Archive for October, 2015

Trailer Thursday 10/15

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on October 15, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

This week’s trailer comes from one of my favorite films that probably should have been bigger than it was.

Please enjoy the trailer for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Hopefully, you’ll want to check the movie out, as well!

The Maze Runner

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A 16-year-old boy wakes up inside an underground service elevator with no memory of his identity. A group of male youths greet him in a large grassy area called the Glade that is enclosed by tall, stone walls. Every month, a new boy and supplies arrive in the elevator. The boys, who call themselves Gladers, have formed a rudimentary society with each assuming specialized tasks. Alby, their leader and the first to arrive in the Glade, says every boy eventually recalls his name, but none remember their past. The boy learns that a vast Maze surrounding the Glade may provide the only way out. During the day, designated Runners search the Maze for an escape route, returning before nightfall when the entrance closes. No one has ever survived a night inside the Maze.

While in a competition with another boy, named Gally, the boy suddenly remembers his name is Thomas. Later, Thomas is attacked by Ben, a Runner delirious from being stung by a Griever – deadly techno-organic creatures that roam the Maze at night. Ben is forced into the Maze and left to die as there is no cure for what the Griever infected him with. Minho, the lead Runner, and Alby later retrace Ben’s steps inside the Maze. Minho reappears at dusk dragging Alby, who was stung, but they are unable to reach the closing entrance in time. Thomas spontaneously runs into the Maze to help but all three are trapped. During the night in the Maze, Thomas and Minho tie Alby up high on the Maze wall to hide him from the Grievers, but Minho abandons Thomas when a Griever emerges from the center of the Maze. Thomas slides under the Maze wall, managing to hide from a Griever. Later, Thomas finds Minho and his actions during the night keeps them alive, and he kills a Griever by tricking it into a narrow, closing passageway thus causing it to be crushed, making him the first to ever survive a night in the Maze and kill a Griever. To the other boys’ astonishment, they return the next morning.

The next morning, the first-ever girl arrives in the elevator. She apparently recognizes Thomas though he cannot remember her. A note says that “She is the last one ever”. Thomas, Minho, Winston, Zart and Frypan enter the Maze. They locate the Griever corpse and remove a beeping mechanical device from inside it. Gally claims Thomas has jeopardized the fragile peace between the Gladers and the Grievers and wants him punished, but Newt, the group’s second-in-command, instead designates Thomas a Runner. Minho shows Thomas a scale model of the Maze he has built, based on his three years of exploration. The Maze’s numbered sections open and close in a regular sequence that might be a code. The device is numbered to correspond to a certain section within the Maze. With the mechanical device, they may be able to find an escape route.

The girl, Teresa, has two syringes filled with an unknown substance. One is used on Alby, and he gradually recovers from the Griever sting and begins regaining his memories. Minho and Thomas venture back into the Maze and discover a possible exit but are nearly trapped, barely making it back to the Glade.

That night, the Maze entrance does not close while others open, letting Grievers pour in. A massacre ensues as the Gladers, practically defenseless against the Grievers, struggle to fight back or hide. Alby saves Chuck from a Griever, but is killed moments later, telling Thomas to “Get them out”. Thomas is assaulted by Gally after the chaos, the latter blaming him for everything that has happened. Thomas, who has had disconnected memory flashes since arriving, stabs himself with a severed Griever stinger in an attempt to revive his memory. The others inject him with the last anti-venom. Unconscious, he recalls that he and Teresa worked for the organization that created the Maze, W.C.K.D. (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Department); the boys unknowingly have been test subjects for an experiment. Thomas awakens and shares this information with Newt, Minho, Chuck, and Teresa.

Meanwhile, Gally has taken command and intends to sacrifice Thomas and Teresa to the Grievers to restore the peace. Most of the Gladers are swayed to free Thomas and Teresa and attempt escaping the Maze, but Gally and a few others refuse to leave. Fighting Grievers as they go, the survivors escape the Maze (in the process Jeff dies trying to save Minho) and eventually enter a laboratory strewn with dead scientists and technicians. A woman named Ava Paige in a video recording explains that the planet has been devastated by a massive solar flare, followed by a pandemic of a deadly, incurable virus called the Flare that affects the brain of the afflicted. We learn that the Gladers appeared to be immune to the virus. The Gladers learn that they were part of an experiment studying the way their brains worked as a resistance to the virus. At the end, the woman in the video shoots herself as the lab is being attacked by men with military-style weapons but dressed more like mercenaries. Gally suddenly appears armed with a gun he found. Delirious from a Griever sting, he insists they must stay in the Maze, then aims at Thomas intending to kill him in revenge for the Glade’s destruction. Minho kills Gally with a spear, but not before Chuck is fatally shot protecting Thomas, who is devastated by his friend’s death. Masked armed men rush in and take the group to a helicopter. As they fly over the Maze, it is revealed to be placed in a vast desert wasteland. Eventually, the helicopter approaches a ruined city.

