ORBzine - History & Fantasy 2014 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer This is the life-story of a fictional serial-killer, Grenuille, who has a superhuman sense of smell. He roams 18th Century France, murdering young women so he can preserve their scent.

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.

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    Lion in Winter, The (1968)

    Lion in Winter, The (1968) Henry II (Peter O'Toole - ) holds a winter court, to determine who his successor will be. Henry's estranged wife Eleanor of Acquitaine ( Katherine Hepburn ) is summoned, as are their sons Richard the Lionheart (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ) and Prince John (Nigel Terry - Excalibur ). The young King of France (Timothy Dalton - Flash Gordon ) is also in attendance, so Henry can force him into a treaty.

    This is a stage-play brought to life with an all-star cast.

  • Lion In Winter (2003)
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    Boudicca (AKA Warrior Queen)

    Boudicca Boudicca ( Alex Kingston ) and her druid (McGloin from Gangs of New York) take on the Roman Empire. This was filmed in Romania, on a low budget with few extras. That said, the final battle scene is large-ish.

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    Spartacus (2003)

    Spartacus (2003) This is a pointless remake of the Hollywood blockbuster. The Yugoslav Doctor from E.R. is the title character, while Rhona Mitra is his love interest. At least the TV show had a bit of originality.

  • Spartacus (1961)
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand
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    Augustus: The First Emperor

    Augustus Peter O'Toole recounts his younger days, just like he did in the BBC version of Casanova .

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    7th Seal, The

    7th Seal, The This is a classic b&w 1950s film by Ingmar Bergman , in Swedish with English subtitles. Max Von Sydow ( Solomon kane ) and his sidekick are a couple of knights returning from the Crusades. The land is sick with plague, and a girl is blamed for witchcraft. Yes, we've found the main inspiration for the recent Season of the Witch .

    The hero doesn't fight Death, he plays chess with the spectre! Hence the homage in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey .

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    Season Of The Witch

    Season Of The Witch This botched swords-and-sorcery effort is shoved uncomfortably into an actual historical period. Crusader Nicholas Cage ( Face/Off ) and sidekick Ron Perlman ( Hellboy ) are in 1340s (!) Transylvania or wherever, and get pressganged by Archbishop Christopher Lee ( Lord of the Rings ). They must lead a motley crew (including Robert Sheehan - Misfits ) transporting a witch to the Spanish Inquisition to cure the Black Death. Yes, the plot is a pastiche of The 7th Seal . But will Perlman last longer than he did in Enemy at the Gate?

    This is very contrived, but could have worked if done as a Hammer Horror effort - like Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter - or a straight-forward fantasty effort ( Krull, Hawk the Slayer ).

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    Dark Relic

    Dark Relic This is a low-budget version of Season of the Witch . Rent-a-villain James Frain ( The Cape ) is a Crusader, escorting a satanic relic to a monastery. His companions include a priest (Samuel West - Sword of Xanten ) and a peasant girl who is also an atheist. A Saracen warrior and his Action Babe wife are along for the trip too.

    The travellers are beset by a Balrog, some CGI wolves and other assorted contrivances from other films.

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    Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior

    Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior This is a made-for-DVD prequel starring a bunch of unknowns. The protagonist escapes from Egypt, and seeks revenge for the death of his family. To get a magic weapon he must enter the labyrinth and defeat the minotaur.

  • The Mummy
  • The Mummy Returns
  • The Mummy 3
  • The Scorpion King
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    Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, The

    Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, The This is a technicolour masterpiece from the 1950s. Although the title character may be Sinbad the Sailor (played by an unmemorable B-movie actor) the movie is completely stolen by the claymation monsters created by the great Ray Harryhausen .

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    Sinbad and the Minotaur

    Sinbad and the Minotaur Sinbad is the Kiwi-accented Gaul Crixus from Spartacus: Blood and Sand . He and his buddies are after the golden head of the Colossus of Rhodes, which is concealed somewhere on an Aegean island.

    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.

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    Seven Adventures of Sinbad, The

    Seven Adventures of Sinbad, The The Asylum produces another typically low-budget effort. This one is set in the modern day, to cut down on the costs of period costumes and props.

    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.

