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ttaskmaster

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29 reviews in total 
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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Every Dragon has it's Day..., 4 December 2012
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Did you see what I did there, with the title? Hee hee! That probably sums this little flick.

I'm a fan of D&D/fantasy RPG stuff and the fantasy genre generally. I've enjoyed all sorts, from Lord of the Rings, to The Beastmaster. I even watched *both* D&D movies! This last one - D&D The Movie - That's my benchmark against which I measure DA:Redemption...

Both are like watching a filmed LARP session, both have the same quality of actor, acting, costume, script, choreography, pacing, predictability, cinematography etc.

The differences are that Redemption has a much smaller budget and does not pretend to be anything bigger than it actually is.

Gary Gygax, creator of D&D, god of all things Fantasy RPG and possibly the biggest name to be in anything associated with D&D, yet the best they can come up with to honour the man in THE movie about his own creation is a miniscule cameo in the far background, which actually has to be pointed out during the Special Features. The only redeeming features about D&D The Movie are the lovely Zoe McLellan for eye candy, Bruce Payne's appropriate overacting and the fact that it has the name 'Jeremy Irons' on the cover.

With so little to live up to, Redemption is quite an appropriate title for a film based on Fantasy gaming, and a computer game at that. It achieves with a few thousand what the $45 million D&D Movie could not and restores my faith in such adaptations and associations between live action production and game.

Now, obviously this is no Lord Of The Rings here. It's done by gamers for gamers, specifically fans of the Dragon Age games. It contains all the relevant references you require, without drawing too much attention to this aspect in an attempt to justify or validate itself. It has enough dark and adult moments to create the same atmosphere as the game. It has the same unrealistic and slightly over-dramatic moves in the fight choreography.

The only down-side is the lack of especially engaging dialogue, with certain moments seeming a bit contrived (IMHO). But then some players feel the same way about the game as well. The actors are almost certainly fans of the game, yet still on a par with the professionals cast in the D&D movie.

Felicia Day is the main name in this, being lead actor, a writer, producer, stunt performer and pretty much the driving force behind the production. I don't know much about her, aside from what I read in a quick Google, but she's certainly done well with what she had for this.

For the money, budget, resources and everything else, I am impressed by the production's achievements. If they can secure a full budget, I'd happily watch further productions!

Bootmen (2000)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
One to watch, if you love tap dancing!!, 19 March 2012
8/10

This film was done to promote the Tap Dogs show and dance group, so don't expect complicated or sophisticated plot, cunning twists or even amazing acting.

You can pretty much guess what happens, just from watching the trailer. There is nothing, plotwise, that hasn't been done before and the characters are all tried and tested stereotypes. Cinematography is solid and production quality is safe. There is a fair degree of bad language, which seems a touch out of place given that this film will appeal to a lot of young dance students.

But none of this detracts from the basic underlying premise of the film... Basically, sit back, shut up and enjoy the fabulous tap dancing - That's what it's about and in that respect, it does NOT disappoint!!

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Awkward and stilted retreading of tired clichés, 30 January 2012
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am shocked...

For once, a Peter Strauss film that has not been interesting in the slightest.

This is one of those that I'd call 'pocket money' films, in that the lead actors usually only sign up because they need some extra spends for that second yacht, or something. But being a bit of a fan of Peter Strauss, I know he tends to take roles based on the script and whether the role appeals. Him being quite a philanthropist and this essentially being a film about saving whales, I can see why he took it. I suspect the same from the likes of Richard Widmark, too.

I only picked it up because it has Peter Strauss in it. As a film overall, I think it fails to deliver. The supporting characters are quite one-dimensional and serve as plot vehicles only. The main cast are fairly single-tracked and there's almost no character development.

What threw me the most is the lack of dynamic between Charlie Lyndon and his family. There's a nice scene at the beginning which does set him up as having a bit of a loner mindset, but for the rest of the film it's like they were completely superfluous aside from a couple of scenes where they just wanted him to give up and go home. For a married man, I'd have thought he'd rely more on his family for support, rather than have them hanging around while he goes off on a crusade... but maybe that was the point.

There was more of a dynamic between Lyndon and the doctor. Indeed, at one point I thought this would be the start of an affair between them and the final parting shows this might have been the case.

I found the dialogue clichéd and unimaginitive, with the acting that delivered it utterly stilted. If I were to guess, I'd say the actors were forced to stick rigidly to some swiftly written script and not given a single inch within which to actually act. I've seen other works by each of the main cast and I know they both have done and later did do far better than this.

