Archive for Balrog

The Lord of the Rings (1978)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Early in the Second Age of Middle-earth, elven smiths forged nine Rings of Power for mortal men, seven for the Dwarf-Lords, and three for the Elf-Kings. At the same time, the Dark Lord Sauron made the One Ring to rule them all after learning the secrets of how to forge them from the Elves of Hollin—a deviation from Tolkien’s work in which Sauron taught ring lore to the Elves and forged all the rings except the three Elvish rings. As the Last Alliance of Elves and Men fell, the Ring fell into the hands of Prince Isildur from across the sea, and after Isildur was killed by orcs, the Ring lay at the bottom of the river Anduin. Over time, Sauron captured the nine Rings made for men and turned their owners into the Ringwraiths, terrible beings who roamed the world searching for the One Ring. The Ring was found by a Stoor named Déagol, whose friend, Sméagol, murdered him and stole it for himself. The Ring warped Sméagol into a twisted, gurgling wretch known only as Gollum (Peter Woodthorpe), and he wandered with it to a cave in the Misty Mountains. Hundreds of years later, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Norman Bird) accidentally discovered his “precious” Ring and took it back with him to the Shire.

Years later, during Bilbo’s birthday celebrations in the Shire, the wizard Gandalf (William Squire) tells him to leave the Ring for Frodo Baggins (Christopher Guard). Bilbo agrees, and leaves the Shire. Seventeen years pass, during which Gandalf learns that the Shire is in danger: evil forces have discovered that the Ring is in the possession of a Baggins. Gandalf meets with Frodo to explain the Ring’s history and the danger it poses to all of Middle-earth. Frodo leaves his home, taking the Ring with him.

He is accompanied by three hobbit friends, Pippin (Dominic Guard), Merry (Simon Chandler), and Sam (Michael Scholes). After a narrow escape from the Ringwraiths pursuing them, the hobbits eventually come to Bree, where they meet Aragorn (John Hurt), who is first introduced to them as Strider, a friend of Gandalf’s, who leads them the rest of the way to Rivendell. Frodo is stabbed atop Weathertop mountain by the chief of the Ringwraiths with a knife imbued with evil magic. Part of the knife stays inside him, and he gets sicker as the journey progresses. The Ringwraiths catch up with them shortly after they meet the elf Legolas (Anthony Daniels), and at a standoff at the ford of Rivendell, the Ringwraiths are swept away by the enchanted river. At Rivendell, Frodo is healed by its lord, Elrond. He meets Gandalf again, held captive by his fellow wizard Saruman (Fraser Kerr), who plans to join with Sauron but also wants the Ring for himself. Bilbo, Gandalf, and the others argue about what should be done with the One Ring, and Frodo volunteers to go to Mordor, where the Ring can be destroyed. Frodo sets off from Rivendell with eight companions: Gandalf; Aragorn; Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor (Michael Graham Cox); Legolas; Gimli the dwarf (David Buck); and Frodo’s original three hobbit companions.

Their attempt to cross the Misty Mountains is foiled by heavy snow, and they are forced to take a path under the mountains via Moria. Moria was an ancient dwarf kingdom, but is now full of orcs and other evil creatures, and Gandalf falls into an abyss while battling a balrog. The remaining eight members of the Fellowship continue through the elf-haven Lothlórien, but Boromir tries to take the Ring from Frodo. Frodo decides to leave the others behind and continue his quest alone, although faithful Sam insists on accompanying him.

Boromir is killed by orcs while trying to defend Merry and Pippin. They are captured by the orcs, who intend to take them to Isengard through the land of Rohan. The hobbits escape and flee into Fangorn forest, where they meet Treebeard (John Westbrook), a huge tree-like creature. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas find Merry and Pippin; they find small footprints and follow them into Fangorn Forest. There, they find Gandalf, whom they believed had died in the mines of Moria. The four ride to Rohan’s capital, Edoras, where Gandalf persuades King Théoden (Philip Stone) that his people are in danger. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas then travel to the defensive fortification Helm’s Deep.

