Reign Of Fire (2002)

Reign Of Fire (2002)

Original Theatrical Release: July 12, 2002
Director: Rob Bowman

Humanity has been decimated by dragons; creatures thought to only have existed in myths and fairy tales. Quinn Abercromby (Christian Bale) and Creedy (Gerard Butler) lead a ragtag group of survivors living in an abandoned castle in the English countryside, trying to survive day by day. When a group of American warriors led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) shows up and claim to be able to slay the dragons once and for all, Quinn has to decide if they can do what they say they can do.

This is one of those movies I always seem to forget about, and I think a lot of other people do, too. I recently re-watched it because my girlfriend had never seen it so I figured what the heck.

The first half of the movie is really interesting and draws you in, but then it seems to lose focus in the later half. I appreciate the dark feel of the film and I think the idea behind the “Archangels” is really great, where specialized shock troops jump out of the helicopter to attack the dragons. (Life expectancy of an Archangel: 17 Seconds) And hooray for the Star Wars reference, as well!

Bale and McConaughey are actually really great in this, playing off one another and bringing their acting chops into this action film, which is always refreshing. Butler is good, too, as well as Izabella Scorupco as Alex Jensen – the pilot of the chopper – though they don’t really get as much screen time as Bale and McConaughey.

For a film that’s around ten years old, the special effects hold up surprisingly well. There are only a few instances where you can tell they were using a green screen, which, in the scheme of things isn’t too shabby. It could’ve been a lot worse! My only other gripe is that one of the characters, toward the end, dies in a really anti-climactic way. My jaw dropped open and I just sat there in disbelief in how lame it was.

This film is a fun option if you’ve been jonesing for a dragon movie, but it has its own particular take on the dragon species and there may be other films out there like How To Train Your Dragon that provides a better dragon experience, especially for the kiddos – because this is definitely not a kid’s flick. (But it is a completely different flavor of movie so I guess it’s like comparing apples to oranges.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Reign Of Fire

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2012
Director: Peter Jackson

Before Bilbo Baggins’ (Martin Freeman) nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) ever set his hairy hobbit feet outside the Shire, Bilbo had an adventure of his own, and this was its beginning. Approached by the mysterious wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), Bilbo is enlisted as a thief and lockpick because of his diminutive size to aid in the reclamation of Erebor for the Dwarven war party that comes crashing into his home. Along the way, Bilbo and his party must overcome great obstacles before reaching the mighty dragon, Smaug.

Okay, so this is a Lord of the Rings/Peter Jackson movie. I had extremely high hopes, and I will tell you that I wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, the film kept me engaged. The visuals were the same great quality I came to know while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sweeping vistas, interesting creatures (especially a compelling encounter with Ian McShane as the Goblin King). We also got to see some neat tie-ins to the later movies, and I think when they’re all finished it will all fit together very nicely.

I know some purists will take issue with the content of the film’s story structure. That’s fine, but you must remember that the films and the books are still two separate entities no matter how close they get to the original source material.

The story moved a little bit slow, and I am not sure I liked the comedic aspect of the dwarves very much. Some of the dwarves looked like they were wearing prosthetic face applications while others looked like male models…not sure what the reasoning behind that was. Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) was also maybe a bit too silly, to be taken seriously as well. I know The Hobbit was more of a children’s tale, but it still had a serious heart. The dwarves were actually very unlikable in the film’s opening sequence, to be honest.

As the story unfolds, though, you are swept up in it and I think the coming sequels are going to be worth the wait.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: July 8, 2005
Director: Tim Story

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), brilliant scientist, has a theory that there are clouds of cosmic energy that move through space which can trigger evolution. Convinced that one of these clouds will come close enough to Earth to observe and analyze from a relatively short distance away in space, he enlists the help of his longtime friend Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) to help him convince billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to let them use his private space station. He allows it, but only if the research is under his control. Doom then brings aboard his own genetics researcher Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her younger brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) who complete the team. When something goes unaccording to plan, everyone aboard the space station aside from Doom is hit directly with the cosmic energy cloud, granting them amazing abilities and altering their DNA structures. Becoming media darlings after a rescue, the four researchers must struggle with their newfound abilities and fame as the Fantastic Four.

