ORBzine - Fantasy Movies 2017 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed In 1492, the Spanish Xians are about to invade the Moorish kingdom of Grenada. This is the setting for a showdown between the Hashishim (Islamic Ninjas) and the Templars (Spanish Inquisition).

In the modern day, a death-row inmate (Michael Fassbender - X-Men: First Class ) is taken to a special clinic run by friendly lady doctor Marion Cotilard and her creepy father (Jeremy Irons - Dungeons and Dragons ).

The Templars' strategy is a mystery. The clinic has a number of prisoners such as Michael K Williams ( The Purge: Anarchy ) who walk around with relative freedom.

For some reason the Templars' HQ is based in London - an Episcopalian city - instead of anywhere else, such as Rome.

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    Aztek Rex

    Aztek Rex Brian Trenchard-Smith , Australian director famous for a number of classic 1970s and 80s Ozploitation films, Here he has sunk to the depths of directing a cheap made-for-cable-TV effort for the SyFy channel.

    Cortes (Ian Ziering - Sharknado ) and his army of half a dozen conquistadores discover a remote valley in Mexico. The local Aztecs are ruled by Dichen Lachman , a Nepalese Australian who can apparently pass for a Native American Princess thanks to Hollywood's traditional policy of They all look alike to us. Unfortunately, the people of the valley are being harrassed by some cheap CGI dinosaurs.

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    Beauty and the Beast (2003) AKA Blood of Beasts AKA Blood of the Vikings

    Beauty and the Beast (2003) Viking warriors Sven (William Gregory Lee - Xena: Season 6 ) and Erik (Justin Whalin - Lois & Clark ) are best buddies, united by their anachronisms. Sven used to compete with Ragnar for marriage to Princess Freya ( Jane March ), but now he has no rivals for the throne.

    Anachronistically, Freya insists on marrying for love. However, this would mean that the throne would only go to the one she chose for herself. She is still mourning Ragnar, who went missing on Monster Island three years previously. Just in time, her father the King sends the young warriors to invade Monster Island and kill the monster. When the quest is over, Sven will get the girl. That is the plan, anyway. But she makes Sven promise to return with her father in one piece - thus obliging him to die in the old man's service. Yes, she sends him on a virtual suicide mission.

    On the island, the Vikings get taken apart by a single warrior clad in a bearskin, perhaps a sartorial reference to the Kurgan's battle costume in Highlander . This is far closer to The Seventh Warrior than the more supernaturally inclined Beowulf . Sven chooses to save his buddy Erik rather than the King. The Vikings take that as a terrible crime - especially Freya, who makes her own choice of love over duty but berates Sven for doing the same. Even Erik, the one that Sven saves in the name of friendship, abandons his best friend.

    Freya is a trainee Shield Maiden, so she takes her handmaiden and goes on a quest of her own.

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    Beauty and the Beast (2017)

    Beauty and the Beast (2017) This is a live-action version of the Disney cartoon. Belle ( Emma Watson ) is a book-loving girl who is unhappily living among uncultured peasants. She calls herself a farm-girl, but neither of those words is applicable to her. Her father (Kevin Kline - ) is a watch-maker who used to live in the city of Paris, so she has never lived on a farm in her life. And as for being a girl, she may look eighteen but in the Hollywood casting tradition she is ten years older. So basically she is a thirty-ish woman who acts like a spoilt bourgoise brat.

    Belle manages to meet someone ever worse than she is. The Beast was a terrible human being, who would be cruel to a helpless old woman in order to impress his sychophants. Gaspard, in comparison, is thoughtless but not actually cruel.

  • 2000
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    Beyond Sherwood Forest

    Beyond Sherwood Forest Despite being a low-budget film this was produced by Starz (a US Cable TV channel) and directed by Peter Deluise ( Stargate SG-1 ). In other words, it counts as made-for-TV instead of just a low-budget feature, and it has a lot of TV actors who are recognisable from genre shows.

    The story starts in England, 1174. Julian Sands ( Warlock ) is a henchman working for the Sheriff of Nottingham. Despite having an upper-crust English accent he is lumbered with the Scottish name of Malcolm. He leads his boss out to find a flying monster, and discover a naked girl named Helena ( Katherine Isabelle ).

    Malcolm realises a couple of things. Firstly, the girl's blood has magical properties. She is a shapeshifter, like in Ginger Snaps . Secondly, he can easily inherit the job of Sheriff of Nottingham by out-living all his rivals.