Frodo and Sam, meanwhile, discover Gollum stalking them, and capture him. Frodo pities him, and lets him live in return for guidance to Mount Doom. Gollum promises to lead them to a secret entrance to Mordor. At Helm’s Deep, Théoden’s forces struggle to resist an onslaught of orcs sent by Saruman. Gandalf arrives the next morning with the Riders of Rohan just in time, destroying the orc army.

REVIEW:

Before Peter Jackson created his cinematic version of Tolkien’s masterpiece, Ralph Bakshi brought us the animated version, with his own flare, of The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve ever been looking for a film version of this that is as close to the source material as possible, this is what you’re looking for.

What is this about?

The magical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy comes to life in this animated tale. Frodo possesses the all-powerful ring sought by the evil Sauron of Mordor. Frodo must bear the awful burden of the ring to a place where it may be destroyed, thus ensuring the safety of Middle Earth. Helped by the mighty wizard Gandalf, his fellow hobbits, elves, dwarfs and other Middle Earth creatures, Frodo embarks on his dangerous adventure.

What did I like?

Faithful. I am one of those people who is all about being faithful to the source material, so the fact that this film didn’t stray very far from Tolkien’s books. I know many people swear by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but truth be told they are almost something totally different. Bakshi did it right, why didn’t Jackson follow suit?

Animation. Ralph Bakshi has a certain style to his animation. Couple that with the trend of heavy lines and sci-fi elements such as The Black Cauldron, and you’ll be blown away. I was really interested to see how he merged his animation with live action for a distinctive and effective look. Seeing different styles of animation is a treat for me, especially considering how different this film is from other Bakshi films such as Fritz the Cat and the early 90s Saturday morning cartoon, The Adventures of Mighty Mouse.

Character design. Although the current Gollum is more recognizable, the version from this film is a cult favorite. I was watching Toy Hunter the other day and a figurine of him went for thousands of dollars, meaning that this guy is quite popular. Aside from him, though the other characters are quite interesting with exaggerated features such as the jovial look of Legolas, Native American skin tone of Aragorn, the stop motion look of Sam, and the huge eyes of Galadriel.

What didn’t I like?

Abrupt. The ending was very rushed. I’ve heard talk that they originally envisioned this as a true trilogy, but Bakshi got burned out. If that is the case, then fine, but it still didn’t have to be as abrupt as the finale of The Sopranos! Where was the thought and genius that made this film work so well up until then?

Balrog. Perhaps I’m a little spoiled by the Peter Jackson version, but I expected something more fantastic and impressive when it came time to see the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. Instead we get something on par with Bugs Bunny vs Wil E. Coyote. This is such a pivotal moment in the film, and they just pissed all over it.

Fellowship. I didn’t feel as if the film gave us a true understanding of the growing fellowship between all our heroes. Realizing that isn’t fully realized until later in the trilogy, I still would have liked to have seen more seeds of respect and friendship planted, instead of just being the random characters they are portrayed here.

The Lord of the Rings is a cult classic, of that there is no question. However, I wonder if it really is worth that status. Granted, I am not really a fan of Tolkien’s books, but this just wasn’t worth the 2 hr run time. Perhaps, if they would have had a more complete trilogy, it would have worked better for me. Having said that, it isn’t totally horrible, but I felt it could be better. Yes, I’ll recommend it, but not highly.

3 out of 5 stars

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Street Fighter

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A multinational military force known as the Allied Nations has managed to enter the fictional South East Asian nation of Shadaloo to combat the armed forces of a drug lord turned General named M. Bison, who has recently captured several dozen AN workers. Via a live two-way TV broadcast, Bison demands AN regional commander William F. Guile secure a $20 billion ransom in three days, or he will kill the hostages and the world will hold Guile and the AN accountable. Guile’s assistant, Cammy, is only able to partially trace Bison’s signal, determining that his hideout is somewhere in the river-delta region outside Shadaloo City.