Overall, the film works well enough for, say, a Sunday afternoon and it has that feel of a 1980s straight-to-video release. Perhaps good to watch with young children. But beyond that, there are many, many other Peter Strauss films more worthwhile.

Red Sonja (1985)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Made for the fans, I think., 20 January 2012
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A 'must watch' if you're a fan of the De Laurentis Conan films, or perhaps a fan of Sandahl Bergman, Brigitte Nielsen or Arnie.

Otherwise, you may find this film sadly lacking.

Casting Sandahl Bergman in another 'Conan' film was perhaps a mistake, although her performance in this is enjoyable enough. Given the atrociously awkward script and low-budget feel of the production, I thought she did no wrong. She looks different enough (the mask helped) that you can allow yourself to be fooled. She was originally wanted to play Sonja herself, but wisely chose to play the villain instead. She does the best she can with what little they gave her and is worth watching.

Brigitte Nielsen... OK, she is pretty and had the right look at the time, but it's clear she'll not be winning any Oscars for this performance. The voice dubbing made it worse and she sounds like Deanna Troi. Fresh off the boat from Denmark, she was hired on the basis of a modelling shoot... and it shows.

Supposedly there were some issues with the rights to the planned third Conan film, or some-such, so this was a way to have Arnie playing Conan again in everything but name. Kalidor, Lord of the Land is a nice hint at a mid-career Conan. I heard that Kalidor is one of Conan's travelling aliases, or a title he took as a lord. Regardless, he's still Conan.

The story reads well enough (and possibly even better on paper), but the execution is woefully half-hearted and fails from the start. Characters who add nothing, dialogue that isn't remotely believable, choreography that is unrehearsed and telegraphed well in advance - The whole thing seems like the vast majority was cobbled together one afternoon when the crew woke up late and remembered they had a film to make.

Nevertheless, fans of the genre will likely enjoy it. It belongs to a certain crowd (I'd like to say those who couldn't even afford the Dungeons & Dragons rulebook) and the fact that people are still talking about it so many years later at least shows it has a nostalgic charm that has provided such longevity.

I happen to like it at least enough to review it here.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Tired re-re-rehashing of past films., 19 January 2012
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Three Musketeers... a perennial favourite like Robin Hood, it seems. Do we really NEED this many movies about the same origin story of how D'Artagnan joins the Muskies?

No matter how many things you try and add, the basic story is still the same and it's down to whoever's interpretation people prefer. I have to say that the plot of The Man In The Iron Mask was at least unique. This is just yet another tired old retelling of the same old basic tale, but without even full character development. Someone in Hollywood had some money to spend. That was the whole driver for this project.

The acting was fine, but never really notable. These are all good actors, we know, but they seemed like they had almost nothing to work with and simply could not escape their contract. Macfadyen was especially dull - I could accept that as his normal character behaviour, but he was like that in every single scene. Is Athos really that dead inside that the most heartwrenching sorrows and gutwrenching action cannot even stir as much as a raised eyebrow?

I'm as much a fan as anyone of movies where you *can* switch your mind off if you so choose, but this is one where you have to - 3-D bandwaggons and flying ships galore, supported by silly gimmick jokes, notable actors (who I guess only did the film for some pocket money), great set pieces, mediocre props and the usual tired old themes and dialogue all make for one spectacularly anti-climactic film.

Take all those cool elements of previous Musketeer films, combine them and add some bits seen in other films - The end product is this 2011 version. Nothing special, nothing new and nothing more of note than Orlando Bloom's rockabilly haircut.

To use a cooking analogy - The film follows an obvious and well-used recipe, yet fails to supply the right ingredients in the right measures, bakes at the wrong temperature for the wrong time, fails to rise and then burns to a crisp, before the chef gives up completely and gets a take-out from Billy's Bad Burger Joint down the local back alley instead...

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Hollywood fails yet again..., 11 January 2012
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've always been a big fan of the John Millius and Arnold films, so I was both afraid of seeing what newfangled nonsense had done to the story, yet eager to see what people were claiming was even better... Even my favourite reviewer, Catherine Reitman, gave it some favourable comments... just some, though.

The first act of the movie was cool. Heavily over-gory, but appropriately so and without being oversensational about it (ie, like 300). The storyline is rich and the environment bursting with detail. True, the plot is somewhat OTT, but this is a tale of high adventure. Given the legend, I can well believe a kid like Conan achieving what he does.

For me, a character's appearance is usually representative of the whole film's cinematography and style.