The scene ends with the supposedly-dead scientists meeting in a room. The leader, Paige, notes that the experiment has been a success; the survivors are now entering Phase Two

REVIEW:

With The Hunger Games franchise coming to an end, Hollywood is desperately searching for another surefire moneymaker. It seems as if The Maze Runner will be a the beginning of the next big franchise, or does it?

What is this about?

In a postapocalyptic future, an amnesiac named Thomas wakes up to find himself trapped with a group of other teenage boys in a mysterious community called the Glade, where they must uncover the deadly secrets of a giant maze in order to survive.

What did I like?

Maze. It seems to me that the most effective death traps are ones that test physical and mental capabilities. A killer maze that shift and changes, guarded by giant scorpion/spider-like creatures fits in that category, I’d say. I do see some similarities to the arena in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at least as far as the shifting is concerned, but it is a good idea that hasn’t been done to death, so no complaint.

Superboy. Can I just say that I’m jumping up and down for joy that the protagonist is a male. With all these girl power films coming out these days, it is almost like studios forgot that boys need someone, too. Dylan O’Brien is new to me. I think he’s on some show on MTV, but I don’t waste my time with that channel anymore. What I notice about this kid is how much he resembles Henry Cavill. If they ever make a Young Justice movie, maybe this is the guy to get for Superboy. He’s got the look and his acting isn’t bad, though admittedly, this isn’t the film to judge that on, as the material isn’t great. He does make do with what he has, though.

Techno-organic. The Grievers are the guardians of the maze. It is their job to keep the kids terrorized and not wanting to attempt to escape. They are good at what they do. What I like about them is their design. These things are a mixture of aliens, scorpions, and spiders, not something you want to come across in the middle of the night while you’re scared for you like in a killer maze. One more thing about them, they are techno-organic. Easiest way to translate that is they are more or less cyborgs, robots with some flesh and blood.

What didn’t I like?

Girl. At first, I was wondering why this was a group of nothing but boys, and then a girl shows up. I applaud the film for not making this into something where all the boys are chasing after her, but at the same time, these are teenage boys! Any male that goes that long without seeing a female is sure to go lose control of their hormones when they see one, unless salt peter is involved. For her part, she really wasn’t much of a factor. She showed up, had a girly moment on the tower, and then was pretty much invisible for the rest of the film. Maybe she is important in later installments?

Kids beware. The next generation is going to look back at our movies and wonder what it is we have against kids! Think about it, this film used a killer maze. The Hunger Games is survival of the fittest. Divergent is escape and survive, more or less. I’m not exactly a fan of kids, but I don’t want to eradicate them. What are we telling young people with these films, though?

The games continue. All these films are following a pattern, post-apocalyptic world, little to no food, kids in danger, adults pulling the strings, to be continued. If we are going to keep getting films like this, then there needs to be a new formula, because this one is starting to get old and stale, not to mention predictable. When the first adult in the film, Patricia Clarkson, shows up in the last act, it doesn’t take much to guess that she’s up to no good. It shouldn’t be that easy to guess that, though!

Final thoughts on The Maze Runner? It seems to be the heir apparent to The Hunger Games. While it won’t do those numbers, I can see this one going on to do respectable business. Whereas Divergent seemed to be very generic, this one seems to be going somewhere different. That being said, the tables could be tuned with both franchise’s second outing. Only time will tell on that one. Do I recommend this? Yes, though not highly, it is a worthwhile watch.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Iron Sky (Director’s Cut)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Independent, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens in 2018 with an American manned landing mission to the Moon. The lander carries two astronauts, one of them an African American male model, James Washington, specifically chosen to aid the U.S. President in her re-election (various “Black to the Moon” word-play posters are seen in the film, extolling the new Moon landing).

Upon landing on the far side of the Moon, they encounter Nazis hidden there since 1945 (self-styled the “Fourth Reich” in dialogue), by whom Washington is taken captive and the other astronaut killed. Nazi scientist Doktor Richter investigates Washington and obtains his smartphone, which he later recognizes as having computing power that outstrips all that possessed by the Fourth Reich, enabling its use as a control unit of their space battleship Götterdämmerung. When he strives to demonstrate the completion of his Wunderwaffe to the current Führer, Wolfgang Kortzfleisch, the phone’s battery is exhausted. Unable to re-energize it, Nazi commander Klaus Adler, chosen for genetic reasons to mate with Earth specialist Renate Richter (Doktor Richter’s daughter), embarks in a flying saucer spacecraft to collect more such computers on Earth. He takes with him Washington, who has been “Aryanized” by Doktor Richter using an “albinism serum”. Upon landing in New York, they discover that Renate has stowed away with them. They are introduced to the President by her assistant, Vivian Wagner, whereafter they direct her re-election campaign using Nazi-style propaganda. At the time, Renate is unaware of Adler’s ambition to become the next Führer and rule the world. After three months, Kortzfleisch lands on Earth and confronts Adler, but is killed by Adler and Vivian. Adler declares himself the new Führer before returning to orbit in Kortzfleisch’s flying saucer, deserting Vivian and taking her tablet computer. Concurrently, Renate is persuaded by the now-homeless Washington that Adler intends global genocide. Shortly afterwards, the Moon Nazis launch a mass invasion of the Earth centered at New York City, where they destroy the Statue of Liberty and occupy most of New York.