Among the captured AN relief workers is Carlos “Charlie” Blanka, a peacekeeper and one of Guile’s closest friends. Bison orders his henchmen to send Blanka to a laboratory and turn him into a mutated soldier, the first of many, which Bison plans to use to help him conquer the world. Dr. Dhalsim, a captured scientist, decides to sabotage Bison’s scheme by tweaking the brainwashing process to retain Blanka’s humanity.

Meanwhile, in an underground fighting arena, con artists Ryu and Ken attempt to sell fake arms to Shadaloo’s Tong crime syndicate leader Victor Sagat. His plan to kill them both by having them fight his champion, Vega is interrupted when Guile crashes the building and takes everyone into custody. Guile later presses Ryu and Ken into infiltrating Sagat’s gang by staging a prison-break and faking his own death. The plan hits a snag when news reporter Chun-Li Zang, who wants revenge against Bison for the death of her father, finds out that Guile is alive. Her partners, Sumo wrestler E. Honda and professional boxer Balrog, each of whom hold a grudge against Sagat for ruining their reputations, attempt to kill Bison and Sagat with a truck bomb, which destroys much of Bison’s arms cache but fails to kill the dictator. Chun-Li and her friends are captured when Ryu and Ken seemingly turn on them, to earn Bison’s trust.

Once in the fortress (which is built under a Cambodian temple similar to Angkor Wat), they free Balrog and Honda, and the four of them go to “save” Chun-Li, who is fighting a surprised Bison in his private quarters. Unfortunately, the arrival of the others interrupts Chun-Li long enough for Bison to escape and trap the five of them by sedating them with gas.

Meanwhile the AN is able to locate Bison’s headquarters from Ryu’s homing device and the explosion at Bison’s camp, and since Bison’s air defenses are too powerful they begin planning an amphibious assault on the base. A group of peace negotiators inform Guile that the invasion is no longer authorized, since the ransom demand is about to be paid, but Guile protests what he sees as appeasement and rallies the troops to assault anyway.

As Guile, T. Hawk and Cammy head up river, they are attacked by Bison who uses underwater mines to blow up their speedboat, but narrowly escape into the fortress, where Guile is attacked by a horribly mutated Blanka, who then recognizes him as his friend. Guile almost kills Blanka to end his suffering, but Dhalsim intervenes and persuades Guile not to do so. After learning from Dhalsim that Bison attempts to use Blanka to execute the hostages, Guile hides in Blanka’s incubation chamber and takes Bison by surprise. At the same time a huge battle ensues between Captain Sawada’s AN forces and the Shadoloo troops. Ken attempts to leave the battle, but returns to save Ryu from an ambush, and the two of them defeat Vega and Sagat after an intense fight. Meanwhile, Guile seems to be winning against Bison, until an automatic revival system brings Bison back to life and charges his body with great amounts of electromagnetism, allowing him to shoot lightning bolts and fly across the air.

After taking a serious beating, Guile finally discovers Bison’s weak point, and uses it to send him flying against his gigantic monitor wall, where he crashes and is hung by the neck. The damage causes severe electrical disturbances which destabilize the power system of the base, but the heroes find and release the hostages just in time, and everyone evacuates. Guile finds the lab and tries to persuade Dhalsim and Blanka to escape with him now that Bison has been defeated, but Blanka refuses to return to society in his condition, and Dhalsim decides to atone for his actions by accompanying him. When the temple comes crashing down after an explosion everyone thinks that Guile is dead, but then he appears from amongst the smoke. After Guile converses with Chun-Li, Ryu, Ken, Cammy, Zangief, Balrog, E-Honda, T-Hawk and Sawada, they see the last ruins of the temple fall and take their familiar win poses from the video game as the camera freezes and fades out.

In the home video version of the film, a post-credits scene returns to the ruins of M. Bison’s lair, as the main computer announces that its batteries are recharging from solar power and it begins fibrillating Bison’s heart with electricity. Bison’s fist suddenly smashes through the rubble, and on a computer screen the resurrected dictator selects “World Domination: Replay.”

