ORBzine - History & Fantasy 2017 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk David Arquette ( Scream ) and Sid Haig ( The Devil's Rejects ) are a pair of cut-throats in the wild west. They accidentally desecrate a Native American burial ground. Eleven days later a stranger arrives at a small town nearby, and that night the natives abduct some townsfolk.

The Sheriff (Kurt Russell - Escape From New York ) sets out with a small posse - his backup deputy, an Indian-fighter (Matthew Fox - Lost ) and a crippled cowboy (Patrick Wilson - Watchmen ). Hopalong wants his wife back. She looks like a young Erika Christensen - yes, he has managed to marry a woman about half his age, and he does not want to lose her.

This film is not racist against Native Americans because the villains are not a recognised tribe or nation. Instead they are Troglodytes - the Native American equivalent of the inbred hillbillies in movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre .

The film's cast is first-rate, but the actual production values are quite low. The cinematography is flawed - in several shots the central character is off-centre.

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    Great Gatsby (2013)

    Great Gatsby (2013) This is not nearly as garish and vulgar as the trailer suggests. However, Baz Luhrman has delivered (quite predictably) a celebration of style over substance. F Scott Fitzgerald's slim novella has been padded out to a massive running time of 143 minutes - nearly an hour longer than it needs to be. We are given unnecessary bookend scenes featuring the narrator, Nick Caraway (Tobey Maguire - Spiderman ), as well as an unnecessary voice-over narration that betrays the story-teller's maxim of Show, don't tell.

    Caraway tells us of his bestest buddy, Jay Gatsby, who he met in the 1920s while living on Long Island, New York. Leonardo DeCaprio ( Man in the Iron Mask ) is excellent as Gatsby, which makes him almost out of place in this extravaganza. He seems reminiscent of his portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, with greater nuance than this film deserves.

    The plot thickens with illicit sexcapades and bootlegging gangsters. Long lost love rears her head, and tragedy looms on the horizon. But this is basically a melodrama at best - too serious to be a comedy, too lacking in jeopardy to be a thriller, it is a group of people hanging out amid the incredible luxury of the pre-Wall Street Crash era.

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    Jonah Hex

    Jonah Hex The title character (Josh Brolin - Hail Caesar ) is a mutilated Confederate war veteran who now survives as a bounty hunter. He earns enough money to rent time with the local tart with a heart ( Megan Fox ).

    President US Grant hires Hex to take on deranged Confederate General John Malkovich ( Being John Malkovich ) and his Oirish henchman Michael Fassbender ( Haywire ). Naturally, Hex has a personal grudge against them for killing his wife.

    The plot is basically Wild Wild West with a couple of changes. The Buffalo Soldier is now a Confederate turncoat, and the relationship between the General and the Southern Plantation-Owner ( Hunger Games ) is reversed. However, the core storyline is pretty much the same. No gigantic mechanical spider, however.

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    The Legend of Tarzan

    Legend of Tarzan, The Tarzan ( True Blood ) has married Jane ( Margot Robbie ), moved to London and retired. He is convinced to return to the jungles of the Congo by Belgian emmisary Christoph Waltz and American Ambassador Samuel L Jackson. Waltz and Jackman last worked together in Django Unchained, where they played against type and delivered incredible performances. Here, Waltz is just another villain ( Spectre, Green Hornet ) and Jackson is basically Major Marcus from Hateful Eight .

    Tarzan visits some old friends in the Congo, along with Jane (a feisty damsel in distress) and Jackman (the Murtagh - getting to old for this shit). Despite it being the 1880s he discovers some mistreatments of natives that were in reality uncovered by Sir Roger Casement decades later, just before the First World War. The natives have been enslaved because Belgium is bankrupt and cannot afford to pay them. The reason it is broke is because the Congo's precious gem-stones are hoarded by a cannibal king (Djimon Hounsou - Guardians of the Galaxy ) who has a blood-feud against Tarzan.

    The villain's plan for the gems is to hire an army of twenty thousand mercenaries and build fifty forts, each with four hundred men to garrison it. To be fair, the country is full of boat-eating hippos, man-eating crocodiles and flesh-eating cannibals. And these are only the monsters we see on-screen! Perhaps such an army would be a good thing, to protect innocent people from the horrors.

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    The Limehouse Golem

    The Limehouse Golem This film is obviously based on the story of James Maybrick, supposed author of the so-called Diary of Jack the Ripper. A young woman ( Elizabeth Cooke ) is arrested and accused of murdering her husband. However, her case turns out to be linked to a serial killer's murder spree.

    A Police Detective (Bill Nighy - Shaun Of The Dead ) and his constable (Daniel Mays - Rogue One ) are assigned to catch the serial killer. If they can prove that the dead man is the killer, then the wife will be given grounds for appeal.

