Archive for the Pirates Category

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Action Movies, Fantasy Films, LL Soares Reviews, Magic, Pirates, Warriors with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2011 by knifefighter

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Welcome to the Hyborian Age, by Crom!

It makes sense that someone would want to reboot the CONAN franchise. After all, Robert E. Howard gave us one of the greatest characters in the history of heroic fiction, and the movies have just barely scratched the surface of Conan and his world. For all the cult adoration for John Milius’s 1982 version with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the truth is, it’s not a very good film, and didn’t stick very closely to the source material. Oh yeah, and Arnold might have looked the part, but he couldn’t really act. So a lot of Howard fans were a little disappointed. Almost thirty years later, Hollywood has decided to start fresh.

The 2011 version of CONAN THE BARBARIAN is a decent enough flick. This time around, Jason Momoa plays the title role. Momoa rose to fame in TV shows like BAYWATCH and STARGATE: ATLANTIS, but his most recent television role was as another barbarian leader, Khal Drogo, in the HBO series GAME OF THRONES. Momoa was fairly impressive as Drogo, and he does a good job as CONAN. He may not be the most gifted actor to ever appear on screen, but at least does a better job fleshing out the role than Arnold did.

The new movie begins during a war of barbarian tribes. Conan’s mother gives birth to him on the battlefield, his birth cries filling the air just as his mother breathes her last breath. I have to say, though, that the blood-covered baby looked incredibly fake as his daddy lifted him up toward the sun.

The boy is brought up by his father, the Cimmerian leader (and blacksmith) Corin (played by Ron Perlman, who always makes movies like this better, just by appearing in them), and shows a gift for fighting (and killing) at an early age. He easily moves ahead of the pack during a ritual of manhood, to determine who of the youngsters will be allowed to fight with their elders in battle (the ritual involves running up a hill and back, without breaking a quayle’s egg that you carry in your mouth). But as soon as he proves himself, Conan’s tribe is attacked by an army of killers.

The army is led by the ruthless Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who is searching for a piece of a mask made from “the bones of kings.” It is supposed to bring its wearer untold magical power, and Zym is determined to reassemble it and rule his world. Corin is hiding one of the pieces, and Zym’s “uber-goth” daughter Marique (she’s about the same age as the young Conan), sniffs it out. Corin is tortured and killed with molten metal in front of his son for his troubles. In fact, Conan does what he can to save his father, but it’s a lost cause. He makes a blood oath to get revenge on Zym and his warriors.

We then leap ahead to a grown Conan, who has taken up with a band of pirates, led by his buddy Ukafa (Bob Sapp). Already, Conan is a legendary warrior to those who know him, but he has yet to make his mark on the world. As we know from Robert E. Howard’s stories, this guy is destined for big things. But before he can get there, he has a little thing called revenge to dish out first.

Despite the years of proving himself a warrior, he hasn’t had much luck finding the guys who killed his father, until he finally tracks his enemies to a monastery where Khalar Zym has gone to find a girl who is of “pure blood,” whose descendants can be traced way back to a race of mighty sorcerers. Her name is Tamara (Rachel Nichols) and she’s been raised in the temple as a female monk, and has no idea of her lineage. Zym wants her because only her blood can activate the mask he’s gone to such trouble to put together again. So, of course, Conan spends the rest of the movie trying to prevent Zym from getting what he wants.

Along the way, Conan has to battle Zym’s vicious henchmen, and a giant tentacled sea creature, among other obstacles.

I have to admit, I had high hopes for this movie. As a Conan fan, I really wanted this new franchise to blow me a way. The truth is, while I did enjoy this movie, and thought it was a decent-enough reboot, I was also a bit disappointed.

The acting is good for the most part. Momoa is not Laurence Olivier, but then again, he doesn’t really have to be, and he has just enough charisma to keep our interest. He looks a bit small for Conan, but over time that doesn’t seem to matter much, as he does a good job embodying the character.

As Conan says, “I live, I love, I slay – I am content!

Stephen Lang is just as effective as the bad guy, Khalar Zym, and his various henchmen are pretty cool, especially Rose McGowan as the grown-up version of Zym’s daughter, Marique. She looks pretty freaky with her futuristic hairdo, strange tattoos and wild eyes, and as a sorceress, she’s a force to be reckoned with. A scene where she conjures up warriors made of sand is especially interesting.

