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Very entertaining, also very unoriginal.
This film is odd, to say the very least. I don't think I'd call it bad or anything, it's actually quite creative at times and genuinely entertaining, but its lack of originality is obvious on many occasions, even in the tried-and-true genres of science fiction and fantasy. Our story begins in a mine deep underground, there are hundreds of enslaved men and women of all ages digging for valuable red crystals, which are given to their "god", a tall caped figure with a devil-like mask, named Zygon. Zygon orders the slaves to appease the gods with more crystals lest they die in darkness. Pretty soon, a young man named Orin discovers a sword hilt with what appears to be holographic image of an old man who speaks of a world above that they may return to if they have the courage. Orin eventually escapes to the outside where he encounters such characters as a tough smuggler, a young woman whom I believe to be a princess, her robot bodyguard, a feisty female robot (called a "fembot") and there's also the computer on the smuggler's spaceship with a rather cowardly attitude and whiny voice.
If by now Star Wars has popped into your head, you wouldn't be very far off, many of the characters and images in the film bear an uncanny resemblance to George Lucas' space saga, which admittedly did borrow from and pay homage to genres such as westerns, samurai films, war films and the Flash Gordon serials. The smuggler Dagg, is witty and likable in his way and sort of what you'd get if you combined Han Solo and Burt Reynolds. Orin is essentially the Luke Skywalker of the story and unfortunately, he's pretty bland on his own. Besides being the blatant ripoff that it is, the film does have some positives, one of these is that the animation looks good, sometimes very good. The quality of the animation seems to be at its best with the scenes involving spaceships, some of the images are so fluid in their appear to originate from computer animation or what could very well be drawn by hand, the latter would impress me most. The environments themselves are very nice and varied, though I'll admit I'm unsure of what planets we may be on since there are few establishing shots.
The characters themselves aren't as well developed as the universe that they inhabit. They are confined by their archetype, Orin is the eager young hero becoming a part of something huge like Luke Skywalker. Dagg is a cynical smuggler with little apparent regard for anything except his own interests until he gets to redeem himself like Han Solo. Zygon is a gray-skinned villain with a long black cape and essentially is Darth Vader or Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, but he does eventually bring about an interesting plot development regarding his master plan. The list goes on. The fembot is at first feisty until Dagg reprograms her to be dependent and attracted to him, sadly lessening the potential for comedy and real character development. Other minor characters include Zygon's followers who look like him, robots with lousy aim, some interesting aliens and non-white characters that are portrayed in an unfortunately ugly way in both their actions and looks.
The ultimate resolution of Orin and his magical sword hilt is never really resolved in a way that makes sense. Such as an odd occurrence in the ability for an invisible blade to appear and slice through enemies, early on he tries to stab Dagg when he first meets him but it doesn't work, maybe the sword knew he was a good guy. At some point towards the end Orin faces off against Zygon to free the slaves from underground and discovers that the blade was his own power the whole time, but there is never any real explanation for how he obtained it or is able to heal wounds, such as curing a little boy's blindness. Still, this is one of those odd movies that comes around every once in a while that is often very entertaining but offers little that is original or coherent, despite being aimed at kids, evident by its PG-rating, it features a good deal of sexual jokes including a pedophilia joke by an Arab stereotype (lots of stereotypes, people), there is some mild profanity here and there and some of the images can be a bit violent and at times scary such as the scene with the grotesque man-droids which are crude combinations of robots with human organs, but all in all it's nothing too severe for kids.
The film apparently was released in 3-D, which explains some of action aimed at the camera, but there is no way of viewing it in that way unless it gets a re-release. If you're up for some cheesy sci-fi action and good animation to please the eyes, this might be a fun film to check out, it's actually surprisingly one of the better ripoffs I've seen. My biggest complaint would be that the ideas of the film aren't fleshed out enough, no pun intended. How the invisible sword works is one thing, but there are interesting themes revolving around the relationship between man and machine, as evidenced by the robots using humans as slaves, the monstrous man-droids and so on. All in all, I enjoyed it, but if you're up for something a bit more coherent, more clever or just better, you may as well as stick with Star Wars or other animated fantasy epics such as Ralph Bakshi's Wizards or his animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Or hey, Rene Laloux's Fantastic Planet, Time Masters or Gandahar if you're feeling extra adventurous. Regardless, you could do a lot worse than Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.
Look Up! Look Down! Look Out! Here Comes The Biggest Bond Of All!