The United Nations assembles to discuss the extraterrestrial Nazi threat, and the U.S. President appoints Vivian as commander of the secretly militarized spacecraft USS George W. Bush, which carries nuclear and directed-energy weapons; only to discover that most of the other nations have similarly equipped their spacecraft. They dispatch them against the Nazi fleet, which consists of the Götterdämmerung, giant Zeppelin-like craft called Siegfrieds, and countless smaller craft. Adler, commanding the Götterdämmerung, destroys parts of the Moon to expose Earth. Renate and Washington travel in Adler’s flying saucer to the Götterdämmerung, where Washington attempts to disable the engines while Renate seeks Adler. Meanwhile, the international space fleet damage the Nazis’ Moon base and approach the Götterdämmerung. During the battle, Washington disconnects Vivian’s tablet that is now controlling the Götterdämmerung, while Renate kills Adler. The U.S. President congratulates Vivian from the UN session; whereupon Vivian discloses the presence of large tanks of helium-3 on the Moon, of which the President immediately assumes sole claim on grounds that its possession ensures a millennium-long supply of energy. This enrages the other UN members, who involve themselves in a brawl, while their remaining spaceships destroy each other.

Renate reunites with Washington, who has reverted his pigmentation back to normal. They kiss before a confused group of Nazi civilians, whom Renate assures, “[they] have a lotta work cut out for [them]”. The final moments of the film show the Earth, apparently during an international nuclear war. At the very end of the credits, the planet Mars is revealed with an artificial satellite of undetermined origin in orbit.

REVIEW:

The past few years have brought about a trend of mashing up genres and being experimental with storyline, at least on the independent level. Iron Sky is a film that keeps this tradition going and has apparently become a cult favorite, but what is so great about this picture? Is it overhyped? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

In 1945, the Nazis secretly retreated to the far side of the Moon. When a new space shuttle mission threatens to expose them, they put the finishing touches on their diabolical plot to invade Earth.

What did I like?

That’s where they went. Credit where credit is due. There have been countless films that have spouted theories on where the Nazis disappeared to after their defeat in World War II, but fleeing to the dark side of the moon and starting a new civilization there might just be my favorite. Someone actually had to have a creative bone in their body in order to come up with that one!

Satire. There is a strong sense of satire in this film as the US is portrayed as a bit trigger happy and ready to destroy any and everything without asking questions. Sometimes I wonder if that is satire or truth, especially these days. A scene involving the UN tries to show North Korea as a threat, but ultimately they come off as too small and weak to do anything. Personally, I enjoy little jabs like this, they make for great levity in a film that desperately needed it.

Nailin’ Palin. The president during all this is a version of Sarah Palin (Lord help us all!). I’ll give it to the actress that plays her, Stephanie Paul, she has just enough Palin for audiences to recognize that she’s spoofing her, while also keeping the character a bit more of her own. She’s still no Tina Fey, though. HA!

What didn’t I like?

Whiteface. I am not a fan of faking another race, such as blackface from back in the 20-40s. This goes for putting a black man in white makeup, as well. I need to preface this by saying I always crack up at Eddie Murphy as the Jewish guy in the barbershop in Coming to America, so there is a way this can be done correctly. However, whoever did this makeup job on Christopher Kirby made him look…well, he reminded me of Ron Perlman, for some reason. I don’t have an issue with the storyline leading up to that point, but surely they could have done something else to make the guy white that lightly dust him with makeup, right?

Lighten up. Films of this nature are starting to get on my nerves? Why? Well, let’s take Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, for example. Source material aside, the premise for that film seems like the kind of thing that should be a fun romp, but instead we get this almost super serious film that I think suffered because of that reason. This film follows suit. There is no reason for a film about space Nazis and Sarah Palin as president to be serious, now is there? I feel as if this film needed to crack some more jokes and have some fun with the material.

Helium-3. In the opening scene, we get a glimpse at a factory that is containing Helium-3, but what is Helium-3? Obviously, it is important since it sends the world into war at film’s end and an astronaut was killed for finding said factory, but we never really learn what it is or why it is so important.

Iron Sky should have been a better film in my book. Everything is here for this to register as a great picture, space, guns, beautiful women, an original story, satire, etc., but it just lost something in the execution. Having said that, I feel as if this is a picture that warrants multiple viewings to really form an opinion, so if you ask me if I recommend it my answer is no, based on a single viewing, but possibly could be yes after watching a couple of more times.

3 out of 5 stars

side note: this is the director’s cut, which is apparently 20 minutes longer and used more visual effects. I don’t think this makes much of a difference, but then again look how different Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut) is from the theatrical version.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1938, in Egypt a team of archaeologists is searching for a tomb and its treasure. A young boy falls into it, calling to his father and the team; they discover a significant artifact, the tablet of Ahkmenrah. The locals tell them that if they remove the tablet, “the end will come”.