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    Red Riding Hood

    Red Riding Hood Catherine Hardwicke , most famous for directing the first film in the Twilight series, delivers another supernatural love story - albeit with an entertaining whodunnit strand.

    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 .

    Inquisitor Gary Oldman ( Lost In Space ) and his heresy-fighting entourage appear, as if they wandered in from Season Of The Witch .

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    Ever After: The Cinderella Story

    Ever After: The Cinderella Story In Renaissance-era France, Drew Barrymore is enslaved by her wicked stepmother ( Angelica Houston ) who wants to sell her off in marriage to Richard O'Brien ( Rocky Horror Picture Show ). But she wins the heart of a French Prince (Dougray Scott - Mission: Impossible 2 ).

    There is no magic in this version, our heroine relies on Girl-power. Leonardo Da Vinci also puts in an appearance.

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    Alice (2009)

    Alice (2009) This is a big-budget TV mini-series that consists of 2 episodes, first shown in 2009. It was made by the US SyFy channel, and filmed in Canada.

    Alice ( Caterina Scorsone ) is an American judo instructor who lives in modern-day London with her mother ( Teryl Rothery ). Her father went missing years ago, so when her boyfriend gets kidnapped she follows ...

    Alice finds herself in a steampunk distopia, where humans use Wonderland nicknames and codenames. Hatter (Andrew Lee Potts - Primeval ) and the Don Quixote-looking White Knight (Matt Frewer - Max Headroom ) help her. The Queen of Hearts ( Kathy Bates ) and the King of Hearts (Colm Meaney - Star Trek: DS9 ) want to capture Alice to get her ring, which controls the magical looking glass. And Resistance leaders Dodo (Tim Curry - Rocky Horror Picture Show ) and Caterpillar (Harry Dean Stanton - Alien ) have their own agendas ...

  • 2000
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    Oz the Great and Powerful

    Oz the Great and Powerful Back in 1905, a carnival wizard called Oz (James Franco - Your Highness ) ends up getting sucked into a whirlwind, and finds himself in the merry old land of Oz!

    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.

  • Witches of Oz
  • Tin Man
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    Witches of Oz

    Witches of Oz This is not a sequel to Wizard of Oz , but an alternate version. A modern-day career girl crosses into a magical (out-of-copyright) world, as in the recent Alice or the classic (well, 2000CE) The Tenth Kingdom . Yes, this setup makes Harry Potter look original!

    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.

  • Oz the Great and powerful
  • Tin Man
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    13 Assassins

    13 Assassins This is a Japanese film in the tradition of Seven Samurai , or 47 Ronin, directed by Beat Takeshi .

    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.

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    Merlin's Apprentice

    Merlin's Apprentice This is a sequel to the excellent TV miniseries, Merlin . The Magician (Sam Neill - Jurassic Park ) rises from a deep sleep, and discovers it is decades since the days of King Arthur. As a result, the original cast have all been replaced by newer, cheaper actors.

    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.

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    Island at the Top of the World

    Island at the Top of the World In the early 1920s, an English explorer goes missing at the North Pole. His father, Lord Donald Sinden, finances a small expedition to find him. Sinden has the goatee beard and upper-crust English accent associated with generic villains. But since this role isn't played by Terry-Thomas himself, this time the rich English Lord turns out to be one of the good guys!

    Sinden and his colleagues discover a lost island peopled by Vikings, who have not advanced technologically in a thousand years. The plot then proceeds like a Doug McClure film. They must escape through a volcanic wilderness, while pursued by bloodthirsty Vikings.

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    Three Musketeers

    Three Musketeers This is an example of style over substance, and the storyline owes more to the previous films than to the books. Mads Mikkelsen ( Clash of the Titans, Casino Royale ) as Rochefort is an inferior carbon-copy of Michael Wincottís version. Yes, this film is so bad you wish you were watching the Charlie Sheen version.

    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.

  • The Musketeer
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    Treasure Island (2011)

    Treasure Island (2011) This is a made-for-TV effort, shown on UK satellite channel Sky television as part of its New Years Day line-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 ).

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    In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

    In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale This was directed by Uwe Boll , infamous for making crappy B-movies based on video games. This film was the first time he got a Hollywood budget, and it is certainly evident on-screen. There are lots of recognisable stars, and some pretty decent CGI SPFX as well. A medieval fantasy kingdom is peacefully ruled by King (Burt Reynolds - and his Magus (John Rhys Davies - The Medallion ). But Evil wizard Ray Liotta ( No Escape ) has plans. He has fooled their heirs - the Magus' daughter ( Leelee Sobieski ) and the King's nephew (Matthew Lillard - Wing Commander, Scooby Doo ). He has also raised an army of Krugs, which are basically Orcs in all but name. The Orcs go on the offensive, burning villages and enslaving peasants - like in the out-takes of Lord Of The Rings . This film certainly owes something visually to the Peter Jackson oscar-winning masterpiece.

    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.

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    In The Name Of The King 2: Two Worlds

    In The Name Of The King 2: Two Worlds Martial Arts expert Dolph Lungren ( Masters of the Universe ) gets sucked through a portal and dumped in a Swords & Sorcery world. The King (a terribly miscast Lochlyn Munro - Jason Vs. Freddy ) sends him on a quest - to assassinate an evil witch.

    Shockingly, this is not as bad as the original film (despite having the same director - Uwe Boll ).

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    Age of Dragons

    Age of Dragons This is a version of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick , adapted to a Fantasy setting with Dragons instead of whales. Ishmael, the protagonist, joins the crew of Ahab (Danny Glover) - a man obsessed with killing the beast that maimed him, the Great White Whale ... Dragon.

    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. Rachel is Ahab's adopted daughter, a supermodel-type beauty.

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    Jabberwock

    Jabberwock This is based on the poem by Lewis Carroll, which was already subject of a Monty Python film in the 1970s.

    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!

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    Outlander

    Outlander Spaceman Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ) arrives among the Vikings, hunting a monster that escaped from his spaceship. Sort of like the story of Critters . Naturally, nobody believes him. His only ally is tomboy Princess Sophia Myles , all empowered and girl-power for a 21st Century audience.

    This effort's portrayal of Vikings has about as much realism as in Pathfinder . But it isn't meant to be a documentary, it's an entertaining enough piece of work.

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    Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Karl Urban ( Lord of the Rings ) lives among Native Americans - peaceful, nature-loving hippy types. But it is the year 1000CE, and they are invaded by Norsemen. The Christian Vikings are shown as satanic (with horns on their helmets!), out to kill purely for pleasure. Somehow they managed to sail their well-trained war-horses and hunting dogs thousands of miles across the stormy Atlantic ocean!

    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!

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    Warlord, The

    Warlord, The This is a Technicolor medieval effort from the 1960s. A Norman knight (Charlton Heston - Omega Man ) is sent to govern an early Medieval pagan village besieged by Frisian raiders.

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    El Cid

    El Cid This is one of the greatest historical epics of all time, shot in Spain with Italian money and a Hollywood star. The budget is reflected in the spectacular cinematography and incredible locations used.

    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 Ö

    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.

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    Robin Hood (2010)

    Robin Hood (2010) Ridley Scott delivers his follow-up to Kingdom of Heaven - you can expect more of the same. Historical inaccuracies are obvious, but at least he made a bit of an effort.

    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.

  • Robin of Sherwood
  • Robin Hood (2006)
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    Photographing Fairies

    Photographing Fairies Toby Stephens ( Die Another Day ) investigates tales of supernatural events. He is also troubled by flashbacks to his wife (the English one from The L Word).

    He receives opposition from the local Reverend (Ben Kingsley - Sound of Thunder ), a powerful figure who dominates the film.

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    Sirens

    Sirens It is 1930s Australia, and puritanical pastor Hugh Grant ( Lair of the White Worm ) is sent to talk bohemian artist Sam Neill ( Alcatraz ) out of publicly exhibiting controversial work. The Pastor and his beautiful young wife ( Tara Fitzgerald ) stay with the artist and his beautiful models ( Elle MacPherson, Portia De Rossi ).

    This is part comedy of errors, part journey of self-discovery for the Pastor and especially for his wife. There is an undercurrent of magical realism similar to Picnic at Hanging Rock . The magical atmosphere of the Outback, the subtle implication that the artist's models are the seductive sirens of Greek myth ...

