The Sorcerer and the White Snake (2011)
Directed by: Siu-Tung Ching
Starring: Jet Li, Shengyi Huang, Raymond Lam
You may not know this, but there’s a surprisingly wide subgenre of kung fu action movies which are basically just fantasy stories where people jump around and kick dragons in the face. If you weren’t aware, you’ve been missing out boy, hoo-doggie. Though it generally lacks the same kind of oomph you’d get from a really good Bruce Lee movie, for example (the subgenre is entirely wire-fu stuff, from what I’ve seen), it adds a really refreshing twist on the boring old high fantasy Tolkein ripoff stuff you get over here.
There’s a lot of stuff going on in this movie, but it centers around the relationship of a fisherman and his mysterious wife nobody knows the origin of. Jet Li is a monk who goes around the country killing demons, and he finds out that this lady is actually a super powerful demon in disguise. Of course the monk thinks that she’s using the fisherman and wants to eat his soul, but could it be possible that she just genuinely fell in love with the guy?
The action isn’t wholly remarkable, but there are some great special effects and I really enjoyed the lighthearted tone of most of the film. Basically the main plot is only a third of the movie and the rest is goofy cute stuff with all the comic relief characters, demons and humans alike. Jet Li is super badass in this movie, and it’s really cool to see him as a good guy who’s also the antagonist. Really, the film’s worth watching just for his very well developed no-nonsense monk character.
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
Starring: Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson
The late 70’s and early 80’s were a popular time for high fantasy (for some weird reason who could possibly figure it out hmm), and there were a hundred movies just like Dragonslayer made around that time that nerds in my generation are all supposed to know of and have fond memories of, or else you get kicked out of the lazy remembering bus. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, there’s a kickass dragon in this movie.
A young wizard’s apprentice must go on a journey to save the kingdom after his wizard mentor dies a wizardly mentorish death. He’s young and impulsive and meets a girl and fights a dragon and saves the day. You know, all that “hero’s journey” stuff.
The plot is nothing to write home about, and neither is really anything except for the costumes until you get to the big dragon moneyshot at the end of the film, and god damn is that a nice-lookin’ dragon. ILM did the creature effects for this movie between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and it shows that crew of guys working at their peak. I’ve seen a lot of dragon movies with a lot of dragons in them, from shitty CGI spiky monstrosities voiced by Sean Connery to flimsy marionette puppets the camera doesn’t linger on too much or you’ll be able to see the puppeteer’s hand. And through all of them, basically none of them have good dragon effects. This movie ONLY has good dragon effects. I guess it’ll have to do.
I, Frankenstein (2014)
Directed by: Stuart Beattie
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto
Holy Jesus, this is a bad movie. You remember how bad the Underworld movies were? Well this is exactly that, except instead of vampires and werewolves, it’s gargoyles and demons. And Frankenstein’s monster is in there somewhere for some reason. Was this just a case of making something stupider until it got to the point where it would get made just to see the trainwreck? It’s awful.
So it turns out there’s been an eternal battle between demons led by Bill Nighy and gargoyles which are just like that cartoon show Gargoyles except they all have swords. Frankenstein’s monster turns out to be the chosen one that would allow the demons to possess all the dead people in the world, thus getting stronger or whatever. He doesn’t necessarily want to help anybody or really be involved in the movie, so he just walks around occasionally smacking CGI monsters with sticks. It ends at some point, and that’s the best thing this movie ever does.
The thing that surprised me the most about I, Frankenstein was that Aaron Eckhart was in it. For some reason I had the impression that he was better than something like this. I’m not exactly sure why, but whatever it is has been killed forever by this piece of shit. For that matter, I thought the world was smart enough to know not to give the guy who wrote the Underworld movies another movie. He can only do one thing, and it’s awful. Then again, the way things are anymore, maybe I should just be thankful it didn’t have Abraham Lincoln in it too.
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Bellucci
Yes, The Brothers Grimm was a blatant paycheck movie for him, but the fact remains that it’s a Terry Gilliam movie, and he’s pretty damn good at his job. It’s unfortunate that pretty much the only part of the film that feels like a Gilliam movie is the casting, and in a lot of ways it feels like anybody could have directed it… but still, Terry Gilliam.
Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are brothers who scam innocent villagers in 16th century Germany by faking magical troubles and then solving them. The French occupation finds out about their scam, and makes them go stop another group of people who’ve been faking magic… OR IS IT REAL MAGIC ACTUALLY AND THERE’S AN EVIL MAGICAL QUEEN KIDNAPPING CHILDREN COULD IT POSSIBLY BE THAT?! MAYBE!!!
There are a ton of references to fairy tales jammed in here, like a more serious and sometimes legitimately creepy version of Shrek. The effects are mediocre, being mostly dominated by clunky CGI, and the acting is more or less what you’d expect from everybody except for Heath Ledger doing a pretty good job and Peter Stormare devouring scenery as a lecherous Italian sharpshooter. It’s formulaic and mostly soul-free, but it’s not the worst blockbuster movie you could ever see.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
I dunno, maybe I’m just grumpy from all the other bad movies I’ve seen recently, but I just didn’t really get into The Hunger Games. Sure, it created a world where people wear different clothes than we do now and where the government is OBVIOUSLY evil instead of just OBVIOUSLY evil like it is in real life. I… forgot where I was going with this, but let’s just say that the idea of a movie about teenagers slaying each other is much less fun than that really should be.
It’s the not-too-distant future, I guess, and every year they have a thing where kids from every state have to compete in a death match. It’s a lot like Death Race 2000, only they spend more time talking about dresses and less time with David Carradine in a gimp mask in the middle of an orgy. One girl is good with a bow and is the obvious hero/winner of the thing, and her name is Harriet Potter, I think.
Despite what the source books may or may not have said, these films are clearly made to fill the hole left by the bygone Harry Potter series. I’m all for pre-teen fantasy films, but when you make them look and feel EXACTLY THE SAME ALL THE TIME it kinda robs the individual properties of their individuality, does it not? And is that not also a point made in this film?! Was it? I really wasn’t paying that much attention, but that sounds like the kind of thing they might have said. Oh well, I’m looking forward to the next five years of Hunger Games movies, and I hope that by the end, they’ll all find a buffet restaurant they can finally eat at. Namaste.