In present-day New York City, five years after the events of the last film, night guard Larry Daley is overseeing an evening event at the American Museum of Natural History. Larry has gathered his favorite exhibits, which come to life every night, to help with the entertainment; they include Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Sacagawea, Dexter the Monkey, diorama miniature cowboy Jed and miniature Roman centurion Octavius, and Pharaoh Ahkmenrah. Larry meets a new wax figure Neanderthal who calls himself Laaa. Ahkmenrah warns of the tablet corroding, which had been causing the exhibits to act oddly. At the event, the exhibits go berserk and the attendees flee. When Larry gets home, he finds his son Nicky throwing a party. Nicky explains he doesn’t intend to apply to college, wanting to take a year off to figure out what he wants to do with his life.

Larry researches the tablet and learns that Cecil Fredericks, the former security guard who tried to steal the tablet (in the first film in the trilogy), was the boy from 1938 who helped discover it. Larry goes to Cecil’s retirement home and explains what is happening at the museum. Cecil recalls the locals’ warning that “the end will come”, realizing it was not an “end of the world” prophecy but a warning that the tablet’s magic would end. He suggests that Larry consult Ahkmenrah’s parents, who are in the British Museum. Larry persuades Dr. McPhee to let him take Ahkmenrah and his tablet to London, even though Dr. McPhee is no longer the museum director. He eventually yields to Larry’s request, and pretends that he is still director.

Larry and Nicky travel to the museum, meeting the security guard, Tilly, who lets them in. When Larry enters, he sees his exhibits friends stowed away. The tablet brings the British exhibits to life and the gang encounters a Triceratops skeleton, which chases them. A wax figure replica of Sir Lancelot, who thinks he is the real Lancelot, saves them, but Jed and Octavius fall into a ventilation shaft. Larry sends Dexter to find Jed and Octavius, who have landed in a Pompeii exhibit just before the model of the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupts. The others fight off a nine-headed Xiangliu statue and Dexter stops the volcano’s flow to save Jed and Octavius.

The gang finds Ahkmenrah’s parents, and his father, Merenkahre, reveals the purpose and power of the tablet: it was made to keep his family together forever. The tablet is endowed with the power of Khonsu, god of the moon, and needs frequent exposure to moonlight to retain its magic. Lancelot steals the tablet, mistaking it for the Holy Grail, then leaves to find his Lady Guinevere. The tablet continues to corrode, which damages the New York exhibits and threatens their “lives”. The gang splits up to find Lancelot, but Tilly apprehends Larry and locks him and Laaa in the employee break room. Larry reflects upon his relationship with Nicky and then Laaa breaks them out. The gang leaves the museum to continue the search, while Laaa stays behind to keep Tilly detained, during which, they become attracted to each other, but the Trafalgar Square lion statues corner them. Larry distracts the statues with his flashlight and the search continues.

Lancelot has arrived at a local theater showing a production of Camelot, starring Hugh Jackman as King Arthur and Alice Eve as Guinevere. He runs onstage, trying to convince “Guinevere” to join him. The gang arrives soon after and convinces Lancelot he’s mistaken, chasing him to the roof. Larry persuades Lancelot to give him back the tablet to save the other now lifeless exhibits. Larry adjusts the tablet and the moonlight restores it, reanimating the exhibits. Larry returns the tablet to Merenkahre after the New York exhibits decide that the tablet and the pharaohs should stay together. As everyone parts ways, Larry tells Tilly that tomorrow night she will have the greatest job in the world. After returning to New York, the exhibits accept that they will permanently return to their inanimate state and they say goodbye to Larry.

Three years later, Larry has given up his job as a night watchman to become a teacher, and a traveling British Museum exhibition comes to the museum. Tilly gives the tablet to McPhee, whose job Larry had saved by taking the blame for the chaos at the evening event at the beginning of the film. She shows him that all the exhibits have come to life because of the tablet’s power and are partying in the museum. Larry, who is walking by, pauses on the sidewalk to see the flashing lights of the party inside the museum, and smiles.

REVIEW:

Sometimes a franchise comes along and fills audiences with wonder and delight in every installment. Other times, they start off with such promise, only to crash and burn. With Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, this franchise seems to be coming to an end. Will it go out with a bang and be remembered or simply slink off unnoticed?

What is this about?

Security guard Larry Daley plunges into an adventure that transports him to a London museum, where he’s surrounded by a new set of artifacts — including the remains of an Egyptian pharaoh who’s resurrected by a magic tablet.

What did I like?

Origin. We’ve had this magic tablet at the center of things for two films now, but no one has really gone into the history about it. That is where it comes from, how it got its powers, etc. We finally get some answers with this film, as we learn it is powered by moonlight and was given said magical powers through some ancient Egyptian ritual. I am so glad that they gave us the origin, rather than just assume we don’t want to know or come to our own conclusions. Something like this deserves, née, needs an origin story.

Power of 3. As this is the third film in the franchise, it seems only fitting to bring back the three guards from the first film. Before you get excited, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, and Dick van Dyke (who can still dance as well as he did in his heyday, btw) serve as nothing more than a cameo, or fan service. Their appearance wasn’t necessarily needed, but it was nice to see them. Having said that, van Dyke’s character is tied in to the film’s opening, so his part was a bit necessary.