Being a Marvel movie, I was pretty excited for this film when it came out. Up until then, we’d had a pretty decent Spider-Man movie as well as Blade and X-Men. I thought the Thing looked a little cheesy, but figured it’d be okay up on the big screen because he was being played by Michael Chiklis. Chris Evans seemed perfect for the character of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Jessica Alba didn’t initially sell me on being Susan Storm, but she’s hot so I figured I’d give it a chance. The guy who played Reed looked like he’d do well enough.

I was right about most of those initial thoughts. Michael Chiklis DID play Ben Grimm exactly how I’d want him to be played, but regardless of how well he acted…I have to say, that rubber suit was kind of atrocious. Not saying I wouldn’t love to wear it as a cosplay or something like that. It’s made really well but for the big screen in a movie that SHOULDN’T be full of camp, it added a sort of cheese factor that carried through to the rest of the film. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Johnny Storm. Jessica Alba was hot, but was not Susan Storm (and there was some controversy because of her being cast as Susan Storm and the fact that she’s not mixed-race in the comic books). Ioan Gruffudd (crazy name!) was just okay as Reed Richards.

I loved Julian McMahon’s acting and presence in the show Nip/Tuck, but as Victor Von Doom…not so much. I never really thought of Doom as a whiny socialite, like Tony Stark from Iron Man without the class. It didn’t work.

On top of that, we had a story that while initially starting out not that bad meandered all over the place and didn’t really provide much in the way of action for an action film. The end battle with Doom was extremely anti-climactic and I didn’t feel like I’d used my time well by watching the film, aside from my unhealthy obsession with Jessica Alba.

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

Give it a watch if you haven’t….see how it is compared to the upcoming 2015 reboot by Seth Grahame-Smith and Josh Trank. It’s still Marvel, after all. (Just don’t watch the second one with Silver Surfer…Jesus, that was bad).

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Fantastic Four

Blade (1998)

Blade (1998)

Original Theatrical Release: August 21, 1998
Director: Stephen Norrington

Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a Vampire/Human hybrid that has all of the vampires’ strengths and none of their weaknesses, and he has vowed to destroy every last one of the bloodsuckers that he comes across with his crazy arsenal of weapons and martial arts training. A vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) has other plans for humanity and is tired of vampires having to stay below the surface of civilization, so Blade must put a stop to his machinations with the help of his mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) or else mankind will be enslaved, or wiped out, by Frost and his vampire army.

People often forget about this Marvel movie that came out before the X-Men brought Marvel flicks into the spotlight. It, unfortunately, was left in the dust despite it being a halfway-decent comic-to-movie translation from that era. Based on the comic book title published by Marvel of the same name, Blade does a great job capturing the essence of the original character.

The special effects in this film look a little dated, but other than that, the action dominates in this short-of-story movie that has Wesley Snipes doing what he does best: kicking ass and talking in a deep voice.

The film is flashy and fun, but forgettable. It seems to have regained some popularity as of late with an animated Blade show, so who knows…maybe this will also get a reboot like the original Spider-Man  (My review for that movie linked here) movie did? I think with today’s special effects capabilities and Marvel’s rising ability to make big-budget films, this one could be given a great overhaul.

As it is, most of the actors do their jobs well. Kris Kristofferson is a real badass sidekick for Blade and Stephen Dorff is a really great villain. As said above, Wesley Snipes killed it in this film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Blade

Deathstalker (1983)

Deathstalker (1983)

Original Theatrical Release: February 1984
Director: James Sbardellati (As John Watson)

The warrior known as Deathstalker (Richard Hill) is tasked by an old witch to gather three powerful items; a sword, an amulet and a chalice, before the evil magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard) collects them first and becomes unstoppable. After getting his hands on the sword and angering Munkar, Deathstalker enters The Big Tournament where he hopes to wrestle the kidnapped princess from Munkar’s control, while Munkar has plans of his own to kill Deathstalker.

