ORBzine - 2001.12 Cinema Movies Reviews

ORBzine - Movie Reviews Xmas 2001 Special


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John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars

It's the year 2176 CE, and Earth has finally colonised Mars. The planet's ruling Matriarchal council has convened a special hearing to investigate strange events in the Southern hemisphere. The star witness is Police Officer Natascha Henstridge , a typically icy blonde. She was part of a police unit that included lesbian Commander [ Pam Grier ], rookie babe [ Clea DuVal ] and a couple of men [including Jason Stratham - Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels]. The cops were sent out to collect a captured notorious gangster [Ice Cube - Anaconda ] from a remote mining settlement. However, when they get there they discover the town is site of a massacre ... The cops end up deputising the survivors, including Ice Cube and the science officer [ Joanna Cassidy ]. Watch out for a brief appearance by Marjean Holden .

From the plot synopsis you would expect this to be a cross between John Carpenter 's previous masterpieces The Thing and Assault on Precinct 13. However, of all his films the one this most resembles is his most recent, John Carpenter's Vampires . It's a slap-bang action-fest with very little plot or character development. None of the so-called cops knows how to hold their gun properly, but there are some nice hand-to-hand combat sequences. Small wonder, since the Stunt Coordinator is renowned Martial Arts expert Jeff Imada.

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    Brotherhood of the Wolf

    This is a French costume drama, but it is anything but typical of that genre. It is the 1700s, and a number of peasants have been killed in rural France. The King sends a young naturalist, Gregoire du Fronsac, to investigate. While attempting to track the beast he encounters such characters as a crippled aristocrat [Vincent Cassel - Joan of Arc ] and an erotic femme fatale [ Monica Bellucci ].

    The plot itself is pretty much bog standard for an action movie. What sets the film apart is the mix of costume drama and action genres. For example, the excellent martial arts sequences, courtesy of Gregoire's Native American sidekick Mani [Mark Dacascos - Crow: Stairway to Heaven ] and stunt coordination by Philip Kwok [Mad Dog in Hard Boiled]. The creature itself is beautifully done, with animatronics from the Jim Henson Workshop [ Farscape ].

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    Fellowship of the Ring

    The movie starts with a brief introduction to the Ring of Power - its creation, its loss and its eventual discovery by Bilbo Baggins [Ian Holm - Alien ]. However, after 60 years of ownership the Ring has started to corrupt the innocent old Hobbit. When Bilbo retires from public life on his 111th birthday, his friend the wizard Gandalf [Ian McKellern - X-Men ] insists that the Ring be left in the keeping of Bilbo's nephew Frodo [Elijah Wood - Deep Impact ].

    However, evil is afoot. The evil Sauron, creator of the Ring, is gathering his forces to conquer the world. He wants his ring back, and sends his Nine Riders out to retrieve it. Worse, Gandalf's superior Saruman [Christopher Lee - Dracula ] has made a decision of his own.

    Frodo and three Hobbit friends of his set out to take the RIng to a place of safety. With the help of Strider the Ranger [Viggo Mortenson - The Young Americans ] and a few powerful Elves [ Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving - The Matrix ] they manage to evade capture.

    Gandalf advises that the Ring must be destroyed, and the only way to do that is to cast it into the fire that Sauron created it in. Thus, the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. Nine adventurers set out on the quest to take the Ring to its destruction. They are the four Hobbits, Gandalf, Strider, Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf [John Rhys Davies - Raiders of the Lost Ark ] and Boromir [Sean Bean - Goldeneye ].

    Peter Jackson has created a masterpiece. The visuals are excellent, every scene flawlessly artistic. The SPFX and make-up far surpass anything else - the Goblins and Orcs look completely inhuman, the Hobbits and Dwarves are convincing as such despite the fact they are average-sized humans computer-shrunk to appear as wee folk, and the magical effects are seamlessly blended with the live-action footage. It is better by far than similar sequences in, say, The Mummy Returns.

    If the film has one flaw, it is the story. The script itself is an excellent adaptation of JRR Tolkien 's work, and the original work itself was excellent. However, when the audience know exactly what is going to happen next, the film somewhat loses its thrill.

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