James Bond 007 is back and as usual, the fate of the world is at stake. The evil SPECTRE organization has stolen two atomic bombs from a jet bomber and will be deployed unless they are paid a heaping sum of one hundred million dollars. Bond heads to the Bahamas to find the bombs, defeat the bad guys, and of course make time to get the ladies. The story is actually kind of dark and more serious than some of the previous films with some interesting plot points that seem to reflect the Cold War paranoia of the time, even the overall tone and atmosphere of the film tends to be dark, which makes this another one of my favorites in the series. The violence is sometimes wrenching though seldom graphic and the sexual overtones are quite blatant, though I think we're used to that by now. Sean Connery portrays James Bond for the fourth time and has all the confidence and charm that makes him such a joy to watch in the previous installments, he may even be getting bored at this point with mostly having to swim, fight and be a womanizer, but he does a fantastic job anyways, his chemistry with the other characters always work perfectly. Also, we see that sometimes even he needs a little help from time to time and makes a few mistakes from time to time. This is a great entry in the series, but I guess there are a few minor flaws. First of all, it seems to move just a little slowly at times. One of the things people really complain about is all the gadgets, yes there are a lot of gadgets, but I don't mind. I love the opening where Bond makes an escape with a jet pack, now that's just classic.
The other characters are just wonderful, Adolfo Celi is great in the role of Italian Emilio Largo, the main villain of the film. This guy is just brutal and cold hearted, never reluctant to kill one of his own henchmen, he is even willing to torture his mistress when he discovers her betrayal. He just looks and acts like such a stereotypical villain, a dark heavyset man with short white hair, a menacing voice, he even has an eye-patch to complete the villainous ensemble. The villainess of the film is the seductive Fiona Volpe played by Luciana Paluzzi. She's a great femme fatale if I ever saw one, during a brief chase scene she saves Bond from from one of her fellow villains, she also seems to enjoy seducing her victims before having them killed. The main Bond girl however is the lovely Domino Derval played by Claudine Auger. I have to admit that she really brings warmth and humanity to an otherwise harsh assortment of characters, she is Largo's mistress unaware that he is preparing to launch a possible nuclear Armageddon and he has had her brother killed in their plot to take over the world. Still, she is a strong character and her performance is very good. Felix Leiter also returns, this time portrayed by Rik Van Nutter. Fortunately we get appearances by series regulars Moneypenny, M and Q, who provides Bond with his many awesome gadgets.
One of the things I love is that the action takes place in the Bahamas, I love when Bond's adventures take him to exotic tropical locations and it gives us the opportunity to enjoy some great underwater sequences. The action scenes are also a real treat to watch, including the spectacular underwater battle during the climax, which I still consider to be one of the best I've ever seen. The cinematography and special effects are definitely noteworthy for the time, everything is sleek and realistic and puts you in the right mood. The same thing goes for the music, John Barry returns for the fourth time providing us with the tunes of the title song and the traditional theme music, the music score itself ranges from dark and brooding to upbeat and exciting and even romantic. In regards to the title song, it's great Tom Jones singing to an outstanding music score accompanied by the silhouettes of girls swimming with psychedelic colors in the background, I've always enjoyed that particular title sequence, sleek, surreal and sexy. Maybe the one problem with the movie that people seem to notice is that it definitely goes for being a straight up action thriller, the plot of atomic bombs being stolen is simple enough, the constant use of gadgets and weapons while simple hand-to-hand combat takes a bit of a backseat. No surprise, seeing this was the most expensive Bond film yet and the producers being well aware of how big a moneymaker the series was. However there are very many who really enjoy this film and I'm one of them, it's still one of the most solid and enjoyable entries in the series and ultimately satisfying.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
You've got a very important date.
Most people seem to agree that Tim Burton is one of the best filmmakers that ever lived, but his re-imaginings tend to get lukewarm receptions, I wouldn't say that this is a total re-imagining though I feel pretty comfortable saying that is kind of a sequel. The story of this movie is pretty loosely based on the two books of Alice's adventures in Wonderland, for some weird reason called Underland here. Alice is nineteen years old, has a mind of her own, very imaginative and somewhat frustrated by the uptight people around her, she also is alarmed by recurring dreams of a magical world. When some stiff asks her hand in marriage, an arranged marriage that is, she runs off asking for a minute to think. She follows a white rabbit in a waistcoat down a rabbit hole and ends up in, you guessed it, Wonderland. Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb, the Doormouse, the White Rabbit, the Dodo Bird, and a Blue Caterpillar, constantly smoking a hookah, greet her with mixed feelings as they reveal that she is prophesied to slay the horrible Jabberwocky and end the reign of the Red Queen, though they doubt she is the right one and so does she, understandably. Alice believes the odd happenings to be a dream and is frustrated as all these bizarre characters seem to mistake her for another Alice who had come to Wonderland before.