    This was written by Jane Goldman , who has delivered a series of great films in the past. This is adapted from a novel, and is unfortunately the worst thing she has done. The disturbing Feminist undertone is the worst thing since Sherlock Homes: The Undead Bride .

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    The Lone Ranger (2013)

    The Lone Ranger (2013) Tonto (Johnny Depp blacked up to play a Native American version of Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Carribean ) narrates a story set in the wild west. A pacifist lawyer (Armie Hammer) arrives in a small town, and falls foul of Villainous William Fichtner ( Invasion ) is almost unrecognisable disguised as Barry Pepper's character in the far superior True Grit (2010) . Ironically, Pepper himself appears in the film - as a George Armstrong Custer lookalike sent to put down a suspected Comanche uprising.

    Hammer dons the persona of the Lone Ranger and teams up with Tonto. The heroes are aided by the cliched tart with the heart of gold - a one-legged Madame ( Helena Bonham Carter ). The plot involves a slave mine (like in Zorro ) used to finance the villain's evil plot. The climax involves the continental meet-up at Promontory point (like in Wild, Wild West ), and a battle aboard a CGI steam-train (see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ).

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    My Cousin Rachel

    My Cousin Rachel This is based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier and set in England during the late Victorian era.

    The protagonist (Sam Clafin - ) invites the title character ( Rachel Weitz ) to come and stay with him. Unfortunately he begins to suspect that she means to do him harm.

    The suporting cast includes Iain Glenn ( Game of Thrones ).

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    The Raven

    The Raven Baltimore, 1849. Someone murders two women, in a locked room. The scene resembles the murders described in Poe's story The Murders in the Rue Morgue . Police Detective Fields (Luke Evans - Dracula Untold ) tries to turn this into a police procedural, but the literary nature of the killings mean he needs a celebrity guest to help.

    Nearby, Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack - Hot Tub Time Machine ) himself is busy drinking himself to death. Well, he would if he could because he is flat broke. He also wants to marry Alice Eve , daughter of the rich and powerful Brendan Gleason ( Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ).

    The killer starts bumping off a series of nobodies, in manners based on Poe's macabre stories. Naturally, the damsel in distress is buried alive and Poe himself is challenged to save her while the whole Police Force is baffled.

    This never manages to evoke the thrills of Se7en , which has a similar plot but is much better handled. Theatre of Blood manages a light-hearted take on the serial killer spree, while this effort merely lumbers it with half-hearted period piece cosmetics.

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    The Revenant

    The Revenant Leonardo DiCaprio ( Man In The Iron Mask ) is guide to a group of fur-trappers in the remote borderlands of the Northwest Louisiana Purchase in the early 19th Century. Leo gets injured, and left with his Inception co-star Tom Hardy (who is channelling Waingrow from Heat - not a good sign). Hardy's companion is a young Jim Bridger, who later became a famous Mountain Man in his own right.

    This is all quite revisionist and politically correct. The Native Americans are portrayed as innocent, compared to the villainous French-Canadians.

    With a running length of almost three hours this is Oscars fodder. Lots of scenery and mood, little dialogue and (most critically for the Hollywood mainstream) NO CAR CHASE mean that it is stuck firmly in the arthouse genre.

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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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    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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    Shakespearean Movies

    MacBeth (1948)

    MacBeth (1948) This is a 1950s black and white version, with the title character played by Orson Welles . The sets seem to be the same ones from Brigadoon - but this is filmed in black&white, so it is more serious and sinister. Also, there are no songs.

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    MacBeth (2015)

    MacBeth (2015) This is an arthouse movie by a European director, made mainstream by a big budget and the presence of recognisable stars. The battle scenes have stylish slo-mo, putting it artistically speaking far above the clichés of Hollywood claptrap.

    The story is a familiar one. MacBeth (Michael Fassbender - Haywire ) is the general who commands the Kingdom of Scotland’s forces. Egged on by his wife ( Marion Cotillard ) he assassinates the king, and takes the throne for himself. Banquo (Paddy Considine - Dead Man’s Shoes ) is MacBeth’s loyal sidekick, Banquo. MacDuff is like wise played by a familiar face, a rent-a-villain with a powerful screen presence.

    The story retains the original Shakespearean dialogue. What is original, beyond the cast and style, is the setting. It was filmed mainly on location in the Scottish Highlands, so it emphasises the brutality of Braveheart rather than the subtlety of other films.

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    Biblical Movies

    Noah

    Noah Darren Aronofsky , visionary genius of art-house films like The Fountain , is really slumming it here. This effort strays quite badly from the Biblical story, While retaining enough of the original fairy tale to offend atheists too. This reviewer was expecting a terrible Biblical epic like something by Cecil B. DeMille , but this film is dreadful on an entirely greater scale!