Ron Perlman always turns in an entertaining acting job at this point, and he’s just fine as Conan’s father, instructing his son in the ways of war, until war claims his life.

But my problem is that, while there are good action sequences, there are also parts that drag a bit, and the movie seemed overlong to me at 112 minutes. Also, while I liked this version of Conan, it didn’t completely blow me away. I was hoping for some really amazing scenes, and some came close, but none really amazed me.

The 3D effects didn’t help at all. This is another case of 3D being added after the movie was made—a la’ last year’s CLASH OF THE TITANS—and, frankly, it looks terrible.

Everything looked very dark and murky. And there were very few times when the 3D aspects stood out at all. This was one of those occasions when 3D actually hurt a movie for me, and I really didn’t see the point of it. If you’re going to see this one, seek out a theater playing the 2D version.

Director Marcus Nispel also directed the remakes of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) and FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) – this guy whole career seems to be made up of music videos and movie remakes – and those two horror reboots didn’t impress me much at all. Nispel is good at stuff like atmosphere, but his movies always seem to be lacking something, and the same goes for CONAN. I liked this better than a lot of his other films, but I still think it doesn’t go far enough in establishing Conan as a vicious killing machine. After all, he was born on the battlefield and he lives to crush his enemies. But the storyline in this movie seemed like a distraction.

I barely give this one three knives. I kept debating whether to give it two and a half or three – but it’s at least as good as something like CAPTAIN AMERICA.

But I wanted a more dynamic story. And I wanted more exciting filmmaking. CONAN THE BARBARIAN comes close, but doesn’t fully deliver the goods. I guess I just had high expectations for this one.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

(NOTE: If you’re going to see this one at the theater – go to a matinee and skip the 3D. You’ll save yourself some money and save yourself a headache.)

L.L. Soares gives CONAN THE BARBARIANthree half  knives.

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Quick Cuts: PIRATES MOVIE QUIZ – The Answer

Posted in 2011, Movie Quizes, Pirates, Quick Cuts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 13, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  Movie QUIZ
With Michael Arruda

And now for the answer to this week’s QUICK CUTS movie quiz.

This actor appeared in two of the first three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, but he’s not appearing in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011).

However, this actor is starring in one of the other new releases we reviewed in May for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT  (THOR, PRIEST, or THE HANGOVER PART 2.)

Who is the actor, in which May new release is this actor starring, and what role did this actor play in the PIRATES series?

And the answer?

STELLAN SKARSGARD.

Skarsgard starred as Bootstrap Bill in the second and third PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and he’s starring in the May release THOR as Erik Selvig.

—END—

Quick Cuts: PIRATE MOVIE QUIZ

Posted in 2011, Movie Quizes, Pirates, Quick Cuts with tags , , on June 10, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  Movie QUIZ
With Michael Arruda

Welcome to another edition of QUICK CUTS. Time for another Movie Quiz. In tonight’s quiz, we’re looking for a specific actor.   Ready?

This actor appeared in two of the first three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, but he’s not appearing in the new one, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011).

However, this actor is starring in one of the other new releases we reviewed in May for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  Those three other May releases were THOR, PRIEST, and THE HANGOVER PART 2.

Who is the actor, in which May new release is this actor starring, and what role did this actor play in the PIRATES series?

Look for the answer next time!

—END—

PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Johnny Depp Movies, Pirates, Sequels with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011)
By Michael Arruda and John Harvey

 

(The Scene: The pirate port of Tortuga. Pirates are everywhere. Some are singing, others are drinking, while still others are battling each other with swords and knives. MICHAEL ARRUDA walks into a tavern just as pirate is stabbed in the gut beside him.)

MA: Well, we don’t call this column CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT for nothing! Today we’re reviewing the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES, the fourth film in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise. L.L. Soares is off tonight, so I’ll be reviewing this one with John Harvey, as soon as I find out where he is.

PIRATE: Did ye say ye were looking for John Harvey?

MA: Yeah. Do you know where he is?

PIRATE: Aye-yi, I do. He be in shackles downstairs. Ye see, we don’t take too kindly to yer kind around here. Ye movie critics might give our movie a bad review. If I were ye, I wouldn’t stay in this town too long, if ye know what I mean.

MA: Well, you’re not me. (Suddenly, a sword is plunged into the pirate’s chest, and he falls to the ground with a groan.) And that’s a good thing. Anyway, I’d better rescue John.