Last one. At the time of this release, both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams had left us. I won’t say these are the best roles for them to leave on, especially as both of these men have very impressive resumes spanning decades and genres. However, it is nice to know that, being one of their final on-screen roles, they won’t tarnish their legacies a la Raul Julia in Street Fighter. R.I.P. Robin and Mickey.

What didn’t I like?

Parenting 101. In Night at the Museum, Nicky was a little kid devoted to his father. Now he’s a teenager. Need I say more? Surprisingly, they didn’t make him totally disrespectful, overemotional, or any other traits that teenagers today exhibit. They only real change to his character is that he’s older (and played by a different actor). Here is my issue, though. We, the audience, are already having to chew and swallow this convoluted plot with the tablet, introduced to a possibly villainous Lancelot, and now we have to suffer through more drama between Nicky and his dad? They could left that out and focused more on the running joke of Laa and how he looked so much like Larry (even if I thought he looked more like Tom Cruise). Perhaps the fool that Lancelot spoke of could have made an appearance, as well.

Sir Ben. I spoke earlier on how Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney did not have their best performances in this film. Well, that was nothing compared to Sir Ben Kingsley’s role. First off, this isn’t bad casting, in theory, but I feel they could find someone who is actually descended from that region. The queen and Ahkmenrah are obviously of Middle Eastern origin, so why is the pharaoh British and white? That’s a minor point, though. Kingsley is a more than proven actor. Sure, he doesn’t mind lowering himself for a role, as we saw in Iron Man 3, but he was at least given material to work with. In this film, he just stands there, utters a few royal edicts, looks pharaoh-ish, and that’s it? Can we say waste of talent?

Dark. I know many out there are all about the dark stuff these days. Here’s the thing, though…this is, in essence, a children/family film. Why isn’t it the fun romp that the first two were? Are we trying the Harry Potter route and grow with the audience, because if we are then we need to know that the audience is still there, and I just don’t think they are. I don’t have a problem with the story, I just feel that some of the darker themes could have been replaced with more comedic moments. This is a comedy after all.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb may be the last entry into this flailing franchise. I think that is perhaps for the best with the loss Robin Williams and no one really clamoring for these films. Not to mention the tremendous drop off in terms of quality coming into this film and no one really giving off the vibe that they want to be there. I feel that this could have been a much better movie had there just been that extra bit of excitement in the cast, but they didn’t sell it, thus the film just meanders along. I will say Rebel Wilson did add a bit of spice to the proceedings. If they were to reboot this, like they do everything else, I suggest her in the lead. So, do I recommend this? No, unless you’re a completionist and want to finish the franchise. Otherwise, it is best to just leave this one alone.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 10/8

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on October 8, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Earlier this week, an ex from college sent me a picture of me in my college band uniform. For some reason the first thing I thought of, other than how young and skinny I looked back then, was the song “76 Trombones”, which brings us to this week’s trailer.

Please enjoy this trailer for The Music Man. Hopefully, you’ll want to check it out, if you haven’t already!

Heavenly Sword

Posted in Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on October 6, 2015 by Mystery Man

Heavenly Sword

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

It is foretold that a human savior will wield the Heavenly Sword. In the past, the Raven Lord would go to war with anyone just to gain power. But when humanity was at its wits end, a warrior descended from the Heavens. He challenged and defeated the Raven Lord with the Heavenly Sword. When the fight ended, the warrior disappeared, leaving behind his sword. Men would fight anyone tooth and nail just to wield the Heavenly Sword’s unearthly power. Eventually, the Heavenly Sword was entrusted to the ancient clan of nomadic warriors to ensure that man does not use it for evil purposes.

From here, the film’s plot follows that of the game closely. The film begins with Nariko, who is a part of that very same clan that were entrusted with the Heavenly Sword. She is known as the failure of the clan, including her father. She is skilled in fighting but her father, Shen, does not recognize her skills since she is a female.

When King Bohan’s assassins invade the clan’s fortress, Nariko demonstrates her skills by killing many assassins and rescuing Kyo. Bohan knows the clan guards the Heavenly Sword and came to get it since it is the only sword that can kill him. Shen sees her skills and gives her the Heavenly Sword to protect. She is to travel west, while her father and the remaining clan members travel east.

While escaping some of Bohan’s soldiers, the bridge fell. Waiting on the other side is Bohan. He wants her to hand the sword over or be killed like her father and Kai, her sister. Nariko never knew that Kai was her sister. Apparently, on the night of Nariko’s birth, Shen left the fortress to impregnate many women to correct his mistake: having Nariko. Months later, Kai was born, another failure.

But there is another surprise. Two days before Christmas, one of the women Shen impregnated gave birth to a son, unbeknownst to him. The woman faked her own death and escaped to a fishing village in the north. The son is the chosen one. Bohan spent twenty long years searching for him.

When Nariko was about to give the sword to Bohan, she changed her mind. Since she has nothing to live for, she grabbed the sword and jumped down the ravine.

As the year of the Firehorse began years ago, Nariko was born. No one knew that firstborn child would be a daughter instead of a son. Disappointed in a having a daughter, Shen sent Nariko to live far away, in the forest. Prophet Takashi took this opportunity to train her to become a warrior in secrecy.