    By incredible coincidence, a young man is in the woods and witnesses everything. Then he wakes up as Robin Hood (Robin Dunne - Sanctuary ). Hood, with his Merry Men (both of them!) robs the local tax collectors. Meanwhile, Lady Marian ( Erica Durance ), is unhappy about being married off to Duke Leopold of Austria. She is a tomboy who spends all day hitting things with a quarterstaff.

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    The Fall

    The Fall This was directed by Tarsem (Singh) , which explains its original and un-American visuals. It took four years to shoot, with locations in several different countries. The result is a slow-moving character drama with some of the most impressive visuals ever seen. No cheating with CGI or green-screen like in Lord of the Rings , this is actually an example of good film-making.

    A Hollywood stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace - Pushing Daisies ) is hospitalised in a stunt involving a railway bridge. In hospital he talks to one of the other patients, a six-year-old girl, and tells her a story in order to pass the time.

    The story-with-a-story is narrated by Roy, but the visuals are what the girl imagines. For example, the narrator describes one character as an Indian - as in Native American, because his wife is a sqaw. However, the on-screen portrayal is of a Sikh, complete with a turban.

    A handful of mismatched characters journey across a fantastical landscape to seek revenge on the evil Governor Odious. Their adventures mirror Roy's state of mind, not unlike a straight version of Baron Munchausen .

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    A Field In England

    A Field In England This is set during the English Civil War. Astrologer's apprentice Reece Shearsmith ( League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse ) and a couple of deserting soldiers encounter an Irish Necromancer (Michael Smiley - The Aliens ). He enslaves them, to make them recover a magical treasure he believes buried somewhere in the field. The supernatural element puts this clearly in the horror genre.

    This is taken as a masterpiece of British low-budget independent movie-making. It was filmed for £300,000 in only twelve days. The actors include a few familiar faces from UK TV, but there are no big-name stars - just talent.

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    The Great Wall

    The Great Wall Matt Damon ( The Martian ) and his sidekick have ridden all the way across Asia. Their goal is to steal some gunpowder and sell in in Europe. Not the formula, which would be easy to memorise, but just as much of the powder as their horses can carry.

    The dynamic duo reach the Great Wall, where they get captured by the Chinese. They meet another westerner, Ballard (Willem Dafoe - Spider-Man ), who was captured decades earlier and taught the locals how to speak English. He has a cunning plan to steal the gunpowder. All they have to do is escape from the Chinese army, fight their way through the monster army, somehow evade the hill-tribes on Mongolia and ride thousands of miles through hostile territory to Europe. What could possibly go wrong?

    The wall was built to defend China from giant fast-moving CGI lizard creatures. The monsters are very hard to kill, but are telepathically controlled by a Queen. If our heroes somehow kill the Queen, all the drones will be about as useful as the robots in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace .

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    Grendel: Legend of Beowulf

    Grendel: Legend of Beowulf The Danes of the Dark Ages are being murdered in their feast hall every night. King Ben Cross ( First Knight ) is desperate, but his pseudo-psychic wife Marina Sirtis tells him that help is en route. Sure enough, Beowulf (Chris Bruno - Dead Zone ) and his band of Gittes arrive. The good news is, Beowulf’s crossbow fires 40mm rocket-grenades. The bad news is, he misses repeatedly at point-blank range. The Gittes meet Grendel in the forest, and chase him off. How easily they could have ended the film if they were actually as good at fighting as their reputation suggested.

    Grendel is a predictably poor CGI monster, But this is a SyFy Channel production so will always suffer in contrast to big-budget efforts like the Beowulf film that came out around the same time. However, except for the crossbow this is actually a more faithful retelling of the story. Also, the CGI may suck but some of the acting is quite good.

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    The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake

    The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake Adrian Paul ( Highlander: The Series ) tries a West Country accent as the title character of this SciFi Channel production. He has a tiny-looking ship and a half-dozen sailors to help him.

    The Sultan of Morocco hires Drake to find the Tree of Life. He also takes Drake's tweenage daughter ( Sofia Pernas ) hostage.

    Drake is pursued by his arch-enemy, a Spaniard (Temuera Morrison - Star Wars: Attack of the Clones ). The two eventually make an uneasy alliance in order to complete their quest. If nothing else, this movie allows the two male leads to act in roles more subtle and interesting than their other recent performances.

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    Into The Woods

    Into The Woods Once Upon A Time the famous fairytale characters all lived in the same village. The Witch ( Meryl Streep ) sends the Miller (James Cordern - Musketeers ) and his wife ( Emily Blunt ) on a quest to find ingredients for a magic spell. This gives them an excuse to bump into Jack the Giant Slayer, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Rapunzel.

    The traditional fairy-tales are tied up at the end of the second act. Unfortunately, there is a third act to follow …

    The third act consists mainly of writing out most of the supporting characters, and some central characters too, with deaths that are uncinematic and usually off-screen! The witch has the power to raise a cow from the dead, but apparently not a supporting character.

    This is based on a stage musical, and its stagey origins are uncomfortably visible due to lacklustre direction. The climax itself is a small group of people in a confined space, which is a disappointment when every other fairytale movie enjoys magnificent landscapes and cinematic fairytale architecture.

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    Jungle Book (2016)

    Jungle Book (2016) This is basically a live-action version of the Disney cartoon. Well, the boy is live-action but the animals are all CGI. Admittedly the CGI is incredible, but the boy is a great actor. The song tunes and lyrics are the same as the old version, but re-voiced with modern celebrity actors. Some bits have been changed, specifically fire is now a major plot device in the story.

    Basically, Mowgli is a young boy who has been raised by a pack of wolves. However, the local tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba - 28 Weeks Later ) is a man-eater and demands the pack hand over the boy. As a result, the tiger Bagheera (Ben Kingsley - Thunderbirds ) takes the boy to the man-village. En route they meet some other anthropomorphic animals, such as

  • Kaa the snake ( Scarlett Johansson )
  • Baloo the Bear (Bill Murray - City of Ember )
  • King Louis the Orangutang (Christopher Walken - View to a Kill )
  • Some of the casting decisions may make you wonder. Christopher Walken was originally a song-and-dance man, but his talents are wasted in a relatively bland role. And since when did Shere Khan have a Sarf Landahn accent? A Bengal tiger is out-of-place in what seems like the African savannah, but one with a Peckham accent like Del-Boy Trotter is even harder to treat seriously.

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    The Last Dragonslayer

    The Last Dragonslayer This is a made-for-TV effort, made by the British Sky One channel for Xmas 2016. It is a fantasy story set in an alternate version of England in 2016. There is modern-day technology such as cars, but for some reason they are mostly horse-drawn or bicycle-powered.

    The protagonist, a young girl named Jennifer Strange, lives in an Orphanarium. The King's child-catcher, Mr Brittles (Adeel Akhtar - Utopia ), turns up to conscript a child to fight in the Troll Wars. Exactly what good an underage child would do in a war against trolls is not explained. Luckily The Great Zambini turns up and adopts Jennifer. However, it turns out that the loveable Zambini is actually a brutal murderer. Not only does he approve of wearing fur coats, he is happy to turn humans into furry animals and then magically skin them alive. In fact, for a family-friendly story there is an awful lot of violent death going on. It is all magical, so there is lots of dust but no blood.

    Jennifer grows up to look like Ellise Chappell , who despite her young age is a very capable actress and carries the story quite well. Zambini goes missing, but Jennifer is raised by his associates Moobin (Ricky Tomlinson - ) and Lady Mawgon ( Pauline Collins ).

    Jennifer's destiny is to kill the last dragon, Maltcassion (Richard E. Grant - Hudson Hawk ). However, she spends most of her time fighting against her own destiny. Unfortunately her own pacifist ideals may lead to the destruction of the human kingdom. She does not see how this could be a bad thing.

    King Snodd (Matt Berry - Garth Morenghi's Dark Place ) sends his sidekick, Sir Grifflon (George Webster - Zapped ) to pressure her into doing the deed. Luckily she is befriended by fellow former orphan Gordon (John Bradley - Game of Thrones ), who has links with top businesswoman Anna Chancellor .

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    Lost Colony

    Lost Colony: Legend Of Roanoake Elizabethan colonists settle on Roanoake island, off the coast of North America. Naturally, they have a poor relationship with the natives. Worse, something sinister is in the woods. Something ... supernatural.

    Governor Alex McArthur ( Hydra ) leaves his son-in-law (Adrian Paul - Merlin: The Return ) in charge. Strangely, the supposedly Anglican Episocopalian settlers include a Roman Catholic holy man who crosses himself and blesses holy water.

    The monsterous presence is exemplified by a steadicam running through the woods, and as tree-branches that attack people. Soon CGI ghosties appear in the mist, reminscent of The Fog . Yes, this is Highlander: the Series versus Evil Dead/The Fog !

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    Pompeii

    Pompeii This is a cross between two classic movie genres - the swords and sandals epics of the 1950s and the disaster movies of the 1970s. As such it is basically a mega-budget B-movie.