One thing I will say first is the visuals are simply marvelous, everything is so vivid and colorful and the various creatures and characters are brought to the screen in a way that couldn't really be accomplished without computer animation, save for the somewhat superior traditional animated film. The queen with her gigantic head, the talking animals, talking flowers, card soldiers, they all look great. The battle between the forces of the White Queen and the Red Queen is great and the showdown between Alice and the Jabberwocky is definitely awesome. It's weird that this actually has a story, mostly borrowing from the second book I guess. The acting in the movie is great as always in a Tim Burton film. Johnny Depp brings a lot of charm and personality to the wacky Mad Hatter and totally immerses himself in the character, completely mad and always fun to watch, kind and welcoming at certain times, wild and angry other times. Mia Wasisowski makes Alice a very believable character and as rather than the one sane person in the crazy world, we see her as a young adult with a strong will and is seen as strange in the eyes of the no-nonsense people of her world. This is what Tim Burton has always been the master of, telling the stories of misunderstood characters we can sympathize with and empathize with. Alice's conflict with being what is expected of her is the driving force of the story and it works well.
The books were usually a stream of consciousness with a little girl wandering around meeting weird characters and poked fun at poetry and prose, as great fun as they were, there's a little more emotional connection here. The other characters are also pretty fun, the big headed and cruel and selfish Red Queen with voice and face of Helena Bonham Carter is amusing, though petty. The treacherous and arrogant Knave of Hearts, oddly played by Crispin Glover. Anne Hathway's performance as the White Queen is overacted but it works. Strangely enough, the voice acting is a real joy with all these weird computer animated characters, some of whom resemble the people provide their voices. Stephen Fry is the mysterious Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen voices the hilariously psychotic March Hare, Matt Lucas as Tweedle Dee and Dumb, old Michael Gough voices the Dodo Bird in a brief scene and the amazing Christopher Lee is the Jabberwocky. Lee only says two lines but he makes that beast all the more scary. My only other little problems I guess are the very beginning and very ending, they seem just a little rushed. All in all, this is a very satisfying movie. I have yet to see a Tim Burton film that wasn't enjoyable and while this one may not be everyone's cup of tea, no pun intended, it's still a good movie.
Nothing will be the same.
The fact that this has become a full blown pop culture phenomenon baffles me to no end, it's not that good. The story is very simple, a moody and pale teenager named Bella Swan from Phoenix, Arizona decides to live with her father for a while in Forks, Washington. Bella seems to draw the other teenagers like flies as they try to be friendly and several of the guys seem to like her. Honestly, this surprises me because Bella is pretty bland. She takes notice in some strange high school students. One of them is Edward Cullen and he and Bella don't seem to getting along. When a car speeds through the parking lot and almost crushes her, Edward just happens to get over there like a bolt of lightning and stop the car with his bare hands. Bella gets curious and tries to get some answers from him about his unique abilities. After another rescue and uncomfortable conversations, she does some research and finds out that he's a vampire, a vampire who sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight rather than burn to a crisp like the vampires of legend, and even though he thirsts for her blood because he and his clan only drink less satisfying animal blood, they fall in love and start going out. The relationship between the two main characters seems to be based on trust, he is protective of her but is always struggling with his desire to drink her blood. Kind of like a drug addict dating crack if you catch my drift.
At times, the movie can actually be kind of romantic or even suspenseful, but the biggest problem with the movie is that it's often pretty boring. Kirsten Stewart's performance as Bella is just bland and often I can't tell what emotion she's trying to convey because she looks nauseous most of the time. Rob Pattinson's performance on the other hand is okay, he's a vampire, over a hundred years old and stuck in a super strong and fast seventeen year old body. You can actually sympathize with him as he struggles to control his blood-lust for the girl he loves. There are other characters that deserve mentioning, the other high school students are painfully overplayed but the less said about them, the better. Taylor Lautner is likable as Jacob Black, an old friend of Bella and member of a Native American tribe, he and his family are actually pretty likable. The bad vampires are pretty cool, especially the sadistic James who wants to feast on Bella. The good vampires are okay but we don't get a whole lot from them. The parents Dr. Carlisle and Esme Cullen are nice, Emmet Cullen is just there, his mate Rosalie Hale is mean, Jasper Hale is the most recent addition to the clan and clearly has to refrain from having Bella for lunch, we may end up being good pals. My favorite character in the entire movie is the spunky Alice Cullen, played by Ashley Greene. she's lively, likable, and totally gorgeous, the kind of girl you'd want to go shopping with, it's a shame she doesn't have a lot to do because she was the best part.