As Nariko wakes up, she finds that she is in front of a campfire. The person who fished her out is Kai. Kai knew that Nariko is her sister but didn’t say anything because Shen didn’t want to be Kai’s father. They decide to travel north to find their brother.

As they traveled, Nariko learned about Kai’s mother. Her mother was strong and funny. When Shen visited, he would bring gold – “to help”. One day, Flying Fox came. When her mother saw him, she hid Kai in a cave. He had come to get Kai. Fox and his men killed her people and mother.

Before they reached the fishing village in the dead marsh, General Whiptail’s soldiers killed many villagers. With the help of Nariko and the Heavenly Sword and Kai and her crossbow, they helped some of the villagers and got directions to their brother. But when they reached the hut that their brother, Loki, should have lived in, they learned that he left a year ago for the northeast. He wanted to become a blacksmith for a foreign king.

Whiptail overhears this and orders her soldiers to kill them. When Nariko and Kai kill her, they are informed that Whiptail already told the villagers that whoever tells Bohan of Loki’s whereabouts will be rewarded beyond their wildest dreams.

But when Nariko and Kai reached the fortress in the northeast, Bohan’s soldiers were already coming. The effects of the Heavenly Sword start to show in Nariko. It is slowly draining her soul, trying to kill its bearer. From deduction, they find out that the king Loki is trying to work for is none other than Bohan and the fortress in the northeast is Bohan’s as well. They see Shen getting dragged to a cage and that Bohan lied to them about Shen and their people.

In the fortress, they find and rescue Takashi and the other clan members. They learn that Kyo, the person who bullies the sisters, rode to Bohan’s army after the sisters left but dies fighting them. They told Shen about their brother and that he is the chosen one. Shen said that he was doing the right thing when he impregnated many women. He learned the errors of his ways and his daughters forgave him. As Shen was about to die, Nariko used the Heavenly Sword’s power to bring him back but the effects start to get worse.

Nariko and Kai arrive to Bohan’s blacksmith forge but are too late. The couple they helped earlier when they arrived at Loki’s village sold him out. There were others after them but since they were the first, they get the gold. Nariko and Kai rescue Loki and killed Bohan’s son.

After Nariko gives the Heavenly Sword to Loki, he is killed by Flying Fox. He does the same to Kai. During a difficult battle, Kai, who was just unconscious and badly wounded, killed the real Flying Fox. Kai stops Nariko before she could use the sword’s healing power.

The sisters spend three days traveling back to their homeland, all while Bohan’s army follows on their trail. Nariko fainted when they arrive home. She tells Shen that his son is dead and Bohan is coming. She isn’t going to fight for her people but for Kai, her only real family.

When Bohan’s army arrives, Nariko learns that Kyo, who is supposed to be dead, is alive. He was the one who told Bohan where the Heavenly Sword was. He did it because he knows that Bohan was always coming and once the sword is given to him, the clan will be free. She refuses so Bohan commands his army to rain arrows on them. She uses the sword’s power to shield her against them but Kyo isn’t so lucky – he dies.

Nariko is one woman against Bohan’s entire army. She uses the Heavenly Sword power as seen in the beginning of the film. After using its power, she is transported into the sword. It hates her. She tells it that Bohan will melt the sword and that it needs her. The sword gave her its power which she uses to defeat Bohan’s army.

Bohan, having seen the sword’s power, sacrifices his soul to the Raven King. She defeats him. The Raven King abandons Bohan’s body and plucks out his eyes. Roach, Bohan’s son, was alive and tells her to leave or else he will kill her.

Nariko returns to her home and tells her father that the sword didn’t choose her, she chose it. She uses the sword’s healing power to resurrect a dying Kai. Nariko entrusts the sword to Kai, as deities cannot stay. Upon her dying breath, she tells Shen to love Kai as he never did to Nariko.

In Nariko’s narration, she knows Kai will master the Heavenly Sword and that they will meet again in a better world. The sword might be forgotten but Kai will still be remembered.

During the end credits, Kai is seen picking up the sword and grins at the audience.

REVIEW:

Back in the early days of PS3, there was a game to debut featuring a sword-wielding female protagonist. Enter Heavenly Sword. The game itself is one of the underrated early gems of the system and, had it received a better reception, I’m sure it would have turned into a franchise. Oh well, at least we get a movie, right?

What is this about?

This animated fantasy follows the fearless Nariko as she seeks revenge against the cruelties of King Bohan and his marauding armies. Armed with a magical sword that carries a strange curse, Nariko wreaks destruction on her foes.

What did I like?

New or old? Whether you are a fan of the game or just wanted to check this film out, there isn’t anything in here that will leave you scratching your head or checking your scorecard. Everything you need to know is said in the film, which is a relief from other films/TV shows of this nature which do everything but tell you what happened to this character and how it relates to that character. Sometimes, simple is best, if you ask me.

