In 1844 the Shogun's relative is an evil sonovabitch, and must be stopped before he inherits even greater power. A handful of samurai are hired to assassinate him. The sword-fight that follows is about as long as the climactic gun-battle in John Woo 's Hard Boiled.
The changes are mostly for the worse, making the story fit the cliches of the modern American movie. Ishmael is now the harpoonist, and Quequeg is merely a token ethnic sidekick. The only big star among Ahab's lower ranks is Vinnie Jones ( Swordfish ). Ahab also has an adopted daughter, a supermodel-type beauty named Rachel ( Sofia Pernas ).
The script is a poor shadow of the original story. However, the visuals are occasionally quite impressive. It makes you wonder how good this might really have been if it had been made by a big Hollywood studio.
Charlton Heston ( Ben Hur ) is the title character, the greatest knight in all of Spain. We follow his life through his dramatic courtship of Sophia Loren , and his noble efforts to avoid the intrigues of the Spanish court. If anything his lack of guile and subtlety makes him a bit annoying. He is portrayed as always doing the right thing, which does not actually make any sense. When the country is split by civil war he turns from one side to another repeatedly, always undermining his friends. But finally, he tries to unite them against the invading Moors …
Despite white-washing El Cid's deeds, this is not a straightforward propaganda piece. There is a group of token good Moors, who are almost as noble as Ed Cid himself. The villain is the Moroccan Emir Herbert Lom.
There is no magic in this version, our heroine relies on Girl-power. Leonardo Da Vinci also puts in an appearance.
The Jabberwock is a monster that prowls the wilderness and eats people. Our hero is Village blacksmith Helo ( BSG 2003, Dollhouse ).
This is a typical Asylum project, with only half a dozen speaking parts and only one recognisable face. But the script is okay, and some of the dialogue actually works!
This is a stage-play brought to life with an all-star cast.
Queen Mab ( Miranda Richardson ) is now referred to as The Lady of the Lake, a dumbing-down of the original concept.
The stereotypical characters are present:
In the second two-hour segment of the mini-series, it is up to the Apprentice and his fellow tweenagers to save the folks.
This effort's portrayal of Vikings has about as much realism as in Pathfinder . But it is not meant to be a documentary, it is an entertaining enough piece of work.
This film is pure style over substance. The paper-thin plot is merely an excuse for stylish violence with slo-mo, back-lighting and a smoke machine. In one respect this is high-brown fare: the Norse speak their own languages, with English subtitles. Presumably this is the main reason it did not do better financially.
Will the stone-age hunter-gatherers triumph over the strangers who only want to build farmsteads in the New World? Silly question!
This is adapted from a novel written by a German. It was filmed in Spain with a British cast, speaking English to make it acceptable to the International (i.e. American) audience. Unfortunately it was regarded as unmarketable to the Americans.
This is an ugly tale, beautifully told. It is basically a slasher film, told from the killer's perspective. It is not about heroism or redemption.
Amanda Seyfried lives in a medieval European village filled with Canadian actors, including Michael Shanks from Stargate SG-1 and Colonel Tigh from BSG 2003 . But the village is plagued by the plot from The Wolfman .
Longbow archer Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe - Gladiator ) pretends to be a knight, Robert of Loxley. He goes home to the Knight's father, elderly Baron (Max Von Sydow, in a role much like the one he played in Solomon Kane ). He also has to contend with feisty widow-woman ( Cate Blanchett ) who could do worse than the oafish sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew McFadyen - The 3 Musketeers )
Meanwhile, rent-a-villain Mark Strong ( Stardust ) plots to help the French King invade England.
Our heroes, nominally Musketeers (who use Muskets), are normally portrayed as expert swordsmen instead. But here they are James Bond type secret agents, with special skills and fancy gadgets. They include a couple of recognisable faces - Porthos (Ray Stevenson - Rome ), Athos (Matthew McFadyen - Robin Hood (2010) ) and Aramis (Luke Evans - Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug ).
There is a great supporting cast - Milady ( Milla Jovovich ), Buckingham (Orlando Bloom - Pirates of the Caribbean ) and Planchet (James Cordon - Lesbian Vampire killers ) are scene-stealers. Seriously, it is that bad. In its defence, the visuals are spectacular - if you like anachronistic pre-steampunk CGI airships blowing things up.
Unlike the book, but in common with most adaptations, we know from the very start that Long John Silver (Eddie Izzard - Mystery Men ) is up to no good. But the gentlemen who help Jim in his quest are also given more characterisation than in any previous version. Dr. Livesey (Daniel Mays - Outcasts ) is cast as a coward. Squire Trelawney (Rupert Penry-Jones - The Strain ) is a money-grubbing and brutal fool. Only good old Captain Smollett (Philip Glenister - Life on Mars ) is allowed any sense of honour or decency, in line with the character in the original book.
In Part 2 of the story our young hero, Jim-Lad, is marooned with cast-away Ben Gunn (Elijah Wood - Lord of the Rings ). Poor Gunn is haunted by memories of Captain Flint (Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ).
Although Oz is a shyster with no magical powers, he runs into a trio of powerful witches. Mila Kunis falls in love with him, her sister Rachel Weitz manipulates him, and Michelle Williams straight-out uses him for her own ends. Luckily, Oz is owed a wookie life debt by a flying monkey (Zach Braff - Scrubs).
This may be a Sam Raimi film, but it is also a family-friendly blockbuster. The darker aspects of the script do not go further than anything done by Tim Burton . The 3D SPFX are at their best when the characters are flying around in the air, but otherwise add little to the film. All in all, it might be the best of a clutch of 3-D blockbusters released in Spring 2013, but it is not a terribly memorable film in its own right.
After her home was destroyed by the tornado, Dorothy Gale ( Fairuza Balk ) was sent to live with her aunt ( Piper Laurie ). However, her obsession with the mystical land of Oz leaves auntie with no option but to seek professional help. She takes Dorothy to a medical quack (Nichol Williamson - Excalibur (1981) ) - well, this was the era of medicine depicted in The Road To Wellsville . His sidekick is Jean Marsh , famous for her wicked witch roles.
The casting is quite impressive. Balk is one of the few 1980s child stars to have continued her career with any great degree of success. Williamson was Merlin in Excalibur , while Marsh was the Witch-Queen in Willow . A pity their evil team-up was not better conveyed.
These days, the most common complaint about films is the crappy CGI. Unfotunately, this film is let down by its crappy practical effects. In fact, it is not that the effects are crappy as such, merely that they are quite disappointing. The original sidekicks in the 1930s movie The Wizard of Oz were actors with grease-paint make-up, which allowed them to emote. The updated 1980s versions are rubbery and impersonal, so the audience perceives them as things rather than people and cannot relate to them in a personal way.
We start with a long-winded exposition on the Witches of Oz stealing the Book of Ultimate Magic from the Wizard (Christopher Lloyd - Back To The Future ). Dorothy Gale steals the book's key, then returns to Kansas. When she grows up she lives in modern day New York City. Frank L Baum never existed, and Dorothy Gale herself is in the process of writing the Oz books!
The Witches come to NYC, looking for the key. This means that the budget is not wasted on Fantasy sets, and is instead spent on talent. Luckily for Dorothy she has three male friends (including Billy Boyd - Lord of the Rings ) to help her out.
The hero does not fight Death, he plays chess with the spectre! Hence the homage in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey .
The travellers are beset by a Balrog, some CGI wolves and other assorted contrivances from other films.
A knight (Sean Bean - Game Of Thrones ) visits, requesting a guide to a nearby village where the plague has not yet struck. Osmond volunteers, because he knows the knight's route will take him near to where Averill is waiting for him. However, he has gotten out of his depth.
The knight is an Inquisitor. He and his companions, including John Lynch ( ), are going to the village in order to kill the Necromancer who rules it. Yes, much like the test for witchcraft - if you do not drown then you are guilty - they assume that only satan-worshippers will be immune to the plague.
The village is run by Hob (Tim McInnerny - ). A mysterious wise woman ( Carice Van Houten ) lurks in the background, offering assistance. But who is to be trusted?
The movie has an amazing cast, for what it is. Unfortunately it is let down by the poor cinematography. Everything seems to be shot in medium frame, which means we get to see very little of the wild landscape or the impressive medieval village set. A better director could have provided much more impressive visuals, and the complete lack of on-screen spectacle means this disappointing effort is a wasted opportunity.
Instead of using the cast of the stage play, the director chose to use a cast who had never performed this play before. For example, the main character - Victoria - is played by Francesca Hayward . Ms Hayward is an experienced professional ballerina, but is a newcomer to both this stage play and the movie industry in general. One hopes her future in the film industry goes better than that of Samantha Barks , who the director discovered for his previous musical theatre adaptation Les Miserables but who has not reached the pinacle of stardom that she rightfully deserves.
The story is very simple. A group of cats compete in a contest to win a trip in a hot air balloon. These contestants - including Jennyanydots ( Rebel Wilson ), Rustopher Jones (James Corden - Lesbian Vampire Killers ), Grizabella ( Jennifer Hudson ) and Gus the Theatre Cat (Ian McKellen - Lord of the Rings ) - each sing a song about themselves. Old Deuteronomy (Judy Dench - Skyfall (2012) ), the leader of the cats, acts as Judge of the contest. Apparently the original stage play had the songs performed by the whole troupe, rather than just have a series of disappointing solo performances.
The story's villain, Macavity (Idris Elba - Hobbs and Shaw ), plans to win the contest by kidnapping all the other contestants and leaving them guarded by his henchman Growltiger (Ray Winstone - Robin of Sherwood ). Not exactly something Stringer Bell would lower himself to in The Wire, and Bell was never considered to be the Napoleon of crime.
The high point, the only good song in the movie, is when Bombalurina ( Taylor Swift ) sings a seductive version of Macavity the Mystery Cat. Swift adopts a Received Pronunciation accent, and does quite a good job, although she is the only cat seen wearing high-heeled shoes. Everything else in the movie can be safely ignored.
Barnum goes off on a tour with a singer ( Rebecca Ferguson ).
The film covers certain episodes in Barnum's life, but it seems to lack conflict. Not just external conflict - after all, this is not a thriller. There is no real internal conflict, nothing to drive the story. Barnum is rich and successful by the start of the first Act, and there is no real climax in what we have to call the final Act.
The traditional fairy-tales are tied up at the end of the second act. Unfortunately, there is a third act to follow …
The third act consists mainly of writing out most of the supporting characters, and some central characters too, with deaths that are uncinematic and usually off-screen! The witch has the power to raise a cow from the dead, but apparently not a supporting character.
This is based on a stage musical, and its stagey origins are uncomfortably visible due to lacklustre direction. The climax itself is a small group of people in a confined space, which is a disappointment when every other fairytale movie enjoys magnificent landscapes and cinematic fairytale architecture.
Eight years later, Valjean and Javert bump into each other. Valjean is a respectable businessman, but Javert begins to suspect him. Valjean could easily escape, but is held back by his compassion for dying prostitute Fantine ( Anne Hathaway ). He promises to care for her daughter, who is being cared for by Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (still in character from the OTHER 19th Century musical they did together, Sweeney Todd ).
Over a decade later, the daughter has grown up to be Amanda Seyfried , who falls in love-at-first-sight with a young man. Unfortunately he is indulging in childish rebellion against his bourgeois family, and joins a student revolution. Their only plan is to set up a roadblock in a slum, then shoot any soldiers they can see. Valjean gets dragged into this stupidity, trying to save his foster-daughter's BF. Javert, of course, tries to save his country from the murderous anarchists.
The film has come in for a bit of criticism because of the singing. Virtually all dialogue is sung, not spoken - but in a Musical, that is not a bad thing. The singing was done live on set, not looped in an ADR booth in post-production. Russell Crowe's performance is flat - but that is the kind of person Javert comes across as being. He is dour, unimaginative, and only obeying orders.
The real discovery of the film is Manx actress Samantha Barks , who steals scenes as the second tragic heroine, Eponine. Her part is actually cut down from the stage play, in which she appears as near equal to Fantine. But Ms Barks, despite virtually her only credit being stage performances of this part, acquits herself as an equal of Anne Hathaway.
This film was the first to feature and Oscar-winning performance from an African-American man. Naturally, it has been condemned as racist because he does not play a violent gun-toting thug! It demands a remake, with Samuel L Jackson as Uncle Remus. I got a bedtime story for ya, child. Get the f*ck to sleep!
Farmer (Jason Statham - Ghosts of Mars ) is a turnip-loving ... farmer. He is somehow also an expert warrior, with a boomerang and Chinese kung-fu swords (and skills to match). Farmer and his friend Ron Perlman ( Season Of the Witch ) defeat a gang of Orcs who had wiped out the proper army's best men.
Farmer's wife ( Claire Forlani ) and son take the harvest wagon to the town of Stonebridge. Strangely, it has no bridge of any kind. But strange names are the least of this film's problems. Farmer and Perlman go to rescue the damsel, en route encountering Acrobatic tree-nymph Kristanna Lokken .
King Burt and his African-American General lead their army to face the Orcs. The pitched battle takes place in a forest, where cavalry cannot charge and there is too much cover for archers to be effective. Luckily the Orcs are too stupid to hide behind the trees. This leads on to great shots of massed combat, with hundreds of extras in full costume. That said, the inexplicable shots of ninjas somersaulting through the trees are a bit distracting.
No sooner is a new King crowned than he sets off with a motley fellowship of misfits in order to invade the villain's fortress. Yes, he thinks of his kingly duties as an excuse to go on a heroic suicide mission.
Shockingly, this is not as bad as the original film (despite having the same director - Uwe Boll ).
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman - Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy ) is recruited by Gandalf the Wizard. He joins a dozen Dwarves on their quest to kill a dragon and reclaim their home. En route, they encounter Goblins and other monsters. Lots of stabbings and violent death ensue - but to get a PG-13 rating, there is no blood!
The problem with the story is that it has been overly padded out. This film only takes up the first six chapters of the book, which has been split in three to make it a LOTR-style trilogy. Radaghast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy - Dr Who ) only gets mentioned in passing in the original book. Here, extensive scenes featuring him have been shoe-horned into the story. This pads out the running time, but adds nothing to the actual story. If anything, this added distraction just makes the story drag.
The Dwarves encounter the Wood Elves. The Elf-King (Lee Pace - Pushing Daisies ) is a sociopath, and his son Legolas (Orlando Bloom - Pirates of the Carribean ) insults Gimli's father. Tauriel ( Evangeline Lilly ) is Captain of the Guard, and starts to fall for Kili the Dwarf (Aidan Turner - Being Human ). The Elves barely get a mention in the book, while now they get to do huge cartoonish battle scenes where they wipe out dozens of Orcs.
Gandalf ventures off to meet Radaghast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy - Dr Who ) to fight the Necromancer, who only gets mentioned in the original book. Here, extensive scenes featuring him have been shoe-horned into the story. This pads out the running time, but adds nothing to the actual story. If anything, this added distraction just makes the story drag.
When the Dwarves get to Laketown, Bard (Luke Evans - Three Musketeers ) tries to involve them in his Socialist uprising against the oafish Mayor (Stephen Fry - ). And when they get to the Mountain, Bilbo has to face Smaug (Benedict Cumberbach - Star Trek: Into Darkness ).
Despite there being literally an army of dwarves from the Iron Hills present, the fact that Thorin refuses to abandon his post is made a big deal of. An extra dozen dwarves would hardly turn the tide of battle against thousands of orcs. Likewise, the human mayor’s toadie is treated like a villain for his cowardice. But he can hardly be blamed for staying out of harm’s way - he would be a liability to anyone who fought beside him.
Finally, the Dwarf Champions take on the Orc Champions. Legolas gets to run on stones in mid-air (like Wylie E. Coyote), and the laws of physics are generally ignored. This cartoonishness removes all suspension of disbelief, damaging the film even more.
Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas (Orlando Bloom - Pirates Of The Caribbean ) meet the Riders of Rohan, led by Karl Urban ( Xena: Warrior Princess ). Then they must help Miranda Otto to free the King (Bernard Hill - Gothika ) from the influence of Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif - Alien Resurrection ).
Saruman (Christopher Lee - SW II: Attack of the Clones ) sends a huge army of Orcs to besiege our heroes in the fortress of Helm's Deep. This leads on to one of three huge battles that take place simultaneously!
Frodo and Sam must face Shelob, a gigantic spider that guards the route to Mordor.
Merry and Pippin are reunited with Aragorn and the others. Together they must organise the defence of the last Kingdom of Men from the combined forces of all of Sauron's evil.
Poor Liv Tyler , given such an enlarged role in the first film, now has nothing to do but waste away.
An evil Wizard (Torin Thatcher - Lost in Space ) curses the Princess. Sinbad and his crew sail off to the wizard's island, where they must fight their way past the giant claymation monsters so they can defeat the Wizard and save the Princess.
They are joined by a feisty princess in a slave-girl outfit. Wow, that's original. But then, Sinbad is not something that should be associated with originality.
The merry men are pursued by a bald-headed necromancer and his sidekick, some kind of leopard-man. Like characters from the 1970s movies.
While the minotaur of the title is an enormous carnivorous CGI Bull, there are plenty of man-beasts for Sinbad and his friends to fight.
A gang of Somali pirates hijack an oil tanker in the Indian Ocean. The shipping company's owner, a descendant of Sinbad, personally takes the ransom to the delivery point.
This then leads Sinbad to encounter CGI monsters, as an updated version of the original movies.
A Russian gangster named Manta is after the emerald, in order to weaponise it somehow. His henchman is a thug with an eye-patch. Since the cyclops is clearly metaphorical, it seems that magic would not literally exist in this storyline. However three beautiful women, the Furies, are after the stone as well - and they definitely have magical powers.
This was produced by The Asylum, and has all their low-budget straight-to-video hallmarks. However, it is relatively well written and has a few witty moments. All in all, not a terrible movie.
Sinbad meets up with his old friend, and the friend's hot new girlfriend ( Catherine Zeta Jones ). When Eris steals the city's gem and frames Sinbad, this leads to a moral quandry. The friend offers to stay as a prisoner in Sinbad's place, while Sinbad goes off on a quest to recover the gem. But if Sinbad does not return with the gem within a month then his friend will be executed in his stead.
This is a good movie that flopped financially, probably because the celebrity voice-actors increased the budget by an order of magnitude. It seems to have influenced Pirates of the Carribean , which became a very successful five-film franchise.