REVIEW:

Steet Fighter was never my favorite fighting game. That honor went to Mortal Kombat. I did think that the characters would make for an interesting enough movie, but after watching this thing and remembering the total waste of time that was Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, I can’t help but wonder if that is even possible.

First off let me say that is becoming more and more apparent that video games should not be turned into movies. 9 times out of 10 they flop and with the news this week that they have optioned the hit facebook…yes I  said Facebook…game Mafia Wars to become a film, I’m sure the flops will keep coming. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Since Street Fighter is all about fighting and a tournament, two films thst did it right come to mine. First is D.O.A.: Dead or Alive. While this wasn’t the greatest plot flick, it brought the tournament to the forefront, with a secondary take over the world plot. The best video game flick that Street Fighter could learn from, however, has to be Mortal Kombat, I know that’s the last thing Fighter freaks want to hear as it is the Kombatants that  killed the game franchise in the first place, but it is true. Mortal Kombat was the greatest video game adaptation for quite a while and, disregarding the sequel, still ranks among one of the best. The reason for this is that they used the main character.

It seems every Street Fighter film or cartoon chooses to give the spotlight to any and everyone but Ken and Ryu who are the main characters. I don’t really know why. I’m still scratching my head about the whole Chun-Li movie.

Now, Street Fighter was released in 1994, and is probably best known as Raul Julia’s last performance. If you’re going to go out with a bang, then what a way to go. He is the most memorable character of this film, and is also the closest to the source material, as far as I know.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stunk up the joint. First of all, Guile is blonde and American. Why, oh why, did they decide to make him an orange haired Belgian? If not for the martial arts scenes, I would really question casting Van Damme, but he does he is known for his fighting ability, so I can’t fault them for casting for that purpose. However, the acting and accent is just too much and ruins pretty much the entire flick for me.

The rest of the cast does what they can in very small supporting roles. It was more of a case of too many characters being crammed in and not getting time to develop them. I have no problem with trying to get them all in, if you can get them all the time they deserve. If not, then you should save some for a sequel or cameos.

The action in this flick is what you would expect from a film in the genre and the plot is a bit predictable, complete with exploding villain headquarters.

Does Street Fighter stack up to other video game adaptations? Not really. It may very well be one of the worst franchises to be adapted to the big screen, but this version is infinitely better than that Chun-Li movie, of that there is no question. If you must see a Street Fighter movie, then check this one out, or look for one of the animated films, or better yet, just play the game. I cannot recommend this to anyone unless you want to see Raul Julia in his last role because that is really the major redeeming factor for this thing.

2 out of 5 stars

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie opens with Chun Li narrating her experience growing up aspiring to be a concert pianist. As a child, she moves from San Francisco to Hong Kong with her family. There, along with piano, she learns Wushu from her father, Xiang, who is a well connected businessman. One night, her home is attacked by Bison and his henchman. Chun Li’s father fights them off until Balrog grabs a hold of a young Chun Li, forcing him to surrender. As Bison and his men are leaving with Xiang, Chun Li’s mother tries to stop them. Balrog just punches her.

Years later, Chun Li grows up and becomes a talented concert pianist. At the end of one of her concerts, she receives a scroll written in Ancient Chinese text. On her way home, she sees a mysterious homeless man getting assaulted by street thugs. After the thugs leave, Chun Li tends to him and notices a spiderweb tattoo on his hand. Meanwhile, Xiang is shown working for Bison as a prisoner. In return for his services, he is allowed to view pictures of his daughter all grown up. Back home, Chun Li’s mother finally loses her battle to cancer as Chun Li and her servants mourn her loss at a funeral.

