Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

h1

50 Movies in 100 Days: Warlock: The Armageddon

March 12, 2013

Warlock: The Armageddon

I, for one, can’t call this a good film.  In fact, it was really a pretty bad film, because the acting was bad, the writing was bad, and the special effects were beyond bad.  This movie was made in the early 90’s, but I have to say, that there is little to no hope for the special effects or the movie with the whole premise, and everything that went on with it.

The story dates back to the middle ages when there were a set of six stones which were needed to summon Satan, but only the Warlock could summon him, and only once in a while, every 500 years, I believe, could the Devil be summoned.  So the Warlock comes to Earth, and he has a few days to get all of the stones, otherwise the time will have passed and they will have to wait a long time again.  So the Warlock comes, who looks surprisingly like Julian Assange, and finds most of the stones, but there are two warriors who can stop them, but they are kids, and they don’t know they are warriors until a day or so earlier, after the Warlock has come to earth.  However, their combined power, and love for each other they are able to defeat Warlock.

The acting in this film is bad.  The Warlock is played by Julian Sands, which is why I find it hilarious that he looks so much like Julian Assange.  Otherwise the rest of the cast isn’t worth noting, not of the actors or actresses are really memorable.  And that is probably because this was such a bad thing, and I have to imagine whatever they are doing now (hopefully not acting) is better.

Visually is where this film really “shines”.  The visuals are just terrible as they try and do computer generated effects, but that doesn’t work well in the early 90’s.  In fact they try and show a dagger one second as the real dagger and next as this blocky pixelated mess which they then decide is a good idea to show on the screen for the next few minutes making terrible turns as it moves between two characters who are trying to kill each other.  It isn’t bad, it isn’t hilariously bad, it is almost unwatchably bad.

This film is a definite skip.  I’m trying to think of any redeeming qualities, and the best one that I can come up with is that Julian Sands and Julian Assange look extremely similar which made seeing the Warlock on screen kind of funny.  But other than that, there isn’t anything that makes it worth watching.  I’ll suggest to everyone that they skip it, if you want to see the resemblance, I’m sure there is some youtube video of 30 seconds of the film that would be better to watch to see it than actually watching this mess of a film.

Critical Grade: F

Entertainment Grade: D-

Overall Grade: F

Advertisements
h1

Alice in Wonderland

January 28, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

 

Tim Burton is one of my favorite directors, but I held on on seeing this film simply because I heard it wasn’t all that great and deviated from the traditional Alice in Wonderland story like you see in the Disney cartoon version.  However, I knew I would eventually see it simply because it is a Tim Burton film and because it has Johnny Depp in it, and while it is a fairly different film than I was expecting, I enjoyed it a lot, and visually Burton does a good job of making it entertaining.

The story is that of Alice, all grown up, 19.  She is a girl who is very imaginative and lives often in her own little world in her head.  This tends to get her into troubles from time to time and puts her in many an awkward situation.  Her life drastically shifts when her father passes away and she is basically being set up to marry into a nice family that would be a step above her current standing.  She, however, doesn’t like that idea all that well, and is confused what to do.  That is when she happens to see the White Rabbit.  She leaves the man who has proposed to her waiting without an answer and follows the rabbit and falls down into the rabbit hole.  Upon landing she finds herself in Wonderland where the Red Queen is oppressing the people, and the White Queen is a pacifist and doesn’t do anything about it.  Alice is told that she is the chosen one who will defeat the Jabberwocky and the Red Queen.  She meets up with the normal cast of characters who are confused why she is handling everything so oddly since she’s been there before.  The story itself is the retelling of Wonderland, it is the second time and isn’t supposed to match up with the original story but it supposed to keep the original characters in it.  I enjoy a good retelling of a fantasy story (see the SyFy channel original mini-series Alice and Tin Man), and while I would have liked to have seen the actual story of Alice in Wonderland retold, I won’t complain about this version, which is interesting in its own right.

