ORBzine - History 2007 Movie Reviews

Alexander The Great

Alexander The Great Richard Burton ( Cleopatra ) plays the title character. He is not as young as Colin Farrell in the more recent film, but since this is a relic from the sword-and-sandal era you really cannot really expect historical accuracy or realism.

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  • Alexander

    Alexander Colin Farrell ( Daredevil ) plays the title character, in Oliver Stone 's epic biopic. The story is in flashback by the aged veteran Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ). Alexander succeeds his father to the throne, then invades Persia.

    The landscapes are spectacular, and certainly feel authentic to Ancient Greece and Persia. Which is all the more confusing, because most of the Greeks (including Alex's dad, Val Kilmer - Willow ) have adopted Oirish accents. Apparently this was a deliberate choice by the director, not to accommodate Farrell's inability to do other accents but to make the Macedonians appear backward compared to urbanised Greeks like Aristotle (Christopher Plummer).

    Angelina Jolie does not pretend to be Irish - she uses a dodgy Russian accent instead, like she does in Beowulf . As Alex's scheming bitch of a mother, she puts him off women - until he meets Rosario Dawson , that is. In reality, Jolie is the same age as Farrell - but she delivers a strong performance, which saves the film.

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  • The Tempest

    The Tempest Cajun magick-man Mr Prosper (Peter Fonda - Ghost Rider ) lives in the Bayou with his slave Arial (Harold Perrineau - Lost ) and daughter Miranda ( Katherine Heigl ).

    Prospero's eeevil brother, John Glover ( Smallville ) helps the local residents defend themselves from those Damn Yankee invaders.

  • Forbidden Planet
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  • Abduction Club

    Abduction Club This is a light-hearted romantic swashbuckler set in Ireland, circa 1780. Alice Evans and Sophia Myles are a pair of heiresses who are kidnapped by the Abduction Club, impoverished young men who want to marry rich women.

    Unfortunately, The Powers That Be (including Edward Woodward - Wicker Man ) frown on such behaviour, and intend to hang the abductors!

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  • 300

    300 The eeevil Persians are poised to invade Ancient Greece. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler - Dracula 2001, Lara Croft 2 ) and his army of 300 muscular stuntmen in posing pouches (including the monkish sidekick from Van Helsing ) go to delay the Persians at a mountain pass named Thermoplye.

    Meanwhile, back in Sparta, Queen Gorgo ( Lena Headey ) plots with Stephen McHattie ( Haunter ) to raise the rest of the Spartan army and rescue the 300!

    Zach Snyder delivers an adaption of a graphic novel by Frank Miller. And much like the last Miller adaption, Sin City , this is just pure style over substance. In order to give it the artistic look and feel, the backdrops are all greenscreen and there is excessive use of slo-mo!

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  • 300: Rise of an Empire

    300: Rise of an Empire This is adapted from the comic sequel to the original graphic novel. It was originally to be called Xerxes or Battle of Artemesia, but they thought that would sound too exotic so they dumbed it down.

    The story runs parallel to the first film, although there are bits set before (to give background) and after (to provide conclusion). Thus, certain characters who die in the first film actually make brief reappearances.

    While Xerxes leads his land forces against the 300 Spartans, his naval forces under Artemisia ( Eva Green ) face off against a small force of Athenian ships. The result is a series of typically violent confrontations, in the vein of the action scenes from the first film - although there is not the same reliance of slo-mo.

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  • Kung Pow: Enter The Fist

    Kung Pow: Enter The Fist Steve Oedekerk , best known for more mainstream fare like Bruce Almighty , is the writer/director/star of this incredible piece of work.

    This is based on a Chinese Kung Fu film, over-dubbed with new dialogue. Actors are digitally inserted into scenes, and entirely new scenes are created with CGI.

    The best scene is the Mootrix - a Matrix style martial arts duel between the hero and ... a CGI cow!

    Keep an eye out for a young Philip Kwok, best known as Mad Dog in Hard-Boiled!

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  • The Last Legion

    The Last Legion This is set in the 5th Century of the Common Era. The Roman Empire is crumbling, so Iain Glen ( Lara Croft, Resident Evil III ) declares his young son as Emperor. Naturally, the Goths are revolting - and not just to look at! Rome is sacked ...

    A motley band of Imperial Loyalists try to save their young Emperor. The tutor Ambrosinius (Ben Kingsley - Sound of Thunder ) and General Colin Firth ( ) end up taking the boy to Britannia, where the Last Legion is garrisoning Hadrian's Wall. They are pursued by villainous Goths Kevin McKidd ( Rome ) and James Cosmo ( Braveheart ), and Ambrosinius also has some local enemies to deal with!

    Although this is based on a book, it apparently does not follow it very closely. It certainly does not pretend to follow the historical facts, although it is nice to see a new take on the Arthurian legends. To sum the film up: the babe ( Aishwarya Rai ) is the best fighter of the lot. Yes, it is THAT kind of film!

  • Excalibur
  • First Knight
  • King Arthur
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  • King Arthur

    King Arthur Arthur (Clive Owen - Sin City ) is a Roman officer. He is sent north into Scotland, which has been invaded by crossbow-wielding Saxons led by Stellan Saarsgard ( Ronin ). En route he saves Guinevere ( Keira Knightley ), warrior princess of the Picts.

    Ray Winstone ( Beowulf ) is one of Arthur's loyal followers.

    This version of the Arturian Legend attempts authenticity instead of the typical OTT approach. Unfortunately, it soon sinks into ridiculousness.

  • Excalibur
  • First Knight
  • The Last Legion
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  • Stardust

    Stardust Somewhere in the heart of Victorian England lies a magical Kingdom, concealed behind an ancient wall. A young Englishman, Tristan, vows to the girl he loves ( Sienna Miller ) that he will retrieve a fallen star which landed beyond the wall. However, in the Kingdom he discovers that the star is Claire Danes !

    The bickering pair must travel a hundred miles across the Kingdom, pursued by the wicked witch ( Michelle Pfeiffer ) and an equally villainous Prince. En route they encounter a disturbing number of British comedy actors, including a Fence (Ricky Gervase - Invention of Lying ) and a goat (Mark Williams - Red Dwarf ). They are even captured by Sky-Pirates Robert De Niro ( Hide and Seek, Godsend ) and Dexter Fletcher ( Robin Hood (2006) ).

    This is taken from a comic by Neil Gaiman , and is actually very good. The nearest comparison would be Princess Bride - a sort of light-hearted Fantasy swashbuckler. It goes for comedy rather than gore - there are several brutal killings, but it is well-edited to show little or no blood! All in all, well worth watching.

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  • The Golden Compass

    The Golden Compass Released shortly after Stardust , this is a Fantasy with a similar feel and setting. It was adapted from the book by Philip Pullman and while comparable with the afore-mentioned Gaiman film it ultimately comes second place. That said, it has an excellent cast (including the very young female lead, who has to perform against world-class talent).

    A tomboyish young girl lives in Oxford University, in a Steampunk-ish parallel universe ruled by the eeevil Magisterium (Derek Jacobi, Christopher Lee, etc). The magical aspect of the story comes mainly from the fact that everyone's soul resides in a talking animal that accompanies them, referred to as a Daemon. What hurts the human also hurts the Daemon, and vice versa.

    The girl's Uncle Asriel (Daniel Craig - Casino Royale ) discovers a clue to the secret of travel between parallel universes, and goes to the north pole to complete his discovery. The girl is taken into the care of Nichole Kidman ...

    The girl goes on a quest to the North Pole, to save her uncle and her childhood friends. She picks up some useful allies, including a Witch (Bond girl Eva Green ), a balloon pilot (Sam Elliot) and a talking Polar Bear (Sir Ian McKellen - LOTR, X-Men ). However, she also has to overcome a variety of foes, including the Usurper King of the Bears (Ian McShane - POTC: On Stranger Tides ).

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  • Beowulf

    Beowulf This is the oldest story in the English language, re-told in the most modern story-telling format. The characters are idealised versions of the actors who portray them, and the animation ensures that the blend between actors and SPFX is seamless.

    A Viking feast is attacked by a monster named Grendel. The King (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ) invites monster-slayers to save his people, and Beowulf (Ray Winstone - Robin of Sherwood ) arrives. The King's advisor (John Malkovich - Being John Malkovich ) has his doubts, but Beowulf faces the monster in battle ...

    As anyone familiar with the story will know, the real danger is not Grendel but his mother. Here the writers (including Roger Avery ) have taken extreme liberties with the source material . She is now a seductive demoness who looks like Angelina Jolie and speaks with a dodgy Russian accent. She makes a deal with Beowulf - a deal he may regret!

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  • Ella Enchanted

    Ella Enchanted This is a modern retelling of the Cinderella story, narrated by Eric Idle ( Life of Brian, Time Bandits ). The title character, Ella ( Anne Hathaway ) lives with her evil step-mother Joanna Lumley. She wants to win the nice-but-dim Prince Charmand [Hugh Dancy - ), who is being manipulated by his eeevil uncle Edgar (Cary Elwes - Princess Bride ).

    Fairy Godmother Vivica A. Fox gives Ella a blessing of obedience, but it turns out to be more of a curse. Ella treks across the Kingdom to find Ms Fox again. Her quest is like a live-action version of Shrek , with occasional breaks in the plot for the characters to perform 20th-century songs.