To be honest, I hated this movie the first time I watched it, the second time I watched it months later it actually wasn't quite as painful an experience. Before I wrap this up I should talk about the good things in this movie, and there is some good here. As I said before, the love story can be interesting and after a while I was actually paying attention, the cinematography looks really good and almost dreamlike, the soundtrack is just great, and I'll admit that I kind of liked that cheesy thunderstorm baseball scene. Edward and the other vampires let Bella join them in a game of baseball, who knew watching vampires with superhuman strength and speed playing baseball could be fun. Sadly, this is a movie that isn't that bad but it isn't very good. It has a certain appeal, mostly with annoying adolescent girls who judge their favorite actors by how hot they are and not how talented they are. Overall, it's an almost tolerable movie that has its moments and occasionally tugs a heart string or two, but otherwise is dull, pretentious and suffers from having a thin story that anyone could've come up with. It has it's redeeming qualities from time to time, but not many. I almost have to admit that the whole thing about what vampires can and can't do in this film and the novel isn't that bad, considering it makes their chances of blending in better and other movies mess with what vampires can and can't do. I've yet to read any of the books as I write this and I'm tired of all the girls raving about it. If you try to enjoy it for the cheesy vampire chick flick that it is, you may enjoy it a little, or you may go head over heels for it, whatever floats your boat.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Thief. Warrior. Gladiator. King.
This is one of those movies that left a very big impression on me. An exciting sword and sorcery, or rather sword and sandal adventure set in an old age of magic and monsters. The story is a simple but epic one, There is a boy named Conan, whose father teaches him of the power of steel, and how only in his sword he can trust more than any man, woman, or beast. Shotly after, his village is invaded and his family killed by a the evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom and a small army of raiders. The children are taken away and forced to push a gigantic wheel. Years later, we see that only one has survived, a fully grown Conan. Conan is taken away to fight as a pit fighter, learn swordsmanship and language. Eventually, with the help of a couple of thieves, he embarks on a quest to defeat Thulsa Doom. There is so much I love about this movie, the story is pretty simple, but the magnitude is fantastic, it really feels like an ancient legend come to life. There is actually less dialogue than one would expect and much of the story is told through narration, we see the characters develop and come to understand them by their actions, and it's this kind of subtlety that makes it so great. This is a great example of visual storytelling, combining the narration and imagery to give the feeling of reading a book.
The performances really drive the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger's performance as Conan is perfect, he has little dialogue but you just see his emotion in his eyes and feel what he feels. His character goes through several interesting phases, we first see him as a child learning from his father, as an adult we see how detached he is as he becomes a killing machine deriving satisfaction from victorious bloodshed and the sexual pleasure of women. Later he turns to thievery, falls in love with a beautiful woman and succumbs to hedonism and becomes, literally, drunk with excess. However he and his fellow adventurers are paid to rescue an old king's daughter from Thulsa Doom, which Conan sees as an opportunity to avenge his family's murder. Conan eventually becomes cold-hearted and driven by his desire for revenge but still is a very human character. The gorgeous Sandahl Bergman plays Conan's lover Valeria, a strong and likable heroine who actually gets a bit less screen time than she deserved. Then there's Conan's thief sidekick Subotai played by surfer Gerry Lopez, another great supporting character. The extremely talented Mako not only provides the excellent narration but plays an eccentric wizard who is actually one my favorite characters. James Earl Jones brings a great menacing presence to Thulsa Doom, a tyrannical sorcerer and cult leader with great hypnotic influence on the masses and the power to turn into a snake, a weird scene but unsurprising as this is his motif, he even had a pet snake which Conan fights in the movie.
Also, Max Von Sydow makes a brief but memorable appearance as King Osric, who has Conan rescue his daughter from Thulsa Doom. Perhaps the greatest strengths of the movie lie in it's visuals and atmosphere. The cinematography is stunning and captures the beauty and brutality of this ancient world, from the icy mountains to the scorching desert to the palace of the villain. The settings and production design are fantastic and look what one would expect of such a barbaric time period. The castles and palaces made of stone and sometimes buildings of wood in a world that seems to echo an ancient Europe and even Biblical times in western Asia. The clothing of characters enforce this as well, warriors clad in armor and fur cloaks or the villainous black robes of the villains. The battle sequences are amazing to watch, grand sword-fights and brutal gladiatorial fights. The orchestral score of Basil Poledouris is half of what makes this so great, it's so rich and epic and enforces the emotion and context of every scene, humorous, happy, exciting, romantic, sad, dark, and haunting. Overall, this is one of those movies that I totally enjoyed and I recommend it, though I will warn that there is lots of graphic violence, strong sexual content and some frightening scenes, this is a fantasy film aimed specifically at teenagers and adults and I think more of a guy flick. It's epic, it's stylish, it's action packed, it's fun and very memorable.
