Archive for the Heroic Warriors Category

Transmissions to Earth Intercepts SOLOMON KANE (2009)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Evil Spirits, Exotic Locales, Heroic Fantasy, Heroic Warriors, Historical Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Robert E. Howard Characters, Sword & Sorcery, Trasmissions to Earth with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH
Presents

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SOLOMON KANE (2009)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

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Almost everyone has heard of Conan the Barbarian, but few people, aside from fans of heroic fantasy literature, know that the great Robert E. Howard created several other interesting heroes and anti-heroes in his (regrettably short but rather prolific) career. These even included  sailors and Texas gunfighters. One of his most enduring creations was Solomon Kane, a 17th century Puritan who could fight with a sword, but who also used flintlock pistols when they came in handy. I was surprised when I first heard they were making a film based on the character.

That film, SOLOMON KANE (2009), features James Purefoy as the title hero. As the movie opens, he is the leader of a gang of mercenaries, plundering “heathens” in the name of God. While invading an Arabian palace, Kane comes face-to-face with a creature claiming to be the Devil’s Reaper, and it wants his soul to bring back to Hell. Kane escapes, and ends up in a monastery, desperately seeking solitude away from civilization. The monks tell him after a long stay, however, that it is time for him to move on.

He heads back to the land where he grew up, and is accosted by some bandits who beat him mercilessly when they learn he has sworn off violence (don’t’ worry, they’ll meet again later, with different results). He is taken in by a family of pilgrims who find him, led by patriarch William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite). Kane appreciates their kindness but is convinced his soul is damned, based on what the Reaper told him. Even though he has changed his life and is no longer a plunderer and a murderer, he thinks it is too late to redeem himself.

Meanwhile, an army loyal to a sorcerer named Malachi (Jason Flemyng) is roaming the land, killing or enslaving everyone in their path. The army is led by the masked Overlord (Samuel Roukin), who appears to be some kind of killing machine. When the army adds more (unwilling) soldiers to their ranks, the men are transformed into half-human, half-demonic creatures that live only to carry out the vile wishes of their new master.

Some of these creatures attack the Crowthorn family while they are setting up camp for the night. At first, Kane is reluctant to fight back, because of his vow of non-violence, but he decides that this vow is meaningless in a filthy, violent world and springs into action. Sadly, his change of heart happens too late. The Crowthorn family is mostly slaughtered and the young daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood), who clearly had a crush on Kane, is kidnapped.

William Crowthorn, with his dying breath, makes Kane promise to find Meredith and rescue her. In return, Crowthorn vows that God will take mercy on Kane and his soul will find its way to heaven.

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Eager to save Meredith, and be free of damnation, Solomon Kane hunts down the soldiers who took her away, pursuing them across the continent. Along the way he is beaten, brutalized and even crucified, but he is determined to right the wrongs he committed earlier in his life.

His journey will lead him back to the castle where he grew up, and to a reunion of sorts with the father than banished him, Josiah Kane (Max von Sydow) and his brother Marcus, the eldest and his father’s heir, now transformed into a monster.

With his proficiency with a blade, and his pursuit of supernatural creatures (a few are pursuing him as well), there are obvious similarities between Solomon Kane and other Robert E. Howard heroes. Kane is interesting because he is a man of God, out to vanquish the world’s evil, wearing a cloak and a pilgrim’s slouch hat. Howard always had a knack for mixing fantasy and adventure with interesting historical eras, and Solomon Kane is no exception.

As for the film version, it isn’t perfect, but it does have a few things going for it. First off, James Purefoy is excellent in the lead role. Many people will remember him as Mark Antony is HBO’s excellent series ROME (which ended before its time). Even more people may know him now as the psychopathic cult leader Joe Carroll in the new FOX series THE FOLLOWING. Here, the charismatic Purefoy makes SOLOMON KANE his own, with his mixture of brooding nobleman, ruthless warrior and conflicted man of God. It is easy to  see why other people follow him into battle, and Purefoy’s performance in the single most effective aspect of the movie version.

The rest of the cast is quite good as well, even if many of them do not stand out as boldly. It’s always good to see Pete Postlethwaite’s grinning mug, even if he’s in a small supporting role like this one. Genre mainstay Alice Krige plays Postlethwaite’s wife, Katherine. The legendary von Sydow is also a treat here, even if he doesn’t get much screen time as the big daddy Kane (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). And Rachel Hurd-Wood is quite good as the virginal Meredith, as well. But it’s Purefoy’s show, and he is more than up to the job.

The land Kane travels is kind of a character by itself, too, a sprawling, filthy countryside, that makes you feel like you need a shower when it’s done. With its mud and constant rain, the world of SOLOMON KANE is not a cheerful one.