First off, this movie is from 1983. I was only two years old, then. The special effects are TERRIBLE and are pretty consistent with the visual effects limits of the time, utilizing even puppetry to supplement the fantastical needs of the film. That being said, the puppetry is part of what made this movie so laughably bad.

Bernard Erhard is pretty much the only actor who can actually act in this film, but his performance is so over the top that it’s awkward to watch next to the wooden and stoic Richard Hill and his portrayal of Deathstalker.

As far as Deathstalker movies are concerned, I actually thought Deathstalker II was the best out of the bunch. (Even though Deathstalker II rips a scene right off the reel from this movie and just re-uses it, no questions asked)

Most lovers of fantasy have to give a nod to cheesy, 80’s Fantasy films like this, filled with topless barbarian women, oiled and dumbed-down Conan the Barbarian clones and ridiculous makeup, and this is no exception. It’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood to laugh at a terribad film, or for nostalgic reasons…that’s it.

This is definitely not Lord of the Rings caliber material.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Deathstalker

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: August 13, 2010
Director: Edgar Wright

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives in Toronto, Canada and hopes to be successful with his band, Sex Bob-omb. He is still having trouble getting over his ex-girlfriend and has taken to dating a high school girl, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who is five years younger than he is. When Scott meets the much more mature Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), however, he entagles himself in a love triangle. But, that’s not all…if he wants to be with Ramona he has to defeat Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes…all with different sets of fighting abilities.

This is, of course, based on the Oni Press comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley of the same name and does a pretty good job (better than I expected, actually) of capturing the feeling of the book and artwork. The special effects are all pretty nice, aside from a few times where it looked pretty unrealistic (even in the context of the film…I call it the Storm-Syndrome because of Storm/Halle Berry flying up the elevator shaft in the first X-Men film…looked completely false and unrealistic and unnatural)

I thought Michael Cera was a good choice for Scott Pilgrim and also all of the Seven Evil Exes seemed to be spot on, especially Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).

The movie moved at a pretty decent pace, I thought, but maybe could have either been shortened or made into a couple of movies if more detail was put in. Some viewers might think the movie is all flash and not be able to appreciate the novelty of the story’s premise.

There are, of course, tons of throwbacks to classic video games and that gives it a fun sort of edge.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

V For Vendetta (2005)

V For Vendetta (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: March 17, 2006
Director: James McTeigue

A shadowy and theatrical freedom fighter, only known as V (Hugo Weaving), wages a war with terrorist tactics against a corrupt and totalitarian government. When he rescues a girl named Evey (Natalie Portman) from some also-corrupt secret police, she becomes entangled in his endeavors and may be the best ally he’s known.

The first half of this film opens up with a lot of panache. I was caught up right off the bat with the atmosphere and the established setting. This carried me through all the way to the middle of the film where I felt that the movie was bogged down a lot and lost its frenetic pacing.

The source material, of course, was Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name and the film managed to evoke most of what Moore was trying to accomplish, but in the end, I think, the source material always does things that a movie cannot. Also, the graphic novel focused more on V’s attempts to enlist Evey to carry out his legacy, whereas the movie, I felt, showed that he cared about Evey’s involvement but ultimately wanted to inspire a revolution rather than solely rely on her.

The two works are completely different in my mind, which is something I always try to do when looking at one work which is based on another work. I think overall, the film managed to capture some qualities of the graphic novel but it was ultimately the Wachowski’s own message that came across.

The action scenes were all well-done and there wasn’t a terrible amount of CGI. Hugo Weaving was the best thing about this movie because I never envisioned V’s dialogue being able to be correctly brought onto the screen but he did it with great skill. Natalie Portman was lovely and talented, as usual and it was great she was willing to shave her head for the role. Kudos.

This is a great film, and could have been exceptional but for the mid-movie backstory dump that slogged the film down. Still, go watch it, it’s a lot of fun.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For V For Vendetta