Everything he touches turns to super excitement.
This is often considered the quintessential Bond film introducing the gadgets, the cars, the gimmicky villains, the near invincible henchmen that hardly talk, girls with double entrede names and the catchy title song during the opening. In this movie James Bond is assigned to keep an eye on Auric Goldfinger, a wealthy man obsessed with gold. Bond sees him playing cards and quite picky about where he sits to play. Noticing an earpiece, Bond goes up to Goldfinger's hotel room an sees a girl named Jill Masterson helping him cheat with binoculars and a microphone. Bond blackmails him into losing the game and proceeds to have some fun with Jill. Unfortunately, Bond is knocked unconscious and wakes up later to find Jill lying dead from skin suffocation from being completely covered in gold paint, perhaps the most iconic image in the entire series. Bond is then assigned to discover how Goldfinger transports his gold internationally and ends up in a much bigger adventure he expected, stopping him from destroying the gold in Fort Knox and ravaging the economy while increasing the value of his own gold. This is another one of the best of the Bond films with Sean Connery, it's clever, fast paced and one of the most memorable by far. Another thing about this particular movie is that actually lightens up and has its fair share of comical moments.
By now, Connery has the role of Bond down flawlessly, he's the tough, resourceful, suave womanizer we all have come to know and love. One of the most defining moments is in the pre-title scene where Bond is on a mission clad in a stealth commando suit and when he is done, he quickly removes it revealing a white tuxedo, this guy is smooth. Gert Frobe is really great as Goldfinger, clever, ruthless, charismatic, and megalomaniacal. His obsession with gold shows even in how he dresses, but not so much that it becomes too gimmicky. Korean weightlifter and wrestler Harold Sakata plays Oddjob, Goldfinger's manservant and henchman with a deadly bowler hat that he throws at his victims like a discuss, usually to break their necks. He never says a word but he has a lot of personality and is always memorable, yet he never overshadows the main villain. Shirley Eaton appears pretty briefly as Jill Masterson, Goldfinger's mistress who after a brief encounter with Bond, is killed by being completely covered in gold paint, perhaps the iconic moment of the series. It's quite a shame that she gets killed off so early, she's really beautiful and has great personality, which makes her fate even more grim. Then there's Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, and I really wish I was making that up. Pussy is the main Bond girl this time around, she is a villain when he first meet her, sarcastic, tough, and aloof toward Bond, though he tries to make her warm up to him. I still can't believe her name is what it is, even Bond cracks a slight grin when he says her name, I just know Sean Connery wants to laugh every time.
We also get the return of Felix Leiter, this time played by Cec Linder. I've got to admit I was glad to see Felix again, he doesn't really do a whole lot, but he still appears often and contributes enough humor and he's actually more likable this time. The locations of the film aren't quite as exotic this time around, we get Miami in the beginning of the film, England as usual, Geneva is as scenic as always and has some great scenes taking place there, Bond is in Kentucky for a big duration of the adventure, especially when it comes around to the battle at Fort Knox. I think the gadgets get a very special use this time, a beautiful Aston Martin complete with rockets, oil slick, and a ejector seat. The action scenes are as cool as always, the pre-title sequence, the car chase, the battle at Fort Knox, it's awesome. Humor is another important factor in this movie, the puns, innuendos, the ejector seat, and shortly before Jill Masterson's demise, a moment where Bond says drinking unchilled wine is like listening to The Beatles without earmuffs. I kid you not, James Bond disses The Beatles, that is hilarious. Another thing I should mention is the scene where Bond and Goldfinger actually go golfing and warn each other that they're aware of each other's motives. Bond sparring with the villain has become a popular and enduring element in the series, usually with a game of cards though. Overall, this is a great movie, it's funny, it's inventive, it has a great sixties charm, it doesn't go on too long, and it's satisfying. Definitely check this one out because it's not only a great Bond film, it's just a great film in general and one of the best in the entire series. Go ahead and give a try, I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.
Dr. No (1962)
Bond. James Bond.