Back again. Anna Torv, best known for starring in Fringe, reprises her role as Nariko. I think she may be the only one to return from the original game, though. I’ll touch on that later, though. Torv’s voice fits this character. For some reason, I can’t picture her with a high-pitched, squeaky timber, similar to Kai’s. The deep tones of Torv serve her well, and give off the impression that she is not one to be messed with. Of course, I wouldn’t want to mess with a warrior woman carrying around a sword that is nearly my height, would you?

Game on. It has been awhile since I played this game, but I haven’t totally forgotten it. Some of the important boss battles and action scenes are included in the film, such as the fight with the Flying Fox,  Bohan’s son, Whiptail, and the one vs. the many that is near the end of the game. Die hard fans of the game are sure to appreciate these, even more than a casual player like myself, and for those that have never played the game, just enjoy!

What didn’t I like?

Target audience. This is not a film for kids, obviously, but I don’t this was necessarily meant for more “mature” audiences, either. I say that, until I see the amount of blood spilled. The confusion comes in that this blood doesn’t come from violent stabbing and such, but rather, Hollywood penetration. I guess some studio exec decided that they couldn’t show real violence in this film for some reason.

Missed the Serkis. As I mentioned earlier, Anna Torv is perhaps the only voice to return from the original game. This is no slight to Alfred Molina, who I thought did a great job and I have tremendous respect for, but he is no Andy Serkis. The villainous Bohan just was missing something that Serkis’ performance gave and Molina didn’t. As such, the film suffered a bit. I would like to know the reason Serkis decided not to come back. He usually is game to do anything. Perhaps it was a scheduling thing?

Spliced. Play a video game in the last 10-15 or so years and you will notice that these days they have cinematic cutscenes that help you advance in the story and give you fingers a respite. Many times, these cutscenes are better looking than some films and make you wonder why the same care wasn’t used for the actual gameplay. In the case of this film, I felt as if they took many of said scenes, spliced them together with some footage that had been working on, sprinkled in a couple of new characters and that is how we got this film. My complaint about that is that there are plenty of people on Youtube who take cutscenes, edit them all together and make a movie. It is much cheaper than that what this ended up costing, I can guarantee you that. It may even be of better quality, as well!

So, what did I ultimately think of Heavenly Sword? If you forget that this is a video game film, and that it is basically just the repackaging of all the cutscenes with a couple of different spots, then this could actually be quite entertaining. There is plenty of action to go around, the animation is gorgeous, and it does make one feel like they are there. However, the film falls short in that is doesn’t live up to its legacy. When the game looks better than the movie, there is a problem and audiences must ask why was this made? Do I recommend this? No, it isn’t worth your time. If they ever come out with a God of War movie, though, that might be a worthy watch!

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Stardust

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A village lies near a gap in a stone wall bordering the magical kingdom of Stormhold. The gap is guarded constantly but Dunstan Thorn manages to go through and meets an enslaved princess, Una. She offers him a glass snowdrop in exchange for a kiss. Nine months later, the Wall Guard delivers a baby to Dunstan, saying his name is Tristan.

Eighteen years later, the dying king of Stormhold throws a ruby into the sky, decreeing that his successor will be the first of his fratricidal sons to recover it. The gem hits a star, they fall together and the remaining sons, Primus and Septimus independently search for the gem.

In Wall, Tristan sees the star fall and vows to get it for the object of his infatuation, Victoria, in return for her hand in marriage. Tristan learns that his mother is from beyond the wall, and receives a Babylon candle that she had left for him, which instantly takes the user to any desired location. Tristan lights it and is transported to the fallen star, personified as a beautiful woman named Yvaine. He promptly chains her to take her home to Victoria.

Three ancient witches in Stormhold resolve to eat the fallen star’s heart to recover their youth and replenish their powers. Their leader, Lamia, eats the remnants of an earlier star’s heart, and sets off to find Yvaine. She conjures up a wayside inn as a trap.

Yvaine becomes tired, so Tristan chains her to a tree and promises to bring food. In his absence, a unicorn releases her but unwittingly takes her to Lamia’s inn. Tristan discovers Yvaine gone, but the stars whisper that she is in danger, telling him to get on a passing stagecoach, which happens to be Primus’s. At the inn, they interrupt Lamia’s attempt to kill Yvaine. Lamia kills Primus, but Tristan and Yvaine use the Babylon candle to escape into the clouds, where they are captured by pirates in a flying ship who teach Tristan how to fence.

Septimus discovers that, as the last surviving son, he need only find the stone to claim the throne. He learns it is in the possession of the fallen star and realises that the heart of a star grants immortality.

After leaving Captain Shakespeare’s ship, Tristan and Yvaine confess their love for one another and spend the night together at an inn. Come morning, Tristan leaves Yvaine sleeping and goes to Wall with a lock of her hair, to tell Victoria he won’t marry her, having fallen in love with Yvaine. When the lock turns to dust, he realises Yvaine will die if she crosses the wall, and rushes back to save her.