    Minnie Driver pops up as Ella's friend. Her BF (Jimi Mistri - The Guru) is turned into a book, and becomes one of Ella's magical companions.

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  • Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events

    Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events Mr Snickett (Jude Law - A.I. ) narrates a tale about three child-geniuses who are raised rich, but orphaned in a mysterious house-fire. The family's banker (Timothy Spall - Red Dwarf ) takes the orphans to live with their Uncle Olaf (Jim Carey - The Grinch, Number 23 ).

    The orphans are passed from guardian to guardian, including the likes of Billy Connolly ( ). However, eeevil Olaf pursues them in a number of disguises. He is after the kids' inheritance.

    There is a subplot. The kids' parents were in a secret society, investigating mysterious arson cases.

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  • Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise

    Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End

    Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End Gore Verbinski gives us the third, most overblown and shallow piece in the once-fine series. This is perhaps an exaggeration - after all, the second film was overblown and shallow as well.

    The heroic Pirates go to Singapore, and try to recruit local warlord Chow Yun-Fat ( Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ). All the pirates are being squeezed by the East India Company, which is privatising the whole world.

    The Pirates must use Voodoo magic to rescue Jack Sparrow, although he does a pretty good job himself. The Voodoo woman from the second film has a much expanded part, which is not a problem. However, a number of characters who are vital to the second film are written off in a most anti-climactic fashion!

    Keira Knightley has to work out which of her love interests she is meant to end up with. That is actually her major plot thread. Despite this, she does get to do a very piratey thing indeed.

    Finally, everyone meets up for a big sea battle. Lots of CGI is used, and it is ... well, overblown and shallow.

    The final scene - the VERY final scene - is after the credits. Yes, after about five minutes of credits. Hmm. Whether it is worth the wait is up to yourself.

  • POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl
  • POTC: Dead Man's Chest
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  • Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides

    Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides Yes, it has been a few years since the last movie. Jack was last seen setting off in search of the Fountain of Youth. Well, he got distracted and ended up in Georgian London. Penelope Cruz , an old flame of Jack's, is recruiting a new pirate crew.

    The Spanish have dispatched a crew to locate the Fountain. Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rushe - House on Haunted Hill ) now looks a lot older, and has accepted a commission as a privateer in the pay of King George II. He wants to find the Fountain too. And Blackbeard (Ian McShane - Golden Compass ) himself is after it as well.

  • POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl
  • POTC: Dead Man's Chest
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  • Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Salazar's Revenge (AKA Dead Men Tell No Tales)

    Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Salazar's Revenge (AKA Dead Men Tell No Tales) This takes up after the end-credits sequence of the third film. We all thought that the heroes got their happy-ever-after ending. It turns out that the curse was not broken at all, and Will Turner still has to serve the rest of eternity as Captain of the Flying Dutchman. However, his young son is obsessed with ending the curse. The one item that will do the trick is Neptune's Trident. Since this is a Disney film, presumably Neptune is the father of Tia Dalma.

    Nine years later (five after the events of the previous film, On Stranger Tides ) the young lad is a crewman aboard a Royal Navy warship. They pursue an enemy ship into the Devil's Triangle, presumably a reference to the Bermuda Triangle. By incredible coincidence, Turner Junior is the sole survivor of an encounter with an undead maniac - Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem - Skyfall ). This man is captain of an undead crew (like Barbossa in the first film), and is renowned as the greatest enemy that the pirates have ever had (like Blackbeard in the previous film). And he swears vengeance on Jack Sparrow above all other men.

    By incredible coincidence, all the major plot threads meet up at the colony of St Martin. It is supposedly in the Caribbean but more likely in Australia. After all, the town's mayor is Bruce Spence ( Mad Max 2: Road Warrior ).

    The movie's token woman is a complete Mary Sue. She is accused of witchcraft, but is merely a woman of science. The ridiculousness of her scientific approach is pointed out many times in a series that features many magical aspects. However, the fact that she is a penniless orphan just out of her teens and yet somehow managed to educate herself to be the greatest scientist in the hemisphere is a lot less than believable. She is paired with Turner Junior as her love interest, though they have little in common. He becomes bland and uninteresting as soon as she appears. His own motivation becomes secondary to the storyline, as if just a way of squeezing the series' two most popular characters back into the story.

    Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush - House On Haunted Hill (1999) ) has retired from privateering, and become the most successful pirate in the Caribbean. He reluctantly makes a deal with Salazar, but learns what his real treasure is and actually develops as a character.

    The result is a bit of a mess. The main couple are bland an unappealing, which leaves Barbossa to steal every scene that he is in. There are a few anachronistic sail-punk mechanisms which create the swinging-back-and-forth type of scene that not only looks great in 3-D, but is also reminiscent of the series' theme park ride origins. However, the whole thing is basically style over substance.

  • POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl
  • POTC: Dead Man's Chest
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