There was a certain series of spy novels written by Ian Fleming back then, the stories revolved around a British secret agent named James Bond. This is the first film based on the novels though, like the rest of the films in the series, it differs much from the source material. This movie really set a new trend of spy movies throughout the sixties and started what is the longest running film series ever. In the beginning of the film, a British spy has been murdered in Jamaica while doing investigation on a mysterious scientist, so the British Secret Service sends in one of their best agents, James Bond 007 to investigate whether or not it had to do with the disruption of rocket launches by radio jamming. Scottish actor Connery is absolutely fantastic as Bond, a super cool spy who enjoys martinis and has a way with the women, but he's equally lethal, resourceful and surprisingly brutal. He definitely fits into the part perfectly with his look, voice, and witty personality. The one thing that really surprises me about this movie is that it isn't very over the top. There's a lot of realism in regards to the situations that Bond encounters. For example, Bond wakes up in the middle of the night to find a tarantula crawling up his back, in one of several attempts on his life by his enemies.
Speaking of the villain, Joseph Wiseman is totally outstanding as Dr. Julius No, a top member the evil criminal organization SPECTRE planning to take over the world, you never even see him until past the halfway point of the film but you can really feel his presence throughout and get a good idea of how cruel he is based on how terrified of him his minions are. There's the one scene where one of his henchman nervously tells him that Bond is near to discovering his evil plan, the doctor tells him in a deep, sinister and quite threatening voice to go to the table where of course is a small cage with the tarantula. He seriously is an awesome villain and definitely one of the most intimidating in the entire series, his trademark is that he's part British and part Japanese. Of course what would a classic Bond film be without the girls? The girl in the one is the gorgeous Honey Ryder played by Ursula Andress. Ryder is definitely the first one who comes to everyone's mind, as soon as she emerges in that swimsuit from the water pretty much everyone stops dead in their tracks. Bond is at Crab Key Island preparing to apprehend Dr. No, and so Honey Ryder comes up on to the beach after collecting seashells. She's courageous and for the most part a strong character and definitely memorable. Something not many people think about is that for the early sixties, just wearing a bikini and showing off that much skin was rare, probably why the scene is so well remembered. The movie was criticized for its sexual overtones which is understandable of course, it really echoed the attitude toward sex in that time.
Other really good characters introduced are the no-nonsense M (Bernard Lee), the head of the Secret Service who gives Bond his mission and seems impatient with Bond's frivolous attitude, Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) the secretary who has a crush on Bond, and Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) a cool CIA agent who helps Bond on his mission. I actually don't know what more I can say about this one besides that it's enjoyable, memorable, and a great start to the Bond franchise. The action scenes are exciting, the music is cool, the characters are memorable, the locations are exotic, the sets are grand, and all around everything is really good. The pacing is interesting as well, the first half runs pretty smoothly with James Bond investigating and dodging assassination attempts, and the second half moves surprisingly quickly with Bond on the island with Honey searching for Dr. No. Again, it's nothing over the top, relying on suspense and realism rather than crazy stunts, ultra weird plots and high tech gadgets seen in the later films. It combines adventure, mystery, and international intrigue into a stylish and completely entertaining film. Definitely check it out, it's a great place to start and the best is yet to come.
From Russia with Love (1963)
James Bond is back!
The dynamic Sean Connery is back as the super spy James Bond 007 in what is definitely one of the best in the entire series by fans and critics alike. For me, this is the real kickoff for the series and it totally delivers the goods. It has a certain sense of epic grandeur and international intrigue while still a maintaining that fun and lively tone. The evil SPECTRE organization plans to steal a cryptographic device from the Russians and sell it back to them. Knowing that British Secret Service would like to get their hands on it as well, they decide to lure them in as revenge for killing their operative Dr. No, the villainous title character of the previous film. They realize of course that MI6 would be well aware that it's a trap and would accept it as challenge, ultimately they send an unwitting cypher clerk Tatiana Romanova to help a British secret agent steal the device away from trouble and once it is out, have a specially trained assassin kill the agent and take it for their own evil scheme. What they seem to have overlooked is that secret agent James Bond is a most formidable opponent and is not to be underestimated by any means. I think one thing I should say is about this movie is that it goes above and beyond what the first film did, high adventure and spectacular action but with plenty of espionage and mystery. There's less of Bond going around and asking questions and actually going out and doing stuff. The plot itself has a lot going on and requires a watchful eye.