(MA walks further into the tavern, looking for the stairs to the cellar. Instead, JOHN HARVEY is seated by the bar leading all the pirates in songs about dead men and bottles of rum.)

MA (to JH): They told me you were in shackles.

JH: Like that was going to happen. I just had to introduce these fellas to the joys of dark ale, and the rest was easy. Watch. (shouts) ANOTHER ROUND! (the pirates cheer).

MA: And who’s paying for all this?

JH: Nobody. It’s a pirate town. There’s no actual economy.

MA: But then, how—-? Never mind. Ready for our review?

JH: Never been readier, matey!

MA: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011) is the fourth film in the Disney PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, and I have to say at the outset, it felt like a fourth film in a series.

It opens with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) rescuing his old friend Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from the hangman’s noose. Their escape is short-lived, as they are quickly apprehended by the king’s men, but rather than sentenced to death, they are hired to help the king find the elusive Fountain of Youth (à la Ponce de Leon). Sparrow’s not interested in working for the king, and so he promptly escapes again and sets off to find the Fountain of Youth on his own.

His search reconnects him with a former love, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and her father, Blackbeard the Pirate (Ian McShane). Also searching for the fountain of youth is Sparrow’s former rival, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush.)

So, that’s the plot in a nutshell. Everyone is looking for the fountain of youth, which is all just an excuse to have Jack Sparrow up to his usual shenanigans, and for a bunch of pirates to strut their pirate stuff.

JH: That’s actually the plot of the first three films as well. Everybody’s after a MacGuffin … pirate wackiness ensues. The difference is that in the first movie this material was refreshingly new. I mean, certainly not groundbreaking, but truly fun. With this installment, it definitely feels like the Disney ride on which it’s based. We’re just seeing the same thing over and over again. And at a two-hour and seventeen minute run time, that’s a freakin’ long amusement park ride.

MA: I thought I would like this one, but frankly, it put me to sleep. There are lots of reasons why this film didn’t grab me.

(A huge, ZOMBIFIED PIRATE grabs Michael and throws him over his shoulder.)

ZOMBIE PIRATE: I’ll grab ye, matey! And take ye back to Blackbeard’s ship to swab the decks.

MA: I don’t think so.

(The ZOMBIE PIRATE runs out the door with Michael bouncing on his back.)

JH: I’m really unhappy that this review is going to take me away from the grog.

(JH grabs a cutlass and runs out the door. He chases the ZOMBIE PIRATE and MA through Tortuga, which basically looks like a cross between a frat party and a low-level riot.)

MA: This review is taking me places I didn’t expect. (shouting at a pursuing JH) Let’s look at the number one reason why I thought I would like this movie: Jack Sparrow. I love Johnny Depp’s performances as this character, and honestly, Depp’s great here again. The problem is, in spite of the many scenes Sparrow’s involved in, he doesn’t really have a whole lot to do. There are not a lot of scenes of clever humorous dialogue, and the action scenes involving Sparrow are nothing we haven’t seen before.

JH: Good point. Sparrow really isn’t driving the action here. Barbossa and Blackbeard do most of the heavy lifting in terms of plot, while Jack Sparrow capers around like a rodeo clown wearing guy-liner. He’s always been the class clown of pirates, but in the first movie (and perhaps the second) his buffoonery seemed to be more of a cover for a truly cunning and mercenary brigand. But in this movie? Not so much.

(The ZOMBIE PIRATE trips on a loose cobblestone and both he and MA tumble to the ground. The ZOMBIE PIRATE rises and draws his sword. JH draws his own sword and throws another cutlass to MA)

MA: Hey, where did you get another cutlass?

JH: Dude … pirate movie.

(MA nods and the swashbuckling sword fight begins.)

MA: One of the fun things about Sparrow in the first two movies was how he would get himself out of trouble, and how he was always playing both sides of the fence, and you never quite knew what he was up to or whose side he was actually on. You don’t have that in this movie. The character just isn’t as intriguing here. This is not Depp’s fault. He IS Jack Sparrow at this point, but it’s the writers fault for failing to put Sparrow in clever situations.

(John and Michael fight off several crushing blows, but get knocked into a nearby crowd of malingering pirates. That’s all they need to draw their cutlasses and join the fight.)