    In the year 68CE, the Celtic revolt (presumably a reference to Boudicca's murderous rampage) has to be put down . Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland - Mirrors ) and his bodyguard Proculus (Sasha Roiz - Caprica ) destroy a village of peaceful Celts. This is a pale imitation of the first scene of Conan The Barbarian . Then, just to be a cliched Hollywood villain, Corvus gives the order to kill all the prisoners. His army of Legionairies were counting on selling them as slaves for a pay bonus, but who cares? Luckily, a youngster gets presumed dead. He later gets enslaved by someone else anyway.

    Twenty years later, the young slave has grown up to be Kit Harrington ( Game of Thrones ). He slaughters a trio of expensive Thracian gladiators in a pointless fight scene. The good news is, this makes him the Champion of London. The bad news is, despite being a highly valuable celebrity he is made to walk with the other slaves all the way to Pompeii. The Princess of Pompeii ( Emily Browning ) and her personal slave ( Jessica Lucas ) ride past them in a carriage. By incredible timing, her horse stumbles and breaks its leg.. Anachronistically she is an animal-lover, although this does allow her to show humanity towards the slaves as well. By incredible coincidence, not only is heroic Harrington muscular enough to seem like he has the penis of a horse, he also has the mystical powers of Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer.

    The Princess returns to her parents, Jared Harris ( Fringe ) and Carrie-Anne Moss , who have made an appeal for funding to the Emperor's representative - Senator Sutherland! What are the chances of the hero and villain crossing paths again after two decades? And worse, they find themselves competing for the same love interest.

    It turns out that Pompeii its very own seperatist movement. Browning does not consider herself to be a citizen of the Roman Empire, and as a woman she might technically not have been one, but in the period this film is set in the Italian peninsula had been Roman for over a century and a half.

    The Celt befriends his cell-mate Attius (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje - The Mummy Returns ), the Champion of Pompeii. The good news is, Atticus will be set free if he survives the next match. The bad news is, the next person he is duie to fight is the Celt. All this is forgotten about whe the Games start with a re-enactment of a Roman victory. Atticus and the Celt are on the same side, with sharp metal weapons. Unfortunately the makers did not learn from the mistakes made in Gladiator - the losing side should be condemned criminals armed only with wooden props.

    In the final act, the volcano erupts. Our hero must go looking for the damsel in distress. This is real Titanic stuff, mixing historical romance with big-budget disaster. However, unlike the James Cameron masterpiece this film IS a big budget disaster!

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    Saga: Curse of the Shadow

    Saga: Curse of the Shadow This is set in a generic Fantasy land that looks like rural Utah, where the kickboxing bounty-hunters are sexy blonde elven maidens. The Shadow of the title is an evil conspiracy. They want to raise the God of Death, who will then destroy the world.

    The facial prosthetic makeup on the non-human races is a direct lift from the Lord of the Rings series.

    There is actually more depth of character. The Orcs are actually given some realistic motivation, and one of them accompanies our heroes on their quest. Also, the fight scenes are well-choreographed.

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    Seventh Son

    Seventh Son Jeff Bridges is a beardy, gravel-voiced SOB like he was in True Grit , but less likeable and a lot harder to understand. As a magical knight known as a Spook he must fight the demons, led by his ex-lover Julianne Moore . Her superpowers include possession (like in Season of the Witch ) and the power to transform into a dragon.

    Our hero recruits a seventh son of a seventh son (Ben Barnes - Prince Caspian ). They go on a quest, fight evil, all the cliches.

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    Sleeping Beauty (2014)

    Sleeping Beauty (2014) The King (Casper Van Dien - Starship Troopers ) and Queen (his RL wife Catherine Oxenberg ) have a daughter. In fact, they have several children (all played by their RL children). However, the eldest daughter is cursed by a wicked (but incredibly attractive) witch ( Olivia D'Abo ).

    The Charming Prince comes along. He is not so charming - more of a cowardly weaselly Prince. However, his whipping-boy is a courageous type.

    The Weaselly Prince and his merry men try to enter the haunted castle. Unfortunately the wicked witch has raised a load of Fast Zombies to guard it. The situation could be worse, of course - if the budget were slightly higher she could have used crappy CGI instead. Oh wait, there is a crappy CGI monster as well.

    This was filmed on the cheap in Bulgaria. Remember, Eastern Europe is popular with film-makers because the minimum wage is four to five times lower than in the West.

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    The Story of Mankind

    The Story of Mankind This may appear to be the Roger Corman version of A Matter of Life and Death , but it was actually created by Irwin Allen . and since Allen was the fore-runner of modern blockbuster directors like George Lucas , this illustrates how far the movie industry has fallen.

    Humans have invented the h-bomb, and the Judeo-Xian Devil, AKA Mr Scratch (Vincent Price - Abominable Dr Phibes ), wants the court of whatever to let the bomb explode and destroy all human life. A defence is provided by the Spirit of Mankind (Roger Colman).

    The trial consists mainly of watching some stock footage of battle scenes from other movies with larger budgets. These are interspersed with cameos of then-famous movie stars as historical figures. Nero (Peter Lorre - The Raven ) and Joan of Arc ( Hedy Lamar ) both stand out, but not for the right reasons. Both the actors were thirty years older than the characters they were attempting to portray! Dennis Hopper ( Waterworld ) is Napoleon, while Groucho Marx cheats the Native Americans out of ownership of Manhattan island.

    Mankind’s defence is that the human race has made lots of great inventions. The Devil twists this, and points out that the inventions were used for war and violence. His logic is that because the Devil was so successful in corrupting humans, he should be rewarded by being allowed to prematurely reap thousands of millions of human souls.

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    Valhalla Rising

    Valhalla Rising No, this is not based on the book of the same name by Clive Cussler . It is an original work directed by Nicholas Winding Refn , famous for the controversial film Only God Forgives . This is in a similar vein. A ruthless, virtually indestructible and morally ambiguous protagonist on a bloodthirsty quest …

    One-Eye (Mads Mikkelson - Casino Royale ) is a Viking warrior. He is held prisoner by Pagan Vikings, who send warriors in to fight him to the death. He escapes, and joins a gang of Xian Vikings who decide to sail off and declare a holy war on whatever non-Xians they meet. They end up trapped in a mysterious wilderness than looks like Canada, where persons unknown start shooting arrows at them.

    This is an incredibly bleak film, like all of Refn’s work. The characters are unsympathetic, and nobody is guaranteed a happy ending.

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    Viking Quest

    Viking Quest Koli (short for cauliflower?) is a teenager who was abducted by Vikings led by Ben Cross ( First Knight ). They rename the boy Karl, and he is adopted by the Smith. He is put to work in the smithy, where he invents new things like steel and the crossbow. His next plan is to harness the lightning somehow.

    A gang of raiders kidnap the Princess. The Vikings are confused - normally THEY do the kidnapping, not the other way around. These raiders wear chainmail armour, far better than the Vikings' leather garb. They are basically the Norman French, although they are called Volsungs. There is one minor difference, however. These are not Catholics, they are Pagans who intend to make the Princess a human sacrifice to Jormungard the World Serpent!

    The heroes set off on a quest to save the Princess. She actually does a good job of putting up a fight herself.

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    Warcraft: The Beginning

    Warcraft: The Beginning A magical kingdom is attacked by unknown monsters. The King (Dominic Cooper - Agent Carter ) sends his greatest warrior (Travis Fimmel - Vikings ) to investigate, accompanied by guardsman Ryan Robbins ( Sanctuary ).

    An Orcish warband has been brought through a portal by their villainous Shaman (Clancy Brown - Starship Troopers ). A female Orc ( Paula Patton ) is mistreated by the others because she is more human-looking. In fact she is incredibly attractive by human standards.

    Lady Tiana ( Ruth Negga ) encourages the King to find a solution.

    This is based on the World of Warcraft game, itself based on Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings . The visuals are incredible. Most of the film is CGI, with a few human actors seamlessly blended in. However, due to the expense of theCGI they could only afford TV actors. As a result there is no big-name star, so it is basically aimed at the game's niche audience rather than crossing over to a wider more mainstream audience.

    So what is the film's legacy? No sequel has been made yet. However, two of the stars got married and are now working together on Preacher .

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    Witchslayer Gretl

    Witchslayer Gretl Hansel (Paul McGillion - Stargate: Atlantis ) and his hot blonde sidekick wander through a forest (Canada, passing for the Schwartzwald in Germany). They have a variety of magical equipment, such as torcs that serve as the equivalent of a CB radio. On their travels they recruit another blonde, Ehren ( Emilie Ullerup ).

    The witch-hunters' self-appointed mission is to kill the Queen of the Witches ( Shannen Doherty ), the woman who Hansel and Gretl encountered in their childhood. It turns out that Gretl is not dead, as her brother long-ago feared. No, she has been possessed by a body-jumping witch spirit. Obviously, since she is the title character she is portrayed by the big-name actress. Unfortunately that particular actress delivers the flattest performance in the entire sorry story.

    The camera-work is mediocre, and the film is shot mostly in medium-frame. That may be the curse of made-for-TV films, but Excalibur was filmed the same way and it is one of the finest examples of this genre.

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