The action sequences in the movie are astounding as well and I do mean that with great sincerity, the first major scene takes place at a gypsy camp with all fistfights and gun play our hearts desire, there's a scene where Bond has to avoid being killed by a helicopter, a boat chase and much more. But even the action doesn't overshadow the more subtle side, there's always a great deal of suspense and a lot of realism that isn't always seen in the later films. Even though this is the second film in the series, it really feels like it could be the first one, it takes the gun barrel sequence introduced in the first film and gives it a new formula that carries on throughout the series, from inside the gun we see Bond walking past, he quickly shoots at the killer and blood pours down the screen, after that we get a pre-title action scene with what appears to be Bond playing cat and mouse with an assassin. The gadgets in the film is another element that would become a trademark of the series but to be quite honest I think I should talk a little bit about them here. Bond's little toys are provided by Desmond Llewelyn's character Q and surprisingly enough they are totally believable and sound exactly like something that could exist in real life. This time Bond gets a briefcase with a special knife that can be pulled out, a canister of tear gas that can be activated by trying to open the briefcase in a certain way, and even the villains have some notable gadgets, but I'll let you see for yourself.
Besides blabbering about the action and gadgets, I think it's time I talk about the characters. Sean Connery returns as our hero and still has all the intensity, confidence and charm displayed in the first film. His love interest is the absolutely gorgeous Tatiana Romanova played Daniella Bianchi, she is a cypher clerk working for the Soviet Union and is forced to assist Bond in finding the decoder device, unfortunately she is completely unaware that she is a pawn in SPECTRE's deadly game of chess. The chemistry between Bond and Tatiana works very well and is actually pretty romantic, of course their growing relationship is constantly tested by the dangers they face. Bond's ally is Turkish agent Ali Kerim Bey, a totally likable and cool character who helps MI6 get information and makes false papers for Bond and Tatiana so that they can travel out of Russia. Then of course there are the villains, we get our first glimpse of the mysterious and currently unnamed Number One, the founder of SPECTRE with the purpose of taking over the world. Then there's Kronsteen, a Chess grandmaster who plans the operation whose arrogance doesn't fly to well with Number One. Rosa Klebb is a former Soviet colonel assigned with seeing that operation goes according to plan and personally assigns Tatiana to meet with 007, I swear this lady really creeps me out. The real scene stealer of the baddies is Red Grant, a formidable foe played by Robert Shaw. This guy is a beast, he follows Bond everywhere and even helps carry out his mission, in a way making him a pawn of SPECTRE. When he and Bond finally meet face to face aboard the Orient Express, we get some of the best interaction between hero and villain. To be honest, this movie is amazing and it still holds up well even today. It's aged very gracefully and never goes into cheesy territory, it's plausible but completely exciting and is one of the coolest films of the sixties, watch it and see for yourself.
Jaws 3-D (1983)
A deadly new attraction.
Yet another movie about a giant shark wreaking havoc. This time around it takes place at Sea World, and the main characters are the sons of the previous film's hero, Martin Brody. After several people are killed by a shark, the baby is accidentally captured, being mistaken for the culprit. Things take an exciting turn, when the culprit shark arrives to find it's baby and have a bite to eat. It's actually amazing that anybody in their right mind would be willing to take a risk making another Jaws movie, but I'm sure the 3-D effects helped it out a little. I'll admit that the cinematography was pretty nice in some spots, and the music could be pretty exciting, but it isn't as scary or as suspenseful as the incredible previous films. The acting in this movie is abysmal with a few exceptions, Dennis Quaid was okay as the hero, Louis Gossett Jr. helped to keep the movie afloat, no pun intended. And Lea Thompson wasn't all that bad either, she's mostly there for eye candy but whatever. The other actors were pretty lame, including the pompous Australian character who becomes dinner for the shark.
The special effects can't even save the movie though, they are seriously some of the worst I have ever seen. There are several cheesy shots that were obviously for the three dimensional magic that simply doesn't exist without the glasses and the various super imposed images are extremely laughable, at one point you can actually see part of the little submarine get eaten up by the blue screen. The most gruesome scene in the movie is when despite his dull death scene, the shark's first victim's corpse floats in front of a glass tunnel and scaring everyone to death. It was funny when the corpse is right against the glass wall, right in front of a teenage girl, who is not only screaming in utter terror, but is pressed against the glass. I laughed so hard during this insanely goofy scene. On the other hand, it was gross seeing the corpse laid out on a table completely skinless from the neck down, and crabs crawling out of his mouth, pretty cool. I'm sure it must have been somewhat entertaining to see this movie in it's original cheesy 3-D glory, it's pretty horrible without it.
The scene where the shark busts through glass and and floods a control room is unforgettable. The super imposed shark is motionlessly floating toward the camera, and there are various shots of the characters inside in slow motion. I watched this with my mom and she thought something was wrong with the video, she didn't realize it was for dramatic effect until halfway through the scene. When the shark busts through the glass, some glass shatters and falls, the shark is still floating there completely still. This can be excused thanks to the shark's death scene, which is still tainted by effects that would only be slightly cool in 3-D. Bottom line, this is mediocre movie and can only be fun because it's so awful that it's funny. The better parts of the movie, is the fast paced second half, Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr. and seeing Lea Thompson in a swimsuit, which was probably the saving grace of the movie. I don't really recommend this movie, but if you're just that curious to see how low the series was falling then knock yourself out. The first and original movie was a masterpiece that never needed a sequel, the second one was still pretty good, this one bites and bears no resemblance to anything the previous ones offered, but then there's a fourth one.
The Thing (1982)
The ultimate in alien terror.
A group of explorers in the arctic region have encountered a vicious alien organism that can consume a person and make itself a perfect copy. This is a classic horror film that is loaded with brilliant special effects and graphic violence that is a perfect way to spend a cold evening. Kurt Russel stars as a troubled alcoholic who takes charge and tries to find which person is really the alien creature. One of the most brilliant things about the movie is that it plays with the idea of not knowing who you can trust. I found it interesting that it had an all male cast, something uncommon for many movies. The acting is very natural and very realistic. This movie was surprisingly scary and the graphic scenes were surprisingly horrific. It's a dark, brutal, and claustrophobic sci-fi horror film that has stood the test of time from the genius of John Carpenter.
The Black Hole (1979)
A journey that begins where everything else ends.
It's a guilty pleasure at best. The special effects are great for it's time, and are still quite remarkable today. The crew of a space ship encounter a large exploration ship with a strange scientist who wants to travel into a black hole and discover what lies on the other side. This is one of Disney's best and most creative films ever, and it has a great cast, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowell as the robot Vincent and Slim Pickens as the robot Bob. This is one of my favorite science fiction films as well as one of my favorite Disney films, it's a bit dated by today's standards, but it's still epic. The ending really leaves you wondering where the black hole really lead.
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
Come to Middle Earth, a world beyond the furthest reaches of your imagination.
When a small hobbit named Frodo Baggins inherits a magic ring from his uncle, the wizard Gandalf investigates and discovers that the ring is an ancient creation of an evil dark lord. Should the ring end up back in his hands, he will regain his power and destroy Middle Earth. Frodo and his loyal friends set out on a a quest to destroy the ring with a band of warriors. This is an underrated adaption of the classic novels as it only covers the first half of the story. Regardless, this is an epic and wonderfully animated film.
The animation is superbly done with rotoscope, which is tracing over live action footage. Ralph Bakshi worked well with the low budget he was given. The film also boasts a grand music score by Leonard Rosenman that fits every scene. There are a few plot holes with the script, but that has to be excused, considering the original deal was to make the book trilogy into two films, much had to crammed in the first one. My biggest gripe is some of the character design, Samwise was a bit too goofy, while the other hobbits act completely normal. The other characters are actually well written for the screen, and the voice actors do a great job, I was pleased that Legolas is actually a bit more helpful to the plot. The rotoscoped orcs are more comical than frightening, while the ringwraiths are eerie and nightmarish.
Another problem is that the evil wizard Saruman is called Aruman, thanks to the writers. Overall, I think a little more money, better writers and telling the story in three films would have done this a lot of justice, but there is something charming about it. Ralph Bakshi made a valiant effort of making screen adaption of these classic stories. The film suffers terribly from being overshadowed by the live action films, but it's still a great movie for animation lovers of all ages.
A story of a mystical land in the far distant future.
This is one of the most brilliant movies ever made. Though the film alters in tone quite often from dark and moody to light and whimsical, it's one of my all time favorite movies. It's Ralph Bakshi's first film aimed at children, but it's actually very intense, violent battle sequences, some mild adult language, suggestive material, and some dark themes that are more suited for older audiences. It's a story of Avatar and Blackwolf, two wizard brothers. Avatar rules the peaceful kingdom of Montagar with wisdom and magic, while the evil Blackwolf rules the dark land of Scortch with technology and war.
It's a great combination of science fiction and fantasy set years into a strange post apocalyptic future where broken tanks, guns, and Nazi propaganda are regarded as ancient artifacts. Wonderful supporting characters include Weehawk, a courageous and cynical elf, Elinore, a young fairy princess whom Avatar is in love with, and Necron 99, a robotic assassin who is turned into a good robot named Peace. This movie has a great deal of symbolism and is very thought provoking, it deals with the power of propaganda and the dangers of the over reliance on technology.
I was impressed by the surreal and creative animation, and I was mesmerized by the mystical and otherworldly music score. The film's climax is brilliant and fits the overall tone of the film. Treat yourself to a symbolic retro-future style film loaded with psychedelic animation, memorable characters, and a truly wonderful adventure that will transport you to a whole new world set ten million years into the distant future.