Yvaine finds Tristan gone, and starts walking towards the wall, thinking he abandoned her for Victoria. Tristan’s mother Una notices Yvaine walking to her doom, so takes the caravan of her enslaver, a witch named Ditchwater Sal, to the wall to stop her. Lamia arrives, kills Sal, and captures Una and Yvaine, taking them to the witches’ castle. Septimus and Tristan both pursue Lamia, agreeing to work together for the time being. Barging into the castle, Septimus recognises the princess as his long-lost sister and Una informs Tristan that she is his mother.

Septimus and Tristan kill two of the witches, but Lamia uses a voodoo doll to kill Septimus and make his corpse fight Tristan. Lamia is about to finish Tristan off, when she appears to break down over the loss of her sisters. Lamia frees Yvaine but her feigned defeat was just a ruse to bolster Yvaine’s broken heart. As Tristan and Yvaine embrace, their love allows her to shine once again, vaporising Lamia in a blinding flash of starlight.

Tristan retrieves the jewel that Yvaine was wearing. As the jewel turns red, Una explains that, as her son, Tristan is the last male heir of Stormhold. He becomes king with Yvaine as his queen whilst Dunstan and Una are reunited. After 80 years of ruling Stormhold, they use a Babylon candle to ascend to the sky, where Tristan also becomes a star and the pair live forever in the sky.

REVIEW:

Take a minute and think of a film that you know you’ve seen before and liked, but can’t remember much about it. Well, that is Stardust for me. Before this afternoon, I know that I’ve seen this at least 3 or 4 times, but my memory of it is selective, at best. Does that mean this is a bad flick? Only one way to find out!

What is this about?

To win his true love’s heart, wide-eyed Tristan Thorn journeys to a forbidden realm to retrieve a fallen star that has taken human form. But the star is being pursued by an evil witch and others looking to possess her celestial powers.

What did I like?

Fantasy. What is fantasy these days? Have you ever stopped to think about it? Sure, we all have fantasies about a certain dream girl/guy, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m speaking on what creatures live in your fantasy world? For me, witches, magicians, knights, dragons, etc., along with the Greek pantheon. Something this film does very well, I think, is capture that fantasy element. We have witches, ghosts, falling stars that take human form, pirates flying through the air, etc. It may be a bit much, but if I never read the book or saw the movie, knowing all those would be included is enough to at least pique my interest. I’m sure that was the intent, and they capitalized on it very well.

Subplot. Peter O’Toole seems to die in everything he’s in except real life! Ok, that was a bad joke, and if I find out the man died after I post this, I am going to feel downright awful! O’Toole, in this film, is apparently the dying king of Stormhold and has 7 sons, all vying for the crown. As they knock each other off, we see their restless spirits linger on. This whole angle doesn’t become important until the final act, but still, it adds a hint of humor and dark themes foreshadow what is to come.

Daredevil vs. Superman. In the last couple of years, Charlie Cox and Henry Cavil have become huge stars, thanks largely in part to their superhero roles as Daredevil and Superman, respectively. Cox is the star of this film, while Cavil makes a couple of cameos. I just found it interesting that in the scenes they have together, the two are fighting over Sienna Miller’s character. So, basically, we have Daredevil and Superman fighting over the Baroness!

What didn’t I like?

Other stars. Claire Danes’ Yvaine is the only star we see, in human form. Understanding that she is fallen, I still wondered why we didn’t see any of the others. It seems to me that maybe one or two of them would have made the trip down to retrieve her, adding another wrinkle to the plot, perhaps? Maybe I just wanted to see more than just the one star, I guess. It isn’t like she was the last one in existence, but the only other star we were privy to seeing was a flashback of one who had her heart eaten by the witches.

Hole in the wall. A wall separates the real world from the fantasy world, so to speak. There is one whole in said wall and it is guarded by an old man, who is deceptively spry. Here is the million dollar question, though. What is to stop someone from going down a ways and just jumping the wall? It isn’t that tall. If anything, it is more of a barrier than a wall. A horse could definitely jump it. Perhaps this is something that the townspeople never thought of when they put the old man in charge of guarding the hole.

Shakespeare. Robert De Niro gives a great performance as the pirate Captain Shakespeare. I won’t reveal some of his eccentric qualities, but it should be known that he plays quite the character. My issue with De Niro is that I feel like this was his chance to play a Captain Hook type, like his friend Dustin Hoffman did in Hook, and it shows. De Niro is more than capable of playing the actual Captain Hook, rather than some bargain bin version. Maybe it is just me that saw the Captain Hook similarities, though.

Sometimes, one just needs to escape to a far off land full of magic and wonder. Stardust provides such an escape. I hate that this film didn’t become a bigger hit, though. It and The Golden Compass were perhaps a few years ahead of their time. Audiences just weren’t ready. Same could be said for Charlie Cox. I will say that I think this would have been a better picture with better witches. Michelle Pfeiffer has never done anything for me, even in the spray in Catwoman suit, and as a witch who thinks she’s still gorgeous, it just doesn’t work. That being said, I’m sure there are those that feel the opposite. To each their own, but this is an example of how to take this film. For some, it will be their perfect cup of tea, and for others, they may prefer something more along the lines of The Princess Bride. So, do I recommend this? Yes, this is one of those pictures that is meant more for entertainment than anything else, and it achieves that goal. Watch and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars