ORBzine - Steampunk & Victoriana Movie Reviews

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Dick Van Dyke ( Mary Poppins ) is an inventor who repairs an old car. His children name it Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because of the noises it makes.

In the story within a story, Van Dyke and family use their car to take on the evil Baron Blomburst (Gert Frobe - Goldfinger ). They follow the Baron to his fairytale Rhineland castle. Like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , the town they arrive in does not have any children. But this is a singing, dancing musical instead of a horror film.

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    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins Edwardian England, and a couple of upper middle-class children are miserable. But super-powered nanny Mary Poppins ( Julie Andrews ) appears on the scene, and cheers everyone up.

    Mary and her boyfriend the chimney sweep (Dick Van Dyke - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ) take the kids on magical adventures, courtesy of the Walt Disney corporation. The result is a big-budget 1960s technicolour musical that mixes live-action footage and animation.

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    Mary Poppins 2

    Mary Poppins 2 Super-powered nanny Mary Poppins ( Emily Blunt ) re-appears on the scene.

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    Nanny McPhee

    Nanny McPhee It's the Edwardian era, and English Country doctor Colin Firth ( The Last Legion ) has a bunch of unruly children. Not just playful, but vicious little bastards who play constantly mind-games to get his attention. He and housemaid Kelly McDonald are losing control of the situation.

    Luckily, Emma Thompson arrives with enough make-up on to be an extremely ugly nanny with supernatural powers and a heart of gold. Yes, this is basically Mary Poppins as told in the manner of Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events . Nothing too original, but young kids generally do not like surprising or original things. It was popular enough for a sequel to get made, so the intended audience must have liked it.

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    Phantom of the Opera (2004)

    Phantom of the Opera (2004) This starts in b&w, set during the closing-down sale at the Paris Opera House. It then flashes back (in an amazing SPFX scene) to the place's hey-day, when it had just been bought by new management. The Diva Carlotta ( Minnie Driver ) storms out, so they get Christine the chorus girl ( Emmy Rossum ) to stand in for her. Christine is the protege of the Phantom, a mysterious and masked figure who creeps about the Opera House. A bit like Zorro, only he does not help people out of the goodness of his heart.

    The Phantom helps Christine's career, but only because he wants her for himself. Unfortunately, when she falls for the young Aristocrat who owns the Opera Hall the Phantom is greatly offended. He shows that he knows how to use a sword, among other skills.

    This is not a crappy slasher or melodrama - it is a musical with wonderful cinematography. It is even in widescreen, to give extra value for money. Miranda Richardson and Jennifer Ellison provide able support.

    Joel Schumacher delivers an impressive piece, to say the least. In fact, the Andrew Rice Webber songs are probably the weakest part of it!

  • Sweeney Todd (2008)
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    Wolfman

    Wolfman Someone returns to their childhood home to attend a funeral, and discovers that much has changed in the years they were away. This is the basic plot for literature novels, but in this case we get a Hammer-style Werewolf story set in the 1890s.

    Benicio Del Toro ( Licence To Kill ) is the hero. His mother was Spanish and he spent his entire adult life in America, which conveniently explains how he became the most unlikely English Gentleman. When the hero gets word of his brother's death he returns to stay in the family mansion with his father (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ), faithful Sikh manservant Singh (Art Malik - Living Daylights ) and the dead brother's fiance ( Emily Blunt ).

    The brother is only one of a string of mutilated corpses. Inspector Abeline of Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving - The Matrix, Lord of the Rings ) pays a visit. The main suspect is the protagonist himself, of course. And since the curse can be spread by a bite ...

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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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    Howl's Moving Castle

    Howl's Moving Castle This is a piece of Japanese anime by Studio Ghibli ( Princess Mononoke ), adapted for the English-speaking world by the folks behind Toy Story .

    The story is set in a European country in the Late Victorian era. It's a Steampunk world with a heavy helping of magical realism. The moving Castle of the title is steam-powered, but the steam generator is heated by a fire demon instead of coal!

    Sophie ( Emily Mortimer ) befriends a wizard named Howl (Christian Bale - Terminator 4 ). Then she is cursed by the jealous Witch of the Wastelands ( Lauren Bacall ) and is turned into an old lady ( Jean Simmons ). She goes to Howl's castle, amnd works as his cleaning lady until she can be cured.

    Meanwhile, the country goes to war. Howl has never stood up for anything in his life, preferring to run away. Now he makes a tough stand ... as a conscientous objector! The thing is that to fight, a wizard must turn into a monster - thus turning to the Dark Side!

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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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    Brothers Grimm

    Brothers Grimm The title characters are Heath Ledger ( Dark Knight ) and Matt Damon ( Dogma ), a pair of monster-hunters who help people in Napoleonic-era Germany. They do not do it for free, of course.

    Napoleon's Governor (Jonathan Pryce - Tomorrow Never Dies ) orders them to save some missing children from an enchanted forest ... Along with their sidekick McKenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ), an Italian hit-man and a female rabbit-skinner ( Lena Headey ), they set off into the unknown.

    This was directed by Terry Gilliam . It is far cry from his Monty Python stuff - it is closest to Baron Munchausen or Burton's Sleepy Hollow . All the Germans speak with English accents (even Matt Damon!), but the acting performances are all excellent.

  • The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm
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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 fifteen 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 is 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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    Hateful Eight, The

    Hateful Eight, The Major Marcus Warren (Samuel L Jackson - Star Wars: TPM ) is a bounty hunter, trapped in a snowdrift in a mountain pass in Wyoming. He hitches a ride with fellow Bounty Hunter Kurt Russell ( Escape From New York ), who is taking Daisy Domergue ( Jennifer Jason Leigh ) to be executed. They end up at the equivalent of the truck-stop, snowed in with a handful of others including a couple of Reservoir Dogs - Tim Roth ( The Musketeer ) and Michael Madsen ( Species ). The real scene-stealer is Walton Goggins ( Django Unchained ), who portrays the same kind of loveable racist he plays in Justified.

    Some people are not impressed with this film, because it is over two hours long and most of the time is spent waiting for something to happen. Well, if a story about Kurt Russell being snowed in for days with a bunch of potential killers sounds familiar, that is because it is the basis for the finest film he has been in - The Thing ! In that tradition, Tarantino has delivered an impressive suspense thriller. Yes, QT is renowned as someone who delivers style over substance, but here (like in the well-plotted literary adaptation Jackie Brown) he delivers a film with depth.

    Magic Mike from Haywire puts in an appearance in a flashback. He is Daisy's brother ... although this would make more sense if Daisy was played by the runner-up for that role, Katee Sackhoff . With the age gap, Jennifer Jason Leigh is closer to being his mother. Naturally, Leigh is the only cast member to be nominated for an Academy Award for their work on this film. Had Sackhoff done as good a job with the role, which she could have done easily if one compares Daisy to Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica (2003) , would she have gotten a nomination?

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    Magnificent Seven (2016)

    Magnificent Seven (2016) This is a remake of the classic 1960s Western by John Sturges, which was itself a remake of the classic Japanese film Sturges' film was made during the Hayes Code Era. That pretty much sums up the current trend towards 12a/PG-13 films. Then as now, A cowboy can get shot, but he cannot bleed ... and no nudity!

    A villain terrorises a town full of innocent villagers. This town has been relocated from Mexico to the USA, and instead of a bandito the villain is a The main protagonist is Cahill (Denzel Washington - Virtuosity ), a blaxploitation Western hero of the type seen in recent films like Django Unchained, Hateful Eight . He recruits an unscrupulous gambler (Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy ), a Confederate sharpshooter (Ethan Hawke - Gattacca ) and a burly Mountain Man (Vincent D'Onofrio - Men in Black ). There are also plenty of People of Colour in the team - he hires a stereotypical Latino, Oriental and Native American.

    Ethan Hawke is the best actor in the whole thing. In this reviewer's opinion it is not much of an improvement on the original - just a rehash of modern westerns, with trendy modern causes like environmentalism, multiculturism and socialism ...

    There is one important question that this movie raises. Are rifle bullets fired at random from a gatling gun more powerful or deadly than those fired from dozens of sharpshooters?

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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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    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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    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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    True Grit

    True Grit The Coen brothers deliver a deceptively simple tale from the wild west. A teenage girl hires a couple of bounty hunters to go after a murderer. One is a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon - Dogma ), the other is one-eyed gunman Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges - Tron ).