Director Michael J. Bassett (who also wrote the script) does a good job here bringing Robert E. Howard’s world to life, although it’s not perfect. There are aspects of the plot that are a bit muddled, and some parts of the movie drag a bit (there is a stretch in the middle where it just seems to be Kane following the caravan of bad guys over filthy terrains forever). But overall, it has the look and feel of an epic, and it’s enjoyable enough.

Not a great film, but a pretty good one. SOLOMON KANE is just what the doctor ordered if you’re a fan of heroic fantasy that has a bit more blood and grit in it, and don’t care much for hobbits, like me. I don’t normally give knife ratings to movies in the Transmissions to Earth column, but for this one I’ll make an exception and give it three knives out of 5.

The film’s theatrical run in America has been choppy at best, with a limited release only happening in 2012. However, it is currently available on Cable OnDemand, and surely other venues.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives SOLOMON KANE ~three knives.

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JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, Adult Fairy Tales, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Exotic Locales, Family Films, GIANTS!, Heroic Warriors, Michael Arruda Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013)
By Michael Arruda

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(THE SCENE: The Kingdom of the Giants, high above the clouds.  A GIANT stomps onto the scene, approaching MICHAEL ARRUDA, who sits on a rock counting some beans in his hand.)

GIANT:  Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an English Muffin!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Don’t you mean Englishman?

GIANT:  No, I mean English muffin.  (pulls out an enormous English muffin).  I love the nooks and crannies.

MA:  I see.  Does that mean you’re not partial to human flesh?

GIANT:  I didn’t say that.  I’m just in the mood for an English muffin right now, that’s all.

JA

MA:  Am I safe to do my review here without worry that you might try to eat me?

GIANT (with his mouth full of English muffin):  I’m not going to eat you.  I prefer to eat meat in the evening, not in the morning.  I’m watching my cholesterol.

MA:  I see.

GIANT:  Start your review.  Don’t mind me.  I’ll just sit here eating my breakfast if that’s okay with you.

MA:  Not a problem.  Welcome everyone to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m riding solo today, as L.L. Soares is on the other side of the clouds reviewing THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2.  I’m here in Giant Land reviewing the latest fairy tale movie, JACK THE GIANT SLAYER ( 2013).

And you know what?

GIANT:  What?

MA:  For the most part, I liked this one.

GIANT:  No kidding?

MA:  No kidding!  It certainly has its share of drawbacks, but it could have been a lot worse.  That being said, I’m also here to tell you it could have been a lot better.

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) lives in a kingdom where the children grow up hearing the legend of the giants who live high above in the sky, and how they were vanquished years ago by the heroic King of the land, who defeated the giants with his magic crown which, upon his death, was buried with him.

Jack is a young farmer who lives with his uncle.  Sent to the village to sell a horse, Jack instead takes in a traveling show where he happens to meet the Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson).  The princess is restless and upset that her father King Brahmwell (Ian McShane) has arranged a marriage for her with the much older Roderick (Stanley Tucci), so she constantly disguises herself and sneaks out of the castle.

When she runs afoul of some aggressive men, Jack jumps to her aid, but before the men rough him up, the king’s guard arrives, led by the head of the royal guard, Elmont (Ewan McGregor), and they whisk the princess back to the castle.

But you can’t keep a good princess down.  She sneaks out again, coincidentally ending up at Jack’s farm (yeah, that’s believable!), when the magic beans Jack had taken for his horse sprout the gigantic beanstalk which rises high into the sky above.  Jack manages to escape the beanstalk, but the princess is trapped and is lifted into the sky.

The king organizes a rescue party, led by Elmont, which also includes Roderick and Jack.  It’s up to these men to climb the beanstalk and rescue the princess from the clutches of the flesh-eating giants.  Things grow more complicated when it’s revealed that Roderick has an agenda of his own, and saving the princess isn’t part of it.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER has its moments, and the best part of the movie is that everyone involved seems to be taking it quite seriously.  You won’t find goofy camp here.

However, on the other hand, although the material is treated with integrity, it’s handled with kid’s gloves.  This movie is rated PG-13.  It easily could have been rated PG, and in fact felt like a PG movie.  This was not a good thing.  So when the menacing giant takes a human and bites his head off, the camera cuts away long before we see what happens.  When soldiers suffer deadly wounds, not a drop of blood drips from their bodies.

Which makes JACK THE GIANT SLAYER a curious animal.  The actors in the film play things as if they’re in Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, director Bryan Singer, the man behind the first two X-MEN movies, shoots it with the pacing and ferocity of Wolverine, and yet it’s edited in such a way that it is so kid-friendly it makes you wonder if somewhere along the line the folks behind the film changed their minds as to how they wanted to present this thing.

The end result is it’s really nothing more than just a children’s fairy tale.  The kiddos will love it because it’s exciting and action-packed, a bit more serious than their usual fare, but it’s all wrapped in a neat little PG package—sure, the rating says PG-13, but trust me, it’s PG material.

I found it enjoyable in a mild sort of way, but kept wishing it was a darker picture, and by darker, I don’t mean “R” rated, but I mean something along the lines of the aforementioned Peter Jackson LORD OF THE RINGS movies (not THE HOBBIT, which lacked the same intensity).  JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is more akin to a Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movie than LORD OF THE RINGS, only without  Harryhausen’s fun effects.

GIANT:  Speaking of special effects, how were the giants in the movie?  I’m always eager to hear how my cousins are represented on the big screen.

MA:  I’ll get to the giants in a bit.  Not yet.

Jack

Nicholas Hoult, who was one of the few things I liked about the recent zombie romantic comedy WARM BODIES (2013), is very good again here as Jack.  There’s something very likeable and sincere about him, and I found myself easily rooting for Jack.

Eleanor Tomlinson is also very good as Princess Isabelle.  She does a nice job playing both the strong and independent woman, and the vulnerable princess who doesn’t mind having Jack rescue her once in a while.  I bought into her performance as a princess much more than I did Kristen Stewart’s tomboyish take on Snow White in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012).

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER is also helped along by its veteran cast.  Ewan McGregor as Elmont, the head of the king’s royal guard, shows more passion and exudes more personality here than he did in three movies as the sterile Obi-Wan-Kenobie.  It’s a neat role for McGregor.  He’s not the lead, not the young farm boy, but the seasoned veteran who is single-minded in his purpose to serve the king.  To use another STAR WARS reference, he’s Han Solo to Jack’s Luke Skywalker, although he plays Elmont less like Solo and more like James Bond.

Playing King Brahmwell its Ian Mcshane, a veteran actor who I almost always enjoy watching.  McShane has been in countless movies, and he’s probably most famous for his British TV show LOVEJOY (1986-1994) and for playing Al Swearengen in the HBO series DEADWOOD (2004 – 2006).  Incidentally, McShane was also in last year’s SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, where he played one of the dwarves, but he’s much better here as King Brahmwell.  That’s because in JACK GIANT SLAYER he delivers a performance that’s way above the material.

Stanley Tucci rounds out the veteran cast as Roderick, and surprisingly he was a disappointment.  His performance was fine, but he doesn’t get to do a whole lot.  Roderick should have been a juicy role for Tucci—a no good scoundrel whose secret desire to rule the kingdom leads him to betray just about everyone in his path—and for a while it is, but he never really develops into the kind of villain this movie needs.  I expected more.

And not to nitpick, but since Roderick was in line to marry the princess per order of the king, and was about to inherit the kingdom without having to lift one treacherous finger, the fact that he goes to all this trouble to conquer the king makes little sense when you think about it.

GIANT:  Are you going to talk about the giants now?

MA:  Not yet.  Soon.

Director Bryan Singer brings a lot of energy and zing to this one, imbuing the film with exciting action sequences, colorful sets and costumes, and pacing that keeps the movie rolling.

The screenplay by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dan Studney offers likable characters, enjoyable dialogue, and enough references and tweaks to the original tale to satisfy fairy tale connoisseurs.  McQuarrie also wrote the screenplay for JACK REACHER (2012), VALKYRIE (2008), and, way back when, THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995).

The set-up is all here for a rousing adventure, but somewhere in the editing room, it must have been decided this needed to be watered down.  The final result therefore is a mixed bag, an entertaining story without much bite.

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GIANT:  I’m going to bite you if you don’t start talking about the giants!

MA:  Okay, I’ll talk about the giants.

GIANT: It’s about friggin time!

MA:  What can I say?  I was saving the giants for last.

Anyway, it should come as no surprise where the giants fit in here.  Like the rest of the movie, they run hot and cold.  At times, they look really cool with some neat attention to detail, while other times—actually, most of the time—they look fake and cartoonish, off the set of some old Looney Tunes cartoon.

They’re portrayed as menacing evil beings that’ll bite off a man’s head in an instant, but we never feel their wrath or their enormous hatred of humans.  They’re rarely scarier than a villain in a Disney movie.  In fact, some Disney villains are scarier.

Like other watered-down parts of this movie, had the giants been grittier, the film would have been that much better.

And don’t ask me how the giants procreate.  There’s not a female giant anywhere in the land.

I chose not to see JACK THE GIANT SLAYER in 3D, believing the 3D effects wouldn’t be worth the extra money.

I liked JACK THE GIANT SLAYER, but I certainly didn’t love it.  The acting by everyone involved was very good, the story decent, and the film itself energetic and exciting, but it could have used more of an edge—an adult take to the fairy tale proceedings—as well as some more convincing and frightening giants.

I give it two and a half knives.

GIANT (burps):  That English Muffin was delicious.  But I’m still hungry.  Now what shall I eat?  (Eyes MA and licks his lips.).

MA:  You’re watching your cholesterol, remember?

GIANT:  I know, but it’s so difficult!

MA:  Here, have some magic beans.   (tosses beans up towards giant.)  They’ll put beanstalks on your chest.

GIANT:  I probably shouldn’t eat these.

MA:  No, but you can trade them in for all the food you want.  They’re worth quite a bit.

GIANT:  Gee, thanks!  (Exits)

MA:  Okay, we’re done here.  Time for me to return to the real world.  Now just where is that beanstalk again?  I sure hope the elevator is working this time.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives JACK THE GIANT SLAYER ~ two and a half knives!

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Buddy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Heroic Warriors, Jason Statham, Kung Fu!, Sequels, Sylvester Stallone! with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)
By Michael Arruda

(With Special Appearances by L.L. SOARES, PETE DUDAR, MARK ONSPAUGH, NICK CATO, DAN KEOHANE, JOHN HARVEY and COLLEEN WANGLUND.)

(The Scene: A beat-up military plane which has seen better days, flying low over a South American jungle. At the controls sits MICHAEL ARRUDA. Next to him with a cigar dangling from his mouth is L.L. SOARES.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We’ve reached our target. You’d better tell the rest of the team to be ready. It’s show time!

L.L. SOARES (bangs on door behind them):  Okay, people, look sharp!  We’re going in.

(CUE Dramatic military music. The door on the side of the plane opens. Into the doorway, wearing a parachute appears NICK CATO with his name superimposed on the screen in big bold letters. He leaps from plane. He’s followed by PETE DUDAR, MARK ONSPAUGH, DAN KEOHANE, JOHN HARVEY and COLLEEN WANGLUND, each with their names emblazoned on the screen and a dramatic beat of music as each makes their appearance. Finally, the camera settles on MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES as they prepare to bail, with their names also in massive letters on the screen, followed by the huge, larger-than-life title:

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHTERS

(End opening titles)

MA:  Say, there’s only one parachute left.

LS:  You don’t need no stinkin parachute!  (He grabs parachute and leaps from plane.)  Sucker!

MA:  Gee, thanks, you no good cigar-chomping critic!  (addresses camera)  Well, I guess this is it. It’s been a nice ride.

On the other hand, who says I have to go down?  This is a plane. It has landing gear. I’ll just find a nice spot to land, and I’ll be all set.

(Looks below to see thick forest and mountains everywhere.)

MA:  Well, who says I have to land here?  (looks at fuel gage which reads EMPTY.)    Would you believe this is a new-fangled electric plane with a long-life battery?  I didn’t think so. (flies over a large body of water). Would you believe this is a seaplane?  Actually, it is a seaplane!

(Crash-lands plane on water. Gets into a lifeboat and paddles towards shore.)

MA:  That wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll catch up with those guys eventually. In the meantime, I’ll review today’s movie, THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), Sylvester Stallone’s action-packed sequel to his 2010 summer hit, THE EXPENDABLES.

If you like thunderous explosions that’ll blow out your eardrums, and guns the size of cannons, then THE EXPENDABLES 2 is the movie for you. There’s so much testosterone in this one, they’ve called for a congressional hearing.

In THE EXPENDABLES 2, Sylvester Stallone returns as Barney Ross, the leader of a group of misfit mercenary soldiers known as The Expendables. The group includes Ross’s right hand man, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), as well as Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and newcomer Bill The Kid (Liam Hemsworth of HUNGER GAMES fame, and younger brother of Thor—er, Chris Hemsworth).

Ross is once again hired by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), this time to locate a missing safe which contains extremely valuable contents. Church adds a new team member to Ross’s group, a safe expert named Maggie (Nan Yu.)

It’s supposed to be a routine caper, but—surprise! surprise!—before they can finish the job, the Expendables are intercepted by a force greater than their own, led by an evil villain named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Vilain is one cold-hearted bastard, and after he forces Ross and his group to hand over the contents of the safe to him, he brutally kills one of Ross’s men.

Quicker than you can say “revenge,” the plot of the rest of the movie is set into motion, as Ross

and his team vow to avenge their friend’s death, get back the contents of the safe, which is valuable because it has to do with weapons-grade plutonium, and completely annihilate Vilain and his forces in the process.

But this is easier said than done. Vilain commands an entire army, and so Ross and company need some help along the way, and they get it from some old friends, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Booker (Chuck Norris). Even the mysterious Church comes out of the woodwork to lend a hand, setting the stage for the massive concluding battle which puts Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris, and Willis together on the big screen in an eye-popping ear-splitting finale that is a dream come true for the 1980s action movie fan!