MA: PIRATES IV also falls into the “cookie cutter video game” type of movie, you know, that film where the movie almost plays like a video game. It’s high on action, low on story, and after a while, battle scenes one after another begin to grow tired and repetitive, which is the case here.

JH: You can also tell that the franchise is running out of steam because they’re tossing in trendy new accessories that do nothing for the film. Like zombie pirates. Blackbeard having zombie pirates on his ship felt like something that had been tossed into the script as the result of a producer’s note and nothing more. They’re not interesting, they don’t bring anything to the movie, and they don’t do anything we didn’t already see in PIRATES I from the original “undead” crew of the Black Pearl.

(The ZOMBIE PIRATE stops fighting, drops his sword, and a single tear weaves its way down his sore-crusted cheek. He hangs his head and shuffles away.)

JH: Sensitive zombie pirates? Who knew?

MA: I would have to agree with you. The zombie pirates were so ineffective I almost forgot they were even in the movie! They provided such little impact.

(The crowd of sword fighting pirates rush MA and JH and back them in to … a brothel.)

JH: That’s more like it.

(From a swinging chandelier, MA fights off ten pirates.)

MA: It’d be another story entirely if these action scenes were terrific. They’re not. They’re standard and ordinary, and so, we’re inundated with ho-hum average action scenes. You need something more, and director Rob Marshall doesn’t give anything more. For all the action scenes in this movie, I can’t think of one that I really liked. Marshall also directed the well-received CHICAGO (2002). I guess he should stick to musicals.

(MA looks down to check on JH and sees him standing in a desperate sword battle with ten … hookers.)

JH:…. Oh come on! Everybody hated SHOWGIRLS! (They scream in rage and charge at the bar. John grabs a rope, swings across the room, and lands on a staircase … to fight more pirates.) Anyway, it should be noted that director Gore Verbinski bailed on PIRATES IV. So did Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. The producers should perhaps note that the smarter rats are abandoning the ship.

(Somehow, Michael has found himself in a sword fight with JACK SPARROW himself.)

JH: Through the heart, Michael! It’s the only way we can stop PIRATES V!

JACK SPARROW: Listen mates, it’s not my fault PIRATES IV feels so worn out. I can only be as good as my writers. Savvy?

MA: Good point. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wrote the screenplay, and they also wrote the screenplays for the previous PIRATES movies. Going in, I thought this would be a good thing, but I didn’t find the writing in this one anywhere near as sharp as the first two movies (the third film was already growing tired), and the situations the characters found themselves in here just weren’t as interesting. Perhaps it’s time new writers took over?

JACK SPARROW: Every ship needs a new crew member every so often, my good man.

(JACK SPARROW takes three steps back, and drops through a trap door into the ocean.)

JH: I thought we were over dry land?

MA: Dude … pirate movie.

Anyhow, I can’t really fault the acting here, but then again, people don’t see PIRATES for the acting. In other words, the film is not going to be saved on the merits of its actors alone. That being said, Johnny Depp is terrific once again as Jack Sparrow. I really like this character. It’s just too bad he’s not in a better movie.

But the best performance in this one belongs to Ian McShane as Blackbeard. McShane is quite dark and evil as Blackbeard, and as movie villains go, he’s pretty effective. I wish this film had been more about Jack Sparrow vs. Blackbeard as opposed to some silly search for the Fountain of Youth.

JH: I’m in total agreement. McShane makes a fantastic pirate. I hope he gets to play one in a good pirate movie someday.

(The pirates force John and Michael through a set of doors and they find themselves in a room filled with huge barrels of gunpowder.)

JH: Okay, I know it’s a pirate movie. But a brothel with its own powder keg room? Really?

MA (spying receipt attached to keg): Here’s your answer. Someone sent the wrong order. (Hands JH receipt which reads “Blow Up Job Supplies.”)

Penelope Cruz is OK as Angelica, and she was sufficiently feisty, sexy, and tough, but strangely, I didn’t find much chemistry between her and Depp’s Sparrow. Geoffrey Rush is back once again as the pirate Barbossa, but I was disappointed with his character this time around. He wasn’t much of a threat to Jack Sparrow in this one.

JH: I agree with you completely about Rush. The reason that he wasn’t a threat was because both he and Sparrow had a common enemy, Blackbeard. They really weren’t at odds, but they also weren’t really allies. So, there’s no real tension between them. Penelope Cruz? … meh. For most of this film she did nothing and looked like a stripper that had fallen into a ditch. She was the perfunctory love interest and not much else.

