The Sword of Shannara is the flagship novel of author Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. (First King of Shannara actually takes place before The Sword of Shannara, but he didn’t publish that until later on).
Shea and Flick Ohmsford live in Shady Vale, a quiet community of hard-working folk living in peace. When evil from the North comes looking for the last living descendant of Jerle Shannara, aka Shea Ohmsford, a mysterious Druid by the name of Allanon arrives to help the two escape and embark on an epic quest to find the fabled Sword of Shannara, which has the power to destroy the evil Warlock Lord.
Many critics (and a few of my friends) have universally panned this novel because some say that it’s a blatant rip-off of Tolkien. Admittedly, there are heavy imprints of Tolkien’s influence at work here, but it’s only at the beginning. Towards the end, you begin to truly get a sense of what Brooks is trying to do with his characters, and especially in later novels when he expands to areas that Tolkien never touched and you get to see other elements besides Tolkien’s writing which he drew on, like mythology and history.
I would liken this series to the lovechild of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, actually.
If you look past the initial similarities (and assuming you like Brooks’ writing style) what you’ll find is an enjoyable romp through the Four Lands and the beginnings of an epic fantasy adventure that seems to be more and more rare these days.
The characters are memorable, the settings are great, the monsters are scary. What more can you ask for?
JOE Rating: ★★★★
Original Theatrical Release: October 4, 1985
Director: Mark L. Lester
Retired colonel John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger), lives with his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) in the mountains. An exiled Latin-American dictator named Arius (Dan Hedaya) sends henchmen to find Matrix and force him to assassinate the president of his country, using Jenny as a hostage. Matrix becomes a one-man army as he fights to get his daughter back from the clutches of an evil madman.
No matter what I think of the actual film, this is one of those movies that’s just classic and re-watchable over and over again.
Despite some bad acting, sloppy politics and logic, and some cheesy one-liners and action scenes, this movie is a real guilty pleasure as far as Schwarzenegger movies are concerned.
There are better action movies from the time period, for sure. The one female character is annoying and almost all the bad guys have fake-looking mustaches and can’t hit the broad side of a barn with their bullet sprays, but it’s one of those films you can watch with your buddies and laugh at. (Also, it made me feel like a creepy perv seeing Alyssa Milano so young in this movie after seeing her in a film like Embrace of the Vampire which was made about a decade later)
JOE Rating: ★★★
Movie Trailer For Commando
Original Theatrical Release: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) become the winter caretakers of a massive seasonal hotel in the mountains. At first, everything is ideal. Jack has all the space he needs in order to write his next novel while Wendy enjoys the beautiful scenery and time with their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who seems to have a form of autism. However, it’s not long before the Torrance family discovers that maybe they’re not alone in that big hotel, and that maybe it has dark secrets. The family begins to unravel and soon it becomes a fight for survival.
The Shining is scary even by today’s standards because it not only has the supernatural element of the haunted hotel ( who doesn’t think a massive old hotel is creepy in the first place?) but also a writer haunted by his own demons; alcoholism and anger among them. Seeing a family slowly unravel is scary enough but when there’s a little kid involved, most of us become extra-invested. Children are often defenseless against an adult in real life, let alone ghosts, and when your parents don’t believe that ghosts exist? Well, then, you’re outta’ luck, kid.
Jack Nicholson’s performance is right up there for me among the best I’ve witnessed because I’ve SEEN Jack Torrance before. I KNOW guys like that, who get drunk and take out their frustrations on the world around them. I immediately identify and sympathize with the kiddo and his mom. On top of that, we have Stephen King at his best writing the story that the screenplay was adapted from…and you have Stanley Kubrick, an amazing director with all those long, ominous shots (who doesn’t remember the camera going over the car as it’s winding through the mountain roads? Or the long shot of the hallway as Danny rides his Big-Wheel in hesitant fear?) It’s a horror masterpiece, where lots of amazing talent converged. None of the remakes have touched on its original terror.
JOE Rating: ★★★★★
Movie Trailer For The Shining