This film has a fairly typical Burton cast.  Johnny Depp takes on the role of the Mad Hatter and is entertaining in it.  He bugs me at a few points in time but that is primarily due to the absurdity of the role as compared to Depp’s actual performance.  Helena Bonham Carter takes on the Red Queen and is primarily CGI as she has been distorted to have a disproportionate head to her body.  She fits well into the role as she generally has a creepy vibe around her, see Harry Potter.  Alan Rickman does the voice for the Blue Caterpillar and it fits really well, when he speaks slowly his voice has a nice monotone drag to it and works well for a caterpillar that is completely baked.  And Stephen Fry does the voice of the Cheshire Cat and the cat in many ways steals the show in terms of the CGI acting and Fry does a good job voicing it.  Finally I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful voice work that Matt Lucas does for Tweedledee and Tweedledum, I don’t know that there would be a better person to voice them.  He perfectly does the voice for them that feels like there is something missing.  Anne Hathaway and Crispin Glover round out the cast.  Finally, there is Alice, Tim Burton and the casting crew did a very good job finding an unknown actress, Mia Wasikowska, to play her.  Mia plays the stubborn innocent version of Alice that Burton has created extremely well and is wonderfully lost and oblivious to what is going on around her.  She does a good job with the self discovery that her character has as well in this film.

Visually this is a Burton film to a tee, but not the darker side that we’ve seen recently with Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but this film has the lighter coloring of a film like Edward Scissorhands.  It does take some darker twists and turns, but much of the film is based around the absurdity of the other characters and the visuals are often kept much lighter.  The amount of CGI and the quality of the CGI work is impressive as well.  The scoring works well with the film, but it isn’t extremely memorable.

Overall this will be a film that some like and some don’t like because it isn’t a true retelling of Alice in Wonderland.  I personally felt that it was well put together and well made, and entertaining, which is the most important thing anyways.  When you watch it, you just have to temper your expectations that it is going to be exactly like the Disney cartoon version or exactly like the book.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

h1

Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows Part 1

January 3, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

This is one of the rare occasions where I think the film actually did a better job than the book.  Now, the book obviously has two parts and the second part of the book is extremely good (minus the epilog which should have never been written Rowling), but the pacing of the first part of the book tends to be slow and tedious with more detail written into it than needed and it just slows down the book as a whole.  The film maintains much of that detail, but they can show it instead of having to put it down in words, and that speeds up the pacing to a respectable speed.

The story comes together as well as we approach Harry’s 17th birthday at which time the magical protection on his Aunt and Uncles house will be up.  So the Order plans out a way to move Harry to a safe location.  Things don’t go as planned as death eaters attack the party the minute they leave.  Harry and most of the wizards helping him are able to make it back safely, but Mad-Eye Moody gets taken out.  Harry is safe for a while until the death eaters figure out a way to get into the safe house and Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forced to flee and Harry decides that they need to start taking out the horcruxes that Voldemort has created in order to kill him.  Things don’t go as planned and there is a falling out with Ron leaving.  During this time Voldemort tries to take out Harry again, and they find out about the Deathly Hallows, three items used to control death and figure out that Voldemort wants to get an unbeatable wand.  Things don’t go all that well and Harry gets captured, but he is able to escape.

The acting performances are quite solid in this film.  It was a shame that Snape wasn’t in the film more because Alan Rickman is a very good actor and a very good Snape.  Helena Bonham Carter reprises her role as LeStrange and does a good job in that role.  When it comes to the main characters, I think that Daniel Radcliffe is probably the weak acting link out of the three.  Rupert Grint has showed notable improvement as Ron and Emma Watson has a good acting career ahead of her as long as she can shake the type casting from such a well known role. Bill Nighy is in only a very little of this film, but is a quite overbearing and sniveling politician and plays it quite well.

This film is likely visually ahead of any of the other films, but also visually simpler in many ways.  There are no grand Hogwarts scenes that require some magnificent test to be done or any Quidditch to be shown.  The story is in many ways darker, and slower moving.  There are still plenty of chances to show off impressive broom flying and flying motorcycles, but overall it is much better than previous films because it doesn’t ask for as much to be shown.  It will be interesting to see the final film because of how epically large the final fight scene is going to end up being.  David Yates does a better job with this Harry Potter film than his previous two, which were two of the better ones anyways.