MA: Astrid Berges-Frisbey made for a stunningly beautiful young mermaid Syrena, but aside from her beauty, the Syrena character didn’t do much for me.

The film once again boasted a lively music score by Hans Zimmer, but the best music here were all the same themes we heard in the previous films. Nothing new on the music front.

And that really is the main problem I had with the entire movie. It wasn’t anything new, and it seemed really, really tired to me. For me, the experience of watching PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES was like sitting down to watch the first Pirates movie, loving it, and then moving on to the second, enjoying that one too, and now it’s on to the third movie, and at this point things are starting to get repetitive and as a result less fun, and now here comes the fourth movie, and yep things are still repetitive, and now I’m getting flat out bored because I’ve seen all this before and it was much better the first time around. Get the idea? It just was tired.

Sure, one scene that was new and that I did enjoy was the mermaid scene, but even this wasn’t a complete success. The scene begins, and it’s full of atmosphere and some sensuality, as the mermaids are beautiful, but then, when they turn vicious and nasty, CGI takes over and the scene goes down the toilet.

And yes, PIRATES was in 3D, yet ANOTHER 3D movie! I thought the 3D looked terrific in scenes where we could see some depth, like the early scenes of the crowd assembling for the hanging, but other than this, I wasn’t impressed. For the majority of the movie I simply stopped noticing and forgot I was even watching the film in 3D until I threw my ticket stub away and was reminded that I had paid more money for the 3D ticket!

(Michael and a pirate clash swords and a spark arcs across the room. They both watch it land in a small pile of gunpowder on top of the largest keg.)

MA: Uh oh.

(The massive explosion sends Michael, John, and dozens of sooty pirates flying high into the air. As luck would have it, John and Michael share a similar trajectory.)

JH: I totally agree about the 3D! Like THOR, there was no really good reason for this movie to be in 3D, except that it soaked me for an extra $5.

MA: And even though PIRATES IV was rated PG-13, it really seemed aimed at younger audiences, more so than the first couple of movies.

(Michael and John land in a crowd of people. Though the impact should have killed them, some unfortunate soul cushioned their fall. As they roll off, we see L.L. SOARES lying on the ground with two cutlasses in his chest.

LS: You scalawags! Is it really going to be like this every time you two review a movie?

JH: (helping LS up) It’s alright. Didn’t you hear the man? It’s a PG-13 film. You’ve been stabbed twice in the chest, but you won’t die, or even bleed.

LS: No blood? What a rip-off!

JH: But there’s booze, and lots of it. Let’s get some grog!

MA: Hold on. We need to finish up this review.

So, all in all, while the entire package for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES isn’t bad, in that it’s technically well-made and anchored by some pretty strong actors, I just couldn’t get all that into it, as I found it tired, repetitive, and not at all captivating. I could have fallen asleep.

I give it two knives.

JH: This franchise has fallen so far from the first movie, that I think I liked it a little less than you. I give it 1.5 knives. There, now we can get that grog.

(Michael, John, and L.L, with two swords still protruding from his chest, walk back into the pirate town.)

– END –

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and John D., Harvey

Michael Arruda gives PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES – 2 knives

John Harvey gives PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDESone and a half knives

CKF COMING ATTRACTIONS – MAY 2011

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Comedies, Coming Attractions, Pirates, Superheroes, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT
COMING ATTRACTIONS: MAY 2011
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene: A mountaintop, with the sun shining brightly through white puffy clouds, illuminating a golden hammer situated prominently on top of a rock. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES approach hammer.)

MA: Look! That must be Thor’s hammer!

LS: I believe you’re right! I think I’ll add it to my collection of rare weaponry. (Reaches for hammer)

MA: Hold on a minute! You can’t steal Thor’s hammer!

LS: Why not? He can’t be too worried about it if he just left it here hanging around a mountaintop. I’m sure he has plenty of these. I mean, what superhero would only have one weapon?

MA: I don’t know. I don’t feel too comfortable about you taking something from a guy as seriously beefed up as Thor! Couldn’t you at least wait until we finish this Coming Attractions column?

LS: Why?

MA: You might find something else you’ll want even more.

LS: Hmm. As usual, you make absolutely no sense. But I’ll humor you. Let’s start the column.

MA:  You’ll humor me?  You’ll thank me when Thor’s not kicking your butt later for stealing his hammer!