Elsewhere, we see Nash and Maya investigating a murder of several heads of criminal syndicate families in Bangkok. Chun Li on the side is meeting with a wise old lady in town who studies the scroll and tells her to either find a man named Gen in Bangkok, revealing to her an image of the same spiderweb she saw tattooed on the homeless man’s hand. With a new goal in mind, Chun Li leaves her home and heads to Bangkok. After days of searching for Gen without any luck, she sees a man being assaulted in an alley by thugs. Chun Li comes to his rescue and fights them. After a long battle ended by finishing them with a Bike Rack Drop Ultra move, Chun Li collapses in exhaustion. There, we see Gen pick her up to take her to his home.

Gen tells Chun Li that he knows how to find her father and that Bison has him, but that she also needs anger management. In response, she goes to an internet cafe to find out more about Bison, who is now holding the families of property owners hostage in order to force them to sign their property over to him. Upon leaving, one of the owners is asked to hand over the rights to a docking harbor, allowing the shipment of the “White Rose”. Chun Li overhears this. Meanwhile at Interpol, Nash figures out that Bison’s headquarters are right across the street from the Police Station.

Later that night, Cantana, one of Bison’s secretaries, goes to a nightclub. Chun Li spies on her and notices her eyeing the girls in the club. Chun Li moves in and seductively dances with her before casually walking away into the bathroom. Cantana follows her and locks the bathroom door. Chun Li beats Cantana until Cantana reveals the location of the White Rose. Cantana’s bodyguards come back and Chun Li escapes after fighting them off.

We are then told of Bison’s origins. He is the son of Irish missionaries. He grew up an orphan having to steal fish from people in Thailand. In order to lose his conscience, he forced his daughter out of the womb of his wife prematurely. This transferred his conscience into her, thus Bison no longer had/has a conscience. Back at Gen’s home, Bison’s henchmen come after Gen and Chun Li. Gen fights them off until Balrog blows up his house with a RPG. With Gen gone and nowhere to be found, Chun Li runs off. She is then attacked by Vega, who she defeats soundly and hangs upside down over the side of a building.

Chun Li then heads to the harbor and interrogates an employee into telling her the arrival time of the White Rose. Later that night, this turns out to be a trap as several Shadaloo soldiers capture her. Chun Li is then taken back to Shadaloo headquarters and is reunited with her father. Bison tells her that Xiang outlived his usefulness and breaks his neck, killing him. Bison and Balrog leave Chun Li to the henchman to finish off. Chun Li however escapes when they try to swing her around from the ceiling like a pinata. As she runs away, she is shot in the waist by Balrog. Before Balrog could recapture her, the crowd begins throwing durians at him. This scares Balrog as he drives off in his Mercedes-Benz. Chun Li meanwhile, is rescued again by Gen, who narrowly escaped death and survived the explosion in his house.

Chun Li approaches Nash and tells him she needs backup to take down Bison. Nash and Maya oblige as Chun Li approaches the dock employee who set her up last time. The employee tells her that he was forced into deceiving her and tells her the real arrival time. Chun Li doubts him at first, but he points to the white board at the arrival time, proving that it is true. At the dock later that night, Interpol agents engage in a shootout with Shadaloo soldiers. On a ship, Chun Li finds a girl asking where her father is. Meanwhile, Gen fights Balrog and kills him by stabbing him with a pipe spraying nitrogen. We later find out that the girl is Bison’s daughter and her name is Rose, making her the White Rose. Bison takes her in and welcomes her warmly.

Bison walks into his office where he is ambushed by Gen. Gen however is no match for him. Sensing his daughter in danger, Bison goes back to his daughters room, where he finds she is gone. Gen shows up again and ambushes Bison, getting beaten up again. Chun Li then comes in and fights Bison. After a long battle, she hits him with a bamboo pole and drops sandbags on him, startling him and making him unaware of what is going on. She then charges up a Kikoken and shoots it at him, knocking him off the scaffolding they were fighting on, then jumping on his head and twisting it all the way around, breaking his neck and killing him.

Back home, Chun Li is settled down as Gen pays her a visit. He shows her an ad for a Street Fighter tournament, telling her about a Japanese fighter named Ryu. Chun Li declines, saying that she’s home for now.