    If this seems familiar, it is because the film was previously made in 1969. This new version is a re-adaption of the original novel, rather than a straight remake of the John Wayne classic. That said, the dialogue is almost identical to that of the original film. This is grimmer, more brutal and cynical - like Unforgiven with the bookend narration of Titanic. Unfortunately, it is not as hard-hitting as either of those films.

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    Wild Wild West

    Wild Wild West It is Reconstruction time, in the late 1860s. Will Smith ( MIB ), Kevin Kline ( Princess Cariboo ) and Salma Hayek team up against evil cripple Dr Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh - ) and his babes ( Musetta Vander, Bai Ling ). Ted Levine ( Silence of the Lambs ) is a Confederate general.

    Barry Sonnenfeld directed this steam-punk blockbuster, although it was never as successful as his previous collaboration with Will Smith ( MIB ).

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    Sherlock Holmes Movies

    Case of the Whitechapel Vampire

    Case of the Whitechapel Vampire A monk is found murdered, drained of his blood. Only Sherlock Holmes (Matt Frewer - Max Headroom ) and Dr Watson (Kenneth Walsh - Twin Peaks: S2 ) can solve the case!

    This is a Canadian made-for-TV effort for 2002. The budget is appropriately limited. However, it is quite watchable.

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    Hound Of The Baskervilles (2000)

    Hound Of The Baskervilles (2000) This is a Canadian made-for-TV adaptation of a public domain story. As such it is low-budget effort, and follows quite closely to the original story except when budgetary constrictions come into play.

    Sherlock Holmes (Matt Frewer - Max Headroom ) and Dr Watson (Kenneth Welsh - Twin Peaks ) are made aware of mysterious goings-on at Baskerville Moor. Holmes has important things to do, so he sends Watson to go and look after Sir Henry Baskerville (Jason London - Mallrats ).

    Watson does a pretty good job of running the case single-handedly. He has to investigate a mysterious letter the dead man received. Suspects include the housekeeper ( Leni Parker ).

    The real let-down is the hound itself. This is hardly a monstrous beast, merely a dog the size of a domestic house-pet. At least the film-makers did not resort to dodgy CGI, but they could at least have found a bigger dog.

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    A Study in Terror

    A Study in Terror This is a dated-looking effort from 1966, filled with cliches. However, the budget must have been reasonable for the time because there are quite a few familiar faces.

    Sherlock Holmes (John Neville - Baron Munchausen ) and his bumbling sidekick Watson receive a mysterious package. It is a doctor's instruments, but one of the scalpels is missing.

    Jack the Ripper is menacing the women of Whitechapel, including Barbara Windsor Judy Dench Adrienne Corri . He is instantly recognisable because of his top hat, cape and doctor's bag. Despite this, Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay - ) is stumped. The suspects include the local police surgeon (Anthony Quayle - ).

    Holmes comes out of this quite well. He is a skilled disguise artist and sword-fighting action hero. That said, he is also a cold-hearted ruthless man who uses unsuspecting people as live bait in a deadly trap. Worse, he always manages to save himself while those around him are not always so lucky.

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    Sherlock Holmes

    Sherlock Holmes This is Guy Ritchie 's much-hyped rehash based on Conan Doyle's character. Robert Downey Jnr ( Iron Man ) is the title character, while Jude Law ( A.I. ) is his long-suffering sidekick, Dr John Watson. Together this dynamic duo take on a selection of thugs in some spectacular physical confrontations.

    Rent-a-villain actor Mark Strong ( Tristan and Isolde ) is Lord Blackthorn, a character about as subtle in demeanor as Severus Snape. This wicked Peer of the Realm is plotting to take over the Empire, and thus the civilised world, by means of apparent black magic.

    Holmes' lost love Irene Adler ( Rachael McAdams ) is in town, working for a shadowy figure who calls himself The Professor. This sub-plot is an indication that the inevitable sequel might be even better!

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    Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

    Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

    The story starts with a reference to the first movie, with Moriarty's henchwoman Irene Adler ( Rachel McAdams ). Luckily for the plot there is a new female lead, a gypsy girl played by Noomi Rapace

    Holmes has his sights on Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris - Fringe ).

    Moriarty also has another minion to run errands for him - a very unlikely-looking fellow who is supposed to be Colonel Sebastian Moran, finest sharpshooter in the world (lately of Her Majesty's Armed Forces).

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    Vampire movies

    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 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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