Anyway, we kick off May with the new Marvel superhero movie, THOR. The 2000s has been a great decade for superhero movies, and some of my favorite movies of the decade have been superhero tales. We’ve had THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), IRON MAN (2008), and WATCHMEN (2009), to name a few, as well as the offbeat and quirky KICK-ASS (2010).

LS: Actually this is technically the 2010s, since we’ve just entered a new decade.

MA: Whatever. I’ve especially enjoyed the Marvel series, which includes the SPIDER MAN series with Tobey Maguire, THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008), the aforementioned IRON MAN, the X-MEN series, and the FANTASTIC FOUR films. So, there have been quite a few excellent Marvel superhero movies over the last decade. They’ve been on a roll.

THOR is yet another character from the Marvel Universe, and since I’ve enjoyed the other Marvel movies so much, I’m really looking forward to this movie.

It stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Hemsworth had a small role in the J.J. Abrams STAR TREK movie (2009) as he played George Kirk, Captain Kirk’s father. The film features an impressive cast which includes Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Stellan Skarsgard.

Interestingly enough, it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, one of my favorite directors/actors on the planet, as I’ve always enjoyed his Shakespeare adaptations. However, his version of FRANKENSTEIN (1994) with himself cast as Victor Frankenstein and Robert DeNiro as the Monster, remains one of my least favorite versions of that classic tale.

LS: I believe the full title of that one was MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN.

MA: Yeah, yeah.

LS: I’m excited about this one because Thor is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe. I’ve been hooked since the olden days when the comics were written by Stan Lee and drawn by the great Jack Kirby. Kirby seemed to take special joy in drawing the worlds of Thor – especially his beloved Asgard – the home of the Norse gods. I hope this one lives up to expectations. You’d think Branagh would bring some Shakespearean heft to the proceedings. However, the trailer didn’t impress me very much. I was excited to see both Loki (Thor’s evil half-brother) and the Destroyer (a supernatural, armored creature), both from the comics, in this one, though. Although I would have liked to see Ulik the Troll and Hercules too. Marvel’s version of Hercules is my all-time favorite take on the character. Then again – the movie is called THOR.

Maybe we’ll at least get the mighty Volstagg! The THOR comics always had a really cool supporting cast of characters.

Then on May 13th we’ll be reviewing PRIEST—- which brings us back to trailers. If the THOR trailer looked a bit disappointing – I’m still more than happy to wait and see the movie for myself. I am hoping it is way better than the trailer lets on.

In the case of PRIEST, I’m not so eager to see it. They have been playing the PRIEST trailer at the movies for months now. I don’t know if it’s because the movie was supposed to be released earlier and was bumped, or what. But I have seen the trailer SO MANY TIMES that I feel like I’ve already seen this movie and I am not eager to sit through it again. The trailer gives away the entire plot, and it isn’t that great. This one is also based on a comic book.

MA: I agree. PRIEST sounds and looks horrible. I haven’t been impressed at all by the film’s trailer. And what a dreadful name for a horror movie! Gee, I just finished my horror screenplay, what shall I call it? I need something catchy, something creative— I’ve got it! I’ll call it PRIEST! I don’t think so. What’s the sequel going to be called? NUN?

LS: Instead of PRIEST, how about a movie version of Garth Ennis’s legendary comic book PREACHER. The names may be a bit similar, but Ennis’s comic was one of the best series ever. Now THAT I would be excited about.

MA: PRIEST is about a priest who fights vampires, and it’s set in an alternate post-apocalyptic world. I don’t know. I’m not feeling too good about this one, especially since it’s going to be in 3D, and you know what that means: it’ll cost more money! Ugh!

It’s directed by Scott Stewart, who also directed LEGION (2010), and that wasn’t too bad, so you never know. Maybe it’ll surprise us and be pretty good.

LS: LEGION was okay, but nothing spectacular. I remember being disappointed by it.

MA: And there’s another LEGION connection, as the Priest is played by Paul Bettany, who played Michael the Archangel in LEGION.

On May 20, I’ll be reviewing PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011), and I’ll be reviewing this one with John Harvey. We’ll try not to harm you in the review, LL.

