ORBzine - History & Fantasy 2008 Movie Reviews

Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Count of Monte Cristo (2002) Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ) is framed by his best friend, Guy Pearce ( The Time Machine ). He spends many long years imprisoned by Michael Winfield ( The Crow, Alien: Resurrection, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves ). Eventually he escapes, and plots his revenge.

This is based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas . It keeps more or less to the story, and is a fair retelling of it.

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    Don Quixote (2000)

    Don Quixote (2000) This is a 21st Century adaptation of a 17th Century novel - set in the 19th Century, to increase the anachronism. Don Quixote (John Lithgow 3rd Rock from The Sun ), an elderly gentleman, goes senile and thinks he is a Knight. He goes on a quest with his loyal squire, Sancho Panza (Bob Hoskins - Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Hook ) on behalf of a washerwoman he thinks is the Lady Dulcinea ( Vanessa Williams ).

    During their adventures, they meet a variety of equally interesting characters. Some are helpful, like the young graduate (James Purefoy - Rome ). Others merely want to mock the adventurers - like Isobella Rossellini and Lambert Wilson ( Sahara, Catwoman ).

  • Man of La Mancha
  • Quantum Leap [Season 2, Episode 10] Catch A Falling Star - May 21, 1979
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    Earthsea

    Earthsea On the world of Earthsea, Gerd the blacksmith's son (Shawn Ashmore - Smallville ) uses magic to repel Kurganite invaders (thugs dressed like Normans). A Wizard (Danny Glover - 2012 ) takes him as an apprentice, and sends him to the Unseen Hogwarts Uni. Alan Scarfe ( 7 Days ) is the UU Arch-chancellor. Gerd studied and developed his magical skills. He also falls out with a James Marsters type, and tries to summon the dead ( Amanda Tapping ).

    High Priestess Isabella Rosselini and her top pupil Kristen Kreuk are part of a sisterhood dedicated to keeping demons at bay. They guard the vault to the nether-world. The Kurganites seek world conquest, and don't care about magic or good versus evil.

    Part 2. (90 mins)

    The Kurganites have captured the Uni. Sebastian Roche ( Odyssey 5 ) gives a very disappointing performance as leader of the Kurganites.

    Gerd is on the run, pursued by the Nameless One he unleashed. It wants to possess him, and leave a trail of dead bodies. His only help is from another trainee wizard.and his sister, Katherine Isabelle . He must go on a quest to unite the pieces of the Amulet of Peace. This takes him to the Temple where Kristen Kreuk lives, thus drawing together the plot threads.

    The original author, Ursula LeGuin , disowned this primarily because of the casting. Producer Robert Halmi has filmed several pieces in Australia ( Farscape being the best example), where the cast can be selected to have a Polynesian appearance. Unfortunately this work was filmed in Vancouver, so the cast are predominently caucasian.

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    Hawk the Slayer

    Hawk the Slayer Darth Vader lookalike Voltan (Jack Palance - Spy in the Green Hat ) threatens to pillage a nunnery unless a ransom is paid. The head nun, Annette Crosbie, sends W. Morgan Sheppard ( SeaQuest DSV ) to summon Hawk the Slayer (John Terry - Living Daylights ). But even with Hawk's magic sword and Sheppard's automatic crossbow (!!!) they still need help. They recruit a band of desperados - a Giant (Bernard Bresslaw - Krull ), a dwarf and an elf. Yes, instead of the Dirty Dozen or Magnificent Seven, the nuns are protected by the ... Five.

    Patricia Quinn pops up as a sorceress.

    The best thing about it is the music, which owes more than a little to Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds!

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    Kingdom of Heaven

    Kingdom of heaven This is a big-budget epic with a great cast and director ( Ridley Scott ). Orlando Bloom ( LOTR, Pirates of the Caribbean ) is on the run, but luckily meets his father (Liam Neeson - SW1: TPM ), a Crusader.

    Once in the Holy Land, Orlando must save the Christians from defeat in a war that nobody really wanted. The story feels like Gladiator meets Pirates of the Caribbean , with a bit of SW1: TPM thrown in for good measure. True to modern political correctness, it makes the Templars eeevil and the Saracens noble.