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    Dorian Gray

    Dorian Gray Young Victorian gentleman Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes - Prince Caspian ) befriends Basil (Ben Chaplin - Birthday Girl) and Henry (Colin Firth - Bridget Jones). Basil paints Dorian's portrait, and Henry teaches Dorian the pleasures of the flesh. But Basil's painting is cursed - as Dorian becomes more and more corrupted by Henry, the portrait bears the marks of his sins. Dorian himself remains as youthful and unchanged as a vampire.

    After Dorian takes a 25-year tour of the world, he returns to discover that Henry has a Suffragette daughter ( Rebecca Hall ). But Dorian's shame over his magical portrait of sin is so great that he will kill to protect the secret.

    This was adapted from the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde . How ironic that Dorian's so-called sins seem to be mere induldgence in non-vanilla sex, when Wilde himself was famously convicted of homosexuality. More recently, the character of Dorian Gray was used as one of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen .

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    Prestige, The

    Prestige, The This was directed by Christopher Nolan , whose last effort was Inception . This film flopped commercially because it is too high-brow (based on a novel, and uses literary devices), and because it was released at the same time as the similar (and inferior) Illusionist .

    Victorian stage magician Christian Bale ( Batman, American Psycho ) is on death row, reading the diary of his rival (Hugh Jackman - X-Men ) who describes reading Bale's journal ...

    The pair started off as friends, working with Ricky Jay (a magician in X-Files ), Michael Caine ( Man Who Would Be King, Goldmember ) and Piper Perabo . But a tragic event pushes them apart, creating a deadly feud between them. Each seeks to best the other at performing a new trick, The Transported Man. Assistant Scarlet Johanssen , engineer Andy Sirkis ( LOTR, Deathwatch ) and Nikolai Tesla himself (David Bowie - The Hunger ) all play a part.

    But in a battle of wits between two master illusionists, what is truth and what is illusion?

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    Riverworld

    Riverworld This may not be true to the story of the original series by Philip Jose Farmer , but at least it is true to the setting. A group of historical figures are reincarnated on Riverworld - a planet dominated by a huge river that encircles the entire globe.

    The first half introduces our protagonists. Instead of the original hero (Richard Francis Burton, Victorian hero of the British Empire) we get a Yankee astronaut from 2009. He teams up with Alice Liddell ( Emily Lloyd ), who is evidently the brains of the operation. They are enslaved by a Vandal horde led by Kevin Smith ( Xena: Warrior Princess ).

    In the second half, Sam Clemens (AKA Mark Twain) faces off against the Emperor Nero. Somehow, Nero has gotten older since he died - and a lot better at sword-fighting and military strategy.

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    Hansel and Gretel

    Hansel and Gretel This is a steampunk-meets-fantasy effort, with Victorian-era protagonists taking on supernatural monsters. Just like in Van Helsing (which flopped) and Brothers Grimm (which did marginally better). So what are the chances this will be any better than its precessors.

    Being force-fed sugary goodness turned Hansel into a diabetic. It also seems to have prematurely aged him, because in real life Jeremy Renner ( Avengers Assemble ) is 15 years older than his supposedly twin sister, Gemma Arterton . Arterton is tougher than one would expect, in a role usually given to the likes of Milla Jovovich . But she does a good job. And she swears more than in any of her mainstream Hollywood roles so far. That said, she did a lot of near-the-knuckle stuff in low-budget Brit thriller Disappearance of Alice Creed a couple of years ago, so her potential should not be underestimated.

    A Grand Witch ( Famke Janssen ) has a secret plan.

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    Jack the Giant Slayer

    Jack the Giant Slayer Jack the farmboy befriends a runaway Princess. She's not a tomboy like Arya Stark ( Game of Thrones ), so Jack joins the rescue mission led by Ewan McGregor ( SW: TPM ) and Eddie Marsan ( Hitch ). Also along for the ride is scheming social climber Roderick (Stanley Tucci - The Core ), who wants to use the magic to control the Giants for his own evil purposes.