I have to admit, I really enjoyed THE EXPENDABLES 2. I enjoyed the original EXPENDABLES as well, but that one left me a bit disappointed. For all its collective action-star firepower, the action sequences in the first one weren’t that memorable, the plot was rather flat and silly, and the villain a dud. All of these items have been improved upon in the sequel.

The movie opens with a blast, as its riveting pre-credit action sequence is better than any of the action scenes in the original.

Stallone, who directed the first one, turned over the directing duties to Simon West this time around, and I think this was a good decision because the action scenes here have more oomph and are much more high octane than what we saw in the original.

(A speed boat pulls up next to MA, and it’s driven by SYLVESTER STALLONE.)

STALLONE:  Are you saying I’m too old to direct an action movie?

MA:  I don’t know if you’re too old, but this sequel does seem to have more energy about it.

STALLONE:  I’m not too old!  (He speeds away.)

MA:  If I had to guess, I’d say Stallone’s still got plenty of juice left to make movies like this, but nonetheless, director West does a nice job here.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 also has a better story than the original, a better script by Stallone and Richard Wenk, and better use of the film’s stars.

(STALLONE’s speed boat returns.)

STALLONE:  So, I’m not too old to write?

MA:  I never said you were too old.

STALLONE:  That’s good, because I don’t think I’m too old, if you know what I’m saying.

MA:  Yes, I know what you’re saying.

(STALLONE speeds away again.)

MA:  Where was I?  Oh yes. If you go see THE EXPENDABLES 2 to enjoy this collection of action stars do their thing, you won’t be disappointed as these guys all have generous screen time.

(MA reaches land. He ditches the life boat and begins walking through the jungle.)

MA:  It goes without saying that the impressive cast assembled here is a lot of fun, and the script seems to give each of them key moments to savor and enjoy.

Sylvester Stallone is still damned believable as an action star.

(Wielding a machine gun, STALLONE runs by MA).

STALLONE:  Glad to hear I’m not too old to act!

MA:  Not at all!  Even at your age, 66, you still look ripped.

STALLONE:  I’ll kick Van Damme’s ass!  (Disappears in jungle.)

MA:  Rocky is still going strong, and in his climactic bout vs. Van Damme, it’s believable that he could take everything that Van Damme dishes out.

Jason Statham is also enjoyable once again as Lee Christmas, though his screen time is slightly diminished here to make room for the extra time given to the other big name players. I like Statham a lot, and I’ve become a fan over the past several years. He and Stallone share an affable chemistry on screen, and they really do seem like friends.

Even Dolph Lundgren gets to enjoy some fun moments, as the story reveals that in spite of his size and brawn, he’s also a Fulbright scholar with an advanced science degree.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis both have more screen time than they had in the original, and they get to play a large part in the film’s explosive conclusion. They also get to poke fun at themselves. Schwarzenegger seems to say “I’ll be back” every time he has a line, and at one point Willis complains. “You’re always coming back. I’ll  be back!”  To which Schwarzenegger replies, “Yippee-ki-yay!”

Chuck Norris plays things straighter than Willis and Schwarzenegger, but still gets to enjoy some decent screen time. Nan Yu is also very good as newcomer Maggie.

But the best performance in the movie belongs to Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain.

Van Damme plays Vilain as one icy cold dude, and he’s one of the better screen villains I’ve seen in a while. He has to be. He’s up against nearly every 80s action star on the planet. It seems a bit unfair. As formidable as Van Damme is, the numbers are clearly stacked against him. Perhaps Stallone should have cast some 80s villains to team up with Van Damme to make things a bit more even.

Even so, Van Damme rocked, and he easily delivered the best performance in the movie. The intense hand-to-hand battle between Van Damme and Stallone during the film’s conclusion is worth the price of admission alone!

THE EXPENDABLES 2 won’t leave you feeling ripped off or cheated. It delivers the goods and then some.

In spite of its R rating, THE EXPENDABLES 2 is free of any “F-bombs” and the violence, while bloody, is strictly of the neat video game variety. It’s as unrealistic looking as it comes. The film as a whole has a larger-than-life comic book feel to it. Never once do you feel as if Stallone and his men are in danger. They shoot, their opponents die. The bad guys shoot, and Stallone and friends remain untouched. In fact, that’s how you can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in this movie. The good guys hit everything they shoot at, while the bad guys can’t hit a damn thing!

I didn’t mind this though. It just added to the fun, in a Bugs Bunny sort of way.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 is a wildly entertaining thrill ride that doesn’t attempt to be anything more than what it is, an exciting action movie that’s full of gargantuan weapons, thunderous explosions, and larger than life characters.

It’s easily one of my favorite movies of the summer, and I give it three knives.

 

Hey, I’m finally here!

