47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin (2013)

After a treacherous and brutal warlord, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), has their master assassinated and banishes them all from their land, a band of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) assemble once again with the aid of an outcast half-breed, Kai (Keanu Reeves), to take revenge for their fallen leader and restore honor to their province.

Before I begin this review, let me just say that this is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s based, largely in part, on actual events. Unfortunately, it was only “based” on actual events and the film got a bunch of things incorrect. It’s too long to go into here, but if you check out this post on the History News Network, you’ll see what I mean ===> CLICK HERE

Now, with that out of the way, and disregarding all of the historical inaccuracies, I’ll get into just reviewing it on the basis of film conventions.

Story: There isn’t a ton of substance here. I’m sure if they stuck with the actual tale, it might have been more compelling. As it is, I think most American movie-goers will have a cultural disconnect and not be able to take it as seriously as, say, someone in Japan. Not sure how true that is, but there is only one connection for American audiences and that connection comes in the form of Keanu Reeves’ character, Kai. One interesting aspect is that Keanu wasn’t made to steal the show. It reminded me of how Antonio Banderas’ character in 13th Warrior was essential but didn’t drive all of the forward action. I liked that, in both films. BUT – since there wasn’t a ton of great story, it watched more like a very well-shot music video. Think about the movie Sucker Punch. Yeah, it has that kind of vibe.

Acting: The stony-faced Keanu Reeves did an okay job. Most of the other talented cast were amazing, but all were reduced to their base components and so weren’t able to develop much as characters. Rinko Kikuchi played an amazing foil to the main characters, being both seductive and evil, equally.

Special Effects: They were actually really, really good for the most part – but they were overused and as a result took me out of the movie at some points.

Length: It was a bit too long for my tastes. It would have been tolerable if there had been more action, but the few fight scenes there were took place sort of at the beginning and end of the film, with sparse scenes of a similar nature in-between.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this film but it was nice to look at. I bet that’s how it’d be to live with Megan Fox.

JOE Rating: ★★

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The Sword of Shannara (1977)

The Sword of Shannara (1977)

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: ★★★★

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

Hulk Vs. (2009)

Hulk Vs. (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: January 27, 2009
Director: Sam Liu, Frank Paur

The Incredible Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) is one of Marvel Comics’ most powerful and dangerous characters. In this animated double feature, the Hulk goes up against The Mighty Thor (Matt Wolf) and Wolverine (Steve Blum) in two separate vignettes.

In the first, Hulk is transported to Asgard by the mischievous Loki (Graham McTavish), Thor’s jealous brother, and placed under a spell with the help of Enchantress/Amora (Kari Wahlgren). With Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson) separated from his monstrous other half, the Hulk, he can only watch as Loki uses Hulk to smash his way through Asgard with only Thor and his Asgardian friends to stand in the way.

In the second, the Canadian military is after the Hulk when he is suspected of making attacks on defenseless wilderness homesteads. They call in Wolverine, who uses his superior senses to track Hulk down. However, as the two rage away at each other in the forest they are both attacked by members of the Weapon X program which created Wolverine’s adamantium-laced bones and claws and Wolverine is left to fight Sabretooth (Mark Acheson), Lady Deathstrike (Janyse Jaud), Omega Red (Colin Murdock) and Deadpool (Nolan North) all at the same time, with Hulk as the wild card.

It was an interesting choice to package this as a double feature. The whole thing, with both movies, runs to about an hour and a half.

I found the first story with Thor to be a little underwhelming. It’s always cool to see Thor go up against Hulk, but this one wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be. There were a few instances in which Thor really went to town on Hulk, but overall, to create more drama, the writers sort of overpowered Hulk a little bit. I felt like with these two titans beating on each other, there should’ve been more destruction, more action.

Luckily, the second story redeemed the entire movie.

Wolverine versus Hulk, to me, is always really great…and this one tried to re-create, at least a little bit, the fight they had in Incredible Hulk #180, which was Wolverine’s first appearance in 1974. Notable differences being the involvement of Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Deadpool. For the movie version, it worked however because a fight between Hulk and Wolverine would be pretty brutal but also pretty short, so having the villains show up enabled the pacing to be the way it was.

Overall, it was a fun watch. I just wish they had tweaked the Thor section a little bit more.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Also, just a side note: If you’re interested in all-things-Hulk….check out The Collectionary, which features tons of Hulk-related merchandise to peruse and consider purchasing for gifts or for yourself.

Trailer For Hulk Vs.

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