Conan is tall and panther-like, never Arnie's bricks-in-a-pillow muscley look. Jason Momoa has that down well, along with the dark hair and some vague semblance of Oriental/Eastern Steppes sort of look.... But he still has too much Hawaiian to be fully convincing, for me.

He is also a touch too boyish and pretty for my eyes and the stereotypical plastered-on scar (down through the eyeline, but subtle enough not to spoil his beauty) only adds to the cartoony Xena feel. I always saw Xena as being about barbarians who shower and exfoliate every day, with at least one stylist on hand, spray-on sweat and grime applied Mary Poppins style (from a make-up compact). In short, he is NOT Conan... he is The Scorpion King all over again, but without even the snappy dialogue. And he looks like he learned to act solely by copying three expressions from Karl Urban.

Conan films should be dark, dirty, bloody, filthy and have almost NO characters that we would consider 'Hollywood beautiful', unless they are princesses or gods (Sandahl Bergman as a Valkyrie :) ).

But regardless, the first half of the film is good - Slightly cheesy plot and nothing that's not been thought of before, but convincing enough that you go with it and executed with enough unique moments to be thoroughly entertaining.

Then, all of a sudden, everything falls flat... The sets start getting over-detailed and like they're only there to look visually impressive to a 3-D audience. Conversely, the acting got worse and all the characters magically became one-dimensional. It's like the filmmakers just got bored and did 'whatever' just to finish the project and collect a paycheque.

We meet the female co-star - She's gorgeous, pretty, shiny and a former model... totally unsuited to a Conan flick. The plot gets lazy and starts sounding like a generic, cheap fantasy film. The swordplay gets all spinny and everyone suddenly starts fighting like Eastern martial artists. The stunts get all Jackie Chan and the only thing missing is heavy wire-work with people flying around. As a swordsman myself, the moves in the original Conan are flawed and over-staged but still work and are realistic enough to entertain. The stuff in this new film is just pure show and no-one after the first third of the film ever looks like they have even picked up a sword before. There was only one move in the whole film that grabbed my attention. 2 mere seconds of footage throughout the whole thing!

Chuck in a random big sea monster to complete the circle and you have your massive Hollywood crowd-pleaser... even though I've been more entertained by a $2000 B-Movie.

I was not a fan of the casting either, for the most part. Ron Perlman does a fantastic job of Conan's father... Not quite as legendary or with as epic a feel as William Smith, but he is easily the best actor in the cast. He has real presence, proper depth and, as with his lower budget films, is the only reason this film is worth watching.

Jason Momoa may have a good look, but he's too pretty and not once did I get the impression that his Conan was a deep thinker, or in any way the wise, quietly contemplative man I know him to be. He's just a mindless, violent thug with pretty looks and a bit of muscle. He even looked like his entire acting repertoire consists solely of 3 facial expressions stolen from Karl Urban. He is eye candy with a sword, but nothing more. For all his faults, Arnold actually brought his Conan to life. Momoa's portrayal will be quickly forgotten.

Samuel L Jackson??!! Why is he even here? He has what I call Morgan Freeman syndrome, since Morgan also crops up in a lot of similar roles. Yes, he has a good narrative voice, but there is no mystical quality and he doesn't even sound like a chronicler... He just sounds like Samuel L Jackson, sat down the pub, telling us about a film he watched the other day. He might as well have just said, "Back in 5000BC, the following happened:".

Stephen Lang... OK, he was a decent bad guy in Avatar... But now Hollywood are casting him in all their bad guy roles and the same trick does not work everywhere. There was almost no difference in his performance between here and Avatar. In fact, he wasn't even scary in this. Absolutely no presence at all. That's why James Earl Jones is still The Man!

The rest of the cast, the plot, the film in general is just chalked up as 'another film I saw, once'.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I can and HAVE done better myself!!, 23 September 2011

The grainy black and white I totally get. The lack of engaging plot is not the worst I've ever known.

But what kills this film from within the first couple of minutes is the atrocious acting. I'd go so far as to say they were just reading an autocue! I've seen better acting from Joey in Friends and in my high school drama class.

I am a fan of cheesy, bad movies but this is so poorly acted, it makes the whole film completely unwatchable.

Only once before in over 30 years have I not watched a film to the very end, including every bad TV movie you can think of... But this is now the second.

Save your money - Go watch a 1970s adult film where the mustachioed plumber comes to fix the fridge. It's more convincing!!

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Watch once, then never again., 6 July 2011
2/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"OK, let's make a Dirty Dozen sequel".

"Right - What happens in this one?"

"Well, since it's a sequel of a massively successful film, I reckon we're on to a winner so long as we do *exactly* what they did in the first film...."

And thus was born this film.

Aside from the reprised roles, almost every other character is a vague and pale imitation of their 1967 counterparts. The plot has feeble attempts to be different, such as inclusion of a 13th convict to make a "Baker's Dozen" (but he gets killed in a random act of rebellion - Oh, the drama).

Lee Marvin especially is lumbered with pretty much the exact same dialogue from the first film and in fact his line delivery often seems tired and bored - It's as if this ain't the first time he's dragged a bunch of condemned military convicts out for a suicide mission... or the second... or the third... Marvin probably knew this was a complete BS movie, but did his best anyway. So too do Ernie Borgnine and Richard Jaeckel. The three seem like very old friends just going through the motions in an oft-encountered, unwinnable situation (perhaps because they are).

I rarely fail to see a film through to the end, but I would have switched this off had it not been for this kinda cool early example of Ricco Ross's work. A consistently solid and dependable actor, he actually gets an interesting role here as a former Policeman (but still playing "Token Black soldier mkII" based on Jim Brown's 1967 Pvt Jefferson).

Indeed, about the only other actors who stand any chance of carrying this film are Ricco Ross and Sonny Landham.

Sonny shows that quiet inner strength that later becomes legendary as Billy in Predator. Ricco has a cool outward exterior, which belies the complex character beneath, later shining through as Pvt. Frost in Aliens.

Notable also for featuring Gavan O'Herlihy, famous as the bearded warrior Airk Thaughbaer in Willow and Captain Leroy in Sharpe's Eagle.

Proud Men (1987) (TV)
Simply amazing..., 23 June 2011
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had slight reservations about this, mainly as I've seen a lot of tacky, poorly acted Hallmark feel-good films lately.

It has Peter Strauss in it, who in my opinion cannot do any wrong. I always watch his films, even if he's only a minor character, simply because I know at least that's one performance I will thoroughly enjoy.

This also has Charlton Heston, which immediately stands any film in good stead. The fact that I share his birthday is pure co-incidence, I assure you! But I needn't have worried - Two of the greatest actors around, both leading the film. A definite winner.

The town and it's people make for a tough place to be someone like Charlie Jnr. I have American friends who served in Vietnam and I've always been interested in the cultural history behind it. I've seen films about the horrors of war and the trauma soldiers endured, the atrocities they committed, the psychological problems, the wrongs of war, the Hippy movement and free love, reintegration into society and almost every other aspect of the culture at the time. Many have been done to clichéd levels, so it was very interesting to see a fairly unique issue in Charlie Jnr's character The film has an anti-Vietnam War theme, but subtly so. Charlie Jnr's issues are so unique that he's not bothered explaining them before and I doubt the town would change their views on him anyway. That issue is never resolved, which I find very true to real life, but I love that the story is about the people. Frankly so.

Possibly the most overwhelming concept is the strength of family. Even though Charlie Snr feels shamed by his son, to the point of disowning him, he *still* holds on to the fact that they are family, albeit on a subconscious level.

In fact, there is so much going on behind the characters I do not believe I can properly describe it. It's probably not all completely sunk in yet, even after a week since viewing the film. It's a whirlwind of history, memories and emotions between father and son that Heston and Strauss convey so effortlessly. This is why I love these actors - They bring their characters to life so well!! I'll leave this here before I start really rambling and simply say: You HAVE to see this film!!!

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Quietly worth watching!!, 23 June 2011
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Chalking this one up as another Peter Strauss film for my collection - ie, he was the only reason I chose to watch this film.

OK, Pete doesn't have a big role in this and he spends half of it in his customary hands-on-hips pose, but he does it so well!!

As for the non-Straussian parts of the film: Watching it for the first time here in 2011, on an old VHS, I could really feel the atmosphere of 1969. It was confusing for a lot of the contemporary youth and the culture was something of a mish-mash mess. I'd have hated it as I wouldn't have a clue where I stood and I guess that's why Michael Douglas's character first comes off as a naive, clueless ass. I didn't think I'd like this film.

It's not a plot I could personally identify with, but I was certainly engaged by it. I could almost feel Carl growing up, or at least shucking off his youthful naievete and finally understanding at least some of the crazy adult world he seeks approval from.

I have friends who served in the US forces during Vietnam and what they told me of society's mentality back then seems really well reflected in the characters' mindsets. A very interesting journey and a film I will be watching again sometime!


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