying!

I say 'trying', but that's not really fair to the movie itself. When it comes to the visual gags - the whole point of Mr. Bean - the movie certainly delivers. Rowan Atkinson is in tip-top shape as the ultimate walking disaster that is Mr. Bean. Peter MacNicol is also the perfect foil to Bean, as he just embodies frustration so well in this movie. The poor character is tortured to absolutely extreme extents and Peter MacNicol really does the job well. I guess I just like his look, he really looks the part.

However, when it comes to the actual meat of the movie - the plot - the movie just kind of fails. So you have this amazing setup; the chairman of the Royal National Gallery cannot fire Mr. Bean. At the same time the American gallery, 'The Grierson' has gotten back the painting Whistler's Mother from the French thanks to an anonymous donor. The Grierson asks the Royal National Gallery to send a big name art professor to give a speech about the painting at the day of the reveal. The chairman sees an opportunity and sends Bean instead. The setup is very good, and there is definitely a lot you can do with the concept of having Bean come to America. Anyone who's seen the original series can tell you that everything that can go wrong WILL go wrong. 

Where the movie fails isn't really Bean himself - granted, he's never been a very detailed character, but you certainly get what you came to see. In the series he is very much the cause of his own grief and the grief of those around him. You might as well let a bull into a china shop. He's that bad. No, the problem of the story lies with the rest of the characters - especially that of the co-star's wife, played by Pamela Reed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Reed for this. She did what she could, and I'm sure she's a very talented actress.

However, the character of Alison Langley played by Reed is one of the most unintentionally shallow, hot-headed characters I have ever encountered on screen. So here's the setup: Peter MacNicol plays the facilitator at the unveiling of Whistler's Mother. To set a good example for his kids - and in turn meet with someone he assumes is very intelligent (remember that at this point all the American characters think Bean is a brilliant professor). He decides to let Bean stay under his roof for the duration of the museum planning and unveiling.

Bean shows up in the Langley residence, and before he even sets one foot inside, Alison Langley decides to take the kids and go live with her mother. Bean hasn't even given her a reason for her hatred yet. The character is unusually cruel and unnecessarily so. Unfortunately, this is not the only case, as most of the other characters in the movie (besides the son and the co-star) are very single-minded one-note characters. They just don't fit into a complete movie.

Bean is a very funny character, with some big possibilities for disaster. However, the shtick of the character just doesn't lend itself very well to the big screen. What's funny about Bean is just how disastrous consequences he can get mixed up in, and they really should have gone the extra mile for how cartoonish the problems could have been. Unfortunately the movie becomes a string of very short funny scenes, with almost every scene with the talking characters being kind of forgettable.

Will you get what you paid for with this movie? Sure. You'll get your fill of a collection of very funny Mr. Bean-type slapstick humor, unfortunately it just isn't held together with very good glue, and as a substantial movie it just fails.


Blackadder: Back and Forth (1999)

Film: Blackadder: Back and Forth
Release: 1999, theatrical
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnery, Miranda Richardson, Rik Mayall
Directed by: Paul Weiland
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Lord Edmund Blackadder is hosting a new years party at the eve of the new millennium. To cheat his guests out of cash he has had his faithful servant Baldrick build a fake time machine. Unfortunately - it actually works. Blackadder and Baldrick is now lost in time and has to find a way back to their own period.

Hans' thoughts:

Blackadder is one of those big British comedies. When a foreigner like me thinks of British comedy the first things that come to mind is Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, 'Allo 'Allo! and Blackadder. It's timeless in it's wit, set in various historical periods, and was pretty much the breakout series for a lot of big names. The three biggest being Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. 

The "gimmick" of the Blackadder series is that each season of the tv-show is set in a new historical period, each with it's own incarnation of the title character and his faithful servant Baldrick. Other returning cast members are historical figures with distinctly recognizable features - mostly because they're played by returning actors. The most obvious example is that of Hugh Laurie playing Prince Regent George of Wales in the 3rd season, and then returning as Blackadders second-in-command in Blackadder Goes Forth, the 4th and final season. Needless to say, this series is very beloved by it's fans. 

That's all well and good you may think, but what about the movie? Well, I liked it.

Okay let me rephrase that for a second, I liked it but it is a very far cry from the wit of the original series and as such it is better to be seen as it's own thing. Okay let me backtrack a second, the original series run of Blackadder ended with it's 4th season in 1989, this movie was made in 1999. That's 10 years later. These guys haven't done these characters for such a long time that's it's understandable that there would be few hiccups.

One of those is kind of forgetting that the strength of the series was always it's dialogue, with the visual gags being more or less hit and miss (more miss than hit, really). Blackadder the series is one of the most quotable sitcoms in the world and this movie falls just short of truly recapturing that amount of snark. The series also never really strayed all that far from what could feasibly happen in the real world. Of course it took it's liberties for the sake of comedy but never to the extent of the characters actually inventing time-travel. Then again, to it's credit the time-travel aspect of the movie is set just a bit in the background and serves as a narrative tool to pay homage to the different time-periods from the series.

What I'd also really like to highlight is the music. This movie brings what may possibly be the best version of the classic Blackadder theme. You really feel that this time there's a huge budget behind it. It's not that the themes in the former series were bad - no I feel Blackadder is one of my favorite theme songs - but this one really hammers it up to movie budget level. The intro-sequence is properly epic, set to various historical pictures with Rowan Atkinson put in making rude gestures to a almost Lord of The Rings-esque version of the theme. The ending theme follows the tradition, but whereas the second season went a little overboard with the (at the time) modern pop influence, this one let's the funny come exclusively from the songs lyrics.

This movie servers as a tribute and send off to one of the greatest and funniest sitcoms of BBC. It has a return of a huge amount of the original actors and it actually feels like a sort of family reunion - The group put together again for one last blow-out. If you've seen all the Blackadder series and feel that you need a proper ending for the clans story - this serves the purpose. However, people who hasn't followed the original series at all should probably watch that before turning to this movie. It's more of a thank you note to the loyal fans than an introduction to the series.

Project Wonderful 3