    Noah (Russell Crowe - Robin Hood ) and Jennifer Connolly are breeding a cult of inbred cannibalistic cave-men - like in The Hills Have Eyes . Okay, we do not see cannibalism on-screen, but they do not eat the flesh of beasts so they must eat the flesh of men instead. It tastes like pork ... but it is not pork, so it is kosher. They have three sons (including Logan Lerman - Percy Jackson ) and recruit Emma Watson , who is barren.

    Noah has weird dreams, like something out of a Darren Aronofsky Movie. He seeks out his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs ), who helps explain the prophecy. The Creator will exterminate the entire human race, but Noah must save the cuddly critters. They team up with some fallen angels (think of the stone monster in Galaxy Quest ) who do the heavy lifting in the ark's construction.

    There is a subplot concerning the King of Men (Ray Winstone - Beowulf ). Yes, Beowulf wants to save the human race from the vengeful Creator. Noah, on the other hand, is a genocidal madman. For whom should the audience cheer? This subplot could be dispensed with entirely, without any real change to the film.

    The main issue of the film is Noah's intent to exterminate humanity. He is so intent that when Emma gets pregnant, he wants to murder her offspring if it is female.

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    Exodus: Gods And Kings

    Exodus: Gods And Kings This was directed by Ridley Scott , and is a follow-up to his Crusader epic Kingdom Of Heaven . It is basically a rehash of The Ten Commandments , the famous technicolour epic by Cecil B. DeMille . The filming style has been updated, but the storyline is basically unchanged from the Bible. The main difference seems to be that instead of a staff, Moses in this version carries a sword. Yes, it is more of an attempt at a big-budget action blockbuster than a straight-up Biblical epic.

    The Sci-Fi movie 10,000 BC explains that the pyramids were built by cave-men with the aid of wooly mammoths, because they had been enslaved by the last survivors of Atlantis. That film has about as much historical accuracy as this one does.

    Moses (Christian Bale - Batman Begins ) is raised at the court of the Pharoh, along with his jealous cousin Rameses (Joel Edgerton - Midnight Special ). They keep the Hebrews in a state of slavery. Eventually a Rabbi (Ben Kingsley - A Sound Of Thunder ) reveals the truth - Moses is a secret Hebrew!

    Moses gets exiled, and helps some prostitutes persecute local shepherds. Presumably they want to extort cheap wool so they can work as seamstresses. Then he falls and gets a concussion, which brings on a halucination of a burning bush. A creepy little boy tells him that he should look after his own people, which is basically divinely-inspired racial segregation. He takes the suggestion to heart, and heads back to Egypt so he can stir up trouble.

    Moses trains the Hebrews to use guerrilla tactics, because they are not strong enough to attack the Pharoh's army in open battle. However, he chooses to hit civilian targets. His theory is that the Egyptian people will force Rameses to capitulate. Of course, if his own terror gang cannot fight the army then the unarmed civilians have no chance. Also, if he destroys the food supply then what will his own people have to eat?

    Rameses holds fast against Moses' terrorism. Eventually the Egyptians are hit with a series of apparently magical plagues. Well, it has only taken four hundred years of slavery for the sky-pixie to intervene. One of Pharoh's advisors (Ewan Bremner - Wonder Woman ) comes up with an explanation that approximates modern scientific theory on the inspiration for the Bible tale. Of course, this character is portrayed as an idiot. Likewise, the Egyptian Priestess ( Indira Varna ) is unsuccessful.

    When the tenth and final plague hits, we are left with no doubt that the cause is supernatural. This is not really a genre-shift, because everyone familiar with western culture knows the story. However, this sets up the climactic crossing of the Red Sea.

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    Risen

    Risen This is set in a dusty Middle Eastern country ruled by a military dictatorship. Joshua (Cliff Curtis - Fear the Walking Dead ) is a beardy Bin Laden type who lives in a desert and preaches revolution. The Powers That Be round him up and nail him to a tree. However, his body mysteriously goes missing ...

    This film has incredible potential. Uncle Bully from Once Were Warriors is the undead ruler of a cult of blood-drinking fanatics. Heroic soldiers Joseph Feinnes ( American Horror Story: Asylum ) and Tom Felton ( Harry Potter ) must hunt him down before he goes on a kill-crazy rampage. What could possibly go wrong?

    Realistically, this is a modern-day attempt at a Biblical epic. The truth is that Proof destroys Faith, because Faith is merely blind hope.

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    Universal Horror Movies

    Victor Frankenstein

    Victor Frankenstein The movie starts with Daniel Radcliffe ( Harry Potter ) doing scut-work in a circus back in the good old days. Just like Robert Pattinson did in Water for Elephants, of course. This time the wicked ringmaster is Daniel Mays ( Rogue One ).

    Our hunchbacked hero is liberated by Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy - X-Men: First Class ), who names him Igor and recruits him as a lab assistant. Together they attempt to raise the dead.

    The duo come to the attention of a police detective (Andrew Scott) who has the skills of Sherlock Holmes. Ironically, the actor is most easily recognised from his role as Moriarty in the BBC show Sherlock. However, he does have a villainous streak because he is a religious fundamentalist who believes that science (or at least Frankenstein's particular field of interest) is evil.

    Frankenstein's father is Charles Dance, who also played a mentor figure in Dracula Untold . Perhaps he is meant to be the same character in both movies, thus linking them and putting them in the same universe. After all, Universal Studios has more recently launched its new Dark Universe with its disasterous effort The Mummy (2017) .

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    The Mummy (2017)

    The Mummy (2017) This is a mediocre action movie. It has had a lot of negative reviews, but is really not worse than average.

    Tom Cruise is in his fifties, but he plays a US military recon operator who in reality would probably be at most in his thirties. The female love interest is in her thirties, but Hollywood usually uses the half-his-age-plus-seven ratio. Cruise's character is not a standard by-the book military type, but an anachronic adventurer. If he had to be compared with a character in The Mummy (1999) , the best comparison would be Benny the grave-robber.

    Cruise, his comedy sidekick (Jake Johnston from New Girl) and love interest find the Mummy's tomb. The General (Courtney B Vance - ) has the coffin flown from Iraq all the way to England, a trip of two thousand miles without a stop-off or any apparent refueling.

    Back in London, there is a secret agency run by Doctor Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe - Robin Hood (2009) ). They are the ones trying to control the magical super-villains of the world. Their plan is to capture the Mummy before she can raise a zombie army and conquer London.

    The idea of a secret agency run by a super-villain has many problems. Jekyll's evil alter-ego, Mister Hyde, predictably appears. He is mainly recognisable because he has a working-class mockney accent. At least he is not completely overblown, like the version in the somewhat similar League of Extraordinary Gentlemen .

    This was meant to be the first episode in Universal Studio's Dark Universe Franchise. Presumably they intended to do yet another Dracula reboot, rather than just tie in to Dracula Untold , which was left open-ended for a sequel that never happened.

  • 2000
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    Hercules

    Hercules (2015)

    Hercules (2015) This film is a confused mess. It is adapted from a graphic novel, so it may have started with some decent source material, but evidently director Brett Ratner has filled it with clichéd action movie claptrap.

    The premise is excellent - Hercules (The Rock - Doom ) cheats to make himself look superhuman. He actually has a team of helpers, including Ian McShane ( His Dark Materials ) and Rufus Sewell ( The Knight’s Tale ). But Ratner (related to Gerald?) makes Herc so super-strong he can TKO five men with a single swing of his club, or punch a beefy man ten feet through the air. It is like the cheesy intro to Scorpion King (only using his nephew instead of his brother).

    The actual quest turns into a lot of plot clichés too - the hero’s personal grudge (the death of his wife and children) and the predictable plot non-twists. There are actually two named female speaking parts (a princess and an amazon warrior), but it does not pass the Bechdel test.

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    Adventures of Hercules II

    Adventures of Hercules II Zeus, King of the Gods, sets Hercules (Lou Ferrigno - The Incredible Hulk ) loose on Earth. Some Rebel gods set King Minos free, but he double-crosses them and tries to take over the Universe.

    Hercules wanders around in his loincloth, accompanied by a couple of women in leotards. He has to save them repeatedly from human sacrifice by a variety of monsters and cultists.

    This is a low-budget Swords and Sandals effort from 1985. It is so cheap that it makes Red Sonya look like Conan the Barbarian . One particular low point is the scene that rips off the Clash of the Titans (1980) sequence where Perseus is stalked by Medusa.

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    Legend of Hercules

    Legend of Hercules In typical Hollywood fashion, this came out at around the same time as another blockbuster with a similar theme. This one was directed by Renny Harlin , and the main difference between this and the Brett Ratner version is that this one lacks any big star names in the cast.

    This starts with a city sacked, like the climax of Troy . A Princess ( Roxanne McKee ) is captured by the villain. She becomes a mother, and names her baby son Hercules.

    Hercules grows up to be Kellan Lutz ( Expendables 3 ). He gets sent off on a mission with Liam McIntyre ( Spartacus ), but they end up getting enslaved. Now they must fight as gladiators, until they get the chance to return home and overthrow the dictator.

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    Soon

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  • 2000
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