(Walks by a sign which reads “Welcome, Cinema Knife Fighters to GuerillaCon!”  Sees his fellow Cinema Knife Fighters sitting behind a table on a panel. The audience is comprised of men, women, and zombies dressed in military fatigues.

ZOMBIE raises his hand and stands up to ask a question.)

ZOMBIE:  As a zombie myself, I found the movie’s interpretation of zombies completely unrealistic. I don’t know where Romero got the idea that we can’t run!

SOLDIER IN AUDIENCE:  Who cares about that crap?  All we want to know is, how many heads get blown off in the movie?

MA:  Well, here’s where I say so long. Time for me to join the panel.

LS:  Hey, it’s Mike Arruda!  What took you so long?  What did you do?  Crash the plane or something?

MA:  As a matter of fact, I did.

LS:  You goober!  Didn’t you know it was on autopilot and programmed to land right outside this building?

MA:  Er— of course I knew. I just wanted to man up and rough it. This is a review of THE EXPENDABLES 2 after all. Autopilot?  Who needs an autopilot?

(Suddenly SYLVESTER STALLONE stands next to MA.)

STALLONE:  What’s the matter?  Too old to land a plane?

MA:  I made out okay.

STALLONE:  But the plane didn’t.

MA:  So, is there going to be an EXPENDABLES 3?

STALLONE:  Dunno. I’m not getting any younger. (smiles)

MA:  I hear Steven Seagal might be available—.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives THE EXPENDABLES 2 ~three knives.

WRATH OF THE TITANS (2012)

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Heroic Warriors, Monsters, Mythological Creatures, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: WRATH OF THE TITANS (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: The fiery cavernous dungeon of Tartarus.  A group of gods sit around a huge dinner table arguing.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES make their way around an enormous buffet.  Both men are eagerly filling their plates.)

LS:  Oh boy!  Food fit for the gods!

MA:  It ought to be.  They’re charging us an arm and a leg for this spread! (MA nods towards corner of the room, where a pile of severed arms and legs lie under a sign that reads “All U Can Eat –One Low Price.”)

LS:  Mmm!  Volcanic chicken!  My favorite.  Extra lava sauce for me please! And look – there’s ambrosia for dessert!

MA: Ahh, the food of the gods.

(The gods’ argument suddenly grows louder.)

HADES:  I’m sick of you bossing me around!  You’re not my father!  So stop acting like it!

ZEUS:  But you’re so damned irresponsible!  What do you expect me to do?  I’m looking after your best interests.

HADES:  There you go.  Talking down to me again!  (turns to POSEIDON)  Aren’t you going to weigh in on this?  He bosses you around, too!  Who died and made our brother boss?  (POSEIDON just shrugs)  That’s your problem.  You never take a stand!  You let Zeus walk all over you.  Aren’t you going to say anything?

POSEIDON:  Please pass the fish sticks.

HADES:  I’m sick of this family!

KRONOS:  Shut up, all three of you!  I’m your father, and I say—.

ZEUS:  Put a sock in it, old man.  You lost your credibility years ago when you tried to kill us.

KRONOS:  You’re still holding that against me?

MA (shaking his head):  And human families think they have problems!  Let’s go sit somewhere else.

LS:  Sure.  I prefer dysfunction when I’m the one causing it.

(They move to another table)

MA:  How about we get started on today’s movie?

LS:  Good idea.  You start.  I’ve got to taste this volcanic chicken first.

MA:  I hope you have some antacids handy.

Today we’re reviewing WRATH OF THE TITANS (2012), the sequel to CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010), which was, itself, a remake of the 1981 Ray Harryhausen movie.  As sequels go, WRATH OF THE TITANS isn’t bad, but then again, CLASH OF THE TITANS wasn’t a very good movie, and so it would have been pretty sad had this movie been worse.  I don’t think it is.  I think it’s a little bit better than CLASH.

LS: It is?

MA: Sure. Anyway, several years have passed since the events of CLASH, and our hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) is trying to make a normal life for himself, living as a fisherman while he raises his 10 year-old son, Helius.  He’s a single parent as his wife has died.  What’s a demigod to do?

As much as Perseus would like to live the life of anonymity, he can’t, not when his daddy is Zeus (Liam Neeson).  Zeus drops by for a visit and tells Perseus that things are not looking too good.  People just aren’t praying to the gods anymore, and as a result, the gods’ powers are weakening.  There are dark forces at work, and they are growing stronger.  Zeus wants Perseus’ help, but Perseus isn’t interested.  He just wants to raise his son.

You should have listened to your father, Perseus!  Zeus is captured and held captive by Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld, and Ares (Edgar Ramirez), the god of war, who plan to drain Zeus of his power and give it to Big Daddy Kronos.  Kronos is imprisoned in stone because he once tried to kill his three sons, Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon.  Ares himself is Zeus’ son, and he’s angry at his father for favoring Perseus.  Nice family!