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    Attila

    Attila King of the Huns, Steven Berkoff ( Octopussy ) takes his orphaned nephew Attila (Gerald Butler - Dracula 2001, Lara Croft: Cradle of life, 300 ) as protege. Rome finally realises the danger the Huns represent. The Emperor's mother, Alice Krige , orders the release from prison of her political rival, Rome's greatest General (Powers Booth - Agents of Shield ).

    Attila falls in love with peasant girl Simone MacKinnon .

    Part 2

    The Eastern Emperor (Tim Curry - Rocky Horror picture Show ) plots against Attila. Worse, the Emperor's sister makes her own plays for power. Attila finally gets an excuse to invade Rome. This brings him up against his old mentor, Powers Boothe!

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    The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising

    The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising A teenage boy discovers that he is The Seeker, avatar of The Light. He must save the world from The Rider (Christopher Eccleston - Dr Who 2005, Heroes ), avatar of The Darkness. Ian McShane (Deadwood) and James Cosmo ( Braveheart ) are the Mentors who help our hero.

    This is much darker than the early Harry Potter films. And though it cannot have had a huge budget, the production values seem very impressive!

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    Timeline

    Timeline This is yet another big-budget B-Movie based on a pulp bestseller by Michael Crichton . It's basically the time-travel equivalent of Congo.

    Archaeologist Billy Connolly ( X-Files: I Want To Believe ) works for Billionaire David Thewlis ( Dragonheart ) on an excavation at a medieval castle in France. Connolly's team include his son Paul Walker (Into the Blue), Walker's girlfriend Frances O'Connor and Connolly's sidekick Gerard Butler ( Dracula 2001 ). They make a lot of apparently off-the-cuff remarks that we know will turn out ironic later.

    The Billionaire sends his pet archaeologists through a time portal to the Middle ages. A couple of ex-Marines go along as token red-shirts. Naturally, things go wrong. Luckily it's a Hollywood version of History, without dirt or grime or suffering. Butler goes chasing after a French peasant woman (like all French women in Hollywood, played by an English actress - this time Anna Friel ). The English, especially the villainous Martin Csokas ( XXX ), make things as hard as they can for our heroes.

    The Archaeologists seem to know very little about the time period they're studying. The reason why they side with the villainous Frenchies instead of the hard-working English does not make sense either. Perhaps they wish to return to a future where the USA is now Greater Quebec!

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    Casanova

    Casanova Heath Ledger ( Brothers Grimm, The Dark Knight ) is the title character, the arch-seducer at liberty in Renaissance Venice under the rule of Tim McInnery (Blackadder).

    He attempts to seduce Sienna Miller , the daughter of Lena Olin , while dodging Catholic Inquisitor Jeremy Irons ( Dungeons & Dragons ). Oliver Platt ( Bicentennial Man ) helps out.

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    Moll Flanders

    Moll Flanders Eighteenth Century London. Morgan Freeman ( Seven ) liberates a petulant young girl from an orphanage, and takes her on a journey to the Americas. This section frames the main story, as Freeman reads to her the journal of her mother - the title character. Freeman's English accent is not the best, and makes his normally excellent narration sub-par.

    Moll Flanders ( Robin Wright ) was born in Newgate prison. She worked in a brothel, became an artist's model ...

    The Alex Kingston version had a lot more incidents, but as a TV mini-series it was a lot longer. This film does quite well at over two hours.

    This was filmed entirely in Ireland. Ardal O'Hanlon (Father Ted) is one of the Brothel customers, and Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes) is the artist's father.

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    A Man For All Seasons

    A Man For All Seasons This is the story of Thomas Moore, Lord Chancellor of England in the reign on Henry VIII (Robert Shaw - Jaws). Unfortunately, Henry's divorce meant embracing the Reformation. Thomas Moore fell out of favour, and eventually became the target of his replacements.

    This was based on a biography on Moore written by his son-in-law, and thus is flattering to the point of being misleading. Moore is presented as being a fair-minded man, whereas in reality he was responsible for the execution of Tyndale for the crime of translating the Bible into English! The other three Thomases - Wolsey (Orson Welles - Casino Royale ), Cromwell (Leo McKern - The Prisoner ) and Cranmer - are all portrayed as extremely corrupt in comparison.

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    Centurion

    Centurion Michael Fassbender ( Haywire ) is a Roman Centurion. He gets captured by the Picts, which is ironic since he is probably the only cast member fluent in Gaelic. His sword-fighting skills are from gladiator school, not from actual Roman military training.

    Hadrian sends in the Legio IX Hispana, led by General Dominic West ( 300 ). Their guide is Olga Kurlyenka , whose native accent is conveniently concealed by the fact that her character's tongue has been cut out and she never speaks.

    The Legion is ambushed. Fassbender and a small group of survivors (including Noel Clarke - Dr Who 2005 ) must rescue the General and then escape back to Roman territory.

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    Prince of Persia

    Prince of Persia This was intended as a swashbuckling franchise like Pirates of the Caribbean , with up to six sequels. It has got a lot of recent political commentary involved, but is mildly entertaining.

    Once upon a time, a Persian king adopted an Ali Baba type thief-boy, Dostan. Fifteen years later, Dostan (Jake Gyllenhall - ) is dragged along when his adopted brothers decide to conquer an Islamic city based on dodgy evidence of secret weapons caches. See what I mean about modern politics?

    The King is murdered, and in the most blatant frame-up ever poor Jake gets the blame. The scoundrel and the Princess ( Gemma Arterton ) go on the run together, predictably bickering like ... well, like Han and Leia. They bump into Alfred Molina, who is paranoid about Big Government raising taxation and spending it on secret death squads.

    Dostan tries to clear his name, and find out who the real killer is. The King's brother is the Evil Hood (Ben Kingsley - Thunderbirds ). This means that the inevitable twist in the story is not exactly unexpected.

    The climax involves a genuine super-weapon, a magical dagger which can turn back time.

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    Dragonheart: A New Beginning

    Dragonheart: A New Beginning Christopher Masterson ( Scary Movie 2 ), the eldest brother from Malcolm in the Middle, befriends a dragon. Together they must help decide who rules the kingdom.

    The location and cast are Slovakian, which kept costs down. The song is My heart goes with you, as unoriginal as it sounds. The fight double is Tony Leung, probably the best thing about this effort.

  • Dragonheart
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    Dungeons & Dragons Franchise

    Dungeons and Dragons 2

    Dungeons and Dragons 2 Thousands of years after the events of the first Dungeons and Dragons movie, and there is no technological progression. Damadar (Bruce Payne - Highlander: Endgame ), henchman from the first film, is now an archvillain in his own right.

    Damadar plans to revive a slumbering dragon, and use it to destroy a city. The city sends a handful of mis-matched adventurers on a dungeon-bash - much closer to the game than the original movie was.

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    Dungeons and Dragons 3: Book of Vile Darkness

    Dungeons and Dragons 3: Book of Vile Darkness This story is set in a swords & sorcery world, where our young hero is an apprentice knight in an order of valiant warriors. Unfortunately his group is wiped out, his father is kidnapped, and he is left for dead. He must disguise his true origins, join the band of murderous barbarians on their quest, and infiltrate the villains' ranks in order to save his father.

    The book of evil has been a cliché since the days of HP Lovecraft , and most recently parodied in the TV show Todd and the Book of Pure Evil . here it is used as a plot device.

    The one interesting idea in this film is that the hero joins an EVIL group of adventurers on a quest! And as he loses his heroic edge, we see genuine character development.

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    Robert E. Howard Tales

    Kull the Conqueror

    Kull the Conqueror This is a 1997 adaptation of Robert E. Howard's work. There is a basic script, with rock music playing through the action scenes. Joel Goldsmith did the score. This is a Kevin Sorbo and Rafaella de Laurentis production.

    Kevin Sorbo ( Hercules ) stars as the title character. He is a fish out of water who becomes King by virtual accident (like the John Goodman film), and starts changing laws. Roy Brocksmith ( Total Recall ) is the royal eunuch. Thomas Ian Griffith ( John Carpenter's Vampire$ ) plots against King Kull, and raises sorceress Queen Tia Carrere from the dead.

    Kull goes on a quest, taking a ship to the Isle of Ice (like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger ). The climax is similar to She by Rider Haggard , a comparison Howard himself might not mind. Compared to other Howard adaptations, this is closest to Conan the Destroyer in feel.

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    Solomon Kane

    Solomon Kane This is the much-awaited screen debut of the character created by Robert E. Howard , creator of Kull the Conqueror, Red Sonja & Conan the Barbarian .

    It's the year 1600, and Solomon Kane (James Purefoy - Rome ) is the greatest swordsman in the world. But when the Devil tries to claim his soul, he suddenly finds religion and becomes a pacifist!

    Kane falls in with a family of Puritans, led by Pete Postlethwaite ( Rat ) and Alice Krige . They trek across late Elizabethan England, during the time of Shakespeare. The place looks like the modern-day Czech Republic, and is full of thugs and bandits. A thug in a medieval Jason mask is magically enslaving people so they serve an evil sorcerer named Malakili (Jason Flemyng - Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels). Was not this originally a storyline in the ultra-low-budget 1990s TV show New Adventures of Robin Hood ?

    This effort owes little enough to Howard's character, or to historical accuracy. Solomon Kane is an English privateer sailing under the Union Jack ... with all 3 crosses on it! That is like using the US flag in the same period, including all 50 stars!

    There's an unnecessary back-story shoehorned into the plot, concerning Kane's relationship with his father (Max Von Sydow - Flash Gordon, Dune, Judge Dredd ). Lots of cliches are inflicted upon us ...

    However, it could have been worse. Kane does not have a love interest, thankfully.

    Compared to the recent trilogy of supernatural swashbucklers, this is not as good as the first Pirates of the Caribbean film but it's better than the other two.

    All in all, however, this is a reasonable attempt that might even kick-start a straight-to-DVD franchise. The cast is great, the SPFX are excellent ... Maybe with a better script, the next film could be truly worthy.

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    Shakespearean Tales

    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    Rosencranz and Guilderstern are Dead This is based on a stage-play, itself a pastiche of Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

    Renaissance Denmark, and the title characters (Tim Roth and Gary Oldman) ride to the Royal castle. Their luck has changed - but they begin to suspect that now fate has taken over.

    Prince Hamlet (Iain Glen - Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ) has summoned them to attend him. A mysterious theatre-master (Richard Dreyfuss - Jaws) dogs their footsteps, and from the sidelines they watch Hamlet’s story unfold.

    Oldman accidentally stumbles across a number of scientific discoveries, thus revealing the characters’ potential. Roth, meanwhile, attempts to discover what is going on. And the disturbing realization that they are mere players, and all their world is a stage, is never far away.

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    Titus

    Titus This is a 1999 version of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. General Titus (Anthony Hopkins - Hannibal ) loyally serves the Emperor (Alan Cummings - Goldeneye ). However, Jessica Lange plots against him.

    The makers retained the original Shakespearean dialogue, though the sets and costumes are Art Deco. The sadistic violence is typically shakespearean - think of Theatre of Blood . And Titus' revenge reminds one of of Hopkins' most famous role!

    Hopkins is ably supported by Colm Fiore ( Chronicles of Riddick ) and Angus Macfadyen ( Braveheart, Saw 3 ).

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    Merchant of Venice (2005)

    Merchant of Venice (2005) This play, written by Shakespeare (an Englishman who never visited Venice in real life), has been given authentic costumes and settings. It keeps more or less to the original story, though certain nice touches have been added.

    Venice, circa 1590. Antonio (Jeremy Irons - Dungeons and Dragons ), the title character, borrows money from the Jewish money-lender Shylock. The small print? If Antonio cannot repay the debt in time, Shylock can instead claim a pound of Antonio's flesh!

    Al Pacino, famous for OTT acting, here manages to rein himself in as Shylock. The other performances are also impressive. Oddly, the female lead is a newcomer who was last-minute replacement for a big-name star. Perhaps she will get more opportunities in the future ...

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    Tristan and Isolde

    Tristan and Isolde This is a tale from the Dark Ages, and inspired the Lancelot/Guinevere subplot within the Arthurian legends. Historical and geographical accuracy are nowhere to be found - the map shows Dunluce Castle somewhere near Dublin!

    Tristan (James Franco - Spiderman ) is orphaned by Irish raiders, and is raised by King Marke (Rufus Sewell - Knight's Tale ). By a strange twist of fate he falls in love with Isolde ( Sophia Myles ), daughter of the eevil High King of Ireland.

    Kevin Reynolds delivers some nicely-executed action scenes. The romance is well done, though the plot is old enough to seem predictable. All in all - watchable, though it's easy to see why it flopped.

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    Cleopatra

    Cleopatra This is a made-for-TV remake of the great epic. Timothy Dalton ( Flash Gordon ) is Julius Caesar, while some little Italian babe is the title character. The wee girl does some sword-fighting, to make this more acceptable to the Buffy audience. Yes, a Prissy girlie defeats multiple legionaries in a swordfight.

    Familiar faces include Indra Ovid ( Space Island One ), Art Malik ( True Lies ), Oded Fehr ( The Mummy ) and Bruce Payne ( Dungeons and Dragons ).

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    Ancient Greece

    Immortals

    Immortals

    This pays lip service to the ancient Greek myths, but it is style over substance, an inferior copy of 300

    Zeus has made a law that the Gods do not intervene openly in the affairs of mankind. They cannot heal themselves, and humans can use magical weapons. Villainous King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke - a much better villain than he was in Iron Man 2 ) wants to free the Titans, and start a war with the Gods. To do this he needs a magic bow, so he sends his army to capture the oracle ( Freida Pinto ).

    Our hero, Theseus the peasant, teams up with comic relief (Stephen Dorff, who looks like he did in Blade 15 years ago). They must succeed where well-trained soldiers have failed.

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    Clash of the Titans (2010)

    Clash of the Titans (2010) This is a straight remake of the 1981 classic. Scene by scene, with relatively little variation. No surprises in the plot, really, for those who have seen the original.

    Our hero (Sam Worthington - Terminator: Salvation ) was raised by Pete Postlethwaite (who has a similar mentor role in Solomon Kane ).

    There is a power struggle between Zeus (Liam Neeson - Phantom Menace ) and his jealous brother Hades (Ralph Feinnes - Harry Potter ).

    The Gods threaten to destroy a city run by underused Polly Walker . Perseus is sent on a quest, aided by soldier Mads Mikelsson ( Casino Royale ) and immortal babe Gemma Arterton .

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    Wrath of the Titans

    Wrath of the Titans

    This is a sequel to the recent remake of the classic Clash of the Titans (1981) . The main improvement over either previous film appears to be that this has high-quality CGI. The storyline is taken from recent film Immortals , but without the dramatic flair or originality.

    Ten years have passed since the previous film. Perseus (Sam Worthington - Terminator: Salvation ) has a ten-year-old son, whose mother has conveniently died or disappeared. This leads Perseus free to team up with a new love interest (Princess Andromeda - Bond Girl Rosamund Pike ), a comic relief (the son of Poseidon), and a bunch of expendables. They must find Hephaestus (Bill Nighy - Shaun of the Dead, POTC 2 & 3 ), overcome some CGI beasties (far inferior to scenes in Troll Hunter ) and save the world.

    The monstrous Titans, led by Kronos himself, are about to escape and destroy the world. Zeus (Liam Neeson - Aslan in Narnia ) goes to his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes - Voldemort in Harry Potter ) for help. Since Hades was the villain in the previous film, this is probably not a good idea. The first time these two actors worked together was as opponents in Schindler's List - how the mighty have fallen! In the tradition of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys , Ares (God of War) is an antagonistic character too.

  • Clash of the Titans (1981)
  • Clash of the Titans (2010)
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