Legend (1985)

Legend (1985)

Original Theatrical Release: April 18, 1986
Director: Ridley Scott

Jack (Tom Cruise) is a boy at one with the forest, embraced by the Elves and other faerie creatures. He is pure of heart and has fallen in love with a girl, Lili (Mia Sara), and has decided to let her see a Unicorn up close and personal. Lili, overcome by wonder, touches one of the horned creatures of myth and unwittingly lures it into a trap set by the forces of Darkness (Tim Curry). One unicorn is felled and its horn chopped off, plunging the world into an ice age from which it may never recover and Lili is abducted by Darkness and his minions, leaving Jack to save the world, the woman he loves and the remaining unicorn from a terrible fate.

This is one of those films that sort of just slipped through the cracks. Against films such as Willow, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and others, this movie was swallowed up and lost in the shuffle. Because of its sometimes-meandering story, it doesn’t hold up against those other films all the time. However, the visuals and the mood captured by Ridley Scott still hold up after all these years. I recently re-watched this film, since I hadn’t seen it in more than a decade, and I was extremely impressed with how almost none of it looks cheesy – even by 1980’s standards.

The acting style used by all of the actors is very Shakespearian and fits the tone of the piece well. Everyone is very dramatic and classical. Evil creatures wave their hands and belly-laugh as they take delight in that evil. Darkness, played by the very-talented Tim Curry, looks like something that stepped out of Hell. Jack, played by a very young Tom Cruise, crouches in his forest rags and does somersaults and climbs on trees. The landscape is surreal and fantastical and embodies everything fantasy – which makes sense because Ridley Scott reviewed many classical fairy tales in order to get the right feel for the film. He definitely succeeded on that front.

If anything, give this film a shot just to look at it. The story is a bit more complex than people think, so take your time to analyze all that Legend has to offer before dismissing it. Is it the most perfect fantasy film? No, not by any means – but its voice is one that should be heard.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Legend

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

After Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) emerge victorious (and both alive) from the 74th Annual Hunger Games, they return home for a short while before being enlisted to embark on a “Winner’s Tour” and are forced to travel to all the other districts to congratulate them on their fallen tributes from the Games. However, Katniss and Peeta’s defiance in the face of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has attracted the attention and imaginations of a new wave of rebels, determined to bring down the morally corrupt government around them. This forces Snow to arrange for a twist to the games – and on the 75th year, all previous surviving winners are made to participate in the Games once more, including Katniss and Peeta.

This second installment was far better than the first. While Hunger Games set up the franchise, it didn’t paint a complete picture of the plights of the common people and their struggles. Catching Fire is much more intimate and lets us in on the futility of resistance but also on the hope these people embrace whenever it arises.

The acting by the two main characters was much more polished, and Katniss has gone from being a bit of an annoyance (Screaming, running out into the open because she can’t control her emotions) to actually being a kickass, strong female character. Likewise, Peeta hasn’t all of a sudden become a master combatant after one stint in the games as I’d expected him to do, but he does hold his own. Respectable abilities, but not unbelievable.

The movie is pretty long (two and a half hours….phew) but the director, Francis Lawrence, does such a great job of pacing the film that it doesn’t really feel as long while you’re watching, and by the end you’re going to want to see what happens next (though there seemed to be some ripped-off elements of The Matrix there).

One other notable addition to this film is that of Philip Seymour Hoffman – who usually turns any performance into gold. His role had a subtlety to it that I think you’d have to watch the film multiple times to get.

In closing, go see this film even if you didn’t really like the first film, The Hunger Games. This is really what the first film SHOULD have been. It does everything the first film did but does it better. It’s a little long, but worth it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story: Season 1 (2011)

American Horror Story is in an anthology format, with the first season focusing on a haunted house while later seasons are focused on an asylum and then a witch coven.

The Harmon family, a father-mother-daughter combo, moves from Boston to Los Angeles on the heels of a family scandal. Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) has cheated on his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton) and they hope to reconcile things by moving to a new house in a new part of the country. However, things are not what they seem at their new home – it is a dark place full of tragedies and past murders and lurid secrets, and the Harmons soon discover that they may not have the house all to themselves.

The show has an interesting format. I didn’t expect there to be a different focus for each season, which is a nice touch. I thought for sure that they couldn’t go on with the same premise for more than one season so I’m glad of the focus switch. It really allows for some flexibility with later seasons.

The show is sexy, violent and pretty terrifying at times and seems to blend all of the urban legends and horror stories we’ve all heard over the years into a compelling drama.

Sometimes, it can be a bit over-dramatic and somewhat like a soap opera, so I had to look past that at times but overall it was really enjoyable. The acting was solid, especially from veterans like Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy. Some of the characters are likable but most are pretty damaged and only likable because of their quirks as opposed to any humanity they might have.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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

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

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

Timeline (2003)

Timeline (2003)

Original Theatrical Release: November 26, 2003
Director: Richard Donner

An archaeological team has been working hard, digging up the past. When their leader, Professor Johnston (Billy Connolly), goes missing – his son Chris (Paul Walker) wants answers. After discovering a piece of parchment along with the professor’s glasses and a signature that is carbon-dated to the year 1357, the group is told by a secretive company that they have accidentally sent Professor Johnston back in time. Armed with their wits and protected by a group of combat experts, the archaeology team must survive in the past long enough to find the professor and make it back to the future…but they only have eight hours before they’ll be stuck in the past forever, and they’ve landed smack-dab in the middle of a war between England and France.

Timeline. When I first heard about the film, I had extremely high hopes. It was based on a Michael Crichton novel of the same name. The premise was cool, for sure, but the film just didn’t have enough momentum for me. For sci-fi fans, the sci-fi is sort of weak and not done well and for action fans, there wasn’t really enough cool action sequences included for a movie about medieval war. Even the love story part of it was brief and didn’t have much meat to it.

The characters are basically “faxed” into the past so as far as time travel movies go, it was also weak. The premise alone was not enough to carry the film. The biggest turn-off for me was the acting. These characters, all archaeology students, WENT BACK IN TIME and witnessed history first hand. What did they do? Walk around like it was nothing. The whole thing felt like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to me. (Meaning, there are all these crazy things going on, and in Buffy, the characters treated it like normal, everyday occurrences….same in this movie). Not only would TIME TRAVEL blow their minds, but getting to see things and how they were really done back then would give these people intellectual boners. Them not caring led to me not caring.

I think it’s worth watching at least once, but there are other, better movies dealing with time travel. I just wish that this one had been as cool as it could have been.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Timeline