LS: Thanks. I’m glad you guys are reviewing the new PIRATES film. Not only does it give me a weekend off, but I haven’t seen the previous sequels, just the first film, and have no desire to see this one. I like Johnny Depp, but for some reason these movies don’t thrill me at all. And I wish someone of Depp’s talents was doing better movies. Like the upcoming version of DARK SHADOWS by Tim Burton. Now that sounds cool!

MA: I like the PIRATES movies, and I especially enjoy Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. I enjoyed the first two films in the series a lot, but the third I thought wasn’t as good, so I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to this one, since it’s the fourth in the series, which usually means a film of lower quality. But I’ll be hoping for the best.

It’s directed by Rob Marshall, who directed the musical CHICAGO (2002), a film I enjoyed, but it’s not exactly an action movie, so, who knows? The screenplay was written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the same two guys who wrote the first three movies, so expect more of the same shenanigans from Jack Sparrow and company.

There have been some cast changes since the last movie. Gone are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, and in are Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Geoffrey Rush returns as Sparrow’s rival Barbossa, and also in the cast are Judi Dench, Stephen Graham, who we saw in SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011), and Keith Richards.

LS: The cast actually sounds interesting for this one. I like Ian McShane a lot – he was great as Swearengen in the HBO series DEADWOOD. And Penelope Cruz is pretty hot. And that’s funny that Keith Richards is in this one, since Depp said he based at least part of his performance of Captain Jack Sparrow on Richards’ mannerisms. But I won’t shed any tears over missing this one.

MA:  Yeah, Keith Richard’s appearance is a running gag.  He was also in the third PIRATES film.

(MA spies a giant hook)

MA: Hey, check out that hook. That might make a better addition to your weapons collection than Thor’s hammer.

LS: Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about Thor’s hammer. I certainly don’t need any boring old hooks. Thanks for reminding me!

MA: Damn!

LS: Finishing the month we’ll be reviewing the comedy THE HANGOVER PART 2. This is new for us. I don’t think we’ve ever reviewed a straight comedy before. Usually we only review horror-comedies. But there aren’t too many horror flicks coming out in May, and we have to review something.

I liked the first movie, and the second one could actually be pretty decent. I’m willing to find out.

MA: I enjoyed THE HANGOVER, though probably not as much as most other people. I enjoyed it because the situations the three guys found themselves in were so over-the-top crazy and unpredictable, I couldn’t help but like it, mostly because I had no idea where the story would go next. The problem I had with the movie was I didn’t find the humor as inviting as I expected. In other words, while I certainly enjoyed watching the crazy predicaments these guys found themselves in, I wasn’t laughing out loud all that much. But I liked it, and I’m looking forward to seeing this sequel.

LS: Remember that scene in the original where they find a tiger in their hotel room?

MA: Yeah.

LS: Don’t look now, but I think that’s the same tiger.

MA: What tiger?

LS: The one that’s chasing us.

(A tiger is suddenly running towards them.)

MA: Run!

(MA & LS flee with the tiger in pursuit.)

MA (running): The three buddies are all back for this one— Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms (from TV’s THE OFFICE)— and while Galifianakis caught most of the attention of critics for his insane performance as the weirdo Alan, I actually enjoyed Cooper and Helms better. I also enjoyed Cooper in the recent thriller LIMITLESS (2011) with Robert DeNIro.

Director Todd Phillips also directed the original. However, there’s a different set of writers who wrote this one, so beware!

Quick! There’s Thor’s hammer! Let’s use it on the tiger!

LS: I thought you didn’t want to take the hammer? I thought you were too scared of Thor’s wrath!

MA: This is different! (He grabs hammer and prepares to use it on the tiger, which has suddenly disappeared.) Where did the tiger go?

LS: I don’t know, but you have some explaining to do.

MA: Huh?

LS: Look who’s standing behind you.

(MA turns to see THOR standing behind him, with his hands on his hips.)

MA: I can explain. See, there was this man-eating tiger—.

(THOR shakes his head and growls)

MA: In the words of the immortal Don Adams, would you believe a brazen bobcat? No? How about an aggressive house cat with a hatred of hammers? Sylvester the cat, then?

LS: We’ll leave Michael to talk his way out of this mess. I’m sure he’ll figure something out. But I do find it amazing he was able to lift Thor’s hammer at all. Supposedly only Thor can lift and wield that thing! Very interesting…

So that wraps things up for May. There’s just the one horror movie this month, PRIEST, but it still looks like an entertaining month at the movies. We’ll see you this weekend with a brand new CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review.

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© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares