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Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Incomprehensibly and unfairly underrated....
Apparently those who have not actually read and enjoyed the original Robert E. Howard stories are responsible for this film's incomprehensibly and unfairly underrated status. It's far superior to the earlier attempts and much truer to Howard's characterization. As a film it's also superior to such bloated and underwhelming projects as "Prince of Persia" and "Gods of Egypt" which were little more than boring big-screen video games with non-existent or nonsensical plots. The abundant action proceeds briskly and the film looks stunning. It's an excellent introduction to the Conan character with Jason Mamoa doing the barbarian proud. Unfortunately it's generating more fans from the DVD release than it did while during its theatrical run, which is probably going to preclude more of the Conan stories being filmed, on this scale at least.
Viking Quest (2015)
Ambitious, striking and exciting take on Norse mythology...
"Viking Quest" succeeds surprisingly well as an ambitious, exciting take on Norse mythology. Although its ambition exceeds its budget, it has a good, brisk pace and lots of excitement and action. With a few minor flaws, the script is well written and acted, most notably by Oliver Walker (Atlantis) and the two supporting female players. The hero is a bit disappointing but Mr. Walker, thankfully, puts him in the shade throughout most of the story. The film is far better than a host of the other attempts at this type of theme being done these days. It's not "The Vikings" or "The Long Ships" or even "Prince Valiant" but it comes reasonably close for those who enjoy remote historical period adventure films or mythic themes.. Recommended.
Exciting adventure...but Hercules will never be the same
"Atlantis" is a well-made, cleverly written, exciting adventure show. The diverse cast of characters are all well-acted, with action and plots well-executed. It's refreshing to have once again a virtuous hero (Jack Donnelly as Jason) with a female love interest (Aiysha Hart as Ariadne) who isn't trying to outdo and emasculate him like so many of the unlovable and unconvincing heroines way too prominent these days.
The triumvirate of Jason and pals Pythagoras (Robert Ems) and Hercules (Mark Addy) though entirely different personalities have great chemistry, but of course Hercules will never be the same. The two villains of the piece (Sarah Parish as Pasiphae and Oliver Walker as Heparion) nearly steal the show, they do such a dastardly good job. It's a rousing, fantastic thoroughly enjoyable romp with enough thrills, danger, pathos and humor to keep viewers interested.
My only criticism is that these ancient Greek era men should not be wearing toreador pants, otherwise the costumes and sets are up to par with the period. "Atlantis has some similarity in style to the old Kevin Sorbo Hercules series and the previous BBC "Merlin" but is far superior to both, especially in the acting and writing.
The Deep Below (2007)
flawed but nevertheless interesting...
Not every film needs to have multi-millions of dollars wasted on it. Nor does it need to have the most noted multimillionaire directors and/or technicians.) Reviews have hit this title with the overkill of a sledgehammer. The story was supposedly based on true events, so lower-budget style and lack of slick polish just made it all the more credible and realistic. The so-called "missing" parts didn't bother me as most of them were understood without having to have every minute detail visualized. Dohring fans will like his character of Will, which he plays well. His teen-aged girlfriend and buddy were also convincing and winsome. The story had sufficient peril and action to keep a viewer interested. Actually it reminds me a lot of the "B" films of the 40's and 50's which were shot with minimum time and investment, many of which are better than the big budget A films and have worn better with age. That could very well happen with this one in time.
The Canyons (2013)
A fine film, much maligned...
The negative reviews of this film are incredible. Watching it without preconceptions, however, is probably essential. Both Lohan and Deen give stellar performances, the latter practically steals the film as the sadistic wealthy manipulator with long-standing mental issues who begins to seriously unravel when his sense of power over others is disrupted by his seemingly weak paramour. Deen wisely underplays it, with considerable subtlety, avoiding any suggestion of camp and thereby becomes quite realistically and quietly menacing. These two actors carry the film with enough skill to make it believable. In some ways reminiscent of "Gone Girl", but far more effective and meaningful than that over-rated, far more popular film. This work will eventually come into recognition for its merits. In the meantime, hopefully we will see more great work from both talented Lindsay Lohan and the new leading man with photogenic charisma, James Deen.
As Young as We Are (1958)
An awkward and dangerous love affair...
Young Kim Hutchins (Pippa Scott) just out of college lands a teaching job in a jerkwater town. Traveling with her friend and colleague, the two women are harassed by some men while stopped because of car trouble. A handsome young man (Robert Harland) passing in his truck comes to their rescue, chasing off the no-good louts. After fixing the minor wiring problem, he immediately takes a shine to Ms. Hutchins and confidently begins dating her on a regular basis. Her feelings for him are equally strong and the two seem to be in love. However, on the first day in her classroom she is horrified that he is one of her senior students. He has no intention of giving her up, even though her reputation and job is at stake. Will she settle for passion or mediocrity? This film was way ahead of it's time and doesn't deserve to be relegated to obscurity. Though dated, the performances are quite good. Ty Hardin plays one of the older students, an obnoxious disrespectful jock who causes her no end of trouble. But the real standout in the cast is Robert Harland, whose sympathetic portrayal of a sincere man crossed in love who won't give up is truly memorable. It's a mystery why he didn't appear in more films as a leading man.
O fovos (1966)
Superbly powerful performance by Anestis Vlahos....
Anestis, the son of Demitrios, is a psychologically and emotionally crippled young man, harshly treated by his tyrannical father and bitter stepmother. Demetrios rules his family and his big wheat farm with an iron hand even though he himself reserves the right to go get drunk and take up with whores whenever it suits him. Anestis is a bit slow and socially undeveloped, the butt of the other young men in the village who taunt him for never having known a woman sexually though he is nearly 30. No one has ever been kind to him in his whole life...he has never known love or approval. Driven by his needs and unsatisfied lust aroused by his frequent voyeurism, he traps a saintly, beautiful deaf-mute hired girl who was milking the goats in the barn. Unable to control himself, he rapes her as she is deaf to his pleas. About to be discovered, he tries to calm her down but she is hysterical, so in panic he shakes her against a wall and unintentionally crushes her skull, killing her. Her fear is now his and his guilt and remorse destroy what little sense is left in him.... The stepmother soon finds the body he hid under some hay and knows that he murdered her...in contempt and hatred for him she and his father help him to dispose of the body in the nearby lake, believing that the townspeople will lynch the whole family if it's ever found out. Ridden with horror at his crime, Anestis is forced to dance at his stepsister's wedding but his eyes are full of guilt and fear of discovery. He constantly breaks into sweats and in a state of near nervous collapse. The superb acting by Anestis Vlahos is unforgettable, the portrayal of a weak and twisted man who never even thought of committing such an heinous crime is so powerful you will actually feel sympathy for the unfortunate man who became both rapist and murderer. The beautiful black and white cinematography is stark and brooding, underscoring the tragedy and the fear.
Three Wishes for Jamie (1987)
Charming, touching story....
"Three Wishes for Jamie" is a charming, touching story full of well wrought characters. Young Jamie, a feisty Irish lad, has three dreams of Queen Una of the little people, which means that he will be granted his three greatest desires in life. He chooses travel, the woman of his dreams to wed, and a fine son who will speak like poetry in the ancient Gaelic tongue. With the active participation of a cousin, a well-known matchmaker full of the blarney, at every step of the way it looks like all of these if they happen at all, will not necessarily come about as expected. Despite being a Catholic, Jamie never doubts that they will occur, but he often finds himself vigorously opposing the chain of events in his life. Stevan Rimkus is just right for his role, and Jack Warden is nothing less than memorable as his ever loyal, enthusiastic, life-loving, wise old cousin. The characterizations of everyone in the film contribute to the charm and the script is delightfully realized. The frame of the beginning and end of the film featuring the Irish priest's comments on the story was a sweet touch. This film should be enjoyed by many...it is truly a rarity.
Ambitious, problematical art film...
Wakefield Poole's "Bible!" is a feast for the eyes....and almost defies description. It consists of three visual interpretations of the Old Testament followed by a visual coda signifying the coming of the New Testament with a strange representation of the Annunciation. The film plays much like a musical composition as it contains no dialog. The first sequence depicting the creation of Adam is stunning in its exquisite beauty and quite probably the best depiction you will ever see of the creation of man theme on film. It eclipses even the more literal version in the big budget epic John Huston film. Unfortunately it is marred by the apple joke at the end, which serves to introduce the next and weakest sequence "Bath-Sheba" which plays in a slapstick comic vein reminiscent of silent films. The third major sequence of Samson and Delilah has a dark, sinister feel to it and has an eerie nightmarish quality of menace similar to the classic German expressionist style. "Bible!" is an interesting curio of its time, the fact of its experimental quality and frequent full frontal nudity prevented it from becoming mainstream. Like European films of the late 60's and early 70's this film was far ahead of the curve for the average American moviegoer. It has its flaws but purely from a visual standpoint it rewards the patient viewer.
Death by Invitation (1971)
Low budget chiller deserves more credit than it gets...
Yes, much of the film is awkward, it's full of plot holes and script deficiency...but it has a persistent, understated tone of menace that keeps a viewer involved. This low-budget chiller deserves a lot more credit than it gets. There are several horrific murders of youngsters perpetrated by the vengeful witch with no-one catching on to her precisely because of the rather dull and commonplace behavior she exhibits when around other people. That's exactly how real life serial killers get on with it...they can appear quite normal most of the time. Shelby Leverington delivers this quality brilliantly, resembling a near-somnolent Shelley Long. Those heavy-lidded eyes and that sly smirk that appears on her face hint at the triumphant evil underneath the nice girl-next-door facade. Norman Parker is very good as Jake, as well. A prime target for victim-hood, you keep wondering if he's going to wind up in a dripping body bag himself. Only the fact that he's not one of the marked descendants and has sufficient machismo to nullify this female's blood urge allows him to short-circuit his vulnerability, but he still winds up being manipulated into struggling with the justifiably crazed father who comes after the witch with an axe, only to be nearly decapitated during the melee. With much of the plot involving gruesome child murders it was actually a pretty brilliant move to maintain a pedestrian feel to the film. On a bigger budget it could have been done much more effectively, but even sans slick cinematography and a coherent script it still has lingering chills, solely due to the skills of Leverington and Parker.