For a fan of Harry Potter this film is a must see even if you’ve just read the books, you can jump in at this point of the movies and be just fine if not better off than those who have just watched the film.  If you haven’t seen any of them before,  you could jump in here if you wanted, but going through and watching all the films (or better yet reading all the books) is the better way to go.  But this is technically the best Harry Potter film and leaves you wanting the second half to come out now and to not have to wait for it.

Critical Grade: B-

Entertainment Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B

h1

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

October 26, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

 

This wasn’t by any means the best Harry Potter film as the book, which is one of my favorites from the series, bounces through a lot of details and the movie simply wasn’t able to cover them all.  There was plenty of teen romance in the book but it focuses a lot of the Harry, Dumbledore, and Voldemort relationship and delves much deeper into Voldemorts past.  This area is glossed over in the film.

The story is likely the weakest part of this film.  As I’ve hinted at, the book revolves strongly around Dumbledore showing Harry everything that he has found out on Voldemort in his attempt to find a way to stop him.  The film covers several of these areas, but doesn’t delve as deeply into Voldemort’s back story trying instead to bring forth the romance that blossoms between the various characters, Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny.  This is somewhat cheesy in the book, but is balanced with the quite suspenseful and thought provoking parts about Voldemort.  In the film the balance is disturbed and the cheesy teen romances are made even cheesier.  They are splitting the last Harry Potter film (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) into two films, and that really should have been the case with this film as well.  Then they could have maintained their balance.

The performances are on par with the other performances.  Emma Watson as Hermione does a great job, and might be the one of the main three characters who won’t always be known as for playing their Harry Potter character.  Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint both are fine in their roles, but their acting ability is not on par with Watson’s.  Alan Rickman is brilliant, as normal, as Severus Snape and Helena Bonham Carter does a great job being very creepy as a LeStrange.  The performances in these films don’t change from time to time, which is nice, and there hasn’t been much issue with continuity and the characters which  makes the whole series come together nicely.

Visually this film was well done.  It is hard to do all that poorly with a budget the size that it was, but the shot selection is very solid in this film.  David Yates, the director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as well as the last two films, does a good job getting the feel for these worlds, and not making it purely a kids world like it is in the first couple of films, but bringing in some of the darker elements of the books.  The scoring is beautiful as well and again has the benefit of borrowing some from the previous films.

Overall this film is worth checking out, the Harry Potter films in general are worth checking out, especially as a fan of the series.  Yes, they won’t meet the standards of the books, but it is a rare occasion when they actually do meet the standards.  This film is a bit hokeyier than some, but that can be overlooked and still allows for the film to be enjoyed.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

h1

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

September 30, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

This film wonderfully blends the comic books which it was based from into a visual world of action, adventure, comedy and romance.  It stays very true to the books and creates an indie pop kind of feel to the film without being pretentious about it and then blows you away with wildly entertaining action sequences which blend classic comic book style action into the world of film action nearly seamlessly.

The story is that of one Scott Pilgrim, age 23, who is dating a high schooler, age 17.  Things are going fine, they have a very tame relationship with Knives, the high schooler, is Scott’s rebound, but Scott is to timid to actually rebound, and he plays in a band called Sex Bob-omb (a Mario reference).  Things start to go wrong when a new girl, Ramona Flowers, happens to rollerblade through Scott’s mind while he sleeps.  The next day, while he is on a date with Knives, he sees Ramona in real life and becomes obsessed with her and tries to figure out who she is and track her down.  He does and asks her out, only after they have gone out, he finds out he has to defeat her seven evil ex’s.  This is where the story takes off as Scott has take them on and defeat them one by one.

The acting works really well in this film.  Michael Cera, of Arrested Development (or more likely Superbad) fame, does a great job in this film.  It is a fairly typical and awkward role for him, but that is what the character is supposed to be, and he can play that to a tee.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes on the role of Ramona Flowers, and she isn’t as memorable as some of the other characters, but her character is meant to be fairly aloof at times and disinterested and disconnect in some ways from the world, and you get that feel as it doesn’t connect as well with the audience.  Ellen Wong does a very good job as Knives being another fairly memorable character, she is very sweet and plays well into the comic book side of the film.  Alison Pill, Johnny Simmons, and Mark Webber do very good jobs as Scott’s friends and band mates.  Their roles are smaller than some of the others, but still entertaining.  Anna Kendrick is fun as Scott’s extremely nosy sister, and Aubrey Plaza does a good job in playing a similar sort of role as a friend of Scott’s.  The real show stealer, though, is Kieran Culkin who is simply hilarious as Scott’s roommate.  He is funny and droll and an all around busy body who is funny in every scene that he is in.