REVIEW:

I’ve always been a fan of the Street Fighter game. I haven’t bothered to watch the original film that came out back i nthe late 80s, though, I will soon enough. It can’t be any worse than this. There is a reason this was released when it was and not during a time when it could really make some bucks.

When I heard they were thining of doing films on the characters from Street Fighter, I was excited. As with many video game characters, each has a very interesting backstory. The problem is getting that story to translate well onto the big screen and getting the right people for the parts. Chun-Li is an interesting character, although, for me I can count on one hand how many time I’ve beaten her. Still, I wouldn’t have picked her to be first, I’d have gone with M.Bison, Ryu, Guille, or someone of that caliber. Still, the story is not this film’s downfall, but rather the atrocious acting from two of the leads.

Kristin Kreuk, who apparently is from Smallville, somehow won the role of Chun-Li. Good for her for winning the part and all, but I would have given it to a more Asian actress, such as Maggie Q, Kelly Hu, etc. That’s just me, though. Kreuk is very wooden and unbelievable as Chun-Li. For someone who loses her mother and dad is missing, you’d think there’s have been some emotion going on, but nothing. Even after she is reunited with and watches her dad get killed, there is little to no emotional depth to her. The narration was even worse. If I wanted to hear monotone speaking, I’d listen to Ben Stein. Kreuk just made this film painful for me.

Another bad acting performance comes from Chris Klein. Look, this guy has come along way in his career, but someone needs to advise him to take better roles. Now, he may be a fan of the game, so taking this one may have just been because of those feelings. Klein, though, has to give his worse performance on screen I’ve ever seen from him. I’ve seen better acting from elementary school theater productions. Not to mention his character seems to be just thrown in there to throw some sort of subplot into this already convoluted movie…I’ll get to that in a bit.

Not all the acting was bad, though. Neal McDonough steals the show as M.Bison. He makes this thing watchable, that’s for sure. On top of that, his accent seems authentic, even if I can’t place where it is exactly he’s supposed to be from.

Robin Shou has a bit of an ironic role here. You may remember in Mortal Kombat, as Liu Kang, he was a bit of a rebellious “chosen one”. Here, he’s on the other side of that coin. His role as Gen has him teaching Chun-Li various fighting techniques and whatnot to survive. I found a bit of humor in that. Like klein, he appears to be a lot smaller than he was in the role we know him best for, but his talent (acting and martial arts) has not dwindled at all.

Moon Bloodgood is a nice piece of eye candy for those of us that are not really attracted to Kristin Kreuk. Her role, though, isn’t that big, and actually involves that convoluted subplot that really doesn’t need to be in this thing. Come to think of it, she might have made a good Chun-Li.

Michel Clarke Duncan fits Balrog to a ‘T’ and Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas shows up as Vega. Both characters though seem to be thrown in just to let the viewers have some characters from the game.

This film has too much potential to be this bad. Everything is in place for it to succeed, except two things. The afforestation bad acting and the convoluted subplot involving Interpol and trying to catch M.Bison’s crime syndicate. Now, I understand they had to stick something in there to play up the bad guy role of Bison and all, but this just felt tacked on and pointless. Also, they spent way too much time on the early years of Chun-Li. Obviously, this is an origin story, but people aren’t watching it to see drama and a little girl hanging on her dad for 30 minutes. We want some action, and there just wasn’t enough in it for me.

Video games just don’t make good movies 90% of the time. There are a few exceptions. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the same could have been said for comic book movies. All it takes is the right one to catch on. Unfortunately, this is not it, and may very well be the first and last of the origin films. I haven’t heard of any more in the works. As you can tell, I’m not fan of this picture, and kind of knew it wasn’t going to be any good before I even popped it in the DVD player, but I still watched it anyway, hoping I would be wrong. As I always say, you should watch and make your own decision, you’ve just read my opinion,

2 out of 5 stars