    Writer Christopher McQuarrie and Director Bryan Singer deliver a mediocre CGI-fest. The 3D SPFX are at their best when the characters are swinging around on a giant Beanstalk. But didn't Puss in Boots already do this?

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    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter Young Abe's momma is murdered by villainous Marton Csokas ( Xena ). Abe seeks revenge, but finds out the hard way that the killer is one of the slave-owning Vampires out of Fevre Dream - or possibly Interview With The Vampire . Their leader is Rufus Sewell (complete with English accent!), repeating his role in the Zorro sequel. In a startling coincidence, this also has a fiery climax aboard a steam-train carrying a war-winning weapon to the War of Northern Aggression.

    Abe's team include a token good vamp, a shopkeeper (Lloyd from Breakout Kings) and a Token black guy. He marries Scream Queen Mary Elizabeth Winstead , who is stuck with a very unflattering look.

    The film misleadingly represents Lincoln as being primarily an Abolitionist (not a Federalist, as he was in reality). Worse, it portrays the Confederates as literally being bloodthirsty vamps.

    The problem is that this story is a parody of OTT action films. But it is not even the first of its kind - it imitates Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , which had the decency to admit its own comical intent.

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    Bathory: Countess of Blood

    Bathory: Countess of Blood Hungarian noblewoman Erzebet Bathory ( Anna Friel ) is investigated by the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic monks use roller-skates and photography to spy on her Ö circa 1603!

    The film cannot seem to make its mind up. Bodies pile up, quite literally - but is this linked to Bathory herself? The overall theme of the film is that she was framed by a rival Aristocrat who wanted to seize her lands.

  • Countess Dracula
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    Dracula Untold

    Dracula Untold Dracula (Luke Evans - The Hobbit ) is a Transylvanian warlord who wants to protect his land from invasion by the Ottoman Empire. Some of that land may look familiar from Game of Thrones , as does Draculaís son (Ned Starkís youngest, Art Parkinson). The predominance of pasty pale Northern Irish faces in the Sultanís army is explained by having them as Jannisaries, white men enslaved as children by the Turks.

    Dracula is a great swordsman, trained as a Jannisary (during his time as a Royal hostage) and skilled enough to take out several of the Sultanís best men single-handedly. However, this is not enough. He makes an offer to a murderous vampire (Charles Dance - Game of Thrones ). Drac will have temporary vamp powers for 72 hours, and as long as he does not drink human blood in that time his humanity will return.

    Naturally, things go wrong. Drac has to abandon his plan, and falls to darkness. However, he still manages to be the hero of the piece.

    The movie is set up for a modern-day sequel, thanks to some Lost -Type exposition about an eternal battle between good and evil.

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    Young Adult Book Adaptations

    Spiderwick Chronicles, The

    Spiderwick Chronicles, The This is a darkish fantasy adapted from a kids' book. A family go to live in a remote country house. At the bottom of the garden are goblins, led by shapeshifter Nick Nolte (in his Hulk villain mode).

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    Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

    Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief This is based on the novel by Rick Riordan and directed by Hollywood director-for-hire Chris Columbus , best known for the first two Harry Potter films. Yes, the studio obviously wanted to kick-start a new franchise.

    Someone steals the lightning bolt of Zeus (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ), who in turn blames Neptune (Kevin McKidd - Rome ). Percy (short for Perseus) is Neptune's illegitimate and unknowing son, who lives in NYC with his mom ( Catherine Keener ) and her slobbish BF (Joe Pantoliano - The Matrix ).

    Pierce Brosnan ( The World Is Not Enough ), unconvincingly disguised as a greybeard in a wheelchair, sends Percy to the Demi-Gods's training camp so he can master his gifts. He gets a love interest ( Alexandra Daddario ), a daughter of Athena. But since all Gods are related, thus all Demi-Gods are too ... So he is upholding the ancient Greek tradition of incest.

    The teenagers train with metal blades and no tuition - But at least they can heal minor wounds.

    The trio (Percy, the babe and the token black guy) go on a quest to find 3 magic pearls to get into the Underworld. They encounter Medusa ( Uma Thurman , who was Aphrodite in Baron Munchausen ). Hades (Steve Coogan - Night At The Museum ) is cast in the villain's role, equating Tartarus with hell. Persephone ( Rosario Dawson ) is a nympho, although the token Satyr is toned down to PG level to make this a kiddie-friendly film.

    The studio threw money at this - there is lots of CGI and big-name stars - in the hope it would be the new Harry Potter . But they forgot that Harry Potter was a world-famous International publishing phenomenon before it was a movie. And it had something of a moral centre, while this has none. The post-credits sequence shows the protagonist using his superpowers for personal gain (well, to even a childish score with lethal consequences).

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    Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

    Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters The half-bloods (children of matings between humans and the Gods of Olympus) now live at the summer-camp run by Anthony Stewart Head ( Buffy ) and Stanley Tucci ( The Core ). Unfortunately, the camp's protective barrier is damaged. To repair it, someone must go on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece. The boss sends Clarice, who is the Top Hero (or heroine) because she lacks Percy's exaggerated sense of fair play.

    Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman - Noah ) and Annabeth ( Alexandra Daddario ) head off on an unauthorised quest together, along with the Token Black Guy and Percy's clumsy one-eyed brother Tyson. They encounter a few celebrity cameos, such as Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) and Missi Pyle . They get some magical gadgets from Hermes (Nathan Fillion - Firefly ), who can make time for them but not for his own son. They also encounter some monsters that are actually quite impressive, considering they are CGI.

    There are some villains who want to use the fleece to revive their ancestor Kronos (Robert Knepper - Stargate: Universe: Season 2 ), King of the Titans, so he can destroy Olympus. This is the ultimate form of teenage rebellion, and the Olympian Gods are a bunch of deadbeat parents who can make time for infinite vengeance but abandon their children on a world plagued by horrible monsters.

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    Vampire's Assistant, The

    Vampire's Assistant, The A teenage boy named Darren Shan goes to the circus and meets a Vampire (John C. Reilly - Gangs of New York ). Darren manages to get himself recruited as apprentice, making this a Goth version of The Sorceror's Apprentice .

    There is a violent sub-species of vamp known as the Vampanese, led by Ray Stevenson ( Rome ). They want to start a war and wipe out the vamps.

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    Sorceror's Apprentice, The

    Sorceror's Apprentice This was made by Walt Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, so you know what to expect. It begins with a ponderous narration by Ian McShane ( Golden Compass ). In Arthurian times, Merlin was betrayed by Morgana ( Celia Imrie ) and Horvath (Alfred Molini - Ladyhawke ). He was saved by Monica Bellucci and Balthazar (Nicholas Cage - Face Off ). The two women get magically imprisoned, and Balthazar spends the next thosand years as an immortal guardian.

    Eventually Balthazar finds Merlin's sucessor in - where else - modern-day New York City. Unfortunately for him, it is a skinny nerdy kid from a few Judd Apatow films. As the title of the film suggests, there is a compulsory homage to the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon. However, our nerdy hero is genre-blind insofar as he has obviously never seen the cartoon!

    Horvath wants to rescue Morgana so they can destroy the world together. He gets a Johnny Rotten-looking sidekick to help him.

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    Ben Hur

    Ben Hur (1950s)

    Ben Hur (1950s) This is the epic technicolour remake of the 1920s black and white film, itself an adaptation of Lew Wallace's novel Ben Hur: A Story of the Christ.

    In the Holy Land circa 30CE, Israelite Aristocrat Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston - Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, Soylent Green ) is betrayed by his boyhood friend, Messalla (Stephen Boyd - Fantastic Voyage ). Our hero is cast into ignominy as a galley slave, where he serves under Jack Hawkins (Bridge on the River Kwai). In the second act he gets the chance to defeat Messalla in a chariot race. Finally he can return to the Holy Land to help Jesus heal some Lepers. Just in time for the Crucifixion.

    The only other film to win this many Oscars was Titanic by James Cameron . It has been said that Cameron didn't necessarily use the BEST tech, just the most expensive. The same can probably be said of Ben Hur. But the difference is, Ben Hur is so SLOW. It drags horribly. The film is three hours long, though the book is under 200 pages. It could have been adapted into a mere 90 minutes. In contrast, Cleopatra Is a similar length of film, but is much better paced.

  • Ben Hur (2007)
  • Ben Hur (2016)
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    Ben Hur (2007)

    Ben Hur (2007) This is the C21st adaptation of Lew Wallace's novel Ben Hur: A Story of the Christ. Not to be confused with the epic technicolour remake of the 1920s black and white film.

    In the Holy Land circa 30CE, Israelite Aristocrat Judah Ben-Hur (Klaus from Vampire Diaries ) is betrayed by his boyhood friend, Messalla, and anti-Roman Zealot David (Marc Warren - Hogfather ). Our hero is cast into ignominy as a galley slave, while his sister ( Kristen Kreuk ) and mother ( Alex Kingston ) are imprisoned in a leper's cell.

    Eventually, our hero gets the chance to defeat Messalla in a chariot race. Kris Holden-Reid ( Lost Girl ) has to be removed from the running first. The race scene was the biggest expenditure of the Charleton Heston version, but this is shot on the cheap for television. The crashes are made more dramatic by the constant use of slo-mo.

    Everything is wrapped up just in time for the Crucifixion.

  • Ben Hur (1950s)
  • Ben Hur (2016)
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    Ben Hur (2016)

    Ben Hur (2016) Yet another adaptation of Lew Wallace's classic Xian tale from the Gilded (late Victorian) Age. The writers seem to have gone out of their way to make this as different as possible from the William Wyler version, even to the point of changing things that were in the book. The relationships between every single character are different, so thus the story (despite hitting the same old plot points) is quite different too.

    However, this is not just a slam-bash action film like Wyler's version. It is what Wallace's book was supposedly intended to be - a tale of two warring brothers (a metaphor for the American Civil War), put to the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo (a wrongly imprisoned man seeks revenge) and mixed in with some genuine Xian redemption (cue a cameo role for Jesus of Nazareth himself).

    There is much about this film that is distracting. The cast are mostly unknowns (except for Nora from How I Met Your Mother), and the maxim of No stars, just talent only works with arthouse films and never with mega-budget blockbusters. The story, as has been pointed out, strays massively from previous versions. However, if watched through until the end it is actually quite a good effort.

  • Ben Hur (1950s)
  • Ben Hur (2007)
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    Musicals

    Song of the South

    Song of the South This is the little-seen Disney masterpiece from the 1940s, a technicolour musical which blends live-action and animation. Set in the Reconstruction era of the Deep South, a friendly African-American named Uncle Remus helps white children and black children live together as friends. To do this, he tells stories about Brer Rabbit (brought to life as a cartoon character) and sings some memorable songs.

    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!

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    Les Miserables

    Les Miserables This is a three-hour musical, adapted from a stage play itself based on a book by 19th Century French novelist Victor Hugo. It is the story of Valjean (Hugh Jackman - X-Men ), a man convicted of petty theft in a court of the French Revolution. 19 years later, in 1815, he is paroled. But he breaks his parole - not to return to a life of crime, but to be a better man. Unfortunately, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe - Virtuosity ) is on his tail.

    8 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 Sacha 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 Barker, despite virtually her only credit being stage performances of this part, acquits herself as an equal of Anne Hathaway .

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    Hobbit Trilogy

    Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

    Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey This movie was conceived as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings Series, so there are lots of references shoe-horned into it. In fact, the original book is a stand-alone while the film adaptation is a trilogy - so there is a lot of padding! The story does not start with the Hobbit himself. We get backstory about the Dwarven stronghold being taken over by a Dragon named Smaug. Then we get a bookend narration of Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Frodo (Elijah Wood), just before the start of the events in LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring . And finally, we flash back sixty years to the start of the proper story.

    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.

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    Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

    Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman - Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy ), Gandalf the Wizard and a dozen Dwarves are 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 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 ).

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    The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

    The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies As the title suggests, the main section of this film concerns the battle itself. The Dragon is dealt with in the first act, and the armies line up to fight. Dwarves, humans and elves - first against each other, because Thorin is driven mad with gold-fever - and then against the oncoming hordes of Orcs.

    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 mayorís toadie is treated like a villain for his cowardice. But he can hardly be blamed for staying out of harmís 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.

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    Soon

    Soon

  • 2000
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