Visually is what really  makes this film.  Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame, does a brilliant job with this film.  It is difficult to describe how closely he sticks to the story and makes this film feel like the comic that it came from.  There are “kapow”s and little snide graphics inserted into this film like they are inserted into the books.  When the evil ex’s are vanquished, they turn into coins and Scott gets points.  Scott levels up and gets an extra life.  The extra life is an old 8 or 16 bit style life, but it fits in perfectly with the film.  And the action scenes are so over the top that they are funny but extremely well done.  Visually this film just pops off the screen and it is nice that they didn’t try and make it 3D, because while it would seemingly lend itself to doing something like that, making just bits and pieces 3D wouldn’t have been all that great.  The music in this film works pretty well, the songs by the bands in the film are great, and at times the other music can be a bit annoying, as it is generally very indie, but it works with the feel of the film.

A film that is worth checking out even for the style that it is shot in.  It won’t appeal to the mass audience, but it does everything really well from the story, the acting, and the technical standpoints of the film.  But because it is really quite geeky, not everyone will appreciate the odd type of humor that it shows off.  If you do understand and appreciate the geek humor, it will be hard not to love this film.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

h1

MirrorMask

March 25, 2010

MirrorMask

MirrorMask

This is a small film that most people won’t have heard of, but is a very interesting story and visually stunning thanks to the Jim Henson Group.  It jumps off the screen like very other films do, and is shot in its own unique style.

What makes this film pop is the story.  It is written by a great writer Neil Gaiman who is mainly known for writing adult fantasy books and has had two other other books made into films, Stardust and Coraline.  MirrorMask balances itself between being a film that both adults and kids and enjoy.  A lot of the visuals are going to be entertaining for the kids and a story that adults can enjoy.  It is definitely targeted towards kids.  The story is of a girl who doesn’t like her family, they are traveling circus people, and thrill of it just isn’t the same as you’d think.  When her mother becomes seriously ill, the girl slips into a world of all her own.  A balance of two sides of a sheet of paper, the light, the front side, and the dark, the side that is taped up against the wall.  And she has to find her way out of the world where everyone wears masks.  It sounds like a pretty simple story, and it is, but Neil Gaiman puts in a lot of good jokes and little quips that his character say.

The acting talent in this film is basically unknowns, but they all do a good job.  Stephanie Leonidas plays the lead and does a good job playing the main girl.  And Jason Barry plays opposite of Leonidas in the MirrorMask world that is created.  They do a good job playing off of each other and the fact that the talent can hide behind their masks in the fantasy world.  However, they are very entertaining in their roles.

Where this film really comes to life is the visuals.  The Jim Henson Group does an amazing  job creating the world.  It comes across as the paper world and the characters that are created are stunning.  They aren’t the super detailed as compared to some of the creatures created with huge budget films.  There are some giants who are floating above the world who are mainly just giant shapes, no hair or extreme details like some films, but they work perfectly with the world.  And there are many other absurd creatures that come to life on the screen.  It also works really wonderfully in the coloring that it is shot.  So much of it is shown with a golden hue to it.  It almost has the feel of the paper because of that and it has a completely different feel, besides all the absurdities of the fantasy world, simply by looking at the coloring of the world and the styling of the buildings.

This is a small film, and I know that not everyone will like this film as much as I appreciate it.  But it is a good story and it is simply enjoyable.  It is a kids film and it doesn’t try to be too deep (but adults don’t let this turn you off, there is a good number of quips that kids won’t get) the only thing I’d warn about this film with kids is that it is a little dark at times.  However, with most of the films that are out there that aren’t rated G, this film is pretty clean.

Entertainment Grade: B+

Critical Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+