LS: It could be worse. I heard the Roman god, Saturn, ate his children!

MA: As evil begins to take over the world, and deadly creatures begin to overrun it, the humans are forced to take a stand, and Perseus once again becomes their leader, teaming with the beautiful Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and Poseidon’s quirky son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), leading them on a quest to rescue Zeus and once again restore order to the world.

LS: I liked Queen Andromeda. It’s always cool to see a queen who isn’t afraid to lead her army into battle, especially one this hot. As for Agenor, I could have done without him. I thought he was kind of an annoying idiot. I know he’s supposed to be the comic relief here, but I found his character more irritating than humorous.

MA: Yeah, Agenor should have been funnier, or at least more likeable, I’ll agree with you there.

WRATH OF THE TITANS reminded me a little bit of the old Arnold Schwarzenegger CONAN movies.  They weren’t great, but they were fun, and I enjoyed the ride.

(CONAN enters the buffet, carrying an arm and a leg.)

CONAN:  Where do I put these?

MA:  There’s a pile right over there. Just throw them on top.

CONAN (throws arm and leg onto pile):  I love buffets!  (notices gods arguing.)  Any of you gods care to arm wrestle?

HADES:  Shut up, chiseled chest!  Go fill your face before I remove it!

(CONAN’s eyes burn red in anger, and he runs towards table and joins the heated argument.)

MA:  Anyway, WRATH OF THE TITANS is not a great movie, but I can’t say that I didn’t have fun watching it.

LS: I’m glad one of us did.

MA: The main reason I liked this one better than the first one was the pacing.  I remember CLASH OF THE TITANS dragging and taking quite a while to get going.  No problem with that here.  Director Jonathan Liebesman keeps things moving along, with one action sequence after another.  Some of these sequences are impressive, others aren’t.

LS: I didn’t think many of the sequences were very exciting. And I disagree about the pacing. I didn’t think this one was any better than the first one. I mean, things happen, and creatures attack, and Perseus helps fight them off, but none of it did much for me.  And the Minotaur’s snot-covered face was kinda gross.

MA: Yeah, but at least the monsters show up early in this one.  They took a while to make an appearance in CLASH.

My favorite sequence involved the Cyclops.  I thought the Cyclops looked cool, and the scene itself was rather exciting.  Dare I say it, but the Cyclops in this movie looked better than the classic Ray Harryhausen Cyclops from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958).

LS: It’s how cyclopses – or is it cyclopi? – are always popular. I’m surprised we don’t see them in more movies. The three cyclopean giants we see here were okay. When the first one appears, it’s kind of cool. But as the scene went on, I was less impressed with them. And while Harryhausen’s stop-motion Cyclops from SINBAD may not look more realistic, I still prefer that one. Even better was the man-eating Cyclops from the Kirk Douglas movie, ULYSSES (1954). I remember that one leaving a big impression on me as a kid.

MA: If that movie was based on Homer’s epic  poem, shouldn’t it have been called ODYSSEUS, rather than ULYSSES?

LS: I always wondered that myself. ULYSSES was the Roman name for ODYSSEUS, after all, not the Homeric name.

(A CYCLOPS rips open the roof and peers inside.)

CYCLOPS:  Buffet!  (Reaches down and helps himself to the pile of arms and legs.  He exits.)

MA:  He didn’t even say thank you.

LS:  He’s a Cyclops, what do you expect? You know they don’t have any manners.

(Cyclops sticks his head back into hole in the roof and sticks his middle finger out at MA & LS, before leaving once again.)

MA:  I wonder if that’s “thank you” in Cyclops language.

LS (sticks both his middle fingers up at the opening in the roof):  That means you’re welcome!

MA:  Actually, I thought all the creatures and monsters looked good in this one, which is another reason I liked it better than CLASH.  The monsters in that one were pretty lame.  Not so here. They actually look pretty scary.

LS: The Gorgon in the first movie looked okay.

MA: I also liked Kronos, Zeus’ father, when we finally see him.  He looks like a volcanic fire monster once he’s unleashed at the end of the movie.  But he doesn’t do a whole lot, which is one of the weaknesses of this movie.  While the creatures all look very good, with the exception of the Cyclops, none of them get to do all that much.

LS: Yeah, this new TITANS movie pretty much follows the same progression as the first movie, leading up to the biggest monster at the end. In CLASH it was the Kraken, in this one it’s the giant lava monster, Kronos. Both looked cool, but neither does very much. I didn’t find WRATH OF THE TITANS to be an improvement on CLASH at all. In fact, they were both pretty mediocre.

MA: In spite of the cool-looking monsters, WRATH OF THE TITANS is hampered by a weak story and characters that aren’t very interesting.  I couldn’t care less about the squabbles of the gods, and Perseus just isn’t that exciting a hero.  What flaws does he have?  Not very many.  And his motivation is to protect his son, which is admirable, but hardly original.  He’s pretty much a superficial character.

Sam Worthington doesn’t do much either to make Perseus a memorable hero.  Worthington is fine in the role, but I kept asking myself, is this the same guy who wowed me in AVATAR (2009) and TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009)?  He made lasting impressions in those movies. Not so in the two TITANS films.

LS: I completely agree about that, and I think it’s a major flaw with these movies. Perseus is just not a compelling character. I like Worthington as an actor, but not in the TITANS movies. He almost seems to be sleepwalking through these movies. Perseus has like two emotions, and I just don’t believe him as some kind of mighty hero of mankind.

MA: I actually enjoyed Liam Neeson as Zeus this time around, and as much as I didn’t really care for the gods’ storyline, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of Neeson on screen as Zeus.  He lent a commanding presence here that was definitely noticeable every time he was in a scene.

Ralph Fiennes as the villain Hades, not so much.  I thought Hades was a rather lame villain, which is another weakness of this movie:  blah villains.  Hades and Ares don’t cut it, and Kronos doesn’t show up until the end, and he doesn’t really get to cause that much trouble.  It’s another case of the big bad villain being handled way too easily.

LS: I actually found the interaction between Zeus and Hades to be the most interesting storyline here. Neesom and Fiennes are the best actors in the movie, and I just liked seeing them in scenes together. Although I did think that Zeus changed Hades’ mind a little too easily at one point. And by the end they almost seemed more like lovers than brothers.

MA (laughing):  Yeah, I would agree with that.

I liked Rosamund Pike a lot as Andromeda, and she was one of my favorite characters in the movie.  Good-looking, yet strong, Pike made Andromeda a formidable heroine.

Toby Kebbell was fun as Agenor, the son of Poseidon and Perseus’ sidekick, but unfortunately the role seemed underwritten.  He should have had sharper dialogue or something.

LS: Agenor is just a lame character. I hated him.

Oh, and I also liked Edgar Ramirez as Ares. I thought he did a good job.

MA: Dan Mazeau and David Johnson wrote the average ho-hum screenplay, which is a little bit of a surprise, since Johnson wrote the screenplay for ORPHAN (2009) and RED RIDING HOOD (2011), two movies I liked a lot.  This one just plays like a sequel.  The story was just there and the characters rather blah.

Director Jonathan Liebesman also directed BATTLE LOS ANGELES (2011), and the two movies share a similar style and pace.  Like BATTLE, the action scenes in WRATH are slick, well done, and entertaining, but aside from that, there’s not a lot to them.  There’s very little story or character development.

WRATH OF THE TITANS was also in 3D, and the 3D wasn’t bad.  It looked a heck of a lot better than the 3D in CLASH OF THE TITANS, which isn’t saying much because I remember the 3D in that one being awful.

LS: It’s funny. CLASH was hindered by the fact that the 3D effects were added after the movie was completed, creating a kind of flat, muddy look to the effects. WRATH was made with 3D in mind from the start, and while this movie isn’t as muddy, it’s also not much of an improvement. And a big part of that is the story. It’s just not very good. The same thing was true about the first one. And I don’t think 3D helps make these movies any better.

MA: There’s also a good music score by Javier Navarrete.

WRATH OF THE TITANS is faster and flashier than CLASH, and as such it’s an easy film to watch, and it has some fun exciting moments featuring some cool-looking monsters, so if that’s all you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.  If you’re looking for more, a movie with a good story and memorable characters, keep looking.

LS: I think the first one was bad. I think this one is almost just as bad. I’d say avoid them both. Is there a way to make a movie about Greek mythology that’s better? Sure there is! Check out JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963), with effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen (who we mentioned before), to see it done right. I also liked Tarsem Singh’s movie from last year, IMMORTALS, a lot more than either of the TITANS movies.

MA: I for one didn’t mind the shallow fun of WRATH OF THE TITANS.  It would have been nice had the film been more ambitious, but it’s not.  It is what it is, a sequel.

I give it two and a half knives.

LS: I give it one and a half knives. I just didn’t care about it. Wait for it to come on cable.

(Argument at the other table grows even more heated)

LS: In fact, I would rather watch the argument over there than another TITANS movie.

MA: Well, it’s certainly more colorful.

(ZEUS and HADES are having a fist fight on top of the dining table, as the other gods cheer them on).

POSEIDON (looking at camera):  Can’t we just all get along?

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives WRATH OF THE TITANS ~ two and a half knives!

LL Soares gives WRATH OF THE TITANS~one and a half knives.